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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Texting Tragedy Averted

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Last Friday, at the very start of Memorial Day weekend, my eldest daughter called to report she’d safely made the 3-hour trip from her home in Auburn, Alabama to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. My kids have been trained to call me as soon as any road trip is safely completed. I always “pray them there,” as my Mother used to say. “Great, have fun,” I replied, and went happily on with my day. A few hours later, I was surprised to see her name when I heard my phone ring. I assumed she’d be relaxing on a wide, white beach by now. When I answered, she was crying. “I’m fine,” she sobbed, “but we’ve been in a pretty bad accident.” The dreaded words I hoped I’d never hear had been spoken by my 28-year old. She and her friend were driving a few short miles from their condo to the beach when they slowed to make a right hand turn off the highway for beach access. Suddenly, they were struck from behind and were sent spinning as one of the rear tires flew off the car and the back windshield shattered into the back seat. The car came to rest in a busy parking lot; the car’s air bags did not inflate. The girls were surprisingly calm, assessing their injuries which appeared to be slight. They called 911 and waited for help. The vehicle that hit them was across the road on the other side of the median blocking busy holiday traffic and the young driver was holding a towel against his forehead, supposedly tamping bleeding. Wonderful bystanders rushed to the girls’ aid to ascertain whether they were injured or needed anything. The police and EMS arrived. It was determined everyone’s injuries were minimal and no transport to the hospital was needed. The Florida Highway Patrol came and after conducting its investigation cited the 17-year old who hit them with reckless endangerment. He’d been driving 55 miles per hour, according to the driver, and was texting. He was looking down at his phone when the girls slowed to make their turn off the highway. By the time he looked up, he was right on their bumper and swerved to the left trying to avoid the collision. Instead, he hit them, then went across a busy lane of traffic, across a median and into oncoming traffic where he came to a stop. My daughter’s friend’s car was totaled.

A short while after the wreck, the girls began to cry. They realized how miraculous it was that no one was hurt. No one was hurt in the two vehicles involved in the crash. No other cars hit them from behind. No cars hit the other driver as he sat blocking a lane of oncoming traffic. No cars or people were hit by the girls’ spinning car in the parking lot at the beach on a busy Memorial Day weekend. It’s unbelievable how much tragedy was averted. How many family’s lives were nearly changed forever by one person’s decision to send a text while driving? How important could that texted message have been? Young people think they’re invincible and that tragedy could never touch them. Please, please remind your children not to text while driving. And, for heaven’s sake, parents, set a good example and don’t dare text while at the wheel. Let’s hope none of us have to learn the consequences of such actions the hard way.

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When a Child is Sick

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UnknownMoms, don’t you agree that there’s nothing worse than a sick child? That child may be an adult, but Mom always feels the pain and wishes she could take it away and carry it herself. A baby’s first cold, teething pain that causes gums to swell, tummy aches…all are awful watched from above the crib. We grab them and rock them, swaddle them and nurse them, which makes us feel better, if not the baby. I’ll never forget when my two eldest daughters were toddlers, my mom called and asked what I was doing. “Cleaning up vomit and poop, as usual. You?”  It seemed like it would never end. But, as usually happens, my babies grew up, became adults and left the nest. And let me tell you, when a child is fully grown, away at college, independent, strong and seemingly healthy, it is downright frightening and disturbing to get their calls reporting that they don’t feel well. Our hearts ache because we can’t be at their bedside in minutes to offer chicken noodle soup, to place a cold washcloth on a feverish forehead, or just look them in the eye and assure ourselves that they’ll be okay. We can only hope their friends will step up and take over some of our mommy duties, lovingly carrying soup from the cafeteria, or saltines and gatorade from the Piggly Wiggly. Our minds go crazy thinking of all the things their symptoms could portend: a headache might be due to congestion, a sinus infection, or…a brain tumor? A persistent stomachache might be caused by food poisoning, the flu or… Crohn’s disease? Celiac? We offer medical advice over the phone: drink more water, get more sleep, wash hands frequently, eat more fiber, or maybe less, take Ibuprofen instead of Motrin or vice-versa, use a Neti pot to clear those sinuses. Sometimes, if our mom-radar is really sensing a problem, we advise them to go to the campus clinic asap, then wait anxiously for their call, which comes hours later, saying everything is just fine. The fears we’d inflicted upon them vanished as soon as a person in a lab coat told them they’d live to see another day on campus. Sadly, our babes sometimes suffer dangerous medical emergencies. I’ve had friends whose collegians have experienced appendicitis, mononucleosis, and other really bad things, and have had to sit back in their homes and hear about it over the phone while their little ones sought emergency treatment on their own. Hard to believe they could manage it without us! I guess facing the reality that our moms won’t always be there to help us feel better is a natural part of growing up. I remember vividly the first time I got sick away from home and I missed my mother more than usual. I had the flu. The champagne flu, but still, the effects were the same: nausea, vomiting, headache and a strong desire for Mom to come to my extra-long twin bedside and make everything better.

My littlest one, (always the baby in my eyes although she is 21 years old and 5’10” tall), just returned from another year at school looking gaunt, tired and pale. She was suffering from tummy troubles which I immediately sought to remedy by offering her soup, popsicles, hot tea and cinnamon toast, the ultimate comfort food. When that didn’t work, I took her to a specialist. Turns out, after extensive unpleasant tests requiring hours of nearly unbearable “prep,” she had a couple of relatively minor diagnoses that can, hopefully, be managed with medication and diet changes. While I hated to see her feeling so bad, I was happy that she was home getting the medical attention she needed. And, of course, the mothering she needed and that I needed to provide. Soon, she’ll be off working in another state and I’ll have to provide TLC from afar again. But, for now there’s a pot of soup on the stove and a cool washcloth at her bedside. I feel better, and I think she does too.

Homemade: Mom’s Recipes

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imagesRecently, I retrieved my Mom’s recipe box from a cabinet above the vent-a-hood over the stained cooktop in my parents’ kitchen. It’s a long grey box with green dividers separating “Biscuits & Bread” from “Poultry & Stuffings” and “Soups & Stews.” I hadn’t been to my parents’ house in months; I’ve emptied every cabinet and drawer and checked all under-the-bed boxes. I’m down to a few kitchen cabinets and pantry shelves, some bookshelves in the living room. So, my work here is nearly done and it’s bittersweet. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the house in which I grew up, sorting through my parents’ belongings, thinking about which of my siblings would be delighted with this or that, and which of the grandchildren would get a kick out of the other thing. I decided to bring the box home with me to peruse in my spare time, in hopes of gathering some treasured recipes for the family. Yay! A new project to keep me busy this spring. The recipe reading began tonight and it’s just too good to keep to myself.

Appetizers & Dips,” being the first course, are naturally, first in the box. Most recipes are in my Mom’s handwriting with her notations indicating their rank, the highest is “V.G.” Next is “Good,” which is below V.G, but there is nothing ranked below “good” in the box. There are two main ingredients in the appetizer category: cream cheese and seafood and they are all shaped into balls. For instance, Shrimp Balls, Cheese-Ham Balls, Blue Cheese Balls with Caviar (fancy!), Shrimp Mold (handwritten notation: “or balls”), Brandy Cheese Ball, Cream Cheese Balls (handwritten notation: “or roll”), Cheese Ball with Olives, and a healthy alternative, Fruited Cream Cheese Dip.

Moving on to the “Salads & Dressings,” I see two options: salads with mayonnaise and salads with fruit and mayonnaise. Chicken Salad, Curried Egg Salad, Polly’s Macaroni Salad, and Snappy Slaw, side by side with Grapefruit Salad in Lime Jello, Easter Ambrosia, Cranberry Salad and Peach Halves with Cream Cheese. Closely following salads in the grey box are “Soups & Stews.” Each features ground beef. Oh, and cheese. Yankee Chili, Spicy Tortilla Soup, Broccoli Cheese Soup, and two variations of the same: Cheese Soup, and Cream of Broccoli Soup. These mouth-watering dishes are followed by the simply-named category, “Meats.” I won’t go into much detail here, but know that most recipes involve a common ingredient. “Quick Dish” is ground beef, chili seasoning and a can of pork & beans. “Gourmet Goulash” is a mixture of  ground beef and noodles, and has always been one of my favorites. “One-Dish Meat Casserole” similarly utilizes ground beef, noodles and chili powder, but also incorporates Worcestershire sauce, creamed corn,  and…cheddar cheese! “Easy Casserole” requires the addition of rice and cream of mushroom soup to the ground beef. There are a few other meat dishes incorporating chicken and ham, but those are among the minority.

No meal is complete without “Vegetables” of course, so I was anxious to see what recipes Mom had accumulated in this category. Most included potatoes, corn, and everyone’s favorite veggie: RICE! (And cheese.) Cream Corn Casserole, Rice Casserole, Rice Pilaf, New Potato Salad, Corn Pudding, Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, Broccoli-Corn Bake, Sour Cream Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes Supreme, and Oven-Baked Mushrooms & Rice. Finally, the piece de resistance, “Desserts & Puddings.” These are a bit more diverse, and include a prized family recipe – my Dad’s Christmas Plum Pudding. There are also cobblers, cakes, pies and about ten recipes for sugar cookies. Also, flan, cherries jubilee, brandy ice and “easy pots de creme.” I can’t wait to make a bunch of these sweets and be delivered right back to my Mom’s kitchen after school on a hot afternoon. Nothing made a boring day at Catholic school better than entering the house to the smell of sugar baking in the oven. Who cared whether it was cookies, cupcakes or, my favorite, meringues?

Going through this recipe box brings my Mom so close and reminds me of her Midwestern-style-comfort-food-non-spicy-cooking. Many of these cheesy, creamy recipes were my favorites back in the day, and serve to remind me that everything is better when cooked with cheese. And ground beef. And rice.

…and love.

(Lord, it’s a miracle I don’t weigh 40o pounds.)