Why I Always Bake Cookies on the First Day of School

Years ago, when my college Junior was around two, I received one of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten. I am sure at the time I was beating myself up for some typical human shortcoming such as raising my voice or not brushing my son’s teeth within two hours of eating raisins or skipping playgroup because I just couldn’t deal that week with an obnoxious, braggy mom even though my son loved to play with her child. Whatever it was, and I truly cannot remember now, I’m sure A) It was completely trivial, unimportant and/or stupid, and B) I made a big giant deal out of it.

Anyway, my friend said something like, “Kids don’t need perfect mothers, they need Good Enough mothers,” and it stopped me in my tracks. While I never stopped trying to be the best parent I could be, I also cut myself more of a break when things turned out less than ideal in Momland. Which, it turns out, would be lots and lots of times when multiplied by three kids over twenty years.

I say all of this because when I mention that I am baking cookies on the first day of school (and I actually requested off from work this year to do so), inevitably people will say, “Oh, you’re such a perfect mom.” And then that makes me feel like a big, fat fraud, since I am sooooo far from perfect and have long given up the quest to be so.

But you know what’s perfect? Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are perfect. Starting a new school year is always a little difficult and scary (for me, too), Transitions can be tough, so it’s nice to come back home to something safe, familiar and comforting like a warm chocolate chip cookie and cold milk. Every family has their traditions, and this is ours. It’s a tough world out there, and I always want my kids to feel like home is their happy space. I will never be the perfect mom, but I can do my best to create some perfect moments along the way, and that’s Good Enough.

Wishing everyone a wonderful school year and some good after school snacks!



Of Madness & Reason: My Trip to Hill Farmstead Brewery

Greetings from Vermont! We are here this week on vacation, and even though we’ve been coming here for seventeen years, this beautiful state still enchants us. We love everything about you, Vermont!

Our friends are here with us this year, and while plotting out our week’s activities, they lobbied hard for a trip to the holy mecca of beer enthusiasts, Hill Farmstead Brewery. I was all set to sit this trip out and indulge in my favorite vacation activities of napping and reading rather than waiting in a long line for super special beer, but they appealed to my blogging sensibilities. They know I’m a sucker for hype and appreciate any hard to obtain food or beverage that inspires religious fervor, and who knows if I will have this opportunity again? So we set out on the 45 mile journey, growler in hand from our other friend who previously made the pilgrimage.


The trip up to Greensboro, Vermont is every bit as picturesque as one might expect.


When we finally arrived, the parking lot was pretty full, but we found a spot. The brewery itself is fairly utilitarian and rustic, without flashiness, bells or whistles. I found this refreshing, since they hold a boatload of prestigious awards, including Best Brewer in the World. THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! Thank God I didn’t sit this trip out. What was I thinking? Their logo comes from the Hill family tavern in the early 1800s, part of a long tradition of providing quality libations.



As usual, I was a little overwhelmed when faced with a beer choice, but lovely Kristin (pictured above) told me that the Madness and Reason #1 (Nitro) sounded like something I might enjoy: an Imperial Stout base with vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs and chipotle.Well, I knew I loved the name, and it certainly sounded interesting, so we gave it a go.


It’s not often I’m at a loss for words to describe food or beverage, but I was struck dumb. Dumb and in love. This was truly amazing. I needed Kristin to give me words besides sublime, the only word I kept uttering besides, “Yes. More.” Some of Kristin’s words about the sublime Madness and Reason: well-balanced, complex, having it all, sweet-bitter-spicy, rich, velvety, creamy, variegated, 5 star. Yes, more.


Alas, there was no more. It was not available in a bottle or a growler, only in itty bitty 4 ounce tasting glasses. How disappointing for me!

Fortunately, everyone else managed to find beer that that they liked, and we brought some home. I personally enjoyed the Mary, a German style pilsner. Ed also bought the Arthur (saison) and Clara (grisette). And our friends bought…lots more!


Before we departed, we got a quick bite to eat at the taco truck parked outside. We tried and enjoyed all three varieties of tacos offered (black bean with fried plantain, beef with crunchy jalapeno, and buffalo chicken). At four dollars a piece, they were the perfect compliment to our beer.

I’m glad I said yes to this journey. While I’ve always enjoyed an above-average beer, I’m just not part of the #beerculture in a way which the true enthusiasts are. However, I am a big fan of family businesses, high quality, limited supplies and true craftsmanship. Madness and Reason provided me with my first transcendental beer experience, and I finally understood why people get all worked up and travel many miles for the perfect beer.  It was definitely worth the trip.



What Remains

My father died eleven days ago. He had been fighting hard for the last year and finally making good progress when suddenly he was brought down quickly by a hospital infection. He was like a cat, my father, always landing on his feet and defying death on several occasions when others counted him out. So while some might say, “Well, he was sick for a year, how shocking really IS this?” I can assure you it is quite shocking to the little girl in me who still thinks her daddy is the strongest man in the world.

We had a complicated relationship. I know that describes 90% of all families, and it was certainly true in our case. But one thing I can say for sure — without going into all of the unpleasantness and complexity of our particular situation — is that I woke up every day of my life knowing I was loved by my father. I woke up knowing that no matter what I needed, he would find a way to provide. I woke up knowing he would always be happy to hear from me, to see me, to help me. So while I cannot dismiss any of the other baggage, at the end of the day, nothing matters now but the love.

I was a good daughter. I know that I was, and people have told me so. But today, I feel full of regret and remorse. I wish I was kinder. I wish I was more patient. I wish I helped with a glad heart. I wish we had some conversations we didn’t have. In short, I wish I did more. I did a lot, but I should have done more. I should have been more compassionate, more forgiving. More like my father.

Anne Lamott wrote in Traveling Mercies I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon anyone. Even yourself, eventually. It’s like learning to drive on an old car with a tricky transmission: if you can master shifting gears on that, you can learn to drive anything.

My dad was good at forgiving others and gifted at forgiving himself. He never wallowed. He never beat himself up. He never felt sorry for himself, even though there were many times when no one would have blamed him for doing so. As the Japanese adage goes, fall down seven times, stand up eight. Dad kept standing up until the very end. I am trying to channel him now and brush off the regrets. I know he would have wanted that.

No one loved life more than my father. That possibly explains why he put his body through more than most people would ever dream of in order to live. Here are some things my father loved, in no particular order: The New England Patriots, Wendy’s chili, online dating (years ahead of us on that trend), photography, obscenely well-done hamburgers, weather forecasts (especially those involving snow), The Air Force, Air Force baseball caps, NPR, the beach, the lottery, mountain climbing, good movies and elephants, which are said to bring good luck.

He was an eternal optimist. The last week of his life, we discussed the billion dollar Powerball lottery, and he wanted my sister to buy him tickets. We laughed at my refusal and my hardcore “I earn my money” stance, once again questioning my paternity. He told my mom (his original and favorite ex-wife — oh, there were more), “Don’t worry, Andi, when I win I will take care of you, too.” And there is no doubt in my mind he would have.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My father made a lot of people feel special and important. He sincerely saw the very best in everyone he met. And he was possibly your biggest fan. He certainly was mine.

Everyone loved my dad. I have lived in this area on and off for 35 years, and I never knew as many people in my community as my dad did in just a few short years living here. When I went to the bank — both branches — everyone there knew my father. No one at the bank ever paid attention to me until they found out I was his daughter. When we would walk through Acme, various clerks would greet him warmly. I’ve spent approximately $50,000 in Acme, and no one there ever greeted ME warmly. Even the cute young salesgirl at the AT&T store knew him and was heartbroken to hear of his illness. He made friends everywhere he went.

The days following my father’s death were difficult ones. As I drove near his house to pick up my son at basketball, I asked my dad for a sign. I told him I was feeling sad and empty without him here on earth, and right at that moment, The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” came on the radio. I can not think of a song that embodies my father’s life more than this. It’s a simple tune which holds all the answers. Love is all you need. I never used to believe that. Sure, love is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills. But as I spent my final days with my dad, love was all that was left…not houses or cars or watches or clothes…only love remained in that room, and it was all that we needed in the end.

While my father and I were quite different from each other, I am trying hard to employ more of his trademark warmth and goodness into my life. I will try to forgive people quickly and not hold grudges. I will try to to believe the very best about everyone.  I will try to be optimistic and not waste precious time on needless worry. Finally, I will try to help others and give selflessly and generously with an open heart. I will tell all the people I love that I love them, starting now. I love you. Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me so warmly during these difficult days. My dad would have loved that.

Power Off, Life On

For months I’ve been contemplating a simpler life, one where a trip to the grocery store meant I could get in my car, listen to some songs or NPR, shop without distraction for the food on my list, get back into the car, listen to some more songs, then come home and unpack my groceries in peace. Is that so much to ask?

In my current life, my drive to the store usually includes one to two phone conversations, a check of emails and texts once I’m in the parking lot, quick responses to any emails and texts, a look at my phone notepad for the grocery list, a stop in the cereal aisle to confer via text over cereal preferences, another stop in frozen food to see what email just came in (it could be really important), and then a nice perusal of the holy trinity (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) during my wait to checkout. On the ride home, I will return the missed call from my sister.

We call it multitasking, and sometimes it truly is a lifesaver and completely necessary. Often it is not. My need and desire for constant communication among my friends and loved ones was turning into my undoing. Somewhere along the line, I started to feel resentful of the expectation to respond to everyone and everything ASAP. It’s a little exhausting, and it was beginning to diminish my quality of life.

As a teenager growing up in the dark ages, I loved to pass notes to friends and boyfriends. I know that seems positively Laura Ingalls Wilder, but back in the 80s (1980s, not 1880s), it got the job done quite well. The anticipation of a response was even part of the fun. I could not imagine a future where every very important thought in my head could be instantly transmitted to my intended recipient. What a dream!

Just as I was pondering all of this, I received at text from a friend saying sorry she hasn’t been in touch, but her cell phone was out of commission for a couple weeks, so she couldn’t respond to my last text. She then went on to say how NICE it was, and that was all I needed to hear. I knew I had to make some changes.

In typical fashion, I had big plans for myself. Let’s make this a real experiment, I thought. I will gather some friends and we can record our life-changing observations, and together we will CHANGE THE WORLD! I solicited a group of friends from different parts of the US with different backgrounds, and I proposed that they sign up for one of the two cell phone usage levels detailed below for at least 48 hours:

Level One, AKA Dawn’s Mom: You have a cell phone, but it is turned off. It is a true “emergency only” phone. Unless you get a flat tire or run out of gas or get stranded somewhere, the phone remains OFF for up to one week. You do not check it for any reason unless you are experiencing a true emergency.

Level Two, The Drastic Reduction: You may devote up to thirty minutes a day of being on your phone. You can break it up into three ten minute units, two fifteen minute units or one thirty minute unit.

I received several responses, most which could be summed up best by my friend Bonnie: I feel panicky just thinking about that. Couldn’t I just give you a kidney or something?
Fittingly, she typed that response while on her phone.

I certainly understood everyone’s hesitation about taking a trip back to the early 1990s, but I was still determined to go there myself. I told my husband and kids that they could reach me at work in case of emergency, and with fear and exhilaration, I turned the power off and headed to work.

It was surprisingly pleasant to be at work and only think about work. I knew my friends and family were carrying on with their own lives, but those lives remained a little more mysterious during my work day. It helped knowing, of course, that I could be reached if needed, but that no one would be reaching out unless it was super duper important. There were a few times I mindlessly reached for my phone out of habit, but instead of feeling twitchy, I just repeated my mantra for this experiment: Be where you are.

My poor, battered, overstimulated brain thanked me. You are here, it told me, and your only job is to focus on where you are. Not the school emails, not the texts, not the Instagram pictures of other people living other lives, but right here. Frankly, it felt like a little vacation to not be so easily reachable. It was a very good day.

I allowed myself to power back on for ten minutes as I was leaving work, just in case something important happened, but there was only a message from my husband Ed: I know you’re on blackout, but could you pick up vanilla ice cream on your way home if you see this? As I exited the store with the ice cream, I saw a beautiful pink hot air balloon landing with the sun setting behind it. What a winning picture, I thought, and reached once again for my phone to get the shot (and inevitably post it somewhere for others to admire). But then I stopped. No photos today. I just stood there in the parking lot appreciating the magical beauty of my hometown, feeling lucky and grateful to be right there at that moment, watching a pink balloon land at sunset.

It’s hard to say how my habits will change, but I know they will. With three children in school (one in another state), it’s not realistic for me to go full-on emergency-only mode. It is my responsibility to navigate technology in a way which enhances my life, and I was not doing a very good job. Somewhere there lies a happy medium between the woman who keeps her phone turned off 99% of her life (hi, Mom!) and the woman who wears the phone as an appendage, and I was veering dangerously close to the latter. I plan to continue with my drastic reduction plan several days a week for a while and see where it takes me. One thing I know for sure: the world will continue to turn, with or without me being reachable 24/7. Sooner or later, I will get back to you…perhaps not instantaneously, but in a timely fashion. I promise.





No Rain, No Rainbows

For quite some time, my life has been moving along in an orderly, harmonious, predictable fashion, a veritable string of sunny days with only the occasional light shower, but recently that has changed. We have been dealing with my father’s latest battle with cancer. Aside from the obvious concerns for my father (pain, treatment plans and, well, mortality), there are the superficial ones: appointments, insurance, bills, logistics of juggling family and work. I am not the only person my age dealing with these challenges, and I am cognizant that others have much greater burdens to manage. As my father is fond of saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Still, my peaceful, well run, and predictable life which I love and appreciate so much is currently turned on its head, and I selfishly don’t like it one bit.

Hang in there, I tell myself. Just get him through the next round of chemo. Just get through the next platelet transfusion. Just get through the stem-cell transplant. But these things are looming for many months on the horizon. My father is brave and grateful for our help, rarely complaining; a model patient in some ways, a high maintenance patient in other ways. I found myself in the dangerous trap of waiting for this ordeal to be behind us before I could “let” myself be happy and exhale again. This is never a wise strategy.

Happiness is still here, I just need to look a bit harder to find it. It arrives in the most unexpected times and places, but when it arrives, it delights me more than anything would on a normal, peaceful day. It arrives in the form of a casserole from a friend who is the very definition of busy and over-scheduled, yet carved out time to lovingly provide a meal for us. It arrives when I see my father and son watching ESPN together, debating the merits of various players no one else in this family knows. It arrives when I discover that, like me, my father takes his coffee with just milk and prefers angel hair pasta over normal spaghetti and his bacon burnt. It arrives in the form of a foot massage from my husband, who silently rubs my feet while not complaining when Real Housewives of New York is on rather than the highbrow NOVA documentary he would prefer.

My parents have been divorced well over twenty years, but last week my mom prepared a couple of my father’s favorite meals and drove for an hour up here to deliver them. It was my day off, which usually means the day I have to catch up on laundry, shopping, errands, cleaning and various dad-related duties. There is never enough time and lately there has been even less, and while my mom and dad sat in my family room and chatted, I started to finish up some long overdue vacuuming. But then I heard this:

“See Alexis? She had a baby with a mobster, too. Yeah, the one with the dark hair who’s married to the man who has amnesia…”

They were watching General Hospital together, a soap that hasn’t been on my tv since 1984 and which Dad has never watched, but Mom was attempting to fill him in on the last thirty years. Despite their differences, numerous differences, they still care about each other and can usually manage to be civil and supportive, especially when the chips are down. Moments like this fortify me, and I gather them like little pebbles and take them out of my pocket when I need to feel better.

It was another busy day and my last chance to catch up on some gardening for a while, so Dad sat on the front porch while I tended to the pots and flower beds. Then we moved to the deck while I planted my herbs. Finally, we moved down to the patio, where I planted the hot peppers and tomatoes and thinned out the radishes. We chatted the whole time, feeling the warm sun on our faces.

“Today was a good day,” he said. “I liked being outside with you while you planted things.” You’re right, Dad. It was a very good day.


Peonies Not Included

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland

Many years ago, we moved into this house in February, perhaps the ugliest and most dismal month in our part of Pennsylvania. At only twenty-five, I was awfully young to move on to this cul-de-sac filled with families of five and couples approaching retirement. I felt like a kid pretending to be a grown-up, and I relished my new role as lady of the manor.

My first order of business was to purchase flowers, but my husband Ed smartly insisted we wait and see what came up first before just diving in. The real estate literature for this house stated “Peonies not included.” These were the days before Google, and my dictionary was still packed away somewhere. I hoped peonies meant those ugly floral valances found in almost every room. Fine, I thought, please keep them.

I have always loved flowers, but being from city folk, I’ve never been much of a naturally skilled gardener. Everything I’ve learned about gardening was learned from my husband. I’ll admit, I was resistant at first. Dirty fingernails and worms and a sore back? No thank you. Can’t I just pick out the flowers and have someone else plant them? Not when you marry for love, you can’t.

Admittedly, it has taken me years to finally enjoy the manual labor called gardening. I used to feel terribly resentful of all the work involved. Part of it, too, was that I had young children to care for, so gardening was just one more needy thing on my list to feed and water. As my children grew and became more self sufficient, I found that I actually enjoyed the nurturing and somewhat fussy nature of gardening. Funny how we’re always seeking balance but rarely realize it until we look back.

Our first spring and summer here was filled with beautiful discoveries. Every week seemed to bring us new and unexpected presents: crocuses, pansies, daffodils, tulips, irises, roses, wisteria, strawberries, azalea, dogwood, rhododendron and eventually these large, beautiful, snowball-like fragrant flowers called peonies. Now that I knew what peonies were, I was very glad some were inadvertently left behind.

Spring has always been my favorite season, probably because I have a May birthday, and from my earliest days I associated spring with presents for me, me, me! Later on in life I associated spring with cute clothes and sandals, school’s final months, and impending summer vacation. Today spring represents the act of reclaiming and beautifying our yard and moving our Inside Life to Outside Life. Whatever stage of life I was in, springtime represented the rebirth of everything good.

I have had a good life, but it has not always been an easy life. Like many humans, I have suffered heartbreak, illness, loss of loved ones, tyrannical bosses, betrayal, loneliness, uncertainty, worries, unfairness, long lines, incorrect cable bills, and sleepless nights. It’s very easy sometimes to believe the current situation will never change, and we’ll be stuck where we are forever.

It’s no wonder that both Passover and Easter occur in springtime; it’s when the magic happens. Life is dark and dismal and slushy and full of despair, and then one day, the birds and flowers appear again. You know intellectually that things are supposed to eventually tweet and bloom again (because nature) but it still seems impossible some days. Like, maybe this year it will be different? Maybe spring will be canceled or skipped? Silly as it sounds, on those darkest days, a person might believe it possible.

Seeing that first patch of green after a long winter is uplifting and miraculous. If this ground once covered with many inches of snow and ice and dead plants is now alive and growing, then there is hope for us all, even a know-it-all twenty-five year old new homeowner who doesn’t know a peony from a curtain rod. Every year the trees grow taller, the flowers bloom again, and I discover something new to love in this old house of mine.




Here’s to the Little Things

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. — Robert Brault

Happy New Year, Readers! I hope 2014 was good and 2015 will be even better. The mere fact that we’re here puts us ahead of the game by a lot!

We had a very quiet, non-traditional New Year’s Eve due to a conflict of schedules, but since my job requires me to operate at 110% during December, it was nice to just chill. I certainly did miss my friends, but we will have many more years of ringing in the New Year together, I am sure.

Today was spent at home, reading, relaxing and looking to the year ahead. We made homemade pizza and Caesar salad for dinner — nothing too fancy, but made with love. As I chopped and sauteed and listened to music with Ed and the three kids around me, dog Teddy at my feet, I realized how much the kitchen is my one of my happiest places, and I have been to some pretty nice places. But having all my people with me, preparing a meal with a glass of wine, I realized that this is it. I am the luckiest person in the world. I am healthy and safe and feeding the people I love the most. We are eating and laughing and just being together, and it’s enough. Everything I need is right here, and I am happy.

I hope 2015 brings me back in the kitchen a bit more. Whether it does or not, I will try my best to update you on matters of food and life. Thank you so much for your support and comments, which I cherish more than you’ll ever realize.

Happy New Year!


An Update: These Are the Days of Miracle and Wonder

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles. — Walt Whitman, Miracles

It is Sunday morning, and I am listening to the Paul Simon station on Pandora, always my go-to favorite. The Boy in the Bubble was just on (inspiring my title) and now a live version of Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic is playing. The boys and Ed are at church, and I just finished concocting a spice rub for tonight’s dinner. Dog Teddy is at my feet, waiting for bacon to magically fall from the sky, as sometimes it does. Logan is happily away at school, most likely still asleep at 10 am. I am wearing Mom Mom’s apron, because I always do when I’m making a mess in the kitchen. We’re all in our places with sunshiney faces, and for the first time in many, many weeks, I am feeling myself again.

It has been a difficult fall for our family. We attended two funerals for two wonderful men lost way too soon; one from a tragic car accident, and one from ALS. Two wives left without beloved husbands, five children left without a father. So much unexplainable sadness shakes one’s faith in the universe sometimes, and it has surely shaken mine in ways seen and unseen. I rather enjoyed my easy breezy life-is-a-bowl-of-cherries world view, and it’s unsettling to have that disrupted.

When you’re in a Slump
You’re not in for much fun
Un-slumping yourself
Is not easily done. — Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go

I have been earnestly reaching for people and things to bring me back from the slow hole I’ve been retreating into. My family, good friends, good books, good music, good food — thanks to all of you who, knowingly or unknowingly, have lifted me back up into the light. One thing I have learned is I need to tell all of the important people in my life just how important they are. I have not always been successful at this, but I’ll continue to try. Thank you for the small or large role you have played in enriching my world.

Aside from many exceptional people, here are a few things which have been making me happy.

1.) Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Oh, the profound beauty and wisdom of this book! It brilliantly paints all of the darkness and all of the light of an ordinary life. I had my reservations about HBO turning it into a miniseries, but it was truly one of the best adaptations of great literature I’ve ever seen. Frances McDormand is the perfect Olive. Check out the trailer here, then do yourself a favor and watch this if you haven’t.

And then as the little plane climbed higher and Olive saw spread out below them fields of bright and tender green in this morning sun, farther out the coastline, the ocean shiny and almost flat, tiny white wakes behind a few lobster boats–then Olive felt something she had not expected to feel again: a sudden surging greediness for life. She leaned forward, peering out the window: sweet pale clouds, the sky as blue as your hat, the new green of the fields, the broad expanse of water–seen from up here it all appeared wondrous, amazing. She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed. –Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

2.) Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. I am a huge fan of former local girl Kelly Corrigan, and her latest memoir about mothers and daughters did not disappoint. It is a beautiful tribute to her mother, who once described her family by saying, “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” I grew up with a similar dynamic, and now that I’m a mother, I truly appreciate the not-always-glamorous job of the glue. This is a quick and easy read with surprising sweetness and depth.

3.) Annual limoncello making. This welcome holiday tradition takes a lot of vodka, a lot of sugar, a lot of lemons, and a lot of planning, but it’s always worth it. Yesterday I bottled our 2014 batch, and I can confirm it’s the best year ever. Like everything else, this production is always better with the help of a friend. Thanks, friend!

Finally, a recipe. Sorry, this is not much of a recipe, but I can vouch for its awesomeness.

Limoncello Martini
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce high quality limoncello
Shake with ice and pour into martini glass
Garnish with a twist

As always, thanks for reading. Slowly but surely, I will be back.


Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad with a Side of Tears

Last week, versions of this recipe appeared twice in my Facebook feed from The Bitten Word and The Splendid Table, so I took it as a sign I needed to give it a try. Like most backyard gardeners, I have cucumbers coming out my ears this time of year. Luckily, my family (and coworkers — don’t get me started) love cucumbers, but after awhile, we tire of the usual preparation. I’m so glad that we tried this! I doubled the recipe for this dressing, used four regular (not English) cucumbers, and it was delicious.


Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
inspired by Food Network Magazine, original recipe here

2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, sliced
red pepper flakes, to taste
cilantro, if desired

Sprinkle cucumbers with one teaspoon kosher salt and let sit for ten minutes. Whisk together all other ingredients while cucumbers are sitting. Drain and rinse cucumbers. Add dressing. If using more than two cucumbers, double recipe.

Now, for the side of tears. Directions: Drop your first-born off at college. Come home. See his car in the driveway. See his favorite snacks on sale. See the dog waiting patiently for him by the door. See baby pictures on your screen saver. See his empty and abnormally clean room. Cry as needed. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Not unexpectedly, it has been hard for us. We absolutely, positively would not want things any other way than this. He is exactly where he needs to be, and we are fortunate that we can provide him with the opportunity which he has worked so hard to earn. Everything is as it should be. And yet…

When people ask me how I feel, it’s not easy to articulate. But I keep going back to Shel Silverstein’s (surprisingly divisive) children’s book, The Giving Tree. If you haven’t read it, you should. I can still hear myself reading it to my son:

And the tree was happy…but not really.

I get it, Giving Tree. I feel ya, girl.


Commencement Means Beginning

I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster ever since I wrote this last summer. It was therapeutic to share my crazies, and I did a decent job of bouncing back cheerily for the next several months. Then came the college application process, fraught with all kinds of unpleasantness, details of which I will spare. After that, a short period of relief, then back to sadness. At book club a couple months ago, I unexpectedly started crying while talking to the mom of another senior. Not just normal teary eyed stuff, actual boo-hoo-I-need-a-tissue-now crying. After that, I felt better for a good stretch, up until last week. I’m sure it’s pretty exhausting to be my friend these days.

Now with the new batch of commencement speeches being published online, I find myself weepy all over again. Happy and sad and proud and frustrated and worried and…well, just a bit of a mess. Did we do enough for my son? Did we do too much? It’s just so hard to know. We tried to give him all of the things he needed and some of the things he wanted. We tried to lead by example, model forgiveness, embrace natural consequences, love unconditionally…all of the standard things in our Good Parent contract. But was it enough?

One thing I will say with certainty is that we don’t regret a single dollar or single minute spent on family time. When I look back on the very brief eighteen years when he was just “mine,” I picture countless family dinners at the kitchen table, vacations to Vermont and occasionally more exotic places, long summer days spent at the pool and nights barbecuing. I picture sitting around the fire in the back yard, making sticky s’mores and playing Frisbee with the dog. I picture snowmobiling and snowman making and camping trips and long forced family marches through hot, buggy trails. I picture those countless hours and miles at lacrosse, soccer, basketball, ski slopes, swimming lessons, tennis lessons. I picture Monopoly games and checkers and Scrabble and Texas Hold ‘Em and seventeen Christmas mornings. All of those memories are silver and gold right now, and I only wished I gathered more of them while I could, just like every mother everywhere.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Back in the 1980s, almost every commencement speech began with, “Commencement means beginning.” We didn’t have Google back then, so we reached for the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Overplayed or not, it is a true statement, and one I try to keep in mind whenever I’m sad that it’s time soon for my arrow to fly. Best of luck to the class of 2014, and to all of the brave and stable bows sending them off into the world.