February 2010

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Last night, I was driving home alone in the quiet dark of 101 toward Sugartown. There was a perfect ring around the moon, but no other signs of rain.

Out of nowhere, a swell of emotion swept over me like a rogue wave. I let it come. It had been a while, after all. The whole way home, I gripped the steering wheel, sobbing. I didn’t try to stop it, not one bit.

When I got in the house, D folded me in his arms. “It’s just so hard sometimes,” was all I could say. I had no sense of where it was coming from, and it didn’t matter.

And I know you understand. “It” is just so hard for you sometimes, too. Whatever “it” is for you. Several of my dearest friends are going through some difficult, difficult stuff right now. The waves keep coming, relentless swells.

D held me and kept saying, “It’s OK.” And it is. It felt so good, to let it out. To wring myself dry, then go to sleep. I’m always relieved after giving into the undertow. I feel exhausted, alive, human.

This morning, refreshed and renewed, I pushed myself beyond my normal walk up the mountain. I came upon a lake (who knew?). The frogs greeted me ecstatically.

Another walker told me that you can  see this particular lake only this time of year, after the rains. At the end of spring, it goes away. What timing. What luck.

Here’s a hug for my friends who are dealing with “it”. And here’s one for readers I don’t know yet who are dealing with “it”. Cry it out when you need to. It feels so good, and the water this time of year is good for lakes and the flowers that are coming soon.

Jennifer

Oh My Yum!

I’ve finally kicked my cold. In celebration, I’m cooking up a storm. Yesterday was the now-famous Chicken and Herbalicious Yum Sauce, and tonight is slow-cooked tomato sauce. Can’t wait.

But I want to share a few yummy recipes that came up over the last few weeks. These are perfect recipes for the end-of-winter/start-of-spring because they are both grounding and zingy at the same time.

The first two were favorites during the beach house weekend. The third was concocted in one of those, let’s-see-what-I-can-dig-outta-the-fridge moments.

First, C and Bommy’s delish Brussel Sprouts and Yams

The goods:

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

(We left out the oinker, but if you like…2-3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped coarsely)

1 yam, cubed

1-2 T olive oil

chili pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

The method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix up all the ingredients and put in 13×9″ pan. Roast for about 15 minutes, stir once, then cook for another 15 minutes until crispy and caramelized.

Next is a super simple Butternut Squash Soup

The goods:

Olive oil

One medium-sized bnut squash

One yellow onion

Six cups of veggie stock

Pinch of nutmeg

Pepper flakes, if you like, and I do!

The method:

Saute chopped onion in olive oil until soft. Add squash (peeled, seeded, and chopped) and stock. Cover and simmer for fifteen or so minutes. Puree all in blender. Return to pan, add nutmeg and pepper flakes.

And finally,

Roasted Polenta with Roasted Bell Pepper and Parmesan Cheese *This is an extra treat if, like me, you’re wending your way toward veganisnm and like to indulge in the occasional sprinkle of cheese.

The goods (as found in fridge):

One of those tube things of cooked polenta from Trader Joe’s

Two bell peppers

Parmesan Cheese

Olive Oil

The method (as made up by me on the fly):

Cut open tube of polenta and smash contents (into the bottom of a super cute Emile Henry baking dish) with the back of a fork

Broil two bell peppers until charred on all sides. Put them in sealed paper bag for twenty minutes. Peel, seed, and cut into strips.

Place pepper strips on top of polenta, grate parmesan over all of it. Drizzle olive oil over it. Poke your finger  in several places to allow stuff to mix.

Bake at 400 for about a half hour.

Let me know how these recipes work for you and if you have any changes.

Enjoy!

Jennifer

Play Date

Last week, a dear friend (of twelve years!) drove up with her boy to have a play date. Long stretches of highway, a city, and a bridge  lie between us, so we don’t see each other often enough.

She and I sit on a park bench and chat while our boys tear up the tan bark. I catch her up on my life, the little and big things of living in Sugartown. I realize I haven’t filled her in on the gene mutation discovery, the “ah-ha-that’s-why-I-got-the-O.C.” story.  I’m so used to explaining this now that I forget how the downside of this news sounds as is comes out of my mouth. The look on her face reminds me. I race to the upside and press myself against it with all my might. I push it in her direction like a football player against a training sled. I rattle off my list of known ten-year-plus survivors. She smiles and agrees to see the positive, and only that. I knew she would.

I turn away to look for the boys. Little J is standing on top of a rock and calling for some other kids to climb up.

My friend reaches over and lightly touches my hand. I don’t turn to look at her because I can hear her sniffle. I give her a moment to get settled in the upside again. And then we get up to push the boys on the tire swing.

They’re flying like crazy on that thing: around and through the upside, the downside and back again. Little whirling dervishes, they watch each other, their faces puffy and red with laughter, flinging their joy all over us as they go.

My friend throws her arm around me, and now we’re smiling and laughing, too.

Jennifer

The lovely house by the water was perfect. D, little J, and I were the first to arrive. C arrived next, so naturally, we got to work:

Bob Costas, if you are reading, we are true Olympians (of weekend getaway chillaxin’).

And here’s how we medaled (Cue Olympics theme):

M: staying up late in spite of never sleeping.

C: staying in the convo whilst sleeping.

Po: speaking English and yet requiring a translator.

D: as in Dionysus, God of wine, need I say more?

Vanna: bustin’ out the show-tunes (or any other tune for that matter) resulting in much singing and dancing (thanks again to Dionysus, see above).

Bommy: Best. Mexican. Breakfast. Ever.

Me: not leaving a trace of little J’s blood in a rental house upholstered (completely) in white.

Little J: double-gold for seven nosebleeds in two days, and beating all the adults at Candyland. I know. I’m tearing up, too.

The athletes:

Dionysus and Po:

The canoe team:

After finishing the Double-Dipsea:

It was just a few weeks ago but already feels like a dream.

I read the Caringbridge site for a woman I know who is battling the Real O.C. Hers is a battle so fierce that I brace myself before I read updates.

The doctors had “prepared them for the worst” long ago. But, like our dear Persephone, she is rising just in time for Spring.

Her Dear Love writes:
Spending Valentine’s day with June here at home was a beautiful gift.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to have a normal Sunday where we could be side by side on the sofa pouring over sections of the New York Times together and watching the Olympics on TV.  It’s sad that it takes such a terrible illness to get us to appreciate the small things, isn’t it?

Yes, it is! But here we are.

Enjoy your Monday, whatever you have planned.
Jennifer

Day of Love

D and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day, eleven years ago. We met for dinner at Enrico’s, a restaurant in North Beach that always had live jazz and is no longer around. After dinner, we went across the street to the Black Cat for more gimlets, music, and starry-eyed conversation.

Later that night, I looked out the window of my Nob Hill apartment, at the water, the bridge, and Alcatrazz with its spinning lighthouse beam. I thought about the man who’d passed me in the street on my way to Enrico’s. He’d asked, “You lonely tonight, sweetie?” I’d wanted to tell him that I knew I’d never be lonely again.

Shortly thereafter, this picture was taken at D’s brother’s house. I’ve never been one to hide my emotions.

And finally, here is one of my favorite love poems. Happy Valentine’s Day.

I Like for You to Be Still, by Pablo Neruda

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you.
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.

As all things are filled with my soul
you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.
You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,
and you are like the word Melancholy.

I like for you to be still, and you seem far away.
It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like a dove.
And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach you:
Let me come to be still in your silence.

And let me talk to you with your silence
that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.
You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations.
Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
distant and full of sorrow as though you had died.
One word then, one smile, is enough.
And I am happy, happy that it΄s not true.

To Do

Still planning to post about the trip away, but had to share this first.

I got quite a shock when I came across one of my To Do lists from a year and a half ago.

1. Get pregnant.

2. Make a ton of money.

3. Stay happy and healthy.

Number one is permanently off the list. Number three is permanently on the list. Number two made me laugh enough to not think about number one and three.

Jennifer


I’m looking forward to a long weekend at the beach with D and J and our dear friends. One lives close and the others far away. But we just don’t see enough of any of them!

There is sure to be delicious food, digging for treasure, parlor games, and lots of story telling (and embellishing). There is also sure to be lots and lots of rain. And what better way to spend a stormy weekend?

Here’s hoping your weekend is beautiful and fun and full of laughter, even if it’s a little wet.

Jennifer

Blessed

I walked into my local today for the regular: half-tube with the light blue cap filled with my juicy, A+ blood.

The sweet lady who has checked me in for the past year smiles. She looks relieved. “You look great, Jennifer. How are you doing?” “Fine,” I say, holding up my crossed fingers. That little sign, the crossed fingers for hope for continued NED (no evidence of Disease), told her she could now admit how worried she’d been about me all year. Sweet.

But then this started, “My sister got cervical cancer when she was forty-two and my mom got ovarian cancer when she was forty-four.” I interrupt her to tell her how lucky her mom is to be alive. She hadn’t considered this. “Yes,” I tell her. Statistically speaking, a very small percentage of women with the real O.C. live more than five years. She’s a winner!

The hint was not taken. She responded with, “Why are women so cursed?”

“I’m not cursed,” I responded, smiling. And truly, I don’t feel cursed at all. And why did she? Both her sister and her mother are survivors. She still has them in her life.

She looked at me a little afraid she had insulted me. “No, no,” I said, reaching across the table and touching her hand. “It’s just that I don’t feel cursed. Do you?”

She was so confused, but I had to go. Get my blood drawn.

As I sat there, I thought of exactly why I don’t feel cursed.

First of all, stuff happens, and that’s that.  But secondly, not that I would EVER be one of those people who feels lucky to have cancer (GOD NO), but I think about it this way: If you had to choose between:

a) not having any idea whether you were going to live more than four more years and therefore living each day with love and like it was your last or
b) feeling confident that you had a full life ahead of you and continuing to live half-consciously and doing things you don’t like to do, and complaining about everything that is even slightly lacking in your life

Which would you choose? Which would be better? Which would make you feel cursed?

Just a question that got me thinking.

carpe diem, people.