Monday, October 6, 2014

There are no words

I can't put down in words what it is like to have a dog in your life.

Especially this dog.

I could try "love".

But that wouldn't even come close to how wonderful it feels.  

It's like this:

And this:

Mixed together.

It is even harder to put down in words what it is like to not have a dog in your life.
Especially this dog.

I could say, "He had cancer."
I could say, "It came on very fast."
I could say, "We spoiled him like crazy and tried everything we could and hoped against hope that he would be OK somehow or at least not leave us quite yet and seized on every optimistic word and decided that since he still smiled whenever he was around us and liked those little chicken treats even when he wouldn't eat anything else and he had that familiar bounce in his step when he left the doctor and he knew I'd be home in two days and that the chemo was helping, they said it was helping god damn it, that because of all that he shouldn't die in his sleep, in the night, all alone, and be found very still, very cold, outside our bedroom door in the morning."

I could say, "I miss him so much I can't breathe."

But those words wouldn't even come close to how gut-wrenchingly miserable this feels. The keyboard is so wet with tears right now that I'm surprised it's still functioning.

I'm a little surprised I'm still functioning, too.

I say to myself, "He's OK now. "
I say to myself, "He was lucky to suffer so little, and to go at home in peace with his family nearby."
I say to myself, "Read that Rainbow Bridge poem. Believe the hell out of it."

None of those words do a damn thing for me.  I've tried. I hear them. I repeat them. I keep trying.

Finally, I say to myself, "He knew he was loved every single day of his life. Even the very last one. And you should be thankful for all of those days.  You were lucky, so lucky, to have him."

Finally, those are the only words that help.

Today would have been his 8th birthday. RIP Blackjack.  

Click here to read the collection of Blackjack stories from the blog.
Click here to see the beautiful website that my niece made in Blackjack's honor.
And to everyone who has been so very kind with words of comfort and compassion, with shared memories and shared deep grief, those words and hugs and thoughts have been appreciated beyond belief.  The measure of a great soul is how many people felt its presence, and by this yardstick, my goofy, gentle, sweet giant puppy had one of the greatest.  
Please click back here to check on me later.  I'm really hoping to feel better soon.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tomato How To's

How to grow tomatoes:

Buy them*.
Plant them.
Ignore them.
Harvest them by the bushel.

Done it twice now.  So I'm kind of an authority.

Note:  Does not work for any other living thing.  Especially basil plants and those cute little flower pots from Trader Joe's.  For them, Sharon = Death.

How to eat tomatoes:

Straight up is good.  Really good.

Or, you can make the big ones into tomato jam.

Recipe from Fine Cooking, modified not at all.

The jam is fresh and sweet and tart, a little spicy, and perfectly tomato-y.  Don't be tempted to add onions or garlic or herbs or fancy vinegar.  Let it be, and it'll taste exactly like summer. Amazing on burgers.  Like, ridiculous.  

You might attempt Gazpacho.  I did.

This recipe, a riff on one from Alton Brown, needs more work.  The flavors were spot on, but the texture was a little too much like salsa.  I should have followed along with this great video, from Judy of Two Broads Abroad, or tried making this recipe from Serious Eats.  Next summer!

With full confidence, I can recommend that you make the baby ones into warm tomato vinaigrette.

Tangy, bright and wonderful, I made this last year and it's now in permanent rotation.  The very simple recipe is over at Bon Appetit. Ladle it over roasted potatoes, grilled fish, a steak, or a frittata at breakfast.  Or be like me and slather it on top of fresh focaccia bread.

I insist you try this salad/salsa number with feta cheese and mint. (Recipe follows)

Despite the onset of September, there's no sign of summer slowing down around here. Instead, it seems to be getting hotter, if such a thing is possible. That means there are still a few juicy, ripe tomatoes to be had**.

Find them.
Eat them.

Don't forget, you can always check out the Recipe Box for even more tomato ideas.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm Back

I took the summer off.

It was supposed to just be a break from my job. Time away from meetings and contracts and managing, from sales calls, board reports, inventory and auditors, Powerpoint and spreadsheets and Salesforce.

And conference calls.  I was going cold turkey on those.

Don't get me wrong.  I value and thrive on my work and the people I get to do it with.  But I just couldn't be my working self this summer.

I needed to be a different self.

So I snatched at the gift of this time.

I thought I'd tackle projects, make progress, tick long postponed tasks off of lists, and set my life in order.  I envisioned photography sessions, elaborate recipes, blog redesigns, a new cookbook.  I saw myself deeply enmeshed in my children's consciousness, undistracted and welcomed.

I would write.

None of this happened.

Instead, I took a break from all of it.

I calmed down. I breathed and slept and had the house to myself. I walked. I read many marvelous books*.  I grew tomatoes and found wonderful ways to eat them**.

I baked slabs of pie***, and had people over.

Cherry Nectarine Slab Pie | Cheesy Pennies

I stretched and tried spinning and came to truly crave exercise.  I felt myself begin to be stronger, and was thrilled.  I even went so far as to initiate hiking.  Once.

I hung out with my dog.

I played Mahj and made it to book group and met my son for lunch at his job.  I returned carpool favors and drove my daughter to the airport and to camp and to anywhere else she wanted to go. I let my hair get all curly and didn't touch my blow drier and rotated between five t-shirts that have holes in them now.

My nails, though, have never looked better.  I made time for manicures and drank decaf iced tea.

I left home often.  I travelled to Iceland**** with my family and to Alaska***** with my friend. Both times I came back deeply moved and quietly elated by the experience.

For all of this, every lazy moment and plate of pancakes, all the cheerful reunions, each glass of good wine and the many sweaty drives home from the gym, I am grateful.

For the gift of this extraordinary ordinary summer, I give thanks on my knees.

I needed it, all of it. The perspective. The peace. I needed to be this relaxed and resilient self so I could bear what came next.

So I could sit on the couch next to my son watching Suits on TV like it was any other August night, and not the last night******.  So we could laugh together with the rest of the house asleep and his bags packed in a room down the hall, and I would not fall apart into a million pieces on the floor.

Now he's gone.

And I'm back.

Toffee Cheesecake Bars | Cheesy Pennies