Grief and Loss and Wine

My best friend’s mother is dying and it’s not a pretty death.  At 93 years old, her heart still beats strong and she has rallied from many other ER visits.  But not this one.  It’s a matter of time before she passes.   She has an infection and her body has become septic.  The infection has made her unstable, unable to tolerate the surgery needed to fix the cause of the infection.  My friend is overwhelmed by the situation — every cell in her body wants to do everything  possible to save her mother’s life but she knows there’s noting to b done.  Her feelings of loss almost render her paralyzed but she overcame them to focus on her mother and what’s best.

er mother has been difficult for the past few years and, quite frankly, was a most unpleasant woman for most of the 25 years I’ve known her.  Yet I feel a sense of loss  for the fiesty irritational woman she once was.    The essence of who she is no longer lives in this body.   We agree that the primary objective is comfort, a morphine drip to reduce her pain, nothing else.   I leave my friend alone to say good by to her mother’s body, to say whatever’s in her heart one last time.  How sad that her mother can neither hear her nor can she tell her daughter any final words.

It is our responsibility to ensure that her final days are dignified. Dying with dignity should be a basic right but humans are selfish in their moments of loss, aren’t we?

I’m in no mood for the Ugly Sweater Holiday party so I update the Man on the way home.  I’m sad, emotional, in no mood to party, I’m sorry.  What do you need, he asks.  It warms my heart that he asks.  Um, alcohol.  Wine or vodka? Yes — but not really. I’m too emotionally raw to drink that much.  I don’t want an alcohol-induced meltdown.  Sex.  Not a problem.  Depending on the alcohol I m not sure about sex but I like the thought.

I arrive home to a big glass of wine and a really ugly sweater!  and a bear hug.  The kind of warm strong hug that says “go ahead.  Feel the loss.”  We cuddle on the sofa, my ear pressed against his chest, listening to his heartbeat as we talk love, loss, death and grief.  We feel loss so deeply,  I wonder why we don’t feel love as deeply.  Maybe we do but we forget or take love for granted.

Grieving for my friend’s loss compels me to feel the human connections of love, of intimacy, of physical closeness more.  I think we want to fill the void caused by loss with the positives of human connection.  In this moment I’m comforted by his heartbeat even as mine is breaking.

Cherished? Sexually Desired? Loved?

As a woman, have you thought about what you need to see in your man’s eyes when he looks at you?  And depending on what you see, are you happy?  pissed off? sad?  puzzled?

I have a friend who is dating a great guy – on paper.  He’s smart, down-to-earth, eh, not so funny,  but really smart, hardworking and ambitious.  He has told her “I love you”,  has planned lovely romantic dates.  Yet, she doesn’t see devotion in his eyes.  She doesn’t feel she’s the most important person in/aspect of his life.

Is that worth ending a relationship over?  I think she has a great guy — deal with it.  Then I see the facebook post about 92 year old man singing to his 93 year old wife (who is in hospice) and I fiercely want this for her!

I want it for myself.

This man may have sexually desired his wife (Ihope) but, according to this video, his love is cherishing.  He is devoted to her and his actions are focused on letting her know 1) he is by her side and 2)  she is loved.  To be seen fully yet loved unconditionally.   Would you be able to do this?

To  feel so comforted and loved for no reason other than I am me.    To love someone because he’s him.  To think I can cherish someone for the rest of our lives.

cher·ish
verb
verb: cherish; 3rd person present: cherishes; past tense: cherished; past participle: cherished; gerund or present participle: cherishing
  1. protect and care for (someone) lovingly.
    “he cared for me beyond measure and cherished me in his heart”
    synonyms: adore, hold dear, love, dote on, be devoted to, revere, esteem, admire; More

    think the world of, set great store by, hold in high esteem;
    care for, tend to, look after, protect, preserve, keep safe
    “a woman he could cherish”
    • hold (something) dear.
      “I cherish the letters she wrote”
      synonyms: treasure, prize, value highly, hold dear

      “I cherish her letters”

Which do you think you need in your life?  To be Desired? To be Cherished? What do you think you need or you

How does that equal love to you?  Or does it?

 

 

 

Dating and guns … oh my

I’m dating…..  I bought a gun.

I know, I know these statements should not be related.  Or if they are, I should seek counseling!    In my mind, in my world, they are very related — emotionally.

Dating is so different in my 50’s — there’s a lot ‘they’ don’t tell you about dating in  your 50’s.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

Having a gun is so different, so foreign.  Both of these activities have me out of my comfort zone and both of them are borne out of accepting my age and where I am in my life.

Ok, dating.  I can’t put the gun under my pillow when I have overnight guests but I also don’t have a nightstand.  What to do?  Thankfully that chat hasn’t happened yet.  Matter-of-fact, at this point, I’m weeding out men based on their opinions on gun ownership.  There are A LOT of men online who are staunchly anti-gun and/or very restrictive gun control, especially in California.  Hard to wink at someone when he’s vehemently opposed to guns and I have one staring at me every night when I go to sleep.  Is this similar to a man who smokes weed every night and I’m not comfortable with that?

The gun — which is awesome! — was a decision that came upon me recently.    We live in a world of crazy, even more crazy in Los Angeles.  Heaven forbid, I’m in a ‘him or me’ situation.

One day, I realized that if that happens, I want ‘me’ to come out standing.  It wasn’t an easy decision to admit that I’d take a life if I had to but as I get older, I’m more vulnerable.  I’d like to pretend, since I’m a big woman,  that I can take care of myself in most situations.  Will that be true when I’m 65?

I was attacked at knifepoint when I was 25.   Not once did I think of getting a gun at that age.  Now I no longer have that youthful energy or anger. Could I fight off an attacker?  I don’t know and I’m not sure I want to find out.

I needed ‘self-defense viagra’.

I bought a beautiful gun (really?  who am I right now???), named her Mae West, and practice ALOT for muscle memory.  I don’t want that worst case scenario but if it happens, I want to be ready.

A long winded way of saying I’d like a partner in my life …. but I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  Hell, I might be the shooter of the family!!

 

 

 

Ah, HELLO BLOG You old friend

Life’s been crazy the past 8 months (longer!) and I’ve missed capturing the highlights of life in this blog.

Oh boy, a lot of travel, a lot of delicious food and A LOT of wine has been opened.  And my memory sucks — which may or may not be related to the wine or age.  Let’s see if I can revisit some of those memories over the next few weeks.

Just returned from a gorgeous weekend in Washington DC for Cherry Blossom Festival.  There are no words that capture the beauty of these trees.  More later.

Comfort Foods – Mac & Cheese from Bechamel

As October heads toward November, I find myself daydreaming about comfort foods.  Y’know the hearty, savory, soothing food of our youth.  For me, it was coming home from school to the aroma of gently simmering beans and fresh made biscuits in the oven — the type of bean didn’t matter!  Butter, Great Northern, Lima.  Ahhhhhh.

Or beef stew with more fresh made biscuits.

My favorite day was Sunday.  My mom usually cooked fried chicken, collards or cabbage, potato salad or mac & cheese — depending on the season.    I didn’t like mac & cheese as a child, much preferring potatoes or rice.

But now, mac & cheese comes to mind as one of my comfort foods.  Probably because I’ve had some fantastic mac & cheese dishes in restaurants and those dishes have colored my Sunday dinner memories.

Mac & Cheese
Mac & cheese in cast iron skillet fresh out the oven!

Today starts a series of posts on the 5 Mother Sauces of classic French cooking:  Béchamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Classic Tomate.

Mac & Cheese is basically cooked pasta coated with a cheese béchamel sauce.  Cheese béchamel sauce being a ‘child’ of the mother sauce.  Good place to start my journey into the 5 Mother Sauces as well as satisfy my craving for comfort food.

I didn’t realize how simple and easy mac & cheese is.  The important decision is the quality of the ingredients.  Buy the best butter and cheese you can afford.  They truly give the dish its flavor and scrimping will only make you feel it wasn’t “that good.”

Ingredients for Mac & Cheese
Ingredients for Mac & Cheese

I didn’t grate my cheese the first few times, I cubed it — DUMB.   It wastes heat and time to wait for cubed cheese to melt.  Spend the minutes early on grating your cheese or buy it grated.

Mac & Cheese
Cubed Cheese ready for Béchamel Sauce

Grate your cheese.

Mac & cheese
Bacon in cast iron skillet

Crisp your bacon.  For 2 reasons.  1) you want the bacon grease that it renders out.  2) it adds delicious texture to your Mac & Cheese.  The crispness of the bacon enhances the creaminess of the sauce and the gentle bite of the pasta.  So good!

I like crispy pasta so I like to add the pasta to the hot skillet before I add the sauce.  You can  put everything in a casserole dish if you don’t like crispy pasta.  You’ll get more creamy than crispy.

Mac & Cheese
Mac & Cheese

What more can I say?  This dish is delicious with a light body red wine.  I tried it with a Sauvignon Blanc and the combo didn’t thrill me.  The Mac & Cheese was too rich for the white wine and I kept thinking, “this needs a red.”  So there ya go!

Mac & cheese
A Serving of Mac & cheese

This is comfort food at its best.  Hope you’ll try it and bring it in for your co-workers.

Comfort Foods - Bechamel
All-American comfort food, Macaroni & Cheese, topped with crispy bacon.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Side Dish
Ingredients
  • 1 box pasta of your choice (elbow, penne, shells, rigatoni)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 - 3½ c milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup grated Italian blend cheese
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put a #8,9 or 10 cast iron skillet on the stove. Add 3-4 slices thick cut bacon and bring heat to medium. Cook, turning every now and then until slices are brown and crispy. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Put skillet in oven to keep warm. Use existing bacon grease and add more, or add olive oil.
  4. Add ¼ cup salt to pot of boiling water. Don't be stingy. This is your only chance to flavor the pasta.
  5. Add box of pasta to boiling salted water. Boil for 4-6 minutes, until just short of al dente. The pasta should be chewy but not taste starchy. Drain.
  6. Break egg into a small dish and stir. Set aside.
  7. While pasta cooks, make the béchamel sauce:
  8. Melt butter in a saucepan heated to medium high. Let the butter melt until the bubbles subside and the butter is golden brown.
  9. Stir in flour. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. You are making a roux and you don't want to brown/burn it. You want to keep the color as light as possible. You need to allow the flour time to cook and blend with the butter.
  10. Slowly whisk in the milk and stir. Stirring helps remove lumps and smooths out the sauce.
  11. Add nutmeg and mustard. Keep stirring and allow the milk to come to slow boil. As it comes to a boil, the milk will thicken.
  12. Once the milk thickens, scoop out ¼ cup and slowly whisk the milk into the beaten egg.
  13. Add the tempered egg to the pot. Stir.
  14. Taste the sauce and salt & pepper to taste. If you like heat, add cayenne or red pepper flakes.
  15. Add all cheeses to sauce and stir until cheeses melt into sauce, approximately 2-4 minutes.
  16. Remove skillet from oven and add drained pasta to it. You should hear the sizzle from the hot cast iron. Pour the béchamel sauce over it and stir to mix well. Crumple the bacon and add to the skillet. Stir again.
  17. Sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and brown.
  18. Serve!