Monday, August 8, 2022

Garfield would be disappointed

I like a good writing prompt and it has been a while since I participated in Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World-Famous Workshop

 For a period, I was doing a ton of writing
 And then I stopped

There were all kinds of reasons/excuses:
We were selling/buying a house and then moving and then unpacking
and work was busy
and 5th grade was kicking Lucy’s ass
and then COVID hit
and I lost my job
and Lucy started 6th  grade
and I got a new job
and hated it so I quit
and I got another new job which I love
and it keeps me super busy
and Lucy started 7th grade
and work got even busier
and Lucy turned 13
and then I started traveling for work 
and then I went to Texas for a graduation
and I then I got COVID
and it was quarter end
and now I’m tuning 50

So I have decided I need to make time for what make me happy and brings me joy: writing
 
To jump start, I turned to Mama Kat because her prompts are the best and I like her writing
 Also, she has some pretty faithful followers, and I was just catching up on their writings and forgot how much I enjoyed dipping my toes in  their worlds
 
So here I am
 
Her prompts this week include:

1. Write about a meal you never looked forward to eating when you were growing up.
2. Write a blog post inspired by the word: hot
3. Share a back-to-school memory.
4. Share something you learned in July.
5. Tell us about something you are looking forward to in August.
 
It is always hard to choose because when I read the options, I feel like I could immediately write to any one of them

So, to make it easy on myself, and to slow my brain down a bit, I’m going to start right at the top:
 
1.      Write about a meal you never looked forward to eating when you were growing up

When I was a kid, my mother made homemade pizzas
Dough from scratch stretched out on the jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with edges)
Two pans actually - there were after all 7 kids and there also always seemed to be extra people at the house on the nights Mum made pizza
The sauce was homemade too
If I timed it right, I could help with laying the toppings over the dough and sauce
And those pizzas were delicious
The corners were the best and we typically fought over them – Dad always won
I haven’t had her pizza in years
It’s one of those things I should have her teach me to make but I always forget to ask
 
Mum also made the best spaghetti and meatballs with sauce
I know there is nothing special about spaghetti and meatballs but somehow, Mum’s tasted better than everyone else’s
Again, everything was made from scratch, and everything was in big batches
The sauce would simmer for hours filling the house with the smell of tomatoes, basil, parsley, and oregano
It’s a quick and simple sauce but it is so good it warrants dipping your bread into the pot whilst it’s still simmering just to test it and make sure the flavor is on point
That flavor was, and is, always on point
The meatballs were cooked prior to being dropped into the sauce to marinate before it was all plated and served
Mum’s meatballs were small (again, with 7 kids, everything had to be stretched) but they were exploded with flavor and love in your mouth
 
And though I know it’s not really a meal, on Sunday morning, Mum would often make donut balls
The dough was from scratch, and she would scoop it out of the mixing bowl with a big spoon, shape it with a second spoon and plop it into the fat to be fried to a crisp golden brown
When the donut balls bobbed to the surface, she would carefully fish them out and drop them onto a brown paper bag that had been cut down the sides and spread out on the counter to soak up the grease 
Before those donut balls cooled too much though, they were given only a moment’s rest, they’d get shoveled  into a plastic Ziploc bag filled with sugar and cinnamon and tossed around for a minute to give them a nice coating before they were served up still warm and crispy
The best was when you bit into it and a little puff of steam would escape while the sugar melted on your tongue and the donut ball was just crispy enough to make a little crunch as you chewed it to pull out all the flavor
At most it was a two-bite donut ball, but those warm bites were sweet and savory at the same time
And by the time it hit your belly, it was just pure deliciousness
 
And Mum’s cookies/sweets  at Christmas are legendary: gingersnaps, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter squares, her fudge……yum
Her chocolate cheesecake and Bundt cakes aren’t half bad either
Who are we kidding, I’ve swiped my finger across my plate after eating her chocolate cheesecake to make sure I got it all
 
Mum also makes the best tuna fish and egg salad (still, to this day)
Hell, she even makes deviled ham taste good
 
But there was one meal my mother made when I was growing up that I absolutely detested, dreaded, hated when I knew it was in the rotation
I don’t know if it was the taste, the texture, the way it looked on my plate, but I just could not stand it
Everyone else loved it and it was always finished in one meal
When she makes it at Christmas or a family gathering, there is rarely a morsel left
 
To this day, if it is placed in front of me, regardless of the variation of the recipe or who made it, my throat closes a little and my stomach flips
If I have a choice, I will not put any on my plate
 
But when we were kids, there were no choices
I ate it because it was what was for dinner
I’d choke down every bite and never asked for seconds
 
Interestingly enough, I loved helping Mum make it
And by helping, I mean watching her make it and passing her something when she needed it
I was intrigued with all the steps that had to be taken just to prep everything
Then came the actual construction of the dish which was like watching a masterpiece being painted or a building constructed
 
Mum went slowly with a precise gentle hand so as not to break any of the ingredients
And if there were an imperfection in one of the layers, she would expertly cover it, so no one knew there was a broken piece
 
When she was done, it was like a work of art
 
She used a glass baking dish so you could see all the colors:
the deep red of the sauce,
the stark white of the cheese dotted with herbs
the noodles with their pale complexion making them look weak but they were actually the strengthening layer of the dish
 
All those colors and layers and textures were slid it into the oven to meld together for 45 minutes
Within minutes of hitting the heated oven, the smells were enough to make your mouth water and your tummy rumble with anticipation
When Mum opened the oven to pull it out, the first thing that hit you was the gorgeous velvety smell of cooked cheese and warm sauce melding into each other
Then you heard the bubbling of the cheese
And once you waved off the steam, you could see the cheese on topped was now a golden brown
 
All my favorite ingredients lovingly, precisely, pulled together in the same dish: noodles, Mum’s homemade sauce, ooey gooey cheese and more cheese
 
But when they were all put together like that, I dreaded, absolutely dreaded, lasagna
 
Maybe it’s the layers -  I’m not of layered dip either
Maybe I just don’t like the combination of cheese and sauce and noodles like that
Maybe it's because when I tried to scoop up a bite with my fork, it fell apart and just looked like a big sloppy mess
 
Whatever the reason, I just could not stand lasagna for dinner... not then, not now, not ever 



Deep in the Heart of Texas

 I'm working with a new client

His name is Houston and he's located in Dallas
In a couple internal meetings, I have stumbled over his name
accidentally calling him Dallas and then self correcting
And by self correcting I mean my colleague who is working the deal with me will gently say Nope, other way and I know exactly what he means
Yesterday, we had our weekly pipeline call - running through all the deals we're working on, updating the larger (internal) Team on the statuses and providing a bit of commentary to our VP
When it came to this particular deal, I introduced the company, the scope of the deal and the key players
I hesitated for a beat before I said Houston
My colleague, the one working the deal with me, heard the first syllable said....you're right, Houston
I sighed and said to the Team
I keep getting this guy's name wrong!
His name is Houston and he's in Dallas and I keep calling him Dallas!
Someone said seriously??
Yes, I said, seriously....and I keep using the wrong name for him!
His name is Houston and he's in Dallas......so I'm going to call him Austin
For a split second, no one said anything
I mean I thought it was pure comedy genius
But no one reacted
Then, after a 5 second beat, the VP, the Brit on the call, starts laughing
Like a giggle turned belly laugh ending in a giggle which turned into a chortle then back to a giggle
No one else reacted
He kept laughing, muted himself, seemingly regrouped, came off mute and said
Bloody brilliant!
No one else said anything - not even a giggle
So we moved onto the next deal
When all of a sudden, someone finally got the joke, explained it to the rest of the team and there was a collective a-ha moment then some laughs
The VP and I had already moved on ..... though I did ping him in messenger and said maybe it would have been funnier if I said I call him Memphis...
He started laughing, went on mute again and now it's our new private joke
I know this because this morning he pinged with
Good Morning Memphis.....

Sunday, January 2, 2022

A picture is worth a thousand words

I hate having my picture taken
I never know how to stand, what to do with my hands and I can't for the life of me figure out where to look
Which is why almost every photo of me is pretty much a natural disaster
But there are three photos of myself I have always loved:
One is my first or second grade school picture
I mostly love it because of my outfit
I was rocking a corduroy dress layered over a flowed shirt with the neck scarf to match
It was 1978,could have been '79 (outside chance it was 1980) and I made it work
I was smiling sweetly with my hands clasped, shoulders up and my head ever so slightly inclined giving me quite a pious, bordering on mischievous, look
Said photo is in my parent's basement in one of those little plastic frames
Someday, I'll swipe it
The second is a head shot of me when I was probably a year or two old
It was taken by either Cousin Mike or Cousin Maria, you'd have to ask my Mum, she'd remember
I had a shock of curly black hair and a darn tooting cute smile
I'm sure that photo is kicking around Mum and Dad's house somewhere and longs to be framed
I used it as my senior picture in my 1990 yearbook mostly because it never occurred to me to have my senior photos done and there was a deadline looming
The third photo is a black and white photo my cousin Maria took
Again, I am a year or two old at most
I'm pointing at the camera whilst clutching a plastic record in my other hand
Said record comes from the 1971 Fisher-Price Change-A-Record Music Box, commonly known as the Fisher-Price Record Player
It had 5 playable records, a song on each side, and you could store the records right inside the record player
The state of the art carrying handle made for tunes on the go and I could rock out to Hickory Dickory Dock, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star London Bridge , Oh Where has My Little Dog Gone and Camptown Races any time I wanted (just to name a few)
I loved that record player and I'm pretty sure it was around the house for most of the seven Kearns kids to enjoy
I'll tell you what was not around though: my Windup Apple Novelty Bank with the hungry worm who ate the pennies
Someday I'll tell you that story which will also shed light on why the Little Drummer Boy makes my brother and I cry
Cousin Maria snapped the photo of me toddling around in my bubble suit with the same said shock of dark curly hair, chubby cherub like cheeks and what can only be described as a shit-eating grin on my face
The picture was matted and I remember it sitting on my mother's dresser for years
Then it would tucked away in a drawer in a pile with photos of my brother and sisters
It was never framed, just a photo fixed to a matting board
Over the years, from being shifted from place to place and handled by different people, it had started to get a bit beat up around the edges and showing it's age (not unlike it's subject...)
Whenever my mother comes across this photo, or the other headshot, she takes great delight in telling me what a pretty baby I was and how even the doctor who delivered me exclaimed over my eyes and my hair and my Clara Bow lips (I grew out of all three)
How he passed me around the delivery room declaring me to be the prettiest baby he had ever delivered
He was so enamored, Mum said, he wanted to take me home for his own
Mum keeps the the story going with the anecdote of the photographer from Boston who spotted me in the back seat of the car bundled up in my white furry coat and asked if he could take my picture because he was sure I could be a baby model (she said no)
The tale grows taller as she makes the bold declaration that my older brother was a perfect baby until I came along because amongst other things, I taught him to climb out of his crib
She finishes the story by reminding me that one night I climbed
of my crib 103 times (could have been 73 or 93, I can't remember)
And 103 times (could have been 73 or 93, I still can't remember) she scooped me up and laid me back down until I was so tired I finally gave up and went to sleep
Or did she finally get tired and fall asleep?
Nonetheless, the sight of both photos (and photos of my siblings) triggers a trip down memory lane for my mother
It is a trip I am happy to take with her over and over again
I love hearing the stories
It makes me realize how lucky I am to still have her, how lucky we were that someone was there to capture those moments and luckier that Mum remembers them and reminds me so I do not forget
Mostly I love seeing her face light up then contort with laughter and hearing the lilt and nostalgia in her voice as she relives the memories as if they just happened a few short days ago
We took a quick trip up after after Christmas as we typically do and celebrated what we have come to call second Christmas with them
After gifts were exchanged and exclaimed over, my mother disappeared down the hall
She came back a few minutes later clutching what was clearly a framed picture or piece of art work to her chest
I expected her to show off a gift she had received but instead, she started getting all excited and telling me how pleased she is with how this picture came out
They did such a beautiful job she said and he was so nervous because he did not want to ruin it .....
Show me! I say
And then she says well, I was going to wait until this summer.....
you know for your birthday
(it's a big one, I'm turning 50....I thought I had a few more years but turns out it's coming up in August)
And, she says, I love it so much, I almost don't want to give it up...
Finally, with a giggle and a grin, she flips the frame around so I can see it
It makes me catch my breath and my eyes fill with tears
And Mum starts the story of what a pretty baby I was.....




Thursday, February 4, 2021

February 3 is my favorite birthday of the year ...

 We have lots of family birthdays to keep track of in January and February


There's my Dad, my father-in-law, my sister-in-law, a couple sisters, three nieces, at least three aunts, and two uncles not to mention some dear friends and my parents' anniversary

I spend a ton of money on cards in December, stocking up for all the celebrations I'll send by mail these first couple months of the new year

It is one of my favorite things to do - celebrate other people and let them know how happy I am they were born and how lucky I am to be a part of their life and they a part of mine

But February 3rd is one of my favorite birthdays to celebrate

It is the birthday of a very special guy who has brought so much love, light and countless laughs to my world

When Lucy was little, he was the one guy she just could not get enough of

She loved him with all her heart

Where ever he was, she wanted to be
Where ever she went, Lucy wanted him to be with her

Lucy would not go to bed without a snuggle and a kiss from her favorite guy

If he was not in her line of sight or they were not in the same room, she'd call his name until they found one another

She said his name long before she said Mumma

Her love and admiration for him knew no bounds

As she grew and matured, she started to need him less and less

Eventually, it got to a point where she would venture places without him and started to entertain herself without his constant company though he would still get snuggles and hugs on the side

Lucy is now fast approaching 12 and he is not as prominent in her mind and world

But, she shared with me the other day, he would probably always be one of her favorite guys and someday, she hopes her own kids will love him as much as she did

So Happiest of Birthdays to the guy who has made Lucy and I laugh, taught us valuable lessons about being kind, not being afraid, asking questions when we don't understand something and mostly, just being there when we needed him with unconditional love and lots of warms snuggles.............

Happy Birthday Elmo!!!!
You are our favorite fuzzy red guy and we hope you have the best birthday ever!

Turns out, Elmo shares a birthday with our other favorite guy who is not as fuzzy or as red but who:

loves us unconditional

gives us snuggles and hugs when we need them most

fixes whatever we break

makes us feel safe when we're scared

lets us ask questions when we don't understand something even if it means he has to pause the movie 7 times, rewind it at least twice so we can watch the scene again and still has to explain the sub-plot to us when the movie ends

can figure out what we did wrong on the Lego set and will take it apart, build it back up (correctly) and hand it back to us to triumphantly finish (and take all the credit!)

clears the snow so we don't slip and fall

drives us up Mt Washington every year so we can take in a view we never get tired of

plays endless games with us and almost always lets us win (though Monopoly brings out something scary and competitive in him)

makes us laugh
dries our tears

handles our mood swings (for the most part) like a pro with kindness, patience and chocolate

always lets me have the last of the Branston pickle

has brought more light, love, laughs and hugs into our world than I know what to do with

and who outranks Elmo as being our favorite guy.....

Happiest of birthdays to you as well Sean
You are one in a million and you are all ours
Or am I one in a million and all yours?

Either way, you are appreciated, celebrated and loved not just today on Elmo's Birthday (and yours) but every day

Happy Birthday Elmo....and Sean.....




We're all in this decade together .....

 January 28, 2021

Every ten years, a phenom occurs that tickles my funny bone and makes me shake my head in wonder, and maybe even a bit of fear

I am not sure anyone else would take as much delight in it as I do except maybe my Mum....and my Dad if he's paying attention

The skies do not light up with falling stars
The plants do not align
The cicada are nowhere to be seen
And there is no ritualistic dancing
But every ten years, for 14 days, all seven of the Kearns kids are in the same decade

By that I mean with my youngest sister's birthday in late January, we are all in our 40s
From the oldest down to the youngest, we are now 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 43, and 40

This will only last for 14 days
And only happens every ten years

It will end in 14 days when our only brother, the oldest child of our family clan, will turn 50 (he ruins everything)

But for now, for the 14 days in between their birthdays, I take solace and comfort, safety in numbers if you will, in knowing that we are all in the same decade together

We're all in our 40s struggling, succeeding, discovering new aches and pains, traversing through professional and personal challenges, celebrating wins, mourning losses, losing hair, getting grey hair, raising kids and trying to figure out how the hell we got here and when we'll actually start to feel like adults

This rite of passage, from one decade to another, should be cause for celebrations and surprises

So I take it upon myself to celebrate for them
(full disclosure, I blocked my SIL from this post as my brother's birthday is not for another 10 days so I do not want to ruin his surprise....so if you talk to my SIL, mums the word)

For my sister, I picked out a bracelet set
By all accounts it is thoughtful and I hope will be meaningful to her
She'll also receive 40 whoopie pies (homemade and handmade by me)

For my brother, who lives far far away and I only see every 18 months or so, I had a pillow with my picture on it made......you know, so when he misses me, I'm only a nap away
He'll also get 50 whoopie pies (homemade and handmade by me)

And finally, in honor of entering their new decades, they'll each receive 40/50 cards respectively

I have done this before
When they turned 20 and 30 I sent them cards during the weeks prior to their respective birthdays (and did it for Sean a few years ago when he turned 50 with the help of family and friends)

This year however, there is a bit of a twist - each card is filled with a little treat and each card will show up on the same day because who does not love to open a mailbox to an avalanche of cards?!

The treat inside each card could be:
a handful of confetti
a picture of me
a heart I cut out and decorated
more pictures of me
little hearts that will flutter to the ground as they open the card
pictures I procured from their spouses
more confetti
and more pictures of me

But my favorite card filler has to be, hands down, the birthday hug
because right now, we could all do with more hugs.......even if you are not turning 40 or 50, but especially if you are

(the hug: a picture of me, 5x7 in case they want to frame it, with accordion arms made from construction paper complete with my hands......my actual hands traced on and cut out of construction paper taped to it...go on, wrap those arms around you and hug....)

Happiest of birthdays to my big brother and my youngest sister: you are essentially the same person with a difference of 10 years

And you continue to be two of my favorite people ever
Thanks for making me laugh, making me cry, picking me up when I needed it and pushing me down when I deserved it

Thanks for keeping me honest, for being honest and simply for being you

Mostly, thanks for my nieces and nephews, my SIL and BIL.... all good and welcome additions to the family clan

Many happy returns of the day and a birthday HUG to you both