All posts by Teri

You’re Missing From Me Mom

Since signing up for a three-month subscription to Ancestry.com, I have become obsessed.

And I have endlessly researched for hours upon hours discovering family member after family member; mostly deceased.

Last week as I slogged through the census, birth, baptism and marriage documents of long-lost and largely unknown family, there was a click option which invited me to:

Find others who are researching (X person) in public Member Trees.  

When I clicked on the link, I came upon several Family Trees created by Others. It was an odd exercise because I had to assume that the “Others” were more than likely all related to me in one way or another.

And then I came upon an “Other” that raised the hair on my arms.

My estranged mother.

I clicked on my mom’s name and was informed that she had logged on one month ago.

One month ago meant that she was still alive. Sadly, I hadn’t been sure about that.

I can’t begin to fully explain all of the emotions that consumed me.

Relief. Regret. Sorrow. Anguish. Depression. Remorse. Fear. Melancholy. Fatigue.

Grief. Overwhelming, agonizing and unsolvable grief.

Hope. Pure, naked and fragile hope.

And I swore to myself that I would tell no one of my heart-rending discovery. But I have kept my grief and sorrow a secret long enough. Plus, our time is clearly running out.

In the right-hand corner near her name was a clickable link that made my heart pound:

Privately and conveniently contact others researching your family through the message center.

“Others.”

It was a pathetic and grief-stricken aha moment.

While I endlessly searched Ancestry.com for any and all deceased connections, my beloved mother was alive and well and just a message center click away.

I felt painfully conflicted.

I had all but accepted our catastrophic finality.

And yet I now had this glimmer of hope.

I still had time to act. But did I have the courage? Would I be able to handle the probability of rejection?

And what if I didn’t act? Would I regret my inaction for the rest of my motherless life?

I prayed to God for a sign as I logged off the Ancestry site.

The next day, while organizing a pile of old manuscripts, I found a handwritten bundle of my French grandmother’s recipes with a title page that read: “Tu Me Manques.”

Below are the notes to myself that were scribbled under the proposed title of my recipe book:

Tu Me Manques seems the perfect name for my book of Mammy’s recipes. The literal French translation, “You are missing from me” sums up my sentiments perfectly. Mammy is forever missing from me, but her recipes are her legacy, and now mine.   

But nowhere in this phrase is the actual word “from” so can I assume that “from” comes from “me” in tu ME manques? And is it manque or manques? I have made the assumption from my research there is an “s” at the end but really, I have no clue. This is something I will need to find out.

Ironically, the word “manquer” is similar to “manco,” which in Spanish is a person who lacks a limb.

In any case, this is how I feel. Like I am missing a limb. I choose to use the word “miss” to describe Mammy in the sense of “to lack.” As if she were a body part of mine, and now that she is gone I lack (miss) that part. That body part is missing from me.

I’m sorry if none of this makes any sense. But I’m not sorry that I found this phrase. It almost makes my grief explainable.

It almost makes my grief explainable.

I took my recipe book notes as God’s sign. Perhaps it was a stretch. I can’t really say.

I do know that my own words written many years ago by a much younger me to a now older me, provided courage, and hope. And helped to assuage my grief.

So at the end of last week, I went back onto Ancestry.com and bravely clicked the message center link.

I filled in the subject line: Tu Me Manques

Next, I wrote the following message: You’re missing from me mom.

And then I clicked “Send.”

As I watched the word “Send” morph into “Sent,” a flurry of thoughts swirled around in my head, but none of them had anything to do with regret.

My long lost mom had logged onto Ancestry.com a month ago.

That knowledge gave me unbounded comfort.

And maybe she would never log on again.

But no matter what, I had written what until recently would have been unthinkable.

You’re missing from me mom.

No more regrets. Only hope.

It is Mother’s Day tomorrow, and I am courageously managing the grief that inevitably sweeps over me every year at this time.

I just went on Ancestry.com and clicked onto Family Trees created by Others and then clicked my mother’s Family Tree.

Her name appeared. Just the pink silhouette vector marking her existence gave me peace, and a calming solace I haven’t felt since we said goodbye eighteen years ago. I didn’t know back then that I would never see or hear from her again.

And then next to her name was a notification that she had logged on five days ago.

I felt no pain, no grief. Just joy. And love. Big love.

I prayerfully clicked onto my Message Center.

My message folder was empty, but I’m full of hope.

House Republican Beer Bash After AHCA Passage

AHCA: The American Health Care Act. You may have noticed that they didn’t call it the “Affordable” Health Care Act.

And since the AHCA seems so un-American to me, I came up with my own word-morph to describe it: TryanCare.

Trump and Ryan, they keep on tryin.

Several reporters photographed and described stacks of Bud Lite being wheeled into the Capitol around 2 pm on Thursday, May 4, shortly after the vote to approve TryanCare began at 1:30.

My first thought after getting an email from a reporter friend of mine describing the beer fest was: Alcohol is allowed in the Capital Building? Is that even legal?

So let me get this straight. The Republican Party, who are vehemently “pro-life” for “persons” in the womb, are now celebrating because millions of those very same people could die without proper medical coverage?

And please don’t try to explain the moral logic to me.

I know why they were celebrating, and it had absolutely nothing to do with health care.

Let’s call TryanCare what it is:

A moral travesty, which will deny health care to tens of millions of “post-fetus persons” for the sole purpose of handing the very wealthy a near-trillion dollar tax cut. Individuals with incomes over $1 million will save an average of more than $50,000 a year. (Pittance to a multi-millionaire.)

There you have it, folks. What better time to wheel out cases of beer on government property?

They had time to plan a 2 pm on-the-job beer bash but not to read the bill or get a CBO score?

And call me parochial, but the Capitol Building seems like the wrong place to throw back a few cold brews. If our Representatives were in a celebratory mood, there are sports bars for that.

And I can’t help but wonder how many of our “Representatives” drank at the office and then got behind the wheel of a car for their drive home.

Oh and one more thing: The Center for American Progress estimates that premiums for someone seeking treatment for addiction will rise by $20,000 under TryanCare. But not for members of Congress: Republicans voted to exempt their health insurance from provisions of the health care law.

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Steak and Champagne in Coach?

Before the Arline Deregulation Act of 1978, the government was in full control of what the airline industry charged for seats, and which routes they received.

The only way for airlines’ to compete against each other, was to offer the best customer service and flying experience they could.

As a Delta Airlines flight attendant in the early 70’s, I worked hard for the money.

Back in 1972 Delta offered a complimentary filet mignon steak dinner and all-you-can-drink champagne in coach.  Business boomed as flyers flocked to Delta for patience, empathy, a man size slab of beef, and bottomless bubbly.

I’ll share that nightmare job with you in some other blog post.

Delta’s advertising back then boasted that their flight attendants “walk over five miles on a typical flight.”

And trust me, I’m sure I did.

“She hangs your coat, offers you a pillow, comes around with magazines, briefs you on safety procedures, brings you your choice of drinks, serves your meal, pours your wine, answers your questions, helps your children, refills your coffee cup, points out landmarks, takes your tray and brings you your coat. And she takes it all in stride.”

(Not to mention, service with a smile, even when the men would pinch my butt, not once but numerous times.)

Delta hyped us as attractive, considerate, courteous, kind, orderly, personable, poised, polite, truly dedicated and goes far beyond the call of duty.

(I’d certainly call letting passengers pinch my butt going far, far beyond the call of duty.)

And as if their ads weren’t sexist enough, Delta came out with a targeted campaign for U.S. military personnel, offering them a 50% discount for “The guy who’s got a girl in every city.” The ad displayed six bathing suit clad women with names like “Your Chicago cutie,” “Your San Francisco sweetie,” or “Your New York knockout.”

I kid you not. And so you don’t think I am exaggerating, take a look at the ads for yourself:

But nothing could beat the sexist “Fly Me” advertising campaign that National Airlines rolled out with just around the same time.

National offered up their modelesque flight attendants as part of the airline travel experience. The company painted the ladies’ first names on every plane and mandated that the attendants wear “Fly Me” buttons during in-flight service.

And when their revenues increased by 23% as a result of their advertising, National upped the sexual innuendos in their ads by having their flight attendants look seductively into the camera, and softly whisper, “I’m going to fly you like you’ve never been flown before.”

We’ve certainly come a long way from the 70’s.

Fast forward to 2017.

Children with peanut allergies and their families are roughly removed from planes, a young mother who is trying to manage twin babies is hit in the head with a stroller, a 69-year-old man suffers serious injuries after being slammed and dragged off a plane to accommodate an airline employee.

Good ole deregulation.

And if you’re lucky enough to survive an airline personnel bully, you still have to be jammed into a packed plane, with no leg room and no food. And how about the dreaded reclining seats?

I wish the airlines would wake up and make the seats immovable. Why they think there is any available space for reclining is beyond me.  It just makes the ride that much more unpleasant.

And I hope that passengers continue to record the antics of airline personnel bullies and to stand up and say something if they see something.

I don’t expect to dine on steak and champagne in coach, but I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat.

Beware of Tick-Infested Acorns

Who knew Oak trees ladened with acorns could result in Lyme disease?

In 1969, the first case of Lyme disease in the U.S. was discovered in a grouse hunter from Wisconsin.

But the disease didn’t get its name until 1975, when there was an outbreak in children from Lyme, Connecticut.  And then in 1982, the bacteria responsible for causing the disease was finally identified.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website states that in 2009 95% of reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. occurred in the following 12 states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, and Virginia.

According to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a bumper crop of acorns could be putting the U.S. on the brink of an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme disease. Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, estimates that 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, but that the illness is now on track to being the worst in 2017.

Because acorns are a critical food for white-footed mice, as acorn production surges, mouse population climbs, giving rise to more disease-carrying ticks. White-tailed deer also feed on acorns.

The mice and deer both carry ticks that drop off in the winter. The following year the female ticks lay their eggs and hatch larval ticks. Those larval ticks become infected when they feed on the mice and deer, so the whole process takes about two years.

Additionally, the Lyme bacteria has also been found in Eastern chipmunks, short-tailed shrews, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and feral cats. Domestic animals including cats, dogs, cattle, and horses can also become infected.  The bacteria have also been found in many bird species including but not limited to the ring-necked pheasant, mallard, wild turkey, house wren, song thrush, American robin, gray catbird, song sparrow, and house sparrow.

With no Lyme disease vaccine available for humans there is not much that can be done to prevent the illness except for the standard anti-tick measures like head to toe clothing when in the woods and diligent tick-checks. There are Lyme disease vaccines available for pets.

Ticks can be as tiny as a pin prick, and easy to miss. Not everyone gets a rash, and flu-like symptoms are easily overlooked and/or misdiagnosed.

Bottom line? Stay far away from acorns.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Hamlet, in the Shakespearean play of the same name, was despondent and feigning when he declared: “To sleep, perchance to dream–ay, there’s the rub…”

The prince contemplated suicide, although in the end he was poisoned by Laertes, and not by his own hand.

I have always preferred my own interpretation of Hamlet’s words though: That a sleep full of dreams might help to offset troubles and sufferings in life.

A pair of papers was recently published in the journal Science, offering evidence that we sleep to forget some of the things that happen to us each day.

Sleep to forget. Maybe that’s all that the heartbroken Hamlet wanted to do, and then, perchance, to dream.

I am not a good sleeper. I lay awake each and every night with a million thoughts running in and out of my brain.

And when I am lucky enough to catch a break, and fall into a deep sleep, I have some sicko, frightful, extremely detailed dream that never seems to end.

Most times I forget them by morning, although when the dreams wake me up in the middle of the night, with my body drenched in sweat, and my heart pounding out of my chest, I recall them all too vividly. And as I lay there shaking in my bed, I analyze what in my life is causing such terrifying phantasms.

People have been pondering the meaning of dreams for centuries. Sigmund Freud’s theory centered around the idea that dreaming allows for the sorting through of unresolved events, and/or repressed issues.

Sleep to forget. Dream to sort through issues.

I recently purchased a book about interpreting dreams. My interest was less about the interpretation and more about Freud’s take on things: Produce a dream based upon a particular issue or event.

There was a section in the book that provided instruction on how to provoke a dreaming state of mind.

Remarkably, I was successfully able to sleep, and then elicit, not one but five dreams using the techniques from the book.

Here’s how I did it.

The book first emphasized that unemotional focus was key, and that it may take several nights in a row to produce the dreaming state, although it took me only one.

It was also recommended to view any problems or events from a distance.

Additionally, the book suggested that if you didn’t have a specific problem or dilemma, but just wanted to look farther into the future, the same process would apply.

The most important part of the exercise was not to think too hard or worse, overly obsess about the issue at hand, because that would only thwart sleep, and result in wakefulness.

The advice was to analyze the event or problem from an objective point of view and purposefully remove yourself from the issue altogether.

The goal was not to try to solve anything, but instead to focus on the issue itself, in the hopes of working through it in your dream state.

The bottom line was to specifically focus on what it was you wanted to zero in on before you fell asleep.

And most importantly, make sure to keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write down all of the elements and particulars about your dream as soon as you awake.

Since dreams are mostly fleeting, they need to be written down in as much detail as possible.

So that first night, prior to falling asleep, I placed a pen and some paper on my nightstand. Then I tried to remove all thoughts from my mind and as the book instructed, forced myself to totally relax.

Next I thought about something that had been bothering me terribly, but I did it without emotion, and didn’t try to solve anything.

And I didn’t place any blame or ask myself why it was happening.

I merely pinpointed the issue, and then began to analyze some of the aspects of the situation.

I first asked myself what the dilemma was about. Then I asked myself how it made me feel, and who was involved.

As I organized my thoughts and feelings, I kept pushing and pressing my psyche to gain clarity through slumber.

And then I must have fallen asleep.

Because I need to protect my situations and events, as well as the people involved, I am going to be somewhat vague about the dreams I had.

But I will tell you that there was nothing remotely vague about my dreams that night. And my five dreams were broken up. I had one, and then wrote that one down. I was awake enough to write, and excited at the eliciting of the dream itself.

And then I had the second and third together. And once I wrote those down, I fell into a deep sleep, and then came the fourth and then the fifth dreams, which I wrote down, quickly falling asleep in between them.

When I awoke the next morning, I was well rested but at first extremely disoriented and groggy.

I had all but forgotten the dreams until I read what I had written down, and was stunned that the entire night of dreams shockingly tied in with many of the situations I so desperately needed to sort through.

Here they are:

Dream One: There were two calendar dates, one was in March, the other in July. In my dream I was very afraid I would forget them both. One seemed more important than the other, and in the dream I actually analyzed whether there was really only one date that I needed to focus on, but just in case, and to cover any possibility, I needed to remember both. I was obsessed with the dates.

[I can only tell you here that I woke up at about 2 a.m. and wrote both dates down. The date in March turned out to be freakily significant. Since the other date doesn’t happen until July, I won’t know if it is significant or not.]

Dream Two: It was a bad storm, and the rain was whipping like this: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Blinding, crazy rain. I needed to get to the beach, to be with a girl. I didn’t know who the girl was, but she was important to me. I knew I shouldn’t drive in such bad weather, but it was imperative that I be with this girl.  I kept asking myself that once I got to the girl, how would we be able to sit outside in this violent tempest? I kept asking myself that question over and over again. The wind and rain would make it extremely dangerous to travel, but I felt I had to go, that I needed to go, no matter what.

Dream Three: I was standing on a balcony, high up in a building, staring at the churning ocean. There was a path in between the water and the building. A path of sand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

water

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

l mom/child l

l                         l

l                         l

l                         l

_____________________________________________________________                                                                                                                       me
______________________________________________________________

A mother and her child were walking toward the building. I didn’t know them but I was nervous that they should get away from the water, get closer to the building. The water was rough, and I was afraid for them.

Dream four: I told a loved one (I will call the loved one “X”) that I was going on vacation. X called me on the phone to say that while I was away X was going to have a few friends over. I told X that I didn’t care about the friends coming over but that I needed to trust X and that X needed to be responsible. I told X that X never calls and the last time I saw X was over a year ago. I started to cry and told X I needed to get off the phone.

Dream five: A woman got a disease on a ship and a man was sitting next to her and consoling her. He put a blanket on her and set it up like a tent to keep her warm and then sat under it with her. He kept talking to her and reassuring her. Then some boat staff came by and said they had to remove all of the dead bodies. The woman thought she was alive, but they thought she was dead. They poured gasoline everywhere, on suitcases that were strewn all around, and on the deck, as well, and were getting ready to light everything up. As the woman watched, they pulled the man away.

[Even though my dreams were frightening, I woke up calm, and at peace and I am looking forward to trying it again tonight.]

From Russia, Sans the Love


I watched with much hope and heartbreak on Sunday as Russian demonstrations took place in 99 cities and towns across the country despite the Kremlin declaring the protests unauthorized and illegal and Russian authorities urging people to stay away.

From Vladivostok in the far east to Kaliningrad in the west, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets.

What really struck me were the baby faces of most of the protesters. These young people have never known any other leader except Putin and his regime, and they made their feelings extremely clear, at great peril to their lives. The actions of these young protesters were beyond courageous.

Sunday’s crowds were believed to be the largest anti-government protests since 2011 when fraud allegations in parliamentary elections sparked uprisings.

As you may or may not recall, Putin blamed then-Secretary Hillary Clinton for “inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012.”

State-run news outlet Tass reported that 8,000 people had taken to the streets in Moscow, but human rights groups came up with their own numbers: Approximately 30,000 people demonstrated in Moscow, and up to 10,000 in Saint Petersburg alone.

To be clear, when the authorities in Russia urge their people to “stay away,” this is not a friendly request.

As a result of the anti-corruption protests, hundreds of demonstrators, including top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested, and many beaten.

What does this mean for Navalny? The fact that in the past five months, eight prominent Russians are dead does not bode well for him.

And Putin? With approval ratings around 80%, it’s doubtful any significant threat will arise.

And yet, these poor kids demonstrated anyway.

Russian authorities have claimed that the official number of those arrested was 500 in total, but rights groups disputed that claim and said that between 700 to 1,000 individuals were detained in Moscow, at least 34 in Saint Petersburg, and between 80 and 100 in other cities. Putin’s strongmen also swept up scores of journalists attempting to cover the protests.

And the Trump administration? They were quiet for much of the day until Republican Senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse expressed outrage and said this: “The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters.”

Sasse’s statement forced Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, to finally make one of his own on Sunday evening  calling Russia’s action’s “an affront to core democratic values.”

But, not one peep or tweet from Trump, and the White House never issued a statement.

Where’s the outrage?

Oh, and as an aside, a U.S. intelligence report released in January blamed Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, based in part as a result of Hillary Clinton’s remarks during the 2011 anti-government protests in Russia.  The report went on to state that the episode led to Putin’s campaign “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The email below was sent to me yesterday, 3/27/17, from a journalist friend of mine, who is on temporary assignment in Moscow.

Good day my friend,

As you know, for almost two months I have been in the Russian capital.

I have been soaking up the local scene and leading a nice, normal, and quiet, existence here, much like the one I left back in Canada.

I have been going back and forth to the institute which invited me here as a “researcher.”  But on Sunday a strange occurrence took place.

I am often referred to here as “an honourable outcast,” “friendly foreigner,” or “stranger.”

But like the locals, I tend to stroll in Gorky Park, to take in the first days of Spring, watch the kids and dogs play, much as I would if I were in New York’s Central Park or Les Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

I enjoy my weekend brunch routine at the “Garage” Museum of Contemporary Art of poached eggs and salmon, with a large cup of black American coffee.

And as you know, I try to conduct myself as a civilised, cultured, left-leaning Western intellectual, albeit a financially stressed “freelance” journalist with an edge, or flair for, international news reporting.

 After brunch and watching the affluent couples chat or flirt, or show off their new i-phones, I  took off for the metro, but one of the main lines was under ‘remont’ in Russian, meaning repair.

I thought this was odd and as it turned out, was actually a precursor to more bizarre events that took place this past Sunday afternoon in the Russian capital.

I ended up in the Arbat district on my way to the Lev Tolstoi Pub, where I usually go to hang out to think and write. It is a hip and struggling establishment popular with local expats, students, and artists.

When I arrived at the pub, I was shocked to realise it had been shut down. A Brit friend explained to me that it was probably because if they wanted to stay open, they had to pay a “pizzo,” or the “b-word” to remain in business.

This local spot apparently did not pay, and hence the harsh penalty imposed. I was rather livid, as the location is in a lovely courtyard and actually mentioned in the great Russian novel “War and Peace.”  

I then proceeded to the city centre where there were plenty of riot police, buses and vans circulating down the major boulevards. My reporter’s instincts told me there was “action” in the area.

As you know, I have experience with this type of activity as someone who was in Warsaw in 1981 under martial law and in Moscow in August of 1991 during the failed coup. I was also in Mexico City in 2012 when there were huge protests in support of an opposition candidate for the Mexican presidency, Lopez Obrador.   

I walked towards Pushkin Square, with the hunch that there might be activity on Tverskaya Street, a fashionable part of the central city core. And my hunch was right.

I  walked into a courtyard where there were plenty of Land Rovers and other fancy cars parked, as well as several beauty salons and spas; I assumed for the wealthy Russian ladies.

But in this courtyard, not far from a 1947 style apartment complex, there was a dingy dive called “X” on the third floor.

I climbed the stairs, opened the big black door,  and there inside the large loft sized space, were young fellows and gals in their 30’s watching a live stream feed of the massive protests going on in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Samara, and other cities.

I ordered a pale ale and talked to the local crowd. A young fellow told me how he thought it was time for a change in the upper circles of power and how the Russian economy was stagnating and inflation and the high cost of everything from food to heating were eating away at people’s savings.

He also informed me about the corruption allegations made by the recently arrested opposition leader. We all watched the protests, and I decided not to proceed further to Pushkin Square for several reasons.

I am from Canada, a country not well liked by the Russian government at this point in time. I am not yet officially accredited, and I don’t know when that will happen. Plus my visa is running out; I only have 35 days left, so I am in need of an extension hence my current fate depends on the whims of officialdom or a faceless bureaucracy.

But above all, according to the media reports, my journalist colleagues were being detained during the protests, so I stayed put and did not budge.

The young Russian and I talked for some length of time about Russia today while watching the street action on the screens. The Russian protesters are a generation which grew up in the post-Soviet post-communist era.

They are passionate, highly educated, and entrepreneurial.

They long for a “normal” or liberal democratic system, without the wild west corrupt and venal capitalism, we know well exists in the “west.”

Cheerio from Moscow

 

Irish or Not, Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day


I like to mark St. Patrick’s Day with a homemade meal of corned beef and cabbage in the confines of my humble abode. (See recipes below.)

Now I’m not one for the whole Kiss me I’m Irish tradition, which is why I prefer to invite some friends over, cook a nostalgic Irish meal, and eat in, versus having to duck and dodge the random, often drunkish guys looking for a snog.

“Kiss me, I’m Irish,” is a reference to kissing the Blarney Stone. And legend has it, that if you can’t kiss the stone, the next best chance of catching some good luck is to kiss an Irish person.

In the past, when I have taken a chance at the bars, I have sternly warned off creepy kisses by adamantly proclaiming that I have zero Irish roots.  Let those whankers find some other poor, defenseless, and possibly Irish victim to pucker up with.

But I have to admit that every time I flat out Irish deny, there is that little inner leprechaun, wondering, if not hoping, that perhaps there is a touch of the Irish in me.

The short answer is that anything is possible.

The longer answer is buried in the memories of my grandmother, and the delicious corned beef and cabbage dinners she made nearly every St. Patrick’s Day. Was she part Irish, or was it just a Catholic tradition?

Okay, I admit, a killer corned beef and cabbage recipe does not an Irishwoman make.

But who really knows?

That’s where Finding Your Roots, a show hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. comes in.

In each episode, DNA diagnosticians trace bloodlines and analyze the genetic code of celebrities. The program utilizes AncestryDNA as one of its research tools, and I am always blown away by the often shocking discovery of long-lost relatives hidden for generations within the branches of their family trees.  I am an avid fan of the show mostly because I have always wanted to trace my own roots.

So what a pleasant surprise when in my inbox yesterday there was an offer from Ancestry.com for a 10% savings for their DNA analysis in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

The sell copy stated that with a simple DNA test, I could discover my ethnic mix and see it there’s a bit of Irish in the family tree after all.

Call it luck o’ the Irish: For $89 I can finally find out about my ethnicity and where my ancestors hail from.

So as an early birthday present to myself, I have decided that I am going to have my DNA analyzed and discover my roots once and for all.

But as part of my yearly tradition, I’ve first got to make some corned beef and cabbage in honor and in memory of my possibly part Irish grandmother on St. Paddy’s Day.

Mammy’s Corned Beef and Cabbage

Like my grandmother, I slow roast the corned beef in the oven. The potatoes, cabbage, and carrots (I use parsnips) can be boiled together or separately. I like to switch it up sometimes and bake hash browns.  I mash the carrots and/or parsnips, and I fry up some onions just like my grandmother did. A real St. Patrick’s Day feast with all the fixings. [I have an anaphylactic allergy to carrots, so that’s why I use parsnips.]

3 large onions (I slice em’ and fry em’ in olive oil)
4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled whole (or see my recipe for Baked Hash Browns)
1 pound large carrots or parsnips peeled, boiled, and mashed with salt, pepper, and butter.
2 Tablespoons black pepper
1 (4-6 pound) corned beef brisket whole
1 head of cabbage (I prefer Savoy cabbage)
2 Tablespoons Horseradish sauce
2 Tablespoons Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap the corned beef brisket and place fat-side up in a roasting pan just slightly larger than the brisket. If the corned beef comes with a spice packet, add two tablespoons of black pepper to it, and rub the mixture all over the top of the corned beef. If you don’t have a packet of spices, just rub 2-3 tablespoons of pepper onto the top. Cover the dish with heavy aluminum foil.  Place the meat in a 325-degree oven for 2 ½ hours. Then remove the foil and bake for at least another 30 to 60 minutes.

Check the brisket by inserting a fork in it after 3 hours. If the fork goes in easy, your corned beef is ready. If the fork doesn’t go in easy, bake for at least another 30 minutes. You may need up to an additional hour or even more for the corned beef to be fully cooked. Once it’s cooked, cover with foil and rest until you’re ready to serve.

Fry up the onions any old way, and boil the cabbage and the potatoes (unless you are baking Hash Browns) along with the carrots/parsnips.

When the carrots and/or parsnips are done, mash them with some butter, and top with a little salt and pepper.  Cut the cabbage while still in the pot, and then drain and put on a platter.

Uncover the brisket and transfer to a cutting board. Cut thick slices against the grain and put back into the roasting pan.  You can serve the onions and boiled potatoes separately or place them on the outside of the platter with the meat and cabbage in the middle.

I make a quick but delicious side sauce by taking ½ part prepared horseradish sauce and 1/2 part Cool Whip and combining them.

Serve everything with Dijon mustard, creamy horseradish sauce, and Irish Soda Bread.

And don’t forget the Guinness.

Baked Hash Browns

4 cups peeled and grated potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
11×17 inch sheet pan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the potatoes are peeled and grated, rinse and dry them well. Take the butter, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and melt it all together. (I do it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Pour over your potatoes. If you want to add a little extra flavor, you can throw in some Parmesan. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (don’t skip this step) and then put the potato mixture in. Put them in the oven and leave them alone. Don’t turn them or move them at all. Cook for 15-20 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven. When the edges are browning nicely, they are ready for the next step. Keep the temperature the same but move the pan up to the highest rack of your oven, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. This will crisp up the bottom. Keep a careful eye on them and take them out when they are done to your crispiness liking.

Irish or not, my eyes are smiling, I’m clothed in green, with a Guinness in hand, and wishing you Sláinte!

And don’t worry I’ll keep you posted about the Irish thing!

Trading Places


If you try to be me, I’ll try to be you.
Then for each other, we’ll know what to do.

If you look at me through my eyes,
there will be no need to wear my protective disguise.

Because you’ll be able to see that my inner child is in fear.
You’ll be able to see my insecurities quite clear.

You’ll see that I’m not nearly as strong as I appear.
And you’ll see that I feel more and more pain with each passing year.

Then it will be your turn to take off your mask.
And you’ll have no choice but to tell me your true feelings when I ask.

I’ll see that when you want to cry, you scream.
I’ll see that you, like me, are not as tough as you seem.

I’ll see that you’re going over the brink.
You’ll see that I need you to love me much more than you think.

When you look at me reflected in your view.
The picture is distorted by my ego—and yours too.

Look at me without the deep complexes of our past.
Open your heart and relate to me at last.

So let’s open our minds—I’ll become you, and you’ll become me.
And I’m sure we’ll be shocked and saddened by what we both see.

I’ll see that you need significance, and belonging.
You’ll see my dreams for you and my longing.

I’ll see that you are weary of the games we play.
You’ll see that I pray for you to love me and stay.

If I see your pain,
I won’t hurt you again.

If you see why I cry and complain,
you won’t abuse me the same.

And if I am you and you are me,
we can finally end this torture and agree.

To work on improving the relationship
and make it the best it can be.

So we can finally live together
in peace and harmony.

So let’s trade places.

Let’s open our eyes and see
What happens to the two of us

When I become you
and you become me.

My Do-Over


Whenever I think back to the epifocal moment where I realized I had been given the miracle of a do-over; a better life, a better me, it’s this unforgettable memory:

My mischievous three-year-old son dressed in his Holiday best, his back to me, but his beautiful face turned in my direction. His body lurching forward, but his eyes fixed on me.

Every time I recall the scene, it plays out in my mind in slow motion with me mouthing “NOOOOOOOOO.”

His infectious smile radiated; his face a combination of angelic and devilish.

In a split second, while still in a forwarding and thrusting motion, he turned his tiny face away from me and jumped full force into a muddy puddle of water.

I watched in disbelief as the blotches of mud spattered his fancy and pricey B. Altman outfit. As I horrifyingly ran toward him, he turned around and faced me full on. He was beaming, otherworldly, his demeanor was one of pure delight.

He pushed a baby curl of hair off his face with his dirty hand, leaving a dark streak across his forehead.

I stopped dead in my mommy tracks, astonished at the flood of joy, and love and hope that crashed and passed through me.

I had been one person before my son, and now I was someone else. Someone I never knew was hiding deep inside of me.

While he delighted in his mud bath, I thanked the dear Lord for this do-over.

As he gazed into my face, which I assumed at that moment must have appeared less than pleased, I broke into first a smile, and then a full on laugh.

He giggled playfully back in response as he lunged at me with wide open arms.

I grabbed him up and tenderly ensconced myself with all of him, twirling and whirling, tears of wonder streaking my meticulously painted face.

The two of us lost in a brief moment of time.

My son and I, a muddy loving mess.

International Women’s Day


“This

is

an

alpha male

job,”

he

spewed

with

confidence.

“This

business

is

dominated

by

us,”

he boasted.

“What can you

bring

to

the

table?”

He

smirked.

Answer

him

wisely.

Naïve

is

this

man.

A man’s

table?

A man’s

world?

The

Alpha

men.

Brought

here

by

women.

Amidst

hurdles

and

obstacles.

The egg

lies

in wait.

Until

out of

millions

one

finds

its way

in.

The

weakling

girl

transforms.

She

is

now

the

protector.

The fierce

one.

She

discovers

the

beginning

is the

hardest.

The

most

challenging.

The

riskiest.

She’s

petrified

but

confident.

She

observes

and

manages.

The

first

sign.

An

awakening.

A

flutter

then

a

thriving

kick.

Internal

strength.

And

power

from

deep

within.

Patiently

waiting

for

months

and

months.

While

nourishing

and

supporting.

Knowing

life

is

resilient

and

sacrifice

is

quiet.

Taking

courage.

Laboring.

Pushing.

Delivering.

Belief

that

survival

is

crucial.

Reassurance

that

all

is

possible.

Cracking.

Shattering.

First

the

table.

Then

the

world.