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Karen’s Birthday Tea

November 17, 2020

I know. I know! It’s been a year.

Oh, what a year it has been.

It’s been a lot of hanging on by the fingernails, a lot of one foot in front of the other, a little bit of oh-my-gosh-I’m-never-going-to-survive-this and a smidgeon of pleasant surprises. Like the rest of the universe and working parents, I vacillate between coping and overwhelmed. Writing has been just too much – I couldn’t even form the words…

We are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

We are all healthy. We are trying to find things for which to be grateful. Last month it was the most glorious autumn I’ve seen since we left Maine 20 years ago. It was perfection, and if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve seen the photos. New England did not disappoint – it was like walking, running, riding, living inside a box of crayons, the colors were so vivid. Lately, I’ve been grateful for my Wahoo in the basement and Netflix Christmas movies. At this very moment, I’m grateful nearly every day, Gabe brings coffee to my desk upstairs in the master bedroom where I’m working four days a week.

We are grabbing joy wherever it can be found.

However, it is now NOVEMBER. You will see from my posting history; November always hits me hard. The start of the holidays has often been the start of an emotional decline that I often don’t climb out of until spring.

We can’t let that happen this year. We just can’t. I’m barely coping with Pandemic Life as it is.

As such, I’ve formulated a plan, but first, a bit of backstory.

My mom’s birthday was November 26. It always fell during Thanksgiving week, and at times, as with this year, on Thanksgiving Day. Growing up, Thanksgiving was always “her” holiday. This year she would have been 72.

She’s been gone 14 years now, and every year around this time, I get a little blue. There have always been distractions – family gatherings and dinner parties, school events and field trips. It was enough to get me through to the bit where I put twinkle lights all over everything and that tides me over, at least, till New Year’s.

But this year, there will just be the four of us. Maybe 5 if Gabe’s mom drives down for a few days, but that’s it. Staying home, staying safe, staying isolated. Staying lonely.

I needed something to look forward to.

As such, I decided to plan a party.

A birthday party for Mom. And, what else would Karen’s birthday party involve but a fancy English Afternoon Tea.? Her favorite pastime in my high school years, Anglophile that she was. She sent me away to my first home armed with china cups and saucers, tiered servers, teapots and cozies, silver tea sieves and sugar tongs.

These treasures have been neglected on the shelves of my china cabinet far too long.

I threw together an invitation on Canva, and will deliver it with an attached menu to my teenage sons later this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I hope that a few of you are still out there and will read this. It felt like something I needed to share.


Roasted Summer Tomato Quiche

September 16, 2019

At our house, we love quiche and we love summer tomatoes. But, Colin doesn’t like the texture of a cooked tomato – many of the fresh tomato tarts just use slices. So I tried to come up with a way to make a summer tomato tart/quiche that involved a tomato puree (based on this recipe from the NY Times) but still utilized our own summer tomatoes, not canned.

I used the Mediterranean Whole Wheat Pie Crust – it was beautifully pliable and easy to roll. I will totally make this again! And, as far as pie crusts go, this one packs more protein and much lower fat macros than a traditional crust.

I roasted the tomatoes, garlic and a whole yellow onion according to this tried and tested method: When Bad Tomatoes Go Good. 

Then I basically followed the rest of the recipe for the Winter Tomato Quiche. I pureed all that yummy, roasty goodness in the blender. Dumped it into a saucepan with the additional herbs (I used fresh thyme and basil) and boiled it down for another 15 minutes until there was almost no liquid left. Added it into the egg and cheese mixture according to the directions and baked it in my two little tart pans for ~45 minutes.

Next time, however, I’ll do it in a single pie dish – the tart pans were cute, but we didn’t like the quiche-to-crust ratio and they were thin. I’ll also do more than just par-bake the crust – I’ll fully pre-cook the crust before baking the quiche – whole wheat takes longer to bake, and ours was still chewy on the bottom. Not awful, but crispy would have been nicer. And I will probably add more herbs. Because you can never have too much basil…

Served with a simple green salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, topped with feta crumbles, this was a perfect late summer meal!

A Plea for the Broken-Hearted at the Holidays

November 22, 2018

When you’ve lost someone important to your life, every holiday approaches with equal parts anticipation and dread.

A life lost abruptly or violently or prematurely — it only magnifies this phenomenon. Even the most stalwart mental fortitude cannot help but hear faint whispers around the edges. If…

If she were here…
If he had lived…
If I had not….

We stuff them down, packing noise and duty into the void to silence the hurtful whispers, but the scars we bear are only faintly healed.

This time of year, there are so many memories.

They’re everywhere, in every window and spoonful. In every box and bow. It’s inescapable.

Be it five years or ten, a lifetime or a heartbeat, the scars still split at the slightest touch. These holidays will, forever, be etched in love and anguish.

Please, I beg you. Do not look down on us, the broken, the ones who bear these fragile wounds that never fully heal. We are not weak. We are not flawed.

We are strong. We have survived. In spite of pain, in spite of grief, in spite of loss — we keep on living, and doing, and merrymaking. Don’t ask too many questions. We’re leaking a bit, beneath that smile. We’re cradling a carefully-assembled facade and if you push too far it might crack open and all that hurt is going to spill out all over again.

Just give us a hug or a pat on the back. Tell us you remember. Don’t be offended if we quickly turn away.

It’s the best we can do.

She would have been 70 on Monday. Thanksgiving was a holiday that belonged to her, often falling on her birthday. It’s impossible to separate the day from the memories. It’s impossible not to wonder what might have been, what it could have been like, if she had lived.

My Kids Are Not Playing Fortnite, Here’s Why

March 4, 2018

Mean Mom of the Year, right here, folks. Why? Because this weekend, my husband and I made the decision to pull the plug, so to speak, on Fortnite.

If you haven’t run across this game yet, then you either don’t have tweens or teens living in your house, or you live off the grid in Arizona. I see posts on Facebook daily from parents who either love the game, or hate it. Google it, and you’ll see forum posts like “Why are kids so obsessed with Fortnite?” and “I saw a kid in Taco Bell playing Fortnite” and blog posts like “How I Lost My Children to Fortnite.”

What’s the allure? It’s a free strategy survival game that works on several platforms. It combines Minecraft-type collection of resources and building, with team-based survival shooting like Call of Duty. Kids (and adults) can play with up to 100 strangers, creating teams and crafting strategy.

One mom writes that gaming…”has now become a social activity amongst children (and adult men) breaking down barriers and connecting children from different communities. My kids are playing with their camp friends, school friends, and family friends from neighboring cities.., they are creating stronger bonds with some kids they rarely see and friends they see all the time.”

So what’s the big deal? Team work = good, right? (The same mom above is also complaining that her kids no longer remember to eat or bathe…)

The big deal for me was when my 10 year old sat next to me on the couch and proceeded to explain the difference between a Gatling Gun and an AR-15. My 10 year old is suddenly an expert on…assault weapons.

Assault weapons. The very things used in some of the deadliest mass shootings in America. Las Vegas. Orlando. Parkland, and more. The United States has the honor of hosting nearly half of the deadliest mass shootings in the world over the last 30 years. I don’t need to tell you that no other country appears on the list as many times as we do. This country is obsessed — and I mean obsessed — with guns.

I feel strongly that the gun culture of America needs to change, and it needs to change now. There’s not much I can do single-handedly to make this happen — I will vote, I will use my voice when and where I can — but I can change what I teach my kids. Does playing violent video games lead to violence? The jury is still out. But, God help me if I allow my children to believe that shooting assault weapons is normal or fun. God help me if I allow them to become desensitized to violence and the idea of holding and firing a weapon.

37 Mass Shootings in America

563 children wounded or killed.

2,461 dead…

This year. That’s just three months. Gun violence in America isn’t just a problem. It’s a massacre.

Charles Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute and a professor of social work at Tulane University, has worked directly in school shooting interventions, and says growing accustomed to repeated violent acts is a form of adaptation, and most people do it without even realizing it.

“People adapt, they adjust, they try to look on the bright side,” he says. “There are two primary methods of dealing with a traumatic event: to respond, or to put it out of your mind. That’s what’s happening now. We’re still shocked, but we watch the people in the communities where this has happened, and we see their shock, their unpreparedness. We think, ‘There is nothing they could have done.’ The more frequently this happens, the more it reminds people there’s nothing they can do, so they put it out of their minds.”

God help me if I continue to sit back and do nothing.

Long ago, my husband and I decided that we weren’t going to allow (or play ourselves) any first-person shooter games. We stuck by that rule, despite the popularity of Halo and Call of Duty, and our kids have done fine. Pulling the plug on Fortnite, however, definitely had a sting, especially for our youngest who is (was) really into the game. But when we explained to him why…why we don’t want him playing a game that involves holding any kind of semi-automatic weapon, you know what? He understood. He’s seen the news, he knows what’s been happening.

And he doesn’t want any part of it, either.

Times up, people, in more ways than one. Times up for thinking gun violence isn’t your problem, or it won’t ever happen to you (or your kids). Times up for thinking you can’t make a difference. Times up for believing that change isn’t possible.

Thanks for listening. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Want to know what else you can do to stop gun violence in America? Here’s a few ideas:

Text RESIST to 50409  – This is the coolest thing ever. Using your zipcode, Resistbot allows you to write custom letters and faxes them directly to your Congressional representatives, your governor, and CC’s them to your local paper if you wish. Takes about two minutes, you write what you want, they send it. Easy peasy.

6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Fight for Gun-Control

Pledge to be a Gun Sense Voter

Sign the Petition: Pass Gun Safety Reform

Five things you could do right now to reduce gun violence in America

Hope Like A Heartbeat

December 12, 2017

A noun. A thing, elusive and ephemeral. To grasp, to cling, to clutch. But slippery. Sliding away when we’re not paying attention. Open hands, it’s gone. Again.

A verb. A choice. An act of myopic faith, blurry in the distance but promising. What might be, what could be? Active belief in possibilities as yet unseen.

Hope in a family with Huntington’s Disease is a risky business. We’ve hoped and held on to hope for so long already. Hope slipped away the day I knew my mom was dying. Hope returned, a tiny flicker of belief that perhaps my life would not end the same as hers.

Hope, like a heartbeat, pulses in the background, at times strong, at times so faint it barely exists.

I may not carry the Huntingtin gene, but there are people I love who do.

Hope began to beat again, this week, when a drug company in the UK released the results of trial using new methods to treat HD.

The results are promising.

Weary, we lean down and pick up Hope again. Choosing to believe, choosing to carry this thing we’ve held and dropped so many times before. Tucking it back into our pocket.

Perhaps, this time, we won’t have to let it go.