Friday, March 23, 2012

Beware the fashion police

Did you ever hear that old joke about the woman who went into the basement to throw some things in the washing machine? She was sorting laundry and a pipe was dripping on her head so she put on her son’s football helmet to protect her head. Then she decided to throw the bathrobe she was wearing in with the wash. So she was standing in the basement wearing only a football helmet when she heard a man in the corner, clearing his throat. It was the meter reader and the woman hadn’t realized he was in the house. He said, “Sure hope your team wins, lady.”

Maybe it’s not a joke--it could be a true story. But there’s something so wrong about that story, too many holes. I need explanations. For example, why would she ignore a leak above her head? Was the football helmet the only thing available to protect her? And why on earth was the meter reader hiding in the corner of her basement without her knowing he was there? That’s a little sketchy.

Whatever . . . I’m not going to take on the veracity of that legend. I just was thinking about that story today when I was running the vacuum. One thing led to another this morning and I spent the morning wearing a t-shirt with major bleach stains, ratty old pajama pants, and a brand-new pair of high heels. Early this morning I had received a UPS package containing a pair of shoes I had ordered online—cute little taupe pumps with flowers on the toes. Don’t you know it’s rude to ask how many pairs of shoes I have? You wouldn’t ask a rancher how many acres he has, would you? Trust me, I needed cute little taupe pumps with flowers on the toes. And I needed to walk around in them in the house to test out the fit before I decided to keep them. What better way to test out the shoes than to wear them while I was running the vacuum? But as I was vacuuming in the grubby t-shirt, pajama pants, and high heels with flowers, a shiver went down my spine. Could there possibly be a meter reader in the house? Or worse, the fashion police from that TV show where they secretly videotape people who dress poorly. My daughter has threatened to sic the fashion stalkers on me so it’s possible they will ambush me at exactly the moment I’m wearing the grubbies with flowered high heels. Please don’t throw away everything I own and make me go shopping for all new stuff. Even with the $5000 budget, I would be totally miserable. I couldn’t find $5000 worth of clothes I wanted. Guess I should keep the windows covered and the doors securely locked.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Slip sliding away

I was getting in the shower today and casually looked at myself in the mirror. It was a big mistake. No, it wasn’t a mistake to take a shower. You know what I mean. A woman of a certain age should never look at her unclothed body in full light. That’s why we hire electricians to put dimmers on all our light switches.

It got me thinking about globs of flesh and what happens to them with age. Remember how in high school everyone was obsessed with the size of their thighs? That’s why Suzanne Somers invented the Thigh Master. Did she win a Nobel Prize for that? And we did those isometric things, pushing our palms together, saying “we must, we must improve our busts.”  We didn’t improve either our thighs or our busts and now these are the least of our problems.

I used to have a flat stomach. The only compliment my former husband ever gave me was when he told me that he remembered what a great flat stomach I used to have. That was well after the flat stomach had been slackened by pregnancies. The former husband wasn’t big on flattery.

The way of flesh is humbling. It slips and slides. It sinks where you don’t want it to sink and it forms unsightly bulges where you don’t want it to bulge. But here’s the good news—I figure that it’s going to keep slipping. With time it will slide from the belly to the knees. Then it will form an unsightly bubble on the calves and the ankles. This will be the stage when I wear bell bottoms. From there, the feet will become grotesquely distorted like clown feet. But that’s the beginning of the end. If I can just hold on through the clown feet stage, gravity will take over and the excess flesh will seep out of the bottom of my feet. One morning I’ll get up and find a giant oil slick on the floor, like melting cans of Crisco. I’m so looking forward to the melted Crisco day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A rambling letter to Mike

Dear Mike—You’ve been dead for over three weeks now. I refuse to accept it. I think it’s a huge hoax. You’re sitting back somewhere, relaxing on an island or something and you’ve hired a private detective to observe and report back to you on how your “loved ones” have lined up. How are they coping and who misses you the most? Surely I win the missing-you-most contest by any measure. The trouble is, when I find out for sure that it’s a hoax, and that you’re not really dead, then I’m going to KILL you because you’ve put me through this hell. Damn, you’re a mean bastard, why was I duped all along to think you were a thoughtful person with a decent amount of compassion? You shithead!

When I don’t doubt that you’re dead, when I'm faced with the stark reality, I often get angry. I mutter to you aloud, sometimes shouting at you for the idiocy of dying. “You shithead!” I shout, through tears. But then I apologize because you weren’t a shithead and you didn’t want to die.

It’s incomprehensible to me that a fully-formed man with so much energy, so many interests and opinions, so many skills, could be reduced to a puddle of emaciated flesh. That puddle in the bed was not the Mike I knew and loved. That little Yoda man, mumbling an occasional brilliant observation, had replaced the big, strong, guitar-playing cowboy. It wasn’t your body any longer. Where was the real Mike and when was he coming back?

When my heart softens and I get past the anger and disbelief is when it’s really hard. Then I face the stark truth that you’re gone. Just gone. This kind of gone is not going to end while I’m on this Earth.

People say to me, “Just talk to him. He’s there. He’s everywhere around you. He can hear you.” In a sense I want to believe that but I’m not convinced and, truthfully, I’ve never had one of those moments when I felt your presence or thought I heard your voice. I don’t really know the nature of heaven. (And I do give thanks that you’re in heaven.) But do you bother to hang out here in spirit when you can be in heaven talking to Jesus? Why would you do that? Go back to heaven, don’t listen to my whining. I’ll be fine. Sort of fine. Other than the missing you part.

Just so you know, I cried at Home Depot yesterday because I was frustrated. I needed to get a piece of plywood cut to replace a seat in a chair I’m doing. You shithead! Where are you with your power tools when I need you? Okay, I’m over that. I’ll be fine, I swear. I’ll pull myself together and I’ll be fine. Still, I’ll miss you. Oh, and I bought a circular saw and protective eye goggles. Just imagine the dangerous potential of a grieving old woman with a circular saw, the eye googles notwithstanding. Trust me, you’re much safer where you are.

Miss you. . . love you. . . .  Donna

Monday, March 12, 2012

Galub jamun, foie gras, or meatloaf

The change to Daylight Saving Time has messed with my bio-rhythms. It's past 2 a.m. I slept for awhile then got up. Advice seems to say that if you're not sleeping, you should get up, have warm milk, and do something soothing. I'm drinking warm milk and thinking about food. You may have noticed this blog is called Cooking + Praying. So where's the cooking? It has been on my mind, even though there's nothing going on in the kitchen. I've even been eating random things out of my pantry because there's so little to eat and I've been disinclined to plan a meal and actually go shopping for it. But, maybe if I get an inspiration . . .

So I pull out the old, old game I used to play in my early cooking days. Randomly, without looking, I pull a cookbook off the shelf and open it to a page. That's what I have to cook. I used to do it because I liked the challenge and ended up cooking some things I never would have tried otherwise.

Here's what just happened. I have probably 130 cookbooks (no, I didn't count) and by chance I picked an old one that I've had for a long time and actually used quite a bit. It's "The Vegetarian Epicure" by Anna Thomas. But the recipe that came up is a new one to me. It's called Galub Jamun, described as "a very special sort of Indian sweetmeat, with an impossible fragrance: roses and saffron." It takes days to make and it requires saffron and rose water. They advise the reader, "Don't be fazed by this." Sorry, I faze easily I suppose.

Can I get a second opinion? Even though I love tackling Indian recipes, I don't think I feel like taking on galub jamun at the moment, even though it sounds a little exotic and quite delicious. So I go back to the shelf, close my eyes, and see what happens with the second choice. It's a Barefoot Contessa book--Foie Gras with Roasted Apples. Ina Garten is so reliable and I've never been disappointed with any of her recipes. But it calls for one whole Grade A duck foie gras. Umm. . . where am I going to find foie gras and how much is it going to cost? Sorry, Ina.

Time for a third and final round. I have rejected the first two for being overly complicated, expensive, and having hard-to-find or costly ingredients. The next book? Sheila Lukins' "U.S.A. Cookbook," and the recipe (page 358) is Picadillo Meat Loaf. Okay--it's hard to object to meat loaf. I'm not making it tonight but I will make a list, go to the grocery store tomorrow, and report back on how it worked out.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Prayer for the season

Dear Lord, please get me through until spring. The weather outside belies the spirit in my heart. Outside it’s unseasonably warm—daffodils in bloom, buds swelling, people running wearing tank tops. The calendar says it’s late winter but I’m hunkered down inside like it’s mid-January. I want to crawl into my bed under layers of heavy blankets. I want to eat macaroni and cheese and drink hot chocolate. It should be sleeting and the cold wind should be howling. The world outside should match the cry of my heart. But spring will come, both literally and figuratively. Lord, please just support me, let me feel your loving embrace, lift me out of this cold sadness. Let me know that, though people I love have died, that I am alive and that I will soon feel the joy of that life. Lord, please get me through until spring.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My father's eyes

Lately I’ve been troubled, really heart sick about the recent losses in my life. And last night I was reading a book my daughter-in-law sent me—“Heaven” by Randy Alcorn—a Christian perspective on the nature of heaven. I always have thought that people in heaven don’t know what’s happening on Earth and are blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations of their loved ones. But the author contends that Revelation 6 gives us reason to believe that those in heaven know what’s happening and they are praying for the others still on Earth.

Glory alleluia! I got promises from two people just before they died (my Uncle Billy and my dear Mike) that they would pray for me. And even better, I’ve got my dad, my trump card, sitting at the Lord’s side. If anyone is in heaven, my dad is there. So last night I talked to my dad and asked him please to talk to the Lord for me, “Please, Daddy, it hurts. Help me.”

And today I was cleaning up the clutter in my office. I took down some superfluous junk from my bulletin board and uncovered a photo of my dad from under something I tore from the local newspaper about a new cheese store. I looked at my father’s smiling face, looked into his eyes in the photo, and told him what a good father he was and that I’ll always love him.

I had iTunes playing on shuffle. Out of 7,791 songs on iTunes, just as I was looking at my father’s photo, up came Eric Clapton singing “My Father’s Eyes.” I figure if ever there was a sign from heaven that my father could hear me and that he was praying for me, that was it. What are the chances? I could be creeped out but I’m not—I’m reassured. Thanks, Daddy! I’m glad I’ve got you there for me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Prayer fail

A big gusher of grief hit me tonight. I was in the laundry room, painting of course. I was so distressed that I got on my knees on the floor, kneeling in the spilled cat litter, splattered paint, and dust. I prayed, pleaded with God to make it stop. I asked Him what purpose He has in doing this to me. Is He trying to refine me? Is He testing me? Or is He just plain mean? I really wanted an answer. I wanted to hear His voice telling me that it would be okay. He said nothing. He saw me there on the floor and just let me grovel. He didn’t seem to be listening. I was angry and didn’t have anything nice to say to the Lord so I just went back to painting. The prayer didn't seem to work well.

It strikes me as particularly cruel that Mike died just a couple of weeks after he became a Christian. Haven’t I been praying for years to find a Christian man to share my life? Okay, voila—surprise—Mike becomes a Christian. Then Mike dies. Was that the answer to my prayers? Great for Mike because he died in salvation, but my selfish self thinks I got the raw end of the deal.

And my brother’s murder is going to trial now? The vile man who shot my brother refused to plea bargain so now our family will have to sit through a gut-wrenching trial? Is this what we deserve? Not only does my brother get viciously murdered in cold blood, but now we have the opportunity to relive every detail of his death in a courtroom. Is this really what the Lord wants for us?

I know, I know, I know. God doesn’t work that way. If we believe God is good, that He is good all the time, then we have to know that He is good even when we don’t get what we want. In all things He works for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. Can I get some reassurance, maybe a second opinion?

I know, I know, I know. Everything is not about me. I’m not the center of universe. God is just doing His work and I’m suffering collateral damage. What happens to me is ultimately not that important. But, Lord, please be merciful. I’m just so tired of grieving. Can you please just cut me a break?

I know, I know, I know. I’m wrong and I won’t always feel this way. But it’s where I am now—ticked off and frustrated, a tired, flawed human being.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wardrobe malfunction

Okay, I'm officially and totally fed up with wardrobe malfunctions. What is with that? First it was that person at the Super Bowl. I didn't see it. Then it was that person at the Oscars. I didn't see that either. Maybe there was another Super Bowl malfunction but I didn't pay attention.

In the first 60-some years of my youth I cannot recall a single public wardrobe malfunction of any celebrity. This is a new phenomenon. They are just staging this stupid stuff. Any publicity is better than no publicity at all. If they weren't held together with goo and they weren't already dangerously close to exposing all of their junk then this would not be an issue.

I will admit to several personal wardrobe malfunctions but thankfully I did not get my photo spread all over the Internet. There was that time at Target when I realized I had toilet paper hanging out of the back of my pants. There was that time in my office when my dirty laundry slipped out onto the floor in the reception area. There was that time I wore the lime green sheath dress with the red coat. I looked like a cheap Christmas ornament. I've had my share of humiliation.

I also will admit to innumerable wardrobe malfunctions that are simply attributable to bad fashion sense. Just ask my daughter who periodically purges ugly things from my closet. For example, she made me dispose of two perfectly good pairs of pants. I called them "parachute pants" and she called them "M. C. Hammer pants." She says I have as much style as an adolescent boy. She particularly hates my orthopedic shoes. I like to think I am a bit edgy, artsy bohemian, a cross between Stevie Nicks and Eileen Fisher. I suppose it's a malfunction.

Friday, March 2, 2012


People keep asking me how I am doing. Answer—good days, bad moments. Generally I move through the day feeling like I’m mostly coping. But occasional tsunamis of grief overcome me. The tsunamis tend to come at the end of the day. When the sun begins to set I feel his absence. I’ve been shouting aloud at the absent Mike, saying, “Where the hell are you? Why did you die, you shithead?” I immediately apologize for calling him a shithead. He wasn't a shithead and I know he wanted to die even less than I wanted him to die.

Once again, I cycle through at least four of the stages of grief: disbelief/denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. The bargaining stage is no longer part of the cycle for me. I can go through all of these in the course of a single day, sometimes in the course of a single hour. No, I can’t believe it really happened. When I do believe it, I get incredibly angry, but I don’t even know the object of my anger. Can I simply be angry with cancer? Can I curse the fate of us human beings who, from the moment of our conception are doomed to die? Or when I realize this unfocused anger is futile, I become depressed because I miss him. I want him to comfort me. I want to pick up the phone to call him, but he’s not there. Then, for a while, I accept that he has died until again I can’t believe it, get angry, and then become depressed.

I know about the flipping stages of grief. I got a graduate degree in psychology. But the graduate degree in psychology doesn’t help one iota when I’m the one in the thick of it. Cognitively I know that a person doesn’t cycle through the stages of grief once and call it done. I’ll go through it over and over again, in order or not in order, in a short amount of time or what seems like forever. It hurts.