Allowed to Mother

Quite frankly, I don’t even have the ability to focus enough to know what to write about. I’ve just returned from being on the road traveling with my husband for the last 3 weeks. It’s been glorious and strenuous at the same time. The sites we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, the food… oh the food… the hotel rooms, the people: It’s a bit of a blur, albeit a glorious blur.

The writer in me wants to create a succinct article about travel and discovery that could be useful to readers. But there are many kinds of writers in me, I suppose. This is the nature of writers, to openly admit we have split personalities. (You’d think we’d keep that bit of information in the closet, but no, we hang that dirty laundry right on the clothes line for all to see.)

One of the writers in me wants to wax poetic about the beauty of each individual vista we’ve seen. Another inner-penner, wants to tap on the keys to tell about the food because I love restaurants and food so darn much it’s ridiculous. Yet a different variety of prose seeks escape to describe hotels and customer service dos and don’ts I’ve observed.

The angry writer in me wants to scold humanity because I’ve seen such ugliness. Animals and children being ignored or frightened; rudeness; rule breaking; slovenliness; selfishness. I want to put on visors and only see the wind in the leaves of the palm trees, the sunsets sparkling on the rippling waters of the ocean, and the designs the incoming tides leave in the sand. But I can’t shake my finger at anyone because I’m a lowly human, too, subject to anger and fear and my own need to survive. But again… that’s just one writer in me focusing on one area of observation I’ve come upon during these travels.

What I’ll choose to share is something I wrote in the second week of our trip. We met our daughter in San Diego and had several wonderful days of discovery and fun, but the last day brought the mother out in me; a part of my being that’s been shushed for the last ten years or so. I had one opportunity to nurture and care for my daughter like I did when she was little because she fell ill. Here’s what I wrote that day.

Where to start is at this moment, I suppose. At this moment, I’m worrying about my daughter, something I don’t get the opportunity to do anymore as she’s a 30-year-old, competent adult who lives nine hours away from me in St. Louis, Missouri and travels the country and even the world: she’s just returned from a visit to China. She’s far more capable than I am, yet this morning she woke up feeling poorly—a sore throat, tummy ache, and general body aches.

I immediately went into mommy-mode. I wish I could pick her up and cuddle her, but even as a baby, she didn’t much enjoy any kind of smooching or squishing from me. She’s always been one needing to control her environment and be free of restraints. Her most common utterance as a small child was, “I will do it by my own self!” usually yelled… at me.

She’s always known exactly what she wanted and settled for nothing less. I’ve tried to respect it, but it’s been a journey of me wanting to mother her and her cringing at my outstretched hands. I’m Pepe Le Pew and she’s the poor cat just trying to get out of my grasp.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have wanted her to be clingy or needy. I like strong, independent people, and can’t stand whiners or indecision. I enjoy and respect people who are leaders and survivors, probably because I am that person… right up until I’m sick, at which point I become a ball of whining needfulness. It isn’t pretty. But we were talking about my daughter, weren’t we? She’s feely “puny” today. (A word my friend uses.) Or I could say, she’s feeling “punk”. (A word my sister uses.) Love both those words.

It could be the rich foods, constant driving, walking, exploring, climbing and learning we’ve been doing. It could be that she’s just worn out as she goes full-throttle through life. She’s done more with her 30 years than many do in their whole lives. OR… as a mother’s worried nature wonders… she could be coming down with something and we should figure out where the nearest urgent care is so, if need be, we can rush her there!

I’m a problem-solving sort of gal and am always searching for the emergency exit in crowded spaces, or watching for that one trouble maker who could be dangerous. (Unless I’m drinking, and then I’m basically a toddler wandering off and getting into trouble wherever I can find it.) But that’s not my daughter’s nature at all. She’s a serious sort. Driven. Focused. Intense. Her motto could be, “I get shit done.” She’s a force to be reckoned with and although I’m a bit of a force in my own right, I generally cede to her because I know she’ll argue until she gets her way and I’m more amused and amazed by her fierce nature than I am in need to defend my own.

I adore her, yet am so frustrated by her… it’s an incredible conundrum I’ve been trying to figure out for 30 years now. So, back to topic, she’s not feeling wonderful today and although we’re in Southern California, amid beaches, zoos, parks, amazing sights and sounds, I still feel the need to stay in the hotel and fuss over her. She needs a day of rest. We all might be better for it, but this insane California weather is perfect every day. How can these people living here stand it? Sunshine, moderate temperatures, light breezes. Every. Single. Day.

I’ll finish this story to tell you she spiked a fever of what must have been 104 that night, and the next morning, still feeling very very sick, attended the meeting her company had flown her to San Diego to attend. She kicked that meeting’s ass, we drove her to the airport, she flew home, zonked for the night, then went to the doctor in the morning to find she still had 101 fever and an ear infection causing all the problems. Antibiotics have done the trick, and it’s a good thing as she hosted a major gala for Support Dogs, for which she is the current Chairperson, and then attended her company’s Christmas party. (Sounds like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but they rented Busch Stadium for the party, so…”

Still, I think she appreciated a little mothering and I was thrilled for the opportunity to once again play one of the roles in my life that gave me great purpose: caring for and loving my kids. I’d prefer they didn’t have to be sick to allow me to do it, but I’ll take what I can get!



A Short Story Contest

I believe competition is healthy, so I’ve hosted a couple of story contests this past year. I like giving writers an opportunity to stretch their writing muscles in a local competition.  All the better if there’s money involved. Who doesn’t want a little extra cash in their pockets and some bragging rights, to boot.

I have a website called Indie Book Trailers & More, where I host these short story contests. This link will take you to the site, and give you information about how to enter your story. CLICK THIS LINK  What you’ll find out, if you follow the link, is that submissions are now open for short stories (no longer than 3,000 words) in any genre, and about any topic. I’m taking up to fifteen entries and the submission fee is $10 per entry.

unnamed (1)

The Winter contest sponsor is Prairie Land Press, owned by Nancy Sharp Wagner. She has contributed $50 to the prize. There is only one winner, and the cash prize is the total of all entry fees plus the sponsor’s contribution. Therefore, if there are fifteen entries, then the prize will be $200. If there are only five entries, the prize will be $100.

I won’t personally participate in the judging of this competition, but will seek out four or five individuals who work in the field of writing. They will work independently of each other to read the entries. I’ll send these judges (yet to be selected) the stories sans the author’s names. The names of those who enter the competition won’t be listed until after judging.

When the winner is selected, he/she will be contacted and sent the prize money via Paypal. Then, I’ll announce the winner on the Indie Book Trailers & More website, and post a link to a PDF of the winning story. I’ll leave the story on the website for a month or more, giving the winner ample time to promote their win, and tell their readers where to go to read the story.

So, look through your work to see if you have something you’d like to enter, or send a link of this blog post to a writer you know who might be interested in entering one of their short stories. I looking forward to fifteen wonderful entries by talented authors from anywhere in the United States.

Many, many thanks to Prairie Land Press for sponsoring this competition. Nancy has wonderful books and resources for teachers on her website. She and I are proud to support and promote Nebraska authors!


Zucchini and Squash Epiphany

If you don’t enjoy cooking, feel free to skip this post, but, if you have a garden or have gardening friends who bless you with fresh produce, and enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking, read on.

Today I had an epiphany about turning garden goodies into delicious sauces, so I dove in to a counter-full of yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, and green pepper.

I have a teeny-tiny bit of cooking knowledge, and one thing I know is if you can make a sauce, you have a fundamental cooking skill that allows you to do many things. The French, of course, figured this out in the early 19th century, then refined the idea in the early 20th century when they created: The Mother Sauces.

The gist is, if you can make a mother sauce, you can then make many things. The everyday cook uses a can of mushroom soup in the same way: to pour on pork chops, or use it in a casserole, or as the base of a soup… or more likely, they use it when a recipe calls for it. In the same way, cooks know a basic béchamel sauce can become any kind of cream soup, or cream sauce, or creamy base for any casserole. No need for a recipe. Just make the sauce and go from there.

I’ve had zucchini bread and zucchini brownies, and found that the zucchini blends nicely; you don’t really taste it. So why not let it blend into a sauce? I did some googling and so indeed… others have already thought of this, and although I didn’t find tons of recipes, I got the general idea. Make a sauce, add cooked zucchini—viola!

Therefore… here are my end results should you be interested in using your squash and zucchini in a new way.

I started by making a big batch of béchamel sauce… just butter & flour in equal amounts, add milk with salt, pepper (I used white pepper), and nutmeg. Stir, stir, stir… yummy, delicious, smooth delightful creamy sauce you could basically put on a shoe and it would be well-worthy of licking off. I set that aside.

Then in two different pans I sauté sliced zucchini and squash, respectively, with onion and garlic, in olive oil and butter.

Once cooked, I put a batch at a time in the food processor and zapped it nice and smooth. I took each batch out and to this I added 1/2 the béchamel sauce. Then to each sauce I added 1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan cheese and stirred it until it melted. I like spice, so I also added some red pepper flakes to each of these batches of sauce. The squash sauce is golden and the zucchini more green.

I plan to use the yellow squash sauce in scalloped potatoes, but of course, it would be a great base for mac and cheese, or potato soup, or chicken pot pie, or an Alfredo style pasta sauce just for a few ideas. I put it over eggs and ham for lunch like a hollandaise. Technically, you could serve it as a soup as it is with a nice piece of bread. It’s extremely yummy!

I added roast chicken to the zucchini sauce and I think it will be great over pasta, by itself as a soup, or as a sauce on potatoes or even rice. If you didn’t add chicken, I think many meats would play well with it.

Then I took those jalapeños, several ears of corn from our garden, a lime, a can of coconut milk, and some Thai seasoning and made a kick-ass curry sauce. Chicken or shrimp can be added and it’ll be good over rice or noodles. Very spicy, but rich and delightful. The lime made it very fresh. It’s pretty too. I can see instead of using Thai spices, using Mexican spices like cumin and cilantro, then putting a dollop of the sauce on enchiladas or tacos or a taco salad or anything Mexican, really. I’d think it’d be nice as a base for tortilla soup, too.

Still in a playful mood, I took the tomatoes and green pepper with what was left of the onion and finished everything off with a small batch of red sauce. I think all of these sauces will freeze just fine. 

And now, I have at least four meal starters and I’ve used up my vegetables in a unique way.

Now. What to do with those butternut squash…

I think I have an idea!



Celebrating Joyce

Life in the country during summer means sweet corn and tomatoes, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for celebrations of one kind or another.

My daughter is coming home this weekend, bringing friends, and we’ll have a thirtieth birthday celebration with her at our cabin. There will be some games, and boating, a fire pit, and food. Plenty of sun and some firewater, too. The usual summer party things. My husband and I have some work to do yet to prepare for this. The inside of our cabin is almost ready, but the sand beach needs to be raked, the wood for a fire needs to be gathered, and I’m determined to figure out a better way to arrange the patio furniture. And then I’ll need to buy and prepare food. It’ll all fall into place. I have all week, I hope. But, then again, none of us know how much time we actually have.

Last week was a week to have a different kind of celebration — one of life and family. My sister-in-law Joyce passed away; too young at 70. She was one of the most interesting and intense people I’ve ever known; Intelligent, fierce, giving, and brutally honest. The church absolutely overflowed for her unique memorial service. The gathering afterward was a true celebration of life, dotted with hugs and tears, memories shared, lots of toasts—beers held high—Joyce enjoyed a good gathering and a beer or a margarita or two. She’d have liked seeing so many of us getting to know each other, reestablishing relationships, and making new friends, too.

So, here’s to another week full of work, family, friends, and celebrations. Here’s to these last days of summer with sweet corn and tomatoes, lakes and parties… and losses, too, which we only experience if we’ve had something special to begin with.

In Joyce, we had something special.

In honor of Joyce, here are words from Tecumseh, a Shawnee. No one honored Native American heritage as well as our Joyce did.

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.

Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

– Tecumseh
, Shawnee (1768-1813)

Joyce truly did die like a hero going home. She will be missed.

My brother Gary and his wife Joyce.