Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Parents' Nightmare

It was a horrendous accident over the Thanksgiving weekend -- the car split into pieces, the engine on fire, one teen seriously injured, and two dead on impact. One of them was the younger brother of my daughter's friends -- a boy she had loved like a brother herself for many years.

From the moment we first hold our babies in our arms we know we can lose them. We push that thought to the far recesses of our minds -- otherwise we would be paralyzed with fear. On Friday night, two families were suddenly shattered by the loss of their children, and the rest of us felt a chill -- knowing it can happen to any of us in a heartbeat.

Of course, for me this was a more personal tragedy, even though I didn't know the boy, because I know and love his sisters, and because my own daughter was consumed with grief over his loss. The funeral today was unbearably sad, and I cannot imagine the depth of his family's grief -- and pray that I never will have to bear this unthinkable sorrow myself.

Maybe, because of my own deep emotions , I am over-reacting, but I have been appalled by the insensitivity of some people. They blithely comment that people just don't train their teenagers about safe driving; a newspaper article on the morning of the funeral discussed the driver's negligence in adhering to the restrictions on her junior license. Why, when young people die in a car accident, do we rehash all the issues of teen behavior? When the wounds are so fresh for their families, why do we have to analyze it all and cast blame? In our society, we always seem to need to blame someone. This accomplishes nothing and solves nothing.

Why can't we just let their families bury them in peace?!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

With Much Thanksgiving

What a wonderful Thanksgiving this was. We all gathered at my sister-in-law's home -- a warm and inviting house. There were fifteen of us around the table, including my in-laws, my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, my only nephew, and a close family friend who is like a son to me. Our celebration was especially meaningful because it is my granddaughter's first Thanksgiving, and I also have another little grandbaby on the way.

Thanksgiving is such a peaceful holiday -- no gifts, no wrapping, no elaborate traditons -- just an abundance of delicious food with the people you hold most dear.

Alas, though, since I wasn't preparing dinner here, I spent most of the morning decorating my house for Christmas. So, with this quiet holiday behind us, tomorrow we will usher in the bustle of the Christmas season.

But for tonight, I will simply be thankful for the bountiful blessings of my Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Babe in the Woods

Once upon a time I was a sweet, naive, trusting young woman, who believed as my grandmother always taught me, "You catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar." All of these years later, I still carry those thoughts in my heart and live gently on this earth, caring for strangers, friends and family with kindness, love and respect.

However, in the past few years it seems more and more difficult to deal with the business side of life with any degree of "niceness". We are frustrated at all turns in our modern world. We cannot make a business phone call without encountering long phone menus, and ultimately reaching someone who takes very little interest in our situation. The old adage "the customer is always right" has fallen far by the wayside. Not only is it difficult to resolve problems, but generally we are left with the feeling that any dissatisfaction we feel is of absolutely no concern.

This past week I spent countless hours on the phone with the Albany County Department of Health. We found a rabid bat in our house on Monday, and I wanted to get rabies vaccinations for my husband and I and our two grandchildren, who had spent all day in the living room where we later found the bat hovering under the couch. When they called to tell me the bat was rabid, I assumed we would receive treatment quickly. However, they have instituted a new "criteria" for rabies vaccinations, and somehow we didn't seem to meet that criteria. They assured me that each case was studied carefully, and they knew what they were doing. I was treated with arrogance and antagonism at every turn. It is very stressful to deal with your own fears after rabies exposure, and these people made an already tense situation a nightmare. In my conversations with them, I quickly became angry, demanding and threatening -- traits which do not come naturally to me. However, being nice got me no results, and I was not willing to gamble with my grandchildren's lives.

Thankfully, the children's pediatrician stepped in and this morning we finally had our shots. The staff at the clinic was pleasant, warm and compassionate. They could definitely give lessons to their co-workers whom I dealt with on the phone.

I don't like the person I became when dealing with this situation. I still believe we should be kind and respectful to each other, and it appalls me that in so many situations now I must be assertive to the point of aggression in order to get results. What is wrong in our society?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Listening is An Act of Love

Recently I was listening to a segment of Story Corps on NPR, and they mentioned the title of a book, Listening is An Act of Love, by Dave Isay, which is a compilation of personal stories of people from all walks of life.

The title spoke to me. "Listening is an act of love" is a profound statement of truth. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give people is to listen to them -- to listen with compassion, not offering judgement or advice -- but to fully listen to their hopes, worries, or problems.

Thirty-four years ago my first baby was stillborn. I was heartbroken, but moved on quickly with the normal routine of life. However, every day for weeks I talked to my best friend on the phone. I revisited every detail of my daughter's death over and over and over, and my friend listened. She was busy with a baby of her own, but each day she took the time to listen to me. There was nothing she could say to hasten the grief process and nothing she could do to take away the terrible emptiness, so instead she listened as I poured out my sorrow, and slowly I began to heal.

We have drifted apart through the years, seeing each other only occasionally, but I will never forget those long weeks when she lovingly listened me through my grief --

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Day That Longs for Soup

Finally, autumn seems to have arrived in the Northeast. The air is cold and crisp, the zinnias which were in their glory last week are now withered by frost, and the lawn is blanketed with fallen leaves.

There is nothing that speaks of autumn more than a pot of hearty soup simmering on the stove. I love everything about soup -- the chopping and sauteeing that begin the process, the hours of watching its slow simmer and enjoying the delicious aroma throughout the house, setting the table with my lovely soup tureen and matching bowls, and finally ladling it into bowls and savoring the delicious taste .

Following is one of my favorite simple soup recipes for a November evening:

Bacon Corn Chowder

Cook 1 lb. of bacon in large soup pot; set aside on plate to drain. Pour off excess fat, leaving just enough to saute two chopped onions. Add one bag of frozen corn and ten large potatoes, diced. Sprinkle in 3 teaspoons fresh thyme and 2 teaspoons fresh marjoram. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper.

Add one 48-ounce can of chicken broth and 9 cups of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Mix 1/3 cup cornstarch with 1/2 cup water and add to pot, stirring constantly until broth is thickened. (More may be added to reach desired consistency).

Crumble bacon and add to pot; stir in 1 cup of heavy cream and simmer gently for five minutes. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of fresh chopped chives into pot and stir.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh chives and thyme.

Serve with a crusty loaf of bread and you have a heartwarming meal!!