Saturday, December 9, 2017

Knock, Knock (an excerpt, perhaps)


**Memory can be a tricky little beast. Hazy in half moments, devastatingly unclouded some others. This is a work of non-fiction, though the experiences, story and words are mine alone.** 
 
I half expect Will to pull up to my house with the words “Free Candy!” spray painted on the side one day. A large rectangular hooptie of a vehicle. Dusty ebony in color. One single window at the rear. My friend and I mount ourselves into his “creeper van.”

Will agreed to join me on this journey. An adventure of sorts for a couple of teens. We plan to drive the 45 minutes from Fife to Eatonville to knock on what I suspect to be my mother’s door.

She isn’t expecting us.

As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen me in 11 years. Like many kids, my parents divorced when I was still very young. When they parted ways, they distributed their belongings as well. You get the couch, I get the car. Those dishes are mine. I never did like those drapes anyhow. You take this kid, I’ll take the other. And with that my baby sister and I parted ways-the same as our parents. We didn’t live far from each other, always residing within an hour of one another and yet somehow the distance between us was vast.

Sometimes during public transit routes I’d wonder if my mother or sister were on the same bus. Would I recognize them? Would they know me? Or would we sit side by side, knees nearly touching none the wiser…….

I received the address we are heading towards from a cop. I only knew of my mother what I was told, she had a reputation—a nasty drug habit that I could only assume meant she likely had a warrant out for her arrest. My friend Jamie, a big lug of a fella, who always had a whisper of gasoline aroma lingering thanks to his job at the local BP gas station, knew enough to know that there are files for these things and likely an address was included in this file. Due to his petrol peddling, he also had a close enough relationship with one of the local officers that was familiar with most of us kids thanks to the D.A.R.E agenda. You know….the one where they told 5th and 6th graders that Mary Jane was a gateway drug…..yea. We gave him my little story, this straggly 16-year-old girl, just looking for her rumored to be meth addicted mom.

The officer raised one eyebrow, sighed and then smiled that smile that said, “I really shouldn’t be doing this but you’re a good kid” as he took a few moments on his computer and then jotted down my mother’s last known address.

With large quad shot Snickers mochas in hand we puttered out to the outskirts of Eatonnville. Each mile closer resulting in a rising anxiety inside of me. I spent the entire drive digging through the vaults of my memory trying to recall my mother’s features. She, in a bright yellow shirt tied in the front as she dusted the living room. Her laugh that came easy. The crescent moon shaped indents her nails left in my small arm once when I was misbehaving. Her petite frame. Blond hair. Blue eyes. A face my dad would sometimes say mine resembled so. I found myself hoping that it wasn’t her address after all, hoping to arrive and knock on the door of a stranger.

Eventually we found ourselves winding down unfamiliar treelined streets, double yellow adorned concrete, becoming firm gravel. The distance between houses expanding the longer we drove. Pebbles clicking to the shooooossh of dirt under tire. As we rounded the bend, there it was. A shack, really, maybe a motorhome with archaic, sloppy additions. Several cars sat abandoned on the surrounding grounds. Three excited dogs, bounded towards the van, eager for the attention of whoever had come to visit.

My heart thrummed in my ears as I tapped on the door.

A man answered, I was sure I would have to introduce myself, announce myself by name and confess that I was in search of my mother.

“Jackie?”

“Uh, yea! Hi, um, I, is my mom here?”

“Yea, she’s out right now. I think she went fishing at Ohop.”

“Oh, okay, cool. Is it far?”

“Nah, a few miles that way,” he pointed lazily towards the way that we came. “You can wait inside if you wanna. She should be back soon.”

“Um, hold on a sec?”

He nodded in acknowledgement as I strolled back over to Will, who had been waiting patiently in the van.

“Dude, it’s her house but she’s not here. That’s her husband, I sorta remember him. He says she’s fishing.”

He considered it for a moment, “You wanna wait? I can stay here? “

“Yea, okay. Don’t go though. Okay?”

“For sure,” said Will. 

As I glanced back looking for an out he gave me a look of assurance. I shoved my hands deep into my pockets, as I approached the door, “My ride is gonna wait outside, but I’ll wait. If that’s cool.”

Mike, My mom’s husband, let me through the door. I had a vague memory of him in my youth, in the movie reel of my memory, he drove a yellow truck but I didn’t recall any real interaction with him. “Man, she’s gonna be so excited to see you.” He plopped onto a well-worn chair and motioned to the couch. Inside was dimly lit and just as petite as I expected from the exterior. Blankets and linens covered the windows and were draped from the ceiling both sagging and whimsical all at once. A collection of snowglobes lined one wall, a pack of wolves residing in one, bits of make-pretend slow drifting by their paws. In another a fairy perched herself atop a mushroom.

We sat there in silence for what felt like an eternity. All this time daydreaming about reconnecting with my mom had brought me to this moment. I was sitting in her home, my stomach flopping and churning inside of me while I considered what to say. What could be said? Why was I here, what was I expecting? I was hyperaware of my surroundings, drinking in the details. I looked to the patterns of each swooping fabric above, dark spots of dried moisture marking some in the corner. The couch was velvety to the touch from the blanket thrown upon it. I focused on the drip, drip, drip from the kitchen faucet, and the dogs kicking up dirt as they played on the side lawn. The sound of another vehicle finally approached and I inhaled deeply.

My mom came in with a burst of energy, took one look at me and hugged me deeply. I was several inches taller than her but she wrapped her arms around me, her fringed leather coat swaying where it could between our interlocked embrace. “Oh my god, Jackie, Oh my god” She repeated, as though she had found a long lost sentimental treasure.

She didn’t let go for a long time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Saltines


It’s the morning following my 36th birthday and I arise not feeling hungover. I shuffle about wiping sleep from my eyes and go about my business, coffee in hand. With one child off on his daily Kindergarten adventure and the husband well on his way to work, I retreat to bed with a book in hand where I cocoon myself next to my snoozing toddler. 
My mind feels clear enough but my stomach flops inside of me confirming that I may have had too much to drink the evening before. But really, define “too much.” Sometimes hardly anything at all, often times just two glasses of wine do me in but my birthday splurge of 5 or 6 drinks are now behind me and I feel dandy save for my insides who are doing their best to contest my general sense of wellbeing. 
I fetch a sleeve of saltines to pair with my freshly brewed coffee. Black, dark and bitter sips hyphenated by oddly satisfying nibbles of the crackers. I wonder why it is I find so much comfort in this treat and I’m reminded that my parents would tell me that saltines were cookies in my youth. My image of this common sweet treat imbibed by other children and puppeteered monsters was dry, plain and salty. I wonder now if this childhood deception is the root of all of my problems.
Could my warped sense of romantic bliss and parental affections have all begun with my love of the saltine cracker misidentified as a cookie?
My love is like a saltine.
Parched and briny.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Value



The following is something I wrote a while back. I'm sharing it not because I feel that way today, because I feel quite the opposite in most moments. I'm sharing it because I believe that I am not alone in my feelings. We don't talk about things as a society often. hardships are one of these things. We place a lovely filter on daily tasks and while I am a full supporter of not being a whiner, I think it's okay to feel these moments of hopelessness and emotional fatigue.
So here it is. A moment of mine.
Maybe someone will scold me for ever thinking these thoughts.
And, that's okay too.


Money is assigned a denomination of value. It is used according to predetermined amounts of said value and the costs, or perceived value of goods and services.
Money is earned a variety of ways, though typically through traditional means that are considered gainful employment.
So it goes:
Work to earn,
Spend earned income on goods and/or services.
Your time is given a value also, your wage, living or not is the determined by the perceived "value" of your time and efforts. That perception comes from a variety of sources.....and to my understanding the notion of feeling undervalued is not uncommon...or even one could say the norm.
I'm feeling precisely this way, right this moment, though it's not my employers I'm feeling undervalued from but rather my family.
I am a mother and a wife which apparently equates often to being a resource.
I am a dry well. The water removed and replaced with all the things my family finds necessary to their well being.
Affection.
Transportation.
Guidance.
House keeping.
They need. and need. and need. And it is assumed, given my moniker of mother that I am obligated to fulfill these needs with my time and efforts. And though I do feel obligated and I do attempt to fill said needs, I am often met with knowing that my duties are thankless tasks that meet me each day with my waking and sometimes demand me to interrupt my slumber so that I can feed the beasts that is my family.
What value is it that we as a society place upon our mothers and wives?
This is a value that cannot be measured obviously but isn't even seen most of the time. It is not even recognition or appreciation. It is not our undying affections.
It is said to be priceless, the work of mothers.
But then we too often to advantage of all of the people in our lives.
The grand human condition.
Assuming that others are placed here as a resource to fill our needs so that we can continue to fulfill our aspirations.





Wednesday, June 10, 2015

As The IV Drips



Sometimes I'm here at my little blogging cyberplace and I find my self feeling vulnerable. Dear Diary-ing my way through the page. Click, click of the keyboard.
More often than not, these are not polished verses that reach eyes and I'm okay with that. I write these words for me. If someone comes across them and can connect and feel a little less alone, well then, all the better.

It is date night. I primped and pampered as much as I ever do, which includes wearing something suitable for a date night and adding a pair of earrings.
"Hon, can you zip me?" that's what started the spiral of morose thinking. My back isn't something I inspect often...er, ever really. No, never. I have no need to but this time my husband noticed some discoloration around one of the moles on my back.
And it is cause for concern.
Now, on a date night, I am thinking about cancer. Who has time to worry about such things?
I'm certain it's fine. Yes, definitely.
I'll just sip on more wine.

It's a scary thing to think about. Cancer.
It has taken the lives of friends, family and other's loved ones.
It has also managed to transform lives whether it takes a life or leaves it.
I'm no stranger to a cancer scare.

While pregnant with Connor the midwife discovered some suspicious tissue. It turned out to be cervical cancer that required a quick in-hospital procedure. This was the first I'd been put under and it wasn't what I expected. I anticipated a countdown. Some kind of slow descent from wakeful to unconsciousness, maybe some weird dreams, I don't know. Instead the nurse informed me she was giving me something to calm me. They wheeled me off, down the corridor, into the operation room. The buzz of bodies preparing around me and the clink of metal instruments being readied was the last I remember. Then....
nothing. I awoke slowly and realized it was all over. I wasn't so much achy as worn down and emotionally fatigued that day, Halloween, snuggling the sweet infant whos very being may have been what saved me from cancer. A good friend at my side since the husband was off at work. No costume parties or trick or treating adventure that evening. Just reflecting and healing. Passing out candy to little ones as they came prancing to the door.

I'm avoiding the doctor for myself because we already see doctors so often. it's tiresome and I feel fine, no need to fret over check ups but the cancer idea weighed heavily on my mind for just that night. A date night tainted by a faint shadow of worry.

Not a week after my short lived cancer obsession, we had another appointment for my eldest. The usual check up with her specialist. It's been almost exactly a year since her hospitalization. A year that has not been entirely, if at all good, in terms of her health. The thing with a diagnosis like Lupus is they don't really know what to do with you. "Caring" for Lupus is just an educated guessing game and what works for some does not always work for others. This year has been one for finding out what has not been working, so now, we are in the cancer ward of the hospital, an IV full of medication dripping slowly. A 2 phase infusion, 8 hours a piece, that while the doctor calls it "a gamble" is the best bet for my child to avoid another serious hospitalization.

I'm considering all of this. My wondering if I should see a doctor to check on a worrisome patch of skin. My child's health and being here among other parents whose children are suffering from cancer and I crumble a little inside. I wonder how it is we all arrive here. I recognize the worn faces of parents who suffer for their babies. Those same worn faces that convey a special kind of stability. A strength that deserves a warrior like moniker.

These visits are casual in appearance. Complete procedure. Things that must be done. There's no real conclusion to this. Just digesting. Sitting in a seat as the IV drips......

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mayo and Pickles.


Mayo and pickles, again.

My stepmom woke me up, hurried and excited.

“Get up! You’re late, let’s go!”

I am 8 years old and it doesn’t occur to me to glance at a clock and protest. I’m pulled out of bed with feelings of dread. Quickly I dress myself and head to the dining room where my stepmother is ironing like a madwoman.

“Go, go!” She hands me my lunch pail and shoves me out the door.

It’s a crisp January morning. The grass crunches under my feet, frosted over with dew. As I walk to school I watch my breath when I exhale into the frigid morning.

Hurried. Anxious. And alone. I remind myself how stupid I must be, like a mantra. I repeat it to myself because that’s what I’ve been told so many times and I allow the stupid tears to well up in my eyes.

My stepmom rarely misses an opportunity to remind me how unwanted I am. This morning she shoved me out into the cold to go to school. No words were needed.

I arrive and the double doors are locked. I circle to the side door only to find that door locked as well. I am not late. Not only is school not in session, it isn’t even open yet. I cup my hands and push my face up to the glass to peer into my classroom window, hoping my teacher is sitting at her desk working away.

She is not.

I’m scared to go back home. Worried to meet the wrath of my stepmother. Petrified she will tell my Dad how useless and stupid I must be.

I don’t go home.

Instead I sit under the window sill, my lanky limbs pulled close and I wait.

I wait long enough for a grumble to rise from my belly. In her haste, she did not feed me breakfast. I make the choice to eat the contents of my lunch, skip the lunchroom this afternoon and wait it out until dinner time. If my Dad is home from work tonight, which is rare, I am guaranteed a meal. If not my stepmom may create a feast and neglect to feed me.

I didn’t know what bulimia was back then but came to understand much later the special kind of torture she displayed to me, concocting full meals she would gorge herself on to only throw up after while I went hungry.

I open my pail and retrieve my sandwich, peel apart the slices of white bread and peer at the contents with disdain.

Pickles and Mayonnaise. Again.

My stomach groans at me some more and my 8 year old mind is convinced that I am being punished. My father doesn’t want me because I am bad. I can’t help but be bad because my mother is bad. This is what I am told and I believe it because I am sitting outside in the freezing January morning, biting into a mushy sandwich, tart with pickle slices that slide around in the mayo.

Tears threaten to pour from my eyes as the lump in my throat builds. I take small nibbles and throw away the remainder of my meal.

Then I wait some more.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Secret Sauce Society: Beginning


Again, due to circumstance this is later than I anticipated. But I'm sharing anyways because if these itty bitty glimpses compel you to attend one of these divine events it's totally worth it.
 
They call themselves The Secret Sauce Society.
They concoct pop up dinner parties throughout the South Sound.
These dinner parties include several courses of small bites that boast exquisite execution across the board. The ambiance varies. The theme changes. The flavors and presentation are always superb. You should sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming details.
 
The most recent event took place in what will soon be home to upcoming dining concept, The Table. I'd call the digs rustic, at best as they are in the process of renovating. No light fixtures were present so while dinner began during daylight hours during a glorious sunny day, as the sun set dinner was lit by tabletop tealights and a large work lamp in the corner where the chefs buzzed like an assembly line preparing each plate. Exposed wires hung from the ceiling, bits of wall were interrupted by bare pillars. There's lots of work to be done still but The Table is sure to wow when it opens.
Each item plate prepared was inspired by what's to come at the The Table. Which is a good indication of what we can expect. 
Pretty bouquets adorned the tables.
Among mason jars to sip from and white linens. 2 full tables filled the space equating to over 30 diners excited to take a culinary journey. Some were first timers. Others had been to several.

The first course was a bonus and was not mentioned on the menu. Sweet strawberries with a tart creamy cheese sat atop a perfectly toasted baguette. Pretty presentation.
 
The Sweet Potato Hash was divine with leeks, local mushrooms, hazelnut and a lovely fried quail egg. It was well balanced in the flavor and texture department and made me wish for an entire order.
 
This classy number was a Lamb Sausage atop corn grits with crumbled goat cheddar, peppers and a cherry gastrique. All of the components singularly were exquisite and when they found themselves on a fork full together they took you right to flavor town.
 
The Fried Salmon presented Oregon Troll Caught salmon with a pops of flavor provided by a salsa verde, preserved lemon and celery seed aioli. There was a sweetness, smoothness, spiciness. Very playful, definitely one of my favorites of the evening.
 
Here sausage, cave aged cheddar reside in an Arincini, (tender rice ball on the inside, lovely crisp texture on the outside) paired with a bernaise sauce this nibble was glorious. Again, a lovely balance of textures and the cheese game during this whole dinner was to die for.
 
I found it refreshing to have salad in the midst of the meal rather than at the very beginning. This Mirepoix Salad featured butter lettuce with a carrot tomato vinaigrette, caramelized leeks and a celery marmalade. Every nibble was fresh and divine and the celery marmalade, though I was suspicious is amazing with loads of peppery spice and pops of sweet that had me wanting the recipe.
 
Duck, which I anticipated to be my favorite was in fact one of my favorites. Tender duck breast, seared with malt beer jus, duck agnolotti, greens and currants was decadent.
 
The Baby Octopus was served grilled with roasted pepper marinara, mussels, spring garlic and fettuccine. The seafood was meaty and tender and the roasted pepper was flavor forward.
 
I will never turn down the dessert menu when asked. The finale of our dining journey was a Dessert Duo. Lovely little raspberry beignets with vanilla anglaise and a chocolate pot de crème. I could have enjoyed the chocolate by the buckets full.
 
I was not kidding when I said they were buzzing away like an assembly line by the light of a work lamp. Proof. they fact that such exquisite food is prepared in these odd locations is a wonder. Some of the best chefs in town gathered around this table to make this dinner happen, a testament to not only how inspiring our local culinary culture is but to the level of community that can be found among these great minds.


 
 Libations of the evening were provided by Heritage Distilling Company, including their Elk Rider Bourbon and Coffee Vodka. The latter which has inspired me to concoct a grown up mocha cocktail that you will be seeing at Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge before you know it.
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So, Uh, Now What?

This is what my work station looks like more often than not.


My heart sank when I heard the news.

My boss suggested we connect in person, that we were long overdue for a mind meld. And I agreed. We were. Overdue.
I sit over here and write my words and he sits over there, cleans up all the dirty little blemishes and publishes them.
We make a good team.
He's my hero. Truly and sincerely. I admired him as a writer long before I had met him in person. He is and was a fervent community enthusiast. The words he wrote, and writes still,  a clear indication of his brilliance and wit.
When I grow up that's exactly the type of writer I want to be.
So working with him has been an immense honor.
Somewhere deep down I feared that this overdue meet up meant he was going to fire me. Scoff at my work in the nicest way possible and simply tell me I didn't cut it.
Some how, the news he delivered was much worse than that even.

He was retiring from the paper.

As he told me this I wondered if this was an epic blow or a grand relief for him and my heart sank because to imagine our community void of his words is nearly impossible.
Luckily I don't have to.
Since he's made it public (in classic, eloquent Ron fashion) he has also announced a new venture of his that will mean the good people of Tacoma and everywhere else will have the opportunity to read his words.
Though I was fairly certain since hearing the news, I had to give it some long hard consideration and have decided to resign as foodie writer for the Weekly Volcano.
The Volcano has been my ultimate pie in the sky goal since I began writing professionally. Once I obtained the coveted position I failed to concoct a new pie in the sky goal. I have enjoyed my work with the paper, however, I can't imagine the Volcano without Ron Swarner and his various other pseudonyms.
He is the very pulse of the pages.
To remain on staff isn't really an option.

So now what?
Well I'm not really certain yet. I may find more freelance work around town. Continue making pitches to SouthSoundTalk.com and South Sound Magazine, do theatre reviews for EdgeSeattle.com and other local publications but I suspect you will see more of my noshing and penning about it here on my blog until I find a new permanent home.

As for the boss man. Though I won't call him boss after this month, he is still my hero and friend and I am quite sure that he's got a little something rad awaiting him. and hopefully all of us too.