Escapism

I reached my limit about two weeks ago, when Dr. Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations against Kavanaugh.

I’ve been struggling — as any remaining regular readers know — since Election Day 2016. This latest outrage perpetuated on the American people pretty much broke me, coming, as it does, after the endless stream of hate, corruption, disregard, and naked power grabbing by the people in power. Add the Catholic Church criminal scandal on top of it?

For my own piece of mind, for my own burgeoning anxiety, I have withdrawn. I have drawn into my family life. My daily routine is tightly focused on my job and the four people in my household.

I barely listen to the news anymore; I have been tuning out whenever T*ump speaks for years, anyway — I cannot abide the sound of his voice. And now, anytime #Kavanaugh is mentioned, I have to change the station too. The endless speculation about what is true and what is not, and the utter helplessness I feel watching as the GOP ignores every red flag because nothing matters to them except to sit THIS guy to give cover to their leader — the rage is all encompassing.

I have almost completely forsaken Facebook; my time on Twitter has been severely curtailed. Because as far as I’m concerned, it’s not up for debate.

It’s just not. Two words: Merrick Garland.

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Controlling what I can

1. My anxiety is so bad that I have lost my appetite, which makes meal planning not only challenging, but downright unappealing. Here’s how I’m dealing with that:

A. I got a coupon for $50 off of Blue Apron, so I signed up for that (for two weeks). The first box is due to be delivered tomorrow. I only signed up for vegetarian meals for two, just so I could have a sample of a) how much prep work was needed; b) if the food was good; c) if it was going to be cost effective for my family at the regular price.

Glancing at the program, and at similar meal delivery programs, I have the most doubt about c. They seem to range in price from $8 to $12 per plate per meal. I may as well take the family out every night if it’s going to cost $12 a plate, and take a lot of time and clean up in the kitchen.

B. I am trying to find prepare-ahead freezer meals that I can prep on weekends and cook either in the slow cooker during the day, or pop in the oven (or have the children pop in the oven) when I get home. The first two I tried to make for the family were only so-so (came from this site), the Chinese Beef and Broccoli, and the Honey Rosemary Chicken. The latter seemed better, and I think with a couple of tweaks, suggested by a friend of mine, it will be better received when I try it again. (Namely, use thighs, not just breasts, and use some butter.) This will be an ongoing experiment. I want to see how my family feels about the Lemon Chicken, and find some vegetarian recipes. We invested in a timer for this and everything so I can set it up before I leave for work, and come head to a done meal!

2. Escape into the TV. We don’t have cable any longer, so I don’t have to worry about tuning out TV news. The four big shows we are into these days are: Steven Universe (me and the children), The Good Place (Dan, me, and the girls), Castle Rock and Luke Cage (just me).

I am simply enamored with Steven Universe, as are the children. Such a quirky fun show; Rebecca Sugar is a national treasure. It’s got some underlying themes that make it a good place to talk about relationships, love, friendship and loyalty.

3. Romance novels! Yeah, I said it.

In the midst of the Kavanaugh nomination process, I checked out Jessica Valenti’s book Sex Object, A Memoir. But I was too horrified and enraged, and I had to stop reading it. So I turned to romance novels, and discovered Wendy Wax — simple, formulaic, and female-centric, and absolutely light. I am waiting on a couple of Ilona Andrews titles as well.

I can’t deal with the outside world right now. Sue me.

4. Which doesn’t mean I’m not in the fight. I am making my calls (often shaking in anger), sending emails (same!), and writing postcards. I have my lawn signs up.

November 6th cannot come fast enough.

How are you coping? If you are coping?

Church

A friend sent me an article, an op-ed piece, by the man who stood up in the middle of Mass recently to confront his priest about how to move on from the abuse scandal in the Catholic church. It’s worth a read here. I had seen mention of it on Twitter.

While I have some admiration for a person who could do this, interrupt Mass, challenge his priest, after I read the op-ed, I realized I did not share this man’s opinion about what comes next. He asserts that people should stop going to Mass, and “It is wrong to support the church.”

But he doesn’t offer anything else.

Just: Stop going to church.

He has given up on the idea that the church can be reformed. He is taking his family and walking away.

And that is a valid choice for him. I am sure he will not be the only Catholic to make that choice in the wake of the abuse scandal and the coverups.

I am not going to walk away — or at least not just yet. I am continuing to struggle, I won’t lie. Time may prove Mr. Nathaniel correct, and the church may not be able to reform itself. It may continue to bluster and obfuscate. And if that proves to be the case, then my choice becomes more clear.

But I’m not leaving without trying to have an influence.

Michael is due to receive First Holy Communion this spring, and Flora is due to be confirmed. I want to give them the opportunity to receive these sacraments.

The Gospel reading for this week reveals a community in crisis. Some of Jesus’s followers turn away from him as he starts to preach the good news about receiving eternal life — by partaking of the communion of faith. Last week, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” This week he says, “No one can come to the Father except through me.”

As disciples leave, Jesus turns to his apostles. “Are you going to leave, too?” He asks. And Peter says, “To whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.” (Source)

If I decide to stop going to church, what do I do, where do I go? A church without a Eucharist? A church without a Pope? Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ is the center of all Christian religions. But only Catholicism has the transubstantiated Eucharist. (I’m willing to hear arguments against the papacy, but I will meet you with great skepticism. I recognize these men are, only, ultimately, men — flawed and weak, learned and holy. Changes need to be made, but I’m not sure I’m on board with ending the papacy.)

So! What’s next for me? I will continue to attend weekly Mass, and receive the Eucharist. I will sign my children up for CCD, and continue to educate them in our faith at home.

There is a good woman I know via social media. She has been such an example to me as a Catholic woman, and wife and mother. She has started a campaign to advocate for change in the Catholic church, and I am going to join her in her efforts.

She has founded The Siena Project, named after St. Catherine of Siena, who declared, “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”

If you feel the need to leave the church, I understand. But if you are like me, and struggling and want to stay but DO SOMETHING, then I encourage you to check out Miriel’s project and participate. I know Mr. Nathaniel is not alone, and I hope that I am not alone either.

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ETA: The priest at the 7 p.m. mass I attended last night with my children addressed this head on. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Many of you sitting here tonight are struggling. Are you going to stay in the church, or are you going to leave? I understand, and I encourage you to pray.” He acknowledges, as do many of us, that the church as an institution has lost its moral authority.

All I have to say is that we, the people in the pews, have to hold the church accountable. If the church does not provide transparent changes, it truly cannot stand as an institution. Time will tell.

Catholic

I am not a lawyer.
I am not a theologian.
I am not a victim of childhood sexual abuse (by a priest or anybody).

I am Catholic, and I am a writer. So I am going to try to put some thoughts down. I am going to write and mail some letters to the church leadership (much thanks to Twitter friends Katrina and Miriel, who both have given me scripts to use).

Ultimately, I don’t know what will happen to (in any particular order): the priesthood, Catholic churches, the Catholic laity, or anything else.

Primarily, of course, my thoughts are with all the victims of abuse at the hands of clergy. The crimes committed against those victims and their families is appalling beyond words. They have all of my prayers, and, frankly, I hope that when they come to the church leadership about things that need to change, they are heeded. The fact that church leadership compounded their suffering by moving priests around, settling cases with abuse victims and making their silence part of the payoff, and, even now, asserting how sorry they are without defining consequences for their actions is not helping or healing.

Yes, we know that a lot of this abuse took place a long time ago. That doesn’t matter. We know that many changes have been made so this type of abuse is less likely to happen going forward, and is more likely to be reported and stopped much sooner if it does happen — and that matters, but probably not to men, women, and families who have already been victimized at the hands of their clergy.

Yesterday was the first mass I attended since the news of the grand jury report broke in Pennsylvania (coverage here). (Yes, I know, I missed a Holy Day of Obligation — remember, I am a #badCatholic.) And I struggled yesterday, struggled in my heart.

My faith has sustained me through some very difficult things. And getting up and leaving the Catholic church — it’s not like choosing another restaurant or clothing store if I don’t agree with their views on stuff.

What happened was a great sin and tragedy, and I don’t condone it, and I want to see change. I honestly think any priest, bishop, and cardinal named in that report and still serving — looking especially to my own diocese of Pittsburgh — should be prosecuted and defrocked, statute of limitations be damned. Does that leave the Catholic church in Pittsburgh without a head; or the Catholic church in America rudderless, leaderless?

Maybe for a time it does. Maybe that is something that needs to happen. So that the good men and women of the church can step in and… resurrect it to a more holy institution. The church is fallen. Again.

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The two central tenets of my faith are: the death and resurrection of Jesus, who was the son of God; and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, aka transubstantiation.

We are in a cycle of the liturgical calendar that is especially focused on the Eucharist — it is focused on God feeding the people. Manna from heaven, the loaves and the fishes, Jesus offering himself as the bread of life. Receiving the Eucharist is the most important thing I do every week. It sustains me; it gives me strength.

But I’ll tell you: I am struggling. I want to know what the victims need to facilitate healing, if that can be done. What they need from leadership, clergy, and laypeople. I want them to have that.

I am grieving, for the victims — and for myself. For my experience of my faith that is altered, that has a shadow cast over it. I don’t know how that will change in the coming days and weeks, if it will.

The church cannot offer us apologies and sorrow, and then close the door. Our bishops cannot offer us changes in processes that protect children — protect my children! — and think they’ve taken care of everything. I don’t know what the future looks like for the Catholic church.

But it’s got to look more different from its past.

Fam

We recently traveled to Seven Springs for the 47th summer in a row (i.e. my entire lifetime) of vacationing with my father’s side of the family. (Note: The clan has been doing this longer than I have been alive.)

It was incredibly relaxing, and a welcome, needed break. I’ve been having some health issues (more when I know more), and it was nice to not have to rouse myself to do very much. As a matter of fact, the one night I was suppose to make dinner, I supervised from the couch, and the rest of the household pitched in. (Thanks, everyone. I’m going to get better!)

The most strenuous thing I did was walk back and forth to the pool. Which, granted, was more strenuous than it should have been, but hardly a marathon.

A few anecdotes:

1. Saturday at the pool, Michael asked to learn how to play Euchre. This is the clan card game, and many generations know how to play. I couldn’t send him over to learn from my cousins — they play too fast and use unsavory language while playing. Nonna, Pap-pap, and nephew A agreed to play with Michael and I making up one half of a team with nephew A.

Michael balked when we tried to explain trump. For obvious reasons. “Do we have to use that word?” he asked. “Can’t we just use George?” No, we explained. Euchre, and trump, predate the current president, and will be around when he is gone.

2. Sunday night, we let the girls go to the lodge with a gaggle of cousins. This is a right-of-passage. As they were getting into the car to go down, I gave them the rules: No drinking. No hanging out alone with people they didn’t know. This all earned me a good deal of eye-rolling. “Hey, it’s my job,” I said. Aunt Sis chimed in: “No drugs!” “Yeah,” I added. “Don’t do drugs!”

via GIPHY

It is heart-warming to me that my children are excited to see their extended family. To the point that they will ask to hang out, sans adults. They took the shuttle bus to be home by 10:30. Independence!

3. I had downloaded a couple of books to my Kindle for the weekend. I read Sandra Brown’s Low Pressure, and while I usually enjoy Sandra Brown, this was a poor effort. Yeah, she’s formulaic, and fairly predictable, but at least she does a good page-turner. This one was kind of a mess, though, and jumped around too much. Also, her female character was frigid — except with the hero, of course — which seemed like a weird choice. (Her older sister was a slut, and, of course, was murdered. So she decided she couldn’t like sex, or something like that. It was… icky.) So, even if you like Sandra Brown, don’t read Low Pressure.

via GIPHY

4. It was a weekend of games for me: Euchre, Rummikub (pronounced rummy-cube), and on Monday, a four-hour-plus game of Trivial Pursuit. Despite leading almost the entire time, Dan and I DID NOT WIN.

via GIPHY

But, man, did we laugh.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted, but I wanted to remember this stuff, so I’m writing it down here. Summer is good.

What’s your favorite game to play in a group?

Dad

Lessons my dad taught me:

1. Hard work is more important than natural talent. The first D I ever earned was in my senior year of high school. It was in calculus. I had signed up for AP calculus and applied to get college credit for my grade. I needed to earn a B+ or better.

I didn’t understand a whit of calculus. 

I went home, and told my dad I got a D. “Well,” he said. “Guess you better work harder if you’re going to get those college credits.”

I studied calculus like I had never studied any subject before. I got my B+ and my college credit.

2. A marriage is a hell of a lot more than staying faithful to one person. Not 10 minutes after Dan had asked my parents for their blessing for us to get married, my father said, “Marriage isn’t 50-50. It’s 100-100.”

My mom and dad were partners in all things. They shared household, parenting, and business decisions and work. My dad obviously and clearly treated my mom as his equal (if not, in some cases, as his better). He wasn’t a cook (ask me about the time he tried to cook rice), but he cleaned up after meals, and taught us children to do the same. Although he wasn’t handy around the house, he helped when he could, and when he couldn’t he called a professional. 
3. Keeping the faith will sustain you. My father is a man of faith, through and through. He brought us to church, he made Cursillo (a retreat for Catholics), he was active in his faith community. And through every challenge he faced as a man, husband, and father, he prayed.

When I was at the lowest point of my life, I walked into a church. I didn’t know if God still believed in me. I had not been a good daughter. But I knelt down, and I said, “I don’t know if you want to hear from me, but I need the strength to do some hard stuff. You are the only One I know who can give it to me.” And God did. Without the example my parents had provided, I don’t know where I would’ve turned.

4. Love is worth the wait. My father and I danced to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong at my wedding. I don’t remember all of what we talked about, but I do remember saying, “I finally found someone who loves me like you loved mom. Like I deserve to be loved. Thank you for showing me what that looks like.”

5. Being a grandparent makes all the shit your children put you through worth it. I have never seen a man who enjoys being a grandfather — a Pap-pap — more than my dad. The care, love, and respect he shows my children, as well as my nieces and nephews, is invaluable to his children as parents and his grandchildren. He lights up with true and genuine joy around those children, and it is a delight to witness.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you. Thank you for everything you do and have done for me. And I hope you got to play some golf. 
Love,

Daddy’s (first) little girl

Separate

I drafted the following from several petitions circulating about the separation of families at the border. I emailed all my representatives in Congress and the Director of Homeland Security. I find this policy cruel, and the trauma we are inflicting on these children and families unconscionable.

I am calling to demand that you speak out against and work to end the horrific policy of separating families seeking refuge and asylum in the United States. I want you to know that, as a voter, I am paying attention to your voting record on this issue. Families belong together.

I have been watching this story develop in horror. I am writing to you today to take action and stop separating families. Stop taking the children of immigrants and asylum-seekers and sending them to detention centers. Separating families is inhumane, and the policy — which is not a law — should end. It should have never begun!

Justification for this vile practice does not exist. These families and children are not threats to the safety of the United States. Policies exist to protect these children, and still keep them with their parents. It’s cruel to punish parents who are doing everything they can to protect their children and to punish children by depriving them of their parents. Separating a child from a mother or father only leads to more trauma for all.

Family unity is one of our core values and is reflected in our laws. Our government has a responsibility under U.S. immigration law to hear a person’s immigration or asylum case, not to try to scare them away from asking for help. Doing so puts these families at extremely high risk of experiencing further rights violations.

Separating families is also expensive. By some estimates, the government practice of detaining mothers and children apart from each other would cost taxpayers an average of $327 million per year. And keeping families locked up together is also expensive and cruel, when there are cost efficient and effective alternatives to detention. That money won’t make our country safer; it would only waste taxpayer dollars.

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Before this horrific policy came to light, I was having anxiety about sending my children to Florida with our nanny. (Hey, it was her idea.) Many parents in my demographic do this type of thing though. We send our children to overnight camps, on trips with babysitters or families; we travel without our children to stay in touch as couples.

And, yes, for an anxious person like myself, this can be stressful. But my children are with people I trust, and we can touch base via cell phones — thank goodness for technology — so my anxiety is the normal price of being a parent.

What is going on at the southern border of America is not normal. These parents are not choosing to be separated from their children, and they are not given access to them to make sure they are safe and taken care of. We are traumatizing these families needlessly. I am glad to see people in the streets about this, and I will continue to hector my representatives until the policy is ended.

For more information, and to stay active, visit the Action Network for Families Belong Together.

Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

15

Flora is the protector. To my knowledge, she has taken on three bullies (one of Kate’s, two of Michael’s). My children do not get bullied.

It’s not a physical thing; she doesn’t get in fights. She just lets the bully know: hey, if I hear about you bothering my siblings, I’m going to come after you.

I guess it’s a threat of violence. She’s never been tested.

And as always — always, always and forever, amen — I think “if you were here.”

If you were here, you would be the protector, the big brother that no one would mess with. If you would here, you’d go ahead of Flora, and take that burden, pave the way. Maybe she’d be different as a second child, rather than a rainbow baby.

We’ll never know. These are unhelpful rabbit holes, but we go down them nevertheless. We’ve been going down them for fifteen years.

We are, simultaneously, a whole family, and a family with a hole in it. This will never change. And, like Flora, we will protect ourselves, stand up, draw together.

I think you would like us. And I think you are protecting us, interceding for us. Our angel. 

Still missed, still loved. Thanks for looking over us. Maybe I’ll let flora know she can relax a little bit.

Boys

A few lessons for boys on life, and how it works sometimes.

1. Keep your hands to yourself. From horseplay and wrestling with your friends, to the bodies of potential romantic interests, ask for and receive consent before reaching out to touch someone.

2. Girls and women are people too. Your mom isn’t your maid or nanny. Your sisters aren’t punching bags. And, again, potential romantic partners don’t owe you anything. Women are human beings with their own agency. They (we) don’t exist to make your lives better, easier, or more pleasurable. We got our own stuff going on.

3. Feelings are okay. Even feelings that hurt. Being sad or disappointed isn’t going to kill you. Crying tears doesn’t make you any less of a person. No one needs to protect you from feeling bad. Learn to experience your emotions; learn how to express them constructively. If you aren’t getting these lessons at home, get some therapy to help you figure it out.

4. Keep your eyes on your own work. Do not buy into any school or workplace policy that polices girls’ clothing or body for the sake of YOUR learning. You can redirect your thoughts to your work even if you do get distracted by a leg or a collarbone. Save it up for bedtime, my dude. (Oh, and start washing your own sheets.) Girls are in school to learn (and at work to work), and don’t need the bullshit of being pulled out of class because someone got a little uncomfortable in their pants. Think of cold showers, and do your algebra.

5. Do. Not. Interrupt. Or. Correct. Girls. You don’t know everything about everything. You will never know everything about everything. Stay in your lane.

6. I’m going to say this loud, because this message isn’t getting through to some of y’all. YOU ARE NOT OWED SEX. NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE YOU GET TO FUCK. If you have a little voice in your head telling you that it’s unfair that Stacy is sleeping with Chad, and that Becky wants to sleep with Chad, but she’s not because Chad is sleeping with Stacy, but Becky won’t sleep with you, either — guess what, buttercup? Life isn’t fair. Also, stop lumping women into two groups, either Beckys or Stacys. That’s gross.

7. “No.” is a complete sentence. Learn to accept that, and move on with your life.

8. Violence isn’t the solution to any of your problems. Hitting other people isn’t going to make you bigger or your life better. Taking a gun to school (or church, or the movies, or a nightclub) and killing people isn’t going to change your life. It’s going to destroy or end it.

9. Being bullied isn’t an excuse for violence. Being told no is not bullying.

10. You are responsible for yourself. If you take no other lesson into adulthood with you, take this one. (Well, this one and “Women are people.”)

  • YOU are responsible for your thoughts and your actions. No one can make you feel anything, and no one can make you do anything.
  • YOU are responsible for the consequences of your actions. It’s not someone else’s fault that you got a bad grade, or were reprimanded by a teacher, or cannot get a date. If you are constantly blaming other people for what is wrong with your life, you need to step back and search your soul.
  • Mental illness and/or strong feelings are not excuses for your behavior. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, if no one ever taught you to express your anger constructively, GO SEEK HELP.

Aside: I swear, men learned the “blame someone else” from Genesis in the Bible. “The woman made me eat the apple, God,” sez Adam. God should’ve ended that nonsense right there: “No, my child. You wanted the apple for yourself, so you took of it and ate it. And now there are consequences for all y’all.”

What else do boys need to know?

Accomplishments

This is what my week looked like:

Monday

Monday morning, I woke up tired. I did not want to get up at all.

I said to myself, “Self, if you get up today, I promise you can sleep in a little bit tomorrow.” Because Tuesday was a work from home (WFH) day.

So I got up, got the girls out the door and on the bus. I came back home to shower and dress, got Michael on the bus, and went to work.

Tuesday

“Sleeping in” on Tuesday consisted of getting up around 8 a.m., which on a weekday is a luxury. I had an egg and toast for breakfast (and also made eggs for Michael), and settled in front of my computer for work around 9 a.m.

Tuesday was primary election day in Pennsylvania, and my children’s schools are polling places, hence WFH. I am fortunate to have an employer and a manager who support flextime and WFH. I wrote and posted a blog post, revised two video scripts, dealt with the usual volume of work email, edited another post, and scheduled Twitter posts. A nice busy and productive work-from-home day.

Once I finished working, the children and I had dinner (shout-out to Flora for preparing the mac and cheese). Michael and I went for a walk/ride (I walk, he rides his bike). Michael had played in the backyard with a hose earlier in the day, so he had also showered. On his bike ride, he wore: a bike helmet, his pajamas, and his rain boots, because his sneakers were still wet.

After we got home, I piled the children in the car (my three, one neighborhood friend of Katie’s), voted, and then we all got ice cream.

Tuesday was a good day.

Wednesday

Normal morning, normal day at work. Due to a lost game piece (which is a long story in and of itself), when I got home from work and after dinner, Flora and I completely cleaned the front room. We pulled up couch cushions, and vacuumed under them, turned the couches over, vacuumed there — suffice to say, a lot of furniture moving and vacuuming. I had the girls hunting through the cardboard we had put aside for recycling; I cleaned out the pantry.

It was a lot of work. The game piece remains MIA. I have resorted to daily prayers to St. Anthony to find it and lead us to where it’s hiding. (It’s a game piece from The Generals, which is a game Dan remembers fondly from his childhood, and he’s just torn up that a piece has gone missing. He and Flora had played the game Monday night.)

Thursday

Driving home from work, I realized I had no dinner planned, and not many options at home. So I grabbed the children, went to Burger King (I know), dropped off plastic bags for recycling (Big Bird curbside delivery, could you not with all the separate blue bags?), dropped Kate off at her youth group, and went to Aldi. Shopped with Flora and Michael, got gasoline, went home, unpacked groceries, picked up Kate, read to Michael and tucked him in, had Flora empty the dishwasher, and then cleaned the kitchen (there wasn’t much since we went out). Planned meals for the week. That was a productive Thursday night!

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How was your Monday through Thursday??

Mom

When my brother was a child, he was a somewhat fussy eater. Not picky, as in he absolutely wouldn’t eat certain things. He ate nearly any type of food. We were all like that; the only food I clearly remember refusing (and still don’t like to this day) was lima beans. “Little bags of sand,” my dad called them once. Accurate. My mom didn’t serve those often at all.

What my brother was picky about was how he ate his food. He would eat one food at a time, and he always ate his favorite part of the meal last. So, for example, if we were having chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes, Dr. Bro would eat his peas, then the chicken, then the mashed potatoes. Food was carefully arranged on his plate (by him) to not touch. He did not like food mixed up — well into his teens he was like this. To poke his buttons every now and again, I would mix my food on purpose, because I loved flavor combinations of certain foods. For example, I would put my peas on top of my mashed potatoes, and eat them together.

The look of disgust on his face was priceless.

My mom cooked almost every night. We ate dinner as a family much more often than not. Dinners were always simple — a meat protein, a starch, a vegetable, sometimes a salad. Food was usually prepared from fresh (or, in the case of vegetables, fresh frozen). Mom is Italian, so a dinner of roast, pasta with tomato sauce, and a green vegetable was not out of the ordinary.

Of course, by Friday or Saturday, Mom had had enough of cooking, and would make a casserole of leftovers. Meat, potatoes, and veggies, maybe throw some cheese in there; or pasta, meat, sauce, cheese.

Whenever Mom made a casserole, my brother would carefully separate it into separate piles: a pile of pasta, a pile of meat, a pile of veggies. And then he would eat each pile, one at a time. He was so opposed to mixing up his food, he literally would wait until each bite was done before digging into the next pile.

I don’t remember huge fights about this, or about food and eating in general. But this habit of food segregation used to noticeably bug my parents. Another Dad classic that I remember from my childhood is, “Why separate food? It’s all going the same place!”

And this is how it went for dinners throughout my childhood. My mom provided healthy and delicious meals; we ate; my brother had his weird picadillos. Mom and Dad would talk shop; they worked together for most of my childhood. They asked us about school and sports teams and I don’t know what all. Half the time I was probably trying to read a book.

Eventually, we children left the nest. I went to Duquesne University, where the cafeteria turned me into a vegetarian. I liked mixed up food, but I wanted to be able to identify the components. I survived on ice cream, french fries and grilled cheese, the salad bar, cereal, and coffee. Dr. Bro spent a year at Miami University in Miami before transferring to Johns Hopkins University. Sis traveled; she tried school at a University of Maryland campus; went home; went to Florida and other places; and she usually worked in food service (i.e. a server at restaurants). (She’s a doctor of chiropractic now.)

At one point, my mom was taking classes in Pittsburgh. I had graduated college at this time, but Dr. Bro was still at Johns Hopkins. I remember one week, my mom came down and attended class, then she and I decided to go visit my brother in Maryland for the weekend.

My brother was happy to have us visit. He gave us a quick tour of his dorm apartment: four small bedrooms, two shared baths, and a shared living area and kitchen. In the kitchen, he got super excited.

“Oh, I have to show you something!” he told us.

“Do you cook?” my mom asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what I want to show you.”

My brother opened a cupboard, and took down a box of…

.

.

.

Hamburger Helper.

“Have you ever heard of this?” he asked eagerly. “It’s great! You get a pound of hamburger, brown it, then add this stuff with water. I have it a couple times a week.”

The look of pure incredulity on Mom’s face is hard to describe. My mom wasn’t much of a yeller, but I’m pretty sure she thought about shouting, “Are you kidding me?”

Honestly, if she had whacked him over the head with a frying pan, a jury of her peers wouldn’t have convicted her.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thanks for all the meals, and so much more. I know my own choice to be a vegetarian was irritating for awhile, and I do want to thank you for adjusting to that. You taught me how to read a recipe, and the value of home-cooked meals and family dinners. 

I hope you get a break from cooking today, and get to do something fun and/or relaxing. I love you.