Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Soup Days

Soup is the simple winter meal from days at Papa and Grandma's house. It is the sign of a quiet and thoughtful day. Soup means no racing to the store and back for ingredients. Soup means time at home. Mom's potato soup on Fridays as a child meant it was Dad's night to work late. (Soup can "keep.") Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice means a school musical in the first grade. Stone Soup is later in elementary school and laughing with my friends on the library carpet. Campbell's chicken and stars soup means pneumonia in the fifth grade and blearily seeing Mom hovering over my sick-bed on the couch. Bubbling red/purple cabbage soup is the eighth grade and we are all gagging around the table as we tease Dad about his newest recipe. Mom forced me to eat vegetable soup in the days following my friend Sommer's death my senior year of high school. "You haven't eaten in days, Vally. You need something. At least drink some of the broth." Ramen-style chicken-mushroom soup is the taste of loneliness: It is my freshman year of college and not yet having friends to eat with in the cafeteria. After we begged her to eat something--"anything"--the day Papa died, Grandma requested plain chicken broth with crackers. "I bet you never thought," she dryly murmured to my younger brother as we sat beside her at her lunch table in the rest home that day, "that you would be invited over to Grandma's and not be offered anything to eat." When I restarted grad school in 2002, friends from my program gave me belly laughs and tough love and a recipe for tomato soup made from ketchup packets. Tomato soup today means I'm trying once more to learn to love it. Maybe if I add more basil, maybe if I add mozzarella.... To have a bowl of vegetable soup before me makes me happy. To have a pot of vegetable soup simmering on my stove makes me content. Homemade chicken noodle soup means I am 25 and sitting with my newly-ex-boyfriend in my first apartment, hoping that this bowl of broth and carrots and mushrooms will make him love me as-more-than-just-friends once again. Asian chicken soup with greens means I am in the city working as a cook and had time between orders today to jot down a recipe to try at home. Tortilla soup and egg drop soup mean I am in my 30s and dating Mike now. Lasagna soup was one of the bright spots in 2011. Dill pickle soup is my friend Tom and his goodness and kindness. Seinfeld's "No soup for you!" gets shouted in my home whenever we face a disappointment. Tonight's vegetable soup means that I have today off from work and thus will get to enjoy a simple supper of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with now-husband Mike. It means that life is good. It means that despite all the craziness and coldness out there in the world, there is still and always warmth in my home and love in my heart and everything is okay. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pink Rocking Chair

Stuffed is quickly claiming this chair, but it is supposed to be mine. Mike and I decided just to enjoy the new-to-us spaciousness in this apartment and thus to hold off on getting a couch until we have a house someday. (Remember our sweet red gingham couch? It broke too many times, so we have been without one for awhile now. At least I learned how to faux-reupholster one if I want to in the future.) In the meantime, we have "his and hers" arm chairs, a wing chair for Mike and the pink upholstered rocker for me--except that it's more like "his and his," since Stuffed is always curled up on one of them. His latest favorite spot is the pink rocker. When he's not asleep on it, he's asleep behind it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer 2011

After watching her health seriously deteriorate in two months' time, my mom was diagnosed yesterday with Lyme Disease. I was shocked when I saw how thin and frail she looked when I traveled home for a family wedding last month.  "Your mom weighed 100 pounds last week," my dad had warned me upon my arrival at the bus station, but when I saw Mom back at home, I knew she now weighed even less than that.  And it has been stressful for us all to wonder what was going on with her. 
After a winter and spring of other stressors, this summer has been one of stories of her ER visits and dizzy spells and reports on blood work and mentions of hands-going-numb-while-driving and of weakness-too-great-to-be-able-to-get-out-of-the-car. While the stress and other health concerns continue, at least now we know that Lyme Disease is a big part of what's happening.
This year, while not as laughter-filled as others, has been one of extra care packages, phone calls, and cards for my mom, and I am grateful for all the love and prayers sent her way. Mom is now on meds to help battle the Lyme, she is at the hospital again today for more tests, and my dad and brothers and their families are right there to help out. I can make another visit home to Mom soon, bring her Daisies wrapped in gingham tissue paper, bake her some chocolate chip cookies, and settle her into a nest of blankets on the couch for a movie marathon. Hopefully, too, we can share another good long laugh. It's been too long.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


One of our--I speak for Mike and Stuffed here, as well--favorite things about our new home is the windows. Windows!    Two in the dining/living room, one in the kitchen, two in the bedroom, one in the bathroom: Windows! Our last apartment was one room in an old Victorian-style house, and only two of its five windows even opened, and since the tops of the window frames were about twelve feet above the floor, we could never hang curtains either. Yesterday was Curtain-Hanging Day in the dining/living room, and ahhhhhhhh! It's starting to feel like home in here. Stuffed's been stretched out face-down on this windowsill most of the morning like a lemur on a tree branch, so it's safe to assume he agrees.

Monday, August 1, 2011

She Moves in Mysterious Ways

This photo is from last week's U2 concert, a welcome break from all the stress of getting ready to move.   Noooo
photos were taken during Moving Day yesterday of a
sweetly-smiling-at-each-other Mike and Val.  :)
Mike and I finished moving things from our old apartment into our new one at exactly 11:00 last night. Mike's final words on the matter as we collapsed onto our mattress after midnight: "I hope we like it here. Because we're never moving again." This move's highlights included:

  • my giving myself a bruised and bloody lip by missing a step and falling while carrying a wing chair down our concrete front porch stairs and out to the rental truck by myself ("Little Miss In-Dee-PEN-Dent!" my dad would roll his eyes and mutter upon hearing this)--And this was how Moving Day began.
  • Mike's locking the rental truck's keys inside the truck around 9 p.m., resulting in my having to peel off socks and shoes and climb up into the already-loaded-to-overflowing bed of the truck out on the street in front of our old apartment and repeatedly hook a taped-up broom handle through the truck's back window to try to unlock the back passenger door with the sticky-from-electrical-tape end. After a bunch of attempts over the next hour or so, made while Mike swore and berated himself and called up increasingly desperate (and "helpful") queries like "Could you just TRY?" and "You really don't think you can DO it??" I did, indeed, "DO it," but I was then hit with an unexpected fear of heights, and it took me awhile to be convinced that the truck bed's back door would support me as I swung my legs over it to jump back down onto the ground.
  • And then, truly worst of all, were the final moments of the move as I sat in the backseat trying to calm a caged-in-his-pet-carrier Stuffed. He had clearly not enjoyed the first few minutes of the drive to the new apartment, batting at the metal cage with his floofy paws from time to time and meowing more than usual, but he had been fine overall, but the last minute or so of the trip, just as we pulled up in front of the new apartment, he started freaking out, biting at the metal bars, and he got his front paw stuck in the cage. He began crying--my Stuffed, crying--and the sound of it coupled with the belief that he'd just broken his paw right in front of me made me start crying, and meanwhile, Mike was trying to parallel-park along a still-busy-even-at-11-p.m. city street and shouting into the backseat for both of us to calm down. After he'd parked the beast of a truck close enough to the curb, Mike hopped out and told me to get out and step aside, and just as I slid down from the backseat, Stuffed started bashing his head against the cage, still making that horrific crying sound and with his little paw still stuck in the cage, and I really thought he was about to break loose from it and get past Mike out onto the street, where he'd surely be hit by traffic. Those were some of the most horrible moments I've ever had. Mike somehow got Stuffed's paw loose, and he told me to stay with the truck while he hurried to cross the street and carry him up to the new apartment. I was almost swaying, I was so nauseous and stressed by that point--Stuffed was scared, Stuffed didn't understand, Stuffed was hurt, Stuffed was crying, Stuffed could have died--and the entire time I stood beside the truck in the streetlight waiting for Mike to come back out so we could carry the last few things up together, I cried and shook. A few people walked past on the sidewalk as I stood there trying to take deep breaths and stop crying, but it had just been too long of a day after too stressful of a month, and I couldn't settle down. "Is he okay?" I kept calling out to Mike through my tears when he finally reappeared across the street from me outside our new apartment. "He's okay?" And even thirty minutes later, when Stuffed was prowling around the apartment sniffing at our new surroundings, perfectly safe and injury-free, and Mike and I were momentarily camped out on the living room floor with bottles of Gatorade and iced tea, I was still choking back little sobs. What a horrible way to end the day.
On the bright side, and oh my yes, there is one: We love ♥♥♥ the new apartment and are already so much happier here than in our old one.  Today was our first full day here, and although life is never all rainbows and smiling unicorns anywhere, this place already feels like home and has such a good vibe. We have more than one room now, cried out the former Studio Apartment Dwellers! That alone is just such a thrill. A bedroom! A freezer that actually freezes things! (We can buy ice cream again!) More than two windows that open! A shower curtain rod that's built right into the wall and thus doesn't crash down onto our shoulders every time we pull the curtain back! A shower with good water pressure! A bathtub that fills quickly! A lot more floor-space--and more windowsills--for Stuffed! Enough room for a big Christmas tree! Storage space in the basement! An oven door I can open without having to ask Mike to help me move a shelf out of the way first! An oven with a light, Ladies and Gentlemen! :) There are all kinds of little things about this apartment that are not little at all to the three of us. We have survived Moving Day (marriage intact!) and are so grateful to be here.