Friday, October 22, 2010

Gathering the ragged ends of family

Since I began a nightly regimen, I've been sleeping better -- and longer. This morning I was awakened by Beanie calling on the phone. I was half awake already, waiting for her call, and reached out for the phone with my eyes still closed and sleep-heavy limbs. I didn't even open my eyes when I thumbed the cell phone open and said hello.

"It's done," she said. "Took five minutes . . . and Randy brought Terry. He lied to his attorney when he said he wouldn't be there. That's why he signed the paper yesterday."

No surprise there. Randy is a liar. He always lies, most often to create chaos, keep Beanie off balance and just because, even when the truth sounds better, he goes for the lie. That's who he is.

It is over. Beanie is divorced.

Randy didn't expect Beanie to bring the Mushroom, but she and I planned it earlier this week to make sure she had a witness of her own. The Mushroom said that Terry said hello to him after they left the judge's chambers and that Randy was crying. Randy is such a girl, a real drama queen, and he has some serious psychological problems. He's passive-aggressive, narcissistic, abusive, histrionic and manipulative, and I'm just hitting the tip of the iceberg that is the psychological stew of his warped psyche. After all, he is the son of a man who, after a lovely anniversary dinner with his wife, picked up a baseball bat and bashed in her skull while she was undressing. He went to prison for twenty years and, when he was released, he moved right in with a multi-millionairess who keeps him in a style he rapidly became accustomed to. His wife, Randy's mother Cathy, still has lingering deficits from the trauma and has undergone some extensive surgery to repair the physical damage. Randy and his father are close, although, after the brutal beating, he refused to see or talk to his father -- at least that anyone knows for certain. They are close now, very close.

Randy has anger management issues and is a control freak. It's a good thing that Beanie got out when she did, even after 26 years, but she'll not be free of him, not as long as he's alive, and that the sad thing about it. Randy has splintered our rudderless family in the wake of my father's death three years ago and our mother and Hoity-Toity supported him through this divorce, not Beanie, their own flesh and blood. Hoity-Toity has gotten very close to Randy, supposedly because they share a common history (her fourth husband left her for another woman, a Malaysian woman who gave birth to his illegitimate son while married to Hoity), having been dumped by someone they loved. Now Hoity and Randy are taking ballroom dancing lessons together and he's free to follow his heart -- probably right into Hoity's bed and home. You just never know.

With Mom, it's easier to see what's going on. She loves to be the center of attention and is a big supporter of abusive marriages, since she abused Dad for over fifty years. There's also that gleam that comes into her eye and the unmistakable signs of flirting whenever Randy is around, any young man for that matter. She's a tee-totaling Calvinist, but she's not immune to testosterone and flattery. What elderly heterosexual woman is? I've seen it many times, elderly women without men of their own who preen and flirt with any young man who comes within shouting distance, giggling and batting their eyelashes and hanging on every word with a discreet touch of hand or fingers on the masculine arm whenever one is close to hand.

At least this part of the drama is over and Beanie can move on with her life. Mom bemoans the fact that none of her children are married now and because of that she will not be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. I guess those are reserved for people with spouses, however miserable they may be with those spouses. Family means two spouses and children; nothing else qualifies. She cries that her family is splintered, but there is no strong-willed matriarch clinging to the ragged ends of her family that should include her children (spouse or no spouse) and grandchildren. None of those matter without their anchoring partners to give them legitimacy. Any other mother determined to hold her family together would have a family Thanksgiving with her children and their children and their children's boyfriends, girlfriends and friends. That is how a family stays together, not because they are legitimate by right of marriage, but because they are legitimate by right of birth.

Beanie told me she probably wouldn't have Thanksgiving dinner either. "What's the point?" The point is family and stability. She could have dinner at her house with her children and her friends and their children and invite the Mushroom since he has nowhere else to go -- but to family, and she is family. The Mushroom might even bring his children and his son JC might bring a girlfriend. Family is family and the boundaries of family keep changing, should change as it grows and expands, spreading outward from a warm and loving center. If I still lived in Ohio, I would have Thanksgiving dinner and make sure Beanie, her friends and their children, my nephews and nieces, and the Mushroom were invited. I'd invite some of our other relatives, family that live locally and have fallen off the family map for whatever reason. A little help from everyone, a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm sure it would be fun and warm and . . . family. But I don't live there and will have to make do with my usual gallery of friends and fiends for the holiday feast. Family is what you make it.

All I can hope is that the reality of this divorce sinks in and Beanie takes up the ragged ends of her life and moves boldly towards a happier future. She has the means to make it so and she deserves a much happier life than she has had. Don't we all?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't crowd the mushrooms

There's a line in Julie/Julia that finally made sense to me this morning: Don't crowd the mushrooms.

I wanted something fast and easy this morning for breakfast. Didn't have any eggs, but I did have some steak and mushrooms, so steak and mushrooms it was. With Don't crowd the mushrooms repeating in my head, I sliced mushrooms, added butter to the olive oil and dumped the mushrooms in. Instantly, the kitchen filled with the fragrance of earth and butter and the fruitiness of olive oil. I get the good stuff. I shook the pan and flipped the mushrooms only one layer deep in the pan and something magical began to happen: they browned. Browned mushrooms. usually they become lighter in color and silt and sweat, but they don't brown, not until this morning. Don't crowd the mushrooms. When the mushrooms were done, I dumped in the beef, searing it quickly in the mushroom liquor, butter and olive oil, shaking the pan and turning the meat over until the pink was gone from the surface (I like my meat medium rare), reveling in the aroma of grass fed beef marbled lightly with white fat and beginning to crisp in the hot pan and the residue of butter, olive oil and mushrooms. Talk about seductive and mouthwatering. I could hardly wait to eat.

The first bite was heaven. the browned mushrooms were earthy and wonderful and the meat tender and still a bit bloody on the inside, just the way I like it. The only thing missing was eggs, at least two of them. Every bite was a taste sensation of fresh ingredients and culinary perfection. I lingered over each bite, letting the succulent juices linger on my tongue, savoring each bite. I am sated, not just by food, but by the wonderful taste and the aroma of earthy, fruity, buttery mushrooms that makes me want to inhale deeply to keep the scent fresh in my mind and on my palate.

That's the thing about food. You can eat quickly and without fuss, getting a random taste of this or that ingredient, passively noting the taste of unexciting and ordinary food that nourishes and fuels the body, or you can eat slower and enjoy each mouthful before, during and after the meal is finished. There is something to be said for home cooked food, but what it really boils down to is simply well cooked food that makes use of the best ingredients by the best methods. You can eat to live or live to eat, and the latter is not really a bad thing. Eating to live is simply pumping in the fuel without regard for the ingredients or method of delivery. You could take vitamins and supplements and wolf down the food and it will still fill the engine and do the work it's meant to do. In living to eat, we absorb the nutrients and engage all the senses until food becomes a spiritual experience that connects us to the earth and the elements. I know, it sounds so airy-fairy; in a way, it is. That doesn't mean it's not right.

What got me thinking about the way I've been eating to live lately is an ad I came across for Rocky Mountain grass fed beef and lamb. I buy organic, grass fed meat, but I haven't given it much though or spent much time in preparing the food, except as fuel and not as a whole body-mind experience. No wonder I've been out of sorts and feeling a bit down lately. I have been fueling the engine, but completely forgot about fueling the mind and spirit. We are more than an intricate mechanical contrivance with sentience, we are an entity of mind, body and spirit and every part of us needs to be nourished, fed, nurtured and honored. I guess that is what is meant as the body being the temple, a temple that houses the intangibles that make us who we are: the spirit and the mind.

The more science uncovers, the further we get from being whole. We treat ourselves as though we can detail the outside and forget about the engine, the fuel, the electrical and computer systems and everything that makes the vehicle go. It's like having find leather seats and a state of the art CD/DVD player in a car that is rusted and has no tires with brake lines that are completely dry. Okay, that's a very simplistic analogy, but it makes a point.

Everything we do, everything we see and experience, is all part of what nourishes the whole being, the body, mind and spirit. I've been feeding myself, but not in a substantial way, not in a way that takes into account the whole being. Eating without engaging the senses, without feeding the mind and spirit, is eating to live, fueling a broken car or one that is nearly broken, falling into a deep rut that keeps getting deeper with every passing day that I ignore the rest of me, the intangibles that make me whole. I will never crowd the mushrooms again and I will definitely spend more time on living to eat. I already feel better. Think what days, weeks and months of living to eat will accomplish. I can hardly wait to find out. Time to get out the pots, pans and utensils. I'm going shopping.

That is all. Disperse.