hello, it’s me

houseplants | merrygourmet

Hello again. I’ve missed you.

Earlier this month, exactly two years since my last post, I got the urge to write here again. Actually, that’s not quite the entire truth. I’ve had urges to write, but the content I wanted to write about didn’t seem quite right for this open space. I turned to journaling instead, something I always go back to when my anxiety is high or in times of crisis. But earlier this month, I wanted to share openly again. I wanted to come out of hiding and be vulnerable in public, the way I used to be in this space.

When I sat down to write that day, though, I learned my blog had a flaw on the back end, some error that occurred sometime in the last year or more. The comments at the bottom of any given post were not linking up to the right post. I reached out to my hosting company, and then, through them, to a website developer. During those couple of weeks while I was trying to sort out the issue, I realized (again) how much I love and miss this space. I’ve not written here for two years, but now that I couldn’t actually write here because of website issues, all I wanted to do was write. Journaling has filled some of that void, but it really isn’t the same as posting here. I’m not sure how or when the glitch happened, but it’s now fixed, and my sense of relief has surprised me.

I do wonder whether anyone is still here to read my words. Two years is a long time for people to stick around, waiting.

I used to be able to count on my mom to be my eternal reader and blog cheerleader. I used to hit publish on a post and within minutes of sharing it on my personal Facebook page, she would have shared the post on her own page so that her friends could see. Almost without fail, she would call me that evening or within the next 24 hours to talk to me about what I wrote, or to just let me know she liked it. I could always count on her. Until I couldn’t.

She is always on my mind these days, and I find myself forcibly turning my thoughts to something else, anything else.

Work is a wonderful distraction and has filled my life with meaning and purpose. I’ve been spending time nurturing my son’s horticulture interests, shopping at Home Depot with him for potting soil or seeds starting kits or looking at Instagram accounts filled with beautiful houseplants and succulents in perfectly lit living rooms. My daughter is in the thick of high school theater, and we just hosted about 35 high school kids for the fall show (Seussical!) cast party on Friday night. That was a great diversion and my kitchen is still overflowing with trays of cookies and bags of popcorn. I’m traveling for work fairly regularly, and we had some lovely family vacations this year. I have a solo trip in the works for early 2020, a vacation where I hope to jumpstart my creative side again. That trip is a gift to myself, and it has given me such pleasure to daydream about. I’m burying myself in two books at any given time, preferably fiction. Right now, I’ve got Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew on my Kindle and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows on Audible.

I have become skilled at distraction.

So, hello again. I think I’ll be back to share more in the weeks ahead. I intend to. It won’t be pretty and happy and shiny, because that’s just not real life. But it will be real, and it will be me.

he turned eleven

cookies and cream cake | the merry gourmet

I don’t know of anyone who takes the selection of his or her birthday cake so seriously, but I respect my son for this trait. It’s a big decision, to be sure. Chocolate or vanilla? Buttercream frosting or cream cheese? Ice cream on the side or not at all? Or perhaps an ice cream cake? So many choices to choose from.

We’ve been in birthday cake negotiations for weeks now. I offered up the easy-for-Mom and always-crowd-pleasing Publix birthday cake. Publix cake is usually a no brainer. Everyone loves that cake. Oliver, though, thinks it’s too sweet. He’s right. It is too sweet, but this usually isn’t a problem for most of us. We eat it, feel guilty, maybe add in an extra workout or neighborhood walk, then sneak a second slice when no one is looking. Oliver never finishes a slice. He’s the smart one in this household.

The weekend before we were to celebrate his birthday, I offered up three of my baking books for him to peruse and make a selection from. One had few pictures, so he wasted minimal time on that book. In the other two books, he placed sticky notes on the photos he thought looked interesting and “not too sweet,” though I’m not sure how he made this judgement based on photos. Ultimately, he walked away with one cake in mind – the cookies and cream cake from page 107 of Tessa Huff’s Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes. His only condition was that he wanted the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting from page 41 rather than the white chocolate-cream cheese frosting the recipe called for. He definitely wanted the Oreos in it, though.

it’s gone

it's gone | the merry gourmet

I walked out of the parking garage at work and headed toward the cancer hospital. It was a Saturday morning of the long weekend, and team rounds were scheduled to begin in about fifteen minutes. The parking garage is not my usual one. This one is closer to the hospital, and on weekends, I won’t get a ticket for parking there. When I’m on service in the hospital – two weeks straight as the attending of the oncology inpatient unit and the oncology consult service, 24 hour-per-day call – this small thing feels like a luxury. A few less steps to take to get in to the hospital, a few less steps to take when I’m headed home to my family.

Nestled between my weekend parking garage and the hospital is the nursing home where my dad lived for the last year of his life. I hate that place. When I think back on the trauma I experienced with the loss of my father to dementia, the nursing home plays a starring role in my memories.

I park in that parking garage less than two dozen times per year, only when I’m on service. Usually, on my way to the hospital or back to my car, I find myself holding my breath as I walk by the nursing home. Sometimes I cut through the parking lot, taking care not to trip on the tree roots that have buckled the asphalt. Other times, I give the place a wide berth. Even without stepping foot inside, I can remember the smell of it. If I allow my mind to wander, I can feel the black memories beginning to return, squeezing the breath out of my chest. So I hold my breath, quicken my pace, and think about my team and the patients waiting on me. Go, I tell myself. Walk faster.

This Saturday was different. As I neared the path that cuts through the nursing home parking lot, I realized something was different. A chain-link construction fence blocked the way. I walked several steps more, then stopped. It’s gone, I thought. I turned back and walked back to an opening in the fence to get a closer look. It’s finally gone.

The nursing home had been bulldozed. My ever-expanding hospital bought the property several months ago, and though I’d hoped that one day this would happen, the nursing home remained. Until now. In the bare construction site, near a construction dumpster, only a single large oak tree remained. That oak tree had provided shade over the depressing back patio of the nursing home, where a handful of wheelchair-bound patients sat outside and smoked.

I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. I raised my phone and took a photo. I needed the evidence. I looked down at the photo of the empty lot, smiled to myself, and walked the rest of the way to the cancer hospital.

I’ve looked at that photo several times since then, and I find it reassuring and comforting each time. That awful place has been torn down, and it feels wonderful to have the ugly reminder of a year’s worth of pain and some of the worst memories of my life gone, completely erased.