Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall

There was a collection of her jewelry on the table this afternoon. She's laying twenty feet away, and we're browsing through her accessories trying to decide what the take - there's enough for something for each of her granddaughters. There are twenty of us, eighteen living. I looked in a box and saw her "cornflake" earrings. They're the ones I most remember her wearing throughout my childhood. They're the ones she's putting on in my very first memory. I wrote a poem about it in college: "Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall." 

Grammy and Love are inseparable in my mind and memory and being. The two were born together in my awareness and became a force in my life - a force that simultaneously propels me forward and lifts me up. 

She's in what I can only hope are her last days. I don't know how many tears I've cried throughout my life at the thought of her passing - of living my life without her. Buckets of tears. Late night, waking up from dreams, gasping for air because she was gone tears. About two years ago, I made my peace with what would be her eventual death. She had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and when I got to see her a few days after she'd been released from the hospital, I was finally able to say "It's okay for her to go."

She recently had emergency surgery to remove a bowel obstruction. The surgery was successful, but the incision wasn't healing as it should. She didn't want any more interventions to fix it. She came home earlier this week on hospice. Family has gathered and is gathering. No one knows when she will leave us, but I know she's ready.

I don't know what lessons are left to learn, and while I hope the end is peaceful and comes soon for her, I know that there is a timing that works out perfectly for each of us. I almost never listen to contemporary Christian radio stations, but I happened to tune to one on my drive to Fresno today, and this line caught me: "I can say God is good, even when He's not understood."

God is so good. Always. He gave me her, and he gave her me. We needed one another. And we'll keep growing to and from each other forever.

Grammy and Love are the First Thing I Recall

The middle of the bed
lumped up as she sat on the edge.
Hazy eyelashes, intertwined,
distorted my first morning view.

The mirror was in front of her,
to our side, the window.
Sun filtered through long lace curtains
that were floating on the morning breeze. 

I rolled over and watched her
pick her jewelry as I have always known her to,
holding up one earring and then another.
She is getting ready to go to work.

Final adjustments are made.
She fluffs her hair between her hands 
and looks on.
Her day outside of herself will soon begin.

She turns to me and leans down.
I feel her kiss on my forehead
and then she whispers,
"I love you" in my ear.

Mammy and Family and Ornaments

Jake's Mammy used to work at a Hallmark store, and every year she gave her grandchildren a new ornament for Christmas. She passed away two years ago, right before Christmas.

Admittedly, when I was 19, and Jake and I were decorating our first Christmas tree together, and I was pulling out the Bat Mobile and Shaquille O'Neal ornaments, my dreams of a gorgeous, ribbon-wrapped tree trimmed to the nines were dashed. I tolerated the ornaments that so perfectly represented a boy's childhood and threw every sort of color on a tree that I'd envisioned as having silver, gold, and red. And green, but only because of the tree.

Our collection grew. She and Meemaw (Jake's other grandma) and Jake's mom added for big life events, and all of a sudden they weren't just his, they were ours. Ornaments commemorating our wedding, our children, our lives.

And now I'm just sitting here in a puddly crying mess looking at our tree and not being able to imagine any other trimming meaning as much.

I'm looking at the ornament we got in 2006. Two days before Thanksgiving, we received the results of a blood test confirming we were six weeks and some change along with our first baby. We told Mammy the day before Thanksgiving at Pizza Hut in Holdenville; she'd taken all of her grandkids who were available out to lunch. We passed a napkin down to her with a little message breaking the news. She was so excited. She showed up the next morning with the napkin pinned to her lapel - proud as proud can be.

I ended up starting the miscarrying process on New Years Day when we were twelve weeks along. The ornament for 2006 is a hen sitting on an egg while knitting and a rooster reading a book on parenting. Her excitement, and the ornament tradition she started in her family that allowed us to keep a sweet reminder of a sweet time, that didn't quite turn out as planned, are so special to me.

This year, we decided to keep the tradition going with our girls. We took them to a Hallmark store and let them pick whatever ornament they wanted. We hung them up this morning before Jake took them to see The Nutcracker.

Someday when they're putting up their own trees, I want their significant other to open up a Frozen ornament that sings "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and not quite know what to do with it. Or the teddy bear drinking hot cocoa that Cora picked. And then over the years, as the future S.O. is included in the tradition, I hope they find themselves all choked up looking through years of ornaments that were thoughtfully chosen and excitedly received. With the addition of popsicle stick reindeer and toilet paper roll Christmas tree ornaments, our tree is full of loving gestures and fond memories.

I couldn't love it more.
Jake picked out a family ornament this year. Yes, Batman, Shaq, AND Clark Griswold are on our tree.

Gallstones and Bleep.

I was in undergrad, probably twenty or so when I was first awakened in the middle of the night feeling like I was being stabbed through my right ribs and out my shoulder blade in the back. It was my gallbladder. I've lived with its antics for over a decade now. I limited many of the trigger foods (fatty, greasy, spicy, fried) and things got better. And then I went vegan, and things got waaayy better. I've become a bit complacent about my eating habits since going back to work full time and eliminating gluten from my diet. It's like whatever isn't the flesh of an animal or doesn't contain gluten goes.

And so went my gallbladder. It's been acting up in the last month. I was actually puzzled by it on Sunday. It didn't present as usual. I was short of breath and my whole chest/back/shoulders/neck hurt. It takes A LOT to get me to the doctor, and the pain I was having wasn't something I associate with my gallbladder. By the time I rolled up to the ER, and got out of and back into the car twice (I'm indecisive), I went in, quickly made my way through triage and was in a bed in the hall in no time. About 5 minutes after being in my new spot, the pain centralized, and I knew without a doubt Gally was acting up. Yes, I've dealt with my gallbladder so much that those who are close to me know that I lovingly refer to it as Gally.

If I would have known it was Gally from the get-go, I likely wouldn't have gone in. But now I'm kind of glad I did, just because now I know what I'm dealing with. And what I'm dealing with has me on the fence. They were pretty close to emergency surgery-ing on Sunday night, but I'd passed the stone I was passing, and ultrasound confirmed it wasn't stuck anymore, and the pain was subsiding (Thanks, Morphine!). Ultrasound also showed that there were more stones where that one came from. My liver enzymes were elevated, but the one they extra worry about was not elevated enough to warrant emergency surgery, so five hours later, I went home!

Now I have a choice to make. I visited with my PCP this afternoon and got a referral to a surgeon. I've lived with gallbladder attacks for a pretty substantial amount of time now. I know what living that life is like (except for the weird way the pain presented on Sunday - but now I know that too), what I don't know is how my body will react when I no longer have a gallbladder. For some people, the relief is heaven sent. For others, they essentially become chained to the toilet, or need to be in really close proximity to one after they eat. That sounds terrible. And if there's even a tiny chance that my life will look like that without a gallbladder, then....

My gallbladder wasn't enlarged, and I have no infection. All good things. That's not to say a stone might not get stuck someday and wreak havoc, more than the terrible pain of it passing through my ducts (my cystic duct was quite inflamed), but it hasn't done that yet.

Another thing that showed up on ultrasound: a kidney stone. Bleep. That's new.

My consultation with the surgeon is on January 3rd. I'm glad I have plenty of time to think about things and more time to read up on life without a gallbladder. If prolonging our time together in a non-painful way can be achieved by being more aware of what I'm putting into my body, I'm cool with that. If things flare up in a way that feels out of my control, the ER is always open 24/7, but I'd really love to keep all of my organs if possible.  

PS: I really need Kimbra, Lana Del Rey, or Florence + The Machine to set some tour dates.

Pumpkin Muffins

These are the best ever.

I woke up knowing I needed one. When I went to Post Punk Kitchen for the recipe, it wasn't there. Well, it was. Sort of. The link took me to nowhere. Over and over again. The website is transitioning to a new domain name that bears the name of the brilliant vegan recipe maker, Isa Chandra. I feared that my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe was a casualty. After a few failed google searches, I reached out to a friend to see if he happened to have the recipe. He did not.

As panic was setting in, I did a few more searches, trying to remember anything I could from the recipe. Finally, I got a hit at Vegan Peace. What a relief!!! I am documenting the recipe here (and I printed out a hardcopy) so that I will never again face the fear of not having the perfect pumpkin muffin.

Without further ado....

The Best Pumpkin Muffins. EVER!!


1 3/4 C all-purpose flour*
1 1/4 C sugar
1 TBL baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 C pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 C soy milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 TBL molasses


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and molasses. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy it with all your heart!

*I substituted Trader Joe's gluten free all-purpose flour to make the muffins gluten free. Vegan and gluten free. Winning!!


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