Friday, February 28, 2014

Work asked for it...I wrote it.

As Black History month closes, we were asked at work (PSCU) to write about which one of the featured influential individuals made an impact on us.  I chose Maya Angelou for my inspiration.  Her poetry reaches out and grabs you and holds you enthralled.    

"I know why the caged bird sings"…..”  speaks to me on the most personal level.  As a woman who has lived with great misfortune and endured the repression of many generations, Ms. Angelou’s  words are a song of survival and grit.  Ms. Angelou has captured the intensity of living a life with challenges and rising above the hurt and anguish to proudly proclaim her spirit is free.  She has captured the essence of the lowest of lows in her verse and has vibrantly shown the resilience of the human spirit.  I can never claim to have her experiences, however, her words are meaningful and beautiful to me.  At one point of my life, I felt like a caged bird, railing against the bars of self-imposed imprisonment.  Bound to a newborn child I had yet learned to love, unable to cope with the shattered dreams of a life with healthy active children.  It is often said that the birth of a handicapped child is like preparing for nine months for a trip to Italy, researching, planning excursions, learning the language and realizing when you get off your long plane trip that you are in Norway, a colder harsher reality than what you planned on, still a beautiful country but not what you expected.  When Tyler was born, we were handed a child with exceptional needs and told, “He could experience some weakness on his left side, or it could be worse.”   We did not anticipate how hard “worse” could be.  Our family grew by the dozens in a few short months, there were therapists, physicians, caregivers, nurses and one special child.  Tyler did not have an easy infancy, everything caused him duress,  bright lights, noise, temperature, texture….all of them made him cry.  Eighteen months straight of non-stop crying.  I sat in a rocking chair with him in my arms rocking and holding him close and begging for an answer to ease his pain.   It took me time beating my wings against the cage of disability before I accepted the honor given to me.  I was truly blessed to be his mother and the lessons that he taught me are with me today.  Life is not always what you plan and you can find the joy and the song in what you are given.  Tyler was the catalyst to propel his family into fighting the injustices and prejudices that plague our special needs population.  We were isolated, shunned, treated poorly in restaurants by patrons and our Tyler was abused by many in a system that was meant to care for him.  They simply chose not to see the child trapped in a body that did not work, but dismissed his existence to be of less value because of perceived intelligence.  Those that mistreated him were the ignorant ones who lost the opportunity to meet a truly unique special being capable of love, friendship and laughter.   

Ms. Angelou’s poetry about the ignorance of the uninformed and those that chose to sling rocks and demean a human to be less than valuable because of color of their skin, or a perceived level of intellect will always speak for me.  Still I Rise ....Repeatedly we had to argue and fight for those who are unable to speak for themselves, unable to communicate or walk.   Our advocacy began at home and since his death at 15  we have continued to find an avenue to fund his memorial at Camp Redbird.  Tyler’s greatest joy was to belong, to be part of an active vibrant life, to transcend the broken body, to communicate his special sense of humor.  Camp Redbird remains our favorite way to honor his life.  He loved his Camp Redbird and the joy he had in making friends was palpable.  Every year at the memorial picnic, it breaks my heart to hear his friends say that they miss Tyler's smile and laugh.  Ten years later and his friends still talk about him and they hug us so tightly.  It is bittersweet to attend the picnic, but the money we raise helps other children and young adults have extra outings and treats during summer and that helps assuage the pain in my heart.  

Yes, I heard the caged bird sing……I remember the laughter bubbling up from his heart and his joyful song, my darling son. Trapped in a compromised body but with the heart, soul and mind of any human.  I see him in Heaven as the free bird, soaring and dipping through the clouds, whole at last.   And still I rise….from grief so profound that I found life was not worth living…..I rise, I rise, I rise in remembrance of what was and what will be.    

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I will Tap DANCE my way to the Tap room at the Hollander again and again

A unique boutique hotel in St. Petersburg, wonderfully restored and delightfully refurbished, The Hollander on Fourth Street is a beautiful addition to the burgeoning glory of my favorite downtown.  The former Bond hotel has like a phoenix has risen to new glory.

Hollander Hotel
421 4th Avenue North
St Petersburg, Fl 33701
Notyourmomma's Kitchen Tampa Bay restaurants

The Tap Room at the Hollander is a great addition to our lively downtown scene. The Tap Room offers many craft beers and cocktails that pair beautifully with a menu of sliders, sandwiches, small plates to share.  There is enough diversity on the menu to please any palate.  The Tap Room is adjacent to the Hotel lobby and the decor is eclectic.  There is a lovely long porch with a brick facade that is perfectly suited to our year-round comfort.  The outdoor seating is pet-friendly and water bowls are provided for our four- legged friends.  An organic coffee shop, Brew D Licious,  features a daily grind is part of the Hotel package experience.   Check the Tap Room at the Hollander website for the many different entertainment options featured nightly, i.e. trivia playing, piano stylings, open mike night etc.

Don't get between this man and his fried mac and cheese.

There are some wonderful featuring gin and cucumber!  So wickedly good.  The craft beer list is long and varied.
No lie, a one lb. meatball stuffed with cheese

That beauty shot of the one lb. meatball fed Fred for two days.  Seriously he had to take the leftovers home and he ate the rest as a sandwich.
Cuban Quesadilla with mustard sauce

Absolutely a wonderful marriage of cuban and quesadilla, why didn't I think of this before?  The sauce is delicious and the crispy flour tortilla is a perfect carriage to get the pork and ham/cheese filling to your mouth.  
A pretty daughter with a plate of fried wonton!
A jalapeno wonton is a fun spicy update of the cream cheese version.  Nice to share with a table of friends. Same to be said of the cuban quesadilla, seen above. 
Perfectly crispy crunchy crust on a creme brulee
Missing the beauty shots of the daughter's hummus wrap, suffice to say, it was a delightfully veggie friendly meal for the kid.  My trio of sliders were very nice, if a bit on the small side.  But after the surplus of appetizers, a smallish entree of yummy sliders is enough.  Plus we had to have the creme brulee.  We ordered the last one of the evening and it was good enough to convert the kid to a creme brulee fan.  

Tap Room at the Hollander on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Karma hit my Dogma, miscellaneous musings on a long day.

I'm putting another napa cabbage and bok choy on my list for tomorrow.  I ate kim chee every day for lunch last week and I have to have more for next week.  It is Tyler Florence's low carb kim chee.   However I  have  in the frig, two big jars

Have to make a roast beef so we can have giardiniera on beef sandwiches.....hmmm, maybe I can McGuyver it into a sandwich Fred would like.  It's a thought. Toasted onion buns, roast beef and giardiniera...a little melted muenster. That would be worth a try.  I wonder if I could use giardiniera as a pizza topping?

SuperBowl at work was fun.  It was slower than Christmas Day.  Apparently football reigns supreme and people don't worry about their credit cards when there is a game on,  The company gave us subs from Publix, popcorn, cookies and sodas.  One of the supervisors made chocolate covered strawberries with football lacing in white icing,  so good!! They put two sheets up on the wall and streamed the football game so we could watch.  They didn't do any of this last year.  I didn't win any of the raffles.  But I did get to collect my overtime gift cards and that was a nice help with the budget.  The worst holiday of the year is coming soon.  St Patrick's Day is a nightmare.  The volume of lost card calls is incredible.  All the wannabe Irishmen that can't handle their p's and q's.

Angie did my nails purple and lavender with leopard spots and bits of gold adornment and a pretty gold polish.  My toes are bright teal.  Angie gave me another lovely pedicure...ten dollars.  I soaked my toes, she trimmed my nails, pushed back the cuticles, polished them...rubbed on oils and lotions to my legs  She was so worried about how swollen my feet are....they were lobster red in the hot water soak.  Really, just give us a vat of drawn butter and there you have the visual.  Honestly, she is worth more than she is paid.  She charges me 35.00 for nails and toes.  I haven't missed an appointment in two years and I am a loyal Angie customer unlike her other customers.  She gets tipped very well.

Liv and Scotty had lunch at one of the beach shacks and brought home peel n eat shrimp in Old Bay seasoning and wings that are AWARD WINNING.  They were crispy in parmesan, garlic and hot sauce.  Yummy to both of them.  I've told the family, it is scrounge night....if they want it, they can buy it, or find it.  I'm going to bed.

The house next to us is in foreclosure (the mean neighbors that threatened to beat my husband to a pulp, right after he got out of a 3 month hospital stay).  The bank has the yard men coming at 7:00 a.m. to mow the lawn and do the upkeep. They woke Liv and me far too early today and I'm still cranky.  Liv is only slightly less cranky.  I can see our neighbors point about barking dogs disturbing your sleep, mea culpa. It is no fun but not enough to kill the dogs which they threatened to do or to light off firecrackers and toss them over the fence to scare our dogs which they did do.  This is the neighbor who after she realized how compromised Fred is intellectually from the strokes, seizures and coma sent over a meal for us.  And she taught me how to brine and barbecue a phenomenal chicken.  They hated my dogs and I get upset at the yard man. Karma strikes again. Tit for Tat.

Then, we had the mystery woman on our front porch from two weeks ago. She was sitting on our purple bench, unable to speak, barefoot in freezing cold.  She could not say her name or tell us who she was.  We called the police to help find her family.  Don't you know we found out it was the wife of the neighbor behind us. (the vindictive one who tore down our mutual back fence in one day because we didn't cut down our 200 year old pine upon his request)  The wife that was so nasty to us for years was sitting on our porch in the freezing cold and didn't know she was a house away from her home.  I never would have recognized her, disheveled and barefoot.   Her husband came by to say thank you for getting her home.  He never knew she had left the house and was wandering the neighborhood.  He was very grateful for her safe return.  And that tree he said he would pay to cut down.......could be transplanted and it is worth several thousand dollars.  He would have collected a mint off of our tree.  Karma strikes again, Tit for Tat.

It looks like Fred and I are the bad neighbors, or is it just bad luck to have had two out of three that drive you crazy where we live now.  In our old neighborhood, we had such a congenial mix that we remain friends to this day twenty years later.  It was a remarkable neighborhood and our parties were  legendary.  Christmas decorating was competition (I had seven trees in 1100 square feet of house) The house kitty korner to us had tours of their decorations and there wasn't on inch of their house that didn't reflect Christmas, Debbie had her house decorated like a ginger bread house, complete with a candy garland we made along the eaves.  (Sprite bottles wrapped in cellophane twist looks like giant candy, plastic disposable plates painted in red/white peppermint swirls made a great garland) Halloween was a block party, creepy food, spooky music and a keg of beer, Easter was Brunch picnics and egg hunts (400 eggs for 20 children) and of course, when the neighborhood would flood we were the goofs that pulled out the canoe to paddle to the next house for booze,  Oh my, don't forget our theme parties around mysteries.  We loved do the parties where everyone dressed in period costume, did a pot luck supper and tried to solve the mystery.  So much fun.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too tired to live, or just too sad to be free

I didn't think it was possible to be this tired and then I remember yes, it is possible to be this tired. My tears are just falling from exhaustion and yet, I can't fall asleep. Molly and Charlie are snoring in tandem...silly dogs won't give any me room to stretch. It's nights like these that make miss my Tyler the most...I could sit in his room and play scrabble and just listen to him breathe.To listen to his steady breathing was such a comfort, after all the early years and medical struggles. Those hard fought surgeries to give him a clearer breathing and as much functionality as we could were worth every bit of pain, to see his body twisted into a hairpin, heels touching the back of head, wracked in agonizing pain was horrific. I can recall the recovery nurses running to get me to hold him and comfort him after the surgery. There was such pain in those beautiful eyes, "Momma what have you done to me?" Oh, my dearest son, I want you to live...I want you to breathe, we had to do this to help you. Those nurses begged me to talk to him and let him know momma was near. I did..and with every surgery, I begged Ty's forgiveness for subjecting his body to such pain. His body was so broken. His early years were never a comfort, it was such a battle. I can remember when we first brought him home...on Christmas Eve. So tiny and so needy. He was barely 4 lbs. The monitor, the beeping, the strangeness of our home....I can remember sitting in that rocker can holding him to my chest for hours and hours on end. Everything startled him, everything made him cry.....his senses were constantly assaulted by light, by sound, by touch. He never stopped crying for hours and hours. I can remember Dr. Cordes giving me some drops to give Tyler just so I could get four hours of sleep. The crying never seemed to stop, 18 hours a day, never ending. WE rocked and rocked. I felt it was necessary to hold him close to my heart and let him hear my heartbeat, to try and comfort the constant sensory overload. Low lights, quiet, and momma's heart beat. I was so unprepared to be his mother and this blessed child changed my heart forever. He taught me so much and I long for his smile and laughter. He was so cruelly ripped from our lives and so suddenly gone. I still can't grasp the grief sometimes. There are those moments when memories consume you and the loss is all you can hold on to. There is no timetable on grief and loss. There are times when living is unbearable and the tears won't stop.