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Where I work there is a department called the Transitional Services Unit (TSU) that helps incarcerated youth return to their communities.  I understand that it was not that many years ago that this unit did not exist and that youth who had aged out of the juvenile justice system were simply released.  Set out on the curb so to speak.  Now each departing youth has a team who works with them and on their behalf to help them navigate the numerous changes and challenges. 

This morning, I realized that I need one of these TSUs of my very own.  Now whether or not I would make good use of their offered services, I do nots know for sure.  But I cannot help but think that there might be some comfort in just knowing I had this team of humans who were looking out and ahead for me, even for a little while. 

Because where I am today is a familiar place.  Familiar but full of danger and darkness.  This place where I end up after the ground opens underneath me and I experience the free fall into depression, a cavern of great depth.  This time, I did what I used to do many years ago, I pretended I was not falling ~ for a while.  That is until either the invisible tether securing me to the landscape of life, separated or the growing velocity of the plunge forced me to admit I was in this place, once again. 

I must snap out of my funk.  Create toe and finger holds to climb, pull and grunt my way to the surface.  Pronto.  Today is my middle grandson’s 14th birth day family celebration.  I love this boy, dearly.  I am to bring the cheese bread.  Cheese bread ~ his Grammie’s cheese bread ~ is one of his most favorite foods.  To not show up, cheese bread in tow, is not acceptable.  I love this boy. 

So I must figure my way out of this quagmire of self indulgent angst once again in order to leave my home, get in Buster Blue, drive to the grocery, purchase the ingredients, return home, make the cheese spread, drive to my daughter’s home, participate in the family birth day celebration and be part of my life ~ part of my middle grandson’s life. 

Where are the TSU personnel?  Hello?  Can you hear me? 

With or without other human help, I must assist mine own self.  I have been in this place before, many times in fact.  Surely I must know the way up and out.  I will look for some markers and familiar signs pointing ahead.

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Life in the moment is good.  Very good.  Too good.  At least too good to wait until November to formally give our honor and thanks~giving for this abundant life. 

So my family and I are gathering this evening for a spring Thanksgiving Feast.  There will be the American dinner icons ~ turkey, mashed taters, gravy all served up with loads of yummy side dishes.  My daughter sparked the idea last week and the rest of her clan quickly climbed onboard. 

Life is good.  And when it is this good, one must eat.  Eat delicious homecooked food and sip a bubbly beverage, or two.  And you know me, who am I to swim against the tide ~ at least when it comes to celebrations.

Take two ibuprofens.  Drink them down with big gulps of water.  Do it quickly lest you be oxygen deprived due to inabilty to breathe through your nose and only your mouth.  Keep a goodly supply of Puffs with lotion tissues nearby.  Apply Neosporin to painfully irritated raw nose. 

Do all of the above throughout your day and night.  Allow the common cold to run its natural course.

Oh I almost forgot to mention, give in to food cravings and allow yourself to be comforted by a steaming hot cup of tomato soup.  Sodium milligrams be damned.  One’s spirits must be buoyed and nurtured during times of physical illness in order to quickly return to health.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

As you may have guessed by now, I am being visited by a headcold.  I realized that this is the first cold I have succumbed to in over a year.  My memory timeline includes such mileposts as my daugher’s birth year and her age at any given point in my adulthood.  An example being, when did I date the woman with the long flowing blond hair with those deep blue eyes?  Well let’s see, my daughter was about 7 years old so I would have been 26.  Another memory milepost is when was the last time I was able to sleep lying down?  Well let’s see that would have been toward then end of January 2011 so about 13 months ago.  And I haven’t had a head cold since then.  Oh the meandering places my mind does travel when my head is all stuffed up… 

Life is good even with the raw nose and achy muscles.  One cold in over a year just isn’t that bad.  Right?  Nothing that taking two ibuprofens won’t help.

Napping is good.  Whether the nap is taken sitting upright or lying down, either way, it’s all good.  I opted for such goodness yesterday afternoon and was rewarded with rich and varied dreams.  The extra interesting dreams may have been somewhat influenced by my lunch.  The lunch that was slightly, meaning well off, my current low sodium plan.  Can you say a foodie’s salty heaven?  Not to worry, I do not intend to continue veering off the diet forever.  Sometimes though, a triple decker turkey club sammie on lightly toasted whole wheat bread is worth this high risk behavior. 

Yes.  Either way.  Horizontally or vertically.  Napping is a good thing.  All snuggled up in one’s down duvet with loads of fluffy and firm pillows for added comfort. 

Did I mention yesterday was an overcast cold winter’s day?  It was and I did.  Nap. 

All good.  Way good.

Last evening mi casa was filled to the brim with folks ready to fill their stomachs with hearty fare on their way to winning big time around the dining room table turned poker stake haven.  None of us sweated the small ‘taters such as only one-be gambler bringing their betting money (aka bag of change) or the rules to Texas Hold ‘Em being temporarily lost inside the Betting Brains of the operation (she quickly recalled and/or made the rules up as we went). 

Brew pub food was the menu of the evening along with this host’s mantra of keeping it simple, keeping it simple.  So grilled burgers and all of their accompanying accoutrements of cheese, thinly sliced yellow onion and bright red tomato, sour and salty dill pickles and assorted condiments ~ crispy tater tots, the food item fit for comfort and crunch ~ and, ice cold chunked up watermelon.  Chocolate dipped shortbread cookies rounded out the pre-betting battle game.

Monopoly money substituted quite nicely for the betting exchange and we were off for raucaus rounds of dealer’s choice poker.  We played 5-card draw, 7-card stud and the aforementioned (perhaps variation of) Texas Hold ‘Em.  Wild bets, excellent bluffs, transparently bad bluffs and begging for “do-overs” went round and round the rectangular stainless steel table.  And in the end folks, this host was the last one seated with a lot of cash in front of her.  And you know what?  Just for an instant it did not matter that the cash was fake.  I felt the flush of victory ~

Of course, I did not brag.  I was not a bad sport.  I did not crow.  Nor did I do the victory lap around this rectangular table, making the losers other players move out of my way.  No.  Of course not, did I act in any such way.  But if this host did, she would most certainly not post it on her public blog the next morning.  A-hem.

Fun.  Fun.  Fun. 

If you had been here, we could have high-fived or knuckle bumped or winked at one another.  But come to think of it, had you been here, I may not have been the evening’s winner.  Oh well.  Sometimes opening one’s heart and hearth to a different outcome is a risk worth taking.  I’ll let you know the next time the Queen of Hearts comes to visit.

Patti LaBelle’s Over the Rainbow Mac and Cheese recipe has been a go to favorita recipe in my family for a few years.  Although I have dubbed it Somewhere Over the Rainbow Mac n Cheese, the ingredients are the same.  My grandkiddos and my daughter love this casserole and request it from time to time.  And what’s not to love?  This dish is all about kinship and comfort and the riches that come from being at home with loved ones. 

The cast of characters include four kinds of cheese, one of which is Velveeta (and yes, Velveeta belongs to the cheese family ~ ask any kid), lots of half and half, and eggs.  Last night’s version contained smoky bits of bacon and was topped with crushed Ritz crackers and more shredded cheese. 

The side dishes were comprised of green beans slow cooked with bacon and cold juicy watermelon chunks.  A southern meal for sure that was topped off with bite size red velvet cupcakes with a cream chese filling and frosting.  Can you spell L-O-V-E? 

So, once again Patti and I pulled off another scrumptious meal.  And with all of that fancy cooking going on up in my small kitchen, we didn’t say one cross word to one another.  I’d say that me and Patti did a right fine job of rustlin’ up the ole grub tonight.

My recent medical diagnoses has required me to change my eating habits. Drastically. As long as I can remember, salt has occupied its very own food group at the base of my food pyramid. Other foods were mere vehicles for my favored and craved after salt. I now take in less than 1000 milligrams of sodium daily. So as one might imagine, this shift in diet has not been without some grief and overall loss of appetite.

The change in diet and my faithful following of the doctor’s orders has rested solely on fear. Fear of being permanently plagued with the unbearable vertigo and the loss of what has been up until recently, very keen hearing. My desire to not lose my ability to hear and having endured severe bouts of vertigo for months on end have been the impetus and motivation, which in turn has fueled my robust adherence to this new eating lifestyle.

Changes take some time to grow accustomed to. That, along with the immediate revocation of my loved longed for and lusted after salty goodiness, basically stopped me dead in my tracks when it came to cooking anything tasty for myself or wanting to cook for myself. When cooking for others, I continue to cook with salt and have not required my friends or families to adhere to my strict new diet needs. But when it has come to my cooking to sustain myself that is exactly what I have been reduced to ~ cooking and eating to live and to survive; forget the thriving and enjoyment.

Up until this weekend that is. Today I am cooking a pot of white bean soup that is much lower in sodium than I would have formerly prepared but still has more sodium laden ingredients than I have been allowing myself. I think this is okay. I didn’t go hog wild ~ just enough to make the soup tasty enough to make me want to dip my spoon in more than once or twice.

The delicious savoriness is enveloping my little abode while the soup perks away in my slow cooker. Chunks of bright orange carrots, carmalized yellow onion bits, diced fresh shiny green jalapenos, a bit of browned salt pork, two dusty green bay leaves and a healthy dose of deep red cayenne pepper mingle with the white beans, all bathed in a splash or so of beef broth. I tossed in a dash of ground nutmeg just for kicks. So far, smells delisio.

Comfort.
A reclaiming of my kitchen.

If you were here, I would ladle you up a hot bowl of white bean soup.
Comfort.
Comfort with a spicy kick.
Oh yeah, baby, time to get back in the kitchen.

Waking to a peaceful quiet this Christmas morning, my thoughts turned immediately to the blessings in my life ~ of which there are many. A humbling exercise of gratitude.

How is it that I have so much at this juncture in time? So much life, so much healing taking place inside my mind, body, psyche and soul, so much love, so much ability to experience living on multiple levels, so much sustenance providing food and clean water and so much wonder and delight.

I am blessed. Indeed.
Over and over and over, again.

I do not want to squander a single solitary moment of this blessed life that I am given.

You know that old adage ~ when life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well in my current case that saying could be applied with one caveat ~ when life hands you lemons, make lemonade and make sure it is sodium free.

Say it ain’t true.
Please oh please.

But yet it is.
True.

My favorita food group ~ salt ~ has been all but eliminated from my eating plan.

All in hope of making my body such an inhospitable guest home that my Bastard Buddy Vertigo will move on. As in stop mooching a free and dizzy ride. As in flee his not so happy home.

But hey Buddy V before you go, have a glass of sodium free lemonade. On the house. After all, you did supply the lemons.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I realize that lemonade is not typically made with salt ~ that is unless one is mixing up a batch of lemonade margaritas.)

So I took a little poetic license ~ sue me. Why don’t you take a load off and have a sip or two of my salt free lemonade. Supplies are limited.

A touch of honey
from the Honey Bear’s squeezable plastic head.

First,
you upend the little guy.
Then,
you watch the amber colored sweetness
drip down,
filling his plastic head.

Finally,
you give him a squeeze ~
not too hard ~ don’t smash the little guy.
Then,
watch a dollop
of honey come out.
That is your signal to ease off
the squeeze.
The dollop then becomes a drizzle.

If you are feeling extravagant,
you can give the little plastic guy
another squeeze.

He is a generous guy,
that Mister Honey Bear ~

Enjoy your cup of tea tonight ~
I will join you.
We can toast to the upcoming holiday ~

Tea Cheers ❤

November 2017
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