When I was in college, I decided to conquer my fear of drowning by getting certified in scuba diving. In retrospect, I really had no business being there, but I guess that’s what your twenties is for.
At one point during the training, you have to take your mask entirely off and then get it back on. No biggie, right? I was not a water person and had no idea what was going to happen. When I removed it from my face, my nose filled with water and I found I couldn’t inhale through my regulator. My throat was just closed up.
Of course, I panicked. My instinct was to leap up to the top of the pool as quickly as possible and grab a breath of air, but I forced myself to take a moment, realize the problem, and plug my nose so I could get the mask back on and pass the test. But I never forgot the sheer terror of that first moment when your body is screaming at you, “You’re DROWNING you fool! Fly!”
Lots of diving safety training is about how to get safely to the surface when the poop hits the fan, and one of the most important tenets is to work your way slowly and methodically through your problem so you can surface slowly. Running out of oxygen at depth is a big one. If you come up from the depths too quickly, you risk the bends- when dissolved gases turn into bubbles inside your body as the pressure changes. It’s Not A Good Thing. Remaining calm in a trying moment a good skill to have not just in diving, but in life.
Of all the scary things I have been through since then, the near-misses in the car or the dropped pedicles on a fat dog spay, none hit me with that same physical sense of drowning until one year ago, when I got the news out of the blue that my mother had a brain tumor. I was more than scared. I was terrified. I felt like someone had dropped a weight directly on my lap and plunged me down to the bottom of the ocean.
I get why people tend to freeze, or run in circles when things go haywire. The adrenaline does weird things to your body, and it takes real conscious effort to talk yourself off the ledge. I get now why people flip tables and throw things and run off to the Yukon when it gets to be too much, but of course all that happens when the dust settles is you’re left with a new mess to deal with.
When my mother got sick, that temptation to rush to the surface took the form of the blind panic we get when a loved one is facing death: DO EVERYTHING! Biopsy it now! Chemo! Nuke it! GOGOGOGOGOGOGO. It would have been a mistake.
When she died, I held my breath and prayed my father wouldn’t sell the house immediately and disappear to the woods of Maine (he didn’t.) It would have been a mistake.
It’s been a year of slow surfacing, realizing that like many toxic substances in your body, some types of grief simply need to leach out with time. You really can’t come up before you’re ready.
Last year I gave a talk on mourning customs around the world, and I was struck by the fact that so many belief systems have a structure and framework for mourning, but Christianity, the predominant belief system many of us are most familiar with, has none. In Judaism, the mourning period is divided into the first seven days, the first 30, and the first year. The rules about what you should and should not do during each period serves to protect the grieving heart and also give permission to re-enter the new normal of their life. It’s like a decompression chart for death. Unintentionally I’ve been bobbing along on the same timeframe, getting guidance where I can.
In January, my sister surprised us with the happy news that she decided to get married earlier that day to her long-time partner and soulmate. My mom loved this guy and I knew two things: 1. She would be thrilled; and 2. She would find a way to give them a cake, because that is what my mom did.
My aunt was planning her yearly trip to my sister’s hometown of Vegas right around Easter, and sensing the same need as I did for some sort of event, managed to arrange a surprise get-together of the family this last weekend, complete with- of course- a wedding cake. You surprise us with a marriage, we surprise you with a reception. It’s what Mom would have done.
As we sat together in my cousin’s living room, laughing and sniffling, I looked around and realized this was the first time we had all gathered since my mother’s memorial service. And right then, as if an invisible hand swept by and grabbed me by the shoulders, I realized I had just popped to the surface.
There’s such a sense of relief to that first intake of air, and in that moment, as the tension you forgot was there leaches out of your muscles, nothing else matters. The sky looks different, time has passed, but you’re here, you’re still here, and sometimes, that alone is enough.
Photo courtesy Judy Wright. A public unveiling of an oil painting memorializing Jethro, the Canton Police Department K-9 officer killed in the line of duty in January, was held on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. in the Canton Museum of Art’s Wilkof Courtyard. The presentation was made to Jethro’s partner, Officer Ryan Davis, […]
As my regular readers know, I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15. That was a long time ago (I’ll just say I’ve now been a veg quite a bit longer than I wasn’t), so I’m pretty used to not eating meat. It’s easy to find alternatives at the grocery store and restaurants, so it doesn’t feel like a challenge for me. What has felt like a challenge, however, has been eating vegan and/or plant-based – especially when it comes to dairy. While I’m not a vegan, I am well aware of the health and environmental benefits of choosing a plant-based diet, and I try to incorporate plant-based foods into every meal. But man, it is freaking hard for me to give up dairy. Especially cheese. There are just way too many dishes I love that include cheese (I’m talking to you pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches). I am also kind of famous (at least in my own mind) for the cheese-filled trays I bring to parties and serve at my own gatherings. But I’ve found a solution you guys. Even those of you who are die-hard dairy (and even meat) fans will love it as much as I do. And I’m not only going to share said solution with you, I’m going to share the components of my soon-to-be-famous (again, in my own mind) Melissa’s Plant-Based Party Tray that has officially replaced the now outdated Melissa’s Party Tray. Are you excited yet?
First, let’s chat about the solution to my inability to give up cheese. It’s called the Daiya Farmhouse Block. And it is so good. Now, I was a vegan many years ago, for an entire year, and I tried all sorts of vegan and plant-based “cheeses” that just did not do it for me. In fact, while I never had a hard time finding meat replacements, dairy replacements ended up being my downfall, and I eventually hopped off the plant-based wagon. If only Daiya had been available to me at the time, I might still be strolling merrily along the all-plant-based path. The Farmhouse Blocks come in four varieties: Jalapeño Havarti Style (my favorite), Medium Cheddar Style, Monterey Jack Style, and Smoked Gouda Style. Not only do they look and taste like the real thing, they can be used exactly like the real thing too – you can cube them, slice them, or shred them, and you can eat them cold or melted (they’re killer in plant-based grilled cheeses too, but I’ll share that recipe for another post). And they’re the perfect replacement for the cheese I used to use in my party trays.
THE MOST DELICIOUS PLANT-BASED PARTY TRAY EVER
Daiya Jalapeño Havarti Style Farmhouse Block
Daiya Medium Cheddar Style Farmhouse Block
Daiya Smoked Gouda Style Farmhouse Block
1-2 organic Fuji apples
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup kalamata olives
Handful of organic dried apricot (you can also use raisins or dried cranberries)
2-3 plant-based cracker or crisp varieties of your choice
Wash apples and grapes. Slice apples. Slice and/or cube some of each variety of Daiya Farmhouse Block. Arrange all of the ingredients on a large tray or wood cutting board. Watch people devour and comment on how they can’t believe everything they’re joyfully consuming is plant-based. Bow or curtsy.
I’ve actually been using Daiya’s Farmhouse Blocks in all sorts of dishes lately and am genuinely impressed with how delicious they are. My two year old daughter and meat-loving husband are huge fans too. Daiya actually makes a whole line of plant-based dairy alternatives – from Cream Cheese Style Spreads to a Greek Yogurt Alternatives, to Dairy-free Dressings and their staple cheeses. And they are all totally free of lactose, soy, gluten, eggs, dairy, rice, peanuts, so they’re great for those with food allergies or lactose intolerance as well. I personally love the fact that the ingredients can all be pronounced and understood as well (lack of natural dairy alternatives was a big issue when I was vegan), and that they contain no hormones, antibiotics, or anything artificial. I’m excited to incorporate their whole line into my recipes and daily diet.
I hope you make this party tray and that you (and your guests!) love it as much as we do. If you have other plant-based party tray ideas, I’d love to hear them. And for my fellow fans of Daiya products, pretty please share your recipes in the comment or via email!
This post is in collaboration with Daiya. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.
How utterly gorgeous is this 3 month old Australian Shepherd! She’s called Luna and lives in Gorbio village – love her!
He looks a bit like a strange dachshund, doesn’t he but in fact he’s a Bassett des Alpes (also called a Alpine Dachsbracke) The breed originates from Austria and is used to hunt wild boar and also to find wounded animals and this is exactly what he does in Gorbio with his owner.