Wednesday remix – magic sandwich

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This story was originally published in Heartwarmers of Love. The book now sells for less than $2 on Amazon but who cares? I wrote the story ten years ago in honor of the creator of the finest ham sandwiches – mi madre. 

This book did NOT make the best seller list, I think
I might have been the only one who bought it! No problem!

To the simple observer, it may look like two pieces of bread, a tomato and a couple slabs of lunch meat. But to me, sandwiches made by my mother are a masterpiece, almost suitable for framing.

Note the craftmanship

From the time I can remember, I’ve always loved my mom’s sandwiches. When I was a little girl, the only one who could create the ideal ham sandwich was my mommy. I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants, lived overseas and traveled extensively. It’s been proven. The whole world over, there isn’t anybody in this solar system who can make a ham sandwich better than my mom.


Still now, 20 years later, whenever I’m at my mom’s house, if she’s feeling up to it and I’ve timed it just right, she’ll make me a sandwich. We’ll go to the grocery store and I’ll observe her buying the sliced ham. She selects a juicy tomato and scours over the hard rolls searching for the finest one. I’m in awe. How does she magically buy the most delicious, succulent and perfect? They all look the same to me. But never fail, my mom always gets the best!


Back at her house, she nimbly cuts the bread, slices the ripe, red tomato at exactly the right place and delicately places the meat in between. She intuitively adjusts the seasonings, carefully calculates the precise amount of salt and pepper I desire. Masterfully she puts the sandwich together and serves it to me and behold, I am in the presence of culinary greatness.


Had I stood right beside her and done exactly the same steps, I would be able to tell which sandwich my mother made and which was the impostor sandwich. Try as I might, I just can’t make a sandwich like my mom.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who can make this…

Thankfully, part of the genetic code has been passed on to me. As a mother of three sons, I have developed my own speciality. As basic as a mere sandwich may seem, my children have found an even easier food that only their mom can make perfectly – spaghetti. Not the fancy, robust Italian sauce passed down from generations. We’re talking plain spaghetti noodles – the kind you put in boiling water! 


For my boys, it appears that I have been anointed by God to make the world’s best cooked pasta. Mention a spaghetti dinner and the boys dance and prance, it’s a veritable explosion of compliments flying from their lips. 


But there is a caveat to this story. Not all meals reach that high standard of perfection…

My droid alter ego

in my next post, I’ll tell you about some brownies that will live in infamy and I mean that in a bad way!

Floods

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Like all good daughters, I have subscribed a number of MY personal issues onto my mother. Because of my mom, I (fill in the blank)______________. Many of you probably can relate and would admit that the mother/daughter relationship thing can be hard and complicated. Maybe that’s why the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, choose to bless me with three sons! To demonstrate, here is but a small list of the things I have blamed my mother for in the past:


I lack athletic prowess because my mom didn’t stress the value of sports.
I don’t know how to swim because my mom never took me for swimming lessons as a small child.
I am bad with money because my mom didn’t teach me the value of a dollar.

And the list goes on and on…I will stop there as to not further embarrass myself. 

But yesterday, I found myself humbled and blessed. Something that has long been on my “list” needs to be removed.

For decades now I have told people that there are not a lot of photos of me when I was a child. If you and I were in a random conversation and you happened to mention something about pictures of yourself as a kid, I would probably have sighed heavily and told you of my picture woes. (Strum sappy violin music). When I was a girl growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, we had a flood in our basement and it destroyed, among other things, boxes and boxes of pictures. I recall the soggy, blobby paper mess and the dismay I felt in my young girl’s heart as I saw my memories destroyed. Who was to blame for the flood? Well, it honestly didn’t matter, I knew the culprit. I suspect you can guess my prime suspect. Yes, it was my mom. 

This week, following a meeting with my favorite organization consultant, I began the necessary and tedious task of de-cluttering my home. In various closets, possibly in every room there is a box or basket full of pictures. This week I have begun to weed through them, tossing out the bad photos, hanging on to the good ones. Geralin has a theory about pictures which I now claim as my own. She says, “if I don’t look good in the picture, then it goes.” Geralin’s my girl, one of my fab five, as my youngest OS would jest.

I am amazed at the scads of pictures we have EVERYWHERE! The stockpiles of pictures blurred my head as I tossed one photo after another into the trash. It has been freeing to re-claim lost closet space and re-discover sweet pictures of days gone by.

And last night, I believe the Lord healed a part of me because in the frenzied mass of photos, I am finding a lot of pictures of myself. There are many of me as a little girl on random Picture Days, a couple of me walking up the sidewalk for my first day of kindergarten, a few particularly unflattering pics of me blowing out candles on a birthday cake as a pimply teen, you get the idea. 

Oh, dear friends, I have found me. 


My past was not completely destroyed in that basement. There were salvages of my life still preserved, in greater proportion than I ever realized.

And so in the tv room, after everyone was in bed, I held picture after picture of myself in my hands and drifted back to those moments. They are not gone. They are preserved both in these pictures but also within me. Sorting through all the clutter and getting rid of the unnecessary, buried among it all, was Cindy. She hadn’t dissolved away into nothingness. As I make room in my home, I am finding new places in my spirit as well.

I’m learning that I can no longer blame my mom for a lot of things I have done in the past. Honestly, I have been aware of that for about 12 years now since asking Jesus into my heart and looking squarely at my own contrition and culpability. But how immature I have been to blame an act of God like a flood on my poor mother. I mean really. For goodness sake, she had no control over it no matter how much power I think a mama can wield. 

I hesitate for a moment and wonder to myself. Actually, a jab of anxiety wafts over me…what will my OS blame me for? What will be something that they say I should have done differently? Will we just laugh about it or will I carry around grief and guilt. Ew. What salvages of their own shortcomings will they try and attribute to me, their mom who, like my own, is trying the very best she can to make a sweet and wonderful life for them?


That is not something that I can answer. Today I’d rather focus on what I can claim victory over. I found me. I, or rather, remnants of me, weren’t swept away in an unpredictable flood.  And if all the pictures were gone, I now admit it wouldn’t have been my mom’s fault in the first place. 

When we went out for a late-night run to the grocery store to buy dish washing detergent, (doesn’t that sound like a fun outing!?), I decided to release this guilt from her once and for all. She has been staying at my house recovering from surgery on her wrist and a bout of pneumonia. The healing process has been painful and discouraging but last night, I believe both of us got healed in a way we weren’t expecting. We got in the car and I couldn’t wait to tell her my revelation. It wasn’t a gushy moment but I felt a weight off my heart and I noticed she had a look of contentment on her face and it wasn’t because we were going to buy dish washing detergent at 10pm! 
 

Guilt and blame, in all of its forms, are as destructive as a flood. Forgiveness and grace, on the other hand, fellow imperfect mamas of the world, well that can wash over a multitude of sins. 

Hallelujah, grace like rain, washing down on me…


Hmmm

Note to self- Don’t go to the dentist on April Fool’s Day

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I rank going to the dentist right up there with going to the proctologist. Considering I have been to both in the last year (TMI???), I know from whence I speak. 


Today I got three cavities filled. Yay for me! I loathe going to the dentist and have delayed the appointment by two years. My dentist is a qualified and perfectly nice person, it’s just that I avoid anyone doing anything in my mouth nearly at all costs. The drills. The smells. The sounds. Ew

It is not an understatement to say I LOATHE the dentist. Yes, I have written this twice and it might sound redundant. It’s not. It’s called emphasis, people! I’m the kind of patient you don’t want to see on your appointment list. I saw the computer screen and it said I was “high involvement.” That was supposed to mean someone who has three cavities and needs some deeper tooth cleaning but as they learned, I took “high involvement” to a whole new level.

Every time I go to the dentist, I feel it is my duty to inform them how I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don’t want to be there

But my mother has served as my inspiration. She has learned the hard way. Tens of thousands of dollars were poured into trying to save her teeth to no avail. She had nine teeth pulled in the last year. She has a denture on top and a bridge on the bottom. My admiration for her has skyrocketed because of all that she’s been through. I do not want this to happen to me. 

Her “favorite” part was right before Christmas when she had six teeth pulled out all at once while she was sick. The day after the procedure, she was coughing her head off with poorly fitting dentures and a new bridge. She tried valiantly to shove those dentures back up in her raw mouth and spent three and a half days at the hospital with pneumonia. I followed the ambulance to the hospital! I vividly recall her agonizing attempts to cram those babies (dentures) in her mouth while trying not to die. Talk about multi-tasking! Talk about a blog post! OY

Today, as usual, it took a lot of Novacaine and time to adequately numb my mouth. Oh how I detest needles.  I didn’t feel much better even when she stealthily hid the needle just before jamming it into my gums. 

We tried the laughing gas today too. Having tubing going up my head and having prongs in my nostrils isn’t relaxing, btw. I felt like an electric plug which was a new experience for me. Anxiety beset so we readjusted the stupid thing. I’m not sure it worked. I am sure it was expensive. I think I was my dentist’s April Fool’s Day joke. 

Then while driving I started to feel sick. Not sick like a fever. Sick like nauseated. I took my mom to the doctor and ran into the medical office building. After emptying the entire contents of my stomach into the potty and having momentary loss of bladder function, (TMI???) I emerged wanting to write a haiku about the miserable experience.

Here it is…

Dentist, three cavities
Novacaine, nitrous oxide
Barfed misery

I haven’t written a haiku since high school but it seemed like the right thing to do. I have to go back to the dentist tomorrow because I’m having pain when I bite down on things. I feel another haiku bubbling to the surface. Hopefully that will be the only thing. 

I can’t wait!

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The first concert I ever went to was to see Elton John. I wore a multi-colored striped t-shirt that I had made just to look extra hot and brought my camera with fresh flash bulbs because I had to capture the moment. 

When Elton John came on-stage with his fancy glasses and strutted up to the piano, I seriously thought I was going to cry. I couldn’t believe I was at an Elton John concert and well on my way to being a full-fledged, independent woman at around 14 years old.

I also thought I was going to cry at an MC Hammer concert and not because of the guy’s funny pants. I happened to like MC Hammer at that time, thank you very much and I was a mother of two kids at the time and needed a night out with my husband. Let’s just blame that one on hormones. 

Moments, events, concerts, parades move me. I get carried away and overwhelmed. There is an energy and excitement; it’s like something big is going to take place and I’m getting to be a part of it even if it’s as a dorky teenager or a mom. I can’t help myself. 

Next week something very major is going to take place. 
I’m going to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy. 

Sure, I’m going on a scooter with a broken foot and that wasn’t exactly what I anticipated but I’m going to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy.


I haven’t seen my oldest OS since June 30th at West Point. Oh what an emotional day that was for me and thousands of other parents and well-wishers. I even have trouble recalling that day because of its intensity. 
Even though I was completely ambulatory at that time, I confess it was nearly impossible to walk away from the place. I left part of my heart at the United States Military Academy. 

Since June 30th, we’ve only talked with our son for a total of one hour in 6 1/2 weeks. We have received precious letters like manna from heaven but only 60 minutes total of slightly normal conversation. Not complaining but just saying, we have missed him dearly. Just the thought of seeing my child, hugging him, hearing his voice face to face beats any concert or performance I shall ever attend. Just the thought of connecting with Nathan again makes me want to weep with joy. I have ever experienced separation from any of my children for this long. 

But in a week I get to see my son. 
My Soldier. 
My boy…

Like a very wonderful and talented singer once sang (and I was there so I should know), “can’t touch this!” Hammer time next Saturday! 

Phone Call

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Let me offer a big shout out to the cadre, I understand I now have a “fan base.” I’m flattered, nervous, paranoid, gee, thanks… I’m watching every word I say for fear of more push-ups coming a certain NC’s way. 

After a weekend of waiting, we finally got the call from our son. Now I find myself in a foggy, numb state after speaking to him. Time passed so quickly, just 10 minutes of conversation, 600 seconds and poof, it’s over. 


I wished he sounded more happy but I’m glad we got to talk. This is not summer camp where he gets to hang with friends and play archery so I should have expected it. The tone in his voice sounded weary and perhaps a little grouchy. I think I’d feel the same way if I were in his shoes/boots/low-quarters. 

Days of waiting and now I feel blah. When he said, “I have a minute left.” I just kept telling him, “I love you, baby!” because I wanted to make sure I told him that before he had to go. The house is emptier without him, I feel sad in my mama’s heart. 

We tape-recorded the conversation which might sound really cheesy but considering I’ve already listened to it twice, I’m glad we did. My extended family can hear our conversation and I noticed I felt better after my mom heard his voice and tried to discern how he was doing.

I’d appreciate continued prayers for my son and the challenges he has ahead of him, some that are particularly difficult for a mom to even imagine. We are getting Army Strong one way or another and can do all things through Christ who strengthens me/us. 
Picture taken from West Point chapel. Shoes are not mine, they are the Superintendent’s. 

I collect typos

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To the pooper who wrote a really dumb message on my blog- shame on you! So much for that whole honor thing, huh? I thought West Point raised people of integrity, if you are reading my blog again, Mr. Nasty Bitter Guy who claims to have gone to USMA, go call your mom. You mentioned that you don’t even speak to her anymore…you don’t need to write on my blog, just go and fix things with the woman who grunted you out of her body. I can’t imagine her deserving such mistreatment and one day you will regret your actions. Been there, done that, my friend…sounds like an apology from YOU is in order…


and while I’m at it, welcome to the gun show! HA!


Now back to regularly scheduled blog posts…I collect typos. Here is one I found at a deli in Fishkill while we were dropping our son off at West Point. It made me laugh which is more than I can say I did about the stinker who left the blog comment which I have since deleted. I ate a really good portabella mushroom sandwich. They make good typos and sandwiches!


Hope it makes you smile, I thought it was pretty funny!

MOMents of time

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Friday morning the phone rings. When I inquire who is calling, the official sounding man gives his name and then says he’s calling from Washington, DC. My heart drops as I hand the phone to my husband…


Even though my son is in New York, a sick feeling blackened my heart. The phone call was just a guy doing a survey and so my stomach returned to its original location and I started breathing again. This is not a fun feeling.

Today I’m checking my facebook. I check my facebook ALL the time and I check everybody’s status ALL the time. Do you have a facebook? How many friends do you have? Do you like pieces of flair? I LOVE pieces of flair! Sorry, I digress, well I’m checking everybody’s status and I notice that something is different on my son’s facebook. His status has changed since last night. I have no idea how or why or even who did it. To my knowledge he doesn’t have computer access. I have his password and I know I haven’t touched his facebook. I was instructed not to do a thing unless absolutely necessary. So who did? A million questions are buzzing through my head. (Note: as of 9:45 this evening, I have learned that if a facebook status is inactive, it automatically expires. This means Nate is probably just fine – glory!)

When I got his letter over the weekend, I peered at each word he wrote trying to detect even the slightest hidden message. I read the words he put on paper but were there things he wasn’t able to say. You know those things that only a mother can notice. Is he ok? Is he stressed? Is he rushed? Lonely? Sad? Happy? OY!!!

These are the moments, the MOMents when my faith is stretched. I call on my Savior to remind me that our All-Knowing, Omnipresent God is there for my son even when I am not. I have a friend whose husband graduated from USMA and was stationed in Saudi Arabia. I remember her telling me of being fearful of “the call” or “the visit.” Praise the Lord she never experienced these things but now I get it. Even a week into our 47 month experience at West Point, I can better empathize with many military things.  

My DH and I have raised a strong and resilient young man and we serve a mighty God.  
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 

This is a special bag I bought at West Point. I love how this bag has all the names of new cadets printed on it, including my son!