Freckles & Perspective

She hunches over, furiously scribbling on the paper taped to the floor. It is there to catch excess paint from the ceiling, but the men have packed up for the day, and I see no harm in decorating the barely marred surface.

“Why not draw on the floor?” I had proposed when her tiny body got antsy after dinner and before bath.

I’m not sure any idea has ever sounded better. “I’m going to draw Daddy!” She proclaimed proudly. “He’s one hundred handsome,” Her voice tapers as she doodles and day dreams about the first man to steal her heart.

Moments pass, and I peer over her shoulder to see her work. Daddy’s rectangular body isn’t accurate, but it sure is adorable.

“Wow, great job,” I encourage her.

She smiles, “Thanks. Oh! I almost forgot.” The cap of the pink marker raps against her lips as she ponders aloud, “Does Daddy have freckles?”

“A couple, sure, but not too many,” I reply.

Chock full of gumption, she retorts, “Well, this is my drawing and I like making freckles. So, he’s gonna have a lot.”

Her arm works quickly as her marker dots the paper, and I cannot help but promote her artistic spirit, “There’s no arguing with that logic.”

“Don’t worry,” she adds, “I won’t give him as many freckles as you. You’ve got one million freckles.”

“True,” I once again agree.

“But, Savta Dasi (the Hebrew word for grandmother combined with my mom’s nickname) had INFINITY freckles. More freckles than anyone on the planet!” I watch her tiny face brighten as her reflections revive my mother’s memory. A silly grin spreads across my face.

In the midst of my grief, I have found my greatest sadness over memories Mom and I never got to make. I suppose that’s the biggest pain in all grief: time lost.

But, then life has this beautiful way of reminding you (even in conversations about freckles) that your ultimate merit is not found in how long you live, but how long your your sweet memory persists. For Mom will be gone eleven years this September, and my daughter only turned five in June.

It is moments like these that surely define our lives. That remind us it is less about how long we live, and more about the weight of our impact on the world. 💓

Fresh is Best

I recently found myself amidst a very stale routine. After spending the day doing various errands or going to classes with my son, I would pick up my daughter from school and allow her to plop onto the couch the second we got home. She would remain there for quite some time while I tended to her brother, cooked dinner, and waited for Daddy to get home. Of course, she’d take bathroom breaks and occasional toy breaks, but television had become her main source of entertainment.

Then, at the beginning of May, I ran through my daughter’s school papers and noticed that the monthly lessons would be devoted to learning about and growing plants. After her first day of garden-centric lessons, I watched her large eyes glow while she regaled me with what she had learned at school that day. She was physically within the confines of her car seat, but in her mind she was tending to a beautiful garden with her newly green thumb.

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So, instead of heading home to our big, old couch, we went straight to a local hardware store to buy some seeds and plants.  Charlotte picked out pots and apparatus galore – she was thinking big. I soon realized I’d have to hit up the internet for more kid-friendly gardening solutions than our tiny, local hardware store. On to Amazon and E-bay! Before I knew it, my pre-school aged daughter was planning dinners she’d make with the foods she wanted to grow. We went a little crazy, and decided we’d have to upgrade some of our plans. I ended up buying her (and I) early birthday presents: matching kitchen knives (okay, so NOT matching, but in her almost four year old mind, she’s got legit knives now: Mommy’s Knives // Kids’ Knives ). For anyone who has a little one that’s interested in cooking, these ^ kids’ knives are a MUST. #mommyisinheaven

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Since then, our new daily post-school routine has been to go outside and water. Then we harvest the freshest ingredients right off of the vine, and bring them inside to include them in our dinner. For now, we’re only working with homegrown herbs. But, soon enough, Charlotte will see the fruits of her labor (or mostly veggies, rather), and have tons of healthy, fresh foods to choose from every afternoon. Quite obviously, a much healthier habit than gluing her tush to the couch and her eyes to the TV.

With that said, the first recipe we’re sharing from our garden is a delicious, light take on Eggplant Parmesan. The tomatoes and basil were harvested from our backyard, but the organic eggplant and mozzarella were both sourced locally.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 eggplant (sliced into steaks around 1/4″ thick)

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes, sliced in quarters

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 ball of high moisture mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cloves of garlic, minced

White wine vinegar

Olive oil

1 sprig of lemon basil

Italian seasonings (either prepared mix, or dry oregano/thyme/basil/sage mixture)

Salt & Pepper

Directions

Mince garlic. Slice eggplant into steaks, toss in olive oil & white wine vinegar to coat. Add as much salt and pepper as you prefer, as well as half the garlic. Chop tomatoes and onions, toss in a bag with olive oil, white wine, dry oregano, second half of garlic, and salt/pepper. Allow both mixtures to marinade in the refrigerator (quickest meal prep ever)!

When you’re ready to bake, lay eggplant steaks in single layer on a roasting pan. Bake them in the oven at 450 for 25 minutes, then take them out and top them with the tomato/onion mixture and (one to) two slices of mozzarella cheese. Lower the oven temperature to 425 and make for twenty more minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. To serve, place one steak on top of the other, top with basil leaves, and enjoy!

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Let’s Make a Deal

*As Seen in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Miracles*


“There’s a story behind everything… but behind all your stories is always your mother’s
story…because hers is where yours begins.”
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day


      “You know, your aunt was always jealous I was picked that day,” my mother would begin. A smile would spread across her face, ever the competitive little sister. “I was no more than twenty-one, and I had on the cutest bunny costume!” Her face would shine even brighter. “I made it myself, you know. I even had a tail. That day I won a year’s supply of Reynolds Wrap and Super Glue.”


She was speaking of her early 1970s appearance on the ever popular Let’s Make a Deal. This tale was one of her favorite memories of all time, and I had heard it throughout my childhood far too many times to count. I never minded though; I loved to see her smile so radiantly.


It was now early October, five years and one week since I had last seen my mother smile. As I often did around that time of year, I spent much of my time reminiscing and flipping through family photos. This year in particular though, I desperately missed seeing her face light up and hearing the heartiness of her laughter. For the billionth time, I searched for family videos, but nothing new surfaced. My mother had hated to set foot in front of a still camera, let alone allow herself to be videotaped.


As I was flipping through a scrapbook I had just applied the finishing touches to, it dawned on me. I could search the web for old Let’s Make a Deal clips. I mean, there are stranger things on YouTube, right? I grabbed my iPad and swiftly typed in “1970s Let’s Make a Deal clips.” Hundreds of options popped up, mostly boasting 1970s cars (which I knew my mother had definitely not won). But one bold blue line caught my eye.


Let’s Make a Deal Tickets.” Tickets? Huh? I didn’t know they were still filming.


I clicked the link and found information for tapings in the Los Angeles area. I read through, and as the moments ticked by, I grew giddy and excited. Tickets! I entered my information, requesting tickets for a date a few weeks from then. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband when he got home!


A few hours later, as Danny and I were sitting down for dinner, I heard my phone ping, alerting me that I had received an e-mail. I would usually disregard the noise during dinnertime, but for some reason I was drawn to the phone. I picked it up, and immediately saw the subject line, “Let’s Make a Deal Tickets for Friday!” Friday? Tomorrow? Tomorrow! I checked my Google schedule and lo and behold, I had the day off.

“Babe, Let’s Make a Deal, tomorrow! Let’s make it happen!” I shouted.


“What?” he called from the kitchen. “I wish! I have to work. Are you serious?” I had told him about my previous search and he was as excited as I had been.

      I forgot all about dinner and ran upstairs, searching for my newly acquired Halloween costume that would have to work for the next day. I slipped it on and looked in the mirror, finishing off my rather convincing pirate getup with an “Arrrrrg!” 

      “Verrry nice,” Danny said, coming up behind me. He spun me around and hugged me. He held me gingerly for a minute and then said, “Something tells me your mom is responsible for this. I know it in my heart. Just you watch, you’re gonna win. I know it.”


The next morning found me standing on the back lot of the studio, waiting in line, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by a gorilla and a Greek goddess. There was nowhere else I’d rather have been. In what felt like no time at all, we were herded into our seats and the cameras were rolling. The music, the people, the lights—it was beyond overwhelming, in the best possible way!


Everyone was encouraged to dance, and that we did. I moved with the music and waited for Wayne Brady to make his debut for the day. Within moments he appeared, and after some more silly moves, he quieted us down and got us into our seats.

      “Alright, who’s ready for our first game?” he asked after his hilarious introduction. Of course, we all screamed our heads off. Pick me, pick me!


“Alright, you,” he said, pointing to a brunette woman dressed in bright yellow.


“And… you!” he shouted, pointing at me. Me? Me!

      I ran down the steps to join the two of them on stage. My ears were ringing, my face was flushed, and my heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest.

      “… you got it?” Wayne asked. I snapped back to reality. My head may have been nodding up and down, but I sure didn’t catch the rules. Everything was going so fast. “Go ahead, which door would you like?” he asked, facing my opponent.


“Door number one!” she replied enthusiastically.


“Alright, Amy, that leaves you with door number two,” he explained to me. Thankfully I now had some idea what was going on.


“Now, I’m going to offer you five hundred dollars for your doors, but you both must decide to sell or stay, even though you are ending up with different doors.”


‘Okay, I’m getting it now,’ I thought.

We looked at each other and decided to stay
right where we were. “We’re not selling!”

       He offered us more money, but we weren’t interested. Give us our doors! Wayne revealed my partner’s door. Behind it was a… ZONK! A cactus-shaped something or other, who knows? What was important was that was not my door! She took a seat, which left Wayne and me all alone.

     “Amy, how are you feeling?” he asked me.
“I’m feeling great, how about yourself?” I quipped.


“I’m wonderful. I’m just hoping to give you something amazing like a brand new
car.”

He smiled.


“I hope so too. I’m going to keep the door. Can I keep the door?”


“Well, you have to,” he paused, laughing.

      I blushed, but then I saw an opportunity. “You know, my mom was on this show almost forty years ago, and today I know she’s with me, watching from up above. Thanks Mom.”

Tears filled my eyes and the back of my throat. I choked on my words and Wayne continued seamlessly.


“I’m sure she is. Now, do you want to see what’s waiting for you behind door
number two?”


“Yes!” I exclaimed.


“It’s a… brand new car!”

       My heart stopped. Or did it speed up? I’m not sure what happened. All I know is that my knees turned to jelly, yet still they helped deliver me into the driver’s seat of my brand new Honda Fit. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, thanking the powers that be, and most especially my mother. I may not have seen her smile or heard her laugh that day, but I sure do know she was doing both in the purest and happiest of ways.