It’s Funny about Grief…

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I have my Bachelors degree in Accounting, my Masters degree in Sport Administration and my PhD in Greif.

The first two I earned with hard work and money at an accredited institution of higher learning. The last I earned through life, no formal classroom training required.

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s funny about grief…

To say you never get over the death of a loved one is true on the facts only. Of course you never get over the loss, how could you? But you do learn eventually how to deal with it and incorporate it into a full and happy life.

They say happiness is a choice, anyway, right? And I completely agree with that statement. We choose how we view any situation and equally, how we are going to react.

Each loss is different, as well. I have lost a child, parent, sibling and grandparent in that order. On its face that’s messed up, if you ask me. Leave it to me to start big…

It’s funny about grief…

We both lost our son…same person…completely different approach.

But there is no right and no wrong way to feel and react (except if you harm yourself) and I think it is actually brave to get help from someone who does not know you and is trained to guide you through the labyrinth of emotion.

It’s funny about grief…

For as many times as I have experienced it I have never really gotten good at it. And, I think that is good.

Grief, for me, starts with a light blocking Kevlar blanket covering me and shielding me from the piercing cuts of sadness that permeate from the outside. Under its cover I can safely deny the depth of emotion and reality in front of me. You are never actually protected but the impenetrable veneer gives me at least the pretense of safety.

Then the Kevlar makes me hot and sweaty and I can barely catch my breath. Its presence makes me remember the reason for its existence and I fall into a deep depression, often removing myself from any type of social situation which would make me uncomfortable…which would be all of them.

Then, eventually the Kevlar is gone and a heavy wool blanket takes its place, still covering me with heavy protection all the while allowing at least a glimmer of light. The wool is itchy and makes me angry. And, I’m angry with everything.

A clerk wishes me a nice day and I get angry. How can I have a nice day?

A friend is expecting a child and I have to go to a baby shower to celebrate. But how?

A father is teaching a child how to ride a bike and I am filled with rage. How can life be simply going on?

It’s funny about grief…

The sun comes up every day. And, it sets every evening. All around the world life is going on.

Then, one day, I notice I am bouncing down the stairs. When did that happen?

I notice I wish the clerk a happy day in return.

I look forward to shopping for baby things and showering the expectant mother with love and best wishes.

I appreciate the simplicity of a father teaching a child how to ride a bike and feel the warmth reaching my heart.

It’s funny about grief…

Then, on an ordinary day, many years later,

I hear Mike and the Mechanics sing “All I Need is a Miracle” while driving and burst into tear laden singing at the top of my lungs.

“All I need is a miracle…all I need is you.” In context I know it’s a love song (or a lost love song) but in my own context it represented my greatest hope for a miracle which was not to come.

I am singing so violently that people can not only hear me through the sealed car but start to look with a mixture of worry and fear.

But then…

It’s funny about grief…

It’s because as quickly as the song enveloped me with sadness and memory, the vicious emotion passes and the moment of malaise is over. I dry my tears, brush off and move on.

If I have learned anything these past 25 years it is to allow myself the luxury of these strong emotions because when I actually feel them, feel the grips of despair, I know they are as fleeting as the shape of a cloud on a windy day.

Eventually, if you get past the denial, get help for the depression and allow the anger to dissipate into acceptance and acknowledgement, you will feel happy again. Even that bouncy happy that fills your heart with joy. Choose to be happy. I know you can do it.

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Birthday Treats and Always Being A Mom

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This guy is 22 today. The beanie hat has been replaced by a briefcase but he did have a ride in the subway today…to work.

Even 10 years ago I would have baked a treat and gone to school with fresh pressed cider from a local farm and shared with his class. One year, when my grandmother passed away my husband did treat duty. Otherwise it was a tradition I enjoyed without reserve.

Birthday cakes were homemade in our house growing up and we did the same for our kids. Every year we would get their feedback and create the treat of choice. We made a big deal of preparing and packaging the confections and it made their birthday even more special.

Perhaps the best compliment my sister ever received from my foodie niece came a few years back when one of her classmates celebrated her birthday at school.

My sister asked her what the treats were.

“Oh, they were ok. Cupcakes.”

My sister reminded her she loved cupcakes and she responded:

“But Mommy, they were from the STORE!”

Happy birthday to my 22 year old baby. Oh what I wouldn’t give to be able to visit your client this afternoon with some freshly pressed Niagara County cider and homemade brownies.

Have a yummy (birth)day!

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Cerebral Palsy: We Fear What We Don’t Know

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Two days after my son Tommy was born we learned he had a serious congenital heart defect. Prior to his diagnosis he had what a young British intern described to my husband as “a bit of a fit.” It was his first seizure and what could have been called a stroke in an adult.

We believe that was his traumatic brain injury that caused his cerebral palsy.

Did you know that cerebral palsy is NOT a disease? You can’t catch it.

What is cerebral palsy (CP)? Cerebral palsy, also referred to as CP, is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. Thus, these disorders are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. Instead, faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain disrupt the brain’s ability to adequately control movement and posture.

“Cerebral” refers to the brain and “palsy” to muscle weakness/poor control. Cerebral palsy itself is not progressive (i.e. brain damage does not get worse); however, secondary conditions, such as muscle spasticity, can develop which may get better over time, get worse, or remain the same. Cerebral palsy is not communicable. It is not a disease and should not be referred to as such. Although cerebral palsy is not “curable” in the accepted sense, training and therapy can help improve function.

Tommy didn’t progress physically like other kids but since he was my first child and had such a rough beginning we just thought he was delayed. When he was 14 months old, even after we brought him back to Philadelphia for his one year follow-up at CHOP and his heart got a “looking good” by his cardiologist, he had a massive seizure. Once he was stabilized he was brought to Buffalo Women’s and Children’s Hospital he was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and spastic diplegia.

Did I know spastic diplegia was a form of cerebral palsy? Nope, I did not. Did I know what CP was? Apparently nope, I did not know about that, either. We told our parents and tried hard to explain it to them, too. When it was time to tell my grandmother my mother suggested I actually use the term spastic diplegia rather than CP because she would be afraid of the term CP.

Can cerebral palsy be treated? “Management” is a better word than “treatment.” Management consists of helping the child achieve maximum potential in growth and development. This should be started as early as possible with identification of the very young child who may have a developmental brain disorder. A management program can then be started promptly wherein programs, physicians, therapists, educators, nurses, social workers, and other professionals assist the family as well as the child. Certain medications, surgery, and braces may be used to improve nerve and muscle coordination and prevent or minimize dysfunction.

As individuals mature, they may require support services such as personal assistance services, continuing therapy, educational and vocational training, independent living services, counseling, transportation, recreation/leisure programs, and employment opportunities, all essential to the developing adult. People with cerebral palsy can go to school, have jobs, get married, raise families, and live in homes of their own. Most of all people with cerebral palsy need the opportunity for independence and full inclusion in our society.

We are often afraid of what we don’t know.

Tonight I am attending Niagara Cerebral Palsy‘s Annual Awards Gala. Since Tommy’s death my husband and I sponsor an award given to someone at Niagara Children ETC who lives the mission and shares it with all the students. it is my annual opportunity to thank them for the profound impact the school had on our family and on all of those they serve.

NCP is just another example of why my glass is half full!

Have a yummy and inspired day!

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Quick Bite: Betty’s

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Betty’s Virginia Street, Buffalo, NY

They promised “good food just for you” and they delivered. This is my post airport goodbye meal and Betty even added cheddar to my basic breakfast ($5.25). The 3 seed bread with raisins and walnuts is just wonderful. Thanks Betty!

Zoom Zoom…Time Flies!

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Today’s musings are not about being a foodie but just about being Jude. It’s about that sobering realization that we raise our children to leave us.

20120803-083444.jpgThis picture of my son wearing an FAO Schwartz beanie hat was taken about 15 years ago, in a 5th Avenue subway station. I’d say it was a simpler time but I think we reframe and reprint memories. I was likely just as frantic then as I am today…yet all I remember is the sweet exuberance of a bright child trying to learn everything he could and pack it into a day with an 8:30 pm bedtime.

20120803-084122.jpgI’ll bet when my mom sees this picture she won’t remember how stressful her life was at the time this picture was taken. Her husband was working 80+ hours a week, striking out on his own when I was born, opening a used car lot with my uncle while she was trying to take care of two children (my sister did not come along for another 2 1/2 years). It’s funny how we understand our parents so much more as we get older ourselves.

I said something to her the other day and we both had a big belly crunching tear evoking laugh. I said “Oh my God, Ma, Anthony is actually moving away from home!” She looked at me with the same smirk she used to ask me to wipe off my face and said “Imagine that! A child moving away from home. I’ll bet that’s never been done before!” Yeah. Ok. Point taken.

20120803-090953.jpgHe turned 21 last year. Zoom zoom. He was just six. Yesterday he signed a lease on an apartment in NYC.

20120803-091953.jpgI guess the bottom line is, we raise our children to leave us.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on letting go…Have a yummy weekend20120803-092249.jpgJudeTheFoodie.com

Musings While Making Sauce

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My son’s Facebook status: “there is nothing in the world like waking up to the smell of sauce already cooking. I love being Italian“.

It’s many hours and many hand washings later and I can still smell what I cooked all over my hands. And, that’s not a bad thing!

I am using the last of the San Marzano tomatoes I canned last fall. I guess I will need to do more this year!

The herb garden is one of the stars of the show. I love seeing the green of the parsley in my meatballs.

20120722-162406.jpgI’m very loyal. I think Contadina makes a great, consistent product. When I don’t have my own tomatoes I always use Contadina.

20120722-162517.jpgI remember as a girl watching my mother make meatballs. She would shiver with how cold the meat was. Sometimes she would ask me to roll up her sleeves (I learned about food safely as a young foodie!).

20120722-162652.jpgThis bowl of olive oil and 1/4 cup measure are my secret weapons while making meatballs. With the eggs, cheese, breadcrumbs and spices I get ten 1/4 cup meatballs per pound of ground meat. It is exceedingly predictable so planning is easy and they cook evenly when they are the same size.

20120722-162940.jpgHere are those little soldiers, all lined up in a row. The secret here is the pork fat and juice on the bottom of the foil lined pan. Before I even chop an onion or pepper I fire up my broiler, line my heavy 13″ x 9″ baking pan and cook my pork. I used pork shoulder and ribs today. They were big so I cut each into three pieces.

20120722-163256.jpgYup, that’s nutmeg. It adds a subtle flavor that no one can recognize.

20120722-211022.jpgThere are six more just like it in the freezer. These two are going to friends.

Have a yummy day! JudetheFoodie.com

Even Angels Need Birthday Cake

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Things I learned the “Summer of 1984”

Even angels need birthday cake.

(Recipe included http://judethefoodie.com/2012/07/02/rich-golden-cake/)

Just because he only got three cakes does not mean we should stop celebrating that he was born!

 Our overuse of the word awesome has actually devalued it.

Incorrect use: Oh wow, this movie is awesome!

CORRECT USE: It’s so awesome that she can operate on a babie’s heart, the size of a walnut!

Incorrect use: You got us tickets to the game? Awesome!

CORRECT USE: He’s breathing on his own? Awesome!

Today is the best day I’ll ever have.

There are no guarantees so make the best of every day.

Karel Soucek is one crazy dude.

 http://www.infoniagara.com/niagaradaredevils/karelsoucek.aspx  Tom came into the recovery room at Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital and told me this guy went over the falls and lived. Six months later tries to jump into a ten foot barrel in the Houston Astrodome and hits the side. He was no Nik Wallenda!

 Pediatric Cardiologists and Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeons are two different specialties.

I had no idea that first you see a cardiologist who performs the diagnostics then you see the surgeon (who often has the bedside manner of a brick).

McDonalds has great coffee.

In the lobby of CHOP (http://www.chop.edu/ Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) there was a McDonalds. We got a coffee and cinnamon rolls every day. Never underestimate the power of good coffee.

 If a surgeon offers to try the newest surgery on your child…run, don’t walk to the surgeon who does.

The surgeon at the time at Buffalo Children’s Hospital had never done the surgery called the switch. In fact, it had only been performed fewer than two dozen times. He said he’d try.

Mortality rates become a sobering statistic when you are talking about state of the art medical intervention.

We said “no thank you” and became the first family to take our child away from Buffalo for open heart surgery. I guess all legacies come to an end.

Sometimes a hole in your heart is a good thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashkind_balloon_atrial_septostomy Tommy’s pediatric cardiologist turned out to be a world renowned doctor. My sister-in-law Mary had not been at CHOP for a month when Tommy was born. When his diagnosis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposition_of_the_great_vessels) was made she went directly to Dr. Rashkind’s office and is singularly responsible for having him take her nephew on as a patient.

In the end, faith is all we have.

Things are often not what they seem.

I saw a man tossing a little boy up in the air in an enjoining waiting room and felt a pang of jealousy. My husband reminded me there was likely a very serious reason why those two should be in that room. Reframe: thank God they had that playful time together.

The sound of laughter in a hospital is not at all strange.

Superheroes wear masks…and scrubs.

When it’s too hard to pray, too hard to think beyond the next moment, I discovered there are countless and nameless people who are doing the praying for you.

July 2, 1984 – Happy birthday Tommy III – forever young…