Monday, March 18, 2019

Music Mantra Monday ~ Remembering With Tears In Heaven

Welcome to our Monday segment! It's a bit later than usual but at least I'm getting it out. :)

I had an entirely different focus for today's post, but I think I'll save that for tomorrow. Just as I sat down to research songs for my original idea, my aunt texted me reminding me that my favorite Uncle's Birthday was today. I reached for the phone for our usual Birthday jab call then remembered...he isn't with me anymore.

My Uncle Craig passed away in September 2017. I barely recall hearing the news, but I will never forget the impact the news had on me. I literally dropped to my knees and sobbed, "No! Not Uncle Craig!" as my aunt comforted me from a distance. Of all the losses I've endured in my lifetime, his will be one I will never completely get over.

He was more than 'just an Uncle' to me, and I was more than 'just a niece' to him. We had that special bond you don't get with many people where you just knew when the other person needed you. I don't remember a time in my life when he wasn't there for me. He was my greatest supporter and ally. I used to kid with him how I should have hired him to help me with book promotion. He was the first person I'd call when I had good news, when I needed advice on something difficult I was going through or when I just needed a little pep talk. He made sure I always stayed on the path I needed to be on and whenever I'd veer off a bit, he'd only let me go so far down before reaching out to guide me back. He made me laugh, he consoled me in tough times and gave me some of the best life advice I've ever been given. Most importantly, he constantly reminded me that my existence in this world and my contributions to it mattered...I mattered, even when I didn't believe that myself.

I talked to him the day before he passed away. He didn't sound right. I knew something was wrong, but he joked and kept the subject away from him. Then he said something that didn't register at the time: "Keep moving, Tammer. You always do best when you keep moving. And don't forget that even though I'm a few miles away, I still got your back. Watch for those bluebirds." (That's a whole other short story...coming very soon.) Then he told me that he loved me and he'd talk to me soon.

That was it.

As hard as today is, I'm okay. Even though I can't give him his Birthday jab call, I know he's still right there waiting for it.

This song is for you, Uncle Craig.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Writing Prompt Saturday - Writing Through Loss

Before we delve into today's post, I want to take the time to apologize for us not being as active as we usually are. As I've said a few times here on the blog, sometimes life throws us curveballs that require our attention and focus a lot more than even our most treasured activities. Curveballs need to be dealt with when they come your way otherwise they become too close to avoid any longer. And those treasured activities will always be there waiting to be picked up again when the view is clearer.

And that's where I am now.

I thought we'd tackle an area that many people are either too afraid to venture into, or aren't quite sure how to tread in it. Today we're going to talk about writing through loss. I've ventured into this, generally, a couple of times over the years, but recent events have shoved me into seeing a need to bring it up again. I won't venture too far into the loss of a child for this post because that is, I feel, an entirely different level of loss that should be discussed separately. And even though there are many different forms of loss, many different things we grieve for, this post's focus is going to be on losing a loved one.

Probably the most painful and everlasting form of loss is that of a loved one. That person could be a lifelong friend, a partner in life, a child, a relative, even a general acquaintance who added something special to your life. Obviously, the level of grief felt will depend greatly on the relationship with that person, the memories you hold dear of them and the circumstances surrounding their absence. It doesn't matter how that person left us or what the relationship status was, the empty space left behind can be too much for some of us to bear. It's at this point where many people turn to darker ways to cope with their feelings of loss, believing those things will take away the pain more effectively. In this state of mind, feeling nothing at all is better than feeling what those things are trying to cover. Unfortunately, the harder one tries to suffocate those feelings screaming to be heard, the darker things become. And that is a very unhealthy place to stay.

I've experienced loss on several levels and each time I had to face it, I shoved it down. Each loss I chose to ignore was like a brick added to the steel strength wall I built around myself that no one was allowed to enter. The greatest loss I experienced was losing those precious few who refused to leave me alone inside my wall. The pinch of people I actually believed when they told me they loved me, who I believed cared about me and what happened to me and who accepted me for who I was and never once judged me for what I'd gone through. Believe me when I say that for a person who grew up with enormous mistrust in others, and clung to those very special few I allowed near me, losing them was more than I thought I could deal with. How could I continue without the people who offered me the only security I'd ever felt? How on earth was I expected to say goodbye to the only individuals who gave me the gift of unconditional love and understanding I didn't believe or accept from anyone else?

This is a place many of us who experience loss get stuck in. We're told to 'talk it out' or 'work through those feelings'. But what if the words don't come that easily? What if you are a person who can't verbalize what your mind is saying? I turn to two things, usually at the same time: music and writing.

When you write, you can express those feelings in any style you want and in any way you feel most comfortable. You don't have to worry if your mouth can't form the words that are crying out in your heart or head. Allow the words to flow through your fingers. Express your anger, your deepest sorrow, your fondest memories or the numbing pain that can't come out any other way. It doesn't have to make sense or mean anything to anyone else because you are writing only for you...unless you choose to share it with others. And maybe...just maybe...being able to get whatever emotions you keep hidden or smothered out, you may feel you can go down the path of healing that has been waiting for you.

That's why I write about the power of writing and of music often here on the blog. It may not work for everyone, but it has saved me many times over my life and continues to do so. So, today, if you're going through loss yourself or you are trying to help another deal with their own, write about it. It can be a letter, a journal entry, a short story or just a paragraph of rambling. Through writing - a raw, honest form of expression - healing can have a chance to sprout.

How can we go on after the loss of a loved one? By doing just that. Going on...moving that person would have wanted us to.

May you find the courage to face your own healing path today. And allow your writing to guide you there.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Music Mantra Monday ~ Wiping Monday Fuzzies With The Beatles

Welcome to our Monday segment.

Well, it's been too long since I've had my Beatley goodness on the blog. It's not that I don't turn to them at least a couple times of day while I'm working. We just haven't had them join us on our Music segment for a while.

Revolver is one of my favorite albums. I think it's because it's right in the middle of the 'Mop Top Boys' phase and the more psychedelic stuff they are well-known for (mostly thanks to John). It's also the pedway to where they'd leave off their phenomenal contribution to the music world with the more serious tone of their music.

When I was a teenager, I was one of those 'loners' who dressed all in black, Cleopatra eye makeup, and a fire engine red Mohawk. I was trying to be invisible, I suppose. I didn't want to 'fit in' with the other crowds and didn't care if I did. I heard others' whispers that I was shy or a snob because if I had nothing to say, I said nothing. I wasn't comfortable in the large crowds at smoke breaks, or lunches in the cafeteria. I could usually be found sitting in my locker (yes...I was that tiny) on top of the milk crates we used back then to create shelves or sitting by the huge picture windows staring out across the school field. No matter where I was, I always had my headphones on, absorbing myself in my music.

This album depicts the girl I was back then. I wasn't outstandingly beautiful. I wasn't shaped like Pamela Anderson. I certainly didn't come from money. I had absolutely no time or patience for other kids who did stupid things that hurt others and thought it was funny. And I had no desire to fit into what the other kids around me perceived as 'popular'. I was who I was. There were outsiders who thought I was lonely, but I really wasn't. Those who took the time to sit with try seeing past what they could only see or what others voiced about me...figured that all out.

I really haven't changed all that much. Whenever I feel myself veering down a path I know isn't where I should be, I pull out this album to re-introduce myself to that girl who tuned everything out with music. And then I'm safe again.

We all have something like that. Some part of us we reach back to that re-directs our focus to where it needs to be.

For me, it's always the music surrounding me that I allow to guide me.

And The Beatles have, and always will be, that safe place for me.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Face of Liver Disease ~ My Bare Truth

I created this segment over a month ago, but I haven't been brave enough to start. My idea for this post day was to share information, experiences and valuable research for conditions that affect the liver. However, it is very personal for me.

I've kept my own condition very private, only entrusting a very small circle of people who I knew wouldn't broadcast it to the world. It's much easier to hide behind my computer screen through articles and blog posts than it is to be right out there front and center. It isn't that I am ashamed. It's more that I needed to truly understand and accept everything I face on a daily basis before I could openly talk about it.

I'm not like others who go on Facebook or other forms of social media to ask for prayers or sympathy. That's not my style. And, really, let's be honest. Most times it's to get attention, which I don't want or need. It makes me more uncomfortable than I can express to be in the spotlight (ask anyone who really knows me). I am much happier speaking out for others than I am about myself.'s time. And I'm ready.

The reality reality is...I honestly have no idea how much time I'll be blessed with. A person with advanced liver disease has about 5 years doing everything right. I've lived with it for 3, 1 doing everything right and specialists still aren't sure exactly how long my liver had been deteriorating before I finally got the right treatment. Even when a transplant is decided upon, the overall damage to the rest of my body after living with a liver it couldn't rely on can't be repaired. And who knows if a new liver would be able to function in the toxic environment left behind from the old liver.

I guess my goal for this segment day is to add my face to the others who live with variations of this disease. There are a lot of stigmas attached to this diagnosis and I've had them fired at me personally. Risky lifestyle habits (eg: unprotected sex and multiple partners, sharing infected needles, unclean piercing or tattooing, alcohol abuse, eating fast food, etc.) are the first things that pop into people's minds and I'm here to say, that is not always the case. That's what prompted me to begin this segment day.

Did I always take care of myself 100%? No.
Did I always choose the healthiest options for coping with stress or terrible things I was going through? No.
But...did I cause my disease? No.

I absolutely contributed to it progressing more quickly than it would have if I'd practiced healthier living options and paid closer attention to my symptoms. My not understanding the seriousness of my condition, coupled with being misdiagnosed for so long, resulted in me not taking the necessary precautions I needed to slow down the progression years ago. And I almost lost my life.

There's nothing I can do about all of that now. I can't hit a 'rewind' button and restart. All I can do is appreciate that I can still be here...for however much longer...and fight. I think I'm pretty good at that.

So, that's what this segment will be all about. My journey, yes. But it's more to share information, interviews, research and anything else I have the power to do so that no one else has to feel they are facing this alone. And it's also to help break down those stigmas, just like I do for those living with mental health struggles or for the many families in my SPD community.

Only this time, it's me.

My bare truth.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Foodie Friday ~ Homemade Gnocchi

Welcome to Friday's segment!

We've been a little sparse with our posts this past week. As much as my writing means to me, my health and children mean even moreso. There are times when our focus and priorities have to be re-positioned in order to deal with more pressing issues and that's what this past week had in store for me. So, I thank you for your patience and so appreciate your support.

With that said, let's get down to the subject of our segment today...FOOD!

With my job, I've had opportunities to meet some fantastic human beings. Some have been everyday folks doing amazing things for others in their communities. Others I've met through interviews I've been asked to put together. And I've met a celebrity or two. One interview I loved was my chat with the late Anthony Sedlak.

The late, great, Chef Anthony Sedlak
He was a brilliant, young chef with an intense love for food. The meals he came up with have been some of our little crew's favorites. He even gave me several suggestions on how to make the sensory overload of food, cooking and eating a bit more palatable for a couple of my sensory sensitive kids. And he was extremely dead set on offering dishes that may take a bit more time to prepare, but they were healthy, hearty and uber tasty. And today's recipe is one of the ones he'd suggested I try as an alternative to regular pasta (that my kids were stuck on at that stage).

Now, I'm not going to lie to you here. Gnocchi is a rather time-consuming and messy and a bit on the pickier side of how I usually cook. But if you have the time on a Sunday afternoon to give an all-out, from scratch type of meal a stab, this is a great one to try.

I have a few tips that may help. First, I learned the hard way that over handling the dough can tend to dry it out resulting in crumbly gnocchi. Believe me, there is nothing worse than lumpy, gummy balls of potatoey mess. And it's hard to clean the pot afterward. Just follow the recipe to a T and it should all work out okay. He suggested a rich, creamy gorgonzola cheese, but that may be too much for younger kids. This is great with a regular cream sauce of your choice or a tangy basil-rich tomato sauce and lots of parmesan or another favorite sprinkle of cheese. I even loved them plain with a bit of butter or margarine and a sprinkle of flavored salt or parm.

No matter which sauce or topping you choose, the gnocchi base is top-notch and delicious.

Thank you to Anthony for sharing this with me. (The recipe was also put up on the Food Network.)

Happy eating!


Homemade Potato Gnocchi

~ 1 1/2 pounds of baking potatoes (3 or 4 large potatoes)
~ 1 egg
~ 1/4 cup ricotta
~ 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
~ 1 1/2 cups flour plus a couple of tablespoons for dusting
~ pinch nutmeg
~ salt and pepper to taste

1. Put potatoes, whole, in a pot filled with enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Season the water with salt and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until fork tender, but not overcooked (usually about 10 -15 minutes).

2. Drain and let the potatoes dry out. While they're still warm, peel the skin off and cut into quarters.

3. Push the potatoes through a ricer or food mill (if you don't have either of these, mashing them will work too). To the potatoes add the rest of the ingredients but don't overmix.

4. Use your reserved flour to dust the surface of a cutting board or counter space and divide the dough into six pieces. Roll each section into a 3/4 inch thick log, then cut each log into 1/2 inch pieces. If you're feeling fancy, you can roll each piece along the back of a fork to create the signature gnocchi ridges.

5. Bring another pot of salted water to a boil and drop the gnocchi, small batches at a time, once ready. They are done when they float to the surface. Remove with a strainer-like spoon and allow to cool on a lightly greased tray until all are cooked.

Serve with your favorite sauce and some garlic bread.

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