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Stages. The stages of mourning the idea of a mother I would never have. Twenty-five years of my life living in the coma of denial. Denial that I was worthy. Denial that I mattered. Because clearly I didn’t. And then this human being, this sweet, lovely, hilarious man, loved me. Loved me, not “regardless” of my ways, but “because” of my ways. Because of all of me. And that was the slap in the face that I needed to wake up. And so I got angry. And I was mean to her. Hoping that would wake HER up. So she would finally SEE me. See ME. But it didn’t work. So there was the phase of begging and bargaining. And that didn’t work either. That’s when I realized that nothing would ever work. That nothing I ever did would ever be good enough. That you can teach an old dog new tricks, but not this one. And I gave up. But the depressed kind of give up way lasted for mere minutes before it became a release kind of give up way. I let go of the dream that was never there in the first place and was dragging me down. I accepted that it was never meant to be anyway and I jumped headlong into the love that was being thrown at me by someone amazing. And I found myself. I found happiness. I found calm. I found joy. And I won’t look back. Because now she is dying and trying so hard to grab onto me and squeeze again. Squeeze the joy out of me. Pull me down to her level of pain before she goes. But I won’t let her. She can’t do anything at this point to ruin what I have made of my life. What I made without her help. What I made without her.

 

I originally wrote this in the last weeks of my mother’s life. It has taken time for me to feel like I can publish it here.

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Old Enough

When a child isn’t old enough to understand the words neglect or isolation. What does the word chaos mean? Loneliness? But feeling those things; that doesn’t take age or understanding. So many people have said to me, “you always had a smile on your face, always seemed happy, how can you say anything was wrong there?”

Just because I was full of joy that nobody else could stomp out. Just because spurts of time spent with other people felt good. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t all torn up inside. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t needy of more than spurts. But when you are too young to make things happen, you compartmentalize and Survive.

When I was finally Old Enough to start creating my own world, to seek out something more, I made so many missteps. The searching was too Desperate. Too Needy. I gave of myself and tried to take of others and ended up hurting in yet more layers of loneliness. Learning of other ugliness in the world. It was years before I understood I was Allowing the damage to continue to rip me up. I was now the one Holding me back.

But slowly, so slowly, I was able to calm the chaos inside. I was able to take deep breaths and really Look at the people I was connected too. I was able to start being purposeful about walking away from the negative, and reaching out to the joyful. Because there was Joy inside me. Still there – a little buried – but there. And that is when it started to come together. Growth. Healing. Moving forward.

And now, so much time has been used to create a life that is calm, and loving, and Full of joy. Now, I’m Old Enough to just be me. I look back at the different stages of lonely chaos and I can smile and be happy and it is real all day every day.

The Roaring In My Ears

Warrior. Survivor. Goddess. Kick-ass bitch. Since my experience with breast cancer, I have been labeled many things, all with good intention. The thing is, I don’t want labels. Cancer does not define who I am. I don’t walk around every day thinking about that time in my life. In fact, most of the time it is completely gone from my mind. My body is severely disfigured, so it’s not as if I can actually forget, but I focus on today and so cancer just takes a back seat.

I like to think this is because I dealt with the emotional trauma and moved on in a healthy way. Except. Except for those moments when it creeps up on me really hard And I catch my breath And my stomach knots up And I have to start blinking really rapidly And I can’t hear whatever it is someone is saying to me because of the roaring sound in my ears.

Those moments have a common trigger. Commercials. Facebook posts. Billboards. It seems as though I am plagued by commercials for cancer treatment centers. You know the ones: where some devastated but hopeful couple is holding hands or have their arms around each other as they walk toward the doctor office. Or the articles that well-intentioned people post on Facebook about how to prevent cancer. Um yeah I was a poster child for all those urban myths about that but got it anyway. Or especially the articles about how to “positive attitude” away your cancer without medical intervention because really you just don’t want to get better badly enough if you can’t wish it away. And the damn pink billboards. No words for those.

The commercial or article appears and I am immediately transported back to those weeks I would rather forget. Those weeks when I thought I might not watch my kids graduate from high school or college or get married or have kids of their own. Those moments when I started mentally cleaning my things out of the house so Ted wouldn’t have to deal with that after I was gone. Those moments when I was hopeful I would survive but trying to steal myself for all the chronic pain and how it might affect my marriage and hoping I wouldn’t hurt so much that I couldn’t let my husband touch me or my children snuggle me.

That. That roaring in my ears. The blinking. I need for those damn commercials to go away and let me live with cancer as a silent memory in the back of today’s beauty.

So. Much. Wine. Oh and vacation too.

Who goes on vacation, only to go home half way through for a class, and then drives through the night to get back to the vacation? Me. Yes that’s right, Ted and I took the kids to the Oregon coast for the week. But I wasn’t about to let that interfere with my Wine Education.

We came out Monday morning to beautiful weather at the coast. We played in the sand (and then drank some wine), we went kayaking on a local river (and then drank some wine), we visited light houses (and then…   I drove back to Portland to study wine).

It’s not exactly a long drive. It took me about 2.5 hours to get back into the city because the traffic wasn’t great. And it was worth it for the final session of my Introduction to Wine Series. We learned about the differences between Old World and New World wines, cool climate and warm climate and wines, and concluded with a quality tasting.

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During this course, I learned a ton of interesting facts about growing, harvesting, fermenting, bottling, and serving wines. It was fascinating. I think a big eye opener for me would just be to remain open. Open to a variety that you have previously had a bad experience with. I really don’t like tannins, so I have stayed away from many varieties such as Cabernet Franc, and I don’t like sweet wines so I have stayed away from Riesling. But I now better understand how to read a wine label or a sales tag write-up in order to find wines that I will like regardless of the variety. Be open.

I enjoyed this month’s experience with wine education so much that I have enrolled in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wines. This takes place next week, and I am quite excited. The horizon before me looks delightful.

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And it was a long drive back to our vacation spot last night, but so worth it. The horizon here is looking delightful so we are packing up some snacks to take down to the shore. What new thing have you discovered lately? Any new inspirations lighting you up?

Leather & Legs

Leather? Really? Yes, leather. That is the word I have been trying to find for a very long time. It is the gamey/earthy/pruney flavor sometimes found in red wines and I learned yesterday what to call it.

Yesterday was the second session of the Introduction to Wine Series I am taking at The Wine and Spirit Archive (WSA). The focus was on aromas and flavors and expanding our wine vocabulary. We tasted some really great wines.

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I couldn’t resist buying some of them to share at home. This is a Weingut Brundlmayer Riesling (Austria) 2013, and a Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cabernet Franc (France) 2013. The Riesling was so very dry, lemony, and acidic. It had a big warm finish. It will be great with fish or pork. The Cabernet Franc really surprised me too. It was perfectly acidic with low tannins, had some great blackberry tones, and just a mild sour bite.

The most odd selection of the evening was a Fernando de Castilla Amontillado (Spain), from Palomino grapes. I never drink sherry. For me it has always been a cooking wine. So really tasting and analyzing this was strange. I won’t be drinking more of it any time soon, but it did have some good qualities. I loved the butterscotch, almond, vanilla notes. I did not love the salty, smokey flavors. Look at the thick legs it made:

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I’ve had a lot of new wines this week. Join me in experimenting with something new and tell me about it!

Harvest Wine Bar

Whenever the sun makes an appearance in Portland, that means it’s time for a patio and a cold wine. Today it was going to be about 80 degrees so I met a dear friend for lunch at The Harvest Wine Bar in Lake Oswego. This delightful restaurant is owned and operated by a husband and wife team. They are down to earth, approachable, and most importantly, knowledgeable and excited about their business.

We both ordered their house made tomato pepper bisque, and shared a bacon avocado sandwich. Due to the hot weather, we paired this with a Bertani Bertarose 2015 from Italy, and it was perfect. It had a very mild nose, I could barely smell hints of rose petal. But then it had a great big body on the palate, full of the rose petal and apricot. It was perfectly dry, and with hardly any acidity.

It was a lovely afternoon. I made a great connection with both owners, and look forward to spending more time drinking wine in their lovely establishment. I’m especially looking forward to attending their Wednesday evening tasting parties! Do you have a favorite local wine bar? What makes it feel just right to you?

Albarino: While Fishing

More homework wine! We took a bottle of Martin Codax Albarino, 2014, to try while fishing this week. What better way to enjoy a new variety?

Well, we weren’t terribly impressed. It was nice, but very mild, so it just felt boring. It had a very mild peachy nose, and then a very mild, dry, almost flavorless palate. The fishing was much better than the wine.

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On a better note though, because it wasn’t impressive, we didn’t finish it. Therefore, we opened it again the next day because Why Not. And we were pleasantly surprised that it had really opened up. I don’t think I had experienced this with a white wine before, at least not to this noticeable level.

On day two it had a much bigger body, and the listed tasting notes of pear and apple really came through on the palate, with a much longer finish. I doubt I would buy this again, but it was pleasant. In my experience, a Pinot Noir usually goes with the camp fire much better.

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What do you like to drink while fishing or camping?

Torrontes: A Study

The best homework assignment Ever Invented is to drink wine, of a variety that you have never tried before. So glad I signed up for that! So today I bought a Torrontes from Argentina. And it is delightful! I am so glad I know about this now.

I found this Espuela del Gaucho 2014 Torrontes to have a nose which is warm and pear-like. The palate is full of body, hints of citrus, delicately floral, maybe melon, definitely dry. It has a nice long finish. The tasting notes on the website include apple and peach, so that is probably what I was calling pear and melon.

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This wine was very inexpensive at $17, found at my local grocer. Have you tried anything new lately? Did your curiosity pay off or was it a dud?

Our Bastille

Nineteen years ago I fell in love with this guy. Fifteen years ago we got married. It was Bastille Day, so that is our celebratory theme every year. On our wedding day, after our reception, we took a group out for more fun. This was about twenty people: our wedding party and the friends that had come from out of town. It only felt appropriate to go to what was then Portland’s premier French restaurant: Brasserie Montmartre.

Walking into the Brasserie on Bastille Day was like walking into our very own French Quarter celebration, and that set the tone for our anniversary dinners. For the first five years we returned there for an evening filled with live jazz and delightful French cuisine, until they closed in 2006. After that we bounced around the city, celebrating at places like Fenouil, Cocotte, and St. Jack.

This year we returned to St. Jack for the fourth time, although our first time in their new location. So we new we would get rich French food, perfect wine choices, and great service, but with the flare of a new atmosphere. And it was perfect.

We paired Rose of Loire with the Bone Marrow, which was perfect. And then I had the Tomato Tarte Tatin with a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The new location in Northwest was even better than the original in Clinton, a bit less grungy. It was a beautiful evening.

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Do you have a Bastille Day tradition? Or better yet, do you have an anniversary theme?