Ailing Husband

I have a sick husband. The wind has been blowing from the east, bringing lots of allergens with it, and Ray has been complaining for the past two days about sinus-related headaches. This morning he woke up with a cough that had settled in his chest. “A productive cough,” he called it.

“Isn’t that good?” I asked. “Get it all out?”

“No,” he said. “I’m afraid this is when it settles in my chest and gets infected.”

Oh boy…

Ray has had bronchial problems since he was a little kid. “The gift of growing up with smokers,” he says. He was home from school a lot when he was little (ironic since that’s where the smoke was) with bronchial pneumonia and other breathing problems. His lungs are definitely his weak spot.

He’s upstairs in bed now with a slight temperature and a “productive” cough. He has Vick’s VapoRub smeared all over his chest.

He asked me not to be downstairs too long since he doesn’t feel well. I promised him this blog piece would be short and sweet.

I hope other Angelenos aren’t suffering with this same allergic response to the winds we’ve been having. I noted lots of coughing in church today and the symphony last weekend. I suspect Ray is not the only person holed up in bed right now.

I hope Super Bowl Sunday is treating you all well. I am heading upstairs now to be with my ailing husband.

I’ll be checking back in with you tomorrow.

sick man

5-Star Tasty Make-Ahead Dish

This is one of those tried and true recipes that you can count on when you want something special. It’s slightly different from stuffed shells. A little prettier.

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INGREDIENTS:
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped
spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup minced onion
1 egg
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese,
divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 (8 ounce) package manicotti shells

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, onion and egg. Season with parsley, pepper and garlic powder. Mix in 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan. In a separate bowl, stir together spaghetti sauce and water.
3. Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Stuff uncooked manicotti shells with ricotta mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until noodles are soft.

This will taste even better the second day since by then the flavors will have melded.  Also, this can be easily frozen and then popped in the oven.  No need to thaw first.

Happy eating.  I’ll check back in tomorrow.

Repost: Sharp Edges

We woke up early this morning – 6:30 or 7 – only to discover that our dog had chewed up my husband’s glasses. We found the lenses in many pieces, the earpieces twisted and chewed and we never located the nosepiece. Ray loves this dog more than most humans he knows, so after the shock had worn off that she had trotted over at some point during the night or early morning and stolen his glasses away from his side of the bed, Ray was over his anger. “I can’t believe she did that,” he said. “I got up early and let her out and didn’t feed her, maybe that was the problem.”

For her part, Cordelia knew she was in trouble. She skulked around the house with her ears close to her head, which is what she does when she’s done something she knows is wrong. Luckily, Ray has some contacts he can wear instead of the glasses. Thank goodness, Cordie didn’t get my glasses since I only have one pair and my sight makes Helen Keller look like the bionic woman. So, there were a few good things from the “chewing.” Not many, but a few upsides.

I am struck with how differently my husband handled this event versus in years past. Before, he would have gotten upset, yelled at the dog and me, too, just for good measure, and spent half the day half mad before he came to a place of acceptance. Today he looked slightly peeved, complained about the unexpected expense of replacement glasses, scolded Cordelia with the remnants of the glasses in his hand, then looked at me and said, “At least she didn’t get your glasses.” That was it. Nothing more. Wow.

When I was in Salt Lake City attending the University of Utah, my landlord was a bishop in the LDS church. He was a nice man, married over forty years, with a slew of children and grandchildren. I asked him one day when he was over repairing my kitchen sink what his thoughts were on marriage. He was silent for a moment then said, “Marriage wears down the sharp edges we all have. At its best, it makes us better people.”

Ray’s sharp edges are definitely softening. He would say mine are, too. One day he looked at me and said, “You are so much more relaxed than when we first married. I can say something to you today that just makes you laugh. If I had said that same thing when we were first together, you’d have been mad at me for a week.” And it’s true. I have let my hair down over the years.

I am happy we are going that direction in our marriage and in our personal growth. I have witnessed couples who have gone the other direction – more reactionary, more tense – and it is not a pretty sight. It’s hard to know how relationships will turn out. I’ve met perfectly nice people who just couldn’t make it together, and perfectly ill-suited people who have carved out a life that works for them. Go figure.

Alas, Ray will be getting new glasses and I’ll be guarding mine with even more care. And as we move on through these years, my hope is that even more of our sharp edges will soften. We both have quite a few left to whittle down. But we’re getting there. One day at a time. Or maybe better said, one pair of glasses at a time…

SAMSUNG

Congratulations to Western Regional Scholastic Award Winners

I am proud to announce that two of my students have received Western regional awards from the Scholastic Artists and Writers contest in personal essay, critical essay and Senior Portfolio. The contest sponsored by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers is the oldest and most prestigious writing contest for youth in grades 7 – 12 in the United States and had 300,000 entries nationwide in 2015. The Western Region is composed of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Kate Eplboim received a Silver Key for her personal essay, “Glass Half Empty,” and Honorable Mentions for her critical essay, “An Inaction Problem” and her senior portfolio, “Cross Section.”

Lona Tehrani received a Silver Key for her personal essay, “In Transition.”

Alumni of the Scholastic Artists and Writers contest include artists Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Cy Twombly, Robert Indiana, Kay WalkingStick, and John Baldessari; writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Bernard Malamud, Myla Goldberg, and Joyce Carol Oates; photographer Richard Avedon; actors Frances Farmer, Robert Redford, Alan Arkin, Lena Dunham, and John Lithgow; fashion designer Zac Posen; and filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Ken Burns, and Richard Linklater.

Congratulations, Kate and Lona. Your hard work has paid off! I am very pleased for you and proud of you. Hooray!

                                             Kate Eplboim                                                        IMG_5481 (1)

Lona Tehrani

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Interview with Susan Albert, Author of Loving Eleanor

I have had the pleasure of recently reading Susan Albert’s new book, Loving Eleanor, which is a historical novel about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist, Lorena Hickok. This is a wonderful book that explores the many levels of friendship as well as the difficulty national figures face when trying to maintain a sense of privacy when living such a public life. The book also provides a fascinating look at history spanning from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, which helped me to realize how profoundly difficult those years were for our country and the world. I highly recommend this book. Not only is it beautifully written but also impeccably researched. I came away with a deeper understanding of these two women and the world in which they lived. This is a definite must-read!

Below is an interview with Susan Albert, who is not only a New York Times best-selling author, but also the founder of Story Circle Network. SCN is dedicated to women telling their stories and I am privileged to teach online classes for them as well as serve as an active member. I am deeply grateful to Susan for taking the time to answer my questions on the book.

1) What theme(s) can be found in the book?

Friendship, in all its many and changing forms; living with political realities in a difficult (the Great Depression, World War 2); the hidden lives of well-known people

2) How do you work as a writer? Every day? More sporadically? Word count, page count, or timed writing? On a computer or longhand? Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

When I’m working on a project, I write every day (I need the continuity). When I’m writing genre fiction, I aim for 1200-1500 words a day (“good words,” as I like to think of them, keepers, not “junk words” that will get thrown out the next day). When I’m writing historical fiction, I’m much slower, around 800-1000 words a day—because I work from many original and secondary sources and need to do a great deal of fact-checking. I work on my computer, in Word. I’m a “trust-the-story” writer. When I’m writing genre fiction (mostly mysteries) I do a bit of outlining and then let the story take me where it wants me to go. In historical/biographical fiction, the story is already there: it’s a matter of discovering it and exploring all its nuances.

3) What was a particular challenge you faced writing this book?

The story is deeply personal to Lorena Hickok, the point-of-view character and a real person—a groundbreaking journalist. When she’s been written about, she’s portrayed as fat, awkward, aggressive, dislikeable. She was none of these things. De-mythologizing her was important to me. It was a challenge to do justice to all of her achievements.

4) What do you hope people will take away after reading this book?

I’d like people to understand that the people (especially the women!) who have been presented to us by “history” and historians are not always what they seem. Every woman has a secret story.

5) How are you publishing this book and why?
(*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I’m publishing this book originally under my own imprint, Persevero Press. Several editors were interested in it, but they wanted significant changes in the story, and I was unwilling to make those changes. Author-publication may limit the book’s distribution, but it has expanded the range of my freedom as an author, to tell the story the way I felt it had to be told.

6) Please give us a favorite snippet of your book.

You can read an excerpt (and much more about the book) here: http://www.lovingeleanor.com/index.php

7) How can readers discover more about you and you work? My website: http://www.susanalbert.com

loving-eleanor

Happy Afternoon

This was a Sarah afternoon with Nico and Luna. I got a chance to hold the new baby boy for several hours, to bathe Luna and to chat with Sarah. Sarah had the rare opportunity to go take a 30 minute shower.

My phone is not nearby so I can’t share the pictures I took, but I will include photos that my son-in-law, Gregorio, has taken recently of the kids. We saw him this evening, too, when he returned from work.

Happiness is a few hours with grandchildren. This is a known fact, as many of my friends can attest.

Of course, a few hours with a daughter and a good visit with her husband are happiness-producers as well.

I am feeling exceedingly grateful this evening. Warm snuggles, soft skin, pure innocence. Hard to beat. Pure and simple.

I hope you’ve had a good day, my friends.

I’ll check back with you tomorrow.

Luna and Nico

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Nico

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