Field Notes 5.5.2023
just because + what I'm cooking this week
The process of transferring recipes here from my old site seems never ending. The year or two after Michael’s death are particularly hard to read through. I didn’t realize just how much I was hurting, and part of me feels embarrassed my grief was hidden so well to the people in my life. I looked like I was handling it because I continued to wake every day, make amazing meals, pack lunches, get the kids off to school, and take them on some incredible vacations.
Reflecting back, I don’t think anyone close ever thought to ask how I was really doing. This isn’t meant to sound like I’m blaming anyone. My friends love me deeply, I know this without a doubt. They also know how head strong and determined I am, and surely I wasn’t going to let a major event like the sudden death of my husband and father of my children knock me down.
In a way, I’d been preparing for that moment my whole life. I grew up learning how to cope and escape harrowing situations. What I didn’t learn, and only time would teach me, is that grief wasn’t something one could escape. It’s the tortoise in the rearview mirror that will catch up when you grow too tired of running.
I came across this old post from May 2012, just nine months after Michael’s passing.
“The sucker punch came when I turned the blue card over. The blue card is for the kids' school and lists all their vital information for the school's records. It felt wrong to leave his name blank, so I scribbled it in and wrote "deceased" in parantheses. Then I turned the card over, and my body deflated as I stared at the blank spaces that needed filling in for the emergency contact. A numbness settled into my heart at the reality, yet again, that my emergency contact is gone forever.
That one person who always picks up the phone when you call. Never ignores a text or puts off answering an email.
The one person who just knows and senses when you're not yourself.
The one person who carries the burden when the weight is crushing you.
The one person who even in the depths of silence hears you.
The one person who makes you feel less alone in an often lonely world.
There are so many moments left to encounter alone. At this point in the "process" most friends have gone about their life as usual. The group of people who were there in the days and weeks after August 7th have dwindled down to a mere handful. There's my core group of women and one of Mikey's best friends who diligently check in on me, and for them I feel blessed and thankful. I've always weighed my friendships for their quality, not the quantity. Still, it takes its toll especially around times like the girls' recent birthdays and Mother's Day.
It's hard to not feel a twinge of anger at the celebratory wishes, acknowledging how hard it must be on such occasions. My instant thought is how every day is hard, and a note out of the blue would be the more welcome sentiment. I know how easy it is to feel confused by that comment. After all, everyone fears saying the wrong thing, but what matters most when you feel this lonely and isolated from love, is just knowing that someone is thinking about you.
Out of the blue, I got a surprise from someone I don't even know last week. She reads this blog and sent me an email with the title "just because", and inside it read "hugs, because none of us get enough". It truly eased some of the heaviness in my heart. My advice if you have a friend going through a loss like this is don't wait for what you think is a tough day to reach out to them. Just drop a note, send a text or pick up the phone—just because. It may very well be the boost they need to get through the rest of day. In fact, it's the most thoughtful act of friendship to show anyone you love—just because.”
Normally that old post wouldn’t have made it in the transfer process to this newer space since it has no recipe attached to it, but the sentiment felt too important not to carry over. Every day is a good reason for a “just because” moment. Lately I find myself taking moments like this more and more, texting a friend “hey, just want to say hello” for no other reason than I love them and want to make sure they know I’m thinking about them.
It feels good being back here. I know it’s been silent for stretches. I’ve been short on time due to work, dealing with some health stuff, and very uninspired to write. My melancholy has just been an anchor, keeping me docked in a thick fog. That’s scary to admit but also releases some of the weight within.
The kids turn 15 and 20 this week, and it will be the first birthday in Isabella’s life that I won’t be there one the day to celebrate with her. I keep toying with the idea of driving up to Vermont to see her for a quick breakfast before her 8:30am class, but I’m also going to pick her up the next day to come home for the weekend, and making the 200 miles roundtrip twice in 36 hours would be exhausting. I’m never secure in the thought of tomorrow. Life has taught me it doesn’t always promise what we expect of it.
The notion of tomorrow takes trust, and learning to trust is a big part of grief. I’m not sure we ever learn to truly trust the process of living again. It’s reminiscent of childbirth. We know it was painful but can’t quite remember what the pain was like, so we continue to have more children. And so we also continue to wake up each day, existing in a cruise control state between the spells where living happens. It sounds a bit bleak as I write it but it’s an honest and sincere way of saying the trust comes and goes in a cyclical pattern. It’s okay to not always be okay, you know?
I’ve been working on a bunch of gluten-free recipes, and excited to share them soon. There’s deep chocolate cupcakes, waffles, pancakes, soft pretzels, challah, pizza dough, and my go-to boule, inspired by many of my wheat-based recipes. Most of them are also dairy-free and vegan.
In the meantime, below are some links you might enjoy for the week ahead. Sending you all wishes for a weekend filled with some peaceful moments. Remember to be kind. –xo, j.
What I’m Cooking This Week
I stashed some broccoli stalks in the crisper bin this week with the intention to make these this weekend. They’re an easy grab and go lunch during my busy work days & reheat well in the toaster!
Virginia loves cauliflower as much as I do, so this is always a dinnertime hit with my often picky teenager.
Zucchini, Cheddar & Chive Tarts
I’ve been craving these big time lately, and will be making them using a 1:1 gluten free baking flour. They’re perfect for any meal, day or night, and reheat beautifully.
It’s time to make a new batch of this salad dressing since I finished the last of it for lunch yesterday. Lunch by the way was a simple crispy romaine salad with baby cucumbers and nuggets of crispy salmon slathered in a dijon maple sauce cooked in the air fryer (pictured at the top of this post). I will never cook salmon on the stove top again. The air fryer is a worthy investment for this alone since there was no smell of cooked fish clogging up the house.
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