30 December 2007

All I Wanted For Christmas...

...was gathered in the family room of my home Christmas Morning and they came with names: Granny, Pops, Katie and Justin. If the names look familiar, that's only because they happen to be the monikers by which my parents, daughter and son are known by.

To see images of Christmas 2007, you may click here: Christmas 2007 Memories!

We were joined throughout the week with warm visits from friends. Another year around the Christmas tree, healthy, happy and just as crazy as we ever were. Who needs anything more? I can't imagine.

John joined us Friday Afternoon and we very much loved having him with us for a couple of days. He shared his holiday with his lovely mother, Nina, who lives in Cary. Last night, Katie, Justin, John, Stephanie and I had a late dinner at Henry's. I looked around the table at my 24 year old daughter and my 21 year old son and I felt so completely blessed to be sharing dinner with them and each minute in their company this past week has been a keen reminder of how very much I love them both.

John and Katie left around 10:15 this morning, headed for Cary where they will turn in the car they borrowed from John's brother, and head for the airport and then onto their home in Manhattan. I am understandably sad to see them leave, and I started missing Katie long before she left this morning, but she's happy and it shows. We're very pleased to see her enjoying her life, even if it means she goes about living her life up North.

I have so many happy memories of Christmases when the kids were really kids, but I find I'm making new ones in spite of the fact their just a tad bit older. The smiles, the laughter, the teasing and giggles that have wafted throughout the house this past week, are precious and they reverberate long after everyone has scattered again, as everyone eventually must. I am so grateful for this past week which held more joy than I could possibly ever begin to merit. I am so thankful to God for assigning me the specific individuals who make my life so incredibly rich.

We ranged in age from 21 to 84, but I think each of us would state categorically that this was easily one of our best Christmases because we had the good sense to know how exquisite it is to share time together. My mind is, in fact, rather like a "Flickr Badge" with revolving memories from this past week, most of which were not captured by the camera but exposed to my heart. I'll keep those images there and each time I revisit them, I'll be reminded of just how sweet life truly is.

More later...

15 December 2007

A Jury Summons Invites Introspection and Gratitude, "Sunny Came Home" and Happy Birthday to "Our Queen"!

It's been a busy couple of weeks since my last update. When I start receiving E-mail asking me if I've sailed away with a rogue, pirate captain (again), I realize it's time to update and quell such nonsense. I promise I've learned my lesson and I'll thoroughly check and recheck the next sailboat captain I take off with - you have my word! I'm silly but I wouldn't make that same mistake twice...well, certainly not within the span of the same year, anyway! And honest, I've sworn off ALL ENGAGEMENTS for the remainder of 2007. I'm firm about that. I'm practicing..."just say no"!

However, there's always the slimmest and impossible chance that the right person will drop from the sky, but UNTIL then, there's Hugh Jackman and, of course, Sting and his guitar...enjoy the music as you read up on this, that and the other thing. I love this video...it's just so irresistibly lovely. Besides, it's the season of hope, right? I just finished a story for PC Magazine on the technology of "bridge sensors" and I swear the entire time I was working on it, I thought of this song for some odd reason.

If you're reading this, I wonder, are you ready for Christmas? I'm certainly not but I never am. I would be deeply concerned if I was prepared because I'm sure something would be critically wrong. I've just accepted I'm not wired that way and my close friends and relatives know this and they seem to have accepted it which makes all concerned happy, joyous and free!

Let's see, since last I penned this blog, life's been spinning along, just as it's supposed to - in unpredictable directions, tossing in just enough surprises and challenges to make these days interesting, but I'm still smiling, writing this from my FRESHLY PAINTED office, surrounded by Felix, Magellan, Princess and Sylvester. Cassie darts in and out just to check on things and see if we're all behaving. Most of the time we aren't. She loves us anyway.

Yes, I painted my office. I consulted my artistic buddy Bobbi and she suggested a scheme that sounded great to me so I got on with it. My office was the last holdout and if ever there was a colorful room in this house, souvenir and memory wise, it is this office which my kids affectionately refer to as "Central Command". I have no real power, but it makes me think I do and I'm sure it's only been assigned such a nickname simply to assuage my ego and make me believe I have the tiniest measure of control. What a laugh.

But the painting project turned out lovely. I also redid the photo collage that now hangs over the love seat situated in this room and it makes me smile every time I pause to peruse it. It's reflective of my family which is another way of saying it's the center of my universe. The heart of life.

It's also the room that Katie and I hang out in when she visits, where we drink copious amounts of coffee and iced tea and we watch old, vintage movies and we laugh as we walk through the memories we've collected together, and share a few we've made apart. There are always animals hanging around and someone generally has a cat in his or her lap, and laughter wafts throughout the loft, permeating the walls and filling this quirky home with warmth, comfort and joy. I can't wait to share more of those times with her and it won't be long now! She flies in (IF she gets on the plane) next Sunday, 23 December. She did remind me that the mere fact that she has a ticket for a seat on that flight doesn't necessarily mean she'll be ON that flight, so she always reminds me not to count on my daughter before she deplanes. Good advice, but I'm betting she'll pull it together, squeeze John's impressive biceps, dig her nails painfully into his skin - possibly drawing blood - and make the flight.

Now, I love to fly but I hate to drive and I particularly hate to drive to Raleigh...ugh! I experience many of the same physical symptoms that Katie endures when she's inflight, only I do it from the confines of my car. However, this trip to Raleigh will have the added bonus of a visit with my buddy and artistic adviser, "The good pirate, Bobbi", captain of the s/v Kokopelli and I have accepted her gracious invitation to overnight at her home in Raleigh so that I can recoup my sanity that will no doubt be lost on the drive up to Raleigh and be on time to pick up Katie and John at the airport. Plus, I'm sure that Bobbi and I will have a fine time - two crazy women on the prowl in the bustling capital city of North Carolina. No single man will be safe, is what I'm thinking. I can't wait to meet Sofi, her beautiful dog child, and view some of Bobbi's eclectic artwork.

This past week, I was thrilled to receive the annual Christmas newsletter that Sofi dictates to Bobbi, and even more amazed to discover it included a photo of Bobbi and me taken at Bluewater when we were having lunch on Wrightsville Beach this past October. I made the newsletter! I was honored!

I also loved the card that Bobbi artfully designed and it is pinned to the corner cabinet that sits above my desk - a beautiful sailboat on bluewater, beneath a blanket of golden stars and a lazy crescent moon. One of my favorite places to be and, when I simply excise the image of the moldy man from the memory of my sailing adventures of this past summer, it becomes a very nice recollection. To be honest, excision isn't that difficult - he never braved the nightwatch and I spent many hours in the cockpit alone beneath a canopy of stars and the moon in various phases, slicing along with the sound of the waves lapping the hull, the whoosh of the wind in the sails and the overwhelming knowledge that there is nothing like being on the water to feel truly connected to the universe. I will never forget that sensation, the sense of awe comingled with the rarest brand of peace and I want to revisit sailing often in 2008. Again and again and again...Every single chance I get...

The County of New Hanover sent me an invitation in late November - they requested my services for jury duty. Now, I have to tell you, even though I know most people look upon jury duty as a huge pain in the derrière, I was kind of thrilled. I mean, I've been in a New Hanover County Courthouse in a past life for very unhappy reasons and to be invited because they actually "needed" me was a bit of a giddy honor. My family and friends asked me if I was going to "try and get out of it"... Nosiree! Not a chance! How cool it would feel to walk in there and not be scared out of my wits at the outcome, not to be on the "hot seat"! Ahhhhh, the joys and gifts of sobriety are wondrous and many. I sent up two prayers, in fact, well, make that three:

1. God help the person who may be on a trial I could potentially serve on a jury and help me to do the right thing.
2. Thank you God for allowing my life to turn around to the point that I get to appear at New Hanover County Courthouse for reasons having nothing to do with me.
3. God, could you please make sure that I don't have to run into one particular defense attorney from Raleigh because that would be cruel and unusual punishment and hey, I'm not the one in trouble here.

I am happy to report that my services were not required for too long because out of the 100 or so of us upstanding, potential jurors available to step into our role and serve, they only needed twelve plus a few alternates and I was released from my duty a short-time later and told that I wouldn't have to worry about being called again for two years, having fulfilled my requirements as an available juror. Whew! I'm even happier to report that I didn't run into any Raleigh-based attorneys so God must surely have decided I had also fulfilled my time served in the company of maniacal morons for at least two years, maybe more. What a Christmas present from a benevolent and loving Creator!

After the rest of us "citizens in good standing" were free to leave the courthouse, I almost skipped out of the building and I know there was a smile on my face. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever left New Hanover County Courthouse with a wide grin. There I was, on Princess Street, milling about all manner of law enforcement types, thinking to myself at how profoundly life can change and just how much I have to be grateful for in this life I've been granted. I honestly felt reborn and, in a sense, I have been.

It was at least 75 degrees on the 10th of December under a cloudless Carolina blue sky and I opened my sunroof to let the deliciously warm beams shine down on me in the heart of the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina and you know that feeling that sometimes settles over you that communicates with your soul and reminds you that life is just so darn good, and how incredible it is that you are around to be right in the middle of it? I had that feeling and it has lingered with me throughout this week. Yes, life is good. I'm grateful and I am right in the smack dab middle of it and some days are hard and challenging and the coffee isn't quite right (not yours, Mom - 'outside' coffee). My checkbook is positively anemic with only small and unpredictable cash infusions from freelance work and working part-time for my friends, Danny and Sherry, and I have no idea how in the world I'm going to buy very many Christmas presents, but then I remembered other times in my life when my checkbook has been much more impressive, but my life sure wasn't.

There have been Christmas seasons where I have had ample supplies of cash to fulfill and exceed the list of gifts for my family and friends, but other than a nice, positive bank balance, there was little that could remotely be defined as positive about my life. I guess I could have best been described as making my way through life "hit and run" style - no direction, no spiritual connection to speak of, nothing resembling anything close to the definition I now understand to be "joy" and as for "serenity", I wasn't even sure how to spell it, much less become acquianted with it. I was aimless, and even though I was capable of putting on a good face, most days, my life felt dark and cold and pretty hopeless.

I was under the mistaken idea that a good life started with a positive cash flow and worked it's way up from there. I didn't understand that regardless of what First Union National Bank said, I was on the brink of bankruptcy and the worst possible kind - spiritual bankruptcy. As James Taylor sang in "Shed a Little Light", "you can't get no light from a dollar bill". Nothing made sense to me because my life wasn't making any sense but, of course, I couldn't see that or even know it until things got much, much worse. Thank God they did!

I was talking with a friend the other day and we were discussing personal transformations and I was trying to explain to him what had changed, but the fact is that nothing had to change except for me. Actually, what it all came down to was nothing more than a case of mistaken identity. I got my Spirits mixed up. The spirits in a smooth merlot were never going to offer me any long-lasting relief, no matter how many times I kept trying. However, thanks to a series of very fortunate unfortunate events, I finally met up with the RIGHT Spirit and, in the words of Robert Frost, "it has made all the difference."

This Christmas, there's no doubt about it, we'll be able to see the tree because it's not going to be hidden beneath a plethora of presents that used to obscure it as many of our Christmases did a few years ago, but that's OK. Of course, there will be presents, but the most precious ones can't be wrapped and many of them are completely intangible. In this, my fourth Christmas sober and shared with the RIGHT spirit, I've learned along the way what truly matters most and those things emanate from the people and creatures I love most and hold dear. Family, friends, cats, my dog and all of those colorful fish brilliantly swimming about in our aquarium.

Life. Life is the ticket! This house is just spilling over and sloshing around with it. You can't walk too far in this place without crossing the path of something filled with life and the love that fuels it - sometimes it's a grandmother or a grandfather, or a 21 year old young man and other times, life comes attached to a striped tail, a 50 pound bundle of canine goodness or even a pair of fins. Wrapped around it all, is THE Spirit that eluded me for so many years. The one that came from a "Higher Power" and not a glass bottle with a spent cork. Thank God I've spent my last cork and, to my friend up north, nothing is hard if you take it one day at a time.

I am reminded of that quote from E. L. Doctorow as he was alluding to the sometimes overwhelming and daunting proposition of writing..."It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." It will take you far, even all the way to where you need to be.

Now, not only did I receive some deep introspective reckonings courtesy of my invitation from New Hanover County, but yesterday I opened my mail to find a check for the heady amount of TWELVE DOLLARS! Of course, I'm going to scan it and frame it before I cash it. To be perfectly honest, I feel as if maybe I should have paid them. Who would have imagined such gifts from something as simple and mundane as the prospect of jury duty? With an infusion of funds like that, who says there's not going to be a Christmas on Nottingham Lane? I know, I know, I am NOT going to spend it all in one place. So many people make that mistake. Not me! :-)

In OTHER news of the less philosophical variety, my son FINALLY got his new rotors installed on his birthday present, and his Cobra Mustang is back in business. If you live within 3 miles of my house, you probably know that by now. This Wednesday after I came home, he bounded in my office and leveled an invitation at me...."Mom, let's go somewhere. Let's take a ride.". I didn't really need to go anywhere so I asked him where he wanted to go? "It doesn't matter! Let's just go! C'mon!". Well, who can turn down an invitation like that? Certainly not me! We hopped in the car and we went! We even wound up having a nice dinner together at McAlister's - just my son and me. Talk about precious and I don't mean that warm and fuzzy smarmy precious, but it is a gift for a 21 year old son to have the desire to take his Mom for a spin in his pony car. I looked over at him as he shifted gears, completely unable to disguise his delight in all of the glorious horsepower that revs that pony of a car. I was so happy for him.

I don't really understand that brand of affection toward a car, probably because I don't love to drive, but I know that feeling as I've experienced it whilst engaged in other pursuits. I guess it must be what it feels like when a sailboat is on a beam reach and the sky is dotted with white puffy clouds and the wind couldn't be more perfect if it tried. Or maybe it's the same sensation I felt sitting on the stern of a sailboat crossing the Gulf Stream, watching the phosphorescent wake sparkle in the fragile light of dusk, miles from even the hint of land and wondering if this must be what heaven looks and feels like?

Waves, water and wind inspire that same grin on my face and it all distills into a special sort of joy that makes being alive the best gig going. I was just thrilled to share it with him and I even pretended to understand the machinations of the engine and all that is a Mustang. Mostly, I enjoyed all that it entails to be his mother and for me, that is easily one of the best gigs going. Thank you, Justin!

"Sunny Came Home"

I have a very special friend in New York City who cajoles, prods, cheers, threatens and text-messages me often to remind me that I have an important project to take care of and a story to tell. I'm referring to, of course, my friend Glen who's an Art Director with Random House and one of my most dearly loved and most enthusiastic cheerleaders. In fact, I think he's the head cheerleader. When I was in a NYC a few weeks ago, it was so wonderful to see him again.

Glen and I have had quite a year - while I was busy sailing around the Abacos, dancing on various beaches and becoming increasingly disenchanted with an attorney who's mental seams were rapidly unraveling and coming unglued, Glen, for the first time in his life, moved off the island of Manhattan, bought a home in the suburbs north of the City, went to Disney World for the first time in his life on a fantastic family vacation and three weeks ago when I was visiting NYC, he and his family completed their Norman Rockwell existence by adopting a miniature poodle named, quite appropriately, "Sunny".

Through it all, however, he has been a constant in my life this past year. Glen has believed in my writing project since we had our first meeting in the coffee shop of the hotel I was staying in while visiting Manhattan in October 2006. We became instant friends and he's been an endless stream of encouragement for me in more ways than I can adequately express here. I wear a silver necklace around my neck that on one side has a cross and on the flip side, has the word "LOVE". It was a present from my dear buddy last year and a tangible reminder that I have yet another guardian angel who is willing to work with me and stubbornly determined that I bring my work to fruition.

Even though Glen was busy adding to his family the weekend I was in NYC, he made time to meet up with Katie, John and me and treated us to a great brunch at Arte Cafe and how excited I was to introduce Katie to Glen because they're both just so hopelessly twisted (in a good way!). In fact, as we sat down to a scrumptious meal, it was as if Glen was family. He fit right in perfectly and he and Katie got along famously. It was a special treat for me to be in the company of two of my favorite people however, the thought of them double-teaming me and beating me up sometimes causes me some stress but, well, what can you do?

Glen seems to have a special knack for knowing when I need to be gently nudged, pushed, and sometimes even SHOVED as only a seasoned, born and raised NY'er can, but he does it with love and I know always that he cares. He's like family and I expect it always to be just like that. As I've mentioned before, my life is sprinkled with angels, and some of them just happen to have Yankee accents and frequently call me on my bullshit. Such is the case with Glen. I want to take a second to send a special thank you to my brilliant, talented northern friend who plies me with giggles, sends me iTunes gifts to inspire me, and never loses his faith in me. Glen, you're the best. We have a date for the last week of January in New York - please order some of that fabulous snow that you and Katie love so much and let's go ice-skating in Central Park. Oh, and yes, I'll be delivering my submission because I know that if I don't, there will be heck to pay and I know you well enough to understand that you will never let me forget it. You rock, buddy.

The Heart of Love...

One of the most important events of this past week occurred on 13 December, because on another 13 December back in the year of 1923, a very special person was born: My Mom. We joyfully celebrated my Mom's 84th birthday and what a blessing of a milestone that is! She had a check up with her doctor the day before and she checked out pretty darn well! We're grateful because we love having her around.

She's something else, this Mom of mine. She cooks like a woman half her age, maybe even younger, and she turns out culinary masterpieces that can inspire people to fly from far-flung locations and a few have even been known to paint for their supper (right Billie?). She's easily the coolest 84 year old I've ever met.When Justin and I were out running around town to no place in particular, we ascertained a book, chocolates, jelly beans and cards and of course we couldn't wait until the actual date of the anniversary of her birth, so on the night of December 12th, we surprised her with her gifts and she was pleased.

The phone rang quite often on the 13th, with friends and family calling from all over the place to wish the birthday girl congratulations for putting up with us for yet another year. We easily have the best end of that deal. Whatever steely determination that is sometimes attributed to me, is the result of her donation to my gene pool. Maxine Cook is a force to be reckoned with - sometimes obstinate, fiercely independent and she could easily teach Martha Stewart a thing or two, but thankfully for Ms. Stewart, we keep her so busy that she doesn't have time to mess with such domestic divas.

The center of my mother's world has always been, at least from my front row seat of 47 years, her family. She tends us well and always with a glad heart. I've made her shake her head more than a few times, but I think deep down she's fond of my unconventional characteristics and I know any skill I have in terms of home repair and painting come from watching her through the years. I don't think there's much she can't fix whether it's a bruised knee, misbehaving kitchen appliance or a broken heart. If only I could get her to put faith in the power of Vick's Ointment and The Farmer's Almanac and maybe, just once, entice her to confess that she truly does love cats, she'd be nearly perfect but that might be boring and, given her obstinance, a probably futile pursuit, so we smile when she rages on about cat hair and the way Cassie sometimes drips water from her water bowl, secure in the knowledge that she loves all of the creatures in this house, both great and small. Even the ones that shed. Happy, happy birthday Mom - we love you more than you can possibly imagine. We're just so glad you are ours.

28 November 2007

That's How The Cookie(s) Crumble(s), Will Ferrell and David Sedaris on Who Santa Claus REALLY Is...

Now, I'm sure you'll order a box of cookies from the "Band of Parents", as they devotedly raise funds for Dr. Cheung's promising new monoclonal antibody vaccine, because I'm sure everyone who reads this blog has a heart of gold, and most of you have kids, and can grasp how paramount it is that this vaccine comes into fruition. I know this because my readers are good, generous and loving folks (most of you, anyway), but in the spirit of the holidays I have another site to share and this one is for pure fun.

My lovely, blogging cousin, Shane, sent me an e-mail this morning and I had to laugh for two reasons: First of all, I couldn't imagine why she would send me anything that would involve baking or any sort of kitchen activity (other than painting). Let's face it, I'm not exactly Martha Stewart OR Betty Crocker. The second reason being that after perusing the list, I do believe it contains every conceivable cookie known to mankind and it looks so appealing that I may just have to try a couple of these out.

If you click on whatever cookie piques your interest and makes your mouth water, the recipe for that cookie will pop up! It's pretty amazing and way, way cool! Who took the time to compile this list, I have no idea, but he or she must be dripping in domesticity and probably owns several aprons - the ones that say something weird like, "Kiss the Cook!". I had to share the list with you.

I have a feeling people won't say I'm too skinny after this season of cookies and joy. I'll just have to double up on the caffeine and burn it off the best way I know how.

Click on the name of the cookie, the recipe will pop up and then head out for the store of your choice and gather the ingredients. Before you leave the house for the store, it might be a good idea to go ahead and pay for that gym membership you've been considering because I have a feeling none of these are fat-free and why should they be? It's Christmas and it's the time of year when you need to eat really gooey, rich, high-caloric confections so go for it, I say. Life is short.

So, that is how the cookie crumbles. I'm not in any way, shape or form responsible for what your bathroom scales report as a direct or indirect result of "experimenting" with this list. Don't write to me complaining about how your jeans are shrinking or how that little black dress needs to be let out just a skooch. It's not my problem and why don't you just forget about it until, say, January. January is much better suited for obsessing about things like weight and your expanding waistline. The days are dark and winter is already feeling like it will last forever so just delay your worries and fears as to how you're going to fit into your swimsuit until January. There's no time for that now. It's December, the holidays are fast upon us. It's the season of hope. Just "hope" you don't have too many pounds to shed in January and get on with your life.

Before you click on your favorite recipe, click on the video below and enjoy watching and listening to Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel sing, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (from the movie "Elf") and then start printing those recipes!

If watching Will Ferrell sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" doesn't get you in the holiday spirit, perhaps a holiday reading by David Sedaris will. Katie and I were talking about this yesterday and we both laughed hysterically (seriously!) at the vision conjured by this essay - it's a family favorite. That is, it's a "Parker" family favorite, so you know it's totally screwed up, but we love David Sedaris and his way with words. Enjoy! Christmas in the Netherlands. I promise, you will laugh. Oh and, for the record, Katie and I are certain that Santa is not the former Bishop of Turkey and we're positive he doesn't live in Spain. I don't know how such rumors get started and what is up with the Dutch?

Happy Holidays!


Just click on the name of the cookie and bam the recipe is there.

1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies < /B>Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookie s Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar< /FONT>
Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cak e Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin B ars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread< /B> Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles< /SPAN> Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms

24 November 2007

Band of Parents...A Cookie Cutter Approach on How To Save A Life...

Last weekend when I was in Manhattan, after having a great lunch with my daughter at the "Moonstruck Cafe", near where she works on the Upper East Side, I found myself with a couple of hours waiting for her to get off work before heading over to her apartment. I decided to walk over and check out a place I've been aware of for years, and I know several people who know it much more intimately because their children have been treated there as they've battled neuroblastoma. Of course, I'm speaking of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

I walked through the doors, checked in with the guard and took the escalator up to the lobby. I saw the waiting area, where people sit until they're name is called to be admitted. You could see the fear etched on so many faces. It was impossible not to feel it. I remember being struck by two simultaneous thoughts: "This is a place where no one in their worst imaginings would ever want to find themselves" and, at the very same time, "Thank God this institution exists!". It was such an odd, comingling of impressions.

3F8 Antibody Treatment
Targeted High-Tech Therapy Meets "Grass Roots", Parentally-Steered Fund-Raising

MSKCC is a huge place and a great deal of cutting-edge research takes place there. So many families with kids of all ages have battled a particularly ferocious and insidious variety of cancer with treatments that are horrendously painful, difficult and not always successful. However, in the world of Neuroblastoma, Sloan-Kettering is known as a beacon of hope. They are currently on the cusp of a new phase of monoclonal antibody treatment and many kids of all ages, and the famlies who love them, are looking at it as a talisman of hope. It's a new antibody treatment and the only place it will be available is at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

I know money is tight for many of us this year, but most of us aren't facing a possible last Christmas with the kids we love with every fiber of our being. There are some Moms and Dads, sisters and brothers however, who are facing this prospect and I can't imagine how they function, but they do and with a grace, style and steely determination that blows my mind and elicits my highest admiration and deepest respect.

You can meet some of these young adults and kids by clicking here: Heroes and, if you want to see a beautiful angel, check out Nathan's site. Nathan was also treated at MSKCC and, unfortunately, the hoped for biomedical breath-throughs will be too late for him and his sweet family, but Nathan and the kids who will be celebrating the holidays in heaven this season most certainly won't be forgotten. Through their endurance and desire to forward medical science they, too, have paved the way for research with inestimable and very personal contributions and sacrifice. You may read other online journals about kids like Erik, Nick, Sidney, Emily, Anna, Dylan and Toby, just to name a few, who's lives may still be changed by the money you spend to buy a dozen cookies.

These parents have banded together and, in fact, call themselves "Band of Parents" because they are raising money in order to enable head researcher, Dr. Cheung, and the Neuroblastoma Team at MSKCC, to move forward with this antibody trial that may mean that these families get to spend another holiday season with their children who suffer from this most nasty and evil cancer.

There is an online flyer that the "BoP's" have created explaining in more detail about who they are, the science behind the new antibody treatment, and what they need from the rest of us. I think it's the very epitome of a "grass roots" campaign and rather than allowing themselves to feel defeated and at the end of their road and ropes, they have literally forged ahead to raise the money necessary for this new trial to begin and possibly save the lives of their kids. Who among us wouldn't be right in there doing the same if we had kids fighting neuroblastoma? You bet we would. It's what parents do.

All they are asking from the rest of us is to buy cookies. It's a pretty simple request and it doesn't require very much of us. Not only are they in the midst of battling it out with this disease on the front lines by tending to and supporting their desperately ill children, but they also have to use that most precious resource of all, their time, to fund-raise for a possible therapy which may literally mean the difference between life and death.

If you get the chance, please check out their site and, if you can spare $30, know that every cent you pay for the cookies will go toward research in trying to eradicate Neuroblastoma. As I've mentioned, I've spoke with a few of these parents and I know this is not only a legitimate fund-raising effort, and I also know that if I had a child sitting in one of those seats in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, I would appreciate it from the bottom of my heart if others could help me save my child and I'd knock down anything or anyone who stood in the way. I'm betting you would as well.

I was lucky last Friday evening as I waited for my daughter to get off work. We walked around town, ordered a hot drink at Starbucks and we hung out at her apartment that evening with no more pressing plans than deciding which movie we would see the next day and where we might choose to have dinner. Pretty carefree stuff. It's incumbant for those of us with healthy kids to remember that many families aren't afforded the luxuries the rest of us take for granted. Their days are filled with what amounts to, literally, life and death decisions when considering treatment options.

I hope you'll do a little investigating yourself and read their pamphlet and find it in your own heart to say a special prayer of thanksgiving for the children in your life who are healthy and living their lives, even if they make you want to pull your hair out form time to time, and send a few bucks to families with children who aren't afforded the ease with which the rest of us go about our day-to-day lives.

It's worth noting that any of us could, at any time, find ourselves members in a group like "Band of Parents". I'm sure there was a time when these families never thought something like Neuroblastoma could possibly touch their lives. Unfortunately one day they discovered that it could and they were thrust into a situation that is the epitome of a nightmare for the uninitiated among us.

I believe in my heart this new research at MSKCC merits our attention and whatever we can afford to give. And also, when considering what to give this person or that, this holiday season, realize that most of the time it's forgotten before January is torn off the calendar. Not only would you be buying those on your gift list a yummy present, but you'd also be an active participant in possibly funding a new therapy to eradicate this disease and nailing down Neuroblastoma. It's a present that "gives" twice. One size fits all, no worries that it won't "fit" and tax deductible! Does it get any easier than this? You place an order and it's DONE. So place several and really be DONE!

When I walked out of Sloan-Kettering last Friday evening into the brightly-lit evening with cabs honking their horns and clutches of passersby making their way toward the subway, it wasn't lost on me that many people walk through those doors with heavy hearts - stepping out for a bite to eat with loved ones still in treatment or, worse still, returning to the outside world without a precious family member who will never, ever step outside of 1275 York Avenue again. Once again, I reiterate, any one of us could easily find ourselves in a similar position someday.

I really hope you'll check it out and order some cookies. I know some of these families and it's worth your money and five minutes of your time.

22 November 2007

Happy 21st Birthday Justin Ryan Parker...

"I love lilacs and avocados.

Ukeleles and fireworks,
Woody Allen and walking in the snow.
But you've got to know...

That you're the love of my life,
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life!
From the moment I first saw you.
The second that you were born.
I knew that you were the love of my life,
Quite simply, the love of my life..."
~ Carly Simon

It started in Amarillo, Texas, on a Wednesday Night, 19 November 1986. I'd just eaten a piece of pumpkin pie and as soon as I put the fork down, my back started aching and it didn't stop until, two days later, Justin made his way into this world. This baby wasn't due for a week, but I guess he just couldn't wait and he was so bent on being a Scorpio that he got in right at the last minute, on the cusp. Justin did it his way. Justin's always done it his way. Justin is my son through and through.

There are about 1600 miles that separate Amarillo, Texas and Wilmington, North Carolina. Twenty-one years ago we celebrated his arrival at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. Last night we sat down to dinner at Henry's Restaurant, and celebrated his turning twenty-one. I adore this young man of mine. Many miles have been traveled and a great deal of history has been lived in those twenty-one years. What a crazy, wild ride.

Justin is the only authentic, genuine born and bred Texan in our family. His father, sister, grandparents and I were born in West Virginia and he's rather proud that he wasn't. Just like the state that produced him, I've always found him to be larger than life in so many ways.

He and I used to sing "You Are the Love of My Life" together in Florida. We would dance around the living room and hold hands and be silly and no lyrics ever rang truer, from where I twirled. We're hauntingly alike. We're both headstrong, obstinate and sometimes we hide behind a veil of shyness, but we always manage to get our point across and we seldom move from our most deeply-held positions, even when it's to our detriment.

He's twenty-one now. He's an adult. There will be joys ahead to celebrate and sometimes, hard, painful lessons to be learned. But on this night, the anniversary of my son's birth, I felt extreme, profound gratitude. This was a night to rejoice. And so we did.

I think about all that lies ahead at the tender age of twenty one. Remember how much you thought you knew and all that you've discovered since? As I consider my son, I honestly believe he's far better equipped with a brand of durable wisdom and savvy that I never knew at his age. There are times that it still takes me forever to pick up on things that should be blatantly obvious. I don't think that will quite be the case for him but, should it be so, I just hope he has angels circling who will pick him up when the need arises, as they have done for me so many times, and send him in a better direction. Good angels do that.

"You can drive me crazy.
You can drive me anywhere.

Here are the keys,

Just do as you please.

It may not always be easy..."

We've butted heads more than a few times. We've sparred, retreated to our corners, slammed a few doors and sneered now and again. Typical mother/son stuff. But deep inside, I believe there's always been a deep affection and there are still times that I look in his eyes and he can reduce me to a puddle, even when I'm absolutely irritated with him beyond belief. He'll flash a smile, fix me with those deep, cerulean blue eyes of his and, every now and then, I will completely forget why I'm so upset with him. Smart kid that he is, he uses this to his best advantage. Of course he does. Sometimes, I still fall for it.

The one thing I do know is that he is so very loved. He is adored. He is cherished, as is his sister, Katie. There are times I look at them and I can't believe how offbeat and eccentric they have turned out to be. These are not "cookie-cutter, Gap Kids", the kind I figured I'd wind up with. No, no, no, my son and daughter can both usually be found connected to an iPod, but they listen to a different tune. They've both become the ultimate in non-conformists. I couldn't be more pleased. I'd be so horribly bored if they'd turned into typical suburban kids and I don't think for one-second they ever really wanted June Cleaver for a Mom.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in my home group AA meeting. The meeting had just started and "The Promises" had just been read. It was a very special day for me - the second anniversary of my sobriety - and on that day, at that meeting, I would pick up my two-year blue chip. Five minutes into the meeting, the door opened and, quietly, in walked Katie and Justin. I will never, ever forget that moment. I couldn't have been more surprised. They took seats beside me. They took time out of their hectic young lives to see their Mom pick up her two-year AA chip. Tears rolled down my eyes for the remainder of that meeting and I didn't even try to hide it. My heart was overflowing.

Nothing quite says, "I love you", like supporting your Mom on the anniversary of her second year in a twelve-step program that basically saved her life. It meant the absolute world to me. After my sponsor presented me with my precious blue chip and medallion, both kids rose up and hugged me tightly. It was a miracle in so many more ways than one. It was that brand of support that has made my life far richer than I could have ever imagined on the night of 11 January 2004. I can't envision a purer, more vivid display of love from these two. Pretty special, if you ask me. Uncommon. Love beyond measure.

I've been so privileged to watch Justin grow up and, in many ways, he's watched me grow up as well. We've both seen each other make hideously, ill-advised errors in judgment. We've seen each other stumble. I've bandaged knee-abrasions, nursed him through fevers and sat in many steam-filled bathrooms to loosen more bouts of croup and bronchitis than I can count. I've paced the floor through torturous ear-aching, scream-filled nights and when he was 3 years old and fell off his play horse, I talked him through lidocaine injections and tried to make him smile as his eyebrow was stitched up, the result of being bucked off a misbehaving, unruly, plastic horse. He took it like a champ, didn't shed a tear. I cried for half an hour after it was over.

For his part, he's offered me hugs when I was at the lowest possible point in my life, fresh from hitting a painful bottom that was inevitable and essential to my own recovery. He drove me to pick up the personal items out of my car following a DUI a few years ago.

When it came time to check into the treatment center a few weeks later, I asked Justin to drop me off. I was so scared, but I knew he would make me laugh and I needed that so desperately. He never once took a cheap shot at me during the low, difficult times. He sensed when I was struggling and he promised me I was still a mother he was proud to have and hearing those things gave me the courage and inestimable strength to move forward on especially dark days.

Justin has a well-spring of compassion which is deep and wide. Beneath a quiet, sometimes stoic facade, lies one of the most incredibly sensitive hearts I've ever known. He dips from it frequently, with gentle hugs and steady embraces. He loves his family and we love him right back.

We've had our moments and it's my dearest hope that we have lots more of them. We both know they won't all be easy, and a few will be contentious and difficult, probably even gut-wrenching, but that's OK, too. We've been through things like that and we know instinctively, courtesy of our shared experiences, that the bad times really do pass. As my parents have so beautifully taught us time and again by their stellar example, within a solid framework of love, consideration and understanding, we can work through whatever comes our way.

When I was involved in a car wreck this past August, I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital beside my sweet Daddy, waiting to be called back, and within minutes after my Dad's arrival, I looked up to see Justin walking towards me with a large iced tea in one hand and an arm extended to embrace me with the other. I didn't even realize that he knew what had happened yet - I was still trying to wrap my mind around it - but he'd found out from my Mom and he and Stephanie took off in a flash to join me and sit with me in that waiting room. Being my son, he knew I needed a large iced tea, a smile and one of his hugs. He delivered brilliantly. Sitting there between my father and my son, I felt very blessed and dearly loved.

I've always found parenting to be more of an exchange than a unilateral transmission. Giving birth may place a baby in your hands, but it hardly confers instant knowledge and wisdom. I remember feeling so clueless and inept and blatantly confused on many occasions. I still do, sometimes. I've enjoyed raising my son and daughter so very much, but it's certainly not been a one-way street. They've been beside me through so many things and though I know I've made mistakes along the way, as all parents do, I can't help but believe I must have gotten a few things right because when I look at both Justin and Katie, I am blown away by the adults they have grown into.

I admire the way they handle life, rather than allowing life to handle them. They're both fiercely independent, opinionated, intelligent and funny individuals. I love how easily they find the humor in the most difficult and challenging of situations. They seem to have indomitable spirits and a keen sense of right and wrong. They are champions of those less fortunate - of the human, feline and canine variety and I adore that, too. Goodness knows, there was never any shortage of animals in our house as they've grown up and along with the ever-present influence of their doting grandparents, Pops and Granny, I know the seeds of love and kindness were borne from a strong, sturdy sense of family and love for all creatures great and small, even the ones that shed from time to time and have accidents on the carpet. Life is messy. It's really supposed to be.

"But you are the love of my life,

My heart is riding on a runaway train.
You are the love of my life,
Through all the pleasure and pain.

From the moment I first saw you, I knew.
I knew it right away,

I knew that you were the love of my life,

Simply the love of my life.

You are the love,
The great love
Of my life..."

So Justin, on this, the first day of your twenty-second year, I just want you to know that I am so ecstatically proud to be your mother, so thrilled to have you in my life and I'm solidly optimistic about your future, because I have been a close witness to your past. I know parents always say, "You can do whatever you set your mind to" and we all mean it when we utter those words, but honestly, I'd stake my life on it.

Ultimately, the choices will be yours to make, but knowing what I do of who you are, I have every faith that you will be a force to be reckoned with wherever your dreams beckon you to follow. Some will work out and a few won't, but you'll learn a lot more from the ones that don't than those times in your life when things flow flawlessly. Thank you, my dear son, for allowing me to know the essential you, and for continuing to allow us, your family, to share in your life.

You and Katie truly are, and always will be, the love of my life. Happy, happy birthday, my love.