Thursday, December 25, 2008

Unconditional Love

It's what keeps us going. Monday came. and so did the lay-offs. Everyone in the company was asked to take a month off without pay and informed that starting January 1 there would be no money left for payroll. If permanent funding is not secured within thirty days, the company will fold. In twenty-five years of working I had never lost a job, let alone three days before Christmas. They still failed to pay me for the five months worth of reimbursement as well. On top of it all they started hospice on my Grandfather, and I can't even get out there until I get paid.

Enough of the complaining. Today is Christmas day, and I hate to compare Jesus to a puppy but the one thing they both epitomize is unconditional love. My family has been full of it as well. Of all the things I can be thankful for this Christmas the one thing that is the greatest gift of all is the love that my wife and daughter has showered on me through all of this. It is amazing how the meaning of Christmas becomes more evident when you can't afford the distractions that make you forget the real meaning.

Hopefully Grandpa will make it through the day, and hopefully the money that I have been promised tomorrow will show up. For now I won't worry about these things, and just cherish the things that I have and love more than anything else in the world.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Being in the development business has really sucked this year. I truly can't imagine a worse year financially (shy of actually going bankrupt). In May we had to close our business as everyone of our clients lost their funding and canceled their contracts within a 30 day time span. We were stiffed for close to $50,000 worth of work, and almost every single promise made to bail us out buy my current employer has been broken or delayed to the point it wouldn't work.

Friday afternoon was almost the breaking point. I really haven't cared so much about the blows I have taken myself. Through all of it I have done whatever I could to protect my wife and daughter. Here came Friday. As it approached 4:30 I could not even get anyone to tell me that I wasn't going to get me the five months worth of reimbursements I was due. It was the Friday before Christmas. I got may paycheck, but because they were so far behind on everything else it was already gone. This time it was my wife who was taking the hit, and there was nothing I could do for her, let alone think about Christmas.

That was when I looked out the window...

Coming out of the roof right outside my window was not one, but two rainbows! You would think being a fire station there would have been a leprechaun with a pot of gold. If there was one, all those Irish firefighters must have beaten me to it. It did look like the other end of it was landing on the bank a few blocks away. If it was, you know they weren't parting with it. If they were our clients (and employer) could actually pay us.

If nothing else it was after four and for all sakes and purposes my bank was closed which meant there was nothing else I could do until Monday morning. My dad always said you shouldn't waste valuable energy worrying about things that you can't do anything about. Until Monday, there was no longer anything I could do, so it was time to stop worrying. As I started to shut down my computer, I looked out the window as the rainbows were fading away, and color was starting to show over the mountain from the impending sunset.

Once I got home I found my pot of gold. Through all of this my wife and my daughter have been there for me every step of the way. In the last year we have definitely gotten closer than we have ever been as a family. We were spoiled for the first nine years of our marriage. Money wise it had been nowhere but up, but in some strange way we seemed to be getting far apart. In the last year as we have hunkered down, filled our root cellar, and really plowed through this together, I have gotten closer to my two rainbows than I had ever imagined. Sometimes It just takes something as magical as what happened Friday to remind me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Joy of Cooking

I don't know if there is a new version out this year or not. If there is I sure don't know what number it would be, but as for myself...I own three. The first edition I got was from my father in 1989. That was the year I went off to college at a Jesuit University, and being the atheist he was it was inscribed, "This is Dad's bible. It is the one book you can truly live by." Since then I have gotten two more revisions of the book, and of the fifty cookbooks we own it remains in the top three used.

Every year, as we draw closer to Christmas, I find myself drawn closer and closer to the book. Even though he passed away ten years ago (on November 4th), the book brings me closer and closer to him every year. Whether it is the need to make Parker House Rolls, or the ratio of lard to flour in my annual apple pie. Every time I pull it out, it takes me back to so many times growing up.

You see, my dad was a professor with two PhD's from the University of Chicago. I use the word professor and not teacher, because the thing he liked to do most was profess the truths that he had arrived to in life. Most of those truths came from The Joy of Cooking. Not just from the book, but also from the epiphanies he had as his mind wondered while he wisked a rue, carmelized the onions, or folded the eggs. Just as taking the time to pull the flavor out of an onion with a slow simmer makes for a bolder rich broth, ideas are better when they have the time to develop and release their aroma.

It's about "the about". What makes The Joy of Cooking special isn't the proliferous collection of recipes, the glossary, the index of measurements and facts, and most certainly not the pictures. It is the "about". For each section of the book, cut of meat, type of bread, or a cornicopia of other food types there is a section called "about". The "about" tells you why you do what you do, how the way you do it effects the outcome, and often the history of practices that has led to this discovery. This is why it was Dad's Bible. The recipes may work, but they won't be great unless you read and inwardly digest the "about". Once you have read it everything else you cook, whether it is from another cookbook, family recipe, or of your own creation will be better for it.

I said my father was professor, instead of teacher. Obviously he was a teacher. Every day when he came home from class and we came home from school we gathered around the kitchen table. The music for the scence was "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air, at least two times through, as he made us dinner and gave us the "about". Once he was done, we turned off the radio, we sat down for dinner as a family and discussed the world's events. We started with our own world, made our way to the world news, then we proceeded with the "about".

There is no doubt that my love of food comes from growing up with my father. My love of knowledge and ideas obviously come from him as well. My love of family has undoubtedly come from the about. The fact that my six year old daugter likes her steak red, and that my wife likes her potatoes steamed before they are fried, lets me know that they have an appreciation for the aesthetic and depth of flavor and texture. The fact that we all share the ability to appreciate things with such depth definitely allows us to love each other in the same way. The joy that we gain from each other, even when times are hard, comes from that ability enrich the flavor of the onion with a long slow simmer. When we smell the aroma of that onion wafting through the house, it touches us even when we are in seperate rooms. It lets us know that we will be together soon to savor the flavor of the meal that is to come, and savor the richness that is each other.

This is Dad's Bible. It is the one book you can truly live by." It showed up under the tree wrapped in paper in a pile of boxes with shirts, sweaters, kitchen gadgets, cassette tapes, and numerous other things that are long since gone. What made this gift different wasn't the new recipe for 'pie crust #2'. It was the "about" and the gift of Joy that it has revealed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Germination of a Dirt Apple

One of my favorite things in the whole world is a radish pulled straight from the ground, immediately cleaned with spit and the tail of my shirt, popped in my mouth and eaten right on the spot. Some of my fondest memories of growing up were of my dad introducing me to the same rituals. When my own child (at the time only 4) watched me wash a big bunch of radishes and sit down with a dish of Molden sea salt I was flabbergasted when she proclaimed "Radishes are gross!"

At first I was glad because I knew I would have them all to myself. Then I thought of the joy I had as a child eating radishes, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes straight out of the garden. That is when I had my epiphany and proclaimed, "These aren't radishes...These are dirt apples!" Her eyes lit up. My moment of triumph and thoughts of solitude with a bowl of radishes quickly slid away to the sounds of, "I want one! I want one! I want one!"

The same worked with beets. The little round carrots became orange potatoes. Potatoes became buried treasure and most of all the garden became a place to hang out with Daddy.

Never mind that a child thinks that potatoes are supposed to be blue, white and yellow inside with all sorts of colors on the outside. Carrots that are orange are now boring. Cucumbers should be eaten like candy bars. Best of all, fresh foods are better than frozen and the new root cellar is neatest room in the house.

Now that she is six, and she is starting to spell the vegetables, but I am just as thankful that she knows how to enjoy them.