I can see clearly now

I  look at my face in the mirror and think, this is how I am going to look for the rest of my life.

I wander into the bathroom late in the evening and start to wash my hands before I remember. I’m not going to touch my eyes.

As I climb into bed, my hands circle my face, but there’s nothing for them to grab.

I began wearing glasses when I was 6 years old and my first grade teacher noticed that I couldn’t see the blackboard. I remember being delighted that trees had individual leaves and were not just blobs of green.

The next time I saw my naked face in a mirror was a bit more than a decade later, when I began wearing contact lenses. A few days ago, I threw out all my contact lens paraphernalia. There’s a big empty space in the medicine cabinet that I don’t know what to do with.

All this is a backward way of saying that I’ve had cataract surgery in both eyes.

I know this is now a common procedure, and most everyone is happy with the results. Still, as a recovering myopic, I can’t help thinking this whole situation is special. It’s so about me.

I’m very visual; I notice a detail everywhere I am. I tend to be aware of my surroundings. My new vision, without cloudiness of cataracts and the yellowing of 64-year-old lenses, is so clear that the beauty I am used to seeing daily is multiplied. I can’t stop smiling. This is freedom.

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A rutabaga recipe

In 1997, when I was working with The Oregonian’s FoodDay section, I had to fight to get this recipe included among the Top 10 recipes of the year. I thought it was so good that I steam-rolled the rest of the staff into accepting a 10 Best recipe based on a root vegetable.

Union Square Cafe’s Puree of Rutabaga with Crispy Shallots

Based on Fresh From the Garden by Perla Meyers

Makes 6 servings


 2 medium rutabagas, about 3 pounds, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium all-purpose potato, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 -inch pieces

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream

Freshly ground white pepper (oh, heck, use black)

1½ tablespoons peanut oil

3 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil, add the rutabagas and potato, and cook until both vegetables are very tender.  Drain well and transfer the vegetables to a food processor with 3 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture is not quite creamy, add the remaining tablespoon of sour cream. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover, and set in the center of  the oven to keep warm.

In a heavy 8-inch skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter together with the oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and saute until nicely browned and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the shallots on paper towels, then mix into the potato and rutabaga mixture. Correct the seasoning. Serve hot


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Introducing Augie

My new (and first) grandchild is August Theodore Holden, born April 16, 2014, to Maggie Gardner and Jeff Holden in Cambridge, MA. These pictures are courtesy of Jeff.

This is all so wonderful. I don’t know what else to say.

Just a day old

Just a day old

IMG_20140419_085333 IMG_20140421_093407

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Today is a rutabaga day

It has been my observation that most American kitchens do not contain sharp knives. In my kitchen, all the knives are well-honed and I use them all the time to cut, chop, and slice.

In winter, I boil, steam, mash, or roast root vegetables almost daily. You need a sharp knife to cut a tough root vegetable. Carrots take a moderate amount of effort; turnips are soft; potatoes very in hardness; but beets and rutabagas resist the knife and are difficult to cut.

So when I awoke this morning with the image of one of my Gerber knives slicing through a freshly peeled rutabaga, I knew it meant something significant. I took it to mean that my strength is returning. I knew, at a cellular level, that I would write again.

I have walked a steep, rocky, and twisting path these last months. I gave up writing entirely; life intervened. My focus moved—I became more involved with friends, quilts, cooking, knitting, and playing bluegrass violin. A new grandchild was born.

As my function decreases, it takes longer and longer every morning just to get the day started: get out of bed, wash, dress, fix breakfast, make coffee, open the blinds, and get the newspaper (the one I still subscribe to) off the front porch. I whine about this a lot, but really, this set of tasks that used to take only a few minutes now consumes an hour or more, shaving minutes from early morning, my prime writing time.

There have been steps backward: reduced walking ability, worsening balance, weight gain, fatigue, and sleep issues. But there have also been undeniable gains. An incredibly gifted body therapist, Valerie Lyon, taught me how to stand up straight and access the energy my body already possesses. I find great joy in making music and piecing quilt tops. I discover new friends, and strengthen ties with old ones. I deepen my religious faith or my ties to the Universe, however you wish to look at it.

And the whole time, even when the boulders were the biggest, I’ve held despair at bay. Not by denying, but by accepting.

Finally, the packed ice broke, and floes began to break off and float into consciousness. Sleep is easier, I’ve been able to lose a few pounds, and every day I count many accomplishments, even though I am frequently tired. One of the blessings of sleeping longer and more consistently was that I began to dream again. And thus, the vision of the sharp knife easily slicing into that rutabaga, tough as it was.

And here I am, writing again.

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Rembering Gerber knives and a dear friend

Yesterday, April 23, 2014, would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. She died in 2011 at the age of 97. My first grandchild, who would have been her second great-grandchild, was born just a week earlier, on April 16. His name is August Theodore Holden.

Among the items I discovered when I went looking for the baby clothes I had set aside after my girls outgrew them was a sweet little circular blanket knitted with pastel yarn and topped with a yellow pompom. Who made that? I wondered, then saw the tag: “Made especially for you by Judy Weinsoft”.2014-04-24 08.14.24

I met Judy when I was a student at Berkeley. At that time of my life, I didn’t have a clue how to relate to other people, and I was entirely wrapped up in the man who would become my first husband and the father of my children. But Judy saw something in me and made a special effort to become my friend, and when I moved to Portland, where she had grown up and to where she returned after receiving her librarianship degree, we rekindled our friendship.

Judy’s father was engaged in a business that seems quaint to us now; he sold and repaired small appliances. Of course, today we never repair small appliances, we just toss them and buy new ones. Anyway, Judy’s father was able to order some Gerber knives for us wholesale, which was important as they were quite expensive. I still remember poring over the various knives in the catalog with their evocative names like Excalibur and Pixie.

Nearly 40 years later, I am still using those knives. The handles, which are also metal, show signs of wear, but the blades are as sharp as ever.

This Gerber knife's name is, simply, "Franch."

This Gerber knife’s name is, simply, “Franch.”

Judy died early, tragically, of breast cancer while she was still in her thirties. She was such a good woman, cheerful and caring, doing volunteer work when I, even before I had children, couldn’t seem to find the time.

I miss her to this day. I’m not going to give that baby blanket to Maggie, the new mother. I’m going to keep it.

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#100happydays Walking slowly opens a world of great beauty.

#100happydays  Walking slowly opens a world of great beauty.

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#100happydays Fluffy white clouds. Sunlight, spring, warm. Happy.

#100happydays Fluffy white clouds. Sunlight, spring, warm. Happy.

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#100happydays Colors

#100happydays  Colors

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#100happydays "Hark, how my little pear tree in the hedge bends and scatters the field with clover; blossoms and dewdrops at the bent spray's edge…."

#100happydays "Hark, how my little pear tree in the hedge bends and scatters the field with clover; blossoms and dewdrops at the bent spray's edge...."

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#100happydays Flowering quince, one of my favorite things. Ever.

#100happydays Flowering quince, one of my favorite things. Ever.

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