Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Renee Ellen

There are not too many people, who will come home from their honeymoon early to pick you up from the hospital, after a routine medical procedure. But my friend did. And over the course of 45 years she has helped me a million times. Always – always there for me- even when she’s mad at me.

For forty-five years, we have been friends. Through thick and thin. Through births and deaths and all the life stuff in between. We have worried about everything together. We have mourned together. We have shared fears and joys and blessings. Our faces have grown lined together. Our hair turned gray together.

I can’t really remember what it was that first made us friends. Maybe it was our mutual dislike of Physical Education. Perhaps we sat on the sidelines together. She was so bubbly and normal, not my usual pick in friends really. She knew everyone in school and everyone loved her, which normally would make me dislike someone. Instead- she became my best friend.

She adopted me. She brought me home to her family and shared them with me. They didn’t quite get me at first. They thought I was too fast for her- and I was. Too experienced, too edgy, too worldly- already at 15 or 16, whatever we were.  

We spent holidays together; we walked down Magnolia St. with our pink lemonade and vodka in our short-shorts and halter-tops, watching the Fourth of July Parade. We spent every day together. If we had secrets from each other, they remain so to this day. I don’t think we did though.

We had a million laughs. With her family cracking crab, making tamales, lecturing us, drinking our wine, telling our crazy stories. And we had a million tears too.

Her family became my family. Her parents bossed me around and for the first time in my life, I liked it. Her nephews were my nephews. Her sister, my sister. She even let me fall in love with her brother for a while.

I was protective towards her. Hating anyone who would dare to hurt her. Like an older sister- I kept an eye on her- hoping she wouldn’t make the mistakes I had already made.

No boy ever came between us. Her husband understood from the start that I came with the deal. (thankfully)  

We fought sometimes as sisters do. We misinterpreted each others words or looks or sometimes silence. We drifted apart a time or two- but never in our hearts.

Tomorrow is Renee Ellen Mistron Gallagher’s  60th Birthday.

I am so fortunate to have you as my friend. My support. My sister of the heart.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without you- so I just wanted to say thank you for being born. (oh and thank Elsie for doing the work ;o) )

Love you much,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


They come home as heroes. We – their families and loved ones hang banners, meet buses and wave flags. We are so proud. So relieved. We check their faces for signs of stress. We look at them with a magnified glass. Still, we don’t see it.

 It doesn’t take us long to forget their reality. I bet you can’t wait to get a job, go to school, get married, have kids. Whoa, they say. Hold up a minute- I need to chill a little here.

So they party and spend their war money. We know the signs, we all read up on this before they come home. But, but, what about that job Uncle Mike wants to give you? We can’t seem to help ourselves.

They are depressed. They sleep. They lock themselves in their rooms and don’t come out for days, sometimes months. They go to bars and fight. They buy their dead buddies drinks and won’t let anyone sit on the bar stool where the drink is sitting. They cry.

 I’ll take you to the VA if you need a ride, we tell them. We are met with a blank stare. Or worse. They can’t sleep. When they do sleep they have nightmares. They wake up swinging, hit whoever is in their way. Their guilt increases. They can’t help themselves. They drink some more. They take the pills the VA hands out like candy.

They are reckless. They cheated the odds before why not again? They ride motorcycles, drive fast cars, jump off cliffs with paper wings, walk dark alleys, sleep with strangers. Risk becomes their high.

They rant. They rave. They don’t give a fuck. They hate you. They hate life. Five, six, seven years later. Still holed up in a small, dark room. Can’t get dressed. Can’t watch the news. Can’t read a book. Can’t take a piss without punching the bathroom wall.

Our heroes. Who’re their heroes? Can’t be us. We haven’t done shit for them. Clean your room you’ll feel better. Get a haircut you’ll feel better. You just need to get a job, meet a nice girl, nice guy, get a dog, have some kids, you’ll be fine. Trust me.

They hurt themselves. Some of them need those scars on the outside to explain why the inside is so messed up. They long for war days. It was easier, they tell us. I’d rather be shot at all day long than try to find a fucking job in California, Nebraska, Oklahoma…pick a state.

This is a call out. I’m calling you out to get them some help. We owe them. If you are one of those people that says, I never asked anyone to go to war for me. Then I hope you never need my help. I hope you never need THEIR help. (and please don’t be my friend on anything)

Our heroes are dying before our very eyes. For some, suicide is the only way- because they can’t figure out how to live in this world. We can help them. But we have to be dogged in our resolve. We cannot give up because we hit a few bumps in the road. These are our sons, our daughters, our husbands, wives, nephews, nieces, cousins, neighbors. FRIENDS.

Please sign the petition to end this horrible treatment of our veterans and get them the help they need.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cooking Lessons

Yesterday my 20-year-old niece, Francesca, told me she wanted to learn to cook and bake. I told her she should come over anytime and I will show her a few things. I invited her for dinner tonight and when I picked her up, I told her this would be a cooking lesson too.

Basically- Chessie is starting at ground zero in the kitchen. Boiling water. So I didn’t want to get too complex- but she might as well make good tasting food – so we started with Nonno Chicken, AuGratin Potatoes, sautéed broccoli and banana nut bread for desert.

First, we boiled the potatoes while I cleaned up the kitchen. 6 Med size russets – skin on.  

After I got the kitchen cleaned up, we took the chicken breast and pounded them to about ½ thick. – And set aside. Then I cut the broccoli and par-boiled.

I shredded the cheese for the potatoes.

Chessie looked on while I explained why I was doing things in the order I was doing them- which is so everything would finish at the same time of course.

Next, I showed her how to peel the skins off the potatoes and cut them for the buttered casserole dish. Then diced a ½ onion to sprinkle in with the potatoes.

I took the par-boiled broccoli and put in a pan with minced garlic, butter, olive oil, salt & pepper. Set aside for later.

Then I made the cheese sauce for the potatoes with a butter/flour roux, and then added milk, the 2 cups of cheddar (shredded) and ½ cup of Romano/Parmesan.

Chessie and I were talking about all kinds of things while we were cooking. School, different careers, your forgiven screw up window (age 16-22) and family- she wanted to know about my mother- her Nonnie.

We poured the cheese sauce over the potatoes and then topped with bread crumbs and a little more cheese.- Popped in the over at 375.

We took our pounded chicken breasts and dipped them in egg with crushed rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Then dipped in seasoned bread crumbs.  We browned the breaded chicken breasts briefly in olive oil and butter – then placed them on a cookie sheet. We deglazed the pan with Raspberry vinegar and a little more butter and then poured that over the chicken.

We set the chicken aside for a bit and cleaned up the kitchen again.

The potatoes had browned perfectly- so I pulled them out and put the chicken in the oven for 10 minutes at 350. I turned up the heat on the broccoli.  

While the dinner was in its last few minutes of cooking- Chessie mashed the bananas for the Chiquita Banana Bread Mix. We took the chicken out of the oven after about 10 minutes and put the Banana bread in. (350)

We sat and ate our dinner. I think Chessie was happy- she cleaned her plate!

It was great to spend an evening with my niece. It was fun to share some of my recipes with her and show her how easy cooking can be if you plan a little bit. I did tell her sometimes it doesn’t always work out with everything being ready on time- but you learn to adjust (and BS ) your way through it.

I’ve always had a comfortable relationship with Chessie, but I think tonight we bonded a little more. In many ways, she reminds me of me- maybe a little less hard –headed. But if I can share anything to make her life a little easier- whether it’s cooking or something else- I’m happy to do it.

I’ve solved a lot of problems in the kitchen- I hope to share that recipe with Chessie too.