Friday, March 30, 2012

Soap -- It's Not
Just For Washing Any More

I sleep with a bar of soap.

It's not what you think.  Unless you think that a white cake of Dial or Irish Spring (but not Ivory or Dove) has magical, medicinal powers, fending off muscle cramps, back spasms, migraine headaches, and perhaps, even the common cold, in which case, it is exactly what you think.

This past August, in the wake of my questionable decision to sign up for the Cooper River Bridge Run, I threw out my back.  It was a kind of routine injury for me, but this time, I really did it good -- teary-eyed and crumpled on the floor, before being driven to the doctor by my teenaged son.

Few things bring on unsolicited advice -- both medical and not -- like a doctor's visit.  Well-meaning friends and family suggested all kinds of cures -- heating pads and ice  packs, exercise and bedrest, hot tea and Scotch, massages and chiropractic treatment all made the list.  As did soap.

No kidding.  A close family member suggested that I tuck a bar between my mattress and box spring.  She even went so far as to suggest that I get some of those little hotel soaps and keep them in my pocket.  And since the "advisor" was my mom -- with 20 years actual medical experience -- I did.

And wouldn't you know it?  About eight weeks later, my back issue was resolved.  Of course, it could've been the months of physical therapy.  Or, it could've been the prescription drugs, which, at the very least, altered my thinking sufficiently so I found it entirely reasonable to order $300 worth of "Steals and Deals" from The Today Show website one Thursday morning.  While I was at home.  Not at work.  In other words, squandering money while not making money.

Or, it could've been that little white cake of Dial.

In any event, I got back on my feet, and in January, got back into training.  Now, tomorrow morning, I aim to complete a 10K run across the Cooper River Bridge.

And, yes, tonight I'll be sleeping with a bar of soap.  Just in case. 

Sadly I haven't lost a single pound (what the aitch?) while preparing for the run, even though I've been eating pretty healthily.  One of our current favorites is this simple Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps.  I'll post the recipe soon -- but for now, I've got to run!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Darling Daughter At Age 15

Yesterday, Darling Daughter turned 15.

Today, she got her driver’s permit.

She’s stretching her wings, while I’d prefer to snugly swaddle her once again in the sweet pink jersey blanket her grandmother bought when she was born and which is, even now, tucked under the pillow on her queen-sized bed.  She’s ready to take flight, while I’m reminiscing about her very first self-assured steps across the hardwood floor of our family room.

As the two of us leave the surprisingly uncrowded and pleasant DMV office, I’m worried – near frantic.  I realize I’m not done with her yet.  There’s still so much I want her to know – so much I want to teach, so much I want to share.

But Darling Daughter is already a teenager.  I know less and less about the daily details of her life. Does she have a French test this week?  Does she like her English teacher?  Did she eat all of her lunch today?  Does her backpack need to be cleaned out?  Is she out of deodorant?  Are her socks too small?

Beats me.  She handles all that on her own – quietly, gracefully, uneventfully.

She’s taller than me, she’s stronger than me, she bristles at my parenting style.  But I’m not done.

I haven’t yet taught her to shake a little cayenne pepper into chocolate cake batter and a little salt into chocolate frosting.

I haven’t yet revealed that guys are impressed with a girl who knows how to drive a boat.  And that it doesn’t matter what guys think.

She doesn’t yet know that she’s smarter than she thinks and more capable that she realizes.    I haven’t made it clear that she can do oh-so-much more; but that she doesn’t have to do anything more for me.  She's funny, she's insightful, she's wise.  She is control of her own happiness, her own joy.

As we drive back to school, freshly-minted driver’s permit on the backseat, I know she has no idea of the blessings and pride she brings into my life.  And then, abruptly, she asks, “Are those chickens?”  I squint at the 18-wheeler five or six car lengths ahead of us.  “I don’t think so.  I think they are turkeys.”

And sure enough, we find ourselves at 50 miles an hour, trailing a truckload of turkeys, headed to the next, um, “exit.”  “OMG.  What is he doing?,” Darling Daughter squeals,  “Is he peeing?”

And sure enough, one of the turkeys empties out enough urine to make a racehorse prance with pride.  But not on our Honda Pilot. We smoothly change lanes, as the Jeep Cherokee beside us is christened with poultry urine.

Always look ahead.  Lesson number one for Darling Daughter’s 15th year. 

Assuming I can share a lesson-a-day with her this year, that’s three hundred and sixty-four to go.

Happy birthday, Julia Wiles.  I hope you can bear with me.  I still have a lot to share.  And from you, I still have a lot to learn.

No new recipe today, as we celebrated the birthday girl's special day with dinner out and her favorite Chocolate-Chocolate-Chocolate Cake.  Just click to find the recipe.  And be sure to sprinkle a little cayenne in the batter and salt in the frosting.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mom On The (Bridge) Run

What was I thinking?

Or really, when I signed up for the 35th Cooper River Bridge Run, was I thinking at all?

Apparently not, because my registration packet has now arrived via USPS and even though I haven’t yet “been there and done that,” I do have the t-shirt, along with a race bib with “Cheryl” imprinted on it and a computer timing chip built-in.

Let me be clear:  I am not a runner.  I'm a 49-year-old mom who would never be confused for a runner.  A single glance tells all:  I am not built for speed.  If anything, I’m built for sauvignon blanc.  Or, in the right company, single-malt scotch.   I didn’t run track in high school.  I’ve never run away.  I’d never consider running for office.  I’ve never even run out of gas.

OK.  I have had my share of runs, but that was back in the days of pantyhose, and I can assure you that a silver "egg" of Suntan Sheer Energy L’Eggs did nothing to prepare me to run 10 kilometers in a pack of 43,999 athletes from Mt. Pleasant over the (new) Cooper River Bridge and into downtown Charleston.

I am, however, making an effort.  I have a training schedule.  An eye-popping neon yellow top so Cougar Bait can rescue me after race.  And new shoes.  I know.  In most situations, "new shoes" would cure all ills.  But when it comes to running shoes, maybe not so much.  My 17-year-old son's response to my recent "mile-time" stat was, “Gawd, Mom.  Were you even trying?”

Was I trying?  Did my hunched-over hobble to the sofa not give it away?  Where are crutches when you need them?

With the run now two weeks away, I am verging on panic.  Yesterday, I pushed to prove that I can go the distance.  The good news is that it turns out that I can.  The bad news is that the weather must be perfect, that I’m on a course I know like the back of my hand, and that 43,999 other people aren’t running with me.

Maybe I just need to eat better.  Something like this Seared Ginger-Lime Salmon with Slaw.

Nah.  What am I thinking?  It can’t be that easy.  It can however, be pretty darn tasty!

Seared Ginger-Lime Salmon with Slaw
I use the same, super-flavorful mix for both the marinade and the dressing.  This amount will work with up to four salmon fillets.  

Pieces of salmon fillet
Napa cabbage, sliced in ribbons (1 heaping cup per serving)
Red bell pepper, sliced in thin ribbons (1 quarter pepper per serving)
Feta cheese, crumbled (2 tablespoons per serving)
Pignoli nuts, toasted (1 tablespoon per serving) 

Juice of two limes
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine marinade/dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth.  Pour about half (1/4 cup) into a zipper-sealed plastic bag with salmon pieces.  Marinate, at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Drain and remove salmon pieces.  Sear in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, until done and flakes easily.  Set aside, covering loosely with aluminum foil while you assemble the slaw.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine remaining "marinade/dressing" with napa cabbage and red bell pepper (for four servings, use one small head of napa cabbage, plus, one bell pepper).  Toss well, serve with salmon, garnishing with feta cheese and pignoli nuts.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's So Special About 17?

Carter celebrated his 17th birthday this week, but according to him, 17 is nothing special.  No big deal.  It’s not 16, it’s not 18, it’s just kinda whatever.

I disagree.  Vigorously.  For me, 17 is momentous.

First of all, as Carter himself said to me few months ago, “Look, Mom, I’m not smart yet, but my stupidity is on the decline.”

Thank you, Jesus.  And please don't take offense, because that’s not blasphemy.  That’s genuine gratitude.  Maybe not every mom would consider herself blessed to have a child with “declining stupidity,” but since I live with two – count ‘em, two – hormonal, impulsive, illogical, unpredictable teenagers, “declining stupidity” sounds pretty darn good.   Particularly in the face of my own hormonal, impulsive, illogical and unpredictable behavior.

Mostly though, Carter’s 17th birthday reminds me marvel at the man he is becoming.

When he was just a toddler, and I was pregnant with Julia, a friend remarked, “I am SO glad you’re having another baby!”  Then, she shared this insight, “Now you’ll realize that you don’t get to take all the credit for what your child is or does.  And you don’t have to take all the blame, either.  They are who they are.  They just come out that way.”

They do.  For 17 years, I’ve tried to guide and shape and nurture.  I’ve tried to teach and encourage and motivate.  And I’ve tried to predict.  Lord knows how I’ve tried to predict.  Carter used to devour books:  English would be his favorite subject!  Until he was four, he wouldn’t poke a toe out of bed until I came to get him:  He would never be a risktaker!  He loved whole fruits and vegetables:  He’d never succumb to fast food!

Riiiigggghhhtt.  Or actually, wrong.  Wrong, wrong and wrong.

He's not crazy about English, he's well-acquainted with risk-taking, and more often than not, he'll drive through, rather than drive by, a Chick Fil A.  But I'm awestruck as he makes his way toward becoming the man he chooses to be.  He’s bright and funny and irreverent and opinionated.  He’s mellow and outrageous, devil-may-care and fiercely devoted.  

He just came out that way.  Or, he just chooses to be that way.

Either way, I don’t get to take the credit.  I simply get to appreciate the person he is.

Happy birthday, son.  Being a parent to you at age 17 is something special, indeed.