Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who wants to guest blog?

Happy Sunday, friends! Are you loving the early-summer weather we've been having? I am!

As much as I love sharing my stories with you, I hope this blog might be an opportunity for you to share your stories, too. Everyone experiences grief and loss in different ways, so the more voices we can get out there, the more we can relate to new ideas and opinions.

If you're interested in writing a "guest blog" for Sally's Circle, drop me an email. Whether you're dealing with someone close being sick, mourning the death of someone who has passed (even if it was years ago), or wondering how to reach out to a friend or acquaintance who lost someone, I'm interested in hearing from all kinds of viewpoints. I respect that not everyone is comfortable sharing in a public setting, so you always have the option to post anonymously. I won't give you away ; )

Hope to hear from you soon!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is there such a thing as "almost grief"?

Hi friends,

I just Googled "Patrick Swayze" to check in on him. He's been on my mind ever since I found out he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the same deadly disease that Sally had. I never had much of a tie to Patrick as an actor, but now that he's a fellow PC fighter, I feel a strong kinship with him. I know Sally would, too. I was especially intrigued by his interview with Barbara Walters (see a video clip from the interview here).

In Google, the most recent article that appears is an interview with Whoopie Goldberg, one of his Ghost co-stars. "He's going to go, but we don't know when," is the title. What a telling title for terminal disease. It's the dark cloud hanging over your head. It's the unpredictable time you may have left. It's the waiting.

Some grief specialists and psychologists have a name for it: anticipatory grief. It's a debatable term. Some think that loved ones can feel a type of grief before someone passes away. Others feel that grief begins only when a loved one's life ends.

I feel mixed about this. The 2 1/2 years that Sally was sick were life-changing for me. I know in my gut that something extraordinary happened in that time, whether we call it anticipatory grief, "almost grief" (that's the term I like), or some other name.

Do you think grief can happen before someone dies, or do you think the real grief only begins afterward? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy last day of Passover!

Well, Passover is almost over (it ends Thursday at sundown). Most people celebrate by chowing down on bread, pasta, and other grainy goodness. While I have to admit I'm excited to bite into a chewy whole-wheat bagel, I am a little sad to wave goodbye to my favorite Jewish holiday and one of my favorite Passover recipes: Matzah Pizza.

It's so easy to make! Just put a square of matzah on a cookie sheet, drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil, coat with a thick layer of tomato sauce, decorate with thin slices of fresh mozarella cheese, and add any toppings you wish. Mark and I loaded it up with slices of sweet Italian sausage. I know it's completely anti-Kosher (you're not supposed to combine cheese and meat), but it's so delish!

And in case you were curious, here are some food pics from my Passover seder:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Passover Seder: 9 Things That Made Me Smile

Happy Saturday! It's truly an April day. Rain pitter-patters on the cement, coffee nestles in my belly, and my couch welcomes my tired body. After all, making a Passover seder for 22 people took quite a bit out of me this week! But it was well worth it. On my fourth annual seder -- and by far my favorite -- here are 9 things that made me smile:

  1. Cooking. In the past year, I've really learned to love cooking. I took the day off from work on Wednesday to prepare, and I loved every second of it. Music and flavors swirled around my kitchen while I tasted each recipe: Cranberry Brisket, Apricot Chicken, Pineapple Kugel, Blood Orange Salad, Roasted Asparagus, Raisin-Nut Quinoa, Matzah Ball Soup. Maybe homemakers really do have it made?!

  2. Flowers. My boyfriend Mark and best friend Laura both brought gorgeous bouquets of lilacs, sunflowers, and carnations. Passover is a "harvest holidays" in which we thank the land for being plentiful and enjoy seasonal spring foods, so flowers represent that.

  3. Brisket. My dad searched every supermarket in Long Island to find the perfect brisket of beef for me. Even though we celebrated at separate seders, his gift made him present at my table.

  4. Forgetfulness. As my non-Jewish friends read aloud the story of Passover, they looked at me accusingly when they got to portions I'd forgotten to do. In response, I scurried around my kitchen to enact what they read, including dipping parsley into salt water (and taking a bite - yuck!), displaying the seder plate (which was missing half the ingredients), and pouring a glass of wine for Elijah.

  5. Jordan. My brother's always the last to show up, but the one who brings the biggest smile to my face. I was so happy to have him meet my friends and experience his first seder with me as the host.

  6. Jude. My friends Matthew & Melissa brought their precious 4-week-old son to celebrate his first Passover seder in my home.

  7. Bing-O. Last year, my crafty friend Sarah designed "Seder Bingo," a Bingo board with images that relate to Passover -- especially focused on the 10 plagues (in the Passover story, God used plagues like hail and famine to convince the Egyptians to free the Jewish slaves). Just imagine how many laughs circulated my living room while Sam the Bingo caller hollered out, "Boils! Does anyone have boils?"

  8. Dayenu. Since most of the crew has attended the past 3 seders, some of them know the songs better than I do. In the middle of Bingo, my friend Gennaro lead the crowd in a round of "Dayenu," a popular Hebrew song for Passover.

  9. Mensches. That's Yiddish for "people of noble character." Here, I mean it to describe my kitchen assistants. Jamie, my only Jewish friend at the seder, made delicious macaroons (coconut cookies) and charoset (a combo of apples, walnuts, red wine, and cinnamon) and cut her finger in the process (sorry Jamie!). Colin cut blood oranges for the salad (and did not cut himself). Matt sliced the brisket to perfection. Melissa brought to-die-for chocolate-covered strawberries. Mark made an amazing quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) dish. Sarah helped make the matzah ball soup. Gloria told me the apricot chicken was made out of sunshine. Jes played camera-lady and took amazing pics (especially of the asparagus!). Laura helped me time everything. Everyone brought delish bottles of wine (and we made it through 10 bottles). A seder really is about bringing people together, and I fell asleep thinking of all the people in my life for which I'm thankful and blessed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover Quick Pic!

More details later tonight -- I promise. But all in all, it was a great success and made me so happy! Big hugs to all my friends for coming to celebrate. At the end of the seder, you're supposed to say "Next year in Jerusalem!" in hopes that you'll spend Passover in the holy land. I say, "Next year in Brooklyn!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passover Prep: I'm cooking for 20 people!

Your midnight vulture is back in action! Only this time I have a good excuse for staying up late. On Wednesday I'll be hosting a Passover seder for 20 of my friends. I'm so excited!

As a kid, Passover seders were usually spent with my Grandma, Grandpa, and Great Aunt Claire in good ole' Boca Raton, Florida. As a teenager, I spent one memorable Passover with my California cousins, who go all out for the holiday. They "part the red sea" by making everyone walk through a red curtain, and they even "float baby Moses down the river" by sending a baby doll in a basket down the length of their backyard pool. 40 guests -- a mix of family and friends, Jews and non-Jews -- join in their celebration. It definitely inspired me.

So, when I moved to Brooklyn 4 years ago, I decided I'd throw a seder for my friends. It became an annual tradition, and it has grown and evolved each year. This year, it's my first time hosting a seder in my very own apartment, and I've upped the headcount to 20. There's a brisket in the slow cooker, a kugel (noodle pudding) in the freezer, and matzah ball soup cooling on the stove. More dishes will be cooked in the coming days, and then Wednesday is the big night.

Tonight's Matzah Ball Soup was quite a success. My dear friend Sarah offered to come over and help me cook. Together we kerplunked little matzah balls into the boiling water and watched them expand to twice their size. As the NCAA championship began, we sat on my couch and tasted the soup. The broth was salty, the matzah balls were fluffy, and the carrots had softened to perfection. It made me even more excited for Wednesday! (Click here to see more pics of me and Sarah cooking!)

Do you have any favorite Passover or other holiday dishes? Share them here!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Telling Time: Before Sally and After Sally

The finale of "ER" is on tonight. How long has that show been on the air? I wondered today. Well, my mom liked the show, and she passed away 6 1/2 years ago... which means it was on for a few years before that. 10 years, I estimated. (To answer the trivia question, it's 15 years).

But it made me stop and think: Sally's part of my everyday math. Events in my life happened pre-Sally or post-Sally. And the more years that pass, the more of Sally's favorite things pass, too. TV shows end. Her flowered socks that I wear get holey. Photos of us smiling fade.

Stuff is just stuff, though. I'm realizing more and more that I need to forget the material items and tune into my memories. I remember "ER" and "Chicago Hope" started the same year, and my mom often debated which one she liked better. I remember she thought George Clooney was sexy and Noah Wyle had a big nose. I remember she hated that the commercials were always so much louder than the show, and she'd scowl and lower the volume so we could chat.

What quirky qualities do you remember about someone you lost?