Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm Bumming

Living after the loss of a parent, at any age, is hard. It's even harder when you lose them so unexpectedly at a relatively young age. My dad, specifically, was 67. I often say, "If he'd only made it to 70, it would feel so much older".

Many people have told me, "Well at least he didn't suffer". All I can think is, yeah, he didn't suffer, but I'd give anything to have days, weeks, or even months with him. I crave the opportunity to sit by his bedside, knowing he's dying, and talk to him about life. To get all of his pearls of wisdom - not that he was shy about departing his knowledge in the first place.

Everyone says the first year is the hardest. Their first birthday, the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without them, all of the major firsts. For me the smaller firsts are just as hard because you don't have that support system around you, expecting those moments to be rough. Like the first time you have to set the table and you habitually count out five when you only need four. The first time you go to call him, like you always do, every day after work. The first time your car breaks down and you need to run all the symptoms by him for a diagnosis. Those are all hard - and you're not surrounded by loved ones. You're alone, in your car, or at home. So yes, the first year will be really hard, for more reasons than most people can't expect. But I don't think it'll be the hardest.

I feel like, once the shock of everything wears off and we finally close all the loose ends that he left for us, that's when it will really hit me. It will be the realization that this is long-term. It is not something that we're just dealing with now. You almost get into this comfort zone of taking care of all the incidentals, thinking all will go back to normal once everything is closed out. And when everything is completed, that's when you'll feel empty. The realization that this will always be, from here on out, my life.

It's been 146 days since I've talked to him. I'm worried about the day that I'll be detached from that moment in time. That life-changing phone call. The day hen he and his quirks won't be as fresh in my mind.

I am trying to build a new relationship with him. One that will continue to include him in my life, as involved as he was before. Within minutes of that call I was crying, "I have no dad anymore, my dad's gone." In the days following those words I thought to myself how pissed he would be if he heard me say that. I can just hear him, "What the heck? I give you 27 years and I can't even retain the title of 'Dad'?" That put a smile on my face. He'll always be my dad.

Even still, I find that I'm constantly reminding myself, just because he's no longer alive doesn't take away any of the moments that I've ever shared with him. I'm not sure if I'm alone in this feeling, but I catch myself wondering, if he's no longer here to remember it, does it still have as much value? Was it as important as I remember it to have been? Is it even a relevant memory anymore? I guess it's hard to put into words, but it feels like it's a one-sided memory now. So I remind myself, he was there, he had that memory and just because he's gone, he's not untouchable. Those memories aren't larger than life. They are mine, they are his, they will always have happened, and they were simple.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beanless Chili

Cooking for picky eaters is no fun. In my world veggies are hearty additions to stews, sauces and soups. However, for my hubby they are objects to avoid, leading to a disgarded pile on the side of his plate that inevitably ends up in the garbage. Every once in a while he gets so fed up with my experiments that he'll take a meal or two here and there into his own hands. Today he did just that with a crockpot full of beanless chili. Yup, bean-less and tomato-less and onion-less, etc. etc. etc. But it was still good.

While I was sleeping in (as is customary on the weekends) he was busy looking up what turned out to be a pretty decent recipe on (

Here is his adaptation of that recipe:
3 lbs ground beef
2 tblsp veg oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 tblsp chili powder
2 tblsp ground cumin
3 tblsp flour
1 tblsp leaf oregano
2 cans (13 3/4 ounces each) beef broth
1tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add beef, stirring frequently until meat changes color but does not brown. Lower heat, stir in garlic and combine chili powder, cumin and flour.  Sprinkle the meat with the chili mixture, stirring until meat is evenly coated. Crumble oregano over meat.

At this point spoon the meat mixture into your crockpot. Then add 1 1/2 cans of the broth to the crockpot and stir until the liquid is well blended.  Lastly, add the salt and pepper and turn the crockpot on low, setting the timer for six hours. At about 5 hrs and 15 min, turn the temperature up to high for the remainder of the six hours. While the chili will be ready to eat at this point (hopefully you have more patience than my hubby who wanted to eat it right after turning the crockpot on), it'll be even better after it's been refrigerated overnight when the flavors have had a better chance to meld together.

As for a side dish, while cornbread and/or saltines are typical, we resorted to fluffy biscuits...a great choice. Enjoy, I promise even your pickiest eater will love it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cleaning Odd Shaped Bottles

We received this gorgeous, unique pitcher from Crate and Barrel as a wedding present. I love it and use it often, but find it very difficult to clean. Even a baby bottle brush doesn't clean the bottom side underneath the handle. So after a few other attempts I discover that pouring about a half of a cup of raw, hard rice into the bottom helps scrub even the hardest to reach places. Add a little soapy water and shake for a minute or two. The rice acts as mini bristles reaching into every possible crevice. Be sure to discard the used rice in the garbage rather than the sink since it will still be hard.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas in Paradise

During my first semester of college, in the fall of 2001, I received a call from my parents saying they wanted the family to spend Christmas in Costa Rica. While they thought it would be a nice change from the chilly temps of Colorado, my siblings and I were appalled at the thought of a Christmas without snow. Most people would be thrilled with this offer, but we put up a bit of a fight that I'm sure appeared spoiled to most outsiders. They finally talked us into it.

And so began the yearly tradition of Christmas in paradise. That first year we traveled throughout the popular Central American country, staying at several different resorts both in the mountains and along the coastlines. Our favorite stop was our last. The Club del Mar in a small west coast town called Jaco.

Every year since then we have made the Club our Christmas destination. I'm not sure exactly when my feelings changed, but now it doesn't really feel like Christmas without 85 degree temperatures, palm trees decorated in Christmas lights, Christmas songs in Spanish, Christmas Eve mass with all the locals (we stick out like a sore thumb in the small Catholic church), and a fresh lobster for Christmas dinner.

After the passing of my dad, we were unsure of whether or not we should follow through with our annual Costa Rican plans. My siblings and I thought it best to leave it up to my mom to make the final call. Around Halloween she had determined that dad would have wanted us to go. So off we went.

There were the inevitable tears, but they were matched with just as much laughter. Brought on by the funny memories of my dad. Sitting seaside my mom and I came to the realization that, while dad can no longer come with us, he will always be there in the memories we'll bring up every year. If it weren't for him we wouldn't have ever been able to go in the first place. Because of that, he will always be a part of our future trips.

I can't wait to take our children there, telling them this same story of how the Club del Mar came to be our family vacation spot. I will take them there, continuing the memories that my dad sought to create, making sure to include him in them.

For information on the Club Del Mar, visit their website at: