Biscuit Bulletin: Morningside Kitchen

Roland and I had brunch yesterday at Morningside Kitchen and of course I had to have a biscuit.

morningsidekitchenThe only evidence on the menu that biscuits were available was the Spicy Chicken Biscuit which I didn’t want. I ordered the Morningside Omelette which came with grits or hashbrowns, and when asked my choice, I boldly asked if I could have a biscuit instead (with butter).

The omelette arrived with the biscuit but no butter. Omelette, delicious! The biscuit had been sliced in half, and then toasted (?) grilled (?) slightly on the inside. I prefer them unsliced, but light toasting is acceptable.

But no butter! That meant by the time our waiter checked on us and our food,  I was halfway through my omelette. No matter, butter and jelly did eventually arrived and I had my biscuit for brunch dessert.

The biscuits do not seem to be meant as a specialty but more of the thing that makes a spicy fried chicken breast more brunch-y. With sausage gravy of course. I find that people are less picky about their biscuits when covered with gravy, but those people can be really picky about their sausage gravy. And you would need to toast the inside of the biscuit so the gravy doesn’t make it super soggy. Love biscuits, not really a biscuit and gravy fan, so that is inconsequential to me.

Bottom line: Now that I’ve had the MK biscuit, I’ll give it a pass, acknowledging that it is on the better side of average. I’ll give it a B+. Browned correctly, fluffy on the inside, not too big.

Just don’t miss Morningside Kitchen for brunch or dinner. We sat on the patio with some delightful company, and the inside dining room is one of our favorites dating back from when it was Rosebud. Stop by if you’re ever in the Virginia Highland area of Atlanta.

 

Book Report: The Book Thief

**no spoilers**

the_book_thief_by_markus_zusak_book_coverThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the most beautifully written book I have read this year. Billed as a Young Adult novel, I believe that is too specific a categorization. I would argue that any age could read this novel, and they would be moved.

The story is a simple one. Set in World War II in Nazi Germany, a young girl, Liesel, is sent to live with a German couple, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after her mother could no longer care for her. She brings with her a book that she found after her younger brother’s funeral. This conceit of the stolen book carries through the novel.

 

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.

~p. 80, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Most of the action takes place on Himmel Street and the immediate surrounding area and we learn about the other residents intimately as they interact with Liesel and the Hubermanns. Still, the black cloud that is WWII hovers over the entire story. No one remains untouched by at least some element of the war. Love, survival, acceptance and humility are some of the other themes that thread through the story.

I won’t say any more about The Book Thief for fear of spoilers. I will say that Zusak makes use of a most unusual narrator and for me, the realization of who the narrator is and the treatment he is given throughout the novel is genius.

The Book Thief has been made into a movie, which was released at the end of 2013. The reviews are mixed, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t say either way.

The Giant Boulder

boulders

You never saw it coming. One day everything was fine, the next tragedy happens, and boom! You are blindsided by the boulder of grief.

This is a gross generalization because there are many instances where one knows something bad will happen, a death of a loved one, a divorce, and one knows when it does, there will be sadness and grief. When I learned about the suicide of my father way back in 1991, however, blindsided feels very accurate, and thus it is with many of those unexpected tragedies.

Since 1969, when Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying, we have had some general expectations of the process of grief. There are stages to go through and deal with until one reaches the ultimate stage of acceptance. Isn’t that handy?

Or is it too pat? Check off each step, accept your tragedy and get on with your life.

Yeah. That’s not how it worked with me, and like many people facing the unbearable weight of grief, I had to learn some lessons the hard way.

From the moment I hung up the phone call when I received the news, I was a mess of emotions, but denial didn’t seem to be a problem. Unless you counted denying having that mess of emotions for too many years after that. I must have looked like the monkey with his hands over his eyes. See no …. feelings? I believed that if I didn’t see the giant boulder of grief, it wasn’t there. I can’t deny now that it blocked my recovery for far too long.

Comparison, a subphase of denial, also reared its ugly head. Attending support groups only made me more incapable of dealing with my grief because my story did not seem as tragic as many others, especially the stories of those who lost children to suicide. You don’t get to climb over your perceived small boulder of grief because others seem to have larger boulders, just as you can’t take theirs home with you. You have to deal with the boulder you have been given.

There is no climbing over grief, only going through.

As for bargaining and the rest of the stages Kübler-Ross describes for us, I thought I had successfully completed an end-around those bitches when I moved to Europe with my husband and two small children. Grief would never catch me there. Like most avoidance techniques, this one was not thought out consciously and not understood until many years later, but moving away felt like such a relief. At least at first. Grief is a stalker and it will find you wherever you are.

There is no running away from grief, only facing it head on.

So I repeatedly crashed and thrashed into my grief, a living, buzzing, hard as rock mass of anger and depression. My protective armor was harder than most and I fought against this mass for more than 20 years until I ended up bruised and broken, unable to function.

Not a pretty picture. Until a couple of years ago. I alluded to a transformation of sorts in a previous post, but did not name the thing that was keeping me stuck: the giant boulder that had been threatening not only to keep me from growth but to outright crush me under its weight.

That boulder will not budge with anger. That boulder will not melt with tears.

I think that there is validity to the stages of grief, and one might experience any or all of them at various times. Even acceptance can come and go for some, but I don’t ever want to go back. After 23 years, I have gone through that boulder of grief and am now truly on the other side.

Besides the passage of time, two things ultimately helped me come to terms with my Dad’s suicide. Forgiveness. And the following five words:

It was not about me.

P.S. This is what my journey through grief looked like. Yours may be and probably will be completely different.

Picture Day

schoolpictureElbows on the table, leaning over her bowl of Cheerios, Miller Glenn Madison smiled at the prospect of having a successful picture day this year. For her first seven picture days, MG, as she was known to her best friends, approached the day with trepidation because she knew her school picture would turn out awful. Last year’s was particularly hideous with her mouth full of braces and stringy hair. And there was the damn sweater. Now with straight teeth and a hairstyle chosen after watching hours of how-to youtube videos gave her a reason to be hopeful.

Armed with more tips for a successful picture day from an article she ripped out of the Seventeen magazine at the orthodontist’s office, she bounced upstairs after breakfast, ready to transform herself.

She crossed the threshold into her room, stopped cold, screamed and yelled, “NOOOOOO! I will not wear Gramma’s monogram sweater this year! I. WILL. NOT!

That brought Mom running to her room with Gramma close behind. Mom calmly spoke. “Miller Glenn, you know that ever since you were big enough you wore that sweater. It means so much to Gramma.”

Gramma continued that sentiment, “Yes, dear. My mother, your great-grandmother, made that for me, and I wore it in all my school photographs.”

Tears flowing, MG protested, “I know. But that sweater does not even have MY initials. I’ve checked, Gramma. Your last name initial is supposed to be in the middle. This says MGM for Mary Miller Griffin and my monogram is supposed to say MMG. Other kids know and they made fun of me last year.”

“Well, darling,” Gramma said, “the letters are the same. That’s what bonds us.”

Looking at her mother, MG cried, “Mom! I can’t wear that sweater! I’ve… I’ve… ”

Taking in a big breath, “I wear a bra now, Mom. That sweater will be too tight! Plus, I have already picked out the perfect dress that makes my eyes look so blue. And, and, and … just get out of my room! I have to do my hair.”

The two older women backed out of the room and Mom said, as she softly closed the door, “I know you’ll do the right thing.”

Her confidence shattered, MG got herself ready for school and reluctantly pulled the short sleeve crew neck over her pretty, blue floral sundress. Turning this way and that as she looked in her full-length mirror, she knew she was in for another horrible school picture. Even her hair refused to cooperate.

Mom and Gramma stayed out of sight, and watched through the kitchen window as MG ran to the school bus. Gramma smiled, but Mom was alarmed at how right her daughter had been to balk at the sweater this year.

Because they were the oldest, the 8th graders got to have their pictures taken first. They gathered for the group photo, and MG strategically stood on the 3rd row so she wouldn’t be seen. Later, lining up for the individual pictures, she crossed her arms over her chest, trying to make herself as small as possible.

Cold sweat trickled from her prickly armpits when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Caught off guard, she blushed a hot pink when she saw the boy she had a crush on. Paul, the cutest boy in 8th grade, looked at her chest and out of nowhere poked her in the middle of the monogram, right between her breasts.

“Hey! Those aren’t your initials,” he said as he continued to poke.

Caught off guard, she turned back around, trying not to cry, when the photographer stuck his head out of the room. “Next.”

“Name?”

“Miller Glenn Madison,” MG whispered.

“Miller Glenn.” He checked her off the list, and looked up. “Are you ok?”

Shaking her head, MG sat on the stool with the school backdrop behind her and smiled a wobbly smile. At least her teeth were straight. She started to hop off the stool and stopped, catching a glimpse of her skirt and remembering this year was going to be different. Peeling off the sweater, she said, “Wait, can you take one shot without the sweater. My grandmother made me wear this and I hate it.”

The photographer nodded. A man who truly loved working with the children and wanted to get the best out of them, he was relieved that it was just the sweater upsetting her. He had no idea what had just happened. He took a few more shots and she slid off the stool with a good feeling bubbling deep inside her belly. Maybe the flash bulb was magic. She put the sweater back on, and winked to the photographer as she walked out.

No boy had ever done what Paul had done and now that she had regrouped during her photo session, she wanted to teach him a lesson. Summoning every ounce of bravery in her 13 year old body, she stood waiting for his session to finish. As he walked out of the classroom, she stepped in front of him and blocked his way.

“Paul!”

He stopped, startled, and she continued, grabbing him by his index finger and drawing it as seductively as she knew how toward her monogram.

In what she thought was a sexy voice, she said, “Paul, I really, really….”

After a pause as long as she could stand, MG tensed and bent his finger back hard. “… hated it! Don’t ever do anything like to me or any other girl again. Your name really isn’t Paul either. It’s Prick!”

She flipped her hair as she turned, head held high, with that bubbly power surging through her body. She didn’t even care if his finger was broken, but kept on walking as she heard him whining on the floor. Taking off the sweater once more, more than anything she wanted to drop it in the nearest trash can, but knew that would hurt Gramma too much. She even knew that she would have to put it back on one more time so her grandmother would know she had worn it, but it would be the last time.

As she walked into the kitchen after school, Gramma said, “Sweetheart! You wore the sweater. Thank you. Next year, I will find something else for you to wear for your picture because I can see this is a little snug. Come give me a big hug.”

MG obliged, hugging the older woman tightly. Then she stepped back and said, “Gramma. I love you so much, and I want to make you happy, but next year, and all the next years, I’m going to pick out my own outfit.”

And before Gramma could say anything, MG walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to do her homework.

I am currently participating in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on writing. This one, How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women is offered by the University of Iowa. “Picture Day” is my submission for the first assignment.

Book Report: A Mother’s Reckoning

Meadow Green Columbine Mountains Purple Wallpaper Mountain 1920x1080

From the book jacket:

“In A Mother’s Reckoning, Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, she [Sue Klebold] chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible.”

If I had to sum up this book in one sentence, that would be it.

Columbine. No longer is it merely the state flower of Colorado. It is the name of the high school where unspeakable tragedy took place. You hear that word, and you know what’s coming next. Columbine has become the standard against which the latest mass shooting tragedy, especially if it happens in a school, is measured. To a few disenfranchised youth, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are heroes.

Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan, has spent the years since April 20, 1999 trying to understand. A Mother’s Reckoning takes you on the journey with her as she has wrestled with the question, how did she, how could she, not have known what was going on with Dylan.

Incredibly sad, incredibly moving, I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and hold her hand as she told her story. The first chapter begins at 12:05 p.m. on April 20, 1999 with a phone message from her husband telling her to call him immediately, it’s an emergency. There were so many passages that made me cry. She describes the anguish she and her husband, and Dylan’s brother go through in the immediate aftermath and the months and years that follow.

Everybody should read this book. If you think that something like this could not, would not happen to your own family, you should read it. Her message to the world is that it is possible to not know your own children. It is possible to miss signs of mental illness (or brain illness, her term in the book).

I know this is not so much of a review, as a “go read this book” message. Sue Klebold is now a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide awareness and intervention. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a conference for long-term survivors of suicide loss this past September and her strength and resilience are palpable.

NaNoWriMo and the First Line

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participantI have signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo in November because it seems like a perfectly plausible/possible thing to do. If you have never heard of this it stands for National Novel Writing Month because of course one should be able to write a novel in a month. The No could also stand for November since that is when it takes place, but it does not stand for “No. There is no way you will do this.”

In my history of writing, one of the hardest things I find is just getting started. I suspect that I’m not alone in this. I am doing some pre-planning (i.e., figuring out a general plot, some characters, settings, etc.) that includes reading a book written by one of the founders, Chris Baty, called No Plot? No Problem!. Mostly because it was only $1.99 for Kindle. What a deal!

Besides prep work for my own novel, I thought it might be useful to look at some first sentences of a few novels (out of the way too many) that I have at home. You know, not everyone can write a “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” first sentence. Bonus points if you know who wrote that one.

Going from oldest to newest:

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

~Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

If you saw the movie which came out in 1985, I suspect that you can hear Meryl Streep saying these very words. Technically not a novel, Dinesen published this book in 1937 about her life on her farm in Africa.

***

Shifting gears (you might even hear them grind here) to a book published in 1970.

It unrolled slowly, forced to show its colors, curling and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose.

~James Dickey, Deliverance

Can you hear the banjo music? Do you want to know what unrolled?

***

One of my all-time favorites, published in 1976, and also made into a movie with Meryl Streep (unplanned, I assure you).

In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn.

~William Styron, Sophie’s Choice

No clue whatsoever about the horrors that lie ahead in this book.

***

Published in 1982:

Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy.

~Isabel Allende, House of Spirits

***

And finally, by another favorite author, this book published in 2001:

When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.

~Ann Patchett, bel canto

Darkness and beauty.

Set in South America, this is another favorite, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

***

I’ve got some more planning to do!

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe

p9s6g695h5

Pandemonium, clamor and din,

cacophony, caterwauling.

Heads are spinning, make it stop!

Where is tranquility?

Walls close in, smother

day in, day out

we long for

silence

Peace

Inspired by a recent afternoon in an airport baggage claim/check in area. My first attempt at the poetry form called nonet, a form that I, as a novice poet, particularly enjoyed.