Water, Wind and Land: Metaphors for a Geophysicist (remembrance for Grandpa on his 98th birthday)

My grandfather was an amazing man.  A geophysicist, he was quiet, brilliant, circumspect, pragmatic, a lifelong learner in the fields of math and science and leader in oil exploration – and yet he was so faithfully loving and supportive of a creative like me, his oldest grandchild and just about his polar opposite in terms of interests and passions.

51t9ijqmntl-_sx314_bo1204203200_Grandpa was strong and silent like so many men of his age who served in WWII and saw things they could never describe and didn’t care to remember.  Tom Brokaw called them The Greatest Generation in his influential book of the same name; I just call myself lucky that this first lieutenant in the Air Force fell in love with my grandmother, a divorcé with a tiny daughter, and married her in 1942.

Ruth and Nancy 1941That tiny daughter was my Mom, and this gentle, studious man adopted her as his own, treating her the same as the other children he and Grandma went on to have. I didn’t know Grandpa wasn’t my Mom’s biological father / my biological grandfather for years, and when I found out, it didn’t matter in the least. We were his, and he was ours.

(photos with captions are excerpts from a slide show created by my Dad for my grandmother’s 90th birthday)

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Grandpa Grandma Nancy Lucy

A true explorer, Grandpa’s career in oil exploration took him all over the world; he was eventually VP of Geophysics for Superior Oil (now ExxonMobil).  His remarkable career was followed by adventures on the sea, as his retirement began with a 42-foot sailboat and trips that sometimes included lucky grandchildren like my brother and me.

The Sea Urchin

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My brother on my grandparents’ sailboat, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, in the mid-70s; this was an epic 7-day trip I will always remember

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The rigors of sailing gave way to land-based adventures as my grandparents mounted an RV in their 70s and traveled throughout the country, visiting national parks and family, arriving just in time for birthdays and births (including my son’s). Their retirement together was rich in experiences fueled by water, wind and land – and love of family.

Tom Ruth RV

Today would have been Grandpa’s 98th birthday. To honor and remember him, I’m sharing the poem I wrote for his funeral in 2002.

Water, Wind and Land: Metaphors for a Geophysicist (for Grandpa)

 

we are all archeologists now

sifting through our memories of you

sorting the bits and pieces we find

to put them back together

in what will become our lasting “mind pictures” of you

sometimes sifting and sorting alone

sometimes together with your other loves ones

turning our memory fragments this way and that

to see where they fit

and make a clearer picture

all of my finds in this archeological dig of grief

are geo-metaphors for a geophysicist:

~ water, wind and land ~

 

for you were not a man of words

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

 

my dig finds full sails and stormy skies

radars and Lorans

dolphin fish and egrets’ cries

a wood-hulled boat, a lake cabin, a becalming

your thoughtful brown eyes

your “I love you’s” were spoken in geo-metaphor:

~ water, wind and land ~

“help me steer the boat, Kimmie”

“Stevie, let me show you how to tie a slip knot”

“Of course girls can shoot skeet!”

 

for you were not a man of words

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

 

I dig deeper, contemplative, archeologist-turned sociologist

looking for meaning

and I find you are an underground river

strong, constant, clear and sure

your life’s waters carried bloodlines and love-lines

equally strong

lifelines guiding through shifting sands

~ water, wind and land ~

 

my finds are home-baked bread

and spectacular jams

a well-stocked RV

crossing ferries and dams

Grandma’s letters with your P.S:

“Math and science, math and science!”

recognized clearly – then and now –

as geo-metaphor love, all your best

~ water, wind and land ~

 

you were a man of deeds

of facts

of maps

and plans

~ water, wind and land ~

 

we dig and sort

together and apart

reconstructing geo-you

in the museums of our hearts

~ water, wind and land ~

 

 

love, kimmie

july 2002


Grandpa and me at my first wedding, way back in the 80s. Those pearls were borrowed from my grandmother, one of the many, many gifts he brought her from his world travels.  His finds, which included on the one end spears and art from Nigeria and on the other end, jewelry like these pearls and a gorgeous raw emerald, have been given to all of my cousins. I got the pearls.

Grandpa and Kim 1984

In his later years, Grandpa channeled his natural curiosity and scientific attention to detail into cooking, mostly bread-baking and jam-making.  He made the same recipes again and again, meticulously documenting small differences until he had them perfected.  Christmas stocking gifts in those years were highly coveted jars of his homemade jellies.  I treasure the memory of our long talks about cooking from those days. I also inherited some of his knives and big pots, which I consider to be heirlooms on par with the pearls.

Rest in peace, dear man, and bless you for teaching us about water, wind and land – and love.

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Watching Game 7 of the World Series; Sharing Astros Mementos and Family Memories

My son and I did some reorganization of his room a couple of weekends ago, a natural progression as he moves through his sophomore year in college. At this stage,  just as many items go into the giveaway pile as the “must keep memories” box in the attic.

We did find some treasures, though, as we processed a whole chest of drawers bulging with the history of his childhood, the objects providing a physical testimony about his youthful interests and experiences.

There were signed baseballs from his Little League days, those times when he earned the game ball from his coaches, men who seemed like titans to us at the time but were simply eager Dads looking to provide a good experience for their sons. Unbeknown to us, our little one was a “late bloomer” in Little League. The coach called me one spring night back in 2004 to tell me he had drafted Thomas onto his team, and asked me about his experience.

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8 years old, with his award-winning anti-bullying poem right before a baseball game

“Experience?” I was confused.

“Yes, what positions has he played?”

“None, this is his first season.”

“Really? He hasn’t played before? He doesn’t know anything about the game?”

“He’s only 6 years old?!” I was still confused.

“My son started just shy of his 4th birthday. We even have pictures of him playing catch in his diapers as a toddler.”

This is going to be a challenge, I realized. Only 6 years old and he’s already behind. 

Despite this inauspicious start, Thomas acquitted himself admirably in his 8 years in Little League. A lefty, he became a dependable and sometimes awesome pitcher, and a capable hitter, delivering mostly singles and doubles. He never really mastered the art of stealing bases or sliding, which told us to focus our college scholarship hopes and dreams in other areas. This is why we call him our Musical Millennial rather than our Pitching Prodigy.

We had some really good times during the Little League days. Championships won and lost, good-natured rivalries with his classmates on other teams, frenzied times between the pickup at after-school day care and the 6 p.m. warmup on the baseball field when dinner was a 30-second microwaved “quesadilla” (really just a flour tortilla fold-over with grated cheddar cheese thrown in) eaten in 60 seconds. During the off-season, our backyard was the sandlot, with girls and boys from all over the neighborhood passionately playing their positions and breaking a window or two, just like it would have happened in the movies.

Good times. But I digress. Tonight, we’re watching Game 7 of the World Series, Astros vs. Dodgers. Go Astros!

exxon_tigerBack to the treasures. Among all the game balls my son earned in his days as a player, we found other baseball mementos. Two “signed balls” from the Astros, those give-aways with the facsimile signatures stamped on them that you get for being one of the first 5,000 fans at an important game. They’re from the 1997 – 2005 period; the signatures include Larry Dierker (manager), Billy Wagner (pitcher), Matt Galante (coach), Craig Biggio (catcher, 2nd base and outfield) and Jeff Bagwell (1st base).  Good times.

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There was also a super-special memento from my Dad. He was a junior executive for Exxon in his early 30s, and snagged this commemorative bat back then. It was before the merger with Mobil changed the company name to ExxonMobil, and back in the days when the tiger was the mascot. I loved watching baseball with my Dad. And that carried forward to watching baseball with my son. Memories and mementos…

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Good times.

As I write, it’s the top of the 7th in the 7th game of the 2017 World Series matchup between the Astros and the Dodgers. Of course, I’m rooting for my hometown ‘Stros, but whatever happens, it has been a great ride. Baseball really is the national pastime.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

“College Student Comes Home” Dinner: ‘Normal’ Risotto, Chicken Piccata and a Perky Salad

fullsizeoutput_34016Our college student, the musician (majoring in Jazz Composition and having a great time at the University of Texas at Austin), was coming home for the weekend. I called him earlier in the week to find out his requested meal for our quiet dinner at home on Saturday night. It seems like there is usually a big event going on when he comes home, so it was nice to plan on just chilling out, having a family dinner, and watching our Houston Astros play (if they managed to stay alive in the American League Championship Series).

Me: “Did you decide on your meal request?”

My son: “Risotto.”

Me: “What kind of risotto?”

My son: “Well, I don’t really like shrimp in risotto…just the normal kind.”

Me (wondering what ‘normal’ means in the risotto context): “Well, without a protein in it, it’s a side dish, not a main dish. Do you mean the kind with garlic and lemon and capers?”

My son: “Capers…oh, Mom! I know what we can for the main dish…”

In unison: “Chicken Piccata!”

We hung up happy, as we love, love, love piccata-anything. We had a plan.

With the menu chosen, I still needed to understand what “normal” risotto is; I haven’t made risotto without some kind of protein in it for years.  I know from listening to my son rave that his Dad (my ex-husband and friend) makes a killer risotto, so I went right to the source: “how do you make your risotto? The main ingredients, I mean.” He answered right away:

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Excellent! Now that I understood the “normal” context, I was able to concoct something lovely following his framework, sautéing about 1 1/2 cups of cremini mushrooms and a couple of chopped green onions in butter first, separately, and setting them aside, then, in a deep and heavy-bottomed pan, sautéed half a yellow onion and a ton of garlic, adding the arborio and toasting it quickly before beginning the time-consuming process of adding stock a bit at a time, which I had boiling on the back burner.

After all the stock was absorbed and the rice had turned creamy, I added the mushrooms, grated a bit of hard cheese from the fridge which might have been Parmesan or Romano, but I think it was more likely Manchego (it was in a baggie but not labelled, which is how we roll here at Glover Gardens and I hope you can still respect me). Rummaging around, I found the rest of a container of Boursin cheese, about 1/4 cup, and then threw it in for good measure. Some salt and freshly ground pepper, and then – Yum!!!

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Chicken Piccata photo from Epicurious

I turned to Epicurious for the Chicken Piccata recipe, using this one. It was great, and all I did to enhance it was to double the lemon and capers.  That’s also how we roll here at Glover Gardens.

I had intended to round out this classic meal with steamed broccoli and more lemon, but forgot to buy it during the Saturday grocery run.  What to do? I needed something bright, with acidity, crunch and contrasting flavors to complement the richness of the risotto. Rummaging again, I found a fresh jalapeño and one lonely carrot and decided gather a few more strange bedfellows and throw together a quick and perky salad for three.

Perky Salad (serves 3)

Ingredients

  • 1 small green apple, chopped in small pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and then shredded with the peeler
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 10 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 1/2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and toss.

The result of this college-student-comes-home requested dinner was delightful, and I’m very grateful to be reacquainted with “normal” (delicious!) risotto. I’ll be making the crazy Perky Salad again soon – it was a wonderful foil to the warm richness of the risotto and the chicken and would go very well with grilled meats, too. The white balsamic vinegar is a real winner, adding the perfect tanginess.

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And finally, the whole evening was made perfect by the results of the Astros-Yankees Game 7 of the National League Championship Series we watched together – Go Astros!!! The video below is from USA Today Sports, and beware if you visit – the haters are already hating that they Yankees didn’t win and ensure the “perfect” World Series matchup with the Dodgers, and their comments are really nasty.  Sigh.

Well, haters or not, World Series, here we come!!!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Our Next-Gen Couple (Now Married!) and Their Glover Gardens Aliases

We were fortunate at Glover Gardens this summer to celebrate a wedding. Our oldest millennial tied the knot with the young woman we always knew was a keeper. Woohoo!

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fullsizeoutput_16d7The newlyweds are at Little House in the Rockies in Colorado with us for a long weekend and made a wonderful breakfast quiche this morning. During our meal on the back porch overlooking aspen trees turning yellow and snow-capped mountains in the distance, they put me on the spot. Knowing I was going to post their recipe and the resulting deliciousness (watch this space!), they asked when I plan to give them Glover Gardens Cookbook aliases, along the lines of my husband’s: The Grill-Meister.  Today! Here’s what they chose:

  • The bride: The Girl Who is Always Hungry.  This is an excellent moniker for her; she seems to eat about every 2 hours without gaining weight. I could make a jealous comment about metabolism, but I try to take the high road here in the Glover Gardens Cookbook.
  • The groom: The Best Eater.  Seriously, this is true. I’ve been in this young man’s life now for about a dozen years, and he trumps everyone in my circle when it comes to an adventurous palate. But he combines his bold and courageous approach to new foods with a love and appreciation of the standards, the comfort food, the mundane, even. He just appreciates a meal.  And he doesn’t gain weight, either…

You’ll hear more about this dynamic duo, starting with the marvelous quiche they made for breakfast this morning.  But I wanted to introduce them to you first.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (with the exception of the marvelous photos from Dreamy Elk Photography and Design)

Postscript

I just had to share this picture of our other millennial and me, also taken at the wedding.  This is us.

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Dad’s Pictures: Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. I’ve had a blessed life, rich with experience and wonderful people.

One of my blessings is a treasure trove of family history I have just inherited. My Dad died recently, and my Aunt-Mom gave me his computer to copy his pictures. Dad was a great family historian, and took loads of photos. The picture archive includes old ones from my childhood that Dad scanned, and I found some from my 6th birthday party. What a gift; too cool not to share with you to celebrate my birthday.


We played Blind Man’s Buff at that little party; that’s Mom below helping us to get started and get that blindfold on tight. I’m the short little girl in the plaid dress with the bow.

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I remember my Dad building the patio cover and the little brick barbecue in our back yard. We lived in Burleson, Texas, and he was an account executive for Exxon. Mom was a registered nurse (RN) but was just about to quit working to be with us kids full-time. They were proud of that little backyard and really enjoyed giving parties like this one.

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We also played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, another game that requires a blindfold. Hmmmm….

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Mom was so beautiful; look at that smile.

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The thing I remember most about that 6th birthday party is Mom helping me get dressed. She said that the puffy sleeves on the little plaid dress (see below) were called “pork chop sleeves”. I thought that was really funny and decided to call them “steak sleeves” instead. My 6-year old wisecrack cracked her up. I’ve never since heard of pork chop sleeves (did she make it up?), but to me, they’d still be called steak sleeves. Fashionistas – are pork chop sleeves a thing?

Family 6th birthday

I have lived a full life to this point and am so grateful for all of the people in it; those who are still with me and those who have gone over the rainbow but left their permanent imprint. Happy birthday to me.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Labor Day: Cherries and Empathy at the Beach

Labor Day weekend of 2000 was the last time I saw my Mom, so many years ago now.

She died just two weeks later, peacefully, in her sleep. She had been ill for so very long. She was only 60.

Harvell House - View
The view from the deck; the beach is about 200 years from their house

My family and my brother’s family joined Mom and Dad at their beach home in Gilchrist, Texas that last Labor Day weekend. With three small children between us, we balanced our time between going to the beach and hanging out in the sunroom with Mom and Dad, she in her wheelchair and unable to speak beyond a whisper because of “frozen” vocal cords, and he so grateful for the company. They both reveled in the noisy, joyful chaos of children. Dad grilled several different meats and served cocktails that weekend; Mom sat, surrounded by all of us, with a quiet and wistful smile.

Like always when our family we got together, the background music was the soundtrack from our childhood, an eclectic mix that included The Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, the soundtrack from Guys and Dolls, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Smothers Brothers and Manhattan Transfer.

It was a great time: comfort food, comfort music, comfort people.  All these years later, I have two really strong memories from that Labor Day Weekend, that final time my family of origin was all together: recollections of cherries and empathy.

Cherries

fullsizeoutput_1621We brought fresh cherries to share, a late-summer harvest probably shipped from somewhere in the Northwest to our local grocer. Mom hadn’t had cherries in years; the grocery stores on the Bolivar Peninsula stocked the basics but didn’t have fancy mustards, gourmet cheeses or produce from out of state. She loved those cherries. She ate them with joy, the dark red juice staining her lips and her thin, worn fingers.

Mom was so happy in those moments, maybe reliving a memory of her own, another special time studded with fresh cherries and loved ones. We put on the Smothers Brothers record (yes, an actual record!) to hear their song “Apples, Peaches and Cherries” – take a listen below; it is a really sweet tune. We might have sung along; I can’t remember now. But I will never, ever forget Mom’s face as she reveled in those cherries. It was an awesome feeling to bring her that simple pleasure.

Empathy

Getting ready for our final trek to swim and make sandcastles on Labor Day, we were four 30-something adults herding two toddlers and a 6-year old, making a lot of mess and noise. Mom and Dad didn’t mind at all.  We collected sunscreen and beach towels and water shoes and sippy cups (and probably beer) and set out to walk the 200 yards to the sandy beach.

Something made me turn back, telling the others I’d catch up. I ran up the stairs to give Mom a hug. She was in her wheelchair, in the sunroom, with an open book in her lap, but not reading. She was just staring out the window at our ragtag little group headed toward the beach, every child hand-in-hand with a parent.

Was she remembering the days when she was the parent holding the hands of unruly, eager children anxious to make sandcastles and dive headfirst into the waves? Or maybe just sad that she couldn’t go with us to body-surf and look for starfish and sand dollars? Mom loved the beach so much, and before becoming an invalid the last few years of her life, took a walk there almost every day.

I bent down to hug her, saying:

I know you still want to run and jump and play, Mom, and I’m so sorry you can’t.”

She gave a little sob, and squeezed my hand hard, her fingers still cherry-stained. She was so stoic through all of her illnesses, never indulging in self-pity, never complaining, never allowing anyone to feel sorry for her. If she could still talk, she would’ve shrugged and said, “I’m fine.” I only saw her cry once in the 38 years we had together. But on that last Labor Day, when I offered my clumsy empathy, she accepted it and allowed me to share her pain, just for a few beautiful moments, squeezing my hand while we both cried just a little. And then she motioned for me to go join the others, and I did, not looking back.

I knew she would watch me all the way to the water’s edge.

My “run and jump and play” comments weren’t quite the last words I said to Mom, but they are the ones I remember.  I’m so grateful for those few moments on our last day together, when she trusted me enough to let herself be vulnerable, and gave me a glimpse of the ache in her heart about the brokenness of her body.

Labor Day is About…

To me, Labor Day is about appreciating the meaningful and challenging work I have always been blessed with, and of course, barbecue. But since since 2000, it will always remind me of cherries and empathy, too.

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Mom, soon after we moved to the beach in 1974; she really, really loved it there.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook