2017 in Glover Gardens: Looking Back to Look Ahead

It seems like yesterday that I was creating this post, Happy New Year! and looking ahead to 2017, and now here we are again, at the brink of yet another new year. I look forward to sharing and connecting with you all in 2018 via the Glover Gardens blog, and looking back at what you liked here in 2017 is giving me some ideas for the days ahead.

Popular Posts and Themes from 2017

You Read My Heartfelt Poems

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My brother Steve

The #1 post, by far, was My Brother’s Suicide: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light.  The poem honors my brother, who left us in 2013. It was hard to write and share this, and yet so cathartic and restorative. Your response uplifted me.

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Dad and me in 1970

Four other poems were in the top posts of 2017, two of which reflect the unexpected loss of my Dad: you, amazing you / footprints on our heart-sands (another poem for Dad from a grateful daughter) and memory-honey (another poem for Dad) .

I was so grateful that I wrote this one about my childhood while Dad was still with us, and he commented on it: my days by the water.

Haiku for My Dad was a Father’s Day tribute to him just three days before he died. What a gift we had, Dad and me; when my husband took the early morning phone call that Dad had died and conveyed it to me, my response was: “I’m ok, we had no unfinished business.” I didn’t remember saying that until he reminded me later, but it is so true, and I am so incredibly blessed by the honesty and mutual regard of our relationship. And its awesome that you read my raw writings that tried to express this incredible blessing, and found some value in it.

Hurricane Harvey Captivated You

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AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The #2 and #4 posts in 2017 were about Hurricane Harvey: Houston is Paralyzed by Flooding and How You Can Help Texas Right Now.  You were interested in what was going on down here in the wetlands. And you didn’t just read the posts, you went to sites where you could help – there were 62 click-throughs on links I shared for donating to help Texas recover from Harvey, from the food bank to animal shelters to the Red Cross and the fund created by Houston Texas JJ Watts.  Thank you; we are grateful for your empathy and support. Harvey was horrific for Houston.

You Shared My Travel and Restaurant Experiences

Two of the posts in the top five in 2017 were essentially restaurant reviews, a retelling of amazing meals that I had while traveling.

Edinburgh’s Hipster Food Court and the Butcher Bad Boy Burger was the #3 post.

Butcher Boy Burger

Close behind at #5 was Comfort Food Alert: The “Best Gratin in Paris” (or maybe anywhere).

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Amazing Gratin at Bistro des Augustins in Paris

Another restaurant outing that was quite popular with blog readers was Simple Dishes: Venison Casserole at the The Ensign Ewart in Edinburgh.

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fullsizerender-3I did a series of posts looking ahead to a trip to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and two were in the most-read category: New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: The Importance of Hats (and Bandanas) and New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: Bayona is a Foodie’s Delight.

A haiku celebrating a marvelous cemetery in London also caught your interest: Haiku for Highgate Cemetery.

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The final travel-related post that piqued your interest was our September 30 experience in Colorado, Blizzard on a Train!

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You are Interested in Stories about Our Next-Gen Family Members

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Photo by Mallory Frenza

Our kids were featured in a couple of top-viewed posts. Our Milennial Musician and one of his original compositions is the subject of this one: A Little (More) Music for a Sunday Evening. (Another of his compositions was the subject of the #1 post last year: A Little Music for a Sunday Evening.)

Our other milennial, The Best Eater, got married this year to The Girl Who is Always Hungry, and you liked this post about the newlyweds a lot: Our Next-Gen Couple (Now Married!) and Their Glover Gardens Aliases.

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Photo by Dreamy Elk Photography

Three Recipes Make the Top 20 Posts

I posted lots of recipes in 2017, and these three were the most popular.

Comfort Food Alert: Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread was a post that originated with a friend’s Facebook post of a picture of his Mom’s meaty cornbread.

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The Chipotle Chicken Salad recipe is something I’ve been making for years but hadn’t documented until now.

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I like to experiment and create new recipes, and this one caught your interest this year: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Bacon and Bacon-Jalapeño Jam.

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I Like Taking Requests – and You Like Reading the Results

One of my readers asked how to make an antipasto platter, so I answered with a post about it and included a long reminiscence about my Mom’s approach to antipasto.  I loved getting the request, and you liked the post enough to make it the 12th most viewed in Glover Gardens in 2017: Antipasto Advice from Mom and Great Tastes from the Texas Coast.

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My Mom and me in her kitchen, waaaay back when

A New Name

As I hit the 2-year anniversary of the Glover Gardens Cookbook blog earlier this year, I realized that I was talking about much more than just recipes, my original intent.  I asked your opinion about the name of the blog in What’s In a Name? Seeking Your Input.  You gave me great feedback, and one of the suggestions was simply to call it Glover Gardens.  A couple of months ago, I made this change with no fanfare, and changed the tag line to reflect the multifaceted nature of the topics.

What’s Next? Authenticity, Curiosity, Empathy

I don’t make specific New Year’s resolutions these days because I don’t really believe in them, but I do want to move in these directions in my life in general, hopefully reflected in the blog:

  • to be courageous and speak more with my own authentic voice, as I did with the poem about my brother’s suicide.
  • to be more in-the-moment-mindful and curious about the world – and to share what I learn.
  • to listen more and practice “cognitive empathy”; to truly understand others and learn from their truths.

You Matter to Me

I have learned a great deal in 2017 through my interactions in this blog, spanning a huge spectrum. You validated my beliefs and ideas and added context and color to them. You challenged me and provided a different lens for viewing life and love of all kinds. You gave me interesting perspectives on photography, travel, spices, recipes, mindfulness and your own challenges. I am inspired by you!

The Collective Muse

Although I started the blog to capture my recipes for our sons and their (eventual) families, I actually thought my muse for this blog was my Dad. Then he died. He died. He died. He died. I probably haven’t accepted that – he died.

I wrote about Dad being my muse and losing him: Mourning the Loss of My Father and Muse.  Especially during his last year when he had a mysterious illness, I wrote most of my posts hoping to inspire Dad and ignite him.

Reality: Dad died. I have to have a different muse. What a hard truth to absorb.

I kept on writing.

Maybe I’m my own muse? Maybe the muse is this vast expanse of strangers who read, and “like” and comment?

I kept on writing.

IMG_2025I wrote about Dad. Here’s one: you, amazing you / footprints on our heart-sands (another poem for Dad from a grateful daughter) . If you read this, you’ll understand me.

I wrote about Mom. Here’s one: Labor Day: Cherries and Empathy at the BeachThe Real Nancy (1)

I wrote about Steve: Looking Back and Finding Joy: Happy 51st, Dear Brotherfullsizeoutput_1a25

I wrote about death, and loss, and grieving.

I wrote about joy. I wrote about frustration. I wrote about travel, the world and food. I created haiku for silly things, and profound happenings. I shared recipes.

I kept on writing. You listened.

A marvelous thing happened. One of my nieces said, “I read every one of your posts, and if I’m with my friends, I read them out loud.” She mentioned a specific post about her Dad (my brother) and referenced a phrase or two from it. Oh. My. Gosh. She’s a living, breathing muse. She is part of me, and someone I can write these memories for. So are my other family members.

And, in addition, so many of you reached out. You said that you had lost a loved one and felt something similar, or you liked a silly haiku I wrote, or a recipe looked delicious, or a family memory stirred an emotion. You shared an approach for editing a photo, or using a special spice in a recipe, or a trick you use to stay sane in a crazy world. You empathized with me. You cared.

I kept on writing. You let me know you were reading, and you became my muse / the source of my inspiration. My family, my friends, my special set of strangers – you are my muse and inspiration. Thank you. Here’s to a great 2018!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

 

We Call Them “Mema Rolls,” She Called Them “Refrigerator Rolls” – Call My Grandmother’s Delicious Yeast Rolls Anything You Want, but Don’t Call Me Late for Dinner if You’re Serving Them

First, a haiku:

yeasty heritage
culinary legacy
memories preserved

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Beautiful Mema

My grandmother, “Mema”, was a wonderful cook, producing Southern food in classic grandmotherly style: something was always just coming out of the oven, just for you, whenever you wandered into her kitchen. There she was, in one of those shapeless cotton shift apron dresses she always wore at home, stooping  slightly, smiling warmly and crinkling her green eyes as she pushed the butter dish toward you and heaped a few sweet potato biscuits or the yeast rolls we’ve always called “Mema Rolls” onto a plate. Mema’s kitchen seemed like heaven to us hungry grandchildren on cold winter mornings when our families gathered in at her home Sweetwater for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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My grandmother’s kitchen dinette was one of these circa 1952 Cracked Ice Formica and Chrome models. There was never a bad bite served on it.

I’ve searched and searched and can’t find a single picture of Mema in her kitchen, but I think you can imagine it: small, all of the meager counter space being used at all times for important things like rolls rising, jars waiting for to be filled with vegetables for canning, a big pot of tea steeping, an old metal percolator burping coffee sounds.  Delectable aromas at all times.  A squeaky back door with a window looking out onto a small yard patrolled by a huge, old scarred-up black tomcat named Midnight.  A sturdy formica and chrome table from the early 50s standing right in the middle of the activity, surrounded by six chairs that matched it – and several others that didn’t. Mema’s table was set up for maximum capacity.

A giant double-door refrigerator/freezer was always packed full of fresh and frozen food, because, although she lived alone, Mema was ready for a crowd at all times; by golly, no one would go hungry at her house! (We could have fed most of Sweetwater with the frozen food we cleaned out of her freezer when she moved in with my aunt toward the end of her life.)

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Mema in around 1913

Born in 1910, Mema came of age during the Great Depression and the resourcefulness she developed during that time was one of the hallmarks of her personality, in addition to her strong faith.  In fact, she continued to work until she was in her late 80s, acting as a companion and helper for her next-door neighbor, who was actually younger than my grandmother.  She called this job “sitting with Miz Butler”. Mema, whose name was Memery Frank Harvell (there’s a story there!) was a wonderful role model for her children – and many others – and probably one of the reasons I get so much joy out of cooking from old family recipes. Which brings me to today’s subject and recipe: “Mema Rolls”, AKA “Nana Rolls” by some of my cousins.

Mema’s rolls are legendary across the family and staples on all of our holiday dinner repertoires as my Dad and his siblings carried on the tradition, each in their own families. At Glover Gardens, Dad was always responsible for bringing the rolls to holiday dinners. Dad is in heaven making rolls with Mema now, and on his last Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with us in 2016, he was unable to eat because of esophagus problems and other health issues. It was time for me to figure it out.

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Dad and Mema, showing off their matching green eyes and wise smiles sometime in the mid-90s at the beach house where my parents lived for almost 30 years; that’s my Mom’s art in the background

fullsizeoutput_18daBut first, there was a collection of Mema Rolls recipes to sift through (pun intended). The treasured formula had been documented many times – and with some variation – over the years, and Dad and his siblings were pretty much making it from memory by now.  But I needed to figure out which one to use, and how to fill in the blanks on the missing steps my elders had somehow absorbed by osmosis.  Check out the resources I had at my fingertips below – 5 different variations of the marvelous pillows of yeasty goodness, with names ranging from “Rolls”, “Bread or Rolls”, “Refrigerator Rolls”, and one version that used condensed milk, “Eaglebrand Rolls”. Richness! One of the versions of the recipe was published in my parents’ cookbook, which I’ve written about before, also a source a richness. That’s probably the one that my Dad used.

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These artifacts are gold in terms of family history and heritage, and in fact, on one of the recipe cards, there’s a notation: “Mema wrote this”. It looks like her handwriting and makes me wonder if she knew it would be a future treasure. Or was it one of my aunts, making sure that generations to come would know the recipe was from the hand of the master roll-maker? (Dear Aunts, if you’re reading this, let me know.)

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I looked at all these recipes last Thanksgiving (2016), figured out what was in common and gave the Mema Rolls a try, calling Dad once or twice for consultation. I needed his help: the amounts of flour were different in some of the recipes, the oven temperature varied and they were written in family shorthand.  There were just not enough words to explain exactly how to make these legendary rolls.

This endeavor was bittersweet; I wanted Dad to be proud and happy that I was carrying on the family tradition (he was), but it would have been so much better if he could have tasted them. As always, Dad brought his camera to Thanksgiving, which would be his last, and he took this picture of my first-ever Mema Rolls.  I cherish it.

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Dad’s photo – he couldn’t eat the rolls, but he memorialized them; I guess that’s what I’m doing, too

Don’t they look good? But I made a big mistake when making the rolls last year: I didn’t write down the steps and the resolution to all the tiny questions I had for Dad.  And I just couldn’t publish the recipe in its family shorthand state, because that would leave it to the reader to ask all the same questions. So my new daughter-in-law and I tackled it together this year.  The Girl Who is Always Hungry (her self-chosen name in the blog) did the work, and I wrote everything down as we figured it out. We were both pleased and proud, and I could feel the spirits of Dad and Mema smiling on us. As I’ve said before: “Family history: love on a plate.”

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We did it! The Girl Who is Always Hungry and I made Mema rolls

Mema Rolls (makes about 5 dozen)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2 cups warm water (between 110°F – 115°F)
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, separated
  • 2/3 cup shortening (not oil)
  • 1 scant tbsp salt
  • 7-8 cups flour, separated (start with 2 cups, then 5, then the optional last one)

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and 2 tbsp of sugar with 1 cup of warm water, stirring to dissolve.  Set aside and let stand until foamy.  (If the yeast mixture doesn’t produce bubble and foam within 5 minutes, discard the mixture and start over again with different yeast.)

In a large bowl or a mixer, stir together the remaining 2 cups of warm water, 1/2 cup of sugar, salt and shortening, then add two cups of flour and mix. Then add the yeast mixture and mix until smooth.  Add 5 cups of the remaining flour in two batches and stir by hand, or, if you’re using the mixer, mix on low speed (using the dough hook) until you have a smooth, soft dough, adding in the last cup of flour if the dough is too sticky to form a ball.  Knead until the dough feels elastic, about 3 minutes with the dough hook in the mixer or 5 minutes by hand.

Coat a medium bowl thoroughly with cooking spray and place the dough ball in it, turning to coat all surfaces.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to a week.

When you are ready to bake the rolls, flour your hands and then shape and finish as desired (see below).  Put the rolls in pans or on cookie sheets, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.  Bake at 425° for 12-14 minutes.

Shaping the Rolls

Simple Squares (this is what The Girl Who is Always Hungry and I did and is the easiest and quickest of the options)

Divide the dough into four sections (after it has been refrigerated).  Loosely roll or pat out a section on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board in a large rectangle to a thickness of about 1 inch, then cut into 2″ x 2″ squares. Place on a greased cookie sheet, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Repeat for the remaining sections. Bake as directed.

Note: The Girl Who is Always Hungry did a neat trick when she was shaping the rolls.  There are little bits of dough left from the edges after cutting the squares, and instead of combining and rolling them out again to make them into squares, she baked the little bits and called them cocktail-sized rolls.  They were marvelous and had the added bonus of being just right for one-bite tasting.

Parkerhouse (this is how Mema usually made them)

In a small bowl, melt a stick of butter.  Divide the dough into four sections (after it has been refrigerated). Loosely roll or pat out a section on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board to a thickness of about 1 inch and use a round cookie cutter to cut the rolls. Dip each roll into the butter until it is covered on all sides, then fold it in half, pressing it together slightly, and put it on a cookie sheet or in a pan, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Repeat for the remaining sections. Bake as directed.

Cloverleaf

In a small bowl, melt a stick of butter. Pat out the dough on a lightly floured cutting board or pastry board to a thickness of about 2 inches, then pinch off small pieces and shape into balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and roll them in the butter, then put them in the muffin tin, three to a section. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.  Bake as directed.

More How-To Stuff

Note: you can either arrange the rolls with space between them on a cookie sheet, which will provide more territory to get browned, or have them almost touching in a pie pan, which will keep them soft on the sides.  If you decide to have them touching, be sure to use one of the butter approaches listed above.

Another note: if you’d like a shiny crust, add an egg wash.  Beat the white of an egg and about a teaspoon of water in a small bowl and brush it onto the rolls with a pastry brush just before baking.

And yet another note: you can bake the rolls in different batches at different times, which is probably why one of the names is Refrigerator Rolls.  Imagine the dough in your fridge, just sitting in there waiting to be shaped and baked, so that you can have a few rolls with your dinner even on a weeknight when you’re in a time-crunch frenzy.  This is how Mema accomplished her grandmotherly magic trick of always having something just coming out of the oven, just for you, whenever you wandered into her kitchen.

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Another memory preserved, another recipe shared, another way to remember you, Dad, til I see you again. 

Kim and Dad Thanksgiving 2015
My Dad and me at Thanksgiving in 2015; the last year he made – and ate – the rolls

Outtakes: I was so busy writing everything down and being the sous chef / prepping for The Girl Who is Always Hungry, that I did a lousy job taking pictures of the process.  Here are a few, anyway.

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

Three Haiku from a Day at the Beach, Remembering Dad

Thanksgiving weekend, eight of us family members spanning three generations packed into my Honda Pilot and headed down to the Bolivar Peninsula where I grew up.  We were on a mission to visit Dad’s favorite restaurant down there, and remember him. It was a perfect autumn day to walk the beach and reminisce.

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So of course, I wrote a simple little haiku:

back home at the beach
the day after thanksgiving
remembering Dad

When I looked at the pictures later, I saw each of us drifting in our separate thoughts:

that day at the beach
my son was looking forward ~
I was looking back

Looking Forward or Looking Back

Somehow, Dad was there with each of us, in that place where we have so many memories of him. I know I can always find him when I look out to sea.

the salty air’s kiss
joins the sundancing-sparkles:
Dad’s eternal hug

For a look into what it was like to grow up along the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, check out my days by the water. Dad really liked that poem, and I cherish his comment on the post.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

Looking Back and Finding Joy: Happy 51st, Dear Brother

Today, November 29, is the 51st anniversary of my brother’s birth.  He left us too soon, in 2013, but as the years go by I find that I can focus more on the joys of his life and less on the tragedy and heartbreak of his death. It feels like finally catching your breath again after having run for a long, long way.

fullsizeoutput_1a2aTake a look at these pictures from his first birthday and celebrate his life with me, if you will. The photos come from the “Big Green Book,” a monster of a scrapbook that my parents started when they first married and continued for years afterward.  Dad made this clumsy 18′ x 24″ cache of memories from pegboard and cabinet hinges; he was then responsible for most of the photography. Mom painted the behemoth bright green, did the legwork to get the photos developed, and kept the scrapbook up to date, complete with captions. You can see Mom’s faint handwriting in the two pages memorializing Steve’s first birthday below.

I pulled a few of these priceless photos out to share them, honor Steve’s birthday and take another step in the healing process. I’m very excited because I don’t think my nieces (my brother’s daughters) have ever seen them.

The captions below the photos are my Mom’s original words from the scrapbook. Enjoy the joy on that beautiful baby face.

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“I’m a Peanut!” (referencing Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters, now favorites of my nieces)

Version 2

Version 3
“Let me at it!”
Version 4
“Osmosis”

Can’t you just feel the happiness radiating in that tiny kitchen 50 years ago today? I can, and I’m grateful for the memory.

I’m grateful for so many things, really. Grateful to have had a brother to grow up with, play with, tease, teach and love. Grateful to have had parents who were always there, and who valued life’s little celebrations and small moments enough to capture them for posterity. Grateful that my Dad and my Aunt-Mom made me the keeper of family history so that I have access to these marvelous memory-artifacts. Grateful for the days gone by that can be savored and honored but never retrieved, and the days ahead filled with unknown joys and more small moments to celebrate.

Happy birthday, dear brother. You left us too soon, but in many ways, you are still with us, and always will be.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

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)

Tom Ruth Nancy Steven
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

Steve on Sea Urchin
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

My Brother’s Suicide: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

steven-harvell-1423142466I have never said this in a public forum: my brother Steve’s untimely death four years ago was a suicide.

At first, we didn’t know. And then, we did.

But it wasn’t time to talk about it before. Our family and very close friends needed time to process, to grieve, to try to make sense out of something that we will never understand. Ever.

And quite frankly, there was no way to express the ragged, jagged, piercing and seemingly permanent heartbreak that we share. I’ve tried in this blog, believe me, although you didn’t know what you were reading. Some of my hurt-heart poems and writing are linked at the end of the post.

The adage says, “time heals all wounds,” but I wonder why the part about the scars was left out?

There is something true about the healing (accepting?) impact of time, though – it all looks different through the 4-years later lens. I can see past the horror, shock, pain and hopelessness, all the way back to the wonderment and love we once shared, the richness that my relationship with my brother brought to my life, and the Crayola-bright uniqueness that was Steve’s essence. His extremely wise choice in marriage brought me my “sister” and my nieces, a gift that is immeasurable and one of the reasons I believe in God.

My nieces have shared their stories through their participation in Out of the Darkness walks, and their courage is the reason I’m now ready to publicly share this painful story.

The other reason is that, like my nieces, I hope my voice can help impact even one life for the better. Please forgive the raggedness, the jaggedness of this poem, and share it with anyone you think might be suffering alone in the dark.

A Suicide Prevention Poem: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

please hear my plea

if you are out there somewhere

in the dark

considering taking control of your life

by taking your life

please tell someone

just one person

let one person know

that you are at risk

in the dark

and sad

and feeling alone and desperate and unloved

please hear my plea

know that the people who have always loved you

still do

always will

know that your current situation

in the dark

doesn’t have to be

your permanent situation

there’s no death sentence for mistakes or regret

unless you pass it on yourself

please hear my plea

reach out to the light

please tell someone

just one person

let one person know

that you are at risk

in the dark

and sad

and feeling alone and desperate and unloved

you’ll never know

unless you reach out

that you can live in the light again

we’ll never know we can help

unless you tell someone

just one person

let one person know

we’ll never know

that we could have been

the light in your darkness

please hear my plea:

you matter to someone

he mattered to me


 

Other hurt-heart writings to wrestle with grief and embrace the remaining joy of brother-memories :

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

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.

Family 6th Birthday 4

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.

Family 6th birthday 5

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

Family 6th birthday 6

Mom was so beautiful; look at that smile.

Family 6th birthday 2

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