Tuesday, September 9, 2014

QUENCHed


My idea of Mother's Day means doing exactly and only what I want "Cause I'm the Mama that's why".  I don't mean to sound ungrateful but I have suffered through my share of poorly executed breakfast eggs by a thoughtful wunderkind who doesn't even eat eggs much less know how to prepare them to put either of us through that anymore.  So for the last half dozen years or so, it has become a tradition that my BFF, Sandy, and I spend Mother's Day without the kids. That way we enjoy a great meal where we don't have to consider immature, finicky palates nor food allergies (both of us have offspring with shellfish/fish intolerances), nor eye rolling teens peeping our bar tab like they are AA sponsors.  We've had more laughs than food as a sextet at the Melting Pot when half the Moms were appalled that we basically paid to cook our own meals; thought we were in the company of whirling meat dervishes, albeit a studly group, at Fogo de Chao; and explored the virtues of vegan cuisine among our eatventures. 

Well over a year ago, I came across a post on the blog "Bitches who Brunch" mentioning a restaurant in Rockville, MD called QUENCH. Well the Bitches sang the praises of their chicken and waffles as well as their cocktails. Since I'm a brunch loving gurl all the more if it is NOT a buffet but they had me at the description of the cocktails. (I haven't posted in way too long but during hiatus I crossed one off the bucket list by taking a bartending course and working last football season as a bartender, more like beertender but I can at least pour a perfect black and tan!)  So I consider myself an aspiring bartender and am thus happy to try almost any ones liquid inspiration. I was determined to get my face in the place but time and  dining opportunities passed without setting eyes on the place. While it would occasionally be top of mind for me, most of my dining companions are neither happy go lucky drivers nor adventurous eaters that is except Sandy.  If I find the activity especially of the liquid spirited variety, she'll happily drive.

So as I often do in each mid-March I reminded her that we needed to find a place for our Mom's Day celebration and give her my suggestions and wait for her concurrence or additional venues. But this year I mentioned QUENCH and nothing else. She was game. Even in late March we couldn't get reservations for that day, as restaurants go it's a very small place, so we decided that a Saturday celebration would suffice. She was driving to Philly later that day to pick her eldest Wunderkind up from college for summer break so she needed the actual day off to rest this year anyway.

I decided going in I was not leaving having had less than two cocktails and decided to start with the  the Hemingway daiquiri.  Well Sir Ernie is as famous for his love of liquor as he is for writing and true to its nameske they don't hold back on the booze in this one.  I'm a big gurl and pretty much have and two and half drink limit anyway but a solitary Hemingway had me swooning up until about 15 minutes before we left. Sandy got the Sex in the suburbs, a prissy pinkish thing with the delightful sweetness of orgeat, and Mom (it was her day too) had the bottomless Mimosa though she definitely left some dollars on the table with that one.  


On to the main event, Sandy got the hot mess grits bowl because she avoids gluten and it looked tasty topped with chunks of bacon. Anyway both Mom and I both got the chicken and waffles which the blog raved about. It was the first time I've EVER seen my Mom eat a waffle!!! The wunderkind is a chicken and waffles afficionado and though they look good I rarely indulge though truly do love a good waffle/pancake. At Quench, not only do you get chicken and waffles but it also comes with a side of mac 'n cheese and the chicken is served on a bed of sauteed spring veggies (asaparagus, peas, etc) the summer menu offers fried green tomatoes instead - oh and they serve the waffles with tabasco butter and maple bourbon syrup.  Talk about a WONDERFUL meal.  Honestly the waffles were so tasty and light, I could have just had another stack and nothing else. 

Chicken 'n waffles 'n BACON!

I ordered a side of bacon for us to share. I love bacon (it's one of three foods that seriously make me rethink if becoming a vegetarian should be on my bucket list (the others being lobster and and burgers - none of which I eat on on weekly basis?!) Anyway, the minute I saw how thick that bacon was, easily 1/3 inch, I said to myself "it's going back to the kitchen - they must be crazy". Well, that bacon was so crazy good and definitely the best I have ever had!  It was neither greasy nor crispy but somehow still perfect. I loved cutting it and eating like steak.  

Since May, I've been back twice and enjoyed it just as well both times - once for dinner when we indulged in little girl (melon) balls martinis, 3 ways of bacon (one brown sugar glazed, another sriracha) and short ribs served with a polenta as smooth and comforting as any mashed potatoes. And then for brunch again to let the wunderkind relish the chicken & waffles - which she agreed were awesome. I don't know when I'll get back there as it is a haul and I've used up all 3 of my Groupons (offered once a year when I managed to scoop a couple up before my first visit).  It was my "gotta try" place for so long not much else has gotten my attention, but now that my interest and palate has been sufficiently QUENCHed, the search begins anew...




Saturday, June 1, 2013

What Matters

People often say, "you come in to the world alone and you'll leave the same way".  I never gave that statement much thought heck I'm sure I've agreed a time or two but that's the most insincere statement EVER.  No one, no where, no how comes into the world alone - it's pretty much impossible if you are to survive the ordeal. You are welcomed by the gifted hands of a doula/midwife, or a physician, maybe a parent or in any emergency even an elder sibling and let's not forget your mother without whom your existence would not even be possible so under no circumstance do ANY of us make it here alone.


What got me thinking about all this is my Aunt Evie as she battles the dreaded "C" which went undiagnosed until a few months ago when it would remain hidden no longer in it's fourth and final stage. With Aunt E having neither spouse nor geographically proximate offspring, my Mom has become her caregiver - checking on her daily, speaking with the nurses, calming her daughter who resides in the Midwest and trying to coax her to eat.  Evie, the youngest of 8 siblings (4 girls remaining) entertains few other visitors besides our little trio (My Mom, the Wunderkind and I) and I'm not sure why. 

My Aunt E was always my favorite Aunt when I was growing up.  Her delivery of her standard greetings to me were always so genuine - "Whatcha know good?" or "Hey Shonnie Gal" that I couldn't be anything but happy to see her.  Unlike my older Aunt J who threatened plenty of butt whoopins' without actually doing so, I had nothing to fear from Evie. Being just 18 years older than me, she more than either of the other 2 readily indulged my childish whims. That's the great things about Aunts - they are the best parts of big sisters with a twinge of mother thrown in.  

Petite for most of her life, Aunt Evie never pointed out my "extras" - more than once she assuaged my own self-deprecating remarks by saying "there was just more of me to love".  I often remember fondly, being captivated by her tale of fascination with a curvy voluptuous brown babe getting her groove on at nightclub in Montreal. It was Aunt E who gave me my first sips of beer as a young'un (I think as many folks did that in  the70s as choose not to now) so when I started experimenting with wine fests and varietals she was always willing to imbibe my newest discoveries. Anytime I tried a new recipe for a family gathering, I could always count on her to be the first to commit with an open mind and mouth. If she wanted a favor, she never hesitated to ask me - just last weekend she asked me to bake her a ham of which sadly, I think she ate less than half a dozen bites. She loved to shop and asked me often enough to drive if her next, new shopping destination involved a highway. (The women in her generation just don't "do" highways at least not in my family.) She was and still is very meticulous and more than a little feisty, especially if agitated. In fact, she was so infuriating when I took her car shopping two years ago, I almost disowned her on the spot. Over the last dozen or so years, I've seen her less and less during celebratory gatherings and more as one visiting the infirmed. Still whenever we talked, I retained that fondness even when her tongue got sharp (rarely at me) and her Griffin fiestiness reared its ugly head.

I've never been one to ruminate much on dying, frankly I prefer not to think too much on it as I have so much more I'd like to do and I ain't so sure that anything follows this earthy journey.  But the one thing I do know for sure is that just as none of us comes into the world alone, few of us have acted so egregiously during our time here that we deserve to leave it having been ignored and deprived of compassion that visiting loved ones can bring.  Most especially in cases where there is lengthy illness so onset of demise is no real surprise. WHO among us hasn't pissed someone off, said the wrong things or the right thing at the wrong time, sorely disappointed or broken a heart? In the final analysis so much of the small stuff we cling to and allow to define us and our relationships, is just that ....microscopic dust that adds nothing only takes away - connections, hope, memories, love and most of all time. Originally I thought my being there to visit Evie, sometimes cook and clean, or watch some of the worst pseudo horror movies ever made were to alleviate the burden from my beloved Mama.  A role she has born almost to the day that she became a widow nearly two years ago with such an unconditional love that I truly believe is far beyond what most of us mere mortals are capable. Aunt Evie now has good days and many more bad it seems - some days she's up talking and laughing.  Last week I remembered how pretty her face looked, at 65 not one wrinkle and fewer grey hairs than I. This week it's been mostly a drug induced slumber. Regardless, it has become crystal clear that what matters is honoring my duty as her niece - and my place in our little Tarheel descended clan - for all the times she made me smile, feel special and loved. I want to be there to help replace every molecule of diminished capacity with three of love -  just as she did for me over the last 46 1/2 years.  And what's more the Wunderkind is bearing witness that when that time comes....being there truly IS what matters. 

UPDATE: My Dear Aunt Evie fought a long and brave fight but in the end decided there were other horizons to discover last Thursday afternoon. RIP Aunt Evie  2/14/1948 - 6/6/2013.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

She's back

and right now my life hurts like brand new shoes to quote the wonderful India Arie.

For the second time in as many years VBG has fallen on challenging times. And rather than this time being familiar ground, I feel I am in uncharted and far more treacherous waters.  And anyone who knows me, knows too, that one of my least proud personal factoids is that this Voluptuous Brown Gurl never learned to swim.  



Six weeks ago I spent my last day at the "new" job* I'd so gleefully chirped about in a post in January 2012.  My departure was unexpected in timing (I thought I had about 2 months before the clock ran out) but more than slightly welcomed.  I'd known fairly soon after starting that it just wasn't the place for me but it was bearable. As I was just coming off half a year of unemployment, I thought my resume might look less conspicuous if I stayed put a little while -  like a year or so.  

When I started the job*, I worked a 4 day/32 hr week which was all kinds of awesome but I'd been assured that my position would grow to a normal 5 day/40 hr week in a few  short months due to proposed business acquisitions. In reality, my position was decreased by a day per week at my half year anniversary. For most of the last 5 months I have desperately been seeking a new gig without success.  Anyway, in an attempt to continue meet to my myriad financial obligations (and maintain the comfortable lifestyle to which we are accustomed) and having depleted my savings during that stint of under-employment, I accepted a seasonal part-time Cashier position at famous "blue hued home improvement" store. I worked there one full weekend, Easter weekend as matter of fact, and it was okay but not really my cup of tea.  So I decided not to return and to look instead with renewed and refreshed zeal for a new home for my talents.  At the end of that very week, I found out that due to declining economics in the yellow pages industry (big shock!) I was being laid off  from the position that had paid the bills.  I looked at it from the perspective of closing one door and allowing another to open and that at 46 years, 7 months, and 20 days I had "no more time for  5 year detours or for staying in situations that were not authentically me" to paraphrase that  fountain of wisdom  that is Marianne Williamson (in the Age of Miracles).  I'd just aced a phone interview with a company that sounded very promising and was scheduled for a face to face interview with them as well as another organization early the next week.  Surely something would work out. Nevertheless I filed for unemployment insurance benefits just in case. Well the interview position was interesting but because it required a government security clearance, I'd have to drive 45 miles to work in an office alone everyday while everyone else worked at sometimes very cool off-site client locations. Ah, no thanks - work environment does matter. After 3 weeks of searching and waiting, I was dumbfounded when  I received a letter from Dept of Labor, Licensing and Regulations with a decision to deny benefits because "blue hued home improvement company" indicated I "quit without good cause or valid circumstances for leaving job” even though my last day at Lowes was prior to being released from the YP agency.  Needless to say, I'm asking them to review and repeal that decision.  

In the meantime, I've had 5 interviews in the last 6 weeks and have days when I easily send out a dozen resumes with cover letters or fill out numerous requisite and ridiculously lengthy online applications on prospective employer websites to not even get the automated staid "thank you for your interest but we've decided to pursue other candidates whose experience... yada yada" response. The next time you hear the unemployment numbers, TRUST they are probably grossly under-flated  as there have to be many millions who are uncounted because have gotten discouraged, stopped searching or taken any line of work just to survive and frankly they don't want to talk about it to you, me or anyone else. As someone who has been delving in and and out of the job market for a good  part of the last 2 years, I can honestly tell you the private sector of the job market in this new millennium is a far different animal than when I got my first "real" job more than 2 decades ago.  

Absent a job, unemployment benes or a rich benefator I've also had the humbling and spirit-breaking experience of having to apply and interview face-to-face for public assistance with a caseworker so jaded that she neither saw the value or validity of recognizing my humanity by introducing herself, simply smiling much less explaining how the process works. That is definitely a post for another day.

In addition, I find myself having to accompany my Mom once again as she helps a dearly  beloved family member navigate their transition. This time it's much slower and more painful  to witness than that of my Dad which had the unrecognized blessing of  happening  suddenly.  It has definitely made me more compassionate but it also makes me think about the hows and with whoms of one's final days/weeks.  They do genuinely matter. I also wonder what I'm doing here, what I should be doing here - what I want my journey to ultimately be about.  The first thing that came to my wanderlusting mind was I so want to see Argentina and Brasil!!  You had better believe that it's occupying a prominent place in VBG's frontal cortex right now.

When I told my BFF Bobbi that I was laid off her first response was "Great, now you can do devote yourself to your true calling - WRITING".  I have thought about writing many times over the last several weeks but had yet to put fingers to keyboard till now. Full disclosure, I spent a good part of today crying, the kind of wailing I don't recall doing since my divorce nearly a decade ago. It was way overdue but most importantly, it got me here again. My very own therapy, blogging truly is. 


You might say why is she being so public with such private matters and it's because we bloggers ain't so good at keeping our mouths shut :)  But more importantly, I know there is someone out there going through exactly what I am.  The situation may be more or less dire but I want them to know you are not alone  Be kind to yourself now- this is not the time to beat up on yourself, to feel ashamed, or act out of fear as the Wunderkind so wisely reminded me in my Mother's Day card.  Know that in this Voluptuous Brown Gurl, you have a kindred spirit, who in her zeal to make sure her family is well provided for took a nasty turn down a not-so-well lit alley only to realize that it was much darker, colder and a dead end with barely space to turnaround. So, besides being kind to oneself what else do you do when you find yourself in a situation like mine where you can clearly see that you just took the most WRONG turn of your professional life and every new door you even think of approaching closes before you can even cross the room? Here's what I suggest:
  • surrender your situation to Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the Universe - whom/whatever you believe in.  
  • ask  for wisdom/courage to allow and follow the guidance that will be given even if it makes no  sense to you now - "faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase" (MLK)
  • ask for help from whomever you must to keep some semblance of normalcy for you and your wunderkinds - RESOLVE TO STAY PUT for as long as you can
  • then chill your favorite bottle of wine ( for suggestions click here or or eat a pint or two of your favorite decadent ice ream) put on some music with strong lyrics by a strong woman like Sarah Maclachlan or India Arie (this is not a Beyonce moment, no offense intended) and CRY like you haven't in a long, long, long time - cry about stuff that happened 2 years ago that still stings, just let it all go ...now.   
  • Tomorrow morning - thank your higher being for the blessing of a peaceful night's rest (all that crying will make you real tired and sleepy) but for the love of all that is good and holy DO NOT turn on the damn depressing news, skip it today, I beg you. Get the kids off to school, then make yourself a fruit smoothie and go for a nice long walk outdoors - allow your senses to be assaulted in the best ways: listen to the birds, smell the flowers, hear the babbling brook - enjoy the marvels of the season. On your way home you WILL realize that the answers will come, that you are right where you're supposed to be even if today and possibly a few more tomorrows  than you'd like, it hurts like brand new shoes.



*A word about verbiage, I sometimes slink back into the old habit of saying job when what I truly mean is a new position or path.  The very wise Iyanla Vansant says job stands for Just Over Broke and  we are aiming far beyond that 


Peace and Blessings