Sunday, March 6, 2016

Vegan Feel-Good Chili with Everything (cooking to help heal--isn't that what all cooking is anyway?)


I needed to spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen. It began like all chili making endeavors: a glug of oil, spoonfuls of cumin, coriander, some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt and the pile of veggies I had carefully spent the last half hour chopping and mincing. I literally just kept pulling out veggies from the crisper and methodically went through them with the knife: zucchini, onion, carrot, garlic, green pepper, celery. Then poured in a can of black beans and a can of kidney beans, then two cans of tomatoes--one sauce, one diced. And finally, added a bag of my favorite vegan crumbles (Beyond Beef). With the aroma of cumin and my heavy-handed scoops of some favorite chili blends (okay, it's Penzey's), my kitchen began to heal my soul. 
Low and slow--the way all chili should be cooked, the way all souls should heal. 
Quickly, while one eye was on the pot of chili, I whipped up a batch of brownies, too. 


It seems lately with the job and all, my time in my most favorite place has been shrunken to minutes of chopping or re-heating here and there rather than immersing myself in a beloved recipe and lingering over my cookbooks. Pulling a homemade meal from scratch is relegated to weekends only. Today, I wanted a lingering, good-smelling pot of chili to make the house feel like a home. Like it felt before I jumped head first into this full-time work stuff. 

I will be honest and say I have doubted my ability to handle such an enormous change in my life from the minute I walked into this. Last week made me question this journey even more. 

I made an urgent trip to Chicago to be with my sister. 
On the phone was someone saying through tears, "It's me." Over and over again. I had no idea who the "me" was. It was my sister. I was completely taken aback and stunned and all the other words you can find to describe shock. I had to calm down and listen to what she was trying to tell me, because for a minute, I thought she was hurt. 

Turns out, someone was hurt, in fact, someone hurt so much, they were no longer here. 
The pain in my sister's voice, the tears in my own eyes--burning, we both wept uncontrollably. Neither one of us understanding much of what the other said for the first few minutes. Then clarity. Then composure. Then I said I'd be there in the coming days. (For timing, it could not have been worse as DH had to catch a plane for NYC and this trip could not be negotiated. Don't ask.)

The story as it relates to "the call" is too difficult to re-count. The sad truth, however, is that no matter what you think or see someone presenting to "the world", i.e., FB or blogs or what-have-you, you are NOT getting the full picture. Never. Ever. I have gone through the postings, my sister and I seeing the smile, the family, the friends. We both offering guesses as to when the moment of serious doubt may have crept in? Wondering whether anyone else could have seen, sensed or guessed.  
How could this have happened? The sad truth is no one could have, and we'll never know. It struck so close to home--our father's grief so deep we can barely reach him. 

And my sister and I realizing that this moment is one with which she and I could have easily lived through ourselves had she not changed (six years ago last Thursday). Not that any one's personal struggles and overcoming them is any greater or less than someone else's, it's just that in this particular instance no one was able to help. Though it was not for lack of trying.  

Someone helped my sister, someone saved her. She saved herself. She was saved. 
Saved. Saved. Still here. Still my sister. 

I have had six more years with my sister. Six years longer. Six years happier. Six years strong. 

This separation from my family, this five hour drive/forty-five minute plane trip is too long, too far away. 

I am very homesick. Now more than ever. I think how lucky I am to have the small family left that I do have. It is a gossamer thread in that it consists of only three--my husband, my sister and our dad--the dad who adopted me, who is now almost seventy-five, and having to manage through a grief so strong, we don't know how he'll survive. 

Back to reality tomorrow. But meantime, DH and I went for a long walk yesterday as I shared all the stories of the trip home I could, trying to scrape together in my recounting of how such a thing could have possibly occurred. 

I find solace in re-telling. I don't know, maybe it's a woman thing. But the telling of this has helped me in some way put this piece of grief somewhere else for the time being. As anyone who has experience with death will tell you, time heals. It surely does. But it is a healing that is unique to each individual it touches. 
Finding comfort and taking care of each other.
And coming home. . .
Finally a reminder of what I miss when I'm gone. 








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