How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TED talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:

“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”

Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this video. I am ever so proud to be your mom. 

If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.

A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.

It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter. Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.

Grief & the Garden

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hellebores are first to greet me

Hitting the proverbial wall. It is that time of year. Just like that stopped in my tracks. Has it ever happened to you? I kind of anticipated it, but after 6 years I wanted to think it would be easier. How to battle back and cross the bridge? It’s April. A double edged sword. Maybe it is a blessing that I hit the wall only once a year since his birthday and death day are just 6 days apart.

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pulmonaria breathes new life into the garden

The weather has been cold and wet, but I find my place in the garden. Pulling weeds, spreading 6 yards of mulch and planting seeds is good for what ails me. It’s physically hard work. Like my heart, my back is aching. It reminds me I don’t really act my age, but down on the ground there are signs of new life. It’s worth it. If a plant that looked completely dead a month ago can make a come back so can I. That is the dirt. It has healing powers and as I wash it away from my hands so goes the anguish down the drain. Another day forward.

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What Not To Say…Add it to the list

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It’s been 2,136 days or 5 years, 10 months, and 3 days since I lost my son. By now I thought I had heard every heartfelt, but misguided thing a person could muster in an attempt to comfort me. Remember this blog post about what not to say?  Well, I was wrong in thinking I had heard it all. Let’s add 1 more to the list of what not to say.

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North Conway 1997

 

Do NOT say to a grieving parent who is now a grandparent: “You must be all better now that you have a grandchild.”  Honestly, I am not trying to be harsh here. I understand if you have never been through the loss of a child that you can’t know how one feels, but common sense should dictate that one child could never replace another. Each child is their own unique joy. Each child has their own unique place in a parent’s/grandparent’s heart. A parent does not ever forget about the lost child by filling the void with another. When I think back on that moment, I am 100% certain I caused great discomfort to the person who was hoping I was better now. Without warning tears and quite possibly rage welled my eyes and the person made a quick exit stage right.

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Thanks for letting me vent today. Now let’s just get comfortable with a steaming hot, nourishing bowl of soup. We just had our first snow, so let’s warm up with a hearty wild rice & chicken version. This recipe packs a bit of smoky spice and chocolate because after all it’s still Valentine’s week. Enjoy.

“Soup puts the heart at ease and calms

down the violence of hunger”

~ Escoffier

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Heart Warming Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium orange bell pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground back pepper

1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, over moderately high heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, oregano, smoked paprika, red pepper, salt and a few turns of black pepper; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, tomatoes with chilies, chicken stock and wild rice; bring to boil. Add the chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender and puffy, about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir in the corn. Ladle the soup into bowls.

Garnish with fresh herbs, sour cream and crispy tortilla strips, if desired.

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