Can somebody please shut off my brain?

For the last several nights I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with questions to ask Dr Spiegel today about my upcoming reconstruction. I like how “upcoming reconstruction” sounds so formal and important, and perhaps a teeny bit ostentatious. As opposed to the reality of a terrifying, bloody mess. But I didn’t have it together enough to put a pad & pen by the bed to actually write the questions down, and now I can’t think of them (anyone have any suggestions? Lemme know. I know there’s stuff I’m supposed to be asking her about but can’t for the life of me find that stuff).

My brain must be working overtime, especially at night, when it should be resting and refueling so it’s ready to assist me with my two most basic tasks: impressing Payton with my trivia knowledge while we watch “Cash Cab,” and helping me answer questions from Macy like, “If a banana is a fruit, where are its seeds?”

I hate those kinds of questions. I really should know the answer. It’s there somewhere, deep in the recesses of my brain, but it’s buried by all this cancer ca-ca. If my brain were being depicted by a pie chart, there would be normal-sized pieces of pie for the kids, the home front, our schedules, tennis, world peace, and such. Then there would be a gigantic piece for cancer ca-ca. 

I hate that the cancer ca-ca takes up such a big piece of the pie. I like pie. But I don’t like this pie.  If only the pie chart were about pie, instead of all that other stuff. That would be a really good pie chart.

My Uncle Wilford (my mom’s older brother) used to say he liked two kinds of pie: hot and cold. Me too. And I hope Uncle Wilford is having a piece of both right now, at a beautifully set table on a puffy white cloud with his two sisters, my mom and Aunt Margie, sitting beside him. All the pie they can eat. And no pizza. Uncle Wilford said he didn’t like pizza because he was older than it. Funny guy. Miss him.

But back to the cancer ca-ca. It fills my brain stealthily, easily, and constantly. I’m usually pretty organized, but it infiltrates. I tend to keep a good handle on the various comings & goings of the members of this family, and rarely do I drop any of the balls I juggle on any given day. Not bragging, just saying. I’m usually up to whatever this life of mine throws at me.  But I’ve been dropping balls lately, and I don’t like it.

Macy was invited to a birthday party recently, and I forgot to add it to the calendar, and she missed the party. Oops. Then I looked right at the calendar to assess the day’s tasks but still forgot to take Payton to his weekly hitting lesson. Drat. Then there was the test I forgot to make sure Macy studied for, and she got a bad grade. She typically doesn’t get bad grades, so it was upsetting for her. Her teacher sent home the study sheet for the re-take, which Macy dutifully put on the fridge with a magnet. I saw it there but it never even registered in my brain, so we didn’t work on it. At all. And then, the re-take was upon us. Macy remembered as we were walking out the door to go to school. Damn, damn, damn. I dropped another ball. I was tempted to advise her to just tell her teacher it’s my fault, and that I’m too busy with all this cancer ca-ca. But I didn’t. I hung my head for a minute, cursed myself out under my breath, kicked a stray tennis ball on the garage floor, then reminded myself that it’s one test in the 3rd grade. Well, technically two tests, since she failed the first one and had to re-take it, but again, let’s stay on point here and recognize that it’s no big deal. I wrote her teacher and note and fessed up, told her it was my fault and that she & I both know that if it were solely up to Macy, she would have aced that test. Her teacher wrote back and said pfffft, don’t even worry about it; as you can tell from the attached progress report, one test isn’t going to bog her down. She will survive, and so will I.

Thank you, Mrs. Motal.

From the time I wrapped my head around this wretched diagnosis, I’ve been determined to do all that I can to ensure that cancer doesn’t become me, doesn’t define me, doesn’t defeat me. Cancer may win a skirmish here and there and may make me feel really crummy; it may open the door for a nasty infection that brought on another epic battle; it may deposit more grey hairs and new wrinkles; and it may cause me to miss a thing or two on the master schedule. Cancer will most certainly cause me some sleepless nights. But cancer will not defeat me. 


Move over, cupcake

So the latest food trend is (drumroll please). . . pie.

There’s a lady in Houston named Bella-Katherine Curtis who believes that nothing says love quite like a pie. The smell of a peach pie hot from the oven, made by mom’s or grandma’s hands, is a little slice of heaven, she said.

“There’s a joy knowing that someone made it just for you; someone loved you enough to make it,” said Curtis, owner of My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe. “It’s special. That’s what pies do. Cake is good but there’s something very special about pies.”

She’s right. And it’s about time pies got their day in the spotlight. Any monkey can make a cake from a mix and slap some canned frosting on it, but a homemade pie is special. Yes, you certainly can buy a crust and dump a can of gelatinous filling in it and call it done, but that’s not a real pie.

I grew up on homemade pie, and anyone who’s read this blog has heard me wax poetic about how great my mom’s pies were. Her coconut cream pie is the ultimate comfort food for me. Good day? Have some CC pie. Bad day? A piece of CC pie will make it better. Promotion? You earned a piece of CC pie. Car wreck? CC pie will help. 

Barb’s coconut cream pie was the real deal. Homemade crust (duh), made with flour, crisco, salt, and ice water. That woman could whip up and roll out a delicious pie crust faster than I could find the recipe in my cookbook.

The edges were always perfectly fluted, too. She said it was simple: just pinch the edge of the crust between your forefinger and thumb and presto! perfectly fluted.

I have perfectly good thumbs & forefingers, and I can certainly pinch crust between them, but mine never, ever looked like hers.

She made a lot of pies. Anytime she hosted a dinner party (which was often), the dessert would be pie. Anytime she went to a potluck, she’d bring a pie. Usually two. Any family gathering featured, you guessed it, Barb’s pie.

She gave me several pie-making lessons, and I did not excel. She would tell me to handle the dough lightly; too much or too firm and the crust wouldn’t be light & flaky. Frankly, I’d settle for light or flaky, without aspiring to both.

In her absence, I have tried to take over the pie-making. While I wouldn’t say it’s been an epic fail, it’s not been overwhelmingly successful, either. One Christmas Eve I attempted the old standard cherry pie. The crust was fussy that day, and the filling overflowed in the oven, so the finished product looked as if I’d dropped it from a tall building. If I hadn’t been so busy crying and cussing, I would have taken a picture, which I could then post here so everyone could laugh at me and that pitiful pie.

Curtis opened her pie shop in October 1992, rolling out 29 pies on her first day in business. Guess what? she sold them all. Today she’s known as “The Pie Lady.” My mom is smiling about that right now.

Anyone who knows anything about pie knows it’s all about the crust. Curtis says that crust is literally the pie’s foundation. Good pie bakers know that without a good crust, pie is a waste of calories.

“When you bake a pie you have to make a crust and take care of it,” said Curtis whose crust is her mother’s recipe. “Then, of course, you have a filling. There are many steps to pie, and it can make a big mess in the kitchen. It’s a lot more challenging than making a cake. It takes more work. But it’s worth it. A pie says more.”

She’s right. A pie does say more. It says, eat me now!!

But Curtis worries that old-fashioned pie baking might become a lost art. “In another generation it might be totally lost,” she said. “There are so few people out there who make scratch pies.”

I’m trying, Ms. Curtis, I’m trying.

Read about how much better she is than I at making pies here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/food/7386674.html