Archive for October, 2008

Published by PaintingChef on 28 Oct 2008

The only time waiting in line doesn’t make me all pointy and stabby.

With only one week until Election Day, I’m still pondering the question of early voting. I think that, in theory, it is an awesome idea. There are so many people who just don’t have the time available to them that they may need to take to stand in line for hours on November 4th. Less than understanding employers and demanding families that just don’t get the importance… But I’m wondering if maybe the whole POINT is to take time and to put the rest of your day on hold to exercise this one very important privilege that we, as Americans, are fortunate enough to have.

(Was that nauseatingly patriotic enough for you?)

The truth is, I kind of dig the whole event of voting. I like standing in line and watching the people who are there. When I was younger, my mother would take me with her to vote. We would wait in line and talk to all the neighbors, friends and classmates we would see. And when it came to be our turn, my mother would take me behind that curtain (yes, there was still a curtain) and we would go through the ballot person by person and she would tell me why she was voting for each person. Or why she wasn’t voting for someone else. She would talk to me about how each person would affect our family, my dad’s job and the school where she taught kindergarten. But she would also take the time to explain why people might disagree with her. I loved this time that was just ours; got such a thrill out of being spoken to as an equal. Never once in all those years did I feel like she was trying to tell me HOW or WHAT to think, just how important it was to know your heart and make decisions that you believe in.

My mother grew up in a very politically-minded family. Her father, my Papa Bill, as you know was heavily involved in the Democratic party of Tennessee. And while he was one of the most politically passionate and informed people I have ever met, his views were less than inclusive. I often wonder if his unwavering, across-the-board Democratic viewpoint didn’t contribute to her taking extra time to make sure I understood that there was always more than one answer and nobody was really right or wrong, they just looked at things differently, even though her votes almost always lean Democratic. I think maybe she wished that the time she was spending with me was something that she had been able to share with her father. Or perhaps she doesn’t even realize what a lasting impression she was making at the time.

And maybe, had early voting been an option at the time, I wouldn’t also remember the nasty looks people would give the young mother and her daughter as we would leave the booth where we had been for 10 or 15 minutes because they were all in such a rush. So I think it would be alright to embrace early voting as something that eventually I could share with my children in much the same way. I could have the time to encourage them to learn their own hearts and opinions and to value those things. To trust in their own minds and to know that they are capable of making their own choices.

People have often asked me what it is like to be married to someone who doesn’t share my own political ideology. I can’t tell you the emails I’ve received telling me that surely Patrick and I aren’t a good fit because how can I love someone whose ideas can be so opposed to my own. But the truth is this… Patrick is intelligent and has his own heart. And I love him because of our differences, not in spite of them. (Although just between you and me… he’s leaning left this year and I can’t help but find it kind of hot…) I think that our children will be so fortunate to hear more than one viewpoint on situations as they grow up. I feel like it will help them see issues from a more rounded point of view and encourage them to form their own opinions. Our differences are an asset to our lives, not a stumbling block. And it took me some time to realize that. (I forbid him to tell Papa Bill that he was a Republican before we were married… which is kind of funny now but was a Very Big Deal at the time).

What my mixed marriage has to do with early voting, I’ll never be able to tell you. This started out as me wondering if early voting was a good plan. I’d heard rumors of political organizations in my area trying to have early votes thrown out by having them ruled unconstitutional. But a little Constitutional research will quickly tell you that it only requests that ELECTORAL votes be placed on the first Tuesday of November, not actual votes. I worried about my vote getting lost or just now counting but there is as much of a risk of that in a week as there is today.

So maybe this early voting is just a nod to our busy lives. It is a concession made necessary by low voter turnout in years past. Ultimately, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it simply allows more people the opportunity to vote and I have to support that 100%. What about you… early voting? Yes? No? And do you have any favorite voting memories? I’d love to hear about them.

Published by PaintingChef on 22 Oct 2008

Because people falling on boats is much less depressing than dead uncles.

Holy cats. Am I ever depressing. Here’s a thought. How about I tell you all about my terrible, horrible no good day last Saturday? Because that? Would be so incredibly awesome. And not depressing at all!!

This past Saturday, Patrick and I had made plans to go to the Tennessee football game by boat. This is an incredibly awesome tradition and if you ever get a chance to do this, you must. Especially in the fall, there is nothing like it. The air is crisp and full of whiskey and you very rarely fall overboard. But this wonderful event wasn’t set to happen until much later in the day than my terrible, horrible, no good day situation first began to manifest itself.

I began this Saturday just as I begin every other Saturday being the spoiled princess that I am. I get up, drink coffee, watch 90210, throw on some loungey clothes and flip flops and head out for a mani-pedi. I know, it’s cool, I hate me too. Patrick had left ahead of me on a mission to Home Depot. I wasn’t interested and so I didn’t care. But before he left he said “Hey… put Archie in the backyard before you leave.” Fine. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed that the garage door was up. This would make putting Archie in the backyard difficult as we have tried to make a habit of using the door that leads from the garage directly into the backyard for Archie. So I opened the door into the garage just a crack and tried to snake my arm over to hit the button to lower the garage door. Unfortunately when I did this, Archie decided that NOW was outside time and while he was at it, maybe it was time to meet the rest of the neighborhood too.

May I please remind you of the aforementioned lounge clothes and flip flops? And have you ever seen a Springer Spaniel really run when they have open air in front of them? And woods? And a lake? And lots of houses and yards and other things that have not yet been sniffed or peed upon? That? Was awesome. So thirty minutes later my fridge was one pound of ham lighter and I was lugging a barrel shaped dog who had recently ingested a pound of ham to my backyard. And he was a mess.

So I went inside and cleaned up a little. Nobody like to pedicure muddy toes.

I finally left the house, treated myself to a venti Starbucks, and went to get my nails done. At the same place I’ve been going since January. And THEY. WERE. GONE. Closed. Disappeared. El Gone-o. By now, the dam has broken and I’m crying. Yes. Over a dog and fingernails. Shut up, it’s been a rough week. So I cursed a little and found somewhere else to get my damn nails done. Fine. Whatever. I had to go home and make a rum cake to replace the one I’d made the night before that had mysteriously flattened overnight.

By now, obviously the best plan was going to be to get home, get ready for the game and start drinking. HEAVILY. Which I totally did. I didn’t fall off the boat once. Oh… but then when we were heading back to the boat after the game? I busted my ass on someone else’s boat. So that was kind of fantastic. My shin still looks likes it went through a meat grinder and I really feel as though I should apologize to the nice stranger whose boat now holds a portion of my flesh. Hey… hope that didn’t stain!!

On a more serious note… thank you all so much for all your kind comments and emails. I’ve gone back and read them several times and they make me feel kind of warm and fuzzy. And to the dear, dear friend who was at Todd’s service on Sunday? You made my year, I love you to pieces. Send me your damn phone number.

Published by PaintingChef on 16 Oct 2008

Raising a Glass.

Nobody ever said that it was going to be easy. And I think that when one person weathers bad event after bad event, whether in their personal life, health-related or career-centric, and comes through the other side a little bruised and battered but mostly just fine, it’s kind of easy to start to see that person as invincible. Fine. My invincible uncle Todd was a foul-mouthed, sarcastic, vodka-swilling 400-plus pound package of fan-fucking-tastic but I wouldn’t have wanted him any other way. He was the gruff teddy bear that always made things fun and taught me that if you can’t laugh at the shit your life gives you; it’s going to be a long, hard road.

Todd was a genius in the kitchen. He was a culinary artist. Oh sure, fine, whatever, he left a path of garbage, vegetable carcasses and destruction in his wake. Nobody ever said genius wasn’t messy. He worked for years in the restaurant business all over the Southeast but if you ever stepped foot in the Italian Market & Grill in Knoxville, Tennessee then you have personally met his baby. Hell… if you walked down the hallway between the Market and the Restaurant you may have seen a picture of my grandmother in a grass skirt, my mother in a majorette costume, or a snapshot of my cousin Kris, Todd’s son, that I took one Christmas.

The people in my life molded me as a chef. As I’ve told you before, from my grandmother, I learned patience in the kitchen. I learned to knead and sift and just sit back and let things happen in their own time. From Todd I learned to be fearless. I learned how to infuse everything with passion and confidence. I learned that yes… you can make someone’s eyes roll back in their heads using just what you put on their plate. But these are each lessons that carry themselves outside the kitchen if we allow them. And nothing made Todd happier than seeing the people he loved gathered together in the kind of boisterous reveling that never failed to accompany a meal that he had had a hand in preparing.

As this is written in the past tense, you probably guessed that we did say goodbye to Todd on Wednesday, October 15th. It was a horrible decision to have to make but our family came together and came to an agreement that this passionate man who loved him family and his friends would never be happy spending the rest of his life in a bedridden, vegetative state. So we let him go. He is no longer a prisoner of his body but his spirit will be part of my heart forever. We will remember him this weekend by doing just what he would love. We will come together, we will cook and raise a glass of red wine as we tell stories of just how fantastically wonderful and loved he was.

Todd Holliday

Published by PaintingChef on 12 Oct 2008


This is Archie. Winston Archibald Churchill if you’re nasty… He is/was Todd’s dog. He is a roughly 18 month old Brittany Spaniel Springer Spaniel and Patrick and I are “rehabbing” him for a little while. A very indefinite amount of time.

Archie is so sweet. But he just wasn’t being allowed to run and play like he needed to. He belongs to Todd and because of Todd’s size (he’s a BIG BOY…) Archie just hasn’t had the exercise so vital to his happiness. After Todd went into the hospital (I can’t talk about it… it’s awful… but thank you all so much for your comments and emails) Archie defaulted to my grandmother’s care. Um… he’s a LOT of dog for a tiny little 77 year old woman who doesn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking weight and wearing lead shoes.

So fast forward to Saturday. Bring in Patrick and Susannah. And their big ass fenced in backyard. Oh, and their super soft spots for big brown canine eyes. (Hi.)

We can’t call him a rescue dog because he was not mistreated. He just wasn’t getting what he needed. Within two hours of being at our house, running all over the yard, playing with some toys, chasing Belle and just being outside he was a different dog. Gone was the frantic look I had never seen him without. He is a sweet and adoring boy who has blended seamlessly into life at our house.

Animals are amazing creatures because so often they sense what we cannot. Belle, normally completely uninterested in other dogs has welcomed him without question, running him in circles all over the back yard. Our jealous baby took one look at Archie and moved over to allow him his own place on the couch. And within minutes he was pressed up to her side, rolled over on his back and snoring up a storm. Even the cats have made his entrance into our household relatively easy. There has been no bloodshed or battles, just a few interested sniffs and rubs as if to say… “Okay, we’re good. These people will take care of you and you are one of us now.”

I don’t know the future will hold for Archie. Officially we are just a halfway house for him. We are teaching him to play and run and not to jump up on people with muddy paws. And the plan is to find him a home once that is accomplished. But I feel him tugging at my heart and I think Patrick does too. I guess we’ll just take it one day at a time.

After further research, I think it is entirely possible that Archie is actually an English Springer Spaniel (is that different than just a Springer Spaniel?) and not a Brittany. The lesson here is that sometimes your grandmother is a crazy lady and your uncle with adult ADD may not know what kind of dog you have because once he saw those big brown eyes, everything else went in one ear and out the other. Honestly? I could care less what kind of dog he is. I love him to bits. I know he requires different things than Belle who really just wants you to scoot over a little to make room for her on the bed and then maybe we could throw the ball? I want to make sure Archie is getting everything he needs to be happy and healthy and I guess knowing what kind of dog he is would be helpful…

Published by PaintingChef on 09 Oct 2008

Knowing What To Do.

For the past week, life has been divided up into 30 minute windows spaced two hours apart. That is when we can see him. But all we do is see him. We watch him lie there, wonder if he is still inside his body. We dab his brow, talk to him about football, tell him what Paula Deen, the love of his life, is cooking this time. We play the James Taylor music he so loves. We hold his hand and rub his shoulder. We stroke the bottoms of his feet because that almost always gets a reaction. But the truth hangs over the room like an unspoken shroud. None of us dare say it but in our heads… we know. He isn’t coming back.

Today his hands, which has previously been lying at his side, were beginning to draw up towards his chest. The nurse called it “posturing” and according to Google, it isn’t a good sign. But if we think there are good signs in any of this, we are only kidding ourselves. We will all sit down tonight and have the worst conversation any family could ever be forced to have. We must decide What To Do. The official decision rests on the shoulders of his 19 year old son; a young man so trapped inside his own demons that he is barely hanging on through this entire ordeal. And all we, the rest of us, all we can do is let him know that he is not alone in this decision. That we will do this together. Whatever it is that we Decide To Do.

These things that seem as though they need capital letters. What To Do. These Choices and Options that the doctor laid out for us as we sat there, each of us consumed by our own versions of praying for a miracle. None of our heads and hearts have met yet, none of us are ready to voice the words that stick in the back of our throats and make it so hard to breathe.

Up until today I was able to step outside in the beautiful sun and gasp for air. I was able to close my eyes and lift my head to the sky to feel the sun on my face. It was a constant that I would depend on. It was cleansing and renewing. It only seems fitting that the sky is gray and the rain is falling today. Because today is the day we will have to make a Decision. We will have to profess to know what this man we all know and love would want. We have to pretend that we can see past the inner turmoil of which we only see the very tip and we have to Decide.

So if nothing else comes of this horrible, dreadful tragedy… please… do this one thing. Talk to someone you love. Have a difficult Conversation so that if they ever find themselves in this hell of the unknown, or if you ever find yourself there… you will not be fighting your own ignorance. Take a few moments, go to one of these links and do something to protect putting someone you love in this place. Let them know What To Do.

Free Living Will

Living Will

Advance Health Care Directive Information

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