The Losses, The Advocates, The Hope

This is Mama Penny. I’ve known her since I was 10, when her and my dad began to date. She has been a part of my life for 16 years, and stood with me as “Mother of the Bride” when Daniel and I got married.

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On my way into work, Friday, July 14, 2017, my dad sent me a message. “Call me when you get a chance.” Well it’s pretty odd for my dad to say give me a call when he knows I’m at work. But I really didn’t think anything of it. Most of the time it’s a flat tire or something wrong with this car, to be honest. So I decided, I have a few minutes as I’m walking to the entrance of work. I’ll give him a call now.

“Hey what’s up,” I said. “Penny just called me. (brief silence) Vin died.”

I stopped. I stopped right there in the misty rain. “What?”

“Penny just called me. Jon [Vin’s dad] found him.”  “What?” It was odd. I was taking these like very shallow but very deep breaths. My chest got tight. My mind went blank. My hand went over my mouth and tears rolled down my face. “What?” It was the only thing that was coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t speak. I heard my dad’s voice and disbelief in a similar fashion on the other end. This bomb, this incomprehensible tragedy had just happened and I needed to compose myself for work. What do I say to Penny? What do you say to someone who lost their son? What do I say to Gab? Her little brother is…. I can’t say it… What can I even do? I don’t know how to react. I just want to hug them and be with them and I have to go to work. Should I go to work? I have to go to work. How will I work?

You need to compose yourself, Sam! Compose yourself.

I took a deep breath as I walked to the entrance of work and as I entered, my eyes still watering, I couldn’t stop shaking. Come on Sam, you’ve got patients that are depending on you. Get it together. It took me a good 25 minutes to stop shaking. What the hell do I do? what the hell CAN I do? What can I say? I called Penny when I got the opportunity, but the voice mailbox was full. I sent her a text message pretty much saying just that.

I don’t know what I can say. I don’t know what I can do. Please know I love you and I’m here, whatever you need.

The next day, after work I went to Penny’s house, selfishly terrified of how I would handle everything. I don’t know what will happen when I get to her house. I don’t know what her State of Mind will be like. Will the kids be there? Do they understand what happened? Will Gab be there? How do I watch people that I love hurt so deeply? How do I watch them hurt knowing that I can’t do anything to make it better?

That day and the days following were spent in typical Italian style, the place packed with an assortment of homemade food, mostly carbs, sitting around the table with wine, sharing stories of not just Vin, but everything! Laughing so hard we cried, at times. I sat there, talking with Penny and friends and family and it amazed me, not only just how strong she was, but how much love was in that room.

In the following days, Facebook was flooded with beautiful memories and kind words from friends and family. The day came and I started shaking all over again because, again, I was selfishly terrified of what this day had in store. I hugged the family and I cried with Gab. There was a moment that happened that I don’t even know how to describe. Like, it penetrated the depths of my soul as I watched. I watched my dad extend his hand to shake the hand of Jon’s, Vin’s dad,  as Jon pulled him in for a hug. And he held my dad there. I watched as he tried to speak to my dad in a low voice and he couldn’t get it out. He was choked up and stuttered as he said, “I just wanted to thank you for everything.” I kiss my hand and laid it on Vincent’s urn.

As I waited for the services to begin, I looked around the room seeing familiar faces. None of them the way that I remembered them. Just this look of loss and being lost. The service progressed as usual and, then, came the eulogy. Penny had written it, but a good friend of the family read it for her. It was beautiful. It flooded my mind with memories of Vincent. And, then, it transitioned into why it’s so important that we stand united. That we can’t blame ourselves. That we need to embrace the very few resources that are available, but how God sent those resources are. Penny has allowed me to share her powerful words with you all as we all said “See you later, Vin.”

My dad hides his emotions. The most I ever saw at my nonna’s funeral was him teary-eyed. He never cried in front of me. As the eulogy was read, I held my dad’s hand tight, and would occasionally look at him. There were tears. I could see this raw side of my father as he become entranced by Penny’s words.

I kept looking at Penny and Gab and just wanting to wrap my arms around them. After the services, there was an opportunity to go up and speak or say a few words about Vin and I had a whole list of things in my head, but when I got to the podium, nothing came out the way I wanted it to. I talked about how when he was living with my dad I used to steal his Crunch Berry cereal and Oreos. I talked about how when I was a kid and Penny and my dad first started dating that I was jealous of Vincent. For so long, I was the only person in my Dad’s life. I was daughter and son. I can have a catch. I can watch football. And I remember thinking well, dads going to have a son now… he’s not going to need me. And years went by and then Vincent stayed with my dad, in my old bedroom, as he got back on his feet and started working. It was the cleanest my Dad’s kitchen had been since I had moved out (haha!) and I felt like there was this full circle of events… my dad was alone, and now this kid I was once jealous of, I saw as a blessing… it was like my dad had a new friend. He had someone to keep him company and talk with him and drive him crazy, at times, and I thought that was a blessing. And all of that came out in a very jumbled, very incoherent way through my shaking voice. I looked at Vin’s sister, Gab, niece and nephew, and mother, Penny…told them that I loved them. That they are family. And they’ve got one heck of a guardian angel looking over them.

I left the podium completely frazzled and disoriented, still shaking. Silly little stories that I wanted to talk about, like when I used to pick up cannolis when Serpes Bakery reopened and bring them over to the apartment for him and my dad, had just completely left my mind .

There are so many things that we want to say or we want to do. There are so many things that we want to experience. But our time is being cut short. The resources are not available and the resources that are are understaffed and under managed for the explosive need in this country. There are so many who want to condemn rather than uplift. I’ve been so frustrated losing people to drug addiction. Vincent was the last straw. I’d lost friends before but now I lost family. I’m very blessed that those in my family who have fought this particular addiction are still here and still fighting. I battled my own addiction  and mental health demons and I continue to battle everyday.  But why couldn’t I get the help that I needed? Why did I have to do it alone, armed with just family and friends, just as uneducated in the topic of recovery as me? Why couldn’t I afford the treatment that every doctor who saw me emphatically voiced that I needed? Was my life not worth saving?

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Please take the time to watch the video, featuring Penny, in the link below, as well as read through the article:

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/heroindelaware/2017/08/10/delawares-heroin-crisis-federal-state-emergency-could-help-treatment/550869001/?fb_action_ids=10159151609300228&fb_action_types=og.comments

Whether you try marijuana in college or start working out, addiction is something that unconsciously rewires your brain. “When did you become anorexic?” Well, if I knew that I wouldn’t be 95 lb . You are sucked into whatever fixes that desire and you have no idea you’re doing it. Until the reality check happens… The rock bottom. Then, the conscious mind makes the choice to get the help needed to get better.  It’s a rollercoaster. Yes, it hurts the people around you, but you need those strong people in your life to keep you going, from whom to borrow some strength when you have nothing left to keep you driving forward. You are rewiring your brain, again, but on a conscious level. It’s both biological and psychological.  Yes, it is a disease. You would never abandon a chemo patient, would you?

Don’t stay silent. Don’t condemn. Don’t blame yourself. Learn. Educate yourself.  Be compassionate. Be strong and supportive. You and your family are not impenetrable to any addiction. Speak Out. Advocate for your neighbors and the resources your community needs.

atTAcK Addiction

Hope Street

Behold! Banana Bread

For as much as I love to bake, there has been one item that never seems to turn out the way I want, and it’s name…. Banana Bread.

I’ve tried tons of recipes, with minor tweaks to fit my lifestyle, and they have all been less than par.

Can’t a girl just get herself some banana bread where she tastes more banana than refined sugar?!

I took a leap and tried a recipe a bit outside of my comfort zone, making my adjustments, and I’m never going back.

Banana Love Boat

Adapted from FatGirlTrappedInASkinnyBody
Serves 16
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup granulated Splenda
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar or white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Splenda brown sugar (or ¼ light brown sugar)
  • 4 egg whites16522258_10158176838340228_2136179329_o
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (unless using another flavor profile)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease, or non-stick cooking spray (I love Baker’s Joy), a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan* and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the applesauce, Splenda and sugar. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition, and then the vanilla and almond extract.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, alternating with mashed banana and coconut milk.

Mix until just combined. Stir in the flaked coconut. Pour the batter to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 45min to 1 hour and 15 minutes, when a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, depending on your oven, elevation, and type of pans used.

Let completely cool before slicing.

*OR 4 mini loaf pans (45min) OR bundt pan (45min) OR muffins (45min)

Nutrition (1/16): (does not include add-ins)

Calories: 129, Fat: 2.6g, Sat. Fat: 2.3g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 138.3mg, Carbs: 23.6g, Fiber: 1.5g, Sugars: 7.1g, Protein: 3g

The shredded coconut added this extra texture not typically found in banana bread (and I’m a texture girl). But I think its the coconut milk that really adds that extra umph of richness and flavor.

Since the first batch six months or so ago, I have continued to utilize this recipe to make tons of flavor profiles: peanut butter chocolate cinnamon chip, pumpkin spice butterscotch, Chinese 5 Spice, and even lavender. Yes, lavender! (You all know I need as much help in the “chill” department as I can get).

The photo above is a 50/50 bread of peanut butter chocolate cinnamon chip and pumpkin spice butterscotch, I omitted the original cinnamon in the recipe, above, and divided the batter in two.

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  • 1 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter baking chips
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon baking chips
  • 1 Tbsp mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Add the following to the above nutritional facts: Calories: 47, Fat: 2.1g, Sat. Fat: 1.5g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 14.1mg, Carbs: 6g, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugars: 5.3g, Protein: 0.8g

Pumpkin Spice Butterscotch20170205_151222

  • 1 1/5 Tbsp pumpkin spice baking morsels
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp butterscotch baking morsels
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp toffee bits (also in the baking section)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice

Add the following to the above nutritional facts: Calories: 51, Fat: 2.5g, Sat. Fat: 1.7g, Cholesterol: 0.9mg, Sodium: 12.3mg, Carbs: 6.9g, Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 4.9g, Protein: 0g

Using a chopping knife, chop through the baking chips/morsels (they start to look more like shavings).* Add them, along with the spice, to their appropriate bowls. Fold them into the batter, pour it into the prepared pan and bake.

*I like this method because I get flavor in every bite rather than just those with a whole morsel in it.

**Keep in mind these measurements are for half of the batter. If you choose to make the entire banana bread one flavor profile, please double the measurements.**

More recently, I made Strawberry Banana Muffins, and, yes, they taste as good as they sound.

I am ahead of my assignments at the moment, so I want to take what time I can to check in with everyone. This blog has been such a staple in my recovery process. There is no way I am forgetting about it or you.

Look for follow-up posts with the recipes to make more of those flavor combos I mentioned above.

God Bless and thank you for always welcoming me back!

 

Oh, the Humanity!

Where has it gone? 

Where has respect for our fellow man gone? 

Where has tolerance gone? What happened to equality?

For the longest time we were afraid to fly, in the aftermath of 9/11. Those who looked like the attackers wer targeted and demeaned and harmed. 

We were afrad to ride the metro after Berlin. 

For a while, we in the United States, were afraid to go see a movie with our loved one, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, and family because we were afraid that a shooter would enter the cinema. 

We can hardly send our children to school without the fear of being bullied and retaliating against themselves or others. Those with disabilities, different body types, hair styles, genders and sexual preferences, and skin colors are still belittled. 

We have barred refugees, those who have lost everything and everyone. 

 And now, tweens with their parents and young adults with their friends are injured or dead from enjoying a concert.

What happened to us? What are we teaching our kids? Is even simple common courtesy of “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “let me get the door for you” too much to ask?!

I’m sick of this! I am ashamed to be of the same species as these filthy barbarians.

When did terror and death become the norm?

I challenge you, world. 

Show that good still exists.  Spread goodness and love with every action you take and every word you speak. Do not let hatred prevail. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those, individuals, past and current, effected by these disgusting atrocities.

Pumpkin, meet Butter Cake

Hello!

I’ve missed you all sooooooo much!

45 hr of work+ nursing school = when the heck do I get to blog?

I have finished up another semester of working towards my BSN, and am on Winter Break. Alleluia! But despite that equation of little sleep, a girls still gotta eat, right? So no worries, my blog family. I’m still a cooking machine!

Last year, I brought bourbon-spiked sweet potato casserole to the table. This year, I’m still keeping it orange.

There is a bakery I grew up on in Philly called Stock’s Bakery. The sticky buns, danishes, and donuts are massive. Every Easter, Grandmom gets pound cake for everyone.

But… on special occasions, we get butter cake. Not like Betty Crocker butter cake… BUTTER CAKE!

How in the world can I make this decedent, guilty pleasure? I’ve asked the universe since I was a wee one.

When I was younger, Stock’s would sell out of butter by noon. If we remembered, we would call and reserve it. It is nothing fancy to look at:

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All Photo Credit: Stock’s Bakery Facebook

 

Off-white, cracked surface, in a shallow metal tin, wrapped in wax paper. The End.

Then you cut into it, and as you remove your knife from the pan, you watch this gooey, creamy filling mask the metal of the cutlery. This thin square you have just cut is melt-in-your-mouth heaven!

Oh my goodness, I think I’m drooling on my keyboard.. Oops!

Then, last year, on one of my Cooking Channel binders, I saw Bobby Deen make a lighter version of his Mama’s Gooey Butter Cake. Game on, Bobby, game on. After reviewing his recipe, I cut it back a bit more using applesauce, liquid egg substitute, and a reduced fat cream cheese. (I can’t believe cream cheese is the secret!) But then October hit.

It’s Pumpkin Season!!!

Then November rolled around, and suddenly, it’s Thanksgiving! The family has been in a funk over the past year, and getting even funkier, but with my own apartment, now, and a dad and an uncle so close to me, it was my turn to have my very first thanksgiving!

On the Menu:

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NOT sharing

 

  • Rosemary and apricot glazed turkey breast
  • Bourbon-Spiked Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Roasted Thyme and Lemon Veggies
  • Cranberry sauce made from scratch
  • The last of the beloved Grandmom Thanksgiving Stuffing from the freezer
  • Turkey gravy
  • Spinach Roll (A Wilmington institution, Serpe’s Bakery, caught fire last year and had to close. They reopened and we had to get a slice of tomato pie. While there, Dad mentioned how difficult it must be to make their spinach and pepperoni rolls. I accepted the challenge. I think he knew I would, that sneaky old man!)

But it isn’t quite Turkey Day without…

Turkey… duh..

No, dessert!

With pumpkin on the brain, the warming scent of cinnamon air that fills the season, and a partial (very large) can of pumpkin in the fridge, the gears began-a-turning…

When I made Bobby’s cake, the “crust” was much thicker than Stock’s. Ok, let’s cut that back. Flavor was there, but… Ok, let’s “Fall” this thing up!

 Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

10-16 slices

The Cake

  • ½ package of carrot cake or spice cake- cake mix
  • ¼ cup milk of choice
  • 1 tsp lemon juicepump
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce, maybe pumpkin

The Gooey

  • 8oz fat free cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin, NOT pie filling
  • ¼ cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp light buttery spread (like Blue Bonnet light, or Country Crock light)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¾ cup powdered/confectioners sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix all cake ingredients well. Transfer to a 9 inch pie pan or square pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Beat the filling ingredients, slowly incorporating the powdered sugar. Pour over the cake batter and smooth the surface.

Bake 30-35 minutes, and allow it to rest and cool.

 

Optional: Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Why? Just because.

Nutrition (1/16):

Calories: 100, Fat: 1g, Sat. Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 2.2mg, Sodium: 192.6mg, Carbs: 19.8g, Fiber: 0.7g, Sugars: 12.8g, Protein: 3g

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It is a rich cake, so with a bit of whipped cream, 1/16 is quite guiltlessly satisfying. But be my guest to cut a bigger piece… You’ll want to! 

Daniel was invited to a co-worker’s house at his new base, for which I was very thankful. I think he was super excited, too, because he baked three pies to take with him! Yeah, he bakes! Crazy, right?!

So after some good company, yummy food, a glass of wine, and a slice of Fall heaven, it was time to relax.

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The following day, I was back in the kitchen! I baked ALL day! I may or may not have raided the discount rack at the farmers market and bought like 20lb of apples….

You’d think after baking 2 apple pies, 3 batches of cookies, and about 10lb of apples worth of applesauce, I’d be exhausted, right?

I could not pass up the invitation to catch up with my friends at Tim and Tori’s house! I went to high school with both of them, and now they are engaged! Timmy was my first crush in high school and Tori is one of my bridesmaids.

I walked into Timmy and Tori’s house to see a kitchen of my high school crushes! Some of them I haven’t seen since high school graduation! It was like we never parted! Hugs and laughs the whole night! It was absolutely fantastic and just what I needed to break away from the stress, monotony, and isolation of being a working student.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, surrounded by love and laughs!

Songtan Sammy to Seoul

20160817_105003I spent my first Monday in Osan, South Korea very lazily. After making Dan breakfast before work, I laid back down in true vacation fashion, rather than walking around Pyeongtaek with my backpack and laptop, doing homework in a coffee shop, and bartering with various street vendors, as I did the rest of my trip.

I knew Daniel wanted to take me to Seoul that night. Seoul is a pretty metropolitan area, so I asked what to wear. He told me to wear a dress. So I played dress up 🙂

But I could tell he was exhausted when he got home from work.

Another night is fine. You’re tired.

But he was insistent we go that night.

So we got ready and walked a few blocks to the local hot spot. They called it the SED, the Songtan Entertainment District.

We grabbed sushi at his favorite local spot then caught a cab to the metro station. There, we grabbed the train for the hour trip to Seoul.

From the train… a cab. The cab dropped us off at a bus stop. Turns out the place Dan was taking me can only be accessed by bus.

So on our, hopefully, final mode of transportation to our destination, we met a local girl. She was taking g selfie with her friend, who apparently hated selfies… haha. I had offered to take a picture of them. She misunderstood and took a selfie… with me. Naturally, I too wanted one.

It’s not a pertinent part of this story, but one that puts a smile on my face, nonetheless.

We were dropped off at the stop, where the local girl tells me I look beautiful and wishes me well on my visit to the country. (See, smiles!)

The next mode of transportation? Our feet. Up and up and up…. First a long pavement hill then endless flights of stairs…

It’s was neat when we had arrived to top pavilion, though. I had heard about that bridge in France where couples attach padlocks to the fence. It was like that. They called them “love locks” and couples had written what I assumed were their names on them. I had never seen so many pad locks!

Daniel had taken me to Seoul Tower, the highest point in the city. From the pavilion, we could see the various skylines of Seoul. After we checked out a few different views, I heard Dan say my name. As I looked over, I could see this look on his face… a combination of “don’t screw this up” and “nervous”and “shit, what’s my next line.”

As he began to quickly say what he had memorized, I noticed that everything he was saying reminded me of The Beatles. I wasn’t following what he was saying because I was too busy, in my head, trying to figure out why everything was reminding me of The Beatles.

20160815_231438Daniel had carefully strung together titles of songs from the Beatles… all to end on the one sentence without a Beatles reference: “Will you marry me?”

While I had suspected this was happening based on his insistence earlier in the evening, I decided to respond with the following:

“You made me go through all of that, walk up all those stairs in heels?! I’ve got boo-boos on my toes from tonight!”

As he is holding out a ring in his hand and down on one knee, he replies, “Is that a ‘no’?”

“I’m just fucking with you, of course I will!”

It wouldn’t be a proposal to Sammy Bundo without some sort of ball-busting.

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The rest of the night was a race against the clock to get back to base on time (they have a curfew). It turns out the metro shuts down at midnight. We wound up catching a taxi at the last stop of the metro.

This taxi was like a roller coaster. I swear, I will never drive in South Korea! Move over Tokyo Drift, because Korean taxi drivers could teach you a lesson!

The GPS in the taxi kept announcing every speed bump, to the point where its annoyance actually became humorous (or maybe I was just deliriously tired). I laid down in the back seat because, like I said, it was a roller coaster, and I was getting car sick.

20160816_004853The second we entered Dan’s apartment, I threw off my dress and threw on a hoodie. Before I could stumble my dazed self into bed, Daniel called me into the kitchen, where I spotted his prized bottle of triple distilled 12-year old single malt, “only touched on special occasions” Yellow Spot whiskey (I know, that’s a mouthful) open on the counter and two shot glasses next to it. “Just a little cheers before bed,” he says.

Initially, I couldn’t believe that, a night that was supposed to be the most wonderful in my life, turned  so hectic. (Actually, we never once had good luck with the metro my whole trip, time-wise. I blame Dan. When he used the metro after I left, he said it was the same way. Other than that, the Korean metro system was the most efficient mode of transportation I had ever been on. So yeah, I blame Dan. What a jinx!)

We laugh about that night, now. I remember the adorable girl on the bus, enjoying sushi (and rice!) with Dan, how nervous he looked when he was saying his speech… It makes me smile.

So, was it worth blisters? And the panic of the clock? And the taxi money and roller coaster queasy feeling?

Hell yeah! I ate some banging sushi!

Oh yeah, and I gained a fiance in a man who could not have been more perfectly made by God for me.

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Does eHarmony Really Work?

So, after a long-term relationship, I let lose a bit. I decided that instead of moping, I was going to be confident and put myself out there. Well, I did. I attracted trouble. Trouble that I willingly accepted.

Why?

Reflecting on that time, I now know it was because of insecurities, once again- the complete opposite of what I wanted to embody.

I had accepted any guy into my life because I wasn’t sure if I would ever get a relationship, again.

Who wants to deal with this mess of a mind? The eating disorders? The emotional roller coaster? Who would willingly subject themselves to that sort of punishment?

After a bad break-up (your typical cheating, lying, bad boy), I wanted to give up. I stayed in bed all day, cried myself to sleep, and only woke to pee, grab a drink, or because my sleeping pill wore off. I did a little google-ing, one day, and decided to give eHarmony a shot.

Straight up– that’s how I’m playing this.

I followed the prompts to set up my profile, but I made sure to lay it all out there. This is me. Take it or Bye, boy, bye.

I wound up on and off the site for a few months. I met nice guys, but never felt the “spark.” I went on two second dates, but that’s it. I found a lot of guys that where just like the users I could find down the road.  I found a few really wonderful guys, but there was always something missing.

Fuck it!

I threw my hands up.

When my subscription is up, I’m done.

Two weeks before my subscription expired, I was still checking my matches in the slight chance, with the minute bit of hope that remained in me, of someone being “the one.”

12/31/15- This guy seems interesting… travels a lot… Osan? Where is Osan? (South Korea, by the way)… military nerd… looks damn good in a suit… I’ll send him a “smile.” 

That “smile” was returned back to me with the initial conversation prompts eHarmony provides. We quickly exchanged questions and responses, likes and dislikes, until it was time to actually send a message to each other.

This dude was so inquisitive. He asked a million questions. Like paragraphs. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

Is he weird or just really interested? 

His curiosity caused me to be curious, too. We wound up sending paragraphs of conversation to each other, questioning everything from favorites foods and superheros, to family, religion, and card games…

In the first week, we transitioned from eHarmony messages to WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. And then Skype.

Everyday, we communicated. When we started Skyping, it was hours. Hours every night. Sometimes, not even talking. Each of us doing our own thing, just in the presence of the other.

Three weeks into exchanging messages and videos, I went and got a passport. Six weeks in, I applied for financial aid and re-enrolled on school to work on my next degree.

What was it about this guy that made me so… motivated?

April 2016- Mr. Military came back to the states on leave. His dad and great grandparents happen to live within 2 hours from me. Well, we met. I felt like a crazy person going to pick this guy I had never met in person before up from the airport.

This is insane in the membrane!

But there he was like. Like a bullshit scene in a romantic comedy, he dropped his bags at the terminal and swiftly walked up to me to hug me.

Well, he’s real… (I poked him just to make sure.)

We spent 3 1/2 weeks meeting each other’s families, and me showing him around Philly, introducing him to cheesesteaks and scrapple, local creameries, and some cool historic sites and Italian markets!

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To be honest, I would’ve married him. We joked continuously about driving to Atlantic City.

See, I told I was crazy…

I know I wear my heart on my sleeve, but this is excessive…

When he left, it felt like my heart had been crushed. It was like a physical separation without an actual break up, but with all the same excruciating pain.

August 2016- My first international flight. My first flight ever was Philly to Seattle. Go big or go home, I figured. If I’m going to fly, I might as well fly across the country. Well, if I’m going to take my first international flight, it might as well be on the opposite side of the world.

Together, we were able to buy the tickets. I left Philly 6:30am headed for an 8hr layover in Detroit. (Did I mention I was running on 2hrs of sleep?)

Next was the 13hr flight to Incheon Airport. I was so surprised that I got meals on the flight. And guess what… I ate all of them! Rice and all! (Stupid carbs. Why must you taste so good?)

I got my passport stamped, grabbed my luggage, and there he was in humid South Korea, flowers in hand, and wearing a big smile and his favorite Yoda shirt.

I spent 10 days playing house, cooking up a storm, experiencing a new culture, taking in some of the sites, and being introduced to his friends.

I already eluded to it in a previous post, but something else happened while I was in Osan… he asked me to marry him. (More about that, later).

We started talking about his new base and our future and decided a civil ceremony on his next leave to the US would be the smartest decision. (There is a lot involved when your get married and are overseas.)

Did I mention that his next leave was the following month?

Surprise, folks! Sammy Bundo got married!

So, yeah… I knew I loved this guy a month into talking with him. “You just know.” That’s what people tell you. “You just know.” What the hell does that even mean? How do you know ‘you just know’???

I was overwhelmed with this new feeling. I had loved before, but this was just different. I can’t really explain it any other way. My grandmother, my mom’s mom… she knew “it,” too, with my grandfather. She described it perfectly, “An inner peace.”

You know how they say, “There’s someone out there for everyone?” Well, my guy was in Osan, South Korea. The other side of the world.

It took a lot of users and abusers to realize what I really wanted in a life partner.All the hurt and heartache led me where I needed to go.

Don’t give up hope.

Where Have You Been?

Sorry, folks! I can promise you that despite my lapse in posts, I have been keeping track of my creations. I am laying in bed, right now, and you guys are on my mind. So here is a recipe that has actually become a wicked stand by for a meal or a side dish, so much so that dad made me make another batch the same week!

It is quite simply, yet hearty. Its a bit sweet, but you can add some heat (of course, I did).

Beans and Greens

Make 7 (1/2 cup) servings

  • 4 cups chopped collard greens, ribs removed
  • ¾ cup chopped onion20160728_151116
  • ½ Tbsp minced garlic
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 ½ cup chopped button mushrooms
  • ½ cup honey BBQ sauce (40 cal per 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup water
  • 15oz black beans, or any beans, drained and rinsed

Wisk together the tomato paste, BBQ sauce, and water. Set aside.

Combine greens, onions, garlic, water, salt and pepper (and optional red pepper flakes) in skillet, covered, over medium heat, for 10 minutes until greens wilt.

Add mushrooms, beans, and sauce to wilted greens. Recover the skillet and lower heat to low for about 5 minutes to warm the beans and sweat the mushrooms.

20160724_103454Grub as is or  add sausage, hot dogs, chicken, etc.

Per ½ cup:

Calories: 90, Fat: 0.4g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 246mg, Carbs: 18g, Fiber: 3.7g, Sugars: 6.5g, Protein: 4.4g

 

Where have you been, Sammy?

Well, I started an accelerated online program to get my next nursing degree. I am still working full time, I moved out of my moms (I really needed to, it became too toxic), a visited South Korea… Oh! and while I was there, this happened!

13935170_10157304631590228_8208049664952290136_n

Time to add wedding planning to the  To-Do List!

Dear Anonymous

Finally the sunshine!
After weeks of rain and dreary weather the sun is shining.
It is finally short sleeves season.

As I drive down the major roadways of Wilmington, windows down and music up, something caught my attention.

“I Saw the Light” as they say- or rather the light showed me…

At just the right angle, the sunshine made clear to me, even the most faded of scars on my arms.

I have many scars- Some visible- Some faded- Some covered by clothing.

This is the time of year when short sleeves are welcomed back into our wardrobes. It is also the time that I typically am asked, with such naivety, “What did you do to your arm?” or, “What happened to your arm?”  Oh that’s old I usually say or just a scratch.

But the light, today, showed perfectly every scar I had left on my arms.

It took me back a second. I did a double take. I became silent.

At first I thought Well, Sammy, you might as well prepare yourself for the questions. It is that time of year. Then a voice inside my head…

-A voice that is typically not heard- One that is typically overpowered by the nagging voice of self-hatred-

You should be proud,” that voice said to me. “You survived. You’ve gone through a lot of shit in your life and you are still here. You are still pushing.

Once I stopped driving, I returned my gaze to my arms. I kept examining them, sometimes recalling the incident that triggered that scar. Many that I remembered healed without a scar. I recently confessed to my dad how long I’ve been cutting myself.

He was shocked. “I had no idea,” he said.

PhotoGrid_1464909285953

Car in park, I couldn’t help but run my fingertips down my arm and count the scars. Five on my right arm. Twenty-seven on my left. The scars on my thighs are too numerous to count.

You can see them. I don’t pretend that others don’t notice. I know the looks and whispers.

Just remember, you– who snickers and mocks- we are not alone.  We are not “emo” or “goth” or “weirdos” or “attention whores.” We are humans. We have fought battles you couldn’t image. We know you see them. Ask about them is you want. Don’t turn away from us.


And, you- who is saddened, hurt, broken, numb- remember you are NOT alone. Those scars on your body- those are your battle scars. You are allowed to feel weak. You are not perfect. And, now, neither is your skin. You are human. You feel. You cope. That fact that you are still standing is proof you’re a fighter. You are one badass mofo. Look at the strong survivor that you are.

As I wrote in my personal monologue: “Perfect
The marks on my body,           I wear them with pride
They’re not a sign of weakness,          They’re proof I survived
That I thrive,          That I strive
To carry on,          Head held high

You are NOT alone. You ARE loved.

Pi Day

So I  guess its not technically a pie. I mean, “pie” has a pretty wide demographic referring to pizza to sweets to fruits to veg, to thin crust, to thick crust, to no crust, to lattice topped to topless… So screw it! I’m celebrating Pi Day!

Caprese Crustless Quiche

8 slices20160314_163031

  • 1 cup (about 5 oz) cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic, divided
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup flax milk (or your choice)
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp reduced fat grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp non fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup fat free shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the diced tomatoes (I like to quarter the toms and then slice even more) with 1 Tbsp garlic, egg whites, milk and liquid egg substitute. Next combine basil leaves, Parm, yogurt, the other tablespoon of garlic,  and s and p in a food processor. Pulse to begin the combine. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from the thawed spinach. Place half of the drained spinach in the processor and blend until fully pulverized and incorporated.

Whisk the basil-spinach pesto into your egg and tomato mix. Spray a tart pan heavily with non stick cooking spray and transfer egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining spinach over top the uncooked eggs followed by the mozzarella. Bake for 40 to 45 min, rotating 180 degrees half way through baking. Slice and enjoy.

20160314_163033

Nutrition (1/8 of recipe):

Calories:82, Fat: 0.6g, Sat. Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 2.9mg, Sodium: 386mg, Carbs: 7.4g, Fiber: 1.2g, Sugars: 3.3g, Protein: 9.8g

I sprinkled a bit more mozzarella on mine! Dad dolloped his with ricotta!

I don’t really know what differentiates a crustless quiche from a frittata ,but i don’t care as long as it tastes good. And if you’re new here or just haven’t figured it out, yes, I’m a fan of alliterations .

An FYI For Your BMI

Facebook. I love it. I have reconnected with so many childhood friends because of this site. And I’m talking grade school.I have been able to reunite, catch up, and rebuild the friendships that I once had with these people. Some, like Rosemary (a banging hair stylist) and Katie (a teacher and Arbonne guru), I’ve known since I was FOUR!

bwbrk

Yes, those are knee pads. (Elsmere Skating Rink for my 7th Birthday)

bwbkids

Yes, those are Pokemon cards at one my birthday sleepovers.

My girlfriend Cecilia, like many of my girlfriends, are focused on, not only living a healthy lifestyle herself, but helping others to do the same. There is power in numbers. There is a ton of research proving that those who diet and/or exercise together, actually make the most gains, well weight loss, that is.

This week, I decided to join Cecilia, along with a few other folks, on a Clean Eating Week Challenge. She had posted this in the FB group, and with my love of veggies and recent soup-making addiction, no doubt I was going to tackle this one with a few Be Well tweaks.

Detox Chicken Soup

Inspired by Chicken Detox Soup

serves 8 (1 1/2 cup each)

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth, low sodium/ low fat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 cups chopped celery, leaves included
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 4 tsp dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh parsley*
  • 2 heaping Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh shredded ginger
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add the chopped onions, celery, ginger, and garlic, with 2 Tbsp water, and cover. Steam for 3-4 minutes. Then add the chicken breasts, broccoli, broth, apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and dried parsley* (if using).

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken. Add the peas and carrots and fresh parsley* (if using) to the pot. Continue to simmer, covered, while, shredding the chicken breasts with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back into the soup and grub.

Nutrition (1/8 of recipe):

Calories:103, Fat: 2g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 28mg, Sodium: 763mg, Carbs: 7g, Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 3g, Protein: 13g

Want to make it a clean Detox Chicken Noodle Soup? Spiralize some zucchini!!

Dad’s Response via text: What is this soup? Its delicious! We need to make a pot of this!

Sammy: Daddy, its a detox soup..

Dad: Its delicious.

What makes this soup soooooo detoxifying????

Onion: may lower blood pressure and limit cholesterol, as well as treat some digestive problems, while the extract can be used to reduce the appearance of scars and burns (1)

Broccoli:potassium promotes muscle growth, fiber and filling for dieters, lowers blood sugar, and Vit. K and calcium support bone growth (2)

Peas: low in fat, high protein and fiber, anti-inflammatory properties, decreases drastic insulin spike, and promotes healthy bones with Vit. K (3)

Carrots: Vit. A promotes vision, hair strength and growth, healthy skin, and assists the liver in flushing toxins (4)celery

Celery: high water content makes you hydrated and a good diet food, magnesium for good sleep, alkalines the body, Vit. A for eyes, and contains 2 pheromones that boost your arousal (Bow-chick-a-bow-wow) (5)

Side Note: Ever since I saw an episode of Good Eats on celery, I’ve been more observant to the flavors and uses of celery. Alton Brown noted multiple times how much flavor the leaves of celery contain, so I’ve made sure to always include them in my soups and stuffings.

Jalapeno: thermogenic, meaning it aides in fat and calorie burning, and reduces nasal congestion, in addition to its vitamins and antioxidants (6)

Parsley: not only for flavor and fragrance, but for a variety of skin and urinary tract repair (7)

Garlic: lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and makes everything taste better (8)

Ginger: the mother of digestive aides and tummy soother, reduces symptoms of menstrual pain, and mild anti-inflammatory (9)

Apple Cider Vinegar: diabetic’s friend in that it has an almost anti-glycemic effect, blocking some digestion of starches (10)

Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and digestive aide (11)

Sources. See? I didn’t make that all up…

(1) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-643-onion.aspx?activeIngredientId=643&activeIngredientName=onion&source=1

(2) http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/10-health-benefits-of-broccoli.html

(3) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-peas.html

(4) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-benefits-of-carrots.html

(5) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/11-super-health-benefits-in-just-1-celery-stalk.html

(6) http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/6-health-benefits-of-jalapenos.html

(7) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-792-PARSLEY.aspx?activeIngredientId=792&activeIngredientName=PARSLEY

(8) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-300-GARLIC.aspx?activeIngredientId=300&activeIngredientName=GARLIC

(9) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-961-GINGER.aspx?activeIngredientId=961&activeIngredientName=GINGER

(10) http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/apple-cider-vinegar-and-health?page=2

(11) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-TURMERIC.aspx?activeIngredientId=662&activeIngredientName=TURMERIC

 

Does anyone else find the title to this post as humorous as I do?