Dear Taco Bell:

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Exhibit A. The Taco Salad.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot over the past 15 months. Mostly hangry thoughts. Sometimes sad too.

I hadn’t realized how much I depended on you for happiness, until you ripped away the one thing I needed from you. You left me alone, to face the world without taco salads.

I remember how it started……..

Last year, I drove through the Taco Bell by my house….. ready for the kind of guilty pleasure I knew you could provide. I left unsatisfied, but not hopeless…. that came later.

I tried ordering on Door Dash a couple times, and found the taco salad wasn’t available on the menu. Silly me, I thought there must be a shell shortage or something. The world was going crazy with Covid and shut downs… I thought it may be some supply chain issue. I was prepared to wait it out.

Then, I found out you had taken it off the menu. Like forever. Just like that.

I was surprised by my reaction to be honest. I didn’t eat taco salads all the time. Maybe every other month, but I could COUNT on them to be there…..waiting for me. Then, with no warning, taco salads disappear, and I’m just supposed to move on???!!

Look, I can’t explain it…. I’ve managed to roll with the changes that happen at most other places. Applebee’s changed their honey mustard years ago, now it sucks and I just don’t go there anymore. I’m fine with it though… Friendly’s closed down completely, no more cheap but delicious quesadillas and peanut butter cup sundaes. I’ve had many disappointments when restaurants change their menu. But Taco Bell, I held you to a higher standard!

I know, I can make my own. I DO make my own… but it’s not the same. Yes, it’s still delicious, and far healthier…. but it’s not the same comfort food that I depend on you for. I want YOUR taco salad. the EXACT way I’m used to it.

What could I have done different, did you not know how important you were to me?

I think I’m going through the stages of grief, honestly. I’m currently at the bargaining stage, I could live with it-I guess- if I could just have something to look forward to. Can’t you bring it back once or twice a year at least?? I never even got a chance to say goodbye.

Who made this decision anyway, had they never tasted a taco salad before? Are they against food that must be eaten with a fork? Does a flaky shell offend them? Can we just talk about this?


Remembering Joe

Three years ago today….my brother died. Alone.

I had just talked to him the day before. Sent him a pizza for dinner. Planned to get together over the weekend.

He was doing well in his recovery. I thought.

My dad got a call October 4th, a call my parents had been praying never to get.

We don’t know the details, because people living in the house with him didn’t call the police right away. They took his phone and erased things that could implicate them. The let him lie there.

I hate thinking about what his final moments may have been like. I hate knowing his life ended in such a sad and lonely way.

I know he didn’t want to die. I hate that hope died with him.

I think of my brother often. I talk to him at night before I sleep, hoping we can meet somehow in my dreams so I can hug him and know he’s ok.

This week the memories from three years ago demand to be relived. And so today, on October 3rd…. the day Joe died…. I spend the day wondering what was he doing at this time? And now at this time? Was he still alive right now, at 8pm? When did it happen, when did he die? Did he know he was dying? Did he feel alone?

And tomorrow. The 4th… I get the call from my dad. And I go crazy with grief all over again.

And every day, up to the 10th, when we lay him to rest. It’s still so clear.

My poor mom.

My poor dad.

We have gotten to the point of being able to remember him without always crying. We often laugh in memory of things he’s said and done. We discuss things he would have liked. We remember him with love. We miss him.

But still, this week is hard. I guess I didn’t expect to feel so raw, like it just happened all over again.

The need for one of his hugs, for his one-dimpled smile, for HIM to comfort ME is great.

So I wait. And have faith.

I have to believe that he is waiting for all of us that love and miss him…. and one day my mom will have all of her kids together again.

Tricky Dentist

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I took the 9 year old to have 2 teeth removed today. His mouth is so overcrowded and the orthodontist is doing some hardscaping in there so the canines had to go.

He was really worried in the days leading up to the appointment. Yesterday, I referred to his appointment as “dental surgery” while on the phone with someone…. and “the procedure” when talking to someone else.

“Why do you have to make it sound so much scarier! Why don’t you just say my teeth are getting pulled out!”

“The extraction?” I asked.

“Oh my gosh!!!” He was the picture of nervous exasperation.

Of course, I was nervous too. I didn’t want him to be in pain, wondered if he would need stitches. Could he eat solid food right away? How much bleeding would there be? How sore would he be?

But I played it cool.

Until we got into the room. He sat in the dental chair, and I sat far away in the chair in a corner. I watched his hands clenched into fists, white knuckled. So I came over and sat near his legs on his chair. I couldn’t stand being far from him.

I wondered if I could stay for the procedure…. and I fully intended to. How could I leave him?

The dental staff came in, ready to get to work. The dentist was great with my son, smiling, lighthearted, and reassuring. He told him, no, he told US, that mom (me) would be with him the whole time. The WHOLE time!

So they put the gas on, and his eyes get heavier and heavier. And I’m there with him and I’m ready to stay so I can make sure he’s ok, and because the dentist TOLD us I’d be there and there is NO WAY he would lie to us.

So the kid falls asleep. Dentist looks over at me, still smiling. And says, “Ok mom, you can go to the waiting room now, we’ll get you when he’s done.

“But…. you really didn’t mean I could stay??”

He’s still smiling….and shaking his head. No way lady, get the hell out of here so you don’t see us ripping teeth out of your kids head.

I mean, he didn’t say that… but I’m sure that’s what he meant when he just repeated that I could just hang out in the waiting room.

So I left. Feeling like I failed to keep my promise to stay with him. Praying he’d be fine and that he wouldn’t realize I wasn’t there.

And I didn’t get to go back when he woke up. A very nice nurse type person came to tell me that he was up, picking out a toy, and he’d be just a few more minutes and why don’t I get the car and pull it around to pick him up at the exit?

They were so good at handling me…. they had a system, a very efficient system that ran so smoothly, as long as no parents got involved to mess it up I think.

I walked so quickly to get my car, pulling around with the urgent sense to just get there so I could SEE him finally! I got there, parked…and got out to go in if necessary because I just really, really wanted to see my kid.

And he was ok. They wheeled him out and told me he threw up when he woke up, pretty common from the gas was what I was told. Gave him a little blue puke bag to carry on the way home. Left him with me to buckle him in. I buckled him. kissed him. touched his cheek. looked at him. He was fine.

But he did ask me why I wasn’t there when he woke up. He didn’t seem bothered, but he did notice. And I said in a very casual way that I needed to go get the car so he didn’t have to walk far and they wanted it all ready so he didn’t have to wait. He didn’t need to know that it was physically uncomfortable for me to be separated from him for that time.

No I didn’t like that. But I understand it. I’m sure parents can be the worst to deal with… delaying things as we cry with our babies if they are scared or in pain…. possibly freaking out on the doctor if we think they’re being too rough…. or maybe getting sick ourselves seeing blood from teeth being yanked… I get it, really.

But still.

Impossible to screw up Potato and Leek Soup

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Just like it says people….. I’ve made this soup at least five times so far, and no matter what I do it always tastes the same!

Amazing. It tastes amazing. If you like potato, and leeks….. if you don’t, it might taste crappy to you. Sorry.

Here is the original recipe I started with.

And here’s what I’ve found out.

You can use any kind of potato. I’ve used red, yellow, even those little ones that look purple. I’ve mixed all sorts of potato’s together, and I’ve made it lacking in diversity with only one kind. Do what you want with the potato’s. Just peel them and cut them up.

Leeks. I usually buy my leeks at Trader Joe’s. They are prewashed and I didn’t realize what a big deal that was until today. I used leeks from Marcs. Dirty leeks. Never again. But they did finally clean up nice.

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I also don’t ever use 3 leeks. Usually two seems plenty to me. Today I used two big leeks because I made a bigger batch, but usually the Trader Joe’s leeks are a little smaller and two seem fine for a single batch.

Don’t worry about the chicken broth. I’ve used a different kind each time and still, it always tastes the same. Reduced fat, Reduced sodium, No added sodium…. full fat and sodium….. whatever.

I add carrots. Like 3 of them. You can too, or not. Do what you want.

Probably the biggest difference with the original recipe though, is the spices. I have this great spice mix from Trader Joe’s…. fancy French sounding stuff that I bought over the summer and never touched until now. I think I found it’s purpose.

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Sooooooo good. I put probably 1.5 generous scoops into the soup when I add in the potato, broth, and carrot. Add a bay leaf or 2. Salt and pepper to taste and that’s it. Oh, I don’t usually have fresh parsley, but I do sprinkle some dried parsley. I don’t really think it makes a difference.

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Boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer…‚Ķ

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Last thing…..

I don’t like it pureed….. too much like really thin mashed potato’s. I like some texture. So I get a fork and just mash it all up after about 30 minutes of simmering. It’s got more character that way I think.

You can add some milk or cream at the end, I do a bit of 1% milk, probably because I add more potato’s than I need. I like the creamy looking color.

Tastes amazing. Sooooooo easy to make. Great with crusty bread. Or just with a spoon ūüôā

You are WELCOME. This will be perfect to eat over the next few days when the world freezes around us and we huddle in our houses to survive. Stay warm!





One year down, almost

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Today is October first.

It was almost a year ago that my brother died, on the fourth.

As the days have crept closer and closer, I find myself wishing I could somehow sneak away from this week, and just hide until it’s over. This countdown won’t stop, I can hear the clock ticking.

Is it normal that I find myself trying to fill in what he was probably doing in those last days?? For example, tomorrow will be a year from the last time we ever spoke. I remember the conversation well, because I was so hopeful for him. I want to hear it again, painful as it would be.

I want to fill in every moment, every second.¬† That last week, we didn’t know. We just didn’t know it was the last week.

Thinking about what he was doing up until that moment that he….. wasn’t.

I’m trying to keep him close. I’m trying to STILL find a way to stop what happened, maybe some space time continuum will activate and I can find a way to tell him STOP!!!

Please stop.

Is there some magic thing that happens after that first year, that makes it easier?¬† Sure, I don’t cry every day anymore. But I think of him every day. And I still want to make it all go away, and have my little brother back.



Bad Good Days

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I went to my parents house today for a little family get together and early Fathers Day celebration.

After eating the requisite grilled meat and other cookout fare, we started a game of corn hole. It started out slow, with me showing off my excellent skills of throwing past the board. My 8 year old was my partner, and together we managed to end the game at 11 – 0. We did not win.

My parents then joined, my mom partnered with my brother in law, and my dad with my sister.

Since the parents were standing at the same board, they didn’t realize they were on different teams until about halfway through their game. Thanks to skills of their partners, that game lasted much longer than my 10 minute warm up session.

At one point I decided to go inside and start cleaning up so we could bring out the cake.

I watched my family from the kitchen window as I worked.  I saw my parents laughing, really laughing. It was the kind of laughing we took for granted before Joe died. That completely happy in the moment laughing that is so hard to chase down since he left us.

Of course, when I feel happiness, I feel Joe’s loss right along with it. I saw my family, and I especially noticed that I DIDN’T see my brother. He wasn’t laughing with us as we teased Dad about how he used to mix all the old cereal together when we were growing up. He wasn’t making fun of the parents with us as they learned how to navigate the game of corn hole. He wasn’t there. But his loss was there with us, always with us.

I probably imagined what Joe would say or do about something at least 10 times today. Him being there, and being healthy with us would have been so wonderful. And it hurts to laugh without him.

As I left them, my mom walked me to the door. As we said our goodbyes, she put my thoughts into words. She had felt his loss today, like every day. And because of that, every day is a bad day automatically. Today was a bad day and a good day, and we have to get used to this.

Cardboard Joe

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My brother has been gone for 6 months.

I still try to pretend it’s not true, but sometimes reality just smacks you in the face.

Like at Easter.

Joe made the punch for holidays at moms house. It was his thing, none of us knew how he did it, but somehow he mixed an awesome pink concoction with floating islands of sherbet just perfect for toasting over croissants and cheesy potatoes.

So, we made the punch because we feel maybe that not having punch would make us feel worse and miss Joe more. Having it gives us a chance to remember the good times with him, although the punch this year was definitely not on par with what he could have made for us.

And it makes us miss him anyway.

I used to say I wanted to get a life sized cardboard cutout of my brother. Just to have around. I really miss his smile, his personality, just him in general.

I think maybe sometimes it would be cool to have “him” in our holiday photos, posing with a cup of punch…. it would feel like he was still there a bit.

It wouldn’t replace him though. It wouldn’t talk or laugh back…. and I think the worst thing would be that it wouldn’t age as the rest of us aged. And I could never throw it away, it would feel like I was throwing my brother away.

So maybe no cardboard cutout.

Story of three birds



It has been a really, really long time since I’ve posted.

I am attempting to find the time to find myself again, so tonight this is my therapy.

I would like to tell you about something, and I want to write it down so it STAYS, and it will be remembered.

My brother died.

He died like a lot of brothers, and sons, and fathers, and sisters, and mothers, and wives and people we LOVE are dying.

He chose heroin that one last time.¬† Because he’d been doing so well, he must have thought he could get away with it. Just once more.

And so the story begins in the worst way, getting a call from my dad as I was leaving the funeral of someone else I loved. I hate to think about that phone call, and my reaction. Pounding the steering wheel as I drove and screamed and cried and screamed all the way to my parents house. Calling my sister. Walking up the driveway together. Seeing our parents. Dying inside.

And coping the only way I knew, by staying really busy, and trying not to think about whose funeral we were planning, and how we were actually going to have to admit that he was really gone.

So it was the next night, well, about 2am. I was busy working on the funeral program. Not tired, just focused on making it the best damn funeral program ever. Something that he would like, something that somehow would convey just how much he meant to us, and how special he was, and how much he will be missed.

Finally, I decide I needed to get to bed. As I’m getting my pajamas, then lingering over more photos of my brother, I talk to him silently. Why??!¬† Why?! I want answers, I want to be mad at him, but I can’t be. I know he didn’t mean to die. I want to know he’s ok. I just need to know, please Joe…. can you let me know you’re ok?

I’d gotten to the point of numbness eventually, exhausted and mechanically brushing my teeth, the last person awake in a silent house. By the time I was rinsing off my face, I realized there was this….noise…. it’d been going on for a while somewhere in my head. It was like when you notice the TV is still on after you’ve tuned it out for so long….

I focused in on this sound…. and realized it was a song. What the…… I was hearing the words of a Bob Marley song over and over in my head.

Don’t worry about a thing…..

’cause every little thing

gonna be alright….

Complete with background music. I wasn’t thinking this…..I was HEARING this.

Now my brother was a bit of a Bob Marley fan. He had T-Shirts, he could play those songs on the guitar, He dressed up like Bob Marley for Halloween in college.

But I never thought of these songs. I just knew what it was when I heard it. And I believed I knew why I was hearing it. It was days later we found a video of him singing this song…. those exact words.

I never even knew the name of that song until we tried to find it and play it after I told my family. Three little birds. We all have it downloaded now. We played it a lot leading up the funeral. We played it at the gravesite as our friends and family said their goodbye to my little brother. As the rest of us, the four remaining siblings, stood together and cried, and said goodbye too.

It’s a small comfort, but a comfort just the same.

Joint Custody

The 4 year old is really into stuffed animals. She’s had her eye on my Raccoon, Charlie, lately.

Charlie has a place of honor on a closet shelf. He is faded, no more stripes on a tail that is hanging by a few threads. He’s been around since I was three….. longer than ANYONE in my house has been around me.

Yesterday I let her hold him, then introduce him to some of her stuffed friends.  They all hung out together on her bed, and she slept with him at night.

Tonight he was back on his shelf, and she went looking for him. Then comes her awesome idea.

“Hey mom! Can I keep Charlie?”

Uh, no.  You guys can hang out though.

Soon after….

“Mom…..look at my face.”

So I look.  Into the face hovering inches from mine, eyes suitably wide and bottom lip pushed out. Just staring at me.

I turn away.

A minute later, “did you see my lip?”

Yes. I saw the lip.

Now it’s quivering as she launches into a tale of woe, about a mother who doesn’t love her enough to give Charlie up. Because she promises to take good care of him, and she wants him, so what’s the problem?

So I ask her, what should I do if I’m out with you one day, and a lady comes up and says she really likes you and wants to take you for her own daughter? Should I get to keep you, or should I give you away even if I still want to keep you for myself?

“Well”, she answers….”she can just come home and live with us!” with a very self congratulatory smile on her face.

So, now Charlie has two moms.


Think outside the box, inside the bathroom

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The other morning, I was braiding Jenna’s hair before school.

We’re facing the mirror together, and talking about lots of important things.

She starts: “Mom…… why does daddy always get to sleep in YOUR bed?”

Good question.

And I love that she just knows it’s MY bed, and her father is obviously¬† bordering on ¬†rude for still occupying that space at night…..just ASSUMING he has the right….geez……

Also, she is looking to get him out so she can take that spot, but she’s subtle enough to not bring that up just yet.

So I say “Hmmmmmm, well I don’t know Jenna, where else would he sleep??”

She’s clearly thought this out, because she answers immediately, no hesitation.

“Well, why don’t we just get some blankets, and pillows, and make him¬†a bed somewhere else? Like maybe in his bathroom?

Another great idea…. and it would make things a lot more convenient for him as well.

She did eventually offer to let him make a bed for himself in our room…and even said she’d help him build it.

Good compromise.