Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Doakes and Mae

I grew up on Janetwood Drive in Oxnard. I always thought it was so cool that I lived on the street that was named after my Mom. My Dad always said how lucky we were to have the neighbors we had. On one side was Ed & Linda and their son Eddie and on the other side was Doakes and Mae. Doakes and Mae were Japanese and quite possibly the most generous people I have had the privilege to know. Mae died last Thursday. It's been a rough year.
When I was born, Doakes and Mae came over with the largest stuffed animal ever. A giant polar bear bigger than I was. I am sure they also brought clothes and toys and I think they brought something for my Mom. On New Year's, we were always invited to their house to watch some football and eat, eat, eat. I was a good eater, and my parents often remind me that I ate, ate, ate all their lobster, and I kept asking for more. "More lobster!" Mae would just giggle and give me more, much to my Mom's embarrassment. Mae and her family and friends would stay up all night, cooking for New Year's. The spread would be elaborate, from Japanese delicacies to American food. Lobster was always on the menu, and lots of it. Doakes and his brothers were fishermen, and they often had fresh caught fish too. The sounds of the football game were always in the background, as well as people laughing, talking, probably betting on the game.
Halloween was always the best. Doakes and Mae would buy me a special candy gift from See's Candy. We would trick-or-treat around the neighborhood, and we would always visit Doakes and Mae last, since they were next door. They would invite us in to see my costume and tell me how cool / lovely / amazing I looked. The special candy for me, was always bigger than all my friends', and it always made me feel so special.
Mae worked at the local florist. I remember when my Grandma died, we were all a mess over it. Not only did Doakes and Mae send the largest and most lovely flower arrangement, but Mae made sure to include Lily of the Valley flowers (my Grandma's favorite, and quite hard to get in October). Their generosity and selflessness was something I will never forget. 
Just a few years ago, I was home from Philly and my parents and I went over to visit Doakes and Mae. They were smaller than I remembered, and maybe a little grayer. Their house was exactly the same and I remembered it, meticulous, and filled with family pictures and mementos. We sat and chatted, their voices the same lilt, their conversations so similar to those I had with them as a kid. We talked about old times, and how much we missed being their neighbors.
I sent them a Christmas card a few years ago, with the date of our future wedding. Mae wrote in her card to me how excited they were about the wedding and that they had already blocked off their calendar. The RSVP for our wedding came back with an excited note, and we received not one, but four (!) place settings from them as a gift. I had a chance to see the at our wedding, although the time was too brief. Again, they were so tiny, but had the biggest grins on their faces as they met my new husband.
It's so sad to think about a world without Doakes and Mae together. Their generosity and selflessness knows no bounds, and I feel certain Doakes is lost without her. If you have a chance, send a prayer up to heaven for my good friend Mae. She was an amazing and wonderful woman and I'm sad to know she's not here anymore. I can only hope that in my contact with her, a bit of her spirit and her generosity rubbed off on me, and perhaps you, too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Rant: Breast Cancer Awareness

Here goes my rant for the month. The month of October is "Breast Cancer Awareness" month. Every football game you will see will have the players wearing some sort of pink shit to make us all aware of breast cancer. Every store you go to has some sort of something that's pink, making you aware that there's breast cancer. And lots of places have walks, runs, bikes, or swims dedicated to breast cancer awareness.
Look, I get it. Breast cancer is devastating, and fairly common. Any cancer is. And I have no doubt about that. But this over-representation of breast cancer, in opposition, say to lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach or pancreas cancer, is getting on my nerves. I think that breast cancer is so "popular" because it's an organ we can all identify. The breast is overly sexualized in our culture, and god forbid, nobody wants to "lose" them. So, we absolutely need to "save" them. The breast is "out there", so to speak, and we can visibly see if someone has them, or if they don't. Therefore, it's a very visual thing. And because we can't see people's stomachs or pancreata, or lungs, its harder to imagine having cancer there. At least that't what I tell myself.
I also hate pink shit. I hate that a "normally associated with little girls" color (lets, say, NOT a gender-neutral color) is the color of "breast cancer awareness". I hate that pink shit is everywhere, even in the color of kitchen appliances, bathroom supplies, and food packaging. I hate that a lot of those things that are trying to make you "breast cancer aware" are actually BAD for you and could be contributing to breast cancer itself.
Most of the "pink shit" supports SOME aspects of breast cancer treatment, and some provide support in the form of medical payments, therapy, or assistance to family members in taking care of patients. I would argue (and I would hope) that the current health care laws will take the need for outside support for cancer patients away. I would hope that our medical system would improve in that way. However, I also feel that it's important to support all cancer patients. To support them in the way we support breast cancer patients. And I would argue that more money should go to research, and not marketing pink shit everywhere. If you are looking for a place to donate, the American Cancer Society is what I endorse. They support all forms of cancer, and don't play favorites with just one. They also provide research support (as in, a scientist can write a grant proposal to them, and the can give that scientist money if they like the proposal), but they also support patients. My family was devastated by prostate cancer, another hormone based cancer, just like breast cancer. But there's no "awareness" out there. Prostate surgery can be devastating (hello, losing the ability to have sex!), but again, there's no awareness because the prostate just isn't as sexy as the breast.
Next time you donate, just think about it. And please stop buying that pink shit. I just want it to go away!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

By Request: Magic Cookie Bars; AKA: the easiest dessert ever

All right folks, I've been neglectful of the old blog here. For a lot of reasons, really, but let's just use the old standby, "I've been busy".

Forthwith is my ever enjoyable Magic Cookie Bars. I have been making these since I was a wee, wee child. It's a great recipe for kids because you really can't mess it up!

Oven: 350F (unless pan is glass, then 325F)
Pan: 13x9

1 stick of butter
1 package of graham crackers
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 bag of chocolate chips
maybe 1/2 cup or so of coconut
maybe 1/2 cup or so of chopped nuts

Unwrap butter and stick it in the pan. Throw pan in the oven while it's heating up so the butter will melt. Meanwhile, put your package of graham crackers (I mean one package, has, what? 8 crackers in it?, not a whole box) into a 1 gallon ziploc bag and seal it. Bust out your old, favorite, lovely, wonderful rolling pin that you never use and crush up those crackers until they are crumbs. I guess you can buy graham cracker crumbs, and use about 1.5 cups of that, but I highly encourage the use of your rolling pin. Open up your sweetened condensed milk (I enjoy using those can openers that punch a hole in the lid, instead of opening the whole can - can get quite messy). Get out the rest of the ingredients. By now, your butter should be melted in your pan. On top of the melted butter, layer the graham cracker crumbs. Pat down to make sure it's flat. Pour the entire can of sweetened condensed milk over the crumbs. Now, layer the rest of your stuff on top, in the order listed above. Add as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. Bake in a 350F oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the coconut browns, and the crust starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Obviously, this recipe is very malleable. You can omit anything you don't like, or add in things you might like. I've had these with peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, pecans for nuts (I usually use walnuts), etc. Have at it folks!

Monday, October 1, 2012


Today is our one year wedding anniversary. This picture was taken at a Phillies game on April 20th, 2006, and is pretty much the time we started dating. I can't imagine my life without you, my Alex. I'm so glad we're married and I'm always looking forward to forever.