Retro Green Beans

Did you know Thanksgiving is in just a couple of days?  While shopping, I am always amazed at the huge stacks of green beans and mushroom soup and of course fried onions.  Did you ever wonder what people ate for Thanksgiving before this dish showed up? Read on for I one clue.

I’m here to tell you, I hate this “classic” green bean dish. I guess “hate” is a strong word. It’s not that it is bad, it’s just that it could be so much better.  How do I know?  When I got married, my darling bride turned me on to the dish her mother made at Thanksgiving for years and years.  After I started collecting cookbooks, I started looking for it. Yes, it exists.  I found it in two (I have thousands of cookbooks). One was a Gladys Tabor cookbook from the 40s.  If Gladys was alive today I have no doubt she’d be on The Food Network.  I also found it in a 1960s church cookbook.  So my hat is off to my wife’s late mom, Martha Cook.  Wherever she got this recipe, she cooked it every year and when I got married, she saved me from “other” casserole.  It is THE standard recipe at our house.

It looks harder than it is. I’m all about easy at Thanksgiving, and this is a type of homemade dish that is still easy.

Swiss Style Green Beans

2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons grated onion
7 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 – 5 Cans French Style Green Beans, drained well
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes

Lightly saute the onions in 4 Tablespoons of the butter and stir in the flour; stir until it is smooth.  Add sugar, salt, and white pepper; blend well.  Slowly stir in the sour cream and mix well and cook until smooth, and it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained green beans and mix well.  Pour the mixture into greased casserole.  Top with Swiss cheese.  (this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point)

Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the corn flakes and mix until well coated, toasting lightly.  Spread on top of the cheese.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.

Trust me, once you eat these green beans,  you never go back.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.

His books make great Christmas presents: http://thefensk.com

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Thanksgiving on the Internet

If we were having coffee today I’d be talking about Thanksgiving.  Here’s a little rerun for you, I’ve posted it a couple of times on another blog.  In fact, I used to post this every year.  It was a classic long before the Internet but it became one of the earliest most shared posts back in the early days.  I hope you enjoy it.
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In olden times, long before the wide wide world of webs became popular, the ancient computer tribes followed something called USENET Newsgroups.  I’m not kidding.  Really, they did.
Newsgroups WERE the internet for the lucky few who could spell internet and if you were on-line, you could email and you could follow newsgroups and that was pretty much it.  Look up USENET on wikipedia sometime … it was quite a ride and it worked amazingly well considering it was a mishmash of random computer systems world-wide.
Anyway, I mention that because I was a small part of it for a number of years, helping to moderate one of the newsgroups called rec.food.recipes.  Food and cooking had a pretty good sized niche in USENET.  A moderated newsgroup meant that posts had to be approved before being unleashed, which kept things on-topic. In a general purpose newsgroup, things could get pretty crazy.  The terms FLAMEWAR and GODWIN’S LAW are still in use and they were both associated with the craziness that was part of the general newsgroups.
The moderated recipes newsgroup was fairly sedate.  People posted recipes they liked and made requests for recipes they had lost or just wanted … as in “anybody have a recipe for key lime pie?”
While I was a moderator, every year about this time of year, people would start requesting a legendary turkey recipe known as Black Turkey.  This is one of those things that used to get mimeographed or photocopied and sent around in offices — we’re talking pre-computer days.  In fact, it was one of the first really cool things I ever found on the internet, way back in late 1980-something.  Our newsgroup used to post it every year because we knew someone would eventually request it if we didn’t.
The copy below is the same one I used to post years ago.  It is attributed to author Morton Thompson, by way of an unidentified author, referenced by another author, Robert Benchley.
It is a fun read and believe it or not, when I posted it, people said they actually tried it and it was good, but reviews were mixed and I always thought that perhaps it might not be so good as to be worth all the trouble.  It’s a fun read, though.
Ah, but this is 2015, probably a good 17-18 years since I last posted it.  I did something I never thought about before … I researched it and found more information … two links are listed after the recipe … one is yet another rendering, this one attributed to Canadian humorist Pierre Berton, and the other, a blog post from a Craig Smith reads like an academic treatise and includes several renderings along with quite a bit of insight.  Doesn’t mention Pierre though.
Who knew Black Turkey could be so controversial?
Anyway, here, for your amusement, is the famous Black Turkey Recipe with additions.
——————-Black Turkey, circa 1963————————–
For about a dozen years, at the approach of turkey-eating season, I have 
been trumpeting to all who would listen, and to a good many who would 
rather not, that there is only one way to cook a turkey. This turkey is 
not my turkey. It is the creation of the late Morton Thompson, who wrote 
“Not as a Stranger” and other books.
This recipe was first contained in the manuscript of a book called “The 
Countess” which was given to the late Robert Benchley, who had eaten 
the turkey and was so moved as to write an introduction to the book. 
Benchley then lost the manuscript. He kept hoping it would turn up– 
although not as much, perhaps, as Thompson did, but somehow it vanished, 
irretrievably. Thompson did not have the heart to write it over. He did, 
however, later put his turkey rule in another book. Not a cookbook, but a 
collection of very funny pieces called “Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player”.
THE ONLY WAY TO COOK A TURKEY!!!!!!!
This turkey is work… it requires more attention than an average 
six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.
Get a HUGE turkey– I don’t mean just a big, big bird, but one that looks 
as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It ought to 
weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or butcher, cut its 
head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin, and remove the neck 
close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want this for stuffing. 
Also , he should leave all the fat on the bird.
When you are ready to cook your bird, rub it inside and out with salt and 
pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart, gizzard, 
and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stewpan with a clove of
garlic, a large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp coriander, and some salt. I don’t know
how much salt– whatever you think. Cover this with about 5 cups of water 
and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting fluid a little 
later.
About this time I generally have my first drink of the day, usually a 
RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal 
amount of cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. 
confectioner’s sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a 
few ice cubes. Pour about two tablespoons of club soda in a chimney glass, 
add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks, plus 
1 tsp. of lemon — you’ll need them later. Have a good sip! (Add 1 dash
of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks)
Get a huge bowl. Throw into it one diced apple, one diced orange, a 
large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three 
tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double 
this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.
Mix this altogether, and have another sip of your drink. Get a second, 
somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by teaspoons, put: 
2 hot dry mustard 
2 caraway seed 
2 celery seed 
2 poppy seed 
1 black pepper 
2 1/2 oregano 
1/2 mace 
1/2 turmeric 
1/2 marjoram 
1/2 savory 
3/4 sage 
3/4 thyme 1/4 basil 
1/2 chili powder
In the same bowl, add: 
1 Tbl. poultry seasoning 
4 Tbl parsley 
1Tbl salt 
4 headless crushed cloves 
1 well crushed bay leaf 
4 large chopped onions 
6 good dashes Tabasco 
5 crushed garlic cloves 
6 large chopped celery
Wipe your brow, refocus your eyes, get yet another drink–and a third 
bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of 
toast or bread crumbs), 3/4 lb. ground veal, 1/2 lb. ground fresh pork, 
1/4 lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the 
bird.
About now it seems advisable to switch drinks. Martinis or stingers are 
recommended (Do this at your own risk – we always did! -REB). Get a 
fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your 
hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff 
the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.
Turn your oven to 500 degrees F and get out a fifth small bowl. Make a 
paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the 
Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbl 
onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste. When the oven is
red hot, put the bird in, down on the rack. Sip on your drink 
until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint 
the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to
350 degrees F. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint again. 
Keep doing this until the paste is used up.
Add a quart of cider or white wine to the stuff that’s been simmering on 
the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every 
15 minutes. Don’t argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted 
with the choice “do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste 
with the juice from the pot on the stove?” make certain that the juice 
under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that 
gravy is weak. When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This 
critter makes incredible gravy! -REB) The bird should cook about 12 
minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your 
friends and family.
As the bird cooks, it will first get a light brown, then a dark brown, 
then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I’m crazy. The 
bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are 
demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you’ve followed instructions, 
you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though 
we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black cindery crust.
Beneath, the bird will be a gorgeous mahogany, reminding one of those 
golden-browns found in a precious Rembrandt. Stick the fork too deep, and 
the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve 
it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A loud sound will cause
the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The 
moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing–well, there is 
nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as 
always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.
Sometime during the meal, use a moment to give thanks to Morton Thompson. 
There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is used. If 
there is, you’ll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days. 
That’s all there is to it. It’s work, hard work— but it’s worth it.
(What follows is not part of the recipe, but is an ingredients list to 
aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet -REB)
Ingredients List:
1 turkey 
salt 
garlic 
4 eggs 
1 apple 
1 orange 
1 large can crushed pineapple 
1 lemon 
4 large onions 
6 celery stalks 
buncha preserved ginger 
2 cans water chestnuts 
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs 
3/4 pounds ground veal 
1/2 pounds ground pork 
1/4 pounds 
butter 
onion juice 
1 quart apple cider
Spice List:

basil 
bay leaf 
caraway seed 
celery seed 
chili powder 
cloves 
ground coriander 
mace 
marjoram 
dry mustard 
oregano 
parsley 
pepper, black 
poultry seasoning 
poppy seed 
sage 
savory 
Tabasco 
thyme

turmeric
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Now, as promised,  two more links, just to complete your holiday excursion … enjoy

NaNoWriMo

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be mumbling something about NaNoWriMo.  That’s National Novel Writing Month.  Yes, that’s a thing.  I would be mumbling because the only way I’ve found to successfully participate is by getting up earlier than I usually do. That will be alleviated somewhat by today’s Daylight Savings time transition.

NaNoWriMo is not just another celebratory month.  The celebration is by doing.  Participants actually try to write an entire novel in that month.  It’s a commitment, and it is a challenge to apply yourself to that singular goal.  No, you don’t have to be published in a month; far from it.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a fifty-thousand-word rough draft within that thirty-day time frame.

I can see you blinking your eyes, but seriously, it isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Here’s what you need in order to do it: An Idea, time to apply yourself to that idea, and perseverance.  Oh, and there is one other rule of thumb: never look back.  If you are going to do NaNoWriMo, you should just keep writing forward no matter what. As founder Chris Baty said in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” you need to send your internal editor on vacation for the month.  I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, you’ll never hit fifty-thousand-words by self-editing at this point.

In practical purposes, to achieve the goal you need to write at least 1667 words a day. That’s all.  Single-spaced, that is probably about two to three pages. For the idea? We all have ideas.  You see on TV “writers” who painstakingly graph out their entire novel in great detail. That’s fine and good for some writers.  You can do all of that ahead of time, that is if you want. For me, I take my idea and loosely outline enough events to fill out something that will take about that 1667 words a day, one event per day. For me, that sometimes has a notation like “something else happens”  or “a new character shows up.” Well, you do need to know one or two major characters too.

Here’s the deal.  What I’ve found out is that by giving yourself this self-imposed deadline, something does indeed happen. Creativity.  As you push, push, push, cranking out words to reach your daily goal you are bombarded by new ideas.  The story begins to take on a life of its own.  Yes, sometimes you end up straying from your outline, but that’s a good thing. It was just a guide. And you can usually get back to it.

Anyway, that’s my November and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve published two novels from NaNoWriMo projects.  I have several other rough drafts I’ll resume work on one day.  In this context, the base novel is the easy part.  It is editing and revision that take the most time but you know what? You can’t edit a blank page.  The main events are there, and the story arc is complete.  I call that stage crafting the novel.

Don’t even get me started on marketing the danged things.  That’s the real challenge and it is the hardest stage of all.  The rough draft is almost a vacation.

It’s only November 3.  Kick yourself up to 2000 words a day and you can catch up in no time.  That 1667 word goal is just the minimum.  Check it all out at http://www.nanowrimo.org

Get Writing!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Two of his past NaNoWriMo projects are on display at http://thefensk.com … you can further motivate him by buying/reading them.
There is also an Amazon giveaway running for the companion cookbook at:  https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/71bf07b34bec7fd9

October Notes

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses

It’s Autumn and you know what that means.  No, I’m not talking about fall colors or Halloween or even Thanksgiving.  I’m talking about BASEBALL.

I’m a lifelong Houston Astros fan.  I grew up with the team.  I’ve lived in North Carolina for twenty-nine years … still a die-hard Astros fan.  Last year, finally finally finally they put it all together.  And here we are again.  The playoffs are full of ups and downs.

Baseball is a wickedly simple game.  And it is played without time limits.  The irrepressible philosopher Yogi Berra said it best (and it is entirely true), “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Still, the ups and downs for fans will continue until the end, so I want to share the other most memorable, yet appropriate quote about baseball, this one from the movie Bull Durham (couldn’t find any other attribute).

Sometimes  you win
Sometimes you lose
Sometimes it rains.

All I can add at this point is another unattributable quote:  “PLAY BALL!”

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Thomas Fenske is a writer and baseball fan living in NC.
http://thefensk.com

Cheaper than a Pumpkin Spice Latte!!!

An inviting country trail, a full moon, and an obsession …
desert

This is a great time to explore my Traces of Treasure book series.

Both ebooks on sale this week for $1.99 each.

You can even add The Mossback Cafe Cookbook for another 99 cents.
You can get all three for about the price of a pumpkin spice latte.

http://thefensk.com/spec.html

The sale runs 9/24 through 9/30

Remember … if you search really hard for something, you might find it, but the “it” you find may not be the something you were after.

 

 

Voices

backlit beach clouds dark

If we were having coffee today I’d tell you that I found out this week that my darling bride Gretchen had not been very truthful to me recently.  After she told me the details I was not mad.  I understood her reasons.

When she first told me she had found a lump in her breast, we initiated a series of diagnostic actions that culminated in a cancer diagnosis and major surgery. She’s doing well now, thank you. She still has significant bouts of pain but she came out of the ordeal with no chemo, no radiation, and, so far at least, no cancer.

Ah, but this week she told me it wasn’t as simple as “she found a lump.”  In reality, she had hundreds of lumps and nodes.  This was the main reason she had a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy.  Every nodule and papilloma was a potential cancer bomb and she was looking at a lifetime of biopsies and surgeries.

So if she hadn’t found a lump, what was it?

She heard a voice.

It wasn’t a physical manifestation but it was just as real as if she had heard it with her ears.  Somewhere deep within her soul a voice emerged in early January and said, “You have cancer.”

It unnerved her. I could tell she was more than just concerned, she was visibly upset when she told me she had found a lump.  I later wondered to myself how she managed to find one cancerous lump amongst the hundreds of targets in her breasts. I attributed it to luck.  Obviously, it was much more.

We’re human. It’s easy to assume others won’t understand if you say you heard a voice.  Now, voices, the potential for a deeper problem exists there.  But I find the notion of a prophetic warning to be quite acceptable.  I cover such things in several of my novels, both published and unpublished.  I believe in ghost stories too and I don’t discount many other prophetic happenings.

Whose voice was it?  Does it matter?  If could have been the massive supercomputer we call the subconscious brain.  That’s a clinical answer.  Myself, I prefer a more spiritual explanation. The voice of God?  Perhaps.  Or maybe what people call a guardian angel.  Sure, that works for me too. It could have been the spirit of a loved one, like her mother or her grandmother. Heck, my mother passed away in the last year, it might have been her.

It doesn’t matter who said it.  Not really.  The real point is: she listened.

There are many things in this world that are far beyond our understanding.  I think it is best not to question the good things.  Miracles?  Who am I to say?

Here’s a fun thing: Gretchen has a notion that I really like.  When she finds a random penny on the ground, she considers it a reminder that her late mother is watching over her and she picks it up because she considers it to be a gift from her mother.  I do it too. Hey, it means someone is looking out for you.  Besides, this notion is much better than that “see a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck” saying.

Have you had similar experiences or do you know someone who has?
If it happens to you, my advice is to LISTEN.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  There are prophetic and otherworldly glimmerings in both of his published novels too:  http://thefensk.com

Forever Saturday

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com
http://www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)

If we were having coffee today I’d no doubt go out of my way to tell you I’m going to work on Monday.

“Yay, big news,” you’d probably say.

Then I’d lay the bombshell on you.  “It’s my last day.”

 Yep, after much consternation and worry, I’ve decided to take the leap to retirement.  Actually, my plan was to retire at the end of the year anyway. but a well-timed employer early retirement offer popped up so it seemed a good time to rush everything.  And I do mean rush.  I spent two weeks of agonizing over this decision, writing numbers on the back of envelopes as one friend put it.  Finally, I made up my mind and sent in the form.  Two days later I got an acknowledgment and was also informed it would be another ten days before the final determination would be sent. So, it wasn’t a done deal … yet.

 In this hurried configuration, I could research but I couldn’t take any final steps until I had “the word.” When I finally got the word that it was really happening, I had two weeks to get all the details taken care of to back away from almost twenty years of employment.

Things are moving quickly now. Monday is my last day.

My darling bride is already making lists of things for me to fix around the house.  I also plan to dig in and write a LOT.  I can’t say that I’ll do a lot of sleeping in … a multitude of cats and a needy dog will generally take care of that.  But even if I do have to get up early, I can take a nap, right?

So come Tuesday I’ll wake up to a new world: Forever Saturday.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC  http://thefensk.com

 

Squirrel Armageddon

evilIf we were having coffee today I guess it would be high time I told you about my experience with Squirrel Armageddon.  That’s right.  I’m talking about evil, vindictive squirrels.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw some television commercial that featured a number of squirrels all gathered in a tree and they were ganging up on a guy and pelting him and his car with pine cones.  It is amazing the horrors that can be dredged up from something so mundane.

Years ago in Austin, Texas I lived next to a park that stretched along a creek in a narrow band for about a mile or so.  Most weekends I’d take a walk down the length of this park and back.  My garage apartment was right at the edge of a wider area of the park that was nicely wooded and included tennis courts and a playground and at the end of my walk I’d usually saunter across this area back to my place.

One quiet Sunday I was finishing my rounds and as I entered the far edge of the playground I heard a loud noise over near my house.  My next-door neighbor’s dog was chasing a squirrel in the yard.  The squirrel managed to get away but not before it let off a loud frantic alarm screech.  In seconds, in every tree in the park, every squirrel in the area descended and started chirping and flicking their tails, not at the miscreant dog mind you, but at me.  The dog was long gone, show’s over for him.  These guys were all focused on yours truly, the only other living thing in the park.

I don’t know if you’ve ever really heard a squirrel alarm, so I found one on YouTube that sounds pretty close to what I remember.  https://youtu.be/i6IR0JmfkvQ … fast forward to about 43 seconds in.  Close your eyes and let it sink in, then multiply it by hundreds and add in spooky echoing effects from all the trees on an otherwise still Sunday morning. Yeah, I think that would be pretty close.

Don’t forget, they were focusing all their attention on me, every last one of them, their tails flicking, their evil, dark squirrel eyes sizing me up, re-positioning themselves to continue focusing on me as I warily crept across the park, at this point uncertain if the intimidation might possibly turn into action.  I have to admit I thought of that fearsome bunny in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

This cacophony continued until well after I fumbled with my keys and entered the safety of my apartment.  I’m sure great-great grandchildren squirrels in that park still recount tales of their ancestors fighting and winning the battle of Sunday morning.  Brrrrrr.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  http://thefensk.com for more information.

WeekendCoffee Cancer Fight

pinkribbonIf we were having coffee today I’d apologize for my recent absence. We’ve had a lot going on these past few weeks and it was difficult to find the time to sit down and share a little of what was going on.

What’s the deal?  The BIG “C” is what we’ve been dealing with.
My darling wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and we’ve been completely absorbed with a wild mix of office visits, biopsies, blood draws, mammograms (and more mammograms + ultrasound + more X-Rays),  bad news, and finally surgery.
Worry is the worst of it.  We worried about the diagnosis, about the prospect of surgery and its many possible complications, and we worry about the reality of a lifetime of changes.  Worry alone is enough to wear anyone out.
She had a double mastectomy almost two weeks ago.  Big reality check:  It basically involves not one but two amputations.
Let that sink in for a minute. Amputations.
It has been both physically and psychologically taxing for her.  She feels she has lost part of what makes her a woman. Think about it.  We live in a society that is obsessed with breasts and here she is losing hers in her own private war on cancer.  Me? I am just busy trying to be there for her while at the same time trying to keep the animals fed and the house in some vague resemblance of order.  I also help her keep track of her meds and monitor her symptoms, and of course, I have to manage her drainage tubes.
I try to reassure her that, in my mind, really, what makes her a woman is HER.  She’s still there completely, along with all of her love, her intelligence, and especially that feisty survivor attitude. To me, THAT is what makes her a woman, not those appendages. She’s my other half and she always will be.  Sure, I’m a man.  I love breasts … especially hers.  But I’ve psyched myself to hate the cancer that was in them.  For me, it was a no-brainer.  I’ve still got HER and that is all that matters to me.  I am inspired by her inner strength.
I’d long heard the term “breast cancer survivor”… but now I have a much better understanding of what that means.  I’ve seen these first phases of it first hand.  We were told that the second she was diagnosed she joined the ranks of survivors.  I also know there is a vast sisterhood out there of her fellow survivors.  It is astounding to learn how many lives have been touched by breast cancer.  Survivors are everywhere. My hat is off to all of you.  Every single one of you deserves everyone’s total respect: this is a sisterhood that needs to be heard.  As I sat in the waiting room at the Duke University Medical Center Breast Clinic during her breast biopsies I realized this affects young and old, all races, all sizes, all religions, rich, poor … it can affect anyone, every day, every month, every year.
I also understand now that “breast cancer” is not a singular entity.  That is a highly generic term.  I’ve learned that every single patient has their own version of the disease, with its unique currents and whirlpools in the stream of life. Specific treatments of even similar ‘types’ of cancer cells can take many twists and turns. She’s still in the early stages of treatment.  The pathology of her cancer cells shows a certain promise of optimism for a long-term cure but the jury is definitely still out and we are sitting in a darkened waiting room of an uncertain future. It will likely be weeks before we know the plot of the next chapters of her story.
I told her last night she is a Warrior Woman in her new lifelong battle with cancer.  Her scars are battle scars. Together we are going to beat this and kick this cancer’s ass.
So, dear coffee friends, that is the reason for my absence the last couple of weeks.  Please donate to valid breast cancer research charities, like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  I like them because a very high percentage of the money they receive goes to research.
Please reblog this or tweet and retweet links to this post.  Please share your own stories in the comments.   We have got to win this fight.

WeekendCoffee Dance

audIf we were having coffee today I’d have to tell you about my daughter’s recent award.  Well, it wasn’t a formal award.  It was more a bit of recognition from one of her students.  As you can see from this picture, it was an homage in the form of a 10 reasons list.  It brought tears to my eyes.

I posted this on Facebook at first.  It got a lot of likes and a few comments mentioning that we, her parents, had done such a good job.  Sure, we enrolled her in dance.  We paid for it. We rallied through rehearsals and competitions. We volunteered where we could and continued to encourage her.  But, seriously, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s a good metaphor.  Beyond all of that, lies the truth. She worked hard.  She formed and molded, she learned, she studied, she practiced, and she focused.  She did everything she could. This is all her.

We’ve seen a lot of dancers come and go, a lot of them very dedicated dancers too.  A very few have progressed to the level Audrey currently enjoys.  In short, most of those past dancers burned out.  Audrey continues to flourish.

I’ve seen her take recital classes of tiny dancers, four and five years old, who most teachers feel lucky if they manage to go through most of the motions and make her dancers actually dance.  They stand out.  Where others see a bunch of little kids who find it hard to keep focused longer than five minutes, Audrey sees a class she can teach and then she motivates them to learn.  She is a master teacher, one who makes it fun while instilling knowledge and skill.  Little students love her and older students love her even more.

It hasn’t been easy for her.  She’s short.  The common perception about “tiny” ballerinas? It’s a myth. Ballerinas need to be at least four or five inches taller than she is.  Almost always.  But she learned and practiced and applied herself.  And she thinks dance, a skill she very early figured out makes her an exceptional choreographer.

She’s done some remarkable things too.  Did you know that she was the first person at Duke University to earn an official Bachelor’s degree in Dance?  The first.  Their department had a dance minor for a long time and she was a dance minor her first year.  But while Audrey was there, they upgraded the program and she was the first declared dance major.  She’s concentrated on teaching but has had some great experiences professionally dancing in a few companies.

Teaching dance pays okay, but most of the time it’s a part-time job.  She’s compensated by teaching a lot, sometimes at as many as five or six different studios.  That, my friends, is true dedication to her craft.  I frankly don’t know how she keeps her schedule straight.

So go back and reread that list after reading this short essay.  One could easily change “Jazz” and put in “Ballet” or “Modern” or “Tap.”  THAT is my daughter.  Her mother and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer and “dance dad” living in North Carolina.  You can get more information at http://thefensk.com