I'm OK, You're OK.

This past week I had a really weird day. Wednesday, over my morning coffee and email catch-up, news broke that a reporter and photographer for a Virginia news affiliate were gunned down, killed. It happened near the town where my parents and some close friends are from, where a good deal of my family live, and a place I've spent my whole life visiting. Each time these almost commonplace gun massacres occur, I've been thrown and emotional, but this one was closer to home. Both literally, and maybe because of the whole media sphere association.

A few minutes later I got a call from the doctor informing me that the results of my very recent mammogram came back and a couple things didn't look quite right. That sinking feeling. I was able to make a same-day appointment so the doctors could take another, a closer look.

Some people have an intense fear of flying, or have some sense, recurring dreams or visions of some kind, that they may perish in a car accident, or water, or a fire. My big fear is Cancer. Always has been. Legitimately so as many of the people, specifically women, in my family have fallen victim to the disease. So I thought, well, this could be The News. But, I can't be too surprised, right? And so much has been done in the way of progress with breast cancer, right? It's probably not a death sentence anyway, right? Then I called my mom and she pretty much said the same things. About progress, at least.

I looked at Emerson, at Fred. Thought about the reporter and the cameraman who were killed. Thought about my life and everything that really mattered. Which interestingly, added up to a lot less than the things I sweat so enormously so often. It's my baby girl and Fred and my family and friends. It's home. And I'm home, with a majority of the people that mean so, so much to me. Living and working with food and words and pictures. And so, for the few hours leading up to my appointment, it wasn't even that difficult to shine it on.

After the scans and extra major super-duper boob squishing (even more than the first go) I had to wait in a room topless, save for my flimsy little open-faced hospital gown. For thirty minutes I sat alone in the room with a Keurig, a wicker basket filled with graham crackers and a TV mounted to the wall airing the play by play breaking news of the escaped gunman who was being chased by the police. And just as the nurse came in and called my name (even though I was the only person in the room), the TV announced that the gunman was dead. He shot himself. To me this seemed like a sign of some kind. I just couldn't figure out which. A few steps down the hallway following the nurse, she stopped and pivoted around, “Actually, you know, we don't even need to go into the doctor's office. Everything looked completely fine.” I guess my expression was somewhere between incredulous and dumbfounded, because she went on. “You're okay. You can, you know, WHEW. We'll even send you a letter saying as much. Go on and enjoy your day.”

Though I definitely felt something between incredulous and dumbfounded, my little family and I went home and I went straight to the kitchen. As I chopped carrots and onions, I thought about how frustrated I get when I get scared that we're not working enough, doing enough, doing it well enough. I was also thinking about my friend, Stephanie, who is from Roanoke and was feeling the sting of the day's news extra sharply. Just a few nights before we were sitting on her front porch, sipping wine and talking. I was lamenting (whining?) my thoughts on feeling like I had no control or structure in my life, and my feelings about falling short. She simply said, “You're doing good work.”

I know Stephanie is an admirer of my actual work, the writing and the pictures. But I think what she was telling me was that doing each day, being a mother, a partner, a friend, was good and important work. At least, that's how I interpreted it. It made me feel better, anyway.

The kitchen, my whole place, smelled incredible from a chicken stock that had been simmering on the stove all day. I was chopping and thinking and smelling and realized, without meaning to, I was making Stephanie the food version of a maternal kind of, “there, there.” Something to help comfort the feelings she was having that are somewhere between incredulous and dumbfounded because something so violent and senseless happened so close to home.

When I texted her to tell her I was making her a chicken soup, she responded saying she was in the middle of making me a gazpacho.

I guess I'm doing good work. But also, I'm good.

*Speaking of good work, a couple of months ago, on my birthday, actually, Fred and I did a photoshoot with a woman who was in the midst of creating her big passion project, a cookbook. This particular cookbook is comprised of her memories, reflections and thoughts, with a recipe coinciding with them. She even pairs a song to each recipe. The story behind this recipe of hers is also about two good friends, helping each other, and showing it, through food - namely, soup! The book is titled The Blissed Out Chef, and will be released on September 13th.

Her song for this dish is "Our House", by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Lamb-Kale Broth
(Recipe adapted from Laurel Herman)

Serves 4-6

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed & chopped finely
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground lamb
7 -8 cups of chicken stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the ground lamb with salt and pepper and form small balls - about 2 inches around.

Place meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in the oven until they are almost cooked through, about 7 minutes.

In a sauce pan add the olive oil and sauté the onions until they are clear.

Add the kale, and let cook down for a few minutes (you want to keep that green), and then add the stock.

Once the mixture is all warmed through, add the meatballs.

Season to taste.

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