all you can do (banana blueberry orange smoothie)

making smoothies at night

Since I left work two hours early Friday, I’ve gone through a few boxes of tissues, several packets of Emergen-C, four bowls of chicken noodle soup, twice daily rounds with the neti pot, hot compresses on my eyes, Vicks on my chest, an entire season of a television show online, some reading in Best Food Writing 2009, a little bit of Food Network and, mercifully, an entire 15-hour block of sleep from Saturday into Sunday that, I’m pretty sure, is a miracle in itself considering all the constant nose-blowing.

I mean, I knew it was cold season, but, people, I haven’t taken sick time at work since Saint Patrick’s Day. A few months ago, when everyone was sniffling and sneezing, I somehow was fine, and so I kind of thought I must have a pretty great immune system or something. Cue the line, Pride cometh before a fall.

frozen blueberries
orange and banana
making a smoothie
banana to smoothie

The thing about getting sick is it reminds you how weak and vulnerable you can be. It doesn’t really matter how much you want to clean the bathroom or go out shopping or meet your friend for brunch; you can’t do it. Your body can’t do it. And so, while you tuck yourself beneath a pile of blankets and think about all the things you were planning to do, you become content to do the one thing you have to do: nothing. Or at least nothing besides the above-mentioned list of home remedies and entertainment/distraction. (What do you all do when you’re sick?) That, and make smoothies.

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on simpler things

banana pudding

The move into my brother’s new apartment has taken a few days, it turns out, and Sunday afternoon was one part of the process. After we’d finished unloading the first wave of boxes he’d packed in his car, Adam stepped out to grab more, while I organized his D.V.D. collection into alphabetical order, reaching behind where the T.V. stand goes, onto the white built-in bookshelves next to the fireplace. He came back, tense, still holding the plastic dish rack we’d decided he’d give me, and he told me his car had been towed.

The next 45 minutes or so, I spent alone with boxes and white walls, figuring out how the Brita water pitcher works, folding towels to put in the closet and looking at my silent cell phone, wishing someone would call me. Once those matters were sufficiently taken care of, there was really nothing left to do but sit down in Adam’s soft leather chair, which is a beautiful shade of butterscotch caramel, watching the softly falling snow that would later turn this area into a winter wonderland, in April.

banana pudding

Sitting there, I was reminded of all those things that lurk at the back of your mind, quiet, waiting for you to slow down long enough to listen.

Things like home buying, and what do I want, should I buy, where should I buy, when should I buy, is now the right time; the movie Marley & Me, which I’d watched at my friend Jackie’s place the night before, crying through the entire last 20 minutes; the future and all of its unknowns, from work to living arrangements to relationships; and then, largely, the fact that a few hours in my soft, fluffy down comforter would be about as close to perfect as things could get right now.

Anyway, by the time Adam called to say he was waiting outside, I’d settled on simpler concerns. Like how good some hot banana pudding would be later that night.

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that’s really something


My last semester of college, after I’d finished student teaching and before I walked off with a bachelor’s in education, I decided I didn’t want to teach at all. I wanted to write. Someone I knew knew Kelley, who worked as a reporter for a Wisconsin newspaper, and that very kind person gave Kelley my phone number, which led to our meeting on a Saturday afternoon. I didn’t know what networking was back then, but I guess that’s what we did—I, very badly, I should say. Kelley took me around the newsroom, let me sit in on a phone interview, gave me advice on breaking into the field and (here’s the worst part) took ME out for lunch.

(Let me offer this advice when you’re looking to network: Do not follow my bad example. If a very kind person in the industry you’re looking to enter does you a favor, don’t let her buy you lunch. You may, of course, be breaking bread with a wonderfully kind and gracious person like Kelley, and she may tell you it’s fine, but, really, someday you’ll realize how utterly classless that was, and you’ll regret it.)

That was the one and only time I ever saw Kelley in person, although, honestly, now that I’ve typed that, I realize how strange it sounds. We’ve been in touch all along. The first time I ever saw my name in print—I think it was an article about a book club, published in a tiny weekly paper that probably 15 people would read, I sent Kelley a copy, and she understood why it mattered.

Banana Bread from Kelley

When I had questions about dealing with editors, Kelley gave me feedback. When I felt the sting of rejection, she told me not to give up. And, you know, almost five years since our weekend lunch, she’s still giving to me, expecting nothing in return.

Around Thanksgiving, when she read here that I would be making the big meal by myself, she wanted to print out all her favorite holiday recipes and send them out to me. I mean, really. Doesn’t that make you want to name a parade after her or something? She sent me links and documents with recipes to try, one of which was her favorite banana bread. I printed it off immediately, stacking it with a group of other print-outs I wanted to create. But one week flowed into another, and here it is late January, and I’ve just now tried it.

The loaf’s all gone now, so let me just say this: if you don’t already love Kelley, this recipe might do the trick.

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