Propped Against The Meyerson Wall

Random thoughts from today’s half-marathon (a first for me, for Dallas and for the guy in front of us at the porta-potties).

Following the crowd can be a good strategy, unless you are looking for a parking place. After running 13.1 miles, it’s wicked difficult to get out of your truck and walk up your drive. Just because the main architectural feature of a Highland Park house is rustication, it doesn’t mean the occupants don’t have a sense of humor. Some of the Katy Trail bounces. Volunteers give out water and Powerade. Angels pass out strawberries. The best freebie wasn’t the finisher’s medal with the 13.1 time turner (needed that really badly about Mile 10), the Oreos (which I’m chewing in this picture), the mini-muffin, the orange, the water, the Powerade or the pretzels. It was the pre-moistened, Texas-size, super fresh, moist towel. There are still places in the city where you can sit on your steps on a Saturday morning, in your robe, drink your coffee and watch your granddaughter watch the world go by.

Comfort Food (recipe for majadrah)

Tonight I made a batch of majadrah, a Lebanese lentil and rice dish that Mark and I came to crave when we were living in Sacramento.

The woman who cooked at Juliana’s Kitchen would scoop a portion on the plate with falafel and tabouli. Sam was a toddler then, and he didn’t care for the tabouli or falafel, but he ate lots of majadrah.

I would ask her for the recipe and she would always refuse. I’m not particularly good at tasting and figuring out what another cook is doing, so it took me the better part of ten years to get it down. The key, I’ve found, is caramelizing the onions, adding the cumin into the oil and letting it get fragrant before stirring in the rice and coating it with the cumin-infused oil.

Anyways, I had 2 cups of cooked lentils and I hadn’t made this in years, so out came the old recipe. And with my first bite, I was back in Juliana’s kitchen with Mark and Sam.

When Sam came home from work, I told him I made some lentils and rice and it was one of his childhood favorites. He got a big smile on his face, and then put his nose to it when I told him I started by caramelizing the onions.

“Ooooo, carmel,” he said. “I’ve got to take a shower first, but I’ll try it.”

That’s huge. Sam hasn’t eaten beans since he was 3 years old. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe.

2 cups cooked lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
1 tsp cumin
1 cup long grain rice (white or brown)
1 cup water
1-ish cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Caramelize the onions in the oil in a Dutch oven. This can take 25-30 minutes. Once the onions are nicely browned, add the cumin and sauté another minute. Add the rice and sauté for a minute or two to coat. Add the lentils, water and stock, cover and cook, over very low heat, without stirring, until the rice is tender. If the liquid is absorbed before the rice is tender, add more stock. Sprinkle the salt over the top when nearly all the liquid is gone and return the cover to the pot.
Taste and adjust seasonings.

Tour des Fleurs

Random thoughts from today’s “race.”

I love trail running best.
Dallas air quality is better than Denton County’s.
Green bananas taste good after you’ve run for 2 hours and 40 minutes.
I think it would be easier to run farther if I ran faster.
The homes in Lakewood Trails — up in the hills around White Rock Lake — are beautiful, and no two look alike.
My favorite landscapes are the ones where you can tell the owner does it, and not a landscape service.
If you run long enough, your body surrenders the toxins. It took me 3-4 miles, it took RunnerSusan about 6. (Poor thing.)
In the hardest parts of the run, the only people encouraging you are the Dallas police officers at their posts. That has got to be some kind of metaphor about life.

First Things First

Sam and I spent a good portion of last Saturday afternoon talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The house is going up for sale and he’s very upset about it.

We are about to become another in what is sure to be a long exodus of refugees from the Barnett Shale. An operator has built a gas processing plant next door. I’m not sure we can even sell the place, but I have to try.

My brother-in-law is an attorney for a pipeline company in another state. Even his eyes popped when he saw what we’re being asked to put up with.

(image borrowed from Wikipedia)

Sam has known this has been coming for a long time, but struggled to see the new order of things once we leave. I’m not surprised. People with autism can barely understand our cryptic social orders to begin with. Upend the whole thing and he doesn’t know what to do.

Well, the wise Mr. Maslow said that first comes things like breathing and food and water. Breathable air is already in short supply around here, having a next door neighbor dehydrating gas, blowing off relief valves and burning raw gas to run thousands of horses every hour to keep that 16-inch line compressed adds serious insult to injury.

Not to mention, if that 16-inch line ever goes, we go with it.

Seeing it on the pyramid, along with things like food and water helped him understand.

He’s fretted for more than a year about what would happen to friendships if we aren’t living in the same place we’ve always been. Half his school chums are graduating, too, and getting jobs far from here. Somehow, Sam saw himself as the anchor in this changing storm.

But friendships are much higher on the pyramid. As a visual aid, Maslow scores for us. Sam finally understands why the exodus is necessary.

First things First.

You always pay

An obscure piece of news — a story about a doctor winning an award — caught my eye today.

It wasn’t the startling rate of autism, which has increased exponentially since my son, Sam, was diagnosed almost 20 years ago. (It’s now 1 in 80).

It wasn’t Dr. Philip Landrigan’s beautiful characterization about the brain. (“The human brain is capable of doing calculus and writing symphonies and enjoying the beauty of the sunset, but the cost of that is exquisite vulnerability,” he said.)

It wasn’t that the writer of the article assumed the villain in this unfolding health crises is one or more environmental triggers, though that could ultimately prove to be true.

It was the estimate of how much the U.S. saves each year in health care costs since we removed lead from gasoline: $200 billion.

China thought they could develop like we did, go-go-go, and clean up later. We got away with the “clean up later” model because people didn’t know.

But we’re still paying for it — in ways we cannot even measure. Millions born with brains that mean they must struggle more than their fair share, for one. Health care costs that, in a generation, went from affordable to not.

We should never put the responsibility on another generation, hoping technology will catch up. You always pay, one way or another.

About those experts

Just a little more on Guidepost Two …

Not all experts are created equal, by the way. We had a bad experience with a dentist about ten years ago. This dentist came very highly recommended, supposedly someone who could handle challenging cases.

We started taking Sam to the dentist as a toddler, back when we lived in California. The dentist that cared for Mark and me had a nice, chairside manner and Sam warmed to her right away. He was always very cooperative. We didn’t have any trouble after we moved to Texas, either, until he turned 12 and it was time for that last set of baby teeth to fall out. Only they didn’t.

For some reason, the roots didn’t decay enough behind the permanent teeth and they got stuck. He had a little trouble cooperating with the pediatric dentist, who, for some reason, did not want to pull them out. She referred us to another dentist.

He examined Sam and told us he would have to be sedated in order for him to extract them. He had an anesthesiologist partner that came in on a fairly regular basis, so it could all be in the office.

The experience was still traumatic for Sam. He hated being sedated.

And when we went back to the dentist for a regular check-up, he didn’t actually do anything except ask Sam to open his mouth. No cleaning, scraping, x-rays, nothing. I didn’t get charged for that, but I got charged for the office visit.

And it went like that, every three months until after a year, I realized this guy had no intention of ever treating Sam while conscious. He started talking to me about making another appointment to sedate him for a cleaning.

We walked out the door and never came back.

I had to sweet talk my own dentist to take Sam on. He reluctantly agreed, and we started with a cleaning with one of the hygienists working in the office. It went off without a hitch. She went slowly and let Sam ask a lot of questions. His first few scrapings weren’t with the scaler, she used the ultrasonic tool instead. Eventually, he graduated to the scraper.

We got sealants on his teeth, and he had no trouble tolerating that. He’s had excellent oral hygiene. He’s never needed fillings and the dentist said that since he got through his teen years without a problem, he may go the rest of his life without ever needing one.

When he was 18, we had his wisdom teeth pulled. He was a little nervous, but he was ready for the sedation. When he woke up in the oral surgeon’s recovery room, he said, “Am I done? That wasn’t so bad.”

Yes, Sam, you’re done.

Lend your experience

Some of the best help a parent can get is from another, more experienced parent.

If you are like me, one of those more experienced parents, you might think you don’t have time to help. But you do.

There is some training involved, but it’s fun and chances are, you’ll learn a thing or two that helps your family. And then you pay it forward by providing support to another family — usually on the phone, or through e-mail.

If you’re ready to help, mark your calendar for Sept. 25, because that’s the next time Texas Parent to Parent will be in Dallas for parent volunteer training.

Here’s a little from their press release:

“We believe that support from other parents is the best way to assist a family on the journey of raising a child with special health care needs. The sharing of joy, frustration, and hope with another parent is one of the most powerful experiences a parent can receive. We’re looking for a few parents who are ready to share their time and their experience.

Do you know a family who would like to attend? Who are the parents who have made a difference in your life? Who has helped you along on your family’s journey?”

Call 1-866-896-6001 … and pass this on.