And so it begins...

Hello! And welcome to DeenutsDana: an open letter to my mother. This is my blog.  I lost my mother in November of 2007, and there hasn't been a day that I haven't missed her since then.   There are two things that have been pestering me since she's been gone, however.  One, is that I still find myself thinking about calling her every time something significant (or insignificant) happens.  My daughter says a new word? Reach for the phone.  I have a horrible day at work? Think about going to her house afterwards.  Greg and I have an arguement? Get her advice. 

Obviously, I can't talk to her.  And I thought that, as time went by, this feeling of wanting to communicate with her would diminish.  But it hasn't.  It's still going strong and there are times that all of these "things" that I want to tell her start to build up and create pressure and it just becomes so overwhelming. 

I started thinking about how I could solve this problem--this need to tell my mother things.  And then I thought-this isn't a problem.  A woman shares with her mother. This is normal.  And if I can't do it in the conventional way, since my mother is no longer here to speak with, then I'll do it in the uncoventional way.  Which is right here, on this website. I'll write to her for all the world to see.  And so, on DeenutsDana, you'll find letters to my mother and posts that are directed to her.  My hope is that you'll be able to see what a wonderful relationship we had and, that if she were still here, what a wonderful relationship it would still be.

The second thing that has haunted me since her death is my lack in finding any sort of lesson or bright side to what happened.  If she died for a reason, I don't yet know what it is.  My children will grow up without a grandmother, and it's my job to make sure they know who she was. What she meant.  And how important she was to me.  This website is my tribute to my mother.  This is her legacy.  Perhaps someone will read something on this site, and it will make them feel a little better or give them a little clarity. If years down the line we've given away all of her belongings, and my father has moved out of their house, and there is nothing physical of hers left here on this earth, let this site be a reminder to who my mother was and how important she was to me.  And just how damn much I miss her.

Oh god, sometimes I miss her so much.

Mom and Dana, 1976


G's Spot: Garlic and Cheese Bread

How exciting! Our first recipe here on Deenuts Dana's G's Spot.  Hey, that sounds, er, interesting.  Full disclosure: Greg is working today and wasn't able to provide a first recipe.  So, you've got Dana.  I'm actually not that bad of a cook.  It's just that when you live with a professional one, your cooking tends to get overshadowed.  So, I thought I would start up this section of the site with a recipe that serves two purposes: 1) it was one of my mother's favorite foods, and 2) it's made in a machine and is practically impossible to mess up!  So, without further adieu, please allow me to introduce one of my favorite bread recipes.

            Garlic and Cheese Bread

       1 1/4 cups tepid water
       3 cups bread flour
       1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
       2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
       2 tablespoons powdered cheese (from a mac 'n cheese box)
       2 tablespoons brown sugar
       1 1/2 teaspoons salt
       1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
       2 teaspoons active dry yeast

I know, you're probably thinking where's the garlic? Just be patient, kittens.

When I first got my bread machine, I went online searching for recipes.  I found this one, although I've changed it up a bit, but I didn't make it for a few weeks, due to the powdered cheese ingredient.  I really didn't want to give up a box of mac 'n cheese just so I could use the powdered cheese in my bread recipe.  Until one night I opened up a box and found TWO CHEESE PACKETS.  It was like the people at Kraft wanted me to make this bread.  And so I did.  And now, after having it, I will gladly sacrifice a perfectly fine box of macaroni and cheese so that I can make Garlic and Cheese Bread.

I'll start with addressing the elephant in the room, before the elephant, has, uh, actually entered.  The lighting in my kitchen is less than desirable for taking photos of food.  Since I was working alone with this recipe, I couldn't take the most ideal photos while also cooking the food.  I'm going to consult with my photography experts (and by experts I mean two friends who take really nice pictures) and hopefully I'll be able to improve the picture quality.  If the experts tell me that I must completely renovate my kitchen and get a whole new one, so be it!  In the name of this website, I must do it.

First, let me show you the bread flour that I've been using since I started making bread in a machine.  My grocery store didn't carry bread flour, so I ordered several pounds of this online.

Also, I made my own concoction of Italian seasonings, which included garlic powder.  The pre-mixed Italian seasoning does not contain garlic powder, therefore if you use the pre-mixed Italian seasoning, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of that and then add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder to the recipe.  Here are the usual suspects.  I used 1/2 teaspoon of each.

Mise en place

Allow me to introduce you to my bread machine.  I have an Oster.  It wasn't too expensive, and it's not too fancy.  And it makes bread.  That's all I need.

When using dry active yeast, it's important that the yeast not touch the wet ingredients until the mixing begins.  So, pour the water in, and then follow with all of the dry ingredients.



Italian Seasonings (1/2 teaspoon each of parsley, basil, oregano, and garlic powder)

Cheese powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper

After you've added all of the ingredients, take you finger and make a little well in the middle. 

Add the yeast.

And pop it in the machine.

Put it on the Basic cycle.  It'll take 3 hours. I usually always choose the medium crust color.

First it mixes...

Then it rises...

And then it starts to bake.  Let's take a little peek.

And three short hours later, you have Garlic and Cheese Bread! 
Your house is going to smell really good right about now.

And now it's ready to eat.  I wish there was someone around here willing to try it.  Hey, little girl! You want to try my bread?


Go ahead.  Try it.  Stop studying it and just try it!

There ya go!

Wow! With such gusto!

Ya get it all in?

Nice.  Enjoy!


The Healing Corner: Abbe's Story


…death ends a life, but not a relationship. --Tuesdays with Morrie

…the pain can be as deep with different types of relationship. Each one has their own meaning to an individual.

It’s very ironic that this month marks 40 years since my mom’s death. Feb 2nd also marked 100 months since my husband Ray died.

40 years without my mom. That figure in itself is unbelievable. I was a teen--a somewhat rebellious one at that. She never saw me graduate from high school. She never met my husband, she never met my children. I would think I’ve become a woman that she dreamed about raising. I feel confident that I’ve made her proud. Not only from the hurdles I’ve overcome, but because even with her long time muscular illness she always blossomed her love with extra hugs and cuddling. I know compassion because of her illness. I know how to relate to a husband because of her family love. I know how to give extra special hugs to my kids.

I remember she had been gone about 6 years when I was newly married. I hated the fact that she hadn’t met Ray or been part of my wedding plans. I had to learn it is what it is and continuing on is an art to master.

We were newly married, and we had a small argument. An argument over nothing that just seemed to magnify for no apparent reason that two strong willed people in battle. I remember like yesterday, how I went into another room when Ray wouldn’t speak to me. I curled up with my knees into my chest and started to cry...more like wailing as I wanted to run to my mom’s arms and try and understand the constant learning event of bonding two people together as in marriage. Ray heard me that night and came to me. He understood my pain of loss. The argument was over and life continued on.

I shudder to think that my kids will say 40 years since their dad died someday.

The loss of a spouse is so different. We learned how to mesh over 25 years in marriage. After Ray died, I had to learn to separate the me from the we. We spent 25 years of falling into step with one another, and now I needed to learn how to step by myself. Solo parenting, solo life.

The majority of people don’t like to talk about death…almost like it’s contagious.

What isn’t understood are the entire dynamics of widowhood. I don’t want to hear about it being the same to a great grandparent, parent, cat. I’m kinda thinking here that not many people have made love with their cat, parent or grandparent. The intimacy at night, the intimacy in the morning. Intimacy is a lot more than just sex…it’s all the casualness and love in a couple.

It’s not the whole picture, but all the little pieces that make life a masterpiece. Walking in the door and nobody to ask how your day was. Nobody in the car to touch your knee while driving. Nobody to grab your butt at the kitchen sink. Nobody to casually speak with while watching television or eating a meal.

I am thankful for the love of life that we shared. I love the fact that I can bring a lot of our values in life and continue on. Sometimes it takes all the inner strength I can muster...time and patience and finding the pieces of peace come together makes its presence known.


Dear Mom...

Yesterday Greg and I celebrated a belated Valentine's Day out.  We dropped off Leah at your house for Daddy's first big babysitting gig!  It's taken 23 months, but we thought it was finally time for him to babysit The Little Dictator.  It's only fair--everyone else in the family has.  Save for Marco.  We need a little more time to prepare for THAT.  Thankfully, Adriana was there for a few hours, since Leah decided to poop THREE times!  Can you imagine if Daddy had to change those diapers??  Greg and I joked that he probably would have just taken her outside and hosed her down.

When we arrived back at your house Leah was still in one piece.  Daddy looked exhausted!  She didn't nap for him, despite his best efforts, and the house was a mess.  But, it seemed like both of them had had a wonderful time together.  Leah loves him: says "pa pa" all the time, gets excited when we pull on your street, and knows that he's one more person in her arsonal that will let her get away with anything.

I often think about how much time you would have been spending with Leah if you were here.  I think about how you would have probably come and picked her up on Saturday mornings and taken her for a day of Grandma time.  How the two of you would have been best friends.  How I would have put her on the phone to talk to you when you called.  I wonder what name she would have made up for you.  It's just heartbreaking knowing that she won't feel the excitement of going to see Grandma that I used to feel with Nanny Vi.

But, she's definately going to feel the excitement of going to see Grandpa Enzo.  That I'm sure of.

Mom-you would have been proud of Daddy yesterday.  He did a great job.


Dana and Adriana, August 2004


What Are We Doing Here?

As I reach out to more of you, I want to explain a little more about this site and tell you where I'd like to see it go.  Since my mother passed away I've been searching for other people who have felt and experienced terrible grief like I have.  I have searched for groups and forums, hoping to find someone, anyone, who can empathize with me and validate my feelings.  Not someone who is willing to listen, because I have such wonderful friends willing to do that.  But moreso someone who has experienced the pain of loss that I have. Someone who has had to birth and mother her daugther while simultaneously mourning her mother.

Humans are wonderful creatures.  There are those of us who thrive on being our own, individual beings, with our own individual belief systems. Those who prefer to boogie to the beat of their own drum, front and center and by themself.  And then are the ones who enjoy being part of a flock, if only in certain situations, who wish to lean on a pal during their time of need, and to provide a shoulder to that pal when necessary. 

I want a flock, my flock.  I want people to know that there are others feeling like them; other people who have hurt, or been hurt in the past, and are trying to just make it through the day.  That there are men and women out there who have gone through what they have gone through, who have to put on their happy face each day, even when it's particularly difficult. I wish for this website to serve as an outlet for them.

It will be so much more to me, too, a place for me to share my day, my life, my ideas.  A place to learn how to be a better mother and to show my daughter how important she is.  How she saved my life. But it will always be a place where one can remember a loved one, and it will hopefully be able to provide a shoulder when necessary.

A friend once said that his main goal in life was to just try to live between the earth and the sky.  Right you were, Nate.  Right you were.

Questions, comments, contributions, recommendations?  Let me know!


The Healing Corner: April's Story

 In Memory of Nicholas J. Case


Nick and April
That's how everyone knew us
Even after everything and even still.

You pulled me in so long ago and I never got away
no matter how much I tried
you were locked in my heart even when we couldn't be together.

You are still in the showcase,
(You never even left, like you thought)
You are all over my house
my mind, my thoughts
my memories, my dreams,
my days and my nights
my world and my life
burned into my soul you
are there with me.

Nick, the life of the party
the laugh that still lingers
the smile that brightened
the attitude and personality that encouraged
the guy everyone loved, the happiest and the saddest,
the man of the hour in your suit and Pop's hat.
the dancer, the singer, the music lover, the biker,
the boater, the driver, the player, the smart ass, the jokester,
the lover, the fighter, the friend.
You will never leave us.

You changed my life more than you knew
You showed me things I never would have seen
Brought me places I never would have gone
Introduced me to people I would never have met
Gave me experiences I'll never forget
You brought me into your life, your heart, your group
And they've been my family ever since.
I have so much to thank you for and no more time to do it.

I'm sorry you hurt so much
Felt so much guilt, I'm sorry for your pain
If I could have I would've taken it away
I would have carried the burden for you if there was any way
I smile when I think of you, I laugh at our videos, I admire you in our pictures
I see you everywhere and in everything and I know you are there.
You are etched into my memory and for that I am grateful.

Stay with me, babe, because I need you now more than ever,
I miss you more than I can say and the tears that fall from my eyes are yours.
Keep me strong, be by my side
I may have been your angel in life
Now you are my guardian angel from Heaven.
Rest in peace, Nick, Until we meet again
I love you.

Dear Mom...

February 16, 2010

It's been 2 years and three months since you've been gone.  I still have a hard time believing it.  No, scratch that.  I just have a hard time coming to terms with it.  I know you're gone, and I now know that no amount of bargaining or hoping is going to bring you back.  I now know that you will never meet your granddaughter, or any other grandchildren that might follow.  I'll never have a picture of you with Leah to show her when she's older.  I know that.  But it doesn't make it any easier.

To be honest, life has been so busy, I haven't been keeping up with everyone lately to see how they are handling things.  I apologize for that.  I'm launching this website soon as a way to deal with your passing and also as a tribute to you.  I want other people to know who you were and how much you meant to me. 

I hope I do you proud.


Greg and Dana, 2004


In the beginning...

On June 22, 2007 I walked down the aisle in a beautiful off-white dress and married Greg.  My life was wonderful.  I had a loving family and was joining an equally loving family.  My parents would be celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary later that summer, and I could only hope that Greg and I could do the same in another 34 years.

We danced the night away, and three days later, Greg and I took off on a 15-day honeymoon in Anguilla.  We met wonderful people there, some whom we are still in contact with, and spent our days swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and our nights drinking, eating, and dancing.  And we managed to fit in several rounds of another activity we find fun and enjoyable, and when we returned home, we found out that one of our honeymoon souvenirs would be arriving nine months later.

I am the oldest child of three and so is Greg, and this would be the first grandchild on both sides.  Now, I won't go as far as to say that Leah was unplanned, because, as Greg always reminds me, if we weren't fixing on having a kid, then we should have been fixing to prevent it.  But I was surprised that I had conceived so quickly, and while we were excited that I was pregnant, we were also really nervous!  The person, though, who seemed to be the happiest for our daughter's arrival was my mother.  If there was one hope and dream in her mind once her children had grown up it was to become a grandmother.  And so began the preparations for her first grandchild, whom she had been waiting years for her arrival.  I can't possibly convey into words just how happy my mother was for me, my family, and my unborn child.  For HER family. And for our future.

So excited, that she made a huge life altering decision.  She was determined to be a thin grandmother, one who could get on the floor and play with her grandchildren, and so she decided to undergo the laproscoptic gastric band surgery while I was pregnant.  As with any surgery, there are risks, but the lap band surgery was called the less invasive weight loss surgery option, and my mom felt that this was finally her way to achieve her life long dream of not being overweight.  Her plan was to lose a sizable amount of weight by the time my due date, March 30th, arrived.  I was looking forward to gaining weight, and she was looking forward to losing it.  We were so excited!

On November 2, 2007 she had the surgery.  I had found out only a week before that I was definately having a baby girl.  I visited her in the hospital after her surgery and she felt tired and bloated, both deemed as "normal" side effects for a surgery of this nature. 

The following week was filled with ups and downs.  My mother had taken off from work to recuperate, and she spent her time resting and talking on the phone with friends and relatives.  She told me several times that she was experiencing pains which her doctor told her were due to gas, which was built up in her body due to the way the lap band is placed around the stomach.  She complained about chest pains a lot, and her doctor's office told her to take gas-ex.  She could barely eat, and was on a diet of clear liquids.  She was looking forward to her follow up appointment 6 days post-op, especially to discuss her pains and uncomfortable feelings, if only to be told it was all part of recuperation.  And, to her delight, that's exactly what they told her.  That, and that she had lost 16 pounds already!

My mother was placing a lot of hopes and dreams in this surgery, and, although we loved and accepted her at any weight, we were so happy for her.  We were trying in our own way to be supportive, knowing that this was her dream.  And so, when her and my father returned on Friday night of November 9th from a cousin's house and she retreated to bed, we all laid in our respective beds in our respective homes hoping that the next day would be like any other Saturday.

My mother would continue to rest, and maybe get a visitor or two.  She was cleared to begin adding more to her diet and was looking forward to that.

My father would go to work in the morning and maybe take my mother out to dinner that night.  He was so happy that she was so happy with her decision to have this surgery.

My brother would spend time with his girlfriend and her son, and maybe spend some time at the park. All of this weight loss and health talk lately had prompted him to start leading a healthier life.

My sister, spending some time in Atlantic City, would play some slots and hang out on the beach with her friends.  She was the only non-surgery supporter in the family.  An avid health nut, she was unclear as to why her mom needed surgery to lose weight.  Why not just diet and exercise?

And me, celebrating the 20th week of my first pregnancy, would anxiously lie on the sofa, hands on my belly, hoping to feel my unborn child gently kick from inside.  Plans would commence on decorating the nursey now that we knew we were having a girl.  My mother better get better soon, I thought, we have a lot of baby-store damage to do!

But, none of those things happened.  We all went to bed with such high hopes and optimistic dreams and were woken up to what was the worst day of our lives.

What was my mother's reason to live turned out to be the reason she died.

How it happened.  How we each found out.  How the next ten days played out.  How we all dealt with it.  How we continue to deal (or not deal with it).  These are things that haunt me daily.


It's been a while.

And things have happened.  And I'm about ready to start talking about them.  And you're invited.  .