January 10, 2011

Winter Afternoons

Posted in Weather tagged , , , , at 7:59 am by Liliana

There’s a certain Slant of light

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson


December 6, 2010

Change of Season

Posted in Home, Weather tagged , , , , , at 7:52 am by Liliana

First Snowflakes

First Snowflakes

This has been an unsettlingly mild autumn for our part of the country.

There were days of incessant rain and overcast skies, but also mild temperatures and an abundance of sunny, golden afternoons.

The leaves change color to deep yellows and burgundies and fall to the ground. Sometimes while taking Kaya on a walk, I squint my eyes, and my street shimmers like an impressionist painting.

Early in November, I bring in my potted plants and find them comfortable winter residence on window sills and shelves in various parts of the house. But, it isn’t until the middle of the month that we have our first night frost.

Then on December first, winter comes. Overnight. One day it is fall, the next day we all know that the seasons have changed.

As I walk out of the house, sporadic snowflakes fall out of the dark gray early morning sky. The air feels rarefied, jagged and sparkling. I take a deep breath and exhale. Steam comes out of my mouth. Just for fun, I huff again.

Now, when I return home on a cold winter afternoon, I feel my house embracing me in its comforting, protective fold.

Meteorologists predict a very cold, snowy winter this year in Michigan.

September 17, 2010


Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Children, Family, Food, Good people, Health, Home, Weather, Women tagged , , , , , at 6:59 am by Liliana

Liliana, Nana, Branka and our father

Liliana, Nana, Branka and our father- June 2010

In early January of 2005, I was undergoing intense chemo therapy for breast cancer.

It was a bitterly cold and snowy winter. The days were heavy, dark, gloomy and depressing. My physical and emotional state reflected the weather perfectly.

In a few short weeks, I had lost close to twenty pounds. I had no appetite and felt nauseous all the time. I was weak and dizzy. I could not sleep. I developed a blood clot in my arm and then one in my leg. I had no energy. I could not take care of myself, much less my husband and children.

My sister, Branka, tried bravely to take care of our two households. She ran between her work, her children’s schools, her house  and my house. I worried that she too would get sick. We needed help.

Our father had remarried a few years earlier and lived in Florida. We were friendly with our stepmother (Nana), but didn’t know her well. She offered to come to cold, frozen Michigan and take care of us all. We said yes.

Nana came and took over the running of the house.

Mornings were my worst time of the day. After chemo had been working its magic all night long, I felt sick, exhausted and unable to eat. I had trouble getting out of bed. Nana would bring me a cup of tea and hot oatmeal with honey, then leave as I struggled to swallow a few teaspoons at a time.

Mike was already away at college, but Nena and Sam were at home. Jeff had a responsible and difficult job. They were all disoriented and frightened. Nana made them breakfast every morning – fancy stuff like pancakes, bacon, eggs. It made me happy to know, sitting in my bedroom and trying to swallow oatmeal, that Nana took care of them.

After everyone had left for work or school, I slowly gathered my courage and stumbled downstairs. Nana and I sat for hours – she talking and crocheting; I trying to survive another day.

Hours spread before us like decades.

Branka came every day, and the two of them tried to think of ways to cheer me up and get me to eat. It was essential that I not lose any more weight as my oncologist threatened to stop chemo treatments; but I had trouble swallowing and had no appetite. Nana and Branka would go into my kitchen and start concocting high calorie delicacies limited only by their imaginations. I never knew what combination and surprises I would find camouflaged inside my smoothies – boiled chicken with chocolate milk, roasted vegetables with honey, etc. etc. I lived in fear of the next offering.

Evenings were merciless in a different way. Nana and Branka made wonderful dinners and the entire family (mine and Branka’s) would gather around our dining room table. Everyone except for me. I sat on a sofa nearby, and tried not to smell the aroma of food or think about food. Our usually rowdy dinner conversations were no more; everyone ate quietly.

We all waited for the day to end.

Nana stayed with us for six weeks, through the worst part of my chemo treatments. She talked to me about things that no one else had the courage to talk about. She was honest and made no light of my situation. I didn’t have to pretend to be brave. But this tenacious, determined woman exuded strength like a rock – strength I could touch with my hand and hold on to tightly.

She cajoled me to eat, to find courage in simple things and not give up. She advised me to take it one minute, one hour, one day at the time. When I could not walk myself, she pushed me forward.

By the time Nana left for Florida, winter was winding down. Snow was still laying deep on the ground, but the first whiffs of spring were in the air. I was done with the first chemo regiment, and starting the second round. I responded to this one much better, and my appetite showed those first early signs of life. I started going for walks outside. My strength came back slowly.

Now, when I think of those cold, dark, despondent days, I think with pride of my family’s ability to endure and survive. And I think of Nana’s strength and love that, like a beacon, pointed the way towards better days. On day at the time.


February 27, 2010

Lake Michigan in Winter

Posted in Weather tagged , , , , at 8:10 am by Liliana

Lake Michigan in winter

Lake Michigan in winter

Dead of winter in Michigan – lots of snow, gusty winds, metallic sky, temperature in mid teens. It’s cold, the roads are treacherous, not pleasant to walk outside.

Still, I love to walk, especially along Lake Michigan. I find the lake beautiful at any time of year but in wintertime the character of the water becomes vastly different from what it is in more temperate seasons. It becomes transformed and magical, like something out of a fairy tale.

The sand and the snow embrace in tall drifts blown by fierce and unyielding wind. The tenacious wild lake grasses are holding on for dear life, and the sea gulls and sand pipers are nowhere to be seen. The water is frozen into silent, white ice sculptures for miles along the beach, but the sound of cold, angry waves beyond still make their presence preeminent.

I am wearing a sweater, a fleece jacket and a heavy winter coat. I have a woolen scarf wrapped around my neck and a warm hat on my head. My hands are hiding in heavy mittens. Still, the wind gets through all those layers and I feel it’s freezing breath on my skin. I am cold, but also energized and happy. To share this moment with the lake, the wind, the wide blue sky is a privilege and a gift.


February 12, 2010

February Staff Meeting at RepairClinic.com

Posted in Company Meetings, Food, Recipes, RepairClinic.com, Work tagged , , , , at 8:01 am by Liliana

February staff meeting at RepairClinic.com

February staff meeting at RepairClinic.com

February staff meeting at RepairClinic.com came a day after a big snowstorm. Outside, the wind was blowing freezing drifts of snow, the roads were slippery, and huge chunks of ice were hanging from the roof of our building. Inside, we were having a potluck chili cook-off.

Raina, our young events coordinator, invited employees to bring in a pot of their own chili or soup recipe and share with everyone. The response was overwhelming. Early in the morning, people started bringing in their crock pots and plugging them into outlets in the kitchens or the empty cubicles. The wonderfully comforting aroma of meat, ham, tomato sauce, chicken and beans was dispersed throughout the building. It was not easy to wait until lunchtime.

At 12:30, everything was ready for our hungry group. Tables had clean tablecloths, and there were vases of yellow daffodils, giving us hope that spring was not too far away. The buffet table had a wide variety of colorful pots and each had a different dish inside. Here are some of the choices on our menu: heart attack chili; venison stew; lasagna soup; creamy potato soup; vegetarian chili; split pea soup with ham; buffalo chicken soup; while chicken chili; tortilla soup; fifteen bean soup with ham; hot and sweet sirloin beef chili; hash brown soup, and more. Little cups were provided so that people could try a verity of dishes. And on the side, we had chips, bread, and lots of delicious desserts.

Prizes were distributed, people recognized and the state of the company reported on. January was a good month and we were all excited about the new year. With all the bustling and energy at RepairClinic this winter, the warm days of spring will be here before we know it.