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In the Wake of Loss

I’ve been staring at this blank page practically since the day he died.  In an instant, my world turned and for so too long I just barely held on.  So wholly consumed with anger and sadness I lost nearly every last bit of myself – my emaciated, skeletal frame was a tell all, a pointed cry for help I would not accept.  I’m ready to fill the pages now.  This is my story of love and loss and beginning again.

On a crisp November morning in 2004, my 19-year-old brother shot himself on the patio of his condo as his roommates slept peacefully inside.  No one even woke up.  While he lay there not breathing and alone, I found my rhythm racing along the roads of Cape Elizabeth, Maine some 800 miles away.  The force of my heartbeat and piercing chill in my lungs assuring I was fully alive.  More than anything I was looking forward to my brother coming home for Thanksgiving so that we could all be together as a family once again.

All day I awaited news of his arrival, eagerly discussing the holiday with friends at school.  What I received instead was notice of his sudden and horrific death.  A gunshot wound to his head, the police told us, by his own hand.

Unfathomable.  Not my Sloan.  It is as vivid today as it was nearly a decade ago.

Losing my brother meant losing my best friend, my role model, my sense of identity and my confidence.  Losing my brother to suicide, however, nearly destroyed my once bright spirit. Having just celebrated my 17th birthday when he died, I was launched into a decade-long crisis of faith.

It’s safe to say the years since his death have been messy, my path far from linear.  Trite it may be, but as the saying goes, ‘the only way out it through’.  God has led me to where I stand today.  I don’t feel as if I’ve arrived just yet, at least I hope I haven’t.  But, I have gotten this far and I honestly look around and marvel at how blessed I am and I am more than a little bit grateful for what got me here.

I’m not done learning from this experience just yet – and I hope I never will be – but here are some lessons this last decade has taught me:

1. Happiness is a decision and it requires some work.  Alas, neither those Prada shoes nor that Burberry rain jacket will make me happy.  Hurray! I don’t have to spend $600 on a pair of heels I will wear once to be happy!

2. We may never see ourselves as others do.  Truth: For years I felt weak, exhausted, out of control, stupid, worthless and pretty much every other negative descriptive you could imagine.  Also true: others continually remarked at my strength, beauty, bravery, resilience and wisdom. If only my brother could have seen himself as I and so many others did.

3. “Should” is a useless word.  It makes you feel crummy and rarely results in any meaningful productivity.  And, in that vein any comparison of my own mistakes to others’ shining successes is equally unfruitful.

This experience has most certainly bestowed me with empathy for others and an ability to connect with those very different from myself.  From anger and mistrust grows imperfect understanding and faith.   And that is the miracle of this tragedy as I see it.

Charles_0002_NEW

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My very first blog entry

For the longest time I have been crafting blog entries in my head while daydreaming, riding my bicycle, or throwing together a quick meal.  I’m finally putting pen to paper type to press and giving this blogosphere a whirl.  Please follow along as I document my favorite recipes, travels, adventures and good reads!


Before I share anymore of the motivation behind this blog, how about some fuel to keep you entertained?  From the title of this blog, you might be able to guess that I am a savory (salty!) over sweet kind of gal.  I also like some spice and the recipe I am about to share combines the two brilliantly.  I do realize that it is now September 1st and cold soup recipes are likely being put away along with beach chairs for the fall and winter to come.  This recipe for my tasty and simple gazpacho deserves a shout out before the season comes to a close.  I have probably made a dozen full batches this summer and each one seems to disappear before I know it.  The recipe features a wonderful fire-roasted salsa from Stonewall Kitchen that I absolutely adore.  I have used regular old store-bought salsa as well, which is tasty, but doesn’t have the same wow factor.  This is as complicated as it gets: diced cucumber – red and yellow peppers – minced fresh herbs & garlic.

Bonus?  You can make this gazpacho all in one bowl using an immersion blender (one of my favorite inexpensive kitchen tools).

What you’ll need:

1 European cucumber, peeled and diced (~1.5 cups)

1 Red Pepper, seeded and diced

1 Yellow Pepper, seeded and diced

1 T. minced garlic (I like the kind from the jar in oil for this recipe since raw garlic has a bit too much of a bite for me)

1 Jar of Stonewall Kitchen Fire Roasted Salsa (substitute 16 oz. of your favorite flavorful salsa)

2 c. V8 Spicy Low-Sodium Vegetable juice (you can use tomato as well – I like this for the spice!)

3 T. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil, why of course)

1 T. good quality balsamic vinegar (I prefer this stuff)

1/3 c. gluten free seasoned breadcrumbs (such as Gillian’s) – or regular garlic croutons if gluten is not a problem for you

1 t. salt + freshly cracked pepper

1 t. cumin seeds

1/3 – 1/2 c. chopped fresh herbs (basil, flat leaf or curly parsley, oregano or cilantro – whatever you have on hand and your heart so desires)

Simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and puree with your handy immersion blender.  If you don’t have this tool, pulse it in batches in your food processor or blender.  It will come out wonderfully either way.  Top with diced avocado and snipped chives or other fresh herbs.

Liquid ingredients: Salsa + V8

Gluten free seasoned bread crumbsGluten Free Seasoned Bread Crumbs

easy peasy!