Friday, May 5, 2023

Answering Rena: Secret Subject Swap


Today's post would normally be our monthly Secret Subject Swap. The way it works is that bloggers pick a secret subject for that month, send them to me, I put them in my sorting hat, and send them out to another participant. We each get a unique subject to write about or question to answer.

Although still a Secret Subject Swap, for this post, we each have individual prompts, not sent in by each other, but submitted by just one person.

For the past 8 years, our friend Rena had participated in this and many of the other challenges I run. Rena died unexpectedly in the middle of March. I was finally able to write about it just a few days ago, I hope you'll check it out, here's the link to Rena: Mourning to Missing.

When Rena died, she'd signed up for this Secret Subject Swap challenge through the year. I had 9 of her prompts sitting in monthly documents waiting for assignment to different friends. I could not get myself to delete those prompts, it just felt callous, disrespectful. I thought I might address them, over time, in my own blog posts, but then realized that maybe some of her other friends would like to join me. Some did.

Rena took the time to ask some questions. Today her friends are taking the time to answer some of them.

So, each of us have a subject, prompt, or question, sent in by Rena. We're answering in memory of a friend, a collaborator, a valued and missed member of our blogging community.

I have Rena's August prompt, and my subject is: If you could go back to school to become anything you'd like, what would it be and why? 

I'm going to start with the two guesses I think Rena, well probably all of you, would have made.

Then I'm going to say WRONG! 

First, writing. Truth is, I thought a lot about it. I had a middle school teacher who, after I'd turned in a writing assignment, suggested it. I even took over running my dormitory area newspaper for a while in college. But, when it comes to writing, I do best when I feel the stories, when they almost pour out of me. I'm not sure how I'd handle a career of being assigned the story and having to make a deadline. Sometimes, yeah. As a side gig, yeah. But daily? I don't know.

Truth is, I wonder if all of that structure, of the subject matter being out of my hands, whether it might diminish my love of writing. Or maybe it would actually hone my skills, provide focus and growth. Hard to say. 

So how about being an author, writing fiction? I love a good mystery. In fact, I did start my own book. I wrote the first sentence. That was 10 years ago . . . Still got that sentence. Nothing else, though.

OK, so you're thinking along the culinary lines.

Perhaps I'd want to be a chef, or a baker, or both. Maybe work privately, or even open my own restaurant.

I could apply to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Or more locally, both MIT and Harvard have culinary arts majors.

But the food industry is grueling. Chefs are, for the most part overworked and underpaid and, unless they can afford to go out on their own, unable to nurture their own creativity.

Truth is, my recipe development often comes from a place of stress relief, a creative way to get out of my own head for a while. My recipes tend to be more pedestrian. My creations are always geared towards the specific tastes of my family. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

BBQ Pork Corn Chip Nachos | recipe developed by | #recipe #food
BBQ Pork Corn Chip Nachos

I'll tell you about one thing I have loved my whole life, as far back as I can remember, and still to this day. It's ballet.

If I could, I would love to be a ballerina. Yes, it's a difficult life, both physically and emotionally, but I'd make the sacrifice. Any and all of them.

NY would be the place to go. Although some colleges do offer dance programs, it's almost true that by the time you get your degree, you're almost too old for the industry. So Julliard, Joffrey, School of American Ballet are where I'd be battling to be accepted.

One problem, though. Well, there is the whole talent issue. But more than that is the constraint that's insurmountable by effort, and practice, and guidance, and even luck. 

Seems I've been unable to change the fact that I'm only five feet tall. 

I want to thank Rena for her years of support and friendship. And I want to thank everyone who wrote these posts today, for standing by my side as we honor a friend lost way too soon. 


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts in honor of Rena. 


What TF Sarah 

Part-time Working Hockey Mom 

On the Border

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

BBQ Pork Corn Chip Nachos         

3 boneless pork loin chops
3/4 cup of my Blackberry BBQ sauce or the BBQ sauce of your choice, divided
2/3 cup canned black beans, drained
1 green onion, chopped
1 (8.75 oz) can corn kernels, drained
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar, divided
1/4 cup drained, sliced pepperoncini
1 bag (8 oz) scoop sized corn chips

NOTE: I often make barbecued grilled pork chops for dinner, making sure to have enough leftovers to use the next day for these nachos. If you're using leftover pork chops, you'll have to warm it before mixing with the other ingredients.

*Marinate the pork chops in 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce in a resealable bag for 24 hours, turning now and then. 
*Grill the pork chops until completely cooked through. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. 
*Heat the beans in the microwave for about 1 minute, just until warm. Chop the pork into very small pieces, mix with the beans, green onions, corn, and 1/4 cup of the cheese, then toss with 3 TBSP of the remaining BBQ sauce. 
*Place in the center of a round baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, then the pepperoncini. Surround with the chips.
*Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese melts. To serve, drizzle with the remaining TBSP of BBQ sauce.


  1. You can cook, you can write, you are a motivator and from what I can tell, you are good at it. I think you are exactly what you were intended, someone to lift people up. Donna

  2. Ballerina and Nachos are probably not all that compatible? I have been trying to make my own sweet potato nachos, and it's tough. They either end up soft or burnt?
    I feel the same way about writing. Sometimes a prompt has to sit with me, and I can't force inspiration to hit just because the deadline is today. BTW our local (quarterly) village magazine asked me to contribute as a freelancer. Yes, in all my free time. My first three articles will be published in June.
    Happy Friday, here's to Rena ♥

    1. Congratulations, that sounds like a fun opportunity. Enjoy!

  3. It was a good question. Rena, thank you, posthumously. I would have picked "culinary school" so count me among the wrong answerers. I don't do well with prompts, although I should try it a couple of times because maybe the structure would help me grow. Help me grow into what, though, I don't know. So, maybe I should try one just to find out? Karen, as for you, you are one of those who truly cares about others - it shines through your posts. So maybe just continue to be you. Rena would have been proud of your post. Later, I'll visit the other participants.

  4. I am not much of a cook I won't kill you with my cooking which is something I guess

  5. When me and my husband first moved in together I couldn't cook very well. But I started trying recipes and found that pretty easy except for baking. lol I like trying new things now.

    1. It's not only fun to try new things, but interesting to play with new flavors.

  6. I'm now cooking for money three times a week, and find that the creative part of it feeds my soul. However, there's no way I could work in the industry full time-too much rigidity and too much pressure.

    1. Yes, your situation sounds perfect, and it's not a cook to order situation either, which I'm sure helps;

  7. Sorry to hear about your friend passing. I'm sure she added great things to the swap. The nachos reminded of having nachos recently at a restuarant with my sis.

    1. She added great things to the swap, and to my life.

  8. I can think of a few things i would have enjoyed doing, and should have done. Meanwhile, like you, i can't write full time, i'd lose the passion.

    My mother wanted me to be a ballerina, too. Like you, i am five-foot-nothing, and i have the wrong body type (not thin).

    Once again, i'm sorry for the loss of your friend and wish i had more blogging time and could have gotten to know her.


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