Breadcrumbs Are Still Bread

I had a pity party a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t invite anyone because ugh, pity parties are the worst, right?  But while I do tend to be a bit of a cloudy pessimist rather than a sunny optimist the one thing I do have going for me is that eventually my own hair-tearing and teeth-gnashing get a bit ridiculous even to me.  I am grateful for the (sometimes self-mocking) no-nonsense turnaround when I finally realize I’ve tied myself too tightly to the Train Tracks of Melodrama.

In a much-needed bit of good timing, my mother (hi, Mama!) shared a good old German saying which is, “Kruemel sind auch Brot,” which means, “breadcrumbs are still bread.”  That slowed the approaching Train of Despondency long enough for me to have a think about things, and since then I have been trying to take that saying to heart.  On the one hand, I absolutely despise it when people say, “there’s always someone worse off than you,” because if that’s the case (and it is), then it is equally true that there’s always someone better off than you, too.  Both sayings sort of cancel each other out, and in a practical sense comparisons do no good at all.  Even so, it’s difficult to refrain from making them sometimes – especially during the more difficult days.

Our cozy world in this little corner of the Scottish Highlands is, I am fully aware, a whole lot better than that of a large part of the worldwide population especially when I take into consideration all the hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, political upheaval and other disasters that continually occur, worldwide.  We have shelter, food, clean water, electricity, clean air, decent healthcare, kilts, bagpipes, beautiful scenery, and Highland cows, here.  We can lock our doors at night with the reasonable expectation that no one will kick them in and do us harm.  We have laughter.  We have love.  We have each other.  I know, truly, that we are blessed in many and myriad ways.

But.

Chronic illness changes life in a way that no one can really fathom, unless they are living it.  Ill health takes away freedom, spontaneity, planning with follow-through, and activity.  It never lets go; even if you manage a somewhat “normal” day it’s there, waiting to remind you of its presence when exhaustion or frustration set in, or worse, when there is another setback or decline.  From the patient’s perspective it must be a grinding, painful, intrusive, often frightening and ever-present burden, robbing life of so much.  From the standpoint of a loving caregiver, it means constant anxiety and long periods of worry punctuated by too many moments of pure fear.  I can never fully understand how my husband feels about it; as the carer, I am but a bystander, though I try to be a supportive one.  But it has to be said that my moments of darkness or sadness don’t do either of us any good.  So I definitely needed to hear that saying, “breadcrumbs are still bread.”  Trying to change my mindset, while challenging, is necessary.

Not long ago Sem said, “We do have fun, don’t we – and all in all we have a good life.”  He was right.  In spite of it all, we laugh an awful lot in our little flat in the far north, and our love never wanes.  Sem finds pleasure in so many things, and I should take more cues from him.  A familiar and much-loved refrain which I hear often from my love is, “Despite everything I am the happiest I have ever been.”  He means it, and I am so glad.  I’m happy too in a way I never was – and never thought I could be – before Sem and I found each other.

I thought about it a lot during my most recent pity party and I decided that if our life is to be occasionally somewhat comparable to breadcrumbs rather than the whole loaf, then I should make sure they are the tastiest, best, crunchiest of breadcrumbs.  Panko breadcrumbs seem to be a hot item these days; I made devilled green beans using panko mixed with melted butter last week and it was delicious.  Panko and spices turned potentially bland baked chicken breasts into a crispy, spicy delight the other night.  Seasoning breadcrumbs sure goes a long way!  I have a friend (hi, Paula!) whose mother (hi, Carol!) used to make Ranch croutons that were so good you’d want to chuck the salad and eat the croutons on their own.  Maybe she still makes them – I hope so.  Those humble bits of bread were elevated to tasty crunchy bites of heaven, in her kitchen.

If you will indulge me in stretching this metaphor a little bit farther, I was just struck by the notion that there are a lot of delicious cakes for which cookie crumbs are used as a base.  Key lime pie and cheesecake, two of my all-time favorite desserts, use crushed-up cookies to support the rest of the tasty goodness.  The best part of my mother’s ‘Apfel Streusel Kuchen’ is the topping – “crumbs” which are made simply of butter, sugar and flour, mixed together and crumbled across the cake (streusel = crumble).  When my sister and I were little my mother would always be sure to “miss” a few times as she scattered the topping, letting small pieces fall as if by accident onto the countertop next to the baking dish.  “Oops,” she would say, “dropped some more!”  Little hands were quick to grab the sweetcrunchybuttery mixture which melted deliciously in our happy mouths.  I used to wish that just once she would forget the base and the apples and make one glorious cake entirely out of that top layer instead!  Now isn’t that a thought, for how I can view the “breadcrumb” life?

So crumbs, then, of the bread or cookie or cake variety, are things that add flavor, texture and crunch to the things we enjoy.  If I don’t have the whole loaf (or the whole cookie), is it really so bad?  I have decided that no, it is not.  In reality I think there are very few people who get to have the whole loaf; we all have our struggles and difficulties, our unfulfilled dreams and wishes that won’t come true, and that, I suppose, is just life.

What I need to remember is to focus on the many wonderful things that give our life taste, joy and that little bit of crunch.  Fortunately, most of the time I really am able to do that, which is good because it’s no fun going around as Deb the Disgruntled –  for me, or for Sem.  But when I have my occasional wobbles, I think my path forward is clear.  I shall think of spicy, crispy croutons or my favorite pies.  The crumb, be it ever so humble, is also something for which I can – and should – be thankful!

Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on anewscafe.com. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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40 Responses

  1. Mary Speigle says:

    As usual, you’ve given readers food for thought accompanied by lovely scenes of Sem’s homeland. Thank you for reminding us of the important things in life.

  2. Matthew Grigsby says:

    One of my favorite things about you Deb is how true you are to you. You don’t fool yourself about anything, good or bad, and you face it. Life can really suck sometimes, but then there’s cake and laughter and grass and coos and warm socks. They don’t erase the sucky things but they help. Thanks for that reminder.
    And that photo of the boat in the grass by the stone house? Breathtaking! As are all of your photos.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Matt. I fool myself about a LOT of things (one more slice of pizza/bite of brownie/piece of cheese won’t hurt) but I do try to be self-aware as much as anyone can be. A sense of humor and lovely friends like you help most of all!

      The photo you mentioned is the old ice house at Keiss Harbor. Up top is where the ice was loaded; down below is where the fish was kept. Sem took a photo of the jumble of old stuff that was in there, like some forgotten fisherman’s lair…

  3. Seeking and savoring the joy seems to be the secret to happiness — thank you for a delicious, heart-warming read.

    • Deb says:

      It does! It’s definitely something I have to try to remember because it’s not my natural way of thinking. Practice makes perfect, right? I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  4. Beverly Stafford says:

    Such a thought-provoking, wake-up piece you’ve written. I believe the following is attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You’re about as happy as you make up your mind to be.” Sometimes it’s tough to make our minds head in that direction, but overall, it works (I tell myself as I’m raging at the computer for once again requiring the services of Phil Stone). Thanks, as always, for your beautiful writing and lovely photos.

    • Deb says:

      It is often so much easier to be down than up, I don’t know why. I am incapable of being a ‘Pollyanna’ but it is worth reminding myself to be aware of – and glad for – the little things! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and photos 🙂

      Good luck with your computer!

  5. Elsie Doerner says:

    So beautiful, always enjoy reading about the peaceful life you live!!!

  6. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Just what I needed to start my day. And as always, love the photos, too. Thanks, Deb.

  7. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    A beautiful piece, Deb. Thank you.

  8. Carrie Dokter says:

    As always, you touched a place in my heart!

  9. Joanne Gifford says:

    A wonderful read and gorgeous photos, the boat is my favorite. Thank you.

  10. sue k says:

    The biggest problem with your writing is that it is not often enough!!!!!!!
    Adore your writing and photos. What a wonderful lesson you give. Thank you so much.

  11. Peggy says:

    Chronic illness is a great teacher…comparison is the thief of joy….little things that bring joy are greatly appreciated…..staying in the moment as much as possible is helpful….and gratitude for all the things we can still do and all the things we don’t have wrong with us…I love the bread crumbs are still bread idea. You write beautifully and like Matt said, so honest and true! Thank You!

  12. Eleanor says:

    A beautifully woven tapestry, Deb. Everything you say rings true (is true.) Thank your the gift of these words and pictures this morning!

  13. shelly shively says:

    At face value, it’s hard to imagine that an article about “crumbs”, could move a person to tears, but so it has.
    Thank-you for sharing your story and insight, Deb, in this eloquent and heartfelt piece: the quest for finding meaning, is often found in the least likely places.
    My heart goes to you and your beloved in the Life that is beautifully yours.

    .

    • Deb says:

      You’re welcome, Shelly, I am glad you enjoyed it (sorry about the tears, though!). Thank you for telling me, and for your kind thoughts.

  14. Lynn says:

    A lovely lesson wrapped up in this story and my fav pic is also the stone house an DL old boat. So happy you have found this incredible way to share your talent with the Highlands and those of us elsewhere in the world who are lucky enough to know you!

  15. Ann Webber says:

    You certainly struck a note for me! My mother was ill most of my life. She was bedridden for the last 9 years and she shared a home with me and my kids. She was the most cheerful, positive and helpful woman I have yet to meet. She savored every breadcrumb! And taught my daughters about dignity.

  16. Adrienne says:

    Oh Deb, I do so love your writing . In this piece however , the message was even more beautiful (and pertinent) than the writing itself …. And that is saying something! Thank you!!!

  17. Ginny says:

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful moving and thoughtful insight into your life. Tending to know the future is not enjoyable, but you facing it and the way that you do make it a little easier. Having faced that future, I know it isn’t easy, yet you are doing so well. It makes living life to the fullest is wonderful. Don’t ever stop writing from your beloved new home in Scotland, no matter what the future brings you.

    God bless you and Sem……

  18. Joyce says:

    Thanks for your insight, I am taking care of my husband of 56 years, and thru it all we do laugh, talk and still love each other.. I see the changes in the body, but that is fine, he is still the young man married… he is 80.. with each thing that happens, we grow together…
    Thanks

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience with me, Joyce. My husband wasn’t young when we got married (and I was probably out of spring-chicken range myself!), but I married the man he is on the inside. Though we didn’t have a lot of ‘healthy’ time together, there have been no regrets. I’m glad you have had so many years with your husband, and I wish you both all the best. It sounds like you are a great team.

  19. Pam says:

    So enjoyed reading this by the fireplace this morning. It is wonderful that you reach across the sea and touch our hearts in such a vulnerable way. It is so enjoyable also to read the comments of those in my community. Don’t know if you have ever read the Sun magazine. I believe that your articles would fit very beautifully into that literary publication. It is writing that touches the heart and mind in very meaningful ways. Thank you Deb

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Pam – thank you for telling me. It is a delight to be able to reach so many people, and to share so much. I haven’t read the Sun, but will have to look out for it.

  20. acelightning says:

    With Thanksgiving so close, I immediately thought of turkey stuffing, which is also basically bread crumbs and various bits of this and that. And, of course, about being thankful. This whole post is just brimming over with thankful, and I’m very, very glad to read about it.

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