Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Today I am grateful for peanut clusters. My mom turned 90 in October and I remember making these with her when I was a kid. She’d put the chocolate in a double boiler and I have to stir and stir so it didn’t scorch while melting.
“Don’t let any water bubble into it or the chocolate won’t set. Use only plain peanuts, no salt or they turn funny,” she said. “And never, ever freeze them! That’s why they get those unsightly white spots.” The voice of mom, from back in the day.
She can’t do stuff like this anymore, since macular degeneration stole her sight and aging stole her energy. Old age is a thief in the night. The doctor keeps telling her she could drop a few pounds. (Who can’t?) And my sister and I worry about her lousy diet. She eats banana bread for supper and has a cup of coffee and two cigarettes for breakfast. She has a huge cow “cookie” jar that holds her stash of Mr. Goodbars. Lunch!
She used to go to movies, but can’t see them anymore. She used to love TV, but can only watch talking heads because nothing else stays in focus. She can still read but very slowly and with great difficulty and the skill is fading fast. She used to drive over to Walmart and putter around “shopping” for nothing. . . and everything. She used to live in Arizona surrounded by like-minded friends. She used to volunteered for every clubhouse event. Her excellent pies never made it out of the kitchen because they were glommed by the kitchen staff before they got to the serving table. She can’t do any of those things anymore and it is causing her to feel useless. What a horrible feeling.
So, I’m putting together a care package of my homemade Chex mix, almond clusters, almond clusters with coconut, peanut clusters and roasted pecans to send to her. When I told her about it she said, “YUM!” Does it mean I don’t care about her health? Nope! It means I care about her happiness. She’s 90! If you can’t eat peanut clusters at 90. . .then when?
Monday, December 05, 2016
Today I am grateful for new kitchen appliances. I just wish I knew how to run them. I have never in my life had all new appliances. . .and I’m getting up there. It feels weird. I’m not quite friends with them, yet.
The bottom stove drawer seems flimsy. The drawers in the fridge don’t open all the way because the door hits the dishwasher handle. Geeze. I had to cut the head of cabbage in half, which certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but goes to show that nothing is perfect.
Himself soloed with the dishwasher the other day. I told him what to push, he did it, and “the thing lit up like the control panel on a 747!” he said. Then it wouldn’t start. Or he couldn’t hear it start. I’m not sure which. So he stopped it and started it again. He still couldn’t hear it, but I could. “As long as the dishes are clean I guess I don’t have to hear it happening,” he announced.
So the washer flips the clothes and beeps and groans; the dryer buzzer is so loud that I jumped out of my skin (yes, it is turned down now); the dish washer lights up like Christmas; the fridge seems too small or just too different and the drawers don’t open the but the water/ice is great!; the microwave beeps a billion times when your food is done; the stove. . .well, the drawer is flimsy, but so far I am loving the stove.
Actually I will probably love all of them eventually. . .when I figure out how to drive them. Maybe I should check out the manuals. Hahahahahaha. . .as if!
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Today I am grateful for deviled eggs. I never brought deviled eggs to picnics, barbecues or dinners with friends. Ever. Because my friend Sony always did, arranging them neatly on a beautiful cut glass plate. Sony wasn’t much of a cook, but she rocked deviled eggs.
And she loved to eat. But instead of groceries, her cabinets were full of takeout menus. If they delivered, all the better. Her fridge was filled with condiments and leftover doggie bags in various Styrofoam and plastic dishes, perched precariously next to open cans of cat food.
When Alzheimer’s set in we worried she would mistake one for the other and give the cats the leftover steak and eat the Fancy Feast herself. A single woman with no children and only one brother in California, with his own medical issues, Sony became our family- of-choice. We tended to her. We protected her. We worried over her. We argued with her. We laughed with her.
It is not easy to tell a dear friend that she is slipping; that she cannot go to her mailbox wearing only a long shirt, tucked in pantyhose and no shoes, in winter; or that driving becomes hazardous when you don’t know how to get home; or that ordering three hoagies, two cheese steaks, a large pizza and three liters of coke classic (the real coke, not diet) for dinner is not normal.
Still whenever a picnic, barbecue or dinner was planned, Sony brought “her” deviled eggs. Until she couldn’t. Until she had to quit teaching, quit driving, quit living in her house and we had to sell all of her earthly possessions for her care in the nursing home.
Except a few. I kept her cut glass deviled egg plate. It leans on the back wall of my china hutch, waiting for me to load it up with Sony’s favorites. . .and remember her. I’d like to think she knows. And laughs.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Today I am grateful for the reason for the season. My nativity display always causes a bit of a stir when people see it for the first time.
To start with I don’t have it under the tree, or on a buffet, sitting on a nice cloth. I have it perched on top of a huge piece of Indonesian pottery in the corner of my dining room. The pieces are set in sand that I’ve poured into a gigantic paella pan that I picked up in Mexico. All of the characters are black, which is probably what they would have been back in the day, in that part of the world. It gives people pause.
But that’s not why I bought it. I bought it when my mixed-race granddaughter was born. I didn’t want her coming to our “white bread” house and thinking I didn’t recognize or celebrate the “black side” of her family. I have put it out every year for seventeen years. And I’ll continue to put it out, not just because of the granddaughter anymore, but because I need to remember how alike we all are, even though we have some obvious differences.
I choose to celebrate the sameness, the things that connect us as a human race. I choose kindness over meanness. I choose love over hate. I choose joy over fear. And I want my house to reflect that as much as my heart does. For me, that is the reason for the season.
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Today I am grateful for preparation. If you want to entertain, the most important advice I can give you is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time and use your time wisely. Also, don’t purchase an entire set of kitchen appliances and have them delivered the day before, like we did. Hahahahaha!
Never mind. Himself and I put in a twelve hour day today what with having to be up by 7 a.m. and ready to receive deliveries by 8. I got a call that they might not get here until 1 and also that they would call me 40 minutes before they got here, which would give me plenty of time to unload the fridge and freezer.
Yeah, in a perfect world. At 8:30 two great guys were at our door to install the dishwasher and microwave. Dunce that I am I didn’t realize the cabinet above it had to be emptied. Whoopee. Then, of course, cleaned and put back. Double whoop.
After we were done with that project and already exhausted, I sat to read the paper. At 10 a.m. the guy called and said their E.T.A. with the fridge and stove was 10:07. Seven minutes to empty the beast. Oh boy. Got ‘er done, but they had to walk around us as we did it. These guys are fast!
And then we were left with it. . .the carnage. Filling the fridge, freezer, cleaning up from all of the decorating and readying the house for my Holiday Tea Party tomorrow. Thankfully I took my mom’s advice from a billion years ago and the table was already set (and covered) yesterday. See. . .preparation!
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Today I am grateful the decorating is done. D-O-N-E! Whew! I said to Himself, “I don’t know why I’m so exhausted.” Being a great observer of the obvious he said, “Look around!” Good point.
Since I twisted my knee he’s refusing to let me climb on the ladder so I had to direct him as he decorated the kitchen window. Oh my. We’re still married. Go figure. No one even rose their voice. (Me) But that project is delicate and requires a gentle touch and a keen eye. (Yeah, I know, mine is a little lacking in those areas, too.) When I handed him the carefully unfolded fake snow sheet, with it draped lightly over the tops of my hands, I couldn’t get the words, “be careful and gentle because this stuff. . .” out before he grabbed it and it disintegrated in his hands. “What the hell?” he shouted, as pieces of fluff flew around the room like a seedy dandelion in a wind storm.
Yup it was a lot of fun. Probably took longer than the tree to finish. But ultimately he did a great job and I love it. Tomorrow, when the new appliances are installed, I’m going to love it twice as much. But mostly I’m glad we are done decorating!
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Today I am grateful for the movie, “Race”. It is the story of Olympic Gold Medalist, Jesse Owens and it’s brilliant. Himself and I watched it tonight instead of the news. As a former diversity trainer and human being, it continues to amaze me how dreadful racism is; how far we’ve come; how far we haven’t come; and how easily we could slip back to a very grim place in time.
This movie tells a story beautifully and honestly. I challenge future filmmakers, artists, poets, writers to plunge forward and create, create, create. . . even if your works are laced with some despair, please try to offer some positive heartfelt messages of hope.
We need you now, (especially me) more than ever. And we certainly need a flood of good to drown out the evil that I feel in my bones. Go! Paint! Write a screenplay, a poem, a story. Sing, loudly and often. And whatever you do, don’t forget to dance!