Monday, June 29, 2015

What To Do with All That Zucchini

     All this bounty of the season has us eating our vegetables! The curse of the zucchini is upon us and we've been turning them into delicious meals. One of my favorite recipes comes from my grandmother's Italian kitchen and the other recipe is from a neighbor way back in our New York days. If you like Ratatouille, then you will like the Stewed Zucchini recipe. It's a bit simpler than Ratatouille, very quick to make, and generously flavored with Italian herbs. My mother and grandmother would break two eggs and scramble them up into the pot at the very end. As a child, the egg bits troubled me and I haven't gotten over that, so I leave those out. The other recipe for Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie was shared by a neighbor who grew a huge garden and loved to cook. This is the part of sharing recipes that I like, you will always think of that person when you make their recipe. At least I do. This on uses refrigerated crescent dough for the crust, at which the editors of Bon Apetit would probably shudder. But I like the texture and saltiness of this crust, so I never substitute for it.

                                               Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie

4 c. zucchini, thinly sliced
1 c. onion, chopped
½ c. butter or margarine
½ c. parsley, chopped or 2 Tbl. parsley flakes
½ tea. salt
½ tea. pepper
¼ tea. garlic powder
¼ tea. basil
¼ tea. oregano
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. (8 oz.) mozzarella, shredded or Muenster, shredded
1 pkg. crescent rolls
2 tea. mustard

 In hot butter, cook and stir zucchini and onion for 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano. Combine beaten eggs and mozzarella. Stir into zucchini mixture.
Separate 8 oz. can crescent rolls into 8 triangles. Place in ungreased 9” pie pan; press over bottom and up sides to form crust. Spread crust with 2 teaspoons mustard. Pour vegetable mixture onto crust.
Bake in 375 F. oven for 18-20 minutes or until center is set. (Cover crust with foil during last 10 minutes of baking.) Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Stewed Zucchini 

1 large zucchini, cubed (1”thick slices, quartered)
½ large onion, chopped
¼ c. celery leaves, chopped
1 large (32 oz.) can plum tomatoes (or 3 large, fresh tomatoes, peeled, quartered and liquid squeezed off)
Salt, pepper and basil to taste
2 eggs, if desired
Parmesan for topping
Crusty bread for serving.

Pour olive oil in pan to thinly cover bottom. Add onions for 1-2 minutes, then add all other ingredients. Cover and simmer just until zucchini is done, about 20- 30 minutes.
Grandmother would whisk eggs and pour into simmering liquid and cook until eggs were set.

Broken and Glued Back Together Again... Only Stronger

     It was a joy to go back to church today after not attending for the past few weeks. Love is there. In our sermon from Exodus 3, Moses asks God what should he tell the Israelites His name is. God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." "This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" This is one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament. I could sit and ponder God's name for Himself and what it means for hours! Pastor Stephen went into much more detail about the Hebrew translation and the history there, which is fascinating in itself.
     We sang a new song which was beautiful. The sound of everyone's voices singing in unison makes me think of what Heaven will sound like, only multiplied times billions : )

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Well, HELLO there! 
We've been waiting all year for this day!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Future Grace

    So, here I am struggling big time with negative thoughts on what the future has in store. I cannot see past today and if I imagine the days and weeks ahead and the limitations confronting me in caring for my mom, I can't see the good ending. Yesterday was hard only because my thoughts made it so. My mind was wandering to a bad place full of negativity, selfishness and self-loathing for the pity party I was throwing myself. So, this morning I emailed a friend and asked her to recommend some good, daily devotionals for me to read. It needed to be something quick and easy since I no longer have the luxury of spending hours hunting and rabbit-trailing for good things to read. Her quick response was an email full of links : ) 
     Here are some excerpts from one link in particular, written by John Piper. It was so tailored to the struggle I was experiencing that I could only bow my head in thankful prayer after reading them and allowing them to sink in.

God is honored when we are humbled for our feebleness and failure, and when he is trusted for future grace (Romans 4:20). So unless we learn how to live by faith in future grace, we may perform remarkable religious rigors, but not for God’s glory.

He is glorified when the power to be holy comes from humble faith in future grace.

Martin Luther said, “[Faith] honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard, since it considers him truthful and trustworthy.” The trusted Giver gets the glory.

My great desire is that we learn how to live for God’s honor. And that means living by faith in future grace, which, in turn, means battling unbelief in all the ways it rears its head.

     My attitude was greatly improved and I began to feel like I could just possibly do this very hard thing set before me. The battle within me was one of unbelief. I was not believing God would provide the grace I needed for the future. The future I saw from my feeble perspective was dim and foreboding. Hope is a miracle worker and the truth in Piper's delivery of God's word filled me with hope and understanding.  My day ended up feeling like it was filled with abundance. I took my mom out of the house for the first time in a week. We ran mundane errands in the awful heat, but it was still good. One of our errands was to pick up our fruit share from the Good Food Good People. When we got home, neighbor William walked over and presented us with two bags full of produce, including peaches! Combined with our own garden's output of zucchini and banana peppers, our bushel basket overfloweth. He also told me the three trees I ordered were in and the weekend looks good for planting. Abundance!
     I added one additional little gem in this photo that's obviously not produce. It's the straw wine from the vineyard Simon works for in Quebec. This sweet delicacy is my evening delight to drink out on the porch. It follows the theme of being grown and harvested by someone I know : ) Everything else in the photo is locally grown within a ninety mile radius of us here in Virginia!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mom, as she looked around the house: "Everything is white."
Me: "That's because you're in Heaven."

How Does the Garden Grow?

     I was thrilled to spend and evening and morning in the garden these past two days. It became so overgrown in the short time we were away! I rode the mower over every inch of grass, reacquainting myself with the property and reclaiming it as mine. Not willing to call it quits, I mowed around the horse shed and our bonfire area, too. The next morning, I climbed back on that trusty steed and mowed up on the hill and then hitched up the garden cart and toted that around, gathering up debris and clippings. Mom watched from the porch and laughed as I went bouncing by. It's muggy these days and the gnats are troublesome. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute I spent outside. I noted earlier this season that it was a particularly good year for roses. I don't grow any roses myself, but I noticed other people's roses were spectacular. It was a so-so year for daffodils, but then again, it looks like a great year for hydrangeas and trumpet vine. I picked a vase full of hydrangeas last night and they are so cheery to see in the dining area. The trumpet vine is both a curse and a blessing. Anyone who grows one will know how invasive they are. I am constantly trimming it back and pulling shoots out of the patio beds. On the plus side, it provides a ton of shade and entertains us with all the hummingbirds attracted to the huge, trumpet shaped blooms. I snapped a couple of photos for my gardening archives. I like to look back at the photos and see how the garden grows from one year to the next.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

She's Old But I'm Petrified.

     We arrived home with mom yesterday evening. We spent the previous week sorting through her home, deciding what to bring and what to leave behind. The scope of what we accomplished and the magnitude of what lies before us is overwhelming. I had the most disconcerting feeling when we returned home last night. I looked around my house and it looked completely different to me. Nothing inside my house had changed, but my perspective had changed. It was akin to that feeling I had when I returned home with our first new baby. I remember my home (and the whole world) looked different to me that day solely because of the responsibility I was carrying. I knew that my life would never be the same again because I would share my home, my sink, my table, my everything, with a new person. It had altered the way I viewed my world. Bringing mom home is that same feeling.
     Although I had thought about the prospect of bringing mom to live with us for years now, it actually happened very quickly. Two weeks ago we had a different plan in place and suddenly it all changed. It's a good thing I had pondered this scenario before because it helped put things into swift action once we found ourselves in a time crunch to get it all done. But what I didn't foresee was the inner panic I feel. This caught me off guard. I am numb and almost paralyzed with where to turn next. I think I'm in shock and my inner self is screaming, "What have I done?!" It had always been about getting mom here, never about what to do once she was actually here! What do I do with her now? Haha! The biggest challenge that I need to face is that I need to slow myself down by about 850%. A ninety-three year old's movements......and speech....are very......very.....slow. For example; in the time it takes mom to put on her socks, I will wash the breakfast dishes, throw in a load of laundry, check my email, and take the dog out to do his business. I kid you not.
     So far this is what I know: she smiles at seeing Henri-the-Schnoodle but does not want him on her lap, she heartily eats everything I prepare for her, she sleeps all night plus takes three to four naps a day, she has an obsession with taking her prescriptions and carries the bottles from room to room so she won't forget to take them, she sits by the phone waiting for my sister to call, she misses her home a lot, sometimes she gets mad at her walker and pushes it aside, she loves Tess to play the piano for her, and she can't wait for her newest great grandbaby to visit.
     When my mind fills with doubt about my ability to do this, I only need to recall seeing her telephone when I arrived at her house last week. This horrible vision is forever burned into my mind. I apologize for the graphic image. I want to make the point that we should never forget the suffering of the elderly and the silence that often encompasses that suffering.

I'm not sure which appalls me more, the fact that there is blood on the phone signaling her call for help, or that her only caregiver never cleaned it off, two weeks after the incident.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Full of Clich├ęs

     I understand the term, "butterflies in my stomach" all too well this week. I would add, "knots in my stomach" to those butterflies. As we approach the day to go and pack up my mom's things and bring her home with us, I am panicking inside. It's reflected in my erratic behavior of trying to do twenty gazzilion things at one time. Just like a "chicken with it's head cut off". Last night you would find me doing multiple loads of laundry, packing to travel, moving and reorganizing two bathrooms, cooking dinner, bookkeeping work, and grooming the dog. I think Steve finally thought I was crazy when I started grooming the dog at 7:30 PM. I know myself very well and this behavior is my response to stress. I get obsessively compulsive about cleaning and putting things in order. It's my feeble attempt at organizing and controlling that which I cannot control in a messy, nonsensical world.
     Anyway, friends have been calling and emailing and supporting us as we walk into the big unknown. We appreciate the support and care, and also the advice from those who are caring for the elderly. And now, here we have it! I'm still a bit confused because my new closet is on the first floor, but my bedroom, dresser and bathroom are now on the second floor. On the plus side, the master bedroom suite is emptied of everything but the white, ball-fringe curtains I hung for mom (because I know she will like them). I wonder whether the bed will be comfortable and I imagine where each of her belongings will be nicely placed. I've left her a closet the size of a small nursery and walls ready for hanging her pictures. I just need to clean the bathroom one more time because I groomed the dog in there last night. : )
     I'll end this post with a song from Tess' recital that is still running through my head. She performed six pieces, but this is the one I'll forever associate with this past year. No matter what lies ahead, I know that God has this. His plan is not evident to me, but I will take one day at a time and play my one small note in the wonderful unfolding of whatever it is He has composed.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Beautiful Weekend

     I'm coming down from a great, hectic, wonderful weekend. Tess' graduation and senior recital brought everyone into town. We packed all the love we could manage to squeeze into forty-eight hours. Chelsea and Simon drove from Canada/New York, totally wrecked their car on a deer on their way here and still made it! Claire and Daniel packed their family into the car for the second time in two weeks and drove here again because they wouldn't miss it. (Claire also played a duet with Tess.) Audrey and Jared stayed well into the night around our bonfire and returned again the next day, all to honor and support their youngest sister. It was a beautiful thing and I could not be happier to have these memories to treasure. From Simon chasing Mari around the yard with a bag full of water, to Jack stripping down to his birthday suit to go in the wading pool., to a quick pizza before trotting off to hear Tess bless us with her music, to all the friends who came to show their support. I am overwhelmed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Chapter in Which Mom Comes to Live With Us

     I don't know where to begin telling about this. In a nutshell, Mom needs assistance. Out of pure stubbornness, she has managed to stay in her home until the age of ninety-three. But something has finally changed and she is giving in to weariness. The signs have been evident; she falls a lot, skips meals or eats cereal for dinner... a lot, and takes the wrong pills. My formidable mother has finally called, "Uncle".
     We have plenty of room in our home and in our hearts for Mom to live here. I've been asking her to come for the past six years, ever since my older sister died. My younger sister lives near Mom, but she is not in a position to take over this level of care. The fact that I live six hundred miles away is an issue for Mom and Sister and I understand that. As we come down to the time to move Mom, emotions are running high, on everyone's part. But, I figured somebody's got to steer this ship and it might as well be me.
     Optimist that I am, I imagine the wonderful life we will give Mom in her final years (months,days, who knows?) I will sort her pills, do her laundry, corral her great grandchildren around her chair for kisses, cook Tapioca pudding for her, take her to doctor appointments, play my dad's old big band records for her, and be as gentle and patient as I can be. However, I am also a realist when it comes to reading the signs as to how this actually might play out. I will have to coax her out of her sorrow, the sorrow of leaving her home of sixty-three years, the sorrow of taking her away from my father's and sister's graves, the sorrow of leaving her youngest daughter behind in New York, and the sorrow of not being allowed to spend her final days in her home.
     The irony of this whole situation has not escaped my attention. Of her three daughters, I was the one who was always trying to run away from her. As a toddler, I wandered off on purpose with a desire to explore that was so strong it still quickens my heart. As a young child, I frequently ran off to nearby fields and woods, believing it was worth the price I'd pay from the Wrath of Mom when I finally made my way home later in the day. As a teenager, I ran away from home and rebelled to the fullest until I finally moved out when I turned eighteen. It wasn't until I married and had children of my own that I realized what Mom was all about. Controlling, overbearing and anxious were her love languages for me. She was a great mom, but we went together like oil and water. God now gives me a chance to return all the love she tried to give me but for which I was too immature to accept. I get to make up for all my, "I hate you's!" with gentle, merciful, unconditional, "I love you's." We began this process years ago, but now we will face the ultimate test. I will become the mother and she, the child. God, give me the grace to do this.