Thursday, July 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday

This grainy photo is horrible, but I tried doing all the correcting methods to no avail. I found it the other day while looking for something else. It brought back some good memories. Actually it was only a few years ago, but my life before and after disability seems worlds apart! This was my son and I on a fun night at the school where I was principal.

When I arrived there, I held fast to the traditions already in place. One of them was the Father Daughter Social, which was a lovely affair. It encompassed all the girls, from Pre K 3 to eighth grade. The Knights of Columbus hall was rented, a DJ was hired, and the mothers made delicious food for the buffet. It was always held near Valentine’s Day, so there was much pink and tulle around. The dads got dressed in suits and ties, and the girls were attired in their best finery. Some of them even wore little gowns (possibly left from a flower girl gig!) Many fathers bought their little girls corsages, and there was a photo area available. The ‘couples’ danced to the music, and ate all the specialty foods.  My husband and I attended, and I just loved it.

It got me thinking, though. What about all the moms? And what about all the boys – big and little? The week after, I sat with my secretary and two teachers who were mothers of sons. I asked them if they didn’t feel a little left out, and they confessed they did. As a mother of two boys myself, I understood their feelings. I needed to find a way to celebrate them as well. Thus began the planning for a Mother Son Fun Night.

I know the boys would never enjoy dressing up or attending a dance, and we needed something to encompass the wide array of ages. Basketball or other sports might appeal to the upper grades, but the little guys wouldn’t like it, and most of the moms wouldn’t have fun with it.  And while we had tons of technology available to us, I decided to keep the night ‘unplugged!’ Together with some teachers and parents, we came up with a game plan – literally.

The cafeteria was set up as gaming stations. In one section, we set up tables with Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, youngish card games, jigsaws, and tabletop games. In another area, we had older kids’ board games. There were more advanced games in still another section – Trivial Pursuit, Chess, Scrabble, etc. In the center area were tables laden with food. Hot dishes like pizza and hot dogs, and tons of snack food. We had sodas, juices, and even milk shakes – all the junk food boys love.

My son was kind enough to escort me, even though he was a big high school kid. He played with the younger ones during Candyland specials, and he challenged the older ones to brainier contests. It was noisy, but the room was filled with laughter. At the end of the evening, the moms and the boys were delighted with their special event. Thus was the origin of the Mother Son Fun Night. Each year got better as new ideas came into play, but it remained a great time for moms and their little boys to enjoy each other. Too bad it had to end.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Fun in the Kitchen

Last week, I spent lots of time creating things to eat, but now I’m planning still more. I had wanted a nice seafood dinner for last Friday, but as I mentioned, my husband had to drive to DE to pick up our little guy. That delay kept me from making the meal I had in mind. I was going to make pistachio crusted, sautéed in basil butter, scallops and shrimp with wild rice. My husband shopped for all the ingredients that morning, but the shore traffic delayed his return, and I didn’t have the time to make the dish. So I simply dipped the seafood in a lemon/lime/red pepper dip and grilled them. We had salads with ours, but my sister just ate the seafood and rice. Now, I’m planning a nice summer meal for tomorrow night.

My two boys are planning to be here, and the one may bring his girlfriend. However, they’ve been so busy with work, that I know they may have to back out. So I try to make something that won’t be wasted. I decided on a fancy chicken salad platter. I’m slow cooking several chicken breasts right now, and I’ll refrigerate them later. Tomorrow, once I know how many will be here, I’ll add the extras. My husband can chop up the chicken according to the number, and I can freeze any we won’t use. To the chicken, I’ll add finely diced celery and mayo. Then I’ll chop up Romaine lettuce and line a flat bowl with it. I’ll drizzle a little homemade vinaigrette over it, and then mound the chicken salad on top. To that I’ll add some finely sliced apples and halved grapes around the chicken. On top, I’ll sprinkle some candied pecans. In a serving bowl, I’ll have small grape tomatoes and sliced carrots (my one boy doesn’t like them.)

I’ve served this before when I’ve had friends for lunch, and it looks and tastes yummy. I know boys aren’t that interested in how things are presented, but I do believe it encourages good appetites. I’ll get some artisanal whole grain bread and some quick bread, so if they want, they can make sammies. When the weather is hot, I think people enjoy this type of meal over something roasted or cooked on the stove. I thought of having some corn on the cob, but I may just stay with the salads.

My son’s girlfriend is borderline diabetic, so a big dessert won’t work. I’ll get some summer fruits – cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, peaches, plums, and cherries. These will get chopped and mixed, and I’ll serve them in sundae dishes with a light topping. I have the orange sherbet, too, but it’s a bit sweet. I think fruits will be better.

So, now I have a light and cool dinner planned, and I hope the guys can make it tomorrow. If not, my husband and I will still enjoy it!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeking Joy -- A Continuing Journey

“The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy.”  Eudora Welty

Often when I get busy – as I was last week – I long for the days when I could zip around freely and get things finished quickly. When I’m hampered by my wonky legs, feet, and hands, I get frustrated. That frustration leads me to dark places inside me. I know if I allow myself to dwell on my losses, I’ll sink deep into depression.

Now, I know that depression can be a side issue with MS, and I’m also aware that scientists view the big D as a medical condition, exhibiting itself in psychological manifestations. But I’ve been there before, even prior to my diagnosis, and I see it as mind over matter. That’s for me, though, everyone is different. The first time I got gob smacked was when I was working for one of my newspaper jobs. I had been promoted to supervisor status, and others hated me for it. People with whom I had worked turned on me, creating a horrible work environment. I ended up in such a funk that I could hardly function. My husband took me to a doctor, and I poured out my story. This woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, began to draw out my inner strength. She showed me I was worthwhile (think A Wonderful Life,) and I was able to return to work, feeling more joyous. I resigned the supervisory position, and I worked quietly by myself. I learned several coping mechanisms, and I swore I’d never get that way again.

Fast forward a few years, and I again went through another blow to my self-esteem, and I was right back in the black hole, sinking farther with each day. This time it involved my church, and the fact that several frenemies set me up for failure. I was depressed and anxious, and I didn’t want to do anything about it. Then, I remembered the doctor who taught me how to pull myself up, without medication. Within a week, I escaped the darkness, and I looked toward the light.

Now, when I feel myself starting to edge toward the quicksand, I quickly veer in another direction. If I start to throw myself a pity party, I try to escape and do things that don’t focus on me. I understand that there’s much that could depress me – I live with a chronic progressive disease and I’ll never get well. I can no longer walk normally and I need to rely on assistive devices to get around. I no longer work, and I’ll never be employed again. I’ve lost the use of my dominant hand, so I can no longer write, letter, draw, paint, sculpt, do needlework, or eat with my right hand. I don’t travel because it takes too many accommodations to get me around. I’m always in search of the nearest rest room because my bladder is unreliable. Just putting all that into words could depress me. So, what can I do?

For me, it’s being consciously aware that many good things exist in my life. My family and friends surround me with love, help, and support. I’ve learned to do many things with my left hand. I can still walk for brief intervals and short distances. I make choices daily – wallow in the morass or look toward the light. I always choose the latter because I know where the other path leads. Does anyone else fight off the depression that lurks? What are your methods? I’d be interested to hear how others cope.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Back From the Whirlwind!

I’ve always heard the expression, “We plan; God laughs!” Well, I think God is in hysterics in heaven after most of my planning was drastically altered! Thursday was fine, mostly. My sister arrived when she said, and we had time for a little chatting. I had alerted my boys about her visit in case they wanted to bow out of our regular Thursday dinner. (Trust me, with the way she’s treated them in the past, I wouldn’t blame them!) However, they both came, and they were as nice and polite as possible. The first glitch occurred when my husband realized he had forgotten to put the carrots in the slow cooker when I asked him. I quickly prepared them, put some of the juices from the pot into a bowl with the carrots, and nuked them. Then I just threw them back into the pot, and all was well. After the boys left, we had a quiet uneventful evening.

I had told my sister we needed to babysit the two little guys on Saturday night because the mommy and daddy were going to an evening event at the zoo for adults. The parental unit would stay at a hotel in Philly, and we’d take the kiddies to church and lunch with Grandmom at the home. My sister was excited to see them. Then, the plans began to unravel. After we visited my mother on Friday afternoon, our daughter called in a panic. The littler guy was having trouble breathing, the daddy was already at his hospital working, and the pediatrician wanted her to take the child to A I Dupont – Nemours, where they had done his surgery on Monday. My husband said he’d meet her at the ER (a halfway point between the two homes) and bring the older one to stay with us. It turned out that the baby had a respiratory virus with no signs of pneumonia. The older one was thrilled with his unexpected visit, and he had dinner and played with us. After a DVD (Planes I), he went to bed easily. My daughter called to say they would cancel their Saturday night reservations, and she would come up to get the big brother on Saturday afternoon. He’s an early riser, and he’s in full swing after breakfast, wanting to do ‘pwojects.’ We cut, glued, pasted, hot glued, painted, beaded, and whipped cream in the mixer – all before 10:00 A.M.!!! Then my daughter called to say the baby was great, and the original plans were back on. They would arrive in an hour and take the boys for the afternoon, and then return to begin their evening.

Well, that unraveled quickly! They weren’t here, and the older one was hungry. He was also ready for a nap, which the parents had planned for the car ride. I decided to just make him lunch, and they could work around it. Now, when this little guy gets tired, he can be an imp. As I was cooking his grilled cheese, he told my sister he was going to the potty. Next, he locked the door and closed it from the outside. My sister went ballistic, put him in a time out, and he started sobbing. I finished making his lunch, got him seated, and watched as my sister tried to unlock the door (we lost the key years ago!!) In the end, we got the little guy down for a nap, and I called my husband to come home from the store and fix the lock. My daughter called to say that they were in a horrible traffic jam and were still quite far from arriving. I told her to take her time and the boy was napping. My husband fixed the door and went back to work.

The parents arrived while the nap was still in progress, and afterwards, they just took the kiddies to a nearby playground. Then, my husband came home with dinner in hand – pizza for the boys and me, and cheese steaks for him and my sister. The parents left for their event, and we ate quietly. After dinner, we took the boys out for ice cream, and then put them down for bed. We were back to plan A, when my daughter and her husband arrived early on Sunday, and said they decided to just head home. So, church and my mother visit were much quieter. My sister left at 3:00 P.M., and my husband and I just had a light dinner, and I had an early bedtime.

Now, we’re back to normal – for now. I’m none the worse for wear, and I’m ready for the next onslaught.  Think I may forgo any planning, though.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fragments on Thursday

Sorry about the lack of alliteration, but I won’t be on here tomorrow. My sister arrives in a little while, and I’ll try to spend my time with her instead of being plugged into my technology.

The Visit:  Since my sister only comes East twice a year, I try to make the visits special. We always offer to take her places – the shore, PA sites, shopping, etc. – but she never wants to go. She said she just wants to relax, so we let her be. She will visit my mother with us, but it never fails that something will happen while she’s there. My mother will act strangely (usually a sign of impending illness,) or an employee will act up, or any other type of incident that rarely occurs. I’ve stopped trying to smooth things over. After all, I’m the one who’s here on a regular basis, and I really do the best I can. I also try to have nice meals during her stay, but this time it’s rough with the no veggies, fruits, or salads restriction. I have my pot roast in the slow cooker, and I’ll just serve hers without the vegetables. There will be plenty of other things for her to eat, so I’m sure she’ll be all right. Everything is clean and orderly, so I’m ready.

Weather: After our heavy storms the other day, we’ve had two gorgeous days, with more in sight. The sun is shining, but the temps are comfortable and there’s no humidity. It’s the kind of weather I love, and I wish it would last. We didn’t plant a lot this year because of all the yard work. But the smaller gardens in the front are thriving. The vegetable garden at my mother’s home is yielding large crops, too, thanks to the weather patterns. The original idea of that raised garden is that the residents could help to work it. Unfortunately, they’re never given that opportunity, and the aides seem to be snatching all the crops for themselves.

Crazies: Is it just because I no longer drive, or are there more idiots behind the wheel nowadays? As we were driving from my mother’s on Monday, this one driver seemed bound and determines to block access to a lane. We needed to begin an approach to our off ramp, and no amount of signaling would get him to let us in the lane. He just sneered! Then as we drove the little guy home, a car came racing from behind us, passed on the wrong side, and went speeding ahead. He (and it was a guy) began switching lanes and veering in and out and between cars. It was frightening to watch. I sometimes think these dodos have mental issues that only manifest themselves on the road!

Books: I haven’t had a lot of reading time this past week, but I’m ready to begin another Sarah Jio – Goodnight June. It looks like a quick read, and I have another Laura Lippman waiting. I’m thinking about starting a book blog so I can go more in depth with my reporting, but that idea will wait until the Fall.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back on Monday, and hopefully my schedule will be back to normal.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slight Break

Well, I survived!! My daughter and the two little ones came on Sunday, and we played after naps. Dinner was simply pasta with several sides, and sundaes for the little guys’ desserts. Then the little one left with Mommy, and the older one had our full attention. We watched Monsters Inc on DVD, while the little guy had a pretzel snack. Bedtime is a breeze with him – he offers no resistance and falls asleep quickly. On Monday, our adventures began with the making of the icebox cake. He loves when the stand mixer makes the table shake on high speed. He also likes watching the whipped cream form! Funny, he didn’t want to taste the finished cake, though!

Then, we went to the den for art projects. He loves creating masterpieces, all the while, chattering away. He wanted PB&J for lunch, and he gobbled it down. Naptime (he calls it a rest break) was simple, and he slept for two hours. We packed him into the car and went to see my mother. He had some lemonade while we visited, and then he told us stories while we drove home. Once there, he wanted to paint and use the hot glue gun. I tried salt painting* with him, and then he glued colored napkins to paper. Poppy had to work at the store, so we read and built with bristle blocks. He wanted ‘Nanny’s Grilled Cheese’ for dinner, and we had an indoor picnic. A half hour into A Bug’s Life he decided it might be scary (it’s not, but I don’t argue.) So, we built some more, and then watched “Handy Manny.” Poppy came home, and off to bed he went. My daughter called to say that all went well with the surgery, and baby was resting comfortably.

Yesterday, we started with making a gift for his daddy’s birthday today. We hot glued shells onto a soup can and made a pen holder. We wrapped our gifts – barware and beer – and made some cards. He took a ride to the store with poppy, and then ate lunch. We let him nap in the car on the ride home to his house. We spent some time there and left before the storms began. We got pummeled with rain, wind, lightning, and a little hail. I slept well last night!

Now, I take a break today, and then we’ll get ready for my sister’s visit tomorrow. She had a conference in Baltimore, and she’ll rent a car and drive up for a visit until Sunday. She still can’t eat fruits, vegetables, or salads after her long illness last winter. Too bad she’ll be coming to the Garden State and be unable to eat its harvest! I’m making a slow cooker pot roast – I guess she’ll eat the meat and maybe some potatoes. I’m planning seafood and rice for Friday. I’m lost without veggies, but I just won’t serve her any.

The two little guys will be back on Saturday afternoon so the Mommy and Daddy can go out for Daddy’s birthday. It’s the first time we’ll be putting both boys in one room. We’ll probably do a pizza and ice cream run that night. By Sunday, they’ll all be gone! I love visitors, though, and it’s worth the hassle.

*Salt painting: draw a design with liquid Elmer’s glue on heavy paper. Pour salt over the glue, and pour off the excess. Make watery paint and dip the brush into the liquid. Touch the brush to the designs. The colors will travel along the salt. The end result, once dried, is a raised, hardened design in colors. So easy and kiddies love it!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Fragments

I’m trying to get back on schedule, so I’ll just do some bits and pieces here.

Luncheon:  I know I mentioned that I’d be getting together with some of my old high school friends, and yesterday was the day. We met at a cute little place in Haddonfield, called “The Little Tuna.” They had a wonderful menu, and the food was fantastic. I ordered a classic Caesar salad with pistachio and basil butter crusted salmon. I could have licked the plate, but I behaved! There were thirteen of us gals, plus two of us had our husbands, so the fifteen of us took up a lot of space! (We had twenty-five in our graduating class, and two died. Several live far away, and one we can’t find. So, 13 was a really good number!) Of course, there was all the laughing, memories, and some sadness that goes into these get togethers. We swore we all looked fantastic, then we launched into the ‘remember when…’, and we consoled those who had lost loved ones since we last met – a husband, two mothers, a son, and a brother. The manager didn’t mind our boisterousness – once he heard we had been high school friends, he came over often, and he gave us little extras. I opted for my full-size wheelchair because I knew we’d have a bit of a trek from the parking area. Unfortunately, the pavements were horrible, and I was really jostled. I also didn’t like being seen in the chair, but I had to swallow my pride. We also wanted to plan a reunion for next year, and I was hoping we could do at a restaurant. However, one of the girls suggested that we all go to her summer shore place in Sea Isle in September ’15. Everyone loved the idea. I just went along, but I know I won’t be there. She has eight steps to her porch, then a full flight up from there – I guess it’s one of the many multiplexes in the area. There’s no way that I could handle that, even though they all said they’d help me. I just said okay, but I know I won’t go. I’ll set up a Facebook page for them and I’ll do any computer mailings or other jobs, but I’ll have to beg off when the time arrives for RSVPs. The only other negatives from yesterday were the unaccessible bathroom, (I used it, but I had a hard time,) and the hot sun which totally sapped me. I feel like a punctured tire!

Visitor: Since we’ll have the older little guy from Sunday to Tuesday, I’m trying to get things ready for him – art projects, baking, travels, and his favorite foods. It’s fun to have him as a guest, and I’m looking forward to it. Today I want to get a large roll of shelving paper and attach it to the side of his art table so he can pull it up and paint on it.

Books: I’m halfway through I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, and I’m enjoying it. The library is having trouble finding some books that I ordered, but they’ll continue to look through the county branches. Not much worth mentioning on TV.

I won’t be able to post on Monday or Tuesday because of our little guest, but I’ll be back on Wednesday.