In the kitchen

When we first moved into this house, 37 years ago, I did lots of entertaining. Dinner parties, luncheons, birthday gatherings. After about 10 years I started teaching and all that cooking and party-planning stopped. There wasn’t enough time. Weekends were filled with errands, shopping, and cooking for the next week. I taught Sunday School on Sunday mornings and graded student work on Sunday afternoons. Lots of Saturdays were filled with decorating for school dances or taking students to competitive conferences.

The entertainment gene has not shown itself since I retired. Our house would need lots of updating to make it work well. I would need more energy to do the prep and the entertaining. It’s easier to go to restaurants. This week, though, I have been in the kitchen, preparing food for others. I cooked a roast and made Russian cabbage soup to take to church on Sunday for our Lenten Soup Lunches. This will be the last one for the season and my second pot of soup. Last Sunday I made chicken tortilla soup.

With leftover roast, and more cabbage, I made beerock filling this morning and have 16 beerocks rising so as to bake later this afternoon. Some of those will go to a friend who loves beerocks but is unable to make them for herself. She went to a beerock-making class held at a local restaurant and was sorely disappointed. The teacher used pizza dough instead of bread dough and hamburger instead of roast beef. She said there wasn’t enough pepper, either. I usually make at least two dozen of these little meat sandwiches, but I knew there would be less leftover roast and cabbage since I was using most of it for soup, so only used two loaves of bread dough. I had just the right amount of filling for those 16 beerocks.

Although still fun to cook for others, it’s best if I can deliver the finished product rather than serving it up at my own table.


Wish it would last

It’s shortly after 7:30 on a Wednesday morning when I start writing this post. I am sitting down with my second cup of coffee and a piece of toast, having been up for over an hour. I have washed my hair, read the newspaper, caught up on Facebook and emails, even writing a few responses. As I waited for the toaster to pop up the multigrain slice of bread I danced across the kitchen floor, singing a tune. Why can’t I feel like this at 7:30 in the evening?

Terry sits at the dining table, watching me and smiling. When I voice that question, he agrees. Wouldn’t that be nice.

The Ladies Who Lunch carpooled, traveling a few miles to have lunch this past Monday in a small farm town where I grew up. I drove one car and we talked the whole way, out and back. One of the topics was the ability to do this early in the day, but after 4 p.m., forget it. I bemoaned that fact that I have completely given up going out in the evening as I just don’t have the energy, the spark, the extrovert personality that shines through earlier. The other gals agreed that it has gotten harder for them, too. This is the group of women who thought nothing of teaching all day and then putting on a dance for students in the evening. Or building a float for homecoming and having a parade late in the day. Or getting into a van with students and driving three hours to a weekend conference. That was then, this is now.

I will enjoy my early morning kitchen dances. It’s all I’ve got!

We all have those days

This week’s story for the first graders was Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. It’s been around for a long time, and I think there is even a movie made from it. I have a sign with the words “a terrible horrible no good very bad day” that I hold up at the right points in the story for the first graders to read aloud. Gives them a part in the storytelling, which they all love. Also reinforces the title for them.

Each book that I read also has a jingle which is part of the curriculum which has been written by a former teacher/principal who now heads up the school chaplain program through the police department. He is very clever. This week’s jingle was “If start the day getting up mad…stop and think before saying something bad.” The kids love these jingles, too.

Because a previous story, The Bad Mood, was similar in message, I decided to print out the jingle for that story and bring it along. It proved to be a reminder for the story and a reinforcer for the lesson. The jingle is “Be polite until you’re alright.” Badger, the main character who wakes up in the bad mood, changes his mood in the story by doing something he loves, gardening. Alexander, in this week’s story, never gets over his bad mood. We discussed the similarities and the differences.

I leave the jingle for each week in each classroom. I kept, though, the copy of The Bad Mood jingle and had it in my bag of tricks when I left the last classroom and headed down the hall. Because I had a series of texts and emails on my phone that needed responses, I decided to stop, midway in the hall, and sit on a chair to make those replies. While doing so, the school counselor came by and asked for my help. There were crisis all over the campus and she couldn’t handle them all.

I went to a second grade class to help a little boy who was having a meltdown–throwing his shoes, screaming, and pushing papers off of the desks. Since Calvin (not his real name) knew me from last year, he was willing to get his shoes and finally go with me. We sat in the hall and talked about his “bad mood.” I reminded him of the stories and even showed him the jingle. He remembered. I asked him what made him get over a bad mood. Playing a game.

The librarian brought me some books and toys to help. The counselor let me use her office. Calvin played and calmed down. After 45 minutes, I pulled out the jingle again and reminded him that Badger apologized to his friends for his bad mood. Could he do the same thing? Yes. I gave him the paper with the jingle, walked him back to his room where he went in, went straight to the substitute, and apologized and showed her the jingle. I slipped out the back door.

Please stand

How long can you stand? This seems to be a bit of a problem with some of the people I know. Standing for any length of time, that is. What I’m seeing are those who can stand from a sitting position, walk a short distance, and need to sit back down. Standing for long periods causes a hardship.

This problem is not one of age, though. When I give tours at Kearney Mansion, the guests are often third graders and they even complain about having to stand for so long (it’s a 45 minute tour), and are thrilled when I finally allow them to sit on the parlor floor when we are almost finished with the house tour. Often there are three of these tours, back to back, so I am on my feet for about three hours, standing, walking, climbing. I chuckle at how I can do this without grumbling, yet 8 year olds struggle.

A few years ago I read that being able to get down and up from the floor is an indicator of how long one will live. I was chatting with my next-door neighbor yesterday about this as she is one of the those who is struggling. A few years ago she was very sick and has had a hard time recuperating. Last fall she fell in her front yard while kicking a ball around with her small grandson and broke her hip. Months after the surgery to replace the hip and she is still struggling. Fortunately, she has been getting therapy. Unfortunately, she has been diagnosed with osteoporosis.  Getting up and down and standing are not easy for her.

I saw another friend yesterday who has fractured vertebra, a diagnosis a close friend got many years ago. These fractures limit one’s ability to get up and down and to stand. Because a broken back can be the beginning of the end, I am concerned for my friend. She has already survived cancer, two hip replacements, and a heart attack.

This morning, when I stretched out on the floor to do my exercises, I gave thanks for being able to do that as well as stand for a long period. I’ve realized these abilities should not be taken for granted.

recharging the batteries

It was a very cold, rainy Saturday. I sat on the couch, for most of the day, re-reading a book I’ve had for two years. I’ve read it through one other time and pick it up now and then for inspiration. Saturday I decided to read the whole thing and really meditate on the ideas presented by Jim Cymbala, the author who is also the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle. The name of the book is STORM, written in 2014 before our current government debacle. Cymbala uses Hurricane Sandy as the takeoff for the book.

The premise of the book is how to prepare for the coming storm, whatever it might be, because a storm will come. So true. In 2017, when I realized what the country had done in electing the current president, I hunkered down and thought about how I would prepare, and maybe survive, the coming turmoil of what I knew would be a terrible time in this country. I read, reread, studied, thought about, and prayed over the book of Daniel in the Bible. Daniel was an Israelite who was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian captivity. He lived a life that got him into trouble with the various kings over the period of captivity, but he always came out on top. I tried to follow many of his practices so as to survive during our own captivity.

This year I have been reading the book of Habakkuk, written during a time when wickedness and injustice where running rampant. Habakkuk asks God, “Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day?” Sounds like my prayers. In the end, in all three of these readings, God’s final word is “I’m in control; I’m in charge. Do not give up hope. Live faithfully.”

So, that’s the lesson I’m holding on to. I went back out into the world on Sunday, spending much of the day at church, from setting up communion, to worship, to Lenten soup lunch, to a chamber concert. God is in charge; I will give thanks; I will live in community.

Cold-weather clothing

It’s a cold, rainy day, and I get to stay home all day. I’m glad for the rain as we’ve had so little this season. The cold, not so much. I’ve been wearing the same clothes over and over as I have so few cold weather pieces.

Wednesday and Thursday are my chaplain days so I have a uniform to wear, and this year I have added a long sweater-coat in navy so as to stay warm at school. It took me four years to find just the right piece. Last week, at our monthly meeting, the chaplains were asked if we would be interested in a coat with the police insignias and such. Most of us said yes so I think the police department will design something for us to get at the uniform shop where we get our shirts. I don’t expect anything before next winter, though.

This year I have worn socks more than ever before. When I taught, I usually wore pantyhose with my skirts or hosiery socks with my pants. Being indoors all day, in a classroom, I seldom felt the need for socks except when I wore my rain boots. Now I have a wide assortment of socks, and the first graders like my more interesting ones.  Since I have to wear a uniform to school, I use my socks and shoes to express my own personality. The red hair helps, too!

Today, my at-home outfit consists of a pair of very old navy chinos, a very old hooded Gap sweatshirt, red polkadot socks and some fluffy slippers. I did comb my hair, but no makeup. It’s just the cats and me, huddled on the couch, trying to stay warm.

Death of the accidental mom

You may remember that post I wrote about a friend with a brain trauma? She died on Friday, at noon. Her daughters, who are twins, are bereft. Their grief is overwhelming. Their lives were changed by Ramona when she adopted them 18 years ago. She gave them an amazing life, one they would not have had otherwise. They know it, too. Now, their lives change again, when she left them to carry on without her.

Ramona was a foster mom and the girls came to her when they were just tiny things, having been shuttled around. Hard to find a home that will take two small children. Being single, Ramona had shown great fortitude in being a foster parent, but adopting children was not much allowed back then. She persisted. Our church prayed. One Sunday she announced that the papers had been signed. The girls would be hers. And they were. Ramona proved that a single mom could successfully raise children. This photo was taken about a year after the adoption was final, 17 years ago.

The girls are struggling with this new situation. They are maneuvering it by themselves. I’m hopeful they will be able to live up to the legacy their mother left for them. She proved that no matter how you receive your children, you will love them to the day you die.