Monday, February 21, 2011

The care and feeding of a blog

Yesterday we discussed in Sunday School portions of the Sermon on the Mount, particularly the idea of  “nursing” as it applies to nursing anger or nursing a grudge, or nursing bitterness, and what that can lead to. The aspect of “nursing” that I directed the class to think about was the idea of “care and feeding”, asking the women to remember what it was like “nursing” their infant, and what that involved. Reminding them that we have a choice about the sorts of emotions we choose to “nurse.”

Even if we never literally nursed an infant, we all know about the care and feeding of our bodies – indeed, many of us spend much too much time “nurturing” ourselves in this way and are made aware of it every time we get on the scale or attempt to button that pair of jeans that seemed to fit just fine last week.

I am particularly pleased with the “care and feeding” of my own body today. Last night before I went to bed, I put white beans and boiling water in our thermos, and sliced a lovely red bell pepper and an onion, and put them in the refrigerator. This morning when I got up at 5 am, I dumped the beans, which were still steaming hot and 90% cooked, the peppers, onions, leftover cooked red lentils, tomato paste, some wine, and some spices in the crock pot and turned it on so I would have something delectable to eat for lunch. Richard does his own lunch -- I had already tried Bulgarian Red Pepper Stew on him some time back and I have marked in the margin of cookbook “Richard hates this.”

And it occurred to me that I have not “cared and fed” this blog for a while. One of the songs I hear occasionally on the Christian radio station has something to do with “let’s go dance in the minefield.” The past 2 weeks have been something of an emotional minefield for us. I have been sort of reluctant to write about it, but there is another  reason also, which I will get to eventually 

We spent the week leading up to Feb 12 preparing for our son’s Celebration of Life, and because our church does not have equipment to project presentations or play DVDs, we created picture displays to honor the various stages of his life. Our son would have turned 34 on Feb 12, so there was the added remembrance of significance of that day for us… and then, also on Feb 12, some years back, our Little Dog died.

A minefield.

I mentioned to our bereavement counselor when we saw her on Thursday that I was feeling so guilty for still grieving about the dog in light of my mother having died a little over a year ago, and our son’s death a month earlier, how can I possibly be still thinking about the stupid dog, for crying out loud. And she stopped me and said… “You are grieving the loss of the relationship – a relationship that is gone forever – and that is a valid sorrow and you should not feel guilty about it.”

I have decided she is worth her weight in gold.

And backtracking a bit, there is Valentines Day. Richard is the sort of guy who simply goes out and buys what he wants when he gets the idea that he wants it. So when you ask him, is there anything particular you would like for Valentine’s Day, he can honestly say, “No, there isn’t.” What the heck do I do now? Get him nothing? A box of candy which neither of us needs because we have both gained back quite a bit of weight in the last couple of months?

A minefield.

Well, it happened that just before I left to go to town for the aerobics class, there was an interview on National Public Radio with this lovely British cooking person, Nigella Lawson, who I have heard several times, and she suggested making a really wonderful steak at home instead of going out to eat. 

And an almost unbelievable thing happened. I stopped at the store and there, marked down tremendously in price, were two beautiful packages of $6.99/lb steak that I was able to get for about $3.00 for both of them. It was one our better Valentine Day experiences. I did not actually prepare the steak like Nigella suggested because I didn’t want to mess with the sauce, but we each put on a bit of “Claude’s Western Style Barbeque Sauce,” which has almost no calories, and it was wonderful.

But at any rate, I have had a difficult time drumming up the energy to write for this blog, and I have worried about it just sort of withering away and dying for lack of attention (which happens to some infants who are not nurtured), and those few followers that I do have wandering off to greener pastures. A weird sort of God-thing happened. During the last 6 weeks of our son’s life, almost all of my work dried up. I had just enough to keep me busy, but not once during this time did I have to make a decision about whether I needed to stay home and get the work done or miss a deadline, or leave and stay with our son at the nursing home. Thus, I was able to spend about 4 hours a day with him. In the last 2 weeks, however, the flood gates have opened, and the work has poured in. I have been a bit preoccupied. That’s it folks. I am not fallen off into the “Slough of Despond” like John Bunyon’s Pilgrim. Just busy…

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sittin' tight...

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite as much as waking up to 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground with the knowledge that I do not have to immediately leap into my car and race to the post office so I can shovel the sidewalks in front of the building so someone doesn’t slip and fall and sue the post office.

I worked for that venerable institution for about 15 years. I started out as the contract cleaner. In addition to keeping the inside of the building clean,  in the summer I had to mow the lawns and also wash windows – and there are a lot of huge windows on the building – and in the winter, I had to make sure the sidewalks in front and on the side of the building were clear of ice and snow.

They loved me so much that they offered me a job as a temporary worker, and so for almost 1 year, around 1990, I was a substitute mail delivery person.

Indeed I did deliver the mail – through rain and sleet and snow – just like the motto says. And I got to drive a jeep with the steering on the right side, just like in England. 

I have not fond memories of one particular morning when I had to struggle through about 1 foot of snow with a thin crust of ice on top, and negotiate icy porches to put mail in people’s boxes.

I did actually make an attempt to become full-time employee when a position opened up, but I got beat out on the test by a woman who scored lower than I did but got 10-points added because she was a disabled veteran.

So, I went back to being the contract cleaner. And on 6 days a week I showed up there faithfully, year after year after year. And then I decided to do something different in my life – mainly we both felt were just getting too old to do the job. We? Yes, Richard is very happy too. Because I ended up getting him involved in several projects there because I could not manage them myself­— and the last time we had to strip and refinish the floors it about killed us. So, the time had come…

And so now on a snowing morning, I can sit and watch the flakes come down and feel very happy inside that I can stay inside and I don’t have to go anywhere, if I don’t want too.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A frozen alternative...

Several days ago Richard hauled out a 10-pound bag of chicken leg quarters from the freezer because said we were out of room and I needed to cook it so it would take up less space.

So after it had thawed sufficiently in the refrigerator, I put about 5 pounds of it in the crockpot and started cooking "Two Meals for Four People", a recipe from my Mennonite cookbook that results in chicken stew for one meal and then a very hearty soup for another meal.

The other 5 pounds got liberally sprinkled with a Jamaican-style jerk spice and went into the oven to bake.

So after all of this chicken was cooked, I took everything off the bones, and packaged it up, and all of the the went into a pot on the stove and boiled some more, and so by early evening I had a nice kettle of  very hot and very flavorful chicken broth.

I decided to set the whole deal outside on the porch to cool off a bit so the fat would rise and it would be cold before I put it in the refrigerator. As the evening progressed, I totally forgot it was out there (naturally) and so it sat outside all night and until midafteroon yesterday when I couldn't find the pot I was looking for and suddenly remembered  I had forgotten to bring it in.

I guess the only reason why the whole mess wasn't spilled all over the porch was that it was too cold for the raccoons to venture out and help themselves. At any rate, it was 5 degrees outside yesterday when I looked at the thermometer and it didn't rise much over about 15 degrees for the entire day, and so when I brought the broth in, it was frozen solid.

The porch just might make a handy-dandy freezer on the odd occasion when we are plunged into the deep freeze. Which somehow reminds me of the wonderful story I read a few years ago about the woman doctor in Antarctica who ended up operating on herself for breast cancer because there was no way they could get her out. Seems to me they slept in portable freezers to help keep warm...