Thursday, July 31, 2014

What I do not know...

In the recent past, I have thrice found myself being confronted with the fact that that which I would swear on Amos' life that some experience did not happen, only to learn that it had.  Attempting pita.  Reading a manuscript.  Picking up a prescription.  I am forgetting more than I realize.  More than I fear.

Today,  I got a letter from Gitte.  Even though it is easier for her to just write an email, Gitte responds to my letters, mailing back missives from Canada.  I noticed something in her letter that, intentional or not, was merciful and kind.

You see, Gitte had this pattern of telling me what I wrote her back at the end of May and then responding to it.  But the way she responded was the merciful part.  By this I mean, the way she wrote was letting me know that she heard my words (mostly fears) and then acknowledged their difficulty.  For example, she wrote that I mentioned how much more I am forgetting and knew that that was hard on me.  She then wrote about how, when she moved, she struggled for a long time to orient herself in her new home, but her disorientation was thankfully temporary.  Then, she wrote that having lots of stuff makes it harder to remember where things are and noted that all of my downsizing and recycling and donating and such was surely good now that remembering is harder.

The whole letter was like that.  A bit of my life and understanding (none of this ... oh, but you're still so smart stuff ... or ... we all forget things) and a bit of her life and knowing the things I would have enjoyed sharing with her.  Her letter was such a balm, after having melted down at Target trying to pick up prescriptions that I fetched on Sunday.

I didn't remember fetching them.  Complicating matters was the fact that, when I brought them home, I did not put them in the right place.  Plus, I failed to get out the Wednesday medication holder yesterday, concentrating too much on making sure I did not miss any erythromycin doses because I have been doing that for several days and have had continual innards misery.  I got all four doses of medication in yesterday, but not a single dose of anything else.  Usually, I put the next day's container by my bed before I drop off to sleep.  But I didn't.  It didn't help matters that I used Wednesday's container on Tuesday and so it was empty.  Monday and Wednesday (this week's Tuesday) were also not back in the weekly holder.  Basically, I was so confused I couldn't straighten myself out.  All I knew was that the containers for my medication were empty.  They shouldn't have been.

The pharmacist that I usually see was not there today, since her "weekend" is in the middle of the week.  Plus, there was a substitute associate.  So, I did not recognize the staff.  The staff did not recognize me.  They were insisting that I picked up my medication. I was insisting that I hadn't.  Weeping.  Shaking.  Terrified.  Finally, the pharmacist I know called in and talked to me and reminded me that I was there with my neighbor and that we had discussed that she is due in three weeks so I will be seeing the other pharmacist for a few months.

Mortified, I hung up the phone and practically crawled my way out of the store.  My upsettedness was not assuaged in the least at realizing that I did need to fetch the erythromycin (and so did).  Nor did I feel any better, when getting the beer I use for cooking, discovering that if I buy a 12 pack at Walmart (I usually by it at Target), I can get double the beer for only $2 more.  Since my last guests drank my cooking beer, that was good news.  Only I was still back in the chaos of standing at the pharmacy counter and not getting the medication that I was certain that I needed.

When I came home, I put the erythromycin in the refrigerator and then crawled into the back of the closet.  Amos joined me.  Then he left and brought back two babies he managed to stuff in his mouth.  One for me and one for him, I guess.  Sitting there with my puppy dog washing away my tears, I realized that I have not been playing with him regularly.  So, I added another daily alarm to my phone:  Play with Amos.

It didn't help that, at Walmart, I was accused of having a fake driver's license.  The clerk was certain that I could not possibly be 47.  I am.  But, even if I was not, surely I look older than 21??  Already agitated, I was not pleasant at all whilst waiting for the store manager to come assess the situation.  My argument that the Indiana driver's license is a secure ID (something more than a driver's license and less than a passport) and was not something easily duplicated and mine had no scratches or marks indicating the photo was altered held sway.  I wanted to just walked out the door, leaving my few purchases at the register, but I had already spent the gas driving to the south Walmart instead of going to the one next to Target.

Mentally, I added another item to my bucket list:  buying alcohol without being carded.  SIGH.

When I finally crawled out of the closet, I went to put away the additional mason jars that I purchased.  I wanted two sizes, since I was using gift cards, but settled for pint size that I use for main meals.  I could use another half-pint box, truly, because right now most of the containers of buttermilk have been thawed out.  But the half-pint purchase means that I can make the black bean soup tomorrow, instead of waiting until I eat through a few more meals ... or using the colored jars.  [I really want to keep those for pasta dishes.]

Putting away the mason jars meant organizing three of the six drawers of the dining room built-in.  Actually, the jars had to do with two drawers, but whilst I was working there, the monthly alarm for Amos' heart worm medication went off.  In getting out his pill, I used the opportunity to straighten reduce and reorganize that drawer.  The two larger drawers took longer, but now everything is all back in its place and/or in a more logical place.

[The key to organizing drawers and closets and such is to take everything out and then start from scratch.  Often, you will realize you don't need this or that when going to put things back inside the location which you are organizing.]

Then, I did some cooking.

I actually quartered this recipe (used just one squash), because I am not sure it is a good left-over recipe.  Plus, I was so very exhausted from my day and just wanted to cook and eat.  In my opinion, Sage Butter Summer Squash with Dill Garnish needs to become a staple in my larder.

I did make some changes, the most significant being that I minced the sage instead of using whole leaves to "infuse the butter."  I thought there would be more flavor with mincing.  To see how the freezing of sage went, I thawed out two frozen leaves (a large and a small) and used them.  Of course I opted for the lemon.  Who would have thought that garlic, sage, dill, and lemon would all go well together in a summer squash dish??

Not me.
I do now.
So does Amos.

What fiscal responsibilities can be automated are automated.  I have signs about the house.  I have alarms going off daily and weekly.  I have a tracking board on the refrigerator for the erythromycin doses.  I now have a reminder board on my coffee table about the things I want to accomplish.  Yet it is not enough.

I am thankful for the main staff at my Target Pharmacy.
I am not thankful for the need for their kindness today.

It's been devastating to know what I have lost ... am losing.  To be alone with that.  It's worse to realize that I do not always know that I forgotten.  It's ineffable agony to be certain that you have not forgotten something—that there was no possible way such a thing could be true—only to learn that you have, indeed, forgotten ... in just four days.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Culinary musings...

I had to have a Come-To-Jesus talk with myself tonight.  I'm from the South.  That's what we do.  With ourselves ... and with others.  Anyway, I had a Come-to-Jesus talk with myself about what exactly constitutes a dire emergency with regard to Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork.  You see, I was just about to make a second batch, scissors millimeters away from the pork sirloin roast package, when I was struck by the side of that particular road.  Earlier, I went "shopping" in my basement freezer to pick some meals for the week—even though my kitchen freezer still had six meals in it—and discovered that I only had a single jar of Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork left.  Just one!

I have the ingredients on hand for two batches and set out to make two batches.  This was after having finished a batch of Myrtle's Black-Eyed Pea Medley, since I had only one jar of that left.  There I was, just about to cut open the plastic covering after having pulled my first batch of pork and filled nine jars, when it struck me that most likely no one else on the entire planet would consider ten servings of pulled pork still an insufficient amount to have on hand.  Even eating them every other day, I had a 20-day window in which to make the second batch.  Did I really and truly and absolutely need to make the second batch??

It was hard for me to admit that the answer was: "No."

There Paul was, going about his business, and God said, "What are you doing?"  A sudden stop.  An enforced examination of your course of action.  A Come-to-Jesus talk.

The other part of the equation is that I have been hankering to make a black bean soup for months now.  I'm from the South.  That's what we eat.  Only, I keep running into obstacles of Myrtle-Dislike ingredients.  A few days ago, I finally concluded that the way to make a black bean soup with traditional ingredients (the bell peppers) is to roast them.  I think that I would not object to roasted bell peppers in the soup, since there would be no crunchiness to them.  I had planned to do my standard work around for the onion (purée).  And I have no guilt about ditching the cilantro.  But the peppers.  How could I make black bean soup with just black beans and still call it black bean soup???

I have been studying up on the roasting, de-stemming, de-seeding, and peeling of bell peppers.  I actually believe that I could accomplish such (as opposed to my failure of acquiring the skill of blanching).  I have settled on my main ingredients.  So, I am about ready to try my soup.  If successful, I could actually foresee a time when I did not actually have more than two servings of pulled pork tacos in a seven-day period.

My plan with the roasted peppers would be to treat them as I learned you should with fresh herbs in cooking things long-term.  By that I mean, I learned in making the stew that, if using fresh herbs, you add them in the last 30 minutes.  Today, I used fresh thyme in my black-eyed peas.  Now, that is such an absolutely perfect recipe, I was afraid to muck about with it.  But I ditched the onion powder in favor of a puréed red onion and I used fresh thyme.  The latter I put in just before the final 30 minutes of cooking uncovered (reduction time).  Likewise, I figured that, having been roasted, the bell peppers do not need to cook the entire 2-2.5 hours a black bean soup would require.

Why do Southerners eat black bean soup?
Because you serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top!

Determined to make it to my next budget cycle with the remaining milk on hand, Wednesday-Saturday were practically milk-less.  By that I mean, I had to make do with only a single glass of milk on two of those four days.  [We won't discuss how far I am into the gallon of milk I opened on Sunday.]  I consider it a ginormous victory that I also managed to eek out an existence with the sour cream I had on hand.  [We won't discuss just how many containers of sour cream made their way into my cart on Sunday.]

In addition to the parsnips, I also bought some summer squash.  That is the single vegetable on which I actually like the peel/skin/healthy part.  I really only have two ways that I eat it, so today I did some Googling.  I found few interesting recipes, but I found one I want to try first:  sage butter squash with dill garnish.

You see, I got to thinking that if I concentrated on vegetables, I could still do some recipe exploration, i.e., the activity that calms and soothes me ... distracts me.  Thus far, I have been able to find recipes that I could halve (to better cook for one) or that might do well as freezer vegetables.  So, I can be fairly economical about extending the cooking activities.

Along with the vegetable idea, I bought some sausage.  Now, after all that Southerner talk, I am a bit chagrined to admit that I am not sure I have ever really cooked sausage.  I mean, I grew up with it as a staple—especially at barbecues—but as an adult, I mostly ... cluck.  I bought some regular sausage and some really interesting sounding sausage (chicken with apple and gouda).  Each pack has four pieces, so I have eight opportunities to try out a vegetable dish with some protein thrown in for good measure.

When I am being a good little Dysautonomia patient, I stick with the smaller meals.  This way, I can have the protein I need and have a small meal of some sort of vegetable tastiness.  Of course, all this is a supplement to my weekly "doses" of my required tastiness, i.e., pulled pork tacos, Chipotle Chicken Chili, Beef Stew with Beer, and black-eyed peas, interspersed with some of that addictive Pasta alla Vodka (though I have no more shell pasta and far too much mezze penne), Thai Honey Peanut Chicken, and Lemon Chicken Gyros.

Growing up, I drove my family nuts whenever we went to Mexican restaurants because I only ever ordered one dish:  chicken fajitas (with a bowl of queso, of course).  If I had a nickel for every time someone in my family tried to convince me that if only I tried a new entrée I would see how many great Tex-Mex dishes there are, I would have absolutely no worries about the cost of the erythromycin pills.  I am a loyal eater.  When I discover something that satiates my soul in a culinary fashion, that fills my being with culinary bliss, I stick with it.  Like my Taco Bell order.  The only reason it has changed over the years is that one of my two items was discontinued (the tostada).  Bean burrito (no onions, add sour cream) and a crunchy taco supreme (no tomatoes).  I eat the taco first.  I savor the burrito.  I am not interested in consuming other menu items.

Cooking all my food from scratch, trying to transition away from as much processed food (preservatives and additives that my innards no longer tolerate), has broadened my culinary "likes" a bit ... but I would have absolutely no problems with eating pulled pork tacos every day for the rest of my life.  I would miss the chicken chipotle chili ... deeply.  However, I have found my if-you-lived-on-a-dessert-island-and-could-only-have-one-food item.

[Note:  I eat them with sour cream and white cheddar cheese.]

Whilst I still have copious exploring to do, if you asked me right this very minute, my desert island vegetable would be the Zesty Roasted Rutabaga and Carrots.  I currently have four rutabagas in my abode.  On the morrow, I shall use the largest of them to make me up a huge batch of that tastiness.

As for my dessert island desert, I would have said, most firmly, that it would be the brown sugar oatmeal cookies (gasp!  not the Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bars) had you asked me that up until a short while ago.  However, I might have been ensnared by the siren call emanating from those White Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies.

I will note that, yesterday, before I made the Blueberry Lime Oatmeal Muffins, I legitimately had to stop and re-organize the shelves in one of my kitchen cabinets.  Moving about ingredients over the past few months—sometimes hastily as I am in the middle of cooking—had brought inefficient disorder to the cabinet.  [Oh, how I wish I had local folk who needed organizing and reducing help!]  I used the opportunity to reorganize the cabinet next to it, as well, before I went on to make those most delicious of muffins.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New heights...

Yesterday evening and all of last night, I experience new heights of innards misery.  The writhing was nearly unbearable, pain even just from taking a breath.  I wondered how I was going to make it through nearly every moment.

Dysautonomia is a wretched, wretched, wretched disease.

Amos has been a real trooper, a faithful companion.  Today, he let me stay in bed until nearly 4:00 PM, trying to get some sleep after the agony subsided a bit.  This was rather generous of him because he was still working on forgiving me for combing out the mats in the curls on his ears.  All his frolicking about requires that from time to time, I get out the detangled and comb and ... torture him.

Last night, as the pain was starting, I set about harvesting some herbs to see if I could figure out the freezing of them.  Let's just note that the blanching was a miserable failure and go on from there.

I found several folk who swear by simply laying out rosemary, thyme, and sage on a tray to freeze individually and then store in freezer bags once frozen.  It seems sort of ... too easy.  Then, there are lots who advocate freezing them in water, but others who swear that's the worst thing you can do.  One man, who actually grazed on his basil in front of the camera, puts his leaves, whole, into a ziploc bag, drizzles olive oil in there, and then pushes out all the air.  He showed a package that was two years old ... bright green basil still.  My leaves, though, are tiny.

My neighbor gifted me with the Ball herb storage set, so I decided to try the minced cubes method.

One tray is all basil.  I am of two minds on how it looks.  So, I thought I would try to make a garlic basil alfredo sauce with it in a week or two to see how it turns out.  The other tray is three sets of the herbs I use in stew:  thyme, rosemary, and sage.  Can you tell which is which??  I put one cube of each into a snack bag and then am storing the snack bags inside a freezer quart bag.  I will be making stew this month, so I thought that I would use the cubes to see if they work.  I am more worried about trying them, as opposed to the basil, because the ingredients for stew are not economical.

Since I had a few extra sage leaves cut, I also tried the straight freezing method.  Hmm...  Sure does look okay to me.  But what do I know?  I thought I would also thaw this out later this month and try to use it.  If the straight freezing really does work, I might just do that.  It's less work, after all.  Basil, however, has to be preserved in some sort of substance.  I am planning, though, to try and bring one of the basil bushes indoors to grow in the solarium over the winter.  If that works ... I'd be happy to not bother trying to preserve much.  Plus, there is always the alternative of the Gourmet Garden's Basil Paste that I like ever so much.

Today, other than popping out the frozen cubes and putting them bags, all I did was to make another batch of the Blueberry Lime Oatmeal Muffins.  To me, they are the best muffin recipe yet. Just how helpful a puppy is Amos?  I went to rest on the couch whist the muffins were cooling and forgot that I had made them.  After a while, Amos started whining at me, leaping down from the couch and then back up and then down again.  I finally dragged myself off the couch, a bit perturbed because he had recently done both his major and minor business.  Well, Amos didn't want to go outside.  He wanted one of the muffins sitting on the cooling rack.  I gave Amos a small treat and then put the muffins in my freezer containers.

When I fetched my prescriptions yesterday, my neighbor went with me.  We also got my monthly groceries.  Yes, I came home with parsnips.  So, I am now vacillating between making the beer cheese rutabaga soup recipe and one I found for maple glazed roasted parsnips and carrots.  As it is, I do need to make some more Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork for my tacos and some Myrtle's Medley Black Eyed Peas.  But not today.

Today, I've just been mostly resting and ... absorbing ... just how bad my innards were last night.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Slipping a digit...

Whenever I had a math mistake when I was younger—or someone else did—we called it "slipping a digit."  Well, I sort of slipped a digit in my budget.  I think.  I am so darned confused.

When I did all those financial shenanigans at the end of last year/beginning of this year, paying off the mortgage since I couldn't afford all the increases, I split the mortgage payment into several automatic monthly savings accounts (I LOVE ING Direct even if they went and got bought and changed their name to Capital One 360, which I can never remember):  real estate taxes, house insurance, car maintenance, and donut hole.  For example, the disability payment gets deposited, Capital One then peals off four amounts to put them in separate savings accounts for me, and then automatic deductions happen to two of those accounts.  The other two are to pay myself back with those non-monthly expenses (car expenses and donut hole increased costs in medication).  So, I have been putting aside $300 each month into the donut hole account.  I forgot about it.  As in, I am in the donut hole right this very minute and that was what the money is for so I should have already started spending it.

By realizing that I slipped a digit, I figured out that the whole ~$343 monthly price difference between the erythromycin solution and the erythromycin pills, could mostly be covered by the donut hole automatic savings.  Now, I am supposed to need somewhere near ~$4,000 to cover the donut hole, so my savings was not enough.  It was, however, what I could apportion from my mortgage payment after setting aside money for those other expenses. And $3,600 over the course of the year would go a long way towards easing the stress of being in the donut hole.  If ... if you actually manage to remember that you have a savings plan for that expense. 

So, basically, it struck me in the wee hours of the night that I slipped a digit in my math.  I am not going to be short on the year nearly as much as I thought due to rising medical expenses because I had started to save for the donut hole and ... forgot that I was doing so.  And ... IF Celebrex goes to generic this December AND it is on the Medicare formulary for next year ... then approximately half of the donut hole would go away because that is my second most expensive prescription.

The math still would never add up. I still would not be able to live solely on the disability payment.  But I will not be taking such huge digs at the remaining retirement money.  And there is the "unknown" of just what the annual increases in Medicare, prescription coverage, house insurance, car insurance, and real estate taxes will be.

I fell asleep.
I woke up.

The house was too warm.  The house was too warm because my practically new (three-year-old) air-conditioner was frozen over all the way from the inside coils to the compressor unit outside!  At 7:52 AM this morning I was in a terrible, terrible panic.  I have to have air-conditioning.  And how in the world am I going to pay for whatever labor costs go with what hopefully will be warranty work???

[A compressor should not look this way!]

I texted Electrician Man in a panic.
He is in Ohio on a youth retreat with his church.

[This is not what you want to see when you look at your HVAC system!]

That fine man contacted the person who actually installed the unit, a good friend of his, got him out of bed, and had him at my house at 9:30 AM.  Ben even reminded his friend about my anxiety and inability to control my tears when I am upset.  SIGH.

The end result is that he could find no reason why such a thing would happen.  I had already started the thawing process and so he was able to check the pressures and temperature of the freon line and the blower and the inside coils and the compressor and ... nothing.

I kept blathering about how it doesn't make sense.  With the new return vent in the basement and covering the open floor grate in the dining room (I didn't know until recently that all my lovely cold air was just falling through it), my bedroom has been cooler, the AC has run less, and for three months now I have beaten my budgeted amount with my electricity bill.  [I've really, really, really been working on reducing my electricity footprint.]  And my unit is new.  And I have it serviced twice a year.  And I replace the filter regularly.  And.  And.  And.

Well, it didn't make sense to him either.
Do you understand why I didn't find that comforting in the least?

Three reason exist for frozen coils ... two really ... but three causes: blockage (such as a filter) or no blower (which are both air flow reasons) and a freon leak.  All were good.  Filter.  Blower.  Freon.  SIGH.

The service man asked me if I had noticed last night that the unit was one (heard the thermostat and the compressor outside) but the blower was not running.  Nope.  I haven't noticed that.  I did note that the house was warmer when I went upstairs, but it didn't register with me (pun intended) that there was something amiss with my HVAC system.

Before.  Before this disease ravaged my brain.  I would have realized immediately something was wrong instead of having it freeze up so very thoroughly.  SIGH.

Two things from his visit.  Wait, three:  1) He asked what was wrong with Amos.  I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  He met Amos before the pit bull attack, before my puppy dog became a fluff ball of fear.  2)  He was stunned at the changes I had wrought in the house, told me how much he loves my house, and asked me if I planned to sell it.  [Heart cockles warming time.]  3)  He showed me this setting on my thermostat that, if I used it, would run the fan for a short period of time, any time the unit is off for more than 90 minutes.  That means that it would circulate air in the house.  Pull cold air from the basement and circulate it in the house.  Circulating that cold basement air would most likely help lower the cost of running the AC a wee bit!!

So, the plan is to wait and see.  To watch for limited air flow (an indication of freezing coils) and to periodically check to see that when the unit is running, both the blower and the compressor are on at the same time.

You might not have noticed.
Wait and see is not really in my skill set.
Not anymore.

I really panicked this morning, both over the fear of not having the AC restored right away and the cost of the problem ... both the visit today and future problems.  And then I just sank into a deep despair thinking that this is further proof I have no faith.  I do not understand what it means to trust God.  I do not understand what His provision means.  But I had no thoughts in my head about trusting that God would provide this need of mine.  All I had was worry and thought how all my trying to be a good steward of what God has given me is not going to be good enough to cover HVAC expenses that are totally and completely and utterly unexpected.

So, I called Mary, not remembering that today is Saturday and her beloved would be sermon preparing and her children would be needing her attention.  We talked some about air-conditioning, faith, the words I don't understand, and pulled pork tacos.

I still haven't slept.
I am still worried.
About my HVAC and about losing faith.

By the way, if you hang out your laundry on the line outside, I would recommend checking first to see if there might be an afternoon rain shower.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rootings and rutabagas...

Firewood Man mowed and edged today.  When he got to the back yard, he warmed the cockles of my heart by admiring the weeping cherry.  I admit that sitting on the back steps is far more soothing now that I tamed the monster.  After Tim helped me plant my weeping cherry, he went back to Lowe's, bought one for his yard, and planted it.  Mine is about four times the size of his.  He thinks I am secretly giving it steroids, but he didn't plant his in a mix of soil, compost manure, and peat, laced liberally with Osmocote.  Plus, he hasn't put the rather non-economical Bayer systemic on it each of the past two years.

This is what it was like when we planted it.

This is a shot from the airing porch that I took last night.  Two years, three months, and ten days after we planted it.  [Yes, I'm aching over the fact that I cannot afford to water my lawn to keep it GREEN. And please ignore the lack of mulch in my bed ... my bags are still too wet to put out yet.]

I was up on the airing porch admiring the sun set.

Amos wanted to come out, and I wanted him with me.  But I am afraid to hold him on the pitched roof until there is a railing ... or the deck Tim sometimes talks about putting up there, reverting the roof back to its original state.

Later I went back to lie down and admire the night clouds.

This is a bloom from some free lilies I got last year.  They did not bloom last summer.  I now realize they must be mid-summer blooms.  There are only a few blooms compared to the number of bulb clumps I planted, but perhaps they will multiply next year.  I am having terrible thoughts that I might need to divide the golden day lilies I have ... that they might be too crowded.

Maybe next year.
Or the one after.
Let's see if I did right by the daffodils in their division...

The hydrangea really took a beating this wicked and wild winter, but a few blossoms have emerged.  I wish I could have an advisor on how to properly tend a hydrangea.  I need to fertilize this one, for sure, as well as pile mulch around it.  But I do not really know how hydrangeas should be wintered.

Remember the "free" hanging baskets I am trying to create from the cuttings I rooted from the single branch that fell off of Becky's plant two summers ago?

This is that same basket a couple of months later!  Tonight, I put the cuttings I had been rooting into the other basket, which is still somewhat beleaguered looking.  Four pieces have fallen off of one (or both) of the baskets, so I am now rooting those, too.  On this basket, I was thinking that I might take cutting from the two longest branches and root those.  By the end of the summer, I should have two full baskets to winter in the solarium and return to the porch next spring.  Clearly, Wandering Jew is a plant that likes to be outdoors.

Today, I also tried another rutabaga recipe.  At first, I had a bit of difficulty, because the original recipe had the ingredients listed by weight.  And the rutabagas I had were not equal to the weight in the recipe.  For a while, I was worried that I did not have enough, but looking at the options of my "large" rutabaga and what I would consider "medium" as opposed to "small" rutabagas, I used my "medium" one even though it made for just what would have been two pounds if not for my halving of the recipe.  To me, the recipe turned out perfectly, so my recipe directions are for two of the size I used.

Since I also have the dangerously sharp Oxo peeler, I didn't bother both following or typing up the directions on peeling and cutting the rutabaga.  I just hold it over the trash can and peel away.  I will note that I do not care for how my hands smell after handling the rutabaga.  I am not sure if it is the peel or what.  But at least I can wash away the smell.

My!  I found the Creamy, Smoky Whipped Rutabaga rather tasty.  I wanted to put the leftovers in the refrigerator and plow my way through the other serving as soon as possible ... maybe even breakfast ... but one of the points of this experimenting is to see what new recipes freeze well.  The original recipe notes that whipped rutabaga keeps better than mashed potatoes, so I have my fingers crossed for the serving in the freezer.

Yesterday, I took out the other serving of Zesty Roasted Carrots and Rutabaga from the freezer and warmed it up.  I found it to be equally tasty as the first time, if a bit softened from the re-warming.    And I struggled with great, great, great longing not to cook up the remaining three rutabagas using that recipe.  I had it along with Pasta alla Vodka.  For dessert, I had a Blueberry Lime Oatmeal Muffin.  I cannot wait to make those again ... and to get more blueberries for freezing.

Had I not broken my Pampered Chef stoneware small bar pan, I would have warmed the serving up that way and retained some of the crispiness. Sadness.

I must also say, I do so enjoy "shopping" for meals from the freezer ... filling up my basket with tastiness to then cart upstairs for the next week.

Having not yet really known what to do with that large flaked smoked salt, I am glad to have a recipe for it.  Who cares that this is summer?  I shall never be a seasonal eater if that means I can only have rutabaga (or butternut and acorn squash) in the fall.  Yes, I am now officially a rutabaga fan, even if all I ever end up making are the two recipes linked above.  However, I would still like to try the root gratin (which has more than rutabaga in it), as well as rutabaga fries, baked rutabaga chips, and rutabaga beer cheese soup.

I have decided that the next vegetable I would like to try is the parsnip.

I shall never be a vegetable kind of girl ... no tomatoes, mushrooms, leeks, leafy greens, peas, green beans, okra, or peppers for me ... ever ... but I do want to broaden my horizons a bit.  Somehow, adding cauliflower and rutabaga to my palate seems not quite sufficient to claim those horizons broadened.

Amos had a bath tonight.
I needed time with a snoring, swaddled, sweet-smelling puppy dog tucked in my lap.
It's been a hard couple of days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Safety measures...

I cannot remember if I mentioned that I was reading an article about fire safety and saw that smoke detectors, whether or not they are still working, should be replaced every ten years.  Mine were very, very, very old, save for the new one that I bought for the basement living space.  So, I set out to start replacing them.  Lowe's has an economical two-pack of First Alert battery smoke detectors with a swing-out battery compartment and operational indicator light that I bought. I planned to buy one each month until I had all the areas of my home covered. 

I was a bit perturbed to discover that the holes in the old First Alert detectors do not match up with the new First Alert detectors.  So, the two I bought I had temporarily hung from just one screw, not wanting to muck about with standing on a ladder (or chair) and fiddle with screws and the drill.  

My sister, when learning about my plan, treated me to a second two-pack of smoke detectors.  I picked it up when I picked up the gifted mulch, but the bag with the smoke detectors has remained on the dining table where I tossed it.  Today, I girded my loins, grabbed my drill, and properly installed all four smoke detectors.  With the one in the basement living space, I now have two on the second floor, two in the basement, and one on the main floor.  I still need a second one on the main floor, one in my bedroom, and one in the attic.  Apparently, I should have three additional ones, for each of the other spare bedrooms upstairs, but since they are rarely used, I think the one I added to the hallway near all three doors should suffice for now.

I am fairly confused about carbon monoxide detectors. I have one on the first floor, but not in the basement. I have read conflicting advice about whether or not to have one in the same area with all the mechanicals.  I also read that you should put one in or near the sleeping areas, but since there is nothing on the second floor to give off carbon monoxide, I am not sure why that is important.  I mean, the alarm is loud.  

I could switch the smoke detector at the top of the stairs to a duel detector, but the miser in me noted with concern that carbon monoxide detectors eat up batteries.  Plus, the reviews are split between "great" and "crap."  The one on the first floor is a plug-in version.  That's the type I would get for the basement if I could figure out that having one there is needed.  After all, there are now oodles of plugs in the basement thanks to my upgrading the electrical systems in this house (panel, circuits, wiring, switches, and outlets). I would just need to figure out the best placement.

When is the last time you replaced your smoke detectors?  Do you have ones on every floor and by the sleeping areas at least?  Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?  A fire extinguisher?  If you are more than one person to a family, do you have a fire safety plan with your beloved and/or cherubs?  Do you have those window ledge fire escape ladders if you sleep on the second floor?  Do you have a designated meeting place outside the house so that everyone knows that everyone is out of the house?

Can you tell that I am a fire safety nut?

Amos doesn't like the drill at all.  He becomes rather anxious when I get it out and requires copious amounts of comforting once I am done working.  That is just fine with me, because using it as I did today means holding it above my heart and, thus, fainting.  

I consoled myself with Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork tacos.
And a second bowl of Honey Nut Chex.
And four wretchedly bad made-for-TV sci-fi movies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sixty days...

After some rather extraordinary (and relentless) searching by the CVS pharmacist, he now has the last five bottles of the erythromycin solution from CVS stock nationwide.  He is no longer able to place any further orders.  So, along with the bottle I picked up today, I have 60 days left of the (sort of) economical version of the erythromycin.

I feel like have I have been on a roller coaster with hope and disappointment (and more hope and more disappointment) trying to address the gastroparesis.  Having something that works and then losing it was hard.  Finding an alternative format of the drug then realizing how cost prohibitive it is was brutal.  Deciding to at least plow through retirement for a year, to have some relief was extraordinarily confusing, laced with the fact that I just don't think I am worth the monthly expense.  Then, to find out that CVS had some more bottles so as to delay the costly switch ... up and down and up and down and up and down.

The number of bottles available has also gone up and down.  But, over the past 10 days, since I last fetched my prescription, the pharmacist has been able to get the last of the bottles on his shelf.  He ordered the last four one at a time, working around the limits placed on the ordering system.  That's really more than I need to remember. I just want to remember that he tried so hard, once he got a look at the price of the pills!

So, sixty days.
Sixty days until the math simply won't add up.
Sixty days until I ... well, guilt and confusion will be my companions.

There is this one ... thing.  Everything I have read about Erythromycin and the treatment of gastroparesis notes that it eventually loses its effectiveness.  Now, most of what I read mentioned about six months.  I am on month ten (or thereabouts).  Thankfully, it is still working.  Maybe ... maybe the money won't be an issue because it will stop working for me.  I will say that the pills seemed to do a slightly better job.  If it were not for the money, I would look forward to being able to take them.

$386.  After I pay for all my medications each month, that is how much left I will have for every other expense in my life.  I really dislike math.  I do.  My math stinks ... until the Celebrex generic comes out.  I'm crossing my fingers on that one.  The truly frightening part is that I will not know the exact cost until I start taking the medication.  In pricing it, the cost was first $280, then $320, then $436.  Who knows what it will be in sixty days.  I am trying to avoid that kind of thinking completely, firmly affixing in my mind that the cost will rise no higher.

But the scariest math of all is forecasting.  I did all that financial shenanigans last fall through January because Medicare, drug coverage, car insurance, and house insurance all went up.  The odds are that all those will be going up again next year.  What then?  There's no more maneuvering left in my life.

Have I mentioned that I found a healthier alternative dog food for Amos that is ~$22 less over a two month period (I will be buying a larger quantity each time)?  Or how about the fact that my Taco Bell order has suddenly gone from $2.79 to $3.20?  Oh, how I wish that I could have a day where I don't find myself crunching numbers about something.  Where I stop looking at everything in my life with dollar signs.  While never wealthy, I spent the majority of my adult life not having to worry about money.  Twice I was unemployed.  I realize now than I could have been far more frugal then. In any case, ever since those two periods, I stopped carrying debt save for a mortgage.  Now, I have no debt.  At least not until I start taking those pills, draining the last of my retirement.  SIGH.

Sometimes I feel ancient, not because of my body but because of my mind.  The things I think about, both pondering and fretting, have changed dramatically over the past few years ... especially over the past few months.  Needs and wants.  As I said before, that is the heart of budgeting.  And confusing wants with needs is at the heart of many budgeting mistakes.  I still think about that budgeting approach I wrote about in April: the 50/20/30 rule.  The fact that it takes so many things folk consider needs, such as cable, and puts them in the wants section (lifestyle) is such a positive.  For example, my neighbor, who lives on a tiny salary, visits flea markets and thrift shops and such with her son all the time.  She will talk about how they never spend more than $15 each, but they every weekend.  go twice on a weekend.  That is $30 a week, $1,440 a year on stuff they do not really need.  So, that is their lifestyle spending.  She mentioned that she has cable, because they can afford it.  But she also noted that they have little medical expenses.

I spend ~12% on lifestyle, primarily phone, Internet, streaming, and symphony.  That is less than the budget balance of 30%, but yet I sometimes still feel as if that is still too much.  The financial advisor's stance is that you have to have some enjoyment in your budget.  She thinks I don't have enough.  The surgeon certainly didn't, which is why I chose the symphony, but how do you think about wants without guilt when your needs are so great??

When we were on our Sonic road trip, my neighbor's son talked about how badly he wanted a tablet, such as an iPad.  I brought up how much he spends each week on games and such that he finds at the flea markets and noted that if he forewent those things, he could save up for a tablet.  Now, being autistic, there is a lot he struggles to understand, his mental age being nowhere near his physical age.  But in this case his position was that he thought he should be able to have everything he wanted.  Afterwards, his mother talked about how she's taught him to think that way because she's given him most of what he's wanted all his life because of his autism, because of his struggles. She's begun to realize that she's skewed his understanding of fiscal reality trying to compensate for something that is no one's fault.

I currently know three parents whose children have deliberately accessed credit card information to make secretive purchases.  Children, not teens.  The children do not think that they are stealing, but rather taking what they should be given.  It's their right to have the things they want.  The difference between wants and needs is a foreign concept to them.

I was helping someone with budgeting a while ago and tried to point out the difference in wants and needs in the items that were being listed as expenses.  I failed, because that concept was, again, foreign.  When I was growing up, we had to work for the things we wanted.  We were a chore-heavy household with no expectation of payment for chores.  An allowance was a privilege, not a right.  And earning your own way was an obligation, a duty.  Now, I realize just how precious a gift that parenting stance was.

A dear friend of mine talks about her desire to conquer the world.  I hope she does because it would most certainly be better off.  Anyway, one of my favorite children's poetry books is If I Were In Charge of the World, by Judith Viorst.  The title poem is as follows:

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel oatmeal,
Monday mornings,
Allergy shots, and also Sara Steinberg.

If I were in charge of the world
There'd be brighter nights lights,
Healthier hamsters, and
Basketball baskets forty eight inches lower.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have lonely.
You wouldn't have clean.
You wouldn't have bedtimes.
Or "Don't punch your sister."
You wouldn't even have sisters.

If I were in charge of the world
A chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable
All 007 movies would be G,
And a person who sometimes forgot to brush,
And sometimes forgot to flush,
Would still be allowed to be
In charge of the world.

Student, old and young, used to laugh when I read this one.  It still makes me chuckle, even though I've read it aloud so many times I've practically got it memorized.  Or ... I used to have it memorized.

If I were in charge of the world, seeing what I do now, financial literacy and volunteering would be core subjects starting in first grade.  Reading and writing would be plentiful and praised and given vaunted places in the annals of achievement.  Grammar would still be taught.  Science would begin in kindergarten via gardening.  History would be taught in the lower grades by interacting with seniors.  And homework would not be a factor until middle school.  In other words, reading, writing, critical thinking, and helping others would be highly prized.

If I were in charge of the world, protecting the child rather than the intact family would be most important in cases of abuse.  Repeat abuse would result in harsh, stiff, and punitive consequences.  And talking about abuse would be normal and accepted and carry no stigma.  

The same with folk who drive whilst under the influence.  A driver's license is a privilege not a right.

If I were in charge of the world, common sense and civility would return to our society, as would hand written thank you notes. 

If I were in charge of the world ... well ... I'm not, am I?

I cannot really do anything about the things that bother me out there in the world or even here in my own small patch of it.  I can, however, address the sad state of my weeping cherry tree.  I just took a break from writing and did so.

Headlamp gardening is still rather enjoyable to me, except that lopping off branches hurt my blossom-loving heart.

Necessary pain.

The right side is still a little ... out there ... but if I made the cut for the most offending branch, I would then unbalance the tree too far in the opposite direction.  I thought I would live with this for a while and see if, perhaps, my weeping cherry would start growing more from the top (like a fountain) instead of those funky branches reaching out from the sides.

The other advantage to headlamp gardening is that I could better ignore the browning of my beloved grass.  GREEN grass all summer is a want not a need.  

I am not going to water.
I am not going to water.
I am not going to water.

Baby Bunny watched me work.  Amos didn't see him and so Baby Bunny didn't have to run for his life.  Amos didn't see Baby Bunny, because, whilst I worked, my fluffy white dog was busy "watering" all four wheels of my Highlander.  SIGH.

I wish Amos could learn to distinguish between needs and wants with his "watering" activities.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bucket list...

I started thinking about a bucket list of sorts ... things I wanted to do before I could no longer do them ... or before my mind gives out.  I am somewhat abashed to admit that several culinary experiences came to mind more quickly than other types of experiences.  I mean, it bothers me that I will most likely never meet my grand niece.  And, if the past four years are any indication, my siblings will most likely never manage to visit.  I always wanted to see three American landmarks (the Redwood Forest, the Grand Canyon, and Niagra Falls), but travel is really out for me.  But there are some things that are possible.  For example, taking a pottery class or looking at the stars through a telescope like I used to do so in college.  And, of course, today's item that was crossed off.

I cannot say for sure, but I am fairly certain that it has been at least 20 years since I have had a Sonic burger.  Growing up in Texas, this is quite nearly a crime.  Sonic commercials air here, but there is no Sonic in town.  Watching them is brutal.  I got to thinking ... I want to have Sonic at least one more time.

Having determined, some time ago, that the nearest Sonic was 42 miles away, in another state, I finally worked up the nerve to ask my neighbor if she wanted to take a road trip with me.  You see, she and her son, who has autism, spend their weekends taking short trips here and there.  I thought 42 miles would be a drop in a bucket to her.  Still, who takes a road trip to another state for Sonic?  Much to my pleasure, my neighbor agreed and we planned to set off into the great beyond today (actually yesterday) at 1:00 with her son.

You know how sometimes you remember things as being wonderful and then when you experience them again they are not?  Well, Sonic most definitely lived up to the memories I do not have!  It lived up to the lingering hype that remains in my mind.  Man, I had a Sonic burger today!!

We drove through interesting itty bitty towns to get there.  You know, the kind of towns with lawns like this:

My neighbor and I both cried out, "Look at that yard!" at the same time.  Her son laughed because his mother has a single pink flamingo that she moves around the back yard ... not 15 of them.

Of course, the cool part about driving through the farm land that is between those itty bitty towns is that you get to see something new and incredibly interesting...

...that is, if you are a fan of barns.  I didn't know they came in round shapes.  The other part of the drive I enjoyed was the plethora of blue spruce trees I got to admire.  A deep and abiding passion for blue spruce trees is something I shared with my father.

Should I admit that I actually stumbled getting out of the car, not because I was stiff and in pain, but because I couldn't wait to have Sonic???

Of course, I was not the only one excited to be there.  [I found it adorable that the Sonic doll was buckled in the back seat by his 20-year-old companion.]

Too bad that I have no photo for the rather befuddled crew that stood staring about in confusion at the door to Sonic.  You see, there was no inside for folk not employees.  Nor was there a walk-up order window.  There were car parks with order boards and there was a courtyard of outside tables with a giant ... thing ... to one side.  The three of us kept trying to figure out how to place an order when this very nice (and obviously amused) family told us that the thing was an order board and that we just needed to push the big red button.

[Note to self: Big red buttons most likely are there to be pushed.]

Well, the menu has obviously changed since I was last at Sonic.  I know that I always picked the one that had mustard (I think it was a No. 3).  But, basically, I had a cheeseburger with bacon, no onions or tomatoes, but with extra mustard (a No. 1).  BLISS.  It was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be.  However, that is jumping ahead.

We stood in front of the board for about 15 minutes, trying to figure out what everyone wanted.  Then, after pushing the button, we struggled to actually place our order.  The first time the staff's voice came blaring through, we all jumped back.  Literally, it was like being assaulted by sound.  We took a step back and tried again.  More jumping.  All of use were standing a good 10 feet from the board by the time our order was complete.  And we were exhausted.  But, as I said, ultimately we were not disappointed.  Though, my neighbor and her son got hotdogs.  Who goes to Sonic for hotdogs??

The second best moment of the day—the first being my first bite of hamburger—was when my neighbor noticed the hours sign and suggested that we could go for midnight burgers one day after work.  SIGH.  This might not be my last Sonic experience!

Two things that I like about Sonic (besides great tasting burgers and FANTASTIC mustard):  1) shredded lettuce on the burger (like Fuddruckers ... who has the best mustard of all time) and 2) the funky round ice that does not melt as you drink your drink.  Yep, I had a Dr Pepper!

I am, at the moment, still crossing my fingers about the whole digestive obstacle, but I am feeling well ... no nausea or swelling or other issues.

My neighbor would say the second best thing about the day for her was that right at the other end of the parking lot was a Wal-Mart!  Yep, we Wal-Marted in Ohio!!  She fell at work a few days ago and her shoulder was really hurting.  The ice packs she had been using were not helping, so my neighbor asked her "sickie" neighbor what to take.  I suggested alternating Tylenol with Ibuprofen, starting with the former.  Of course, we bought the Equate brand.  By the time we were half way home, my neighbor was feeling ever so much better.

I broke my stiff resolve to not muddy the waters between grocery budget cycles because the store carried the cut of pork I use for the Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork tacos and the one here has not carried it for a few months.  Once one item was in the cart, I looked for a few more things targeted for next month, for this was one of the most magical Wal-Mart's I've ever seen. It was huge and clean and had an incredibly wide selection of goods.

When we got home, my neighbor and her son carried my purchases to the basement, so that I would not start using them until the next budget cycle begins on the 27th.  They both admired the stairs and my paint job.  And, much to my delight, the both admired—again—my back porch.

[Doesn't it make my old grill look even better???]

It is so very weird for me to walk across it each day, to sit on the steps waiting on Amos and catch sight of it out of the corner of my eye.  Yes, I am silly and am still rather enamored with how beautiful the old wood turned out once properly tended. But it is also the last home improvement project of my life.  I get a bit of a lump in my throat at the thought.  At my latest new reality.

I know that I actually painted the basement stairs and the stairwell after all that labor on the back porch, but I look at that task as repair, especially because the need to remove the carpet treads was from my flooding the kitchen and basement.  The porch, that was an actual improvement project, which are almost always highly labor intensive when you do not have the money to pay others.  It was, by far, the most economical home improvement project of my entire adult life.  And, being that I sat down most of the time (and actually lay down some of the time), it was the easiest of the hard jobs that I have completed.

The lattice?  Firewood Man is going to tend to that.  The railing on the airing porch?  Tim's taking care of that, too.  And other than painting that hideous door to the utility closet once Tim's got it properly hung, I'm not doing anything more labor intensive than hanging the new smoke detector's when I finish buying them.  Maybe ... just maybe ... I might put a new brass plate on the door frame of the screen door to the basement entrance.  Maybe.  I noticed, going in and out, that the latch is not quite catching.

I'm done.
Anything else needs to be the task of the next homeowner.
Truly, I am most fervently hoping that I am done.

Even the thought of putting out the mulch I was gifted this week is wearying me.  And all I did was drive to Lowe's have it loaded and then twit Tim the whole time he was unloading it and stacking all the bags next to the garage wall for me.  I actually think that I am now capable of not half-killing myself with work anymore.  Even though it lasted for such a short time, painting the small ceiling of the basement stairwell was excruciating.  I wept through most of it, trying to push through the pain in my hands, arms, and shoulders, as well as trying to keep from fainting since I was standing and had my arms above my head.  It is a very good thing that the stairwell ceiling only covers part of the staircase.

I am ever so much weaker.  "Recovery" time takes longer and is more brutal.  My hands do not hold onto things well (I duct-taped the brushes to my hands to keep from dropping them the way I did the brush I used to seal the back porch).  Even the really fantastic mini-road trip that I took with my neighbor today exhausted me.  But the main point is that I am tired. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of being terrified. I am tired of being in pain.  I am tired of being confused.  I am tired of breaking things that matter to me. I am tired of needing to find new ways to compensate for living on my own.  I am tired of more than I can even write.  All those things,  I cannot change.  But I can stop adding to the physical pain and exhaustion.

The ex-evangelical in me who was inculcated with the need to be a good steward of all that I am given has taken stock of the before and after state of my home and believes that I have done the best I could, for me and for those to follow me in this home.  Plus, the truth is, in the world of personal finance, the bottom line is the ability to understand the difference between needs and wants.  The switch over to the erythromycin pills will mean that I will be unable to cover my basic needs on the disability payments. Wants are pretty much off the table for me now.  And, to be honest, my wants have completely changed in the recent past, as I have been confronted over and over and over again with the failings of my mind, body, and soul.

But the sight of that back porch discombobulates me some.  For decades, I've been the one to not only do her home improvement because she is single, but also to do the home improvement for others.  I've painted oodles of walls, laid many floors of myriad types, helped hang, tape and float drywall, rewire lamps, sockets, switches, and outlets, landscape, reduce stuff, organize closets, offices, bedrooms, and entire floors, choose appliances and furniture (fetching and lugging it about), refinish/restore furniture, and a whole bunch of others tasks almost too tedious to type.  Being a good little evangelical, I was a doer of the Word.  Not really knowing how to be a friend, I was a doer for others.  Sometimes, I look at the back porch and I think, Now what's left of me?

It was truly a wonderful day to be able to taste Sonic once more.
To have the pleasure of a bacon cheeseburger slathered with mustard.
To sit at a GREEN table, in a cool breeze, tastiness abounding, with not a drop of mustard falling on my person.

My neighbor had purchased hair color for her shopping needs and wants.  So, once home, she tackled bringing a bit of freshness to her locks and then came over for me to lop off an inch or so.  After I finished cutting her hair, we sat and watched NASCAR for a while.  Once she left, I cuddled in the GREEN chair with a fluffy white puppy dog who was determined to make up lost time with his beloved puppy momma.

My bucket list is not going to be anything like the grand ones I've heard about.  But deciding I wanted to do something and then having the experience once more is grand to me.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Culinary bravado...

The memory board on the coffee table has worked out well for me, as far as helping me to remember things that I want to be doing and what I have fresh in the refrigerator to eat along with the freezer meals.

Yesterday, I finished this overview booklet on Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) that I had offered to make for my friend Bettina, whose daughter was diagnosed with that and ADHD.  I thought that if she had a small booklet to share with family and friends, it might help them to better understand her daughter's (and family's) struggles.  To see that this was a mental health issue, not poor parenting.  I have been reading about ODD for a couple of years now, more intensely in the past six months.  It is sad how often, in the articles and information I came across online, it is noted that the parents feel isolated and like failures, battling the blame they errantly put on themselves and the blame others put on them.

Few understand that normal parenting strategies do not work with the ODD child and the parents need special training to help support their child.  The ODD child also needs cognitive behavioral therapy to help learn to change the thoughts and perceptions in their head and how to recognize healthy social interactions and to learn to practice them.   It is not the same as Asperger's Syndrome at all, but it is the same in that the ODD child's brain sees the world differently than most people do.

I am not sure if my friend will use the booklet or if it will be helpful.  I did consult with my friend who is a seasoned licensed family counselor to make sure that it was a good cross-section of information.  I included the following sections:  What is it?; Why Argue?; Behavioral Characteristics; Getting Help, and Support.  I also included links to all the references I quoted and some additional resources.  The only words that were mine were in the Support section.

To me, I thought the two most enlightening aspects was 1) the ODD child's thought process behind arguing and 2) the covert/passive aggressive behavioral responses.  How often do we over look the passive in life?  Yet passive actions and words are oft more telling than the active.

Anyway, that task was on my memory board.  It felt good to be able to erase it and add something else.

One side of the board is food.  On that side, I had broccoli, because that was one of the fresh vegetables and fruits I had bought at the store.  Today, I cooked it, being a bit culinarily brave in the process.

For well over a year, I've been wanting to make broccoli patties, but the recipes I first saw on Facebook (back when I was on there) and the subsequent ones I found on line all seemed a bit ... lacking.  They are all pretty much the same ... the main difference being if you bake them or fry them.  Now, having done a lot of cooking myself, I had the confidence to try and craft a better recipe for baked broccoli patties.

One of the basil plants really is closing in on the top of the fence, so I have this constant reminder to start using them ... and the admonishment to face my fear of blanching, which I still have successfully ignored.  I went a Googling for which herbs work well with broccoli and found this website.  Yes, I saved it to the cooking tips of my rather extensive recipe bookmark collection.

I went with thyme, basil, and oregano off the list.  Now, you have to picture another sprig of oregano and more thyme if you want to know how much I harvested to try and get equal amounts of minced herbs.  I was not planning to harvest from those two slips of oregano that my realtor gave me from her yard, but they have tripled in size since I put them in just a month ago.  [Is it my soil mix or the worms or both that is reaping such ginormous harvests of what's in the raised bed???] They have also flowered, which I think is how they replicate.  In any case, I thought I could judiciously harvest from them now.

Not being an onion person, I simply dropped the onions from the recipe, but then I used the core ingredients to craft something that had much more flavor.  For one, I used fresh broccoli and then I roasted the broccoli and garlic together first.  [I saw Marie roast broccoli before adding it to a pasta recipe and thought that a most brilliant idea.  The broccoli added ever so much more flavor that way.]  Then, I added in the fresh herbs.  I also changed it from merely Parmesan cheese to a mix of hard cheeses.  

So, here are my Roasted Broccoli Patties with Garlic, Herbs, and Cheese!

These are cooked 15 minutes per side.  In the recipe, I put 12-15 minutes, because I thought they could be a tad less crispy.  However, I know there are lots and lots and lots of crispy folk out there who might even cook them longer.  I put three on a plate to photograph them, but ended up eating just two of them.

I found them really tasty and far more ... together ... than I would have thought given how crumbly the mixture is and how hard it was to form the patties.  For a while, I was deeply concerned that I had ruined them, but they are far more ... substantial ... than I thought they would be.  One recipe I reviewed had the option of adding in some parboiled potatoes chunks. I might try that sometime.

What I read is that they freeze well, so the other five are in the freezer, along with the two helpings of the rutabaga.  I still have fresh asparagus, which I really only wish to have sautéed with olive oil and Kulp Spice Shoppe organic seasoning salt.  So, my plan is to eat up the asparagus and try some more rutabaga recipes before eating more of the patties.  I figure that all I have to do will be to thaw them and then warm them in the oven.  Being all very crispy, I will probably do so wrapped in foil rather than on a baking stoneware, which is how I re-heat most things.

Now that my house is still filled with the delectable aroma of roasted broccoli, I will be off to work on editing a friend's project.  And watching some Fringe.  And snuggling with my fluff ball.  And not thinking about discomfiting things.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I miss the Word of God...

I read this article about a former gymnast who is doing rather well on a show called American Ninja Warriors.  Being an old lady, I used to watch American Gladiators when I was younger, as well as Battle of the Network Stars.  Something about obstacle courses have always interested me.  I liked them when I was an Outdoors Adventure counselor at a Christian sports camp.  I liked them on that rather silly gladiator show.  And I used to watch Survivor just for the obstacle courses ... only I stopped watching because I simply couldn't stomach the horrible behavior that happens when the challenges where not happening.  When I saw promos for the ninja show, I was sort of interested, but never actually checked to see if I could stream it.

I watched the video of Kacy's performance.  It truly is a spectacular display of athletic ability.  Something that always came in play on the gladiator shows was the lack of upper body strength women had.  Their obstacle courses where shorter and easier.  They were never expected to excel at challenges such as the rings.  This ninja course is 1,000 times harder than anything I have ever seen before, and this little slip of a woman, five feet tall, muscled her way through it.  A course, apparently, men struggle with.  An impressive video.

And I read the comments.  SIGH.
I know.
I should not be reading comments.

Comments fell me.  People have become so very cruel; civility is a thing of the ancient past.  That really was the hardest part of Facebook ... seeing all the lack of civility even amongst Christians.  When I would lament the cruelty being flung about so easily, folk would tell me that Christians are sinners.  When ... when did we set aside that they are also saints?  I know that I daily sin, but I strive against that sin with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Or at least I did when I thought I had faith.  The point is, even now, I would still strive against the baseness of human nature and reach out for kindness ... or at least civility ... not for salvation but because we ought to care for our fellow man.  It is my opinion that folk use the fact that Christians are sinners as an excuse rather than to admit that there is no place for such blatant sin ... especially among brothers and sisters in Christ.

But I digressed.

I laughed so hard, reading this three-comment chain, that I actually had to go running for the Tesselon Pearls and try to actively calm the coughing down lest I ended up in the ER.  Laughing used to be such a problematic asthma trigger for me, especially since I have cough variant asthma.  I suppose, given then fact that I cannot take B2Agonists that are the standard of care for the emergency treatment of asthma attacks, it is a good thing that I do not laugh all that much anymore.

Anyway, whilst I am sure this will cause offense to someone, somewhere, here is the exchange:

1 timothy 4' 8     bodily exercise profiteth little  but Godliness is contentment in this life and the life to come.
Maybe she's more of a 1 Corinthians 6:20 person. "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

I really, really, really wanted to "like" gymbeaux's reply.  It cracked me up and still causes me to smile broadly.

I miss the Bible Belt.
Maybe the Bible Belt of yesteryear.

A while ago, ABC was brave enough to broadcast the absolute best "Christian" show I have ever seen.  None of that 7th Heaven sap.  No, ABC went for the heart of the Bible Belt in its show GCB.  You can watch 10 episodes on Hulu+.  It will scandalize most and, were the show a book, it would be both burned and banned.  Me?  Well, I think it would have made God chuckle, were He walking the earth again.

Kristin Chinoweth, who is a publicly professing (and rather unapologetic) Christian, is on the show.  I read that she is from Oklahoma and I don't know if she ever lived in Dallas, but oh, my, was the show ever so authentic about the odd mix of Southern, Texan, Dallas society, Bible Belt life.  Annie Potts is  another actress on the show and her time on Designing Women schooled her in the southern part of that life, if nothing else.  I do not believe that I have ever had so much fun watching a television show before.

You see, the women—the feral cats—claw at each other using verses from the Bible, going tit for tat the way the third commenter did above.  There is this amazing mix of faith and reference even as it is all muddied by pettiness, deep wounds, and a whole lot of deception and saving face.  Man, do we ever save face in the South ... in Texas ... in Dallas.

More of a I Corinthians 6:20 person!! That is so very priceless!

Personally, I can think of some Lutherans who could benefit from a careful study of GCB.  Set aside the acronym title (Good Christian Bitches) and see how the Word of God is so deeply woven into the lives of evangelicals without understanding its meaning.  I think the tendency would be to dismiss the show outright as some sort of mockery.  It is not mockery.  It is not even mudslinging against Christians.  It is, perhaps, a slight spoof on the very real lives many Christians live.

Watching that show, I felt strangely comfortable, even though the whole saving face stuff drove me to despair when I was younger and living in that world.  Two examples:

1) When I was in high school, I was involved in Young Life and Campaigners.  Originally, Young Life was Young Life Campaign, but over the years it split into two different foci, with the former being on evangelism and the latter being on equipping the saints.  We would have Campaigners' Bible study on Friday nights, for most of which I would walk about two miles to the location ... in the dark.  Stupid, but I did not have my license for a long time and then wasn't allowed to drive there.  Each week, the counselors would chide me about being unsafe and would ask for volunteers to take me home.  My classmates would fall over themselves offering and would make comments about how they would have most certainly driven me there if only I asked.  I did.  I asked each week.  Mostly, being very unpopular, I would receive vague replies about not knowing if the person was going.  Lies.  Then, on Saturday night, many those same Bible study attenders, would be out drinking and getting high.  I never understood the duplicity or why it was that going to Campaigners was so popular when few were actually interested in the Word of God.

2)  When I was at Baylor, on Sunday mornings, students would dress up to go eat lunch at the cafeterias.  They would dress up to give the impression that they had gone to church, instead of the truth:  they had stayed out late partying and had slept in instead of attending worship services.  Appearances mattered more than the truth.  Yet ... it was still there.  The Word of God was still so intricately woven through all that stuff.

I miss the presence of the verses in the discourse of my daily life.  Even though I know most of them were misused, like the commenter bibledoctor did above.  [I suppose gymbeaux's comment was still law, but it was a freer law.  And, it should be noted, that quoting Bible verses as a condemnation of a person's life or another's admiration of it in a news article is so totally and completely NOT the way God intended the Word of God to be shared and used and heard and written.]

Is it wrong to miss such a thing?  Is it wrong to miss being daily surrounded by people who knew and quoted Scripture at the drop of a hat even when the use of said Scripture was often twisted at best?

When I sit out on the back steps, I often hear a train whistle.  The sound comforts me.  Last night I was talking on the phone to my sister, and Amos asked to go outside.  So, she heard the train whistle and asked me if I was near tracks.  Actually, I have never figured out where the sound coming from, if there is some crossing close by that requires a blast from a passing train.  All I know is that I hear it often, even in the dead of night, and I am comforted.

I mentioned how much I savor the whistle and she asked me if it reminded me of being at my grandparents' house.  I was surprised.  I don't remember any train whistles there.  She told me that we used to hear them all the time there while laying in our beds at night.

The things I actually remember from that house, I am not sure I can ever record here.  Then there are the things that I do not remember, but that I know.  For example, my grandparent's back yard was this rather elongated trapezoid, with the small side at the far end of the yard backing up to a crick.  Not a creek.  A crick.

The gate for the back fence was actually up by the house.  I know that we would open the gate and carefully pick our way down the narrow (and oft slippery) path that led to the crick.  I am not good with grades, but the crick was at least a good 20 or 30 feet below the height of the back porch.  So, we were really not supposed to go down to the crick unless my grandmother was with us, holding our hands as we held on to the fence.  Once at the crick, all bets were off.

Hours.  Hours were lost perching on those rocks in the water, walking along the bank, counting the tadpoles, setting sticks and leaves to float downstream.  Could there have been moss??

The thing is, my grandmother's house was not a safe place.  It was not a comforting place at all.  Along with the tadpoles came alcoholic rages and abuse.  Yet my sister said that we would lie in bed listening to the train whistle and thought that might be why I found the sound of a train whistle comforting.

I have those beds.  I slept in one until I bought myself a "big" bed as a graduation present when I finished my Ph.D.  Maybe what was comforting to me was that if I was in that bedroom with my sister, it meant that a certain family member was not there ... else wise we would have been sharing the pullout from the couch.  A very unsafe bed.

Really, I cannot fathom why a train whistle would comfort me now or how it could be tied to being at my grandparents' house.  All I know is that it does.  In the dead of night, when my fluffy white puppy dog is finally free from his fears and enjoying the outdoors from the safety of my lap as the two of us are perched on the back steps and the train whistle blows, I am comforted.  I have a moment's peace ... a sort of respite.

I did not grow up in a Christian home.  I was a teenager before I really entered the world of the Bible Belt. But for a while there, I lived in a world where the Word of God was part of the daily discourse about me.  It was read by so many of the people I knew and spoken freely.  We would weekly gather (sometimes twice or three times) to study the Word of God.  Yes, it was all errant theology.  But the Word was there.  And I was surrounded by folk who at least maintained the appearance filling their lives with the Word and sharing it not only on Sundays, but on any day.  Even if they did not understand its meaning or pursue its presence in their lives, it was still there.

I get how important doctrine is.  Have I not created a blog with over two hundred cross-referenced and linked passages to help make navigating that doctrine easier?  Have I not typed out whole swaths of that doctrine here?  Even now, nearly convinced that doing so is wrong, I still crave to read and hear that true doctrine.  But I miss the Bible studies and the fellowship meetings and the weekend retreats and the social gatherings that were filled with the Living Word.

A while ago, I asked someone if she would read the Christian Book of Concord with me.  Her reply is that she would only ever do so with her husband.  I have heard and read Lutherans say that Bible studies should only be taught by pastors.  Well, in my experience, that means that the teaching of the Word is only on Sundays.  If you are not a parent, then you have no family with which to have family catechesis.  If you are not married, then you have no husband to be the spiritual head and lead catechesis or devotionals.  If you are single and in liturgical Lutheran churches, there really is no place to gather together and study apart from Sundays ... no place to hear the Living Word about you the rest of the days of the week.  But what about gathering together and just reading?

I miss that life.
I miss the time when that was not a weird or outlier thing to do.
I miss the time when I wouldn't even have to ask.

That's the other thing about Facebook and the online Lutheran world.  In all that discourse, the Living Word and the doctrine were rarely present.  Personal positions were flung about. If supported, most often they were done so with secondary sources ... church fathers or writings of Martin Luther that were not from the Confessions.  And, in my opinion, when the Word was used, it was used as the commenter bibledoctor did.  It was used to bind others to a legalistic life instead of sharing the freedom of the Gospel.  [I like how Eric puts similar thoughts here.]

Is it wrong to re-watch GCB just to be comforted by a life were the Living Word was so prevalent, even if twisted?  Is it wrong to long to be back in the world of Wednesday night bible study, Friday night fellowship, and something on Saturday, too, when I know the doctrine was errant?  Is it wrong to miss the praise services that were filled with segments where folk were free to read aloud passages from the Bible, voices rising from pew to pew, everyone willing to listen as long as someone wanted to read, knowing those praise services were also filled with horribly errant praise songs?  Is it wrong to long for other Christians in my life to want to sit and read the Bible together?  To savor it, to take it in, to talk about the texts?

I have kept hidden so very many parts of my life, and it occurred to me that this part is now hidden, too.  Come visit me, and I will ask you to cook with me or play Rumikub with me.  If I feel safe with you, I will ask you to watch one of those shows filled with broken people with me ... or a 1970s disaster movie ... or Firefly.  But I won't ask you to just sit and read the Bible with me, to talk with me about the Bible and the Confessions.  And I will hide my own reading from you.

There was a time when all I had of the Christian life was the Word of God.  I had (or so I thought, though I wonder now) been given the gift of faith at camp and came home with only verses written on small slips of paper.  I went to Young Life some years later and heard the Word again and found out about a Christian Sports Camp.  I went there and learned all about quiet times and devotionals and bible studies and worship services.  I came home with a whole Bible, but still had no access to church.  An eternity later, I gained access to church and all those things I learned about at the second camp.  I lived in a world where the Word of God was spoken freely.  Then, it became a world where the Word of God was replaced with Christian literature.  Now, I live in a world where the Word of God is really only heard at the proper time and the proper place and spoken by the proper person.  And I am no longer proper.

If I really am Saul, you could say that my life of faith began and ended with hiding this ineffable, inexplicable, inescapable longing for the Word of God in my life.