Perhaps a New Activity

Cookies. Everybody likes cookies. Cheryl likes to make them. It doesn’t take the mental capacity to operate a seventeen year old access data base to make cookies. The hardest part is tracking down the chocolate chips that migrated to the back of the fridge under the leftovers. And you get to eat them. Even if they are not the best food, who cares. Cheryl is skinny as a rail and I am excited to get her to eat anything.

Everything is a big production. First we have to find the Toll House cookie recipe printed onto the back of the chocolate chip bag. Way back in the beginning of the pandemonium I had purchased a different brand of chocolate chips. Alas and woe is me — I had to return to the store to purchase the correct brand with the recipe.

What about this one I found on the internet from Betty Crocker? It looks like the low calorie version. See, only one cup of butter.

Go to the store and get the yellow bag she replied.

I left.

Here is the bag. There is even a bonus recipe for FAMOUS FUDGE. I do not care for fudge. My daughter does and when she makes some, I eat it. Perhaps I prefer that someone else does the cookies and fudge. I do bread, english muffins, bagels and coffee cake and other baking things. Cheryl does cookies.

Perhaps this is an Aha moment.

We also had rigatoni for dinner. Parkinson’s sucks but you can always make cookies unless you would rather make fudge.

Food Therapy

We have tried a new thing. Sometime during the past couple weeks I tripped over Hello Fresh. There are several of these around and as the pandemic pandemonium wears on I have cooked enough dinners that I am bored with my repertoire of recipes. Time for a new thing, new ideas and new spices. Time for someone else to select the menu for tonight.

Last evening I selected this one to start.

One small critique: both the prep time and cook time are optimistic. Perhaps you and your significant other are supposed to be in the kitchen together enjoying a glass of wine while assembling this fine repast. That could work.

The back side of the menu card

The back of the menu card has very specific instructions. I made one or two additions along the way. I used parchment paper under the chicken breasts. I put the broccoli in a bowl to toss with the olive oil. I have cooked many vegetables in the oven this way. It seems to me that the optimum roasting temperature is about 400 – 425 degrees Fahrenheit. (about 220 C) I set my timer to 20 minutes which seemed to cook the chicken breasts and Broccoli to perfection.

Three meals came boxed together

In this case six medium Yukon golds, a little bag of broccoli tops, out of the picture are two small chicken breasts, cheese, sour cream packets and seasonings. The little glass bowls are part of a set that I bought many years ago from Williams Sonoma. They have been pretty handy for 25 years or so.

You have to have oil, butter, salt and pepper.

There is a fair amount of shrapnel after the prep. The back row is waiting for the potatoes to cook. The bigger bowl with butter is waiting for the broccoli.

I have cleaned this pan enough that I use parchment paper often.

I have several of these cookie sheet pans. This one is about 11 by 17 inches. (A standard B-size drawing for all engineers.) The chicken crust has cheese in it so the parchment paper aids with clean up.

My plate

The portions seem just right.

Her plate.

I will have to work on my drizzle technique.  I am more of a glopper.

Overall a good meal and a well planned cooking experience. A glass of wine while assembling this would have been great.

The parkie ate all her chicken, half of the broccoli and some of the mashed potatoes. She is not a big fan of onions and I wonder what onions taste like without out a sense of smell. The chicken has French’s Red Hot seasoning on it so it had some flavor for her.

Parkinson’s disease sucks but this at least was a successful dining experience.

Getting Mom to the Beach and other Things

I started writing this story in 2005 and a little more in 2007. I wrote notes about my impressions of things as Cheryl and I took my mom and dad on a vacation trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Looking back through the distance of fifteen years is not as difficult as I thought it might be. As I read my old notes – I am a terrible journal writer – I can see the inside of the condo we rented in N. Myrtle Beach, my new Dodge Intrepid, the IHOP near Mom’s house, Dad’s brown pajamas, both of them in the back seat of my car, lots of images.

My notes are not so much a chronology of the trip as they are notes and impressions of conversations with my father, conversations with the person I chose to be with for the rest of my life and thoughts about the situation as it unfolded.

GETTING MOM TO THE BEACH – the full story.

I now spend most of my waking day and much of the night as caregiver to my wife of fifty years who is dealing with Parkinson’s disease. In some ways this trip was training for my role as caregiver. I didn’t know it at the time. Also at about this time 2004 to 2005 Cheryl first presented early symptoms of PD. We merely did not know the diagnosis then.

Constant Analysis

I spend a lot of time thinking about…

language

What people mean when they say things. I have never been good at interpreting other meaning from written words. In verbal conversation there are extra sources of information. Facial expressions, body, vocalizations and tone add subtle differences in how the message is delivered. Words are words.

Twitter and Facebook are confusing because people write as though they are in the same room talking to you about something. Talking about something they are passionate about, they are able to recognize they are not in the same room talking and write in ALL CAPS to indicate emphasis. Most do not recognize that old teletype machines printed in all capitalisation. Sometimes the emphasis is lost.

Many years ago I was teaching math as an adjunct for a for profit community college style school operating in the city center in an old bank office building. The CIO who was located in New Jersey sent out an old policy memo about corporate computer usage, the student records database and other topics. The memo itself was full of misspelled words, grammatical errors and IT WAS PRINTED IN ALL CAPS. It was a plain text file (.txt) not associated with any word processor. I accepted the fact that it was corporate policy and therefore worthy of close scrutiny. But it was attached to an email to ALL in the company. I also understood based on my background that this policy paper had probably been written long ago – pre-Word or Wordperfect – and as such had not been proof read since. Many in management positions have a hard time with others, translate underlings, correcting their work product.

Many in the faculty room between classes checking email were giggling. The English teachers in our little school, especially so and some of us math teachers were amused. Language that is to say written language in policy statements should be precise otherwise ambiguity results and the policy for good or bad is ignored.

In a previous job with a boss who was also a friend, I would correct his errors and return his memos to him privately. It was something between us and over time he would give me his stuff to proof read. Sometimes I commented on the policy itself but usually I merely corrected misspelled words, grammar and adjusted sentence structure to enhance readability. This experience made me comfortable enough to suggest to the CIO in New Jersey that he should consider importing old policy memos into Word and enabling the spell and grammar check features before sending them to ALL. I also highlighted many of the grammatical and spelling errors and saved that to a second – AdobePDF – file and replied to his email but not to ALL.

He replied to me with, I do not like your attitude. I did not and still do not have any attitude about his mistake. People make mistakes even highly educated people. In my reply I pointed out that it is very hard to derive attitude from an email and if he needed any further assistance I would be happy to help. He did not reply to my offer.

more

I suppose I gained this propensity to read language in a precise fashion from my father. Early in my working career I worked with my dad at the same company. Once early one morning we were to have a meeting about a project we were both involved in. I arrived early for the meeting coffee in hand. On the green chalk board at the end of the conference room was my father’s handwriting. Printing actually, Dad rarely wrote anything in script, it said – Gary Dean is two four letter words. This sentence was so “my father” that it made me laugh out loud. Dad dearly loved puns and double meanings. Mr. Dean was Dad’s immediate supervisor and I suppose unfamiliar with Dad’s humor. He displayed displeasure with anyone scribbling on his board before the meeting began. The rest of us giggled.

I read for enjoyment. The best authors are able to make me see what they imagine in their mind as they write. The funny ones are a treasure.

More Air on the Chair

In a previous story I reported that THE CHAIR did not come as predicted on the tenth of September. I have since learned of other fat fingered fumbles one encounters when there is human involvement.

Between the attempted delivery of the incorrect chair on Thursday September 10th and my third attempt at acquiring information about delivery of the correct chair September 20th there was a furniture buyers convention at an undisclosed location. Woo Hoo! Party time with some work. I get it. I have been there. But there is a internal structure flaw that shows within Furniture Fair’s receiving and ordering system.

Mistakes happen when humans are involved. The incoming inspection department, if there is one, missed the fact that the Prestige Power Recliner was not powered. That is an easy check to make because the buttons to operate it are on the side. The manual chair has nothing at all. The incoming inspection merely requires looking two places; one look at the order sheet to read “Power” and one look to the right side of the chair itself. Alas, that did not happen.

Since incoming inspection was flawed and no report was made to the buyer it has been eleven days before manufacturing in Mississippi knew of their mistake. Longer in fact because an email to their customer service website (Southern Motion) revealed they had no knowledge of the mistake.

The customer – me – was not disappointed with the furniture store until the customer discovered through conversation the compounded error. In fact I was not disappointed with the manufacturer. After all shit happens. One just fixes it and moves on. But there was no reaction from the receiving department. Alas. And there was no reaction by the buyer group because they were away discovering new things to buy.

On another topic when I called to talk to someone at the Furniture Fair organization to ask about what was next I was always referred to the original salesman. That always seemed odd to me. I was pretty sure that other than the original sale he was no longer directly involved. At the store itself there was a clerical staff backing these sale guys up. I was pretty sure that when he entered our order it was merely going to the purchasing staff. He would not have been involved in the ordering, shipping, receiving and delivering process. At the outset he explained that the typical order to delivery time was 8 – 9 weeks and the pandemic had slowed that a bit. A very honest synopsis of the eventual process. When he was unavailable I was able to speak to the store manager. Nice gentlemen all, but why were they involved in my dilemma? Their whole role seemed to be to look in the computer and tell me nothing was happening. The girl who answered the phone line could have told me that nothing was happening.

Customer perception is one of inability to react to errors. The back office must be chaotic at best.

Scrabble

We play more scrabble these days.

Back in the pre-Parkinson’s days, Cheryl was a computer database wizard (witch?) or at least the guru for several companies that her consulting company serviced as clients.  She spent a lot of time on her computer.  Even in retirement she kept it up with church and other groups providing email news and other communications.

We play more scrabble these days as I try to pry her out of her office and away from her computer which has become more frustrating and confusing to her.  Her other go-to game is bridge but that is hard to do with merely two players and her cognitive function failing.  So, we have been playing scrabble more often.  I offer it as an enticement to get her away from her computer.  Many times it works.  I hate scrabble.

She was (is) a good scrabble player.  A good scrabble player does not worry so much about the words as the score.  A good scrabble player is always hunting around for a word that goes into the corner for the TRIPLE WORD SCORE.  A good scrabble player is always plopping a word on the double word score preferably one with a Z or Q in it. 

I am a lousy scrabble player.  I am always looking for the longest word I can make.  The more pedantic the better it is.  If a player asks – what does that mean? – or challenges its meaning, I am vindicated.  Cheryl often beats me, maybe always beats me.  I love her.  I hate scrabble.

Her computer is becoming more confusing and the frustration has kept her from sleeping. Over time I have contacted some of the organisations that she was doing things for and suggested that they relieve some of the burden on her. It takes her more time and she worried about missing her own perceived deadline. It kept her from sleeping as she got anxious (a good scrabble word) about what she may have forgotten to do. The people she works with have relieved her commitment without grief. They understand her disease and how it screws with her head and her need to stay involved.

So I try to get her to play Scrabble more often. Last evening my lousy play was winning. I was ahead by 40 points at one point. I felt a bit guilty because she was struggling mentally and getting tired. But my lead kept shrinking. Was this a ploy? (one of my words) At the end she was ahead by two points but had many points left on the shelf. Aha! I had some too but fewer. I did the math.

She still beat me by 1 point. I hate scrabble but love her. She still has the killer gamesmanship in her.

Maybe we will try something that I can win at but on second thought that is not the point for me. I hate scrabble. I am not competitive.

Is there an online bridge group for parkies? Google search coming.