A birthday picnic is a great way to do that. So, I reserved the picnic shelter in the upper left of this aerial photo to celebrate Cheryl’s (Grandma’s) birthday this year. If I can get all of her kids and grand kids and step grand kids all in one spot, she will be satisfied and happy.
Cheryl’s birthday often coincides with Mother’s Day. That always comes up when I suggest that we have dinner, a picnic or some other thing to celebrate her birthday. “You know that’s Mother’s Day? Right?”, she will say. Actually I never think about Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Sweetest Day, Valentine’s Day, Sibling’s Day, Cousin’s Day or any of those other made up holidays. A curmudgeonly attitude to be sure, but personally I blame date dyslexia.
This year we are going to celebrate Cheryl’s birthday regardless of whatever else may be going on around us.
Maybe some of those other folks that have their own day will stop by to celebrate Cheryl Day with us.
Parkinson’s disease slows everything down so that many activities are hard. Just bull your way through that and do it anyway. Carpe the damn Diem.
Cheryl fell yesterday trying to retrieve something from her office. Our neighbor had been over for a Lenten dinner of fish and macaroni and cheese. She brought some fruit and ginger bread. During our discussion after dinner Jane said something that caused Cheryl to go to her office to retrieve a church bulletin. She stumbled and fell into the corner of the cabinet that props the printer off the floor. She bruised her chest. It was hurting her today. She moped around for a while and I convinced her to take an Ibuprofen to relieve the ache a bit.
After a bit she announced that she did not feel up to going to church. A bit later I suggested that we go to our favorite park to walk along the riverbank. We did that. A wedding party was celebrating and taking pictures.
We stopped at Nick’s Cafe in Cleves, Ohio for an early dinner – late lunch.
We took the scenic route home and I suggested we stop for ice cream. Aglemisis’ is very small in Montgomery. We got ice cream to go and sat in the car for a time and just talked. When we came home she laid down and rested for a bit.
When she got up, she looked through her Christmas cards. She was comforted by that activity.
This book is a favorite of mine. If I remember to do it when I make mashed potatoes and something for dinner, I save the potato water and leftover mashed potatoes to make bread a couple days later. Two nights ago I remembered. I saved the water that I boiled the potatoes in. In his recipe he strongly suggests not adding anything to the potatoes.
Having gone through a couple of recipe cards from Hello Fresh recently I have decided that I like mashed potatoes made with sour cream and butter. Some of these were left over. I have about a cup of mashed potatoes. I used these. I am interested to discover how that modifies the flavor.
I have made this recipe with plain potatoes and with mashed potatoes in the past. Baking bread is intriguing for me because it seems very small changes to a recipe can make very large changes in flavor. Try it – grease one loaf pan with Crisco and grease another with lard. The flavor difference is noticeable. Very subtle but also very different flavor in the type of release agent used.
The round loaf goes to a neighbor who made a tuna noodle casserole out of the blue and gave it to us. She supplied it in a large ramekin bowl so I used it to bake the boole in. I hope she likes it. Potato bread makes hearty french toast.
If you can, bake something every week. Life is a one time deal but better with fresh bread!
Today I was working on material for school and as I often do I ask Alexa to play the first artist’s music that jumps into my head. Today Phil Collins and his old band Genesis jumped into my head. I asked for Phil Collins by name and found myself listening to a bunch of Disney tunes. “You’ll be in my heart” (Tarzan) just got to me emotionally and tears came to my eyes.
I suppose it is hard for men to come to grips with how they feel about someone or something if it involves emotion. Many of us are embarrassed by our emotions. I know I am. But I have come to grips with the fact that it is a good idea to let those emotions pour out without embarrassment. I try to do it in private if I can find privacy. I have no worries if I cannot.
As the Parkinson’s disease continues, I get a sort of slow motion grief feeling that takes all of my effort to recover from. This feeling is occasionally overwhelming. Music can bring the emotional response to this feeling spontaneously. I my case, I usually do not recognize that I was feeling this way in the background. Words to song or a melody will bring it to the surface. Earlier this morning I spontaneously began to cry. I waited for a bit and felt better. I suppose it released something in me because I feel better about life today.
Cheryl seems pretty good today also. Let’s have lunch out somewhere after exercise class. Okay, she said.
It is a rainy almost Spring day in Ohio and for now Parkinson’s is in the background.
An update to the story — The bottom line of the puzzle has appeared out of the sorting process.
She has decided that she will work puzzles as a hobby and diversion. I bought her a 500 piece puzzle to do. To tell the tale properly I have to go back about two years. We were Christmas shopping for the grand kids. We had passed by some puzzles in Barnes & Noble. She remarked that there was a woman at Bridgeway Point a local assisted living facility where her mom had been living until she passed away the previous year. And that she would like to get one to try it. She thought it might be fun to do.
We bought a 500 piece puzzle with a busy image of cars and buildings and dark sky with stars. We brought it home and it sat in the corner where Santa stores stuff for wrapping. After Santa wrapped the presents for the grand kids the puzzle box remained there for two more years until this past covid infested January. The puzzle discussion came back. I knew exactly where it was because Santa had not moved it in two years of wrapping.
Oh good! There it is! Where can I do it? I remarked that she could do it on the dining room table. I did not think anyone would disturb it. Only we live here.
What if Zachary comes over? Well, I do not know.
Your cousin John had a special table to put his puzzles on. It folds up when he wants to put them away. I said I would look into it. Then I bought a special mat to puzzle on. It arrived about a week and a half ago. This is a slow motion activity. One day this past week I blew up the balloon that it rolls around while watching the birds attack the snow covered feeder.
It is useful and has outlines of various puzzle sizes. Never mind that her puzzle is 20 inches by 20 inches when complete and it does not have that size printed on it.
As she stared at the rectangles printed onto the mat we had long animated discussions about how to do it. She wanted to find the center most piece and build outward. I suggested that that would work but it will be easier to find the edge and corner pieces and work in but it was up to her. Whatever she thought was best for her to do, I said.
She has decided to initially separate the pieces into groups of her own design. Edge pieces in one pile, Red here in this pile, yellow in this pile and on. I need some plastic bowls with lids that fit. I tried to purge the kitchen cabinet of the leftover bowls that went through the dishwasher one to many times and were warped by the heat.
These are okay but the lids do not fit. I need the lids to fit.
The mat is supposed to roll everything up I said. Yes, she said but I need some bowls with lids that fit until I roll the mat up. I am in the midst of hunting on Amazon for bowls with lids that fit. Looks like I can get these preloaded with cookies. That would be a real bonus.
It is interesting how a parkie mind works or doesn’t work. I am still waiting to see how the puzzle gets started.
So far we have two bowls, a box and a zip lock bag. The mat is rolled up nicely by itself.
A simple batter cake dessert will perk up any parkie’s day. The last few times that I have made dinner I have taken the time to make a dessert. If that is a cake or anything other than ice cream and cookies, I start it first. Today I suggested another pound cake. Last time I bought any pound cake box mixes I bought four of them. I probably bought them at Walmart or on line from Amazon. I do not remember but this time when I suggested that and was holding a can of cherries thinking about how to jazz up the dessert, she says – I could make the cobbler recipe.
In our early days of marriage I was a student at Miami University. Neither Cheryl nor I was much of a cook so the Betty Crocker Dinner for Two cookbook was a bible to her. At the time I was less interested in cooking but more interested in eating. (and beer if someone else was paying for it.) College life as a married student was great. In addition to Betty Crocker we gathered recipes from friends and other sources. Some were disasters.
There was a spaghetti and hot dog recipe out of a church recipe book which was particularly offensive. Made more so by the fact that it made a lot of stuff so we kept trying to dress it up and make it more palatable when we reheated it as left overs. It is a fond remembrance of a disaster. We were young and poor. We did not throw food out unless it fell in the dirt and was unrecoverable.
The easy cobbler recipe came from the wife of a fellow married student. There were few of us on campus. Looking back it is remarkable that we found each other. But we did and they invited us to dinner one evening. They had a house in a nearby town. Janet made this recipe for dessert and Cheryl liked it and asked for the recipe. That was fifty years ago and she has made it many times since. Over the years she typed it into some word processor and printed it out. The original hand written recipe is stapled to the back. It works with any canned pie filling but we usually make it with cherries – Cheryl’s favorite. (Except if our grandson Gavin is coming for dinner. See grandma’s note above.)
I am unenthusiastic about this particular dessert. I do not know why. It is not bad it merely does not excite me as it does Cheryl. But it is simple to execute. I should have taken a picture of it before it went into the oven but I did not. Find your favorite mixing bowl and put in all the dry ingredients. I used a whisk to mix the dry ingredients first. I then made a depression in the middle and added the melted butter (or margarine.) I poured a bit of the milk in and mixed it with a handheld mixer and added the rest of the milk as I went along to make a medium runny batter that poured easily into the greased (Crisco or lard) 8″ x 8″ aluminum cake pan. The pan in the picture is of the same vintage as the recipe. (smiley face here)
We are having this dessert with spaghetti and meatballs, except I substituted pasta shells for spaghetti. As you can see below right, some of us like whipped cream on our dessert. I can personally attest to the great improvement by the addition of whipped cream. Vanilla ice cream, however, is even better.
It is February in Ohio and the birds are really attacking the feeder. We are safe and warm inside with comfort food and her favorite dessert. What could be better?
Pork chops breaded with bread crumb mix; one teaspoon of Frank’s Red hot spice mix, one teaspoon of paprika mixed with 1/4th cup of plain nothing special bread crumbs. Sauteed a minute or so on each side in olive oil. Baked in the oven a 350F for twenty minutes to complete.
Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with Sticky Pete’s maple syrup, brown sugar and butter. Boiled about twenty minutes, drained and mashed in the pan. Two medium sized sweet potatoes about three tablespoons of syrup and about a teaspoon of brown sugar and tablespoon of butter. I held back some of the water that the sweet potatoes were boiled in but I did not use it. I did not add salt to the water.
Mixed veggies from frozen. 1/4 cup water, a drizzle of honey, salt and pepper. Put in an oven safe pot, covered for about 20 minutes at 350F. These were “so so” but I am not a big fan of frozen veggies. With the pandemonium though, I have a lot of frozen veggies. Some work well some do not. I am still experimenting with flavors.
Blueberry pound cake drove the whole show. It hogged the oven for about 45 minutes at 350F. Everything else is subservient to dessert. As it should be! The blueberries are experimental. The IGA had them fresh from Mexico or wherever. I added about 3/4 cup rinsed to top of the batter after I put it in the tube pan. Powdered sugar on the top finishes the cake.
She ate two pieces. Sometime the best end to a day is a good meal and a good dessert.
It is hard to do each day with a Parkinson’s patient but if you allow yourself some time you can find optimism in the days ahead. This cartoon – published Jan 17 in the Cincinnati Enquirer – struck a cord in me.
Stephan Pastis and his “Pearls before Swine” is a favorite comic strip of mine. I have not seen the alligators and neighbor Bob for awhile but the sarcastic rat and the naive pig are also favorites. In the gloom and doom of care-taking the characters provide both laughter and insight.
Enthusiasm, Optimism and Fear
Enthusiasm for life and all that it brings may be dismissed as naivete by some. Much like laughter it can be contagious. When I first retired from what I think of as my real career – earning a living – I had very little to accomplish with my day. I began to walk around the neighborhood. At the time we had a house in the Cincinnati urban area known as Pleasant Ridge. We were located on top of the hill very near where the topography starts to rise into the next neighborhood Kennedy Heights. P-Ridge is a very walkable neighborhood in Cincinnati proper with few people walking in it but as I walked more and developed several routes, all intended to remain on the top of the hill, I discovered in myself an enthusiasm for walking the neighborhood to enjoy other folks gardening efforts, the fresh air, the sunshine and simply being out.
I spent the first summer of retirement walking about three days a week. My walks became longer as I got more fit merely by walking. My favorite route took me through four city parks at a length of just over five miles. Occasionally I would chat with the guys mowing when they were taking a lunch break. (A handy feature of walking through a park is there are many picnic tables to sit at and simply enjoy nature.)
When I visited my family doctor during one of my twice yearly visits, he did not say hello, he blurted out – you have lost ten pounds! Huh! His optimism was contagious. We continued our conversation with various medical topics but at the end he encouraged me to keep it up. I have since discovered that I am a fair weather walker but I have not lost my enthusiasm. These days I am still hunting for a good route in our new neighborhood.
Enthusiasm breeds optimism. Optimism for one aspect of life spills over into others. Cheryl has some adjustments to her meds which seem to be helping her. Reduction in one. A slight increase in another. The result is that we are both sleeping better. It seems that things are looking up. Optimism.
There is a prayer — God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This could as easily read; Lord, you know all things, instill in me the optimism to accept those things over which I have no control; the enthusiasm to change those things over which I have control; the ability to discern those things. In many ways optimism about life is an acceptance of one’s life situation. What is in front of us is unknown. What is behind us is nostalgia. What is here and now is what we have to deal with and understand and make the best of. It is exciting to do that every day. Optimism.
Optimism gives us the courage to do what is necessary to finish the job. There is no manipulation in us by another force. Self reliance and optimism drive us to succeed. Failure is merely a lesson. Fear and pessimism are a capitulation.
Next time you’re found, With your chin on the ground There a lot to be learned… So look around
Just what makes that little old ant Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant Anyone knows an ant, can’t Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes He’s got high hopes He’s got high apple pie In the sky hopes
So any time your gettin’ low; ‘Stead of lettin’ go Just remember that ant! Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another problem kerplop
lyrics from the internet of all knowledge…
… An old song by Frank Sinatra — optimism and tenacity
Along with optimism for the outcome, one must be tenacious and follow through. Each day, take another step.
Giving care to a loved one provides one with the opportunity to show grace and grow grace within oneself. I believe this and each new day is a chance to help Cheryl and understand the gift that God has granted to me. That understanding is still and may always be a work in progress for me. Many of her recent and current symptoms include rapid switching between emotions. This journey is delicate and the stepping stones available have little illumination. Those steps have no outline. Nothing to make them stand out as the way to proceed. Moving forward step by step is tenuous and delicate. Feeling for lose stones takes time.
I tell myself, do not fear what comes today but be aware of what may come today. Do your best and remember God is in everyone.
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is anewday. — Emerson