The Chocolate that Didn’t Melt in my Mouth

This is an absolutely true story.  I won’t even try to disguise it…if you know me, you know this is totally me.

I have never been a fan of cleaning.  Although I love a neat and tidy house, I’m just not good at making it happen.  Mom tried.  Really she did.  She taught me most of the right things.  (She didn’t teach me as much about laundry because she liked doing it herself.  I did however learn how to hand clothes on the clothesline and collect them when they were frozen stiff. Ugh.)

Hubby left subtle and not so subtle hints, and before any one says what is wrong with him helping, let me tell you he did help, and well as working 40+ hours a week outside the home.  The thing is, I don’t mind working.  I just prefer working outside.  Or working on a project.  One year I negotiated with my parents to let me do the gardening instead of the inside chores.  That was one of my favorite years. The sense of accomplishment and joy is still a vibrant memory.

Now my loving hubby tries to do as much as he can to help with the housework since he is retired and I still work part-time.  I really appreciate his efforts.  He also makes sure I have time to work on projects.   What a keeper!

However, I still fight a battle with guilt.  I should do more around the house.  I should be a better housekeeper.  I should, I should, I should.  Then every so often I roll up my sleeves, put my big girl socks on, and try to see what I can accomplish.  Sometimes I pay a price when I can’t move the next day, but I do try.

One such day occurred last week.  When I got up in the morning I felt pretty good.  I made my list (I love lists) and got to work.  I attacked the kitchen with vim and vigor, proud that I was making a difference. Soon it was almost finished.  Then, when I was ready to clean our kitchen cart…you know, one of those metal 3 shelf jobbies on wheels that lots of people had years ago…often red, but mine was yellow…I saw it.  A huge bag of M & M’s that I didn’t even remember sticking on the shelf.  Ecstatic, I reached for the bag.  After all this work, I figured I deserved a reward and I haven’t eaten dessert since Christmas.  Ripping open the bag, a few tasty morsels fell to the floor.  I did what any self-respecting person would do after just cleaning the kitchen.  I grabbed them up and dusted them off.  Since it was a big bag, I figured I would only take a handful plus of course the ones I rescued from the floor.  I could almost taste that chocolate before I even put one in my mouth.  The yellow M & M came closer and closer.  I opened my mouth and…

…and…AND THEN I WOKE UP!!!!  I should have known it was a dream.  I don’t even have a yellow metal 3 shelf jobby on wheels.

Pancakes…a Life Lesson

Recently one of my granddaughters and I were discussing cooking and food.  Nothing new here…we often discuss food.  I remember how special it was one day to tie an apron around her tiny waist, stand her on a chair and let her help me cook.  I think we made mac and cheese in a saucepan or something similar to that.  And of course, before you click your tongue, I had turned the stove off during the time she was “stirring” and I did everything with her safety in mind.  Really, what else would you expect.  I guard my treasure and my grandchildren are some of my treasures.

Anyway, we got on the topic of pancakes.  Both of us love pancakes.  We even both love blueberry pancakes!  With visions of  preparing a family breakfast together, I asked her if she had a special blueberry pancake recipe.  No, she declared.  She only likes blueberry pancakes from iHop!  FIDDLE!  My visions melted away, but it did start a trip down memory lane.

One particular memory stays vivid in my mind.  It haunts me a bit and I hope it always will.  You see, I didn’t always like pancakes.  I remember like it was this morning a time when my frustration with pancakes bubbled over…and frustration bubbling over wasn’t something you did in my family growing up.  We had too much respect for our parents, and had been raised well if I do say so myself.  But this particular day my younger brother and I had been playing outdoors after completing our chores.  It was probably a summer weekday or else other siblings would have been home from their summer jobs.  I’m guessing I was somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. (Age has never been super critical to me so I’m not entirely sure.)  I remember Mom calling out the door that we were to come in for lunch.  With a big smile she gave us each a pancake that she had sprinkled sugar on and rolled up like a jelly roll.  “Take it outside and eat it.”  Normally I would be thrilled to eat outside, but seriously- a pancake?  And not even any syrup?  As we scampered out the door without a backward glance, I remember saying, “I HATE pancakes.”    It seemed to me we had them often, so obviously Mom must love them a lot.

It wasn’t until years had passed that I realized what had probably happened.  You see, we were loved so much that I didn’t realize we were poor.  Never did I realize as a child that other families may live differently than us.  I thought Mom loved sewing so much that she enjoyed making our clothes.  I thought Dad loved his work and that was why he spent so many hours there.  Oh, I knew there were a few kids with more “things”, but I just thought they were probably spoiled kids, you know?  In my heart’s eye I can see my mother looking out the window at her two youngest children, saying to herself, “Lord, what can I possibly feed them today?”  I can see her opening the cupboard doors and seeing a few basic staples on the shelf.  (That woman could make more from a few basics than anyone I ever met!)  I can see her taking out the flour and sitting it on the counter and reflecting that she was blessed to still have some flour on hand.  My heart almost cracks as I mentally see her mixing up batter…enough for two pancakes.  Trying her best to make it special, I can see her looking in the sugar bowl for those few grains of sugar and deciding she didn’t want sugar in her coffee anyway.  Then, my heart cracks a little more as I see her cheerfully calling us to come get lunch, and sending us outside on a little picnic so we wouldn’t see the empty batter bowl and notice she wasn’t “hungry” for lunch.  And then pain slices through me as I hear myself say, “I HATE pancakes!”.  And in retrospect, I can see Dad coming home that night and mom greeting him at the door with a kiss, and a look into his eyes that said how much she appreciated his efforts to provide for his family.

I learned several lessons from this childhood memory. I’ll quickly share three.  One is that poor is a state of mind. The fact that I never considered us poor speaks well to the upbringing our parents provided.  We may have scraped the bottom of the barrel at times, but we never went without something to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads.  We did things as a family, and had fun!  Another lesson is that love is a powerful force that can embrace and protect in amazing ways.  (If you don’t think so, just think about God’s love.) It isn’t about keeping our loved ones from hard experiences, but about helping our loved ones THROUGH hard experiences.  Tough times will come, but we can get through them…together.  And finally, when we dig deeper in trying to learn and understand one another, our preconceived perceptions often change dramatically.

What can I say?  I LOVE pancakes.  Thanks Mom.  Thanks Dad.

Death of a Garden

It is hard to accept the fact that my gardening time might be over.

This morning I woke up at 3:15 a.m. thinking it surely must be time to get up.  It wasn’t.  I laid there for a while, tossed and turned for a while, checked in case anyone else who couldn’t sleep had sent me a message.  My tummy grumbled that it was hungry but I tried to ignore it completely. Finally I saw the fingers of dawn tap on my window.  Dressing hurriedly I walked outside thinking I could put in some major garden time.  We’ve had tons of rain, so it pulling weeds should be a snap.  My feet aren’t working so well today, but I thought a short time in the soft soil shouldn’t hurt too badly.

A few feet from the garden I stopped in dismay.  Weeds were clearly the healthiest plant growing. Because of the weather it has been a few days since I had been in my quiet spot.  Extreme heat and humidity kept me out of the garden most of the days, and rain kept me out most of the mornings. This was a disaster!  I felt so overwhelmingly…well…overwhelmed!  If the ground hadn’t been so damp and standing up from a flat position so difficult, I would have sat down in the midst of the garden and cried.  I’m not permitted to use a tiller, and the cultivator attachment hasn’t been replaced on my wheel hoe yet, so I knew the only way those weeds would leave my garden is by one tug at a time.  I just couldn’t face it.  In all likelihood, this will be my last garden of any size which already saddens me.  Now this.  After a feeble attempt at pulling the weeds in my little patch of ornamental corn, I gave up.  It seemed to me the garden had died…and it wasn’t even July yet.

Looking around, I decided to at least pick the zucchini.  It was a new kind for me to grow…golden zucchini.  Now I have heard people say don’t plant too much zucchini or you will have so much you can’t give it away.  Hah!  My first year growing zucchini i planted 2-4 plants and had 1 zucchini.  No, that is not a misprint.  1 zucchini. Really. The next year I did a bit better, but still had a very small crop.  This year I planted only golden zucchini- 4 plants.  Wading through the weeds I checked my plants and behold I had 8 zucchini with many more that will be ready in a few days.  Plucking them from the vines, I looked once more around my garden and said a silent goodbye.

Trudging back to the house, I carefully washed the zucchini and thought about what I should do with them.  While I was thinking I decided to clean out the fridge and start some “refrigerator soup” meaning I take any appropriate leftovers and make a vegetable soup.  My starter for the soup is a container from the freezer that I put leftover veggies in when we clean up after dinner.  You know, that tablespoon of peas that you hate to throw away but it is too small an amount for another meal.  Then I found some cabbage in the fridge along with a few other tidbits.  I even found a small container of homemade chili in the freezer…in it went.  While the soup simmered, I pulled out a recipe for zucchini pie someone had given me at church camp last year.  I still hadn’t tried it and figured today is as good a day as any.  While the zucchini was simmering to get tender, I pulled out my bread maker.  It hadn’t seen the light of day in a while!  Soon I had zucchini bread in the machine and it started to do its thing.  There was just a little shredded zucchini left, so naturally it went into the soup.  By now the chopped zucchini was tender and I could finish assembling my pie.  My husband came through the kitchen and saw the bowl of pie filling.  “Hey, that looks good,” he said with a gleam in his eye.  Don’t you DARE tell him it is zucchini.  It looks like apple chunks. That was a few hours ago.

Now I am sitting here pleasantly full.  Zucchini bread is smelling pretty good. The pie is out of the oven.  The soup has finished simmering so of course it had to be tasted.  And while I was cleaning the fridge…oops, I mean while I was making refrigerator soup, I found a small package of sausage links with a few silver dollar pancakes in the freezer left over from a grandkids sleepover.  So I browned the sausage, warmed the pancakes and put some of the leftover zucchini pie filling over the top.  It was SO tasty.  I can’t wait to taste the pie.

Now that I have had a bit of exercise…I mean a few minutes weeding, a load of laundry, making soup, pie and bread all by 8 a.m. is definitely exercise…and my tummy is pleasantly full, I think it is time for a nap.  I’m going to pull the curtains tightly closed, snuggle in my bed, and peacefully dream about next year’s garden.