Signs of aging?

We are all aging. We have no other option. Well… the only option that exists is not acceptable to healthy, active individuals – death.  I will never say that death is not an option when there are people out there that are terminal and their time is drawing near. I know that, 20 years ago, when my grandmother was dying from ovarian cancer, I prayed that she die and be at peace and whole again in heaven. BUT, I digress.

forgetfulness, that is my issue right now. It is not the, ‘Oh, I came into this room, what is it that I wanted?’ For me, it seems I am misplacing things or having something in my hand one minute and then absent-mindedly putting it down and then not knowing what I did with the item. And it seems to happening more. And it is driving me crazy because I can’t imagine what my life will be like in five or 10 or 20 years if I am failing this quickly.

Am I getting old or is it that I have too much running through my brain, too much going on in my life that my brain cannot, or refuses to keep it all organized? I would like to think that is my problem not that my brain is going to mush. I like to think that I, as well as many Americans, have taken on too many things and that my mind can’t do all of that multi-tasking. I am pretty sure that things that I am doing are going into short-term memory and shorter term memory and so when I hop from one thing to another, it gets lost.

Years ago, I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. I took on the responsibility of trying to be a better person because that is the right thing to do, not because I resolved to do it on New Year’s Day. It just so happens that at this time of the year, I have been misplacing things more often. In trying to get ready for Christmas, my son’s birthday, going on a winter vacation, I have had a few problems with being absent-minded. I believe it is just not thinking, not that I am getting old, senile, or Alzheimer’s. I have had way too much on my mind.

So, I have decided that I need to be in the moment and not elsewhere at whatever I am doing. That way, when I am organizing my basement and put down my coffee cup, I don’t forget where I put it. And btw, that is what happened on Wednesday, I put down my 24 oz. coffee mug, a very large mug, and it took me ten minutes to find it on my pantry shelf in the basement. I am going to start making lists again, which is how I lived my life before children. So I guess if you call that a resolution, since it is close to the first of the year, I am making a resolution.

“I resolve, to be in the moment and to slow my brain down. I resolve to be better organized through list-making. I plan to make better use of my time which will not make me feel like I need to rush from thing to another. While I may be busy, I resolve to make it manageable through organization. If I find that I am still losing things, I will either #1  work on cutting back what I do or #2 see if there is something physiologically wrong with me.”

Signs of aging, I hope not; I hope it is signs of disorganization and too much multi-tasking.

Growing old…appreciating life…damning life

Okay, I have to be honest; I don’t know if this writing is more about the thoughts running through my head or the wine running through my veins, but I feel compelled to write, to share, to cry, to vent or share whatever comes out of these fingers.

I am alone. I am not lonely. My family has just left a day before me for a Thanksgiving holiday. I will greet them tomorrow, after taking care of some household necessities, meeting up with our house sitter, getting our ailing dog to the vet and making sure that our dog staying home has all she needs.

I am sad. I have come to the realization that our nine and a half-year old dog is dying. We have had all the tests, had him hospitalized with the vet to try to figure out what is wrong. He is not making platelets or his body is destroying the platelets that are being made. Anyway you look at it, he is dying and I am sad. I look at him not being able to walk up the stairs in our home and I am sad. I watch him as he cannot eat his favorite snack and I am sad. While I know he is not my child, my tears are real and my pain is true.

I have read in the newspaper two things that truly disturb me; 1) Legalizing marijuana because enforcing the laws as an illegal substance is overcrowding our prisons and 2) not allowing nativities in a community.

If you have read my blog before, you know I am a Christian woman. I do not understand that a country that is more than 50% Christian can say it is illegal to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And it is not just that we should be allowed to celebrate Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays, I believe that acknowledging other faiths is okay if it means that we, as Christians, can be open about our faith. Having a Menorah does not lessen my faith as a Christian. Why do we have to be denied our faith? We should not have to sacrifice our faith just as those who are Jewish, should not have to sacrifice their faith. Why can’t we work, as a country, to be open to all, even Christians!

It seems that people have decided that it is easier to lower out morals than to enforce the laws we have or guide our children to lower their standards. Many may say that I am a strict parent and expect too much of my children. I will tell you, that until the day I die, I will always say that you should wait to have sex until you are married and that living together is the easy way out.

If we teach our children about commitment in a marriage and that it is not something you throw away because there are problems, we teach them to think before they act, to be sure that the decisions that they make are for the long-term. If I would have walked away from my marriage every time there was a problem, I would have been divorced by now. I love my husband, very dearly, and I would not want to be with any other man, but we have had our conflicts. That is natural. I cannot think that there are any two people who think exactly alike. That is what makes life interesting. And I am not an ultra conservative Christian, so while you might look at the above rantings as that of an ultra conservative, think again. I believe that we should teach our society to be committed and look towards the future in all: work, relationships, living and not just believe that we can just move on to the next thing when we tire of what we do or have.

BUT I think that we need to be respectful, more controlling of our thoughts and actions and realize that we should not be a society of instant gratification. What is wrong with waiting until you are a responsible adult to have sex? What is wrong with having drugs be illegal? Why is it wrong to error on the side of modesty than flamboyance?

I just don’t get it. I just have to wonder if our world is just falling apart.  As I have told friends, “It is hard to close Pandora’s box. How do we get back to a world of responsibility, of modesty, of deference, when it has all been done and accepted as normal?”

I fear for my children. I hope that in their upbringing to appreciate nice things, hard work, respect and modesty, that they are not swallowed up by the world. I hope that they can survive, be a positive influence, be a beacon of their faith and give hope to the world, that it can be a loving world.

It is funny. While I think these things, they have come to the surface because of the mortality of a dog. My thought to say, ‘just a dog’ for emphasis enters my mind, but he is so much more than ‘just a dog’. Copper, is a true dog, someone who is loyal, loving and faithful. I wish that I could be like a dog. I wish that I could be always loyal, loving and faithful. As a human, I cannot be that perfect. Oh to be a dog, for that perfection.

I don’t know if Copper is going to die in three days, three months or three years, but I know that he is better at being a dog than I am at being a person. And that makes me sad, lonely and oh so wanting to be more like a dog. Maybe that is why dog and GOD use the same letters…so close to perfection.

I will let this sit for the night. In reviewing, I believe all I wrote, and even in the light of day, wine or not, I am sure I will stand by these words. God bless my dog, for his is perfection!

(I have re-read, and stand by my words.)

It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas! A memory of Grandma Thom.

I am not a young thaang! (Sorry about the bad slang) but conversely, I am not as old as dirt. While my children are teenagers, when my grandma was my age, she had four grandchildren ages 6, 4, 3 and 1 (I am the one year old). We would be the only grandchildren she would have; as my mom’s only sibling never married. Since there were only four of us and we lived six blocks from them (six blocks is about 1/2 mile), we saw my grandparents a lot.

I loved my grandma probably more than any other relative I had/have. She made me laugh, cry, think, but mostly grow as a person. I think of her almost every day. And I definitely miss her. Even as I write this my eyes fill with tears and I think of the empty spot in my life. I know that she watches over me and sees what I have done in my life, but my children never met her. They never got to eat her Christmas cookies or learn how to separate an egg or just sit with her and share stories. You see, she has been gone 20 years this December 26th.

I have to tell you that the tears are really flowing now and I don’t know why. I thought I was finished grieving. It has been three Christmases since last I cried while singing “Silent Night” at our  Christmas Eve service. Maybe because I have never written about her; never put my grief to paper that the tears are flowing.

I have written about traditions and many of those traditions came from Grandma (and Grandpa) Thom (Thompson). Our Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve because when my mom was growing up, the tree went up on Christmas Eve and Santa Clause decorated it. (We didn’t leave the decorating to Santa, we did that on our own). When I was older, I found out that the tree going up on Christmas Eve was all about the 12 days of Christmas because it always came down on Epiphany (Day 12).

On Christmas Day, we always had dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. We would have the same meal: bone-in ham, creamy mashed potatoes, fluffy Jello salad, homemade Christmas Pudding (Plum pudding) and mincemeat tarts with Hard Sauce. And as my Grandma was a tried and true Methodist *, the Christmas Pudding and Hard Sauce were not made with alcohol.  Our evening meal was ham sandwiches, Ruffles Chips, cheese always homemade cookies with English Tea (English tea is made with milk and sugar).  So many memories… (* She told me, at the end of her life, that the reason she did not drink wine was that she was worried she would like it too much!)

Grandma taught me how to iron. I will never forget the low ceilinged, dark basement where she ironed. She would sit with the ironing board at a low position, the green 7-Up bottle filled with water and the sprinkler attachment on the end to sprinkle the item to be ironed. She would have the old vacuum-tubed television on, with its Rabbit Ears, watching “A Secret Storm”. We would talk about the characters on the television, or what was happening at school or any crazy thing that entered our minds.

She started me on my grandpa’s handkerchiefs. When I mastered those, I graduated up to trousers and then dress shirts. To this day, I love to iron. I always start with handkerchiefs, then I move my way to dress shirts. Do I iron that way because that is the order I learned? I don’t know but it is always how I iron. My husband likes the fact that I don’t grumble about ironing, because he does like his things nicely pressed. (And please no grumbling about my domesticity. I do these things with a smile on my face. Anyone who knows me knows that I am my own woman and not a domestic slave. I learned those things from my mom and grandma. I can “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan…” {Enjoli commercial from the 70’/80’s})

Grandma Thom was a fabulous cook. She was an artist at Christmas. Her baking began in August because she had so much to do that she had to begin that early to get it all done. She was famous for her “Christmas Cards”. These were Santa Cookies that she made for over 30 years, some years making 750 cookies to share as the Thompson Christmas Card. There were always enough for each of the grandchildren to give to their school classmates and friends outside of school. We would place our order and she would package them up to make sure we were taken care of first. Our family was known for our Santa Cookies and, even now, those cookies are remembered.

As well as taking the time to make the coconut bearded, raisin-eyed, royal icing covered cookies, she made peanut brittle, pecan brittle, divinity, 3 kinds of chip cookies, many old English favorites, popcorn balls and probably 30 other treats. She was amazing and such an inspiration. My grandpa made a Christmas Tree that would hold some of her scrumptuous gifts from the kitchen, all made with love. We looked forward to that tree appearing and were always sad when it had to be put away.  You can see that she used Spode Christmas Chinain the photo and the tree was always a short needled fir.

In January of 1992, my grandma went into exploratory surgery. I was at the hospital when the word came out that she had ovarian cancer and that it had metastasized to other parts. We were all devastated. There were many tears, but we all forged on and did the best we could for her.

As time went on, she found that the Chemo did not work and it made her feel awful and not herself. We all tried to spend as much time together as we could. In late November/early December, my sister and I went to Grandma’s home to bake. We wanted her to have those same Christmas-time smells. She was unable to be in the kitchen; she was too weak. Individually, we would go to the Living Room and spend time alone with Grandma. My sister and I both told her that she was so important to us but she needed to take care of herself and that it was not selfish to let go and be where she could be healed, where she could be whole again.

You see, she was a very faithful woman and we knew that her dying was not the end for her. She had stopped being that happy, always there for a smile and a laugh, lady. And she was a lady. She never wore pants in public, never swore or said a bad word about anyone. If she could find someone to drive her to her destination, she would. She really did not like to drive. I knew that she did not like everyone, but never a cross word left her mouth. She was the epitome of grace. She is who I want to be when my children marry and become parents.

She went into the hospital in December. I was going to my in-laws for Christmas so on Christmas Eve, I went to visit her in the hospital, as I would not able to be there on Christmas. By then, she was semi-comatose. I sat with her and talked to her and did the best I could to hold it together.

I remember her saying, “Mmmmm, good apple pie,” as I sat with her. Even at the end of her life, she was still thinking about food. She was having good thoughts, comforting thoughts. It was very hard for me, but I had to leave. I told her I loved her and walked out of her hospital room.

The doctor was there as I left, tears beginning to fill my eyes. He told me that tests showed that her kidneys were shutting down and she had very little time left. He knew I was going out-of-town and this was his way of telling me that would probably be the last time I saw her. I made it to my car and totally lost it. The tears flowed; it was that ‘I can’t catch my breath’ kind of crying. I had to sit in that cold hospital parking lot, feeling alone and so sad, until I could gain enough composure to drive to work.

I drove the mile to work and when my boss looked at me, she sent me home because she knew that I was in no position to be at work. She also knew my family, well, and knew that this was a devastating loss. This was the first time our family had had a matriarchal loss in a long time. All of the other generational losses had been at such a young age that the “matriarch” position had not been established, or so late that someone else had stepped in.

My husband and I left for Christmas, knowing that it would be hard. We survived Christmas Day but decided to leave earlier to get back home, just in case we could make it back before Grandma dies. We left on December 26th and drove to Kent’s grandmother’s home to spend the night. Almost as soon as we walked into Rubye’s home, the phone rang. She answered the phone and said the call was for me. My heart sunk. I took the phone, trying to prepare for what was going to be said. It was my dad. He had to be the bearer of bad news probably because my mom was inconsolable.

It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that my grandma was in control until the end. Christmas was her holiday. She prepared for this holiday for months. No other Christian holiday received as much time, joy and love as Christmas. While she could not control how her cancer progressed, she controlled how it would end. She was not going to die before Christmas, as we would be thinking of how sad we were instead of the anticipation of Christ’s birth. She definitely was not going to die on Christmas Day. She held on until the day after.

While I still mourn her, it was because of her death that I am who I am today. She never met my children. In 1992, I was told by my Ob/Gyn, that I would probably never have any children. Because of that, she and I had great conversations about her struggles. She would say that she could get pregnant, but being pregnant almost killed her. After my mom was born, she was told never to have another child. She went against the doctor’s orders and had my uncle. She did stop after that. I don’t think I ever would have known that if she wouldn’t have known her time on this Earth was coming to an end.

I still love her and this writing has been very cathartic for me. Today, many tears have flown and many memories, good and sad, have been shared. I thank you for letting me share this with you and I hope that it has helped you remember someone who has had a lasting impact on your life who is no longer with you on this Earth.

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it has nothing to do with the decorations at Target or the advertisements that are beginning to air. It has a lot to do with memories of Grandma Thom.

Written in loving memory of Jessie V. Thompson  (photo of the Thompson family)

It Takes a Little Kneading

 

 

There are many things that I do for my family, friends and people who I do not even know. One thing that I enjoy doing for others is cooking/baking. While I like the process of taking not very good tasting ingredients by themselves (have you ever tasted plain flour or vegetable shortening, YUCK!) and making them into something that tastes divine, my joy is in the act of giving. I feel that this is one thing that I do well; people can enjoy this gift and it can nourish them both physically and emotionally. Is there a favorite food that you had growing up that when you have it now it takes you back years?

When my family smells those warm, sweet fragrances wafting from the oven, their first question is, “Is this for us, or is it for someone else?” I have to admit that more than 50% of the time, it is for someone else. I do feel guilty and there have been times when I make twice as much so they can enjoy some for themselves.

There is one smell that drifts out the kitchen and throughout our home that everyone knows is for no one else but them, bread. When that light, fresh smell melds in with the other familial scents in our home, they know it is for them and only them.

I have now gotten to the point that I make fresh bread every four or five days. It is the most basic of recipes, milk, bread four, salt, pepper, butter and yeast. How can you go wrong with that? What I have started doing is using the white spongy dough as my canvas. An artist would never leave a canvas blank. It is filled with life, their joys, and sorrows, or poured out on that blank slate. I would not say that I have gone that far, no sorrow in my bread making but I have used a lot of love and joy in this new venture.

Sometimes my bread has a theme. One loaf I named “Four Shades of Red.” (Had a hard time visualizing gray bread!) Then there are breads that are themed based on the week. There was a loaf in honor of the beginning of fall. Then there was the purple and white loaf in recognition of the high school‘s homecoming. My last loaf was orange, white and black in anticipation of Halloween. I did make a completely orange loaf of bread. The family was not very fond of that. They definitely prefer multi-colored bread.

You would think that I would have thought of this when my children were younger. How fun it would have been for them to pick out their colors for their special loaf of bread. But NOOOOO, I had to wait until they were in high school. They have a lot of fun with it though and sometimes they will ask me why I chose the colors I did. It should be noted that my children take a sack lunch to school. With the new government guidelines on school food, they say that the meals are bland and not filling. They relish the thought of taking their own food, chosen for their likes, to school. This also means that all of their friends, classmates and teachers see their artistry bread. (Notice I did not say artisan.) Teachers have walked up to them and asked, “What is wrong with your bread?” My son commented back when asked that question, “My mom is just bored.”

The funny thing is that I am far from bored. It takes a lot of extra time to knead in those colorings. I don’t use gloves so I can go a couple of days with colored hands. While to save time I do use a machine for kneading the bread, I do the last kneading and forming by hand and then bake it in the oven. This does take time out of my already busy schedule. But they are more than worth it.

I do this out of love. If my family didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue. They know that I do this especially for them. If they did not know that or appreciate it, I would still bake bread but it would probably be plain ol’ white bread. I would find something that they did appreciate. I would find a gift that would make them feel special. I have thought about marketing my artist bread but realized it would no longer be special for them.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. You can bet there will be more brown, gold and orange bread and green and red bread. I will probably even make blue and white bread as a recognition for Hanukkah. I may have high schoolers for children but I am still that mom who wants to make her family feel special. While I may bake a lot for others, I have found this one thing that is exclusively for them.

What do you do that is exclusively for your loved ones?  Do you have traditions that are a treasure for you? Let’s talk about that. I will share in my next post family traditions from when I was growing up to traditions that have been created for my family. Think hard and I look forward to sharing.

Believe it or not I have only made coffee twice this week. That is why there have been no coffee posts. It is mid afternoon so my first cup of coffee for the day, may have to contain some Irish Creme. I’ll let you know.

Bread ingredients:   4 C. bread flour, 13 oz. warm milk, 2 T butter, 2.5 T sugar, 1.5 t. salt and 2.25 t. active dry yeast.

Having a blog named “a little caffeine”, I figure I should probably talk about my coffee. Every morning I make my stovetop espresso, heat and froth the milk and add my flavoring choice of the day. Today, my choice was Gingerbread. Since my home is not in town, it just made sense to me that I have enough flavorings (sugar-free) that I can have a variety of latte’s available. I use a fabulous website, lollicupstore.com that has reasonably priced coffee flavorings. They have a good choice of sugar-free flavorings that really allows me to have flavored coffee that matches my mood for the day.

I had my flavoring figured out before I woke this morning because today was going to be a busy day. One of the many things I do is direct our church youth choir. We had taken a break last year only to come back this year revitalized. We got excited about singing. We decorated our music folders with multi-colored and patterned duct tape. We were laughing and having fun. WELL, this was our Sunday to introduce our congregation to the new look. We celebrated with a song, “Two Hands, One Heart” by Claire Cloninger and Don Moen. When we finished, the pastor grabbed my upper arm and told me how great they were, how totally awesome we were. I could feel the energy from the congregation. I had two teens that wanted to join our choir after hearing us praise God!  What a great way to start our Sunday! We sang again at the second service and it was the same feeling. The year we took off was worth it. We are a much better choir. We now have the power and energy to serve God the way we should.

After that miraculous service, I got ready for my second stint for the day; volunteering at the Camp Fontanelle corn maze. This corn maze is sponsored by Camp Fontanelle (campfontanelle.com) and helps support the United Methodist Church Camp in Nebraska. Our family is heavily involved in this camp. My husband, per the by-laws, must take a year off from being on the board of directors. Prior to this year, he was the chairman of the board. Our children have gone to this church camp since they were 3 years old.(They are now almost 17 and almost 15) I am the writer for the newsletter and am the grant writer for the camp. My husband also runs a youth hunt camp on opening rifle season for deer. This camp teaches safe hunting and is an opportunity for a youth and parent to work together and bond in this manner.

Besides what we give financially and time-wise, I felt I needed to do more in the fall. Last year, I began volunteering every Sunday during the corn maze season, about 7 weeks. I work the ticket booth and have a chance to talk up the camp and everything that the camp offers during all seasons. We have been open since September 16. Like last year, this weekend was the weekend that saw our numbers greatly increase. Today, there were over 500 paying patrons to the camp. Yesterday there was over 450 paying. If you take into consideration the people who come to the camp and take advantage of the free things going on at the camp, it is estimated that there were as many as 1100 that visited Camp Fontanelle this weekend. Not bad for being open 12 hours over the weekend. Next weekend is the big weekend. On Saturday, there is the haunted corn maze and on Sunday there is Search for Treats in the maze. It is estimated that as many as 1,000, will be there on Sunday alone.

I know that we are to take time off and rest. It is commanded by God. And while I do not want to go against God, today was a day of praising Him. It was done through music at my church and it was done through the beauty of His land in the afternoon and evening out at camp. I can’t believe that He would be angry and thinking that I was going against Him by Praising Him ALL DAY!

I am really trying to be a better person, a better Christian. I know that I don’t always think with a Christian head or a Christian heart. I am trying to be better. I think that being in a Christian community is important. Just like those of other faiths are in their own communities, I feel it is important to be around people who share a general belief. We have a mission at our church and there is a mission at Camp Fontanelle. I hope that we can do our best to meet that mission. And I guess what I like is that both missions talk about being good to all people and making people feel safe. It is important to be good to people, to all people. And if we can make someone feel safe, at least in the church or out at camp, when they can’t feel safe at home, then we have achieved a great thing.

I look forward to our choir starting new music next week to get ready for Christmas and I look forward to dressing like Tinkerbell for the corn maze next weekend. My soul is at rest because I know that what I am doing is taking me on the right path. AMEN!

Sunday, a day of rest?