Sunday, August 31, 2008

10 second update

Took days to move Jack's mom from one hospice jurisdiction to another.

Now we're at the one nearby, preparing for her to be here.

It's up to the docs. I hope she stays there as long as they'll let us. Beautiful, clean, quiet. We're worn out but like the option of tag-teaming staying there round the clock.

We're tired, sore throats. She's comfortable, declining, but still her personality comes through. Mind sharp as a tack, but preoccupied with dealing with the disease.

We feel surrounded by love and thank you for all your notes and prayers...true friends!! Thank you so much for every word and thought

I go to wash things and sleep and head on back.

I know it's a natural process, but I hate seeing precious ones/things die. When I look at her as she sleeps, I think of the worlds that will die with her, never to be inhabited again. How many worlds we inhabit in this life, though we like to think it's just one. Our universes intersect each other. I'm glad there is God, because the entirety of all those moments we call life deserve to be witnessed in full and savored, and He gathers them all...only He is big enough.

I am finite.

We so briefly touch something we cannot hold.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Not Rocket Science

Your love, encouragement, and prayers have seen us through the past few days, and I'm more grateful than I can adequately express. The words Thank You are pretty spare. I appreciate each of you and thank you for your comments and remembering my mother-in-law at this time!

Thank much.

And yes, 6 days of emergency housecleaning CAN be done in a short amount of time, given the right circumstances ;-)

I wrote a post yesterday, but pulled it. I tried keeping it short, but had a lot of frustration that came out in the few minutes I had to check in with the computer.

I will sum up.

You cannot move a patient hours away without their morphine pump. This is not rocket science. But obviously it takes three days to figure out.

You also cannot feed chicken fried steak chunks, toast, etc. to a patient that has been on pureed foods since admission. Again, not rocket science. We could now have fed a homeless person quite well on the trays that have been left sitting uneaten because of this.

You cannot feed uncrushable whole pills to someone who only takes liquids through a very small syringe. Again, not rocket science.

And do not call me every 30 minutes for the past 2 1/2 days I spent at home waiting for medical equipment (because I was told I had to be home for that) and tell me you're considering delaying transport ANOTHER DAY because there is no one to ride in the transport vehicle with the patient. I would have stayed there to begin with. Oh yes, and as long as I'm registering some suggestions, do not try to transport said patient multiple times when no equipment has arrived at my house yet.

I don't THINK this is rocket science...???

Please do not patronize the caregiver (me). Please don't insult me and then smile at me as if I'm the imbecile. Please do not assume I know all your medical terms. Please do not act as if I know NO medical terms. Please do not ask me if I know how to raise/lower my mother-in-law's bed after I've been with her in this same room over a week night and day. Please do not ask me if I'm the paid attendant when you see me every day and re-ask me that question every day to be told I'm the daughter-in-law.

We're being moved to a different facility before Mima gets to come to my house, unless they have still not figured out by noon today that she requires pain meds in transit since they're keeping the morphine pump here.

I dream of a smooth day with no patronizing, mo more glued-on smiles.

Please, God, let there not be a flat tire on the way to the other place...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We've been with my mother-in-law in hospice the last few days, and as of yesterday, they wanted to move her. She now needs round-the-clock care in the home, and her husband can't afford to pay a nurse for 24 hour care. As of mutual family decisions made yesterday with extended family, we'll be caring for her in our home, either for the duration or until she is moved back into a hospice facility, depending.

I've taken an open-ended leave of absence from work, which my employer has been very generous about, though it's not paid. Jack's working as much as possible so that he'll have some ability to take off in his mom's final days.

There's so much I don't know how to do, but they are sending in nurses to help me learn a few basics of adult caregiving and to help me get set up. I haven't been home in a while, and for some reason my house did not clean and organize itself while I was gone (those elves have some 'splaining to do...). I grabbed 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep In My Own Bed (oh, how glorious it is to be back in my own bed!) and now have 6 days worth of cleaning to do in 5 hours before our home is descended upon and the next leg of this relay begins. But how very happy we are to have this opportunity! There is a lot to do in a short time today before they transfer her here, so I'm trying to shoot for an adrenalin surge somehow to get what I can done with the cleaning and de-funking around here before my house needs to run itself and all focus is on the patient. I want to have enough of it set up that Rachel can give me some breaks in her off time to catch a nap here or there. The irony that my own daughter, who just got her LPN license earlier this year and is working at a rehab and enrolled in college fulltime, will now be teaching me some patient care is not lost on me :) This, from the girl who once wondered if she could EVER change a diaper or clean up unpleasant things...let's see now if I can keep up with HER... :)

Jack's mom took a turn I'm not sure anyone noticed yesterday. The chart will show she had soft food and liquids yesterday morning, but I saw within a four hours' time period a definate change. She simply stopped taking any liquids, said I love you to immediate family, and didn't try to do things for herself, like shifting in bed, like she had been doing regularly. The strangest thing for me, in talking with the nurses, is adjusting to no expectation of recovery. I never realized how much it's programmed into me to assist folks with only an eye to regaining health. It seems very foreign not to "fight" for a allow someone to reject food and liquids, ultimately completely, and not try to assist them to somehow get nourishment and revive. For the focus to be on comfort, to the exclusion of health. I've seen so much of the abuses that come when people don't CARE whether their elderly decline, I guess I didn't really realize much about the reality of situations in which the end is near and the goal of healthcare changes to helping the passage be unobstructed. Maybe like a lot of folks, I've been unnaturally insulated and segregated from this aspect of real life? It has not escaped me the similarities between this and the general disconnect in our society in other areas as well.

So now, we'll learn.

I hope I won't make a mess of this, and that she'll be easy in her mind and her body as much as possible.

I hope I get everything before 8 AM that can whip this house into shape. I'm now off to do some seriously neglected housework, oy! :)

THANK YOU to each one of you who have stopped by to lend a word of encouragement, and for the prayers that are going up. I love you all dearly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Breathe, Pause, Breathe

...breathe, too long a pause, breathe again.

These are our precious moments in hospice with my mother-in-law. Time is strangely suspended and marked only by touchpoints of watchfulness...she ate a bite, she required a higher dose of this, she's being turned, she speaks a word or two, she sleeps again.

It is not grim, it is not ok, it is not tragic, it is not wonderful. But it's precious.

I'm here fulltime now, and Jack is still working a few more days till we hear it is time for him to suspend himself here, too. He commutes an hour here after his work and sleeps nearby her bed. We're a tag team. I'm glad he was not here last night, because some important things became more difficult for her, and she struggled. A man across the hall died, and his wife keened through the night, relatives joining with her at first but dispersing to grieve in their own ways in the many nooks designed for that here at this hospice. They were the muffled sounds you might mistake for a violent argument. They were her argument against her beloved being taken too soon...always too soon. Goodbye, goodbye...

No, I will not say goodbye, said her wordless wails.

I'm caught in the uncomfortable place of unwitting passerby. I sit and listen, and try not to hear the details. This place is a keeper of hallowed secrets.

We are not sure when our turn will come. How will we grieve? How will I help my husband at that time?

How do people without companions pass away without someone to protest?

Breathe, pause, breathe.

Too long a pause, breathe again.

Our moments are ordinary, and are too soon gone. We will gather these moments as talismen to hold in days of argument and acceptance.


I will be away from the blog during a good bit of this time. I have read the wonderful comments of my friends here, and am so blessed by your friendship and encouragement...thank you for sharing so many of your own perspectives and moments with me, your kinship. I love you all dearly!


Friday, August 22, 2008

We're Fine! :)

Oh man I'm SO sorry! I posted an update of sorts at the end of one of my prior posts, but am so sorry if I didn't make it clear that we're ok down here and haven't been blown away by winds, though we sure have gotten a lot of rain!

THANK YOU to my friends who are/were concerned...I apologize for not being clearer!

And yes, I think if we get much more rain, we'd be better off building an ark than looking for land :)

Jack's mom was moved to hospice the day we found out the hurricane was downgraded, and it's been a whirlwind of a different sort since then around here. Again, I apologize for not being clearer!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Participate in Protecting Schoolchildren's Food

This just in my mailbox from my local chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation:

One mission of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (a non-profit organization) is to protect the constitutional right of the nation's family farms to provide unprocessed farm foods directly to consumers through any legal means.


The USDA is preparing for the 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. The reauthorization process provides Congress with a regular opportunity to examine the operation and effectiveness of the Federal nutrition assistance programs, and consider making improvements to their statutory structure under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.

The USDA is accepting testimony on its Child Nutrition Program. Please make your voices heard by going to the following link: 47dd

1. Bring back whole milk to school lunch programs. Children need the butterfat in whole milk for growth and development
2. Abandon the unscientific stricture against use of animal fats in school lunches
3. Recommend against using any soy in school lunches.
4. No junk food in school lunches; no vending machines in schools
5. No use of school lunch programs to promote the unpopular, anti-small farm National Animal Identification Program.

There are two more meetings scheduled for citizen input. Please attend if you can and submit testimony. Let's let the WAPF message for nourishing traditional foods in school lunches be heard loud and clear!

September 10, 1-4 pm
FNS Midwest Regional Office
GSA Conference Center Room 331
77 West Jackson Boulevard, 20th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604-3507
For more information call (312) 353-1044

September 11, 9 am - 1 pm
The Colorado History Museum
1300 Broadway
Denver, CO 80203
For more information, call (303) 844-0300

For further background information, see the press release on the USDA meeting in Atlanta, August 14, below:

Concerned Parents, Farm-to-School Activists to Testify Before USDA
At Listening Session on Child Nutrition

Atlanta, Georgia, August 14, 2008---USDA may get more than they bargained for at their "Listening Sessions" on Child Nutrition programs, now being held around the country. A number of powerful, grass-roots based organizations are mobilizing forces to bring the voices of parents and children to the next session to be held in Atlanta. This series of hearings about the reauthorization of government school feeding and WIC programs would typically be dominated by testimony from food service providers asking for expanded programs, funding and increased reimbursement rates.

Now, parents and their children also want to be heard. An informal coalition of such diverse groups as Georgia Organics, Les Dames d'Escoffier-Atlanta Chapter, Food & Water Watch,, Family Farm Defenders, Georgia Chapter of Sierra Club, National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association and the Weston A. Price
Foundation of Georgia (a 501c3 nutrition education non-profit), are asking their members to submit comments to the USDA at a session or online, to speak to their concerns about food safety and purity.

In last week's hearing in Baltimore, Sarah Alexander of Food & Water Watch, raised the issue of schools having the choice to purchase artificial growth hormone free and organic milk, as well as non-irradiated food. Food & Water Watch has previously succeeded in getting irradiated food as a separate line item on government order
forms, and since that time, not a single school has chosen to order irradiated meat. Food & Water Watch has also successfully defeated corporate efforts to ban artificial growth hormone-free labeling on milk.

Emboldened by such successes around the country, grass-roots and advocacy groups are now going for more transparency and input on what is being fed to our nation's children. Among the concerns that will be raised by members of various groups to the USDA during their comment period are:

- Parental Consent Before Serving Genetically Modified Food
- Preference for Grass-fed Meats from Small, Sustainable Farms
- Elimination of Artificial Hormones, Antibiotics, Steriods from School Food
- Increased Use of Fresh, Locally Grown Produce
- Affirmative Action on Behalf of Family Farms & Ranches
- Junk Foods Removed from Schools
- Oppose Use of Nutrition Programs to Push the Unpopular National Animal ID System
- Parental Rights in Food Choice

Erin Croom of Georgia Organics' Farm-to-School campaign and Natalie Rogers, Health and Wellness Specialist for the Georgia PTA are slated to testify before the USDA on Wednesday, August 20, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, 2nd Floor Conference Center, Room D at 61 Forsyth St., SW, Atlanta, GA 30303-8930. There are two other listening sessions remaining, in Colorado and Chicago.

For those unable to participate in a listening session, a notice of the request for comments was published in the Federal Register on May 20, 2008, with details on how to submit comments by postal mail or through a courier, no later than Oct. 15, 2008. You may also submit reauthorization comments electronically through or fax to 703-305-2879.

Media Contact: Kimberly Hartke, Publicist 703-860-2711, 703-675-5557 cell

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hurricane Blanca

I've written about my mother-in-law before, so if you've read it before, this may be redundant. But I really need to write about her some more.

I am grateful to her, if for no other reason, than the fact that she is the one responsible for my husband surviving childhood to become a man.

When my husband was a young child, he lived in Havana, Cuba, with his mother, who was a divorced single mom. Divorce was not very heard of back then, but when his mother saw that her whirlwind romance and marriage to a very charismatic and influential man was destined to take her far afield of how things appeared when she said I Do, she chose the tougher path of being single and being the only parent to raise Jack. He doesnt know much more than that, and she's not volunteered more. There were reasons.

She was a nurse who worked hard to provide for her small son. As he grew, a dark cloud settled over Cuba. It was an unsure time in the world. There was talk, uprising, rifts of loyalties as citizens more and more had to take differing sides and politically things began to boil. Cuba was then as popular and free a destination for those in the U.S. as the Bahamas or Hawaii is now. It was metropolitan, cultured, and tourist's seasonal playground. It was far more than the stereotyped Ricky Ricardo characterization. It was lush with internal farms, forests, tropical climes. You could drop a seed onto the ground and it would grow. Cubans had rich heritages tracing back from Europe (the Mediterranean), China, North Africa and the nearby Carribes. Since Castro, the land has been raped and degraded and now only the spirit of the individuals refuse to give up...survival plots of vegetables are planted in backyards or vacant lots. The buildings are crumbling. The black market is the main way to purchase anything. A single aspirin sells on the black market the equivalent of a doctor's salary for a month. Ah the glories of communism. But I digress...

Contrary to a lot of folks' assumptions (including mine at one time), Cubans don't eat tacos and burritos and are distinct in culture from other predominant South and Central American cultures that have now been lumped under the term "Latino." Cubano is the dialect of Spanish spoken there.

Jack's mother, Blanca, was in the know...she was a prominent nurse at a Havana hospital and knew a lot of people of every social situation there. Hemingway was someone she saw frequently walking streets and beaches nearby.

Be careful of promises of change and progress. That's what Castro brought. He was handsome, charismatic, able to inspire a loyal following, and seemingly bulletproof. He made promises, whipped up a new nationalism, achieved an overthrow. He brought communism, the antidote to the burdens of capitalism.


What happened to Blanca's family is an interesting but true study of history as it was made. It's so easy to look back to the past and assume we'd know what we'd have done in such a time as that. But as history is made, it's seldom clear as it unfolds, and it's not often we realize what consequences will come of our decisions in the moment.

Blanca came from a family of (if I'm counting right) 12 children. She was one of the first to leave their rural situation, go to college, and become a professional (nurse). They had lived in the sort of poverty that was to eat, but a lot of mouths to feed, and cash-poor. (Does this sound familiar to our times??) She wanted the city and opportunity.

As the years progressed and Castro first came to power, people reassured themselves that this coup would bring stabilization rather than communist extremes. But then came the de-privatization of personal property. You had no property...didnt matter if you were rich or poor, it was seized in the name of The Glorious Cause. And you had to choose sides. Children were enrolled in "re-education" classes with new communist book, curricula, programming. They were encouraged to be informants on their own parents, to inform teachers, authorities, etc, if their parents didnt smoothly parrot all the new propaganda. It was at this time that Jack's mom began making decisions. A lot of people bided their time, not knowing if this regime would actually last, or would mellow. This had been their home for generations..surely things would get better?

Emigration was still open to the United States, but was tightening. Still, there was the sense that surely things couldn't change THAT much, right?? The Cuba-to-U.S. travel route was secure because of the mutual benefit to both...right? People began to flee. It was embarrassing to the Cuban regime. Families were split as some went, some stayed. To go was seen as being a traitor, not only to your country, but to your family who remained. Some people had no choice...the elderly, those with disabled members or parents to care for, those who could not afford financially to leave. To go to the United States was not necessarily to receive a warm welcome. Immigrants have always been unpopular here, despite what anyone thinks. I feel strongly about immigration; we are a nation that would not be here but for a boat or plane. I know quotas and legal vs illegal is a hot debate these days. But anyone who has a problem with legal immigration does not have my sympathy. Those who do have such a problem are welcome to Go Home...where the boat or plane their forefathers and mothers originally hailed from.

I'm an opinionated woman, eh? Ah, but back to the true story...

These and many more dilemmas faced the Cuban citizens of that day. Blanca was a powerhouse...a woman who wanted to stay in the know, a survivor. As the economics changed and businesses were de-privatized and seized by the regime, property taken, and freedom of speech and free movement vanished, people took stock. Many people joined the Communist party either because they believed it was for the greater good, or because they wanted to blend in and avoid be targets. This split whole families, as the members of the Communist party "informed" on their own family members. It seems foreign to us, but it was justified by many people at the time as a means of survival.

Many people began leaving, and by leaving, I mean leaving it ALL behind. We're not talking a third-world country...not back then. We're talking a nation as alive and vital, rich in natural resources, agriculture and industry and the arts, as any in the "civilized" world today.

His mom decided to stay until she thought it was too dangerous to do otherwise, but she even then began preparing documents in case they needed to try to flee. She had a gentleman friend of several years, and they loved each other but decided they couldn't marry under the circumstances...he had family obligations with his extended family. She became a skilled barterer of goods so that her son would no go without food. She hand-collected coffee beans on a friend's land, plants part of a vegetable plot out in the country. She dried, roasted, and processed the sacks of coffee beans by hand for weeks, until she had coffee ready to be ground and brewed...something no longer available on the open market. She had enough for herself for a year, and the rest to barter for necessities. Jack's breakfast during those times, even as a growing youth, was a cup of strong coffee with milk, if available.

Blanca undertook the paperwork necessary for validating hers and her son's identity, and when the dictate came from the higher powers that nurses needed to now substitute water for meds in patients intravenous tubes, with the patients being told that there was no more medicine, she knew she couldn't sacrifice her integrity to the pledge "do no harm."

It took at least a year. She applied for emigration to the U.S., just as the doors began to close. She took Jack to an older couple far out in the country where there were no schools and hardly any roads, for him to assist them on their farm and be hidden, because the communist indoctrination in the public schools was already established, and children not joining the communist youth organizations were targeted. It took a year for the paperwork to come through. During the year, she visited her son and the couple caring for him, bringing them money, bartered goods, whatever she could. She was under intense scrutiny. When it came time to go to the airport, she packed herself and Jack as if they were going on a tourist trip to Miami...that's what was on the was the only way to get out. As they were boarding the plane, she was stopped by authorities and told she could not go, she was being detained. She was told her son could board the plane and go, but she could not. She had that second to decide whether or not to be separated from Jack, not knowing what would happen to him. She told Jack to go. She was told that since she was a medical professional, the country could not part with her because her skills were too necessary to allow her to go.

Jack arrived in Miami with no one to meet him. He was installed with other refugees in a gathering place for days before extended family there figured out what had happened and found him. They kept him with them during his separation from his mother, and they were not happy about it. They themselves had immigrated earlier, and were finding it very difficult to acclimate to the English-speaking world. Survival was difficult, but they were free.

He found out many years later what happened to his mother during the intervening months. She was imprisoned in Cuba for a year. When she got out, I don't know how, but she was allowed to fly to the U.S. and she rejoined her son. There were years of surviving, and she was never without a job. She began their naturalization process and the difficult process of trying to remain stateside the correct number of days, filling out the correct forms, etc. Their days ran out, so she took them to Canada until she was allowed to re-enter. She crammed daily studying English, and took the Nursing exam in English because her Cuban degree was not recognized as legal. She passed. She scrimped, worked herself all hours, and ran a very tight household. She moved to Tampa and began working for a doctor there. She fixed up run-down housing properties in her "spare"time, first, for others, then later for herself as a secondary means of income.

Jack learned English and adapted to schooling with no transition other than practicing vocabulary repeatedly. It wasn't easy, but he did it. As soon as he graduated high school, he was drafted into Vietnam. Of course, he'd rather have not have had his number come up, but when it did, he served his country gladly. The U.S. gave him so much, and he was not reluctant to serve in the Marines. He was shipped over, the other details are his alone...he keeps them private; he's not a man to tell war stories. He came back in a coma and nearly lost his life. He lived to keep on serving in the military, and then was honorably discharged sometime later.

His mother was a rocky person, and a rock. The demands of making a life for herself and her son kept her always on the go with little time for leisure and sentiment; she defines the word "Grit." She has a strong personality, and loves to learn anything she can to improve herself. She stood solid with her son as he returned with disabilities from a very unpopular war. He never stopped working, supported his newlywed wife and they had a son. He inherited her grit, and steadily worked 60+ hour weeks for years to gain a good life.

Much has happened since then, but his mother has always been his champion. She did not always make popular decisions, did not always agree with Jack, but she loved him with actions that gave him opportunity to make what he would of himself and become a man. She married, and stayed in Tampa. Even to the age of 95, she took care of her husband and household...with grit. She has helped Jack in many ways over the years. When he lost his job of 24 years a few years ago, and was experiencing other reversals as well, she learned that his only vehicle was about to go and gave him enough money to cover half of the purchase of a newer one. She welcomed me into the family less with sentiment but more with an acknowledgement that Jack and I are suited for each other, and we are happy and hardworking. I've never learned Spanish and have had difficulty communicating with her, but we have an understanding. As long as I'm good for her son, I'm ok :)

I am writing this as a tribute to her life, though there is so much more that should be written. Sometimes love comes in a prickly package, less of warm fuzzies and flowery words and more of determination, fighting for survival, and long hours working for stability. This is the case for Blanca, and she loves her son in those ways, and with attachment emotionally. She is definately a fiery gal! Opinionated, headstrong, bossy, loving the latest news or gossip. Always wanting to be in the know and not left behind. A backyard gardener. A devoted wife....her pet term for her husband comes out sounding like "dahhhh-ling." Spanish spanish spanish, dahhhh-ling... spanish spanish spanish (her husband is an English speaker and they have sort of their own Spanglish going on).

We're not exactly sure how old his mother is. When Jack and I married 4 years ago, an interesting thing happened. On her birthday, she turned 92. She had given her age the prior year as 93. This is a woman who had not lost any of her memory or mental acuity. The next year, she turned 91. The next year, she turned 91 ...again. Our theory was that she had hit her preferred age ceiling and just wanted to begin counting backwards...heehee. In that vein, we hoped she'd live to be 60...

A couple months ago, we found out that Blanca knew she had a liver disease, but had not told her son. She abhors emotion and sentiment...she's an all-business woman, no nonsense. It really was an unpleasant shock for my husband. We were told she was in stage 4, and that she'd likely only have a couple more weeks to live. This was a blow, even though she is 95 (according to hospital records). She chose to remain at home and do for herself until she no choice otherwise. She enjoyed a window of time where she actually felt better and was able to have daily visitors (audiences!) with family and friends, and the doctors were baffled...maybe her decline was not so imminent?

When Jack cannot travel to visit her, he calls every day. For the last few days, she's always been asleep each time he calls, at different times of the day. Today, he called and was told she'd been moved to hospice. She has been conscious less and less; she is now awake off and on. I hope she does awaken, if only to see her son. She adores him.

It looks like it's about that time. Jack is on his way there, now. She's able to speak and they are together.

It's unfortunate that her later life was also complete with the sort of people who move in for the sake of the possibility of financial gain, when a person's most vulnerable. There are some such people who have suddenly materialized during this crisis, for just such expectations. My husband is not one of them, and is not friendly towards them. For so long, it was just his mother and him. Now these people have arrived on the scene, only an hour since he arrived. I am praying he is allowed the opportunity to peacefully continue spending her last days and hours with him beside her, without the drama of opportunists and troublemakers.

Blanca has always been a force to be reckoned with. No matter how these next hours are, my husband has the reality of a lifetime as her son, and no one can take that from him. It is probably no coincidence that as a near-hurricane Fay approached, it marked Blanca's journey to its next step. Her life has been as much a force as the native, natural forces of this area. It is fitting her final awareness is accompanied by such -- the rawness and strength others are awed by, but are everyday to her. Her determination and vitality have been as elemental as any hurricane.

I hope that if this is her last day, or days, that they ease peacefully from high gales to sheltering showers that bring comfort, peace, and no pain. We were glad to bid farewell to the spectre of the recent roiling force called Fay. We are sad to face saying our farewells to the life-giving and sustaining force that is Jack's mom.

And for the person she is, and has been for nearly an entire century, we are eternally grateful to G-d.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

is...more sliced bread!

What goes best with sliced bread? or to tweak a classic...

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf Slice of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

(apologies to Omar Khayyam)

I've been having fun making some handmade breads -- fun, because finally some of them are turning out to be edible, ha :)

I'm finding homemade bread is not only fun, but is delicious beyond store-bought, by far. Not only does each recipe render a distinct end product, but so do different batches of the same recipe, depending on things such as humidity, temperature, elevation, kneading time, differentiations of measurement..and probably mood (heh heh). But one thing they all have in common...if they turn out to be edible, they're superior to anything mass-produced.

I made a batch of whole wheat bread recently, and have been surprised during the past couple of days how much having such a filling and nutritious loaf extended my cooking possibilities. Homemade bread very well could be the at-home version of fast food. Here are some of the things that can be put together quickly from a thick, good, piece of bread:

1. Buttered Toast
2. Toast with honey or jam
3. French toast
4. Garlic Bread
5. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
6. Open-faced melted cheese sandwich
7. Sandwich with fillings
8. Sliced "wheels"...roll slice flat, spread with tuna salad, or egg salad, or cream cheese and smoked salmon, roll up, and slice into "wheel slices"
9. Brushed with olive oil, toasted, "scrubbed" with a fresh tomato slice and roasted garlic
10. Mock pizza...tad of pizza sauce, bit of shredded cheese, favorite toppings
11. Olive squares...toast with favorite shredded cheese topped with deli olives (your choice) split in half (seeded), cut (after toasting) into quarters.
12. Cinnamon toast
13. Bread pudding
14. Cubed, when dry or stale, and tossed with oil or butter and spices and toasted for croutons
15. Crumbed into breadcrumbs for addition to meatloaf, stuffing, or other dishes.
16. Torn or cubed into a breakfast casserole bake
17. "Toad in the hole" egg-cooked-in-a-bread-slice breakfast serving
18. Topped with a fried egg, S&P and dash of hot sauce for hot breakfast
19. Toasted, cut into toast points, and allowed to sit out a full day to "dry out" further, for use as a dried bread chip for dipping in hot artichoke dip, hot cheese dip, or cold fish or chicken salads.
20. Don't forget the good ol' PB&J!
21. Cream cheese on hot toast, with fruit, or tomato and onion and capers, or smoked salmon
22. Toast, hot, with hot creamed chicken or creamed chipped beef
23. Toasted, served openfaced with favorite Reuben sauce, kraut, thinly sliced meat of choice
24. Brushed with olive oil, briefly grilled, topped with grilled veggies

With so many uses, bread's definately on the Frugality list. With the improved taste of homemade, the list shows more promise of steady use...What's on your bread?


So glad to post this, but as of yet not only is there no hurricane, there is not even a single drop of rain here...YAY!!! Thank you for your concern and prayers! Looks like some other parts of the state will get some good rain. I'm so grateful...we don't like the H Word much down here since the back-to-back ones a few years ago.

It's have to take each warning seriously enough to keep watch. That's the one lesson we learned.

So happy to report all is calm! :)

Monday, August 18, 2008


We're smack where that yellow twisty-mark on the map is, right in the middle of the "cone." Lessee what the next few hours bring. Hopefully, just a downgraded storm. I actually love storms, even tropical ones. Just not the blow-you-to-bits kind.
I'm off to get those last few errands done and load the truck, in case we need to become gypsies for the next couple of days :)
5 P. M. update: Looks like it's downgrading somewhat and staying a tropical storm. We'll wait till 8 P.M. EST to see the next reading. Unless it accelerates, we'll stay home and enjoy the rain. I absolutely love the tropical storms (I like storms a lot of any sort as long as they don't take off the roof, etc.) We get those here a lot, and it's like most of the big ones we got in Tennessee, except usually with a lot less lightning and a lot more rain. Thank you to all the friends here who've left comments...we really appreciate your thoughts and prayers! This is at least a reminder that you can't underestimate hurricane season here; this one developed rather quickly into a possible problem...never can tell the degree of severity until they're about right on Florida, since most of the action starts cooking as they approach Cuba and the islands.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Well, Crud

Here we go again.

Time to pack that bag and check the water supplies. Let's see what category it is by the time it makes up its mind...

Classic Whole Wheat Bread

Recipe...straight from the King Arthur Flour sack.

I'm still trying basic bread recipes before I begin experimenting further with grains with which I'm less familiar...milo, millet, teff, rice flour, ground garbanzo beans, clover flour, etc...

I wasn't going to use this whole wheat flour to make whole wheat bread, originally. It was bought with the intention of easing some whole wheat into those all-purpose flour recipes, a little at a time, to play with consistencies. My past trials with making whole-wheat bread rendered magnificent little masterpieces of bread-shaped doorstops so compacted and heavy they could be used in self-defense as instruments of blunt trauma. I had no wish to repeat those experiences...

Then I happened to read the blurb printed on the top of the flour sack, which goes something like this:

I just finished making my second loaf of 100% whole wheat bread from your recipe on the package. This is the best whole wheat bread I have ever tasted, and you are right when you say whole wheat doesn't have to be dry and tasteless. You are going to make me famous!

J.E. Newport Beach, CA

Well, who doesn't love a testimonial? Who can resist the promise that this recipe will produce real bread rather than wheat bricks? I examined the recipe printed on the back, and the ingredients were blessedly straightforward...the only ingredient I usually don't use was the dry powdered non-fat milk. But in a strange alignment of Breadmaking Fate circumstances, my Be Prepared hubby just happened to have a nondescript stash of powdered milk packets...and all the other ingredients were one I had.

The challenge was on!...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mixed Reviews on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

I was sent one of those Forwards in my email In box, and it sounded typically exaggerated. It was about the alleged dangers of energy-saving Compact Fluorescent light bulbs and the fact that they all contain mercury. The email supposedly quoted a woman who broke one of her CFL bulbs and was told by her local EPA that it would take a team to remove the contamination, to the tune of $2000.

I didn't pay much attention to the email at first because it seemed sensationalized.

I did want to look into the matter a bit more as time allowed...

First, it made me feel a bit slow that I never knew fluorescent bulbs of any description contain mercury.

Secondly, I became aware that there is a mass-marketing of these CFLs, and they are touted as a real green energy-saver for the average household. We have them ourselves, all throughout our house.

Thirdly, I noted the widespread, but largely unaddressed, concern about disposal of the bulbs once they've burned out. Mercury is a contaminant even in very small amounts, and once it hits groundwater, you're talking the most serious of birth defects or sterility issues, not to mention many other serious ailments.

Fourthly, I noticed the preponderance of "patting down the concerned"...something I'm beginning to become less and less happy about. I see this being done by the mainstream in so many other crucial health areas, I am now suspicious whenever the rhetoric runs to phrases such as "when handled correctly" or "health concerns are exaggerated" and so on. In any normal household, lightbulbs get broken, and many times by children or in areas that would be virtually impossible to guarantee spotless cleanup. It's not like these are stadium lights, up and out of the way of the normal Joe. Any normal boy with an overactive Nerf football could overturn a lamp, break the bulb, and try to hide the evidence...and that's just one such situation.

Fifthly, who are the "experts" who "assure" us that NO mercury can be leached, vaporized, or in any other way become a particle that pollutes our home if these bulbs are used regularly...or as in our household, used exclusively? I trust faceless experts and their statistics less and less these days. (If I didnt, I'd think Monsanto is the answer to world hunger and is staffed with boy scouts...)

If it sounds like I'm a skeptic, I want to be a healthy skeptic rather than a reactionary. But two things bother me about this. First, make a product that doesnt try to solve a problem by creating a solution with newer and graver problems. Mercury contamination is no laughing matter. Dont give me the hooey about one coal plant causes more mercury pollution than X number of CFBs. Don't sell me a problem by stating that it's a better problem than the old problem.

I happen to know those bulbs, likely many of them broken, are in our landfills right now.

And I'm frankly ticked off. I'm thinking of whether or not I've ever handled a broken CF bulb myself. I didn't know better...I wasn't the person buying them at the store and reading the label before installing. In fact, I rather hated them...I don't like fluorescent light at all anyway. The reason we changed was to be frugal and to save money.

I'm becoming more jaded about our "needs" for "improved" things. I'm the one who's perfectly happy with a candle, anyway. Or just a light bulb, and keeping all the other lights turned off. Or, about just letting it be light when the sun shines and dark when it goes down?

(lol...ok, you knew I was on the edge!) ;-)

Am I just getting old and crotchety?? I'm annoyed with just one more "dire warning" spam letter in my email, and even more annoyed to find that I'm unsettled after looking into it a bit more. The general consensus seems to be "oh, those CFLs are our best option, even though it comes with some conditions and probable exceptions."

I'm tired of one more product being so widely accepted and finding out it has to be disposed of in "a special way"...creating a demand for more mercury to be used in production but no real responsibility in keeping it from junking up our surroundings/environment/groundwater/soil/air with just one more "necessary" toxic contaminant.

It's official. I'm becoming one of those crotchety old kooks that just won't shut up...

Grass, water, sky, soil, babies with the correct number of limbs and digits. Those are the things I'm feeling awfully protective of these days.

I'm considering ditching the CF bulbs completely. After I get fully suited up in my Hazmat suit, that is, and find some federally-approved disposal facility that will take them (she says, tongue-in-cheek....sort of...)

I'm about technologied out. I can tell I'm about at the end of it. That's where my grandparents were right about the time of the invention of VCRs...they'd had enough of Progress. Mine happened right about the Ipod and the MP3. I'm a throwback. I get more and more stubborn the more and more innovations are marketed as necessities.


told ya...

old and crotchety!! :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eatin' Weeds

Oh, yes, those weeds aren't pests...they're food! For a quick account of my first weedy foray into the ditch and back to the table, head over to the collaborative Women Not Dabbling In Normal site.

I'm not sure if it was a flop or a success, but I tried noshing on some cattails...with mixed results and a lot of resolve to keep experimenting with the bounty that's just underfoot!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Doing Not Thinking Challenge

Better late than never!!

I'm a tardy latecomer, but I'm taking on Kathie's Doing Not Thinking challenge. For some background on what led to this challenge, you'll enjoy this earlier post she wrote. Not just thought-provoking, but action-inspiring!

Whether it's mental list-making, day-dreaming of all the things I know I want to do (which leapfrogs to so many other things I want to do, most of which I've dreamed but never just DONE), or getting sucked into the vortex of busy-ness it takes to maintain this crazy thing called My Life, I need to be more deliberate, more organized, and more focused on actually getting past those stopping-points and actually DOING some of those goals...and some of the neglected things like my housework (cough cough!)
Doing my housework more consistently needs to be a daily habit, so it's not going on the list. I want it to be done before the "extras" because it's important to my whole household. I've done quite a bit of digging out during my hiatus, but have more to go to get it deep-cleaned.
Same thing goes for my relationship with my husband and the time spent with him and with my daughter. In that area, I'm simpy shutting off the computer. Shutting. It. Off.
I'll be blogging less frequently, but deliberately making the most of the time with my family. Writing is important to me, and Jack really wants me to continue posting here, and I agree. But I don't want backwards priorities...I waited so long for him, and when he came into my life I knew I wanted to make each moment count, at least as much as possible (I fall really short quite often). I just don't have the time to do everything, so if you don't see me visiting around my favorite blogs (yours!!) please don't take it personally! There will be times when I'll be able to indulge, when I'm less crazed ;-)
Anyway, I do have room for a challenge! Here are the things I'm challenging myself to accomplish by the December deadline Kathie posted:

Short term goal…save my change from any monetary transaction and put it in a jar…at the deadline, any money I have will be used to do a micro-loan (cycling back and being reinvested in the same thing when paid back) for…to help individuals acquire animals or goods for handmade/homegrown/home-raised products to support themselves.

Longer goal…2 of them
1. Lose 10 lbs by the deadline
2. Keep doing what we can weekly toward finding our homestead…no matter what...the legwork, research, homework, phone-calling, being cheerful despite changes of direction. No wallowing in discouragement allowed! I want to compare the progress then to where we are now...

That's it for's not too late to join the challenge, if you find you'd enjoy pushing past the thinking stage and get right down to the doing part of one or two goals you've had on the burner. To see what some other folks are doing, or to jump in yourself, you can check out the post here.

Come December, it'll be fun comparing notes :)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking a Break

I'm behind with everything, and I'm going to have to let the blog drift along in the stream a bit as I try to get my backlogged house upkeep and some projects back on course.

I also have to get my head around a new turn in direction for our homesteading efforts. The acquiring land thing has not been an easy's more of a series of closed doors, dead ends, and a lot of negotiating and waiting. I had hoped to be able to make an announcement soon along the lines of some final progress, but at the 11th hour the other party reneged. So sometimes the expectations and re-adjustments of mindset are a bit of a roller-coaster, but it's all good. It's not a bad thing because we do trust that there's a right timing and a right place, and it will manifest when it's meant to. (Of course we're doing our part to keep things rolling along)

I need a break for a few days, and I'll be back refreshed. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Maybe I'll get a chance for some minutes of down time to just sit back and enjoy all your wonderful blogs...seems like things have been so busy I've been missing out on catching up.

Along those lines, I'd like to wish a very special congratulations to Karl and Tabitha at the Omelay site for the recent birth of their newest son! Everyone looks tired and very very happy, and we wish them all the best!

Hoping to be back soon... :)

Shabbat Shalom

I'm Honored, Thank You!

It's an honor to receive this award from Twinville at Laughing Orca Ranch...thank you!! (Stop by her site for some great's worth it just for a look at her beautiful horse!) It's humbling to be named for an award, because I've been neglecting this blog in order to spend more time living the life it's supposed to be chronicling.

I will pass it along soon, but wanted to acknowledge my thanks without further delay. Thank you again :)