Monday, May 25, 2009

checking in.....

It has been a while since I last posted. "Thank you" to those of you who missed me and asked if everything was ok.

It is.

I just made a decision (perhaps unconsciously) to be more present in the moment.

I could spend hours a day on the computer, justifying this time knowing my husband, too, was on his computer...playing solitaire.

But we were living separate lives, not connecting, even if we were in the same room.

He would call out, "I love you!"

I would respond, "I love you too!"

He would repeat, "I LOVE you!"

I would respond, "I LOVE you too!"

and this would continue until I made eye contact and said, "I REALLY LOVE YOU!"

Then he would smile and say, "That's what I wanted!"

You see, it's not what we necessarily say...or hear...it's that moment of connection that requires us to be PRESENT.

So I'm spending more time being present...not just being there....and less time at the computer, being somewhere else.

Being there for Him.

Being there for my husband.

Being there for myself.

I will certainly post again. Being present doesn't stop the ideas swirling around in my head. Ideas that have no other outlet than right here.

We are in a season that demands some major adjustments. Maybe that is why I sense the need to be present right now.

For whatever reason, that may be more clear as time passes, I choose to be right here, right now.

My blogging life will have to get in line.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WW: Grammie's Little Helper



This was taken 11 years ago but the memory is still fresh in my mind. I know she got more water on herself than on the flowers but her intentions were the best!

For more Wordless Wednesday participants visit 5 Minutes for Mom and the Wordless Wednesday Headquarters!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: Shrimp with Toasted Garlic



I'm always looking for easy recipes with a "wow" factor and this one is a winner. I first saw it on a Tyler Florence "Ultimate Tapas" show and have served it twice over the past two weeks to plate-lickin', thumbs up reviews. I changed the proportions slightly since I buy 1 lb. bags of frozen shrimp - after all, that's what is on sale! These make a great first course or appetizer. I calculated 4 crostini per person and this served 4 people generously.

1 lb extra large shrimp (31 - 40)
10 cloves garlic
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 c chopped parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
baguette for crostini

Thaw shrimp if frozen and peel. Slice in half lengthwise and remove the little black thread (aka intestine - but who needs to know that!) This can be done hours in advance and the shrimp refrigerated.

Thinly slice the garlic. It seems like a lot but it cooks down to a very mellow flavor.

Add oil to a frying pan and warm over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, allowing the garlic to gradually cook and turn a mellow brown. This is a slow process; you do not want to burn the garlic.

Add shrimp to the toasted garlic and season with salt and pepper. The shrimp will cook quickly. Lift shrimp and garlic from the pan to your serving dish, toss with lemon juice and the chopped parsley.

While the shrimp cooks, toast baguette slices under the broiler. (You could simplify this further by skipping the toasting altogether)

Serve shrimp along side the crostini and enjoy!

For more great recipes check out the home of Tasty Tuesday.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Patiently waiting....

I mentioned last week that we had skipped church because my Honey was feeling a little under the weather.

More precisely, v e r y, v e r y, t i r e d.

He saw his doctors last Tuesday and discovered that his BP was 90 over 60. His heart rate was 41. No wonder he was tired!

They had already cut his beta blocker dose in half last November but now they have stopped it altogether. They really prefer a heart/stroke patient to be on a beta blocker but not if his heart rate continues to drop!

So this past Monday, making sure the drug had left his system, we returned to the doctor to get a Holter Monitor which is like a little portable electrocardiogram strapped to my Honey's chest with four leads that attach with sticky pads to his body. He wore this for 24 hours and now we just have to see what his heart is up to.

Either it is beating at a rate above 45.... or he's looking at a pacemaker.

We are (not so) patiently waiting.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WW: Springtime Work-in-progress


This was my project yesterday afternoon. You can see how late our Spring is - still no leaves on the trees but the shrubs are leafing and the perennials are up.


Still a few stubborn leaves to rake (even after 10 wheelbarrows full) but I think it's a big improvement!

For more Wordless Wednesdays check out the WW Headquarters and 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When did this happen?

We moved to this house in 1994. One of the attractions to this neighborhood was the predominance of basketball hoops in the driveways; with two teenage boys still at home, it was definitely a selling point.

Fast forward to 2009. The basketball hoops are still there but the teenage boys are not. None. To our west we now have a young family with 3 little boys, the oldest of whom is in 1st grade. To our east is another young family with a 4 year old boy and a 2 year old girl.

We love watching these children play outside our front window. They run back and forth across our yard, learning to ride bikes, playing super heroes and today, conquering a huge mound of topsoil that was delivered to one driveway. I wish I could share a picture, but they are not my children and they have a right to privacy.

So when did this happen? When did we become the "old folks" on the block?

Why didn't I see this coming?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The curse has been lifted...

We crossed into Canada on Sunday morning to attend church.

Then we had a little birthday party for our 6 year old granddaughter.

About 3:00pm we set off for the U.S. border and round 4 of our border crossing challenge. In 3 out of the last 3 crossings we have been escorted from our vehicle for a secondary inspection, no explanation why. That and a DHS TRIP behind us, we approached the border not expecting that there would be any resolution yet.

There was very little traffic; a customs officer was waving us into the last lane and we drove right up to the inspection booth.

"Good Afternoon. Welcome to my lane." (ha! an officer with a sense of humor!)
"Where did you go?"

"We went to church and then to our granddaughter's birthday party," I replied, handing over our passports.

The officer disappeared inside his booth to run our passports through his computer. We held our breath.

He emerged from his booth, "Have a nice day," he said, returning our passports.

YES! Happy dancing in the car! WOOHOO! No More red flags! No more black list! No more whatever-it-was-that-they-couldn't-tell-us that was sending us into repeated secondary inspections!

This was the border crossing routine we knew and loved.

We're back :)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grilled Flatbread



Last year it was grilled pizza that we loved.

This year we're loving grilled flatbread.

Not to split hairs (especially around food) but there is a difference.

When we grilled pizza, we would grill one side of the dough, flip it and madly add our toppings as we stood over the hot grill.

When we grill flatbread, we grill both sides of the dough, remove the flatbread from the grill and THEN add the toppings. Much more conducive to family harmony around the barbecue. And to getting the dough cooked through....

So I was still working on the leftover ricotta I had purchased to make my Easter Cannoli. I added some garlic to the ricotta, caramelized some onions and mushrooms, grated some parmesan and then layered the toppings on the grilled flatbread: A nice thick shmear (is that a word?) of garlic ricotta, the onions and mushrooms, some parmesan and a layer of chopped arugula.

And let me tell you it was fantastic. Much credit goes to my Honey, the Grill Master, who got the flatbread nice and crispy.

Sorry I don't have the ingredients measured out for you...I'm not a measuring sort of cook, more like some of this and some of that, but this is not really an exact type of recipe. In fact, you can even think of it as a "clean out the fridge" sort of recipe!

All you need is some bread dough from your local pizza place (they will have it at your market too - I like to buy mine from a nearby Italian bakery). Let it sit out on your counter to rise; punch down and divide into two pieces. Roll or throw (for you professionals) until the dough is nice and thin. The shape is not important; I actually prefer it to be rather misshapen and rustic. In fact, this is soooo easy that my stroke-impaired-one-handed Honey does this step....so step back and let your kids get involved!

Choose any toppings that you like. It can be as simple as ricotta topped with sliced tomatoes and basil or as complex as a horseradish cream topped with slices of rare roast beef and argula or cream cheese topped with smoked salmon, capers, dill and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or how about hummus topped with chopped kalamata olives, tomato and parsley?

I think we'll be eating grilled flatbread a lot this summer......

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is DHS TRIP?

My Honey was feeling under the weather this weekend so we didn't make our trek over the border to go to church.

No chest pains, always good.

No fever, always good.

No stomach upset, so it's not the flu.

But he is very tired. Even walking around the block was difficult for him. He has a regular doctor's checkup tomorrow and that's another good thing.

But back to the DHS TRIP.

Last week, when we finally got to speak with a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) supervisor, he recommended that I submit a DHS TRIP Inquiry and he provided a handout about the size of a dry cleaning claim ticket with the information I would need. So I went to the website: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress Inquiry Program or DHS TRIP.

Seemed simple enough: I was prompted to describe my particular concerns and experience, provide contact information and assigned a case number. I also had to scan my passport, print the final page of the form, sign it, scan it and email both back to the DHS TRIP. Which I did. I also included a scan of my husband's passport since this was our shared experience at each encounter with the CBP.

I received a confirmation of the inquiry and then was asked, "What was your intent in sending a passport for ALW?"

Apparently that was a no-no. Apparently "we" did not have the experience. "We" could not file. I had the experience, duly filed. And my husband had "his" experience which had to be filed separately under his name.

I emailed back to explain that my husband is a stroke survivor and would not be able to complete the requisite form. A veritable can of worms that turned out to be. Powers of attorney, append this, attach that. My computer skills were stretched to the max copying and scanning and attaching everything to an email. Could they not consider my inquiry as our inquiry? No, that would be illegal. Couldn't I just please do the computer work and my husband sign his name acknowledging that these were the circumstances he experienced? I waited for 48 hours and in the absence of a reply, did just that.

So now we each have our own Redress Control Numbers, which we will carry with us over the border. We are advised that it will take a minimum of 30 days to address our inquiries so that means a few more secondary inspections can be expected. Looks like a long wait at the border this Spring.

to be continued......

Monday, April 27, 2009

Breakfast in bed...



My day starts early, usually by 6:00. I have one of the roosters that you see on commercials that sits at the end of my bed and crows when it is still dark out.

My Honey's day starts later, much later. He usually surfaces around 10:00 or so.

But just to keep his meds on schedule, I take him breakfast in bed very morning around 8:00. And it's the same every day, just cause he loves it that way.

Old fashioned raw oats with raisins, banana and milk with some orange juice to wash down the pills.

Then he disappears under the covers and goes right back to sleep!

Now just so you don't think he is spoiled, you should know that unless we were eating in the car on the way to the office (that would ba a lifetime ago, or so it seems) we usually enjoyed our breakfast in bed. I brought breakfast in during the week and my Honey would serve me breakfast in bed on the weekends. He's sweet that way.

Post stroke, that simply isn't possible. But that's OK. I love taking him his breakfast and hearing him say, "mmmmmm, I love oats!" every morning.

Sometimes even the ordinary can be special.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring cleaning....



It's a job that I really hate to do.

I don't like heights.

My arms ache afterward.

I put it off for as long as I can.

But sooner or later, I must face the task.

Those leaves....every single one of them....must be washed.

After a year (or more, I confess) the ficus leaves had a coating of dust that could no longer be ignored. So I brought in the step ladder, armed myself with soapy water and a sponge, and attacked the tree.

I didn't even stop to take "before" pictures....I didn't want to lose my momentum.

So this is the "after" picture.

Clean, shiny, fresh, healthy leaves on a tree that started out no taller than I am, but now has grown to touch the ceiling, secured by wire to the beam in order to stand upright.

Happy dance! Done! For another year!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WW: Baby Luc is One!

Baby Luc, April 2008



Happy Birthday, Baby Luc!









Check out 5 Minutes for Mom and the WW Headquarters for more....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We're 3 for 3....

Well, you just know we crossed the border into Canada on Sunday to attend church and see our granddaughters.

We were hopeful but not surprised when the officer at the inspection booth on our return into the US tore off the orange page from his pad and wrapped it around our passports. He didn't even need to tell me to turn off the ignition and hand him the car keys.

I even offered to walk into the offices without an escort since we knew the drill, but he insisted on accompanying us. He even asked if my husband needed assistance. He was politeness personified.

In fact, every officer on this, our third go-round of secondary inspection in two weeks, was helpful, respectful, professional and even sympathetic to our predicament.

Our passports were taken directly to a supervisor. And while we waited, a second officer approached the counter to let us know that the supervisor was already reviewing our case without us even having to ask and he would come to speak with us just as soon as he could.

Which he did. The officers today restored my faith in the CBP. They felt our distress and our frustration and wanted to help.

Of course, there will never be an explanation for why we have been selected for secondary inspection 3 times in 2 weeks. But at least the supervisor has submitted a report at his end and provided me with an avenue to have the repeated inspections addressed and resolved.

Which I did this morning. Whatever did we do without the internet? I logged onto the DHS TRIP web site (Department of Homeland Security Travel Redress Inquiry Program) filled out the form, told my story, scanned copies of our passports and emailed it all to them.

And just so you know, there are multiple supervisors at a border crossing...just in case you are ever denied access to one....

So we don't know how long this will take to be resolved, but we are feeling hopeful.

And a big "thank you" to the CBP officer who commented last week. Your support meant a lot at a time when we felt totally powerless and frustrated. As we discovered this week, and just as you said, the officer last week was the exception.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A tale of two springs

A month ago, this is what I enjoyed on my morning walks....







Back home, this is what I now enjoy. Well, I think there's a promise of spring!






Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easy Cannoli



One of the desserts (along with birthday cake and fresh fruit) we had this past Easter was this cannoli. It's super easy to make, the hardest part being where to find the cannoli shells. After checking out local Italian bakeries, I actually found them at our local supermarket in the bulk food section. I used the small size for this recipe.

I adapted this recipe from Michael Chiarello's recipe for Chocolate Cannoli. The recipe originally called for pistachios but since they have been pulled from the shelves due to a salmonella scare, I substituted almonds.

1 c slivered almonds
1 c heavy cream
2 T sugar
1 c semi-sweet chocolate bits
1 c whole milk ricotta
16 cannoli shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toast the almonds for approx 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, cool and chop.

Whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 of the chopped nuts, 1/3 of the chocolate and then fold the cream mixture into the ricotta.

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a fat round tip that is approximately the size of the cannoli or use a zip lock bag and cut off one corner to the size of the opening of the cannoli shell. Fill the cannoli from each end.

Combine the remaining nuts and chocolate on a plate and dip each end of the cannoli into the mixture.

The recipe suggests that the cannoli should be filled no more than 1 hour before serving but I found that it will keep nicely for hours. It still looked presentable the next morning and the leftovers make a sweet breakfast, I'm just saying for those of you who like something sweet in the morning!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WW: Easter start and finish



Starters: Our antipasto buffet with St Andres cheese and Rainforest crackers, Abruzzi dry salami, provolone cheese and mixed olives, deviled eggs, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, smoked oysters, sardines in hot sauce, marinated red peppers, and prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears with a basket of crostini.



The aftermath

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oops, they did it again

I posted last week on my encounter with the officers of the Department of Homeland Security at a U.S. Canadian border crossing

Well, it happened again. As we returned from Good Friday services we were once again asked to surrender our car keys.

What is going on? We just went through this last Sunday!

Our vehicle was quickly surrounded by Customs agents.

MAM, JUST EXIT THE VEHICLE.

The agent who was IN MY FACE AND YELLING at me was Officer Walter, according to his uniform badge.

Officer Walter, can you tell me what is happening?

GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE... NOW!

We were escorted into the Customs building.

This time I was a little more upset. Once was possibly a random search. Why was this happening again? Why were we suspected of something so horrendous that we were removed from our vehicle twice in one week?

Our wait was shorter this time and our passports were quickly returned to us by Officer Walter. He also provided a brochure which would explain the "U.S. Custons and Border Protection Process." We were seated against a wall and Officer Walter was standing over us.

Can you tell us what is going on?

NO. YOU ARE FREE TO GO.

I would like to speak to someone. Is there someone I can speak to?

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, THERE IS CONTACT INFORMATION IN THIS BROCHURE.

But I would like to speak to someone now. Is there a supervisor here I can speak to?

NO. USE THE INFORMATION IN THE BROCHURE.

My husband is getting agitated. Because of his aphasia he tends to gesture a lot with his "good" hand in his effort to speak.

Officer Walter leans over my husband. SIR! DO NOT POINT AT ME! PUT YOUR HAND DOWN SIR!

Officer, my husband is a stroke survivor. He's just trying to speak to you!

Now I am getting agitated. Kinda like a Mama Bear. Do you have a number, Officer Walter?

A NUMBER?

You know, like an employee number?

NO

Well, do you have a first name? I mean, there might be other officers with your surname...

Officer Walter turns on his heel and walks away from me to exit the lobby.

I stand up to exit the other direction and comment, And you're rude.

Officer Walter returns and yells to me across the room: USE THE INFORMATION IN THE BROCHURE. YOU HAVE A GOOD DAY.

And you have a good day too.

I read the brochure. This is what it says:

You should be treated in a courteous, professional and dignified manner.

You will receive an explanation of the examination process as it occurs.

If you feel that the examination was not conducted in a professional manner, ask to speak with a CBP suipervisor immediately. A CBP supervisor is always available at the facility or by telephone.


So I still don't have any answers. But, thanks to Officer Walter, I can show the brochure the next time I ask to speak to a supervisor. And chances are, there will be a next time....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who promised us "balance" anyway?

In her Monday Musings post today, Octamom wrote on the subject of balance in our lives. Can we attain it? Is it feasible?

"Is that ideal of 'balance' just a 21st century dream...did our ancestors ponder on such things?"

I think just the fact that we spend so much time pondering the notion of balance is a statement on how far we have strayed from the reality of our ancestor's lives.

With the exception of the wealthy who had a staff to negotiate the duties of running a home and family, I doubt that most of our ancestors even had the time to spare to consider the notion of balance. Whether agrarian or post industrial, there was simply too much to do in the course of a day.

People worked their entire lives

....without days off, without timesaving equipment and comforts that we often take for granted

....without the notion that someday their "work" responsibility would cease and they would retire and do nothing

....without the guilt associated with trying to do it or have it all, and failing to feel comfortable with the outcome.

Well, maybe they did feel guilty.

It's probably fair to assume that whenever and wherever one has lived, it would be impossible to get it all done. Some days would be easier, some fraught with challenges. Some days would be full of joy, some filled with worry and anguish. We, as they surely did, just have to go to bed at the end of the day knowing we did the best we could with what we had.

Let's stop torturing ourselves with the notion that we can balance on that high wire. Everyone who tries to walk that high wire falls...EVERYONE. Life should be more like riding a swing: you'll have highs and lows put if you keep pumping you'll have the breeze in your face and you'll get a pretty good view at the top!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon with the Office of Homeland Security

I wasn't sure about posting this. I suppose "they" could tap my phone lines or put a GPS chip on my car...maybe they did. My husband was furious but given his speech disabilities as a result of his stroke and the fact that anger exacerbates the problem, I should be glad that all he did was gnash his teeth, shake his one good fist and slam some doors.

This is our story.

We live only minutes from the Canadian border and cross evey Sunday to attend church in Canada. Yes, it is unusual but we have grandchildren living there and this gives us the opportunity to pick them up and spend some time with them. We weren't able to see them last Sunday so our trip was even shorter than usual.

Border crossings are usually uneventful. Sometimes there is a delay; sometimes vehicles are pulled over for further inspection. We have always been very respectful of the border agents because they do bear an awesome responsibility. We have never had a problem in the many years we have been crossing. Until this past Sunday. I do the driving and speaking because my husband's aphasia can make the question/answer process difficult.

GOOD AFTERNOON, IDENTIFICATION PLEASE

Good Afternoon. (we hand over our passports)

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Grand Island

CITIZENSHIP?

U.S.

WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR TRIP TO CANADA?

We went to church

DID YOU PURCHASE OR ACQUIRE ANYTHING?

No

(We wait while he disappears into his booth and processes our documentation)

(We wait for an unusually long time)

WHOSE CAR IS THIS?

It's my husband's car

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR WALLET?

I guess I have about $20. My husband has about $100 I think.

ARE YOU CERTAIN YOU DIDN'T ACQUIRE ANYTHING WHILE YOU WERE OUT OF THE COUNTRY?

No we didn't. Absolutely nothing.

ARE YOU SURE YOU AREN'T CARRYING $50,000 WITH YOU?

(I almost laugh...I wish!) No, absolutely not!

WOULD YOU PLEASE TURN OFF THE IGNITION AND HAND ME YOUR CAR KEYS.

Silently, I do what he asks. He disappears again into the booth. He returns momentarily to slide a red and white striped bar under the car. Maybe with spikes in case I try to make an escape???

PLEASE EXIT THE CAR AND MOVE TO THE FRONT OF THE CAR.

We do what he asks. My husband is getting annoyed. We are totally perplexed and the agent does not provide any information as to what is happening. We have never even witnessed anyone being asked to leave their car!

ANOTHER AGENT WILL COME TO ESCORT YOU INSIDE.

May I get my purse out of the car?

NO, AN AGENT WILL HAVE TO GET IT.

The agent arrives to escort us to the Border Station, across 7 lanes of border traffic. Only slightly humiliating. Another agent is summoned to drive our car wherever it is to be taken. I hold my husband's arm to help him navigate the curbs. The agent observes that he has difficulty walking and at least alters our route to avoid so many curbs.

We enter the station and are seated on a wooden bench.

No one speaks to us. There is no explanation offered. After about 20 minutes my husband approaches the counter and says, "Well? What's happening?" He is told that someone will be with us soon.

45 Minutes after we first handed over our passports, an agent appears and returns them to us.

YOU'RE FREE TO GO. YOUR CAR IS IN THE GARAGE OVER THERE. I'LL OPEN THE GARAGE DOOR FOR YOU SO YOU CAN DRIVE OUT.

This is where my husband gets huffy. We weren't mistreated. The officers were never disrespectful. But we were subjected to questioning and our car to inspection without cause. If they had cause, should we not have been entitled to hear what prompted the suspicion and search? If not before, at the very least after all was said and done...and perhaps even an apology for the inconvenience.

So rest assured that the Office of Homeland Security is doing a thorough job protecting our northern border. Especially from 60-something folks returning from church.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's been 5 years

Today we celebrate our 5th anniversary.

Five years ago yesterday we had a normal day at the office. A went to the aquatic center and swam 35 laps. We went out for dinner and spent a quiet night at home. A totally unremarkable day.

But all that was about to change.

And our life would never be the same.

Around 2:00 AM on April 7th, I awoke to my husband thrashing around in bed. My first thought was that he was just trying to get comfortable.

But the thrashing continued.

I asked, "Are you ok?"

No response

I asked again.

Still no response.

I turned on the bedside light. A looked at me but would not speak. This was all very confusing. Was he having a dream? Was he disoriented? Was he teasing me?

"A, stop it! What's wrong?"

No response

"Speak to me or I'm calling 911!"

He didn't.

I did.

Within minutes the bedroom was filled with EMT's, police and local volunteer firemen. The room was hardly big enough to hold everyone who responded. The preliminary diagnosis was "cerebral accident" better known as stroke.

We were taken to the nearest hospital at their recommendation even though there is a stroke center within a 45 minute drive. If this were ever to happen again, I would insist that he be taken to the stroke center. However, when in shock one tends to accept what the official protocol. Once at the ER, a CT scan was taken to determine if the stroke was caused by bleeding or a blockage. The test results did not show any bleeding in his brain but because the stroke happened while A slept, we had no idea when it actually occurred. The miracle clot busting drugs, which have a very limited window of opportunity to be administered, could not be used.

After all the testing it was determined that A had an occluded carotid artery which was blocking blood flow to his brain. The medical protocol for someonw with A's medical history is to have a carotid doppler every 5 years. A was only 4 years into that span; had he been given the test, the occlusion would have been discovered, treated and the stroke prevented. Although the artery was later cleared, the damage was done, much of it irreversible.

A spent a week in the hospital and then transferred to a rehab center where he spent another 6 weeks in physical, occupational and speech therapy, followed by continued therapy at home and then outpatient speech therapy at a local college for 2 years. Today A can walk and has become quite adept at using only his left hand. He can speak although he continues to suffer from both apraxia and aphasia, speech disabilities which can make verbal communication chaallenging at best, difficult most of the time and impossible on occasion.

To say our life has changed is an understatement. Nothing is the same. Absolutely nothing, from work to finances to mobility to safety...it just affects everything.

But today we are 5 years post stroke. That is a good thing, a very good thing in light of his medical history.

And we have each other, our family and our faith. Although the future is uncertain, as it is for so many families right now, we do not dwell on what has been lost or what might have been. We choose to focus on what we do have and are thankful for these past 5 years that we have been able to share together.

Monday, April 6, 2009

a new use for a spatula

Our end-of-March timeshare on Hilton Head is a two story townhouse....three bedrooms so it's great when the kids come to visit.

The only problem is that it has open stairs. Very attractive to a one year old and a challenge to keep him from climbing at every opportunity. Maybe next year I should bring a baby gate?

So either his Mama or Daddy or Grandma would supervise the climb.




So much fun to peek through the railing...




And fun to reach out and wave...




But then Grandma got the bright idea that she could just guard the stairs by sitting on them! Worked well for Baby Luc to say I was "stuck" and couldn't move but Big Brother Tai (aka Tai the Science Guy) needed to solve my predicament.

Solution: Use a kitchen spatula (great idea, Mom!)

Of course it worked. Such ingenuity has to be rewarded!

Monday, March 30, 2009

where does this come from???





At least once a week, the ocean produces this foamy, bubbly tide.

Is it pollution dumped from passing ships?

Is it from detergents?

Or is it, as my Honey says, the weekend bathwater from Europe.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

my walking buddy



I love my early morning walks. There is minimal bike traffic on the paths, it's peaceful and quiet...everything I need to get my day off to a good start.

And if I get lonely, there is always my walking buddy...........and this is about as close as I dare get to him!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tweety and I have celebrated our birthdays....



Well, my milestone birthday has come and gone. Tweety and I are the same age! I have officially entered a new decade, the start of my third trimester of life.

I'm old enough....

to remember buying an ice cream cone for 5 cents...a hamburger for 18 cents, or a cheeseburger for 24 cents (at Peaks, the predecessor to McDonalds)

to have collected all the Beatle albums and listened to them in front of my Dad's HiFi (that came before stereo!)speaker or on my transistor radio walking home from school

to have seen the Beatles perform 3 times at the Hollywood Bowl

to have gone to school when pants, shorts and sandals were not permitted dress code

to remember my mother handing my father the weekly grocery list for a family of 4...and a $20 bill

to remember having to kneel on the ground to check that a dress hem was not in excess of 1 inch above the knees

that girls carried their books in front of them (boys carried their books on their hips)..no backpacks!

that we did not have a dishwasher or a clothes dryer

that we rolled up the car windows manually

that I put $3 worth of gas in my car...for the week

to remember watching TV in black and white

that our first remote control was still attached to the TV by a cable and that it had a rotary dial. You couldn't flip between stations; you had to go around the dial

that our telephone was attached to the wall

that it was a rotary phone

that our phone number was Poplar 5-8264

that there was no such thing as a zip code

that it was safe enough for me to ride my bike by myself anywhere around the neighborhood

or walk to the park or to the shopping plaza alone

that the neighborhood kids could play for hours in the dry river bed at the end of the street without cause for concern

that my allowance was 25 cents a week...and that's what the tooth fairy left too

that my first stockings were held up by a garter belt....panty hose came later

to remember putting my hair up in rollers every night...and actually sleeping that way

that Ten-0-Six lotion was the cleanser of choice among teenagers

that a Polaroid camera was the latest and greatest

to remember coming home from school and watching Dick Clark's American Bandstand

that my first idol crush was Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Kildare

Paul McCartney came later

to remember seeing West Side Story

and crying at Old Yeller

and watching the Mickey Mouse Club with Annette Funicello

that my elementary school had one entrance for girls and another for boys

to remember being thoroughly terrified by the movie On The Beach

to remember Christmas tree lights that were large and multi-colored...and if one light boew out, they all did..

to remember our family standing in line at the local elementary school to get our sugar cube laced with the Salk vaccine newly accepted as the treatment to prevent polio

to remember the incinerator at the back of our property (and this was a standard 50 x 100 foot lot in Southern California) for the burning of our garbage

And last, but not least, I remember it was my generation that proclaimed, "You can't trust anyone over 30!

What were we thinking?????

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Brotherly Love

These were taken with my DIL's iphone so the quality is a little grainy but the love shines through!! Elijah is 3 1/2 and Jacob is three weeks.




Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I lost it....

Sometimes the demands of the day.....even if they are nothing out of the ordinary, nothing earth shaking, nothing traumatic........sometimes it just gets to be too much.

Last week I had one of those days.

We were moving from one timeshare about 8 miles south to a second timeshare. I spent Friday packing our belongings into boxes and suitcases and bags.

My Honey played computer solitaire, as usual.

I loaded the Expedition. Things were snug. My Honey made some remarks about my packing skills...we weren't moving across the country for heavens' sake, just down the road!

We checked out and looked to fill the 3 hours before we could check into our other villa.

So we picked up prescriptions at Walgreens.

Bought a few groceries at Krogers off-island.

Did a walkabout in World Market and Pier One.

Picked out a movie at Blockbuster.

Did a drive-by of the villa to see if by chance it was ready. The door was open and the cleaning crew was working away.

Returned to a church sidewalk sale we had passed on the way in. Found a Gap sweater and capri pants for one of my granddaughters - 50 cents. My Honey found cookies - $1

Stopped at the Harris Teeter to pick up the milk we couldn't have bought earlier. Also found thin crust pizza 2 for 1 so bought that too. Now the car was really full.

Met the cleaning crew at the front door...all was ready! All new tile floors downstairs and new carpet on the stairs and second floor! New drapes! Fresh paint!

Everything was lovely!

So I start to unpack the Expedition. My Honey helps and I try to "arrange" what he will carry with his one good arm and hand so that it is manageable and not breakable should he lose his grip. This exercise is always a little tense since he believes he can carry anything.

We get everything inside and he sets up his computer to play solitaire.

I unpack.

Now this kitchen has a pantry that will hold everything we bring and more. It has five 6-foot long shelves on metal brackets behind two bifold doors. I have unpacked almost all of our stuff when CRASH THUD BANG....the shelf second from the top collapses, spilling its contents over me and onto the floor! I instinctively reach up and hold onto the shelf, trying to balance it and prevent any further damage. It is wedged in tightly. I cannot remove it from the pantry. I cannot replace it since the brackets have all fallen. I can barely hold onto it!

My Honey, sitting ten feet away from me, continues to play solitaire.

I could use a little help here!!!! I yell.

If I weren't so tired from the packing, loading, unloading and unpacking I might have seen some humor at the spectacle of two people with three good hands between them trying to right a fallen shelf. But I didn't. I couldn't. I had just reached the end of my rope of being capable, of being able to handle life, of getting it all done and keeping it all together. We couldn't do anything but push it to the back of the pantry. And then I walked out. All the way to the bathroom. Where I silently screamed. Oh, I am dangerous.

The shelf is still there, wedged perpendicular to the shelf below it.

And there it will stay.

And my Honey is back playing solitaire.

Monday, March 23, 2009

on the beach......



We have only two more weeks left here before we return to the land of ice and snow so we're taking advantage of every moment we can to walk among the live oaks, the spring blossoms and, of course, on the beach. This was early evening, just before the sun set.



Looking northeast, you can see our l o n g shadows cast on the sand. I love looking at the vanishing point where land meets the sea.



Looking into the sunset you can see the many footprints echoing the activity of the day.



Looks like it was a very busy day...all soon to be washed clean by the high tide.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My BFF comes through......

A little while ago I posted about a large plant growing here on Hilton Head Island that I could not identify. I really liked the blossoms or berries or whatever it was that it produced. No one else knew what it was either...



Until my BFF JJ came to visit...she knew right away. There had been one growing in her parent's yard when she was just a little toddler in So Cal. She says it's a Japanese Aralia.

When I walked past it the other day, the berries had turned a dark purple.



But when I Googled Japanese Aralia, I discovered that I had missed the aralia's blooming season, which is in the Fall.



One more island mystery solved............thanks, JJ.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are you invisible?

My friend Maryl shared this with me and I think it's so worth passing along.



It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the
lack of response,
the way one of the kids will walk into the room
while I'm on the phone
and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm
thinking, 'Can't you see
I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one
can see if I'm on the phone,
or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even
standing on my head in the
corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I
am only a pair of hands,
nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this?
Can you open this?
Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm
not even a human being. I'm a
clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm
a satellite guide to answer,
'What number is the Disney Channel?'
I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once
held books and the
eyes that studied history and the mind that
graduated summa cum laude
- but now they had disappeared into the peanut
butter, never to be
seen again. She's going, she's going,
she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner,
celebrating the return of
a friend from England .. Janice had just gotten
back from a fabulous
trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel
she stayed in. I was
sitting there, looking around at the others all
put together so well.
It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for
myself. I was feeling
pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a
beautifully wrapped
package, and said, 'I brought you this.'
It was a book on the great
cathedrals of Europe.

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it
to me until I read her
inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration
for the greatness of what
you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the
book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four
life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work: No one can say who
built the great
cathedrals we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work
they would never see
finished. They made great sacrifices and expected
no credit. The
passion of their building was fueled by their
faith that the eyes of
God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man
who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a
workman carving a
tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled
and asked the man,
'Why are you spending so much time carving
that bird into a beam that
will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see
it.' And the workman
replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall
into
place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering
to me, 'I see you,
Charlotte . I see the sacrifices you make every
day, even when no one
around you does. No act of kindness you've
done, no sequin you've sewn
on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for
me to notice and smile
over. You are building a great cathedral, but you
can't see right now
what it will become.'
At times, my invisibility feels like an
affliction But it
is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is
the cure for the
disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the
antidote to my strong,
stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when
I see myself as a
great builder. As one of the people who shows up
at a job that they
will never see finished, to work on something
that their name will
never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that
no
cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime
because there are so
few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my
child to
tell the friend he's bringing home from
college for
Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the
morning and bakes homemade
pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three
hours and presses
all the linens for the table.' That would
mean I'd built a shrine or a
monument to myself. I just want him to want to
come home. And then, if
there is anything more to say to his friend, to
add, 'You're gonna
love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We
cannot be seen if
we're doing it right. And one day, it is very
possible that the world
will marvel, not only at what we have built, but
at the beauty that
has been added to the world by the sacrifices of
invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!

Share this with all the Invisible Moms you
know..I just did

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

just because every 5 year old girl needs a little sparkle in her life...





For more Wordless Wednesday fun try this or this!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The birds...they know better



Every morning here on "the island" I wait for the sun to start it's journey and then I go for an hour long walk. This is one of my favorite parts of my walk, the perfect stillness of the lagoon reflecting the path ahead of me.

My January walks began around 7:20 AM but as the sun began to rise earlier, I was beginning my walks around 6:20 AM. I love the peace and quiet and the freshness of the world at that hour. I would be sitting at my computer and when the birds began to sing I knew it was time to get moving.

Then along came Daylight Saving Time. What a whiplash that turned out to be. Back to the dark ages.

But birds don't do Daylight Saving Time...they appear to have stayed on Standard Time. They're merrily singing away IN THE DARK each morning, apparently oblivious to the fact that the sun is not yet up.

Which just goes to show you that we should just leave some things well enough alone.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are you smarter than a 1st grader?

I received this in an email from my BFF and don't know the original source, but it's a good way to start your week with a laugh.

A 1st grade school teacher had twenty-six students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well-known saying and asked them to come up with the remainder.

Their insights may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first-graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!


1. Don't change horses until they stop running.


2. Strike while the bug is close.


3. It's always darkest before Daylight Saving Time.


4. Never underestimate the power of termites.


5. You can lead a horse to water but How?


6. Don't bite the hand that looks dirty.


7. No news is impossible


8. A miss is as good as a Mr.


9. You can't teach an old dog new Math


10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll stink in the morning.


11. Love all, trust Me.


12. The pen is mightier than the pigs.


13. An idle mind is the best way to relax.


14. Where there's smoke there's pollution.


15. Happy the bride who gets all the presents.


16. A penny saved is not much.


17. Two's company, three's the Musketeers.


18. Don't put off till tomorrow what you put on to go to bed.


19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and You have to blow your nose.


20. There are none so blind as Stevie Wonder.


21. Children should be seen and not spanked or grounded.


22. If at first you don't succeed get new batteries.


23. You get out of something only what you See in the picture on the box


24. When the blind lead the blind get out of the way.


25. A bird in the hand is going to poop on you.


26. Better late than Pregnant

Friday, March 13, 2009

BFF retail code

When BFF's living on opposite sides of the country get together, there is always some retail reunion involved.

Here in HHI, not only do we have an Off 5th, we have two, that's right, TWO outlet malls.

Let me just say, we do not have the stamina we did as younger women.

Nor do we actually need anything.

We didn't even get to the second outlet mall.

But shopping is a time of communion and reconnection. Of trying on clothes you know you won't actually buy. Of celebrating the $1 cami and $3 spring coat for your granddaughter at Marshall's.

And it develops language skills at a time when language often eludes us. We are at an age when we have perfect memory but imperfect recall. We know we will think of the word/name/place....it's just not there now.

The skills we have developed are a "shorthand" of sorts.

Does anyone even use the term "shorthand" anymore? I bet my granddaughter doesn't even know what it is.

Anyway, in our shopping forays we find ourselves in the fitting rooms, exchanging comments on what we're trying on:

No, this doesn't work. Too much RQ.

This would be perfect except for the CF.

Nope, NG.


Translation:

RQ is "roll quotient" or as more commonly heard, "muffin top."

CF is "cleavage factor" which, for us, is used as a negative. If you're not comfortable bending over, forget it.

NG is just plain "no good."

Actually, it occurs to me that we are using verbal text messaging. Sounds like something two women of a certain age would do............

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The signs now make sense....



We've been spending our winters (or some part of them) in South Carolina for the past eleven years. These signs are all over the place but rarely do you ever see an alligator close enough that you would even consider feeding one. They're often on the golf courses or sun bathing on the banks of large lagoons. Where this sign is posted, we have NEVER seen an alligator.

But never say "never."

Last Monday this little guy appeared on the banks of our lagoon. He was just outside the swimming pool fence...I didn't crop the photo...I think that's actually the fence. Note the sign.....just so people wouldn't get confused about which swimming hole was intended for humans.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

eating my way through a birthday month......

My birthday isn't until the end of the month but since my BFF was here in HHI to visit last week, and her birthday is in March too....well, we couldn't think of a good reason NOT to celebrate all week.

Is there a better way to celebrate than by eating your favorite foods? I think not!



Nothing beats a good, juicy cheeseburger.




This is the best seafood chimichanga on the planet. None of us could even finish it (it was the size of a huge burrito) but that may have had something to do with the guacamole and queso ranchero we inhaled beforehand.




Now because we are health conscious people, we were careful to get our veggies in the form of a grilled veggie plate served with a sundried tomato and caper sauce and a lovely round of goat cheese. The perfect lunch.




And no one would argue that sushi isn't healthy. It's so healthy we went out two nights for sushi. This is my eel roll and a rainbow roll. I can feel a craving starting to build just looking at it!




And lest you think all we did was eat out, we made our own birthday cake, a repeat performance of the pavlova I made for my son's birthday last month. His family is on a gluten free diet so the pavlova was the perfect solution for his party but it tasted sooo good that I decided to make a second one.

How can you go wrong with meringue, whipped cream and fruit?

Since I don't have a large baking sheet here in HHI, I made the pavlova in a rectangular shape. It served six...it's supposed to serve 8 - 10 people but what can I say? It's our birthday! This recipe is a simplified variation on Gale Gand's Pavlova.

4 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 t salt
1 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 t vanilla extract
8 oz heavy cream
2 T light brown sugar
fruit: I sued kiwi and strawberies but have also added nectarines, raspberries and blueberries in season

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Whip the egg whites and salt until foamy. Add granulated sugar, cornstarch and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 8 minutes more.

On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, draw or trace a 9" diameter circle. (My sheet pan was too small for this step so I just made a rectangular pavlova)

Spoon the egg whites onto the pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top and the surface is lightly browned to the color of cafe au lait, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop open the oven door and let the pavlova cool in the oven for 30 minutes.

Whip the cream and brown sugar together until stiff. Spoon into the center of the cooled pavlova and spread to within 1/2 inch of the edge. Arrange the sliced fruit in any pattern you wish. Slice with a serrated knife to serve. I promise you will love it...there is never a crumb left in our family!