A Christmas Lesson

Twas just days before Christmas

And so much to do

There’s no time to make merry

This place is a zoo.

With still shopping and wrapping

Not checked off my list

I drove around searching

For presents I’d missed.

The roads were congested

The parking lots too

The store shelves near empty

My choices were few.

I rush down every aisle

And grab what I can

Not thinking about wishes

Or having a plan.

Who cares if they like” was my thought

Or want what they get.

As long as there are presents

They should be all set.”

My shopping cart brimming

With things no one needs

I push on to the checkout

To finish the deed.

The car spilling with presents

I hit the road home

Cutting off angry drivers

As I chat on the phone.

I turn into my driveway

Pop open my trunk

And wonder for a moment

What is all this junk!

Not a bag has a present

That means anything

Not to me or who gets it

No joy will it bring.

Sure these things filled my quota

I checked off my list

But there’s really no reason

Behind all these gifts.

When you buy just to buy

Your heart fills with doubt

You miss out on what Christmas

Is really about.

Yes, a gift can be special

And spread Christmas cheer

But that’s not what’s remembered

The rest of the year.

So this year no boxes

Or wrapping you’ll find

Bought because it’s expected…

No gifts of that kind!

I won’t be checking off lists

or dollars I’ve spent

I’ll reflect on the season…

The joy that I’ve sent.

This heartfelt message to you

And all those you know

Is a lesson on Christmas

And one that should grow.

Make the most of this Christmas

And each new day too

Don’t get caught-up or stressed out

If you haven’t a clue.

There’s no magic in buying

A gift for someone

When you’re heart isn’t in it

To say that you’re “DONE!”

Gifts of guilt, obligation,

or tainted with greed

Have no place in the season

Should be this year’s creed.

Giving time and attention

To family and friends

A Christmas message of love

You really should send.

It’s not presents or cookies

Ornaments or song

That help us to keep Christmas

In hearts all year long.

There’s a feeling at Christmas

That doesn’t compare

To any celebration

Or season we share.

Each day holds new blessings

So hold this thought dear,

Keep the Love that is Christmas

Throughout all the year.

Merry Christmas – Love, Tilly

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Too Much Time On My Hands

Sitting here on the patio the scent of hyacinth over-takes me.  The temperatures were in the low 60’s this afternoon, but with the sun hidden deep beneath a wall of clouds, it feels chillier than that. A blanket draped over my legs and another hung over the back of my chair just in case the breeze becomes too much, ensure that I should be able to sit out here for at least another hour — until the winds pick up and the rain that is forecasted finally gives the garden a much-needed shower.

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I’ve spent the day pondering all the worthwhile tasks I could be doing with the time I have while nursing my torn meniscus.  Pondering…that’s all.  Whenever I think about actually doing anything, I can’t find the gumption to go any further.

I admit it, I am a procrastinater.  Unless there is a deadline, a specific date and time that something absolutely has to be done, I cannot bring myself to doing it.  To say I work well under pressure…yes, that would describe me.  Give me an hour to complete a task that should take two and I breeze through it without thinking twice. Give me a week to complete a task that should take an hour, and well, typically I won’t even start it until there is nothing else I could possibly do other than that.

I don’t like being a procrastinater and yet I can’t pull myself out of this funk I’m in to do much of anything other than fret about all the things I should be doing/could be doing/would be doing if I didn’t have so much darn time on my hands!

It’s just after 5 o’clock and everyone is inside taking a nap.  Hubby came home from work, ate dinner, then headed upstairs for a nap.  Zeb came home from the gym, ate dinner, then went to his room to check his eyelids for cracks.  Grace came home from work, took Bell for a walk, ate dinner, and then went to her room to “relax” which is sleep in Grace-speak. I have sat home all day, alone, waiting for someone, anyone to come home, and then when they do, they all take a nap. Needless to say, I am a bit bitter here.

Contact with anyone other than Bell today has taken up less than an hour of my time.  Heck, I spent more time making dinner than anyone has spent with me.

Bell on the other hand, well she can’t seem to get enough of me.  She has brought me every stick she could find in the yard and chewed them to bits wherever I might be sitting.  There a shreds of wood all over the great room, office, dining room, kitchen, and especially out here on the patio. She has also confiscated every garden glove from my gardening bin, which I inadvertently left open after retrieving a trowel to break up some dirt for a pot earlier today. If I don’t go on a gloving expedition, I’ll be out every pair of garden gloves I own.  Not that this would be any great loss as Bell seems to think chewing a hole in at least one finger, usually two, is standard procedure for garden glove care.

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No one will probably get up until after 7 p.m. at which time I will be ready to wind down and start thinking about going to bed.  Hubby will sit with me for a few minutes before heading to the gym; Zeb will get a glass of something to drink then retreat back to his room to play his video game; and Grace will sit with me wherever I am but will have her mind completely preoccupied with texting her boyfriend (why she bothers sitting with me, I don’t even know).

Being laid up is difficult enough without feeling if I didn’t make dinner, I’d probably never see anyone.

Yep, it’s been one of those days.  A day where I’ve had way too much time to sit around and feel sorry for myself.  A day when I feel totally alone, except for this fuzzy dog sitting between my legs on the lounge chair, gnawing on my garden glove, happier than a pig in slop that I’m not gardening, washing dishes, folding laundry, dusting tables, making beds, or sweeping floors.

It’s funny, but when I’m busy I don’t notice how much time I spend alone and it doesn’t seem to bother me.  Take me off my feet for a few days and I’m ready to lock all the doors and windows and hold the family hostage until they can convince me I’m more than just the cook around here.

I know what I’m feeling.  I’m feeling sorry for myself. So much so that tomorrow this sitting around and nursing my knee is going to have to stop.  There is something to be said for maintaining my sanity at the cost of a little aggravation in my knee.  For the good of the family I think it’s best I find an easier way to mend my torn meniscus. Or else they are just going to have to actually spend some time with me which with the “mama’s not happy so whatcha gonna do about it” attitude that has replaced my usual cheery self (okay, cheery might be a stretch), I’d go with the get off your duff and do something.

For the moment though, I am doing my best to enjoy the chattering of the birds, the scent of freshly cut grass, and the solitude that once is gone I’ll miss — and for this I am trying ever so hard to be — Simply Grateful.

Just Call Me Lefty

You don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Ain’t that the truth.

This morning while making one of the many trips I take into our basement everyday, I fell.  How it happened, I have no idea.  What happened, I couldn’t tell you.

One minute I was at the top of the stairs balancing a case of pickling vinegar in one hand and a big box store case of Ziploc freezer bags in the other, trying to flip on the light switch, the next I’m at the bottom of the stairs.  What happened in between is a blur.  I remember trying to stop myself from falling, hitting the stairs with my back, and pain radiating from my right hand up my arm, but I don’t remember taking a step.

As I lay at the bottom of the stairs, I quickly took an inventory of my body.  Although my back was a little sore from the initial hit, it was only my hand that really hurt me.  It was actually on the stairs above me when I realized it was hurting.  The best I can determine is I must have tried to stop myself from falling with my right hand.  That was holding the box of freezer bags and they were at the bottom of the stairs.   The vinegar, which I was holding in my left hand was above me on the stairs.  I don’t think I even let it go while I was falling.

The first thing I did after getting my bearings back was to move my wrist.  Some pain, but not enough to worry about a break.  Next I moved my fingers, one at a time.  Starting at the pinky, no pain; ring finger, no pain; middle finger, no pain; index finger, moderate pain; thumb, pain.  Then I looked at my hand, it was swelling up real nice.  The wrist was already nearly double my other one and the thumb portion of my palm was throbbing and blowing up like a balloon.  Great!  Just what I need, a sprained thumb.

I sat there for a few more minutes, pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and stopped.  Should I call anyone?  It wasn’t like I was really hurt.  I could walk, I didn’t think anything was broken, and it was only 8:00 in the morning and Hubby would probably still be asleep at work (those 24 hour shifts don’t mean he’s up for all 24 hours). Still, the fall had scared me. Grace was at work, Zeb was upstairs sound asleep and wouldn’t hear me if I called, and Bell wouldn’t be much comfort unless I was sitting on the floor to play.  I dialed.

As I knew would happen, Hubby did not pick up, but I left a message.  Pulling myself to my feet, I walked back up the stairs, not remembering why I had been going down there in the first place.  I sat down on the couch and looked closer at my hand.  The veins in my wrist were swelling up real nice now and the throbbing pain was like a racing heartbeat.  I walked to the kitchen, grabbed a towel, filled it with ice, and went back to the couch.  Even putting the soft, cold towel gently on my hand caused pain to radiate up my arm.  Still, I could move my fingers with minimal pain and twist my wrist with minimal pain.  The only thing I couldn’t do was touch the thumb portion of the palm of my hand or make a fist without making the throbbing worse.

Hubby called as I sat there contemplating if this was anything to be concerned about.  Hubby asked all the typical questions, “How did you fall?”  “What were you doing?”  “Does anything else hurt?”  “Can you move your wrist, fingers, hand?”  From my answers he decided it wasn’t that serious and told me to keep ice on it for a while and then wrap it.

For the past four hours I have iced my thumb, wrapped it, unwrapped it, iced it some more, and then wrapped it again.  It hurts but is not even close to the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.  What is frustrating is I can’t use my right hand to lift anything, hold anything, or type.  I can use three of my fingers on my right hand to type, but with the bandage, every other letter comes out wrong. Worse yet, I can’t hold a pen, silverware, or the mouse to my computer.

Isn’t it amazing how even the littlest injury can throw a wrench into seemingly easy tasks.  There are so many things taken for granted every day, our health for one, and until something happens to shatter the illusion that everything is always going to be okay, we don’t give it a second thought.

Today’s fall could have been a whole lot worse.  I am grateful that my hand is the only casualty today.  What I am more grateful for however is that this little accident rocked my world and has me rethinking my priorities and what is truly important. Hubby is always telling me without our health, we don’t have anything.  All the money in the world means nothing if you’re not well enough to enjoy it.  For all the supposed problems we might have looming in our lives at the moment, none of them seem all that pressing today.

My fall today scared me.  Obviously falling down a flight of stairs is scary for anyone, but as I get older, every bump and bruise causes me to re-evaluate what I do and how I do it.  Practically every time I head down the stairs to the basement I have something in my hands, more often than not though I have a lot of things in them.  I grab as much as I can in order to cut down the amount of times I have to go up and down those stairs.  Is it really worth it?  Today I’d have to say, “NO.”  I need to slow it down.  Not everything is about being as efficient as I can, especially if it means possibly really hurting myself next time.

There will be no baking today, no journaling, no scrubbing toilets, no vacuuming, and definitely no more trips down the basement stairs.  Hubby called and told Zeb to take care of me until Grace gets home from work and Grace texted me and told me if she finds out I tried peeling potatoes for dinner, she’s going to smack me.  Zeb heated some pizza up for me for lunch and checks every 30 minutes or so to make sure I’m feeling okay.  Gotta love ’em.

Everything happens for a reason and the reasons are clear why a minor fall was a necessary happening in my life today, and for this I am, regardless of the pain in my hand — Simply Grateful.

A Nature Walk With My Eyes Open

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

I took a break from the hustle and bustle of my daily demands and decided to take some time to appreciate my surroundings today.  Here is what I saw:

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Sometimes it’s necessary to pause and indulge in the moment.  Today I remembered to not just walk down the path, but to see it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Silence Spoke Volumes

Author’s Note:  I must have read, reread, edited, and re-edited this post a hundred times, worrying whether or not I would offend my “readers,” was being overly sensitive, or blackballing myself from any past, present, or future followers, comments, or likes. In the end I decided to post this because I write to share my world. Whether or not others like that world, want to follow it, or have anything to say about it should not influence me. One of the first rules in writing is to write what you know. I know what it is like to raise a child with a handicap and know he is more like everyone else, than he is different. This is our world, something I know though experience. It may or may not be the same for anyone else, but regardless, it is true for us. ~ Tilly

When I started this blog I did not start it so I could educate the world, voice my opinion, or stir up controversy to initiate change. I believe those things should be saved for those who care about what other people think. I care only when it affects me or my beliefs. Whatever you want to believe is fine, just don’t infringe on me, tax me, or force your view on me believing that I have to go along, follow the herd, or pay under threat of time behind bars. I did, however, for some unknown reason have hope that a blog would be different from the real world, be more open, more compassionate, or at least more supportive. The anonymity of writing online gave me false hope that society might not be as closed-minded as I have found the real world to be.

The first couple of days of writing online was exciting. I wrote, with no preconceptions of anyone actually reading my blog. Then it happened. Someone actually liked one of my posts. Then another, and then I got a follower. Granted, those first few followers were salespeople, but the rush was incredible. Checking my stats, waiting for my email to update with another like, became almost an obsession. When someone actually made a comment, well you would have thought it was Christmas morning. It was so intoxicating that I wanted to post more than once a day, but controlled myself. I wasn’t doing this for popularity, I was doing it to share my world and experiences with others while practicing the craft of writing. Not an easy focus to maintain with the euphoria of “likes,” “comments,” and “followers” clouding the view. Yet, without feedback, how would I know that what I had to say meant anything, was any good, or had any worth beyond the realm of my own home — I did want affirmation and was enjoying it.

With not even 40 posts under my belt, I learned that if I made a post with pictures, the views and likes went up considerably. Everybody loves a pretty picture. So I started planning my posts around pictures. If I didn’t have pretty pictures to draw people in, I was sure no one would read my posts. Also, I read suggestions that adding quotes to a post would draw people in. Being an avid quote collector, I became diligent in using these as well. Further, I learned that slipping in a recipe or two brought all the recipe hounds and cooks out of the wood works and those posts were quite popular. So through my recipe box I searched, pulling out fun and exciting recipes to share.

My posts began receiving more likes and more people began to follow me. Not an onslaught, but more none the less. Whether they were real or blog salespeople trying to get me to check out their blog and possibly buy what they’re selling I’m not sure, but they were “likes” and “follows” just the same.

Today however there will be no pretty pictures, no profound quote, and no heirloom recipe to try out in your kitchen. Today I am going to share a little perspective about society, the Internet, and a world that hopefully most of you will never have to experience.

About a week ago I decided to share something very personal and perhaps risky with the blog world — my son’s disability. I knew this was a risk, but there are aspects of my life that I want to write about and hoped that even if people couldn’t relate, they might find it interesting. Without going into great detail I recounted our experience at the Special Olympics trying to keep it as innocuous as possible. I have nearly 21 years of experience in dealing with how “normal” society reacts to “handicapped” people, and for the most part it has been less than stellar. I thought perhaps some of the people following me or checking out my blog, would find it heartwarming or maybe just nice. I wanted to share something unique in my life. Why? I’m not really sure, because the results were so typical, I felt like I was in the real world all over again.

The silence was deafening —

My blog went from at least a few new visitors every day to absolutely nothing. There was not a single view. Not a single “like” was posted. I have very few comments on any of my posts and knew that this was a touchy subject so did not expect any comments, and I was not disappointed. Now I realize that the anonymity of the Internet is taken for granted, even forgotten, but even if seeing or hearing about retarded people participating in their “Special” Olympics makes people uncomfortable, what is the problem with showing a little support through a “like?”

I’m sure there are some people out there gasping at my “harsh” description of these people, including my son, as “retarded.” Well, let me tell you, I use that term because it is a medical term that was given to people with the IQ range where my son lives. Giving it a prettier term does not change who he is or what I think of him. A pretty word does not make it go away, get better, or somehow make our world any less difficult to live in. And it sure as hell doesn’t change how society treats him, reacts to him, or stop them from avoiding making eye contact or social contact with him. I have written volumes on how forcing politically correct jargon on people only reinforces the differences. It is what it is, so get over it.

The trouble is, society cannot get over it. No matter how many times the words are changed, no matter how hard the people try to accept, no matter how informed, educated, and tolerant the masses become, the stigma of ignoring, looking the other way, putting out of your mind the existence of these people remains. Semantics is one more failed attempt to make those not comfortable with disabilities feel better, to open the minds and hearts of everyone who has been blessed with a life that does not involve a “special” child. And when anyone tries to “share” their unique happy moments, it only manages to make people uncomfortable, bury their heads in the sand, and thank God that they do not have to deal with these things.

Truth be known, I too am uncomfortable at times. But this was the hand given us and we did not throw that hand in or chose to draw a different card. We made the conscious decision to bring our son home and give him every possible chance we could to make his life as fulfilling as it possibly could be. I say conscious decision because when he was born the doctors, nurses, and even other parents of Down Syndrome children told us we would not be doing him any favors if we took him home and were not prepared to deal with what lay ahead of us. I didn’t understand at the time what that meant, but after years of watching families fall apart, parent’s divorce, and children being ostracized by their own siblings, I clearly understand now. And Down Syndrome is one of the “lucky” syndromes, if any syndrome can be considered lucky.

I might sound angry, but I am not. I was angry when my son was born and the pediatrician at the hospital gave me a book that said my son would be dead by the age of 13 (just love those out-of-date handouts). I was angry when doctors dropped us and insurance companies refused to insure us. I was angry when nearly every friend I had suddenly became too busy to return my calls or get together. I was angry when a friend that agreed to babysit for me when I went back to work part-time told me she could not watch my son because the other baby’s parent’s that she watched did not want their child around my son. I was angry when strangers stopped us in the mall as we pushed our son in his stroller asking to see “the pretty baby,” and would recoil when they looked at him and tell us how “sorry” they were and walk away — what they hell were they sorry for? Did they give him that extra chromosome?

I was angry when the early intervention teachers that he saw from 3 months to 3 years told me I was unrealistic in believing they should be working on numbers and letters rather than just playing with him. I was angry when one of my good friends told me, “Nothing like that would ever happen in my family.” I was angry when the special ed teacher in the classroom he was supposed to go to when he turned 4 sent us a letter telling us she felt he would do better in someone else’s class, because I thought an Individual Evaluation Plan meant his plan should not look like everyone else’s.

I was angry when my brother and sister-in-law cut ties with us because we chose to home school our son. I was angry when we lost every friend we’d managed to make after my son’s birth because we decided to home school. I was angry when the Down Syndrome group we belonged to continually preached that we had to be an “advocate” for our child, we had to “educate” people about Down Syndrome, and we had to “fight” for what was rightly ours in the schools, with insurance companies, from the government, and from society. I was angry when the kids on our street refused to play with my son because he was different. I was angry when wherever we went in public, people would stop, stare, possibly even point, or give me a knowing pitiful nod — like they knew what the hell we were going through.

Then I stopped. I stopped caring what other people thought. I started enjoying my son, giving him everything he needed to become the best possible little boy he could be. I treated him like every child should be treated and gave him all the love that he could possibly stand and then loved him some more. I realized he was just a little boy, not a little boy with Downs. I worked hard at sheltering him from the cold, uncaring world that we live in, finding some absolutely wonderful people in the process that were not afraid or made uncomfortable by him. I have never forced my son on anyone or put others in a position where they might find themselves “stuck” with him. He made friends, “normal” friends, and has enjoyed a good life. For the past 20 years he has gone about his life the best way he knows how, ignoring the looks from people we pass on the street.

Still, there are those times, when I digress and for some reason find it necessary to expose myself and my son to the cold injustices of the world. I forget that in the real world, the world that pretends to have compassion for “those special babies,” “those slow children,” and “those developmentally delayed young adults” there is no understanding. Shattering the security that most people enjoy of “not having to deal with something like that in their family” only alienates us further. Children are forced to become “tolerant” in school and adults are intrigued by the promises that they are doing good if they donate their time or money to “helping those less fortunate than themselves.” What a shame the world is such an hypocritical lie.

I know that not everyone finds the handicapped or disabled “taboo,” as there are those people we encounter who genuinely embrace my son and reaffirm my belief in the world. I am, however, disappointed. I thought with the Internet and the onslaught of social media there would somehow be freedom to share my families differences and not necessarily find others to relate but perhaps find people who might nod and think to themselves, “What a nice story to share; I think I’ll let Tilly know and “like” her post.” The silence I got spoke volumes. My hope is that in the future, should I choose to share any trials or tribulations or just funny, heartwarming stories about my son, people can look beyond the disability and relate to him as a human being — because we all have that in common.

Thankfully this is my blog, my outlet to the world, and I can post on here what I want. I did not start this blog to be popular, although the lure of “likes” and “followers” did cloud my judgment temporarily. The anonymity that the Internet offers allows me to voice my opinion and not have to apologize for it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

© Matilda Frueh and Simply Grateful Housewife, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matilda Frueh and Simply Grateful Housewife with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

It’s Snowing — Flower Showers!

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.  Eddie Cantor Yesterday, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. I woke to a 70° morning, clear skies, and the sun blazing over the horizon. Sitting on … Continue reading

Why The Olympics Are So “Special!”

“I’ve always seen the Olympics as a place where you could act out your differences on the athletic field with a sense of sportsmanship and fairness and mutual respect.”  ~ Andrew Young

We spent our morning at the Macomb County Special Olympics Local Games watching our son Zeb participate in several events. This was the second year he participated in the Special Olympics and it was a thrill for all of us.

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Zeb has always enjoyed athletic events. He has played basketball, baseball, done wrestling, played tennis, and enjoys long walks on the beach — oh no, we’ll save that one for another website. Anyway, being home schooled until he was 18-years-old, he was never involved in the Special Olympics. Since enrolling in a work-based school, however, he has had the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful activity.

Although the Olympics are set up so everyone “wins” there are still various levels that each participant can attain. There is a White Participation Ribbon, a Yellow Third Place Ribbon, a Red Second Place Ribbon, and the highly coveted Blue First Place Ribbon. I say highly coveted, but truth be known, many of the participants are thrilled just to compete and finish the events they are competing in. Zeb is quite competitive however and strives for those Blue Ribbons as if they were “gold.”

The first event he participated in was the softball throw. Broken down by age groups, he fell in the 16 – 21-year-old group. In order to get a Blue Ribbon in this group, Zeb had to throw the softball at least 25 feet. Last year he had thrown it 32 feet and gotten a Blue Ribbon; this year he threw it 50 feet. Marked improvement. Although he won the Blue Ribbon, being as competitive as he is, he was a little disappointed that he did not throw it as far as one of his friends — so he thought. When we asked how far Jacob had thrown the ball, he too had thrown his 50 feet. Blue Ribbons all around.

The Softball Throw

The Softball Throw

The other two events that Zeb participated in were the 100 and 50 meter dashes. Last year we had a problem with these events. For running events three participants are selected at random and race against each other, winning first, second, and third according to how they cross the finish line.  Zeb started off running full force, but as he pulled away from the other runners, he slowed down until they caught up to him, and nearly lost.  After the  race we pulled him aside and asked him why he had slowed down. He told us that he did not want the other racers to be mad at him if he beat them — such a kind heart. After explaining to him that they would not be angry (we hoped) he went back out there and ran the next race full force and won.

This year, being a somewhat seasoned veteran, Zeb knew to run as fast as he could. We hoped that he would be as successful this year as last, but the luck of the draw was not with him. When he was selected for the 100 meter dash, he was paired against a young man smaller and younger than him and another young man who was probably three feet taller and quite agile. Needless to say, the tallest man one first with Zeb a very close second. He was disappointed. This was his first experience not winning a Blue Ribbon.

Even with us telling him that he had done excellent under the circumstances, not until his friend Luke raced and also got a Second Place Red Ribbon, did he feel better. Competition is fierce at any level of athletics but there is something to be said for “misery loves company.” Not that he was miserable, but he certainly was not as elated as he had been with the Blue Ribbon he’d gotten for the softball throw.

The final event, the 50 meter dash, we anxiously waited to see who he would be paired up against. One of the boys was about the same size as Zeb, the other a little smaller. Zeb crouched down into his starting position and when the gun went off, he tore down the track. Quickly he pulled away from the other runners and crossed the finish line in first place with his arms raised high above his head. We cheered and sang praises, but they fell upon deaf ears. Zeb had turned around, gone back to the finish line and met the other two racers as they crossed it giving them high-fives and congratulations as they finished.

Zeb's 2014 Ribbons

Zeb’s 2014 Ribbons

That is why the Olympics are so “Special” and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Shower Scene

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“If we can’t alter the tide of events, at least we can be nearby with towels to mop up.” ~ Peter David, Q-in-Law

Or not!

This morning I woke to the wonderful sound of birds chirping outside my window just as the sky began to turn pink with dawn. Lying in bed, contemplating the day ahead of me, I decided to get a jump on everything and shower before the kids got up and the demands of motherhood claimed my time.

Excited to be starting my day showered and dressed, I jumped out of bed and quietly closed the bathroom doors behind me. Turning the shower faucet to HOT, I dropped my night-clothes on the floor and slipped into the shower too anxious to wait for it to fill with steam.

It was glorious having those few moments to myself, hot water spraying my face, steam chasing the night’s chill from my bones, and no worry of someone knocking on the door wondering how much longer I was going to be. For 15 minutes I enjoyed the luxuries that peace and quiet can only give.

Realizing that if I wanted to enjoy my first cup of coffee without interruption I’d better get moving, I shut off the water and turned to face the bathroom beyond the shower door. Standing there, water dripping from me I took in the bathroom for the first time that morning. Having been consumed with the thrill of an early morning shower, I hadn’t taken the time to do so before. Staring at the bare towel rack I suddenly remembered cleaning out all the towels last night and putting them in the laundry room so I could wash them bright and early today. No worries. I would just hop over to the vanity and grab a fresh one from under there.

A towel bar with no towels -- there ought to be a law!

A towel bar with no towels — there ought to be a law!

Pushing the shower door open, I gingerly stepped on my discarded night-clothes that I’d conveniently left in front of the shower (yes, I’d removed the bath mat for washing as well), dripping water all over them. Then, stepping on the rug in front of the vanity I opened the cabinet door and…

Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare.

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard was bare.

EMPTY! How could this be? Wait…I remember now, last night I struggled to get the laundry downstairs because all of the clothes baskets were full of folded laundry out in the hallway, waiting to be put away. They’d been there for at least a week. I really hate putting laundry away and ALWAYS wait until the last possible moment.

No problem, I thought, turning to the hook on the back of the bathroom door where my robe hangs. Nothing. Oh yeah, last night after hearing the weather was going to be perfect for hanging clothes outside today, I’d taken my robes downstairs to the laundry room too. Just too damn efficient.

So, beginning to shiver, I contemplated my options:

  1. I could pull my night-clothes over my soaking body and run to the baskets in the hallway for a fresh towel. Of course that might have been an option had I not just trailed a stream of water from the shower to the rug, drenching my clothes as I used them as a stepping stone to the vanity.
  2. I could call out to the kids for help. That was almost funny. I can barely get them to wake up when I’m standing over them and shaking them. Calling through the bathroom door and then their closed bedroom doors, would surely be a waste of breath.
  3. There was a roll of paper towel, a half-full (definitely need to be optimistic here) box of Kleenex, and a roll of toilet paper I could use to dry myself. Oh yes, I could see it clearly — an experiment in human papier-mache. Tiny bits of paper stuck to me like glue and toilet paper dust clinging everywhere. No thank you!
  4. The rug! I could wrap the rug around me, grab a towel from the basket in the hallway, and return to the bathroom to finish drying off. But…how long had that rug been on the floor? When was the last time I washed it? Still, it seemed the only possible option.

Turning the shower back on so I could rinse off in a warm shower before drying myself with a clean towel, I stepped back on to my wet bedclothes, picked up the rug, shook it gently, and watched the bathroom fill with dust. Never mind, I thought, there’s no other choice. I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the dirt, and pulled the rug tightly around me.

Shoving open the bathroom door I walked as fast as I could to the hallway where the clothes baskets waited. The first one was full of clothes, the second had winter blankets that I’d hung on the line last week, and the third — wait, that one had clothes in it too? Where were the towels?

My mind racing, I replayed last weeks laundry adventures in my head and remembered not washing the load of towels because I wanted to concentrate on doing all the laundry I could hang outside first. So now what?

My humor gone, not caring about the birds chirping or the sun rising, I stomped down the stairs, stormed through the great room, trudged into the laundry room and picked a towel out of the dirty laundry. It would have to do.

Dragging myself back up the stairs and into the bathroom I threw the towel on the towel bar, dropped the rug on the floor, and jumped back into the shower. As wonderfully as my day had been going, you’d think I would have anticipated what happened next, but no, I guess the full extent of my morning hadn’t hit me yet, but when the ice-cold water hit me it certainly did. I screeched. Running through the house, searching for a towel had taken enough time to extinguish the last of the hot water. Perfect!

So here I sit at the computer after getting my son off to school, dropping my daughter off at college, and putting a load of towels in the washing machine–with my first cup of coffee. Rehashing this morning’s comedy of errors, I remember Robert Frost’s words,

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”

and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Clean Towels!  I wonder how long it will take to get these put away?

Clean Towels! I wonder how long it will take to get these put away?

 

 

A Little Comfort Food Focuses Perspective

Maintaining proper perspective on emotions is a powerful key to health and strength. – J. Schindler

Today was one of those days that called for “comfort food.” For me, the best type of comfort food is food that simmers all day on the stove, bakes for hours in the oven, or cooks all day in the slow cooker — anything that fills the house with the scent of food.

A few of my favorites are sauerkraut and pork with dumplings, beef stew, short rib soup, bean soup, and chicken and dumplings. Thinking about these fills me with anticipation and warmth. These are the dishes that when the weather turns cold or ugly, and here in Michigan that can happen any time, I start early in the morning and drool over all day while it is cooking.

Today was a day filled with so many types of weather, it was impossible to know how to dress. I started out with jeans and a t-shirt, added a light sweater mid-morning, then by afternoon I had on a long john top, my thickest turtleneck sweatshirt, my fall fleece jacket, and thick socks. The temperatures were a deceiving 56°. With the wind, clouds, and squalls of rain that opened up every time I decided to venture beyond the front door, it felt more in the range of 30°. There had to be a wind chill in there somewhere.

Thankfully, this morning, I had the foresight to start one of my all-time favorite comfort meals — Cube Steak. Now the way my mother prepared this while I lived at home was awful. It was dry, tough, and barely edible — at least that was what I thought as a teenager. As I’ve gotten older, I have mellowed and somehow many of the meals my mother made that I found horrible back then, are now some of my favorites. Cube steak, the way she prepared it, is not a favorite, but I admit I have made it when I’m feeling nostalgic. No one really likes it when I make it, but they know better than to complain. To put up with my need to visit an old flavor once a year, isn’t too much to ask.

When I moved out on my own, I began experimenting with all sorts of recipes.  I wanted to branch out and expand on what I learned from my mother, from the home economics classes I’d taken, and from watching my grandmother in the kitchen. So when I found cube steak on sale while shopping, I decided it was time to tame that tough, dry meat and turn it into something good. It took years of tweaking and trial and error, but my final recipe is one of our family favorites. It might not be the most original recipe out there, but it certainly warmed me up on a fickle Michigan Thursday afternoon.

All-Day Simmer Cube Steak

  • 4-6 Pieces Beef Cube Steak
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • Bacon Grease or Lard
  • Water
  • Beef Bouillon or Stock
  • Mushrooms – Dried or Fresh

Mix flour and salt in plastic storage bag. Drop cube steak, one piece at a time, into plastic bag. Lay bag on the counter and press the flour into the steak, making sure to flatten the steak while coating with flour.

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Heat bacon grease or lard in large fry pan to 350°.

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Add floured meat and sear until brown.

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Flip and sear other side, adding more grease or lard as needed.

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Once the meat has been seared on both sides, fill the pan with warm water and add a tablespoon of beef bouillon. I used a paste-type, but cubes, granules, or store bought stock would work just as well. Turn heat down to 250°, cover, and cook all day on the stove or in electric fry pan. Check often to add more water and beef stock as needed.

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An hour before you serve, add mushrooms to pan and cover. From this point, do not add any more water. You want to reduce the gravy so it thickens. If the gravy is too thin, make a roux of flour or corn starch and water and thicken.

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Serve with mashed potatoes and a fresh vegetable.

Alternate method: Cook thinly sliced onions in bacon grease till tender prior to searing meat. Remove while searing meat and then return to pan with water. This gives the gravy even more flavor.

Some days it is harder than others to keep my focus or go with the flow. One way I have found to keep myself grounded when I feel myself slipping, is to cook something that will fill the house with warmth — true comfort food, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Monday Morning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” – Anne Frank

It is a perfect Michigan Monday morning. The temperature is around 63° at 10:00 and the sun is already high in the sky, beating down on me as I sit here on the patio enjoying a moment of peace before continuing on with the demands of the day.

The birds are singing, filling the yard with their song and soothing my mind as it races with all that needs to be done. Already there are sheets and a quilt on the line stretched across the yard drying, the dishwasher has been run and is waiting to be emptied, the kids have been dropped off at their respective schools, my hubby is off to work with his lunch packed and ready for him to heat up, dinner is planned, and the dog has been walked. Not much more that I want to get done today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of things to do.

Walking through the yard this morning I stopped off at the lilac bushes on the side of the house. After the snow we had the other day, I figured any chance of blooms this year were gone. To my surprise, the blooms hadn’t sprouted far enough from the protection of the leaves surrounding them and they are just now starting to poke through. It looks like the bushes will be covered in blooms by Mother’s Day and then I can fill the house with the delicate lavender flowers and enjoy the sweet smell for days.

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Most of the bulbs I planted last spring didn’t make it through the winter. I think the squirrels got the majority of them and those they didn’t, the snow took last week. There are just a couple under the plum tree that appear to have survived. Hopefully the snow will not make another unwelcome visit and maybe I’ll get to enjoy a few flowers before the weather is consistently warm enough to plant some annuals.

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The plum tree is still bare. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Typically it doesn’t start to show signs of life until May, and late-May at that. Last year it gave us more than 120 pounds of usable fruit (more than 100 pounds had to be thrown out). I’m not sure if plum trees produce fruit every year. It had been three or four years since we’d gotten any usable fruit because of brown-rot, so I’m not sure what this trees cycle is. It would certainly be nice to get a bumper crop again. Although if you’d asked me last year while I was canning the 120 pounds of plum, I probably wouldn’t have been all that receptive to ever harvesting another plum. Thank goodness time calibrates perspective.

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The grass is still spotted yellow, but some green has pushed its way through the matted down clippings left over from the final cutting of the season last October. The grass should probably be ready to cut in the next couple of weeks, well on its way to the thick plush lawn I love.

Today would be a perfect day to barbecue, but nothing sounded appealing when I was planning dinner for tonight. I finally settled on trying a new recipe for pepper steak. I have tried this meal several times in the past and have been left disappointed. Most of the time the steak is tasty, but nothing like the pepper steak served in Chinese restaurants. Thank God for the Internet because there are so many recipes out there to try I’m sure that one day I’ll get it right. So, although standing outside by the grill on such a beautiful day was tempting, I’ll just open all the windows in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh air as it streams through the screens.

I really should head inside to work on the unending chores that await me, but the slight breeze tickling my arms reminds me that sometimes taking a break is more important than getting a job done. When I finally do drag myself away from this beautiful morning and begrudgingly continue on with my To Do List, I will take with me the memory of this time. Life is what you make of the moments were given. Appreciating this perfect Michigan morning is one of those moments worth holding on to, savoring, locking away inside. Moments like this ground me and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” –
Henry David Thoreau