Love in a time of Comfort Food

Hallie Lord has this amazing post about her husband Dan and how he cares for her when she is sick.

While Jeff is great when I’m sick at taking care of the house and kids and making sure the trains all run on time, aside from the occasional ginger ale run, he’s not great with the nurturing part of taking care of a sick wife. Or sick kid. Which is why he cleans up throw up while I comfort the sick child.

These last six months have been some of the sickest in our family. Ever. I’ve had the virus from hell that’s not the flu, the 24 hour stomach bug and a ridiculous cold. William’s had an ear infection and pink eye. Jeff’s had several bad viruses. And Joseph. Joseph’s had strep throat twice, an ear infection and walking pneumonia. (Mercifully, God has spared Shelby in all of this minus the occasional intestinal discomfort which she bears like a champ.)

Joseph’s second bout with strep throat was diagnosed last night. At the emergency room. Because he didn’t want a throat culture and didn’t tell me about any discomfort til after I’d gotten home from work about 4 pm yesterday. And our pediatrician has walk-in sick hours Saturday morning! But it wasn’t a sore throat he complained of. It was a pain in his neck. A pain that was an extremely enlarged lymph node. The tonsils on the inside corresponded with the lymph node. And a fever of 102. He NEVER fevers when sick. Off to the ER we went, I was fearing mono. 24 minutes after arriving, we were triaged and the nurse gave him Motrin (because, Mom of the year didn’t have any at home) and swabbed his throat. I was somewhat relieved when 45 minutes later back in the waiting area, the check-in nurse came over with a mask.

“First of all, ” she said, noticing his storm trooper jacket his great-aunts gave him for Christmas 2013, “I LOVE the jacket. And second, he’s got strep and needs to put this on.”

Almost 2  hours after we came in, we went back to a room to await a doctor or PA. The motrin had kicked in so Joseph wasn’t so grouchy and he enjoyed watching Cartoon Network while we waited. A kind PA came in and examined him. He was very worried about the lymph node and made me promise to bring  Joseph to the pediatrician Monday to have it re-checked. The other option was getting a shot of a steroid for the swelling (the PA was worried about an absess developing in the node) but none of us was excited by that prospect. Because they knew it was too late to get a prescription filled that evening, a nurse brought in Joseph’s first antibiotic dose. And we were discharged.

It should also be noted that Jeff currently has the cold I just spent 2 weeks with and a week recovering from. He had been home all day with all three kids (including a sniffly Shelby and William) while I worked and then cooked dinner and entertained Shelby and William for three hours while I was in the ER with Joseph.

Everyone was in bed well before 11. Usually the kids are anyway, but even Jeff was. I was exhausted. I collapsed into bed. But as I fell asleep I dreamed of how I would take care of my ailing family tomorrow.

With Joseph sick as he is, and Jeff down for the count, we didn’t make mass this morning. Jeff was not up to caring for Shelby and a sick Joseph plus himself. Morning began with Jeff actually getting Shelby up. I was up shortly after to get the boys up. Joseph only wanted milk for breakfast and William had cheerios. I made the morning low-key. I had to get Joseph’s prescription and return something to a big box store. I got some motrin too and the pièce de résistance for my care plan. Food.

I had already planned dinner for today as meatloaf with onion rings and mac and cheese which is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort food meals. Nevermind that my children do not like meatloaf. I don’t think I’ll ever give up trying to get them to eat it. I’m 1/4 Italian, so it’s in my DNA that food is a cure. And being the wife of a chef and a lover of all kinds of food, I’ve also come to realize that really great food is food that evokes memories of a specific time and place.

Exactly like that.

Meatloaf isn’t something I remember eating growing up (although I know we did) but I have specific memories of Jeff teaching me to make it in our first apartment and working with hamburger with my hands for the first time.

I’ve also been obsessed with the PBS show A Chef’s Life which is filmed a short hour and a half away in Kinston, NC, very close to where Jeff grew up in Goldsboro. Chef Vivian Howard NEVER intended to move back to eastern NC until her parents made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. And since opening her restaurant and relocating her family to the area, she has made a study of comfort foods and ingredients. In a recent episode, she explored chicken and made fried chicken with the woman who cared for her grandmother. Seriously, watch this show.

So, feeding my family when they are sick is one of my favorite ways to show my love. Meatloaf for dinner and for lunch: soup. Jeff had actually made vegetable soup yesterday while he was home with the kids and so his lunch was set. Surprisingly, Shelby ate some of it too. She only really ate the broth, but still. New food and she wanted it. Joseph has preferred liquid and soft food (I can’t imagine why) and so I picked him up some chicken and stars. Because what kid doesn’t feel loved when they have chicken and stars. Yes it’s processed, but we can handle that every now and again. William doesn’t eat soup. William, in case you haven’t noticed, doesn’t eat a lot of things. He went from being my best eater to being the world’s pickiest. He had a peanut butter sandwich.

To see everyone with warm food in their bellies does my heart good. And I didn’t want to leave myself out. It’s cold and yesterday I had a hankerin’ (please remember, I live in the South) for some white bread. I’m a 100% whole wheat bread kinda girl and converted the whole family (including Sir Picky-Pants) but I just sort of needed a little white bread in my life. I made myself a tuna melt with the tuna salad Jeff and I made for my work lunches yesterday and had my favorite soup, tomato. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is an all-time favorite meal of mine that I hadn’t had recently and adding the tuna salad was just the ticket.

And I was surprised at dinner to see Joseph tried everything at dinner. He wasn’t a fan of any of it. But he did try. He wasn’t in a mac and cheese mood (normally a favorite). William ate oatmeal. Shelby ate the bacon off the meatloaf and mac and cheese. Jeff and I enjoyed the meatloaf.

I know, you’re all thinking, why such a big ol post about feeding my family. I’m not great at it, but I do enjoy it. And it makes me feel loved when someone cooks special for me. So, there you go. We’re sick (some of us) and we have full tummies and some of them get it was all out of love. I’ll take it.

Advertisements

Why One Version of the 23rd Psalm stands out to me more than most…

I linked to the Marty Haugen version entitled Shepherd Me O God in this post.

Not quite 20 years ago this past Monday, my mother’s best friend’s husband went home to God. He had had a battle with kidney cancer that was one for the ages. And he left behind a grieving widow, two young sons and many who loved him and mourned his loss.

Tim was soft-spoken and kind-hearted. He was a good husband and father. He was intelligent. He had a PhD in Chemistry but mostly, he just liked to be around his family and friends. His wife, my mother’s best friend Margaret, was as out-going and boisterous as Tim was quiet and reserved. She still is. They met at mass during the Sign of Peace.

And at his funeral, the Marty Haugen version of the 23rd Psalm was sung. On his tombstone, Margaret had put “My spirit will sing the music of Your name.” It was the first funeral I had ever attended. We sat with Margaret and her family. My mother, a nurse, had spent Tim’s last days sleeping on the floor of Margaret and Tim’s bedroom with Margaret in the bed and Tim in a hospital bed. We had spent Tim’s last Christmas, with Mass in their home. A transformer blew and we celebrated by candlelight. Just hearing the Psalm brings back so many memories of that time. I was on a retreat when he passed. I knew he was going to leave the world that weekend, but my parents insisted I go. Tim would have insisted I go. When I returned, my parents greeted me with hugs and tears. I knew it was over.

About the time Tim had passed, I had been listening to a talk on St Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the fruits of the spirit. In the days that would follow, it became clear to me the Holy Spirit planned that one out. And I thought on it a lot as I sang the refrain with the cantor at his funeral mass. One of my brothers and my mom eulogized Tim. My father and that same brother were pall-bearers. An old priest from the parish returned to con-celebrate the mass. People I had not seen in years came. People from Tim’s childhood in California flew out as did friends from his graduate school days in NY and Wisconsin. Co-workers. Parish members. Neighbors. For a quiet guy, Tim had affected many lives. Even the boys’ pediatrician came.

Tim’s gentle demeanor and quiet ways made him a shepherd. He made sure his boys attended mass and were kind and courteous to others. He drew people in with a more reserved kind of friendliness and easy-going manner. He did not let his intellect nor his accomplishment change who he was. And in his passing, the number of people he shepherded in his life, came back to thank him, and help shepherd him into the next one.

Over the years, I have been reminded of the loss of Tim in this life. His name was listed on the back of our wedding program as someone not physically there to share in the joy of our day. And each time I hear Shepherd Me O God, I am reminded of the gift of having him be a shepherd in my life. And of how I want to shepherd others.

No breaks, I just can’t get on my computer

The kids have been off school since Friday afternoon. They go back tomorrow. The end of their semester coincides with MLK Day so they get a four day weekend just two weeks after Christmas break.

And that means that mom doesn’t get much computer time for the four days they are off. One child has very important PBS kids viewing. The other two have very important Minecraft work to be done. For the moment, the two Minecraft children are busying themselves elsewhere and the one who enjoys PBS Kids videos? She’s busy watching Spongebob.

Last week was a cold, wet, and sometimes depressing January week. By contrast, this week has been sunny, warm and peaceful. Winter is my second favorite season after Autumn and I love cold weather and the bareness of the trees and all these sort of things. Seasonal Affective Disorder has never been in my cocktail of neuroses. But I guess it did play into my anxieties I was already drowning in last week. A huge load was dropped in my lap on top of other lingering issues and the weather wasn’t helping me at all. I’m a home body and love being indoors, but when I have no alternative, it stresses me out.

I did work a lot last week, but that, sadly did not help me much because it was unbearably slow because of the weather situation. And even my normal pick-me-up of planning hearty, warming home-cooked meals, failed me. Now, I’ve been battling a cold/sinus thing through all this and that definitely has not helped either.

But what has helped, is prayer. Both the prayer I have been doing and the prayers of others.

And today, I deactivated my facebook account temporarily (the personal one) because I realized I need to focus. Focus on God and my family and getting us back on track. We are readying our house to go back on the market in March and we have a lot of big decisions to make and I cannot be so terribly distracted by it at this exact moment in time. Blogging focuses me on the positive and on God. Obviously these breaks free me up more for writing but also for prayer, Scripture and all the little things I put to the side. Being two days back into school, obviously, I have the computer more to my disposal now and I intend to use it appropriately. I am not going to be perfect in this endeavor, but I do believe it will help me get closer to where I need to be.

A Greek Orthodox, Born-Again and Catholic all looked at their Facebook feeds (stop me if you’ve heard this one)

…and saw a friend in need.The same mutual friend. A friend who is not struggling with faith necessarily but circumstance. A friend who needed prayer and encouragement. A friend just in a bad spot at that point in time and needed someone to listen. And they offered her comfort, prayer, encouragement and so much more.

This is what happened to me this week. I put some posts out there about clinging to Jesus and three friends, yes, one Greek Orthodox, one Born-Again and one Catholic, reached out.And together they lifted me and carried me to His feet. They laid me down there and prayed for my healing, my peace of mind.

In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 2:1-12), the friends of the paralytic let nothing stop them from bringing their friend and delivering him to Jesus’ feet. They go so far as to cut a hole in the ceiling and lowering him through it. While what my dear friends did physically was a bit different, spiritually, it was the same act.

We all profess Jesus Christ as our Savior, but besides dogmatic and theological differences, we all prayed together. And their voices united, carried me to Christ and allowed me to get up, take my mat and go because I was healed. I am in awe of their gift of carrying me. Even though I’ve done it for others, it never ceases to amaze me. A friend in the name of Jesus Christ, is a friend in deed. And in prayer.

To quote my bishop via twitter: “Who will we help to bring to Jesus this day?” Who can we make a miracle happen for?

Beyond my wants, beyond my fears from death into life.

This is probably my favorite version of the 23rd Psalm in song. Apologies to those who hate Marty Haugen. I truly think this one is beautiful and it has special meaning for me that I’ll unpack next week.

But my word for 2015 is “shepherd.” And I know a lot of people were like, “wait, what?” when they heard my word. In the past I’ve used peace, joy, kindness and quiet. So “shepherd?” Well, my main impetus for originally selecting it was my patron being Saint Peter (so appropriate for me on so many levels) and it was those verses, the ones I chose to be my verses of the year: John 21:15-19 that led me to this word. Feed my sheep.

But in the last two weeks since I announced the word and all that jazz, I’ve come to rely more on the leaning on God to be my shepherd vs me feeding His sheep as such. And I’ve been hearing other words of Peter’s from the sixteenth chapter of Matthew,

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

When Jesus asked the disciples who did they say he was, Peter’s voice was the one that spoke. And He was the first to reveal the true divine nature of Jesus Christ. He knew Jesus was the Good Shepherd who would lead His sheep to God if only they would let Him. And I’ve been searching my soul of late, searching and declaring to Jesus, I know you are the Good Shepherd. I know you are the Son of the living God. Shepherd me safely through these storms, this limbo, this indecision.

And I’ve heard the refrain of Marty Haugen’s version of the 23rd Psalm when I feel at my most desperate, yes, Shepherd me O God beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life. Because only Jesus can do that. Only He can lead me in His paths. Take me beyond what I simply want and lead me to what You want. Take me beyond my feeble human fears and show me the joy of submitting to Your holy will. Lead me away from the death of this world into life with You.

I am clinging, the sheep that I am, to Jesus right this second. I am praying that He leads me to the quiet waters of peace so that my spirit shall truly sing the music of His name.

Right now, I can shepherd my family best by clinging to the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him. (John 10:14) Who has already laid His life down for me (John 10:11). I chose this word in a fit of optimism and happiness, and God has shown me I will need to remember it when things are not that way. I will cling to it, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

On blogging, autism/special needs, community and trust

For those in the special needs blogging community, the name Jess conjures up only one image. The image of the author of Diary of a Mom. Jess’ daughter Brooke (she uses aliases on her site) was diagnosed with autism and her journey has been chronicled on her blog. Jess’ blog has been very encouraging to me as the mother of a daughter, not a son, with autism. Her approach is almost enviable and I find her to be a very kindred spirit.

So, as both a writer and a mother, I was more than a little, shall we say roiled, when I saw this. I could barely believe what I was reading but kept nodding in agreement. When we put ourselves, our children, our lives out there, they aren’t only out there for public consumption: they’re there for the taking, for the stealing. That someone would so blatantly take her story word for word and change it to fit themselves then publish it in an attempt to garner attention and raise funds is sickening. I believe what most upset me in her entire piece was this:

I don’t know what to do with all of this. My work is copyrighted, of course, so I suppose I could exercise my legal right to, well, whatever. But it’s just not the point. The woman who claimed my work as her own had it up, until last night, on a site that solicits donations for a 501(c)3 foundation that she runs, in her son’s name, to support families in her area who need help providing resources for an autistic family member. I hope to God it’s real. That this incident isn’t indicative, as one would automatically assume, of a broad lack of integrity, but of a momentary lapse in judgment, of which we are all, to some degree or another, capable. I want to believe that. That it’s possible that she really is doing the good she claims to be doing. I don’t know how many of you have been around long enough to remember Marissa’a Bunny, but those were bleak times for our community. As Ellen at Love that Max put it at the time, “Promises have gone unfulfilled, accusations are flying, curtains are being looked behind. It’s troubling, especially in a community that’s centered around trust, caring, goodwill and doing good.”

Do people invent personas and children online with special needs and solicit funds? You bet your bitty they do. I do urge you to go and read the Love that Max piece on Marissa’s Bunny. Although nothing was ever conclusively proven from what I can tell and remember of that time, you can see in the comments exactly what Jess is talking about when she says “bleak times.” This incident severely divided many in the special needs community between those who thought there was a conspiracy/scam to those who felt things were over-promised to those who became staunch defenders of the Marissa’s Bunny camp. And you can see how the mistrust and anger was easily spread.

When something like either of these incidences happen and trust is broken, it’s not just bad. It’s deadly. Especially when charitable organizations are tied in one way or another. It poisons the well we all drink from: our community. The community that cheers on our kids’ successes and supports us through rough times, it disintegrates when things like this happen. People feel compelled to choose sides even when they really don’t want to. And then imagine you are someone on the outside. Someone who knows no one with special needs. It poisons you too as you may or may not understand the situation and regardless of understanding, will make judgments.

And who gets hurt most in all of this? Our children. People no longer want to make donations to reputable organizations because of the bad ones. People no longer want to hear or believe valid stories of suffering and need because of people who abuse and work the system. And people like me no longer want to share experiences or stories for fear someone will claim them as their own and manipulate others with them, damaging my credibility and my child’s need in the process.

I guess I should also state here, I’m not just an outraged bystander, it’s happened to me. Not in the huge, dramatic way it’s happening to Jess right now, but a “friend” who also had special needs children stole many of my status updates and even descriptions under my pictures on facebook and attributed them to herself and used them to garner attention and sympathy. At the time, I let it go, but later learned this person had several inconsistencies in her personal history as it was shared with myself and others as well. Not to mention a history of defrauding therapists and others for their services. So, yeah, this hits kind of close to home.

The kind of trust broken for me personally has made me leery of people in general when it comes to sharing our struggles and joys. And I’ve been doing it, but doing it less and less.

Like Jess, I’m never sure how to proceed when these type of things happen. I’m upset, I’m angry and I’m so over it. And while I am trusting that God will make all wrongs right, in the mean time, I’m not going to be too open or outright where Joe Internet is concerned which is a real shame. The community needs more positive and hopeful voices like mine and we’re all  starting to clam up.

One ugly side she missed…

On Christmas Eve, friends of mine who had been trying to conceive for eight years lost their very unplanned miracle at 14 weeks. They had planned to tell their families on Christmas Day. Instead the wife ended up in the hospital for four days with complications. They had stopped all NaPro technology and trying in June. This baby was a total surprise in every way. My heart breaks still for them.

Molly of Molly Makes Do is a multiple miscarriage survivor and has suffered with infertility and subfertility. She has written a blog post about some of the difficulties of her situation and she identifies an ugly side of women who cannot move past the loss and harbor bitterness, resentment and guilt.

But there is another side not addressed. A side my friends have found most painful in the past few years. Rejection.

While it is true that we should not allow our sadness or desire to consume us, it certainly can be compounded when we are rejected by family, friends and even strangers by our ability or inability to bear children. The wife of the couple had told me a few years ago that she and her husband were the only siblings (on both sides of the family) not to be selected as Godparents. One of her brothers had told her his wife and her family had strong feelings that Godparents should be parents themselves because they would need that experience in order to raise the child if the parents could not. I remember sitting in silence wanting to ask of what I had heard was what I thought I had heard. One of my children’s Godparents is a priest. He will physically never be a father of biological children. That thought never entered my mind in selecting my children’s Godparents. Probably because the church does not specify that Godparents must be biological parents. I cannot imagine the pain it caused my friend and her husband to hear that and realize it could be why none of their other siblings had asked them to be Godparents. They didn’t bother to ask anyone else as they really did not want to know (they continue to operate under the assumption that there were/are other valid reasons that they were not chosen).

They also relayed many times that friends no longer invited them to events they had previously (think Christmas parties, lunch dates etc) because most of the assumed my friends would no longer have interest in these events because children were now present. Some of that assumption, when unpacked, was from a sort of “survivors guilt” where people know how badly you wanted a child and feel like including you is flaunting their success in some way. Some of it was discomfort at having friends unable to conceive in the presence of their family. I realize that taking someone’s feelings into consideration is done with best intentions and truly there are some things that maybe it wouldn’t make sense for my friends to be invited to, but I can tell you from experience, shutting people out because you are afraid to hurt their feelings? That only leads to more hurt and resentment.

Then there was “the incident.” At the urging of his father, a few years back, my friend’s husband volunteered to be a baseball coach at a local youth league. He was assigned a team and made calls and was very excited to start. The night before the first practice, he got a call from the Sports Director who told him he was being asked to step-down. When asked why, they told him: parents wanted someone with parenting experience to coach their childrens’ team. Turns out in one of the phone calls a parent asked him if his child would be on the team, when he said no, he didn’t have a child yet, that parent called other parents and together they questioned his intentions for wanting to coach children. I have no words. None. Other than to say, I doubt these same parents would have protested a single or childless teacher in their child’s classroom.

Feelings of rejection are all over when you’re enduring infertility and miscarriage. Your body rejected your baby. Your baby rejected you as a parent. And sadly, that God rejected you as a prospective parent. They aren’t true (although some anatomical or medical issues can cause miscarriage or infertility if not treated) or rational, but they creep up into the minds of many women and men going through these trials. It is difficult enough to get birth announcements, pregnancy announcements etc and try to stay positive and thankful for the blessings you do have. But when others let you know your lack of success is a problem for them, well, it can be a true slap in the face. I’ve been blessed that no one hurt me in this way. And I would like to think most families, friends and organizations are not like that. For those that are suffering through this additional rejection, I will say prayers for you and whomever is perpetrating the rejection.

If you have a friend, or family member suffering through infertility or pregnancy loss, please, don’t shut them out. Don’t stop including them in your lives or disqualify them from anything. If you are afraid of hurt feelings, invite the person but let them know, if you don’t feel like coming it’s okay, but if you do, we’d love to have you. Your kindness, your love, could be what something that tips the balance between embitterment and sorrowful gratitude.