Archive | December 2012

SHIVERING IN THE SUNSHINE

MF

The daring spring sunshine felt like summer in full swing, even though it was only mid-February. And I ended up drenched and freezing. But I remember it as the most beautiful rainy day I’ve ever experienced.

We drove to Best Buy, and shopped a bit. Both of us were dressed in shorts and tank tops, it was so unseasonably hot outside. I had just moved to Fort Worth—Euless, actually, transferred by American to their headquarters. He came down from Kansas City to spend the weekend. We split our time between seeing the sights, house-hunting and drinking in the unbearable sweetness of being alone together.

Anyway, we couldn’t decide on a purchase, so we left. On the way to our car, the sky turned black within seconds and the Texas thunderstorms poured down upon us as we ran, laughing hysterically, to my red ‘99 Mustang. By the time we reached the car and dove inside, we were soaked—I remember I had the hiccups, I was laughing so hard, sticking out my tongue to catch the raindrops dripping from my nose.

We scrambled into the dry warmth of the car, shutting the rain outside, but the staccato beat was still almost deafening. So loud and nonstop. We couldn’t even see the car next to us, the raindrops were so close together.

He turned the key, and my Shrek soundtrack started playing again. It had been playing when we drove up to the store before. “My Beloved Monster and Me,” from the Shrek movie—which had just come out. In fact, we had just recently seen the movie and adored it. He gently brushed a dripping tendril of hair from my face, cupped my chin in his hand and said, “That’s got to be our song”—and kissed me. It sounds really hokey to say it, but at that moment, I got totally lost in his brown eyes. Time seemed to pause, as if there was a “rest” written into the minutes composed for that day. He was listening to the part where it says,

“She will always be the only thing
That comes between me and the awful sting
That comes from living in a world that’s so d___ mean.”

And we knew. We both just knew.

At the time, I laughed and asked how I was supposed to wear the coat with 4 sleeves. But I was touched to the very core of my being. Because I knew that he meant the world was waiting for us just around the bend. The endless stresses of raising teenagers had finally ended. We had completed our obligations of raising the last of 11 children, (5 of them mine, 6 of them his) and were on the threshold of beginning our lives together—that wonderful empty nest that parents work so hard to experience.

It’s been over ten years now since that day. The red Mustang is gone and I’m in Oklahoma now. That world that’s so mean? It actually delivered terminal cancer to our door within 2 months of that day. And he was gone 107 days later.

Yet every time it rains really hard. Every time I hear that song. Every time I’m stuck in a downpour, I remember. And it hurts. And it’s so bittersweet. And I cherish it every time I remember. Some things are just meant to hurt. And that’s okay.

Company Weekend Menues

HB PIEI’m not big on sharing recipes, but this is something that just made my weekend so easy.

Dessert, in advance:  Buy a graham cracker crust, a giant Hershey bar (or my favorite, a Symphony Bar) and a large tub of whIpped topping (thaw this).  Shave a few chocolate curls off the candy bar with a potato peeler or grater for decoration.  Then melt the rest in the microwave.  Stir the melted chocolate (slightly cooled) into 2/3 of the THAWED tub of whipping topping and spread into the crust.  Top with the plain whipped topping to the edges of the crust, and wiggle your spatula on the topping to make fancy designs, sprinkle with the chocolate curls, and pop into the freezer.  When you want to use it, just pull it out of the freezer when your meal is served and it will be just right by dessert time.  I try to keep one of these on hand, it’s great for drop-by company (which we seem to have more and more of, I wonder if this is why??!!)

For the weekend, I purchased a spiral cut ham, and baked it the first day we had guests, with a large hash brown casserole (you know, like scalloped potatoes–sour cream, onions, cream of chicken soup, grated cheese, frozen hash browns, butter, and topped with corn flakes if you want).  With it I served a tossed salad.  When we sat down to eat, I pulled the Hershey Bar pie out, and it was partially thawed and delicious by dessert time; everyone raves over it, I try not to tell them how EASY it is.

The next morning, breakfast was practically provided–I just gently warmed the ham in one skillet while I scooped small spoonfuls of the casserole into another hot skillet with a bit of oil, flattening them into round cakes with a spatula.  They warmed and bubbled and toasted, the cheese turing a beautiful golden brown.  I flipped them once, and served when golden on both sides.  Add toast of some kind, a bowl of fresh pineapple, and you have a distinctly different breakfast, and a great meal.  (I had left over slices of french bread, so I buttered them and heated them in the skillet with the ham–great touch of “hammy” flavor).

Lunch  was ham sandwiches with (oops, another secret revealed) purchased potato salad, carrot sticks with Ranch, and celery sticks topped with peanut butter.

Snack time was a loaf of banana bread that I pulled out of the freezer…and offered cream cheese as a spread.

We made pizzas the second night, I opened 2 cans of crescent rolls and laid them out in one piece on a half-sheet cookie sheet (11 x 16 inches) as a crust.  You have to go slow and keep pushing and stretching, but it ends up filling up the pan, making a great thinnish crust.  We spread this with a scant bit of tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce, and whatever spices seem right–garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika if you like heat, oregano.  Then do like the pizza places do:  add the cheese NEXT, and the veggie and meat toppings last.  (and my pizza has been known to include chopped pecans and coconut, it really gives it a twist).  These bake quickly, and are just perfect, as you make them exactly like you want them to be.  (The pie is great following pizza, if there’s any left).

Another easy and refreshing pie is a 12 oz. can of thawed pineapple juice, a can of Eagle Brand mixed together, then folded into whipped topping, and poured into a cookie or graham cracker crust and frozen.  I’ve made this one with strawberry daiquiri mix,  pina colada mix, orange juice, or any flavor you want to try.

The other dish we had was a “homemade” chicken pot pie, another of my favorite  “cheaters.”  2 cans of chicken, not drained, mixed with a package of frozen veggies and a can of cream of chicken–or for a great switch, GOLDEN mushroom soup.  Dump all this into a glass or metal pie pan and top with a purchased pie crust, cut a few cute little holes in the crust to vent, brush the crust with milk or egg white if you want to, and bake for 30-55 minutes or so, (you have to eyeball it) till the crust is done and looks like you worked SO hard……..serve with cole slaw (you can buy this one, too) and for dessert:  slice a roll of chocolate cookie dough and bake in LARGE cookies, then drop a hot almost-done cookie onto a dessert plate and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Not fancy food, but I never have any complaints!!

Nap time.  This cook is done.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

I fell in love the day I first met them in May of 2003. Two of the most wonderful, loving little guys you could ever meet. Trent has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mirror movement disorder, and asthma. He also has aphasia, is grossly developmentally challenged, has pins in his hips (cannot walk), doesn’t speak, or enjoy table food (he has a feeding tube)–but the warmth from his smile brings daylight into the darkest day. See Trent in his picture, the little guy sitting in his car seat? This dark-haired young man was 12 when I met him–he won my heart without a word–all 24 lbs of him.

His blond-haired little brother Dalton, hamming to get into the picture as usual, is so protective of Trent. He helps his Dad, pouring formula into the IV bag for Trent’s feeding tube, running for diapers, entertaining Trent in any way he can. They even have a bit of a language all their own, laughing at the same things, making some of the same noises…

Dalton is also vastly hindered in his ability to speak, although he tries. Not to say that he’s silent. He’s always making noises, trying to “sing” with the radio or dance, and laughing. Always laughing, occasionally hysterically, I’m afraid. He’s exceptionally mentally delayed, is hard of hearing, incontinent, with the IQ of a 2 year old, and yet has the uncanny ability to operate a VCR and TV remote. He’s created his own sign language, with clever symbols for driving (he mimics turning a steering wheel) walking the dog (he mimics holding the leash while a dog pulls on it), and camera (as he peeks through an imaginary view-finder and clicks the button).

Dalton was 11 back then, eager to please and always in a perpetual state of delight.
I tell you all this so that you’ll get an idea of the impact these two had on me. It was the 2004 Christmas season. I had just married their Dad, and our house was decorated, complete with a lighted Christmas tree—but up on a table to save it from Trent’s curious maneuvers. He goes exploring, scooting around the house on his knees or on his back. He loves to take small things–like videocassettes, books, or ornaments–down from their place, kind of “measure” them in his hand by swinging them back and forth, then discarding one to reach for another. My afternoons were often spent putting the rows upon rows of videocassettes back in their place on the shelves, only to have to repeat the action a while later.

I relaxed since I knew the tree was out of Trent’s reach, but didn’t know the reaction he and Dalton would have to the Christmas tree with its shiny ornaments and multi-colored twinkle lights.

It was one of those “you had to be there” moments–as their Dad went out to the car to carry some of Trent’s paraphernalia into the house, Dalton popped in the door, looked up and saw the tree, and stopped dead in his tracks. He walked reverently up to the tree, looked up at the angel on the top branch, folded his hands as if he were a choir boy, and began to sing “Joy to the World” in his blunted, indistinct “deaf speaking voice” (I’m sorry, I know no other way to explain it).

My eyes filled with tears, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of that moment, hearing this child and seeing his reverence for the season and the Lord that he knew so well in his own way.

And I knew in that moment that somehow, some way, Dalton understood that Jesus had come to provide a mansion just for him.

And it would be right next door to Trent’s.