let’s just have a beer

My day begins with good intentions. Upon arising I usually intend to go back to bed immediately upon returning home. After being awake for about fifteen minutes my thoughts change to better intentions. After work I will walk the dog or go to the gym and eat a healthy dinner, like salad.

After actually being at work for ten minutes or maybe four hours my intentions change. Sometime before noon I decide that the first thing I want upon returning home is beer. I start thinking it earlier at work these days…like after ten minutes. During that time I am also thinking: I can’t do this anymore. This is a thought that crosses my mind most days. I keep making it through the day taking care of everybody else, just barely making it to the bathroom. I manage to inhale some food while writing in charts.

Taking care of people is hard. I feel like I give them everything I’ve got and I have nothing left for me or my family. I come home to more people who need help and I don’t want to help people anymore. Is it time to get out of nursing? If I am irritated with people soon after getting to work is it time to quit? Taking care of people with memory problems is challenging and exhausting. I suppose if I didn’t care so much I wouldn’t be exhausted from the work. Do other nurses feel like they just can’t do it anymore? Who is going to take care of the confused people when the people who care can’t do it anymore?

Almost everyday at work I think:  I can’t do this anymore. I keep going back and doing it another day. Perhaps my prayers are answered, giving me strength to make it through another day. Perhaps my intentions are changing for the better as I have made it to the gym three times now. Still, my thoughts wander to desire to just go have a beer.

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thoughts on our humanity

Should I love my neighbor or lock him out? Should I trust that those seeking help are sincere or should I be wary? Should I see others as other humans or as potential terrorists?

It really shouldn’t have to be black and white. I don’t tend to see things that way anyway. I see much more gray. There is so much more gray than black and white. The extremes are just that, extreme. Most of us lie somewhere in between. Where is the line between helping others and protecting your own?

Some people fear the others fleeing from terror thinking they might be trying to infiltrate and attack. This is a reasonable fear, perhaps, but it should not rule your life. There are people already here that do terrible things to other people. Are they not also terrorists? The wife of a wife-beater lives in terror. The molested child lives in terror. Just by looking I cannot tell if a man is a good man or a child molester. He could be any color and claim to be of any religion. I cannot tell by looking if the other people at the store have open minds or of they are closed. I cannot tell if they have compassion.

I have mentioned before that I often really do wonder:  What would Jesus do? It always pops into my head when I pass up a hitchhiker. I am a woman driving alone so I never pick up a hitchhiker. It would be stupid. My self-preservation wins in this situation even though I do not know if the hitchhiker has ill intentions or not. I would think that Jesus would pick up the hitchhiker if he were driving but I don’t think he would be driving. Seems more likely he would be hitchhiking. So, am I leaving Jesus on the side of the road?

Hearing about the bombings in Paris has brought out the best and the worst in people. Some people lean toward hate of all that is other and want to close the borders, get more guns, fly more flags, speak more English and be more Christian. Be more Christian? Can we protect ourselves and be more Christian? Can we be friends with our Muslim neighbors that already live here? I think it is natural to have initial thoughts of self-preservation and protection. But we cannot let hate of all that is other rule our lives.

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into the darkness

The darkness is upon us. Soon it will be dark most of the time and I will be counting down the days until we near the celebration of the birth of Jesus when the days start getting longer. I remember when I was a young girl the days were already short and dark by 4:30 in October. Now that daylight savings time is extended this doesn’t happen until November. Setting my clock back … Sunday will suddenly be dark an hour earlier and I will contemplate going tanning to get my sunlight. It is unlikely I will actually go tanning but I consider it every year when the darkness comes.

Today seemed dark all day. It was dark when I went to work and I noticed I had a headlight out. It was cloudy, dreary, raining and threatening to flood this weekend as I headed home for the day. At work, where I care for the elderly who are memory impaired, we have several nearing death. It happens every year, nearing the end of the year and the holidays, that people depart this world for the next.

During a recent trip to Colorado (where I did not see the Dalai Lama since he had to go back to India and I didn’t have tickets anyway) the dreary weather followed us and we had dreary, grey, cloudy rain for three days. On one rainy day at a candy shop I found a cookie cutter called Gingerdead Men. It was a typical gingerbread man cut out with a skeleton impression on the other side. I decided to purchase this item and made cookies the day after returning home. Like all my cooking adventures, this was less than perfect but still fun. The Gingerdead Men made the darkness more fun.

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I enjoy the darkness as a time to stay inside with family and contemplate a great many things. I dread the darkness as a time to be trapped inside while it is cold, wet and dark outside. I enjoy the darkness as a canvas for lights and revelry. I dread the darkness as a time when depression tries to take me.

We are coming up on Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) and I think of All Souls Day. This is an interesting day when the living pray for the souls of those departed to get them into Heaven (if they are not yet there). Interesting to think that we could have such power to pray our loved ones into Heaven. I’d like to think that when we depart all becomes new and forgiven and we go to the place we belong within the divine no longer of ourselves but one with the divine until such time comes to be mortal (into the darkness) once again.

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a little more Martha than Mary

When Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha, Martha welcomed him. Her sister, Mary, sat at his feet and listened to him while Martha was “distracted by all her many tasks.” Yes, I imagine woman’s work in biblical times was quite a distraction. We have no idea how much time it would take to cook and clean without electricity. I have great respect for Martha. The laundry isn’t going to wash itself. I also have great respect for Mary. She chose to forego her woman’s work and, instead, sit and listen to what Jesus had to say. I wonder if Martha was listening from the other room? When I am working in the kitchen working I can still hear what is being said in the other room. I can choose to holler out my two-cents if I so desire.

I’d like to think that if a holy person visited my home I would want to do nothing but sit and talk with him. Truthfully, I probably would want to feed him and offer him something to drink. I am comfortable in the kitchen where I do much of my woman’s work. This is something I have learned when the power goes out and I have nothing to do because I can’t turn on the oven and I should leave the fridge closed. This is reinforced when I go on vacation and the kitchen belongs to another woman and she doesn’t really need any help. Am I really so lost without my kitchen? I do prefer being hostess to being guest. I’d rather help the hostess in the kitchen that sit in the other room and chat.

I recognize that I am a little more Martha then Mary. Perhaps this if funny since I studied religion in college and then bailed out of graduate school because I didn’t want to become a part of a system that perpetuates itself. I didn’t want to study holiness. I wanted to become more holy. I’m not sure that I have succeeded in that since having left graduate school almost twenty years ago. I am trying. Instead of studying texts and discussing them with students I am caring for the elderly that are slowly losing their minds. I work in the world of dementia but these lost old souls still remember songs. Tending to the sick and the old is work that is never done. Nursing is work that is never done. Everyday woman’s work (cooking, cleaning, laundry) is work that is never done.

Poor Martha didn’t know what she was missing while she was so busy with her woman’s work and irritated with her sister. She even asked Jesus to tell her sister to help her! How must she have felt when he told her that Mary had chosen wisely. I imagine Martha wondering who was going to get all the work done with everyone sitting around talking all the time. I imagine Mary wondering why Martha was worried about daily tasks while Jesus was visiting. Somewhere between the two is the place to be. Perhaps we can all sit in the kitchen to talk and once in a while I will get up to check on dinner or throw another log on the fire. Perhaps, while I am up, I can offer everyone another beer and fill up the bowl of chips.

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thoughts on desire, compassion and the Dalai Lama

I have great desire to see the Dalai Lama in person before I die. Sometimes my desire to see him is so great that it brings me to tears when I discover that he is going to be in another state speaking and I will not be able to attend. I didn’t see him last time he came to the west coast. I didn’t see him when he came to Washington D.C. for the Kalachakra for World Peace.  Several months ago I discovered that the Dalai Lama would be speaking in Colorado this October.

Compassion in Action: The Colorado Teachings of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. This will occur October 20-21 and includes a festival of Tibet. There is a Tibetan Association of Colorado and many Tibetans live there in exile.

I decided it was time to go see him speak to fulfill my desire.

We bought plane tickets ahead of time to get a good price. Ticket sales to see the Dalai Lama started a few weeks later. The web site was so saturated with people who shared my desire that most tickets were sold after about half an hour and the website crashed. I didn’t try to get tickets until I got home from work. The all day tickets were all sold out by then. The website notified us that more tickets would be available the following week. I was upset but accepted the fact that I may not get tickets. I even thought maybe I am not meant to see him this time. Maybe there are others who need to see him more than I do.

The next week I set my alarm to get up early and be ready to buy tickets. The website was unavailable most of the first hour but eventually I was able to get on the site.  I tried to get tickets. I tried every possible ticket combination for seat locations and time of day. The ticket site kept telling me it was sorry but was unable to find tickets.  Later in the evening the website notified us that it had crashed again that morning (even after updating the server or whatever) due to overwhelming demand. Tickets were all gone but a few in limited view remained. I tried to get them. They were gone.

So many of us want to see him…we desire to see him so much that we kept crashing the website trying to get on and get the tickets. We may suffer in our desire as it will not be fulfilled. The website suggested we consider ourselves honored to be among those who want to see him. I can hear, read and know the message of the Dalai Lama without seeing him with my own eyes and hearing him with my own ears and being in the same room with him. I know that truth is truth even if I never get to see him. I should be happy for those who are fortunate enough to see him…to those lucky enough to make it through the crashed websites to get tickets. Luck of the draw, really. Or is it fate? I do still desire to see him. Strangely, it is a calm desire. I am not even freaking out. I accept the things I cannot change (sometimes).

We will still go to Colorado. Between now and then I will keep searching for tickets. I accept that it is not likely I will find tickets. I will be happy to go visit a new place and meet new friends. I will be happy to be in the same area with the Dalai Lama. I wonder if he will walk by so we can just see him? I wonder if I reach out my hand and touch his gown, will I be healed? I am not saying he is divine necessarily but, he has such compassion that it must just pour out of him. My desire is that maybe if I see him I will become more compassionate – that something inside me will change because it will recognize the thing inside him.

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obsession with kombucha

Kombucha. I started to hear about it within the past year. One of our friends was drinking it to help his guts. Maybe even the hippie doctor (rather than the doc-in-the-box) told him to drink it. I don’t recall now how he got the idea. After this brief introduction several months ago kombucha slipped from my mind.

Kombucha returned when a friend from work was talking about drinking it. She said it had probiotics and explained that it was fermented tea. She briefly explained the brewing process:  brew the sweet tea, let it cool, add some kombucha from your last batch, add the scoby, let it ferment for 7 days or so. Repeat.

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One day, she brought a sample of her kombucha. It was raspberry. It was a heavenly sweet (but not too sweet) vinegary raspberry tea. Toward the end of the night I said, “If no one else is going to drink the rest of that I’m going to drink it.” The sample was for all of us but some was left unclaimed. My friend recommended I  go for it. She also offered to bring me a scoby. A scoby? OK. At the time I had no idea what a scoby was but if I needed it to brew kombucha I definitely would like to have one.

When I got home that night I looked on the internet for brewing kombucha. I learned what a scoby was:  SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). I read about how to make kombucha and how to grow your own scoby. Mine is a slow go on the counter right now so I am glad my friend did bring me a scoby a few weeks later. Also, it was fun to see people asking “What is THAT?” and pointing to a floating pancake mushroom-thing in a jar.

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After that first encounter with kombucha I developed an obsession to get some and drink it. I found some at the local market and at the food co-op. I started stopping to get one nearly every day. I felt as though if I did not get a kombucha I would freak out. I was glad to receive a scoby and start making my own as it will be much more cost effective.

Here’s what happens when you are obsessed with kombucha:

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Just the other day my first batch finished carbonating and I placed the bottles in the fridge. After waiting a while I drank some. It was tasty and fizzy, infused with raspberry. I have the next batch on the counter, this time I will infuse with ginger and raspberry before bottling.

 

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If you want to brew kombucha at home I recommend getting a scoby from a friend and looking at thekitchn.com (how to make kombucha tea at home) for instructions. Worked for me.

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strawberry cheesecake bars

A little over a year ago I made strawberry cheesecake bars for a graduation party. Apparently they were memorable as I have had requests to make them again and to divulge the recipe. I’ve noticed it doesn’t count if I rattle off the recipe from memory or say, “it’s easy, you just make basic cheesecake bars and then add some jam and spread it around.” No. The people want the recipe. They want to see it.

My problem with recipes is that I almost always alter something…or I try something to make it better. The recipe I was working from really is just a basic recipe but it called for a nut crust. I don’t make nut crusts (my people would not want to eat nut crust). I made graham cracker crust instead. Note to people making this:  if you have time let your crust cool before you top with filling and bake. I think doing this will result in a firmer crust.

The original recipe called for making the filling without the jam and serving with fruit. I decided I would just use my strawberry freezer jam and spread it with a knife in a way that was pleasing to the eye. Then the bars already have fruit.

Just recently when I made these bars I started around one in the afternoon and had to have them done by around three for a barbecue. Lucky for me we decided to be fashionably late so I got to leave them in the freezer for about 45 minutes before cutting the bars. In order to get them to lie flat in my chest freezer I had to move items around to make a flat space and try not to let a giant ice cream cake slide out of its container. They were able to rest on top of the ice cream cake and one small package of ribs. I also held my breath when closing the lid.

After cutting the bars and placing in a container with a lid I placed them in the beer cooler and waited several hours before serving. I think they are excellent chilled.

This recipe is adapted from a basic cheesecake bar recipe found on allrecipes.

Recipe: Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • about 9 heaping spoonfuls of strawberry jam(I use my freezer jam)

Preheat oven to 350. Make graham cracker crust by mixing 2 cups graham crackers, melted butter and sugar. Pat into pan (I sprayed mine with cooking spray). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and cool for a bit. (I used a 9 x 13 pan so my bars were thin…adjust to your liking.)

To make filling beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then mix in lemon juice, milk, egg and vanilla. Pour on top of cooled crust (or slightly cooled crust). Spread out evenly. Evenly space the heaping spoonfuls of strawberry jam (9 or so) then spread out with a knife so it looks good.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes then let cool on wire rack. Start checking after 20 minutes.

To speed cooling place in freezer. (Like if you are in a hurry and have to make it to a barbecue.) Cut up and enjoy.

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thoughts on feminism and woman’s work

One day when I was at work, late in the evening, I was in the office charting and listening to the nursing assistants talking in the hall. Something was said about getting a strong guy to do something manly like moving heavy objects. Then one of the young women (I’m guessing she was around twenty years old) said, “What about a strong girl?” Then she said something that got my attention:  she said, “I’m not a feminist but, …” I am not sure what she said after she denied being a feminist. I was somewhat shocked.

That’s when I started to feel a bit older, much older than her. This young woman (girl, perhaps) is not a “feminist” because she doesn’t have to be. Other women (and men) already did the work for her. She can go to school, go to work and vote without fighting for the right to do so. She can live without being connected to a man. She can live on her own is she so chooses. She probably has no idea what it means to be a feminist, or what it meant. I don’t even really know. I had choices when I was born.

This reminded me of a time in my feminist theology class when one of the women in the class made a point about how things might be different if women still stayed home. At the time I was young and feisty and thought her comment stupid. I thought: but YOU are HERE getting a college education and not at home taking care of the house and the children. Of course, she probably lived in the dorm and did not yet have a man or any children. Maybe she was just making a point. Maybe she was just at the university to find a husband.

Now that I am older (by about twenty years) I think things would be different if one parent stayed home. Staying home to take care of the home and the children is valuable work. It is important work. There is nothing anti-feminist about doing woman’s work. I do woman’s work everyday and it is a mostly thankless job. I even do woman’s work at work since I am a nurse.

I was fortunate in that my mother stayed home until I was around eight years old. I ate real food, food that my mother cooked. She cooked, cleaned, canned and worked in the garden. She was a homemaker. This is important, valuable work. The older I get the more I think I may be of the last generation of women, in this country, who learned to cook from their mothers. One example I have of this is a young woman’s statement. She was eighteen when she stated:  “we don’t know how to cook it.” She was talking about chicken. Yes. Chicken. I was speechless. I decided the poor girl needed a Betty Crocker cookbook as a reference manual. If you can’t ask your mom what to do you can always ask Betty.

The never ending jobs of dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning are woman’s work. Who is going to do it if the women don’t? Maybe the men, maybe the children. Maybe the dishes will just keep piling up in the sink and the kids will just go buy cheeseburgers. The dishes will still be there tomorrow. Caring for people and feeding people is important work. Keeping the house clean is important work. This work is just as important as “going to work.” Woman’s work will always be there. You don’t have to go anywhere to find it, all you have to do is get out of bed.

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Note to the people who pile dishes in the sink:

See the sponge? YOU can wash the dishes! See the dishwasher (mysterious appliance next to the sink)? YOU can rinse your dishes and put them in there!

 

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red, white and blueberry bars

(aka, God-Bless-America-Red-White-and-Blueberry Bars)

The official name of these bars is: God-Bless-America-Red-White-and-Blueberry Bars. This is a long name and may not be favored by all so I have shortened it to simply: red, white and blueberry bars. This name is just as explanatory, although, being made for the 4th of July the longer name is fun to repeat over and over at barbecues and parties.

I made these bars on a hot afternoon on the 4th of July after watching the annual 4th of July parade. At the parade I saw draft horses, log trucks, tractors, old fire trucks, flags and tributes to fallen soldiers. Some of the fallen soldiers died young. Younger than me. I get to live, watch the parade and make these berry bars for people to consume at parties while celebrating the independence of this country. I’m glad I went to the parade. On the 4th of July we are celebrating more than drinking beer and shooting off fireworks.

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This recipe is adapted from a basic berry bar recipe found on allrecipes for blueberry crumb bars. I changed the sugar to include brown sugar and increased by 1/2 cup. I changed shortening (which I never use) to unsalted butter. I used cardamom instead on cinnamon in the crust/crumble. My only regret is that the red, white and blue is not clear in the finished product. I think when I make them again I will adjust for this and use less crumb topping. The bars are tasty, regardless.

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While the bars were cooling I did crafts in the garage to create a patriotic display including flags, pinwheels and a blue solo cup. I did this while the dogs were resting on the concrete in the garage. The dogs were hot and panting. Amazingly, I was drinking iced tea instead of beer for most of the afternoon.

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Recipe:  Red, White and Blueberry Bars

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or slightly less)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch cardamom (or cinnamon) – optional
  • 2 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips (approx)

Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Cut in unsalted butter and egg with pastry blender. Dough will be crumbly. Pat in about 2/3 dough to prepared pan (9×13). Reserve the rest for the top.

In another bowl mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tsp corn starch. Add raspberries. When well mixed spread over crust. Add blueberries and white chocolate chips. (I also tossed in a few more frozen raspberries). Cover with remaining dough for crumb topping.

Bake in preheated oven at 375 for about 45 minutes or until top is slightly brown. Check at 35 minutes. Cool before cutting into squares. Place in awesome display. Enjoy.

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God Needed a Kitten

I didn’t hear her meowing in the morning. I didn’t see her sleeping on the pillow that sits on the chair. I didn’t hear her batting her toy down the hall. When I opened the door to check on the dogs the kitten should have been there, balancing on the rail, looking in the window and trying to get back in. Her absence made the outside feel empty.

DC Jody was a kitten on her way to being a cat. She was still eating kitten food but was at the cocky-teenager-stage of kittenhood. She was about six months old, more or less. She had been living with us since I found her outside the grocery store in January. We didn’t let her go outside until after she was spayed. At first, she was terrified of the outside and ran back in whenever possible. Slowly, she got used to the outside. The dogs loved it when she came out. She was a little black creature they could follow around and sniff. She liked the dogs, too. I think they will miss her, especially Max. Max also came to us in January and he played with DC Jody every day.

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Originally, DC Jody was just DC (DAMN CAT). A while later one of the kids started calling her Jody. It stuck, somewhat, although I often still called her DC. That is why I now refer to her as DC Jody. She was a little black kitty, all black with black whiskers. She liked to attack everything, including humans and dogs. She liked to jump on the counter, the table and the windowsill. She liked to attack the grass skirt that is still lying on the floor with no little black kitty to attack it.

DC Jody liked to climb in the fruit trees outside but, she wasn’t very graceful getting down and sometimes she just fell out. When she was outside she would hang out with the dogs. Much to our dismay, we kept finding DC Jody in the front yard. We kept sending her to the back…but she was able to climb under the gate or jump over the fence.

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The road is what got her as it got Oscar a little over a year ago now. Well, it wasn’t the road but a car on the road and her lack of fear for this car. She is now buried next to Oscar. Oscar was buried before she was born. Oscar also met an untimely death at only six years old. Maybe if we had kept the cats trapped in the house all the time they would still be alive. But, what kind of a life would that be? Could you imaging to never touch the grass or lie in the sun? I could never do that to the cats.

Perhaps we were caretakers for this little black creature until God needed her back. God must have really needed a kitten to take her so soon. Instead of being surrounded by human (and canine) love she is now surrounded by God. I take comfort in that but, I miss her. We all miss her. I hope she is next to Oscar in kitty-heaven, too.

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