Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Blessings of Friends, Family and Food

Hello, everyone!  I know that it has been quite a while since I posted.  Simply put, I was just not feeling it, and why write if you aren't feeling it?  It would certainly be boring and most likely not interesting.

If you are concerned about how my uncle might be doing since I last posted, I talked to him yesterday.  He sounded like himself again.  I went to visit him a week after he left the hospital (he was in the ICU for high blood sugar, muscle breakdown, kidney failure, and pneumonia), and he seemed week and depressed.  I knew it was going to take him a while to get better physically, but I was especially concerned about his depression.  I think it has something to do with forming a new relationship with food.  I helped my grandmother make grocery lists that were diabetic-friendly, and I also found a PDF that included the dietary values of over 40 different fast food restaurants.  I know what you're thinking; fast food is NOT healthy.  However, one can make better choices at typically any fast food place, and my uncle needs to learn about those better choices because he travels for 100% of his job.

Before I left my grandmother's house, I went up to his room and talked to him about food a little.  This seemed to just make him more depressed.  I found out that he seemed to think that he could never eat his favorite foods again (pizza, potatoes, chips, etc.).  I told him that everything was fine in moderation.  Previously, he was eating pizza at least three times a week.  So, he is now working on limiting the foods he likes that might not be so good for him.  As I left his room, I told him that I don't want to ban any foods and that I am on his side.  That cheered him up and he smiled a little.  I'm proud of how hard he is trying.

So speaking of food.  Lately, I have found cooking to be calming, relaxing, and, in general, a mindless activity.  Well, I shouldn't really say mindless.  You have to think about what you are doing.  I guess the correct thing to say would be that it takes your mind off other things.  Gives the old noggin a break.

Today I cooked braised short ribs marinated in wine and select vegetables.  While this was cooking in the oven for two hours, I sauteed a simple squash recipe (which was really supposed to be zucchini, but the grocery store didn't seem to have any).  The ingredients for the squash stir-fry are in the photo above.  Alex had baked Matzo bread that morning, and this is what our late night meal turned out to be:

Sorry... not a really great picture, but you get the idea.

This morning, I went to work for another food get-together with my friends.  It was Mary's last night as a nurse extern, and we were celebrating her extern-ness and the fact that she was staying on with us as a patient care tech until she graduates from nursing school.  Go Mary!  I'm so proud of you.  We had a smorgasbord of food, and had a lot of fun, intermittently interrupted by bed alarms.  I had never tried chicken and waffles together before, but now I understand the appeal.  We also had fruit, cupcakes and other select desserts, and several toppings to go on the waffles.

Now, for my final topic.  (I know--I just want to talk and talk and talk... but I have wanted to talk about so many things at once that I didn't know how to start!  Maybe that is why I have avoided writing.)  This past month, I have been blessed to spend time with some smart, talented, and all-around fun girls.  The four of them are gradually moving into adolescence at different levels, and I have loved having chats with them.  I think I had forgotten what it is like to grow up.  A lot of adults think that most childhood concerns are trivial, but just if you're reading, just think about how being labeled as "trivial" might have affected the person you are now.  If you think about it that way, I think that pretty much NOTHING is trivial in childhood, especially if you are bridging from childhood to tween, or from tween to teen.

So, I would like to brag about four girls that I have gotten to spend time with in July.  Here are my treasured teen and tween friends.


Now, I know she probably looks a little scary in this picture, but I took this one of her when we were just about to go into the laser tag arena.  (And no, I am not ashamed of playing laser tag at age 25.)  I think that this picture is totally awesome.  Kelly is quite mature for her age, and she has had to be.  I spent the day with her at Funopolis, and when we sat down for lunch (pizza and fries... YES), she told me about how many surgeries she had been through already, and that she might have to go for one more.  I think that having to be brave has made her wise beyond her years, and I know what you might be thinking.  Sometimes advanced maturity has its pitfalls, but with Kelly, her overall good nature takes the better of the maturity.  I'm glad to know this girl and I admire her.

Tesse (aka Boo-Boo)

Tesse is my first cousin on my Dad's side.  Her Dad (my uncle) was the one who was in the ICU for a couple of days.  Due to the circumstances, her Mom let her come with us to Pennsylvania for the week of July 4th.  Tesse is extremely smart.  She channels her ingenuity through arts and crafts.  Some of her drawings are just fantastic.  I hope she gets to go to art school someday.  She also loves animals.  (The dog in the picture is Clover, a mischievous year-and-a-half old chocolate lab puppy.)

Samantha (aka Sam-Sam)

Sam-Sam is my oldest first cousin (on my Mom's side).  I remember what she was like when she was a baby.  Sam is quite reserved, but when she shares her heart with you, it is beautiful.  She is going into high school this year, and she wants to go to vocational school and study cosmetology.  I enjoyed being with her because she is in that delightful transition phase from tween to teen.  She is obsessed with boys, especially Justin Bieber.  I don't know if she knows this (and she would probably be aggravated with me if she did know), but I stepped into the doorway of her room while we were there and looked around.  (Don't worry... I didn't touch anything, Sam.)  Her room made me smile.  Scattered across the room were favorite stuffed animals.  She still has a few dolls around, but then on the right side of her room are three giant posters of (who else?) Justin Bieber, right next to a movie poster of "Charlotte's Web."  Sam's growing up.  Soon enough, she will be going to college and I will be thinking, "Where has the time gone?  Where did my baby cousin go?"

Katlin (aka Bubbles)

There is a reason Katlin is called "Bubbles."  She has practically been talking since she was born.  Not in a rambling, chattering sort of way.  She just speaks her mind, and most of it is pretty darn hilarious.  What I respect about Katlin the most is that while she gets a lot of flack for speaking her mind, she never complains about being picked on.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't take that when I was her age, but it doesn't phase her.  She likes the attention.  I don't think she has ever felt the pressure to stop the constant flow of thoughts from her head.

Well, those are the girls!  I love each of them.  H.A.G.S.!  (It stands for "have a good summer."  I learned that from looking at my cousins' yearbooks.)

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