Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tsunami Warning


     There is a Tsunami warning coming.  I can feel it in my gut.  A feeling I don't like causing anxiety to grip my core wanting me to flee.  Higher ground, higher ground!  

     Tsunami:  I looked up some synonyms:  Interesting what applies to me:

             breakup  cataclysm  choppiness  climax  convulsion  disaster  heave  

             paroxysm  popple  quake  rise  roll  scend  spasm  surge   swell   temblor

                             tidal wave   undulation   upheaval   whitecaps

     Oh yes I can feel it coming and I am not prepared emotionally for this.   I am in fear of what is to come even though I know I should do as I said and take it one step at a time.

     Mother.  I have visions of the Tsunami happening.  The earthquake has happened, the facts  have been given, the diagnosis presented.  Like my earth has been rocked even though I knew in my heart what was wrong with her it still resonates all around me.  Accept, acknowledge, pretend you are fine, trust the actions in place.  "Everything is fine" she keeps saying, "I am just fine" she keeps saying, "The doctors say I am alright" she keeps saying.  Over and over I hear this in every phone call to me.  

     And now the water is receding...the information shared, sinking in slowly. Wondering.
How long before the huge wave comes back to drown me?

     I have been told by her doctors she knows what is wrong with herself but she is in denial or does not fully grasp the gravity for her life.   Initially all this was laid out and explained to my brother and I.   I  had to read more to understand and let it sink in.  I didn't see all that I had read about FTD in relation to my mom or as yet to be.  

     FTD:  Frontotemporal Dementia:  A cluster of progressive diseases that affect the regions of the brain that control personality, behavior, language and decision-making.

     Of late I have had talks with multiple physicians, her lawyer, business partners, those who have helped my mom in other areas and I feel so overwhelmed.  I felt my mom had a great safety net around her that she and my dad, while he was alive, put together.  Yet now I feel I am being asked to deal more directly and I am scared.  What care does she need?  Is she fine with the way things have been?  Do we trust everyone?  When do we need to tighten the safety net?

     She has been taken advantage of.  We found that out of recent.  An obscene amount of money to an alteration lady.  Someone I have known from many years ago who even altered my daughters prom dresses.  Someone who smiled and was kind and friendly.  Someone I would not have thought could become untrustworthy.  Or did she just get sucked in by my mom and her generosity, who didn't want to disappoint this client by saying no to the extra cash that came her way?  I want to call her, see her and ask her this.  For now we are doing one step at a time to protect her.  Still wondering how to navigate that ocean.

     I can feel my Calm Forte working, feel my anxiety ebbing slowly.  I may need to take two but I only took one.  I can't let the anxiety eat me.   I have to stop the gripping of my gut that is scratching at my insides.  I can get a breath in without the pain of fear.  Fear is the devil.

      I have to meet with another man who wants donations from my mom.  An act she started over a year ago and of course him being a major fundraiser he is doing his job to woo her for this.  I called him on on my own, without her knowledge to act in her behalf though I am sure with her present state of mind would be angry as a cornered cat if she knew.  I tried to explain to him what my mom has, asked him if he ever heard of it, told him she cannot do what he would like her to do.  Host a party for 30 to 40 people for the purpose of soliciting donations.  Like sharks circling they are waiting, and waiting for the moment to attack.  I am more than happy to meet him, to see him face to face, to hope in the meantime he looks up FTD and understands my concerns.   Of course I will stand firm that he fish for a new location for his gathering.  My mom cannot do this.  Oh she would try because this is what she use to do.  She was the Queen of fundraising!  She could cajole a person so easily and before they knew what had happened.  She could get anyone to do to her bidding.  She was good, that good.

     To be honest...I have always been scared of my mom.  Age has not helped or changed a thing.  I was the one who could not say "yes" or "no" when she asked to go somewhere, do something because I was afraid to speak up for myself.  Yes, many times I did want to do or go with her but a whole heck of a lot of times I didn't.  My whole family would go because of my fear if I said no.  Why oh why did I not stand up to her so long ago?  Now I am quaking in my shoes to have to deal with her life, the web that I don't know how to navigate, the places I have NEVER been allowed into.  My mom a woman of secrets who trusts no one.  I do believe this...for if they went against her then they are GONE from her life.  Dumped, shunned, uninvited.  Done deal.  Being the family well I would be yelled at or made to feel as bad as she could and she did know how to push my buttons.  Really well.  What now though?  Verbally she can't speak like she use to.  The tone will be there.  I need to find that thick skinned suit to put on.  Why am I shaking right now?


  I need another Calm Forte.  I need peace.  I need strength.  I need confidence.  I need a hug from my Love.






Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Best Tasting Yogurt!

     After I wrote about our honeymoon to Europe and the delicious Greek yogurt I had on Corfu I wanted to try and make yogurt again.  I say again because I have had several yogurt makers since then, have enjoyed making it and eating it but then it was pushed to the back of the cabinet not used and eventually given away.  

     I went online Googled in Yogurt Makers, researched, read recipes, researched more and finally bought the Waring Pro YM350 Professional Yogurt Maker from Amazon.  I choose it because of the good reviews and the ability to use different size containers in the unit.  I could even use other containers than the ones that came with it if I wanted.  

     The first time I used Greek Yogurt as my starter since I wanted to try to duplicate the flavor and texture that I remembered on Corfu.  I bought some Fage whole milk yogurt and let it Mature for 10 hours.  It was smooth and ever so creamy but did have a distinct flavor that was more tangy than I was wanting.  The next time I let it Mature for 8 hours.  This time it was more thin and less creamy with the tangy flavor.

    The third time I decided to use Brown Cow brand yogurt for my starter.  I had read that to make a good yogurt it should have Live Active Cultures in it.  The Brown Cow brand has four:  S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L.acidophilus, and Bifidus.  Fage only had two live cultures.  You need to use a whole milk yogurt as a starter as well.  No substitution of lowfat or nonfat.  Also no flavored or ones with sweeteners of any kind.  Buy the best one you can.  Read the labels.

     So why four active are better than two?  Here is a reason from :

Researchers around the world are studying the potential attributes of live and active culture yogurt in preventing gastrointestinal infections, boosting the body's immune system, fighting certain types of cancer and preventing osteoporosis. More research must be done to establish a definitive link between live and active culture yogurt and these health effects, but the results to date are encouraging.
Additionally, the live and active cultures found in yogurt break down lactose in milk. This allows lactose intolerant individuals who commonly experience gastrointestinal discomfort when they consume milk products to eat yogurt and receive the nutrients contained in the milk product without the side effects of abdominal cramping, bloating and diarrhea.

   So on to how I make perfect yogurt!

   You need to use a saucepan that will hold at least 6 quarts.

    Add 4 3/4 cups 1% milk in the saucepan over medium heat.  You will need to stir frequently so you don't burn the milk at the bottom of the saucepan and also to keep from creating a skin on top of the milk.  

     The milk needs to be heated to 185 degrees, which is before boiling.  You do not want to bring it to a boil.  I use this nifty gadget that I can use in the saucepan to tell me when it comes exactly to 185 degrees while I am stirring.  This takes about 15 minutes to come to this temperature.

   Once it comes to 185 degrees you take it off the heat.  You now will let it cool to 110 degrees.  This will take about 35 minutes or so.  I pour the milk into my bowl that has a pouring spout on one side of it to cool in.  

     While the milk is cooling I get my next two ingredients ready.   You will need 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of Nonfat Dry Milk and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of your  yogurt starter (my choice Brown Cow whole plain yogurt).  Once you have made your first batch of yogurt you use your own yogurt as the starter.  I read that every so many batches you should start with a fresh starter.  I haven't done this to date so I am not sure why you need to do this.  

     This is my homemade yogurt that I made and use for the starter...isn't it yummy looking? 

     This is the nonfat dry milk ready to be used and the yogurt too.  

     Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees I whisk in the dry milk till it is fully blended.  Then I take some of the milk and add it to my waiting starter yogurt.  I don't want to shock the cold yogurt with the warm milk.  I whisk it to blend and then add to the bowl.

     I whisk till it is fully blended.  You don't want any unblended yogurt or the dry milk.

     Now you pour the blend into your cups.  You can see the two sizes of cups that the Waring comes with.  You do not put the lids on top during the maturing.

     You place the cups in the unit and cover with the dome lid.  As you can see I set mine for 10 hours.  The unit will beep once when it is done.  Take the freshly made yogurt out and place the lids on top and put them in the fridge.  For a new taste try it is just as good warm as cold but don't warm once it has been in the can't do that...only when you first take it out.

     You can use whole, 1%, 2% milk is your choice but we drink 1%  and we don't need all the fat.  This tastes so smooth and creamy with no tang which is how we like it.   Your starter should not be older than 5 days old.  If it is start with a fresh one the next time you make a batch.

     Okay I know you can't see that delicious yogurt hidden under the granola and blueberries but it is my current favorite lunch!  I can't wait till fresh summer blueberries or fresh peaches are out to put on top so for now I am using organic frozen blueberries from Costco.   I do need a homemade granola recipe...any out there?

      Oh and with this I like to have this yummy bread from Trader Joe's.....

     It is a huge half loaf that is just so good!  Not that I eat it all...I cut the loaf in half and then slice a smaller slice off.

     If you ever thought of making your own yogurt do it.  I simply will not be able to buy commercial ever again except when I need a new starter.  This tastes nothing like what you buy in a store.  Even the expensive ones or the organic ones and it costs a lot less to do your own.  There are no added sugars, sweeteners, colors or pectin.  If you want to add your own flavors you can do that yourself with what you want.  The choices are yours but you won't regret it.   

     I do start this process in the morning as it does take about 11 hours from start to finish.  If you do it at night start making it late.  Once I did it in the evening and it was done at 4:30 am.  You do not want to have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to take the yogurt out.

    Happy Yogurt making!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring in the foothills of Mt. Diablo...


     My love and I went on a hike the other day.  It was a glorious blue sky day, not a cloud to be seen, and the air so fresh and light.  We took our water, almonds and cashews mix, brought our pups and headed off on some new trails we had not hiked on before.  


     Two horseback riders were ahead of us which made me miss my horses and going trail riding.  To feel the rocking motion of my horse and hear the squeaky sound my saddle would make on a ride.  The sound of my horse snorting as she would breath in the smell of green grass.  She would try to grab a mouthful of that sweet grass from time to time.  I couldn't blame her since it is so enticing as a breeze waves it's aroma to us.  This time of year she would have been full of the beans as I called it.  Wanting to get moving and not walk along. I would feel those powerful muscles under me, contained by my talking to her and holding her back till the right time where I would squeeze my legs and cluck to her, the okay to move out and into a trot or a canter.  That sensation I will never forget nor my desire to ride.  

     My Love always walks faster than me.  I am slow, stopping often to look around and take pictures.  I like to look at him ahead, seeing Annie our Golden see what is ahead on the trail.  Annie whose tail is plumed out waving like a flag, her tongue lolling out.  She is so happy on these hikes.  She hugs his side looking up at him her leader.  They stop every so often to see where I am on the trail.  Little Stewie and I going at our own pace catching up to them to enjoy the views.  

     At the top is this huge Oak tree.  No sign of leaves as yet and I think about how beautiful it will be when it is all leafed out in the weeks to come.  It is all alone at the top of this rise, majestically standing for us to admire.  

     To my right I see Mt. Diablo cloaked in green.  It won't last long this green as the warm sunny days to come will quickly turn it to golden brown.  For now we admire how it looks and think of Ireland when we were there years ago and how green the hills were.  I wish it would stay green all year!

     The poppies are just coming out and soon there will be so many to see on these hills.  

     As we are hiking along I realize I have ridden these trails on horseback.  I just had come from a different direction.  It feels and looks different walking on 
the ground versus on the back of a horse.  Our trail we are on now is narrow and some parts are muddy.  Stewie takes the high side of the rise above the trail to stay out of the mud.  I notice Annie's underbelly coat has gotten muddy as well as her feet and I am glad we have a towel in the car.  

     I love the shadows the trees cast down the slope of the hill.  The wild mustard is rising up with their small little yellow flowers dappling the hills.  Soon they will be quite tall and the flowers abundant.  I wonder when the cows will be grazing on the hills.  They have had the cows graze here for fire protection though the cows trample and leave their huge cow pies everywhere.  For now it is virgin.  Many parts of the trails we walk on have clover with purple flowers under our feet.  

     There are Buckeye trees with there leaves filling in.  I hope that the next time we come up their white flowers will be on them.  I just wish they would stay green all year rather than lose their leaves midsummer.  They are such beautiful trees.  We had one at our previous home and our girls loved to climb up the trunk of the tree and perch on it's limbs.  

     I love these rolling hills!  We hear all the birds singing around us.  We pass just a few people and another horseback rider.  All are happy today and smiling as we exchange greetings.  The walkers pet the pups and those with dogs stop for puppy greetings as well.  Lots of tail wagging.


     We see Shell Ridge, it's undulating rounded tops that my photo can't capture all of.  We think it looks like a Stegosaurus dinosaur back.

     Our hike ended up being 6 miles.  We didn't plan to be on that long a hike but with it being so pretty it would be worth the soreness in our legs in days to come.  The pups would sleep well that night as well as us.  

     I told my Love that night that I would dream of riding on my horse Banner on the trails I had gone on so many times.  I wanted to remember all the sights and sounds you hear while out by myself.  I wanted to feel a canter on the trail and feel the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face.  I wanted to feel my seat in the saddle.  I wanted to talk as I use to to my horse who I shared so many secrets, dreams, and tears.  To feel my arms around my horses's neck as I would lean over my saddle, run my fingers through her long mane, breathe her in.  Dream....happy trails....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Renoir loved curves

     With the sunshine coming....I just realized bathing suit season will be just around the corner.....

     I like that Renoir loved curves in his painting...I think I would have fit in better in his time.  I wouldn't have felt so at odds with the softness of the body through the years.   I think all fashion shows and magazines should start focusing on hiring the Renoir Woman!  A body with some curves...yes!   Stop the hiring of young teens to wear those couture for grown women.  They are that shape because they are teens and still growing.  They haven't had a few kids to soften their lean bodies.  Breasts still high and firm.  Give them a couple of kids who have breastfed and see if they could still be offered a job.   I find it appalling that these young girls are being displayed in the way they are.   Sensuously posed in ways that they couldn't even understand.  How could their mothers agree to this?  

     Let's see...summer will be here in how many months?  I think curves with a tan look great.

Friday, March 12, 2010


     This has been a hell of a week so far.  This was the week of my birthday and there were good parts of the day and there were hard parts of the day.   Yesterday was just as tough.  Why?  
     It has come to our family's attention that my mom is not well.    Without going into a long detailed account, my mom has a type of Dementia / Alzheimer's  that is overwhelming for me to accept and yet I have no choice but to do this.  I don't want it to be, I don't want to accept this.  I want life to be normal.  I want my mom to be like other people's moms and just age gracefully and with all the dignity possible.  Because my mom is a Southern Belle who expects to be treated as Miss Scarlet like in Gone With the Wind.  For right or wrong this has been her way of living.  She has trod on her family at times and she has been wonderful to each of us as well.    I don't always like her but I do love her.  It seems grossly unfair that life should repeat itself as my Nan, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the late 1970's.  She died in 1991.  These were the women who raised my brother and I. 

     The act of mothering....

     I look at this photo of my mom holding me and I see her eyes looking at me so intently.  I wonder what she is thinking.  It is my Christening day and I am in a dress that I have in a drawer in my bedroom now.  A while batiste dress with lace inserts on the front and on the sleeves,  handmade by someone though I don't know who.   When my mom gave this dress to me some years ago, I didn't realize that it was my Christening dress.  After all, the dress I was told was the family Christening gown, the one my daughters had their photographs taken in, was not in the end the one my brother or I ever wore.  This dress now yellowed with age, it's hem that has been let out and is frayed has been a mystery in it's history as well as the other dress.  When I began transferring old slides to digital I found such wonders of my childhood as well as my brother's.  Images that I have no story of.

     My father is absent from this day.  I don't know where he is but I must assume that it was because of his being in the Military and not able to be there.  I was brought back to my mom's home town of Selma, Alabama to the First Presbyterian Church, the same church my parents were wed in.  I look like I was being a good baby and my mom looks serene.  I wish she was smiling.  I wish she was smiling and hugging me letting that dress wrinkle and not be concerned with keeping me neat and tidy.  Am I fresh from a nap?  Is this before or after my debut in the church?  

     Then there is my Nan holding me.  This is the way I remember her.  Smiling and being cheerful.  My dear Nan who had to mother and father her daughter when her husband died when my mom was a young girl.  Who still had to mother her grandchildren while my mom worked or went out with her friends.  

      It must have been hard to do it all.  To raise a daughter who could be so self-centered and wanting,  always wanting more for her life.  My Nan the stable, calm woman who gave up so much for her daughter and her family.  Did she feel that my mom needed more help since my dad was gone so much when my brother and I were little?  Did she feel that because her husband died while my mom was so young that my mother needed to be always kept happy and spoiled to make up for that loss?  I will never know. My mom was never one to want to tell too many stories of our family.   I know so little about my father's family.  I have no names or addresses of his side of the family.  I only know that he was an only child just like my mom.  There were no other kin for my brother or I to grow up with or get to know.  There are so many stories that are buried in the Live Oak Cemetery in Selma where many of our family lie.  My father, grandparents, my Papa too.  People I wish would tell me their stories of my family so that I may know who they were and what kind of people they were to know more of my story.  Who am I like?  I would like to know....I dearly would like to know.

     My mothering was self taught.  When we brought our first born home I was walking through a door of inexperience.  I would sit up on our waterbed with our beautifully exquisite baby in my arms looking at her with delight but not knowing how to mother.  I didn't know the first thing about newborns except in the books.  Yet I was drawn to her like nothing I could comprehend.  A deep primal desire to not let her out of my sight but to have her as close to me as possible.  I refused to let her go to the nursery after her birth.   My dear mother by marriage taught me without knowing it the way to talk to a baby.  She did  that with her sing song voice so light and loving.  I found myself conjuring up lullabies or nursery songs that would come into my head while I got to know this baby of mine.  She nursed so well and I never had a problem of breastfeeding her.  Every two hours night and day I would arise to bring her to my breast.  The pull of mothering growing stronger with every rhythm of her pull at my breast.  The letdown of my milk tingling me with a pleasure I could not understand but wanted.  My Love lying beside us watching with a love in his eyes that created a new bond to our relationship.  Our being a family. Of being a mother and a father to this helpless babe we conceived.  

     My mother taught me how to bath my daughter.  I was so afraid I would drop her when she was slippery with baby soap.  She taught me how to give her a sponge bath when she was two days old.   My mother filled a bowl with warm water, soaking a baby wash cloth and applying the baby soap to it creating velvet soft bubbles to gently clean our little one.  Her small body didn't like the sensation of lying naked on her back.   Her little arms out to her side waving them stiffly as she cried out.  I felt awful for bathing her!   Once we rolled her to her tummy she seemed to relax for a minute snuggling into the towel she lay upon and then she cried out again.  But oh she was so lovely.   Her body so perfect!  My mother being a mother to me equally rejoicing in her crying and her sweet little body.   We quickly but efficiently bathed her.  I learned that babies are going to cry but they still will be fine.  Once we wrapped her in a warm towel she relaxed once again and calmed down.  Those days of my mother coming over to help out meant so much to me.  Bringing dinner to us where Papa, Nana (my mom), my Love and I would just dote on this new member of the family.  I hadn't seen my mom this type of happy ever before.  She was so careful not to tell me what to do but to just be there to soak up this special time.

     I wonder about the act of mothering that circles around to our elders.  That circle of life that goes round and round.  How now my care will be towards my mother in the years ahead.  So often when she talks she giggles when she stumbles over names, dates, times and places.  I am grateful she does not get frustrated with the limitations of her language difficulties.  I often wonder if she really grasps the fact she is having trouble or if she is waiting to have me pick out the words she can't find.  I wonder how I even pull these words out for her.  Is it because of the familiarity of our mother daughter relationship?  I have felt like an interpreter for her these past several years as her speech as declined.  Her friends calling me or taking me aside to tell me how hard it is to understand her and hear her as her voice is softer than it use to be.  This was the woman who could reduce me to tears with her sharp words so strongly laid.  Who even with the soft voice and lack of speech can with her tone still stab my heart.  That young girl in me who didn't put her foot down to tell her to back off and except me and her family for the goodness that we are.  Now she is fading.  

     This new path I am about to walk on is uncharted.  I have no map of my own but I will ask for directions so I can keep going.  I know it will get tough and I will need all my patience and positive thoughts to get me through the days ahead.  I will ask for help as hard as that will be but I am ever so grateful that my Papa has left my mom in a position of comfort financially to be well taken care of for the remainder of her life.  I do not look forward to the day my mom does not know her life the way it has been.  I have a lasting memory of my Nan when the Alzheimer's robbed her of the knowledge of who we were.  She would say a mumbling string of words but she looked out of eyes that saw nobody she knew.  I wondered if she even saw me at times when I would bend over to speak to her.  I would bring my daughters along on occasion where I would tell them we were seeing "Nan who is sleeping" because towards the end she seemed always asleep.  They would go along unconcerned with this, looking up at her in her bed.  To them it was normal.  I always had wished they new her as I had but that was not to be as she was already too far gone by the time I had children.  We would speak to the other patients and in my mind pretend that some little lady there in her wheelchair was my Nan.  

     My mom is complicated.  It is a tragedy that she will be robbed of the memories of life as time goes by.  Or is it?  She won't have to say how this friend or that has aged or died.  She won't look back with regrets of her life.  It will almost be like a clean slate at some point.  She will be a different person for all intensive purposes.  It will only be us left behind who will be struggling with this.  I think I will just greet this with an open mind.  I will take this one step at a time.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I am loved...

I am a lucky woman
to have such a loving man
in my life.

Who really cares for me. 
Who always kisses me in the morning,
kisses me goodbye,
hugs me when I am sad,
when I don't know what I want
he hugs me.

I am a lucky woman
to have someone who 
shares his emotions.
He can shed tears over sentimental moments,
truly feel it in his heart.

We were a perfect match...
We are a perfect match...
I knew I loved him the 
moment I first saw him.
Even if I was so young,  my very core
knew he was the one.

My most cherished times
are entwined in his arms..
my head cradled to his chest...
I am surrounded 
and I surrender...
I am safe...
I am loved.


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