October 2022

Mindful Pancakes

On a recent trip out of town we had three great choices of where to go out for breakfast.  We ended up at the place I rarely get a chance to visit that has a country shop I love, yet I was still thinking maybe we were missing something better at the other possibilities.  One place was highly recommended by my daughter’s boyfriend who eats there weekly, and the free hotel breakfast was also better than usual that day, so I was feeling rather tormented.

Normally, I would be ranting endlessly about how we should have chosen one of the other places because I am always seeking perfection, which is not possible this side of heaven.  However, this time I actually made the conscious, mindful choice of just trying to be satisfied where I was.  Satisfied that I was at this particular place in time, even though the menu choices weren’t overflowing with things I would have preferred.  I decided to just enjoy the unseasonably warm day on the road and the time with my husband and the blessing that we were there, together.  Not to mention it also spared my husband a lot of grief to not have to listen to my typical indecisive rant, setting a better tone for the rest of the day.

As it turned out, the pancakes I ordered were probably the best I ever ate!  They were SO delicious!  Crunchy, yet fluffy and moist!!  I thought, wow, we ended up at the right place after all, and it was as if I was rewarded for my efforts to be content (which believe me, is no easy task!) My husband had tasted the pancakes off my plate and he loved them too and kept stealing bites!  I even saved the leftovers and ate them later in the car. Turns out he bought a box of their special pancake mix to bring home but I bet they won’t taste as good as the ones we ate that warm, fall day.

And so it goes…….how to be mindful in the moment and satisfied that no matter what life brings we are supposed to be in that time and place, appreciating the little blessings in each day or accepting whatever difficulties come our way.  I will see if I can keep this up and turn over a new leaf, as I write this while the autumn leaves are turning colors and falling.

Phillipians 2:14  “Do everything without grumbling or questioning,..”

False gods

Like many people, I was a Target fan.  I lived for the clearance pile.  My heart would pound with excitement driving to the store each week.  I couldn’t wait to get there!  It was like a person needing their morning coffee.  I had to have my Target fix.  I would find stylish clothes for my kids so cheaply.  It was also my escape time while the kids were at school.  I referred to it as Target therapy.  Sometimes I would run into other moms enjoying some Target therapy too. 

I was a Target expert.  I knew which days the different departments marked down.  I followed groups online for Target lovers and Target shopping tips.  Some of the best deals I snagged over the years were:  a ping pong table for $30, a gas grill for $90, a large inflatable swimming pool for $20 and outdoor wicker chairs for $25!  My record shopping streak was nine consecutive days!  I was the Clearance Queen!

However, I was beginning to feel like Target had become a false god in my life.  Shopping there was too emotional.  I shouldn’t like it THAT much, should I?  The thing that eventually tore me away from the hold Target had on me was becoming an actual Target employee!  God has an interesting sense of humor.

I thought I would finally learn all the secrets of the clearance piles and Target in general, but I didn’t.  They divulged nothing to regular employees.  Their  woke agenda made me feel like a traitor to my own values, even if I was doing it to pay private school tuition, which made it seem all the more wrong.  The work was physically grueling, the pay terrible, the treatment worse.  My life was taken over by Target alright, but no longer in the fun, Target therapy way.  It was a very humbling experience.

While there, I ended up meeting all kinds of people from very different cultures and backgrounds.  I worked with young and old, manipulators and back stabbers.  I had many different conversations with people in the lunch room.  I listened to people’s stories and life journeys and at times tears were shed.  I saw a lot of brokenness in people.  I like to think I was sent there for a time to be a light in the darkness.   Maybe some seeds were sown.  Maybe there was a reason for that season of my life.

Some years later, I no longer enjoy shopping at Target very much.  Things have changed a lot, prices have risen.  My kids have grown up and I don’t need as much stuff, plus I still have way too much stockpiled from days gone by. 

And so God cured me of constantly needing a Target fix and now, instead, I sometimes experience that same pounding heart kind of excitement, but it’s while driving to church.  There are times when I can hardly stand it and can’t wait to get there to spend time with the Lord and receive Him in the Eucharist or spend quiet time with Him at Adoration.  Often I will hear just the right Christian song on the radio in the car and it becomes a kind of praise session.  Other times, it is just the song I need at the time, God speaking to me through the music.  It’s like a glimpse of heaven.  

So let us be aware of the false gods in our life.  Sometimes it could be a person or material things, sometimes power, money, security (or Target).  But whatever it is, nothing should keep us from our first Love.  Let Christ be number one in our lives.  It’s easier said than done, the world is full of distractions, but I do enjoy the times I am blessed with a little glimpse of heaven.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Exodus 20:2-3   “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall not have other gods beside me.”

60 Jars of Pickles – An Alzheimer’s Tribute

One of the saddest, most heart-wrenching experiences I have had was watching my grandmother, and then my mother, descend into the abyss of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Both came from Europe as immigrants in the 1950’s with only the clothes on their back, to find a better life.  

My mother’s childhood during the war consisted of fleeing from bombs, hiding Jews on their property and later becoming refugees.  Their lives were filled with fear and hardship and I did not escape unscathed.  My mother always wanted her story to be told, but I am sorry now that I know so little of it. 

I vividly remember the first time I realized my mother had Alzheimer’s.   We went shopping and she was trying on some clothes.  She tried the same clothes on over and over and over again, cheerily asking me how they looked each time.  It was then that I realized, she doesn’t remember at all that she tried these clothes on before.  We could have been there all day.  All the times where the ugly Alzheimer’s was there but I hadn’t realized it yet, came flooding back to me. The notes of where to meet me at the mall, getting lost when trying to take the bus, inability to read or work on a craft project, it was all there staring me in the face.

I reported to my brother that it seems obvious that mom has Alzheimer’s just like grandma, who was still alive and completely bedridden.  He was in denial and didn’t believe it at first.  That was rough too.  As a child I was always told my grandmother was “forgetful.”   Alzheimer’s wasn’t mentioned then, it was referred to as hardening of the arteries and just a normal part of getting old.  I thought what a horrible thing it was to become old!

As time went on, I noticed mail would be returned, either because my mother did not add postage or address the envelope properly, or because the check inside to pay a bill was written in complete gibberish.  She would say with the saddest puppy dog face, “I made a mistake, didn’t I?”  As a result, I cannot write a check without scouring over it a dozen times to make sure it is correct.

Then there was the time she told me to take her to the bank.  She told the teller she needed to withdraw $2,000.  My father wanted her to.  The teller was arguing with her and I found out she did not have that amount of money in the account.  The teller was looking at us like we were trying to pull something.  I am lucky she didn’t call security.  I tried to explain to her that my mom has a problem, painful to do with her standing right there, plus the teller didn’t seem to believe me and the whole experience was humiliating.

At my parents’ house I would find all kinds of crazy things, like plates stacked together wet, with mold in between.  The silverware in the drawer was unsorted in a big heap and my mom got violently angry at me when I noticed.  Now, every day when I put away the clean silverware, I think about my mother and try to sort them as quickly as possible telling myself, phew, I am still able to do this and in record time!  Maybe the Alzheimer’s ghost hasn’t come for me yet.

Another time I wandered into my parents’ basement pantry and found endless jars of pickles and spaghetti sauce.  I counted them……..60 jars of pickles, and about as many of spaghetti sauce!  I was devastated and felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  It became apparent that every time the neighbor lady took my mother shopping, she didn’t know what to buy so always bought pickles and spaghetti sauce.  Sadder yet, is when the neighbor stopped taking her shopping altogether. 

Throughout all of this, I would see her lose friend after friend and most of the relatives stopped visiting.  No one wanted to interact with a shell of a person they once knew, not even me.  The depth and intensity of the sadness of all of this is indescribable.  I did not have the best relationship with my mom, but to see someone you once knew become so completely helpless and unrecognizable was sheer anguish.

I always feel I should have done more, but what?  My father also had health issues and was incapable of taking care of his wife and my brother moved out of state.  I, myself, was the mother of triplets and then another child 2 years later, so my involvement was quite restricted.  The solution became to hire a live-in caregiver.   I still sometimes have guilt about all of this, especially since my mom devoted her life to taking care of her own mother, but that is just the way things played out.  

In the end stages, when my mother stopped recognizing who I was, it was the worst feeling and sadly, I don’t think she ever fully realized she had four grandchildren.  I have a few photos of her with my kids when they were babies, but she looks wretched and it scares all of us to look at them.  There is one photo, however, of when my youngest was born and we brought her over to meet my parents for the first time.  We placed the baby next to my mom and she reached out her frail, weathered hand to gently touch her granddaughter’s face.  I have this photo framed because it reminds me that even when you don’t seem to have any kind of mind left, you can still instinctively reach out to another human being in love.

This all causes me to wonder how God deals with us when our minds are gone and we can no longer pray or acknowledge Him.  Are we in some other realm where He is more present?  Are we waiting to be birthed into the next life like an infant in the womb?  Does God just interact with the heart?  Do other people have to step in for us?  Your mind and memories are who you are.  Without them you are just a breathing blob of body.  People would try to comfort me by telling me the sense of hearing is the last to go and so my mother could still hear…….I had to cling to that, although I was not good at speaking loving words.

Shortly before she died in a nursing home, she spoke to me, which was rare at this point.  She was trying to get out of the bed and told me she “was going home”.  I didn’t know which home she really meant, but turns out God did take her home not too long after that.  I can only hope she is now made whole and that a cure for this mind-robbing disease be found quickly.

Dedicated to my grandmother, Anna and my mother, Elizabeth.

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard

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