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I made it, so it’s my recipe

19 Nov

I swear my grandma Vi was the queen of “Almost Homemade.” I didn’t even realize that  a lot of the thing that she cooked wasn’t homemade, because she always said that it was. As the holiday’s come around, I’m really starting to miss hanging around my grandmother’s kitchen table as we “almost” make a dinner/dessert for everyone.

Her favorite dishes to pull off as homemade were cakes and pies. She would get a box cake mix. Throw in a stick of butter, an extra egg and some vanilla extract. If she was trying to make a pound cake, she’d add a box of instant pudding. Or if she put some canned icing in the microwave, it became “her” glaze.

The berry cobbler. I think I was about 12 when I remember what she actually did with this cobbler to make it “homemade.” I may have seen her do this in the past, but this was the first time I really noticed what she was doing. She bought a Marie Callender’s Berry Cobbler. She let the pie unthaw on the counter. She then carefully removed the top crust of the pie. Sliced up some butter and added some sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Put the crust back on with an egg wash. After baking, she proudly told everyone she made the pie from “scratch.”

I really miss baking with my grandmother. I know she’d be proud of me and how far I’ve come along in baking. My first time I baked cookies for Christmas, they were as hard as rocks. When I asked her what I did wrong, she promptly said, “you have to use real butter baby. That margarine just don’t work for cooking.”

When ever I find myself reaching for a box of cake mix or brownies, I make sure to add a little something to make it mine. As Grandma Vi said, “if it came out of my oven, it was homemade.”


Like a Kid in Disney World

14 Jul
Disney World

The castle is beautiful at night

Even though I’m turning 30 this year, I finally got to see Disney World, the most magical place on earth, and I was excited. Everything was beautiful. I felt like a big kid enjoying the parade and stepping through Cinderella’s castle.

I’ve been to Florida several times before. Visiting places like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Tampa and Orlando. And even though I’ve been to Orlando before, I never visited Disney World. My first trip to Florida was when I was 18 and I went to Orlando.  At that age, I felt that I was too old to go to Disney. I did go to Universal Studios, but mainly because it was much cheaper than a Disney World ticket.  Every other time was for vacation, but I never returned to Orlando.

The funny thing is, my dad actually took me. He wasn’t really in my life as I was growing up. And never really took me on a vacation, except to Sea World in Ohio. So this was a great time for me. We rode some rides together and looked for Mickey so I could take a picture with him. We walked the entire park and rode Space Mountain, which was much cooler than I expected.

I was pretty disappointed however, that I didn’t see Mickey or Minnie. I saw them in the parade and I thought there would be tons of them walking around, but apparently they only come out during the peak season (I went in February). I saw Tigger, but there was a pretty long line to greet him. And even for it to be off-peak season, there were tons of people around and I knew I’d hate to see it during peak season. I did like that for some rides, if the line was long, you could get a pass to comeback at a certain time. This was great for rides like Space Mountain where the line was over an hour and a half long. With the pass we only waited 15 minutes.

It would be great if everyone could experience Disney at least once. I can see myself one day saving to take my children there. But I think that many children (and adults) will never get the opportunity to see Disney or meet Mickey in person. First, that place is terribly expensive. Disney consists of five theme parks and it would take at least three days to see everything. A one day pass to see one park is $80 and the hopper pass (to go between all five parks for one day) costs $130. Now imagine taking a family of four there for three days – that would be over $1,500! And that’s just the park. There’s still travel, lodging, food. It’s almost impossible for many families to make that trip. Even those cool Mickey ear balloons cost $10.

I hope one day they make it affordable enough that most families will be able to see the most magical place on earth.

False Positives

17 Feb

The last couple years have hit me pretty hard with deaths in my family. I had never really thought about death. It seemed like everyone in my family lived a long life. My great-great grandmother died at 93, when I was five years old. My great grandmother passed at 72 when I was ten. Her death was hard, as that was where I spent a lot of time as a child. My mom worked and went to school, so it was often me and her after school and during the summer. She called me her “Angel”, a name my great grandfather had given me. But I was still young, so it seemed like I bounced back from her death some what quickly.

In 2007, when my maternal Grandmother Viola went into the hospital, I didn’t think it was nothing but routine. She has some problems breathing, and thought it may be pneumonia. Less than a week later she has passed. Turns out she had lung disease for quite a while and didn’t tell anyone. She never really shared any of her health problems with anyone in the family. Her death was very hard, as she became one the closest persons to me.

My paternal grandmother (Grandma Linda) attended the funeral. I expressed to her some of the difficulties we had with her death. How she didn’t leave a will, anything that expressed her wishes or even a life insurance policy. So the burden of the funeral fell on the family. Shortly after Grandma Linda told all of her kids where her paperwork was kept and what her wishes were.

Then in February of 2009 my paternal great grandmother, Louise, passed at age 90. It was tough on us, but in a way we were prepared. She had gotten lung cancer, but told us that she had lived a long peaceful life and signed a DNR in case something happened. That she was ready to leave us and be with her husband that had died in 1959.

Around the time grandma Louise was deteriorating, Grandma Linda got thyroid cancer. But she remained positive. She went through chemo and we thought it was going to be okay. After Grandma Louise’s funeral, we found out that Grandma Linda’s cancer had spread to her esophagus. But she still remained positive.

She went to two different doctors and tried to treat it aggressively. Taking hard tolls on her body and emotions. She even had surgery to try to remove some of the cancerous cells. A couple months ago she went for a PET scan to see how the cancer was doing. The radiologist told her that she would not live to see her next birthday.

In order to keep morale up in the family, she never told us. We thought she was going to be fine, once she had another round of chemo. When she went to see her doctor to get her treatment plan, he looked at the scans and said, “you don’t need chemo”. She got worried thinking that nothing would now stop the cancer and she may go quicker than expected.

“Your cancer seems to be in remission,” the doctor told her. “The radiologist had read the scans wrong.”

When Grandma Linda got this good news, she finally told us what she had been going through for the last few months. But said that she had always remained positive that in life or in death, that we would love and cherish every moment that we had had with her. She didn’t tell us, because she didn’t want to see the sadness on our faces. She wanted to live each day like it wasn’t her last. That life would still go on. And thankfully for now,  it will.

Why Don’t We Talk About Mental Illness?

21 Jan

Mental illness affects so many people, and usually with varying degrees. Sure everyone has heard of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression. But mental illness also includes substance abuse, dementia, autism, ADHD and many others.

Nearly everyone has had a family member or friend that has suffered from one of these disorders. However, we always seem embarrassed to talk about it. I think the lack of talking about some of the disorders leads people to be undiagnosed or their problems ignored.

There are many places to find help or support groups for mental illnesses. There are groups that are for both the consumers and caregivers. My advice is to not be afraid to talk about some of these diseases. Often friends or family members do not recognize some of the symptoms unless you tell them about your experiences. And I’ve found this true for bipolar disorder, autism and depression.

In 2010, let’s not be afraid of mental illnesses, they affect 1 in 3 people. Nearly 33% of people have or have had experienced a mental illness. Our dysfunctional mental illness system is the reason that there are so many homeless and jails are over crowded.

One site I’ve found helpful is National Alliance on Mental Illness.

There is information on just about every type of mental health problem, resources for your state, and online support groups for consumers, caregivers and others. I encourage anyone to go to the site just to learn about how mental illness affects the whole community.