Archive for the ‘lessons’ Category
Posted by Jennifer
I’ve benefited from lots of meals made by my friends and neighbors this past week and a half while I have recovered from surgery. It’s made me appreciate how much such a gesture really helps a person in need, whether it’s a death or an illness in the family — both by providing for a basic human need, and by making that person feel surrounded by love and concern.
I’ve had lots of time to think about how I want and need to return the favor, paying it forward in some cases and back in others.
Here are some ideas:
1. It doesn’t matter if they “need” it. Food is always good for the stomach and soul.
2. It doesn’t matter what you make. Even if they’ve had macaroni and cheese two nights in a row, they will appreciate it.
3. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal. When my mom died, one friend dropped off a big bowl of Chex Mix, which we picked at and devoured while we sat around and reminisced. Perfect.
4. While it doesn’t really matter what you make, think comfort food. Gentle on the spices, nothing too exotic, unless you know the recipient likes exotic! If someone in the family isn’t well, mild food will be easiest to tolerate.
5. While it doesn’t have to be a whole meal, if you’re on a “meal chain,” a main dish and a side or two would make sure the recipients don’t have to come up with anything extra on their own. Having a sick person in the house makes for an even more chaotic pace for those who are well, and sometimes it’s hard for them to get to the grocery while playing nurse, tending to children and working full time. A bag of frozen vegetables, a jar of applesauce or bagged salad and a loaf of garlic (or bakery) bread easily round out a meal.
6. Dessert is an unnecessary but much appreciated extra touch! Sure made my family feel very loved.
7. Try to use dishes that do not have to be returned. But if you live next door it is not a hardship to return a few dishes.
8. If you have a couple of choices on meals you might make, consider calling the family you are cooking for and asking their preference. While it does not matter if you get two nights in a row of lasagna, why do that if you can avoid it?
9. If you don’t know what to make, or you don’t have the time or talent for that, consider ordering pizza or another meal to be delivered to their door. No, it’s not homemade, but it’s equally thoughtful and appreciated.
10. Consider picking up fresh fruit or vegetables, bread, juices or milk for the family instead of a meal. Fruit is easy to tolerate when you’re not feeling well, and sometimes it’s hard to get to the store to buy these things.
11. Offer to pick up sundries at the grocery or drug store if you’re headed out, or to help run children to their activities. Some people have a hard time asking for that kind of help. And they also have a hard time accepting it. But when they need something, it’s easier to say yes than to pick up the phone to ask.
12. Consider making something for the freezer for the family to enjoy later. It makes me feel good to know I have two lasagnas, meatballs and sauce, and a tuna-noodle casserole in the freezer for the days ahead when I am not up to the challenge of making dinner.
The meals we enjoyed over the past week and a half have helped us feel much more secure in what otherwise has been a vulnerable state. And so very much loved!
My 17-year-old daughter, who usually eats very healthy things and has turned vegetarian since Jan. 1, found herself especially enjoying the chocolate chip cookies and brownies our friends brought.
“Mom,” she says, “you should have surgery more often.”
Posted by Jennifer
Some time ago I read a piece about the “ministry” of the casserole — that is, the bringing of a meal to comfort someone going through a difficult time.
For the last week and a half, I’ve had another opportunity to witness the healing effects of such a “ministry.”
As I have written here previously, I had surgery more than a week ago, and needed to stay overnight in Summa Wadsworth Hospital. Granted, it wasn’t major surgery (however you define that) but it has required me to do next to nothing — including driving or lifting even a milk jug — for at least two weeks.
Doing “next to nothing” is hard for me. I am accustomed to being the cruise director of this family ship, organizing who goes where and when and with what and whom, running errands, picking up and dropping off children at their various activities, cleaning the house and planning meals. Of course that’s on top of my freelance writing and editing work that helps pay the bills, and my own volunteer efforts.
So here I was, scared by the prospects of my first surgery and uncertain how any of the above was going to happen, when my dear friend Germaine says, “We’ll bring you food.”
She contacted some of our friends at St. Francis Xavier Parish and asked each one to prepare a meal and bring it to us. She lined up more than a week’s worth of meals that were planned and delivered to my hungry and appreciative family.
In addition to Germaine, numerous other friends and neighbors offered to bring food — some of it came warm to eat that day, some was ready to be popped into the oven when we were hungry, and some came frozen to be stored for that day when the meals stop coming. One friend anonymously ordered and paid for two pizzas, salad and Pepsi from our favorite pizza shop, Romeo’s, which delivered it to our door at what happened to be a perfect time. (He later revealed he was the one who sent it.)
The generosity of friends — some of whom I had not anticipated — absolutely stunned us. And let me tell you, there were many nights over the last week or so when I was not hungry or downright nauseous when it was dinnertime, but my five children still needed to eat. I was relieved to know they were cared for when I would have been unable to get it for them. Usually I tried to eat a little with them, or when I finally was hungry as late as 10 p.m.
This isn’t to say that my teenage children — or my husband, for that matter — aren’t capable of making a few meals for the family. But there still is the significant issue of needing groceries to make those meals, and even though my daughter is driving now, I am not sure she’s ready for that whole responsibility. Plus, there are at least two nights a week when my daughters aren’t home till 5:30 p.m. — and we all know it can be awfully late then to be starting dinner.
On top of my own fragile state, two nights after I came home from the hospital my father-in-law suffered a heart attack and what they thought was a stroke (thankfully it was not) at his home two hours away. He was rushed to University Hospitals in Cleveland, and my poor husband spent the next week dividing his time between me, his father and working two jobs.
My sister-in-law also spent two nights with us while Papa was in the hospital, so the nearly magical arrival of food was a comfort to her as well.
Despite all this going on, I found I didn’t worry so much about the fact that I couldn’t drive: I didn’t really need anything.
Without having to worry about food, we only needed a few basics, like fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and sandwich bread, to keep everyone happy through the week.
A few friends offered to pick up things for me at the store and, after refusing a few times, I did finally accept one friend’s offer. She declined my attempt to pay for those things (as I had feared), and that’s partly why I kept the list short. But the truth is, I didn’t need much.
All of their efforts reminded us anew of how truly blessed we are to have such caring and genuine friends here. Most of the friends who helped us live here in Medina, but some are friends from high school and college days. One lived too far to bring food herself, so she generously ordered a complete dinner from Giant Eagle, which delivered it to our door.
It also has cemented this reminder in our hearts — to do unto others. The next time a friend or fellow parishioner is ill or facing some difficulty, we will be there with food. Even if it’s not “necessary.”
The gesture is so much more than simply covering a basic human need. We felt so loved and protected, like we were the center of that person’s universe for a time, and we were astonished and humbled by the generosity bestowed on us.
Prayers, good wishes, love and concern were baked right into each meal. And that is some of the best medicine there is.
Posted by Jennifer
Too often we forget how we can make a big impact on those around us.
Even the smallest of gestures, things we take for granted or seem inconsequential, can change the world.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I stopped to buy gas. I had picked up my daughter and her friend after school at Our Lady of the Elms High School, and we stopped at the Speedway station at the busy intersection of Route 18 and Cleveland-Massillon Road enroute to Medina.
We went in to buy drinks — they’re 79 cents for any size right now, and we love a good frozen Coke — in addition to the gasoline.
At the register in front of me stood this small, hunched, older man, with his tan pants pulled up too high in front, and a sand-colored fedora on his head. He stood not much taller than the counter itself, and he fumbled with a gift card and (to my surprise – he can navigate the rewards system?) his Speedy Rewards card.
The clerk greeted him with a smile and asked if she could help him. He looked up, seemingly a little startled. “Oh, your smile!” he exclaimed. “You’re the first person who’s smiled at me all day. Thank you. I really needed that.”
He seemed genuinely appreciative of such a simple gesture, something she’s probably done for every customer she’s encountered, without thinking about it. I was as touched by his gratitude for that smile and his ability to verbalize that as I was by the thought of how many people that clerk probably had greeted the same way that day.
I wondered about how and where this man lives that he had no one to smile for him before 3:15 p.m. Monday, and I was grateful, on his behalf, for the clerk’s kindness.
Have you taken the time to smile at anyone today?
It needn’t be a stranger. Sometimes the hardest people to smile for are your family. I wager, though, that my husband and children would appreciate a smile from me as much as the man at the gas station.
When you are having a rough day and wonder what difference you can make in a world as troubled as ours, I hope you will remember how one simple smile made this little old man’s day.
And it didn’t cost a thing.
Posted by Jennifer
My dad’s been gone for the last week, just as the bulk of his harvest is ready to be picked. Despite the drought, it’s proving to be a bountiful harvest — and not just an edible one.
Since he moved to Medina about four years ago, my retired father converted a large expanse of lawn into an enormous garden with just about every imaginable fruit and vegetable. He uses most of the fruit for his jams and jellies, which he sells at the Medina Farmers Market almost every Saturday.
So, with him out of town, it fell to us to check in on the house, feed the fish and pick the blackberries, butternut squash, summer squash and tomatoes that were ripening.
It reminded me more than once of being made to pick the red currants that my parents used to grow at the back of their large (but much smaller) garden at our home in Painesville Township.
It was a job I loathed, I have to admit. It was always hot, the berries were extremely tart, and the job was tedious. My dad would turn the little red berries into currant jelly, which I will admit tasted good on toast, but as a child I secretly longed for the same Welch’s grape jelly that our friends had on their PB&J sandwiches. I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort. (And of course by that I mean MY effort, which no doubt was the shortest and easiest part of the process.)
However, blackberries are little sweet gems that we all love. So we weren’t about to let those go to waste.
My little boys and I went every couple of days to pick as many blackberries as we could find. We were amazed at how many there were, and just when you thought you’d picked all that were ready, you’d spy a big black juicy morsel under a leaf.
My 7-year-old made up a song about how you have to look up, down, and side to side to see all the berries. I think it was actually another song he had heard on the radio, but I wasn’t going to burst his bubble.
I cautioned the boys not to step on the vines and branches, else the nutrients and water couldn’t flow from the plant to the berries.
“Just like we have to stay connected to God,” my 7-year-old mused. “If we don’t stay connected to God, then we won’t grow either.”
Wow. Did he really just say that?
“Yes, that’s right,” I affirmed, trying to suppress my pride in him. “There’s even a Bible verse about how He is the vine, and we are the branches.” Ethan nodded, and said he remembered that.
I wanted to do a cartwheel, if only I knew how to do one. Yes! Some of what we try to teach them is, in fact, sinking in! The expense of Catholic education for daily religion classes, the random (but becoming more frequent) skirmishes about going to Mass each week, and our family’s active membership and participation in various ministries at St. Francis Xavier. It’s all bearing fruit.
After filling four quart-size baskets of berries, we prowled among the squashes and tomatoes, collecting as many as we thought should be harvested now. It’s an educational process for me, as I don’t really know the best time — or way — to pick some of these things.
And, as I learned from my son, sometimes you don’t know the fruits of your labors until they show up, unexpectedly, like those berries hidden beneath a leaf. But those little gems are some of the tastiest you’ll ever find.
Posted by Jennifer
In what may have been a fit of temporary insanity, we adopted a 1-year-old yellow Labrador-mix puppy last month.
We did this after coming through the fog of having to euthanize the only other dog we’ve ever owned, Lucy, who also happened to be a yellow Lab. It was gut-wrenching and I swore that we’d never have another pet, unless it was a pet rock. For all the joy and endearment she fostered, the end was just too painful.
But the kids worked on me, and the house was awfully quiet. Eventually we heard about this dog who was in need of a home.
Ever the suckers for a sob story, my husband and I agreed to take her in.
We learned a few lessons from our years with Lucy, one of them being the desirability of a fence. We never had one with her, and she wandered off our property more than a few times…which put us at uncomfortable odds with our neighbors.
We didn’t want to invest in a fence — too expensive, and I like the openness of our back yards, which allows the kids to run back and forth with ease. So when Bailey’s previous owners offered to throw in her invisible fence collar and transmitter for free, we decided we would be responsible pet owners and install the wire. My husband bought the wire ($24.95 at Home Depot), and he and my dad installed it a few weeks ago in just a couple of hours.
Since Bailey was accustomed to an invisible fence, she required very little training to recognize the telltale beeps that signal as she gets close to the line. She’s burst through the line once, to chase a bird, but otherwise it’s worked out very well.
As I was telling her one day recently (yes, I was talking to the dog), the fence really is for her own protection. Yes, it stinks that she has to limit where she may walk (because of the pie-shape of our lot, the wire really doesn’t let her walk from the back yard to the front, and vice versa). And seeing the kids (and squirrels) run through the neighborhood, she must be awfully tempted to brace herself and bolt through the line.
However, even though you can’t see the fence and I’m sure she would rather it didn’t exist, it protects her from getting hit by a car and from skirmishing with neighboring dogs (or people). It keeps her from getting lost and ensures she stays home where she is loved and nourished. With the fence, we expect Bailey to live a long, healthy and happy life in which all her needs are met and she wants for nothing more than a good belly rub.
As I was saying the words, the thought occurred to me how God’s rules are like that invisible fence. We might think we would manage just fine without them, but in reality the limitations they impose protect us from things we can’t even imagine. When we live inside those rules, we stay close to Him, where we are loved and nourished and protected.
Sure, life outside those parameters could be exciting. Who knows what adventures we might encounter!
But they come at a price, a cost that could include our very lives, both here and in heaven. And I want desperately to spend eternity with everyone I know and love!
I have discovered contentment and exceeding joy in exploring the microcosm that is life in my own “backyard,” and I pray my sons and daughters will as well.
To paraphrase Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house (and dog), we shall serve the Lord.”
Posted by Jennifer
A Facebook posting today got me thinking. The posting was by a Medina mom who, despite the absence of a school closing today, decided NOT to drive her children to school in Cleveland because she deemed the slick roads unsafe.
I thought: Good for you.
I imagine the school principal would have agreed. Still, it’s hard to make a judgment call that’s contrary to those made by people in authority. And yet, as parents, sometimes that’s just what we have to do.
School superintendents, coaches, instrument instructors and others have a tough job deciding when it’s appropriate to cancel in inclement weather. They do the best they can trying to balance safety with a desire to stay on schedule. It can wreak havoc on a teacher’s lesson plans if one group of students fall behind because of a snow day. It’s inconvenient. I get it.
And of course superintendents catch their share of grief if they cancel school on a day that turns out to be sunny enough to melt whatever snow had covered the roads at 5 a.m. A lot of parents have to take a day off of work when there’s a snow day.
If they don’t cancel, it’s up to parents to decide if it’s safe. That can mean your kid misses school assignments and lessons and could fall behind their classmates. Oh well.
We had a similar situation one summer when our oldest played girls’ softball. A thunderstorm was approaching, and the rumble of thunder and even the sighting of lightning in the distance did not dissuade her coaches from their game. They reasoned we still had time to finish the game. They even had a lightning meter they trusted to help make the call.
We were uneasy, but the other coach warned that if our team left, we would forfeit the game. (And now, how many years later, that seems even more ridiculous than it did at the time. I mean, they’re in elementary school.)
Eventually, a number of us parents summoned the courage to take our daughters and leave. As we were loading chairs and bats into the back of the van in the far-off parking lot, a bolt of lightning struck extremely close behind us and I screamed at my little ones to get into the car. I have never been so terrified of lightning as I was that day.
Since then, I have been a believer in following parental instinct — and not that of zealous coaches — when there’s a question about safety. The coaches who don’t cancel basketball practice, even though school was canceled that day and the weather hasn’t improved dramatically, are putting their win-loss ratio ahead of my child’s safety.
You’d like to think these people in authority, who have the power to bench (and humiliate) your child if she doesn’t show up for practice, would exercise caution, but that doesn’t always happen.
It’s up to us parents to just say no, and take responsibility for our children’s safety. If they are excluded from games or miss a day of lessons, so be it. They will recover.
If they were in an accident en route to school or practice, however, that might not be true.
Posted by Jennifer
OK, this is not a science lesson. Let’s call it a life lesson.
I don’t know the particulars of the microbes and bacterial content and whatnot that the knowledgable individuals can spew at the Medina Service Department.
However, after enduring another boil alert last week — this one, city wide — I found myself in an email discussion with several friends about what this really meant in my life.
I’ve written before about not taking the alerts seriously and basically ignoring them. Then the next time, I decided I should take these things seriously and be prepared with the water set aside, dishes washed, children bathed, and so forth before the alert took effect.
Then last week, a 12-inch water main broke on the north side of town and, for good reasons that escape me, it affected the entire city. We were told we should boil any water that was to be used for drinking, cooking, making ice, washing dishes or brushing teeth. And by “boil,” they meant we should bring water to a full rolling boil for one minute.
The boil alert was posted Tuesday morning and lasted until about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. I immediately boiled a big stock pot full of water, and we used that for our drinking needs that day. Nevertheless, we all forgot and brushed our teeth with water from the tap!
I held off washing my dishes, but by Wednesday morning I was tired of looking at stacks of dirty plates and bowls. We were running out of silverware. This wasn’t hard, I thought: I will boil water to wash the dishes. Like the pioneers!
Then I remembered that I would need to let that water cool enough to use it before I could wash those dishes. Sigh.
And there was the matter of rinsing the dishes. I clearly wasn’t boiling enough water to wash and rinse the number of dishes this seven-member family had racked up over the last 36 hours.
I decided I could stack the just-washed dishes on the left side of my sink, and pour boiled water over them to rinse any remaining soap bubbles. I hoped that would suffice.
It was about this time that I checked Medina’s website and discovered that the boil alert had been lifted about 10 minutes earlier.
So much for my pioneering days.
On went the dishwasher. Off went the stovetop.
After announcing to my friends that the “all clear” was issued on our water, I mentioned that I was relieved to finally be able to wash my dishes. A friend responded that she had forgotten and run her dishwasher. A second friend replied that she thought the dishwasher got the water hot enough to be safe.
But water boils at 212 degrees, way hotter than my household water heater, so I wasn’t sure. I didn’t find a great deal of help online, so I wound up calling the service department. Turns out I was one of about 250 people who had called over this issue in the past 24 hours.
The nice woman who answered the phone told me that the boil alert was really “precautionary” — because somehow, the manner in which the water main broke and was repaired did not expose the water lines beyond tolerable levels of bacteria. (I don’t know, I’m sure she said this much better than I just did.) In other words, we really never had to worry about boiling anything.
But to answer the question, she said her doctor had told her that the combination of the hot water and the dishwasher’s heating cycle was sufficient to disinfect the dishes.
In short, I didn’t really have to be a pioneer after all.
Not having safe water was a minor hardship, since I knew it was temporary.
Use the next boil alert as a teachable moment for your children — and heck, for yourself: Talk about all the ways you can conserve the water you need. What if we had to boil every drop we used? What can we do to change our water consumption?
Then, say a prayer for all those people in the world who live under permanent ”boil alerts,” who not only lack access to clean drinking water, but the means to boil it and make it safe for their children.
I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t sigh about having to play “pioneer” with the occasional disruption of service.
Posted by Jennifer
They say we should learn from every experience. So, after having survived my first solo trip away from home, I present to you: Lessons Learned from My Vacation Away from My Family:
1. No matter how much your children miss you while you’re gone, once you’re home they will still expect you to pick up after them.
Call me delusional, but somehow I thought my children would be so happy to have me home after being gone to Las Vegas almost four days, they would show their gratitude that I was home by being helpful, not arguing among themselves, and generally being eager to please. No dice. Except from the 4-year-old, who sleepily said to me as he watched TV at the kitchen counter: “I really missed you, Mom. I’m glad you’re home.” He didn’t take his eyes from the TV screen, but I’ll take it. Later, he showered me with hugs and kisses. Man, I missed that.
2. Change the clocks at home to the time zone where you are going, so that your husband doesn’t wake you up two mornings in a row at 5:30 a.m. to tell you the children got on the bus OK.
I’m sorry, but I almost don’t care that they would, then, be three hours late. This was my vacation — please just let me sleep.
3. As genuinely happy as they were to see me, they were infinitely more excited to know I came bearing gifts.
I knew that would be the case; hence, I spent the better portion of my time away from the hotel scouting for appropriate gifts for my five children. Not the easiest thing to do in Vegas, mind you.
4. Jetlag, schmetlag. You still have to give the little boys a bath while hubby plays a video game with another son. That’s because they haven’t had a bath all week in your absence.
5. Your hair, makeup and clothing are infinitely more appealing away from home.
I don’t know if that’s because I was finally able to do my hair and makeup without interruption, or because I didn’t have anything else to wear anyway so I’d better be content with what I brought. I am thinking it has something to do with the opportunity to finally focus just on myself — something I really never do because someone always needs something. While I was gone, I wasn’t compelled to pull my hair back into a ponytail even once. I’m not sure I was home even an hour before I felt the vague need to get it out of the way. I think there must be a subconscious anxiety about work to be done that drives that habit of pulling my shoulder-length hair up and back. Heaven knows there is plenty of work to be done. I’m still recovering from the weeklong absence of our laundress (oh yeah, that’s me).
6. If nothing else, going away is worthwhile to read the words of a husband who suddenly has to get himself and the kids up before school, make sure they are dressed, fed, cleaned up, and off to school on time (complete with lunch bags): “I really admire you.”
I don’t think he really understood how bad it sucks to be the ”responsible” one who must manage to wake up on time, play the somewhat-gentle drill sergeant, and get everyone moving. On “normal” days, he gets to sleep in until the last 15 minutes of the process, when the children are instructed to wake him up so he can have some “quality time” with them before school… which basically translates into him running a little interference during the stressful last few minutes, then walking them down the street to the bus stop. The man who refuses to wear a wristwatch learned to set an alarm! I’m speechless. He was amazed by how many trips back and forth to school get made in the course of a single day, especially for the after-school and evening sports practices and other activities. Welcome to my world! Suddenly fast-food every night seemed like a reasonable option.
And the last lesson I learned from my trip away:
7. Coming home to a clean house is priceless.
For all the hullaballoo of being a single parent of five children solo while I was off in Vegas, he somehow was able to make sure the back room/dumping ground and the kitchen were clean and ready for me to come home. Do I care that he did that instead of giving the little ones a bath? I’m not sure. . . I suppose I should take that last lesson to heart and try harder to clear off the kitchen counter and pick up the toys before he comes home from work each night.
At least when it’s not bath night.
Posted by Medina County Moms
By Christina Y, Deep South Moms Blog
When my husband was younger, his parents used to say the same thing to him and his brother every time they left the house: Remember who you are. It didn’t matter if they were heading to school, out with friends, on a date, or embracing the freedom of adulthood, they always told them the same thing. These were their words of wisdom, gained throughout a lifetime of knowledge and experience, that never failed to accompany their sons along their own paths. Even after my husband and I were married I noticed that his parents continued to say those words to him and even began saying them to me on an occasion when they felt I needed them.
I appreciated the sentiment, but never understood why those words were important until I became a mother.
I find myself passing on those words to my children as they begin their adventures into the world. When they head out to school we remind them to remember who they are. When they head out to play at someone’s house or attend a birthday party we make sure they hear those words. And, recently at dinner my daughter questioned ‘why’?
“Mommy, why is it important that I remember who I am?”
At the young age of 5 she wants to understand what it means to remember who you are and why it is important. I thought about it, knowing that I wanted to give her an answer that she understood and satiated her curiosity.
I thought about how a good foundation at home is the start of developing character. I wanted to explain that her daddy and I work very hard to instill in her the values and beliefs that will serve her well in the world. I wanted to explain that we try, through lessons, prayer, and love, to teach her how to be a good person, an honest person, and a kind person. I wanted to remind her that one of the only things she’ll have when she enters the world is her name, her word. I wanted to tell her that remembering her roots and the good that is her family and her support is like a reassurance that someone his holding her hand through it all. I wanted to tell her that she is unique, special, and a child of God, and remember who she is will always serve her well.
I wanted to tell her all this even though much of it could not be understood at the age of 5 — and possibly not even at the age of 15. So, instead of telling her all that I felt, I answered simply …
“Because I said so.”
She said “OK” and continued with her dinner. I was thankful that at that moment my answer was enough.
An original Deep South Moms Blog post. Christina Y is a freelance writer and mother of three. She blogs about her adventures and misadventures in motherhood at MamaNeena.