Category Archives: Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

February Mix: Winter’s Chill and Spring’s Warm Hope

The wind whipped cold around the corner of the bedroom where Certain Man and I sleep. It howled and complained and I could feel the cold that wanted inside around the window by our bed.  Out from our window, I caught the sound of our chimes, (named “Mozart” because of the chords that are able to be distinctly heard in the composer’s scores and had been recreated in these chimes) as they bravely withstood the onslaught.  The silvery notes hung in the darkness on the cold, cold wind and comforted me.

I thought about cold.  I thought about fear.  I thought about darkness and hope and silvery notes on the night air.  I thought about the things that hold us steady and give us joy when it feels as if we are buffeted by unexpected, icy blasts.  I thought about how beautiful the weather had been just a day before, and the daffodils that were nearly six inches high in my yard, and the tulips peaking through the cold ground on the sunny side of the barbecue pit.  Just yesterday I had noticed the crocuses poking through the mulch on the peony row by the front door and thought that they are late this year.  I thought about the incoming Spring.

The second week of February was a tough week for the family unit at Shady Acres.  Monday of that week was spent doing “prep” for a scheduled colonoscopy with our one handicapped individual, BL.  In a delightful surprise, it was way easier than I had anticipated.   Over the years, BL has honed her control issues to a very tight ship, and one of the things that she has controlled in almost unbelievable ways has been her bathroom habits. (As in holding everything until it is a most inopportune time or for someone that she doesn’t like.)  This habit that has been one of the hardest for me to be gracious about (particularly when she is giggling out loud over an “accident” that has me scrambling) actually worked in my favor in this particular situation.  Since she is non-verbal, I trucked her to the bathroom at timely intervals, and she never once made a mess for me to clean up. This gal really does have control!

Another thing that made this prep easier than it would have been with another individual is her ability to down large quantities of liquid with scarcely drawing a breath.  (She will actually chug 12 ounces of Pepsi without stopping for a breath if someone doesn’t intervene.) So getting her to drink her “Go Lightly” mixed into 16 ounces of water?  Piece of cake.  16 more ounces of water?  She was holding her hand out for it.  And 16 more?  Bring it on, she was ready!  Of course, I didn’t allow her to drink it all at once, but it was no problem at all getting her to drink all 48 ounces in an hour.  The second round of prep was likewise finished just as successfully, and we were finally ready for the visit to Milford Hospital’s Day Surgery department.

That day was long and hard.  BL’s veins are difficult and beyond the abilities of even the best phlebotomist.  Precious time was spent (and lost) as tech after tech tried technique after technique with no results, or minimal results at best.  We started at the Day Surgery Department at 7:30 a.m.  The clock on my dash read almost 4 p.m. when we headed home.  Dr. K had come in after completing the colonoscopy with the words, “We’ve got to talk.”  My heart sank as the import of the words settled into my brain.  “Mass, cecum, surgery, cancer and ASAP” swirled around in my brain as he gently tried to impress upon me the importance of his find.  The staff was terrific.   They made an appointment for the surgeon already the next morning, and scheduled two CT scans for yet that day, with and without contrast.  They poked and prodded poor BL until I was past being able to bear it.  Each department was sure that their vein finding prodigy could surely get a viable vein and until they were convinced otherwise, BL had another infiltration, another poke, another cry like a wounded animal.

Along about 3 p.m., I stood by her stretcher over in the Cancer Center, where they had sent us, hoping for a quicker and more efficient finish.  The techs had gone off, looking for supplies and assistance.  It was just her and me in that big, cold room, and she was huddled under a warm blanket that they had brought in for her.  I stroked her wounded arms and rubbed her purple blotches and in the quiet of the room, I started to quietly sing to her.  “Jesus Loves Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Be not dismayed.”   She seemed to relax a bit and her face wasn’t as contorted. How I wished that they could just get this over with!

The techs came bustling in, then,  to try on their own one more time.  Linda’s anguished squeal started my tears, even as they exalted that they had gotten it this time!  When the vein blew just as they started to push the contrast for the scan, I was done.  I had stayed with BL for almost the whole day, but now, through my tears, I asked, “When am I allowed to say that it is enough and that you have to call Vascular Medicine down to start the I.V.?”

They looked at me surprised, and said, “Oh, we’ve already called them and someone is on the way down.  Should be here any minute.”

I took a deep breath.  “Okay,” I said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot bear to watch any more.  I will do what I can to help to get her situated, but when it goes to another stick, I am going to excuse myself to the waiting room across the hall.”  They were understanding.  They were kind.  And after a while, they came and got me saying that, after two tries, Vascular Medicine was able to start a suitable thread, they had completed the scan, and that I could take BL home.

I got her bundled up and tucked her into the wheelchair.  I pushed her through the halls of Milford Memorial Hospital, and I wondered what she was thinking.  I had tried to explain as much as I could all day long, as well as when I was doing the prep, but she sat in the huge hospital wheel chair as I pushed her along and she had drawn herself into a small lump, looking miserable and confused.  I spoke quietly to her as I pushed her along the almost deserted halls, cheery words of comfort and hope.  And then I thought about one of her favorite songs, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” as sung by Elizabeth Mitchell on one of BL’s CDs at home.

“Woke up this morning,” I started to sing quietly, “Smiled at the rising sun.  Three little birds sat by my doorstep . . . ”  I could hear the notes sort of echo off the walls, but no one was in sight, so I kept on.  ” . . .singin’ a sweet song.  A melody pure and true.  Singin’ this is my message for you -ou – ou !”

Now there were a few people moving along the corridors, some of them glancing furtively at this singing spectacle, pushing a blind, handicapped scrap of a woman in a huge wheelchair.

“Singin’ don’t worry,” I warbled on, “about a thing.  ‘Cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.  Singin’ don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.”  I got some sympathetic looks, and I thought about how embarrassed my kids would be if they were along, but I sang until I got her down to the entrance, where valet parking went to bring my mini van and I loaded her into her seat, buckled her seat belt and took her home to her chair.  She was hungry, and she bore almost a dozen bruises from her ordeal, but she was restive and quiet.

There would be time in the days ahead for me to sing other songs to her, (“God Will Take Care of You,” and “Why Worry When You Can Pray,” and “Whisper a Prayer in the Morning,” and “My Lord Knows the Way Through The Wilderness” and others) but for that moment it seemed like the right thing to be singing at the end of a terrible day, full of bad news, and needles and hard stretchers and cold rooms and great indignities.

Is “every little thing gonna be alright?”  I don’t know.  These days are filled with many unknowns, and I’m not at all sure how things will actually work out.  We are scheduling surgery, checking some other suspicious areas, signing papers, getting clearance, trying to cooperate in every way we can with recommendations and making a concerted effort to make things as normal and as cheerful as possible for both OGA and BL.  And the support and the words of comfort and encouragement have been freely given to and gratefully received by this Delaware Grammy who has been caring for handicapped individuals for over thirty years.

I am sometimes surprised at the people who imply that it’s time for me to quit.  I appreciate the concern, but I’m listening up to my Heavenly Father, talking to my family and doing a lot of praying, and this is not the time to bail.  Nor do I even want to.  We are BL’s “family.”  She has lived with us for over 17 years, and as I checked into her record, I realized that we passed, a LONG time ago, her longest placement before she came home to stay.  And just so no one worries unduly, I would like to say that the Delaware Department of Disabilities has been concerned, supportive, and more than generous in their offers of help.  I am not alone.  We are not alone.  God has a plan.  He loves BL, and He will do what is best.  By His Grace, we want to do our part, but health and healing are, ultimately, up to Him.

And in that, I not only rest, but offer here a sacrifice of grateful praise.

For those of you who would like to listen to Elizabeth Mitchell’s version of “Three Little Birds” you can find it here:

(And if you like Bob Marley’s version better, you can probably access it from that link.)

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Filed under disabilities, Family, Handicapped Adults, Praise, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Nocturnal decimations

Delaware Grammy has always enjoyed the hours when she could sleep, undisturbed and quiet in her comfy bed.  Even though she is not one to claim (or even need) quantity of hours, the quality is mandatory so as to see her through the days that wrap themselves around the old farmhouse at Shady Acres. It has been a great blessing that Delaware Grandpa, though troubled by Restless Leg Syndrome and a family gene that causes insomnia, makes it his business to sneak stealthily from the room when he cannot sleep so as not to disturb his wife with his wanderings about in the still, quiet nights.

In recent weeks, things have gone awry in such a way as to make Delaware Grammy think there must be a conspiracy going on amongst the gremlins that disturb sleep.  And they are using almost every method available and opportunity afforded them.

The changeable weather caused one restless night.  Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy sleep in a bedroom that tends to be on the cool side, and several weeks ago, when the weather turned cool, Grammy brought forth the electric blanket, threaded the controls under the bed to the respective sides and plugged everything in.  That very night, things warmed up and so it wasn’t needed for some time.  However, when the nights became cooler again, Grammy began to ask Grandpa if he was going to turn on his side of the blanket.  He always said that he didn’t need it “yet” but didn’t care if Grammy turned hers on.  So there were some nights when Grammy would turn hers on for a brief period, but most of the time it wasn’t necessary at all.  And then one night she came to bed feeling very tired and quite warm from a long day cooking and getting ready for company.  It was a cool night, but she kicked the covers off her feet, and didn’t think she needed the electric blanket at all, so she didn’t even look at the control.  She was restless all night, just feeling so warm, and finally kicking back the electric blanket and sleeping with just the sheet.  But then she was too cold, so she pulled it back up again.  Whew!  Then she was too warm.  Along about 4am, Grandpa took himself downstairs to his La-Z-boy and Grammy happened to fluff her pillow up over the side of his and take over part of his side of their bed.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  His side was cool.  Considerably cooler than hers.  Wait a minute!  She was suddenly very much awake.  She turned back over to her side of the bed, and grabbed the electric blanket control that was languishing on its side on her bedside table.

Oh, dear!  No wonder she was warm.  In the darkness, a bright green 10 shone out merrily.  TEN!  Oh, for crying out loud!  No wonder she was warm!  But how in the world???  She hadn’t touched that control for a number of days.  However, it didn’t take too much sleuthing to realize what had happened.  Last year, if Grandpa went up to bed early, and thought it was cold, he would turn on her side of the blanket so that it would be warm for her when she climbed in.  He never bothered to change the settings, but would just turn it on.  On this particular night, he was feeling chilly.  And even though he didn’t feel the need to start his side of the blanket, he was looking out for the comfort of his wife.  Somehow the setting was at TEN on this particular night, and so all night long Grammy roasted away while she tossed and turned and barely slumbered.

Around the same time, there seemed to be an upper respiratory bug going around the household of Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy.  Grandpa was coughing and snorting around and Grammy was trying really hard not to catch it.  All she needed was a stopped up nose and a cough to complicate her life.  And so one night, getting awake in the middle of night, she found her mouth exceedingly dry and her throat feeling scratchy.  She padded over to the bathroom and got a drink and then climbed back into bed.  Lying there, thinking about the probability that she might be getting sick, she decided to spray her throat with some Chloraseptic spray that is always on her bedside stand.  She felt around in the dark and found the spray bottle.  Undoing the plastic top, she aimed it for the back of her throat where her tonsils once were and gave a hefty push on the spray top.

Ugh!  Oh, awful!  There was a horrible burning sensation, a terrible taste in her mouth and the smell of liniment.  Yepper!  You guessed it!  She had gotten her “pain spray” alright, but it was the one for aching muscles and creaky joints, not the Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray that she was expecting.  It wasn’t just Grandpa who was coughing and snorting that night.  But her mouth certainly wasn’t dry for the rest of the night.  Ah, yes.  There was lots of watering going on.  But she hadn’t gotten terribly much, and she didn’t seem any the worse for it, so she waited for the light of day and then made sure that she had what she wanted and that it was where she wanted it for the next time it was needed.

And then there was the week between Christmas and New Years.  Delaware Grandpa and Grammy’s family came home for a few days, and Grammy had come upon the bright idea of giving Eldest Son and his family their side of the upstairs for the few nights they and their four children would be home.  The two bedrooms and the bathroom was a good fit, and Grandpa and Grammy could easily sleep on their recliners those nights and all would be well.

All would have been well except for a stomach virus that laid the family low during their stay, and there was much vomiting and bed changing and such going on.  On Wednesday, Eldest Son took his family back to Sugar Creek, and Delaware Grammy reclaimed her bed for a few hours until the same stomach virus laid its savage hand upon her, and she was back in her recliner for thirty hours or so.  Quickly recovered, she had pleasant sleep for all of Thursday and Friday nights, and quietly prayed that God would spare the rest of her family.  Especially Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.

It was not to be.  Saturday morning she came down to a very miserable BL.  She had projectile vomited over her bedroom floor, clear to OGA’s bed, and then vomited profusely while in the bathroom.  All day long, there were ministrations of gingerale and peach juice and Phenergan.  By evening, she wasn’t vomiting, and she seemed to be better, but Grammy decided that it would be best for her to sleep in a recliner, where she could be helped quickly if she needed assistance.  (She also was remembering the three hours she had spent cleaning the bathroom, spraying Lysol over all the surfaces, and scrubbing the rug between the beds in the bedroom.  Linoleum floor and a Schwan’s ice cream bucket seemed a far better choice than a bed with clean sheets and a still wet carpeted floor.)  So, with Linda in her chair, and late night things to finish up, Grammy finally got settled very late, indeed, into her own recliner and drifted off to sleep.

It was a restless sleep, however, and scarcely was she asleep an hour when she was suddenly awake.  She heard voices.  People were talking somewhere, faintly.  Then she heard the driveway monitor.  This did not produce confidence.  As quietly as she could, she put the foot rest down on her recliner.  Stealthily she sneaked out to the kitchen and looked out the window.  Yikes!  The motion sensor light had been activated on the back deck towards the chicken house lane.  She stood stock still in the middle of her kitchen, straining her ears to hear, but the voices had fallen silent.  Had they detected movement through the kitchen window?  She stood contemplating what she should do.

Then it didn’t matter any more.  It was time to move to safety of her own bed and to the protection that the presence of Delaware Grandpa always affords.  She thought about the fact that it had been about eight hours since BL had vomited, and decided to take her to the bathroom and put her into her own bed.  With clandestine movements, intended to keep her out of the direct view of any windows and hushed, whispered instructions to BL, she got her from her chair, into the bathroom, and tucked into her bed.  She quietly sang her a bedtime prayer, and crept out of the room.  As she stepped out of the room, she heard voices again, and this time, she could make out words.  It felt like a cold hand had grabbed her stomach —

. . . until she realized that it was coming from the computer room..Her computer had not been shut down for the night and was picking up window after window of commercial drivel and playing it loudly to a dark, empty room.  She opened the door, shut the eight or so offending windows, and then shut the computer down.  And then she gathered her nightie tight against her and climbed the steps to the comfy bed where Delaware Grandpa lay snoring softly.  Slipping in beside him she gave a contented sigh and was almost instantly asleep.  There was a space of a mere two hours until she needed to be up again, but the quality of those two hours was unblemished by any interruption or disturbance.  Just pure blissful sleep.

She never did find out what set off the driveway monitor, (probably a cat on an nocturnal stroll) or activated the sensor light (probably a breeze in the branches that have grown into the line of perception).  But whatever it is that disturbs the slumber of Delaware Grammy, the truth is that she will always sleep better when Grandpa is there to defend and protect.  And so she continues to pursue quality hours of sleep that will refresh.  And if she can remember to check her blanket controls and keep watch over the contents of her bedside table, it stands to reason that peaceful slumber will be the norm and not the exception.

For this, her heart truly does give most grateful praise!

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Filed under Family living, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Charis and Grammy Butcher a Chicken

The big trucks had pulled in and out of the lane at Shady Acres for most of Wednesday  night.  The big, fat, stinky chickens had been caught, put into the cages and hauled away to the processing plant.  Certain Man, short on sleep and long on labor, had finally come into the house and collapsed on his beloved chair and fell fast asleep.

The day was full with much coming and going, but somewhere along the line, Certain Man said, “The chicken catchers left one chicken — one big one!  Do you want to butcher it or shall I just put it into the composter?”

“I want to butcher it!” I said.  “I will probably not get to it, though, until tomorrow.”

“That’s fine,” he said.  “I will catch it and put it into my coop and you can get it whenever you want to do it.”

And so the day passed.  Thursday, I got a note from a cousin asking about some chicken soup for one of my neighbors, and I was reminded about that chicken, waiting for me.

“Sweetheart, did you catch that chicken for me?” I asked in one of my conversations with him during the day.

“Oh, no!” He said.  “I didn’t get around to it.”

“Do you think the fox got it?” I asked, reminiscent of the last chicken I had planned for a pot of soup.

“Shouldn’t have,” he said, “because it was in the chicken house and the doors were closed.”

Thursday nights are “Grammy Night” with Charis, and I decided that, unless her Daddy and Mommy objected, or unless she thought it was too gross, Charis and I were going to butcher a chicken for Grammy night.  I called her Mommy and told her my plan, and she and Jesse talked it over and decided to ask her what she wanted to do.  After school, when her Daddy was bringing her down he broached the subject.

“Grammy thought maybe she and you would butcher a chicken tonight,” he told her carefully, explaining some of the possibilities of the evening.  “Would you like that?”

“I wouldn’t like that,” she said, all excited. “I would love it!”  And so, it was decided.

She came into the house, all fired up to get busy, but I had something to get in to the post office before it closed, and she occupied her time with other things until finally, I was ready.

“I’m not so sure about this,” I said to her as we started out.  “Grandpa didn’t get this chicken caught, so I’m going to have to chase it down.  I’m getting a little old for this sort of thing.”

“Oh,” she said, confidently.  “You have me!  I’ll catch it for you!”

“I’ll be glad for your help, Charis,” I said, “but this is a big chicken.  It isn’t very easy to hold and it might hurt you.”

“Will it bite?”  She asked a bit anxiously.

“It probably won’t peck you, but it has spurs on the side of its legs that can scratch pretty hard.  I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Oh.” She said.

“Maybe you can chase it towards me and I can catch it,” I said.  “We’ll just see what works out.  Do you know which chicken house it is in?”  (She had been conversing with Aunt Lena who had helped Grandpa with some of the chores in the chicken houses that follow the movement of a flock.)

“Yup!” she said proudly.  “House three!”  So we headed out towards house three.  I was on the golf card and she was on her bike.  We stopped at the barn and the shed, also at the ante rooms of both house two and three, looking for the hook that makes catching a chicken a whole lot easier, but alas!  None was to be found.  I was wondering how in the world all of this was going to work out.  Chasing a chicken in a newly emptied house is precarious business for a woman of my age and weight and athletic ability.  The litter is uneven, with ruts and often wet places.  Chickens are crazy birds, with the ability to turn on a dime and run in the opposite direction.  They squawk and flutter and they are often the bearers of chicken poop on their feathers and always on their appendages that you are most like to grab when you are trying to catch them.  And without a hook?  I was most certainly in for some trouble.  But there was Bright Eyes beside me, chattering cheerfully and so very excited about our upcoming adventure.

We pulled up at the end of the chicken house and I opened the end doors.  It was dark and reeking of ammonia and the foul smell of a chicken house.  Charis nearly gagged at the heavy wave of barely breathable air.  We peered down the long expanse towards the other end, and in the darkness, somewhere near the middle door, I saw — well, something!  It didn’t really look like a chicken, but it was some sort of interruption in the emptiness, so I said to Charis, “We are going to go down to the middle door.  Grammy thinks she sees that chicken down there.”

We both got on the golf cart this time, as Charis decided to leave her bike and come back for it later.  Away we went, down to the main side door.  I opened it wide and stepped inside.  Charis stayed on the outside, undecided as to what she wanted to do.  She let the door swing shut.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I opened it back up.

“Charis, can you hold this door open so that I can see?”

She half-heartedly held it a bit, then stepped inside, then stepped back out, then held it open about a foot.  I still could barely see, but I could make out our intended victim.  He was a big old duber,  and when I stepped in his direction, he started getting away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

“Charis, can you come and help to chase him towards me?”  I was of the opinion that she could at least stand guard while I snuck up on him.  I caught on really fast that wasn’t a happening thing.

“Grammy, see, I can hold a little chicken,” she said from the safety of just outside the door, “but I don’t know how to hold a big one!”  She watched as I traversed the litter and got him over to the other side of the house.  Then, “Grammy, I’m gonna’ be down here,” she hollered as the door slammed shut and I heard no more.

I had a little more light at the far side of the house and it occurred to me that darkness might be in my favor in this situation, and so I eased myself slowly in the direction of the chicken.  He watched me with his beady eye.  I was almost ready to reach out and catch him by his wings when he suddenly took off towards the other end of the house.  About then I heard Charis at the end of the house where she had gone to retrieve her bike.

“Grammy, I’m down here, if you need me,” she hollered.  It was only 175 feet away.  I was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to be much help.

“Okay,” I yelled back.  “That’s good!”  At least she wouldn’t be getting hurt by a frantic rooster.

The things I had been concerned about were reality as I went over the ridges and rolls of the litter in the empty chicken house.  It was loose and I slipped and skittered around, trying to keep my balance.  Oops!  There was a very wet spot.  I hurriedly dislodged my foot from there, wishing with all my heart that I hadn’t worn my sandals for this job.  It already felt like there was at least a half a cup of litter between my sandal and my foot and now there was dampness. Oh, yuk! But I was intent on my prey, and he was stepping closer and closer to the wall.  I very slowly  narrowed the distance between us and suddenly made a grab!  Caught him squarely!  He squawked and protested mightily with his strong wings, but I quickly subdued him.  Charis, noting that he was safely in hand, disappeared again from the back doors of the chicken house and with amazing speed, met me at the side door as I exited with him.

I had procured some baler twine from the side wall of the barn when I had been in there looking for the hook, and I wrapped it around his legs while Charis made comments about his soon demise.  I put him into the back basket of the golf cart where my unreliable efforts to incapacitate him would not allow him to escape.  He looked questioningly at me through the wires.

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Charis fancies herself an animal whisperer.  She got up close to him and started to talk to him.

“Hey, little guy,” she crooned.  “Do you know you are going to get butchered?”  She didn’t seem sorry at all, and there was no pity or compassion or even regret in her voice.  She said something about it being her relative, but when I asked for clarification,  she changed the subject.

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“Come on, Charis-girlie.  We need to get this fellow up to the house and find a place to hang him.”

“Are you going to cut off his head?”

“I am, but I’m going to hang him first.  That’s the way my Daddy taught me.”

“Aren’t you going to lay him down and chop off his head?”  (There was entirely too much enthusiasm for carnage in this little person.  Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all.)

“No, Charis, I’m going to hang it from the baler twine, then while it is hanging, I am going to go in and get some water started to scald him with.  While the water is heating, I will come back out and cut off his head.  But I don’t think you want to watch that part of it.”

“Yes, I do!”

“Well, we shall see.  But for right now, we need to find a place to hang it up.”  When we tore down the old shed, I lost my row of chicken hanging ropes.  I needed to fashion something to hang this chicken where it could bleed and flap about.  Charis and I checked out several possibilities while the chicken watched from his spot.

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I was feeling sorry for him about now, but my companion in crime was going full speed ahead.  “Why are we hanging him upside down, Grammy?  Why don’t you hang him on your onion rack?   Why are you doing that?  What are we going to do next?  Are you going to cut off his head with your knife?   Are you going to get your knife?  When are you going to get your knife?  Why do you need to get water?”  I answered questions and did my best to downplay any violence either intended or implied, but her thirst for gore was unabated.

I finally hooked the blue baler twine over the railing for the sliding door to the woodshed and secured the poor chicken into its restraint.  It was beyond much protest.

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But, wowser!  That fellow was really heavy.  Certain Man had said that he didn’t think I would have any trouble catching him because he was too fat to run too far, but for as heavy as he was, I thought he had run pretty fast!  Now, hanging him up, I wondered if my baler twine would hold him.  I didn’t think it would break, but it kept slipping down and the piece of wood that I had gotten to serve as an anchor wasn’t proving reliable.  I finally twisted and wrapped and wrapped again and decided that it would hold.  Charis wanted to touch him, but was worried.

“Do you think he will bite me, Grammy?”

“No, Charis.  I’m pretty sure he won’t.”

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And then we left him dangling in the evening sun, and we went into the house, started the water in a big kettle on a power burner, and sharpened my favorite butcher knife.  I tried to talk her into staying in the house with Auntie Beebs while I took the head off, but she insisted on accompanying me back outside.  The chicken was quiet.  I explained that hanging upside down like that made all the blood run to his head, and it kinda made him unconscious.  I told her that the knife was really, really sharp, and it only took a second to cut off his head.  I told her that her Mommy and Auntie Beebs and Auntie Rach and even the neighbor children and Grandpa didn’t watch while Grammy cut off a chicken’s head.  I told her that Grammy didn’t even watch while she cut it off.  She found the place on the neck that the knife needed to go and turned her head away so she wouldn’t have to watch.  I told her, again, that I didn’t want her to watch.  I told her that she had to stand back because the chicken would flop around up there on the rope and she could get blood on her.

“Okay, Grammy,” she said cheerfully.  “I’ll stand clear over her and I’ll do this.”  She backed about ten feet away and covered her face with her hands.  I checked to make sure she wasn’t peeking through her fingers.

“That’s good, Charis.  I think it’s better if you don’t watch.  I’ll tell you when you can look.”

“Okay, Grammy.”  Still cheerful, still not looking.

I grabbed the head of the big old rooster in my left hand.  He had a really thick neck.  I felt for an indention where I could put my knife, and put it there.  I turned my head while I made a quick, clean slash with my razor sharp knife, then dropped the head on to the grass.  And turned my head far enough to see two brown eyes peeking through conveniently spread fingers.

“Grammy!  I saw it!  I saw it!  I saw you cut it off!”  There didn’t appear to be any trauma connected with it, and I decided that I wasn’t going to make anything big of it.  In years gone by, many were the seven year old children who had to help with the family butchering, and seemed none the worse for it.

I gathered up my knife and said, “Come on, Girlie.  We need to go get the boiling water.”

“What are you going to do with the water?” She asked.

“We will put the chicken into it and scald it a little and then the feathers will come off.”  We procured the water, got it into a big pail, and came back out to where our now very dead chicken hung.  I dipped the chicken into the water and checked to see if the feathers were pluckable.  They were, and I hung it back up and started pulling feathers off in great quantities.  This seemed to bother Charis more than anything else.  She had donned latex gloves with the intent of helping, and I explained what she could do.

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She helped for a while and then, “Grammy, I didn’t know that I would have to do this.  I don’t like it.”

“It isn’t the most pleasant, but it is something that we need to do before we finish butchering it.  We have to get all the feathers off.  That’s first!”

“When are you going to take the guts out?”

“That will be next,” I told her.  “But first we need to get as many feathers as possible off.”

She manned the hose when I wanted the chicken rinsed off, and then we carried it over to the outside sink that her Grandpa had installed by the garden.  I scraped the skin and cut off the legs.  She watched in great interest as I made the first cut to loosen and remove the crop and windpipe.  She was unabashedly curious about every part that I removed.

“This windpipe feels like a tube!” she said as she fingered it.  And then, “Grammy is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”  I must have looked surprised, because she motioned towards the wings and asked again, “Is there any ‘chicken’ on the wings?”

I realized then that she meant “meat” and I said, “Oh, yes, there is.  You know, when Daddy goes to get hot wings, that’s what he’s eating.  Chicken wings!  Lots of people really like them.”

She looked thoughtful.  Then puzzled.  “Grammy,” she said, “do buffalo have wings?”

I had to laugh.  “No, Charis, buffalo do not have wings.  When the wings are called ‘buffalo wings’ it is talking about a certain spice that they put on chicken wings.  It’s still chicken wings, but it’s called by the name of the spices that are used.”

“Oh,” she said.

By then I had made a cut into the abdomen to draw out the innards from the bottom.  (I seldom cut up a chicken into pieces because I mostly use them to cook whole for soup or to stuff and roast whole or to soak in Tenderquick to put a different taste-twist on it.)  It was here that I expected some gagging or some serious revulsion and a hasty departure.  There was nothing of the kind.  The gizzard, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the intestines and even the gonads were duly noted, examined and discussed. And when all was cleaned up, a little girlie carried the heart, the liver and the gizzard to the house while Grammy carried the big old bird.  Inside, we put him into a big container and Charis added a cup of salt.  We filled the container with water until the chicken was covered, added ice, snapped on the lid and left it for the night.  I got a little pan and fresh cooked up the giblets.  Charis wasn’t much interested in partaking of any of them, so Grammy got the liver and Grandpa gladly speared the heart and gizzard for himself.

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Then her Daddy and Mommy came and fetched her home, and her Mommy reported that she slept almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.  Another “Grammy Night” was history.

After the chicken had spent the night in salt water, I took it out and put it into a big Ziplock bag to take to the fridge in the garage. On the way out the door, I stopped at the scales in the laundry room and plopped it on.  A full 8 pounds, all dressed.  He was big!

Then I cooked him up and today I made him into a big pot of chicken corn noodle soup with a generous portion of Delaware lima beans in it.  It made over two gallons.

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That’s enough to give away, share with friends and feed my family (who just might be getting tired of Chicken Corn Noodle Soup!) for a few days.

And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man is always glad to let the butchering of chickens up to his wife, where none of The Offspringin’s are interested in learning this particular skill, and where Only Granddaughter has some stories to tell about her latest Grammy night.

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Monday Morning in the Bean Patch

I went out to my bean patch on Friday afternoon, and looked very sorrowfully at the beans hanging there. It looked like there was a lot there that were ready to be picked, but I knew it was going to have to wait. I was getting ready for church retreat and there was just no way that I would be able to get to my patch yet that afternoon.

“Maybe I can scurry out here in the morning,” I thought hopefully. “We don’t need to be at camp until 11, so maybe I can squeeze that in before we need to leave.”

The thing was, I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for our church family for brunch on Saturday morning.  Friend Torre was spending the night with us, and she would help me put the dough together when we got home, and all I would need to do would be to roll out the dough and put the rolls in the pans in the morning.

Friday night was hotter than all get out at Mardela Springs camp.  Certain Man took a big chicken house fan along to try to move some air, and we milled about, sweaty and sticky in the big room.  It was noisy with the hum of the big fan and the conversations that went on between the adults and the playing of THE LITTLES.  We ate hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream and lemonade and tea and finally came home around nine.  I had gotten Friend Normie to stay with OGA and BL, because they really do not like going to Church Camp under aesthetic conditions, much less ones that are noisy and hot, and I was so thankful they were already in bed when we got home.  Torre and I got the dough mixed up and into the refrigerator, and I went to bed.

In the early, groggy minutes soon after five the next morning, I was aware that I had a really insistent headache.  This is not my usual malady.  I almost never get headaches, but I did that morning and I tried to go back to sleep, hoping to sleep it off, but then I remembered that I had cinnamon rolls to make, and that I wanted to pick them thar’ beans, and so I decided to get up and get moving and see what I could get done.  I came down to the kitchen, got some medicine and a cup of coffee and sat on my chair for a bit.  I was soon feeling rather muchly better, so I got the cinnamon rolls started and worked at straightening the kitchen, looked for a recipe for sticky buns that didn’t have milk, got BL up and showered, got OGA her breakfast, and kept my eye on the time.  Then I started the icing cooking on the stove and called Friend Normie and told her we weren’t going to be gone before at least nine-thirty.  I fed BL, iced cinnamon rolls, and inverted the sticky buns onto a hard flat surface and called Eldest Daughter to see if she could pick up the cinnamon rolls and sticky buns to take them over to camp.  Whew!  She could!  That was a big load off my mind.

I kept thinking and thinking about the Lima beans hanging on and thought about just giving them away to someone who would pick them.  But it’s been a slow year in my bean patch, and even though we’ve had some good eating, I haven’t frozen a single bag of this year’s crop.  This wears hard on this Delaware Grammy’s heart, but as  the time got shorter and shorter until our intended time of departure, I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to make it out there before we left for Mardela Springs.  I decided to just wait and see.  Maybe we would be home before dark –?

We weren’t.  And it doesn’t work very well to pick Lima Beans by the light of the moon or the beam of a headlight or even the steady beam of a LED light, plastered against a sweaty forehead and held in place by a big piece of elastic.  I gave it up for the night and went to bed.

Sunday morning came, and it was off to camp again.  There was the usual last mad flurry of activity where church members cleaned up and then Daniel and I delivered non-perishables to the church, took some leftovers to a local homeless shelter for veterans and pulled into our driveway at about 3:20.  We unloaded our ladies and emptied our mini-van, then dropped the van off at a repair shop for a Monday morning appointment and came back home to catch some rest.

“Maybe I should go pick those Lima Beans,” I said to my weary spouse as we walked to the house after parking his pickup in the pavilion.  “I know it is Sunday, and all that, but I also think I am going to lose quite a few the way it is.”

“Well, you don’t want to go do it now,” he said.  “It’s too hot!  Besides, you should take a break!”

“You’re right,” I said, “but do you think it would be okay to do it later, after it cools off?”

“I guess you can do what you want,” he said, without enthusiasm.  And headed up the ramp into the air conditioned coolness of the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

I followed him in and did some serious thinking.  I thought about my Daddy.  I thought about hay down in the fields on  a Saturday night, needing to be baled, but his unwavering commitment to NEVER doing unnecessary work on Sunday.  I thought about how he would leave everything sit over the Day of Rest, and then get back to it on Monday.  I thought about how he would leave his farm on busy June evenings to be the superintendent for Summer Bible School at a little country church in the rural Frederica/Felton area and how hard he worked to bring children to Bible School.  I thought about people who had no religious sense of obligation, who planted and cultivated and harvested whenever it seemed like a good time, who thought that Daddy was foolish to sacrifice so much for “so little” in monetary rewards.  I remembered Daddy saying to us children, “Always remember that God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”

I thought and thought, and knew that I was going to wait to pick beans until this morning.  Daniel wondered about what I was going to do, and I said, “I’m just going to get out there in the morning, first thing, and I’m going to pick those beans, and what I lose, I lose.”

Through the early morning while I changed the washer, made beds, showered BL, fed breakfast, and did meds, I thought about my bean patch.  I had sent some fervent prayers Heavenward, begging for protection and that the patch wouldn’t have too many dried and ruined bean pods.  Maybe God would choose to bless the decision to wait until this morning, and give me an overabundance of beans for my freezer.  The longer I thought, the more excited I got to just see how God was going to make this my best picking ever.  Or at least this year.

I put BL on her bus after telling OGA that I was going straight to the bean patch immediately after she was gone, and headed out for my garden.  I got a five gallon bucket from Certain Man’s stash, and contemplated taking the second one that I had convinced myself I would need, but then decided that I would just come back for it.  I left it down where it was easily accessible, and started down my first row.  The dew was heavy, and the sun was warm.  Even with the cooler temperatures, it was still a hot, wet job.  I picked the first five feet and got about that many beans.  Five.  There were almost no dried, brown ones, but neither were there many that were full and ready to pick.  I searched the plants high and low and wondered if I would even get enough to make this worth my time.  The second five feet yielded another ten or so, but also had wilted, green and yellow pods hanging lifelessly from the stems.  The leaves were mostly full and lush, and there were plenty of blossoms, but there were almost no beans to pick.  I looked at the bottom of my five gallon bucket and it wasn’t even covered.  I wondered about my optimism and hope for a good picking this morning.  I couldn’t say that there were terribly many that went to waste, so far at least, but there just wasn’t the abundance I was looking for.  I thought about how I was planning to give God the glory for a great crop, and about how encouraged I had planned to feel if I hadn’t lost very many and had a better than expected picking.  I wasn’t to the point of feeling resentful, but the temptation was growing in my disappointed heart.

And then in my pocket, my cell phone began to ring.  I checked the screen and saw that it was from my brother, Mark, Jr.  I wiped my fingers off on my t-shirt and swiped the screen.  The voice on the other end was subdued, but warm.

“How are you doing?”  We exchanged pleasantries, talked briefly about my bean patch, his bean patch and how nobody’s bean patch seems to be doing well this year. And then he said, “What I really called to tell you was that I got a phone call this morning that I’ve been sort of expecting for a long time, but I still don’t know how to deal with it.  (—-) took his life last night.”

In that millisecond, time stood still.  Around me, the dew still hung on the bean leaves.  The cicadas made their crazy noise and the crickets chirped.  I felt the sucker punch of denial and sadness and shock and regret settle in my stomach with a sick, sick feeling and I tried so hard to not believe what I had heard. (—-) was a childhood friend, born between Mark, Jr. and me.  He often spent the summer days at our farm, playing with Mark and turning brown in the sun.  He was allowed to go without his shirt and he could make those offensive noises with his armpits and he showed off his skill often to the point of sometimes being obnoxious.  I remember his skinny, sinewy arms and his shock of blond hair.  He loved to tell stories and among our family treasures was this one.

His father had taken to doing a little farming in the fields beside their big white house, and one of the crops that he planted was some corn.  Young (—-) watched the corn with great interest, and lo!  And behold!  There came a day when it sprouted tassels out the top the way corn is supposed to, but this phenomenon had never been observed by him before.  He came striding down to our house with the air of something to tell.

“You’ll never guess what!” He said with great excitement.  “My dad planted all of his corn upside down!  The roots are growing straight up in the air!”  He paused a bit for effect and then said, shaking his head with disbelief, “How dumb can you get?”

Life so often disappointed him.  He never married, and had a succession of failed relationships, failed enterprises, and failed dreams.  He often told my brother, “You’re the only friend I have.”  Mark was always kind to him, lending mowers and other equipment to him, always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, always trying to speak Jesus into his life, but also sought to give him the space he 0ften desperately seemed to fight for. And now he was gone.  The thought hung heavy in the morning air.

“I know he had choices,” Mark was saying now, and I brought myself back to the bean row and his voice.  “But on mornings like this, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for the home that we had, for the parents and the upbringing we had.  Sometimes it just seems like there are some people that are just so shortchanged on so many counts.”

I looked at my almost empty bucket of beans and thought about how easy it is for me to expect God to do the special things or give special gifts because I am keeping my attitude right or because I am doing the right thing, and I suddenly felt so ashamed of my petty expectations and my selfish heart.  There was more than enough reason to give glory to God and to shout aloud His praise.  He had given me so much in so many ways that counted far more than a bean crop from a Delaware summer.  I finished my call with my brother, and looked at the sum total of beans in my bucket.  It wasn’t even half full.

But my heart!  My heart!  It was brimming over with praise for God’s incredible Mercy towards me in a thousand ways with every single breath.  I felt the sting of sadness for our friend and his family, and I don’t think I will ever make my peace with suicide, but I also can stand in the presence of an almighty God and lay the questions at his feet, and decide to trust Him with the things that I can never personally explain.

God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.  And God’s mercy is not measured by a five gallon bucket that is standing almost empty.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

And so, my heart gives humble, grateful praise!

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Designs on the Resolve

It had been a long day.  And as it got later and later, I felt some dismay creep into my soul.  I took a quick appraisal and decided that there were still some things that needed to be done before I climbed the mountain to my sweet, sweet rest. Middle daughter was home, but working, Certain Man’s day had been physically and emotionally taxing and the two of them were out of sight for the duration of the evening it seemed. Certain Man was within shouting distance, but Middle Daughter was documenting a complicated Hospice admission that she had just visited, and that rendered her pretty much oblivious to the goings on down in the main floor.

I sighed a bit (since Certain Man was NOT within sighing distance) and looked at the kitchen that I had just straightened a few hours earlier.  Since then, I had made a coffee cake for Certain Man, fed my ladies, picked and brought in some garden tea, and the kitchen was in disarray.  Over 50 containers of strawberry jam sat on the counter, ready to be taken to the basement and the tea hadn’t been made, so there was a small, green mountain on the cupboard where there were some small beasties crawling around.  There was still laundry to be sorted for the morning washing, and I was really tired.

There is only one thing to do in these situations, and that is to get busy QUICKLY and do what needs to be done.  But I’ve found that, while the sighs don’t help, and neither does feeling sorry for myself, it does help to look for things to be happy about. So I got busy and sorted some laundry.  Certain Man had already fetched the laundry from our side of the upstairs and brought it down to the laundry room.  (He’s always done that for me, ever since our children were little, and it is a big help!)  Our Girl Audrey had also gotten hers and Blind Linda’s into a big basket and pulled it out to the laundry room, which was another gift to be counted.  And Middle Daughter would bring hers down later.  In case you’re wondering, my angst was not at any of them.  It was just that this needed to be done and there was no motivation on the part of the one who needed to do it!  Uh-huh!

So.  Since I felt like I was supposed to stop sighing and be cheerful about things, I turned on one of my favorite CD’s and sorted the laundry that was available.  That was easy enough.  I like sorting laundry.  Especially to music.  And then I looked at one of those yet unappropriated laundry baskets and decided to use it to carry the strawberry jam to the basement.  I would need to make a couple of trips, but not FIVE.  So I started some water for the tea and then loaded my first sturdy basket with thirty jars of jam and headed on down to unload it.  The freezer needed some rearranging, but it wasn’t too bad, so I smiled at it and resolved to be cheerful and did what needed doing and got my first layer of jam jars into the freezer and then went back for more.  The water was boiling and I had managed to strip the leaves off of enough tea for a gallon, so I got that steeping, and then took the second load of strawberry jam to the basement and got it arranged where it belonged.  Wow!  That was satisfying!

Upstairs again, I found that Certain Man was off his chair and winding his clocks.  He was working his way around the family room, living room and then into the sun room.  I stirred about in the kitchen, finishing the tea and getting it into the fridge.  Then Certain Man said something about thinking it was time to go to bed.  Which suited me just fine.  He came out into the kitchen to see how things were progressing, while I finished arranging things in the laundry room for the morning’s chore of laundry.  He was saying something to me, and I was replying in my cheerfullest, brightest voice while I stacked some wash baskets around the corner from him when–!

Ker-thunk!!!

Down came a heavy wash basket right on my toe!  Right on my big toe.  Right on my toe that I had done surgery on to remove an ingrown toenail two nights ago!  It hurt so much that I couldn’t see straight, much less talk in a cheerful, bright tone.  I kinda’ stopped everything in that split second and didn’t say anything out loud.  (And NO! I wasn’t saying any bad words!)  But in my swirling head where all the stars were milling about I was saying, “REALLY???  (Oh ouch!!!)  All this concerted effort to not feel sorry for myself, (Oh ouch!!!) to count the gifts and to be cheerful, and this happens to me???(Oh ouch!!!)”  And of course, I had to say to my Heavenly Father, with my face all scrunched up and water standing in my eyes, “I just don’t get it! (Oh ouch!!!)  And why is this hurting so much?  REALLY much!!!  (Oh ouch!!!)  What sort of unholy design is there upon my honorable resolve???)  Thankfully, I was around the corner from Certain Man and he was sleepy enough that he never noticed the abrupt (long) pause in my cheerful, bright conversation.

After awhile he said, “You ’bout ready to go up?”

I took a deep breath, and discovered I was not going to die of toe-itis-meyeomia and decided to go for it.  “Yup!”  I said in my cheerfullest brightest voice while my poor toe throbbed and I gave thanks he couldn’t see my face, “I’m just finished.  Let’s go get some sleep!”

And so, we did!

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Pickled Eggs and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I bought a five dozen case of eggs last week.  It’s getting on towards spring, and I like to make pickled (red beet) eggs.  I always do this with an eye towards the man of the house.  Certain Man does not like this particular delicacy.  In fact, I noted in a post back in 2008 that I had to endure persecution when I would “stink of the house”  making pickled eggs.  (You can read about that here; https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/706/, as well as see a picture of a very young Lem and Jessica Yutzy, get the recipe for red beet eggs, as well as one for Graham Streusel Coffee Cake).

To be honest, not much has changed.

However, that beloved Eldest Brother, Clint Yoder, came to Delaware for a very fast trip this weekend, and he loves pickled eggs, so I weighed my options carefully and decided to make a batch on Tuesday.  I usually only make one batch a year, but some years I need more.  I suspected that without my Sweet Mama, I wouldn’t need more than one this year, though.  She was one who always loved them as well.  Perhaps that is one of the reason I make them  When the smell of beets and vinegar and cloves and cinnamon is “stinking up the house” it feels like I’m a little girl again, and it is almost Easter and my Sweet Mama is making up a batch of pickled eggs.  She always stored them in a big glass gallon jar, and the deep richness shone ruby-red through the refrigerator light at the back of our big old farmhouse fridge.  Something about that familiar jar with the same gold lid and the taste of pickled beets say “home.”  And so, probably for that reason more than any other, I feel compelled to make them.

Tuesday morning, the morning I decided that they needed to be made, was the same morning that Middle Daughter decided that she needed to replenish the supply of chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.  She baked over a hundred cookies while I moved around her and put together the beets. the  spices and hardboiled the eggs.  The eggs boiled and the beets simmered (well, in this case, pretty much boiled furiously) with the spices and Middle Daughter complained some about the fact that one of the smells that her Daddy hated the most was mingling with one of his favorite smells, that of Chocolate Chip Cookies.

“I know,” I said, trying to comfort her, “but by the time your Daddy gets home, the smell will be somewhat abated, and he will see that you made chocolate chip cookies and that will make him not fuss so much about the pickled eggs. I plan to have them out of sight by then, anyhow.”

We both know that he loves cookies or cake or baked anything with his breakfast.  His favorite thing is to put chocolate chip cookies into hot oatmeal and have the chips melt just a bit and then eat everything all together.  This is a Yutzy Family thing to do, although I suspect it may have its roots in their Amish heritage.  No matter what the baked good is, it is better with milk poured over it, maybe some fruit on top of that, depending on the baked good, but at least milk!  Yes, it’s a soggy mess, and yes, it can look pretty mixed up and disgusting, but that’s the way he likes it, and I’ve noticed when I’m with his family, that he’s not the only one that is of this persuasion.  I haven’t tried to change him.  It really doesn’t hurt anything.  And if a man can’t eat what he wants, the way he wants it, and when he wants it, in his own house, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me.  So Middle Daughter helps to maintain the supply and he eats chocolate chip cookies with his oatmeal and we are all content.  And he doesn’t eat pickled eggs, no matter what the supply, and as long as he isn’t called upon to defend his position, or smell them too long, or have anything to do with them, we are still all content.

And so the morning passed, both cooks accomplished their endeavors and by afternoon, the eggs were in the garage, cooling for the garage refrigerator, and the cookies were baked, packaged in morning breakfast bags of three each and in the freezer, and a plate for munching was sitting on the counter.

Mr. Yutzy was quite pleased with the beautiful cookies.  So much so that he didn’t say much about the pickled eggs.

But then there were several occasions to haul them out.  My Bible study gals and their children had some after Bible study on Thursday.  I had put two dozen eggs in that big gallon jug and I thought there was plenty to share.  The eggs and beets were exclaimed over and eaten and the jar went down considerably.  I checked my supply and knew that there were still plenty for today’s lunch, but not a whole lot more.  Maybe this was one year when I would be able to justify making a second batch!

Today’s lunch was another one of those wonderfully miraculous provisions for me.  Eldest Daughter has made Sunday lunch for us twice in the last few weeks, and the Sunday morning difference has been really special.  And this week at Bible Study, one of my gals said that she wanted to bring lasagna for lunch today, would it be okay?  Do we eat lasagna?  I was so excited, I hardly knew how to contain myself!  “Yes, we eat lasagna!  Yes, it would be okay!  Yes, please!  Yes, please!”  And so it was agreed upon.

She brought the lasagna, baked and ready to reheat, last evening.  And with it, a tray of homemade cream puffs.

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Wow!  What a treat!  With all the stuff that I  bake, these are something I don’t dabble with.  These looked absolutely delectable.

And so, at lunch today we had lasagna, a lovely tossed salad, the making of which was overseen by Middle Daughter, Deborah, Delaware Lima Beans, cooked the way we like them, and what was left of the pickled eggs.  Oh, and those cream puffs!  It was a wonderful dinner, shared by family and friends.  Oldest Brother, Clint Yoder, Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son In Law, along with our granddaughter, and Nephew Josh with his lovely wife, Lawina.  We had sweet conversation, enjoyed a dinner that was mostly donated, and got things cleared away in record time.  The company was delightful, the food was good, and one of the best parts of all was that the pickled egg jar was depleted of the last egg, and (almost) the last beet.

I looked at my almost empty jar and thought, “Wow!  This is one year I get to make another batch.  Maybe tomorrow I should get started on that, since Certain Man will be at work, and I can get it done early enough so as to not cause (too much) havoc.

So wish me the best, dear friends.  In this house of very little tolerance for the existence of pickled red beet eggs, I’m planning to courageously move forward and see if I can replenish my supply.  Easter is still three weeks off.  I might even have time for two more batches.  Especially is some of you would show up to help eat them.

Pickled Red Beet Egg Eaters Unite!  We are just as good as the others!  It’s time to let our preferences be heard!  Here’s to the glass gallon jar with the ruby red goodness shining through!  Here’s to the ones who eat them with relish!  May the tribe increase!

After Christmas Trauma 002a

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Taster’s Choice® Coffee

It all started when I opened a fresh jar of Tasters Choice® Coffee and made the first cup.  It didn’t taste right.  It had an extra flavor of Vanilla or Hazelnut or . . . something!

At first, I thought it must have been something in my cup, or something that I had eaten before drinking that cup of coffee that flavored my perception of goodness.  But then I had another cup and another cup and another cup (over the ensuing days) and I was finally convinced that it wasn’t my taste buds, but rather something else.  “What if Nestlé® is messing with my “tried and faithful” brew?  What if they are improving it?  Oh, dear!  What am I going to do???”

Well, for one thing, I wasn’t going to just let it go quietly.  So I sent a generally undemanding letter of disappointment to Customer Service and was astounded to receive a very prompt, courteous reply, promising to look into it, and to compensate me for my disappointment.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long until I received coupons in the mail for cents off as well as one free jar of Taster’s Choice® coffee, my choice.  I was amazed at the speed with which this all transpired, grateful for the kindness of the people that I spoke with and the generosity of the company.  I mean, I’m not their biggest customer by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m just this common, ordinary Delaware Grammy, who decided to speak up for once, and I hadn’t been at all forceful in my telling of my disappointment.  But, hey!  Free coffee is free coffee.  I tucked the coupons into the side pocket of my purse to use the next time I needed to purchase coffee.  The thing was, the more I drank that coffee that wasn’t quite right, the better it tasted.  I have a feeling that there was somehow a layer of flavored coffee that somehow got right on the top of the jar and once I got through that, it wasn’t half bad.  And I really cannot bear to just throw coffee away.  I was really grateful for their generosity, but actually felt guilty about accepting the free coupons when I was drinking the coffee that I had complained about.

When all this was finished, Nestlé®, the parent company of Taster’s Choice®, sent me a e-mail, inviting me “to participate in a survey evaluating your experience when e-mailing us regarding Nescafé® Taster‘s Choice® Instant Coffee.”  I was delighted to do that, and promptly filled it out and returned it.  That was right after Christmas.  And I’ve not heard anything from them since.

Until today.

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And so, tonight I wrote Nescafé Beverage another letter:

Okay, you guys!  You really surprised this Delaware Grammy!  

When a big box showed up on my doorstep, I thought it was just a shop part that I ordered for my husband’s table saw, so I didn’t pay much attention.  When my daughter brought it in and set it on the dining room table, I thought,  “That’s funny.  That’s a really big box, and it says, ‘fragile’ and it says ‘This side up!’  I wonder why they are giving so much attention to a metal mitre saw guide!”  But then it was too lightweight to be anything metal, and I was really confused.  So I got me a knife and I slit off the tape.  I looked in that box, and thought my husband had gotten really creative (and EARLY!) this year for Valentine’s Day.  There was this beautiful basket with a wonderful bow, all surrounded by packaging pieces.  I started rummaging through and couldn’t believe my eyes!  There were coffees of every kind and description and pretty mugs, all wrapped together in this big wonderful basket.  What an astonishing  gift — and so extravagant.  You all just might convince me that complaining is lucrative.

No, seriously, I don’t usually complain about things, and I was somewhat remorseful when I thought over my reaction and ensuing complaint about my one (ONE!) jar of Taster’s Choice® Coffee that didn’t taste like I had expected.  How many times have I opened a fresh jar of Taster’s Choice® and smelled deep breaths of its fresh, warm, comforting essence and never bothered to tell you how superbly pleasant it was?  I don’t remember any!  (And I’ve been drinking Taster’s Choice® for close to forty years.)

So I am telling you now!  I’m telling you that I have to exercise self control to not open a new jar before the old one is finished because of how much I love that “just opened” smell. I’m telling you that I just fixed a cup of “Grammy Coffee” for my six year old granddaughter, who loves drinking coffee with me, exactly how I make it!  (Lots of cream and sugar)  (And since it is after school, I did make it decaf, but on a regular day, I just let her have regular.)  I’m telling you that I’m so satisfied with Taster’s Choice® that when it’s not available and I decide to try anything else, I’m sorely disappointed. 

And I’m telling you “Thank-you!”

Thank you for a coffee that my 86 year old Mama drank until she wasn’t drinking anything but water.  In her last illness, I would make it in my kitchen, put it into a pretty mug and take it to her hospital room, just to see her take a deep swallow, close her eyes and say, “Oh, Mary Ann! That’s so good!”

Thank you for hearing me when I complained that my new jar didn’t quite meet my expectations.  Thank you for sending me coupons for free product to compensate and a survey to see how you did.  (You did GOOD!)

And thank you for a most unexpected surprise basket in the mail today that included pretty mugs and an incredible array and display and variety of coffee.  I’m overwhelmed.

However,  I can never drink this much coffee, so the coffee bar at our country church in Felton, DE, thanks you, too.  Our oldest daughter stocks the supplies there, and it will be a wonderful addition to the Sunday Morning hot drink spread.  It’s just plain amazing!

Thank you!  I’m truly overwhelmed!

Gratefully yours,
~Mary Ann Yutzy

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