Thoughts From a Microwave vacation: My Week Cooking with Mom

I’ve never been a great cook. I can cook basics like spaghetti, mac ‘n cheese, and hamburgers, but nothing special. My mom was a great cook in that old-fashioned, southern comfort, kind of way. She’d cook meals I couldn’t appreciate when I was a child. Dinners like liver and onions, fried chicken, and homemade beef stroganoff…yum! Somehow, the cooking genes skipped a generation with me. But, I have one cooking memory I will treasure forever.

About 3 years ago I visited my mom in Alabama. She was living with a relative that cared for her and needed a break. My mother was in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. My siblings and I realized something wrong about five years earlier. She started behaving strangely and could get lost in the most familiar places. I loved my mother, but I lacked in the area of patience so it was going to be a challenging week for both of us.

Her kitchen was (and is) small and the appliances are old. They were probably top-of-the line in the 80s and likely the original appliances that came with the house. But, it never bothered me growing up because I don’t cook much. Only the microwave gets much use. But, mom wanted to  cook. It was like the memory of cooking, which she loved, was reawakened in her for a little while. Together, we cooked the entire week. She’d tell me tips she remembered from her past, but then she’d repeat the same tip five minutes later. I’d pretend they were the greatest tips I had ever heard, each time she told them.

Our roles had been reversed. I was cooking, and she was doing the prep work I had done as a child. I’d pull a stool up to the formica counter, and she’d stir and mix. When done, I’d sprinkle flour on the counter and she’d roll the dough out, dropping flour on the tile floor. Her  usually sparkling kitchen was messy, but smelled wonderful with the cooking and baking she and I did together.

At the end of the week I headed home.  I asked her if she enjoyed cooking with me. She looked at me puzzled and said, “We’ve never cooked together.” And, I was reminded that her Alzheimer’s was always there. She’d probably never remember the time we spent together.

It took a week to get the  kitchen clean before I left. There was flour and sugar all over the dark wood cabinets, and the oven actually had burned on stains inside for once. But, I didn’t mind the clean-up. The  memories were worth the extra cleaning.

Mom passed away in October, 2012, from complications from Alzheimer’s. Because of the devastating disease, she no longer remembered me. But, I’m very thankful for the memories of her and I cooking together that week. I’m still not a great cook, but I feel my mother with me every time I burn something…probably laughing! It might not sound like an exciting vacation but it will always be  my most meaningful and treasured.

The Excitement of Black Friday in Cleveland

The day after Thanksgiving is known to be the busiest shopping day of the year in Cleveland (and throughout  The US). The stores are so packed with customers who want to get the best bargain possible. The parking lots are crowded with angry drivers who feel frustrated that they cannot find a parking space. Most people that I know make it a point to avoid going to the stores during Thanksgiving weekend. However, I look forward to spend all day at the mall during this time of year, and Black Friday is no exception. Some may think I’m crazy, but I see this time of year as getting into the Christmas spirit.

Perhaps I get much enjoyment out of Black Friday at the mall because I have a routine. Upon arrival, I go to Starbucks and have a cup of coffee and a pastry. I sit for about an hour observing the beautifully-decorated Christmas tree and listening to the Christmas music being played. In the midst of all of this, people are bumping into others as they make their way to the next store; however, I tune out and only let myself see the beauty of the season. I don’t allow myself to get drawn into the commercialism of the season. Although I buy presents for my family, I plan my time between Thanksgiving and Christmas in such a way that would allow me to enjoy the spirit of the season. One way to plan ahead is to start shopping several months before the holiday by buying items as I come across them; by planning accordingly, I can find something nice at a decent price.

After my time at Starbucks, I go to the stores with the intention of browsing. Since I have already begun my shopping earlier in the year, I don’t have to feel as if time is of the essence. If I find something special to buy, that would be fine, but I never let the number of bags that I am holding determine whether or not my day was a success. By using good time management skills, I can go home at the end of the day without the stress that makes so many people glad that Christmas comes only once a year.