Friday, December 19, 2014

How Do I Say This

I don't blog so much, but I do read and comment on your blogs. At least I try. Mostly I stay on FB, because I find it is less taxing and easier on my hands and my brain fog.

I do keep up. With you all, even if I don't say anything in comments. Some of us have been friends for over a decade. Wow. That's a long time, isn't it?

Yet, be it a year or ten - you, my Tadpoles, are my friends. You have stayed fast and true. You have been supportive and loving, funny and sarcastic. You have made me laugh until it hurt and. . .

Your lives have brought me sadness. Not through any act of your own, or anything you can control, but because I truly love you and love your families.

I have watched your kids grow up, some even getting married, having babies. I have rejoiced in your birthdays and your anniversaries. Graduations, deployments for those in the military. . .the list is endless. But, as you have been there for me, I have done my best to be there for you too. There is nothing better than being able to cheer your happy.

But? Life. . .  and death have an awful way of sneaking up on us. Doesn't it?

My last post I wrote about being so terribly sad over a friend I knew was hurting that I disappeared into the kitchen to bake away the hurt I felt for her and her family.

You see . . .our lovely and dear friend Beth, Bizzy - from My Bizzy Kitchen - has suffered a loss that is completely unimaginable to me.  He husband, known as Tony on her blog, passed away a few short weeks ago.  Through the last weeks of his life Bizzy never faltered in her devotion to her husband [of 14 years] not only working, but travelling great distances to be with him while he was in the hospital.

Bizzy and I talked via FB/private message and email. Tony had two conditions that I also have - Congestive Heart Failure and liver failure - mine being a genetic condition, Tony's LF due to his heart.  A lot of what they were treating Tony for in Illinois, they are working on my sketchy body here in Virginia. I tried the best I could to answer Bizzy's questions, but it wasn't until recently that I realized that Tony was much more sick than I am and more than even the doctors had told her or her husband.

Sigh.  One of the things we discussed were transplants. Since I am waiting on one, Bizzy explained that Tony was waiting on [first] a liver transplant. But then the doctors said he would need a heart transplant. Ooookay. Both? Okay....well it still looked promising, but then?  His kidneys started to fail due to his heart. They mentioned that now it would be three transplants.

He was in the hospital on kidney dialysis, awaiting a transplant when the doctors told Bizzy that Tony's heart just wasn't strong enough for anything more to be done and that she should take him home, to hospice. I can't even write the words "take him home to die" because who can do that? HOW do you do that? [Ugly cry commencing now.]  I don't know that I could if it was Steven, but Bizzy is Bizzy and she's amazing.

It was a Friday when Bizzy told me they had Tony home and comfortable.  I was alone, in my house, waiting for Steven and Evie to come home. Of course I was crying. Crying for the unbearable pain I know Bizzy, Tony and the family were facing, but also because of the unfairness of it all.

Let me stop for a moment and say something. . .I am doing a sucka** job describing any of this, and for that I apologize. It's one of the reasons I didn't do this post sooner. I used to be very good at getting my thoughts down on this dang computer, but it isn't as easy as it used to be. I love Beth and Tony with all my heart and I hope I can relate this in a way that honors their love and life together and what a terribly awful thing I think this is. Perhaps others or even Bizzy sees it in another way, but I just don't know.

All you Tadpoles know I believe in God. You also know I believe in the power of prayer. Bizzy and Tony were prayed for from all corners of the world, including this little 'burg, and I can't say prayer failed, but I have to say I was truly surprised when Bizzy called me to tell me Tony was coming home.

Steven walked in from work and found me sobbing. Although he knew that Tony was doing poorly, he initially thought it was one of our kids. I don't think he wanted to hear what I said.  Nope. Evie pulled him aside and whispered in his ear what was happening and he came over to put his arm around me. And do you know what the only thing I could say, between heaving sobs and the snotfest I had going on? The only thing I could say was. . .

"It is just black words, on a white screen. They are just pictures on a page. These people aren't real."

And I kept repeating it, and do you know why?  I wanted it to be true. If just for that day. To take away all the pain and be able to pretend that the Velantis weren't real and their pain and Tony's death weren't going to happen.

Sounds awful doesn't it?  I know better - God knows I know better - but it was my last defense to take away the pain I knew my friends were feeling. I was scared for them and DAMMIT I am 1,500 miles away, so pretending they weren't real seemed to make sense to me. I felt [still feel] so powerless.

So 48 years old of me, right? I know..."Janine, grow the eff up." Steven gave me a little shake and told me what I was saying was wrong and that trying to discount the realness of Bizzy, Tony or any of you wasn't going to do anyone any good. Everytime I said it, he would respond "No, Janine. You know better."

After cleaning myself up I explained to Steven that since Tony was home, dialysis had been stopped so ....I can't even write it. Sorry. You guys know.

What I can't believe, and what I will be forever grateful for, is that Bizzy took the time to phone me the day her beloved husband died. She told me that she didn't want me to read it online. I actually couldn't believe she had the strength to think of anyone outside of her big, loving and supportive family. [Bizzy's whole family is amazeballs btw - makes sense considering how wonderful she is.] I love her for that and she taught me such a great lesson in love, compassion and friendship.

I truly wanted this post to be a tribute to the love story that is Tony and Bizzy's life together. If you want to read about and see what true love really is - and what a great friend we all have in Mrs. Velanti - you only need to go and visit her at My Bizzy Kitchen . Most of you already know Bizzy, because I honestly believe she is the best cook I have ever met. Not only that - she is one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met.

I am blessed that she shares her life and Tony's life with me and for that I will [also] always be thankful.

Do me a favor, if you have a moment - please go over and share the Tadpole love I know that you all are so beautiful for and do so well.

I'll see you on the flipside. And never forget. . .Life is a gift.
Love and hugs, Janine

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whatcha' Gonna Do?

When I get sad. . .not depressed, mind you, just heart wrenchingly sad.  You see. . . when something happens that affects someone I love and I am powerless to do anything to help the person [by virtue of distance and health] I get sad.

And I do three things. Always.
-I ugly cry. Because my heart is breaking for a loved one and it makes my heart ache for them. And we all know what an ugly cry is.
-I pray. Recently it feels as tho' my whole days have been taken up in praying. Does it help? Me, I suppose. I have some idea of whether or not God answers my prayers, but it brings me a small amount of peace to hand over the awfulness of something that is troubling me for another.
-And I cook.

I cook a lot. It seems to be the only thing that works because I am alone all day with my thoughts and powerlessness against it all.  The cooking is always from scratch because it takes longer and occupies my hands and my eyes and my mind and no one wants Mom snarfing in dinner, right?

I know most of you know of what am speaking about - that one of our own is suffering and so far away, but it is not my story to tell on her behalf right now. Until it goes up on her blog, I respect her quietness and pray she keeps the strength that all of us have come to admire. Although it is up on Facebook, and she called me yesterday, she has many, so many, blog friends that aren't on Facebook that I don't want to run the risk of telling them anything until she does through her blog.

Make sense? I hope so. I suck at this kind of thing, especially when I am sad, but I am trying.  I just needed to come here and talk, about anything.

Steven came home last night and found me in tears but preparing dinner. At first he thought it was the pain, but then realized this was worse.  He told me to sit down, forget about dinner and we would just eat leftovers.

Nope, I had to get up and do something.  So with Evelyn's assistance in the kitchen I made up a few new recipes.  I was too exhausted to look up recipes, but having never made these dishes before I thought I would just wing it with the knowledge I have on hand. . .my sketch memory and sad skills.

I knew we had about 2.5-3 lbs of dark meat turkey leftover, turkey stock I made Sunday and a few blocks of cheddar cheese.

I don't know why but I thought turkey burgers and macaroni and cheese sounded like a meal. So I used my Ninja [mini food processor] and minced the cooked turkey, celery and onion for the burgers. I followed the same recipe I use for salmon cakes and added 2 eggs, about a cup of Italian bread crumbs and then veered off of that with 2 heaping tablespoons of turkey stock [it had congealed, so it was probably more like a half of a cup,who knows] and a heaping teaspoon of sage.  I mixed it all in my stand mixer and Evelyn made patties.

While she was making the patties I used the base of another recipe I use that is a roux to begin the macaroni and cheese.  I melted 5 tablespoons of butter in a pan, adding a teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper [more or less]. I added a heaping quarter cup of flour and mixed that until thickened. To that I poured in milk - I don't know how much, but I would guess 3 or 4 cups? I just poured until I had a nice thick sauce which I added 3/4 lb of ninja'd [I love that thing] sharp cheddar cheese and about a cup of mozzarella. I stirred until it was melted and had the sauce to mix with about 8 oz of cooked elbow macaroni.  Put that in a greased baking dish, sprinkled with paprika, covered and cooked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. My family doens't like it overly brown, so I didn't remove the lid.

While that baked, I fried the turkey burgers in a scant amount of oil on medium heat.  When they were thoroughly browned on both sides, I drained them on paper towel and let them sit.

When the macaroni and cheese was done, I took it out to rest and popped the burgers in the oven on 250 degrees to keep warm.  The turkey was already cooked from Thanksgiving so no worries with making sure they were cooked all the way through.

I also served the last of the Cracker Barrel style green beans and ham as a side.  I made these for Thanksgiving and that is what Evelyn calls them, Cracker Barrel beans [we haven't eaten there in 5 years, so how she remembers?] To me they taste like my grandma's homemade, and again, it is another recipe I couldn't be bothered to research. I just winged it.  I snapped two lbs of green beans [took me an hour - I don't miss the days of doing bushels of these during canning season for my grandma] rinsed them and put them in the slow cooker with 2 cups of chicken broth and 6 oz of diced cured country ham/fat back/pork hocks - take your pick. I used the cured ham. Set on low and those were some of the best dang green beans I have ever had. And easy. Just cook them until soft. Steven did have to put a cup of water in at two intervals, but our slow cooker is pretty hot.

I served the turkey burgers on hamburger rolls with the sides.  Steven put cranberry sauce on his, while Evelyn ate mayonnaise on hers.  I was too tired to eat, but I would lean towards my homemade cranberry sauce because it is more tart than sweet and tastes really good with turkey.

Sorry to bore you all, but it's honestly? I just didn't know what else to do and it seemed to make sense to come here and write down recipes.

Hugs and love to all of you. I can't begin to tell you how much you mean to me, and if you knew the heartache I have for one of own I am sure you could begin to understand better.

See ya' on the flipside. Janine