Eat the Ice Cream

If she brings it, eat the ice cream.

This morning mom comes over with ice cream and a chocolate.

What’s this?
Ice cream on a stick. She smiles.
For breakfast?
Why not?

I can think of so many reasons why not, but I don’t speak them.

I put the ice cream in my little beverage refrigerator. I don’t have a proper refrigerator/freezer at the moment, but that’s another post.

It will melt in there.
I know, but I need to finish my coffee first, I say, sorting out in my head whether I’ll really eat the ice cream or simply toss it after she leaves.
And, here’s a chocolate.
Thanks.

I rarely eat ice cream or chocolate, especially not for breakfast, but that’s what she brings me. This isn’t a remembering thing. She knows these aren’t proper breakfast choices. But she loves them. Especially the ice cream. Ice cream on a stick. If you tarry at her house long enough, she’ll offer you one.

Mom leaves. I can see the ice cream on a stick through the glass door of my little fridge. I sip my coffee.

I don’t want ice cream for breakfast.

Then I remember that a week ago, my son had stayed over after bringing me from the airport. Mom came by in the morning hoping to visit with him a bit. She had ice cream.

What’s that for?
It’s for Sam.
He’s still sleeping.
Oh, she looked disappointed.
But you can wake him up. I’m not sure he’ll want ice cream this early though.

She knocked on his door. I sat back down at my desk, sipping coffee. I could hear them talking.

Thanks, Mama Nick! Hug from pillow.

After she left, Samir sauntered into the room where I was working.

So, how was ice cream for breakfast? I asked, expecting at least a partially snide answer.
It was great!

I don’t know how to help.

This journey is unbalanced. I’m sure I’m learning more from my mom than she’s getting from me.

I make little spaces in my day for mom, but I don’t really know how to help. I take her to visit her sister. We stop for lunch. We shop for groceries. I look for activities she loves to do. We’ve lined up some furniture to refinish, and at least once a week, when I’m here, I invite her over to make jelly with me.

I don’t have to remind her to come over to make jelly. She remembers. Most times, she shows up with dinner. While I eat, she washes all the dishes that have collected in my sink to make room for jelly making.

Tonight we made jelly. She scrubbed the ginger I brought in from the garden, stirred the blueberry juice and sugar, poured the jelly into the jars. Like I said, it’s unbalanced. I’m the lucky one.

I don’t know how to help mom, so I make space in my head. My first notion this morning is to tell her, Thanks, but I don’t want ice cream. Just take it with you and put it back in the freezer when you go home. I stifle that notion and put the ice cream in the little refrigerator.

For after I finish my coffee, I explain.

After she leaves, I have the toss-the-ice-cream-on-a-stick option. Then I remember Samir.

It was great.

I eat the ice cream. Samir was right. It is great. I eat the chocolate too.

Be present.

I’m not boasting about my choice to eat the ice cream nor about the small spaces I make in my days for my mom. I’m only giving these things voice because I mostly fail when faced with these choices.

Can I call you later?
Not today.
I’m swamped.
I have a meeting.

I’m giving the breakfast ice cream voice because my mom didn’t teach me a lesson exclusively for Alzheimer’s caregiviers. The lesson is universal.

Be kind at encounters.
Be grateful for gifts.
Be thoughtful in response.
Mostly, make space on your calendar and in your head for your people.

Make space.

Sit down with the child and make the marble maze together. Fix some coffee and put your good-listening ears on for your friend. Show up with lunch to visit with your aunt. Take a day off to help your dad or your daughter.

Eat the ice cream your mom brings for breakfast.

It will be great!

©Copyright Pennie Nichols 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Diapers and Dandelions: Mindful Balance

Should I pick it or leave it for the bees?

Should I pick it for me or leave it for the bees?

Last year I was beside myself when I found this dandelion lotion bar recipe.

I had begun my journey making DIY organic cleaners and beauty products a few months earlier, and this recipe was “Wow! Weeds to wonderful!” I loved everything about it.

The walks with the dogs were redefined. We were on a mission to collect dandelions. Unfortunately, I discovered the recipe late in the summer and soon learned that dandelions are more prolific in spring than in summer here. Through my efforts to find the weed, I became familiar with which households eliminated it and which ones simply mowed the lawn. I timed walks along some routes because I knew which tree had a dandelion growing under it.

I had a tray for drying the flowers, a jar for infusing them, and all the ingredients for the recipe. My first batch was small due to dandelion scarcity, and I fumbled the canning lid method, but I was thrilled with my lotion bars.

When we finally broke through our five or six days of Louisiana winter, I made sure to have pockets when I went for walks. Dandelions popped up everywhere before spring had even sprung on the calendar. DIY excitement!

Then it happened. The very first week I began harvesting weeds for wonder, a post: “Don’t pick the dandelions! They’re the bee’s first food in the spring.”

Whaaat?! I had become a bee enemy? I was trying to do a good thing.

I recovered from the sunken heart quickly. I don’t pick all of the dandelions and I provide a smorgasbord of bee sustenance throughout the year in my little yard. Nevertheless, I became more cautious about my harvest.

Bottom line: I am more aware of the impact of my actions. Isn’t that an important key to finding balance? Awareness.

When my children were babies, I used cloth diapers. For some reason this topic came up in a class I was teaching. One of my students mumbled something about bad and wasting water and Clorox. I may have reacted a bit. What did this 18 year old know about diapers. baby poop, and aquifers? Granted, I lived in Austin at the time, and water shortages were an issue, but really? Using cloth diapers worse than using disposable diapers?

In the end, my student gave me pause. Awareness.

I often live in the gray —in the middle, open-to-argument— because I strive be aware of both sides of a topic. Painfully at times when matters are personal, between friends. Happily when that awareness informs me in ways that bring measure to choices I make.

The things we do, even the good things, always have multiple impacts, and some are less felicitous than others. If we are aware and act with care, we can have dandelions for our skin without starving the bees, and we can use cloth diapers without drying up the aquifers.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Figs and Promises

My fig tree always keeps its promises.

Sometimes I break promises. Not intentionally. My intentions are to keep all promises I make.

Nevertheless, on occasion my intentions slip away from me.

I wait too long to pick the figs.

Maybe I pick the figs but don’t make the jam or freeze the fruit before the figs develop a second coat of fuzz and collapse into brown fermenting mush.

Then, for completely unreliable, there are years when the weeks of fig laden drooping branches fall off my calendar before I pick a single fig.

I can count on the fig tree. It can’t always count on me.

To be fair, I have a lot more going on than my fig tree and its fruit. Yet this spread-thin life that leads to broken promises bugs me. Promises, like deadlines, suffer a lexical erosion when we pile our days high but spread ourselves thin. This trend of promises penciled in on work and social commitment calendars feels infectious.

I don’t want the trend to spill into the pool of promises I make to friends, family, and myself. This is my checklist for personal, friendly promises.

Making promises

  • Be thoughtful. In other words, avoid hasty promises, whether to a friend, to a colleague, or to yourself.
  • Be realistic. Part of the thoughtfulness includes a reality check. If your promise involves time, check your calendar. If it involves money, check your wallet. If it involves your physical and emotional energy, check in with yourself. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep. Being that can-do hero is not always prudent.
  • Do your best. If you make a promise, do your best to keep it.  Suddenly in over your head? Having a change of heart? I don’t advocate the hell or high water route. Sometimes the best we can do is circle back to reevaluate, redefine, or, if necessary, retract a promise.

Oops! The birds ate all of the figs before you picked a single one. What now?

  • Be honest. If you can’t keep the promise, admit it. Everyone at some point in life has to bail on something for some reason. The key to right relationship in those situations is not the goodness or badness of the reason, but the communication. Let anyone else involved know. Sometimes the only person involved is you. Yes, be honest with yourself.
  • Be forgiving. If you’ve been thoughtful, realistic, and honest and you’ve done your best and it still doesn’t work out, the broken promise isn’t a lie. You stumbled and scraped a knee. Don’t rub salt into the wound.

I aspire to be more like my fig tree. I’m not, in fact, a fig tree, but I’ll do my best to keep my promises.

Dear fig tree:figs and promises

I am grateful for your deliciously extravagant promises and I know you will deliver. 

I hope to harvest gallons and gallons of your fruit, infuse my jams and sauces with their sweet complexity, freeze what I can’t jam into jars for the slower days. I can’t promise how much I’ll pick, how many jars I’ll can, or how many bags I’ll freeze. But I promise to do my best.

I’m looking forward to the next round of figs. If you’re looking for something creative and delicious to do with your figs, check out this guy. This recipe is very tasty.

Copyright © 2017 (revisited) by Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved.