Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Sandwich Generation

These past few weeks have been busy ones.

I’m the peanut butter in a generational sandwich, helping my aging mom at the very same time my kids are raising their own kids and looking to me for a measure of involvement in their lives, and even occasional help.

It’s a rich blessing to be involved with multiple generations. It’s also a recipe for intense busyness.

I find myself sandwiching mom’s doctor appointments in between end-of-the-school-year events my grandkids have invited me to. Or I fit in watching a 2-year old between my mom’s women’s group game night and fixing my husband’s dinner.

Speaking of my husband, he has his own calendar of events and occasions he’d like us to be part of; he’s a patient man, but he’d like some time and attention, too. It almost seems selfish to mention the long-delayed career, the hobbies and interests, the other friends I’d like to have time for.

I’m certainly not alone in facing these issues. Many women – and men – around my age are helping to care for aging parents even as they carry responsibility for younger family members, work, and civic duties.

How do we fit it all in? How do we make it all work? Where are the practical tips that will help us manage all the things we’re trying to manage?

Let’s talk about that over these next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's Cooking?

I’ve promised myself I’m going to exercise self-discipline. I’m just going to say no. I’m not going to buy another cook-book.

It’s not like I don’t have enough. We have an entire bookcase of cookbooks, and in the kitchen, several more shelves of cookbooks and recipe card files.

But one of our daughters is tempting me with her new favorite cookbook. It’s filled with recipes for things I’ve always wanted to try, both to cook and to eat. The directions are clear, and the text is fun to read – just what I like in a cookbook.

I like to cook, and I like to read about cooking. Reading a good cookbook is like having a conversation with someone who likes the same things I do. The photographs and illustrations inspire me, new ingredients and recipes intrigue me.

“I could do that,” I tell myself smugly, as if creating a three-layer coconut cream cake is, well, a piece of cake.

The problem is that all the hungriest people have moved out of our house into homes of their own, and the preacher and I can’t possibly eat everything I can cook or bake. Oh, the hungry people all come back regularly, and they bring their own little hungry people with them, but their visits aren’t regular enough to justify the kind of cooking I used to do. And while the preacher’s a good sport, he does occasionally take note of the left-overs.

Sharing a meal with people you love is one of life’s most persistent blessings. Like most blessings, it involves a fair amount of effort, but even that effort becomes something of a blessing when the work is shared. Showing the kids you love how to shuck corn or peel potatoes or make a piecrust is not only helpful – it can be fun. The cook gets some help, and the helper gains a new skill, not to mention that lovely feeling of contribution and accomplishment.

A good cookbook is an encouragement, offering direction, instruction, and vision. It’s a back-up for when the cook runs out of ideas – or patience in instruction. And having a shelf-full of cookbooks is like having a kitchen full of friends.

So what's your favorite new cookbook?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Flowers

Lilacs are blooming now, even the ancient bush that blooms purple at the very back of our yard. Last fall, we thought it was done for; it looked ragged, as if it would not survive the winter. Somehow it rallied this cool, damp spring, and is crowned with blooms now.

All the spring bulbs’ blooms have lasted a long time this spring, courtesy of the cool damp. Even the anemones are still blooming, dark blue punctuation marks in the grass. The lily of the valley is almost ready to bloom, and sitting in the swing is a lovely, fragrant adventure.

By the end of winter, I am so ready for warm – OK, hot – weather. The past few years I’ve gotten my wish, and spring has gone by so quickly that even the spring flowers bloomed a day or two, then succumbed to the heat: a perfect example of be-careful-what-you-wish-for.

This year, though, our yard has been a long-running show of spring flowers, and it’s been fun to see the kids we love playing among them, hiding Easter eggs in them, trying to pick them to bring in the house, leaning over to smell them.

One of the pleasures of gardening is the way it transforms outdoor space into a place to live in, a place of grace, beauty, and delight. Sharing it with the kids we love is just another way of enjoying the fruit of our gardening labors.