Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Til We Meet Again

I want to tell you a story. I can't decide if the message of the story is about the power of social networks, or how we are all alike and human and willing to come together for each other, or what. But all I know is this is the saddest story I've observed in a long time and it will possibly wreck your day. Or inspire you. And I won't put my own message into it. I will let it stand on its own because it feels sacred. The players of this story are the members of a family who I know only peripherally. Five years ago, Ava was in preschool with their oldest son. Two more sons came after him, the youngest not yet out of diapers. Father is a teacher at an elementary school in town. I once served with him on a committee for the school system for a year. Mother is a pastor at a tightly-knit church. The rest of the story takes place, for me, on Facebook. About six months ago, a photographer I follow posted a picture of this family with a caption which mentioned that Mother had recently been diagnosed with cancer. The family was finding it important to preserve memories together. All members of the family looked sturdy and smiling. Over the last few months, I've been seeing posts from our mutual friends declaring that they are lighting a candle for Mother, or that Mother was the very personification of grace. I grew concerned for her and her battle and sought out Father's page. He had recently posted a photograph of some chalk scribbles on his sidewalk with this post: "From time to time, people will ask me how the boys are handling ....'s diagnosis. In case you aren't used to kindergarten writing, (he) wrote, 'I will kill you, cancer.'" My heart. I continued to observe MY friends and neighbors mention THEIR sick friend and neighbor and the admirable way she has faced her battle. The photographer recently posted another family photo, this one very different. Mother is thin and gaunt, her hair shorn close. Her arms drape tiredly across the shoulders of her two oldest, who clutch at her lovingly and grin at the camera. Father holds the baby. More Beautiful photos of her alone with each of her boys. My breaking heart. I checked out his page again. The latest: "I've been working on our Christmas newsletter. Christmas '11, that is. Only somehow it's turned into a ....'s on Hospice announcement. Somebody wake me from this nightmare." On Saturday, one friend posted to another asking for a tangible way to help this family. It was suggested that they check out a Facebook page with sign-up opportunities to provide meals. Also, the next day was Mother's birthday. They were placing a basket on their front porch to collect birthday cards that people might drop off. She would not be up to visiting. That night, another friend posted that she'd just gotten back from singing to Mother. Again, off to his page. Father had posted a video. He looks out the open window of their second floor bedroom. A huge crowd is gathered, and they are gazing up at their friends singing "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" in perfect, four-part, Mennonite harmony. The next morning, I check in again, fully invested. She had died in the night, on her 38th birthday. "God be with you til we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you. God be with you til we meet again. Til we meet, til we meet... Til we meet at Jesus' feet. Til we meet, til we meet... God be with you til we meet again."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Freezing the Winter Carrots

Last year during our gardening, Dad said that carrots would be sweeter if left in the ground over the winter. We tried it and did notice an extra mild flavor in the harvest of winter carrots we dug this spring. Sophia's 4-H project for Preserved Foods this year is a frozen vegetable, so looked up the correct method and got some into a freezer bag. First, Sophia sliced them into medallions with an identical slicer that my mom used back in the 60's and 70's. It's simple but it works flawlessly. I'm glad I have one. Next, we blanched the vegetables to reduce the enzymes which cause the products to go bad quickly. This means Sophia tossed a quantity in a pot of boiling water for a length of time. Because the pieces were fairly small, she kept hers in the water for 3 minutes. She pulled the carrots pieces from the boiling water, drained them on paper towel and put one layer of them on a cookie sheet to freeze quickly - a process called Flash Freezing. Doing so means that the carrots will freeze quickly and in individual pieces, rather freezing moistly together in a large, unwieldy carrot icicle. Once the medallions were frozen through and through, Sophia pried them loose from the cookie sheet and slid them into freezer bags, which she then labeled and stored away, first for Judgement Day and then for stews and stir-fry.