Do Little Things with Great Love

2 02 2015

1ooo Voices for Compassion is a group I recently joined. 1000voicesA bunch of writers plan to write about compassion and caring to help make the world a better place. Little did I know when I signed up that it would be me writing about being compassion’s recipient.

compassion

My Mom was just accepted into hospice care. In the last two months my 86-year-old Mom’s mind has become as frail and fragile as her body. She lives in a nursing home and is well cared for. Hospice will provide another level of care. She’s been a drama queen and southern belle—a dangerous combination—who’s been feisty and smart, had a great sassy sense of style, and a wicked sense of humor. She now drifts in and out of lucid moments. In her hallucinations she is powerful, in charge, directing unseen people and telling them what to do. Her phone had to be unplugged last week because she called 911 from her bedside phone and told them she was being held hostage. I understand that in a way she is being held hostage by a body and mind that won’t act like she wants it to.

Morning
I was in the middle of an intensely busy workday when I got the call that Mom’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I work for a woman’s specialty hospital; it is a compassionate place not only for patients, but also for employees. I was told to go be with my mother. I’m grateful that I work for an organization that at its very core understands the importance of family.

I was expecting a quiet day spent at Mom’s bedside. I knew what she needed most was my presence. What was unexpected was the flood of love and compassion that washed over both of us throughout the day. Not only did family come to visit, but also mom’s nurses, aides, social workers, administrators, and even the beautician came by to check on her. I got a tight hug from everyone whose life has been touched by Mom and they wanted to check on me too. I’m use to being the strong one and the decision maker. The concern for me left me tearful. I knew that I was being sent divine gifts and I embraced my tears and vulnerability with every hug I received.

Afternoon
I met with hospice after Mom’s nurses suggested a consult. The hospice nurse spent time going over the details of what hospice care is. I’ve always heard great things about hospice, but I was astounded to learn how much they also care for the patient’s family. I did not know they were there for me as well as my parent. The two nurses I met were the embodiment of warmth and compassion, even their voices were gentle and calming. They treated me as tenderly with their questions as they treated Mom when they examined her.

Evening
My daughter and her cat were boomeranging back home from living across town during all this. She plans to save her money and take off to follow her dreams in a few months. Between transporting carloads of stuff from apartment to home, she would stop to check on her Nana and me. We are both only children and both have close mother/daughter bonds. We have both been able to tell my mom how much we love her. Nothing has been left unsaid.

My daughter and I both realize that the next few months will be a special time for three generations to connect as we all transition to new chapters in our different, yet connected journeys.

By the end of the day, I knew that the time for my mom’s exit had not come. Mom was center stage yet again, surrounded by an audience telling her how much they loved her. She is not yet ready to leave the stage.

The Following Day
Mother Teresa said, ‘’do little things with great love.” Mom is feeling stronger and is more lucid today. She loves when I write about her on my blog. She takes great delight in hearing her own wild woman stories and she loves everyone’s comments. I’m going to read to her the stories of her life. It’s a small thing, but it’ll be done with great love.

Mothers and daughters, our maternal lineage

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

More Mom Stories
Wild Woman
Going Blond
A Mother Moment
Maw Maw’s Naked Lady Bowls
The Sandwich Generation

Today many writers, videographers and artists have created their own stories of compassion and are using #1000Speak to spread the word. You also can click on the link here and read what others have to say. 





King’s Whiskey and Queen’s Tea

11 01 2015

It begins on Twelfth Night, the Epiphany, the day the kings arrived with their gifts for the Christ child. Now centuries later, it’s the day the king cakes arrive and the Mardi Gras season begins. We cook it all into a season-long party down here in south Louisiana, where our religion, politics and culture simmer together in a big bubbling gumbo pot.

AAAahhhhh, king cake, that coffee-cake-like, oval shaped king cakeconfection, sprinkled with the season’s colors of purple, green and
gold. There’s a small plastic baby buried in a slice—to represent the baby Jesus, of course. The recipients of this gift know they must bring the next king cake to the next gathering.

It is a season of indulgence during the cold, wet, dark days of winter. It ends on midnight Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras day, and Lent begins. Lent, the season of sacrifice to remind us all of Christ’s sacrifice at Easter. Most people sacrifice sweets or alcohol for those 40 days, which just counter balances the indulgences of Mardi Gras.

The King’s Whiskey and the Queen’s Tea is a small local event connected to a small neighborhood parade that began 28 years ago. My wine-drinking friend, Queen T was this past year’s Queen. I joined her and the Southdown’s Krewe to celebrate the passing of the crown to a new Queen and King. (Here’s last year’s post about her coronation).

The event is held at the lovely, gracious home of the parade’s founder. No one thinks it odd that our host, a doctor, has a feathered hat on and is brandishing a sword while he makes pronouncements. The first announcement is that it is time for the men to go outside to build the bonfire. Inside the Krewe of Southdowns past Queens share poetic words of advice to the new Queen, all followed by a toast. This is the Queen’s Tea.

After the passing of the crown from last year’s Queen to the new, we join the men at the King’s Whiskey. Outside there is a large wooden throne overlooking a metal “chimney” into which dried and brittle Christmas trees are thrown to create a spectacular bonfire. There are about 60 trees that are burned one by one. That number has reached 200 in past years and the party has lasted until dawn.

There is generally a pronouncement as each tree is put into the fire and a bagpiper plays. While the sound of the bagpipe is mournful, the tunes he plays are not. We hear the theme from the old TV show, Bonanza, and “The Saints go Marching In,” to which many in the crowd sing to. Later drummers add their rhythmic beat to the night.

I was stuck by how ancient and primal the evening felt. Amongst the fun and frivolity, the courtly traditions harken back to a centuries-old European tradition of royalty. At the Queen’s Tea the words are spoken in a courtly fashion. The reign of past Queens are honored, as the new Queen becomes part of the lineage.

It was easy to imagine ancient bonfires that lit up the winter nights. We’ve always needed warmth, light and friendship to help us through dark times. The sound of the bagpipes, and the drums, and the explosion of heat that each tree created as it exploded into flames, gave a timeless feel to the night. It made me feel connected to long-gone souls who had the same kind of gathering. People have always gathered for the warmth of community on cold winter nights.

Cheers to the beginning of the Mardi Gras season and to the Krewe of Southdowns. And may I not eat too many slices of king cake!

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Transitions

1 01 2015
Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face)

Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face). Spring 2014

I’ve seen the abundance of New Year’s resolutions and nonresolutions floating around social media. The idea that resonated with me was to pick one word for your New Year. On this grey and cold January morning I pick the word Transitions.

I spent a rare New Year’s Eve with my 24-year-old baby girl. My sweetheart fell asleep early and that left my daughter and me deep in talk as one year transitioned to another. In sparkly hats and glasses of wine, we talked of her childhood, of her teen years when her father and I divorced. She and I talked of the uniqueness that we are both only children and how close that makes us since we don’t have siblings to remember our lives with. We talked honestly of her grandmother, who is slowly slipping away from us. My daughter told me that watching me with my mom has taught her how to be a daughter.

We’ve watched my mom grow frailer over the last year with three different visits to the hospital. But it’s just over the last few weeks that her mind has slipped away along with her strength. We knew when she told us that her 90-year-old boyfriend was building something with batteries that she thought was a bomb—it was his hearing aid—that something had fundamentally changed in her mental state.

It was just a few weeks ago that she told me how much she appreciated me and how important it was to her that I was always honest with her and was always there for her. I grew up with unconditional love from both my parents. Our roles shifted after my father died and I became my mom’s caregiver. Her compliments became rare and there was often a bite in her conversation to me. I took her compliment as the gift it was.

My baby girl is going to boomerang home next month. She’s determined to save all her pennies and take off to Chicago this summer. I support and even encourage her following her dreams, just as my parents did for me when I flew out of the nest.

I will hold this last holiday season tightly to my heart, all of us together enjoying each other’s company. I will find the gifts the universe sends in the transitions the New Year will bring to my life. I will also allow myself to grieve for things that are no more. I know there will be bumps in my 2015 journey and I also know there will be unexpected gifts.

Joy will always shine out. Happy New Year.

 Here’s the bloghop that inspired this post. Click here to check it out.





Maw Maw’s Karo Pecan Pie

26 12 2014

I had a sweet memory of my Paw Paw as I was chopping pecans for holiday treats. When I was a little girl we’d go pick pecans from the tree across the street from my grandparent’s home. While sitting in his lap, he’d take out his pocketknife and cut open the pecan—it was like he was peeling an apple—and let me eat the pecan meat.

My Mom and her Daddy, circa 1932

My Mom and her Daddy, circa 1932

The picture is my Mom’s favorite of her and her Daddy. I’m sure he peeled pecans for her just like he did for me. I imagine that my mom and her dad would eagerly await the delicious Karo Pecan Pie that my Maw Maw baked for her family.

recipe

Pecans are often given as a gift down here in South Louisiana. A pecan pie is about as Southern as a dessert can get. It’s been a family favorite for generations. I found my grandmother’s recipe on a small scrap of yellowed paper. If you received pecans as a gift (or if you didn’t, go buy some), here’s the classic dessert.

Maw Maw’s Karo Pecan Pie

pecanpie

4 Eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark Karo syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans (the fresher the pecans, the better the pie)
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
pinch of salt
1 deep dish pie shell

Crust: (I buy ready made though I’m sure my Maw Maw made her own.) Preheat oven to 300°. Prick bottom of shell several times with fork. Add mixture of sugar and flour and rub into the holes. Bake shell for 10 minutes. This keeps shell from becoming soggy.

Filling: Beat eggs and add remaining ingredients. Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Goes well with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (but what pie doesn’t).

Other recipes you may like:
Maw Maw’s Hot Milk Cake
Maw Maw’s Cocoon Cookies
Maw Maw’s Fresh Apple Cake
Maw Maw’s Chess Pie

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.





Yuletide: New Orleans style

16 12 2014

I only live 90 miles away, but New Orleans is a world apart. Every time I visit, I love it more.  My sweetie and I spent a December weekend savoring it all. Yuletide in this old city has it’s own feel; it’s not Mardi Gras or festival-time or it’s-so-hot-I-can’t-breathe-I-must-find-a-cold-bar-summertime.

NOLA

It’s beautiful and sparkly, people aren’t in a hurry, there’s more children with their families in the grand hotels all dressed up in their holiday best. There’s the odd mix of evergreen and palm trees and the illusion in hotel lobbies that it’s cold and wintery yet everyone is wearing short sleeves. The city feels more ancient at Christmas, maybe it’s the carolers dressed in vintage clothes sitting in the bars taking a break from singing their carols. Or maybe it’s the old spirits of those who have walked it’s streets, have once again come back for a visit.

NO1

I love the aromas of New Orleans
New Orleans has it’s own smell that’s like no other city. It’s the wet, humid, tropical, heavy air mixed with french bread, coffee, frying foods, beignets, alcohol and car exhaust. You sense the decay and the decadence and the history. It fills your senses the moment you arrive. For me it breathes welcome back.

musicians

I love the sights and sounds of New Orleans
Car horns, people talking, laughing, arguing, but mostly I hear music and as the sound of one musician fades you hear another. A trio of men singing Temptations-style wearing matching suits and standing in the middle of the street; musicians from different generations coming together doing what they all love; crowds dancing and clapping; young street people with matted hair making up for their lack of talent with their great enthusiasm.

I love the tastes of New Orleans
Almost immediately upon arrival, we go to have a drink at my favorite spot in the Quarter. The balcony at Muriel’s overlooking Jackson Square in the shadow of the Cathedral.  Muriel’s is a favorite place for a memorable meal; their crawfish and goat cheese crepes will remain a sense memory that stays with you for the rest of your life. But this is also a haunted restaurant. It was once a private home and the owner gambled it away in a poker game one night long, long ago. He came home and hung himself so the home wouldn’t be taken away from his widow. If you meander through the back hallway on the way to the balcony, you’ll see the table set every day with bread and wine for his ghost.

NO

Great food is so much the heart and soul of this city. And whatever restaurant you stumble upon will quickly become your favorite until you stumble upon another. Even the bread and coffee are better here. Herbsaint is a little bistro that we’ve been hearing about. I love to watch cooking shows and am always intrigued by the food combinations that I never thought could be put together. The magic that occurs when tastes blend and marry in your mouth with the perfect pairing of wine.  We had one of their signature dishes Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg. I do not know how you can fry a poached egg with a crust and keep the yoke buttery. But they did it. When you cut that egg and it drizzles into the pasta, well, my eyes rolled back in my head, as I tasted total deliciousness.

A toast to New Orleans
When I win the lottery, I’ll buy a French Quarter home with a courtyard and a balcony. I’ll call to you from the street and invite you up for a drink, maybe a Pimm’s Cup or a Sazarac. And you’ll join me on the balcony and we’ll wish everyone below a Merry Christmas.

Wishing you a sparkly and  merry Yuletide. –Connie

Wishing you a sparkly and merry Yuletide.
–Connie


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The Pooping Holiday Toy Collection and other Traditions

8 12 2014
IMG_0040
It’s time to haul the boxes of decorations out of the attic, which hold my pooping holiday toy collection and other treasures. As each box is opened, memories and traditions spill out. My sweetie and I are still blending our lifetimes of traditions together. Happily our shared offbeat sense of humor has allowed our different customs to play well together. Thank goodness we’re both more Christmas Vacation style than Martha Stewart style. A tradition I hold dear is that my mom, my daughter and I must repeat the stories behind each ornament as we hang them on the branches of our fresh tree…every single year. Steve having a bourbon during the telling of these stories has now become part of this tradition.

The ornaments are eclectic and cross four generations; there’s ornaments from travels, tiny wooden shoes from Holland, an Elvis ornament from Graceland, a starfish dressed up like Santa from a beach trip; a glitzy fleur de lis from New Orleans. There’s the Disney IMG_0112princess phase my daughter went through represented with Snow White and Pocahontas ornaments. We have lots of handmade things too; the Wizard of Oz collection my Mom made when I was young that’s only a little chewed up from the dog who thought Dorothy was a chew toy; an empty beer can that’s painted with the pop off lid hole designed to look like an angel singing; lots of God’s Eyes—popsicle sticks with yarn wrapped around them—that my Girl Scout troop made me on a long ago campout; and even a faded crayon-drawn ornament on cardboard held together with lots of staples that survived from my early childhood when I had just discovered the magical properties of a stapler. My sweetie’s White House collectible ornaments from his decade in Washington blend well with everything. The blingy silver beaded garland and colored lights tie it all together.

We have several little holiday collections, none real large and none that really match. Other than the pooping toys I have nutcrackers, reindeers, angels, Santas; there are lots of candles, a Yule log and a menorah. Steve added his Holy Land village that he collected over decades with his children. It fits in our idiosyncratic collections and I agree with him, that a turkey is a nice addition to the traditional manger animals.

While I appreciate well designed, simple and tasteful holiday decorations, it’s the shiny, whimsical, silly and tacky side of the holidays that I’m drawn to. The classic wreath on the front door with simple white lights is lovely—but it’s the house with an over abundance of mismatched lights, a Christmas giraffe standing next to a penguin manger that’ll make me slow down to take a picture.

FullSizeRender

When it comes to gifts, we believe in quantity over quality. A pair of socks equals two wrapped gifts. We’ll even wrap a package of Oreos and a six-pack of cokes. We have a large shabby bow that we call the family bow; it’s too ratty to give anyone outside of immediate family. It’s considered lucky to have your gift wrapped with the family bow.

This year we’ll be blending in a new tradition. My sweetie has little grandchildren so we will have Christmas dinner at their home where Santa will have just made a big stop. His adult children have requested a return of Steve’s Christmas spaghetti. As I understand it, you add green food coloring to the noodles so when the red meat sauce is added, everyone will have a plate of red and green deliciousness. I’m looking forward to this new tradition and love that it’s a revival of a treasured family memory for a new generation.

Baking Christmas cookies and making ornaments

Baking Christmas cookies and making ornaments

I’m going to make wine cork ornaments to go along with my Christmas cookies. I need to get started so it must be time open a bottle now that I’m collecting corks! Cheers to happy holidays and your own treasured traditions!

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Maw Maw’s Naked Lady Bowls

26 11 2014

I love Thanksgiving and it’s traditions. I bring out dishes and silver that have been handled by so many loving hands in my family. I love the connection to the past and to the future.

My grandparents with their two small children moved from a small town in east Texas to south Louisiana in the 30’s. It must have been such a culture shock to all they knew. They came from white gravy and chicken fried steak and everybody being Baptist to a land of roux and gumbo and diversity and not everyone being Baptist.

My mom tells me she remembers asking her mother who those women were that wore long black dresses and covered their hair in a long black drape. She was told they were holy women. My mom thought that meant that the long black clothes were covering the holes in their body.

The Naked Lady Bowl
 naked lady bowl

My grandfather moved to Baton Rouge to be the advertising manager of the Coca- Cola Bottling Co. (It’s just dawning on me as I write this, the family heritage of being marketers…love that.) His boss was a sophisticated and learned man and was Jewish. He gave my grandfather a beautiful bowl set as a thank you for a job well done. It was a beautiful set with a large bowl with six smaller serving bowls. It’s bone china with gold inlay. It has Goddesses at play painted in the bottom of each piece.

That’s the part where I know it got complicated for my grandmother. You see, some of these goddess are bare breasted. I know my grandmother would have known the value of this gift. I can only imagine her Baptist horror over the nakedness of those ladies. This southern woman could never be anything but gracious over this generous gift. Her solution was to bring it out only at Thanksgiving and to keep the bowls filled with what else…Ambrosia…the food of the Gods.

A Tradition Continues
I will continue with that tradition this Thanksgiving. My 86-year-old mom will come over and supervise me making the fruit salad and be the official taster. My daughter will help as we peel the apples, juice the fresh lemons, add the bananas, oranges, pineapple, coconut and sugar to taste. I love that this recipe goes back to my great grandmother and has been passed down to four generations of daughters. The recipe is not written anywhere; making it together—mother to daughter, mother to daughter is how it is learned. Over countless conversations, laughter, teenage attitude at having to peel apples, it has been passed from one generation to another.

Priceless

This small bowl is chipped and glued together making it even more precious to me.

This small bowl is chipped and glued together making it even more precious to me.

This bowl set may be of some value. I sometimes imagine I could go on the Antiques Roadshow and be one of those people who gasp over how much it’s monetary value is. But I will never sell it. It’s not mine to sell. It’s my future great grandchild’s who I hope will still be making ambrosia that she learned from her mother and is teaching her daughter how to make. And will be putting it in the Naked Lady bowl.

Mother to Daughter
I am Connie Lee, mother of Jade Lee-Mei, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae.








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