So.

I was going to write a series of writerly posts about what’s been going on, laying it all out before you the way the scenery of a long mid-country drive in your borrowed tank-like SUV unrolls as you go from Illinois to Iowa to Nebraska to — finally, mercifully — Colorado, where you eventually see mountains in the distance and then the city of Denver so you cheer “Denver!!!” and you’ve never been so happy to be somewhere, but the truth is I just don’t have it in me right now so I’m going to slap it all down on this page without being writerly at all.

My dad has pancreatic cancer. My mom, who has dementia, was doing okay under his care and in her established routine but is having a very hard time now that everything has been disrupted. Ben’s dad has pancreatic cancer. He and my dad were diagnosed within a month of each other.

Last week, I was in Chicago to help with my parents and to take Soren to meet Ben’s dad for the first time. While there, my mother, who had been highly agitated and confused the whole time, had a heart attack, got a stent, and was briefly hospitalized. Long story short I put my mother in a home because I was afraid she couldn’t get the care she needed anywhere else with my dad in the hospital. Before I got there, she had been driving around (this is terrifying), decompensating, and not taking care of herself or anything else.

My dad. He had surgery just over two weeks ago and has been in the hospital since then. He was supposed to go to a rehab facility (the same place my mom is currently staying) but as I found out yesterday, that’s not going to happen. When I last saw my dad (on Saturday), he looked great. He was sitting up, joking, eating, in reasonably good spirits. From what I can piece together, that was his last good day. Since then, he’s been confused, saying some things that are true (“I was an electrical engineer.” “My daughter lives in Denver.”) and some things that are false (“We’re all in Denver.” “I was a long-distance runner.”). Friends who went to see him reported that he was too confused to work his phone, which explains why he hasn’t answered or returned any of the 900 phone calls I’ve made to him since returning to Denver.

I got a call from his doctor yesterday and it took a while for it to sink in: The cancer is in his liver. They can’t fix it. The tumors have grown a lot since the surgery, which is a very short time for tumors to grow so much. His liver is failing and that’s why he’s confused. He’s way too sick to try chemo. There is nothing else they can do. He’s not getting better. It’s time to consider hospice. The consideration of hospice falls to me, what with my mom having dementia and all.

I had to repeat some of this information several times. There’s nothing else they can do. He’s not getting better.

So now I’m going back to Chicago, I hope getting there in time to be part of my dad’s last days. I have to tell my mom what’s happening and get her over to see him. She is going to be absolutely destroyed. All she has wanted this whole time is to be back at home with my dad, because that’s the only world that makes sense to her. I have to convince her that, that world not being possible and because she can’t live by herself, the best thing for her to do is move across the country to Denver, a place she doesn’t know, so we can help take care of her. My mastermind idea is that we move to a house with an attached apartment and maybe hire someone to help. I don’t know.

Then there are so many things: houses, cars, stock portfolios that terrify the holy hell out of me. Decades of stuff — stuff I have to figure out how to handle. And that’s just my family and not even getting into Ben’s dad’s situation.

I apologize if you’re reading this and you’re someone I should’ve told in person. I’m fried and I’m doing the best I can. The good news is I’m learning that we become equipped to somewhat reasonably handle situations more horrible than we ever imagined and do things we never imagined doing. We’re capable of a lot of good stuff, which is one nice thing to learn.

Menu Plan: Week of 4/20/14

Hey! There was no menu plan last week because I was in Chicago, where I ate pizza for approximately 80% of my meals. I have many stories to tell you about the trip, soon, although they’re going to be hard to write. It’s one of those things where I just need a minute to go about my business as if life is kind of normal.

This week’s menu is brought to you by Ben, who put it together yesterday after Soren and I got home and I was too exhausted to do much but fall asleep face down in bed while pretending to watch the White Sox game. After that, I managed to get caught up on some gardening but was too tired to even enjoy any 4/20-related activities.

Sunday: leftover pizza I brought back from Chicago (cheese, extra sauce) and leftover pizza Ben made Saturday (arugula, garlic)

Monday: salad: red leaf lettuce, red onions, grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced carrots, spicy sprouts, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s chive vinaigrette (from My Father’s Daughter — I hate to say this but I am obsessed with this dressing)

Tuesday: Quorn tacos

Wednesday: pasta with fresh tomatoes, spinach, basil, pine nuts, and olive oil

Thursday: chipotle hummus on whole wheat tortillas with veggies

Free Range Friday

Saturday: three-pepper (jalapeno, green, green chile) pizza with mozzarella and cheddar

 

Menu Plan: Week of 4/6/14

Sunday: Reubens! (more info. on how I make Reubens here, but now we have homemade sauerkraut)

Monday: Chicago-style veggie dogs
I figured veggie dogs are a good easy meal to throw together before the baseball game — the White Sox are in town!

Tuesday: pasta with artichoke & pine nut pesto (recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter)
If liking Gwyneth Paltrow is wrong I don’t want to be right.

Wednesday: breakfast burritos, this time with sweet potatoes, homemade seitan, eggs, cheddar, green chili, whole wheat tortillas

Thursday: chile wraps, with some kind of veggie side
We’ve been feeling lazy on Thursdays so this is a super-easy appetizer-type thing. All you do is take some large tortillas (white, whole wheat, anything green, just not corn), spread cream cheese over each one, sprinkle green chiles over the cheese, roll the tortillas, and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Free Range Friday

Saturday: Chicago-style deep dish pizza with spinach, onions, and garlic

Yard Work

So much for being more interesting last week! We were super busy doing yard work. Our garden beds are officially ready for business and I even direct sowed some seeds yesterday (cabbage, arugula, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, kale, a few onions to even out the row where last year’s onions have come back).

I’ve gone maybe a little overboard with planning the garden this year, but I think it’s going to turn out really well. As I’ve mentioned before, I plotted everything out using the Mother Earth News garden planner. The main benefit of this is that I know how many of each plant I should put where. Because I’m not good with spatial stuff, Ben set up our garden beds like so to help me out:

Our back garden bed

The twine down the middle of this bed shows the path that will be covered with living mulch and in theory should be, in addition to a little strip by the gate, the only place where we step after planting everything. The random wood and metal things indicate how much space I have in each row for each type of plant. After everything is planted and starts to grow, we’ll take these out.
Our front garden bed

The front bed has rows that go all the way across, so these are marked by twine or little fences Ben made with random stuff we had lying around. The fences are for climbing plants — zucchini, cucumbers, peas. I assume peas climb? I’ve never grown them before.
garlic!

I planted some garlic last year or the year before and forgot about it. It’s back!
Our pear tree
Our pear tree
Our pear tree

Our little pear tree that doesn’t make pears does produce some lovely little flowers.
LOL

This picture made me LOL. Josephine says “‘Sup.”

Frankie Knuckles

In super-bummer non-April-fool’s news, Frankie Knuckles died yesterday. If you don’t know Frankie Knuckles, he was the Godfather of House.

One of the best times I’ve ever had listening to music was at one of his Thanksgiving shows at House of Blues in Chicago. I was with Ben, so it had to be when we were visiting after moving out here to CO. It was one of those beautiful alternate-reality nights where you can feel the good vibes of every one of the people around you and the music takes those good vibes and amplifies them until you’re floating in happiness. If you’re ever feeling bummed, put on one of his mixes (you can find them all over the internet), turn it up, sit back, close your eyes, and just feel it. His music has magical powers.

Menu Plan: Week of 3/30/14

Pink & green

Before I get to this week’s menu plan I have to tell you that the saag paneer I made last week was one of the best things I’ve ever had. Even though my first attempt at homemade paneer was questionable (it was super crumbly) (I braved the crowds at the new Trader Joe’s only to discover that they sell paneer only as part of a frozen entrée and not by itself), honestly once you fry cheese in butter (in this case ghee), it can’t possibly turn out to be anything but delicious. I highly recommend that you make this.

Here’s what’s up for the next week, during which I promise I will be more interesting.

Sunday: French bread with tomato/basil/fresh mozzarella/parmesan/olive oil salad

Monday: 5 Spot Banana Pancakes (recipe) with fruit and maybe some veggie bacon

Tuesday: Farro with “Sausage” and Apples (recipe is from the bag of farro I got at Trader Joe’s, vegetarianized)

Wednesday: low-tech grilled cheese sandwiches (bread, butter, organic singles) and kale chips

Thursday: Bowls! I’ve been really into the idea of putting a bunch of stuff in a bowl (e.g., grains, vegetables, a protein, and a sauce) and eating it. This one will feature quinoa, lettuce, spinach, tomato, onion, red bell pepper, carrots, corn, avocado, black beans, crumbled cotija cheese, and cilantro-lime dressing (the dressing recipe is here, but if you make it, reduce the honey or add extra balsamic and salt).

Free Range Friday

Saturday: pizza with thin crust, apricot preserves, roasted garlic, chard (sautéed in olive oil until soft, seasoned with salt and pepper), a little parmesan and gouda, and brie

Menu Plan: Week of 3/23/14

Sunday: Tempeh Chimichurri (recipe) with Kale Slaw (recipe)
I usually make the chimichurri with asparagus as called for in the recipe, but this time did something different. It was a lot of green stuff! Also, I didn’t have a ripe avocado to use in the kale slaw dressing so I subbed a tablespoon of olive oil and it was fine (use a little less than 1/2 cup water if you do this).

Monday: salad with ranch dressing
My ranch recipe is here, but Ben has been making most of our ranch lately and doesn’t use it.

Tuesday: Saag Paneer (I think I’ll use this recipe.)
Last night I made paneer (using this recipe), but I’m not sure I like how it turned out. It’s very crumbly. I might press it some more or finally brave Trader Joe’s to buy some. If I’m ambitious, I might make naan.

Wednesday: quinoa & eggs (Take a bowl and fill with quinoa, refried beans, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, green chili, sliced avocado, and a little sour cream.)

Thursday: Black Bean Burgers (recipe) and cole slaw (recipe, although if you use this recipe, skip the onions, salt, and pepper, just mix the dressing ingredients into the cabbage and carrot without shaking it together, and decrease the dressing a bit and make sure to pour off any excess liquid)
We’ll add some adobo sauce from a can of chipotles to the ranch dressing from Monday for chipotle ranch for the burgers.

Free Range Friday

Saturday: pizza with seitan sausage (Italian Seitan from Upton’s Naturals), poblanos, and red onion