GIANT Hawaiian pancakes

After Sunday mass, B, E, and I went out for brunch. E suggested we go to Mac 24/7 at the Hilton just down the street from our hotel for pancakes.

While they do serve regular size pancakes, they are known for their Mac Daddy Challenge, which involves one person eating three 14″ pancakes with toppings in 90 minutes.  A friend of E’s did it – as a hungry teenager – but, with none of us in that category, we decided to split the order among us.

We opted for the pineapple coconut macadamia topping. Here is what our platter looked like after we each had a helping. (For perspective, the spoon is a serving-size spoon and the knife is pretty hefty, too.)
Mac Daddy pancakes

Not pictured is the pitcher of coconut syrup that we poured on our servings on our individual plates. There was maple-flavored syrup, too, but a) I don’t think maple goes with pineapple coconut macadamia and b) coming from New England, anything less than 100% pure maple syrup gives me the willies.

The pancakes were delicious. Even with three people, we did not finish them, though. After we each had seconds, there was still enough left for B and I to have breakfast the next day. Fortunately, we already had a bottle of coconut syrup in our hotel kitchen refrigerator.

Corpus Christi in Honolulu

Flowers and cross

Aloha! Today, Catholic churches celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, still often called by its Latin name Corpus Christi. This celebration is close to my heart because for the many years that I belonged to Blessed Sacrament parish, we celebrated it as our parish name day. Even though that is no longer my parish, I still feel a special connection to the day.

This year was special because I got to attend mass at St. Patrick Church in Honolulu, where my daughter E and her husband were married and where they serve in the music ministry. My son-in-law is away doing research for his doctoral dissertation, but I attended the 8:30 mass at which their choir sings. The assigned cantor wasn’t able to make it, so E stepped in to do it, which was a lovely bonus for me.

One of the things that drew my attention today was the crucifix, which is carved wood. I was thinking about how appropriate that the corpus on the cross is brown, because Jesus’s skin would have been brown. So often, Jesus is depicted with light skin, which a Jewish man living in the sun-drenched Mediterranean would not have had. I also noticed, as always, the colorful floral arrangement. One of the brothers at the monastery arranges the flowers from their garden every week.

Father C, who presided at E and L’s wedding, presided and preached today. I love how he can say so much with so few words. He used the image of an open hand receiving the host at communion to explain how we should be open to God’s love.

Father C has a tremor disorder, which causes his hands, especially his right hand, to shake markedly when they are outstretched. Yet, when he was praying the Eucharistic prayer and raising the host and the cup, he was able to still his hands.

I appreciated the opportunity to be there to celebrate this special day, with Beth leading us in song. I especially enjoyed singing “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether,” a favorite hymn which I have not had the occasion to sing for several years.  The third stanza of the poem by Percy Dreamer begins:

All our meals and all our living
make as sacraments of you,
that by caring, helping, giving,
we may be disciples true.

Amen!

A Thirty Hour Day

Yesterday was loooooong.

Our alarm rang at 4 AM so we could get to my parents’ place so they could help shuttle us to the airport for the first flight – a 6 AM to Philly. Yes, I know that at most airports we would have needed to arrive at the airport by 4 AM or sooner, but BGM is not like that.

We were delayed a bit by fog, but got to Philly in plenty of time to switch terminals and get breakfast before boarding a flight to Phoenix, which arrived early. So there was lunch and walking about the terminal and browsing the shops and finally boarding our flight to Honolulu, which also arrived early at about 5 PM Hawai’i Standard Time.

The rub is that HST is six hours earlier than Eastern Daylight Time, so our bodies felt like it was 11 PM – and we had gotten up at 4 AM.  It took a long time to deplane, get baggage, wait for the shuttle bus to the rental car lot, finish paperwork, drive to the hotel, and deal with check-in and parking garage issues. We were fading fast…

Fortunately, our daughter E arrived with dinner, a delicious pasta salad with zucchini, Parmesan, and almonds that she had prepared and a loaf of fresh Italian bread. We are staying in a condominium hotel, so we had a fully equipped kitchen and a table for supper. Seeing E for the first time since they visited for Thanksgiving last November – and the food – helped revive us despite the length of the day, although I collapsed into bed a bit before 9:00.

Adjusting to time change is not one of my better skills, but B and I managed to sleep until 3 AM and then to snooze off and on until 6:00.   It’s now 4:15 PM and I admit to being a bit tired. But E will be done with her work day soon and we plan to go out to dinner and visit for the evening, which I hope will keep me going until a reasonable bedtime.

I’m hoping to get settled into Hawai’i Time sooner rather than later.

Sunday morning thanksgivings

The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Here are a few things for which I am thankful this Sunday.

* I got to attend Mass with my parents. This has been a common practice over the last five years, after they moved into their senior residential community, but it has been a rarity lately. My mom has had a string of health issues, the most recent of which I wrote about here, so she hasn’t been able to get out to church many times this year.  This spring, Dad turned 90 and Mom turned 83 yesterday. I am also thankful to still have them with us and doing comparatively well. While they have had challenges, they are in better shape than so many other folks their age – and so many others were not blessed with this many years on earth.

* We prayed for those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal and took up a collection to aid them.  I was grateful for the opportunity to help.

* During the intercessory prayers, we prayed for Sister Rose Margaret on what would have been her 80th jubilee as a Sister of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. Rose Margaret died just before Christmas. She was an amazing person – bright, knowledgeable, an expert in Scripture and theology, skilled in pastoral care, an excellent preacher, kind, generous, loving, and Christ-like – with an Irish twinkle always in her eyes. Called to the ministerial priesthood by God, she was not able to be ordained under current Catholic doctrine, but she lived out priesthood every moment of her life as a sister. She had been an inspiration to Sarah’s Circle. At her sixtieth jubilee, Sarah’s Circle members attended along with the sisters in her order, so she had two circles of women with whom to celebrate her special anniversary. Today, I gave thanks for her time among us and her lasting legacy.

* When I arrived at Mass this morning, my mother told me that the memorial service for our friend Peter had been set. After Mass, Nancy, the music director and a longtime friend, and I had a long conversation about Peter, who had been her colleague for decades. Peter was the organist/choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal in Binghamton NY for many years, as well as the director of Harpur Chorale, the most select choral ensemble at Binghamton University. As accompanist for University Chorus, he was one of my first friends when I moved to the area and became one of the few people for whom I have ever worked when I served for two years as his assistant at Trinity. (Technically, my title was organist-in-training, which didn’t fit very well as I had been playing for over ten years by that point.) Peter was one of the few people left he knew me as a professional church musician.

Peter had incredible range as a musician. He could play organ repertoire across a range of styles well. He had a profound understanding of liturgy and service playing. He could teach choral music to children, teens, college students, and adults through the age spectrum up to seniors. He composed – choral arrangements, hymn introductions and harmonizations for organ, piano pieces. He taught piano and organ; he was my older daughter’s piano teacher for almost ten years. He could play jazz piano. He was a great accompanist, even managing the nearly impossible orchestral reductions for University Chorus rehearsals. He sang bass, although we didn’t get to hear him much as he usually had to conduct or play.

Peter was also generous, as a musician and as a friend. He collaborated well and managed to keep his cool, even in tense situations. He was a good storyteller and had led an interesting life. His sense of humor was gentle, rather than biting. While he spent most of his time on music, he also loved the outdoors, especially if whitewater canoeing was involved.

Peter’s death was quite sudden and we are still all a bit shocked and holding his wife, daughter, mother, and the rest of his family in prayer. We are also giving thanks for his life among us, doing what he loved, and sharing his gifts with us all.

visiting palliative care

First, to set everyone’s mind at ease, no one in my life has a terminal diagnosis. Sadly, it seems that most people when they hear the words “palliative care” think that it is the equivalent of hospice care, but it is not. Hospice uses palliative care services with those who are experiencing their final months of life, but palliative care is available to anyone of any age and diagnosis.

Palliative care is a team-based, multidisciplinary approach to managing pain. Frustrated by the poor pain control following the compression fracture and subsequent vertebral collapse that Grandma had last fall, and the loss of appetite, weight loss, and increase in a-fib that followed, we managed to get a referral to the palliative care practice in March.

We are blessed to be working with the amazing Sister Hermie. I know in some places all nurses are called Sister, but Sister Hermie actually is a Catholic sister. I’m not sure what order.  She is originally from Africa, but is working as a nurse-practitioner specializing in palliative care here in the US. She is open and engaging, with a lovely smile and ready laugh. She manages to get the medical information she needs by asking questions within the context of storytelling. Even Grandma, who is endowed with a natural New England reserve, is charmed by Sister Hermie!

We are so grateful for Sister Hermie’s care and expertise. She immediately added a medication to treat nerve pain and the improvement was noticeable in the first 24 hours. Grandma has been able to go down to the dining center with her friends on a regular basis, to go on short shopping trips, and to eat better and gain weight.  The pain relief has afforded the opportunity to move forward with physical therapy, which makes her stronger and more functional, although she has also had to accept that she will never be able to do some of the things she used to do prior to the break. She has started to add massage to the treatment mix, which will be especially helpful when the physical therapy treatments end.

While the pain is better controlled, it is not eliminated. There has to be a balance between pain relief and the ability to function. It’s not helpful for her to be pain-free but too drowsy to do anything. Still, she is so much better the last two months than she was in the six months prior that it feels like we have Grandma restored to us.

Thank you, Sister Hermie!

Unfortunately, palliative care is not being fully utilized. Even many of the medical professionals in our community don’t know that it exists, so they don’t request referrals. We had to research it ourselves and then ask the primary care provider for the referral, but it has been worth it. I encourage anyone with a loved one who is dealing with chronic pain, whatever the cause and whatever their age, to look for a palliative care specialist, if their current pain control regimen is not sufficient.

Mother’s Day

Last year on Mother’s Day, I was with my husband B in Honolulu with both daughters E and T and son-in-law L.  You can read about it here and here.

This year, B and I will be having Mother’s Day brunch with both of our moms and my dad in the dining room at the senior community where they all live. I am especially grateful to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with with my mom and mother-in-law this year because the past year has been rough for both of them health-wise but they are both much improved and able to enjoy the day, which is oddly summery for mid-May.

Meanwhile, E and T are on an adventure together in New York City. They converged there on Friday, E from Honolulu HI and T from Syracuse NY, and are staying with my sister. E is attending Japan Day in Central Park because six members from jpop phenomenon AKB48 will be performing. E’s master thesis is about the fandom, especially the online fans outside of Japan, so this is a great opportunity for her to make connections and conduct interviews for her research. T has just finished her semester in her master’s program and came down to help her sister for the weekend. It is also their only chance to get together this summer because T will be doing an internship assisting with botany studies in New York State parks. (Way to go, T!)

I’m so happy that they will have this special long weekend together. Their bond with each other is one of the true joys of being their mother.  While B and I won’t get to see them together, we will get time to see them separately. T will get a couple of weeks at home before her internship begins and we just made reservations to go to Hawai’i in June to see E while L is in London working on his dissertation research.

The generations of our family illustrate that being a mom is forever!

Friday night fun? – part 2

In part one of this post, I wrote about reading at poetry open mic for the first time.  Here is a (somewhat condensed) continuation of the story.

While stopped at a traffic light on the way home, I turned the ringer of my phone back on and was surprised to see that there was a missed call from my husband B, who had stayed at home because he wasn’t feeling well.  He knew where I was and that I wouldn’t have the phone on during the reading, so I immediately became apprehensive and rushed home to find that my mom (Nana) had called for advice as to whether she should have my dad (Paco) take her to the walk-in or the emergency room when she had suddenly exhibited symptoms of a gastrointestinal bleed.

B advised the emergency room.

B had called my cell phone, hoping that I would put my ringer back on before leaving the bookstore so that I could get to the hospital more quickly, but, as it turned out, it was good that I had gone home first. They phoned again during the few minutes I was home to say that Nana was being put into a room in the ER. I grabbed a few magazines that I could leave with my mother for entertainment during the inevitable waiting times and headed out to the hospital.

The ER waiting room was filled to overflowing and there were so many patients back in the unit itself that some were in the hallway. My mom was in a room, though, because they needed to keep her hitched up to cardiac monitors, given that some of her symptoms could have been a second heart attack. Her heart was okay, but she needed to stay in the hospital to figure out where the bleeding was occurring. There were no rooms available in the hospital proper, so, about 2 AM, she was moved to another section of the ER that had beds rather than gurneys.

The next day, the gastroenterologist who was on weekend call, Dr. B., came in and we decided that it was best to do a colonoscopy on Sunday morning and Nana was admitted to the GI unit when space became available. The colonoscopy revealed that Nana had developed arteriovenous malformations (AVM) and was bleeding from several different sites, which Dr. B. cauterized. Dr. B. explained it to us as being similar to varicose veins that break through to the surface and bleed. Unfortunately, the meds that Nana needs to take due to her cardiac stents don’t help matters, as they act to prevent blood from clotting easily.

Although Nana had lost quite a bit of blood, the doctors decided not to transfuse but to let her try to build back her blood count on her own.  This didn’t turn out so well, as Nana had to spend several days in the hospital about a month later when her low iron levels started to affect her blood pressure. They finally gave her a couple of units of blood and, while her iron level isn’t quite up to what is considered normal, she is slowly gaining strength and getting back to some parts of her old routine – with, we hope, more progress to come as spring continues to unfold and we celebrate Mother’s Day and her birthday.

There is no way to tell when the AVMs may recur, so, for now, there are weekly blood tests so that, if she becomes more anemic, the gastroenterologist can intervene before she loses too much blood.

Vigilance is our friend, as is following through on recommended treatment, medication, and lifestyle choices. It’s what has kept Nana and Paco as active as they are as they age.

But fingers crossed that we don’t have any more medical adventures in the coming months.

We all need a rest.

May Day – of Ultron?

Today is May first. May Day in the Northern Hemisphere is often celebrated as a spring festival and later came to be a day to celebrate labor.  It’s not a holiday from work in the United States, but my husband B decided to take it off this year because he is working in conjunction with colleagues in India and Germany who do observe May Day as a holiday and because it is his anniversary of beginning work with his current employer. Twenty-six years – but who’s counting?

It is also the opening day for the newest Avengers movie – Age of Ultron.  I asked if he would like to go to the movies this morning, so we went to the 2D showing at 9:45 this morning.  Neither of us are fans of 3D movies, which tend to cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea.

I am not going to attempt a review. I am neither a comic book person nor an action movie fan, although B gave me enough of a primer to understand the set-up for the movie. I have also seen snatches of various Marvel movies and television shows – I swear Captain America’s origin story movie has been on television a dozen times lately – which I only vaguely pay attention to while I’m working or playing on my Chromebook.

So, yes, the movie has lots of flying, throwing things, and battling. Fortunately, fantasy violence doesn’t disturb me in the way that realistic violence does and the rating was only PG-13, so not too much carnage.

The important thing was that I got to be there with B in the posh reclining love-seats at the theater, holding hands.

Anne Frank: A Global Tribute… Tuesday 14th April, 2015

Anne Frank: A Global Tribute… Tuesday 14th April, 2015.

Thanks to Rowena for posting about this special tribute to Anne Frank on the 70th anniversary of her death.  I would participate if I weren’t so technically challenged on the video-recording front, but hope that some of my friends will consider taking part.