Pumpkin Cottage

Pumpkin Cottage
sit and visit a spell

Sunday, October 25, 2009

VoVo would be proud

Last night I was watering in the dark. There is was my Ecke poinsetta. I purchased it last
Christmas from Jenny, at work, as a school fundraiser. Jenny had wanted to trade because it wasn't the best specimen. But look at it...the red color is even coming in. Amazing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Exhaustion Sets In

We are all sick. Started with Holly and worked it's way through each of us. Only Jacob has been spared so far.

Missed seeing VoVo because we can not risk getting her sick.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marmelade (Quince Jam)

It is Portuguese language lesson day.

I've received some questions about the canning the of marmelade I made yesterday. You can find the recipe I used here quince jam (quince is also called honey apple). I looked through quite a few recipes but this seemed like a simple but good one where I could achieve success the first time. I've only made berry jams but I knew what the jam should look and taste like. If you use the attached recipe, I recommend cutting the sugar down to three cups of sugar instead of the recommended four cups but taste as you add sugar for your own preference. I also cooked my jam for a lot longer than the recipe called for but my fruit took longer to test tender. The fruit has to be cooked completely. I did not double the recipe but used the recommended six packed cups of grated raw fruit may batch netted 3 full pints. Tomorrow I will make another batch so I will let you know.

Quince is primarily a backyard fruit although I have found it at farmer's markets in the past. We are right in the middle of the fruit's season so this is a good time to look. The quince I used was received as a gift from my mother's caregiver. Dulce is the one that noticed the marmelo tree and the meyer lemon trees. We were excited because it is such a traditional jam in our culture.

The recipe was easy and tasty. The fruit can not be eaten raw but is delightful in jam. The taste is unique but reminds me of an apple/pear/honey combination.

Thank you, again, for your support during this very difficult time.


They will only be little for a minute. Holly, Jacob and Antonio sharing a snowcone. How is life so painful and sweet at the same time?

I've been wanting to share this Portuguese word with you but I had no way to explain the overwhelming feeling that it evokes.

But I read about it here on this blog . The comments are below:

Saudade is the Portuguese word. Its poetic meaning is very difficult to translate and I believe it really defines us as a people.

This is so true. This is the word I use to express my longing to my mother and she says it back. "Saudade" is how I feel just a deep longing and love that no single English word can express.

Near and Far

Here is my get along gang visiting VoVo probably at Thanksgiving time in Half Moon Bay. I am guessing that Nicholas is 7 and Mark is probably 11 or so. The is my nephew Joey. Yes, we are all a lot thinner then.

If nothing else, VoVo has brought family and friends together from near and far. Staci corrected me yesterday VoVo does have 11 grandchildren but she has 6 great-grandchildren. I hope that everyone,that includes me, will make more of an effort to stay in touch even if that means just a Christmas card each year with a photo. I promise to make more of an effort, too. Relationships need nurturing just like any living thing. Staci, please send photos.

Last night I received a phone call from my very dear childhood friend, Aileen. It has been difficult staying in touch with such busy lives and distance between us but whenever we do get an opportunity to talk it's like no time has passed.

Yesterday with Holly home sick I tried keep busy while keeping her cozy. It takes effort because what I would really like to do is stay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself but my mother would never ever approve. So to honor all that she has taught me I got up and made quince jam and banana muffins.

Later, I went to visit VoVo and sat and read antidotes and recipes from Sweetie Pie aloud to her. She seemed comforted by my voice. There was always so much happening at our house. VoVo is accustomed to chaos: the sound of the TV in the background and children talking and laughing. With three kids, two cats and a dog there "something," I use the term loosely, always going. There's not a moment of quiet until everyone goes to bed. On weekend evenings VoVo would knit on her sofa and I would sit on my sofa with some craft and we would watch Lawrence Welk .

Never ever a dull moment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visiting VoVo

Yesterday we all sang happy birthday and VoVo ate ice cream. When she was done she said, "Thank you." VoVo is pretty much non verbal now and doesn't really feel like eating. It is hard because I have to take cues from the way she engages with me with her eyes but every once in a while she speaks to us.

Yesterday when my sister Dulce kissed her for what will probably be the last time, my brave mother said, "Please, don't cry." We should comfort her and she comforts us.

This is a photo of my three older siblings. Dulce, Ilidio and Mericia. Mericia passed away in November of 1991. To this day, my mother says it was the hardest loss she has ever endured.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

VoVo's Birthday

Today is Mae's (mother in Portuguese) birthday. I normally sleep well but for the last four years sleep has become more difficult. My brain is always trying to solve whatever problem. Lee and I have been in pre-grieving since February just waiting for the "other shoe" to drop.

Side note, have you ever noticed that we have a million channels on TV but nothing to watch.

Any way, my extended family will go home today. We had originally planned to be together to celebrate VoVo's birthday and that is what we are going to do. When my good friend's brother Jose passed away, too early in life, my friend spoke of the "dash" between his date of birth and the day of his passing. I am sure I had heard it before but this time the significance of her statement stuck with me.

Everything is about the dash for each of us. We have to make the time count, make our lives count, and give meaning to our lives. It is probably why we have an epidemic of depression in our county because every one is seeking joy outside of themselves instead of looking in. The money and prestiage will never fill the void, drugs, alcohol, spending, and denial will never fill the void.

My parents did not have formal educations but they knew how to do everything from animal husbandry to caring for the dead. They were amazingly simple people. Hard working, honest with boat loads of integrity. I say this because integrity is in short supply these days. They were not the type of people that went to church on Sunday and cheated on their taxes in April. My mother would always say that there was One watching. My mother didn't want the value of a penny if it weren't rightfully hers. If you are raising children how you behave will be much more powerful then what you say. Children watch your every step and every miss step. Believe me, if you want your children to behave a certain way display that behavior. Say thank you and please. Dress your children like they matter. keep them clean and well groomed. Set high standards. A little fear of authority and respect for others persons and property matter, too. All these things matter to my mother. So did white laundry (I mean brilliant white) and a spotless house mattered.

My parents immigrated to a foreign land at the ages of 49 and 40. Would I have the courage and tenacity to do that? No no I am a sheltered individual. Not until recently have I even considered moving out of state let alone out of country. Before my siblings started getting married and having children of their own we had our parents and each other. And those memories are what have sustained me through this time. I want to crawl back to my four year life when things felt safe. reach back to a time when I had my big sisters and brothers to watch over me.

Whenever I weaken I think of my mother's words, "We have a soul to give God" and anecdotes like:

Whatever is for us is for us.
Confront your life and move forward.
You have to love your little plants, talk to them and confide in them.
The best years of your life are when your children are small but you do not realize it.
Education and your good name are all that you take with you.
Only one man in my life; all my life.
If you have a well kept garden it adds a room to your house.

She had only one real regret and that was not having confided her passion for nursing to her own father. She preferred the company of the elderly and to garden by the moon light.

My mother has 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. On the left we have three generations represented with Christine representing the oldest grandchild from the oldest sibling and Holly representing the youngest grandchild from the youngest sibling.

Someone adapted James Matthew Barrie's quote of “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December" to God gave us memories so that we might have roses in winter and mother's forever.

We love you and will never forget the lessons you taught us and example you gave us.

Happy Birthday, Mae.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning

My friend Fran came to visit yesterday. We are so blessed by our friendships with so many wonderful friends it is hard to feel sorry for ourselves. Some times in the throes of life we forget the family we have created through our friends. Thank you to my nieces who have commented on the blog, to our friends who are reading the blog, to the friends that have called, my wonderful friends from work that continue to check in on us and to everyone who has visited. Love to you all.

Here are the photos from our adventures yesterday. We visited the Live Oak Pumpkin Patch. It's important to keep things as normal as possible for the little ones and continue to celebrate life every day.

To live our lives with dignity and not to despair. I recall from Anne of Green Gables. Anne Shirley: Can't you even IMAGINE you're in the depths of despair?
Marilla Cuthbert: No I cannot. To despair is to turn your back on God.

This little quote has kept me going through so much.

A big hug to my wonderful husband and children who keep me on the straight and narrow. FOCUS.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dulce Arrived

Dulce, my sister, finally arrived yesterday morning. This is what my mother has been waiting for... She would tell me there is still one. Check out

I don't know who wrote the following paragraph:

"To sail is necessary, to live is not." If you never leave the Isle of Yeah-but, if you don't attend to your fatigue, embrace forbidden hopes, and act in spite of fear, this statement will always be Greek to you. But once you have come unstuck and begin to live passionately, once you feel what it is to ride the wild, gorgeous ocean, the cry of the seafarer will come to make perfect sense.

We live like this mantra every day but in this time when we experiencing end of life we understand the urgency of really living every single day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day Two

Fair warning you may cry just let it be tears of joy . In the last four years we have experienced so much.

Joe arrived today and we finalized VoVo's final arrangements. We know that we will be incapable of making decisions later. My heartfelt recommendation for anyone that finds themselves in our situation is this: provide the best care you can possibility afford and be practical with final arrangements.

Today, VoVo's hospice case manager shared stories of advocating for her patients when they beg to be moved from less then adequate facilities.

My mother's care is entrusted to the best caregiver in the most beautiful home.

Going forward I will try to temper the sadness of this moment with the celebration of VoVo's life. My mother, Alzira, is an amazing women. Joe and I will try to share some of her wisdom along the way. Here is VoVo on Easter Sunday probably 2004. Always wearing an apron rarely sitting down.

VoVo would tell you that she had never stolen anything in her life with the exception of a few little cuttings. It could be roses, geraniums, seeds from hollyhocks, you name it she could make a plant out of anything. Her one fault was that she was stingy with sharing cuttings with strangers because it would cause too many "orphans."

Alzira always behaved with style and dignity. She displayed real courage, attitude and confidence. She was always game for an adventure, worked hard and suffered without complaint.

Honestly she was always game for some fun.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day One

The get-along gang's Christmas card either 2007 or 2008. Brain a little fuzzy.

The little pumpkin from Nipomo, last weekend, reminds me of pumpkin time.

Today was VoVo's first day of hospice. Hospice is intended as a compassionate way for families to travel the last journey of their loved one's life. I cried all night anticipating the documents I would sign allowing the end of life extending treatments. In the twenty years since my father passed away, my mother and I have had many conversations regarding the end of life. We agreed then that if a decision needed to be made we trusted each other to make that decision at the appropriate time.

I remember reading On Death and Dying during my father's illness. It is an amazing book and what I learned then is still applicable today. It doesn't make it any easier but in my heart I know we have done our best by behaving in a loving way. My heart is broken but my tears are for me for my loss and for how much I miss her even now. We only have one mother.

In Susan Branch's The Summer Book there is a short essay on page 19 that starts with "Everything grows in my mother's garden," and ends with, "I want only this, my son to say one day, Everything grows in my mother's garden." For whatever reason these words have resonated with me all day. My mother knew how to do everything with special care but most of all my mother had the most beautiful gardens. I dragged my poor mother to every nursery in Southern California. My favorite is still Heard's Country Gardens. Mary Lou Heard passed away a few years ago but her nursery was our all time favorite. You could just sense the love of gardening. Nurturing of the soul through planting little seeds. My mother would always call her plants "amigas." It was the love that she bestowed on us and on her plants that made everything beautiful.

It is a family tradition to date and write in books when we offer them as gifts. For years now I have purchased books to commemorate joyous and painful times and have always written a message for later reflection. Today I purchased two books one for Lee and one for me to mark this day. The book I purchased for myself reminds me of my mother. Her thrift of making treasures from her hands for her family. For Lee, I just purchased a book I knew he would enjoy but not purchase for himself. His book as future road trips for our little get-along gang.

My heart is so heavy. I leave you with pictures. Tuesday is VoVo's birthday. This is also Pumpkin Festival weekend in Half Moon Bay. While VoVo lived in HMB we traveled to the Pumpkin Festival each year. It was our tradition.

My heart is in your heart, VoVo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our get-along-gang

VoVo will be on hospice starting tomorrow. It just hasn't been the same since she was hospitalized in February. God bless all the wonderful people that have helped us along the way. Especially Dr. Bahaa Girgis who has walked with us each and every step of the way in our journey.

Lee and I prayed so hard for guidance and Dr. Girgis has been there with us. We knew from the first time we met him that he was an answer to our prayers. There are so few physicians of his caliber.

As we enter this portion of the get-along gang's journey, I will share the names of people and facilities that have assisted in the caring and healing both of body and heart. We will celebrate the life of the strongest woman I have ever know. God is love. God is good. It is as simple as that.