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Friday, January 16, 2009

Why I Feel Like A Frog

As many of you know, just before Christmas we found out my mom has breast cancer. But they said it was small, and they'd probably just have to do a simple lumpectomy and possibly radiation. Simple enough - no freak out required. So they did the lumpectomy.

Then, they said they needed to go back in, because there was a little more they needed to get...but it should be simple, although she'd for sure need radiation.

Then, after they went in to finish the "simple" job, they said it was way bigger than they thought. Now she'll need a mastectomy. And radiation. And probably chemo. The surgery is scheduled for the 26th. I can't wait to hear what they have to say when it's over.

How am I doing? I feel like a frog in a pot of water that's gradually being heated up. And I have to admit that after this last piece of news I'm beginning to notice the heat - and I'm hoping (and praying) it doesn't get any hotter. It's hot enough, believe me. Which brings me to my next thought:

Have you ever really thought about food? (I know, shocker that I would think about food at a time like this). Seriously though, have you ever thought about what a huge roll it plays in our lives? Just the other day, Kelly and I were discussing family holidays. She knows someone who has these events catered, rather than making food the old fashioned way. I made the comment that if they can afford it, why not? Kelly disagreed. In light of recent events, I am changing positions. Food matters. A lot.

Just take a minute and think about the food in your house. What you make, how you make it, what recipes you use, what you do (or don't) know about cooking/baking, and what kind of associations you have with different comfort foods. Where does the foundation for your foodishness come from? What makes you the way you are? What determines what makes a good Thanksgiving dinner, or whether you have turkey, ham, or pork on Christmas?

Your mother. And her mother. And maybe your mother-in-law. And every woman who went before you in your family. Through the generations, the food your family consumes has been handed down, tweaked, added to and subtracted from, by each generation of women. The changes came from their lifestyles, tastes, talents, and available technology, and you are the next step in that line. As women, we shape the food tastes, habits, and healthiness of our growing families, and that is a really big job. Someday they will leave and take our foodisms - tweaked accordingly - with them.

I suppose what made me think of this is that food is my mom's thing. In a way, cooking/baking is what defines my mom. Maybe I should say "really good food" is what defines her. And thankfully, she has passed at least a little of that on to all of us, and given us something that we can contribute to our families. (Even if we don't necessarily contribute it as often, or as punctually as she does... It still counts, right? I mean, we don't ALWAYS need a vegetable to be carrying on the family tradition, right Mom?)

Anyway, it just got me thinking - what if my mom hadn't been so into food? What if we'd catered Christmas instead of spending all those hours learning how to make my grandpa's stuffing? (Which is AMAZINGLY good, by the way). What if we'd never started making that rainbow jello salad (that takes a hundred years, but is sooo worth it)? What if Mom's rolls weren't a staple ingredient at every family get together (including anytime anyone shows up in her kitchen for anything)? What if Mom didn't make EVERYONE'S birthday cakes? (Yes, I know how lucky I am).

And what do all of these things represent to all of us? Family. Togetherness. Love. Something vital would be missing from all of our lives if Mom hadn't taken food so seriously. If you are what you eat, than we're all the embodiment of love, because that's the main ingredient in Mom's kitchen.

So today I realized how grateful I am that my family has established food traditions. I love that we all use the same cake recipes. I love that we have Afton's Boiled Raisin Cookie recipe. (I love that it makes so many cookies). I love that we all assimilated Mom's bread making skills from spending so much time hanging out in the kitchen with her. (Our wards are thankful for this too). And I love that we do pork roast for Christmas, because turkey really isn't my thing - and pork roast really is. Who knows? I might never have thought of such a thing if my mother hadn't shown me the way.

Basically what I'm saying is this - I bet I am in some way reminded of my mother every time I prepare a meal. Right now she lives right up the road from me, and I often call her for advice, recipes, or ideas. It's almost like she's a part of my kitchen-consciousness. And I'm glad. I'm glad she's so close, I'm glad she's contributed so much, and I'm glad that she is a part of my life every single day whether I see her or not. Her prognosis is actually quite good, and I expect to have her (and her food) around for many more years. And yes, someday that will inevitably change, so I'm glad that today I had this revelation. One way or another, my mother will always be in the kitchen with me, so yes, my position has changed. Food matters. A lot. (Thanks Mom).

30 comments:

R Max said...

Why are you up so late?

Sorry to hear about your mom. I am sure she is very proud that she has cultivated some culinary skills in you.

You're right, vegetables are such party poopers.

LisAway said...

Oh, that is really no fun. I wish her the best in her fight. It is not easy for anyone involved.

I love that your mother has left you such a delicious tradition. Food is love!

Jen said...

R Max - (by the way, what does that mean?) I'm blogging. What do you think?

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Are you sure the anxiety isn't getting to you causing insomnia? But blogging is worth missing some sleep for definitely. And the commenting, that is just as important. Thanks for mine, by the way.
Now on to the sympathy. This past year I have had a love/hate relataionship with the medical profession. I have come to learn that they don't tell you everything to start with, because then you might not go through with what ever torture/cure they want to do to you. Sometimes this is good, why worry until you have to, but I totally get what you are saying about being boiled slowly. And after a while you become very gun shy and learn to expect the worst.
I am sorry that you are going through this. My mom had her first chemo on monday and my mother in law is having her double masectomy next week. I can't remember if I even posted about that, but my MIL is also battling breast cancer.
And I totally agree about the food thing. But it worries/scares/stresses me to think that I am failing my family. Hopefully when they look back, there will be enough memories to carry them through, but I wonder.
What a beautiful tribute to you mom, and how lucky are you to live so close to her. I think that is hard on me to be so far from my mom and MIL for that matter.
I feel sad from my MIL because my FIL has passed away and she is alone. At least my mom still has my dad, and my sister lives close and can help.
Sorry this is so long and rambling. Thanks for sharing, I have been wondering about how she was doing. I am glad that her prognosis is so good.
Keep the faith and the hope.
And a big cyber hug from me.

Claire said...

Food and family. Don't make me choose what I love more. Cos I'm leaning to one of them.... and my choice doesn't make me proud...

Hope your Mum's ok.

Natalie said...

Oh, Jen. I'm sorry that it's more serious than they had originally said. I'm glad that you do have such good traditions / memories / food though and that you get to have a revelation that makes it that much more special.

Barbaloot said...

I'm sorry that your mom (and you and your family) have to go through the pain of cancer.

And I'm sorry I'm not in your ward so I can have some of your mom's yummy rolls.

Machen family said...

Thanks for that Jen. Life's tough and having this to deal with makes things tougher! But I love how you can share this with us because it makes us appreciate what we have! From what I know about your mom's daughters....she has raised some pretty great kids, she must be an incredible lady!

Machen family said...

Do I even make sense?

The Crash Test Dummy said...

That's to sad. (About your mom). I'm sorry.

And that's so true. (About the food). But suddenly I'm feeling a lot of pressure and a lot of guilt.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day because my husband and I cook together all day. I can't decide whether I like the smell or the taste better? Smells are so comforting too.

lifeinthehighlands.com said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom! And not just because of what you have written, but because of the person you have become.

All my best to your mom.

Annie Valentine said...

Um, just for the record, you probably EAT her food more often than you call her for advice, recipes, or ideas, ya big mooch.

Why don't I live closer?

Rocketgirl said...

What a sweet way of looking at it all! I tend to take the martha/mary approach and be the lazy one who stays OUT of the kitchen because cooking is not my forte, but man am I thankful for the food traditions my family has passed on... except for the plum pudding at Chrsitmas. Even mom agrees it's nasty, but she still makes it for tradition sake.

*hugs* for your family!!!

ade said...

Ohh how I miss that good'ole ELMA. Your mom is such a wonderful lady. She really does have a legacy there with her rolls and all...dang I want to be more like Diane. She really does give the BEST advice too. I loved that good dinner she made for me and my family this past Summer...and yes you gals are just a chip off the ole block...you just have to be good if Diane is your mom.

Miss ya,
Ade

Grandma said...

For starters I did not get the cooking gene. My sister got it.

I am really sorry about the news of your mother. They cure a lot of cancer these days so hopefully they will get this one too.
I will remember her in prayer.

Denys said...

Hey Jen,
I didn't know about your Mom. Here's hoping your boiling pot starts to cool. Your Mom is an angel, as you know, and you are one lucky girl to have her as a Mom. I'm glad you wrote out in words your food is love theory. Your Mom definitely knows how to dish out the love. As a lucky former Elma Ward member, I was so glad to come to mutual night and see her heavenly cake awaiting. :) Tell her Hi from me - she (and your Dad) was such an amazing influence on my family so many years ago, which I am so thankful for. Tell her Hi for me.

Sue Q said...

I like the cyber hug idea. Here's another.....

(((((((O))))))))

I remember when I was a little kid and somebody told me walnuts caused cancer, and how I believed them, and how I thought I was going to die until my wise mother told me that cancer came to people that lived unhealthy lifestyles (smoking, etc.). I thought I was safe.

Now, I realize that we are a product of our generation's environment. No one, no matter how healthy they are, is "safe" from cancer. It just reminds me how it says in the scriptures that during the millenium, the righteous shall suffer along with the wicked. Problem is, when someone is sick with a life-threatening disease, they're not the only one that suffers.

I'm sending you all the positive vibes I can muster, my friend. Best of luck to you and your mother.

That Girl in Brazil said...

*sniff, sniff*

Thanks for them words, lady. Prayers for your mom -

Shauna said...

Hope you have a beautiful weekend! ♥ Hugs :)

nikkicrumpet said...

Great post! And you're right...I was thinking about our own family and my mom...and I kept nodding my head at each sentence. Food does play a big role. Too big for me because I can't stop EATING it....but I never realized how many of my most precious memories or our family were made either in the kitchen or at the table.

wendy said...

Oh man, sorry to hear your mom has to go through that. BUT I totally agree with all your thoughts about family "sharing" call it traditions, call it whatever, but it is exactly what you said . A total embodiement of LOVE and memories. Every little thing we share together as a family by DOING solidifies those happy happy memories that can't be traded for all the "catering" in the world.

Jen said...

Thanks to all of you! I haven't been able to check in since yesterday morning, and this really made my day.

I love the ladies of Blogland!

Laura said...

Jen, did I mention that as soon as Mom called me I started eating? lol. Thanks for the good words about Mom and her food. I totally agree with you, and am equally grateful for all that she's passed on to us. Makes me want to make dinner more often...starting next week...if I still feel like it, haha!

Alison Wonderland said...

It's so true. There were a couple things my dad made growing up but really all food was my mom's food. Some of it was great and some was not so good but it's all her.
And that goes double for holidays.

in time out said...

i love you blog. i love the other name on your profile...desperately seeking...funny. you are a great writer. thanks for sharing.

in time out said...

by the way...and sorry i didn't mention it first...i am so sorry about your mom. oh my...i should have said that first. but you are a great writer. thanks for sharing.

Jen said...

in time out - anyone who comes here and utters the phrase "I love your blog" is automatically forgiven for anything.

And thanks for the good wishes!

Adam Rosenlund said...

Well put....

You know, now that you mention it, I had never noticed that we do always have pork for Christmas....

Rachel said...

I'm sorry about your mom, that is so hard to deal with!!! My prayers are with your family!!!

R Max said...

It's never too late to wear pink fishnets.