the friends

Love Sponges

My friend Peggy Rice (Gray Clouds, Clear Skies) shared that her parents’ cat died last night.  She wrote, “Those pets are such an important part of our lives…I understand the grief.”

As I was praying for her parents it occurred to me why pets are such an important part of our lives, and why losing them is so painful.  Why losing them is sometimes even harder than losing a human.

It’s because of love.

Pets are the repositories of our best love.  We pour it into them, unhindered and unguarded and when they are gone, the receptacle for all that pristine love is gone.

They love us back, for sure, and we certainly miss their delightful personalities, but I think it’s their willingness to be loved that we miss the most.

They are love sponges.

They are 100% willing to be loved. They don’t evaluate the quality of our love, they just soak in every bit of it they can get.

People, with their insecurities and baggage, often reject large and small portions of our love.

But not pets, pets willingly and unabashedly accept it all.

And we love them for it.

Praying for everyone out there who is grieving the loss of their precious love sponge.

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#notcapableofrejection

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faith, love, the friends

Barely Breathing

Be’s ashes arrived about an hour ago.  The young man who delivered them to my front door was very kind. As soon as he left, I hugged the little wooden box to my heart and sobbed. I told Be all the things I’ve said to her many times since her diagnosis but also things I wished I had said yesterday.  I wished I had looked her in her bright little eyes and said that I was so sorry to have to say goodbye, that I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The emergency room ultrasound showed a lung had collapsed on one side and fluid was building in her chest cavity on the other side.  Eight days earlier another emergency doc had tapped 600 ml of fluid from her chest.  For six days we marveled at how well she was doing. But Monday she started showing signs that the fluid was building again.

But she never lost her appetite. Yesterday she jumped and twirled when I set down her breakfast bowl. She enthusiastically gobbled it down and then stood at the kitchen island watching me separate meat from bones to make broth.  She stood there as she did whenever I made her bone broth, confident that I would hand her a morsel or two.

I put the bones back into the crock pot, covered them with water, ground the meat and started to load the dishwasher.

That’s when she started panting. That’s when she came back into the kitchen to get me.  She often lead me into the family room to sit with her.  But this time she lead me to the door that leads to the garage. She just stood there as though she was asking to go to the hospital. I called the hub. I called emergency to let them know we were coming.  They were ready with oxygen when we arrived.

The doc said she could tap the fluid again but that it would probably fill up quicker this time – in 2 days rather than 8.  That’s typically the way it goes.

And before I could say anything, my husband said, “No, it’s time to let her go.”

And that made me cry.  And it made me a little deep down mad.

A tech brought Be into the examining room, catheter already in her arm, laid her gently on the table and plugged an oxygen tube into the wall in front of it. She said she’d give us a few minutes to say goodbye. Be’s breathing was labored, even holding oxygen to her nose, and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable one second longer than necessary. So we had the doc come in right away.

I wish I had taken just a moment though.

I wish I had turned her gently around or slid her a little back so I was in front of her – so she could see me – instead of being behind her.   I was right there hovering over her, stroking her head. My husband was behind me stroking her back. I wish I had been where she could see me.  I wish I had scooped her up and held her after she was gone. I wish I had driven her to the crematorium myself – one last labor of love.  So many regrets. It all happened so quickly.  I wish I had prayed when she was on the table and not just in the car on the way to emergency. I wish I had blessed her one last time, asked God into the room.  I wish I had asked to hold her on my lap while she was getting the injections…

She laid her head down on the table and was asleep before the doc finished pushing the propofol into the cath. Her breathing stopped midway through the injection of the second drug – the euthanasia drug. No twitching, no nothing, just asleep and then quietly gone in less than a minute.

So I hugged the box containing her ashes and sobbed and told her all those things and it was cathartic.  I’m still sobbing and it still hurts and it is pouring rain again.

It hurts so much I can barely breathe.

The turkey bone broth is still simmering in the crock pot, its heartbreaking aroma permeating the house.

Someday, when I step into heaven, Lucybee, the beloved friend I lost three years ago, will run full speed to greet me.  But the little Be will come quietly: she’ll tiptoe up, peek her head around the gate, look up at me with her sweet little face, cock her head and then wag, wag, wag her happy little tail.

Some glorious day.

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#someday

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family, love, the friends

Sacrificial Gifts

A few weeks before Christmas my daughter texted me a picture of Sorel Slimpack II Waterproof Boots – in case I needed a gift idea.

I had already bought her gifts but I was tempted to buy just one more.  Except the hub said we needed to scale back this year due to all the vet bills.  So I resisted.

The Monday before Christmas I stood at the pharmacy counter with a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit – the same kind my husband used back in October when he had his colonoscopy.  The kind that is a lot easier to take than the Golytely jug I’ve used in the past.

“Your insurance doesn’t cover this one,” the pharmacist said, “it will be $100.”

“What?” “Is that how much my husband paid back in October?”

She checked her computer.

“He paid $86, he had a coupon. I’ll try applying that same coupon code to yours.”

With the coupon it would be $91.  The price must have gone up she said.

“Is there another kind that my insurance will cover?”

She advised me to call the doc’s office and ask them to authorize a switch.

Golytely. The dreaded 4 litre jug.

Dreaded but 100% covered.

I texted the hub.  He said go ahead and pay the $91.

But then I remembered the boots. I was willing to suffer for the boots.

So I took home the jug.

The day after the colonoscopy I went to Nordstrom to purchase the boots – for $145.

“I thought I saw them on sale on your website for $114,” I said, as the clerk rang them up.

Apparently not.

As I was leaving the mall I spotted the same boots at another store – on sale for $109.

Back to Nordstrom to return, then back to Journeys to buy.

Those 8 hours of gut-wrenching misery – literally – paid for all but $18 of the boots.  The hub could live with it.

Sacrificial Giving

As we were heading to the theater to see the matinee showing of La La Land the day after Christmas, I told my daughter the story of the boots – my own small version of the Gift of the Magi.  Not because I wanted a medal or anything, but because I wanted her to know the depth of my love. And because giving a sacrificial gift felt so good, I thought receiving one might feel good, too.  Judging by the expression on her face at the end of my story, I think it did.

Same Love, Different Scenario

That evening, after dinner, I said, “Time for family goodness.” (“Family goodness” = all of us taking the friends for a walk.  One of us takes the hound, another takes the beagle and the third is on bag duty…”)

“It’s almost dark,” the hub said, sitting comfortably on the sofa watching some sort of sport on tv.

“Bring a flashlight,” I replied.

My daughter didn’t say anything, but the look she flashed revealed that she wasn’t thrilled either.

It was a rare 50 degree day in December and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to walk the little beagle. She cannot tolerate the cold anymore and getting oxygen to her lungs is so important.  I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop so we could take her.  It was still drizzling when I made my announcement, but it was getting dark and the window was closing.

“Come on,” I said.

As my daughter put on her coat she said, “You’re never going to be satisfied with the manner in which I parent your granddogs.”

“I just won’t come over,” I replied.

She continued, “Because I’m going to treat my dogs just like the rest of the country does.”

It snowed 8 inches the weekend before Christmas.  I bundled the beagle up and took her for a walk a few days later when the temp rose to 32 degrees.  She begged to romp through the woods.  “Sorry, little Be,” I said, “but your legs are too short, your belly will drag through the snow and you’ll get too cold.” I promised her that once the snow diminished enough we would take a walk through the woods.

And on that rainy, 50 degree day after Christmas when the snow was just about gone, we did.

The five of us took a walk through the woods, the hub carrying a flashlight and me using the flashlight on my iPhone.

It felt good to keep a promise.

It felt good to take my friends for a damp, drizzly, sacrificial walk in the woods.

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It’s all the same.

I thought about my daughter’s comments as I was unloading the dishwasher the next morning.

It’s all the same love, baby girl, I thought.  The same quality of love that bought your boots kept its promise to the Be.

It’s that way with God, too.  The quality of His love is always the same  – whether He is extending it to the saint or the sinner.

It isn’t about how lovable we are, it’s about how able to love He is.

And I so love Him. ❤

#nomoping

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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the friends

‘Tisn’t it the Season to be Jolly?

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The beagle and I have not missed a single walk since she was diagnosed. Because walks are medicine. They stimulate her immune system, they help the flow of her lymphatic system and they get oxygen to any anaerobic infections that may be present in her lungs.

Yesterday I smiled and said hello to a couple we encountered. They were on a (dog-less) walk of their own.

The woman responded, “I hope you are as warm as the dog.”

I chuckled and nodded.

Maybe she couldn’t think of anything else to say, I thought. Maybe what she meant to say was, “I like your dog’s coat.” or “Your dog looks nice and warm.”

Maybe she meant to say it with a smile.

But her tone and her look were disapproving.

I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a very downy down jacket. The hood was pulled up unto my head, my hands were mittened and my feet booted.

Clearly I was as warm as “the dog.” As my sweet dog.

Did she think my dog was too warm in her coat? Did she think I was cruel to put it on her? Did she hope I was as too warm as the dog?

I wanted to tell her that my friend’s little belly was shaved for a CT scan and the fur hasn’t fully grown back yet. It needs protection from the cold.

I wanted to tell her that senior dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Just like cardigan-clad senior people.

I wanted to tell her that my friend was shivering by the end of the previous day’s cold, damp walk.

I wanted to tell her that my friend has LUNG CANCER.

So quit judging.

But we just kept walking.

We saw them approach a second time as we rounded the final bend.

The beagle stopped to wait for them, tail wagging.

She’s a greeter.

But the couple did not acknowledge her.

Clearly not dog lovers. Clearly her earlier comment was not out of concern for “the dog.”

Clearly she doesn’t deem dogs worthy of warmth.

“Come on little Be. Let’s go home.”

The Be didn’t move.

“Are you worn out little friend? Have you had all you can take today?”

I kinda’ hoped Mrs. Crabby Appleton heard my questions. I kinda’ hoped she realized that there was more to the story.

On today’s walk the Be is going to wear her silver “American Beagle” puffy jacket. Because it’s cold and windy and the jacket is warm and adorable.

Fa-la-la-la-la  La-la  La-la.

#treasuringourtime

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the friends

Mr. Trump Goes to Washington?

I’m an election returns junkie and as such I have been parked in front of my tv all night.

Almost forgot my NaBloPoMo post.

I got nothin’ except a picture of my friend, supervising the making of her breakfast.

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These are the good old days.

Happy Returns, I’ll be up ’til the bitter end.

 

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love, the friends

Local Color

We had hoped to get up north for a color tour. But then the beagle was diagnosed. So I’m settling for the color in my neighborhood. I captured a bit of it on our walk today.

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I’ve been letting the beagle choose our route.

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Today she wanted to take the path along the woods.

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Which leads to an abandoned school.

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Hey, Be…

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…Let’s get home before it rains.

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She was unconcerned.

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The sky let loose as soon as we walked through the door.

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When the rain stopped it was Maxy’s turn.

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Good boy.

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Yep, buddy, I think that was thunder.

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I like the way the muted reds and yellows match my brick. Still waiting for my hazel to turn a brilliant  yellow.

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And I love how the trees in my backyard are a gnarly mess.

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It’s not the Tahquamenon Falls, but it’ll do.

 

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Jesus, Light, the friends

Heartbroken, Hopeful & Grateful

They say a blogger shouldn’t go more than a week without posting.

This blogger went more than two weeks.

Forgive me.

Malaise.

Even though my shingles rash was small and only mildly itchy, even though it never blistered and it held no pain, it left me tired. Too tired to force the thoughts that were bouncing around my brain to coalesce – thoughts on politics, thoughts on the third chapter of John and a snake lifted high. Too tired to even read your posts.

Cancer.

Just as my energy and my brain returned, my little beagle coughed up blood. Blood and a hunk of tissue.

I threw the blanket onto which she coughed into the washer, put the hunk of tissue in a small container and put the beagle in the car.

The emergency animal hospital did a chest x-ray and saw a mass in her chest – in the caudal area behind her sweet little heart. I authorized an abdominal ultrasound. The tissue was sent off to a lab.

Two days later we were back at the hospital, this time in the oncology department for a CT scan. To determine whether the mass could be surgically removed.

It can’t.

The location of the mass, which is growing out of her lung into the space behind her heart, makes surgery too risky.

In the one week since she coughed, she’s been diagnosed, she’s had an acupuncture treatment and she has been started on Chinese Herbal Medicine, supplements to strengthen her immune system and an antibiotic for a lung infection.

Thoughts of politics and snakes on poles have been replaced with thoughts of cancer and grief. All my mental energy has been focused on decisions re: treatment options, measuring out doses and making sure she gets a walk every day to stimulate her immune system. But not too long a walk….

Today in church God spoke to me as we sang:

All the weak find their strength
At the sound of Your great Name
Hungry souls receive grace
At the sound of Your great Name
The fatherless they find their rest
At the sound of Your great Name
Sick are healed and the dead are raised
At the sound of Your great Name

I’ve been praying every day for my little friend, but I haven’t been praying over her. I haven’t been speaking His great Name to her. Now I will.

Not a single sparrow falls to the ground outside my Father’s care.

Jesus said so.

The great Name said so.

Likewise not a single beagle gets lung cancer outside His care.

He cared for her for however long she was alone on the streets, lost or abandoned.

He cared for her when some cruel monster riddled her cheerful little body with BBs.

He rescued her and He placed her in our home – with her 2 rotten teeth, swollen spleen, hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease – to get her the surgery and medicine she needed. To envelop her in a family’s love. To strengthen her with home-cooked meals.

He cared for her then and He still cares for her now.

I am heartbroken, hopeful and grateful.

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Determined and watchful.

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Curious and intelligent.

 

#trust

#flickerofhope

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Food, the friends

Pumpkin Time

I’ve been cooking pumpkins.

I read somewhere that Libby’s actually cans kabocha squash puree, not pumpkin puree, and they get away with it because squash and pumpkins are in the same family. That’s why when you open a can of their puree it is much more orange than the yellowish flesh of the pie pumpkins you cook and puree yourself.

Plus kabocha squash are sometimes called “Japanese pumpkins,” even though kabocha is the Japanese word for squash.

I’ve been cooking pumpkins and “pumpkins” in my crock pot ever since they showed up in the market a couple of weeks ago. I cut up two pie pumpkins, stuck them in the crock pot on low for about six hours – ’til they were nice and soft – and then pureed them.

There is something really satisfying about having two jars of pureed pumpkin in the fridge. To feed the friends.

Two jars of pumpkin only lasts a few days because it is a staple of their diets.

So I cooked a green kabocha. And then I cooked another one.

Raw kabocha squash is REALLY hard to cut. So I didn’t cut it.  I just scrubbed it and stuck the whole thing in the crock.  After three or four hours I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and put it back in the pot to finish cooking.  I cut the second squash just around the stem once it was soft enough – didn’t even take it out of the crock –  to release some steam.

I was experimenting to see how lazy I can get away with being.  Really lazy, as it turns out.

Alas, my stash is running low.

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So today I put a red kabocha in the pot.

The market had it labeled a red kuri, but I think they’re wrong.

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It has the squat shape and the creamy striping of a red kabocha.

The red are supposed to be sweeter than the green variety, so good.

Because my friends have not been the only beneficiaries of all this fiber and vitamin A.

I stirred some of the pie pumpkin into my pasta sauce last week.

I made “pumpkin” (kabocha), chocolate chip cookies late, late Friday night – even though I had to be up at 5:30 Saturday morning for a meeting. When you gotta’ have ’em, you gotta’ have ’em.

Annnnnd I made pumpkin pancakes this morning.

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Mix 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (150 grams), 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger, about 40 scrapes of a nutmeg against a grater and 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl whisk together 1 egg, 2 Tbsp. melted butter, 4 ounces lowfat kefir, 4 ounces milk (I used fat-free) and 6 Tbsp. HOMEMADE kabocha squash puree. Whisk in some smugness if you want.

They were delicious.

“Absolutely delicious,” according to our guest visiting from Toronto.

Speaking of pumpkins, we took this little pumpkin eater and her brother on an outing this gorgeous almost-autumn day.

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She spotted a leaf floating in the lake and apparently thought it was alive because she kept licking her lips. She was so determined she had to be carried off the pier.

She was like me and those pumpkin cookies…

Tomorrow I’m writing about God.

#passionateaboutrealfood

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Food, the friends

May Snow & Lentil Stew

It snowed yesterday, MAY 15, off and on all day.  So I skipped the church picnic and made lentil stew for my friends.

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My extraordinarily healthy little friends.

Here’s what you do:

Find a local farmer who raises pastured grass fed and finished beef. Buy an eighth of one of his cows. You’ll get a box full of steaks, roasts, ground beef, stew meat and some nice big soup bones.

Lovingly place one of the soup bones in your crock pot, cover it with water, turn it on low and let it stew for 24 hours, or 26 as the case may be.

By now the bone has come apart into three or four large pieces. Fish them out with your tongs and throw them away.  Pull out the big lumps of nothing but fat and throw them away. Pull out the little hunks of meat and put them in a small bowl, there won’t be a lot. Separate any morsels of meat that are still clinging to any unrendered fat, put the meat in the bowl, throw the fat away. You might be tempted to use the fat, I don’t. One of my friends suffered a bout of pancreatitis so fat is not his friend.  Plus he is thirteen – nice and lean is easier on thirteen-year-old joints.

Bone broth brings healing to old joints.

Pour the bone broth through a sieve into a mason jar or two.  Stick the jars in the fridge overnight.

This is where I picked up the process yesterday.

Remove the layer of hard, white rendered fat from the top of the jars and toss it – unless you want to use it for YOUR refried beans, roasted potatoes, etc…..

Dump the glorious beef gelatin into a large pot.

Once the gelatin is melted and hot, add some dried lentils.  While the lentils are simmering dice a few carrots and potatoes and add them to the pot.  Finely chop that little bit of meat and add it, too.

When the lentils are soft and the stew is thick, add some frozen peas. Simmer for about eight minutes more.

Let it cool, feed your friends.

And smile.

Because you are a good, good mom.

#buddies

 

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