Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Quad Cuisine - Fajitas!

Since Jeff and I have recently begun cooking together (you can read the back story on that, here), today's post is the first official segment of ...

... where my quadriplegic husband instructs me on how to make a meal.

A couple weeks ago, Jeff says to me, "I want to make fajitas for dinner this week."

I'd never made fajitas before. (No surprise there.) Neither had Jeff. So it seemed like the perfect meal to tackle together.

The night before the meal, we opened up the skirt steak we had in the fridge, and I cut it into strips. We realized there wouldn't be enough meat to feed everyone (we had Jeff's parents and my dad on the guest list), so we added a couple chicken breasts.

Evie had the job of pounding them with Jeff coaching her in the background.

She's really putting some muscle behind this whack.

Then it was time for me to cut up the fruit and veggies: red and green peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Jeff instructs me to cut the peppers into strips "pencil thin." After what seemed like two hours of cutting vegetables, my work clearly shows that the pencils I've been using are thicker than most. Haha.

Here are the veggies and meat as they prepare for a night of marinating in the refrigerator.

I didn't take any photos or videos of myself and my still-in-development knife skills, though I did snag this quick video from my computer while Evie and I were watching The Adventures of Puss in Boots on Netflix. Perhaps in time I can be this good.


So the next day was fajita day!

Jeff does a great job of giving me instructions when I cook. He knows I need both an overview of where this meal is going then a breakdown of each step (I used to be a procedure writer, so the more specific, the better).

First he tells me to get out the "limp wrist pan." This is what we'll be cooking the meat and veggies in. It's a goliath pan than weighs about a hundred pounds, and every time I lift it, my wrist goes all limp, hence the nickname.

I made Jeff take a picture of me holding it:

Now it was time to begin. Jeff informs me that we need to cook the meat first, then take it out while the veggies cook, then put the meat back in and stir the whole thing together. Why we're doing it this way is beyond me. I'm just following instructions.

So I heat up the limp wrist pan and in goes the meat.

By this time my in-laws have arrived - from three houses up the street - and we immediately put them to work (afterall, they're part of Team Quad Cuisine too!) My mother-in-law starts the rice, and I hand my father-in-law my phone and ask him to take photos.

Here we are as things begin to come together.

At this point Jeff asks me, "How's the meat looking?" His chair doesn't sit high enough for him to see into the pans, so he has to rely on my description.

I shrug and say, "It looks like it's sizzling."

He rolls his eyes and tells me to hold up a piece for him to see. He inspects and says it's time to take the meat out and put in the veggies.

I've failed to prepare a plate for the meat to hang out on while the veggies take a turn in the limp wrist pan, so I fumble around a bit until Jeff finally says, "Just grab any plate. A paper plate is fine."

So I get a paper plate and set it on the counter next to the pan.

That's on the stove.

Over an open flame.

(If you can see where this is going, you have more foresight that I did).

After a couple scoops of meat have been safely transferred from the pan to the paper plate, I begin to smell a hint of smoke.

Then I see orange flame.

"Ohmygod! The plate is on fire!" I scream. Thankfully I was able to big-bad-wolf it out before things really went south. Whew. Never a dull moment in this life.

Here's the evidence:

After all the excitement, a much needed wine break was in order.

So now we're in a bit of a holding pattern while everything cooks. I have a tendency to want to constantly stir, poke at, or otherwise prod the food while it's on the stove. I kept asking Jeff, "Should I stir it now?" And he would close his eyes and shake his head. 

After a few more times of asking the same question, he simply looked at me and said,  "Just. Let. It. Cook."

After some impatient toe tapping, I was finally given the go ahead on the stirring. I open the lid to the veggies (which the meat had rejoined by this point), and Jeff patiently and calmly tells me that my de-lidding technique could use some improvement. You see, whenever I take the lid off of a pan, I unceremoniously lift it and pull it away from the pan. Then depending which side of the stove the pan is on, I drip the condensation either all over the stove and countertop or all over the floor. Today it was the latter.

Jeff then explains to me that if I simply lift the lid straight up, then tilt the lid vertically over the pan, the liquid will magically fall back into the pan, and thus save some cleanup time later in the evening.

Gah ... all these little details! I'm realizing this cooking business takes practice and patience.

And that I've got a lot to learn.

But that's okay.

Because what I'm also realizing about cooking is that it can be fun, even exciting. (Did I really just write that? Anyone who knows me from our old life is likely gasping in shock at that statement.)

But it's true.

For me, learning something new and acquiring new skills is both fulfilling and rewarding.

For Jeff, finding a new way to do something - to be a part of something he loved doing in an old life - is restorative. It's a way for him to feel useful again.

And being able to make all this happen together, even if it isn't perfect, is a recipe for happiness.


So with the table set and the food hot and ready, we sat down (or as Evie points out, "Well, Daddy was already sitting down") and devoured our fajitas, rice, and beans.


Even Evie with her picky, seven-year-old palate gave the meal two thumbs up!

And do you know what one of the best parts about this meal was? ...

Leftovers the next day!

Here's a pic of my and Jeff's plates:

And in case you're wondering, Evie ate corndogs.

Just keepin it real.

Happy cooking everyone! Thanks for following along.

Team Quad Cuisine

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Three Years

Today marks three years since Jeff's injury. 

I make it a point to write either on or near this date, mainly to have a chronicle of where we are - where I am - on this journey.

Year one was mostly chaotic. It was about making heads or tails of an impossibly difficult situation.

Year two was much about acceptance. Learning how to live a brand new life, and making adjustments in order to make the best of things.

And year three has been about getting settled.

Years one and two passed with about the speed I expected. Once we hit the marks, it felt like one and two years' time had passed, respectively.

But year three has been different.

It feels more like year ten.

I don't mean that in a bad way necessarily. It's just that so much has happened this year. But despite a couple hospital stays and a pretty nasty bout with pneumonia, most of this long year has been good. We've settled into our new home in a new city and a new state quite well. Evie has thrived in school and has made new friends. 

We've developed a routine that works for us.

And it's that routine, the thing I love, the thing that keeps this whole crazy train from falling off the tracks, that demanding checklist that waits impatiently for me every morning to start ticking off items ... it's that routine that has been weighing heavy on me lately.

It's also that same routine that I recently got to see in a manner quite unexpected.

A few weeks ago, a friend who lives a nearly identical life to mine shared a music video on her Facebook timeline. She wrote how a friend of hers shared it with her - how it reminded him of what her and her husband's routine must be like. Of the video my friend wrote, "What a powerful little four minutes." 

I don't follow music much, so I wasn't surprised that it was a song I didn't recognize from an artist I'd never heard of. But I was intrigued by my friend's comment, so I clicked the play button on the video. 

And there, on the screen, I began to see my daily caregiver routine unfold. A woman was taking care of her quadriplegic husband. She was doing things like getting him out of bed, bathing him, loading him into the car, and feeding him. You could see both the love and the exhaustion mixed together on her face.

And these were the words ...

And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again

And I'll rise up
High like the waves
I'll rise up
In spite of the ache
I'll rise up
And I'll do it a thousand times again
For you

I watched that video in teary silence. And those words rang in my ears for days. Each day as I would wake up and face my daunting routine, I was encouraged by those words to rise up ... unafraid; rise up ... in spite of the ache. And how I will do it a thousand times again ... for the man I love.

Fast forward to yesterday, the day before the anniversary of Jeff's injury. After dinner, I found myself with both a little time and energy, and I knew there was some organizing that needed to be done in the garage. So I left Jeff in the living room parked in his chair watching the Democratic National Convention, and I headed to the garage in the early evening heat. I rearranged boxes, grunted as I lifted them onto shelves, and wiped the sweat from my face.

I took a break and went back into the house. And as I was walking over to Jeff, I heard familiar words coming from a beautiful woman performing on the convention stage:

And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid ...

My mouth dropped open. "This song!" I said, my voice cracking with emotion.

"What about it?" asked Jeff. I hadn't even mentioned anything to him.

So I told him briefly about the video. How I was so moved to see our life - our routine - portrayed in it. 

We watched the performance in silence.

And then, as Andra Day began singing the last part of her powerful song on that stage, I heard, for the first time, the change in the lyrics.

It was no longer I. Now it was We

And we'll rise up
High like the waves
We'll rise up
In spite of the ache
We'll rise up
And we'll do it a thousand times again
For you

It was like everything clicked into place. On the eve of Jeff's injury anniversary, hearing this song performed so eloquently, I was reminded that this is OUR routine, not just mine. How we rise and face each day together, never separately - no matter how tired we are, or how much our bodies may ache. 

And how we will do it a thousand times again. For each other. Always. 

As much as I would love to erase July 27th from the calendar, this day is now a part of us. Part of our history. 

It was the start of our new life, and it will forever be a milestone marker on our journey.


And if you'd like to take a look at Andra Day's video for "Rise Up," featuring a glimpse into the routine of a quadriplegic and his caregiver spouse, here it is via YouTube: