In my old life before widowhood, I was one of those over-involved PTA moms. I worked part-time and spent at least 10 hours at the grade school my boys attended weekly. I worked in the library one afternoon, assisted in the classroom another, tutored reading, collated, stapled and distributed the weekly newsletter, headed the monthly food drive as well as other committees (Yearbook, Health & Safety, Fun Fair, etc.). At the holidays I coordinated the room parties and made goodie bags for all the kids. I baked my share of treats for various events (cake walk), gave the teachers generous presents and was a very visible face always willing to give a helping hand.
Flash forward to the present. My Certified Nursing Assistant Program ends this week and a party with the 32 students was planned. We were all supposed to bring a dish for a pot luck lunch. My heart wasn't in making anything. Things are just too crazy right now. I thought about picking up a nice platter of holiday cookies or brownies. But in the end tried to come up with a dish that would be very simple and quick to make. I decided on corn pudding because I associate corn with Thanksgiving and I love the dish. My huge cookbook collection never got unpacked so I went online to see what I could come up with. I found the Jiffy Corn Bread recipe for Corn Casserole and went with it because it doesn't get much simpler than that.
Jiffy Corn Casserole
1 can whole kernel corn undrained
1 can creamed style corn
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. sour cream
Small box of Jiffy Corn Meal Muffin Mix
Mix all ingredients together. Pour in slightly greased pan or pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
I got up today at 5:00 a.m. to make this dish before class. Sadly, it was not a hit at the party. The spread, however, was wonderful since we have a group of such diversity. Many prepared dishes from their native lands. Everyone went around wanting the rest of us to try their dishes. I know many of the other students have only been in our country a short while and are struggling financially. But they really cooked enough to feed an army as they used to say. I enjoyed potato salad from Peru, grape leaves, chicken kabobs, cheese blintzes from Ukraine, egg rolls, fried rice, pot stickers, ham, salad, pizza. It was a feast and I even went back for seconds as most of us did. I was so glad I made my lowly corn casserole (or pudding as we always called it at my house) because it was a contribution. Anyway, now I am eating it for my dinner and I have to say it is pretty tasty. I should have made more of an effort to get the others to try a taste.
I also realized after having such a great time at this little party, how much I have been missing small pleasures in my life. Widowhood can be isolating and now that I am getting back into the work force, I'll have an opportunity to increase my social network. I also need to make more of an effort to get out or do more for myself. The past months have been difficult and this was a break in the storm clouds. It has never taken much to please me - I'm not a diamond ring kind of gal - for me it is all about simple pleasures. Good food, some wine, intelligent conversation and interesting friends. I needed this party in my life right now - it revived me - it was fun - I forgot about my troubles for a bit and had a good time.
My sons got a big laugh when I came home and told them no one had eaten my dish. Gone are the days when I could and would go overboard with baking, cooking, volunteering and so on. But I am glad I was able to compromise and find a balance in being able to do something, rather than nothing. I found an inexpensive and easy dish to prepare - I made the effort - I was part of the team.
More balancing - our clinical instructor told us on Sunday that we need to bring some sort of breakfast to the last class next Sunday to thank the nurses and CNAs who have worked with us. I have to say that I was a little put off by this - I always think such actions need to be presented as voluntary and not dictated. The student organizing this asked to collect $3.50 from the 10 of us. I thought about this and felt the amount was too much to ask for donuts and coffee so I gave what was affordable to me, $2.00. In the old days, BHD (Before Husband's Death) I would have just gone with the flow and put in the $3.50. But I'm not the same person I was, nor am I in the same position. And it felt good to do something on my terms for a change.