The Rhubarb Queen


When I started this blog a year ago, I contemplated the names I would call it. There were many names that came to mind and The Rhubarb Queen was at the top of the list. I think both The Lemon Bar Queen and The Rhubarb Queen are accurate in describing my Mom. She is the best baker I know.

Rhubarb has been a part of our household for as long as I can remember. Growing up on our farm, we had ten huge rhubarb plants that my Mom used every spring. She taught me how to cut the stalks, reminding me not to take the small ones or to leave the giant, woody ones. She also used the leaves as compost in our garden. I remember my Dad putting coffee grounds on the base of the plant and the lush green plants grew enormous. It seems like yesterday that she would put on her old yellow shorts (that she sewed herself), her top with the sleeves cut off and a scarf pulling her hair back. Her legs always with a farmers tan.

Just the smell of rhubarb brings me back to the day in our kitchen, something always brewing in the black kettle. She loved to cut up rhubarb for jam, muffins, torte, bread, sauce and our favorite, pie. It was always a treat to have vanilla ice cream with warm rhubarb sauce steaming over the top. My love affair with this strange plant started young.

When my parents moved from the farm and bought a house in town, along came the rhubarb. They transplanted five plants on the side of the house and the canning and baking continued. I remember in college, getting an emergency call from my Mom that someone had dug up one of their beloved rhubarb plants. They woke up to work in our garden and someone dug up the very middle plant, leaving a huge whole. I think my parents were devastated and horrified. I remember my Dad stating that all the person needed to do was ask and he would have gladly given that person some rhubarb. When I drove up in their driveway, sure enough, there was the missing plant. The plant was never replaced and became somewhat of a joke. Who took the Lundell rhubarb plant?

Fast forward twenty five years and to my Mom…

I’ve shared that she isn’t eating that much since returning from the hospital. Just eating enough to keep a bird alive. I have tried to get her to eat more. Snicker’s, cheeseburger with fried onions, cashews, Snickers Blizzard and cookies. She would only take bites and even refused her beloved coffee. I am frustrated and so is she. She doesn’t understand why it is so important that she eats. Her favorite phrase is repeated over and over…”I want to die!”

I decided to buy some rhubarb at Cub last week and I skim her well worn cookbook, The Fron Cookbook. There is a page dog-eared and I turn it to page 198 and note Rhubarb Dessert by Mrs. Russell Lundell, AKA, my Mom. So I decide to make her dessert. The whole house fills with the lush smell of cooking rhubarb and I am so excited to bring her a piece. On a side note, my ten year old is limited to how much she eats because last year she ate so much that she vomited in the middle of the night. Even as a nurse, that was some awful stuff, trust me.

Last week, I brought over her dessert. She is sitting in their parlor area and she smiled and waves at me. I have brought her a very special gift hoping that this will work. I told her I would get her some coffee and we could share a piece. I see a small glimmer in her eye and she asks for a fork. This is a good sign. She grabs the fork and takes a small bite and a sip of coffee. She looks up at me and I can tell she likes it. Bite after bite she finishes the whole piece. She even drinks a cup of coffee. I am beyond thrilled and feeling slightly victorious. I even bribed her to get her hair done with another piece of dessert. For some reason, she has been annoyed with getting her hair done, a new behavior that I am unsure of. I even shared some with the staff , who loved Mom’s recipe.

So for the past week, I have been researching rhubarb recipes. My friend Dawn made the best scones called Naughty Rhubarb Scones so Sophia and I made them over this weekend. I brought them to Mom’s yesterday and she thought they were strange but ate the whole thing. Success, yet again.

Today, I was up early at five am, thanks to our dog Barley. Not being able to get back to sleep, I made Mom’s dessert today and brought some to school for the staff. I am reminded that I most likely did the same thing as Mom did, all those long years ago. She would get up early to bake. I am sure it was her time that we were sleeping, she was alone and enjoying what she loved to do the most, bake. And could she ever bake. My next project will be rhubarb crisp with some vanilla ice cream. I am hoping she will respond as she has done with my last experiment.

Rhubarb…who knew that this magical plant would help my Mom at this stage in her life. As a disclaimer, I will never be the cook that my mother was. It was her pride and joy and I can think of a hundred things I would rather do. But for her, I can attempt this one time a week and Sophia has enjoyed it also, just like I did as a child. For those of you that want her recipe:

Rhubarb Dessert

1 Cup of Flour

2 T Sugar

1/2 C Butter

1/4 Nuts (I don’t use them, but you can)

Mix and press in 8″x8″ pan. Bake 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees.

2 1/2 Cups of Rhubarb-Cut up

3 Egg Yolks

1 Cup Sugar

1/3 Cup Cream or evaporated Milk

2 T Flour

Pour over crust and bake 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Beat 3 egg whites-add 6 T Sugar. Pour over baked rhubarb mixture and bake until brown.

Mrs. Russell Lundell

Enjoy!  Jodi





The Mother

Adoption Picture 2

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. Wishing you a day of love, good food, maybe a quiet moment and many blessing bestowed on you. It is one of the hardest jobs, being a mom but it is something that I am the most proudest of. There is nothing like hearing your child call you mom for the first time.

I was going through Mom’s pictures today and I found this sweet one. It is taken two months after I was adopted. It was a happy moment for both my Mom and Dad, maybe not so much for my brother. I love the look on her face, an amazing amount of joy showing on her face.

I saw Mom yesterday and we are going through a new stage, she is irritable and crabby with the staff. I can’t tell if she doesn’t feel good yet or that she is just mad at everyone. I tell her that I will get her ready for bed and I want to spend a quiet moment with her. When she used to stay with me, it was one of my favorite things to do with the girls, getting Grandma ready for bed.

Her new phrase is “I just want to go to bed.” Over and over and over. Trying to distract her, I ask her what she wants for Mother’s Day. Without hesitation, she states, “I want my mother.” I am surprised by this and I ask her if she remembers what her mother’s name is. “Helena Margretha Gertrude Anderson.” Wow, she remembered all four names, though I’m not 100% sure they are in the right order. I tell her that she is not here and that she was gone long before I was born. She seemed sad. “Really?” I say yes but I have heard that she was a wonderful mother. That seemed to calm her. It was a great moment.

As you can imagine, Mom was a good mother. She taught me many things that hopefully have shaped me as a mother. She showed me how important it was to be kind to someone and to help if you were able. She showed me how to get quiet by picking up a good book. She was always helping someone by baking or making some homemade bread. I will never be the baker that she was, but I’m ok with that. She was a referee, healer, constant taxi driver, peacemaker, lawyer and chef of our family. She is deeply loved.

On this Mother’s Day, call your mom, make amends if you need to and remember the good memories you’ve had with her. Motherhood is highs and lows at times, but its a club we are all in, doing the very best we can.
Here is to a great day tomorrow.


The Anger

First of all, thank you for all of you who asked about Mom. Two weeks ago, we had to send her into the ER with pneumonia and a bladder infection. Your kindness via calls, emails, letters and wine and cake delivery (for me!) were very appreciated. She was lucky, in a way, to have her birthday, Easter and her hospital stay be in the last two weeks and she received such lovely cards. We read them together and she is very lucky to have such sweet people in her life. Simply thank you seems not enough, but you know how I feel.

As you can imagine, the hospital stay was not ideal for her. It is a strange place, strange people, she doesn’t know why she is there and they are doing things to her that they should not be doing. I think twice she told me, “Why are you allowing them to kill me!”. This is the reason why I do not like to send a confused patient into the ER, if I can at all help it. Sometimes they are alone, family can’t be with them for whatever reason and it just doesn’t go well. I was glad that I could be there and try to help the staff. I hope we don’t have to do that again soon.

The Thursday that we were there, made me think of something that I have been meaning to write about for so long. Its been in the back of my head, waiting for a time to put it down and for me to articulate it in the best way. It is the way we treat our elderly. Simply, we need to do better. Not all of us, mind you. Just some of us who feel the need to take advantage, steal or mistreat them.

What happened to mom is not as bad as what I have stated but it bears to be said. I was there most of the day Thursday and a lunch tray did not arrive for her. I asked the nurse and she stated that we needed to order it. My first thought was, how in the world could my mom order her tray being so ill. I ordered it for her and she only took one bite. I spent the rest of the day trying to get her to eat, with no luck and I left to go home for awhile. I had debated going back since I didn’t get home until 2 AM but Emme wanted to go back to the hospital and I thought Emme could get her to eat.

We arrived at 7:30 PM and mom was in a fetal position in her bed, a tray sitting on a table by her door. The dinner was not opened and it was ice cold. I went to go sit her up and her IV had infiltrated and her hand was 3x the size it should be. As you can imagine, I was less than happy with this issue. I got a nurse, who was the charge nurse and she first stated this was not her patient. I told her about what I found and someone needed to take care of her ASAP. Immediately, we have four nurses in her room and they want to cut off her wedding band, which is sixty eight years old. I don’t want them to do this and I tell them that I will massage her hand to see if some of the fluid will go down. I am less than pleased, especially about not being fed and knowing that no one had checked on her for some time.

I called the social worker in the morning and asked that she be moved back to her memory care unit and hoping she would do better in a place that she was more familiar with. I did tell her about Thursday and that I was unhappy with her care. She understood and would let someone know. For a week, the “complaint manager” and I played phone tag and finally I got to speak to her and tell her my concerns. Imagine that you came to the hospital to see your mother and finding her hand totally swollen and that no one fed her. I gave her some examples of how to change it for an elderly, confused patient knowing they can NOT order food on their own. Her response was to use my mom as a “case study”. Do you really need a case study of how to take better care of someone? Can you imagine if I would not have gone up there to see her? I did not tell her I was a nurse until the end of the conversation.

I write about this because I have a strong burning anger of how we treat our elderly. I think this was mild compared to what I have seen in the last six months as a nurse and it sets me on fire.

Taking advantage of the elderly must stop. I have been working on a case with a detective to catch a private caregiver that took financial advantage of a woman. I asked her how we can stop this and she stated that she sees forty case a week of elder abuse. 40 cases. That is forty cases a week she actively works on. How can this be? She and I agree that people find an “in” and they take advantage.

I have witnessed theft, getting a vulnerable adult to sign a check, phone call scams and verbal abuse. I am a mandated reporter and I make the reports and they come back that they will not proceed. You almost need to impair/injure someone for it to be looked at. A police officer I also spoke to months ago, stated it is not worth it to prosecute because it is not considered a felony. I don’t get it. How do you measure worth?

I have thought about this a lot. You know how we can stop this?

Be nosey and involved: Sure scams can happen to anyone but ask and listen when your elderly loved one speaks. I remember after my dad died, a long term care company stopped by my mom’s house. Her confusion was just starting and she told me some strange man stopped by to visit with her. She stated she signed something but she had his number. I called the company, which I won’t name and had a nice conversation with the manger about the fact that you can’t go door to door and sell that time of insurance. I remember being so angry with them. They cancelled the policy and I wrote a letter to the president.

Red flags: The big thing that is happening with seniors is scams. Guess what! You won a car but you will need to pay for the taxes on the car, which amounts to $5,000. Guess what! You have won $100,000 but we will need $2,000 as a down payment. I’m glad for some of my relationships with my clients. One client I’ve had for ten years, was scammed on selling her timeshare. If your loved one comes to you with these stories, know that they are not true. I hate hearing these stories because they truly believe that they have won the money. I have a close family friend who was my mentor in nursing school get milked out of an amount that would surprise you. He truly believed he would get his money back and the people that call are so sneaky. They say they will arrive with the car or money and never arrive and give you a story that seems plausible. It never is.

I could go on for a long time but I will stop, I think you have gotten my point. Imagine your mother, father, favorite uncle or aunt. Your older neighbor or your family friend. We must do better to look after them and simply care.