Reimagine Your Life: Apple Scrap Vinegar to Juice to Popsicles
September 27, 2020
My mother-in-law just scared the jezeebers out of me. If you are a colleague or a patient family in real life, you know I talk about her a lot. How one single person can affect another person’s life without being your spouse or your child is shocking. This almost 80-year-old Korean woman (I am Asian but not Korean) has altered the course of my life in more ways than I can describe. I mean I’ve been alternatively praising and complaining about her almost every day at work for 12 years. This should be an entirely separate blog, book, motivational speaking tour for sure. If Dr. Plastic Picker is able to avert climatic disaster in the next 9 or 14 years, I’ll get back to that one. “How To Live With Your Mother-In-Law: A True Story.” Let’s just leave it that her life is intertwined with mine, and we now happily co-exist after 15-years together. I’ve almost lived with her longer than my own mother, who lives just a few miles away.
Anyway my mother-in-law just scared the jezeebers out of me. I was down in the kitchen making my usual cup of coffee. I decided while in bed that I would be different this morning. I have been picking plastic at the beach for almost a year now, and blogging from mostly the kitchen table in the mornings. I decided to drink out of a different mug we got at Goodwill with a sloth on it. It says “How’s It Hangin?” and we got it for my son. His spirit animal is the sloth. I also decided to blog upstairs in our game room. I’ve been working on transforming our balcony off the 2nd floor game room and our roofdeck into green space.
I had already been thinking about the power of reimagining or reinventing things. Yesterday I finally thought it was time to decided whether my first Apple Scrap Vinegar project was a success or failure. I had originally made two containers and it looked so pretty on Instagram. But one became clearly moldly after 1.5 weeks even after trying to salvage it with fermentation weights. And the second I checked on yesterday again, and it smelled very nice. But it’s supposed to be vinegar? I strained out the apple scraps and put it on the stove. To make sure I did not die of botulism, I pasteurized it on the stove. Bascially just boiled it a super long time. This is supposed to boil off any left over alcohol as well. Then I tasted it. I hadn’t tasted it at all during this two and a half week fermentation trial. Would it taste like vinegar? OMG it tasted like home-made warmed apple juice! I thought this was very funny and told our teen son.
The Apple Scrap Vinegar project became Apple-Scrap Juice (maybe some alcohol?). I initially put it in a reused glass jar to make it look cool. I looked up recipes for apple-juice cake. But we had been eating a lot of vegan muffins and although lesss sugar than store-bought, I wasn’t really in the mood for even home-made plastic free baked goods. While I was scrounging around the drawer we store all our clean glass jars I found old popsicle molds we purchased when the kids were little. They were clean and I decanted my Apple-Scrap Juice in the molds. I put them in the garage freezer. So I may or may not have made apple-scrap-juice popsicles that may or may not be alcoholic! LOL.
It’s very similar to the situation with my mother-in-law. Young Dr. Plastic Picker me became pregnant with our teen son during intern year of pediatric residency at Mans Greatest Hospital. Mr. Plastic Picker was also an intern. We lived in the city we met, our Northeastern college town. This was a lovely city but far from the actual family supports and community networks one needs to raise children. I think that pregnancy was actually planned? Now that I think about it, Mr. Plastic Picker’s father had encouraged us to have children early as he was worried about me being an older parent as my college advisor had her first and only child at 49. I was 27 years old. OMG. I can’t believe I had a baby as a 27-year-old pediatric intern. Anyway, I did with the encouragement of my in-laws and I think the surprise of my own parents. And then they moved in.
Life did not turn out how I imagined it. The first few years of co-habitation with Mr. Plastic Picker’s parents while finishing residency with an infant son in a 700 square foot apartment in Harvard Square were challenging. There were moments of joy and more moments of a sense of loss of the life I thought I was going to have. All the characters were there, I just wanted them positioned in different parts of the storyline with different roles. It took me many years to accept the reality of a different life than I had planned. I think it helped that I’ve fundmentally not selfish, and I acutally like living in a busy house. I like the noise and bustle of a chaotic family. It was just that Mr. Plastic Picker’s mom was a bit too chaotic. And I can tell you 100% I am not exaggerating. But with someone who has great weaknesses as one of my middle manager friends always tells me, they also have great strengths. I now know that my mother-in-law also likely had a sense of loss of identity and struggled with reality of our merged lives.
Although this morning she scared the bezeebers out of me when I almost ran into her eerie robed form in the hallway this morning, it was because she is used to me blogging and sitting stationary at the kitchen table. Both my in-laws think I am working when I am blogging in the early mornings and they tip-toe around me. I don’t know if they realize that oftentimes I’m writing about them.
Yesterday I reimagined failed apple-scrap vinegar, and it is now apple-scrap-juice popsicles! My life with my parents-in-law has been reimagined after 15 years of us working on it together. Mr. Plastic Picker often reminds me that I would not be where I am in my career or my personal development without those struggles with his parents. His parents also have settled into a new retired identity after having given us many years helping raise young children, as we both worked full time. How well our children are turning out, both our teen son and our tween daughter, are as much a result of us as parents as them as grandparents. Although I do have to say, my mother-in-laws wanted me to get a nanny in addition to supporting them in retirement and I refused. That was my ultimatum early in our relationship after I became an attending. If I work full time and add substantially to the household income and fund their retirement including four semi-extravagant vacations every year – than she has to help me raise my children without outsourcing things. I think she was thinking she would just supervise someone! It was either going to me or her home full-time. She had to choose. Well she did leave for one year which was a difficult year for us as we did have life with a nanny, but after realizing life was actually more difficult with her own daughter’s households they came back to live with us.
Now they are reeping the rewards, as am I as Dr. Plastic Picker. Life is sweet as hopefully the popsicles are. The kids are older and can fend for themselves in the kitche. Grandmother only has one dish that the kids like that is healthy, tofu and broccoli and she makes it maybe twice a month at most. Otherwise I do most of the cooking or our tween daughter now is a fantastic cook. And my mother-in-law is mostly in our front garden regenerating the soil and growing organic food for all of us. But she did scare the bezeebers out of me this morning! Later this morning I will have to call my mother and tell her all about it. Have a wonderful Sunday everyone. I’ll try to post a follow up on how the apple-scrap-juice popsciles turned out.