Sunday, November 17, 2013

Late season garden gifts

This November some of my good friends have been diligently posting something they're grateful for each day.

In the spirit of such, and the appreciation of plenty... I'm sweetly grateful that the garden I worked much earlier this year is still feeding us well into the fall.

I have definitely begun to supplement our meals with grocery store vegetables, but tonight we're enjoying broccoli from our own land, and last night's salad was ours as well.

May you be blessed with plenty now and always.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gratefully 42

On the eve of my 42nd birthday, I came across this post by Katrina Kenison, This is 55. Katrina's post was inspired by the original, This is 38, by LIndsey Mead at A Design So Vast, which was later reprinted in the Huffington Post.

Reading these posts got me to thinking specifically on what it means to be me,at my age.
Thank you to both ladies, for the inspiration, and the raw, richly beautiful writing. It touched me to my core.

At 42, I'm wise enough to know a few things, and perhaps wiser still to recognize that I have so much more to learn.

Life is a paradox. I tend to like the solid, measurable, concrete elements of life. The permanent things, the ones you can "count on." That's how I prefer to show up in life, to the best of my ability.

But life is inherently fluid and impermanent. And at 42 I know this much: all things have a life cycle and will change. Those that we wish to hold onto forever, like sweet sloppy baby kisses, and those we would like to quickly move on from, like the seemingly endless sleepless nights that accompany those kisses. Breathing deeply and embracing them both make both richer, and neither last longer. Staying present with all things, to the best of my ability, allows me to mine the gold in both. 

At 42 I know quite clearly that my time here is finite, however long it may last. I know that there isn't an endless amount of time to do the things that are important. I know also that what was important at 20 and 30 might look very different at 40 and 50 and beyond.

I know that waiting for things to change doesn't change them and pushing against them doesn't either. I change them, or I accept them if that's what the situation calls for. But I don't wait as long to do either.

I know that no one is here to make me happy...I am here to make me happy. And it is largely my state of mind, not the circumstances which surround me and sometimes envelope me, which creates either happiness or the lack of it. At 42, I know that practicing happiness, like practicing cartwheels, makes one better at it.

I sometimes wish I could share this with my 22 year old self. But she wouldn't have understood or believed Glinda said of Dorothy, in the Wizard of OZ, "She had to learn it for herself."

I have learned that I'm never going to get "there," enough to start doing the things I want, so I'm just going to start doing them now. There doesn't seem to be time, money or anything else in place for what I love, but at 42 I now longer care. 

I haven't been a big fan of my birthdays over the past 20 or so years. It has seemed like a time settle up accounts, and see how much closer to "there," I was. This year I started to do that, and then remembered, there is no "there," there is only here. So here I am, at 42, which is a pretty good place to be. 

Happy my 42nd to you, and may you find the gold wherever and whenever you are in life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Farewell dear little friend

This morning we held Sauntee, our kitty companion for nearly 20 years as she took her last breaths. And such is the circle of life.

Everyone who knew her knows what a sweet, gentle spirit she was. She never scratched our furniture, never jumped on the counters, only later, in her more forgetful years did she eat food that wasn't offered to her (who can resist fresh chicken when the plate is on the floor?). She tolerated playing dress up with Helena with a fair amount of grace and never scratched a human being, maybe because she considered herself one of us. Cats, on the other hand, were fair game and barely deserving of her notice.

She was most content on our laps, or in any available lap, and perversely, as cats are wont to, would seek out the lap of the least cat loving individual around as if to say, "the right cat can make a cat lover of anyone." Sauntee was the right cat without a doubt.

RIP dear small companion, I'm so grateful for all of the life we shared. I miss you already.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Mama....a letter to my mother on the first anniversary of her death.

Dear Mama,

I can't believe a year has passed. I still can't believe that you're gone. I know the truth of it, I was there. But sometimes, as I go through my days, it still suddenly brings me up short. And the seeming impossibility of it strikes me. How could this really be true? You, who were always such a powerful force in my life, are just gone.

For the first couple of months after you died, I had the impulse to call you almost every day, mostly to tell you something silly or sweet that one the girls had done. Slowly, that impulse faded, as I reminded myself that I couldn't, so I guess in a way the reality has sunk in, at least somewhat.

I also cried every single day, mostly in the car, driving to and from work, when it was quiet. I don't do that anymore, it only hits me in certain moments, so I guess that's healing, right?

Life has it's inevitable way of moving forward. The seasons continue to turn, the children are growing. Helena and Lucy are good for me in that way. They keep me grounded in the present, keep me from wallowing in loss. You knew that about children, I remember you saying something quite similar once. 

I wish Lucy had known you long enough to remember you. Helena has such wonderful memories of the time you two spent together. When talks about you, she often says that you were, "like a kid." You would like that, I know. She feels your absence keenly. She doesn't talk about it much, but when she does, I can see it and feel it, it's palpable, her sense of loss of you.

I know, believe even, that we are eternal, in some way. Whether we go to some place like heaven, or just become part of some cosmic collective energy, I do believe that we go on. The thing is, that doesn't comfort me much. It's not being reunited with you again sometime down the line that I'm concerned with, or the even thought that existence might just end. It's right here and now that I miss you. I miss talking with you, I miss holding you, I miss your sweet face. 

Your death has affected me in more ways that I can probably count, but the biggest of them, besides, of course, the missing of you, is that I no longer have a belief in my own longevity. You were so strong to me, so indomitable, so forever. I knew, of course, that that wasn't really completely true. But I was supposed to care for you in your old age, watch you become a wizened, feisty old lady, like grandma. I miss grandma, but it's hard to feel cheated when someone lives to 93. 64 is a raw deal as far as I'm concerned. And if it could happen to you, it could happen to me.

So it isn't that I'm certain that I'll die young, I'm just no longer certain that I'll live to a ripe old age. Which is actually a good thing, and probably a normal part of aging and maturing, the acceptance of mortality. It's pushing me to do things I might have waited on, and given me a perspective on life that I value. Even the strongest of us are not guaranteed any certain amount of life span, just the ability to make the most of what they have. I hope I'm learning to do more of that.

I think it could probably ramble on for pages about how much your being gone just sucks, but it would be redundant. The raw truth is that I just miss you, all the time.

Your loving daughter, 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Catching the moment....

Sometimes, as I go through my days, I suddenly realize I've had my head down, nose to the grindstone, so to speak, so much that I'm missing the beauty of this moment, the richness of this beautiful place where I live. Today though, when taking time out with the girls for a little fun, it struck me, and it took my breath away.

We're travelling, this week, to my home town, where half my heart still lives, along with so many loved ones, friends and family both, who still reside there. Always, when I make the journey home (I still think of it as home, even after 10 years), I ponder this choice we made to live to far from so many dear ones. My father is here, and my youngest siblings (but I expect them to spread their wings and fly elsewhere in the not too distant future) and some friends here who have become very dear. 

If I were to make a map though, of just our families, there would be a few pins for those of us in New York, one in Maryland, and literally dozens West of the Mississippi, with the vast majority concentrated between San Diego and San Francisco.

My girls know this as home, have only known New York as home. I look around at the rich beauty of the area, so green, so lush, and so more peaceful, relatively speaking, than big city life on the west coast. And I wonder, what is best. I'm grateful for the opportunity to go back once again, try it on for size, see if it still fits, and ponder some more.

But, for this moment, I will enjoy the rich beauty of the right here and now, and wish you the same.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What do you Love? This Sunday, June 16, 2013

I love the two most important fathers in my life, my own father, and the father of my children.

My dad is a rock, he's steady, he's solid, he's the calm a midst the storm. From him I have learned strength, persistence, the ability to show up even when life is hard. If I am an apple that hasn't fallen too far from his tree, then I am fortunate. I am so grateful to be his daughter.

My husband is a beautiful father to his girls. They love him fiercely, and he returns it. He is tough where I'm too soft, and soft when I come down too hard. In the subtle dance of parenting, we are learning to balance each other. I love watching him grow with them, it is inspiring.

I am a very fortunate woman to call these two men family.

What do you love, this Sunday, June 16, 2013?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What do you Love? This Sunday, June 9, 2013

I was a west coaster, a San Diegan for the first 31+ years of my life. I have been in the east, in upstate NY, for 10 years now. 

Sometimes I grow weary of this eastern odyssey, of the winters, of the overcast skies, of the small town-ness of this area, with it's lack of economic opportunity. 

And then I think of the things that I love here, and one of them is fireflies. Those tiny little dancing lights that pop out early in summer. We don't have them in Southern California, I had only seen them once before moving here, on a trip to Maryland as a child.

I've seen a few this year so far...the weather keeps switching between warm and steamy, and cool and breezy. Soon there will be many, filling the fields at twilight.

What do you love, this Sunday, June 9, 2013?

firefly hillside

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What do you Love? This Sunday, June 2, 2013

This is no wee ones, my two little girls. 

She is bold, but tender. Smart as a whip, and utterly sensitive, but she doesn't want you to know that. I love her strength and her vulnerability. I love that we talk about just about anything, I hope we always do. She made me a mama, she's still making me a better person, every day.

She's tiny, and mighty. Mostly fearless, too much so, I sometimes think, for me, though not for herself. She's independent and still soft and snugly. Her ability to communicate thought and emotion blows my mind. She's keeping me soft, keeping me real, making me grow. I can't wait to watch more of her unfold.

What do you love, this Sunday, June 2, 2013?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What do you Love? In the Garden

There's much to be distressed about in the world, and our lives. I could list the tragedies that have touched my life, and those around me. I could vent about the frustrations I have over some of the things I see, hear, and feel unable to impact.

But I won't, not here, and not now. Because honestly, it just doesn't help me feel better. And, in the end, that's what I want. To feel better, to feel good. To enjoy life. 

What if we just started doing more of what we loved? What if, in the face of all of the seeming ugliness in the world, we loved more, loved bigger, loved better? What kind of world would it be?

One of my loves is gardening and growing things. I'm a haphazard gardener. My garden is on the north side of the house, doesn't really get enough sun, but more than anywhere else, I have no idea what the PH of the soil is. I just put plants in and hope they grow, and mostly they do.

The other night, after a long day punctuated by tired, cranky kids, who were finally, peacefully asleep, I stood staring around the disorderly house and looked at the pile on my desk, and tried to decide which to tackle. And then, instead, I went outside at 9pm in high winds that were bringing in a storm, and, by porch light, I planted the rest of the vegetables that were waiting to root in our soil.

I spent maybe 15 minutes digging and planting and squinting in the near darkness. And let the wind blow away the day and in the end, I had this.

And this.

And I was calm, and all felt right in my world, at least.

What do you love?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Some Reflections on Motherhood and Mothering, this Mother's Day

This is my first motherless Mother's Day. The first of many, if I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of years left as a mother myself.

Truth be told, my mom didn't have a lot of interest in what she called Hallmark Holidays, such as this one. So although it wasn't one we chose to make a big deal of during her life, it's still hard not to think of her, and all that mothering means when surrounded by everyone else's celebrations. I don't miss her more today, I just miss her.

In a recent conversation among friends, we discussed how sticky mother-daughter relationships can be. I imagine mother-son relationships can be tricky too, but there seems to be so much caught up in our relationships with our same sex parents. 

For their part, our mothers can want for us things we're not sure we want ourselves. The same style of parenting they expressed, if they felt it was right, or something really different, if they were discontent. For us to fulfill the dreams they couldn't, while avoiding the pitfalls that may have tripped them up. In my life it has been a challenge at times to know what was right for me, apart from what my mother felt was right.

For our part, we can forget that our mothers are people unto themselves, wholly separate from ourselves, with their own lives and paths to follow. When we were children, it was their responsibility to feed, cloth, and shelter us, to protect and love us unconditionally. Some of them were better at all of this than others, it's a big responsibility. Beyond that, they were/are still complete humans beings with their own wishes and dreams, some realized, some unfulfilled.

My mother did mothering full time for almost 40 years, since there are 18 years (and 2 sons)between me, the oldest, and my sister, the youngest. I wish I had had the opportunity to see her grow into the fullness that can come when intense, daily mothering is past. That was not to be. 

I am grateful, that in the last few years of her life, I was able to see her as more than just my mother. To recognize that she had her own destiny. To love her as a human being, sometimes struggling, sometimes thriving, without needing her to show up in any certain way that I perceived as how a mother should look. I wasn't perfect at this, but more and more I was able to just love her in her wholeness.

Today, on Mother's Day 2013, this is my wish for you:

If you've lost your mother, as I have, may you remember her with more love and joy, than grief and regret.

If you still have your mother, may you love and appreciate her for what she could and can give you, and respect her journey, sometimes along the same path as yours, but still uniquely her own.

And especially,If you are a mother yourself, maybe you embrace all the gifts of mothering from your own mother that fit into your own family, while simultaneously forging your own new trails into the areas that will nourish your family and your soul.

Happy Mother's Day

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

6 months later...reflections on the loss of my mother

6 months ago today, in the early morning, I sat with my mother, along with my father and siblings, as she drew her last breath and was still and at peace. She was 64 and lost her battle with cancer.

One would think 6 months should be enough time to at least to grasp the concept of loss. But it hasn't been for me, not really. It hits me periodically, like fresh news, "my mother is dead."

In 6 months I have learned that life continues to move on, doesn't really even slow down, when a loved one passes. I have learned that I am strong enough to keep showing up for my life, my family, my work and commitments, despite my grief. I never knew that about myself before. 

I have learned that I am part of a brotherhood and sisterhood of children who have lost their parents while both they and we are relatively young. It is a group of beautiful, compassionate people, but I wish I didn't count myself among their numbers.

In the moments surrounding her death, at times I stood outside myself and observed what beautiful people my father and siblings are.

I saw my father step into a place of beauty, strength, grace, and acceptance during the last days and hours of my mother's, his wife of 41 years', life. He, who had been in denial about her passing up until the last day, moved gracefully into a place of supporting her through this final transition, supporting each of us children through our intense grief, and handling the details of laying her to rest with honor. I think I have always been subtly aware of my father's quiet strength and dignity, but never the rich beauty of him, until now.

I saw my nearest brother in a place of sweetness and tenderness as he sat with and cared for my mother during her final weeks, days, moments. I have known my brother as fun, jovial, irreverent, intelligent, a bit scathing at times, but I not as this incredibly gentle soul.

I saw my baby brother, the one whose diapers I changed, who also wore my clothes when he was a toddler, move from a place of anger and denial to love, acceptance and sweetness with her. I saw him grow up before my eyes.

I saw my little sister, whose diapers I also changed, who used to paint our faces liberally with makeup, care for our mother tirelessly, with a grace, calmness and compassion that I can only aspire too at almost twice her age.
Perhaps my mother, who's love was always such a strong and clear presence in our lives, perhaps her final gift to us was step back and to give us to each other. 

I have learned much over these months, but mostly what I know is that I still want my mommy back.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Healthy to Meals 4, Braised Kielbasa with Kale

Here's another sausage and greens twist on Meal #3

Braised Kielbasa with Kale, found at here at

We had some nitrate free Kielbasa in the freezer that Patrick picked up. Kielbasa isn't my favorite sausage, it tends to be too salty for me. Patrick is a salt lover and has really low blood pressure, so no worries with his salt consumption.

Not knowing what I wanted to do with it, but thinking that using some of the frozen Kale from our summer garden.....

would be a good thing :-) 

So I did what I always do in that situation and googled kielbasa and kale (how did I ever cook before the internet and google!), and found the above recipe.

It was fast and delicious. Both kids gobbled up both the sausage and the kale, which is a good success meter in my book. The kale absorbed some of the flavor from the sausage and got very tasty and tender.

Total prep time just a few minutes, and cooking time not much more!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Healthy Go to Meals 3, Sausage and Salad

A favorite quickie meal in our house is some good quality Sausage...think chicken with sundried tomatoes or a good polish sausage served with spicy mustard.

I try to keep a variety of good sausages in the freezer for work nights and other days where meal prep just isn't happening. Our meat CSA has some nice ones. 

When the grill isn't buried in a foot of snow (which, gloriously, it is currently), I prefer to grill them. When I can't, I roast them in the oven.

I serve with a salad or simple cooked vegetable such as steamed green beans or roasted asparagus. And wine, of course, is always a welcome edition

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Healthy Go to Meals 2, Chicken with Lentils

Continuing with the theme of quick and healthy, here was another recent hit.

Chicken with Lentils, found at A good friend mentioned this meal on facebook months ago and it stuck with me, so I finally got around to finding a recipe.

Click here for the recipe

This recipe requires a bit of cooking time, but minimal prep work, just some quick chopping. It could probably be finished in a crockpot..I may try that next time. I especially love throwing something in the crockpot on a work day morning and coming home to dinner ready to go.

I served it with a green salad the night of Helena's school concert to my little family plus grandpa and auntie. It went over well.