Monthly Archives: August 2013

Cultivating gratitude

Up until last night, all the job stuff looked very murky again. It has been such a ridiculous and complicated set of events that I’m not even going to try to share it here. Just know, we’ve been on a ride. Most days for the past week I have been shouting “uncle!” every hour. I’m sparing that as my title for the post because I really, really think this is almost over. We will know 100% tomorrow, once paperwork is signed.

One undesirable trait I’ve seen in myself this summer, again, is that I’ve pretty much sucked at looking on the bright side. Harry can weather these times between contracts with a really great attitude. Don’t get me wrong, he struggles with it, too, but he ultimately keeps his head in a place of seeing all the positive that comes from these periods. And he’s right. I know he’s right. We come out with a clearer vision for our family. We become tighter knit and receive clarity with relationships and goals. He works diligently to build his skills during these “breaks” and often ends up getting better jobs. Yet, somehow, I go to this place of doom. Every time.

My doom is luxurious doom. It’s “We’re never going to buy a house or replace our car” doom. We aren’t worried about rent or food. Yet I still go to this “woe is me” place and feel sorry for myself that we’re not going to be able to buy a house a soon as I’d hoped. Especially the million dollar one on San Juan Island, with a view of the orcas. Or get a Tesla. Ok, at least something more environmentally friendly than our current enormous gas guzzling beast.

The unexpected extra thorns this summer also included my phone starting to die, our car breaking down, my surprise by an unwavering policy at Miles’ preschool and subsequent pulling him from the program, hip pain that keeps getting worse and is now keeping me from running and walking, blah, blah, blah, blah. These things are annoying and hard, but they’re weatherable. They don’t need to cloud my vision.

I feel like I have very thin skin these days. Thinner than it should be. Thinner than it used to be. I know it’s not our circumstances improving that will change my resilience. That would be a band-aid. The excitement of a house fades quickly, new cars lose their luster, different jobs provide increased demands. I try to frequently remind myself of the psychology around buying houses and cars. I know, rationally, that the increased happiness in temporary. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting it. Especially during stressful times when I crave a greater sense of stability. Even if it’s false. See the challenge?

I need a stronger anchor. I know Master Brené (if I met her in person I might just call her this) shares the importance of a daily practice of gratitude as a key difference between optimists and pessimists. (Oh no, I’ve even touched on it here before. Just six months ago!) It’s not inherent in personality. It’s a practice. Hmmmm….this might be part of my problem. I’m having a once a week, or even once a month, “Oh shit, I’m focusing on all the negative stuff going on here” moment and trying to combat it with a random pile of gratitude thoughts. No wonder I’m not getting anywhere. Except feeling that I’m bad at this. Like there’s a gratefulness contest about to happen and there’s no point in me even entering because I will be coming in last. As if God is sitting in the stands with a big BOO! sign.

Besides not practicing, my other problem is that I am tired of sweeping things under the rug. Sometimes practicing gratitude feels fake to me. I did that everything-is-all-smiles my teenage years and most of my twenties and I’m over it. Grief is important. Anger is important. I am generally anxious about change and denying that doesn’t help anyone. Buuuuut, maybe there’s a healthier place in between?

The past few weeks, despite myself, I have been continuously reminded of my treasures. I have felt deep love and deeply loved. I have felt more keenly aware of who my community is than I have in a long time. I have been hit with awe knowing that I have people in my life who stick by me through thick and thin. Times when I’m upbeat and fun or when I’m drab and sad. Showered or smelly. People who can handle me where I’m at. No masks. Or at least trying to peel them off when I notice them. And I feel that way about them. Is there a greater gift? I feel one step closer to heaven.

Yesterday, after squeezing hundreds of grapes off their stems in the morning, and pulling hundreds of coriander seeds off their stems in the evening, I realized that I am finding repetitive tasks soothing. (This has not been the case pre-motherhood.) There is now peace in the monotony. It wasn’t quiet or uninterrupted. Miles was narrating every single thing he did while I worked on the grapes, and I frequently left the grapes to play along with his game, sticky hands and all. Yet it was still calming. Bunch by bunch by bunch. Grape by grape by grape. Somehow, my mind relaxed as the colander filled.

I think this is a key for me to further growth. My gratitude practice needs to be linked to something tangible. The working of my hands allows my mind to be more relaxed and often better focused. Maybe my body has to be a part of this somehow. Yoga, dancing, cooking, gardening. Heck, maybe even puzzles! Let’s get crazy here.

If you do them, would you share your gratitude practices with me – what challenges you face and what helps you most? I would love to look around, even if it’s just with virtual vision, and see others on this journey with me. (Also, this feels like a good time to say thanks. I am really thankful you read my posts. It has been a huge gift to me.)

A savory summer tradition

Some of our summer traditions outshine others. Splashing in Puget Sound or one of Seattle’s many free wading pools. Pretty fabulous. Eating farm-fresh fruit and vegetables. Divine. Several months between jobs. Not so wonderful.

With summer winding down, it appears like our time sans income might also come to an end. Hopefully by school’s beginning. Paperwork isn’t signed yet, which is the only thing at this point that will let me truly rest easy, but all signs look positive. If the title of my next post is UNCLE! you’ll know otherwise.

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While Seattle is traditionally slow to warm up, notorious June gloom and all, July, August and September are my definition of perfect. Blue skies, 60s in the morning, 70s in the afternoon, flowers, water, mountains, light late into the evening. Knowing that orcas are swimming just a mere ferry ride away. You know? Summer!

Our fabulous vegetable farmers invited CSA members to the farm for a potluck last weekend. I was so happy we could go. I wanted to see their fields, meet other CSA members and celebrate that community. I was also excited for the boys to meet our farmers and their little guy, as well as see where our vegetables grow. We soaked in the evening light on their beautiful land, conversed with many interesting people, ate a lot of delicious food, and heard about their farming practices while walking the fields. The boys picked blackberries from the bushes lining the farm’s boundary for at least an hour. That was their favorite part, along with the tractor time.

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I brought a cheesy herb bread and a salad. It was the second time I’ve made this bread for a party. While it’s good by itself, it sings when soaking up dressing or soups, partnered with tapenade or other spreads, or best yet, topped with roasted tomatoes. If the bread is older than a day, it needs the extra moisture. If it’s fresh, the moisture and flavor contrasts are still a very nice bonus. Besides, I never need extra motivation to make roasted tomatoes.

I remember not knowing what to do with my surplus tomatoes my first year of gardening in Colorado. (They actually grow well there, as opposed to Seattle.) I only ate them raw, in salads and on sandwiches. The next year I was introduced to my first roasted tomato recipe. It was a revelation. Until I am bed bound and wearing diapers again, these will remain a tradition in my household.

I have played around with various versions, but I like Heidi Swanson’s recipe best. It is so simple and delicious. Cherry tomatoes impart a sweetness that other tomatoes lack. I will not turn down any version of roasted tomatoes, but these knock my socks off. Plus, after several seasons of difficulty growing tomatoes in Seattle, I only planted cherry tomatoes this year. This year’s first batch were made from my gold nugget, lemon drop and black cherry plants. Candy in a jar. For me.

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Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Minimally adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Makes one loaf

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2-1 teaspoon salt (depending on saltiness of additions and chosen cheese)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (Dorie recommends white. I used black because it’s what I had.)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 generous cup coarsely grated Gruyere, Comte, Emmenthal or cheddar (about 4 oz)

2 ounces of your choice of cheese(s) from above, cut into very small cubes (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup)

1/2 cup minced fresh chives or other herbs (I used 1/4 cup chives, a scant 1/4 cup basil and a little mint). You can also substitute scallions, bacon bits, ham, etc… for some of these additions.

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Preheat the oven to 350℉ with a rack in center. Butter a loaf pan. (Dorie recommends a 8 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inch loaf pan, but I just have a 9 inch pan, so I checked mine at 30-minutes and it was ready.)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.

Put the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until foamy and blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and olive oil.

Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture, gently mixing until they’re just combined. Stir in the cheeses, herbs and any other additions. Scrape the dough (yes, it’s supposed to be thick) into the prepared loaf pan and gently spread it evenly into the pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes (or up to ten minutes longer if you have an 8-inch pan) until the bread is golden and a knife tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert the loaf. Turn it back right side up to finish cooling on the rack.

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Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

Makes about one cup (Not enough.)

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup / 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon natural cane sugar or maple syrup (I prefer the syrup.)

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

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Preheat the oven to 350℉ with the rack in the top third.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (It’s fine if you don’t line it, but it’ll make easier work of getting them off, as well as cleaning the pan.) Whisk together the olive oil, sweetener and salt. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated.

Arrange the coated tomatoes cut side up and roast 45-60 minutes, until they shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges.

To store these beauties, let them cool and then transfer them, along with leftover olive oil on the sheet, into a glass jar. They’ll keep about 1 week if you hit your head and forget about them in the fridge. Otherwise, they’ll probably last a day or two.

I highly recommend doubling this recipe. There are never enough. (Toast, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes. Zucchini ribbons, basil pesto, roasted tomatoes. Pasta, parmesan, basil, roasted tomatoes. Spoon, roasted tomatoes.) I use both oven racks and just rotate them at about the 20-minute mark.

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Respecting his journey

He was just two. Toddling about in tiny shoes, saying “titty-tat!” with his sweet, high-pitched voice. Tired of diapers, and cloth ones at that, I responded eagerly to my friend who was determined to potty train her same aged son in one weekend. “Yes!” I’d do it, too. We’d be in it together. It’d be grrrrreat.

As a therapist I had enough experience modifying behaviors in young children to believe that given good teaching, shaping behaviors was almost always possible. I was pretty confident.

I tried. For weeks, I tried. He wore nothing but underwear, I cleaned up accident after accident. My friend’s son did great. He was nearly accident free within a few days. This spurned me on. I was so ridiculously determined that I carried his portable training potty with us in our car. You see, he was scared of the big toilets. Automatic flushing ones were terrifying. So, why not carry a toilet with us?

This really should have been a signal to me. When you’re carrying a toilet around in your trunk, that just might be a sign. I should’ve raised a white flag of surrender. Waved the toilet paper in the air and trusted he would come around on his own time. But there was more at play.

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I didn’t realize I had gone too far until I found myself getting angry at him. I wasn’t voicing it (I only had one kid still- so much more emotional capacity back then!), but I was feeling it. Deeply frustrated, increasingly mad. Eventually it hit me. This was all because of pride. I was committed to the process because of how I perceived it would reflect on me as a parent, not because it felt like the right thing to do for my child.

I was worried this would make me look like I wasn’t a good teacher. Like I somehow wasn’t an on-top-of-it mother or my son wasn’t smart enough. We were flawed because he wasn’t potty trained at two. Oh my.

That potty training attempt was my first taste of the desire to push my child faster than he was ready emotionally because subconsciously I put my pride on the line. I’ve since encountered it with childcare drop-offs, riding a balance bike, tree climbing, running down hills, swimming, riding a pedal bike, teaching him to read, wanting him to participate in a choir, wanting him to want to play sports and attend soccer camp. At least monthly, I am reminded that this is not my journey.

There is a narrow divide between encouraging, trusting in their resilience, drawing upon their bravery and pushing them too quickly, forcing them into activities, putting our own hopes, fears and expectations on them. Tuning into why I’m upset something isn’t happening keeps me on the right side of the divide.

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A few times I have handled letting go of expectations well, though usually after hitting my head against the wall for weeks. The first was when he learned to ride a pedal bike. Christmas morning, weeks prior to his fourth birthday, he woke up to a bike with a big red bow and no training wheels. He had developed great balance with his pedal-free bike, so even though he was young, this was what people encouraged us to do. We took him out that afternoon and he got the hang of it quickly! In our eyes, it was beautiful and couldn’t have gone better. But, he wouldn’t ride again for months.

We would ask and ask and ask. He’d say no. We didn’t want to put training wheels on because it felt like backsliding and we thought he’d come through again. Finally, we gave him room to voice his fears. While we were focused on how well he’d done, all he could recall was a fall that happened at the end of the day. He was scared to bike because he didn’t want to crash. I asked him, “Would you like to try training wheels on your bike to get used to pedaling and braking?” “Yes.” “How many times do you want to practice this way before we take them off again?” “Ten.” Alrighty, then!

After we listened to him, it was that easy. He practiced those new skills ten times and off went the training wheels. He was still very nervous, but found a lot of comfort in the stories Harry and I shared of our own bike falls. I told him about my latest tip over while at a stop sign on a steep Seattle hill in clip-in shoes. Harry told him about his mountain biking accidents. We shared how the falls often hurt, but we always felt like the fun of biking was worth the momentary pain. We normalized his experience- everyone falls, it hurts, most people think it’s worth it.

The same progression happened with swimming. He participated in group swimming lessons when he was four. The only skills I saw improve were techniques to make his classmates giggle while they waited at the wall. Last spring he told us he didn’t want to take swim lessons again, adding, “I will teach myself how to swim.” I believed him. I was also happy to not spend our money on honing his pooltime comedy routine.

Every time we went swimming, he made decent progress, taking little steps that would get him closer to swimming. Finally, after our vacation in June, during which he got more water exposure than usual, he would put his head under while plugging his nose and played lots of water games comfortably. He was probably a little too confident since he still couldn’t float. My concern about his false sense of confidence let me know it was time for more lessons.

A friend told me about private swimming lessons working well for her daughter with a similar disposition, and I thought that would be the best option. No surprise, he didn’t want to go. I told him, “I know you’re nervous, but we believe you are ready to learn more. You’re doing so well now and they’ll help you feel comfortable with the next steps so you can really swim. Pools will be so much more fun!” He wasn’t sold. “I know you still feel scared, but the teacher will listen and help you. They won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.” Still not buying it. “We believe learning to swim is really important. It lets you have more fun but it also helps you be safer around water. We think it’s important that you’re safe around water. We will keep doing lessons until you are and you can take as long as you need.” Sold! This time he needed the understanding that this wasn’t negotiable but he had permission to go at his pace. He was not excited, but willing. By the end of the first lesson, he was swimming the crawl stroke with his face in the water.

It is difficult for me to determine when I’m taking too much control of his journey or when I need to exert more influence. Our history is teaching me that examining my own hopes and fears is a critical first step, along with listening to him and reflecting his emotions. Normalizing experiences and providing opportunity to practice has helped tremendously, too. But ultimately, it’s about trusting. Believing in his resilience, in his need for security, in his desire to learn. Month by month, I am learning to respect that his journey will often be different than my hopes for him, but if I stay on the right side of the divide, it’ll be just as interesting and rewarding.

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Making the most of the pits

The amount of beautiful fruit on my counter the day of our CSA delivery is actually a little bit embarrassing. Without fail, I see the piles and wonder how we’ll get through it all by the next week. But we always do. A few pieces of fruit might end up in the freezer for smoothies, but most just end up in our morning oatmeal and eaten raw as snacks all day long. We have an “open bar” policy with the fruit. The boys can always grab a piece, no need to ask.

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Week 4’s delivery. I have way too much fun making pyramids and decorating my cake platter. Simple pleasures, folks.

Having so much stonefruit around the house leads to a lot of pits. Fruitflies, too. But I am only going to make simple syrups from the former. I first discovered how delicious and truly simple these syrups are last spring when I came across this gem of a recipe for rhubarb mojitos. I LOVE mojitos. I basically grow mint for those drinks. Alcoholic or virgin, sign me up!

I am also fond of the idea of less food waste. In fact, I’m a little bit obsessed with this and feel really guilty about throwing food out. So much so that I love having our neighbors’ chickens to feed my wilted, sorry greens, carrot tops and any other produce I’ve let sit too long. These chickens, Betty and Betty, know the boys and me so well that they “bok bok bok” happily when they hear our voices.

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“Sunshine on my stone fruit makes me happy” (John Denver’s alternate version- few people know this. You can thank me for your new bit of knowledge.)

Our first season of the fruit CSA came on the heels of making those rhubarb mojitos. I ordered extra cherries for dehydrating one week, and as I stared at an enormous pile of pits, I decided to try to make a simple syrup from them. It worked! There was enough cherry fruit left on the pits to lend a strong cherry flavor and the pits added an essence of almond that’s really nice. This gave me yet another use for our stonefruit. Plus, it’s nearly free.

Having a sweet drink around the house is a rare treat. We don’t buy soda and rarely buy juice. The boys like the syrups solo, but I usually serve them to myself mixed with water to my preferred level of sweetness. My favorite combo is sparkling water, a little freshly squeezed lime juice, and some mint. I also occasionally enjoy white rum in place of the water. The mojitos were so popular last season that we’re out of rum.

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Mojitos! I mean, mint!

I save our pits in a glass jar in the fridge or freezer, depending on how fast I’m going to get to them. I also throw in any parts of fruit I’ve cut off because it’s bruised, overripe or otherwise damaged. I only save pits from fruit that was sliced to serve, not sucked on. If I was only serving myself, I wouldn’t care, but with two young boys and their boogers, I’m not taking chances. I have mixed up all the fruit pits. Right now I love the mingling of flavors this provides, but soon I’m going to make just a peach and cinnamon syrup and freeze some for winter. Oddly, I really want to drink the flavors of peach pie this winter.

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It may be 60 in Seattle, but it’s still summer.

Stonefruit Simple Syrup

1 cup stonefruit pieces and/or pits* (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, pluots, nectarcots, cherries, etc…)

2 cups water

3/4 – 1 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey  (Taste for sweetness. I lean towards less since our fruit is quite sweet, but I’ve seen recipes calling for up to 2 cups of sugar. Those are too sweet for my liking but if you’re used to sodas, you might need to start high and work you way down lower. Similarly, our current honey is quite flavorful and I found 1/4 cup to be plenty. You’re probably best off tasting it as you make it, adding more as desired.)

Optional: a light sprinkling of cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, a splash of vanilla or part of a bean & if you’re into it, a whole clove (I find that cloves can be overpowering, so consider letting one simmer in the syrup for just a minute or two and then discarding it). I love cinnamon with the stone fruit. I feel like I’m drinking pie.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring them to a boil. Reduce to let them simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Strain the solids and discard. Simple syrups will last for at least two weeks covered in the fridge. (You can also leave the solids in while the syrup is refrigerated. Just strain prior to serving.) If you prefer, they can be frozen, like ice cubes, and added to summer cocktails. Or warmed up in the winter when you’re missing peaches.

Serve the syrup with extra water (tap or sparkling) to your desired level of sweetness or drink it full strength. I generally prefer about a 1:1 ratio. Add lime juice and a few mint leaves for pizazz. There’s never enough pizazz.

If you’re feeling like an extra special treat, forego the water and add a tablespoon or two of fresh lime juice to an ounce of white rum, two ounces of the simple syrup and some muddled mint leaves. Summertime stonefruit mojito! Cheers!

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*DISCLAIMER

After originally posting this a friend alerted me that many stonefruit pits may contain cyanide in them. The kernels inside the pits house an enzyme that, when released, breaks down into cyanide. This enzyme could be released through mastication of the kernel or smashing it to pieces. Anyways, after reading 20+ google entries on the topic, I can’t quite tell whether or not the enzymes could also be released from the kernels during the boiling process, nor if the boiling process would kill them. There seems to be varying opinions, but this source seemed to be the most thorough, accurate description if you want to read more details.

I also found this stonefruit pit recipe online. These NYC chefs are still alive and have served countless customers without problems. I’m pretty sure they would’ve been shut down if that wasn’t the case. From my reading and my tweets with a few chefs (Nigel Slater responded to me! Made my day!), I am not concerned about making this syrup with pits added for flavor. I haven’t felt sick from it and haven’t noticed anything in my children. Maybe we have cyanide metabolizing superpowers, but I doubt it. If you are concerned, use just the fruit for your syrup. Either way, it does seem clear that we shouldn’t be chewing and swallowing the kernels, so please don’t do that. However tempting it may be.

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One hundred

My wonderful Grandma Randolph would’ve turned 100 today. We would’ve had a paaar-taa-ay. It would’ve been at a nursing home, but hey, that wouldn’t have stopped us from celebrating the lady with gusto. Maybe a (vodka?) grapefruit juice cocktail, some salted watermelon with cottage cheese (the lady salted everything), a hefty amount of chocolate cake, some wild break dancing on the linoleum, latex glove chicken balloons. The works.

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My grandma holding my mom.

My grandma fit the quintessential grandma mold perfectly. She was a little squishy around the edges, decorated with cute little trinkets that we loved to rearrange, filled bowls with Werther’s candies, kept After Eights “hidden” in a drawer, and took me (and sometimes my sister) to Furr’s cafeteria for the buffet line on our special overnight dates. There was usually a parade on television that we’d watch while she scrambled eggs, toasted bread and fried bacon for breakfast. I loved it all. She was a constant during my childhood and I treasured being with her.

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Grandma’s girls. How cute are they?!

Grandma was born just prior to WWI and birthed her FULL TERM, BIG twin girls during WWII. I really wish we had pictures of her pregnant. She completed a degree in Home Economics prior to having her girls, which I’m guessing was quite helpful as she entered motherhood married to a vanilla salesman. They weren’t wealthy, but they got by, and both of their girls went to college. Even more importantly, the twins adored their parents. I’ve only heard kind words spoken.

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Grandma holding me. The only time my grandpa saw me. But he’s looking away, so hopefully he didn’t miss it.

The end of grandma’s life wasn’t easy. Her husband died in 1977 after months living with very painful cancer. (He was really sick while my mom was pregnant with me and died shortly after my birth.) She eventually moved from Indianapolis to Colorado, living just ten minutes from my childhood home. As time passed, her cognition faded, as did her hearing. When I excitedly called her with fabulous news that we got a chocolate lab puppy, she said, “Oooh, I bet that will taste good.” She sure loved chocolate.

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This is how she made me feel.

In her late 70s or early 80s she started falling a lot and getting hurt. When I was in early adolescence she had a grand mal seizure at a restaurant with my mom, sister and me. My sister and I were shuttled away from the commotion, having just witnessed our first seizure without knowing anything about them, and we huddled in a bathroom. My sister prayed. It was the first time I ever remember someone praying like that- fearfully begging God. I remember that stall as vividly as I remember our restaurant booth and the look on my mom’s face.

Grandma’s frequent falls were from seizures, which were from a brain tumor, and she eventually needed surgery to remove it. After months living at our house she was moved to a nursing home near my aunt’s house in Nebraska. The altitude was hard on her heart. She got a lot of love from my aunt and cousins, but was often hospitalized with pneumonia. She was graceful and peaceful through it all. I don’t once remember her complaining. Ever. I do remember her incessantly ringing a little bell when she needed help at our house. She’d ring, I’d go see what she needed, and she’d often not know why she had called. But she was so sweet about it all, not at all demanding, that I’d just smile. Sometimes I’d snuggle in beside her. To see her and not smile was nearly impossible. I loved laying by her side in that bed, cozy and warm.

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Even though she was alive, she couldn’t make it to our wedding. I love that she met him, though. Bonus: He can do a perfect impression of her.

Most of my memories of her are post-brain surgery, and I know she was dramatically different as a result, but man, she was darling. Towards the end of her life, when her language comprehension wasn’t stellar but her sweetness was at it’s height, you could tell her just about anything and she’d say, “Mmmm, yesssss. That’s nice.” Sometimes I wanted to say something like “Grandma, I drank a lot of beer and danced on tables” just to see if she’d say that same thing.

Man. She was so cute. The woman just radiated sweetness.

Like me, my sister adored her. Older than me, she holds even more memories and treasures of her. Grandma passed away in 2001, right about the time my sister found out she was pregnant. My niece Kayla was born on grandma’s birthday. How’s that for amazing? Makes me cry every time I think about it.

Happy 100th birthday, Grandma. You are dearly, dearly missed. And always will be.

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Cuter than cute. In her late 80s, with a walker and her Halloween costume.

(And if you read this, miss Kayla Jane, happy birthday to you, dear girl. You are a light. I think you got a huge dose of grandma’s kindness in your heart. I am honored to share a little bit of Grandma Jane with you and be your fellow KJ. I love you.)

Deep waters

I’m pretty sure that within 15-minutes of posting last week’s cake recipe, in which I shared how nicely our summer was going, I had a complete meltdown, needing to leave Harry with the boys and take a walk. I had written a paragraph for that post about the part of summer that’s been hard to swallow, but I removed it. It wasn’t so tough at the moment and I thought it was ending that day anyway. Therefore, it felt superfluous and got the ax. Well, apparently it really wanted to be published because now I’m sharing. For my own sake, of course.

Harry works contract jobs as a web developer. He also creates his own stuff on the side, like Jetrecord and SleepSleep. (He’s an amazingly brilliant guy, constantly bubbling with new ideas.) We deliberately chose the risks of this job, with a safety net in place, because we thought it best suited who he is and we treasured the flexibility it gave our family. However, the stability of contract life leaves something to be desired. If this feels like deja-vu, you’re right. I’ve written about my mental fallout during life between contracts before.

Yes. Here we are again. His job completed the end of June, another was verbally agreed to start ten days ago. Then the start date moved back a week, then a month. Another one was verbally agreed to. That pay dropped dramatically, as did the contract length. Now it’s all up in the air.

Every time we go through this I weather the in-between a little longer, a little stronger. I try really hard to remain optimistic at the beginning. This time, I felt fine(ish) until the first start date came and went. I started to get more stressed at that point, and honestly, completely lost it by the end of a few rounds of the back and forth. These uncertain periods are never easy for my anxious mind. I rarely just go with the flow.

The Demands and Capacities Model for mental health rings true yet again for me. I think I held on as long as I did because I had a deeper reservoir this summer. Everything else was feeling really great- I liked the summer rhythm with the boys, I felt intense freedom without homeschooling to think about, I was regularly getting up early to exercise (something I’ve battled mentally and been unsuccessful with for months), we had some babysitting freedom, and I was often able to work in the garden and kitchen without feeling frantic. I can shred zucchini and cut basil like a madwoman, I tell you! But I’d rather linger. There’s been more play. For all of us. For me, with food. For the boys, with waterguns and slip n’ slides.

Apparently over a week’s time, my reservoir turned into a boiling cauldron. I wasn’t even aware that I was so on the brink. I picked Charlie up from camp (Lego Camp! Jedi Engineering Lego Camp! My boy has been gone 9-4 all week with strangers and LOVES it. Yay for Ewok villages and Death Star destruction!). I was proud of myself because we were stopping at a friend’s before going home and I thought ahead enough to make him a favorite snack of homemade granola, yogurt and berries for the car. I knew he’d be thrilled. Within minutes of being back in his presence, I made him feel horrible for an accident. Instead of it being a nurturing moment for us to reconnect, I basically shamed him. I didn’t call him a bad kid or stupid, but I made it seem like I thought his behavior was purposeful, which I know it wasn’t. I hate even writing that, but it’s true. I’m embarrassed by it. While he gobbled down that damn delicious granola, I was mean. It certainly wasn’t what I envisioned for that time.

We got home and I felt like shit. I wanted to disappear. I hadn’t apologized to Charlie yet. In our bedroom Harry told me more bad news on the job front while the boys watched Dora in the family room. (“So, this would only last six weeks instead of three months.” “¡RÁPIDO! ¡MÁS RÁPIDO!” “And they don’t want to pay [anything close to my normal wage].” “SWIPER, NO SWIPING!”). I asked to be alone in our bedroom. My dear man closed the door and returned with a beer for me, took care of dinner for the boys and made them giggle like crazy with his silly stories. All while I escaped with a beer, a book and the book of faces.

After this little breathing time I gathered up enough courage to speak my shame to Harry, telling him how I treated Charlie, and then even more to apologize to Charlie. He was so brave. He told me I hurt his feelings, but quickly entered my arms and lap, accepting my prolific explanation of why it wasn’t ok for me to treat him that way and that I was very sorry. We read two chapters of Willy Wonka together, snuggling the whole time. I am deeply grateful for the forgiveness and love of my little boy.

At the end of last night, a dear friend kindly reminded me that it’s alright to check out every once in awhile. I needed that so much. I can easily give grace to others for those moments while still struggling to give it to myself. It’s a shift in thinking for me that being upset and anxious by this process isn’t about my reservoir being too shallow, or some other deep character flaw that I need to beat into submission. I hit a wall. And that’s alright. Apparently, I still need to get better at accepting this whole being human thing. Having limits and all, sharing my needs. It’s a time to walk into what I already know to be true. I need to immediately gather my circle, speak my fears, ask for help. Of course, I still must keep filling my reservoir, avoiding drought if possible. It’s just that sometimes even that doesn’t prevent those very waters from erupting like geysers.

Our car started to break down this morning on the way to camp. Thankfully, we got Charlie there and the car to the shop without a tow truck. I was upset and almost cried, but after a few calls, I think I’m doing alright. I just might even be getting to a place of finding this all somewhat funny. At least for an hour or two. It’s probably because Miles has a babysitter today.