Tag Archives: beauty

April 21

First of all, I feel bound to inform those of you who didn’t realize it that I posted about losing our beloved cow Tulip on April Fool’s Day. She never existed, but I did capture those pictures of cows during my exchange student year in The Netherlands. I also spotted that calf on a bike ride in Friesland and was absolutely smitten. But no cows traveled home with me. No animals were harmed in the making of that post.

The “burial site” is really just some logs, compost and greens in my first attempt at a specific type of garden bed, called a hugelkultuur bed. Hilariously enough, a neighbor’s visiting mom recently asked them with great concern if we buried a dog in our yard. It does look suspicious. That’s why I thought of that post in the first place. I’m hoping it’ll look a lot better once all the food and flowers are covering it. Plus, with time it’ll shrink. Otherwise, we’ll just be “Those neighbors. You know, the ones with the grave.”

Did I fool you? I hope you at least get a chuckle out of it.

In the past few weeks I have been buried under piles of mulch, speech-language pathology textbooks, a strange medical event, making the most of the boys’ spring break week at home, and celebrating my little guy’s fifth birthday. I’m clearing away one pile at a time, but will not be posting here often until late May, after I’m done taking my SLP national exam.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures of our yard and garden. The layers, textures and colors are breathtaking right now. I feel so thankful to live here and to have nurtured this property along to better health. There are plants, bushes and flowers blooming now that weren’t four years ago because the soil was so poor and/or they hadn’t been pruned. This is the first year I feel like we’re really seeing it all come together in health. It’s a daily treat to look outside to the canopy of pillowy blossoms, the soft flowers carpeting our grass, the eye-achingly bright azaleas, the dogwood’s pink flowers, like fall in the spring, and the promise of food to come with our peas, chives, lettuce and berries growing up as fast, strong and colorful as my boys. I am so grateful.

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Shelter

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

Brené Brown

“Can we listen to ‘I see trees of green’?” Miles inquired at breakfast, singing the line as he requested the song. The boys were sitting at the table with their oatmeal, I was packing lunches, Harry was making the two of us some eggs, and Miles took a break from eating to sign along to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” At the end he made certain we knew that, “The sign for ‘world’ goes like this [hand gesture], because the world is round.”

As breakfast progressed, the best series of songs ever requested by a child in our household unfolded. We played James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” once Miles elaborated enough for us to figure out that “I feel nice” includes “I feel nice! So nice! I got you!” That was followed up by “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “My Girl.” “Baa Baa Black Sheep” also entered the mix; it wasn’t all nursery-free. More signs, more singing, more moments that made me wish we had a hidden camera in our household so I could watch this on repeat when I’m sad, nostalgic or otherwise needing to smile.

My episodic memory is so horrible that writing is one of the only ways I’ll file this away with most of the details accurate. Even a few hours later and I was dependent on Harry’s recollection for all the songs. I would be a horrible witness. (OMG!. Finally listening to Serial. Late to the party, but so glad I showed up. DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING.) But I do not want to forget this morning. I want its sweetness seared into the depths of my cortex.

These beautiful, not-to-be-missed moments seem brighter to me now than they have for months. A crucial part of this season of struggle for our family is how we let it refine us. Harry and I are acutely aware that our stress can be handled countless ways. We hurt each other at times, of course, but thankfully we also call out to each other for support in our dark moments. It could easily go the other way. Blame, shame, anger, and guilt could do us in if we didn’t bring our more upsetting thoughts into the light.

IMG_5324I am raw. I cry often. Much to my embarrassment, this seems to include every time I walk through one of Seattle’s beautiful parks filled with gigantic, blooming trees. I depend on spring’s flowers. I am also, on occasion, acting like a caffeinated dog stuck outside during a lightning storm. No shelter in sight, I chase my tail until I collapse. This is not a particularly helpful strategy.

After, oh, round seven or so of time between jobs, I am finally realizing that this is one of my coping patterns. In my unhealthiest moments, I detour around my productive strategies for dealing with anxiety to a manic search for something tangible and “stable.”

I spent a ridiculous number of hours looking at homes on Zillow this week. Questions about the Seattle market? I’m your gal! Want a home on San Juan Island? I can hook you up! I’ve been sick and weak from a lovely GI episode (FeBRUTALary!), laying in bed drooling over gorgeous homes with views of the waters the orcas visit. Even if we could buy a house right now, it would be an idiotic move. Yet I chase that dream like it would bring reprieve. How can you weigh the importance of a dad choosing work that doesn’t demand relentless hours or suck his soul dry just to receive a higher income? How do you know whether it’s better to choose home ownership and a more affordable town than the city and community you love?

Yesterday, I spent hours fighting way too many regretful feelings that staying at home for over five years was a poor choice for our family given the ups and downs of a contract-based business. I went to that extremely unhelpful Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda place. If I had worked, we would have more money. I should’ve trusted that the wee boys would be fine with someone else and we could’ve bought a house. If only, if only, if only. The standard privileged modern mom’s dilemma. I’ve faced it before, just not as deeply. Was not working worth it? How much do I value on staying home with kids? Would greater financial stability, nice vacations and a home of our own be better for our family? How do I weigh these factors?

My questions about those things remain, for sure. I wish someone could tell me with certainty all the ways my boys are better off, but ultimately it’s a moot point. Mostly, though, I think I’m deflecting fear that our next income might not allow us to live as we have in the past, as well as anger that returning to work as a Speech-Language Pathologist requires jumping ridiculous, expensive hurdles. I didn’t anticipate a cake walk, but thus far the Washington State Department of Health is giving the DMV a run for their money.

This season has been painful for me, but I am beginning to value the questioning process that is birthed from the anxiety. We are in a refinement period, redefining what is important to us, reminding ourselves of our core values, savoring the laughter, passions, and love we share as a family. We’re going to come out of this with a clearer vision. This is a tiny but important step in accepting that I can not fight the storm. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to stop chasing my tail, too.

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Gravitating towards beauty

The older I get the more I realize why an appreciation of beauty so often seems to deepen with age. We’re increasingly exposed to pain, grieving feels like a constant, disasters and wretched acts committed against other humans are impossible to ignore. Images from horrific atrocities are seared into our mind. We are not sheltered in the cocoon of youth and nobody reading this is living on the shores of Walden Pond. Sometimes all we can do is retreat for a day or two and surround ourselves with images of hope.

Hi! Welcome to September! I’m obviously feeling cheerful.

I experienced a few (relatively minor) traumas this summer, the one I wrote about earlier, and another that happened in the past few weeks that I won’t share about in detail here, but indelibly left it’s mark. I was very scared and immediately realized that feeling safe in your shelter is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Thankfully, a strong antidote was already built into our schedule. Two nights camping on San Juan Island, a retreat I can count on.

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It seems to me that counteracting the weight fear can bring to our lives is best done by pursuing love, gratitude and beauty, so I gravitate to them with increasing necessity. The delight of picking blackberries off bushes near our campsite, the smiles on my boys faces while they played with a never-before-seen furry friend, the joy of watching my youngest run without ceasing to keep his kite up, the excitement while spotting porpoises and harbor seals, the satisfaction of cooking over a fire. These moments brought peace.

This tart happened to be in the house before we left to camp, during the time we were feeling quite vulnerable. Having something delicious to consume and share in the middle of a fearful time was a gift. A little one, of a comforting and delicious sort. It’s one I provided myself without even knowing it was going to be needed. I encourage you make something and share it with someone you know who is going through a hard time. Maybe it’s you. Pick or buy some berries before the season is over. Some for yourself, some to share. Sometimes we just have to take care of each other one tart slice at a time.

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Macaroon Tart 

  • From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
  • Serves 8-16, depending on the generosity of the slicer

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry or spelt flour)
  • 3/4 cup / 2 oz / 60 g unsweetened finely shredded coconut*
  • 3/4 cup / 3.75 oz / 106 g lightly packed natural cane sugar
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons / 5 oz / 140 g unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 cups / 5 oz / 140 g unsweetened finely shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g lightly packed natural cane sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 8 ounces / 225 g fresh blackberries, halved
  • 1/3 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g pistachios, crushed

Preheat oven to 350℉ / 180℃ with a rack in the middle. Butter an 8×11-inch / 20cmx28cm tart pan (or equivalent- mine is a 9-inch round tart pan) and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to make easy release of the tart.

For the crust, combine the flour, coconut, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter and mix until the dough is crumbly. Firmly press it into the prepared pan, forming a solid, flat layer. (This part is fun! Messy fingers!) Bake for 15-minutes or until the crust is barely golden. Let it cool for a few minutes before filling it.

Prepare the filling by combining the coconut, sugar and egg whites. Mix until combined. Lay the blackberry halves on the tart base. Drop dollops of the filling around and over the tops of the berries, filling in the spaces around them and covering some up.

Bake for 20 to 25-minutes, until the filling peaks are deeply golden. Let the tart cool, then sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the top. Slice & serve!

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*I used medium shred and it was delightfully sufficient.

** This tart works well with other fruit as well. Cherries and pistachios? You bet.

 

(Those connected to my personal account on facebook may have noticed that I deleted it because of what happened. My apologies that I could not leave up my notice long enough for everyone to see, but we felt the incident warranted a speedy deletion. Those without my personal email address may feel free to contact me via this blog’s facebook page message board. I will try to be in touch with many of you in other ways, too. For now, I am finding I really enjoy being off facebook, so I may not return to having a personal site. Email and phone are now the best way to contact me.)