chronic illness, confession, creative, depression, family, food, friendship, gifts, gratitude, home, journey, marriage, parenting, parties

I know it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year…

 

Holiday baking is this really incredible, magical ideal I have always had. My grandmother was the sort of woman, of her generation, who loved others through the food she made. She canned, preserved, baked and stewed almost 24/7, in one way or another. She believed, to her core, in hard work and I realize looking back that she lived the life of an authentic feminist, just at a time when this was more a way of life and less a mouth driven, man-bashing subculture. That woman truly needed a man for nothing, but had chosen to love one until his death. She was incredible, my grandmother… And the holidays were no exception. Her cookies, (often times colored and pressed, in that vintage way that is all about nostalgia now) her candies, cakes and pies were seamlessly there and ready, dependable and delicious, just like we’d grown up knowing they would be.

My own mother wasn’t much of a baker, or a cook really, but she certainly believed she was. Even now, in her state of dementia, when she begins talking about the days before her illness, she was the cook to beat all cooks. My childhood consisted of lots of microwave dinners, (unevenly heated and disgusting, mind you) bologna sandwiches and then when my step father was around (5-10 days a month) we had real meals. Sometimes my mom cooked them, (if that were the case, a box or can of something was typically ALWAYS involved) and sometimes he grilled them. Cakes involved mixes, eventually cookies involved mixes. She was all about that short-cut cooking which was introduced to America around the same time she was. It makes sense. It wasn’t that she was lazy… The woman painstakingly made chocolates to die for, and they were loved by many, many people, across the nation.

I remember when I learned how to cook, (a sordid and woeful journey, poor Chw…) I was very excited to share with her, my skills. That is how most young girls are. No matter what ill hurts lie between a daughter and her mother, that desire to get her approval is strong. My first big success was lasagna. An elderly woman, who was very dear to my husband, was also the brilliant cook to create his all-time favorite dish and as a wedding gift she was teaching me, from her wheelchair, how to make it. My mother was full of complaints and disgust over my perfected deep dish of love, and I was devastated. This became a theme, really… Mom, look at my new couch! It’s hideous, I’d never own something like that. Mom, I finally perfected a lemon cheesecake. I had thought it would taste way better than this, it’s almost inedible. And on, and on, and on.

And now I sit, at the start of another Christmas season. I have my dutiful little list all written out… What I will bake, and for whom. When. And slowly the dread of doing so, and the self-doubt of why begins to trickle in. Over the past few years I have the same pattern, and though I plan and list otherwise, it will play out the same. The past few years have been the first where I have not had a holiday season filled, to the brim, with friends and family upon which to force my confections. This is far more bitter than sweet for me. This season it is mostly just the two of us, and Chw’s perspective is that of- there is no need to stress yourself out and go to the trouble when it’s just me and I probably won’t eat much of it anyway.

And I am sad.

I always say that I don’t love baking, but I remember loving it. I remember sugar cookies, ornately decorated, every season of my motherhood, until we moved back to Michigan. I remember reveling in my cheesecake masterpieces, creating cakes centered around loved one’s likes- for their birthdays, I remember delving into flaky pastries and pies and tarts and loving it all.

And then nothing.

No new cheesecake adventures, and truly I miss it. I do. But if I were to craft a new cheesecake, half of it would go into the garbage, and that hurts my feelings, though it probably shouldn’t. No cookie exchanges, no holiday parties or gatherings. It is easy to see how the holiday season can become so depressing for people. I look back on the good old days, where holidays were full of love and faces and people, my home always full and people enjoying what I’d made as we conversed and laughed over board games and quality moments. I knew then, that these were the life moments I loved, and how great things were. I remember pausing my life for a micro-second, simply to absorb how great it all felt. I remembered to appreciate it, always. What I never expected was it gone completely, all that is left is the reoccurring holiday list…

cookies

cupcakes

marshmallows

cheesecake

It is doubtful that any of it will get done. The thought of doing it exhausts me, (because, why?) but the thought of not doing it stabs me somewhere gutturally. And I think about these women before me, the holiday sugar journeys and how grateful I am for them. Maybe this season and phase of my life are meant to go in other culinary directions. I am strongly (and overwhelmingly) toying with the idea of tamales. I grew up with the eating of them a Christmas eve tradition. This was also in New Mexico, where everyone you know makes them, and they are readily accessible. I, myself have never made them and I am thinking that, maybe it’s time…

I am also toying with a few other adventurous little recipes to try out, since it is just us. I am both excited and tempted to just stick with doing nothing at all.

What about you? What baking/cooking will you plan to do?

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birthday, chronic illness, confession, entertainment, family, fibro, food, friendship, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, journey, Lately, list, marriage, parenting

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

Minimal sunlight is streaming through the drawn blinds and my Wonder Woman mug is full, (refilled, mind you) and steaming with the caffeine loaded nectar of the PNW gods, in easy reach. I am curled up on my couch, laptop on lap (isn’t that where it is supposed to be, anyway?) and I am flat-out exhausted.

I’m a little under the weather. (I have been blaming my beautiful daughter in law for sharing her bug, over the holiday, but let’s be honest- I have a chronic illness and am coming down from the craziest month of travel/busyness that I have had in a really long time. It isn’t her fault, but even if it were- it’s a cold… I’ll live.) Yesterday was the first day, since Sunday, that I believed I could actually be a functioning member of the human race. To commemorate the very special occasion I decided to pour my heart and soul into a huge project, and not crawl into bed until nearly five in the morning. Those of you under the ripe old age of 40 are probably thinking yeah, so? But I haven’t been able to successfully pull of such great feats in a very long time. Also, I woke up around 7:45, and crawled out of bed around 8:15… I’m dragging. (There is not enough coffee in all of Michigan to help, I fear.)

At any rate, it’s a good thing I work on my list throughout the week, because otherwise there would simply be five bullet points stating SLEEP, and that’s no fun… (also, this post is covering two weeks, as I was away on Holiday last week)

1.) Scrunchies. The truth is, I have really naturally curly hair. Depending on the weather, temperature, humidity index and whatever mood my fickle hair is in, at any given moment, my hair can look really beautiful. These rare and glorious moments are the ones I dream about. In reality though, unless I’ve had a blowout (which I try to get semi-regularly, just for sanity purposes) my hair is usually a tangled mess of indescribably proportions. My solution to this natural disaster, as anyone who sees me regularly can tell you, is a messy bun. (Lazy hair and I truly don’t care who sees it or how terrible it may look due to the evil baby hairs which frame my face with absolute defiance.) Anyway, (I’m tired and clearly cannot stay on point) over the weekend my daughter acquired a packet of 90’s style hair scrunchies. I thought they were pretty funny and nostalgic. At one point, that evening, a scrunchy was used and the user (I don’t remember who) exclaimed WOW! These are awesome! This gave me pause. Really? Awesome? So, my Friday late night messy bun met a 90’s scrunchy and I think it may be safe to say there is no going back. Ever wondered why I had less tension headaches when I was in high school and under extreme stress and duress, in comparison to adult years? Scrunchies. Every wonder why I still can’t wrap my mind around the amount of hairs which tangle themselves around a hair tie? Scrunchies. In a time when we are surrounded by problems and we simply need solutions, I’m beginning to wonder if a scrunchy may not be the answer. (also, I’m tired. But still, my bun is scrunchied and I have no headache or tension pull, so there ya go.)

2.) Intentional Gifts. I know this probably seems stupid, but hear me out. Anyone who knows me even 3% knows that gift giving/receiving is my primary love language. I am a big fan of The Minimalists. Recently they have challenged that this is not a real love language and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I get their point (consumerism, materialism, etc.) but also, I live with my brain/body/soul and know how I feel giving gifts and receiving them. The thing their point did do, however, was challenge me to really introspectively lean in to those thoughts/feelings during the processes. I realized there IS a difference and it has changed the very way I function within the realm of gifts…

Someone VERY special to Chw and I just celebrated her 30th birthday. It was a milestone birthday and we wanted to do something really thoughtful for her. We purchased a couple of small, yet sentimental gifts, but honestly it just did not feel like enough. What do you give someone so vital to you, to celebrate a pretty huge birthday, on a nominal budget? (because without the lack of independent wealth, we would have spent the year traveling with her, and rolling in stacks of money, obviously) We talked, and talked, and talked about this for the better part of a month. Then, a few days before her birthday, we got an idea. We’d make her a playlist of songs from the year she was born… (1987, which we learned was the year we both really blossomed into our love of music and movies, which is pretty cool.) The playlist morphed into one of those 1987 fact sheets to share with our family, in honor of her birthday. This eventually became a game. A 30 part trivia game complete with 1987 inspired commercial breaks, music videos, movie trailers, historical facts and a big bag of 1987 inspired prized. (i.e. SCRUNCHIES) I’ll admit it, we got carried away. (By we, I mean me, though Chw was VERY enthusiastic.) I spent every waking second, for several days, working on this game. And naturally, doubt set in… They would hate it. It’s OLD stuff and they won’t get any of the references (they being a bunch of awesome people, under the age of 30) so when a friend offered to be a test subject, I jumped at it. Halfway through the performance of the Game (it was NOT a smooth run through, you guys) it occurred to me that these friends were our age so this messy run through was very possibly as good as it was going to get. It wasn’t. It was really fun, and it went much smoother, and it was REALLY fun. And she felt loved, and felt special, and it was a memory. This is when I realized that is the whole point of giving a gift. It cost some time, and a few bucks in prizes. In the end it was a chunk of quality time centered around someone very worthy of the effort and we all enjoyed it. Much more meaningful than a “big” dollar purchase, and my gift love bank was full.

3.) Our family Thanksgiving tradition is going to the movies. It’s a little tricky at this phase of familyhood because we’ve got grand-babies and babies don’t love movies, (and most movie goers share the same sentiment regarding babies in movies) but tradition is tradition so some of us went. We chose Coco. Chw felt it might be a little easier on the boys (6, 7 and 11) than Wonder, and I was pretty fine either way. A few times, during the movie, I questioned if maybe this was the WORST choice to see with them. By the end however, I was a sob-filled-blubbering mess absolutely moved and in love with Coco.

4.) Whipped Cream Maker. We’ve actually had it for years. It isn’t anything new to us, but it does sit unused for large amounts of time. And then, Thanksgiving rolls around (PIE!) and melts into the Christmas season (hot chocolate!) and we pull it out and fall in love with the miracle of it, over again. Incidentally, last week my poor husband made a not so tasty batch of whipped cream. This inspired me to get creative with flavors and types. It’s a whole new world up in here… (impromptu hot chocolate and game night, anyone???)

5.) Listening to Christmas music on Vinyl. I love it. I had HIGH hopes of adding this little record to my growing collection (because this album is kind of one of the best), but alas, it is sold out. Sad days… So, I’ll listen to it on Spotify, and my other Christmas records when I’m not.

What about you and your week? What are you loving?

beautiful, chronic illness, confession, depression, family, fibro, food, friendship, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, journey, Lately, list, travel

It isn’t quite a scrapbook…

My re-entry back from my PNW trip has been tough. Full disclosure? Depression has smacked me really hard, right between the eyes. Before I left, I wondered if it would. When I was with my people I made the conscious effort to absorb as much of their energy as I could, so that I could create a sort of storage for their amazingness. I also came back to Michigan knowing that Thanksgiving was just around the corner, in which I would be with some of the best of my people. I tried to prepare for the possibility, but I was probably several days into it before I really saw it.

I want to whine, and kick my feet and tell the universe that I simply can not live here anymore. Here in the land of cement colored skies and a community culture that, try as I might, I will just never understand. (Also, leaving home is tough because the things you fall behind on, while you’re gone, don’t magically get done. No. You come home to the house you need to clean, the laundry you need to do, the fridge you need to stock. As dumb as it may sound, it was overwhelming…)

That aside, I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you what my adventure contained…

  • Catching up with twenty-plus friends, and realizing again (and again) that I my friends are really beautiful people and I am really, really very lucky to know them
  • Cuddling two brand new baby boys
  • loving on six awesome, joyful dogs
  • hanging out with my amazing sister
  • meeting the beautiful boy who has made me a great-aunt
  • celebrating the birthdays of my two handsome nephews
  • feeling the silky curls which belong to my beautiful grand-daughter, along with drinking in the smell of her baby scented head
  • going to one movie, with my bff
  • filling up my soul with goodness, at my church (which I miss TERRIBLY)
  • dining on familiarly amazing things (an estimated 900 duck fat/truffle salt fries, handmade eclectic ice cream, authentic street tacos, Korean tacos, a decadent wine tasting spread, and so much more…)
  • a strong debate over the ranking qualities of the Nutty Buddy vs. the Ding Dong
  • surviving what very well could have been a haunted halloween
  • one paper crafting project with the bestie, who is a paper crafter extraordinaire
  • a handful of really fun photo shoots (thank you so much, and you’re welcome!)
  • a sleepover complete with rum, conversation, late night scary-ish stuff including a string of truly bizarre you-tube videos and pizza
  •  a bazillion laughs
  • a few tear-filled talks
  • an unnatural amount of calorie filled coffee made in the land where barista-ing is done right
  • a mini road trip, unlike one I’d ever had before, leading the secret place where all of the unique convenience store snacks are hidden
  • adding another phenomenal Chinese massage to my collection of experiences
  • meeting my now-Washington State Safeway boyfriend

It is truth that the home of my past feels best, smells best and tastes best, though I am old enough to realize that the biggest reason because it is more the special occasion place than the every day. (though, don’t get me wrong, many of those things would be great every day to do things…)

chronic illness, confession, fibro, food, gratitude, home, journey, Lately, list, marriage

This RX weekend…

I am a pretty big fan of RX bars. I have to be honest though, if someone had offered me one and told me it was awesome, I would probably have hated them and considered ending the friendship with said-person. Why? They are pretty different. And sticky. And stick to teeth, and that is annoying.

BUT… They are pretty awesome really. Weird, stickiness aside, they are honest and healthy. They do not taste like cardboard, and they aren’t painful to digest. All in all, they are pretty tasty, easy to tuck in a handbag and nothing to nutritionally feel terrible about.

The other thing I love about them in their simplicity. Right there, on the front of their packaging is their ingredient list. Not only is this brilliant marketing, but it is respectful to the consumer because it says “Don’t waste your precious, already overwhelmed time reading our tiny print list, HERE.” And honestly, I really like that too.

I am going to treat my weekend like an RX Bar. Why? Because I don’t feel like carefully crafting some post which might feel better, or worse, than it actually was.

-Alone. My husband left early friday for another near month of apart-ness, so naturally, my weekend hasn’t been a ray of sunshine. On the other hand, it has felt pretty natural because he was already gone for a month and I developed a series of routines. The 8 days he was home kinked those and it was good to have a feeling of normal.

-I do not (at all) like that it feels more normal when Chw is gone.

-chiropractor appointment. It was awesome.

-Dog Park. Also awesome, especially for our Emma. She’s really weird though.

-Seven Coke Zero Sugars. (SEVEN)

-massive headache that came and went, until it came and stayed.

-terribly painful hip x-ray, with not the best results, sad to say.

-a good chunk of day where my heating pad and DVR were my very best friends.

-meals like Taquitos and Kahiki sticks, because I’m the only one around.

-Planned: a relaxing bath with essential oils and salts. Reality: stumbling into bed, exhausted, because I fell down a Scientology hole, on the internet, waiting for my husband to arrive in Melbourne and call me. This journey may or may not have included a brief stint of me contemplating how I could single-handedly rescue John Travolta from this hell. (Tom Cruise is both crazy and a lost cause so I wasted no imagination on this.) Also, as a side note- Leah Remini’s nails drive me INSANE.

-Six Oreo Lemon thins.

-Renting a movie and watching it ALONE, only to excitedly tell my husband about it and him to say “Oh yeah, I saw that. Hilarious!” What? When? Oh… On a plane? Gotcha. (If we were to pie chart his time, the largest piece would be Australia, second to Delta, third to his office and fourth to home. I’m trying so hard to have a good attitude about this.)

-my neighbors quickly and quietly moved out. I am sad as they were really great.

-fourteen piles of dog poop picked up through about 4,478 various dog walks.

-two chapters of homework.

-one Hallmark movie.

-two loads of laundry.

-one suitcase, mostly packed.

-The last of what may be our sunshine, for a good long while.

How about your weekend?

 

creative, depression, family, fibro, food, friendship, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, journey, list, marriage, self care, travel

Octobers are my favorite…

I love the beautiful simplicity of this photo. It isn’t mine, it isn’t us. There is something so beautiful about clasped hands, held together, skin-tight, love all that will fit in the between. After yesterday’s post, I wanted to take a little time before posted something far less significant. At the same time, however, looking over my list really allowed me the opportunity to be intentional about the 30 days still to loom ahead, within the month…

Home:

  • decorate for Autumn
  • more candlelit evenings
  • donate 31 things to charity
  • make candied apples
  • make my Grandmother’s apple butter

Create:

  • paper crafting projects
  • pull out the knitting needles
  • experiment more with essential oils and ways to help others with them

Relate:

  • spend time with my BFF, for the almost-week she’s visiting
  • apple picking and making memories
  • welcome my husband home and connect with him in all of the ways, before life takes us on legs of our own journeys again
  • speaking of journeys- fly to Seattle to spend time loving on my beautiful little granddaughter
  • dates with my mom
  • actively displaying gratitude and support to the staff in the nursing home
  • reaching out to connect with other women in life affirming ways

Personal:

  • (finally) meet with personal trainer
  • stick to a schedule for writing, and progress.
  • continued work with my chiropractor and kinesiology
  • hot baths, yoga and self-care

Read/Watch:

  • American Made. (dying to see this movie, even though I know it was technically as September release.)
  • The Mountain Between Us
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin 
  • Reread Alice in Wonderland
  • Braving the Wilderness 

 

What about you? What are you looking forward to, in these growing and cooling evenings? What things do you look forward to the most? Life is hard and heavy, but we still have the responsibility to love the lives we’re living and try to breathe life and beautiful in the brutal… Some days that may be all we’ve got.