Out to Pasture

I do believe that these poor old boots have seen one project too many.
They started out my "good" boots, with a cool distressed finish that looked great with jeans.

Then they became my working-around-the-place boots and saw me through cutting brush and raking and shoveling and even piles of poo. 

But I think maybe a concrete pour was one distress too many. Farewell, old boots. 


Saying Grace

Like many people, I was taught to "say grace", i.e. give thanks before each meal. We sat down to dinner and murmured the words that were intended to express our gratitude for the food before us. And, like many people, I have fallen out of that habit as a non-churchgoing adult. But that doesn't mean I don't give thanks.

I don't express my gratitude by a formula anymore.

My husband came home with a bucket full of apples and a bag of plums, from trees at his work. As I stood in my little kitchen making apple cake, apple butter and plum cobbler, I took the time to notice the bright, sweet smell of the fruit, the practically magical way that plum skins so kindly disappear in cooking so that they require no peeling, the beautiful perfection of the color and shapes of the fruit.

The house smelled like autumn, with the tart and warm-spiced aroma of apple butter cooking down in the slow cooker. Underpin that with the buttery sweet smell of the cobbler in the oven, all kissed with dish soap as I washed up the ginormous mess I had (as usual) made.

I didn't actually eat any of the cobbler, but I enjoyed my Sweet Hubs' enjoyment of it. The peelings and cores from the apples were relished by deer in our back yard and I enjoyed them enjoying that, too.

When I stand back at the end of the day and see jars of dark, sweet apple butter cooling on the counter, and a pan of cobbler resting there, all the dishes washed and put away, I am thankful. Thankful for the bounty provided by the trees, thankful to my husband for bringing the fruit home and thankful for an upbringing that taught me what to do with nature's largess.

I think of it as God's table. When you come to my home for dinner, the best compliment you can give is to notice what is in front of you: to savor the flavors I labored to create and combine, to appreciate the lightness of the filling in the eclairs or the crisp paper thinness of the crust on the bread. If you walk in, thank me for inviting you and then wolf down your food without giving a second's thought to how it tastes or how carefully presented, it doesn't feel like you really appreciated my efforts. And if I sit down to the dinner I prepared myself and mumble some scripted words about thanking God for the bounty before me, that doesn't feel like expressing any true appreciation.

Do I sit down to each meal and take a moment to thank God for its presence on my table? Not with a prayer. Instead, I choose to honor the generous gift of an abundant array of beautiful foods by taking the time to really notice what is in front of me.

The crisp, green sweetness of the apple.
The lovely red flesh of the plums.
The wonder of butter, further glorified by combining it with a little sugar and flour into... oh my goodness.... streusel!!!
The magic of cinnamon. The bark of a tree can smell like this? What a world!
Vanilla. Ah, vanilla. An ugly bean pod thing with a fabulous secret. Isn't that a lesson for all of us?

And that is my way of saying grace.


The Gardener-A Modern Retelling of an Old Fable

Once there was a man who loved watermelon. He looked forward to summer's watermelon all year long. So one day, he decided to grow his own watermelons.

But he didn't want to wait for summer, so he planted radishes. Several times each day he would go out to his garden and tell the radish patch about what amazing watermelons would soon be growing. He dreamed of watermelons, he gave the little radish plants a pep talk every day about growing up to become watermelons.No matter how much he encouraged, scolded, pleaded and promised, the radish plants refused to become watermelons.

That was the old part of the fable. Let me tell you about another man, though. He wanted a garden. He didn't have his heart set on a garden that looked a particular way; he just loved growing things and fresh food and being useful. So he collected any kind of seeds from anything he liked to eat and he tried very hard to give each thing his tender, loving care. He tried to give each kind of plant the room it needed and the food and water that suited it best.

He was willing to let each thing grow to be the healthiest version of itself, And while his neighbor was crying and tearing his hair out at the love and sacrifice he had lavished on radishes that refused to become watermelons, this man had a bounteous garden, full of variety and flavor and vigor.

Do you ever catch yourself feeling embittered, angry, resentful over all the love and attention you have bestowed upon someone you love, only to find that they will not do what you expect? You do all these many things to show your love and they do not....what? Praise your efforts? Become different? Love you back?

Could it be that your radish seeds are not turning into watermelons?

Maybe it would be better to give love and encouragement and support, without expectations for a specific return on that investment. Just throw your efforts of love into the garden of your life and see what grows. And if you get radishes, you may discover that radishes can be delicious, too.

10 Days Later

You just never know how things might work out.

Yesterday was the last day of my 10 Day Challenge to be kinder and more positive in my thoughts and words. So let's talk about how that went.

Honestly, when my friend and I first started talking about this, I thought it would be easy. I'm generally a very cheerful and even-tempered person and I am usually in a good mood. What I failed to consider, however, is my tendency to be embarrassingly judgmental. Yes, I am an Olympic-level conclusion jumper, too. As you might expect, these two bad habits turned out to be the real challenge.

The first couple of days, I found myself biting back the quick rapier remarks that usually come straight to my mind and mouth. It was an effort to be quiet and let things go. I probably sounded like I had a speech impediment, for all the uhs and half-started words. When I got ready for work in the morning, in the time that I usually spend wishing I had better hair or younger skin or whatever, I tried to think about what I like about myself, instead. After a lifetime of conditioning that told me that liking something about your looks is akin to conceit, it really does take effort to say nice things to yourself. So, I started small. Yes, my hair is incredibly fine and there isn't all that much of it. But it's very soft to the touch, and the softer, chlorine-free water from our well is bringing out a nice color. Hey! Two good things! That's progress.

But a funny thing happened over the course of the days. The words I struggled to choke back, and the habit of looking for what I need to correct about myself just kind of stopped happening. As if these were something that died because I quit feeding them. This is not to say that there is nothing to complain about in life, but I honestly found myself better able to ignore the minor irritations. Obviously, trying to be a more positive and encouraging (to self and to others) person does not make the world a magical Eden. There are always going to be problems and worries. But isn't that the point? With so many real things to be concerned about, why manufacture more by being too quick to see the cloud behind the silver lining?


20 ON 20 // Shayna Lloyd

When I was waiting in line at the DMV -- and who knew cool things could happen in the line at DMV???  -- I met the young woman below. She is just as adorable and personable IRL as she is on youtube.

Shayna is younger than my youngest child, so of course I had that momentary feeling of being an old hag. That said, I have always enjoyed getting to know people of all ages and this newly-21 woman was certainly worth meeting! In her video on what her year of being 20 meant for her, she touches on something that I think is very wise and really quite profound. (Happens around the 7-minute mark).

She talks about saying, "YES" to life. YES to opportunities for experiences. YES YES YES! In many ways, I personally have really stunk at saying YES to things. I'm a chicken of a special order and the limits of my experiences show that. Moving to Montana was one of the biggest yesses ever for me, and look what it has brought me! The opportunity to meet some really interesting people!


Day 4 of a 10-Day Challenge

How are you doing on your 10-Day Challenge?

This is Day 4 for me, and I think it's going well. Here are a few tools I've been using to help me:

  • I spend my driving time enumerating the good things in my life, or the things I love about Sweet Hubs, or all the things my puppy has learned--- good things he's learned, that is! 
  • I take a few minutes each day to really LOOK around me. Look at the beauty of the lake and try to figure out what color it is, which is indescribably beautiful in the early morning.
  • I am rededicating myself to something I have always preached: to be grateful for
    • the dirty dishes in the sink, because they mean that I didn't go hungry.
    • the hamper full of laundry, which means I have plenty of clothes to wear.
    • the challenge of fitting a quart of half-and-half in the refrigerator: it is full of good, wholesome food which I can afford to buy plenty of and what I choose.
    • the times of slow internet speed: it is still faster than the encyclopedia!
    • a puppy who is healthy enough to run away from me when I'm trying to get my shoe back, and enough shoes that I can wear a different pair to chase him in. (OK, I have trouble seeing anything to be grateful about on that one, but I'm trying!)
    • the job that gives me autonomy to do my own work my own way, and the income to do pretty much what I want with the rest of my time.
    • the sweet, absent-minded whistle of a whistling husband: I am so happy that he is here with me to make that sound and that I am well and here to hear it.
    • This could go on all day.
The blessing in life are too many to count, but I will continue to try to spend more energy noticing them than noticing the troubles.

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...