Thursday, February 25, 2010

Recipes, tried and true

On a much lighter note than my previous post, I've been thinking about and appreciating my mother and my mother-in-law recently. As I find my own way through life and particularly in the kitchen, I lean on the advice and learnings of those who have many more years of experience. And I enjoy following some of the advice, questioning other pieces of advice to understand the "why" of it and in some cases forging my own path.

As one example, let me share briefly about my history with hard boiled eggs. I had such limited success for so long getting them to just the right state where they were easy to peel. My mom's recipe was something like: bring to a boil, boil for 10 minutes and then cool them down. I did that for a long time, with slight variations and adding salt for fresh eggs from time to time. But it still seemed to be hit or miss.

At one point I asked Jason's mom - must have been some time when deviled eggs were being made and dozens of eggs were peeling beautifully (I can't remember). What I gathered from her example was to turn them on high and forget about them, then turn off the burner when they were discovered boiling like mad, forget about them again, then boil them again (on high) for a little while longer because it seemed like they hadn't boiled enough yet. So I've worked hard at perfecting this recipe and my success is much higher! I turn them on high and leave. When they are sputtering like crazy I come back and turn off the burner. I normally then bring them to a boil again and try my best to forget about them again, just not for too long. I have to improve on the actual forgetting part, but I've had beautiful hard boiled eggs almost every time, unless I try to micromanage the process too much. (I should note that my mom has no trouble with her recipe, and her hard boiled eggs tend to peel beautifully.)

Now to a more recent example, this one only involving my Mom and me. I recently bought a pound of alfalfa seeds and a pound of radish seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs ( I was determined to learn to sprout seeds, as it seemed like a great thing to add to sandwiches and have around in the winter. But they seemed labor intensive and I was nervous about trying, proven by the fact that I'd never tried them even after enjoying them at home often. But Mom was visiting soon after the order came in and so she and Kali got them started and then she headed home, giving me the instructions to water and drain them once (or twice) daily and then when they are big enough set them in the sun to green up. She thought it would take in the 4-5 day range.

We were talking on the phone days after she left and she asked how the sprouts were doing. I had no idea!! They were sitting in our dark pantry and that was the very first time I had thought about them since she had left our home. Oops!!

And so it continued. They were watered about every 2-4 days when something would trigger my memory and finally they filled the jar, still smelled fine and we "greened them up" by the window. What a relief to know that I can do it about as far off from the instructions as I can imagine and still come up with wonderful sprouts.

Last evening for supper we enjoyed sandwiches with green spinach rolls, pesto, provolone cheese and sprouts. Kali ate about half her sandwich and then moved to gobbling sprouts plain (our quart jar was empty by the end of dinner). We have two more jars started. This time it is on my list to "water sprouts" but I'll just bet they won't turn out nearly as nicely as they did when I forgot about them...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Little Reminders

In the Spring of 2008, Mom and Dad gave me a beautiful orchid for my office. I was taking Nora to work with me and some days I wondered how long I could keep going. That flower that bloomed for weeks while I neglected it for lack of time or energy to think about another thing needing my attention, offered a constant reminder of their love, care and support of our family. Now, two years later (is it really possible it has been that long?), the orchid is blooming again for the first time. And their love, care and support has been unwavering since the moment they gave it to me!

On Sunday, our faith community held their first "All Souls Service," a meaningful gathering and time of remembering. We were invited to bring a memento of the person(s) we were remembering. I wanted the orchid to be one of the things I brought along. Little did I realize how much that choice would remind me of Nora throughout the day. I left home around 8:15am alone (hiking down the driveway with a box and several bags needed for the days activities) and we didn't arrive home as a family until after 9pm that night. All day I carried this fragile, delicate, beautiful flower around with me. I worried about it some. I savored its beauty and sign of life and love.

The day prior to that I had one major agenda item on my day: taxes. And I felt grateful to be done them by the end of the day. What a relief!! I dislike it every year, despite it being the quickest "earning of money" that we do all year. The refund was greatly diminished this year with the change in our "family status." As I started the Turbo Tax program it asked me to answer a number of questions. I said "yes" to the fact that we had some changes in our family to report and on the next tab the first thing noted was "congratulations if you have had a new baby." That was not the change I was dreading reporting.

I soon found myself in a page that listed our two "dependents." I can't quite articulate how hard it was to "delete" Nora's name. I sat there wondering, as ridiculous as it might seem, if there was any way around this seemingly cold action of removing her from our "reported family." There wasn't. I breathed deeply and lived through yet another marker of the passage of time. I know deep in my core that what I report on those forms is not what makes up our family or what defines me. Still, it was hard!

Last evening we traveled over the mountain to UVA for a women's basketball game, being refereed by our sister-in-law. Prior to the game, Jason, Kali and I enjoyed dinner with Nora's geneticist (which was shorter than we had hoped for since we were waiting inside for 1/2 hour while he was waiting outside the restaurant for 1/2 hour - we admitted to just assuming he was running late and that it was just a reminder of waiting in the waiting room for appointments). The time was short but sweet - characterized, like our many other interactions, with a deep care for us and our family and a bond that was clearly formed by sharing an intense time in our life's journey with us.

It was a bit of a transition from a quiet restaurant talking about genetic disorders in children to the excitement and hype of a basketball game! Kali had no trouble making the transition, and was just sad that we didn't make it earlier (she had not wanted to miss ANY of the game, so it was a sad moment when we were leaving the restaurant and there was the UVA game on the TV and there was her aunt - the game had started...).

I had an odd train of thought as we sat in the stadium. I felt silly for having changed out of my orange shirt/scarf prior to coming to the game since there was a sea of orange all around me. The thought crossed my mind that there was a lot of "Nora's color" here and then it dawned on me for the first time, or in a new way, that the color Kali deemed as Nora's favorite also happened to be one of the colors of the university where Nora was cared for so often, so competently and with such kindness.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thanks Mom!

Seems worth publicly noting that we think grandparents are pretty wonderful!! Right now we are feeling particularly grateful to my Mom who spent the last two days with us. How is it that life goes so smoothly with that additional set of hands, the extra hugs, the sweet surprises and caring gestures, and Kali LOVING having Grandma around? Kali just can't understand why she can't stay for a year. And getting back to Grandpa (who still has 100 days left before he can retire) is not a good enough reason for leaving!!

Sunday evening we had fun celebrating her 65th birthday, complete with two different very dark chocolaty desserts. Monday they were busy at home preparing for a mystery dinner, which Kali had initiated (with a "weather" theme - for example, mashed potatoes were clouds and water was rain and mud was chocolate mousse...). What a treat to come home to good smells, delicious food, and a happy daughter.

But the highlight was no doubt for me, a 2 hour hike with Jason this morning to the pond. While challenging physically to walk the trail, where we noticed ski tracks but not footprints after a certain point, it was a much needed time of connection. There is much percolating inside both of us these days - between permaculture weekends, nonviolent communication practice, respective parenting challenges and joys, missing Nora a lot these days and dreams of the future, we both feel full to overflowing some days. It was good to share some of the thoughts, feelings and raw emotions together, with no other ears nearby other than the thrush that flitted down by the pond's edge.

We came home to the smell of homemade doughnuts frying. We enjoyed a little "eating doughnuts off strings" competition (Kali's loose teeth gave her a strong disadvantage), which Mom photographed before getting on the road.

We did our final grocery trip this weekend. So our "no grocery stores" for Lent starts tomorrow. Kali is ready to go - stocked up with a pack of yo-baby yogurts, two boxes of macaroni and cheese, and vanilla letter-of-the-day cookies. :) And, in case anyone is wondering, we are not allowing ourselves to utilize Sundays for grocery shopping. We'll see what we learn about ourselves in the next 40 days. One thing for sure, we aren't likely to go hungry.

More pictures from Mom's visit are online at:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Journey through Grief

For anyone needing more snow pictures:
I guess hiking up and down our driveway could get old after awhile, but so far it is still an enjoyable adventure. Last night we shoveled out a "track" and had races as it got dark outside, flinging ourselves in the snow when someone got close to us.

Outside of snow play and good family times, Jason and I both spent significant blocks of time this week - mine in the middle of the day and Jason's in the middle of the night - participating in an email interview for I have gotten to know Janelle Hertzler through her role as a student in the MA program at CJP. Our interview can be found online at: A meaningful, emotional and welcome process for both of us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spring is coming...

It may be snowing outside again as I type, but our first walking iris bud bloomed today!! And the lettuce, onions, and red russian kale seeds have sprouted in their pots by the windows.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowy days give way to reminiscing...

What a glorious morning. It was so bright out, with crystals on top of the snow, that I couldn't really tell what I was taking pictures of but everything around me was sparkling and beautiful. I started the morning by shoveling out the laundry line so I could freeze dry at least one load of the laundry that has been piling up the last week or so. My arms were already feeling that good, tired, sore feeling from the shoveling yesterday...

We had another sleepover in the front room last evening which has made the weekend feel a little more festive and fun. Yesterday ended with such a warm cozy feeling, as I lounged on the futon doing some reading and Kali played blocks very energetically and enthusiastically with Jason (both were having a very good time!)

Here, for those that haven't already seen them, are photos of yesterday's fun and adventures:

And new pictures from today, complete with some captions to give a sense of the activities photographed. That good, sore, tired feeling is more pronounced this evening!!:

On the backdrop of this snowy relaxed weekend has been a challenging month for me emotionally. Just as the sun broke through two days of low visibility, snow and clouds, I am hopeful that the coming weeks will provide more opportunities for processing and getting more clarity around the swirling emotions. I've been missing Nora a lot and finding myself reliving moments of her life with us more these days than I have for months. I also miss talking about her.

Recently at work, I was going through files of our December graduates and purging them of unnecessary documents before I put them with my other alumni files. I found myself pausing as I flipped through piles of correspondence with these students. The dates jumped out at me: May 30, 2008, June 6, 2008, etc... Some of these students were just entering the program the summer of Nora's death. Others knew her and were some of the many people who supported us. For me, it was an odd feeling to realize that from here on out, almost all students that will be graduating will not have known Nora. She was such a part of my work life for several months that many memories are still intertwined with my memories of working with students and colleagues. It is another marker of the passage of time.

It may be silly to even think this way, but the last few days I've been grateful that the winter Nora was with us was not like the one we are experiencing this year. Jason and I were just reflecting last night that we hardly remember any snow falls while Nora was at home with us. I took a picture this morning of her memory garden all covered with snow. What new life is waiting to burst forth as the ground thaws and warms.

Maybe it is that winter brings with it a certain longing - longing for new life, for more light, for color and warmth...And two winters ago we found ourselves longing for good news, for hopeful signs, for growth that didn't come. Maybe this time of year will always be a reminder for me of hopes unfulfilled. Yet it is countered so strongly by Kali's vibrant love of life and SNOW. She thinks at times that all this snow is because she ordered it. :) And she is considering ordering it year round so watch out!

There may be more we'll note here about our processing in the coming weeks. We have the opportunity to engage in an interview for a website that has been created by a current CJP student: Reading her book Seasons of Solace during the past week has been very helpful. We will also be sharing in a Trauma Awareness and Transformation class about the role of writing in our grief journey (and likely much more). We find ourselves always grateful, even when it stretches us, for opportunities to talk and write about Nora and our time with her and without her. Among other things, it helps keep the memories alive, which is a more precious gift with each passing day.