Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The other day I was working in the bakery. Sirens were sounding, first responder vehicles rapidly passed my place. I have three walls of windows in the bakery, so I see the mountains, the golf course, and a lot of passing traffic.

A friend raced to my door and asked if my kids were okay. Friends from other states began to call to check in with me.

All the schools in town were in lockdown, there was a shooting, a death, perhaps multiple shooters, bomb threats, helicopters, law enforcement and newscasters from television stations racing to get the breaking info.

All of a sudden, we were one of those places. Painful circumstances rocked our little town like a 7.8 on the richter scale earthquake. Lack of information, multiple sources of bad information, fear, shock, horrible truth, all rolled our town and a sense of security and peace collapsed just like a shaky building, one moment standing tall and firm, the next a pile of rubble, with dust plumes rising to the sky.

We all turned on the local radio station. Cried. Hugged. And breathed a deep sigh of relief upon finding out that teachers were okay. That there was only one shooter, not multiple, targeting several campuses at once. That the young woman who was shot was in the hospital, but was okay. The wound was minor.

But that still left us with the harsh truth. A fourteen year old girl was dead. She felt so hopeless, so painful, that she decided that day to do something drastic to alter her reality. A daughter, a sister, a granddaughter. A quiet, straight A student who had friends.

Our town is small. Most everyone knows most everyone. In these kind of situations, we all try to make sense of something that doesn't make sense. We each create our little narratives, trying to force chaos into some kind of order.

We think that if we can understand, we can later prevent another tragedy.

And I guess at the end of the day, understanding is about the best we can aim for, even though it seems rather impossible to find any understanding in a world where a 14 year old girl feels that much pain.

My kids were not close to that event at all. At least physically. But they are good friends with the girl who was shot. She is in our home regularly. And they are friends with friends of the young girl who was killed. We have spent time everyday praying for all the families involved. And when I accidentally veer into creating a narrative about the situation, I am grateful that Rose reminds me that we do not know all the story. And that creating one doesn't help anyone. Of course she doesn't use those words. But she gets the concept.

We acknowledge the pain. We pray for grace. What do you pray in a situation like this? Grief is hard to bear under normal death circumstances. I pray that all people who are in shock, in grief, in pain, will know grace, compassion, and eventual healing.

Why is it that grief can be so horrible, and yet it doesn't seem to kill most of us.

Just leaves everyone with giant piles of rubble, messed up water systems, roads that disappear into nowhere, and us, left to start cleaning up the mess, one pile at a time.

I remember the earthquake in Kobe in January, 1995. It woke us up, rolling the floor of our apartment. We woke, but went back to sleep, until my sister called from Texas, an hour later, asking if we were okay, alive, was our town destroyed?

We watched the news in shock. Just as we did on 9/11, safe ourselves, but reeling, because the truth is, if we let it, the hurt and loss of others is damn sure going to affect us. At least, I hope that we will remain tender enough to feel a bit rocked by the loss of others in our human family.

When you see the complete upheaval of those places, you might wonder if they could ever be functioning cities again.

And yet, here we are.

The eggplants have decided to produce. They are healthy and lovely, I picked a giant purple orb the other evening and with basil, that is thriving, and a tomato from a friend's garden, some peppers from our garden, and lots of onion and garlic, made a most amazing caponata.

The pomegranates are red and juicy.

My yard is filled with such an amazing amount of blooming flowers, it is an embarrassment of riches. They are crazy beautiful. I don't deserve them. But they give me joy, everytime I go out. My house is filled with bouquets.

I feel pretty rolled right now. Muscle memory? Grief? Pain for my fellow man, my neighbors? I truly don't feel like smiling at all these days. But history reminds me that we will all smile again, because that is how we were made. Resilient, capable of surviving earthquakes somehow.

Oh, how I pray that all humans in severe pain will find the help they need. And that people in deep and tragic grief will be surrounded by kind people, not mean judgmental ones. How can I pray for comfort for people who are feeling inconsolable grief and confusion? I guess I will pray they will be comforted by a soft blanket, they will be provided clean water when they need it, and in the mean time, that a numbness would help them get through the next weeks and months until they are strong enough to adapt to new stage of life, post earthquake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Efforts...Maybe a hint?

Funny. The garden I worked hard to establish was rather mediocre this summer. Higher than normal heat index, an occasional chicken break out, and probably more than anything, a very busy gardener, focused on other things than her garden, meant only a handful of tomatoes, a few squash, no okra or much of anything else. Funny, the hot peppers have done well. Chickens don't like them. The plants don't mind the heat. Good for us. We love chilies of all sort. The jalapenos are the most prolific. Shishito, a japanese variety, come in second. Green chilies, the NM variety, are slow but steady.

The garden I didn't work to establish, the front bed, has some Japanese cucumbers in it, growing on the front fence. I threw the seeds in the bed as an afterthought. Basically ignored them. They were late. Somehow survived the heat blast. And the chickens. The late rains came right in time. They are going crazy! As are the zinnias that planted themselves, and the purple beans that planted themselves from last year's dried out leftovers.

As I picked some tender, juicy cucumbers the other day, I thought perhaps there might be some spiritual conclusions I needed to draw. OR a poem that might need to be written. Or a psalm of gratitude?

Scattered Clouds and Drizzly.

College kids have flown away for now.

It is weird to think that from here on out, these lively, curious, adventurers will likely be back home for very limited visits. Which is as it should be.

They are wonderful young adult humans who bless me greatly with their visits home. They help me with projects. They sit with me around the table and happily visit for hours. They are independent, intelligent and kind.

I always feel a bit bereft after their departure. But not too much. Less shoes scattered about, less dirty towels, dirty dishes, smaller grocery budget.

The weather is a bit weepy, fallish, cool and moist. Perfect for transition time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Keep Calm, Carry On, and don't forget to say Thank You.

The temperatures are cooling off. Late summer monsoon rains have washed over our high mountain desert and instead of shimmering burning tan, blue green greets the eyes.

Midway through August.

Quite a few goals met, or on the way to being met. I find myself increasingly grateful for my lot in life. I work hard. Every aspect of my work gives me pleasure. Well. I don't know about washing those giant dough bowls! But the pleasure I have when seeing them stashed in an orderly bakery, with a clean kitchen to enjoy is pretty nice.

With enough moments scattered amongst the duties when I remember to say thanks, breathe, look around, feel.

Plenty to blog about. Just wanted to say that today, as I work, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wild and Unruly. Yep. That Would Be Us...

I almost chopped down the giant sunflowers that were coming up as volunteers outside the bakery door to the backyard.

They are wild. Unruly. No giant picturesque flower heads here. Dozens of happy little flowers that great the sun, shine happily a day or three, then dry into a scratchy mass of mess. These are not the sunflower seeds we like to snack on.

The plants tower over me as I exit the sliding glass door to the yard.

Maggie caught me as I mentioned my desire to tidy things up. She reminded me we like unruly wild things.

What a girl.

So the scratchy mass of messy, over ten foot tall plants grow outside the door. And gift me daily as they gift many of God's little creatures with their treats.

Some days my meditation/prayer moment consists of pausing for five or ten minutes at the bakery door. I watch the gold finches, usually a pair, male and female, sometimes three or four, come to feast on the nodding, dried up heads of tiny little nutritious seeds. They land on the head, it bobs a couple times. Sometimes more if it is windy. Upside down, their little beaks bob quickly back and forth, pulling out the seeds that are worthless to me.

Except for them.

The lemon curd yellow bellies bounce. I wonder that God gave me Maggie to help me remember the important things.

PS During one of my meditation/prayer moments the other day as I attempted to still my mind and be in the glorious gift of my life at the moment, I noticed a cloud of what appeared to be monarch butterflies sipping from the nectar of the volunteer hot pink zinnia blooming her heart out by the dead damson plum tree that no matter how much water, still couldn't survive the stress of our extra hot summer. And tiny yellow sulfur butterflies danced around the patch of tiny yellow flowers that will turn into godforsaken awful, horrible goatheads if I neglect to tend to them....And another couple of varieties of butterflies danced with the goldfinches, swallowtails, a brown and gray variety that looked like bark and maybe something else. The dove flew here and there, a loose chicken scratched around the edges.

PPS other kids, not mentioned: I will try to squeeze in some mention of the significant ways you have been speaking spiritual truths to me this summer. Wow. Feeling stressed. Upheaval and concerns and distractions that attempt to drag me away from my true center. But somehow they bring me back, even if for just a moment at a time...

Monday, May 23, 2016


Last night a friend brought Patrick and Maggie home from their Austin college home. Backpacks, suitcases, boxes of shoes, lots of the running variety. Stuff galore, carried in through the bakery. Siblings all around. Of course the first thing we did was tour the college kids around the yard. They oohed and aahed over the baby raspberries. Delighted in the new grapevines and plum tree that is sporting new green leaves. Marveled over the fig trees, with the biggest load of figs we have had in our five seasons here in Alpine. Perhaps they like the generous feedings of chicken manure the past two years? They said hello to chickens, to baby peppers and eggplants and ignored the unmowed yard, commented on all our hard work this spring. While everyone finished getting things together, I sat at the table, exhausted from a long weekend of work, and Maggie massaged my head, played with my hair, and loved on me. Oh, to soak up that tenderness and physical affection.

Then everyone moved into the kitchen, and all my five children, mostly taller than me, and pretty much on their way to adulthood, sat around the same table. Six of us. Family. We feasted on a giant pork roast, cooked all day long while I was at work. Roasted cauliflower, crispy around the edges. Green beans from the farmer's market, sauteed with red peppers and garlic. A giant pot of mashed potatoes, cooked by Thomas.

I am not exactly sure what we talked about. Not politics. Not religion. We just laughed and felt the absolutely refreshing joy of being. I hope you know what I am talking about. The comfort of being in a place where you don't have to be any particular thing, because you are known and have been known, and can't really pretend anyway. Maggie left the table to spend time with her dear friend who happens to be home for a visit. Rose went to finish up some homework. Thomas took off to his apartment, sated by the meal and icecream. Patrick and Nora took on kitchen cleanup, and when I went to bed, I smiled to hear them chatter away as they cleaned up the dishes.

In a blink, everyone will be off and about for summer adventures. I do not wish for my kids to all stay home and sit at my table everyday! But oh, the delight I experience when they come back and we share garden, and stories, and food and love.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I can't help it.

By the way, sometimes the most amazing ideas for blog posts pop into my mind. Other times, well, I just feel tired, dried out, in need of a serious watering. So I write what I see, the most boring of things. But it is a catalogue of sort for me. A reference point. A farm girl's almanac. A reminder of the beautiful everyday stuff.

If I didn't worry about sharing intimate heart details, or get stage fright, or just plain ole, introverted scared when I think other people besides my mom might read this, I have all sorts of things to say about grief, mid-life dating, parenting as a single parent, working, over working due to security issues. I could write about learning to navigate all sorts of different, but universal situations that seem to hit most of us in some form or another. I am tempted to write about my temporary and continued journey away from church life. Or the terrific, but wobbly faith journey I am on, that is not exactly as orthodox as many of my potential readers might wish to see, but is rich and good, and definitely spiritual.

But that would be scary. Not like there are tons of you readers out there now, anyway. I know mom reads. Maggie. And by the way, it makes me so happy to share a taste of the everyday with you, Maggie, girl who gets my heart. And some of you other crazy hangers on.

I still haven't yet quite figured out the whole new identity thing, post Philip's wife and homeschool mom of a bunch of kids on a farm. I am still the same gal. Had he not died, I would still be learning to navigate this evolving era.

Just want to keep it real. And who knows? Be forewarned. One of these days I might let you know what is truly going on! HAHAHAHA! Or perhaps tell you some funny anecdotes related to my tendency to say never. Please, never say never. Perhaps a few words about last year's catastrophic fall apart, the many painful break ups that resulted from that pit period, a trial run on antidepressants that left me more depressed than ever before in my life. And how having what felt like all the props pushed out from under me, all seemingly at the same time left me in the perfect place to heal and seek help and grow in some rather amazingly beautiful ways. Personal studies on attachment theory, to help me navigate the whole new relationship scene, helped me uncover some areas where I needed to improve with my kids. And made me aware we have some pretty amazingly secure attachments, all things considered, and I give God thanks for that. A back and knee injury led me to get worried and scared and then proactive as I determined that full time hard labor might not be the best thing for me over the next ten or twenty years. So I have enrolled in the local university, to seek a masters degree in counseling. A path I began 24 years ago, and was put on hold when Thomas came along. And then Patrick, Maggie, Rose and Nora.

I am still waiting on the gentle rain to fall for me. A few drops have been sprinkled, and I see clouds in the future. Promising ones. Not scary ones. The girls and I have reinitiated read aloud at supper time. Tuck Everlasting. I have gotten back into a walk around the loop evening practice. Am cutting the caffeine intake and working on bringing balance into my world. Evening meditation, being still, soaking up sweet moments and remembering to hug the girls, long hugs, not just quick ones, have also been quite beneficial. Just as I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time watering the garden with the hose, am trying to water my soul in every way I know how.

Hope you will remember to do the same. And in the in between times, I try often to say Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the God I can't quit believing in, even though I quite often wish to.

No Such Thing As a Free Ride... or, I Love My Garden

A couple days ago I planted two kinds of sweet potatoes, some purple ones, and some Beauregard. I tucked some around the okra, thinking that the leaf growth would offer a bit of natural mulch and shade. I planted some in the front bed, where last year I had zucchini and peppers and a couple of tomato plants. I put japanese cucumbers around the bamboo structure used by pole beans last year.

Changing it up a little! White potatoes are in the other front bed.

Four, or was it five? rows of Panther Edamame, a heritage soybean variety, got tucked into the bed that produced many pounds of onions last year. My first time to try soybeans! Radishes, turnips and spinach got planted in front of the chicken yard fence, a shady zone that might be perfect for those cooler weather loving plants. I tried climbing things on that fence last year, but the shade got in the way. Gardening means experimenting for me! Figure out what works. Change and shift when something doesn't.

Let's see. I am finally getting a break from watering, although that is one of my mindfulness practices. We have had afternoon showers for a few days, and the ground is moist. Raspberry canes are taking off! One is covered in little babies! Blackberry bushes are making their way into our world. We have to have faith! Plum tree is enticing me with the hint of green buds that should manifest into leaves. Grape vines are poised to leap! Flowers are blooming all over our property, little rain drop flowers, lantana, cactus, esperanza, larkspur. I bet cenizo, aka purple sage, will be full on by this weekend.

Okra is double its size from last week. Yellow squash is covered in thumb-sized babies. May have to eat them this weekend! Butter. Salt. What more does one need? Eggplant are covered in blossoms and we have baby peppers and tomatoes. A grocery store in the backyard that demands payment of a little love and attention. I think I can afford that price.

The floors are swept, the laundry done, the spare room cleared and ready for a college kid. But the dust that covers every single surface of my house, minus kitchen and bakery, is a good indicator that I have been investing in our food future!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A record.

Damson plum tree planted. Also two champagne grapevines, no, not for champagne, but for eating out of hand! They are tiny and seedless and originated in Greece. Also a red catawba grapevine. Because, well, you know! And a Zinfandel. All situated outside my bakery window, a place with plenty of sun, and in my line of vision, so I will tend them. A pineapple guava planted, in the corner of the yard, where the rain comes off the carport.

More okra. Some potatoes. Another batch of onions. I noticed a bloom on one of the raspberry plants. Squash are forming little buds. So are the tomatoes and peppers. Am having to water because we are terribly dry. Conserving in other areas so the water can go to the plants.

Oh, here's something nifty! I let our fountain get filled with gnarly moss last fall. As the water dried up and evaporated, a lovely, mossy carpet was formed. I lifted it out in sections and used it to mulch different parts of the garden.

I hope the plants will be happy here. I welcomed them with love. We are hopeful. Oh, what nice memories of damson plum jam on the farm. Mouth watering now.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Temporary Cold Snap

We drove to Abilene the other day to watch Rose and her pal run in the regional track meet. Before we took off, I went around the yard, offering water to the new blackberries and fig tree. The desert willow on the other side of the fence had one blossom and millions of buds.

When we got back, to cold, gray, wintery weather, the willow tree grabbed me by surprise! She is decked out, delicate orchid-like blooms, waving proudly and defiantly in the weird little cold snap. As if to say, "Bring it on, North Wind! I just bought this new outfit and I'll be darned if I am going to cover it up with a gray woolen jacket."

The yard is crispy dry. The grass is dormant. But somehow around the fringes, flowers keep blooming like crazy. Lantana graces my kitchen window sill.