Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Prayer

The girls take delight in making fun of me. They pick random things and verbally compose silly blog posts. We laugh.

"Today. I went to school. I had a test. It was hard. I cried." "Today. I ate too much. My stomach hurt. I cried."

Occasionally after we share a sweet family moment they jokingly ask if that moment will make the blog. I remind them that these days it is random chance that offers up the time, the inspiration, the free computer space to sit down and post about a lovely moment. We have some pretty spectacular moments in our simple life, and were I to document each one, I would have no time to live for more of those moments!

And the kids would have no time to read all those lovely posts, anyway!

I suppose my hope is to get a smattering of random flashes, a little glimpse that might someday tweak their memory, in twenty five years or so down the road. My mom prints each post out, God Bless her, and sticks it somewhere in a drawer, after letting Daddy read the piece. The kids are the reason I started writing this blog anyway. I remember trying to get stories from my Grandpa Rowe, once I was old enough to care to sit still and listen. He had by that time suffered a stroke or two. Still read voraciously, and would love to show off his prosthesis, using it to kick the football outside after Thanksgiving dinner, but as far as speech, well, it was quite hard for him to communicate the many stories he held in his chest.

When we were living on the farm, I decided it might be a great way to "scrapbook." I have friends who are awesome scrapbookers. They make works of art out of the pictures of their life. I have boxes and boxes of photos that I occasionally stuff into albums, in no discernible order. I guess my style is to type up a rough draft, unedited vignette of some of our daily life as a sweet reminder of a few of our days.

Actually, I hope I don't just put in the sweet stuff. They need to know their mom is a real woman. That when the unsweet moments come along, they will find that hope sings more loudly than despair for our family, and sometimes the best music has threads of pain, joy, comfort, grief, love and silliness woven through the whole piece.

So, all this rambling means I finally realized the purpose of my blog! Ha! After seven years!

And why? Because the girls invited me to a dance concert last night. Even though they had homework. And household chores. And I had just come back home after an eleven hour trip to Odessa for a visit with the oncologist and a chest xray. Nothing wrong, just maintenance that has to be done every three months. Could they see how weary I was when I got home? How I was fighting a pity party, because I hate going to the doctor? Because I am so healthy, it seems unfair to be saddled with the expense of time and money to ensure I stay that way? How weary it is sometimes to do all the stuff that needs to be done as a widowed mom of five, running her own business, trying to stay afloat, who would rather write and read and work in her garden and cook delicious gourmet food instead of drive the desolate road to Odessa...

As I poured myself a glass of wine, went outside to check on the chickens and feel the fresh air, I heard scurrying of young ladies. I caught glimpses of them changing clothes. I heard very interesting musical selections. They invited me to sit down in our living room and then turned down the lights and turned up the music. And keep in mind, this is all three girls. Nobody bickering, arguing, well, not much anyway. The ballet began. Somehow they overlayed classical pieces onto pop music. After a few minutes of carefully choreographed flittering, fluttering, kicking and twirling, occasionally the lines between martial arts and ballet blurred beyond recognition, I stood up, suggesting it was time for me to take my walk around the loop. "But mom! You should dance with us! Dancing is better exercise than walking!" I fussed for a minute. I told them how the walk was also part of my meditation practice. I pray when I walk. I breathe and feel and still myself.

"Mom!!!!!"

They begged and cajoled and I happily relented, joining them with twirls and kicks and leaps and bounds. The ballet evolved into pure pop and we bounced and shook and laughed. We revisited Gangnam Style and What Does the Fox Say. Boogied to Taylor and Shake it Off. Maggie even put on a Zumba youtube and we tried. Yes we tried. But I don't think I am genetically wired to shimmy. Never could. But I tried anyway! And we laughed and sweated and shared movement and joy for a half hour or more.

When they asked me if I were going to blog about our dance party, I just laughed it off. Then later wondered if what they were really asking was if I could chronicle that moment for them. Because it was rich. Rare. And it was a reminder that we love each other deeply, and that some things are more important than meditation. That silly dance party was a prayer.

In church we have been conversing about End of Life issues. From spiritual to practical. I gave a talk in our public library the other day about my travels in Japan, spending a good bit of time digging through boxes of photos and watching old videos that Philip made to send back home to family.

Digging intensely into our past left me feeling bereft, left me feeling sad. I was in pain for a few days. But it was rich, laughing with Philip and his silliness. Oh, how thankful I am to hear his voice laugh and to remember. Life is short. He made the most of it! Cancer doctor visits and driving on highways with busy oil field truck traffic remind me of my mortality. The girls gave me the most awesome lesson last night in how to prepare for the inevitable.

I will continue my practice of walking in the evenings, to feel the air and to pray in the still, dark evening. But I hope that when the moment to dance with my children collides into my schedule, I will pause and LIVE.

As I hope someday they will read these words, and remember, and choose to occasionally make a fool out of themselves in front of their friends, their children, their loved ones.

I love those kids so much it hurts! Maybe Thanksgiving or Christmas we can have another dance party. What would it take to get Patrick and Thomas to join in? Mom? Dad?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Delight.

The mountains, glazed with a powdered sugar, thick white layer of clouds, pouring over the sides.

The zinnias, growing wildly outside my bakery window, an extravagant, gaudy buffet spread for honeybees, bumblebees, flies, traveling fritallaries and sulfurs, the color of antique linen, left too long in a drawer.

A jar of green tea, almost thick with tea bags, made for me by Thomas who takes things quite literally as I asked him to please make the tea extra strong today.

Maggie, home from school for lunch, wishes to make a batch of cookies for the bakery, something with quinoa, something fallish and better than basic. I would say her quinoa oatmeal cookies with guiradelli chocolate chips, pecans, flaxseeds and whole cranberries should definitely fill the bill.

A bunch of chickens, covering the backyard, enjoying their freedom to be themselves.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

God Bless Those Hens, or It's a Mixed Bag Over Here

Is a nice way to say that when I let them out to graze on grass today, they figured out how to stomp the mesh down so they could consume the tender leaves of the previously mentioned radishes, lettuces, chard, spinach, etc, etc.

Oh Patrick, where art thou? My partner in chicken husbandry? Oh well. At least the bakery receipts have been entered, sales totaled, expenses listed, quarterly taxes dealt with. And another big stack of receipts are separated for entry into Quickbooks for the rent house. Bills are paid. There is enough money for our needs. For today. And about the garden, well, I do have some more seeds. But if all else fails, we have a thriving barter system here in Alpine. Maybe someone else will have greens to trade for EGGS!

Truth be told, I would like to figure out a more intentional way to grow feed for our chickens. That doesn't preclude our kitchen garden.

Why is it that accounting is so depressing, but it does kind of make me feel like a grown up and a real business owner? Perhaps if I dealt with it more frequently than quarterly it would be less intimidating? Oh well, I yam who I yam. And learning everyday. Please, God, help me find time to take a Quickbooks class!!! And as I found myself not capable of figuring how to enter basic sales in spreadsheet format, I found myself praying that God would please, please, please make me smarter than I am...

In the meantime, Thomas came over to hang out. He was kind enough to take our very last homegrown chicken, season it up, and put it in the oven to roast with a spaghetti squash. Girls are out running for cross country practice. I think they will be pleased to smell something good when they get home!


Monday, October 6, 2014

I Love our Region, or Taking my Vitamins...

Last Friday night our church, St. James Episcopal, offered yet another wonderful concert in the Fall Series. Beverly Escuder, a soprano, and Carol Wallace, pianist, offered up a range of pieces, from Mozart to Rickie Gordon and others.

Wow. Beverly's voice was rich, nuanced. Her performance was delightful. From romantic French, to whimsical, hilarious contemporary American, we laughed and delighted in her delivery. In the past, I was a bit skeptical about "screeching" sopranos. There was no screech. There was depth, joy and in combination with Carol's stellar piano offering, we were offered a nice feast.

Last month Julian Mock offered his classical guitar performance to us, with many pieces he had written himself. And then told us all about an amazing family history of music.

A week ago I went over to Marfa to listen to Monica de la Torre, a poet who is spending time in our area as a part of the Lannan Foundation. She read several of her pieces, both in English and Spanish. I don't know if you know, but Spanish and English literature were my majors at good ole UMHB. I loved translating poetry from Spanish to English, and grew to respect the challenges that come to the translator! What a treat to have someone of her caliber here to share with us.

It did feel kind of awkward to go somewhere where I didn't know anyone. I almost wished I had stayed home, as I got a little shy and nervous. But then, as she began to speak, I knew I made the right choice. She made me chuckle. She made me wince. She made me remember how vital poetry is to our everyday life. Which I guess I never forgot, but anyway...

Work keeps me terribly busy. I hate to even use that "B" word, because it sounds frenetic. Frantic. Not peace-filled.

But the truth is, this is a season of being pulled in many directions. I am trying to find a good balance in the bakery, at present, working about 35 or more hours a week. Readying a rent house and managing it occupy a few hours a week. I am Bishop's Warden of our church, which isn't a really big deal, but it does require a bit of time each week. I help my oldest son, Thomas, who is on the autism spectrum, with organizing. He works for me three days a week, which means I have supervisory role now. Patrick is off, but the three girls are here, and with concerts and cross country meets and this and that, not to mention household management, we sometimes feel as if we are turning in circles. I have health care follow ups and this and that which require long drives to see doctors.

In the busyness, it is tempting to eliminate the frivolous. Things like concerts and poetry readings. Camp outs, like the one the girls and I are planning with some of our gal friends for the long weekend coming up. The only long weekend of the fall until Thanksgiving. There is so much to do, it would be easy to cancel.

And yet.

Just as we need healthy food, plenty of sleep, we also need to be stirred by beauty. By the arts. By the big outdoors, much bigger than our silly little things and crammed schedules.

So right now I am postponing some of the painting projects I have left unfinished. Am not getting all the laundry done, but we are staying in clean clothes. The car is not washed.

And I am fairly peace-filled at the moment. Thankful for the diverse, delightful opportunities we have to revel in goodness. Oh, yeah, I didn't even mention the opportunity we had last week to view a reproduction of the St. John's Bible. Which I will write about on another occasion, because now I must switch out the wash, go through the mail, organize receipts and work on quarterly sales tax for the bakery. Because I plan to enjoy Sushi Night with some girlfriends this evening while Nora goes to karate!

As I do those tasks I will ponder the scripture "whatever is good, whatever is lovely, whatever is.......think about those things."

Fall Garden

October in the Chihuahuan high desert means monsoon season is over. The lush green grass and weeds that sprang up after all our rain are starting to go crispy. Nights are cool, daytimes still hot. The sky is dark until almost 8 oclock and sunsets around 8 pm. Humidity is low and the skies are clear.

The fig tree is still loaded with little green figs, but with the shortened daylight hours, they don't seem to have it in them to ripen up. That's okay. We have certainly enjoyed our share! A couple of weeks ago I was so distracted I couldn't focus on boring indoor tasks, so I spent several hours in the garden, tearing out the old, planting in the new. Covering everything with mesh, hoping to keep the scratchy hens out. Now there are beet, chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, radish and carrot babies growing. Plus arugula and cilantro that volunteered and I replanted.

For many years I dreamed of a fall garden, but with the busy schedule of back to school, I couldn't get beyond the dream.

Last year, September, my life was put on hold, and someone helped me get the garden in. Since I couldn't do much else, I went out and watched the garden grow. It proved to be an incredibly helpful therapy.

And a quite amazing producer.

Fall and winter is the best growing season here in our desert world. The cold weather crops don't mind a bit of a nip here and there. The temperatures are not so grueling. We ate several months worth of meals off of that garden. Which inspired me to roll up the shirtsleeves and get out there and do it this year, even if I didn't really have the time.

Gardening is so magical. There is nothing out there that offers such a picture of the divine spark. No better image of my life's journey.

When I went out, I wanted to be a bit depressed. The chickens had scratched up a lot of the remaining summer veggies. The sunflowers and zinnias and decided to join forces and take over the world. It was a beautiful coup, to be sure, but invasive to say the least. Do you know how hard it is to take down 8 to 10 feet sunflower trees?

Yank, shovel, shove, push, pull, stomp, drag. All of a sudden the garden looked a bit more like a garden and I had bouquets for every room of the house. And I didn't even completely eradicate the flower troops. Just left them with a few more boundaries than before.

I grabbed the seed packets and dug in. Hauled buckets of collected rainwater. Wondered if history would repeat itself, would the tiny little seeds, like grains of sand, actually burst forth into life, or would they not? Sure enough! Five days later, little tiny leaves of green shot forth from the soil.

The mesh is sort of working. The chickens have gotten a bit of the garden around the edges, but things are still growing. I wish I had planted a month earlier, but I didn't. So better a bit late, than not at all.

Seeing something grow makes me happy. Providing for my family gives me joy.

Speaking of joy, our baby chicks are now two weeks old! Did I mention baby chicks? Our hens, all ten of them, are doing well. We get enough eggs for ourselves and the bakery, now Patrick is gone! But the poultry we raised for meat is pretty much history. Delicious history.

Raising our own poultry for meat was pretty easy, here in our big backyard. I ordered thirty more baby broilers from Ideal Hatchery. Eight for a friend and her family and twenty two for us. We put them in the greenhouse, feed them awesome food and watch them grow.

I have chicken reality TV right outside my kitchen window.

There is really nothing more entertaining to me than chicken TV. They bob, they bounce, they run in circles. They play and play until they get sleepy, then they fall over in a dead sleep, just like a two year old toddler! They scream when hungry, chatter quietly when content.

Perhaps it seems inhumane to take joy out of these little critters who will become food for my family in another couple of months. I sometimes feel the need to remind myself why I do this. As we have not determined to be vegetarians, chicken is probably going to be on our menu at least once or twice a week. Knowing how the average chicken is raised on factory farms, I am thankful, deeply thankful, that our poultry are raised humanely. The little things have the opportunity to live out their lives as chickens: able to scratch, peck, hop, flutter wings, eat bugs and grass. They eat a diet that is diverse and healthy. When it is time to harvest the meat, it is done respectfully, with appreciation. Humanely.

And to tell you the truth, the chickens are not nearly as cute at that point as they are when tiny.

A tiny garden, poultry, freshly milled flour; these things feed us. And feed me in many more ways than just nutrition. When Patrick gets home for holiday from UT Austin, perhaps he will help me build a rabbit hutch. And help me make a fence that will protect the garden even more effectively from the free-ranging little monsters. I mean chickens.





Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Performing Arts

The other night the Crowley Theater and Marfa Live Arts presented a program by the Performing Arts Japan program. "Minor Musics Japan."

The drive to Marfa is only 26 miles or so west of Alpine. You leave our little valley and go through a few miles of jaggedy mountain teeth, a few bends in the road, and if you are truly lucky, you will see a train with multicolored cars meandering eastward on the train tracks north of the highway.

Occasionally I find myself driving over to Marfa because my eyes need a treat. A distraction.

This Sunday early evening I found myself driving over because of ancient ties. Well. Not too ancient, but somewhat related to my personal past.

I lived in Japan with my late husband and little baby Thomas back 21 years ago. I don't have the opportunity to speak Japanese much these days, but the things I learned in a Japanese kitchen still influence my cooking on a weekly basis. And the heart skills I learned from studying Japanese Tea Ceremony for two years definitely influence my spirit, even if I don't make special tea as often as I like.

You never know what kind of avant garde program will be thrown our way via the innovators at Marfa Live Arts.

I guess I figured it wouldn't be "Sakura" on the playlist, but was ready for anything.

After greeting a few acquaintances, I found my way to a folding seat in the middle of the audience. The lights dimmed and the group of performers approached the stage. Maher Shalal Haz Baz opened with a group of local performers. I am acquainted with a few, but didn't know they could play so beautifully. The pieces were largely improv, very jazzy, and whimsical. I laughed frequently.

After the guest performers left the stage, the group played another piece or two. Proof of their goodness lay in the buckets of giggles and chortles that erupted from the younger part of the audience. The pieces were highly symbolic and meaningful, but the best part, they were funny! Perhaps they weren't really that deep at all. Perhaps the artists wished to inspire giggles and laughter, and the children in the audience got it.

The next performer was A qui Avec Gabriel. Aki was the performer and Gabriel her accordion. The first thing she did upon taking seat in her chair on the stage was hug her accordion, more sweetly, tenderly than a child. She and that accordion danced, performed, spoke volumes as her songs resonated through the hall. Perhaps the music wasn't to all tastes. But to me, it was like a walk through a museum, so many senses were touched as her hands moved spiderly up and down the keyboard, then more like little birds, and her feet danced up and down like a fairy.

Her voice was so lovely, I wished she would not stop her singing. I couldn't even understand if she were singing words or just intoning decorations like the flight of a butterfly. Her red hair swung and it was like a part of her instrument.

Yes, at a couple of points, I began to grow quite sleepy, I think I was coming down with some kind of bug and was tempted to go home, but thankful I didn't because the show got even better!

Che Shizu took the stage. A group of four folks, playing improv folk, in Japanese. A drummer, two guys on amplified guitars, and a woman, playing some kind of electronic violin sort of instrument and a piano.

Wow.

I don't think I realized how hungry I was for art.

This performance reminded me. And filled me nicely.

Some of the pieces were lovely. And right about the time you might settle in to thinking that this was cool, otherworldly, but not that far out music, they would turn you on your head. Or rather, turn their instruments on their head. Or turn themselves on their head. Which they did on one of the most moving pieces I have ever seen.

At one point, it seemed like someone let a few very ADD kids out on to the stage, as they played around with their microphones, their instruments, the drummer even started to play whistles with his nostrils! And then the picture became clear. A guitarist took the panel off the bottom of the piano and began to pluck out a song, upside down. Another guitarist played his guitar with a violin bow. The drummer played himself, his shoes, his chairs, his drums, his whistles. The beautiful lady, with the resonant voice walked around, looking, listening, and then joined in the piano duet from the keyboard side.

I wish I could review this performance justly. My words fail me and I must get kids to bed.

But this piece moved me so deeply, I had to at least pencil in a thought or two. I felt inspired. Encouraged. Motivated to open my eyes to the different ways that surround me.

These performers were in Los Angeles, here in Marfa, on to Detroit, and then to Brooklyn.

I was tired, and didn't really feel like getting out alone on a Sunday night. Walking around the loop and watching a dvd with the kids would have been more relaxing. But I am trying to practice being single. I have plenty of friends I could call, but there seems to be something rich and good about getting out on my own. Scary. But okay.

And while this might not be everyone's cup of "green tea,": I was filled deeply. And thought about the songs from each of the performances well into the night.

PS Sakura is an old Japanese folk song many kids can play with one hand on the piano. But not at all like any of the pieces that were played this Sunday evening!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Black Eyed Peas and The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Occasionally I offer a giant pot of soup to customers on bakery day.

This past week I was inspired by the sight of several pounds of dried blackeyed peas in the pantry.

Also inspired by forecasted cool front.

When Holly and Stevie were here we took a giant homegrown chicken out of the freezer to roast for our feast. At 7+ pounds, we truly had a feast, especially knowing said roast was raised here on our property. Holly did me the favor of making a couple of gallons of chicken stock out of the bones.

We froze the stock and it came in handy for our stew this Thursday.

Perhaps you don't have homegrown chicken stock in your freezer, but any kind of stock will do fine, even canned veggie stock from the supermarket.

Here is the recipe:

Blackeyed Peas and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

in a large soup pan saute
1 diced onion
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 TBSP olive or coconut oil

When the onions are almost translucent, add
3 or 4 cloves crushed garlic
1 red sweet pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 red or green jalapeno, sliced
generous pinch of salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
crumbled up bay leaf

stir and continue to saute over med hi heat as veggies release their moisture and spices release their fragrance.

I would probably add another glug of olive oil, but that is just me... use your judgement.

add one pound of washed and picked over blackeyed peas,
1 c dried red quinoa
1 or 2 c. crushed tomatoes
chicken broth, water, veggie broth

Bring everything to a rolling boil. add a glug of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar

Turn heat to medium, let everything cook until blackeyed peas begin to get tender. If the water/stock begins to evaporate too quickly, add a bit more so nothing burns on the bottom.

In a separate pan,
saute one cubed zucchini in a smidge of olive oil until lightly browned around the edges. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt.

The stew should be getting nice and thick. Add the zucchini and one bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. If you like, add a cup of frozen corn or can of hominy. Taste the stew for salt and pepper. If you like it a bit more spicy, add some crushed red pepper flakes and cumin powder if you like. Simmer the stew for another 20 minutes or so. Enjoy with corn muffins, fresh peasant bread or tortillas.

By the way, the forecasters were correct! We have been enjoying temperatures in the 50's, cozy evenings with windows open and fluffy comforter on the bed. Cuddly kitties and a taste for hot tea. And warm stuff.

PS a funny picture: I was scurrying around the yard on bakery day, seeking eggs for pound cake. There were a few in the coop. More over under a little brush pile. And one, fresh from the chicken, outside my kitchen window, up in the greenhouse. Talk about FRESH EGGS!

I love my chickens. Free Range means easter egg hunt on a regular basis.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Anniveraries

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my surgery for uterine cancer.

Isn't muscle memory weird? My head told me that I had great reason to celebrate! Whew! Thanks to modern medicine I am cancer free, healthy, not terribly wealthy or wise, but a wiseacre, at times.

In church yesterday morning I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to God, so grateful for healing, for all the support we received, for a litany of goodness. We have been very blessed in our life. I am surrounded by friends and family who have my back.

But off and on over the weekend, I kinda felt like crying.

Muscle memory.

My priest suggests that it is very important to acknowledge this muscle memory and take it to our healer.

If we don't, it might ooze out or explode out in ways that we don't wish.

For me, these kind of anniversaries make me wish for a bit of solitude. I don't really feel like baring my soul to every soul I meet, so it helps to have some margin for silence. Tears flow easily, so I make sure to have room to cry. There are times I wish for a comforting friend, but often it feels better to sit on the swing by myself, write for a few minutes, name the feelings, then jump up to get back to work.

So this weekend, I cooked a couple of nice meals to share with the children. I took myself on a date, bicycling to the theater to watch a movie (100 Foot Journey) all by myself. I took a nap, both on Saturday and Sunday! I had a quiet walk with the dogs and a neighbor.

I remembered how frightening it was to receive the diagnosis. I remembered how scary it was to wait on the operating table, wondering what the results would be. I remembered how much it hurt to get an IV put into my dehydrated arm, and thinking that I was such a wimp for being scared, all the time fighting the deeper fear of what might become of my children should the doctors find the cancer advanced.

Throughout the mix, feelings of optimism, fear, faith, guilt, gratitude, pain, hope, anger and love swirled around like soup in a pot.

As you know by now, I was one of the lucky people with a great diagnosis. Cancer was in its early stages. A total hysterectomy plus removal of cervix and ovaries seemed to completely remove the cancer. I see the oncologists every three months and they laugh at me because of my busy, hard-working schedule and good health. I pray to be the woman mentioned in Proverbs 31 who is clothed in strength and dignity, able to laugh without fear of the future. I wish to be that example for my children.

And yet, moments like the anniversary this weekend remind me I am not quite there. I usually have to cry a little before I get back to laughing. I have other friends who are dealing with much more severe diagnoses than mine. Their children are younger than mine. I pray. Others pray. We hold each other up, sometimes spiritually, sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes in each other's arms.

This weekend we had a long spell of clouds and rain. Temperatures in the 60's and 70's. The perfume of wet pine needles and creosote ministered to me. The heavy blanket of clouds comforted me like the beautiful blue prayer shawl Susie Mason knitted for me after Philip died. In fact, I snuggled up with that shawl at nap time, windows open, raindrops fallings, and felt deeply covered by prayers, echoes of hugs, love.

I know that in our culture we are told to move on. To forget about the past and shake it off and slap a smile on our face.

Nice idea, but I find that listening to my heart and my body not only moves me to deeper gratitude, but it also leads to deeper compassion toward others. And once I acknowledge whatever the memory is, I seem to be able to bounce back, get to work, and move on more energetically and happily. Which is what I had better do right now! Empty boxes surround me in the bakery from a large shipment of ingredients that came into the bakery on Saturday afternoon. The paperwork needs to get filed and the fourth load of wash needs to go onto the line or into the dryer. And where did I set that cup of coffee???








Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sweet Companions

Yesterday we celebrated Nora's 11th birthday. A few years ago, we prayed earnestly for a friend for Nora. The move to Texas was hard on the kids. She was lonely and missed her teachers, her friends, her room, her bed. Her wild barn cat that ran away, didn't really even live with us, but she loved Malt O Meal and dreamed of a day he could be her very own lap kitty.

Well.

There must have been 11 kids or more racing around the backyard, jumping on the trampoline, shooting bows and arrows (until I saw them and asked them to put them away to avoid a trip to the emergency room!).

Screams and shrieks of laughter echoed as I worked to orchestrate a meal out on the grill.

The early friends decorated the birthday cake with mounds of zinnias and sunflowers picked from the backyard.

I am not exactly the queen of kid birthday parties. I hide out, cook, and let them entertain themselves. Which they somehow figure out how to do.

Thomas must have smelled the bbq as he wandered over from his apartment to join us. Another friend and her little ones hung out.

What a gift to see one's children surrounded by pals who love them.

It was delightful.

Eleven seems to be a real transition year. Are they still kids? Preteens? Too cool to run and scream and leap and jump? Well, thank goodness, not too cool yet. But after seeing four other kids pass this point, I know that her days of childhood are limited. I grab cuddles every single time I can. Funny, seems like the older ones are circling back around and are a bit more appreciative of hugs and kisses on the top of the head than they were a year or so ago.

I love seeing the kids grow up. Even if it tugs at my heart. Nora is so different from me. She is tender. Sensitive and quiet. Quite organized. Well prepared ahead of time. Rarely late. Quiet.

But then...I see her confidence grow. She knows herself and knows how to ask for what she wants. In a household full of runners, she has chosen karate. She hasn't milked a goat like her siblings. But she now feeds and waters the chickens and gathers their eggs. She is a writer.

I used to love having her sit on my hip during church, her sweet little voice tenderly singing into my ear.

Nora. Tallest girl in her class. Beautiful dear Nora.

Happy birthday!

Oh, an aside~ after party, last bit of icecream and cake, I went for my evening walk, quite late. I felt a bit alone as I headed out the door.

All of a sudden, the waxing half moon greeted me from the sky. Quite relaxed, leaning on his back.

And then an assertive breeze blew up and wrapped me in companionship for the rest of my walk. I felt so surrounded! It was somewhat magical. When I reached the last quarter of my journey around the loop, the moon went his different way, or so it seemed! Actually I made the turn up our street, knowing the moon was behind me. But the breeze continued to warmly wrap me up for the last hundred yards. It felt so companionable, I had to go to the backyard and sit on the swing for a few minutes. Couldn't make myself go into the closed up house. Even with all the windows open and curtains billowing, there is nothing like being cozily tucked in by a gentle breeze.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Art

Last night Nora and I went downtown Alpine to visit with friends at receptions in various galleries. There was a special show going on featuring work of many local artists, using all recycled materials.

Not only did we get to see several friends and neighbors, have wonderful chat, snacks and a glass of wine, but the art was terrific!

As night fell on our little town, we looked toward the southeast. A giant bank of dark clouds was looming. All of a sudden, it was lit from within by clusters of flashing lightening! This weekend is Balloon Bash in Alpine. Many balloonists converge with their hot air balloons to float around in our open West Texas skies. That cloud looked like a monstrous hot air balloon! But instead of being filled with hot air, it was filled with lightening. Quite magical.