Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Perfume

Sometime last month I ran away from home.

Well, it was a calculated run away, with kid care and animal care arrangements made ahead of time. I felt frazzled and hungry and near desperate for some alone.

Don't get me wrong! I love my family and home deeply and thoroughly. But life is full of stress and concerns and medicine to me is alone time.

I took care of church business, took care of kid stuff, loaded up a sleeping bag, camp stove and ice chest, a few books, journals, hiking boots and plenty of coffee and cream, of course, and drove down south to Big Bend National Park, my favorite retreat. The goal was a two night, day and a half silent retreat.

With permit in hand, I drove through the park, turned left at Panther Junction Visitor Center, a few miles down the paved road I made a right turn onto a fairly smooth Glenn Springs Road. I sang with the 70's station, feeling free at last! No cell service, no email, no bills, no worries. Dusk descended and the Chisos Mountains, a sky island with peaks almost 8000 ft high, silhouetted in the darkening sky. Many songs later, I reached Juniper Canyon turn. A dead end road that leads to two significant hikes, but not much else. Besides solitude, big skies, mountain views and peace.

As soon as I turned onto the rutted, 4wd road, my nose was surprised by the most amazing gift! The richest of perfumes, a blend of bi-colored mustard and moist creosote came in and filled the truck cab. It was magical! As if the land was spreading itself out in a welcome to me! "We knew you were coming! Delighted to have you! Come on in, come on in. We were waiting. Do we ever have a feast prepared for you!"

I turned off the radio. Let the sounds of the mountainous desert begin to soak into my bones.

I spread my sleeping bag onto the ground. Well...okay, onto my thermarest pad! and watched the constellations make their appearance. I watched the clouds scurry across the sky. I decided that instead of spending hours working on important stuff, I would spend hours being still, watching the clouds, the mountains, the sun and moon. I would be quiet and explore and dally, and sit and walk and try to just be.

And I did!

I wish everyone had the opportunity, or made the opportunity to experience a little quiet in their life sometime. Quiet, but with background orchestra of perfume, stars and evening bird song. Plenty of effort to get there, but worth the price paid!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Seasons.

Track meets are in full swing. The fig trees are covered with little green buds and tiny leaves that look hopeful to me. The oak tree in the backyard is covered with tiny little leaves, the size of a squirrel's ear? Tiny threads of baby leeks look a bit more erect. Sunflowers are sprouting up everywhere. The zinnia seeds are just now sprouting. Green washes over trees down the street. Eggs galore come from the clucking hens.

Makes me want to find a cherry blossom tree, take a bento box, and spread a picnic and write silly haiku.

Makes me think matzoh ball soup is in our near future. And Easter vigil. And lamb cake.

Makes me think girls will be dressing in pretty pastels and whatever cold, bitter vestiges of winter that remain will be blown away by powerful winds, sweeping through the region, carrying us into summer and sunburns and short-sleeves.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Buckwheat Crepes with Garden Greens and Mornay sauce


Winter blasts may get in another couple of icy blows the next few weeks. But have faith! Spring is upon us! Just check out the bluebonnets and other wild flowers down south. Take a gander at the lovely pale green emerging in the cottonwood groves. Wild mustard and other weeds are growing like crazy, thanks to all the snow and rain. If you are feeling adventurous, harvest some for a quick saute or salad. Foraging is all the rage these days, and you might feel quite lucky to have organic greens growing care-free in your backyard.

The cool temperatures and moisture that help our weeds grow are also quite helpful for the organic gardeners. Arugula, chard, lettuces, radishes, spinach, turnips and cilantro are growing strong this month. If you are an early riser, or subscribe to a local farmer’s produce offerings, you can find plenty of good stuff at the farmer’s markets this month. The longer hours of daylight make for happy hens. Finally! After long, dark winter, we are back in eggs. Springtime is the season for quiche, omelets, frittatas and crepes. With a fresh tossed salad on the side, what more do we need?

Don’t forget, there are many other offerings at the several markets available in our region. Cheeses crafted from happy cows and goats, specialty baked goods, a variety of locally grown organic seedlings to encourage you in your gardening, jams, soaps, candles, greeting cards, jewelry, pottery, and many other cool things. Plus the added benefit of visiting with your neighbors! People who shop locally and support local businesses are really awesome folks. You will enjoy getting to know your community.

My kids have been clamoring for crepes, so I have a feeling we will be having spelt or buckwheat crepes at our house for supper. You might think of crepes as a sweet treat, covered in fake red strawberry-like syrup and fluffy white stuff. Try to imagine a paper thin pancake, made with savory, organic buckwheat flour, redolent with aroma of fields, baking in the sun, of forests and nuts. The crepe folded around a mixture of barely sautéed spring greens, with some mushrooms thrown in for good measure, a spoonful of locally crafted chevre, and I could be feeling quite transcendent! Mmmm. They taste quite fancy, but aren’t so difficult to make. Be adventurous! The French version of the enchilada. Give them a try. I hope you enjoy. I prefer the savory taste of buckwheat, but spelt flour is a great option, still nutty tasting, but a bit sweeter. I mill both grains in my bakery and am happy to sell you a pound or two of stone-ground flour.

Buckwheat Crepes

1/3 c melted butter
1 ½ c freshly milled buckwheat flour ( or other type of whole grain flour, keeping in mind that each grain absorbs moisture differently, so you may have to adjust amount to achieve best results)
1 ¾ c milk, I prefer whole milk from Z-Bar ranch over in Marathon.
3 farm fresh eggs
½ tsp Redmond’s Real Salt

Place ingredients in blender and mix until flour is fully incorporated into batter. Let batter rest for at least two hours. If you wish to have crepes for supper, blend the ingredients before you head to work in the morning and stash the blender in the fridge. This allows the flour to absorb moisture. Take it out an hour or so before you plan on cooking to allow the batter come to room temp.

Preheat a 6-8in stainless steel skillet or omelet pan over medium high heat. Turn on soothing music. Breathe deeply. Say a couple of positive affirmations, like, “I am adventurous.” Or “I enjoy stretching my horizons, trying new things!” Listen to a Brene Brown TED talk on shame so you don’t become emotionally crippled when the first couple of crepes don’t turn out as you wish.

Place a bit of butter into the hot pan and let it melt. Right when the butter begins to smoke, lift up the pan with your right hand, if you are a righty. With your left hand pour approximately ¼ cup of the batter into the middle of the pan. Quickly tilt the pan around so the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. This is kind of tricky, but after a couple of tries, you will be delighted to find the crepe making process going a bit more easily. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Any thicker and you will have pancakes. If the batter seems a bit thick, just add a bit of milk or water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is the right consistency.

It shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds to spread the batter, then place the pan back onto the stove. In a minute or a minute and a half, the crepe should be ready to turn. Using a spatula, loosen the edge of the crepe and carefully grasp it with your fingers, if you have tough fingers, and toss the crepe upside down. If tender-fingered, use the spatula, very carefully as to not tear the crepe. Brown for another half a minute, then set the crepe onto a rack. Keep in mind that most everyone messes up the first couple of crepes. Just keep those positive affirmations flowing. Let the crepe cool a bit while you make the next one, then you can stack the cooled crepes onto a plate or a piece of parchment paper. You might wish to wrap the crepes in a clean dishcloth or large piece of parchment paper, and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.

Depending on the size of pan you use, this recipe should make close to two dozen crepes. Once well cooled, you can wrap them up in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.

Now that you have your crepes ready to go, it is time to think about fillings! Sometimes we like to stack the crepes, with filling in between each layer, cover the whole thing with a sauce and bake in the oven. This is called a “gateau de crepes.” About half an hour before serving, place the gateau into a 350 oven and heat thoroughly, until the creamy, cheesy top is beginning to brown. Serve by cutting into pie shaped wedges. We also like to roll the crepes around the filling, sauce and then pop the whole thing into the oven just long enough to heat it up. You can see what a wonderful meal to prepare partially in advance, ready to be warmed up for your quick supper. A crusty loaf of bread, a giant leafy salad with a vinaigrette and all is well with the world.

Spinach with Mornay Sauce

Several handfuls of washed and coarsely chopped spinach. Any nice green will work here. In fact, the hearty flavor of the buckwheat would be nicely paired with arugula, chard, kale or beet greens.
2 TBSP olive oil or butter
1 TBSP minced green onion
1 clove minced garlic
¼ tsp salt

Cook the green onion in a small saute pan for a moment, then add the garlic. In a few seconds, add the spinach and salt and stir over medium high heat for a couple of minutes as the greens wilt and release some of their moisture. Place greens on crepe, add a tablespoon or so of chevre, or cheese of your choice, roll or stack, then top with mornay sauce, recipe to follow.

Fried Egg Crepe

Spread a bit of goat cheese, try a garlicky herb variety, on a crepe. Fry an egg, sunny side up, and slide that warm, barely done egg, lightly salted and peppered, onto the crepe. Top with minced chives and radishes. Fold the crepe into a square, letting the egg yolk peek out!

Mornay Sauce

5 tbsp whole grain flour
4 tbsp butter
2 ¼ c milk, warmed
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
¼ c cream
1 c grated cheese, gruyere is classic, but any hard cheese that will melt will do

Cook the flour and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Beat in the milk and seasonings, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for one minute. Lower the heat and stir in the cream, bit by bit. The sauce should have thickened by now, able to coat a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and taste for seasoning. Add the cheese to the sauce and stir well. If you wish to have a latino flair, skip the nutmeg, add ½ tsp cumin, a few drops of tabasco sauce, and use Monterey jack cheese or a cheddar, and try serving over crepes filled with grilled poblano peppers or slices of avocado.

Use your imagination, depending on what you happen to find in your garden or at the local farmer’s markets. Roasted butternut squash and fresh sage? A medley of sautéed mushrooms, stirred into cottage cheese with fresh rosemary? Don’t forget to treat your inner child with a couple of crepes filled with FRESH berries and whipped cream, the real kind! Or how about spread some Nutella and top with sliced strawberries? Yum.

Here is a bit of trivia! Buckwheat is related to garden sorrel or rhubarb. It is loaded with nutrition, filled with magnesium and fiber. Studies indicate that products made with whole buckwheat as opposed to white flour, are helpful in lowering blood sugar! And it is naturally gluten-free for those who are trying to avoid consuming grains. It is in the fruit seed family, not a grain!
Enjoy!

hungry?

The sun is shining! I have written the column for March's Big Bend Gazette. I highlight the offerings at our local farmer's markets and devise recipes that will use the seasonal veggies. February featured soups that could be cooked over one's woodstove. This month is buckwheat crepes with spinach or other greens as filling with locally crafted goat cheese and topped by a mornay sauce. Perhaps I will get back to posting recipes for you guys. Spring time makes me inspired, especially as the hens are back to laying and green stuff is coming out of the garden. Keep you posted. I can't figure out how to get cut and paste to format in this blog, but will do my best.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Medicine?

The branches, cactus, yucca, weeds are all covered by hoar frost. The temperatures hover in the high twenties. As I wish to sink into self pity my bff calls from West Virginia and tells me the bitter temperatures over there and I regain a sense of perspective! Hands plunged into hot soapy water tackling dirty dishes was always my dad's prescription for a cold, bitter day. Since I have piles of bakery pots and pans waiting on my, I think I know just what to do with today's cold!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Grains

I discovered the nutritional benefits of freshly milled grains about 18 years ago. I had three little ones, lived in Ft. Worth, and was a stay at home mom who wanted to give her kids the most nutritious foods possible. I grew up with hot biscuits for breakfast, cinnamon rolls made from scratch and yeast breads. Not to mention the pancakes, waffles, pie crusts and plenty of homemade upside down cakes.

Mom and dad are amazing cooks and I credit them for putting me on the culinary track. Even though everyone at that point used white all purpose flour, Mom knew whole grains were best, and made a point of adding Kretschmer's Wheat Germ to just about everything to add nutrients and fiber. I can still see that jar, sitting in our fridge!

Some gal in Ft. Worth invited me to a lecture on the benefits of freshly milled whole grains. She was a former chemist who worked in the milling industry. She told us all about oxidation, and rancidity of oil. She told us that prior to the industrial revolution, every little village had its own mill, folks got their flour fresh from the mill, enough for their daily or weekly needs. And that after that revolution, the "peasants" discovered how easy it was to eat fancy white breads and cakes just like the rich people, and all the nasty fibrous wheat germ that would go rancid when left in the whole wheat flour on the grocer's shelves was better off tossed to the cattle.

Lucky cattle.

And the human population began to be plagued by world record levels of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many other maladies.

She showed us the numbers on nutrients in flour after so many hours post milling. It was absolutely shocking! But made perfectly good sense when I thought about the difference in green beans straight out of the garden compared to the shriveled ones on the grocery store shelf. Then several of my friends jumped on the bandwagon and started to tell about their poor husbands with chronic digestive problems too embarrassing for us to mention here on the blog, and how the simple change to freshly milled grains made those issues disappear. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about my kids' diet, that consisted of sandwiches made from store bought bread or homemade white bread with a little wheat germ thrown in for good measure, pancakes, cookies, waffles, pasta. Seemed like switching over to a home kitchen mill would be one simple way of adding lots and lots of vitamins and minerals and fiber to our regular diet.

I remember the first batch of flour I milled. It smelled sweet! And the kids, and my husband, were thrilled by the taste.

We never looked back.

Years later, when settling in on the farm, I began to mill and back for customers. First, just a few extra loaves a week. Then twenty extra loaves. Before you know it, I was carting 100 loaves of bread or more, 50-75 pizza crusts, dozens of brownie mixes, pancake mixes, cookies, cupcakes, all to the farmer's markets, all made from freshly milled whole grains. And I remember the day Philip told me that if I were a start up company, he would invest in me, he was so convinced that I was on to something big. He not only enjoyed the benefits of this nutritional passion I had, he believed that I had a viable business model.

Then he died a year later. And we had the opportunity to test his theory.

I guess most of you kind of know the rest of the story. We sold the farm and moved the bakery equipment to a little hamlet in far remote West Texas, Alpine. A college town near the border of Mexico. Elevation is around 4500 ft, with surrounding mountains over a mile high. A region filled with artists, Border Patrol agents, geologists, writers, historians, cowboys, teachers and professors, coaches and adventurers, all sorts of folks who like to eat good bread and are interested in nutrition.

Gambling is not my thing. I did buy a lotto ticket for my sister once. But coming out here seemed a bit of a gamble. Before you know it, I had a steady stream of regulars who appreciated my baked goods, and our family had a steady stream of VERY modest income.

You might remember that when I was a kid I hoped to be a missionary, to go to some far off country and help people in need. At some point I realized that we all are in need, no matter where we live. And while we each have needs, each of us also has some element, some offering that will help the rest survive. I depend on the milk I get from Sally at ZBar ranch. And the plants I get from Pat that always come accompanied by hugs. The teachers and coaches who equip my kids. The free counseling from my friends as we sit with our tea or coffee or wine. The poetry and music and art. The handy help when broken things and chicken butchering and dirty dishes pile up.

I found that we all have the opportunity to be the true Gospel to one another. The good news in being ourselves. Wow. Being a miller and baker of spelt and golden wheat and einkorn and kamut a ministry! Ministry of nutritious good taste. Offered up with lots of free cookies, hugs, tears and prayers.

That said, imagine the frustration and fear that has been creeping in as I see the price of commodities going up and up and up. I had been trying to ignore the trend, lalalalalala, as I had some extra cash available from the sale of the farm. Most of it had gone into an investment purchase, but there was a tiny cushion. Last month I worked on my quarterly tax report and decided to tackle the end of year, taking the shoe box of receipts and turning it into a list of expenses and sales.

Ouch.

Talk about a harsh draft of reality.

And then I noticed the grain inventory, you know, the bags and bags of grain in my ingredient closet, diminish.

I have been working on the best way to acquire chemically-free grains, and the hard truth is, they are hard to find. For one, the shipping costs for a pallet of grain, that would be 2000 lbs of wheat or spelt or kamut or whatever, runs about $500-$750 dollars. And the costs of spelt has gone from $25 to $35 to $45 to now $88 or more a 50lb bag. And I have made repeated calls trying to locate sources closer to home. Texas grains are sold by trucks, not by the bag. Have called countless farmers. And the protein content is significantly lower. Fine for cookies. Not for breads. At least the kind of breads I craft, sans weird additives that help boost consistent results.

And add the issue of global warming, or whatever you would like to call a very real meteorological issue facing us.

Great wheat and spelt are grown in places with pleasant, modest daytime temps in the 70's or so, with cooling nighttime temps that fall below 50 something. The last couple of years have hit Montana with record warm night time temps. You see, it is the stress on the grain that causes the protein content to rise. Sounds like a sermon in that illustration, don't you think? No stress, means wimpy grains. Each of the three major distributors of chemical free grains has been willing to spend a pretty significant time chatting with me, a little baker in the outback of Texas, explaining this phenomenon as I call to ask about the variability in grain I have received. The numbers are dropping significantly below the norm, below what will make decent bread, pizza crusts, tortillas. They are stuck with warehouses full of wonderful, chemical-free grains that are expensive, and won't bake into decent products. With no plans to contract for more crops of certain varieties until this stuff is gone. I could surrender and start adding vital gluten, with its long list of hard to pronounce ingredients, but even if I were to do that, the cost of using this inferior grain would be prohibitive.

So. What to do? First, I said a prayer for those farmers who are trying to do their best and are in a pickle. And for the distributors with their glut of grain that won't sell. And for me and my family, with a calling and a ministry that has looked like freshly milled, chemical-free grains turned into yummy loaves of Milk and Honey bread and Italian Peasant bread.

I got really depressed for a few days. Used up the very last bag of spelt berries. Have one bag of hard white wheat berries that probably won't work for bread. Put on a smile and sent the last loaves of bread out the door last Thursday. Questioned whether I should close the doors of the bakery for good and go get a job that would involve less hours stuck on my feet.

Then somehow, a fresh wind of hope stirred as I realized it would take more than that to make me give up the joy this bakery gives me.

I have several bags of organic khorasan kamut that makes the most delicious pasta you have ever eaten! Not to mention the crispy kamut crackers. And plenty of buckwheat for pancakes and crepes and perhaps brownie mix instead of spelt? Granola keeps flying off my shelves, and I have lots of organic rolled oats and other good stuff to keep that coming. Perhaps I need to start making organic pumpkin doggie treats with venison bone broth? More biscuits?

As soon as I get a pile of money I will order more grain from Montana, or Colorado, or wherever I can get some. And will learn to adapt and hopefully showcase these grains in a way that will nourish mind and body and spirit.

Hope to keep you posted. And offer up recipes and tips that might help some of you other home bakers out there, trying to figure out new ways of using the gifts life brings us.






Navigating the Season

Well, thank goodness for sunny Saturday.

Yesterday I drove to church with the car loaded down with food for our potluck. The air was balmy and moist. Clouds rolling in. After a meaningful worship service, delicious feast, and inspirational annual meeting, I poked my head out the parish hall door and saw that gray winter had come back for a visit.

Most of our guests are welcomed with open arms, hugs, celebratory glasses of wine and feasts.

Yesterday's guest, cold gray winter, was not welcomed warmly. In fact, I shuddered to think of having to settle in with this foe of mine. Wet mist grew icy. Warm house grew cold.

By midnight a layer of ice coated the streets and a thin sheet of snow blanketed the green weeds and grass.

My heart is tempted to despair. Cold this time of year is quite normal. We get lulled into thinking spring has sprung then a blast wakes us up out of our reveries. I remember February five years ago and want to crawl into my warm bed, close my eyes and hope for numbing sleep to take me to warmer places.

Instead, I get up. Drink a few cups of coffee. Make myself venison and eggs. Do some bakery research. Work slowly, but steadily. Plan to schedule some productive solitary meditation. Switch over to herbal tea. Write a couple of emails. Read a poem. Check the weekly forecast a few times to remind myself that this visitor will be moving on by tomorrow, replaced with our sunny dispositioned pre-spring sixty degree normal end of February.

And I will try to allow for some dedicated time to remember Philip, all he brought to our life, all we miss because of his death. And I will spend some time doing some accounting. Accounting of all the amazing blessings that have come our way over the past five years as we have attempted to learn to navigate our new normal that still doesn't feel normal. February 25, 2010, two days short of five years ago, our foe, death, came for a very unwelcome visit. One that delivered Philip from pain, a worn out heart, bad circulation, into the ultimate peace and rest. And us into a very strange plane and realm. We miss him so much sometimes it brings a chill to my bones. To my core. And yet, here we are. Surviving. Thriving. Kids growing tall and wonderful and smart and kind and lovely and witty, despite it all.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Aahhhh.

The universe aligned. The stars moved into place. God heard the prayers I didn't know I needed to pray. Somehow or another, all the kids were in different places, with friends, track meets, and who knows what else. My cell phone broke. Just quit working.

I spent the morning taking care of church business then migrated outside. Tshirt weather made my skin happy. I started by picking up pecans with the cool little gadget a friend gave me. Then worked on dog poop. Picked up sticks and brush knocked down by the ice storms this winter. Burned them in the fire pit. Raked. Tossed compost. Fed chickens. Gathered eggs. Made a new garden bed. Planted some carrots, more onions, lettuce, spinach, beets, two kinds of peas. Delighted in the fact that the broccoli plants the chickens consumed are putting on new leaves. Spinach and beets and lettuce seeds planted a couple weeks ago are sending up new leaves. Arugula and cilantro are growing like crazy. A new rooster friend is making himself at home in the hen house.

Then came in and cooked myself a meal from venison harvested by a friend's husband and butchered by myself. Creamed spinach and mushrooms to go with.

Wow.

Life is good.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bluebonnets! And the birds are singing outside my window in the wee hours of morning...

Several posts are burning a hole in my fingers and mind and somehow or another I think I am ready to get back to blogging. Just so you know, I saw the first bluebonnets Sunday afternoon in Study Butte, down at the gateway to Big Bend National Park. They were tall and proud and made me happy.

Also, I planted broccoli and chard and beets, radishes, spinach, leeks, lettuce and a few other things a week or so ago. And then the chickens' gate got left open. Familiar story? They didn't like the onions, so they are fine! And the arugula and chard will probably come back! I need to craft a lovely sign for the chicken house gate to remind our little friends to close it carefully! Best news out of the whole deal: we are now getting three eggs a day! The longer days of sunshine must make hens feel better, just like it makes me feel better. I look forward to getting the full batch of eggs soon, and then we will be rolling in the quiche and omelets.

Finances are a bit tight these days, but we are rich! Rich in amazing meat. Friends brought me venison, which I butchered and stuck in the freezer. Several deer worth. Another friend shared goat meat. We put up at least 100lbs of chicken or more. How blessed we are.

Kids are well. So much going on, my heading is perpetually spinning.

I have a grain post coming up, but had to stop, mid-write, to fix supper and get to bed. Three am will come early in the morning, but as you sleep, you can imagine the smell of freshly milled whole grains, milk and honey yumminess, and the peaceful meditation of dark, quiet morning in the bakery.

I needed a blogging break, but something tells me that if I get back to writing I might feel a bit more balanced.

Thanks, all, for your encouraging notes. What a great world we live in, with the ability to make friends across the miles via electronic communication.


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?