Thursday, December 27, 2012

Amazing Amigos

This afternoon we gathered up big pans of homemade lasagna (made with yummy freshly milled kamut flour!), gigantic salad, breadsticks and plenty of fun stuff to drink.  A few strands of Christmas lights.  Candy canes.

Friends met us at St. James Episcopal, our church, and I bossed and directed and kids set up tables and cloths, candles and greenery.  Lights were strung.  The tree only got knocked over once.

Platters were arranged and kids helped Rick Ruiz bring in his amazing dj and karaoke equipment. 

Bit by bit, different friends made their way to our little parish hall, thumping with the sounds of One Direction, Taylor Swift, some 50s and 70s thrown in for good measure, and of course the Cumbia, because we are on the TX-Mex border.

Some middle schoolers, a few highschoolers, a handful of homeschoolers.  A few parents.  A couple of people who love to dance and didn't need an excuse. 

And most importantly, several of our special friends.  Three with Down's Syndrome.  One in a wheelchair.  A couple or three Autism Spectrum  kiddos. 

As Rick cranked up the music, the big kids held back.  Embarrassed.  Not ready to jump in.  So very self-conscious and afraid of looking dumb.

But not Becky.  That girl can dance.  And dance she did.  I grabbed a middleschooler and we joined Becky.  I gently (?) suggested that a couple of other kids join in.  Before you know it, the floor was filled, and instead of focusing on themselves, they focused on the music, and everyone was smiling.  Big brothers dancing with little sisters.  Friends with friends. 

I laughed to myself as I pondered the idea I had that we were offering ministry to our special friends.  I had hoped to offer them a safe place to feel loved and treasured.  A place to play and enjoy themselves.

What a funny thing to realize that our special friends were the ones offering the ministry to us.  To my children.  To me.  As they danced and smiled and grabbed me by the arm to dance, I took great pleasure and joy in their pure, sweet offering.  It was such a gift. 

And what was even more amazing, the opportunity to witness my oh-so cool kids let themselves go. 

This evening was our third dance with Amazing Amigos.  Our church offers up the parish hall.  Rick Ruiz, who is a part of a very popular band here in town offers his services at a tremendously discounted rate.  He always stays way later than he needs.  He plays at the big gigs, but doesn't mind being a blessing to those special friends in our teeny little church.  Different friends offer up financial gifts to cover the costs.  Kids decorate and clean.  And dear ones like Becky and Rachel and Danielle and Crystal and Gage dance.  (So does Thomas, but mostly he likes to watch from the sidelines!)  And little by little, so do the rest of us. 

You know, it really wasn't that much work.  Talk about bang for your buck.

I wish every kid in our town had the chance to see how cool it is to just be yourself.  How fun it is to be silly.  I wish they could see that our special needs friends are gifts to us.  They may be different, but there are so many things that are the same.  We all love to eat!  We all love to drink fun stuff.  We all love karaoke and music and Christmas lights. 

So, hip hip hurray for Amazing Amigos!  And Rick Ruiz!  And special Angels who gave gifts that help make it happen.

The gifts continue.

PS Life is moving right along here.  I have lots of stories to share and as soon as things slow down I plan to catch you up on the adventures.  We are all well.  Even the dogs and kitties!  It was a delight to share Christmas with Mom and Daddy.  No white Christmas, but plenty of good things are filling our world.  More later...


Thursday, November 8, 2012

'Tis the Season or Teach a man to fish or something like that...

The other day we received our Heifer International gift catalog.

Several years ago, the gals in our ladies' Bible study group pitched in and made a gift of some animals to a family in a third world developing country.  We gave the money to Heifer and they purchased the animal (was it a goat?  Some chicks?  I forget) and gave it to people in need, along with training and support.

The idea is that if you give a family some food, in a few meals it will be gone, but if you give a family  means to raise food, not only will they be able to support themselves, but will soon be able to help produce for others in need.

Back in 2008 the kids and I were made aware of the plight of the christian Indians who lived in the Khandamal district of India.  An extremist group was inflamed by power-hungry politicians and went on a rampage, burning down every single church in that state, murdering, beheading pastors, and tearing down homes of the Christian believers.  It was non-discriminatory when it came to denominations.  Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Assembly of God; didn't matter, they were all affected.  Even many children were doused with gasoline and burned. 

Our family began to pray for the many widows, asking God to provide for them a means to support their children, in a dignified fashion. 

During this time our church made us aware of a particular organization called Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee.  A group on another continent working to offer dignity to widows.  Jonathan Golden was the visionary behind a movement to bring together widows of faction tribes in blood-bathed Rwanda, offering a place for them to sell their coffee beans at a fair price.  An opportunity for these woman to be able to work with dignity, in a way that would bring about reconciliation.  Over the years, this organization has grown, and the money, earned fairly by the farmers, has brought about improved working conditions, better equipment, basically, a way to work with dignity and pride. 

We loved buying those coffee beans, knowing that each cup was a part of making a tiny difference in the life of a woman somewhere in another part of the world. 

Little did I know that not too many years later, actually only a couple of years later, I would find myself in a similar spot.  Granted, when my husband died, I did own our property free and clear.  And had animals that provided for our meat and dairy and offered income producing potential.  I also had a very small "hobby" baking operation, using a tiny kitchen mixer to knead the dough and our kitchen oven to bake the bread.  But it wasn't enough.  Not enough to produce an income that would provide for a single mom and 5 kids.

After Philip's death, we were showered with gifts.  It was shocking, humbling and amazing.  Big gifts.  Gifts that enabled me to pay off the debt we had and gifts that enabled me to buy used professional equipment for a bakery.  Giant oven.  Great big  mixers.  Lots more grain.  Reliable vehicle for carting things to market. 

I weep even now to think that God used so many people in our family's life to bring about the means for me to be able to work with dignity to provide for  my kids.  Things are different now.  I don't have a cow or goats to milk to provide milk.  But I do have bread and grain and enough income to buy milk from a woman down the road! 

As the solicitations for charity come pouring into the mailbox, even now, before Thanksgiving comes along, I will be giving thanks for the people who were so generous to me and my children.  Who continue to be generous to me and my children in many ways.  And will hope that we can be a part of passing on the good.  Isn't it amazing that we have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life??? 

As I read through the articles in the Heifer magazine/catalog, I felt inspired to share with you guys.  I hope to have the kids help me raise some money to buy someone a goat and a hive of bees (Milk and Honey!!!) for Christmas for some single mom in another country.  Heifer is a great way to do it.  There are several other groups who go by different names, but do the same things.  Southern Baptists have been doing this kind of work for decades.  World Vision is another group.  I think we will also order coffee to sell in the bakery from Land of a Thousand Hills.  You know how I love my coffee!  Wouldn't it be nice to know that the extra dollar or two we have to spend per bag would be going straight to some hard-working family, instead of a shiny corporation?  Perhaps you know someone who just needs a little boost to get their business off the ground.  Buying their handcrafted goodies for Christmas gifts, or their beautiful postcards for holiday greetings might cost more than the package of 150 from the super store, but the benefit would be worth the cost! 

Most of you who read this blog have been taking these steps far longer than my family.  Some of us have very limited incomes and not enough extra to do anything extravagant.  So please, don't think this post is an effort to guilt anyone into doing something they can't afford.  I hope you will see it as an encouragement!  If we are intentional, even tiny little gifts can make significant differences.  We are so bombarded this time of year with solicitations for help.  I hope we won't be numbed to the point of missing the opportunities that come along that are divinely presented.  If you think that what you have to give is just way too small to count, ask me to share with you the story of Nora's $1 gift that I took with me to India and was able to use to purchase milk for over 10 kids who were victims of the Khandamal tragedy.  I will be praying that God would show me and my kids what we have to offer that would enable someone else to be equipped to work and provide for their family with dignity.

PS Just so you know, this morning at our breakfast table we offered thanks for the people who made it possible for me to have a job, milling grains and baking.  I regularly give thanks for you who gave to us to make it possible for me to have the equipment to increase the volume of goods I sell.  I pray for you to be blessed!  For what you gave to us to be returned to you a hundred and thousand fold.  I am so grateful. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Last Friday was Dia de los Muertos.  It is a day set aside to honor the memory of those we love who have passed on before us.  Of course many churches in the US celebrate All Soul's Day, but in Mexico it is a very big event. 

People go to the cemetery, clean things up, decorate and set out foods and drink that their loved one enjoyed, they sit around and eat and drink that food and tell stories.

Instead of fearful death, decorations are garish, skeletons, gawdy and brightly dressed in finery.  As if the culture wishes to say, we are not afraid of death!  It is real!  We will all be skeletons some day!  Let's not run away from death and grief, but embrace it and the memory and story of our loved ones who have died!  They are worth the tears and the laughter and the pause in our daily life to acknowledge them!

As you may have figured out by now, we live near the border of Texas and Mexico and see a lot of Mexican influence in our culture.  Many communities honor the Dia de los Muertos with some kind of celebration.  For a while I have wished to go down to Terlingua Ghost town for their celebration.  I thought it would be good to show the kids that others take the time to carve out ritual to honor the memory of their loved ones.  I thought it might affirm that the things they learned in grief support group after the death of their dad were universal ways of coping. 

Well.  I didn't get done with work in the bakery on time to make it down south.  I was kind of disappointed because I had the feeling that it would have blessed the little girls to do something to remember their dad.

Then J. called and we invited her over for a few minutes.  She sat down to have a glass of wine with me and a chat and we spoke about the day.  Somehow, one of us mentioned the boxes the kids made in their group with Martha Furman, a counselor who led the group.  They call them their "Dad" boxes.  They spend time decorating the boxes, then put special things in the box that are important memory items.  Like photos.  A baseball because Philip loved the NY Yankees.  Philip's Japanese driver's license, remnant of our two years spent over seas.  Actor's Equity card.  Old newspaper clippings from when he was in highschool.  Scraps of paper with his handwriting, lists of stuff he needed for home renovation projects, scraps of old elementary school spelling and penmanship homework. 

J. sat and watched and listened as the girls took turns unpacking their boxes.  She was so patient as they shared stories of how they loved it when he would take them to McDonald's for burgers when I was out of town!  And how they loved it when he would take them swimming.  They showed her pictures they had of Philip and I on our wedding day, we were so young!  and of us hiking in Big Bend National Park, different kids on his shoulders during different seasons of our life. 

You might think it would be depressing to spend so much time talking about a dead loved one.  But you should have seen the pride and joy on their precious faces as they felt safe to let our friend get to know us better!  You can't know us without knowing something about Philip, who was such an involved dad and husband. 

I realized that we got to have our own Dia de los Muertos celebration that evening.  So there were no candles lit, and we didn't go buy cheeseburgers or sit in the cemetery.  But the heart of the day was honored and we were all able to give thanks for the life of my dear deceased husband and their dear deceased dad.  We miss him everyday.  But being able to honor him somehow makes us free to continue living. 

So glad for friends who care about me and my kids and are so generous with their time.  It was a gift, getting to see the girls share their memories with our new friend.

What an introduction to November!!!

This Saturday, Rose, Nora and I loaded up yummy goods from the bakery and headed down south to Terlingua Ghost Town for farmer's market.  It was cloudy and drizzly here in the mountains of Alpine.  The sky was blue and weather warm once we got to Terlingua.

I wrote about the Terlingua Green Scene some last year.  It is a cooperative garden, designed to educate folks on how to grow stuff and live more sustainably in the remote, arid Chihuahan desert.  They have a giant compost area, receiving treasured cans of refuse from area restaurants.  garden plots are filled with little seedlings that should bear all winter long~greens, herbs, other cold crops.  The non profit was given a large shade structure which not only shielded us from the beating down sun on Saturday, but also provides many gallons of water harvested from every drop of rain, collected in giant rain catchment systems. 

If you have ever been to Terlingua, you will know that it takes a special kind of person to live out in the remote region.  Tough as nails, independent, able to live without many amenities other people think are essential to life.  Green Scene is all about helping make this lifestyle work even more efficiently, demonstrating that it is possible to create gardens and oasis in the desert.  In fact, this has been done for thousands of years.  It just takes grit, stamina, perserverance and a little help from friends and neighbors.  A local market makes the economy even more brightly flavored.

I love going down to Terlingua.  The market has the best view for hundreds of miles-the blue Chisos Mountains to the south.  Pace is relaxed.  We visit.  Stories are shared.  Everyone catches up on the latest news.  Kids run around.  I hugged necks of some folks I hadn't seen in 22 years.  Visited with new friends.  Met tourists from many points across Texas. 

After market, the kids, Raymond and I drove on down to Big Bend National Park, loaded up gear and headed for the Rio Grande.  I made a mexican stew with venison provided by R, local peppers and onions, eggplant grown by Seiko up in Fort Stockton, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, cumin, oregano and fresh herbs and tomatillos from Shannon at Green Scene. Since I was busy baking bread, I bought whole grain tortillas made locally by someone else.  We set up camp at Gravel Pit.  Sierra del Carmen glowed.  Ate our supper while watching the best show in town, lightening storm and clouds over in Mexico, shooting stars above us.  Constellations and the milky way so bright and clear!  Rising moon like a spotlight, curving over the night sky, our ceiling in luxurious accomodations, camping pads and sleeping bags, Nora cuddled up right next to me. 

We set up a tent, in case scattered showers came our way, but we had no need to use it.  We enjoyed the open air.  Dawn rose pink and lavender.  I don't think I worried about anything for several hours!  We ate leftover stew and quesadillas for breakfast then canoed downriver to a secret hotsprings Raymond knew about.  Not too secret, for he has pictures someone gave him of a camp set up back in the thirties for folks who wanted to go bath in the healing mineral waters.  Hard to believe that anyone could find such a remote spot!  Now there is a rock formation across the site in Mexico that helps you know where to look, but otherwise you would not know you were anywhere near until you felt the shockingly hot water hit your boat! 

We sat in the springs, must have been over 105 degrees.  When we got sufficiently boiled, we moved over to the cold river.  It was fun watching the clear water and bubbling sands, water heated by magma who knows how far down in the earth?  Kids and R scrambled and slid around in the sand dunes back beyond the river bank.  I relaxed.  Sat still.  Listened to sound of whirring bugs and soft breeze in mesquite.  Gurgle of spring and river, coexisting. 

We canoed back to camp, packed up, and then drove north to meet some friends at a place midway between the Park and Alpine.  We drove through badlands, thankful for 4-wheel drive, and I wondered where in the world could anyone find water in such a remote and desolate place?  We had been hearing of this swimming hole for ages, but never made it out there.  Busy.  School stuff.  Farmer's Market.  Etc. 

We set aside excuses and drove down the road, catclaws scraping the side of the truck as I hoped to keep from falling down into washed out gullies inches away from my tires!  All of a sudden we reached the canyons and striated colorful rock formations formed a backdrop for the most lovely swimming hole I have ever seen.  And from the squeals and breathless shouts of laughter, it must have been pretty cold, but don't ask me!  I decided that I had had enough fun in the water and chose to pass on a cold swim!  But everyone else was game and watching them gave me great joy!

The setting sun shone on the rock walls, the blue sky told me that everything was going to be just fine.  And for another few hours we didn't worry about a thing. 

I know the Bible says to worry about nothing, but in all things present your requests to God.  Which is how I aim to live.  But let's be honest.  No matter what you call it, real living involves real problems, real concerns and plenty of managing situations, whether work, family or home.  Sometimes you just need a break.  A chance to see something bigger than your problems.  A chance to be still and feel the sun or hear the river or the sound of crickets and a breeze blowing through the leaves.  There is nothing like the delight of a seeing a shooting star, or two or three or more!  To see the perfect reflection of delighted children and friends, smiling in the crystal oasis. 

When we lived in New Jersey, I loved to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Filling my eyes with beauty would put everything back into perspective. 

So the Met is too far away for my escape.  Now I have a different place that is perhaps the exact opposite, and yet brings about the same calm and joy. 

We stayed at Agua Fria a bit longer than planned.  Dark came upon us and so did a bit of a chill.  We were no longer in the national park, burn ban had been lifted, so we delighted in the joy and warmth of a campfire built on the edge of the water.  Bread was sliced.  Sandwiches made and giggling girls with muddy feet made me so thankful.  I felt very loved.

I felt even more loved when we got home and I found a sparkling clean bakery and stacks of clean clothes folded on my bed!  Maggie and Patrick went to Lubbock for their regional cross county meet and were unable to join us.  Maggie, BLESS MY SWEET TEENAGER!!!, cleaned up the mess I left.  I never asked her.  I hated to leave things undone, but figured that I would spend all Monday morning cleaning.  What a gift.  What a girl.  How many 15 year olds would offer that gift to their mother? 

Consequently, you have Maggie to thank for these blog posts. 


Some things make me sad... some random, scattered thoughts regarding meanness

Of course we are all still hearing about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  As many of you know, we have many loved ones on the East Coast, and most of them were affected to varying degrees by the hurricane damage.

I was checking on their statuses via Facebook on a regular basis, which meant I had to scroll through many other FB friends' updates.  I was shocked and at times left speechless by the types of posts I scanned.

Several posts seemed to indicate that a true follower of Christ would never vote for Obama.  In fact, their posts seemed to do more than suggest that it would be a sin to ever vote democrat. 

Wow.  I appreciate diversity and am thankful to live in a country which promotes free speech.  But as a christian, and a follower of Jesus, it hurts my feelings to see others suggest that people who do not share their religious or political views are less loved by God. 

Other posts suggested that if only people had built their houses on the rocks instead of the sand, they wouldn't be suffering from the damage of the hurricane.  That all the damage they have sustained is their own darn fault. 

And another fb post was passing on a list of how you can tell someone is a muslim, along the lines of the "you know you are a redneck if...".  The jaw-dropping incredulous racial, religious stereotypical slurs were not only inflammatory, they were mean, inaccurate and horribly offensive.

As I pondered the small-minded, petty meanness, I considered the options.

I could just silently unfriend acquaintances who don't share my views.  I could post mean comments trying to set those people straight.  By the way, these are not mean people.  They are kind, sweet, generous folks.  I could just ignore their offhand rants and comments totally, as I hope people would do for me when I let something stupid slip out of my mouth and then wish I could stuff it back in. 

What to do?  I don't want to ignore mean, racial and anti muslim rants because it makes me wonder how many people chose to ignore anti-semitic rants not too long ago, and we can see in history what that atrocities occured because of people keeping their mouths shut. 

Not all muslims are terrorists. 

Not all muslims want to kill you if you are a christian.

And on that note, not all people who were slammed and hurt terribly by Hurricane Sandy had built their house on the sand.  For that matter, the damage was unlike anything sustained for generations, if ever.  And even if it were the case, would Jesus want us to gloat and chortle over someone else's tragedy? Because we were so much smarter to build our houses far from hurricane territory? 

I am just throwing out some scattered words as I try to figure out how to live in a world that is increasingly more divided.  In a world where the loud, "christian" voice is growing more strident, judgmental, condemning and harsh.  I don't want to be harsh and judgmental and condemning of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but certain topics are going way too far off base for my comfort, and this election season is causing more than a few christians to offer up a pretty sad picture of Jesus' unconditional love.  It isn't the political view that offends me.  It is the meanness with which some people are judging the political view of the opponents.  (FYI, meanness seems to come in many party flavors, republican, democrat AND independent!)

I have been more than guilty of saying flippant things about somebody without thinking it through, later suffering the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I considered the damage my thoughtless words might have done.  The times my ignorance and fears caused me to throw out a stupid joke. 

I repent. 

I am sorry and I hope that we can all take care with our words, jokes, fears, to become more informed.  To think things through before we post, blog, or speak in public arenas.  And when we do goof, to be quick to turn it around. 

PS I wanted to dash off a mean rant last week, berating mean people, but my computer was broken down.  Which meant I had a helpful several days to think before I dashed off.  Certain things weighed too heavily on my heart and I decided that writing about it might help.  Perhaps we could all have a civil discussion?  I have dear friends on either side of the political coin.  And friends who are muslim, hindu, atheist, agnostic, jewish, christian etc.  Not to mention all the denominations within the christian faith.  Is there a way we can express fears, hopes, concerns without attacking and belittling? 


Decisions or Season for Change

Last month I realized I was pretty sad about missing so much of my kids' weekend life.  Farmer's market has kept most of my Saturdays occupied for the last several years.  At least 5 or 6 years. 

I love being a part of farmer's markets.  The local farmer's market is one of the best pictures of sustainable community and local economy available.  We meet our neighbors at market.  We meet other producers.  We get to share seasonal weather, hot, cold, wet, dry, absolutely beautiful, all together as we delight in everyone's particular offerings. 

Farmer's market is where I get to educate many people about the benefits of freshly milled whole grains.  We talk spelt.  We talk gluten intolerance.  We talk recipes.  I get to offer many free tastes, free cookies, free advice! 

Every so often one or more of my children expresses disappointment that I have to miss certain activities.  Or that we can't sleep in on Saturday mornings.  Or that it is hard for us to go and do on the weekend, since I don't get back from market until after lunch, and then have to clean bakery most of the rest of the afternoon. 

Now that Thomas has moved from home to Roswell, and Patrick is in his Jr year of highschool, talking college, it is ever more real to me that our family time as we know it is limited. 

I think I am going to limit my farmer's market sale days and see if we can maximize our weekends for a few months.  I wonder if I can get Saturday customers to come to the bakery on Tuesdays and Fridays?  I wonder if I can go to the market on a rare occasion to sell, and more frequent occasioon to be a market buyer? 

The kids are growing up so quickly, I don't want to turn around twice and come to find out I missed the chance to share camping trips and track meets and calm Saturday morning breakfasts at home. 

There is a time and season for everything.  Maybe market once a month for a few months will be enough.  If need be, I can always go back to regular market should the bank account dictate. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012


Yesterday I got an invitation from a girlfriend to join her and another couple of friends downtown for a little respite and hangout time.

Patrick started supper, I finished it, then headed out to hop on my bike in the cooling evening air. 


Maggie had taken my bicycle to cross country practice.  Because mine is better.  I could have taken the car or her bike, but a walk seemed so enticing.

Twenty minutes later I reached my destination, almost breathless, but not quite. 

We chatted.  We laughed.  A few more folks joined our little group and stories were shared all over the place.  The evening came on and it was dark when time to walk home.  The air was cool and I felt glad to live in a place where I could easily walk from downtown to my house after hanging out with some friends, knowing my kids were safe and sound.

My gal friend walked her bike up the hill with me as we continued our conversation.  We paused to say goodbye at the intersection and a brilliant shooting star streaked across the velvet sky. 

Had I driven, or even biked, I probably would have missed that sweet little gift.

Thank you God for the lovely night sky.  Not to mention all the other things I appreciate so much-like my kids, my friends, my sweet little town.


Monday, October 8, 2012

We live in the middle of an ocean!

My parents came for a visit this weekend.  I taught a cooking class and baked for several special orders so I could skip the farmer's market on Saturday and go with Mom and Dad and Nora to watch Patrick, Maggie and Rose run in the Big Bend Mountain Ramble cross country meet that took place at the Paisano Camp a few miles out of town.  It is known as the highest race in Texas!

We drove west of Alpine, through the mountainous region, and Nora exclaimed that it looked like we lived in a rainforest!  Something not typically said of the Chihuahuan high desert!  The dark gray fog was ominous.  And the temperatures were chilly.  Nevermind!  We had an amazing time watching each kid run a terrific race!  It makes me so proud to know how much effort they all put into practice 5 days a week.  They give up their free time in the evening to go run 3, 4, sometimes 6 miles to train.  Their coach, Coach Rick Keith, has the goal of teaching them to love running for the rest of their life.  And to learn a method of running that will not tear up their knees and joints. 

He has done a  great job.  I sure am thankful for him (and not just for the coaching-he also does a great job in the history classroom and his wife is behind my kids as they learn geometry!).

But anyway, kids from giant schools with big programs and tiny schools all competed together, running not just against each other, but against the true challenge-the Eliminator!  A very steep hill that has been known to conquer more than one kid.  We cheered and yelled for each kid, proud of every one.  Maggie and Patrick finished strong, passing the kid right in front, within 50 yards of the finish line.  Grit and guts. 

As I have said repeatedly, I am proud of each of the kids who gets out there and runs.  There is so much more to this sport than winning, and I don't care if my kids get 95th place, if they train and run with guts.  But I have to say it was pretty fun getting to watch Rose pound her way across the finish line, many yards in front of the second place runner.  First place in middle school girls!  I guess we can say that running runs in our family! 

I have to miss a lot of the kids' school activities due to weekend work, but how thankful to get to enjoy their race this Saturday.  And even better-side by side with my Mom and Dad! 

This weekend we celebrated my mom's birthday as well.  Her wish was to go down to Big Bend National Park, our favorite place.  We camped out at Raymond's house, then worked up a giant feast which we loaded up to eat in the Basin, near the Window trailhead.  Ribs, squash casserole, baked sweet potatoes.  Not too shabby!  Then a gorgeous drive around the big bend of Texas, enjoying Terlingua, Lajitas, the River Road, Presidio, Marfa and home.  Happy birthday was sung at the picnic table under the giant teepees on the road past Lajitas.  We marveled at the colors, the clouds, the rocks.  Saw a rattlesnake, roadrunner, several tarantulas and she and Daddy saw a coyote earlier on that day. 

But the biggest surprise was a sight not far from Cibolo Creek Ranch not far from Shafter!  Three giant camels in a field, grazing not far from the road!  How funny!

Sadly, and oh too soon, Mom and Dad had to pack up to head home this morning.  Daddy has work and Mom has paintings to finish for a big show in November.  Some little niggling urged me to grab Mom to come with me to take Nora to school.  The morning was brisk at 43 degrees.  The town was dark, blanketed with fog.  She almost didn't want to join me, since it was apparent there was nothing to be seen in a pea soup fog.

The niggling urged me on.  In faith and hope I drove south on 118, four or five miles outside of town.  As we made our way up the Big Hill, we saw a glow.  Up and up we went.  All of a sudden, as we crested the winding road, the clouds broke and we saw the sun make her way over the edge.  We turned around and were awestruck.  Down below, we saw no town.  We saw an ocean!  Frothy and white, with island hills here and there, and a rocky coastline.  The sunrise turned the mountains pink and the clouds shone brightly.  A basin.  An ocean.  Rather prehistoric looking. 

We oohed and aahed and raced back to the house to grab Daddy and the camera.  As we descended we left the crystal, bright dawn and had to plunge into a wall of dark gray.  I felt like I needed to hold my breath to go under the water of a primeval lake.  It was almost frightening!  We got Daddy to join us, camera in tow and raced back up the mountain, still dramatic and lovely, but not quite as magical as that first moment of daybreak. 

I am so thankful for nigglings and for Mom and Dad and for living here in the most beautiful part of Texas, able to share magical moments like cross country races, Sunday drives and Monday morning enchantment. 

And thankful for my customers whose loyal support of our little bakery makes it possible for us to be here!!!


Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday, or Rain, Rain, you really don't have to go away if you don't want to. We welcome you with open arms!

Alicia de Larrocha plays the piano on my ITunes.  The bakery smells warm and yeasty. 

It is late and I am tired.

Somehow a lot of bread and cookies and cupcakes and cardamom buns got cooked.  Several different grains were milled. 

Right now Kamut pasta dough is sort of the favorite child.  Well.  That and the cardamom buns.  Oh, and the Good for You Chocolate Cupcakes.  The ones that the kids say taste like something store-bought, which means they taste pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Not to mention the spelt chocolate chip cookies.  Can you tell that Alpine, Texas has a sweet tooth?

Personally I like the Seedy Grainy Milk and Honey bread made with over 7 grains, freshly milled of course, with lots of sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and rolled oats.

The rain was coming down when I woke up before 4 this morning.  It has come down most of the day, occasionally pouring hard.  Even now I hear sprinkles.  I saw flash floods come down Cockrell a few times.  The dogs are so spoiled to arid Texas life they fuss when I ask them to go out! 

Rose and Nora and I grabbed some goodies and walked to our dear friends' home for supper.  It is hard to leave the bakery with stuff unfinished, but oh, so good to sit at table with people we love for a bit.  Especially when we are surrounded by food here, but not by a meal!

I probably should have driven the three blocks, but after a day inside, I was desperate to feel some rain on my skin!  Somehow we didn't melt.

So now I put on labels and listen to piano and feel very tired.  But more than anything, I feel grateful for all these amazing grains and for my mill and equipment, and most of all for my customers who care about freshly milled kamut pasta dough and yummy whole wheat chocolate cupcakes that taste "store bought" but aren't full of yucky stuff, and hand-made, individually kneaded loaves of bread that satisfy. Tired.  Thankful. 

PS A minute ago I got an email from a customer with a picture of their supper.  Beautiful homemade spaghetti, that a few hours earlier was grain in a bag in my ingredient closet!!!  And a picture of their precious daughter eating that feast! 

PPS Earlier today, when I was in the thick of dough and flour and mess, some folks dropped in to say hi.  The husband grew up in this house.  He and his wife wanted to let me know they were happy I was able to buy the place.  Can you believe his dad got a start making his way through college baking bread and selling it?  The man who had this house built and was professor at the college up the hill?  Who has a complex named after himself?   I was kind of embarrassed because I was a mess and busy, but really, what a gift!  These folks know all about the apricot tree and figs and pecans and can tell you lots about the composting that went on in their childhood!  This town sure is full of stories.  I am glad to be a part of one. 

Well, market will happen, rain or shine.  No one I know will complain about the rain.  We will huddle together, thankful for customers who come bearing umbrellas!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We are Definitely in Texas Now

I forgot to mention that last Friday night was Homecoming for Alpine High School. 

I guess one might imagine that I am not much into football. 

However, Maggie is in the flag corp and marches with the band, so I wanted to see her perform.

After the bakery closed, I grabbed a shower, sliced up some amazing veggies one of my customers gave me, made homemade pizza with baby eggplant, squash, tomatoes, peppers, basil, onion.  Put my feet up for a few minutes to rest while waiting for R. to drive in from the park.  Rose and Nora and R and I drove over to the crowded stadium.

Warm breezy air.  Purple and gold everywhere!  The lights on the field contrasted beautifully with the darkening sky and purple mountains on the horizon.  The band played.  Community happened as neighbors visited, cheered, and watched our team trample the visiting players.

I can't say I am any more interested in football than I have ever been.

But there was something pretty sweet about seeing a big part of our town, even the ones without kids, out to encourage the hardworking students.  Frankly I would prefer if we skipped the whole head bashing part and went straight to a two hour long performance of the band.  Which was amazing, and you can tell that they all have worked hard and long on their performance.  I was happy to see how beautifully the flags added to the music. 

Nora said hi to many friends at the game.  Rose ran off and found one of her pals.  Patrick and his guys sat near us.  But not too near.  They all ate lots of unhealthy, very unlocally produced junk from the concession stand.  (I guess my favorite is the nacho bowl with fake yellow stuff and sliced jalapenos.  Mostly I eat the jalapenos which is fine with Nora.)

We drove home, R and I and Nora walked hand in hand around the block, then we decided to sit on the couch to visit for a minute.  Thirty seconds later, R and I were sound asleep.  Til I had to get up and wait for Maggie to come home from the Homecoming dance.  Then sleep fast and take kids to the school to head out for cross country meet.  And then off the the farmer's market. 

Leaving homeschool world has meant leaving a tight-knit community that was very dear to us.  We miss it.  We miss our friends.  Our drama in the barn loft.

But adjusting has helped me see that we are developing a new tight-knit community.  Different.  But sweet and good.  I am so thankful for all the teachers who invest in my childrens' lives.   And for the chance to see the kids thrive in this pretty desert mountain town.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Maybe the Perfect Life is not always perfect.

Gotta take the bitter with the sweet.

Seems like I heard that somewhere, sometime.

So today I had some news confirmed that I kind of suspected.  Not really happy news. 

This evening at nightfall, I felt like crawling into bed with my book.

Somehow or another some little piece of me walked to the bakery, put my shoes on, grabbed the leash and Blackie and headed out for a walk around the loop.  I didn't know I needed to sob until I reached the section where there is no one.  Then the sobs bubbled.  No, erupted. 

I find it interesting that in so many moments of my life the bitter and the sweet are intertwined.

The other day Rose informed me she had picked out a meal from the most recent issue of Cooking Light.  I got her a subscription to that mag. last Christmas.  I have a few issues with Cooking Light.  They are great at cutting fat, but still use tons of white flour, sugar, etc.  But that is another blog post!  Nevertheless, they offer plenty of pretty food photos, and accessible recipes that are easily adapted to our diet.

Rose, who is 12, handed me a shopping list after church today.  She offered to make the meal for our early supper.  I grabbed backback, hopped on bike and rode to the supermarket to pick up the few necessary items. 

After getting back home, I took a break and Rose hit the kitchen.

Tantalizing smells wafted into my bedroom.  Chicken Thighs with Dijon-Thyme Sauce.  Roasted potatoes.  Garlicky green beans.  A friend of Patrick's came to join.  We pulled out the fancy plates, put Bach on Pandora, sliced the fresh bread and feasted.  Wow.

When my children serve me by fixing food it blesses me richly.  The meal was fantastic.  Really.  We were all impressed.  It took me back to Madison, New Jersey.  Was it 9 years ago?  More?  Sixteen year old Holly was coming over for cooking lessons in our teeny tiny galley kitchen.  Rose would climb up on the stool, elbowing Holly out of the way, irritated that someone was taking her place beside me in the kitchen.  Now Holly has completed culinary school after getting her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, works at an impressive restaurant, is a thousand times better cook than me, and Rose is making us meals.  And just finished cleaning up the kitchen. 

I know, I am not mentioning all the many, many times Maggie covers for me in the kitchen.  And Patrick.  And Thomas in the past.  They are all truly amazing.  But tonight it was Rose, and I feel like I must mention the moment.  And not only did we have a delicious, well-balanced dinner, but she also made dessert!!!  Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla IceCream (THE best icecream in the country) parfaits with a cooked raspberry-orange sauce, fresh raspberries and shaved chocolate. 

Oh. My. Goodness.

So the sweet tempered the salty, and a walk allowed me time to reflect, cry, ask WHY? and then count my blessings. 

The moon is just over halfway full.  The stars were barely visible with the moonlight and townlight.  The smell of the billy goat in the yard of the Radio Station made me laugh.  There is a crew of goats in the radio station yard.  Only in Alpine!  Blackie and I walked in near isolation, as the smell of laundry drying in the dryers reminded me that tomorrow we are back to work and back to school. 

Fall is here. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kamut or Pasta Carbonara...Yum...

Kamut is an ancient grain, purportedly from Egypt several thousand years ago.  Never hybridized, at least for the last few thousand years.

Actually, it is very similar to durum semolina, is a lovely golden colored grain with a large kernel.  It mills beautifully, and while it isn't great for bread baking, it makes AMAZING pasta.

Isn't it wonderful to have so much variety in our diet?  I love the fact that the hard white wheat I use has completely different minerals and nutrients from the Spelt and Kamut.  I try to get a variety into the kids on a regular basis.  Each grain with a distinctly special purpose.

But I haven't made pasta in ages.  You know, I try to moderate my intake of carbs so I can stay in the same size clothing.  But these kids of mine are long distance runners and I hesitate to give them white junky pasta from the supermarket, just to bump up their carbs.  Especially since it is devoid of  nutrients. 

A sweet customer of mine asked if I would ever consider making pasta as she is trying to feed her family locally produced foods.  Her request was inspiring, so I pulled out the big bag of organic Kamut, produced by farmers in Montana, milled it in my Meadows Mills stone burr grinder, cracked the dozen eggs, harvested by my dairy farmer, Sally over at Z-bar ranch, threw in a pinch of salt, a glug of olive oil, and began to knead. Thinking loving thoughts of my amazing running kids.

The pasty mixture transformed into golden, bouncy playdough.  I let the dough rest for a half hour, portioned out part for my customers and part for my kids and grabbed a rolling pin.  Instead of using the pasta machine, I decided to do a pasta rustica, and cut out fettucine with the pizza cutter.  I put the delicate strips of pasta on a rack to dry.  Got creative and made a bunch of farfalle (bowties) to store in the freezer.  Then called a couple of girl friends.

You see, these days, the kids are so busy with school activities, they have to grab a bite to eat then run to practice.  I couldn't imagine going to all the trouble of making fresh pasta without having someone to share it with me.  Seated.  At the table.  We made a salad, put on water to boil, cut up a couple of slices of bacon in a dice.  Fried it up with a sliced red pepper and several cloves of sliced garlic.  I drained the bacon, pepper, garlic mixture and placed it in a large pasta bowl.  In a separate bowl, I beat together a bit of cream, three eggs, some grated parmesan.  Yeah, yeah, I know it is rich, but the kids requested and you have to keep in mind we RARELY eat pasta.  Maybe once in three months.  And it is freshly milled WHOLE grain pasta.  And not more than 1/4 slice of bacon per person. 

Wait a minute.  Why am I getting so defensive? 


I dumped a generous handfull of the pasta into the boiling, well-salted water.  When it was tender, and rising to the top of the pan, I scooped it out into the pasta bowl with the bacon goodstuff, added the beaten egg mixture and asked J. to toss it with a fork.  The heat of the boiling pasta gently cooked the eggy mixture, melted the cheese, and basically coated each strand with savory deliciousness. 

I cracked plenty of black pepper on the top of the carbonara, and would have added a sprinkle of nutmeg, if I could have found any.  N. brought some red wine, which we shared with our fresh bread, delicious salad, thanks to J. and that amazing pasta. 

Kids gobbled and ran off.  We ladies sat down, buttered our freshly milled, hard white wheat Italian Peasant bread, ate our salad with Tree's sweet little cherry tomatoes and savored every last carb.  I think it is pretty awesome that our whole grain Kamut pasta tastes so much better than store bought whole wheat cardboard.  I mean pasta. 

After the ladies left and the table was cleared, I gathered the dogs for a two mile walk around the loop.  Probably needed a 12 mile hike, but the two felt pretty nice as I watched the crescent moon sink into the west and listened to the chirruping insects in the tall grass in the draw. 

PS  I don't imagine I will be making pasta every week, but I aspire to monthly, to feed these hungry kids.  And wouldn't aspire to more than once a year, if I were not a full-time miller/baker.  Am so thankful for a business that allows me to not only make good stuff for other people, but also helps feed my kids.  I hope you won't feel any guilt if you are a mom and buying storebought dried pasta. PLEASE don't feel guilt!  I do this because it is my business!  But if you have a friend with a mill, or have a mill yourself, or know a miller/baker, I do wish you would try some real pasta sometime.  And if you have a bit of extra cash, search out a local baker, and ask them if they would be willing to make you some dough.  It isn't hard at all.  I used a variation on the Frugal Gourmet's fresh pasta recipe.  You could do your part for the local economy and perhaps your baker and his/her friends would be inspired.

12 eggs (from a farm for the dark orange yolks and extra omega 3 fatty acid
4glugs olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 c-3/4 c water
freshly milled kamut, add flour to make a thick dough that will handle kneading.  If it is too dry, add a bit more water.  If too wet, add more flour.  if you can't find kamut, use durum semolina.  Regular all purpose flour is not going to give you the consistency you wish for.  But would work fine for egg noodles. 

This recipe made about 5 lbs dough.  You might want to cut it down to one fourth.  I rolled the dough in small batches on a big piece of freezer paper.  The thinner the better.  You really need plenty of flour.  If you don't continue to add flour to each side of the dough, it will become a sticky mess.  A pasta machine, the metal italian ones, work best for making a thin spaghetti.  I have one, thanks to Judith and Ned, and LOVE it, but it is a bit of production to use it.  You might procrastinate less if you just roll your dough out and cut it with the pizze roller.  Don't forget to try lasagna sometime.  Or homemade ravioli.  I was fantasizing about butternut squash and fresh sage leaves...

What Did I Do With Those Goodies from the Market?

Sunday I was hankering for good ole Sunday Dinner.

You know, the kind waiting for you when you walk in the door from church, roasting meaty smells wafting down the driveway?

We put in a chicken to roast and when we got home it was done to perfection.  I took some of Seiko's sweet red peppers, quartered them, and placed them in a skillet with a slug of olive oil and several generous slugs of balsamic vinegar.  Put a lid on top of the skillet and let the vinegar soak into the peppers as they braised.

Chunked up the sweet potatoes, the baby squash, the beets, onions, garlic and zucchini, drizzled more olive oil, tossed on a little sea salt, and place the cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven.

Sliced the eggplants into long planks, put a layer of them in a rectangular baker, sprinkled with Redmond's Real Salt, tossed on fresh herbs-thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, and added diced garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.  Sprinkled parmesan cheese over the herbs and eggplant, then sliced market tomatoes into rounds and layered them over the eggplant, herbs and cheese.  Sprinkled fresh herbs on  tomatoes, then a bit of olive oil, a bit of salt and a sprinkle of more parm.  Threw the eggplant gratin in the 450 oven with the roasting veggies.

Maggie gathered a beautiful bouquet.  We set out the nice dishes.  We invited a couple of friends to join us and we feasted.  Afterwards we took cookies and hot tea out to the backyard to celebrate the gorgeous day. 

It felt like Sunday.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What I Brought Home from the Farmer's Market

Nora is unloading the dishwasher.  Now that she is nine she has been added to the dishwashing chore queue. 

Nancy Griffith's Dustbowl Symphony is playing.  The mountains are draped in a fluffy white shawl and I have not quite warmed up from our chilly farmer's market morning, rain and temperatures in the 50 something degrees.

The Saturday afternoon chores have been begun, but I thought I would pause for a moment to brag on the great treasure I brought home from the market today.

Sweet potatoes, some larger ones, and a handful of fingerlings to roast from Mark and Debi
Baby yellow squash and zucchini from Mark and Debi
Yellow beets, just a handful also from M and D
Sweet italian red peppers from Seiko
Japanese eggplant grown by Seiko
Johnagold apples grown by Tony
A pretty bouquet from Pat
Venison sausage from the guy whose name I can't remember
Green chili chevre from Marfa Maid Dairy from Marfa
Garlic Herb chevre from z-bar ranch
Eggs and 2 gal. raw milk, cream on top, from Z-Bar Ranch in Marathon
A couple of pumpkin empanadas from the new lady
A giant lemon bar from Ellen (Nora's favorite way to spend her $2 allowance!)

I meant to get some green beans from Tree before she left, but missed out. 
There were people roasting green chilis in the big roaster, but I have some in the freezer we got the other day and had better use them first.  There were plants, other baked goods, other veggies that sold out before I got a chance to look.

We had several meaningful conversations, quite a few hugs, and lots of bartering and sharing as we huddled under the tents, shivering, toes turning to stone. 

Well, chores need to get done, the big kids will be home from their cross country match anytime, and I hope to work in a nap with the window wide open.  Love soaking up the turn of the season. 

I wish everyone had an idea how wonderful small town farmer's markets are.

True, those veggies cost a bit more than the ones in the grocery store.  But if we could get it through our thick skulls how much cheap food costs us, the world would be a better place.  In my humble opinion.

Not only that, but eating foods grown and prepared by people you know is truly a spiritual experience.  At least for me.  And it makes me grateful and appreciative. 

PLUS, as a seller, standing in the shivering rain, I am in awe of the folks who make such an effort to get out in the cold to buy from us when it would be drier and warmer AND cheaper to go to the local grocery store.  As we packed up our damp goods, I prayed a blessing on our customers and the growers of our delicious foods. 

Alright, I'm coming! (The pots and pans are calling my name.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This afternoon Georgia was outside hula-hooping with Nora after school.  They called me out to see Nora show off some newly learned skills.  After being totally amazed, I looked over to the coral vines climbing up on to the carport. 

They were swarming with honeybees!  I welcomed the bees and told them I was happy to see them.  I wondered where they were going to stash the nectar. 

Not only is that coral vine absolutely divine, dripping with glorious pink jewels, the bees think it is the best restaurant in town.  I hope they come again!

Good and Perfect Gifts

This afternoon I drove home from a very quick visit to Big Bend National Park.  The scenery of the mountainous Chihuahuan desert restored me, as usual.  I see colors and plants and rocks I have been viewing in my mother's artwork since I was younger than Rose.  Today as I marveled at the myriad of subtle colors in the mountains and dry desert floor and flora, I saw all the colors of pottery glazes I see in the work of a dear friend and all of a sudden I understood her artwork.  I mean, I always loved it, and appreciated the design and color, but for some reason on my drive today it all came to life and I marveled at her work and the work of my mom.  Completely different media, yet they both offer something that gives honor and homage to this place I love so much. 

You would think an hour and a half drive would wear me out.  But as I cross through Persimmon Gap, head past Santiago Peak, see the cattle grazing (thank God the past rains have caused some grass to grow), rejoice in the spectacular clouds, I feel peace. 

I have so many things I want to write about grief.  Can you believe that we are afflicted with grief every day?  Still?  Maybe not every day, but most days something reminds one of the now 5 people living in our house that we have experienced loss.  I guess if you have experience your own loss you can believe it.  Sending Thomas off to school in New Mexico just about did me in.  I sobbed as I drove away from the dorm, telling Philip that it just wasn't fair at all that he was not here to be a part of this letting go. 

No one ever told me that the intense grief we experienced because of Philip's death would make small and medium-sized grief feel intense.  People like Cynthia told me it would hurt.  I thank God for her honesty, as she would say the hard things.  She had permission to, because her husband died several years before mine.  While she was still young and still had little ones at home.  She told me that while you learn to survive and thrive, the pain would erupt at the most inopportune times.  I listened, but nothing prepares you for reality like reality.

So, I am not sure why I am writing all this grief stuff right now, when I have several other topics I want to cover.  Maybe it will help prep someone else out there, since it seems like no one gets a free pass when it comes to loss.  Sooner or later we are going to grieve. 

Here's the thing, allowing myself to feel Philip's loss completely has made it possible for me to feel other things more completely.  Thomas's graduation and entry into the Occupational Services program is the best thing that could have happened.  I am thrilled about it.  Nevertheless, this child who was borne by my body, who lived in our home for nineteen years is no longer around.  I miss him.  And feel the loss.  Even though I don't want him to move back! 

Actually, I feel much better now, but the first couple of days I was rather sad.  And when people told me to think about how good it was for him to be in the program, and how I should be happy, it made me kind of mad and later I realized it was because I didn't want to be deprived of the opportunity to feel.  And giving myself permission to be sad and to honor the reality of the change in our family dynamic seemed to help me adjust more quickly.  After a couple of mopey days, I got over it and didn't feel intense pain anymore.  Just a little achey.  Then after a couple of weeks, I didn't even feel achey. 

I guess it is a bit embarrassing to write about personal things like grief.  But the experts suggest that the only way to heal from grief is to grieve.  So I embrace the moments, and thank merciful God for the ability to feel.

And remember that what I really wanted to write about today was the lovely lunch I got to share with my dear one, under the shade in his backyard.  A lunch that would make Michael Pollan proud! 

A giant chopped salad, with lemon cucumbers grown by Tony, my farmer's market neighbor, and his tomatoes.  The green ones I sliced and dipped in egg and a breading made with a mixture of chopped pecans, given to me by my church friends, harvested from their backyard and shelled!, some milk and honey bread crumbs, a bit of cornmeal and a couple of spoons of our 4-grain pancake mix, a generous dash of chili powder and garlic.  I know I hardly ever fry anything, but these green tomatoes were begging to be fried up in a cast-iron skillet, so I obliged. 

I found a little package of pork in R's freezer.  Pork we butchered with my dad, sometime this past winter.  Almost all gone.  I sliced it and quickly seared it in the cast-iron skillet.  Set it aside. 

Tried to figure out what in the world we needed to finish off the salad masterpiece.  I put the chopped romaine on the plates, added the cucumber, some chopped ripe tomatoes, slivers of onion, the chopped pork, the magnificent green tomatoes, chunks of local chevre.  Hmm.  Roasted okra, courtesy of Seiko from the market, placed on the side. 

I found a jar of apricot jam in the fridge.  We made it this summer from fruit from our tree.  I threw some in the blender with white vinegar, chili powder, a generous pinch, a dollop of grainy mustard and a bit of real mayo.  Drizzled it over our salads, had some freshly milled whole grain milk and honey bread toast on the side, iced green tea, friendship, love and joy. 

A sparrow came to light on cactus near the table.  Or was that a wren?  A butterfly lit on the table as we gave thanks and I appreciated his amazing colors.  Velvety browns on the upper part of his wings.  The dull underside was decorated with vivid eyes lined in blue.  The antennae were black and white striated with yellow bulbs at the top.  Another bird, R knew the name, but now I forget! played around the trees and the cactus and I wonder if he/she were working on the nest, or just looking at someone else's home. 

We spoke of work, his and mine.  Of memories.  Of a trip we plan to make soon to see some friends.  We spoke of the kids.  Family.  He had to get  back to work and I had to get home to kids coming home from school.  Back to paperwork and insurance and tons of miscellanea.  A bakery needing some ingredients and a new refrigerator. 

But my eeny meeny mini vacation was great!  And I can thank God that because of all this ability to feel deeply, even the lovely, beautiful things feel more intense. 

And I guess that is what I really wanted to say this evening. 

Pain and loss are brutal.  I wish none of us ever had to feel them.  But I have found that our pain has opened up my heart in such a way to be able to experience joy and love and beauty even more than I imagined I could. 

A while back a couple of friends and I were studying the book of James in the Bible.  There is a verse that says that every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights.  I am so very thankful for the many amazing good gifts in my life.  My children.  My family.  My dear boyfriend R who is a true gift, my friends, both the old ones and the new, my customers, my home, my business, the beautiful country I love so much here in the Big Bend.  Even that school in New Mexico, with professors trained to teach my son and to equip him for his next stage of life. 

I hope you will allow yourself to feel a little this week.  To see the beauty that surrounds you.  To taste and see that even in the pain there is good.  And if you someone gives you green tomatoes, I hope you will figure out a way to fry them up in a cast-iron skillet.  They sure are yummy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Texas is a very big state

Patrick and I drove back and forth to El Paso yesterday.  We took 90 west to I10.

I felt lucky to enjoy such amazing scenery. 


Some rocky and rugged, up close and personal.  Some soft and craggy and blue, decorating the horizon in the distance. 


Bigger than it has to be.  Bluer than it ought to be.  Filled with gigantic clouds, scudding along, amazing me.


Open range, dotted with cattle, mantled with grass, thick from the summer rains.  Yellow and green.  Tumbleweeds, creosote, agave and other cactus, dotting the terrain. 

I breathed in deeply, letting myself feel the enormity of the place.  Grateful to be home.

PS Is it any wonder someone decided to film Giant here back in the day?  Or that Donald Judd picked Marfa to be the setting for his minimalist art?  West Texas. 

PPS Long drives are great for chatting with kids.  It was a gift to be able to enjoy the company of my second son.  He shared with me some of his dreams.  We talked about college.  We talked about love.  We talked about loss.  What a privilege.  I sure am blessed by my kids.

PPPS  Thomas has called me on several occasions.  He tells me about the movies he is going to see at the local theater at the mall.  He takes a bus to town by himself.  He tells me he likes his classes and is making some friends.  He has passed dorm room inspection.  He must miss me a tiny bit, but not too much.  Can you believe I have a son living under another roof?  Crazy.  I think I had better plan a trip to New Mexico soon so I can hug his neck. 

Full Circle

Last weekend my sister and nephew came out west for a visit.  Kids had football games and cross country matches and I had bakery hours and farmer's market.  We had a birthday party to plan. 

What I ought to have done was clean house, decorate, bake cake etc.

What I did was take a shower, change clothes, prepare some picnic goodies and head to Marfa with R. and Christine. 

Can you believe we had the opportunity to listen to Michael Pollan at the Marfa Dialogues?  I was so excited.

OK, true confession, I have never read one of Michael's books (see how we are now on intimate first name basis?).  I have read several interviews with him.  I always had plans to read one of his popular books, but was too busy living a sustainable life.  Even so, I always wanted to tell him thank you.  I have no doubt that to a great extent his work is responsible for us being able to survive as small family farmers and even now as a small town miller and baker.  I may not have read his books, but I believe what he is talking about to be true.  Am investing my life in it. 

A great deal of our customers have read his books.  And they invested in our milk and lamb and beef and chicken and bread.  And now they invest in my bread.  And cookies and other goodies, made from freshly milled whole grain goodness.  They appreciate the fact that I use raw milk from a ranch down the road as much as it is available.  And my raw honey comes from a multi-generational family-owned business up by my parents.   The organic coconut oil I use is from Mexico instead of Asia.  Less miles to get here from there.  And distributed by a woman who lives south of my sister. 

All that to say, I was pretty pleased to spend my Saturday evening listening to Michael Pollan and Hamilton Fish discuss Climate and Sustainability.  To be honest, it almost hurt as they mentioned Wendell Berry and I remembered my farm dreams.  I did grieve as I thought about all the loss that brought us from there to here.  And then I smiled at the irony. 

How many miles did we come to get to Alpine from Catawba?  We are still working on sustainability? 

After the dialogue I shook Mr. Pollan's hand and told him thank you.  Then we went outside into the glowing evening, took our picnic out to the tables in the vacant farmstand area and feasted.  J. brought a lovely handmade quilt and meatballs and carrot salad and boiled eggs and fruit salad.  And pepper jelly and cheese and crackers.  I brought Mark's baby squash and peppers, roasted with olive oil and sea salt, spread with Sally's herby chevre from Z-Bar ranch.  And Coyanosa tomatoes sliced and topped with Marfa Maid sundried tomato chevre and minced onions steeped in balsamic.  And of course homemade bread and cookies.  John brought the wine.  We celebrated G's return to the region.  We laughed and paused our stories when the train rumbled past.  We laughed and danced on the broad table top to 80's tunes.

Chocolate brioche at the morning market.  My dear sister's visit.  Michael Pollan.  Golden washed sunset and pictures.  An evening yummy picnic with friends.

You would think that would be enough!

Then we headed to Padre's, a local entertainment establishment, and danced and danced and danced to Joe King Carrasco, live Tex-Mex rock and roll. 

Life is pretty darn full.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Aloyssia Grattisima or White Brush

I looked up the medicinal properties of this prolific weed.  Several websites suggest that the leaves or bark of this fragrant bush can be boiled and used to treat digestive difficulties or anxiety.

As I biked down the street, past the big overflow ditch, the perfume overwhelmed me.  The plant is nondescript.  Tiny reams of tiny white blossoms on a scraggly bush, perhaps 5 feet tall, with rather scraggly silver gray leaves.  Definitely not much of a floral super model.  Typically prefers to reside in ditches, little draws.  Anywhere that might catch a little run off in a late summer thunderstorm. 

They won't catch your eye.

Oh, but we have many other senses, and they will make sure you don't forget the olfactory!

As I bicycled along, I tried to come up with a good description of the fragrance.  Pink.  Wait.  That is not much of a description of the smell.  The bush isn't even pink!  But it smells like some kind of pink candy.  Cotton candy? 

Sweet.  A perfume specially designed for 6 year old girls.  Or 45 year old women for that matter! 

I have heard some people describe the Chihuahuan Desert as a place God-forsaken.  Brutal.  Boring.  Harsh.

I wonder if those people ever got out of their car for very long? 

You might be surprised at the many delightful sights, sounds and smells this beautiful desert gives.  I haven't ever gotten around to boiling the leaves or bark of this bush, but I can testify that bicycling past that draw filled with carnival candy perfume definitely drops my blood pressure a notch or two. 

Just ask me about the antidepressant properties of the Pitaya, fruit of one of the local cactus here sometime.  We enjoy the tuna, the magenta fruit of the prickly pear, but pitaya is in a category all its own.

Think pale pink strawberry flavored kiwi.  Tangy.  Actually the size of a medium kiwi.  Covered with a skin loaded with 3/4 inch long spikes.  Which easily peels off with a paring knife.  Revealing the pale pinkish flesh, dotted with tiny black seeds that pop when you bite them. 

No food has awed me so immediately as the pitaya.  No food has ever wowed my friends like the  pitaya. 

We don't have many, but we have one big cactus by the steps to our bakery, and I keep my open for the fruit as they turn from green to red.  They make me smile.  Even more so than the figs in our back yard.  Can you believe that? 



Dropped of the Face of the Blog

Um.  Well.  This is a bit awkward, isn't it?  That moment when I come back and say sorry for walking away with nary a word. 

I feel kind of bad, like I was breaking up with all my loyal blog-friends, since I have not blogged for almost three months.  I hit a big block and couldn't even force myself to sit down and type.  I didn't journal.  I didn't facebook.  Well, except for a rare response to a nice message.  I didn't respond to a bunch of emails, which makes me feel like a terrible person, even though I read them all and appreciated them. 

Several of you sent me kind notes.  Encouraging notes. 

It is hard to express how touching it is to know that you care about what is going on in my life. 

Nevertheless, I had to pull things in a bit.  I was doing lots and lots of writing.  But not the fun sort.  School paperwork for five kids.  Financial aid paperwork for a college bound son.  Mortgage application.  Insurance applications.  Doctor paperwork for athletic packages for several kids.  College application.  More banking paperwork.  Lease agreement for the farm.  Bakery paperwork.  Boring, tedious, terribly unfun writing.  In the last two weeks alone I have probably filled out and signed over a hundred pages of drivel related to my childrens' education. 

Not exactly the entertaining stuff of blogworld.

And then we have had several major milestones which are the stuff of blogworld, and they were too painful at the time to share, so I just called a friend, old or new, and did quite a bit of crying on R's shoulder when I had him near. 

Add to that one little laptop shared between 5 or 6 people, several of them who like to check into facebook and twitter, a busy business, and a family to run, and I just threw in the towel.

Mind you, there are dozens of blogposts in my mind, scribbled in my memory, taking note of lovely things that took my breath away.  But once I reached the several dozen point (of lovely things, that is), I gave up, figuring it was useless to try to capture an ENTIRE summer!

But not writing is making me feel sad and blocked up.  Even though it seems narcissistic to write, and I guess deep down I struggle greatly with feelings of inadequacy, and the thought of other people reading about our world occasionally freaks me out.  I cringe at the thought of my unedited verbage being thrown out to the world, prime target for the grammar police, the editing squad, the critical meanies who might judge without knowing the whole story. 

I don't even know what this blog is about, now that we have no farm. 

The other day I decided I would aim to get back to writing.  I will attempt to forget about the big audience, just as I was instructed to do in a vocal performance, and will write.  To myself.  To Thomas.  To Mom and Daddy and the rest of the kids.  I probably won't edit because I just don't have time.  I hope you check in when you feel like it, because I appreciate our blog neighborhood.  If you find anything that resonates, that makes me glad.  If you don't, well, there are about a billion other blogs out there, and I bet there are a few hundred that might fit better!

Thanks for reading.  Your affirmation and encouragement bowl me over.  Thanks for sticking around. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fireflies Are Magic, aren't they?

The other day I got up early to work in the bakery.  Brushed off flour and dashed over to the highschool to take care of T's final IEP.  Got back to the bakery, worked, then ran to the middle school, right when we closed, to Rose's middle school awards assembly.  We slipped out after seeing her recieve her awards, drove back to the house to assemble picnic items, grabbed birthday cake and hula hoops and drove east to Marathon.

It was R's birthday and we wanted to celebrate him at the Post park.  Nestled in the foothills is a little oasis, a dammed up creek, picnic tables, grass and great big trees.  Freshly milled, whole grain breads, all the good sandwich makings, a spice cake, dogs and water and inner tubes. 

Once kids had their fill of cold water, we sat down to a feast.  Imagine our delight when the firelies began to sparkle around the edge of the creek! 

After such a busy, hectic day, I felt peace settle around us, as if the fireflies had sprinkled us with magic fairy dust.  I wish everyone would take the time out of a crazy week to pause in a beautiful spot to eat with loved ones.  It is very good medicine.  Sure am glad R had a birthday to give us such a great excuse!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

700 Posts?!?!

After I hit the publish button for the last post, I noticed on the sidebar that I have published 700 posts and 20 drafts that never made it into posts.

For some reason, that kind of makes me happy.

Going Back to Move Forward

We have been running a marathon here in Alpine.  What with end of school activities for five kids, running a bakery, managing a property in Virginia, working on getting financing for our home here in Texas, graduation, college plans, etc, etc, I have been setting aside the non-essentials.

Blogging would have to be considered a non-essential.

So I feel rusty and a bit blocked up.  Bear with me, and maybe if I can get back in to the practice, things won't be so choppy.  I admire those of you who edit!!! 

We are heading to Mom and Daddy's tomorrow, HOPEFULLY, and after a couple of days there, the truck should drive east toward my sister's and then to Virginia.  It is time to empty out the attic and the rest of the bookshelves.  We plan on taking the farm off the market to lease out for a couple of years.  We all eagerly anticipate spending time with our VA friends.  And I begin to pray for us all, especially the kids, as I remember how much pain I felt back in January upon stepping foot on the farm.  I hope it won't be more than the kids can bear. 

But in the meantime, road trip, here we come. 

How Can My Little Boy be a Graduate?

On June 1st, Thomas graduated from Alpine High School. 

My mom and dad and sister came to watch him receive his diploma.  Christine asked me if I was happy.

At the moment, there were so many emotions, I elected to not fully feel, since it would have been rather embarrassing to fall apart in the event center.  I was proud, and happy, yes, but so much more.

That night, R and I sat down at the table and I began to cry as he held my hand.  I wept as I told him I wanted to have Thomas be 5 years old again, coming up to me to tell me he loved me and wanted to marry me.  I told him I wished I could have him be little and come climb in my lap for stories.  I sobbed as I let my little boy go, knowing that this rite of passage meant that life as we knew it would not ever be the same.

And with all of that, I was proud, and so full of gratitude, my heart wanted to burst. 

The night before graduation we invited some of our friends over for a cookout.  Mostly friends from our little Episcopal church.  These dear people, kids up to 80 something year old, all joined us for burgers because they love Thomas.  They have been willing to allow Thomas to be himself.  When he got overloaded with all the noise and had to retreat to a corner, unable to talk to anyone, no one was offended. 

We have some amazing folks who have been there for this kid.  And over the years, it has been a joy to see how Thomas has been there for other people.  Like the way he always got his history teacher's jokes.  Like the way he would play peek a boo with our little friend Mec.  The way he would get in the kitchen and chop and cook up the most amazing ramen noodles.  With celery and onions and garlic and mushrooms and cabbage!

I still don't know quite what to do with the idea that Thomas has ended one chapter and is beginning another.  Today we drove to Roswell, NM, to continue getting him ready for the Occupational Services program at ENMU.  It starts in August.  He wished to train in the Food Services dept.  We also met with the orthodontist.   

I guess I have too many other things to worry about, so I s'pose I will choose to be proud and happy for the moment, and when a safe opportunity comes, I will probably have a great big cry. 

I Always Knew He Loved Me, but a Reminder is Pretty Nice! Or "Apricots"

This spring we noticed a smallish tree in the backyard had blooms.  We assumed it was an ornamental.  Pretty, but no substance.

As temperatures rose, we noticed small green balls hanging from the branches of this little tree next to the gazebo.  Not peaches.  Not apples or pears. 

What could they be?

A couple of weeks ago the little fruits began to blush.  A rosy blush like the afternoon sunset.  A sweet little blush, warm and orange.  We took a nibble of the unripe fruit and made our discovery.


I have always wished for an apricot tree. 

For Thomas's graduation party I made fresh apricot tarts, with our favorite french recipe.  (Thanks, Mom for pitting and halving!)  We have eaten them fresh, right of the tree.  We have discovered that we sure do like the ones that are almost ripe, but not quite, because they are like sweet tarts.

The plan is to pick them all tomorrow and take them with us to Mom and Daddy's.  I will make jam and apricot jalapeno jelly.  Mom will hopefully make apricot fried pies.  Have I ever told you about apricot fried pies?  Shucks.  Guess the diet will start AFTER the apricot fried pies. 

Thank you, God for apricots!  And for the Turners, for planting that tree all those years ago.  I feel loved!

Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.

I have worshiped God this weekend. (Last weekend of May)

It is fairly easy for me to worship the creator on a regular basis, as I watch the changing seasons, enjoy grandeur of our local scenery, and as I see grace poured out in my life every single day.

However, there are certain moments that are life-changing that propel me to deep in my bones worship, and being a part of Special Olympics this weekend would definitely fit that category.

Last fall, one of Thomas's special ed. teachers began to promote Special Olympics.  She rounded up several volunteers, other parents, kids from the local University.  She organized the fundraisers and practices.  She advertised.  This is a very busy single mom, full-time teacher with a special needs daughter of her own.  She is working toward graduation of her daughter, just like a lot of us other parents in town.  I can't imagine how she managed, but she pulled it off.  Thomas and his team went to the district Special Olympics competition in Odessa and they came back with a big pile of gold and silver medals.  And an invitation to participate in the State Summer Special Olympics in Arlington, TX.  Along with over 3000 other special kids from all over the entire state of Texas. 

I took off work in the bakery on faith, trusting that somehow it was much more important to support Thomas and the rest of the team than to earn money through bread baking.  I took the kids out of school on Thursday, trusting that the education of Special Olympics would be more valuable than the school they would miss. 

It was mostly about Thomas, seeing as this is his Senior year and he may  not be living with us anymore, come August. 

We drove over 8 hours to get here. We checked into the hotel and ate pizza, got the schedule from the coach and and hit the pool. I think we began to get an inkling that this weekend might be bigger than us and Thomas when we pulled into the hotel parking lot and saw hundreds of special needs kids lining up to check into the Holiday Inn Express. With uniforms on and surrounded by patient coaches and friends. Early next morning we drove to University of Texas Arlington Stadium to cheer on Thomas in the prelims. The moist air surprised us and the wind blew the hair out of our face as we waited on the south side of the field for Thomas's leg of the relay. We happened to get there early, which was a blessing. Other teams lined up in position to race. We found ourselves staring down into a picture of joy, courage and true grit. Kids with various disabilities ran around the track and we cheered for these strangers , rejoicing as they ran, eyes gleaming, smiles shining, arms and legs and prosthesis pumping. All of a sudden I realized this was much bigger than Thomas. Bigger than Alpine high school. I know the kids got it too and in that moment it was obvious this was a lesson that would more than likely change our life. We yelled and cheered and jumped with joy and I remembered my Aunt Linda, Daddy's baby sister with Down's Syndrome. I rejoiced in her life and thought of  my Grandma Rowe who so patiently taught her and the profound influence they had on my life.

The day grew long, the sun grew hot, and I had to remind the kids that our big trip to Arlington was not about us having fun doing leisure activities.  The shade disappeared and volunteers continued to measure and time and athletes ran and leaped.  We returned to the hotel to shower and change and get back to the Stadium for Opening Ceremonies.

The music blared, the teams were announced, and they marched onto the field, group after group.  Some schools only had one or two students.  Others had dozens.  Before you know it, the stadium field was completely filled with a rainbow.  Thousands of athletes, volunteers and law enforcement officers, flags and banners, brightly colored t-shirts, dancing kids, smiling faces, thumbs up. 

At that moment, I was filled with awe.  I was in the presence of the kingdom of God.  The athletes were there to compete, in a safe environment.  They were cheered on by people who loved them.  They rejoiced in the ability to move their bodies.  First place, or last, they gave it their all. 

I hate to dash off these unedited notes because the event merits a well-written article.  I have so many thoughts banging around my head.  I wish to do it all justice, but if I wait for that moment, nothing will get written at all.  So, bravely I forge ahead, wishing to say that Special Olympics changed my life.  I am proud that I had the opportunity to cheer on those kids.  I am proud of Thomas running and winning silver medal in running long jump, a ribbon in the 200 yard dash and bronze in the 4oo yard relay.  I am proud of the many volunteers who gave of their time to love on our kids.  And to encourage them to go for it. 

I want to live my life a bit more like those kids.  Willing to risk a little, regardless of my limitations.  I want to aim for the gold, but not be paralyzed if bronze or a medal is as far as I might be able to reach.  I want to run my race with joy and exhilaration. 

There is more.  But I guess I  might as well hit the post button so this doesn't get buried with the many other partially written posts I never get back to!  It was a huge blessing to be a part of Texas Special Olympics Summer Games.  If you get a chance, spend some time with someone with special needs.  I bet you will learn something wonderful about them.  And I bet they will teach you a few lessons that will help you in your own life. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Perhaps we should make some bouquets

I asked the kids to help me in the yard for Mother's day gift last weekend.  We cleared out some overgrown vines, pruned roses, weedeated, raked leaves, and formed another garden bed. 

Working together with my family is one of my favorite things.  So is working outside with dirt and plants.  Dr. and Mrs. Turner, the folks who built this home loved working outdoors, too, as is evidenced by the many garden beds, dozens of roses, the fig trees and beautiful regional plants and gorgeous rocks situated about the property. 

There is nothing like the good therapy of being outdoors, surrounded by lovely things.  And have you ever noticed how something like raking and sweeping can make a person feel a lot more in control of circumstances? 

After our little time of work, I noticed the kids a lot more happy to hula hoop, swing and take a book outdoors to read.  Maybe this evening we should take our read aloud book out to the swing for tonight's chapter.  We are reading Rascal, by Sterling North.  There is a sweet story connected to that book and our family, I hope to tell you sometime.  But for now, Nora and I need to head to the library.  Better grab the bikes and go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There will be bread

The skies are leaden, the grass is green and the air is fresh and cool.  48 degrees this morning!

Yesterday the thunder boomed and hail fell, and I filed papers and cried and cleaned house.  The release felt great and I felt like a new woman by evening.  Yesterday morning I felt like I might never bake again.  But five am came this morning and I was able to get up and go. 

Please don't underestimate the power of a good cry. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cloudy with a chance of rain

We had several days of rain last week.  The waters flowed, the desert smelled delicious.  We have grass growing in the yard and the cactus and desert willow are blooming like crazy.

Rain falling, thunder booming and somehow we muddled threw our third year of remembering Philip's birthday without him.  An acquaintance suggested to me that maybe if I didn't mention Philip so much, the kids might be less sad.

Maybe I should concentrate on looking forward instead of keeping our focus on what used to be.

The little aside bothered me more than I wished it would have.  It was sweet advice, offered in love.  The truth is, I don't really mention Philip that often, but when the kids bring up his memory, I elect to go there with them.  Bottled up pain and grief doesn't help anyone. 

After we got home from the Highschool Athletics banquet, where Thomas, Patrick and Maggie were all honored, I went to say goodnight to Maggie.  She was lying in bed, reading the Navy Seal Workout book.  Philip picked that book up from Goodwill or some other second hand bookstore when we were homeschooling.  He would get the kids up and outside most mornings and take all five of them through paces.  They did their calesthenics on the concrete pad he poured out by the backdoor.  Then he would take them on a cross-country run he developed on the farm, running through the pasture, over the stream across a fallen log, climbing up and over a fence.  They would complain and fuss, but you know they loved it.

I asked Maggie if looking through the book made her sad.  She seemed happy and pensive, thinking about her dad.  I never even brought him up.  The kids seem to have no problem having his memory come up, at all sorts of times. 

Do you know that the Athletics Banquet was the very first kid's school event where I didn't silently weep, embarassed by my tears, feeling the pain and loss of Philip?  I didn't even realize it until the next day, as I recounted the story to my boyfriend.  And then I cried.  Because I didn't cry the night before. 

Then I asked my dear, dear boyfriend if it bothered him when I grieved Philip in his presence.  True love is being able to share one's true feelings.  Even the sad ones.  I was sweetly reassured.

Each of the kids mourned a lot last week.  I wonder if the fact that we are surviving without Philip ever leaves them feeling confused and a bit guilty like it does me? 

One of my other little ones came to me after school on the day of Philip's birthday.  "At least I didn't cry in school today and have to be sent to the guidance counselor's office this year," she told me, tears welling up in her precious eyes.  Letting me know she really needed to cry.  But was ashamed of having to expose her weakness to someone she didn't know. 

I didn't work as much as I needed to last week.  I spent more time cuddling and bike riding with kids and hanging out with them to talk, listen, just be.  They need so much more than I can give.  We all worked outside in the yard for a few hours on Saturday.  I spent Saturday evening with grownup friends and had fun and danced and drank wine and ate good food and tried to forget for a few hours.  Instead of the hard, extra challenging exercise bike rides, I had leisurely ones with Nora, enjoying the clouds and the puddles.  Took a couple of naps.  Didn't clean the house.

I was going to keep all this stuff to myself, but then I thought about the conversation a friend and I had about our kids and their grief struggles.  There are several young people I know who are having serious battles, and in each case, counselors suggest that unresolved grief is a root cause.  Some kids come away from the loss of a parent seemingly unscathed, but then there are the others, who try to assuage the deep loss and ache with drugs, alcohol, unhealthy, damaging relationships and other things. 

Grief counselors suggest that being allowed to remember, to tell the story, to feel the waves of pain is part of the path toward healing and healthy adjustment.  Finding the right people to listen and bear and share is important.  Maybe the reason I don't feel like writing anymore is that I am tired of having to admit that grief still affects us most weeks.  And that it is still hard.  In fact, being a single mom just gets harder and harder.  I imagine that a few readers of this blog can understand what I am talking about but the others out there who have yet to experience deep loss must be getting a bit tired of this. 

Life is a tangled up mess sometimes.  In the middle of the pain and loss, we have great joys and successes.  The bakery is thriving.  Who would have thought I could have brought that equipment here to our new town in the middle of nowhere and be able to generate an income?  A small income, but sufficient for the most part. 

The kids are finding their way in this town.  Yesterday Rose and Maggie went off on their own for a 2 1/2 mile run around the loop.  And then up to the top of the mountain behind the University campus up the street.  I regularly hear the sound of girls playing the piano.  Thomas is often chopping up something in the kitchen or coming back from a big bike ride.  Patrick is off working or running or doing some kind of community service if he isn't at a robotics conference or history fair. 

We have a church family and friends.  I have some Bible study ladies and you know how I love those bible study ladies.  The brisk, 50 degree mornings and lack of humidity invigorate me.  The smell of creosote and view of the mountains inspire me.  Because of work and school I don't get to see my parents as often as I would like, but I know I could if need be.

I suppose  I am writing because I wish others who are grieving to be reassured that we are all in this together, and from what others who are further along in the journey tell me, this is normal.  Please, when you are feeling a wave of pain, find someone who loves you enough to listen.  Not everyone can handle our grief.  There might be people in your life who have their own struggles and simply can't bear another drop of pain.  I believe we can ask God to show us who might be a safe friend who can share our burdens with us.  Sometimes a journal might be the safest friend.  Just like a splinter that festers and burns when left in the foot or the finger, so is grief and painful memory shoved to the side. 

I thank God daily for the faithful friends who have been willing to walk alongside us on this journey. 

PS thank you for the kind comments.  They mean so much to me.  I am behind in letter writing, email returning and comment responding.  Just because I don't respond doesn't mean I wasn't deeply touched by your encouragement.