Saturday, February 18, 2012
On Valentine's Day, some other customers brought me roses and a bottle of wine.
Other customers freely share hugs when I need them. One customer brought me a great big bag of pecans from her family in Mississippi. Oh, my, goodness. They were so good, I ate the entire bag all by myself, one handful at a time.
Some customers left me the name of their favorite poet today as I shared with them mine (Donald Hall). We share recipes, grief stories, joys of new grandbabies, smiles, tears, and more often than not, prayers, and a few gripes as well.
I have a hard job, that requires very long hours standing on my feet, lugging around big bags of grain and tubs of dough. I use a big oven and have the scars to prove it. Sometimes at the end of an eighteen hour long day I want to cry. And sometimes I do.
But then I think about the many lives of folks who have entered my life because of freshly milled whole wheat and spelt and I give thanks for my job. It seems like a miracle that I am able to get the bills paid by milling and baking bread. I can genuinely say that I am one very blessed gal, with a terrific job.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I get up bright and early to bake.
Dark equals coffee. I walk, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen, fill the kettle and set it on the stove, wash hands and move towards the bakery to begin milling the hard white wheat. After getting the first load running, I return to the kitchen, grind the beans and pour the boiling water into the french press. Pull out the mixer bowl and hot water and yeast and start the Italian peasant bread dough. Grab milk from the fridge to warm for milk and honey bread. Realize that I ran out of the Robert's cream and have to drink black coffee again for the third day in a row. Oh well. Won't kill me.
About the time three-fourths of the bread dough is rising for the second time, it is time to wake the kids for school. I set out strawberries and yogurt and toast for them and basically ignore them as they get ready and I work.
Three cups of coffee later, I drive them to school. Except for Patrick and Thomas who are still biking, even in the 30 degree mornings.
Rachel and I talked on the phone as I kneaded loaves, as we do almost every single morning, except on the weekends. I work. She nurses Marlena. Thank goodness our tradition continues, even though we are hundreds and hundreds of miles apart. The biggest difference is that on those bad afternoons, when nothing will work to make kids happy, I would, in the past say, "Load them up and come over and let them play outside while we have a cup of tea or a glass of wine(depending on before or after 5)."
It is dreadful to be so far away that they can't all pile in and come over for hundreds of slices of milk and honey bread and games with the kids and chasing after Patrick. But thank God for Alexander Graham Bell!
So the bread happened, the bakery opened. A dozen roses arrived from my dear one. Made me thankful to have such sweetness in the middle of moments of raw.
I purchased the ingredients to make the tradition continue.
Fourteen years ago, we had Jersey Momma staying with us in our rambling house on 1418 Elizabeth Blvd in Fort Worth. I had little Thomas and toddler Patrick and infant Maggie. Jersey Momma had a broken arm, hence the long visit. Valentine's Day came along, and I wondered how we could celebrate, our little extended family?
Knowing my mother-in-law's continental tastes, I opted for French Bistro, remembering a recipe in a Belgiun Cookbook for Pommes Frites, and you probably already know how much I love red meat and fried potatoes and a really good excuse for a glass of red wine.
True Pommes Frites are hard to beat. I remember in Europe, at night, we would walk around and there would be trucks set up, here and there, offering cones of crispy, golden, salted deliciousness for mere euros, and I was in heaven. For years I would try to make french fries, and the limp, greasy sticks of potatoes were okay, but not really great. Well, not really good. But then I read that great cookbook, EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER IN BELGIUM (btw, who has that book? I loaned it out to somebody and wish I had it back...) and never looked back.
And the rest is history.
The secret is in twice frying the potatoes in a good, hot, clean oil, preferably peanut, since it is suited to high heats and high heat is necessary.
Well, we loved that meal so much that I have made it every single Valentine's Day since. For 14 years.
After baking in the bakery all day long, I didn't feel like making a gourmet French bistro meal for a bunch of kids, but all these years past, the special part of Valentine's Day is setting the table with all the pretty dishes, the tablecloth, the napkins. Putting out candles and flowers and candy hearts to let the kids know that they are worthy of fancy dinner party. Without grownup company.
For a part of the day I hurt, grieving different things I guess. But at some point, I took the time to read in my devotional, which reminded me to consider each day a new adventure, to reach out to experience it. And while that seems like a very trivial thing, it completely turned my attitude around, and I decided to rejoice.
All of a sudden, it was a privilege to bake fancy Queen of Sheba cakes, one for us and one for Raymond to take home since he couldn't stay for dinner. It was a joy to cut up potatoes and to heat the oil, anticipating the salty crunch of fattening carbs that would bring joy to our family.
Serving customers in the afternoon made me happy and thankful and as we sat around the table, remembering many things this evening, I was made glad.
We couldn't remember last Valentine's day at all. I think the boys were gone. I remember shopping for trinkets for the girls, but can't even remember sitting at the table with them. Isn't that weird? So maybe grief pain isn't quite as raw this year as last. We spent some time at the table, after the dinner, before the Queen of Sheba, praying for our dear ones. For friends with babies. For friends with illness. For blended families to knit together. For us to love each other. Then dessert.
We asked God to tell Philip hello for us and to tell him we are thankful for him and how he showed love to us. Then we thanked God for the dear new friends who have entered our life.
In grief support group we would talk about traditions and what we felt like we ought to keep.
Today I wondered about this tradition. I don't know what next year will bring. Thomas is about to turn 19 and hopes to graduate from Alpine Highschool and go to a program for special needs kids in Roswell, NM. He might not be with us next year. Things are changing around me every minute. Who knows if we will all be able to sit around the candles and the roses and the sweetheart candies next year, enjoying our steaks, done rare-medium rare, with creamed spinach and pommes frites, me with a glass of red wine, they with sparkly fruity stuff?
But tonight, I rejoiced in the moment.
So thankful for my family. For the kids around the table. And for tradition, ever-evolving, yet tasting the same.
Happy Valentine's Day. I pray that you will each know how much you are loved, just as I pray the same for me and my children.
PS please try to make some homemade frites sometime. A lot of work, but worth it. And remind me to share the recipe for Queen of Sheba cake, the healthy version. I think I posted it last year. It is still every bit as good. Yumm. And the freshly milled whole wheat, no white sugar version is decadent and worthy of Valentine's Day.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
The lightening flashed and thunder cracked and cold, cloudy night-time skies released their gift of raindrops. We are in need of days and days of rain, but will be thankful for the showers.
A train cries out in the distance and I wonder where it is going? El Paso or San Antonio?
Friday, February 10, 2012
Yesterday the shower in the kids' bathroom wouldn't stop running. Full blast. Patrick turned the water off outside the house once we filled up lots of pots and pans and half gallon jars.
I found a bolt embedded in one of the car tires. And worse, found out that one of my friends was in the hospital.
Got an uncomfortable, unfriendly phone call, and decided I should call it a day.
Since the plumber couldn't make it to the house yesterday, I broke down and ordered pizza for the kids, who were delighted to eat a bunch of white flour and chemical laden sauce and pepperoni! Too hard to cook up all our delicious veggies with no water for pots and pans.
Have you ever reached the tipping point, when you realize it is humorous, how many things can go wrong in one 24 hour period?
I went to bed, watched a movie, and slept hard, waking at 7:30am, nice and late. Which was fine because the kids were home with a day off from school.
Suddenly energized, I decided to mill and bake anyway. We had set aside several gallons of clean water for coffee, pot washing, hand washing, and I put on some Emmylou Harris. Things are not going in my normal order. The plumber came much later than he thought, but all is working now, and the bill wasn't astronomical. Some bread will be baked before the day is over. The sun is shining, and seems as if the rain has passed us by. Girls have been playing happily together with their toys for hours.
All my problems haven't faded away, but I feel much better today. Yesterday's devotional in Jesus Calling (thank you, Dixie Farmer!) reminded me that my life journey would not be an easy road, but it would be a delightful treasure hunt if I would keep my eyes open. That hardships, a necessary part of this journey, would be "meted out ever so carefully, in just the right dosage, with a tenderness you can hardly imagine."
I still haven't figured out what those treasures are in the middle of my paltry, trivial annoyances and the great big significant trials. But I am trying hard to keep my eyes open. The joy of running water after having to do without for 30 hours is delightful. And makes me think of those people who are far from running, clean water. I pray that running water would be accesible to all people, especially mothers with little babies, as I think of the people I met in India who not only didn't have clean water, but lost their homes, possessions, churches and many loved ones.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
I feel a bit embarrassed to expose my whininess to the public.
There are many people with significant problems and mine are microscopic in comparison. But I have noticed that this time of year is brutal, with grief muscle memory coloring a lot of our experiences. Perhaps if I share some of our pain, others will feel less alone in their own private battles. Lest anyone worry about us too much, we are self-prescribing the things that grief experts suggest help one to get through the dark days.
Less sugar and white flour.
More sunshine and a bit of exercise.
More water, more water, more water.
Social time, for me, in the form of Bible study and a course up at the college.
Sharing my grief story with others instead of bottling it up inside.
Remembering sweet moments with Philip and the kids.
Finding opportunites to serve others who need help.
You may have your own grief issues. If not, I believe you probably know someone with significant loss. It is rather shocking how long pain can endure with the loss of a spouse or child. That doesn't mean we don't experience moments of true joy and pleasure. But the pain gets woven up into all the other experiences and brings a unique color to life. Please be patient with yourself and others if it seems like a person is hurting longer than you think they should. I have noticed that beauty is more beautiful to me, now that I know pain. And joy is even more rich, now that I know pain. There are treasures scattered all along the journey, but sometimes it takes wading through some deep waters to get to them.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The other day I got a call from Coco's new owner. She had some strange symptoms. I thought it might be mastitis, but who can tell over the telephone, several states away?
I was busy hurrying from the bakery to the church to take kids to acolyte training. Then I hurried back home to finish up in the bakery, then got up early to head to the farmer's market, then rushed home to clean house and pack and wait for Mom and Daddy to get here for Nora's baptism on Sunday morning, then be ready to fly to Virginia on Monday morning.
My friend and I drove to Midland, trusting that kids were well cared for, hopped on plane, via Houston and Washington DC and then Roanoke.
The rental car made its way through the Catawba Valley late Monday night and the 54 degree temperatures were eery for late January. I got out to open the gate and was shocked as the tears overwhelmed me.
The familiar mountains and outbuildings, smells and sounds acosted my senses and I guess I started crying and couldn't stop until sometime the next day.
I went back to take care of a few things on the farm, readying it for the spring real estate market.
We painted bedrooms upstairs. We scraped paint off the balcony window that the painters forgot last summer. We mopped and polished and cleaned baseboards and rearranged furniture and cleaned attic. Serge and James came and helped with the painting. So did Debra. Maggie and Stewart and Julia brought lunch. Seemed like old times. Almost like old times, anyway.
I took paperwork to my accountant in Floyd. Had a quick lunch with Lynne at our favorite, the Blue Apron. Raymond and I were astonished to hear peepers in the evening.
How weird is that?
I remember that we usually heard the peepers in March. Will have to check the blog to make sure, but NEVER in January or February.
Can you believe that the pond hasn't frozen over once this winter? Our neighbor friends who were born in the valley said that it hasn't been so warm in the winter in their 58 yrs of recollection.
I haven't cried so many hours in a very long time.
I mourned the death of many dreams.
My friend comforted me and didn't run away from my tears.
I was shocked at the amount of tears. Wanted to run away myself, but couldn't.
I am glad to be in Texas. Don't even want to move back to the farm.
It hurt me deeply to be there. And just about the time I thought I was done with crying and could get on with my work, I found out that Coco, our dear milk cow, died of gangrenous mastitis.
I wept and wept. She was my friend as you long time blog readers know.
I guess she influenced my life more than just about any person I have known.
It is very late and I should be in bed instead of writing in this blog, but for some reason, I feel rotten when I don't write, so here I am, feeling rotten.
I wish to write many things about Coco. Hope to do that later.
But for now, the truth is, I am hurting over a lot of things. February is not my favorite month. I miss my friends. I love the new friends who are being woven into our life here in Alpine, but true friendship takes time and shared experiences and it is hard to want to invest all the energy when I have dear ones I love back near the farm.
I felt so happy knowing Coco was giving life and joy to her new family, and now they know grief and are busy taking care of her new little baby, Nutmeg. Thank God for Nutmeg to keep them moving forward.
I was so tired from the work and emotional drain from the trip, I wished to stay in bed for a week, but thankfully I have kids who need me. So I am getting up to see them off to school. And am washing clothes and operating the bakery and having Bible study and going to the History of Philosophy class even though I would rather not.
The moon was full yesterday, I think. It is still astonishingly bright this evening. I walked to the campus this evening and it was brisk, but a light jacket sufficed. Hopefully we will get some rain this week. I have lots of things to tell, but will head to bed, hoping that tomorrow the energy will be somewhat restored.
Peace to all.