Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet.

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

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

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

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

Fall Garden

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

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

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

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

And a quite amazing producer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have chicken reality TV right outside my kitchen window.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Performing Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

This performance reminded me. And filled me nicely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Black Eyed Peas and The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

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

Also inspired by forecasted cool front.

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

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

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

Here is the recipe:

Blackeyed Peas and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 8, 2014


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

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

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

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

Muscle memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sweet Companions

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

It was delightful.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy birthday!

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

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

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014


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

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

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

L'Heure Bleue

Oh my goodness!

I wish you could have seen the sky outside just now. The mountains ringing our little town were a subtle, dark blue. The first bank of clouds hovering over, steel grey blue. And then, majestically reigning over the sky, the most incredible, gold tinged pink clouds. A sliver of waxing moon hanging off to the side. It looked like a painting by one of the great masters. It was truly too beautiful to be real. And yet I stood outside for a few minutes to inhale the gorgeousness.

At times I have thought that those giant paintings of golden pink clouds in large museums look a bit fake. But if you had seen the sky I just consumed, you would know they are not merely works of the imagination.


Just had to share.

Am trying to be mindful of the great world around me. And before the great sky, I saw a pretty rainbow as I headed out to walk around the loop. Great medicine...

Wind's a Shiftin'

Most of the day in the bakery was sunny and hot. Perfect conditions for baking bread, at least for the yeast. But kinda stuffy for the baker. A fan was blowing but I was sweating.

Around three the air felt heavy. A friend said clouds were building to the east, but I couldn't see them. Then all of a sudden, about the time my customers started coming around, the sunshine dimmed and the temperatures dropped ten degrees. Thunder boomed from a far, the breeze picked up and a few giant drops of rain slammed down onto the car port.

What a difference.

The air feels light, cool and fresh. The rain seems to have missed us for the moment, but I love how drastically things can change, meteorologically, in a matter of minutes! Don't like the weather here in Texas? Wait a bit, it will probably change...or so they say.

Meanwhile I wait for my ship to come in. Shipment, that is, of 2500 lbs of grain from Montana. Hard white wheat. Spelt. Kamut. Rye. And a bunch of organic chicken food! All Non-GMO, raised by family farmers, and bagged up in a family run mill. I was disappointed that the carrier truck didn't arrive earlier in the week, but that is one of the prices we pay for living in such a remote area. And a price I am happy to pay, since I love my little town so much.

But don't you think I ought to make the drive up to Montana myself one of these days? It sure would be cool to meet the people who grow my grain and bag it up. Hmmm. Maybe next spring? A "work" vacation?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take a Walk with the Devil

Dust devil that is!

I was walking back to the house this afternoon when I noticed a dust devil whirling up the street, headed my way.

Dust devils are a common sight out here, and usually delight me from afar. This time, I enjoyed the natural phenom up close and personal! I continued my walk, wondering if I would have to dash to avoid being swept up into the dusty debris. Whisk, whisk, whisk, subtle sound of a little street sweeper.

I kept to my side of the street, the devil rushed up the middle. Shadow of the whirling dust upon the street looked like the arms of a pinwheel. Though the whirlwind was only inches from me, I didn't feel the stirring of a breeze when we passed each other. Not a speck of dust found itself landing on me.

Couldn't help but grin...


A movement caught my eye.

A hummingbird?

No, a gorgeous swallowtail butterfly taking advantage of the zinnia buffet spread out below the bakery window.

It dipped, drank, swam around, came back for another sip.

Black outlining dramatic yellow strips. Long "tail feathers" and silvery blue dots.

I didn't stay put to watch his dance for long. Was chatting with some friends in the bakery, working on some tasks. But the moment I did pause was delightful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lasts and Firsts

Tonight is the last night Patrick sleeps under my roof as a kid who lives here.

In the morning we will groggily throw the rest of the stuff into the back of the truck and head to Central Texas.

I offered to make a gourmet feast for Patrick's friends, whomever he chose.

His pals are going their different ways. His choice was a handful of his high school teachers: Mrs. Keith, geometry, Coach Keith, history, economics, cross country and track, Mrs. Fox, history and history fair, Mrs. Donaghey-literature and writing and Mr. Fox- FFA, welding,etc.

Even though they are in the middle of get ready to start school weeds, they took the time to spend several hours in our home, visiting, eating and drinking, remembering, sharing stories, laughing with us as we prepare to launch Patrick into his new chapter.

Is it a new chapter? A new book?

I found myself a bit tense the other day. Somewhat short with a couple of the girls. I paused to ask myself where these feelings were coming from. What did it feel like?

It felt like grief.

When I named it I began to sob.

Guess I found the ticket.

I apologized to the girls and told them I was feeling a bit grieved about the fact that Patrick will no longer be a part of our daily life. I told them I was so proud and happy about his transition, but that it left me feeling a bit bereft. I told them it was no excuse to be short with them, and I hoped they would forgive me. And of course they did.

A couple of days ago I decided that I had had enough of painting on the rent house I purchased this past winter. I found a green I liked and set to task painting my new kitchen. Ahhh. lovely.

And then the next day decided that I couldn't live with the grubby laundry room any longer and went to buy a nice creamy yellow. Patrick came home from work, yet again to see me, hair askew, ripped up t-shirt and shorts, covered in paint, perched on a chair, transforming another room.

The next day I tended chores, worked on bakery odds and ends. Made phone calls. Cleaned. And at 6:45pm, after supper, ran to TruValue and purchased yet more paint. The dining room. I couldn't live with it another day.

Granted, we have not ever painted since we moved in three years ago this month. But, three days in a row?

Patrick walked in from work and asked if it was a sickness... We laughed. I painted on.

This morning I finished painting a nice glossy white over the primed 1970's dark paneling in the dining room. Then raced, dirty clothes and painted face, to Sul Ross State University Meat Lab to purchase some locally grown and harvested beef for our farewell dinner.

I felt a bit manic. Slightly hard around the edges.


So happy to launch this amazing progeny out of the nest and into the great big blue sky up there in Austin.

And yet.

So many people try to steer my little feelings of grief into happy thoughts, reminding me of the positive.

Well, truth be told, I am thrilled to see Patrick go forward. I would feel rather sad and worried and irritated to have him want to stick around home another few years! That said, I am a realist. I know that for us, and for him, this leaving is a definite end. He is packing up his room to make ready for a sister to move in. His treasures are going into boxes for a time when he has more space and can take them onto his own property. Old swords, a tinder bag he crafted out of old blue jean denim for his fire starting adventures, stuff. Things too precious to discard, but moving into the shed. He will take his scant little pile of clothes. Stacks of books. Camping gear.

When he returns it will be for a visit.

How can it be that one day, this little child is smiling at me with happy teeth, playing with a GI Joe with his brother, laughing heartily, cuddling sweetly and now speaks of economics and world issues and knows how to take a book and annotate and discuss and verbally parry swords; annoyingly argumentative, beautifully inquisitive, sweetly sensitive?

We dined at a lovely, candlelit table. Bouquets of zinnias and coral vines. A silver obi with orange design. As close to UT colors as I could get! We made toasts. Said prayers. Enjoyed food and more food and then chocolate cake. Our friends said their most gracious goodbyes, and let me tell you-I know we are blessed. Lucky. How could it be that we moved to the edge of the earth and had these teachers bestowed upon us???

I set upon the piles of dishes and couldn't help but think of the many dinner parties back in the good ole days, when the guests would depart and Philip and I would find ourselves in the kitchen, laughing over the memories of different conversations, drinking the last bits of wine from the bottle, snagging one more bite of cake as we scrubbed and washed and dried.

I found myself talking to his memory, comparing notes, remembering the baby days, marveling over the growing up days. I thought how proud he would be of his son. How he would have loved sitting down to table with those lovely educators. How we never would be here had he not died. What a weird world we live in, a maze, twists and turns, never knowing what awaits, but somehow certain that not only will it be bearable, it will probably be beautiful...

Can't say I have figured out how to be thrilled about single parenting. Haven't figured out how to not feel sad.

Am pretty thankful to be able feel such a spectrum of emotions. It is rich.

Just like a tasty French meat dish. It starts out with a nice hunk of meat. Many different ingredients. Celery, onion, garlic,carrots, anchovies, bay leaf,red wine, beef broth, some thyme. Peppercorns, sea salt. A few sprigs of parsley and rosemary. It looks watery. Not so special. But several hours later, the meat is tender, the juices thick and savory.

Best eaten with friends. And candle light. Red wine. Lots of veggies. Some fresh, crusty peasant bread, kneaded by loving hands, salted with a few tears.

So my dear son Thomas lives down the street. Patrick will soon live in a giant dorm. The house is exploding with feminine energy. And we are doing well.

And the library is just itching for a nice coat of paint!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summertime Riches or Ginger Figgy Tarts

We have two fig trees in our backyard. I hope to propagate two or three more trees from suckers off of our existing tree. We sheet composted a big pile of chicken litter over by the west side of the yard in preparation for my fall hopefullness.

My favorite way to eat figs is warm, in hand, right off the tree. In fact, I often feel a bit greedy and selfish when in the backyard, surreptitiously nabbing the mouthfuls of rich, decadent delights, looking one way and the other to make sure no one sees me consume all I can pick in one setting.

The thing is, we had a really hard freeze back in May when the first crop of figs had set. We lost them all. The summer has been pleasant, with enough erratic rains to keep the trees going. We made sure to feed them well with compost. They are loaded, but with tiny, second crop, not quite ripe figs. We are impatient. Five or ten ripe figs a day are just not enough!

Imagine my delight when my sister brought me two and a half gallon ziploc bags filled with washed figs from her tree in Austin!

They went into the freezer and my mind went into overdrive, trying to think of a recipe worthy of such a gift. Figgy oatmeal tarts seemed like the thing. I boiled a gallon bag of the figs with two cups of sucanat, a pinch of sugar, minced fresh ginger, perhaps three tablespoons worth?, zest of one organic lemon, juice of two, a cup of water to keep the mixture from burning as it started to boil. I stirred and stirred as the mixture bubbled away. When it was thick as preserves, I took it off the burner and worked on a recipe for the tart.

Yum. This stuff tasted great!

I dug out the cute little pampered chef tart pans and set them aside. Turned on the big bakery oven and got to work. Keep in mind this is a process that took a couple of weeks. First week I made a batch, I didn't have any fresh ginger. They were delicious, but missing something. The addition of ginger gave it a nip and texture that was just perfect. And besides, who is the baker making these treats anyway?

The tart shells were pretty basic. A mixture of coconut oil, sucanat, vanilla and freshly milled spelt. I pressed the dough into the cute little pans and baked it for 15 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven. When they were just turning brown, I pulled them, and generously filled the pans with the fig mixture. Topped with a mixture of spelt flour, sucanat, coconut oil, oats, almond extract, pinch of salt and crushed almonds. The first go around I made the topping without almonds and it was lovely, but the nutty crunch was a perfect counterpoint to the ginger in the figs. The oatmeal topping went on top of the figs and into the oven they went. The week before I drizzled the tarts with honey brought to me by a friend from his bee hives. It was a great touch. I forgot to do that this past week, and noticed the difference. The figs are sweet enough, but there is something about a tiny drizzle of raw honey that adds a bit of depth to the whole thing. Can you tell this is a work in progress?

Oh, another little detail: coconut oil. It is a magical, wonderful ingredient, and if you have done any research the last few years, you will know it is no longer one of the bad guys. It has to do with how the body metabolizes the fat globules in the coconut oil. I love the stuff. I use two varieties. There is the first press, cold press coconut oil which has a decidedly coconutty smell and taste. And then the second press, which has all the benefits, but none of the smell and taste. The first press is extremely expensive, but worth the cost in certain recipes. This is one of them!

Oh dear. These treats are so delicious, so decadent, I couldn't make enough. My customers want them year round. I need some friends with abundant figs! Will trade bread for figs! Perhaps we need to enjoy them now, knowing that to everything there is a season. A season for figs. A season to dream of figs. A season to fondly remember what we had, and to hope for what will be again...

Here's the recipe, scaled down from bakery version. I hope you will try it! And if you are not into the many steps, or only have access to a few figs, then try my all-time, second favorite way to enjoy them: still warm from the tree, place on a plate with some chevre, through on a handful of almonds, drizzle with honey and feast, preferably under the dappled shade of a tree, with warm sunshine and a friend.

2 cups whole figs
1/4 cup sucanat
one knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, minced
pinch of salt
1/4 c water

place in heavy saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil while constantly stirring. The figs will soften and burst. The juices will thicken. This mixture is wonderful spread over buttered toast if you have leftovers. Or served with roasted pork tenderloin. Or spread over goat cheese. It will store in the fridge nicely.

Tart crust:
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. sucanat
1/4 tsp vanilla
1- 1 1/4 c. spelt flour

Mix well and press into pans. Bake for 15 minutes in 350 oven.

Spread figgy jam into tart pans, and top with oatmeal topping:

1/4 c. rolled oats, i prefer a thick roll
1/4 c. spelt flour
3 TBSP coconut oil
1/4 c. chopped almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract

Drizzle a tiny bit of honey over the oatmeal topping.

Bake tarts in 350 degree oven until top is lightly browned and figgy mixture is bubbly. Try to let the tarts cool before you eat them so you don't get burned!

Enjoy. If you wish to be really fancy, garnish the lovely things with a piece of lemon zest curl, a halved fresh fig and an almond.

Monday, July 21, 2014

All is Well


I remember drives through Pennsylvania in August. Farmstand in NJ in the summertime. Visits to my Aunt and Uncle in Arkansas, sticky hot, but giant platters or stockpots filled to overflowing with the glorious richness of the season, and me glad to have full use of my teeth to chomp down on thoroughly buttered, heavily salted and peppered, tender, sweet, crunchy like nothing else corn on the cob. How many times, sitting outside with family, grownups visiting, all of us shucking. Piles of sticky silken threads, scratchy dark green leaves.

When it was not just normal but expected that everyone would eat at least 2 or 3 or more cobs, all by themselves.

I eat mine typewriter style. I find it hard to set the cob down between bites. In fact, I rather like to devour the whole thing, and then get around to eating whatever is left on the plate.

There have been occasions we have purchased corn from the grocery store. Those are times I can somehow manage to stop at one ear.

But, oh, when the corn goes straight from the garden, less than an hour before supper, and directly into the pot, or microwave, or wherever. Well. That is the time that merits a poem.

Instead of a poem, while I wait for the six minutes to pass before I pull the corn out of the pot and call the kids to table, I will chronicle the outcome of our experiment. We had plenty for Sunday dinner yesterday. And enough more for everyone to eat to their heart's content tonight. And that is all.

A tiny plot and a tiny outcome. But the ears are well formed and the taste is just what one wishes to enjoy on a hot July evening.

With all the hard stuff, the stressful stuff, the worrisome stuff, I give thanks for corn on the cob. Harvested from our tiny little scrap of a garden. I'm going to take it as a sign and an omen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

By the Way, a recipe

The other day we enjoyed a most delicious soup of leftovers.

I boiled the carcass of our homegrown roast chicken with carrots, garlic, celery and onions. A pinch of salt.

When the broth was nice and aromatic, after three hours or so, I strained out the odds and ends. Added cumin, some crushed tomatoes, a can of corn, a cup of quinoa, salt, pepper, a can of green chilis (I know, I know, wouldn't you like the false idea that we only eat foods harvested from our little small town backyard, but fact is, I work many hours, and sometimes, cans are a girls best friend),and half a jar of leftover salsa, and a large zucchini grown in my BFF's backyard. Nothing fancy, but quite good for leftover scraps.

If I had a bunch, I would have thrown in a handful or two of chopped cilantro. But my first crop has gone to seed, and the second bunch is still tiny. If I had had a bit more energy, I would have harvested some oregano and chives and thrown in for good measure.

But this recipe is to remind us all that sometimes what we have is plenty good enough.

PS we have harvested a dozen and a half little eggs from our teenage flock of hens. They are so precious to me. Isn't it crazy that a bunch of messy chickens can give me so much joy?

Monsoon Season in the Desert Southwest

Each afternoon these days, the skies darken. Black blue clouds promise cool breezes and electric flashes. Mounds of masterpiece cumulus surround our little town. We hope. We hang our clothes on the line. We water the garden. We leave a couple of car windows open. We threaten to do silly, crazy things, like dance naked in the streets. But I suppose nobody has done so, because the clouds scurry away, the sun comes out, and the laundry dries thoroughly.

But I have faith. My buckets and tubs are poised, ready to catch the spillage of our forecasted showers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

time flies...

Patrick graduated third in his class last Friday. He has worked very hard these past four years. I am so proud of him. He set a bunch of long distance records in cross country and track in our high school. He went to the state level in history fair, twice. He was in FFA leadership, FCA leadership. He volunteered in a variety of local efforts. He competed and went to district and regional UIL competitions, in literary criticism, current events and social studies. He has boxes of medals and awards. Was homecoming king and prom king.

He will be going to the University of Texas in austin this fall. A campus of over fifty thousand students. He received a very nice academic scholarship and with financial aid should do alright. I took him out to lunch yesterday. As he ate his sandwich and I my bowl of soup, watching the boiling clouds to the east, I asked him if he were nervous. Of course he is. But excited, too. I reminisced about my transition from high school to college. We talked about his dad and admitted that the weekend stirred up some moments of intense grief we didn't quite anticipate.

This summer he will continue to help me with this and that and work at his job with a local cleaning company. Yes, the king scrubs
toilets and washes windows. And knows how to butcher chickens, milk cows and haul hay. He is loyal, faithful and true. I have no doubt that he will contribute mightily to his world. Future educator? Writer? Counselor? Politician, scientist, minister, journalist? Time will tell.

In the meantime, I am bowed down in gratitude for the amazing influences he has had in his life.the loss of his dad was most traumatic. But it would take longer than I have to write right now to list the folks who have been instrumental in getting him on, and keeping him on his path. Friends in the Daleville farmers market who took him under their wing when I would drop him and bread and other farm goods when he was much too young to be left alone! Brett Roach, his youth leader at church of the holy spirit who was more than a leader. Our many other CHS friends and Quigg who loved on him. The Thomas's and their little Boone who taught Patrick to be a mentor. "Sean and other friends who let him chase after them. Max and James who dreamed and built and created worlds. The other parents who fed him and hauled him. The family who provided the undergirding
The siblings who gave him his positioning. How about some of the most amazing educators and encouragers out there, Coach Keith, Caroline and Doug Fox,Ms. Donaghey, Mr. Saunders, and many others who are slipping my mind right now. Taylar, his sweetheart for the last four yearss and friend for even longer.

Patrick, it is a joy to think about the life ahead of you. I will miss you. Please don't leave quite yet! I have a few more heavy things I need you to get for me. A a few more trips for you to run to the grocery store. Glad Maggie all.most has her driver's license!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Our Very First Egg in Alpine

A pale blue surprise
Tucked in a little corner.

I was rewarded for doing chicken chores this evening. I thought we had another two months to go before we needed to build the nesting boxes. I gathered some old discarded deep kitchen drawers, a pile of hay, some boards a hammer, nails and a piece of hardy panel. It isn't very pretty, but I think it will do for the now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Welcome back, little friends. How was your journey?

Yesterday afternoon I saw two medium size black butterflies, three yellow dots, give or take, dipping, swirling around the lantana bush at the bottom of the carport. The flowers are tiny, pink and yellow. Just the color a little girl or a couple of butterflies might like. I used some in a bouquet for our supper table.

Isn't if funny how one day the butterflies are not around and you don't even notice their absence, and then all of a sudden, there they are again and you greet them like a lost friend.

PS supper was a roasted chicken grown in house, stuffed with fresh sage leaves and thyme from the garden. Judy brought snow peas which we flashed in the pan for just a handful of seconds, and I made my favorite beet salad, dressed in a lime and honey vinegarette flavored by fresh dill and chives I grabbed out of the garden. For someone who used to hate beets until a few years ago, this side dish is divine!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Muscle Memory

It is Monday.

The sun has gone down and the air is fresh. A gentle breeze is stirring in the trees.

I had it in me to cook the kids a nice dinner of one of our chickens, roasted, with Brussels sprouts and red peppers, a salad and toast.

We ate on the gazebo in the backyard. They all ran off their separate ways; karate, a run, work, a friend, the tv. I let the chickens out of their fenced-in yard so they could cruise around for fresh grass. Free range chickens and gardens equal tears and curse words. Unless garden grower works in garden whilst encouraging chickens to range elsewhere.

So I worked in the garden even though I was momentarily tempted by Netflix.

I planted some silver queen corn in the area where we had our compost last year. A tiny little plot, but we shall see. An experiment? Planted some green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash. A bit more okra. (the chickens ate part of the last bit I planted earlier this season.)

Pandora played on my IPhone. The Fernando Ortega channel.

Something about Fernando Ortega's music soothes me. Stirs me into worship and quiet contemplation. So I sang and planted and moved the sprinkler around and tossed stones at the errant chickens.

After a pretty painful weekend, I felt soothed. Balm of Gilead kind of soothing.

On Friday I drove to pick up Thomas from school in Roswell, NM. He has a month break. On the advice of a friend I drove the long way to Roswell, via Marfa, Valentine, Van Horn, Guadalupe National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and then up through Artesia and into Roswell.

What good advice well taken. It took me 45 minutes longer. Which I admit is pretty costly. But instead of crazy lunatic oil well truck drivers (yes, I know that most oil well truck drivers are not crazy, neither are they lunatic, but there are a few on that road who drive quite a bit over the speed limit, crowd their lanes, and are pretty dangerous) there were great big open skies, mountains, an antelope, some wildflowers, an occasional tourist, and lots of 70's rock and folk music.

After quite a long list of big city errands, Thomas and I got back home Saturday evening. On May 10th.

Which is just another day for everyone else, but for us, no matter what we do, no matter how full, or satisfying or busy the day, it still ends up being May the 10th, the birthday of Philip James Hillery, who was born on that date in 1958.

I have been told a time or two or three that we oughtn't think about Philip so much. That making such a big deal out of these days just stirs up more grief than necessary, and that we are making it harder on ourselves than it has to be. They have told me that if I would just leave well enough alone, move forward, let the past be past, etc etc etc etc etc. we would be better off.


I could say a few words about that kind of advice, but I guess it wouldn't be very gentle or kind or Christlike, would it?

No matter what, we all get a weird, raw feeling on that day. I remember the advice of Martha, our grief support counselor, who told us it was better to name it, than to stuff it. That we wouldn't get over the death of our dear loved one. We would learn to adjust and live and love our lives, but differently.

And here we are, still adjusting.

We got home and a few chores had been done. The grill was started and I gathered makings for burgers. In Carlsbad I stopped to buy one of those helium balloon tanks, because the last three years the kids have asked to release balloons as we remember Philip, and, who knew? there is a world-wide helium shortage, since helium is now being used in lots of different areas, like MRIs, aeronautics, and billions of kids' birthday parties. Helium balloons are not available in Alpine, but I had a vague inkling that my nemesis, Wal Mart, would carry the blasted stuff.

Sure enough, it was available.

The things we do for family cohesiveness.

I asked the kids to fill up some balloons.

"Mom, what?!? Do you want us to kill a bunch of birds and other wild life??? You know helium balloons are bad..." a sensitive child shouted.

"I am NOT going to sit down at the table with him/her. Do you know what he/she said to me this afternoon?"

"oh. hamburgers. I guess you forgot I hate them."

It wasn't a lovely evening. I was exhausted. Had a horrible neck and back ache from the drive. Stacks of work that were piling up, since I was out of town for a day. The house was dirty, our expectations were bouncing around all over the place, and all I wanted was some peace and family love.

I finally yelled, sent guilt inducing text messages to kids inside the house, and miraculously everyone ended up around the table in the gazebo. Burgers were grilled and grimacing (internally bleeding) people sat down and I prayed. Thanked God for the food. For our family. I begged God to meet us in the middle of the raw. And then thanked God for Philip, and for the gift of his life and influence. We talked a bit about how he loved to make us laugh. How he would suck the helium out of balloons and talk in a cartoon voice just to make us laugh. He was so easy to please. All he wanted for his birthday was a big platter of cheeseburgers to share with the kids, and then a hot date with me.

We talked about human statues and his work and about how sad it is that not all the kids have the same memories because they didn't have the same amount of time. So one child's grief is different from the others, depending on if they are grieving the actual memories, or the memories they didn't get to make.

We talked about God's grace and how Jesus did not come to earth because we were so good and deserved him.

Jesus is all about the real us. The sad, mean, mad, broken, hurting real us. The real us that needs compassion, and forgiveness and redemption.

Philip was all about all of that.

So we tried, we huddled. We all cried. Then we took our balloons out to the middle of the yard, spent a couple of moments silent, saying our personal, private words to our dear one who is no longer here in the flesh. Then let the silly balloons fly up to the sky.

It was actually pretty powerful.

Then everyone went back to bickering, to texting, to instagraming, to watching tv. We tried putting helium into the balloons with LED lights, but the light mechanism made them too heavy to float. Not too heavy to bounce around with kids on the trampoline.

So they bounced. We stayed up too late for a Sunday. Kids went to bed and I couldn't force myself to be inside so I took a blanket and my pillow to the trampoline and settled in there for a sleep. Sobbed over all the lost things. Sobbed and heaved. Then watched the stars and listened to the wind.


By the way, Mother's Day was pretty awesome. And kind of hard, too, because of all the energy spent the day before. But the kids were each amazing, and I will try to write about that loveliness later. Because it is noteworthy. And I haven't even mentioned you, Mom, but everyone knows that if it weren't for you, I would not still be standing. You gave me the example of a strong woman who could manage to maintain tenderness. You gave me the example of the importance of beauty. Of quiet. Of music. You taught me that it was okay to ask, not only ask, but to require time of solitude.

You deserve a million pages in a million books. But here it is, almost ten o'clock and kids are still up and I need to get them and me to bed!!!

So more later.

Good night.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dust to dust

After getting a big part of the garden planted yesterday afternoon, the sky turned dark, the winds howled, and a mega dust storm blew through Alpine. We quickly shut doors and windows, trying to keep the dirt outside instead of inside. Where did it come from? Africa? Kansas? Mexico? Arizona? I didn't pay attention to the weather or to the direction of the wind. Just the menacing sight of dark taupe moving slowly, predatorily creeping down the side of the mountains, making its way stealthily through the passes.

Yes, I have a vivid imagination.

It felt a bit Lord of the Rings-like.

We had to be some place at 6, so hurried with our supper. I let Maggie and Rose drive home from the event and walked the near two miles home because something drastic had taken place in the atmosphere. A cool breeze blew, the air had been cleaned, and dramatic clouds captured the bending light of the setting sun.

It felt rather magical, the quick transformation. When the air was thickened and darkened by dust, I felt as if we might be doomed forever! The crack of a well hit baseball and cheer of parents in the little league field, the sound of dogs yipping in the distance, the sight of couples on their evening walk seemed like a picture of the gospel.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Searing hot wind chases away last weeks' freezing cold.

We hope for some may showers.

I am going to plant some garden in faith. The early plantings were frozen to death when we were slammed with a 25 degree cold snap. Even a warm blanket wasn't enough to save them.

Never mind! This is pretty typical for our high desert altitude. Last Thursday we huddled in jackets and blankets as Nora played softball. Yesterday we were toasted by warm afternoon sun.

FYI, the chicken butcher went beautifully! We have a freezer shelf filled with 6-6.5 lb beautiful chicken. It is so delicious, and to tell you the truth, the experience was a time of restoration for me.

A girlfriend came over to lend a hand and to learn. I missed our old set up, with Patrick and James on the first end, visiting kids helping with the gathering of the birds. The big pots of hot water, the chicken plucker, Serge and me at the evisceration station, Rose and occasionally Maggie in the gizzard peeling zone. This time, kids were all in school, the plucker didn't make it to Texas as I doubted we would ever raise meat chickens again. So, back to the real olden days, our fingers did just fine. And the spelt dusted fried chicken we consumed like barbarians for lunch, from the free range, healthy poultry we raised in our small town backyard was about the most amazing thing I had consumed in a very long time. I felt hope. I felt like we were finding our way and a little bit of new normal.

The day ran out of time and I left three more big guys for a later date. I am still waiting for the time to finish up our "harvest." Maybe later this week?

Things are still hard here, but hard of the progressive sort, I think. I have an almost completed new kitchen. Wow. Lots of hard work, but so awesome to make things more efficient. We have converted a greenhouse into a spare room. Not quite brought to completion, but coming along. Patrick has been accepted into a wonderful university and his graduation from high school is imminent. He, Maggie and Rose had an amazing year in track and cross country this year, not to mention all the academic competition. State history fair, literary criticism, current events were just a few of the areas where they excelled. Nora is thriving in karate and softball, and is really coming into her own. Thomas will be completing his two year stint at ENMU-Roswell in their amazing program for occupational training and independent living. He has applied for a job here in our little town and I am hoping and praying that he makes a smooth transition into a new chapter of young adulthood.

We have our bumps in the road, some heartbreaks and stubbed toes. To tell the truth, I think I am still recuperating from last year's health issues even though I feel fine physically. The oncologist found a polyp at my last visit and had to send it off to the lab to see if it were cancer or not. Thank goodness it wasn't. But to tell you the truth, I was a bit more shaken up than I wished to admit to myself. Even if it were, the doctor reminded me that the reason I go in to see him every three months is to catch things early. Early detection means early intervention, which means life.

So, nothing to really worry about, just acceptance and adjustment, and facing my fears. I don't really feel like dancing and delighting these days. But if the opportunity comes along, I will try to take it. The other evening a couple of my bff's here in town and I went to the local live music venue. A terrific band was in town from Austin: El Tule. An 8 or 9 man and woman band, playing lively salsa and merengue. We ladies danced and danced and had as much fun as we could. I am holding on to the spiritual lessons I read over and over again in scripture, the concept that eventually our mourning will turn into dancing and that our tears will be replaced with joy.

Bring on the joy, Lord!

We have so many beautiful, lovely things going on in our life. Like the big pitaya cactus by my carport. It is covered with vibrant magenta blossoms. Yum. Those blossoms make my mouth water, thinking of the lovely sweet tart fruit we hope to see on that plant in a couple of months. The fig was hit hard by the freeze, but new little green leaves are starting to show up.

The chickens are mess makers and are causing me to scratch my head, because I haven't yet figured out a happy medium, that is, free-range that doesn't extend into our garden! But they give me such delight. I really love having chickens again. Brownie and Blackie are doing a great job protecting them from local predators. Makes our home seem more sustainable. And raising our own meat and eggs is so encouraging. Having the opportunity to share some of our experience, teaching others how to harvest their own meat, pluck feathers, make fried chicken, well, that's just about the best thing that has happened for me in quite a long time.

Okay, okay, I have GOT to get back to work. But bear with me as I try to stumble and start and get back to writing.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Clothes

Sorry readers, for the weird transition to italic in the previous post. I don't know how I did it, or how to remedy it, and frankly, Scarlet, well, you know the rest!!!

Dust blew away and now spring is in full force. The fig trees are unfolding tender green leaves, Cottonwoods are looking as fresh as a brand new chiffon easter dress. Red buds are shedding their extravagant pink dresses to don something more casual and practical: green leaves.

Our baby chickens are no longer babies. The broilers are looking more like dinner every day! They and the pullets enjoy my garden and yard offerings and seem quite happy in their little world. A friend of mine told me she found a source of non GMO, all natural, organic feed out of a mill in Central Texas. She is making the journey to purchase for her flock and for our and anyone else who wishes to feed their poultry real food. What a joy. Makes me remember fondly the drive up to Stuart's Draft to buy feed from Sunrise Farm. The guys were always friendly, it was a true family operation, and I felt thankful and happy about the food we gave our livestock. I am thankful that my friend found a source we could be proud to use.

It is making me a bit nervous thinking about butcher day. We had worked out a pretty good system on the farm. It was a true community effort. We don't have a whizbang chicken plucker here. We don't have a full crew of friends who are happy to bring their chickens and get to work eviscerating. To sum it up, everything is different now, and can you believe I am still trying to figure out a new normal? I will keep you posted.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The skies are pale gray. Taupe colored.

The mountains ringing our little town are shrouded. A fuzzy silhouette with smudgy edges.

I have a catch in my throat and my eyes are gritty.

A newscast shared that drought in eastern Colorado and western Kansas was causing dust storms that went down the Texas panhandle, through eastern New Mexico and down to our part of west Texas.

I wonder if there are fields being plowed right now by large production farms in that part of the world?

Not too long ago we had a similar dust storm. The dirt in the sky was red. Coincidentally (?) the timing was right about when the fields were plowed up in and around the Texas panhandle.

Every time I get a mouthful and eyeball full of dirt suspended in our air, I am reminded of a little book I read while researching sustainable farming. <i>Plowman's Folly written by Edward Faulkner and published in 1943.

His book was revolutionary, and you can imagine that people who lived through the dust bowl might have been paying attention to his "revolutionary" ideas regarding soil husbandry. I remember that as I read that book, I was astounded by how pertinent, how relevant the material was, and how I wished we could see those ideas implemented more here in the US. I thought about that book a couple of springs ago when we drove through Lamesa and saw acres and acres of bare, red soil, plowed and ready to be sown in monocrops of cotton.

Thankfully, many people have woken up, and realize that we cannot keep on sucking things out of our soil, in return for a handful of isolated nutrients. We cannot keep on plowing up the land, watching it blow away and land on my windowsills, my glasses, my car. The other day my parents told me about their friend who has wheat farms up in Kansas. He doesn't use a regular plow. He tends his fields, using equipment he invented, working to save his topsoil.

It isn't all bad. There are others like my parents' friend. There are government initiatives, working to educate farmers to help improve their soil, not watch it all blow away. There are more and more farmers going small, since going small might be the only way they can survive. Heck, going small might just be the only way our earth is going to survive.

Hmm. I can smell the roasted turnips from our SMALL garden roasting away. I can hear the SMALL flock of birds growing by the minute, out in our little greenhouse. And I have big ideas that nibble around the edge of my brain, and small amounts of sit down time to fully think them through. But maybe if I sketch out some of those thoughts, I can come back to them later.

Maybe I will watch the Ken Burn's documentary on the Dust Bowl tonight. And hope that our little baby steps will amount to something. And pray one of the wonderful prayers in our Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By the way...

You know those chicks I just mentioned? The ones who will be five weeks old tomorrow?

One of the pullets is not.

A pullet that is.

I heard a warbling little preadolescent crow this morning.

Do I smell chicken and dumplings?

Little Miss Sunshine

Almost everyday I go out to the garden to harvest chicken food. They love the armfuls of tender green grass, chickweed, dandelions and other verdant weeds.

This morning I saw the first dandelion bloom! Spring must be here for certain.

I hope.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lady Bug, Lady Bug

Yesterday afternoon my priest came by for a visit. I was finishing up a project so she went out into the sunny backyard to wait. I found her crouched in the garden, speaking to a brilliantly garnet ladybug, making her (his?) way around the flowering bok choy. What a treat! The first sighting this spring.

Honeybees buzzed and hummed around the sweet yellow flowers of the bok choy and the perfectly formed white blossoms on the arugula trying to go to seed.

Heartfelt conversation, warmed by afternoon sun and pollinators.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chicken Little

On February 6th I got a call from the post office.

7:45 in the morning, and I was several hours into a busy bakery day.

It was one of those crazy little cold snaps we get, the 80 degree temperatures dipped down into the teens and the trees were glazed with a frozen fog.

Poor little chickens. The loud peeping from the back of the post office sounded frantic, but the little things warmed up just fine once I got them situated into their new home, a large box by the kitchen, toasted by a glowing red heat lamp.

Isn't it funny how some things feel just like home?

The baking did manage to get done, but barely, as we were all quite distracted by our new charges, 14 birds designated for meat, and 10 for laying hens. The fluffy little balls of cheepy looked like supper to our housecats, but you will be pleased to know that they are all still alive, unfortunately the cats have been made aware that this was not a present for them.

Three weeks later, the cute little fluff balls are now gangling teenagers, not nearly so cute, and are temporarily living in the greenhouse until the nights are consistently warm.

Raising chickens makes me happy. When I weed the garden, every bit of the tender grass and dandelion plants go straight to the flock. When we have dried out bits of bread, I soak it in Sally's cows milk, then give it to the chicks with a bit of blackstrap molasses. Seems like our property's productivity has increased exponentially! We plan to butcher the meat chickens in another five weeks or so. We don't have lots of grass in the yard. I have decided that we cannot afford to raise a grass yard here in the desert. Actually, I think most people in deserts can't afford the long term costs of keeping grass green in the desert. But that is another topic! Nevertheless, grass does seem to grow well in my garden in the sections I don't mulch deeply, and it makes great organic chicken feed.

The chickens are already producing lots of fertilizer that will make its way into our food production. We will age the manure and then use it to feed the fig trees, the pecans and our veggie garden.

So, no more Full Circle Farm for us out in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, but it does seem quite right and good to see the principles finding their way into our chihuahan high desert life here in Alpine. The garden feeds us and the chickens. The chickens feed the gardens. Cool. Doesn't take much to make me happy!

And by the way, thanks for keeping in touch and for continuing to read my sporadic posts. I have much to say, but sometimes it is hard to get the juices flowing. So here I am, trying to discipline myself to get back to writing. Afraid to put myself out there. Maybe if I can "just do it" I can find my words again...

Springtime in Texas

Last week we were working outside in shortsleeves. I walked home from church without a jacket.

This morning the temperatures were in the low 20's and for a minute I wanted to slide downward into a depressive funk, crawling under my quilts for another few weeks.

Then I remembered that we will be back to the 6o's and 70's tomorrow and the rest of the week. So while my toes and fingers begin to thaw in the warm bakery, the smell of a yummy lentil and quinoa stew makes me think surely I can survive one freezing cold day this week without falling totally apart. The sun is shining, the laundry will dry on the line, and a warm stew bubbling in the crockpot will taste might fine tonight.

Here's the recipe, hope you like!

a bit of olive oil or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped finely
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 knob of ginger, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 butternut squash, seeded, peeled, cubed
1 whole jalapeno
3 small, colorful sweet peppers that were shriveling up in the back of the fridge, chopped up, should be fine
2 cups dry lentils
1 cup red quinoa
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 or 2 tsp cumin powder
1 or 2 heaping teaspoon sweet curry powder
1 or 2 tsp balti curry powder
1 or 2 tsp garmam masala

salt and pepper to taste
water to cover everything

one bunch cilantro
one bunch fresh greens, whatever you have, I will pick arugula, kale, bok choy, swiss chard and spinach out of the garden.

I rarely use a crock pot, but am waiting for the plumber to get here to put in a gas line for a new stove in the kitchen (Yay!!!). In the meantime, the crock pot has been a helpful tool. It is ok to dump all your ingredients, minus the green, into the pot, turn it on. However, I like the way flavors develop if you cook the fresh veggies a bit first (minus the greens). I turned the pot on high, poured in a little glug of olive oil, and then placed the onions in to begin cooking while I chopped everything else. It took awhile for the pot to heat, but eventually, as I worked on some paperwork, paid a couple bills, mixed up some homemade chicken food, washed some clothes and made a list, the onions were transparent and the squash was beginning to caramelize. I then added the lentils and quinoa, the spices and enough water to generously cover the whole thing, put the lid on, and walked away. I use a variety of curry powders from Penzeys. They are so flavorful, and each has a slightly different nuance. But when I don't have those spices, a basic curry powder from the grocery store works as well.

Since I am working here at home, I will keep an eye on the pot, and if need be, will add a bit more water as the day progresses. When the lentils and quinoa are tender, I will add the chopped cilantro and the greens and let them cook for a half hour or so. If I use turnip greens, I will put them in a bit earlier and give them a chance to become nice and tender.

My house already smells warm and cozy, and that makes it a lot more fun to deal with a little cold snap.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bigger Gifts

After months, a couple of rough years filled with unspeakable trials, our precious farm sold.

It strikes me as kind of funny how something that took so long could actually come about and be finished so quickly.

I guess I had just about given up all hope that the farm would sell last fall. And then, all of a sudden, we received an email from a couple who wished to take a look. Arangements were made, and ironically we had at least six other folks express interest right about the same time.

This couple was in the process of selling their farm, hoping to move their five children, dairy cows, pigs and chickens to a farm in our area. For the first time in a long time, someone actually was able to see the true value of our property, the actual measure of a place that had barns and water and fields and woods and many bedrooms and an attic and a basement. They saw all the things that Philip and I saw when we found the place, eager to try our hand at a more self-sustainable lifestyle. Before you know it, an offer was on the table, a reasonable one, and within weeks, the deal was done, they were moved in, and we were no longer tied to two places at one time.

Trying to live in one state, caring for one's own passle of kids, business and property, and health issues, while managing a vacant or rented out farm in another is not a very desirable place to be. In fact, when I look back over the past year, it is no wonder I feel as if I have been beaten by a baseball bat. A very big baseball bat, wielded by very mean people who would like to see me crushed and bleeding.

I don't think I have ever had such an intensely difficult year in my life. It ranks right up there with the winter Philip died, except maybe a bit worse, since at that time we didn't have real mean people trying to hurt us at the same time we had other difficulties going on.

So you can imagine it is an understatement to say that selling the farm to our new friends was a great gift beyond measure. A terrific relief. And one filled with many sweet bonuses. The whole deal was covered with the fingerprints of God. Or course I think about how hard it was to go through winter on the farm, and all the problems that come up, and how I worry, thinking about someone jumping in to that scenario. But then I remember how delighted we were, regardless of the cold, the little and not so little problems that would arise, because we were right where we were supposed to be. We had no business trying to run a farm, and we made so many mistakes. But had we waited until just the right moment, when we knew everything, and were well-prepared to run a farm, we would never have done it. My children wouldn't know the joy of raising their own fruits and vegetables and meats. They wouldn't know what it is like to eat fresh warm mozzarella made from a big pot of warm milk we harvested from our dear friend, Coco. They wouldn't know the true costs of real food, knowing that occasionally animals get sick and die, or sometimes fencing fails and you have to search for animals, that it really bites having to milk cows when it is 8 degrees outside, and whether you are sick or well, the chores MUST be done.

I am blessed beyond words to know that the new owners have the same vision we had. But even better. They already have years of experience on us. And good health for both the grownups in the family. When I look back on the years we were on the farm, it is easier to see how Philip's health began to decline pretty much right after we moved in. We never really got to get up to full speed. But, oh, the treasure of memories. The many lessons learned.

All that to say, it sure is hard having the final nail tapped in the coffin of our farm dreams.

Is it not interesting that as soon as the farm sold, Rose began asking for a milk cow to live in the backyard? And if not a cow, how about two goats? And the other children began asking if we could have some laying hens in a little chicken tractor in the backyard? And I began craving fresh, REAL chicken, fed good food and butchered by us, nice and fat, for our Sunday dinner table.

I know we cannot reproduce the lifestyle we had on the farm. But we are still trying to sort out our identity. So much of that identity was enmeshed and tied to our land. All the seasons, the good and the bad, happy and mad, everything tied to the soil, the weather, the mountains, the times of birthing and death.

This year's garden has been a good way to remember the part of our identity that will always be a part of our lives. Whether in a sixth floor apt in Japan, a seminary house in Fort Worth, a suburban home in Northern New Jersey, or a rocky backyard in southwest Texas, growing our own food is integral to who we are. Maybe we won't grow quite as much as we did on the farm, but, hey, we have eaten many meals this winter from our little fall garden! And are still eating greens twice a week, in the form of stirfry, salad or stew, and we are fighting over the turnips that we eat once a week. Oh, they are good! Can you believe we really do fight over the last bite of the turnips, every single time I prepare them? If you haven't had fresh turnips, sweetened by the cold of winter, braised in butter with a little garlic and salt, or mashed into creamy lusciousness, graced with a spoonful of cream and a splash of vermouth with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, then you simply can't know what I am talking about. The arugula has been growing like crazy, the swiss chard is not too happy about my neglect, as it keeps getting frozen back by the cold snaps, but she is hanging in there. The pac choi and spinach are doing fine, as are the bitter greens. We get an occasional treat of broccoli. Before you know it the time to plant for spring will be here. So yes, farm or small yard in town, looks like the garden is a part of our family DNA. And btw, our compost is so rich, we should have no trouble with continuing to build the soil in this pile of rocks.

In a few minutes I will be placing an order for 25 baby chicks. Fifteen for meat and ten for eggs. There are several other folks in town who raise their own flock, so I guess we shall see if we still have it in us. As for the cow or the goats, well, I suggested that Rose pray awfully hard about that one, because I can't imagine bringing a large dairy animal into our equation. We don't have grass in Alpine!

Well, there you have it: a bit of an update on the goings on in our world. I appreciate you blog readers more than I let you know. Everytime you comment or send me an email, I feel blessed by our friendship. The winters seem to get kind of bleak and dark for me, but everytime I think I can't get up, somehow there is another little gift that keeps me going. I thank God for the richness of our life. So I am desperately trying to move forward into the new year, taking baby steps in faith that I won't always feel beaten up by a baseball bat. The other day I went out to a beautiful garden in nearby Marathon, the Gage Gardens. It was lovely to sit in the sun, to read and write and be still. I cooked a delicious meal the other night, with pan-seared venison, harvested by my dad,topped with a port wine and fig sauce, along with those previously mentioned mashed turnips, and a delicious melange of greens from the garden, braised in a bit of broth and served with sunflower seeds and raisins. I took the time to cry in front of the children, and to tell them that the root of all those grumpy, angry episodes is a surge of grief as this time of year makes me miss their dad so very much. I sat by the side of the Rio Grande and read a book while the children played in the river, splashing and laughing. Yes, you really can swim in the river here in our part of the world in the middle of January! At least if you are a kid and don't mind the cold water!

And in the middle of it all, I am working on a kitchen remodel for our home here in Alpine. After two and a half years of dealing with a fridge that freezes our veggies and an electric stovetop that only works on high, I am happy to move forward and make this lovely kitchen even more our own.

Step by step, moving forward. I pray that you are also finding ways to find peace and comfort in your winter. Time to be still and time to move. Time for mourning things and people lost and time for rejoicing with the ones who remain.

Thankful for the little things...

"Mom! Mom! Go outside and look! Everything is pink!"

I was glad Maggie grabbed my attention this morning as she prepared to head off to school. I rushed out the front door and stood, washed in dusky rose pink. The clouds were a bright, Easter dress pink. The mountains were lavender, washed in cotton candy pink. The skies and buildings all seemed as if they had been brushed over in a special watercolor pink, soft, with just a tinge of gold, baby blue clouds, tucked here and there for good measure.

Within a couple of minutes, the moment was gone, the skies now a leaden gray, with just a touch of morning sunrise peaking out from under the blanket.

I am glad Maggie was so kind as to give me that gift.