Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No place like home

I once gave my mom a gift that said, "Home is where your mom is." It was partially to reassure her that it didn't matter that she had moved from any place that we had ever lived together; her house would always be home to me. But I also gave it to her because it struck a cord in me. I think that maybe, just maybe, I've finally figured out why.

Throughout the '80s we were reminded weekly that, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name," and that may be true. But even more so, sometimes you want to go to a place where someone knows you. Not just your name. Not who they've decided that you are. You.

My mama knows me.

There is a peace and relaxation in being with someone who knows you. A feeling of home. (This is why a visit to my daughter in New Hampshire--where I had never been before--felt like a sort of homecoming.) I spend a lot of time with people who think they know me, but who I suspect completely misunderstand me at a fundamental level. It's stressful in a way that is hard for me to describe.

When I pull up outside my mom's condo I feel the same way I do when I pull up in the driveway of my crazy house and am greeted by my sons. I feel the way I do when my husband's car pulls into the driveway on Friday night. I feel like I do when my daughter greets me wherever she is living now.

I feel like I'm home.
My mama.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer supper

Summer food is my favorite. There is just no substitute for fresh veggies. Tonight we took advantage of several of my favorites in one meal.

We started off with sweet corn. Now, that is an appetizer.

The main course came about from the necessity of making a dent in the pile of cherry tomatoes that I picked today, coupled with the fact that I had some beautiful eggplant from the farmers' market.
I sliced the eggplant, salted it, and let it weep for a while to get rid of the bitterness. Then I tossed it with olive oil, (1 cup), wine vinegar (1T.), and salt and pepper. I topped it with a bunch of cherry tomatoes and then drizzled about 1/4 c. of olive oil with three cloves of garlic crushed into it over the top. I topped it with some fresh thyme, oregano, and basil. Into to the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. When it came out I topped it with some more fresh oregano and feta cheese.
We had fresh sliced cukes on the side. It would have been excellent with some crusty bread, but I was out. It would also be incredible on pasta. Maybe with some toasted pine nuts. And some kalamata olives.

Or maybe throw it on chicken. With some of the aforementioned olives and some capers.

I think I need another eggplant.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The bright side

I've been lamenting the cool summer and the fact that fall is coming. My fall wardrobe is lacking. I want to swim in my pool. My older sons will go back to their busy, busy college lives.

But today I had a happy thought.

At least, cooler weather--fall--means I can wear my boots again.

Happy thought, indeed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to school?

Lots of my friends are posting first-day-of-school pictures, or, among the homeschoolers, not-back-to-school plans.

I feel so left out. Okay, maybe not left out. But certainly sad that that time is past.

I am guessing that my 20 year old and 23 year old sons might let me snap a photo before they head off for their first day of the fall semester in a week and a half. And I guess I do still have one student in my homeschool, but he is a senior this year and is completely self-sufficient.

I miss self-consciously sleeping in on the first day of school, then spending the day at the suddenly-empty parks. I miss planning a trip to the Childrens' Museum and Zoo for those first back-to-school weeks before school field trips started. I miss making big breakfasts, following the Oregon Trail, rescuing Zoombinis, maneuvering around tents made of quilts and chairs, and reading aloud.

This is my last year as a homeschooling mom, but it really feels like it's over already, the final gasp of something that has been winding down for several years. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being in the midst of something of an identity crisis.

What next? I don't know, but I don't think that my 12-hour-a-week job and trying to keep up with my house will keep me happy for long.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Margin, take two, or maybe three

About exactly six months ago I began thinking and writing about the concept of margin. For a while I seemed to be getting a handle on my schedule. Then just a couple of things outside of my direct control turned my life into something resembling a game of pick-up sticks.
The kind of chaos that needs to end.

Fresh off a few really busy weeks, followed by a short vacation, I'm ready to get back to work on creating some margin in my life. I'm ready to spend some time on the things that I really want to spend time on. I'm ready to try to get rid of more of my physical and mental clutter.

This week, with the help and support of my boss, I've instituted a firm limit on the amount of time I will spend at work in a week. This is going to be a huge help. Now I just need to stick to it.

I've gotten my calendar out and scheduled some time for my genealogy, both my personal research and the work I need to do toward becoming accredited.

I'm trying to figure out what needs to happen with my house to make things as functional as possible.

I've set a date for a yard sale. And for a visit with the husband at his apartment. And a trip to the art museum. Because if these things don't get scheduled, they don't happen.

There are some variables that may make adjustments necessary. I will be a child-care backup for a friend's one-year-old this school year, and will have him most of the week from time to time. I may have family things that come up. Who knows what may happen. But, for now, it feels good to have something of a plan.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Anniversary musings

Weddings are a big deal. In our modern culture, couples will put off the ceremony for years to save more money for the perfect dress or for all the bells and whistles. There is an effort to impress, to wow. Brides turn into bridezillas, insisting that the day is all about them.

I think that much of the reason for this is that as marriage has lost significance in our three-year-engagement, shacking-up, our-kids-can-be-flower-girls culture, the ceremony, for many, has become the marriage. Then on Monday it's back to life as they lived it before. (Well, the Monday after the Caribbean vacation dressed up as a honeymoon for the couple who has been playing at marriage for years.)

But not all weddings are like that. Some couples still fall in love, get engaged, and wait until they are joined before God and man to act like they are married. And those weddings seem to me to be especially joy-filled.

We were privileged two years ago today to have one of those weddings. Our daughter met the brother of one of my friends very briefly when he was in town before he deployed to Iraq. They communicated via computer and letter during his deployment. He came and stayed with our family a few times while on leave and after he got back. They went out on a couple of dates in November and December, and he spent Christmas with our family, then she went to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with his.

When he came for a visit for Valentine's Day, he brought a ring, and asked her father's blessing before he proposed. She said yes. And gave me six months to plan a wedding for almost 300 people.

Perhaps because everyone involved--the bride, the groom, her family, his family, the pastor--had the same understanding about what this day was about, there was no drama. This was a day about joining a man and a woman in the union that reflects the union of Christ and his bride the Church. This was a day that was about creating a new family.

And, once the ceremony was over, this was about throwing a party at which our family and friends could have an awesome time without driving her father into penury. And the bride was okay with that. She was looking forward to being married!

So we used a simple rubric to determine where we should spend money and where we should cut corners: Will this expenditure add to the enjoyment of our guests? If the answer was yes, we did it. If the answer was no, with very few exceptions, we didn't. And it was a great party. Certainly not the fanciest: paper plates and plastic cups are far cheaper than renting china and glass. The table decor was containers from thrift stores that were filled with flowers from Sam's Club by the bride and her friends. And lots of friends helped with preparations, allowing us to keep costs under control.

Am I saying that there is anything wrong with china, gorgeous flowers, etc.? Absolutely not! If we could have afforded it, I would have loved to have done things in a more elegant way. But it becomes a problem when couples put off marriage to save up for the show, or when families go into debt for a bash that they can't afford. We've been to lots of weddings over the years of all different levels of simplicity. We've been to receptions that were formal sit-down dinners at a country club and those that were snacks, cake, and punch in a church hall. They've all been lovely, but some stand out in my mind as having been permeated with a joy that comes from the fact that the vast majority of those present understand that something more significant than a legal check mark was happening there.

And today I am happy to celebrate the second anniversary of one of those. Happy anniversary, Bethany and Evan, and wishes for many many more.

Bonus: The other benefit that comes after an awesome wedding. . .

Monday, August 12, 2013

Strange goings on

This is a very strange restaurant in the smallest town in Connecticut. I know about it because this is where my friend Lori and I waited for a ride and a tow truck when my car misbehaved on the way home from visiting my daughter in New Hampshire. There was an old car full of young hippies/woodsmen, too. With dogs. And a guitar.

The whole thing was very surreal.

The $250 tow was pretty solid, however.

But we made it home, back to normal life, and all is well. Except at the grocery store.

First, I only ever go to this particular store because they carry the yogurt that I prefer and generally have better produce than the closest one does. Today they were out of the yogurt. The lettuce was six days past the sell-by date. They were out of the fresh green beans that were on special. They were out of salted butter. They no longer carry good parmigiano. So I was already feeling like I would have been better off at the store closer to home.

In the check-out line I was disappointed because the rather surly cashier didn't ask if I had found everything, like they usually do. I was ready to give her the list. After I paid and as I prepared to take my cart and leave, I felt something slam into my back and knock me into my cart.
It was a motorized shopping cart. One of the people of Walmart--we saw a few today, or maybe it was pajama day at the grocery--appeared to have escaped and was at Kroger, allowing a two year old boy to help her pilot the cart.

Yes. I was hit by a motorized shopping cart. I have a bruised back and a sore neck, knee, and ankle, too. I feel like I did when I was rear-ended at low speed. I'm probably going to have to make some visits to the chiropractor.

One of my friends said that the weirdest things happen to me. Yes. Yes they do.