Hello!

Hello!

Roomtobloom is a space for me to put into print, thoughts about raising kids, veggies and making space for myself in the midst of family life. I like the name roomtobloom for all it’s connotations.  It covers my utmost desire for my girls to develop into mature wonderful young women and helps me consider what I am doing to move them or hinder them along that path.

The name also is meaningful to me because I am an avid gardener…wannabe.   I grow native plants and veggies.  I had an incredible bounty one year…several years ago and it hooked me.  Never has the garden been as productive, but I keep trying.

Also as a middle aged woman turning 39 this fall, I need room to bloom into that new place in my life.  I am wrestling my many emotions about turning 40 and finding gray hairs.  Yuck!  How to do I remain young and age gracefully at the same time!! What does aging gracefully really mean anyway because I am tempted to launch a full out war against it.  Which, rationally, seems ridiculous because aging is just going to happen.  However,  I can’t keep from being frustrated at the way things are going despite my time at the gym and the retinol cream! I have to say though, I have two minds about it.  I would love to love who I am at every stage and enjoy each stage because I am cognizant of the moments passing by and the joy I am missing out on because of the middle aged angst.

My goal I keep coming back to is to live in the moment – to love the girls, the weather/garden and myself right now, during this instant in time and bloom now.

Pups and Dreams

Our sweet foster pups

Our sweet foster pups

We’ve been fostering two pups for a little bit. The brown one, Tucker, has a delicate constitution and has come down with parvo. As of tonight, it’s looking good and he’s turning a corner, but it’s been pretty dicey and a lot of prayers have been uttered.

My youngest want to be a vet, so we are doing what we can to give her a variety of experiences to help her decide to pursue that dream or not. The latest iteration of that is allowing her to raise a goat with FFA. The goat came today. Very cute!

Vegetarian Cooking – January

Time has gotten away from me! Here is our vegetarian food diary for the month so far:

The first week I made Black Bean Chilequiles from  A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  I was worried it would turn out a bit like bean dip and it did, but not as thick. The flavor was delicious – we all love chipotle. So we put the bean spread on tostadas with shredded lettuce, cheese, guacamole etc. and ate it that way.  A real hit!

The second week I made Brussels Sprout Fritattas – a recipe from Eating Well magazine.  Everyone loved it. It should have been in 10 oz ramekins – the article was about portion control. However, not having ramekins that size, I just made a large fritatta in a pan. There was none left – we each ate our appropriate portion.

The third week I made Fried Rice with cabbage, broccoli and carrots from my CSA box with Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I felt adventurous and added in some oyster sauce to the mushrooms and sesame oil to finish off the dish. It was delish but gave the youngest a horrendous allergic reaction and we very nearly had to call 911. Looks like it was the oyster, sesame, soy combo.  Good to know!  She won’t be having those items added to her fried rice in the future.

This week I have barely gotten any meals on the table and am running out of time to create something new.  I have gone to 3 doctors appointments for the allergic daughter and colonoscopy for myself. So, I am going to count as our veggie dish this week the vegetarian chili my sister made for us today.  Will be getting her recipe, but the fam ate it and thought it needed meat. Of course, because, when you say chili here they envision something hearty and meaty.  However, I don’t think the disappointment for the chili was as bad as when I made vegetarian stroganoff with lentils and yogurt many years ago….

Which, brings me to the conclusion that vegetarian meals are well received in the family as long as they aren’t a meat recipe, remade without the meat. For our purposes, the veggie recipes have to be novel for the family to appreciate and enjoy them and not feel like something is missing.  Also a good thing to have learned this month!

New Year, Clean Slate

I love the new year. The year stretches out before me full of possibilities and new opportunities. It’s a time to reflect on what was and what will be. Of course, I look at the calendar and it’s already full, since we live by the academic year. Still, I love the idea of the new year, clean slate – kind of like a clean expanse of snow on an open field. (Of course, we don’t have that either here in Central Texas, but I remember what that looks like from my childhood in the great white north!)

I do make new year’s resolutions occasionally. The best one I ever made was as a young bride (which was 19 years ago.)  I didn’t know how to cook, so I resolved to cook something new once a week for the whole year. It actually continued for about 3 years. It was a great experience and one that definitely improved me!  Once again, I find myself needing to increase my kitchen knowledge.  I need to know how to cook a vegetarian meal. I have had several guests in the past that are vegetarian and it always throws me for a loop on how to accomodate them with something besides pasta with tomato sauce!  So, this year I resolve to cook vegetarian one day a week and I want to document it here. Husband says he is excited about it – I hope that continues to be the case!!  I went to the half price book store today and bought A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. He’s a busy father of two and the book jacket said that the meals had to satisfy the kids and be quick, which made me think the book would be a good place to start! Now, he is the Executive Editor of Cook’s Illustrated, so perhaps his kids have a different palate than mine do to begin with but we will see.

I am really surprised at how apprehensive I feel about starting this. I love growing veggies but I think building a meal around them will stretch me a bit. It will be good.

Miracles

Yesterday my church had a special service for wholeness and healing. It was the culmination of a several month long process of talking about our church’s past mistakes, who we are as an organization, who we think God is leading us to be in the future. During the course of the process we talked to one another about our makers – times in our shared history where we saw the Holy Spirit present and doing mighty things and times when differences in theology created wounds and about expectations that have been out of touch with reality and the unraveling of relationships that has caused.  The service was like coming home at Christmas time. It was being in the most welcome, best place possible, where you are known, loved and wanted with all the members of your family.  The reconciliation that I witnessed was nothing short of a miracle – the true working of the Holy Spirit.  It was the church at it’s best – a glimpse of heaven itself that broke into our midst.  This is what the church is about – mending the broken, bringing reconciliation to the world.  It’s why I love being a Christ-follower. It wasn’t the status quo of the world but the valuing the other above yourself, of reaching out asking for forgiveness and receiving it. It was a long hard road to get to that point, and our long road isn’t over. We still have some major polity decisions to make and still need to call a senior pastor, but I think we are building on solid ground.

Tilling

I spent a lot of my kids’ younger years commiserating with friends about the parenting mishaps we all made. Laughing and crying about needing to put another quarter in the “therapy bucket” when we failed to be the good parents we were so desperate to be. We forgave and encouraged each other as we learned. We went from believing our babies were “clay to be molded” to kids that are “rocks and we have a nail file.” They are all so different – from each other and from us! I feel like I have spent years learning how to allow my kids to own their own successes and failures and not equate the quality of my parenting with what the kids failures and achievements reflected. Yet, this week the family therapist (who knew we would really need one!) said that the kids model what they see at home. In other words, they are reflecting not only my parenting but ME. Are you kidding me? Please tell me something else because this feels really yucky. She said other good and optimistic things too, but I struggle with shame and despite any other good thing she said, I heard “you are the worst parent EVER.” What she said is simply kids model what they see. There aren’t quite the same. But until I can separate out the nuts and bolts of it, it feels the same.

I am glad we found a good therapist. It has helped and will continue to help. I want my children to live whole and emotionally healthy lives but how much of my daughter’s bucket is mine to unpack? Where do my sins end and their sins begin? I feel like I am on the verge of my most monumental parenting failure ever because I am not sure if I am truly capable of handling this well. Inside I am storming. Turmoil. Frustration. Failure. FAILURE. And it feels like failure beyond redemption. Which I know is a lie but it’s a loud one to quiet. Phooey. I expect if the talons of shame can be unhooked from my hide, I will become a better parent for my kids through this. God, unhook me because I am incapable of doing it.

So, while I thought God was just tilling the heart of my child, it’s abundantly clear that God must be preparing me for some deep tilling as well. (Perhaps this week is part of the junk that’s going to compost into deep and rich soil.) There have been indicators all week. My preacher sister spoke on families living authentically on Sunday. The therapist said kids model what behaviors/relationships look like at home on Tuesday and on Friday I am going to begin a six week Bible study about breaking down walls with some amazing and faithful women “GraceHorses” who speak truth.  I do wish growth didn’t hurt so much, but here we go.

I Resolve

Happy New Year.  It surprised me in church last Sunday when I became emotional while watching a video about the new year.  It was a super video – all about letting go and looking forward and I cried most of the way through it.  All through December, I couldn’t wait to end 2010 and begin 2011.  It had been a hard year – Cheryl’s cancer, Lynda’s death, other friends were diagnosed with returning cancer, yuck.  I don’t know that a flipping of the calendar makes it any better, but there is always hope associated with the changing of the year – all the days out there like a clean and pure gorgeous untrodden field of snow.  And I think by December I was running a little low on hope.  January 1 – things begin again, renewed and fresh.

I have been thinking about church lately – the structure, the significance.  What does it mean to be a part of my particular church at the moment. Would the town I live in notice if my church shut it’s doors.  Are we as a congregation relevant to Austin – are we making a difference in and for our city?  Can we be more tomorrow than we are today and what does that look like?  So, instead of redoing a book on parenting, I hijacked my Sunday school’s plans and decided we will study Max Lucado’s curriculum for his new book, Out Live Your Life.  It sounds just about perfect for what I am thinking about and I hope all the folks in my Sunday School class feel inspired too.   So, while these questions are percolating, I am also preparing to lead a Bible Study Monday morning on how Christ brings peace with God to the church.  Peacemaking and Unity – seemingly so agreeable, but incredibly, it can be a hot topic!

I think I want the same basic things for family as most of my friends, and most of the moms in the world – safety, food security, shelter, a long good life. I think we as a nation get bogged down and paralyzed in the details of how to accomplish it. Heath care, education, poverty, hunger…the list of the problems in our own country is long and heavy. So when I look out at the world and it’s magnified troubles, I feel overwhelmed.  Mother Theresa something to the effect of needing to look only at the one – the need in front of her – because if she looked at it all, she’d never start.  Sometimes, I confess, I feel too busy to even see the need in front of me, outside of my own family.  Two girls keep me pretty busy, but now that they are older, that’s really not a reason for me not to reach out to the world anymore.  I wonder where this will lead….

Tragedy

I am hurting. And wrestling. Bruce and I found a good friend and neighbor after a terrible bike accident Saturday morning. He was on a ride he made several times a week in our neighborhood.  But this particular morning, his bike tire caught the edge of the concrete in such a way that he went over the handlebars. And broke his neck. And is paralyzed from the mid chest down. We came upon him about 35 minutes after he fell.  What an eternity to be alone and stuck in that horrible situation. We called 911 and watched the scene unfold.  It’s a devastating blow to Paul and his wife.  I just don’t understand it.  Cancer (my mom’s, Bruce’s mom’s, dad’s and sister’s), I understand, it’s a bad deal but you can fight it. Most of the time hope remains in the battle. Sometimes the fight is lost but the ultimate victory is won. It doesn’t make the loss sting any less, but there is understanding that the loved one is in a better place.  Paul’s injury is just shit. Life as he knows it is fundamentally altered and probably won’t change.  Topping off the injury, it looks like he also has leukemia.  Are you freaking kidding me? Why??

I am so sad and I am embarassed at my lingering uncomfortableness in the face of such devastation. Like it’s too painful to look upon.  What kind of friend am I to be afraid to visit Paul?  I was good for 4 days (calling and visiting) and now I don’t know what to say to Shearon or Paul.  I am afraid of saying too much, of saying the wrong thing, of saying too little. Of overstepping my bounds of friendship.  I feel fake.  All I want to do is cry with and for them. But I don’t want to do it in front of them.

Yesterday I had an e-fast.  I didn’t open my computer all day. It was great. I used the time yesterday to do my Bible study, ironically on shalom and to look up passages on suffering which detoured into sorrow.  What I came away with was the passage where Jesus is about to be taken to die and he is suffering greatly. “My soul is overwehlmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” he says to his disciples (Matt. 26:38).  Yesterday I thought it gave me direction – a guide on what to do in the face of such great sadness. But it’s really hard to do.  What does it mean to keep watch?  How do I live that out? I feel like such a ninny.

I found this prayer after searching “keep watch” on Google.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted and shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Evening Prayer II, The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1979)

God, in your vast mercy, please bring great healing to my friends’ pain and rest for their weary bodies.

Unspoken

My friend has been fighting cancer valiantly for many years but it appears that battle may be drawing to a close.  I met her at church and knew I loved her when at some point in a conversation about relationship and hospitality she said she’d be ok if a friend dropped in while she was folding clothes.  I was fairly young and relatively newly married and trying to run a house and keep up appearances and felt like I had found someone who would accept me with all my housekeeping flaws.  She has always been one of the wise women in my life whose opinions I deeply valued.  Years later I was teaching Sunday School to a bunch of rambunctious kiddos in the library at church where my friend was working on the books.  After it was over her comments of approval of my teaching and of commiseration about the wild kids were just the words of encouragement I needed to hear and they really meant the world to me.  She introduced my girls to the joys of Lyle the Crocodile books.  I thought of her each time I read them!  When my sister in law was diagnosed with cancer, Avis was the friend I sought out to ask about chemo, it’s effects and the art of tying scarves.  She is honest and authentic and I haven’t said a word about how much all these things have meant to me.  So it is time.

Life is short, it’s a sacchrin saying, but it’s true.  I want to write some lovenotes to my friends and family about how they have impacted my life and what joy they have each brought to me. I was able to do that with my mother in law before she passed away.  I didn’t want it to be seen as a goodbye letter, but a love letter about what she meant to me.  I am glad I wrote it and my husband read it to her in the hospital.    It’s good to know you are treasured and maybe a bit better to hear it before time is short.

Autumn – seasonal shift

Ah, welcome September.  I love this month of change.  It’s the time when the kids go back to school (happily), the seasonal shift becomes thinkable after a long hot and dry summer and I start a new project of some sort to fill my time.

I am happy that the season’s change is near.  Every year at this time I breathe a sigh of relief that we made it through the summer.  Though, truth be told, this summer has really been marvelous – the perfect amount of rainfall, reasonable high temperatures…up until a few weeks ago when mother nature must have come back to her senses. But tonight, the evening had a promise of change and coolness to it – maybe it’s the late summer thunderstorm or just that the humidity is different, but it’s enough to know something is coming!

This year’s fall project for me is becoming a Master Gardener. Every Wednesday from now until early November,  I will be in class all day learning about some aspect of horticulture.  After I complete the course work and pass the final, I have about a year to complete 50 hours of volunteer work on other Master Gardener Projects – answering the help desk, working on youth programs and also  programs of my choice.  Here are a few tidbits from Wednesdays class:

  • Many plants stop growing when it’s above 96 degrees.  Who knew! I don’t want to be outside when it’s that hot either.
  • Heat can affect fertilization because pollen can become sterile when it’s too hot.  I wonder if that’s is part of the reason tomatoes don’t set their blooms after a certain temperature….I will have to ask.
  • It’s a waste of water, time and effort to water near the trunk of a tree because the woody roots have zero to do with uptake of water or nutrients. You have to do it at the drip line (which I will tell you more about after the class on trees!)

Plants are remarkably complicated living things and I have learned I know very little about them.  And I hope to be one heck of a gardener when it’s all finished! I came home and looked at the leaves and plants in my garden in a new way.  It was awesome.

The girls are both at a new middle school this year – it is an amazing facility.  The staff is great and I think both girls will have a great year. The beginning, of course, has not  been without some curve balls.  Elder daughter left behind some super friends at the old school and that has been hard.  Girl relationships are just difficult at this early teen time – either there is a great relationship or there is an absence of it with nothing in between. On or off, hot or cold, nice or mean.  Why is that?  I am also surprised at the speed with which some of these long standing friendships deteriorate.  Ethylene, I learned on Wednesday, is called the death hormone in plants, it helps them ripen and then, of course, rot.  I think we could probably say estrogen has a similar effect on teen girls. My elder daughter is amazingly resilient and though she has shed tears over the change in her friendships, she is moving forward.  I love that about her and she’s always been that way.  I however, stew on the matter and must let it go.  It think its worse for us as parents to see our children hurt than it is for us to suffer our own pain. As a friend of mine said, if you mess with me, I will forgive you, mess with ‘my people’ and hurt the ones I love, it’s a different story.  Its another opportunity to practice intentional grace and forgiveness  I sent an email to the parents today voicing recognition of the changes in our daughter’s friendships and affirming our own relationships as adults.  We have all agreed to let the girls handle things without intervention or interference from us.

Harvest

I had not checked on the garden for a few days and was delighted to find a lot of ripe yellow pear tomatoes.  My daughter was just as excited as I was to pick the yellow jewels off the plant.  I also picked three cukes, but the vine has turned bitter and the cuke I cut into tonight was barely edible.  I will taste the other ones just to be sure, but I think it’s time to pull the vine out.  Some critter continues to get into the caged garden and feasts on my eggplant.  I think it’s a squirrel and am grateful it’s left most of the tomatoes alone (so far.)

The herbs are doing well and it’s time to use the basil. I saw a neat article about preserving it on The Herb Companion.  Last year I dried it two ways – one batch slowly, letting it air dry and another batch in the oven.  I also made a vat of pesto that I froze in ice cube trays.  This year, I might try pureeing the basil and adding a bit of olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays. I have already dried some oregano.  It’s so easy – I wash it and then layer the stems between paper towels in a cardboard box and leave it in alone for a few days.  After it’s dry, I strip the leaves off the stems and keep the leaves in a mason jar in the pantry. It’s totally satisfying to reach for those herbs in the winter!