Sunday, September 29, 2013


I promise soon to post something about how shitty it is to go from having two incomes to one, and how I'm freaked out and want to punch someone in the throat.  Perhaps, someone I'm married to.  But that is not this post.  This post is about gratitude, instead.

One of the interesting byproducts of E. losing his job has been that it has heightened my noticing of everything we have that is free.  Everything that is a gift.  Everything, every experience, every feeling that we just get by virtue of where we have been and where we are now and just dumb luck. 

Let me be clear:  we are nowhere near poverty.  I have amazing benefits at work, and a decent salary and savings that will see us through for a good while before things get really sad (like, losing our house sad).  But all of the frills have been cut, or will have to be cut--eating out, shopping, all of those little monthly expenses that were just "in the noise" before.  Pretty much all mindless spending of any sort, from Starbucks to the grocery store, is going to have to be eliminated or pretty seriously curtailed if we're going to buy E. enough time to explore and figure out what's next for him.

But I feel like it's important to acknowledge the extraordinary safety net we have in place, since so many people don't have a net like ours, and so I'm really just talking about how we're still going to be middle class, just maybe more on the lower end of the middle class spectrum. I say this not to gloat, but to acknowledge how many would truly struggle with basics like food and shelter were they to lose one income.  That is not us, but I feel solidarity with those folks just the same, despite our crazy amounts of privilege.

Anyway, all the FREE and amazing joyful things!  Sure, I am still overcome occasionally with wee bouts of sadness and panic when I realize how conscious I have to be now about money.  It can be a pain.  But mostly, I'm like Maria twirling in the Alps, hands outstretched in amazement at the surrounding beauty. Like walking the dogs off leash at the junior high nearby: Milo's big, dopey, loping gait and Peanut's low quick pounces.  Sometimes he gets going so fast his hind legs can't slow down and he does an endo!  I mean, how amazing is that?  You can't see it and feel sad, I guarantee it.  The grass is so green from all the rain, it's starting to feel cool out, and I'm pretty sure there is nothing more beautiful than sunsets in the Rocky Mountains.  The girls chatter and do cartwheels in the grass, and I have such a feeling of well-being.  It helps to knock the fear on its ass.

There is the feeling of overwhelming gratitude when we leave the local library with a huge canvas bag stuffed positively full of books.  We get home and I brew a coffee and we snuggle up on the couches or in our rooms and we just read for hours.  It's got to be one of the best things in the world.

There's the top deck.  Granted, the kids and dogs can't really be out there because there is no railing.  I probably shouldn't be out there with my extreme klutziness.  But we have a little table and umbrella, and a burbling fountain, and the huge branches of the cherry tree form a canopy over the rest.  It's extraordinary out there, really.

And then, jeez, there's just the spillover goods.  All the books we own but haven't read, all the tv shows we can stream for free, all the crafts we have supplies for, all the athletic equipment we own and could use more of.  We're good cooks and can make delicious food for pretty cheap.  I'm cleaning my own house again for the first time in over a year, and I'm even enjoying that, seeing my "objects" again, and rearranging them, and seeing what we really want to keep and what we don't.

Above all:  each other, and you.  Potlucks at each others' houses, phone calls, hugs, laughs, bottles of cheap wine.  You help me to overcome my sadness and fear and longing.  You're supporting E. with ideas and love, too.  We're so grateful.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The good news is that E. had been miserable in that job for years, and now he gets a chance to figure out what he'd rather do or be instead, and that's a chance that everyone should have.

The good news is that we're in good shape in a lot of's not 2008, at the beginning of a nasty recession.  We have great health insurance.  I have a good job, that I love, in a lot of ways.  Above all, we're all healthy and love each other hugely, our house isn't flooded, and mostly our day to day lives won't change too much.  Not for a while.

The good news is that our day to day full court press will ease a bit.  We have a lot of negotiating to do in the days ahead about who will do what and how and when, but the treadmill has definitely slowed.  I admit to more than a little feeling of relief.

I'm not sure what the bad news is.  Money, maybe.  But not for a while.  The fact that there's no railing on that stupid effing deck and won't be for a good long time, most likely.  We're less robust, less resilient, financially, certainly.  Lord, don't let other shoes drop.

And small stuff:  That I won't get to eat out with you all as much?  That we'll have to clean our own house?  No more Boden dresses for a bit?  Hard to complain about all that.

Oh, I get swept up in anxiety now and then--waves of the jitters come and go.  I have a little blues here and there.  I'm curious and watchful and feel a little like I'm moving in slow motion.  I'm trying to make some meaning out of things but we're just not there yet.  N. reminds me to stay away from the catastrophies in my head and to just focus on the moment.

So I'm doing that.  I walk to work and notice:  the air is cool, I am breathing in and out, the sun is shining.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Half of us left for San Diego yesterday.  It doesn't happen very often, where one of us takes one kid on a trip, but it's happened a few times, and when I'm the one left at home, I have these twin, dueling reactions.  On the one hand, sheer giddiness at having half the responsibility, 1/3 the people to contend with, 1/3 the housekeeping and noise and interaction (because I'm an introvert, as you know).  It feels like...true and total and absolute and liberating FREEDOM!  My God, I could do anything.  Because, really, living with just one kid, who is pretty grown-up and self-sufficient, is super-close to living by yourself.  You just have some very sweet, very easygoing company.  Still, I shiver to think about what it might be like someday if E. actually took both girls some where.  I honestly think I would combust.

I remake the bed with our softest sheets and our comfiest comforter.  I vacuum.  I set the temperature of the house TO WHATEVER I WANT, meaning I open all the windows or run the swamp cooler or the fake fireplace and nobody is skulking around, rubbing their arms and whispering about how cold it is (because some of us don't have hormones that fluctuate like the stock market, and our temperatures are always stable).  I take a bite of cheese right off the block, without cutting it first.  Addie and I eat giant ice cream sundaes and stay up late watching truly terrible reality tv shows (Dance Moms, because it makes me look so nice) and we take long baths and smear nice-smelling lotions on and nobody wrinkles their noses and I paint my nails and nobody fake-coughs at the smell.

But then, the tv and lights go out and the rain is falling softly while much of my state is flooding and it would be very nice to have someone's familiar body next to me, heating things up and to murmur about the day with and to maybe even slightly snore a little just to cut the silence.  And in the morning, when it's somehow dark all of a sudden, to bring me coffee in bed and to cut my gloomy grumpiness with their never-ending morning cheerfulness, and to have the bustle of making lunches and filling backpacks and loud kisses goodbye.

They will be home soon, and I will for just a minute look back longingly at the quiet tidiness of their absence, but mostly I will be very, very glad they have returned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cranberry Bean Soup

In yet more evidence that I get to work with some very cool people, at one of the conferences I attended last spring, there was a panel on food politics and communication, and one of the presenters there handed out seeds from her garden.  There were only a few of us at the panel (it was on the last day) so I greedily packed away a bunch in ziplocs and then promptly forgot about them until July.

Give me a break.  I wasn't home much this summer.

Anyway, I lazily threw them out into our neglected beds--we decided not to put much energy into gardening this summer, what with all the deck-building and traveling and droughtness going on.  But lo and behold, we had several gorgeous stalks of Red Amaranth come up, have munched on some delicious cantaloupe, which we barely managed to beat the squirrels to, and picked a Butternut Squash this weekend.  Pretty cool for zero effort and cost, yes?

That butternut squash was something of an affront to my person, though, I gotta say.  I mean, that is like October food, and we're barely out of August.  It sat on the counter all weekend, not quite ripe, daring me to make something autumnal with it.

Still, Monday night is soup night, and as I was flipping through my very favorite cookbook, I found this recipe for Cranberry Bean Soup.  And it was so delicious it almost melted me and E's faces off.  I especially like that it incorporates butternut squash in an interesting way, rather than a broil-it-and-stick-it-in-the-blender way, like most other squash soups.  Much too fall-ish for this heat, I say.

Oh my God, I know.  It's Good Housekeeping, for Christ's sake, rather than some shishi hipster joint you have on your bookcase.  But seriously, this is our go-to cookbook.  There is almost no recipe in here I don't like, and most of the recipes feature ingredients we have lying around the house, and they are pleasing to many of our picky eaters.  And we got it for $5 impulse buy at B&N.  You could probably scoop it for $.99 used right now, I bet, on Amazon.  Don't delay.

Description:  Chilean-style soup, blah, blah, blah.  I substituted black beans for cranberry beans (cuz I'm not running to the store for that)--still delicious, and we also didn't have jalapenos so I just dumped some hot sauce in.  Innovate, people!

4t olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (because who the hell would eat the peel)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1t ground cumin
1 3/4 cups veggie broth
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1.5 pounds fresh cranberry beans (or a can of whatever beans you have lying around)
1t salt
1t sugar
1 1/4 cups loosely packed basil leaves, chopped (or a 1/2 cup of whatever's left in your pot after raiding it all summer)
2 1/4c water
2 cups corn kernels cut from cobs (about 4 medium ears; I suppose you could use frozen, but I did happen to have fresh lying around, and let me tell you I think it absolutely makes the soup)

1.  In your big pot, heat 2t oil over medium heat until hot.  Add squash and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.  Transfer squash mixture to bowl.
2.  In same big pot, heat 2t oil over medium heat, add garlic, jalapeño, and cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Stir in broth, tomatoes, beans, salt, sugar, squash mixture, 1/4 c basil, and water; heat to boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 30 minutes (if you used canned beans, 15 minutes will do it and still cook the squash nicely).
3.  Stir in corn; heat to boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in remaining 1 cup chopped basil.
4.  Eat the fuck out of that shit.

Okay, sorry.  That sort of vulgarity isn't necessary.  It's just that my face hurts from all the delicious melting off that happened.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer Memories

The forecasters say today is supposed to be our last day of 90-degree weather, and I hope they're right, because it is just weird to start school when it is still hot enough for sweat to pool in the small of your back and the sunlight to be so damned blinding.  

While I love the start of fall--the cooler temperatures, the augur of change, the chance to trade in flip-flops for a while--I found myself a bit nostalgic for summer today.  Who wouldn't be?

A gift from Africa.
Starting backwards here, but okay:  the first day of second and fourth grades.
A Colorado evening.
At Lyons Folk Festival, one of our most beloved summer rituals.

Hiking Two Ponds Nature Reserve.
Turning 7!
 Basil.  On everything.
Life on the cul-de-sac.
Saying goodbye to old friends.  So hard.

Hiking in Evergreen.  If you look closely, you can see a mama elk under the tree there.  Addie picked the spot for us based on an outdoor camp she went to this summer. 
Nolie's last day of first grade.

Walking the boys in Van Bibber, which has miraculously stayed green almost all summer.
On the new deck with Grambie.
Chilling out with Peanut and reading on one of our many rainy afternoons this summer.

Family Potluck

Phew!  These last three weeks were a lot more hectic than I expected.  But I just kept reminding myself that we were all back in school and that this kind of year is always crazy and that we would all be okay.

As you well know, I tend to revert to complainer mode when I'm feeling things are spinning out of control, and I've been doing plenty of that.  But there's also been some interesting soul searching going on, regarding our future, and what's next, and how we want our lives to look moving forward.

There have also been some moments of exquisite gratitude.  Have I told you that one way we manage the kookiness of being working parents is to have a meal schedule?  Yep:  Monday is soup and sandwich night, Tuesday is pasta night, Wednesday is make-your-own-pizza night, Thursday is Mexican night, Friday night we eat out, and Saturday is open (whatever we feel like eating, or often we have plans).  It's a good system, but with some flexibility built in, and we all like it.

But I think Sunday night is really all of our favorites.  We call it family potluck night, and it's an awesome way for us to mark the end of the old week and the beginning of the new; to get the kids involved in preparing meals; to eat up random odds and ends hanging around the kitchen; and to really just be together in a very simple, lovely way.

It's pretty straightforward:  everyone just brings something to the table, loosely coordinated, and according to one's ability.  Tonight, Nolie cut up some fruits and vegetables and arranged them on a platter; Addie diced and mixed mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil from our garden to put in the pasta that Eric made; and I diced up some going-mushy tomatoes and broiled nearly-moldy bread for bruschetta.  The girls set the table, Nolie made placecards, and we lit some candles.  The cool thing is doing dinner like this frees each of us up to try something new, or to combine things in new ways, and the girls have serious buy-in at dinner.

I hope you're having a happy Sunday!