Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Selfishness & Selflessness - Take 2

Two years ago I wrote a blog post called Selfishness & Selflessness, Marriage & Children. On Christmas Eve this year, I received the following comment:

I found this to be a very interesting and encouraging article. I find one of the tougher things in relationships is finding a good place to call the line. "It's a circle. It's not an exchange. Nobody is keeping track. Sometimes you give a lot and sometimes you need a lot. And as long as the balance doesn't tip too heavily in one direction for too long, it nourishes the relationship to carry on this way."

I am not sure if the author still visits these posts, but what are your thoughts when the balance tips a long way in one direction for a long time and stays there. How can you salvage it without making the relationship an exchange?

Even bringing up the problem is inherently somewhat selfish (though not in my opinion in a bad way) because it is communicating your needs. I can't find a great solution here. If you withhold from your partner until they become giving, it benefits neither of you, but in some cases just asking doesn't do the trick.
I mulled it over, and Mango & I had some long conversation about it, and this is my response...

The first and easiest is answer is the one you gave yourself. You need to talk about it. This is the kind of selfishness I was talking about in a positive way - being willing to say what you want. If you won't say what you want, how can you expect your partner to know what you need? If you asked Vespera or Novio what my number one piece of marriage advice is, I think they both could recite it in their sleep: Don't expect the other person to know what you want. You have to say what you want in order to get it. You grew up in different families with different communication styles, and your hints and non-verbals will not communicate adequately what it is you want. AND, it doesn't make your partners actions any less valuable that you had to ask. In fact, it is an act of true love for someone to do what you've asked, even though it is unfamiliar to them. Have I said it in enough ways yet? You MUST say what you want in order to get it. If you're unwilling to say, your relationship may die without your partner ever knowing WHY.

I must also say that just because you've asked for it before doesn't mean your partner will remember. I am guilty of this myself. Mango really, really needs me to use my words and TELL him how much I love and appreciate him. He soaks up words of affirmation like a sponge. I, myself, am not so good at saying how I really feel OUT LOUD in words. I talk a lot, but it's hard for me to get really personal in my talking. Sometimes I'm brought up short when Mango asks me a simple question about how I feel about something or another, and I realize I haven't even told him how much I appreciate something, though I've thought of it (and perhaps even bragged about him to my friends). I need reminders to express my love and care and appreciation to him in words. I promise you that it doesn't mean I love him less. I love him more than all my words put together could ever say. I just need to be reminded of how to love him best.

So, start by telling your partner what it is you want them to give. They may not know.

Several other things came to mind in response to your comment, though. First, I wonder if you feel like you're giving a lot and not getting a whole lot in return because you're not really speaking your partner's love language. If you're not familiar with the concept of love languages, you can begin reading here. It's possible that you're doing the dishes and making exceptional dinners when what your partner really needs in order to feel loved is a nice backrub. Or, it's possible that you're kissing and hugging when what they really need is practical help. Maybe their love language is words of affirmation, but you're not so good at speaking those words. Maybe you're better at touch or quality time or acts of service. It's entirely possible for two people to be loving each other in ways that don't really fill the other person's needs and desires for love. Have you asked what they want and desire? If you haven't, you may need to begin there. It's so much easier for your partner to give back to you and DESIRE to give back to you when they feel loved by you. I hear you asking about what happens when one person does all the giving, and I would first respond that it's important to make sure that it's the kind of giving your partner really needs. You see, it's natural for us to speak the love language that we, personally, desire the most. In fact, we can't imagine how the things we're doing wouldn't be the right things to make our partners feel loved, but, in fact, it's entirely possible that the language you're speaking is the one you want for you but not the one your partner needs for them.

Next, I'd ask whether the partner who appears to not be doing any giving is, in fact, incapable of giving at the present time. This is a tough one. Sometimes our partners are in a place where they have emotional healing to do, and they aren't capable of loving in the way we want to be loved. The biggest question here is whether or not healing is in process. If it's in process, then you need to let it be. As married people, we promise to love our spouses in sickness and in health. This is a time of sickness, and you've promised to love. It's really that simple...and that difficult.

The circumstance that specifically comes to mind for me is when a person has been abused sexually and is finding healing within the marriage relationship. A person needs to be in a relationship where they can say no but don't need to. In other words, a woman who has been sexually abused needs to say "no" sometimes and find that she will still be loved and respected. She needs the reassurance that she will not be forced and, in fact, her partner will still love and cherish, honor and respect her, though she cannot give sexually at this particular time. Once a person feels safe in this, they will be able to heal and to give. It's her partner's position to be steadfast and loving, willing to set aside his own needs to help heal those painful wounds. Walter Wangerin says in his book As For Me and My House, "You are married. Healing is not a profession but a way of life. Your spouse is not your patient but your flesh. Healing, then, is a task for your heart as well as your head and your hand. " Marriage is a beautiful place for healing. It isn't easy, but it is well worth the effort.

Of course, when the balance is tipped in the direction of one person's healing for a long time, a marriage can become unhealthy. The above paragraph assumes a steady trajectory toward healing and a balanced relationship. It also assumes that the partner who needs healing is actively working on it, and, typically, this means that they ARE giving to the relationship in some way. If healing isn't happening, it seems to me that the healthy partner needs some boundaries to protect themselves. They need to say exactly what they are and are not willing to give AND they need to find a support system for themselves...friends, family, churches, counselors, whatever to have a network of social outlets and people who listen and care for them.

What if your partner does not respond to your requests, you are speaking their love language, and they are able to give but are refusing? Well, it's like this: You promised to love this person. You didn't just promise to be nice or to tolerate. You promised to love, and loving means giving of yourself, even when you don't get what you want. Except in cases where there has been abuse or unfaithfulness, I believe it's your job to stick with it. This is radical and counter-cultural. Now, I don't think it's anyone's job to be a doormat, and I DO believe in setting good boundaries, as I've already stated.

I believe that unconditional love is powerful and has a certain irresistible draw. If you keep loving your partner unconditionally, regardless of everything...well, very few people refuse to be drawn into that. It's hard not to be swept away by unconditional love, if it's truly unconditional. I'm talking about a love that gives generously and without resentment, that seeks out what your partner really need and meets them where they need it most. Unfortunately, we humans are not capable of this kind of love. And, yes, I'm about to talk about God. I believe that we need something bigger than ourselves to have the power to really love another human being unconditionally. We humans are finite, fragile, broken, imperfect, and we cannot love perfectly without some help. We must be connected to the source of all love, to the God who is Love, in order to offer any kind of unconditional love to another human being. When we find ourselves drained or angry or overwhelmed or resentful, we can only keep loving by drawing on the one Source of infinite love, by calling out for help, by letting God fill our cup until it runs over once more.

It's hard to write about questions like these without a lot of caveats. It's hard to respond without knowing a particular situation. I want you to know that I really, really don't recommend that anyone hang around and be a doormat for their spouse. I don't advocate for one-way relationships. I think they're unhealthy, unbalanced. At the same time, I think there are times when we really need to hang in there while our partners find their own balance and healing. And I think we were put on this earth to love. So, I believe in loving as long and as much as possible...with good boundaries...in the absence of abuse or unfaithfulness. You see how difficult this is to balance or define? I can speak better to specific situations. I define abuse broadly, and, especially if a couple has children, I think protecting one's emotions is just as important as protecting one's physical body. So, it's difficult.

Above all, I believe honesty is the place to begin...honestly speaking your thoughts and needs to your spouse. This is the very first, most common, place where people stumble. If you find yourself living in unbalance ask your partner if you're really giving what they want and be willing to say what you want. Begin there, and you will most likely find your answer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Saga of the Double Yolks

Mango told me this evening that when he made breakfast for Vespera & Novio the day before the wedding, there were 2 eggs with double yolks.

If that doesn't seem impressive in any way...read here or here.

Makes total sense to me...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Speech I Gave at the Wedding

It brings us a great deal of joy to be here today to celebrate the marriage of two very wonderful people, Vespera & Novio. It has been so delightful to watch their relationship grow and change over the last several years. As I sat down to write out something I wanted to say, a whole flood of memories filled my mind.

I don't think I'll ever forget the first time I met Novio when he came home with Vespera from Village Park. He shyly leaned over the fence and made polite small talk with us before heading back to his own house. As the weeks passed, this became the Tuesday evening ritual, and by the next spring Vespera (also shyly) told me they we dating.

I will not forget the day Novio brought Vespera a goldfish when she was sick and feeling sad, nor the way he and his best friend showed up early in the morning on her 17th birthday to wake her with a serenade.

I will not forget the summer you spent biking and rollerblading everywhere, nor the winter you both learned to snowboard.

I will not forget Novio sitting in my living room telling me that he loved you, Vespera.

I will not forget the nights the two of you sat together playing guitar in the living room or seeing you paint together on the banks of the Whitewater River.

We have watched you plan parties together, work on homework, cook food, dance, laugh, cry, and tell stories. We saw you both graduate from high school with high honors, and we watched as you both began college this fall, pursuing your goals with determination and courage. You are two very talented and accomplished people. You sharpen each other, and together you have an energy that is more than either of you would be on their own. It is clear to me that God has plans for you, and we pray continually that you will always find yourselves right in the middle of those plans.

Vespera & Novio, you have generously shared your thoughts and your plans, your hopes and joys with us, and we have been honored and privileged to witness the journey that brought you to this day. Now it is our honor to walk beside you as a couple. Of all the beautiful gifts that God has given us, one of the most precious is knowing that our daughter has married someone who loves her deeply and completely, who respects and honors her, and knowing that we would not choose anyone else for her, even if we could. Novio, welcome to our family. We are so happy for you both! Be blessed!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How many times have I traveled this road?

How many times have I traveled this road?

To church, to school, to work, to my friend's house...home. I know I've traveled it to weddings and birthdays and funerals and baby showers. Alone. With friends.

In the rain.

Crying or laughing or praying or all three.

And like tonight, in the snow, in the wind, with my headlights turning the world into a snow globe. In the snow and the wind while my future husband drove, with my head in his lap. I know I was dreaming and sleeping and my thoughts were of the future and our life together.

Yet never, ever once did I dream of this day. It isn't something I could ever have imagined...in those days when I drove this road every day.

I didn't dream about you in the back seat with your bridesmaids, making a wedding, planning a future, growing our family by yet one more person.

This life is so vast, so outside the lines....like trying to get your mind to go outside your mind.

Though I didn't dream it or plan it or imagine it, you are here, and this reality is so much better than anything I would or could have imagined. It is bigger, more alive, more daring, and so much deeper and more beautiful. A life of heightened contrast.

How many times have I traveled this road?

Many. More than I can count.

And none. None at all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Co-Housing?

The author of Little House on a Small Planet, Shay Salomen, writes,

"How is it that we have a housing crisis? Maybe a homing crisis, or a sharing crisis, but this isn't a housing crisis."

This was written in a time when the U.S. was considered to be having a housing crisis. Now I think we have, perhaps, a different type of housing crisis, one in which there are too many large expensive homes, and everyone is trying to downsize when downsized houses barely exist. I love how she refers to this as a sharing crisis, though, because it exactly fits how I feel about co-housing/multi-generational housing/intentional community, or whatever else you want to call it. For the purpose of simplicity, it means sharing your house with other adults. Our co-housing adventure begins next week when Vespera & Novio get married (or, perhaps, 2 weeks from now, when they're home from their honeymoon). They'll be living with us.

Why share? Well, to be honest, it makes sense to me as a family therapist, as an environmentalist, and as a Christian. Maybe I'll take those points in backwards order. As Christians we are called to be the church. I spent some time in graduate school really working out what that means and came to the conclusion that my professor, LeRon Schultz, says it best. He spoke of how the church of the Bible was a group of people who were called to live together in community, loving and serving each other, in a way that calls or draws other people to God. In other words, the early church was supposed to share.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
They didn't stop having houses or possessions entirely, as evidenced by the fact that they went to each other's houses and ate, but they gladly shared all they had with each other. And, frankly, people were drawn in by that kind of community, by that kind of selflessness and sharing. People became Christians because of the example the early church set. They wanted what that little group of people had. This is our calling...to live in this beautiful relationship with each other in a way that attracts others, that draws them. I have often thought of our house as one of peace and one of healing. It is the deep desire of Mango & I to offer grace and rest to all who enter here. Who better to begin with than our children?

So, secondly, as an environmentalist, shared housing makes so much sense. Why use more natural resources to build more houses when the houses we have are big enough to house more people? Why burn the fuel to heat two houses when we all fit in one? Why use the electricity to light two kitchens and two living rooms? Why buy more dishes and appliances when we can share? It's a matter of environmental stewardship to leave a smaller footprint.

And, finally, as a family therapist, a mother, and a human being, shared housing means we have access to the community we so desperately need. We were not created to spend long hours without the company of others or to take care of all the tasks of daily life alone. Post partum depression is so common for new mothers because they're so isolated. Spending all day with only the company of a small child is exhausting, lonely, and (let's admit it) boring work. I know that I was delighted to learn when Vespera came to us that I was gaining, not simply another daughter, but some thoughtful company and interesting conversation. More people in a house means more opportunities to learn and to grow, to share thoughts, to gather ideas, to be challenged and to challenge others, to be sharpened, to develop into better, more whole and holy people (to throw in some more theology). Not to mention, that shared housing also means dividing responsibilities and multiplying our celebrations!

I cannot say all this without mentioning that I am also an introvert, partial to time alone and a little space to think. I imagine that other introverts reading here are feeling a bit horrified at the suggestion of co-housing. This is why sharing a house requires some healthy people with good boundaries. It can't be done thoughtlessly or without the necessary communication skills. This is, perhaps, another blog post altogether. So, I think I'll leave it at that.

As always, I invite your thoughts, comments, questions, and prayer. Thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching, Timing, Trust

There are so many things I want my children to know before they are grown. So many things I want to tell them. So many things I want them to know. Every so often I must remind myself of two things. First, that I won't stop telling them things just because they're grown. And, second, that there are many lessons they will and need to learn on their own. Often it's only in retrospect that we can look back and say, "I wish someone had told me that." The truth is that maybe we wouldn't have been able to hear it or it wouldn't have made sense or we would have forgotten anyway because it didn't seem relevant. I think that's why premarital counseling often has so little effect. It's not just that it's young love or that it's all so new and romantic, but when a person just isn't ready for a piece of information, it often goes in the waste bin rather than the file cabinet. They won't need the information until they're in the situation. And that's why parenting is a full time job that never ends. We've got to be there when the timing is right and the wisdom is relevant...which is so often different from the timing we expected.

I was musing the other night about how babies seem to just learn things on their own. I remember having some freakish fear that we needed to be doing something to help Mane learn to crawl, and then one day she just crawled...with no help from us. I think that sometimes we think we're doing something by holding those tiny hands and helping the baby walk across the room, but, strangely enough, most babies will learn to walk whether we practice with them or not. We repeat words to them over and over, "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama," only to have them burst out with "Dada" or "ball" or "cat." Sure, they still learned from us, but not in the way we expected...not by any direct teaching...and certainly in their own way and in their own time. I suppose that's why how we live our lives is more important that what we say. We're being watched even when we're not teaching.

It's such a dance...that knowing when to teach and when to trust. Knowing when you've said or done enough. Even knowing when direct teaching will interfere with the deeper teaching that comes of personal experience. When to say something and when to let the lesson be learned. Holding on. Letting go. Holding back. Pouring forth.

I love it that the verbs "to wait" and "to hope" and "to expect" are the same in Spanish.

Sometimes we must wait.
Hold back.
Keep pace, not running ahead.
And hope, knowing that we have already built the foundation,
And sit on the edge of our seats expectantly,
knowing that something glorious is about to break forth.
All on it's own.
Without our help.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November

Well...November came and went. The time changed and the dark envelops us earlier in the evening now. Some days I want to laugh and some days I want to cry. Most days I do both. It's not bad, and maybe it's cleansing somehow. It's been a month to cry and laugh about anyway.

I had my appendix out November 4th after some several days of pain that I thought had to do with my ulcer. November 9th I had an endoscopy, which revealed that I do NOT have an ulcer, and the pain of the previous week was entirely related to my appendix. Most likely it's been related to my appendix for the last 4 months. I've currently been free of ulcer medication for 9 days. I had a teensy cup of coffee over the weekend. My stomach feels like a new woman, and I have loads more energy now that I'm not taking medication. Go figure.

Two of my very dear girlfriends came over the weekend after my surgery. We were supposed to be spending a weekend away, but, instead, they came here to be with me. I feel honored to have such loyal and compassionate friends. They paced themselves to my hobbling walk along the sidewalk and never complained about sleeping in the living room.

November 23rd, at almost 3 weeks post-surgery, Mango came down with an awful stomach bug, and we had a trip to the emergency room with him, too. Now, a week later, he's finally feeling ok, and he went back to work today.

In the meantime, we've sort of floated along, thanking God for our lives, crying about the things that feel overwhelming...or even the things that are beautiful and piercing.

My childbirth class ended. I learned about acupuncture. Vespera learned to trust Mango to help her write her college papers. I learned that I cannot edit papers while under the influence of whatever drugs they used to subdue me during the endoscopy. I learned to ask Novio for a little help now and then, and he learned to call me for help, too. I crocheted a doll for the first time. And I currently have a turkey in the oven...something I've only attempted once before. Mane learned to do laundry. But I think she forgot how to do any formal homeschool work. At least it's been nice enough to play outside.

Yes, it's been nice enough to play outside. And Advent has begun. This is the week for lighting the hope candle, and we are feeling deeply the hope of this season....the hope of new relationships, of renewed health, of deep friendships, and, of course, of a God who knows us, loves us, and is present with us.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stuffed Poblano Peppers



We did this on a whim. It was Mango's idea. We called Vespera while she was doing her homework at the library to confirm some details. The results were DELICIOUS!

Ok, so take as many poblanos as you wish and burn them over an open burner on the stove. Let them sit in a covered container for a bit, and then the outside skin will peel off...a little like tomato skins when you boil tomatoes.

Brown & season ground beef however you wish.

Slit the peppers & remove seeds but not the stem.

Stuff the peppers with seasoned ground beef and cheese of your choice. We used Juusto baked cheese because it's got a hearty, meaty flavor.

Wisk 2 or 3 eggs in a bowl. In a separate bowl pour some Pamela's gluten free Baking and Pancake Mix. Roll the peppers in the eggs & then in the flour.

Fry them in hot oil on the stove until golden brown, using a tongs to turn them by the stem.

Not too difficult and very yummy!

More Green Smoothies!!

I made 3 more green smoothies today - 1 for Mane, 1 for Vespera, and 1 for me. My kids are getting totally hooked. What could be better?!



Smoothie #1 (for Mane)
1 cup Brown Cow maple yogurt
1 cup Almond Breeze Original almond milk
1/2 c. frozen cherries
1/2 c. frozen mangoes
1 c. fresh spinach
3 T rich chocolate Ovaltine

Smoothie #2 (for Vespera)
1 c. almond milk
1 scoop Spiru-Tein chai high protein powder
2 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. frozen mangoes

Smoothie #3 (for Me)
same as Vespera's smooothie, without the mangoes

I tried making a smoothie with kale. Yuck. Some people claim this is among the easiest greens to put in a smoothie. I beg to differ.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Green Smoothies

So, the mamas on the message board (http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/community/index.php) are all talking about DRINKING their veggies. So, I decided to try it. I must say that after just two days, I'm hooked!

Yesterday I made a smoothie with 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 2 bananas, 2 cups romaine lettuce, and water. It was good but not great, and Mane hated it. I later read that romaine is one of the hardest greens to "hide" in a smoothie.

Today I made this smoothie:

2 cups of spinach
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup frozen cherries
2 pitted dates
1 small banana

YUM!! I don't think it needed the dates. I'm trying to move away from bananas because Mane doesn't like them much, and I'm hoping to get her drinking some green smoothies, too. She wasn't impressed with this one today, either. However, she is sitting here eating a bowl of peas. So, perhaps, I'm being a good influence anyway. She told me I was crazy to post about green smoothies here because nobody could possibly like them. *shrug* Let me know if you try it. ;)

(I'll tag on to this healthy post that the weather has been great this week, and we biked to the clinic & Savers yesterday. Today we biked to the co-op. Last week we spent a lot of time on the bus it was so rainy.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Announcement

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We here at The Midnight Cafe are in love with love...with the God who is love, with love stories and love songs, and the love between us, our family, and between the couples who make up our family...most newly, Vespera & Novio, as they are now officially engaged!!

We are so delighted. I don't think even Mango and I could imagine two people more perfectly suited to each other, except ourselves, of course. ;) They have worked together, planned events, cooked, danced, biked, hiked, and played guitar. They have gotten angry, cried, made up, and laughed...loud and long. They have held each other, literally and figuratively through some major life changes, pain, and stress. They have generously and openly shared their thoughts and even some struggles with us, and we have been honored and privileged to witness their journey of falling in love. Now it is our honor and privilege to walk beside them as a couple. Of all the beautiful gifts that God has bestowed on us, one of the sweetest is knowing that our precious daughter will marry someone who loves her deeply and completely, who respects her and honors her, and who expresses this love without reserve in word and action.

This is a gift to us, knowing that we would not choose anyone else for her, even if we could. It is a tremendous gift to us because we know what a gift marriage can be. Marriage means we have someone to face the world with us, to share our dreams, goals, stories, work, inside jokes, and warm winter quilts. Marriage can sharpen and refine us, as we rub against each other's sharp edges day in and day out. A marriage rooted and grounded in the love of God has the power to be balm and healing for the places where we are hurt and wounded. Out of our own healing, we can reach out and bring healing to others.

I strongly believe in the concept of synergy - the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A marriage has the potential to be and to create so much more than those two people working separately. Vespera and Novio have already been through much in their separate lives, and it's clear to me that God has brought them through for a purpose. They were born in two little towns in Mexico, not far apart. And, yet, they found each other here, in Minnesota, several thousand miles from their birthplaces. They found each other here, where they are surrounded by people who love and support them and people who have taught them much. A divine appointment, perhaps? Separately they are talented, courageous, and accomplished individuals. Together they are dynamite waiting to explode! I am convinced that God has plans for them, big plans.

I am curious and excited to see it all unfold. For now, though, I am simply content to walk beside them...to cook dinners and watch movies, to snowboard and camp and sit up late talking. They are our children...and our companions. How fortunate we are.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Riveted

I spent the evening with my eyes riveted to the girl who unexpectedly changed my life forever.
We were at a soccer game.
I watched her watch the ball...
watched her kick hard, fall down, laugh, sweat, SCORE, run...
Since the day I met her I've admired her courage,
her willingness to push through pain.
And her ability to come out the other side.
I don't think I've ever met anyone who wants to learn more
about everything
and who CAN.
Soccer is where she pushes her body,
college is where she pushes her mind,
and relationships are where she pushes her emotions.
She's had the courage to be the one to make change in relationships,
to be different,
to stand up for herself,
to admit mistakes,
and to forgive.
I kept my eyes on her.
Riveted.
Because who she is
has changed who I am,
and I'm trying to understand who I am.
While all the while she keeps changing, too.
My daughter,
mija,
Evening Prayer,
Vespera.

She turned 19 a few weeks ago, and the words that I couldn't find then started recklessly pouring all over the pages of my mind as I watched her play soccer last night. There's still so much more to say, but this is my Happy Birthday post for her...just a little late.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Would you, if you could?

If you could eliminate the emotional pain of a difficult or traumatic event in your past (without actually getting rid of the memory), would you do it? Think of the worst, most difficult, tragic, painful experience you've evre had and the ways in which it still affects you today. What if you could still remember but you could neutralize the emotions attached to the memory? You could get rid of the depression/anxiety/tears/pain/fear/embarrassment or whatever it is that comes with the memory. It seems so often that the emotions attached to traumatic or difficult experiences affect our ability to live a whole and healthy life. We make poor choices out of the woundedness and scars.

I'm reading a book called The Promise of Energy Psychology, which claims that through the stimulation of a sequence of accupressure points, the scenario I just described in the previous paragraph can happen - remember the trauma without the emotions. A person can eliminate phobias, anxiety and post traumatic stress by calling up the memory while interrupting the emotional response of the limbic system by massaging or tapping pressure points. Those with experience in this type of therapy say that the whole procedure takes only a few minutes and the effects are long lasting. People who have been through this type of therapy report that they are still free of their emotional distress even 2 years later.

At first, this seems entirely too good to be true. My first response was to say OF COURSE I want to get rid of the anxiety and depression I experience. OF COURSE, I want to stop feeling the upset whenever I recall particular instances of childhood trauma. I want to stop living with the drive to be perfect and the fear that I'm going to totally mess things up. I know that much of the fear is driven by painful life experiences. What if I could interrupt the emotional response and, thereby, the unhealthy behaviors?

The book gives examples of energy therapy working to relieve phobias. This seems pretty wise to me. And, yet, the book also mentions that people who have been treated for phobias often end up with even less of an emotional response to the object of the phobia than the general population. For example, a person with a fear of heights might eliminate their phobia and then some. Generally, people have some physiological response to heights, keeping them alert and cautious. The book says that the treated person with have less response then most of us but still have a healthy caution. This leads me to 2 questions. First, HOW does the treatment stop at a "healthy caution?" Who defines that? How do we know what degree of caution is healthy? And, second, what if the response of the average person is actually healthy and a certain degree of fear is necessary to keep us safe? Do we really want to deprogram our hard-earned responses that have taught us how to be safe? Of course, phobias are generally unhealthy, and we want a more balanced response, but can we garuntee that this type of therapy automatically stops at a good balance, a healthy place?

The book also gives an example of a woman who was raped by her stepfather at a young age. In one meeting with her energy therapist she went from shaking, flushed, crying, rapid breathing, and over-all very upset to calmly stating that the rape was a long time ago, it didn't have power over her any more, she is old enough to protect herself now, and she is able to protect her own children. Basically she went from very upset to telling herself and her therapist that there was really nothing to be upset about and she's over it now. Two years later the therapist followed up with her, and she still had no emotional response to recalling the rape. She had been able to "move on" with no depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

This last story seems ideal on the one hand and scares me to pieces on the other. It doesn't seem right somehow. It seems to take some of the humanity out of the person. We were made to feel. God created us with a limbic system, an emotional response system, with the capacity for love and joy...and pain and sadness. And feelings serve a purpose - to protect us, to teach us, to connect us to others. What happens to a person's compassion if they disconnect or neutralize their emotions related to pain or trauma? I'm entirely in favor a balance and learning to come to a balanced place with emotional responses. I do see how getting lost in the haze of our emotional over-response leads to unhealthy and even destructive choices sometimes. I get that there are sometimes reasons to take medication to balance emotional responses. I understand that brain chemistry is a powerful thing. I'm scared stiff by a therapy that ELIMINATES the negative emotions. How can it do that?

Even considering the possibility that this might be possible brought me to some conclusions that I feel somewhat ambivalent about. I've learned a lot. I guess it upsets me that I had to endure some kind of trauma to come to some profound realizations, but it seems to be the case. I've learned things about God and faith, life, community, families, and even my own capacity for love, joy and sacrifice through the really painful things in my life. And much of the learning has happened through actually feeling the pain. If I had done some energy work to change my emotional response, I'd feel fine, but I wouldn't be the same person I am today. I wouldn't think as hard about things. I wouldn't know the depth that's out there, that's available to me.

And there's something else, too. If I hadn't been wading my way through so many tough emotions, I wouldn't have experienced the love and compassion of my Mango in the same way. I wouldn't know the depth of his love for me. I wouldn't know about love so deep and fierce, so patient and gentle, so persistent and unwavering. I wouldn't know who he really is on the inside. Maybe he learned something, too, about his own capacity for love and sacrifice.

Yes, I think people were made to feel. And nothing about feeling is clean and neat or simple.

I still have a lot of questions. I mean, if God made us with pressure points that change the flow of energy in our bodies and neutralize emotional reactions, maybe there's something valuable to be had there. Maybe it's not so all or nothing as the vibe I'm getting from the book I'm reading. It probably isn't. It's been a journey for me to process this, though...to think about the role that broken and desperately painful emotions have played in my life. I know I haven't experienced the worst pain out there, either, and I wouldn't ever fault anyone for seeking salve for their wounds, balm for their bleeding emotions. Who could find fault with that? I can only say what I say here from the other side, for the most part. More days than not, I'm free from the emotional fallout of painful memories. What if I hadn't found the other side yet? What if no other side was in sight? Ultimately, I am left with more questions that answers.

What would you do?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eggplant Lasagna

This is a new recipe for me. I'll report back & let you know how it tastes once we've all tried it! It's sitting in my fridge waiting to be baked later today.



Eggplant Lasagna

This recipe is adapted from Real Simple magazine's September 2009 issue (which I checked out from the library!).

Slice 2 medium eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil & lightly salt them. Broil for 3-4 minutes on each side until beginning to brown.

Put half a cup of spaghetti sauce (we use Enrico's because it's gluten free & really yummy) in the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Put one layer of eggplant slices in the pan.

Mix 1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.

Put half of the cottage/ricotta cheese mixture over the layer of eggplant. Place another layer of eggplant, then the rest of the cheese mixture, then another layer of eggplant.

Top with another 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees F until bubbly - about 20 minutes.

Carrot Cashew Nut Soup

We are loving the fall vegetables at our house! This was last Friday's dinner.





Carrot Cashew Nut Soup
This recipe is adapted from a Seward Co-op newspaper.

Boil 1lb of carrots in 6 cups of water, vegetable broth or chicken broth until carrots are soft. (I usually do a combo of homemade chicken broth & water.)

Saute one onion and add it to the pot.

Additional options: 4 cloves of garlic & 1 Tablespoon of grated ginger.

Once carrots are soft, scoop them into the blender.

Add to blender:
1/2-1 cup of cashew nuts,
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice, and
2-3 teaspoons Braggs liquid aminos or other gluten free shoyu/soy sauce
Pour in enough broth to blend easily without over-filling the blender. You may have to blend in batches.

Blend until smooth (hang onto the lid as hot liquids want to pop the top off your blender) & add back to the pot. Add salt to taste.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'm giving you grace...

This is some really rough writing. I've gotten out of the habit of writing deep thoughts here. Bear with me. ;)

**************

Once when Mane was very small I was having a miserable day. I threw myself on my bed and wished as hard as I could for it to be bedtime...soon. Mane came in and patted my arm and said, "Mama, I'm giving you grace."

I know she really had no idea what grace meant, yet, somehow, she knew I needed something...and grace sounded like a good word. Or, perhaps, God whispered that word in her little ears, and she was the voice of Jesus to me that day.

On Wednesday at Bible study we were talking about the worries we have as mothers that we'll mess our children up somehow, that they'll grow up to tell people about all the ways we've screwed up. I'm not sure, but I think the answer to that fear is grace....for ourselves and for our children...so that when they grow up they have some grace for us.

I really think our children start out that way...gifting us with grace all the time. They forgive us easily and love us with a fierceness that defies our many shortcomings. But somewhere along the way they learn to be defensive, to be less accepting of their own faults...and, thereby, ours, too.

Vespera likes a particular saying that goes like this, "Everybody has their stuff." I don't know if you can hear it or not, but that simple statement is just crammed with grace. Mane was the first child of mine to offer me grace. Vespera's grace came later and was more unexpected. She has a talent for seeing what's inside people...my own anxiety and needs for control, for example...but seeing the imperfections doesn't result in criticism. Instead, you'll hear her simple refrain, "It's ok. Everybody has their stuff." It's an acceptance that none of us are perfect, that most of us are trying, that we can still be loved and appreciated for who we are. We have stuff. It's who we are. But it doesn't make us less, and it doesn't make us unloveable.

I find that if I take that approach in life, I get along with a lot more people. I love a lot more people. If I expect people to have "stuff" I don't get so offended/hurt/insulted/frustrated when I come face to face with it.

I want to give this gift back to my children. I want to gift them with grace. I want them to know that they are loved in the middle of all their stuff. It isn't that I want them stuck there. I just think it's really hard to learn and grown and get unstuck outside the gift of grace. You see, I can relax and be a different person when Vespera notices my needs for control getting out of control and says, "It's ok, everybody has their stuff." Suddenly, the acknowledgment that it's there, but it isn't all of me and I am loved anyway, allows me to breathe again and to be...well, less controlling.

If we practicing giving grace back and forth to each other like that, maybe we'll all grow up to be more whole and loving people, people who forgive instead of blaming, who go out and live and make mistakes, rather than hiding in fear and trying to be perfect.

Chicken Drumsticks, Butternut Squash & Applesauce

Oven Baked Chicken Drumsticks & Butternut Squash with homemade applesauce for dessert!



Chicken Drumsticks

Roll drumsticks in olive oil. Then roll in a flour mixture of:

1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Place on baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour, turning once. This would work better with gluten free breadcrumbs rather than rice flour, but I didn't have any breadcrumbs.




Butternut SquashThis is not technically a recipe because there's nothing to it: Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Salt lightly. Spread a little butter over the top. Place face up in baking pan with about half an inch of water in the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 1/2 hours or until soft all the way through.


To make applesauce, follow instructions here: How to make applesauce.
We did not add sugar.

Lovely autumn dinner!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

It's getting COLD

Monday we biked to Savers. We had gloves, headbands (for ear cover), winter coats... Um, if tired and crabby were earlier excuses for not wanting to bike, COLD is the new one. We did not, however, freeze, and it wasn't nearly as bad once we got outside as the anticipation of how bad it was going to be. Isn't that so often true in life? Anticipating the awful (aka worrying or being anxious) can be so much worse than the actual awful. It doesn't always work out that it wasn't so bad after all, but, at least, if we cut the anticipation/worry/anxiety out we don't "die a thousand deaths" before anything even happens.

...Today we took the bus to our homeschool group & Mango picked us up after school. We stopped at the library on the way home, which felt like cheating because we didn't bike there. But nothing crazy happened, like the last time we took a car to the library. So, I figure it's just the downtown library parking ramp that knows we're supposed to be biking and has its revenge.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's Biking Update

We biked to Bible Study today (4 miles round trip), and I began musing about what it would be like to take a biking trip to somewhere with Mane. I mean, to actually go camping or vacationing someplace. There are lots of near and far suburbs, many along the river or near lakes. I figure that Mane could, potentially, bike about 12 miles in a day right now, maybe more, but we have to think about making it back home, too. By next summer, I assume she'll have more speed and endurance. I wonder if she could make it to 20 miles in a day.

I found a very cool looking website called Cyclopath that helps you find bike routes if you know where you want to go. It took some searching, but I actually found the link to Cyclopath on the Metro Transit website. Helpful people. It looks like it would be roughly 28 miles to the Baker Park Reserve Campground, which is park of the Three Rivers Park District . I can dream right? Nearly 30 miles is an awfully long ride.

Rice & Beans

Tonight we'll be having rice & refried beans with all the fixings!

Rice
Put two cups of rice in a pot with 8 cups of liquid. I typically use a mix of homemade chicken broth & water OR I use Pacific brand tomato and red pepper soup with water.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently!

Beans
Place 2 cups of dry pinto or black beans in the crockpot and fill the rest of the pot with water. Set the crockpot on high for 3 hours, until beans are splitting open.

Burn an onion in a pan with oil (corn or olive). Remove the burned onion and allow the oil to cool some. Pour the [drained] beans into the pan & mash with a potato masher. Add water to desired consistency. Add about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of salt according to taste.

Eat rice and beans with tortillas, avocado, lettuce, salsa, tomato, jalepeno, Mexican Farmer cheese, table cream or sour cream, and whatever other fixings you happen to enjoy!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Borscht & Bread

As a favor to some of my gluten free friends, I've decided to include dinner recipes in my blog whenever I'm making something I haven't posted about already. This means there will be lots of recipes to begin with, and then they'll taper off after a while!

So, tonight, because autumn has arrived, and we have a craving for stew, I'm making beet soup, known to the Russians as borscht. I make this in the crockpot, and I make no claims that it is authentically Russian.



Beet Soup
Place in the crockpot:
1.5 pounds beef stew meat
4 - 5 diced medium potatoes
4 - 5 diced beets
1/2 head of cabbage
1 medium sauted onion
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (Braggs & Heinz are both gluten free)
1 T brown sugar
some dollops of butter over the top

Cook on high until the meat is brown - about 2 hours.
Cook on low for about another 4 hours until the vegetables are soft.

Serve with sour cream and gluten free bread!



Gluten Free Bread
Wisk together wet ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
3 eggs
1 t. vinegar (Heinz is gluten free)
3 T oil (I used olive oil.)

In a separate bowl mix:
3 1/4 cups brown rice flour
3 T sugar (I use sucanat.)
1 1/2 t. xanthan gum (This stuff is expensive, but most recipes call for very little, and it's what makes gluten free foods stick together.)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 packet of Red Star active dry yeast

Pour wet and dry ingredients into bread machine according to bread machine instructions. I always do wet on the bottom & dry on the top, but different machines have different instructions. I use the 2 lb light loaf setting, but some machines actually have a gluten free setting, and I'm sure that would be faster. Gluten free bread does not need to rise twice like regular bread, but I don't have any other options on my machine.

Check the bread in the first 5-6 minutes. It should look like thick cake batter. If it's very sticky, add water by tablespoons. I find that how much water I need differs from season to season here in MN.

Let it cool entirely, and then store it in a gallon sized bag. It's easier to slice after it's been in the bag for a few hours because the little bit of condensation softens the crust.

Enjoy!

A Bike Named Martha

As much fun as it was, I've decided that I don't really need or want a separate blog about biking. So, I've moved all the contents from A Bike Named Martha to this blog, The Midnight Cafe. If you want to read posts about biking, you can scroll down the left sidebar and click on "biking." I am totally in love with the title "A Bike Named Martha," though, so I'm keeping the space there. I just might change my mind at some point, and I want to know that Martha is still waiting for me. ;)

You can still read about our homeschooling journey at Peregrin House, as homeschooling really does need its own separate blog.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Compost & Trash

I know you're all waiting with bated breath to hear about No Impact Man, but I find that I'm not particularly inspired to write about it....not because it wasn't inspiring, but because I want you to go see it for yourself. If you're in Minneapolis, it opens at the Lagoon Theater on October 2nd. If you're elsewhere, you'll have to check the website: No Impact Man. If you're looking for inspiration without seeing the film, you could check out Colin Beaven's blog. It's listed in my sidebar as "No Impact Man."

Suffice it to say that I did leave the theater with some of the inspiration I was looking for, and I'll be blogging about the changes we're making here at our house as they happen. Right now I'm looking into the best means of composting our kitchen scraps. I'm looking into vermicompost, which is, essentially, using red worms to quickly turn kitchen scraps back into earth OR a regular backyard compost bin. For Minneapolis (and the surrounding area) Eureka Recycling is an excellent resource for learning how to follow the green mantra, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." They have an upcoming workshop on "The End of Waste," as well as workshops on both types of composting and turning trash into art.

One thought that I took away from the film was this: Sometimes we waste a lot of time and energy trying to figure out which is the lesser of two evils (think paper or plastic?) when really we can avoid the whole conflict by going without either. Sometimes it's not a question of whether or not we can live without something; it's a matter of just going without and seeing what happens. We in America think there are an awful lot of things we can't live without, but when it really comes right down to it, if we gave those things up, we'd find a way to survive. I think sometimes what makes us most unwilling to change is being different, being afraid of what other people will say, being worried about having guests over or turning our children into freaks. I've often said that I wonder how we'd all live if we weren't so afraid. This is just another area that begs that question. And then what if a few of us made some changes and then others followed suit and then we all lived differently together?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 31 - Bicycle Blog

Biked to Bible Study this morning and then to the park before returning home. I think that still puts us at about 4 miles today. Not much else to say.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 30 - Bicycle Blog

2 miles today - to the clinic and to Target. I really, really didn't want to bike, and the car was staring me in the face. Mane was whining and fussing about leaving the house, and I almost offered to drive the car if it would make her feel better when she said, "Can we at least take our bikes?" To which I replied, "Of course, that was the plan all along." ;)

We spent a long and tiring weekend making trips to the hospital to see my uncle. He's fine now. The story is long and doesn't belong in this blog. In any case, we drove/rode in cars a ridiculous number of times to ridiculously close places because we were doing the hospital thing. I did, however, convince my aunt that 4 blocks is not really that far to walk for lunch. We walked the 4 blocks there and back, and I felt I had at least done something for the planet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 26 - Bicycle Blog

No Impact Man was fantastic, totally worth seeing! We took the bus there to go see it....made sense, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Impact Man

Mane & I (and possibly the rest of the family) are going to see No Impact Man at the Walker Art Center this evening, and I am SO EXCITED. As Mane was reciting Psalm 23 to me this afternoon, I was thinking of how full of the natural world that Psalm is:

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not be in want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside quiet waters
He restores my soul

Truly, what restores our souls like a walk beside quiet waters? The poet Psalmist knew the way that green growth and clear water speak to the human soul. It's circular, I think, the way that these things restore us and turn our hearts to God and the way that God leads us to these things in order to be restored. They are the tangible bits of God in the universe, our way to see glimmers of God's personality and desires for us.

I've found that this biking experiment has been restorative for me in a similar way. In the city, biking doesn't really bring one closer to nature...or, at least, not any more than it brings one closer to asphalt and concrete. But it frees us to live in closer relationship to the world around us, and it does reduce our negative impact on the natural world that God created. God created us to be relational beings, as God is also a trinity, constantly in relationship. Rushing around (car or no car) is not conducive to relationships, with each other or with the natural world. I feel significantly less rushed since making an intentional effort to drive less. I think it has something to do with planning only what we actually have time for and leaving plans more open-ended to give time to get there and back. I don't think driving less is the only way to learn that lesson, but it was the way for me to learn it right now. And it restores my soul...

Biking is a baby step for me, a very do-able way to live more gently, to slow down, to take care of the world that God made for our enjoyment, delight, and restoration. No Impact Man tells a more extreme story, long strides, lots of sacrifice. I'm looking forward to being challenged. Mane has already asked for us to begin composting our food waste, something I've been too lazy to explore. I'd like to instill in her a love for creation, along with a love for the Creator, and I'm going to let her youth and belief that nothing is impossible challenge me, too. A restoration challenge...for me and for creation.

Day 24 - Bicycle Blog

Biked to Bible Study this morning (4 miles round trip). It was chilly when we started out, and we were glad. It's been unseasonably warm lately and very sunny. We were glad for the clouds and the chill. We had the new experience of hearing the leaves crunch under our bike tires, and I could smell fall in the air.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 23 - Bicycle Blog

No biking today, but we walked to the hardware store (4 blocks & back again), and we took the bus to our the park where our homeschool group meets (about 8.5 miles). It was another half mile walk from the bus stop to actually get to the park. Surprise of the day? The 1/2 mile walk received no complaints from Mane, though it was quite warm and we were out in the sun. She was busy observing the bugs & flowers!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

I am stunned by the stories of redemption I have stumbled upon in the last few weeks, as Mane and I have been reading about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur...the Jewish New Year and the Day of Cleansing. Perhaps these glimmers of redemption are always around me, but I don't notice them unless it's on my mind. I wonder how much I miss by just not paying attention and being present...how many droplets of redemption glimmer while I'm to busy trying to be perfect. Ironic, isn't it?

Mane and I embarked on a study of Jewish or Biblical Holidays as part of our homeschooling curriculum this year. My interest has been piqued by some mothers on the message board where I find some on-line support, advice & encouragement. I picked up a booked called The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays from a thrift store, and then I was ready to embark on a journey to learn about the Biblical Holidays, the holidays that God designed to fill our lives with celebration, contemplation, joy, and introspection. These are the holidays that God created to mark our calendars and walk us through the year. It seems important, as Christian people, to at least know what they're about.

In our readings about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have encountered the Jewish idea of sin, which is simply, "missing the mark," and the idea that the New Year is a time to reflect on the things we've done right and wrong in the last year, the things we'd like to change, the things we need forgiveness for and the things we need to forgive. There is not a feeling of guilt or shame associated with this time, but a feeling of how valuable our mistakes are because they spur growth and help us seek and encounter God in our lives.

I cannot begin to tell you how fresh and beautiful this message feels. Jewish tradition is that the pieces of the stone tablets that were broken when Moses threw them down in anger were to be kept in the Ark of the Covenant because the mistake was holy, too. Can you believe it? Holy mistakes?! Mane struggles, as I do, with admitting and moving past mistakes. It's hard to be a perfectionist. Hard to be the child of a perfectionist. Hard to be the grandchild and great-grandchild of a perfectionist. It is both humbling and agonizing to see my own tendencies repeated in my child, and I am praying for freedom for both of us as we learn to re-frame mistakes as holy, as moments to learn and to encounter God.

Two friends of mine wrote beautiful blog posts this week about the redemption of their mistakes, even unintentional ones. Something Good From Something Bad is a story by a journalist-turned-full-time-mom friend of mine. Rewriting My Name is by the ever-popular Heather of the EO. ;) They have said it so well. I hardly need to restate what has already been said.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 20 - Bicycle Blog

Last week Thursday, Mane & I biked to the co-op. It was a bit of a disastrous day & I didn't want to talk about it. Mane was in a snit all morning about not wanting to wear sandals and not being able to find socks. It took us forever to get out the door. ...and when I walked out the door the car was sitting there staring at me, pleading to be driven. I knew this day would come when I would need to exercise a bit more will power to not get into the car. This is where I envy Mr. & Mrs. Bicycle because they don't have an option. Not having an option makes choosing to bike a lot easier. Either you go somewhere or you stay home. Anyway, I looked at the car, gritted my teeth and turned away. We would bike to the co-op. It didn't get any better just because I exercised a bit of willpower, though. Mane needed to stop every half a block to fix her hair and her helmet and her clothes and to scratch mosquito bites...or just to whine and tell me that Daddy didn't go this way when he took her to the co-op. I desperately wanted to scream and yell and cry, but I didn't. I prayed silently for patience to make it through the day and kept going. I was quiet. I must admit I wasn't very encouraging, but at least I didn't say anything mean.

In the afternoon Vespera asked me to drive her to class because she had more than she could carry on her bike or on the bus. So, I drove her to class & used the fact that I was already in the car to justify driving to the library. The library trip was actually pretty good. Mane was relatively happy, and I found all the things I was looking for to do a new homeschool unit next week. THEN we went to use the automated pay machine to pay for parking. The machine couldn't read my ticket and insisted that I owed $6,763.00. I had to call the parking attendant, who doesn't take credit cards & has to have exact change in cash (because everything is automated & he didn't have any change). I had to go back in the library to use the ATM to get cash. Then I had to go to the coffee shop to break the larger bills to get change for parking. They wouldn't break a bill uless I bought something. So, I got Mane some string cheese to make her stop whining, and we went back to the parking ramp. Everything was fine after that, but we swore never to drive to the library again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Day 16 - Bicycle Blog

We biked to Target again today. Mane made it all the way to the top of the bridge over Hiawatha without stopping! This is a first. She's getting stronger every day!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mane's Bedroom MakeOver

The dolly clothes & the dress-up clothes we driving me bananas. So, I strung up a little clothesline for them under the loft. We've had the shoe organizer for a long time to keep track of stuffed animals.



Mane, of course, is happiest with the fabric I hung up to make a little curtain around her bed.



Clean dresser for once!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Day 12 - Bicycle Blog

We biked 1.5 miles today to the library and back. I sure am glad Mango taught Mane her left and right because it makes telling her where to turn a WHOLE lot easier. A bonus: I have now learned left & right, as well. ;)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I'm making things up...

Yesterday when I posted about Winter, I was feeling so positive, like I was ready to tackle something...

Yeah.

And by the end of the day I was crying to Mango, "I have a Master's Degree and my life's goal is to have all the laundry done." Yep, you heard me. I was crying about laundry.

Well, not really.

I was whining about how hard it is to feel like I actually ever DO anything because everything I do needs to be done again - grocery shopping, dinner, laundry, mopping, washing the bathroom mirror. And the other things I do are so hard to see - the books I read to Mane, the time spent teaching math and reading, bike rides to keep us both strong and healthy (and to save the planet while we're at it). And those things look far too much like FUN. So, I feel like I should be working harder. I should be DOing something. I should be able to stay on top of the bills and advertise for my childbirth classes and generally make life perfect and peaceful for everybody in my house.

And if life is not perfect and peaceful for everyone in my house, I shouldn't be blogging or reading books for fun or posting on a message board.

Hmmffff...

It really makes no sense does it? If I run myself into the ground getting everything done then I'll be...well...smushed into the ground. Which kind of negates whatever it was I was trying to do, right? Still, it gets so hard to fight that feeling sometimes.

So, this post is to remind me (and all the other mothers reading here) that we are doing something. The fruit of my work isn't as tangible as other work, but it flowers quietly in things like the attachment I share with my children. And just because what I do can't be SEEN well from the outside doesn't mean I'm not DOing anything. And it doesn't mean I can't be tired. Or need a little time to do something just for me.

There. I needed a pep talk.

Day 11 - Bicycle Blog

We biked to the park today! 4 miles round trip. We saw Mr. Bicycle on the Greenway. I felt so proud. He was excited to see us, and it was smiles and "hello's!" all around.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Day 10 - Bicycle Blog

A trip to Target adds 2 more miles to our mile log this week! It sure was a good feeling to pass our parked car on our way out. Mango has ridden his bike to work several times in the last few weeks, and Vespera has been taking the bus to the University. Poor sad little parked car...and I don't feel a bit sorry for it.

Where did this come from?

I surprised even myself the other day by saying that I am looking forward to Winter. Yes, indeed. Winter with a capital "W" because that's what Winter is in Minnesota. I don't know why I said it, but I found myself believing it to be true.

I didn't always hate Winter, but Winter and I have certainly seen some tough times. Last year, though, my family went out skiing/snowboarding and sledding. We bundled up and went OUT in the Winter. I know I'm repeating myself, but Mr. Bicycle said that he always hated Winter until he got out into it. Now he loves it. There is something that happens inside of us when we choose to experience something...to let it be what it is and simply face it.

I guess maybe this is just another lesson for me in letting go, in not having to be so in control all the time. I cannot control my children, my husband, immigration, or Winter. So, I'd better just get down to the business of releasing those things from my grip. I can do what I can do and nothing more.

I can do nothing less, either. It's my job and responsibility to take care of those things as much as I can and THEN let them go. What does taking care of Winter mean? For me, it means taking care of myself in Winter - vitamins, exercise, sunshine, OUTings (both with friends and OUTside). And it means trying to focus on the things I love about Winter (don't ask me to love immigration, though, ok?).

What do I love about Winter? I absolutely love it that we finally live in a house with a fireplace! I love reading a book by the fire, reading aloud to Mane by the fire, visiting with friends, playing games, and writing blogs by the fire! I love bulky cable knit sweaters, the denim quilt that I made, snowmen, sledding, skiing, snow angels, clear skies, bright stars, and not having to mow the grass. Even as the darkness drives me crazy, I like the way it pulls us in, pulls us closer together around the lights and the warmth in our home.

I have a friend who visited her sister in Sweden last year in the Winter. In January in Sweden it gets dark around 3pm. My friend said that the Swedish people try to embrace the darkness. They try to rest once it's dark and not turn on a bunch of electric light. They sometimes light candles to keep the evening quiet and soft until they're ready to sleep.

I cannot promise that I'll feel this way in January, but right now I'm practicing being open to what Winter brings. I am absolutely familiar with Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder. So, I'm not trying to say that changing my mindset will change everything or that it will change anything for anyone other than myself. Just knowing myself, though, this is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Day 9 - Bicycle Blog

We walked a little over half a mile to the light rail station to go to the library today. I wasn't feeling like braving the downtown traffic with Mane again. Mane tried to make a case for taking our bikes on the light rail with us, but it sounded like too much hassle to me. We'll have to actually try it sometime to see how much hassle it actually is. If we can take our bikes on the light rail without too much trouble that will significantly increase our mobility.

In the afternoon we biked to the grocery store for some quick necessities and a Go To card for Vespera. That's about 2 miles round trip. Mane whined about getting out the door but talked all the way home about what a great day it was for biking! Earlier in the day she had been whining about the walk (instead of biking) to the light rail, and then commented all the way along the walk about the things you can notice when you're walking that you don't notice on a bike. She's as changeable as the weather on Lake Superior. Cold and windy one second, warm and sunny the next.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 8 - Bicycle Blog

We took our bikes (Mane, Vespera, Mango, Novio & I) to the bike shop on the Greenway today (2 miles round trip) to get a drink holder, fenders & a light for Vespera, and some little part for Mango to be able to take the trailer attachment off his bike & give it to me. Once I have a trailer, I'll be able to do "real" grocery shopping with my bike.

Over the weekend we took the car to Petsmart to get bedding for our little rat. Target was right next door (read: did not involve extra driving). So, I picked up what we needed at Target. Later I did a run with the car to the co-op for a larger quantity of groceries than I can carry on my bike. And we drove to my parent's house (an hour drive) for their annual fiesta. It looks like SO MUCH driving after spending most of the week on a bicycle.

Ok, so you're all curious about Martha, right? Well, the simple truth is that Martha is the name of Mane's bicycle. She called her first bicycle Martha, and she's decided that it's ok for successive bicycles to be named Martha as well. It's somewhat useful for her bike to have a name, as we can talk about how hard Martha is working and how we know she can make it up the next hill with a little help from Mane. Mane loves the imaginary game and is willing to keep going just a little longer, even when she's worn out. She can often be heard saying, "Come on, Martha! You're doing great!" or, "Don't worry Martha, we don't have to go too fast." When she leaves Martha in the garage, Mane tells her to enjoy her rest with her friends (the other bikes). When it came to writing a blog about cycling, it just seemed right to commemorate Martha! So, there you have it. Plain and simple.