Category Archives: Family

Sabbatical

Lisa, our Senior Pastor, is taking a three month sabbatical this summer to spend time with her young family, to finish the editing of a book about women’s struggles as clergy, and to begin another book on the same topic. Our congregation is paying her salary during this time. We appreciate our pastors and we want to nurture them. Local pastors and members of the congregation are going to give sermons and help out.

I always thought the concept of a sabbatical was wonderful. To spend time studying, resting, and getting ready for the next phase of life seems so positive. Husband says if he could have had a year sabbatical, he would gone to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study psychology at Dalhousie University, live in residence, and hang out with colleagues. I would spend time in Germany to learn the language in my maternal grandfather’s village in northern Germany, and study my family history. (I could justify that as a study of the intergenerational transmission of family mental health issues as influenced by economics, politics, and immigration.)

If you could have a paid for sabbatical year, where would you go and what would you study? How would you rest and rejuvenate? 

Lost and found

Steve’s lost skillet put in mind the losing and finding of things. Husband and I often wonder where our cat has got to inside the house. She never goes outside, and we are always careful about not leaving the doors open, but we both have this irrational fear of her being lost outside when she isn’t immediately visible. All I have to do to get her to come is to roll up a piece of paper into a ball. The minute she hears that crinkle of paper, no matter where she is, she comes running, expecting me to toss it for an exciting game of fetch and chase.

I don’t remember much of this, but when I was about four, I left my security blanket draped on a post on the side of the road on Minnesota’s North Shore. I must have been ready to give it up, as I reportedly shrugged off its loss. Prior to this, my mother could only wash it when I was asleep, because I wouldn’t be parted with it.

These days, the things we lose are most often things that are right in front of us as we look for them. We also have so many accumulated recipes compiled in cook books and ring binders that it is hard to find the exact ones we want at times.

What is your strategy for finding lost objects? What have you lost lately? Did you find it?

Birthday Bash

Our 5 year old gardening buddy has a birthday next week, and asked his parents for a Gunsmoke themed party. He likes dressing up like a cowboy, and I assume his parents let him watch Gunsmoke reruns. His parents agreed, and his dad found a bunch of wooden pallets he is transforming into a boardwalk. There is a large sign the says Long Branch Saloon. I can hardly wait to see if anyone dresses up like Miss Kitty.

Our daughter also has a birthday in a couple of weeks. She always has anxiety over birthdays, I think stemming from anticipation over childhood parties. We never went so far as to recreate a film set, but she had some nice parties. She stated she has a number of birthday events scheduled by friends in the next two weeks. She is celebrating personally by having a different kind of hot dog a day for her birthday week. We never knew she even liked hot dogs.

My childhood parties were pretty tame, but I will never forget my heartbreak on my 8th birthday when my parents told me that we were moving to a new house in a different part of town, meaning I wouldn’t be next door to my best friend anymore.

What are some of your more memorable birthday parties? What events or celebrations do you dread? What would you wear to a Gunsmoke themed party? Plan your next birthday bash.

Teachable?

YA and I went to Easter dinner at a neighbor/friend’s home.  Everybody had their Fauci ouchie and three of the other 4 folks could be said to be “in our bubble”.  The fourth person was a close friend of the friend/neighbor.  I liked her right away and was interested in the mosaic art that she does.

The topic of my Ukrainian eggs came up and she asked a lot of questions about how they are made.  At one point she said “oh, that would be a fun thing to learn to do”.  So I offered to teach her; she was so excited I thought she might fall off her chair.  She asked if I could teach her twin sister as well – they apparently like to do these kinds of things together.  In for a penny, in for a pound – I agreed.

Since I’m actually putting the egg table up this weekend to start my Solstice eggs (yea, I know, just a tad early), I thought this would be a good time for lessons.  Instead of a traditionally colored pysanky (white, yellow, green, red, black) I’m going to design a beginner egg that will have various shades of blue.  The reason is simple. My Solstice egg this year will be using the blues and I don’t want to mix a bunch of different non-blue colors just for this lesson.  The process is exactly the same so I won’t be short-changing them.

I’ve taught Ukrainian eggs before – to two different friends and to YA when she was little  – all of these lessons were a long time ago.  Even though I’ve taught before, I find myself a little more nervous about this time.  Maybe because I will teaching two at a time?  Maybe because I know she is an artist herself?  I expect my jitters will fade away quickly once we get going.  At least I hope so… jitters and hot wax on eggs don’t go together well!

Have you ever taught anything?  What do you think you’d be good at teaching?

Spoiled

I have been frustrated the past several months over the unavailability of Italian Parmesan cheese in our town. Wisconsin Parmesan is readily available, but the authentic stuff from Italy is nowhere to be found. (Isn’t that the most pathetic and self-absorbed sentence you have read lately?) I confess a sort of snobbery about cheese, but I blame it on living with someone from Wisconsin. Even he admits true Italian Parmesan is the best.

I got sort of impulsive a week ago and found this fancy-shmancy source for real Parmesan, and I ordered a 10 lb. slab. It arrived last week. I was surprised at just how much cheese this was. I warned our children and our daughter’s best friend that they would be receiving large chunks of Parmesan. It is truly wonderful, and nothing like the stuff from Wisconsin. I cut the slab into wedges, sealed them in our food sealer, and figured out the most expedient way to ship it. I have freezer packs and insulated wrappers for it, and will send it off on Friday.

I am an only child, and I always resented it when people said I must be spoiled. Well, I suppose that getting this cheese is pretty self-indulgent, but at least I am sharing it.

When have you been spoiled? How do you spoil yourself?  Who do you like to spoil?  What is your favorite cheese?

Olives

Husband really likes vegetables. He also really likes olives and preserved /pickled peppers and tomatoes. For some reason last weekend, he decided he was going to make an olive salad, and proceeded to buy six kinds of olives.  He ran short of the olives with smoked paprika, which is why I was running around in the big wind on Monday to score a jar for him while he was at his private practice.  The header photo is the olive mélange he concocted. 

I like vegetables well enough, and probably eat more because I have been married to Husband all these years. I don’t crave vegetables. He really does, and says he feels ill when he doesn’t eat enough of them.  I would probably feel the same way if I couldn’t have cheese and dairy products.  I could live the rest of my life and never eat another pickle or olive. 

Husband considers olives a free food for him as a diabetic.  He also loves green salads, which I could take or leave. I just hope he can eat that huge container of olives. They are taking up a lot of room in the fridge and not leaving much room for my skyr!

What is your favorite kind of salad or vegetable?  What do you tend to buy too much of when you go grocery shopping?

Being in the Right place

Last week as I was struggling with my usual insomnia, I started to do a room  by room inventory in my mind, visualizing each part of the house and deciding what furniture we would take with us when we moved, and what we would discard. I haven’t done that before, and I have no idea why I did it last week.  We have no firm moving date.  It could be as long as  five years  before we  leave here.   Doing that inventory sure didn’t help my sleep, since I got increasingly anxious about all the stuff we have, and how we could possibly move it.  The next day we got a New Yorker and wouldn’t you know, there was an article about a woman who decided that  her possessions were too burdensome and  her actions to get rid of the unnecessary.  I believe that both these incidents were signs from the Cosmos to sit up and pay attention and prepare for action. 

Husband and I had a discussion the other day about our tenure out here, and how we seem have been in the right place at the right time for us and for the communities we have worked with/for.  We both felt, though, that it was time for us to seriously think about that time ending.  Husband had just returned from doing some expert witness testimony for the Tribal Court in New Town,  his first time on the Reservation since March, 2020.  He felt good about his testimony, but decided that he really didn’t want to make that 100 mile journey any more.   I talked about how useful and needed I still felt at my agency, but how exhausting it was getting for me. Both of us are sick to death of the constant attention in the state to extraction industries like oil and coal.  The isolation from family is feeling keener.  

We have lived here for 34 years.  Given our family health history, we could both live another 30 years, and I really don’t want to spend all those years here.  I think I am going to start getting rid of the unnecessary stuff in the basement.   We may not move for several years, but I want to be ready.

When have you been in the right place at the right time?  How did you know? When did you know it was time to go somewhere else?  

The Pacifier

With the nice weather over the weekend, my nextdoor neighbors got their chalk out and went to work creating a village on their driveway (designed by Margot, who is 6).  When I stepped outside to appreciate it, Matilda (the almost 2-year old) informed me that she had a new bed.  Turns out it is just her crib but with the side down and a bed rail attached, but she was happy about it.  There was more big news… last night was her first night without her pacifier.  It was apparently a trade – the pacifier for the big girl bed.  I laughed and thought about my experience with pacifiers when YA was little.

When I went to China to pick up YA, there was a big list of “suggested” items that I take with me; a pacifier was on the list so I dutifully packed it.  YA, even as Tiny Baby, was not interested.  After a couple of futile attempts, I stuck it back in the duffel bag.  Nonny was at the airport when we got back to Minneapolis and she stayed for a week or so while I got my feet underneath me.  Nonny was absolutely sure that if she presented the pacifier enough times, Tiny Baby would accept it and all would be right with the world.  (It’s funny looking back because Tiny Baby was not fussy, there really wasn’t a great need.)  But Nonny kept trying and every time TB rejected a nook, it would end up on the side table or a chair or someplace where it became irresistible to someone else:  Baron. 

Baron was an 85-pound ball of fluffy, sweet, calm Samoyed.  He wasn’t the brightest bulb but he was sure that these pacifiers that Nonny kept leaving around were meant for him.  Of course as soon as he absconded with one, it became off-limits for the baby; slowly but surely over that week, we went from having a collection of 10 baby pacifiers to a collection of 10 dog pacifiers.  If ever there was a dog that didn’t need a pacifier, it was Baron.  He had self-soothing down to an art.  Eventually he chewed them all enough that I had to throw them away and we never had any more, since Tiny Baby didn’t need or like them.  Nonny wasn’t amused but I thought it was hilarious.

Do you have any self-soothing practices?  Are they working well for you?

Pi Day – Not!

NO I DIDN’T HAVE A PARTY WITHOUT YOU GUYS!!  PHOTO IS FROM TWO YEARS AGO – SENT TO ME BY A FRIEND.

One year ago on the day before Pi Day, I read an online column in which I saw the “flatten the curve” phrase for the first time. Even though only one person had told me that they were going to skip the Pi Day party due to covid-19.  But after reading that column, I realized that I needed to get onboard immediately and I started calling and texting people, letting them know I was cancelling.

Like everyone else, I was thinking that we’d have a couple of bad months and then get back on track, so I kept all my Pi Day organizational materials: the list of ingredients that I had bought (and hopefully wlll need to buy again), my timing spreadsheet with what time various pies have to go in the oven and what temperature they need (sorted by temperature, of course) and the little placecards with all the pie names.  All these items are in the drawer in the living room and I see them occasionally and sigh.  And now it’s been a second Pi Day with no festivities in the house. 

Not entertaining has been a huge hit for me during pandemic.  I entertain a lot and I miss it a lot.  You all know that I try to keep my expectations low, so I’m hoping that I’ll eventually be able to have Pi Day fun at my place, but I’m not making plans.  And that’s made me think about other changes that I’ve made that may or may not be permanent. 

I am spending WAY more time texting and emailing than I used to.  I’m spending way too much time farting around on my phone.  I’m doing my Italian lesson (also on my phone) every day – I’m on a 310 day streak and I doubled my lesson time about 4 months back.  For the first time in decades I am hitting the gym more than 12 times a month (masked, sanitized and socially distant).  Pre-pandemic I used to follow several blogs, a couple of chefs, several science sites, husky dogs; I’ve quit following all of them and only occasionally check them out – usually if they pop up in my feed.  Last summer I sent thank you cards to people with great gardens that I encountered while walking the dog.  I’ve started sending birthday cards to people on a Facebook group of stampers – complete strangers and I increased the cards that I made for charity.  Way more gardening and more jigsaw puzzles.

I don’t which of these habits will continue if and when we get past pandemic.  I hope to keep all the good changes (reaching out)  and jettison the bad ones (phone games) and I hope like heck that I eventually get to celebrate Pi Day with my friends and loved ones.  Maybe Pi and a Half Day? 

How has pandemic changed you?  Do you think some of your changes will continue?

Pierced

I see in the news that Jennifer Garner just got her ears pierced.  According to her, the main reason she didn’t do it sooner was because she thought her father would disapprove.

I can certainly understand.  Getting your ears pierced started to become popular when I was in high school.  As the years went by, more and more of my friends started to get pierced but my folks, particularly my father, were adamant that I not join the “fad”.  Back then the only official way to get your ears pierced was at the jewelry counter of the big departments stores and you had to have your parents permission if you were under 18.  There were a few girls I knew who did the deed on their own with a needle and ice cubes, but that scared the heck out of me.  It never occurred to me to go against my folks’ wishes in this, even if I could figure out how.

The argument went on for a couple of years and came to a head toward the end of my junior year.  All the trendy and interesting earrings were now pierced; the non-pierced options all made me feel like my grandmother.  Finally my father made his big error in his argument; he said that getting your ears pierced was a form of body mutilation “like those Ubangi natives you put the metals rings around their necks to stretch them out”.  I remember these words, because he brought it up several times before I came up with a counter-argument, that being overweight was also a form of body mutilation.  (My dad fought his weight his whole life.)  I’m not sure what gave me the bravery to say this to my dad and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was struck with the certain fear that he might kill me for this comment.  (No, my dad was not abusive, so this is not literal.)  But he did not.  He actually left the room and the next day told me that I was right.  And if I lost 20 pounds, I could get my ears pierced.

If I would replicate the process by which I lost 20 pounds, I could bottle it and retire to my own private island on the proceeds.  Took about 3 weeks.  I know that my mom yelled at my dad over this, but they both took the honorable path; my mom drove me to the department store, stood by while I got my ears pierced and even paid for it. 

It was a good decision for me.  I adore earrings and I have far too many of them.  Friends who know of my earring fetish has brought me earrings from all over, including some huge paper mache dangly fish from Hong Kong and some adorable pink pig earrings from a barbecue joint in Boulder.  I have earrings from Sicily, Hawaii, London and even New Zealand.  YA has made earrings for me and I have trouble not going overboard making them for myself as well. 

I did not repeat my parents’ dictions; when YA turned 10 she wanted to get her ears pierced for her birthday.  Off to Claire’s we went.  Too bad that Jennifer Garner didn’t have ME for a parent.

What have you tried to do differently than your folks?  How did that work out?