what this year has taught me. so far.

If you've read my ramblings here for any length of time you probably know that I came close to losing my mom this spring.  sometimes I'm still amazed that the ending of the story was a happy one, considering the odds she was up against at times and the way the doctors were preparing us for the worst.  It has been almost four months since she left the ICU and nearly two since she got home from inpatient rehab.  and still, still, my chest gets tight and I feel my breathing get a bit shallow and restricted when I think much about those terrible months.  I feel like I allowed myself to feel what I needed to during that time- I wrote, a lot, I spoke about it, I sat by her bedside for weeks when you add it all up.  but this suffocating feeling that creeps up as soon as I start to think about it tells me maybe there are things left to deal with.

or maybe not.  maybe it's just the residual effect of months of intense worry and fear.  the physical expression of all of those feelings and anxieties welling up and demanding I acknowledge them.  so what is to be done?  I acknowledge you!  I did then, too.  no doubt I'll carry much of this with me forever.  guess it wouldn't hurt to try to figure out how to welcome the tightness and the fear, figure out how to work with them, breathe past them, morph them into a source of strength and resilience.

the friend who covered my shifts at work many, many times during my mom's hospitalization happens to be married to a man who recovered from ARDS.  funny.  (well, not funny, really- but you know, in a 'what are the odds?' sorta way)  before they were married they were on a ski trip and, if I remember the story correctly, he shattered his pelvis and ended up going into respiratory distress, being intubated, and then getting a tracheotomy and being pretty near death's door (she told me part of his body was basically wide open and packed with ice, awaiting a surgical procedure that couldn't be done until his body could handle it- !!!) and out of it for several weeks.  much like my mom, minus the shattered pelvis and ice-packed insides.  her side dishes came in the way of cardiac events and chest tubes, sepsis and organs going into panic mode.  but back to my friend.  we spoke a lot about her experience as I was going through this with my mom, about the fear and the unknowns, the statistics and preparing yourself for the worst.  I jokingly told her that after it was all over (at the time still just crossing my fingers that there would be *please please please let there be* a happy 'after it is all over' time) we should start a club for family and friends of ARDS survivors.  that it could be kinda like a book club, where we get together under some scholarly guise and end up mostly just talking and crying and drinking. (I've never been in a real book club, and no I don't imagine there's much crying involved, nor do I presume there is never any actual literary discussion, but....)

it was a joke then, but now... well, now I think I may just call her up and show up at her door with a bottle of Malbec (bourbon, maybe?) and my hospital-bedside-vigil journal, ready to hash it out a bit.  maybe that'd relieve a bit of the suffocating feeling.  perhaps.  worth a shot, anyway.

not one to just focus on the negative, or shall we say, more challenging aspects of something, I've also been trying to think about what I've gained from all of this.  what the experience has taught me, gifted me, even.  and while I feel it's a bit trite to say that I've once-and-for-all really and truly learned "we ought to all hold onto our loved ones and tell them how we feel regularly and sincerely, because you just never know....", well dammit, it's true!  we ought to!  but you know that and I know that.  so, aside from that huge and obvious truth, there are other sneakier bits I've learned/am learning.

such as:

*to be thankful for my body, despite the things I've become accustomed to complaining about.  this part is too soft or that part isn't strong enough..... wouldn't it be nice if my hair did this instead of that and I didn't have these dry patches on my face?  well screw all of that.  every last bit of it.  I can breathe.  and walk.  I can see.  my organs work properly and I'm essentially unlimited in what I'm capable of.  good grief, I'm a miracle and I'd be ridiculously shallow to complain about a little jiggle here and a wayward hair there.  I'm breathing, people!  and I'm doing it without a machine or chest tubes or any other such devices.

*not to bother, too much, with censoring what I'm feeling and wish to express, in spoken word or written.  which is not to say I plan to go about doing or saying anything unnecessary or catty or hurtful, not at all.  I'm talking about just letting flow what needs to flow.  'speaking my truth', if you will.  being okay with being vulnerable since (and maybe you've noticed this) we are all vulnerable anyway so let's just let down the shields and be okay with ourselves.  and each other.

*speaking of each other, I've learned that boundaries are good, important things.  there have been times over these last several months when I've had to do my best to politely take my leave from an exchange with someone because it was too painful and hurtful to be a part of it.  and while I can acknowledge the individual's worth and try my best to see the world from their angle, I just can't bear the immense drain and hurt that comes along with the majority of our interactions.  and therefore I will set boundaries and I will honor them.  and I will allow them to shift when it feels right.  because I'm always open to things finding their way back to right and peaceful, and I'm all about learning what exactly it is that these difficult interactions have to teach us.  (I'd like to make a little note that I wholeheartedly believe having been in the middle of reading How Yoga Works during the time that the most difficult of these interactions were taking place helped me enormously to not flip the +*&% out and to somehow be able to look at things with these rosy 'what is this crap teaching me?' glasses.  for real.  read it.)

*part of me wants to write something here about coming to a good place, or an okay place, anyway, in regards to dealing with death.  or perhaps more accurately, in my case, the expectation of it.  but I can't.  not really.  I mean, I thought I was there, dealing with it.  and with my mother, no less.  and looking back, even though I was practically hyperventilating much of the time and could barely see for all the tears streaming down my face, I feel like at times I was doing okay.  in a weird trying-my-best-to-come-to-terms-with-this-bullshit in a respectful (of her, of her life, our bond, all of it) and somewhat peaceful fashion.  I started talking about how, when it happened, we could make it the most comfortable for her, the most respectful.  I thought about those things because they were important.  even though I was sad and snotty and out of my mind, they were extremely important.  so there's that.  I can't really speak to all of that, though, because I didn't have to cross that threshold.  thank goodness for that.  thank everything for that.  but there was a glimpse enough for me to get it, just a bit.  to see what would come up, to see what was important when you get down to the mucky and very elemental core of things.  wherever and whatever they may be.

so there's a bit of the stuff that comes up for me when I think back on this spring and all that went down.  a bit of the stuff I'm working on and learning about.  a bit of what I know now.  I know treating each other right is what matters most.  I know what leaking chest tubes sound like, what an oozing tracheostomy sounds like.  I know the feel of blood-soaked gauze and the smell of hospital elevators, the feel of those damned blue gloves and plastic gowns.  I know that watching the monitors won't make the numbers get to where they need to be, but I also know you just can't help but watch them and will them all the same. I know midnight phone calls with attending physicians and an urge to cut off my mother's hair just in case.  I know where my mind and heart go in times of severe fatigue and fear, and I know that I will hold my mother close, as I will others that I love, as best I can.  for as long as I can.  I know our time here is short and it is a gift.  I want more than anything to do my best to make such great use of that gift that when the time comes I can leave this place with a smile and a lightness in my heart.  I want kindness.  and I guess I want the pain too, some of it anyway, so I can always remember, really feel-it-in-my-bones remember, to honor and be grateful for the kindness and the beauty all around.


garden to kitchen


:: roasted tomatoes (with garlic and herbs) for the freezer~ to become the base of a rich and tasty sauce some winter day.  I will say I was shocked when the five pounds of tomatoes shrunk down to fill one quart freezer bag not quite all the way.  I shouldn't have been shocked, not if I'd really given it much thought, but still.

:: I've been stockpiling our sungolds for a few days, aiming to make a tomato jam recipe (one I found on Food in Jars) just about exclusively out of sungolds.  I figure I can probably use a bit less sugar given how super sweet these little golden orange orbs are.

:: we turned most of our basil into 5 jars of pesto. yumyumyum.

:: I am picking okra daily and waiting until I have enough to make at least a few pints of pickled okra.

:: the beets, however, got pickled even though what was left in the ground amounted to a whopping one! pound!  I divided the recipe I had (which called for ten pounds of beets) by ten and turned out a pint and a half of ruby red goodness and canned them alongside a few more jars of dilly beans.

:: we decided to keep about half of our garlic (the largest and hardiest looking bulbs) out on the shelf and preserved the rest, raw, in vinegar.  the woman who shared the method we used says they taste fresh when you rinse the vinegar off because the oils in the cloves keep a lot of the vinegar from soaking in.  well, I've had pickled garlic, and while I like it, that's not what we were going for here, so we'll see.

:: we got a total of, I think, nine apples from our tree this year.  a few have been munched and the remaining six are destined to become a pie any day now.

and that's the kitchen, this week.


up to the top

this was her second time hiking all the way up on her own two feet.  it's not an incredibly long trail, at just about 1 1/4 miles round trip, but the elevation gain is significant and there's a good bit of scrambling up boulders at the end.

we stopped at the "owl tree" on the way up and she pretended to be an owlet.  we saw a baby snake, took a couple rests, and then basked in the sunshine at the top and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that she made.  we need to do this more often, this hike.  especially given it's just a couple miles up the road from us.  it'd be an excellent way to watch the scenery change with the seasons.


garden :: kitchen

the garden is shifting over to a late summer/early fall garden.  flowers are covered with bees and gorgeous blooms, the garlic is cured, the onions are drying, beans are coming on strong still and the squashes and pumpkins are succumbing to powdery mildew.  the tomatillos look good and the okra is almost ready for me to pick a little bit (there isn't much out there, just 8 or 10 plants) so I can try to pickle some.  I'd like to do the same with some of our beets.  the tomatoes are still looking good, and I've got my fingers crossed against the blight this year.  we've got fewer tomato plants than usual this year (maybe a dozen or so) what with all of our own starts not amounting to much with the late start and little care they got early in the spring when my mother was so sick and there was little time to plan for and ready the garden.  we ended up being given several happy and healthy starts from a farmer friend, and while they are some of the tastiest and most colorful tomatoes I've ever grown, I may have to supplement what we've got with some others for canning as about half of them are cherry varieties.  (oh but wouldn't a tomato sauce made just with sun golds be amazing?)

in terms of fruit, the melons are ready, we're still munching quite a few blueberries, and the strawberries are flowering again and giving up just a few sweet little berries here and there.  one of our two apple trees has about 8 or 9 apples on it and the couple we've tasted so far were quite delicious.  the peach, pear and plum trees are yet to fruit, as is the blackberry.  our elderberries were looking pretty good but the birds were on them immediately and I figured since I've still got nearly half a pound of dried berries left from what I bought last year for syrup making, I'd let the birds have them and net them next year.  I expect we'll have a second fruiting with the raspberries again as we did last year, but I remember (not fondly) how very quickly the fall raspberries get taken over by the spotted wing drosophila (little flies that lay their babies in the berries as soon as they start to ripen- how mean is that?).

recently sown seeds are sprouting (kale, beets, lettuces, carrots, radishes, chard) and I'm heading out to seed more broccoli raab and pac choi.

I thought the chickens would enjoy having their coop fancied up a bit with a nice new sign.  plus it will help in case we forget where the coop is, of course.

I didn't take many photos in the kitchen this week~  it's been toast with blueberry jam or yogurt with blueberries and honey for breakfast,  snack trays (cheese, crackers, veggies and such) for lunch, and a mix of garden goodness (heavy on the salads and greens), Chinese takeout, and a squash casserole my dad pawned off on me (given to him by a neighbor but "what was he going to do?" with a whole casserole?) for dinner.  there was also some more canning- dilly beans and curried zucchini pickles.  next up, more dilly beans and hopefully some pickled beets and okra.

*joining along with both Amanda and Heather for their garden and kitchen series.



let's just say that we went out with a bang this final weekend of summer break.  Friday was time at the splash fountain in town, a canning session wherein more dilly beans and some curried zucchini pickles were made, and then a wonderful, lively, and all around delicious evening as a dear friend of mine welcomed a friend of hers to town and wanted to introduce her to some folks she thought may be kindred spirits.  so nice to now call the lovely Beth something like a neighbor.  Saturday started with a bike ride to ballet class only to find out there was no class, so Claire gave papa and I a quick lesson of our own on the deck outside of the studio.  apparently, just about every move is called an arabesque, if you ask her.

next stop: market.  I really should bring my camera to the market (and the splash fountain) sometime, but I always hesitate to pack it in the panniers on my bike, worried that it'll get too jostled.  and so the memories just live in my mind instead.  an almost cool, noticeably-turning-towards-brisk-as-August-winds-down kind of morning, with iced coffee and plums and an apricot croissant eaten in the sunshine with my two main squeezes.  we sat for a bit and then rode back home, where I worked in the garden until papa told me it was time to get a move on so we could get to the fire department picnic.  which by the way was held at a nearby boys' summer camp.  where they had things like a lake.  and canoes and kayaks and stand up paddle boards.  and zip lines and water slides and diving boards and a big thing they called a 'blob' that you jump on and/or lay on and have someone bounce you off of into the water.  but to me it looked like a sore neck, so I didn't bounce.  no blob action for this mama.  but I most enjoyed the stand up paddle board, (what! fun!) both by myself and as I paddled a most often lounging-like-a-queen Claire around the lake.  there was funnel cake.  ours wasn't particularly pretty, but it was tasty.  oh so tasty.  hours later I still could feel the sugary, oily mass of it just kinda hanging out in my belly.  ooph.

so here's something about this man of mine-  he's perhaps what some would call adventurous.  energetic.  this is maybe a bit obvious when you consider the careers he has had (arborist, fire fighter). I'd say a risk-taker, but I stop short there because he's quite smart about knowing his limits (though he doesn't seem to have any, really) and taking necessary precautions.  if someone mentions something fun to him, or he sees someone else do something kinda neat, well he's all about it.  he spent most of the afternoon swimming and diving, swinging off of the rope swing, helping run the zip line, and getting into just about any and everything he could on that lake.  and when the camp director, a friend of ours, mentioned how they occasionally let some of the campers ride mountain bikes off the dock, well....... that was that.  not much time passed before he was getting someone to help him drag the ramp down to the lake.

me?  I just want a stand up paddle board.

Sunday was french toast for breakfast, the happy news that our first renters were extremely pleased with the house, a bit of much-needed cleaning up, and a late afternoon meet up with friends at a local swimming hole that was new to me even though it is not even a mile down the road (what?!).  it took all three of us a loooong time to work up the nerve to get all the way in, but once we did it was wonderful.  so, so exhilarating and refreshing.

we came home after swimming in the very cold mountain creek to a roast ready in the oven.  potatoes and greens from the garden.  ice cream cones.  a fire in the fire pit and why not?  s'mores.  because nothing says the end of the last weekend before a return to work and such like non stop water play and extra desserts.  what with the swimming and the fire and the s'mores, it almost seemed like we were off camping somewhere.  except with a roast, our bathroom, and our soft beds very nearby.

goodbye, summer break.  though you played out differently than how I thought you might have, I enjoyed you very much, and I'm glad I let myself be surprised by you in pleasant ways and go with the flow a good bit.  because there is goodness every, every, everywhere if you are looking for it.

*weekending along with Karen