Mindfully miniature meatballs

Every morning when my brain begins to realize I’m awake and that yet another day of quarantine is beginning with its seemingly endless hours to fill, I try to think of how I will stretch simple tasks to bridge the gaps. How I will find ways to feel calm, to experience some small  meaningful moments when all of time has begun to feel like one super long uninterrupted and lackluster moment. To keep anxiety,  depression,  and fear at bay.

My mother often cautioned me to be careful not to ask for patience,  because life does not GIFT you patience. Life gifts you opportunities to LEARN patience and to PRACTICE patience.  And who wants to learn and practice THAT??

This also goes for  self control,  strength, inner peace,  you name it. Everything requires us to actually and actively invest in its pursuit. Not super high on my wish list if you get me. I’d much rather actively pursue foolishness and other such delights.

Be that as it may I’ve clearly asked for patience and inner peace an awful lot in life without meaning to, and been gifted a crap ton of opportunities to try to learn them.

Try.

Try being the operative word here. Try. This latest and rather massively global moment has rather uniquely bound us all together in common pursuit.  I am trying.  You are trying.  We are each of us trying and sometimes succeeding and sometimes stumbling.

Like life itself,  this experience is both terrible and beautiful.  I feel alternately lonely and worried, and then comforted  and elevated by the sights and the sounds and even the mess  of my family all crowded together.

Tonight for dinner I planned fettuccine, marinara and meatballs. Usually a quick crowd pleaser. Throw it together,  let it cook while I tackle other things. But there were no other things to do, and the kids online classes would be going on for a while. 

I stood in my kitchen feeling like I was walking under water.  No where to go, to be,  not much to do. I decided to lean into the feeling.  Instead of sinking,  I decided to use the preparation of dinner as one long mindfulness practice. 

Yes. Practice.  It’s the best I can do since I’m no where near pro status.
I slowly and deliberately selected spices, only one at a time. I walked back and forth grabbing one, using it, and returning it before selecting another. 

I slowed the twisting of the can opener breathing in and out with each rotation.  I cut the onion so damn slow my eyes were faucets and my nose ran like it was at a track meet.

I started rolling the meatballs. Usually the more rushed I am, the more gigantic my meatballs become as I hurry to throw them in and be done with it. Halfway through the very large tray, I decided to roll the tiniest meatballs possible, like marbles, to top a pizza I had going on the side.

If you’ve ever rolled marble sized meatballs you’ll know it’s a maddeningly slow and tedious process.  Except for tonight.  Tonight I just leaned all the way into the tedium, let forming each tiny ball be the end in itself.  I breathed slowly and deeply.  I watched my hands as I rolled each ridiculously small morsel. I tried to keep my mind empty.  God knows my mind could use the rest. I stretched it to an hour until I had a whole pile of mindfully miniature meatballs.

A few things came of this exercise.  The first obviously was a delicious dinner shared with my family. The second was the surprising level of zen I enjoyed throughout despite my prickly and initially reluctant start. The third, and for me, where I am right now inside this journey,  for me the most important part was that I had managed to bridge what felt like an insurmountable chasm of time and come through it feeling ok. Really really ok.

And nice and full of mindfully miniature meatballs. 

#mindfulness
#closertocrazy
#hanginthere



Pushing against the worry in my heart

It’s pretty late and I’ve been lying here trying to slow my thoughts, to focus on my breaths, to let myself feel the warm comfort of the dogs tucked around my legs and under one arm. It’s been hard to sleep at night for a while now. This “new normal” feels so uneasy in my bones. All things pass in time, but the passing of the time itself is challenging.

I am reflecting on the beautiful moments from this latest day in what has felt ike a string of endless anxious sameness.

It was supposed to rain but instead the sun slipped in and out of clouds while I walked around the lake with the dogs. It was a welcome and unexpected release of tension.

The goats and chickens and dogs ran all over the yard, getting into everything, eating everything. For some reason the chaos was comforting. Maybe because this kind of chaos feels safe and happy and acceptable while the chaos everywhere else feels like just…chaos.

It was Liam’s birthday. My oldest (one of two living away in apartments who I’ve been aching and missing) surprised his brother and all of us with an unexpected outside short visit. He wanted to drop a present off for his brother and in doing that gave me the best gift of all. Even if we had to stay 6 feet apart and wear masks. I got to be NEAR him.

We converted our dining room into another bedroom to accommodate our swelled household. Each evening we set up a camp table in the living room, put on a pretty tablecloth, crowd chairs around it and share a meal together with all of us. Nothing matches, the ceiling tiles are unfinished, we are seated a foot away from the couch and yet somehow it’s all beautiful.

It’s even later now than when I began this reflection. I know its past time to close my eyes and rest and honestly I am trying. These sweet moments are the things I am working to keep in my mind as I listen to the sleep sounds around me and push against the worry in my heart.

#mindfulness

#justbreathe

#countingblessings

Suped up coop-deville

Our wee baby chickens and as it turns out, two baby turkeys (yes two turned out to be turkeys) rapidly outgrown the rubbermaid tote in our also wee kitchen. As it happens I have an entire pinterest page dedicated to all things chicken and had been pining for new nesting boxes and a little nursery for chicks inside the main coop for ages.

Yesterday I cornered hubby and batted my eyelashes at him. The 9 extensions I have left at this point in my exile. You see I’ve been exiled 2 weeks longer than he has, and except for a single weekly run for supplies (a strick adherence to minimizing exposure to one of our kids), and daily walks with the dogs I’ve had nothing to do except clean inside and out.

Last week I ran out of things I could do without help. I wrote, I walked more, I cleaned more, and I tried not to crawl out of my skin itching to get out.

After a particularly low moment and mild tantrum hubby took pity on me and said we could spend the weekend on all things chicken. My heart raced at the thought of a run to Home depot!

I was quickly and roundly shut down. There would be no run to home depot or to any other public place. It was not essential, it was not in our budget, and it was not our shopping day. Once a week. We had agreed.  Hubby was certain we could salvage and repurpose odds and ends from the shed into the things of my dreams. I was less confident.  I’ve seen his shed. I was also aching to go somewhere, anywhere and just BUY stuff.

I scowled and glowered at my better half. I gazed longingly at the keys dangling from the hook by the back door. I sent a furtive glance at the car through the window then resigned myself to helping gather supplies from around the yard.

He’s a talented and creative builder, that man. We all have things we contribute to  a relationship.  He can build stuff out of nothing.  Odds and ends. Me? Not so much. I can, however,  shovel the hell out of piles of crap, and that I did in spades while hubby made magic.

Two days of sweat and swears with goats zipping around the yard munching the raked piles of leaves, dogs running after goats and winding around our legs like cats, and the chickens and ducks watching everything with mild curiosity and we were ready to drop.

The nesting boxes are EXACTLY what I wanted and the little nursery section inside the coop looks WONDERFUL.  We spread fresh shavings,  tucking a nice soft layer in each box, and then moved everyone in.

I held the camera and a flashlight so I could capture the unveiling. It was dark and late and the big chickens had already decided to hang onto their perches outside. Hubby had to pick each one up and shove them through the little door at the back.

There was a bit of clucking and quacking and confusion until they spotted their new neighbors staring back at them in a tiny, huddled bundle in the nursery in the corner. There was a moment of quiet while each group sized up the other before deciding it was late, things were very confusing, they were all a bit weary, and there would be time enough in the morning to see everything more clearly.

That goes for us too. There will be time enough in the morning to see everything more clearly. For now, we rest.

#supedupcoopdeville
#closertorazy
#tinyfarm
#nestingboxes

Her hands

Today I video chatted with my parents while sitting in my car parked in my driveway, my three dogs slumbering in the backseat on a blanket I stuck there for them, knowing they would be noisy inside the house, but happy to curl up near me while I talked.

I chose the car because it was the only unoccupied space, every other room in the house being used as remote classrooms, practice rooms, and one at home office.

We started talking about favorite Lebanese dishes we each have been making lately, and planing our next shopping trip based on some recipes I hadn’t made in ages.

I love, love , loved when my mom pulled out her well loved, well used and well worn cookbook,  with its oil stains and crumpled pages and handwritten notations.  I loved it almost as much as I loved the sight of my mom’s hands in this picture holding the book up to the camera so I could see.  Her hands are love itself.

#mymothershands
#mom
#tradtion
#theoldandthenew

More than just a wish

More than just a wish

Like so many of us I have been struggling with so much worry these days. It’s been hard to sleep and often hard to redirect my mind from what’s happening in the world.

I keep myself busy with projects inside, and spend as much time as possible doing things around the yard in the fresh air, spending time with the kids, hanging out with the animals to manage and ease my anxiety. We take walks each day to pass the time and to get a bit of exercise. We share meals together,  play games, and talk. The walls feel alternately safe inside, and just a little close as the days and weeks pass.

A text from a friend came this afternoon saying she’d left a little something for me by my front door. A simple white envelope. Inside the envelope was a thin silver chain with the word “wish” dangling from it and a delicate glass ball with two dandelion seeds inside. There was a little handwritten note that made me smile and tear up reminding me to look on the bright side and to continue making wishes.

She and I usually spend all night at work together on our shifts. We’ve laughed and cried over each other’s trials and victories. So often our lives mirror each others. We each have big families in close quarters. Two of her sons and two of mine have the same names and even the same uniquely gifted brains.

We’re both fierce. We give the best advice and we are the worst at taking it.

We’ve stood side by side through some pretty hairy nights, and watched the sunrise through the windows in the morning with hope. We share life hacks and pool information to help each other through. We push each other to remember to take care of ourselves and always have eachothers back. Everything with hope and a wish.

Sometimes the littlest things bring such great comfort and so much hope. Like knowing someone still believes in you, and still believes in wishes.

#closertocrazy
#afriendindeed
#wish
#managinganxiety

Dessert-ed

Dessert-ed

Cooped inside for over a week with actual chickens, and climbing over 4 young adults, 3 dogs, and 1 hubby, I said to myself:

“You know what would be a fun, easy and delicious way to cheer everyone up? APPLE ROSES!”

According to a sadistic baker on line, with a perfectly clean and spacious kitchen, this should do the trick.  She had pictures and an “easy how to video!” encouraging me and telling me this should only take me approximately 20 minutes,  two apples, and a roll of puff pastry dough to pull off.

And someone else assembling it for you.

I’m thinking she left that last part out and is sitting somewhere in seclusion with a huge glass of wine, laughing her ass off and waiting for all the uploaded failed attempt pictures to start rolling in.

Unfazed by her perfect teeth and unnatural smile, I punched preheat on my oven, grabbed a knife and started in.

Step 1 was simply to cut the apples in half with the peel still on and slice the halves paper thin because the edge of the peel is supposed to look amazing like the red edge of a rose, and the paper thin is so the slices are easy to manipulate once they’re warmed in lemon water.

Only she lied.

20 minutes TOTAL prep time? Nope. I’m calling bullshit on this one. It took me almost that long hunched over the damn apples, squinting through my glasses and cursing as I alternately sliced too thin and too thick pieces, tossing them into the lemon water as fast as I could before they could brown in the swear infested air.

Step 2 seemed easy enough and here, I really thought I’d make up some time since the dough came ready made. I admit it was in my freezer for at least a year, pulled in and shoved back half a dozen times with aborted plans to make this or make that, so maybe I’m partially to blame.

Except when I carefully unrolled it, the sheet of dough came apart like I had opened a bag of shredded cheese. By now, the dogs had learned to swear and were sagely nodding and saying things like “wtf mom” and “damn girl, that looks BAD”. I smooshed the bits together,  sprinkled flour and started to roll it back into a sheet. About 14 minutes later, now a full 34 minutes into that “easy 20 minute treat”, I had something roughly shaped like Antarctica.  I decided that was as close to a rectangle as I was going to get, and proceeded to step 3.

The recipe called for apricot preserves,  I had strawberry so strawberry it was. I thinned it like Satan instructed in her video, carefully picking out big bits of strawberry, and spread a thin layer over Antarctica.

Next I took the not very thinly sliced apples and layered them along one edge of the jammy dough, sprinkled on some cinnamon,  and started to roll the first “rose”.

The woman looked adoringly at me as she rolled her own rose within seconds  and plopped it with finesse into a buttered muffin tin.

Now it was my turn only they were hard as hell to roll. The apple slices were too thick and not very soft. The jammy, squishy dough kept coming apart and the slices kept popping out as I rolled and swore and scraped the globs of dough that refused to play along, sticking in clumps to my counter. I just sort of smushed and jammed them into place. Patting each “rose” like a toddler pats a cat to keep them from escaping the tin.

I surveyed my bouquet with a great deal of annoyance,  now an entire hour into this endeavor and stuck the tray into the oven with one final cuss.

45 minutes later, having shoveled out my kitchen and hosed it back into a rough semblance of cleanliness, I pulled the apple treats from the oven. Using a pairing knife and a new batch of swears, I freed each blossom from its carmelized prison and set them on a plate with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I have to admit they looked fairly decent despite their inauspicious start and I patted myself on my back for enduring in the face of such adversity. I high fived the dogs, reminded them that people swears are only for people because dogs know better and people are, well, people, and gave them each a slice of ham for staying with me to the bitter end.

I’ll be here all week folks. Dont forget to tip your waiter, bon appetite, thank you and good night. 

#closertocrazy
#mylifeinwords
#appleroses

Social distancing for cohabiting partners: a user’s guide to good health and a happy home in the time of contagion

Someone recently asked how my partner and I are managing to practice social distancing while living together under the same little roof.

I’m so glad I was asked! I’m sure there are MANY readers also have these questions so I will answer them as best I can.

“Do you sleep on opposite ends of the house?

Does one of you sleep in the garage while the other sleeps upstairs?

What do you do if you dont have a garage?

Do you facetime meals from around the house?

Have you ever prepared for this with cybersex ? If so, are you willing to run a seminar online explaining the best cybersex positions?”

  1. Partners should maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet. 10 feet is preferred, but for centuries men have been telling their partners that 6 feet is 10 feet, when actually it is closer to 5 feet, causing more than a few “animated conversations” and name calling (see “liar liar pants on fire” research paper published by Ura G’Damnliar in the American journal of Medicine’s Valentine’s day edition) so experts have settled on “10 feet” as the accepted distance for “safe and healthy partnering” assuming most will actually be closer to 6 feet at best.

2. Partners can safely sleep in the same bed as long as they observe the following precautions:

*sleep facing away from each other, and wear neoprene dive suits. The mask need only be worn if one of you is experiencing gas, and only by the person not experiencing gas so that you dont have to experience your partner’s gas.

Again, the mask only works when used properly and appropriately. Actual masks are the only accepted barrier. Please do not place a bag over your partner’s head no matter how tempting it may become.

We do not have a garage, and all available rooms have college kids squatting in them and eating all our cereal so we suit up and face away responsibly.

Remember: NO TOUCHY!

  1. Meals are shared via Zoom conferencing. Diners have the option to dial in from any one of the three vehicles parked in the driveway, the goats enclosure, the main children coop, the fort on the swing set, the shed, and the covered porch.

An actual seat in the kitchen is reserved for whoever cooked the meal, also referred to as “the chairman of the feast”. Surprisingly, and as strange as this sounds, the honor or cooking the meal and getting the chairman’s seat is never sought after by the other squatters. Odd.

  1. Sex. It’s the question you’ve all been waiting for me to answer so I’ll just get right to it.

Sex is a healthy and wonderful way to stay connected. To yourself. This virus is crazy catch so it’s time to take Trudie and Sting’s tantric example and practice mind f**king.

Sit across from your partner (10 feet/6feet apart) and maintain constant eye contact while repeating everything your partner says in a high whiny voice back to them. (Please refer to the April fools day publication of “I know you are but what am I??” By Styxx N’Stones)

This will definitely get a “rise” out of your partner and you will certainly feel elated and flushed from laughing when the vein on their temple throbs in time to the electronic dance music you insisted on to “set the mood”.

I will not be conducting an online course in Cybersex. Cybersex is really more of a deeply personal choice. What you choose to do with your computer is up to you, so long as its consensual, you establish a safe word with Siri/Alexa/Google (and honor it!), your computer feels respected, AND you make sure to wipe your keyboard down THOROUGHLY with alcohol.

You may want to throw a few back yourself since you’re clearly having more of a relationship with your computer than Charles Babbage, (the English mechanical engineer and polymath, who originated the concept of a programmable computer and is considered the “father of the computer”) EVER intended you to have…See? We’re LEARNING here. This is actually educational.

As for recommended positions during sex.. the politically correct positions tend to be favored by the twenty/thirtysomething crowd, and many partners never get around to actual sex because they’re too busy saying things like “after you”, “no, after YOU”, “No, no, after YOU!”. Often one or both will fall asleep, ending the exchange.

Older, less politically correct folks tend to be drawn to the Medicade for all position because a lot of us have parts of us that leak and need attention. This also makes for a compelling case of “NO TOUCHY”.

As a general rule of thumb, if it leaks, leave it alone and call someone to take a look at it.

Contagion is bad enough people, let’s not add faulty plumbing and floods to this. Its biblical enough out there these day. Contact your plumber or your doctor or both if needed, and PLEASE people, stay 6-10 feet the hell away from me until this is all over!

I certainly hope this helps. I love you all now dont sneeze on me.

***Stay home*Wash your hands*Repeat***

#closertocrazy

I’ll take all the little miracles I can get

It’s amazing how vast and deep our love grows for someone, without us even noticing the breadth, until we come close to losing them. Even if that someone is covered in fur, and leaves muddy paw prints all over the place.

Noel  has always been a little miraculous with just how many lives shes touched through pet therapy.  I’ve been reluctant to post an update on her healing until she was well and truly out of the woods and into the clear. We were worried she was just rallying for a bit because she was happy to be home with familiar smells and sounds and the people who adore her, and wanted to give it time.

Noel surprised us all, the vet included,  and has grown stronger every day, and closer to her regular measure of silliness and self appointed enthusiastic yard protector.

Yesterday we took to the rail trail for the first real (gently paced,  frequently stopping and sniffing paced) walk. It was such a delight to watch the three happy puppies (I know, I know they’re actually old ladies, but they’ll forever be puppies to me❤) hopping and skipping and sniffing and rolling around that trail.

There was no actual “walking”, just lots of ridiculous displays of joy. I abandoned any goal of reaching the mile markers, and just grinned and followed them from pile of interesting thing to pile of interesting thing.

Noel and I are hoping to be back in schools and hospitals soon, ready to snuggle when you are.

#blessed
#thankful
#therapydog
#allthelove

Stand and be counted

Stand and be counted.

I have never been more proud of my daughter than I am right now.

That is saying a lot.

She was placed in the position of adding her voice to powerful messages of hateful teachings of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identification, and women’s rights while leading a retreat, a “safe space”, and she refused.

She did more than just refuse, she stood up to be counted. She spoke up. She stood toe to toe. She would not back down to pressure by adults she has revered.

It was a crushing moment. People let you down in those moments. Adults let you down when they hold a place of love and honor in your life and ask you to do something that you know in your heart to be wrong. Its crushing.

She stood tall and strong and refused to stand in front of her peers and add her voice to hate. She endured pressure and anger and judgment and still stood fast and strong. She tore the teachings up and dumped them exactly where they belong, in the trash, and she voted with her feet and walked out of those doors.

To those of you who face discrimination based on your sexual orientation, your gender identification, on anything at all know this;

We stand with you. You have our voice, our love, our vote and you are not alone.

God does not judge people.

People judge people.

Love is love. Hate is hate. When you encounter hate, stand up and stand strong.

You, every single one of you, are an irrepeatable gift.

You are loved.

THAT is your birthright and I will die defending it.

loveIsLove

SpeakYourTruth

VoteYourConscience

YouAreNotAlone

StandAndBeCounted

The naked truth and sweet baby Jezzus

True story.

Affer a very, very long (albeit lovely) day of work, errands and life in general, I made my way upstairs to my bedroom to climb out of my clothes and into my jammie’s.

I stripped down to the skin God gave me, and stood for a moment to take a deep breath, when the thunderous sound of feet racing up the stairs was followed immediately by my door bursting open as I faced it wearing only surprise.

Two of my children exploded into the room.
We all screamed (for different reasons I imagine) and my daughter shoved her brother out into the hall, locked the door and fell onto my bed laughing and yelling at the banished boy.

They were arguing over who was my favorite. No lie.

They were arguing over who was my FAVORITE and they chose THAT particular moment to settle the debate.

Apparently my daughter had made grandiose claims tp her brother that I had texted to her earlier that SHE was the most favored.

Their arguing continued in my bedroom while I stood naked, completely NAKED. And stunned. And NAKED.

NAAAKEDDD.

Did I mention that I was naked? Because I was. VERY NAKED. And yet they persisted in debating at full volume, the standing each had in my heart.

The heart inside my very naked body.

This may come as a surprise to some.of you but It is very hard to maintain a sense of dignity and decorum in this household under the best of circumstances.

“GET OUT!” I yelled into the vacuum of my children’s attention.

“GET OUT AND LET ME GET DRESSED! ALONE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, GET OUT!”

My daughter scrambled off the bed and out the door, slamming it behind her while the two of them continued to argue about who I loved best.

Finally my son called loudly through the chaos

“JUST TELL US WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE!”

That was it. I snapped.

“SWEET BABY JEEZUZ! GO AWAY!”

I heard my son say quietly to my daughter as they retreated:

“See? I TOLD you it wasn’t you. It’s Jeezuz.”

And now for a drink. A strong one. But first, CLOTHES.