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Friday, August 22, 2008

Remembering Rob

I'va had a hard time not being able to be at the funeral. I feel like I've been conditioned to wait for that service to really cry, because that's what you do. No amount of telling myself I'm not going has allowed me a good cry. "What am I waiting for?" I keep thinking. Tears streaming down your face never substitutes for a good weep, and I've been not wanting to freak out my kids. It's one of the curses I think of having self control, I wish I couldn't help it, and could just cry.

My husband encouraged me today to spend even an hour alone this morning, so I utilized the drop-off hourly childcare place (that costs an arm and a leg I might add) and then thought about what my friend Sara do something that we used to do together, or that he loved doing.

So I drove right back home, put a picture of him in my back pocket, and rode out the driveway on my bike.

I have the advantage of have a beautiful Open Space Preserve right in my backyard. I set out on the trail and immediately felt something begin. I don't know if it was that I had his picture with me, or that I was simply on my bike, but I felt nearer to him in that moment. I half expected to round a corner and have him be there, as he often used to be. I can't remember ever being the one to pick where we biked, but I do remember he often picked places that were more challenging for me than I would have picked on my own. He would eventually end up ahead of me, and at some point I would round a corner and he'd be waiting there for me, one foot on the ground, smiling. "You doing okay?" he'd say. "Yeah." I'd reply. "You wanna stop?"...."No, I'm good." (or sometimes truthfully, "Well, maybe, isn't this drop-off kind of steep? You know I'm afraid of heights..." He'd then laugh "Well this will help you get over it.") (By the way Rob, I'm still afraid of heights, and no it didn't help, so there).

Today I turned right up this part of the trail I have avoided, because I have deemed it too steep. I pushed myself and panted, and made myself go all the way to the top. When I got up to the flat part, I almost swiveled back around to head back, but something made me want to go all the way to the end, because I felt this urging to do so. Anyone looking around would tell you Rob was not up there waiting for me, but when I got to the top and put my foot down, I put my head down on my handlebars, and started balling. Because he was there. Because I have needed a place to physically put my foot down and grieve him, and for some reason I thought that would be in a stuffy funeral home. But of course it wasn't.

On the beautiful coast back down that hill, noticing all the trees I hadn't paid attention to on the way up, I thought about all this. It's easy in life to keep coasting and never put our feet down. But putting our feet down into the pain is what's important. It's what reminds us that we are alive. That other people were once alive. It's messy, and I probably looked like a slobbering mess to anyone that happened by, but it was real. The coast down would never have felt so good had I not put my foot down and had that cry.

I wish Rob could have had that coasting part of his life. I feel like those of us that were wounded as children face such a battle to really feel free as adults. Only God can break those chains that weigh us down, trying to convince us that we are still that child who felt confused, violated, and unlovable. It was something that unfortunately we shared, and I will never forget all the times we came together sometimes without even talking, just to be together, to get through some moment of pain.

Goodbye Rob. I wish we could throw our bikes in your pickup one last time for a ride.
I will miss you. I wish you peace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I have a friend from H.S. and college who died this week in a motorcycle accident. I remember the first time we started talking, in the River Hills Mall in Mankato, realizing we had a mutual friend (Deb) and a mutual interest in mountain biking. ""Hey maybe we should ride sometime"....."Yeah, that sounds great actually" began a friendship. I have many memories of being called in the middle of the night... "Wake up sleepy head, you wanna ride?" and I'd rub my eyes and head out my door. Who knew the streets and trails in and around Mankato could be so exciting at 1:00am, but they were. I'd rather have been doing that on a Friday night then walking out of a bar anyday.

He was in our wedding, and when we moved to CA we lost touch, and I couldn't seem to track him down through any of the grapevines. Recently we got back in touch on Facebook, and sent each other little notes once in awhile. He was 30 years old, and had many years of life yet he should have seen. Today I am just sad. Today I just want to be hugged by someone who knew him. Or really, just by him. One of his great big bear hugs.

I won't be able to go back for the funeral, and I was talking to Deb last night about feeling like I will miss out on those physical motions of grieving.....walking through the receiving line, sitting in the service, standing out at the cemetary. There is something about walking those steps that helps. At least it did with Steph. I feel like I want to do something to make it feel real, so I can move out of this stage of shock. Maybe while they are having the service Friday, I'll hope on my bike and ride......

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The moments inbetween

I just got back from an amazing retreat for my MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group. Our theme this year is Adventures in Mothering, and I just think it's going to be a really great year. They are using an amusement park as a theme which is really cute. At the retreat we played some funny games, got to know each other better, got some training (I'll be a group leader the next two years), sang some songs, and I was asked to share my testimony in the evening before we had a group prayer time. I was SO nervous, but already had it written up as I had shared it in a smaller setting earlier this year, and could think of no decent reason to say "no", so I did it. It was hard because I was going to the retreat to make some new friends, and get to know some aquantinces better, and it felt like putting myself out there in front of almost 50 women was quite the way to do that. Yet we had a great prayer time afterward. That evening and next morning so many people appraoched me to talk. They felt like they got to know me, and maybe made a new friend in me through my transparency, and through that I know friendships will blossom.

I was thinking while I was there at one point, why is it when my husband and his friends get a weekend away, they set out to climb the highest mountain they can find (14,000+ ft by the way)and when I go away we end up sitting in a circle searching the deepest parts of our hearts? These are very different things and yet I think they are the same things in more ways than I know. I think we are both hoping to feel more. Whatever is next, whatever is there to feel, we want to feel more of it.

From the hotel room I was staying in I had a beautiful view of some mountains. (see picture above) I saw a few houses on the top, and some on the bottom. I was thinking about the type of man that would build his house on the top of that mountain, searching for a view to look down on, and the satisfaction of planting his foot on that highest rock. He doesn't mind the threat of the mountain sliding down.

I looked down and thought of the type of man that has built his house in the foothills, happy to wade his feet in the bumbling creek, and to look up at an eagle flying overhead. He's not worried about the potential flood, because he has found his version of beauty and peace.

Have they really done something so different? It might depend on the journey that got them there, and you might need to know that story before you could answer. What were they hoping for? How hard did they have to work and fight to get there? We love saying that the most important parts of life are the journeys. I think that the journey is absolutely important, but what about the moments following?

I am living in the moments after a huge, tragic, and 30 year long journey, and I am in a quiet place. I am home. I meet so many people now who have only known the "me" in Colorado, and they think they know me. I've heard myself described as a peaceful person, with a rooted life, a supermom, and of having a grounded faith. You might wonder why I would ever want to shatter those assumptions. I don't seek to shatter them, so much as I myself am in such awe of what God can do with one single life.

I have lived both at the top of the mountain, and the bottom, and felt long-suffering in both places. It tests your integrity, your faith, and your optimism. But I tend to think there's something important and precious at the end. That story. So someone thinks I'm an amazing person? Nothing amazing ever happened without faith, hope, and love. And if those two men built identical houses, and then shut the doors when they were done, and never came out, who cares where they even are?

I'm saying though, what if they didn't. What if the next traveler came, and they shared their story, and told them the shortcuts, and helped them load their packs with everything they would need.

Without the story of those three things, how would the next person be inspired to put on their packs on and begin their travel? I think we know when it's time to pass these things on. To tell our story. To not shut the door, and thank God it's done, and hold on to the arms of the chair a little too tightly.

I'm trying to go one step further. I like to think about that man, instead of sending that traveler on his way, walked beside him until he got there. That's what I'm trying to do this year. Because I know this trail already. I've got a heart that's full. And I'm ready to share.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Squish Squash

I have had lots of squash to use up which has been wonderful. I love this season of veggies. I decided to take a break from feeding my family so much raw squash, and because it's a chilly rainy day (high of 60!) put the oven to some use. It's been a while since it has been fired up. :)
Here's what I found that I had almost all of the ingredients on hand for, and the kids and Rob were excited about. I just baked it, and the kids had some for lunch. We'll eat the rest for dinner.

I prepared it last night and left it in the fridge overnight to soak. I would recommend this as it gives the bread a chance to soak everything up. This is a low-fat version from Cooking Light, and don't omit the artichokes! They are wonderful and pull the whole thing together. If you use lots of different colors the top looks bright and cheerful, like confetti. For lunch you can see in the picture I served it with some Sauteed Sesame Kale, and half a banana (remember it's for the kiddos, so they always want a side of fruit:)

Also the kids and I made pinatas, sort of, yesterday. We were inspired by my neice Abby, who made a REAL pinata, but since I had my three kids and a 1 and 2 year old yesterday, I did the best I could. We filled paper bags, rolled the tops over and stapled them, and then glued tissue and streamers on them. The kids had fun! That's what the second picture is of. Have a great weekend! I'll be at a retreat for MOPS. I can't wait!

From Cooking Light Magazine, Nov 1996

Buy canned, quartered artichoke hearts because they're less expensive than whole artichoke hearts. Buy presliced mushrooms.

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups diced zucchini ( I used a mix of green and yellow)

2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used portabellas)

1 cup diced red bell pepper (I used a mix I had of red, orange and yellow)

1 cup diced onion (I used red)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 cup chopped drained canned artichoke hearts

8 cups (1-inch) cubed Italian bread (about 8 ounces) (I used 100% Whole Wheat Batard

Cooking spray

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I used white sharp)

1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups egg substitute (I used organic)

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated skim milk

Oregano sprigs (optional)


Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté vegetable mixture 6 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in artichokes, and set aside.

Arrange bread cubes in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon zucchini mixture evenly over bread cubes, and sprinkle mixture with cheeses.

Combine egg substitute and remaining ingredients (except oregano sprigs) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Pour egg mixture over zucchini mixture. Cover mixture with foil; chill up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 325°. Bake strata, covered, 1 hour or until bubbly. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 229(19% from fat); FAT 4.9g (sat 2.3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.3g); IRON 2.7mg; CHOLESTEROL 14mg; CALCIUM 336mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.1g; SODIUM 570mg; PROTEIN 17.5g; FIBER 1.9g

Friday, August 8, 2008

Art Encounters

When we were waiting at one of the local Rec Centers on Tuesday for Elijah's Pottery class to start, we got bored and were looking through the tables of flyers they have sitting out there. The kids got really attached to this big oversized postcard-type thing that was telling about local sculptures in the area that are out to be viewed over the next year. It was a pretty cute card, with each sculpture listed with a picture, and they are divided into 4 cities.

The next morning we woke up and were running an errand, and all three of the kids postcards were still in the van. "Would you like to see one of the sculptures on that card?" I asked them. Jaws dropped. "YES!!!" they replied, and I made a quick stop. We got out of the car, touched it, talked about it, guessed what it was made out of, etc. It was just 15 minutes, but I kept thinking about it the rest of the day.

Well today is Friday and we just saw our fifth sculpture on the card, and have decided we're going to try to make it to all of them. It has been fun, the kids have been calling it our "sculpture walk" or "sculpture mission" when we got lost from a construction detour the other day and had to turn around and come home to look it up on the computer.

It has been so cute to hear their answers about which ones are their favorites, and what they think they are made out of. We also have talked about why people make art, and that it's not just something for craft time, but something people do for their "daddy and mommy work, like Uncle Titus". We talked about what all the different types of art there are. It has turned a regular week into something exceptional, and I think I'm going to tuck those cards away when we are done in their memory boxes or something.

It's called The Douglas County Art Encounters. So far we've made it to all of them in Highlands Ranch, and in Castle Rock. My favorite so far was Enchantment by Donna Romberger which is a little girl holding two birds in her hands, and Fires Dance the Shadows by Joshua Wiener which was made out of a beautiful white stone. I haven't had my camera with for any, but if you click on the website, and then click on one of the towns, you can then see beautiful color pictures of each sculpture.

I just love sharing the arts with my kids. It's one of my favorite things to do as a parent actually. Cooking and Art. Or in my house, cooking can be art. :) It's all about being creative, right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You say Tomato, I say Tomahto.....

I've been hearing from so many people lately that their tomatoes are starting to come in full force. Oh, I am jealous! You know I have the black thumb of death, and all that lived through my summer experiment was a basil plant that is now bigger than my head, and two ever-bearing strawberry bushes that won't bear strawberries. Alas, I will still enjoy this season and I'm itching to get the Farmer's Market this Sunday and see what's there.

I didn't always like tomatoes. My mom swears I loved cherry tomatoes until one day at day care I just didn't want the 3 that were left on my plate that day from lunch. I don't remember liking them before, but I do remember sitting at that table as they wouldn't let me leave until I ate them. I can't remember if they were bad, or I was just full (this is pre-K so I was pretty young) I just remember not wanting to eat them. I sat. and sat. and sat. and sat. for sooooo long. finally I gave in and ate them and was disgusted. From then on I wouldn't touch tomatoes unless they were in spaghetti sauce or ketchup form.

When I got married and moved to CA I started warming up to tomatoes again. A new world opened up to me, and I tried dishes they didn't serve at any of the restaurants in my home town. Recently my friend Sarah introduced me to Hierloom tomatoes, which with the right pinch of salt, I admit even I will eat solo!

My favorite tomato season recipes are simple. If you have a good tomato, you don't need to fuss over it. I just made the kids this Cappelini Pomodoro for lunch with some tomatoes my brother and sister in law sent home with us from our camping weekend. yum! AND since my basil plant is actually alive, the kids got to pick the basil leaves from our "garden". sweet!

capellini pomodoro

Cook Time: 12 minutes
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 2 pounds fresh peeled and diced tomatoes (OR 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) good quality diced tomatoes, or about)
· 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 2 cups fresh chopped basil leaves
· 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
· 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
· 12 ounces dry capellini pasta, cooked (or use any other kind)

Heat olive oil and add garlic; cook until garlic is tender. Add tomatoes and pepper and heat through, stirring constantly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer hot, cooked pasta to large bowl. Toss pasta gently with tomato mixture, the fresh chopped basil, and half of the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and pass remaining Parmesan.Serves 4.

2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup packed fresh basil (or arugula leaves), washed well and spun dry

(1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled, if using arugula instead of basil)

3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

fine sea salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

On a large platter arrange tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Sprinkle salad with oregano and arugula and drizzle with oil. Season salad with salt and pepper.

Servings: Makes 50 pieces (for 10 guests).

8 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 tbsp finely minced garlic

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp finely minced fresh tarragon

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 baguettes, cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices

6 cloves garlic, cut in half

In a bowl, mix all ingredients except bread and garlic cloves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside, unrefrigerated, 3 hours. Heat oven to 350°F. Toast bread on a baking sheet. Rub cut side of garlic on each slice; top with tomato mixture.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Home again/ My new toy

We just got back late last night from a trip camping outside of Kansas City with the Colwill side of the family. I got to squeeze all my nieces and nephews and catch up with all of my wonderful in-laws. It was sweaty, hot, and there were bug bites on most of us when it was over - but we had a blast! The only sad thing is that we forgot our camera at home when we left down at the early hour of 3:00am (you can't blame us, there was no caffiene of any kind to be found in the house) so I have no pictures to post. :( Hopefully I'll get some from the others soon.

So I got a new toy in the mail before I left, that I have been having fun with - it's called a Spiral Slicer, or I've heard them called Spiralizers. I first saw one in MN when a friend used them to make pretty spiraled carrots on a salad, and came across them again in Natalia Rose's book The Raw Food Detox Diet. When I then again saw one used in a Raw Food group on Facebook on Zucchini, I was just too curious, I had to try one. I found on for $20 online. I've seen them for as much as $35 so I thought this was a good deal. I bought a bunch of zucchini at the Farmer's Market, and the kids and I had so much fun, we had to stop ourselves from spiraling more than we could eat!
Somehow they didn't connect at first that "Spaghetti" that night was the same thing they were helping me make earlier. I think this made them just dig in and not think about it, and they ended up liking it. It was so good! You put a zucchini in, and crank the top around, and the bottom fills up with beautiful strands that look just like cooked spaghetti. You do not cook the zuchinni after this, as surprising as that may sound. Just gently warm your favorite pasta sauce, and serve it over the top. I recommend then adding some shredded cheese. We like raw cheddar style goat cheese. YUM! It actually has been a really great hot-summer-day dish, as it's really cool and refreshing, and you aren't standing over a stove boiling water. It took about 30 seconds to spiral the zucchini. A snap!
I don't know what else I can do with this thing, but I'm excited to find out. I did read one recipe where they put coconut in it, and made strands, and used them in a Thai dish instead of noodles. It sounds really good and refreshing to me, but I still need to work up the nerve to hack at a coconut. The thing is, I just really like my left hand......