Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming to terms

When I was small my mom didn’t work outside the home. She stayed home and raised up the four of us little girls. She cooked and cleaned and wiped noses and bums. She sewed and mended and did oceans of laundry. She planted and harvested an enormous garden and we raised chickens, pigs and had a milk cow. We didn’t have much in the way of material goods, but we managed to survive on Dad’s earnings, because that’s what you did.

She did a good job. We are all grown now and are all productive members of society, not an axe-murderer or druggie among us. I’m not saying Dad had nothing to do with it, he did, but that is a story for another time.

My husband’s job takes care of the lion’s share of our living expenses. I am able to work part-time from home and make up the rest. I work 16-20 hours each week. The rest of the time I devote to raising our son and keeping up with household chores. When I tell people I am able to stay home and be with Liam for the most part, they tell me how great that is and how much better it is for Liam and how lucky I am.

So my question is this: If I am so lucky, and what I am doing is a good and honorable thing, why do I feel as though if I don’t accomplish something absolutely concrete each and every day, I am being lazy and useless?

The benefits of reading, teaching and playing with Liam will not reap rewards for many years. It is impossible to visualize what, exactly, if anything, I am accomplishing today.

Why am I so conditioned, so attuned, to production, production, production? Has today’s society convinced me if my occupation is Mom and my goal in life is a strong, confident kid that that is just not good enough? I must have loftier, more concrete and career-minded goals. If that is indeed the case, why? And why do I as a wife and mother buy into it? Why do I, an intelligent, thinking human being, belittle my own aspirations of raising a child who is more confident, intelligent and creative than I?

It seems I am constantly questioning our decision for me to work part-time and spend the remaining hours each week with our son. Oftentimes I feel as though I should be toiling away at a full-time job, barely bringing home enough to pay for the childcare that would make necessary. Then I stop myself and think; this is ridiculous! Why would I do that and let someone else raise my son?

I play this mind game every day. I force myself to let go of this craziness and do what I need to do and want to do and say the hell with anyone else’s ideas of what I should do. Thankfully CJE is here to keep reminding me of the value of what I am doing and the reasons we made these choices in the first place. Somehow I need to stop this insanity I am putting myself through. I know it is stupid and nuts, but for some reason each morning I am right back where I started from the day before.

I wish I knew the answer that would ultimately give me peace with my choices, but until I do . . . I’ll just have to keep battling down the demons every day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"String too short to use"

10) Some years ago (too many to count) I had a Tupperware party at my house. After spending the day cleaning and making dessert, all was in readiness for my guests. A friend, who is much taller than I, was the first to arrive. I can’t tell you how irritated, yet thankful, I was when she pointed out to me that the top of my range hood was covered with grime and dead bugs. Ever since then I have been somewhat paranoid about items in my house above eye level to me that others see quite readily.

9) I am having some issues with my health right now. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in 1999. I have managed with oral medication and diet for 10+ years, but this summer my blood sugar ran right off the rails. My doctor and I are struggling to get back on track, but it is difficult right now. Even if I eat no carbohydrates at all, my sugars are running too high. The immediate bad is this makes me feel rundown and sleepy a lot of the time. Long term effects are too horrible to consider. We will get this under control.

8) CJE went back to work/school today. Summer’s over and I really am good with that. It has not been a great summer for us. Whatever normal is, I hope it visits here again real soon.

7) Liam is suffering from hay fever/allergies just like CJE and I do. Poor little mite. His nose is so dry and crusty and it hurts for us to wipe it. He’s a mess. Our old humidifier gave up the ghost at the end of last winter, so I have a new one on its way here. It can’t get here soon enough. I would have liked to have bought one here in town, but the big W is the only game and all they had was junk.

6) On a brighter note, Liam seems to have discovered what a beautiful art form sleeping in is. The past few mornings he has been rolling out sometime between 7:30 and 8:30. I love it! It gives me a chance to focus in the mornings and plan my day. Have a cuppa and enjoy the quiet. Nice.

5) Our home is worth less money than ever these days. However, I got the bill for our annual homeowner’s policy and it went up. Did the insurance company not get the memo?

4) I am having a pedicure at 2 p.m. today. CJE got me a gift certificate for the local day spa for Mother’s Day. I used that up a long time ago, but it really got me hooked on pedicures. Being diabetic, foot care is very important. The local podiatrist made my feet feel worse than ever, but Darcie at Simply Divine makes my feet very happy. Of course, she makes them look good as well. Too bad my health insurance won’t pay for my Darcie fix.

3) I love autumn. It is my absolute favorite time of year. The crispness in the air is intoxicating. I can’t wait for those frosty mornings to arrive and turn the leaves to gold. Spending my Sunday’s curled up under a blanket watching the NFL rates pretty darn high on my list as well. Yea, fall.

2) Liam’s daycare provider has to have major back surgery sometime this fall. I am desperately trying to find a backup person. He only needs about 1½ days a week, but I definitely need those days. Anyone available starting late September through November? Sure wish Grandma lived a lot closer.

1) If you could have any type of fresh cut flowers delivered to your home every week, what type would you pick?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A gift from Pastor Bill

This is a list of the Top Ten Priceless Gifts anyone can give to anyone, anywhere and at anytime:

10. The Gift of Listening --- No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your answers, just listen.

9. The Gift of Affection --- 10 hugs a day, kisses, pats on the back and hold hands.

8. The Gift of Laughter --- Cartoons, articles and funny stories delivered daily show you care.

7. The Gift of a Written Note --- A scribble, note, email or card may change a life.

6. The Gift of a Compliment --- “You look great today,” “Great job” or “Wonderful meal” can make a day.

5. The Gift of a Favor --- Apply a random act of kindness to someone you love and make an impression.

4. The Gift of Solitude --- A time to be alone and a time to be together—make it pleasurable.

3. The Gift of  a Cheerful Disposition --- Bubbly is contagious, try it and see the difference.

2. The Gift of Unconditional Love --- There is no better security than knowing you are loved for who you are.

1. The Gift of Salvation --- Share Jesus with someone you love and give them the gift of eternity.

Easy peasy, rice & cheesy. Right?!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Tis the season

Fruit Jam or Jelly

4 c fruit (pureed, chopped, juice or whatever consistency you like)
2 c very smooth unsweetened applesauce
1 box dry pectin (2 for marmalade)
6 c sugar

Place all fruit in a large saucepan (about an 8 quart). Open the box of pectin and throw away the instructions. Open the little envelope and dump the contents into the saucepan with the fruit. Bring to a nice rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and bring back to a rolling boil, stirring more frequently. Boil for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, until it looks like it will jell. By this I mean when you spread a splash on a cold plate, let it cool and push it with your finger you get some resistance and you can see wrinkles in the surface of the jam.

In the meantime prepare your jars, rings and lids. Jars need to be clean and then I usually stand them in a 9x13 pan in about an inch of very hot water. The rings just need to be clean. The lids need to be boiled in a small pan of water and then let them stand in the water until you are ready for them. They need to stay hot so I usually boil them just as the jam is getting done.

Now for the really fun part; the jam is so very hot so this part is burn your fingers fun! When your jam looks like it will jell, fill your jars. The jar rims must be wiped in order for the lids to set properly and in order for the rings to not stick, so burn your fingers. Fish the lids out of the boiled water with a fork and burn your fingers placing them on the jars. Place the rings on the jars and screw them down tightly burning your fingers as you do this. If you don’t get them on tight enough, the jam will ooze out during the next step. Stand them on their heads on a triple layer of newspaper covered with a towel. Set your timer for 30 minutes and when it goes off burn your fingers turning them right side up. Turning them upside down for 30 minutes helps to kill any lingering bacteria and gets the top of the jar and lid nice and hot for proper sealing. Let your jars set at least overnight, several days is better to get a seal that will not be broken by jostling.

The reason for the applesauce is that most jam or jelly fruits do not have much in the way of natural pectin of their own and even using a box of pectin won’t be enough to make them jell. Apples have a ton of natural pectin and using 2 cups of them with your fruit of choice will not distort the flavor of the jam or jelly, but it will give you the added pectin you need to have a nice consistency of product when you get done. Sometimes I buy canned applesauce for this, but usually I buy about three Granny Smith apples, peel and core them and puree them with my fruit.

You will find this to be not as sweet as most store bought jams or even most recipes. I believe this helps make the flavor of the fruit the star of the show.

Most recipes and canning books are going to tell you that you must water bath your jam. I have never done this as I have never found it necessary. If you want to water bath your jam or jelly, you will need to follow someone else’s recipe.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

So that is art

In the past I have attended many spiritual retreats, but one in particular stands out in my mind. It happened some years ago. It was a women’s retreat put on by our church. About a dozen of us went to Wallowa Lake Camp in the Blue Mountains of Oregon one weekend in March and had an amazing experience.

This happened to be at a very low time in my life. Isn’t it interesting that at those lows times is when we are most open to new truths.

The retreat was led by Ardis Letey. She is an artist from coastal Oregon.

She taught us some very helpful techniques and methods. We worked with several different media and learned and grew and had a marvelous weekend.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can no longer remember much of what we actually did during the retreat. Only one of the items I created, a painting of a sunflower drifting on the open sea, is still around. However, that doesn’t matter because of something Ardis told us which has stuck with me all these years. She told us:

“Art is the process, not the product.”

Read it several times, and then go back and read it again. All you tentative artists out there, ingrain it on your hearts and minds.

What you produce, or not, doesn’t matter. It is in the process where you find the art.

The hours I spend at my sewing machine sewing or at my writing table designing and drafting, that is the art. That is the satisfaction. That is the sweetness, the holiness, if you will.

My art is sanctuary for me. It is where I escape to when life has gotten in the way and the stress of keeping all the balls in the air has become too great.

For me, in art there is peace. When the pressure to produce something amazing, beautiful, wonderful, that everyone is going to “get” is lifted, freedom and liberty to simply create is granted and the heart and mind can truly soar. It is an incredibly uplifting feeling and I find often during this process is when my soul has its best communion with God.

I encourage everyone, with or without artistic leanings, to give this a chance. When you sit down to draw, sew, paint, write, sculpt or _____, grant yourself the freedom to move in the spirit and get lost in the process. The process that IS art.