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Monthly Archives: November 2013

How Eating Local Changed Thanksgiving

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How Eating Local Changed Thanksgiving

Seven years into defining my own Thanksgiving with my own family, and I think maybe, I am finally beginning to get it.

As a young kid, I understood that we should be thankful for our food and family. We would attend large gatherings, and I remember once we even hosted one. At least 15 people were on their way to our house. My mom had been preparing the turkey and the sides. I was six years old, and she asked me to help with the salad. I took the bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing out of the refrigerator, saw that it was in the “New & Improved” plastic bottle, remembered the television advertisement in which they claimed the new bottle was unbreakable, and proceeded to demonstrate to my mother by throwing the bottle on the floor, certain it would bounce back.

It didn’t. The plastic shattered. Ranch dressing was everywhere.

As a teenager and young adult, Thanksgiving traditions became more variable. One year we would have Thanksgiving with Dad. The next with Mom. The next with Dad again. We might go out to an uncle’s for dinner, watch the guys chop firewood, and listen to guitar playing late into the night.  Or we would visit Grandma and Grandpa’s and enjoy turkey and trimmings followed by scripture readings.  We might have Thanksgiving at home with just Mom and the kids. And then, there was the year that Dad took us to Seattle and we celebrated Thanksgiving dining on East Indian cuisine.

And as I grew into adulthood, Thanksgiving became more of a holiday to share with a special someone. The first Thanksgiving my husband and I were together, we celebrated the news that we would be expecting our first child. In time, we learned traveling with kids during the holidays usually ended up with someone getting sick in the end. We soon learned to recreate the holiday on our own. We tried to develop our own traditions. The one that seems to remain is the smoking of meats. Whether it be turkey, elk, antelope, or duck. Thanksgiving always seemed to lend the opportunity to share our knowledge and love for smoked meat.

Through graduate school, we opened our home to others who might not be able to be with family. We supplied the meat and guests brought the side dishes.

The unexpected outcome of this agreement was the variety of fantastic ethnic foods that showed up at the table. After all, the international students weren’t ones to travel home for an American holiday. Indonesian desserts such as buttered mochi and agar agar sat next to Estonian dishes such as pickled pumpkin and potatoes with meat gravy. Kimchi and sauerkraut might have easily found their way onto the same plate.  No one left hungry, especially after making the trek in the bitter Wyoming cold to our professor’s house for dessert.

In those years, I gained some of my first experiences with true friendship, as I shared my home, foods, and traditions with others. Many of the bonds I established in graduate school remain strong today.  For that, I am thankful.

After graduating and moving to North Dakota, we truly missed the way relationships had influenced our holiday. We enjoyed our Thanksgivings at home, trying different sides each year. Like squash risotto or sweet potato pie. We’d go around the table, sharing what we were thankful for. Just like we thought we should.

Last year, I felt barely able to think about cooking. I was preoccupied by the loss of my dad. I couldn’t prepare or eat food without thinking of him. At times it felt like his presence in the kitchen with me was overwhelming to say the least. I did the best I could in writing about him and sharing his story.  But the pain was still tremendous.

We managed to have smoked turkey with cheese, crackers, and homemade pickles. It was simple and it worked. We were grateful, but something was amiss.   DSCN7764

This year is better. I feel more grounded and able to let the feeling of gratitude surpass that of grief. I am so grateful for our health. I am grateful for going gluten free and being able to enjoy eating again. I am grateful for so many friendships and professional relationships that have cultivated in the past year. Again, because I have been brave enough to share myself with others. And not just the parts I think they want me to share, but my true self.

It was terrifying, because at a certain point, I realized I wasn’t independent. I couldn’t do it all on my own. My family wasn’t as independent as we thought. Even though we raised chickens and ducks this year and had an amazing garden… we continue to rely on others.

That doesn’t mean we are dependent either. We have not gone to the store today, yesterday, or even last week to buy our Thanksgiving meal. The choices we make as consumers has lead to abundance. We have everything we need. And with that, we feel a sense of thankfulness that extends into the paradigm of “know your farmer, know your food.”

Tonight we will enjoy smoked duck with a sauce made from buffalo berries. We raised the duck ourselves and harvested the berries at the beginning of October. The potatoes and onions we will roast have been in our root cellar since the last farmers market. As have the pumpkins and apples from which we will bake pie. We made the last harvest from our garden at the beginning of November when we picked the brussels sprouts and cabbages. We saved the brussels sprouts just for this occasion. Should the boys want a glass of milk or a dollop of whipped cream on their pie, we have that too, thanks to our cow-share.

We will spend the day as a family. But we won’t be alone. The gratitude in our hearts is because of the interdependence with others. Those who shaped Thanksgivings years ago and those who helped shape this one by producing the food on our table. Without a doubt, we are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving from Pages of Paradigm.

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Recovering a Sense of Faith

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Last year, I began reading “The Artist’s Way.” A friend recommended it to me. She thought I might appreciate some of the exercises and inspiration as I tried to love being and artist (again.) And I did!

Artist-Way

Julia Cameron soon made it into my blog posts. I wrote about my experiences.

Recovering a Sense of:

Safety 

Identity

Power

Integrity

Abundance

Compassion

Connection and Strength

Self Protection

And then, I got stumped. “Recovering a Sense of Faith.”

I read the chapter. It made no sense. Faith is a sticky subject for me.

I reread it a month later. I was simply confused.

Then reread it again six weeks later. I couldn’t quite get what relationships and boundaries have to do with faith.

Then again two months later. I let it go.

In time, I began to work on my own underlying issues. I worked on boundaries and barriers. I explored trusting my own judgment. I began valuing my own time. My priorities became important. I began valuing myself.

I began to see myself as a part of something bigger. For so long, I felt more like apart from something bigger. I began thinking about the economics of the living. Not how to make a living (although I admit, I think about that too). But truly, how to live our lives in a way in which we are living.

For so long, I felt like I was bogged down. Carrying too much. As my dad would sometimes say, “It’s like you’re trying to carry 10 gallons of crap in a five gallon bucket.” My vision of myself carrying TWO five gallon buckets overflowing with crap came through in brilliant Technicolor.

Clearly, I could not go on like this forever. Even as I tried to reconsider my relationship with work, the image of myself still held true. No wonder I couldn’t quiet get the idea of a sense of faith.

I couldn’t let go. This is one of our greatest challenges in life. After all, we are infinite beings living in a finite world. Our spirit craves infinite communications of love, acceptance, joy, and peace. Yet we hold on to so many finite things. Why can we not learn from the trees that let go of their leaves each autumn?IMG_0337

As we go into winter, are there things that simply won’t serve our well-being anymore? Do we really want to share our sacred space with things that no longer serve us? Would it be better to let the material objects move to another space where they can either be appreciated or perhaps break down into the earth again?

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

As a family, we had gotten used to being overwhelmed. We struggled to make room for laughter, learning, creativity, communication, joy, peace, and tolerance. And then we starting letting go of things we held on to. Like my first pair of hikers I purchased in 2002. Like the broken toys and unnecessary papers. We examined relationships that were no longer working for us and began to set boundaries. We understood and accepted our short comings, and let our sweet energetic puppy go to another home on a farm, where she can run and play to her hearts desire. We let go of the images that we have to be overly busy to be okay. We continue to open ourselves to ideas and clarify our priorities in life.

We created space for more infinite qualities to fill our home. The universe responded to this space in our lives and offered us a gift. A piano!  A free piano!

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We easily found the physical space for it in our home. And the infinite qualities that emerge from exploring the world of music of the family cannot compare. In the first days, I settled in to teach myself a special song.

This song, my dad used to sing along with my boys’ musical toys. He’d prepare his silly voice and sing, “Tell me won’t you please. Why the leaves, have furry leaves.”

Knowing very little about music, I simply thought he was making up words to be odd and funny. When my siblings and I were faced with the unexpected task of selecting music at his funeral, all I could think was how important it would be to have the “Furry Leaves” song. I knew it was a classical composition, but had very little way to communicate what this song would be. Luckily, a friend who was helping us with cleaning and planning knew a little about music. I sheepishly tried to hum the tune.

“Oh, that’s Furry Leaves.” She said.

I looked at her. Certainly Dad hadn’t sung the Furry Leaves song to her. She wrote it down for me and I laughed. It was Beethoven’s Fur Elise. My dad had probably made up those words when he was a child learning to play the piano.

So on Sunday night, I got to work. And I learned to play the first little bit of Fur Elise. Just enough to sing the words.  I now feel as though I have both received and given a gift of infinite proportion.

And I may finally have an understanding of Julia Cameron’s final chapter.

Learning to Let Go: Excitment and Motivation

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I’ve been taking sometime to look back at how far I’ve come in a year as an entrepreneur.

I left my full-time academic job in July of 2012, but it wasn’t until November of that year that I began marketing myself and my talents. I didn’t have a network or a whole lot of support. I knew very few people in my town. Most of the folks I knew within the state of North Dakota, I knew because of my career, in some way. It was scary and I was lonely.

But things have changed.

Today, my young philosopher overheard me calling a friend. “Mom, you know I can’t even keep up with all the people you know!”

I thought to myself, Wow. I really do know a lot of people! Things have changed in a year’s passing.

I was quiet pleased with myself. I took time to give myself the praise, “You have done well finding good people to connect with. It certainly does make life quite a bit richer.”

But that’s only the beginning.

After today’s Farm Beginnings Session, I was extremely motivated.

We talked about mission statements and marketing. I didn’t realize I love this kind of stuff so much, but I do!

I left energized, wanting to share EVERYTHING I learned with my husband, who had to work today.

I left wanting to revisit my visual business plan.

I wanted to get home and beg my chickens to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE start laying eggs again.

I was ready to dive into next my proposal.

I wanted to go set up for the art class I teach on Monday.

I couldn’t wait to start thinking,

and reading,

and researching.

I wanted to start compiling information for my presentation at Farm Beginnings in December, in which I will be talking about how to tell YOUR story.

So much excitement!

But this was familiar…

My mind was reeling with ideas, but I was tired.

I had a quick thought to leave myself a voice message, telling myself about ALL this excitement.

Wait, I’ve done that before. And it wasn’t good.

(Remember, I struggle with issues such as overworking and undervaluing myself.)

It is easy for me to believe that I need to prove my worth through what I do.

In my final 3 months as Vice President of Land Grant programs, I would call my office phone on my drive home. I would leave myself messages about all the things I needed to do the next day.

This my friends, is not a good habit.

I thought it was brilliant at first, but it certainly led to some earlier morning cursing when I checked my voicemail each day.

*Light-bulb moment* Maybe that has something to do with my own disdain for to-do lists. To-do lists are made with our own self-talk imbedded in them. They can be painful if that self-talk used in writing them is overly critical, judgmental, or down right mean.

Hmmm….

The point is I had been down this road before. So I backed up.

I did a U-turn before I got to the point of giving myself a to-do list on a Saturday night.

I retraced my steps.

I slowed down and took a look around when I got back to the excitement.

Was it impractical to think I could manage to do all the things that I wanted to do tonight? Or even this weekend?

Absolutely!

I suddenly remembered that I had been here too, and that there was a bit more worth exploring.

I remembered the first time I shared my business plan with the folks at the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation.

I remember the amazing amount of things I wanted to do when I came home.

And I remember not doing anything!

Instead, I was still.

I enjoyed the moment. I felt the excitement.

I didn’t force it into a product or accomplishment.

I let it be part of me.

And I wrote about it! It was my second blog post ever!

I was on the road I wanted to be on. And, I even took it on a little further.

I mentally broke these tasks up by priority and complexity and I scheduled them into my calendar when I got home!

This is truly a first.

I came home, motivated and yet tired, and said to my husband, “Michael, next weekend, I would like to schedule a time to sit down to go over my business plan with you.”

And then, I let everything else “to-do” settle in my calendar and in my brain.

I let the excitement reside in my body as joy.

And then, I played the piano that magically found its way into our house this afternoon.

Thank you so much, Michael. Thank you!

Young Philosopher’s Thoughts on Fun and Work

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This morning over breakfast, my oldest son shared some words of wisdom with me.

“You know, Mom, when we get old… like you are… we don’t have to stop having fun.”

I sat there thinking, Old? I’m not old!

“But I know one thing for sure that keeps old people from having fun.”

“What is that?” I fearfully asked.

Straight and forward, he declares, “Having a job.”

I’ve spent much of my time pondering the value of my skills, the marketability of my strengths, the need to align myself with projects that energize me, and the need to increase my profitability as an entrepreneur.

The great wisdom of a six-year-old says, “The only jobs worth doing are the ones that would be fun. Like testing race cars! So you can have fun and make money.”

I won’t be testing race cars, but we did go on to discuss the kinds of work that lend to an ability to have fun.

In the end, he declared that I write too many emails.

He stated, “It’s like a problem you have, Mom. Writing emails. It’s not fun, and it keeps you from doing fun stuff with us.”

Interesting points, my young philosopher. Interesting points.1069984_10200712373306539_90200659_n