RSS Feed

Tag Archives: family

The Heartache that Doesn’t Fade

Posted on

Heartache doesn’t soften over time.

The pain grows roots.

It takes residence in the soul.

We journey forward, learning as we go.

The heartache gives us perspective and deeper understanding.

It becomes part of who we are.

In that open, vulnerable space is where our love resides.

Love never fully understood in a space that will never fade. Dogwood Blossoms

Advertisements

How Eating Local Changed Thanksgiving

Posted on
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.

Zucchini: In Abundance and Scarcity

Posted on
Zucchini: In Abundance and Scarcity

If Mother Nature has taught me anything, it is that success cannot be rushed.

Life happens at its own pace. It is up to us to try not to force it through commitments, deadlines, and expectations. Sometimes all we can do is our best, with what we have to work with.

Such as I am at this moment. I find myself riding in the back of the vehicle with two kids, who are happily enjoying their snacks. My husband is giving his mother the grand tour of small town North Dakota.

For the moment we are in Harvey. I admire the gardens that we pass by- gauging the height of the corn, the weight of the peppers on the plant, and color and ripeness of tomatoes. I am reminded of a request by the new local foods marketing specialist at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to participate in the Specialty Crop Blog Challenge.

SpecialityCropChallengeLogo

I am a bit delayed, just as so many things have been this growing season. July’s challenge topic was Zucchini, perhaps one the most prolific specialty crops. In fact, if I ever met any one who made a career of growing this green summer squash, I might question their sanity. But then again here I am, tucked in the backseat, writing my July assignment in August on my iPhone… so feel free to question my sanity as well.

But for the common vegetable grower zucchini is like a promise, never to be broken. There will be an abundance.

At this time of year, abundance can come in the form of boxes of bounty, jars of pickles, and loaves of bread. It is a time of year that takes me back to my childhood– back to my grandparents’ garden.  Their garden was one of my happy places as a child. I was always at peace there, comfortable in the scent of dill and tomato plants. Delighted by the textures of concord grapes, the sounds of the birds, the abundance all around.  My grandparents never let me leave their home without a box of tomatoes, and cucumbers, and of course, zucchini.

When I have the opportunity to visit now, I still seek out the garden, even though Grandpa isn’t there to make sure I notice the radishes and keep me from stepping on the beans. Also, I seek out the stories. My grandmother is a wonderful storyteller, even though she sometimes gets a little distracted.

Seeing as I live more than 1000 miles away, I more often opt to hear her stories over the telephone. Our conversations are sometimes scattered, working in bits about children, chickens, and gardens in such away that I can’t help but smile.

We discuss the garlic and the chard. I tell her about the rhubarb festival we went to. DSCN9151She is so surprised that my youngest loved the rhubarb. And she tells stories about how when she and grandpa were poor and living in Montana, that they would always be on the look out for rhubarb along the roadside that they could harvest.

1005952_387305188041976_1278609936_n

It is hard to believe they once lived in a time when food was scarce. As they started to build their home and raise their family, having a garden meant something entirely different than it does to me now.

I have a garden by choice. Because it keeps me grounded.

Because I like growing my own food.

My grandparents grew a garden so they could eat.

But even with scarcity, they never ceased to be generous.

Three years ago when I began growing my garden, I had such a bounty of everything– corn, potatoes, eggplant, basil, tomatoes, and squash. I wanted to waste nothing, but was up to my ears in everything.
photo

I began to take a preventive approach, especially with the zucchini. The tricky thing about this squash is the more you pick it, the more it produces. It is all too easy to bite off more than one can chew. But rather than let the fruits grow to monstrous sizes, I began harvesting the blossoms.

I had read about fried zucchini blossoms in many cookbooks and often thought them to be a fine culinary pursuit. Zuchinni BlossomsI selected both male (above) and female (below) because at this point, I wanted to prevent more zucchini from coming on.

Female blossoms (not the minature fruit at the base)

Female blossoms (not the miniature fruit at the base)

We stuffed the blossoms with mozzarella cheese and basil. Then dipped them in a batter and fried them. The result was amazing!

As I told my grandmother about the culinary adventure and the crop management techniques, I was surprised to hear her voice calling up memories of a time when she had enjoyed zucchini blossoms,

Now long ago, before your daddy was even born, I think, we had zucchini blossoms deep-fried. Your grandpa and I had been building the house. It was early in the summer and we had planted a small garden, but of course we didn’t have much time to tend to it. We wanted to get the house done before the winter. So we were busy and all. I think we had planted some zucchini and tomatoes, and maybe some potatoes. Things that wouldn’t need much attention.

Well one day we got notice that the new pastor for the church was coming into town. At that time, your grandpa had been delivering the sermons and doing much of the work. So the pastor was going to come visit us before he got settled in.

And remember, in those times we were poor, but it was early in the summer and we didn’t have much in the garden. And of course we had some of the staples in the pantry. So I hurried out to the garden to see what I could find. The zucchini were blooming, but the fruit had not yet set. So I harvested the blossoms and served this new pastor fried zucchini blossoms. 

He thought they were the most wonderful thing. He was from Chicago and hadn’t had anything like that before. Oh my, he loved them. And you know, years later when he moved on, when he delivered his final sermon, those zucchini blossoms were still on his mind. He thanked us for our hospitality and the wonderful meal.

I think of this story often and how much it reflects our perspective of abundance, and our ability to make the most out of what we have. Whether we have too much, or not enough– there is always something we can offer the world. Male Zucchini Blossom

Welcome, Acceptance

Posted on

DSCN9349

A menagerie is growing. It is peeping and squeaking and soon to be quacking.

DSCN9450

Seven little ducklings have taken up residence in our basement.

DSCF3061 And on occasion, the bathtub.

DSCF3068

Watching these creatures stirred something deep within myself.

Wonder,

excitement,

and a little giggle

of a five-year-old girl.

The same five year old girl that used to chase sparrows around the McDonald’s playground in hopes of catching one,

just to feel what feathers were like.

The same five year old girl that would take her grandpa’s hand and say, “Let’s go look at the garden!”

The same five year old girl that dug up the roots of an apple tree, certain that she had found a dinosaur bone.

That little girl, is me. She arrived yesterday.

A day after the ducklings.

DSCN9453

She wanted to call her daddy to tell him about the excitement of holding these little fluff-balls.

I had to be gentle with her, “Your daddy died last year, sweetheart.”

“Oh, that’s right. I’m sad about that…

But, we know what feathers feel like now, right?”

“Yes, we do. We get to hold birds everyday, if we want.”

DSCN7158

“And we have a garden now, right?”

“Yes, but it’s too cold to work in it. But someday soon the green onions and garlic will start sprouting.”

“And we have apple trees too, right?”

“Yes, we do. Dad helped the boys plant them two years ago.”

“Oh good. So we’re happy and life is good, right?”

“Yes, my girl. You are right. As difficult as things feel sometimes, we are happy. And life is good.”

DSCN9177

~

What an amazing sense of arrival, to know what is truly important to the core of my being.

And to know that through all the struggles,

through all the discontented and quieted bits of my inner self,

that the young child,

the one with the quietest voice,

is the most accepting,

the most appreciative,

and remains close to the ones gone from this world.

556168_10100281221611807_1040091928_n