Friday, July 26, 2013

aha moments.

wingman bought one of those old yellow sony walkmans on e-bay. you know the ones for playing  cassette tapes during some kind of activity. he's been waiting for days and this morning it came. he bought it because he has a box of old tapes. mostly mine. mostly mix tapes made for me.

"this is so much cooler than i expected, " he said.

i am drinking coffee. just drinking coffee and thinking about time.

"ooh, a box!" he just said. and put the box it came in on his head.

life takes a long time to live. and moment by moment it's the most fascinating. mainly because those moments get strung all together and lose their individuality in favor of the whole. and in the passing of time.

and then you look up. and in that moment it seems so all of a sudden that you have a 12 year old. and he's listening to your old a-ha tape on a sony walkman. with a box on his head.

and you're 42 years old.

and you remember getting that tape when you were 14.

but all those moments in between?

if only.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013


i am in a heap at the base of a redwood, next to a pool, and i am weeping. i am as small a ball as i can gather myself into, either from trying to escape the moving, slanting, baking sun or to go so far in i can't possibly be found. mostly both. i am trying not to cry loudly. i am breathing through my sobs. my limbs are all stacked and tangled. and that's when i notice, idly and with some surprise, how brown my skin has become in this sun. i haven't been this dark since i was girl.

and i am a girl again. my skin, my weeping. i am the saddest girl in the world.

we are here in the sun and the redwoods for some escape and relaxation. i am by the pool, and it is ringed with redwoods. i am swimming, i am happy, until i'm not.

there's a family gathering here. multi-generations. eating. drinking. swimming. being together. and that's when i go from a slightly damp 41 year old woman in a modestly cut bathing suit, sucking in my stomach with every walk to the pool, to the gasping for breath weepy little girl beneath the redwood tree.

grief just comes. one minute it's WHATEVER it is, and the next WITHOUT WARNING you get the sharp, involuntarily sucked in breath, followed by the sob-tinged shudder out. sometimes you go right to weeping, sometimes it's just tearing up and covering the sobs that don't come.

today, the sobs come.

i go to my three Fs. my father, my family, my farm. my father and my farm gone and not coming back. my family, so far away and i miss them. i miss them for me and for my kids.

some days you can rely on the grace gained through loss to keep yourself up. some days you've got to take the long way around.

it doesn't help that i'm sick. i woke up with a searing throat and a full throbbing head. i cobbled together a witches brew from what i brought and what i could find here and hoped for the best. it's easy to treat the symptoms, but when you're sick it's so hard to keep all things in check. you just have to let it work itself out.

and i'm crying not because i don't intellectually 'get' that what's gone is gone. changed. that that's the way the world works. that there is a blessing in this, here and there, and that moving forward brings its own rewards. i've lived with this long enough now that it's not about any of that anymore.

i'm crying because i just miss them so much. i miss my father. and i miss my house and my land and the ability to gather and celebrate the ones that i love the best. or even just like. i miss my family, closer, but still not within dinner at my house distance. my heart feels at once heavy with loss and too light with the time and distance of it all.

the sun has shifted and i'm in all shade now.  i sit up. i look across the pool. i don't want to resent the family gathered there. i really don't want to be that person. but right now, i am the one they made that broke the mold of that very.fucking.person.

i sit in resentment and memory and tears. i don't want to be sick. i don't want to be here. i mean i want to be *here* with the redwoods and the pool and the sun. i don't want to be here in this place. the place where grief will bring you. and like illness you just have to let it work itself out. it's mind boggling how much a heart can handle, and how patient a heart can become.

i dry my eyes and blow my nose. the boys are off getting food to bring back. they'll be here soon. i drink some water and put my sunglasses on. i try not to look like i've been crying. not because i don't want to show them my grief, they've seen it. they know it exists. they grieve, too. in their own ways. we have made room for grief (and celebrating the goods that came before. we can do that now.) it's not that, it's that i don't want to share my grief. not right now.

sometimes when you're feeling a loss, again, out of the blue, for the the millionth time, sometimes it's nice to just hold it to yourself. lest you share it and lose more. i know this makes no sense, but sometimes it's comforting to be in that room with the single chair. to hold on to that little bit for yourself, even though it's sad, just because you can. i blow my nose again and if they ask i plan to tell them it's the book i'm reading, that the chlorine is bothering my eyes and my nose. that my voice is thick with the illness i'm now suffering.

as it turns out my husband returns to the pool, the boys off to the cool of the room. and he has brought me soup. somehow, in this tiny river town on a day that's nearing 100 degrees this man has managed to find the one thing i want the most right now. in the immediate. my little wrung out heart starts to swell with love and gratitude. it's miso soup. and it's good. i take a few more sips and then i lean back in the lounge chair.

and because i'm "lucky" to be so far out from total fresh loss my grief can be nudged gently aside by the magic that is something warm and good from a bowl, placed in your hands by someone you love.

i keep sipping and i can feel the light peeking through the dark. the shift that comes, luckier still when you can feel it. i feel it. i look across the pool, at the family. i think about how nice it must be for them. "not" snarkily. this time. but how truly nice it must be. they seem to be enjoying themselves. there's a young and obviously adored granddaughter. lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. some recently graduated high schoolers. their excitement and optimism infuses the gathering. there's an air of celebration and cohesiveness. they are happy here. together.

i smile. and i think how fun it would be if my own extended family were gathered here. or a place like this. low key, relaxing. how maybe we could do something like this. sometime soon. i think about how fun it would have been to have had a pool at the farm. and i think about how much my father loved the redwoods. and this little neck of the world. how pleased he would be that i bring my own kids here.

and it's not the musings of what-ifs from a sad passing and passed past. just the maybes of a life lived, and one to be lived. the maybes of a (sometimes teary) eye towards the future.

and that's life, and grief, turning on a dime. again. so it goes.

i sink down gratefully into the lounge chair and stretch out my legs. i sip my soup and close my eyes.

wondering wondering wondering.


Thursday, March 07, 2013

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama: PASTA!

THIS is no ordinary pasta. it's technically called Strangozzi con Salsa di Mandorle e Bietole but *i* like to call it 'how to get your family to eat TWO POUNDS OF GREENS WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT.' now, i'm not one to *sneak* things into food and trick people into eating them, but when starting to cook with more greens some years ago i had to find clever ways to serve those greens. and by clever i mean in a way THEY WOULD ACTUALLY GET EATEN.

this recipe does just that. this is a wonderful platter of pasta. i make it a LOT. it is so delicious and healthy and completely restaurant worthy. even my most dedicated NON lover of greens will eat it up. it makes quite a bit (the beauty of pasta, no?) looks great on the table and tastes just as good the next day. so it's great for family and leftovers or company with candles and wine. though who says you have to wait for company to enjoy candles and wine?

i will say that the dish takes some time and a few steps. it's not a difficult recipe, but you don't just whip it up. but keep reading and check it out before you click away. you WILL NOT be disappointed. i promise.

this recipe comes directly (with a few adaptions for clarity from me) from the book Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bastianich. this is a GREAT cookbook. i've always enjoyed watching her somewhat homespun and down to earth cooking show (PBS), but i was initially put off by her books because she uses SO MANY ingredients and the recipes seemed so fussy. after i really started reading the recipes i began to appreciate the style in which they were written. she really wants you to be familiar and choosy with your ingredients. appreciate them. she doesn't want you to grab two cloves of garlic, she wants you to grab two cloves of PLUMP garlic. she wants you to mentally picture and place those ingredients in your brain and feel them in your hand and really know what you're going for when you put them in your dish. now i love reading her recipes because it feels familiar, like a beloved auntie or grandma leaning over your shoulder, their voice in your ear talking you through. teaching you the secret of the recipe. those special touches we may forget to think are important. 'The garlic must be plump, the mint leaves fresh.'

and i promise, once you get used to her style, assemble your ingredients, and take the time to follow the steps it's not that daunting AND they are such flavorful and fresh recipes it's well worth it! i've seen all her books available at the library. if you're interested in healthy and flavorful and authentic italian food you should definitely check them out!

Strangozzi with Chard & Almond Sauce
Strangozzi con Salsa di Mandorle e Bietole

serves 6

This is a fresh and extremely flavorful preparation for strangozzi. The dressing has two components, tender cooked Swiss chard and an uncooked pesto of fresh basil and mint leaves and toasted almonds. (Other leafy greens, such as spinach, chicory, and arugula, could be used, and walnuts could replace the almonds, but the recipe here is true to the Umbrian region.) It is best to prepare the greens and pesto shortly before you cook and serve the pasta, but if you follow the recipe steps, the dish is actually quite quick-cooking and simple. It is only the multitude of tastes and textures that are complex and tantalizing!

For the chard and pesto
2 pounds Swiss chard
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
4 plump garlic cloves- 2 crushed and peeled, and 2 peeled and thinly sliced
10 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
½ tsp. peperoncino flakes, or to taste *(HA! these are just red pepper flakes. ask me sometime about the odyssey of figuring that out)

For Cooking and Finishing the Pasta
12 ounces to 1 pound Strangozzi (or any other wide pasta, fettuccine, etc.)
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing
Extra-virgin olive oil, best-quality for finishing

For the chard and pesto: Bring a large pot of well-salted water (at least 6 quarts with 1 TBS salt) to the boil. As it heats, rinse and drain the chard leaves, and cut off the stems; if the central rib of the leaf is thick and tough, cut it out. (Save the trimmings for stock.) Pile up the leaves, and slice them crosswise into strips about 1 inch wide.

When the water's boiling, heap all the chard into the pot and stir, submerging the strips. Return the water to the boil, and cook the chard until tender to the bite, about 10 minutes. With a spider or other strainer, lift out the chard strips, and drop them into a colander. Turn off the heat, but SAVE the potful of hot water for cooking the strangozzi/pasta.

When the chard has drained and cooled a bit, squeeze the strips by handfuls, pressing out the liquid. Loosen the clumps, and pile the strips in the colander.

To make the herb-and- almond pesto: Put into the food-processor bowl the basil and mint leaves, the CRUSHED garlic cloves, 3 TBS of the olive oil, and 1 tsp. salt. Process to a chunky paste, about 10 seconds, then drop in the toasted almonds and process again for 10 seconds, or until you have a smooth bright-green paste.

Pour the remaining 7 TBS of olive oil into the big skillet, and set it over medium-high heat. Scatter in the SLICED garlic, and cook for a minute or so, until it's sizzling. Drop in the chard strips, season with peperoncino and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, and stir the chard around the pan. Ladle in 1/2 cup of hot water from the pot where the chard was blanched, add to the chard, and bring it to a boil. Cook rapidly for a couple of minutes, until the water has reduced by half, then lower the heat so the greens are barely simmering.

For cooking and finishing the pasta: Meanwhile, bring the chard cooking water back to a rolling boil. Drop all the pasta into the pot, stirring and separating the strands. Cook the strangozzi/pasta to package specifications for al dente (but just barely), stirring occasionally.

With a spider and tongs, quickly lift out the strangozzi/pasta, drain for a moment, and drop them into the skillet with the simmering chard. Toss them together quickly, and spread all of the herb-almond pesto on top. Rinse out the food-processor bowl with 1/2 cup or so of hot water from the big pot, and pour that in with the pasta. LOWER THE HEAT, toss the pasta, the chard, and the pesto together for a minute or two, until the strangozzi/pasta is all coated with the dressing and perfectly al dente. If the dressing is soupy, reduce it quickly over high heat; if it's too dense, thin it with more pasta water.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle a cup or so of grated cheese over the strangozzi/pasta, and toss well. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.


 *she has a separate recipe for homemade strangozzi that she includes with this recipe. i'm not set up for fresh pasta making so i buy mine. if you are interested, check out her book.

*depending on the pasta i use it's between 12 and 16 ounces. both amounts work with the amount of sauce. i like fresh pasta for this recipe, but i have used dried in both regular or whole grain. i find it hard to find good whole grain pasta in a wider noodle (A MUST for even sauce distribution) so i often just use regular because there are many more size options. whatever you choose, just be sure to cook the pasta according to the package for al dente but JUST SHY OF THAT. after it boils the pasta will be tossed over heat and will continue to cook so you don't want it too done before that.

*along those lines, don't overcook your chard. really the 10 minutes is a guideline. 'tender to the bite' means it needs to retain its integrity a bit. don't cook it until it's all mushy. if you're at all worried, taking it off heat and out of the pot TOO EARLY is better than too late.

*DO NOT FORGET to NOT pour out the cooking water for the chard. like don't just drain the chard into a colander and the cooking water into the sink. the cooking water is an important part of the continued recipe and becomes a flavor component to the dish.

*if you think you are tossing a lot to get the sauce all distributed you ARE. but don't worry, just keep tossing. you'll get there. i do a 'toss and spread, toss and spread' kinda groove and it seems to work. and this is where NOT overcooking your greens earlier comes in handy. overcooking you make them clumpy and mushy and hard to toss and distribute.

*i know this seems like a LOT but it really isn't. and is worth it. i promise.



Wednesday, March 06, 2013

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama: PAD THAI SALAD!

this is so good and so healthy PLUS it's got ALL the flavors of pad thai so you can totally indulge! this is one of the duke's (not a vegan by the way) favorite dishes and i make it A LOT. always good. never fails.

i generally make this as a complete meal (there's a lot on the plate) when everyone's in the mood for a lighter, healthier dinner (@280 calories and 13 grams protein per serving). but i've also been known to throw oven roasted shrimp or tofu on top if we need/want something more substantial. the book has a few tofu recipes that are DELICIOUS and would accompany this dish quite nicely. if you are at all interested in interesting vegan recipes you should check it out.

the book in question is a great vegan cookbook called Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. some of you may know her from The Post Punk Kitchen online, or the books Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar, and Veganomicon. coming or going she has your vegan needs COVERED.

before we start i want to say that the dressing is THIN (she mentions it in the recipe but it bears repeating). like you're making it and thinking damn! this dressing is *thin.* shh shhh just go with it. it does seems too thin but it's not. trust me. it's like that for the tossing and the overall lightness of the dish. so while it SEEMS LIKE IT WILL NEVER WORK OH MY GOD TURN BACK! TURN BACK! it will. work. trust. me.

Pad Thai Salad
from Appetite for Reduction
serves 4

8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
4 cups bean sprouts
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 medium-size carrot, peeled and grated
1 recipe Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing (recipe follows)
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro (stem and leaves)
lime wedges for serving
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the lettuce, sprouts, red onion, and carrot.  Add the dressing and toss to coat.  Distribute the salad among four bowls.  There will be dressing left over because it is fairly thin; distribute the dressing among the bowls.  Garnish with roasted peanuts and cilantro, and serve with the lime wedges.

Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing

1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 TBS chopped shallot
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup water
2 TBS agave nectar
2 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha, or more if you like it hot

Pulse 2 tablespoons of the peanuts and all of the shallot in the food processor, just to chop everything up.  Add the lime juice, water, agave, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and blend until very smooth.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides a few times.  Now add the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanuts and pulse for a bit.  These shouldn’t be blended smooth, just chopped up small.  The dressing will be fairly thin.  Adjust the seasonings to your liking.  Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container until ready to use, up to 5 days.


*you don't need a food processor for the dressing, i use the blender and it works just fine. just scrape the sides and stir up the bottom to make sure everything gets blended well.

*you can use salted, low salt, no salt, dry roasted, raw WHATEVER peanuts you want, but they have to be roasted. either by the roasting fairies before you get them or by you. someone has to roast the doggone peanuts or they just don't blend or taste the same.

*this can make more than 4 servings if it's more of a side dish. (if you're using all the salad USE ALL THE CILANTRO AND PEANUTS TOO). you can also store leftovers (if you have them) if you don't dress ALL the salad at once. dress and toss each serving individually so if there are leftovers you can store them separately and make a fresh, non-soggy salad the next time. whether or not i know i'll have leftovers i dress and toss each salad individually anyway as it helps distribute the dressing more evenly.

*do not chop the cilantro!!! use it whole to add on top. and i know she uses the word garnish, but it is NOT a garnish in the it's just there to look pretty kinda way. it is very integral to the overall flavor of the salad so don't be shy! and don't forget the lime wedges. do not. really.



Tuesday, March 05, 2013

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama: TOFU & PEPPERS!

okay i LOVE this dish. my family LOVES it. anyone who has ever had it LOVES IT. even people who do not love tofu LOVE it.

i know what you're thinking: tofu. hooray. well knock that off and prepare to be DELIGHTED. because in just a minute i will tell you HOW to do that tofu so it's not so 'tofu-y.'  this is a great dish for a regular weekday dinner or entertaining. you can serve it as is or over rice or soba noodles or whatever you prefer. it tastes great the next day (though there are rarely leftovers) and can be cut in half or doubled or...

and when you see all the jalapenos DO NOT FEAR. not all jalapenos are spicy. or hot. i swear. some jalapenos have about as much spice as a post surgery liquid diet. regarless of heat they still have flavor, though. what you need to do is get a mess of jalapenos for the recipe and taste them. are they too spicy for you? then dial back and sub in some poblano/pasilla peppers (sub in half as many though as they are bigger than jalapenos). or use less of the jalapenos and more of the red bell pepper. or, are your peppers not spicy enough? then do the full order of jalapenos and add in a serrano.

regardless of heat i generally sub in some poblanos/pasillas because i like the two different shades of green in the dish AND i like the differing pepper flavors. just do a little pepper recon before and you'll be fine. trust me.

whatever you do PLEASE use at least SOME jalapenos. they really are terrific and make the dish.

okay. the tofu. after you cut your tofu put it in a bowl. pour boiling salted water over it and let sit 15 minutes. drain and pat dry. proceed with recipe. TRUST ME. this will render you tofu that is ready to be devoured. 

whatever you do PLEASE use extra-firm tofu. if you do not have extra-firm tofu GET SOME. if you think to yourself, ah well it's all the same and try some other kind of tofu THEN DO ME A FAVOR AND DON'T TELL ANYONE YOU GOT THE RECIPE FROM ME.

this recipe comes from the website herbivoracious and the book of the same name by Michael Natkin. i've adapted it here. adjust to your own servings and tastes accordingly.

Tofu and Peppers
by Michael Natkin (adapted by x.)
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
Serves 4
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup tamari (gluten-free if needed) or other soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 8 jalapeno peppers (or 4 jalapenos and 2 poblanos/pasillas or 2 and 4 or...)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 8 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1″ lengths
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

*Cut the tofu and put it into a heat proof bowl. Pour boiling salted water over to cover and let soak for 15 minutes.

*Put the cornstarch in a small bowl.  Drizzle in the tamari (I use soy sauce) while whisking until all lumps are gone. Whisk in the sugar, garlic and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the sauce.

*Lay the tofu out in a single layer on a clean, absorbent towel and pat dry. 

*Preferably wearing disposable gloves, cut the top off of each jalapeno pepper and cut in half lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and ribs. Cut each half pepper crosswise. (If using other peppers cut into the same size as the jalapenos.) Remove the stem, seeds and rib from the bell pepper and cut into pieces about the same size as the quartered jalapeno.

*Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or wok over high heat. Pat the tofu dry one more time and fry in a single layer, tossing occasionally until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the tofu to a plate and leave the skillet on. (I usually need to do the tofu in batches so I don't crowd the pan and the sides cook evenly.)

*Add the jalapeno/peppers, bell pepper and scallion and stir fry over high heat until the colors brighten, about 1 minute. Add the tofu back in, then add the sauce. Quickly stir and fry just long enough to reheat the tofu and cook the cornstarch sauce, about 30 seconds. 

*Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and serve immediately.

Serve with rice or soba noodles or as is.



Monday, March 04, 2013

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama: CHILI!

okay, so i'm starting off this week of plant based cooking and recipes SUPER DUPER easy. i know i know you're all like CHILI? snooze. i will admit it seems like kind of a 'cheat' to me to include it, but this is a wonderfully delicious and hearty vegan chili and you should have it in your arsenal of recipes! if you're a meat eater don't start rolling your eyes and clicking away!!! i promise you the finished dish belies the simplicity of the recipe. and it is so good with more complex layers of flavor than you might be used to with *just* a bean chili that it will have ALL the eaters you know asking for seconds. it's easy enough for younger and new cooks, plus it tastes even better the next day and it makes a TON. so that means it's good for a crowd, pre-cooking for a party, for the week, leftovers for another recipe (tacos, enchiladas, topped with a fried egg for breakfast), or for freezing.

i do need to mention that it can be a *bit* spicy depending on the intensity of your chili powder, how much cayenne you're used to using, and the size of your jalapeno (that's what she said.). i will say that the spice is a key component of the finished dish, especially as the flavors meld over a day or so. we do full spice, but feel free to adjust accordingly. you're not going to ruin it by going less spicy.

also, this recipe uses TVP which is textured vegetable protein. it's totally old school that way and i'm not, as a rule, a fan of analog meats. BUT it really works in this recipe and can be the tie that binds your reluctant meat eaters to it! i've never eliminated it but if you want to eliminate it go ahead. just skip the TVP and water step and move forward. though i will say you might want to dial back the spices a bit for the substitution. the TVP adds volume to the dish and eliminating it means you'll be tweaking the amount of spices to compensate for the loss of volume.

this recipe comes from 150 Vegan Favorites by Jay Solomon and we have been making it for well over a decade. my mother in law has the book and i copied the recipe from her after she made it for us. so FYI this is a typed out copy of a handwritten copy of the original. and, it's the only dish in the book i've made so i can't vouch for any of the rest of the recipes he has.

Vegan Chili

1 TBS canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded & minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded & minced
1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 cup water
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 TBS chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat the oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and the jalapeno/serrano, cooking and stirring about 5 minutes.

Add the TVP and water, turn heat to medium-low, and cook 5 minutes more stirring occasionally.

Add in both cans of tomatoes, the beans, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat back to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with tortillas or cornbread and top with (though it's delicious enough without); chopped onions, grated cheese, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, etc.

Cook's notes:

*canned beans and tomatoes make this a super easy and convenient recipe to make and taste delicious! i do want to note that in the interest of overall sodium intake and the worry of the safety of canned tomatoes (google it) i will say we use beans cooked from dried when we have them left over and tomatoes packaged in glass jars or a tetra pak box. they work just as well and i just adjust for the stewed tomatoes (not easy to find unless canned) by adding in a pinch of sugar. the salt in the recipe factors in the sodium content of the canned products so if you use fresh cooked beans and don't add the can of stewed tomatoes you might want to add in just a bit more salt at the end of cooking to adjust for the substitutions. taste and see.

*i'm finding it harder to find TVP much any more. when we can't find it we buy a bag of frozen 'ground' Quorn at whole foods. just add it in frozen when you're supposed to add in the TVP and ELIMINATE THE CUP OF WATER then continue the recipe as written.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

teach your children well and let the rest go.

recently wingman made a decision that disappointed the husband and me. mainly because it was our own goals and ideas for him that seemed to be tossed aside. he was fine and more than happy with his decision, relieved. we were not. so much.

the thing is, wingman is naturally good at a LOT of things. way more than me, way more than anyone in this house. he has a beautiful singing voice, he's a talented artist, he's got a gift for the piano, he's a really good baseball player. he is smart. i mean, i'm not even bragging. oh he's not a prodigy or some kind of artistic genius, he's just good at a lot. and yet, well...he doesn't want to pursue *any* of it. not with classes or lessons or teams.

and frankly, at 12, he's past the age where i can *make* him. not that i forced him before, but there was a natural progression of music lessons and art lessons and baseball as part of home school curriculum and just participating in something outside of the house.

the reason why i was disappointed really boiled down to convenience. this is something he just always did. was good at. was a natural built in out of the house experience. a chance to mix with peers. etc. etc. etc. and having moved to a new place where there isn't a lot going on for home schooled kids his age (we should have moved to where the 'real' hippies live. wealthy 'hippies' don't home school.) this was going to be a no brainer for me. his mama. looking for anything to supplement our home schooling and glad for this.

only, wingman doesn't want to do it. he's over it. he's done.

and much to my chagrin, i had to accept that.

i spent two days being very disappointed even as he was smiling and relieved.

and besides the built in convenience of this out of the house activity DASHED, i couldn't quite figure out why it peeved me so much. this decision of his.

and then i figured it out.


i had this real fear that my sweet talented intelligent boy wasn't going to do...anything. with his life. that he lacked the motivation to pursue his interests and talents. that he lacked drive. ambition. and let's face it, that he would end up living in someones basement (probably ours) with marginal employment and not enough sun. and be perfectly happy doing so.


mine. because he's home schooled i have no one to blame these things on as they get older. i mean i don't generally look at things to place fault, but let's face it...if my home schooled kid ends up living in a basement with not enough sun and hobbies that involve only the computer then i'm screwed in the reputation department. (wouldn't be the first time. but still.)

i fretted and worried. every walk i took with the husband was a verbal tirade of how i must have failed him! why doesn't he want to do *anything*? he's so talented, the little snot! blah blah blah.

we were walking home from the library and i turned to the husband and screeched

"what if he ends up like one of those guys! you know the type. they live in a basement. they barely have a job. they come to family gatherings, hang out awhile, and that's like their ONLY source of social interaction. i just know he'll live in that basement with a bunch of dogs and his video games and BE COMPLETELY HAPPY! WHAT IF THAT HAPPENS!?!"

and then i heard a little voice.

'what. if.'

i didn't hear it on that walk or even that day. i heard it later. just...'what if.'

i have always said the only thing i truly want for my children is that they be happy. i don't mean 'happy' like OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT RAINBOW I'M SO HAPPY! because i get that that can be it's own 'thing.' unattainable to some. unreliable. i myself cannot claim the title of happy. what a loaded word. i am content, though. i love my life. so i guess i just mean happy as in content. pleased. living a life that gives them peace and joy. a life they like. all those things that blend to make up this word 'happy'. even though there's got to be a better less loaded word for that feeling.

that's all i've wanted for them. so...what if. what if wingman doesn't do a thing with all that he is gifted with. what if he doesn't want to pursue higher education or higher study (which really is an option in this house, but an option the boys know is a good one for their future.) what if he's content to work a job and just be in the world. come to family gatherings and just be. what if he isn't the kid with the long list of accomplishments i can pull out and pass around when i'm feeling vulnerable in a social situation.

what if he goes on to have a life that DOES NOT cause people to say 'you must be so proud' and mistakenly credit me with all that he's become. because he's my son. because i home schooled him.

not that i'm that mama, but we all have that deep inside. that thing about our kids. 

what if.

what if he's just wingman.

and i realized oh my god. of course. of course this would be okay. because wingman is sweet and funny and charming and snarky. he's a joy to be around and likes to cook. he's compassionate and kind to animals. he feels the injustice of the world on such a personal level. and he is incorruptible. UN-bribable (i know. i've tried.) he's truly his own person on such a level that i don't comprehend it.

so he's living in a basement with a bunch of dogs. and completely happy doing so. my point, exactly? i'm worried about...what, exactly?


plus. he's 12. he's not done. what he is today, eschewing all that is possible for him in pursuing his gifts and talents in favor of just kicking about, is what he is today. it's not what he will always be. it's easy to look at our kids and see their whole entire lives. OH MY GOD i can see the basement! i can smell the dogs! when really it's just one day...a week...a's just a bit of time. this time. right now.

i would do well to remember all of this. that i have been and am teaching him well. that has to count for something. and that my idea or his father's idea or the world's idea of 'success' is ridiculous when applied to an individual person.

it's so easy to tell our growing children what they should do. and how what they are choosing not to do will negatively impact them. to give them all the WHYS without exploring all of the what ifs.

when wingman got to make that decision, all on his own, he knew it was a disappointment. he knew we wanted him to do it. he knew we left it up to him. and he made the decision. and was finally relieved for the first time in days.

as parents our job eventually becomes that of supporter rather than scheduler and herder. our job that was so hands on before requires now more than a bit of sitting on those same hands. our job of verbalizing the musts and redirecting the 'bad' decisions gives way to learning how to slowly close the mouth when it flies open, and instead quickly open the ears. and the heart. and THE FAITH. the skills we had for babies and toddlers and kids are different than those we must hone as parents of adolescents and teenagers and young adults.

do i like this? no. will i do it? yes. will wingman end up in that basement? maybe. will that be okay?


will i still worry? OH HELL YEAH.  i will worry about him for all my life. because he's my baby. and that's okay. but i'm going to worry with faith. and the knowledge that he got a great start and will be able to figure the rest out as he goes. and that eventually, one day, wither he goeth, i will not go.

and that's the hardest part. and the most necessary.