Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nothing Short of a Miracle !

Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees daughter and her husband. For the past few weeks they have been going through the medical process called in-vitro fertilization aka IVF. Having never gone through this process, it has been a learning experience for all involved. We are now familiar with hormones and drugs we never knew existed and we have a better understanding of the sequence of events involved in this medical procedure . We have also learned to buckle our seat belts as we ride the emotional IVF roller coaster.

My daughter has been dealing with the issue of infertility openly and honestly. She talks about it and at her blog she writes about her feelings, and the process itself with humor and an openness which is refreshing. She has brought IVF out of the closet and in doing so I believe she has educated a few and gained the respect of many.

Over the years, on many occasions, I have been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve, of being too honest about how I feel. While I am learning to stop and think before I speak (or write) I am still very honest about my feelings and I wear my bright red heart on my sleeve with pride. It is who I am. And I am learning to like who I am. So it comes as no surprise to me that at least one of my four children would inherit this 'heart on the sleeve' gene. My IVF daughter inherited the gene and so she writes passionately, bluntly and openly about her IVF experience. Some people are uncomfortable with this open approach, but it is the approach that works for us. Many people feel we should proceed with caution and be mindful of what could go wrong. We have been told that maybe we shouldn't be so public. Are we aware of the pitfalls of IVF? We are well aware of what could go wrong BUT we are also well aware of what could go right. This past Wednesday two healthy beautiful embryos were placed in my daughter's uterus. She is now resting, hoping that they will nestle in and make themselves a home. This is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times for this couple but they are handling the situation with a positive, healthy attitude. At the end of nine months we could be singing lullabies and reading nursery rhymes. We are mindful of THIS moment and are celebrating these two little embryos. It is with incredible joy and pride that I share with you their picture. I do believe in miracles!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Shower of Love

My son proposed to his beautiful fiancee over a year ago and they have been preparing for their August wedding since then. Despite all of the preparations, their upcoming wedding didn't actually seem real to me until this past weekend when we had a shower for the bride-to-be. It was more than just a chance to try and surprise her and shower her with gifts. It was a chance for the two families to come together and share the excitement and mutual love we have for this young couple.

The bride-to-be's chair is decorated, the gifts are wrapped all we need is the guest of honor!

And here she is !

I was responsible for creating the favors. I used tissue paper and mod podge to decorate the pots and then planted herbs in each one. I was happy with the finished results and glad that I could be a part of the special day.

Here is the happy couple, holding their 'wedding' bears. The shower allowed us a chance to shower them both with love and well wishes. And now we are ready for the BIG day!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Man

The year was 1976. I had just finished my freshman year of college and I was home for the summer. I was working at a local nursing home as a dietary aide. I had had more than my share of negative experiences with the opposite sex during the past year so the nursing home job seemed like it might allow me a chance to relax and not worry about relationships.

I was rather surprised to find out that a number of young men worked at the nursing home, holding down a number of positions. There were the dishwashers, the security guards, painters and maintenance men. One maintenance man in particular caught my eye but I tried to focus on my job and not be distracted. But I checked him out whenever I thought he wasn't looking.

The summer progressed. I spent lots of time hanging out with my friends, going to the beach on days off and going out dancing at night. I became friendly with some of the nursing home staff and some harmless flirtation had begun between the maintenance man and myself. I was still determined to just have a fun summer - no strings attached.

A group of my girlfriends and I decided to take a mini-road trip down to the Cape to visit a friend. We piled into my Plymouth Fury III, turned up the radio, and headed down the highway. We spent the day laying on the beach, slathering on the baby oil, baking in the sun. Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer.

Later that evening we got all dolled up and headed for the local club for a night of dancing. We found a table, settled in and looked for potential dancing partners. At first glance it didn't look too promising. We were actually thinking of leaving when a new player entered the game. He entered the bar with confidence. He was the best looking male in the place and he knew it. Arrogance and cocky are qualities I despise and this guy's veins were overflowing with both. He strolled out onto the dance floor and pointed at our table. I elbowed my friend, Karen, and told her he wanted to dance with her. She was the cute, perky one in the group. She started to get up but he came over to the table and pointed at me. What the heck. My friends pushed me toward him. I must be honest and say that not only was I surprised but also somewhat pleased. This good looking , muscular hunk chose me over every other girl in the place. My confidence could use a little boost so I agreed to dance with him. And dance we did - all night long. After the last dance we exchanged phone numbers and I floated home. I was the envy of all of my friends - something I had never experienced before.

I returned home the next day. Imagine my surprise when I arrived home and my mom told me that the nursing home maintenance man had called. Hmm...interesting. Later that night my dancing partner called. My summer began to heat up.

Life at the nursing home was getting interesting. The maintenance man definitely had my attention. He was shy and a gentleman. He was tall and lanky, and I was very much attracted to him. I enjoyed watching him work.

My dancing partner continued to call. I will call him Alex because that's his name. He was extremely confident and bold. His phone conversations caused me to blush. I was curious as to why he was still calling me. I had never dealt with a guy like this before.

My family was leaving for a week's vacation to Maine. I was not looking forward to it since the cottage was located on a quiet, secluded beach with little for a 19 year old to do. Alex convinced me that he would brighten up my vacation so I should convince my parents to let me bring him along. My maintenance friend was working over forty hours a week since he had to pay rent to live in his dad's basement and pay his way through college. He didn't have time to take a vacation.

After much talking and arguing, mom and dad allowed Alex to come up for a couple of days. He convinced a friend to drive him to Maine. I remember being shy when I saw him -the first time since our night of dancing. Was this the same guy? I think the dim lights of the club had tricked me or maybe it was the Colt 45's I had been drinking. The minute he opened his mouth I knew it was the same guy. I wondered what my maintenance man was doing? As I drove Alex to our camp I learned that his favorite words were "I" and "me". My stomach started to churn.

I knew that my parent's first impressions of him were less than favorable when dad offered him a snack. Alex politely accepted. My mom quietly looked on as he nibbled the cracker. I held my breath as I watched him devour one of my dog's snacks. Yep. Mom and Dad had fed him a dog cracker. Guess I should have stopped him. My maintenance man would probably be taking his afternoon break right about now.

Alex and I headed to the movies. I paid for us to get in which was only fair since the women lib's movement was in full swing. No man had to pay my way. Alex then ordered a large popcorn and soda. I did the same and stood to the side while Alex went to pay. Why was he motioning for me to come over there? Alex had forgotten his wallet. Of course.

The little hairs on the back of my neck were standing up straight through the whole movie. Red flags were flying high. Listen to your gut.

I was quiet as we left the movie theater. Alex threw his arm around me and whispered sweet nothings in my ear. I decided to not pay attention to the little hairs, red flags or my gut. I looked into Alex's eyes and shook off the bad feelings which ran up and down my spine.

We drove to a secluded beach. Yes, I was naive. We started smooching and then things heated up. I pushed Alex away and asked him to stop. He ignored me. I think I heard him murmur "I" and "me". I shoved him away hard. I said 'NO' and I meant it. Did I mention that I do have a temper and I can be feisty. Alex sat up and screamed at me and thirty years later I remember his words. "What's your problem? Do you know how many women are dying to sleep with me?" I started laughing. It was at that point that Alex shoved me out of the car. My car! Yep, Alex shoved me out of my car, shut the door and drove away. I was left standing on the beach, alone but safer than I had been five minutes earlier. I started to walk, trying to comprehend what had just happened to me. I longed to see my maintenance man.

Alex came back after about fifteen minutes. He had calmed down. I told him to get out of my car. I got behind the steering wheel and tried to figure out what to do. Alex convinced me to give him a ride back to the camp. I agreed but I told him that he was to leave early the next morning. Looking back, I realize how foolish it was to have let him back into my car and I was very fortunate to have arrived back to our camp safely. Thank you to my guardian angel.

After a sleepless night I woke Alex early the next morning. I wanted him gone before my parents woke up. I couldn't hide the way I was feeling from my parents. I worked hard to hold back my tears. What if my maintenance man was tired of waiting for me? I knew there was a little twerp nurse's aide who also had her eyes on him. I felt nauseous.

We started down I95 in Maine. I drove about fifteen minutes and pulled over on the highway. "Why are you pulling over?" Alex asked.
"So you can get out," I replied calmly.
"Are you crazy? How do you think I am going to get back home to the Cape?"

I stared at him with a crazed look in my eyes. "Yeah, I am crazy. I was crazy to ever have danced with you. I was crazy to ever have talked with you. I was crazy to ever have had anything to do with you. And Alex, you shouldn't have any trouble getting a ride home. Do you know how many women are just dying to be with you, dying to give you a ride? Now get out of my car." And he did.

I then headed south on I95 as fast as I could to my maintenance man.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cooking with Sunshine

Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around food. My Grammie Neily made the best homemade donuts. I loved her baked beans and I am still trying to recreate her recipe. I loved any food that my Gram Smith cooked - home cooking served with love. Every year my dad labored long and hard in our veggie garden and I couldn't wait for the pea pods to get plump. Don't even bother cooking them - just eat them fresh off the vine. And then there were the cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes eaten fresh out of the garden taste just like sunshine. When I was about eight years old, I laid in the garden in between all of the tomato plants and just kept popping those cherry tomatoes into my mouth - oh, heaven. I couldn't stop. The hives I developed later that day were a small price to pay for having eaten my way through the tomato plants.
As an adult I have had veggie gardens here and there. I enjoy the process but the reality is that to create a successful garden it takes hard work and long hours - sometimes these are rare commodities in life. I always enjoyed gardening with my children, for many reasons. But they are all grown and out on their own so...if I have a garden it will be my responsibility. I made the decision to plant a garden so that I can once again taste the sunshine.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately about food. Specifically I have focused on the source of the food we consume. How far did that cuke have to travel? Should I be eating watermelon in January? There is so much information and a great deal to consider as I process all of this 'new' info. I am trying to make educated baby steps which will allow me to be successful. I planted the garden, joined a CSA, and... I decided to attempt the Eat Local Challenge which is officially called the 'One Local Summer'. This challenge asks participants to cook one meal a week which consists totally of local foods. Local is defined as within a 100 mile radius from one's home. How hard could that be?
Well, let's suffice it to say that at one point I was almost having an anxiety attack as I tried to figure out what type of meal I would prepare for my family. Could I serve them rhubarb soup or a salad of chard and sprouts? My garden is at the beginning stages and has nothing to offer yet. The CSA starts on June 14th so...what to do? I called my daughters who are better informed about the whole idea of eating local. I prayed that they would be able to direct me to some local food goods.
Sure enough, they led me to a local food Co-op only twenty miles away. I should be embarrassed to say that I usually have only shopped at the big grocery stores but I am not. It is what it is and I am now trying to eat healthier. And that's a good thing. I entered the Co-op with some trepidation. I find it intimidating to shop in a new store especially when I don't know what I am looking for - all I had written on my list was 'Local' - where to begin?
The first thing that I noticed when I entered the store were the smells. It was a mixture of lavendar and some unknown scent. Whatever it was I found it calming. My blood pressure started to drop as I searched for my local dinner. Everything looked organic BUT how would I idrentify it as local? My stomach churned.
And then...I happened to look up and I saw the chalkboard. The Co-op had a list written on a chalkboard of all the local produce! Sweet! Chard, spinach, bok brain began to create a recipe. I found local organic eggs, cheese from a nearby town - visions of a frittata danced around in my head. I also bought some turkey cutlets which were raised two towns away - just imagine!
So I purchased all of the necessary ingredients plus some organic bananas and some wicked huge chocolate chip cookies that were still warm from the oven. I don't know if they were local or organic but they were yummy!
Frittatas are easy to create and forgiving. You can be creative and serve a healthy meal in a relatively short amount of time. So...all of the anxiety was a waste of energy. I did it. I created a nutritious, tasty meal for my family using only local produce. The 'One Local Summer' challenge is turning out to be a true learning adventure for me. That's okay - bring it on. I encourage you to challenge yourself and try eating some homecooked meals full of sunshine this summer.
Below is the meal I served my family as part of the One Local Summer challenge. The ingredients were local organic eggs, spinach, chard, swiss cheese and organic milk. Turkey cutlets were broiled - and were plump and juicy. I served this meal with pride and felt healthier as we enjoyed each bite. Each week I am supposed to post about the local meal which I create. I can already feel the anxiety level dropping and my confidence rising as I plan my next local dining adventure! Creative cooking with a local flair!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I lost the spinach!

The gardening adventure began Mother's Day weekend when my oldest son tilled the garden for me. It was his gift to me. Of course, he used a rototiller to do the job and I am not sure why he was driving his dad's tractor around the backyard at a high rate of speed. Tilling is hard work and I do appreciate his gift!

Here is the garden plot, brown and barren, ready to be planted. This WILL be an adventure.

The first of many little plants waiting to be moved into the big garden.

Lilly, the watch dog, protecting my squash plants. This was taken three minutes before she rolled and then rolled some more through the row of tiny green onion plants. The scream that emitted from my body was similar to the one which came through my lips twenty years ago when I noticed my then four year old son standing out on our porch with his pants pulled down as he stood there peeing into the buckets of maple sap I had spent all day collecting. I can laugh about it now!

This little brown toad kept startling me. Great camouflage!

So...I worked hard all day long planting tomatoes ( Big Boys and Cherry), green onions, peppers -green, hot chili and sweet peppers, cilantro, broccoli, lettuce, cukes, squash -many varieties and then the spinach. I bought two seed packets of spinach - not because I LOVE spinach but because I must have spaced out when seed shopping. I only wanted one packet of spinach seeds but now that I had the two packets I might as well plant them all. So I carefully planted two long rows of spinach seeds and then continued to plant the other veggies. When I reached the end I slowly straightened out my spine and convinced my knees to support me. I attached the seed packets onto stakes at the end of each row. Hmm... odd. I had one empty packet of spinach seeds left after all the rows were marked. I KNOW I planted two rows of spinach but one appeared to have disappeared. I walked around my garden searching. Where could that row of spinach have gone? How does one lose something like this? Did I plant the cucumber hills over the row of spinach? Did aliens beam me up while I was planting and I lost track of time? Or did I get too caught up in my own thoughts? While gardening I had composed a letter in my head that I intend to write and send to my dad as a Father's Day gift. I reflected on my four children and where they are in life and how very proud I am of all of them as they face life and its challenges. I daydreamed about my wonderful husband and how we should celebrate our 30 years of marriage next month. I went through a mental checklist of all I need to get done in the upcoming days. So while I am slightly concerned that I misplaced that row of spinach, I know I had also been busy solving many issues during my garden therapy session - and I never have been good at multi tasking! Let's hope that one row of spinach is enough. I realize that my veggie garden is a bit brown right now so I leave you with a photo or two of my flower gardens which are thriving. The journey to become a master gardener continues.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Go Green !

It is a triple entendre morning for me and I have only been awake for thirty minutes! It is going to be a GREAT day! FYI ~ according to Wikipedia, triple entendres are a rare occurrence and here I sit ~ experiencing one as I drink my first cup of coffee. GO GREEN! A simple phrase, probably an overused phrase, but it is a VERY green day for me.

First, looking out my kitchen windows, enjoying my morning cup of coffee I can't begin to count all of the different shades of green that cover the landscape. Dark greens, light greens, bright greens, lime greens...the trees, the grass, the plants - all looking lush and alive. It's a great day. It's an extremely green day. To help you understand my excitement, I live in Northern New England and it has been a while since we've seen anything but shades of white and gray. GO GREEN!

Secondly, the Boston Celtics are going to the NBA Playoffs! The last time this occurred was 21 years ago when the Celtics lost the series to the LA Lakers. But now our time has come. We will once again play the LA Lakers but they have lost their 'Magic' so... GO GREEN !

And now, the third, and last play on relationship with our environment. I have always tried to be a good citizen, a thoughtful neighbor and a solid member of our community. We recycle paper, plastic and glass. We try to conserve our energy usage whenever possible. We try not to waste water. I no longer buy water in plastic bottles. I don't even know how I fell into the trap of buying a case of water each week. Our tap water is safe to drink and is very refreshing. But I feel that I am not doing enough and have been working to educate myself as to how I can live a greener life.

I probably would have continued down the path I was on if not for my eldest daughter. She recently started a 'green' blog - one which focuses on living a better, simpler, more frugal life. If you would also like to be inspired to lead a greener life just click here. I have found a multitude of 'green' blogs to support me as I work on lessening my carbon footprint. I am always searching for blogs which are educational and compassionate to those of us who are just beginning to educate themselves. I stay away from the severe, militant types. I don't even understand half of what they are writing about and they make me feel guilty - and I don't need to shoulder any more guilt! I have found a very supportive blog over here at Green Bean Dreams. She is hosting the current 'Green Bookworm Challenge' in which I am participating. I recently read 'Fast Food Nation', gagging all the way through as I read about the meat packing industry. I am now reading 'Animal, Vegetable, Mineral' by Barbara Kingsolver. I will be writing a book review at a later date but I would like to say that my brain is sparking new synapses as I begin to look at food and life differently. I have so much to learn as I GO GREEN.

I have so much more to say is a beautiful green day and I don't want to waste it by sitting here typing. I am going to go plant my veggie garden. Yep. I am working on developing a green thumb. It has been a long time since I had a veggie garden so this will be a learning adventure. I also joined a CSA in case the woodchucks eat my garden. I didn't even know what a CSA was until about six months ago and I am participating in the 'Eat Local Summer' Challenge - which starts today. I will be blogging more about CSA's, local eating and my adventures as a farmer. And I am working with some other community members to get the SwapShop at our town 'transfer' station reopened. GO GREEN!

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