Extending love

She was missing most her teeth or had stub-like partial teeth where her pearly whites had once been.  There was sadness in her eyes, her general self looking plum worn down.  She wore aqua blue stretched out sweat pants up over her round belly which instantly reminded me of my grandma who had done the same though her elastic waist pants had certainly been more fashionable….that’s if “elastic pants” and “fashionable” can be used in the same sentence.  She walked gingerly with a walker just like my grandma used to-before she came for the festive month of December precisely four years ago and had a massive stroke the day after Christmas.  Her ticket home to Virginia went unused when she headed to her forever home instead the day before the New Year.

I order my coffee and reach into the stroller to pick up the stirring little one.  As I lean over the unsnap Liberty’s buckle the woman turns around and sits down in her walker-turned-seat and extends her arms to me.  “Can I hold her while you take care of things?” she quietly asks.  I take a quick inventory of her faculties and make the best judgement call I can, she is sitting down and her eyes are clear as day despite her worn appearance.  “Of course you can, that would be wonderful” is my answer with a big smile.  I hand her my tiny babe and breathe out silent prayer and turn to pay for coffee and such.

The delight in her face makes my day.  Any reservation I’d had was gone.  She takes in every little detail of Liberty’s fingers and fuzzy head and bright eyes.  She holds her gently with both hands.  She remarks about her grand-kids and how its been a long time since she’s held one so small.  I smile and listen.  My older children watch and grin.  They are acutely aware how much this little gift, this sharing of our girl-gift for just a few minutes, is something special.  I don’t know how but I can see that they see.

We go sit down and I listen to her order.  Just a glass of water.  She says something about her teeth, how if she’d brushed them when she was young they probably wouldn’t have all fallen out, worn off.  My kids discover the game box at the coffee shop and pull out Candyland.  I listen as she tries to start a conversation with another young mom who is nearby.  It’s clear though that she’s got things to do and can’t chat.

As my kids play I have this gnawing sense that I should talk with her again.  I should invite her to sit with us or play Candyland.  I don’t know her story or how many people she gets to talk with in a day.  But maybe not enough?  I fight the self-conscious, self-doubting talk that I’ve conquered so much but not enough of.  After five minutes of my own mind games I get up and walk over to her chair-walker.  I invite her to play Candyland or come sit with me.  She says she’s not got too much time but thank you.

More time passes and she’s still there.  I bring Phineas nearby.  He’s holding marbles.  She asks him what color they are.  He’s two.  He doesn’t have all the colors down yet.  But I pick up the green one and ask him.  He says with a grin “that’s Jooooohn Deere green”.  She laughs with her hardly-any-teeth mouth.  And I think to myself how easy it really is to share the bounty of love that we live with every day.  It isn’t anything I need to over-analyze or calculate.  All I need to do is resolve that whoever crosses my path each day is someone I get to extend love to, be it for a minute or more.  Not only does this include the complete stranger but it also includes the children who share my last name.  Sounds so simple right?  But it’s honestly something I have to wake up every single day and CHOOSE to do!

Our first CSA year…review and reflection

Over the past few years we’ve done various things when it comes to produce and obtaining the loads of it we go through as a growing family.  We briefly did Full Circle, an organic home delivery service.  Convenient yes but SO expensive for what we got.  And it was not entirely local produce.  We also did for quite a while Bountiful Baskets, a much better value but had its own set of drawbacks.  The location near us went to an every other week schedule and it was hard to plan around.  The timing wasn’t always predictable, sometimes waiting an hour in line for our food in the rain.  It was nice though heading home with a huge load of food that often would be enough for our family for close to a week.

Then there was the amazing workshop on gardening that I went to with a friend that made me think about the garden and the way things grow and what a miraculous thing a tiny seed actually is.  And there were books.  Aren’t there always!?  It started with Square Foot Gardening, then it was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle what a captivating, inspiring, eye-opening book!  Simultaneously I was soaking up a couple of fiction books written by Willa Cather about pioneer life that left me feeling like I was born in the wrong era.

Last spring, knowing we were expecting a new baby right at the peak of harvest and garden bounty, my husband tempered my gardening gusto with his wisdom despite our new home and the ample gardening space.  He encouraged me to wait and see where the best place would be.  So in looking for some other option for local, fresh produce that would quench my desire to be more in sync with the rhythm of food, it seemed like buying a share of a genuine, true CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was the best option for the year. (Side note here: there are places that call themselves CSA’s but are more of a mulit-farm collective so its always good to ask lots of questions and make sure you know what you are getting and from where)

In April we paid a large chunk of money to a small farm in Snohomish, called Chinook Farms.  The costs, for seeds and starting up for the year, are most high initially so most CSA’s require payment of half or a significant portion early on not a pay-as-you-go sort of thing.  Our “buy in” would get us a weekly produce box from June to the first week of November.  It was called “family size”, our box, but for a family our size that prepares most of our own food at home, it was no where near the amount we needed for the week.

Despite the quickly evident need to supplement greatly (mainly because it was usually almost only vegetables and we go through close to two dozen pounds of fruit a week around here), the experience and the quality of the food we received was top notch.  There was something so earthy and simple about driving to the farm on Fridays to pick up our box full of who-knew-what.  Many times we received things we’d never had before and they sent me on a quick search for how to prepare it.  Our farmers are darling, they are a young, well educated married couple who had jobs in the corporate world in California but moved up here last year and jumped in to farm life with both feet.  Micha blogs about their new life here in Washington on the farm here.  They grew beautiful food for us and I think about 25 other members.  They were gracious and friendly and kind week after week to me and the kids.

What I think I love second most, only to having a physical, real connection to the place where our food came from, is that the box followed the growing season of the area where we live.  It is so vastly different from going to Costco and being able to find boxes or bags of almost any basic fruit or veggie.  When cucumbers abounded, we enjoyed lots of them.  We ate with the season, more than we ever have before, and that was really cool to me.  Just when you’ve had too much of something, a new garden treasure is ready.  And then at the very end when winter is creeping up and the days get dark too quickly, there are amazing root vegetables and squash that can store well for many weeks in these perfectly cold, dark days.  And the apples that are in season as the frosty mornings come on, they are sweet and crisp and the best ones for keeping months in a cold garage.  It’s almost like the order in which the food can grow best was created that way on purpose.  How did I never really notice that before?

While I still have very high hopes of an amazing garden next year – we might just do this again because it really was such a meaningful experience for me, for us!  And in parting, here is baby Liberty when she was ten days old in our produce box:

Liberty's first days 021
Liberty's first days 017

Looking back to summer

Yesterday it seemed like the sun might set at 3:30 in the afternoon, the sky was black and ominous and promised showers but it was bone dry outside.  I nuzzled a soft baby head and felt a pang of nostalgia wash over me.  It feels like summer just ended last week, then our daughter was born and here I am knee deep in dark, wet days.  Some quick math tell me Liberty is almost 10 weeks old so I must be off somewhere…oh how my mind wants to cheat and steal when it comes to time.

Just before the actual sunset, spectacular beams of light burst through the trees and lit up our patch of land.  The sky was still so dark.  But somehow light was finding its way through.  It was so dramatic and so stunning, I made the kids come outside and see it before the light disappeared.  Writing about it makes me think of sweet friends who we were privileged to share life with last year at church and in our home group.  They abruptly moved to Arizona in August in pursuit of treatments that might help Bryan’s aggressive melanoma.  The road they are walking, at just freshly past 30 years old and with two young kids, makes my face pale.  Talk about darkness in the light of day.  Talk about needing light to burst through and find its way.  Talk about wanting to steal time.  Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why things like that happen.  It is anything but fair.

My reaction to thinking about them yet again is twofold…first prayers for the miracles they need.  And second is calculating all that lies around me – a sacred, precious, puking mess.  Three days in with a wicked stomach virus that has completely taken over.  As I sat with Finn yesterday on my lap, killing time until bedtime by watching tractor movies on youtube, I breathed his smell in deep.  I rested my weary head on his sweaty neck and remembered the highlight of his summer as he chatters on about each John Deere he sees on the screen.  It was this:

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He could sit on my lap and stare at that picture for ten minutes.  And believe me, there isn’t much that keeps him busy for ten minutes!  Its been two and a half months and he still asks every time we drive that directions, “Can we go to the fair mama?”.  I thought doing the fair, nine months pregnant, with five other children might just do me in.  And it may have come close.  But oh the happy in his voice when he talks about it, remembers with me, the insane crazy fun we had practically living at the fairgrounds for six straight days.

Bedtime finally came and we did the same heartbreaking routine every night these days:

Mama (at his bedside): Finn, what song should I sing with you?

Finn:  No, I don’t want you to go mama, I want to sleep WITH you.

Mama:  How about I pick a song?  (I do, and I start to sing)

Finn (big brown eyes brimming with sadness): Oh mama, no, please don’t leave me.

Over and over again.  If I start to cry, like I did tonight, I leave sooner than later because there is a baby to feed and other kids that need tucking in.  I promise him that I’ll see him in the morning and that when the sun comes up, I will be there.  And I think again of our friends in Arizona and how much I want their sun to come up and their too-long-night to be over.  Every single day – even our puke-filled ones or the ones where all your kids are in hysterics at the grocery checkout or the ones where all your life’s efforts don’t seem to count for anything or any other kind of less than lovely day – is such a tender gift.  To be prized, tucked away and treasured.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, today is what we have.

As Waters Gone By – a review and giveaway!

It’s not every day one of your dearest friends publishes their first book.  And its certainly not every day you get to see the culmination of someone’s dream become reality.  It is truly a gift to see the result of one person’s blood, sweat, tears, prayer and determination.

Tina is (has always been) one of the most tenacious people I know.  I wrote a little snippet of our story here, last year before she moved with her family to Chile.  Truth is we could probably write a book full of stories about all our adventures and shenanigans and heartbreaks along the way.  Five years ago she began a journey with a book and last month it was published.  A lot of life happens in five years and it would have been tempting for many I’m sure to give up.  Tina is many things, but she is not one to give up.  Ever.

I haven’t read copious amounts of young adult/teen fiction.  What I have thumbed through or read I would not consider excellent writing and often is chock full of questionable content.  More than that it often lacks a believable cast of characters and an underlying message that means something.  As Waters Gone By doesn’t fit that description at all.

The heartaches Ellie faces are issues no seventeen year old would want to walk through.  She has choices to make that are anything but easy.  The reality is that so much of life isn’t what we choose and as time passes, we figure out how unpredictable things really are.  Though its been almost four years, our own story of loss still makes my heart hurt.  Loss is a fairly universal theme and one that just about anyone can identify with.  There is a message between the lines of this book that is for everyone but I can see it being especially enjoyed by individuals in their late teens and twenties.

***I have two signed copies of Tina’s book to giveaway, just comment below and I’ll draw two names on Monday!***

***since only 5 ladies commented, I decided they should all get a copy of Tina’s book!***