Saturday, October 5, 2013

Community - The Best Harvest of All

This year was a successful year in the garden.  Not for the cornucopia of vegetables and fruits, overflowing. That part was an utter failure. The success was in the incredible community that we planted and cultivated right in our own back yard. We may not have zucchini for miles or months of tomatoes to can and freeze, but we will never be hungry.









Friday, August 9, 2013

Living The Dream

2013 has been rough so far. We've had enough insult and injury for a decade, it seems. No day is without it's little earthquake or heartache.

During times like these, I find it difficult to answer the question we hear a gazillion times a day "How are you doing?" Lately, I've taken to responding "Living the dream!" 

Sure, sometimes it comes out a little sarcastic but I am sarcastic.

In addition to being sarcastic, though, I am intensely aware that I really am living the dream, even on days it seems like a nightmare.

I have the amazingly good fortune of being married to my best friend on this planet with whom I feel a sense of safety I never thought possible in my previous life. Even when we are upset with each other, the sense of permanent, persistent love is palpable. 

I have the incredible task of raising five beautiful children, each with their own set of needs, talents, and proclivities. I remember once asking God to "expand my territory." Boy, did He! Even on days when my patience has grown thin, I am amazed by the immense love I feel for all of them, mine or not, and grateful for the assignment.

I have a challenging and interesting career. I am able to learn something new every day. I am able to effect change in increasingly larger ways. I get to work in partnership with one of the best companies in the world. Even on days when it feels like I could drown in the politics and the normal goofiness that every company spews, I am in awe of what I have been able to accomplish in spite of so many roadblocks, and excited about the many opportunities that my future holds.

I have a home that I love that is so often filled with laughter and smiles. I have an exceptional community of family and friends who challenge, support and love me. 

As I write this all out, I am overcome by my incredible good fortune. Although I won't promise not to ever say I'm living the dream sarcastically, I can promise to be thankful every time I do.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want - But You Get What You Need

Earlier in 2013, I had set a goal for myself to do roller derby.  I had many reasons for wanting to do this, the most prominent of which was the desire for community with awesome, kickass, grab-life-by-the-balls people. Sadly, a number of events have made me declare it is probably never going to happen.

I hate when this happens, when I have to cast aside a plan.  Totally pisses me off.

But I digress.

Somehow I managed to achieve my goal without the benefit of skates.

Back in February, a dear friend of mine hosted one of her famous Estrogen Fests. She introduced me to a new group of local ladies whom I now affectionately refer to as my coven. They are smart, funny, challenging and always at school events, so no more going in alone.

Mr. T and I were recently at a local event, a Battle of the Bands that Triple Threat was playing in. We had invited a few friends to join us in cheering her on and then a few more wanted to know what we were doing and decided to join us, too. As the band began to play, our group of friends joined us in the middle of this public park, cheering and dancing and kicking ass. Grabbing life by the balls. Being our community.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Tiny Victories

I have been neglecting a blog post about my garden. I could prattle on about being busy and tired and blah blah blah, but I won't. I will simply say that so far, I have experienced a LOT of failure this year.

To be fair, this is our first season in Shangri La House and I have had to get to know the land. The spot I originally had thought would be best for some elevated garden beds ended up being way too shady from our massive maple tree and too marshy due to a nearby storm sewer. I had no idea the way our untreated yard (who wants to grow their own only to put in more chemicals?) would provide respite for countless weeds and how those weeds would infiltrate the beds, threatening to choke out the good plants.

But yes, fail I have. Every plant I attempted to start from seed in the greenhouse died. I dropped an entire seeded tray face down on the patio directly after having sown it. I planted seeds directly in the ground that were washed away by a tumultuous spring storm. And more that were washed away by an even more tumultuous early summer storm.

But there are small victories: the upside down cucumber plant that is now boasting half a dozen flowers and the evidence of a soon-to-be cucumber and the herb garden that I married into an existing perennial bed amongst the mums and echinacea, throwing in a spare pepper plant. And tonight, the joy I felt as I discovered a tomato and a basil plant, nearly overcome from weeds and an overzealous rose bush. I had given those seeds up for dead and here they were, fighting to survive.

I cleared away the weeds and praised those tiny, brave plants.

Today, I am victorious.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Therapeutic Gardening

The soft breeze caressing my shoulders, warm with the sun. Rich, loamy soil coating my fingertips. Small moments of care that magically turn into sustenance.

I find myself turning to my garden more and more as this crazy season unfolds. Each day, I return from the office, head spinning with the busy-ness, the politics, the technical details. Each day, I head for my garden and spend a moment surveying the progress, pulling a weed or two, giving water, saying hello. Sometimes, I run for Mr. T. and make him look, too.

This spring at Shangri La House has been so lovely, watching the landscape reveal itself to us. Each week, something different has been in bloom, each taking the spotlight and then bowing out for the next performer.

First it was my favorite, the lilacs. They filled my yard with their lush fragrance and taunted the patrons of the park behind us not to steal over in the dark to snip a few branches from the other side of my fence.



Next was the honeysuckle with it's potent pink buds.

One of the more lovely surprises was the purple iris.


Right now I have these lovelies that I have yet to identify. They don't have as much fragrance but they are lovely to look at.


And this enormous rose bush is in full bloom. It hadn't been cut back properly in the fall and so is immensely overgrown. I had to tie it up with twine to make it look so shapely.



This space is magic for me. To hear the birds in the trees and know they don't worry. To know that sunshine and rain are needed for growth. To feel connected to our little spot of the earth.













Thursday, June 6, 2013

It Is Well With My Soul or Keep Calm and Carry On

A bazillion years ago, I sang my first solo at First Church of God in Oak Lawn. It was "It Is Well With My Soul" and it became a calming mantra that I hum under my breath on scary days like today.

"When peace like a river
Decendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows blow.
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say 'It is well, it is well with my soul!'" Translated to the current lexicon, it would be something like "Keep Calm and Carry On, Cause Everything's Cool."



Horatio Spafford wrote this after his wife and daughters were killed in a shipwreck while traveling to America from England.
I was taken by this story, and have often reminded myself of it when hosting a one woman pity party.

Everyone faces scary things. It's a sign of life. Add the complexities of the new normal blended family and they grow exponentially. That's precisely why I need to remind myself to "Keep Calm and Carry On."

All of this will pass. The good days. The bad days. The dark days. They all pass. And quickly, too.

It is well with my soul.




Sunday, June 2, 2013

What to Do When There is a Possibility That Flaming Poop May Fall on Your Head


"I think I'm losing my mind this time.
This time I'm losing my mind, that's right."

Maybe not.

One of the things that I love about having this family is the look of surprise on people's faces when I answer the inevitable question, "How many kids do you have?" 

"FIVE?! What are their ages?"

"Nine, nine, twelve, fourteen and fourteen"

"!!!!"

This is the point where I explain that we are a blended family and that I do not, in fact, look amazing for having had five children, but thank you. I think. 

"So you chose this?"

"Yes, yes I did."

Or maybe, really, it's that this chose me. I remember the moment I met my three step-kids just as clearly as I remember the moment I met the Scientist and Triple Threat at the moment of their birth. Instant love. An immediate connaissance. Gong.

"How do you keep it all together?"

"Very carefully"

To be fair, my step-kids' mom is their primary caregiver, residential parent and advocate. The kids are with her during the week and with us every weekend and as much as possible on vacations and holidays. She is fiercely protective of her kids and takes care of their day to day needs, doctor appointments, IEP's at the school, the bulk of the responsibility. I am fortunate for this, as are they.

Still, though, there is a lot on my plate. Sometimes it gets heavy. Sometimes I get down about it.

I once was trying to work on "branding" myself. Not for a business, really, but just to have my own mental logo of myself. I kept coming back to the idea of a juggling octopus, keeping dozens of balls in the air at once. Some days those balls are on fire, too.  And some days those balls are made of poop. Flaming poop.

On those days, there are three things a girl can do. Smile. Make someone else smile. Turn up the Beastie Boys.

And if a ball of flaming poop threatens to fall on your head, duck.