What’s in a Name?

Recently, I found a recipe in my in-box.  This is not odd.  Taste of Home sends me recipes daily.  For some reason, however, a recipe called Polish Casserole caught my eye.  Before all of you clean eating, organic loving, raw produce foodies yell, “FOUL!” keep in mind that we are all, me especially, a product of our upbringing.  No self-respecting Adventist ever turned their nose up at casseroles without a good reason.

Here was my dilemma. As I was beginning to make the Polish Casserole, I discovered that I was missing two key ingredients listed in the recipe.  Normally, this would be a problem, except that, when you’re a vegetarian you grow accustom to improvising and substituting.  I’ve done it before.  The issue was that I wasn’t sure at what point I ought to have changed the name of my culinary creation to preserve the integrity of the original? I didn’t have Swiss cheese.  I didn’t have Kielbasa.  I substituted Muenster for Swiss and Morning Star sausage links for Polish sausage, and as a lesser sin, I used red onion instead of green (if anyone out there reading this is Polish, let me apologize in advance).

As a child, my mom had a dish that she made on a semi-regular basis.  She called it Chop Suey.  I made a  quick, online perusal of Food Network recipes, and determined  that what she made was vaguely similar, but not quite on point with Chop Suey’s true intent.  I have blamed my childhood Chop Suey experiences for my longstanding aversion to Chinese cuisine in general.  This is what I was trying to avoid in my own family.

All of that back story to simply say that I didn’t want to create any lasting ethnic food prejudices for my own children’s pallets.  To be safe, I renamed the recipe.  What was Polish Casserole became Nancy’s Surprise.  It’s sort of like Tuna Surprise without the tuna. ūüôā

Stay tuned, our forks are yet to be lifted in this grand experiment with names, cheese substitutions and cooked sauerkraut concoctions.

Fourteen

IMG_9457.jpgLast night, I kissed my thirteen year old good night for the last time. ¬†She was prancing around the kitchen a little hyped up and edgy. ¬†It seemed¬†that¬†she was just as reluctant to tuck thirteen ¬†in as I was, a little afraid of what tomorrow would bring. ¬†Earlier in the evening, she mentioned that she feels “too old”. ¬†I asked her what she meant by that exactly. ¬†That’s what mother’s do. ¬†They probe when they aren’t quite sure. ¬†She couldn’t really explain it. ¬†So, I asked more questions. ¬†“Do you feel like you have too many responsibilities, too many privileges, too many life concerns?” “No, no, no…” she responded. ¬†She was unsure how to explain it, and that seems to be where we’ve been lately.

We’ve been uncertain about what the future holds. ¬†It’s as though we’ve been staring into something translucent. ¬†We have an idea of what lies ahead but the the details are fuzzy. ¬†I’ve never had a fourteen year old before and she’s never been fourteen. ¬†We keep looking at one another hoping that the other will have some profound insights that will act as ¬†guide. ¬†The visually impaired has been leading the visually impaired. ¬†Our only consolation has been our mutual uncertainty.

She’s never liked transitioning. ¬†Without fail, she mourns the past, regardless of what that past has been. ¬†I used to feel terribly about this, until I realized that the sixth grade she hated was the same sixth grade she missed with all of her heart once she got to seventh grade. ¬†New has always been a little difficult to embrace as she’s held tightly to what was.

Conventional wisdom or rumor has suggested ¬†it’s the parent who doesn’t want their baby to grow up, while the baby/child can’t wait for independence. ¬†Honestly, I think we both would have been very happy if she would’ve stayed twelve forever.

A week ago, I asked her if she’d come organize the pantry for me. ¬†Her response was, “Uh, I’m over here doing something else for you, Sister!” ¬†I laughed, it was true. ¬†Five minutes later, no exaggerating, she went into her room and asked her ten year old sister if she wanted to play dolls for a few minutes, until lunch was ready.

Perhaps that’s the best way to describe this ‘teen precipice’. ¬†One minute she’s all gentle sass and sarcasm, giving me glimpses of the quietly witty person she’s becoming. ¬†The next moment she’s in full, hesitant ¬†girl mode, wanting to be snuggled and reassured, while she’s trying to decide if she’s too old to dress up her American Girl in the new doll clothes that just arrived in the mail for her sister.

Soon, there will be more teen and less girl. ¬†It’s inevitable and right. ¬†I accept this (sort of). ¬†In the meantime, I will cherish every hug she asks for, every innocent question that reflects back at me in her crystal clear baby blues. ¬†I will try to hold loosely to her apron strings, loose enough to let the ties release, but not so loose as to let her slip away too quickly. ¬†It’s not entirely cliche, it really is my job to give her roots and wings. ¬†I expect that I will fumble both the root and the wing part on occasion. ¬†However, in the midst of all of our future unknowns, I also expect that she will know, with certainty, that I adore being her mom. ¬†I’ve enjoyed every stage so far, and ¬†will undoubtably relish all of the future persons she morphs into.

Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Baby Girl/Teen Sassy Pants! ¬†I couldn’t be more proud of you, or feel more privileged to call you MINE!

Wigs, Friendship and Gratitude

It was almost love at first introduction.  Technically, we’d been introduced one other time, so, love at second introduction to be absolutely accurate. Karen and I met for the second time in January of 1994.  We were both attending a church retreat at a campground in North Florida.  Most of our church’s congregation attended, but Karen and I were both staying with six or seven other youngish women in a ‘chalet’, which was actually a single wide trailer, nicely appointed on the interior, and cedar siding on the exterior. More importantly, we, the inhabitants were a merry, chatty bunch.  The seeds of new friendships were sown, and to my recollection a lovely time was had by all.

The real bonding for us, however, occurred on the way back to Orlando and our respective apartments.  By some happy accident, Karen ended up offering me a ride home and I gladly accepted.  Ordinarily, the drive from Camp Kulaqua to Orlando is roughly two and half hours.  It took us close to four.  That’s what happens when two kindred spirits become so engrossed in getting to know each other, talk non-stop and inadvertently miss their exit, and end up driving an extra hundred or so miles on the Florida Turnpike.

From then on, Karen and I were pretty much inseparable.  We went to the gym together, church together, dinner together, double dates, movies… you name it.  By the following August when our individual leases were up on our apartments, it only made sense that we move in together.  If we lived together we wouldn’t have to drive the 3 miles to one another’s dwellings or meet somewhere in the middle.  Never was there a better roommate situation.  I did the cooking, she locked the doors and cleaned out the lint trap of our clothes dryer.  She kept me safe and I kept her fed.  Perhaps best of all  though, was our enormous combined wardrobe, since we had similarly sized frames and feet we were never at a loss for something to wear, and what twenty-one year old doesn’t love that?

Fast forward significantly!  Throw in a wedding for both she and I, three kids for me, multiple moves for each, a relocation to Big Sky Country for both, stir in numerous memories, whiz up countless holidays, mix with meaningful moments of laughter and tears and you’ve got the general- albeit condensed picture of two lives shared, enjoyed and intertwined.

A few years ago Karen and I sat down and tried to count how many Christmases we’d spent together in twenty years of knowing one another. We’ve shared well over half of our holidays with each other, because we’ve actually been more like sisters than friends, and have shared many of life’s most treasured moments.

Last Thanksgiving, was not quite the typical festive feast that is normally had when we spend a holiday meal together.  The food was the same, the love as strong as ever, but our hearts were a bit heavier than normal.  September of 2015, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when she told me she’d found a lump.  I cried then, and have shed more than a few tears over that bit of news, since.  So, after dinner last year, while my children chattered, and our husbands, talked football or politics, one of the two, Karen and I went shopping.  It’s not what you think.  We didn’t get in our car and rush to whatever store was willing to open for Black Friday frenzy on Thursday night.  We went to the web.  We shopped for wigs, got out the tape measure, and wrote down the dimensions of her cranium. After that we talked about chemo, surgery, cried a few tears, laughed a little over some of style options that faux follicles could provide, and marveled at the cost of synthetic hair.

This year, after two surgeries, toxic treatment, countless driven miles for weekly infusions, various hats, plenty of puffy eyes, damp tissues and multiple ‘new dos’ we’re celebrating yet another Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving the thing I’m most grateful for… I get to spend my favorite holiday with one of the very best friends a girl could ever hope for.

The gift of friendship, the bounty of food, the blessing of good health, loved ones near and far… these are the things with which I am indeed blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

 

 

Accosting at Costco

img_7842Setting:  Exiting my local Costco, heading toward the parking lot.

Back story: ¬†I recently took my son to get his hair cut at the local salon where I get my hair done. ¬†This was a bit of a treat, not the normal Super Cuts or Sports Clips type shop where I usually take him. ¬†Thanks to social media, and his habit of helping ¬†himself to my phone, my son had scrolled through my Facebook feed and seen some “cool” male haircuts. ¬†He asked if he could get a similar type style, and because I love him and like to make him happy, when possible, I agreed. Ever since, he’s been walking around as though he’s some sort of ‘hair god’ pausing in front of any and every mirror he happens to pass.

Narrative: ¬†Yesterday, I was making my way to my car, pushing a warehouse sized grocery cart, loaded down with last-minute Thanksgiving fixings. ¬†Twenty feet in front of me, I noticed a woman wrangling ¬†a similarly loaded down cart, and several small children. ¬†The woman ¬†had her long tresses piled high in a messy bun, with the bottom ¬†two-thirds of her hair clipped quite short, and lines cut in geometrical, diamond-shaped patterns from the middle of her head to her nape. ¬†Her cut, or the lines at least, were somewhat similar to the ones my son recently received from ‘our’ hair person at ‘our’ salon. ¬†Feeling an odd follicular kinship, I rather uncharacteristically hollered to the woman with the fun hair and asked, “Hey, did Robert cut your hair?” ¬†She turned, wearing a bit of a startled expression, looked around questioningly and asked, “Me?” I nodded. ¬†She said, no, that her sister in-law had given her the cut. ¬†I smiled, felt a bit chagrined for my intrusion on her day, and proceeded on my way. ¬†Fortunately, my children weren’t with me, so I didn’t have to endure a wide-eyed, “Mom, I can’t believe you just did that! ¬†Why are you talking to strangers?” speech from my oldest daughter, or any embarrassed snickers from my ten-year old twins. ¬†My own internal monologue of recrimination was bad enough.

Take Away: Just because I live in a smallish town/city, and see someone who is sporting a unique, edgy haircut, doesn’t mean that my favorite hairdresser is the designer/artist behind it, nor does it mean that I should call out to complete strangers about their hair in the middle of holiday Costco traffic. ¬†Finally, I’m just hoping that the woman with the funky haircut doesn’t talk about being accosted by some stranger at Costco, while she’s enjoying her Thanksgiving turkey. Her sister-in-law, obviously a stylist in her own right, might know the local hair people and it could get around that there’s a crazy, off-putting, hair aware, woman on the loose.

**Just one of many examples of the life and embarrassing moments, while shopping, of NLK.

 

Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

When Progress Doesn’t Feel Like Progress

I went for my morning run today, outside, in thirty-seven degree weather. ¬†I rejected the treadmill in leu of rosy cheeks, a cold nose and the invigoration that only an outdoor run can provide. ¬†Since we now live in town, I headed out of our condo complex, took a left at the highway and ran to a fairly well trafficked intersection, that is conveniently located one and a half miles from my front door. ¬†It’s the perfect turn around spot when I want to squeeze in a quick three-miles.

Today, I didn’t want a quick three-miles. ¬†I wanted to run at least four. ¬†I hung a left at Reserve (my normal turn around point) and it struck me. ¬†I was running up a onramp.

When I got to the top of the ramp I wondered; when did my much beloved, small city get a onramp? ¬†When did we become so populated and congested that we need a bypass? ¬†Why did I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up to a place that I didn’t recognize, a place that had way more orange construction cones than I was comfortable with?

From the top, I turned in a complete circle and drank in spectacular views of white-capped mountains, a ski hill to the north, and because it was clear day,  gazed straight into Glacier National Park.  The Park was showing off its grandiose, snow- covered peaks, today, complete with a blinding sparkly reflection of the sun.

This place, this small, not so metropolitan place, this haven of beauty and serenity, this has been my home for over 13 years. ¬†I’ve grown used to its quiet rural ways. ¬†It’s ¬†no wonder that today, I felt an acute sense of alarm. It seemed that almost overnight my quaint valley had undergone a Jack and the Beanstalk growth spurt. ¬†Today, my city felt like a hub of commerce, complete with on ramps and I didn’t like it.

I’ve known it was coming, the signs were all there, new stores and restaurants have slowly and sometimes not so slowly popped up all over the north end of town¬†for years.¬†To be perfectly honest, part of me hasn’t minded the expansion, as long as it has meant a new Krispy Kreme and Chick fil A, both of which have newly ¬†opened in the last month.

I’ve wanted to cherry-pick. ¬†New eateries seemed ok, more selection regarding shopping was a welcome addition…. a major thoroughfare with increased traffic, that, I didn’t sign up for. ¬†Today, progress felt like anything but.DSC_0356.JPG

The Obsession Confession

“No subject is too specialized or too quirky if you make an honest connection with it when you write about it.” ~ William Zinsser

Anyone who knows me even a little, knows that I have an obsessive love of all things

autumn. ¬†I’m not alone. ¬†There is an entire marketing industry whose entire purpose is to

grab the attention of individuals like me, ones similarly obsessed.  While countless others

may appreciate all of the things that make fall fabulous, I think it’s safe to say, I take it to

the next level.

A friend told me, just yesterday, that fall reminds her of me.  That may be one of my

new, favorite compliments.

I’ve wondered when, where, why and how my seasonal obsession took root. ¬†It must go

back to childhood, as most things do.  I was raised in the Midwest.  Growing up, there were

four, very distinct seasons.  My hometown was an old, craggy, very small sort of place; but

hardwood trees were and still are in abundance.  Come October, small and craggy fell away

and all that I noticed were the Maple, Oak, Walnut and Elm trees.  Their perfectly

choreographed, autumn coming out party was a colorful wonder to behold.  Yellow, red,

orange, occasionally shades of purple and the combinations of all the above provided me

a visual smorgasbord, and boy did my eyes feast.

Fall’s magic was not just for my eyes, it exploited all of my senses. ¬†There was the crisp,

rosy cheek inducing temperature drop, the smell of burning leaves, wood stoves, and every

lovely spice one could imagine, not to mention the mouth watering delights that only

appeared on my table in October and November.  Last but not least, there were the sounds

of the season.  My house was mere blocks from the local middle school and football field.

Every Friday¬†night, I could hear the marching band play during the game’s halftime.

Occasionally, you could hear a bit of cheering if the Redskins were scoring or playing

particularly well. ¬†Other sounds were the crunching of leaves on the sidewalks as I’d walk

to school, and the scraping, swishing noise made by the rake as it would gather leaves into

piles.  But best of all were the squeals and shrieks as my sister and I would jump into or

burry¬†one another in the leaf piles. ¬†That’s what joy sounds like.

As a child, my happy neurotransmitters worked overtime during autumn, and they

still do.  As a grown-up, my love of fall has perhaps taken on a few added dimensions;

such as the love of boots, sweaters, fingerless mitts, vests, hats,¬†and leg-warmers (if I’m

really¬†going vintage). ¬†And let’s not forget to mention¬†my absolute adoration for hot

beverage’s that look like the color of pumpkin and smell¬†like spice. ¬†Root vegetables are

another new, sophisticated seasonal find, as they don’t necessarily appeal

to a less mature palette. I especially love them with cranberries, sage and feta.  Lastly,

my adult, middle age appreciation of images and photography.  God bless Pinterest.  With

a swipe of my finger, I have access to untold numbers of beautiful pictures from all over

the world, all  capturing some aspect of what I love about autumn.

If you’re at all like me, my advice;img_6414 get out there, nature beckons. ¬†Winter will be here

soon enough, bringing its own wonder.  But for now, now, is the most spectacular time of

year.  Enjoy!

 

Play-doh and Lee Press Ons

A few weeks ago, I lost my mind, in this case meaning that I willingly and voluntarily took five girls and one boy to the mall with me for the purpose of ‘Back to School’ clothes shopping. Before you think, ‘no biggie’ I should tell you that the closest, decent mall is two hours away.

Thanks to my chatty, animated passengers the car trip flew by. ¬†Once we arrived at our destination, the real party began. ¬†As the lone adult¬†of our merry group,¬†I was forced to parse out my time and attention to the varied age and gender demographics, which was admittedly a bit tricky. ¬†The two almost 14-year-old ‘big’ girls wanted to venture out on their own for large chunks of time to explore more grown up stores like Gap, American Eagle, Hollister etc. ¬†The three ‘littler’ girls wanted to spend their time at Justice, The Children’s Place, and Claire’s, of course. ¬† ¬†My son, mostly wanted to know how long we had to stay, when could we go to Cracker Barrel and was a lobotomy too much to ask for? Between you and I, I think he enjoyed hanging out with five females more than he’d ever admit, but I could be wrong about that.

Clothes were chosen, critiques, opinions, “oohs”¬†and “ahhs” offered, giggles shared and our primary purpose, that of clothes shopping, was accomplished. However, ¬†the secondary purpose, following closely in importance was to spend a ¬†requisite thirty minutes perusing accoutrements at Claire’s. ¬†It seemed as though every bauble, hat, purse, bottle of nail polish and pair of sunglasses was given a thorough going over in a very fervid, pre-teen manner. ¬†My son was bribed with Cracker Barrel biscuits to keep him from complaining whilst waiting outside the boundaries of his least favorite store.

Intermittently, throughout our shopping adventure, my mind would flit to the recurring notion that my children are growing up. ¬†They no longer ask to go play on the train (this particular mall has a playground that features a spongy locomotive). ¬†They didn’t plead to be taken to the carousel and none of them required a rent-a-stroller. ¬†Those are all great developments, in my opinion.

It wasn’t until a few days later, however, that the true weight of the passage of time rested on me. ¬†This occurred when I stepped on a sticky, hard, crescent-shaped piece of gold glitter in the form of a press-on nail. ¬†I paused, picked the offending object off my foot and ¬†reminisced that it used to be Play-Doh that I picked out of the carpet.

All too soon, Claire’s and gaudy accessories will be just another stage gone by. ¬†Before I can say Rip Van Winkel, my son will be begging to hang out with girls, my 14- year old will be heading to college not Hollister, and my bauble loving diva of a 10 year old will be wanting to know when she’ll be old enough to wear mascara?img_5854

In summary, embrace the stages, parents. ¬†It’s our greatest privilege to watch and engage in the shaping of our children. ¬†Enjoy the journey, wild and exhausting though it may be.