Wednesday, August 31, 2016

May It Be So

Almost exactly one year ago we dropped Seth off for his first year of college. As for any parents of a freshman, it was an exciting time for us all, with lots of unknowns and anticipations. As I look back on the year, I think we all did a rather tremendous job at letting go and being let go of. As he enters his sophomore year, Seth feels more strongly than ever that he made the right choice for himself with his college pick, and as anyone with a kid can tell you, a contented child is pretty much all a parent asks for.

One of the things that appealed about PLU to me personally was that it is not a secular campus. Of course I'm completely aware that kids will find what they are drawn to (secular, sacred, and the whole spectrum in between) at any school, anywhere in the world. But knowing that it's a part of the culture, and that speaking to vocation and a higher calling outside of self was something that I appreciated.

When we were oriented as parents and then gently separated and sent away (well, it was a bit more subtle than that, but not much), there was a student-welcoming ceremony that parents were able to observe, prior to the actual convocation that started the school year. During that service, the campus chaplain (I think?) read the following poem. (I know, right? Publicly-shared poetry? Of course Seth has found the right place for him! Ha.) I fell in love with it and have been meaning to share it ever since. It has all the hallmarks of any "new beginning" declaration--new year calendar-wise, or new year school-wise, what does it matter?

May It Be So
May the year bring abundant blessings--
beauty, creativity, delight!

May we be confident, couragous,
and devoted to our callings.

May our lives be enriched with education.
May we find enjoyment in our work
and fulfillment in our friendships.

May we grow, may we have good health.
In darker times, may we be sustained
by gratitude and hope.

May we be infused with joy.
May we know intimacy and kindness,
may we love without limit.

May the hours be enhanced with music
and nurtured by art.
May our endeavors be marked by originality.

May we take pleasure in daily living.
May we find peace within ourselves
and help peace emerge in the world.

May we receive the gifts of quiet.

May reason guide our choices,
may romance grace our lives.

May our spirits be serene,
may we find solace in solitude.

May we embrace tolerance and truth
and the understanding that underlies both.

May we be inspired with vision and wonder,
may we be open to exploration.

May our deepest yearnings be fulfilled,
may we be suffused with zeal for life.

May we merit these blessings
and may they come to be.
May it be so.

Note: "May It Be So" and its Hebrew counterpart are abecedarian poems, a type of acrostic in which the initial letters of key words appear in alphabetical succession. Abecedarians were a popular form of piyyud (liturgical poetry) composed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, typically to delineate sins or to enumerate God's attributes. These new English and Hebrew abecedarians express wishes, hopes and blessings. Source. (Go back and read it again, now that you know the abecedarian nature of the piece. I have, many times, and appreciated that additional layer.)

As I've reread it over the past year since I first heard the words, I am struck by all that is so simply articulated, and how much of all of our lives it applies to--not just students, but certainly them as well.

My heart is full as we send the young man off for another year of learning and growing. May it be so.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Letting go while holding on tight

I found this in my Facebook memories this morning, as one of those back-to-school musings from years ago. They struck me again as words to remember, and rather than reshare there, I thought I'd memorialize it over here on the blog, with a note about how poignant these words are to me, still.

"Life seems to flood by, taking our loves quickly in its flow. In the growth of children, in the aging of beloved parents, time’s chart is magnified, shown in its particularity, focused, so that with each celebration of maturity there is also a pang of loss.

This is our human problem, one common to parents, sons and daughters, too--how to let go while holding tight, how to simultaneously cherish the closeness and intricacy of the bond while at the same time letting out the raveling string, the red yarn that ties our hearts."
-Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A salad to obsess over: Fresh corn salad

Given how long it's been since I posted a recipe, you must be thinking to yourself, this is a really special recipe. And you are right.

We have an amazing local chef in Walla Walla who makes a corn salad at his take-out joint (in a gas station, which is awesome), and I have enjoyed it a number of times. But me being me, I thought--actually for the first time, this summer--I should be able to make this at home, right?

And right I was. After a Google/Pinterest search or two, I found a great many recipes purporting to be "Mexican street corn salad," and narrowed my findings down by reading a few and deciding on one that seemed close to what I'd tasted in the past.

So I made it, and tweaked it, made it again, and kept tweaking. It has, over the course of many makings this summer, evolved to a place where it feels different enough from the original recipe(s) I spotted online, and also very, very good.

Fresh corn salad
6 ears of sweet corn, cut off the cob
1/2 medium sweet (I like the Walla Walla, of course!) onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 Anaheim peppers, diced

Saute the first three ingredients over high heat, until the corn starts to blacken and scorch a bit (not unlike grilling or roasting). Add the peppers and saute for a few minutes more, until they wilt a bit. Take off the stove to cool.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cojita cheese, crumbled
Juice of three limes, squeezed
1 generous bunch of cilantro, chopped (at least 1/2 cup)
6 green onions, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl mix the mayonnaise, cheese, and lime juice, and stir until well blended. Add the cilantro, green onion and chili powder, and mix.

Once the corn mixture has cooled slightly, toss the dressing with the corn and stir well. Serve with extra cheese, and adapt at will. We have enjoyed this concoction in quesadillas and tacos, I've added tomatoes and avocados and really enjoyed it that way too. This is probably the most repeated recipe in our house this summer, which--knowing Seth's and my shared penchant for pesto--is saying something!

I highly recommend the fresh corn aspect of this salad. Many of the recipes I found called for frozen or canned, and I think that the fresh corn just makes it. I also tended to up the cilantro as I went along, and got no complaints from the guys! The one time they were less wild about it, I couldn't find cojita (not every town has the cheese selections of Walla Walla, let's just say, and on vacation I had to make do) and used parmesan. Just not the same. Go for the cojita.

I hope you make it and enjoy as much as we have this summer. I decided to blog the recipe so that Seth can access it from college this winter if he decides he can't do without a corn salad fix.

This recipe makes roughly eight cups. So divide that as best among your eaters. In our house it tends to go pretty quickly. :)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday night grateful list

Some weeks the grateful list pretty much writes itself. If I wasn't grateful, sitting at my current (and favorite) location with my favorite guys, you'd really have to wonder!

 Life is good. This is our view for the next week and then some (well, this view involves a walk, but you get my drift), and we are all just a little blissed out after what seems like a long summer of work without a break. No complaints, but certainly feeling at the moment like delayed gratification is a true thing; in this instance the pay-off was worth the wait.

Driving along today, I was sometimes alone, listening to podcasts (Alan and Seth driving together), and sometimes with Seth. (Seth will go straight on to PLU next week, hence the two vehicles.) When he drove, we listened to music and talked, and I read to him a bit from a Pema book I pulled off my shelf and brought along, last minute. Some good stuff--I always find her helpful--if a little dire feeling/sounding. Sometimes contemplating the state of the world isn't really what you need, especially heading out on vacation. It didn't quite have the pep of a good back-to-school conversation, so we let it go after a bit, and just talked. I am so grateful for my communicative kid, who likes to share what his latest passions are, and what interests him.

This week was back-to-school in our neck of the woods and I loved seeing all the first-day pictures of my friends and local acquaintances. It's such a ritual, and one that social media really caters to--one of the good sides of the sharing, in my opinion. I am grateful for our community, and for the people in it. Of course this funny popped up somewhere in social media over the course of the week. I chortled.

File these next couple of pictures under inspiration, for the days when I need something tangible to put my mind to. I think applique is probably my favorite needlecraft, and then I see some amazing embroidery, and I think, no, that too! This picture came across my Instagram feed and I just paused and ooohed and awwwwed for minute. I love this style, so much.

 And then calligraphy, which is always a source of inspiration for me. I follow many different types of letter artists on Instagram, and tuck away little quotes and words and tips about supplies and such for my off-work ponderings.

Things that have made me laugh recently:

Other things that are on my grateful list this week:

Cooler days, though I'm less fond of the shorter days. Where is my 5 a.m. light?!

Continued blessings from the garden, from okra and peppers, cucumbers, kale, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, to cabbage and basil and more kale. We like our kale smoothies! And what we aren't growing can be so easily found at the many local farm stands. It's embarrassing, how overflowing with produce we are.

Good health, and good sleep.

Carpet cleaner. Seriously. What would we do about marks on the carpet (I'm looking at you, General) without carpet cleaner? I don't want to know.

Cheese. I read something today about the ills of the dairy industry. Well, I should say I started to read it and then I thought, why would I want to know this? And tucked it away for later. I am willing to give up a great many things in my life for the good of my body and the planet, but I am pretty sure cheese is not going to go bye-bye. Milk? You can take that, no problem. Certainly cottage cheese and even cream cheese. I could probably figure out a way to part with yogurt, even though I do have that in some form or other every day. But cheese? Yeah, no. Can't do it.

Inspirational people. I'm not really talking about the kinds of stories that are always so prevalent during the Olympics, people who have overcome huge obstacles to be there and compete. I'm talking about every day kinds of people who just are living their lives and influence others for good. I feel like I'm blessed to know quite a few people who fit this category, and am better for the interactions.

Inspirational words. I ran across this Rumi poem recently:
I prayed for change, so I changed my mind.
I prayed for guidance and learned to trust myself.
I prayed for happiness and realized I am not my ego.
I prayed for peace and learned to accept others unconditionally.
I prayed for abundance and realized my doubt kept it out.
I prayed for wealth and realized it is my health.
I prayed for a miracle and realized I am the miracle.
I prayed for a soul mate and realized I am the one.
I prayed for love and realized it is always knocking, but I have to allow it in.

I am grateful to, as Mary Oliver puts it so well, be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world. Always. Grateful.

Have a lovely weekend, wherever you are. I know I will.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday night is good for grateful too

I do realize I missed Friday night. It was a long week, and it was filled with the usuals, but sliding in to Friday night I just wasn't in the mood to connect to my keyboard. Now, if I could figure out a way to telepathically share my gratitude, that'd be something.

But at the end of a lovely weekend, I can't help but share my gratefulness for so many things. As is usually true, there are so many more things to be grateful for than not.

I'm so grateful for my husband, who went above and beyond helping me out with some household items (doesn't that sound vague, and maybe like he ironed?) this weekend. His thoughtfulness is something I don't take for granted.

This weekend I got a bit of a cooking vibe on. I love everything about prepping food, and then the creation that follows, playing with flavors and variations on recipes. Being in the kitchen is one of my favorite places, and having lots of different dishes going on at one time makes me happy as can be. I also listened to Eric Ripert's 32 Yolks for a few hours, and reveled in his story, as sad at times that it was. There's such resonance in hearing someone talk about their formative experiences with food and having that, "me too!" feeling. I am so grateful for the plentiful produce in our area right now; there's so much that's ripe and fresh and being grown within 10 miles of here. Current obsession: corn salad. This corn salad. Life altering, I tell you.

Watched Pitch Perfect again this weekend (for the umpteenth time, I'm sure) and just have to say that even if I can't sing Like That, I sure do like music so very much. I am so grateful for people who can express themselves a musical gift, and that movie is so re-watchable to me just for the humor. Of course, the songs are pretty memorable too.

I was going to share a Pitch Perfect clip, and went to YouTube to find one that had all my favorite bits, and of course, because interwebs working the way they do, I am now sharing a clip of Anna Kendrick and Kristen Chenoweth singing "For Good," from Wicked. I know you get how that happened.

You know what I'm REALLY grateful for? That I don't have to watch ALL of the Olympics to know what's going on. Side note: I could not believe that when I turned on the telly this morning while I was in the kitchen that of all the things they *could* be broadcasting, they were showing golf. GOLF. On a Sunday morning? Could be any Sunday, any where. Baffles me. How about showing something uniquely Olympic? I was hoping for something other than golf, as you can probably tell. But, back to my gratitude--I love that clips of all the sports (and that awful green pool) are available any time I want, online.

Just a couple more weeks before Seth embarks on his sophomore year, and I am and always will be so grateful for this summer. Such a lovely time together, and we still have a week of holiday to look forward to. De-lightful.

A friend sent the picture below to me this week. I'm grateful to be known by my people.

I was so happy to get to see meteors this past week. The Perseids always make August a better month for me, and I have fond childhood memories of sleeping under the stars with my brother. I set my alarm for 4 a.m. Friday a.m., knowing that pre-dawn is always better than trying to battle the moon for good gazing. But something woke me at 1 a.m., so on my way to the bathroom (of course), I passed by our slider, and a meteor falling caught my eye. I thought, "wow, they really must be falling at a quick clip," so I took a few minutes and went out on the deck, thinking this was going to be quite a show. Not so much. Back to bed. At 4 a.m. I saw maybe three or so before saying skip it and returning to bed. Same drill Saturday morning. I think the rumors of "double the number this year" were greatly exaggerated, but maybe that was just our backyard.

As grateful as I am for autumn coming, I am already missing the super-long days. I know it's not possible to have them both--cooler days AND lots of sunshine--but a girl can wish, can't she?

I can't believe I'm this far down in my grateful list without having mentioned this auspicious date, which is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. On one hand, the notion of 50 years rather boggles the mind, but on the other, knowing how fast time goes by, it doesn't seem so long. Oh, who am I kidding? That's a massive amount of time, and truly an accomplishment. It's no small feat to give your children a stable and intact platform from which to launch into the world, and it's certainly something for which I am very grateful. Kudos and congratulations, Ma and Pa. Here's to at least 25 more!

All I can say in defense of sharing this photo is: anyone can share a wedding photo, or something posed. But how often do you see a picture that embodies who a couple is. This picture does that for me. I couldn't find a better one if I searched for days.

And in case you're in need of a little Monday cheer by the time you read this, I encourage you to make the photo below your new phone wallpaper. Have a great week!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Friday night grateful list

Seems like we were just here, right, counting our blessings? Certainly feels so, and not in a bad way, just in a zoom-zoom way. What is up with time? Feels like someone has their finger on the FF button on the VCR remote. Or, rather, the DVR remote. Silly old me.

Meanwhile, this renewed weekly pause in the speed continuum is a helpful thing. It brings me great joy to sit here as the sun starts heading down, earlier and earlier each night, and think about the things that went right this week, and even in the things that didn't, what there is to be grateful for.

Tomorrow is husband's birthday. Of course I'm grateful for that, for the day of his birth and all the twists and turns in his life that brought him to Walla Walla, and me to Walla Walla (much less twisty turny), and our eventual togethering. There's a great deal to be grateful for, right there. But I'm also grateful that not only is he a thoughtful partner, he's a loving step-dad. Doesn't get much better than that.

Today we took a little break from work and played together, did some errands and had a late lunch and generally took it a bit easier. Delightful and entirely too rare, which is probably why I felt extra-grateful for our time together.

Home tonight, and looking out across the third batch of alfalfa this summer. It pretty much grows right in front of your eyes, and it's not hard at all to be grateful for our green-and-gold setting. The wheat across the street was harvested this week, and the stark shadows brought about by the angles of the cutting are just fascinating to me. All across the landscape between here and the hills just out of town it is alternating green and gold and brown, the usual August patchwork.

This week I am grateful for chickens that produce eggs, even if they are wee and still somewhat infrequent.

I'm grateful that the skunk who visited twice last week did not return this week.

I'm grateful that I still believe there's a larger plan to the daily national nonsense that really feels crazymaking some days. Believing in a higher purpose helps calm me down--though I do at times have a hard time remembering that at 2:30 a.m. when I wake with a bunch of what-ifs and holy craps running through my head. Gotta remember to breathe. Critical, that breath.

I'm grateful for technology that allows me to step away from work but still keep tabs on stuff. Though, of course, I wonder if it wouldn't all just keep motoring along even if I didn't do the tab thing. But it's good to know it's there if I need it.

I'm grateful for sharing. In these days of constant social sharing, I suppose that might seem like an odd thing to be grateful for, but I have to tell you: I have the BEST friends. I don't have friends who argue and post weird and wild controversial things (most days). I have friends who post encouraging words, thoughtful words, inspiring words. I am so blessed. (I did do a wee bit 'o paring down of friends recently, and a smidge of hiding too, so it's not that the "other" kind aren't out there, I just choose carefully the energy I'm going to expose myself to.

To make a long (see paragraph above) story short, one of my aunts shared a lovely excerpt from a Madelaine L'Engle book recently that I loved. It's a quote from the author Ellis Peters, I guess, and goes something like, "He prayed as he breathed, forming no words and making no specific requests, only holding in his heart, like broken birds in cupped hands, all those people who were in stress or grief." Isn't that a comforting and uplifting thought, that you could live your life in such a prayerful way as to hold in your hands the stress and grief for others? And that someone might do that for you?

I'm so grateful for rest, for the 24 hours ahead of me and the peace and quiet it will bring. Well, other than the birthday celebration. Rest, make cake, more rest, wrap presents, eat cake, more rest, opening presents, more cake. Sounds like a winning combination to me!

Always, I'm grateful for color. This week--or was it last? I think it might have been last week--a dear friend gave me 100 Pantone postcards. My heart fairly leaped with possibilities--a beautiful box filled with 100 beautiful cards surely must exist for a beautiful cause. What words will be written on those cards? I've been pondering, of course. Surely they must be words of thanks. Yay for dear friends and yay for 100 postcards of color. And not just any color. Pantone color.

I'm grateful for health. I don't take that for granted, especially on weeks when the sleep is a little shy. I know what lack of sleep does to the immune system, and I don't like it, not one little bit. Which also makes me grateful for sleep, and for the righteous sleep I know I will have tonight!

Wishing you a righteous sleep, whenever you read this. And a peaceful and joyous weekend.

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