My Favorite Kitchen “Gadget”

Last night, I dreamed about soup.

There’s a reason for that and we’ll get there in a few minutes. For this morning, though, I fixed my first cup of lemon tea and pulled a quart of mixed pork and chicken broth (Brodo misto, if you’re feeling Italian!) and a quart of “veggies and meat for soup” from the freezer for lunch.

This particular lunch plan, however, began somewhere “in the way back machine”.

Years and years ago, at an outlet mall in north Georgia, I bought a stock pot. A massive stock pot. Stainless steel. The gallons-upon-gallons size. Complete with a spigot at the bottom so you can drain the broth off  without having to lift the whole thing when it’s full.

It is, without a doubt, my most prized kitchen “gadget”. And it just got even better.

It seems my friend, who is recovering from a major brain aneurysm, needs soup.

Let the record show that I made a couple of  gallons while I was in Florida. Now, according to a phone call last evening, we need more.

I’m honored. And a little blown away.

I’ve been making soup for quite a while. Good soup that starts with really good bone broth. It’s an oddly creative process for me. Alchemical, even.

I love the scent of simmering broth in the house.

I love the process of honoring the beings who feed us by using all the random bits to make food for as many meals as possible.

And, in this moment, I have a sense of coming full circle. Of why I’ve been learning broth for so long.

Today, calls to local farmers and artisanal butchers.

Freezer inventory.

Farmers Market lists.

I have three varieties in mind.

We need a lot of healing.

Onions and garlic. A bunch of both. Fresh bay leaves and thyme. As many veg as possible.

Roast chicken carcasses, plus necks and feet and other healing parts.

Halibut broth imported from the west coast, because I’m still learning this one. Delicious and healing.

Years ago, I bought a magic wand in a mystical sort of store in Black Mountain, NC. It’s a useful coaching tool but it doesn’t seem to make soup.

Somehow, I never imagined that this would be my particular magic.

It seems to be me. A gift.

And yet, not just mine.

Each pot of my broth is midwifed by sustainable local farmers. People who believe we can feed ourselves and our neighbors, and support the planet.

I still remember the day I bought my first pasture raised local chicken, standing in a parking lot behind an anonymous sort of box truck, maybe 10 years or so ago. Complete with a hug from the farmer!

It was kind of a scrawny little thing…no growth hormones there!

And, compared to the supermarket variety, it was pretty expensive. I decided to see how far I could make that chicken go.

When I was growing up, a whole chicken was one meal for our family of four. Sadly, necks, hearts, gizzards, and most of the bones ended up in the trash.

My experimental farm chicken wound up being the protein in 13 entre’ servings of delicious, clean food before I decided it was ok to quit counting and just be amazed.

Most of that was possible because of a stock pot.

I was hooked!

I’ve had many teachers along the way. I’ve even become one of the teachers!

My third book, Let’s Boil Bones…Grammy’s guide to bone broth and other yummy things! is available in Kindle books, with the paperback due out this fall.

For today, a bowl of leftover soup. Broth. A bit of pulled pork from a local event. Good, southern-style green beans. Some cabbage and a few tiny Bunapi mushrooms. Roasted cauliflower saved from dinner last night. All served over a bowl of finely shredded romaine lettuce, which is a great way to add healthy bitter greens and texture to soup. (Arugula, collards, turnip greens, etc. all work, too.) Spritz with a bit of fresh lemon juice and finish with good sea salt as desired. A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes would not be amiss.

Love, hope, and healing in a bowl!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Spot of Comfort

I’ve made it home from a flashback week as an ICU/med-surg nurse! There is much good news for my friend, and a few hurdles left to go. It is possible that she will go home tomorrow after an injury she was not expected to survive. There are no words to express how grateful I am for all your concern and prayers and healing vibes of many sorts.

We cried and laughed (both good stress relievers) and wore ourselves to a frazzle.

After Bill picked me up at the airport, the first two orders of business were food and sleep, both of which were in short supply last week.

I’m glad to report that there are beginning to be signs of bones in my ankles again!

My beloved chair, which is a huge improvement over the hospital variety, has welcomed me home. My knees and back are muttering rather than screaming.

I learned a lot.

And, I’ll be thrilled to see the beasties when they arrive home from Camp tomorrow. Suspect we’ll all need naps! And that reminds me that taking some food out of the freezer for them would be a very clever idea!

There’s homemade, healing, comforting soup for supper tonight. (And a freezer full at my friend’s house.)

We had a visitor in Florida on Friday morning. A deer. A young buck. Peering through the screens on the lanai at the tired women, huddled over coffee and telling stories just inside.

My friends who study spirit animals would say that the message from this visitor is to be compassionate with others and ourselves.

It’s a message that I think we all need.

My friend, in particular, is going to need compassion for herself in the coming days when “normal” is harder than she’s used to and driving is not allowed.

In the same way, we all need compassion for ourselves, which is often much harder than having compassion for others.

A few weeks ago I posted this fabulous article on my Facebook pages. Just in case you didn’t see it, or want a reminder, here’s a link to the Oprah network’s recent piece from Elizabeth Gilbert about caring for the small, soft animal within us all.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert: Practical Ways To Practice Self-Care
Elizabeth Gilbert explains how to care for the small, frightened creature within.

Tuesday, it’s back to business as usual.

For this moment, a message from the fuzzy guy in the picture above.

There is no place we can go where love and grace do not go with us.

All these years later, that particular bit of assurance is still the absolute best thing about trying to learn to read Hebrew!

 

Stepping in the River

I’ve been much reminded, in these last days, of the old saying that we can never step in the same river twice.

In many ways, I am surrounded by people I’ve known most of my life, camped out in an intensive care unit, doing things I’ve done nearly forever.

Prayer. Listening. Straightening sheets. Talking with doctors. Feeding people.

It is a river old and deep for me.

In other ways, I have joined the cast of Steel Magnolias!

Women, and a couple of very kind men, many of us grandparents, doing what needs to get done, each in our own way and yet all together.

Another river old and deep, yet also wider, with room for more travelers.

It’s a filter thing, really.

Just as the metaphorical water moves, leaving the river ever new, our perceptions keep changing because we see and hear and feel through our ever-increasing experiences, letting new things in and, sometimes, clearing a few  more out.

My friend is doing better each day, which is the biggest part of what’s getting through my filters at the moment.

I’m glad to mostly filter out the feedback from swollen feet and restless nights and the predictable consequences of a couple of things I probably shouldn’t have eaten.

Today, though, it’s time to listen at least a bit to those messages, too. I’m pretty tired.

It’s feet up for me until the “night shift” starts at the hospital. Well, mostly!

We still need laundry and food and more frozen water!

Not to mention time for healing energy and prayer.

For my friend, certainly.

For the people of Mexico in the face of this latest earthquake.

For the people in the path of more hurricanes.

For the “guy in the red hat” I met at the hospital. His wife did not survive an injury similar to my friend’s. Last night and today, six people scattered across the country received life saving organ donations from a mom in her 30’s.

These stories, and so many others, changing the river we all share. Which is, perhaps, a thought we need to cling to more and more consciously.

That, and hope.

 

Comfort!

This is a close up photo of one of my first quilts. It was a class project when I was a very new quilter, trying hard to follow the directions to something beautiful.

The quilt and I have been many miles since it was born.

Faded and crinkled in the vintage-y way I love, it feels like it was just dried in the sun.

With the repeating patterns and nearly straight seams, it is somehow a vivid reminder of the fact that there is order even in the midst of what feels like chaos.

It is comfort, both visual and kinesthetic.

I set this quilt free, years ago, as a gift for a friend who needed a great deal of comfort in those days.

I found it again yesterday when I arrived in Florida where my same friend needs another dose of comfort.

She’s doing really well. All things considered.

There’s a lot to consider!

For now, we’re focused on better.

And popsicles. And clean hair. And a break from T.E.D. hose!

All of which seem like huge miracles, here among a diverse tribe of women who love her, each in our own way trying to bring comfort.

I’m not sure whether it’s irony or providence that has me reading, for maybe the fourth time, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, just now. (The book really is even better than the movie!)

I don’t think I ever quite realized, in just this way, how much this story is about comfort in the midst of our often messy life journeys.

A place to be. Time to get ready for what happens next. Sweet tea. And folks to walk with us to whatever our own version of the wailing wall might be, whenever we need to go there.

Tomorrow…soup. And gratitude.

 

 

 

 

Resolutions or Resolution???

In the wake of Irma and Harvey and earthquakes and fires and floods around the world, perhaps you are thinking, as I have been, about resolutions (plural) for being more prepared for disasters such as these.

First on my list, a call to the store where we bought my most recent live-in chair. The great (and very new) guy who helped us said that the recliner mechanism has a battery back up in case of power failure. I wish I’d asked how it works!

When you’ve had knee surgery as often as I have, this is a real concern during a hurricane.

Fortunately, we didn’t lose our power like so many of our neighbors did.

I, however, lost a fair amount of mental energy worrying about how to escape from one of the few places I’m truly comfortable, just in case.

Then there are the usual issues like flashlight batteries. With a house full of Newfoundlands, candles are a pretty bad idea!

Having grown up in Florida, I still have old tapes about buying bottled water, which is not so necessary here, along with white bread and donuts, none of which we eat!

I do think, though, that we need some sort of accessible medical alert info (which hasn’t happened yet) and a neighbor with a key.

Then there’s the whole generator issue. And I understand that you can get a good deal on hurricane shutters in Florida this week!

There’s also resolution (singular). As in trauma resolution.

I’ve met a lot of amazing people and learned a lot of important things in all the years I’ve spent studying hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming, pastoral counseling and transformational coaching.

One of those important things came in a weekend workshop with an amazing person named Belleruth Naparstek.

Belleruth is an internationally known expert in therapeutic guided imagery. On that particular occasion, the topic was trauma resolution.

According to Belleruth, trauma  is whatever the self perceives as trauma.

Not necessarily what your neighbor or your insurance company perceives as trauma.

This seems hugely important to remember in times like these when new perceptions of trauma may well bump up against old perceptions of trauma inside us, with the result that we experience trauma over again.

Here’s a list of examples, drawn from my emails and facebook contacts in the last week:

Fear of storms. Fear of water. Fear of closed spaces. Fear of the dark. Fear of loss. Fear of scarcity. Fear of the unknown.

All of them, things we’ve had strategies for dealing with, until something like a hurricane plunges all those strategies into question.

You may have examples of your own.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially while I’ve been praying with dots.

As part of my pilgrimage with the Black Madonna, I’ve begun to learn about the tradition of illumination in art, with all its layers of meaning.

Light and dark, together with bits of red and gold.

Losing and finding images under glazes of darkness and drippy washes of light. All of them more powerful together than any of them alone.

It’s an interesting metaphorical notion for coping with perceived trauma.

Focusing on the light. We made it through last night. We’re still here. We have more strategies than we had in the past.

Noticing our language and thought patterns… When we hear ourselves saying always and never, that’s a sure sign of limiting beliefs lurking within. Being open to other possibilities, despite our past experience, makes us open to new experience

It’s not easy!

There’s a part of us that firmly believes that we’re still here because of the ways we’ve dealt with traumatic experiences and thoughts in the past so, by default, we should keep it up. That’s one strategy.

There are others.

Mindfulness practices like meditation and breath prayer can help us to stay in the present moment where, just now, we are ok.

Changing our language a bit can help, too. Instead of, “I have to _____” we could try, “In the past, I’ve _____, but now I’m ______.”

And being gentle with ourselves, which is almost always a helpful strategy!

There are lots of conversations going on these days about what we have called, at least since Viet Nam, PTSD. Lots of therapists, as well as military experts, believe we should drop the D in recognition that post traumatic stress is a human condition rather than a disorder. Others disagree.

It’s kind of an interesting discussion if you’re into that sort of thing. For today, though, let’s go with the realization that life very often leads to things we perceive as trauma and, when we are in those places, compassion, support, and gentle new coping strategies are really good ways to set off on the path toward resolution.

Along, perhaps, with making good on some of those other resolutions we talked about. Right after I talk to the guy about my chair, I really am going to get my eyes checked so I can read the fine print of the Weather Channel!

 

Praying With Dots

It isn’t often that I feel speechless.

This week has been pretty close to one of those times.

My tear ducts, however, seem to be working overtime.

My dearest friend has been in a hospital in Florida all week, gravely ill, and I can’t leave yet to be with her, because of Hurricane Irma.

The hospital is now running on generators and they’re taking her back to surgery.

As I imagine so many of you have done, I’ve practically worn the buttons off my cell phone checking on her and all my other friends and family in the path of this storm.

I grew up in Florida.

My heart wants to be there now.

Instead, I am rationing my Weather Channel time to leave time for praying. (And sanity!)

There are lots of ways to pray.

I, who am what is now called a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), have been learning to pray the rosary. My friend is Roman Catholic.

This is not something I learned in Seminary. Imagine my surprise when I discovered, after looking it up on my cell phone, how much this ancient practice includes many of my own traditions!

I am stunned by all the connections I feel.

Fires. Friends still struggling out from under Harvey. Friends not heard from yet in the early days of Irma. Another friend’s family near the center of the earthquake in Mexico. My family. A beach restaurant Bill and I love, complete with treasured memories of Key Lime pie and strong coffee with real whipped cream for breakfast.

Those connections are a huge part of the reason for these words, in this moment, now.

I’ve also been doing a lot of what my Pilgrimage friends would call painting in dots. Tiny random-esque polka dots, applied with the handle end of a paint brush to the image of a Black Madonna I’ve been painting.  Each dot an immediate prayer with, in my case, a name attached to it.

My friend. Her daughter. Her mom. My family. And, the all-encompassing Irma.

It feels a great deal like meditation. Somehow making the dots seems to engage more of me in prayer. It feels like help in setting down some of my anxiety and  doing what I can in the moment.

It seemed somehow out of context when the Facebook elves reminded me, yesterday afternoon, that today is “Grandparents Day” in the U.S.

Honestly, I had a bit of trouble finding space for that particular piece of information just now. And yet, despite the fact that I clearly did not get the Hallmark genes in my family, it tugged at me.

Then I figured out why.

You may have heard these words by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes here before, for they are among my favorites:

Do Not Lose Heart. We Were Made For These Times.

“I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now.

Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is, we were made for these times.

One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair, thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.

The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these, to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.” And neither are we….

No matter who you are…if you are a grandparent, or hope to be one, or had one who loved you, or cherish in some way the archetypal grandparent energy in our world, please imagine that this is your “card” for today.

Live who you are.

With hope and blessings for all the world, Sue

 

 

 

 

Gifts for the Birthday Girl

Tomorrow, my first granddaughter will be 10 years old! Tenth birthdays were major events in my family. I’ve spent the last few weeks remembering why.

My mom grew up loving the Betsy-Tacy  books by Minnesota author, Maud Hart Lovelace. The series started when Betsy and Tacy were five years old, sitting on a bench eating supper together. Over the next couple of  books, they grew and added a new friend, named Tib.

By the time readers reach Betsy & Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, the girls are excited to be turning 10 and having two numbers in their age.

I grew up loving them, too.

No doubt this story became part of our family story.

Then, there was our dear friend, Maggi, who bought my sister and me rings with our birthstones when we turned ten.

Other than a long parade of Timex Mickey Mouse watches that always quit working for me, that birthstone ring was my first piece of jewelry. (Supposedly the thing with the watches is some kind of  magnetic deal I don’t quite understand.)

I loved that ring. In fact, I still have it! The stone is chipped. The setting, which must have been stretched somewhere along the line, is all bent out of shape. And still it sits in my jewelry box, a reminder of a time when it made me feel special and affirmed.

We had lots of adventures, that ring and I.

Like the time I hid it in my luggage, the first summer I went to camp, because Mom said I had to leave it at home and I wanted to take it along, rather like Linus wants to take his blanket.

Then there was the time when I was five or six (or 14!) months pregnant and had just filed for divorce. For reasons I can’t quite recall, I went with my folks to the homecoming game at our High School. Not wanting to answer any questions, I slipped my birthstone friend, turned backwards, on the finger where there had once been a wedding band.

Those were different times.

In this time, though, I wanted a birthday gift for Kenzie that she might enjoy now and perhaps be reminded of how much she’s loved in the future.

I settled on a charm necklace. She likes fancy!

First, a charm with two owls. She and I have a thing about owls.

Then, the birthstone.

This is, apparently, not the season for birthstone buying. I had lots of trouble finding just the right thing.

Finally, I realized that the right thing was hanging around my own neck on a charm holder where I’ve been wearing both girls’ birthstones and initials for a while.

It should be there for her by now, along with her very own copy of Betsy & Tacy Go Over the Big Hill.

She may be a bit older before she learns to appreciate the nostalgia of my dear friends, Betsy and Tacy. I mean, Harry Potter they’re not.

That’s ok. I’m pretty sure the necklace will be a hit.

I’m very sure she knows we love her, which is about as good as it gets!

And, tucked away in my jewelery box with my special ring is another birthstone all ready for the next time we have someone turning ten.

I suspect Mom and Maggi would be pleased.

 

 

 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher