Incoming

My parents used to live in Ireland.

Yesterday Pastor Ron preached a sermon about how, once Memorial Day became a moveable feast, as it were, so that everybody (except people working in churches, by the way) could have a long weekend, people stopped remembering what it was really about. He cited car and mattress sales as evidence, and I tend to agree with him. Yesterday I spent a little time remembering a fallen hero and his family. But I still have to say that, since we haven’t had any servicemen or -women in my known family in a very long time, if ever, Memorial Day often means different things to me. Like, five years ago my lovely cousin Phill was killed in a motorcycle accident. This year, it means my parents don’t live in Ireland anymore.

First I myself lived in London for five and a half years, and when I moved back to the family Homestead, TheBro and his then-relatively-new bride were staying in my parents’ house with them. I moved in and there were five of us–all adults, and it’s a decent-sized house, but not that decent-sized. So I moved into an apartment in a neighbouring town, but evidently that wasn’t enough for them, because it wasn’t long after that that TheBro and Sister-in-Lu moved to the Midwest and my parents hopped back over the Pond in the direction from which I had returned, and suddenly, there was the family Homestead, all empty-like, so I moved back in there myself. (In case you don’t know them, I should tell you I feel loved by my family and like to joke about their abandoning me, but I know they didn’t really on purpose. Right? Right?) For a while there was Roommate-Sarah, too, but then she got married, and so for the last four or five years, it’s just been me.

Now I’m married myself, and living somewhere near, but “else,” and although technically it’s not because I moved, within the next few hours (if they aren’t already), my parents will jet across the Atlantic and, at least for the time being, move back into their own home. I’ve been going back and forth between their home and mine for the last two and a half months, trying gradually to incorporate  my stuff from the Homestead to the established digs here. At one point I emptied out the Homestead fridge, and, at my parents’ very sensible request, unplugged it.

“Did you unplug it?” asked Mom-Elizabeth (not my mom) when we were hanging out a week or two ago, “If you left the doors closed with the fridge unplugged, it will get mouldy.”

Let it be known: she was not wrong.

I opened the freezer with not a little apprehension, and discovered dark, multi-coloured blobs all over the interior. It smelled really . . . interesting . . . as well. Kind of like old fish. I wiped at a blob and a cloud of spores floated away. Great. I fought the blobs, and I won, but it sure took awhile, and I’m not convinced that the box of baking soda I threw in there with the meal’s-worth of food I had bought them will have fully deodorised the fridge by the time they open it this evening. But I tried to tidy things up a bit, and I hope they know and can tell, somehow, that I’m glad they’re back. It took me three years to readjust to the US after London, so I expect they’ll have some significant readjustments to make, too. But at least there’s some family around for them, just like there should be on Memorial Day.

There Is No Room Inside a Box

Here’s an evidently home-made YouTube music video with which I digress before I even start talking, so you’ll know that I didn’t make up that title myself. But I do think of it a lot. When I am feeling boxed in, I guess.

Back in my early 20’s, I went through a “Christian mystic” phase. One of my grandmothers is really into the mystics, and then I went to London and worked and worshiped in a church which ran the gamut from charismatic to contemplative (not necessarily opposites, as it turns out), so I read a lot of books by and about people who seemed to have stunning revelations from God and who did sometimes really socially awkward things in the name of Jesus and . . . oh. Kind of like Christians often still do. A lot of times they were sickly. They seemed to have trouble with relationships. But the best of their writings are bracing and inspiring and made me want to be the best kind of Jesus-lover I could be. Even though it kind of sounds like it, I’m not making fun of them. I could (and maybe sometime will) tell you stories about how their stories messed with my head at times, but for now suffice it to say there is still a genre of literature that could probably best be described as “Saints’ Lives.”

In the early days of that phase, I remember asking my mystical grandmother (whom I had taken on as kind of a mentor) whether she thought it was ungodly to read other types of literature than Christian-religious. I was probably hoping she’d say no, but expecting she’d say yes–and maybe hoping for that a little, too, as it would give me the chance to do something difficult and self-sacrificial. She didn’t really say either. She kind of hemmed and hawed a little bit and then said something about how it was certainly acceptable to read novels (which were, of course, what I was really asking about), but probably not very beneficial, like reading Saints’ Lives would be, for example. I came away with the feeling that reading novels (“good” ones, of course–there would be scandalous ones that should be avoided, but I’m sure it never occurred to Grandma–or me, at the time–that I would ever consider reading any of those) was like eating iceberg lettuce–it wasn’t going to have any effect on my emotional and spiritual nutrition–unless that was all I read–but it was kind of pointless.

I wasn’t sure whether to feel disappointed or not.

Now I think I disagree–and I’m reading novels, so I guess you can tell which side of the issue I came down on. I still enjoy reading theology and Saints’ Lives, believe it or not, but if a book is a really good one–no matter what the author’s personal philosophical bent, I still feel like I’m “getting something out of it.” I’m a fairly standard Evangelical when it comes to the Bible–though I wouldn’t consider myself “fundamentalist.” I think it is a book unlike other books and that God really did inspire all of it (though not by, say, hypnotising the scribes–I believe they were actual writers) in a way that other books are not inspired, even if they are. When it says, in the book of Hebrews, that the word of the Lord is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4.12, NLT), I agree. I can’t think of any other book I have or would reread as many times as I’ve read and reread this one, nor one out of which I would ever get as much.

After that, though? Other books are just books, and I really don’t think it matters what genre it is, whether or not it’s going to “speak.” It has more to do with the author (whether writing is actually a gift of his or hers, or not) and the reader (whether the style is something I can resonate with). I realise I might be (definitely am) in the minority here, but I guess I believe that God, being, you know, kind of creative Himself, and creating with a Word, invented the arts, and that when they are operating most truly, they express Him in the end. I absolutely love it when I am reading something, or–to touch on the other arts for a minute because it applies to them, too–watching or viewing or listening to something and discover something somehow Redemptive in it, whether that was the artist’s intent or not. (Actually–I kind of love it more when I “see Jesus” somewhere when the person precisely didn’t intend it. Evidently I’m not the only one.) I don’t go around consciously hunting for that–anymore–but I guess after a lifetime of playing Hide-and-Seek with Jesus among the arts, He’s probably just going to keep on jumping out at me even when I wasn’t quite paying attention. Thank God.

As for “God’s favourite genre,” it may well be the lives of saints (understood more broadly), but not necessarily written down. Other than that, all due respect and love to my really quite amazing Grandmother, but I think pinning God and His ability to communicate down to one genre is really quite foolish and limiting. As the Bible itself would indicate, since it’s full of just about every genre out there.

All This

Lately I’ve been sort of overwhelmed with gratitude for where I am right now. Our house is small and fishing may not yet be remotely relaxing for me (and I may therefore be making it stressful and irritating for my Paul–partly because he doesn’t naturally find it stressful and irritating), but I still can’t get over that I live in a house that is sort of mine, on an actual body of water, with a garden with raised beds and home-made stone walls . . . and a loving husband, too.

I took these photos a month ago, so there are more and somewhat taller things growing out of the garden beds, but I’d just like to show you where I am these days.

Photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Out Back

 

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Forsythia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting the local light

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

Sundown every night

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

All this and a man, too . . .

Weight–What?

They say when you are crossing cultures, one of the last things successfully to translate is humour. Maybe that’s why I never really minded when, during every potluck dinner at my London Church, a Brazilian friend would tease me when I went back for seconds saying, “One for you, one for the worm,” and everybody else in the multicultural group would laugh. Everybody got it. I guess tapeworms are universal? I don’t know, but I could really “put the food away,” as they say, and I never gained a pound. Along with a naturally high metabolism, probably partly triggered by an uptight personality, I had no car and so I walked for miles every day. Really really fast. There was no way I was getting fat–the food couldn’t catch up.

When I moved back Stateside, I wasn’t overly happy about it, and my intense personality internalised a lot of the culture shock so that eating became a problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat. I just couldn’t. I’d feel ravenous, start eating, get to maybe the fifth bite, and then not be able to stomach another thing. I spent the summer drinking Ensure (which is really not how you want to spend a summer, believe me), and that may be what kept me from wasting away entirely. I was at least ten pounds underweight at any given time. I didn’t realise how gaunt I was until some years later when I had filled out to a more healthy weight and looked at photos from that period of time. They’re kind of alarming, really.

Sometimes it’s a little irritating when one’s weight troubles are the opposite of most people’s, because nobody can understand that they’re troubles. Also, there’s not much sympathy out there for people who feel like whining, “Woe is me–I’m ten pounds underweight.” Nobody ever joins in the pity party–except to start their own: “I wish I had your problem!” Sometimes people would say, “Just wait ’til you hit thirty. Your metabolism will slow right down.” Thing was, I was already thirty-five.

I don’t know the science behind it–maybe there isn’t any–but I promise you that I was physically incapable of getting up to my optimum BMI until I had cancer surgery. Tumour out, and all at once my weight rose and rose and what do you know? I weighed what any six-foot-tall woman should expect to weigh. And I maintained it. I was very excited.

Four years later, though, and I’m pushing forty, and now suddenly I’m saying to myself, “I wish I had that other problem.” I think I really kind of smugly thought I was going to get away with a high metabolism and a svelt figure for as long as I lived. Guess not. The upside? Trousers that were always slightly in danger of falling down around my ankles fit much better now. Or they did. They might be getting a little tricky to button and zip as of the last month or so. The downside(s)? 1. All the buttons in my blouses and sweaters are starting to look a little strained. 2. I can’t just chow down on whatever item I fancy whenever I feel the slightest bit peckish. 3. Suddenly aerobic exercise seems a bit more necessary than, “Skinny people can be out of shape, too”–and I have less opportunity to do it. 4. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I feel sort of wistful when I think of cutting back on the beer.

Public Domain Image

One for you, one for the tape . . . measure.

Some people might posit that all this happened since I got married. Actually, I think the metabolism and all that started to go downhill beforehand. All the same, though I will probably never totally lose my uptight edge, I do think I’m getting a little more serene since merging lives with my Paul. I don’t think it’s accurate to blame him if my figure disappears within the year (I suspect we’d both be disappointed). But after all, I guess marriage pleases me, and there are way worse things in life than being fat and happy.

The Quest for the Tasty Kale

Instead of the “Holy Grail”–get it?

I know. It’s not funny if I have to explain it. Or even if I hadn’t.

I feel like I should be explaining why I haven’t posted anything in so long, but . . . I have no idea, so I can’t.

For last the four or five weeks in our weekly box of veggies, we’ve been getting bunches of kale. This is good because kale is really good for you, but kind of bad because we’ve been having a little trouble finding ways to eat it that we like. It’s kind of leathery, and the flavour is strong and somewhat bitter. I don’t mind it so much; sometimes I eat it off the plate when it’s a garnish at a restaurant. (I like eating garnishes because I can.) But my Paul isn’t a big fan of it in any form, so I’ve been experimenting, trying to find a recipe that makes it palatable.

First we tried boiling it up with some collard greens. I couldn’t really distinguish the kale taste, but Paul could. Then I went online and looked up kale recipes and found a few for kale chips. That sounded intriguing, so last Friday I spent part of the morning of my day off de-ribbing kale leaves, coating them in olive oil and salt, and then spreading them on a tray for baking.

They seemed to take a long time to bake. Not long enough, however, for me to take a shower while they were finishing up, evidently. They were more than finished up by the time I got out of there. They were also completely inedible, even to me, and I eat most things. Except chicken livers. (Long story.) I tried munching on a few of the chips just to see, but they were really, really bad. I pitched both baking sheets-worth into the trash and then the house smelled like I had really wretched indigestion for the rest of the day until I had the sense to tie up the bag and put it outside.

So far the good-tasting kale enterprise was not going so well, but then we got this week’s farm newsletter. Not only does Former-Roommate-Sarah’s family provide vegetables every week, but they also, in their weekly email, compile a recipe or two from various recipe websites. This week, they included this one:

Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

Directions

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

photo by Jennwith2ns 2012

Kale and mango. Who knew?

I didn’t have any pepitas, so I threw some sunflower seeds and chia in there, mixed it all up . . . and loved it. My Paul tasted it, but still didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I could eat kale like that every day.

The Quest for the Tasty Kale

Instead of the “Holy Grail”–get it?

I know. It’s not funny if I have to explain it. Or even if I hadn’t.

I feel like I should be explaining why I haven’t posted anything in so long, but . . . I have no idea, so I can’t.

For last the four or five weeks in our weekly box of veggies, we’ve been getting bunches of kale. This is good because kale is really good for you, but kind of bad because we’ve been having a little trouble finding ways to eat it that we like. It’s kind of leathery, and the flavour is strong and somewhat bitter. I don’t mind it so much; sometimes I eat it off the plate when it’s a garnish at a restaurant. (I like eating garnishes because I can.) But my Paul isn’t a big fan of it in any form, so I’ve been experimenting, trying to find a recipe that makes it palatable.

First we tried boiling it up with some collard greens. I couldn’t really distinguish the kale taste, but Paul could. Then I went online and looked up kale recipes and found a few for kale chips. That sounded intriguing, so last Friday I spent part of the morning of my day off de-ribbing kale leaves, coating them in olive oil and salt, and then spreading them on a tray for baking.

They seemed to take a long time to bake. Not long enough, however, for me to take a shower while they were finishing up, evidently. They were more than finished up by the time I got out of there. They were also completely inedible, even to me, and I eat most things. Except chicken livers. (Long story.) I tried munching on a few of the chips just to see, but they were really, really bad. I pitched both baking sheets-worth into the trash and then the house smelled like I had really wretched indigestion for the rest of the day until I had the sense to tie up the bag and put it outside.

So far the good-tasting kale enterprise was not going so well, but then we got this week’s farm newsletter. Not only does Former-Roommate-Sarah’s family provide vegetables every week, but they also, in their weekly email, compile a recipe or two from various recipe websites. This week, they included this one:

Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • Small handful toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), about 2 rounded tablespoons

Directions

In large serving bowl, add the kale, half of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little kosher salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

photo by Jennwith2ns 2012

Kale and mango. Who knew?

I didn’t have any pepitas, so I threw some sunflower seeds and chia in there, mixed it all up . . . and loved it. My Paul tasted it, but still didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I could eat kale like that every day.

The Unexpected

Visible wisdom. Yeah, that’s it.

London gave my my first grey hairs. Or the flight to London did. Or something. All I know is, at age 24 and a half, I arrived at the house I would be staying in the first three months of what was to turn into over five years, looked in the mirror, and there they were. There were four of them. Knowing better, and also because of being a contrarian, I did not pull them out. It was tempting, but . . . everybody freaks out about grey hair. Therefore, I wouldn’t.

Since then, the number has been steadily growing and as recently as just before the wedding, I discovered I was starting to get a concentration of them at the right and left of the top of my forehead. If my hair were black, it would be very Addams Family. I decided I liked it. Still, it came as something of a shock to find what can best be described as a stripe of grey/white in my hair when I pulled the front back this morning.

I guess my hair is trying to tell me something.

I knew, when I said yes to my Paul, that there would be some adjustments. You don’t go from being single and either dating or not dating (mostly not dating) for your entire adult life, and then suddenly promise yourself to someone for the rest of it and move in with him, and not expect to face some adjustments. There are some. Like–I have discovered my inner neatnik. I didn’t even know I had an inner neatnik. Compared to Mom, I still don’t. But let’s just say I’m acting a whole lot more domestic than I used to. All that was more or less to be expected, though. It’s going fine. But let’s be honest. They’re still adjustments. This, however, is the part I kind of forgot to think about:

My Paul is a youthful some-years-older-than-I. I guess I might have thought about that in terms of the potentially-having-to-take-care-of-him-when-he’s-old kind of thing. (On the other hand, I have a cancer history, so the chances of one of us taking care of the other are probably pretty even.) What I didn’t consider was the relative ages of the extended family.

Here’s what I mean:

TheBro and Sister-in-Lu have, as you know, two young and very beautiful children. (No, I’m not biased.) Paul, as one of the younger three of seven siblings, has bunches of nieces and nephews (some of whom I’ve still not met)–and they’re all adults. (They’re not bad-looking either, but it’s kind of weird to talk about them like that when they’re adults.) One of the nephews is, apparently, older than I am. On Sunday we went to the birthday party of one niece’s son. He’s a year younger than Smiley-Guy. I have a grand-nephew. My 40th birthday isn’t until July, guys. Can we slow this down a bit?

While I was processing this thought, my Paul and a few of his siblings were chattering away and following the sun’s movement on the porch. One of his brothers has bought a condo in their mother’s retirement community in the South. That didn’t really strike me as so alarming until they all started talking about it together–about retiring, and where they were planning on moving, and driving around in golf carts. I feel relatively safe because my Paul has enough plans for our house that I feel like we’re probably settled here for a while. But still! My nieces and nephews are my age, and my siblings are retiring? When did this happen? I was the oldest! I started imagining relocating to a community of white-haired people I don’t know when I’m only a little older than my Paul is now. I think I had got so used to being single that when I thought ahead to retirement–well, I didn’t expect ever to be able to retire, for one thing, but I guess I visualised turning into one of those snarky-yet-warm, independent New Englanders who lives on their own until someone finds them dead in their house a week after the fact.

Wait a second. That’s not such a cheery thought either.

Arizona with my Paul when I’m still too young to move there might not be such a bad idea. Maybe my hair knows the future, and is just trying to help me to catch up.