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Posts Tagged ‘generations’

(This was originally published in error as a separate page two weeks ago.)

Notes along this journey:

I’m not made for the corporate life. I’m just not. Others are. I’m not. It’s a box I don’t fit into. Small organization, yes. Work for myself, yes. Freelance, yes. Just be, yes.

Job searches are so much about trying to fit into the corporate life. It’s a bit disorienting that way. When people ask me what kind of position I’m looking for, I need to figure out a better way to answer, a simple way to say I want to earn enough to support myself by being a writer and a maker and a mentor and a learner and a teacher and a simple living guru and a disciple and a disciple-maker. And not worry if anyone else thinks that sounds irresponsible. I’m very responsible.

I believe I am called to live in such a way that shows another way is possible. A personal way, yet a community-building way. An artisanal way. An intergenerational way. A simple way. An ancient way. A contemplative, spiritual way. A way that supports justice and participates in restoring shalom to our world.

I do not know if in that description there are ways to fully support myself. But if God calls me to it, God will make a way. I have been consumed with how to continue to make a living. After all, paying the bills is pretty necessary in our culture. But it’s had me bound. And that’s a sign of not trusting. I don’t want to be bound. I want to make a life. My life.

I have this vision of a house like Nonnatus House. If you are a fan of Call the Midwife, you know what that means. Maybe not a full blown convent, because maybe it could be co-ed. But a place where people who like each other enough to live together share expenses, thus easing income-pressure for everyone, and share common areas. Share life. Share vision. Share service. Neighbor with their neighbors.

I stand at the crossroads, and I’m looking hard. I ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, because that’s where I long to walk. There I will find rest for my soul. (Jeremiah 6:16)

God wants me to see the path, and I want to see it. So the way will open. On that I’ll rest.

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Potato salad for breakfast? Why not? We order eggs and hash browns all the time when we eat out.

I made potato salad last night, and it was my supper, along with a bowl of blueberries, au naturel. A good portion of both, lest you think I’m wasting away here.

Actually, I’m not eating potato salad again for breakfast, but I thought about it before I remembered the leftover canned pumpkin in my refrigerator that need to get used up. So I made some pumpkin oatmeal various-flours bread, which is in the oven as I write. I can anticipate the potato salad for lunch.

In a pinch, in a hurry, I might buy potato salad from the supermarket deli. But I don’t like it as well. It’s usually too goopy for my taste, more like mayonnaise with some lumps of things in it.

I make potato salad like my grandma and mom made potato salad. No written recipe, which bothered me as a newlywed but doesn’t any more. Eventually you get it.potatoes eggs

Here’s what went into yesterday’s batch:

4 good-sized potatoes that I had found in the produce clearance bin at the supermarket about a week ago. Peeled, chopped into the size pieces I wanted for the salad, boiled in water until tender. More than once I’ve cooked the potatoes too long and they’ve more or less disintegrated when I stirred together the salad. No worries. At a pot luck one time someone asked me for my recipe because they liked that I used “mashed” potatoes. It’s called not setting a timer. Oh, and don’t forget to salt them. I often forget. You can salt  afterward, but it’s a bit less even than salting the potatoes in the water.

4 eggs. These were farmers market eggs, laid by happy hens that get to toddle around a pasture instead of stay squeezed into a cage or pen. The cost of the eggs probably ate up the savings on the potatoes, but well-treated hens matter to me, and the eggs taste better and are better for you, I believe. My grandmother had chickens, and I grew up with farm eggs.

Some sweet onion, chopped up.

 

Some sweet pickle relish, maybe 1/4 – 1/2 cup, with juice. Grandma would have chopped up sweet pickles she had put up herself from cucumbers she grew in her garden. In my gardening days I would have done the same, but now I just try to find sweet relish that is not made with high fructose corn syrup.

Enough mayonnaise to moisten it all, but not so much that it drowns it. I use olive oil mayo these days.

A healthy squirt of mustard. Yellow, brown, whatever you have. This time I had brown.

Stir this all together in a big bowl. Add more mayo if it’s too dry. Taste it. Add more mustard or salt if you think it needs it. Or more pickle relish juice. It’s your salad.

I like real food. No purist, but I try to eat as close to real food as I can, given the rest of my lifestyle. I like my potato salad. It’s one of those common sense things that got passed down to me, just hanging out with women whom I loved who knew how to do stuff.

I think Mom and Grandma would be okay with eating potato salad for breakfast, too.

 

 

 

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People are not products. They are not to be manufactured — as in schools — or warehoused — as in elder-care.

I have a granddaughter in preschool. She is highly imaginative and sensitive. She is not just like every other child her age, and her parents and I consider that a good thing. Her teachers, not so much. This makes me sad, and angry if anyone tries to make her fit into a little generic-child mold.

My late husband’s mother is in a “retirement home.” I say that vaguely, because she seems to be caught in a neverland that I don’t know how to name. She’s in rehab, when the surgeon said very clearly he thinks she belongs in skilled nursing right now. Later, when she can bend her knee, it will be time for the rehab unit. It all comes down to what Medicare will cover, I’m sure. I’ll find out more tomorrow when I meet with the social worker there. Mom just lost her internist because now the facility’s house doctor is in charge. I understand this is required. Yet that doctor was not even aware that she had congestive heart failure, which was diagnosed 5 years ago. Does the house doctor even communicate with her internist? Mom is not just like everyone else in the country who just had a knee replacement, as Medicare says she must be treated.

Ken Robinson says our current education system is built on a fast-food paradigm. I think the same is true for our current western elder-care system. We need something different. Something local as opposed to the monolithic Medicare system. Something artisanal rather than based on mass production.

What would a local, artisanal approach to elder care look like?

I was a home-educating mother for ten years because I believed my children were individuals and should be educated that way. I was present at the home birth of my son’s first child, which my daughter assisted to deliver as a student midwife. I cared for my mother in her home as she died of cancer. Artisanal. Now I’m wondering what a counter cultural, home-based aging would look like.

Based on what I’m learning and seeing Mom experience in today’s American elder care system, my gut tells me I don’t ever want to have to be in that position myself. This is why I’m getting extra emotional around her situation. Yet I also realize the day may come when I need to accept what I don’t want. If that happens, I hope I can do it with grace, but luckily that’s a long way off because right now I’m appalled by the thought.

Here’s what I’m contemplating for aging. I’d say it’s a plan, but it isn’t yet. I’m agitated. I’m reacting. I’m thinking, but too tired to think clearly right now. I mostly know what I don’t want, and that has to translate into what I do want.

  1. Stay as healthy as I can as long as I can.Exercise and eat right. This means I need to form the habit of exercising, something I lost seven years ago. It also means I need to Stop the Stress Eating, which will be easier if I can tame the stress, which is necessary anyway if I want to stay healthy. I get that.
  2. Enjoy life. I won’t live forever, and I’m not even sure I want to try.
  3. Talk to my children about their feelings and our options. What are they thinking about where I will age and what they are willing and able to do?
  4. If I ever have a cancer diagnosis, if it can be completely surgically removed , go for it. If not, just let it be. No chemo. No radiation. Good nutrition, more of what supports health, make the most of every day of life, and pray. Leave the rest to God. I saw my mom give her all to chemo, and she died an ugly death anyway.
  5. Cardiovascular problems? A sudden massive heart attack would be better than being warehoused in a nursing home. Of course I know that lots of people have heart attacks and strokes that don’t kill them, just damage them. That’s partly why I don’t know how to answer this one yet. See number 1.

Perhaps to be continued. Thank you for allowing me to think “out loud.” I’m still thinking, but right now I must sleep. See number 1.

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Girls’ weekend

My daughter and granddaughter visited me last weekend. It was fabulous. It moved me more than I can say to hang out and reconnect with the woman that my miracle of a daughter has become.  “I love what you’ve done with the place,” she said. This was especially meaningful because this was the first time she’d been here since just before her father died. “It feels different, and I mean that in a good way. There’s a better energy here.” Yes, dear, I hope there is.

Then of course there is my four-year-old granddaughter. She sparkles. She is a sprite. Her creativity takes her across three thoughts at a time. She is not afraid to say what’s on her mind or what she needs or wants. She loves dresses and leggings and boots, and currently her favorite colors are black and white. Did you know airplanes don’t snore and trees don’t have faces?

This is what’s precious. Breathing the same air as loved ones. The feel of their arms around you that lingers after you part at the airport. Eye contact. Sharing Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Connection.

Thanks, girls, for our weekend together.

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I just read an essay by Bob Greene: “At holidays, those who stayed make ‘home’ home.” It’s an ode to the people who, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, never left home. It’s also about what makes “home” home.

My husband and I did not stay. Not only did we leave, we moved around alot. Of course this happens in many families, so I don’t mean to paint it as a melodrama. One of my best friends also moved around alot as a child, and she attributes her adaptability and ease with new people to all those new places. But one of the consequences of many moves is that children don’t have a physical place to think about as home. The question is whether as adults, there’s any one place other than their own homes  that they identify enough with people they love to think of going there as “going home.”

I’m in my fifteenth home, not counting college dorms. My children lived in thirteen of those, and they’ve never lived in the house I live in now.

House #1: I grew up in one house. I moved into the aforementioned dorm, in the same town, when I went to college, and came home on breaks.

House #2: When I got married, we moved into a tiny rental house outside town.

House #3: About a month later my dad helped us get a mobile home and we moved into a trailer park. That’s where we lived when Heather was born.

House #4: A year after Art graduated from college (it would be 33 more years before I graduated), when Heather was two, we moved to Florida where my parents had a home where they planned to retire. They let us live there while we saved money for a down payment.

House #5: We bought our own house and lived in it for two and a half years.

House #6: Art got a job back “home,” so we moved north again. My dad had died before he retired, so we lived with my mother for nine months, waiting for our Florida house to sell and saving our money.

House #7: We bought another house, my favorite of them all. That’s where we lived when we adopted Tom and Paul was born.

House #8: Art joined the pastoral staff at a church, and we sold our home and moved into one of their parsonages.

House #9: Two years later he took a church in Colorado, and we moved west, into that little church’s parsonage, where we lived for nearly six years.

House #10: Art took a church back “home,” so we moved east and into another parsonage. That’s where we lived when Heather went to college and then got married.Things at that church went south, and I’m not talking geography. We had to leave after two and a half years.

House #11: We had no home, no savings, no paychecks. A friend’s parents wintered in South Carolina, and they graciously lent us their home while they were gone — except that they came home over Christmas, so for two weeks we had to vacate the house and make it look like we hadn’t been there. Our Christmas “vacation” was spent in Art’s parents home, since they also went away for the holidays.

House #12: After four months, we moved to Colorado again, this time to a different part of the state. Friends of ours who lived there found a house for us and engaged their whole church in remodeling it before we got there. We lived in that house for two years, during which time Tom left home.

House #13: The business Art was starting was struggling, and therefore so were we. Hint: do not start a business without money to live on for awhile. So we lost the home, which as it turned out had a crumbling foundation anyway, and we moved into a tiny run-down rental house.

House #14: Three months later we found a not-as-run-down rental house, next door to our friends, and we moved again. We ended up buying that house and lived there for 15 years. Paul graduated and moved out while we lived there, making it an empty nest.

House #15: Six years ago we moved here, where I still live. It’s a thousand miles away from my children, and none of them have ever lived in this house. I’d be very surprised if any of my children think of where I live as home. In fact, likely this place holds bad memories, since  their dad was deteriorating or near death when they visited.

As a mother, when they were younger I tried to make home a good place for them, for all of us. I hope they felt that. Now my first priority is to establish a home within myself, for me, and hopefully we can get back to the place where they will feel at home when they are with me, wherever we are. That’s the best I can do.

The irony is that the area where I live now is home to me. I left home again, to come home. I have returned, and I can feel my roots here. I guess I hope my children feel that way about where they live, either now or eventually.

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I find myself this morning burrowing through boxes I thought would stay closed for a good long time. It all started yesterday when I found out that I need a new furnace.  The good news buried in that bad news is that a new heating/cooling system will be hugely more energy efficient than my current 1975 models and will save me money big time on my utility bills, but I still have  to figure out how to pay for this. I know God will provide for me. He always has, one way or the other, but I’m working with him here. I know my cushion won’t cover the whole expense. For some time I’ve been tossing around the idea of signing up with airbnb.com, offering my guest room to travelers for some extra income. Now the furnace issue is pushing me to get serious, and before I can actually do that I have to clear out the closet in there. Hence, going through boxes. Some I can just carry downstairs, but others maybe it’s time to weed stuff out. Again.

I boxed this stuff up during the year after my husband died. As widows do, I went through his stuff, got rid of lots, and saved some. I haven’t opened it again in two years. So far I’m one book box in. Already the process drains me. I thought I was done with this.

Just now I messaged a relative to ask if she and her husband, in seminary, want some of the theology/devotional books. I’ve put a Spanish-English Bible and a U.S. Constitution/Declaration of Independence booklet in my tote bag to take to work Monday, to put out for food pantry clients, because our experience shows that people are not just hungry for food, they are hungry for something that feeds their soul and mind.

Then I picked up a couple of my own books that I’d boxed up because I hadn’t looked at them in probably fifteen years: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple and If I Had My Life to Live Over I Would Pick More Daisies. They’ve become stereotypes since I bought them, and I figured they were Goodwill bound. But when I opened one and read a random poem, it took me straight to my mother, who died by my side in 2001, and I think I may need to reread both books again. I go to another poem, and there I am, too. At least for now, they will return to my shelf.

I still don’t know if I’ll follow through on this airbnb.com idea, but I’m closer to it than before. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be done sifting through things — and thoughts, and memories, and emotions. This is what it means to be alive, right?

By the way, I’ve been reading Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist. If you want encouragement for simplifying your life, you might want to check it out. Just be warned, that the process of thinning out possessions will often take you to some important emotions. But that’s really a good thing, too, is it not?

Onward.

 

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I have just watched two episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. If you haven’t seen it, you can catch it here or on hulu.com. Jamie Oliver is well known as a British chef. He has a vision to improve, nay, revolutionize, the way people eat in England and the United States. The main problem: our addiction to processed foods. (The video of his impassioned talk about this at last month’s TED conference is worth watching, too.)

On the show, he goes into one town in West Virginia to try to change habits and attitudes, starting with one elementary school and one family. I watched transfixed.

The health implications are scary. The government bureaucracy that perpetuates the junk in lunchrooms is shocking. But what got me the most was what children are being taught, or not taught, about food and life. It makes me sad and angry.

Six-year-olds in the school Jamie Oliver went to could not recognize fruits and vegetables. Yeah, some of their wrong answers showed a thin connection to the real thing. An eggplant is shaped similarly to a pear. Tomato and potato sound alike. Cauliflower and broccoli both are bumpy. But they couldn’t even identify a potato, and they had no clue that’s what fries were made of.

Then when he prepared a from-scratch meal for the school for which the kids would need forks and spoons, the kitchen staff and the principal had to think long and hard where the cutlery even was. When Jamie asked about knives, they just about came unglued. Didn’t he know you don’t expect five- through ten-year-old children to use utensils? (And of course one of those kids could go on a killing spree in the school with a table knife!) The staff even asked for documentation to prove Jaime’s truthfulness when he said that kindergartners in Britain are using them all the time.

I suspect this is way too typical of schools all over the nation. What are we doing? What does the future hold? It is so easy to teach these things, first at home and then reinforced at school, and we’re not doing it well at all, apparently. Not only are our children becoming less literate, their social skills are becoming more medieval.

One day after Jamie’s initial veggie/fruit test, the class invited him back for a redo. The teacher had taken initiative and in that one day they’d learned their way around a produce stand. Just like that–and they were proud. It doesn’t require a curriculum, scope and sequence, and certainly not a lesson plan, with metrics, submitted for review at all levels up and down the school district. It just requires living life with children, including them in day-to-day stuff.

Here’s what that might look like, in the life of a family. Take your children with you to the grocery store. Talk to them as you shop, particularly in the produce, meat, dairy, and bread aisles. I’m not talking about formal teaching,  just conversation: “Let’s see if the apples look good.” “Oh, eggs are on sale. Let’s get some.” Help them to recognize a potato before they know what a bag of chips is.

Keep the conversations going at home. Talk to them as you put the groceries away, or even let them help when they can. If you plan some family meals, actually at the table, you combine the food thing with the utensil thing. Get the kids involved in food prep and table setting. If we don’t teach our children to be competent with forks, spoons, and knives, we are handicapping them. According to child development milestones, most children are capable of using forks and spoons like adults by the age of four. Do we expect them to somehow morph into civilized, socially adept humans at, say, high school graduation? A child wants to learn new skills. Sure, it’s messy, and it requires some attention from busy parents. But they’ll get it, and my gosh, don’t they deserve it? Or are they just a notch above the family pet? Why do we put them in soccer when they’re four and continue to push athletic skills, but somehow assume they’re incapable of learning to use tableware until they’re learning multiplication tables ?

Talk to your children, casually, about all of life, including food and meals. Also, don’t many toddler word books have pictures of foods and kitchen items? When my children were small, reading to them and even looking at pictures with them kept me sane at times. If I was bored with the board or cloth books, I bought el cheapo grocery store ones that I didn’t care if the kids tore. If I was still bored, I’d page through an old magazine with them, pointing out and naming pictures and adding any other little bits of conversation I could manufacture. Lots of those were pictures of food. Not only is this a reading readiness activity, it teaches real-life skills and it provides a snatch of mother-child quiet time.

I understand that American parents are stressed to the max these days. But something is more than horribly wrong if we don’t have time to include our children in basic daily life or enjoy simple food.

The bureaucracy that is the American school system? For now I’ll just say that I am an education counterculturalist and a friend of true teachers everywhere, and that makes perfect sense to me.

(Honesty requires me to tell you that among my healthy grocery choices today, I also bought a short tube of refrigerator biscuits. See, I’m not immune from the temptations of uber-processed foods. My body will make me pay a very uncomfortable price, though, if I indulge often, and I’m not willing to go there.)

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