Personal Ponderings

DSCN4806.jpgI’ve gone through so many changes the past few years, when I look at the contents of my various blogs and websites, it just feels like it’s not representative of me anymore.No more kids at home. Can’t remember the last time I baked a pie. I cook for the freezer a little bit, but it’s not my go-to form of cooking anymore. Still living frugally, but not because I’m trying to find ways to feed and clothe five people on a single income. Just because I’m broke.¬† ūüėȬ† Everything has changed or is up in the air.¬† In many ways, I feel like I’m rebuilding my life from the bottom up.

I feel like it’s time to make some changes in my online activities, writing projects, and websites/blogs. No definite plans yet, but just sort of thinking out loud here.¬† I know I’ve mentioned on here that changes are coming, and I’ve several times thought I would implement those changes.¬† But I just keep feeling torn about which direction to take.

I finished my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics three years ago, so I’m planning some projects inspired by things I learned in the MFA program. I did finish an experimental book of erasure poetry, Bad Things Happen,¬†that was published two years ago, but readers seemed uninterested in reading it. Evidently my more esoteric creative projects need to be done for love, and not for readership.¬†

We’ve suffered some major relationship upheavals in our family, too. Long story very short, I’ve been estranged from my kids for three years (I will not share details, please don’t ask). It’s the most gut-wrenching, soul-crushing thing I’ve ever experienced. I was suicidal in the beginning, but have come a long way since then.¬† With the help of counselors and support groups, I’ve learned to cope with, and accept, the unacceptable and unimaginable.

This¬†blog used to be called “Life: The Journey” and documented our family’s experience with my husband’s degenerative brain disorder. Many readers found it helpful and I was told it was inspiring to others going through difficult, senseless experiences.

Sometimes, I feel like I’d like to share the things I’ve learned over¬†the past three years as I’ve traversed this latest journey. Grief, heartache, rejection, depression, suicidality, hopelessness, hopefulness, mental health issues, physical health, hospitalizations, etc.

Currently I’m going through a class on DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). Each week, I find I learn at least one — often more than one — thing that I find so helpful. I’ve been¬†wanting to share some of those ideas and practices with others. Simple ideas that can help people cope through difficult and challenging times.¬†And even just the mildly annoying times we all face, even in the best of times.¬† ¬†I’m tossing around the idea of sharing each week something learned from the DBT class.¬† I asked folks on my Facebook page yesterday,¬†and several people expressed interest in that topic.

Anyway, I thought I’d just think out loud here and see if any of this resonates with anyone.




Food bank …

I love my mandoline for slicing onions!

The past two years, I’ve been dealing with some ongoing health problems that have made it difficult to work, even part-time.¬†¬† And writing has even become¬†a tricky undertaking.¬† All that to say, money’s been super tight for a couple of years.¬† SUPER tight.¬† On my birthday and Christmas, my dad always gifts me a generous check from my grandfather’s trust fund that helps supplement my meager income.¬† Unfortunately, there’s a long stretch between my birthday in February and the December holidays.¬† Usually about July I’m starting to struggle financially.¬† The past two months have been worse than usual.

Anyway, I’m not sharing all that to make you feel sorry for me.¬† I’m doing fine.¬† I just wanted to set the stage for this post which wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

I frequently drive a disabled neighbor to the local Food Bank so she can get food, and the past two months I’ve been going in and getting food for myself.¬† The summer produce is coming in so there’s a lot more produce than usual.¬† Fewer canned and boxed things.¬† More salad fixings and fresh fruit.

We went to the Food Bank yesterday, and when I came home, I set everything out on the counter to see what I had.¬† As I’m no longer eating meat, they gave me extra produce.¬† I had 17 red delicious apples, 10 white onions, 12 cucumbers, 4 large red peppers, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, bread, yogurt, milk, granola, 4 boxes of cherry tomatoes, 1 pizza, 1 pizza crust, multiple bags of chips, shredded cheese, and some purple potatoes.¬†¬† It’s a LOT of food for one person, but most of it is perishable so I needed to figure out what to do with it so it doesn’t all go bad.¬† I find that if I don’t plan ahead specifically how to use things, I often forget about them until it’s too late.

While I was staring at the food on my counter, I remembered something my mom did when I was growing up when we had a lot of cucumbers.¬† She called it Marinated Cucumbers.¬† She’d just slice cucumbers and onions, toss them into a large bowl, toss them with salt and pepper and garlic, and then cover them with olive oil, white vinegar, and water.¬† Stir it all up and refrigerate overnight.¬† It was one of my favorite snacks as a kid.¬† I was allowed to help myself to cucumbers from the fridge throughout the day.¬† I loved sour things, so this was a great treat.¬† I liked sour things so much, my grandfather used to call me Pickle Puss.

So I made up a big batch of marinated cucumbers.

I decided to make a big chopped salad out of the kale, cabbage, cucumber, peppers, onions, and cauliflower.¬† When I make chop salad, I never use a recipe.¬† I just chop up whatever veggies I have in my fridge, and then stir in some salad dressing (whatever I have).¬† It can ended up as a Salsa Chop Salad, or an¬†Oriental Chop Salad, or a Ranch Chop Salad, depending on what dressing I have handy or feel like eating.¬† People always ask for my recipe when they have my chop salad.¬† It’s easy.¬† Chop veggies.¬† Stir in dressing.¬† Refrigerate.¬† Serve.

So I made a big batch of chop salad.  Poppy seed dressing this time.

And I cooked up some seashell pasta, chopped up some veggies (mainly cucumber and onions for this), and then tossed it all with Italian dressing.

It’s nice to know there will be three big¬†bowls of salads/veggies in the fridge all ready to go.¬† Easy, healthy, summertime meals for lunches and dinners.¬† Nachos for lunches.¬† Granola, yogurt, and fruit for breakfasts.¬† Chips for snacks.¬† I’m all set!¬† Now I need to decide what to do with 17 apples.¬†¬† I’m thinking apple pancakes, apple pie, apple crisp, apple dessert bread, Waldorf salad.¬† Several of those can be made ahead and frozen to use later.¬† Yay, frozen assets!¬† ūüôā

I shared this mainly because I was proud of myself for figuring out ways to use the food I was given.¬† It can be challenging, sometimes, to come up with ways to use combinations of food I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself.

My goal for the rest of the month is to not spend any money at all if I can help it.¬† Actually, I wouldn’t have¬†money to spend even if I wanted to, hence the trip to the Food Bank. There are some things on the horizon that could be coming to change my financial situation in the Fall.¬†¬†Might actually be able to finally start getting my feet back on the ground after a long, long¬†time of barely¬†scraping by.

So, how would you use up an overabundance of cucumbers, onions, and apples?

Until next time …




Shifting the lens …

The family history project I’ve been working on was originally something I wanted to do that would be based upon a cross-country road trip I want to take to the actual places where my ancestors have lived.¬† Basically starting at Plymouth and moving West, eventually across the Oregon Trail and then up into Washington State where I am now.

The family history road trip is definitely on my Bucket List, but I realized that,¬†because of the time and expense involved, this trip wasn’t going to happen any time soon.¬† It was so disheartening to think that this project that means so much to me, may not actually come to fruition.¬† This Spring, I asked myself, “If I never go on the road trip, does that mean I can’t ever do the project at all?”¬† I realized that it might not be my dream way to accomplish it, but I could do research here at home and write up something.¬† It seemed like a second best option, but better than nothing.

So this July, I’ve been researching and doing writing on the family history¬†project as part of NaNoWriMo Camp.¬† And you know what?¬† To my surprise, I’ve been learning things I don’t think I would’ve learned on the road trip.¬† Now, rather than feeling that writing without the road trip is a second best option, now I realize that writing now is actually making the project richer and more relevant to my life and to today.¬†¬†After I get a first draft together, that might be an even better time to take the road trip.¬† Seeing things firsthand would give an added depth to the story (perhaps).¬† But even if I never take the trip, I can still do the project.

I guess I’d been limiting myself to my vision of what I wanted this project to be¬†without really being open to other possible expressions of that same vision.¬† Changing my focus slightly opened new doors and allowed me to break through a wall that had been keeping me from my dreams.

How ’bout you?¬† Is there anything you can shift your view of in order to see new possibilities in your own life?¬† What happens when we shift the lens and change the focus?

4th of July memories …

I asked my Facebook friends today, “What are your favorite 4th of July memories from when you were younger?”¬† Feel free to answer the question and share your thoughts and memories in the comment section.¬† It’s fun to be nostalgic from time to time.

Food-related Memories: When I was a child, our traditional 4th of July dessert was Angel food cake with whip cream and strawberry frosting.¬† That particular cake was our family’s traditional birthday cake, and because my dad’s birthday was on July 7th, we celebrated his birthday early¬†on the 4th as the entire extended family was together anyway. Yep, birthday cake on the 4th was my favorite tradition, food-wise. Other than that, I remembered we had an All-American feast of grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, bbq chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad, strawberry jello with sliced bananas, corn on the cob, watermelon, marinated cucumbers and onions, baked beans.¬† Yum.¬† I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.¬† ūüôā

We would eat dinner outside on the back porch at my grandparents house on Yarrow Point.¬† The porch was shaded and¬†was close to the barbeque.¬† The rest of the day, we’d¬†hang out by the water to stay cool. Lots of swimming, wading, splashing, floating on air mattresses.¬† Cold lemonade and sliced watermelon for snacks.¬† (The photo above is my grandparents’ front yard.)

Then in the evening we’d drive to Seattle and watch the fireworks over Green Lake. When our neighborhood all returned home from watching firework displays, the families gathered at the end of our little cul-de-sac and shot off our own fireworks. Mr Razor always had a welding torch handy for lighting the fireworks so we didn’t get to play with matches or lighters very often. lol

So how ’bout you?


I’m baaaaaaaaaaack ‚Ķ

I’ve decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this July, working on the first draft/outline of an ambitious project I’ve been procrastinating about. I thought maybe if I post updates here now and then throughout the month, it may keep me motivated. Or it may not. We’ll see, shall we?

The project I’ve been working on is a combination of family history, personal memoir, creative nonfiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, poetry, and visual art. I think of it as a collage of words and art and ephemera that tells a story based on the flow of history. My family’s story. My story. And I’d even go so far as to say our country’s story.

I’m been researching this project on-and-off for about five years. I decided it’s finally time to sit my behind down in a chair (or on¬†the couch) and actually work up the first draft. Or as Ann Lamott would say, “the sh***y” first draft.

Speaking of Ann Lamott and her fabulous¬†book, Bird by Bird, she says if you have a large overwhelming project (such as a huge catalog of birds), just get started and tackle the project bird-by-bird.¬† So, I’m following her advice and dividing this work into smaller, generational bites. Taking it generation-by-generation.¬† Beginning with Puritans arriving in Plymouth and Scituate in the late 1600s.

This is a sixteen generation story I’m attempting to tell. Seventeen generations if I include my children, but I don’t think I’m going to write them into the story because their stories are still being told as they live their lives. They can write their own stories someday. Or their descendants can.¬† Actually, I may not include any generations still living which would include my dad and myself.

I don’t anticipate getting the entire first draft done this month, but I know I can make a substantial dent in the project if I keep with it.

So, on we go …