Pondering the New Year

I’ve never been a huge New Year’s person.

In my hospital nursing years, I worked almost every New Year’s Eve, often putting back together the results of partying a bit more than was optimal. This was part of my deal with the establishment, as a single mom with a young child, that I’d work all the rest of the holidays but I needed Christmas Eve and Christmas morning off.

One of my more memorable New Year’s Eves happened when Dave was about four. We’d been to church and then came home and read three whole extra stories.

About then, my phone rang and it was a couple of friends from my youth group days wondering if I wanted company. I said sure, if they didn’t mind the flannel jammies. They brought the bubbly and I broke out some herb roasted cashews and we had a blast catching up on everybody we knew.

This year is a food year at our house. And some time for pondering food traditions.

My mom didn’t care for shelling beans or peas, or for cooked leafy greens. This was a perspective that worked fairly well in Minnesota. Not so much after we moved to Florida!

According to the old southern traditions, we may be in trouble when it comes to luck in 2018.

My hog jowls won’t be here until the middle of next week due to some glitches in local farmer land.

I don’t have any collard greens in the garden just now, but there’s gorgeous black kale in the fridge which will just have to do.

And, with a smidge of regret, we’re skipping the black-eyed peas this year. It seems I really do feel better when I don’t eat them.

So, what, then?

Well, my best ever pot of butternut squash soup with mixed bone broth from Saturday night. Bright, velvety, comforting little pint-sized gems in the freezer for dark winter days.

Gorgeous, local rib eye steak for Bill and stone crab claws for me on New Year’s Eve, along with a big bowl of very green salad. (There are advantages to not being able to leave home!)

And, for Monday, dry brined local pork chops and barely wilted kale with garlic.

At the very least, we’ll be ahead on vitamins!

We might be ahead on community, as well.

We’re helping to support our local foodie farmer and butcher friends.

We’re voting with our wallets on critical issues like health and the environment. It may take a while longer, but I have faith!

We’re stashing enough food in the freezer to help out friends and neighbors.

And, next week, I’m trying out a new recipe for making broth from crab shells. One of these days, I’m going to get it right!

It would also be ok if we won HGTV‘s dream home giveaway.

Which would, by the way, need to be big enough for a couple of freezers!

For this moment, know that you and yours are in our thoughts and prayers. And may 2018 be filled, for all of us, with a whole lot of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Blessings and Peace from Sue, Bill, Sarah, Phoebe, and Luther

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love (and art) will save the world.

A handful of rustic, folk-y clay figures form the center of our Christmas decorations every year.

You know the players. Mary and Joseph. The baby Jesus, also known in our family as the Beeji-weeji.

A cow. Some shepherds and kings. An angel. And, in this particular collection of witnesses, a Puli dog from an artist with a sense of humor, somewhere in a village called Szentendre, in Hungary.

Sure signs of Love for my heart.

Love will save the world. Ultimately, if not by tomorrow.

Art will help save the world. It’s ancient wisdom that feels true to me.

Art as a way of carrying Love through the ages.

Today, we’re not talking about modern artists in Hungary or Gothic and Renaissance masters. At least not primarily. Today we’re talking about a story of Love and a 10-year-old kid with a big heart and some colored pencils.

Today, we’re talking a really big dog named Otis and all the things he learned at his first Christmas.

And a chance for you to be part of the Love.

It’s easy! Just click on the pretty book title and get your copy of the Kindle book called Otis and the Great Christmas Adventure! 

I learned this story from a friend who loves Newfoundland dogs too, and wants them all to be loved.

Then, as is the way with stories, I told it to Kenzie, my older granddaughter.

Kenzie made some amazing pictures.

Leisa pushed some buttons.

A whole lot of other people added their help and encouragement.

And, today, there is a book! An electronic book, to be specific.

And a great story for helping kids learn about making and being friends. About being kind and helpful. About having a whole lot of fun along the way.

Sarah and Phoebe and Luther are hoping you’ll want one of the fancy electronic books today. It costs just $2.99 and a little more than half of that goes to help Newfies in need, just like they once were. (And your dog can’t chew it up!)

There are a lot of amazing dogs who need this kind of help.

There are also a lot of kids who need help learning to be kind and confident. Learning what it means to have empathy.

Newfies are really good at teaching about that!

And, it’s easy to give one of these books as a gift. Just click the title link, above, and then click the link on Amazon that says “give as a gift.”

When I was a kid, my family had this unwritten rule about stocking presents for Christmas. They should cost less than $5.00.

Just think! You can almost get two whole books for $5.00 and help more huge, hairy, kind dogs!

And, since we know each other pretty well, may I say that it would be a big help if you clinked that link today and got your book…books? It would!

It’s a complicated thing which winds up meaning that the more books that find homes today, the more people there will be who know about Otis and his story. And more dogs will be helped.

Then, while we’re helping people, go get some art supplies for the kids you love. Encourage them to be who they are and, when they’ve practiced a bit, encourage them to make pictures of Love.

It may take a while, but it’s bound to save the world!

Thanks for being here!

Oh! Please share this post far and wide. If you don’t have your own process, just scroll up and click the little blocks to the left. They’ll make it easier!

And Kenzie will be pretty excited, too!

Much Love, sue

p.s. New to e-books? No Kindle reader? No problem! Just ask the nice folks at Amazon to send yours to your laptop. Or your grandkids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dog’s perspective on Thanksgiving!

Today it’s my turn to blog…I’m Phoebe!

I’ve been here just about a year now and, even though I’m all settled in, things keep surprising me.

Like Thanksgiving, which is, apparently, one of the days called “holidays”.

Last year Sarah and I went to Camp for Thanksgiving while Mom and Dad went to hang out with our girls.

We had lots of fun at Camp. Then we came home and slept for a couple of days like we always do. That much fun makes us tired!

This year, though, we’re all home together. Luther, too, of course.

Mom and Dad believe in being flexible about when holidays happen. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Sarah and Luther and I had our Thanksgiving on Tuesday. The big dogs had turkey wings which seem to be a Thanksgiving thing. I had duck wings which are really yummy and easier for me to chew. We had kale stems and salmon oil, too. It was really good. I think I like Thanksgiving!

Mom and Dad had Thanksgiving today, which is Wednesday. (I think most people do that on Thursday.) Dad is home this week and he wanted more days to eat turkey so they just decided to do things differently. It smelled really good!

Mom says it doesn’t matter when you have Thanksgiving. It just matters that you’re together and say “Thank you” and remember that there are people — and dogs — who don’t have as much as you do.

I understand that!

Before I lived here I was chained to a fence in the sun with no food and no water. I tried to chew through the chain and kind of messed up my teeth, which I think is why sometimes I get different bones than the big dogs do.

Luther and Sarah didn’t have what they needed before they lived here, either. Mom says we can help local businesses and our farmer friends have what they need when we choose our food. I like our food friends!

I don’t really understand why, but Mom says there are also people who don’t have enough to eat. And lots who don’t have clean water. And something called healthcare, which I think is like when our Auntie Karen comes to visit.

That makes Mom sad. Sometimes it makes her mad, too. She types really hard some days. And calls people on the phone. Yesterday I heard her say that we’ll all be safer if everyone has enough.

I’m just a dog, but I agree with that. It’s hard not to get mad, or mean, when you don’t have enough and others have too much.

Here are some more things I learned about Thanksgiving this year…

There were lots and lots of things that smelled green in our fridge. You know, like leaves. Mom says that’s a new/old Thanksgiving tradition.

The turkey came from our friend, Greg.

And Mom says we’re giving away half the soup that comes from the bones.

I think, maybe, other families do Thanksgiving differently. Mom says different is ok. It sounds to me, though, like the point of the whole thing is to remember the good things and try to share them with others.

Mom has a friend we haven’t met whose name is Rumi. A long time ago, even before Pilgrims, I think, he said:

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Maybe Thanksgiving is about each of us finding our own way.

From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you for listening. I like blogging! Love, Phoebe

PS – Mom’s going to share her recipe for turkey broth on Sunday. Save those bones! (And, please, please, please don’t give cooked bones to your dogs!!!)

 

 

 

“Before I built a wall…”

Hi! It’s me, again. Sarah.

There’s been a lot going on at our house lately. Mom says some of it’s my fault, which doesn’t seem to be a thing that gets me more treats.

I think it started about three weeks ago, though I’m better with clocks than calendars.

Mom went out to run a fast errand, which usually means she comes home with food.

Luther and Phoebe and I stayed home with one of our favorite aunties who was helping mom with some stuff that needed to get done.

Luther and Phoebe were in the house. According to Mom, I was being stubborn–whatever that is–and wanted to stay outside.

It’s started to be Fall here!

As the story goes, right after Mom left I got out of the gate.

I’ve done that a couple of times before, though I’m never quite sure how it works.

It seems like I just want something really badly and I’m on the other side, though nobody can quite figure out how. I just go to the driveway and wait for something exciting to happen!

Anyway, one thing led to another and our friend Greg came as soon as he could to fix the gate.

Fixing made lots of noise.

Something called sawing and some more stuff called drilling. We all had to stay inside for a long time.

I wanted to help. Mom said I could help most by staying inside.

Sometimes she’s no fun!

Anyway, the gate is “fixed”. I can’t see through it anymore and it doesn’t move when I push. Also, it smells like new wood.

Mom seems more relaxed now and we get to play outside for longer times.

Yesterday it was really pretty out and we all sat on the deck. Mom was reading to us.

Something called a poem.

It seemed to be about fences, but also a little about me, even though it was written by somebody I never knew called Robert Frost, a long time ago.

“Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.”
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

Mom says fences are often hard but that this one was an easy choice for us.

There’s a big road right behind our house with lots of traffic and Mom seems really sure it’s dangerous.

There’s a smaller road out front but there are rules and one of the rules is that dogs have to be on leads and I never had my lead on back when I used to get out of the gate.

I can’t get out any more.

Somehow, though, I think I can’t get out anymore because Mom loves us, which feels different than the poem she read.

Today, Luther and I chased squirrels and Phoebe rolled on her back in the grass which she likes to do a lot.

Then Mom called us in and gave us all our favorite treats.

She seems to like it when we do what she asks us to do.

(Though, apparently, I’m supposed to try harder!)

Mom writes poems, too. Not usually about fences.

I’m not sure if this is a poem but it might be. I tried hard.

Love, Sarah

Just tell the stories…now!

You know how two things that are familiar, separately, can suddenly appear totally different when they wind up close together? Especially if you add in an unexpected wild card, or two?

This is what my world feels like just now.

It has a lot to do with stories.

Yesterday, a friend told me that she was spending hours and hours a day worrying about the current occupant of the Oval Office. What, she asked, did she do about that?

Please be clear that the answer was not mine. It came from the uber-wise Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes, whose book, Untie the Strong Woman, I’m reading at the moment, inspired by my Pilgrimage into the mythos of the Black Madonnas.

Because of this book, I who have five college degrees, am beginning to learn some crucial things about world history that I somehow managed to escape thus far.

The one that feels most important to me in this moment is that this is not the first time the world has been here. We have a long history of power-hungry dictator-types trying to secure their positions through fear.

It has never been fun. It has often been effective.

Knowing that, we have other choices.

One of those choices is telling the stories of liberation.

I have some friends who are working hard to do just that.

Our book, Breathing Words, is coming out in September. It’s an anthology. A collection of words by a community of writers. Many of them, stories of overcoming oppression and tragedy, lifetimes in the making, and utterly of the moment.

We’re all busy learning new things. Formatting. Websites. Pinterest. Perhaps even Twitter. Meme making. (See above. Thanks, friends!) Being a writer is complicated in our world. And yet, we have stories to tell.

Why?

According to author and teacher, Natalie Goldberg, “To write is to continue the human lineage” (The True Secret of Writing, p. 3). The oral traditions count, too!

Then, this morning, a wild card.

We’re still adapting to the blessing of three dogs rather than two.

Recently, Sarah and Luther have developed a new dynamic. Sarah, as she is fond of doing, stares out the front window.

Luther barks his head off, in these days, even when there’s nothing to bark about.

I devoutly wish he’d shut up.

Suddenly, this morning, in the midst of all these perceptions rumbling in me…a new thought.

But, on the way, a hint from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away, “Write what’s in front of your face”.

Here’s mine… Three minutes. Go.

Luther has eye problems. He can’t see out the window. He can see Sarah, looking out the window. And he assumes that there is something to worry about. So he worries. And barks. Loudly.

It’s a lot like watching the news, especially these days.

The garbage collectors come two times a week. The recycling folks, yet another. The UPS drivers, a whole lot more often than that. It’s the way our world works in this time, no matter how much we might think barking will help.

Politicians worry about polls. And self-image. They look for scary things to distract us from the hunger for power and self-interest. It doesn’t help, any more than barking does.

What will help is hope. Our hope. And the certainty that we will not always be where we are.

Also, paint. And stories.

 

Keep up with the news on our anthology project by liking Breathing Words on Facebook. We’d appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to Another World

Deep in the winter of 1989, I went with a group of seminary students and one of our professors to visit the far away land of Hungary.

It was just before the old Eastern block fell. Free falling into a world of communist customs agents and Russian tanks thundering through what were once farmers’ fields beside the road.

It was cold. It was dark. It was so very, very different. (Which was, after all, the point.)

Alternative Context. A program designed to get wanna-be preachers outside the familiar worlds where they grew up and into the lives of those who seemed other.

Food was quite an issue.

Red pickled cabbage, the only vegetable we encountered.

Coffee so dark and thick it didn’t require a cup.

Something that resembled liquid peanut brittle for breakfast.

A fabulous bowl of fish soup on the shores of Lake Balanton. If you didn’t mind picking out the eyeballs.

And the infamous “pig jell-o” all gray and jiggly on a platter, full of suspicious chunks, at a village luncheon.

So much I didn’t understand, long before my days of local, seasonal food.

And so much I’ve learned.

We’re having a similar learning experience at our house.

The resident herd of Newfies are going species appropriate real food.

Controversial, perhaps, in some circles. The next logical thing in our world.

They have orthopedic and digestive and allergy problems I haven’t been able to solve so far. Problems that limit their lives.

We’re starting with turkey and, while we have some skill development to work on, it looks like they’re pretty thrilled.

My fears are disappearing.

There was the whole (perceived) germ thing, after years as an O.R. nurse. (Which is way more me than what they’re eating!)

And the hunting and gathering thing which I’m doing lots of myself, still complicated a bit by that recent fall.

Quantities. Timing. Keeping them from mugging each other for a chicken foot.

I started out anxious. And hopeful. And pretending to be confident!

Which is exactly how I’ve felt about every big change in my life.

My local farmer friends are thrilled.

Bill’s stocking up on dishwasher soap.

The ironic thing is that I’m feeding our dogs essentially what we eat. Clean, local, seasonal food.

Sources I trust.

Support for farmers I know.

The beasties might be feeling like they woke up in Hungary for a while. And there’s the whole thing about shifting to one meal a day!  Adjusting to that may take a bit.

I’m hoping they’ll be glad to learn new things. I’m still learning from that trip to Hungary.

And grateful now, more than ever.

Life is for learning!

 

 

 

 

 

Kind of an odd week…

Hi! It’s me, Sarah. I’ve been practicing blogging for a while now.

Today, Mom said she needed my help.

She fell down about a week ago. There was a lot of noise. Some of it was crying. Things have been kind of odd since then.

Sitting down still seems to hurt a lot. She goes in the bedroom, in the middle of the day, and lays on her side so it doesn’t feel so bad.

She also does this new thing when we need water. She puts the water in a big cup, holds onto the freezer door and tips over on one foot to get the water in our bowl without spilling too much.

It seems to help a lot if we all sit while she does it!

Mom still loves us, though. And I think she needs us.

I decided to be the nurse. I’m not sure what other nurses do, but I lay in Dad’s bathtub and listen in case she needs me. (It’s also cool in there!)

She’s been doing the thing called reading a lot. Apparently it’s hard to type lying down.

We still do the usual things.

Everybody gets food. And love. Mom says she’s going to be fine but it seems we’re not roasting chickens right now. Something about the oven being too close to the floor. Phoebe and Luther and I are kind of sad about that. Roast chicken smells really good.

We also have people we can help. Mom says there are lots of ways to help.

She does helping on the phone.

One of our friends got her foot hurt.

Dad hunted around in the place called the basement until he found some crutches we could lend.

Mom stood in the driveway with a package of first aid supplies and gave hugs.

I’m not sure what first aid supplies are, but apparently they have something to do with the thing called healthcare. I think we have enough for right now and some people don’t have so much, which makes Mom sad.

Luther and I tried really hard not to knock the fan over while we watched out the window. It almost worked!

Mom says there are lots of things people could learn from Newfoundlands like us. We’re good at helping.

I think, some days, we even help Mom help.

I’m also pretty sure you don’t have to be a Newfoundland to help people wherever you are.

Maybe you just have to believe in love.

You can do that in the bathtub, too!

PS…Dad made the breakfast room better today. Mom gave advice. We stayed out of the way. Mostly.