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Homemade Tradition

balbalkiI grew up eating a Czechoslovakian dessert called balbalki sometimes at Christmas and other special occasions.  It’s made with potato bread and ground poppy seeds.  My Paternal Great Grand Mother used to make it after harvesting her own poppy seeds in the fall which she had planted in the spring.  Her potatoes were also homegrown.  She passed before I had a chance to meet her but my Mother continued the tradition, modernizing the recipe a bit.  The first time I brought my Husband home for Christmas he tried this dessert and politely declined to ever try it again.  The ground poppy seeds make for an interesting taste for sure.  So I never made it because my Husband hated it. Fast forward to my Father’s 70′s birthday celebration.  My Mother made balbalki which required grinding 5 cups of poppy seeds–the kids helped and had a blast cranking that grinding handle over and over again.  Then they tried it and loved it!  Yum!  They ate it for days!  So this year I turned 40 and I thought that I really wanted to pass the tradition of balbalki to the kids.  I asked my Mother to find a poppy seed grinder–they make grinders just for poppy seeds!  I wanted to make balbalki for my special day!  And you know what?  Even though my husband said he throws up in his mouth a little thinking of balbalki he ground all those poppy seeds with a (turns out) broken poppy seed grinder which took him hours!  The kids each took a turn.  I did too.  But literally for hours he ground those seeds until they were what I call fluffy.  I was being silly all these years not wanting to make something he didn’t like when the reality is that if it’s important to me he will suport me no matter what.

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Yea, I did that

I’ve neglected my blog I know.  The more time passed the more I thought I needed something big to write about.  But what’s really important to me is to keep writing so I give you a silly story that will hopefully make you feel better about your occasional mistakes.

My son had a school project where he takes a stuffed bear to a place of interest in our county, take pictures, do an interview, and present to the class.  We were originally scheduled earlier in the year but when our weekend came to get the bear we were super busy and couldn’t do it so we politely asked to reschedule.  His teacher was less than thrilled saying that we signed up for that weekend at the beginning of the school year etc. But thankfully we were allowed to move it to a later date which happened to be on Mother’s Day weekend.  The Friday before Douglas was given a backpack with the stuffed bear which the class had named Fluffy.  I opened the backpack, pulling out the Bear and got everything ready for our excursion.  Douglas had chosen an Inn at the top of the highest mountain in the county which is only accessible by foot or mountain bike.  I remembered that when my Daughter asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day I replied, “a family hike.”  So I was actually getting just what I asked for!  Everyone had a water bottle and we had a wonderful time, taking lots of pictures along the way featuring Fluffy of course.

Now this story isn’t about the all day Mother’s Day hike or even about that cute bear.  So what happened next was proof that silly mistakes remind us that we’re all…well…human.  The Monday after Mother’s Day we returned the backpack with Fluffy and I received an email that afternoon.  Where was the county book that came in the backpack?  Now I had gone through that backpack and there was no book.  He simply didn’t come home with a book.  I was sure.  I insisted.  She remembered putting it in.  I insisted that we didn’t have it.  ”I’m sorry, but it never came home with Douglas.”  The end.  Except the next Saturday when I was cleaning up guess what I find.  Yep the book.  We had it all along.

Getting ready for the hike

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Bike to work? Who me?

I’ve landed a new job close to home.  Close enough to bike to work.  I’ve mapped out the route–flat the entire way.  It means doing my morning meditation (Gongyo) a little (a lot) earlier than I’m used to.  It means layers for cold mornings (does this mean I need a new bike to work wardrobe?)  On days I’m not biking I get to take Wado Dog to work!  The neighbors will be praying for those days!  I’m super excited!  While I was off traveling this summer I realized that I need more challenge in my life.  What?  Trying to keep a marriage fresh and raising 2 kids isn’t enough of a challenge?  A new job is just the challenge I need.  I’m expecting my readers to hold me accountable if I wimp out on the bike to work thing!  I’ll keep you posted!

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Summer

This summer I was granted a leave of absence from work so that I could enjoy a crazy summer long vacation.  That’s why I haven’t been blogging–that and I haven’t figured out how to blog from my iphone yet.  Dearest Husband has a little more than a month off every summer (he works in education).  During that time in past summers he has been in school for his Masters degree or we have been moving etc.  This was the first summer in what seems like forever that he’s been able to take a break.

We started out with a week without kids. The most we’ve had to ourselves is 3 days so this was a huge deal.  Cheers to the kids being old enough to fly on an airplane by themselves!  Once we picked up the kids we were on our way to the Redwoods in Northern California.  Humbolt State Park has a great junior ranger program where you sign up to send the kids off by themselves with a ranger for 2 1/2 hours each day.  Every day was a different program–both kids enjoyed getting the metal badges at the end.  While we were there we decided to visit Eureka, CA to see the 4th of July fire works.  The family has been watching the SciFi channel Eureka’s back episodes together.  Every one of us loves this show!  There’s science stuff and love stories and crazy occurrences–really it’s a great G rated show!  So The Boy was very interested to see if the Eureka was anything like the one on TV.

For me Eureka had a special meaning.  My birth mother died there before I got a chance to meet her.  At one point in her life she was very transient.  I’m not sure what her life was like in Eureka but currently there is a large transient population.  I tried to imagine her walking down the same street with several thrift stores and 2 different used book stores (which says something when a little town can support 2 used book stores!)  My birth mother apparently had a number of tattoos.  Passing by counted people there covered in tattoos, I wondered what she would have looked like now if she was alive.  BTW I have a few tattoos and am currently potting out my next one (perhaps on my 40th birthday).

Then we made our way to Oregon to see a dear friend of ours.  Dearest Husband and I used to dance with her twice a week in a class where we met.  It’s not really a class.  It’s more like a dance experience.  We even took our kids to a dance.  The Boy got into it immediately with another friend who we know who just happened to be there!  With The Girl it took a few songs but she slowly sinked in and was fully enjoying herself by the end.    The we headed off to Mount Rainer to visit Grandparents.  My mother and father are Wado Dog’s God parents should anything happen to us.  Wado Dog had a great time there  on the mountain.  My father took us on a hike up the mountain where we saw snow in July.  My mother, my daughter and I made a cheesecake with a very special family recipe. We ate venison and caught trout and had a wonderful time.

Next was a visit to Dearest Husband’s brother and his wife in Seattle where they took the kids and we had a night in Seattle to ourselves!  The kids adore their Aunt and Uncle so it worked out well.

The off to Yellowstone where we got to see Dearest Husband’s other brother and then Grand Tetons.  Except when visiting relatives we were camping.   The kids love camping!  The Boy especially!  By the end The Girl wanted to be home in her own bed with a shower.  It was an unforgettable adventure which ended in a week in a beach house in San Diego with my in laws. I adore cooking with my mother in law and we got a chance to make the best gazpacho I’ve ever had!

So now I have no excuse to miss a blog!

I’ll keep you posted!

Jennie

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Guest Post: Cloak of Invisiblity

Coming up with a guest post for someone else’s blog was always going to be a challenge. My own blog veers from being all about things I find ‘wow’ or emotional outpourings that have no other place than the semi-anonymous internet. So I’m honoured that Jennie asked me to do this and I do hope that it measures up to her witty writings on My Human Revolution.

Life IS a revolution, or maybe a revolving door. In with the good, the bad, out with the good, the bad.  Some people seem to make life harder by the choices they make, others look as if they are breezing through, totally in control.

But there is one thing about getting older that strikes to the heart of many a woman, and many men too. At times it is as if we are shrouded in a cloak of invisibility.

A younger more vociferously feminist me reacted with anger towards any man who dared hoot, holler or shout as I passed by.  Cries of ‘cheer up, love’ or ‘hello darling’ would be greeted with a scowl and I would feel the indignation rise up inside me.  How dare they feel they had the right to speak to me like that, would they want their own daughters and wives oggled in the same way?

Somewhere along the line, probably around the time the swollen belly of pregnancy took over, followed by several years of pram-pushing, the hollering stopped. I didn’t notice at first.

But then I realised I felt totally invisible. Not just to the ‘men-being-men’ brigade, but it seemed to EVERYONE.  When did I become that plain, anonymous woman on the street? Suddenly it felt like I was the one that younger people ignored in busy shops, or bumped into on a crowded street. I was slower than everyone else, I couldn’t keep up, armed with baby things and exhausted from the marathon that is breastfeeding.

But then it didn’t seem to end, even beyond the stroller phase. And I realised that it wasn’t that I WAS invisible, but that I wanted to be. I didn’t look people in the eye, or speak to them directly. I avoided eye contact, and trying to blend into the frenzy of an urban existence, I certainly tried to avoid conversation. I gave shop-keepers short shrift if there was a long queue and I had to wait more than 10 minutes.

Life was passing me by and I didn’t even realise it.

It dawned on me that I had to make major changes in attitude. I remembered something a dapper older French gentleman had said to me once when I was in a huff about being whistled at in the street.  Wearing white gloves and a white silk scarf, he said in a thick French accent ‘if you were a French woman you would be angry if they DIDN’T notice you..enjoy it.  The French always appreciate a woman, no matter what age.’

But it’s not about being whistled at or called ‘beautiful’ by the local construction crew – really it’s not (although I admit that I don’t mind that now and smile and say thank you when it does happen.) It’s about taking notice of everyone and being aware of those people around you, no matter what you look like, or what your circumstance. It’s about not jumping to conclusions about what people think of me, or I of them. Of allowing everyone, including myself, to just… be.

By slowing down, looking people in the eye, actually taking notice, I’ve met the most amazing people. An elderly woman who was saving up her pension to go on yet another Asian back-packing trip, a quiet business executive who spent an hour explaining to me about the spiritual mysteries of the universe, a young actor who spent ages regaling me with stories of his dysfunctional family and how he was trying to run away from them.

Everyone has a story. I choose to listen and not allow the cloak of invisibility to hang over my life.

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A Super Power to end all Super Powers

Dearest Husband has a couple super powers.  He can anticipate the storyline of any book or movie without fail–every time.  He is also a super fantastic gift giver.  It’s possible this super power was passed from mother to son.  Regardless of how he acquired this unique talent he never fails to amaze me.  Yes Honey, the pressure is on!  For example this URL was a Mother’s Day gift because he knows I love to write but was never finding the time to finish that novel.  Blogging had never occurred to me, but it turns out I love it and it saves my sanity.

DH:  Do you remember what you said you would do if we won the lottery?

Jennie:  Adopt 2 more Wado Dogs?

DH:  Only if you want a divorce.

Jennie:  What did I say?

DH:  You said you would hire a personal trainer.

Jennie:  Oh yea I would totally do that.

DH:  Well I don’t think you have to win the lottery.  Happy Mother’s Day/Birthday!

I should say that this is not the kind of gift a husband can give to his wife unless she suggests it.  It would be analogous to a husband buying a wife a vacuum.  But the fact is that I want to get healthy and have lost 2 dress sizes over the last year simply by changing my eating habits.  But I’ve hit a plateau and I know I need to add exercise to the mix.  Plus we’re taking a long family vacation this summer and I want to go on lots of fun hikes and bike rides without killing myself.  So yea this was a perfect gift.  Now if anyone has a rockin Father’s Day gift idea I would be completely grateful because in marrying me DH gained a lot of things, but sadly a gift giving super power was not included.

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Sunday

My guest poster:  Farrah finds sporadic moments to jot down her adventures at The Three Under. Her 3 year old and 18 month old twins are all boys. Someday she will own nice furniture again. Catch up with what she’s dealing with on Twitter as @momofthreeunder and Facebook.

I have about two hours on Sunday that has become my fuel for the week- I take horse riding lessons from my friend.

I need it, crave it and long for it during these tedious afternoons when I am trapped in the living room plotting an escape from my children.

I realized the other day at my friend Karla’s farm that it is becoming more to me than just riding for a while on a Sunday. While I’m there I’m not a mother- and I’m not a middle aged woman either. For the brief time that I spend there I am 7, 10, and 16 years old again spending time with my grandfather in spirit, and learning to ride.

I think of him quite often- even though I lost him 13 years ago. Sunday he was everywhere, watching me watch the horses and the beautiful sight before me.

This particular Sunday morning here in South Carolina was as perfect as they come. It was warm in the sunshine- but the temperature was really only hovering around 66 degrees. Mostly breezy- which is to say borderline windy. Karla’s farm is on a picturesque setting- the house sits up closer to the road, while the garden, horse pastures, barns, and training ring are behind it. Once you park and step off onto the newly- graveled driveway, you make your way to the tack room  to get your horse ready. It is there that the view rises up to meet you, shakes the cobwebs from your brain- and gives you the tingles.

Looking straight out you see the horses mingling at the fence- waiting for some attention. There are a few trees here and there which provide an ample amount of shade from the heat which is on its way any day now. The pasture goes down, farther back and merges with woods that are so thick, green and lush you are sure nothing could possibly be behind them but more trees, fields and flowers for eternity.

Above hung a Carolina Blue sky with white wisping clouds and made me look more than once just to make sure that what I was seeing was in fact, real and just not some incredibly photo shopped image. I was grateful to be there on that morning to see that view and to feel that wind and sun on my skin. Karla told me that there was a pond back there- so as I looked towards the mammoth and wise green trees rustling and shimmering- and I saw what this world was created to share. I remember thinking that if I was a religious person- THIS would be my church. Because whatever you believe in- whatever your faith- it resonated today in that pasture, trees and magnificent breeze.

I normally do not have such strong feelings when out about in nature or otherwise- and it may have to do with the strong connection horses bring me to my grandfather- but I just couldn’t shake that image of the pasture out of my head. Nowhere else have I seen it- and although I regretted not running back to my car to take a picture with my phone-I also didn’t want to cheapen it, if that makes sense. What I saw could not be put to justice in a photograph nor can it be with my words. All I know is that I saw it- it was ethereal, and I attended church today.


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It Could Happen to Anyone

I just heard an NPR piece about Michael Morton who after spending 25 years in jail for killing his wife was finally released because of DNA evidence.  He had written his wife a note saying how sad he was that she wouldn’t have sex with him on his birthday and based on that piece of paper stuck to a mirror the prosecution painted an ugly picture of a killer.  The police and prosecution where so convinced of his guilt that they didn’t investigate evidence left behind my the real killer.  The story in it’s entirety is here.  What disturbs me most about this story is that it could happen to anyone.  I can definitely see myself being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the same way, accidents can happen.  Dearest Husband and I watched The Descendants last night.  It’s about how a family deals with a tragic accident befalling the wife/mother.  At anytime something could happen whether it be a terrible mistake or a crazy coincidence.  And let’s face it–sooner or later everyone experiences hardships.  A friend of mine was recently pulled over for speeding.  After talking with the officer and receiving a ticket she learned that the officer felt that she shouldn’t be driving and her license was suspended.  She was a little shaken up about being pulled over and my guess is that the officer thought she was too old to be driving.  She’s an incredibly vibrant person and I can’t imagine how anyone would question her abilities but for that officer at that particular moment something was amiss.  I guess my point is that things happen and what really matters is how we deal with it.  One of the reasons I practice this Buddhism is because I want to be in rhythm with the universe at all those critical moments.  I want to have good responses and make good decisions.  I admit that my basic nature is to make stupid split decisions.  I think of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as putting money in the bank of acting intelligently.  Next time I need to make a withdrawal I will be calm and have my wits about me.

 

 

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Win a signed copy of Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

This is my first giveaway!  Basically I read Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and I peed myself laughing–or I have a urinary tract infection–either way this book is freaking hilarious!  It’s a memoir by The Bloggess whose blog I LOVE!  You can find her here.  Basically the book is about all that stuff we wish never happened but made us who we are.  Spoiler Alert:  If you don’t like the word vagina, don’t sign up for the giveaway–she uses it so much I’m wondering if she secretly has 2 vaginas.  All you have to do is leave a comment with an experience that you wish never happened to you but helped form who you are today.  At the end of the week I’ll choose one special winner.  Good Luck!

 

UPDATE:  Well this was a hard one!  There were some good experiences!  Thank you everyone for your comments!  Without further ado the winner is…Michelle P!  Enjoy it!

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