Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer Garden Party Shrimp

At last the kids are back in school! The first two days the kids were in school I had solid blocks of time in which to write, and it felt wonderful! I'm working on a new story. It seems to be shaping up as a young-adult real-life-mixed-with-fantasy story, and I'm so excited about it. Meanwhile my 10 year old daughter and I are listening to the audio books of the last three Harry Potter books. I was just a little too old when these came out, so have never read them before. They are so well-crafted, it's inspiring to me. And seeing J. K. Rowling's hand-drawn spreadsheet where she worked out the details of her characters and plot helped me visualize how such a story might come together.

In the meantime, here's a recipe I made up the other night that was super easy, totally nutritious, and turned out sooooo good, I want to remember it for the next time I need to bring something to a summer party. For myself I am naming it "Party Shrimp".

Whisk together in a medium size bowl:
2-4 tbsps Olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1 clove fresh garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste

Add to the bowl:
Peeled and chopped fresh cucumber
Chopped fresh tomato or halved cherry tomatoes
Large size cooked shrimp (I used a whole bag of frozen shrimp. Put them in a colander and run lukewarm water over them until they no longer feel icy, and pat dry with a paper towel)

Gently toss everything together, and add in a bit of chopped fresh Italian parsley. Serve with Coconut Rice (Cooked rice mixed with a can of coconut milk and a bit of lemon or lime zest), or some nice crusty bread.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What fascinates you? Here's my list.

We all have topics that fascinate us, interests we turn to again and again. Just for fun one day I decided to make a list of some of mine. If I had an extra seven or eight lives, I could really pursue these. I have always had way more interests than I have had time to pursue them.

Architecture and House plans:  What is the day to day flow of living this space?  How can this space used in the absolute best way, considering both efficiency, function and beauty?  How can space cultivate both community and a sense of privacy and peace?  I would have loved to be an architect, and I have a fat file of hand-drawn house plans I've sketched over the years. Unfortunately somebody told me in grade school that you have to be good at math if you want to be an architect. In reality I think I could have handled the math involved, and this is a lesson to be careful what you say to others, and not to throw cold water on their ideas and dreams. I think this fascination started when I was 8-ish, and would look at house plan magazines at the home of an aunt and uncle while the adults were playing pinochle. Someday I'd like to live in a house I've designed.

Mysteries: I am usually reading a mystery. Uncovering a hidden crime, discovering the bad guy (or girl), and the feeling of justice when he or she is found--It's something I was denied in my own life, and maybe that's why it draws me. I especially like British mysteries, and stories set between the world wars. There's a loss of innocence for everyone, and yet goodness occasionally shines through.

Knitting: How can two sticks and a piece of string can create such incredible patterns? And something about the rhythm of knitting calms me on the inside.  I can pray really, really well when I knit. Sometimes I am knitting and find that I am incredibly tense, even grinding my teeth--and I had no idea I was so tense.  Knitting seems to connect me to my inner state. And then I can deal with what's really going on, and think or pray. It's a healthy thing for me to do regularly and it would probably be good for me to do it in a more regular way. But I must admit that in this multi-tasking world most of my knitting takes place in front of the TV. I'm not a big TV watcher and other members of my family like it, so it helps me to hang out with them in this way without getting irritated.

Travel: I love going somewhere are experiencing sights, sounds, smells and tastes I've never experienced before, that are totally different from the places I have already been. I like to walk around and look at buildings and gardens and take photographs. I like watching human interactions and human faces--so varied in color and structure, and yet the expressions are universal. I like trying new kinds of food. Someday I think I might like to have a low maintenance condo near a good airport and travel a lot.

Art, painting, art museums:  When I walk in, and I feel a sense of refreshment, like I can take a deep breath. Looking at the paintings, it feels like finally, someone is speaking my language.  I feel excited and in harmony. I very rarely go to an art gallery because no one else in my family is interested. Living in Europe was a treat, and there just isn't much where I live now.

Gardening, permaculture, and fruit trees:  I gobble up books on these subjects.  My husband has a very limited interest in yard projects perhaps because he had to do a lot of that as a kid.
But he's willing to lend a hand when I've done the thinking and planning, so little by little I'm transforming our back and front yards into "food forests". And yes interest is in direct conflict with my longing to live in a low maintenance condo near a major airport but I'm thinking these things both fit in different seasons of my life. Kids benefit from a bit of space and stable home situation when they're in school, so the condo/traveling dreams are for later!

Seeds are fascinating to me.  How something so incredibly tiny has the genetic code to create the architecture of a large, complex plant and bear delicious fruit, is simply amazing--it's a miracle that never gets old. The incredible variety of plants that exist in so many forms is also amazing. I love to see plants in their different natural environments. I like to experiment with growing different kinds of seeds more than I actually like to harvest and use the produce.

Dolls and Dollhouses:  OK, I feel a bit silly about this one.  But I have a total fascination with them. I've had a crazy dream about making dolls and donating a portion of the profits to an organization that helps abused children.  A lovely handmade doll could bring so much joy to a little girl, and I'd like to do something that adds joy to dark suffering.  But I am not very patient or gifted at handcrafts (despite my interest and intentions), and I can't see myself wanting to make the same thing over and over.  In the meantime, I occasionally look at art doll and dollhouse pictures on Pinterest to get my fix.

Nativity Sets:  Might be a variation of the above.  But it fascinates me how every culture sees Jesus as one of their own, and I've loved nativity sets since I was a little girl and for the most part un-exposed to church or religion. Maybe I could make nativity sets instead of dolls. Hmmmmm . . .

Nature: I've a bit of the naturalist in me, and like to look closely at leaves, tree bark, rocks and the like. I love to hike because I love to look at things, both up close and far away--it's not the exercise itself that interests me. Nature tends to inspire poems in me, especially the ocean. Someday I'd like to live in an amazing natural setting--preferably, the Oregon Coast--where I can take long walks every day and pay attention to nature, writing poems and taking pictures and drawing. Like Annie Dillard or Mary Oliver. Right now, my life is way too un-quiet and filled with other people. So this is another "maybe later" idea. Or maybe just in occasional spots here and there.

Homeschooling:  I tried and had to give it up, for complex reasons I will not go into here.  But it still fascinates me.  It may simply be that I love to learn.  I loved reading great literature aloud and learning things in history and science that I never learned in school.  The kids were often less fascinated than I thought they should be. In the end I'm probably a much better learner than I am a teacher.

So there's my list--not comprehensive, but all of these are major and repeated themes.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Dollhouse Project

Time to start over: I spray painted the whole thing white!

Now here is a childhood favorite. I checked this book out over and over again as a girl. It completely inspired me. I tried to make the projects, but usually ended up giving up in frustration. I did not quite have the skills. But now I do!

I've been working on redoing and redecorating a dollhouse. Now this feels a bit indulgent. And yet it also feels important. It may be a part of reconnecting with that little girl inside of me that got squashed when I had to grow up way too fast because of abuse. Whatever. I feel compelled to do it, it's summer so the kids are home and I can't concentrate on serious writing anyway, so I'm going with it. Theoretically my daughter will do it with me, though she's more likely to watch Minecraft videos or do something sporty and athletic with her Dad.

When my daughter was small, I bought a dollhouse kit--ostensibly for her to play with someday, but really because I always wanted a dollhouse as a girl and never had one. I built it and painted it and bought furniture, and she's used it with lego and playmobil people and even her hamster. A few months ago I mentioned I'd like to redo the dollhouse and she said, Yah--it's too much like a grown up house.

She's right, it is. All dark colors, all formal, all proper. I've collected pictures of dollhouses on Pinterest that are bright and happy and fun, and this was not one of those. Once I got it built I bought furniture and decorated it how I thought a dollhouse should look--not in way that would invite the playful spirit of a child. Kind of like I lived much of my childhood life the way I thought I should be, not free to simply be a child. (Obviously this thought could be taken too far--I certainly don't advocate raising hooligans with no idea how to behave or think about others. That is not what I mean.)

So I'm going to empty it and spray paint the whole thing white. And start over.

Here are some fabrics my daughter and I picked out today. I gravitated toward reds and blues, she toward yellows and oranges and greens. We'll include them all.

This is fun. It feels frivolous--yet it feels important.

Because like I posted a few weeks ago, Creativity is important. Creativity makes meaning.

And that little girl who got squashed out along the way: She is important. She has a voice, ideas, opinions. She rarely shares them. She's used to being quiet. Used to trying to be as small and unseen as possible. Used to holding all the hurt in. She's just barely coming back to the land of the living now. I try and tell her it's safe, but she doesn't believe me. She knows what I've really valued: Keeping quiet. Fitting in. Holding the pain away. And also, I'm the one that kept shoved her firmly out for so many years.

There was little room in my childhood to be small and vulnerable. I had to be strong, and tough. That's how I made it through.

But now the danger is very much over. I don't have to be so harsh and strong--at least not most of the time. These qualities have dominated my person for so long I don't know how to be any other way, I'm having to learn it from scratch. Learn it like a little child would.

Just like Jesus told us to: Unless we become like little children (in some ways, at least), we will never see the Kingdom of God.

Monday, August 3, 2015


I am realizing, for most of my life, I have been so harsh.

Harsh with myself. Harsh with everyone around me. Worst of all, as a mother, harsh with my children.

I hear it echoed back at me, in the voices of my children when they are harsh and intolerant with one another, giving each other no space to be hurt, to be weak, to have needs.

Stop crying. She's not hurt, she's just being a baby. He's not sick, he's just faking it.

I hear my own harshness coming back at me, and I feel regret. Even though I was never consciously being harsh with them. I was being the only way I knew how to be, instilling in my children the skills I thought they needed to have.

Because I thought harsh was what life required. Harsh worked. Harsh is how you survive, is the way you make it through.

Get up. Don't think about what happened before. Don't think about what might happen next. Block it out, shove it away. Put your clothes on and walk up the stairs. Smile and imitate the others and fit in, because that's what people want from you.

I'm not sure if these kinds of words were said to me by an abuser and I internalized them, or they rose out of my own observations and conclusions--probably both. And maybe this was what I needed to do at the time, and how I made it through a morass of pain and confusion. I spliced the bad experiences, the emotions, the pain, neatly out. I set them all up on a high shelf to deal with 30+ years later, because I probably did not have the ability or the resources around me to deal with them as a child. In some ways I marvel at how smart this was, at how my body or spirit knew to do that. At the internal mechanism of disassociation that God in his grace put within us in order that we might survive horrible and overwhelming experiences.

Now, at 40+ years old, with a young adult, a teen, and a ten year old, I'm trying to learn some new ways. Making space in my life to finally deal with hurts that happened long ago. Space to think my own thoughts and feel my own emotions, instead of shoving that all away to do whatever I think the people around me want me to do. I'm still very skilled at blocking these things out, at driving myself forward, and simply functioning. I can go from a devastating counseling appointment to a light social event with only a few minutes to transition. Too good at it maybe.

In some ways I am proud of being so strong. Proud of making it through as well as I have. It is no little accomplishment. And it's a good life skill to have. There really are times in life, emergency times, when strong is what you need to be.

But all of life should not feel like this. Surely? A series of hurdles and you're forcing yourself over each one, not letting yourself think how tired you are. Or how despairing it feels when you stop to rest.

I have a few good friends who have little ones. I notice that when these children cry or are hurt, they are not told immediately to get up, to stop crying. It surprises me.

I'm trying not to be so harsh with the little ones inside me who were crushed and shut out. But it feels very different. Very tentative. And those little ones don't really believe me yet, because harsh is what I've always done.