Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Stuff...

   The past couple months have been difficult, as my grandma, - (my last living grandparent) died of cancer. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Grateful for an end to her suffering, - devastated to realize she’s really gone. –
Grateful that I’ll get to see her again in heaven, heartbroken I’ll not see her here again.
Grateful for so many good memories I have,- sad that her harsh words and stubborn  attitude means that some in my family don’t have the good memories I do.
Grateful that my son knew and loved her, - sad my daughter never will.
     One of the biggest practical challenges for my parents has just been going through her house, the place she and grandpa built over 30 years ago, and had filled – or packed to an amazing degree. She had saved things from her mother’s house, her grandparents, - her first marriage, her second marriage, - her second husband’s first marriage (he a widower, she a divorcee then widow) – there were 5 households of family heirlooms, - sentimental items, and just plain stuff in a small ranch house with a basement full!!!!
      Stuff is just stuff, right?  I was raised very much to value people over things.  As a wife and Mom, it is somewhat irritating to know  I spend much of my day cleaning, picking up, organizing and re-arranging, loosing, finding, packing, carrying into and out of places, buying, throwing away, washing, looking for, sorting  and putting away STUFF. -  The physical and tangible world in which we live. While all of us do need stuff to live, - some people’s stuff is their life.  In many ways  my grandma’s world revolved around her stuff.
     It was a running joke in my family that the entire town could eat for months from her ever growing hoard of food in the basement. – If she ran out of freezer room for things she saw ‘on sale’ – she just bought another freezer. I think the oldest canned item my parents found was from 1970-something! J
       I went up a few times to try and help sort and go through things in her house.- A job that made me laugh, and cry, - and realize in terror that I might have inherited her sentimental and hoarding genes to a greater degree than I thought! It seemed so ridiculous at times-  how could an ugly set of dishes be hard to throw away?
      As grandma would have said with a smirk ‘Well, honey, - you got it honest.” (meaning in the genes)
Even though I tried to be selective in what I choose to take, once we got home after the last weekend there, - I felt a bit overwhelmed.
– What was I doing with all this stuff? I was already feeling that I needed to de-clutter more, - and some of it was almost laughable. -  A chintzy tiny mirror with a catchy saying on it, which I would never in a million years want- except that it had sat on the window sill above her sink for as long as I could remember. The sink where I helped wash dishes after every holiday meal,  every weekend visit – or just  filled a glass of water if I just stopped by…. Just seeing put me back in her house- with her.
   When we were going through her house, I saw THE wooden truck, about the size of a Kleenex box that had been there as long as I could remember.
For many years it was the one and only token toy she kept in the house for any grandchildren who came to visit.  (Since at one point she and Mom had gotten into arguments about a few objectionable toys she had tried to encourage, she decided she just wouldn’t have any. )
  I could remember pushing it around her living room as a child, - and when Justice was born, and we started staying with her whenever we visited Mom and Dad, as he grew older it was the first thing he would ask about. “Gigi, - can I get the truck?”  She would sit on the floor, and push it back and forth with him as we caught up visiting.
   So when I saw this truck in her house I assumed it would be a hot item. Surprisingly it wasn’t, - so I asked if I could take it home. When we did get home, as soon as Justice saw it he got very excited.
‘OH MOM!! THANKS for getting this!! I love this truck!- Can I go play with it?” And he proceeded to take it in the living room where he played with it for almost half an hour, - loading it with people, and animals, and making sound effects. At one point I came in the room and he said something quite profound, - that exactly described my own feelings as I unpacked boxes with dishes and knick-knacks.
   “Mom, - when I play with this truck, - it seems hard to believe that Gigi is dead. – It just seems like she’s at her house and I can just go and play truck with her. It just makes me feel like she’s alive .”
 I stared at him with teary eyes as he continued to load his truck with animals, and felt completely affirmed.  Stuff is just stuff. Looking at things objectively a person might laugh at the things that were on one hand giving me a thrill of joy, and a pang of sorrow just to look at. Just stuff. –
But the memories attached are very real. And our sense of sight, - or smell, - or hearing a certain sound, can bring back memories like a flood, and in a very real way  bring back the ‘presence’ of a loved one to mind and heart.
Have you ever smelled something and ‘whoosh’ your back to place and time? – Or heard something – a sound, or phrase, - or a song that brought back feelings or a memory you hadn’t thought of in years?
I think  this is how God designed us! To be able to be blessed not just with mental memories, but a physical connection to them.
– I think it powerful that he gave us a very physical act to repeat (breaking the bread, and drinking the cup) as something to ‘REMEMBER’ him by. – ‘When you do this, - remember me”.  Isn’t this part of worship? Involving our senses, - eat, - drink, - singing, kneeling, bowing our heads and hearts -  Bringing back the feelings,- the awareness, and the memories of who God is and what God has done for us? -
 Some of the things I brought home I know someday I’ll probably throw away. After a while, my heart will be ready to let the ‘stuff’ go, -while keeping  the memory.  Some things I want to keep, and pass down to my own children someday, complete with it’s story of origin.
   Until then, - I am ok with the ‘things’ that are ‘just stuff’ that I have put out around my home. – They bring back memories, - good ones. There is a chintzy tiny mirror above my sink that makes me smile.
       I am also freshly motivated to choose quality things in life when possible that have value and meaning; from activities and pastimes, to art and home d├ęcor, to the way I speak, so that the things that someday trigger memories of me will bless others and bring Glory to God.
   What about you? What helps you keep a balance? What is a trigger for you of a favorite childhood memory, or memory of someone you love?
THE Truck.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just Dandy :)

  The down side to not keeping a perfectly maintained garden means random weeds grow.
The good thing about it is sometimes herbs masquerading as weeds grow.
Yup. The lowly dandelion. Just recently read a great article about them.

"Two years ago, in the early Spring, we were up north near Chicago doing several seminars. As we traveled through the countryside to our next Seminar, I was overwhelmed by the profusion of bright yellow dandelions carpeting the fields and roadsides.
Northern dandelions seem to grow taller and thicker than our Southern variety. If that town was the only town in all the world where dandelions grew, then it would be on all the travel maps, renowned as a place of extraordinary beauty. People would come from everywhere to view the breathtaking wonder of the dandelions in Spring. But God in his wisdom and love didn't give dandelions to just a chosen few, he freely and generously gave them to most everyone....."
                                                   For the rest of the article, here is the link.

The article went on to extol the herbal powers and health benefits of this lowly plant. Since we do use limited pesticides in our yard, and some fertilizers.... (no not near my veggie garden, and yes, I am looking into more natural alternatives) I was happy to see some thick hearty dandys volunteer right in the garden!

 And since I was already cutting kale- decided to get some dandys too.

 One reason I love kale, - is that it is so easy to clean, - to a great extent because of a waxy-ish bloom on the leaves, (very like cabbage) that seems to shed water and dirt, so that cleaning is easy. - Anyone who has painstakingly wrinkled home grown lettuce understands that easy to clean is a huge perk!

Since I've been enjoying my smoothies so much, and have such a bumper crop of kale, - I wondered how to best preserve it so that I can enjoy the health benefits all year... fresh produce off season in the store tends to get pricey, and you never know what it has been sprayed with, or how it has been treated.
The quick easy answer? Drying it.

I crumbled it off the stems, into a bowl, and the filled a bag. - This was very quick and easy!
Just filled the dehydrator and let it do its thing, 'till the day when I had a chance to put it up.

Labeled and ready to use. - I can so see slipping a spoonful or two into casseroles, (like lasagna) since the taste isn't strong, - but it is a vitamin and mineral power packed green. I also plan to do this with my Dandy leaves, - to keep on hand just in case.
   And while I love the practical application of Debbi Pearl's article about Dandys, - it also got me to thinking about the things we value the most. Her point that if dandelions were rare, they would be valued and protected.   Yet even though not rare, - God gave them a purpose and value, - we just may not see it.

                                     What else is a 'dandalion' in your life today?

     When something is 'common' it is to easy to forget just how wonderful it it! - What is a 'common' blessing of God in your life. Health? Is it a rambunctious child that keeps you on your toes, - but full of health and creativity?
   I pray God gives us eyes to see, and hearts to understand the wonderful blessings he has generously given us today.
                                        A heart of gratitude is never disappointed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Sweet Savings

So here is last weeks deals.... Walgreens was selling 14oz bags of M&Ms for $2.00 each. Starbucks icecream pints for BuyOneGetOne Free for $4.00.
I just so happened to have 4 coupons for $1.50 off purchase of 2 bags of M&Ms, and 4/$1.00 off purchase of one starbucks ice cream.
This means I got 4 pints of ice cream for $6.00, or $1.50 each.
This one was very fun, since I loved getting Andrew something he'll love without the big price tag!

And 8 bags of M&Ms for about $10.00 - or ONLY $1.25 each!! That is cheaper than a small bag sells for in a Gas Station. I mostly got the peanut butter filled ones, since that is Andrew's favorite kind, ALSO usually the most expensive, (not that I mind them, - still haven't met an M&M I don't like!:)
 (And if your wondering, - yes, - there are only 6 bags in this pic.... I will neither confirm nor nor deny where the other two bags have gone in the last week!:)
    I will TOTALLY admit this was a perfect case of the manufacturer accomplishing their goal of selling more of their product. - Would I have normally spent $10 on M&M's last week? No. I probably wouldn't have bought any. But am I happy that I did, and for that $10-  got 8 bags? Yup.  :)
     After all, - it was one sweet deal! :) (pun intended!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smooth---Sailing! :)

Does this look like a mom's best friend to you?
If not, - keep reading! :)
This spring despite some great diet changes the demands of life in the last few months have left me feeling drained and exhausted. A new baby, months from turning 30, (sigh) a death in the family, much less sleep than I know I should have - I know all these have played their part.
For me, - sugar has always been my energy boost, - and also the source of health and weight problems. This spring after resisting coffee for years, I even began toying with Frappes. Not good. I didn't like feeling that I HAD to have an jolt of caffeine for artificial energy every day or a nap, and I hate the 'let down' feeling after. Not only that, but I felt that they affected my blood sugar in a negative way compounding the problem. I looked into a friend's supplement shakes, but the prices, and the presence of dairy made me feel it wasn't the best fit. But I did wonder if I could do something on my own, especially since fruit smoothies are a family favorite here in warm weather.

My solution? It is the combination of some things new to me, and some I had on hand
A friend of mine had seen the Bulk Herb Stores powdered 'herba smoothie mix'
 (something I had wanted to try- a terrific mixture of herbs designed for mental stimulation, energy, bone hair and nail health, etc.) and made a huge batch, -and I was able to buy a bag full from her.

My sister Lydia had been talking about the great health benefits of Coconut Water, and since I am nursing a baby with dairy allergies, recommended it as a replacement for yogurt or milk in smoothies. Since I have been doing a lot of coupon shopping at Dillons which has a fantastic natural foods section, I was able to pick some up recently. Coconut water is incredible on its own -
"Loaded with the five essential electrolytes that your body craves -- including potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous -- Vita Coco has what it takes to keep you hydrated and refreshed throughout your busy day.
In fact, each serving of Vita Coco has more electrolytes and 15 times more potassium than the leading sports drink, and more potassium than two bananas (about 700 mg of potassium is in each 11.2-ounce serving size). These electrolytes work to keep the body cool, help boost poor circulation, replenish your body's fluids after exercising, and aid in the detoxification process while boosting your immune system.
This cholesterol- free, fat- free and pucker-free drink can also help soothe an upset stomach, and when paired with a healthy diet, it can even promote weight loss. All this from a single, natural ingredient, and without any artificial sweeteners or added sugars."
   Lydia told me that when combined with a dark green like kale, - its health benefits have been likened to a blood transfusion. THAT is what I am talking about!! How about every day at 2pm?!!  :)
    Thankfully, - this spring I happened to plant tons of greens, including a large patch of kale.

 I always keep frozen fruit on hand, - since it is something my husband loves, - but recent sales have me stocked up. A few days ago I decided to see if I could get any help at all from a fresh smoothie everyday. These ingredients have changed my life. :)

Frozen banana is always in any smoothie I make because I love the flavor and the creamy texture! Frozen strawberries, (these were actually fresh on sale and I cut and froze them) kale leaves, herba smoothie mixture, coconut water and ice.

I know, - it doesn't really look that whoopi.... (I made sure to put the heavy fruit so that it would sink onto the kale leaves so they blend thoroughly)

At this point Justice was screeching at me that it looked awful, and PLEASE MOMMA NO! DONT put that stuff in MINE! But I kid you not, - you can NOT taste the kale OR the herbs. I made him taste mine, - and he just gave a huge smile. - All you could taste was strawberry banana goodness, with a slight freshness from the greens.  Today I let Felicity eat some of mine, and she thought it was ice cream! She LOVED it, and it was great to know it was packed full of goodness.
I feel like it is plenty sweet from just the fruit, - but I also have made it with a packet of EmerganC, which gives a great shot of flavor, even more vitamins and extra sweetness.

So it tasted great, - BUT the proof is in the puddin!
I have had a smoothie with lunch, or for an afternoon snack for the last three days and have been amazed at the difference I feel. Here is what I did today AFTER dishes, and basic morning house clean/ pickup.(big change right there)
Hand shoveled and then tilled 30 feet of garden, planted 10 tomatoes, 24 peppers, weeded, mulched and staked misc.It was a good day. :)  I feel like 'I'm back' or at least headed that direction.

Something I love about this smoothie is that not only do I feel refreshed and energized, - but I also definitely notice a mental clarity and sense of being 'on top of things', something I felt I was really loosing lately to brain fog.

As you can see from the 5 foot tall weeds in the back bed, - there is a lot more to do!!!   :)
         I do want to say, - that I share this because I feel like I have found something that is making a difference in my health, and long term health goals for my family - not just a 'natural' kind of caffeine or magic way to be super mom!

 I do think we live in a very artificially 'energized' and incredibly driven, demanding, and high paced culture where we as mom's have tremendously high expectations for ourselves, - and easily feel like failures if /when we can't get it ALL done, and still be fabulous!!
    I am very grateful for a simple drink that I can make that isn't just giving me a temporary fix, - but that is helping build a stronger me, and I am determine to get to bed earlier every night to give my body what it needs. It isn't just about what I can get done in a day, - if it costs me my long term health. I want to be a healthy mom and wife, now AND in the future.

      Tonight as I sat down to write this, - I pulled up the Bulk Herb Store site so I could share a link for the herbasmoothie mix, and saw that they have some video clips about smoothies that probably do a much better job than I have on covering  this subject. I will look at them when I get the chance!! :)
For now, - good night! :) My good day tomorrow starts now! :)