Tag Archives: family

Almost Christmas

Well, we survived the dire Mayan prediction…whew!

It’s almost Christmas and most of the people I know-family included-are busy with Christmas stuff. My brother called just after the world was supposed to end (sorry, I’ll try to curb any more snide remarks.) We talked a bit about the holidays and his delight in seeing his children and grandchildren. Other people have called for short chats, but I don’t expect to be involved in other people’s holiday whirlwinds. And it’s OK. Really. I like this little bit of time to myself. I like the solitude, time with my cats, especially knowing I’ll be in a new job in a few days. Max and Annie will adjust to my new schedule, as they’ve adjusted to everything, and I hope it affords me more time for writing and art.

I must admit that I haven’t been as industrious with this time as I had originally planned. Actually, I’ve been goofing off. A lot. Watching movies, reading books-thrillers!- and paper mache. That last bit is art so I shouldn’t be apologizing for it. Still, I could have finished a book by now if I’d put my mind to it. Or at least built a new bookshelf or an entire paper mache dragon instead of the lovely, but undramatic cats and bowls I’ve been working on.

Still, I have enjoyed my laziness. In fact, I’m beginning to have trouble getting to sleep because I’m NOT TIRED! So, I guess I should spend the last few days frantically writing and making art. And hiking. The weather was cold and rainy and snowy so I used that as an excuse to curl up with movies and books instead. Tomorrow, though, is Christmas Eve and I’ll be helping Donna at Common Ground. Hopefully we’ll have a good day and make lots of sales. Christmas Day and the 2 days after I’ll work really hard. I will. You’ll see.

Have fun with your friends and families this holiday. And if you can sneak a little time for yourself, curl up with a good movie or book. Take a nap. Be lazy, if only for a few minutes. I don’t want to be the only guilty party making resolutions New Year’s Eve.

Cheers!

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Grateful

My feet are healing well and I’m going to start a new assignment next week. Being a CNA doesn’t pay much, but I can always find work. The work itself isn’t perceived as valuable; the pay reflects that. But I know I’m needed, and most of the time the people I’m actually helping are glad to see me.

My friends here have been so supportive and kind since I got back that I know I made the right decision. My generous friend Susan, who is giving me a safe, comfortable and stress-free environment to heal, has reminded me of that, urging me to not feel guilty or responsible for the damage to my feet. She suggested that holding on to that kind of guilt and misplaced responsibility actually holds the damage in, arrests the healing process. We know, all of us, that what we tell ourselves is the truth becomes the truth. She pointed out the folly in my continued thinking that I had damaged my body, even if I didn’t mean to. What I need ed to be thinking, and saying, was that I was healing my body. Such a simple thing. And so profound.

So here it is. I am healing myself, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am grateful for this opportunity to concentrate on the healing process, on being present in that process. Thank you, Susan, for being kind enough to help me help myself. Oh! And for letting me spend time with Harmony. I miss my animals so much. It’s one of the things that caused me such personal pain on the Trail. Being here, with Harmony, has help me relax and appreciate the present, relieved the stress of trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Harmony has accepted me completely, just as I am, and that warmth does more good than any pill from the doctor.

My landlord has welcomed me back and is looking forward to my return once I have a regular work schedule. He says we’ll worry about rent after he gets back from a trip up North in a couple of weeks. I can pick up Annie and take her back home. Max will come home, he assures me.

It’s hard for me to understand the generosity of the people I have in my life now. My brother and his wife, Susan, my landlord, Richard, Donna at Common Ground, so many people here who are welcoming me home. It’s hard for me to grasp that this is home, but it is true. I haven’t been so sick for a place, for certain people, in my life. When I came back, the familiar streets were unchanged and indifferent. I felt I could look down and find my last footprint and simply step into it. Life would continue with or without me, but the footprint was there for me to step into and begin moving again. Oh, it’s good to be home!

My Feet!

I’m at my brother’s house, letting my feet heal before I head back to Asheville. My brother and his wife are long-suffering, understanding and generous. I know he would probably love to see me head back out when I heal up, because he’s such an avid backpacker and outdoorsman himself. He also has respect for my decisions and is probably breathing a quiet sigh of relief. Yeah, he’d love to see me stand on top of Katahdin in September, but he’d also like to see me putting more of my art out, submit my writing and be safe in a place where I’m at peace with myself.

Like I said, he and his wife are rare, wonderful people who I am grateful to have in my life.

My feet still hurt. I have to take some pretty serious painkiller to move around, so I spend a lot of time in bed, letting the tissue rebuild. When I hobble to the bathroom I think of the people I’ve cared for and how they haven’t been able to navigate freely for years. I never want this for an extended period of time. This just reminds me that my life offers me more freedom than I realize, sometime. The prison of bills, of trying to make a tiny bit of money cover necessities and hope there’s enough left over for the inevitable surprise (car trouble, bad weather, etc.) keeps a cell for most of us. I’ll remind myself of that the next time I get angry when the money doesn’t stretch far enough. At least, I’ll say, I’m ambulatory, healthy, and I can depend on myself.

It’s good to be back.

Food, REAL Food

I get several newsletters (as I’m sure you all do) and usually they contain interesting articles and information I can use. In  the past 2 days I have received two different newsletters that contain food articles. I’m not going to name the newsletters because after doing a little research, they aren’t saying anything really new.

Well, I’m about to say something that is new.  Buy FOOD, real FOOD.

The first article brags that the writer can help you SLASH your food bill. The tips include clipping coupons, and checking community bulletin boards for local festivals, openings, etc., that offer free food.

OK, clipping coupons is OK if you’re getting coupons for (1) food you normally buy, and (2) it’s REAL FOOD, not prepackaged instant processed crap.

Showing up at community festivals just for the free food, which is usually made-from-boxes crap or high fat, high salt recipes because everyone always loves those, is not a good idea nutritionally or morally. Go to the festival in your community because you want to be part of the community.

If you buy lots of prepackaged, processed items saving money on your grocery bill is not that difficult. Stop buying them. I say terrible things about these products because they are terrible products. You save money by not buying them anymore.

WAIT! Before you start typing about how much time these items save you, hear me out. The only prepackaged items I buy are things I can’t make from scratch like: flour, pasta noodles, some bread, grits, some cereals, soymilk, 100% juice (in the winter), soda water and rice. I’m not talking about the occasional treat like a candy bar or popcorn. I’m talking about the stuff I buy regularly.

What I buy is actual food. The snappy current term is “whole food.” I think that’s misleading and I don’t use it. I buy FOOD because crap in boxes is not, for the most part, food. Just because you can eat it doesn’t make it food. Just because it tastes good doesn’t make it food. Ask any small child with crayons in her mouth, happily chewing away.

Eating healthy is so much more expensive! people tell me, clutching their boxes of .25 macaroni, and it takes so much more time to cook from scratch!

 Really? I don’t make much money, but I am fortunate enough to live near people with vegetable gardens and I shamelessly hold out my hands for whatever they can’t fit into their freezers. I trade chores or pay them-I don’t beg. Most of the time they are happy to give their hard-earned harvests to someone who really appreciates it. Look around, ask around, check the community boards for co-op farmers. There are lots of them, and you’re supporting local farmers-not huge corporations that are only interested in making a buck by producing boxes with cheap fillers, chemicals and other crap. These are some good online resources to check out.:

http://www.carolinaorganicgrowers.com/club.html

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/csafarms.html

And check out the farmer’s markets. They can give you all the info you need.

http://www.exploreasheville.com/what-to-do/seasonal-fun/springtime-in-asheville/farmers-market-opening-dates/index.aspx

I am also vegan, which I know will raise eyebrows and snorts but hear me out, again. Because I don’t buy meat I save even more money. Meat IS expensive. My reason for not buying and eating meat is simple: I won’t support an industry of cruelty. Check out  PETA before you toss my ideas out the window

http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/default.aspx

It takes so long to cook from scratch, you say? Depends on what you’re cooking. Many people will have to get a cookbook -you can find them at the library for free-because they haven’t cooked in a while. But the basics aren’t that difficult or time-consuming. Think about the last time you stopped at your favorite fast food place (ugh) and be honest about how long it took to get there in traffic, how long you stood in line. And think about this: If you have a family, what more loving thing can you do for them than feed them a healthy, nutritious meal? They are your family. Get them involved!

Back to the main issue: food. Say you still want bacon in the morning and steak at night. There are farmers who do it the old way, letting the cows and chickens actually roam naturally and they slaughter as humanely as possible. They cost more, but you can eat without as much guilt. Eat smaller portions. Really. You can make portions that are 25% smaller and save that much on your meat bill. Trimming in lots of places can save a lot your food bill. And think about this-  you’re helping local farmers, your own community, not large corporations whose CEO’s make million dollar bonuses.

You need very little meat to get your daily requirement for protein (about 3 ounces a day, a portion can fit in the palm of your hand) so eating LESS meat saves you money. You will fill your plate with potatoes and veggies instead of a huge portion of meat. I didn’t say this wasn’t going to require any adjustment! Also, you’re going to be taking in less fat so you’ll probably find yourself a little lighter, without going on an official “diet”, (which I’ll address in another article.)

http://www.hickorynutgapfarm.com/natural-meats-grassfed-beef-pork.php

http://www.romanticasheville.com/farms.htm

Now that I have given you some suggestions about simply buying real food instead of boxed crap, let’s address the actual cost. I live alone, so I know I don’t have to spend as much as a family of four. But the concept behind how I manage my food budget is the same for everyone.

First, because I’m buying real food, every penny counts. If you’re buying junk that doesn’t contribute to your nutritional needs, the money is wasted. If you are unsure about nutrition, get a book from the library. It’s not that complicated, although a lot of processed food companies want you to think that. Basically, you need to make sure you have a varied diet to ensure you get what you need.

The second newsletter article I mentioned tells you about this great APP that you can use to tell you what is in a food product by scanning the bar code into your phone….for goodness’ sake, just READ the ingredients list! The rest of my article is about food that doesn’t come in a box, unless it’s something I can’t make myself, and I list those things. Those items have a very, very short ingredients list. I love technology, too, but when it comes to food, the closer to the real thing, the better. You don’t need an APP for that.

There also lots of articles and websites about nutrition, including this government site:

http://www.nutrition.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=11&tax_level=1

Another good one is:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/

You can teach yourself what you should be eating. One of the best things I ever heard (from a nutritionist) was “The closer you can get to its original state, the healthier it is (with the exception of meat, of course.) Raw veggies are best, if you cook them, steam them.” See? You’re already saving time!

Back to cost. I spent $40 last week on my groceries. That included several bags of dried beans, which will last several months. Fresh vegetables, soymilk, vegetable juice, bread and soda water. I use the soda water with something like apple juice to make myself a healthy soda. It’s good, tastes like punch and even kids like it. You don’t have to tell them how healthy and cheap it is. Just serve it.

I made my dinner-cut up raw veggies (which used a fraction of the fresh veggies) hummus, (which I make myself from beans,) tea and half a toasted pita.

I was completely satisfied and got all my nutritional requirements. I didn’t even start on most of what I bought, but let’s say I had to feed 4 people this meal. Before you start guffawing, I want to tell you about my nieces. They stayed with me some time back and we made up a large platter of veggies, hummus, pita bread and apple-soda. They loved it, told me it was a party platter! We chopped everything together, they had a great time arranging the platter to be especially pretty while we talked about the different veggies. They had no idea broccoli was full of calcium. They were also teenagers. They ate until they were stuffed and we had some left over. No problem, I said, that will go into the next hummus batch. They were so excited that we had to make hummus the next day.

In other words, it may not be as hard as you think to wean your kids off McDonald’s. Food can be a family project.

Anyway, let’s say I used half the veggies for one meal for 4.  I use the rest to make a HUGE pot of vegetable soup that I put into 2 and 4 size serving bags and put in the freezer. Yes, those veggies will make more than one pot, believe me. I also don’t use potatoes in the soup I’m going to freeze because potatoes don’t taste as good after they are frozen. When I go to make the next pot of soup I start by cutting up and cooking a potato or two, then I add the frozen soup to the pot after the potatoes are tender. potatoes aren’t something I have to  buy every week and a 10 pound bag is less than $5.

Recently, I was stuck in my little mountain home for several days without being able to get out and my freezer full of soup was especially delicious.

Back to cost. The veggies cost $25. The first meal of cut-up veggies uses half of them- $12.50. That’s not much for a family of four. OK, say you made only one large pot of soup with the rest. That will make up  eight 2-portion servings (I know this is true because I make up 2-portion servings all the time. I have it for lunch and dinner on the days I thaw it out) that’s the rest of the veggies-$12.50 for 2 meals.  That’s for all 4 people.You’re also serving bread with these meals, and a beverage so everyone is satisfied. Let’s add $2 for bread and beverage to each meal. That’s $14.50. So far, you’re spending less than going to a fast food restaurant. And it’s FOOD.

OK, I think you get the idea. Now, about all that time you have to spend making food for your family. Hhmm, that doesn’t actually sound so awful, does it? Food for the family? What better way to let them know how important they are? Also, remember my little side about my nieces and our veggie meal? They worked with me to make that meal. Stop making yourself crazy thinking you have to do everything by yourself. Let this be a family activity. Your children, and your husband, can be involved. Along with saving money, you’re helping your family become acquainted with values that will stand the test of time.

I had a friend who, after several years back out on his own, told me “What I miss the most are the times we all made dinner. We all worked in the kitchen, talking about school, work,  and we didn’t care about time. We weren’t trying to get it finished so we wouldn’t miss our shows or whatever. The kids set the table, poured the tea, my wife and I  stirred the pots, cut up vegetables (until the kids were old enough to be trusted with the knives!) and, oh, we just taught them by working with them. Now, they do the same things with their kids and feel sorry for newlyweds who don’t know how to feed themselves! It was such a good time, such a close time every day.”  How can you put a figure on that?

Now, about time. While the soup is cooking, you can do something else! Spring for a $5 kitchen timer if you’re worried about boil-overs or burning.  It’s a good investment. Time is another article altogether and as my friend said, “We were all in there together. Sure, we could have done it faster without the kids, but that wasn’t the point.”

My point is this: feed yourself real food. You’ll save money, you’ll be healthier, your children will be learning real life lessons…and you’ll get to feel really, really noble.

More poems

HOSPITAL

“Water, water, water,”

she repeated softly,

papery lips over bloated tongue.

The daughter stroked

her mother’s dry hands,

smoothed the matted, lifeless hair.

“You’re being given fluids, Mama,

we can’t give you anything by mouth.

Let me rub some lotion into your hands,

You’ll feel better.”

Her mother’s eyes

fluttered briefly,

opened to her daughter’s face,

“I want to go home.”

“I know you do.”

Her mother was anchored

to the bed

by tubes running

from her swollen body

to humming, clicking machines.

Her mother sighed

as her daughter stroked

and spoke softly

of everyday things:

the day of the week,

the weather,

who had come to see her.

Nurses came and left

at regular intervals,

checking machines,

making notes on charts,

smiling at the daughter.

Doctors came and left,

still dumbfounded

that outpatient surgery

a week ago had struck

this woman in some

silent, vulnerable place

and rendered her still

and helpless.

They struggled for reasons:

a weak link

in the chain they forged

with knives

under their masks.

The daughter longed

for a frame where she

could safely place this picture

of her mother;

this woman had caused her to be,

steered her on the path

to her own daughter

and the husband whose strength

held her calmly at this bedside.

She knew she would go home,

lie safe and warm,

listen to the breathing

of her family.

The tick of her bedside clock

would replace the clicking

of machines next to her mother.

She closed her eyes

and breathed the flat,

sterile air.

She imagined the sparkle

in her husband’s eyes,

the smell of her daughter’s hair.

SPRING

He left in March.

The pansies were dressed

in tender green and yellow.

I look skyward

to let the sun touch

my face

that will feel

no other kiss.