Grocery Grandma’s Ribs

Come with me to the grocery store. We’re idly walking the aisles fulfilling our lists and comparing prices, mentally checking off items from our to-do lists, smiling at the strangers passing by and stopping to talk to familiar faces. We handle items in the produce section gently choosing the perfect avocados, testing the mangos, walking slowly through the citrus just so we can inhale deeply. We consider the grapes and wonder why we always buy broccoli only to forget about it. We measure the pears and select this weeks bananas.

We look up to scan the sea of faces one last time, the same group of shoppers that you walked silently in with finishes at about the same time as us and we cross the vast spaces between almost-out-of-here and the check-out-drudgery before we choose a line with a check out girl who seems to be proficient today. We calmly turn our carts towards lane 22 and sideways glance at all the magazines screaming at us to believe Ben and Jen are adopting, that the Princess is pregnant and that sex is better on vacation. We take a small detour towards the candy selections and note they’re on sale, too. What would we really do with 10 reeses peanut butter cups? Are they really for s’mores? We’re honest with ourselves and pass this opportunity.

Almost there. It’s almost time to unload our cart when we see an elderly woman behind us carrying just a few items. She’s not that elderly, but she’s of respectable age. Older than my mother, with kind eyes. She declines our offer to go ahead of us (we have a small load today too, no big deal) when she starts the conversation …

My grandkids called and asked for ribs today. (She’s excited but almost unbelievably)

She notes that they prefer all organic produce and dairy, that they check to make sure she’s adhering to their standardizations.

We make small talk, she’s retired and thought she’d have all this time on her hands. She discovers my kids are school aged and we bond over the silence of our time, how we miss the chaos a little more than we’d like to admit. How we both realize that we’re the lucky ones.

She’s worried about the time, it’s almost noon and usually she has more notice for ribs than this (but thankfully they were on sale). She tells her husband to not expect to get too many, they never know how many kids are coming to the table since her grandkids brag about her ribs and always bring friends. They often feed their grandkids and then go out to eat together after. (And this is when I fell in love with her.)

If you have a head start, you cook the ribs low and slow for 8 hours. Starting at 275 at about 10 am. You cut the fat off the back and rub them, lightly, with seasoned salt. That’s it.

If you’re crunched for time, say you start around noon for dinner – you cook at 325 to help it along. In the last hour or so of cooking you take the ribs out and brush them with barbecue sauce.

She serves them with mashed (organic) potatoes and cooked carrots. (She winks and tells me she forgot the cream but with the 2 sticks of butter in the potatoes, she might get away with it this time.)

I didn’t catch her name but I’ll know her forever.

Grocery Grandma’s Ribs.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

My kids actually cheered for me after Sunday lunch today. I started the ribs about 9:30 this morning and we ate at 2:30. I used the 325 method and actually tried to doctor up the rub a bit but made it too salty. Just means I get to try it again.

I served it up with mashed potatoes, our favorite kale caesar, some crusty bread, and creamed spinach.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

We decided tonight that we’ll write a family cookbook. It’ll be a collection of our favorites and instead of chapters we’d have people. Jessica, Oliver, The Whole FamDam.

Jessica’s portion of the book will read like this; Ribs, bread, pies, sweet breads (scones) … the flour and water, elemental stuff of a kitchen. Fire. Meat! She likes sharp food – vinegars and mustards.

Oliver’s portion of the book will read like this; Salmon, rice, muffins, oatmeal, breakfast!, salads, shrimp, Asian infusion. The water, the sea, the salt. With the sweet finish, and anything that feels like a hug in a bowl. Veggies! He likes calm food – tea and rice.

The Whole FamDan of the book will read like this; roast chicken, meatballs over rice, tacos (3 ways), pancakes, breakfast, birthday cakes, Grocery Grandma’s Ribs, hot chocolate mix, Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls, The foods we made memories with, spring rolls, camping food. The earth, the sky. The grounding and the flying – the take-off and the landing.

And they told me they’d tell all their friends about my cooking and then they promised to always come home.

New Hoirzons

School is well underway for us and with it, a new routine to our days. The beginning of each school year is always a good clean-out season for me. I get on top of things. Lists, charts, chores, stocking the fridge and freezer. I imagine it’s a very different version than what my Grandma might have done to prepare for the winter. Canning, butchering cows and chickens … the constant work of having a home and family just amplified for time away and ease back at home.

The last couple years of school have been what I will refer to as “The Adjustment Period” of my life for, um, ever. I think the last 5 or 6 years have been a trajectory of change and coming off of it, I finally found my footing. I’m a girl who will always look for whats coming, inquisitive and introspective. I want to learn and I often look backwards to discover how to move forward but that’s all changing too.

Camping: Fayette and Wilderness State Park

School felt like a celebration this year. A return to something worn and loved. A found object, which maybe is just us. Turns out being a young lady in this day and age is tricky and we’re learning all about it but also learning how to navigate those waters with her. A friend recommended the book “Untangled” to us, and parents/guardians of ladies in the tween/teen age group? I want you to read this book with me. And then we will get coffee together and be honest with each-other. And I will cry. And we will not be alone.

Honestly one of the best books I’ve read about parenting a girl so far.

There’s also so much shaking free in this season. I’m changing the rules I made for myself, or my family, that were more like contracts in the OR ELSE category. “It’s a work in progress” might be a better way to say it. I grew up knowing what I did not want but it wasn’t easy to stick up for what I did want. The opposite of knowing what not to do is rarely easy or perfect or the exact right thing instead. It’s a whole world of confusion because knowing the wrong thing doesn’t automatically make the rest of it explainable, or right.

I read something recently that resonated with me about Water and Rest. This amping up on lists and charts is always good but where I used to overcommit my capacity and then overwhelm my schedule, I’m learning to take it as it comes. Today I might be prepared for tomorrow but tomorrow I might need to rest or just go to the water and listen. And that’s what I do.

I watch my husband go to work and slay all day. He comes home tired and spent and always a little bit stressed about tomorrow. Being married to an Entrepreneur is kind of like saying that living in the moment is for “other people” because you’re constantly forecasting and planning and worrying and building and creating. Slowing down to be right here, to be right now … near impossible. Although it’s not impossible. We accomplished this on our trip out West this summer – removing ourselves from the regular distractions of location, we were forced to slow down and look around, outside of ourselves, to capture life.

It was beautiful. And this is the hardest part of coming back. I’m forever impacted by the summer we spent away. I know the difference, I experienced it. I want it, I crave it, I live for it. We came home to all kinds of questions, like what are we doing this for any way? And when do we stop doing this for us or for them or for (you name the reason) and start doing the things we dream about when no one is asking us for the answer.

Which brings up all kinds of questions that we don’t have answers to, of course. The big ones. The future ones. Should we?? has been a theme in our house lately. Should we do that? Should we do this? What should we do?

And enough. Enough already. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I know today is taken care of. I know less than I used to because there’s less certainty and more opportunity than I ever could have imagined. But some days I just stop running in circles and I stand still, and rest.

And some days I go to the water and drink and get refreshed.

And those are good days.

These bubbles disappear as fast they appear. My favorite Lake Michigan trick.

Sailing

A friend of mine has a sail boat and I sort of imposed a ride on it this week. In my mind it was a dingy, 4 people might be too many on it but I wanted to know what sailing was all about. You guys. It’s a legit 25 foot sail boat. That my dear friend captains on her own only after learning how to sail just recently.

You know what this means, right?

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

It means we can do anything.

Just try.

Conversations with God and Jessica

I woke up this morning sad, like I’ve been waking up every morning lately, I got into the shower and had a little conversation with God. I asked him what it would take to not wake up so sad every day. Well I sort of asked him and sort of threw my hands up and said “You’re it!” because let’s be honest, I’m not going to choose different today if it’s up to me. I’d like to stay in my sulking corner and rot for a while longer, thanks.

Then my daughter, Jessica, came into the bathroom as I was blow drying my hair and thinking refreshingly positive thoughts that went a little like “I can do this. It’s a choice. I get to make this choice, today is just going to be good.” and she was on the brink of tears because her day got flipped around and now what she was waiting for was going to happen at a later date and didn’t I know her life was RUINED and everything was NOT FAIR and she’s always LEFT BEHIND and people kept DISAPPOINTING HER.

Touchè, dear Jesus. I was looking in a mirror. I usually am with this one.

Last day of travel on the road trip we missed the part about needing a ferry (and reservations) - so we drove a little extra to find a ferry that didn't take them and crossed the Puget Sound to finally arrive at our house. It was a highlight. Cold, tired

So I had the conversation with her, the same one I thought I was having with God – I started talking with her about choices and how we can have everything we ever thought we wanted and look really happy and still be really, terribly alone and miserable and that it’s up to us to accept the happy things, to say yes to joy. We have to be thankful, really. We have to say “Today is enough, whatever it is, I can do today. I will choose this today.” Then I got honest with her and told her what I’ve been feeling like, that I wasn’t some adult looking down on her with all the answers because my life looked so much better than hers. I am the grown up, so of course I have veto rights and what looks like fun from her perspective is really just work for me.

Her face changed when I told her that I’ve been feeling the same way she is right now.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

Because instead of seeing through her, I was looking her in the eye and telling her “I can see you, I am hearing you. I don’t have all the answers but this is what I think we should do. Do you want to try this with me? We can do it together today.”

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

I admitted how human I was. She could see all my cracks and the light shining through them. Sometimes I forget that she needs to see me bleed, too. On the trip home – our first night back on the road – we got to our campsite and set up. I had cried the night before after we said goodbye to everyone and then we were so busy packing and making sure we didn’t forget anything that I didn’t have any time to be sad again. But then we stopped moving and I sat down in the camper with Jessica at my feet. Aaron was talking to me and all of a sudden I couldn’t stop it. I put my hands over my face, and with Jessica watching, my body started shaking. I was sucking air and trying to hide and making ugly cry noises and my face was hot because I was covering it and everything was wet because the tears wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want her to see.

But she did. She saw it all and she moved the 24 inches from my feet to my torso and she put her entire body on-top of mine while I couldn’t control what it was doing, she laid there with me in my sadness. She stroked my hair away from my hands and dabbed away the stray tears flowing out of my hands and she whispered “It’s ok, mom. It’s ok to cry, I’m sad too.”

Jessica and I

And suddenly I wasn’t so sad anymore.

Day six, seven, and eight.

We left Montana and knew that by the time we stopped for the evening on day 6 we would be in Washington. As we were driving through mountains and crossing boarders and stopping for gas or bathroom breaks – the closer we got the more I started to recognize where we were. The smells were familiar, the backdrops were from my memories.

I was getting excited and ready to be there but I was also apprehensive and nervous. Gut checking my expectations, leaving them behind to just experience whatever was in my today. Right now. There was a song (even before we left) that I had started listening to that made me cry every time. A line in the song has to do with finally having a family, I don’t know, I’m sentimental I’ll give you that, but this was more. I was belonging to something, somewhere. And we were almost there.

The first place we stopped we decided to pass on (a first for the trip) and we kept heading west until we found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It was someone’s yard. The town looked like it was out of a movie set from the 30’s and even the bank was closing. There was one restaurant, the grocery store had closed. One gas station with $3 kleenex that we bought them out of. We ate dinner at the only restaurant and went back to our camper for the night. Trains were frequent and loud but the sunset was the most beautiful thing I had seen.

Drove a long way to see this today.

I think I was wary on day six. My nerves were a little shot, we had the first experience of a disappointing stop, the build up of arriving was starting to cap … it was time to land.

The next morning we got up and on our way, hitting up a breakfast spot along the way and making it to Fort Worden for our last night on the road.

Fort Worden, WA Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7

If you don’t mind some home-video and can stomach a walking camera and a newbie figuring out how to focus and manage changing light … well then give it a go:
Fort Worden

We made our first fire of the road trip, ate our first s’mores. Met our neighbors, thought we lost the kids and as we watched a creepy yellow van with his windows card-boarded up drive slowly out of the park I saw myself on the local news begging for my children’s safety and return … in reality, while we were running around and looking for them, they were collecting shells and having hot chocolate with our neighbors. So, I pooped my pants, metaphorically. But also, what the four letter words. We slept soundly that night, feet away from the beach and all in one place.

Day 8 was here! By my calculations we had a small drive to our final destination so we could spend some time at Fort Worden, but also in Port Townsend doing some sight seeing and shopping and lunching and generally things not having to do with sitting in a car. And we did. Slowly ambling around Port Townsend, getting lunch and coffee, and our first souvenirs.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8

We even packed up and spent more time at Fort Worden at their Whale exhibit and their Marine learning center with the kids before we got back in the car and started driving … then suddenly stopping in a long line of cars headed for a ferry that you would need a reservation to board. Which we did not have.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)

I loved this place.

So our last day of travel was supposed to be a teeny little trip. But it turned out longer and bigger than we thought – and included a ferry for the kids and an eventual arrival at our house with actual beds that night.

We were almost home.