Washington, 2016

This past summer we took off for the PNW taking a week to road trip west, a month to stay in one place, and a week to road trip back east to the midwest. So far, here’s what I’ve documented: Day 1, South Dakota, Custer State Park, etc, Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Montana, Day 6, 7 and 8, as well as a few posts about our time in Washington: Home and Like you, Like me.

I haven’t been able to write about our time away yet, I thought it was because there was so much to tell you, to unpack, but I think it’s because I wasn’t ready to share it. It took an entire year of planning to even get there and the year it took was a hard one. There was so much good but so much hard good and getting to the end of the plan and experiencing it first hand was spiritual for me. I needed this summer, those people, my people. I needed that place and the space to unwind, to spread out without anyone watching me. I needed to be a in place where I could blend in and not stand out, where I didn’t recognize faces and wasn’t recognizable. Even though I looked like everyone else, even though I was among people who would know me, who could really see me.

First morning in Washington, Home.

First morning in Washington, Home.

I ran away, to some extent. Far away. The farthest I could go for as long as I could go. I was trying to leave a few things behind and pick up a few more along the way. I had ideas and all kinds of expectations that quickly went to the wayside.

We got to our rental house and unpacked and then I made dinner.

Cooking

Cooking

Cooking

Furiously chopping and pouring, simmering and steaming. The little kitchen didn’t have a chance. I’d like to think of it as a yoga for the mind. I worked so much out in that little kitchen. Without modern tools to help along the way, every batch of cookies or bread I made, I did by hand. No power tools. Just me and a whisk, a wooden spoon. And I counted the minutes it took to knead a loaf of bread and I let the sweat drip down my face as I knit my entire back in knots over countless batches of cookie dough. I let the kids think it was the onions that made me cry, even though the tears didn’t stop well past the chopping.

Home

I accomplished the things I thought I wanted to. I saw and introduced and explored the landscape of my heart and I walked those roads, up and down, back and forth. Disappearing into the pines, letting the rains baptize me in the moment. I was there for guts and glory and I wasn’t going anywhere until I undid myself.

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2016-06-23 07.33.57

Just as soon as we arrived, we quickly began a routine of picking berries with my Aunt. Not just any berries. PNW berries from the very capital of the entire world of berry producing soil. Whatcom County. And it was berry season. And I had arrived.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

A month in Washington

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

There was a romance in those fields. Heavy, ripe fruit bending it’s branches. You would touch them and they’d fall into your hands. It never took more than half an hour to fill alllllll our bowls and buckets and we’d laugh and eat so many that our tummies would hurt and we’d guess how long it would take for us to run out and return to the rows.

We’d go in the middle of the day, at the end of the day, just before sunset, at dusk. We’d go mid morning and quick before dinner, right after dessert, and before the movie started. We went and went and went. Back to the field, back to the rows, back to the fertile soil.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

And it became a rhythm for me, a meditation of our time spent there. A place to go, a reason to return. To the fields. To the dirt by the mountains kissed by the misty rain under the sun and the wide open sky and where I found myself. Where I found myself dancing and laughing and eating and being merry and in love and in communion and in relationship and together, with my family.

Picking blueberries

Like I had never not been there in the first place. Like I was always where I belonged. Like I had never left.

Like I never would.

Sentiments

Last week I spent the day with a friend in the kitchen making soups for our freezers. We do this every year, turning one of our kitchens into an assembly line of production. It’s one of my favorite Fall traditions, and while I was chatting with another friend recently I said the only thing I get sentimental about were traditions. Not houses, not really even people … but traditions.

Stick with me, they come together shortly.

I’ve thought a lot about that statement over the course of the last couple weeks asking myself if I really believed that? I don’t get sentimental about houses? Or people? Just traditions? Could I really buy into that? Or did I say that in passing, was it an off-the-cuff quip that I said while saying goodbye. One of those add-ons that comes to you as you’re walking out the door and before you know the words have fallen out of your mouth before you really had a chance to chew on them?

I feel incredibly vulnerable after my last post. Which isn’t new, and I’m ok with feeling this way. I’m trying desperately not to glaze over it and just pump out lighter material to create space between the raw parts of me with the more polished parts I’d prefer you all see me as. Put Together Jodi vs Always Falling Backwards Jodi.

Manistee

When all you have to go on is what I put out there, the picture of who I am can become distorted. Lopsided, even. While my friend and I were making soups I brought up some of my recent past with her, something she’s been walking me through for years, regarding my family. The painful parts, the very dysfunctional parts, the parts of who I am that rock me to the core with indecision and bring up all kinds of loyalty issues and honor issues and boundary issues. For me, so much of the perpetual pain is fed by continuing to take part in the narrative.

When all I have to talk about with my family is my family, there’s a problem with accountability. And I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to perpetuate these types of relationships or sadness or brokenness in my life. I just don’t want to keep walking this same, very short, path towards more pointing and hurting and more digging and burying. And more pretending.

Which, when I publish parts of my story that only tell the same part of the story over and over again, I’m forgetting that what I haven’t told you yet is how I’m getting through it. How THIS IS MY TRUTH is also THIS IS HOW I GOT TO A NEW TRUTH which is also THIS IS NO LONGER MY TRUTH.

And all of it … is true.

adventures together

I feel old enough to be allowed to make these decisions for myself. But I’m crippled with the weight of these decisions. I remember being 5, 6, and 7 playing in my “peaceful tree” in Texas and knowing, just knowing, that I was meant to be a mom. Family has always meant more to me than myself. Which makes how it all played out for me a little bit cruel.

And yet, this is my chance. I read an article once about how humans create the family they didn’t have, that if (scientifically) a child comes from a broken home they’re more likely to create a “home” or have a family sooner because we are wired to belong somewhere. I read it as an incredibly powerful article, for me, at the time. It skipped all the emotional jargon and spoke to the anthropologist inside of me. Human behavior. As if the author was observing animals in the wild, she made it her work to study humans and the beginning of families.

Apple picking, beginning of fall

I’ve come to realize that my expectations in this realm are extremely high. The expectations I have for myself, the expectations I have for Family. The unicorn in my life is always right there. When Jessica turned seven it was the hardest year to date for me, reliving my own childhood through hers. But also, it was the best hard year to date. Because it was a game changer. I finally understood that I was going to mess this up, too. That like my family, my parents, I would not be perfect either. That I got to keep trying, I could step into the messy and I could GET MESSY and be me and do the human thing and I still got a family.

Junkmail poetry

So do I feel sentimental about people? I feel pretty connected to a handful of people, some who are no longer a part of my life. I have undeniable triggers that I’m still learning to identify so that when I start to reel and the edges go black and all I hear is the deafening silence of being forgotten: I don’t start replacing my identity with the words of my childhood abandonment.

Do I feel sentimental about houses? Nope. I can get worked up about a house, I can assign all kinds of emotions to a place and I can write for days about what different houses or rooms or spaces have meant to me, but I don’t want to collect them. I have a hard time saying I’m sentimental about people because people are not ours to keep. I feel incredibly grateful for the people who have been a part of my story, whether we’re still walking it together or not, I love my love stories. I always will. The friend love and the first love and the instant love and the hurried love and the hard love and the brother love and the sister love and the love that guides and the love that finds me when I’m sure that there’s no more love. I love love.

But traditions … well, traditions are everything.

They’re the Christmas table and the Thanksgiving feast. Traditions are the birthday calls and the hand written letters. The stamps and envelopes. Traditions are the fabric of a family. The blanket that always surrounds us when we’re cold. When we’re standing in the rain looking for some shelter – tradition is the umbrella. And you can be in six different cities, in every other stage of life. You can be on different continents and walking through different fires. You can be broken or happy, you can be celebrating or mourning. You can be as far apart as it gets and tradition is what always brings you together.

The first snow!
Decorating the Christmas tree.
Making hot chocolate and bon-bons.
Sunday dinner.
When a baby is born.
Birthday dinners.
Birthday cakes.
First day of school.
Anniversaries.
Wilderness.
UpNorth weekends.
Dancing in the kitchen to Butterfly Kisses.

Manistee

Manistee

I’m still that little girl daydreaming underneath a tree about her daughter named Jessica (true story), playing make-believe about driving a mini van and making dinner and always, always, playing house. I’m that little girl who is enamored by being kissed, who cannot wait to be loved. Who started writing everything down so she wouldn’t forget what this feels like.

While everything crumbled around her, she kept waiting for her turn.

These little white butterflies follow us everywhere. They're a little reminder from my dad (passed away almost 11 years ago). 👼

And she got it.

To the water

The skies have been grey for a few days now, this weather always begs me to say too much and bleed all over. To listen to the songs that bring me to the edge and break me and I’m drawn to the water like a magnet. To put my feet in the foam and look out on the endless horizon. The water is where I go, not because I have a choice, there’s a lure there, it’s the place where all I see is what’s in front of me.

Manistee
Manistee

The water is a constant in my life and the more I sort out and come to terms with all the things that send us to our knees I’m drawn to the water to remind myself that this work is worth it.

Manistee

My Grandparents were just in town for a visit and after spending the summer in their neck of the woods it was so fun to see them on our turf so quickly again after immersing ourselves in their every day. One of the things my Grandpa does often when he visits is to have coffee with Aaron’s Grandpa. They talk politics and old man things and who knows what else. Fishing? They probably have all sorts of things to catch up on, but it matters to me that the patriarchs in my life are still standing. More than that, that they talk to each other.

The men in my life.

I have so few left.

Excavating my soul; it's been a year of hard truth

I mean, we should stop here, yes? It only took 24 words to tell my story from start to finish.

Manistee

All the poems I want to tell you, All the
things I want to give away and watch you take from me

if you could just put your hand on my heart
these are the words I don’t know how to write

from the closet of my wardrobe heart.

Dig around in there, excavate my soul.

I shared the whole poem on Instagram because this, this is it.

Manistee

I just want the water. The horizon. The waves. I want the drama of the lake, the hell fury of a storm coming in. A small place to write, a single burner to brew coffee and a jar for the wine I’ll drink.

Manistee
Manistee

Sometimes I want to forget, to disappear and come back when I’ve sorted this all out. When I’m ready for the responsibility of my life. When I’ve had all the conversations I never got to have and met with all the lovers I never had. When I lived a thousand different lives above bars and bookstores in cities all over the world. When I’ve finally settled my soul.

Maybe then, this would be enough.

Manistee

For now there’s always the lake. But the song she sings to me is only getting louder.

Manistee

The Basics

I once asked a babysitter to throw dinner together as I was flying out the door, “Just toss something together! Whatever you find is ok. There’s chicken in the freezer, pasta in the pantry, canned tomatoes. Go for it! Get creative. See you at 9.”

I got a text later asking me what exactly I wanted her to do because “throwing it together” was a foreign language. I then realized that I wanted her to know how to make the basics. Simple pasta sauce, al dante pasta, a salad for a crowd, 3 ingredient bread, a meat rub, a side that goes with almost anything and a way to use whatever you might have. Usually less than you think.

I never got around to teaching my sitters anything in the kitchen, actually I just started keeping frozen pizza’s in the freezer or boxed pasta in the pantry hoping that would suffice, but the sentiment is still there and I want my own kids to know how to fend for themselves when they’re staring down a dinner party, meeting the parents, impressing a love interest or simply surviving in their first apartment. It doesn’t take much, these are the basics.

Let's eat

An onion is the start of so many wonderful things. If you’re in a hurry or stuck for a good idea – start with an onion. If all you do is saute it down to it’s brown goodness, sticky on the edges, a little crisp … and toast a piece of bread and open a can of tuna. You can slice a tomato and eat like a king. No tuna or tomato necessary.

We’ll start with Skillet Cabbage. I grew up on this and in the Fall there’s plenty of cabbage to go around – this is one of our favorite side dishes this time of year.

Let's eat

Grab a large skillet or dutch oven, heat up a few glugs of oil (we use Avocado oil. Coconut oil or EVOO would work, as well as ghee. No wrong answer here) if you’re a stickler for measurements start with 2 TBSP.

Slice up 2 onions, whatever kind you have.

A few cloves of garlic – minced.

A bit of salt and pepper. More salt than pepper, but to your taste.

Saute the onion down to it’s translucent yellow state. Just starting to brown.

While your onions are cooking, slice, julienne, chop – whatever you desire – an entire head of cabbage. Discard the middle, tough white parts.

Add the whole thing to your pan or dutch oven – it will sizzle. The cabbage will sweat, there will be steam. This is the romance of the kitchen. This is the part I love the best. I cover my dutch oven for a few minutes and stir every once in a while.

This will last about 10 minutes. Your cabbage will have wilted to about 50% of it’s original mass. Right before you’re ready to serve it, toss in some soy sauce. Again – start with 1-2 TBSP but add more to taste as you wish and crank up the heat again if you reduced it. More steam, more sizzle.

It’s humble in presentation. But it’s perfect with fish, chicken, pork. As a side if you’re having fried rice. As a base if you have a couple sausages to use, or bacon to fry, left over meat from the grill.

You can always do more – add more. But this is one of my favorite basic recipes.

And now maybe it can be one of yours.

House Keeping: On a roll

Here’s another snap-shot of the bigger picture of our “what-works-for-us” routines. Today, Imma get chatty about grocery shopping and menu planning.

housekeeping

Grain of salt, please. This is not a soap box, this is the sharing circle. And today I have the speaking stick and I want to talk about lists.

(This is where I start singing and dancing. It happens in real life all. the. time.)

On an ongoing basis …

I make lists. Usually of the groceries we’re out of, the recipes I plan to make for the next week or two, the events we have going on or the dinners we already plan to eat away from home and the some-what daily list of the things I need to, or want to, accomplish in any given day.

Back to school

Where we live we have access to some great grocery options. Aldi and Meijer are the stores I shop the most. On the weekend I look at the ad’s online for each store and build my menu plan off of what’s on sale. The front and very back page of these circulars are called their “loss leaders” which means the store generally looses money on the “sale” but gets you in the door to buy everything else. So I know those items are going to be the cheapest. If something we use a lot of is on sale, I buy more than I need for the week and stick it in the freezer. This happens with meat usually.

I always go to Aldi first and whatever I can’t find or get there – I buy at Meijer with anything else that I planned on getting from their ad as well.

We have favorite meals that I try to rotate in regularly so I can stay in the good graces of my children if I flop more than once during the week. Right now I know that we have busy evenings with soccer practice and youth group so I plan my menu based on being able to make something quick, in the crock pot, or pull it from the freezer on the days I know we’ll be here, there, and every where. On the rare evenings we have time to sit at the table and do more than eat and go, I love trying new things or having friends or family over.

After I shop for our groceries, I chop. I call it the Shop and Chop day of the weekend. I’m basically a sous chef for myself. I wash and prep my veggies for the week, anything I can – I make ahead (or double so I can freeze). This means I make pancakes, cookies or bars, freezable dinners, and lunch items or breakfast items in one huge push so the rest of the week is fairly easy.

still life

Back to school

The kids are doing a kid craft fair at the local library today. Oliver made and is selling paper airplanes while Jessica (with some help) made and is selling cookies, mini sweet breads, and scones. We've been busy.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. And I get tired. And usually at the end of that day I want to crawl in blanket with a glass of wine and watch hours of tv. But I do have time during the week as well to bake and cook. I have time on busy days to prep dinner if I didn’t get to it on the weekend. There’s always something else to make or do or fix. We might run out of baked goods for lunches on Thursday so I make more on Friday.

Um, you guys. It’s not that easy to get into this habit. 11 years of being a stay at home mom who contracts creative talents outside of the home has taught me this one thing: if it’s working for you, don’t change it. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart if you are not. Don’t try to be Rachel Ray if you are not. Don’t try to be your favorite blogger in the kitchen or your closet with their awesome photos and target themed baskets if you are not. Take what you can from whatever source inspires you and implement the small things. Or don’t! You do you, you’re good at that.

Onward: Now that I’m in the habit of running my kitchen like this, it has made a huge difference in our evenings and my ability to function past 4pm. I post our dinner menu plan on our chalkboard wall every week (and the full one on the fridge for me) and it’s been one of Jessica’s go-to check points for her week.

Turns out I gave birth to someone who needs structure and expectations. She needs a goal in order to accomplish things and when she has to worry about what might be for dinner (if she’ll like it or if I’ve even thought ahead that far yet) she freaks out. I mean it. She flips a lid. This is oddly one of the ways I love her every week – planning not only our dinners but I plan Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, and Dinner every day. She can check in and if I’m not around to help or guide she can help herself. This has saved us in the mornings when she’s tired or not feeling like herself (read, hormones. Also, 11) and after school when she has a lot on her mind and is unwinding from her day. Not having to think about what she’s hungry for and having to ask or make it for herself is a small way I can help her transition from school to home.

And yes, you lovely little freaks: I do plan out our Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks and Dinners for every day of the week for a rotating 7 day basis. Say it with me: WHO IS SHE?!

Here’s what I write in my notebook – one page will be the weekly menu plan while the opposite page is my grocery list:

MON
B: Smoothies
L: Home lunch (mini pancakes, carrots, strawberries, cookie)
S: Chips and Salsa/apple slices
D: Taco salad and quinoa

TUE
B: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
L: Home lunch (muffin, protein and cheese, apple, granola bar)
S: Rice krispie treat/banana
D: Curry with rice, green salad

WED
B: Breakfast burritos/yogurt parfait
L: Hot lunch
S: Carrots/sugar snaps and dips
D: Roast chicken with sweet potato fries

And so on … While the opposite side of my notebook will read like this:

ALDI

butter
rice krispies
marshmallows
grapes
lettuce
cheese
turkey
frozen veggies
canned tomatoes
tortilla chips
cheese crackers

MEIJER

pears
milk
toilet paper
avocados
kale
gr. beef
whole roasting chicken
ground mustard
paprika
cinnamon

TO MAKE

Muffins
Rice krispie treats
breakfast burritos
Ham chowder for freezer
banana bread
cinnamon sugar bread

Scenes from my kitchen

What did I miss? I feel like I’m telling on myself just a little bit because this sounds like a tried and true formula and although it’s what works for us, this is a system designed solely based on the way I think. I’m a little bit forgetful. Ask the kids how many times we end up using kleenex because although I noticed we were low on toilet paper – that’s the one thing I routinely forget at the grocery store EVERY TIME. But I buy Rice Vinegar almost every trip.

I read recently that you should have a dinner emergency fund in your house – which basically means always have a box of pasta and can of sauce in your pantry because there will be the night that nothing got done and you still have to feed people or you hired a sitter for the night on a whim and expecting them to make your planned pork loin with sides is asking just a little too much. I don’t eat pasta but we have it in the house for these reasons, I’m never out of lettuce or rice, coconut milk, the oils I cook with, eggs or butter.

ONE MORE THING: We’re members at Costco so we buy a few things (in bulk) a few times a year. Like the oils I cook with 😉 and the wine we drink. I love some of their meats, cheeses, and frozen food options. And I always buy flowers.

There’ve been stints in the last (almost) 12 years where I’ve worked full time outside of my home and having a dinner menu plan has made that possible. I know it’s the cliche thing to say that being “just a mom” isn’t a job and sure, I’ve claimed it and struggled with it for years but you know what? I love this job. And I’m good at it.

I don’t get paid to plan meals and custom make them to our families needs, no one calls me a chef.

I don’t get paid to clean our house and do our laundry so our family has what they need to live outside of the walls of our home, no one calls me a maid.

I don’t get paid to grocery shop or shop for clothes or shoes or to keep my home stocked with the necessities, no one calls me their personal assistant.

I don’t get paid to balance a budget or pay accounts payable or be the operating accountant for our several goals, dreams, and responsibilities, no one calls me their CPA.

I don’t get paid to decorate and renovate our spaces, no one calls me their designer.

I don’t get paid to mow our lawn or keep our flower beds weed free or to plant, consider and keep a garden, no one calls me their landscaper.

I don’t get paid to plan our social life or dinner events, or to host our parties or beautiful evenings under the stars, no one calls me their events planner.

I don’t get paid to do a lot of things and I’m not called a lot of titles: I get paid to take photographs, to write. I call myself an artist and a writer.

My family calls me Jodi, my children get to call me mom.

Somehow it all works out, and I love my life. Lists and all.

xoxo
Jodi