I’m blogging after a successful Saturday night dinner to remind myself of this evening’s menu and to help me remember and reference this recipe easily. This feels like a bit of kind self-care in the midst of all that is happening. Here’s why. . .
Many recipes I keep in my head, which is helpful until someone asks for the recipe or wants to help me in the kitchen. My teenager often offers to cook and simply needs the recipe, so tonight I am making time to record this one just the way I made it.
It is from Diane in Denmark, one of my favorite online influencers. You can watch her prepare it on her YouTube channel below. In fact, I watched her as I prepared supper tonight. She is delightful company.
I put a spaghetti squash in the oven, halved, seeds scooped out, face down in a 9×13 glass baking dish with a little water at the bottom, covered with foil 10 minutes before putting the salmon in, and it was perfect timing, taking them out together.
Here is the recipe written down. It is fabulous when the salmon is paired with the sauce served over spaghetti squash and a sliced baguette on the side.
October 1 finds me reflective and with a deeper understanding of what the phrase weeks to months actually means. When Mom began chemo the first week of September, it was togive more months, not years, according to the oncologist.
Chemo was brutal. One round caused such misery that to continue for a few more months of torture to extend days was not sustainable. Mom chose hospice care instead, allowing her to live more fully and with more presence in this season.
Eight weeks and three days since the initial heartbreaking scan, life settles into a routine of change. Each week grows day by day, then adds up with the next to create another month. And that is what we are given, a string of days, weeks, months.
We won September, full of family visits, kids settling in to school, and shifts in business and work loads. We practice turning towards each other. There was a photo shoot to capture us with Mom.
October brings new rhythms and boundaried settledness. Time and energy are precious resources. The walks across town, to and from my parents’ house, a sort of sacred rhythm, ground me in presence as I transition from mother to daughter and back again.
Sighting a heart shape on the brick walkway or a changing leaf from a nearby tree bring comfort and calm to the sometimes-chaos of my heart.
I drink coffee outside with Mom this morning, our usual Thursday routine. We enjoy the crisp air and birdsongs and sighting of a butterfly on the fence. Mostly we enjoy the rhythm and ritual and the gift of a new month.
These are the moments that matter in the weeks to months that remain. Thank you to all who continue to offer such gentle care, kindness, and understanding as we navigate the present while looking ahead to the uncertain future.
Can you stop by on your way home from Bridgewater? I have something for you. If I don’t answer the door just come around back and find me.
The text went something like that.
I wanted to say no. No, I actually can’t.
It’s the truth.
That is where I was. Where I am right now. Angry at the world. At everything. Still having to function while anticipating grief. And just angry.
My mom is very sick. She is dying.I was not even aware of this on July 26, just two months ago.Now I don’t know if I will get two more months with her.
My rational side got the better of me, because this friend’s house was literally on the way home. Also, I know myself well enough to call my own bluff. Also, she loves me. She is so kind. I needed to receive the invitation of care.
So I stopped on the way home and found her in the extensive backyard flowerbed. She is the kind of gardener who can make an everyday bouquet from twenty varieties of things she has growing, naming each one.
She was still cutting and arranging as I wandered out back and then followed her into the house for the adding of water to the jar and sending of me on my way.
I am bringing you dinner next week. Is Wednesday or Thursday better?
Thursday was a no-brainer, since my husband was leaving for his annual guys’ weekend that day.
Thursday. Thank you.
We chatted briefly in the kitchen, a safe distance from each other, before I left to pick up a child from a friend’s house, in same the neighborhood, on the way home.
Tears filled my eyes.
I don’t know what I need on a good day, and lately the days are not so good. When the text came with several menu choices, I knew instantly the one. She agreed it was one of her best.
She cut me flowers and brought me food.
And that is what I needed.
And I am so grateful.
Thank you, AM, and all of you who have known just what I needed and left in on the porch or dropped it in the mail or sent it by text. You are the hands and feet of real Jesus and love.Thank you for your care during this unbearable hard.
I decide to welcome fall early this year. It’s still August when I commit.
I know that’s not the official start, but something about knowing, really knowing, that you have months, not years, left with someone, makes every moment count.
We know that, right? That all of the moments count? Turn towards those you love while you can. It’s a great theory, but the practice of it, in blog-friendly language, is oh my.
Because life. And death. And all of that in-between. And not all of us get to know ahead of time.
And what are months, anyway? Twelve of them make up a year. That leads to twenty-four, which is two years, and so on. Not without hope, and yet, there is also reality.
So last Friday, as Mom and Dad visited the oncologist, my sister and I ran afternoon errands together. Something about a perceived sense of normalcy and control made this an adventure filled with hilarity and comic relief.
We are good at comic relief.Also irreverent hilarity.
After all of the musts, I chose a want and decided to get fall plants for mom’s outdoor planter.
Each Mother’s Day I plant one of the large planters in front of my parents’ house for Mom, and on Father’s Day I plant the other for Dad. This year was different on Mother’s Day, due, in part to the pandemic and its limitations.
Instead of selecting individual plants, I chose a hanging basket from the local food coop, planning to empty it into the planter, ready made style. When Mom saw what I was doing, she preferred to keep it as a hanging basket, so up on the porch it went.
Her planter remained sparsely populated with perennial growth from previous years, a rosemary bush, lambs ears, purple salvia, and a lone geranium, added by me to fill an obvious gap. These continued growing all summer but never fully got it together.
I tried looking back in my phone to see if I had a picture of that planter, and just the act of scrolling backwards to May brought a heaviness to my chest and tears to my eyes. We can’t go back to before.
I decided to seize my (and mom’s) favorite season and plant for fall to welcome her home from her long day of medical appointments.
I exit the house a little after noon, stepping into glorious fall sunshine. I pass a friend with her two littles, returning from the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, our polling place. The older rides his glider bike expertly while the younger kicks his legs in the stroller. We exchange brief greetings and continue our separate ways.
Seeing neighbors out and about going to and from the polls is a part that I love about election day.
I follow a series of right and left turns, passing two little boys playing in their yard. They look at me quizzically. I smile and cross the street where a tree with burnt orange and brown leaves overhangs the sidewalk. I make a mental note to take a picture on the way back.
A final left leads me to the parking lot lined with polling signs. Turning into it, I follow the sidewalk to where the volunteers pass sample ballots and chat with their peers. A man steps forward to offer a guide while the others look at me and keep talking. It feels strange. I take the guide and continue walking.
Walking towards the polling place is a part that I dislike about election day.
As I approach the entrance an older man and his adult son exit. The older man’s foot steps halfway off of the sidewalk where it turns at an angle, and he falls to the ground. Immediately everyone stops what they are doing to offer assistance. The slow fall into the grass seemed more embarrassing than painful to him, though I am sure he will feel the bruising. He rises quickly on his own and refuses the offer of a call for help.
People coming together in spite of their differences to help another hurting human is a part that I like about election day.
Grateful to have pocketed my driver’s license before leaving the house, I state my name and address and show my photo when asked. Familiar faces, aged a little more since last year, check me in, hand over a ballot, and direct me to the voting tables.
Seeing the friendly faces of the poll workers each year is something that I like about election day.
How far we have come since the early days of voting in a booth with a curtain around it!
Marking the ballot is a part that is hard for me on election day.
It always reminds me that politics is messy. It is truly an exercise of discipline and will for me to mark the ballot and make movement from table to scanner, which I do. This year the lady monitoring it has stickers. Unlike last year, I am early enough to get one. We laugh about that while waiting for my ballot to scan. It has to be re-inserted.
Waiting for my vote to count is a part that is hard for me on election day. Laughing with the lady at the scanner makes it easier.
I turn to exit through large glass doors that look as if they should slide open. My mind thinks, This isn’t the grocery store! My body stops awkwardly and waits. I do not know how to work these doors, and unlike years past, there is no sign to tell me.
Awkwardly not knowing what to do in any situation is something that is hard for me always! Election day just intensifies the shame.
I figure out which door to push, aided by the kind lady holding stickers, and exit the side of the building. Exhaling, I realize I have been holding my breath. I take air deep into my lungs and begin the walk home.
That is when I realize that I am wearing a red shirt today and that red and blue are colors that hold meaning on election day. The odd looks and vibes I sensed while walking in begin to make sense. Why only one person offered me a sample ballot feels more clear. Usually I am peppered with pamphlets.
Alas, my choice of color today is not due to a political leaning or subconscious voting clue or statement. It is out of necessity that later this evening is a choir event where parent assistants are asked to wear SVCC colors of red, white, and black.
Making sense of something that feels off to me is something I like any time!
The walk back feels lighter, and I stop under the overhanging tree branches and look up to take a selfie documenting the moment. The effect is not quite what I had in mind, but, satisfied with my sticker and thankful for all of the ways I have exercised today, I return home.
My mind wanders while I walk the dog. Eloquent words string together in my head. There is so much to say, I just need time to gather the thoughts.
Swirling ideas settle with each step taken. I land in the present, the clicking of dog toes on the sidewalk as anchor. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Dewey knows only present, and presently we are walking.
I learn more of my fall routine each day, having not yet claimed it fully. Maybe by actual fall I will know.
One thing at a time. Day by day. Step by step. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Only the present. Presently I sit on my friend’s porch writing.
The rhythm of days and weeks comes into focus. Walking the dog. Writing on the porch. Setting intentions. Following through.
I fight for words on this blog, in this space. There are other places I write, but this is my first love. My fingers strike the keyboard. Clickety-clickety-clickety. My rhythm is not as steady as the dog’s toes on the sidewalk. I press on.
I think to the tiny leaf on the sidewalk interrupting my morning walk. Seizing the moment I stop the dog and snap it, hoping for inspiration, trusting it to come.
I feel nothing profound. No wise words on change or seasons or fall schedules, only the ambiguity of not knowing.
And it’s okay. It has to be. In this moment it is okay for me not to know the final schedule, the outcome. I just need to be present to the clickety-clickety-clickety of now and anchor into the moment I have been given here on the porch.
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.
While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.
This is how the day began.
Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.
When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnBand hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.
Did I just turn onto a one-way road?
I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!
I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.
We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.
We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.
My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .
This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.
It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.
Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.
This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.
There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)
We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.
They hang from a curtain rod in the laundry room. They have been hanging there for over a week. Left to dry after being carefully washed, they have been dry for days. They have come to represent a symbolic hanging on to all that happened over wedding weekend.
There is still much to process.
I say this out loud, and my husband asks for specifics. What do you still have to process?
Isn’t all of life a process? Will I ever be finished? I answer lightheartedly, because though I feel the weight of feelings, specific words evade me.
Folding laundry, I look up at the hanging dresses, grateful for what they symbolize. Just as I was clothed for my daughter’s wedding in an outfit carefully curated, so I was for my son’s, in a different way.
My metallic-colored, sheath-style Mother of the Groom dress was a Ross find over the summer. I knew it was the dress, and that by fall it would look even better on me as I tended to healthier eating and exercise habits.
A girl can dream, right?
Jewelry was found at a local consignment shop for under $15. A sparkly $6 scarf from TJ Maxx, a $10 purse from another consignment shop, and free sandals from my closet brought the entire look in at under $75.
I consider this a kindness for a season that found us in the midst of a major life change. When our son proposed to his beautiful wife in 2017, things looked a lot different in our world. Maybe the hanging dresses are continuing to remind me of the faithfulness of God in every change. Especially then.
There is enough.
I wore the black dress to the rehearsal dinner with shoes and a sweater from my closet. It was found, along with a sparkly necklace and silver purse, on a seasonal clearance sale at a consignment shop for $18, total.
I write of costs and consignment shops and looks, because I want to remember. I want to remember that even in seasons of uncertainty there are reasons to celebrate. Maybe especially then.
I want to remember that there is room for creativity and expression and for thinking outside of the box when finances are tight. I do not need to worry about what to wear. I can consider the lilies.
My son and daughter had a beautiful wedding weekend. There is more to share slowly as it unfolds in my heart, and I find more words. I am thankful for those of you who have been with me behind the scenes as life returns to what has never been normal. Part of this return should probably include taking down the dresses and putting them away.
Here is a peek at the wedding day. There is a bit more sparkle to my hair than there was 4 1/2 years ago at my daughter’s wedding. I love it.
The rising sun casts light over the mountains, calling last hues of orange to waken. Flecks of green and gold raise their hands to be noticed amidst the predominant brown. Bare branches along the ridge top stab a brilliantly blue sky. Leaves litter the ground, shrugging their way down the trees.
Autumn is heavy upon us.
From my perch outdoors on the third floor veranda of the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center, I hear sounds of voices young and old. Coffee steam rises from the eight ounce hotel lobby lidded cup in my hand.
Couples check out, walking to their cars, coolers and roller bags in hand. Children argue as parents snap at them and each other. It’s a time of transition, and I get to be still a little while longer, drinking coffee, rocking in a chair, writing, before my turn to depart.
As always, time away has been kind. Unexpected, unpredictable, unfamiliar, yet kind, nonetheless. My heart feels the rustling of return. Places I thought had settled comfortably, nudge for attention.
I sit with what is right now. Crisp air, bright sun, chirping birds, laughing child. Rocking, feeling the steady back and forth movement, drinking in the comforting warmth and wake of hot coffee.
This moment offers Sabbath for my heart, a heart full. So much is happening behind the scenes rather than front and center. I hold loosely. I hold close.
The more present in reality we are, the more fullness we feel. There is a very thin veil between life and death. ~ Scott Moore
I am feeling the presence, the fullness, the joy of life, the grief of death. All of it. During lulls in the passing traffic, I can hear the leaves hit the ground.
Eight ounces of hotel coffee does not last long. Minutes tick past the hours that remain before I, too, must pack up, roll out, and return. A golden gleam from the lawn below catches my eye. It takes me back to church in childhood, my sister shining her Strawberry Shortcake compact mirror in the pastor’s eyes.
The brilliant golden shine is not a golden ball of reflected sunshine but an outdoor ground light remaining on from a time change that has not been adjusted.
Nothing gold can stay. ~ Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.