My Ode to Autumn...............A is for aroma

i don't do alot of cooking in the summer. we are rarely home and the times we do find ourselves here - i usually end up looking into an empty fridge and sighing.....unable to find something exciting to cook.

and its hot........and hot kitchens aren't fun for me - esp since we rarely use the air conditioner.

but once autumn hits - i start cooking again....and its usually tons of soup and chili.

last nite was my first official start to autumn cooking. i opened the pantry and found all the ingredients i needed for vegetarian chili. actually i don't really follow a recipe for chili since i make it so often. but i decided that i really wanted some cornbread with it. so i used a recipe from the blue heron ranch cookbook and whipped up some super easy - super quick cornbread....which i now can't stop eating.......

today is soup day - i love miso soup and tend to make that and eat it 3x a day (i like mine crammed full of tofu and seaweed and shitake mushrooms)... but i found a recipe for curried veggie soup that sounds good too.....

so i'm not sure which soup i'll end up making later - but i know i can't wait to jump right in.

oh - some of my other favorite autumn aromas:
  • wood burning in our kitchen's fireplace
  • warm apple cider the second before you take a sip
  • crunchy leaves on the trails
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • chilly mornings
  • my early morning or late evening tea


happiness is..............

sitting here
in the kitchen
feeling just a little chilly
watching the leaves fall from the tree
outside my door...............

it would be blissful if i was holding a mug of coffee................


quick follow-up

i am having photo and computer problems but i really wanted to let you all know what was the result of last weekend. turns out there really wasn't any real reason for my son not wanting to go to the retreat...just a strong will and an inability to change his mind (actually no desire to change his mind!) once he had made it!

he went to sunday school and everyone was talking about how much fun they had....he regretted not going - and is looking forward to the next one (sadly in 2 years now) and to being old enough to be in the youth group this year and participating in all the activities. he is also refocused on his confirmation classes and being part of that group. so all is - thankfully - well.
thank you all for taking the time to read my blog for all your comments!


pushing past the hard........

i am in a situation that i am unsure how to handle - or rather i don't know if i handled it correctly.

my son is 10 and is beginning the process to receive confirmation. he is supposed to go to a retreat tonite for all the confirmands. he came home from school adamant about not going. i told him it was mandatory. he continued to insist he wasn't going. i tried to reason with him - telling him that confirmation is about growing up and making hard adult decisions. if he really can't make this decision then he isn't' ready for confirmation. he flipped about that and said he is ready - he just doesn't want to go to this retreat. i asked him why the change b/c he was really excited about going when i first told him about it. his reason? he doesn't know anybody and it looks boring and its hard. i told him he has no problem meeting people and the purpose of this is getting to know the kids he'll spend 3 years with and that he does know them b/c they've been in his sunday school class forever. and plus the acitivites planned are fun!..............therefore that isn't a strong enough reason to back out. he wasn't changing his mind.

so i explained to him that once you start not doing something b/c its "hard" then it will get easier and easier to not do something simply b/c its hard. and that if he chooses to become that person that is fine - b/c there are millions of people out there who live their lives like that....and they are fine. but the people who succeed are those that push past the "hard".

i reminded him that it doesn't matter what person he becomes b/c we'll love and support him no matter what.

now here is the deal......
he is only 10 and much too young to know the type of person he'll be and he is too young to be expected to choose the type of person he'll become............i think

he has already quit baseball b/c it was hard - and now he wants to not do this b/c its hard........and the pattern worries me.
but again - he is only 10.............

i don't want him to quit and keep quitting...but is it too early to make that type of judgement? by quitting this - will that make him a quitter?

most importantly, i don't' want to guilt him into thinking he should be a person who doesn't quit.......b/c so what if he is......i am

yet at 41 i am constantly trying to NOT be that person............and you know parents want kids to learn from their mistakes!!!

so i have had my say with him. he is at soccer practice now. i am just letting it go now and not saying anything more unless he wants to talk more about it.
through all of this though i am grateful. i am blessed to have a mature (sometimes too mature) son for his age - someone i can talk to and reason with and know that he is understanding my point of view.....even when he doesn't agree with it. i am so grateful that i "have him" for 8 more years under my wing so we can continue to have these discussions....of course i hope he'll always come to me to discuss situations - but for now i know he'll be around awhile longer........
i know i don't have alot of followers - but if you are reading this - what is your advice/opinion...to me?


how are you today?

ever have a day where you just feel - giddy? like something big is coming? sorta like waiting for the big wall of water to crash over you....you wait and wait and wait - bouncing around on your heals - knowing that you are gonna get nailed and its gonna be awesome!!!

or maybe you just feel good after feeling not so good lately? you aren't feeling super high - but you sure as hell aren't feeling low..............

that's how i feel today. the sun isn't out. i have no plans other than more cleaning for today. i'm not expecting any much awaited package or a much needed mno tonite.......yet i don't mind!

i like it and i'll take it..............that is my today.


trail magic

there is no denying the magic of trails. if you have ever biked or hiked or ran or simply walked on a trail you know what i mean. it is the best form of meditation i know - clearing the mind and soothing the soul within minutes of hitting the dirt. i enjoy the different types of people on the trails - old retired couples, young moms with their children, dog walkers, horse riders, runners........all happy and smiling and eager to say hello as you pass. i am very lucky to have some beautiful trails in my surrounding area....and i've been taking advantage of them this week during my struggle to adjust to back to school season. as an added bonus the air has be crisp and the sun has been shining (well most days) ....making my trips that much better. the trails this week have truly saved me from further spiraling downward into this rut. now, while the alone time was nice and needed and greatly appreciated - it reminded me of and made me long for another thing that makes trails special...sharing them with others.
a year ago around this time my husband lost his job. budget cuts forced the university to close his department. as expected he was a mess. what helped him get through this time was a healthy dose of trail magic..........

together we would drop the kids off school and hit the trails on our bikes. those mornings were the best mornings we have ever had. not only did it clear his head and keep him focused on finding another job.......it strengthened our relationship. we laughed and talked and had alot of fun with just each other. it was a wonderful time that i cherish. he did eventually find another job and just like that - our morning rides were over.
once spring came we started up again - this time with the kids in tow. the magic is still there and even though at times its harder to feel through the whining and complaining....you push through having faith that eventually they will also feel the magic of the trails and be drawn there when they need to regroup and recharge.....and rejoice when your child turns to you and comments on the smell of the trail..........knowing it is all worth it.

before i pick up the kids from school today i am hitting the trails again...this time on foot. the sun is not shining - in fact its kinda gloomy - but it doesn't matter. i need to be with my thoughts more than i need to be with the scenery. i need the magic. i need to keep working on me in order to be there for my family.

this weekend will be beautiful and we have been talking about a family bike ride on saturday. i am sure i won't have time to be with my thoughts but that is ok. i'll have my family around me. the peace may not be there - and i'm pretty sure the quiet wont be there either. but one thing you can always count on will be there.....and that's magic.


finding my rhythm........

appears to be quite challenging for me this back to school season.

i like to ease into my mornings - wake up, have some coffee, putz around.....preferably without talking to anyone. its not that i'm not a morning person -because i really do love the early morning peace and quiet....its just that i am not a "jump out of bed and greet the morning singing" type of morning person. luckily i've been blessed with 2 boys who enjoy sleeping in - and if they do wake up early - they enjoy either snuggling in bed with me or going downstairs to quietly do something by themselves. therefore summers are the perfect season for us.

but then sometimes its not.............with the freedom of summer days comes the lack of a routine - which i don't really like...maybe not so much a strict routine - but a plan for my day. sure we had daily plans and activities that we did but nothing set in stone. i could easily make plans for the playground or a hike - but if we ended up waking up late or just didn't feel like doing it - we didn't do it.

when september comes i am thrilled! the month starts off with my birthday. there is a change in the air - chilly nites leading into crisp mornings. new smells appear - small hints of autumn...and then of course comes routine and commitments and new demands. its back to school time.

we have to get up by a certain time. i have to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (which is different then the usual summer eat whenever style we have). there are after school activities and homework and papers and and and...........

i am generally an organized person - when i get a system set up - it works. but i also get easily overwhelmed...which leads me to shut down. that is where i found myself these past couple of weeks....to go from no routine to a full blown one is tough for me. i need to ease into my seasons...just as nature eases into its seasons. when a cloudless warm sunny day subtly transitions into a clear shawl wearing nite....it is good. just as when a family day of of slow but steady movements transitions into a nite of peace and calm.......it is good. but when systems collide - storms rage......that has been me lately....and the need to focus on everyone else -while ignoring my own needs - makes it worse.

my shutting down for a bit - while not so good for the family (or the house which is pretty messy right now) - is very good for me. it has forced me to reprioritize and regroup. i've eliminated unnecessary distractions and refocused on necessary ones. i am tweaking old ideas and making them relevant to now. i am planning. it is good.

i like rhythm. i like movement. i like balance. i am getting there.


i have a secret................

a secret language that is. i don't speak quenya or elven or even klingon...........i speak italian. actually i speak a dialect - and in fact, i've lost most of it.

i don't know when i first learned english. my guess is that it was when i started playing with the neighborhood kids. i'm not exactly sure how or when my mother learned to speak english. my guess is that it was also when i started playing with neighborhood kids. my father worked in countries other than italy starting at age 16 so he picked it up from there. it was difficult for all of us becoming bilingual. being the oldest child - i was now the teacher of english in our home...and that was difficult when i was learning myself! my mother often tells me the story about how i needed a notebook for school and she had no idea what that was. so every day i'd come home upset b/c once again i'd gotten in trouble by the nuns b/c i didn't have a notebook. finally my mother had to go to a neighbor's house and ask what exactly was a notebook!

i remember one particular day in school where my teacher asked me to say something in italian to the class........and i did.............and i got teased about it later. it was that moment that i stopped speaking italian.

over the years i've tried to get it back. i can make myself understood if need be. i went to visit my family in italy alone and had no problem communicating with them (and honestly - there is nothing like making people who speak another language laugh - in their own language!) i took italian in college (thinking it would be an easy A) and found that the proper italian language was much different and too confusing compared to the small town dialect that i spoke. i'm sure that if i really put my mind to it it would come back to me - but for now i know what i know.

but.........and here is where the secret comes in - i can UNDERSTAND it perfectly.

my cousins and i are all first generation americans....and we are all in the same boat - we speak little italian but understand it completely. our parents - while they can speak english - prefer speaking italian. our conversations drift in and out of both languages. english words mix with italian ones. a sentence can start in italian and end in english. a question will be asked in italian and answered in english.......i remember the day i realized that in my head i was hearing it all in english but in fact it was being spoken in italian and i marveled at the lightening quick translation skills of my mind.

none of this was a big deal until we started having friends and boyfriends and husbands over. since all of our gatherings center around a table - there are lots of conversations going on at once. the italians are good at including the americans by speaking english and if there is a heated discussion that slips into italian - it is quickly translated by someone......no harm, no foul. the italians even slip into and out of italian with each other - the men more so speak english (a product of being in the work world perhaps?) while the women tend to stay in all italian.

what i love about my secret is that it is our FAMILY secret - a secret language between my generation and our parents generation. we have used it a variety of ways - sometimes to secretly tell our moms to shut up or lay off when they are going too far in a conversation - other times to slip a comment (ok usually a jab) into a conversation - a private aside that you don't want to share with everyone....just the women present ;-)

this past weekend we were down the shore. we were all sitting around the table - my husband and i, my brother and his wife, my parents and my father's cousins. the conversation was flowing in and out of italian and english. we were all having a great time talking and laughing. at one point i sat back and realized - sadly - that once my parents generation was gone - so our secret language will disappear. my cousins and i will still be able to understand italian - but for how long? we won't speak it to each other - except for the occasional word or two that we use for comedic purposes. we won't speak it to our children b/c even though they have learned a word or two over the years - they don't speak it. i do however wonder how much they have absorbed while sitting at the table listening to us...but that's another post.

the italian language is a huge part of my life. my mother only speaks to me in italian. i like that that is something we have between us. (for whatever reason my father only speaks to me in english!) it is what separates our family from those of my friends. it gives us identity in a society where not many families have one.

i will really miss our secret language when its gone. i can't even really explain it to my children b/c how do you adequately express a feeling? an identity? a longing?

oh well - luckily i have many years before my secret is lost forever. i am so thankful that i seen the beauty of it now before its too late. who knows - maybe i will try and develop a secret language for my boys......

besides, whats the point of a secret if you can't share it...................


maybe not today........

the boys started school today. this is the first year they are both in school all day. i have been anticipating this day for weeks now - planning all the things i will be doing - telling everyone who wanted to hear (and even those who didn't) about the projects i have planned for the house and the nurturing i have planned for myself....................

so i went to bed early last nite - and woke up early today eager to start.......i actually got the boys out the door in time too! i hit starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte (a huge weakness of mine that luckily for me comes right around my birthday - and at a time i get at least one starbucks giftcard from a family member - and this year from my cousin angela) and hit the ground running..............

only to suddenly find it was time to pick them up from school
and i had a birthday dinner for my mom i needed to start cooking
and bathrooms that needed to be cleaned
and there were first day of school papers and forms to look at
and new teacher/classroom/classmates stories to hear


so i put the boys to bed - cleaned up 1/2 the kitchen mess - and i'm calling it a day......or more likely a week...........

wishing you all a peaceful nite


our last hurrah!

we are making our last summer trip this weekend. next week starts school. i have many thoughts and plans about meal planning and organizing and crafting........but all that will have to wait..........for now we'll just enjoy our last unofficial weekend of summer. be back next week!


sometimes it's best to ignore the big picture and a birthday wish for me

when day to day life gets rough - when the kids are too much or the bills are too high - when gossip is hurtful and anxieties are high....the advice most often given is to not sweat the small stuff.......don't focus on tiny problems - ignore the minor irritations......it doesn't mean anything in the whole scheme of things. most times that is exactly what one needs to hear...it is just enough to get through the problem and move forward.........

over the years i've gotten pretty good at looking at the big picture. i've been able to ignore the gossip and avoid the drama....all the while knowing that the friendships that remain are the ones worth keeping. i can endure the growing pains associated w/being a child b/c i see the wonderful, independent adults they will become. i accept the day to day "failures" as a woman, mother, wife...b/c i believe that the person who will emerge is stronger than the person who entered the journey.

but lately i've noticed that in my desire to rise above - i have been overlooking what's below - the here and now.....in an effort to see the big picture - i've ignored the little things.

today is my birthday. every birthday i make a list of resolutions for myself....things i'd like to accomplish in the upcoming year....physically, mentally and spiritually. this year however - i am stuck. i can't seem to figure out what i want to focus on. now, i'm not saying i'm perfect and therefore have nothing to improve. its different. its like i don't have the desire to plan ahead to the person i want to be. instead, i want to appreciate the person i am today.

recently, i took a walk around my backyard. it is huge, weedy, neglected mess. pennsylvania has had rain - tons of rain - for most of the summer. add to that a summer filled with trips to the beach and the mountains - camping weekends - biking........and well you can imagine what the yard looks like. the pavers of my patio are filled with weeds (oh and basil which is kinda cool LOL)......the perennials are overgrown and leggy. the veggie garden......lets just say i've been getting my bounty from the local farmer's market weekly. so...... i went inside and grabbed my camera. i made the effort to overlook the mess...and focused on the little things instead. it took no time before i realized that my garden - was in fact - amazing. flowers were blooming on the vines that climbed above the weeds. butterflies had found the bushes i planted just for them. eggplants (ok - maybe it was just one) had grown and provided at least one meal for the family.

then i thought about my life - when i take the time to notice the small stuff - i find i have a greater appreciation for the big picture.......when the boys squabble - they are simply defining their place in society and what a better place to do that then in a safe environment where they are free to rise and fall and reestablish! when i stop to capture a snapshot - physically w/a camera or mentally w/an image - i am creating a memory that is crisp and clear and more powerful of a time or situation - then if i just sorta noticed and vaguely remembered a time shot through the fuzzy lens of someone in a rush to see the future while ignoring the present........

so what is my birthday wish? continue in the present...take the snapshots...make the memories crisper.......that is the greatest gift i can give myself.


one year ago............omega

i am cheating with my blog post today. i have decided to simply cut and paste an email i sent to my friend last year around this time. i was turning forty and the only thing i wanted for my birthday was a weekend away - alone - for the first time EVER in my life. the place i chose to spend my weekend was the omega institute in upstate new york. the experience for me was powerful and amazing and everything i had hoped it would be. i have saved this email in my draft folder for a whole year - all the while afraid that one day it would be lost. i am happy that now it won't be lost.

original email written sept 8th, 2008.

ok - this was a truly amazing weekend.......i will give you the info in painstaken detail......

basically i had workshops friday nite - sat and sunday morning. when i didn't have class i was free to do whatever i wanted - and take any of the optional classes like yoga, tai chi or dance/movement. so when i got there friday i was having the hardest time relaxing - i thought that once i drove away from home - and had all this time to myself - i would just melt into this state of bliss....but i just didn't get that sense at all. in fact it was the opposite. i wasn't feeling guilty about leaving or anything like that - i don't know what i was feeling. so then i was mad about that - and anxious - like i had wasted all this money and it wasn't what i had hoped it would be b/c why wasn't i feeling light and stressfree???......

i had time before dinner on the first night so i went down to the lake and walked around (you can take out boats or lie on the hammocks or swim....whatever you want to do) nothing - still tense - i felt stagnant and i decided i needed to get some energy work done - there was nothing available all weekend. i wrote a bit in my journal but even that was hard - it was choppy and angry. i tried "meditating" so i sat quietly and still nothing...i realized that all the times i was home and thought i was "relaxing" in fact i really wasn't...i was just not doing the housework or thinking ab0ut doing the housework.......it was just a state of "not doing" the chores i "had" to do...kwim? i thought i was relaxed simply b/c i wasn't annoyed or overwelmed with some chore!! it wasn't until i got there and had absolutely no agenda - no housework - no chores - no planning.......did i realize i don't truly relax........then i got all tense again b/c i made this realization (probably just the emotions bubbling up about it LOL)

so i go to dinner and just wanted to be alone - not talk to anyone.......but of course people talk to you so i was polite but i just wanted to be alone. i was getting annoyed - like shut the fuck up....i was even writing and looking purposefully unavailable.....but nope they still talked LOL...i didn't linger long at the tables......lol

there was orientation at 7:30 then class started at 8-10. we were all sitting in a half circle - in these chairs.. ...and i felt so confined - being so close to these people. now i'm not shy but i felt trapped........told the guy next to me and we both asked the leaders if we could just sit on the floor.......and we all did. anyway - they start class and i realize it is all about living green and helping the environment.........now i am REALLY annoyed and tense b/c had i known that was what this weekend was all about i would not have signed up for it!!!........it was pretty basic stuff too.......like using cloth instead of paper towels and not using plastic bottles.....meanwhile i have my KK bottle in hand (and a huge part of the "info" was about using klean kanteens! .......so my stress was getting higher!!! i mean i was really pissed b/c this was granola 101 and i've graduated from that program years ago!!!!!! but i decided that i would just be open and maybe i'd learn something new......oh and it is HOT - every building is stifling - my room was hot - i was just sweating and sweating....it was so stuffy.........after class i walk around a bit - go to the cafe and bookstore - library...stuff like that. then go to bed and that's that.

oh - i had this bloated - full feeling in my stomach.....just felt soooooo stuck....like a boulder was in my gut.....it wasn't food so much - just a huge knot of tension..............i guess

saturday - i get up early to take a tai chi class. i don't know what was wrong with me but we start and the god awful heat of the day (even though it was only 7am!) - plus the stifling room - i almost faint and have to leave............so i'm pissed........i go to breakfast - again get stuck with people who want to talk.......go to class.....things start to look up - besides being taught MORE info i already know plus a plug from both leaders about other workshops/lectures/cds they have (roll eyes)......we do an hour of yoga and relaxation - that was great and finally started to loosen me up.....i go to lunch - start actually talking a bit - then decide to go exploring more.

i hit the sanctuary (which is a beautiful place up a steep hill...there are stone steps and different levels of ponds and water features and buddha statues......the inside of the sanctuary is filled with different cushions and chairs and an alter in the front....this is where you go to just sit and meditate) i am tense in the sanctuary b/c i just don't know how to meditate and i am frustrated! i kinda sit and just slump - pretending to know what i am doing. i am also mad at myself b/c i am sitting there thinking "i wonder if anyone will walk in and see me meditating! i am sooo cool!!".......and that side of me is soooo frustrating......i then go to the lake and lie on a hammock to read and write and draw.......and it starts to rain..........and it doesnt stop the whole day and nite LOL.......i just walked and walked in the rain. i really enjoyed that b/c i never get to just walk in the rain.....usually i have the boys and they are running for cover - or everyone is just running to avoid getting wet......i just let myself walk slowly in the rain.......and let me tell you i was literally soaked. i mean it was HOURS of walking outside in the rain (the place is set up like a college campus) i would get into a building to dry off for a second - just to walk out and be drenced again - it was pouring!!!

so i have our afternoon session and suddenly things started to get better - we had the same lame info - but we did a movement/dance part and i was blown away. literally it is just putting music on and letting yourself go - close your eyes and who cares what others think...just feeling the music and moving to it. i loved it so much that when the workshop ended for the nite i stayed to take an actual dance/movement class and THAT was an unbelievable experience. the music was LOUD - the lights were off - it was HOT in the building - the windows were open with the sound of rain pounding - i was sweating - my hair was soaked.....and i was moving - it was not a "taught" class - it was just a loosely "guided" class - the music was eclectic - from all around the world and different speeds and there was tribal music and we were yelling and stomping and pounding and the energy was out of this world........that class really made me realize how important music and feeling the music is to me - and how i have totally stifled myself over the years - always holding back b/c i felt fat and heavy and awkward......but this was freeing!!! i remember thinking that i was soo glad i was alone b/c i don't know if i could have been that free with friends around....kwim? noone knew me and they only saw the passion and the freedom.......they didn't care that i didn't look or move like a "trained" dancer - they only saw and felt the energy of my dancing.

then i went to dinner - and this time i talked to people too!! i didn't leave early or look unavailable.....i was open!! and i was drenched from the rain !!! and i met some pretty incredible people.

that nite there was a concert at 8pm....
www.soulfege.com ...they call themselves afropolitan - they are reggae, hip-hop, rap.......but they rocked the place! i was still on my high from the movement class and just danced without any inhibition!!! but i had to leave at 8:30 to have my aura photographed but thank god it only took 25 minutes and i was back to rocking at the concert. oh - the aura thing was so neat - she analyzed it and a bunch of stuff really stood out as being true or being things i had heard about myself before...but one was my need to be acknowledged and be paid attention too...and it wasn't a positive thing...and how when meditating i wanted to be noticed meditating........kwim?? i knew that side of me before and i knew i wanted to work on it but then to see it in my aura floored me......but the good thing was that my aura also showed my currently trying to heal myself and how it was a positive experience.....again that fits totally with my needing to soul search and my going to omega etc........afterwards i went to the cafe-bookstore again - had an icecream and went to bed......again - i was so absolutely soaked to my core that i just wanted a shower and dry clothes and that was it

sunday morning i took a yoga class down by the river.........the leader was amazing. it was a very moving experience - it just reminded me of how much i loved taking yoga before i had kids.....i've done videos here and there since then and tried other stuff like pilates........but nothing compares to yoga....b/c its just not the physical part of it...it was like my entire spirit and soul was reminded of how young and free i am (or can be!) regardless of what my age and body say........i need to do it more - but where? when? ugh......

by this time the heaviness in the pit of my stomach is gone - i am much looser and relaxed and am finally enjoying conversations with people again.........so i go to breakfast - the thought that i wasted all this money on workshops telling me shit i already know is still lingering in the back of my mind........i was loving the extra non-workshop stuff - like the yoga and dance/movement etc....but the workshop info....no.......and of course i talk to someone at breakfast that said i could have switched to another workshop (i didn't know that!!) and that i should just go to another class that day (my last day) but i felt compelled to go to my last class.........and thank god i did b/c it was all about meditation! we meditated all morning - trying new techniques and finding what was the best way for me - we talked about setting up a meditation space - we did a walking meditation up the sanctuary - meditated in there just for a few minutes - then did a different ki nd walking back.......we learned breathing techniques to relax us and to rejuvenate and wake us up........i was sooo thankful i stuck it out..........i literally floated out of there to lunch - and then went home. i had music blaring (soulfege cd i bought and angelique kidjo who is amazing) - i was floating from the weekend and the experience! i didn't even care that my gps led me through new york city to come home! LOL

it was just the experience i wanted!!! i went through this type of soul searching when i turned 30. i thought i still was at the place i was then - when i felt so light and free afterwards. i was so wrong. this place/experience just reminded me of how wonderful i felt before and how its a life long process that needs to be nurtured all the time.......i am just not waiting 10 years again to do it.............

and there it is. this past weekend i found myself driving in the car to our mountain home and had soulfege playing in the car - and immediately i was transported back to omega. that is when i decided to write this post...i needed to remember - to be transported back to this place.

i turn 41 on thursday. i told my husband this past weekend that i want to make omega an every 5 year experience. i need that experience to remind me that growing and soul searching is not something that is done once in a lifetime - but that it is on-going and important and needs to be made a priority in my life....i am grateful that i had that experience a year ago...and that the lessons i've learned that weekend - i am still learning from today...........


more than just tomatoes...........

ever since i was a little girl i remember the end of august was the time my parents made the trip to jersey to get baskets of tomatoes for canning. my mom would come home - a couple of her cousins would come over - and they would start their day and the long hot process of washing, cooking and canning.......

i used to love her set up. 30 years ago it was a simple one....a couple of pots on the stove only large enough to cook the tomatoes in small batches.......a simple hand cranked machine bolted to a table used to separate the seeds and skin from the sauce...aprons and head scarves to keep our clothes clean and our hair on our heads. all the work was done inside our basement - and for days the smell of cooked tomatoes would linger in our homes, our hair, our clothes.

the set up has evolved over the years. the simple hand crank was replaced with a motorized version - perfect for not only cutting canning time in half but also for increasing the chances of being hit with scalding hot splats of sauce....which i quickly got used to and accepted as something that just came with the job.

commercial sized pots and propane burners replaced the stovetop - an outside sink was added that allowed us to move the whole, messy process outside.

as i grew, my duties changed over the years. at first it was my job to switch out the scraps bucket as it filled - a bucket full of skins and seeds that was dumped into the chicken coop - a special yearly treat for them. as i got older i was allowed to scrape the pulp from the strainer as the sauce poured into the pots. this may sound simple - but it was tricky. i had to be quick and out of the way - careful not to disturb the rhythm of the older women who were very busy scooping and straining and filling jars. i remember being so proud of the year i was allowed to ladle the cooked tomatoes from the pots on the stove and carefully maneuver them into the wide mouth of the funnel with one hand - while using my free hand to plunge them deep into the strainer hole with the wooden mallet.
right around the time i reached this milestone - i also reached another one.......i became a teenager........and the idea of spending hours with my mother, performing a duty i thought was stupid and old fashioned was not my idea of fun...........so i made myself unavailable..........for years.......

eventually i got married, had a family and began helping again....this time with a new appreciation for this age old process. at 30 i was "old enough" to do it all - cook, scoop, scrape and...gasp...handle the hot jars filled with sauce.

as the amount of baskets decreased, the amount of people helping did as well. soon it was just me and my mom....alone. i performed my duties grudgingly...she needed help and it was my responsibility to help her. our relationship was strained - well, my relationship with her was strained. i spent most of my life hating her. i couldn't understand her - didn't want to understand her struggles, her life. i didn't think she was wise and strong....i thought she was weak and stupid........

then things changed - *i* changed. i started to see her for the woman she was - the young immigrant woman who left her country with the man she married...a woman who raised 2 young children in a country where she couldn't speak the language. she had strength and wisdom. she was my mother.
the past couple of years i have looked forward to the canning season. it is no longer a duty but instead one i cherish. a time i know will one day be taken away from me. my mother shares stories about her relationship with her mother. we exchange wisdoms - one filled with life experience - the other with new.
this year we only canned 65 jars. by the time i got to her house to help she was half way done them. i only had a few hours of our precious time together and i was surprised at how disappointed i was about that. although we see each other a lot we are rarely alone together. next year, however, i will plan ahead - i will get up early and meet her in the early hours of the day. our time together is about more than just tomatoes...and i will do whatever it takes to "can" those moments so i can keep them forever in my heart.