A day in the life

Yesterday we ended a month at one work site and began a week at another one. This is such a short stay it will fly by, and then we have a time out.

We started the morning with clean up. It’s my routine to leave the temp housing ready for the next guest, and I also leave a few things tucked behind for the next trip. There’s always a bit of sorting and tossing to do, and between packing and tidying, departure days start early.

The weather was a factor. We were scheduled to fly out via float plane, but the winds were too high, so we had a last-minute switch to the ferry. The tricky part is managing luggage between ferry and airport without a vehicle, when there are several errand stops between the two. We had to revise the plan. The only thing to do was drop the luggage at the airport first so we could navigate the stops without a struggle.

We had most of the day to spend in Ketchikan, the big city that offers a few more amenities than the small islands where we’re working. Hair cut, shopping, lunch, and mail pick up were all on the list.

Here’s where the frustration of the Ketchikan airport comes in. To drop off luggage for the afternoon flight we had to catch the airport ferry to a different island. (I’m always irritated that the airport is on a different island than the community. A five-minute crossing separates the two islands.) The ferry runs twice each hour, and everything is about timing. So we came off the state ferry like a small traveling circus, four roller bags, two back packs, and my purse, which this go-round is one of those large summer beach bags.

(Yes, my purse is really like a small child that travels with us. Can’t be left alone, is about the same size as a five-year-old, and has to have its own seat on the plane. I could store other small beings in it, it’s that roomy. You get the idea. 🙂 )

With about 15 minutes to the next airport ferry run, we took a cab from the state ferry terminal down the street, made it to the airport ferry dock, crossed over, dropped the luggage off, and came back to the Ketchikan side. Thanks to the timing of the airport ferry, that only took an hour.

Then, because it was only raining lightly, we opted to walk.

If you’ve ever come to Ketchikan on a cruise, or just happened to wander there for some other reason, you’ll know that the main thoroughfare of the community is Tongass Avenue, which runs the length of the town and extends out to either end of the island. The stretch in town is probably between two and three miles, and we didn’t have to walk that whole way.

We had a strategic route to hit the four stops we needed to make and get back to the airport ferry in time for the 3:15.

First, we needed to pick up mail. At this point, there’s not a lot of mail that accumulates. We take advantage of all the online bill paying options and notifications available. But there’s always something in the box, and we check it anytime we’re in town. Occasionally we have mail forwarded, but at $20 a pop to have mail sent to us, when most of what collects is just the junk, it’s worth the stop if we’re passing through.

We got that done. There was a replacement debit card in the pile of catalogs, fliers, and otherwise very-important stuff, so worth the stop. Then it was on to the really critical stop: haircut and eyebrow waxing.

I love a good brow wax. When I started doing this for myself a few years ago, it was a fun little tack-on to my regular hair cut. Little did I know that it would come to be a necessity in time.

Have you ever tried to pluck your eyebrows wearing glasses?! I can’t do it with them on, and I certainly can’t do it without! Not that I need a lot done. But it’s nice to get that silky smooth feeling every few weeks, and know that someone with better vision than me is cleaning up my brow line.

Bear with me…I know this is a first world problem, but these are the little chores you have to think about when you spend a lot of time on small islands without some of the niceties of life readily available.

After the grooming session, I wanted to look for a new rain jacket.

If you know anything about SE Alaska, you know it’s rainforest. I know, that’s surprising. Rainforest isn’t usually associated with Alaska. But it’s so. Rain here is measured in feet, not inches. As in, Ketchikan gets an average of 13 feet of rain each year.

So rain gear is a good thing.

My last jacket’s been showing signs of wear, getting a little thin in spots, and I just found a rip in a seam. Time to replace.

In case you haven’t been shopping for rain gear lately, let me tell you, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a name brand. The most expensive (and ugliest) option I saw was a mere $500. I’m not kidding! It was hideous and outrageous. That’s a pretty good feat, for rain gear.

I looked at several brands…Columbia, North Face, some knock off labels, and wound up with a Helly Hansen jacket. It’s sort of a bright salmon color (appropriate: Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world) and was a mere $100. A bargain among the other options, and I’ll be easy to spot half a continent away! 🙂

Then, on to lunch. When restaurant options are limited on the small islands where we work (that’s a generous way to express it) a lunch date is something to look forward to.

That’s one thing that island life does for you…you learn to appreciate so many things that are commonplace in the lower 48.

I appreciate road trips, and having my own car, variety of services and shopping, options of all kinds. Often, here, if there is one of anything…grocery or any type of store or service…there’s only one.

Of course it’s our choice to work in these environments, but still. Nice to have variety.

So lunch…crab cakes and king crab, smoked salmon chowder and yummy bread, a Marion berry buckle dessert, and a friendly waiter to fetch it all.

We left the restaurant with about half an hour to get back to the airport ferry for the run across to the airport. We didn’t make it too far before giving in to the faster option of a cab. Even without luggage we didn’t have time to walk it.

One more ferry ride, then check in with the small inter-island airline for the afternoon flight.

We made it to our next place by early evening, unpacked at the apartment, and squeezed in a grocery run for the week. Funny how the routines of home keeping follow you around, even in temporary lodging.

Epic? Grand adventure? Not really. But I learn, I discover, I savor.

Just another day in the life. The good stuff.

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Afternoon flight

Afternoon flight

One of Alaska's creepy crawlies

One of Alaska’s creepy crawlies

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More Alaska

Last week, one evening after work, we found a new park. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now, but I’m still caught off guard every time I discover an unexpected jewel. This is what we saw:

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The totem poles are iconic for native Alaskan culture, particularly of the Southeast tribes. I see them in the Pacific Northwest too. Each one tells a story, and the individual carvings on the poles have meanings. Their stories are beyond my ability to interpret, but they’re fascinating to see. There are a few carvers today that create these works of art, celebrating heritage and culture from the past.

This has been a traveling week. It began Monday with all sorts of bumps and changes. Weather was an issue…foggy and rainy, so the planned float plane trip to the airport became a ferry ride.

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At the airport, the flight had a mechanical issue, so that meant a change to another airline.

There were two connections along the way, and the last leg was one of the near misses, walking off one flight and immediately on to the next.

But we made it. Luggage made it. We started early and ended late, but even with the glitches, it all smoothed out.

Just like I like it. I love it when life works out, even with lots of opportunity for disaster.

And let’s face it…a missed flight or delayed travel rarely rises to the level of disaster. But I speak of first world problems, in which case, descriptions of near misses in everyday situations are counted as near disasters.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll acknowledge that I know the difference. But for literary license, we skirted disaster all day and somehow came through with flying colors. Those airline folks are amazing!

I’ve been making more photos of Southeast Alaska this summer…do you get tired of them? I sometimes take for granted the views and sights that surround me. But they’re worth sharing, I think.

So this is my latest group of scenes. One day I’ll look back on this time and be surprised I was here, and saw all these things. One day this will seem surreal. But for now, these are the images of daily life.
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I’m doing a personal development course this coming week, beginning today, and one of the requirements is being off line. So, no cell phone use, no lap top. It makes me a little anxious to turn off, to be out of touch. What if something happens? What if someone needs me? Family has a contact number for the retreat center, and I expect the rest of the world will hardly notice I’m gone. Maybe as much as turning off and tuning out helps the individual to focus, it’s also a reminder…I’m one person, and the world can get along very well without me for a few days. I’m valuable, as all people are. But perspective is helpful, and a reminder that I’m not indispensable is a good thing, I’m thinking.

Wish me luck, I’m diving deep!

See you next week!

The Good Lives On

I recently found this poignant story of a woman whose talent for photography was discovered after her death. You can scroll through the linked slide show to see some of her beautiful work.

Discovering Vivian Maier

What’s striking, beyond the technical beauty of the photos, is the theme that comes through in so many of them: glimpses of every day scenes from city streets, a look into the lives of people who must have been strangers to Vivian, but were captured in a flash of time and old fashioned black and white film. And now these people have their moment of fame, because Vivian Maier is finally being celebrated as an artist.

Vivian Maier was a nanny for 40 years, and I’m sure that the impact of her life on the children she cared for is still being felt, because what we do matters, whether we are “discovered” or not, famous or not.

Her photography was discovered because her possessions were auctioned off before she died.

Today her work would make her rich.

Well, perhaps it did make her rich in her lifetime. It’s possible we just can’t recognize the currency of that wealth to her.

I rarely watch the Oscars. Usually I haven’t seen many of the movies up for awards, and that’s certainly the case this year.

But tonight I’ll be watching, and hoping that the film that celebrates this woman’s work, and life, wins the award for best documentary. It will be a good thing to see a life marked and honored, the work of a woman who saw a lot more than anyone guessed.

This story makes me think: what am I doing that will live on? What do I do that may seem insignificant to me, but still matters, touches lives, leaves a mark?

We all leave marks.

Some lives burn brighter and seem bigger than others. That’s part of the draw of an event like the Oscars…a peek into the world of celebrity. It’s a world most people only know from the outside, looking in.

But Vivian’s story hits home. I’m making photos every day…not like the ones she captured, but snapshots of my life, my touch on the lives around me. And my work has an imprint.

What would that look like if it was suddenly viewable, put on the screen for the world to see?

I hope it would be as beautiful as these photos, and capture the right moments.

I click through the images in the slide show, and I think to myself: give us eyes to see the real, and the important.

 

Visits and birthdays, the good stuff

It’s a busy month for us. Stephanie, Riley, and Jack are up for a summer visit, so we’ve temporarily gone into kid-land. All the breakables and anything that looks likely to become a missile in the hands of 18 month old Jack have been moved to higher ground. He’s a climber, but there are still a few spaces out of his reach. Yesterday he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When I walked in, he was sitting in the middle of the breakfast table, and as soon as he saw me walking toward him, he stood up, quite proud of himself and reaching out his little arms for a lift down. Gave me a mini heart attack, but didn’t phase him at all. He’s fearless and fast, and a boy…always a dangerous combination! But he’s so stinking cute, we forgive him all the rest and just follow him around to protect him from himself.

 

Fearless Jack!

Fearless Jack!

Riley is in one of the golden ages of childhood. Four year olds are old enough to do a lot, still young enough to be funny without knowing why (endlessly amusing to the adults :). Her speech is clear as a bell, but she has a few Riley-isms that we can’t bear to correct…she’ll grow out of them soon enough. Princess doll gloves are “glubs,” and she asks if I “memember” something that happened yesterday.  Sometimes she notices that we’re laughing at her, which we always deny immediately, but can’t help. She’s just too funny, in the sweet little-kid way of being funny-when-serious.

Riley the First-born

Riley the First-born

She’s a talker. With her gene pool, she could hardly escape that. We have long and interesting conversations that are wide-ranging. We discuss everything from princess fashions to the dangers of zombie attack (thanks, older kid at day care, for introducing her to the concept) to playdough creations. She’s learning to write the alphabet, gearing up for pre-school in the fall. She’s also standard issue first-born, bossing Jack around and clearly expecting to be in charge of life. But the other side to her personality is sensitive and affectionate, so just when you think she’s verging on teenager, she’s a sweet little girl again, charming and disarming.

I never really stood a chance. The grands have planted their flag.

It’s also a month of birthdays. I counted up, and between immediate and extended family, we have seven people celebrating in June. Today is Alex’s birthday, number 27. We sent several gifts his way already. I wish we had the gift of his presence so we could enjoy a birthday dinner together. But not to be this year. Still, it’s a moment to mark and remember. In his honor we’ll eat some bacon (his favorite) and have a family pass-the-phone-around conversation tonight. I’m always fantasizing that we’ll spend more of our big days together, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that again. But for today, we’ll have to content ourselves with a digital connection.

Alex, happy 27!

Alex, happy 27!

Alaska is cooperating with some beautiful weather. The water is so blue when the sun is shining on it, and such a gun-metal gray when skies are overcast. We watched cruise ships yesterday, and float planes, kayakers, small boats, and fishing vessels, all from the front windows of the house. The Tongass Narrows is bustling this time of year, and my only complaint is the float planes start buzzing waaay too early in the morning. They’re out by 5:00 am, taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight this time of year. (Sunrise today was at 4:04, sunset tonight will be 9:31, with twilight lingering a little beyond.) And while float planes are noisy any time of day, they are particularly noticeable and obnoxious before coffee. That’s really my only complaint of summer here. Well, that, and the days that are summer on the calendar and fall by thermometer. But hey, as long as my heat isn’t kicking on, that’s a good day 🙂 (Not many places that statement defines a good summer day!)

Blue water!

Blue water and Ketchikan

Pacific Airways

Pacific Airways, local transport

 

So, off to play, and rescue small people from high places, and feed, and strap into car seats, and make photos….lots of photos! We’re looking for bears, and fish, and a souvenir or two…because what kid ever visited grandparents and didn’t go home with a little something to show for it? Here’s hoping for blue water and clear skies!

 

Country roads

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Rob and I are taking a breather. After a couple of months of intense work, we’re in sunny California setting up a new second home. Well, it’s a second home for us. Really it’s a new travel trailer. We said good-bye to the Class C RV the last time we were down, and now we’re adjusting to our new space.

We’ve been roaming the north/central part of California the last couple of years, slowly getting to know this region a bit. Sacramento is the big city hub, but we’re only there briefly, picking up a vehicle from storage and then leaving the hustle and bustle behind. No doubt about it, California has hustle.

But once you drive out of the city, into the countryside, you’re in a completely different world. And that’s the California I love. You leave the multiple-lane freeways and find yourself driving on two-way rural roads that probably look the same as they did 50 years ago. The houses you pass may be newer construction. But often, the barns and homes are old fashioned too. They’ve stood the test of time and weather, and look a little rugged, like some chiseled movie star from an old black and white film. They may be repurposed and give the small towns the quaint flavor of historic meets tourist. Or they may be falling down, remnants of a past century and past usefulness that won’t last many more years.

This is historic gold country (as in the ’49..that’s 1849… gold rush), farming and ranching country, dotted with wide spots in the road, all boasting some hole in the wall restaurant that’s probably a gem in disguise. The winding roads take you round hills and streams and seem to be going nowhere in particular. Nothing out here runs straight.

I’ve decided any road that takes me past rounded green hills, grazing cows and standing horses, vineyards and fruit orchards growing hot in the mid-day sun, old pick-ups and farm stands selling farm to table produce…take any road that runs past these delights, and I’m charmed.

I’m completely fascinated with the scale of it all. The landscape is amazing, the rolling hills spreading far to the horizon and a faint view of snowy mountains, barely visable to my eye. But the buildings that dot the land along side the two-lane roads, they’re scaled to human size. Nothing is big-box shaped, overwhelming, giant structures that make humans seem like ants in comparison. Everything in the country, except the land itself, seems tailored to people. I guess because when a lot of this land was settled, that’s who they were building for.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the convenience of big shopping and all that goes with it. There’s a place for that, I guess. But all in all, I’m still small town at heart. Maybe it’s in my veins, the way my mom and my grandmothers, and surely their mothers before them, all grew and lived in small communities with human-sized stores and buildings.

There were farmers among my ancestors, and maybe that old influence is why I love the sight of cows and the acres of fields we pass. I remember my dad could always identify the crops, and I wondered how he knew what was growing in the fields when he wasn’t a farmer. But he grew up with that heritage, and so he knew.

I am not a farmer, and I can’t always guess the type of crop in the field we’re passing. But I love it, and I identify (a little guiltily, feeling like I’m faking it) with the rural spirit of the region. I love to support the local markets, love to think I’m contributing to a family’s way of life, and an American heritage of growing food and making it, encouraging the little guys with their small farms. It’s a nod to our shared past, a nod to my parents, the road warriors of my youth, and an acknowledgement that for a lot of people, farming and rural living is still an everyday way of life.

So I’m enjoying the new trailer, and getting settled. But to be honest, I’m almost as excited to see the cows again.

Doesn’t seem romantic, really. Until you get out on those open roads. And then I know I’m home, honoring the American spirit, loving the freedom, the space, the independence.

Aaahh…

See you out there!

What do you find that’s charming on the road?

Write makes might!

Aahh…Blogging 201 is finished, and I learned a lot. It wasn’t evident from my postings, because I haven’t been posting. But the daily tasks have been been thought provoking, made me think about why I blog, tools I use, how I connect.

Out of all the advice and how-tos, the most challenging assignment is to define my brand. (In today’s world, anything and everything is a “brand.”) When I launched Grace and Space, my goal was to share hope, encouragement, and positive thoughts. Sometimes I veer into journal mode, share a recipe, or post family photos. I’ve occasionally tried to add some humor (and though I can be funny enough in person, writing humor is hard to do; kudos to those who do it well!) I’ve shared music, and links to posts that inspire. I post quotes that speak to me, and the occasional personal tribute.

So…out of the mix, what do I offer that is consistent, gives readers a reason to return, and rises above the private ramblings that could be read in a personal diary?

Hmmm….

The truth is, with an ocean of bloggers out there, there are a lot of  similar voices. And while some blogs have a narrowly defined niche…think DIY sites or frugal living blogs, parenting advice authors, religious writers or photography blogs…there are a lot of writers who focus on the topic of the day, whatever that may mean to them.

I’m still thinking about this…do I want to narrow my focus, or have a broader goal of sharing the good stuff, however I define it at the moment?

I’ve been playing with titles and tag lines, domain names and business names as I think about using content from my blog on a professional writing site. Some posts wouldn’t be appropriate…I don’t want to post family photos on a business site, and that wouldn’t be the place for sharing recipes either. The phrase “write makes might” floated through and lodged.

Without taking on delusions of grandeur, or seeing myself or Grace and Space as wielding influence, I’ll just leave my brand aspirations at this: I want anything that appears on my blog to point the way. Often I’m writing out of my own need for hope and joy, and that’s where I want to lead anyone who’s reading. I want my brand to be hope, and my deliverable to be joy. And if that’s a little vague…well, you know it when you see it.

Some days joy is quiet, and others it is exuberant. But always, there’s a deep current of direction and intention, and that’s what I want to convey to readers.

So come along with me if you’d like. I’m searching for a little grace, a little joy, and a community that is grounded in hope, amidst all the nitty-gritty of life. I’m not denying the hard and the sad. But I’m determined to rise above.

The far horizon

The far horizon…

 

A visual feast

There are so many amazing photography sites, blogs, resources…I almost refrained from posting a link to this collection. But I couldn’t resist the beautiful and surprising and haunting images here. Any collection of photos featured by Smithsonianmag.com, the digital home of the Smithsonian Institution, is worth a look. Or two. This is the 11th Annual Photo Contest for the site, and readers are invited to select their favorites.

 

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Photograph by Stefano Coltelli (San Miniato, Italy). FINALIST: Travel |                                                                   Neist Point Lighthouse at dusk. (Isle of Skye, United Kingdom, August 2013,

View, enjoy, vote!

~ Sheila

Surprise!

Surprises happen.

We’ve been working, recruiting, doing taxes, traveling, more working…well, it’s a common plight…life requires income, and income, I find, requires work. At least in my experience.

Anyway, I’m home for a few weeks, looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my kitchen and my bed. One of the perks of traveling for work is that I’m always happy to come home…kind of the reverse of needing a vacation. I’m just happy to be in my own space since work usually takes me elsewhere.

First things first. I couldn’t concentrate on other tasks until I reclaimed my space. After a couple of months of one and two day turn-arounds, the house was a bit needy. I try to leave things tidy, but after awhile, you just have to stop and do some upkeep. So things got a wipe down, and where appropriate, a scrub down. Those dust bunnies don’t take a holiday just because no one’s home.

Then it was on to the calls. I have a few repairs to line up, and in this climate, anything that is exterior has a short summer window of opportunity. So I’ve put myself on a list for some summer painting, and some deck maintenance. A little hedge trimming is in the works too, probably sometime next month when we have some warmer weather. And most painful of all, I’m replacing one of the huge picture windows that are framed into the front walls of the house.

Cracks in the glass

Cracks in the glass

Well, I’m not doing it, I’m merely financing it. The window guys are doing it. And let me tell you, the whole thing is just a bit frightening.

We came home to find that this window, a double-paned giant, had developed a crack on the inside pane. I’m pretty sure the dust bunnies aren’t playing baseball inside the house when we’re gone, so I assume this was due to temperature change, age, or some force of the universe that’s both invisible and unidentified. There’s no sign of any impact, and no damage to the external pane. So I guess it’s just one of those things. Anyway, no help for it, it has to be replaced. With a three to four week wait time for the glass to arrive, I’m just hoping it holds and I don’t wake up to shards all over the floor before the replacement is installed.

But that’s really not the painful part. At least so far, the glass is holding, even if the cracks are scary. No, the really ugly part is the cost. Twelve hundred and fifty dollars this will cost me. $1250.00! Good thing I’m working!

And then! Then, when we got home, there was a little love note on my door. My friendly home heating buddies had stopped by and left a bill. Eight hundred and thirty-two dollars for fuel oil the last two months, and we’ve barely been here! Oh, we left the furnace on, with one zone of the house heated to keep the pipes from freezing. But still! Do you think someone has noticed that we’re gone a lot and helped themselves to our fuel oil? I mean, really, this is ridiculous!

Fuel oil robbery?

Fuel oil robbery?

So, after that battering…I mean, I know utilities and repairs are expensive, but this was a harsh opening of the door…after that, I needed some time to enjoy being home and get cozy. If I’m bleeding out from financing this gem of a place, I better get some return.

So, I’ve tidied, and I’ve nestled in. I went shopping in my basement and replaced the winter decor with spring (ever hopeful) that the new season will arrive on time. In honor of springing ahead, I’m prepping for Easter, longer days and brighter colors.

Now if I can just figure out where my fuel oil is going!

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I wrote these thoughts a couple of weeks ago, but now, I can’t post this without adding that these are trivial issues today. My father-in-law is in the ICU, has been for the past few days. He had a cold last week that sent him to the emergency room on Tuesday, and to ICU level on Wednesday. What’s a broken window and a fuel oil bill? They’re irritants and expenses, but they are not the stuff of life. Life is the stuff of life. Funny how easy it is to forget that, at least on a very small and personal level…I’m not talking about recognizing that the world has many ills and tragedies that unfold hourly…but about the unwelcome reminder that life is fragile, when one of the 7+ billion humans on the planet that I know by name and love by heart is seriously ill.

Chooser

I often write about the challenges of life at my stage: empty-nester, part-time worker, full-time budding entrepreneur, wife, mom to young adults, grandparent, daughter, friend. The intent is to share the struggles and epiphanies I’m having with the hope of helping someone else who’s struggling too. I haven’t got it sorted out! Life is a work in progress, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m a slow learner, and a late bloomer. But here’s what I know today…

It’s good to be home! I know, it’s a common theme with me. Two weeks out of town for vacation and a family visit, and then two weeks working at the Metlakatla clinic, and I’m done. At least for the next three weeks. These are mine to enjoy at home.

Home is complicated right now. We have a house in Ketchikan, which I love, but we’re spending limited time here these days. Between time working in Metlakatla, and time out and about for personal reasons, days to putter around in my own little nest are hard to come by. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, most of my life has fit the norm…parenting, working, raising children, and though the location changed a few times throughout the years, the basic pattern was set.

A couple of years ago, Rob backed out of full-time practice with the promise to himself that he was done with that lifestyle. Too stressed, burned out, and exhausted to do full-time medicine any more. So now he works part-time, and for the moment, that’s in three different clinics in SE Alaska.

We tried the arrangement of me working in a full-time position and staying with the house, and him out and about, working, coming home, leaving again to work, coming home, leaving again…it was wearing, and lonely, and not what either of us signed up for. But for Rob, the variety is good. He enjoys moving about a bit. The change-up of the routine is good. And I’ll be honest, he’s not wedded to home and stuff as I am.

I like my stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money accumulating what I have. I love to putter about in the kitchen, using the gadgets and tools I have to try new dishes. I love pretty linens on the bed, comfy furnishing that have a look of warmth and tradition. I love the books on my shelves and the art on the walls. It all speaks to me, of people I love or a mood I want to evoke.

But that isn’t what comforts Rob. He’s a wanderer, and a nomad. Through much of our marriage he lived life in the traditional way, because that was the model we knew, and we were raising kids. But that’s changed, and with the empty nest has come new freedom. Freedom for both of us, in different ways. It has freed us financially, to some extent, and it has removed the need to keep a stable home base for growing children.

So now what? I’ve written about making the choice to leave my full-time work. It was two years ago in January. I’ve already lived a semi-nomadic life two years. Some of it has been amazing. Some of it has been fun. And there have been moments of weariness, times when I said, over and over in my mind, like a litany, “I just want my life back. I just want to go home.” Those moments have been few. But they have been part of the tapestry.

This week I said, as we sat over a late breakfast, looking out on the Tongass Narrows from our front windows, that it was good to be home. That I miss my things, that right now, I live a crazy life that keeps me on the run, and often somewhat adrift. Rob looked at me and asked, “Why is that?” I was in the process of answering when I got interrupted, and we never really finished the conversation. But I can finish it. I can give the answer.

I’m living a crazy life right now because I made a choice. I made a choice to match my lifestyle to what was working for my husband. He didn’t demand that I do it. He didn’t make it a requirement of the relationship in any way. I made the choice, and I’m committed to the choice because I realized, after trying to do it differently, it was all or nothing. I couldn’t keep a foot in both camps…happily married and living alone for weeks at a time. It wasn’t good for the relationship, and to be honest, I got almost no pleasure out of my things when I had them all to myself. Things do not replace people. And though I knew it in my head, it wasn’t until I found myself living that reality, that I knew it by heart.

If I learned anything about myself during the time that we lived mostly apart, it was that a lot of my pleasure in homekeeping and cooking comes from the relationships around me. If I’m cooking dinner for the two of us, or for a crowd, I enjoy every piece of it: planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, eating. Even the cleanup is a validation of time well spent, and spent with loved ones. If I’m by myself, I have little-to-no interest in any of it. My enthusiasm dries up. I lost weight when we were living apart. I hated to go to the grocery store, because it wasn’t for anything fun…it was just for food. And what’s the fun in that? And pretty rooms? They just don’t mean much when you wander through them by yourself, trying to enjoy the never-disturbed perfection because there’s no one around to move anything out of its place.

Why am I saying all of this? Because it’s important for me to acknowledge…this crazy life I lead is by choice. I could be home every night, in my bed, eating at my own table. But that’s not the priority of my life. In a few weeks I’ll be in a different setting, camping in the RV again. I’ll have time to write; work on my baby business that’s slowly coming to life; I’ll do some work for the Met clinic via phone and email; and all of that will fit between the plans of the day that Rob and I make together. Because that is my priority. And how can I be ungrateful for that freedom in my life? If this time looks chaotic…if it seems like we’re always on the move…well, we are. It won’t last forever, I’m sure of that. There will be a time when we make different plans…when we move nearer family, and we settle again.

But for now, this is my choice, and claiming it, owning it, helps me avoid the victim mentality when I have one of those moments of just wanting to be home. I am not a victim or a martyr to Rob’s choices. I have made my own. It feels good to recognize: if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, I wouldn’t have some of the opportunities that are on the horizon. I wouldn’t be in the process of developing a design for a logo and business card and a new web site. I wouldn’t be a budding entrepreneur at the ripe age of 53. I wouldn’t have the freedom to work from home, or from the RV. I wouldn’t have the flexibility to make my own commitments. And the reality is, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity and the financial stability to step out on this ledge.

And if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, and into my crazy life, I wouldn’t have the joy of seeing and doing the things that I seen and done in the past years, with the man I chose.

Life is complicated. But it helps if you know that you’re where you are by choice. So I’m a chooser. I’ve learned to choose love over things, experience over money, and freedom over security. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be traditional to be normal; that you can walk a different path and still get where you need to go. And I’ve learned that although head knowledge is good, there’s no replacement for understanding something from the heart. Because the heart gets final say; and if my choice has passed the heart test, I’m on the right path.

Dinner for two…

Playing with my food

Pumpkin love

I’ve been playing, enjoying a stretch of nesting. I can’t really get into cooking if I’m only passing through my kitchen. I need a little time to dig in and be inspired. Usually that involves a craving that needs satisfying or curiosity about a new recipe. I have to have enough time at home to justify the effort of shopping and cooking. Because, let’s face it, if we’re only passing through, leftovers are going to be a problem. You can’t fully engage in the kitchen and be on the run at the same time. The weeks we’re living in out-of-town clinic apartments do not inspire experiments; those weeks demand convenience. But home plus time equals satisfaction. And this week satisfaction is stirring a sauce and baking goodness.

I just made a delicious butternut squash lasagna. Yes, I’m continuing my affair with the butternut. It’s versatile and tasty. Who knew this would be my new favorite base for soups and hearty casseroles? The more I work with squash (should that be squashes? not sure about the plural form) the more I find to do with them. You can cook them almost any way…roast in the oven, simmer in water, steam, microwave.

And here’s my latest trick: you don’t have to de-seed before cooking. (If you’re simmering squash on the stove top for a soup, it’s probably best to de-seed and cube the squash first.) The minimalist method works well for oven roasting or microwaving. You can literally put a whole squash in the oven, crank the temp to 400 degrees, and bake away. Baking time will vary depending on size of squash. Check for tenderness after about 45 minutes. Cook longer if the squash does NOT pierce easily with a sharp knife. When the squash is tender, remove from heat, cool, then peel and remove seeds, reserving the cooked squash for your recipe.

I haven’t tried microwaving a butternut or acorn squash, but it works like a charm for the spaghetti variety. Just pierce the spaghetti squash a few times with a sharp knife to release steam during cooking. I microwave in increments of 3 to 4 minutes so I don’t over-cook. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the squash and the power of the microwave. The intricacies of prepping spaghetti squash are for another post, but I thought I’d throw in this cooking method as a freebie since I’m on the general subject.

Let me just add that if you’re looking to entertain yourself on a slow night, cook up one of these babies and then cut it open and begin to shred the squash with a fork. I’m probably going to regret admitting this, but I am fascinated with the process of turning spaghetti squash into something that looks just like pasta. Now you’re either going to feel sorry for me and wonder how spaghetti squash can be so exciting…or you’re going to check it out and be equally enthralled by the pasta-look-alike squash. Whichever it is, it can be your little secret.

Roasted lasagna beauty

Roasted lasagna beauty

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch chunks.
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion, diced
1 small yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh snipped rosemary
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
8 oz Ricotta
Shredded Mozzarella, about 2 cups
Fresh lasagna noodles or no-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400.
Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
Combine chopped squash, olive oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and toss to coat.
Spread the squash in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Roast the squash in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until soft.

(OR…just cook the squash whole in the oven as described above, and then peel and cube for the sauce after squash is baked.)

While the squash bakes, make the sauce.

Heat butter over in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook until veggies are tender.
Whisk in flour.
Slowly add broth and milk and season with salt and pepper.
Cook and stir frequently until thickened and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove squash from oven and reduce oven temperature to 375.

Add chopped butternut squash, rosemary and nutmeg into sauce. You can blend with an immersion blender if you want a smoother texture for the filling.

Butter a 3-quart casserole dish.
Spoon sauce over the bottom of prepared baking dish.
Layer three or four noodles on top of sauce.
Top noodles with a layer of Ricotta and shredded Mozzarella. Top with 1/3 of the Parmesan.
Ladle sauce on top of the noodles.
Repeat layering of noodles, sauce, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses two more times.
Pour whipping cream over entire dish.
Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
Cover dish with foil.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly.
Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes, or until top is lightly browned.
Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Cut and serve.

Ah, my new favorite comfort. So beautiful, so filling, so satisfying. This is a dish to look forward to all Monday long!

My dinner

October dinner

What’s a yummy dinner without a little sweet treat to finish? This recipe for brownies is tried and true. I just adapted a favorite dessert to make individual bites. I made 1/2 recipe of Hershey’s Fudge Pie, then scooped spoonfuls of batter into a silicone pan. Little tastes of heaven! I have ideas for this little jewel. I can think of lots of recipes that would be perfect to make with this shape. I’m not always a fan of silicone baking, but this is a winner.

I’ve shared this recipe before, but in case you missed it, here it is, in all its glorious chocolatey-ness.

Hershey’s Fudge Brownie Pie, or “Brownies Bites”

Reward for a Monday

Reward for a Monday

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch pie pan.
Beat eggs; blend in sugar and melted butter. Stir in flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in vanilla and nuts.
Pour into prepared pie pan.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until almost set. (Pie will not test done in center). Cool; cut into wedges.
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.