The pieces left behind

I’ve been thinking lately about posterity. It comes with the prominence of wrinkles. I’ve wondered what my children will remember most about me. It might be that I was a strict mother (She was mean!), or that I preferred family time over all else (She never let us have our friends over!), or that I made everything from scratch (She made us eat whole grain noodles!), or that I loved family movie night (She used to hog the couch on movie night!). Above all else, I hope they recall how much I love them (She wanted to hug us all the time!).

Life is about more than today, and more than yourself.

We cannot as children know the mind of our parents. Not until we grow older and have lived a bit of life. Was I strict? Of course! There’s no better way to learn right from wrong, manners and good behavior, than at and from home. I was their first teacher. If it meant I taught them to survive, I’ll gladly wear the “Mean” banner. My reward? I have very well-mannered adult children. Were their friends welcome? Of course! Did I prefer time with my children than time with all others? Of course! Only a parent knows. Do I love their friends? Of course! I just prefer my kids. My reward? My kids know they matter most.

Did I make them eat “weird” food? Of course (if you call whole wheat flour “weird”)! How better to learn the palates of the world than to try something with various ingredients, right from home? Did I make them try alternate flours? Did I use coconut milk? Did I use egg substitutes and Adams peanut butter? Of course! My reward? All of them love to try new foods (and all later thanked me). My other reward? Currently, among the five people I call my children, there is lactose intolerance, severe food allergies, gluten intolerance AND Celiac disease; I have no choice. It’s second nature to each of them for me to use almond flour, or egg substitute, or coconut milk in my cooking. They don’t blink an eye when they know something I’ve made uses non-traditional ingredients.

What will your legacy be?

We’re gathering soon for a birthday celebration, and I’ll be cooking the meal. The requested dessert was Short Cake with fresh berries. How could my son have known that his great, great grandma Lucy had the best recipe ever? Did he know about the butter layer in the middle? I wrote about Lucy’s delicious dessert a while ago; you can see the recipe and ingredients here.

What will your great-grandchildren be told about you?

I never met Lucy, nor did my children, but all of us visited the house where she raised her children. We stood in her kitchen. I have something that belonged to her.

Lucys cookbook from 1933_Lucy Fox Beachler_Dorothys mother_a
Kitchen Guide, 1933

This was Lucy’s cookbook, one she passed on to her daughter, Dorothy, my children’s grandma. The binding is there but hardly functional.

IMG_20170704_074747673The pages are very fragile. They feel thin and dry; they crumble to the touch.

IMG_20170704_074644097The pages are so old and dry, in fact, simple touching and turning breaks off tiny pieces. And, this seemed rather symbolic. I cannot handle or look through this book without leaving tiny pieces behind.

IMG_20170704_075125604And, that’s when it hit me that my legacy does not need to be extravagant. It need not be expensive items, heirlooms, or hefty bank accounts. Maybe the best legacy is the way in which someone is remembered, the way in which someone lived their life. It could be in the way someone prepared for each day, the design of the food on the table. Maybe it’s simple preparation, thinking of others.

Creating a legacy does not have to be a burden,

The short cake recipe calls for many taboo ingredients. While I’ve made this more than once as written, my cupboards hold a variety of choices.

IMG_20170704_074537726I have in stock gluten-free, oat, brown rice, coconut, and tapioca flours.

it can be your joy and can create

I keep on hand coconut milk in both the carton and the can. I recently started making oat milk and oat cream from that oat milk. Ever tried ice cream made with both full fat coconut milk and home made oat cream? It’s a work in progress. And, speaking of ice cream, do you know that a fabulous sugar free fudge sauce can be made using unsweetened chocolate, cream, butter, sour cream, and sugar substitute? Stay tuned….

your satisfaction with living each day.

I have coconut sugar, Truvia, Stevia, Splenda, plain old sucrose, and honey and molasses. I keep egg replacer in the cupboard and fresh eggs in the fridge. If neither works, I keep a chart nearby of other replacements for eggs. Bananas can be used depending on the recipe. I was once told by one of my children that they love to eat at my house because I store all the non-traditional ingredients. That’s not a compliment I’ll ever forget.

What kind of world do you want to leave your great-grandchildren?

I keep Smart Balance in the freezer for when I want to bake something calling for butter. Is it the same? No. Does the final product lack in taste? Sometimes one can tell, but it’s not so different as to be unacceptable. Do I make a practice of using plastic butter? No. Do we all prefer the original ingredients? Sometimes, but are we willing to forego the “regular” stuff so that one person can enjoy the meal? Better yet: am I willing, as the cook, to make an original AND a second one for the people who cannot tolerate the regular ingredients? Of course! I love to bake (meaning, they will always want to visit, and they will know I’ll be well-prepared).

What can you do today to help create that world?

~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

My children don’t need me the way they used to; they are what the world calls millenials. They are grown and quite capable of making their own mistakes decisions. I cannot solve all of their problems, I cannot fix the troubles they meet. I can, however, give them the fuel to function at their optimal best. When they share my table, I can provide nourishment I know works for their bodies, eliminate those that don’t.

It goes back to their first dinner table when they saw “brown” noodles for the first time. I wanted them to consider other options. It goes back to those oat pancakes that to this day, they say, made them gag. I wanted them to be open to new ideas. All three swear we force fed them garden beets. I don’t remember it exactly that way, but…

IMG_20170704_074754892Life is about more than ourselves.

These are the pieces I’m leaving behind.


P.S. I was a couch hog.

The breezes of the sky

“Refuse to fight small battles with petty people. Your life is bigger and better than that.”

~ Author Unknown

I saw the above gut punch this morning and was reminded that this is exactly what I did. I walked away rather than do exactly what my former boss wanted: to engage in a fight. I could see it on her face, read it in her red, puffy eyes. That alone told me enough. I was the strong one.

One morning early, I’d been sitting at my station, sharpening instruments, preparing for my day. She entered the building and went to her office, just the other side of the hall. Soon after, I heard her telling a joke, loudly enough for my ears. No one else was nearby; it was meant for me.

I said nothing. I did not laugh. I uttered no response, kept sharpening. I completely ignored it and her. It pissed her off like nobody’s business.

In that moment I knew I was done. I could not pretend any longer. It was in this moment that I knew that she knew I did not need her for validation. Worse, she knew she’d lost my respect.

By this time, I’d been in dental hygiene for 20 plus years and I knew my stuff, knew what I was doing. Think about that. How does confidence and ability fly in the face of a fragile person who lives for praise? What does this do when the boss realizes you can see through them? I’d had enough and she knew it, right then. 

This is when I knew it was the beginning of the end. I only knew it would happen, not how or when. I was far more ready than I knew.

She’d come in early. There were only two cars, hers and mine, and when I saw hers, I knew. My neck stiffened further. I walked in and there she sat at the lunch table. The first thing I noticed was her eyes. Her eyelids were swollen and red. She’d been crying.

Before I pulled into the parking lot, I knew. I felt it in my neck. It cramped like a son of a bitch and wouldn’t let go. The back of my neck, the right side, was near spasm. In its clenches, I could not turn my head. I went to work anyway. It was a Friday.

The second thing I noticed was the envelope on the table. She’d done the paperwork. I figured there was a check inside.

I knew her weaknesses, knew she wanted nothing more than to go to court, start a battle, to prove she was “right.” I have no doubt she’d contacted her lawyer(s). She had an incessant fear of “missing something” while on the job, one of her frequent assertions. Those lawyers knew her well; so did I. 

As soon as I walked in, she said, “You can speak but nothing you say will matter.” I looked at her and simply stared. I said nothing. She continued by saying she thought it was time she and I parted ways. Part of me wanted to yell, “YA THINK?!!?” I simply stared.

I’d seen her look the other way far too often, ignore the harassment, bullying, and  tolerating unprofessional behavior. She was, perhaps, the biggest bully of all; I’d been threatened with my job unless I lowered my standards. I refused. The workplace had become hostile. I watched others protect her and themselves. It made me sick. 

There was other chatter, after which I stated, “I have never been fired.” Her response was to stare. She said nothing.

My father used to ask me, “Have you told her to go to hell yet?”

I repeated my assertion, “I have NEVER been fired.” It was my assertion that my record blows her argument out of the water. I have an impeccable record. She’d once said to my face, “You are an outstanding hygienist.” Something was going on; it wasn’t my work.

In that moment I realized what I am made of. As soon as she belittled me with her you can speak but it won’t matter line, she affirmed she wasn’t worth working for.

I knew I would not fight; it was beneath me to fight for that job. I was done; I’d been done. I was miserable working for her and those who do not behave professionally. I decided I would not give her what she most wanted: a fight. 

It’s a difficult lesson, this one, but often it isn’t about performance. Which is why that top quote resonated today. It’s about being petty. Indeed.

I stood tall. I held my head high and did not stoop to lower standards. I did not cuss, I did not talk back, I did not argue. I listened. I remained calm. I did not cry or show any emotion. I showed no interest in remaining in her employ. I simply walked away. I am absolutely certain that infuriated her.

I’d seen her pick fights. On one such occasion, when a patient gave me a hard time while trying to do my job–nothing I hadn’t seen or handled before–she came unhinged, later asking me if I wanted her to dismiss him from the practice. The severity of her response was a concern.

I never forgot what that taught me: it took very little to ruffle her feathers, and, she will get rid of people in a heart beat. 

She offered to write a letter of recommendation. I said nothing. I grabbed a box and cleaned out my locker. She stood there and watched. I then told her I was going down the hall to get my glasses and a few personal items. I did so. She handed me the envelop on the table, I gave her my key, and I left the building.

What took me a very long time to realize is just how strong I was in those moments, and how this woman, my former boss, a highly educated doctor, is quite fragile.

What she hadn’t counted on was my strength, and that I knew her. She had no idea that I wasn’t going to give her a fight. 

A former employee, by law, has the legal right to request an employment record if requested within 60 days of the date of termination, sent at the employer’s expense. I found the legal description of the law and wrote a letter, requesting my record.

My sole intent was to make her think this was war (when all I wanted was the record). It worked.

What happened next was beyond anything I expected, but I wasn’t surprised (she loves a fight and wants to bring people into her comfort zone: the courts). The boss cornered a former co-worker to pry information from her to use against me to “pad” my employment record with false information before it was sent. Attempting to add information after termination? 

It backfired.

One must ask why, and what exactly is behind this type of behavior. Why would someone stoop that low, corner an existing employee, for information? What is she afraid of?

And, there is it. She knew it was wrong and that she had NOTHING on me that wasn’t her own created fluff. Why was she crying? You don’t cry if it’s the right thing to do.

Six years later my husband received a call on his cell phone. He did not recognize the number, but because it’s his business number, he answered. It was my former boss. Acting normal, as if she hadn’t treated his wife like dirt, she proceeded to tell him she could not find our house number.

This is a tad hard to believe. At that time, we lived across the street from her daughter.

She also told him she didn’t have my cell number.

Also hard to believe. I have the same cell number as when I worked for her. At that time, hers was not a number I’d blocked. She didn’t even try.

She then told him that since she could not reach me, she had to look him up on-line to get his number. The reason for the call, she said, was that she’d been “doing some cleaning” and “found an item she thought I’d want” back; it was a gift I’d made for her years before for her new office.

And, all I could do was shake my head. There are so many things wrong with this behavior. First, why would she think I would want the reminder in my home? Second, she could easily throw it away and I would never be the wiser (so, why tell me? My guess is it’s another dig, a way of getting rid of me). Third, she wants it to appear she is trying to do something good, or nice (Really?! Well, well. Maybe it’s to make up for something?) because, fourth, this screams of guilt.

I won’t say the years after being fired weren’t difficult; they were. How does one reconcile that behavior? How does one not take something like this personally? How does one not begin to question yourself? It took a while to gain back my confidence, but gain I did.

I was better than the way I’d been treated. My life was better than how I’d been living in that environment. Sometimes, it’s extremely difficult not to take it personally when there is a disagreement, or when someone exerts power over you of which you have little or no control. It was a tough call, but I can live with my behavior.

I will never regret standing up for what is right. I will carry to my grave that I worked and behaved professionally, with honesty, and as a team player. I will never regret refusing to be a doormat.

Sometimes when we take a stand, we stand alone. Sometimes we fail, but….

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

~ Erin Hanson

The way you love your partner

“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.”

~ Barbara De Angelis

I’ve been thinking lately about a near miss, something that happened in March that still gives me pause. It started out as a much-needed girls’ weekend at the beach. We’ve taken this trip many times, the girls and I, and went away without worry. We’d left behind our families, homes, and pets on Friday, and came back refreshed and giggled out on Sunday. We gossiped, talking late into the night; we ate too much junk; we drank too much wine (is that possible?); we ate too much chocolate (also impossible). We shopped. We walked. We slept in. We washed dishes, hours after each meal. We sat around in our jammies until 11 am, or later. We broke as many rules as we could, the makings of a great girl’s weekend.

It was great, but it could have turned out a lot differently.

When I leave for the weekend, I always text my husband to let him know I arrived. He does the same when he goes away. Friday evening, March 17, sometime after we arrived at our destination, I texted home. There was no response.

I wasn’t overly worried. I knew he would be out and about, working on our deck and in the garage on other projects. Our daughter had arranged to meet a friend on Saturday, so Bruce was home alone. By Saturday, when I tried to call and could not reach him, I started to worry. Between 10 and 11 a.m., I texted again and called three times. Nothing.

The girls and I were on foot, walking the promenade, peering into shops. It was cold but sunny; so bright, in fact, it was difficult to read our phone screens. The lack of response made us all uneasy. Deb tried to locate the house phone of my neighbor, Richard. She could not find it. It was hard to miss the worried look on their faces. That sick feeling took hold. I felt shaky. My hands became clammy. My mind was racing and I couldn’t focus.

Richard and I are Facebook friends, so I sent him a written message. He didn’t answer.

“Marriage is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. Its not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep.

After a few minutes, I noticed the small green dot next to Richard’s name, which, I presumed, indicated he was on Facebook at that moment. I’d never tried to make a call using Facebook. I didn’t know how to use that feature. I pushed the icon. I soon heard a faint, “Hello?”

I said, “Richard, this is Karen, your neighbor.” I paused. There was no response. I later learned he was just as astonished as I was; he’d never used Facebook to make a call and to this day does not know how we both managed to do so.

It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day. It’s someone who steals the covers and elbows you in the face. It’s a few harsh words, fights and the silent treatment, it’s wondering if you’ve made the right decision.
It is, despite all of those things, the one thing you look forward to every day.

I told him I was away but had not been able to reach Bruce. I asked if he could go over and take a look around. He said he was on his way. Then I waited. And waited.

It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid.

After a long ten minutes, I heard my phone ring. Richard was standing in front of our garage. Our car was gone, but Bruce’s truck was there. My daughter’s car was gone. All of this was what I expected to hear. But, where was Bruce?

I asked Richard to walk around to the back of the garage and look in the window. He would be able to see whether or not the car was inside. He hung up and said he’d call right back.

It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10pm to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown and they hold you and tell you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them.

My fear was, since Bruce has Atrial Fibrillation, there had been a heart issue. Worry sent me to the worst possible place: I feared he’d had a stroke and was lying helpless somewhere on our property. When he stood at the back of our garage, Richard called me again and mentioned he could hear very loud music inside. Typical. Bruce cannot function without his “Oldies” and always leaves the radio playing full blast.

It’s about still loving someone even though they make you absolutely insane.

Our car was gone, Richard said. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least that meant Bruce had probably taken off for parts. I next asked Richard if he wouldn’t mind driving to our greenhouses (we have 23 acres and the business end is at the opposite end from the house); he said that was his next stop.

Living with the person you love, is fights about absolutely nothing, but is also having a love that people spend their whole life looking for.

About five minutes later I received two phone calls. Richard dialed me as he pulled into the business driveway after spotting our car. He tells me he’s spotted Bruce with a gorgeous blond. I tell him that’s fine; I’ll kill them both later.

As I finished explaining how I was about to murder two people, my phone rang. Bruce. And, do you know what happened? I was so relieved to hear his voice I could not speak. The tears started flowing and my throat thickened and my chin started shaking.

It’s not perfect and it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and the best thing you’ll ever experience.

We don’t know what happened, but he didn’t receive any of my attempts to reach him until 24 hours later. My texts came in the next day. He wasn’t overly worried when I had not checked in with him; he figured I was having a good time and is not the type to worry (this is very good; it provides the balance given my propensity to fear the worst). It was a scare I hope to never relive. It made me think about a situation I may be in someday, but hopefully not.

And, it got me to thinking about marriage and what we have right here, together. When I read these lines in purple today it struck home and highlighted that imperfectly perfect thing we have here that is difficult, wonderful, hard, lovely, hot, cold, warm and everything in between.

“….it’s amazing and comforting and the best thing you’ll ever experience.”

In my case, I have to agree. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it was getting scared and fearing I’d lost something great. Maybe it was the realization time is limited. I don’t know, but it shook me up and I didn’t like it one bit. I could hardly wait to get home.

Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.”

2014_Bruce at Astoria Column

Now, about that blond….

“In order to achieve anything you must be brave enough to fail.”

~ Kirk Douglas

Be the change

“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”

~ Maya Angelou

From my yard to yours:

spring flowers_may 2017 (4)
spring flowers_may 2017 (11)
Pink Bloomers
spring flowers_may 2017 (15)
Lavender cascade
spring flowers_may 2017 (17)
For drying and holiday decorating
rhodie and the bee_may 2017
Hard at work, helping
spring foxglove
Speckled bells
spring flowers_may 2017 (16)
Burst of sunshine

And, some not from my yard:

spring flowers_may 2017 (7)
Lavender and coral beauties
spring flowers_may 2017 (5)
Feast for the eyes

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

~ Gandhi

Crises in ice cream

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”

~ Elizabeth Edwards

Who said retirement was fabulous? Who said it would be easy? I want names and numbers (so I can wring their slimy little necks and give them a piece of my mind….).

Yeah, you read that correctly. I’ve had a bit of a struggle. For nearly 35 years, I’ve been part of a group, a dental group, and now, suddenly, I am not. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve said goodbye to saliva, bid my farewells to calculus (which often landed in my hair). I’ve also said adios to my achy back (and backstabbing as well). Yes, there are certain aspects of working in dentistry that I gladly left behind. But, then comes the “What’s next?” question and the identity crisis. Can I really find MEANING in dusting? Is there reward in a sparkly toilet bowl?

I’ve been reflecting lately, thinking about life, what mine means, how I now fit. While I don’t know yet where I’ll land, or whether I need to land anywhere, I’m reminded of a strategy I often used in the past when in the midst of turmoil.

When in doubt, do nothing.

Sometimes making decisions hastily leads to more turmoil. I’ve learned that taking my time, letting the answers come on their own–allowing due process to thoughts and feelings, quiet time, and all factors involved–brings peace.

Breathe. Be in the moment. Smell the roses. Stop fretting. Do nothing.

Yeah, I like that. Those. This thinking. Why must I be in a hurry to decide where or what is next? Why can’t I just be? Can’t I be good to me by allowing myself some latitude here? I have earned quiet time, I deserve to ponder in the quiet of my home, surrounded by things I love.

Certain things like simple beauty propel me forward:

new flowers_may 2017 (13)
Last year’s Foxglove…


new flowers_may 2017 (8)
…which is taller than all of us.

Simple gardening, enjoying the flowers that I planted last year that have resurfaced, along with the new.

wild flowers and veggies_may 2017
Top to bottom: wild flowers, thyme, basil, spinach, lettuce, wildflowers

And, who can resist these:

OK, stop laughing! Yes, that’s my voice and my daughter’s over our astonishment that there are not four, not five, but SIX kittens in this bunch. (I said stop!)

We can only get so close to the “nest” while mamma is away. We are worried she’ll come back while we’re trying to take a look. (Mamma Cat is not ours; she’s feral but has adopted us. We do not feed her, or any cats, outside. Still, she likes our home and has decided to stay. By the time we realized she was pregnant, it was too late to catch her–the plan once she’s finished nursing–so she can be fixed and released.)  In the meantime, I’m Mamma Cat’s self-appointed Mother-in-Charge of her and her babies.

I caught her in the act yesterday while she was moving her clan to a safer place. She hissed and growled at me. I’m dealing with it. I’ll be fine. Really. Sniff, sniff…

I also realized after I officially retired (on Feb. 23, 2016) that I had not been very good to me. Yep, that is correct. I had fallen away from good self care: enough sleep, enough water every day, the best food, enough exercise…..and so forth. As we moms often do, we rarely put ourselves first–and looking back, I’d put myself last again, for my family–but I hadn’t fully realized until I retired that I hadn’t helped myself one iota by the lifestyle I had adopted over the years.

I decided to start with some basics: food and simple nutrition. I cannot run this engine properly without the best fuel. I am Somersizing for those who are unfamiliar with this way of eating. After cutting out sugar and all processed food, it’s lots of fresh foods eaten in proper combinations to promote the best digestion. I’ve never eaten so well. I began April 1, and I’m down 6 1/2 pounds and several inches (I did not think to measure when I started). I feel so much better.

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Other basics: I’m trying to push the water, make myself MOVE every day, and get enough sleep. It’s amazing how the body responds positively when it’s treated right.

Not to forget emotional health, I came across this book recently.

quaker book of wisdom (2)I have never been overly religious and prefer to keep my beliefs to myself, but I will say that I agree with many aspects of this type of thinking. I found the following in the back:

1. Seize the present
2. Love yourself, whatever faults you have, and love the world, however bad it is.
3. Stop talking and listen to what you really know.
4. Play soccer! (Or whatever team sport you love)
5. Accept the fact that our lives are only partly in our own hands.
6. Believe in the perfectibility of yourself and society.
7. Make your love visible in the world through your work.
8. Seek justice in the world, but not in your own life.
9. Look for the light of God in every person.
10. Let your life speak.

If nothing, it gives me food for thought, let’s me pause when I need time to reflect. I may not have a “job” right now, not one in the traditional sense, but I am part of something (letting go of dental hygiene is harder than I thought–until I recall plaque). I’ve peacefully rediscovered my sense of belonging. I am part of this family, this household, this blogging world, my genealogy friends, and with #7 in mind, those flowers and kittens out there.

Retirement is not an event. It’s a process. No one told me that; rather, it had been painted as glee and glory. It can certainly be glee and glory, but for some, it brings to a close something that was pretty darned good for many years. To me that was a devastating loss.

My daughter whispered today to my husband to buy ice cream. Hmmm. If the only crisis I now face is which delectable dessert to buy or make, I say, Bring it!

elizabeth edwards quote_she stood in the storm and when the wind