Tuesday, March 24, 2020

His and hers: Pandemic edition

On so many levels we are a mixed marriage. Age doesn't even scratch the surface of differences. Politics is not a space we wander into often. Religion has about one inch of overlap. And most of all, people. He would claim he is as introverted as I am, but this has brought out the truth. I have prayed diligently for years for a lifestyle that allowed as little interaction with people as possible. These past days have been pretty great: horse, husband, dog. I work over Zoom and that's OK. It isn't peopling all day, every day, as most days are under normal circumstances. I come home wrecked, often unable to even go see my horse because I am so tired from all the peopling. I love my peoples, but time alone is GOLD. These days there is plenty of time for restoration between interactions and I can be present and pleasant (I hope) when I do show up in the videoconference. I get to do this alot and my eyes belie how happy I am.

By contrast, he calls everyone he knows all day long and plenty of people he doesn't know but would like to. Despite dire warnings and my death stares he still goes over to his friends (older than him) house for beers every afternoon. And yesterday, our neighbor and his son were digging in the yard by our fence. Another neighbor had come by. Keep in mind he has had VERY few conversations with these men; two barely speak English. We are not friends. Have never been in one another's houses. But when he saw this little gathering at the fence he literally trotted out the door. People! Whee! 

 And so, we have confirmation. I am indeed an introvert. Excuse me, an INTROVERT. He is an extrovert.  Please remember:

Image result for check on extroverts we are not ok

Friday, November 8, 2019

Dream come true

For ages we have chatted about what we would serve if we had a restaurant. I fantasized about a customized menu geared toward my way of eating of the moment (gluten-free, vegan, now keto). He fantasized about locally sourced foods featured in unexpected ways. For the most part this was the kind of mindless dreaming we reveled in: buy a camper (or wagon, if you have a handlebar mustache and penchant for mules) and travel the country a la Nick and Rinker Buck if you are him, or Steinbeck if you are me; move to the town with the hot springs and spend our days in sulfur cloud stupors; fill the backyard with miniature farm animals (did you know there were miniature longhorns?) - definitely me; have a team of big horses to feed cattle with. We are excellent dreamers. Creative, detailed. Meanwhile, I pursued my education and stayed the course with my job at the college. He remodeled the house, sang in the church choir, and dabbled in local food.

This year the dabbling led to business cards. A board of directors. A business plan. Presenting to legislative committees. A podcast.

And now, a restaurant. The Local Food Exchange opened about a month ago with a vision, a prayer, and a lot of community support. Suddenly we are shifting gears from lackadaisically imagining what life would be like if... (cue chewing on straw in the front porch swing) to bumping around in the midst of confusing logistics, learning how to tread water a little more effectively each day.

Today, a load of locally-grown potatoes was delivered that will soon become french fries. A little more efficient than the half-day trip out to their farm we did last time. He let his new helpers open for the first time without him today so he could come with me to the blood draw. Our city manager has been up every morning this week for his breakfast.

I keep joking to people that he is failing at retirement, but look at him, peeling boxes of local apples I made into pie that he later traded for a Google business listing (a born trader!): Happy, invigorated. The brain atrophies in the kind of disuse I plan for my retirement: porch, hammock, book. Researchers recommend constant learning, and not the kind of learning that comes from reading an article or two. The kind that comes with trying new things, trying to be something different, stretching who you are.

Norman Mailer wrote: "Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less." We all know that growth and discomfort are inextricable. No growth happens in the comfort zone. Turns out Jack's growth zone comes with a side of gravy and pie for dessert. Come and get it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Meat, Meat and more Meat


I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Jack's livelihood all of his life has depended on the production of meat. On our first date we wandered into a restaurant in the basement of a historic house in Independence, Missouri. We were supposed to have visited the Truman Library that day but he hijacked me and instead we went to the National Historic Trails Museum. It was fitting: we were our own kind of pioneer, after all. In the restaurant I ordered a salad. He ordered chicken livers and gizzards. I was appalled. Disgusting. He might as well have ordered the dredge from the bottom of the mop bucket.

Last year I found my way to a ketogenic way of eating, which has been life-changing. No more the inner angst, grinding weariness, and persistent frustration with life in general. Oh, and I lost some weight, too. Keto means mostly protein and virtually no carbs. I find I do best when eating virtually only eggs and meat. So here we are. I didn't even plant a garden this year. We have gone through several sous vide wands this year and half our back porch is occupied by a giant smoker. Jack feels quite vindicated since this seems to have worked out better than my forays into veganism and raw food. Even after 14 months I still flip outside myself and look back, incredulous.

When he tells people he converted me (not true!) to meat eating I respond that I'm making up for lost time. Ten years of meat for me! And thankfully he IS the source to find all local meat in our town (and working to develop that market for others) so I have my very own Butcher Box supplier who even cooks it just the way I like it. This pork steak (from our pig) was sous vide and smoked!

We have three freezers full of mostly protein in the garage, though one has homemade stock of all varieties (even buffalo!) and half of another is full of offal: the unmentionables no one else in town wants. Word has gotten out that Jack wants it! Chicken livers and gizzards were nothing, as it turns out! He and a few friends are threatening to start an offal lunch club. When a man at church had a kidney removed, Jack baked him a steak and kidney pie. He even cut out little kidneys in the pie crust top. I don't think anyone ate it but him, though.

So, dear, what kind of protein do you require today, he asks while pouring his coffee. I have smoked roast beef, pulled pork, turkey breast, bacon, and grass-fed tri-tip in the fridge beside the three dozen local eggs. "I think I'm fine for today, thanks!"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My favorite Doodle dog

It is the end of an era, the death of our fine dog, Skip. He was to be named Kip, Jack said, like a good cattle dog he’d once known. But It kept coming out with an S on the front. So Skip he became. Not that the name ever mattered much to him. What mattered to him was belonging. Having a place to come home to, where there would be food and love, always.

The boy was just there waiting on the stoop one day when we got back to the ranch. A black dog with brown points above his eyes like a Doberman or a Rottweiler. Nothing about this thin mangy guy was threatening, though. He tilted his head, pushed his ears back and smiled. I’m a love. Can’t you tell?

And so he stayed. As an outdoor dog, a decision which nearly split my marriage. Having a furry dog covered in snow lying next to the door with temperatures well below zero was not in me. Jack insisted he was an outside dog, with a job, and bringing him in would confuse him and his system. (Only after I found a scholarly research article about this did I relent - it indeed was hard on them to come in only to go back out.)

His job was to keep the coyotes off the place, and he was especially good at guarding the chickens who never even had to be locked up at night. I once watched as a few coyotes (or a pack - who can ever tell how many there are?) came close into the ranch and he ran them off. “Regular” dogs often fall victim to their tricks, but never Skip. He charged them, but always came back before they could get him surrounded and turned around to charge again until they gave up and left. Wileyer than a coyote.

When we moved to town we worried most about him. The transition from roaming hundreds of acres with nary a fence in sight to one acre would be tough. But here he came in. A dog bed. Treats. A ball to chase after (and never return). A ditch to soak in on days when the heat made being a fluffy black dog more intolerable than the snow and freezing cold.

Nicknamed Skipper LeDoux by a friend, at home he began to answer to Doodles, a ridiculous name that suited him just fine.

The bounding leaps of joy! The racehorse dashes down the fenceline after his arch enemy! The belly rolls with one foot flopped to be extra cute. His special nest in the middle of the giant lilac bush. Laying down to eat, while the hyena corgi circled. His squeals when his favorite people came to visit. His last ears relaxed, bright eyed smile at me in the vet’s office.

In 2002, an intuitive told me that I’d live in a white house at the base of a mountain and a back dog would come and bring my deceased uncle to guard my life. Did I mention that our house was beige? And surrounded by mountains beyond the plain? That Skip was black? Whenever I touched my head to his head all the stress drained immediately. It was magical medicine.

He was a blessing in our lives and we miss him. Thank you for coming, Skip.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marriage as C25K

I am reading Kate Braestrup's second memoir, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

Her tale reminds me of my favorite admonition about marriage: a successful one is where both man and wife each think they got the better end of the deal. Today is our anniversary. And let me tell you. I won. 

What he got: neuroses, debt, abhorrence of household maintenance, neuroses, vegetables, political rants, oh, and did I mention my neuroses?

What I got: Love. 

A few months ago, in the midst of the time that shall not be mentioned (still processing) I found this was my horoscope:


I was crying a lot in those days but this made me grin from the inside out. Because that girl? The one with the mix tapes full of Bryan Adams, Journey, Cheap Trick and every other longing ballad? I want to tell her that those nights of wishing and hoping and thinking and praying - they worked! She won the marriage lottery!

 I just read this amazing obituary; Pink's story is the story Jesus wants to hear from every obituary he reads over his morning coffee. Love. A lot. Openly and with abandon. 

I am not guilty of this behavior.  I fail to love on many - well, most - occasions. My husband, on the other hand, is a gift. My first reaction to anything - a bird at the window, a letter in the mail, a new recipe - is analytic. 

My brain goes to all the factors, the whys, the implications, the context and relation to all things known before. It asserts dominance every time. Let's just say I don't radiate love and grace the way Pink did.

Jack, on the other hand, is the Ghost of Christmas Present. Come, and know me better, man! He lives fully and radiates love. He is grace when I have a tantrum, solace when I am afraid, hope when I doubt. His arms are always open. 

Why do we celebrate anniversaries? Some do to honor what the couple has made of their life together. Home, children, community. Some mark the survival of tumultuous years. Some renew their vows. 

 Today marks six years for us since we first said our vows.

We kept the whole better or worse stuff, the richer or poorer, the sickness and in health bit (see previous post).  We agreed faithful was probably good to stick in. Honesty, respect, trust, etc. Then we took a little creative license and declared: 

"I promise to honor you; to share all that I am with you and to love you all the days of my life."

"I join with you on your journey; that we may learn to better understand ourselves, the world and God." 

Yes, I love him every day. And every day he shows me how to be a little better at it. 

In her conclusion, the lady who performed the ceremony admonished us. "Cory and Jack, treat each other with respect and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your marriage deserves. If each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, your marriage will be marked by abundance and delight." 

She was right. So today we celebrate this 5k victory while training for a marathon. Love is choice every minute of every day. Someday I hope I will finally learn it well enough so love will become my default the way Jack learned it to be from his parents and Pink - and Jesus - taught us it should be.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Springing into summer

Which is longer, a saga or an epic? Please hold while I transfer you to Google. (Response: A saga is an Icelandic epic.) Either way, it's been a long haul.

 I won't bore you with the episodic details since the characters are all the same. The bottom line is that Jack's outfit has had an open back for most of the past four months. In those rare weeks when it didn't, it had suspenders. Needless to say, the heart surgery had some complications. Which led to other complications.


 It has been a trying time. We will certainly be different people at the end of this. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Have a heart, or a cow

Many years ago we were watching a program about medical advances. They were discussing prosthetic limbs and other artificial body parts that were creating bionic people. Jack was having none of it.
"If I need one, give me one of those pig valves. Or even better, a cow valve!"

We laughed. Who had ever heard of a cow valve?

Fast forward to last fall.
Me: "You really need to see the cardiologist. They found concerns a couple of years ago and there hasn't been any follow-up."
Him: "I didn't like the last guy we saw."
Me: "There are others. Give them a call."

Eventually, the call was made. Tests were ordered. An appointment scheduled. We never made it to that appointment. After the second test the doctor who happened to be there came in. I was at work so he recorded it for me.

(In a Romanian accent:)
"You need an aortic valve replacement plus one, maybe two bypasses. We need to get you in for a heart catheterization immediately."

The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur. That was week one. Week two was the catheterization, which was not pleasant. Watching the video of the vessel function was pretty amazing, however. I'm a big believer in alternative medicine but am properly awed - and grateful - for modern medicine as well. The surgeon on call that day said the surgery was necessary but that the symptoms weren't significant (fatigue and shortness of breath). Because of that he thought it could wait until he was back from covering other cities (Wyoming has two heart surgeons. TWO.) and a vacation. "My office will call and set you up for about a month from now."

Today is Sunday. On Monday last week the office called and said the other surgeon could do it sooner and could we come see him tomorrow? His office is two hours away. We went. He scheduled the surgery for Friday.

"Now, you have a choice. An artificial valve will last the longest. They never wear out, but you have to be on blood thinner for the rest of your life. You can have a tissue valve, which doesn't last quite as long but longer than we used to think. We used to think they would only last 10 years. Now studies are showing they last up to 25 years."

"What kind of tissue?"

"We prefer to use bovine pericardium."

We looked at each other. A cow valve??

Friday morning they installed an extra-large aortic COW valve in Jack's heart. He has been missing the cows since we moved. Now he literally carries one around with him. Or maybe more bull. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In My Room

I don't have any before photos for this post, but I'm guessing you can imagine. Perhaps you even have a similar space in your house somewhere. You know, that room/corner/basement that is stuffed full of boxes, strewn with unwanted decorations, unheated and saturated with dust?

That one.

A couple of strands of lights never made it back into the Christmas box. A rare trip to the city yielded *the perfect* fabric. And I remembered. A room can make you happy just by being in it. 

Bright colors. Whimsy. Treasures only I care about. I piled them in and sat back to soak it in. Well, after I cleaned (how fun was it to clean those blinds? Not very. But so worth it.) 

The day before the city trip I began Amish Grace and a phrase they use resonated with me: 
JOY: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. 

Irony in putting that up in a room all for me? Why yes, there is. I'll go meditate upon that. In my room. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Home makeover: Office edition



Here is the curtain fabric. It makes the green shag carpet seem purposeful instead of inherited.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

For the first time I planned a facebook status ahead of time. I had to wait until Christmas Eve to post: "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight." I hadn't realized Christmas had become so empty to me until this year when it was full again.

Not even discovering most of our ornaments were covered in mold could dampen my spirit.

My mother's cousin made me the heart ornament when I was very, very young.  I made the reindeer in 4-H in 6th grade and bought the reindeer head at a church craft fair. It was my favorite because it held a Hershey kiss. The tape was my two best Jenny's playing Christmas carols on the piano, ca. 1990.

It was sad to lose them, but happy to put the tree up with the surviving ornaments. Of course they were virtually all glass or ceramic. 

The clatter that woke me that night was more of a crash as the whole thing fell to the floor. I'd like to blame the three cats and a Chip and Dale routine but it was my faulty tree stand engineering. One of the most important ornaments of all broke. 
My grandmother and I painted ceramic ornaments together long before there was a Hobby Lobby and hers were always perfect. This was one of the first. Thankfully it was a clean break, I found the missing part and super glue did the trick. Saved for another year!

Holiday tip: More is better applies to trees. I put up three. Small, medium and large. After the collapsed first try I divided and conquered. Each tree got its own personality just glowed with love, sparkle and light. What more is there to Christmas, anyway?

I learned the meaning of  faith in action from those who came into my life as answered prayers this year. A few people were Clarence to my Mr. Bailey this year, teaching me what Christmas should be. 

These ladies top the list with their compassion, grace and indomitable spirit. When I think about whom I want to emulate, they come to mind. 

Another person new to my life this year reminded me of the joy in giving for giving's sake, not for trying to impress or outspend. I got to play Santa for him, distributing gifts he bought for people he doesn't know just because. 

It inspired me to do the same. Two families got bags full of gifts this year whom I barely know and who don't know it was me. 

Honestly, that brought more joy to me than even baking cookies with these two did (though it was close). 
Their portrayals of Mary and a shepherd came pretty close, too.

After our church service last Sunday we went to theirs to watch her suck on her teeth like an old man (one front tooth gone, one loose, though two front teeth were not all she wanted for Christmas) and him sing Gloria In Excelsis Deo like a miniature Pavarotti.

Monday we took them shopping to buy Christmas presents for their parents (wait, for them? not for us? huh?), ate out, wrapped said presents (their sister is a master bow girl) and made cookies. We don't see them often, but I hope these little moments make an impression. 

Our Christmas Eve service will be memorable, that's for sure. We were asked to come early and be ushers. I wore my new silk scarf that is shiny pale green on one side and shimmery red on the other with lots of fringe.

When we arrived, it was discovered that a dozen people had been asked to be ushers. We sorted that out - I thought - until just before the service started and someone else came and asked us to serve Communion. So when it came time to usher we sat a few beats until we got "the eye" and rushed up to do our job.

When it was Communion time eight of us came forward to do the job of four. On top of that, someone had to be dispatched to the kitchen for more bread and two wine goblets was nowhere near enough.

I served the overflow crowd bread while Jack stood as arm candy at the front of the line. We were all glad it was over, especially when we opened the doors and found it was snowing!

Christmas morning I made Jack his pie-spiced latte and we settle in to savor our tree. He opened lots of packages connected to his big gift (see Home Makeover: Office Edition) and I opened a giant box. A real sheepskin and a set of pearls!

After the tree we picked up someone with nowhere else to go and went to the community dinner at the Catholic school gym for which Jack helped cook nine turkeys. My dessert was this impromptu performance of several hymns by my mustachioed Pavarotti and his merry band (aka members of our church choir).

I am so grateful for so very much this year. Christmas illustrated the sweetness in our new life. So many of our prayers have been answered. As we look to a new year, I pray to be a vehicle for someone else's answered prayers. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

His & Hers: Breakfast

On the left, we have hashbrowns, sausage and fried farm eggs.
On the right, we have cantaloupe, cucumber, sunflower and flax seeds.
Guess whose is whose?

I'm pretty sure men have evolved to only feel satisfied when eating something they could have killed on a hunt and women are satisfied most eating things they could have grown or gathered. At least, that's the way it seems in our house.

This was my first foray into raw food. Day 3 now. No day has been completely raw, but let's just say my birthday present to myself was a dehydrator. Last night it made me kale chips and dried cantaloupe. Right now it is making me banana chips and pancakes.