The family dinner has long been a tradition in most households of every town in every state, province, or district in literally every country around the world. Whether it's an elaborate five-course meal served on holidays with the finest linens, silver, and crystal or a simple meal of beans and tortillas around a makeshift table, the family meal has nourished the body and the soul for two millenniums now. It's a time that is marked by families of all sorts gathering to eat, connect, banter, and sometimes bare their souls to one another.
Although my family's meals have been more of the bean and tortilla variety, they have resembled royalty in the results they have produced over the years. I felt early on as a young mother that the dinnertime meal was important for the bonding of family and so most evenings I insisted on all five of us sharing that meal together. Because of daily work, school, and social engagements it was, and still is today, hard to find a time that is better than the evening where the whole family can set aside one meal to eat together. Most times everyone is home from the day's activities and, in my opinion (be it ever so humble), there is absolutely no excuse to not have supper together on a somewhat regular basis. Sure, I know there are exceptions to even that rule of thumb, but if you're too busy to set aside time to eat together in the evening at least most of the week, then you're TOO busy! There has been research to show that the family meal is one of the best (and easiest) ways to give kids a good foundation in life, family, and self-confidence and, believe me, our kids need it more today than ever before. I truly believe that having family dinner around the table as my children were coming up has been a huge component in the beliefs they've formed about good nutrition, family values, and gratefulness. My artist daughter has even grown her business around the benefits of the family dinner and how family dinner inspired some of the stunning eating, drinking, and serving pieces she creates. It blesses my heart to hear her sweet memories of the meals her grandfather cooked when he visited and the impression they made on her as a young girl. My nurse daughter is a great believer in making sure her little family is well-fed and gathered together for every meal possible. She has used it as a tool to teach little P gratefulness for all she has and mindfulness of those who have so little. My girls have also taught me (much to my embarrassment sometimes) that just because you CAN eat out doesn't mean you SHOULD eat out. A home cooked meal is not only better for the body, it has all kinds of elements within it that gives health to the inner being as well. My son and his wife also make it a priority for their family to eat together in the evening and it has been around their table that my other two precious grandchildren have learned about life and family, and how to say a prayer that will truly bring a tear to your eye.
It's harder than ever now to find a time when my entire family (me, the hubs, three children, three significant others, and three grandchildren) can eat together. Everyone is all spread out and, even when they are in town, it's very seldom all of them are in town at the same time. But no matter who is here and no matter how short the visit, we always make it a point to gather around the table and break bread as a family. Since Hollie has been back in the states, I've lost count of the meals we've had together and while Abbie has been in town we've had dinner together every night. Tonight dinner is at our place and I am serving one of our favorites...spaghetti with salad and garlic bread; such a simple meal but everyone loves it! We don't wait till everyone is in town because we might be waiting a long time so we take every opportunity we have for celebrating this tradition in our family, and every single experience is a blessing we don't soon forget. I enjoy cooking more than ever with my girls now, maybe because they are such wonderful cooks (and I've learned so much!), and we have great times in the kitchen chopping, stirring, sautéing and serving what we've cooked and then sharing in the consuming of it! This week we've had stuffed peppers with turkey and beans and asparagus, some of the best green salads and fruit salads I've ever had, spinach quiche, all kinds of home-grown veggies, and Honduran chicken soup. I feel healthier just thinking about all the good food I've had!
We live in a society where fast-food has become the norm. I for one am the guiltiest of opting for fast food more times than I should because, well, it's fast and it's food! I can't deny that I love fast food; I just shouldn't love it so much. I grew up with it and had the false perception that it was real food (and sometimes it is, but most times it's void of the content of wholesome ingredients and daily nutrients needed). But I've never regretted a meal that I've lovingly cooked or that someone else has cooked and I've received; there's just nothing better. But if you are like me, the joy of preparing a meal is greater when shared with family or friends. I think more than anything -- more than the location, more than the circumstances surrounding a meal, more than the food itself, it's the "being" with people as you share what is a fundamental need of life -- to be nourished and to feel loved. There's just something about food and its magical ability to bring people together. Meal-time is the perfect time to connect, reconnect, and bring relationships to new levels. If you don't have family, do it with friends! Many friends have been made over a meal. Many problems have been solved over a meal. And, yes, even bad news has been given over a meal but, either way, people always connect over food. People enjoy eating together in the soft lighting of the most elaborately-decorated restaurant indulging on caviar and pheasant under glass and drinking the finest wines, but a meal of sandwiches and fruit on a blanket under the shade of a large oak tree is just as memorable and folks gather around the small kitchen table where mom has cooked all day and seasoned it with salt, pepper, spices, and a lots of love. And when it's accompanied by good conversation and gratefulness, a memory is made that sticks.
As for me? Give me a big ol' bowl of homemade spaghetti and a preschooler slurping noodles, and I am smack-dab in the middle of my happy place!
Wishing you that same happiness and many meaningful meals together...
The sound of soft jazz rises up through the old windows of this building. It's Saturday and the local farmer's market has set up camp in town. I took the liberty of sleeping in this morning due to extreme exhaustion last night. It was date night and the hubs and I "took in a movie" as the old-timers used to say. It was a suspense thriller about survival in its purest form and, let me tell you, I needed a nerve pill or a stiff drink by the time I left the theater. But since I don't take nerve pills and I don't drink stiff liquor, I opted for the bed. That movie wore me slap out. So the soft jazz is a welcome sound this morning as I sip my cup of ambition. Apparently, like Dolly, I need all the help I can get.
The farmer's market every weekend in this small town brings out some of the best locals to offer their wares and creates in me some wonderful summer memories, also evoking some from childhood and my first experience with a farmer's market. As children, my sister and I would go to my paternal grandmother's house every summer for a week. Occasionally we would also visit my maternal grandmother for a couple of days during that same week. I couldn't tell you what year this memory was made if my life depended on it, but we visited my maternal grandfather at the state farmer's market while he peddled his goods. Now, I also couldn't tell you what he was selling if my life depended on it, but I remember the smells and sights of that market very vividly. Piles of okra and corn and tomatoes and beans overflowing into the aisles just waiting to be scooped up by the hungry consumers was such a colorful sight, and the smell of all kinds of melons rising above the crowd is one smell I will never forget. I remember the heat and humidity of South Georgia, and the farmers in their sweaty overalls as they worked tirelessly. The plain, utilitarian baskets used to gather and tote and organize all those freshly grown fruits and veggies are still one of my favorites till this day. That first experience with the farmer's market is a vision I will never forget and has remained a happy memory for me all these years. I have mentioned before that I remember my grandmothers "putting up" those beans and peas and corn during the summer so as to have fresh veggies in the winter. Some of today's kids don't even know what "putting up" vegetables is because everything is so easily accessible at the grocery store year-round now. That's certainly not a bad thing, but do our children and grandchildren even know where that food comes from? There's a really good chance it's not even grown in the U.S., but comes from Central America.
May I suggest a fun family outing for you and your family? Go to a local farmer's market on a Saturday and see what they're offering. Then buy something you know your family will love to eat and cook it up for them! I guarantee you it will be a memory they will never forget. Our local farmers need our support. I think sometimes we are oblivious to the fact that in the south there are farmers all around us who need our help to continue the profession that in some cases is third and fourth generation. And, I mean, what could be any better than a tomato or cucumber or pepper that is planted and harvested literally down the road from where you live? There is nothing more delicious in summer than a tomato sandwich on white bread with a generous dollop of mayo and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Summer tomatoes have a flavor that is simply non-existent in tomatoes purchased at the store in the dead of winter. So buying local not only helps the growers, it's better for you because it's fresher. It's a win-win!
Depending on the market, there's usually a wide variety of things offered. At our local Saturday affair, I have seen everything from the usual fruits and veggies to the unusual fruits and veggies. One Saturday, a sweet lady offered her cabbages for sale which were, I'm not kidding, the biggest cabbages I have literally ever seen; they were at least 12 inches in diameter. She instructed me that they would keep in the fridge if wrapped securely, and you just needed to slice off what you needed as you needed it. Needless to say, I didn't purchase a cabbage that day. I just don't need that much cabbage, and nothing makes me feel guiltier than wasting perfectly good food. I have seen products made from locally raised and sheered alpacas. I've seen homemade shortbread. And, besides the apparent favorite of those beautiful red orbs I love so much, probably my second favorite item to purchase is the flowers! It is a dream of mine to have a beautiful cutting garden one day so that I too can enjoy the love of growing and sharing something I help to nurture with my own two hands. But as long as I can find those perfect summer tomatoes and flowers grown by those who love it so much and who live in my neck of the woods, that is fine by me.
One Saturday morning when Hollie and Preston were visiting, Hollie took Preston down to explore the market. Most booths are carefully thought out as to how to attract the most customers. Some have elaborate signs and free samples. But this particular morning Hollie noticed one little man sitting in a single chair selling his tomatoes from a single basket. The tomatoes looked wonderful and she planned to return after perusing the offerings and purchase some. Maybe that was his strategy...everyone would buy from the little man with his lone basket because, when she returned to buy some, they were all gone -- no fancy booth needed! If you bring the goods, they will sell, fancy booth or not. The purpose of this little story? People are hungry for home-grown goods. So get in the groove with visiting your local farmer's market this summer and make some lifetime memories with those children and grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren. Or visit a local blueberry farm and pick blueberries. You never get too old to explore the farmer's market or pick blueberries!
I hear the thunder and the tree branches brushing my window as the raindrops began to fall. Bummer for the vendors below who are trying to make their living this morning in the great outdoors. But I'd be willing to say that not one of them is complaining. Because, as farmers, the rain is their friend and is welcome any day of this brutally hot southern summer.
Five hotels, one travel-trailer, and one apartment later, I think I'm finally home! It has been a grueling four months since we sold our last house back in March. I never dreamed things would go the way they have but, hey, life is an adventure, right? And once again I'm finding we don't know everything we think we do about ourselves until life hands us lemons and we struggle with all our might to put together a palatable recipe that has some semblance to lemonade. A little sweetness always curbs the bitterness in life, don't you think? Now, the hubsters says we may not be here long if we find the house of our reno dreams, but I've let him know in no uncertain terms I will NOT be moving again anytime soon. Then of course there's the possibility of building still on our plates, but I'm keeping my plate firmly planted right here in this little rental. In fact, I may screw the plates down to the table and the table to the floor. He may never get me out of this place! In the meantime, I'm trying to make it home-sweet-home.
As we are tucked into this little loft apartment, I have been working to pull in the basic pieces of furniture that are necessary to live and then a few necessary pleasures. I mean, who really needs a TV, let's admit it, to survive. But at the end of the day -- a very long, hard day -- television is a great distracter and relaxant. Our new abode has begun to be transformed from a non-descript vanilla box into a little country place in the city with a modern twist, but all around a very snug place to call home. After all, as I've said before, home is not a place; it's who you're with, right? I've started with dark beige. Yep, that's right, you heard me, dark boring beige; beige walls, beige carpet, beige countertops. With a rented apartment, unfortunately it is what it is when it comes to paint and carpet and countertops. But beige is a neutral and I always start with a neutral so for now it's beige. So in light of the fact that I will NOT be moving anytime in the immediate future, I've taken the liberty of adding some "semi-permanent" decor. Like lighting fixtures. Did you know you can literally transform a room just by taking down those ol' boring contractor lights and replacing them with beautiful chandeliers? It's fairly simple if you know some basic electrical safety (in my case it's the hubs who knows the basics). Then, once you do move, they come down and they go with you. Another thing that makes a rental feel more like home is personal art and family photos. When I move, I carefully wrap and transport my art collection, which is a motley conglomeration if I must say so myself. It runs the gamut of art worthiness, all the way from tiny pieces I find at discount stores to my treasured mixed-media pieces, paintings and pottery that my sweet Abbie created. And I mix them with reckless abandon! I am not an art snob; if I like it, I buy it! In a place less than half the size of my last house, I have to be a bit more careful with family photos. I mean, I can't have the members of my family peering at me around every single corner or if I get up during the night. That's just plain creepy. But I choose my favorites and try my best to arrange them in small galleries in just the right places. That's my favorite way to hang family photos and these are the items I treasure most when I move. To have my family photos near me truly makes me feel at home. Just because you don't own the place doesn't mean it can't feel like home. This I know.
So much to my husband's aggravation because of my never-ending "honey-do" list, I continue to make this little nest home. We sit above a walking town with restaurants, shopping, a local farmer's market on the weekend, community movies and concerts, and pretty much anything you need at your doorstep. You could literally live here without a car and many days mine sits uninterrupted. He loves this little place more than I do, and he knows if I fall too hard or get too comfy, he'll have to light a stick of dynamite to get me out of here! It's taken us quite a while to get where we are right now. Literally booted out of a couple of apartments while on the hunt, and with multiple contracts on houses and land that have fallen through, it's no small miracle that I still have my sanity at all. But because I am a great believer in home being a state of mind and that it's the small comforts of familiarity that make a strange place feel like home, I am grateful to be here for whatever amount of time I have for this stage of our journey. After all, home truly is a state of the heart. And, for now, my heart is right here.
Happy Friday, y'all...
Mothers are nesters. This is not something I didn’t know, but something that has definitely been driven home to me in recent weeks. Our first thoughts when we hear the word nest is of a mother bird as she tirelessly prepares a place to lay her eggs, protect the eggs through the developmental process, and then “mother” the tiny hatchlings as she lovingly nurtures them and ultimately teaches them to fly off. I have not researched birds enough to know if her babies continue to be a part of her life after they fly off or if the “flying off” process is the last time she sees them. If that is so, it is the sad ending to a story of selfless devotion. I am so completely thankful that rearing our children and seeing them off one day for good is not likely the last time we will see them. It might be their freshman year of college when they never come back home to live again. It might be the day they get married when we know their relationship with their parents has taken on a drastic change and we will no longer be number one in their life. It might mean saying goodbye at the airport when you know they’re moving away to a place too far to visit often. Such is the case with my oldest daughter. We had the bittersweet experience of saying goodbye to her at college, once more at her wedding, and then again years later the night before she boarded a flight with her husband to Central America where she has lived for the past six years. For quite a few years of my adult life, I focused upon building a suitable nest for all three of my children…a place to teach them, to care for them and make them feel safe…a place to love them with the years I had them with me. It was my sole and totally committed focus. And trust me, when the last hatchling leaves the nest, it is no easy task saying goodbye.
If you are a mother, I think you would agree that it is hard to explain to someone the selflessness it takes to be a mother or the depth of a mother’s love for her children. You have to be a mother to know that kind of love. It’s a love until the end. It’s a love that nothing can sever. It’s a love that truly bears any and every victory, hardship, and experience that your child has and you carry it deep within your soul. For health reasons, my sweet Hollie and her family have had to re-locate back to the United States for a year. Now, I simply cannot convey to you my joy to have her (and her mini-me whom I've never gotten to live near in her entire three point five years) so near once again. I know that it is temporary, and I have no idea the exact timing of their plans in the future, but for now I have them near, and I am beyond excited to be able to share with my daughter the things I’ve missed with her the last six years…lunches and shopping dates…impromptu dinners at each other’s homes…picking up the munchkin for some needed relief for mommy and some needed grandparent time for me and the hubs. But as I’ve known in the past and I’ve been reminded recently, the nesting instinct is a powerful thing. Even though this time together is not permanent (but what is?), she had to have a nest.
So my sweet daughter has been hunting for a nest simultaneously with her mother the last couple of months. And finding a place that fits the budget, offers the space and amenities needed (i.e., a yard, convenience, the right number of bedrooms), and just overall fits the need for a place to call home is no easy task as you know. But we’ve finally each found a nest to hunker down at least for awhile and do life. Mine, as you know, is a converted loft apartment that fills part of the top two stories of an early 20th century hotel. It is truly a nest, as the top floor overlooks the trees outside the windows! She has moved her sweet family into a modest one-story ranch 15 minutes away and has set up housekeeping for the family that so fills and holds her heart captive now. I think for the first time, my daughter can feel the depth of my love for her as she feels the depth of love she has for her own daughter. Having the experience of helping my daughter feather her own nest has been great fun! We’ve had some priceless time together, finding the just-perfect little twigs and branches (aka furniture, accessories, curtains, etc.!) that have morphed a small non-descript ranch house into a home filled with color, comfort, and my daughter’s own vibrant personality.
I think the “flying off” process is the hardest part of motherhood. We have dreams and visions for our children and sometimes our dreams and visions for them is not what they choose. And it’s not because their choices are wrong or not made with great soul-searching and thought, it’s just that we as their mothers see the difficulties their choices may bring down the road. We want there to be an easier way because we, beyond all hope, don’t want our children to suffer. Mothers have a great intuition and see things that no one else can see sometimes. But we raise them to be capable human beings so that, when we’re gone, they can carry on without us and be independent. We raise them to do good in this world. We raise them to leave their mark on the world. We raise them to be all they can be in a world that desperately needs them. But mostly so our legacy won’t be tainted with riotous living, right?! Sometimes that independence we try so hard to instill in them takes them right to the edge of our greatest fears. But real life is lived through experience, hardships and all, and the only way to grow is to face those hardships head-on and accept the outcome with great courage and the love that only a mother can know. None of us can stay in the proverbial nest forever. After all, we were born to fly.
Be we all, however, can make a nest in which to reside, even if we are well into our golden years and no longer have children at home. Because we mothers will mother till the day we die. We want to have a place, be it ever so humble, that our little (grown) hatchlings and their offspring can return to, even if it’s just a holiday meal shared around a large table for a few precious hours. But when the kids are nearby, you have the best of both worlds. And whether it’s a permanent arrangement or just for a year, we don’t take it for granted. We embrace it and enjoy every single solitary minute afforded with these offspring we so dearly love.
Because right now is really all we have.
Posted by CC
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