Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vignette Number One: Counting All Things Lost

Her womb was empty of life. But this, she did not know. In her imagination, there was a baby. She wanted there to be a child, and this child-of-her-mind was born out of the grief at the ending of her fertile years. Since she had been newlywed, she’d always told everyone that she wanted many children. “Six,” she would reply in answer to that question, “or however many God gives me.” In her mind, the “however many” was always a greater number, and never a lesser. So here she was, in years that still should have been childbearing years, with a brood of four, larger-than-average, and still she felt that longing and that regret. And now she thought she was pregnant, against all odds. She thought it, because it had happened to to someone she knew who was living proof that surgery does not always work to prevent a baby. So, in her mind, that was the truth, and not the harsh statistic of 99.99 percent effective. She believed in that one-in-a-thousand chance. She also believed because her period was late. Unimaginably late. And because each of the four times before when she had been pregnant, there had always been negative pregnancy tests during the first six weeks or so. And it is easy to imagine nausea, and a big belly just was. Her whole life was just a step away from nausea and why shouldn’t she believe the signs?

And then there was that test. Yes, a faint line had looked positive....wishfully positive, but it was an idea she clung to.

Baby excitement filled the air. As usual her husband was reserved and stressed out about the money a new baby would cost. “I am happy,” he would reassure her in an unconvincing and resigned voice when they were alone. She knew all that would change when he held the child. It always had. He was the best father, always patient and very involved. But they were poor as could be, and it was not yet time to tell the kids.

She never had quite the energy that other moms had, and it always seemed that her children were more demanding than other people’s children. They took more out of her. They were for some unknown reason more difficult to parent. But things would work out. They had a way of working out, didn’t they?

And her sister-in-law was about to have a baby, too. Baby excitement definitely filled the air. That baby would be due any day now, and she could not wait for the extended family to grow. One more precious soul to love.

That night there was a phone call. Her sister-in-law called. Her baby had died and would be stillborn. She wept. They wept together...these two women, miles and years apart. Both of them for the loss of this child. She could not imagine this mother’s grief.
And then, the bleeding began. And then she knew she’d been deluding herself, and she felt like an utter fool. And she cried. She cried for her non-baby, for her sister-in-law’s baby and for the babies she wanted but would never have. Perhaps she cried for the future that she did not yet know, for the dead dreams and the ones that would never even get started enough to be dreamt in the first place. Her pillow was wet with the tears over that-which-was-not, always a loss and never a gain. She cried over her husband’s family’s early death, over his ongoing grief and over moving and over culture shock and over being bullied in middle school. She cried over friendships lost. She cried for continents, countries and cultures she couldn’t go back to. She cried over her children being different, and over her own pain and fatigue. Her face was slick with regret, sadness and anger at her own body by which she felt betrayed. Life had betrayed her, and that night was for tears.

Much later there would be wisdom to see, and hear a quiet whisper of comfort, ancient as the universe “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” It struck her, in that later on time, that she was calling The Suffering One blessed. And she was calling the mother of The Suffering One blessed, too. And this would be her own story, too...counting all things lost.

Note: This piece is a mashup of two different ancient memories. It's written in the third person, but it is about me. It contains some dreadfully personal material, but I'm putting it out here because it is a story, a woman's story, and although that woman happens to be me, I believe it is a tale which might resonate with or bless someone else. I've never ever encountered anyone with whom I could share this stuff, and so that leads me to believe there is someone in the world who may have felt similar things...and also felt alone in them. God bless you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup (Paleo, Gluten free)

1 package of frozen broccoli
1 package of frozen cauliflower
(or 2 of one of these)

place in large enough pan and add some water, to not quite cover the vegetables.

2-2.5 tsp. salt
2 T. dried onion flakes
a generous spoon full of minced garlic (more or less to taste)
pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. dry mustard powder

All all to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat. Puree with immersion blender until the vegetables are "cream of x soup" textured.

Add 1 can of coconut milk.

Stir in and re-heat if necessary.

...this is delicious and very filling. Several of my family members thought it had cheese in it.

To make this soup more nourishing (but not vegan) use homemade bone broth instead of water.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Gluten Free Bread Recipe Tweaks

I just heard "This bread is PERFECT!" coming from my kitchen as one of my kids was making toast for breakfast.

I think so too. I've posted my GF bread recipe before, but I want to share some changes with you, so that you, too (if you are using my recipe) can have a better loaf of frugal, homemade gluten free bread.

Problems that I solved: The old recipe was not quite dense enough and kept collapsing into odd shapes once the loaves cooled. This recipe fills the pans better and does not collapse if you wait until after it's been cooled in the refridgerator to slice it. It can be re-softened in the toaster after slicing, and then has that wonderful fresh baked bread texture.

And, to make things even better, the change uses LESS ENERGY/ELECTRICITY and SAVES TIME.

Here it is:

5 cups GF flour blend (I use equal parts rice flour and tapioca starch)
1/4 cup sugar
2 T. dry yeast
2 t. salt
1/2 T. guar gum (or 1 T. xanthan gum)
...mix these dry ingredients together, then
add in:

1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups warm water

Mix on high with mixer for 3 minutes to get the batter smooth and aerated.

Pour into two small greased loaf pans.

Here's the different part:

Place pans into cold oven. Turn your oven on 350 degrees Farenheit and set your timer for 50 minutes. (This allows the loaves to rise while the oven pre-heats, but not rise too much. The loaves are denser but still have nice air holes and texture).

Remove from pans promptly after taking these out of the oven. Cool completely. This bread slices most easily after it has been refrigerated. It warms up beautifully in a toaster.

If you eat it straight out of the oven it will mush a bit when you slice it, but "who cares it's fresh hot bread", right?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Gratitiude Day 2

Today I am feeling grateful for my kids.

I also finished my dirndle (OK, ALMOST finished...I still need to hem it, and shorten the apron a bit). It's doubling as a hobbit dress, since we are all planning on going to see The Hobbit in full costume this December.

I look like I should be serving mugs of ale at the Green Dragon...or Oktoberfest.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Gratitude November

This month I want to focus on GRATITUDE. It is, after all, the month inwhich we celebrate Thanksgiving.

So while other people are busily enriching the world by participating in NaNoWriMo...(always feel like I OUGHT to have a novel in me bursting to come out, but I just DON'T), I am going to try and blog more faithfully.

So the thing that I am grateful for, today on November 1:

I am SO SO SO SO very grateful that I got to spend my childhood years in Basel, Switzerland. It was awesome. What a beautiful city, country and language. I miss Switzerland every single day of my life. (Tomorrow will mark 30th anniversary of coming to America). But today I'm going to focus on the GRATITUDE that I got to be there. How many American kids get to do that, you know?