The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

The JARR Farmhouse

The JARR Farmhouse comes to us from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but post regularly on Instagram anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air to take your mind off the kinda-spooky-never-ending rain, the longer-than-humanly-possible house arrest, and the you-don’t-know-who-coughed-on-that produce aisle, look no further.

Whether you have a jar of dirt or an acre of land, you too can grow fresh produce with a little ingenuity and patience. The way these ladies figure it, if they can do it, so can you. The idea behind this style of gardening is to keep pests to a minimum and the planters movable.

Here are today’s tips for tomorrow’s harvest.

Cinderblock containment.

Cinderblocks make fast, easy garden boxes. Plant flowers (marigold, chrysanthemum) and herbs (rosemary, lavender) that repel pests in the holes and fill the center with your soil and root plants like potatoes, ginger, and onions. Using cedar wood shavings as mulch is also a natural pest deterrent. If gophers are a problem in your area, lay down a sheet of welded wire first, then edge with blocks and fill with soil. If you need to add a cage to keep the deer, rabbits, birds, or raccoons out, the cinderblock is a sturdy base for your tent poles and chicken wire.

Cinderblock and planks.

Green goodness.

Add a few planks to the cinderblock and take your planting vertical. In the base is your watermelon and pumpkins (they will grow out beyond the base) and layered on the benches are a variety of containers. A smaller version of this idea is placing the containers in your sunny kitchen windows. Most pests have a hard time reaching anything up high like this. Leafy salad greens don’t require a lot of root space and can be planted in more shallow containers. Root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets need more soil to grow in, so choose deeper pots. The ladies plan a trip to the second hand shop as soon as it opens to scout for fun containers. Personally, I like teapots and old work boots as planters. You do you.

Climbers need a grip.

Any of your climbing viney crops, like peas, cucumbers, and runner beans are planted next to anything that will hold their weight when they produce. It can be a simple as this twine lattice or as sturdy as a chain link fence you have along your yard. You can repurpose everything from an old ladder to a pallet for your climbing garden.

Wheelbarrow berries.

Nobody loves strawberries more than slugs and snails. An elevated planter, without obvious paths to the prize is a genius solution. Strawberries are also happy in hanging containers and don’t need much room. Keep your delicacies safe from tell tale holes and eat the berries yourself!

Sprouting jars.

Chia, barley, and wheatgrass seeds lend themselves to making sprouts in jars. They make a great salad topping and green smoothie goodness. For tips on sprouting, see my blog here.

Mobile munchies.

Some plants demand containers. Really. If you are unsure of your eco zone, especially if you are chasing the sun as the seasons turn, putting your tree in a pot makes sense. This is a dwarf nectarine. Move the pot to meet the sunshine or avoid a heavy frost. Most varieties of berries and mint are downright invasive if not kept in a pot. You were warned.

Coming soon…!

No way am I leaving without showing you this little fluff. In a future blog, we will devote ourselves to chickens and other critters, the other fun parts of The JARR Farmhouse as it evolves. Have yourself a happy little garden, even if it’s a pansy in the window. Be sure to follow @the_jarr_farmhouse on Instagram to watch the crops come in.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:11

Toot-in-Common’s Curse

Many know the legend of the curse that follows those who dare disturb the sarcophagus of Toot-in-Common. Few have dared to approach it. None have dared to open it.

For many years, people circled the area, knowing that foul deeds and fouler air were contained in the bowels of the ancient tomb. What treasures must be locked away in there? What mysteries hidden in the depths of the forbidden zone?

One intrepid archeologist risked her reputation and her life by venturing where no man had gone before. Well. A man or two had obviously gone before her to build the thing. And yes, what they buried involved another man who should have died for the plan to work. Somebody somewhere had to curse the thing.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There were strange markings in the walls that she couldn’t decipher. Patterns in the tiles plastered above the cavernous entry. Mold grew in the corners in a black spidery gesture that unmistakably beckoned the wary explorer to come closer. She looked carefully for a trap. There was nothing here that could sustain life. The smell was a mixture of damp clay, stale air, and sewer slime. The floor shifted with her weight and creaked. The wind outside moaned in warning. In the dim light, she stepped closer. The sarcophagus was buried here in the dry rot. She could feel it.

Waving to her team of hired thugs, she moved into position. She put on gloves, a mask, and protective eye shields. On her signal, hammers fell against the stone that encased her prize. She reached for ear plugs. Shrapnel flew through the chamber, filling the air with dusty debris. “Stop!” she cried, lifting a fist. “Time to use the chisels.” With detailed precision, the last of the stone was chipped away, revealing the edges and smoothly polished target of her ambition.

“Yes,” she said, running her gloved hand over its alabaster surface. “You’re mine.”

She turned to look behind her. There were three intricately carved storage chests. Taking up a mallet, she smashed through the front panel of the one on the left. “Empty!” she cried in frustration. She broke open the one on the right. There was nothing inside but a cracked cistern, oozing thick, black offal. She backed away quickly, signaling to the minions to cover it up. With one last desperate swing, she cracked open the central box. She moved her boots out of the way just as odd shapes and parcels began spilling at her feet.

“Bag it,” she said. Time to sort her treasures later.

Circling slowly, she knew what she had to do. Others would hear about this as soon as she left. They would follow, curse or no. The credit was hers and hers alone. She would remove her prize and destroy the place behind her. She took photos first. Proof for those who might scoff later. A tease for those who hadn’t been brave enough to go after it themselves. Cowards.

Workers lifted the huge sarcophagus from the bowels of its encasement and gingerly moved it towards the entry as others took up hammers again. “Level it,” she said, and took the first swing. The cavern wall opened immediately, gaping wide as huge chunks fell away on their own. Through the rubble, black slime began crawling from hidden recesses above the ceiling and down into the room. It percolated from the holes in the floor, bubbling up in anger. The alluvium of a thousand years rose to challenge the intruders and surrounded them in stench.

There, in the wall, was the source of the curse. It pulsed with the remains of a thousand human hands, dripping with stripes of brown, green, and yellow stalactites. A sulfurous decaying mass began to slide towards her. It was offended by the carrion birds who had entered with irreverence to pillage and destroy. The curse had been released and she felt the air hum with its static. They stampeded for the exit. “Bleach bombs!” she cried, staggering towards the fresh air.

Hubby was waiting outside. “I almost died in there!” she said.

“I told you so. You had to do it, didn’t you?”

“I still might die. What happens when you breathe all that?”

“Leave it alone, I said. We can hire a professional, I said.”

“A professional is who built that bathroom in the first place. A man who did a lazy job with the plumbing and left it dripping for the last 30 years in the wall.”

“Where did you find my hammers? I hid the hammers.”

“At least I got the tub out in one piece.” Kid #5 stood there and pointed to the dings in it. She tried not to feel defeated.

“I hope you’re happy. The bathroom’s destroyed. Now we have to rip out the mold and it goes in every direction.”

“Yes, I’m happy. The place is like death in there.”

“Please don’t touch the toilet. What did the toilet ever do to you?”

“Toot-in-Common can stay. It’s the only thing that worked right anyway.”

“Thank goodness for small blessings. I’m not good with rivers running through the house.”

“Well,” she said, “at least I can find out what’s been falling behind the cupboards for the last million years.”

Someone’s retainer. Someone else’s diaphragm. An enema. Floss. Meds. Qtips. My sanity.

I might just light the thing on fire and rebuild from scratch. I mean. She might. She’s a crazy archeologist with a torch, you know.

 

Hot Diggity

TMI

Don’t open this. You were warned.

Almondines – A Classic

Good morning my fellow quarantinettes!

I imagine that you’ve cleaned the pantry, weeded the garden, binge-watched your shows and taken the kids on maybe a million walks around the block by now. How about a change of scenery? My girlfriend and blogging-buddy, Mary Knight, offered a peek into her world of food and fancies and agreed to share the following recipe with us! Mary travels the world, making friends, creating recipes, and curating mouth watering photos. She’s interviewed Julia Child herself and that will get a girl inspired, wouldn’t you agree?

Mary’s blog is a cornucopia of glorious photos of recipes and travel. SpoonAndSuitcase.com will take you on a tour of Portugal, Sicily, or Santa Fe without leaving the living room and is a breath of fresh air in a world afraid to inhale. Let’s take some time to relax.

Grab some almond paste from Amazon and clear the kitchen, because we’re going to make Almondines!

While cleaning out an upper cupboard in my closet last week, I discovered a forgotten box. A treasure full of old recipes I had created when I taught cooking classes, as well as letters and postcards I’d sent my parents from La Varenne in Paris, France. It was like opening a present on Christmas day. The “missing pieces” from my life suddenly inspired me to go back to the recipes I’d embraced many years ago. Early in my cooking career, ideas for recipes came like lightning strikes, unexpected but exhilarating, followed by cloud bursts of extended creations. It all seemed so easy. I almost couldn’t get the ideas down fast enough, not to mention implement them.

Here is one of those recipes for Almondines that I’ve adapted. The results impressed me more than I’d expected. The tart is made delectable by the inclusion of almond paste. Rich and tender, the almond filling almost melts on the tongue and the unifying light almond crust is the accent mark. Divine. It’s been a hit with all my taste testers. The best part is you can fill the tarts with the almond creme, sprinkle on the sliced almonds and freeze for an impromptu breakfast or tea time. They only take about 18 minutes to bake or about 25 if frozen. I’m making a batch to freeze for weekend guests and neighbor thank you’s. Enjoy!

Almondines

Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine French
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 18 minutes
Servings 11

Equipment

  • small tart tins
  • food processor (optional)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 100 grams
  • 7 oz almond paste or 198 grams
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour or 65 grams
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pastry Dough)

  • cup flour
  • tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 oz unsalted, cold, cubed, butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp ice water
  • ½ cup sliced almonds

Pate Sucree

(This is my favorite from A French Chef Cooks at Home by Jacques Pepin) I added the almond extract. Feel free to use your favorite crust recipe too.

Instructions

  • Combine the flour, salt and sugar.
  • Cut in the butter pieces until size of small peas.
  • Combine the egg yolk, almond extract and water.
  • Drizzle into the flour mixture and combine gently.
  • If the pastry feels too dry, add a bit more water.
  • Knead lightly to form a ball. Pat the ball into a 6” round, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour.

Notes

I use a food processor to make my crusts.

Almondine Filling

Instructions

  • Cream the butter, sugar and almond paste together.
  • Beat in the eggs one by one.
  • Beat until light in color and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add the flour and salt. Stir in almond extract. Mix just until combined.
  • You can refrigerate the filling at this time or use immediately.

Notes

  1. I made this recipe using organic sugar with crystals much larger than the white C&H variety. The crystals melted into the butter and did not whip up into a fluffy mass. The filling was much denser than I like. I prefer using regular white sugar for the filling for a lighter crumb.
  2. I prefer to weigh my ingredients. There is a tiny bit of discrepancy in the measurements when you use Standard vs Metric measuring. This is not enough to alter the recipe.

Create Almondines Like A Rock Star

Instructions

  • Roll the dough out to ⅛”-1/4” thick. Cut into rounds appropriate for your tart tins. I used 4” tart tins and the recipe made 11 tarts. You can also make one large tart using a 9” quiche tin. If the dough seems too sticky, you can pinch off pieces of dough and fit them into the tart molds.
  • Pat the dough into the tins and put in freezer to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • When the pastry crusts are cold, fill with almond mixture and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Pat the almonds down slightly to help them adhere to the filling.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes. They are done when deep brown on top.
  • Brush with strained apricot jam when warm to create a beautiful glaze.

Notes

These can also be frozen after they are baked.

Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Caio for now,

Security Breach

Last week, we woke up and discovered that we had been victims of a home invasion robbery.

Foolishly, we had left the back door open to the night breezes and everyone knows that a flimsy screen door doesn’t stand in the way of a determined burglar.

The door opens onto a balcony and only scaling the walls to the second floor will put you a position to know whether the door was actually open. We thought we were safe.

Afterward, my daughter remembered seeing a movement from the corner of her eye two days prior, a quick shadow in the evening gloom, hanging around our garage and disappearing when she turned to get a better look.

He was casing the joint. Waiting for his moment. Admiring the goodies he imagined were inside.

The dirty rat broke into our home in the wee hours on Monday and took his time wandering around, deciding what he wanted.

I shudder to think we were all deep asleep and heard nothing. What if our bedroom doors had been open? What if we had heard footsteps and gone to investigate? I can only promise you one thing for sure: I would have taken one look and run into the streets shrieking. To my shame, I would have left my family in the house asleep and hailed a cab headed for anywhere else.

I’m helpful like that.

Instead, I staggered into the kitchen that morning and saw the destruction left in this guy’s wake. He obviously took a joy ride through the place. There were big, fat rat droppings everywhere, and puddles that glistened in the early light.

I did an about-face and shrieked for Hubby. Bad enough I had valiantly fought the ants all summer, now we had rodents. Maybe roaches are next. We did find that scorpion once. And termites are common here.

Best to burn the house down and start over with a concrete tilt-up and a gallon of caulk.

What’s the world coming to when you risk dying of plague in your own house?

My sweet Hubbs went into the kitchen while I showered even the thought of rats off of me, and he covered everything in sight with Lysol. All of it. To soak. The droppings got fatter.

He threw away the food that was on the countertops and wiped most of the rat bits from crevices and told the kids that making peanut butter sandwiches for school was totally doable on our new, clean sofa. Probably. Then they all left.

I threw everything in the area made of fabric into the washing machine on the hot wash/extra rinse cycle, and pushed the go button. Shrink if they must, but I’m not carrying leptospirosis into the world on my spandex and starting a pandemic.

What if the rat was still in the house? What if he was hiding under the washing machine waiting to jump me with his sharp little incisors and scratchy scrambly claws when no one was around to save me? The thought kept me motivated. You’ve never seen such discipline. I poured a gallon of bleach and an ounce of water into the mop bucket and shined every bit of floor. The ants were very confused. I considered washing down the walls and ceiling.

There was no police report I could file. I had no witnesses, no suspect in cuffs, no video surveillance, and our alarm system hadn’t been activated that night. Certainly not at three inches above floor level. The police couldn’t help me, but I have the right to bear arms. I loaded up on rat traps.

When we visited the animal shelter three weeks ago, I had looked around for an anteater, which is definitely my first choice of pet, but they mostly had cats and dogs. They did have a horse outside.

And a cage in the lobby.

With a rat in it named Ginger.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

To every other little bride
Who has a “Bob” to please,
And says she’s tried and tried and tried
To cook with skill and ease,
And can’t! – we offer here as guide
Bettina’s recipes!

To her whose “Bob” is prone to wear
A sad and hungry look,
Because the bride he thought so fair
Is – well – she just can’t cook!
To her we say: do not despair;
Just try Bettina’s Book!

It’s been 100 years, ladies. And I want to know. Can you cook yet?

This little gem, circa 1917, is on my bookshelf, a wedding present from Hubby’s younger brother who stole it, I am sure, from a distant great-aunt’s box of cookbooks, gifted partly in jest and partly in fear that I would try to cook a chicken without looking inside of it first…again.

Written in chapters with roman numerals, the book follows the first year of Bettina and Bob’s wedded bliss as they keep house in a bungalow during the roaring ’20s, somewhere in America. Through dialogue with friends and family, we discover that “new fashioned breakfast foods are for feeding the stock, not human beings!” We learn what Bettina keeps on her “emergency shelf”: cans of pimentos and tuna, jars of dried beef, marshmallows and macaroni, a one-pound box of salted codfish. With a thousand ways to please a husband and three of them are “Jellied Beef”, “Radishes”, and “Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, I’m confused.

But what can you expect? When an engagement is announced, it’s toasted with…grape juice. Like. Until 1933. And, fresh out of World War I, “dainty, delicious, and simple” are the words of the day. This can be interpreted as: tiny little portions. Her flower arrangements are bigger. Good thing dessert is included almost every night. Bettina meets Bob on the porch as he returns from work each day, she in her apron, he in his spats. Recipes for “Tuna Loaf”, “Prune Souffle”, and “Ham Timbales” support their complete happiness.

Bettina is quite accomplished in economy (“I always try to use the oven for more than one dish if I am using it at all”), so you won’t find her spending all her allowance on the gas bill (“open fires are so nice”), and full of advice on how to use up those leftovers in the icebox (croquettes, salads, molded, or en casserole). She can remove ink stains with sour milk, heal burned fingers with olive oil, and cleans her steel bread knife by dipping it into the dirt in a flowerpot. I laughed at her newfangled “fireless cooker”, then pondered her jars of jellies and pickles, but when I read her conversation about how to get rid of ants…I got in line. Talk to me, Betty.

“Mrs Dixon was dressed in a trim street costume, but under her veil Bettina could see that her eyes were red, and her lips quivered as she answered, “Forgive me for coming so early, but I just had to. I know you’ll think me silly to talk to you confidentially when I met you only yesterday, but I do want your advice about something.”

“Why my dear, of course. I like economizing; it gives me an opportunity to use all the ingenuity I have.”

“Frank and I’ve lived in a hotel but – lately he’s been so different. Why – he hasn’t been at home with me two evenings a week – ”

“You must be dreadfully unhappy,” interrupted Bettina, “Why, Bob doesn’t like to be away from home any evenings at all.”

“But you’ve just been married!” said Mrs Dixon tactlessly. “Wait and see how he’ll be after a few years! Why, I can’t cook a thing – I can’t even make coffee! Frank says if he could only have one breakfast that was fit to eat – ” and she buried her face in her handkerchief.

“Why Mrs Dixon!” cried Bettina, cheerfully, although her heart was beating furiously. “Your trouble is the easiest one in the world to remedy! Your husband is just hungry – that’s all! You do just as I tell you for one month and I’ll guarantee that Frank will be home every single minute that he can!”

Coffee

7 T-coffee
3 T-cold water
1/2 T-egg white
4 1/2 C-boiling water

  1. Scald the coffee pot
  2. Add the coffee, cold water and egg-white
  3. Mix thoroughly, add the boiling water
  4. Boil two minutes
  5. Allow to stand in the pot one minute
  6. Serve
  7. Brace yourself

Eldercare Where?

Now is the time to instill a great respect for elders into our youth. When my great-grandchild solemnly approaches and begs to know how I have retained my wisdom, zen, and flowing hair, I will deign to tell her.

“Facebook,” I will say.  And also, “Photoshop.”

At the moment, however, my kids regularly discuss the day when they will “prop me up in the Old Folks Home”. Especially right after an argument. “Just you wait,” they say cheerfully, “We will put a poster of Fiji in the window and you won’t know any different.” They pat me on the head. “You’ll be so happy.”

Conversations like this are why I have a friend like Brenda-Lee.

“Can they do that?” I ask her over a glass of Pinot Grigio.

She laughed. Then she reminded me that I am (and will be in the entire foreseeable future) a grown adult and can do what I want. Some people retire, sell their house, buy a camper, and drive all over the country living the vida loca. And some of us move to India. But if you are looking for somewhere local to hang your hat, and the spacious house where you live is no longer serving it’s purpose, then it’s time to go home hunting.

Brenda-Lee is a senior placement advisor; she helps families identify options when they are trying to decide if and where an elder in the family may need to move, whether it be independent or assisted living arrangements. (For example, click here.) Her skillset is free to families, so I sat down for a chat.

Here are some concerns that usually open the conversations between generations:

  • Is there a risk of falling? Can 911 be easily called or are emergency pendants or call alerts needed? Are railings, etc installed in the home?
  • Are medications confusing or forgotten? Who is keeping medical records updated?
  • Is personal hygiene declining? Is there a significant weight loss? Are meals being skipped because of effort involved or lack of company or variety? Are particular dietary needs being met?
  • Is there opportunity to continue staying active or attend fitness programs or the pool? What about hobbies, educational, or cultural activities? Are volunteer opportunities available?
  • Do bills or laundry or dishes pile up? Is home maintenance neglected? Have utilities been disconnected? Is there a need for a gardener or housekeeper?
  • Has driving become slower or are traffic signals missed? Is relying on or arranging transportation for appointments, errands or outings a challenge? Is there pushback to “not be a bother”?
  • Is there a higher risk of being victim to a crime? Are strangers let in the home or personal information given over the phone?
  • Are there frequent phone calls because of a fear of being alone?
  • Or perhaps there are less phone calls as isolation or depression creeps in? Are social functions being missed and friendships dropped? Do neighbors still chat over the fence?
  • Will there have to be a move regardless, in order for family members to be closer to each other?
  • Does it make more financial sense to modify the home and hire help or to sell the home and address all of the concerns in one community living area?

She’s got some valid points. From where I’m sitting, it sounds like living in an all-inclusive resort, only it comes with a maid.

Take my money. Or rather, take my kids’ money. And they can take me to Fiji on the side.

The little smarty-pants.

But – like all of our January articles insist – moving is a life transition that no one takes lightly. There is a period of mourning over how things were and a hopeful anticipation of how things will be, regardless of the circumstances.

I will leave you to your own conversations and please do share any advice you may have.  If you would like to chat with Brenda-Lee, too, about moving in the San Diego area, click here.

(Meanwhile, click on any of my other links because life goes on, my Tribe, and I insist you have a laugh over it.)

Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. Isaiah 46:4
The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

Rip van Forty Winks

Y’all need to sit down and buckle up, because the last two weeks feel just like Rip van Winkle waking up in Lilliput. Or was that Buck Rogers?

This isn’t happening.

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock – aka working a full time day job – but crawling out from under it hurts my eyes. And my heart, just a little.

It’s the toilet paper that sent me over the edge.

I’m cleaning the guest bathroom because company is staying for the second weekend in a row but this time I can’t trust it to the kids because they left actual used Qtips in a drawer last week, so now I’m scrubbing the toilet and notice that the toilet paper is unrolling and wisping into the trashcan below it.

My sister-in-law will admit to being a paper snob. She insists on paper plates that hold food without bending and paper cups that won’t melt at the first touch of your lips and never in a million years would she allow single-ply toilet paper near her house.

Apparently, my guests last week were fine with it, as it was never mentioned, but I feel like if they had any common sense, they would have reached for a Qtip which is more absorbent than an entire roll of single-ply.

I’m wondering if my boys just air dry but I’ll be darned if I ask them at this point.

I pulled a dozen rolls out of the pantry before finding the last of the proper-ply old stock. I guess I grabbed the wrong case during my last shopping spree.

Before you go judging, let’s all sit back and rethink the whole “day job” situation. A shopping spree in that lifestyle consists of running through Target after work in your heels, desperately grabbing TP, shampoo, and tortillas because you promised the family a meal and a can of refried beans is going to save the day.

Again.

And let me tell you that once I got home, I did not notice that we never replaced the broken microwave plate, that the dishwasher no longer cleaned dishes, or that the oven door had never been repaired.

Rounding out the kitchen appliance alliance, although our fridge had not had a working water dispenser for years, it now was no longer making ice.

None of this was noticed until last week, when I lost my job on Tuesday and kid #5 broke his ankle on Wednesday. On Thursday, I was really really wishing we made ice.

“Self,” I said, “This is not a good week.”

And ever since, I have been looking around me and noticing that I have not been home for over two years.

The freezer has a top layer of microwaveable fake food and just below it are layers of real ingredients. I pulled out a chicken with an expiration date of over two years ago. Worried that I may have forgotten how to cook (gasp!), I fluffed it up and put it in a pot. Chicken soup does not discriminate against old age. When I dusted off a can of tomato juice to add to the pot, I noticed the date: May 19, 2016.

Good enough. Don’t tell my mother.

And because I know you were wondering, marshmallows over two years past the date on the bag will not melt into the butter in the pan when you want to make the rice crispy squares you thought of making circa 2015.

They sauté nicely into little buttered, rubbery cubes.

Even old reliable – my faithful mop bucket – gave up on me. Full of cracks, it was thrown into the trashcan, along with five pairs of broken shoes, two dead houseplants, and every single rusted ring that had graced my traveling tea mugs to the office and back.

I will never drink out of a mason jar again.

But that is a story for another day.

Reaching into the freezer like….

Wherein Mistakes Were Made

It was a rough week. Mistakes were made.

I made a big one at work, wherein the people involved were very nice about it.

I made a small one at home, wherein the people involved were very not nice about it.

But here’s one nobody knows about, and as three mistakes in one week are quite enough, thank you, I will tell it and be done.

I was so happy.

After a long day at work, I was finally out in the sunshine, walking between rows of potted plants and trees in a small, local nursery.

It has been years since I’ve had a reason to wander a nursery. My old house had riots of asparagus, corn, zucchini, voluptuous fresh tomatoes. My new house doesn’t even have soil.

It’s built on clay, decomposed granite, and ant hills. It’s surrounded by poison oak, cactus, and gophers. What grows here was planted deeply into a hole in the bucket it was purchased in and requires ridiculous amounts of water, fertilizer, and prayer.

House plants are my consolation prize.

Hm. This place wasn’t as amazing as I remembered it.

There were obvious gaps in the merchandise.

A lone man sat on a bench with his cell phone. He looked up briefly when I walked through the gates and asked in Spanish if I were looking for someone.

“No,” I answered with a big smile, “just looking around for some succulents, thanks.”

Maybe if he got to work instead of being on his phone, this place would look better.

I wandered up the slope, enjoying the fresh air, seeking inspiration.

Another man approached me, “Are you looking for something?” he asked.

“Well, I actually just need a couple of five gallon planter buckets, but I’m also looking for something really different for my house.”

He gestured to the far corner of the nursery, “There are lots of buckets we aren’t using back there,” he suggested. I think. My spanglish isn’t what it used to be.

I cheerfully trudged further into the wild, tromping through the hummus in my work shoes, remembering days of shovels and pitchforks and the smell of earth. Discreetly, I was looking for price tags but there were none. Maybe they were on the bottom of the pots?

Wait.

In a clearing, next to a ramshackle chicken coop, was a mountain of discarded planter buckets. On the other side was a rubbish pile. A rat ran past it and into a rusty can.

Slowly I turned and peered into a tattered plastic green house, withered vines slumped in the doorway.

There was no breeze, but I felt a chill.

It occurred to me that there were no other people in the whole place besides me and the two quietly observant men. Taking in the overall state of decay, my smile faltered a little.

Grabbing the two nearest buckets, still marked from whatever they had held in a prior existence, I squared my shoulders and marched up to the men.

“These will do,” I said, (regardless of the bugs or plant disease they held), “Where do I pay?”

I looked around for the sweet little shed I remembered from my murky past, the place where I once bought 2,000 ladybugs. The place with a cash register. I saw only a picnic table covered in debris and a tightly closed up shed surrounded with pots.

They really let this place go.

He indicated that the buckets were free and I assured him with large smiles that I would come back when I had a better idea of what I was looking for.

Like fighting cocks. Or maybe some medical marijuana.

My disappointment was deep when I told my mom about it.

“That’s so sad,” she said, “It sounds like they are going out of business. That nursery has always been there.”

And it wasn’t until 2am that it occurred to my brain that perhaps I had made a mistake.

The next day after work, I took another drive across town.

I drove slowly past the empty, shadowed nursery. It just didn’t make sense.

Clarity, however, was waiting around the corner.

There in blazing color, buzzing with customers and bursting with greenery was…The Nursery.

The street, the entrance, the parking area, the shed, the fence, and the gates were identical to the one around the curve. Same large trees, benches, and pots everywhere.

I got out and walked around, admiring flowers. Passing the cashier shed, wind chimes called out to me softly. I camouflaged my blush in the bougainvillea.

I had walked into someone’s backyard and acted like it was all for sale.

And being good neighbors, they were willing to take my money.

January and The Joy of Good Enough

Hi, my name is Jolie and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I have OCD and ADD, which means everything has to be perfect, but not for very long.

I will sneak into your living room and line up the pillows on your couch.

I will rewrite a sentence until it begs for mercy.

And I will definitely have some great ideas on how to organize a pantry.

If there’s one thing I love, is being bossy highly opinionated full of great ideas.

January is my achilles heel. I look at the rest of the months and I’m ready to make my lists of great ideas.

Self improvement. Home improvement. Be a better mom. Be a better Christian. Be a better wife. The month explodes with resolutions, challenges, goal setting, and trend setting.

I’m usually too busy starting things to finish things.

“Yes!” I cry, “I can do it all! I will finally stop being so darn lazy and inadequate!”

All I have to do is apply more mascara, lose five pounds, get up an hour earlier, have sparkling grout in the shower, meditate daily, call my mother….

Perfection will always lean on the doorbell.

Pour a cup of tea and sit with me for a minute.

I have learned to let it go.

Honey, a lifetime of fighting the uphill battle between a clean house and five kids should have taught me that. You will never call me a quitter.

But it was leaving the house and the kids that proved to me “letting go” was an option.

Did you catch that one thing I just said? The lie? The bit that snuck in here and acted like it belongs?

It was the whisper scream: “I will finally stop being inadequate”.

THIS is what I “let go”.

Believe me when I tell you I can be (if I wanted to) lazy, but the guilt of inadequacy drives a lot of us right off the deep end.

I should have folded laundry in drawers, not under the table in heaps.

My family should be prepared and cheerful on Sunday mornings, not filled with “Hurry!” or “Find your shoe…why do you only own ONE shoe?” or “I don’t care what you just put in the toilet, we’re leaving NOW”.

My marriage should be romantic get-aways and nurturing conversations, not stale chips on the couch, binge-watching Psych.

But it all happened and surprise! Not only was I not suddenly inadequate, but I was handed the key:

You are good enough right here right now. Even with one shoe missing. Deeply loved. Just for sitting there.

Let that just sink in like a baking soda paste for a moment.

What happened – in my quest to have and do everything I thought I needed to be a good wife, mother, human – was the recognition that I already had it. All along.

My self of ten years ago would laugh herself silly over this revelation and continue scrubbing the grout without skipping a beat.

And so I release you to discover these things as well, if you dare. I let (because I have this choice) my kids choose, cook, serve, and clean up many meals now. They boil frozen hotdogs, serve them on bread with a side veggie of ketchup, and tell me all about their day. I sit there exhausted and deliriously happy to see their faces and hear their chatter and not once question why my socks stick to the floor.

I look around and I am just so grateful. Over and over and over.

I’m getting rather good at it, because practice makes perfect…er, good enough.

Time for Tea!