Hey. I don’t like this site anymore. It’s not Wordpress’s fault, I just feel like I’m in a too-many-versions-back Pit of Despair and I need to start over. For the moment, you can visit me here: ceburke.tumblr.com. I’m not sure whether that’s the right spot for what I’m trying to do; my brothers and sisters and I have an insane amount of stuff to go through as we settle our parents’ estate (I guess rightfully my dad’s estate, whatever), and I want to tell the stories of some of those objects. First up is my mother’s key ring. Any comments can go on this entry, I guess, or on Facebook.
April 9th, 2011 · No Comments
December 19th, 2010 · No Comments
So yeah, so my mom died in February. I ignored my birthday, got through the summer okay, got started with school and daycare and work in the fall. Although it wasn’t smooth or easy, any number of rough spots since last winter could be blamed as much on the new-in-March baby as on my Year of Being a Mess. For whatever reason, I was just not feeling the Christmas cheer as I surfaced from Thanksgiving. (I wasn’t actually very happy about Thanksgiving, either, if you really want to know.)
I wanted not to feel stuck and hampered coming into the Christmas season. I wanted quiet in my spirit, and I wanted some sense of deeper meaning than overeating and overspending and why did you give my kids all that noisy plastic crap? So here’s what I did:
I pulled out my Advent wreath. My kids look forward to this every year; we light the candles every day at dinner, and they really like the candlelight and blowing out the candles.
I set up two containers on the table next to the wreath: one with blank slips of paper and a pen, the other empty. (Although it doesn’t matter what the containers are, I used half-pint canning jars because that was what I had on hand that matched and was not continually in use.) The slips of paper are actually handmade paper from when I was in college, which means that it’s been sitting around waiting to get used for, uh, 12 years now. Which is dumb.
On a blank card, I wrote a thinking question for each week of Advent. Anyone can write responses throughout the week, including a signature or not. Adam and Becky thought this was pretty cool. The plan was to read responses at Sunday dinner, before starting the next week.
- The first week was about hope: What do you hope for in this season or the coming year? As you might expect, we got some “one million dollars” answers and some “world peace” answers. One of my big kids wrote, “I hope Christmas goes well.” I’m not sure what that means, but I found it interesting.
- Week two was about peace: What makes you feel peaceful? How do you (or can you, or have you) spread peace where you are? We haven’t actually read these yet, because we left town last Sunday and talked about joy today. They are waiting for a peaceful moment.
- Week three was about joy, and the questions were substantially the same as week two: What makes you feel joyful? How do you bring joy to someone else? This week started three days after my father died, and as you’d imagine, it was HARD for me to focus on joy in the face of my circumstances. But here’s the deal: I have a daughter who sings; and her rendition of “Holly Jolly Christmas” got me through Thursday. Friday and yesterday, she has been all about the Christmas tree - and yeah, she’s a little pestery at times, but mostly she is just vibrating with enthusiasm. Although the jar was nearly empty, we had a nice chat this evening about joy and taking care of each other and appreciating each other.
- Week four starts today, and with input from the peanut gallery, I wrote down these two questions: What do you love about any particular person (answers have a prescribed form: I love [blank] about [blank])? How did you show love today? We might read these after breakfast on Christmas morning; Christmas Eve night and the evening of Christmas day are taken up with extended family stuff.
I don’t know if this whole thing is making any impact on my children (though I like to think it is - Adam in particular seems quite taken with it), but I can tell you that it’s working for me. I feel ready for this Christmas in my heart, motivated by love and gratitude rather than obligation, and confident in doing the simple things that truly make me happy. I want that to be the kind of thing that my children remember about Christmas when they grow up. This year I am pretty sure I’m doing it right.
December 10th, 2010 · No Comments
Spring, 2002: My mother calls me one morning after breakfast. This is unusual but not unheard of. She sounds breathless, like she is keeping an exciting secret. She tells me that my father has had a heart attack, is in the hospital. He recovers and is home within the week. I am pregnant, and I tell him that this baby - my first child - needs to hear him sing.
May 13, 2002: My phone rings on a Monday morning. It is my aunt, my mother’s older sister, calling to say that my grandmother is hospitalized with sepsis and congestive heart failure. I drive an hour and a half to see her in the hospital, and to tell her that her daughter is coming, don’t go yet until Julie gets here. I drive back home to Minneapolis. I pick up my parents and assorted siblings at the airport, and drive back to St. Cloud with them. My mother says goodbye to her mother. My grandmother dies.
May 16, 2002: At the visitation prior to my grandmother’s funeral, much of my extended family learns that my husband and I are expecting our first child.
May 17, 2002: Having moved mountains to reschedule my 18-week ultrasound to accommodate the funeral, I decide not to go to the service because the scan showed catastrophic birth defects in my eldest son. Due to multiple collisions with fibers within the amnion, many of his internal organs have developed outside his body. He has an omphalocele and an encephalocele and one completely perfect left hand, which has slender fingers like my husband’s.
July 25, 2002: Based on information that it is getting harder for my son to breathe in utero, we induce labor at 28 weeks gestation.
July 27, 2002: Christopher Daniel is stillborn at a few minutes after four in the morning. He is too little to have anything of his own (one pound, six ounces; 12 inches long; you don’t forget these things except on purpose), so he carries my name and my husband’s name with him. He has a fluff of dark hair. He is not beautiful, but we have a plaster imprint of his perfect left hand.
September, 2002: We are trying again, as soon as it’s physically possible. At just six weeks’ gestation, we learn that it’s twins.
April 19, 2003: After 32 weeks of a largely uneventful pregnancy, Adam and Rebecca are born on a very eventful Saturday. When I come out of anesthesia, the first thing I think of is that I am scheduled to play in a bell choir on Easter morning, and I want to call my choir director before I call anyone else.
(we are skipping a few years here; my children are having a fairly standard childhood)
July, 2009: We learn that I am unexpectedly pregnant. The baby is in a family picture from the Badlands of South Dakota, but you can’t see her yet.
January 29, 2010: I share some thoughts about the pregnancy and learn that I do not have gestational diabetes. Yippee.
February 5, 2010: I am in a school Mass at work when my principal tells me that my sister has called from St. Louis and is on the phone. On the long, long walk to the front office from the gym, I brace myself for bad news about my father. Instead, my sister tells me that my mother died unexpectedly, and I desperately want to crawl under the desk where I’m sitting. Initially, I think it would be a good idea to just go back to the library and get my work done, because what is there to do about it now? I go home and curl up in my daughter’s bed, because she has a comforter that my mother made for me when I was seven.
February 9, 2010: My mother’s funeral. Some people come who I don’t expect to see; it is touching. I am seven months pregnant, and I find the wherewithal to speak briefly about how important my mom was in my growing up and becoming. Driving back to Minneapolis through Iowa is a miserable, icy mess.
February 12, 2010: This.
March 9, 2010: Juliana Joy is born, at 8 lbs, 1 ounce. The first thing I say, in my heavily-anesthetized, low-blood-pressure state, is “That’s a HUGE baby!”
Summer, 2010: At some point, I tell my sister that every time she calls me, I flinch a little bit, because I am never sure what she’s going to say.
August, 2010: Adam and Becky go to Camp Grandma and I travel with Baby J to St. Louis, where she and my father meet each other for the first time. He is clearly smitten with her, and I am reminded that he is a guy who likes kids, that he was the very first person to be delighted when we announced our pregnancy.
November 25, 2010: Thanksgiving. Like last Christmas, my brothers and sisters are sharing the holiday in St. Louis. I am in Minneapolis. I forget why, now.
December 9, 2010: My phone rings shortly before 9:00 PM. It is my sister, and she says, “You’re going to hate me.” I flinch. And she tells me that my dad has died, that she walked into his house and found him not breathing, that we are parentless children, that his music is gone from the world. I don’t feel anything right away; the first thing that comes is anger, and relief that at least we will not have to have these conversations ever again. Other stuff comes later, is still coming.
(in the future)
December 11, 2010: A foot of snow is expected to fall in southern Minnesota. Blizzard conditions are forecast for northern Iowa over the weekend. My principal is kind enough to fill in for me at a weekend event sponsored by my library. My husband is traveling for business next week and may not be able to be at my father’s funeral. I need to get myself and three children to St. Louis without ending up in a ditch or having anyone’s head explode. Things are not great, but I find that my grandma is one tough lady.
December 25, 2010: Christmas? Really? Can we put it off until next year?
December 29, 2010: For the first time ever, my sister (the other one) has her birthday all to herself, because she shared it with my dad. I don’t even know what this means.
And that’s as far as I can see. Now you know.
November 7th, 2010 · No Comments
2. Safari and (this ancient version of) Wordpress do not play nicely together, as evidenced by the lack of a freakin’ TOOLBAR on the page where I’m working.
3. I had an idea this morning about a presentation topic for a professional conference. I am keeping the details to myself for the moment.
4. This particular time in my life is not the greatest. Unexpected things are turning out to be far more difficult than anticipated, on an ongoing basis rather than a daily one. (e.g. It’s been only in the last couple of weeks that I really got a handle on the routine of going to work and retrieving all my kids from the places they are.) It’s a lot of slogging, for a variety of reasons, and I want VERY much to claw my way out of it.
5. On a more positive note, I am looking forward to a Napa cabbage salad (a la Deborah Madison) alongside a veggie stir-fry for dinner. I am also looking forward to taking a walk this afternoon, since I won’t have a lot more opportunities this year. (It is gorgeous and 60, in Minnesota, in November. One would be totally justified in asking, “WTF?”)
6. I need new snow boots, and so do my big kids.
7. I am near finishing a pair of boring black husband socks and contemplating what should be next on the needles. Trying to resist starting something for a kid, because I’m pretty sure it’s my turn. Also trying to knit a little every day, because I’ve been out of that habit for some months and it’s starting to wear on me to Not Make Things.
That’s all for now.
October 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment
I may have mentioned sometime in August that Dan has made the decision to eat vegetarian. No expectations for the rest of us, but that’s his deal. And for about a month that’s how I thought of it, and explained it to others: “My husband is eating vegetarian.” “My husband has decided to be vegetarian.” It was hard. It felt like making extra dinners all the time (even though I wasn’t, and Dan adamantly opposed my doing so), and it felt like learning to cook all over again. It felt stressful to try to make sure of adequate protein for my growing children, and adequate iron for all of us, and I didn’t like any of it.
Then a couple of weeks ago, some switch flipped in my head, and the phrasing became “My husband is a vegetarian.” It’s not a game, it’s not a masquerade, it’s not temporary — and somehow that changes the whole ballgame. I’m still kind of learning to cook again, but I’m also learning that it’s OK to get takeout pasta and have them put chicken on top, as long as Dan’s portion doesn’t have chicken on the plate. It’s about balance. We’re learning. But it’s easier somehow to accommodate someone who is a vegetarian than someone who is playing at it.
All that aside, one evening last week we enjoyed Greek pita pizzas from The Six O’Clock Scramble for dinner, and I needed an additional protein source. Here’s a recipe for a garbanzo salad that I threw together (all amounts are estimates - I just eyeballed it):
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 red onion, chopped to about 1/4″ pieces - maybe 1/3 cup
1-2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
about 12 Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
4 Tb red wine vinegar
2 Tb olive oil
about 2 tsp. dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
Combine beans, onion, olives, and crumbled cheese in a medium bowl. (Add fresh chopped herbs if you have them - parsley or oregano.) In a measuring cup or small bowl combine vinegar, oil, dried oregano, S&P; whisk them together and taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. Toss salad ingredients with dressing. Cover and chill until serving time. Serves 4-5.
Easy peasy, and a nice addition to a light meal. Both of my big kids enjoyed this dinner a LOT.
September 24th, 2010 · 4 Comments
I memorized a poem this week. Although I am a words person and I love the way that true, good poetry goes together, I had actually never memorized a single poem on purpose. (Short little humor pieces and that refrigerator haiku don’t count, I don’t think.)
A colleague of mine mentioned last week that he memorizes a poem every month, and I decided I would join him. I decided on Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” — because everyone knows *of* it, but I didn’t really *know* it, and I wanted to understand it better. Click here to read the poem and hear the author reading it himself.
Can I just say that this has changed my life? The experience of having a poem under my skin like that, and the moment of reciting it for my colleague… this is BIG, and I love it.
September 6th, 2010 · No Comments
- We went to the Fair. Some of us (Becky and Adam and I) went twice, enjoying the symmetry of the first day and the last day. It was nice to be able to visit some attractions with depth today, including sitting still for a skateboard exhibition, petting a bunch of dogs, and watching the Western Horse Show at the Coliseum.
- With regard to items submitted for competition: I didn’t win anything, and I’m kind of ready to take things to the next level. I am thinking about some spillyjane mittens or something for next year — something that is a teeny bit complicated and requires some concentration. Becky didn’t win anything either, but she did get an Honorable Mention ribbon and is on display (and she’s over the flipping MOON she’s so proud of herself).
- I made Cuban Beans & Rice from the new BH&G cookbook. Reasonably tasty, if a little bland (an ongoing problem with that particular book). It’s worth keeping, even if I can’t actually toss out my butter-scented old one. Le sigh.
- Why beans and rice, you ask? Because my husband is becoming a vegetarian. Which means that I am taking MANY steps in that direction myself, and also that I am learning a whole new way of thinking about food (snacks in particular, trying to be more plant-based about the whole thing). It’s sure to be an ongoing story, but right now we’re just trying to make sure everyone gets enough protein.
- Saw Crowded House on Saturday night. Neil Finn is not only, um, attractive, he actually sounds like that in real life. It was a great show, with lots of old favorites and a few new pieces. I hadn’t seen them since high school, and I think I will remember more about this show than I do about that one, which in my memory is just overly warm and kind of blue-looking. Fun fun.
- School starts tomorrow for A&B, and in earnest for me as well. Early mornings notwithstanding, things look promising.
- With regard to my 101 Things in 101 Days list: Knitted one sweater (#15); watched the Western horse show (#92); went to a live rock show (#96). Making progress on books and movies (#76 and 74 respectively).
I am half an hour past my bedtime, and I don’t know what I’m wearing to work tomorrow. Gotta get on that. Night, y’all.
August 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment
Some years ago, my red & white cookbook got a hefty splosh of melted butter on it. I don’t know how much, and I don’t remember how it happened, but we should emphasize “hefty” rather than “splosh,” and we should keep in mind that the book sat on the counter, drenched in butter, for several hours before I discovered it. Now. I cleaned it up as best I could, but I was not willing to replace the still-functional book at that time. Some of the pages became translucent, and it wafts a certain smell of ancient melted butter now and again, but it is still a book that I rely on for basic cooking (because I still don’t really have a handle on that).
Recently I’ve been on a giant “getting rid of all my crap” jag, and I ordered a new copy of that book. It came today. Trouble is, the new one is REALLY new (as in published this very week, that kind of new), and there are some changes. I intended all along to go through and transfer my notes from the old BH&G to the new one - but it appears that about 90% of the recipes have been replaced, AND the portion sizes have changed on the ones that are still there.
Here’s an example. Herb-Roasted Chicken, in the 2000 edition, calls for a 2.5-3 lb chicken and serves six. The nutritional analysis shows 210 calories per serving. In the 2010 edition, the same recipe calls for a 3.5-4 lb chicken and purportedly serves only four. (Other ingredients and amounts are consistent across the two books.) Not surprisingly, the calorie count jumps to 610 per serving (though they do say “per 4 ounces chicken” in the newer book, rather than “per serving,” which I find a little dodgy).
What to do? I don’t even know if I trust this new impostor book! They changed the font and everything! I can’t really send it back, having already opened it. I also have already found a couple of things I like (Make-It-Mine Muffins, for example, means I don’t have to transfer my notes for applesauce muffins from one book to the other). And it’s all new and shiny, and I didn’t have to put the dividers in place myself, and there is still the problem of the melted butter. Even though I know I will probably not use two different BH&G cookbooks, so much is different that I can’t think of this as a one-for-one swap. I need to either keep both (counterproductive) or be painstaking with creating some combination of the two (arrgghhh) or just toss the old one (horror!).
Admittedly, I have some issues. You know what, though? This isn’t really about the cookbook. It’s about being concerned that I’ll miss something, and it’s a little bit about my mom. Not fair. NOT. FAIR.
August 17th, 2010 · 3 Comments
Exhibit A (click for big):
Ballet Blossom Cardigan from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies. Karaoke 50% wool, 50% soysilk, in Mermaid (leftovers from this vest, which sadly met its demise in the washing machine some months ago). I am pretty sure that this will be DSQ’d due to the safety pin that is keeping the back tie from drooping. I’m really happy with the flower, though; it is Nicky Epstein’s T-twist garter stitch flower from Knitting Over the Edge and more compact than the blossom in the pattern. Cute sweater, fun project, AND I learned how to make raglan sleeves.
Becky made this doll quilt All By Herself (cutting, pinning, sewing, quilting), and we submitted it for competition under Education. Any kid in K-12 (including homeschoolers) can compete, and the project doesn’t have to originate at school. We’ve talked about the fact that it is cool just to be involved, that she might not win anything or even have her item on display (it is a myth that they display every single item they receive), and she is okay with all of that. She’s proud of herself, and I… well, I got a little teary for a minute this morning.
Speaking of teary, can I get an Amen on this? I am not a scrapbooker, cannot volunteer during the school day due to work or outside of the school day due to MY CHILDREN, deeply hate decorating. But I like watching Adam play baseball, I like taking them swimming, listening to Roger Miller with them, being a Girl Scout leader, and making stuff. I am not That Mom, either. But I’m The Mom, in this house, and it mostly works out for all of us.
August 1st, 2010 · 2 Comments
I am a little shocked to be committing myself to this so publicly… but a friend of mine just started her second list, and her progress reports show that she didn’t finish all the things on the first one. Aim for the moon and you’ll still land among the stars, I think is the idea (although I may be mangling the quotation). It’s tough for me to go in knowing that Not Finishing is a real prospect. Some of these things are very big, and I really do have a thing about completion… but I’m working on that, so you get to watch me attempt.
Here’s my list (it is truly 101 things, but the word-processing program I typed it in isn’t pulling the numbers over, and I’m not really interested in reformatting the whole thing at this hour of the night). A more professional version is over here, on the Day Zero Project page. I would like to point out that today counts as Day 1, even though all I’m doing with the remaining 66 minutes of it is sleeping; I don’t think that’s exactly fair, but in three years I might not care very much.
visit another country
plant a tree at home
plant a tree somewhere else
present at a professional conference
write to excellent teachers
take a vacation with siblings (spouses and children optional)
visit 5 MN state parks
work on a Habitat house
knit a sweater for everyone in our family (0/5)
make new bed quilts for all of us (0/4)
write a will
run a 5K
make 5 baby hats for Rwanda
buy a beehive for Heifer Int’l
camp with Girl Scouts
have pearls restrung
emergency kit for our house
emergency kit for evacuation
build a bookshelf
plant climbing roses
grow a hideout with beans or sunflowers
build savings to $1000
build savings to 3 months
build savings to 6 months
organize and tag digital photos
put all print photos into albums
learn iMovie really, really well
make a book trailer
make a project from each of my craft books
build a bench
go to midnight Mass
visit M&S in Cincinnati
get a piano
keep flowers in the house for one month
finish and hang “Every Color” art quilt
see the talent show at the Grandstand
get a car with seating for 7 (sigh)
make jam or jelly
write every day for a month
paint on canvas
take a class at the Textile Center
buy a really high-quality bike
see the Northern Lights
Complete a 365-day photo challenge
Get a hammock
fill the house with art we love
go one week with no restaurant meals
volunteer at Cornerstone or Bridging
move clipped recipes to cards
reorganize recipe file
walk a labyrinth
play in a corn maze
buy part of a race horse
pay off one or more student loans
revamp my wardrobe
get a professional makeup consultation
go six months with no library fines
support MPR for one year
support TPT for one year
preserve Concord grape pie filling for Thanksgiving
take the Jeopardy test
see all the Harry Potter movies
join a book club
watch 101 movies
twice-monthly date night
read 101 books for grownups
paint exterior doors
get rid of that darn basket of shoes
teach my kids to ice-skate
host a slumber party
save seeds from heirloom tomatoes
get grow lights
buy one new book per month
shop from Etsy when it isn’t Christmas
make a pair of pants that really, really fits
give to high school Annual Fund
give to college Annual Fund
start direct-deposit for kids’ savings
consult a financial planner
take my kids to a car show
go up in a lighthouse
watch the Western horse show at the Fair
host a wine tasting
volunteer for a leadership position at a church or school event
see 5 professional baseball games
see 5 live rock shows
buy a membership in a CSA farm
get a pair of cowboy boots
write an article for publication
go camping with my family
help my dad move to Nashville