Friday, September 26, 2014

What Do You Do When?

     A funny conversation happened at my conference, right after one of my presentations. I was approached by an older couple who noted that, by my mannerism and enthusiasm, I had to be a teacher. It gets funnier.
You must be a teacher. Only a teacher speaks like that.
Why, thank you, yes I am.
What do you do when you are not teaching?
What? I am always teaching.
What do you do when you are not in the classroom?
I teach outside.
What do you do when you are home?
Teach my family.
And when you sleep?
I dream about teaching.
You are a strange, yet passionate woman- your husband has his hands full.
You have no idea!
       We walked away with a hearty laugh and a precious hug, seeing each other often though out the course of the week. While the conversation may seem odd, I treasure it, for it is encouraging that others see my heart when I speak. For me, all of life is a classroom and every one I meet is either teaching me or being taught by me. I am blessed by this sweet couple and their gentle humor at my goofy, yet very real way of being me. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm Traveling- Can You Believe It?

airplane photo: airplane airplane-2.jpg
     I woke up today facing the very thing that had been plaguing me for weeks; traveling. Not just a 'toss a few things in the bag and zip off in the car' traveling- I am talking pack your necessities, and your 'professional casuals' and hop a plane traveling. This body has not graced an airport in over 20 years and let me tell you, things have definitely changed!
     My first experience in the airport since my married life began left me absolutely perplexed. I was flagged- pulled out of line, patted down, hand swabbed, bags searched flagged. Separated from by traveling buddy, I proceeded to get lost in the airport for what seemed like eternity, but was most likely fifteen minutes. Wow. Off to a great start, I then managed to get pulled out of the boarding when my pass buzzed. After a few phone calls they allowed my passage with no explanation for the panic. Obviously I am a dangerous menace.
     Tonight I sit in a hotel, far from home, winding down after a long journey. Tomorrow will find me listening, learning, speaking and breathing. I don't often find myself surrounded by adults- so this will be interesting.
     For now, a little hotel room yoga, a soak in the tub, and goodnight!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

10 Things a Sick Little Reminded Me

In case you hadn't guessed, a little one now lives here on the homestead- our grandbaby and her mamma. Recently the poor thing suffered a nasty case of sinus and ear infections; keeping us up several nights on end.
I have learned ten things during this experience:
1. You never forget how to bounce, rock and walk.
2. Babies can function on amazingly little sleep.
3. Adults can not.
4. You can, surprisingly, make it through a day and have no idea how you managed.
5. Coffee is vital.
6. Men can cook; it may be scrambled eggs, but they can cook.
7. Laundry is like mint- it will take over.
8. Recliners should come with every crib.
9. Protective dogs will tear up a screen door when 'their' baby cries.
10. This too shall pass.
I find it funny that all these things were true back when my babies were babies- and they are still holding strong now that there is a grandbaby in the picture.
Here's to coffee and Tiger Balm.
I thing my back has a kink in it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Through Eyes of Wonder

     Today the little and I found ourselves wandering the homestead in search of wonder. Isn't it amazing how children see things; how their eyes light up; their face fills with awe? They are absolutely fascinated by the simplest of things- things we take for granted every day. Things like the venation of a leaf, the softness of a goat's ear, the buzz of a bee. I absolutely love to watch her watching things.
     Generally we visit each pasture, taking time to rub a nose, toss a handful of feed, or tug an ear.. but lately, as she is growing and striving to explore more, our time outside has grown as well. Today there was the simple joy of just gazing through the tree canopy and smiling at the clouds passing through. There was sitting on a log giggling as chickens pecked and clucked at our feet. We fed the goose and laughed at the way the ducks waddle.
      We extended our walk into the gardens to gaze at flowers and touch the green kumquats growing on the tree. Her enthusiasm for nature at such a young age thrills me- she seems to absorb everything she finds. Of course, Ben (our Pyrenees), was ever close to keep an eye on her well being for he has bonded to our little and made her his own.
      The time outside ended the same way it always does- a visit to our swing. There we relax and breathe deep the many wonders we have seen. It reminds me of why I do what I do- to open the eyes of wonder in others that our modern lives seems to have shut. Tonight I ponder and reminisce this wondrous thing and keep it close to my heart.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Finally Rain!

The earth breathes a sigh of relief today; rain has finally found it's way to my homestead! My coffee and I are soothed today by the sound of gentle raindrops as they fall outside my window. Yes. Rain is a good thing.
Our past few days have been a bit hectic as I my time in local schools increases. Funny how I can't remember how things got done last year. When did I wash laundry? Did I cook every night? When in the world did I mop a floor?
Work is not my only distraction; our sweet grandbaby is here to delight us with gurgles and giggles. Who wouldn't rather stroll under the tree tops or curl up with a story instead of scrubbing a floor? I must say, she and I do spend a good amount of time feeding the goose and swinging under the big oak tree. Fortunately she loves the outdoors and a good book as much as I do!
Rain is a gift. It causes us to slow down; to breathe; to rest.
Finally, rain!

Monday, September 15, 2014

September's Garden

September finds us in 'clean up and clear out' mode;
old is pulled and tossed away
soils are turned and amended
hope springs as we think forward.
It has been a struggle to find my place in the garden-
the work gardens
the children's gardens
my three home gardens.
There just isn't enough time for all the gardening I need/want to do!
Last weekend brought a cool front to our area affording us relief from the heat and a chance to get ourselves into the gardens.
Our county gardens are once again being cleaned and readied.
School gardens are filled with students learning the in's and out's of garden care as they set seeds.
My home gardens are slow work in progress as I eek out a moment here and a half hour there to clean, amend and plant. This weekend I managed to work the greenhouse in hopes of transplants and some propagation starts.
The garden has always been my resting place- the source of my connectiveness- my place of peace and refreshing. In the garden I hash out my frustrations and grieve my deepest sorrows. There I pray, finding renewal and grace in the midst of His glorious creation. It is where children find me and share their hearts; their hurts; and their deepest secrets. We find inspiration, information, and the source of amazing wonder.
September's garden is set with transplants: broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. There are seeds going in: greens of every variety, roots of various design. Some areas are left to rest; our fruit garden is up for a deep clean out and a time of rest- clovers will grow offering nitrogen to the depleted soil. Other areas need a hearty amount of sweat and prune; the rose and herbal garden has grown out of control this year and desperately needs a severe trim.
Tonight finds me refreshed and quite worn out as I stand, hose in hand, considering all I have done and all I still have left to do. Gardens are organic things; living, growing, and always changing.
September's garden finds me peaceful- the dirt under my nails makes me feel like myself again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taking it out on the Meat

     It started with a mindless 'coffee in front of the TV' moment. Jaimee Oliver was 'whizzing' up a 15 minute meal (which I was only half paying attention to). Over the rim of my cup the sight of him 'swacking' a few chicken breast half to nonexistence caught my eye. Mmm. I could do that. I could totally take a few pieces of meat and beat them into submission; therapy and you get dinner. Now that is cooking!
      Later that day I grazed the internet, once again considering the violent notion of dinner pounded and put in a pan. A few sights seemed to offer up flavorful options along side some malicious beatings. That settled it; it was time to grab some breasts and get the mallet.
      The scene was set: four thawed chicken breast, patiently waiting their demise; a cutting mat placed in a baking sheet, perfect for catching the gory mess; a metal mallet formerly belonging to my grandmother, excellent for the dirty deed. Lacking in 'cling film', which I thing we all call Saran Wrap,  I opted to just do it outright and accept the mess. The cast iron skillet was heating as I took every bit of frustration out on that poor helpless bird. It was liberating and oh so soothing.
       Unfortunately, cling film was not the only thing not in stock- so was crackers, shallots, or fresh sage; items from the two recipes I was leaning toward. No worries. I improvised seasoning my beaten meat with smoked paprika, Cajun blend, and black pepper- blackened, beaten breasts seemed fitting for the evening.
       Let me just say, this is not only therapeutic, but a great way to get dinner done in 1/4th of the time; two minutes in the pan and done! I tossed some green beans in a small wok with a few almonds to accompany; it was delicious. Of course, I can't just pound poultry- no, steaks work just as well. I do believe I have discovered a new frustration buster (and a quick dinner plan).
Garlic Chicken 
  • Cajun Spice
  • black pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • 4  skinless chicken breast          
  • olive oil
  • Put a square of plastic wrap over each one and bash a few times with the bottom of a pan until the breasts flatten out a bit
  • Season liberally with each spice - both sides
  • You can either bake or fry the chicken • If baking, preheat your oven to its highest temperature (475˚F), place your chicken on a sheet pan and cook for 10 minutes • If frying, put a frying pan (mine was heavy cast iron) on a medium heat, add a few good lugs of olive oil and cook the chicken breasts for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through, golden and crisp
  • Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Something's Gotta Give

          Exhausted. Dumbfounded. Frustrated. I sit here tonight utterly lost in the cosmic nonsense. Issues that have been pushed back and tucked away but never fully addressed have shoved themselves front and center, boiling over like a cauldron. Something has to give. Where is the revelation, the flaming arrow, when you need it? Some things seem so clear as if where I am is exactly where I am meant to be, yet there are other things that just can't seem to find resolve.
    relationships that just don't work
    personalities that grate
    projects I cannot complete
    broken habits
    sleep I can't find
    time that just doesn't exist
             No great words of wisdom have been found. Comfort hasn't come. Some stresses just don't have
    I love my family
    my job
    the little munchkins that cross my path
    the idea of 'better'
    the fantasy of problems solved
    and rest
    Tomorrow is a new day- and it has great things promised for it, yet in the corner of my eye the reality of unresolved issues looms. Is what I do worth it? What is it that will give?

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    It's Finally Time!

            The anticipation has been building; nervous energy courses through my veins. It is finally time to get back in the kitchen with the kids! We have had a nice long break- four weeks to be exact- long enough to let me breath- long enough to remind me how much I'd rather not be in the office- long enough to make me miss those rowdy monsters:)
             This week finds me back with my team introducing kids to the concept of growing- not only food but in our knowledge of food, eating- old foods in a new light and new foods with an open mind, and going- outside or in, getting our bodies off the sedentary and on the go, go, go! So what does that mean?
              Growing: Preparing gardens for fresh fall plants; participating in learning concepts teaching us how plants relate to each other and the world around them while showing us how we relate to plants and the world around us. My specific lesson this week: parts of the plants/plants we eat. Professor Go gets her overalls, hat and muckers on!
               Eating: In the kitchen, Professor Go and Chef Plate are whirling up some green smoothies complete with baby greens and frozen fruits! Who doesn't love a slushy, purple drink on a hot Texas day?
               Going: It's time to walk, hop, and crawl as Super Jenni shows the kids her Wonderful WAT obstacle course and challenges them to best themselves as they do it all again.
                Yes, it is finally here. The moment my team and I have been waiting for; preparing for; packing and planning for. It is time to get our groove on and get back in the kitchen with the kids! 

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Planning A Thanksgiving Garden

         Yesterday, around a large table in a children's library, there sat four creative souls with one purpose in mind: to create a thanksgiving garden. When the teacher approached me with the idea I was pleasantly fascinated by the notion of it (while slightly concerned about the timing). Sensing my hesitation she pressed the question, can we do it?- and me, well.. challenge accepted!
          The desire was for students in a particular grade level to apply their food growing/tasting/get physically active knowledge toward a particular common goal that could be shared with the entire campus. Okay, so that isn't daunting or anything. 1. Get a mass of fourth graders to work together, in soil. 2. Location, location, location- how do we place it in a communal area where all the school can see. 3. What on earth do we plant? 4. Funding. Everything costs something. Thus we found ourselves in the library; pens, paper, and plenty of coffee (one sweet soul thought to bring granola bars!). Address the mess:
            1. The majority of fourth graders at this campus already spent last year working gardens and preparing food with me; fortunately one of their teachers worked with me last year as well. This gives us a foundation to start with.
             2. Location took care of itself when we realized an atrium garden area was available since the class it was build for and maintained by was no more; a central location, seem by everyone who walks two main halls of the school. A little clean up, a little soil amending and we are ready to go.
              3. Funding (yes, I know I am out of order) will be on each team members shoulder. Some donations have already come in for seeds, and some plants. With a common wish list in hand, we can approach prospective supporters for donations not yet received.
              3. What do we plant (the best part for last)? Well, what do we eat at Thanksgiving? Teachers had already mentioned the notion to students who eagerly put some thoughts in: sweet potato, greens, corn, green beans, white potatoes, herbs such as sage and parsley- oh, and, of course, pumpkins!.. they were on a roll. The only concern now is to find the best variety for our zone and get those seeds in the ground!
               So how will this all play out? The mystery is the most amazing part. Seeing the beauty and chaos unfold is the stuff that fuels my madness! Hopefully, students and teachers will connect outside the paper and book zone in an opportunity to truly enjoy each other. Mentors will arise from the shadows and nurturers will shine. Agriculture will draw together with history as children face plant needs, nature's unpredictability, and the science of kitchen magic. I can hardly wait to get my muck boots on and meet in the garden.
                Will it be successful? It already is! Teachers and students have stepped outside the box; administrators have approved and are watching; the wheels are turning and there is no turning back.    

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    A Whole Lot of Building Going On


            These past few weeks have been a flurry of garden builds and upgrades, all with hopes and dreams of beautiful growing glory. In our area, four schools have either built a set of garden beds, added a new bed to their existing garden, and amended their old beds. A community recreation center also had us build some beds on their grounds. That is a lot of building!
            Community and school beds are build with funding from grants in order to further nutrition education not only with children but adults as well. These gardens are utilized during class time, after school, and hopefully during mobile cooking school classes as well. My heart longs to see families return to a knowledge of their food origins and get back in touch with the nature around them.

               Lest you think public beds are all I am working on, there are some garden beds being built right here on the homestead. Several years ago I had raised beds constructed from various materials. When they succumbed to the elements, I simply returned to my roots and gardened in rows. My current need to simplify routines and make life as weed free and easy as possible have brought me back to the raised bed test- currently there are four with more to come.

              Along with building there must be a tearing down- or a cleaning out. On the list: the fruit and the herb garden- both in need of a major overhaul! and the green house- needing some TLC and a good clean up. Now that the beds are built both at work and home, maybe I will find some time to get on those tasks- it might take me a while!

    Sunday, September 7, 2014

    Knocked Down and Back Up

         Stomach bugs; unpleasant, downright nasty things. No one welcomes illness, after all, the side effects of such unpleasantries are, well, unpleasant. Just when you feel you are once again right with the universe, boom, down you go again. Such pesky issues tend to cycle back to you when you aren't looking.
          When I am down, my mind often seeks to disengage itself from the situation focusing on my prayer list, the plight of various projects, or some strange, random thing- which was the case this time. Over and over again, during my conscious moments a song from the movie You've Got Mail rang through my head; "the violin sings with joyful rings, the clarinet, the clarinet goes doodley, doodley, det." Why on earth this happened I haven't the slightest, however, it's ironic that on my resting recovery day that very movie was playing. Of course, I had to snuggle in with soup and mint tea watching every minute of it. Wouldn't you?
         Fortunately, we are all upright and on our feet again; well past the broth and bland beverage phase. Today I actually cooked real food- after a week! I must say, it felt really good to get my knife back in hand smacking garlic and chopping onions and carrots with fierce abandon. From there I gathered the muster to face my seed packets and pull things for my upcoming fall planting; rainy days are wonderful for planning.
         I hope each of you are well and keeping yourselves healthy, after all, it is that time again! Might want to set some bone broth in the crock just in case.

    Monday, September 1, 2014

    A Weekend in Review

          Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is- according to the U.S. Department of Labor- a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Hm. That is interesting. Did you spend this weekend contemplating the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country as it relates to your work? I didn't.
           Most of us approach Labor Day as another opportunity to force ourselves into hosting some form of gathering- at least that is my opinion. I, personally, would rather pull weeds in my garden, muck the coop, and sit on my porch swing reading my newest Joel Salatin book- none of which I managed to do this weekend. Even if those goals had been met- I still wouldn't have been pondering the effect of my little job on the nation's well-being.
            Instead, I rocked a sweet grandbaby while getting some seeds in start cells, read same baby stories while trying not to ponder the junk in the yard that needed cleaned up, and played 'giddy-up' with that very same baby while running tomorrow's work day though my mind. While some were mowing, sweeping and shopping, I dabbled in drool and infectious giggles. Who manages to consider the efforts of their work when two tiny teeth peek out of a smile every other minute? Sorry, not me.
            Lest I be a stooge, there was a last minute grill gathering at my homestead; a few family members who wanted to share in the giggles and spiddles I had been enraptured with. It was simple yet fun with no talk what so ever of our jobs or social impact. No.. we laughed and babbled.. ate and played pass the baby.. we fussed about what to do with the left overs and went our own way never once considering the purpose of the labor movement.
             So tonight, covered with bubbles from her bath and drool from our story time I take a moment to ponder the meager employee which is me and how small a dimple I must make in the great national work force. My job is rather insignificant to most large minded economic social number crunchers, and yet.. it impacts the community around me.. it opens doors to connections otherwise lost.. it has grown from a tiny temporary project to a large and blossoming opportunity. My job may be small, my global impact insignificant.. but to a tiny child.. my job is priceless. That is what I celebrate tonight.. on Labor Day.. as I savor a bowl of Blue Bell with my amazing 'Mr. Go'.