Wednesday, March 18
Pictured: My husband Nate skating with our 3-year-old son Owen
One of the most beautiful things I ever read was the eulogy given by Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson at his funeral. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, the text is published on The New York Times and I highly recommend reading it. There was one thing in particular that Mona said that has always stayed with me.
“We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”
In the context of Mona’s eulogy, she was talking about how, even though they knew they would lose Steve to cancer, his death was still unexpected. That is a powerful sentiment and she phrased it perfectly. No matter the age or circumstance, death always comes in the middle of a story, in fact many stories.
Just one week ago today a 19-year-old young man I knew took his own life here in Carlsbad. I didn’t know him really well, but I knew him well enough to know what a kind, friendly, and great kid he was. He comes from a large family that is now grieving a loss that I cannot begin to comprehend.
The day after Klay died, a few friends and I delivered a bunch of supplies to the family – drinks, snacks, breakfast and lunch foods, paper plates, etc. We texted beforehand and told them they could just open the garage and pretend we weren’t even there. Of course we did see some of the family members and talked a bit with Klay’s amazing mother. I won’t go into details, but spending those few moments with that family so soon after their loss has changed me. I can’t quite put into words what that change is, but it is real and profound.
Klay suffered from depression and his depression won the battle. Almost exactly five years ago our dear friends’ nephew Brian also took his own life, also at 19 years old. Brian suffered from severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and lost a similar battle to Klay’s.
As I sat through Klay’s funeral yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of Brian’s funeral five years ago and the heartbreaking similarities between the two. I couldn’t help but think of loved ones in my life suffering from similar struggles. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for these two wonderful young men that have touched my life. And I couldn’t help but feel incredible sadness for their families and loved ones.
I also walked away from yesterday’s funeral knowing that Klay was loved unconditionally by many, many people, that Klay left behind beautiful memories, from making music to diving to skateboarding to simply being who he was day to day. Klay’s father’s words painted a picture of a life with his son that was familiar to me because it is so similar to the life I see my husband experiencing with my son.
As happens every time I witness or experience a loss, I thought of Mona’s words. Death always comes in the middle of the story. Sometimes the stories are shorter than we had hoped, but the good, even glorious, news is that there was a story. A beautiful if sometimes painful story. The trick is to appreciate the stories we are given, the stories that we get to be a part of, even when we are aching so desperately for more.
These experiences always give me perspective, but this week in particular has been especially poignant. And, while I’ve always lived a life that tries to savor each day, I am now really trying to focus on the stories of which I am a part, appreciating my life’s stories even though I know they will not last as long as I want, and loving them even more for that fact.
Sunday, December 28
I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season!
So…today I don’t have a menu planned. Nate’s Grammy McCarthy (of orange chicken and blueberry muffin fame) passed away this week, so we are in Massachusetts with family. We’ll be here all week, wishing Grammy was with us and yet still grateful for time together. We were all very close to Grammy and the loss has been hard. She was a grand woman and, in the words of Aunt Janet, like a “tinkling bell.”
Even though my life isn’t in the usual routine this week, if you have a menu planned please feel free to leave it in the comments like normal!
Once the new year starts, I’ll be back to whip us into menu-planning shape. That’s how Grammy would want it. She was a pull-up-your-bootstraps-and-keep-on-moving kind of lady, so that’s what we’ll do. But this week I’m going to let the bootstraps dangle and simply enjoy time with the people I love.
Have a wonderful week and be sure to eat a blueberry muffin in honor of Grammy.
Thursday, September 25
Right now Owen’s birthday cake is in the oven. I will be attempting to shape it into Ripslinger from Planes a little later today. (Heaven help me.) Owen is sitting at the counter playing with a few of his Thomas trains while we wait for the cake to bake, chatting merrily away to himself, creating stories of near misses at the countertop’s edge. I am feeling beyond grateful for this moment.
Three years ago Owen was born on my birthday. Without a doubt it was my best birthday ever and Owen was the greatest birthday gift I could ever have dreamed of. Three years ago was also, without a doubt, the most traumatic day of my life. After a calm morning of labor, suddenly things changed. And, before we knew it, Nate was alone in the labor and delivery room and I was in an operating room being put under general anesthesia. Neither of us would witness Owen’s birth. Nate met him 15 minutes later. I met my son 2 hours after his birth.
I will never forget every last detail of that day. For nearly a year I would cry just at the slightest thought of those events. Now I just cry once in a while, usually when I least expect it. I always cry on my birthday, though. I can’t help it. I am just so grateful, it’s overwhelming. Grateful to have this greatest-of-all birthday presents in my life, playing with trains and asking me to play the Planes soundtrack yet again.
When I was being wheeled from the delivery room to the OR, I was a complete basket case. My anesthesiologist was a saint who talked me through the whole experience, with a calm and loving voice. The thing I was so fixated on was that I would not see Owen born like I had the girls. I couldn’t stop saying that over and over. As I look back it almost makes me laugh. There was so much on the line in those 6 minutes between discovering the problem (prolapse cord) and Owen’s birth. And the only thing I could think about was that I wouldn’t get the happy birth moment I had envisioned and experienced before. I didn’t think once about Owen’s mortality and, honestly, I am so grateful my neurotic brain didn’t go there, that I was protecting myself from those thoughts. I’m even more grateful that everything turned out okay in the end. We were so lucky.
I joke with people that Owen ruined my birthday. Not only did he steal it from me, but he turned it into my #1 PTSD trigger! Seriously, though, I love sharing my birthday with this amazing kid and I know that it is miraculous.
Life is good. It does not always go as planned. Sometimes it is more than we can bear. But it is always beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Owen.
Thursday, September 18
Have you ever undertaken a quest? I have not. I’m not a huge goal-making kind of person. I like seeing what opportunities arise in life and just going with it. Nate once asked where I saw my career in 5 years and I felt like hyperventilating! Making plans and goals is not my thing.
That said, I’ve decided to fight my natural instincts and undertake a quest. Set a goal. Accomplish a monumental task that I have actually planned on accomplishing ahead of time. And, to be honest, it’s a little scary. And telling you about it is making it even scarier.
I have a literary agent. She is fabulous. To not work with her on a book would be a crime, so I’m totally going for it. Except, I’ve been going for it for 4 years. She is very patiently waiting for my book proposal to hit her Inbox while I’m off having babies (done!), moving a few times (done!) and going through about 20 different ideas for a book, none of which I liked. But the stars are finally aligning. My agent and I have settled on a theme for the book that we are both really excited about. I am in a place in life where I can carve out time for writing a book. I’ve done a lot of the groundwork with my blog that I need to do before an agent goes out to sell my book. Basically, it’s time. I’m starting my quest.
My quest is simple…well, simple to describe, at least! I am going to finish writing my book proposal. It needs to happen. I need to know I gave it my all and then see where it takes me, see what my agent can do with it. Whether or not I end up as a bestselling author is beside the point. I want to know I tried, that I took advantage of this opportunity placed before me.
Today’s post is sponsored by Random House in support of the new book The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. Chris had a quest – to visit every country in the world by the time he was 35 years old. Chris’s book talks about his quest as well as the quests of many other people he met on his journey, people he calls strivers. As I’ve read through the book and seen what makes these strivers tick, it’s been great food for thought. Bonus: his thoughts and suggestions are making me feel less scared of the journey!
Do you have a quest you’ve been putting on the backburner? Have you completed one? Are you still finding your quest? Please share your thoughts with me. I need moral support!
One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Happiness of Pursuit. Comments must be posted by Wednesday, 9/24 at Midnight PT, one entry per person, and the winner’s book must ship to a U.S. address. Good luck! Can’t wait to hear about your quests!
Comment #6 Ellen Patton was the randomly-selected winner of this giveaway. Congrats, Ellen!
Friday, August 1
Happy Friday! Happy August!
I don’t have anything particularly awesome to share today because I just spent three hours getting new tires on my car. Because I drove over a construction tool on the way home from the beach on Wednesday. And, you know what? As much as it all was completely inconvenient and expensive, I never freaked out. I remained surprisingly calm. On a related note, a few nights ago I got pulled over for not stopping completely at a stop sign and, again, was calm and collected. My friend Barbara said I was “cool as a cucumber.” (In the end no ticket, luckily!) So, I guess my big share today is that maybe I’m getting a little more zen than I used to be. Maybe. I am trying. Because, honestly, even when the crappy stuff happens, what do I have to complain about? I got to hang out with my kids this week, work at jobs I love, go to the beach, look at stuffed animals (literally) at the natural history museum with little people who for some reason just really love taxidermy. It’s all good, popped tires and all.
Okay, time for some fun food links!
On Babble, my kids and I tried another one of the Dishes by Disney recipes:
And all kinds of yumminess on Cosmo:
- 10 Amazing Ice Cream Sandwiches You Must Try This Summer
- 21 Charming Ways to Use Cinnamon
- 13 Genius Spiked Popsicles
- 12 Flawless Ice Cream Cakes You Need to Make This Summer
Please share your own thoughts/links/blog posts/accomplishments/anything!
Thursday, February 13
Yesterday Nate was reading ESPN.com and there was a giant ad for Tiffany & Co. Of course I asked if the computer was showing him that ad because he had just bought me something from Tiffany for Valentine’s Day, to which he replied, “Oh yeah, I bought you tons of presents for a made-up holiday.” And then we both totally laughed. Yeah, we’re romantic like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with our kids and I honestly don’t have anything against Valentine’s Day per se. In fact, any excuse to make pretty cookies and give them to friends and neighbors is fine by me.
Valentine’s Day aside, I have been thinking a lot about love lately, for many reasons that I won’t get into. You know the Beatles song All You Need is Love? That line has become cliché by now, but I really do think all you need is love. I can’t help but imagine how different the world would be if everyone loved first. Now, I know life isn’t always that simple. But I can’t help but think if we did love first that we’d all be kinder, more patient, more giving, more forgiving. At least I know I would be. Sometimes it’s not easy to love, but that’s what makes it all the more powerful. Nate and I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds at our church each Sunday. There is a lot to think about in this life, especially when you’re becoming an adult and navigating those often choppy waters. But I am surprised how often, when I am teaching them, it all comes back to loving others and serving without judgment. It’s so simple and yet one of life’s greatest challenges.
Nate’s Gram Maynard lived a life of love. We all knew she was amazing and most certainly the kindest person we had ever known. She knew what it was to love unconditionally and was a great example to me. When she died, we were all heartbroken. The world needed Gram. At her funeral there was time set aside for anyone who wanted to speak to do so. It was beautiful (and not at all surprising) to hear stories from people we didn’t know, sharing how Gram had served them and touched their lives in profound ways. We knew that she had loved. We knew she had served. We just didn’t know how much.
I recently saw this quote from Mahatma Gandhi somewhere and it really resonated with me: Where there is love there is life. When I think of Gram, a pure example of love, I can’t help but think of the full life she lived. A quiet life, filled with quiet acts of love. Her life was unremarkable by the world’s lofty standards. She was from the South Shore near Boston and lived there her entire life. She raised five children. She stood by the Red Sox through thick and thin. She had the most marvelous accent, once telling Nate’s mom she could find the fox in the dishwasher (10 points if you can figure that one out). She hardly ever cooked, but when she did it was always for others – I don’t know how many tins of her chocolate chip cookies were carried by postal workers nationwide. I don’t even think she ever flew on a plane. And yet, her love filled so much more of the world than just the South Shore. Her love made ripples that have been felt far and wide. She filled the world with life by simply loving. She was more remarkable than anyone could probably comprehend.
Like I said, lots on my mind lately. But I keep clinging to this word: love. I need to let it fill me the way it did Gram. I need to let it spill over.
Friday, May 3
It’s been a rough week. There is a good reason I’m telling you this. I am not seeking sympathy and I am not trying to draw attention to myself. I just want to keep it real. And here’s why. Well, actually, before I get to the why, I need to give you a quick synopsis of some of the talks from Big Traveling Potluck last weekend. Stay with me through what will seem like a random string of thoughts. It will all come together in the end.
Melissa Lanz (who is completely wonderful) spoke about having a personal mission statement. She shared the story of her life journey so far and it was sweet and inspiring. Watching her husband watch her speak might have been one of the more tender things I’ve witnessed in some time. Anyway, during her talk she mentioned a friend who has the personal mission statement “Be Better” and how that friend is constantly striving to, well, be better each and every day.
Matt Armendariz (who is also completely wonderful) spoke about creativity and shared his story of how he got to where he is today and how he keeps the creative juices flowing. I loved getting insight into his thoughts and his day-to-day life. There was one comment he made that made me pause. Someone asked if he ever turns things away and he essentially said, “No, I’m a freelancer, I can’t afford to say no to projects.”
One of my best blogging buddies Helen Jane spoke about overcoming creative blocks. One of her core messages was that you don’t have to do it all. It’s easy to feel like you have to do it all, but you don’t. It’s not realistic. Focus on what you’re good at and find success that way. And, by the way, success isn’t always about the millions of followers, millions of dollars, millions of any of that.
Ree (a person I am so blessed to know) shared the top 10 things she’s learned about food blogging. Buried in all the funny, witty, thoughtful things she shared was a moment of vulnerablity. A moment where she told us that in 2011 it was all too much, that she was a shell of a person, that she was forced to change the way she was doing things and stop doing so much. Ree is the epitome of the mom who “does it all.” Hearing here admit that she actually can’t do it all was the most inspiring thing she could have said and it was one of the more powerful moments of the weekend.
My dear friend Jeannine (she works for ONE and she is the BEST) and I were talking one night about one of the big problems with blogs, and Pinterest for that matter. When you read blogs, you see all the good in the blogger’s life but rarely (if ever) the bad. You don’t see the grumpy days, you don’t see the ‘Happy Birthday’ bunting that did NOT come out perfectly, you don’t see the cake that failed to rise. You see all the beautiful parts of people’s lives. Which isn’t to say that the beauty isn’t real. It is. But the beauty is all the more beautiful because we also have the ugly in our lives. When you look at blogs (or Pinterest or Facebook status updates or whatever!) that only show the happy-go-lucky side of life, there is danger of feeling bad about yourself and thinking you are not enough.
I also had a heart-to-heart with Deb from Smith Bites (another choice human being). We talked about how wonderful the conference had been, how great all the talks were. And then Deb brought up Melissa’s friend’s mission statement. She essentially said, “I’m not feeling it. ‘Be Better’ assumes you are not good enough. But you are. I think the mission statement that resonates more is ‘Be Enough.’ ” We talked about how we completely understand why Matt says yes to all the projects that come his way, but that it really is okay to say NO. And we talked about how you don’t have to to be good at everything. And that is OKAY. And you know that beautiful lifestyle blog that you read every week where the mom is always stylish and the kids look like J. Crew models while they are planting organic basil in the backyard that is later perfectly chopped for the salad that the kids actually eat for dinner? Yeah, even that blogger’s life does not look like that everyday. And that’s OKAY!
So, you would think after all this inspiration I would have had a great week, right? Monday morning we got some crummy news. We were supposed to move to a house on a horse ranch in June. We were just going to be renting it, but it was close to work, in the same amazing school district we’re already in, there were horses all around, lots of light and lots of space, and 360 views from the top of a mesa. I was going to rename my blog “Pioneer Woman Junior” and it was going to be AWESOME. There was a lot of work to do on the house, but we were excited and ready for the adventure. And then it was unexpectedly pulled out from under us. And that just about did me in. The stress and uncertainty were just too much. By Tuesday I was feeling better, more optimistic. Then I went to Disneyland on Wednesday with my beautiful daughters and forgot all my troubles. Then…Thursday. The reality hit harder than it had all week. Even The Vampire Diaries couldn’t bring me out of my funk. (Yes, I just admitted I watch The Vampire Diaries. We’re keeping it real today, folks.)
Last night I realized that my public persona this week was all roses and Mickey Mouse ears. The sadness and the frustration and the downright crappy feelings were nowhere to be seen. Not on Facebook, not on Instagram, not on my blog. Which isn’t to say that the happiness wasn’t real. It WAS. And the happiness and moments of fun and gratitude for my amazing life and the people in it kept me going. But, you know, I also had a day this week where I felt like I was in a thick fog and could barely get anything done. I don’t want to be one of the bloggers who only portrays the pretty things. I want to us to connect, to realize we’re all in the same boat, a beautiful boat that sometimes gets rocked.
This is why I’m telling you it’s been a rough week. Because I want to keep it real. This week my “enough” changed from day to day. One day I was Supermom with more energy than Richard Simmons. The next day I felt nearly useless as a mom, certainly neither fun nor patient. But that day I at least made dinner. And that was enough, enough to get me through.
Be Enough. It’s okay. Sometimes enough is amazing. Sometimes enough is just enough. But it’s always enough.
Thursday, May 2
Yesterday my girls and I went to Disneyland (thanks to the Babble team for a fabulous day!). The day was perfect. Today I am basking in the glow that is the light of my daughters, so I figured it was a good day to share two quick stories about them.
A couple of weeks ago I was playing with Owen in his room when Anna came walking in with a recipe card. She had found a Halloween food and craft book somewhere, had spent some time combing through the recipes and settled on one to share with me. She handed me the card and said, “Mom, this recipe is perfect for your blog. It’s easy to make but really cute!” Anna hasn’t even read my blog but she seems to have my messaging down pat! I still can’t get over the fact she was looking for content for my blog. So ridiculously cute. I will in fact give this recipe a try at some point and let you know what we think!
Last Friday when I went to Big Traveling Potluck, Nate had to make dinner for the kids. Cate suggested they make english muffin pizzas, which was perfect for the occasion. She was excited all week about dinner that night and couldn’t wait to teach everyone how to make the pizzas. She even wrote up directions.
2 quick notes. First, I love the after thought “Oh, get plates” at the top of the page. Second, why is she having us split the english muffins with a fork? She’s been hanging out with her dad too much.
I love these girls.
Also, it appears that I am raising future food bloggers. Look out, world!
Friday, April 5
Remember that time when I started writing for Babble and was feeling pretty good about myself and all cool and stuff and also suddenly had to create content for that site in addition to maintaining my own blog so I decided to do a post a week on Babble sharing my most reliable and favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes because that would be a service to the world at large and because I’m totally obsessed with chocolate chip cookies and I decided for the first recipe I would share the Amish Chocolate Chip Puff Cookie recipe that was maybe my most reliable chocolate chip cookie recipe to date and I wanted to make them again so I could shoot a new photo for Babble and because they are so darn good but then I procrastinated and made the cookies the day I was scheduled to publish the post and then the cookies came out flat as freaking pancakes and not puffy and Amish-y at all and I realized karma was making sure I didn’t let things go to my head and karma also made sure a mom from school who I had just met and who had just found out I had a food blog was there to witness my awesome kitchen skills?
Yeah, I remember that time. Just like it was yesterday. Wait, it was yesterday.
I may have a food blog, but apparently that doesn’t mean anything. Just so ya know.
P.S. I made the cookies again today, with cream of tartar purchased today instead of 7 (8? 10?) years ago and, turns out, it is a fool-proof cookie recipe! Apparently cream of tartar is kind of important to this recipe AND it does in fact stop working after years and years and YEARS of sitting in the spice cupboard.
Sunday, February 17
On Wednesday this past week my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. He was 91-years old and was a happy man to the end. We are sad but he didn’t suffer and lived a long life. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this death thing. It’s just so strange. And unexpected deaths, well, I don’t like missing the chance to say goodbye. I just hope Grandpa Wallin has been hearing my thoughts all week, as I ponder his life and think about what I would have said to him one last time if I’d had the chance.
I am grateful to my grandfather and my grandmother (who died in 1995) for having the courage to move to the United States all those years ago, setting into motion the events that lead to me sitting here today.
We are staying with family all this week, so no menu for me. My meal plan is to enjoy lots of meals with people I love!
Please still post your menus for the week so you can inspire one another! And, your homework this week (well, besides planning a menu!)…pick up the phone and call a loved one you haven’t talked to in a while.
Have a great week, everyone!