Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Confessions of a Generalist, an Introduction

Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing our life choices over dinner. The work we did, the hobbies we loved, the way we spent our time. She manages a locally owned and run store and I asked her if she liked her work. Her response was intriguing to me, probably because it resonated with me so deeply.

She said, (and I'm not quoting directly, but, in reaching back into that conversation from the past, trying more to come up with the essence of her words), that she was reasonably content with her job and liked the people she worked with, and that it paid the bills and provided health insurance. I asked her why this and not something she loved more, and her response was that she is a too much of a Generalist to pick a more specific career path and pursue it. A lover of home, gardening, cooking, and herbalism, and probably many other things I'm unaware of, she preferred to have bill paying work that was perhaps less demanding than other career choices might be, so that she could fully devote her off time to other pursuits she loves.

Some years later these words are still bouncing around in my brain as, in the midst of midlife, I try to make sense of my own choices. 

Merriam Webster defines a Generalist as "one whose skills, interests, or habits are varied or unspecialized." This description leaves me a little flat, because it doesn't describe the rich variety of pursuits that I love, but it's not inaccurate. 

If I has to list my favorite hobbies and pursuits, they would include gardening, cooking, preserving food, sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlework, painting, refinishing furniture, Feng Shui, home decor and design, real estate, hospitality, food service and presentation, travel, languages, yoga, writing, reading, acting and theater...and that's just off the top of my head.

I have worked in a variety of fields in my adult life, including natural food retail, hospitality (read: bars, restaurants and hotels), massage therapy, Feng Shui consulting, real estate, bookkeeping/finance, and construction. I have always wanted to be that person who loves one thing most, and could pursue that career path and immerse myself in it fully. It seems so simple, to have a love and just follow it to where it leads and makes most sense. But I am not that person, have never been that person. I am a Generalist, a lover of oh so many things. 

So how does a generalist, a lover of many things, thrive in a world that prefers the 40 hour+ work week. How does one pay the bills, love and support family and friends, and still have time to devote to these life loves?

Are you a generalist? How are you making all of this work for you?

More on this....

Monday, June 30, 2014

June, the Gardener's patient month.

Today is June 30. Summer is truly here. Kids are out of school, the days and nights are hot and steamy.

I have decided that June is the patient month for the gardener. The time of mostly watching and waiting. 

My lettuce is in full production now, and our salads are lush, but simple unless we buy vegetables to add. I wander through my garden now, pull a few weeds, add a few things, and mostly watch the progress of it all, but there's not much to do, much to harvest. It's just time to watch, wait, and turn to other things. 

In a few short weeks we will be eating green beans, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, and more. But now is a time of quiet in the garden. These quiet interludes in life are good, to be savored.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Secret to Great Vegetable Soup

Not all vegetable soups are created equal. 

If you love soup as I do, you know this. 

The best vegetable soups have bite sized pieces of vegetables that are tender and succulent, ready to soften in your mouth with each bite. The flavors blend gently and it's this beautiful dance across your palate.

For years I've wondered how to create this kind of vegetable soup and finally realized the answer. I'm sure this is not really a secret, it's probably been scattered across blogs and cookbooks everywhere. But it was a revelation to me when I figured it out, and I had never seen it written just straight out, so here it is, for you.

Saute the vegetable first, all of them. 

That's it. Simple, right? 

Many recipes have you saute the onions and garlic, sometimes the celery, then add the stock or broth and at various points other vegetables. Don't listen. Saute them all in the beginning.

I use a tablespoon or two of olive oil most of the time. You could also use butter, bacon fat, or coconut oil, depending on the flavor you want to achieve. But do saute everything until it softens a little, then add your chosen stock or broth and other seasonings and cook just long enough for the vegetables to soften a bit more and you're done.

If you're patient, put the soup away until the next day and allow the flavors to blend and you'll love your soup even more. That's not a secret...everyone knows soup is better then second day.

Try it this way, you'll thank me.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dear Blog...Sunday, June 8, 2014....Gone, and Not

I haven't been much of a blogger these days.

In all honesty, I haven't had much to say. How many times and in how many ways can I say I'm a busy, tired, sleep deprived working mom of awesome kids who misses her own departed mom keenly, before it gets boring and redundant?

Not too many.

But this morning I woke up thinking of my mama just the same. Had my tea, cycled through some laundry, and found this quote, the lyrics from a Patty Lovelace song, in my facebook feed:

"Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain. Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same."

Of the many things I want from myself, the ability to take an attitude of acceptance toward loss and change is pretty high on the list. I have only to watch my children, almost 10 and almost 3 (wow!), and I am forced to acknowledge the inevitability of change. We cannot hold on, we can only appreciate the moments we're living, and love as fully as we are capable.

I feel like I'm getting closer. And once again I encounter paradox and wish for a moment that life were black and white, clear cut, simple. How does one fully acknowledge the loss of someone so important, while simultaneously embracing the concept of change and letting go. What the heck does that even look like?

Occam's Razor: "among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."

In other words, stop over-thinking this Diana, it probably looks like exactly what I'm doing right now. Which is mourning her when I need to, and also recognizing her continued presence in my life.

This weekend I made yogurt, did face paint (fancy healthy stuff she bought for us) and paper chain dolls with the girls, packed up some Lemon Balm Mint Tea from my garden last year to send off to my cousin with the new baby, read Harry Potter and Sesame Street while cuddling my girls, was interrupted in writing this at least 5 times by various family members but came back to it, and probably did a half dozen other things, just like those, that were truly her, her gifts to me that still live on, through me, and maybe someday through my girls.

I can't hold her or hug her, or talk to her (though I sometimes do still), but she does live on, and in the calm that has begun to follow her loss, I'm beginning to really know and feel the truth in this. 

I have some thoughts brewing on other topics that I hope to write about soon, but we'll see. I'm still that busy, tired mom. Until then, wishing you days and weeks as rich as full as mine have been these days.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dear Blog...March 9, 2014...Finding Peace...

Dear Blog,

Today I spent some time reading through my mother's medical records. I had asked my dad for them last fall, fresh from our trip out West, fresh for talking with family about it, wanting answers. And then school started, birthdays and holidays happened, and although I read through them quickly, I never looked closely.

Today, after opening the conversation with her side of the family, I spent some time pouring over everything, researching terms and medications, and putting pieces together that hadn't made sense until today.

And I feel oddly peaceful now. I've always thought I was so much like her, but not in this way. She didn't want information of this sort, didn't like the details about what was going on. I am the opposite. I like to break things down, understand, as best I can, what's happening so that I can process the information. Knowledge is power to me, and in that power, I find peace.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Dear Blog..March 6, 2014...The Sunny Route

Dear Blog,
Last Friday I took the long way to work, just because it's prettier. No, not really prettier, it's all pretty around here. I look around and I have to acknowledge that this place that I have chosen to call home is visually spectacular.

But not very sunny, especially in winter. So I took the sunnier route. Longer, a little slower, but worth it, to be sure. I may be on to something here, you think?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dear Blog, February 18, 2014, Tears

Dear Blog,

I can't seem to stop crying. 

I started about 10 days ago, and based on the timing, I blamed in on hormones. But it's not stopping and I just keep crying.

I have always been moved easily to tears, but I'm not generally the type to wallow in them for long. Except now. I feel that I could cry forever and I'm not sure why.

I miss my mom. Of course. I miss my hometown. I miss so many people there. I miss sunshine. I miss sleep. I miss prosperity and the feeling of possibility I once had. I miss the feeling that I had time. I miss being young and cute. I miss being energetic. Winter blues? It's not that I feel depressed...I don't have that dull, listless feeling that comes along with that. I get up in the morning ready for the day, I'm moving through my days fairly easily, I'm just crying. A lot.

We spent this weekend with an old friend, passing through. She was once more my mom's friend than mine, although we are closer in age. We talked and talked and laughed and cried over my mom and the past we shared through her. Maybe it's just time to really mourn, but I can't say I like this much. This feeling of being so bereft. 

On a different, but likely related note, winter is losing it's hold. I can feel spring approaching even though it's not visible yet. It's slightly warmer, sometimes, the air has a different quality. The days are longer and longer already. 

I don't think I will cry when all of this snow melts and green things appear.