An Open Letter To My Boys

My boys left school last week. The little birds flew the coop to see what the rest of the world has to offer. It left me with a strange, indescribable emptiness that I can only liken to empty nest syndrome. Here is what I would say to them. More accurately, here is what I have been saying to them over the last year, just perhaps not in so many words.

 

To you three,

Off you go, now. Go see things. Go see things. All things you can possibly think of. Be the ultimate, Zen-lunatic dirtbags you’re meant to be. And I know you know what I mean; I say ‘dirtbag’ with the utmost respect.

Boys, go. Go forth. Educate yourself, whatever that looks like to you. Taste things you’ve never tasted before, like the air on top of a mountain in Colorado before you hit the powder below you. Taste things like the local cuisine in some foreign country that you can’t even speak the native language of.

Go. Get the hell out of here. Take your talents, your brains, your words, your hearts, your passions and get the hell out of dodge. For your own sake, get your asses out of here. You know you can always come back, but for now… just go.

It’s not that we don’t love you. Not that we don’t want to see you. We do. We miss you so much. We missed you the moment you left, but what you need to do now is spread your strange, bizarre, foul-mouthed wings and go.

Go to college. Or don’t.

You could just buy a van and travel the states writing poetry and drinking life to it’s dirty lees. You could do that, and I can’t say I’d be disappointed in you.

Because even though you’ve been shits, and you know it, I’ve never been disappointed in you. You have a fire in your eyes, in your mouths, in your brains… you’re practically frothing at the mouths to do something amazing. My heart knows you’re capable of so much.

And I know you’re scared. Boys, you’re big fish where you are…. But let me share something with you: Sometimes, being the terrified, insignificant fish is where you grow the most. Go, be insignificant. Relish the vast, grand indifference of the universe.

Boys… boys. You are so loved. If I said it once, I said it a hundred times: I love ya, kids, but I mean it… get out of here and go spread your beautiful wings.

I can’t wait to meet you again after you’ve tasted something different.

You know I will always be here to make pancakes for you. You know Flynn and I will always be willing to help you out of a situation. You know you are loved. You know you are capable. Now, know that you can go do something more powerful than you ever dreamed.

I know I’ve dreamed it for you. Now, go.

Love,

Mrs. J

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It is snowing gently outside. It’s a quiet sort of snow, where it comes down in a way that is more beautiful than worrisome. Currently I am sitting in a large, soft armchair next to the windows overlooking our yard and the field beyond. It is a cozy morning, with a cat sitting on the chair with me, the dog at my feet, and my books surrounding me. I even have my breakfast next to me; goat cheese on toasted baguettes, yogurt with blackberries.  A male Blue Jay is looking for food in the lilac next to the window; the feeder is filled with snow. I chose to listen to Loreena McKennit this morning because it helps me feel calm and reflective.

Last week, the nation was in bit of a frenzy over this gigantic lottery. It was some bit over 1.2 billion dollars, and it felt like everyone was buzzing over it. I naturally was briefly mulling over what I would do if my husband and I won the lottery. I feel proud that our wish list was so short and simple, even with such a large budget. This way of thinking has been permeating my mind over the last week, making me think about the future more than I usually do.

Simplicity is complicated to achieve, I think. It is so easy, as one of my great idols says, to complicate one’s life. Much more difficult to simplify. With that being said, I have found that recently, I take much more joy in simplicity and routine. This, for anyone who knows me, is supremely strange; I am not particularly a routine person. I feel, however, I have always been attracted to simplicity.

We live in a small home. It is not modern, it is not beautiful, it is not even particularly well-furnished, well-decorated, or even well-laid-out. The more I live in it, the more I love it. The simple walls, the simple delights; my reading corner, which I sit in right now, is a testament to this. Two windows, some bookshelves, and a deep arm chair. That is all I need to feel entirely at peace with my surroundings right now.

We have a modest income. I am a teacher, my husband works in marketing. We do not make enough to go on lavish vacations. We do not make enough money to re-do our home on a grand scale, though piece-meal, certainly. We do not make enough money to go buy new clothing or go out to restaurants on a whim. We have enough to eat well at home. We have enough to support our son and his pursuits. We have enough to heat our home. To provide hay for our animals. To go on long drives on Saturdays to explore the countryside.

We have long-term goals because that is the position we are in; when you are a low-level teacher and in retail marketing, that is the position you are forced into. To be entirely frank, this is the only position I would choose to be in. If I were given hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, should I be a doctor or CEO for example, I would not be nearly as happy. I can only imagine myself with a seemingly limitless budget and list of wants. It does not breed contentedness, I don’t think. I have no way of knowing, but I can’t imagine it creates happiness.

My wish list? It’s simple. My home to be worked on and tailored to our lifestyles over the years. To someday have a bathroom with a bathtub in it. To have a camper so it is easier to go on adventures. I’d be happy with an old school bus, to be honest. To pay off as much of our debt as possible. For William to have amazing childhood experiences. To be active and happy and pursue the dirtbag dream of summers off and adventures on a nickel. To have my sheep and my dogs and cats and a comfy bed. To surf when I can. To be able to heat my home through the winter. To be good at my job. To be a good partner and mother. To go flea marketing on the weekends and to go hiking as often as possible. To see parts of the USA that I have never seen. To go back to Costa Rica and maybe France, and someday Tibet and Nepal and Australia and Chile.

The beautiful thing about my dream life, you can see, is that it is entirely attainable. My husband shares my dreams, even though oftentimes we don’t see those dreams through the same lenses. My ideal life is one that I am already living, though it could stand some movement at the moment.

Winter is notoriously very difficult for me. It makes me feel stuffed up, cramped, and cooped up. I do try to enjoy the outdoors, but to be entirely frank, I get cold very easily and it is not enjoyable for me no matter how many layers I put on. Winter is hard, but this winter has been filled with reflection for me. On my direction in my career, on my direction in life, on what we plan to do at our little home and in our adventures. I’ve done more sitting and relaxing and thinking than I ever have in my entire life. I tend to be someone who just can’t stop moving, and this year I have learned the value of just sitting. Just shutting up. Just listening. Just feeling. Just breathing. I see great value in slowing down. What kind of person would I have been like a decade ago if I could have just slowed down, I wonder?

But here I am, a young woman who has learned to slow down and now needs to decide what kinds of changes she would like to make going forward. I know what the changes are, actually, I just need to implement them. And here I am, working on that. Just breathing is the first step.

 

Song Of The Week: “The Permanent Rain,” By The Dangerous Summer

 

The Permanent Rain by The Dangerous Summer

So why the sudden change
and what’s this all about?
I know they speak your name,
but where’s the sound right now?
I can’t stop praying you’ll hear me play.
I know that I’ll be with you there someday.

So where the hell’s my hope,
and why can’t I just try?
You know I’ve lost a lot,
but I won’t let this die.
I know I’ve got a friend up in the atmosphere,
and another reason not to fear the sky
no, not tonight.

Can I pull out all the stops,
and get out of this town?
I want to make you proud,
but I really don’t know how.
I know it’s not helping to hear me say,
“I wish it was me in the car that day.”
Though something made me stop and think of what you said.
You know it meant a lot,
but I was just a kid,
one with all these dreams of growing up and playing music on the road.
I’ve been screaming all these years and thinking of you both.

So where’s my hope,
and why can’t I just try?
You know I’ve lost a lot,
but I won’t let this die.
I know I’ve got a friend up in the atmosphere,
and another reason not to fear the sky;
no, not tonight.

I wrote this note,
because I never even told you.
You know I’ve got some things to sing about,
like we were young and holding true
to all these songs that always made us pull through,
and now I’ve got some words that I’ll write down.
I’m sending this shit out.

So where’s my hope,
and why can’t I just try?
You know I’ve lost a lot,
but I won’t let this die.
I know I’ve got a friend up in the atmosphere,
and another reason not to fear the sky;
no, not tonight.

So where’s my hope,
and why can’t I just try?
You know I’ve lost a lot,
but I won’t let this die.
I know I’ve got a friend up in the atmosphere,
and another reason not to fear the sky;
no, not tonight.

So where the hell’s my hope,
and why can’t I just try?
You know I’ve lost a lot,
but I won’t let this die.
I know I’ve got a friend up in the atmosphere,
and another reason not to fear the sky;
no, not tonight. no, not tonight.

J.H.’s Chicken Pie Recipe

The ladies at my husband’s work were asking (supposedly… part of me thinks he said that to me for flattery, but I’ll take it) for my chicken pie recipe. Because I made a beautiful pie last night, I’m feeling particularly inspired to write it down.

I’d like to insert a short caveat, though: I cook a lot like my grandmother. By this, I mean that I rarely go by a recipe in a book or written down, and I often just add things as I go. I’ve made this chicken pie enough times to have it pretty well down, but that being said, here’s what I did for last night’s pie.

Ingredients

  • Pie crusts, at room temperature
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (boiled, chopped up)
  • 7-9 small red potatoes, with the skins on, (boiled, chopped up)
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 3 fresh cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • Roughly 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • Roughly 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh parsley (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, with the skins on, chopped

What To Do

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Make sure your pie crusts are out at this point, otherwise you’re stuck with cold pie crusts and that sucks. They need to be at room temperature.

2. Boil your chicken breasts and potatoes (separately, of course) as you’re doing the rest of this. Saves time. The chicken breasts need to be chopped up and set aside. The potatoes need to be boiled, but just until firm. This is crucial, if they’re too mushy, they won’t work.

3. In a very large skillet (it needs to be able to hold all of the filling with enough room to mix it all up at the end), on medium heat, melt the butter.

4. Once the butter is melted, add the minced garlic. After this is brown, you’ll add the salt, pepper, and basil, oregano, and parsley. Mix this all up.

5. After you’ve mixed this in, add the onions to this. Cook this mixture until the onions are transparent. The butter will be sizzling, it’s all set unless it’s burning. Don’t burn it, you’ll have to start over.

6. Once the onions are see-through, you’ll add the flour. Mix this well. The mixture should start to thicken up. Be proud, you just made a delicious roux! You could literally eat this as a soup and it would taste delicious. (Heart healthy, too…) Turn the heat to the lowest setting at this point.

7. After the mixture has thickened up, you’re going to add the cream of chicken soup. Mix all this up really good. It can be a little tricky because sometimes the butter-flour mixture doesn’t want to go into the cream of chicken soup, but if you’re determined and you just keep on mixing, it will eventually happen, I promise.

8. Now you’ve got this lovely, thick mixture. Add the peas, carrots, and celery at this point. Keep the stove on your lowest settings and just mix this up.

9. At this point, you should have boiled your chicken and potatoes. Add them in. This is where it gets a little sticky, because it will seem like there isn’t enough mixture to cover the chicken and potatoes and everything. But there is. Just be diligent, don’t mash the potatoes (this is why we cooked them only to firm).

10. Roll out your pie crusts, line a pie plate with the crust, and dump the mixture into it. ALL OF THE MIXTURE. Top it with pie crust, poke some holes in the top (If you’re fancy and have cookie cutters, use those, it’s adorable.) and put it in the oven. Cook it until it looks done, like a pie should. This is anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on how hard your oven feels like working.

Ta da, you have J’s Chicken Pie recipe.

Oh, Heart

Listening to the Postal Service right now, it’s reminding me of being a teenager. Kind of funny how songs can bring a physical hurt to your chest. Not even a bad hurt, just a hurt.

Tentatively planning a backpacking trip to Scotland. Funding, as always, is the big question, but honestly I think impulsive travel boils down to one’s ability to just say, “fuck it.” I’m super good at saying that. It’s a talent.

Thinking about a border collie opportunity that has arisen. I’m going to take it as long as my husband doesn’t divorce me. It’s just a dog, right? Who can divorce their wife over a dog… or two…

Feeling antsy, but I’ve been feeling that way for a few months. I just have the travel bug and it’s never satisfied. Just want to wing it and go do things, but I don’t really have the ability right now.

Saturday I plan on spending time photographing adventures and maybe flea marketing and visiting the ocean. Probably going to get my nose re-pierced. Going to dye my hair blonde. Just feeling like it’s time for a shakeup.

It’s nice to identify that. Shakabuku, off we go.

Pip pip,

J

On Saturday Morning…

I woke up on a cliffside, in a sleeping bag, with my hair gently blowing in the breeze. My toes pointed out towards the ocean, where a flock of geese lazily drifted by. The sun was barely up, kissing my cheeks. Stretched out on the rock with the sea salt in my nose, I felt a calmness I haven’t experienced in years. My heart was singing for the wild nights and beautiful mornings I used to have so frequently. I just want to savor that moment for a long, long time.

This Morning

I got up earlier than usual this morning and sat on the couch to have a glass of water and listen to the birds. It was very calming.

I thought I’d post some photographs, I’ve been out of the habit so here we go. But first, some quick updates:

We adopted a dog, Hendrix, who we believe to be a flat coated retriever, but of course who knows. He was a stray down in Louisiana and an adoption agency sent him up to us. He’s very sweet.

I also acquired two kittens, both with upper respiratory infections (oh yeah…) but they’re very sweet. They’re called Calcifer and Howl. I only have a photo of Howl, so I’ll try to snap some of Calfcifer today.

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