A few of my favorite things

At some point I just had to realize that I am a West Coast girl. I’ve lived in Wisconsin for nearly ten years now and when I came to the city that we live in I was pleasantly surprised. Most people have a variety of images that come to mind when they think of Wisconsin (corn, cheese, poorly attended outdoor festivals where first place prizes are given for baked goods) but our city really humbled me. It’s cultured, has great food, an amazing local scene (art, music, agriculture) and wonderful bike lanes. These reasons, along with our created community, have been the reason we stayed so long. But at some point the West called us back. I am grateful to be heading back to the ocean, the Sound, whale watching in the winter, lush islands, rainy winters, clams and oysters and green trees all year round. Yet I do have to remember  what I have loved while living in WI. Here are a few of my favorite things:

1. A vegetable growing season that lasts for 5 months

2. The first snow of the year (every snow after that makes me want to weep-but the first one is lovely)

3. Thursday night dinners- Dear friends, amazing food and now children everywhere.

4. Our house- She has been a dream that we’ve created and are passing on to another family.

5. Woodman’s- Yep, I just wrote that. Happiness really is seeing Woodman’s in your rear view mirror but you can’t beat the prices or the availablity of ethnic foods.

6. Vilas Zoo- A classy, free zoo. A prefect place to take children when they need to get out.

7. The Leesons and The Spransys- Our children have grown up together and saying good bye to these two families is going to be painful.

8. The Occonomowoc cottage- The words that come to mind are refreshment and ‘a place to be yourself’. One day we’d like to provide a home like this for a community of friends.

9. The bike path- I’ve learned the joy of riding instead of always driving. It’s turned me into a different person, literally, and I can’t totally explain all of the reasons or how it has.

10. The Capitol- Because of this landmark in our city we have a very strong activist vibe here. I love the energy and movement that it inspires. Being here has challenged some areas of passivity in my own life.

11. Atwood Ave summer block party- Just to hear local bands and see neighbors makes you feel a part of a community. Who doesn’t want that?

12. The Alchemy- The best beverages on tap and sweet potato chips in jalapeno sauce.

13. Olbrich Gardens- I love to sit and read in the green house during the cold winter months. The smell of tropical flowers reminds me of living in Hawaii. For a few hours I am able to escape the soul- crushing winter.

14. 70 Deg F in May- We may have hard winters and summers but Spring is lovely.

15. Annual Pumpkin Patch trip- More community traditions with friends. When October hits I know I’ll see the photos on Facebook of old friends enjoying a tradition and I will weep.

16. Swissconsin- Who knew you could buy imported wine and fondue in Wisconsin? Apparently the Swiss helped to settle this place.

17. Even Devil’s Lake- It’s never been very impressive to me but the trips I’ve taken, especially our last one, I found beauty and enjoyed every minute.

18. Our dear friends- No explanation necessary. Leaving them will be painful as well.

19. State Street- Lovely walking street with a lot of class and character.

20. Monty’s Blue Plate Diner- Our favorite spot for a world class burger. I always love restaurants where the dress code is body piercing and sleeves of tattoos.

21. Raw milk from $3-6 a gallon. I’m entering a world where it will be at least $12 a gallon. !@#$

22. The local movement (food, art, music)- Again, this is one area that I take deep in my heart and it’s because of living here that I’ve been challenged to think differently about where things come from and how I support small businesses, struggling artists and sustainable foods. Traveling the world gave me a global perspective but living in one place for 10 years gave me the local perspective, for certain.

23. Community gardens- I love to see food and flowers grow together and our gardens decorate the bike path along a huge stretch of land.

24. Atwood Community Centre- Here is where Oliver played with a friend during his friend’s day care hours, we ate various baked goods in the amazing cafe and Chloe took her first dance class. I think Community Centers are an amazing gift to a neighborhood.

25. Living in a college town- The vibe is electric and the energy is contagious. I wouldn’t live anywhere in WI but here! We will miss you, Madison! You are much loved

Other rites of passage, teasing on the playground

What is it about watching someone’s child teasing your child that makes one want to jump into the action, take advantage of being ‘bigger’ and rescue our kids from pain and disappointment? I know protecting our children is the main element to this response but maybe there’s more in there that brings us back to our own experiences with pain when we were young. It feels like we need to fight that injustice. I’m not really sure. All I know is when Matt and I were with the kids yesterday and three boys started taunting our son, it was really disheartening.

My son is super friendly and outgoing and has always felt comfortable approaching strangers and children he isn’t familiar with, asking them if they want to play. He really does make friends wherever he goes and he hasn’t reached that shift in life where one becomes insecure about their likability and how others view them. Yesterday we had a family day and took the kids out to a park to play. Three other boys showed up, mom still getting stuff out of the mini van somewhere. It didn’t take long for Oliver to approach them and say, “Hey, do you wanna play with me?” Matt and I always smile at this because it reaffirms to us that our kid is comfortable in his skin. He’ll have his adolescent years to become an awkward, lanky kid with a cracky voice and oily skin who tries to conceal his insecurities when dealing with how others are viewing him.

For some reason the boys didn’t give Oliver a chance and just said, “No kid, you’re boring. And you’re no hero, you’re a zero!” I’m not sure they even knew what it meant except that it was some sort of a taunt. They likely heard it on a cartoon or a show. But they kept saying it, even though his parents (us) were right there. Matt and I just looked at each other with that, “I know we can’t really jump in right now but how far do we let this go?” look. Oliver just came over by us and said, “Pappa, can YOU push me on this toy?” and that was that.

It seemed pretty painless for my son but it was gut wrenching for me. Maybe it’s because I know that this is only a small portion of how children actually treat each other and it seems to intensify when they get older; the taunts are more hurtful and I can’t really protect my children from most forms of pain. I hate it when they fall and experience physical pain but emotional pain is a totally different world! It’s a world I’m very familiar with as an awkward kid from a really messed up and poverty-riddled home life. I know very well how deep teasing runs into forming how you see yourself but I’m also aware of how crucial it is for parents not to transfer their pain and insecurities onto their own children. I’m sure we all know of parents (maybe we are those types parents) who instill a false sense of superiority in their kids because they don’t want them to experience rejection like they did and it’s a very dangerous path to walk with formative little people.

So we sat and watched and listened yesterday, wondering how our son would interpret what was happening to him. It’s similar to watching kids play with your child and they are doing the ‘run away from the loser’ game, this time your child is the ‘loser’ they are running away from. You can’t really jump in, but you sort of have to. Or do you? I have no answer for this. I just know when my kids are playing the run-away game from another child it is NOT ok and I for certain jump in. I can’t keep them from experiencing rejection but I can help them learn that inflicting it is unacceptable!

The best part of yesterday was indeed how Oliver interpreted and responded to what will go down in history as ‘the playground event’. When we were leaving we asked him what he thought of what they said to him. His response gave Matt and I the assurance that he’s going to be just fine. He said, “I don’t know why they were saying that to me. A zero is just a number. That doesn’t make sense”. Matt and I smiled and said, “Yes, you’re so right. What silly boys who think it’s mean to call someone a number. Great attitude Oliver”. And that was that!

Similar Post:

Rite of passage for girls (the battle of the body)

Great site

One of the few cantaloupe that actually grew last year

I found this site today and if you are wondering about the links between food, the quality of food and how it increases or decreases our overall health, then this is a great resource. I think I’ve come to believe that there is no ONE MIRACLE DIET that will cure all diseases (many cultures have traditional diets that differ from one culture to the next) but I’m very intrigued by the idea of getting back to how we use to do things before life become so amazingly complex. I think there is something profoundly real and healthy in traditional living, even though I’m super grateful for the internet!

This specific article is written by a woman who has suffered many degenerative diseases due to food allergies and her story may resonate with some of you. I thought I would throw it out to see if anyone has comments, suggestions or similar experiences with your own health or your children’s health. It resonated with me and I saw many parallels in my own story.  I have had issues with bad gut flora taking over my system that, at one point, I thought I would never take another mission trip to another country. I had chronic bone and joint pain making it difficult to walk or sleep at night, fatigue, memory loss and severe immune deficiency due to an unhealthy gut; I was sick ALL THE TIME with some sort of flu, cold or seasonal allergies. I’m pretty certain I also had food allergies but wasn’t aware of it. I still battle with sugar and it’s effects on me and I’m sad to say that my teeth need a revival if I am to carry them into my old age. Antibiotics may have been the culprit from the get go but there is a lot I have done to keep my health as high as I can with my diet and what I choose to eat. I’m aware of the food industry and how low the quality of our food has become so as I’ve been eating a more traditional diet I have seen improvements even in things like my children’s teeth. Oliver use to have a yellow/orange film over his poor teeth, like he wasn’t producing enamel, and once I changed his diet and gave him more raw diary his teeth turned white! Now I’m hoping it’s also working for my poor teeth. I’ve also seen him calm a bit more as I give him fat and protein to help his brain grow.

See, I’m planning to live until I’m 80 or so now that I truly believe old age is a gift and not a curse. Again, I’m not certain that there is one specific diet that will do this for all of us but I’m thrilled to see health in the form of personal maintenance and overall enjoyment of living making it’s comeback. Also, check out Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on Hulu.com! I’d like to keep my own teeth in my face as I age and I’d like my bones and muscles to remain strong, keeping me feisty and vivacious; one of those ‘old people’ with a Joie de vivre that makes you hope to live to be as old and enjoyable as they are. Yep, that’s what I want. I want to see great-grandchildren being born and to live through many changing seasons with my own kids and my lovely husband. Take my car and my license away, I’ll take the bus or bike! Put me in glasses and give me a short hair cut with a curly perm! Put me in polyester trousers and comfy walking shoes! Just let me keep my body and my ability to walk briskly around the lake or swim in the ocean. I’d like to live long and prosper! Now if I could just stop adoring fresh brewed coffee so much.

Tell me if you have any thoughts on this article. Positive or critical. I’m curious….


Previous Post: This Place Matters

This place matters!

Oliver helping

There is a home down the street from us that has been under renovation for a few years now and it’s coming along wonderfully. I wish I had before and after photos of how it looked then compared to now. Every year they scrape away at the exterior, paint one side of it or reside it with real wood. It’s been going on since we moved in four years ago and I love to see the slow progression of developing beauty. It parallels to what we’ve been doing in our home. It’s been slow-moving and a every year we do a bit more. We’re actually almost done with our goals that we set before us in order to sell it. I’ve been aware of how much we’ve tried to love this house and make her beautiful since she was so unloved and ugly before. Our neighbors tell us stories of her former treatment. Originally we thought we would just flip the house but we stayed and the long haul has taught us about the slow process of real change.

Everything that was done to this house before we owned it was very slap-dash; just get it covered with white paint or throw up a slab of wood panelling to hide a derelict wall. There was absolutely no craftsmanship or care put into ANYTHING and it’s always been very sad to me as we’ve been tearing down old things that were cheap and poorly done to put up something new.The house was even a rental for a while and you know how that can go…. just cover it with paint and call it good. Paint over light plates or splash primer on a wood floor. No big whoop! I’ve lived in many apartments over the years and have seen how rentals are ‘updated’. We found a joy in taking care of our home so that people feel safe when they come over for a meal and when someone buys our home they see that she has been well loved, not just maintained.

The other day I walked by that old house that someone has been fixing up and there was a sign in the window that said, “This place matters” and I smiled big. I couldn’t agree more. Our homes and how they are taken care of matter. I even found a picture book for the kids a few years back about a family that moves into ‘the hood’ and you see the transformation that happens over the years, perhaps even a few decades. Flowers in the garden, children being born, a community garden in the place of an alleyway.  It was a huge challenge to my ‘hurry up and get ‘er done’ personality. Sometimes beauty takes time to develop. This has truly been the case in our home. Having two kids inside while we work has always been the challenge in getting projects done, that and a husband who works full time. Nap time is short and it’s the only time to work if you don’t want to totally neglect your children. So our home has taken the past four years to make beautiful.

We have both leaned so much about fixing up a home. I can now mud, sand, cut and throw up tile, hang all sorts of bits and bobs and turn a waste land into a flourishing garden. The irony is now that she is where we want her, we’re selling her. My garden that I’ve dug up myself and turned from a rubbish bin, planting food and flowers for our family, it will belong to someone else.  I’ve literally pulled garbage in the form of plastics, toys, bolts, hygiene products and all sorts of goodies from the earth for the past four years and replaced them with seeds and compost that thrive and feed us. My colours and textures will bring rest and refreshment to another family. Children that are not mine will run and chase one another on these beautifully sanded and finished hard wood floors. And others will wake up every morning to a bright and naturally lit kitchen and dining room and they will sit with morning coffee or tea and flow refreshingly into the day. I’m choosing to enjoy these last months or weeks that we have left within these walls, allowing our home to love us back but when we leave I know I will cry. This place does indeed matter mainly because we have cared for her so much. Four years seems like a dot in the scheme of time but it’s what we’ve accomplished in these four years that has taught us so much. Beauty really does matter.

Thursday night dinners

salad from my garden

More food

One of many outdoor fires