our messy table

Month: September, 2014

defeat, and tomato soup

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A few nights ago, I was digging through a large box stored away upstairs. This box is large enough to hold all the parts of a twin bed frame, but for the last 4 years, has kept what is left of my college art work.

I was looking for old prints to show a student in my class the following day. And during my search, deep in the bottom of the box, I found old pictures.

My husband doesn’t really like when I look at old pictures. Probably because of how they make me feel. Something about looking into the face – the beaming eyes of a young girl who used to think she had a lot of control over her life and where it was going – makes me feel a bit sad.

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That night, we had just put my son to bed. As soon as I closed his bedroom door I allowed all the bad feelings of the day to flood over me. And my husband was right. It was not a good idea for me to look at those pictures. The pictures of the girl in a cross country uniform standing so fittingly within a group. Her face flushed and triumphant after finishing a race.

Of the girl swinging from monkey bars when she should have been studying for finals. Her ponytail a wavy, yellow mess. Her eyes closed.

That night, after a particularly bad day, it seemed like no matter how hard I tried or hoped, how thin I stretched my abilities, I was not very good at anything. Not a great teacher. Not a great mom. Not a great friend or spouse, housekeeper or artist. And all I wanted to do was isolate myself from everyone. To cement my walls, guarding my vulnerabilities. Keeping me safe from this feeling of defeat. Clasping the old pictures to my chest.

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Yet time, as always, is a funny thing. A frustrating and perfect thing. Because it heals. It grants experience. Wisdom. Perspective.

But it makes us wait.

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And today. Days after that night of low, bad feelings, I am writing about how hope comes in unexpected forms. How, the next day, I saw a student reach out to another in complete, unexpected kindness. How another student, through trial and tribulation, thanked me for helping him complete a project he was proud of.

How my 21-month-old son woke me up this morning by kissing me on the lips… over and over again.

How people really do need each other. For encouragement. For understanding. For direction. For love.

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I often envision myself tightly surrounded by layers and layers of brick, holding old pictures, wishing to be that elusive girl again.

But through the serendipitous roles I have fallen into, as a mother, a spouse, a sister, daughter, and very recently a teacher… through time and perseverance, personal defeat and faint glimmers of hope, the bricks don’t seem as necessary. The walls feel less like a heaven and more like a cage. Something to slowly, but surely, break free from.

. . .

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As fall weather makes its debut, our garden churns out the last of its tomatoes. We are relishing every last one.

Roasted Garden Tomato Soup

Yield 4 servings

  • 3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap garlic cloves in a tight foil packet. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Add foil packet of garlic to tray. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Unwrap garlic packet and peel cloves. Transfer cloves, tomatoes and any accumulated juices to a blender or food processor and pulse machine on and off until tomatoes are a chunky puree. Transfer tomatoes to medium pot and add thyme, grated lemon zest and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with toasted corn tortillas (as we often do) or toasted sourdough bread. We usually top this soup with sharp cheddar.

blueberry sauce

I am watching “Spirit” (you know, the horse movie) with my son and husband on this cool, rainy Sunday night. We picked the movie up from the library yesterday, a free rental. I am quite sure we won’t see “Frozen” until it becomes a free rental. Its how we role.

Last night, I put my son to bed after reading a large stack of books and cuddling under two blankets. His soft, white hair pressed against my neck. His eyes were heavy. We had just wrapped up the full day all to ourselves. We ate yogurt and banana cookies. We let our rabbit out his cage and followed him frantically around the yard. We made a cheesecake. For dinner, we cooked potatoes, carrots and onions warped in foil over a fire.

It’s not very interesting to read about all the good things happening in other people’s lives. And any attempt at vindicating how grateful I am for my family, for my life up to this point would cheapen it. So I won’t try.

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When the movie gets scary or sad, my son takes his two blankets and runs over to me, where I sit in this chair typing. He crawls into my lap and looks away, waiting for the sad part to be over. When the horse gets taken from his family. When he gets taken from his friend.

When it’s over, my son runs back to his spot on the couch. A blanket in each hand.

With these two people in my life, my son and my husband, my life has expanded. Far beyond the parameters I had dreamed for myself. I am a mother, a spouse. Comfort. Stability. A teacher. A learner. And they are my whole heart.

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Blueberry Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 Tablespoon orange or lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon honey of maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to slowly bubble and boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm or at room temperature over pancakes, crepes, yogurt, or anything, really. Let cool and store in airtight container in the refridgerator  for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 6 months.