Labor of love…

It’s almost here… June 20th is when the book comes out. I am the author for one of the chapters. I’d be lying if I said being a “published author” was a lifelong dream of mine. I actually hadn’t dreamed that BIG for my writing. Sure, there was a maybe or someday that danced through my head, but I honestly never thought I’d be good enough to be a published author. And then I had cancer and writing became a way for me to manage and share information. Every now and then, someone would throw a compliment my way. I’d dismiss it, because they were just being polite, right?

Then I went to a retreat and was opened up to a whole new realm I hadn’t experienced before. I met intuitive, magical and strong women. Women who lifted each other up and supported without judgement. People I wouldn’t have come in contact with during my regular life. Each retreat widened the circle…. several returned, new people came… our spiderweb of connectivity grew.

I can’t explain the feeling, other than to say I felt like my authentic self. I could share and listen and be lifted up. Intuition was celebrated and shared instead of hidden. I began to look at life differently. I still believe in God, but I’m also more connected to nature and aware of the signs from our loved ones and angels.

I’ve been pregnant and given birth twice. Because of infertility treatments, I knew I was pregnant when I was exactly 17 days along. 9 months of excitement and worry, puking and having swollen feet, insulin shots and bloodwork. Fifteen (first one) and seven (second) hours of labor. This book has been a much shorter version of a labor of love. I’ve felt like I was going to puke, I’ve worried and stressed, written and rewritten, and the day is almost here. My chapter is called “Journey to Joy” because there is a book in my heart already called Journey of Enough. I talk about two of the things that bring me joy and a little more about my back story. I have no idea how many copies I will sell, or how many the other authors will sell. I hope that collectively we will reach a bunch of readers. I’m excited to read the other chapters and to feel the book in my hands.

I’d love to sign a copy for you. $22 covers the book, tax and shipping. June 20th is our launch date (and right around graduation open house time so it will be a busy week.) My journey of enough has brought me to the journey to joy… and I can’t wait to share it with you! Peace be with you on your journey of enough.


The Wild Woman’s Book of Shadows

Pre-order your author signed copy. Tax and shipping included. Books will ship after June 20th. Allow 1-2 weeks for delivery.


You can’t skip the flour and the dishes…

I have always loved to bake. I make pies, cookies and breads for the farmers market. Pies are a favorite. There is something special about a homemade pie crust. The flakey, crispy, melt in your mouth pie crust brings back memories for many people. It brings me back to my mom’s kitchen in the 1911 farmhouse I grew up in. It makes me think of the red and white Betty Crocker cookbook (the crust recipe I always use). I remember her saying, “Save your fork,” after the meal… then you knew there would be dessert!

Aside from pumpkin (which HAS to be Festal), I make all of my fillings from scratch. It isn’t quick but I’ve gotten better at pie time management. Before a market, I’ll prep the filling mixes (the sugar, flour, cinnamon etc) so that it’s ready to mix in with the fruit when the crust is made. I’ll have my son help line some pizza pans with foil to reduce oven drips. I’ll make sure I have the cinnamon and sugar mixed up for the pie crust crispies.

There are some things about pie baking you just can’t skip. For mine, I need flour. I haven’t tried gluten free pie crust yet and I don’t have a flour free kitchen, so there is flour everywhere. It’s difficult to keep flour off the counter, the apron and even the floor. It’s a key ingredient to the crust. It can’t be skipped. Dishes are the other thing that comes with baking. Even though I put pies in disposable tins, I have bowls for the crusts, the special fork I use to mix it, the rolling pin, all of the measuring spoons and cups and even a small basting brush to make the top of the crust extra tasty. Dishes. Ugh. If ever I could hire help, it would be solely for the dishes. But they are necessary.

The mess is necessary. You can’t skip it. You can’t skip an ingredient and the dishes have to be done. Similar to life, you can’t skip the middle. You can’t skip over the messy parts or the clean up. You’ll get covered in flour and have a full dishwasher, but in the end, you’ll have a wonderful, delicious pie. (Ok yes, you could just buy a pie, but you get the idea). To me, baking is therapy. It’s soothing. I am creating something and sharing a skill. I’m baking JOY. I’m offering a connection – since most people share a pie (although I do not judge if you chose to keep one for yourself!)

I love seeing the people smile at the market when they buy a pie. They talk about bringing it to a friend for pie and ice cream, or a having a coffee snack. They don’t think about the mess behind it, they just get to enjoy the finished product. They have their own “flour and dishes” to deal with. We all do. Let people into your flour mess. Let them help with the dishes. And let them scoop up some ice cream when you’re done. We are meant to help each other in some way. We might as well enjoy some pie too.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I also wish for you to have flour messes and dishes so you can get to the pie part. Save your fork, the best is yet to come.

What sparks a memory…

The picture above is of “pie crust things.” Something delicious that never got a proper name. When my mom baked pies, she would cut off the outer edges, place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar & cinnamon. I loved the pies but I looked forward to this tasty treat just as much. It was also a good way to see if your crust was going to be good- kind of like a preview. I vividly remember talking with someone about the pie crust things and they looked at me like I was from Mars. I instantly realized this was not something everyone did. I clammed up, thinking my experience was wrong instead of just different. Most people throw that part away I guess? I can’t imagine.

There is something about these pie crust things that make me think about my childhood. I love the way the house smells when a pie is in the oven. I love the flaky tender pie crust, still warm on the cookie sheet. I remember my dad saying, “This is the best apple pie I’ve had all month” (or insert time frame since the last one.) It’s amazing to me how food can bring back a flood of emotions. Perhaps that’s why I struggle so much with my food relationship. There are certain things I don’t want to let go of. Some things that bring up strong memories:

  • BBBats candy reminds me of being “good” at the doctor or dentist and getting a treat.
  • Blue raspberry popsicles remind me of summer in general.
  • Chick-o-stick candy reminds me of the swimming pool concession stand and of my sister, since this was one of her favorites.
  • Kuchen makes me think of my mom’s side of the family and their great treats.
  • Ginger snaps remind me of my dad’s mom and the tiny cookies she would make at Christmas.
  • Duck with orange sauce reminds me of family birthday dinners at home. I don’t think we went out to eat for birthdays, but we could pick our meal at home.
  • Red velvet cake reminds me of my childhood friend whose mother would make it for her birthday every year.
  • Circle cinnamon crimp bread make me think of a treat from the grocery store.

Clearly, I don’t have this food relationship thing figured out yet. Also, there are some things that you think you love, only to find out it’s not the same. This happened recently with brats from our old grocery store. We remembered them being our favorite. We had them recently & we both agreed they were “ok.” Our memory of them was a higher standard than the real thing.

Perhaps it’s more of a harmony/balance type thing – small amounts that bring those comforting memories, without over-doing it. I’m not sure. If you’re on a journey of self acceptance, change and balance all in one, I’m there with you. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Oh, and if you’ve never tried the pie crust thing, give it a try. It’s a game changer!

I didn’t breathe…

This was me on Saturday at my niece’s wedding. It was 90 degrees in ND on a hot summer night. The gym (where the reception & dance were held) was air conditioned, but it just couldn’t keep up with having over 300 people, the humid weather and doors opening. The humidity isn’t the reason why I didn’t breathe. I didn’t breathe because I was running around, trying to make it all perfect, and I failed to fully take it all in. The day went by almost as fast as my own wedding and I didn’t stop and take a breath.

My oldest sister’s oldest daughter got married Saturday. My husband and I were asked to be a host couple, and I offered to bake cupcakes. My love language is “acts of service,” followed by “words of affirmation.” People who know me will totally understand. I like to “do” and to help. (If baking was a love language, that would be on the list too. We made around 400 cupcakes with homemade frosting.) I’m not sure what a typical host couple does at weddings, but my planning & control freak sides take over and I become the Energizer bunny. I helped with my nephew’s wedding a few years ago also. The reception was in the same place, so I was somewhat familiar. It’s an old school, no longer used as a school but as an antique shop and community center. The gym is beautiful and makes a great wedding reception venue. The town itself isn’t really even a town anymore. They don’t appear on the list of ND town census. There is literally one street. I think there are 2 or 3 houses.

Big dark thunderstorm clouds loomed on the horizon as we took some family pictures outside. The temperature dropped a few degrees, and it appeared as though we would get drenched, but the rains stayed away. The wedding was beautiful. My niece was stunning and her groom had the biggest smile… just as it should be. She had planned everything, had a budget, an itinerary, and a vision of how things would look. It all looked magical. Everyone seemed to have a good time. It was hot, but we had lots of bottled water for the guests. There were snacks and bars and hundreds of cupcakes.

“You should really sit down.” I’m pretty sure I heard that phrase 20 times that night. In my mind, a good event is one where things are tidy and there are extra paper towels and toilet paper and the garbages are taken care of. The snack table is refilled, the lemonade is cold, there is plenty of water and the tables are cleared of plates & cups and half eaten bars. That was my job, at least in my head. For as many times as someone told me to stop running around, my niece and her new husband said, “thank you.” A sincere, loving, heart felt appreciation for what was being done… so they could just enjoy their wedding.

One of my aunts sent me a note the next day. She said, “I watched you scan the room and take care of every detail.” I didn’t do this for recognition or praise. I did it as an act of service. A few years ago, after my brother-in-law’s farm accident, we didn’t know if he’d get to walk his daughter down the aisle… but he did. I also

did this for him and my sister, so they could also enjoy the night.

I did dance a few songs with my husband. (We can two step to almost anything.) I wish I would have stopped a little more though, just to breathe deep. I should have taken it all in. I should have absorbed that love and joy and newness of marriage.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you stop and take a breath amidst the chaos. May you look for the good and focus on the blessings. The more you focus on the blessings, the more abundant they become. They sure were abundant for these newlyweds. Wishing them many years of wedded bliss. I’d do it all again, but next time, I’ll breathe more.

Thanks & giving…

This past Thursday, we spent Thanksgiving with extended family & friends. 2 large meals and a whole table of pies and desserts made for some stuffed guests, not just stuffed turkey. Friday morning at 3:30am, our alarm rang. We threw some clothes on & hopped in the car. This year, our boys came with us for Black Friday shopping. Their eyes were wide yet sleepy while hundreds of people streamed into Fleet Farm on a chilly North Dakota morning. Some were just there for the free stuffed sloth. We made a couple more stops and didn’t have to wait in line too long. The reward? Some kid-approved Christmas gifts & Sandy’s donuts (one of the best donut shops around). We have lots to give thanks for.

We stayed in West Fargo with our friends. Our plans were to do our Christmas baking on Saturday. Since Black Friday shopping went smoothly, we started baking a few things early. Our annual baking day turned into baking days – plural. Most of our recipes were doubled or x6! A neighbor & her mom came over to join in the fun. From Friday afternoon through Saturday at 9pm, we went through more than 25lbs of sugar and flour, over 120 eggs. My husband packaged all of the treats into 3 separate tables of containers. Her husband did dishes for hours. We mixed, measured, scooped, baked, dipped and rolled until we smelled like sugar. Our aprons, the counters and the floors were covered in sugar & flour. Good thing my friend loves to sweep! Many of these goodies will be gifts. Some will be for piano open houses, some for bus drivers, teachers, neighbors and co-workers. Family gatherings and pot-luck events and a Relay for Life fundraiser will all benefit from our baking day. Our joy is in giving it away! (Of course some will be snacks at home too)

You know the saying that anything “baked with love” tastes better? I think that’s why people love our treats. They aren’t anything strange or necessarily special- but they are baked with love. While Christmas music plays in the background, we bake our treats and visit. There may have been a glass or two of wine included, but not too much – we need to make sure the measurements are accurate! We can’t exactly remember when it started, but it’s been about 9-10 yrs that we have baked together. I think we only missed the year we moved. Each year, one of us packs up half the kitchen and comes with recipes and “raw materials” to bake several dozen treats. I think we made 25 different kinds of treats this year, but we’ve been told to scale back next year, our our packaging department might protest.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope they involve both thanks AND giving. Peace be with you on your journey of enough & may you enjoy a holiday treat or spend some time laughing and visiting with those you love.

Thousands to share…

When my friend and I get together, it’s quite the opposite of the “5 loaves and 3 fishes” story. We always over-do food. Not sure why but we both do, so when we are together, we could easily add a few more people and still have plenty. For many years, we have gotten together to do our Christmas baking. We aren’t even sure how it started. Likely it was while we were on a walk one time when we were still neighbors. I’m guessing we got to talking about holiday baking & thought that since we both liked to bake, it would be a great way to do it together. We would try to get together once a month for a group meal. Maybe we talked about it then. Not sure. It all started with her bringing over her baking supplies and using our double oven to make the baking go faster. Of course there were lists involved (who made which one and how much). We each picked our favorites to make. Eventually we found some new ones and got rid of some others.

We made a full day of it each year. Our husbands were in charge of dishes, packaging & the babies. Now our kids are much older and we don’t need the pack & play or diaper bags. The year I was diagnosed with cancer, we still baked. We made an extra batch of everything & took it to a neighbor who was also battling cancer. I was still numb from my diagnosis- still not sure what path my treatment would take. Baking has always been like therapy to me. Not sure why, I just love it. Last year we didn’t do baking day. We had moved into a rental and things were crazy. Between the two of us, we didn’t have a good weekend to do it and my double oven was gone. When we were cleaning out our old house, I cried when I saw sprinkles under the stove – so many memories of baking in that house.

So, this year, we took baking day “on the road.” Her friend wanted to join too, so this time, I packed up 1/2 of my kitchen and hauled it to West Fargo. We spent 4 hrs the night before having some wine & just doing “a few things.” Sunday was Game Day! It was an 8am start, and when we left at 5, they were still doing their cut out cookies. After seeing the pictures on Facebook, several people asked if we were doing a bake sale. It’s not why we made that much, but I am taking some of mine to a bake sale at work. We do a fundraiser for Relay for Life. Usually, we give most of it away. We like to eat some of course, but we mainly just love to share it. Several years, we have packed up a bunch to take to the homeless shelter. We give it to teachers and neighbors & co-workers. The fun is in the laughs that we have while we do it. It’s an all-day, 12-14 hr marathon. Our feet are sore, but our freezers are full and we have plenty to share. Her husband likes to keep track of numbers. Final count was 3500 treats, aside from our separate cut outs and the puff corn & reindeer chow.

I ended up sick but it wasn’t from eating too many sweets. Just a bug. Or God’s way of slowing me down. Or maybe I’m getting too old for this. Regardless, the treats were all divided into 3 groups by our packaging department & will be shared throughout December.

Whatever your talent, be sure to share it. This time of year is a great time to reach out to a neighbor or volunteer somewhere. May your journey of enough contain enough sugar for your cookies, enough music for you to sing along and enough laughter to make the time fly. I’m thankful to have had all of that and more yesterday.

The best kind of contagious…

I decided to give you a break from my cancer diagnosis anniversary to let you know about a great book. I’ve followed Nicole Phillips’ column for a while. She writes a weekly column for the Forum newspaper about kindness & recently released a book. “100 short stories to remind you God is good and so are most people.” I bought 4 copies. Guess what 3 people are getting for Christmas? (Aside from 3M products) The book is a compilation of her columns, all good reminders that it doesn’t necessarily take lots of money or time to spread kindness, sometimes you just need to be nice.

The book gives you lots of examples of how something small can mean a lot to someone else. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in ourselves to think of others. I’m guilty too. We rush about and don’t take the time to listen to others, to smile at the cashier, to ask the server how her day was or to look people in the eyes. If nothing else, maybe it will make you more aware of your fellow humans.

Several years ago, when Dallas was small, we visited family & went to church in Oakes, Nd. They had “quiet bags” for the kids… a bag with some distractions for them. A stuffed toy, coloring pages and crayons, a car, a book etc. Both Cam and I thought this would be a great addition to our own church. The nursery in our hometown church wasn’t “sound proof” and we felt self conscious of our loud toddler. With our tax refund money, we bought cloth bags, found clearance stuffed bunnies, used coupons for etch-a-sketches and found Bible coloring books at the dollar store. I painted on each bag and we filled them up. Over the years, someone brought in 2 stands to put them on and our boys have helped us fill and re-organize the bags. If it makes some parents with little kids feel more welcome and more willing to stay for church with their kids, then that’s great. It was our way of spreading kindness.

There are many simpler examples though… pay it forward in the drive though… help someone who is short on money at the grocery store…visit a nursing home… find out the needs at the local shelter. The ideas are endless.

Each year, for the past several years, my best friend Jessie and our families do a giant baking day. It’s a 12-14 HR marathon day of cookies, candies, bars and snacks. It started when she lived two houses down from us. It seemed like a good idea to use our double oven and kitchen island. Over the years, we streamlined our process and added cooling tables in the garage too. The husbands were in charge of dishes and packaging up the finished product. We each brought our favorite recipes and then doubled or tripled it. We both like to bake, love the chance to visit, and like to share the Christmas goodies. The majority of our treats go to family gatherings, but also to school teachers, mail carriers, bus drivers, co workers and homeless shelters. I know I wrote about this recently, but for us it was a really great tradition… one that we are both missing this year. It’s also one that for us was an easy way to spread kindness.

As we navigate some new paths on our journey, we look towards the opportunity to spread kindness in our new location. I hope you will order Nicole’s book and it will spark some ideas for you too. And, when you are done reading it, do what I did – share it with someone. I gave mine to my new co-worker (with a note thanking her for making me feel so welcome). Peace be with you on your journey of enough… may you have enough  this holiday season to be able to share with others!

What if you could….

I celebrated a birthday this week. In the past, I didn’t think they were a big deal, but events over the past two years have made me realize that every birthday is special. Too often we take each day for granted. I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to plan ahead. It’s been part of my job for as long as I can remember and a part of my personal life too. It’s December 1st, but I’m planning for the weekend, for Christmas, for New Years, for next summer. I plan as if it were guaranteed to me – as if living to 95 is how it’s all going to work out. But ask someone who has lost someone – most times they probably weren’t expecting the loss. They too assumed they’d have more time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel like I was going to die when I had cancer. Actually the sudden death of others is what hit me harder. Both things made me appreciate life more. The saying “life is too short” really made sense and that’s part of what prompted our move.

For my birthday, my sister in California sent me a present & house warming gift. The towels are pictured above. “Bake the world a better place.” What if you could? What if just baking could bring joy and peace and make the world a better place?  While it seems like an unattainable goal, when you stop to think about it, it’s true – you can.

I’ve always loved to bake. My mom taught me how. She was great with making homemade cookies, bars, cakes and pies. We frequently had dessert at meals. While she will tell you that she’s “lost the touch,” her gingersnap cookies never last long & her peanut butter Rice Krispie bars are often requested. To me, baking does make the world a better place. It’s one of the things I do when I’m stressed out because it makes me happy. I’d rather offer to bake something for an event than do anything else. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve had a marathon baking day the last several years … joy. We both (me and my friend who does “baking day” with me) give away most of our baking. Teachers, co-workers, church or neighbors – many people other than just family benefit from our plethora of holiday goodies. We’ve taken several dozen to the homeless shelter every year too. My boys help me bring it in. They get to see the big smiles on the faces of those who wouldn’t have homemade treats. Baking the world a better place, one cookie at a time. Perhaps that will be my tag line some day. Now if I could just make them healthier, I’d have it made!

So, enjoy your birthdays, celebrate with loved ones and maybe even bake something this holiday season. (It can be from a mix or even from the freezer, nobody will know) Whatever you make, share it with someone. You could be making their day. Peace be with you on your journey of enough & stop to smell the cookies.