Archive | Random thoughts RSS feed for this section

Pie Spiked Maple Cakes

15 Nov

IMG_4659

The Privilege of Helping

My name is Emily and I am a chronic helper.  Anyone who has been the recipient of my gestures can attest – I am well intentioned, but I am an eager, enthusiastic helper who though genuine, can run the risk of over-helping.  Back in grade school, it was a minor holiday for me when the teacher would introduce a new student.  My mind would start racing with all the things I could help with and I’d make a beeline for them as soon as they were released from the teacher’s protective side.  I hadn’t known them 30 seconds before I had dreams of showing them around the playground and making friendship bracelets at sleepovers.  My adult self finds that same excitement every time I see a meet-and-greet put on my calendar at work for a new employee.  I mean, you never know when you’ll find your next friend!

When you are a helper by nature, it’s important to stay grounded in what helping really is; a privilege.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Apple Pie Pop Tarts

9 Oct

IMG_4520

The Kind of Eyes

My son stopped me the other day and asked me why my eyes didn’t look happy.  It was a moment where I was caught in the middle of kid homework, work email, neighbor kids in the backyard fighting over the football, and no ideas of what to make for dinner. My son was standing at my side smiling up at me, and I didn’t notice.  I faked the attention and he caught me.  I was so disappointed in myself that I had become so wrapped up in the stress of the moment, I had lost the ability to genuinely return his smile. I stopped, put on my happy eyes, knelt down and hugged him.  Ever since that day, I’ve been thinking about eyes.  Weird, I know.  Like my son, I also notice eyes and I can still see the eyes of people who have had some significance in my life.  I see them so vividly and this small incident with my son made me more aware of how eyes are so indicative of our true selves. Continue reading

Don’t Put Their Light Out

13 Sep

photo-34

Photo credit: Trey Sieger, awesome photographer, awesome neighbor

Don’t put their light out. That’s all I keep thinking. It’s on repeat – no, it’s a permanent neon sign – in my mind as I hold my breath every time I open the school backpack or respond to another email from a concerned teacher.

This wasn’t how school was supposed to go. I was supposed to have kids who went merrily on their way each morning, dutifully paying attention to the teacher, following directions and leading a remarkably average K-12 life.  I thought I would be on the sidelines helping with homework and giving them moral support when they struggled with math or studied for a test.

But instead, I’m at the table with the 3rd grade teacher not three weeks into school nodding my head as I find out that this is not the year.  This is not the fresh start I was hoping for.  This is not the year that he magically grows up and focuses on his math page instead of staring out the window at the kids on the playground.  This is not the year that he stays in his seat and refrains from day dreaming, finally learning to complete his work with full sentences and proper spelling.

Later, I open an email to see that it is from the other one’s 1st grade teacher telling me that this IS the year.  This year he can’t stop talking.  This year is not off to a good start and he is too social and missing directions.  He dances in line, he chats with his friends, he doesn’t know how to whisper.  He. Doesn’t. Stop.  Two behavior charts, six emails and one phone call later, we’re now having a conference next week.

The conferences, the emails, the phone calls all end the same way; looking to me for answers of how to make it stop.  My husband and I agree that it’s time to talk to a professional.  But he would have done it yesterday and I am frozen with fear.  Fear that I will make the wrong choice.  Fear that I will open up an opportunity for someone to put a label on them.  Fear that if you look for a problem, you will find one.  Fear that there really is a problem and they are receiving consequences for something they can’t control.

What do you do when the traits you love most about your children are causing them to struggle in school?  When the things that are inherent to their little big personalities are not working in a classroom environment?  My job as a mother is to protect the light that is at the center of their being.  To never let it go out despite influences and obstacles that life will send their way.  I adore my 3rd grade worldly dreamer and my 1st grade dancing social butterfly, but I also know that school cannot go on like this.

I am nervous and I’m uninformed.  I’m scared to death that the messages they are hearing about their performance as a student are translating to their feelings about their self-worth and slowly extinguishing their light.

But I do know one thing.  This is the year.  This is the year that we learn how to fix this problem and can only pray that we don’t put their light out while we’re at it.

—————————-

IMG_3559 copy

Nothing better than baking your way through a problem!  I made these mini apple pies and forgot how amazing they are. Fall is upon us and these are definitely worth your time.  I realize that mini pies can seem daunting, but you can do a lot the day before like making the dough, cutting the circles and even making the filling.  Check out the original recipe I posted a while back:

Mini Apple Pies

And if you are still feeling like this is just too much to attempt, go buy some pie crust and just make the filling.  People will still think they are amazing!

Strawberry Muffin Tin Pies

4 Aug

The Wallpaper Factor

I saw an article recently about a woman who wore a hidden camera to show how many times she received harassment from men in a day.  The article brought back a memory of some advice I received from an elderly woman not too long ago.

Before I go any further, let me be the first to acknowledge that there is an entire spectrum of uninvited harassment that women receive from a basic hello to lewd comments and gestures.  And there is also an entire spectrum of feelings that women exhibit in response to these from indifference to discomfort and many times fear.  AND, since I am putting out all the necessary qualifications I need to in order to go on about my random thoughts, let me also acknowledge that cat calling and harassment can happen to anyone from anyone regardless of gender.  There.

Anyways… I’m not gonna lie, I don’t mind the basic, non-threatening holler or comment from random strangers.  I find them to be a mini-self esteem boost and actually appreciate someone taking notice.  I realize that the impetus of the comments has absolutely nothing to do with me.  They are just attention seeking behaviors that would be thrown at any woman standing on the sidewalk at that moment.  But since said man took the liberty to extend his holler, glance or compliment, I will take the liberty to interpret it how I want to and decide that yes, I am awesome and I do look hot today.

Several months ago, I was walking to a restaurant with an elderly woman who I admire very much.  She’s a class act and has been at the forefront of some of the major arts and social movements in Cleveland. In 1961,  she was the first woman to walk through the front doors of the oldest social club in Cleveland (est. 1872) that until then had been  exclusively men.  On that walk to the restaurant, I was the recipient of a very loud and animated compliment from a man passing by.  I mentioned to this woman that I was always conflicted on how to respond in these moments.  She stopped walking, looked straight at me and said, “You say thank you.” Continue reading

Peach Sour Cherry Pie (in a jar!)

29 Jun

photo-32

I don’t regard myself as an entertainer.  I lack the skill or the energy to plan parties with thematic decor, parchment wrapped mini sandwiches, and coordinating signs on chalk boards.  In fact, I get very overwhelmed when I see blog posts or magazine articles telling me how easy it is to create the perfect summer gathering.  I’m drawn to them.  Oh, I am.  They entice me with pictures of outdoor rugs, strings of lanterns and pretty jugs of water with various vegetables or fruit in them.  I have party envy for those who seem to effortlessly create these picture perfect experiences.

But I don’t want that necessarily.  I want people.  Skip the details and give me people – lots of people.  People from different places in my life who can intersect and meet each other.  People who are not like me, who have different jobs, interesting hobbies.  People who will allow me the honor of hosting them and graciously accept our invitation to come and be home.  I don’t entertain – I gather.  I bring together my life of people and fill my home with their voices, their laughter, their families.  Friends are fed and children are adored while having backyard adventures and making messes that sometimes leave behind a memory of them in a stain on the rug or a fingerprint on the wall.  I love that.

A house turns into a home when you USE it.  Fill it to the brim, put the kitchen on overdrive, drag out the extra chairs, bang on the piano, play in the yard, toast to good friends and turn up the music.

After a big gathering, I love to wake up early and sneak downstairs to an empty house.  I sit in the dining room, pairing my coffee with left over dessert, and think of how just hours ago the place was plastered with cups, dishes and remnants of the dinner that fed our friends.  There’s an energy in the room, and I swear that I hear sounds ringing because that’s what happens when a house turns into a home.  Voices stick to the wall, laughter floats into the ceiling and friends are no longer guests, they are family. Continue reading

Apple Raspberry Rhubarb Pie

11 May

IMG_3161

From This Mom To Her Village:

Mother’s Day feels like a very linear holiday for a role that is so dynamic.  I celebrate my mom, my kids celebrate me, and so on.  We go to brunch and plant flowers in a domino effect of celebration and admiration for our respective mothers and mothers’ mothers.  To me, Mother’s Day is less about an individual called a “mother” and more about the act of “mothering.”  The verb is more dynamic and to me, captures what raising children and frankly, raising each other, is all about.  For one to be a mother, you need a community of mothering that surrounds you.  This community reinforces the values you are imparting to your children and slowly weaves a world outside of your nuclear family for them to venture out into.

I know I’m THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (see!), but I didn’t get that way overnight and not without a lot, and I mean A LOT, of help.  There is an entire village around me that has helped mold me into the mother my kids perceive me to be. On Mother’s Day, this mother needs to thank her village for allowing her to be the mother she is trying to be. Continue reading

The Unexpected Side of Pie

28 Jan

DSCN9556

And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after.  The end.

That’s is exactly how I expected this blog to go.  It was going to be about my year of pie, how I learned to make it and offer tips and tricks for others aspiring to become competent pie makers.

What I didn’t expect was my public confession that the blog was disguising a broken heart over a fourth miscarriage that exhausted my mind and extinguished my dreams of a third child. I didn’t expect that my blog would become an occasional outlet to express my thoughts about fertility and loss and that strangers would find me and leave comments or messages of support and gratitude for providing a positive, honest outlook on a very delicate topic.  The unexpected side of pie was that it provided healing not just for me, but countless others.

What I didn’t expect was that a wonderful woman from Sugarland Texas would send me the cookbook she made with her mother, entitled none other than Pie Eyed.  That a short email friendship with a fellow baking enthusiast would result in a gift that is so special and dear to me.  The unexpected side of pie was that it allowed two strangers in two different states the opportunity to bake the same recipes and share with each other a piece of their lives.

What I didn’t expect was that I would chat with a man in California about his lemon trees, that people from 61 different countries would read my blog, that more than 15,000 visits would be logged (14,000 of which I’m certain are my mother) and that I would reconnect with childhood teachers and friends.  I didn’t anticipate that pie would evolve into an offering of gratitude and create a bridge for me to cross into the lives of people such as Ednia Eason, homeless families and even the oil change guy. The unexpected side of pie was that it gave me a portal to the world from my small town Cleveland kitchen.

That’s exactly how I did NOT expect this blog to go.

And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after knowing that the unexpected side of pie is in the story that unfolds after it comes out of the oven.  The end.

Continue reading

Pie it Forward: New Creation Farm

24 Nov

photo(5)

My husband and I had our chicken epiphany about 5 or 6 years ago.  The epiphany was the moment we tasted chicken that had been raised humanely, free range and was as local as we could get.  The eggs were a richer color and there was just no comparison to the taste of the meat.  From then on, we continued to go to the local market and purchase meat and eggs from the family whose farm was called New Creation Farm.  We loved our trips to the market, but we didn’t take the time to really acquaint ourselves with the farm.  I’m embarrassed to say that it was more of a novelty at the time – a way for us to feel good about our suburban selves when we opened the fridge and had scrambled local eggs for breakfast.  It wasn’t until we moved closer to New Creation Farm and took weekend trips to shop that we began to understand that there was so much more to this family than just the chicken (and pigs and sheep and cows).

photo(7)

Farm store

photo(6)

Julia manages the farm store

The essence of Pie it Forward is reaching out to people who have touched my life by offering a small extension of gratitude.  My initial gratitude towards this family was of course, the food.  We’ve been eating their food for years now and I am certainly grateful for the time and effort that goes into the amazing products.  But as I was making pie and thinking about why I was so grateful, it dawned on me that my gratitude had less to do with the food and much more to do with the mission behind the farm and the family.

Continue reading

Kid Cliffhanger

14 Aug

I have a kid cliffhanger.  Kind of like a kid hangover…but different.

My fourth miscarriage has felt markedly different from the others.  It has left me dangling off the edge of a cliff and feeling like I’m in a choose your own adventure story, not knowing what the ending is going to be.

A friend recently said that she sees me and my husband having another child.  When I broke it to her that he’s good and fixed, she asked if I regretted making such a swift decision to end our fertility future right after our last miscarriage.  I told her the honest truth – that fourth miscarriage was the best thing that could have happened to me and helped me create the change I desperately needed in my life.  But I went on to explain that, there is something that is still not resolved from that time two years ago.  I’m experiencing a kid cliffhanger.

My husband and I spent the better part of 2010 in endless conversations about if we wanted a third child or not.  We spun the conversation every way possible.  Was there someone missing from the dinner table?  What does Christmas look like 15 years from now?  How many grandchildren do we want?  Can we bank our future on just two boys or should we diversify the pool for success? What if one kid dies tragically and the other doesn’t have other siblings to fall back on?  I mean, we were getting REAL.  After nearly a year we decided with complete certainty that we did, in fact, have room in our hearts for another child.  Shortly after, we welcomed the positive pregnancy test and embraced the good news that a new baby was on the way.

Six weeks later we received the all too familiar bad news that the pregnancy was not looking good.  The doctor suggested I wait a week to see if things improved, but I knew deep down how it was going to end.  I had to go to St. Louis for work that week and ended up spending the time alone having a miscarriage and flushing our dreams of a third child away in a hotel bathroom.

The days and weeks following were a complete shock to me.  The emotions did not feel the same as my first three miscarriages.  Instead of the soul-crushing hopelessness that each previous loss had handed out, I felt a strange sense of relief after the initial sadness passed.  My coping mechanism was to shake everything up.  My husband marched straight to the urologist for a vasectomy.  Then I got a new job which gave me a totally new scene and a fresh cast of characters.  I started running again and I lost the weight I’d been trying to lose since my last baby.  Things were looking up.  I needed this change and the miscarriage helped me realize that.

It’s been exactly two years since that miscarriage.  So much has changed but the one thing that has remained constant is this unexplainable incomplete feeling.  It’s like my biological clock is on snooze, wondering when the alarm is going to go off again.  What men don’t understand about women who want children is that we can physically feel these fertility urges and desires.  It’s like there’s a sixth sense that lives inside of us and connects us to this energy for creating life.  I started creating life four times over and it was taken away before it could be realized in this world.  What does one do with that energy, that desire, that love for what could have been?  Create more life?  Channel that energy to enhance the lives of others?  Adopt?  The universe has been filled with my promises to have a third child, to have a family of five, to love and grow three children who will make this world a better place.  These wishes from two years ago are swirling out there and I’m struggling to fill in the blanks.

My friend asked me what I’m going to do.

I told her that she’ll have to wait and see…it’s a cliffhanger.

 

Peach Pie

14 Jul


DSCN9287

Peaches and dreams. That about sums up my experience making this pie. What was intended to be a simple summer pie ended up being a catalyst for summoning some of the best summer memories. As I was preparing my peaches, my mind wandered to the summer I spent working at a local road side fruit stand.

Pa’s Produce was located under a big tent across from a busy gas station at the edge of my small town. I spent that summer learning how to pick the ripest honeydew, stacking watermelons, and unloading boxes upon boxes of sweet corn. When it was time for southern peaches, the owner would hop in her big white pick-up truck and drive through the night to Georgia to pick up cases of peaches. We’d report to the tent and help her unload while word spread that the peaches had arrived. This was the height of the summer – those peaches were amazing. I’d stand at the table, opening the white cases branded with a big Georgia peach, taking each one out by hand so as not to cause any bruising. The smell was intoxicating and the taste was unlike any peach I have had since. Continue reading