Blueberry Muffins for Superior Mothers

Yesterday I received the preschool snack schedule and I was PSYCHED.  Because on Thursday, I get to bring in class snack.  Now, this may not seem exciting, but I have been looking forward to providing school snack since Byron was born.  Because I will be *That Mom*.  The mom that brings in healthy, homemade baked goods to be gleefully devoured by the hoards of children as I look on smugly and lovingly.

I would enter the classroom with a hand-turned wooden bowl, overflowing with fresh blueberry muffins, wrapped in an upcycled silk sari.  I would smooth my long, waving hair as I demurred “Oh, this?  My goodness, It’s my PLEASURE!  ANYTHING for the children.”.

THIS. IS. MY. TIME.

Now, I envisioned whole grain muffins sweetened exclusively with honey and dates, dotted with pumpkin seeds, sprinkled with flax meal and hemp.  A perfect, whole, nourishing snack for the little cherubs to savor before their free-play outside…

But these are the muffins I made.

They’re basically cake batter and blueberries.

Whatever…They’re good enough.

I’m good enough.  Right?  Right.

 

Blueberry Muffins for Superior Mothers

1 cup (2 sticks) softened salted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup maple syrup

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups All Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Cup Whole Milk

3 cups blueberries

Cream butter and sugar and maple syrup together while yelling at 3 year old to stop eating fistfuls of butter.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Lift crying baby from the floor and drop large dollop of batter on your dress.  You look beautiful.

Add in flour, baking powder and salt all at once and realize that the bowl is too small.  Make a mess because you really don’t even care anymore.  Add milk.  Stir as little as possible to bring mixture together.  Add blueberries.  Good.  You’re doing a great job.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the same size spoonfuls, just get this over with already.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the tops brown slightly and a knife stabbed into the center comes out clean.

Cool.  Feed to children.  They like it.  You did great.  It’s going to be ok.

Resilience and the Creative Process

 

We, as human beings, are elastic. Our bodies stretch and change over moments and years.  We grow to accommodate fat, babies, tumors, muscle, liquid.  We change shape and size from our waking moments, over days and years, and through a lifetime.  We stretch and move to feel free, to feel healthy, to feel strong, to feel.  Our minds, our brains, are ever changing clusters of synaptic connection.  Firing, rewiring, dying with every thought that drifts through.  We are plastic and pliable, moldable in our physical presence, our feelings, and our thoughts.  We are incredible bendable beings.

Trauma affects us all differently.  While we may all may bare witness to the same unspeakable event, we will process our experience in our own unique ways.  We handle ourselves differently.  We make different choices.  Our brains create thoughts and sensations unlike any other person’s.  There are aspects of this that we can control and others that we cannot.

The expressive arts have been used by humans since the beginning our existence as means of communication and expression.  Throughout history, across cultures, we have used art, music, movement, writing and photography to show the human experience through varied lenses and platforms.  Through the arts we explore creativity, emotion, and thought in ways words may not be able to express.  As expressive arts therapists, we use these mediums as means of connection and communication between ourselves and our clients and our worlds.

As a Music Therapist and Mental Health Counselor, I have devoted my career to supporting people through their life experiences.  Through trauma and transition.  We work together with music and expression to create healing and change.  The day that Tim had his heart attack, my skills became not applicable to my clients, but to myself and my children.


 

The night that Tim had his heart attack, he died for the first time.  I held him as his eyes rolled back, his lips turned blue, his breathing ceased.  When I pulled him to the floor I heard my own breath rattling out of his lungs as I blew life into his mouth and pumped his still chest.  With time, work, and a team of first responders, his body came back to life.  I sat and watched from across the room, held in the arms of my best friend.

The week that followed was a surreal and seemingly endless balance between the worlds of the living and the dead.  Tim was in the care of some of the world’s best doctors.  All we could do was wait.

So I waited.

And I found ways to channel my confusing and painful experience in the process.

Dear friends brought me colored pencils and coloring books.  I spent hours creating colorful little worlds on neat and orderly paper pages as my beloved precariously clung to “life”.  I took scalding hot showers and listened to The Bahama’s “Lost in the Light” on repeat because it made me feel something in the numbness and haze.

When Tim finished his transition to the stars, when he died and I was left to continue our journey alone, I used my creativity to propel me forward.

I returned to the pottery studio after over a year away.  I began journaling every night.  I cooked and baked daily.  I filled our room with flower arrangements cut from my parent’s gardens.   I listened to new music obsessively.  I took photographs.  I sang in my car.  I found live shows and danced with my entire being.  I started this blog.

My son has followed me in this journey and creates art for his Papa.  At three, he paints, and draws, and glues feathers and googly eyes and plastic gems to cardboard boxes.  He works with focus and intent.  He stands proudly with his work and proclaims “I made it for my Dad!”.  We sing songs together.  His sister dances.  We find joy in each other.  We work to form our future with Elmers Glue and glitter and love.

Art gives life.

It has allowed me to feel at a time that I could not feel anything at all.

It gives me focus and energy and motivation to press forward in creating a worthy life from these smoking embers.

 

Roasted Tomato Sauce to Make You Feel Things.

If you have a garden this year, you have a lot of tomatoes.  Tons of tomatoes.  Truckloads of tomatoes.  Tomatoes coming our of your EARS.

Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t have a garden.  In which case, I feel bad for you (son).

I’m sorry for your loss.

I started making this tomato sauce several years ago when we were living in our triple decker apartment in Somerville.  The walls had little insulation, so I would make this sauce on cold days to save on heat.  It takes time.  It’s a Sunday afternoon kind of sauce.  It’s a person-from-high-school-you-always-had-a-crush-on but-seemed-unavailable-in-some-way-so-you-let-it-go-and-reconnected-10-years-later-and-got-married kind of sauce.

It’s worth it.

It’s thick and creamy.  Naturally sweet from the caramelized sugars that seep from the tomatoes.  It’s savory and rich.  It will make you feel things in places your lover has never touched.  Yes.  Yes, right there.  Mmmm.

Let’s do this, you and me.

Roasted Tomato Sauce To Make You Feel Things

All The Tomatoes.  (Like, 10 pounds)

2+ BULBS of garlic. (Not cloves, bulbs.  Don’t make me come in there.)

Liberal Sprinkling of Salt (Think Bernie Sanders)

Generous Drizzle of Olive Oil

Light Dusting of Hot Pepper Flakes (if you care)

 

Here’s the deal.  This is a really fucking easy sauce to make.  It just takes time.

Cut all those tomatoes in half.  Don’t bother cutting out the tops or seeds, it’s all going to the same place.  Lay them in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Peel the garlic and just plop it all in there with the tomatoes.  They are friends now.  Sprinkle on that Salt.  Drizzle on that Oil.  Yes. Just a bit more.  Good.  Time for those pepper flakes.  Excellent.

Put it in the oven at 250 degrees.

Ok, now go about your day.  For at least 4 hours.

I’m serious.

I said this will take time and I meant it.

Wait.

A little longer.

Ok.

When the tomatoes look shrunken and shriveled and glossy with oil, take it on out.  Put it in a food processor.  Make it look saucy.  Good.  It’s done.

Serve over pasta or “zoodles” or whatever it is that you eat.  Layer it into an Eggplant Parmesan.  Dollop it onto eggs.  Eat it from the container at 3am while you cry.  You do you.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

On Grief and Gratitude

Gratitude is a gift.  Thankfulness is a buoyant yellow buoy to cling to in the dark and unpredictable ocean that is grief.  Grace shifts our perspectives and offers tiny fragments of light shining through the fog.

Grief affects each individual differently.  Through my process of grief, I have experienced anger.  Far more than any other time in my life.  Anger at the Universe.  Anger at a God I have never even believed to be there.  Anger at my situation.  Anger at the world.  Anger towards and strangers and loved ones.  This anger is not rational.  It is primal and illogical and fierce.  It seldom makes sense, nor does it serve a true purpose, but it is there and I acknowledge and accept it’s presence in my mind.

I learned quickly not to fight the thoughts and emotions that come with grief.  It is a frightening and confusing process.  It shifts our presence in the world.  Transitions us into altered patterns of thought and behavior.  It changes who we are on a molecular level.

I will not fight this change.

For a woman who tragically lost her soul-mate on a family vacation, I am a pretty lucky lady.  I have parents who love and support me.  I had a home to move my children into when our life in Madison shattered to pieces.  I have strong and loving circles of friends throughout the world that have kept me afloat through food, favors, labor, money, texts, physical presence.  I have the financial security that Tim set up even without the knowledge that he would die young.  I have house plants and warm blankets and comfortable clothing and hot water and sunlight and stars.

While I cannot control the events that have lead me to this place, I can control the choices I make moving forward.

So I choose healing.

I choose progress.

I choose to continue to care for myself and my children with gentleness and warmth and compassion.

I choose to move forward with love, focus, and gratitude.

 

Get Yourself Together Maple Pumpkin Pie

So today, we are going to make some pie.

When I first moved back to the Northeast Kingdom, I met a new friend who had also experienced profound grief.  A few years prior, she had lost her son when he died just a few weeks before his due date.  She told me, “Grief is like a soup.  Some people slurp it all down quickly and some people eat it bite by bite, but you have to eat it.”

I have carried that analogy with me…but instead, I think of grief as pie.

Because: Pie > Soup.

There are layers to it.  Different colors and textures and flavors as you go.  It’s a shitty pie.  The kind you buy in a sad, semi-dilapidated grocery store with no one working at the bakery and cracks in the floors.  It tastes bad.  It’s filled with stuff that is probably not good for you.  You have to eat it.

Well, this pie is not Sorrow Pie.  This pie is Get Yourself Together pie.  This is the pie I make with my kids to feel connected and happy and industrious.  This is the kind of pie you can proudly bring to neighborhood potlucks and finally impress your father with. This is the kind of pie you can eat in one sitting and only feel a little bit bad. Stop buying pie at sad grocery stores.  You’re an adult.  You probably do your own taxes and mow your lawn and push babies out of your lady bits.  You should know how to make pie.

You can do this.  Make this pie.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Get Yourself Together Maple Pumpkin Pie

1 Sugar/Pie Pumpkin

1/2 cup Pure Maple Syrup

3 eggs

1.5 cups Whole Milk

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ginger

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

1/4 tsp Cloves

Butter Pie Crust

1.5 cups All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter

3-5 Tbsp Cold Water

 

Pie Crust: In a food processor, process the flour and salt.  Cube butter and pulse into dry ingredients until it forms a cornmeal like consistency.  Add water one Tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together, soft and pliable, but not sticky.  Trust me, you can do this.  Roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap and press into pie pan.  Trim and crimp the edges.  Yes.  You’re being an adult.

Pumpkin Custard:  Cut your pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts.  Deal with it.  Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until soft (approx 45 min).  Let cool.

Scoop pumpkin into the food processor.  Add in the syrup, spices and eggs.  Puree until smooth.  Add in milk.  Puree.  (If you are doubling this recipe, only puree the pumpkin and mix the rest of the ingredients in in a large bowl. Don’t be like me and make a soupy mess because you’re impatient.). Pour custard mixture into butter pie shell.  Don’t you DARE use a store-bought crust, I didn’t raise you like that.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until set in the middle.  Cool.  Slice and enjoy.  You’re an adult.