November 2016: Dear Paul… #GriefNeverEnds

Dear Paul,

I have been thinking of you a great deal. Your birthday passed a few weeks ago. The day you had your cardiac arrest passed, which is the date I consider when you died. Four days later, we had to pull your life support. I knew you were not in your body because you went so quickly.

Dear Paul

I still miss you.

I miss everything but the past few months I have missed you more, having to go to several doctor appointments alone. I have been taking care of all the health care items you nagged me about, and then some. You told me a story once, that if a physician ever told me they wanted to be a doctor since they were at a young age, that person was a good doctor. Because they cared. So true! You truly cared for your patients, and the stories they told me gave me so much comfort after you were gone. I have found a few good docs to rely on, the first being my new primary care physician. I chose an independent doctor, just like you.

Zeke is now a whopping 90 pounds and he has congestive heart failure. He is responding well to his meds, but I have had to accept the fact I won’t have him by my side as I thought I would. He is such a good dog! Except for that “come” command!

The 2016 election in the United States was exceptionally awful. You would be grateful to have missed the unprecedented drama, and it will be going on for quite some time. I have lost a few friends over it. Some I don’t care, some I do. I cannot change who I am and how I feel. And, I won’t. So, I must let go as I am sure they have as well.

Oh, get this: my siblings are I are officially spread across the states. From Florida to Minnesota to Idaho to California. I foresee family reunions in our future!

I continue to be involved in Beginners Mind Sangha. Sangha has been the source of infinite grounding, solid friendships, great joy. Thank you so very much for introducing me to Buddhism and this community. They help prop me up when I need it the most. I have discovered that asking for help when I need it is necessary from time to time.

I have learned so much since you died. The first year was filled with tears and grief. I thank God every day that He gave me the gift of being positive. The second year was a year to get to know myself again. It’s not so much that I had changed, but that I am different now.

I have been living again, too. It’s time.

Love always,

Laurie

#grief #lifelesson #Iambetternowthough #change #healing #transition

 

 

Lemon Tarragon Pesto for Fish, Poultry, Pork #LemonTarragonPesto

If you are looking for an impressive way to serve wild caught salmon for the holidays, I am here to rescue you!

lemon-tarragon-pesto

Now, take into consideration that I harvested a shopping bag full of tarragon, so I took the time to figure out the measurements for a single batch. I also use this pesto with Greek yogurt to marinate my chicken thighs or pork tenderloins.

If you like more of a lemon taste, use an additional small lemon!

Ingredients

2 packages of fresh tarragon
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1 large lemon, zested & juiced
NOTE you should have a tablespoon of zest and
almost a 1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons butter
Lemon flavored olive oil

Directions

De-stem the tarragon and parsley, add to food processor

Add lemon zest, lemon juice, shallots, sunflower seeds, butter cut in pieces

Pulse food processor and dribble lemon flavored oil until you achieve the pesto consistency you desire.

lemon-tarragon-salmon

Spray olive oil on to baking sheet or pan, place salmon skin side down. Spread thin layer of the lemon tarragon pesto and let salmon sit for at least two hours.

Grill or smoke as you typically do for the size you have. Do not overcook!

Bon Appétit!

Don’t Live With the Blinds Closed #TalkToEachOther

I always smile when I think about what inspires me to write about each week. Right now, I am in Seattle for a few days, staying at a friend’s house in a lovely, wooded neighborhood. The blinds are closed. I don’t get it, either. The backyard is a beautiful, lush environment that would inspire an artist to paint, a poet to write, a person to take up meditating.

But the blinds are closed.

blinds

I don’t know about you, but I feel as if this past week has shown the world that America lives with the blinds closed. Many Americans clearly did not and do not understand the concerns of other Americans in different regions of our country.

I think we are going to open the blinds now.

We must take a long, deep look at what happened. We must make sure America remains a safe place to live, to speak, to write, to gaze in wonder at its beauty. All of us.

Can we open the blinds and leave the bitter rancor behind? How are we going to heal as a nation if trolling remains commonplace? How are we going to heal if our reaction is to file a lawsuit because there is disagreement? I want those in Washington, D.C. to stop the call for investigations that will further divide America! Enough is enough.

The bigger picture here is to start to reach out and come to common ground. Can we please try to be collaborative instead of being combative?

Can we open the blinds now, please?

#BeTheChange #TalkToEachOther #LetsTalk #AmericaIsAlreadyGreat #community #communication

We Are All Having Anxiety Before Election Day #VOTE

I have been doing everything I can to stave off the anxiety I am enduring in anticipation of Election Day. Who isn’t, right?

flag

I am sticking to my plan of voting on Election Day because in my neighborhood, we get to vote at the Senior Center. It’s an experience a person must do! My neighbor and I are going to ride our bikes over, maybe take the seniors some goodies and vote. I’m hoping they allow my dog inside because I don’t have a kid to take with me for the most important election in America’s history. No matter what, I am looking forward to smiles and laughter and a huge anxiety release.

In the meantime, I have been trying not to obsess but it isn’t an easy task. Making food stuffs in my tiny kitchen has helped; on Sunday, I made Lemon Tarragon Pesto that I will use with Greek yogurt as a marinade for poultry or pork, or a sauce for roasted vegetables. Or, of course, gifts.

Other distractions only work temporarily. This got me to thinking, what the heck!!?? What have we done to ourselves in America? We are at odds with each other, the tension is tearing friends and family apart. Why have we allowed hatred and bigotry and racism in to our lives in 2016?

I will let you answer that with your own theories. I am looking for solutions instead. Allow me, if you will, to offer suggestions on a healing path. This is my commitment to helping others making a change. I know my city and local leaders because I engage in the process. You too can feel better about your situation if you take the time to understand.

  • Volunteer for a campaign in your city or county. Once you see the “behind the scenes” activities, you will truly know what it takes to get a good person elected.
  • Get to know your local and state representatives. Ask questions. Ask why. Ask what you can do to help. There are usually citizen task forces that encourage conversation.
  • Learn about the process locally. If you live in a capitol city in your state, attend hearings. These are eye openers and I guarantee you will discover something you did not know beforehand.
  • Don’t listen to rhetoric. If the message does not have a solution, it is nothing more than empty words.
  • Write a Pro and Con list for the issues that matter most to you. Talk to a close friend that can engage with you in a meaningful conversation about it. You just may find out that there can be a meeting of the minds for a solution you can take to your elected officials either locally or on a state level.
  • Do some research and fact checking. I have realized in this election cycle how many people take the word of an internet meme vs. fact checking.
  • Write letters to your Congressmen or Congresswoman, to your Senators in Washington, DC. Make the letter brief, to the point and respectful. Ask what they can do to address your concerns.

And, most of all, please #VOTE on Tuesday!

If you think about it, you will soon recognize that someone can’t change things for yourself. For Us. We must be the ones to make the changes ourselves. We can do that together, you know.

#BeTheChange #MakeYourVoiceHeard #AmericaIsGreatAlready

Courage & Fear Do Not Hold Hands in My Life, No Way! #CourageVsFear

The past two years have filled with the most intense learning experiences I have had so far in this lifetime of mine. I don’t need to spell each experience out for you, but I can say that I have certainly had my share. Each time I somehow mustered the courage to brush off the fear and move forward with my life. I was determined to wake up happy every day. I would tell myself a different reason each morning of why I was grateful, despite what was going on at the time. It worked for me…..

she-took-a-deep-breath

I want to talk a bit about courage today. It occurred to me this past week that I had put courage in a box and forgot to open that box when I needed it the most. I had a bit of a meltdown because I let a few things overwhelm me. Instead of facing them head on or taking the time to sit and look at the issue, I used that damn box to hide it in a feeble attempt to put it aside.

Which made things worse. Which gave me anxiety and stress. It came to a slow simmer and I decided I was not going to wait for the boiling point. I stopped at took a long hard look at what was bugging me.

I have this Pro & Con list for my clients, so you would think I would use it as well, right? Ha! Rarely! I wasn’t even using a list to work things out for myself.  It was time for me to pay attention to my feelings. Why was I upset? Why was I down? Why was I getting so agitated? What am I going to do about it?

I found that I needed help to open the box I had stored Courage in; I called friends to talk it out. Then, the list of what if’s was in order. I simply not made goals, not faced what was going on.  What if I did X now versus later? Better yet, why not now versus later? It is all up to me when I make decisions, right? If the waiting period produced stress, then waiting was not such a good idea.

In life, we don’t need others to tell us what to do when we truly already know in our hearts and in our minds. But it does help to talk things out; I learned that in my grief group, that telling your story helps work out the sadness. Often, help comes from talking it out with a good friend(s); I had this luxury last week.

It is important to look at our surroundings, at our feelings, at our needs and wants. The answer is usually in our hearts if we listen.

Buddha said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

I learned something about myself that I lost sight of. I needed to stop and just breathe. It all came to me in that present moment.

PS: that box is now holding Fear where it belongs….

#lifelesson #courage #makedecisionsnow #letgooffear

Dear Marianne, my sister friend #nobetterfriendthanyou

Dear Marianne,

It’s time I send you a letter that you can save in your pocket. This pocket is for those sayings we laugh at and yet know ring true. This pocket holds generations of anecdotes from women before us, women that have stood alongside us, and even women we have not yet met. This pocket holds hopes and dreams and possibilities of new paths. Your new path.

no-better-friend-than-a-sister

A woman’s wisdom is a gift that stands the test of time, meant to be treasured. Remember that no matter what. Sometimes the advice isn’t for you, but for the other person struggling. You may be confused at first, but your ah ha moment will come later.

Count to ten. Sometimes it takes me up to twenty, but the counting helps me think about what the heck is bugging me to the point of a slow simmer. I have learned several things since Paul died, and the most important is to let the other person have their say. And then, not respond. Give that other person their freedom to speak. I have found that the healing starts by simply listening. You will feel much better for It.

You are going to feel alone as you adjust to your new town. Get out and get outside. Volunteer. Create a Meet Up. Get a library card. Discover new recipes, maybe create a Pinterest board we can share. Check out all the thrift stores that you will take me to on my first visit. Interview your new primary care physician until you find the right person. Same goes for dentist. Learn yoga, it will be good for your wellbeing; take a few classes to get the hang of it and I’ll send you a few CD’s later. Figure out the best method to ship things to the family; I’m telling you, you will be sending and receiving packages!

Write a list of what you want. What you know you can do to accomplish your goals. Who you want to be going forward, the you that your children and grandchildren to look up to but even more so to come. How you want to communicate to others. How you can mold your new future with love and dreams. Where you see yourself in the future. Where you want to travel on adventure. When you can free yourself of the past. Most importantly, add whimsical items to your list. Make your list realistic and yet fun. I have a list. It’s my barometer for what I envision for myself.

Stake a corner in your new house and make it “yours”. Your place to read, to journal, to discover the world from an open window. For that matter, look out the window often at the beauty of your new surroundings. Get a special blanket for the chair in your corner. Get a good reading lamp, too. Daydream in your place.

Most of all, cherish the love you have found that is remarkable in so many ways. I am so very happy for you. You deserve this man that cherishes you back. Yay Sis!

One more thing, let’s Skype or Face Time often, ok?

Love always, Your Big Sister
Laurie Bee

#lifelesson #itsasisterthing #sisters #bigsisteradvice

Choose a Different Coffee Cup Every Day #BeTheChange

I suppose I can also hashtag “choose to change the world”. This morning I woke up early and thought, well, I can’t sleep, I may as well get up. So of course it’s coffee time. Earlier this year I donated all of my match-y kitchen serve ware and opted for vintage everything, especially if it does not match. Even my china consists of four different patterns.

Which got me to thinking this morning when I opened the cupboard door and went about my daily decision of just which tacky coffee cup will feel good holding today. Which made me think, hmmm, I start my day making choices. What about you?

When I choose a coffee cup, I feel as if I am choosing to do something special every day. I have learned a great deal about choices ever since Paul died. I have had a number of extraordinary circumstances occur the past two years, and these situations just keep on coming my way.

What do I do about it? How am I going to react? What am I going to say? Why do I feel the way I do? How can I make this a learning event in my life? What will I choose to do? How do I feel about my decision?

I try my best every day to do the right thing, to make the right choice. It can mean a number of things, but you always know the opposite sides of the scale in your deliberations.

Sometimes your choice may be to simply listen.

Sometimes your choice may be to be firm about your convictions.

Sometimes your choice may be to lend a hand to help or a shoulder to cry on.

Sometimes your choice may be to just be quiet. Or be heard.

Whatever your choice may be, choose wisely. Our actions have consequences. Our decisions should have meaning. Our choices are who we are.

I choose to be kind. I know I have said this before, but it is better to be kind than to be right.

#makegoodchoices #lifelesson #bethechange

Setting Boundaries Amidst New World of Poor Behavior #SetBoundaries

I had a number of topsy turvy’s, one after the other that came my way last week. Mind you, most of these experiences were great: reconnecting with a friend, enriching a friendship with another. Hanging out for an entire morning with a friend and colleague in a real estate offer situation. Spending the afternoon with a past client who has become a sweet friend. Life is truly great.

choose-happiness

But one particular episode is the reason for this post. A contractor pushed my boundaries and tried to intimidate me about a job he submitted a bid on. I stood my ground. It was not easy but I just had to do so. It was not about winning or losing, it was about my client. That is my “job”, to represent my Buyers and Sellers. It is the fiduciary duty of a Realtor®

It was how he stated his intention that made me defensive. If you are a woman reading this, you will immediately know what I am referring to. I will admit, I was ruffled that morning. I had a lot on my plate for the day. As of late when things happen to me that I don’t expect, I get a stress headache. Instantly. I have found a solution to when something such as this arises.

I calmly say, I am sorry, but I need to hang up the phone. I don’t want to say something I will regret and I want the same for you.

The last thing I want to do is be hurtful. Buddhism has taught me to listen much better, to let others have their say. If I do not agree, I have found it is better to step back and think about it. After all, we are human. It’s better to think about it than to react. Better listening has been a key in the past two years of my healing process during my grief. Now better listening is the key of my future.

This also falls in to the category of what is taking place in social media during this election cycle. The anonymity of posts, replies and the like based on emotions instead of facts is deplorable. Okay, there, I said it.

I think we are all done with the rhetoric we are being bombarded with, now more than before.

Just hang up. Just hang it up. Go and smell a flower. Take a look at the fall colors. Walk along the river side of the greenbelt. Hike in the foothills on an early morning when the sun rises. Sit outside when the moon is full. Anything that will bring you joy.

It’s so much more important.

#settingboundaries #lifelesson #listenbetter #befree #bekind

Tweaking that #Marinara Sauce, Again! The Heartier the Better

My tomato plants have been pulled and what was green has slowly ripened for one last pot of marinara sauce. I made a pot of it last week and froze it, then vacuum sealed it to take with me for another trip to Southern California. I’m going to help my sister pack her house and wish her well for a new chapter in her life. My parents would be as happy for her as I am.

I am really digging adding a mirepoix to my marinara sauce this season. Once I learned about it and incorporated this method to my sauce, I am 100% hooked. Just so you know, a mirepoix is a roughly chopped vegetable cut, usually a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery; the traditional ratio is two parts onions, one part carrots, and one part celery.

marinara-w-mirepoix
Hearty marinara sauce with mirepoix

Since I have been making rather large amounts, I wanted to share my recipe for a big pot of sauce for canning, or a smaller batch for a dinner party. Bon Appétit!

Ingredients

For Large Batch to Can or Freeze For Small Batch for Dinner Party
3 tablespoons organic butter 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet yellow onions, chopped 1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped 1 small carrot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, rib trimmed, finely chopped 1 celery stick, rib trimmed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried basil 1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt ½ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup hearty red wine 2 tablespoons hearty red wine
5 lbs fresh tomatoes for sauces 2.5 lbs fresh tomatoes for sauces
WINTER: Three (3) 28oz cans organic whole or crushed tomatoes WINTER: One (1) 28oz can organic whole or crushed tomatoes, add small 14oz can of tomatoes if desired for a more sauce

 

Directions

Core the top and score the bottom of your fresh tomatoes. Blanch in hot water until the skin lifts – no more than a minute or two – and place in cold water, then peel right away. Cut or tear in half and deseed as much as you can. Set aside in large bowl. With your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into smaller pieces to simmer.

Heat butter or oil in large Dutch oven pot over medium heat. If you are going to can, use butter. Olive oil has a tendency to go rancid, even in a canned sauce. Why take the chance! Add onion, carrot and celery to pot and cook 4-6 minutes until soft, stirring frequently. This addition will give your marinara a heartier consistency. Add next 7 ingredients (to fennel seeds) and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar, cook less than one minute. Add your tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer.

Cook over low heat on the lowest simmer setting for one (1) hour or until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Stir occasionally or just when you want to take a deep in breath of the aroma! Pulse through a food processor to make the sauce consistency you desire. Makes 12 cups or 6+ pint jars that you will be able to water-bath can. Follow canning recipe for tomato sauce.

NOTE: I have found the best sauce tomatoes are Roma varieties. This season I was given a box of Early Girls which were meaty enough for sauce and I added them to my Roma harvest. You want to pick a tomato that has as much flesh inside if possible.

 

Our Choices Are How We Define Ourselves #MakeGoodChoices

I have been thinking a great deal about the choices I have made since Paul died, almost two years ago. My goals – choices if you will – were to heal, to learn, to forgive, to live. Living was the key ingredient that got me out of bed every day and hike with Zeke, my sweet dog. He was a tremendous help in my recovery process of grief. Unconditional love and the great outdoors.

make-good-choices

Then much to my surprise, Ronda Conger spoke at a brunch I attended Sunday morning. She told her story with the passion she always exuberates. I had no idea where she came from and how she was determined to break a pattern. My admiration for her soared to hear her story. She made good choices and it shows today.

Looking back at the past two years and the choices I made, I know now that I mustered wisdom in the midst of grief. I knew Paul may not have been ready to leave, but it was his time. I knew in my heart that he went to a place of great joy. My Buddhist practice helped me cope and understand. How I processed the grief is how I survived.

It all comes to the fact about making good choices in life. They are never easy and yet good choices are not so hard when you look back later. If your good choices come from your heart and the desire to be a better person, you have accomplished a great deal. No matter how small or large your choice was, you just know.

You know from the results. You know from your outlook on life. You know from your attitude.

I am in the process of celebrating all that I have learned in the past two years. The first year of grief was the life journey I had to swim through. (Remember, grief comes in waves!) The second year was getting to know myself again. I am who I am but what I learned has made me a better person. It’s not so much that I have changed but it is about what I have learned.

It was all about my good choices. I am free.

#makegoodchoices #lifelesson #grief #healing