ROOTED – my word for 2016


Rooted FB Banner 2016

In a year in which I will spend three months overseas in a very foreign culture, then return back to my little nest of a cottage only to begin packing it to move elsewhere overseas…in which I rejoin a husband I haven’t seen in five months….change up my solopreneurship into new offerings and directions….boot up my daughter’s unschooling enrichment…and lose the friends and connections I’ve spent the last two years making, doesn’t the word ‘ROOTED’ seem either ironic or desperate?

It’s just that after two separate stints living abroad, thirteen years in total, one of those with a young child, part of the time on my own…after seven different apartments and three different houses…. I’ve been so tired of moving about, of not being able to settle, to ever unpack every single box, of having books on shelves and setting out my collections on display…it seems that every few years I’ve been uprooted, and every time I have lost things in the process.  And here we go again.

Yet…when I expressed this sentiment plaintively to an almost-complete stranger, she looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, then said quietly as she poured me another cup of her hand-harvested herbal tea, “It sounds as though you might need to develop…inner roots.”

And those last two words hit me – literally made me gasp and wince as if someone had thrown a pillow at my stomach – struck and sank in.  I let them sit for a few days and found they were joined inside my skull by the scriptural injunction to be ‘rooted and grounded in love’.  And a few days after that, playing casually with an oracle card app (which deck, sadly, I do not know) online, a card turned up for me that told me I had a ‘physical desire to be grounded…to sprout roots…’.  Well, I listen to these sorts of Sophia-Wisdom prompts from the Holy Spirit (because otherwise she tends to use something a little more emphatic than a pillow), so I wrote it down.  And because I’m a visual person (in the same way that a tree is wood, which is to say, I don’t have a choice in the matter), I made it into an image.

And then roots started showing up on my facebook feed, pictures from acquaintances who routinely share lovely pictures, quite without intent or tagging.  And my custom-blended herb tea showed up from the not-quite-so-much-a-stranger, with, what else, roots in it.  Dandelion and burdock root.  Nettle, lemon balm and mint.  It helped me balance, ground, mellow.

And as I started to prep, to pack, to winter-clean and simplify my nest, to release in the way a tree releases her no-longer-necessary leaves, I began to realize:  Being rooted is not about one’s environment, circumstances, or situation.

If home is where the heart is, then surely to be with my husband is home, not this small cottage – no matter how painstakingly and lovingly decorated, how many personal bits of me there are in it. I can take the beauty I need to have in my surroundings with me; I can create it again wherever I am.  If I have invested in friends here, I will not lose them, and I can invest and receive again.  If I can weather storms and tears with the root system I already have, then the sun and the wind will only make it stronger.   So – feeding and growing those inner roots is my 2016 promise to myself.   Let’s see what fruit it bears!

Rooted - 2016 Word of the Year JPG

Fleek: How to be it


Fleek - Eyebrows copy

Your beauty does not depend on an arbitrary grooming standard.  Whether you have naturally thick brows, pencil-thin plucked ones, or none at all because of chemo/alopecia, you can still be ‘on point’.   Have your eyebrows the way you want them and ignore the fads, because those will change.

I mean, at this present moment in history women are expected to have full breasts but flat bellies; thick hair but thin ankles; high cheekbones but low arches.  And how can you simultaneously achieve ‘thighbrow’ and ‘thigh gap’?    Throw out the standards and the things you use to measure them, say I:  whether scale or tape, pencil or nail crescent stencil.  Show up in your own face, your own body, your own beauty.  Be loving, be honest, be real – that’s as fleek as you get.

Are You a Carrot, An Egg, or a Tea Bag? – on trouble, marriage, reconciliation, and mayonnaise


You’ve heard this modern parable before, right?  “Are You a Carrot, An Egg, or a Tea Bag?”  My pastor used it for the children’s sermon last Sunday, complete with visuals.   When a carrot gets into hot water, it softens up – and the longer it stays there, the softer it gets.  When you boil an egg, though, it gets harder and harder.   We already use ‘hot water’ as a metaphor for trouble in our lives, so the analogy was pretty easy to follow, even for the kids…. how do you handle difficulty when it comes along?

He asked the kids:  Do you disintegrate under the heat, and fall apart – like a mushy carrot?  Or do you just get tougher, so that you aren’t even palatable any more, like an egg boiled into dry green hardness?

He then offered them the third option; be like a tea bag.  When you’re in hot water, let your innate ability, strength, beauty, and personality come out…and change the water!

A sweet little parable, and an encouraging reminder, but, I couldn’t help thinking, rather naive.  In considering the ups and downs of my life, and the traumas, difficulties, griefs, and scars that are part of it, I know I’ve managed to respond in all three ways (and probably others that don’t fall under the tidy triparate metaphor, either!).  I’ve gone to pieces and left my husband to try to stick things back together.  I’ve responded with grace and sweetness and made beauty out of the ashes.  But most of the time my instinctive reaction to trouble is to put my fists up; to fight it; to get tougher.

I went through childhood abuse, marital distancing, separation, hurt, poverty, physical pain and invisible illness, discrimination, gaslighting, depression – and in most cases I got through with a few more scars, a bit more leather on the outside, and a grim determination not to be hurt again.   Um, yeah, how’s that working for you?

The hot water I frequently got into resulted in someone who was gradually getting more and more hard-boiled.  Less compassion, a grating aggression that thought the way to protect myself was to attack first, and little patience for anyone who didn’t live up to my expectations and standards.  As you can imagine, this didn’t do good things for my relationship with my husband, himself fighting a battle with depression and insecurity, and who responded by protecting his heart with a wall of ice, then upping the ante by shooting back over the ramparts.

We used to do everything together (we even had the same job for years, sharing an office and classroom).  We had strong family traditions, like Danishes and seven-minute boiled eggs for Sunday breakfast, before church.  We travelled widely, wrote and edited and went to conferences together, shared household chores.  We saw communication breaking down in other friends’ marriages and smugly congratulated ourselves on how that was a common strength and we’d always keep talking to solve our issues.

But when talking became nagging and critique, mutual sniping and layered negative connotations, and then froze into monosyllabic minimalism, those shared experiences, values, and loves got buried deeper and deeper, and the space between us became scorched and frosted earth.  Eventually there was a DMZ so wide we were on the brink of divorce.

Egg Salad copy

What saved my marriage – and brought me to where I am now –

was a painful process whereby the Holy Spirit made egg salad out of me.

  Guys, stick with this crazy little metaphor, because it works.  It meant I had to have my ‘shell’ smashed, my hardened ‘white’ macerated, and the dry ‘yolk’ of my heart remoistened.  I needed salt to become tasty again, I needed smoothening and softening holy oil, I needed an infusion of sweetness and compassion – a mayonnaise of loving-kindness – so that I could be palatable once again.

And it wasn’t just prayer – sorry, War Room, but ya know, faith without works is dead – it was literal years of reading, counselling, studying, self-examination, practising changed behaviour from a changed heart, and persevering in the face of disbelief, resistance, and serious antagonism.  Thankfully, the Sophia-Spirit has plenty of mayo to go around, and she did a remix on my husband as well.

That’s the short version of a long story, but I’m thankful to say that once again we’re the most important people in each other’s lives.  We discovered how tasty we could be all over again.  We’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next year.  We commune, communicate, share, work together to build each other up, support mutual decisions, and parent our DD consistently.  And on Sundays we still have Danishes and soft-boiled eggs.

Lunch-ENABLE: you can pack healthy options for your school kids!

The kids are back to school and there’s a meal you have to send with them – every day.  But you don’t want to depend on pre-packaged ‘foods’, snack bags, chips, and sodium-infused ready-mades – so here are some options to help you provide variety without undue stress at the start of your weekday!
First, I highly recommend that you have a good lunch-packing system.  There are a lot of great lunch container sets out there with different sizes and shapes for your favorite foods.  We use and love the stackable, modular, Rubbermaid ones – they come with a matching icepack.  

Rubbermaid stackable lunch boxes

Get a couple of units so you can mix and match lids and always have a cold pack in the freezer.  Reusable containers allow for a lot of flexibility in what you want to serve them and are more environmentally friendly than sandwich bags.  You can get insulated lunch bags – make sure your containers fit them appropriately – or an old-fashioned lunch box.

If you are strongly anti-plastic, you still have several options: you can buy or make beeswax-infused wrapping cloths, use wax paper/butcher’s paper/brown paper, and combine with a thermos and small screw-top sturdy glass pots for non-‘dry’ foods.  You can sew your own cloth lunch sack from washable canvas or insulated fabric (the padded, quilted material sold for making oven mitts, for example) with the advantage of being able to personalize it. 

beeswrap – wax-infused wrapping cloths

Now, what to put in?  Of course, that’ll depend on what your child will eat and enjoy, and you know best what that is.  I encourage mine to try new things, and she’s not a fussy eater and has no allergies…. so I’ll go with a broader range here and you can customize to fit your child’s preferences and needs.

PROTEIN:   a lot of lunch meats are high in sodium and preservatives.  The heavily processed ones like baloney and ‘loaf’ should be avoided completely…but there are healthier options, branded and otherwise.  My local butcher has GOOD lunch meats – real sliced roast beef and real sliced ham – the flavour is unbelievable. Otherwise, take a day to cook a large roast/ ham/turkey breast from scratch, cool thoroughly and slice with electric slicer, freeze in small portions in sandwich bags. You can fit all three in the oven together and save cooking energy and your time. Lunch meats for the next three months! Also, there is nothing wrong with a piece / chunks of the leftover meat from last night’s dinner: cube the chicken breast, take the BBQ sauce skin off the left-over chicken leg, slice thin strips of a pork chop, or put in some cooked and cooled peameal bacon. Cold meatballs or mini hamburgers are often quite acceptable, with the trimmings.  Once in a while, serve thin slices of sausage.

Don’t forget boiled eggs as a good protein.  Oh, and soy ‘nut’ butter instead of the banned peanut butter – it even comes with little stickers on the back of the label for your kid’s lunch to ensure the teacher and other kids know it’s the safe stuff!   Fish – we have it frequently but a lot of North American kids won’t even touch canned tuna.   If yours is the happy exception, nothing wrong with tuna salad, or chunks of albacore!  Cold shrimp, tossed with just a little bit of cocktail sauce (tone it down with a shot of ketchup or tomato paste) are delectable on hot days.   Fish tacos?

Cheese, glorious cheese.  It deserves a paragraph all to itself.  Don’t limit yourselves to golden cheddar, lovely as it is.  Anything you’ve got in the house for yourself, except maybe that expensive imported Blue from Germany, you can cut a wedge/sticks/chunks off and package for the kids.  There, done.  Also – cream cheese, cottage cheese, quark, and so on!

Fruit and cheese! Still life by Bard Judith for the Santharian Dream

VEG & FRUIT:  Veggies, veggies, and fruit! Most come in great colours and neat sizes. Take some prep time to wash and slice, bag or put in little lunch containers and you can grab and go for a week. Green grapes, red grapes, a single mandarin in its peel, banana ditto, two rambutan (amazing chilled) or dragonfruit cubed and frozen hard the night before (it’s like ice-cream!), mixed dried fruit for a change. Cut apples, of course (wash quickly in a cup of water with a bit of lemon juice if you want to delay discolouration).  Chunked pineapple. Berries are amazing: strawberries and blueberries work the best and hold up under packing.   Applesauce is not to be scorned, or good quality fruit cups if you are out of fresh fruit. Sliced yellow and green zucchini, snow peas, baby carrots, celery, broccoli florets, with their favorite salad dressing/dip. Cherry tomatoes – sprinkle salt and pepper over after washing and they are good to go. We always have a big tub of baby spinach around and put it into every savory sandwich we make, or just drop a few leaves in next the cut veggies to dip and eat out of hand.
STARCH/GRAINS:  Mix it up! Bread, buns, fajitas, tortillas, bagels are all fairly acceptable to North American kids.   Corn bread.  Homemade biscuits, scones, pretzels.   Pumpernickel (in strips, with homemade spinach dip, mmmmm…)   Put in dry ramen noodles (leave out the salty and processed ‘flavour’ packet!) as a snack/starch. Crackers once in a while, especially if they aren’t big eaters at lunch and don’t need a filling slab of bread. There are all sorts of commercial crackers from goldfish to artisanal whole grain, so you needn’t sacrifice nutrition, either.

Get bold and make rice balls – there are all sorts of packaged mixes to flavour them in any Asian supermarket/import store. While I’m thinking about it, most kids take to dried seaweed pretty easily – sold in the sushi section of your supermarket, probably right next to the panko crumbs or the soy sauce. It comes in large sheets AND in individual packages about 3×2 inches, perfect for wrapping bites of meat and rice or just snacking on. Avoid the wasabi and perilla flavours.   OK, rice, what else? Maybe couscous if they’ve had it at home before, stellini with some sort of sauce… cold pasta salad… you get the idea!  Potato chips don’t have to be evil if you pick an organic brand, and there are other vegetable chips available that are delicious – taro, parsnip, etc.

SOUPS/SAUCES:  Most Asian lunches (yeah, we spent years in South Korea, ok?) include soup, so don’t limit yourself to dry lunches. You can send a thermos of hot soup or try some chilled broths like chicken or gazpacho. They also often include a sauce, so think outside the (lunch)box and add in things like a little container of hoisin for dipping that sliced pork chop, ketchup for the potato chips, soy with the rice balls, etc. Again, lunch containers have a lot of different options these days, and if you investigate the bento box fad – you needn’t go whole hog on the making-it-a-work-of-art – you’ll find many great ideas plus extra containers to make them possible.
TREAT:  For ‘dessert’ or the extra ‘treat’, lots of little things suggest themselves.  I should note here that this is optional, but it helps my child to consider fruit as an essential rather than a treat!   Make your own pudding in the sealable lunch containers.  Yoghurt and granola ditto. Homemade cookies or date bars – something sturdy and healthy. A couple of squares of dark chocolate. A piece of candied ginger..mmm, freshens the breath and helps digestion, too!  A chewable mint, like Mentos.  I buy the Halloween boxes in the fall and stick them in the freezer so once in a while I can drop in a treat-size choco bar.

a site that contains a collection of ‘love’ fortune cookie messages you could just print off, cut apart, and tuck into the lunch bag!

Last – this isn’t food for the body, but rather the soul – consider a little note in the lunch box.  A doodle on the outside of the paper bag, a calendar day torn off a mini inspirational desk calendar, a printed slip that looks like a fortune cookie… you can prepare your ‘love notes’ a month in advance and have them ready to go in a bag on the side of the fridge or tucked in with the lunch containers.   Something that says to your child that she’s loved, that he’s cared about, that they can take in along with the food they are eating and have it strengthen their spirit!

Much love to you as you consider how best to feed your darlings – you are ‘lunch-ABLE’ to do this!


Boredom – It’s Good for Kids

  • Some of us mothers are going to be sighing with relief as the kids vanish out the front door back to school tomorrow.  Some of us will be treating it as just another day in our pre-schooling, home-schooling, or unschooling, lives.  If you still have a child at home on Tuesday, Sept 8, you may be wondering what you’re going to do with her after you’ve run through all your prep for the day and are determined you aren’t going to turn on the idiot box.
    What if you hear that dreaded whine – “Moooooom, I’m BOOOORED…”?
    Bored Kath copy Boredom is actually the best possible tool for facilitating creativity!

    We as mothers feel we aren’t doing our job if we aren’t providing for our child every moment
    – physically, spiritually, mentally –
    but we will never allow them to develop independence and initiative
    if we actually do provide everything.
     So – very first step – release any guilt you might feel when your child nags and whines.
    Second – be prepared to relax your control over her, the room, and the stuff you’re going to allow her into.  She can’t learn to entertain or learn or amuse herself if you’re constantly hovering over her – which obviates the point of ‘on her own’ anyway – and you won’t get the break you need for yourself.  Let go of your need to always keep the dining room table clear and spotless, and you may wind up with a child happily collaging her own vision board or dream house or fantasy zoo for the next two hours!  Just make sure she can’t hurt herself or permanently damage the area around her (exercise reasonable care and some common-sense boundaries depending on your child’s age, abilities, and proclivities), and then stay out of the way.  Kids are washable. 

    Third – ensure there is a rich and stimulus-full environment around her that she CAN access on her own.  Here are some ideas to get you started!

    A bookcase full of children’s texts at and above her level – also include children’s magazines, National Geographics, plenty of picture books, perhaps some comics/cartoons.

    A little art box with papers, glue sticks, stickers, crayons, washi tape, and scissors if she can be trusted with them (ten or fifteen bucks worth of shopping at one aisle in the dollar store). Some activity workbooks (also dollar store – colouring, dot to dot, word search, etc. or appropriate-grade textbooks that are accessible on her own).

    A mini keyboard, child’s wooden recorder, bodhran (natural materials are more pleasant sounding than plastic drums), and shaker set in the music area (even a sturdy storage container against the wall will do if you don’t have room to set things out)

    If you have a safe back yard, create a ‘sandbox’ filled with natural material play things (better yet, go for a walk through the forest/on the beach and have her collect them with you): pine cones, driftwood, smooth stones, etc. Add circular cross-cut sections of tree stumps, larger rocks or stumps for seating, bark chips, dried grapevines, etc.

    A ‘science’ area. Choose items you don’t have to supervise: a plastic magnifying glass, a toy telescope, a sturdy microscope, a bug collection kit (the dollar store is your friend!), a file folder for pressing leaves, a little notebook with attached pen… that sort of thing.

    I’m not against screen time for children, so if you have a tablet, iPad, extra computer, etc. load them up with edutainment apps – many are free. My 11-year old makes her own websites using Weebly, for fun! There are design apps, programming apps, typing apps, math games….so much available that she could be learning. Just balance it with the other off-line resources above.

    Cooking items. Not play food: give her a butter knife, stock some small snack foods, bread, spreads, fruit, etc. and let her create a variety of tea sandwiches for her own lunch. Stress clean hands and knife safety!

    We also provided small but real tools when my daughter was younger: a hammer, nails, wood chunks, screws, and drivers. If she can be trusted not to practice on the furniture, go for it. Get a couple of free pallets and let her go to town.

    You’ve created a rich, safe, environment for her? Step back and let her realize that she is responsible for entertaining herself!
    Oh, and fourthly, that was just the entertainment section. I didn’t even mention her chores, household responsibilities, etc. I mean, I know ‘then go clean your room’ is a cliche, but she could be making her bed, setting the table, taking the laundry downstairs, etc. if she really has nothing else to do.  Simply make up a list of always-necessary little household tasks and post it on the fridge.  Require her to choose one daily and get it done.

    If your child is old enough to handle money or go out on her own, serving others (even picking a bunch of wild flowers for a neighbor) is always a good choice, too!  Create a ‘draw one’ service box – ideas are usually available on-line as either ‘secret santa’ or ‘advent calendar’:  think of things like ‘buy a friend a hot chocolate / choco bar / juice box’ or ‘wash Mom’s car’, ‘make a get-well card’, ‘entertain your sibling for an hour’, ‘wash the kitchen floor’, ‘paint Sister’s nails’, ‘get the coffee ready in the morning for Father’, and so on.  Who knows – one of those ideas might turn into a lemonade stand or another micro-business for your teen!

    Necessity is the mother of Invention, but Boredom is its dad.