Monthly Archives: November 2012


Can you see it says 50? My sister asked for “tie-dye frosting” What a brat!

I don’t know why the 50th birthday is such a big deal, but it is.  There is something about a woman turning 50 that gives permission.  After 50, what other people might think doesn’t matter so much anymore.  After 50 somehow there is an authority of age that didn’t exist before.  Maybe it’s recognizing mortality (I don’t think so) but hitting 50 is like getting permission to be whoever you want to be.  I know I couldn’t have written my book, Manifest Divinity, until after I was 50.

Eventually Karina came through on my 50th, and she’ll never let me forget it!

I was very clear from my 49th birthday on what I wanted and expected for my 50th birthday.  My poor daughter still complains about how horrible I was when it came and went without any dramatic recognition.  Sure I got to go out to dinner with the kids, but it was just us.  She told me I wouldn’t really have enjoyed a birthday party anyway.   3 weeks (and a lot of sighing) afterwards the surprise party she’d planned finally came together.  I was defiantly surprised!

Along with Thanksgiving, last week was my sister’s 50th birthday.  She too had announced a year ago this was a big deal and she intended to celebrate in a big way.  As we got closer to the date her life seemed to collapse in on her.  She’s spent the last month with concerns about her S.O.’s health.  It took him out of the planning loop and of course she put off everything too, making sure he was going to be okay.

“Cousins” two of my sisters grandchildren

Her original intention was to have a party with her friends the weekend before Thanksgiving.  That would have been fine, but her kids were coming up for Thanksgiving and couldn’t get away twice.  My sister is a Grandma, and that’s a big part about what being 50 means to her.  Without the kids there was no point in the party.  It got canceled and she started referring to her “fxxxing fiftieth birthday party”.

When the family got together for Thanksgiving it was announced that we’d all go over to her house for lunch and the “fxxxing fiftieth birthday party” on Saturday.  She’d let her friends know they could come over and her S.O. would make a big batch of pho  (Vietnamese soup.)  There was some grumbling about crab legs, which is what she really wanted.  “Everyone else gets crab legs and I get turkey dinner.”  “There is apparently a rule that there can’t be crab legs for just one.”  In spite of that things were looking up.

My sister’s newest grandchild.

Saturday morning came and we got a phone call.  The water pump had died.  There was no water, there was no party.  Pretty much this was the end of the world.  I knew that feeling!  I felt the same way when my 50th birthday came and went.  Mom said, “Come over, we’ll have the party here.”  There was some reference to pulling shrimp out of the freezer.  I may have mentioned at one time or another that my mother keeps several freezers full of ‘just in case’.  She probably did have enough shrimp to feed whoever showed up.

Everyone arrived before my sister and her S.O..  Mom organized us to shout “SURPRISE” and sing Happy Birthday as my sister came in the door.  It set the tone for the day.  The ‘boys’ (the S.O., the son and the family friend) drove the 1/2 hour to Brainerd and back because at this point we all agreed my sister deserved her crab legs.  My niece baked the cake, my Mom pulled out the shrimp the boys took several phone calls about “a few more things to pick up while you’re down there.”  The wine was opened and the women sat around the table being crones.

SURPRISE!!! (The cake mix and frosting were her birthday present from my Mom, their annual tradition)

When the ‘boys’ got back they not only managed to get everything on the list and then some.  They brought enough king crab legs and lobster tails to feed the crowd.  Not only that but the shrimp still came out of the freezer and my Mom made her infamous cocktail sauce.  The tears came again, this time because everything really did turn out perfect.

50 is a big deal.  It’s definitely worth acknowledging in style.  Happy Birthday Sis!

Happy Birthday, Sis!



Mother’s motto: “Anything under 24 lbs is hardly worth cooking.”

Here we are again coming upon Thanksgiving.  This is probably the holiday that’s the “biggest deal” in my own family of origins.  Sure we celebrated birthdays and Christmas and all of those things in one way or another.  My child self would never have given Thanksgiving a “higher place” than waking up to presents from Santa under the tree.  And yet it is the Thanksgiving holiday that endures.

When we grew up and had to make those negotiations with spouses, in-laws and our own families my parents were flexible.  They were not as interested in the date of the holiday, or even the theme of the holiday.  They were interested in us getting together as a family.  My Mom’s birthday being December 18th we had lots of room to shuffle to accommodate winter break, Yule, Christmas with the in-laws and anything else we wanted to throw into the winter holiday mix (like a dog sled ride or a choir concert.)

Some of this is my Dad’s bread, some of it is Karina’s. I can tell by which kind of bread. They’re not allowed to make the same one.

Spring break became much more important than Easter, especially when the Grandchildren’s birthdays, Spring Equinox, and wedding anniversaries were added to the mix.  4th of July was always about where to get a campsite rather than fireworks and parades, and once my parents retired it became about political campaign fundraising.  Memorial Day my Mother took turns with her siblings for who got to tend the family gravesite and my father took his annual first canoe trip to the boundary waters.

Thanksgiving stayed the same.  Even if no one was coming my Mom was determined to have her turkey and stuffing.  Since we knew she was cooking anyway we’d often drop by before or after even if we’d committed to be elsewhere.  All of the family stories seem to center around activities that happened at Thanksgiving.  At my Grandmother’s Thanksgiving there was the traditional fight between my Dad and his sister over the turkey heart.  There was the year my Mom got dinner on the table within 24 hours of being released from the hospital.  (We got her through the meal and insisted she needed to go back! – Another holiday in the ER.) Thanksgiving is an opportunity for family adventures.

Really, the baby is Darcy’s not Karina’s. Could you say no if that face asked you for pie?

I may have mentioned in a previous post (Graduate) that my family cooks.  Thanksgiving is probably the only time that cooking isn’t a competition.  Everyone has found their “signature dish” and even when no one else will eat it, the meal isn’t the same without it.  My Grandmother’s marshmallow and walnut salad made appearances every year long after she’d passed.  It still gets talked about, although my mother has acknowledged that it doesn’t fit anybody’s taste, time, or dietary requirements anymore.   My sister always shows up with the infamous green bean casserole.  She’s happy to share it with anyone, usually an in-law.  It was never in my mother’s repertoire, my sister discovered it after she was married just like I discovered cranberries didn’t have to come out of a can.

This year my Mom, who has become Great Grandma, has decided that Thanksgiving is just a little bit too much.  She’s still hosting, still determined to make her turkey, stuffing, wild rice, mashed potatoes and gravy.  She decided that she didn’t need pie.  Oh, she’ll still make some, just not for Thanksgiving.  Besides, she says, no one is hungry enough for desert after that meal anyway!

I guess I can’t argue the point and I’m proud of her for acknowledging enough is enough (even if Dad is on duty to keep her hands off the pie crust makings – the harder task.)  The problem is that I promised Darcy a pecan pie.  Darcy is a new mom and my “niece-in-law”.  She deserves a pecan pie, and it’s not one Mom ever really made so no competition.  But one pie for Darcy isn’t going to go over well with 13 people (that I know of) at the table. (I didn’t count the new baby either.)  So today the blog is a little late because I’ve been busy.  What’s Thanksgiving without pie?

The holiday baking has begun!

Prayer Beads

I do a workshop called “Daily Practice Sucks”.   Daily practice is one of those things that most religious practices encourage in one form or another.  Some people are great at daily practice.  They find their thing and they run with it.  They get a lot out of it and it really helps.

Other people are like me.  We struggle with doing daily practice.  It doesn’t matter how long I do something, I never seem to get to that point people talk about where I hit the “zone”.  I don’t become addicted to exercise, or feel horrible enough without my daily yoga to keep  at it.  I have been doing this spirituality stuff for a long time and I’ve tried a lot of things.

In my book (Manifest Divinity published by Immanion press and available in print or e-book from Amazon) I give exercises to help people achieve a stronger relationship with the Divine – as they choose to define that.  I suggest doing daily practice.  It works, it helps, it’s great.  I’m just really bad at it.

The workshop I give addresses a lot of the problems people have with daily practice.  In a smaller group (which is my preference) I can go through and address individuals about what they are hoping to achieve from their daily practice.  We can discuss what they currently do, or don’t do.  I love doing this workshop.  I always learn something new.  I love sharing ideas.  Best of all people come in saying they don’t have a daily practice and they leave saying “I have a daily practice.”

Earth Conclave Prayer Beads

One of the things I do in the workshop is share some of my own practices.  When I was at the Women and Spirituality Conference last month in Mankato I promised I’d post one of those practices on line.  This gets us back to the title of this week’s blog – Prayer Beads.

Prayer beads are something I learned to work with from the folks at the Earth Conclave. (  They are useful for a lot of different kinds of prayers.  People make prayer beads in many cultures and religious structures from Buddhism to Catholicism.  It makes remembering prayers easier.  It’s fun, portable and pretty.  They can be a very powerful tool for doing daily practice.

Making your own set allows you to personalize the prayer to suit your particular needs.  If you want to do a set of prayer beads for health, the people you pray for always, you can do that.  You can even add extra strings for those occasions when something extra arises.  You can make prayer beads to create sacred space.  You can make prayer beads to honor the ancestors.  You can make a prayer of gratitude into prayer beads and then wear them as a necklace to remind you to walk in gratitude throughout the day.  They are a great tool.

I wrote a prayer and made up a set of prayer beads.  I said my prayer in my workshop and got the requests to post it. So here it is, my on again off again daily practice prayer bead prayer:

I am Golden

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Gratitude

I am grateful for the Earth and the gifts and tools of Earth

I am grateful for the Air and the gifts and tools of Air

I am grateful for the Fire and the gifts and tools of Fire

I am grateful for the Water and the gifts and tools of Water

I am grateful for the Bounty in my life

I am all things and all things are me

I am a magical child of the Gods

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Love and surrounded by Love

I pray in Love and Light

Holding True to my own Heart

I pray for the Earth that sustains and nurtures me

I pray for my Patron Deities

I pray for Myself

I pray for the Waters that quench my Desires

I pray for my Totems

I pray for my Family

I pray for the Fires that warm and move me

I pray for the Ancestors that love me beyond all reason and support me in my work

I pray for my Clan

I pray for the Air, breath of life that inspires me

I pray for the Mysterious Ones who cross my path to aid and teach me

I pray for my Community

I Blossom in a sea of Love

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

Blessed Be

My Prayer beads


proud Mom

This weekend we attended the commencement ceremony for my daughter Karina.  She graduated from the baking and patisserie program at Le Cordon Bleu.  It was a grand event with speakers who talked about passion and working your butt off, both essential elements of the culinary industry.  She’s very proud of herself, and she should be.  She has dreamed about being a baker since about the 7th grade.

Since she’s my baby it’s also another milestone for me.  She is out from under the wings of academia and all alone in that cold cruel world.  It doesn’t seem like such a big change for her.  Part of the program requires an extensive externship experience.  Karina found a job that hired her and was happy to do the externship paperwork on the side.  She’s working as the lead baker at Brasa in St. Paul. ( It’s a restaurant that prides itself on using local and seasonal ingredients.  They cater to accommodating the gluten free crowd so she’s learned a lot about that.  The deserts turn over seasonally, along with the sides, but she’s not leaving school to go find a job in her field.  She has one.

Hopefully she’s a little nicer to her customers now than she was then.

Actually she has two jobs in her field as she’s also waitressing at Fat Lorenzo’s a pizza and Italian eatery in South Minneapolis (  She loves being on her own in the kitchen, but she also enjoys the social aspects of front of the house work.  Karina has visions of someday opening her own bakery and I’m sure this experience will help her.

My little girl has always been a go getter. I remember her as a toddler always eager to help out.  Always wanting to do more.  Of course she had to do more than many kids her age because she had a brother with special needs.  I used to whisper to her as a babe in arms “You will walk, you will walk early, and once you start walking you’ll never be carried again.”  Since I stuck to my guns on that one she became very adept at charming other adult friends into picking her up and hauling along.  Those early social skills and charm continue to aid her in her new adult life.

I didn’t believe her when she first started talking about wanting to be a baker.  Her brother is a morning person.  He’s up at the slightest hint of morning with a smile on his face and eager for what the day brings.  Karina has always been more like her mother the night owl.  Getting her up in the morning for school was a chore and getting her to go to bed at a reasonable hour even worse.  She never had a problem on those special occasions (like New Years) when she was allowed to stay up.  In fact she would start looking for reasons to get an exemption to bedtime.  I suspected the reason she got into choir was as much for the evening concerts, and subsequently delayed bedtime as it was for the music.

Minnetonka Chamber Choir 2009

So when Karina first started talking about being a baker I did the most horrible thing a mother could ever do.  I laughed at her.  YOU?  You know that bakers are up and at work at 4am don’t you?  You really want a job, a life, that requires you to be functional at that ungodly hour of the morning?  You’ve got to be kidding!  She told me quite succinctly that she could sleep when she got off work and meet the morning from the end of a late night.   Then she turned on her heel and slammed the door of her bedroom.  I eat my words as I listen to her rattle off her intentions to be at work early at 4am or that she over slept and didn’t get in until 6am.  I also note that she does agree to go out dancing knowing that at 2am when the club closes she can pack a change of clothes and head over to work for a really early start.

All focus in competition

When she decided to go to Le Cordon Bleu we knew there would be a mad dash to find the money.  Karina entered a cooking competition, culinary rather than baking.  She won a scholarship.  She found jobs in the industry.  She worked with financial aid.  She got another scholarship based on recommendations of merit from her employers and teachers.  She hustled, took out student loans, applied for pell grants and managed to get through pretty much on her own.  The experience of juggling the money for her education will also be a huge benefit to her when she decides to go into business for herself.

As much as she’s done on her own, Karina still gives me credit as an inspiration.  I cook.  I’ve cooked for dinner parties.  I’ve cooked to save the budget from the expense of eating out.  I’ve cooked for weekend conference events.  I’ve even brought Karina along as my assistant in the kitchen.  She’s got a precision that I lack, which is why she’ll be a better baker than I ever was.

Dreaming big while seeing Buddy from Cake Boss

I think, part of the appeal of baking is the competition with her mother isn’t as great.  In baking she’ll have to take on my father, the north woods king of bread.  A loaf of his gets $50 in the DFL fundraising auction they hold every year.  My mother is no slouch as a cook either.  I tease that their retirement home is really a bed and breakfast because they host so much company.

My sister sent a card to congratulate Karina.  Hands down it was the best.  The card is unremarkable, it’s what my sister wrote along with her love.   “Finally there is someone in the family who REALLY knows how to cook!”

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