Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Initially I was going to name this my obligatory thanksgiving post, but there’s nothing obligatory about it. I wouldn’t have to share anything publicly, but I truly can’t help it. There is a well-spring of gratefulness inside me brimming with thanks, and I cannot help but let it spill over. 

I am thankful for all of the obvious things, freedom, faith, family, friends, shelter, food enough, clothing. 

But I’m especially thankful for small things too… 

Like Christmas lights. I hung this string in the boy’s room this evening and haven’t stopped looking at their beautiful glow. I am thankful for these lights and think of those who do not have the ease of electricity.  

And fun in the fall leaves. I love their crunch, their smell, their color, and the endless hours of fun they provide for childlike hearts. I am thankful for fallen leaves and think of those whose hearts are so heavy they cannot find the joy in them. 

I’m thankful for birthdays and feasts. We had a birthday Monday and Tuesday this week in our household, so Tuesday evening I made this spread of meat loaf, hippie loaf (a bean and veggie loaf), stuffing, herbed roasted baby potatoes, Dijon glazed green beans, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and an apple, grapefruit, pomegranate salad. (All recipes except the meatloaf came from the Forks Over Knives App or the Meal Mentor app so everything except the meatloaf and cake were plant-based.)I also made the plant based pumpkin pie and pumpkin cranberry cookies the day before. I seldom cook so much at one time, but this was such a worthy celebration; my husband and our newest foster child whose life and presence is worth way more than a hearty meal. I am thankful for food, for abundance, and think of those who are hungry as we eat. 

I am thankful for frosty mornings. I know most people think I’ve lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love a good frosty sunshiny morning. I am thankful for our wood stove, for jackets and coats and a trusty old van with a heater on these beautiful frosty mornings and think of those who are shivering in the cold. 

I am thankful for the beautiful area we call home and that even though I am currently too busy to do much hiking or horseback riding there are scenes such as this that I can enjoy from my van. So often I stop for a five minute reprieve to enjoy the scenery and inhale the fresh air. I am thankful for tranquil places and spaces and think of those who live in fear and threat of violence. 

I am so thankful for the hope and promise of an eternity with God, where all these earthly cares will no longer plague us. I am thankful for this hope and pray for the hopeless. 

I could go on and on and could still never truly count all my blessings. I am bountifully rich in soul and love and even worldly things that to name them all would be an impossibility. 

I will leave you with a link to one of our children’s favorite songs. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

Wishing all a gentle and peaceful day of thanks. 

Facebook Food; dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers

Life has been unusually busy for us these past few weeks as we continue to adjust to a new foster placement and maintain our already hectic schedule. 

These are the days I find the morning coffee I didn’t get to drink in the microwave in late afternoon. 

The days I am thankful that an old top entertains four children for long periods of time. 

I am thankful for friends who lend helping hands in so many ways, whether it be for our children, our non-profit, or for our larger community. 

These are the days that pass so quickly, but that I will one day miss and long to re-experience. 

In the meantime, I sit with our littles as they drift off to sleep. To stay awake myself, I read articles and often scroll through Facebook to catch up on friends and the rest of the world. I’ve been saving recipe links my friends have shared on Facebook. Tonight I made a combo of two I was most excited about, dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers.

The original recipe for the soup can be found here.  

Since we eat a mostly Whole Foods plant based diet, I adapted the recipe, but I can assure you the original would taste quite fantastic as well! Here’s the recipe with my changes. The whole family loved it! 

Dill Pickle Soup

5 cups vegetable stock

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small-ish pieces

4 medium carrots, washed but unpeeled, chopped small

1 cup chopped baby dill pickles 

(I skipped the butter altogether)

1 cup all purpose flour

1&1/4 cup unsweetened unflavored plant-based milk

1&3/4 cup dill pickle juice

Old Bay seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Pour the vegetable stock into a large pot and add the potatoes and carrots. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add chopped dill pickles. Mix the plant-based milk and flour in a gravy shaker and shake well. Pour into soup pot, stirring continuously and vigorously. This will thicken quickly. 

Add dill pickle juice and seasonings. Cook and stir another five minutes. 


The other recipe I was excited to try was the grilled cheese dippers. I know that these grilled cheese include dairy, but we are not a teetotaler Whole Foods plant based family. You can also substitute vegan cheese and butter for these if you’d prefer. I want to try the tomato soup included in the post, but haven’t yet. Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup have long been one of my favorite fall suppers. 

The recipe for the grilled cheese dippers can be found here. 

I’d love to know if you try these either with the original recipes or my adaptations and what you think. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 

Just for laughs 

For some reason my mind was recalling childhood stories this evening and I thought I’d share a few with you. 

1) By 1992, some of the family had strayed from our upbringing and were watching movies and television with friends. This was the year the movie “Wayne’s World” was released and for some reason it was a big hit for my oldest brother. He would walk around the house saying, “Party on, Wayne.”

After this went on for awhile my mom finally said, “I just don’t get it! Why would someone party ON Wayne?!” 

Even after repeated attempts at explanation mom was still struggling with the idea of someone partying ON Wayne. Finally my brother changed the words to, “Continue to party, Wayne.” She got it then. 

I’ve still never seen that movie. 

2) In the lifestyle in which we were raised, it was not unusual for a van load of relatives and/or friends to show up from out of state and stay with a host family. The host family would then drive their guests around for visits with others within the church. 

Even though we all wore the “plain dress,” we could often tell at a glance if someone was not from our area. 

One day myself, my two little sisters, and several neighbor kids, decided to dress up as “Canadian visitors,” and go for a visit. I don’t remember much what the other’s did, but I put powder in my hair to whiten it, pulled it straight back into a bun, and put on my mom’s head covering and bonnet. I also dug out her plainest dress and shoes. I was probably about 12 so to fill out her caped dress, I stuffed tea towels in the top. 

We hitched up the horse and buggy and decided to drive the five miles or so to someone we knew well. I was driving. 

The buggy looked a lot like this one, but had four doors instead of two. The horse was even close the the same color. 
As we drove past the house of someone we barely knew, one of the kids tugged unexpectedly on the horses rein and he turned into their driveway. 

Simple, I thought, we can just turn around and drive right back out. What I didn’t anticipate was a dog barking ferociously that would spook the horse. 

I handed the reins to one of the boys and jumped out to manually turn the horse around, but the dog was awfully suspicious of me, too. Maybe he smelled the baby powder in my hair. 

The dog started after me so I began circling the buggy to jump back in. The kids in the buggy were scared and had closed the door so I was out of  luck. Meanwhile, the matron of the household was standing at the door with a puzzled and somewhat horrified look on her face as the tea towels started falling out of the bosom of my dress. I was never so thankful for a disguise in my life. 

Eventually we got the horse turned back around and I landed safely back in the buggy, along with the tea towels that had tried to escape. We did go on to visit our friends and were so well disguised that we had them fooled until they saw us close up and heard us talk. 

I don’t have pictures because we didn’t have cameras. What I wouldn’t give to have that scene caught on a cell phone video.

For all that was hard in our lives, we sure did know how to have a great time! 

The gift of routine 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. I have a great recipe post in the works, but in the meantime, I’ve been ruminating on the gift of routine. 

We recently added another youngster to our home through foster care. (That would explain my lack of posts because we’ve been getting to know one another.) 

Sometimes as adults we feel stuck in a routine rut. We get up, we go to work, we come home, we navigate evening activities on the schedule, and so on, and for the most part it can feel pretty mundane. For children who’ve never had that consistency, routine can be one of the greatest blessings we can give them. 

All children (and most adults if we’re honest) want to be reassured that life has routine and rhythm. We want to know that when we go out for the day (or night if we’re working night shift) that our humans are going to meet us back home at the end of the day. We want to know that when we leave home, we will return after whatever work or activity we are attending is over. We have a familiar places we frequent, places we pass daily, patterns, routines, that make up the big picture of our lives. 

While breaking out from routine can be healthy and necessary from time-to-time, never discount the security these rhythms give us, especially our children. 

More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 

But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you. 

“Sick Soup” and Turmeric Tea

Or “On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup.” 

With cold and flu season on the horizon you will want to keep these ingredients for the soup and the tea handy! This is our family’s favorite “sick soup.” It’s a little spicy for the kiddos so adjust seasonings according to taste. It is also a good preventative from even getting the crud. 

The recipe is from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon. 

On the mend spiced red lentil-kale soup

1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil

1 sweet onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, dived

1 bay leaf

1&1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices

5-6 cups vegetable broth (more as needed)

1 cup uncooked red Lentils, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

2 handfuls destemmed kale leaves or spinach (I’ve used both)
Method: In large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and celery, season with salt and sauté a few minutes more making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add the bay leaf, cumin, chili powder, coriander, paprika, and cayenne and stir to combine. Sauté a few more minutes until fragrant. 

Stir in tomatoes with juices, the veggie broth, and Lentils. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until Lentils are tender and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. 

Stir in kale and cook for a few more minutes until kale has wilted. Serve immediately. (I like to make a double batch and freeze half.)

Turmeric Tea

In a saucepan, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add 2 inches of sliced fresh turmeric root OR 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. I also add about 1 inch of fresh sliced ginger root. (You can leave the peel on both roots.)

Summer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth. 

Enjoy as is or add raw honey to taste. 

Here is a link to the health benefits of Tumeric tea. Turmeric Tea Benefits  

Stay well, my friends, and enjoy! 

Why pregnancy and infant loss awareness matters

She sat in my office, her third visit sharing her story of loss. Her baby died several decades ago, after living a few short weeks. We had shared on a surface level the details of those few weeks and reactions and support or lack thereof. She leaned back now, folded her arms, and said, “It was hard, you know, but don’t you think it would be harder to lose and older child?” 

“No,” I replied, “Different, but not harder. I’m so sorry you’ve been told that.” 

I’ve heard that myself from strangers, family, friends, and way too many cashiers asking me if I’m having a party with the items they are ringing up and I reply, “Yes, to remember children that have died.” 

Here’s a disclaimer once again. I have sat with many parents whose child, teenager, adult child has died. I would never want to take away the impact of their life, their grief, their memories, their sorrow. I pray I never know that pain. In our groups we talk about the different stages and types of loss even within the child-loss community, so this is not about comparing losses. Ever! 

The point of this post and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October) and Day (October 15) is to raise awareness specifically for this cause. 

It matters to me because after I told the Mom above that her loss mattered a dam broke, a weeping came forth, anguish flowed from her very soul. Some time later when she could catch her breath she said, “For the first time since my baby died I feel like someone understands. For the first time, someone acknowledged my loss for what it was to me” 

She changed after that. For the better. Releasing years up pent-up grief allowed healing to follow. I never see her now, but I’ll never forget that moment. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness matters for the women who seek me out after a speaking engagement thanking me and wishing they had someone to talk to sixty and seventy years ago. 

It matters to me because when I was terrified about a subsequent pregnancy someone told me, “Oh don’t worry, that first one was just cleaning your pipes out.” 

My baby that I had dreamed about, loved with every fiber of my being, grieved with every cell in my body, had been reduced to nothing more than a “pipe cleaner” in this person’s view. 

This Awareness matters for the family who’d suffered multiple losses and the husband decided he needed to put school on hold. The school refused to reimburse him for his current classes that had just started even though it was so he could provide and care for his grieving family. I sent a letter to the school saying how I had walked with them through this grief and that to minimize their losses was only compounding their grief. The school not only complied, but sent a letter of apology to the family for misunderstanding just how devastating their losses were. 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness matters to me because we are told we can have more children like they can be replaced like rag dolls. We are told we should “get over it,” “be over it,” “move on,” like a part of us wasn’t just ripped out and buried or cremated. It matters because the Mom in my office the other day received a note saying, “I hope you feel better,” like she had the flu instead of just given birth to a stillborn baby. 

It matters because the silence of family and friends can be deafening when all we want is for these little lives to be acknowledged and remembered. 

We are ONE in FOUR! This matters to me because ONE in FOUR women know this pain and we are still held captive to our grief because of societal norms. 

I don’t care about media attention, but I am passionate about a societal shift. We need safe spaces for mothers and fathers and siblings to have their grief validated and healing support to follow, not glossed over by platitudes, cliches, and their babies reduced to pipe cleaner status or a time of not feeling well. 

We need compassionate doctors and nurses who empathize with this loss, pastors and clergy who offer funeral services at the wishes of the family no matter how early the loss. 

We need co-workers and bosses who give those grieving this loss the space and understanding they need. We need to stop minimizing the impact these precious lives had in the lives of those who so desperately loved them. 

I will join the chorus of those refusing to keep our losses private. I will work the rest of my life to campaign for this awareness so that, God forbid, should our own daughters know this same loss they will find a society that embraces them, encourages their voices, and nurtures them in grief and healing. 

In closing, here is a poem I wrote two months after our daughter, Sadie Rose, was born, lived, and died. It is raw, it is real, and I still feel this way. 

Don’t Tell Me

By Regina Cyzick Harlow 

August 2007

Don’t tell me everything happens for a reason

Don’t tell me this is just a season

Don’t look at me and raise your eyes and tell me that you know

That God takes care of everything because He loves us so

Don’t shrug your shoulders in my face and tell me “God knows best”

Don’t comfort me by saying my baby’s found eternal rest

I’d rather hold my baby girl and feel her flesh and blood
To smell her breath upon my face and feel her baby hugs
I’d rather kiss her tender cheeks and comb her baby hair
Than cling to idealistic dreams of knowing her “over there”
I wish her cries would wake me when I desperately needed sleep
I wish a smelly diaper meant I’d get to wash her sheets.
I’d love to feel her on my breast and hear her baby sigh
Oh God I cannot take this pain, why did she have to die
I’ll never hear her footsteps as she patters down the hall
She’ll never learn to ride a bike or play with baby dolls
She’ll never call me mommy or sing her ABC’s
She’ll never get to help me decorate the Christmas tree
So before you in all your wisdom tell me how to deal with grief
Just close your mouth and walk away and give me some relief
I know you want to help me and you don’t know what to say
But hugs, and tears, and smiles are best, when my heart feels this way.

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