The Best Teacher

Last week I made the 8 hour trek north to pick up my daughter from college. After we loaded up her things, rather than heading south for home, we continued north for another four hours to a friend’s cabin which is near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. [The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1,090,000 acre within the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.]

We stayed at the cabin, which has electricity and heat, but no running water and enjoyed the beauty of the area. We hiked.

The trail around Bass Lake

The trail around Bass Lake

It was a 5 hour hike around Bass Lake

It was a 5 hour hike around Bass Lake

30 minute hike to these falls

30 minute hike to these falls

And we canoed.

It was a blustery day.

It was a blustery day.

And we spent a fair amount of time quiet and letting the healing power of the outdoors do it’s thing.

Here are my take away lessons from the trip, in no particular order:

~There is a point when your children outgrow you. Like Kahil Gilbran says, “Your children are arrows shot into the future.” They move forward to a place that you can not go. This is a good thing.

~For me, silence is the best teacher.

~As healing as the fresh air and walking in a pine forest can be–a warm bed and a warm toilet are things that an aging body rejoices in.

~My dwelling place must be beautiful and organized. When it is not, I get restless until I make it so.

~I like my human contact to be purposeful. If we are just going through the motions or skimming the surface, I would rather retreat into silence, my best teacher.



An Abundance of Abundance

We humans tend to measure things by what is nearby. If my neighbors have homes bigger than mine….then mine must be small. Even if people in this location lived 5-10 humans to a room the size of my living room 100 years ago, or do so to this day, in another country.

My middle son says in high school his personality was label “Smart.” Even though, as he points out, “smart” is not a personality characteristic. Now, he goes to a college where most everybody is smart, an he says you can really see the flavors of personality that can be manifest in smart humans.

What I see in my own life (and those in my immediate surroundings) are people living lives rich and overflowing in abundance…but still focused on some small lack. I give you a few examples from this week. I would love it if you would add your own in the comments.

~ I am buying mostly raw ingredients, few carbs and eating only when I am hungry. I thought this would reduce my waist size as well as my grocery bill. So far only the grocery bill is affected. Still too much food.

~A co-worker, who paid for a vacation with the money from her recycled cans (Yeah! Recycling!) But still laments that there is not enough money. She drinks about 12 sodas per week. I calculate that 32 cans=1 pound = 0.50 cents. A 12 pack of Diet Coke is about $3.00. I figure she would save $2.50 just in money (not to mention time and health benefits) each week to forgo this habit. That’s $130 per year. I do not know how long she saved to pay for her vacation.

aluminum money

aluminum money

~ I recently met a woman (fairly organized) who kept her clothing in 18 gallon plastic tubs. She had them labeled, stacked, in her bedroom. There were twenty such tubs in her bedroom and about that many in the dining room. Some of the boxes had not been opened in a decade.

~Another person, I have known for decades reports that “small spaces make me claustrophobic.” She lives in a dwelling with 4,800 square feet. She mostly occupies two rooms with a footprint of 300 square feet. She assures me that to move to a smaller space would be difficult and traumatic for her.

~Another person, who requires public assistance for food and medications has 3 cats, 2 dogs and a pig in a cage (a pet–not planning on eating it, which would be more rational.) I wonder, does she need to give back?

~ Another person, spends more than $1,000 per month on eating out at restaurants. This person has many anxieties about money. Hmmmmm.

~Another person, has a home in this state. A home in a different state. A mobile home (RV), a boat, a golf cart, four cars for 2 people….one of which does not drive anymore.

All of the above persons are entitled to their different entertainments, their diversions…..up to the moment that they complain to me that they do not have enough time or money or….for what they want to spend their time on. But with all this abundance, or excess… do we find balance?

Reset Buttons

Cup of morning reflection

Cup of morning reflection

I think we adults have three main reset buttons to our psyches when our emotions are in a twist. I try to practice them each day so I only have to do little resets and not huge, scary ones.

The first reset, I’ve talked about before: gratitude. A little time each morning before the day begins or at the end, wrapping up, reminding myself all I have to be grateful for. And there’s lots. Our health. Spring birdsong in the morning. Running hot water for showers. It’s a very long list.

The second reset is forgiveness. This one is tougher, but like anything else gets easier with practice. Are there any humans or deities that I am angry with? That I feel have done me an injustice? Am I angry or disappointed in myself?

In this situation: Am I angry with my son for leaving? No, he is just being who he is. Am I disappointed in myself for having “failed him?” No. He has been a challenging person to parent from the get-go and I have given it my full attention. In this case, there is no need for forgiveness.

The third reset is discarding incorrect beliefs. We see the world through our belief filters. The information that gets through is colored by them, and then we make “rational” choices based on those facts. But sometimes the beliefs we hold are not true. I think most of us over the age of thirty have had the experience of freedom that comes when you realize a belief you held is not true. “I’m not stupid. Just because my third grade teacher said so. It isn’t true.”

In this case, I have believed that I could make my son’s transition into the adult world of responsibilities easier by providing for him a couple more years. Do I know that this is true? I do not. It is possibly true, but I can’t know that it is true. Maybe his life will be better in the future for the struggles that he has now. My oldest son has told me that the struggles he had with his step-father made him a better person. It was a difficult time in his life, but he appreciates the strength it has given him.

The turbulence of my emotions eases, and with renewed vigor and appreciation for the beauty of the spring blossoms and warmer temperatures, I face the new day.

The Lethargy of Grief


What I notice most about missing my son is how much energy it seems to take.

I have a lot of work to do on the house. I’d like to get a couple chapters further on my novel, or work an extra shift to pay more college expenses, or go out with friends. But I don’t, because I’m so tired.

I’m not a stranger to grief. As a hospice nurse, I spend my work day with grieving people. I’ve been through it before when my marriages ended and when my father died. And still, it kind of surprises me that I can’t just will myself to get up off the couch and DO something.

I tell my hospice families that there is no easy way through grief, but there are less difficult ways.

For me, that means feeling what I feel. Not distracting myself from the discomfort.

My son came by last night with a friend to gets some of his stuff. He looks healthy and excited about the new adventure he is on.

I will be okay. Maybe after this next nap.

Empty Nest

empty nest

In September, I alluded to some disturbances in my life, without giving you all specifics. I have always felt that it was important to maintain my children’s privacy. The main goal of this blog is to share healthy ways of caring for a family as a single parent.

Still vague [I know,] my youngest child has moved out at age 16. My nest is empty. I will do what I can to support all of my children, in the various stages of their lives. My youngest is wanting to be responsible for the choices that he makes. I salute that intent. I pray that if things become difficult that he will think of me as a safe harbor.

That said, I wonder if the lifespan of this blog is winding down.

I still have some parenting work to do with the offspring in college. And I need to finish getting the house ready for sale to further my dreams of travel and the kid’s college. I can blog about those things. But the day to day of children in the home is likely finished.

There are many bloggers who post about frugality and many about minimalism. What do you all think? How can I serve you? Or is this blog done?

Santa Fe Bean Corn Salad

Healthy & frugal

Healthy & frugal

Make a dressing with the juice of two small or medium limes, 1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil,) 2-3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of taco dressing. [you can make your own taco seasoning with 2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, and 1/8 tsp of following: garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt] Let the dressing sit while you combine:

black beans (15 oz. can or 1.5 cups of cooked)

corn kernels (15 oz. can or 1.5 cups cooked)

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I slice in half the grape tomatoes–but I would use whatever is in season for the best flavor.)

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

After you have mixed the rest of the ingredients, pour the dressing over the salad and stir. Let it marinate for a couple hours (or days) before you serve. This can be served cold or at room temperature.

Weekly Menu/Cost for Single Adult

As requested, here is a weekly menu plan and cost for one person. This project was made easier by the fact I had eaten down the pantry just before going on a week-long trip to meet my granddaughter. Here is the food that was in the house when I returned:

The empty fridge welcomed me home.

That’s chicken breasts thawing on the top shelf.

from the pantry

from the pantry

Then I went shopping and spent $33.62. Here’s what I got:

2015-04-06 14.48.21


Monday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, a banana. L–Turkey and lettuce sandwich on rye, apple. D–(I didn’t feel like cooking) two bags of cheddar fish and yogurt.

Tuesday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, a banana. L–turkey, avocado and lettuce sandwich, apple. D–salad with grilled chicken on top. Snack–free candy at work.

Wednesday:   B–yogurt, banana, two eggs and toast. L–salad with grilled chicken. D–can of soup, apple. Snack–a latte.

Thursday:   B–oatmeal with Nutella, banana. L–turkey and avocado sandwich, apple. D–ate at restaurant (Mongolian Beef.)

Went back to the grocery store and spent $18.12.

ingredients for lime-chili salmon and southwest bean salad

ingredients for lime-chili salmon and southwest bean salad

Friday:   B–2 eggs, toast and apple. L–can of soup, celery & carrot sticks with bean salsa. D–Lime-chili salmon,  sweet potato mashed.

Saturday:   2 eggs and toast. L–apple, celery & carrot sticks with bean salsa. D–Southwest bean salad (made with black beans, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, lime juice, cilantro and taco seasoning.)

Sunday:   2 eggs and toast, apple. L–salad with salmon on top, a side of mushrooms sautéed in butter. D–Southwest bean salad.

I gave some limes and cilantro to a friend. Still left to eat: 2 salmon fillets, 4 eggs, a cup of tomatoes, 2 cans of soup, 1 and a half jars of Nutella, half a box of oatmeal, 2 cans of coconut milk, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a package of pre-cooked rice and three pieces of bread.

So, about $50 for one person for the week.


Saturday Menu

Sometimes the best laid plans…..

Here’s my story: Saturday is a work day for me, so I ate my usual oatmeal and Nutella at work, and had a cup of tea at home. [ .38 ]

I packed a lunch to eat in between seeing patients.

Apple  .34 Egg  .29 Prunes  .21 Tomatoes  .33 Cheese  .60 Crackers  .30

Apple .34
Egg .29
Prunes .21
Tomatoes .33
Cheese .60
Crackers .30

And I was planning on having more bean soup for supper. But, I had only gotten into the cheese and crackers part of the lunch when my brother called me. He and his wife and their two foster sons were travelling from Chicago to St. Louis and their car had broken down about 5 miles from my office. What are the odds? It is 297 miles from Chicago to St. Louis–so the chances of them breaking down on my doorstep are astronomical. Yet here they were. What then occurred was a Laurel & Hardy routine….unpacking all their stuff from their car to mine, getting their car towed, unpacking their stuff at my house, keeping two 8- year-old boys entertained, trying to find a rental car…..finding a relative to drive up from St. Louis, keeping the boys entertained…, by the time we had a plan and it was starting to come together, it was 3pm and no one had eaten. My beloved brother insisted on taking us all out to eat while they waited for their ride.

My food costs for the day: $1.28…but you can’t plan for this kind of day.

Friday Menu

Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal .15, 1 tablespoon Nutella .13, tea .10. Total: .38

Lunch: Subway sandwich .96, 5 grape tomatoes .33, 6 prunes .21, yogurt .39

Lunch $1.89.

Lunch $1.89.

Dinner: Another bowl of Thai Chicken



Total for the day: $5.04

Thursday Menu

Breakfast: 2 eggs over easy .58, 1/12 of baguette .04, tea .10

2015-03-26 09.37.06

breakfast .72 total

Lunch: I liked the Thai Chicken so much, I made it again, this time without broccoli, since I didn’t have any.

2015-03-26 12.23.40


And then my boyfriend treated me to dinner out. So my total food costs for the day:  $3.15. If I had paid for my own dinner, it would not be looking so rosy.