dwell in this

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Nothing brings Larkin and I closer, than working on accounting together. And, by closer, I mean closer to the “His and Hers” matching urns of our ashes, that may or may not be scattered in the same general vicinity, someday.

Working together, running a new business these past several months has been a dream come true except for the monthly dose of Quick Books nightmares. Nothing brings on a hot flash faster for me than an Excel Spreadsheet.

Him: How did you code that check? Me: Miscellaneous. (my favorite)  Him: You have to code it a specific expense.  Me: If I had wanted to be an accountant then, I would BE an accountant!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Yep. We are on our own now. No office support staff for L. No full-time housekeeper, helping me to make it all look effortless. It is just him and me, a mom and pop operation, sifting through bank statements, bills and receipts. Sitting at our computers and recounting the week’s sales and expenditures turns me into a 9 year old, trying to sit still in class.  

Me: Hey, look at this pic. Does this dress look blue or gold, to you?  Him: Get off Twitter! It’s blue. Focus!                                                                       

I want to write, paint, build, design, create, dance, sing, watch TCM or have a root canal and a mammogram at the same time. I do not want to work with numbers with my business partner in his work voice. There is a tone in his work voice that I do not care for. I prefer, husband voice.

It is hard to believe that we were once that suburban couple, raising kids in an affluent neighborhood. Our defined roles, so fortunately traditional. I was lucky to be a stay-at-home mom, carpooling to their private schools and volunteering on every committee to make sure that their childhoods were everything that a Disney Channel show promised. I cooked, baked and nurtured those little chickadees until they flew east for college, then migrated to the west for the beginning of the rest of their lives.

He ran the businesses, I ran the house. Our “work” paths never crossed.

The structure of our lives was so scheduled, planned and executed it almost seems impossible to me that we actually adhered to such a manicured time frame. I never overslept once. We lived well. We were happy. We acknowledged our success and fortuitous luck. We were grateful. We enjoyed and savored the moments. Because we knew.

We knew we wanted more. We wanted different.

To think outside the box, you have to know where the lines of the box actually fall. We knew we wanted out of the box, but just how far and what direction?

With all the kids gone, living their own lives, we came to the conclusion that our home away from home, our cottage of 10 years on Martha’s Vineyard, would become just home. My husband’s business partner of 20 years was making big changes in his life that were wreaking havoc on our life. Oh, and that business partner was also our brother-in-law; married to my husband’s sister. Dread, divorce, and dissolution ensued. Yet, a door creaked open. This was our chance for a big change.

(Enter Life) 

We had just moved into the big, beautiful old/new house in the hip-historic-up-and-coming-but-still-sketchy-chic part of Houston, that I had totally renovated. I love houses. Looking at real estate and interior design websites can be a cardio workout for me. We have been blessed with living in some beautiful and unique homes.

But, for the first time in our lives, we were living in my “Lola Dream House”; the house that Jacq built. I poured my heart and soul into that house. I had designed the perfect kitchen, the perfect master closet, the perfect house for entertaining. It was the house you can only build after you have raised kids, thrown over the top birthday parties and hosted Christmases for 20 plus guests. The design functionality resume that comes from surviving apple juice stains, teen spirit and experiences that leave a mark.

I would love to tell you that I responded with the joy and support of a loving wife, when L suggested that we sell the big house and move to the island. Nope. But, after two very large Manhattans and one very good ugly cry, I was on board. “I dwell in possibility…”, I would channel Emily Dickinson:

“I dwell in Possibility
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors—”

So, when L pitched his next business proposition to me, I was ready for the possibility:
“How fun would it be to buy a bar on Martha’s Vineyard?”

Are you there, Emily? It’s me, Jackie.

“I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!”

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration of my enthusiasm. But, honestly, I did like the idea. It had possibilities.

A business that is open 7 days a week, 13 hours a day is quite a challenge. Now add alcohol. A bar that serves the fine folks of a small island, 7 days a week, 13 hours a day is a Coen brother screenplay waiting for the green light.

So, yes, we bought the “The Ritz”, a bar that has been in business since 1944 and is not even ironically “ritzy”. It is the bar the locals call “their” bar. The bar where, truly, everybody knows your name. We are upholding the tradition of providing live music, year round. We have a small kitchen with great bar food and we are incorporating community theme parties and events to provide entertainment for a small population over a long winter. Come this summer, over 100,000 tourists will take over and we will be ready.

How’s that for going outside the comfort box? Nailed it!

The island that was always our getaway, our place to regroup and relax has become our business, our livelihood, our work. A full partnership, L and I put in the crazy hours it takes to keep our employees organized and happy, our customers happy and satisfied, and our marriage satisfied and sane.

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The Ritz after Blizzard #1, January 2015- photo: Erik Albert, Oak Bluffs Inn 

We recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. The last year, hands down, was our most challenging, yet most exhilarating year ever.

Our days of a structured life are over. We run a bar. We stay out late, we hang out with amazing musicians and throw crazy parties. We’ve survived two blizzards, a winter for the record books and even got to celebrate the home team, my Pats, winning the Super Bowl.

We did it. We took a chance. We sold our house, we left our family, our friends and the remaining businesses in very capable hands. We set out to find the possibilities in us.

Just us, again. Like in the beginning. A couple.

A couple, falling in love all over again in the next chapter of our lives.

A couple that dwells in possibility.

A couple that really hates doing accounting together.

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New Year’s “Odd Ball” 2015 – photo: Tom Stevens Creative

 

For Julia

via HookedonHouses.net

When I began this post, I didn’t realize I would be posting it on the 100th Birthday of Julia Child. A recipe post is very apropos. Her legacy lives on in every food blog, every recipe “Pin” and every Instagram picture we share. Creating good food is an art and social media has helped up become part of this Food Appreciation culture.

Julia encouraged us all to simply TRY. She is the Godmother to all of us, the kitchen goddesses and gods everywhere, that play in our kitchens each day cooking, baking, entertaining and sharing our love of food.  Happy Birthday, Julia!

 

Everywhere I go, people are kicked into high gear “Back to School” mode. Especially this past week, as I have been helping my sister and her teacher/friend/colleague decorate their classroom. (Jen, what the ‘h’ do you call Carolyn?) As you can see, I have had to turn on my “teacher speak” since working at a place that molds and shapes young minds. Not easy when a hammer, nails and a power sander are involved. That is how my sister and her teacher friends speak…”What the “H”?!…”Don’t be such a ‘B’!”

That is why I could never be a teacher. I would yell, “What the HELL?” Then, open the TOP drawer of my desk for my flask. Why even bother hiding it in the bottom drawer? I have raised four children. I know exactly where the stash should be hidden: Within reach.

I remember those getting ready days. All the forms to fill out, the summer reading to cram in, the packets to pour over, trying to wind down summer sleep schedules for the brutal early mornings around the corner. I lived it. I loved it.

I do not miss it.

I listened to my sister and her friends going over “first day” itineraries and lesson plans. As I worked quietly on the bulletin boards, all I could feel was relief and gratitude wash over me. Relief, that I do not ever have to receive an email from “EDLINE” again and Gratitude, that the good Lord up above gave me the strength to survive emails from “EDLINE”.

(FunFact: Edline is an online service for students and parents to keep up with grades and assignments under the guise of being helpful, when really all it does is stress you out entirely.)

Being an empty nester, I found myself all caught up in the Back to School hoopla, but, with time on my hands. Since I am not out in the 102 degree heat, schlepping Staples/Target bags filled with school supplies into my car, I decided to come up with a super-power filled muffin that I would feed my kids for the first few days of school, if they were here, of course. I had been wanting to try a variation of a Morning Glory muffin with kale. We already eat carrot cake, why not?

I was so amped, that I even dragged my still-like-new food processor out of the cupboard. I always see this apparatus as cumbersome. I cooked and baked for 23 years without it. Just getting it out and setting it up requires a musical score. But, once it is all set-up, it’s pretty amazing. I shredded the carrots and kale in less than 2 minutes. Although it did take me 20 minutes to wash, dry and put the darn thing away. Yin and yang, I guess.

Before you say to yourself, “There is no way in hell, my kids would even try a veggie/healthy/power whatever muffin,” let me just say two things.  1) It’s “…no way in ‘H'”…remember, the kids…shaping and molding young minds, and, 2) These muffins are sweet and you can even make them sweeter by simply adding a little more sugar.

If your kids start school as early as mine did, then it’s still dark outside when you’re trying to get a balanced, nutritious  breakfast crammed down their throats, before you hit the carpool line or bus stop. They won’t even be able to see all the green goodness and protein power these little muffins pack.

If they ask, just tell them it’s what “The HULK” or superheroes have for breakfast. Or something about making them smarter or stronger or faster. You’ll know what to say. We are mothers. We are great at this “s”.

Morning Glorious Bran Muffins

The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match to get your 2 1/2 cups of flour. Use what you have on hand. I just happen to keep a variety of flours and bran (hello, fiber) stocked in my pantry. Also, your fruits, veggies and nuts can be substituted and adjusted for your family’s tastes. Let your inner Julia shine and go get creative!

Serve warm with butter, orange marmalade, apple butter or Larkin’s suggestion, cream cheese frosting….Enjoy!

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. quinoa flour

1 c. wheat bran

1 Tbs. milled flax seed

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon or baking spice (I use Penzey’s)

1/2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins)

1/2 c. chopped walnuts

8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained

2 c. shredded carrots

1-2 c. shredded kale (of course, I used 2 cups. Hence, the Green.)

1/2  Greek, Non-Fat, Plain Yogurt (little tub)

1/2 c. all-natural applesauce (little tub)

2 Tbs. canola oil

3 eggs 1/2 c. agave nectar (or brown sugar or molasses or honey)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line muffin tins with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, bran, flax, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cranberries and walnuts. Fold in shredded carrots and kale. In a second bowl, gently whisk eggs, yogurt, applesauce, oil and agave. Pour the egg mixture into the dry mixture; mix well. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 18 gloriously healthy muffins.

Note: Value does not include cream cheese frosting

the summer of peace

I am getting settled for another summer on my beloved island. It is always a little bittersweet, because Larkin has to commute every few weeks. We really do hate to be apart. Texas is very far apart. It takes a car, a plane, another car and a ferry to get here. But, as a dear friend once told me, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”

While here, I will get to spend more time with our two college kids. Jordan is finishing up at BU and can take the ferry over on weekends. The Boy is spending his summer here on MV, searching for a little summer job, a few gigs and a lot of artist peace and quiet.

In between ALL of those loads of laundry (!), he and I have had some long talks about peace, comfort with who your are and being comfortable in your own skin. Why is it so easy for some, while others have to really fight for a place at the table of calm?

 

Do you find yourself searching for peace?

If so, then please stop. Just stop. You cannot go out and search for it. Be still. Let it be. Allow peace to come into your life. It is there waiting patiently and quietly…after all, it is peace!

I believe some people do not see themselves worthy or deserving, so they fool themselves into searches for causes or purpose or bliss, whatever the current blog buzz word happens to be. It is like busy work, tricking yourself into believing that the search is the hard work. If you’re out looking for it, you are missing it altogether.

The hard work is being still. Accepting what is. And, simply, let it be. No shame. No judgement. This is life. As Katharine Hepburn put it, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

We’ve always known that life is ups and downs, ebbs and flows. So, why can we get so thrown?

Conquering unhappiness, depression, addiction, insecurity, health issues, divorce, unemployment, financial fiasco, anxiety, obesity, self-harm, loneliness or even general malaise; they all share a starting point, a first step towards the light. It begins with peaceful acceptance. “It is what it is.” (Larkin’s favorite.)

Now, you are ready.

 Facing the issue, steadying yourself to be open to the calm, will bring you to a state of peace; an unshakeable force to handle stressful times at work, school, parenting, dealing with difficult people, bosses, bullies, relatives or even teenagers. You will be armed to fight off any mental, emotional or physical issue.

Peace is your superpower. Set your buttons to your default, locked on peace. Then, nobody can push those buttons, “not even the people who installed them”, one of my favorite Larkin-isms. (Can you tell I miss him?) Your own thoughts are the most challenging enemy to your peace because they live on site. Your thoughts and your peace are roommates. But, you can give those thoughts strength or you can render them powerless.

 It is all you.

Peace is not a geography problem. Although, I highly recommend the Vineyard for some serious down time and relaxation. “It’s so choice.” (Quick! Name the movie before you get to the end of the post.)

I am thankful everyday for our home here. Even more so, that Joshua is finding his own calm here, too. But, being 19 and an artist, it is going to be just like his keys or his wallet. He has to remember to take his peace, wherever he goes.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Got to love a blog that quotes Emerson and Ferris Bueller.

Peace.

A “chick-less” Easter

Our home has had more than its share of big Easter celebrations with riotous, roller derby style egg hunts, chocolate meltdown overdoses and even an impromptu golf lesson that turned into a trip to the emergency room and 12 stitches.

Yep, I did it. I laid my husband out cold with a Big Bertha Callaway driver, Easter Sunday 1994, in front of about 30 guests, including small children and the elderly.  It was just like when David took down Goliath. With a lot more blood.

This year, in honor of our new Empty Nest freedom, Larkin and I jumped in the Prius (Gas is $4.19 a gallon.) and set out for the open roads of Texas. We packed up our puppy, Juliet, playlists of road tunes and set our destination for a fabulous Texas diner. Larkin and I are simple people. (The key to being together for almost 25 years.)

Last year, when Texas Monthly Magazine came out with their list of Texas’ best diners and places for pie, we knew immediately how we wanted to spend some of our new free time. Eating.

It was a gorgeous day for a road trip and a perfect way to spend our first “kid-less” Easter holiday. We hit Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, Round Top, Brenham and Hutto, Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hutto, a 100-year-old town, home of the Texan Cafe and Pie Shop. Texas Monthly did not disappoint. Chicken Fried Steak, as big as the county, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, Pork Chops, Mac ‘n Cheese, with green beans and peas for color. All of the Texas food groups were represented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, my God, the PIE. The creamiest Coconut Cream pie we have ever had. They have a sign inside the restaurant that says “Pie Fixes Everything.” Indeed, sometimes, it does. The toasted coconut on top of the pie did wonders for me.

Riding out our “pie high” through the back roads of the Texas Hill country, we stopped and took pictures, read the historical markers and even risked our lives by pulling over to the side of the road for the time-honored tradition of taking Texas Bluebonnet pictures.

Getting the perfect spring bluebonnet picture is two-fold. One, don’t get killed by the cars, pick-up trucks and 18 wheelers that are careening down the highway at 90mph. Two, attempt to get a shot that doesn’t have someone else in your frame. Yes, Texas is big. But, THAT many people are out, on a gorgeous day, propping up their cute, Easter outfitted kids (or dogs) amidst the glory of the Texas state flower. And, risking their lives, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Texas thing. You haven’t lived on the edge, until you have swerved to the edge of HWY 290 at 75mph, just to shoot bluebonnet pics.  Just like you haven’t had a Stallings’ Family Easter, until you’ve nearly knocked your husband’s eye out, from your back swing.

Relaxing from the road trip, we reminisced about that Easter while watching The Masters Golf Tournament, yesterday. Larkin’s golf clubs safely stored in the trunk of his car. Locked.

 

3 steps forward, 2 steps back

Your college freshman is home! You are so proud. Hell, he graduated from high school and got into college, all in this past year. Wow!

However, the first winter break for college Freshman is a very long, exhausting break. And, not just for the parents. These kids come home and try and reconnect with every friend they’ve had since middle school, cram in visits with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all while trying to catch up on their coveted sleep. You can try and set up dentist and doctor appointments, but don’t have your heart set on it. And, parents, get ready to roll out all of the old mantras all over again. “Don’t drink. Call me if you do. Don’t do drugs. We will come get you whatever time. Remember what happened to___________” (insert your local tragic teen story here…sadly, there are too many.)

It seems that many of these newbie young adults revert right back to that high school mentality of living in the moment and throwing consequence to the wind. Life is a party! Even worse, they don’t have jobs or school responsibilities to keep them on any kind of schedule. Over the long break, the college-ness begins to wear off. I keep wondering, where is that college kid we saw at Parents Weekend back in October? The one that knew his way around Boston, walked confidently through the school, actually woke up and met us for brunch? Will he be showing up again soon? Or does he only reside in Boston?

It has come up more than once, these past few weeks, the idea of which childhood relationships are real and which are just being kept alive through the magic and wonder of Facebook. Just because a “friend” posts a party on FB doesn’t mean everyone has to show up. The fact that we were having these discussion made me feel that these savvy kids know the difference. Every evening, I watch our kids’ beautiful faces illuminate with that bluish hue of their iPhone screens, as they scroll all of the possibilities for the night. Then, in a very non committal tone, The Boy: Well, ‘so and so’ is going to ‘so and where’ and there’s a bunch of people going, so I might meet up with them. Me: Oh? I don’t remember ‘so and so’. The Boy: Mom, remember? Sophomore year. That guy.

That guy. Oh, sure. THAT guy. Wow! With these communication skills, we are almost right back in high school. I will give credit by saying “almost”. He actually used words, not monosyllabic grunts. I have always tried to parent our teens with my memory of being a teen close at hand. I never wanted to condemn their friends, their choice of dates or any of their ideas. (Except for piercings and tattoos. 2 out of 4 heard me.) I remember what it felt like when my parents didn’t understand.”Oh, my God! You, like, have no idea of what MY life is like! You are so lame! I’m, like, so embarrassed for you.” (yeah, yeah… I grew up in the 80’s, whatever.)

So, I do remember being home on Friday nights, thinking I might be missing a party where the cute boy I liked might be. But with FB, you KNOW you are missing the party and you can actually see pictures of the cute boy you like, when you are reading it on Facebook…at home…on a Friday night…like some loser!

I get it, really I do. I guess I just want my super amazing parenting skills to wash over The Boy and have him mature now. I keep thinking I will have this deep conversation with him and he will have that Oprah “Aha Moment”. Everything that I am trying to protect him from: mistakes from poor decisions, speeding tickets, hangovers from cheap beer…they are exactly the experiences he needs to learn, to grow and to finally mature.

This morning, early for a Sunday, I picked him up at a friends house where he had “crashed” for the night. He got in the car and said “Mom, thank you so much for picking me up. I really appreciate it. I’m sorry it is so early.” We got home, made breakfast and then he asked his dad if he wanted to watch a movie with him.

3 steps forward.