Blessed Mess

mess

Life is unbearably hard and messy at times. What you thought life would be and what life actually is can sometimes feel like it is worlds apart. Reconciling the two can feel like an insurmountable task and yet… if you have the patience and perseverance to do so you might find out just how blessed you are.

I have always tried to be a positive thinker even when life has me pinned to the ground. After all if you are pinned to the ground face up you might see some of the most beautiful clouds that ever existed… And if you happen to be pinned to the ground face down there is still beauty in the dirt beneath us.

It is true that life can not always be that uplifting and finding good in the mess can be hard especially if you are a neat freak.

Struggling with infertility and loosing my dad are two of my worst messy life has me pinned moments. When I was in my twenties, struggling with the possibility of infertility, I had my doctor telling me “no need to do tests now you are so young!”. I believed him. Following the loss of my dad, and being in my thirties, I felt absolutely different.

I talk a lot about these two struggles because they feel like battles I am still fighting. Neither are things I can change as they are defined points in time. When money is tight and the house needs fixing those are things I can change by saving money and finding a good price conscious handy man. I can’t change the type of infertility I have by seeing a doctor. We tried that. It is what it is. I can’t call up to heaven and ask to speak to my dad because I miss him and need to hear his voice. It also is what it is.

While I can not change those situations, what I can do is change how I view them. Sometimes it takes time and distance to change ones perspective just as if you are an artist needing to look at a landscape differently.

Due to my family medical history, I always knew there was a possibility I could never biologically have children. Growing up with that possibility meant I had some time to think about I could do. Ever since I was a young child I knew I wanted to be a foster parent and adoptive parent irregardless of what I could or couldn’t do biologically. Most people struggling with infertility don’t have that type of perspective from such a young age. Even with that perspective, I like others struggling with infertility feel like our self worth does not amount to much because we can not “produce”. What hit me hard after loosing my dad is the knowledge that I won’t be able to look any children in the eyes and see my dad.

The loss of my dad has been a daily struggle. I never had the father/daughter relationship that parents and children dream of. Our relationship was always fraught with struggle. I was not the little girl in frilly dresses he thought I would be. Instead I was the girl in frilly dresses that climbed trees and helped fix cars. I could sense in my dad that I was not what he thought I would be and that made how I felt about him tense. We argued all the time. But the day I knew he would no longer be there to pick up any broken pieces was the worst day. Through all of our arguments and issues I had always known if I needed them he would be there.

Even though the ground work to view my infertility differently had been there since childhood getting from point A to point B was a struggle. Picking myself up after the day we lost my dad took time. It all still takes time.

Even as I had dreams of being a foster parent I never knew what type of foster parent I would become. Sure I knew I wanted to protect children. Yes I knew I never wanted to loose contact with any of them. BUT did I know I would be the type of person who would regularly have former foster children in their home as if they were still my children or nieces and nephews? No. I didn’t know that. I could have assumed that is what I would do based on who I am but I never KNEW that.

Something else I didn’t know is that I do see my dad in all the children I help raise. With one of my nephews I see my dad’s love of seeing how things work. In both of my nieces I see his love of desserts. I get to share his creativity, compassion, positive thinking, and love through me and because I that I see it in each of them. While I miss my dad like crazy I know he wouldn’t want me to change who I am today just to have him one more day. I also know that I wouldn’t be the foster parent I am right now if he were still here. Towards the end of his life my dad was physically handicapped and I was one of his caregivers. If my dad was here today then I most likely never would have met, loved, or cared for any of the children we have fostered so far.

I can not see changing my life or my world as it is right now. Sadly this means I can not see a world in this present that would have my dad. As I say that I also feel the same way about “if” Rent-a-Dad and I had been able to have biological children. Our worlds today would be different. I don’t want that.

I wouldn’t change the people who are in my life today for anything. To realize and recognize that means I live with my struggles with a heavy but very full heart. I know I am blessed. I know that somewhere in all that mess called life I am very blessed. So yes some days I look at how messy my house is and how messy my life is and I wonder how we got blessed in all this mess…

For months Branden and I have been trying to get our blog off the ground with basic designs and meaningful text in between raising several children. The truth of that is if we wait for the “perfect” time to launch our site it will never happen. Life is the stuff that happens in between the blank moments so to be true to our page we just need to take the big jump and launch! Otherwise we won’t really be true to the title of our site 😉

Late September 2014, Branden and I were doing yard work (we live in the south so mowing the yard lasts through October most years) and decided to be silly. We took pictures of us doing our yard and enjoying some homemade lemonade which is honestly our favorite yard working drink because it keeps us hydrated and feels just divine at the end of a particularly hot and trying day. On that particular day we decided our first post should be a little tongue in cheek- sharing my favorite lemonade recipe as well as my back up recipes for when life has us juggling a few dozen lemons and there is no time for 100% homemade. So without further ado, here is my most favorite way to make lemonade (when time allows) as well as a few of other options that work well for our busy life.

Ingredients

Ingredients:
1 to 1 ½ cups white sugar
8 cups water
1 ½ cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (takes 9 to 12 small lemons)

Other Items You Will Need:
Cutting board
Pairing knife (or a small knife with a sharp blade)
Bowl to collect juice in
Small strainer
Small pan to cook the water and sugar in
Funnel
Container to store the juice in

Directions:
1. Wash and dry the lemons. To get the most juice from each lemon roll them back and forth on a cutting board. Halve one lemon to start with and taste the juice. If the juice from the lemon is bitter then use 1 ½ cups of sugar but if the lemon is slightly sweet then only 1 cup of sugar will be needed.*
2. Before you squeeze the lemons, in a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Set the stove temperature to a medium heat and wait for it to start to boil. You may need to stir several times to make sure the sugar is dissolving properly. Once all the sugar is dissolved you will want to pull it from the heat and add the lemon juice.
3. While you are waiting for the sugar to dissolve begin to juice the lemons. If you do not have a juicer do not fret. Halve about 9 to 12 lemons (if you cook frequently with lemons set aside the rinds**). Hold half a lemon and take a pairing knife to cut the fruit just at the edge near the rind.  Then squeeze your lemon halves over the strainer into the bowl to collect the juice. If you do not have a strainer then just squeeze over the bowl and scoop out the seeds when you are done. You can choose to either leave in the lemon pulp or remove it. I prefer to have some of the lemon pulp so I leave it in.
4. Now that your sugar is dissolved and you have enough juice (with or without pulp) you can add it to your now cooling sugar water (syrup). You can cover the syrup and chill or begin to make your lemonade and chill once it is made. Generally I like adding the lemon syrup to the remaining 7 cups of water in my jug then chill for several hours or serve over ice.

* Keep in mind I like a good balance between bitter and sweet. A cup of lemonade that is too sweet is not very good on a hot day and my favorite time to have a nice cold glass of lemonade is on a hot day right after mowing the lawn. After many years of trying various drinks from water to Gatorade we found that lemonade on a hot day really quenched our thirst the best. Some actually believe that vitamin C is linked to staying hydrated.

If you care for more information on foods that help with hydration you can talk with your local herbalist or visit sites like:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/15-foods-stay-hydrated/story?id=19457119

** Now that your lemonade is made and chilling you can get back to the rinds you set to the side. I am a penny pincher so I try to find ways to make the best out of the ingredients I have. Usually I just grate my lemon rinds and then freeze the gratings as I use grated lemon peel in baking and cooking.

When we are in a time crunch, which tends to be quite often, I have three other tried and true ways to quench our thirst for lemonade.

Picture F
1) For a quick pitcher of lemonade, Country Time really is the best but I don’t always have a reason to make up an entire pitcher. So my most used method of making lemonade is by the glass or more appropriately by the 16 oz. bottle. I like using Wyler’s Lemonade packets. Normally I pick up a box of 10 packets for $1 from my local Wal Mart. I typically make up a bottle of lemonade right before Branden and I go out to mow the lawn. I don’t always refrigerate the bottle because room temperature drinks tend to quench thirst better on a hot day. If the drink is too cold then we end up with an upset stomach.

2) There are times when I use store bought lemon juice instead of fresh lemons. I find that not only is store bought lemon juice expensive, it is also more bitter then fresh lemons. The reason is that store bought lemon juice is generally concentrated. You can follow the recipe above but use 1 ½ cups of sugar (or more if you like it sweeter). I also find you don’t necessarily need to make the lemon syrup. You can just use one cup of really hot water to dissolve the sugar. Instead of 1 ½ cups of lemon juice you may only need to use 3 tablespoons so I suggest tasting the lemon juice first to see how strong it is. If it isn’t very strong what I would do is add the 3 tablespoons and the 7 cups of water. Then taste it, if you want a stronger tasting lemonade then add more juice.

3) My third recommendation is True Lemon. A couple of years ago our local supermarket stopped carrying our favorite lemonade drink packets so we went in search of other alternatives. During that time of trial and error we found True Lemon which is crystallized lemon. I found that by using two packets of True Lemon and a teaspoon of sugar I could make a nice glass of lemonade or in our case one 16 oz. bottle.