Today is Tim’s birthday, which makes it the perfect time to tell you how another year of living life with him—cooking together, working side by side, analyzing the nuanced details of relationships with each other, budgeting, traveling, laughing, yelling, learning about each other and from each other—has been such a gift. What is also a gift is that today’s post is not from me, but from him. He had something he wanted to say, and I cried when I read it. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.
Today is my birthday. Ordinarily you would be reading a post from Shanna, and so I apologize today, because I know it sucks when you don’t hear from her—I know because I enjoy reading her writing more than you do. But for some reason, every now and again on my birthday I get strange feelings to do something out of the ordinary. I think it stems back in part to the kind of birthdays I had with my mom. My mom always let me skip school on my birthday, and it always felt like such a great gift, since I disliked school so much.
There is something about the security of the ordinary days that gives you the strength to have the extraordinary ones. There is something freeing about structure and rules. My mom was the type of mom that made you feel like you could ask her anything and she would have a helpful response. Even if she didn’t know the answer and said so, it was the manner of her presence that made you feel like she could be trusted with your questions. She cared and, because she cared, the everyday routines and happenings provided a place of safety and growth, with protection for that growth. Self-control is a wonderful gift and parenting in such a way that helps to instill self-control, while also allowing expression, is a balance that comes out of a heart that is balanced–something my mom had.
She started to feel sick in 1992, but things around the house stayed the same. Many times it feels unfortunate to me how much we miss as kids. How much of the everyday, ordinary and routine habits of our parents that we gloss over because as kids we are being taken care of, and my mom continued to do that very well even when ill. Sometimes today it is a real fight in my mind to hear her voice and remember her manner. In 1997 she suffered the first of her five strokes and it shocked me when she would have the hardest time saying my name but could tell it was me. Eventually she regained her sharpness and wit and, even though the strokes changed her personality and left her partially paralyzed, she was still the same mom that I went to for practical advice. She still had a presence that made you feel safe to ask questions, even when she couldn’t stand up on her own.
My mom passed away ten days before my twenty-first birthday. I still have all sorts of weird emotions that I do not understand about it, but I am thankful that we had the time we had and that we were somewhat prepared for her passing and that she is suffering no longer. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, mainly because I entrust all things to Him who holds all things in His hands, but also because in God’s perfect way, my time with my mom was so good and she was so great that even the effects of her illness worked for everyone’s good, such that the things that are really valuable in life and the things that need changing come to the forefront.
So while it’s true that now I work to remember her, even if I can’t remember, so many things are already worked into me and who I am in the fiber of my being because of who she was and the environment that she created around her and the freedom it gave.
During the last several years of her life, my mom and I watched some cooking shows and I started to grow in my enjoyment of food and cooking. She gave me my love of Italian food. She gave me my love of fresh fruit and vegetables. She gave me my love of salads. We had a salad almost every night and I ate it up! (She also was the reason that I started studying health and nutrition in my spare time. So if you have wondered about some of the crazy health things you hear us doing, it is probably my fault and I am super thankful for a wife who goes along with my ideas). Whenever I think about how much I enjoy a good salad, I think of her.
Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado
Serves two to three as lunch; more as a side
A quick note on the salad, which literally is as simple as its title, with a dressing thrown on top: we also added two or three green onions, chopped finely throughout, when we had ours. The green onion adds a contrary bite to the otherwise sweet and smooth salad, so next time, I’d leave it out. Also, we went with two mangos, but they are so good, three wouldn’t hurt.
Also, also, did you guys know mangos and avocados are super cheap at Aldi this time of year, at least in our neck of the woods? Totally worth the extra stop.
About one small head of butter lettuce, torn into pieces; or, enough to fill 3/4 of your big salad bowl
2 mangos, peeled and cored and diced
1 avocado, peeled and pitted and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine lettuce, mangos and avocado in a big bowl. Toss with drizzles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, adjusting to taste as you go. Salt and pepper as you like.