What I said in the newspaper last week:
Author Archives: sheila
Newspaper reporter, columnist, mother of six - not including the dog - chocolate addict. Happy with life.
That would be today. A day I never imagined in my craziest city-girl dreams.
Today Jr. Show officially starts in my town. It’s a weekend packed with kids, parents, animals, prizes, barbecue, lawn chairs, dust and red, white and blue.
It’s the rural America that Norman Rockwell painted, come to life in the rich excess of a 1940s musical.
It’s also a lot of pig poop.
Yep, Hunter Boy, Martha Stewart, Jr. and Miss Tall and Blond have once again raised little piggies for market (giving me a new outlook on that toe-tickling game), which will be judged and sold before we leave Sunday evening.
This time we’re camping out at the showgrounds in the RV, to give filthy teens a place to peel off a few layers of grime, a cool spot in the heat of the day and some place to invite their friends.
It also gives the oldsters a place to get out of the sun, watch a movie and chat with new friends and old.
We’re going to be a Hallmark movie, you can bet on it.
But it truly is all tempered with pig poop, and me yelling for shoes to get left outside and to not eat so much at the concession stand and STOP BICKERING.
Yeah, they’re going to have to edit that out of the final cut. I’ll let you know how this goes.
What I said in the newspaper last month:
I don’t know about you, but when a blogger wears a strip of bacon on her shirt — clarification: a picture of bacon — I’m going to be interested. When deliciously low-carb recipes follow, I’m bound to be infatuated.
Seattle-area blogger Kyndra Holley came to my attention not long after she began her blog, “Peace, Love and Low Carb.” You know how it goes: Someone commented on one of her recipes; I saw it, checked out her Facepook page and was immediately delighted.
Everything on there looked delicious and manageable in the few hours I devote to cooking every week. How rare is that?
In our current culture, just about anyone can be his or her own social media star.
Kyndra might seem an unlikely luminary, but with 30,000 Facebook followers, a blog receiving 150,000 individual views per month and a cookbook that has boiled over the rim of the usual number of sales from such self-published efforts, she looks to be firmly on the ladder going up.
This woman gets it, and “it” began when she and her husband took a long, hard look at themselves the day before Thanksgiving, 2011, Kyndra said.
“We both gained weight after our wedding. I always tell people we went through the ‘fat and happy’ stage.”
Although the couple had been actively dieting since that summer, her scale still registered 250 pounds; it was clear things weren’t working, Kyndra recalled. “We took pictures and when I looked at them, I just said to my husband, ‘Do I really look like this?’”
Part of the problem was believing that limiting her carbohydrate intake could be the single magic bullet, à la the Atkins Diet, she explained. “I thought I could eat bacon cheeseburgers dipped in ranch (dressing) all day, every day.”
It didn’t help matters that she worked as a manager in a great restaurant at the time, a position she recently left to focus on other goals.
Yet the experience she gained from years in food service has become invaluable, Kyndra would come to realize.
She started things off by taking her family’s favorite recipes and recreating them with health first and foremost in mind. That and taste, of course.
In time, she was posting dishes like “Mustard Blackened Chicken,” “Creamy Turkey Taco Soup” and “Sloppy Joe Stuffed Peppers,” most with step-by-step visual tutorials.
Kyndra had me, and my entire family, at “Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip,” which she posted nearly a year ago. Everywhere I’ve taken this dish, people are happier to see the bowl in my hands than me. It’s a lovely mess of sauteed onions, bacon, cream and Parmesan cheeses and sour cream … producing basically a mouthful of, yep, love. And peace, in bacony bliss. But don’t be frightened, there are many less-decadent recipes, too.
She tries to avoid looking at other cookbooks, she said. “I don’t want something that’s not mine to creep in, so I do my best not to seek them.”
Working around professionally prepared food in the restaurants gave Kyndra the tools to adapt recipes and developed her eye for appealing dishes. As a sometime food-blog follower, I can attest to how important this is for readers.
There’s nothing like seeing a photograph of food that sounds delish, but is poorly presented — spills, plate rims not wiped off, similar colors too close together, the messy background of someone’s dinner table as dinner is in progress. I could go on.
Readers responded with enthusiasm, Kyndra recalled, some taking it so far as to steal her intellectual property and repost it as their own, down to her signature ingredients, “2 Tbs. Peace and Love.”
That has been difficult to take, she conceded. “My blog settings were not very strict. It was a learning curve. I saw places where people were using my photo and everything verbatim … that just feels like a punch in the face.”
And when she took a recipe off her blog because it’s included in her new cookbook? Boy howdy, the crazies came out of the crockpot. My words, not Kyndra’s.
Her skin grows thicker by the day, however, and Kyndra knows now that each negative reaction will be overbalanced by a thousand positive offerings of praise and motivation, she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the integrity of others.”
In the meantime, she is committed to counting carbs and calories, plus a rigorous exercise routine, which has aided her loss of nearly 60 pounds and multiple dress sizes.
There’s still work to be done on her 5-foot-10-inch frame, she said, but focus on strength and more has to be key.
Kyndra promotes what she preaches on her Facebook page, where she sometimes posts the contributed pictures and stories of others undertaking the same battle, cheering on their victories.
Now free of outside jobs, the writer is steaming ahead with marketing her cookbook. Her husband is completely supportive of her goal, she said.
“He seems too good to be true. … He never badgers me about not spending enough time with him, he knows I am building a future for us.”
To see more about Kyndra and her fabulous recipes, go to ubne.ws/11SRnGV.
Not that you need to, God, but I hope you check Facebook every now and then.
If so, you can’t miss the outpouring of stories and praise posted about Ronnie Richwine.
I’ve written about Ron before, telling Walla Walla Union-Bulletin readers of my city’s cry to you to heal the principal of Ferndale Elementary School. In January I wrote:
Richwine, 44, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last spring. Surgery appears to have failed to stop the march of cancer cells, and the family was told earlier this month that the husband and father of three likely has less than a year to live, according to a Facebook post by Ron’s wife, Amy Richwine, also an educator at Ferndale.
Things have gotten worse in the little picture we have here on the planet. Ron is home and appears to be heading toward the finish line on this lap of his journey.
People are saying the nicest things about Ron on Facebook. His skill at working with kids is legendary, according to the posts. His passion for his work as an educator shines in every little thing he does, from coaxing kids to shape up to allowing them to swing from his arms as he walks the halls of Ferndale.
It seems the man was destined to be a light in our corner of the world. Former classmates laud the goodness and humor that was apparent even in middle school, when all the rest of us are pretty awful. They talk with humor at his antics in high school, always underscored by decency and good citizenship.
The parents of the kids Ron shepherded through his school? They are the superfans of his love for children. Each and every mom and dad believe their children are or will be better adults for knowing this guy.
I have my own stories. Ron taught two of my girls in Sunday school, at a moment in life I was sure the Christian community was in deep denial about the issues my family was struggling with. With one child living with horrific mental illness, we felt disengaged from those who seemed determined to assign spiritual blame. When we walked into the same church Ron goes to, we felt embraced. When he grinned his grin and teased smiles from my kids, we felt drenched. Not judged, just loved.
Ron is one unit of a larger family that is beloved in our community, as well. Truth is, there seems to be not a speck of dark in a sky made bright by those under the Richwine crest.
Here is what no one is saying, God, so I figured this part was up to me. Because, you know, we’ve always been honest with each other and I am not known for holding back.
This just isn’t right. Taking Ron from us now isn’t right. Not fair. Not your best work, frankly. It sucks. We’re not feeling very blessed, if I can be so bold.
BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING RED-HEADED RON. The funniest, caringest, lovingest, and all the other “ests” guy any of us know.
Yeah, yeah, “bigger picture” and all that. No one knows that more than me, Lord. But right now we are children, crying at your knees, asking for the thing we think we need most to make us happy.
Really, really happy.
I know you love Ron, God. For some reason, he is too valuable to you to leave him with us. But if you are going to put amazing humans in our midst, you can’t be all that surprised when we despair at their removal from our lives.
So maybe you could change your mind, Lord. No one would think less of you for choosing Plan B. Not a soul in Milton-Freewater would consider you weak for giving in to our begging.
What I said in the newspaper this week:
Before you read this column, chant this line: “This is not about me. This is not about me.”
I say that because I am bound to offend some very good people with this piece. I’ve done it before, when I’ve taken sacred tradition or community perspective and … observed it, with no intention of being negative. You’ll have to trust me — this comes not from a place of anger, but joy and sadness. In nearly equal doses.
It’s a graduation year at Home Place, an unequivocally happy moment. Our graduate has surprised anyone who’s known her long. Burdened with prenatal brain trauma, learning has been terribly difficult at times. This is the girl who arrived at cognitive milestones long after her classmates had sprinted ahead. As she came into her teen years, social and emotional development proceeded excruciatingly slowly, grinding to a fitful stop for now.
Yet here we are, graduation-bound. We got the professional pictures, ordered announcements, agonized over the guest list and are discussing the family party menu. Endlessly, since older sisters are looped in and opining.
This didn’t just happen. Graduation comes about because of the intense — and that word isn’t big enough — involvement of professionals, neighbors, church members and friends who are willing to be a “village.”
By golly, we did it all. Tutored, cajoled, bribed, explained, explained, explained. Emailed, texted and phoned in a tight network of determination. We searched for help, found the best doctors, prayed the most-needed prayers.
But no adult in the universe could change some things, and that’s coming home to roost. This is where “sad” kicks in.
The graduation information from the school has been ongoing for months, it’s true. What’s not said says more.
There’s no scholarship buzz, for starters. Parents who have birthed high school seniors know just what I mean. Your kid starts getting the high sign by the school early on — “grades, community involvement, great endeavor equals scholarships.” Students are advised to visit the counseling office to mine all possible scholarship applications. You, doing your part, chain them to the kitchen table until those are filled out and submitted. Then you hold your breath along with your kid, hoping some relief from the cost of tuition will be extended because your child was deemed worthy. Or lucky.
Not this time, not at our house.
We’re not getting the recruiter love, either. Not from colleges or military branches. Certainly, pieces of mass mailings have landed here, with color-soaked pictures of beautiful campuses and delighted students grinning in clean-cut joy. Or children flying Air Force planes, whatever.
This doesn’t mean my daughter is not bound for college. We’ll be talking to the right folks to find a good fit for the girl who dreams of being a chef. We’ll start with one class at a time and watch what happens.
And that’s so great. I get that. I know that in the world of developmentally disabled adults, our girl has more options than most. Her brain has organic damage that left holes in lobes, but there’s a lot that functions beautifully. Like areas that determine compassion, appreciation, musical ability and capacity to love.
But I’m a mom. I want what I want for my kid and I’m not going to get it this time. This message came home to me a few weeks ago at Whitman College.
My girl is blessed to be part of a program that pairs special-needs adults with Whitman students. The group meets twice a month for activities that everyone loves: karaoke, tie-dyeing, treasure hunts, movies. It’s amazing how happy both sides are to be together.
Yet when I watched my child sitting on brick steps surrounded by Whitties, there was that moment of pain — knowing my blond-headed baby would never be seemingly care-free on a college campus, in momentary limbo from the dive into adulthood.
Truth is, adulthood for her will look much like her childhood. For years.
We’re also missing out of the not-so-important stuff surrounding graduation. Like the birthday party invitations that dried up a decade ago, there will be no party after the official senior party. Or the excitement of friends planning a trip before going separate ways to college. Not the sweet promise of a last summer at home, when your parents are slightly more tolerable when a light is at the end of the tunnel.
Actually, all that is the important stuff.
This is my first graduation of a special-needs child. I’m not doing it as well as I hoped. On one hand, people will say there is no need to rain on everyone’s end-of-school parade. To those I ask to please refer to my first sentence.
Others will counsel me to look at the bright side. And I will. Sometimes, though, we have to recognize the gray passing over us and acknowledge it as a valid color.