Archive for June, 2010

Bruised Apples and Local Character

Caryn: We’ve got a Guest Post today. My pal Tracey Bianchi, author of the critically acclaimed Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet, has written a little something for us. Enjoy!

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Tracey: Our local farmer’s market is a hub of activity every week. Lettuce, jelly, strawberries, nuns who bake bread. The old Greek guy selling olives is definitely my favorite. He takes plump, oval, gorgeous olives and crams them with soft bleu cheese. I don’t even like bleu cheese but his olives have made me a devotee.

The family that hauls heirloom apples up from the southern part of my state is another treasure. By late summer they truck in over two dozen varieties of apples. Brown Snout, Adina, Prairie Spy, Akane, Pink Pearl, Chisel Jersey. Did you know apples had these names?

My apple exposure comes from the pile at my local grocer. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Maybe on a daring day I dabble in a Jonathan Gold.

Grocery store apples are perfectly smooth, no bruises and quite hard. I arrive home and they don’t taste as stellar as they looked. Mealy and lackluster. These apples come from fabulously far away places like Washington State or New Zealand. I find this odd given the multiple apple orchards near my home. None of the apples in our stores actually come from these orchards (a common occurrence in food life).

Commercial apples are often plucked from the trees long before they are ripe, stealing their sweetness and color. A green apple at your grocer might actually, if left on the tree, become a yellow apple! And sweeter than the one in your cart.

On a recent trip to the farmer’s market my two youngest children were running from bin to bin picking their apples by yanking whatever looked tasty from the heirloom varieties.

Then they scurried over the the stroller where a canvas bag received their selections. At first they gently set the apples into the bag. It was perfectly idyllic. I was the uber eco-mom with the gentle kids and the awesome apples. But the moment quickly changed as competition and adrenaline suddenly took over.

They began racing back and forth, grabbing armloads of apples and throwing them into my bag. Beautiful apples bouncing around and bruising one another. I managed to stop the chaos for a moment so my 2.5 year old said “okay mommy, then let’s go buy our apples.”

Before I could harness his ambition he darted over to the stroller, grabbed the handle on our bag and yanked it with such force that the bag tipped and apples flew then bounced across the market lot. “Oops. Mommy?”

As we tucked them back into the bag I noticed, beyond our bruises, that each apple had such character. Traits you don’t see in stores. Odd colors, lumps, freckles and spots. Each had a story to tell. An heirloom apple’s worth of history, seeds from France, family secrets from Germany, local color from Illinois. These apples were ripe with more than flavor.

We relaxed enough to pay the farmer (who smiled and kindly said “happens all the time”) and I felt embarrassed of course. But, I also felt joy and history swelling through my little suburban veins. A small moment of triumph over the commercial food industry, victory for my kitchen.

I had a bag of odd shaped character and it felt a little bit like my life. Freckled, bruised and filled with stories. Like the lives of my children as well.

So I beg you to get in touch with your local growers this summer. Not as an act of hatred against grocery chains but a way learning and of growing. To put your hands on freckled apples is to realize that you are connected to the same bizarre, bruised world as our farmers and our food.

A way of living into the reality that we are all connected to our land, God’s land. Our food and ultimately to one another. May you find an odd shaped apple this summer that fills your heart and your stomach with a glimpse of God’s love and grace for this world and for your very soul.

Tracey Bianchi is the author of Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet. She is the mother of three and an author, speaker, and women’s ministry director. You can find more of her musings on life, faith and sustainability at http://traceybianchi.com.

The Mom-Heart Connection

Caryn: So a couple weeks back, I became That Mom. You know, the one who gets screamed at by another mom because she did something horrible and irresponsible and caused a huge commotion? That one. That was me. I’m still reeling from what transpired. Here’s the story:

Our dog hates other dogs—or most other dogs. And our dog escaped the back yard by slipping past my son who was closing the gate and she ran down the driveway. My son caught her, but she ended up seeing another dog across the street and slipped out of her collar and went after the other dog. A dog that was being walked by a nice couple and their two preschoolers tucked into a jogging stroller.

We discovered this all happening when the entire neighborhood erupted into screams. So, my husband and I busted out of the house (yes, we were inside while the kids played outside) and dashed across the street. Rafi tried to grab our bitch by her scruff and I somehow remembered learning once that to break up a dog fight, you grab a dog by its two back legs and pull. I did that and it worked.

My husband took our dog back to the house while the other mom screamed at me: “Why would you have your dog out without a leash?” “Why would you let it be out there with the kids?” All these sorts of things flying my way.

I stood there and kept saying “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” And tried explaining that the dog escaped, etc. But she didn’t care. It was terrifying. Her kids were scared. Her dog was potentially hurt (she wasn’t thank God. My dog apparently just likes really rough play). And I got why she was screaming at me. I would’ve been screaming at her had the tables been turned.

After she finished screaming, I did something weird: I hugged her. It was either that or ask her if we could pray and I thought hugging was the least weird. She hugged back and I could feel her heart racing against my chest. I’m sure she could feel mine too.

It turned into an actual sweet moment shared between two moms. It was like—at least from my perspective–our hearts beat together, almost understood each other.

Maybe that’s too dramatic, but after the hug and after my husband went out to help find their dog (who had run away, of course), and after we paid for them to take their dog to the vet to make sure he was okay (totally fine, just shaken) and after I wrote a big apology note and sent flowers, we’ve now had a couple of nice email exchanges.

We’re not friends now or anything, but I like what’s transpired—we both related to each other as mothers—understanding each others’ mom hearts and we’ve come to a place of peace out of chaos.

Anyway, it sort of gave me hope for the future of the world—if we put moms in charge and all try to solve problems from our mom hearts. Maybe some day we’ll find it, the Mom-Heart Connection? The lovers, the dreamers, and me…. So to speak. Whatcha think? Ever had this weird connection?