Lamb’s quarters

If you have jumpy little black bugs in your garden, and if the arugula you planted has holes in it one day, is shriveled the next, and totally gone the third day, you might have flea beetles. I love arugula, especially with feta cheese, toasted pecans and cranberries, so I plant it every year. This year I planted it twice–both times the seedlings succumbed to flea beetles resulting in my sixth consecutive arugula crop failure. Which of course doesn’t matter one whit when I consider real crop failure and livelihoods on the line, but in my little world it is something to take note of. Don’t plant arugula…will not survive flea beetle.

Besides the arugula fiasco, I’ve taken note of something else. Just about the same time my second planting of arugula went down, lamb’s quarters started elbowing out the Orca beans. I always have these weeds in my garden, and I often munch on them before pulling them, but today I had an idea. Why don’t I let a few of these silver-powdered plants reach maturity, harvest their seed, and dedicate a whole plot to them next season? It’s a nutritional powerhouse, doesn’t cower to the flea beetle, and best of all, grows like a weed!

Once upon a time, lamb’s quarters greens received more respect. Their ancient name was “all good,” and all good they are. They contain more iron and protein than raw cabbage or spinach, more calcium and vitamin B1 than raw cabbage, and more vitamin B2 than cabbage or spinach.  According to Joan Richardson’s Wild Edible Plants of New England, lamb’s quarters “even outclasses spinach as a storehouse of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C, and great amounts of vitamin A, not to mention all the minerals pulled out of the earth by its strong taproot.” (from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)

What makes arugula so much better than lamb’s quarters anyway? I did a taste test with the greens I harvested from my garden today (butter crunch lettuce, red leaf lettuce, spinach, and lamb’s quarters) and enjoyed the young lamb’s quarters as much as the rest, if not more. The nutty flavour is not as bitter as the lettuce and will go fine with pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. I’ve read the seeds are also edible and can be ground into flour or cooked whole (like quinoa), but will update you further when I have some more first-hand information!


Our annual skip-school day is a sacred tradition the girls talk about months beforehand. This year I send them ahead with Shelly while I stay home for Vivian’s first nap, hoping she will be well-rested and ready for the dunes just like her big sisters. While she sleeps, I ready the back-pack carrier and envision walking for miles along the shore, like always. I grab wieners and anticipate roasting a perfectly salty hot dog. Like always. I fold my towel and look forward to laying in the sun, water evaporating off my freshly cooled skin. Like always.

When we arrive at the dunes the sun is high. It’s just past noon and Vivian is starting to get hungry. Should I feed her now or put sunscreen on her or try to build a lean-to shelter for shade? I set her down to look for baby food–which I forgot to bring, while she cries and eats sand. There are tent caterpillars everywhere; on our blankets, our water bottles, our sandals, and our legs. I flick one out of Vivi’s hand and try to cover her up from the sun with my long-sleeve cotton shirt. It doesn’t work. She crawls forward and bungles her knees in the fabric, the sun beats hard, and I’m wondering if it’s okay for her to eat chips all day. I’m also wondering how long we can last.

This isn’t like I planned and doesn’t match my memories of visiting with the other moms, laughing while kids vault off sandy cliffs, and joking with them about what “all the children in school are doing”. I haven’t taken one picture of the girls jumping off the dunes or heard any of the conversation around me, much less contributed to it. I am too worried about Vivi, the worms, the wind, getting her to sleep again and why this feels so different than last year. After nursing her awhile with her fleshy white legs jutting out from my sweaty belly, I know we need shade. I walk down the beach while the wind pushes hard against me and dig my heels into the sand. Towel whipping in the wind and cooler tugging on my shoulder, I yell back to my mom trudging behind, “The ambiance isn’t quite like I’d hoped!”

It’s true, the ambiance is different with a ten-month-old. My mom and I whisper about it while Vivi snoozes on the blanket beside us; how this summer will be hard and so will the next, and then maybe, by the time she’s three, things will go back to normal. How relaxing at the beach really means multitasking: conversations that ebb and flow while chasing a little one, filling up buckets of sand, monitoring liquid intake and readjusting sun hats.

When I worked as a liaison with high school exchange students, their orientation manual included a section on making judgements and how things don’t have to be “better” or “worse”.  Sometimes they are just different. Now, like the exchange students, I am learning about my new landscape; calibrating expectations so my internal gauge reads different instead of worse. Instead of leisurely roasting my own hotdog like I imagined, I go without until Belén finds us in our new spot. She comes back shortly, kicking up sand and running with a sizzling wiener at the end of her stick, cooked just for me. Later, Susanna and I count to three and dive under the water. It feels like freedom and I manage a few strokes before my Vivi radar turns on. I look back to see her with my mom at the water’s edge. They are just fine.

Back on shore, the day stretches into its finest hours–the wind dies down and the sunshine sweetens into a gentle heat. Belén is dangling her feet from the dinghy and Ainsly floats beside while they make up terrible jokes in a secret language. Susanna is throwing a football with Jack, and Shelly sits nearby in the sun. I watch water droplets disappear from her tanned shoulders, instead of my own, while sitting with Vivi under the shade of a poplar. Vivian is bare-bummed (sure to pee any minute), her mouth is mustached with grit, and I just gave her another potato chip, but she is quiet. Perfectly still. This is when I decide we can stay just a few minutes longer. Everything is going to be okay.


My mom and Vivian



PS. Here’s a quote I forgot to add to my last post. It’s one of many I highlighted in Ueland’s book:

“Art is infection. The artist has a feeling and he expresses it and at once this feeling infects other people and they have it too. When I read this in Tolstoy it seemed like a great flashing discovery. But perhaps I would not have been so struck by it if it had not been for my class. I saw in their writing how whenever a sentence came from the true self and was felt, it was good, alive, it infected one no matter what the words were, no matter how ungrammatical or badly arranged they were. But when the sentence was not felt by the writer, it was dead. No infection.”



Dandelion Root Coffee

I planned on encapsulating the meaning of life in a jaunty essay this morning but I haven’t had enough sleep for that. Instead I’ll drink a cup of dandelion root coffee and go back to bed. Here’s my post from last season on how to do it. It’s worth it just for the yummy smell of the roots roasting. The taste is coffee-like; try experimenting with the steeping times if you are not immediately won over. Goodnight!

Experimenting as we grow

DSCN7858_ dandelion root coffee

What sort of extras do you have time for? Yoga? Scrap-booking? TV? Floor mopping? Puzzles? Going to the gym? Movies?

I’m afraid I don’t have time for any of those things. My life is too fast-paced for such indulgences and I’m simply much too busy. Busy picking dandelions. Isn’t it wonderful most of us have some choice in what we do with our time–even if it’s just a half hour a day? I think yoga must be terrific but I don’t know how I’d ever squeeze it in at times like these when digging dandelions roots is absolutely urgent.

I read somewhere that millions of French children, women, and old men feel the same way I do. Though I’m not sure this is true, I like to imagine the French roaming the countryside en masse in pursuit of the aptly named pissenlit. Besides it’s diuretic action…

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Wild Roses and Holland

While I write this we’re actually inside, escaping the heat. Crazy, I know. It feels down right ridiculous to run for cover from the sun–the very thing we’ve been lifting our snow white faces toward, closing our eyes and craving, for the last nine months. The girls are reading their books, but I’ve given them a time limit. It’s either that or banning the printed word and it’s pull all together. If it were up to them they’d melt into their books for days at a time, which sounds okay in theory, I mean, they’re quiet and certainly less needy in the clutches of The Babysitter’s Club, but it doesn’t feel right. Especially when I have to cajole them to come outside and play or pick wildflowers.


cake covered in edible flowers (rose, mint leaves, and chamomile)


We dug out the middle of the cake (to save a piece without out lactose/icing for Uncle Derek) and filled it with petals.

It’s wild rose season here. The fragrant blooms of the Rosa acicularis can be used to make tea, creams, or floral oils, but this year we just ate them. Belén also confirmed they work as “bush bandages” and help soothe mosquito bites (Beverly Grey’s advice). The petals are perfectly shaped to cover irritating welts and reduce itchiness; simply moisten the petal and stick to affected area.

Some not-so-wild flowers are the blooms on my snow pea plants. I sowed the heirloom seeds in May and the vines are are already up to my neck. (They grow 6 feet tall.) They’re a robust plant, matching the vigor of the Russian Mennonites who brought them over to Saskatchewan. I bought my first packet a few years ago from Prairie Garden Seeds and even if I didn’t like them I might feel obligated to save seeds from year to year, if only because they reflect my own heritage.


Russian snow pea


Lately I’ve been thinking about expectations, and what happens when life doesn’t go as planned. I was visiting with a woman I’d just met when I asked her the kid question.

“No, I don’t have any, ” she replied. “But I wanted four.” She went on to explain more; about cancer, the unsuccessful adoption application, and their cross-country move.

I wanted to tell her I understood, that I’d tasted the bitter drink of wanting something and not getting it, but I stopped myself before I went too far. I knew I couldn’t continue, not with my belly busting out of my pants. But it was difficult because I feel for her, and all of us, who think we have control over what our families will look like, who our children turn out to be, and the direction of our lives, when there are so many surprises along the way. Hard surprises.

My friend, Shalain, forwarded this poem to me a few years ago. (I wish I could copy and paste it here but I didn’t get the author’s permission.) Emily Perl Kingsley wrote Welcome to Holland as an explanation of what it’s like to raise a child with a disability. I’ve thought of it often since my first reading, and not just in the context of kids with special needs. I cried when I read it after my miscarriage. I thought of it when I saw Shalain’s brave and beautiful daughter learning to walk, again, after one of many major surgeries. And I looked it up after my conversation with the woman who wanted four children, but has none.

We can pack for a trip to Italy, spend months or even years poring over guidebooks and looking at other people’s photos of their own Mediterranean vacations, but what happens if we never land up in Italy? What happens when our husband dies the year he retires, our kid’s spouse has an affair, or we don’t get the family/job/friends/life we imagined? What happens if we land up in Holland instead of Italy?

The poem ends positively, encouraging us to see the beauty in unexpected circumstances, but I think I like the darkest part the best. It’s the second last line that acknowledges how hard reversals can be.  Resilience, marbled with courage and bravery, is often the result of intense pressure and circumstances we rarely choose for ourselves.


On a more practical note, here’s a Daddy/daughter team making a trailer to haul canoes and cargo. As Susanna walked around with her finger on the drill trigger I heard Stan comment on how important it is to to handle tools to understand how they work and to “get a feel for them”. I’m not sure how much progress they made on the trailer but I’m certain she cultivated some of that tool intuition her dad was talking about…



Thankful for wild roses, Russian seed savers, poems, and girls with tools,






Dandelion Root Coffee


What sort of extras do you have time for? Yoga? Scrap-booking? TV? Floor mopping? Puzzles? Going to the gym? Movies? I’m afraid I don’t have time for any of those things. My life is too fast-paced for such indulgences and I’m simply much too busy. Busy picking dandelions. Isn’t it wonderful most of us have some choice in what we do with our time–even if it’s just a half hour a day? I think yoga must be terrific but I don’t know how I’d ever squeeze it in at times like these when digging dandelions roots is absolutely urgent.

I read somewhere that millions of French children, women, and old men feel the same way I do. Though I’m not sure this is true, I like to imagine the French roaming the countryside en masse in pursuit of the aptly named pissenlit. Besides it’s diuretic action, dandelion root is an immune system stimulant, lowers cholesterol, reduces inflammation, and can be used for digestive problems, according to my two beloved books.

If you are collecting the root for coffee, or the greens for salad, it’s best to do it is in spring before the yellow flower appears. After blossoming, the leaves get too bitter and the root quality is compromised. You can harvest the root in late fall but I find the coffee made from spring roots more pleasant and not at all bitter. I also tried roasted parsnip root coffee (did I tell you how busy I am?) but it was disappointing. I thought it would taste like caramel latte because of the root’s innate sweetness but it ended up tasting like roasted parsnip. Shucks.

Dandelion coffee, on the other hand, is something I wish I had more of. Yes. I wish I had more gigantic dandelions to dig up but now my garden is completely clean. Our lawn is still full, of course, but those roots are much smaller than the ones grown in loose soil, and hardly worth picking. Perhaps foraging is best done in lesser amounts anyhow; better to be wanting more and waiting for next year’s seasonal ritual than over-doing it.


drying dandelion root


chopped up dandelion root before roasting


upper left–roasted, and shredded, parsnip root; Lower right–roasted dandelion root that has yet to be milled

Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe

  •  Soak freshly dug roots in water to loosen dirt.
  • Scrub roots and let dry on a towel for a few hours/day.
  • Chop roots into evenly sized pieces and dry.
  • Roast in a cast iron skillet until the pieces turn a chocolate brown. The aroma is wonderful! (You can also roast in the oven at 350 for about 20 min.)
  • Coarsely grind roasted chunks in a coffee mill and store in a glass jar. (Alternatively, you can boil the root chunks, without milling them, for about 5-10 minutes and then let them steep to make a decoction. Strain to drink.)
  • To prepare a cup of fresh brew, boil water and use a french press (or a tea pot) to steep ground roots for at least 5 minutes. I like my coffee and tea black, so I don’t add anything to this, but it might be nice with cream, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Drink up!

Enjoy your extra time today, however you fill it,


Racism and Nettle Juice

“Can we go to the store now, mom? Please?”

“Is it time to the store yet?”

“Mom, when we go to the store I get to choose want I want to buy, right? It’s my money, right?”

The whole time we are at the lake my girls pepper each conversation with the promise of buying candy. You’d think we were vacationing at the Mall of America instead of an empty campground, judging by how much we talk about shopping.

When we do finally arrive at the store, ready to blow weeks of allowance on refined sugar, we see the CLOSED sign hanging inside the darkened building. Another woman who is also waiting walks towards us with crisp, white capri pants and a perfectly coiffed hair. It looks like her curls are as stiff as her pants.

“The store should be open; it’s already ten o’clock,” she announces before we have time to turn around, “But Indians are running this place now so you can’t expect much.”

I’m still holding on to Belén and Susie’s hands and I wonder if they caught what she said. I also wonder where this lady is from. Even though racism is everywhere in our province, I’ve never heard a stranger voice their opinion so crudely while thinking they’re being perfectly polite. She continues to drawl about other things she’s noticed about “the Indians” (she meant First Nations) around here.

Eventually we decide not to wait any longer and slowly walk back to our campsite.

“What do you think about what that lady said?” I ask Belén and Susanna, trying to gauge how much debriefing is necessary.

Belén is still miffed she can’t get rid of the money burning a hole in her pocket and she answers, “Well, if you’re gonna have a store, you shouldn’t keep it closed.”

It’s hard to argue with that logic, and I agree with her. But what I really want my daughters to get out of our discussion is how not to waste time. By wasting time, I mean making destructive comments that fuel misunderstanding and spread ignorance like wildfire. These are time-wasters for everyone because instead of building relationships or dignity, sweeping generalizations keep knocking everything back to the ground where growth has to start all over again; like a two-year-old kid who can’t resist pummeling a tower made of blocks.

Surprisingly, Coca-Cola initiated a project that’s a great example of building up the block tower–or building bridges. Of course, it’s not about blocks at all, but about people–separated by armed barriers and political drama–connecting with the “enemy” on the other side. We showed this 3 minute video to our girls, and then I watched it several times myself, because I was gripped with the power of person-to-person contact in a hotbed of racism.


photo not mine

We also just finished reading this book out loud about two wild children in a fantastical forest, who come from warring clans. Susanna whimpered fearfully in her bed after listening to it every night, but when it came time to read it the next day she was the first to clamber onto the couch, insisting we read “at least two chapters.” I think this story must be one of Astrid Lindgren’s best (she also wrote Pippi Longstocking.)

We read the book and watched the video before we ever talked to the stiff-pants-and-hair lady. And, who knows what themes settled into the recesses of my children’s mind–or even my own for that matter, from these selections. I hope though, that next time I feel the urge to make, agree with, or tolerate a derogatory statement about an entire group of people, I might remember to replace the vague, faceless group in question with a memory of a single connection.


And now… for the nettle juice part of this post.

Many people in my life are drinking green smoothies. I am not. But, we are eating our morning porridge with stinging nettle concentrate.


Tender stinging nettle plant

I started harvesting stinging nettle from an overgrown alleyway a couple of weeks ago, to treat Belén’s allergies. There is a lot of information online, and in herbal reference books, about using nettle as a natural antihistamine. To be honest, I haven’t noticed much difference in Belén’s reactions since I’ve been giving it to her, but I also think it requires a long-term commitment. One doctor recommends drinking nettle tea at least two months before allergy season begins.


This is ground ivy… an edible/medicinal plant that often grows near stinging nettle.

I’d read that ground ivy is a convenient and effective way to soothe nettle burns, so Stan and I promptly rubbed some hairy stinging nettle onto our bare legs to test the theory. We chewed up the ground ivy and stuck it to the affected area…


spit poultice of ground ivy

Just so you know, it didn’t work. Next time I’ll try plantain.

Belén is still popping her regular dosage of loratadine (an over the counter anti-histamine) and I’m still popping frozen cubes of stinging nettle into our hot cereal and soups. Besides it’s anti-histamine properties, it is a calcium/iron powerhouse.


fresh nettle leaves loose their sting when they are cooked, dried or ground up


nettle juice to be frozen–I put one cube per person in our oatmeal and the girls don’t even notice it

To make easy-to-use, fresh nettle concentrate:

  • Finely grind up leaves with a little water
  • Mix one part nettle paste with one or two parts water and let sit for a day or so
  • Strain nettle juice and freeze it using ice cube trays
  • Use the chopped up leaves (left after straining) in the place of spinach in any recipe. I tried to make Boston Pizza’s spinach and artichoke dip with it and it turned out quite well. The taste is a little different than spinach though.


The more I think about the title of this post, the more ridiculous–and arrogant–it seems. How could a short blog post appropriately address a complicated issue like racism? Despite the name I gave it, this one doesn’t. It’s is about a store that wasn’t open when it should’ve been, an inspiring project, a good book, and nettle juice. Thanks for reading it.


PS. Today is the very first day of summer vacation! Guess why my children woke up at 7 am this morning? To play school.

Dragonflies and Spruce Tips


Spruce tips on the tree

The mosquitoes clog my view of the evening sky as I wade through buzzing clouds to get to my back door. I keep my eyes shut and mouth closed to avoid swallowing or blinking them in. A few days later, just when the infestation seems unmanageable, we step into our backyard and hordes of dragonflies lift off. Again, I can barely walk the length of our yard without being pelted by bugs, but this time I don’t mind. In an apocalyptic surge, the dragonflies are consuming mosquitoes by the thousands.


I  harvested these last week–they’re best in the bud stage when they’re still mostly covered with the brown papery things. If you live south of 60 degrees you’ll probably have to wait til next year.


Fresh ground spruce tips in the food processor


Spruce tip salt: Mix 1 (or 2) parts ground-up spruce tips with 1 part coarse salt. Let dry in a pan for a few days and bottle. The flavour is part citrus–part woodsy, and it adds great taste to pasta, and potatoes. I’m saving a jar to season the fish we hope to catch this summer!


Spruce tip jelly… there are recipes for this all over the internet. If you make it, be sure not to over-boil the syrup after you add the pectin (no more than a couple minutes)–there’s nothing worse than tacky jelly. My girls love this stuff. It’s esp. good on toast with goat cheese.

Even though this cycle of carnage happens every year I’m always surprised by it. I also know it’ll continue throughout the summer: as the dragonflies get fat and clean up the mosquitoes we’ll see less and less of the dragonflies, until finally, the mosquito population rebounds and reaches a biological tipping point. Then, once again, the dragonflies will swoop in to maintain the balance. Usually two minutes before we go insane, clawing at our bitten bodies.

It’s amazing, and comforting, that things like this repeat themselves every year. It’s the same with the wild daisies that bloom on my birthday, the spruce trees blushing with their new green tips, or the ice-covered lakes melting into huge swimming pools.

beach day 2013-4

Some friends and I took our kids out of school last week to scamper up sand dunes.

beach day 2013-2

The ice had only been off the lake for about a month, but the kids spent most of their afternoon in the water.

No matter how much I anticipate these seasonal markers, they always knock me off my feet. I guess our winters are long enough that summer can trick us into thinking she’ll never come. But when she finally does, it’s fast and furious–and makes me want to throw my head back and whoop, like a one-year old playing peek-a-boo. Just as the baby cackles in delight when his parents reappear, I’m astonished and grateful when our hemisphere tilts towards the sun’s warmth once again.

…Which brings me to a quote I’d been searching for for years, until I saw it on Lisa’s blog last week:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

-GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy



Have a wonderful summer solstice this weekend!

Wishing you all big appetites for beauty… and monotony,


Ps. I feel I didn’t get enough in about the spruce tips…Did you know they’re one of the easiest things to forage? That they’re good for soothing sore throats and colds? That they’re analgesic, anti-fungal and anti-microbial? That the tips can be dried and saved for yummy winter teas. or made into skin cremes and salves?… Okay, now I feel better.

The Bigger Life

It’s getting difficult for me to cut the grass.

I’ve never been particularly fussy with our lawn–it seems there’s always something more pressing, or interesting, than clipping grass. But in recent years, as I learn more about wild plants, I’m apt to stop my machine mid-mow, get down on hands and knees and take a picture, or harvest something, or do both.

Wild violets interrupted the task yesterday.


Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) found in my yard. Their fragrance is AMAZING. Violet plants contain large amounts of vitamin A and C and have been used traditionally to treat skin ailments, coughs, and colds.

Belén, collecting violets.

Belén, collecting violets.

Viola adunca. I took this one to show the shape of the leaves and how they hide in a lawn.

I still haven’t mowed our backyard this season. Did I mention we have the most gracious neighbours in town? Whenever I make a comment to Helen about the dandelions, she waves her hand and says, “Don’t you worry, you’ve got plenty of other things to busy yourself with.” Another kindly neighbour has mentioned he’d be willing to come over with a spray bottle and a little 2,4-D. (He’s also the one I’ve found–unexpectedly–with a pitchfork in the middle of my garden, working the soil before spring planting.) I thank him and decline the offer, adding something about the girls being barefoot and chemicals. I don’t tell him we eat the dandelions.

chemical-free dandelions

chemical-free dandelions in my backyard

ingredients for dandelion fritters

ingredients for dandelion fritters: blossoms, eggs, flower, salt, your choice of seasoning, and oil for deep-frying

blossom to be dipped in egg. (Check out my nails. I stopped in the middle of transplanting tomatoes to make these!)

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets.

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets, but she wouldn’t eat more than one. I ate about thirty.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese. I don’t have a picture of the ones I liked best: individual blossoms fried separately. They were light and crunchy–even with a heavy, gluten-free flour mix.

While walking to the library yesterday, Belén saw a yard carpeted with yellow. The grass was long, dandelions were everywhere, and a sheet hung haphazardly to cover the front window. I thought the house might be vacant. Belén interpreted it differently.

“Oh,”she sighed, “They must have children.”

I knew what she meant. She figured anyone willing to let their whole yard be consumed by dandelions had to be a parent. And clearly, one who had the best interests of their child at heart.


After writing part of this post last night, I stopped to read a book about a couple who had four children and then adopted another five. I’d picked it up at our library’s browser table but didn’t think I’d take it home. Despite the intriguing premise, I was wary of slogging through poor writing. (Good stories don’t always mean good writing.) I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I  found myself laughing out loud in one sentence and murmuring over a poignant image in the next.

Near the beginning, the author describes how one of her recently adopted sons would protect his food during mealtime. He ate quickly and defensively, with his arms draped around his plate and cup. Whenever he spilled water he’d cower in fear, expecting punishment. He treated water as a precious resource, disbelieving there would be enough. Finally, she bought her son a canteen to strap on his body to alleviate some of his anxiety.

It struck me, while reading this, that as I post about a handful of dandelions, children are searching for their next drop of water.

While I upload photos and try to think of cute anecdotes, kids are scrounging for something to eat, or rocking back-and-forth violently to self-soothe.

Her story reminds me of the bigger world, beyond my own interests and hobbies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wild-crafting, gardening, teaching, writing, cooking and raising my own family, but it’s so easy to forget there’s more. More than ME.

I have moments like these, when my blinders come off, every so often. They’re accompanied by a sense of urgency, of wanting to do something radical. And in my zeal, I run through the options: Should we adopt children? Move to another country? Give away all our money? Make huge life-style changes? The urgency smacks of hopelessness and confusion, too. I know we want the bigger life, I just don’t know how to get there.

Last night, when I was at this point, I remembered my mantra of the next step: whether writing a book, spring cleaning, or contemplating careers, all I have to do is finish the next paragraph, wipe the next drawer, or make the next phone call. I don’t have to get it all figured out, just the choice that’s ahead of me.

Today, my “next steps” are:

1. Pray I’ll be sharp enough to see opportunities when they arise

2. Volunteer at the community garden

3. Make supper

4. Write a cheque

5. Publish this post

What are your next steps to a bigger life?