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  • Christine Shuck

Children, Soup, Nesting and Vegas, Baby!


He's My Last

I thought it would make me sad to say that, as if I were somehow admitting defeat. Weird, but true. But this darling little boy, now eight weeks plus, will be the last child we set about to raise.

"You have no place raising a child at your age."

That's what a family member said and then added some drivel like "Just in case you didn't know." Because, you know, obviously I don't think, don't know how to add, and have zero idea of what it takes to raise a child. It should be noted that this person raised one child, while I have/will raise a total of four, with another four temporarily (fostering, step-parenting)


I'm a numbers kind of gal. They bounce around in my head constantly.


I thought of my maternal grandmother, who lived to see 89, and would have lived longer if she hadn't of killed herself via COPD and emphysema, a direct result of smoking for 50+ years. And I thought of my paternal grandmother, who nearly made it to 100 years. Just two days short of that very special day! I also added up the pounds lost in the past year - 30 - and realized I have added a decade onto my lifespan by getting my pre-diabetes under control.


I added up our annual income and counted the real estate properties we have and while we aren't rich by any means, we have creature comforts, and we have dependable income.


I added up the hours in my day that I have to actually work - it comes to around 1-2 hours per day - the rest can be whiled away, or used to write books if I'm so inclined. So I've got time in my day to care for a child.


The last bit wasn't a number. It was quantifiable, though. Am I willing to raise another child, at the horribly old age of 51? And the answer was yes. I am. We are. And I realized that the family member was far out of bounds saying what they did, and that, in many respects, and in all the ways that count to me, I am in the perfect place to raise a child at my age.


We are still on the rollercoaster known as foster care and nothing is for certain. This sweet little boy might be with us months or years or all the way until he hies himself off to college or a place of his own. Who knows? Nonetheless, he will be our last child, and all I can say is that he makes our home complete, sleepless nights notwithstanding. Crossing my fingers he gets to stay with us and be part of our forever family.


I am also learning, after fifty plus years, to stop listening to those whose opinions truly do not matter, nor are particularly valid. We all have our priorities in life. Mine are firmly in family, home, and life - and I plan on enjoying every minute of it.


The Magic of Soup

I made some chuck roast the other day and no one looked interested in eating it, so I made it into Beef Barley Soup. So good!


My teen loves fall and winter's soup marathons. When I announce I'm making soup, or she walks in from school and smells it, she grins happily. This in turn makes me happy. My love language is food.


In her world, there has always been soup over the fall and winter, but for me, it is a relatively new thing. Believe it or not, I was probably 40 years old before I made soup for the first time.


Something about it seemed like this great witchery. How did one get the flavors just right? What ingredients did you use and in what order?


One fall, around ten years ago, I drove down south, almost to Clinton, to learn how to dress chickens. This is a euphemistic term for the unitiated. It requires taking a freshly dead chicken, removing its feathers, removing the guts (carefully now, you don't want to hit the bile duct and ruin the meat), and preparing the chicken for further processing (i.e. cooking). It is icky, bloody, stinky, and often involves fecal matter. You hands get pruned, and it is a messy, messy affair.


I wasn't sure how I would do since I'm not a fan of handling dead things, but I learned a lot from the experience. There were 50 hens to process and by the end of it, I was tired and hungry. My host invited me inside and fed me homemade soup.


Homemade soup.


My mother had never made soup. No one in my family made soup. Except my dad, and that didn't really count because it was always centered around the turkey leavings and I happened to hate turkey with a passion, especially the way he fixed it.


I was convinced she was a witch, this woman. The soup was divine. Perfectly seasoned, rich and filling and zero ingredients were sourced from a can. She must have thought I was a complete weirdo as I interrogated her over how to make soup!


I guess the light just kind of turned on for me, like it had for so many other things at that time. Yes, you can go and buy soup at the store, or you could make your own. Just like you can make your own bread or sauces or mixes. Mind blown. I had to try this.


In a lot of ways, it has made fall more bearable to me. As the days shorten and the wind turns cold and the color fades from the world - I make soup. Lots and lots of soup.


I made a Creamy Quinoa Soup recently. I recommend adding some cooked, cubed chicken and maybe adding chopped bacon to the top as well. It's tasty.


And last night, the Beef Barley Soup hit the spot and was a perfect use of the neglected chuck roast. Neither of these are my own recipes. Truth be told, one thing I've learned over the last decade plus of experimenting in the kitchen is that recipes are just lovely suggestions. Don't have an item listed? Substitute something else! Both of the recipes I've linked to turned out great. The family was not as in love with the Creamy Italian Quinoa soup, but that's fine, I'll eat it over the next few days.


Soup is perfect for this time of year and I'll add more recipes as I play with them over the next few months.

Baby = Nesting = Even More Picture-Hanging and Painting

Oh I know I could be writing. Now especially, with our schedule firming up into nice stretches of first, second, third, fourth, and fifth napsies. And I swear, I will return to it...right after I get back from Vegas. Meanwhile, I continue to knock out my painting projects and picture-hanging that has waited for years and years.


I've put off a lot of decorating in our own home - one that we have lived in for NINE YEARS and focused on our two short-term rentals for long enough. It's time to figure out paint colors and make this house reflect our own unique tastes!

I had a plan for one room early on. In fact, before we ever moved in, I knew the colors I wanted in the utility room (of all places). Recently, I had to putty some of the plaster where it had been damaged by a cabinet falling off of the wall. I repainted the same color, I love it. The butterfly decals add to the light feeling of the room and evoke dreams of spring.

In the kitchen, I have been hard at work re-painting the cabinets from a flat lighter blue to a glossy dark blue. I'm still debating what color to paint the walls and I have a few other fixes in mind before that, but hopefully by the end of the month, the cabinets (and all of the many cabinet doors will be done and re-hung.


After that, I'll focus on the hallways and front entry that I literally began painting EIGHT years ago and never finished. Nothing special, just a beige, but it will be nice to have it done.


The last painting project of the winter will be the living room. I'm planning on a rich sage green with a gold yellow ceiling that dips down to the top of the picture rail. These two pictures are the inspiration for those colors...


I've also begun the next level of decor on Cottage West. The first was "get it done and habitable" and now that money is flowing in, we can have a little fun. I'm collecting prints and framing and hanging them. I'm also adding these fun little terrariums with air plants. I'll add more plants, ferns and such, next spring to the outside porch and then bring them inside next fall for the winter.

Small steps, each improving on the last.


What Happens in Vegas

I've worked through the conference schedule similar to how I used to do with the Scholastic Book Fair flyers in elementary school.

  • First mark everything and anything I'm even the remotely interested in

  • Then try to decide which sessions would benefit me most to see in person

  • Finally parse it down to a realistic (but full) schedule of seminars and meet ups

I absolutely lived for the Scholastic Book Fair handout. It was the #1 best thing about school in my opinion. Then again, books are easier than people, at least for me.


And for introverted me, going to Vegas to rub shoulders with nearly 3,000 other writers is both exciting, terrifying, and enough to make me want to jump out of my own skin. That said, I'm going. I'm climbing up and out of the little rock that I usually hide under and taking the bull by the horns. This time, I will make friends, damnitall. This time I will participate fully, learn a crapton, and come back armed with knowledge, determination and grit. This time, I will return ready to actually create a career out of writing instead of just a lovely hobby that makes me no money.


There, I've said it. Now I just need to make it happen.


Knowing me, this will include several damp-palmed quasi-panic attacks as I question my very existence and tell myself I'm no one special and everyone is sure to know in a single, quick glance. It will likely include multiple admonitions of "Walk out the hotel room door, Christine, and go find someone to talk to!"


Yeah.


Vegas, baby. Vegas.

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