31 May 2015

Mema's Birthday (observed)

Today would have been my grandmother's 94th birthday. She passed away in February. She is always in my heart and on my mind. She was 100% amazing.

I continue to remember #arliememagandy on Instagram
All day long the girls and I have been singing "Put me in your pocket" - which we do pretty often anyway. You can Google it and listen to a few other folks sing it. But if you want a real treat click here to listen to Mema herself singing this to my aunt Joy last year on the cusp of Joy's relocation to Colorado. How I love to hear Mema's voice. I'm so glad Joy captured it.

Tonight when the girls took a walk with Sergio they sang the song again and he texted me the following dialogue...
Julia: Do you want to sing it again?
Clara: No.
Julia: But it'll make Mema so happy in heaven!
Clara: Ok.

And on top of all that sweetness, Julia also suggested that we sing Happy Birthday to Mema and we did. That felt really nice. I never expected my toddlers to help me grieve. I had assumed it'd be the other way around.


About 10 days before Mema passed away, we decided to go down to Oklahoma for a last visit, not knowing how much longer she'd have. When Sergio and I were debating when to go, he suggested that we go quickly urging "every moment is precious." He meant every remaining moment and he was right. But the truth is, every moment was already precious. I am beyond fortunate to have had Mema in my life.

I will forever be grateful that Sergio's spontaneous "let's just go to Oklahoma this weekend" suggestion overruled my penchant for scheduling things way in advance. We visited that last weekend in January; I spent an entire day simply being with Mema. I sat with her. I held her hand. I listened to her sing - so many hymns and all of them about Heaven. Every moment was precious.

On that Sunday we had to leave and that was the hard part. When we said good bye we knew it was Goodbye with a capital G. And even though we all knew that it was her time to go (even Mema knew it), it didn't mean my heart wasn't breaking. I stood on the threshold of that room, reluctant to put one foot in front of the other, to step out of that sacred space. What do you say when you know it's your last goodbye? We had had one final tea party that morning - the girls sharing their little cheerios with Mema. And when Mema starting saying "I'll meet you in the morning," which is a reference to Heaven, Julia piped up, "Mema! We won't be here in the morning! We're going home!" And we all let out a tearful chuckle.

That night when we got home we discovered we'd left the heat off in our house and the temperature in the house was 49 degrees. By bedtime it had only risen to 50.  When I put the girls to sleep I told them that as they're falling asleep they should think about how much Mema loves them. Julia said, "I know how much Mema loves me. A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot." Then I snuggled Julia and she felt cold so I asked if she wanted another blanket. She said, "maybe I want my quilt [which Mema made for her] because my quilt has Mema's powers in it. And if I sleep with it it will put Mema's powers into me and then I'll think, 'Oh yeah, that's what it was like at Honey and Papa's! I remember Mema!'" Yet again, my small child shows me the way. 

Mema really was an example to us all and a treasure. And she did have powers you know - Mema the superhero, as Tyler put it. Given how frail Mema was there at the end, that notion is funny. But I think we all know it was truer than true. Her super power was love. No matter how frail she was at the end, she had a powerful pull on all of us.

That room where Mema died - it was the "sunroom" at my parents' house - was bathed in light and love and that was the image I carried with me back home as I waited for another 5 days before I got the news that she'd passed away peacefully early in the morning on February 6.


Last night I had some friends over, one of whom was celebrating her birthday, also on May 31. She requested a chocolate cake - so I made her a chocolate cake but I also made a big double batch of Berry Dumplings in honor of Mema's birthday. Now it occurs to me that that'll be a great way to celebrate Mema for years to come. She always did love celebrating and remembering with food.

A few days before Mema died my mom texted us all to say that Mema had woken from a dream and asked my mom if she wanted to eat pie with her. (Mema is generous with her pie even in her dreams.)  We all texted back and forth imagining which pie she must have been enjoying in her dreams. Mama Taylor's chocolate pie, perhaps? Or Mema's pecan pie? Or her famous pumpkin streusel?

Wouldn't it be nice to sit down with Mema for pie just one more time?

27 May 2015

Memorial Day (or Too Many Funerals)

In the last two years I have attended more funerals than I can ever remember attending. Which is to say not that many but more than usual. The tally is four. That's four funerals since Memorial Day 2013. (Four funerals and a wedding, actually.) I keep thinking "that's too many funerals" and then wondering what is the "right" number of funerals?

Perhaps these circumstances are unique because three of the funerals I have been to are those of people who were too young to die. (But what is "old enough?" And where did I get all these strange rules and limits? As if matters of life and death ever play "by the rules." We hold up our ideals anyway.)

This year we spent Memorial Day with Beto and Lindsey, our dear friends and, oh yes, family, too. They are freshly grieving the loss of their sweet son Beckham. Their pain is unbearable. But their spirits are indomitable. It was so good to be with them.

Next month I will get to see my friend Ricki Lea who, in the 9 years that her son battled cancer and in the 21 months since her son died, has always impressed me with her fortitude.

My aunt Jetta would have been 63 earlier this month. This year on her birthday we had not mentioned to the girls that it was Jetta's birthday. But out of no where, Clara said, "I just saw Jetta! Driving that white car!" We chose to pretend that Clara's vision was real.

In February, I attended my grandmother's funeral; the days surrounding that event were what I called a Mema Memorial Bubble. It was more sweet than it was bitter, to simply remember and relive. I think of her so often, especially now that the flowers are in bloom and her birthday nears. She would have been 94 this weekend.

Just today I caught Clara playing in the other room and singing Put Me in Your Pocket - incorrectly but sweetly. Julia chimed in with accurate lyrics and they both carried on singing.

We are all thinking of those who have gone before.

Put Me In Your Pocket (click through to hear Mema sing it)
Put me in your pocket so I'll be close to you
No more will I be lonesome and no more will I be blue
And when we have to part, dear, there'll be no sad adieus
For I'll be in your pocket and I'll go along with you.

20 May 2015

Getting Ready for Urban Grown

I'm really looking forward to the Urban Grown tour this summer! The girls and I went two years ago and we had such a nice time. The first time I went was 2009, back before Cultivate KC was even called Cultivate KC! Now the organization is celebrating their 10 year anniversary, and I was asked to write a piece for their Urban Grown newsletter that went out in March. Here it is...

Looking Back, Looking Forward: Ten Year of Local Food 
By Emily Akins, Kansas City Food Circle.

This year will be my 10th season with my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, which was my first step down a long and winding path of amazing people, delicious local and organic food, and incredible connections.

Along that path I found out about the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, which was renamed Cultivate Kansas City in 2011. I signed up to take a class at Whole Foods, taught in part by Katherine Kelly, co-founder of Cultivate Kansas City, which included a farm tour of what is now called the Gibbs Road Farm. By then I had already begun working as a volunteer for the KC Food Circle, a non-profit that connects eaters with local, organic, and free-range farmers and was beginning to find my way around the great resources available in Kansas City. And I had already learned to appreciate where my food comes from.

When I heard about KCCUA’s Urban Farms and Gardens Tour I decided to sign up to help. It was winter. The days were short and the vegetable crispers in my fridge were empty, but I began meeting regularly with the amazing volunteers who were planning and preparing the 2009 Urban Farms and Gardens Tour. Before I knew it, it was a hot summer day, the growing season was in full swing, and I was driving around from farm to farm helping to keep the tour running smoothly. I was also enjoying my opportunity to learn about urban agriculture. I went to small farms, large farms, urban farms and backyard farms. Each one provided a wealth of food and information.

I wasn’t the only one who responded so positively to the tour. It has grown each year – as I think much of the local food movement has in Kansas City. With the KC Food Circle, we’ve seen a steady increase of farmers and eaters who want to become part of our organization, and great support from our volunteers and our community partners like Cultivate Kansas City.

I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed food so much in the years since my first season. And I inadvertently became much healthier. I hadn’t set out to eat more whole foods, but buying directly from our local farmers encouraged me to do so. I think this makes my family and me healthier but I also think it makes our community healthier.

This is the beauty of food grown so close to home -- I know the people who grow my food. They have taught me how to store, prepare, and preserve all the delicious produce that comes to me fresh from their farm every week. I can even visit the farms and see with my own eyes where my food comes from. Best of all they have provided me with confidence. I know that their sustainable farming practices both enrich the earth and make for delicious, fresh produce. And I know that each crop and each farmer and each urban farm is enabling Kansas City to grow stronger every year.

I am excited to see the growth that has already happened in Kansas City and I am even more excited to see where Kansas City will be in the next 10 years as more farmers farm, more eaters eat, and as the efforts of Cultivate Kansas City continue to fill our urban core full of delicious food.


Here are some of my favorite pics from the Urban Grown Tour in 2013. All the pics are HERE.

11 May 2015

Mother's Day

Me and My Mom - about a week after I became a mother
First and foremost, here's to my mom. She taught me everything I need to know to be a good and happy person. I know that is no small feat and I know that not everyone is quite so lucky.

I will share here the tribute that I shared with the friends and co-workers who were all gathered at my mom's retirement party earlier this spring and who all seemed to be in agreement about what a remarkable person she is ...

Mom is patient, Mom is kind.  
She does not envy. 
She does not boast. 
She isn't proud.
Mom does not dishonor others, 
she is not self-seeking, she is not easily angered, 
she keeps no record of wrongs.
Mom does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
Mom always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 

And secondly, here's to my babies. I couldn't have imagined a more delightful pair. They are distinctly amazing, each in their own lovely way. I am grateful for them every day.

My first born on her first day - Julia - 9/19/10
My second born on her first day - Clara - 8/17/12
Here I will share the wonderful way that Julia made me feel better today. I had promised to speak to a small group of college students today, but hadn't realized it would interfere with the Mother's Day event at the museum that I'd wanted to take the girls to. I was feeling guilty (mom guilt!) that I'd chosen to do a bit of work instead of being with my little family for that brief window of time, and on Mother's Day to boot. Then Julia asked if I wanted to hear a Mother's Day song. She sang the first line... "Mothers. They're so good. They help people - even strangers they don't know." And without even realizing it, Julia made me feel much better about my decision to take time out of my Mother's Day to help a few people I don't even know. Thank you, Julia. You have no idea. 

Happy Mother's Day

My first Mother's Day - 2010
My third Mother's Day - 2012
My fourth Mother's Day - 2013

all the mothers and all the daughters - 2014

05 May 2015

Visit from Honey and Papa

Last weekend my parents came for a long awaited visit. Since my grandmother moved in with them two years ago, they haven't been able to visit us as often as before. The girls (and let's be honest - me too) were ecstatic for them to come.

They arrived about an hour earlier than I expected so we were all minding our own business - the girls were having a kazoo marching band around the house - when I saw their car pull up. I told Julia to look out the window; when she saw that it was them, she squealed loud enough to break glass.

Breakfast with Honey and honey.
The dance class. It's a small class. 
Reading the New Yorker with Papa and wearing new
"Owl Be Up Late" jammies, a gift from Honey.
And it was true.
They were up very late each night - too excited to sleep. 

We packed the weekend full ... we visited the farmers market (love me, love my farmers market), we observed Julia's dance class, we visited the art annual, and we gardened - oh, how we gardened. 

We ripped up a strip of grass on the side of the yard
(and by we I mean mostly my mom)
and replaced it with a flower bed, rose trellis,
and transplants from my grandmother's rose garden.
There was a lot to tend to, here in the freshness of spring and the newness of this moment in time. It had been such a long time since their last visit.

A weekend together is never enough - no matter where we spend it.