On Eating and Life: I Know You Understand

Mar 16 2018

I’ve been a little radio silent around here for a bit. Mostly because I’ve been eating. Or thinking about eating. Or planning the eating.

To be fair, this is the case for me All the Time. I like food. But in my defense at this particular time, my friend Maggie and I just held our first ever Food and Wine Retreat, so All the Thinking About Food = LEGIT.

I cannot adequately express how very much I needed the time away at the Oregon Coast to just hang out and relax.

It’s been a month, friends. One of those sort of Stunning, Beautiful, Brutal MONTHS. Anyone else?

And these pictures from the retreat have nothing to do with the Month I’m about to share, but, perhaps against the backdrop of the Real Life we’ve been living, you can see how grateful I am for Rest and Good Humans and Amazing Food by the Sea.

A friend approached Greg at church a few Sundays ago. She’s kind, and she knows our family, so she thought we’d want to know about the post in a public group on Facebook, describing a teenager on the path near our house who was threatening a young family, aimed at hurting or robbing them. A teenage boy who, when physically described, sounded too much like our oldest boy to ignore. 

Since the post mentioned his service dog, too, we had no doubt, really. I also knew he wasn’t going to hurt or rob anyone. Ian is very much like his Golden Retriever, Zoey; he’s much more likely to lick you to death than do anything to hurt you, ever.

But his disabilities — intellectual, verbal, and developmental — none of which are visible, mean he’s regularly misunderstood. And, if I can be perfectly frank here, our Guatemalan son is no longer seen as an adorable little boy with big brown doe eyes; now that he’s a 5’10”, 190 lb, brown male, people see a threat. I cannot adequately describe how much, over the last 15 years, our eyes have been opened to systematic and entrenched racism and to our own enormous privilege as white people.

So I did what any mommy would do. I joined the Facebook group, read the message about the lurking boy who followed the family, read the comments encouraging police involvement and warning the public to be wary of him, and attempted to defend my kid and dispel the idea that he’s a danger.

I wrote: “Hi. The boy you mentioned is my son, Ian. Ian is significantly intellectually disabled, and the dog, Zoey, is his service dog. As you noticed, Ian’s disability affects him socially, as well, and he is unable to accurately identify how others feel. His speech is also significantly impacted (he’s unable to understand others well or make himself clearly understood) — not sure whether you talked to him or not, but thought I should let you know that, too. I’m so sorry his behavior caused fear and anxiety for you and your kids. The good news is he wasn’t going to rob or hurt you; he cares deeply for others and isn’t violent or dangerous in any way — he’s just awful at understanding social cues. Ian’s only unsupervised activity each day is walking Zoey for 15 minutes on that path. He’s 18 now, so, alongside his therapists and teachers, we’re trying to give him “more responsibility” to do a few things on his own. Taking Zoey for a walk is his one thing right now. We regularly talk to him about the fact that people respond differently to him now that he’s “man sized” than when he was small. He’s very interested in and likes people, so it’s difficult for him to understand that lurking beside people, their kids, their conversations, etc. makes people feel nervous. Please know this is something we’re continuously working on with him and also that we had a long discussion with him about your experience. He said he “didn’t mean make them feel bad.” We’ve emphasized the importance of giving strangers a lot of space so we don’t appear threatening. Wishing you peaceful walks in the future…” 

I hit send, and then I cried for a really long time. 

There’s a grief inherent in raising children who experience disability. I haven’t met a parent yet who hasn’t felt it. But I’ll tell you… the last two years have been extraordinarily hard. Defeating. Exhausting. Relentless. 

We adopted Ian when he was 3, and, until he was 16 or so, we dealt in possibilities. He could possibly drive some day, we thought. Or maybe one day he’ll have his own apartment. While kids his age were earning trophies for their sports teams, we were happy for them… and grieved that Ian will never experience the camaraderie of going to State with water polo or wearing a letterman’s jacket on campus. But still, we thought; he still has potential for Some of the Usual Things. 

Until we didn’t think that anymore.

Until his childhood was over.

Until we arrived at the barriers he cannot climb. 

And then we grieved again, both for the life he cannot have… which we long suspected… but perhaps even more for the end of the possibilities.


Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Ian has a LOT of potential and will learn and change and grow as the years move by. But the goals are different now. The capacity isn’t there to drive and it would be both foolish and dangerous to try. Now the goal is learning public transportation. Similar with independence; he won’t get to go away to college like his sister or live in an apartment unsupervised or handle his own finances. And so we look to what he CAN do… but we grieve, too. There’s a lot of that.

And the grief over the “threatening teenager” was founded in the reality that he will face this sort of thing forever. That he can’t live only inside our family bubble. That he’ll go out into the world for more than 15 minutes at a time, and more people will feel threatened by a man-child who really would love to have a friend. That 15 minutes is all the time it takes for that to happen. 

I mourn that he can’t go into the world like I can and disarm people with words. I mourn that he’s 18 and must still be supervised 23 hrs and 45 minutes a day. I grieve that he will be judged “creepy” or frightening or a danger to women and children. 

It’s impossibly hard to love a child and not be able to give him the world. You know? Impossibly hard.

The community response to my message was beautiful, really. Strangers sending love, letting us know they’re eager to meet and greet Ian on his walks, and telling us about petting Zoey and chatting with Ian. “I’ve met this young man and his beautiful dog, as I walk the trail very often. I also have taken the time to stop and talk to him and Zoey (who he was kind enough to let me pet) I never felt a threat or worry around him, to me he just seemed a little lonely and a friendly hello seemed to really brighten his day. I hope they continue to enjoy the trail.”

I cry again, every time I read that. I needed the reminder that some people are magic and have the power to see past the surface to the precious person within.  

But the whole experience threw me for a loop, especially coming, as it did, on the same day my oldest girl asked us to find her birth mom. I’m a fan of that plan. I’m really excited for her… and also for me, truth be told. I’ve wanted to hug her bio mom for years. To thank her for giving my girl life. To tell her Abby’s been happy and healthy and well loved. To share how proud I am of our girl, hers and Greg’s and mine. But dealing with the emotional aftermath of the Path Situation AND trying to figure out how to hire a private investigator in Vietnam? That was something, friends. Just a teeny, tiny bit overwhelming. 

So it’s been a little radio silent around here. And I think I’ve made the case for Why Food, and Why Retreat, and Why Rest and Respite.

Because life is lifey. Yes?


Life is lifey.

But life can also — at least for a little while — be fixed with fresh pasta and pizza and risotto and local wine…

…with outstanding people and human connection…

…with goofballs and laughter and a frickin’ break from the grind…

…and with the reminder that we’re all in this together.

None of us alone if we’re brave enough to reach for each other.

Signing off for now (and headed to get myself some food, because obviously),




P.S. Retreat season is a busy time for me. Lots of thought, planning and energy go into these events, none of which would be possible without my steady staff,  Maggie and Polly Peterson, who have made my dream of rest and respite built on human connection happen. The retreats are how I’ve met and spent time with many of you, dear readers and friends, and I’m grateful for every minute. (Including the naked on the beach ones.)

P.P.S. We do have two more retreats coming in 2018 — the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat in May (for new and experienced writers alike) and the Mindfulness Retreat in November. There are still some spaces available at each, and I’d love for you to come. Maggie will be cooking. 😉 You can find all the details here

Greg Thinks My Cooking Looks Like an Open Wound

Jan 3 2018

Greg thinks my cooking looks like an open wound. 


Listen; with a family our size, we have to yell from one floor to the other. Yes, our parents taught us not to hollar throughout the house because we are humans and not elephants trumpeting in the wilderness —“Go FIND people and TALK TO THEM WITHOUT YELLING,” my mother would yell — but we have too many people in our house for that to work. Do you have any idea how much exercise we would get if we always talked to our people in person around here? Every request and reminder? For all five children plus the spouse? THAT’S SO MANY STAIRS TO WALK, y’all. We’d get repetitive stress injuries like extreme marathoners, and, healthcare being what it is in America, WE CANNOT AFFORD THAT. So we yell. It’s just practical. 

So. “BETH?” Greg yelled from upstairs. “WHY DID YOU POST A PHOTO OF AN OPEN WOUND ON YOUR BLOG?”



And I yelled, “I DIDN’T.”

And he yelled, “OH, YEAH. I SEE IT NOW. IT’S JUST PIE.”

Which is when I realized my beloved partner — the man to whom I committed my life and body — can’t tell the difference between my cooking and torn flesh. 

There is no point to this post other than to make you feel good about whatever you’re putting on your table. I live to serve. Simply ask yourself from now on, “Does this look better than a fresh, bloody lesion?” If the answer is yes, you’re doing better than me. 

You’re welcome. Weird encouragement is better than no encouragement?





P.S. Click here for the recipe for Heinous-Rhymes-With-Anus Flesh Wound Pie


Easy Peasy, Two Ingredient Jam Tart

Dec 21 2017

Alright, folks. It’s 5 days ‘til Christmas, and I don’t know about you, but I still have 85,000 things to do and the energy for, like, 6 of them. It’s OK, though. I am not panicking, and do you know why? Because I intend to half-ass All the Things from here on out. I will give partial effort that LOOKS like full effort. I will do what delights me and spreads magic, and I will let go of all the things that do not qualify.

My house is partially decorated, and that’s AWESOME. Let’s hear it for PARTIALLY! We put up our lights six weeks ago and left a string dangling because we intended to put up more. Half of those have burnt out now, and the other half are dimming and on the way toward death. In other words, you can tell by looking at the outside of our house that WE TRIED, DAMMIT, and that is good enough for me, friends. Good enough for me.

My tree is up and lit, there are stockings hung by the chimney without care because I CANNOT CARE ABOUT EVERYTHING, and there’s still a giant garland in a heap in a corner of the family room — one we got out of its box on November 1st — that hasn’t made it to the mantel. You know what we’re going to say about that? THAT I AM SO GOOD AT DECORATING, I’M EVEN MAKING SURE THE CORNERS HAVE GARLANDS. I hereby declare myself the Queen of Half-Assery, and I am content.

So. In that spirit, I offer you this easy, peasy, two ingredient jam tart that looks Very Fancy, tastes delicious, but is still completely and utterly a half-assed effort. It is, in other words, one of my favorite desserts of all time.

Easy Peasy, Two Ingredient Jam Tart

1. Jam
2. Frozen Pie Dough

I prefer to use Marie Calendar’s pie dough because they bake up flakey and perfect like my mom’s pie crust, but with, like, ZERO work. Any pre-made pie dough will work, though.


1. Thaw pie dough. Since Ms. Calendar puts hers in a disposable tin, I pop them out of the tin still frozen and let them thaw so I can mush them into my own pie plate, thus making this dessert look fully homemade and procuring credit I don’t deserve. WIN/WIN.

2. When soft, mush it into your own pie plate, cutting off the top edge. (This is a thin tart, so you don’t need the excess dough, plus you’ll use it in a minute to be Extra Fancy.)

3. Add 1 cup of jam, any flavor and spread it into the crust. My favorite is a berry mix or lemon curd. OMG, SO GOOD.

4. Roll the remaining dough into a ball, roll out to 1/8” (3mm), and, using whatever cookie cutter you decide is fanciest, cut a few shapes to decorate the top of the tart.

5. Optional, depending on how fancy you want to be: brush crust with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

6. Bake at 425F (220C) for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 375 and bake 15-20 more minutes. Remove from the oven when the crust is browned and the jam is bubbling. Let cool, then cut and serve.

Serves 4. Since the Marie Calendar’s pie crusts come in sets of 2, I make at least 2 at a time.

ALTERNATIVELY — I just made these last night, and I bypassed steps 2 and 4. EVEN EASIER. I rolled the dough into a circle approximately 1/8” (3mm) thick, put it on a greased baking sheet, put the jam in the middle, spread it to within 2-3” (50-75mm) of the edges, then folded the dough edges over, galette style, to make a rustic tart, instead. It was SUPER easy and worked beautifully. Of course, I only remembered to take a picture before I baked it — HELLO, HALF-ASSERY — but this will still give you a good idea of what I’m talking about:

(Psst…She was REALLY pretty with egg wash and sugar, all bubbly and brown from the oven. You’ll just have to imagine with me.)

In conclusion, friends, half-assery for the win! And Merry Christmas to all. Unless Christmas isn’t your jam, in which case I still recommend jam tart. And half-assery. 

X’s and O’s,




P.S. You can find all the Easy Peasy recipes — including my other holiday favorite, Two Ingredient Fudge — by clicking here. Enjoy!

The Fastest, Easiest, Juiciest Turkey-Cooking Method is Spatchcocking. Because Jesus Loves Us.

Nov 23 2015


Mark Bittman’s Spatchcocked Turkey. Want to know how to spatchcock the heck out of a bird? See Mr. Bittman’s tutorial on The New York Times here.

I read an article in The New York Times on how to roast a turkey in 45 minutes.

FORTY FIVE MINUTES, friends, to cook a 12+ pound bird.

Not only that, but this method results in tastier, juicier, more evenly cooked meat with crisper skin.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to pee some days. I don’t have time to brush my teeth, much less my hair. I don’t have time to stop or breathe or finish a cup of coffee while it’s hot. So a Thanksgiving turkey roasting method that cuts cooking time by 75% AND is more delicious?? THAT IS THE COOKING METHOD FOR ME, folks. That makes an actual difference in my life.

And then I found out this cooking method is called … wait for it … spatchcocking.


Spatch. Cocking.

And do you know why it’s called spatchcocking?

Because Jesus loves us. Or because someone was drinking. But probably because Jesus loves us. That’s why. And Jesus is not content to simply give good gifts like a faster bird-cooking time. Nope; that’s not enough. Jesus is EXTRAVAGANT, y’all. Excessive. And Jesus knows the only thing better than fast turkey is making sure it’s got a name like spatchcocking.



So we can spend Thanksgiving getting up to our usual spatchcock shenanigans, formerly known as tom-foolery.


Just in time for Thanksgiving, American friends, I’ve decided I’m as aspiring spatchcocker.

Spatchcocking is for me.

Spatchcocking, after all, is fast, easy and juicy, and who doesn’t like fast, easy and juicy? No one. No one is who. No one doesn’t like fast, easy and juicy.


Look. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or Do Things a Better Way. This is not that blog. I’m just saying if you’re not spatchcocking… if you’re not a spatchcocker… if you’re not, you know, totally into spatchcockery… you’re probably ruining Thanksgiving. And America.

The End

P.S. While the breasts are fully exposed with any turkey-cooking method, the spatchcocked bird allows heat to be evenly distributed to all parts, meaning spatchcocking results in breasts, thighs and legs that finish at the same time. Simultaneous finishes, folks! Which is, after all, the goal.

P.P.S. I contacted my dad, my usual turkey-roaster, and informed him that he would be spatchcocking this year. He wasn’t sure he ought to discuss spatchcocking with his daughter, but eventually came around enough to ask if I thought he could spatchcock on a rack. “Do you think I can spatchcock on a rack?” he asked. I politely but firmly informed him that, while I’m generally a proponent of open communication and discussing things as a family, I draw the line at deciding for him exactly where he ought to spatchcock.

P.P.P.S. I’ve since discovered that a rack is, in fact, ideal for spatchcocking.

A Vote for Trump is a Vote for Tuna

Aug 29 2015


Greg texted me yesterday with important information about participating in a class action settlement.


A class action settlement, friends, and not just any class action settlement, like the one where you can get $20 in deodorant or the one where you can get $3.70 because you used a Talbots credit card. No; compared to this one, those lawsuits are peanuts. Peanuts, I tell you! Because this one is a class action settlement for FREE TUNA. Like, $50 worth of FREE TUNA which everyone knows is TWICE as good as $25 worth of free tuna or FIVE TIMES better than $10 worth of free tuna.

I admit, though, it did strike me as a little strange, given how much Greg and I detest anything that smacks of frivolous litigation, that Greg signed onto this settlement. Until, of course, I realized that free tuna would only cost us our conscience and our scruples. Then I was all, THAT IS TOTALLY A FAIR TRADE.


Now, Greg may not have fully understood the sincerity of my message, mistakenly taking it as sarcasm, so he explained a little more background on the issue.


And Greg was right, of course, because we cannot continue to be placid bystanders while tuna crimes are being committed all around us! When push comes to shove and fractions of tuna ounces are being omitted, we must stand for JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY. And I hate to get into politics too much on this site, but when the tuna manufacturers betray us, I think we can all agree that there’s only one person likely to solve America’s Tuna Woes. “America’s Tuna Woes” being one of the key social issues of our time.


HELL STATE. That is what this country is in. A HELL STATE, friends. It is time to open our eyes to the tuna injustices all around us and to realize that Donald Trump is here to rescue us from our own folly.

In case you’re not sure yet that you’d like to vote for a man who belittles women and minorities, bullies people who question his plans and policies, and has, well, the judgement, restraint and maturity of a pickle, I am here to tell you you are wrong. You are WRONG, friends, and it may be hard to hear, but I have GOOD REASONS.


In conclusion, a vote for Trump is a vote for Tuna.

I mean, probably.

Just thought you’d want to know.






P.S. Now that I’ve had a few minutes to think about it, I wonder if I’ve been a bit hasty in my endorsement of Trump as the most pro-tuna candidate. It belatedly occurs to me that we have not vetted each candidate on his or her tuna policy. However, if we’re basing our judgement on the most fishy of all the candidates, I think we can still make our case.

Proof America No Longer Leads the World in Innovation

Apr 19 2015

Dear America,

This is a Spaghetti Sandwich.


It’s an enriched, bleached, white wheat roll stuffed with spaghetti noodles and red sauce; simple carbohydrates wrapped in simple carbohydrates, and, I think we can all agree, nutritionally deficient GENIUS. 

GENIUS, I tell you.

You would think this kind of innovation came from America.

It’s our legacy.

It’s in our collective blood.

Crap food + crap food. Like deep fried Oreos. And Every Single Thing at the Cheesecake Factory. Delectable. Deadly. Delicious.

Yes, you would think this kind of innovation came from America, but you would be wrong.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Spaghetti Sandwich is a product of Japan.


Land of electronic wizardry and bullet trains. 

Land where 90% of the population belongs to the middle class.

Land of prosperity.

Listen; I don’t want to be an alarmist here, folks, but when Japan is not only leading the world in technological advances and economic success — when Japan is taking over the world of delectable anti-nutrition — we ought to wake up from our Doritos- and Twinkies-induced stupors and take notice. THIS IS OUR TERRITORY, America! Our domain! And Japan is STEALING it from us. 

First, we let the Canadians invent poutine right under our noses, AND NOW THIS. 


We can do better. We can BE better.

Ethnocentricly Yours, 





P.S. Lest I leave you on a sour note, let me also say All Is Not Lost. Not yet, friends. Via Starbucks, an American original, we are infiltrating the Japanese sandwich empire with inventions of our own…


…like the Banana and Bacon Sandwich. Granted, bananas are full of potassium, and fail to turn immediately to fat in our bodies like spaghetti and white bread, but we’re on the right track by adding bacon. We have a long way to go, I’ll grant you, but, led by Starbucks, we have not totally conceded the fight. 

In other words, Carry On, Warriors. Carry on.

On All the Wins Nobody Sees: A Guest Post by Stephanie Gates

Aug 29 2014

On All the Wins Nobody Sees
by Stephanie Gates of A Wide Mercy

My name is Stephanie, and I didn’t eat any brownies last Thursday.Those brownies sat on my counter all day long, and I didn’t eat a single one when nobody was looking. Not eating them was the most productive thing I did all day. I fought those brownies – and I won.

And nobody ever even knew about it.

Food is not a daily struggle for me. I mean, I’m not exactly lean. Four babies later, I’m twenty pounds – and a whole lot of muscle – from my ideal weight. But I’m not usually an emotional eater. When I look in the mirror, twenty extra pounds do not measure my worth. In my day-to-day life, food is not the cross I carry.

But this summer, one of my kids had a run-in with death. Thanks be to God, my child is fine, yet the experience threw my subconscious mind into a sort of primal survival mode. Eat sugar! All of it! Prepare yourself to survive the impending doom!

Since then, I’ve been fighting food. Every single day, all day long.

But I’m fighting food. I’m not losing to food, I’m fighting it. Every day I walk past breads, cakes or ice cream – any sugar, really – and tell myself, you aren’t in danger. You don’t need sugar. Your brain is confused. Keep moving. Most of the time, I don’t pick them up.

To tell you the truth, I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m not losing weight right now, but I’m not gaining either. There is a very real battle in my head right now, and I’m in the lead.

But nobody around me knows I’m engaged in a fight. Nobody knows what I don’t eat in a day.

Nobody knows right now I have to make a conscious decision to be healthy, emotionally and physically, about every ten minutes. I fight – and win! – all the time, but I never share my victories with my husband or friends. I just collect them. I collect them all. Each tiny win reminds me I can do this. I can stare at death and move back into life. My unnoticed achievements are me putting one foot in front of the other. They each lead me a half inch closer to peace.

Then I wonder, what battles are you winning right now?

What are you fighting no one ever sees? I wonder who among us is slowly, deliberately healing. Who is engaging unhealthy thoughts right now, making tiny but important decisions toward peace. Who is waking up the next morning, and deciding to fight all over again. Is that your story?

If so, come sit by me. Tell me what threw your life into primal survival mode. Tell me how you’re climbing back into the sunlight. I want to hear it all. Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you mine.

Because our victories may be silent, but we are not alone. We’re both fighting, you and I, and we are both going to win. I may have seen death this summer, but I’m not giving in to it. I’m going to keep inching closer to peace.

We’ll begin right here. My name is Stephanie, and last Thursday I didn’t eat a single brownie.


StephanieAWideMercyI am Stephanie – mom to four beautifully rambunctious little kids and wife to a guy who still makes me smile. Last spring I moved to Colorado, where I fell in love with the mountain air and the Anglican church. If you have ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever had to leave your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the very tip-top of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, come sit by me.  We’ll talk.

You can follow my story at A Wide Mercy or follow along on Facebook.