The first rule of family: Show up!

For six years of my life, I was a half-time dad who commuted 12 hours one way, twice a month, to Lewisburg PA so that I could parent my two sons, Jay and David. I rented a home in Lewisburg, at the same time that I was building my home here in Maine.


Sometimes I would put in a day’s work here in Maine, operating the seaweed business, and then I’d get in the car on late Tuesday afternoon (or evening), drive 12 hours to Lewisburg (stopping occasionally at truck stops in the middle of the night to take a nap), and show up on Wednesday: “Hi! I’m here to play!” I would be the schooling parent for the rest of the week, and then I’d be the weekend parent. We always had adventures, one way or another. Sunday night, I would return the boys to their mother, and I would head back to Maine. Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning, I’d arrive back home in Maine and go back to work, building my home, operating the seaweed business.

I did this routine twice a month without fail. Custody schedules can be used in an inflexible way, and sometimes I would be following the snowplow down I-95, watching my wipers break off in an ice storm. I lost a couple of cars to black ice, and I wore out some others.

Nevertheless, I always showed up. That’s the first rule of family: Show up! This year, when I suffered a head bonk and a subdural hematoma, the boys returned the favor. They showed up, and they finished the last two alaria harvests of the season so that theseaweedman.com would have adequate stock. Thank you, Jay and David, I’m grateful. And thanks to all of you loyal customers who continue to support me in this work and in my healing. There’s still blood on my brain, and I work with a cool head.

During those six years, I drove 60,000 miles each year. In the summertime, the boys would come to Maine. During high school and college, Jay, my eldest son, ended up working in the boats with me for six years. Now he is an engineer who tests safety systems in cars. David, my youngest son, is still in college, and he hasn’t decided what he wants to study next. I’m OK with that. We are all lifelong learners.

One year when my eldest daughter Kai was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, I also split the rent with her on an apartment in downtown Ithaca. That way, when I was the weekend parent for the boys in Lewisburg, I could drive them four hours north to Ithaca, and we all had a place to stay with Kai so that the children would all remain attached. After all, the primary task of any family system is building relationships of trust, and I fully intended that this would happen for Jay, David, and Kai through the ongoing process of living together, eating together, playing together and forming attachments. For me, it was a piece of parenting work, and it was good work.

It was during the time I spent in Ithaca that I met Priscilla Timberlake and Lewis Friedman. Every Friday night for over 17 years, The Great Life Cookbook authors, Priscilla and Lewis, have been cooking for their family and community. Friends travel to their country home to delight in the wonderful locally inspired feast they prepare which features brightly colored fresh vegetables, earthy beans, energizing grains and nourishing sea vegetables. They invite you to explore the monthly dinner menus and dare to cook something wholesome and delicious for your friends! The Great Life Cookbook is beautiful, and it is available at thegreatlifecookbook.com.

This week’s recipe is a takeoff on one of the recipes in their cookbook. Here goes:

Alaria Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

¼ cup soaked and minced alaria
2 medium cukes sliced thin
½ large red onion sliced longitudinally and blanched for 3 minutes

(Bring large pot of water to boil, blanch for 3 minutes, remove and cool in cold water.)

3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp. fresh dill, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. Bariani olive oil (wonderful oil if you can find it!)
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. honey or brown rice syrup

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a shaker or with a whisk, drizzle it over the salad, and enjoy!

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