Who Is In Your “Circle of Support?”

I just discovered this wonderful resource on Jayne Schooler’s blog and had to pass it along.




I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again:

It is vital that you have a strong support system if you’re going to be a foster parent.

But I’ll also say this: one of the things that surprised us after we started our journey was who comprised that support system!

Some of the people we thought would be most “with us” were not even part of our lives anymore by the end of our first year as foster parents, while other folks who were only peripherally part of our lives when we started our journey have become like family, playing significant roles in the lives of us and our children.

If you are starting your journey as a foster parent, or are already on your way but struggling to identify who might surround you and be part of helping you stay the course, I hope this chart will be helpful to you!


Fellowship of the Table on the Road

Last Tuesday morning, I left my children with my parents in Virginia and started driving northwest. We had gotten word that my grandmother, whom I call Meme, was nearing the end of her life, and I wanted to see her one last time. I drove for over ten hours, stopping only for a few very quick bathroom and refueling breaks, straight to the house where she has spent the past year or so, a wonderful end-of-life care home facility (that is more of a “home” than a “facility”), where I joined my aunt and cousins, who had been with her for several days.

The plan was for me to spend the night and then drive back to Virginia the next day. However, it became very evident that instead of me going back to Virginia, my parents and children needed to come to Michigan. The end was very close.

For the next several days, with my uncles joining us, we camped out in the living room of the Serenity House of Commerce Township. We each took turns going in to sit bedside with Meme, reading passages from the Bible to her, singing hymns, and just talking. By the time I arrived, she was already sleeping, and she never really woke up. However, when I left that first night, I went into tell her one last time that I love her and that I would be back the next day, and she opened her eyes ever so slightly and said “I love you” back. Those were the last words my Meme said to me, and they were among the last words she said, period.

Pure gift.

The hospice nurse predicted 24 to 48 hours. My parents left Virginia Thursday morning with my kids and drove up, arriving around 10:00 PM. My dad was the last of her seven children to make it to the house, and she died about 12 hours after he arrived. We all believe she was waiting for him.

Over the next several days, more and more family arrived from Massachusetts, Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Virginia, and, of course, Michigan. We took over a Holiday Inn Express & Suites, and there, in the common area of the hotel, the Fellowship of the Table began. Over the next several days, not only did we plan and hold a funeral and reception for Meme, we also had a birthday party for my niece, who turned eight over the weekend, as well as a retirement party for my uncle, whose last day of work was the day Meme died.

For several days, in the lobby of a Holiday Inn, the fellowship of the table continued. We brought in food and beverages and enjoyed hours and hours of conversation, card games (pinochle is a family tradition), and much, much laughter. Everyone contributed something, from bags of carrot sticks to dates and nuts, cake, wine, pizza, beer, and potato chips. For my niece’s birthday party, there were butterfly decorations and mylar balloons from the Dollar Tree near the hotel and a chocolate cake from the grocery store down the road. For my uncle’s impromptu retirement party, it was another small grocery store cake that we had “Congrats Brian” written on, along with a card we all signed.

The point was not how good the food was, how beautiful the decor, or how ideal the circumstances. The ambiance was the people.

The point was not how good the food was, how beautiful the decor, or how ideal the circumstances. The ambiance was the people. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and grandkids, brothers and sisters, all gathered to celebrate life.

We need to do that more.

We need to stop waiting for the right time, the clean house, the perfect menu, and the planned-out guest list.

We need to seize the moment and gather around a table together. I love a good menu, I love setting a beautiful table, I love thinking through who to invite.

But some of the best times of fellowship are the ones nobody planned.

Paper plates, a store-bought cake, a hodgepodge of snacks and take-out containers can be the makings of some of the best meals, if the goal of the meal is to gather and connect.

Paper plates, a store-bought cake, a hodgepodge of snacks and take-out containers can be the makings of some of the best meals, if the goal of the meal is to gather and connect.

If you’re reticent to invite people to gather around your table because your house is not “company ready” or you don’t have time to prepare a beautiful meal or set a gorgeous table, let my family’s recent experience inspire you.

It doesn’t matter.

Just gather. The people will be the ambiance.


When Your Guests are Vegan


We had some of our new neighbors over for dinner last week, and a few days before the dinner, the neighbor, who is a vegan, followed exactly the right protocol for letting your host know of your dietary restrictions: she texted me that they were really looking forward to coming over, and by the way she’s vegan, and she is happy to bring a dish to contribute to the dinner (soup, salad, etc.), and more than anything they’re just really looking forward to spending time with us. (Gracious, generous, informative. I loved it!)

The good thing for my new friend is that I love making vegan dishes, and I have experimented with a number of recipes that have become staples in my catalog of vegan options for dinner parties.

If you’re expecting to host a vegan or vegetarian, but cooking entirely plant-based food is new for you, you’re in luck! Below are three of my tried-and-true vegan recipes that have been hits with herbivores and omnivores alike.

  1. Main: Raw Taco Gorilla Wraps (via Kimberly Snyder)
    I often include chips and salsa or guac with this as well.
    Side: Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette (via All Recipes)
    Note—I used fresh corn instead of canned. After shucking, I put the ears in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes, then ran them under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Then, laying them long-ways on the cutting board, I sliced off the kernals. So much better than canned!
    Dessert: Berry Bowl with Sweet Vanilla Coconut Cream
    Place cut up strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries in small bowls.
    Pour a can of coconut cream into amixing bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup and a splash of vanilla extract. Mix together. Pour over the fruit just before serving.
  2. Main: Sweet Potato Shepard’s Pie (via Kimberly Snyder)
    This recipe is a bit of what my mom would call “a fusser.” I usually stick with really simple recipes that I can prepare in an hour or less. This takes a bit more time, because there are a few steps. But it’s so worth it. This is a great dish.
    Side: Mom Simmons’s Tossed Salad (chopped iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, 2 TBSP EVOO, 2 TBSP lemon juice, 1 TBSP Italian Seasoning, 1 tsp onion powder, a few shakes of garlic powder, all tossed together)
    I usually serve rolls or bread with EVOO for dipping with this as well.
    Dessert: Raw Cacao Truffles (via Kimberly Snyder)
  3. Main: Vegan/Gluten Free Mac & “Cheese” (via Kimberly Snyder)
    Unless your guest is GF, it’s not necessary to use GF noodles. I have made this with regular vegetarian pasta noodles and it’s wonderful!
    Side: Shiva’s Kale Salad with Almond Ginger Dressing (via Kimberly Snyder)
    A tip for preparing any raw kale salad: before adding all of the ingredients, take a few minutes to massage the kale with EVOO. What I do is wash my hands thoroughly, then pour about a tsp of EVOO into my hands and rub them together. Then I massage the kale in the bowl for a while. This tenderizes the kale and makes it easier to chew and digest. It also releases more flavor. Makes a huge difference!
    Dessert: Coconut Cashew Rice Pudding (via Food Network)
    You can make this a day ahead and save yourself some time the day of your dinner party!

Let me know: 

Do you host dinner parties?

Ever have a full-vegan menu?

What are your favorite vegan recipes?