Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!!

    Thanks to all of you dear people who read this blog this year and so diligently boosted my self esteem about it. You have been encouraging and kind, and made me feel a bit less like I was sending thoughts out into the void. Thank you!

   The idea of a glistening, shiny new year perched on the horizon has inspired some goals for the blog this year, some of which I'll be sharing with you as they become more than just ideas and one of them I'll share with you right now! 

* bum ba da dummmm* 

    Some of our friends and mentors homeschool their kids, and central to all their teaching is the notion of raising their kids to be well spoken and well read (she blogs here and is very smart... Add her to your reading list!) I thought that was an incredibly wise thing to say, so I kind of stole it. This is the first in a feature I'm going to call "Food for Thought," until I find something more original to call it. These posts will just have a few links to some articles, videos, and books that will help you build your own wealth of information, form and share your own opinions, and sound smart/funny/interesting... (Or possibly like you have too much time on your hands.) 

    Sooooo, another year, another reading list! These are books I've read, am reading, or want to read. If you've read any of them and have feedback, leave it in the comments section! I also love getting book recommendations so please share what's on your list!

On my list:

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet - Sara Hagerty
Delancey- Molly Wizenberg
Steal like an Artist- Austin Kleon 
Flight Behavior- Barbara Kingsolver 
Better Made at Home- Esterelle Payany
Winter Hours- Mary Oliver 
Scary Close- Donald Miller
How we Learn (the surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens) - Benedict Carey
Garlic and Sapphires- Ruth Reichl
Daring Greatly - Brenè Brown
The Writing Life- Annie Dillard 

Some tips for making your own reading list for this year: 

Read:
- a classic 
- a book you loved in childhood 
- a biography (or autobiography) 
- a mystery novel 
- have a favorite author? Do some research and find out who their inspiration was, then read  about them!
- a book with a blue cover 
- a book with a number in the title 
- a book that has been translated into English 
- a book on your passion (the creative process, sports, photography, neuroscience, etc.) 
- a book on something you don't know much about (see above...) 
- a favorite book of someone in your family 
- a book on spirituality 
- a book you had to read in high school English. Try it! You'll probably appreciate it much more now. (I'm looking at you, Scarlet Letter.) 
- a book that teaches a new skill 
- a book with a ton of pictures 
- a book with no pictures 
- a book of folklore, mythologies, or fairy tales 
- a book by a local author (do a little research and see what writers live near you, you might even be able to find a reading!) 

Happiest of New Years from us to you, may all your worthwhile resolutions stick ;) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

God Honors our Imperfection

(Part 2 of Relevant Christmas Quotes series.... Part 1 is right here if you'd like to check it out also.)
 
        We live in a quaint little house in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of history and big trees. Our house is ‘charming,’ and is probably small enough to be considered a bungalow. So when I say that we live in a charming bungalow, what I mean is that our washer and dryer are where the dining room table would have been before the invention of that technology and there’s really no hiding it. There is also no dishwasher which means that I don’t think our band guys have ever seen my sink without something in it.

       It is inevitable that when my home is in its very worst state- when I am thankful that we don’t have children because if CPS were to come they would take them away, when all I want is to go sit somewhere that does not need me to clean it- someone will have to come over for a very important reason. Like. I want to kill myself, can I come to your house?

       And while I obviously don’t hesitate to say yes, I hesitate because where can I hide the dirty dishes. I usually have two options in that moment. The first is to say yes, frantically try to restore the house to some semblance of order, flagellate myself for being a horrible wife, and then present my frazzled, crazed self to this person. The second is to say yes, tidy up a little, put some coffee on, light some candles, and hide everything else so I can be in my right mind when they come over.
       In my better moments, I opt for the second one. In my worse moments, I consider going next door and asking the neighbors if I can bring my dishes over to put in their dishwasher.
  
     So they come over, and we talk and offer snacks and drinks and they probably don’t notice that our dirty laundry is winking at them from behind the piano. And usually, something really beautiful happens in those times where we are vulnerable enough to say “Well, we are messy, but we want you in our life,” because usually they are vulnerable and share their messy life too. It’s a fair trade.
    
      What I’m noticing is that when I’m in that Perfection Mode, when I’m like butter over too much bread, I feel self-sufficient, alone, and a little neurotic. But when I embrace the imperfect, rather than fighting it, I feel whimsical and a little gutsy. I don’t feel like a disappointment. 
    
      It seems to me that the Spirit is most comfortable when we are squirmy, untethered, and huddled in the furthest corner from perfect. He waits for our veneers of perfection and order to fall off, and then he comes. He overshadows. We see this in the Incarnation, when Jesus first came to earth. Virgin, unwedded mother. Stable. Feeding trough cradle. Stinky, drooly animals. And then in the midst of all that imperfection- an angel choir, a star, a baby.
     
      He waits for me to quit doing my head-patting, tummy-rubbing tap dance on stilts before He comes, before the symphony.

      I have never been told, “Wow! Your house is so clean!” Never. But I have been told many times, “Your house is so homey.” And that’s all I want our house to be. Because in houses where perfection is prized over people, I usually feel like I can’t sit down anywhere so I’m stressed the whole time. But in homes where it’s clear that the house is just a container for some people who really love you and want you there, I could stay for hours.

     This extends to worship, as Rob says, when we worship we get to host the presence of God. What kind of hosts are we going to be?

     What are those areas where you need to honor the imperfection? Is it in your family? In your holiday preparations? In yourself?
     Merriest of Christmases to you all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas, Christmas Tiiime is Heeeere...


There are two themes that keep coming up for Robin and I these days. They don’t casually come up either. They come up kind of like in cartoons when the bad guy steps on the end of the rake and the other end comes up and smacks him right between the eyes.

            I’m only going to talk about one of them today, because sufficient for the day is its’ own tangent. Robin thought of this one, and I have once again stolen one of his catchy sound bites and tried to sort of take credit for it. It is “The Joy of Christmas is found not in what we can do, but in what Christ has done.”-

I feel like I should have that printed onto something. Beyond it just sounding catchy though, this is really relevant for Robin and I because we are BIG Christmas people.

For example, *hazy 80’s flashback vignette* When I found out that we would not be opening our presents or having my traditional cranberry French toast on Christmas morning because we would be leaving so early to go to my in-laws, I may have burst into tears and said that our kids would never believe in Santa Claus because he would only come on Christmas day every other year.

Because I’m adult like that.

Tradition is my thing. It makes me feel grounded and connected. It also makes me inflexible and emotional when that’s thrown off course. Tradition is usually centered around What We Do, and not so much about what He has done unless we’re reading the Christmas story before opening presents. And I think we kind of know where the focus is then anyway.

This year we’re paying attention to the idea of Advent a lot more. Not the Advent where each day I open a little door and get a piece of chocolate, but the kind of Advent that requires some stuff. Stuff like showing solidarity with the suffering and creating room in myself for Jesus to come.

We’ve been reading through Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas, Daily Meditations for Advent. While reading it this morning, it talked about how we get stuck in thinking Christmas is only about the coming of Jesus as a baby, when it’s also about Him coming into our lives right now. Not sweet, peach fuzzed, lotion-scented baby Jesus who doesn’t ask anything of us, but the Jesus who asks for surrender and awareness. Jesus who asks for a lot of stuff I really don’t even want to think about because it’s Christmas and Mariah Carey is singing and I just want to drink my cocoa and be happy.

That doesn’t mean that Christmas isn’t supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, for us it just needed to be tempered with the spirit of Advent. That spirit of waiting and expectation and the desperate hope that something really good is coming if you can just hold on a bit longer.

We’re still keeping plenty of our traditions because LET’S NOT GET OUT OF HAND HERE- but I’m being more flexible with them. I’m trying to hold them with open hands where if it happens, super, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. So here are some of the traditions we’ve already observed this season, and some that we hope are still to come.



 
-          Decorating oranges with cloves- it smells so lovely and is one of the most peaceful things in the whole world. Peace, in my mind, smells like oranges and cloves
-          Christmas Party-ing with our band, some of the most selfless and amazing musicians probably on earth. 
-          Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and drinking iced eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg at my parents’ house
-          Baking Espresso Dark Chocolate shortbread cookies. I make these once a year (except for verrrry special occasions) because I would be morbidly obese if they were readily available at any other time.
-          Cutting down our tree at the Christmas tree farm
-          Candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church, followed by a Tex Mex feast befitting El Presidente
-          Opening one present on Christmas Eve
- Christmas baking with my mom 
-Watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and drinking hot cocoa with Rob    while decorating the tree.
-Having a dinner/cookie/coffee/recipe exchange with some of my very dearest   friends who have moved far, far away and are coming home for Christmas.
-Advent meditation

Friday, November 14, 2014

soap bubbles


The work of writing is much like the work of hand washing dishes. 

It is much easier to do your dishes in a dishwasher because you can go watch television or paint your fingernails while your dishes are magically sterilized, just like it is much easier to watch television or paint your fingernails than to sit down and write. 

But when you distance yourself from the process of hand washing dishes there are two things you miss. The first is, you miss those magnificently smelly soft Dawn hands that they publicize in magazines and on commercials. 

The second thing you miss is the magic of soap bubbles. 

I don’t mean one soap bubble, or even the suds on your hands that sometimes pass for soap bubbles. I mean dozens of tiny little irridescent orbs floating and flirting above your head when you are really going after a dish. A dish that has something stubborn like scrambled eggs or melted cheddar caked onto it. 

And then you look up and see them dancing overhead- all pinks and blues and yellows- soft and floating and glorious. There are no soap bubbles from dishwashers because they have concentrated gel packs and do all the dirty work where it is tucked away and invisible to you. Convenient. Sterile. 

This is like writing. When you are toiling away in the crusty tedium of the hard work of writing, every now and again you get to look up and see that something beautiful and ethereal has happened while you were toiling and that you, inadvertently, were responsible for it. That is why I hand wash dishes and that is why I write. 

I also hand wash dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher. 

Right, not the point.  

This applies to everything that requires consistent, intentional work- song writing, painting, raising a family, woodworking, dental hygiene. There is an incredible pay off for all of these things if you immerse yourself in them, giving your best creative efforts to whatever you’re doing. If you don’t let someone else raise your kids for you, if you don’t succumb to using rhyme.com when the lyrics don’t come, if you hand sand that pesky board, even if you floss your own teeth routinely- gotta celebrate the small things too, y'all- you may find that all that time you have been building yourself a lovable, purposeful life. 

And remember, when it gets hard, to keep your head up for the soap bubbles. 

That said, and in honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) (Which I am ironically not participating in)(oops) 

Write. Maybe start here. 

       1. What was one of the happiest moments of this year? One of the hardest? How do you see that they've      strengthened your character? Are they related at all? 

       2. Take a few minutes to make a list of the things you're most thankful for. After you've made your list, pull one or two and write about them in more detail. What time of year was it at this experience, what were the smells around you, who was there, why was it special? 

      3. There is an old man, a woman with a baby, a blind teenager, a businesswoman and a barista at a coffee shop in the afternoon. And there's a tornado coming. What happens? What's the dialogue? (cred. goes to my creative writing teacher, Charlotte on this one.) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflections on a Year (and Six Tips for Newlyweds!)


    Last week, Robin and I celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary. 

     I know, I can’t believe it either. 

     To celebrate, we went to the bed and breakfast we stayed at right after our wedding, sat in the same love seat we sat in exactly one year ago- still in our wedding clothes, still shell shocked, at the time- and watched the video of the ceremony. One whole year ago we said our vows, worshipped with some of our very favorite people, washed each others feet, fed each other my grandma’s carrot cake. It felt like time travel being there again, we’ve changed so much over the course of a year. 

     I felt like I could give so much advice to the girl who stayed at that bed and breakfast with her brand spanky new husband one year ago. Then I realized that that’s really only an epic thing to say if you’re like, “I could say so much to that young bride fifty years ago,” but patience is not my strong suit so I’m telling her things now. 

     We talked about some “reflections on a year” at my favorite restaurant over cheesy, cheesy pasta and asparagus salad, and here were some of our findings:
     Introvert? or Extravert? 
    This actually mattered a lot for us. Robin is an extravert to a T. He is energized by being around people, even crowds of people, and he’s really at ease talking to people he doesn’t know. 
    I am an introvert, or a “functional extravert.” I like being around smaller groups of people, one-on-one over coffee is actually my preference. (Which explains why I skipped prom for Shady Grove’s hippie sandwich and a tie dye party with my best friend in my parents’ garage.) I like people a lot, I am just more energized by a quiet afternoon of cooking and reading. Our wedding, for instance. I was ready to leave at 9:00, because talking to a lot of people makes me tired. I think Robin could have stayed a lot longer, as I kept nudging him, “Now?” “No, not yet.” “Now??” 
     Once we knew how each other functioned, we were able to honor that better. If I knew he was stressed, I’d suggest that he have some friends over or maybe that we go out for dinner. If he knew I’d had a long day at the office, he’d clear our schedule so I could stay home and read. It communicates a lot of love when we honor each other in this way. 
     Discuss your Roles in the Home. 
This doesn’t have to be the traditional gender roles of “woman stays home and cleans, man is the breadwinner,” but it is important to be clear what you are expecting. Before we got married Robin and I actually sat down and made a list of some basic expectations. We share a lot of the responsibilities, like dishes and laundry, but he specifically mows the grass and I specifically water the garden. If we didn’t vocally establish who does what, our front yard would look like one of those hay fields in horror movies and our herbs would be stone dead. 
     Call it a Draw 
  Compromise seems like an obvious, simple thing, but it’s so not. In our home, it looks like, ideally, trying to get half my way and half his way, and that’s basically how we approach it. How can I give you as much of your way as possible, but still get some of my way too? It may seem like a more admirable thing to do to just concede and sacrifice every time, but that really doesn’t work- it builds resentment if the same person is sacrificing every time. So call it a draw sometimes, try to get half your way and half your partners way, but if that doesn’t work, both of you will need to be willing to sacrifice every now and then. 

     Talk about Feelings 
I know, I know. Cheesy. But one of our most-used slogans is “Let’s talk about feelings.”  Seriously. Because with men you have to be really explicit. It took some prying initially, but now if I ask if Robin has any feelings he needs to talk about, he will usually give me some insight into what he is feeling, that way I don’t keep trying to help him in the wrong way. Sometimes I’ll think he’s mad at me or frustrated and it turns out he’s just tired. If I didn’t know that I’d keep asking “what’s wrong” and he’d get tired telling me and then actually get mad. See? Talk about feelings. 

    Seek Wise Counsel. 
We’ve been fortunate to have a few really wise married couples in our lives, some just a little further along in the journey, and some several years into it. It helps to have those people to talk to and ask, ‘what did you do when you first had to discuss how to spend the holidays?’ or ‘she’s not really doing much around the house, what do I do?’ Because odds are, they’ve encountered that before, and you can spare yourself a lot of conflict and embarrassment *speaking from experience* if you’re humble enough to ask. 

    (And MOST importantly) Pray Together 

Praying together and making sure you’re aligned with Jesus is one of the best ways to make sure you’re aligned with your partner. For years my parents always told me that they prayed for like-mindedness and God gave it. And now we absolutely pray the same thing. When making decisions, we pray that God will confirm it in both of our hearts if it is the right thing to do. 

*optional: I prepped for marriage the same way I prep for anything, I read about it. Here are a few books that really helped prepare us for marriage- 
“The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller
“Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas
“Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married” by Gary Chapman
“Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs.  





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On Feasting, Faking (a little), and Letting Go


I love holidays. Especially holidays that merit a feast. I think we need more of those days.
So, it might not surprise you that we celebrated Rosh Hashanah for the first time this year. This wasn’t a pre-meditated thing at all. I found out it was Rosh Hashanah on the day of while I was in the office and threw together some funny mish mosh of a feast.

It had been a long, trying week and we needed something. Something to encourage us to practice the discipline of celebration, of thankfulness. Conveniently, it was the start of the Jewish New Year Festivities that night. So that was our something!
I googled where to find the best challah bread in town and planned our Rosh Hashanah menu. I bought honeycrisp apples and a pomegranate, butternut squash and Israeli couscous.

Then I went to Upper Crust Bakery to buy challah bread. I hesitated in the parking lot, unsure that they would have any challah left, that I might have to present some sort of ID confirming that I was actually Jewish and could partake, that I’d pronounce it incorrectly and be exposed. Ultimately, the smell from the dumpster pushed me to act, so onward I went, nodding to a couple on their way to the car, cradling their lumpy loaf.

I stood in the line, mentally reciting my pronunciation, looking to see where they might be storing the bread. Many were set on shelves and boxes with nametags on them. Apparently most people call ahead and reserve their challah. There were only two loaves left unclaimed, sitting on the glass display case. They looked so modest and beautiful, all braided and softly shining like Rachel herself must have been.
 I heard a man a few people in front of me teaching the girl the correct pronunciation of challah. She was saying it ‘holla’ which made me feel a little more confident that I wouldn’t totally butcher it, and he was practically hocking a loogy on her: “HHHHallAH!”

In the midst of all this, I realized that I was engaging in something ancient. I was surrounded by Jews- by a people who had endured, a people of tradition and intentionality. I wondered how the people around me had been affected by the Holocaust, I wondered what stories their families share at the table? Who is missing from around it?

This is why God told Israel to feast. He knew that feasts bring us together even when we are scattered.
Feasting reminds us what we have to celebrate, what unites us. I didn’t know anyone in the Bakery, but I knew that I and all of these people had some beliefs in common as we purchased our matching loaves of challah bread. I knew that they would all take it home to their families and friends, dip apples in honey, and listen to the blowing of the Shofar. They would share Bible stories and toast “Next year in Jerusalem, Next year in the Holy City.”

My parents were kind enough to join us for our last minute celebration, and we all talked about tradition, about the Jewish faith, about the God of Israel, and about the recipes. As we all tried our first bites of Challah bread, we pulled off a tenth, our tithe to the Lord. For Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews are supposed to take breadcrumbs (or empty their pockets) into running water.  For Israel, this was to symbolize releasing their sins of the previous year.
We had decided our tithe would be symbolic too, a letting-go of all the parts of us that had gone stale over this past year, of dropping those burdens that we don’t want to carry anymore.

I was saving our challah tithe in the refrigerator because, as you may know, it’s a little difficult to find running water in central Texas. Until I realized that I, in my characteristic fashion, was literally holding onto the thing I was supposed to be letting go of. I was refrigerating the stale parts of me so they would keep longer!

So this weekend, we’re letting go. We’ll take the tithe to the lake by our church and scatter the crumbs and watch the turtles snatch them up, and we’ll pray, and we’ll say “Next year in Jerusalem, Next year in the Holy City.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Autumn List

 Fall is here tra la la la laaaaa, at least it is for this week. Which merits an Autumn List!

Here are some of the Autumn activities we’re looking forward to: 
-Making pumpkin pie. From an actual pumpkin. Nothing against Libby, but this is something I've wanted to try for a long time. I'll let you know how it goes!
-Movies in the backyard, homemade apple cider in hand. Yet another long-time recipe ambition.

-Pumpkin patch trip and carving party.

-Friendsgiving! We’ll have the band over around Thanksgiving and have a little dinner party potluck/ thankfulness time. Basically, it’s just an excuse to have two Thanksgivings.

- Cooking with the windows open. This is seriously one of the greatest joys of fall for me- the house smells so fresh with the fall air blowing through, and I also don’t roast myself when the oven is on.

- Pumpkin candles. Nuff said.

-Wearing sweaters. Every. Single. Day.

-So, funny story. Here I was going to put a snarky comment like, “Visit Apple Orchard. But wait, this is Texas and that’s not a thing.” Until I asked Mr. Google if there were any apple orchards in Texas and there are. There are!!!! This must happen.

I asked the Bird what I was missing and he said, “Evening walks, sitting around the fire in the backyard, and reading at the park by our house where the grass is cold.”

And then my whole face melted off with love for him.

Your turn! What are some of your favorite fall activities?

Friday, October 3, 2014

What My Mother Taught Me


My mom’s birthday was last week. We celebrated her with balsamic grilled chicken and ratatouille, pumpkin flavored coffees and hummingbird cake. In my family, we have the notion of ‘birthday week.’ It’s like birthday Hannukah. Because the folks in our family are so awesome it takes several days to celebrate them properly. Obviously.

A while back, I read one of Shauna’s posts called “What my Mother Taught Me”, (which you should definitely read) in celebration of her mother. I thought that was a grand idea. So, here is what my mother taught me.

My mom taught me to love coffee, the smell of pumpkin candles, herb gardens, and cleaning the house with the windows open. She pushed me to try (and love!) vegetables in the Year of the Expansion of the Palate when previously, I was satisfied exclusively with meat, cheese, fruit, and carbs.

Yes, we did actually call it the year of the expansion of the palate. Because we’re that awesome. Hence a whole week for birthdays. Anyway.

My mom taught me to love food, and more importantly, to show love to people through food. From a very young age I was tagging along with her, taking food to people who had babies or were recovering from surgery or who had lost family members, and I learned that sometimes food is seriously the only thing that can bring some comfort. She taught me how to identify a ripe fig from an unripe one, and how to turn some stray dewberries into a slam-bang dessert. She taught me how to put a fussy child to sleep (tickle their backs and read them another story) and how to take care of a sick husband.

She taught me how to speak up for myself, how to roast a turkey, how to carry myself in intimidating situations, and how to intentionally serve people. She has taught me how to apply for jobs and how to graciously quit jobs, to put myself out there and to show restraint. She taught me that it’s okay to say “I can” confidently, when my first reaction is to say “I can’t.” She taught me that making other people feel loved and valued is the most important and honest thing we can do in this life, even when it means making ourselves feel a little less important.

Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to so diligently teaching me. Happy Birthday, Moth.

Hummingbird Cake

Very slightly adapted from Kinfolk Cookbook

                For the cake:

1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple

3 ripe bananas, finely chopped

¾ c. shredded sweetened coconut

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 c. flour

1 3/4c. sugar ( I haven’t tried it, but I imagine this would be very good with brown sugar too.)

1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. salt 

3 large eggs, beaten 

1 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
3/4 c. chopped pecans

For the frosting:

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (dont die.) 

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 c. confectioners sugar

Remaining pecans for garnish

Arrange oven racks so that the oven is split into thirds. Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9' round cake pans (preferably spring form) with butter. Dust with flour and then discard excess.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in chopped bananas, crushed pineapple, pecans, eggs, and coconut. Mix until just combined. Pour half of the mixture into each prepared pan. 
Set one pan on the top rack, one on the bottom and switch halfway through baking. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then let them cool directly on the racks for about an hour. 

While the cake cools, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Decrease speed to low and slowing add the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat for 3 additional minutes. 
To assemble, spread the frosting between the layers, scattering some of the remaining pecans in between. Frost the top and sides, press remaining chopped pecans onto the sides and serve with all the befitting pomp and circumstance.

Eat with the people you love. (And serve with a big glass of milk.)

Serves 8.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sabbath.

So many good things happened this week. Fall popped in to say hello, it rained almost every day, for the span of about an hour I had a completely clean sink. I was introduced to the most phenomenal pizza ever (recipe coming soon) and adapted a really great soba noodle salad. The stars were all aligning for me. More about this later, but first, Fall.
Are you flashing back to all the early fall rain-dancing I’ve made you do? Well keep it up, because it’s working. Last week, we had temperatures of, get this….. 57 degrees. In Texas. In September. My heart.
Robin and I fished out our sweaters and hats and sat outside, journaling, reading, drinking mochas with little hearts in the foam, and generally freaking out because we weren’t hot!


If you aren’t from Texas, you can’t understand this, but there is literally a point where you have been hot for so long that you can’t remember how it feels to be cold. I almost burst into “A Whole New World” when we stepped outside but Robin restrained me. Kind of.
We spent most of the day either outside or with the windows open, just staring in rapture at rain, giddy with the knowledge that it was cool outside. And nothing to do! What good fortune for all this to happen on a Saturday! There is a God.
Making my mom’s potato soup was one of the best ways that I could think of to celebrate the day. It’s one of the recipes that really isn’t a recipe that the women in my family have passed down to each other, all just judging by smell and consistency and intuition. I’ve included the bones of it for you. This is the perfect soup for sick littles and cool days. This soup cooks for a while, leaving you time in between to check on the patient or sit down with some coffee.
Mom’s Potato Soup
(serves 4) 
     Ingredients
4-5 medium sized Russet Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 c. half-and-half
2-3 Tbsp. of butter
Salt and black pepper, to taste
      Directions
Dice potatoes to a uniform size and add to a pot of room temperature salted water. Heat the pot to boiling, stirring potatoes occasionally. When the potatoes are tender but not too soft (“we’re not making mashed potatoes”, as mom always says) drain until water is just covering the potatoes. Mash some of the potatoes, you want this soup to still be pretty chunky. Add the half-and-half and the butter and cover the pot. Continue to cook on medium heat.

If you like your soup on the creamier side- this is the time to throw it in the food processor or mix it with an immersion blender. If you want to thicken it up, mix a little bit of cornstarch into about two tablespoons of water and stir that in. I like mine thick and chunky, more like chowder.
After you seriously cannot wait any longer, serve immediately, garnished with shredded sharp cheddar, crumbled bacon, and chives.
Happy Weekend to you all.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Completely Give.


I’ve written a lot about bitterness.  I’m sure some of you remember that being an issue for me. If not, just check out the previous post.  So, closely following that topic is this idea of forgiveness. *cue sigh of relief that I’m not making y’all listen to another tangent on bitterness. *
In my creative writing workshop, my teacher encouraged us to research the things we’re interested in. Apparently it’s good to write about things you’re interested in and also to know a little bit of legitimate information about the topic.  For some people, that might be World War II or Paris in the ‘20s or apartheid, you know, something cool.

Me? I researched forgiveness. Which actually turned out to be a good idea. Like any good scholar (or anyone with writer’s block), I started by looking up the etymology of it, and this is what I found:

Forgive (v.) Old English forgiefan “give, grant, allow; forgive,” also “to give up” and “to give in marriage;” from  for- “completely” and -giefan “give.” (Definition from etymonline.com)
Completely Give.

It also defined our modern sense of forgiveness as ‘to give up the desire or power to punish’ which is still a really noble, difficult, Gospel-oriented thing. It talks of someone being forgiven a debt they can’t pay. This was the only definition I had ever heard, and it is still a good one.

It also says to me that we’ve lost a lot of the essence of forgiveness by regarding this as the only definition.

The root of our word forgiven, ‘forgiefan’ also meant to give in marriage. I mean hey, I can decide I don’t want to punch somebody in the face anymore, but that doesn’t mean that I would be willing to let my child marry into their family. I’ll usually only give so much forgiveness, I don’t completely give it.
Now, specifically in light of the Gospel, let’s look at what that means. Here’s the story- God loved us and made us, we loved Him back for a while, then got distracted. God kept sending messengers, trying to lead us back to Him, and we added Him back onto our list of “Things to Worship” for a bit. Finally, He sent Jesus, His own Son, to lead us back, to love us, to take the punishment we deserved. Sure, He gave up His power to punish us, but He also gave Jesus in marriage to us. That’s why the Church is called The Bride.

Yeah.
Completely Give.

I don’t know who you need to forgive or for what. I don’t know how they’ve wronged you or how long it’s been going on. But, odds are you need to talk it out. Forgiveness is a two-way street. I’ve been trying to make it a one-way street for a long time where I do all the right things, I talk myself up to it, I act better, do better, try harder, and it hasn’t worked for me at all. In fact, it made me even angrier. I had to apologize. I had to forgive.
It may feel too soon, your wounds may still feel raw, you might not feel that you can keep yourself from attacking them like a rabid weasel. Let me tell you, you can. With a lot of humility and a lot prayer, you can. But it will require you to completely give.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If you can't think of anything nice to say...

Today I am going to teach you something very important.
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
In my experience, no one ever means that. I think it is actually something more like this:
“If you can’t think of something nice to say, make something up.”
I can talk about this because I have not had anything nice to say to some people and have, per Thumper’s wisdom, not said anything at all… for several months.
This doesn’t really work though. Because then people think you’re a jerk, even though you’re trying to hold your tongue explicitly so people don’t think you’re a jerk.
So what do you do then? What do you do when you seriously CANNOT think of anything nice to say?!
As one of my favorite authors Anne Lamott said, “If you want to change the way you feel about people, you have to change the way you treat them.”
So I said, Annie, dear? Leave me alone.
However, what she says is true. I’m trying to change the way I feel about people, so Robin and I pray for them before we go to sleep. I pray that I will be a gracious person and no longer wish car troubles and bad hair days on those people. I pray that God will help me look more like this….
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And less like this….
 
 
 
 
 
And I pray that I will learn to be more like Jesus by truly forgiving. Forgiveness is the essence of the Gospel. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole “good news” part about it- that we’re not condemned on what we do and don’t do anymore.
In Greek mythology, there is this idea of the tragic flaw. Basically, it’s the character defect that causes the downfall of the protagonist (to quote dictionary.com) For most people it’s like pride, or whatever. For me, it’s being hyper-empathetic. I discussed this in the bitterness post, it’s where we get so amped about defending people that we can have bitterness towards someone who hasn’t even personally wronged us.
Generally, I empathize with the underdog.  I shake my little paw in fury at the big dogs who make them feel bad about themselves. And this is all good and fine until I am confronted with the truth that everyone has a little underdog in them. Even the big dogs act the way they do to protect that yappy little weakness inside that they’re afraid will get out and pee on the carpet.
So, I’m trying to seek out people’s inner underdog, and I’m trying to empathize with that little weak, lovable part of them until the rest follows. And I'll try and find something nice- and true- to say.