Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Blessed Are They That Mourn

Last weekend I was driving through heavy traffic, without the offspring, and thus doing some heavy thinking. And this is the thought (verse) that crossed my mind…

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

You may or may not have heard, but I tore my LCL (lateral collateral ligament) almost 2 weeks ago. I was trucking along on my 7 mile run, with only 1-1/2 miles to go. I tripped on some uneven pavement, flew through the air, and heard a tearing sound. It was not my clothes. Sigh…

In that moment I knew that my summer was going to look drastically different than what I had planned. My summer of triathlon training and races was over.


People have told me that I am handling this very well. I’m not not angry. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to heal.

And it is going to take months to heal. Whether rest and then therapy, or surgery and then therapy-we are talking about the long haul. Being pragmatic and hopeful, I’m okay with a season off, if it means that I can run again, and bike again, and swim again.

But, as I sent my husband and Freckles off to my favorite 5k of the summer that Saturday, I was neither pragmatic nor optimistic. I was rather bummed.

Frankly, I was mourning. Mourning the season that should have been. Mourning the (hopefully temporary) loss of my knee function. Mourning my inability to train with my son and husband. Mourning my glorious early morning, sunshiny, quiet, summer bike rides. Mourning the exhilaration that comes from running races well.

Mourning the loss of hopes and dreams and could have beens for this year.

In the depths of my despair (that is totally an exaggeration…) I got a bit vulnerable on FB. Not in a bid for pity, just being real about how I was feeling.

I wanted people to understand that while I am by nature pragmatic, this was throwing me for a loop.

I was mourning.

What I got was understanding by some, and not understanding by some.

My athletic and runner friends got it. They know how I love to run and train and race, because they love it too. We may not totally love every minute of the process, but we love the life style. And an injury puts a stop to that-even if temporarily. My athletic friends chimed in with me too’s.

But, then there were other, well meaning people who said the darnedest things. I wanted space to mourn. I wanted people to see that maybe I wasn’t handling it as well as it looked. I wanted to hear that sucks. What I got was some suck it up-it’s life's. I ended up taking my status down, because I just didn’t want to deal with comments any more.

Maybe (probably) my wants were self-centered. I won’t deny that. Maybe FB is not the best platform for vulnerability.

The whole debacle made me wonder how I deal with people’s mourning.

I think, as Christians, we tend to try to short circuit the mourning process.

We spiritualize and push for the end product, without allowing the process.

I know I’ve been guilty of that. I’m betting we’ve all experienced that.

Once someone said to me, “you have to remember the goal is ____.” And I remember thinking, “I am not to that point yet. I need space to mourn guilt free for what was and what could have been. What was not my fault.” It was a major, life altering circumstance. Even though the person had the best of intentions, it came off as callous and uncaring. Spiritual, but not realistic and rather hurtful.

The contrast, is when we left our church of 13-1/2 years. It had been a grueling year or two. We needed to escape. It was time to leave. Yet, when we left, I was hit by tremendous and unexpected mourning. A friend took time out of her day and called me on the phone and let me mourn. Literally mourn. Tears and snot and all. Mourning the break in relationships. Mourning the wreckage. Mourning the hurts. Mourning the leaving.

Mourning was crucial in the healing process.

In death, we Christians quote the verse…we sorrow not. Instead of facing up to gaping holes left here on earth by the absence of loved ones, we go all spiritual. We comment on God’s will and faithfulness and goodness, and how well someone is handling the death. But, that verse doesn’t say that we don’t sorrow. It says we don’t sorrow in the same way as those who have no hope.

There is still mourning that needs to happen.

Grief over memories not made. Absences at weddings and birthdays and graduations and baptisms and milestones and daily life. Regrets. Hopes and dreams unrealized.

As I thought on the verse, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted, I thought about how we have spiritualized that one too.

We say “Blessed are they that mourn over their sin, for they shall be comforted.

That is certainly one application of that verse. It is not the only application. It is a very narrow application.

The verse just says…blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. No caveats. No amplification.

Why would those who mourn be comforted? Well, because, duh, they need to be comforted.

But, also, those who mourn are being honest with themselves. And with God. And with others.

(When appropriate. Not that we should be dishonest with others. Just that some mourning is more public and some is more private.)

Those who mourn are admitting a loss, a sorrow, a disappointment, a wrong done. They are admitting that we live in a fallen, imperfect world. Where there is sickness and death and loss and injury and sin and consequences.

Those who don’t mourn don’t need comforted.

Except they do.

As long as we have our junk all together, we aren’t mourning and we aren’t being honest and we aren’t being comforted.

Comfort may or may not come from people. Some people treat vulnerability as a weakness to be exploited, as a weapon to use against us. Vulnerable is not something to be with everyone in our lives. FB is not a good platform for vulnerability. At least, not in my experience. Or, at least not at some levels.

But, there are those people in our lives, maybe a handful, maybe a dozen, maybe a couple dozen, who are a safe place. Who treat our vulnerability with compassion. Who weep with us and pray for us. Those are the ones to bare our soul to.

In the scheme of things, a knee is just a knee. A summer is just a summer. Comparatively, it is just

But, it is my just. My reality this summer. It is what God is using to refine me this summer. It is that mourning in my life that God is comforting.

So I can, in turn, comfort others. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Or mourning…

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Only Good Thing About Yesterday


Yesterday morning I woke up early a hotel in Cleveland, a 5 hour drive from my house.

(Incidentally, at which hotel was a fetish/leather/LGBT convention happening. Which is not something you want to wake up to. Nor go to sleep to, for that matter. Inappropriate dress is the mild way to put it. In any other context there would have been arrests made for indecent exposure. And that is not bigoted or exaggerated.)

We got the kids fed and dressed and were on the road before 8:00 in the morning. We had to get back home in time to go to LC's appointment with the pediatric surgeon for the lump in/on her arm. There was a cancellation in the office, and while we had originally planned to stay at the hotel until check out, we decided that getting into the surgeon sooner, rather than later, was the better deal.

We had smooth roads and clean sailing all the way home. We arrived back in town with over 1-1/2 hours to spare.

Time to eat lunch, start laundry, and have the 13 year old split his head open.

Three words...pea sized brain.


He jumped and hit his head on the beam that runs through our basement. Upstairs, we heard the thump and felt the house shake. We asked what happened, and he said he hit his head, but that he was alright.


A couple minutes later he comes up the stairs dripping blood from the top of his head. It was a gusher. Hair soaked with blood. Blood all over his hand.

We put ice on it, and decided to take him to the Urgent Care. I didn't know how we would butterfly it in his hair. I wasn't touching that one.

So, it is 1:40, LC's appointment is at 2:30, and we have one car. I dropped Brian and BMV off at Urgent Care, called the BFF to see if she could watch Freckles and Meres, dropped them off, drove to the appointment, parked, then ran like a crazy woman to the wrong building.

Then ran like a crazy woman, up a hill, to the right building, 2 blocks away. All the time hoping and praying that they wouldn't cancel our appointment because we were late.

I was on the verge-of tears. Panic. Cray-zay-ness.

Moral of LC's story/appointment is that she has a pilomatrixoma. It is probably the result of some trauma to her upper arm that no one can remember. It is scar tissue that won't go away on its own, and will probably grow until it is removed. She is having out patient surgery tomorrow. No biggie.


Yes. I did a lot of that yesterday afternoon. Deep "cleansing" breaths...Snort.

We got home, and I had insurance paperwork to do for all my kids. By dinner time I was all wrung out. My shoulders were stiff, and I felt like an emotional wreck. Like I was going to cry if I thought too much about anything.

I said to Brian...

"the only good thing about today is that we got home safe from Cleveland, and that there was no traffic to speak of."

Oh yes....

...and BMV didn't break his neck when he jumped and hit his head (he hit that beam that hard)

...and my kids (all four of them) had just been approved for insurance just last week.

...and Brian made dinner so I didn't have to.

...and the cleaners came while we were still gone yesterday morning, so my house smelled and looked clean when I walked in. (and now I don't have to worry about cleaning in the midst of traveling, working and doctor's appointments)

...and LC had a good diagnosis from the surgeon and got booked for surgery this week.

....and we got a check in the mail.

...and we had friends praying for us while we were neck deep in staples and blood and appointments.

...and the BFF was able to watch Freckles and Meres at the drop of a hat so neither had to be hauled to either place.

...and I got to have a 5 hour long road trip with my husband, which means 5 hours of good conversation.

...and the pediatrician office staff showed me grace for running late.

...and I tucked into my own bed last night, with my own husband.

Yeah, when I stop to think about it, that is quite a few good things.

I keep going back to that verse...the joy of the Lord is your strength. Obviously, a lot went wrong yesterday, but focusing on all that just pulls me down. Focusing on the good, choosing joy, lifts up my soul.

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning, it's time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.
Bless the Lord, oh my soul...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Foundering in the Fight

I've been foundering.

I haven't written here in almost a month and a half. If people asked, I said it is because I've had no words. And while that is partially true, it is definitely not the whole truth.

There is so much going on in my life right now. My mom with her ALS and congestive heart failure. My parents selling their home, and moving into an RV, and spending most of the summer somewhat in my neck of the woods. My mother-in-law in a rehab facility with a broken hip, diabetes, drop foot, sciatica, and unlikely to leave or live independently again. My own daughter with a lump in her upper arm that has been just a pain free lump for over a year, but that changed color last weekend. There has been unbelievable stress in the bonds of family relationships.

My plate has been full.

But, more than a full plate, my heart has just not been right with God.

I wouldn't say that my faith is in jeopardy.

But my heart has been cold. Ice cold. And hard.

I couldn't feel God's presence. I couldn't see His hand. I couldn't fathom His plan. I couldn't pray-at least not more than surface.

And, though the song says, "trust His heart", I wasn't.

And thus I couldn't write. I had no words.

So, what changed?

We went to a Bible conference last week, and God spoke through one of the speakers, right into my cold heart. My hard heart.

I was reminded that we are in a war. A spiritual war. A war for the hearts of men and women. I know this. I often think of this battle field when I am serving. But, I'd forgotten this war in day to day life.

Here in the US of A, we have been barraged in this warfare. For years. It has been an out and out battle of good against evil. Overtly and covertly, this attack has worn me down.

Gay marriage. Transgender bathrooms. Abortion. Racial tensions. This election. (oh.my.word!!!)

My paradigm, my life's foundation, is what God says in black and white in Scripture.

Yet, unbelievers, to say nothing of the vast majority of "believers" are attacking the traditional Scriptural stance on these issues. In the name of equality and love.

And as I stood under the endless barrage in my FB feed and twitter feed, as I stood under the barrage of circumstances in my own life (and those of my loved ones) I felt beaten down and defeated. I started to question God. His goodness. His love. His tolerance and intolerance of sin. His provision of holiness and righteousness and justice. His wrath. His plan. His sovereignty.

In the guise of not understanding, I started to not like what the Bible said. Which was a very short step away from not agreeing. And then questioning.

My foundations and very core were shaken.

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

I forgot that both in the big scheme of things-world level- and in the little life issues, God is good-all the time. God is righteous-all the time. God is holy-all the time. God is just-all the time!

If He is not just, holy, perfect, righteous, good, faithful, _____all the time, He is not any of the time.

(God's character is more than what He does. It is who He is. Which is why is doesn't just turn on and off.)

I lost sight of this truth, and it sent everything spinning out of control.

I forgot we are in a battle. Not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness.

I put down my shield of faith, my helmet of salvation, my sword of the spirit, my belt of truth, and my breastplate of righteousness. The fiery darts weren't quenched. They landed. And it has been devastating in my personal life.

But, God is so good. He is so gracious. And patient.

He sent from above, He delivered me, He drew me out of many waters.

But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.

God used the speaker at the conference to remind me that we are in this war. So, get those loins girded!

God used the speaker at the conference to remind me of Job, and all he went through. And how God was in it. Job was tested because of his noble and righteous character. He grew as he came to learn God's character.

Job was tested because God knew Job would glorify God through the suffering and loss.

I am tested for the same reason. God's glory. My good.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. But God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.

I was reminded that in this warfare, there are relationship issues. It is not pretty. But, this war is not against flesh and blood. We are supposed to love, and not be obnoxious just for the sake of being obnoxious. In addition to that, Christians have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation of people to God. Reconciliation in our relationships.

I was reminded that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Complaining is wallowing in weakness. It is letting our guard down. It is giving the fiery darts an opening. Thankfulness and joy are life and strength giving.

I was hit with a paradigm shift. How often have I said, "the Lord will reward you for doing..." when these things we do are simply a presenting of our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual act of worship. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything.

Everything has not been peachy-keen since last weekend. No one has been miraculously healed. I've had a sinus headache all week. My running has sucked. LC's arm had me at Urgent Care and the ER for several hours yesterday.

But, my heart feels warm. It feels softer. My paradigm has shifted back to where is should be. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Favorite Flavors of Ireland: a (cook)Book Review

As a blogger, I occasionally get asked to review books. It's a pretty nice gig. I get free books that I can read at my leisure, and then post a review with my thoughts.

I was quite excited when into my inbox popped the opportunity to review an Irish Cookbook. Because, I'm Irish. And I love to cook. And, I'm a sucker for pretty cookbooks.

So, my copy of Favorite Flavors of Ireland arrived mid-February.

The first thing that struck me about this cookbook is it's plethora of gorgeous photos. Photos of the Irish countryside. Photos of the food. Full color photos on almost every page. It is so pretty.

I also like this cookbook because it is paper back, which may not seem like a good thing. But it has a nice binding that allows it to open and stay open.

There are more than 100 recipes included, which is quite something. Another feature that I'm really enjoying about this cookbook is the way the author, Margaret M. Johnson, organized these 100+ recipes. They aren't in the typical categories of breads, appetizers, soups, salads, poultry, beef, desserts, etc..

No. The recipes are arranged by season. Spring, summer, fall, winter. They are seasonally appropriate, plus they use seasonally available ingredients. What's your garden producing in April? That's what's in the recipes for spring. Such a great idea!

This all is what I liked about the Favorite Flavors of Ireland, even before I picked out several recipes to try.

Being limited in time before this review is supposed to be published, I picked out just four recipes to try.

Dubliner Colcannon Torte
Black and Tan Brownies
Shepherd's Pie
Brown Bread

They all turned out amazingly, and I am looking forward to trying many more of the recipes.

I love that the recipes use ingredients that are readily available-though I must admit that I did not spring for the Kerry Gold butter, nor the Irish rashers. I was especially thrilled that there were many recipes using Guinness Beer. I always buy a 4 or 6 pack for my SaucePan Guinness Cake, and then it just sits for months. This cookbook gave me many options for how to use my Guinness besides drinking it, which is a downright disgusting option...

The recipes were all easy to make, and they were delicious! I may share the recipes later, but for now, enjoy the photos. Or, you could purchase your own copy of the cookbook, and get the recipes sooner...

And have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Gift from the Sea (in the Form of a Cruise)

Have you ever had your heart so overflowing with good things, that you struggle to find the words to express it?

That's how I've felt this week about our cruise.

It was everything I hoped for. Sunshine. Warmth. Rest. Quality time with my  husband. Quality time with family. 

Sunsets. Sunrises. 

Many pictures taken. Though none of the husband and I by ourselves. Sigh. I have no recent pictures of the two of us together, and I am getting rather bummed by that. Of course, the cruise line was taking pictures all the time, but I didn't particularly like the ones they took. And I never asked someone to take one of the two of us. It seems more awkward even than it used to (the asking of someone to take your picture) in this day of selfies and selfie sticks. 

As a social media culture, I think we've gotten into the habit of sharing a lot more things than we would have shared even 10 years ago. Which is not necessarily bad. We share photos of where we've been, what we've done, who we've been with, what we've eaten. 

But, sometimes it is nice to not share the picture. Sometimes it is nice to not even take the picture, but to treasure up the memory in your heart. A special moment just for you. Or just for the 2 of you. Or the group of you-who are right there.

One morning I had taken my coffee out to our balcony. The sky was colorful in that predawn way. I was reading my Bible. And I heard a thwap! It was a different sound than the waves rolling or hitting the ship. I paid it no particular attention until I heard that thwap a second time. That is when I stood up, and saw 3 dolphins in the wake of the ship, jumping, and swimming, and racing along. 

I was tempted for the space of a breath to grab my camera. To take a picture. But, I squelched that urge. I knew that if I turned my back, I might miss the moment. So, I hollered for Brian to come and I kept my eyes on the dolphins. It was an amazing sight. It felt like a special gift. It may just have been the best moment of my cruise. 

(Honestly it made me teary behind my sunglasses as I watched, and is making me a bit teary as I write about it right now.)

When the ship had out run the dolphins, and they were no longer visible, I looked around. There were several balconies with people on them. Strangers who had shared this moment of wonder. We grinned at each other, and gave thumbs up, and all went back to our quiet morning.

A highlight of the cruise was watching my brother get married on a beach in Cozumel. It was a close runner up to the dolphin moment...

It has been a long journey, fraught with rough waters...this journey that culminated in them together. I think of that country song...God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

We've waited many years for Nate to find a girl who loves him with everything she has. And Jenny loves my brother. And that also makes me a bit teary-eyed. 

(and I'm sitting here writing in the library, which probably has people wondering what is wrong with that crazy woman!?!)

Jenny was a gorgeous bride. The setting was gorgeous. The blues and greens of the Caribbean, the white sand. Also, the shrimp and fajitas were amazing. Some of the best food we ate on the cruise. They got married, and then we hung out at a resort for the afternoon. Swimming, laughing, eating, talking, relaxing.

Another favorite memory of the cruise was hanging with my sister and her husband. There is always much to talk about, and they are on the same page as we are. It's a meeting of brilliant minds...Snort.

We've always said that Bek and Aaron would be people we could and would vacation with. This was our first vacation together, and I am glad to say that we still feel like we would vacation with them...Hopefully they feel the same...

In Belize, after a long bus and river "cruise", we made it to the Mayan ruins. Which were phenomenal! Historians and archeologists talk about advanced cultures, but it really blows your mind when you see the ruins for yourself.

My only regret with the ruins was that the travel took so long, leaving us only about an hour (on a 7+ hour excursion) to explore the ruins.

My pre-cruise hope was that I'd have lots of time to relax. To read and to soak up the sunshine. I am pleased to say that hope was fulfilled. We had three "at sea" days, which allowed ample time to do as little as I wanted.

We camped up on the quiet deck quite a lot. Armed with sun block, water, beach towels and books. It was wonderful!

I brought along All the Light We Cannot See and Gift from the Sea.  Several guests on the What Should I Read Next podcast had mentioned All the Light We Cannot See. It was absolutely worth the hype. I'm even having Brian read it now. Very good WWII historical fiction. That's all I'll say about it.

I've read Gift from the Sea before. It's been a few years. But, when I read it the first time, I wanted to buy dozens of copies to give it to every woman I know. It has to be one of my most favorite books ever.

Gift from the Sea is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh's wife. She is famous in her own right in both the aviation world and as an author.

Gift from the Sea rather reminds me of a devotional. The chapters are short, and each is based on a seashell which is then linked to a season in a woman's life. I think it is brilliant.

There were just enough chapters to read and ponder one on each day of the cruise. What a gift to let the wisdom of these words flow over and into my soul each day. They were life giving and refreshing. Challenging and encouraging. Soothing and succoring. (again, I am tempted to purchase a copy of the book for every woman I know.)

How fitting to read a book about seashells and the ocean, as I was sitting ensconced on the deck of a cruise ship, listening to the waves.

Last time, when I read the book, I identified with a certain life season that she outlined. But, the passage of just a few short years had me identifying with another life season. I love her frank voice. Anne wrote this book in 1955, and it still seems so applicable today. I wonder what she would write if she knew our world of today. Our hectic pace. The progress of woman's liberty and responsibility. The prominence of social media.

Some gems that I am still remembering...

And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication.

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. (remember, she wrote in 1955. What would she say of 2016?) It involves not only family demands (home schooling! meals! clothes!), but community demands (church! sports!), national demands (politics! voting!), international demands (water for Africa! trafficking!) on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, (podcasts!) and so on. My mind reels with it. (mine too!) What a circus act we women preform every day of our lives. It puts a trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now! This is not the life of simplicity, but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.

My life in Connecticut, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of significance, and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many worthy activities, valuable things and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.

I like Gift from the Sea, because it is filled with these nuggets, these gems, which make me say, "Yes! Me too!" I like it more because Anne presents the needs of our hearts, souls, and lives, but she also practically points out the demands on our time and resources that each woman faces. The push and the pull that we feel on a daily basis. To give out and to be renewed.

Like the ocean. Like a fountain.

Questions are asked, but no concrete solution is given. Hope is given, but not a step by step formula. I love this. So much of life can't be figured out with a formula. And what works today may not work tomorrow.

I really can't say why I love this book. But I do. It makes me want to carry the pace and reflection of a true vacation (most recently, my cruise) back into daily life.

And while that isn't exactly possible, it is possible to say no to good and important activities and people. Like I did in January with BSF. I feel like that decision has given the breathing room my life needed. It gave me some free space, the empty room to find myself on a weekly basis.

Time to laugh with my family, and bake cookies. Time to enjoy the process of cooking dinner. Time to play with my kids in this very finite season that they are kids.

It's been a week back in the real world. A week of reeling (post cruise vertigo is a real thing-who knew?!). A week of being with my kids, getting back into routine, catching up on life. A week of naps every afternoon, and early bedtimes (vacation wore me out. Or vertigo is wearing me out!). It's been a week of choosing the simple over the complicated, because I couldn't do more than the simple.

It's been a week of finding our land legs again-figuratively and physically. Discovering how to relate as a family of six again. A family not on vacation, but a family who desires to live life with as few regrets as possible.

On the cruise, I got to spend a lot of time with my mom. Which was a blessing. The most notable instance, was the evening we bumped into each other-me picking up coffee and a scone, and her getting water and a cookie. We took the time to sit with each other and just talk, for almost 2 hours.

My mom was fine on the cruise but ended up in the hospital on Wednesday with shortness of breath and a racing heart. She had fluid on her heart and was looking in the direction of congestive heart failure. A heart catheterization showed no blockage, for which we are very thankful. But, it is a reminder that time with her is limited and precious.

Anyway, this all is why my heart has been so full of thoughts. It takes time to sift and sort them. To tuck away what needs to be tucked, and let overflow what also needs to overflow.

Simply put, it's been complicated....=)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kate Morton and My Mom

Well, hello there!

This space is getting a bit dusty from lack of use. But, I'm thankful that it is available when I take the time to use it.

Isn't that a great photo! That's my mom in the foreground. When she was 19. Come to find out, my mom was a roller derby queen. (which makes me think of that movie with Drew Barrymore when they cheer "We're number 2! We're number 2!" Anyway...)

My parents are packing up their house which involves sorting through a lot of stuff and a lot of memories. Some of which (both stuff and memories) is trickling down to us kids.

You know, I have a really hard time picturing my mom as a roller derby queen. The photograph is only partially helping with my disbelief. I picture my mom as the mom of 9 kids. As a mom, as a wife, as a friend. I picture her running a house, and running the cafeteria at her local Sam's Club. I picture her as a life guard, swimmer and swim lessons teacher. I picture her as a seamstress. I picture her as a woman who has done a lot of cross stitch.

I don't picture her in her younger "wilder" days. The days of nylons and knee socks, short shorts and roller skates. 

While there is nothing wrong with my mom's identities as wife, mother, etc. etc., it is kind of fun seeing her as she was before the responsibilities and sacrifices of wife and mother took over.

I've been binging on Kate Morton's books the past couple of weeks. What can I say? She is a great author and she weaves amazing mysterious tales. 

A thread that has been in both of the novels I've completed so far, is the thread of moms. 

Each protagonist has learned things about their mom's past that they must reconcile with the mom they knew, observed and loved. And that before "mom" woman was quite different from the mom of their memory.


I don't think my mom is hiding any deep, dark secrets. Not at all. But, reading these stories and seeing this picture, definitely made me realize that there is a lot to my mom that I don't know. That I really want to know before it gets too late.

I know some things. I know how she met my dad. I know that she was in a sorority. I know that she was raised Catholic, and she used to have to wear her dad's hankies on her head if she forgot her head covering. I know she got her appendix removed after Halloween one year. I know how she got saved. 

But there is so much I don't know.

And time is getting rather short to find out more of her story.

I know that I want to put the time in to hear her story before it is too late. 

Her story is important. It's important for its intrinsic value as being about her and her life. Each part of her story-who she is, what she did-it is a building block to who mom is today. Her story is important as it is part of my story, and my kids' story. 

In just over a week, I will be on a cruise with my mom. It's a precious gift, a precious opportunity. It is one more chance to listen. One more chance to say, "I see you-now and as you were. I'm grateful you are my mom. I'm proud of you. I admire you. I love you."

Anyway, now I'm getting a bit weepy....=) 

Happy Thursday!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Spicy Chicken & Pasta and My Week

I had a great week. How about you?

I don't take great weeks for granted as much any more. There are too many variables.

That being said-it was a good week. This was week 20 of school. Which means that we are past the halfway point, and almost to 2/3 of the way done. Which is pretty exciting, I think. We are wrapping up our studies of ancient-Ancient Greece, and we'll be focusing on Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age from here on out.

Freckle's 12th birthday is tomorrow. I can't believe that he is already so old. I still remember quite clearly the day he was born. He is rather earnest. He wants to be a Great Courses history professor when he grows up. 

I finally made a phone call that I'd been putting off for a while. I've been experiencing some issues (emotional and physical) since at leas the fall. Some of it was simply that I've put on weight and gotten a bit barrel-y looking, even though I eat fairly healthy and I exercise. Also, I've felt like I've been plodding in my training. It's just been hard. I chalked it up to getting older-and it is. But, just because it is that, and because it is something that women face, doesn't mean that it has to be that way. That I have to settle for that. There are some solutions, and for that I am grateful. It has improved my all around outlook this week. I have no illusions of being suddenly trim, but at least my other efforts won't be in vain either. 

Speaking of plodding...I'm still working my way through the Iliad. It's interesting. But, it's also rather graphic. Seriously....the blood and guts and even eyeballs rolling on the ground. I'm not even kidding. I've been going back and forth between the Iliad and two of Kate Morton's novels. I had never even heard of Kate Morton until all of a sudden several bloggers were writing about her newest book, The Lake House. I ordered it at my library, and devoured it within a couple of days of getting it. It was really good. I'm now reading the Secret Keeper. I love the suspenseful way that she interweaves her characters pasts and presents. If you are at all into mysteries, you should check them out. Despite the story flow, both books have happy endings, which is a really important thing to me.

We're getting ready for our cruise. Only two weeks until we leave. New clothes have been bought. Excursions have been reserved (Mayan ruins in Belize. Snorkeling in Roatan Bay). Taxes are all set for the tax appointment. Info has been compiled for my WC audit. All around, things are clicking into place. I'm really excited. I'm excited about the heat. And my brother's wedding. And the time away with my #1 Squeeze. 

This week, Anne Bogel wrote about the things that are "saving" her right now. I've been thinking about that a bit this week. Looking forward to the cruise, reading good books, finding answers to some questions have all played a big part in my "salvation" this week. 

So too have the fresh flowers Mr. Hippie has been having delivered every couple of weeks. 

And my new monthly cleaning service. Such an awesome thing! They do an amazing job. Everything looks and smells wonderful! There are unforeseen bonus perks too. Besides the fact that I don't have to clean my house the week they come, I also only have to lightly clean the following week, because it still looks great.

I also can't say how relieved I've been to have stopped attending BSF. Admittedly, I miss it. Why wouldn't I miss it? I've been together with BSF longer than I've been together with Mr. Hippie. But, it has been so wonderful to have Monday evenings free. We've been playing games as a family, which the kids have really been looking forward to, and we've all been really enjoying. Also, not having a lesson to do has freed up time in my days. Particularly on Monday and Wednesday mornings. I'm not trying to get the extra reading done and questions answered while also correcting schoolwork and teaching new concepts. I feel released from a joint burden of guilt and busy.


All this free time has given me the opportunity to try a bunch of new recipes. Four in the past two weeks alone! I'm finding new recipes on Pinterest and in other places. It's been great. Nary a flop yet. Though there are two recipes that I'm going to tweak a bit, to make them just a little bit better. The one I'm tweaking for aesthetic value, the other for technique.

The recipe I have for you today is a pasta filled with color and swamped in a spicy cream sauce. 

Golden brown chicken. Green spinach. Red tomatoes. Pink bacon. Yellowish penne. White parmesan 

So pretty, and quite healthy.

I like the bite of spicy from the crushed red pepper. You can adjust according to preference. 

Spicy Chicken & Pasta
Prep/cook time: 35 minutes
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Italian seasoning
5 tomatoes
3 cups fresh spinach
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp crushed red pepper (less or more according to taste)
6 bacon strips
1-1/3 cup half & half
1-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
16 ounces penne pasta
additional parmesan cheese

-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Meanwhile, fry bacon until crisp over medium high heat. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Drain grease, reserving 2 Tbsp.
-Slice chicken into "chicken tender" size strips.
-In a large skillet, heat bacon grease over high heat until hot. Add the chicken strips and cook on one side for 1 minute. While they are cooking, sprinkle the uncooked side with the paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip the chicken over and cook for 1 minute on the other side. Reduce heat to medium, flip chicken again, and cook covered until no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes.
-Mince garlic, chop tomatoes into big cubes.
-Remove chicken from skillet, slice into bite sized pieces and keep warm.
-To the same skillet, add the tomatoes, spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper, and half the bacon, crumbled. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until the spinach wilts.
-Add the half & half, bring to a boil. Add the parmesan cheese, and stir until the sauce is creamy. Remove from heat. Season with salt as needed.
-Toss the cooked pasta with sauce, chicken and remaining bacon. Serve with additional parmesan cheese if desired.

Have a great weekend!