Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Morning Sweet Potato Porridge

It's Monday morning. Nothing wrong with that.
Did you get a good night's sleep? I didn't, nope, not even close!

Sweet Potato Rice Porridge, to cheer on your Monday Morning, and also to coax away the acrid burnt pan smell that's been clinging to the kitchen and ruining your life since you boiled that steamer pan dry the other night.

1 C. Brown Jasmine (don't bother trying any other kind)
1 medium yam sweet potato, peeled and cubed
Milk, approx 4 cups
Nutmeg
Cinnamon
Vanilla
Sweetener of choice(I prefer brown sugar)

If you're a thinking ahead kind of person, soak that rice overnight in 2 cups of cold water and a pinch of salt. If you do that, skip this first step.
1.) Scatter rice in medium to large saucepan. Cover with water by about an inch and bring to a boil. Hurl in a pinch of salt, vindictively. After about 5 minutes, drain off that cloudy water.
2.)Whisk milk into rice, swirling in the cinnamon(a fair dusting) the nutmeg(a real respectable speckling), and the vanilla(don't be shy, but don't get carried away either). Plunk in the cubed sweet potato. 
3.) Bring just to a boil, crumble in a smidge of brown sugar, and turn the pan down as low as it will go. Cover, and let it be while you batten down whatever hatches need battening before the baby wakes up again. 
4.)After about 45 minutes, things will really be happening in that pot. Give it some vigorous stirs--like you really mean it--and adjust sweetening as you see fit. Leave it uncovered for a few minutes to let the milk reduce down to creaminess(while you stir, gently now, gently.) and to release the aromas that are going to fix your life.

Do you have whole nutmegs? If you do, don't spare them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My True Body Story, part 1.

  Well, here I am.
   I'm about to talk about stuff I don't talk about. There's no good reason to commence revealing such intimate details about the inner workings of my life, except for this: openness and honesty--not passive honesty(refraining from telling lies) but dynamic honesty(speaking truth)--have come to the forefront as essential next steps in the healing of my heart, growth in my life, and the flowering of truth in a beautiful, terrifying story I've found myself in the middle of.
  My hope is, in these revelations of my innards, you'll recognize yourself or someone you knew once, and maybe explore a little more of your own story.
I do feel naked just kinda throwing this all out there: There's so much relief, though, in simply revealing the unrevealable.   
I'm happy to say that, for the first time in my life, I'm showing up from a safe place, an unshakeable identity that can handle whatever judgement or speculation may come my way.  I've taken refuge in this safe place for a good bit of time, rested in it, grew some skin back on in it. But now, the invitation to bust out is too bright.   I'm going to be bold now, because now I am bold.


How long have I loathed myself, separated myself from my body, the fact of having a body? Well, a long time; 20 years at least.

I will never, ever forget the excruciating sting of the first 'fat' judgement my young, wide-open, trusting heart absorbed. Some friends of my parents whom we hadn't seen in a couple of years came to visit. I was 9 years old at the time. We often were very excited to have company: the accompanying flurry of housecleaning, a special meal, our best clothes, hair brushing, etc was a kind of narcotic for me. I had my favorite plaid skirt on(long, purchase in the women's department) and my favorite white headband. I was really happy they were coming over, because they had a daughter my age(and not the age of any of my sisters).
When they came in and we all swarmed to say hello, I was standing at the top of the stair with my best grin firmly in place.(looking back at photos, this also meant a double-chin kind of grin) The mom stepped back from me, and exclaimed with a little curl of her lip, 'Wow, what a BIG girl you've become. Isn't this one BIG for her age!' 
It didn't quite sink in for several minutes, that she thought I was... fat. My grown-up heart breaks when I think back on the confusion and self-consciousnes that swept over me, such that I sneaked away and spent the rest of the night hiding in our bedroom closet, crying. I simply didn't know what to think or feel, except that it felt bad to be fat. I didn't have a currency or vocabulary or any way to process that bad feeling. Mostly, the worse I felt, the better it felt to eat something. Get warm again, and fast.  I adopted a practical sort of schizophrenia. I split. Bolted. Swallowed my feeling. I abandoned my precious gift of a body to this madness. Because I couldn't reconcile the revolting, clumsy, fat 'fact' of my body with the bright, winsome, lovely person I hoped and dreamed I was(am), somehow, I had to find a way to disassociate myself from it.
How long have I believed my flesh, my skin, bones, fat, blood, tissues, organs-- to be inherantly bad, unloveable? Sinful. Ugly. Fat. Flabby. Uuglyy.  Loose, floppy, undisciplined, troublesome, thick, dense, soo BIG
20 years at least; too long.

In the ensuing years, I've gained and lost countless pounds. I've muscled my way into(for me) top shape (at great expense to my heart), and I've gotten out of breath walking the block(also at great expense to my heart). I've experienced ecstasy over 'success' with strict calorie-counting and diets and 'lifestyle changes' that got me smaller, but left me food-crazed and obsessed with exercise. I've plummeted to the depths of despair upon gaining all the weight back, + a few more sandbags of shame. I've been helped by many, harmed by many.  I've been shamed and judged by people close to me, encouraged and bolstered by total strangers. I've agreed with sideways remarks cloaked with syrupy 'concern for my health' from people with no knowledge of my life or habits.  I have lied about my weight, many times. When big, I've idolized 'small'. When smaller, I've embraced the 'new me' but bulldozed my previous big self, throwing that girl under the bus. I've caved, countless times, to the siren song of somehow believing that finally being fixed is only as far as the nearest diet. 
 I've completed triathlons, grown a child in my belly and given birth to her,  but still often doubt the capability or worthiness of my body to do good, amazing things.

Does any of this sound familiar? It is heartbreaking and astonishing, the casualties of this war on our selves. If there is one thing my story has taught--is teaching--me is that it is tragic beyond words to rip your body away from your soul, deny your heart, and expect things to turn out well. It was never, ever, meant to be so.

This is the story of my actual body, my human soul, and what is happening to knit them together again. Right now, at my heaviest, I'm definitely looking more like a 'before' than an 'after', and what would have previously been a major deterrent to this 'look at me' exposé  even now inspires me to excavate to depths. No more just balming the symptoms of invisible things. I'm on a lifelong journey, and I'm sharing my story for my own sake, my daughters' sake, and perhaps yours, too. My story is called, "Wait, and see what love can do."


Coupled

Phil and Me.

   We fell in love one summer over a flurry of correspondence: our childhood dislike of one another was overwhelmed by our discovery of each others grown-up features, i.e. penchant for French-pressed coffee, and, well, kissing. 
   We bonded over our mutual love of beauty, ideals, and sense of colloquial humor. As a married couple, we share a proclivity for holing up at home with good food, conversation, music, and the occasional strong drink. The most frequent subject of our arguments are world events or passive/aggressive stand-downs over household matters, like dishes or clutter.
 Nothing rocked our world more than becoming parents together. Our Vivian June is a luminous, lively girl with an enhanced veggie-and-kitty-loving nature: potatoes, onions, and anything similarly cuddly is immediately welcomed to the fold. Her whimsical, affectionate nature is only offset by her tendency to poop her diaper and refrain from napping. Aristocats is her current everything of choice.

Phil spends his days teaching guitar, propagating plants and luxuriating in passionate love of the natural world. He cures olives. He smokes a Peterson tobacco pipe on occasion and looks mighty attractive while doing it. He adores nothing more than his 1 year old daughter.

I wile away the hours caring for our beloved girl, puttering in the kitchen,and luxuriating in an overweening fascination with the inner workings of the human psyche. For fun, I read cookbooks, arrange bouquets, biff around on the piano with utter lack of proper theory, and from time to time, think about exercising. Writing is my creative outlet of choice.

For all the delights(ahem, kissin), peculiarities(your underwear swishes around in the same laundry load), inconveniences(you have to choose families for holidays), glories(you can make people) of marriage, nothing thrills me like the occasional reminder of the wonder of being married to my closest friend.







Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rub-a-dub

Even though all of my days center around caring for our child, I notice how easily I fall into racing from one moment to the next, often forgetting that we are an actual family with someones first and only childhood unfolding here.
There's always so much to do and so many things to keep up with that I forget that we are in the process of shaping her life... and isn't that really the point of 'all the things to do, all the things to keep up with'?

One singular tree that reminds me we're in this (lovely, ancient, mysterious) forest is...our bathtub.
It's a very plain, unassuming shower bath, with tiled walls and tub basin of well worn, white-ish ceramic. It's got corner cubbies, and an inset soap dish with a handy little washcloth rack. Daily showers leave it water-spotted but reasonably tidy; I keep a short-handled cleaning brush for quick once-overs while I shower since I'm not overfond of full-on scouring sessions.  Occasionally, I'll give it a good deep scrub down, polish the old-fashioned maroon tiles, and chip away at the age-old mineral deposits on the fixtures; usually, then, to offset all that productivity, I'll indulge in a bath.

It's too small for me, actually. I can't completely submerge without activating the auto-drain. I know, I know: first world problems. Nevertheless, that makes me feel sad every time, and gypped, and I remind myself not to ratchet up my expectations of steaming, bubbly bliss for the next time.

Happily, that's not final word on the life of the tub; it has taken on a new role, an adventurous identity it only ever dreamed of. 
Its creaky, leaky faucet handles can be heard around the house, shortly followed by a little girl's gleeful shrieks of anticipation. And just like that, its prosaic,  utilitarian purpose is transformed.
It's now a lake of delight, a cistern of hilarity, a vessel for countless hours of splashing, sudsing and squealing. It's a temple to vital rites of childhood- slicked up hairdos, foam beards and belly-surfing. Soapy, soapy glory.

Some of the happiest, most carefree memories of my own girlhood are of those hours-long baths; the pruniest fingers and toes couldn't persuade us to vacate the tub. At home, bottles and bottles of cherry Suave gave their all; lathering up into hats and mustaches, it never filled a finer or more perfumed purpose. 
At Grandma's, bath time meant picking our favorite Avon bubble bath--the kind in those funny ridged bottles. (Green was the best.) There were long-handled bath brushes, plenty of washcloths to go around, and big, plush towels.
Plus, afterwards, the unbelievable delights of bath powder, dusted on with the poufiest of poufs. Really, as a young girl, few things captured my imagination like baths and post-bath grooming at Grandmas. 


Though our own girl's imagination doesn't yet inquire after such augmenting, we noticed we could use some distraction for the getting-down-to-business-washing segment of her bath times, so we added toys. Ah yes. Bath toys. You know the kind, how, when not in use, they kinda drift up the sides of the tub, a bank of cups and balls and bloated animals, each one boasting its own little reservoir of cold water, just waiting to baptize whosever unsuspecting tootsies topple 'em first.
  
Ah, humble tub. You're part of things now. No matter the golden memories of bath times past, or the gleaming copper, clawfoot dreams of our future.
Right now the tink-tink-TAW-screeeee of your rattling old knobs, and the gurgling YEE-maaaaaugh of your indecently loud drainage causes near-sacred gratitude to well up in my mommish heart, gratitude for the family that's growing up right here, right now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't know much 'bout the Middle East.


     Cruising around a couple of my favorite stops on the Internet, I notice I'm not alone in my grief and sense of helplessness after getting word of the latest atrocities being waged against innocents. Villages and communities are being utterly destroyed, families ripped apart, murders, beheadings...babies heads on spikes?! Who ARE these monsters?
    What's forefront in my mind is this: I'm not intimately acquainted with Middle East politics. To be honest, I've intentionally withheld my attention to the calamities that seemingly aren't anything new-- unfolding there for, what, a couple thousand years? How is this time any different? They should just figure out their own stuff, right? What could I do about it anyway? Plus, I can't tell anyone apart--all the people look the same, speak weird languages and their letters are just a bunch of squiggles....right?
In the spirit of full disclosure, a sliver of my intellect is totally cool with just ignoring the whole mess, since I have plenty of my own stuff to worry about.
     Well, things are heating up. You know how they say, if we don't learn history we are doomed to repeat it? ...there are plenty of parallels being drawn between the holocaust of the Jews during WWII and this wholesale massacre of Christians in Iraq(and surrounding regions).(go back a little further and note the Armenian massacre, in which my own family lost relatives) I won't redraw those here, but I'll add that sometimes, excess familiarity with recent history can make us jaded and cynical towards the current realities and we become doomed to apathy. Didn't we just withdraw from a war in Iraq? [many are making the point that our irresponsible exit is partially to blame for the instability]
 "Lets never make THAT mistake again!" Doubtless, the politics are complicated; however, the urgency of hundreds of refugee children 'lucky' enough to escape to the mountains now dying from hunger and thirst is NOT complicated. I understand we have delivered some emergency aid already, and I pray that it reaches the right hands in time to save as many of these kids as possible. 
    What if this was happening on our streets?  To our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and babies? The thing is...it IS in our streets. They ARE our brothers and sisters. We are also 'N'.
     What's forefront in my heart is this: As a believer in this same Jesus('Nasareno'--splashed on Christian homes in red like blood, spewed like an epithet, a badge of shame), a hoper in his second coming, I understand that we are in wartime. Not just the wars we can see, but the invasion of the kingdom of God on the kingdom of darkness. Our enemy rages, because his destruction is coming real quick. There is FAR more going on than meets our eyes.
What presses on me is deep urgency to stay alert in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ-- really, definitely suffering, persecuted FOR REAL in ways those of us in the U.S. are unlikely to experience(at this in this time). 
Pray that the Holy Spirit will keep them strong so they can withstand this evil, faithful to the end, even to death. (Be joyful too, knowing that because of this 'Nasareno', even if we die, we live!)
Pray for God's will to be done on earth wholeheartedly and unilaterally, like it is in Heaven.
Pray for Jesus to come soon.
Pray for our own hearts to stay sensitive and aware, more alive all the time to the realities that the world isn't our home, and it's on its way out.
Pray in every way you know how for the right actions to be taken to STOP these murderers. 

I realize that there are plenty of other things to occupy our time; while the heartache presses on you, aching for heaven, stick to your battle stations.  Keep on doing the laundry, making the shopping lists, going to work, loving and kissing your kids, husband, family; but stay alert

P.S.
If you're joining with me in prayer, remember my sis, Leah, who's in the Air Force and deployed overseas. 




     

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tick-tock

     I'm savoring a sweet little anniversary today: that is, one year and six months ago that I first felt a life in my belly. What a night that was for us! And now, who was first only perceptible in teeny little fwips and flutters has grown into the sweet, bubbly girl who, day before yesterday, took her very first solo steps! I am bursting with the pride of it. Her own round, pink face just beamed with satisfaction; I think she knows she's on to something big.
     Having been partner and witness her life from the beginning, there is not a person or power on earth that can convince me that she(or me, or you!) is random, chance, or the product of evolution. The timing and harmony of a life knitting together in the womb, emerging to grow to maturity--is just too intricate, too harmonious to be anything less than the stunning, loving, ultra-creative work of someone who is also very real, very living, very loving. Life is such a gift.
     Really, though, the thing that gets me about these milestones, is how they hone in on and rip the scab off a real, raw ache. A longing to know and be known; to be part of something meaningful and most importantly, lasting. Motherhood has illuminated some of these things in unexpected ways; not just because of cooperating so intimately with the beginning of a unique human life with an eternal soul(!!!), but because in a child, the passage of time is unmistakable.
     For a fleeting moment, that velvety baby is tiny and helpless in your arms; the next moment, wobbling and toddling around the room selecting her favorite toys and books. Time is trickling by, and in her I can see it every single day.
     My longings for more only grow: more meaning, more connecting, more of living richer. I've learned these desires are problematic in our age of efficiency and acquisition--more money, more stuff, more 'me time', more busy, busy, busy. In our world right now, "More" is usually about demanding guarantees: With enough of the right things, enough success, enough eco-consciousness, enough people liking us, enough money, enough cars, clothes. If we get tight/toned/tanned enough--WE will be enough. Right? like... we won't have to die.  Anne Lamott writes about this kind of living as a disease of perfectionism based on "an obsessive belief that if we run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, we won't have to die."
     That's what it's about, isn't it? 'Living' so frantically, fearful losing, ending or *gasp* getting 'old'. Where do these obsessions lead,exactly? Weelll, nowhere much. Death, actually. We still do hafta die. Moths are industriously at work on our designer stuff. Nice bodies sag. Straight teeth eventually rot. Careers expire.
     I promise I'm not given to morbid thoughts, and at this moment in time, I'm not depressed. This is actually a really hopeful conclusion for me.
Since there's a way to live free by faith in the amazingly good news of Jesus (who came to show up death as the one-trick pony show it really is.), I can take today in stride.
     I know(yep, know) the best is yet to come. Life is coming. Everything good that gets lost will be restored, and that's enough to appreciate the time given to us here now, without overburdening it with my chasm of human need.
 Without that hope, there's no way I could bear the passage of time we're all subject to--at least, not without some serious, intense doping. I'd be on vodka and valium smoothies--heck, make that an IV-- desperately clinging to whatever tatters of pleasure I could scrape together before dying.
     Instead, I'm feeling nice and light- buoyant, hopeful, energized, a little scared, maybe--but deliciously so. Her milestones and mine, we're tasting some of the pain, savoring a lot of the goodness and...toddling on toward the future.  Tick on, clock-- we can take it.
   

Monday, July 28, 2014

The very best things.

   
     You know how they say "The best things in life are free!"? The phrase, while catchy and truth-y sounding, is bogus. The best things in life might not require money, but they certainly aren't free.
Faith.<--people are dying for this, as we speak.
Hope.<--still alive.
Love.<--love means sacrifice. Like, giving up on personal comfort, ease, pride, face, you name it.
The real question is, what AREN'T the best things in life going to cost you?

Nothing new here. But it's helpful to be reminded.
"In this world you'll have troubles, but don't be afraid, I've overcome the world." -Jesus

Rejoicing, weeping over the news of Meriam Ibrahim's freedom, thanking God for her faith. Joining with her in freedom that cost everything, freedom that is just the beginning, freedom that can never, ever be taken from us.
Even if we die, we live.
YES!