Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gospel According to Sarah McLachlan

I was sitting at a big, flashy conference when I first saw Sarah Mclachlan's video for World on Fire. My initial reaction was to be a tiny bit scandalized that a Christian conference would be showing a "secular" (that's what we call them, right??) artist. Nevermind the fact that I loved (love!!) Sarah Mclachlan and could sing all of her songs by heart, even the ones with the bad words.

The video rolled on and by the half-way point, I was wrecked. By the time it got to the part about the African slum with 800,000 people living in one square mile, it was difficult to breathe and I was in full-on ugly cry.

I couldn't shake it for days. I went home and dialed up some internet service so I could show it to my mom and we decided that maybe one day we would do a short term missions trip to Africa.

That was my only frame of reference for "helping" the poor back then: Spend thousands of dollars to fly somewhere for a week or two, then return to Indiana and resume my life.

The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some

Within a year of her video, we adopted Calvin. One more and Ruby came. Then we sold our house and bought one twice as big, for almost twice the money. No problem. We could afford it.

FOUR YEARS LATER we stumbled onto the online Radical series, taught by David Platt. Only then was I reminded of that video from all those years back. Only then did things start to make sense and our life begin to change.

I watch the heavens and I find a calling
Something I can do to change what's coming  

I find it both ironic and not ironic at all that the first true Gospel message I heard came straight from the beautiful lips of a secular singer. I have no idea if she knows Jesus, but her heart shows me that she just might. Either way, she's the one who somehow speared my heart with the truth. I didn't hear it from a pastor or a professor from my Christian college. I didn't hear it from the hundreds of Christian people I almost exclusively surrounded myself with.

I heard it from a girl with a honey voice who sometimes drops the F-bomb.

The world's on fire and
It's more than I can handle
I dive into the water
(I try to bring my share)
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
(Bring it to the table)
Bring what I am able

There have been times, on this journey of mine, that I feel strange about sharing these parts of our life. I have been accused of judging, or bragging. What I know now is that the Gospel demands that we get busy about the big business of taking care of our family in Afghanistan and Zambia and everywhere in between. They are ours.

We need to struggle and encourage and brainstorm together. We need to find the needy and unloved around us and when we do, I hope we'll talk about it a little, because there are people like me who would really like to hear about it. Bragging about taking care of the poor would be like bragging about brushing your teeth. These are things we are just supposed to be doing. Every day. No pep rallies or blue ribbons required.

I hope you'll watch the video and I hope it grips you to your core. I hope we all carry around the burden for weeks and then watch the weeks turn into forever.

After watching, I hope it is not four more years before you hear this truth again, but on the off-chance that it could be, I'll just say this: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress..." James 1:27  And this: "If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion - how can God's love be in that person?" 1 John 3:17

The fantastic news is, in the seven years since I first really saw this Truth with my heart, the world has gotten somehow smaller. We know better now. We know that there are so many ways to get involved. We are more aware of the global crises of starvation, contaminated water, and human trafficking.

This is terrifying, gut-wrenching, soul-restoring, redemptive work. It's not supposed to be easy. But if we miss it, if we slink back against the wall instead of running out to the middle of it all, we miss one of God's central purposes for us. We miss the insane adventure and the pit in our stomach and the heartache and the joy and the opportunity to begin to realize that we've gotten it all wrong, but there's still time to do right. And we probably miss all of those things while we sit in church most Sundays.

The glaring reality is that I'm still not sharing all that I am able. I'm not doing more than I can handle. These are things that are on my mind and in my heart every single day. I'm wrestling and listening and sometimes, I'm plugging my ears and singing a cartoon song as loud as I can to try to drown it out. Sometimes, I'm pretending that I don't know. Sometimes I'm willfully ignoring the voice.

But the heart is a tricky beast. It doesn't unlearn truth, even when you kind of wish it would. It bangs it around and makes a racket-- you can't escape.

That's my prayer for me, every day - that I would not unlearn, that I wouldn't wish to unlearn. I want to care bigger and louder about His crystal-clear call and less about my silly self. I want to get more creative and infinitely gutsier.

That's my prayer for all of us, like it or not.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to be a Saturday Superhero

Tie on a cape. (Use a towel, if necessary.)

Find something worth having and reach out to grab it.

Create your own magic, your own fun.
Maybe wear goggles while you do it.

Happy Saturday, from Superhero Sally and me!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Underdog Foods Are My Love Language (and some updates)

 As much as I'd like to write something meaningful, it's just isn't in the cards tonight.

Sidenote: Is that pagan, what I just said? The "in the cards" thing? I've never considered it before now, but I can see where it might be leading. Just give me the benefit of the doubt tonight. I'll happily return the favor.

First of all, to thank you for your steadfast encouragement and your willingness to laugh me through my trials (with, not at), I made lunch for you. There are no brussels sprouts, but there is a boatload of tuna.

Why does everyone have to hate on tuna? He can't help it if he smells funky.

Actually, not everyone's a hater. 

Calvin: What are you making, Mom?
Me: Pasta with some vegetables and tuna.
Calvin: Can I please drink the tuna juice?!

I'm not one to deprive a growing boy of his Omega 3s, gag-reflex be danged.

Ladies and man, this pasta is good. It's easy and worth it. It's healthy and bright. It's the sunshine and the rain.

Boil up some whole wheat penne. Blanch some beans and asparagus. Combine with thinly sliced red onion and thyme (I had fresh on hand, but dried always works). Whisk together 1 T white wine vinegar, 1 T olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, coarse salt and pepper. Toss it all together and enjoy if after the kids are down for naps, because these sorts of things are meant to be enjoyed in peace. Hallelujah.

Oh, I had a cara cara for desert. What are these things? The sign said they tasted like cranberry, so I was all up and over them. Upon personal review, I found them to be more grapefruity, and woefully thin-membraned.


I've enjoyed wrestling Silas to the kitchen floor twice today for his eye drops. Always, forever the drama. Then he blinks up at me like, "That's it?" and I'm all, "Tell me about it, dude." Then we do it  again ten-odd hours later.

Then this happened.

Silas: Mommy, I get tempy. I need medicine. I'm sleepy. I tired. Can u get me soft shirt?

I took his "tempy" and sure enough, 100.1. That's what I call being in tune with your body. Also? Tonight should be interesting, because if there's one thing I know, it's that Silas does not enjoy extraneous variables in his environment.

Last Silas bit: He wakes up each morning convinced I've put "boon-daids" on his eyes. "You take a boon daid off? I can't see!" Eventually his eyelashes uncrust and there he is, all handsome and sweet-smelling, not a band-aid in sight.

Calvin update: We saw his doc again today and had blood drawn again. He is looking and feeling better than ever. His neutrophil count is the lowest it has been in the history of him. The doc and I just shook our heads. We really did shake them. It's all such a mystery. But at least he's feeling better!

Me update: My arm is neither blue nor water-balloonish. It's still sore, but the kind of sore you get after a work-out. All day long I've been patting myself on the back (with my good arm) for being so committed to fisical phytness!  (I accidentally typed it that way, but I feel like there could be some important meaning behind it, so I'll leave the error on the off-chance that one of you knows how to decode these things.)

Also, I have mitral valve prolapse. (I was diagnosed as a gangly Junior High-schooler.) They did the MRI just to be nosey and to make sure everything else was behaving in there.

Just thinking about the MRI has me feeling extra-sleepy. They should really consider renting those tubes out by the hour. You can't imagine the tranquility!

So, are any of you celebrating lent? I am. I can't wait to dish.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not Funny Ha-Ha

Following much debate and over-priced hem-hawing, Calvin was released last night just in time to dive into his own sports-themed sheets. Praise. The. Lord.

All I can say is, the day ended infinitely better than it began. Because it began with my first-ever MRI. Of my ticker. At a different hospital.

I had myself convinced that I'd be in and out in an hour or so. Cory held down the fort with Calvin. It was all worked out. I was a bit worried about that tube thing, I'm not gonna lie. I don't consider myself a claustrophobic person, but who am I to say, really? Sometimes phobias just creep up on a person.

I tried to read my book in the waiting area, but the People's Court was on so stinking loud. First, what happened to Judge Wapner? Am I showing my age here? All I can say is, I don't recall that kind of histrionics in Judge Wapner's court. He wouldn't have stood for it. And trust me, I would know. I wore my local tv channels out as a kid. Love Connection? Absolutely! I love Chuck Woolery! Today's Special? Why not. I was young at heart. (I read a lot, too. It balanced out.)

I waited on the plastic sofa sandwiched between three senior citizens. It was clear that the trial was stressing them out, so we unanimously agreed to shut it down. We took an actual vote.

Before long, I was left with just the lady. She wore an emobroidered sweatshirt and bent her head down to show me how badly she needed to get to her hair appointment scheduled for 1 pm. Things were running behind. Her husband was having an MRI after suffering two "quad-triple" bypasses. It put a real twinge in my heart when she'd say it - "quad-triple". Later, he was headed to his first ever "massoj". "He's been saying for ages that he was going to get a massoj, but I kept saying, 'Oh, no you don't'. Well, he's finally getting his wish." We chuckled.

I wanted to talk to her all day. I wanted to hold her hand.

But the guy came and made me put on a gown and draw-string pants that came up to my shins. Then he said, "Alright, let's get your IV started!


No one told me.

Here's the thing, my veins look bulgey, but they are wrought with trouble. I tried to warn him.

He poked and dug around and dug some more and I got light-headed while he tried and failed and tried and failed. "Hmm. I guess I should've taken your word for it."

So he tried the other arm.

I got nauseous. More light-headed. He dug and ram-rodded around tried and failed and tried and then he swore he'd struck blood.

I'll be honest, I cried a little. I cried because it hurt and because I was nervous and mostly because I had so much compassion for my little man, who does this sort of thing almost every single week. I'm always telling him to be brave, that once the needle is in, the hard part's over. Not true.

I told the guy the IV didn't feel right. I know these things. He didn't bite. In I went.

It turns out, I'm officially not claustrophobic. In fact, I find tight spaces therapeutic and restful.

I was in the tube for almost an hour, then it was time to start the IV for the dye. Just as the dye started coursing, I had to hold my breath for a full minute - the grand finale.

My first problem was, it didn't feel right when the dye started pumping. My second problem was, I was holding my breath for a full minute so I couldn't tell them.

When I was allowed to breathe I told them it felt "funny". I could feel the dye going into my arm.

"That's normal."

"But I feel a lot of pressure."

"It's fine. It's normal." pause "It's not hurting or stinging is it?"

"No, but it feels really weird."

I'm of the personal opinion that healthcare professionals should learn to decode the nuances of words like "weird" and "funny". I digress.

They decided to de-tube me to check the IV.

"Uh-oh. You infiltrated."

Mind you, I'm still strapped to a board and wearing headphones. My eyes couldn't reach my elbow, but I gathered that the dye went into my actual arm, rather than the vein in my arm.

"Not to worry", says the man in the white coat. "It's not serious. In rare cases you might have to see a plastic surgeon."

Yes, he said those two statements with nothing but one wee period between them.

"People usually complain of pain when this happens."

I did complain of pain, only I call my pain "it feels funny". Duh.

They had to start another (i.e. a third) IV. I secretly got a bit teary again.

We small-talked about my Calvin Lee. We both happily blamed Dougie, the original guy who jacked my arm up in the first place. The man in the white coat got all arrogant about his mad IV skillz. I said, "Are you a doctor?" He seemed like he could be. Alas, he was "Just a tech, like Michelle."

(fyi, Michelle wore Dickie's scrubs. Man in white coat wore...a white coat. You know Michelle hates him for this.)

In the end, after moderate digging, and a "hold on, I need to get a larger needle", he found a new vein. They launched me back into the tube. I felt the dye surge cold from my elbow to my shoulder and across my collar bone. I held my breathe for another full minute.

He called a special nurse down to look at my arm and shouted, "There's my lovely nurse!" when she arrived. Don't. do. that, man in white coat. Just don't.

In related news, my left arm appears to be afflicted with isolated elephantitis.

In better news, I took an afternoon nap in a hospital bed with the best six-year old in all the land.

I started a fantastic new book.

We picked up take-out Chinese on the way home and ate it at bed-time.

Oh, and Silas contracted pink-eye.

This is my life. And I almost always love it. (I'm working on that "almost". It's a journey, you know.)

Thank you for all of your prayers. You're good people.

Monday, February 20, 2012

To See Beyond

C. has a chronic auto-immune disease that routinely messes his business up.

He's had spells where we dealt with it weekly, and spells where I had to be reminded that he was "sick". But the past five months have arguably been the worse. And it just so happens that the "worse" has coincided with a change in insurances. And it just so happens that the change in insurances coincided with our move to the Betty Draper rental.

So while I spend too much of my life holding my baby's hand while he gets poked with needles, and while I spend Sunday morning in bed with my favorite six year old answering questions like, "Why did God give me this sickness?", I feel peace rest light upon us.

When a sick day becomes a sicker night and we land before dawn in a room with an adjustable bed and a snap-up gown, I can almost touch the truth.

All those months ago, when we didn't understand and we struggled to find a different course, telling ourselves in the dark, "We could still live here on the farm. Maybe we were wrong. We'll just stay. We can still afford it", God knew all about the hairpin curve two miles up.

This is the way He loves us. He loves us right now and in the future. He loves our health and our bruised-tender IV sites. He loves our heart for His mission. He loves to release us from the dangerous, illusory grip of  smoke-and-mirrors wealth, and sometimes, kind doctors and confusing insurance powerhouses hold that freedom bell while we do the clanging.

I'm so thankful tonight for gifts that I might not have recognized two years back. I'm heart-broken for the sadness that rests so small and alone on the other side of the hanging curtain. I'm exhausted to my core and praying that Calvin and Daddy sleep well in that noisy room.  

God, drip your presence and your truth straight into his veins. Speak to all your boys while they rest tonight.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Important Wisdom from the Week

1. If you pride yourself for being a weirdo, people will start to believe you. You will regret, for a moment, the time that you copped to owning a T-shirt emblazoned with the Periodic Table of the Elements, pretended to buy eyeglasses from 1982, and bragged about being a bonafide rodent magnet. Then you'll reconsider reconsidering and just continue to rock that weirdness because it's really all you've got.

2. When your dear, sweet child screams from across the room, "Hey, Mom! My bottom smells like shrimp!", it might be wise to carve out a more regimented bathing schedule.

3. If you make the mistake of mentioning to your child within thirty days of Valentines Day, "I wish they made feetie pajamas for big people!", and your husband is in ear-shot, there is a high likelihood that he will bequeath to you, with much secrecy and hype and displaced fervor, a pair of adult feetie pajamas. They will be pink and there will be a hood with a draw-string. They will appear to be roughly eight feet long and will resemble the bunny suit seen along Main Street near the "We Buy Gold!" place. The relative width of your husband's eyes as you pull the suit from the box (yes, there will be a box) will tell you that he believes this is the gift of the ages, but you will feel a tiny bit mad on the inside, like the time your great aunt gave you an Operation Desert Storm t-shirt in 1996. You will know that part of the fault lies with you, but you will also know deep within your heart that it could not possibly be good for your marriage or your general moral and well-being to ever don the pink bunny suit. Even if it's true that yes, you do often complain of being cold in the evenings. In the end, you will err on the side of truth and your husband will box them up with much understanding and a tiny twinge of shame and you will love him even more than you did the day before. Also, you will make a pact with yourself to weigh more carefully all future statements regarding fleece zip-ups.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beautifully Rooted :: Telling the Truth

Super excited to tell you that I'm an official contributor to a brand new site called Beautifully Rooted.

It's the brainchild of Rachel Reeves and Heather Hamilton, so you can bet it's stylish and quirky and all flushed with love.

I find myself gravitating toward people with open hearts, these days. I like real and flawed and grace washed. I like a little messy, some grit along with the gleam, and I find it all there. It's a community for me and for you where we'll be challenged to slow down, take notice, bask in what already is, create as an offering. 

A couple of weeks ago, clawing for sleep that stayed just out of reach, I bared my soul and my heart and all of my weird, neurotic fears and failures to God. It was different from most of the prayers I pray and now there's just no going back.

I wrote about it here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is This What Tracy Chapman Meant?

Last Friday Cory and I headed out for an adventure of the Rockford, IL persuasion. We left at 7pm. It's a four hour drive. And we hadn't even had dinner yet.

No worries. I couldn't wait to click that seat belt. A 4-hour drive with no kid-chatter? Sign me the heck up.

He had a fast car. And I had a plan to get us outta here. We wouldn't have to drive too far. Just cross the border and into the city.

Of Rockford.

Oh, and his car isn't really fast. It's a 1995 Pontiac Sunfire with the windshield wipers stuck straight up.

But whatever.

Exactly 1.5 hours into the trip, we hit a snow storm so fierce that the wipers went momentarily horizontal. I don't know if I've told you this before, but I'm increasingly skittish about the Toll Road. Toll Road + snow + gale force winds + truckers blowing past us like we're strolling the shoulder with two walkers and false teeth? I'm done.

We pulled over and went looking for a hotel.

Cory ran in to the first one we found. A Hilton Something-or-other. Mid-grade. Nice-ish. 100 big ones for a night. He ran back out and called a Best Western, which clocked in at fifteen dollars less. He reported that both had a free continental breakfast, and we set out to save fifteen bucks.

But we had trouble finding it and I suddenly became so astonishingly tired that I didn't think I could drive one more mile, so we turned around and went back to Paris Hilton.

We got a luggage cart and loaded up 2 duffel bags, one pair of boots, one camera bag, one purse, two loose apples, a magazines and a box of Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal - maple flavored.

On the way in, the wind stretched my cheeks back like in the movies. I don't know which movies, but I remember seeing it before.

Inside, Cory pulled out his credit card just as I caught a large, looming sign. "Breakfast served 7 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. $7.95 per person."

Me (whispering): The breakfast isn't free.
Him: Oh, it isn't?
Him (looking at the lady about to swipe his card): Is the breakfast free?
Lady: No, it's $7.95 per person. Full omelette bar, fresh waffles, fresh frui-"
Him: I'm sorry, I think we're going to head on up the road.
Lady: Oh??? (awkward pause) Sorry. (hands back the credit card)

Let me say, there's no graceful exit when all of your crap is on their cart.

We headed back out to the storm and I don't know what I was thinking, but I immediately jumped back into the passenger seat. I leapt, really. I didn't move a solitary item from the cart to the car. It didn't even cross my mind.

Cory noticed, though.

The Best Western was... drab. A tinge depressing. We watched a little Fox News, a little Chelsea, a little House Hunters. We fell asleep spread eagle on our own personal Queen size beds. Don't hate. It's a personal kind of luxury to have all my toes hanging off the edges of the bed.

Somewhere around 4 a.m. we woke to the sound of a crying baby.

Cory: You have GOT to be kidding me.

Next day, I realized I had no hair conditioner. No hair styling product.

I did, however, still have the two loose apples.

Incidentally, the BW doesn't offer complimentary hair conditioner.

I would be greeting my friends with flattened hair. Flatter'n flat.

I threw it in a wet ponytail and we headed out for our highly prioritized free continental breakfast.

Only there was none.

The food was gone. And it was only 8:30.

Cory kindly pointed out the lack of food to the lady with the dark brown lip liner. She glared at him. "I just re-filled it FIVE minutes ago."

And that was the end of that.

But at least the storm had cleared.

If I ever own a steel plant, I'm painting it aqua and I will only allow red and yellow trains to carry my cargo.

A few hours later, I was face-to-face with this beauty. I used to stock plastic shoes with her in the Meijer shoe department, about eighteen thousand years ago.

We looked like this, only we were usually wearing red button-down smocks and Mollie was always with us. (Hey, Mol! Wish you were there.)

Now we're actual ladies and we wear cardigans and hold babies and fry bacon.

And we both married boys named Cory.

Hey, look! It's The Corys! That's what we called them - The Corys. Don't they look happy together? They're real techy and smart. I love The Corys. Some more than others.

Sarah accompanied me to Courtney's book signing for A Sweethaven Summer.

 I was so proud. And she looked so pretty! And my hair was so. dang. flat.

Also, I just decided: I'll not be wearing my scarf like that, moving forward. I'll stick with my traditional multi-loop. It looks too chokey. Like I'm hiding something.

Later that night Sarah and I hit up the town with The Corys for a fireside dinner and beverages. Then we headed to Dixon, IL for Courtney's book release partay.

 But first? A trip to Ronald Reagan's statue. How could we not? We couldn't not, that's how.

The party was quite swanky in a little art gallery. I wanted to buy an oil painting of a cow face, but I didn't have an extra $270 with me.

And the punch.

I've never fancied myself much of a punch girl. Until that night. It was cranberry juice on crack. It had floating apple slices. I drank four cups.

I wish you could at least see it. It's hiding right there behind me and the Fancy Author.

Courtney was a superstar. People came in droves and I felt simultaneously proud of my friend and  jittery-jealous that I couldn't shove all of her admirers out the back door so we could sit at a tiny table and talk for an hour or two. And drink punch.

Ah well, we'll always have Dallas.

 This here? Well. We smiled for a picture (see above) then I said, "Now just get some candids."

Cory: Candids?
Me: Yeah. We don't want a bunch of posed shots. Just get some candids.
Cory: But you're just....sitting on a couch. Talking.

So then we started pretending to be candid. And then we got to laughing and all of our chins came out and Sarah started waving her hand like a laughing grandma and I scrunched up my nose because it was so dang funny. And Cory got the shot.

In hindsight, I may have romanticized the whole "candid" idea. But I sure was happy.

That's the kind of weekend it was.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Little Extra Love

So, yo. It's V-day.

People, I just love this pretend holiday. I just do. I have no idea. Nothing particularly grand has ever come my way on this day. And yet, the love.

I stayed up until the wee hours last night making wonky Valentines for the kids and stuffing my face with salsa whilst visiting with Coach Taylor and Mrs. Coach.

Mindy Riggins. She slays me. I mean, she plays her role so well that I'm not convinced that she's even an actress. I'm thinking it might be like one of those Joe Schmo things where she thinks she's on a reality show but really she's surrounded by actors who seem to know an awful lot about her life.

Where's her Emmy? That's what I want to know.

I lured the big kids out a little early for a "surprise" breakfast, which was really a random tablecloth on the big table, a single lit votive, heart-shaped peanut butter toast with yogurt and a pack of football cards/bracelet that looks eerily like a hair-tie.

Before long, the morning dissolved (evolved?) into a lot of mess-making and scrap-cutting. Ruby and Silas made assorted "crafts" while I got busy with my project: chocolate truffles.

I boxed them up and we headed out for local delivery.

I wanted to text a picture to all of my non-local friends, but it almost seemed malicious or taunting, so I refrained.

I had two on my lunch break, along with a handful of raspberries. Happy Valentine's Day to moi!

Calvin returned from school and yet another candy explosion ensued.

Man, I miss Lik-A-Stix. Such a classic.

Calvin promptly chomped up the stick then looked at his bowl of psychedelic sugar with a mix of confusion and regret.

Homeboy's always been good at problem-solving. 
The rest of the afternoon was playdough (I present Siley's birssday cake!), a few minor casualties, laundry, Legos, spaghetti, baths and more shark trivia than I ever cared to know.

It was a good day and I'm inclined to give at least partial credit to Cupid. I walked around feeling sunny and grateful and more than a little sorry to see it end.

Please tell me you celebrated in some small way. Please tell me you did. Even if you didn't.

Much love to you, Loves,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Plan B

Cory and I were gone all weekend. It was duh-vine. It was also strange at turns, but you'll have that when we're involved.

We got home last night and only had eyes for the smallish people in flannel and feetie pojammies, so I planned to wait and tell you about our adventure today.

But now it's today and the camera (along with photos) is with Cory in Indy, so it's going to have to wait even longer because it just wouldn't be fair to tell the stories without the pictures. I know you understand.

The good news is, I always have a back-up plan.

The bad news is, my back-up plan is usually brussels sprouts.

Cross my heart, I don't know what's gotten into me. I really don't. All I know is, one day I was a normal girl and the next? I was a brussels sprouts fanatic. The more I eat them, the more I want them. They are the methamphetamine of the farmers' market.

I regret to inform you that this is a picture of my Last Supper, or my Last Lunch, as it were. This is the meal that broke my 14 year streak. It looks pretty good, but does it look like something you'd like to experience twice? I didn't think so. Especially when you add a blood orange to the mix.

I'm still so ashamed to admit that I caramelized these puppies whilst Cory was just one room away, all green and clammy.

It is mean to cook brussels sprouts when someone in the house has a stomach bug. I didn't know. You have to remember that at this point, I was still clutching my Title.

The following day, having lost my innocence along with all of my electrolytes, I was mortified by my actions. I did eighteen Hail Mary's and flogged myself.

Also, of course, I puked, which was its own sort of punishment.

This is what the kids ate that day. I might be a weirdo, but I don't feed them a plate full of pickled beets and brussels sprouts for lunch.

They only wish they could be so lucky.

(Oh, and those are mini corn-dogs. FYI.)

But if you want to know how to caramelize some sprouts, and I'm sure you do, I'm here to tell you.
1) Steam them for 3 min. (stove-top or microwave)
2) Let them cool, then cut in half.
3) Heat olive oil in pan on medium heat. (I set my burner to number 5)
4) Place sprouts cut-side down in pan and do. not. move them.
5) Once the cut sides are nice and golden brown (not burnt!) they are done.
6) Squeeze generously with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt.


Oh, and one more thing. A winner!

Beth: My favorite way to spend a summer evening is to hang out in our backyard around our fire I'm pretty easy to please!

Beth, you just won a copy of A Sweethaven Summer, by Courtney Walsh. Email me with your address and I'll get it out to you. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Letters to the Underloved and Magazine Hearts

I finally hung my make-shift Valentine's Day banner over the weekend. It consists of white sewing thread strung between the woebegotten hardware from ruffly curtains gone by and last year's punched magazine hearts.

It took me two weeks to get the gumption to stop staring at the pile of hearts on my desk and do something about 'em.

Can we all just agree that when taping paper scraps to thread becomes too daunting, the mojo has officially left the building?

I don't even know if that last sentence makes sense and I'm too tired to look twice.

Dang you, runaway mojo.

Aren't they pretty, though?

They'll be up for a while. Mark my words.

Siley helped me hang them. He calls them my "pretty lightswitch".

Love that baby boy, but don't tell him I said that or he'll scream, "I not a baby! I a good boy!"

You know what else I love? Top Gun. The movie. You know you love it, too. We're watching it right now on one of those sorry, "so, it's come to this" tv channels. All the bad words are bleeped out.

"Son,  your ego's writing checks that your body can't cash."

Oh, if you only knew how many times I've seen this movie. And I don't even like re-seeing movies.

I hope to high heaven that every last one of you takes the time to slap some magazine hearts across your kitchen window. I promise, it will cure what ills you. Or at least part of it.

It can help you forget that you just wiped poop off of three surfaces, one of which was the bottoms of tiny feet. 7 doctor's appointments in one week? But a distant memory. The worst dinner you've ever made in the history of your culinary life? Fuggetaboutit.

String 'em up. Tell me I'm wrong.

I have one more thing and it's the very best thing, which is why I saved it for last. My friend Amy put together The. Coolest. Thing ever in honor of this, the Month de Amor (just made that up, betcha couldn't tell).

It's called Love Letters to the Underloved. I was honored to contribute a letter to adoptive mamas. The e-zine is so gorgeous and the truth inside will split your heart at the seams.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Sweethaven Summer :: Fiction Giveaway

A Sweethaven Summer_Final_sm
If there's one thing I love in life, it's getting lost in a paperback novel. I love knowing it's there, waiting for me at the top of the stack on my night-stand. If it's really good, I toss it in my big ol' bag when I run out for an errand. (I like to pretend that I'm one of those moms who might find herself with a quiet moment to read.)

I love heading in to bed early and propping myself up. I like turning the pages with fingertips smelling faintly of orange peel. I like a cup of tea beside me, with a spoon to clank around.

I've got this down to a science, people.

In Junior High, I used to stay up until three in the morning and read two teen romances. It bugged me that the girls were always so pretty. I wanted to read one sometime where she was just average and still landed square-jawed Todd. Regardless, I read on, feeling so cool when my older brother came home after curfew only to find me wide awake...sitting on my bed...reading.

Looking back, he never seemed all that impressed. "Dude, my little sister is so cool! She stays home every Saturday night and reads!"

I think you understand all of my points, the main one being that I was born not to party, not to be wild, not to run, but to read. Jealous much?

Here's something that I didn't realize until very recently. Reading a novel written by a friend is a brand new kind of awesome.

My friend Courtney Walsh just released her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer. People. It's such a fun read. It's beachy and Summery. It's transportive. The ideal prescription for mid-February gloom and despair. It redeemed a recent slow stretch of cooped-up, too-cold, get-me-the-heck-out-of-here days, and for that I will be forever grateful.

What I loved second-most was the story of friendships that transcend years and hurts. Aren't we all suckers for that? What I love third-most was the undercurrent of food. Give me some sweet tea and carrot cake, Adele. Fourth most? The cute boy, Luke. Fifth? The nostalgia. Sixth? The suspense.

Here's what I kinda hated the most: Courtney is so dang good at weaving together a story. She makes it look easy and I know it's not. I wanted answers and she had me trapped between racing to find them and slowing down to ride the train. I wanted to climb into her noggin' and take a good look around, really see how it worked. (Hey Court? Wanna write my book for me? Pleaseandthankyou.)

What I loved most of all was getting a window-seat into the soul of my friend. I loved hearing her laugh during the funny parts and seeing her quirks in her characters. I loved being amazed (but not surprised) by her ability to pick me right up and take me to that cute little lake-side town.

Homegirl carries a full-size bottle of creamer in her purse and magic up in her brain.

But don't just take my word for it.

You can buy your own copy of A Sweethaven Summer here, here, or here. (It'll be available for Kindle, soon, Sherry!)

And if you leave a comment, I'll enter you in a giveaway to win a copy. Tell me about your favorite summer memory from childhood or your nerdiest way of spending a Saturday night in the 8th grade or just tell me your name. I'm not here to complicate life.

I'll draw a winner on Sunday evening. And remember, you can comment even if you don't have a blog. Just be sure to leave your email address in the comment!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Right Smack Dab

The day was drippy, foggy, soggy, brown. There's just not much pretty happening in February, at least not at first glance.

Lately I feel like I'm way down deep in the middle, that steep crack between everything that I've been and all that I might want to be. I crave a slow-down. I want more meaningful time with my family, more date nights on the couch with the guacamole bowl in the middle. I want the grip of obligations to loosen, let me breathe. At the very same time, I'm starving for some action. I'm clamoring for the stretched out days when nine o'clock pm feels like its own kind of beginning.

I want to stay at home and never leave. I want to drive all night just to show up somewhere new. I want to cook a feast from scratch and eat out just because I can. I'm beat-up sweatpants and skinny cords; a stack of novels and reality TV.

I blame the month.

It's not that I dislike February. It's got Valentine's day, after all. But isn't it obvious to you and me and the postman and the bus driver that it's really little more than a bridge? I sweeps us out of December's gift wrap, it rescues us from the clutches of January's solemn vow to do some cardio and stop eating pie before bed. For that, we are thankful. But here we are, and what it feels like is stuck. It fits like a stall. We see Spring up ahead, the collective melting-off of Winter's edge. But we're not quite there.

It's hard, the here. It's no accident that February is the shortest month. We can only take so much Middle.

So what's the solution? How do we grab her by the ears and claim her as our own, as something we can love, something we might even revel in a bit? How do we hunt down her charms and burn them into our hearts?

First thing, we re-frame our expectations. February will never be June or October. She doesn't look so hot in short-shorts and she's fiercely allergic to burning leaves. Let's let her off the hook. She doesn't have to enrapture us like the other months do. She's got her own appeal and she's ready to show off.

Next? We stir together all of her almosts and not quites. We sift in some antsy and crack the shell of lazy. We bake it just long enough to see that we've got here is the best of every dang thing, topped with red sugared hearts.

We can waste away the grayest day and know that tomorrow will be perfect for getting things done and wearing lip-gloss while we do it. We can spend hours with American Idol and a heart-shaped paper punch and not suffer a single lick of guilty.

Can we do it? I'll try if you do. Maybe we'll both notice that the drear takes a wild turn for the romantic, moody haze of a life well-loved.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

10 Loves Lately (2) (Make that 11)

1} I am a passionate, loyal admirer of the Converse One Star collection at Target. There's something about it that reels me in all the live-long day. Maybe it makes me feel sporty. Maybe I like the way they blur the line between "normal attire" and "bathrobe". Maybe I like all the gray. The fleece. The stripes. Maybe I just like every ding dang thing about it.

Love this.

2} Periwinkle Jazz Etsy shop.
Over five months ago I walked into the local All Things Handmade and Vintage Bazaar and stopped dead in my tracks when I came upon rows of vintage hankie bloomers, strung up drip-dry style. I wanted to unclip every last pair, take them home, and stuff Ruby into them. Heck, I wanted to stuff my own bad self into them.

Do you happen to have a baby in your life? She needs them like I need salsa and a 2-hour massage.

 Lucky for me, the mastermind behind Periwinkle Jazz also sells adorable skirts, so I scored one for my favorite 5 year old.

Unlucky for me, there was nothing for big people. Though I think I did ask her if she does custom orders. Jessica? I'm totally serious. I will hook. you. up. with some skirt orders. I'm so ferreal.

3}Total Care floss.
What can I say? My dentist once referred to me as The Dental Goddess. I have never let my mom forget about it. And yes, it is pathetic that I'm so proud. And yes, it is even more pathetic that I brag to my mom about it.

Years later I spent all of our wedding cash on a root canal at one of those scammy "emergency" dentists because I had brushed so fervently and so viciously that my gumline receded to a disastrous level.

Years later, I was told by a real dentist that a receding gumline should really never be treated with a root canal.

I still sort of want to egg the guy's car. Also? He snapped at me for humming to myself while he scraped out my tooth guts. Jerkface.

Oh, but the floss! I almost forgot I was here to talk about the floss.

It's brilliant. It's the Escalade of the flosses. It's springy and groovy. It glides in and then expands via nuclear fusion or some kind of other-wordly science and it cleans the heck out of your teefs.

In closing, it's only fair to admit that I haven't been to the dentist in over a year. I'm actually kinda scared of dentists now. We both know who shoulders the blame for that.

4} Date night/Holiday hair

I would go on a date with Cory every single week if I could. It's one of my very favorite things to do. The end.

And the Holiday hair? Well, it just doesn't quit ruling the school. I've seen and heard horror stories from several of you who have tried it for yourself and I'm so very sorry. But I'm also a little bit smug, because it works for me and that just never happens.

5} Hot and Sour Soup. What do they put in this stuff? I don't know what's in it and I don't really even know how to explain what it tastes like, but I do know that I am a believer. It lives up to it's name - hot and sour. You know Mama likes the tangy foods. Throw in some mushrooms and tofu and Heaven knows what else? You own me.

6} Korte Acres Lotion Bar
My friend Stephanie gave this to me. It's molded into the cutest honey bee-embossed disc and housed in a round tin. Admit it, we're all suckers for cute packaging. I keep it on my night stand and rub down the claws before bed. I always feel very avant-garde and sophisticated. I also feel quite mother-of-the-earth. It's a win-win. And it smells good. (Mine is Love Spell).

7} Lunch meetings. Speaking of Stephanie. I do very much enjoy the occasional Important Lunch Meeting. Mine happen on Saturdays, lately. They preserve my sanity. Steph and I talked decorating and Bachelor and FNL and big dreams and unwieldy children and vacations and unfortunate misunderstandings. We ate two baskets of tortilla chips. We asked the hostess to take our picture on the way out the door.

8} "This is my command - be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 NLT

 9} Wakarusa Dollar General Store. This weekend alone, I urgently needed generic Midol and mild chili beans. When I arrived, the store was closed. The weird part was, it should have been open. The weirder part was, in place of the regular "closed" sign they had a raggedy piece of notebook paper slapped cockeyed on the door with "closed" handwritten all chickenscratchy-like. I thought about calling the cops. It seemed like I once saw an episode of Dateline Mystery where a store was robbed and the employees were held in the back against their will while a slap-dash closed sign kept PMSing moms/chili chefs at bay.

As it turns out, our joint was shut down. By the actual people who shut places down. Like, forever.

I felt sad about the DG. I still do.

This goes out to the DG and all of the friendly faces who rang up my generic Midol, trash bags, chili beans, and Dr. Pepper over the years:

I guess I thought you'd be here forever
Another illusion I chose to create
You don't know what you got until it's gone
And I found out just a little too late

I was acting as if you were lucky to have me
Doin' you a favor I hardly knew you were there
But then you were gone and it all was wrong
Had no idea how much I cared

Now being without you
Takes a lot of getting used to
Should learn to live with it
But I don't want to

Being without you
Is all a big mistake
Instead of getting easier
It's the hardest thing to take
I'm addicted to you babe
You're a hard habit to break

10}Found Magazine blog. Sarah told me about this a couple of weeks ago and it immediately sucked me in for an entire nap-time. It's funny and dear. Sometimes, it's just plain wrong. But you'll have to check it out for yourself.

11} Cover Girl Simply Ageless Eye Corrector concealer, #230.
True story: I look like the killer from Scream without concealer. This stuff helps.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume III

I think I knew all along, in spite of those pesky fears that snaked around my ankles, that this was where we would be. It was what we just kept coming back to, this neighborhood with the two houses for sale.

So Cory put in a few more calls and for a week or so there was nothing but static. But one random evening our call was returned and we got the rest of the story, which was that the entire block is owned by La Casa. Those crumbling-down houses up the hill would eventually be torn apart and carted off, then rebuilt from the bottom up.

The goal, the whole purpose behind what La Casa is doing is to take a forlorn, mostly-forgotten neighborhood and pull it back up to its feet. They call it Neighborhood Revitalization. I call it Neighborhood Redemption.

Having been/being a girl who was/is forlorn and broken-down, mostly-forgotten and scarred by mistakes, I know the potential for redemption when I see it.

The La Casa guy said they were hoping for a stable family to be a part of what they were doing in its early stages. I don't know if they are praying people, but their hope was answered with our prayer. God was guiding us right where we needed to be.

And that's the rock-bottom truth of it all. This move has always been more about what we needed than what anyone else needed. We never set out to solve anyone's problems. We know that God doesn't let willing hands remain empty for long, we have seen that first-hand. We're sure He'll put us to work. But all the while, He'll be working on our own foolish hearts and I can't begin to imagine who or what He'll use to exact that work.

The stupidest part about the whole blasted thing is that I momentarily balked (internally) about a new house. It didn't make a lick of sense. I've never been a new-house kind of girl.

God does everything backwards a lot of the time. That's something that I'm learning. He creates us with certain things in our hearts and then He nudges us toward something entirely different. I don't call it a test. He's got better things to do than  pass around final exams and tally them all up. I think He just wants to show us something new - a revelation, a shiny-new possibility. He shakes the dust off our feet and gets us all riled up. We're left shaking our heads, but not in a bad way, more of a "life is insane and I love it" way.

I gathered pretty quickly that I'd be a Class A loser if I inside-whined too much about a new house. We'll figure it out. It'll be fun! A new adventure.

The house will be ready this Summer. We'll move in, settle in, get our bearings. The kids will start school a few blocks down in the Fall.

That's something people around here have trouble with - the school thing. When you happen to live in one of the most desireable school districts in the area, people are slow to understand why you would choose to move your family out. A typical response to finding out we're moving to Goshen is, "But your kids will still go to school here, right?"

This is at the root of everything, because there was a time when I might have thought the same thing. There was a time when I believed having your kids in the best, "safest" school should be the top priority. I don't think that anymore. I'm tired of this elite idea that one thing is so much better than another.

I understand the pull toward what feels most comfortable. I understand the deep desire to keep my children sheltered and protected. But what I feel even stronger is the hope that my kids will learn very early that God goes with them. He goes. With them. Everywhere they are, there He is. I want them to be around kids who are like them and unlike them and every variation in between. I want them to see beauty in every face and to feel their faith grow as they relate to the world around them with each new day.

It took me thirty-four years to start to understand some of this. My hope is that they won't waste as much time getting around to the truth.

 My kids won't automatically go down the pipes because the new school doesn't test as well as the old school. They won't lose their faith because more kids don't believe the way they do. I wish I could say that I came to these conclusions overnight, but I didn't. They came slow and painful over the course of months, even years. It hurt to realize that some of the things I hinged my faith on were false.

All of these steps, all of the wrestling and the arguing and the "I'll do this God, but I won't do that", they have been part of our journey. He prepared us, always, for what came next. He reeled our hearts toward exactly where they needed to be and He planted joy and excitement way down deep.

So maybe God is upside-down and maybe He's totally nuts, but He sure is kind and His mercy makes me cry.

This life, this adventure? I wouldn't wish a moment away. Thank you for playing along while I write it down here. I want to remember all of it. I want to remember the fear and the doubts, because that's what makes the Glory beam down ever-brighter.


A sweet reader sent this quote tonight, just as I was sitting down to type. I love it so much. Thanks, Mindy.

“And the only life worth living is the scandalous one: scandalous love, offensive mercy, foolish faith.” 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume II

 Our farmhouse sold back in September and in no time flat, we were way behind in finding what came next. It took nearly 18 months for us to find a buyer, and all along, we resisted the urge to window shop for something new. We didn't want to get attached. Besides, the market was saturated. We knew it wouldn't be a problem.

Within the week of the sale, we were out with our realtor. We'd always felt drawn to  Goshen, but we didn't really know why. So she took us around. In one afternoon, we toured four beautiful homes with hardwood floors and wrap-around porches. We rumbled down the cutest brick street in town and the yards all looked so tidy and fenced. Inside, I could imagine the possibilities. The moldings were thick and the windows were charming. There was a butler's pantry. Our would-be neighbors were college professors and bankers. It was walking distance to the coolest coffee shop around.

We drove away from the last showing in the rain and I felt hollow inside. Cory's first pick was my last, and vise versa. For the first time in our history, we weren't meeting right in the middle, together.

But mostly, it just didn't feel right. That's my surest indicator, my trusty "feels right" gauge. It didn't seem to me that we sold everything we loved best to move to a manicured back yard on a brick street.

A few rainy blocks down, I saw the most gorgeous home. Kelly green, to boot. It was for sale. How the heck did we miss it? I didn't even notice the rumbling sound of brick under my wheels.

There was a sign for La Casa in the yard. I knew only enough to know that it was "a program" and that we probably didn't qualify. But we called anyway and learned two important facts. 1) We did qualify (most people do) and 2) The green house was already sale-pending.

I went to dinner with a friend and Cory sent me antsy texts that we were "on to something". La Casa had just landed on our radar. We felt a rush of breeze as the curtain pulled back a little.

It turns out, the green house was an anomaly. It was displaced. Most of the La Casa homes were over on the other side of the tracks. That felt right, somehow. Peace swept down and settled around the cracks and we hoped hard that night that things would make even more sense in the morning.

They didn't.

Silas and I followed the directions under gray skies and the further we drove, the more real it got. It wrestled with what I knew was true - that we were headed to a neighborhood that would never be in a magazine, or even the town paper. I kept driving north, resisting the urge to turn it around and drive back to the shiny hardwoods. Maybe we were wrong all along and that's where we were supposed to be. Maybe I was just in a bad mood yesterday.

The houses on the block were mostly vacant, crumbling down to the foundations, windows busted out. There were two La Casa homes, one a new-build and one a remodel. Both were nice. Neither had a yard. How do you raise kids without a yard? That may have been when I started to cry. I can't remember now.

Here's the thing I need you to know: It's not about the neighborhood, really. It could be so much worse. It could be a whole lot better. It's not inner city. It ain't the Projects. It's not about the broken glass or the trees. What it's about is the fear. It's about fear of letting go, fear of trying something new, fear of people not understanding, fear that maybe we're altogether wrong. It's fear that your good kids might be good because of all the room and the air and the public school Bible class on Tuesdays. It's fear that the neighbors won't like you and your old friends might forget you.

That fear creeps up on its own. It doesn't need an invitation. It can take something a little unsettling and turn it into a nightmare. I hear what many of you are saying, that it's not so bad after all, and I understand.

But what I also know is that when I stood on acre 6 with all of my flowers and the orchard and the swing-set and the barns, when I cooked in the kitchen we built ourselves, I knew that I never wanted to be anywhere else. I knew I had been blessed with a dream and I could never have imagined handing it back over and walking away, down a street with no lamp-posts, without a clear idea of why.

We're not going to start a ministry. We have no immediate plans to round up a Bible study or canvass the neighborhood. We aren't going there to rescue our neighbors or teach them a particular truth.

We're just going. We're going to live among them, be their neighbors and let them be ours. That's the beginning and end of the story. It's a short read.

So maybe that's the biggest thing I've learned so far, that it's not about the why or the where. It's about the Yes. It's about not wanting to walk around slightly ill from the knowing that we didn't go when we were supposed to. It's about kicking fear in the teeth and shrugging off the nay-sayers like a bad sweater.

This thing that we're doing? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense tonight just like it didn't back on that September morning when I called Cory and told him I just couldn't do it, I couldn't live without a yard. (I'm not sure what I would have used as a scapegoat in the presence of yards, but I know I would have come up with something.)

I drove out of the neighborhood then all the way out of town. I took us back to that one place that felt safe and I tried to forget that its days were numbered. We were back to square one and time was running out, but I was confident that God had something for us. It was just a matter of finding it.