Monday, December 15, 2014

Remember

So people ask me, "When is your birthday?"  Its December 11.  "How old are you?"  No real idea.  "What?  Why don't you know?"  Not that important.  Old enough to drive. Old enough to vote.  Old enough to smoke.  Old enough to drink whatever beverage I choose.  And my passport stays good for 10 years.  Not old enough to quit working and called it retired.  I'm somewhere in between all of that. So I'm good.  "Well how old are you?"  I was born in 1976, and I figure I'm 30 and change.  "Can't you do the math?"  Yeah, but that isn't that important to me either, you can do the math.  Its the problem of a December birthday that is 2 weeks before Christmas.  By time we get it all figured out, the year is over and you're confused about 2014 and 2015 and not wanting to charge me more than I owe.  Birthdays are big days for mothers.  I think you should wish moms a happy birthday and give them a hearty congratulations.  Pregnancy, birthing and parenting isn't easy.  Moms need a congratulations for pulling all of that off.  I really wasn't that involved in getting born.  .

I got married on my birthday.  This makes me happy.  I promise you I didn't get the bum end of the deal on the whole wedding/ anniversary date thing.  It really redeemed the whole thing.  In contrast to my birthday not being a big deal, my anniversary I see as a very big deal.  Its something I was and am and will be involved in until I die.  That's a big deal.  And I like it.  I never really thought I was cut out for marriage but I believe I was called to it and I'm thankful for it everyday.  I REMEMBER that.
Being born two weeks before Christmas means that everyone has grades do, a christmas concert that they need to practice for (or worse, put together a costume for), there is a PTA meeting, the last dental appointment, the last ....you see what I'm saying?  Its ok, I've made my peace with it but just don't ask me to get excited about my birthday.  I like the cake, I like the ice cream, dispense with the formality.  An anniversary in December, two weeks before Christmas gets the same kind of hiccups.  That's ok.  My anniversary I like spending doing fairly mundane things with my husband.  I like to go for lunch and sit and laugh and enjoy coffee with him.  You know, one of the best gifts he ever gave me was learning to drink a hot beverage.  I understand a person my not like coffee (makes no sense but whatever) but there is a camaraderie about hot beverages though that cold beverages don't enjoy.  So he tried for 6 months to drink coffee.  When he couldn't get it, he switched to hot chocolate and now in later years, to tea.  I make him tea while I make my coffee everyday. It may honestly be the fellowship of the mug.. not entirely sure.  Probably going to need another 60 years of research to get it figured out.

Anyway, so this year, I have these lovely friends.  Quite a number of them really, and they spend the day dinging my facebook page with kind well wishes.  A few in my inbox reminding of funny things from back in the day that made me smile because I remembered the person and I could hear in my head the person's voice and that made me remember old times.  I had a friend who decided my birthday was a nice occassion to throw a party and ask all these ladies to come for the visit.  And I enjoyed hearing their stories and laughing together and enjoying nice dessert and good coffee.  It was a birthday.  And I think I'll try to remember it for awhile.  I may not remember the conversations word for word but I think I'll keep their hearts for a while (in the most un-Edgar Allan Poe way) and put them on the chatsky shelf of my mind and admire the beauty of the people that God has blessed me to know in so many corners of the world and the wit and wisdom with which they have so freely shared.  I wouldn't trade a grey hair.  I wouldn't trade a bump in the road because its meant a person in my path and a lesson to marvel and be curious about.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

For the love of Granola

Facebook doesn't post notes anymore and it seems an odd thing to post a granola recipe as your status update.  So, for the hungry for breakfast masses, I give you my granola recipe that has been tweaked from a thousand different websites and cookbooks. Every woman needs her own personalized granola recipe. 

7 Cups of Oats (not the quick cook)
1 1/2 C grated coconut (i don't use the sweetened kind)
1 C of Nuts - I find myself using almonds alot, but its nice sometimes if I can get my hands on 1/2 C of pecans or walnuts
1/2C  of sunflower seeds if I can get my hands on them
at least 2 tsps of cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp of salt- i'm not good at measuring this but its a less is more kind of thing
Now let your kids stir toss together with whatever instrument is available, sometimes spoons, sometimes hands, sometimes ice cream scoops. 

Now in a small pot
1/2 C of honey- real honey
1/3 C palm sugar- in United States maybe you have to use dark brown sugar
1/3 C coconut oil
Boil this together for a few minutes. 

Now mom takes over stirring wet into dry and tosssing well as you go so as to distribute the sweetness.  Have the kid oil a 13/9 glass pan and mom turn the oven to something like 325.  Mom puts the granola in the pan and into the oven and mom walks away.  This is tricky because now mom needs to go and help a kid in the bathroom and fuss at the oldest for fussing at the youngest.  The youngest starts washing the dishes and mom needs to step in but then you remember you didn't brush your teeth and then the kids want to paint the teapot and you get out the teapot from the top shelf and set up the paints and the kids have aprons and newspapers and the painting is going well and you smell the granola.  SHOOT I PUT THE GRANOLA IN!  Oh please don't let it be burnt those were the last of the pecans and they are so expensive.  I don't want to eat burnt pecan granola but I'm sure going to.  And you run to the oven with little regard for the children and paints. And pull the granola out and fluff it around only to find that the granola still needs 5 minutes.  You are not going to remember in 5 minutes.  So you turn the oven off, poke the granola back in the oven and think you'll come back for it.  You do come back for it.  After dinner is cleaned up.  And the granola is perfect.  I wouldn't recommend leaving the granola in over night, it tends to get a little soft then.  But still its nice.  So I guess what I'm saying is 325 for about 20 minutes, stir the granola about and put it back in the turned off oven. 

And if you're lucky the children are still arguing about their favorite colors of paint and haven't repainted the back porch. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

5:45

Lately I find myself walking through our little neighborhood right about 5:45p.m.  I should be walking in the morning too but getting out of bed keep interfering with that.  Lots of folks are gone right now in my neighborhood and I have vague responsibilities to 3 different houses. One friend I got down and check on her dog and househelp a few days a week.  One friend, I just pay her houseworker once a month.  One friend, I pay the houseworker and be the point of reference should something come up (it really probably won't).  As I come home from my friend's house who lives in the housing complex, I walk up the hill into our old traditional neighborhood- the local word is kampung- and the neighborhood is everything that that word sounds like when you say.  Its old.  The houses are becoming more modern but the same ole' families live in them with their kids, grandkids and in some cases aunts and uncles.  But as I walk past the blacksmith shop, evening call to prayer rings out.  And little kids in varying states of dress come skittering out.  Some have had their evening bath and are in their jammies, big puff of white powder to keep them fresh and dry on their forehead.   Some are running through with their head coverings making for the faucet to wash before prayer.  Men come in their sarong man skirts.  The men don't rush, they amble.  Ladies pull up the rear after their kids are already on their way.  They've just come out of the bath too and have their headscarf all ready in place, prayer mats draped over an arm.  The doors of the houses are closed.  That is odd- front doors are nearly never closed but when the  neighborhood empties into the one room mosque, the front door close.  TVs and lights are left on, they won't be gone too long.  15 minutes or so of prayer and then they'll scoot back home.  Reversing the process.  Kids and ladies first, the ladies need to make dinner.  Men still ambling, pulling slowly on an unnoticed cigarette.  And for me, I'm not going to mosque.  Just walking by in the last rays of sunset, listening to the familiar "ALLAH AKBAR. ALLAH AKBAR"  sung by one of the neighborhood men.  Some with soothing voices.  Some punch the sunset.  The same familiar rhythm.  And I, as I walk by, say indeed God is good.  And I'm thankful for my neighborhood.  And I'm thankful for simple beauties.  And I'm reminded of the world in neighborhood and pray for fresh revelation. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

When we all get to heaven...

What a day of rejoicing that will be.

 Marvin was this bear of a man. He hugged like God's own bear hug and Marvin loved the size of the God he served.  He was a hugger.  I remember meeting Marvin when  I was in High School.  He took a week of preaching each summer at church camp and that was the week my High School youth group always went to.  My friends all knew Marvin from years back.  His daughters were our age and good friends.  So not unsurprisingly there was hugging.  But when he got to me, a teenage girl he'd never met, well, that didn't matter to him, I got a hug.  I'm not a hugger by nature you see and had never been around men huggers.  I found it off putting as he wrapped his arms around me but Marvin's hug is a little like a bear hugging you.  Its all encompassing and big and just enough wild with love and joy that you think for a second he may actually throw you up in the air but then that would be ok because there is this bear to catch you in softness and love.  Its the hug dads ought to give to their girls but he gave it to every man, woman and child he met.  That is how he loved people, in a big all encompassing, wild and free kind of way.   He came and pastored at my home church about the time I left university.  But he was there when I was home and it was always a pleasure to sit and talk a bit.  He met my husband, he hugged my husband and Jonathan loved him.  Through the years and the hardships and the joys we'd walk along and every now and again catch up in person with Marvin- that was the best way to catch up with Marvin, in person, because you got the full weight of his person and his love for you and it was like seeing the love God has for you sitting on the couch .  I'm thankful for that. 

Marvin developed cancer sometime in the fall and went fast from there. I'm glad for that bit. No one wants to think about a teddy bear suffering.  But I'm sorry.  Sorry for his wife, sorry for his kids, and kind of sorry for myself and my kids- no more walking into Marvin's life and feeling the hug of God from a physical person.  But he's free, and being hugged by God (now there is a mental picture, a God like hugger hugging God- wrap your brain around that hug fest).  When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout and hug!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

the helmet

My new houseworker came into my office the other afternoon and said "Sorry I need to leave my husband called and my son needs to go to the doctor."  I'm a mom, so instant concern "need to go to a doctor" here means kid is pretty sick or hurt.  Turns out kid has had typhus several times and he's got a fever again so they figure best get him in to start the meds.   So in the scheme of things here - a big enough deal but not a SERIOUS deal.  Little like your kid getting strep in the states, inconvenient, need medicine but not looking  at hospitalization.  The next day houseworker apologized that she wasn't able to finish things yesterday.  She was trying to explain away what happens to all moms when the kid gets sick, hurt, unknown- we kind of loose our mind.  Its really not somethning we have a lot of control over.  They have to tell the moms to put the oxygen mask on themselves first for a reason. 

So we got @ a new bike this week.  He's way past outgrowing the old one and the bike we bought is about an inch too big.  We're pretty sure come a month from now it won't be.  I bought him a new helmet too.  In our neighborhood and in our corner of the world, no one wears a bike helmet.  Its been a 10 year campaign from the government to get people to wear helmets on motorbikes here and most still don't in the neighborhoods.  So my kid on his bike with a pretty fancy helmet is wierd.  Its another thing that marks him as an "other".  I feel bad about that.  I've kind of been wrestling with it, maybe he doesn't need to wear the helmet when he's riding in driveway.  I mean really, its the driveway.  Its fenced in.  Probably he is fine.  Probably the fussing about the helmet in the driveway is a bit much. 

Interject on all of this, my nieces.  My oldest niece lost a dear long time friend a week ago.  And you guessed it, a helmet could have/ would have/ should have made a difference.  I really know next to none of the situation besides the 15 yr old FUN kid was an avid skateboarder but not an avid helmet wearer.  Stupid accident.  Accident that could have happened a million different ways and kid suffered head injury and kid died.  Kid died.  Now that just isn't right.  In your head, kids don't die.  But they do.  And there are no words for that grief.  None. And that story plays out a million times all over the world, quite sadly.  But my poor nieces and these families. 

This week marks a year of walking a terrible walk in our family.  Pain I would throw myself in front of a bus to try to have avoided.  Pain that bears no real exterior scars but is just like walking around after having your chest cut out.  We're healing and we have been delivered and I am thankful. But there is NOTHING I wouldn't have done to prevent the pain.  Nothing.

So thinking about this family, and the pain and my family and the pain (and, of course you understand, my child is still here and theirs is not so we're really comparing apples to fish on the pain scale, i know that) my kid is wearing the helmet and he's lucky he's not wearing it to bed at night.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The things we do for health

Its remarkable the crazy lengths you can go to in the name of good health.  What I'm finding is that what used to be the crazy thing your aunt used to do because "I read it in reader's digest at the doctor's office", is now everywhere you turn on the internet.  Facebook, Pinterest, your good best friend's blog.  They're telling you all kinds miracle cleanses for your body.  You're taking a whole day to drink lemon juice and water for something about your kidney. Or is it the gall bladder.  I don't know but its supposed to be good for you.

So I was readding a week or so ago from a friend's post and cinnamon, turmeric and honey are supposed to be my new favorite superfoods.  Turmeric is supposed to lower my inflammation.  Honey and cinnamon do something but I forget what.  I've also been green smoothie-ing for awhile now too.  I've learned that beets really taste like dirt.  That's not a good/ bad judgement but a statement of true facts: Beets taste like dirt.  Like physically eatting dirt.  I'm ok with that.  They don't taste necessarily bad but I can taste the dirt. Answer: Honey and cinnamon.  So now in goes a great big shake of cinnamon in my morning smoothie. Cinnamon, turmeric, banana, spinach or kale, zuchini or pumpkin, beets or carrots, apple or pineapple, if i'm feeling loving and kind to my children, strawberries.  The pain in my hips and knees has gone away so I'm going to count it as a win.

Newest additions to the live forever diet: honey and green tea.  They're supposed to do something for you.  I don't remember what but it was a long list including things like blood pressure, inflammation etc- probably improve my memory for archaic dietary nonsense.  But I decided I enjoy green tea, provided it has honey.  I also found out green tea with jasmine is really nice too, even without honey.  Now my day includes an after lunch cup of tea.   

The gallbladder nonsnse I was having a problem with a few months ago seems to have taken care of itself with settling into a return to healthy eating lifestyle and chamomile tea.  Chamomile is going to help the bile and gall bladder something or other. 

I read some stuff.  Its pretty convincing and came from lots of sources but honestly, I feel like your crazy aunt who drinks apple cider vinegar (y'all, for serious, don't start with me on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar- its just too out there for me).  My nieces and nephew need a crazy aunt- they're surrounded by highly normal, creative, clever people so I'm happy to take the goofy title. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Things I've Done Right: my teapot


I get a little down on myself every now and again.  Lately I’ve had a tough go of feeling like I’m making good choices.  It’s ok.  You have good days; you have not as good days.  But there are things that make me smile.  Things I can see that I’ve done right.  Today it’s my tea set. 

This last summer we went to China.  I knew when we talked about going and the opportunity came up we HAD to do it.  We’re good savers and so the money of getting there wasn’t an issue.  We would be with friends so they would help with the logistics. Getting visas was way too complicated for a 7 day tourist visit but I’m glad we did it.  While we were there we saw all of the touristy things- the stuff you’re supposed to see.  The Great Wall, Tiananmen, the Forbidden City, etc.  My mom was coming to visit us in our country just a bit after we got back from China and I thought getting my mom some kind of tea would be just the thing- you know “All the tea in China.”  So one afternoon while we were roaming the city we went into a market.  We needed milk and fruit for our hotel room.  You can buy cherries in China, I was obsessed.  But I thought while I was there I would watch and see what other ladies were buying in the tea stalls and I would buy some of what they were buying.  A friend had already given me some pointers on how to buy tea in China.  1.  If you like the smell of it, you’ll probably like the taste of it.  2.  Bigger is better when it comes to tea leaves.  When the tea is all diced up, you’re probably getting second skimmings.  So with my pointers and my long held belief that if you find a woman you think you look like, sometimes you’ll shop like her too; I was ready to buy tea in China.  Well I went into a booth and started smelling.  I had pretty well settled on a leaf from my mom but the shop lady wanted me to sit and try to the flowers.  Chinese tea shops are full of flowers.  Lovely bins of dried flowers.   And I have no idea why.  So the lady heats up the kettle and begins putting flowers in a glass tea pot.  Then a lump of rock sugar.  Then she fills it.  And ooohhh… the flowers come to life and swirl and dance.  Instantly ensorcelled. So I’m sitting and somehow I’m chatting with this woman in my not Chinese and her not English and our points and signs.   And she warms the teeny cups and the tea swirls.  And she pours out a little cup for me and a little cup for her.  And we’re two ladies sipping a spring meadow together.  No kidding.  Jonathan comes around with two over tired kids and he doesn’t want to sip tea he wants to go.  But he sips tea and now Jonathan is sitting in the meadow with us and the stains on !’s dress are just cherries from a funny man in the market who filled her pockets and @ isn’t fidgety, he wants to play tea too.  And so I bought tea flowers and the lady went through the recipe with me 3 times, teaching me what I had just bought because the Chinese take their tea seriously and the lady didn’t want me to just buy tea, she wanted me to appreciate her passion.  So I learned my Chinese numbers and words for my tea.  She wanted me to buy the pot (which I’m sure was necessary for the complete meadow and for her profit margin) but my cheapness got the better of me.  I did end up buying a tea pot later in the airport with the extra bits of money we had in Yuan (and it was cheaper than her pot). 

While my mom was here we got out the tea pot and played tea on several occasions (not enough for my mom).  And my mom did it just right, something about those flowers dancing in the hot water and we were all schoolgirls.  Just giddy at playing tea.  The only problem with this tea pot is that as high as it takes you when you are watching the tea steep and pouring it into glasses, you really don’t want to let the tea pot be empty.  There is just a little tinge of regret when you realize that it’s time for playing tea to be over.  The flowers are finished for this go around.  The good news is that I bought a lot of tea flowers.  And so we have more times of play to come.  And I have a promise from my friends in China that they will buy me more tea flowers when I have need. 

Moral of the story: I need to remember to take my tea box down from the shelf and make a pot of flowers.