What Would You Do?

If, at some point, your own government ceased to function, to protect you, to provide some sort of “unalienable rights,” putting you in a situation of compromise, maybe forcing you to take a journey you are physically and temporally unprepared to take, what would you do?

If, at some point, you pondered the blessed and happy state of your large house which gave heat and cool air on demand, and you thought about your stocked pantry and adequate bank account, and your chest wrenched because your country was founded upon these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and your chest perhaps heaved because of the abundant space you could give others if they could but get to your home, if your national and local leaders would allow them to come, and your tear ducts filled because you felt powerless to help, what would you do?

If your son came home from school, claiming he heard from a friend that the problems in our world, especially in Paris, were the fault of a religion–one to whom your good friends and neighbors and students belong–a religion of peace and of opening your home and sharing the blessings from the same Creator I believe in, and you knew you needed to say something because what he said wasn’t true but that you knew in other homes that the same philosophies of fear were being taught, down the street, and across the country, what would you do?

What will you do?

Just Because We Do It…

Life gets crazy sometimes. Some things we can control; other things we cannot. Like, I couldn’t control my little guy waking up early last Saturday morning. He came in my room, full of morning exuberance as I groggily rolled over to check the time on my phone. The glaring white numbers read 5:47.

5:47 a.m.


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On a Saturday.

WHY?

Well, with a packed schedule for the day, I knew that going back to sleep wasn’t an option. (Now, I’m a believer in early morning productivity…just not that early…on a Saturday.) We cuddled in the warmth of the covers and discussed dreams and the lack of school for the day. Eventually, I rolled out of bed to get dressed.

And, I happened to wear heels–these great heels from my friend–with my brown pants and pink tshirt/sweater combo. I was happy with the outfit as a whole and was prepared for a busy day.

(Did I mention I was wearing these great heels?)

So, we were off to two appointments that went well, then to an activity involving doughnuts at church (how could you go wrong with doughnuts?), and out to visit some neighbors. Of course, we also had to drop kiddos off at parties, hit the library and a couple of other errands, and pick up some milk. (Yes, we were on our last gallon…how did that happen?)

As my handsome husband pulled into a parking space at the local grocery store, my feet were throbbing. Screaming. Aching.

UGH.

I asked him if I could just sit in the car. He asked me why I would choose the shoes I wore that day. I told him the reasons (they go with my outfit, I was trying to look professional, I didn’t think I’d be on my feet so much, etc.). I got out of the car and started walking in to the store. He said, “I think you just don’t like going to the grocery store.”

I thought about his statement. (Can I call it an accusation?) I didn’t want to go to the store in that moment. He was accurate about that. But, on “normal” days–whatever those are–do I really hate going to the grocery store?

I followed that train of thought through shopping. Do I hate to shop? No. What about cooking? Do I hate to cook? No. I actually enjoy cooking. Do I hate walking around the store and greeting fellow shoppers? Nope. I like to chat through the store. Hmmmmmm…. What is it, then?

Actually, I hate planning meals. If someone would provide a menu that worked for my schedule each week, then I would happily follow it, buy ingredients, and cook. I do my best with planning, but I don’t enjoy it. I don’t even like it. In fact, I kind of hate it. But I do it anyway.

As part of our conversation, I had this thought: just because we do it doesn’t mean we like it.

Do you like having little people wake up at 5:47 (A.M.!) on a Saturday? Do you like having to form cognitive thoughts that early? Most days I don’t. But I do it. I do it because that’s what I signed up to do when I decided to have children–whether I knew it then or not.

Why?

The bottom line for me is love. I do what I do because I love my family and I want them to feel loved.

Red Love Heart Full HD Wallpaper Wallpaper
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Last night, we had a beautiful meal together. My oldest and I spent the morning in the kitchen preparing a crock pot with roast, potatoes, and carrots (which I picked up, incidentally, at the grocery store on Saturday). We also made a baked dish of macaroni and cheese along with rice. After church, we made gravy from the drippings in the crock pot and also threw together some delicious rolls. We had family dinner together which filled our tummies and our spirits. My kiddos even went back for seconds (which is rare), and the evening which followed went smoothly because our hearts were happy.


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As I put myself out there by planning and preparing a meal that I didn’t really want to plan (I would’ve been okay with having something like frozen pizza), I was blessed with a wonderful evening…and part of me began to like the planning aspect of cooking. (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone!)

What do you do that you don’t like to do? What would have to change for you to like it more?

Conflict 101

With November (National Novel Writing Month) approaching, I am gearing up for another month of sugar and creativity (and possibly sore wrists again from all the typing, too…). (Whoever put it in November, with all the leftover Halloween candy floating around the house, was an absolute GENIUS, in my humble opinion.)

Anyway, I’ve been studying the use of conflict in writing as of late, even to the point of watching the driving force of conflict in film, in novels and short stories I’ve been reading, and in my life.

Enter tranquility and peace…enter conflict…enter somewhat settling of conflict…enter more conflict…enter even more conflict…enter another somewhat resolution with or without tranquility.

What I discovered last year while writing for NaNoWriMo was that channeling conflict into my writing actually made me a less contentious person in life. I could give most of my frustrations, aggravations, and issues away for a month to my characters and let them figure out how to solve them. My emotional health was amazing…and not just because my diet consisted of Skittles, chocolate, rolls, turkey, pies, and varied pumpkin dishes. 🙂 I was living in creativity and loving the experience…and less personal conflict in my life!

So, all you writers (and readers) out there: Is conflict difficult or freeing to write? To read? How much is too much? And, will you WriMo this year?

PS–I’m thinking seriously about posting the novel I wrote last year in chapters on the blog. Thoughts? I could use some feedback.

It’s TUESDAY!!!

At least, it’s Tuesday where I am. And I had lunch with some new friends (complete with free soft-serve and dark chocolate sauce…which was divine, let me tell ya). So, I’m feeling a little lighter…my laundry is done and my anniversary playlist is being tweaked to (almost) perfection…and my house will soon be full of the sounds of papers rustling and turning for homework and bags and boxes from the pantry will leave their shelves of rest in the name of after-school snacks. 🙂 Life is good.

Has anyone checked out the free song on iTunes today? How about new releases in music? I’m always up for a good tune….

And, since you asked, I’m doing well today. I have some busy weeks coming, and I’ve been trying to gear up for all the events that are coming my way. Through all this, I have discovered that I am a social person. I like to be with people. I like to learn more about people, to talk with people, to laugh and visit with people, to help people…and, most of all, to connect with people. Connection is a happy place for me.

Sending out some love and happiness vibes to you, wherever you find yourself in cyberspace today!!!! Happy Tuesday…and may you have many, many more!

happy face - random Photo
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Mourning

I walked down the stairs to find an empty kitchen sink, quite unusual at our house full of five people on varied schedules. He must’ve rinsed his bowl and loaded it into the dishwasher before his early flight, I thought as I filled the Brita pitcher with water and replaced it in the fridge.  The only negative thing I can say about this place is the water tastes gross.  Thank heavens for Brita.

I mentally checked off my personal list for the day…get kids off to school, drop off stuff at Goodwill, pick up dry cleaning, milk, and fresh veggies…and somehow squeeze in a run before the heat of the day settled onto the sidewalk, sending up its waves of steam from the recently running sprinklers.

A little person’s footsteps interrupted my quiet thoughts.  Dilly tumbled down the stairs, blanket in hand, and nestled her head into my left shoulder.  “Mommy, you are beautiful,” she said as she reached up to pull a loose strand of one of my shorter layers out of my eyes.

“Thank you, Dilly.  Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Mmmhmmm,” she lifted her head and nodded for emphasis.

“Mommy is making oatmeal.  Would you like to help me?”

She slid down my body and out of my arms, reached for the stool, and propped herself up by the island, near but not too close to the cooktop.  I filled a pan with water from the sink, rationalizing that we wouldn’t taste it through the fruit, cream, and sugar we would put in the oatmeal, and turned the flame on high.

Shelly and Jack headed down the stairs with the noises in the kitchen.  Shelly turned on the television to find news, check the weather, and jot down a current event for social studies class.  It was her morning routine.  Jack headed to the study to practice his viola before school.

Over the noise and chatter of Dilly singing her new favorite song from kindergarten, I noticed small bubbles emerging, growing larger from the base of the pan up to the surface, searching for a way to release the heat energy that was bursting inside the molecules.  I could hear faint strokes of the bow against the C string of Jack’s viola, and Dilly started humming the piece Jack had been working on for weeks…his solo in the upcoming fall orchestra concert.  I couldn’t recall the name of the music.  He was getting better, though.

Dilly helped me measure the oatmeal, and she asked to pour it into the boiling water.  Together we stirred it as I lowered the heat and waited for the grains to absorb the hot water and soften in the pan.  We sang together Dilly’s song from last year’s preschool Halloween musical, “Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew…ooooooooo…ooooooooo” in unison as we took turns scraping the bottom of the pan.  None of us cared to eat charred oatmeal.

“Mom!” I heard Shelly call from the family room.

“What, Hon?” I called back from the kitchen, removing the pot from the flame and placing it on a trivet on the table.  “Want to get the bowls, Dil?”

“Yes, Mom.”  She crawled down from the stool and headed to the cabinet as I met Shelly in the family room.  I looked at her, at the rubble on the television screen, and the words that were superimposed over the pictures, trying to make out what the newscaster was saying over the sinking feeling in my heart.

“Flight #1082 from Dallas to Tampa….”

No.  It couldn’t be his flight.  I ran back into the kitchen, pulled my phone off the charger, and went immediately to the notes section where I saved his itinerary.  I took in my breath, looking for the flight number.  1082.  1082.  Nope, no 1082 for him. His flight number was 2044.  I breathed a sigh of relief, but my heart wouldn’t leave my throat.

I couldn’t shake the fear away through oatmeal and raisins, through walking Dilly to her bus stop. I kissed her goodbye and headed back to our front door, wondering in what order to accomplish my to-do list.

I climbed the stairs to dress for my run and decided to check email before I put my playlist on my iPod.  I skimmed through ads for Children’s Place and Gap Kids sales, through notifications that lunch accounts were getting low (already?) and an invitation to attend a PTA breakfast.

Then I saw his name.

I selected the email, and began to read his words:

Hey, Lover.  Didn’t want to wake you with a text.  Took an earlier flight so I could be more prepared for my meeting in Tampa today.  Hitting lunch with Dave, dinner with the team, and I’ll be back on the red-eye early in the a.m. to kiss you good morning.
Love you always,
Shaun

Below his email, he pasted his new itinerary.

No.

I couldn’t bring myself to read any farther.  A flight change?  Why?  I knew he was nervous about his meetings and presentation, but what was another half hour on the ground, really?  Or even not on the ground?

No.

I shook my head as the number appeared below…black and white…I tried to make my eyes focus to see it, read it, make it real…but my vision was clouded and my eyes were filling and moving and beginning to overflow.  Still, I had to see, to confirm, to know.

My eyes jumped around the page looking for the numbers, any numbers but what I feared.

Then, I saw them.

1

0

8

2

No.

Not Shaun.  Not the man I met on a weekend in the Keys a decade and a half ago.  Not the man I corresponded with over email and text and international calling plans while I finished a semester abroad before graduation.  Not the man I had given my heart and soul to, who had just this morning rinsed his bowl and placed it in the dishwasher to make my day easier.

He couldn’t be….

I couldn’t say the word out loud.  I went back downstairs to the television, found breaking news on the same channel Shelly had watched only moments ago when I had assured her that Dad was on another flight.  Of course, he was on another flight.

“…little chance of survivors…143 passengers…12 crew…mechanical failure…”

NO!

I felt my hands around my knees, my arms pulling in tightly, and my body rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth as I once rocked our three little ones in turn. The three little ones with his eyes or his nose or his smile.

I closed my eyes over the glare of the television screen.

And I wept.

Waiting for 10 o’clock

I have this rule. We call it the “10 o’clock rule” around our house.

Clock 10:00

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And, I am watching the clock, even as I type, for the numbers to fly onward toward this blessed time.

You see, we don’t have sugar–like hard-core, solid, sugar–until after 10 a.m.

Don’t ask me when the rule began.  I have no idea.  Somehow, I do recall that I read something to the effect of “if you eat chocolate when you crave it between 10 am-4 pm, you will be healthier.”  The 10 o’clock rule was then born for chocolate, and eventually defined to cover Skittles, Starbursts, soda, ice cream, and other varied sugary items.

Doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and other such items are not included in the 10 o’clock rule.

And, I do have some banana bread on the counter.  I could get up, slice some, heat it in the microwave for a few seconds, slather it with butter and enjoy.

But the Skittles in my backpack that sit atop my computer desk area are so much closer…(29 more minutes)…and my body is probably still full from the delicious bowl of oatmeal with fresh blueberries and cream I had for breakfast.

(Too bad breakfast was several hours ago….)

Twenty-eight minutes.  Maybe I’ll work on my love songs playlist for our anniversary.  I’ve been enjoying that.

And I could start editing the novel I wrote last November.  I’ve got hours of work on that project.  But, of course, I would need some Skittles to even open the document.

And, it’s still twenty-seven minutes until 10 o’clock.

Maybe I should change time zones.

🙂

Chocolate Wishes and Brownie Dreams

I bake often. In the course of a day, I often run my oven more than once (though I do try to conserve energy and heat as much as possible). Today, I actually fired it up for three loaves of delicious bread and then again for the subject of this post…and I’m getting to that.

I adore chocolate. I crave it. I bake with it. I create with it. I eat it. I share it. 🙂 Fewer food items create the endorphin boost within me the way chocolate does. It’s almost as awesome as a good date with my husband…(now, a good date with my husband AND chocolate…yes, please!).

Still, I have worked on various recipes of chocolate cakes and cookies, frosting and fondue, until they have become part of my baking repertoire. Sadly, I have not been able to find a brownie recipe to replace the box mixes in my cupboard.

“Box mixes are just better,” declared my almost-professional-baking aunt once. I agreed with her. I would sample varied forms of brownies…some very delicious in their own ways, but I could not find a from-scratch brownie recipe to satisfy the sweet and gooey, fudgey deliciousness of a box. No frosting. Just chocolate amazingness.

Well, today I can say that no more. I found a recipe someone posted on Facebook (is it just another form of Pintrest these days?) that I had taken a screenshot of on my phone. As I was deleting photos to free some space, I started to write down the recipe…and thought I might give it a whirl. It was touted as “replace your box brownie mix for pennies on the dollar” or something like that…and I needed an afternoon activity with the preschooler…so, into the kitchen we went!

Sugar, cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, vanilla, oil and water swirled together in a bowl and tossed into a sprayed, 9×13-inch pan later, I waited. And waited. And watched. And counted down with the timer. And removed the pan from the oven at twenty minutes to check–still un-done. Three minutes later, I checked them again and voila!

I tried to let them cool. I really did. Like, for maybe five minutes of smelling the chocolatey, brownie smell of yum. Then I cut into the corner (my favorite piece).

Oooooooooh! They were like music to my mouth. Gooey. Yummy. Crumbly from not being set yet. (I imagined them cooled in swirl of vanilla ice cream….) As I have sampled a couple more during various stages of cooling, I can happily declare success.

No frosting necessary.  No boxes required.

Equality

I like oranges. They are orange. They are round. They are yummy!!!!

I like apples. Apples come in varying colors—from all spectrums of reds and yellows and pinks to even green.

Both apples and oranges are fruits. I enjoy eating both of them. Both have health benefits. Both grow on trees. Both need sunlight, water, earth, and nutrients to grow. Both even make yummy juice.

Apples also make good pies. Apples are amazing when they are baked with a little cinnamon and sugar. Apples are also good raw, sliced over salads, and in apple crisp.

I don’t know if oranges make good pies. I’ve never baked with one. They are delicious sliced, peeled, in fruit salads. You can zest them.

You don’t really zest apples. You can peel them or not…two choices.

Just because I don’t bake with oranges or because I don’t zest apples doesn’t mean that I am discriminating against one or the other. They are different. But I love each one for their differences and for their similarities. I love to eat them in varied ways. And I am grateful for them, along with all fruits.

Fruit is good. Each type of fruit has value. Each one is amazing in its own right. To say that one fruit meets all needs is small-minded and unreasonable. Each one is a fruit, but all fruit is not equal.

Like comparing apples to oranges.

Just sayin’.

Another poem…

Loneliness

I can’t remember which toothbrush is mine
So I grab one from the drawer, one I think is mine, and start to scrub.
I’m calling your number as the bristles scour off layers of plaque and the Caesar salad dressing
Ring
from lunch while I waited for you at the table
Ring
And the bristles tug at the sugar swirls from the Skittles
Ring
I had in the car on the way home from oblivion
Ring
And I finally feel a click and I expect to hear your voice again but it’s not you…only a computerized invitation and I’m waiting through the words to leave a message at the tone for
You

But your voicemail is full.

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An Exercise (in writing)

As I read various novels, poems, blog posts, etc., I am entranced with the ability of writers to capture the essence of mundane or everyday tasks with such descriptive language that acts such as moving wet clothing from the washing machine into the dryer become almost poetic.  Do you know what I mean?  I love reading with the need to somewhat decode and decipher what a writer is talking about through his or her descriptions of actions, items, or individuals.  When I find writing like this, it sinks into my soul and brings me joy.

So…today I offer a writing challenge for your writers out there…and as an example, I will post a description of sorts as part of this post.  Your challenge is to write about something seemingly insignificant–and to give it meaning through language.  Here goes my effort:

After a two-hour-old slice of dry toast and a spicy sausage link, the thirst is almost unquenchable.  Fingers find their way to a white plastic handle holding onto a shiny, serrated slice of metal, as if life depended on it.  Another hand selects firmly the brightly colored sphere, holds the little-larger-than-a-tennis-ball shape firmly to avoid rolling as the blade cuts into the sunshiny flesh, peeling back layers of skin.  Slice, slice, and slice again.  Juicy, acidy, sticky liquid pools onto the dark granite countertop.  Pulling flesh apart from pulp, zest embeds itself under once-long fingernails.  Liquid Vitamin C runs down fingers to wrist as a section brushes lips.  Tongue is moving back and forth, back and forth, sweeping bits and fragments and juice from side to side.  Teeth are grinding, grinding, grinding pulp as juice begins to trickle down a sandpapery throat.  More!  More!  More! Throat screams, and another section grazes incisors, wondering why the wetness of dry mouth propels stickiness while fingers absorb it.  Rinsing the throat with orange while washing fingers with water, both body parts are finally satisfied.

Well, it’s not fantastic…but it’s an exercise, after all.  If you feel so inclined to participate, link back so we can connect and learn from one another, or comment your description exercise at the conclusion of this post.

Happy Writing! 🙂