7.04.2015

I feel'er rising.




moving, is flipping much of my life and most of my heart upside down.

I had big plans to write about my journey for contentment. It has been on my heart every day. every day. It is becoming a part of me, and the harder I pray for it, the more it snuggles up to me and holds my hand. I am on a mission to be content with what I have...and maybe with even less than what I have. I have been connecting the dots with a bright red Sharpie and I am thankful for that. Let's face it, who doesn't like it when Life reveals itself to us in a way that is impossible to miss? So, I went to bed late last night with some of the word threads already knitting together in my mind. That is the way it is with me, my brain writes in intermittent sentence fragments almost all the time. It can't be helped.

But then I awoke before dawn, clammy, chest-pounding, shaking inside from the dreams I had. I rolled facing the window and clamped my eyes shut, but the traces of fear and charcoal, leaden guilt tinged the edges of me.

I knew, I did not want to carry this around all day long. I knew it could happen, I've been down this road many times before.

So I prayed for relief and a fresh perspective. Blindly, I reached for solace. I drank orange juice that tasted like sunshine. My lips are sugar-brushed from the cinnamon toast that I had planned before the night, before the dreams. Today is going to be a good day.

Nevermind that the view outside my window at the moment is dripping grey. Nevermind that I subconsciously chose a grey shirt and a brown britches, the very picture of blah. I had decided half a day ago that today was going to be a good day. I am determined.

Here's how my day week June was...
pack, dialysis, pack, chemo, pack, move, clean, unpack, food, plumber, quell sass, drive, doctor, drive, electrician, laundry. Food. diving headlong into the most frazzled, cluttered version of musical rooms ever.


I threw some fun in, too. Of course.

But I know that two straight months of running around non-stop equals me in the fetal position.
It hasn't happened yet, but I keep warning everyone, "I'm going to have a melt-down soon. Just FYI. I feel'er rising."


Tonight I plan on rewarding my efforts and the fact that I survived and am now walking around on my two spindly legs with Chinese take-out. It makes perfect sense. I know. I'll be hungry and I have $30 burning a hole in my pocket, and if there's one thing I know about me it's that I will always, always burn up extra cash on restaurant food. I know. I'm good at some things, just not this. When it calls for a celebration, I'm spoiled and entitled and will get cupcakes Chinese take-out.

So it looks like this is the good stuff, friends. 7 pm hot and sour soup on the couch with my girls and the season finale of Revenge via On Demand, then watching fireworks from my bedroom window. This is looking my own exhaustion square in the mug then ignoring it in favor of a different kind of rest.

It should feel sort of monumental, but I'm too busy being troubled by the fact that June's birthday decorations are still up and the garage isn't unpacked. I'm sleeping in the hall. Things are more than a little wonky here.

This is understanding that seasons come and go. This one is sketchy and messy, but it's filled with things that are important, people whom I love, so I do what I do and I play in the middle. Cleaning, weeding and sleep and boredom can wait.


 My life is unrecognizable to me, once again.
I'm well past trying to memorize its angles and planes.

But...
I'm almost there.


Somehow, it still feels more like home than ever.

just sayin'.

 
Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

2 (1 pound) containers strawberries
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
6 T powdered sugar
2 T orange juice (fresh, or from a bottle)
1 C cool whip
1 t vanilla
dash salt

1. Wash your beautiful berries and pat them dry. 
2. In your stand mixer, or large mixing bowl, beat 2 packages of softened cream cheese until smooth. Add 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 1 cup cool whip, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt. Beat until well combined and smooth. 
3. Set the strawberries up on their green stems. With a sharp knife cut a slit through the top of each strawberry, making sure you don't cut all the way through to the stem. 
4. Cut another slit along the top, forming an x pattern. 
5. Place a large open star tip in a pastry bag and fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. If you don't have a large star tip, or a pastry bag, you could just use a large ziploc bag and cut a small hole in the end. 
6. Pipe the cream cheese filling into the cut end of each strawberry. 
7. Place a blueberry on the top and set them on a pretty platter. Refrigerate until serving.

6.26.2015

I was made for summer.


So far, June has been jam-packed!

I'm a summer girl-at-heart, born and bred for flip flops and popsicles and all-things-garden.
As a caregiver now, it gets harder, some days, to delight in these days. They aren't exactly as restful as they were back then.

But I'm still that girl, still exactly the girl I was designed to be.
The magic is still here, just waiting to be found.

I was born somewhere in the cut-grass, berry-ripe heat of a lazy August day.
Thinking back to my childhood, I catch blips and glimpses of cold winter days building a snowman, snuggling under a feather blanket at night. Of course I remember Christmas Eves, snow forts, hand knitted mittens.

There were leaf piles and school supplies and the hopeful tips of tulips kissing straight through the frosty earth.

All of it rests at the periphery. It’s fuzzy at the edges, hollow in the center, a basket holding the bulk of my youth, somehow wrapped and folded into three sticky months as though they were all there ever was. I remember the other nine, but my three favorites, are stitched in and through me, in crazy dizzying loops.

I was made for summer.

I’m still the little girl running through the sprinkler. I am strawberry shortcake in a Styrofoam bowl and plastic fork. I’m stacks of books reading about the Clock family on a blanket under the hydrangea bushes, a bowl of cherries at my fingertips. I’m the ocean and sun-tan oil. An eager garden weeder. I’m fireflies at dusk.

Only now, I’m grown up with a marriage, a mortgage, children of my own, and enough joy to light up my days and evenings with the pulsing emotional current of real life.

An average summer day now finds me negotiating, managing, organizing, entertaining, packing/unpacking, and chauffeuring... cleaning up more messes than I ever remember making back when I was on the “giving” end of this equation.

I’ll be honest, some days it’s hard to remember that this is where the best of me lives.

I am thankful for all the blessings I had, but today, there aren’t any creeks to wade through and I don’t own a single sprinkler.  Now what?

It seems the charm of a wonky black-and-white TV and laying awake late at night because it’s too humid to sleep can get lost somewhere, twisted into the vortex of a Wi-Fi signal or numbed by the central air.

But outside my window I hear the crickets and the soothing moan of a lonesome train whistle. This is my summer symphony and I am at peace.

My hearts belongs to this season, and right now, it's full of summer. The details are different from my childhood summers, but the memories are the same.

I’ve heard rumors that the glory days are past us, I don’t think that’s right.

I think the best is yet to come, right when my messy life collides with grace, free from the oil-slick mirage of nostalgia. I'm busy writing the stories, I think the ink is still wet. I'm crafted in wonder, cast in Life's goodness, placed with purpose in this  time and place.

My summers look different now. They ask more of me. But for better or worse, I’ll throw the windows open some days just to let the heat lull me into the bliss of boredom.

In between playing judge and jury, life coach and line cook, I’ll stop to remember I’m still that little girl with nose plugs standing at the end of the high dive when I barely know how to swim.
This life is an adventure. It’s oh so good to me.

Some things may change but who I am never does.

July is closing in, a big sweaty hug. I'm taking a look around me. This is my life right now and it needs me.

I choose to hug it back.
Choose to dive in.

just sayin'.

Sugar Cookie Pizza

Crust


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Topping

8 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1-2 Tablespoons cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted sliced fresh fruit

Make the crust: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. Once completely combined, cover the dough tightly and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Without chilling, your cookie dough may spread over the sides of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray. Remove chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator and press onto the pizza pan in an even flat circle. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Overbaking will lend a hard crust. Allow crust to cool completely before decorating. I put the crust in the refrigerator after 10 minutes of cooling at room temperature - this sped up the process.

I usually use this time (as the crust cools) to chop the fruit.

Make the frosting: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 1 Tbsp cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tbsp cream if needed to thin out. Beat for 1 minute. Spread in a thick layer over the cooled sugar cookie crust.

Decorate with fruit.

Cut into slices and serve. Fruit pizza may be made 1 day in advance, covered tightly, and stored in the refrigerator before serving. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

6.19.2015

difficult season.

 It's turning me all askew, watching the flowers bloom. Part of me loves it because it's so expected and normal. I'm noticing more. Appreciating more.

All I know is, life feels extra-swoony right now. It feels like a gift. It puts me in the mood for celebrating.

I hear people say that life is made of different seasons, strung together by the sun and the moon. Everyone hits the rough patches, sooner or later.

When I first started blogging, it was difficult for me to really relate to bloggers going through a particularly difficult season. I felt for them. I had sympathy. I was also curious. Is it difficult to function in the everyday loop of living while you're in a "difficult season"?

I assumed things must be bleak if it was bad enough to blog about. In my mind, a difficult season probably meant not getting off the couch for an afternoon, serving Rice Krispies for dinner three days straight. I was relieved that I would never know for sure. No way would it ever happen to me, a self-taught optimist.

But then, of course, it did. Life just got a lot harder. It wasn't one great tragedy. It was the collision of many speed bumps that piled up into a concrete wall that I couldn't see past.

And life kept right on moving. My family was still well-fed and the puppies adequately belly rubbed. The hubs still got kisses. The whites were sorted.

As it turns out, a difficult season isn't the depression commercial come to life. It isn't even the hang-around blues.

It's a lesson. It 's an opportunity to take in the view of my life from a different corner of the room.

I look out from my red velvet chair - the one I never used to sit in - and the world still looks pretty grand. Yeah, I've had some things on my mind. The days have been harder. I've spent more nights wracking my brain for an answer - the answer. I've read books, talked to smart people, tried this, on a whim, and then that. I've listened to a whole riot of voices.

But only when the days got the grayest did I finally get it.

It was after midnight, but the sun had never looked so bright.

I have been lovingly placed in a world with so much love and joy.


Ways in Which I am Winning This Week

1. I cleaned off the chair in my bedroom yesterday and found 2 hairbrushes, Abbey's stuffed elephant, and $6.57 in cash.
2. I let a lady cut in front of me in line at CVS because she only had one item, and then when she proceeded to have a 15 minute/utterly fruitless argument with the clerk about said item’s sale price being twenty-two cents less, I did not grow fangs or a tail.
3. I snipped the last of my peonies from the garden, gently laid them in a basket specifically designed for such a purpose, then arranged them in a charmingly old vase (pronouced VAAAAS not  VACE). They dropped half of their petals the moment I set that VAAAAS on the table?
4. I'm helping mama redo the guest wing to make it feel like hers now that we are permanent roomies.

translation...I'm enjoying the small things.

This is one lesson I may have never learned were it not for my own season of gray.

And it's amazing how, in a single moment of desperation, the atmosphere lifts and eight shades of pink can push through the once-frozen soil.

It's the summer season, baby.

just sayin'.



ramen noodle salad

6 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups shredded purple cabbage
3 cups julienned carrots
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 red pepper thinly sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 packages ramen noodles (seasonings reserved for dressing)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Dressing
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
seasoning from ramen packages

  1. In a large bowl, add green & purple cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, red pepper & green onions. Break up the ramen noodles and add to the cabbage mixture.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over ramen mixture and toss to combine. Top with sesame seeds and refrigerate 90 minutes before serving.
Notes
I use chicken flavored ramen noodles, but you can use any flavor you like.