Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Our Seventh Anniversary

Yesterday, July 10, Weber and I celebrated our seventh anniversary.  Sometimes it feels like we were just married yesterday and then there are times that I can't remember my life without him..  The geek in me particularly loved this anniversary because it's date is a palindrome,, 7-10-17.  This is a once in a lifetime occurrence…unless we live to be 155 and 160.  So how did we celebrate?

A few weeks ago Weber and I started asking each other what we wanted to do to celebrate this anniversary.  It was too hot to do anything outside.  We are both trying to be intentional about our food choices so an indulgent meal just because it was our anniversary didn't sound appealing to either one of us.  And then the decision was made for us…we needed to be home because a less than professional gutter installer was supposed to come back to fix a horrible job he did installing new gutters at our house a few weeks ago.  Fortunately, he said he'd call when he was headed our way. So we weren't on total house arrest all day.

So, we went o our favorite coffee shop for breakfast and maybe a caramel macchiato…or two.  We then went home and did a few chores.  Innthe afternoon, i had a pedicure while Weber went to Target.  We then went to Chipotle for lunch/dinner.  This was followed by a trip to the gym for our regular workouts so that we could treat ourselves to some frozen yogurt afterwards, without feeling guilty.   It was a perfect day…except for the fact that the gutter guy never did show up.

We so enjoy our simple everyday life that doing something different, supposedly special, seemed more like stressful than celebratory.  It felt funny coming to that realization.  And then I thought, what’s wrong with enjoying coffee and a breakfast sandwich together?  Or a simple dinner and a trip to the gym?  Or conversation over the evening MSNBC shows?  Nothing!  To be genuinely happy with the every day is such a blessing!

We did exchange a few non-traditional gifts.  What says “I love you " more than Lego, a camera lens, and Flintstones DVDs?  NOTHING!  These are perfect gifts!  Weber knows me well.  And, he enables all of my addictions...er, interests.

A funny thing about gifts and this being our seventh anniversary…one of the contemporary gifts for this anniversary is wool.  We could have gone yarn shopping to celebrate!!!  I like yarn too!!  I have no doubt that if I had told Weber that that is what I wanted to do on our anniversary, he would have made it happen.  That’s the kind of guy he is.  And I love him more than words can express.

Friday, June 30, 2017

And June Is Over!

Here is what my June looked like in a picture a day...

June is a few hours from being over.  We are now halfway through 2017.  And we are also closer to Christmas 2017 than Christmas 2016.  You have 177 shopping days.

The word that comes to mind when I look back at my daily photos from the month and I think about all the experiences that June brought with it is growth.  

The biggest event during this month is that Weber celebrated his 60th birthday.  There was no fanfare or big shindig, just barbecue and friends at our house.  It was a fun evening and a perfect opportunity to give thanks for the many, many blessing that we have been given.

One of the most obvious images of growth at our house was our Tower Garden.  It was filled with lettuce, celery, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  We have enjoyed everything but the tomatoes.  When we started to see the first fruits of the vine reach a good size, we checked them every day, watching for them to start turning from green to red.  The first one grew and grew and then disappeared.  As did the second one and the third one and... After finding what we are fairly sure were green tomato remnants, we assumed that some kind of wildlife, maybe squirrels?, were stealing the almost ripe tomatoes, so we covered the plants with a wide mesh net.  Along came more tomatoes.  They lasted longer making us think that we had solved our problem.  Nope.  The next batch of nearly ripe tomatoes are now gone too.  Our only option now is to get a finer mesh net.  We don't want to spray anything on the tomatoes because I'm not a fan of chemicals and our dogs are in the yard where the tomatoes are.  So, we'll see.  Maybe July will bring with it some tomatoes that we are able to protect from our neighborhood wildlife.  And keep your fingers crossed...so far nothing has touched the almost ready watermelon!

Thanks to our friend Paul, our library was finished this month.  Our number of books has not grown (yet), but the level of neatness and organization of the books that we have grew tenfold thanks to much more shelf space than we had previously.

I seem to have several food photos this month as well.  Perhaps this is why that word growth applies to me as well as the tomatoes! Actually, for the last ten days, I have been working to grow an exercise routine that will help me shrink a little...well, hopefully a lot.  Weber and I have made time for the gym an everyday thing.  I'm hoping that between now and when I go back to school in August that it will have become a habit that being back at work will not break.

And, most importantly, relationships with friends and family continue to grow.  I am thankful that I was able to spend both Weber's birthday and Fathers Day with my entire family.  I am blessed and honored that my friend Joni came to celebrate Weber's birthday with us and that her arrival coincided with Best Friends Day and her departure International Albinism Awareness Day.  We did our best to celebrate each of these occasions appropriately...with knitting and good conversation   and maybe a little food!

I am happy to say that June was a good month.  I am grateful for that since our spring was a little tough.  The unstructured days and freedom to do things that feed my soul almost anytime that I want to is such an amazing feeling!  Needless to say, I am enjoying having the summer off.  For the last 8-10 years, I have taught summer school.  I could definitely get used to this not working routine.  But, that will have to wait for awhile.

So for now...farewell June.  Welcome, July.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dear Universe

I was standing in the closet looking for a t-shirt to match my workout capris.  We all know that time on the treadmill feels much better when your clothes match.  Since tomorrow is laundry day and I've done my time on the treadmill 7 out of the last eight days, my clothing choices were limited…as in I had one pair of clean capris.  And as it turned out, my choice of a matching t-shirt was equally limited.  I pulled out my Human Rights Campaign shirt that boldly says across the front, ALL LOVE IS EQUAL.  

I turned to Weber and said that I was not sure that I should wear this shirt to our local recreation center.  Though Dallas county and the city of Dallas are forward thinking, the first tier suburb in which we live is known for is backward views on many issues of social justice.

But the t-shirt matched.

And, today marks the two year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s passing of Marriage Equality Act.

And why did I care what anyone thought of the message on my t-shirt?

I wasn’t worried at all about anyone’s opinions of me; I was concerned about someone trying to engage me in some kind of heated discussion.  I wanted my physical workout on the treadmill to get my heart rate up, not an intellectual workout.  

Then I decided that I was up for the challenge should the opportunity present itself.

Surely no one would say anything to me.  I was only entertaining a bunch of ridiculous “what if” scenarios in my head for reasons that I can’t even really explain.

Off to the city recreation center we went.

I have a favorite treadmill.  It’s in the middle of the row of eight.  The fact that it’s in the middle is not the important thing here.  What's important  is that it's right under the air conditioning vent.  This spot is almost always available when I go to workout.  It wasn’t today.  I should have known right then that the universe was trying to tell me something.  I opted for the treadmill on the end at the far left, right beside a major thoroughfare around the gym.  It’s a treadmill I’d never used before today.  An opportunity for a new perspective.

I put my headphones on, deciding to walk to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s album The Age of Miracles today.  Is “album” even still a part of mainstream vocabulary?  I got the belt moving on the treadmill and hit play on my phone.  I was on my way.  I felt good.  I was moving at a good pace.  I was enjoying the music.  I was, as they say, in the zone.

It was about thirty minutes into my walk/run.  I was hot and sweaty (since I didn’t have the benefit of normal A/C vent).  My hair was falling out of my ponytail and was sticking to my face.  My legs needed to be shaved.  But, one of the perks of having albinism is that my leg hair is white too so unless it glimmers in the sunlight, no one can really see it so I can get away with the stubble that you dark-haired ladies can’t. :-)  I tell you all of that to give you a visual…

Then next thing I know, a gentleman, probably in his sixties but I’m terrible at judging age so maybe not, rolled up right beside my treadmill in his wheelchair and was looking up at me.  My knee-jerk thought was Oh great.  Here comes the comment and discussion that I so didn’t want to have.  I was brave and polite and pulled off my headphones and said “hi.”

He hesitated for a split second and then said, “You are very pretty, especially your hair.”

That is so not what I expected to hear that I all I could say was, “Thank you.”  

He rolled himself over to a weight machine and I put my headphones back on and walked another two miles.

I don’t really know what that interaction was all about.  I don’t know what he saw.  I don’t know why he felt compelled to say something to me.  I don’t know anything about him.  What I do know is that what he said was not at all what I expected to hear.  I had mentally prepared myself for a negative interaction, one where I would be on the defensive.  In so doing, I was totally unprepared for the interaction that I had.

Dear Universe,

Thanks for the lesson.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Power Food

No fifty-something year old woman with no children or grandchildren around and who is fairly competent in the kitchen should be making a special trip to the grocery store to buy cream cheese, pretzels, Cool Whip, and Jello, all to be used in the same recipe...and be excited about it.  But, this is exactly where I find myself today.  I partially blame my Sifted Together blog buddy, Tracey, for this predicament in which I find myself.  She gave me a subscription to Taste of Home’s Simple & Delicious magazine for Christmas and this recipe is on the front cover of the June/July issue.  However, I can’t let Tracey take full blame for my enthusiasm surrounding the making of this recipe, most of it really is couched in realizing the power of food.

Let’s start with the individual ingredients…

Cool Whip - Most people won’t admit it, but almost everyone has a personal relationship with Cool Whip.  It may not be a basic staple in their diet, but I bet there is some family recipe that shows up at family holiday gatherings, probably made by grandma or passed down through her, that has Cool Whip as an integral ingredient.  And we all know that the holiday feast would not be the same without this dish. 

Cream Cheese - Cream cheese is the secret ingredient in  many dips, sauces, appetizers, and desserts.  I’m not much on eating plain cream cheese spread on my bagels, but I am as guilty as the next guy of using cream cheese for that extra oomph in a recipe, especially mashed potatoes.  But, don’t tell anybody!!!

Pretzels - I have to admit that pretzels, as far as I’m concerned, are a basic food group.  They are my favorite “chip” alongside a sandwich, afternoon snack with a Diet Coke, dessert when dipped in chocolate, and the perfect complement to a nice cold beer.  I’m not much of a drinker, but when I do indulge an adult beverage, my preference is a good beer.  That right there probably explains why I am excited about this Pretzel-Cool Whip-Jello recipe! :-)

And then there’s the Jell-O

I have a love-hate relationship with Jell-O.

As a child, Jell-O was a mainstay dessert at my house, made a bit more “healthy” with the addition of canned fruit salad.  Those of us of a certain age will definitely remember this combo.  And if you do, you will also remember that the flavor of Jell-O didn’t matter.  Whatever mom had on hand would do.  I was OK with this “dessert” except for the grapes in the canned fruit cocktail.  They brought the whole experience down a notch.  Grapes should not be canned under any circumstances!

I didn't carry on the family tradition of this Jell-O fruit salad dessert with my girls, but the canned grapes are not the reason.  My girls are the reason.  Let’s see if I can explain this delicately.  When I was pregnant, I had terrible morning sickness…and afternoon and evening and night sickness…and it lasted from conception to eviction.  My inability to keep any food down landed me in the hospital numerous times with both girls.  As any of you who have been in the hospital and on a liquid diet know, Jell-O is served at every meal.  I ate, and often returned, Jell-O in every color and flavor…except strawberry and cherry because they don’t give you red Jell-O in the hospital.  Apparently my prenatal Jell-O experience affected my children because neither one of them has ever really liked Jell-O.

Fast forward sixteen years, when I had suppressed the many episodes of returned Jell-O and other unpleasantries of pregnancy and childbirth, and Jell-O makes a fresh appearance in my life.

Weber, Offspring No. 2, and I went to Delaware to visit my dad.  While there, we had a lunch date with Dad's side of the family - his mother and my grandmother, his sister and my aunt, and one of my cousins.  We met at a local restaurant that was a cross between your typical local diner and Luby’s cafeteria.  As I was perusing the menu trying to make my lunch choice, my aunt and grandmother both said that I HAD to try the Jell-O Pretzel Salad.  For an instant, visions of canned grapes whirling around with pretzels danced in my head until I read the description of said “salad.”  Thankfully, no canned grapes were used in the making of this salad.  Frankly, there was really nothing about this side dish that resembled anything that I would call a salad.  Not only were no canned grapes harmed in the making of this salad, no fruit or vegetable of any kind was used, according to the menu description.  In this case, I think the word “salad” was attached in much the same way that “natural ingredients” is used on chocolate chip cookie packaging; these terms are meant to make us feel better about making not the healthiest food selections.  Whatever.  That day was about time with family, not about obsessing about food choices.  That said, I ordered the Jell-O Pretzel Salad and it was delicious!

After we returned home from that trip, I made the "salad" a time or two.  I hadn’t thought about it much since then until it appeared on the cover of the current issue of Simple & Delicious.  When I saw it, my first response was that I needed to make this recipe right now!  Usually when I thumb through food magazines, I make a mental note of recipes that I want to try.  Eventually I come back to them; or, I don’t.  I resisted the urge to go to the store and buy the ingredients right then, however that self control lasted less than twenty-four hours.  In the middle of the day, with a heat index of 105 degrees, Weber took me to the grocery store for pretzels, cream cheese, Cool Whip, and Jell-O.

I got to work making the “salad” when we got home.  Despite its simple ingredients, this is not an immediate gratification kind of dish.  The pretzel crust has to be baked and cooled completely before the cream cheese and Cool Whip layer is added.  This layer must then chill.  The Jello is made, cools, and partially sets before it can be poured atop the the pretzel and cream cheese base and sets completely.  The whole process takes a couple of hours

My creation was ready to be sliced and eaten about 10pm.  Jell-O Pretzel Salad…it was what’s for dinner.  Yeah, I completely forgot about making real dinner.  Sorry, honey!  Weber sat down with me and we enjoyed our treat together.  It was every bit as good as I remember even though I used black cherry Jell-O instead of the “traditional” strawberry.

As I cleaned up our dishes from this late night treat, I started thinking about why I was so intent on making this recipe.  I realized that it had little to do with the food itself - don’t get me wrong; this is delicious! - and more to do with the circumstance around which I first ate it.

That trip to Delaware and seemingly casual lunch back in June of 2009 was so much more…
  • It was my first trip back to Delaware since  my mother’s funeral in January of 2007
  • It was the first time I had seen my dad since I got divorced.
  • It was the trip on which I introduced Weber to my dad.
  • It was the first time in many, many years that I had seen my grandmother, aunt, and cousin.  (My mom was not much of a family person unless it was her side of the family.)
  • For the first time I saw my dad and his sister banter back and forth like brothers and sisters do, yet there there was an undercurrent of unmistakable and unconditional love.
  • That lunch was the last time that I saw my grandmother alive, the last time that I would be part of a four generation gathering of my family.
  • At the end of our stay in Delaware, despite me being forty-something, Weber asked my dad for my hand in marriage.

Looking back, I now understand why the Jello-O Pretzel Salad elicited such a visceral response in me.

And today as I sit here writing, I am facing the third Father’s Day without my dad and realizing that this day marks the fifth anniversary of my grandmother’s death.

Thank you for the memories, Jello-O Pretzel Salad.  You and I can enjoy one another remebering the first time we met and being thankful for those memories

Here’s to the power of food…

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Many Shades of Friendship

It's been a whirlwind of celebration and good times around our house for the last five days or so.  I know how blessed I am to be able to say that as there are so many people in the world who have nothing to celebrate and not much to call good in their lives.  My hope is that I'll never take any of the gifts of this life for granted.

A good friend flew in last Thursday to spend a few days with me.  It just so happened that Thursday June 8th was National Best Friends Day.  I got to celebrate well!   It was also the randomly assigned date that I was given to write a daily devotion to be shared worldwide by my church.  I have written here before about how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life to call friends...people near and far, old and young, male and female.  To be assigned National Best Friends Day as the inspiration for my devotion was perfect!  I'm not sure that I can call any one person my "best friend" because all of those that I call friends are near and dear to my heart and all add their own unique gifts to my life.

Here is part of the devotion that I wrote on and for National Best Friend's Day.   It is based on the  passage from Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10
It's better to have a partner then to go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps.  But if there's no one to help, it's tough! 
A Word of HopeToday is National Best Friends Day, "a day to honor that one special person you call your “best friend”.   This day is a time to show them how much you appreciate them, how special and important they are to you and how you cherish their friendship."
As an only child and thus never having a sibling relationship, my friends have always held an extra special place in my life.  Whether swapping my favorite marbles on the elementary school playground, lamenting the woes of adolescence, or sharing the joys and sorrows of adult life, friends have taught me that it is most certainly better to have a partner than go it alone.  In many circumstances of my life, I know that my friends have been the hands, feet, and heart of Christ.  And like Jesus, they are the ones who have shown me unconditional love, often when I didn't deserve it. Friends are those people with whom we are comfortable and willing to share trust, support, sympathy and empathy.  But, how often do we think about those particular words when we think about our friends?  
The Urban Dictionary defines friends in this way: [Friends are] "people who are aware of how retarded you are and still manage to be seen in public with you, people who make you laugh till you pee your pants, people who cry for you when one of your special items disappears. When you don’t have enough money to get an ice cream, they chip in. [A friend] knows all of your Internet passwords. They would never make you cry just to be mean."  
Though this definition may seem a bit trite on first reading, it exhibits trust, support, sympathy, and empathy.  It is, at its core, the picture of what we value most in those we call our best friends,  painted in a way that most of us can easily relate.

Yes, the official day to celebrate our best friends has come and gone; however, we can and should be thankful for those people and our relationships with them every day.  

Who are your best friends?  Do you see the hands, feet, and heart of Christ in them?  Can they see and feel Christ in you?  Do you see your friends as a gift from God?  Think about your friends today.  Tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.  Thank God for them.
If I had to name one best friend, it would be Weber.  He is the one that knows everything there is to know about me - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and is still willing to go to sleep next to me every night and wake up and stand by my side every day.  I'll be the first to admit that some days that is not easy!

One of the reasons that my friend Joni came to visit was to help us celebrate Weber's 60th birthday.  I have to say up front, he is not a birthday party kind of guy.  His dislike of birthday parties is less about the aging thing and more about the party part.  We had to have a little "come to Jesus" discussion about how life is a gift and allowing your friends to celebrate your birthday is a way to say thank you for that gift of life.

We spent Saturday evening, his birthday, surrounded by friends, family, and barbecue.  It's hard to be grumpy when your world is filled with such awesome people!  Banana pudding, instead of birthday cake, helps too!

And as if Saturday night's festivities weren't enough, we reconvened with many of the same people Sunday morning in church  to worship together and afterward to break bread.  Several of us were together again Sunday evening to watch the Tony Awards.  Yep...that's what friends do - celebrate together, pray together, eat together, relax together.  And sometimes we share hugs, tears, laughter, and hard truths.  Oh...and banana pudding!

Today, June 13th, is  International Albinism Awareness Day.  Though albinism is something I have lived with for my entire life, it is not something that I have ever thought deserving of a celebration.  It wasn't until about seven years ago when I became active with the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) that I allowed albinism to be more than just a part of me, but a part of me that is deserving of a celebration every day.

Through NOAH, I have many new friends with whom albinism was the commonality that brought us together, but our friendships are bound together by the things mentioned above - trust, support, sympathy, and empathy.  We are now the kind of friends that will cry together when one of your special items disappears (like those stitches on your sock gusset, Joni), lend money for ice cream (Becca), and hopefully will never make one another cry just to be mean!!!  Stealing your salad fork does not count as being mean, Becca! :-)

Here Joni and I are rocking our friendship and the albinism twin thing.  Lol!  We got to share most of International Albinism Awareness Day together before she headed home.

Thank you to everyone that I am blessed to call friend.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What If...???

If you ignore the weeds, eventually they will take over.  Just as if we allow people to make the same mistakes over and over and over again, the wrong or hurtful or dangerous ways will take over.  Why is it socially unacceptable to point out the error of one's ways?  Why is it wrong to acknowledge that making mistakes is natural.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Yes, even you!  When did it become a sign of weakness rather than a sign of humility to admit when we are wrong?  If not from mistakes, and even failures, how do we learn?  How do we grow?  How do we become better people?  Why do we consider a life lived unaware of our personal shortcomings to be a life of luxury?  

When did discipline, personal and parental, become passe?

When did relationships with power and money become blatantly more important than relationships with people?

It used to be that money, politics, and religion were forbidden topics of conversation even among friends.  What did people talk about?  What would Facebook look like if posts relating to politics, religion, and money were forbidden?   If the conversations that dominate are not about how we spend and/or waste our money, or debating whose religion is best and why most of the world's population is going to hell, or defending and criticizing political moves that have nothing to do with governing this country and everything to do with using, abusing and manipulating people so that a handful of undeserving individuals gain personal power, what would we see in our news feeds?  Lots of kittens and puppies?  That would be OK with me.

How did we get here?

Why are we still here?

Yes, we need to acknowledge and try understand the weeds.  We also need to learn how to tend our gardens...

...how to tame the weeds...

...how to keep them from choking out the roses.

Monday, June 5, 2017

About The Books

I said yesterday that I am a minimalist.  I don't like to be surrounded by a lot of "stuff."  I also said that the one exception to my own "if I can't use it right now then get rid of it" philosophy is books.  I like books.  All kinds of books.  Weber likes books too.  This is good for our relationship and bad for our bookshelves.  When we got married, we had limited shelf space.  We agreed that we would both purge our collections until our combined books would ALL fit on the shelves that we had...nothing stored in boxes or double-shelved.

That was seven years ago.

We have more books now.  We did not purchase shelve space at the same rate that we purchased books.  The books were double and triple stacked on the shelves and the floor.  We couldn't find the ones that we wanted.  I didn't even want to look at the shelves because it just made me sad.  This whole scenario was not pretty.  We finally decided that we needed to bite the bullet and do something proactive.  It was time for some new shelves.

Well...not some new shelves; it ended up being all new shelves.  We went the built-in route.  Fortunately, we have a very good friend who is very capable, talented, and more importantly, was willing to take on our shelf building project.

When it came time to install the shelves, we had to pull all of the books that were fortunate to be on shelves and add them to their friends on the floor.  Our library was a chaotic maze of towering stacks of books.  One false move, window-rattling clap or thunder, or cat who thought stack hopping her next new sport would cause the tenuous at best piles to be reduced to something that looked like a demolition site.

Fortunately the cat stayed away and the weather cooperated.  It was not until the new shelves started being moved in that said cat became interested.  I think she saw the new installation as six story kitty condos.  She spent a great deal of time choosing her perfect unit - checking accessibility and view from every possible location.

This photo makes "the neighborhood" look much more desirable than it really is.  There is just no truth in advertising!!!

Blueper B saw the the real deal and was not at all impressed.

He was not interested in renting a condo anywhere near here. Lol!

Once our friend got the shelves installed, my job of reshelving all of the books began.  I have no idea how many books we have, bu I do know we have approximately 160 linear feet of shelving, that's 1932 inches.  If we assume that the average width of a book is 1.5 inches and that most of our shelves are full, I'd say we have well over 1000 books.  That is a lot of putting book on shelves!!! Our goal was to get them on the shelves grouped in broad categories - poetry and prose, history,  biography, language, creativity, writing, photography and so on.  We will make a second pass and fine tune our categories and alphabetize the shelves a little later.  At this point, we just needed the books off of the floor and in some semblance of order.

Who knew that we had two copies of the Tao of Pooh and three of the Te of Piglet, Dr. Seuss titles in five different languages, two editions of Grimm's Fairy Tales - the happily-ever-after version and the not-so-happily-ever after earlier edition, an American history book with a publication date of 1865, family Bibles dating back to 1890, and a ridiculous amount of poetry.

Though it seemed next to impossible, my goal for today was to get everything off the floor and on a shelf.  This is where I was at lunchtime.

And at dinnertime...Voila!

We are just waiting on drawer and cabinet fronts.  I have a few little aesthetic things left to do, but for the most part I am done!  Even though things aren't alphabetized yet, I am confident that I can now put my hands on any book that I want in no more than a minute or two.  What a great feeling!

The dogs now think the real estate here is pretty nice.  That cat's final choice for her abode is a single cat residence in the form of an upholstered chair rather than in a multi-story cat condo.

Now to take time to relax and read, read, read!!!