life

A Successful Failure

I was a brand new blogger when I signed up for my first NaBloPoMo in 2014. I thought the challenge to extract something interesting out of every single November day might be fun.

It was fun. And it felt good to succeed.

Well done good and faithful blogger.

My daughter cringed. She said real bloggers don’t participate in things like daily prompts and NaBloPoMos. By real bloggers I assume she meant bloggers like Ann Voskamp and Glennon Doyle Melton.

I’m not a real blogger. I’m a real person who likes to blog.

So I signed on again in November 2015. My self-imposed assignment was to look at life through 1 inch frames.

Every day.

For 30 days.

Some of it was drivel, I confess, but again I met the challenge.

Success.

This year I thought NaBloPoMo would be a breeze since I wasn’t hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner as I had the previous two years.

So, again, I signed up.

I was clipping right along.

And then on Saturday, November 19 at 10 pm I had nothing to say.

I had been running on 5 hours of sleep/night for several weeks and I was profoundly tired. Profoundly tired.

Come on rally, I thought, you still have 2 hours.

But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.

I thought about looking for something interesting to re-blog. But my fried brain started to whine and my fatigued eyes kept slamming shut.

I thought about re-posting one of my old posts. But whenever I scan old posts I can never find a good one.

I wanted to earn that swig of Gatorade. I wanted to give myself a last-day-of-the-month high-five. I wanted to, once again, be a NaBloPoMo success story. 3 for 3.

I ALWAYS rally. ALWAYS.

But that fateful and exhausted night I made the decision to be the boss of my blog and just let it slide.

And slide it did.

It slid for two more days down that slippery slope.

And once you’ve murdered one three day block, it’s easy to kill again.

I failed to post six times in all during NabloPoMo 2016.

And it feels like success.

Success because my affection for you, my dear blogging friends, won out over my desire for perfect attendance.

I spared you an excess of drivel and that feels right.

I can high-five that.

Makes me feel like a real blogger.

So long November.

#fadedglory

 

 

 

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life

A Smoking Car on a Store-less Road

Back when I was in college my co-worker and I took the day off from our duties in the Fisheries and Wildlife office to take a road trip.  We were heading to Holland for the tulip festival.

I was a car-less student and her little MG midget was in the shop.  The brakes on it had gone out as she was coasting down a steep hill, at the bottom of which was a red light. The back end of a Lincoln Continental, already stopped at the light, stopped her.

So we took her mechanic brother’s beat up Camaro, on loan to her while he fixed her beloved midget.

Off we went, heading west on Grand River. Just as we approached downtown East Lansing, Karen suddenly made a sharp left turn into the parking lot of a small grocery store.

“Run in and grab as much baking soda as you can carry,” she said. “Don’t stop to pay for it, we’ll pay later!”

I had no idea what was going on but I obeyed. I jumped out of the car before it was completely stopped, ran into the store, ran out of the store and saw smoke.

Without saying a word we each tore open a box and dumped the soda onto the flames.

Tragedy averted.

As I was driving home from a meeting this morning, a car approaching in the oncoming lane was encircled in a cloud of white smoke.

I thought of Karen’s car and her quick thinking and I glanced around to see if there was a store in sight.  The road was deserted except for the two of us, a small airport to my right and residential streets to my left.

Pull over before you explode into flames, I thought.

The volume of smoke was steadily increasing as it passed and by the time I looked in my rear view mirror, the car was no longer visible. All I could see was a ball of dense smoke traveling at 40 miles/hour.

I knew the car was approaching a sharp curve in the road.

How can he/she see through all that smoke?

Suddenly I smelled something burning.

Pull over before you die of smoke inhalation!

PULL OVER AND GET OUT OF THAT CAR!

Karen knew her car was on fire before I had any clue. I didn’t see smoke until I came out of the store with the soda and saw it billowing from the opened hood.

Surely the driver of this morning’s car must have seen the smoke. Surely he/she must know that where there is smoke there is fire.

I wish the driver would have pulled over and let me help. I hope he/she is okay.

Needless to say, our trip to the tulip festival was aborted. We never even made it out of town.

Could we have gone into work?

Yes.

Did we go into work?

No.

We bought bon bons, went to Karen’s apartment and watched soap operas all day.

Anyone know the protocol for dealing with a smoking car on a store-less road?

Just in case.

 

 

 

 

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life

On the Threshold of Christmas

Our tradition has always been to cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

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But this year Netflix premiered Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on our annual Christmas tree day.

So instead of stepping directly from Thanksgiving into Christmas, we straddled the threshold; instead of bundling up and heading to the tree farm, we stayed in our pjs and parked ourselves on the sofa to marathon watch all four 90 minute episodes.

When I say “we” I mean my daughter and me.  Not the hub.

Six solid hours of Gilmore Girls with a brief intermission to walk the friends.

It was perfect.

Gilmore Girls was the weekly mother/daughter bonding date that took us exactly through my daughter’s adolescence. It began airing when she was in sixth grade and it ended just as she was graduating.

The show kind of reminded me of us – except Lorelai had her daughter at 16 and I had mine at 30. Lorelai gave birth out of wedlock, I gave birth in wedlock. Lorelai was hip and cute, I was not hip and only kinda’ cute.

But, Rory was smart and adorable and my daughter was smart and adorable.

It was just the two of them and they were close.

It was just the two of us for ten years and we were close.

When the reunion series was announced last summer, we started counting the days until we’d all be together again.

And it was perfect.

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And then this morning, one day behind schedule, we drove an hour to Nicholas Tree Farm and loaded ourselves into a wagon.

In search of the perfect tree.

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“Hey you guys,” I called them over, “how about this one? It’s nice and straight, and there is plenty of room between the branches for ornaments.”

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We had a winner.

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The blade was sharp, the trunk was slender and the hub had it felled in record time.

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Waiting outside for the return wagon.

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Waiting in the warming shack.

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Here it comes.

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Loaded back up with the loot.

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Shake, bundle and roll.

Then off to lunch.

#aliminalstepintotheyuletide

 

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family, the friends

Gratitude

I am not hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I am grateful.

Grateful to relax, drink coffee, watch the parade and eat cinnamon rolls. The parade – which I’ve been too busy in the kitchen to watch for the last several years – and the cinnamon rolls are Thanksgiving traditions.

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Grateful that I only have to bake my sweet potato rolls – made the dough yesterday – and roast a turkey breast – just in case.

Just in case because my 86 year old mother is a spaz. (No offense, mom.) And after 65 adult years of preparing, planning and eating Thanksgiving dinner she still worries that there won’t be enough.

As a result there is always waay too much.

We’ll call that another Thanksgiving tradition. And I’ll be grateful for the abundance. And for my mom – who is baking pies, making stuffing and roasting yet another extra (8 pound) breast in her own kitchen this morning. God love her.

In addition to the 26 pound bird my sister, the hostess, is roasting.

Like I said, abundance.

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But the thing for which I am giving the most thanks this morning is the good report the beagle and I received.

I took her to the oncologist yesterday afternoon for an acupuncture treatment and a six week follow-up x-ray.

After the x-ray the doc came in with Good News: The tumor has not grown! It is exactly the same size.

That’s a good start. Praying her next x-ray, in 3 months, shows shrinkage.

Considering she was only given 1 – 2 months to live 6 weeks ago, I’m grateful for the hope a 3-month follow-up appointment gives.

Hug your beagle and have a very Happy Thanksgiving all you Americans.

And just a plain great day everyone else.

#foroncemyThanksgivingmorningisnotchaotic

 

 

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life, Light

A House of Worship Where Worshipers Arise

The first thing I noticed when the hub and I walked into church Sunday morning was the joy. The place was abuzz with joyful greetings and  joyful conversations.

We were visiting the church affiliated with the Christian school at which the hub is an administrator.  It was their first Sunday in their newly remodeled worship center so we went in support.

The second thing I noticed was the diversity.

Diversity of color, diversity of socioeconomic status, and I suppose diversity of political opinions.

But I heard absolutely no political talk.

And that was refreshingly welcome.

The words, “I’m blessed” came from the lips of those who have a lot, materially speaking, and from the lips of those who have little.

It reminded me of the wonderful diversity at Saturday morning BSF leaders’ meetings.  Everyone is “blessed” there, too.

How is it that both these diverse groups can meet on Sundays – and brutally early on Saturdays – black, white, comfortable, struggling, liberal, conservative – with such joy?

I pondered and concluded that the joyful gather around a person – a Savior – rather than an ideology.

Or a need.

Studying John 6 these past few weeks, I noticed that some who were following Jesus wanted a political leader, they wanted to make him king. Others wanted free bread and fish.

They wanted Jesus to provide for their political and physical needs while all He wanted to talk about was their spiritual needs. So they started grumbling.

And many quit following.

“You don’t want to leave, too, do you?,” Jesus asked the Twelve.

“Where else would we go?,” responded Peter, “You have the words of life.”

Ah, to spend a couple of hours worshiping with those who want nothing from Jesus except life.

The pastor, who was reared in Africa – the son of medical missionaries – lived and served 22 years of his adult life as a church planter and leadership developer in Uganda.

“Worshipers in Uganda wouldn’t like these screwed down seats,” he said, “they’d want to be able to push them aside and dance.”

He was preaching Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Know” here is not restricted to mental activity. It is a visceral knowledge that goes deep into the emotions, into the “deepest stomach.”

That’s the kind of knowledge that elicits push-those-chairs-aside-and-dance worship.

The kind of knowing that the Lord is God that causes a diverse people to all feel blessed. To stand together joyfully.

In peace.

Toward the end of the sermon the pastor mentioned his little granddaughter.

What kind of a world will she grow up in?, he wondered.

And worried.

But then he caught himself.

She’ll grow up in a world with God.

God never changes – even as the world changes.

The same God who was with him and his family while they were living and ministering amidst wars in Uganda will be with her, too.

She’ll experience God in ways that he has not because she’ll experience Him in a different culture, a different context.

I liked that thought.

I like the idea that the same God is moving just as faithfully and just as powerfully in every generation, but in new and different ways, come what may.

It’s His story, not ours.

His story.

So why are we demanding, grabbing, protesting, threatening, terrorizing, accusing, slandering, backbiting, worrying, panicking when it’s His story?

May we simply gather in church and, God help us, as a nation around the One who created us all.

P.S. Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning gum off the bottom of lab tables.  Ew. Don’t stick your gum under your desk/table, youngsters, ‘cuz one day somebody’s momma is gonna’ have to scrape it off.

#elicit

 

 

 

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faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

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Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

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Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

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