Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grandma's Banana Puddin

No holiday would be complete without my Grandma Haley’s Banana Pudding. As a matter of fact, so family gathering would be complete without having a bowlful of this rich banana/custard/vanilla combination…..heavenly….the perfect end to a laaarrrge meal!

This holiday season, The Man and I hosted a Southern/Serbian dinner for a few of our friends. For my contribution, I made Chicken and Dumplins, Dressin, and my grandma’s Banana Puddin. Although I have a recipe that I love for Banana Pudding, I used the recipe I learned from her this summer….OMG…..perfect!

Here is the recipe:
(this is for a small batch, I doubled the recipe for my party and put it in a larger bowl)

2 cups of milk (warmed in the microwave or on the stove - prevents lumps)
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup flour
2 eggs beaten
Ripe Bananas
Vanilla Wafers - don’t skimp and get the generic - if you are in the south, use Jackson, otherwise any good brand will do.
Stick of Butter
Tsp vanilla

In a bowl, combine flour and sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir eggs into flour/sugar/salt until it makes a paste. Add a bit of warm milk to thin the mixture and pour into a medium saucepan. Turn on heat to somewhere between medium and low ( you have to gauge this - you don’t want lumps, but you don’t want to stand in front of the stove until your gray hairs multiply). Stir constantly (stirring with a whisk helps) to keep custard from sticking to the bottom. When the mixture is thickened, turn off the heat and add a stick of butter and vanilla. Stir until butter and vanilla are combined with the custard.

Find the prettiest bowl you own - I typically use cut glass bowls. These photos were taken at my Grandma's house and we used a square, handled white dish  For this recipe-the small batch, the bowl doesn’t have to be large….medium-sized will do perfectly. If the bowl is too big, your layers will not have a lot of custard. If it is too small, the bananas and wafers get lost in all of the custard.

Layer….vanilla wafers then custard then small slices of bananas (the important thing is that the wafers are on the bottom, otherwise it makes no difference). Layer a few times - end with a layer of custard on top and put wafers upright around the edge of the bowl, sunk halfway into the custard. I typically put a few wafers in a design on the top of the pudding.



Per my grandma’s tradition, I do not serve this dish cold (except for leftovers--which are amazing in their own right). I serve it warm or room temperature like a custard-based pie. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dream and Lucky

I had to write an allegory for my Literary Masterpieces class in our last test.  I kind of liked it and wanted to share - - by the way, my horses are named Lucky and Dream......  Enjoy!

Today, as I went out to the barn to brush my horses, I put on my coat of despair.  Winter is setting in and dark dreary days are ahead of me.  Bills are piling up on the counter and there isn't enough jingle in my pockets to satisfy them.  Lucky walked up to me and nuzzled my shoulder.  "Why do you despair?" he seemed to say...he smelled my coat in deep breaths and sighed, "I am here...you can ride on me anytime...wind in your hair....and be free."  He whispers in my ear...."grace...you have grace..."  Dream whinnied from the distance.  A half-broke filly full of energy, she prances across the field tail fanned out, bright eyed daring me..."Catch me....run after me....I am yours if you just try."  I take off my coat of despair, jump on Lucky and start chasing Dream....and I feel free.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Diary of an Angry Greek Woman

My first encounter with Medea was in the early days of dating The Man. He invited me to a movie, Medea Goes to Jail. He mentioned that this was a continuation of the Medea movie, Diary of an Angry Black Woman. I was *so* excited….I just love documentaries… the grit, the true life stories and this one sounded right up my alley. I pictured Africa…Johannesburg…women marching for equal treatment... When the first preview came on, my excitement came to a screeeeeching halt. *Oh* Tyler Perry is not an artsy indy filmmaker. Um…yeah… The Man kept glancing at me nervously at every punch line wondering, “why isn’t she laughing??” I kept subtly glancing at him, “did he just laugh at that?” Time moved in slow motion - the complete opposite of warp speed - I tried to smile and look cute…feign interest…wishing this movie theater served something a little more potent than milk duds…..

That was my first encounter with Medea. Imagine my surprise this semester when our assignment was to read Medea by Euripides. Tyler Perry just went up a notch in my mind. Medea? There is another Medea? I was instantly intrigued.

It’s an age-old story, really. Girl leaves her homeland…her family…her friends…to marry her hero - the celebrated Jason (as in Jason and the Argonauts). She helps him create his fortune by assisting him in his quest for the golden fleece. She is smart, beautiful, loyal…..he becomes her life….she has his children and is a devoted wife. They are the ultimate Power Couple--the Ken and Barbie of Ancient Greece. With her brains and his ambition, they can go places. That is…..until he traded her in for a new model….young, cute…..and a princess to boot. I can picture their conversation in my mind…..Medea: “But I got you where you are today - it was with my help that you succeeded.” Jason: “I would have succeeded with or without you…you really didn’t do that much to help…it was by MY hard work that I got where I am today.” I see Medea standing there….hearing those words that tore her heart….pleading with her husband to stay…not to abandon their long marriage. My heart starts to pound…my blood is reaching its boiling point…. Jason: “and just think…..it will be much better for the kids…..they will have little brothers and sisters who will be heirs to the throne….think of them for once…think of the opportunities it will give our children.” annnnnnd the Waterford crashes into the living room wall. I wonder - is he related to my X?? Early ancestor, maybe?? Jason: “I am sending you away - but you’ll have a nice house.” CRASH! Jason: “Why can’t you just accept this? You are so difficult!” CRASH- CRASH-CRASH-CRASH!!! Sister, I am there!! I am there in spades!!

Medea is devastated, hurt, angry, and alone. She has lost her husband, her friends, her house, and her lifestyle. She is one angry woman. She plots…plans….and manipulates her circumstances in order to bring him pain. She becomes a woman obsessed with showing the world how much he hurt her---to show the world what a bad father he is--to show the world that she is right and he is wrong. He was unfaithful not her….why is she being punished? She wanted to work on the relationship--he didn’t….the world needs to know that Jason…the revered Jason is a fraud. Medea looks for the way to cause him the most pain - - and she finds it….through his children.

In Euripides’ story, Medea plots to kill her children. I would be hard-pressed to find any woman willing to stoop to that level to cause their X’s that much pain. However, quite often I see women (and men) attempting to kill the relationship between their children and the other parent. It’s so subtle….a comment here and there about how unreliable they are, about their financial support, about their new girlfriend. I see them scheduling play dates, family outings, or girl scout meetings on the other parent’s weekend. She ignores simple, reasonable requests. She brings them late or picks them up early…..and visitation becomes a hassle in the children’s mind. Mom is happy because she feels vindicated because the kids chose to stay with her during Dad’s time.

I understand…..I am there sometimes….pick me not him….pick me not him!! Sometimes I just want to push the X off his pedestal like a kid playing King of the Mountain. Just one push…one quick hard push…. Why should he get to be the good guy?? It’s not fair!! I work hard to be a mom. I make the difficult decisions. I sacrificed for my family…stayed home to be a mom instead of finishing my degree and starting a career. But here’s the thing - kids need their dads and their moms. My new mantra is, “they are an X for a reason.” What he does now isn’t part of my current equation - he is my X-husband…..but he is not my kids’ X-father. He may not keep his house the way I would keep my house (holy cow, it would involve a bulldozer), he may not keep the children accountable like I would (just call him Mr. Cha-ching) and he may not date women I think are appropriate (I would prefer they be actual grown-ups) :)  but he is still their dad and I need to give their relationship the utmost respect.

Your kids may never see how he wronged you….how much he hurt you….how you are the superior parent. To be honest, although that is a gratifying thought, it’s not a healthy thought. Part of me wants my kids to see it, but part of me knows that if and when they do, they are going to experience my pain, feel my abandonment, and mourn the daddy they once knew who has now fallen off his pedestal. It’s not worth it. My vindication is not worth my child’s heart.

Just walk away knowing that he is an X for a reason…..and whistle a happy tune.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rant, Rant, Rant, Rant

I saw something today on Twitter that just made my blood boil! I considered responding, but on social media I try not to be too controversial….to be Miss Congeniality….to go with the flow….free speech and all that jazz. Besides, how can I say what I want to say in 140 characters--be short, concise and to the point without sounding like….. well… witchy.

“…..because the suburbs around #Indy are devoid of culture, diversity, & local flavor; our suburbs represent what is wrong with the US.”

Wow! That is one of those comments typically prefaced in a conversation by, “no offense, but….” and you immediately know that it is offensive.

So as a resident of zip code 46033, otherwise known as Carmel, IN, I am what is wrong with this country?? Or maybe not me personally, but my neighborhood, or maybe my township or let’s just say Hamilton County as a whole!! Wow - that is a pretty bold statement!!

In my experience, one can find groups of people devoid of diversity, culture & flavor in most any zip code. Let’s use Broad Ripple for example (not that I have anything against The Ripple, but it’s a good example to see my point of view). Many people would say that Broad Ripple is a center for diversity and culture in the city - - that is, people under the age of 30. If I go to Broad Ripple on any given evening, I see mostly white faces. If I go to the restaurants in Broad Ripple, same thing. Now BR has amazing ethnic restaurants, stores with cute hippy flowers everywhere, the smell of sandalwood and incense and beers for a quarter…but all I see are young, white people (and a few of us oldies but goodies reliving our past on an occasional night out). I actually see more diverse faces here in Carmel at Target than I do there.

Regarding flavor - I guess that is how exactly you define flavor. Growing up in the south, food was meant to be savored and had multiple layers of flavor and texture. I grew up with New Orleans, Memphis, and Dallas cuisine with a dollop of Mississippi Delta cookin in the middle. It was interesting to me a while back to hear a lady remark that southern food had little flavor….that it all tasted the same….fried. Seriously?? She had been eating at southern chains like Dixie CafĂ© way too long!! Southern food is bursting with flavor….and if it's not, we have a bottle of Tabasco right on the table to take care of that. If you expect to find flavor, you will find flavor…..if, however, you are looking for one certain flavor, you may not find it….and be disappointed. You may drive through our neighborhoods and see homogenous homes, but that doesn’t mean that the people inside them are homogenous….or devoid of flavor, culture and interest.

As to culture - culture is of the eye of the beholder. Why is “culture” defined as the dreadlocks, tattooed set ready to protest rally at a moment’s notice? Why is culture defined in one's zipcode - I live on Mass Ave, therefore, I must be cultured.  Can I wear a business suit and still be seen as cultured??  What if it was hiding my tattoos??  What if I cut my hair super short, dyed it blonde and wore men's trousers?  Would I be cultured then??  I am basically the same person with different window dressing....  What if I gave a million dollars to the arts last year and resided in Carmel??  Would I be cultured then??  What if I looked like your average, every-day American woman but who happens to love art, theater, dogs, books, and is learning French and Serbian to complement her basic rudimentary Italian so she can continue to travel the world with her backpack - Am I cultured??  What do I have to do to get into the cultured club (not to be confused with Culture Club and Boy George....and by the way....would HE be considered cultured??)  But I digress....

Is culture simply a prevalence of theaters? What if I don't even go to the theater....can I still be cultured?  Is culture defined by an abundance of people from other countries?

In Hamilton County, there is actually a large number of foreign residents - - just take a look at the soccer fields at Off the Wall Soccer and listen to how many different languages you hear. I have friends in Hamilton County who are Indian, Serbian, Russian, French, Greek, Irish, Spanish, Latino, Lebanese, Swiss, African-American, Turkish, Jewish, Gay, Workaholics, Housewives, Artists, Out of Work, Tree Huggers, Religious Far Right, Hippies, and just plain old whitebread Americans.

But my point does not lie in numbers. I am sure that within the loop, the actual numbers are higher. My point and my issue lie in the perception that the suburbs are what is wrong with the US. While I respect greatly the freedom this person has to say those things, I wonder if she would respect my freedom equally. I have overheard people speaking about the stupidity and selfishness of conservatives - somehow conservative ideals are much inferior, however, if a conservative were to espout these same comments, they would be seen as [gasp] intolerant and subsequently disqualified from the human race.

What is wrong with this country is that we don’t give a damn! That’s right - no matter what your zipcode is, what your color, background, gender, sexual orientation, whatever….we are so busy with our lives that we can’t stop for a moment and give to someone else. We will spend beaucoup dollars helping rescue dogs (albiet a great cause) but we will not help a starving homeless person or help an at-risk child with their homework. We see the suffering in countries such as Sudan, India, and Rwanda and turn a blind eye…not even allowing our hearts to warm up for a moment. Our hearts are cold and we get enjoyment out of attacking each other instead of working together to help others. That is what is wrong with this country. 

Sister Twitter user - I know men and women in the Suburbs who spend their extra time and their extra money (1) mentoring at risk girls, (2) helping under-served women in prisons and elsewhere (3) helping displaced women prepare for job interviews and telling them they are beautiful (4) building schools in distressed countries (5) tutoring children in homeless shelters and on…and on…and on…and on…. Don’t tell me that we, as residents of the suburbs,  are the problem. The suburbs are not the problem. Thought Nazis come in all shapes, colors and creeds - - if the only opinion you EVER find valid is your own, then you are closed-minded. I don’t care if everyone around you agrees with you…if the media agrees with you…if your mentors agree with you…..if you refuse to listen or RESPECT the views of other people…..if you refuse to RESPECT people with a different ideology than you….if you refuse to RESPECT people who live in a different zip code simply because of your PERCEPTION of them, then maybe….just maybe…you are the problem, too.

(picture me handing you a glass of a fabulous red wine as a truce offering)….

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Script

I was watching Must Love Dogs the other day with John Cusack and Diane Lane and the male lead character (boat making-man) makes a comment that women write a script for men to follow and if somehow they go off script, they are “out”….gone….kaput. Now, I have seen this movie several times and every time I hear that line, I am like……”whatever..”…..that is….until this last time. Listening to those words brought back a memory of a recent discussion the Man and I had.
The Man had offered to help me with a few yard projects over Labor Day weekend (I know----he’s amazing!!!) but, quite honestly, I was a bit skeptical of whether or not he would actually follow through. Now….I do want to give a disclaimer….The Man has always come through for me (unless catastrophe strikes) and any part of me that has skepticism comes from my feeling of being last on the list in my marriage. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for me at times, but I am working on it. 

I had to work that Saturday morning and we had plans for the evening, hence time was short for such a large project. The Man offered to come over in my absence and create the flower bed taking out all of the grass around my newly planted hostas, lilies, etc. Yay!! I was so excited!

Well….excited for a little bit. I wanted to remind him……OMG I was like a crack addict I wanted to remind him SO bad! I just knew he would forget….was banking on it!! My heart started beating a bit faster….I checked my phone….no word from him that he was at my house. I know he is going to forget….get busy…hang out…whatever and decide to do the project another day. I literally started getting upset, “he knows this is important to me…I knew he would forget.” So I waited…..and waited...and my recalcitrance to nag became an attitude of, “if I am important, he will remember.” My worries and more importantly, my expectations of him not coming through sent my heart rate through-the-roof!!

I get in the car, hands shaking, writing the “speech” I am going to give him when I get home and he is not there. I am going to call him on his cell--all aloof like I don't care about the stupid flower bed....  I wrote the entire speech…..and then wrote his response to my speech and my response to his response. By the time I got home, I was totally ticked! Why?? Because I wrote the script - cast the characters, plot, motives…the whole nine yards. I walked through my door ready for battle and saw my sweaty man…drinking a glass of iced tea and I would like to say that I melted. But quite honestly, it took me a few seconds to gather up my emotions inside myself. He looked at me, smiled and said, “you thought I would forget.” I said, “yes, I did.” The Man replied, “I will always come through for you, baby.” And it was then that I melted.

Moral of the story: Throw away the script! Shred it!! Burn it!! We seem to think that if we control the plot or at least know what is going to happen that we buffer ourselves from disappointment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember the last time you wrote your script? Remember?? When your self-fulfilling prophecy came to pass, you (that is…..if you are like me) probably said to yourself, “I KNEW IT!” By setting your expectation of disappointment early, the fire of your discontent is at full swing by the time the act actually happens. You have fanned the flames of anger preemptively. By scripting it all out, it makes it easier to check out because you are disappointed, to withdraw emotionally….to create a situation where the punishment doesn’t jive with the offense….a situation where the other person comes into play after you have been stewing on it for hours, days, weeks….and they ask what the big deal is (not knowing that you have been ticked off preemptively for hours now). Baby, that script ain’t no good--ain’t no good at all!!

If you must write a script, create the expectation of love and respect...of kindness and compassion.  Treat them as the people you hope they will be - expecting good things.  Buck Brannaman once said at a horse clinic, "treat your children as if they are already who you want them to be.  Treat them like they are intelligent, respectful, responsible and they will become intelligent, respectful, and responsible.  If you treat them like that are irresponsible, dis-respectful and stupid, that is what they will become."  The word become is crucial.  We are all on a journey...on our way to becoming our best selves.  Remember that the next time you get out your pen and start writing that script.  Just wait and see what happens and go from there. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Temptations....No Bake Cookies

The other day, I was desperate for chocolate.....absolutely, positively desperate.  I tried water, I tried wine, I tried healthy salsa, but my momma's no bake cookies were calling my name.  After posting a photo on facebook, I was asked for the recipe.....so here goes.  My momma calls them boiled cookies, some people call them prailines, some cow patties....no matter what you call them, they are sure to satisfy a hefty chocolate craving.  Luckily, the man took the rest to the office or I would have been in a chocoalte coma after 24 hours. 

Boiled Cookies

3 Cups of sugar
4 Tbl cocoa (I use Hersheys or Hersheys dark, although I use other higher quality cocoas for other things, the Hersheys work best for this recipe)
3/4 Cup whole milk
1 Stick of butter
Dash of Salt

Mix ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often.  Put out sheets of waxed paper (or aluminum foil) on your counter top/table top.  Bring mixture to a good rolling boil (more than a few boil bubbles, a nice hearty boil) and boil for 3 minutes.  (This is actually one of the few times I use a timer.....if they are undercooked, they won't harden.....overcooked and they are dry).  Remove from heat and add:
1/2 Cup peanut butter
2 Cups oats
1 Tsp vanilla

Stir briskly and quickly drip spoonfulls on your waxed paper.  Let sit until hardened. 

This recipe is so easy!  Let me know how you like it! 


Friday, August 20, 2010

Cooking with Grandma

Check out my guest post on http://www.recipelion.com/  Cooking with Grandma.  After reading it again, I am suddenly hungry!!! 

Here is the link.  Enjoy! http://blog.recipelion.com/guest-post-cooking-with-grandma/

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Introducing HRH, The Princess of Argyle

Introducing……..HRH, The Princess of Argyle.

Imagine if you would a little girl in a sparkly pink dress with layers of ruffles underneath. Her long blond hair is in ringlets with pink, silver, and white ribbons intertwined. Her tiny fingernails are painted a delicate pink with a smattering of glitter. She twirls sparklers and ribbons and sometimes big golden pinwheels. The Princess giggles incessantly and skips from place to place in her white patent leather shoes with frilly white socks (pre-labor day, of course).

Despite her frills and her sparkly frocks, the Princess desperately longs for adventure - to be found worthy - to be important. She wants to play an important part in the world - to offer hope and beauty - to console the suffering - to rescue puppies and kitties.

Not content to stand still and look pretty, the Princess has been known to pull on her daddy’s boots, slip on a piece of armor, and wield his heavy sword in mock battle. She dreams of the day when she can defend the family honor…..save the day…..and be seen as worthy just like her boy cousins.

Life goes on and she learns to use his shield - mostly to protect her heart….to hide the fact that she is shaking in her boots when conflict comes. Large shields are adept at hiding hot tears from her attackers. She learns that the sword can gives her power - power to be brave….to be heard….to be in control - but that sword can also pierce the hearts of others with wounds that sometimes never heal.

This Princess - this little girl lives inside of me. There are times when like Cinderella, she had worn rags and dreamed of better days and there are times where she has shined in all her glory. Sometimes I get protective and don’t let her shine - using the shield to hide her sensitive heart. Sometimes, I pull my daddy’s boots on, grab his shield and the sword so heavy I am not sure I can wield it…….saying…..be brave…..show your worth……show you are worth something….that losing you is painful……and I fight with all my might. I hold down my princess-heart emotions, refuse to see the heart of my opponent and be valiant.
Oh I talk a good game – I act brave and seem to approach things head on…..but deep down inside, I am still a little girl in a pink dress wearing her daddy’s too big boots and armor wielding a sword with all her might to valiantly protect herself from an evil king saying, “you’ll never beat me” all the while wishing someone would come riding up on a big horse, rescue her, and put her safely in the castle with a glass of milk and some cookies. This little girl longs to be brave, to prove that she is worthy…….but if she stops for a second, she will simply just break down and cry.

There is a song by a 90’s Christian group called Small Town Poets with a line that says, “If you let me love you, we’ll sit here and cry.” Sometimes that is all I want……

Can that happen?? Can I be brave and un-brave?? Can I be adventurous yet fragile? Can I protect and allow myself to be protected? It’s complicated……..but that’s why I am a Princess.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And the Moral of the Story Is.....

Isn’t this how it always seems to go???

I lovingly place a tomatillo plant in my garden this spring---my heart beating in anticipation of the pungent sauces I will make with my bounty. I water, I fertilize and take photos of the sweet Japanese lantern-like casings that appear after the flowers have faded.

Suddenly, I realize that Mr. Tomatillo has completely taken over my garden - spreading his tentacles through my peppers, my basil and my tomato plants--overpowering them, shading them, and just generally annoying them. I try to tame Mr. Tomatillo by pruning the ends, hoping that he will learn to play nice with his neighbors, but to no avail. He needs to take up all of the space in my garden….to touch the basil, hover over my precious tomatoes and torture my pepper plants (who have already been through so much with the great rabbit crisis)…..

I notice that the lanterns are turning yellow and falling to the ground with no fruit to show. C’est un problem! C’est mal! I rush over to my keeper of information, my Gateway laptop, and google, “problems with tomatillos.” As I scan the pages upon pages of information, I come to the realization that I have been duped. Mr. Tomatillo needs a mate in order to bear fruit….his flowers will not pollinate themselves, one must plant two (yes, two) plants in order to get the sweet green tomato-like fruit. Holy Jehosophat! Really?? Now why in the world didn’t Lowe’s let me know that in the first place…..just a little sign that says, “Hey….YOU…..city garden girl…..buy TWO plants!”

I spent about a week in denial…..all of my hard work……for naught. This unproductive plant has taken over my entire garden and what am I going to have to show for it?? Zip, zilch, nada…..sigh….*SIGH*

Today, I was a woman on a mission! My garden is wilting in the summer heat and something must give - the strangling, unproductive tomatillo plant. The Man and I go out into the garden…..me with garden loppers in hand and I set out to cut all of the spindly branches off of the plant.

When I was ¾ of the way through, The Man stopped me and asked me a simple question, “Hey….wait……isn’t this a tomatillo??” Right there on the pile of cut branches were budding tomatillo fruit. Now isn’t that just a peach?

Isn’t life like that?? Just when we have it all figured out and start hacking on some unproductive piece of our lives, we realize that we have simply been impatient.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Trampled Wildflowers

Sometimes, it’s easy to write about the difficult things….it’s easy to look back afterwards. There is a lot of fear involved in “real time” interactions….fear that if I admit my stuff, then their inappropriate actions get a “pass” because I was momentarily insane….because I overreacted. I want it to matter that I am hurt…..I want it to matter that my feelings look like little trampled flowers in my garden…wilted…. yellowing… crushed.

As I mulled over these things this morning on my run, I realized that this fear is what keeps us from forgiving others. We hold on the slights, callous words…the actions that hurt our hearts because we desperately want our hurt to matter. Forgiveness feels like one big eraser….erasing their actions forever…but also erasing our hurts. If their actions aren’t remembered, then our crushed and hurting hearts are forgotten….. But WAIT!!! I want to say!!! Want to shout out from the rooftops…..WAIT!!! My heart is still in pieces….it’s shattered all over the floor…crushed. Every time I try and pick up the pieces, one pricks my finger and I bleed all over again….hurt all over again. Better to leave the pieces on the floor as an altar to my hurt….

Here’s the beautiful thing, dear one - if we refuse to keep a record of their actions….if we decide to forgive someone who has hurt us, our feelings still matter. It mattered that we hurt, that a wildfire savagely destroyed the beautiful flowers in our heart. Our hurt is not forgotten…but we need to treat it just like that…..our hurt….and nourish our souls back to health…allowing the flowers to grow again. Although forgiveness may erase their deeds, it does not erase us along with it. As long as we hold on to the offenses they have committed, keeping a precise record of wrong, we are hurt and disappointed over and over and over again. If we let it go, we are free from the cycle of hurt….the cycle of rejection…the cycle of disappointment.

So forgive even when you want to hold on to the hurt. Forgive and live your life in a beautiful way, not waiting for the next disappointment…but instead, living in the moment of joy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pandora's Box

“I just feel like I can’t get a break!” My girlfriend was discouraged - she had her fair share of hardships in her 30-someodd years of life. Life felt so unfair (as it often is) and she didn’t want much - just some space to breathe….and be happy.

Have you ever felt crushed under the weight of life--like you are squashed under a heap….one thing….and then another…and….yes….another. Health problems….car problems…..kid problems….love problems…..the faucet breaks….then the toilet…..then you spill your coffee on your white carpet…you get a call from your child’s teacher… you forgot a credit card payment….your X let you down….again….. There have been times in the last five years where no amount of tagalongs, ice cream….or even wine could take the stress away (but oh I have tried!!)….

When it seems the whole universe is against you, how do you hold on? How do you not get trampled under the weight of the world?? I had to ask myself, What keeps me going when I am running on fumes???? The answer is Hope --the hope that my struggles are only for a season….that life will be beautiful again…..I will laugh again….Hope that I will be okay. The hope that an argument with my man is just a disagreement and not a sign…..the hope that my finances will someday improve….the hope that Junior will listen to me and not buy that crazy-fast motorcycle (hey….a woman can hope)….

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book that mentioned the myth of Pandora. It’s been a while since I’ve studied mythology, so being the expert Googler that I am, I Googled Pandora myth. Now, we have all heard of the term, “Pandora’s Box….” and to the best of my recollection, it seems to be used in terms of opening a can of worms…..but the story of Pandora is way more than one of a foolish girl whose curiosity got the best of her….the story holds the key to coping with all of cruddy stuff life sometimes throws at us….the key to dealing with the unfair, the harsh, the things that beckon us to become bitter.

We have to start with Prometheus…..who saw man shivering down on Earth at night, eating raw meat and generally being miserable. Prometheus felt sorry for men so he arranged for them to have fire. That all seems nice enough…..except that the Gods up on Olympus had forbidden man to have fire as they believed that man would misuse fire and destroy with it. Prometheus knew that men would misuse it, but thought that the good outweighed the bad…..so he tricked Zeus and smuggled fire from his temple inside a hollow fennel plant (fennel is so versatile). Zeus was livid……absolutely livid that his will could be so blatantly disobeyed, so he sought to punish Prometheus and man.

Zeus called Aphrodite to pose while Hephaestus made a clay figure of a woman. He brought the statue to life and granted her with gifts….beauty, charm, cunning, wit, eloquence, deceit, skill, and curiosity. Zeus gave her an urn and said she was to never open it. Zeus offered Pandora as a wife to Prometheus. Prometheus (a pretty sharp cookie) knew it was a trick and declined…..but his brother (not the sharpest crayon in the box) took Pandora as his wife and they settled down in the countryside in a cute little ancient bungalow with a white picket fence…..and all was well in ancient times….. That is…..until the urn started to call her like an opened package of Oreos in the pantry. I can see her now…..walking up to the urn….walking away…..sitting on the couch….reading a book….walking back to the urn….thinking maybe one quick peek (you know……trying to get away with eating only one of the Oreos in the package)….just a quick peek…..and she opens the lid…..nothing happens for a second or two…..her guard lets down…..and then……all of a sudden….every hardship, every calamity, every evil imaginable rushes out of the urn to run amok on the earth…..toil, greed, illness, trickery, theft, mistrust, disloyalty….murder….pain…. all escaped. Panicked, Pandora tries to close the lid quickly, but her fingers fumble and the calamities are flying out so fast! Finally, she gets the lid secured on the urn……only one evil left in the jar…..hopelessness. Utter hopelessness did not escape - leaving hope as the only defense against the hardships of this world. Hope.

There are times that I do not embrace hope…..that I lose sight of hope….that I wallow in the unfairness of life….in how hard life is sometimes. But then….I see it….the bright light of hope at the end of the tunnel….just a pinpoint of light sometimes. But I know that hope never fails if I entwine myself in its safety….if I refuse to become bitter….if I don’t harden my heart to hope. That is what gets me through - Hope.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grandma's Recipe Box

I just returned from spending ten days in Arkansas, my childhood home. It’s been a few years since I have been able to spend that much time with my family and it sure felt good! Being around my family is a reminder of my roots….not just with good southern home cookin’ but a reminder of the legacy of those who came before me…..who shaped me into the creative, complicated woman that I am. I got to spend a day with my Grandma Haley cooking up a storm…..purple hull peas, fried okra, fried corn, banana pudding, and, of course, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. My childhood home is a place where neighbors, family, and friends bring over their extra produce….simply to share. Both of my grandmas looked first to what had they in their pantry and created dinner from there. I think that is where I developed my cooking style….one of creating dinner as I go after seeing what I have on hand and adding whatever seems beautiful.

One morning after Daddy and Darlene cooked breakfast (French toast, bacon, tomatoes, eggs….no wonder my clothes are a little snug right now), we set to looking for my Grandma Jean’s pickle recipe. We pulled her recipe boxes out onto the table and went through them one by one. Seeing my grandma’s handwriting took me back to a time where I sat on the red iron stool watching her cook. She would explain the how’s and why’s of what she was doing and I would write down her instructions one by one. Sitting next to Grandma Jean making biscuits, dumplings, pies, is where I learned cooking was not science but art. One has to “feel” the dough, taste the soup, and add a little bit here and there. Cooking never seemed to be a chore for her…..it was her art…..her contribution to her family…her place to be creative.

While going through those walnut stained boxes, I found a couple of writings. Grandma Jean wrote from her heart and (in my opinion) wrote to work things out in her head (much like I do now). I didn’t realize that she was a writer until I visited her as an adult several years back. Grandma Jean was nearing the latter stages of Alzheimer’s and I felt the need to come for a visit - just the two of us. Sometimes she recognized me and sometimes she didn’t…….we would sit on the porch and wait for Grandpa to get home (he had passed away several years before) and plan our dinner. She would rail about how her kids took away her car saying she was, “gonna take a switch to them,” when she saw them…..and then told me how much her children loved her. Jean had moments of great lucidity where she told me that she thought she was going crazy….that she knew she forgot things….tears would fill her beautiful blue eyes and she would look out the window for Grandpa to come back.....lucid moment gone. She had moments of playfulness when she said we needed to go shopping and spend all of my daddy’s money - which we did - the first shopping outing she had allowed in years. My Grandma was a wise woman….wise in the ways of the heart. As I child, my feelings would get hurt and I would run into another room, find a place on the floor and cry where no one would see me. No one followed me…..and in my little girl mind, it meant that nobody cared….and I would pout. Grandma would find me there hiding between the bed and the wall and tell me how much I was loved….that my daddy loved me and my aunts and uncles loved me…and that God loved me. She never once told me to stop crying…..to stop feeling….she just directed my thoughts to the true nature of things. I loved my Grandma!

Jean was the refuge for many a “problem” child. She would have distant cousins come live with her because (quite honestly) the parents (or the grandparents who were raising them) needed a break. Grandma Jean was firm...she would grab a flyswatter or a switch in a flash or even a glass of cold well water if needed - she could throw a shoe at a misbehaving dog and hit him from 20 yards away...but she would “love those kids like the dickens,” (as she used to say).

Sitting at that table with my Daddy last week, I came across this writing:

Why Fish bite the Worm on Your Fishing Hook


Father like mother loves their little children and little children loves father as well as mother.


Who? has the right to say no you can’t have them.


Both mother and father loves their children. If they, mother and father don’t, they are no parent at all.


But confusion can and will destroy a child’s faith in both mother and father if they are kept away from one or the other. Hate comes in. So in the end what you have is they grow up loving no one, believing in no one, believing that both parents did not care about them. So there, why bother? Sooner or later they will end up like mother and father, caring for no one, just about themselves. Maybe they will get a good job and maybe [meet] a nice person and learn to care about them. And maybe they will marry him or her. But take care and open your eyes and want & will to learn about love and caring-not only about the one you found, but about the mother and father and especially about the little children because they will be grown soon and need to learn to love and care for other people. We are all God’s children and He cares about you and me and every person.


Open your eyes and heart. You are needed. Open your arms.

Grandma had seen so many hurting people using their children as weapons - not allowing them to spend time with their X - not allowing their children to know that their X loves them. She saw the damage it did to the children…..how it shaped their ability to love and to care about anything. Children need to learn to love and learn to care about other people…..even when it is not easy….for us or for them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - My Kettle Korn Addiction

Thank you to my new favorite recipe blog http://pinchmysalt.com/ for inspiring me to have my own Wordless Wednesday post. 

My Kettle Korn Addiction

Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome to the Rockies!

Sometimes I just blow it! I make a mountain out of a molehill…..sometimes a whole mountain range….Welcome to the Rockies, folks….it’s tough drivin from here on out! I judge my reactions and wonder if I have absolutely lost my mind. Why can’t I get it together and act a little more…..mature and grown up?? I don’t mean for things to fly south…to escalate into an argument the size of Mt. Everest…it’s just that things seem to take a life of their own like Mr. Toad’s wild ride…once you are on…it’s on.

Sometimes, I think I am the only one who does this - who gets her feelings hurt and withdraws and hides to pout and nurse my feelings. After a while, I look around and nobody’s noticing that I am pouting….as a matter of fact, they are quite happy to enjoy their day. DON’T THEY SEE THAT I AM TRYING TO MAKE A STATEMENT?? Don’t they see that I am hurt? How can this be? I am the princess of all that. I mull over every single reason for this oversight….and…..BINGO…..I’ve got it…..they just don’t care. Well FINE, I don’t care either….as a matter of fact…..I am going to not care more than them….I am going to not care 10 times the amount they don’t care….as a matter of fact….to prove how much I don’t care I am going to sit right beside them, shake my foot and not say a word to them……or maybe a curt fine every once in a while. Just stare straight ahead - eyes locked on the tv, the road, my coffee cup…..see how much I don’t care.

Am I like 14?? Holy cow, Becky!!! I have gone from feelings hurt to “you don’t care” to “I don’t care” in 0.6 seconds. The only place to go from there is the Rockies….the fight….the wedge driven between two people. Have I not learned anything in the last 5 years….or in the 16 years I was married?? It doesn’t work.

The problem lies in that I desperately want to be liked….to be adored….to be cherished, respected, loved, cared for. I want everyone to like me….the mailman, the paperboy, my neighbors, my friends…..The Man’s children and….well…even his X. I walk into a room full of strangers and a momentary fear grips me…..will I be accepted? Will they judge me for talking too loud, too much…not enough? Will my words be respected or seen as trivial? Will they want me to come back? Worry…worry ….worry…worry!!!

The question is, though, is my sensitivity something I need to change or something I need to manage? Sometimes I want to cut the nerve endings to my feelings so they won’t get tramped on…..but then again, those deep rooted feelings are what allow me to love, to forgive, to understand…to see beauty and feel it down to my toes. Maybe I just don’t need to be in another relationship……maybe a committed relationship is exactly where I need to be….. the uncertainty makes me want to sprout wings and fly….fly far away…fly to Tahiti, lie in a hammock and drink a mai tai under the Pacific sun.

I don’t know the answers…but I do know that I hate it when I blow it!!! I hate it mostly because when I do….sometimes I hurt those I care about and cause their hearts to ask the same questions I am asking now. Love is patient….love keeps no record of wrongs….love always hopes, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It is kind, doesn’t look for evil and is not proud. Love never fails….even when I do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Lesson in Forgiveness

I just finished reading a book by Immaculee Ilibagiza about her experience in surviving the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990’s. The book, Left to Tell, is an inspiring story of survival, love, and learning to forgive those who have caused immeasurable pain.

Forgiveness……I remember that word. It means, in essence, that the other person doesn’t owe you anything - there is no debt to be repaid, no suffering required, no payback. Forgiveness is not forgetting, but it’s more of a remembering without malice. Many times, forgiveness is a process and sometimes you find yourself back at the beginning when you were about to “win” the game. Forgiveness is not easy…..especially in the case of my X where I find myself having an endless supply of new things to be ticked off about and all of the old patterns and ancient hurts resurface.

Reading the words of Immaculee, I find myself drawn to her struggle - drawn to how honest she is about the difficulty in forgiving. Immaculee had decided in her heart to forgive former friends who brutally murdered her family, her neighbors, her schoolmates. She seemed to have already won the battle of forgiveness….passed into the other side….taken the high road. But then, after the genocide is over, she visits her family home. She writes:

As we drove away from my home, past the unmarked mounds of dirt that covered Mother and [my brother], I felt the bitter, dirty taste of hatred in my mouth…I looked at the faces peering at us as we passed, and I knew with all my heart that those people had blood on their hands - their neighbors blood…my family’s blood. I wanted the soldiers to douse Mataba in gasoline and let me light the match that would reduce it to ashes….My soul was at war with itself. I’d struggled so hard to forgive, but now felt duped for having done so; I had no clemency left in me. Seeing my home in ruins and visiting the lonely, forgotten graces of my loved ones had choked the life out of my forgiving spirit.

For me, the most difficult part about forgiving is the fear that my pain will be forgotten - that all of my tears would be for nothing…they wouldn’t count anymore because everything will be “okay.” When the chalkboard of offenses is erased, my tears and my hurt go with it. Sometimes, I just want my pain to matter….to be important….to be remembered. The hard part is that pain takes a lot of energy to hold onto. Have you ever tried to hold onto a cat that desperately wants to flee? Holding onto hurt and pain is like holding onto that cat - it takes a lot of energy – energy that sucks the life out of your heart.

Although I can’t imagine forgiving my former friends and neighbors from brutally murdering my family, I do know what it feels like to forgive a former friend for her part in tearing apart the nice little life I had built for myself and my family. To be honest, the hurt was exhausting and holding onto it kept me angry and bitter for a good long year. I am not by nature an angry and bitter person. One day, I woke up and knew it was time….time to forgive. I drove to her house, heart thumping loudly, knocked on her door, and said….”I just don’t want to hate you anymore.” We talked for a long time sitting on her living room floor. She cried….I cried…. I finally had to ask, “Are you even sorry? Did my hurt matter to you?” Honestly, I didn’t feel as if my hurt mattered to anyone - I felt abandoned…by my husband, by friends, my church. Since my X was a worship pastor, we had been cast out of the church…my friends felt awkward around me…and although I tried to shelter my teenage children, they heard the rumors and they were hurting. My carefully crafted life was in ashes, but to stay there amidst the ashes…to build a memorial there…to camp out on the shore of bitterness and hurt would be resigning myself to a life of bitterness and hurt…so I had to choose. What do you want, Becky? A life where you are totally pissed off at your X about what he did or did not do? Is that what you really want?? Do you want to be one of those people who have to get in a snarky word at every turn--to prove that I am the victim and he made the biggest mistake of his life when he lost me? Really?

When Immaculee saw the man who led the band of murderers in her village - the man who killed her mother, father, and brothers…not just in a night of mayhem, but who actually hunted them down and killed them. He had hunted her as well - wanted her family’s property as his own. When Immaculee came face to face with her former neighbor…the father of her childhood friends….the brutal murderer of her family, she touched his hand lightly and quietly said, “I forgive you.” The politician in charge of arresting those who committed these atrocities was livid! He wanted her to spit on this man’s face…to shame him…to exact vengeance. When he asked Immaculee why she would forgive such a man, she replied, “Forgiveness is all I have to offer.” She had no family, no money….only forgiveness…but in offering that forgiveness, she gave herself something that money can’t buy - a whole heart….a heart that can love again, hope again, trust again. By forgiving, she allowed herself to live.

I want to shout it out to every ex-wife out there - Live!!! Move on!! Forgive!! Make your new life beautiful and let your ex do the same! May I remember that lesson myself every single day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Picnic Fame

My love affair with the picnic began when I was a small child, when we would make pimento cheese sandwiches and cookies, throw them in the ice chest with some cokes and head to the lake for the day. Later, as an adult, I was introduced to a whole new level of picnicking at Symphony on the Prairie…..what I affectionately call frou-frou picnicking….with real wine glasses, serving bowls, cloth napkins, candles, cheese boards, and a beautiful spread. I adopted the practice of frou-frou picnicking with gusto….developing my own picnic style….finding accessories along the way….baskets, cheeseboards, wineglass holders for the lawn….

Last year, the Man and I decided to take our frou-frou picnic to the infield of the Indy 500. I had always sat in the stands for the race, but was intrigued with the idea of a day-long picnic watching pretty cars go by at 200 miles per hour. Now the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn’t allow glass containers, so we had to get a bit creative. I tend to be a *bit* of a wine snob, so boxed wine was out of the question. The Man and I wandered up and down the liquor aisle until we found it…..a box of pre-made margaritas. It was small enough to put into my small cooler so we were set!! We put my pink-striped tablecloth in the picnic basket, along with my amber polypropylene margarita glasses and a deck of cards and created our picnic fare. We cubed gouda and cotswolds cheeses, stirred up some fresh guacamole, rolled up roast beef and cheese pinwheels, and made our famous Tunisian Cous-Cous Salad. Since it was quite toasty outside, for dessert we made a fruit salad with strawberries, Marscapone cheese, and walnuts. It was a feast fit for a king!!!

At the track, we found the perfect picnic spot halfway up the berm on Turn 3. We spread out the pink tablecloth (please don’t judge him for the pink…..he was just makin’ me happy!), arranged our fest just so, and poured ourselves margaritas. Life is good!!! A voice behind me shouted, “are those champagne glasses?”

Read the rest of the post on recipe lion:  http://blog.recipelion.com/guest-post-picnic-fame-from-becky-p-divorced-diva/

Check me out on Recipe Lion!!

Hooray!!  I have been asked to become a guest blogger on a recipe site.  I guess all of those hours spent cooking have worked their magic!  Check out the Recipe Lion blog page at:  http://blog.recipelion.com/

Here is a copy of their announcement:

RecipeLion is pleased to introduce a new guest blogger! Her name is Becky, and she has an awesome blog of her own called The Divorced Diva’s Guide to Survival.

Growing up in central Arkansas, Becky was greatly influenced by the Creole cuisine from Louisiana, Mississippi delta rice-based dishes, Texas BBQ and, of course, the flavorful food of the south. She watched her grandmas create flavorful dishes from food they raised and grew on their farms and learned at an early age the age old wisdom in entertaining…if you have enough good food, everyone is happy. Becky’s travels throughout Europe and Asia have refined and expanded her culinary horizons.

Becky raised her two children on a 650 acre farm in Rush County, Indiana where they raised horses, dogs, cats, cattle, chickens, ducks and sheep. Now that her children are grown, Becky lives in Carmel, Indiana where she scours local farmers’ markets for the freshest produce, grows herbs, tomatoes, and peppers in her back yard garden and supports local producers and resellers of fine foods. When she is not cooking and drinking fine wine, Becky is a Realtor at the Dream Home Company in Indianapolis.

Check out her blog, The Divorced Diva’s Guide to Survival.

Welcome, Becky!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Toes on the Ledge

This morning, I laced up my Rykas and went for a run on the Monon determined to have a good run. The Monon has to be my favorite place to run. Unlike running on the sidewalk by my house, the Monon forces me to unfocus…to get into the zone of running. There are no cars zipping past….no houses, schools, stores. It’s just pavement, trees, and little chipmunks zipping under my feet.

My iPod shuffle creates a running mix of my favorite songs and I run...one footfall at a time….step….step…step. My right brain kicks into overdrive and I just start thinking….not solving anything, but simply musing and mulling.

My little white earbuds bring the words of David Gray’s song, Breathe, to the forefront of my mind. I listen to the lyrics and contemplate.

Wink, wink and the moment’s gone


And then the doorbell rings.
Somebody asks you, could
you spare a little time
to feel the weight that’s mine


to lower down your guard.
Yeah, that your heart gets snagged,
caught in the wheels and dust dragged.
Dangled o’er the edge….breathe.


You feel you’re in too deep,
so offer up some crumb
and drop it in the tin,
then slither back within
your crenelated wealth
your educated self
your family, your rude health
all the joy it brings.


Aren’t we forgetting something?
Feet out on the ledge, feet on the ledge.
Breathe.


Then in the heat of noon,
it finds like some dog
got parked up in a field
hermetically sealed
and scratching at the windshield
and howling at the glass
at anyone might walk past.
Were you not aware?

Breathe, the sea of broken lives
mechanics, doctors, housewives.
Feet out on the ledge
Breathe

Feet out on the ledge….feet out on the ledge…..breathe…..breathe. Boy have I been there!!! On the ledge….wanting to end a relationship, to quit….Have you ever just wanted to quit?? Quit your job, quit being a mom, quit being a daughter, sister, friend, neighbor. Feet out on the ledge, suffocating in disappointment…suffocating in the fact that I disappoint others….surrounded by the sea of broken lives…..breathe, Becky…just breathe!

What keeps me going when I want to pack my bags and fly to Tahiti?? What keeps me still when I want to run? Grace!! Grace is air for the soul to breathe. A kind word, a sympathetic ear, a hug, a friend who loves me knowing that sometimes I am a jerk. Breathe Becky…..breathe in the air of grace!

My feet hit the ground in rhythm of the song….crunch…crunch…crunch. Running….it’s what I do. Things aren’t going well, I hit the door…I escape…mentally, emotionally, physically. I hide….sometimes in full view…mostly because I am afraid. What if they see the real, imperfect me and cast me away?? Toes on the ledge……breathe.

Grace is the fluid that keeps relationships working well…..it’s the oil for the engine, keeping things running smoothly. When grace is freely given and freely received, there are obstacles to get over, but lasting damage is minimal. Grace is allowing myself to love and encourage when the other person doesn’t really deserve it…grace is knowing their annoying tendencies and not judging them for it. Grace keeps no records of wrongs, always hopes, always protects. Grace allows the other person to be herself in a healthy manner and allows space to breathe whereas a legalistic approach to a relationship is suffocating.

Growing up in-and-out of church, I heard preachers speak about “works based faith.” You know, where you have to “work” your way into the pearly gates through a series of doing good things and avoiding bad things. It’s a never-ending list of self-improvement done not because of great love and respect but out of obligation. I think human relationships suffer from this same viewpoint - we do things out of obligation…simply because of our obligation….and we resent the hell out of it! We expect others to do things out of obligation - we manipulate them (girls are especially good at this) to see things our way, we cajole, threaten abandonment, and bring in the big guns….the giant guilt trip….and people resent the hell out of us when we do. When we operate in obligation, we “offer up some crumb and drop it in the tin then slither back within.” We give a pittance to the other person and return to our hiding place. As David Gray says, “Aren’t we forgetting something?” Breathe……grace.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blending

So the topic on my mind today is family blending.  My girlfriends and I have spent many an hour talking about the successfully navigating having a relationship where children (even adult children) are involved.  I have learned through these discussions that everyone has different expectations in blending families.  Does anyone out there have success stories or even tips of what not to do that they learned the hard way?  What expectations do you have in blending?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Do I Look Chubby???

So last night, The Man and I had a conversation that went like this:

Becky: “I just saw a photo tagged of me on Facebook - I think that outfit made me look chubby…..why didn’t you tell me it made me look chubby??”
V: “I couldn’t tell you that”
Becky: “Well…..do you think I am chubby?”
V: “Do you think you look chubby?”
Becky: “I want to know if you think I’m chubby.”
V: “Of course not - but the question is whether or not you are happy with yourself”
Becky: “Is that code for saying I look chubby without having to tell me?”
V: laughs “No….it’s not code….can we change the subject?”
Becky: “But I want to know…… Would you tell me if I was?”
V: “Babe, this is a no-win for me…..there is no way I would tell you that….I think you look fine.”
Becky: “But you just said that you wouldn’t tell me so how do I know you aren’t lying to me right now?”
V: “Okay, I won’t lie to you - I think you look good.”
Becky: “So would you tell me I look good if I didn’t?”
V: “No, I wouldn’t……hey….let’s watch an episode of The Closer.”

Did I really want my man to tell me that I looked chubby??? Hell-to-the-no!!! I felt a little insecure after seeing the photo and wanted some assurance that I was still attractive to him. The difficult part is that I want authentic assurance…..to know that what he is saying to me is indeed true…..a difficult thing in his perspective because we all know that there is only one truly acceptable answer…..yes…..or change the subject.

I know that I’m not in the shape I was in when we first met. After my partial hysterectomy, I gained a considerable amount of weight (now pushing 20 lbs). (Don’t you love it that I can blame it on the surgery…..and not my love for food and recalcitrance to exercise). When I stepped on the scale this morning, I let out a gasp 150!!!!!! OMG!!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!! Just last week I was hating 144….and the kicker is that I WAS GOOD!!! This is week four into my re-initiation to running and I feel strong. I have cut WAY down on simple carbs and have been watching my portions. I have even cut back (somewhat) on the consumption of calorie-laden alcoholic drinks. What gives????? I am back to the weight I was in 2004 when I discovered the X’s affair. He always told me I was sexy and beautiful…..and then slept with my friend who could be a Victoria Secret model…..tall…..thin…..beautiful…..grrrrrrr…..

As I laced up my Rykas to go on my run, I felt strong. I reminded myself to not grow weary in doing what is right because in due time I will be rewarded. I rededicated myself to continue with my good habits and not fall off the wagon into fields of chocolate ice cream. The Man is right…..it’s all about whether or no I want to make a change….not whether or not he thinks I should make a change. I just need to be consistent….I did not gain the weight in a month, (as a matter of fact, I coasted at the same ideal weight for about six months before it started creeping up) so I will not lose it in a month. *sigh* I am so impatient.

But for me….for now….I’ve gotta just keep on truckin!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Paintbrushes and Vision Boards

One thing that kept me sane during my divorce was the promise of an opportunity to paint my life the way I wanted it……to use bright colors and hues……to be bold and creative…to create a living masterpiece. I have a coffee can full of paintbrushes…small and large…heavy and light…to paint my life. Lately though, the thought of my life portrait has been making me a little……well….crazy!!!! I can do anything I want, be anyone I want to be…..my kids are grown and out of the house so I have the time to pursue the things I love...wine…. cheese…. art…. chocolate…..good books…. outings with friends….so what gives??

The question that looms in my mind is, “what if the picture I paint doesn’t turn out just right…what if I draw it wrong, use the wrong colors?” “What if what I think I want right now isn’t what I want.” “Do I even know what I want??” I feel like a 6 year-old saying I want to be a princess when I grow up….I want to live in a mansion on the beach with horses and a shiny new bike…..I want to ride elephants in India and dive for pearls in Tahiti…..and be a professional ice skater. For a girl who was raised to be decisive, my life right now is anything but.

Part of the issue is The Man and I have been dating for almost a year and a half. I can’t dodge the, “is it serious?” question anymore because….well….it is serious. I kindof like him and could see him around when I am 80 and chasing monkeys off my back porch in Thailand. Our relationship has brought back the feelings of being rooted and settled….of hanging out on the deck at night instead of having a glass of wine at a bar….of kids and family and household chores….but that question of how I am going to paint my life looms in the background….I have to share my painting….am I okay with that?? What if we hate each other in 10 years?? What if we love each other in 10 years and are stuck in a rut?? What if….what if….what if?? It’s maddening!!!!!

This morning, I went back to my vision board to see what I envisioned for 2010. Every January, my girlfriends and I create a poster-board of our vision for our lives in the coming year. We hang out, cut pictures out of magazines, talk, share, and create our vision for the year. Some ladies keep all of their boards, but I throw the previous one away to keep the focus on the current year.

Looking at my vision board, I see lots of words:

Reimagine Yourselves as Weekend Connoisseurs**Have Cheese, Will Picnic**Living the Unexpected Challenge Yourself **May the life within you be strong**LIVE!**12 Months of Good Health
Acts of Friendship**Savor**Dance**Difference**A killer Pair of Heels**SOUL

and lots of images:

Pancakes, outdoor dining, beach chairs, terracotta pots, fruits and vegetables, picnic baskets, journal writing, farmers’ markets, friends having coffee, margaritas, canned tomatoes, a rolling pin, books, serene backyard scenes

When I look at my vision board for 2010, I was surprised. I am not waiting to paint my life….deciding what it should look like…..it’s already here….already complete….the masterpiece of my heart. The life I really want is now and I am already living it. I look at my vision board and breathe. It’s not about the big master plan it’s about living each moment as I want to….adding beauty and sparkle to the every day. I don’t have to choose…..I just have to live….to be myself…and savor the moments that make ordinary life special.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Impact of Words

Words….I just love words. I love the “feel” of some words…the image they project, the feelings they inspire, and even just the sound of them. I definitely have favorites….ones I use incessantly. There are also words I dislike, words that make me cringe inside, that hurt my feelings. Sometimes I think we forget the power that resides in words - - we forget how they affect those around us and even how they affect ourselves.

I am trying to get back into the habit of running. For me, running is just that - a habit. If I keep my momentum, I will run every day without much thought to it. If I start to blow it off…..it’s harder to lace up my Rykas and step outside the door. It’s important to me to keep on track - when I run, my clothes fit better and I am a more confident and stronger person. I got out of the habit of running during the recovery of my partial hysterectomy a year and a half ago. I tried to pick back up the habit last spring, but there were days where my insides jiggled too much, I would have pain, would freak out and stop (yes, I am a closet hypochondriac). I tried to pick the habit up last summer but I was too busy. I tried to pick up the habit last fall, but the weather did not cooperate and so on and so forth……hence……I gained 15 pounds and my clothes are a bit….well….tight.

Running is more of a mental exercise for me than anything else. I get bored….or more telling…I simply get mentally tired of running. I will tell myself, “don’t stop - don’t stop- DON’T STOP” and the second the words go through my brain, I stop. Recently, I have changed my mantra - I tell myself, “Go Becky…..just go!!” This changes things for me mentally. The power of a proactive word for me is incredible! Telling myself to “do” something instead of “don’t” do it pushes me to do the right thing.

Proactive words work for children as well. When I would tell my son not to have a “tone” when he spoke to me, a tense discussion ensued about whether or not he actually had a tone. However, when I requested that he speak to me respectfully, his tone would change. The words, “Don’t be late” changed to “remember to be on time.” Our relationship improved dramatically.

Words can do damage. When I’m angry, I sometimes say things I don’t mean. The next day, I’ve forgotten them because…..well….I didn’t mean them…so they were of no lasting consequence to me. However, my words of anger take root in the person on the receiving end. Those words become part of the hurtful “tape” that plays in their head. By flinging my words carelessly, I have caused another person to hurt…not just upon receipt…but over and over again.

When I am the recipient of hurtful words, more often than not, the old Becky arrives on the scene….batten down the hatches…..drop the sail….circle the wagons…..don’t be vulnerable….don’t care….focus on something else…..all because of a few words…..a few….little….bitty words. Words are powerful things.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Undercover Shopper

I am the Queen of Shopping - the Princess of Purchasing. Although I try hard to stay within my budget as a single mom, I love the thrill of the sale, the challenge of finding just the right gift, the satisfaction of checking the last item off my “to do list.” Whether it be shoe shopping, grocery shopping or all things in between, I find my Zen State ……with the exception….of car shopping. Car shopping gives me the hives! I would rather organize my closets, mop my floors and even wash the neighbor’s cat before I embark on a car purchase. Repair bills for my current car may pile up, interior features may fall of, and scratches and dents may accumulate…..and still I procrastinate car shopping.

I have done some soul searching to figure out exactly WHY this is. I grew up in a family full of mechanics and while I am no Mona Lisa Vito, I have a basic grasp of how cars work (well, how cars work circa 1986). The colors are shiny, the prospects are numerous….so what gives?? After doing a little bit of research via Twitter and Facebook in my group of friends/followers, I have come to the conclusion that in general (and as a group), women don’t like to shop for cars. Now, there are some women who are up to the challenge because it IS a challenge…..they go in informed, confident and determined to get the car they want at the best deal. But, quite honestly, that proves my point….it’s not an easy task.

Based on my research, women do not like to shop for cars because (1) they are shown cars that they do not want and do not like, (2) they are spoken to on a kindergarten level, (3) salesmen b.s. them, (4) their questions are brushed off and (5) they feel that they do not get as good of a deal as the men when it comes to final price. BINGO!!! My quirky need to be the best of everything is QUASHED when I shop for cars. In the past, my car buying process went like this:

The X and I go to a car lot where I patiently explain to the salesman exactly what I am looking for - - color, style, price, size. I give him my specifications and also mention that I HATE silver cars. The salesman looks at me like a little girl in pigtails and knee socks, listens to me with a patronizing smile, and then turns to my X for confirmation that I said is correct. He proceeds to take us to the back lot and presents styles of cars that I specifically said I didn’t like AND to top it off, they are ALL silver. On one such outing, the salesman aggressively tried to sell me a car I didn’t like in a color I didn’t like for a price I couldn’t afford. Finally, he gave an exasperated sigh, looked at my X and asked me why I didn’t want to buy that car. I replied, “Because it is ugly.” My X was mortified…why in the world would I tell the man his cars were ugly???? Holy cow, I didn’t say his children were ugly, I said the cars were ugly. We leave the car lot empty handed and unhappy.

After a few such experiences, I found if I took a man as a decoy, I am free to shop at my leisure at the cars I WANT to look at without the pesky salesman trotting me off to look at cars they need to move that month. With my decoy man in tow, I ask important questions through a testosterone translator and have a better overall sales experience. The salesman typically gets sent off to look up a price while my token man and I discuss important strategy. Now, I know that I should be all “woman power” and all that, but for me…it worked like a charm.

At a Tweet-up a couple of months back, I spoke with Chris Theisen at Hare Chevrolet about my car buying strategies. Hare Chevy had formed an alliance with a woman-centered car company and Chris thought I should check out their dealership as an undercover shopper to see if my experience would be any different. Now the opportunity to be undercover (the Sidney Bristow of car shopping) far outweighed any hesitancy on my part about car shopping and I decided I was up for the challenge.

I dolled myself up and even threw on a fabulous Parisian scarf and a pair of 3 inch heels for good measure (no one said I played fair!). I am shopping as a girl, so I was going to be the girliest girl I could be straight-faced. As I drove into Hare Chevrolet, I found my hands quivering at bit….I was nervous. Good grief, Becky….pull yourself together…this isn’t top secret government weaponry, it’s car shopping! I walked around the car lot and over comes my prey….I mean…my salesperson, Reneau. I start off telling him that I am a real estate agent whose powder blue Audi A4 was always in the shop and I was looking for something stylish but not flashy that would be good for my business. (InSpygame , Robert Redford tells Brad Pitt that the secret of good spy work is in telling as much truth as you can in your details). I tell Reneau that I hate silver cars and think that I would make a great undercover agent.

Reneau shows me a couple of Cadillacs--I told him they were too flashy. He showed me a Saab--I told him that my boyfriend said they were unreliable. Reneau began to give me good solid details about cars and the differences between them. His experience in the car industry showed. I asked several elementary questions and even some “what is this do-hicky” questions to see if he would take the stance of “let me help you little Missy,” but he always treated me with respect and gave me loads of information. Reneau walked up to a silver car and I instantly became skeptic, however, much to my surprise, he mentioned the Buick was a good car and he had one across the lot that wasn’t silver. Then…..I see it….I tried to ignore it for the sake of my undercover shopping….but it started calling out to me…..the Camero.

I inched over to the Camero section while looking at select cars in between--trying to look for “work cars” at a budget price. Finally, I could stand it no longer and I asked him about the Cameros. NOW we are shoppin!!! Reneau told me of the three main differences in the Camero. I wanted a sun roof (they don’t come in convertible - booh), an automatic transmission and the sporty package. Although we didn’t find one that was a total match, I was enamored. We went for a test drive. I was able to quiz his knowledge on cars even more and see if he continued to treat me as an equal or as “just a girl.” We spoke price in general terms. I told him that I was not ready to buy today and he was okay with that. He told me to take my time.

In the end, I admit I was pleasantly surprised. My experience with Reneau Simpson and Hare Chevrolet was a good one. I intentionally came to the lot acting ill informed and indecisive. I spent a good hour on the lot and felt no pressure. Although I love Carlito, my high-maintenance Audi, that Camero gave me something to think about!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friendship is a Journey

The Man and I went home to the great state of Arkansas, the Natural State, the Land of Opportunity, Hawg Country, the state that holds all of my childhood memories in her hands. Both of our trips to my childhood home have been short and I have had to pack every memory I want to share with him into a scant few days...going to Lake Ouachitia (via boat and via meandering raft), wandering the farms of my grandparents, and eating my favorite Arkansas Cuisine (Stubby’s Barbeque and Catfish from Cajun Broiler). On this trip, we planned a visit to Petit Jean Mountain (subject of a previous blog about needing adventure). Petit Jean has a stunning view of the Arkansas River Valley were one can see for miles. Petit Jean also has a stunning hike to a waterfall, Cedar Falls. http://www.petitjeanstatepark.com/things_to_do/trails/cedar_falls.aspx

It was a beautiful day - not too hot and not too humid. The Man, my little Chickadee, my Mama and I embarked down the trail. Now, I say the words trail with a bit of hesitation as there were times when the “trail” was simply a stretch of large rocks to navigate, creeks to cross, and boulders to go around. Here in Indiana, if there is a sign that warns wannabe hikers that the trail is strenuous, you know that it has a bit of a hill grade. This trail, however, took strenuous to a new level!!! The Man at one point thought that Chickadee and I were out of our minds when we took shortcuts down the side of the mountain…..but I was home and I was happy!!

As we hiked down the mountain (and pondered our hike back UP said mountain), we kept an eye out for each other...stopping to give a hand to ensure no one slipped and looking for the best way to navigate large rocks, muddy trails and steep inclines. Sometimes Chickadee would lead, sometimes Mama would lead and sometimes the Man and I would lead chit-chatting along the way. Occasionally, one of us would go their own way for a bit (I just had to cross the creek instead of taking the rickety bridge across) and we would meet up again. We warned each other of impending danger...watch that poison ivy! Don’t put your hand between the rocks when you go down!! There might be snakes!!...and we took pictures at every opportunity.

From time to time, a woman would stop me and inquire about my choice of hiking attire. I had on a cute pair of black shorts, my Josef Seibel leather sandals (they are soooo cute and practical as they have excellent grips on the bottom and flexion - I wore them through Greece and Turkey) and carried my cute leather clutch from ReFind (a girl needs her purse). Now, being an experienced hiker, I understand the principles of good hiking shoes/socks/gear and am not in any way advocating unsafe behavior, however, I have hiked up Vesuvio in Naples watching Italian women going up the side of the volcano in short skits and stilettos…even the elderly women were wearing heels….but I digress. It gave Chickadee great pleasure to watch these sweet mother hens clucking away at my poor choice of attire, reminding her of all the times I fussed at her for shoe choices (although I still maintain that plastic flip-flops are shower shoes and should only be worn in the most casual of situations)….. Chickadee smiled her brilliant smile knowing that her mother is definitely, “one of a kind.”

What I enjoyed most about our outing was the ease of our interactions. We accepted each other as we were--limitations and all. We helped one another without judgment and offers of help were gladly accepted. When The Man presented his hand to help me up a rock, it was gladly received even though I am quite capable of scaling up the side of a rock. When Chickadee and I had different approaches to navigating the boulders to get under the waterfall, we allowed each other space to do so while keeping an eye out for danger. That’s what friendship is all about….being fellow hikers on the journey of life. Friendship is about allowing the other to take their own path (even though it may be different for a moment) and still helping them out (even if their path turned out to be a mistake). Sometimes in friendship, you get to stand underneath a waterfall and enjoy the majesty and beauty of it all and sometimes it’s the hard work of climbing to the top over rocks and trees and steep, slick paths. Our destination was the waterfall, but our journey did not stop there.  We had to do the hard work of going back up. It would have been nice to set up camp at the waterfall...to stay in that place of beauty forever…..but we had to keep moving….had to get back on the daily trail of life (and of course, look for our next adventure).

When I got divorced, I realized how important friendships are. I changed zip codes and began to rebuild my life...a life full of beauty and adventure, of being seen and being known, of new friendships and new horizons. The friendships I made are invaluable to me…but to make those friendships, I had to allow myself to be open to new people and face my own fear of being rejected by them. It is only in openness that friendships can grow. My girlfriends (and guyfriends) have helped me to soar to heights unimaginable three years ago.

So Here’s To the Journey!!! The journey is what it is all about.

Coca-Cola Cake Recipe

Growing up in the Great State of Arkansas, potluck dinners and lunches were a favorite! It was always a good day when someone brought a coca-cola cake!!!

As requested on Twitter, the following is my coca-cola cake recipe. This recipe was adapted from my fav-o-rite cookbook by Nigella Lawson, How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I use this book a lot!!

When making the cake this time, I followed her instructions to put it in a spring form pan lined with foil, however, the cake is most often made in a 9x13 cake pan. I liked the look of the pretty, round, chocolaty cake, so I will probably prepare it this way again……it’s yummy!!!! Although I haven’t tried this (yet) I imagine that one could substitute a cane syrup root beer or some other more “organic” drink.

Also don’t let the cooking part of the cake recipe intimidate you -- it doesn’t take more than a few minutes and the results are heavenly!!!

Coca-Cola Cake

Cake:

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour (I used cake flour--always stir or sift flour before measuring)
¾ cup plus 1 T sugar (I simply added half of the ¼ cup measuring cup extra)
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk (don’t substitute this--it makes the cake!!!)
1 tsp vanilla (use the real stuff not the fakey stuff for best results)
½ cup butter (again don’t substitute--margarine is just not the same)
2 tbl cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s special dark--although Ghirardelli is my standby)
¾ cup coca-cola

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put in a baking sheet (I used a baking stone). Prepare your spring form pan by lining it on the outside with aluminum foil (it will drip) and grease the bottom and sides (I used veg oil, but you could use butter).

In a saucepan, gently (ie: low heat) melt butter, add the cocoa powder mixing until it is smooth and add coca-cola. You don’t want this to boil. While you are waiting for butter to melt, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl (you will eventually put all ingredients in this bowl). In a small bowl beat the eggs and add buttermilk and vanilla.

Pour the warm coca-cola mixture into the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Add the buttermilk mixture and stir well. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for around 40 minutes (for the spring form pan) or until a cake tester comes out clean. Now, this is a very thin cake, so if you check it and it’s not quite done, don’t wait too long to check again as you want this cake to be moist!

Put cake on cooling rack for about 15 minutes before unmolding. When ready to unmold, carefully run a butter knife along the edges to ensure it doesn’t stick. Place the cake on whatever serving dish you are going to use. The icing drips and runs, but that is part of the charm.

Icing:

1 ½ Cups powdered sugar
2 T butter
3 T Coca-cola
1 T cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla

Sift the powdered sugar (I didn’t - - but I had to make sure the lumps were smushed with a spoon). In a saucepan, melt butter on low heat and add coca-cola and cocoa and stir until all is combined. Remove from heat and add vanilla and slowly combine powdered sugar stirring out the lumps.

I poked the cake with a toothpick and poured a little bit of extra coke over the cake for extra moistness (not too much). Pour the warm icing over the cake and allow to cool completely before serving. (When I was growing up, some people added pecans or walnuts to the icing or on top).