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Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

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Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

I’ll admit, introducing a new dessert by saying “Here’s a yummy pudding with crunchy little balls in it” to four boys  was a strategic error. A HUGE strategic error from which there is no recovery or return. I don’t mean to offend any readers with delicate sensibilities, but if you don’t immediately know what I’m talking about, then you definitely do not have an 8-year-old, 10-year-old, 13-year-old or 44-year-old little boy at home. That’s all I’m saying. ‘Cause “crunchy little balls” will last them ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s the verbal gift from mom that just keeps on giving.

But it was my first attempt to cook with or serve trendy new ingredient (buh-bye kale, so 2013!) chia seeds to my clan. I made this chocolate chia pudding recipe, and knowing that some family members (HELLO HUSBAND) are particularly tentative about new textures/flavors/dishes/shirts-I-gift-for-Christmas I was trying to make it sound FUN. And chia combined with liquid makes these tiny gelatinous balls that are like mini-tapioca or the boba in bubble tea, but with a little crunch to them.

For what it’s worth, I liked the pudding. The texture is weird but cool, and it was very chocolatey.

photo credit to Robynowitz at

The fam, not so much. Three out of four did NOT like it, and I’m pretty sure the 8-year-old was just being nice to me. My middle “blessing” actually said “Mom,with this dish you have ruined the concept of pudding. Ruined it.” So dramatic…can’t imagine where he gets it.

So, clearly, I’ll be forcing them to eat the HUGE bag of chia seeds I got at Costco yesterday as often as I can, in as many ways as I can imagine. I’m quite looking forward to it. {cue evil laugh}

(What’s that you say, perhaps I should have purchased a slightly smaller bag for my first foray into chia cuisine, to be more reasonable, rational, moderate? Really? Have you met me?)

If I can’t convert them, I can always just grow a new clay family. Maybe this guy.

chia guy

I wonder if the seeds are cheaper this way from Amazon?

PS – Kale, I’m just kidding. We actually all love you, you’re not going anywhere.

I Wonder What Molybdenum Tastes Like?

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Salt is weird.

Really, have you thought about it? I mean, it’s a mineral we grind up and put on our food. We don’t grind up other rocks to put on our food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some salt. Without salt, many foods are pointless: popcorn, hash-browns (this evening’s muse), french fries, eggs. No salt, no point.

But what inspired early man – or let’s face it, woman, since she was likely responsible for the culinary innovations of the time like cooking with fire, not eating potatoes raw, and always garnishing your kill with a sprig of mint – what inspired her to grind up salt crystals and shake them on dinner?

Did Early Chef go around licking other rocks and grinding them up to try and enhance the flavor profiles of mammoth, sabre tooth tiger, or (in the case of our cannibalistic ancestors) Earl, her annoying neighbor? (Earl had it coming, always playing his rock music so loud in the cave next door. ‘Course, rocks were the only available instrument at the time…..Get it? Rock music???? I’m sorry, I’ll stop.)

So, I’m wondering, what does molybdenum taste like?

Molybdenum - pretty, but does it taste good? photo by  Alchemist-hp

Molybdenum – pretty, but does it taste good?
photo by Alchemist-hp

I think this area of science may be ripe for development. For instance, according to the US Geologic Survey, “The versatility of molybdenum in enhancing a variety of alloy properties has ensured it a significant role in contemporary industrial technology, which increasingly requires materials that are serviceable under high stress, expanded temperature ranges, and highly corrosive environments.”

See? Boring, and not a word about molybdenum’s potential ability to improve hash-browns. Or mushrooms! Now THAT would be a significant role! A rock that could make fungus not taste like dirt would be worth a lot of money! Wikipedia makes clear, however, that molybdenum has the sixth-highest melting point of any mineral, so its nacho-topping utility is probably limited at best.

Actually, the magical oracle which is Wikipedia can’t even seem to agree how many minerals there ARE (at least after an exhaustive 3.25 minutes of searching), and seems conflicted as to whether it is molybdenum or molybdenite. With such uncertainty existing in the field, I think there is clearly work to do.

We must determine if any minerals taste like salted dark chocolate or a really good margarita.

Science, people. It’s important.

Why I Hate Classical Music

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It’s not my fault. Honest, I have wide-ranging and eclectic taste in music – I love R&B, country, oldies, gospel, African world-beat, Latin pop, hip-hop, reggae. I love nearly all kinds of music!

Recently on Facebook, however, a friend posted how much she loves listening to classical music in the car, and I was reminded again that my lack of appreciation for this genre marks me to many as an unsophisticated ingrate.

So be it. I can’t help it. I can’t stand classical music.

I was devastated in college when I signed up for Latin American Music Appreciation, only to discover that the period being appreciated was all music composed in the style of the European classicists. (Why I thought there would be tango-ing and rumba-ing in this class, I don’t know, but color me EXTRA DISAPPOINTED….)

How can I be held responsible when my childhood preschool used to make us nap to classical music? Clearly, I was a bright tot, and my wee brain rapidly absorbed these obvious facts:

1. classical music is for sleeping and

2. when classical music comes on, the fun is over.

Bye, bye, fun!

So can you blame me for reacting that way now?

Not only that, but I took dance lessons for about 18 years, with very little ballet and lots of  Jazz and hip-hop (ok, break-dancing, it was the 80’s) (There is footage, but it is zealously guarded, saved on virtually inaccessible VHS format.) So as far as I was concerned, to dance to music you needed a BEAT. Classical music rarely has a danceable beat, to my way of hearing it. If you couldn’t dance to it, what was the function of it?

Opera? That makes me break out in an irritable rash……..but that’s another post for another day.

Today’s lesson? Do your kids a favor, and don’t play classical music exclusively at nap time. Or they too will get irrationally cranky in elevators and at doctor’s offices…..

My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

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My Guardian Angel Is An Octopus

I don’t know if I’m actually supposed to HAVE a guardian angel, not sure where the Protestant theology is on that.* Theological questions aside, if I did have a guardian angel, it would have to be an octopus, no question. The poor thing would NEED eight arms just to keep up with me.

In the last 15 months, I’ve given myself permanent nerve damage in my hand; blistered and scarred my leg with boiling water; and nearly blinded myself with yard implements. Honestly, I have no self-harm urges, I’m just equal parts clumsy and impatient – a dangerous combination. My parents always tried to get me to think before I act, but that didn’t take. I am usually too passionate, impulsive and overenthusiastic to do any such sensible thing.

To ensure that some public good comes from my private idiocy, I share with you these stories and the accompanying life lessons, in case a) you need a chuckle, or b) you have a five-year-old in need of basic safety skills. So here we go:

The Avocado Stabbing:

Just finished filing the nail on my middle finger AGAIN. So annoying. See, I frequently have to file the middle fingernail on my left hand because that finger is largely numb, devoid of any feeling except a constant tingle akin to your foot being deeply asleep. The numbness must make me use it less, because that nail just grows really quickly. (GOOD LORD, IS SHE REALLY WRITING A POST ABOUT HER COMPARATIVE FINGERNAIL GROWTH RATES?)

Anyhoo, it all started back in May of last year. I was preparing nachos, one of my family’s favorite meals. Well, one of my favorite meals, and thus one we enjoy regularly. No plate of nachos is complete without guacamole, which I was just beginning to make. I cut the avocado in half, and then went to remove the avocado pit the same way I always have, since my teen years in Alaska when an avocado was a truly foreign and glamorously ethnic vegetable. Raise the blade up and vigorously drive it down into the avocado pit, tip down.

Here, I’ll give you a visual on my technique:

How NOT to Pit an Avocado

Apparently, that’s NOT how you are supposed to do it. As you might predict – not that I did – the blade bounced off the slimy pit and went through the avocado into the palm of my hand. After a trip to the nurse’s house down the street, the urgent care clinic and then the ER, I was left with two pretty stitches and a small scar that neatly bisects one of my lifelines. Probably changed the whole course of my life right there. (Except that I’m pretty sure the theology on lifelines is even weaker than guardian angels….)

I was also left with what appears to be permanent numbness along the entire pinky side of my middle finger. I know, you wouldn’t think that the pinky side of your left middle finger would be important for a right-handed person.  However, I’ve found that it makes flossing shockingly difficult, and I also use that finger to operate my car’s turn blinker.

I’m just waiting for the day I have to explain my sub-par blinker-operating handicap to a police officer.

The lesson: Apparently, THIS is how you are supposed to pit an avocado. You’re welcome.

The Scalding 

This is not a funny story, unfortunately, and I apologize for that. The least I could do while hurting myself is be funny, cause if we can’t laugh at it later what really is the point? But I was just carrying some potatoes over to drain in the sink a few months ago when I sloshed the boiling water on my leg.

It WOULD have been funny if we’d had guests, as I easily set a world record for quickly stripping off a wet pair of jeans in the middle of the kitchen. As it is, I now have a 8-inch long area of permanently discolored skin on my thigh. The good news is I no longer feel guilty about not training for the Mrs. Middle Aged America Bikini Pageant. For when I’m actually middle-aged, you know, in the FUTURE. Cause that was TOTALLY gonna happen. Meh, that was probably the lifeline I cut anyways.

The lesson: This is pretty clear, actually. NEVER let me carry boiling water anywhere around you or your loved ones.

The Yard Tool Near-Blinding 

You should know right off that my ophthalmologist says my retina looks great. Firmly attached. I didn’t feel like I could write this post until I knew for sure whether I had ACTUALLY nearly blinded myself being stupid, or fallen blessedly short of that undesirable milestone.  I mean, if I wrote a lighthearted post about my tendencies to hurt myself and then went blind shortly thereafter, that would have been poorly thought-out blog planning on my part for sure. Awkward…..

Especially if the blindness made it difficult to update the post and ask for your prayers and explain that I would have to learn all new technologies for the blind before I could keep blogging.

This time, I was just laying innocently on my hammock, enjoying the summer breeze, minding my own business. But there was a REALLY annoying branch in the maple above my head, and it was completely ruining my view. It was all twisted up against the trunk under another branch, very aesthetically displeasing, and it was just. Ugly. Clearly that could not go on.

So I grab these AWESOME pruners I got from my dad and a stepladder. Cause, you know, I’m 4’11” and nearly all pruning requires a height assist of some nature. Heck, I practically need a stepladder to weed. Anyhow, to get close enough to deal with the offending branch I had to get directly under it, and stand on the top step with the pruners held directly over my head. I’m sorry if you can already see where this is going, but as I mentioned before, I’m kinda impatient.

I didn’t think to ask my 6’1″ husband to come clip the offending branch until AFTER the pruners slipped off the branch and descended (HANDLE DOWN, THANK THE GOOD LORD WHO IS FAR MORE GRACIOUS THAN I DESERVE) into my right eye.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

Dramatic reenactment of my view right before the end of that handle landed on my eyeball.

The lesson: Don’t do anything like that. Ever. At all.

After a wee ladylike curse, I made sure there was no goo leaking from my eyeball, and then went in the house to make a couple of truly classic requests to my sweet husband. “Dave, DON’T YELL AT ME, but I need you to come trim a branch and then look at my eye because I may have just blinded myself. DON’T YELL AT ME.”

Two trips to the eye dr later, we were all fairly reassured my retina had not detached. My stupidity did, however, result in BIG floaters, a delightful new experience that left me swatting imaginary bugs for two weeks. (Seriously, I am SO glad I did not get stopped for a traffic violation this summer. “Well, officer, I missed the turn signal due to the numb pinky side of my middle left finger, and then I swerved because I was swatting a giant floating worm, except it was just a floater in my eye…..” No police officer should have to hear that.)

In addition, the blow to my eye caused some of the vitreous eye goo to detach from my retina. This vitreous goo detachment is apparently permanent, and was going to happen with age at some point, but it was definitely the last humbling straw in my run of hurting my own darned self.

I really should be forced to spend my days lying quietly on a soft pile of mattresses in a padded room.

The best I can do is recommend that if you see me near either blades of any kind or boiling water, RUN. Just run. And pray for me.

And call my husband.

*Of course, I couldn’t stand to leave it at that.  If you are a smidgen of the truly nerdy that I am, you can go here, or here, or here, for further thought.

Bonus science geekery: I am not great at including images in my blog yet, which explains all of the poorly lit photos, but while hopefully googling for an image of an octopus angel (Hey, it could happen!) I found this post about strange sea animals. FASCINATING.

A Word from Old Granny Crankypants

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As my sweet Southern friend Susan would say, Oh. My. Lanta. (Possible spelling-for-drama Oh. Mylanta. I grew up in Alaska, I’m wingin’ it.)

Seriously. It is not often (yet) that I feel myself tempted to say “Back in my day, things were different. You kids these days……”

But can we be real? (This here is already pretty real, seein’ as how I’m using  conjunctions to start sentences and such. My blog. My grammar.)

Before we get real, perhaps I should warn you. It’s hot here in the Northwest, and by hot I mean I’m feeling the need to fan myself on the front porch in front of an ice block, because we don’t have AC and it’s either the ice block and a fan or injure all of my peoples who seem to be picking their worst behaviors for display in these days of Unpleasant Hotness. Bad choices, people, they are making Bad Choices……

So I MIGHT be a little bit cranky. Maybe.

Back to the getting real. Cause kids these days (cue tremulous and crotchety old voice in your head now) are flat out spoiled. My eldest just told me I needed to buy the small people new fluoride rinse, to which I lovingly and patiently replied in my most nurturing voice, “Oh, precious,  no, there are three other bottles of three other flavors available to you under the sink.”

Oh, no. Apparently the pink one is the only “tolerable” flavor for their delicate little mouths. Seriously?? These kids need a dose of good ol’ Mr. Yuk Mouth! Remember him? Back from the day when our medicine all tasted BAD so we wouldn’t poison ourselves with it? Remember? Back when there weren’t eleventy-three flavor boosters available at the pharmacy, and a premium option to have it formulated as a icy slush??? (That could be a hallucination, I’m hot, but I swear it’s available.)

Here’s some old school terror for you, you grape/cherry/banana/magicberry-loving little ones……

yeah…..that’ll scare you into never wanting to go to the Dr. EVER. Or clean anything, EVER, cause of the scary Yuk Mouth.

Remember, back when the only oral health rinse we had was Listerine, (registered, trademarked, don’t-sue-me-its-a-lovely-product-though-I-do-prefer-Fresh-Mint) which came in only one flavor, and that proud flavor was “Light Brown Blister and Pain?”

Back in the day when toothbrushes came in either scratchy, poky or straw, and not in derivations of cartoon characters, scented handles and rotating/singing/timing/teaching you Ukrainian poetry?

Seriously, go brush your teeth. Mamaw has to go out on the porch and fan herself.

Squirrel Murder Was Just the Beginning

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Hey, long time no see. Read. Share. Whatever. Hey Blog Readers! Thanks for joining me, I know it’s been a long time, but I’m back. Again. Honestly, you may want to grab a cup of tea, this is kind of a long one, but so glad you’re here!

So, how was your day?

Mine? Not great, honestly. Empty gas tank, squirrel murder, gas station faux pas, nervous travelers, and Angry Dude, the gas station manager. That was my morning. Well, that, and the Whisper that changed it all around.

The plan was to drive some old and dear family friends back to the airport this morning after they’d had a visit with my folks.  I arrived on time. (Well, really, thirty minutes earlier than necessary because my mother, who claims she didn’t, accidentally told me to be there thirty minutes earlier than necessary because she does not trust my timeliness. Apparently my teen years were very hard on her. I like to be exactly on time, she likes to be ridiculously early. A lifetime of tension ensues. Timeliness – key plot point to remember…..) Anyhow, I arrived to pick them up in plenty of time, and after some brief chitchat it was time for hugs and hitting the road, and we loaded up.

We set off, but just as I pulled onto the highway, I happened to glance down at the gas gauge, and was HORRIFIED to see it below empty, light just blinking away. I didn’t drive at all yesterday, what happened? Crud. Oh, well, we’ve got time, no problem. And so it began……..

I efficiently pulled off the highway and up the ramp, calculating in my head where the gas station might be and how long this little detour might take (timeliness on my mind, not wanting to have THAT conversation with Mom……).

You know how it’s so funny to say “Squirrel!” and feign distraction as if you are the dog from the movie Up?

Yeah, that’s not how I said it when I saw the pair of furry frolicking love-squirrels skittering directly ahead of me, a vehicle to my right, a steep hill to my left. And after the undeniable jolt we felt, I made the mistake of looking back, only to see the twitching, seizing body of the squirrel lover I had just summarily squashed. I didn’t see but can only imagine his little squirrel amour, safely across, watching his little body draw its last breath, struggling to understand how her spring romp had gone badly so quickly.

"Frankie! Frankie, what's wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies......"

“Frankie! Frankie, what’s wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies……”

Still shaking, I pulled into the overpriced highway ramp gas station. Angry Dude, the manager, approached my van, and took my credit card. I was only getting $20 of gas, so when he returned in a few moments, I was not surprised.

(Back in MY DAY, $20 worth of gas would get you a full tank and a free car wash, yessiree. Today, not even a quarter of my minivan’s tank. Grumble, grumble, I walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways……..Sorry.)

He handed my credit card back to me with a hearty “There you go!”. I assumed we were done, as did my passengers, and I began to pull away. Unfortunately, Angry Dude had just been enthusiastically returning my credit card, and had barely begun to pump the gas. When I drove away with the nozzle still in my tank, it ripped loose and loudly clattered to the ground. I realized immediately what had happened, and stopped, the apology ready on my lips as I opened the door.

No matter, he had no interest in my apology. “What the f***?” he yelled at me, as I tried to tell him I wasn’t trying to steal the gas, but just had misunderstood him. He demanded I return to the pump, continuing to berate me the entire time for how stupid I was, how I needed to pay attention, how the pump was probably broken(it wasn’t) and I would be paying the $1000 to fix it.

I am quite sure that the very proper retired 4th grade teacher in my van has NEVER been yelled at in such a manner, nor has she had the f-bomb even hurled in her general direction before her delightful time with me this morning. Poor thing. I’m sure the 6 hours of flying she had ahead of her were relaxing in comparison.

As we finally pulled away, headed once again toward the airport, I began to angrily compose my letter to the gas station’s corporate CEO in my mind, filling it with my unbridled anger at being mistreated over a simple mistake. I gleefully pictured returning to the station, demanding Angry Dude’s name to include in my brilliantly written epistle of anger.

Believe me, I come by my capacity for ferocious righteous indignation honestly, from a long line of ladies who are and were more than capable of standing up for ourselves and others, for writing blistering letters to the editor or the complaint department that left ash and singe marks in their wake.

By the time we go to the airport, though, I had calmed down a wee bit, and from out of Nowhere into my soul came a different plan.

“Go back,” said the Whisper to my heart, “Go back, forgive him, apologize for not paying attention, and acknowledge the likely source of HIS anger.” It was clear to me as I went over the details of our encounter that others must have pulled away on purpose, stiffing him for the gas and the broken pump, and his response to me was clearly that of owner or manager, worried and responsible for the whole station.

But no, I thought, he DESERVES my wrath, he yelled at me! Plus that would be weird, he’s probably forgotten about it, I’ll just make him feel more awkward, and that would be overreacting. “It’s good to be weird,” persisted the Whisper, “especially when it makes people think about why you’re doing it. In fact, bring him a gift.”

A gift. Great. That won’t be weird at all. Sigh.

I am not historically one of those apparently blessed types who constantly hear The Voice of The Lord, who can tell you what The Lord told them to have for breakfast or what to wear for dinner at Red Robin, or even which job to take or house to buy. Usually, God and I have a more informal communication pattern, one in which I probably miss about 75% or more of what He tells me, and in which I’m sure He gently laughs and rolls His eyes at what I tell Him.

But there are times in life when an idea or thought is so clearly not of me, so clearly inspired by His Whisper, that I know to ignore it is just Not. An. Option.

So after safely depositing my travelers at the airport (only ten minutes late, thank you Lord!), I drove to a nearby Target. My mindset changed from how to verbally eviscerate Angry Dude in my letter to his boss, to what kind of snacks or treats Angry Dude might like, and if a sample size of “Goo Be Gone” would be thoughtful or would imply I thought he was dirty. (I decided to stick with manly, edible snacks, just in case.) I tucked some mini Oreos, a tiny sample of fancy coffee, some beef jerky and some little bags of almonds into a little metal bucket, and I even bought a little ribbon for the handle.

If you’re going to be weird and go overboard, it might as well color-coordinate.

I drove directly back to the gas station to deliver it, nervous all the way.

Now, as I share with you the underwhelming end to my story, let me make a couple of points:

I knew this was about me, about my heart, and that I had to forgive him and present my gift with NO expectations of his response. That wasn’t the Whisper’s goal. My heart was the one that needed change, the one I could change or allow to be changed.

Good thing, because his response when I arrived and walked up to him with my cute little tin of treats ran the gamut –  suspicion, dismissal, refusal of my gift, and a rehash of how I should pay more attention and how dangerous it had been.

It wasn’t about telling Angry Dude why I was doing it, that I was realizing I had been forgiven long ago for so much more than a rude outburst, that the least I could do was live my life in this world in a way that stood out a little, that made people wonder.  It was about the tenor of my response, a Word He had planted in me just a few days ago through the musings of a dear friend at Bible study.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Good thing, because I choked out something lame like “no, really, we’ve both had a crappy morning, and I just wanted to say I knew I should have paid more attention. Please, take it, I just want you to have a better day.” I was gentle and respectful, but also nervous, awkward, and probably weird.

Angry Dude finally did take my gift, and said something like, “Well, I’m sorry I yelled at you BUT you should be more careful.” Ahhhh…..the qualified apology. Good thing this wasn’t about manipulating a satisfying response………..

And I confess I did spend some time afterwards, thinking of all the things I could have said differently or better, and kicking myself for not including a note with some key Scriptures in it that would point him to the Source of my weird actions. But not for long. Because I heard another Whisper, winding in-between my self-recriminations.

“It was enough. Shhhhhh…….Accept that it was enough.”

So I am.

Still feel awful about the squirrel though, may he rest in peace.

Reflections on Twenty Years of Marriage

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Doesn’t that title just scream poetic philosophizing? Like I’m going to just Lay Down Some Wisdom, some Mature Wisdom gained from two decades of wedded bliss shared with the love of my life.

You know, I’m capable of it, of beautiful philosophical word play that would bless your souls with its harmonious rhythms of truth. And I was close, I was, as I serendipitously discovered (i.e. found this while goofing around on the Internet) an artist who does this:

Balanced only, no glue: Marriage, in rocks. At least that’s what I see. Credit: Artist Michael Grab,

Awesome, right? A beautiful representation of a marriage as entity, composed of alternating delicate maneuvers of balance and support, guided at the core by unseen Powers that hold it all together when on the face of it everything should just crash to the ground.

Yes! This is the image I’m building, the one I’m preparing to share with all of you, dear Bloggity Friends, in commemoration of my wedded bliss.

Until. Until the object of my bliss, my best friend, my beloved, walks up behind me to look at the rock art on the laptop, the stone balancing. I ask him, naively expecting him to see in it what I do, “isn’t this amazing?”

“Eh. Rock stacking. Yep.” ROCK STACKING???? ROCK STACKING???? This is not just rock stacking! I press my point, persuasively, and then under threat of mild marital elbowing. “This is beautiful, it’s art! Could you do it?” “Well, I’ve never tried it. Maybe…..”  Arrrgh! Then I see the glint in his eye, the one I’ve seen (too late, usually) since we were sparring in high school, the one that says he’s provoking me on purpose.

But it also brings home to me one of the most important lessons I continue to learn, even after (especially after?) twenty years. We don’t have to see everything the same way. We don’t have to feel everything the same way. (Thank goodness, because there is room for only one Super Feeler in this house, and that is MY superpower.)

We can be WILDLY apart on minor issues and even major ones, but after twenty years, he is absolutely my best friend. He can make me laugh harder, cry more quickly, blush more deeply, decide more wisely, even breathe more effectively. I may be the Super Feeler, but he is the Super Steadier, my counterpoint, my balancer.

(Even though he likes bleh puffy tall thick pancakes instead of mmmmmm tender thin ones, and he spends too much time on computer games, and he can be as anxious as a cranky 80-year-old man when we are driving somewhere new, and he forgets stuff I’ve told him and then swears I didn’t tell him, and even though he CANNOT. LOOK. FOR. STUFF.  Just in case you thought he might be perfect. )

(That pancake thing is nearly a deal-breaker some days. But Lord knows what he’d say about me.)

Really? None of that matters. Not when he teaches my sons to live with laughter and integrity. When he models compassion and kindness, when he inspires them with a constant desire for knowledge. Not when he has quietly been the most loving, safe, righteous model of a man my troubled nieces have ever known. Not when he cleans up vomit because he knows I just can’t, when he allows me to pursue my dreams, not when he is always there to remind me to Just. Breathe. And then tells me it will turn out ok.

The Gravity that holds us together? Oh, that is most definitely not us, and had we tried this on our own without God at the center, it would have been over a long, long time ago. But in His hands, we continue to be a powerful, loving, funny, supportive, centering source of life to each other.

There is no one else I’d rather do this with. No. One.

Tara and Dave

Happy Twenty Years, My Love, and Here’s to Twenty Times Twenty More!

Two Funny Friday Videos

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For you today, dear readers, some thoughtful advice and inspirational videos as you approach this SECOND TO LAST WEEKEND BEFORE CHRISTMAS GET GOING ARE YOU DONE ARE YOU READY??????

First of all, to those of you (mainly women, let’s be honest) like myself who tend to get a wee bit…..shall we say……high-strung during the Christmas season: BREATHE. At times in Christmas’ past,  I have found myself ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that if I could just complete the themed decorations, down to the last matching homespun Santa toothbrush cozy; if I could JUST bake/craft/spin/carve the perfect teacher gifts; if I could JUST wrap all of the presents in matching, themed, handwoven wool gift scarves with matching themed crocheted ribbons; if I could JUST get that PERFECT present for the random family member and if I could JUST get the cat to wear the elf hat at the PERFECT angle for the family photo shoot; THEN Christmas would be perfect.

Well, guess what? JUST. STOP. The cat is going to throw up on your aunt’s gift, the kids are allergic to the crocheted ribbons, and ewwwwwwww. Toothbrush cozy’s/cozies(?) are unsanitary.

Guess what else? Christmas – the real one – has already been here,  and it was perfect. We don’t even factor in to that success algorithm. So relax, get in your pj’s early, and watch a couple of funny videos I poached from Matt Chamber’s blog today.

My favorite part of this training video, “Sales is Service, Service is Sales”? Well, there’s two. First, it’s such a great reminder of how varied are God’s creations, and how He loves us all, including the ones who have no rhythm. Second favorite part? The reference to the oosik (check wikipedia for walrus oosik) that they are selling, which I know from growing up in Alaska. Which clearly fills a child’s head with rarely useful but funny trivia.


Finally, some funny from comedian Jim Gaffigan. Love it.



And if you are a little thrown that in this post I’m back to funny, after my last post was all “Christmas sad, Tara sad”? Well, join my husband and welcome to the rollercoaster. He says you’ll probably get used to it. And really? Christ is coming, Christmas is coming, and that’s joy over everything else! So I’m laughing through my sad, OK?

God is My Soccer Coach. Poor God.

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This epiphany came to me last week as I watched my fourth grader’s soccer game. It isn’t unusual that my brain was free to have brilliant epiphanies, as I really don’t understand much about soccer except scoring goals. Soccer wasn’t a “thing” for me back in the olden days, growing up in Alaska. I had dance lessons, band, and competitive reading (wait, no, I was just a nerd), nice warm indoor activities. Soccer, not so much. The first soccer game I ever saw was my oldest son’s first game in kindergarten.

Also, full disclosure up front, I never played any team sports growing up, except for one misguided 4th grade season in youth basketball in which I scored one basket. For the other team. I clearly have much to learn about both soccer and team sports.

So I’m watching this soccer game, and my son, who spends much his time on the field watching. When he decides to get in the game, he plays just fine, but perhaps because he hasn’t played soccer for the last two years, he is fairly hesitant. I watch him watch the other boys play soccer, and think about how at that moment, his soccer coach is also just observing and hoping for the best. I realize that really, God is like my soccer coach, just watching me execute the plays. Or not.

He’s set me up with all of the equipment I need. Just like a good pair of cleats or shin guards, I’ve got access to a protective shield of faith, belt of truth, shoes of peace, the full gear set-up. (And yes, I know, we’re walking a fine line here between an insightful epiphany and a really cheesy Vacation Bible School curriculum.) Not to mention the written Word, game plays and instruction. Whether I actually use any of that gear? Totally up to me to strap it on or suffer the consequences.

He schedules in lots of practice time. I know He looks down the road to future challenges, and then allows practice “opportunities” in my life so I’ll be ready for the big plays. I’ve got constant drills and exercises in humility, discipline, dependence, walking in faith, and even teamwork. I just have to show up for every practice and work the drills, knowing I’ll be more skillful and the right moves will be more automatic the next time.

He’s rooting for me, no matter how I play. This was where it really came home to me, watching the boys run, or not run, confidently attempt goals, clumsily miss kicks and passes, and try to practice skills that seem straightforward until they actually have to use them in a game against opponents that may be bigger, faster and more experienced. In those moments, the coach puts the game in the hands (or feet) of the players, and it’s up to them. All he does is watch, advise, cringe when things go badly, and celebrate when they go well.

The dark side to my analogy was painfully clear, because the opposing team had a loud, mean, aggressive coach who easily pigeonholed himself into my diverting little mental construct: if God is my soccer coach, then that guy was the coach for the Other Team. (Boo, hiss.) He sure fit the part beautifully. As our coach quietly instructed the boys, giving them each opportunity to play and encouraging them from sidelines, this guy screamed at his small players, calling them out by name and urging them in specific directions. Of course, by the time their 9-year-old brains could comprehend his distracting commands while also directing their bodies in the game, it was too late to follow the commands, at which point he would vent his frustration loudly. Not only that, but he spent a lot of time screaming mysterious and confusing things at them, like “remember the triangle! remember the triangle!”

Seemed like a weird time to be reviewing geometric shapes with the boys. Anyhoo, his angry screams succeeded in distracting not only his own team, but also our boys. Worse, when he got frustrated with his players, he would physically take hold of them and move them to where he wanted them, humiliating and anti-coaching them all at the same time. Lots of us go through life that way, at times following a coach who is angry, confusing, and definitely not into player development.

I don’t want to imply too much with my analogy, because in reality that guy is human and flawed, just like me. And maybe he just was having a bad day, or someone ate his favorite breakfast cereal that morning and left him with plain corn flakes, I don’t know.

What I do know is that after watching a few particularly tough misses, when a boy just totally screwed up, and knowing how our coach must be feeling, I really had to feel for my Coach.

How many times in a day does He watch me look the other way to avoid an easy pass? Or cringe when I get impatient and cranky with my family, hurting everyone’s game? Or make a bold, confident move in the absolute wrong direction? I am not an easy player to coach by any stretch of the imagination, frequently convinced I already have the skills and the moves down, and then surprised when my arrogance causes me to mess up a goal kick. Or I stride out on the field to battle my opponent without having made appropriate preparations, and I get knocked on my butt. Poor Coach. Good thing he’ll never cut me from the team, no matter how awfully I play.

Now I’m off to write perky and uplifting lyrics for my new VBS curriculum, “Get in the Game”. Theme verse Ephesians 6:9-19, crafts include bejeweling your own inflatable soccer ball, macraméing a cross-shaped zipper pull for your soccer bag, and tracing, painting and glittering life-size cutouts of yourself playing soccer while wearing the breastplate of righteousness and wielding the sword of truth.

I’m sure I’ve missed all kinds of awesome soccer game/life analogies. What have you got?

It’s About the Story, So Don’t Judge Me

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In which I enjoy some “Joyful Noise,” and shush the uppity hipster critics…..

A predictable movie, well-done, is our version of legend, of powerful folktale told round the fire by tribal elder, myth passed down through generations, or epic saga recited in court by the wise, old royal storyteller. We human beings have an inherent love of story, a need to connect with each other through narrative, through “Once upon a time”, and “….happily ever after.” Even the most esoteric human truth can resonate in our minds if told through the emotional craft of story. It’s how our ancestors taught each other the best hunting tactics, or the best ways to choose a mate, or connect with their spiritual lives.

Few amongst you would derisively dismiss the collected tales of a foreign culture, or mock the stories of a primitive people group. But bring up a predictable movie with a plot that bookies won’t take bets on, and stand back. Here comes the sarcasm. Oh, it is so easy to judge. Especially if you fancy yourself an intellectual, or a hipster, or an intellectual hipster. But I stand among you blog among you today to claim that IT IS NOT SO, that a movie well-done can reunite us with our most powerful human narratives in a way that is both delightful and comforting.

That’s right, I said it. I love romantic comedies. I love musical theater. I even love sports movies featuring underdogs who triumph against all odds and win the game in the final moment.

And yes, in fact, I did recently enjoy the movie “Joyful Noise” with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.

You wanna go get you some upscale culture, fine. Go see “American Beauty”, or “Up In the Air”, or “Sideways”.  Perhaps you will leave the theater better off in some way I never did. I find that with the approach of middle age – still in the distance, mind you, I’m not close, it’s WAY off in the distance – I am less interested in the Important Movie, and more interested in what will make me laugh, or cry, or sigh contentedly. Or, on a special day, make me angry or sad or frustrated or motivated.

Me? I’ll go see “Joyful Noise”, and grin the entire time. The. Entire. Time. I’ll  savor the contest between outwardly different rivals, competing to lead their underdog group to victory, based on their deeply held convictions, rockin’ good voices, and contagious choreography.

Because you know what? I’ve got plenty of Serious in my life, plenty of Scary Reality, and honestly, even a fine helping of Mysterious Human Evil in the situations in which I live in day in and day out.

So quite frankly, I prefer to watch Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton trade barbs, and compete for the choir master position in their church, and try to prevent the young people in their lives from striving towards a relationship with each other when they ought to know their families don’t care for each other. ( SEE!??? Romeo and Juliet, eternal human story…..)

I want to bounce and sway in my seat to some excellent southern gospel (and gospelly pop music, and pop-y hip-hop-ity gospel), and laugh as Dolly makes jokes about her plastic surgery, and I even want to be satisfied that every single plot twist happens exactly as I predicted it would ten  minutes earlier in the movie. I LOVE THAT.

And you know what? I could go a very, very, very long time before I watch another movie with an unsatisfying vague ending, an unjustified sad ending, or any movie in which no one in the film is anyone with whom I’d remotely want  to ever hang out.

Life is too short, and I will not be judged. I’m gonna grab my joy where I can find it, and if it comes in the form of Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, all’s the better.

Joyful Noise Medley

‘Cause if that don’t make you happy right now, you ain’t trying.

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