Weekend sounds

“At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

While I miss my daily view of the mountains, I so enjoy coming to the Missouri home to relax for a few days. The “Covid-19 pandemic” made it almost impossible to do for a few weeks, but we’ve moved past that and are back to our regularly scheduled jaunts.

The kids have spent time with friends and visited family, having overnight visits. We’ve done chores, and yardwork, and relaxed and done some binge-watching of “Space Force” as well as grocery shopping (which is quite hilarious when done with someone who usually does single-self shopping.)

As I sit here on the deck, typing, I’m listening to the sounds of contentment.

  • bird song
  • the putt-putt-putter of the lawnmower
  • the buzz of the weed eater
  • the drone of carpenter bees
  • the occasional burst of water coming from the sump pump
  • the underlying hum of the hot tub
  • the “smack” of the screen door shutting as the kids go in-and-out
  • “Mom? . . . I love you!” coming repeatedly from our youngest

I must digress for a moment to the carpenter bees. I have to admit I am jealous of their ability to hover in one spot. I am scarcely able to keep my balance standing on one leg while donning my underwear. These bees are HUGE, bigger than the average bumble bee. In fact, Mary Kay Ash, when choosing the “mascot” for her company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, chose the bumblebee. Aerodynamically, the body weight of the bee is too large for it’s wings and it should be unable to fly. However, God, in His infinite wisdom defies aerodynamics (and a great many other things) and so . . . the bumblebee, and all other bees, flies quite nicely. And hovers. *sigh*

It seems to be the American way to want-want-want instead of appreciating what one has. And on that note, I leave you with the thoughts of Leo Tolstoy:

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”

Creamy Chicken and Rice

“Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy.” ~ Julia Childs

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

If you’ve read any of this blog, especially the recipes, you’ll know I’m all about comfort food. Chicken. Rice. Bacon. Cream of mushroom soup. Nothing fancy, really. Just good, filling food that makes you sit back and sigh with contentment when you’ve finished eating.

Creamy Chicken and Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1# chicken tenders

1 box wild rice mix w/ seasoning

1/3 c. sour cream

1/2 can Cream of mushroom soup

1/3 c. chicken broth

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

1/2 # bacon

4 T. butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with slices of bacon, along the bottom, and sides, overlapping as necessary. Top with slices of onion and dot with 1/2 the butter. In a bowl, mix the rice, seasoning packet, sour cream, soup and chicken broth. Spread the rice mixture over the onion and bacon. Press the chicken tenders into the rice. Top with the remaining butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes, remove foil and bake a further 15 minutes. Let cool.

Not only was this a people pleaser in general, but it passed the picky eater test as well. It pairs well with salad, and any leftovers are great for lunch the next day, or a late night snack. If you’d like to make this without the bacon, grease the dish before putting the onions and rice in. I will say while I am not a big bacon fan, it does lend a smoky flavor to the dish that would be a definite loss without it.

Enjoy the weekend and stay safe.

And well fed!

There’s Always Been Hope

“Hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.” ~ Psalm 131:3

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

How many times do you start a sentence with “I hope . . . “

Think about it. You probably do it numerous times, without consciously considering the meaning behind those first two words.

“I hope I find my car keys.”

“I hope it doesn’t rain today.”

“I hope no one notices I’m wearing two different shoes.”

I hope.

Merriam Webster defines it as: “to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true, to expect with confidence.”

To expect with confidence.

That last phrase resonates with me. Through all the many events I’ve survived: child loss, divorces, illness, legal battles, etc. — I’ve always expected with confidence that I would get through the event and things would eventually be better.

This evening I read a short anecdote that I want to share here:

“A large city school system had a program to help children keep up with schoolwork during stays in the city’s hospitals.

A teacher assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a child. She took his name and room number and talked briefly with his regular teacher. “We are studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” she said. “I’d be grateful if you could help him so he does not fall too far behind.”

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one told her that he had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boys suffering, she stammered, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” When she left she felt she had not accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked, her, “What did you do to him?” The teacher felt she had done something wrong and began to apologize. “No, no,” said the nurse. “That’s not what I mean. We’ve been worried about that boy, but ever since yesterday, his attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.”

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”

http://www.housetohouse.com

To be hopeless is a horrible thing. It is to have no assurance or deep belief that things will get better. It is to be so embroiled in the events that have happened that you cannot visualize moving past them and making a life that may be different than what you imagined but not less.

I know of a woman with psychological issues and an already precarious hold on reality, but then she lost her daughter and a week or so later, her father also died. Buried so deeply in her grief, she is lashing out at people, even those she claimed to have loved at one time. I’m sure it is easy to play the blame game — when your life is crashing and other’s lives continue to go on or even improve, when your happiness has disappeared but others are content — the desire to exact revenge for imagined unfairness has to be overwhelming.

I remember standing at my son’s graveside, seeing the faces around me and thinking to myself, “This is not happening.” but it was and it did. People asked if I were going to sue my obstetrician — why? Even the best doctors in the world cannot predict how a pregnancy will turn out. When my mother’s cancer returned with a vengeance, despite getting chemo (which we later learned was knowingly diluted by the pharmacist to a strength that was useless in an effort to charge more per vial – purely monetary gain for him until he got caught) – people asked if we were going to join the class action lawsuit against him — why? No amount of money can bring my mother back.

Shit happens. Hopelessness not only allows you to wallow in the filth of pain and despair but encourages you to stay there. Having hope helps to move out of the shit and get your feet on dry ground where you can shake the shit off, and move on.

Thinking in Music

“I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing.” ~ William james

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

People with sensory processing disorder, like many on the spectrum, develop methods and mechanisms for dealing with stimulation. While some people can work in complete silence, I cannot. Specifically, I need the rhythm of music to help me focus. Not background conversation – I’ll focus on what’s being said. If there’s no muted music playing, I’ll hum or whistle usually unaware that I’m doing so until someone says something.

The downside of this is that all it takes is a word or a phrase in a conversation to get a song into my head. Sometimes for days. So just this week, this is what I’ve heard so far:

  • I had a patient complain that when she closed her eyes she felt like was falling (she had vertigo) — “Catch Me I’m Falling” by Pretty Poison
  • I dreamed that I was in a spooky hospital with two of my friends and a light at the end of the hallway. When I was telling them about it – “The Addams Family” theme song
  • I was semi-dozing on a flight and overheard two people talking about “doing the right thing” – “Do the Next Right Thing” from Frozen 2
  • A co-worker said the word “great” in a teleconference call – “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Cece Winans
  • I had a former co-worker that used to sing the Love Boat Theme Song purposely, just to get it stuck in my head

There is no rhyme or reason to the words that can set off a song in my head. The conversation may not even be about music (it usually isn’t). If I had more time, I’d probably read up on SPD and music and movement. Both are used in therapies with autistic peoples.

So there you go, I wee bit of insight into how my brain works.

Oven Nachos

“This is a chip and cheese conversation . . . nachos! ~ Chuck Steele, Jr.

Who doesn’t like nachos? Tasty. Quick. Easy. Cheesy. People pleasy.

(Sorry, I got on a rhyming kick for a second.)

Today was a working day for me, and I needed something quick and easy to make for dinner. Kid-friendly as well (you know . . . for that picky eater.) What better thing to make than nachos? I’ll post the recipe below, and you decide.

Oven Baked Nachos

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1# ground beef

Salt

Pepper

Garlic Powder

Smoked paprika

Onion Powder

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

10-12 ounces tortilla chips

1 cup Colby Jack shredded cheese

1 cup Mozarella shredded cheese

Tomatoes, green onions, avacado, cilantro, sour cream, black olives, guacamole or salsa – for garnish

Directions

Set oven to 350. Brown hamburger in skillet, adding seasonings to taste. I don’t actually measure, I just sprinkle until it looks good. Spread tortilla chips on a pizza pan or baking pan. Drain any grease from hamburger, and sprinkle meat on top of tortilla chips. Spread black beans on top of meat. Top with the shredded cheeses. Bake for about 12 minutes. Serve with the garnishes listed above, or whatever you like.

I used the tortilla chips with a “hint of lime” because 1) that’s what was in the cabinet, and 2) the kids prefer those over plain tortilla chips. I had a can of black beans on hand, however you can substitute cannellini or pinto beans or even chili beans – just use what you have on hand, don’t fret about it.

I liked the fact that this was one of the easier recipes I’ve made and would be comfortable letting the kids make this for dinner. My picky eater on hearing what was for dinner, proclaimed he wasn’t going to eat it. On arrival to the table, however, his story changed and he had two helpings AND asked to have these nachos for his birthday dinner later this year.

Mmmm Hmmmm . . . .

On Being Chosen

“You did not choose me, but I chose you . . . . ” ~ John 15:16a

Photo by Juliano Ferreira on Pexels.com

To start my last post, I included the quote:

“I choose you and I’ll choose you over and over and over. Without a pause. Without a doubt. In a heartbeat, I’ll keep choosing you.” ~ Anonymous

I can love others freely, but why would anyone choose me? The idea that I would be chosen by anyone goes against the things that I’ve been told for so many years. Ideas that have been deeply ingrained into my psyche — I’m not worthy, not loveable, not enough, not deserving . . . .

First, I had the weekend, where it was shown to me without a doubt that I am chosen – despite differences, despite distance, despite what I think about myself . . . I have been chosen. Not for what I can give, but because of who I am.

After arriving home this week, I had a conversation with a wonderful woman. She relayed that growing up she just didn’t feel like she “fit in.” She performed to others expectations of her, but it didn’t feel natural. It wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she had a mid-life mental crisis, not a breakdown, but just a realization that she had been meeting others’ expectations for so long she had somehow lost sight of WHO she was. Her husband, being a psychologist, told her: “just be yourself,” to which she tearfully replied, “I don’t know who I am.” Hmmmm . . .guess I’m not alone in that thought.

When you have gone for years thinking that you are unworthy, unlovable, undeserving and not enough . . . to receive praise is an unfathomable stressor — a juxtaposition to how you see yourself. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. In my experience, compliments usually come with expectations or demands, a quid pro quo in a sense. I told you something nice about you, now you do something nice for me. The compliment or praise isn’t sincere nor is it lasting if it doesn’t gain compliance.

Last night, my daughter and I were relaxing for a bit, spending time together and she asked to watch a movie. I let her make the selection and of all things she chose “Dumplin’.” This is a movie I’d wanted to see, so I was glad she chose it but not being sure of the premise, I was blindsided. The main character is a heavier girl whose mother is a former beauty queen and in charge of their small town’s beauty pageant. Because of her (in her eyes) shortcomings of weight, unruly curly hair, comments from others based on her weight — when the cute guy she worked with expressed interest in her she questioned the sincerity behind his statements.

Today, as I read my devotional, these words jumped out at me: “You did not choose me, but I chose you . . . “

Wait. What? I don’t care how long I’ve read my Bible, or how often, there’s always some new truth that applies to my life.

And then a bit later I saw this photo on a website and it added to my thoughts . . .

Hand Using Scissors Cutting The Word On Papper.

Okay . . . .I get it! Time for me to do some self-evaluation. I make progress some days, but it seems to be two steps forward and one step back (if not more). I start to make headway and then something happens or is said and all the insecurity and doubt creeps back in and I feel almost paralyzed. It’s almost as if I’m afraid to do anything because it will be the wrong thing, but at the same time when I’m doing the things that I enjoy it’s very empowering.

Sometimes I wish there were a memory reset button.

Mother’s Day

“I choose you and I’ll choose you over and over and over. Without a pause. Without a doubt. In a heartbeat, I’ll keep choosing you.” ~ Anonymous

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

I didn’t choose my children. They were a gift. Each and every one a precious part of me. Throughout the years, we’ve had our ups and downs. It’s been a pleasure to see them grow and mature and marry and become parents themselves.

I did and I do choose my life and my responses to life with my children in mind. Many times when couples go their separate ways, people will urge them to stay together “for the children.” Trust me . . . from experience . . .sometimes it is better for the children if the parents do not stay together.

This past weekend was a blessedly relaxing time – home with my loved ones, sharing meals and chores. Seeing the grandbabies and visiting with my children. Spending time watching the man work on the Jeep, sitting around the firepit, enjoying music and talking while the kiddos relaxed and joined us for a few moments at a time. And of course, relaxing in the hot tub at the end of the day in quiet conversation.

The only snafu to the weekend was an unexpected trip to the auto parts store but . . eh, these things happen.

Choosing to have long distance relationships requires concerted effort to stay in touch. Phone calls, texts, video chats, pictures – all work together to fill in absences. I do not do the video chats, I hate them – the kids chat with each other so they can see their siblings and niece and nephews. Group texts, individual texts, weekly scheduled phone calls – these keep us going between visits. And when I’m there, I am showered with love. Not so much the words, as actions. To me, actions speak louder than any words every will. Anyone can “say” the words, but to back them up with actions means more than uttering the words as it requires conscious effort.

Little things make me the happiest:

  • filling the van with gas before we leave
  • setting up the coffee maker for me
  • having my favorite creamer in the fridge
  • grabbing a blanket for me since I’m always cold
  • a spontaneous back rub
  • even better, a spontaneous foot massage
  • waiting to watch a recorded movie I mentioned I’d like to see

None of these is significant, or over-the-top flamboyant, but they are the things that mean the most to me. I know that I have been chosen and am chosen again and again and again.

There’s an old saying that if you love something, you set it free. If it comes back to you it’s yours, if not it wasn’t meant to be. I believe that love allows us the freedom to be who and what we are, whether it’s a job or an individual bent. We have our quirks and idiosyncrasies, but the trust we have in each other allows us to be ourselves in a richer and fuller manner.

While I may be the “boss lady” at home or at work, I can hang up that title when I am at the Missouri home and just be relaxed and cherished. The distance may keep us apart physically, but we work to keep it real and fresh. Another quote states: “Motherhood is a continuous process of letting go — it begins the moment you give birth.” I have had to loosen my grasp on my children as they grow up, giving them the room to grow and develop into the people they are today. I love each and every one of my kiddos and am so thankful they made me a Mom.

Shrimp Scampi Alfredo

“Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.” ~ Giada De Laurentiis

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

When I am tired, I like comfort food. Easy to prepare, tasty and filling. I don’t want take-out or fast food. This dish fits the bill — shrimp, garlic, butter, parmesan, cream cheese all combined and poured over angel hair or fettuccine. The leftovers aren’t bad either if you chance to have any. What better dish to have on Mother’s Day?

A slice of French bread spread with baked garlic is a very satisfying accompaniment, or even a slice of sourdough to help mop up the creamy sauce . . . you don’t want to miss a bite!

Shrimp Scampi Alfredo

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1# shrimp, peeled

Salt & Pepper

1 T. minced garlic

3 T. butter

1 t. smoked paprika

2 oz. cream cheese, cut into chunks

1/4 c. fresh grated parmesan

Prepared pasta

Fresh parsley, minced to garnish

Directions

Place peeled shrimp on plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat skillet on medium heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add minced garlic stirring until clear and aromatic. Add shrimp. Cook until starting to turn pink (3-4 minutes) and turn. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Stir in chunks of cream cheese and turn heat to low. Stir until shrimp is cooked and cream cheese is melted. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese, remove from heat and continue stirring until parmesan is melted. Ladle over bowls of prepared pasta. Sprinkle with a garnish of fresh parsley.

If running short on time, you may substitute 1/2-3/4 c. of prepared Alfredo sauce from the store. Not as tasty, but tolerable.

This is a menu item that serves well for a quick and easy meal but is tasty enough to impress friends. I’m a firm believer in spending more time with friends over dinner than in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning up.

Food brings people together and good food should be enjoyed and shared. So, get to cooking, and if you make this dish . . . please comment and let me know how it turned out for you and if you made any changes.

Sitting by the Fire

“But the most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people, and places, and memories, and pictures. They’re feelings and moments and smiles and laughter.” ~ John Lubbock

Sitting in the dark of the backyard by the fire, I relax against the wooden steps of the pool decking. The flames have scorched the leaves and brush and have died down to embers. Faint trails of smoke waft towards the sky. An occasional flame erupts, finding fuel in the remaining vines that had been placed on top.

This is my favorite part of the day. Work is done, chores are done. All is quiet save the occasional car driving past or the crackle of wood burning. The moon is out and the stars are visible. Nothing to do really. Nothing begging my attention.

What always amazes me is how the fire bursts into flames, burning with aggressive passion everything in its way. And then. . . it banks down and slowly burns until all that is left is ash. The first staccato burst is attention getting, bright and bold with heat and color. Howver, it is the barely glowing fire that does the most work, creeping along in its slow spread.

The smell of the fire reminds me of camping trips with meals cooked over the open fire. . .with friends, with family. Heating the dish water over the coals. Taking it easy after a day of canoeing and chatting quietly as the little ones would drift off to sleep, snug in their sleeping bags.

It is not so much the accumulation of things that is important as it is making memories with the people you love. Shared laughter is worth more than gold. Tonight’s simple fire is a reminder of past memories with the promise of more to be made.

Ahhhhhh. . .

Reflective

“When the world is itself draped in the mantle of night, the mirror of the mind is like the sky in which thoughts twinkle like stars.” ~ Khushwant Singh

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

I’ve always been a thinker. A deep thinker.

It may not appear to some that I am, but it’s as if I’m multi-tasking both physically and mentally.

The photo above pretty much sums up how I feel most days. Small. Insignificant. Small, compared to the tree. Insignificant in comparison to the vastness of the universe.

Some people want to be remembered in perpetuity when they pass with their name emblazoned on buildings or scholarships or stadiums. I’ll be content with being remembered by my family until they too pass on. I’ve no need for my name to be listed on walls, plaques, or trophies.

My goal is to share the love of Christ with everyone I meet, and in that I know that I am a failure. I am only human. I have those people whom I strongly dislike and I must admit I selfishly rejoice when I hear they are having troubles. I don’t wish hardship or pain on anyone and I certainly don’t pray for it to happen but neither do I have much empathy for those who hurt me with their actions or words.

I’m rather caught in a catch-22: I wonder at times if anything I do makes a difference, if “I” matter and on the other hand, when I receive words of praise such as I did this past week — phrases such as “you’re special” and “I’m proud of you” — while most people would welcome those words, they threaten to rock my already shaky and fragile existence.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship where someone figuratively placed you on a pedestal with words of encouragement and praise, words such as “awesome” and “amazing” and “phenomenal” and assured you of their love . . . and then by their words and actions pulled the pedestal out from under you . . . let’s just say it’s a steep drop. And painful. Especially when most of your life you’ve been told otherwise, and you made the mistake of starting to believe that this person might actually be seeing something in you that others missed — and maybe you really were worth loving.

And then . . . BOOM. You hit the ground, back where you were, maybe even a bit lower from the impact. Ahhhh who am I kidding, a bit lower? Let’s say so far further down than you were that you can’t even see daylight and you aren’t sure you want to. As you start to pull yourself out of that hole, with the help of a few close friends, you develop coping skills to maintain your fragile hold on who you are. Much like Cinderella at the ball, you had your few moments of transformation, but you end up right back in rags and soot.

So to those who cannot comprehend the effect that compliments have on me . . .

Overwhelming panic. Fear. Tears. Nausea. Flight, forget any notion of fight.

It is just easier to maintain my status quo of “nothingness” than anything else as I don’t know that my psyche could survive another fall. Out of self preservation I have to maintain a distance. Many of my friends laugh or joke about my 72-hour rule of “togetherness” but to me it is a necessity. Maybe that is why my faith deepened and strengthened — God has not failed me ever.

And here is one of my favorite songs — “The Real Me” by Natalie Grant