Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tending the Flame

“Decide you will stop retreating from fear and step through it instead. Write down your decision, post it and don’t throw the note away until you have taken your first step.”  
The Dream Giver p 95
Bruce Wilkinson
When I was fourteen, I had a dream. I dreamt of being a great actress. Common? Perhaps. Trite? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I pursued that dream through study and practice for 8 years. Then the flames of burnout which hungrily devoured my last year of college consumed my dream, leaving ashes behind. Years later the dry bones would form sinew and achingly come back to life but by then insurmountable obstacles seem to pen it in. Finally I would do a small play here or there and my heart would burst into bloom, but then the giants of fear, injury, weight, lack, age and insecurity seem to block the dream from swimming anywhere but very small puddles. (I know that I’m hopping metaphors terribly today. Please bounce with me.) I became reconciled to the muffled quiet and the emptiness where this dream once resided. And then awareness, a whisper on the breeze of wait, there is purpose in the emptiness: a realization that the great healing He has been doing in my heart has been necessary if this dream should ever grow. So this dream smoldered in the dark and the quiet, tucked away.

In the meantime other dreams came to lead with blazing fire, one especially. I could not understand how if each of these dreams were lit by Divine Flame they could co-exist in one future. I could not spread my mind wide enough for ands and not ors. Then suddenly the blazing fire I had been following guttered, spit and seemed to go out. Weeping, I handed the smoking torch back to Him not knowing if there are any embers left hiding for another time, or if acrid incense is all that is left. For a time my hands were too wet with tears to carry any flame. I simply needed to mourn the loss. But eventually I sat up and looked about me understanding how wide the horizon is when I am not following one single light. A slight crackling caught my ears and out of the corner of my eyes I glimpsed a ribbon of smoke prancing in the wind. So I have been seeking permission to tend this flame. Not wishing to take up a lantern that is to light a different part of my path. I don’t feel the fiery passion I had at 14 or even at 20. Time and disappointment have taught me caution. But they have also taught me to trust the Light Giver over the light. To understand that I may be asked to give back this fire at any time and though I may feel abandoned in the dark, I am not. To recognize that even if the fire becomes a bonfire of glory it is a mere shadow of His light. So I follow and tenderly nurse the flame.

But how? In prose not poetry what is the concrete step I need to post so I step through the fear? I am already clearing away some wonderful commitments to give me a few more bits of time for this. And now I am working on two general audition monologues. My goal is to have them edited, memorized and crafted by the end of the July. There in plain, detailed English is what I am working on now. Now I've posted it and I promise not to throw this note away until I have completed this step.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Does anyone know that song? I think I have it on a random soundtrack somewhere but I’m pretty sure it’s from before my time. Anyways...I sense some shifting in my life and it feels a little chaotic. Not quite like the recent earth shaking, more hopeful but unsettling nonetheless. This year I’ve faced some (seemingly) dead ends and laid dreams down on His altar…all of them. I sat down with the One who births all good dreams and handed each of mine back over which left me wide open and bare. Several have been handed back but they feel different. One feels like a tiny treasure, a seed pearl to store away in my heart until it is time to bloom.

The other feels like work. Finally, some tasks to sink my hands and time into. But oh, it will involve battling fear, too. This dream comes with many boisterous, loud fears. And they must be challenged. I sat down this morning and gave a few of them voice in my journal. Then I asked Him to please give me truth, to please breathe courage in my heart to confront each lie. And He did.

All of this has blossomed in the last month or so. My fabulous trip and time with my Gift played a part in that. I feel that after years of waiting I have a step, a first step forward. But as soon as I got home I was buried in obligations and schedules and the need to work and commitments to serve and frankly I’m feeling a bit dizzy. I think some reshuffling of priorities and commitments may be ahead. Or maybe that’s just the reaction to coming back from vacation. But somehow I think that I won’t be able to invest in or pursue this dream without letting go or even leaving behind some very good and right things. I have no idea what this will look like. But if this week is any gage I will need to purposely carve out time.

Speaking of time I’m slowly Picniking my way through the hundreds of Big Sur Remix pictures. Hopefully those posts will be ready more quickly than the Big Fat Big Sur Road Trip posts. In the meantime I’m sharing a few of the beauties that surround me. (And yes Waiting4Daybreak, your kids rock! How I love them, and they make excellent subjects.)
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Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Back

I'm back, simultaneously tired and refreshed.  I've got tons to catch up on here, new challenges that it is time to embrace and 670 (yikes! I promise not to inflict share them ALL with you.) pictures to edit.  But here are a couple of Big Sur Remix pics to tide you over.

Off to bed to do some California dreamin'
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Road Trip

How those words make my heart sing.  (We took many road trips when I was young, including four cross country treks.  How big is Texas? Seriously?  The Bull Gator and my mom know how to lead a interesting, stop filled, fun road trip.)  After a fabulously full weekend with out-of-town family (someday I'll have to tell you just how large my extended family is.  I believe I can safely vouchsafe over 100 cousins.)  I'm going up the coast again. 


There's something about a good road trip that makes me all nesty and organized, turning my (newly washed) car into a little home. 

the role of my suitcases is being played by my sweet cousin Destiny

My sweet birthday Gift is traveling to the Monterey Peninsula and I'm going to join her.  June is very different than September on the California coast so it will seem entirely different than my Big Fat Big Sur Road Trip.  I think we can expect more fog and scenes of mystery.  Actually, I'm just hoping the coastal highway opens again by Monday.  This is what winter can do to that road.

photo by CHP Officer Ben Grasmuck
photo by CalTrans

Hopefully the trip will also be just what is needed to chase away any remaining writer's blahs.  I plan on having fun and reconnecting with one very dear to my heart.  I may even blog while I'm there or I may just disappear for the week.  Who knows? I will bring you back hundreds some pictures and miss you all.
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PS. As soon as I published this post I stopped avoiding Him and a few other things as well. It really helps me to get going when I tattle on myself to all of you.  How I love your comments!  You have brought a wholly unexpected source of  joy to blogging.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Joybird's Library: The Mother Daughter Book Club

I'm curled up on the floor; quietly typing in a room darkened but bathed in the warm glow of sunlight burning through rosy curtains listening to the hushed whiffles of a napping two year old. She tried so hard to go to sleep by herself, squeezing her little eyes crinkly-shut but left alone her crooning lullabies turn to raucous playing. So "stay," she asked, "stay Täti." And I sit on the floor next to her crib turned big girl bed, savoring the sweet joy of a child's love: simultaneously content and hungry for a little girl of my own. But these moments, these please stay moments are not the whole story. Just as often I hear "NoooOOOOooooo" and "No help, Täti." All her life this little girl will push away and draw back the women in her heart: her mommy, her grandmas, her täti, and her friends. This dance of negotiation, security versus independence, will continue.

I think that may be what touched me in The Mother Daughter Book Club, this exploration of the female dance of friendship. My local library (bookstores are not an option right now) had the first three in this series by Heather Frederick Vogel: Mother Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne, and Dear Pen Pal. As you would expect the series follows a book club of middle school girls and their mothers who all know each other from yoga class.
Since in my experience middle school girls are drawn to drama like paparazzi to red carpets much angst ensues. The friendships are very fluid as well as tempestuous. Megan may start off disliking Emma, and then become her friend only to not be friends again after a fight; confusing but realistic. I remember this, H not liking me only to become my best friend and then suddenly mad at me again.  Navigating middle school relationships was akin to riding a roller coaster on roller blades. Much of the fluidity in these books is aided by the narrator switch with each chapter. Each girl gets to share her point of view. What a great way to show that in every conflict there are as many sides as there are participants and what seems clear cut when looked at from one point of view may still not be correct.   

Learning this skill has helped me to develop more compassion and acceptance. I also find it refreshing that the conflicts between the girls aren’t always tied up with a neat little bow. There are a couple of mean girls in the series and while putting forth an effort to understand them does reveal possible friends, those newly transformed friendships can still be unstable.

I thought this was pretty true to life. I want to teach my kids that compassion, kindness and understanding can go a long way but the truth is that many of the people they meet are hurting and will lash out regardless of their actions.

Friends aren’t the only complicated female relationships present. Each daughter comes with her own history and emotional baggage which often complicates the relationship with her mom. Cassidy has lost her father, Sarah’s parents are separated for a time, Megan is the polar opposite of her granola crunchy mom and each of these scenarios offer up much angst. Although the main conflict in each book is usually neatly resolved, like the friendships, the mother-daughter conflicts aren't perfectly wrapped up, at least not from the middle schooler point of view. Though the books are written for young girls and from their perspective it is clear that there is a different story going on in the adults’ lives which I only glimpsed as it affected the daughters. But the moms’ stories definitely impact their children. This element, the rhythm set by the generation ahead is a part of the dance.

There is another group of women who dance their steps in these books as well: the authors who wrote the classics the Book Club explores. Their lives and their art have a voice here. These books- Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and Daddy-Long-Legs-provide plot parallels and speak to the characters about both their circumstances and the roles they play in them. The conflicts and joys present where two or more women are gathered together are not new; they‘ve been explored and described by gifted women whose tales layout choreography for generations to come. This is a very old dance that the Book Club daughters and mothers, sweet little Tea and I all twirl within.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I'm avoiding Him. Not some general time in the past but right now, even as I write. I have some questions burning in my heart, questions I am afraid He will answer. Questions that may mean change which I usually find uncomfortable. And I sit in a house gloriously quiet. So I am reading, commenting, listening, editing pictures, writing a post even if it is the second one in the same day...avoiding. The anxiety is building.  I need to stop, turn and face Him. But will I?
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Joybird's Kitchen: Herb Roasted Almonds

Last Christmas I gave our neighbors Pioneer Woman’s amazing cinnamon rolls which have as promised won me great acclaim wherever served (PDub, you are a complete genius in the kitchen!) and my own Herb Roasted Almonds. I was utterly surprised that I was asked for the recipe for the almonds more than the cinnamon rolls which have in the past, elevated me to hero status. Now once in a while I have a complete Eureka moment when a fully formed mouthwatering recipe just arrives in my head. But more often my own dishes evolve over time. This delightful snack began in my lovely friend Dale’s (Look for her on TV! She pops up all over the place.) kitchen. Her Rosemary Almonds are delish and so easy, but then I watched Alton Brown roast almonds and decided to start messing about a bit with the recipe myself. This is the result. Heads up: I may have mentioned this before but I am a very instinctual cook. I did measure out the ingredients for you but I‘m a bit sloppy and often simply measure to taste. Feel free to mess about in the same way.

Ingredients: raw almonds, extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh garlic, pepper, ground mustard seed, ground coriander seed, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt

First preheat the oven to 425. Then rinse and pat dry the fresh herbs.

Next pour ½ cup olive oil into a medium mixing bowl. Do not pour the oil onto the counter. It really does no good there. Pay close attention and do as I say not, clearly, as I do. (Oh and I used ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup grapeseed oil due to said spill.)

You will need to close your eyes and imagine this next step as (oops) I forgot to take a picture. Peel garlic cloves, crush in a garlic press and then mince. I have no idea how many cloves but you want to end up with about 2 tablespoons of raw garlic. If you so rightly adore garlic (or need to ward off non-sparkly vampires) add a bit more. I love garlic.

Strip the rosemary leaves off of the stem

and finely chop.

Remove the thyme from the stem and chop as well. If you get the little tender stem tops in the mix, that’s fine. Just mince them up. You want to end up with around 5 tablespoons of chopped rosemary and 5 tablespoons of chopped thyme. If you add a bit more, that’s ok since in the end the chopped herbs and garlic form these magical little bits of yumminess.

Next everybody in the pool and let them swim about, playing Marco Polo, while you’re prepping the almonds.

These jelly roll pans are one of my favorite new kitchen tools (totally affordable at Smart and Final.) Spread one pound of almonds on each pan. I recommend putting silpat underneath if you have it.

Toast the almonds for 10 minutes, swapping the trays between racks halfway through. You want the almonds to be hot and just starting to brown.

Remove them from the oven and dump into the bowl. (The dump method is probably my favorite cooking technique.) Gently but thoroughly stir. The hot almonds will make the oil start to lightly sizzle and the herbs and garlic begin to cook which will smell marvelous (especially if you use a very high quality olive oil) and sting your eyes (thanks, rosemary.) Turn the oven down to 375.

Add approximately ½ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper (or more if you like, I don’t like so much.) Then add tons (2 teaspoons) of ground mustard. The mustard gives the almonds a dry bite. Next add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander seed which has a bright almost lemony flavor. On a whim I decided to add a bit, ½ teaspoon, of smoked paprika. The ½ teaspoon of turmeric gives a slight golden shade and is very very healthy. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory. Finally add salt to taste. Mix it all together trying quite carefully to not fling oil or nuts around the kitchen or down your shirt. (Uhhmm you all do that, right?) In fact perhaps step one should really read “put on a cute apron.” I’ll show you mine someday. They’re beyond sweet.

Moving on. Spread out the almonds in a single layer, dividing them evenly between the two trays. Place in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, CHECKING OFTEN. You are looking for the nuts to darken some but not blacken and the herb bits to get all crispy. I find that I tend to undercook one tray and over cook the other which balances out when mixed. But DO NOT BURN. Since the almonds have been toasted once already, under roasting them tastes far better than burning them which may make you cry with disappointment.

Remove, cool and devour. You may even want to share. But you don’t have to. I won’t tell.

Herb Roasted Almonds
2 lbs whole raw almonds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tb crushed and minced garlic
5 Tb minced fresh rosemary
5 Tb minced fresh thyme
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp ground mustard seed
1 tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt (or so to taste)

Preheat oven to 425. Rinse and pat dry the fresh herbs. Pour olive oil into medium mixing bowl. Crush and mince fresh garlic and add to oil. Strip and chop rosemary leaves. Strip and chop thyme leaves. Add to oil and mix. Pour 2 lbs almonds evenly onto jelly roll pans and toast in the oven for ten minutes. Remove hot almonds from the oven and add to herbs and oil. Mix thoroughly. Turn the oven down to 375. Add pepper and spices to almonds. Mix. Add salt and stir. Dividing the almonds evenly between pans, spreading out in a single layer, and return to oven to roast for a maximum of 15 minutes. Remove and cool.
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PS  I think I have the kindest, sweetest group of readers.  Really, you guys blow me away.  Thank you for all of your encouragement.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Writers Blah

Hi all! Just wanted to pop in and say “Hi.” I know I’ve been really quiet but I think I have writer’s blah. I have so many half finished posts that I’m just kind of blah about. And I haven’t had the time and energy to read and comment to most of you so there’s that, too. Just kind of blah. I shall blame June gloom. Hopefully my blahs will leave before it does.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

7DS: American Gothic - Blueberry Edition

Ahhh, the joys of babysitting. Introducing the new American Gothic - Blueberry edition.

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sharing my giggles as well as my tears

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

10 Years Ago Yesterday

Dear Bee,

Ten years ago yesterday I was working with you, one of my best friends. We’d get our exercise walking the trail after work. Once we discovered an owl hidden in the tall eucalyptus. Ten years ago yesterday your parrot, Sammy, would call me names with your voice when I sassed her. Ten years ago yesterday Stinkerbell lived at your house. Ten years ago yesterday I was studying to be a real estate agent and we were going to open a business together. Ten years ago yesterday I lived on my own miles away from where I lay my head tonight. Ten years ago yesterday I planned to go to the beach with you after we prepped the shish kebobs for a leasing event. Ten years ago yesterday you told me how much fun you were having planning dessert for your son’s birthday. Ten years ago yesterday my car broke down and I decided to take it in for repairs rather than go to Costco with you. Ten years ago yesterday I had no idea how in the space of a phone call my whole life could change. Ten years ago yesterday I didn’t know that I should have hugged you goodbye.

Ten years ago today you didn’t come home. You went Home.

Today it feels like forever since I whispered a teary goodbye in a cold hospital room and yet like no time at all. Today it seems normal to not talk with you. Today your dog seems far more mine than she was yours (as I did own her almost twice as long as you.) I loved her so much. I did a good job mothering her. You’d have been proud and perhaps a little surprised. But of course you know that now as Stinkerbell has joined you. After your friendship Bee, she’s the best gift you could have ever given me.  I never became a real estate agent. I still like houses but that business only seemed fun working with you. I’m a pretty good cook now (although nowhere near as good as you.) You definitely inspired me. And I found a Philly’s Best near me. I think of you every time I eat a cheese steak. I’ve even been to Philly, at least the airport. I’m still following God the best I can, still making choices that would confuse you if you were here but now probably make more sense to you than to me. I have great friends today; loyal, trustworthy women that you’d like if you met them. I’ve grown up a lot Bee, although it’s hard to see unless you listen closely. But you would have seen it. Sorry, I don’t play the political game any better now than I did before but I’m more comfortable in my own skin and more accepting of other people in theirs. I think that’s probably what you were trying to explain in that last long chat.  I hope your men are thriving and
 I expect that they are. They’re good guys and you loved them well. Even though I’m sure they’ll always grieve you, I hope their lives are strong and good and filled with love. I pray for them once in a while.

Bee, I know that you are beyond words like happy now. Even this very minute you are relishing every good thing I ever wanted for you and so much more that I can’t even begin to imagine. I guess what I want to say most is thank you for being my friend. I still miss you. I always will. But I will also be forever grateful that you showed me for a little while what it’s like to have a big sister.

Love until we meet again,
your Junior
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