Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ode to Valentines

I guess this is a Valentine's day post. It's not really too sappy or focused on smoochy love and all that crap everyone's tired of reading about. (Well, I am. So I suppose I'm not alone.) Sappy, smoochy Hallmark love is good and all but there's more than that.

Palmer and I watched La La Land yesterday and when it ended we had very opposite feelings about it.
If you're dying to see this movie and don't want any spoilers, consider this your spoiler warning. 

First of all, I was pouting that there wasn't more musical singing and dancing numbers. As much as I swooned over the jazz in it, I wanted more memorable sing alongs. And when the last number hit and we are left pining over what could have been between these two dreamers, I was so angry. How could they do that to me?! His face when he saw her! And they both saw their life and the magic and adventure and love that could have been! AND THEN SHE LEFT AND THE CREDITS POP UP LIKE EVERYTHING IS FINE.

Palmer clapped and said he loved it. I stomped my foot and said, "WHAT?? That was terrible! There wasn't enough singing and they weren't together! What the heck?!"

In the car he said it again and I said again how I just didn't agree. He went on to describe how their hopes and dreams and love and everything that made up their reality and they were chasing were the risky options in their life. Pursuing an acting career had the lowest percentage rate for success. His landing a solid paying gig playing the jazz that fueled his passions had the lowest percentage rate for success. And in life you chance it or you don't. You luck out and you beat the odds or you don't.

Spoiler warning ends here.

He went on to say it was very much like us and I sat there mouth open taking the movie in all over again. He was totally right.

Palmer and I's relationship was the risky one. To be honest, it had one of the lower chances for success. We were 18 and 19 when we met. It was literally love at first sight. We were kids with heads full of dreams and souls filled with passion and hearts filled with angsty hope. Then we hit a point quickly where we split and I wasn't sure I even liked him anymore. He was a Christian Republican and I was a Democratic agnostic/universalist/searchingforwhateverthehellisgoingonhere-ist. Some people told him I was too wordly and we wouldn't be equally yoked as a couple. I had people tell me he was a jerk.

As it turns out, we ended up hanging out again. In groups first, then in pairs, then as a double date, then we found ourselves spending hours together, daily, laying everything out. Being brave and vulnerable and honest. He wasn't a jerk. I wasn't a Delilah. 

We were cloaked in layers of what our worlds wanted us to be.

We got married at 19 and 20, after knowing each other for a year and a half. Again, our chance for success was very low, I think it's safe to say. If my kids played this same scenario out, I would be terrified but do my very best to equip them. But damn I'd be scared - just like my friends, family and strangers were. I legitimately lost track of how many times people told us it wasn't a good idea. Every 19 year old in love has said this, but I knew it would be okay. I knew it was right, I wasn't scared at all. We planned to chase our dreams together, married to help propel one another towards what we want from this life. Fuel for the other's passions.

Things were wonderful until they weren't. I needed to seek help with my depression. (As it turns out, falling in love and getting married doesn't fix depression.) Palmer needed to seek help for his own demons. (As it turns out, ignoring problems doesn't make them go away.) We forgot how to be present for the other and then our marriage imploded. I was struggling with postpartum depression and Palmer was struggling with addictions. Our chance for success, again, was very low.

However, we succeeded. It was fucking hard. I imagined what divorce would look like. I imagined single motherhood. I imagined Palmer finding someone new. I imagined suicide. And we survived it all. We showed up for each other. Became brave and vulnerable and honest again. We found the wounds and healed them. They're very faded scars now. It's only hard to talk about now because my memory isn't great.

From eternity to where the space meets the sea.

We chose to help launch a new church. A riskier option than staying in sales and climbing the corporate ladder, but happiness trumped promotions. The chance for success: low. But we did it.

We chose to start a business. A riskier option than landing a 9-5 with benefits. The chance for success: lower. But we're doing it.

We/Palmer chose to funnel a lot of energy into a new local startup with massive potential but not a lot of short term reward. Success rate: lower than other options. But it's going remarkably well.

There have been several other dreams that had a super low chance for success that didn't pan out but it didn't hurt a damn thing to try. Whatever has failed us in the past opened a possibility for something else. It's incredible.

It makes me wonder how many people are chasing the risky dream. What is this life if you're not?

We've had odds against us for a long time and we may always have odds against us. But choosing risk, choosing joy, choosing passion despite a low chance for success - isn't that living beyond existing?

Love is risky. It often times has a low chance for success. But really, love is only successful when it's felt. 

Every one who loves deserves love. Whatever you believe, all of us only have this one existence. It will never play out this way again. Choose joy. Choose passion. Choose love. Choose risk. Choose hope. It will not always go like you hope. The odds may beat you. You might fail. But every failure leads to another possibility. That's the beauty La La Land captured in my opinion. The odds were harsh for each of them and they didn't triumph the way they thought. But it led them to other possibilities. Flaws made beautiful because of choice.  I'm still pining over the montage at the end. It reminds me of my own what ifs. What if Palmer and I chose separate paths? We didn't marry, we didn't have 3 remarkable children. We didn't choose adventure over familiar. If we had done everything different, I would live my own montage of an alternate life. And what a glorious feeling it is to look behind you, at every fork in your path and every choice you've ever made and smile because not a single one leaves you in regret.

I write this wishing, hoping and praying this for everyone, Valentine. 
Choose bravely, lovely, risky and truly. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Horseradish Pot Roast

This is one of my favorite winter meals. I highly recommend using a creamier horse radish. In all the times I've made it, the creamy horseradish made it tender and perfect. Enjoy and stay warm!

Horseradish Pot Roast

1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 lb)
1 lb baby cut carrots
6 small red potatoes, cut in half
2 bay leaves (this is optional, in my opinion)
5 oz horseradish
1 envelope (1 oz) onion soup mix
1 can condensed golden mushroom soup

If roast comes in netting or is tied, remove ties. Place potatoes, carrots and bay leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker. Rub horseradish over beef and then place on vegetables. Sprinkle with dry onion soup mix. Pour mushroom soup over all. 

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. 

Optional: when finished, remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker. Stir in 1/2 cup of sour cream in cooking juices. Pour over beef and vegetables. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

This is definitely, hands down one of my favorite crock pot recipes. It's so simple, healthy and full of flavor. You can make it spicy if you like or let the garlic and chicken broth flavor the dish on it's own. Even my kids love it so you know that makes anything a real winner.

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

4 cans (16 oz each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (14 oz) smoked turkey sausage, sliced (I used kielbasa and it was delightful as well)
1 cup chicken broth
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flaked (optional)

In a slow cooker, combine the first 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until vegetables are tender. Stir and serve over rice.

Easy Peasy. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Open Letter Pleading We Remember Who We Are

"My soul recognizes your soul, I honor the light, love, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me, in sharing these things there is no distance and no difference between us, we are the same, we are one." 

This was going to be a long Facebook status. Then it resembled a novel. Then I went back and added the introductory note stating that I know it's long. Then I decided to post it here because people scroll past long posts.

My heart is heavy. I love people and I love this world with every fiber of my flawed and open self and the current status of my immediate surroundings is too toxic for me to not say anything.

 I've never liked politics for many reasons you could probably guess. I've only been able to vote in 2 elections. One I skipped because I truly believed my vote did not make any difference. Once I voted Republican. Once I would have voted Democrat if I was of age to vote. I like to think I keep my ideas open enough that the infamous "party line" is blurred and I only focus on issues. I didn't anticipate being involved in this election until the man I truly believed in was robbed and my only options for a president were one resembling destruction and one resembling corruption.

It sounds like politics, doesn't it? It sounds like the politics I rolled my eyes at and made fun of. But I care this time because the issues presented this election go so far beyond politics. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault and victim shaming have spewed from a nominee. And to my horror, people defend it. People I respected share it and scream their applause. Even worse, they find Biblical scripture to defend it. And now we're to a point where Christians are using abortion as the best reason to support someone who says things so heinous and very un Christ like.

I am so disgusted by politics that I won't discuss it anymore. What I will not keep quiet about is the rock bottom we are at. Glennon called it what it is very well, Trump is America's rock bottom. He is the quiet, festering illness we have to face that we've been suffering from for decades (at least). This last week I have been angry, depressed and broken hearted that it's been made so clear that the people around me have revealed a much darker side to themselves than I could imagine. That's not to say disagreement is unacceptable. Disagreement is expected and often times a good thing. Disagreement is not dark.

To see people over and over defend the vile words of someone so repugnant in every way is devastating.  Some people would shrug and say, "This is the state of humanity and the world is terrible so I'm not surprised,' but I wholeheartedly disagree. This is the lowest I've seen humanity, but I have not lost faith in it. My faith in the good of people is the one thing I have always had and it's hard to see now but I know it's there. The goodness in us is quieter than the loud, nasty words of the other side.



History will remember this time and will remember the words of many. I will work until I can't and fight until I'm weary and speak until I'm hoarse for the rights and dignity of the human race I truly believe in. Women deserve to be treated as an equal human. Children deserve to be treated as an equal human. Every religious person deserves to be respected as an equal human. Every ethnicity deserves to be treated as an equal human. When a victim steps up pointing out inequality and asking for help, god damnit we listen and step up.

We step up now.

As an introverted stay at home mom Facebook has been a much needed tool for me to stay connected to the world and the people I love. But it's toxic right now so I have to limit when I log on. I hate that because I rely on it for all of the hilarious pictures and adorable animals and clever gifs and moving quotes. Social media is a wonderful tool but in the next month it's not our tool anymore - it's the media's; it's the government's; it's the way to keep us collectively distracted. But the media knows we are devouring everything noxious they deliver so until next month it won't be letting up.

But I beg you, I plead with every one of you, do not lose sight of the light in your neighbor and the light in yourself. We are good. And we will come out of the other side of this better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Crockpot Balsamic Beef

Crockpot Balsamic Beef

3lb boneless chuck roast 
pinch of salt
1 cup beef broth or stock
2/3 c balsamic vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Place roast in crockpot. Sprinkle roast with salt. 

In a small bowl, stir together broth, vinegar, brown sugar and liquid smoke. Pour around the roast.

Cover, cook for 8-10 hours. (The longer the better for a chuck roast!)

Shred beef and return to crockpot.

Continue cooking for an additional 30-60 minutes. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kielbasa & Roasted Veggies

This has become a staple in our house. It's so easy, healthy and filling. It's also wonderful because it's different everytime depending on the variety of vegetables you use. Tonight it's yellow squash, zucchini, carrots and potatoes. Last time it was green beans, sweet potatoes and zucchini. Delicious every time. It's also a fantastic way to use the random amounts of vegetables you're left over with sometimes. Just throw it in and bake!

Kielbasa & Roasted Veggies

1 large onion, cut into wedges
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed or chopped
3-4 large carrots or 2 cups baby carrots
2 sweet potatoes
3 medium potatoes
2-3 cups frozen green beans
3-4 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 12-16oz package of kielbasa, sliced in one inch pieces (I always double the meat here ((insert dirty joke if you like)) 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and chop veggies

Toss all veggies, including onion and garlic, in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place all veggies in a 9x13" baking dish and top with sliced kielbasa.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Stir and flip everything. 

Bake for another 20 minutes until vegetables are tender and kielbasa is browned. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fireman's Chicken

This recipe belongs to my fabulous mother in law, Cheryl Griffin, who gave it to me in a collection of  other tried and true recipes as a wedding gift. I'll keep the original notecard forever but I wanted to share the recipe with the interwebs, with her permission, of course. When you're wanting a simple casserole that screams "mid west comfort food", here you go.

Fireman's Chicken

1 package elbow macaroni (roughly 12 oz or so) 
((That's how you know this is a real good recipe - when the measurements are rough estimates.))
2 - 4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can milk
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 can Rotel
1 can black olives, sliced

Cook macaroni and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine chicken, onion, soups, milk, Rotel and olives together in a pot and heat through on low-medium heat. Add cooked macaroni.

Pour into 9x13 baking dish. Add cheese and bake until cheese is melted - about 15 minutes.