Pass the Hasenpfeffer

The Easter Bunny stopped hopping by my house when I was about six.

He may have noticed the pens of rabbits in the backyard and realized that we took our bunnies pretty seriously. If he noticed the butcher block hung on the big tree back there, he probably made tracks into the next county immediately, spilling little black jelly beans along the way.

To make up for his sudden lack of love to our neighborhood, we invited all the local children over once in a while for butchering day.

We could’ve sold tickets, but we just wanted to share the stuff of nightmares around.

We just wanted to make things right.

You can’t be greedy with your cold sweat train wrecks, and the education these little friends received probably rises up, unbidden, into their frontal lobe even today, in the middle of corporate meetings or after their third martini.

They’ll thank us some day, if they need to go all Scarlett O’Hara and live off the land.

Eating rabbits are different from pet rabbits (little lop-eared litter-box-trained puffballs) or from game rabbits (Bugs Bunny and the Rabbit of Cairbannog).

You should try to learn the difference between pets, food, and entertainment.

The lines blur, I know, but as Duck Dynasty gets paid to point out, your dinner did not come from the grocery.

It came from the backyard.

And once in a while, we proved it.

When the rabbits were cleaned, skinned, quartered and wrapped, the show came to an end.

The dogs were running around with lucky rabbits’ feet in their mouths, the kids were running home to tell parents about their brush with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and we were running into the kitchen to see if Mom was gonna make dinner now.

And she was.

I sure miss rabbit for dinner, but the cottontails running around my current backyard are faster than I am.

I called to get the recipe just in case, exactly “The Way Mom Used to Make It”.

Mom: “I can’t believe we used to do that.”

Me: “Just try to remember, mom. This is for posterity. I will make sure everyone knows you are completely against hurting any animal of any kind.”

Mom: “I won’t even fish anymore. I used to love fishing. I just won’t hurt a fish.”

Me: “Okay. Pretend it’s a tofu bunny. How do I cook it?”

Mom: “Cooking rabbits are very tender and mild, not at all gamey. You can do it up like chicken, but there won’t be any skin so you lose a bit of fat in a recipe. You could bake it like chicken parts, but it will be slightly more stringy or chewy. It’s best stewed, I think.”

Me: “Cool. Tell me how.”

Mom: “I flour the pieces and brown them in hot oil in the bottom of my cast iron dutch oven. Then I put all the pieces back in, added maybe an inch of water, put the lid on and simmered it for about two hours. Check it now and then in case the water evaporates. Add a bit more, you don’t want it to run dry. Then add your veggies, potatoes or carrots or whatnot to the pot and simmer another hour or so until everything’s cooked through.”


Me: “Sounds like a roast beef.”

Mom: “Yes, and if we had crockpots then, that would have worked just as well. If you wanted to, you pulled out the food and added cornstarch or flour to the liquid and made up gravy for it.”

Me: “Gravy is my Alamo.”

Mom: “Well, cheat and add a packet of gravy mix from the store. It has all the spices and flavorings and thickenings done for you. Just stir it up.”

Me: “Thanks, mom. I may never eat another rabbit, but I will always have the memories.”

Mom: *deep sigh* “Wish I didn’t.”

Easter Unplugged

When you have five kids and prep for an Easter egg hunt, you can’t just rely on the hard boiled dyed ones, you have to supplement with plastic and then try to decide what goes inside of them in a migraine-inducing trip to Target.

Because heaven forbid you hide EMPTY eggs. They forgive you with the real eggs. Those you toss in the trash after they sit in your closet for a month, ripening.

But an empty plastic easter egg is heresy, so you start small.

“One chocolate chip per egg ought to do it,” you say, looking around at all those expectant faces and multiplying by five. Or ten. Maybe more if all the cousins are coming over.

So you up the ante, because if the cousins are coming over, their eggs will have Willie Wonka Golden Tickets inside, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent a small fortune on candy and scrounged up tiny Happy Meal toys they forgot they had from the back of their closet, and loose change from between the couch cushions.

One year my kids emptied their found eggs, and put bugs inside and had a second round. There was not only more excitement, but a few kids got grossed out so good that they were considered the “winners”.

Whatever.

Some day, my kids are going to throw me an easter egg hunt – they SO owe me – and my plastic eggs will have hundred dollar bills inside. Epic egg hunt. Maybe one will have diamonds, just to spice it up a bit.

Regardless, there are no expectations of grandeur when it comes to finding a traditional easter egg.

Those are for before Easter, as a family bonding art project.

(We are pausing a moment to remind ourselves that those four words were never meant to go together. Thank you.)

What mom doesn’t look forward to turning her kids loose on a table full of dye and eggs?

“Here’s a crayon,” you say brightly, trying to whip up some enthusiasm, “just draw your design on here and put the egg into a cup of color.”

One kid breaks a crayon trying. One kid breaks an egg trying. You dump the egg into blue dye anyway because it’s not like anyone will be eating it.

One year, my sister and I teamed up. We sat all the kids outside at the picnic table and filled dye cups and spread newspapers and piled hard boiled eggs up at one end.

There were crayons and stickers and plastic shrink strips and cute drip trays. It was a rainbow of artistic magic waiting to happen.

Halfway through, it occurred to our clever kids to question what else would change color if you put it into the cup. Turns out, sticks, leaves, bugs, dirt clods, and chicken feathers do not dye well.

But your brother’s shirt, yes.

In the meantime, I noticed a funny look on my sister’s face. The kids had dispersed to the wilds of the backyard, seeking further scientific experimentation, and we were left to carry on as best we could.

I was drawing butterflies and my sister was staring at her purple egg. She shook it next to her ear.

“How long are you supposed to boil eggs?” she asked.

“Um, well it said boil 10 then let it sit for 20, but I’m an overachiever so I boiled em up for 20, just to be safe.”

We both looked at her egg.

“Which ones are yours?” I asked, radar going off.

We are, after all, daughters to the same mother.

The egg pile was impressive and combined beyond the fingerprinting process.

We glanced at the kids. They were oblivious, busy chasing hens out of the garden.

If you can believe it, my sister can spin traditional ideas into pretzels even faster than I can, so when I saw her wicked little half-smile, I knew these eggs had just received a new destiny.

I set my butterflies down sadly, “Aw, maaaaan….”

We put the cups of dye in the garden so the kids could continue enriching their cognitive development, fine motor skills, and hair coloring talents.

She set up a trashcan lid as a target, with the trashcan underneath.

I looked around for the neighborhood watch, in case cameras were rolling.

Then we took turns finding out which eggs were cooked beyond recognition (and bounced) and which eggs were still trying to be baby chicks when they grew up (splat).

My butterflies did what they were created to do. Only much faster.

It was the most therapeutic thing we’d done in a long time, bonding over scrambled eggs.

I’m sure mom would’ve been proud.

I highly recommend it.

The Pity Party

Genetically speaking, anxiety and depression and a significant handful of other fun mental issues have a real possibility of showing up in my life.

I grew up watching people I loved suffer with hurts that were deep inside.

Watching was the only thing I could do.

It was on my list of “well, when I grow up, I won’t ever do that!”

The list also included not spanking my kids (spoons don’t count, do they?) not locking them outside (fresh air and sunshine: mandatory, people) and going to all of their school events (but I don’t have to like it).

So when my radar goes off on the fact that I’m suddenly “so tired” and my exercise routine has fallen off, and eating isn’t worth the effort required to walk into the kitchen and stare into the fridge, well, it’s time for my reboot.

Many times, it’s issues outside of myself that trigger a spiral, and I’ve built a great deal of stamina up, keeping life’s stress where it belongs: in the rubbish heap.

But if you see me wearing bright colors and reading funny greeting cards in Target and rearranging my tea cupboard, you are watching me take my medicine.

Please understand: clinically diagnosed depression along with its counterparts should be treated always and immediately. Like any medical issue, medication, physicians, holistic practices, and girlfriends should all be involved.

I am blessed that so far in my life, I have been able to keep depression at bay, but nobody is immune from Pity Parties.

So my blog keeps me well practiced, spinning straw into gold, as I try to remember that life’s worse scenarios not only have silver linings, but, seasoned by a little time, are perfect fodder for turning upside down into comedy.

If you have to choose between laughing and crying, which would you rather?

Because life goes on either way. And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite reboots is a man named Elijah. Every time this prophet in Israel (864 BCE) had an idea, God backed it up.

If Elijah thought it shouldn’t rain for three and a half years, it didn’t.

If Elijah asked fire from heaven to fall and scorch up the top of Mount Carmel, it did.

If Elijah wanted the Jordan River to open wide so he could cross on dry ground, bingo.

The man had a job to do, and he preferred the dramatic, the sarcastic, the maverick and the solitary.

Which worked out fine until an angry queen issued an order for his immediate – and as painful as possible, please – death.

The man went from manic to depressed overnight. He ran out into the wilderness to end it all. And there, he met God.

Sure, I’m skipping all the delicious details for now, because the thing I want to point out is, since God is everywhere…you can find Him anywhere.

Even at the end of your rope.

Here’s a guy who’s just sick to death of everyone not listening to him. He’s tried everything he can think of doing, and instead of making progress, things are going completely south.

Sounds like a typical Thursday.

When I presented my class on 1 Kings 19, I took everyone verse by verse to show how God helps Elijah through his pain and depression and how we can use this model to help each other through it, too.

Being present, compassionate, and patient are key.

And the answer to all things lies in God’s Still Small Voice.

The voice that opened Creation is also the voice that tickles in your ear when you’re very quiet and listening. It alerts you to His presence and insists that you listen for something much, much bigger than your current circumstances.

(Even Ahab proved that a wife who whispered in his ear was more persuasive than fire from heaven. Crazy, but true.)

God reminds Elijah that he is needed yet, because life goes on either way, and you don’t want to miss it.

“We have a future,” He says, “You are My treasure. The lights are going out on the Pity Party and it’s time to try again. And just because you feel all alone, doesn’t mean you are. I have surrounded you with thousands, Elijah, you just can’t see them from where you are standing.”

And so I have replaced my Pity Parties with Tea Parties.

The pretty tea things remind me that I am also a useful treasure on His shelf of “favorite stuff”.

I am gentle and kind and patient with myself and surrounded with kindred spirits.

The Still Small Voice takes over for a while and hugs my hurts until they dissipate.

And like Elijah finally leaving the cave, the light returns to my heart.

And I can go on.

“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10

Macaroons and Mayhem

Happy Friday!!

Just kidding.

Today is the start of our kids’ spring break, which goes for one week and one day.

Because they can.

This means that while the rest of you are gearing up for sleeping in on the couch, the TV remote in one hand and a fridge in the other, us moms are hunkering down for a marathon.

Also, we’ll have a house full of wanderers and vagabonds coming through, both of which are as fun as pirates but with less weapons, so I’m taking a good hard look at the kitchen this morning.

The kitchen is ground zero. It’s the place where all life decisions are made, where everyone ends up at a party, where plots are hatched.

I’m pretty sure President Obama argues with his daughters over a blueberry muffin in the White House kitchen.

“No,” he says as an aide brushes crumbs from his red tie, “until your grades are up, there won’t be any school dances in your future,” he scoops some Ovaltine into a glass, “And why do you girls wait until the last minute to bring me all these field trip papers to sign?” another aide shows him the calendar, “Which one of you volunteered me to send in three dozen cookies for the bake sale? The ambassador from Thailand is coming today. When am I supposed to do all this?”

Well, I’m sure Michelle stepped in, but it’s not like she doesn’t have stuff to do, too.

My list is straightforward: a gallon of milk per day in the fridge, leaving enough space for orange juice, string cheese, four dozen eggs, a 2# bag of baby carrots that no one will touch, and more tortillas than you can understand because we do burritos instead of PB&J around here.

Pantry stocked with cans of refried beans, spaghetti parts, sprouted potatoes, and cans of soup.

Cupboards topped off with Costco sized boxes of Ritz crackers, Honey Bunches of Oats, pancake mix and syrup. Microwave popcorn and liters of soda: check.

Freezers (yes, two): pepperonchi pizzas, ice cream, veggie packs, a turkey that was “a good deal” last November and we won’t eat until this October, and pie crusts.

Because life’s too short.

Some day I will be a gourmet chef. I will be able to make stuff that grown-ups eat.

But this (once more) is not that day.

My boys do all of the eating around here and they don’t bother tasting it, heck, they don’t even care if it’s got glass shards in the sauce, so long as it’s edible and goes down quick.

I watched a seagull once, on a pier in Santa Barbara, pull a fried chicken leg bone out of a trashcan and proceed to swallow it.

Slowly but surely, that thing went down its throat and…into what? Into where?

I had absolutely no plans to stick around and see what came out the other side.

But it sums up my kitchen action pretty well.

I have just enough energy to buy some bananas and make a batch of cookies.

Cookies are my kryptonite, depending on the flavor, so I rarely make them.

But this is go time. A girl needs her strength, right?

Fast, easy, and coconut heaven.

Thank you to my girlfriend Carol for the recipe, and you’re welcome.

Coconut Macaroons

Place rack in upper 1/3 of your oven and preheat to 325*
Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet

Stir together with a fork:

2/3 C sweetened condensed milk (most of a 14 oz can)
1 large egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Then add in and mix:
3 1/2 C flaked/shredded sweetened coconut

Plop about a tablespoon at a time onto the parchment paper, with your fork. This isn’t rocket science.

Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly toasted, depending on your oven.
Start peeking at them around 18 minutes if you’re like me and have oven conspiracy theories.
Cookies need to cool before you peel them from the paper.
If these last a whole day in your house, you win. Store them airtight.
So not happening here….

Specter

I’ve been working on several projects at once, which makes me crazy and happy simultaneously, and occasionally I’d like to share bits of them with you lovely readers.
Sometimes you can hear the several mugs of tea that went into the writing of a blog and sometimes I hope it’s obvious that God has fingerprints all over the page.
But this little excerpt is from a book I’m writing simply titled “Abide”.

What makes a person stay in a place where they don’t feel safe, when they have all the choices in the world to choose from?

If there’s a chance that the specter you fear may not indeed be real, would you question it?

When you take away the fight and you remove the flight, what do you have left?

When you won’t be a martyr and you refuse to be a victim, who are you?

Can you separate the specter from the circumstances?

There is a place in the middle of everything and everywhere. It’s a pinpoint in space between time and location and thought and energy. It’s the vortex, the crux, the center.

But for this book, I’m calling it the bend in your elbow.

Because it’s a place you have never once considered.

And it’s right in front of you.

And a lot of stuff hinges on it.

This was a lesson I learned very young, and then forgot.

Sometimes, you can bend that elbow, flex that arm, and step deliberately into the crux.

In second grade, all of my classmates played the same game every single day at recess.

The boys, in a pack, would chase the girls, in a pack, all around the playground and into the girls’ bathroom. The girls would proceed to hang out in the bathroom for the rest of our play time, giggling over the boys, sending out “spies” who would run shrieking back.

I thought it was awfully mean of the boys to hold us hostage in there, when I would rather be on the monkey bars or playing hopscotch.

I vividly recall the day I had a thought. It was a radical and new thought.

Something that, obviously, had occurred to no one else.

Which automatically makes it suspect in second grade.

What if? (Oh boy, there it goes again. I wonder how to get my mother’s voice out of my head?)

But what if…we stopped running?

You could count on the boys never, ever giving up the chase. They were delighted with the whole arrangement. You could be sure the adults in the area weren’t going to do something about it. Why should they care? Everyone seemed okay with the game.

But.

We were in charge of what we were gonna do.

Weren’t we?

We second graders who weren’t in charge of anything…?

I told the girls what I was going to do. They were horrified. There was absolutely no telling what would happen to a girl if a boy actually caught her. Boys were mean and awful and full of cooties. They were fast.

We watched the clock tick slowly towards recess, holding our breath.

The bell rang, the boys and girls gathered up their collective teams, and off we went.

It took me all the way to the bathroom to gather my courage.

I stopped five paces from safety, turned, and stared those boys down.

The pack of boys skidded to a halt, inches from me, arms flailing and shocked faces registering a little too late, that something had gone awry.

“What are you doing?” they shouted, “Why did you stop? We totally got you.”

They were mad.

“Yeah?” I said, sarcastic even at that tender age, “Just what are you gonna do with me, then?”

Total silent confusion. I love that.

That is exactly what your fears do when you gather just enough courage to skid to a stop, grab a monkey bar for support, and stare them down.

“I’m never running from you guys again,” I said, “It’s a totally stupid game and I hate staying in the bathroom and I want to go play. Don’t bother me anymore!”

And they never did.

I watched the girl pack run by once in a while, and I would feel sorry for them, except, they seemed pretty happy with the whole routine. It’s like they were okay with the attention, even if it was bad attention that wasted their time and held them hostage and amounted to nothing.

Weird.

I mean, not that we ever behave like that as adults, right?

 

“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”    John 12:46

Jolie With An ‘E’

Someone approached me the other day and gave me a lovely compliment which I just couldn’t stomach.

“It’s a lie!” I cried out, “I’m a fraud!”

She looked at me, puzzled.

I lifted a strand of hair.

“I have long, wild, curly, obnoxious hair!”

She considered my short, sleek, straightened, obedient hairs and I continued my compulsive confessional without taking a breath.

“It took me forever just to figure out which shoes go with which skirt! This outfit is a painfully crafted result of hours of research punctuated by moments of hysterics standing in the middle of my closet in a bathrobe, surrounded by heaps of clothes that mean nothing to me.”

She was going over this mentally.

“Nothing,” I repeated quietly, head hung in penance.

Frankly, I felt a lot like the kids’ bathtub, that whited sepulcher.

It only gets cleaned up when company is coming, and unless company is planning to actually open the doors to the shower and get acquainted with it, life’s too short to spit-shine the inside.

I like a nice compliment as much as the next girl, but I wish I felt like I earned it honestly.

I studied the formulas and took the magazine quizzes, and can algebraically dress myself when I need to, now.

I love when I pass the tests, but if you open the door and take a look inside, you’re gonna find a lady who lives in stretchy pants and a Tshirt.

And hates shoes.

And hasn’t the faintest idea what to do with a compliment.

I have a picture that I’ve been trying to get pasted onto my driver’s license.

If we must live with fiction, I may as well have the whole enchilada.

And it’s definitely what I look like when a cop pulls me over.

Regal, with an aura of innocence. A dewy eye and demure posture. Long, flowing locks topped with a Clorox Crown.

This lady obviously knows what to do with a compliment.

She is squeaky clean on her insides, and wears only gossamer gowns.

You’ll notice the extra “e” on my name. The fourth-grader who did my portrait assumed I was french royalty, and earned herself some extra credit for it.

It also aligns me with Anne of Green Gables, known for big words that express big ideas.

Words like “Thank you” come to mind.

With a little princess wave.

Je vous remercie.

Surely I can master that one.

Cordelia is a perfectly elegant name, of course.

But if I come close to Jolie with an “e” (‘e’ for ‘enchilada’), that will be good enough for me.

The whole enchilada.

Requiem for a Tree

Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here to today to ponder the question, “Does Tony Stark, in fact, have a heart?” while taking our hats off in remembrance of a tree.

Magnificent in stature, operatic in breezes, dropping sap and pinecones in bountiful benevolence, this beauty was the beacon of home to a neighborhood for years uncounted.

 

Her roots wound into the sewer line were merely the caresses of an underground lover, as she attempted to extract all the goodness that life has to offer.

We bow our heads in somber acknowledgment that that which God has grown is mightier than that which man has flushed, and we forgive her checkered past.

Her delicate needles drifted daily into the rain gutters of nearby houses, blanketing the street, the water main, the mailman, with evergreen confetti.

Alas, for the trees.

In the black of night, a storm howled in.

Shrieking with effort, she fought the gale as it grasped and writhed and bent her boughs in a contest of wills.

In the aura before sunrise, she stood yet, victorious, dripping with exertion, the enemy vanquished.

But the struggle had done it’s foul business, and though she had lost a great deal of weight, her proud limbs began to fail. She bent over and leaned on the driveway for support.

The call of gravity was a new experience, and what could not be accomplished from without was slowly being completed from within.

When the men drove up, a truck full of surgeon’s implements in their skilled wake, she did not resist.

They were swift and complete.

She passed thinking of wood nymphs and hummingbird nests.

Of redwood forests by the sea and steaming Amazon canopies that she would never know.

She wondered how many rings she had around her heart.

She left an empty space in our lives, never to be replaced.

Or else.

Do not mourn, dear friends, for a life well lived. A life that gave comforting shade on a hot day, a life that gave the wind a voice, a life that provided endless Saturday morning chores.

Her memory will live on in the hearts of dozens of fireplaces for many years yet.

She continues to be an inspirational light to all who contemplate her glowing last gifts.

We are better for having known her.

And we are better for having let her go.

 

So White and Nerdy

Once in a while I have to put my day on “shuffle” mode and hope for the best.

Sure, it’s one surprise after another, but they were all mostly on the playlist.

They were going to show up sooner or later.

Even the raw chicken that leaked down into the crisper drawer and turned a quick dinner into a two hour scrub-fest.

Which was super fun because that followed the day my pyrex pan exploded glass, barbecue ribs, and sauce all over the oven.

Which, in turn, never really registered, as I had been swimsuit shopping earlier and that usually leaves me anesthetized for a day or two to all things crisis.

Therefore, at any point in the last couple of days you would have found me, wandering in a stupor, with a wet saucy rag in my hand and a hopeful but dazed look in my eye.

If your Monday was anything like mine, I gift you with this little celebration that TUESDAY SHOWED UP!

Woot!

Let’s do this: some favorite comedians.

Kickin’ it off with Brian Regan. My kids knew he was cool before he did.

First, school days:

He makes me laugh. That makes him one of my heroes.

Here’s another one on big family stuff:

Next, Tim Hawkins on hand raising in church….

And his Delilah song is hysterical:

And if you still haven’t had enough…maybe we should remember why, even though I was a minority in a border town and was sure I wanted to be a black girl when I grew up because my girlfriends had even more attitude than I did, it was never gonna happen.

Alas, to be so white and nerdy.