Baking during the holidays

I’m actually taking a break from baking right now to write this. More for my peace of mind than anything else. You see……I love to bake. Love it. It’s therapeutic, it makes people happy (usually happy, because most of the time it turns out well!) and during the holidays it’s a given to make cookies and fudge and bark and balls and cakes and rolls and……

The great thing about cooking is that my husband does 99.5% of it. He likes it for the exact reasons I mentioned above. I know it’s crazy that he is the one who goes to work, and then comes home and HE cooks. But he prefers it that way. He cooks, I clean. That’s the deal we made over 20 years ago. He does stress out about it sometimes. And sometimes he makes such a mess that I would swear he tried to dirty every pot, pan and dish in the kitchen just to make me clean it. If I could only get him to ask me to cook on the days he doesn’t feel like it, I would be more than happy to oblige. I have roughly 8 million recipes in my Pinterest folder. I’m sure I could find one that I could actually make if he gave me notice. But I’m getting off track. (As usual!)

I was making a new recipe for cookies again today for my church cookie exchange this coming weekend. I’m making 6 different types cookies that I have never made before. I figured this was a great opportunity to try new things and then give them away and keep them out of my house! I got a recipe from a friend for cookies that everyone has “had” to taste to check it out and now I’ve had to hide the rest of them because they don’t want them given away. SELFISH! I saved them HALF the recipe! But I haven’t had one. Not even a lick of the beater.

Then I made some bark. I was going to give that away to the women who are actually manning the cookie exchange table so they had something to nibble on. I gave a large baggie of it to Ryan’s girlfriend for her to share with her friends. It was a hodge podge of sweet, salty and chocolately. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. But I didn’t have any. (Ok, I might have snuck a few pretzels, but not the finished product! So it doesn’t count, right?)

But then today. Today I was making a dough that has to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours after making but before baking. I’m not sure why, but the author specifically said they don’t turn out as well if not refrigerated for that period of time. If anyone has insight to that, let me know. I get chilling the dough, but a minimum of 24 hours? Never heard such a thing. So I started whipping up the dough this morning so it could sit for the required time. I had to transfer to a bowl from my KitchenAid mixer (so I could use it for other cookies!) and there it was. A mixture of sugar, chocolate covered pomegranates, pistachios, chocolate chips and I thought, well, maybe I should taste what is sticking to this beater, ya know, just to see what this swirl of odd ingredients tasted like. It tasted pretty super fantastic! So another little scrap from the bowl (cuz there’s ALWAYS a little stuck to the bowl, right?) and as I stood in front of my kitchen sink, spatula in hand, a wave of extreme distress came over me.

WHAT WAS I DOING??????

Was a few licks of raw cookie dough what I should be doing? Hello?? I have barre class today! Would it kill me or derail my progress, I would say no. It wouldn’t. But what was I doing? WHY was I doing it? I haven’t licked a beater or bowl in months. And I bake all the time! So why today? Nothing happened? It’s not like something had happened. So I did what anyone doing something they shouldn’t be doing does. I STOPPED!!! Stopped and refocused. And I’m confessing and keeping myself honest. Not just honest to myself (which let’s face it, is the most important thing.) but honest with all of you. Because in community, having others holding you accountable and being honest and responsible helps get through a tough day of craving something you know you shouldn’t have. Being with others who know EXACTLY how you feel, no matter how you are feeling, is one of the best supports a person can have.

So I’m confessing, as well as removing myself from the temptation. Redirect! And the feeling, the impulse, has passed. If you can just hold on for a minute, an hour, a day……the feeling subsides. Then you can be proud of the fact day by day, you’re reaching your goal. YOUR goal. Whatever that goal is. Keep it front and center. Be mindful of it. TALK about it. Be willing to be held accountable for it. Be ever conscience about it. Because when you let your guard down, even for a moment, that temptation (a sugary, chocolately one) is going to be there, telling you it’s ok this once. And before you know it, the whole thing has been thrown out the window. And you have chocolate breath.

cookie dough beater

Intuition or something bigger?

Have you ever had a relationship with someone who moves in and then out of your life for no specific reason, but then reconnect years later and it almost seems as if there is a force pulling you together?

Similar circumstances, similar life occurrences, similar children, similar in most ways. Parallel lives without realizing it until that one moment of reaching out. 

And what if that reason for reaching out was a feeling so strong that it couldn’t be ignored? Have you felt that? Have you acted on that? Have you felt so strongly to do something that if you didn’t do it you physically felt let down? 

That happened to me yesterday with someone who used to be a dear friend, a strong relationship, and as it appears, a forever bond. She felt compelled to reach to out to me, and did. And our conversation was one of revelation and wonder. One of amazement and disbelief. We were on the phone for at least an hour, these friends who haven’t spoken in over 2 decades. And we didn’t want to hang up because there was so much left to be said. So many questions to still be answered. Dreams to be talked through and analyzed.

After we were done with our phone call, I had a sudden flash of the message this week in church. The phone call and the message, quite literally, went hand in hand. It was actually a little freaky when I realized how much they were connected. Anyone can poo-poo it away all they want. This goes beyond. And I’m amazed with wonder.

I think we all get these feelings or thoughts of reaching out to someone; someone you lost touch with, someone you’re upset with, someone you’re judging, someone that things aren’t just quite “right” with. What is stopping you from reaching out? Fear? Control? Anxiety? Not caring about the other persons feeling? Contempt?

What if that was all wiped away and you could start fresh? What if a true genuine outreach could change the trajectory of someone else’s life? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?

I’m so thankful that this person did listen to her inner voice, because I think she had something very powerful to share with me, after all this time. I don’t think it’s coincidence. I think that it was meant to be. And that is very hard to ignore.

So the next time you feel that pull, that person who pops into your mind, please don’t ignore it. act on it. Do it. Use it. The feeling doesn’t come often so listen to it. You have nothing to lose.

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Time to celebrate and relax

Do you ever get that feeling this time of year that the stress, and money, and stress, and lists, and stress are take all the joy from your holiday season?

Sometimes trying to remember everything that you “have” to do can overshadow what you should do. And that, for me, can just suck the joy right out of the whole jolly, merry celebration. Trying to remember everyone you should buy for, send a card to, baking, shopping, wrapping……sigh. It can get to be too much. The crowds and the traffic can make even the most centered calm person start wishing harm on those around them. Oh wait. Is that just me?

Every year I vow to start earlier, wrap as I go, make lists, set money aside, all the good things I should try to do. Yea, it never seems to work out that way.

This year I was able to get shopping finished, gifts wrapped, and only go slightly over budget, with a few days to spare. Wooo hoooo!!! So now, I can relax. Right? Yes. And I can also refocus.

I can focus on what this season is all about. Family, friends, reconnecting with myself and those I care about. It’s about Christ and a baby being born and celebrating the blessings that brings. It’s about being thankful for everything I have been blessed with, even if sometimes my life hasn’t felt blessed. It’s about being able to give back and help others who have it worse than I do, because someone always has it better and it’s easy to fall into that mindset, but how often do you realize that others could be looking at you and thinking of how blessed you are? Someone might have it better than you, but someone definitely has it worse than you. Feel thankful for what you do have.

I’m thankful every day. I’m thankful for my parents, my brother and his family, my husband, my children. I’m thankful for having a roof over my head and food in my fridge. A car to drive and money to pay for the things I need and even some things I want. I’m thankful for my church family and the people we’ve met there who have touched my life. I’m thankful Michael found God out of his tragedy, which led us to our church. In the midst of deep sorrow, there really can be a silver lining.

So now that all of my things are done that I felt needed to be done, I love being able to do what I want to do. I’m baking, watching the rain fall and actually wishing it was snow for Christmas, and most important, I’m playing the Carpenters Christmas album while putting gifts in the stocking hanging by the fireplace. And feeling very very blessed.

Sunday Funday

I love days where everything falls together and seems to fit perfectly, seamlessly as if there was a giant master plan and it works out to the minute. Today was that day for me, and while there are still a few hours left for something to mar it, right now, it’s awesome.

I got to sleep in this morning after going to the OSU Spring Game in Cincinnati which was a blast and I even got a little sun! I think my brother even got sunburned! It was a great time, we all had wonderful seats and for being in the Bengals stadium for the first time, I have to say I would go see a game there in a heartbeat! Any Cincinnati fans who want company, give me shout.

We went to church, the later service, and one of our favorite Pastors was doing to message. Woo Hoo! A new series was started on the book of James, which I admittedly know very little about. And woah boy, was it a message that fits our household! It was touching and moving and spoke to our hearts. One of those messages that sticks with you after you walk out the doors. Some services are great but then you go about your day. Some services are great to the point that you don’t want it to end. Some are so great you never want it to end AND the words keep ringing through your head. That was today. Those are the best kind because I think you know even when it’s happening that this is going to stick with you. Very awesome!

After we got home, it was time for the boys to watch the basketball game, so I laced up and out the door I went. It is a beautiful day. Mid 60s, slight breeze and gorgeous blue skies. Perfect. I decided to go the route Tammy and I usually go, mainly because that route is the route of no return. I love to think of it that way, because by the time you get to the point where you wish you could just go home, you have no choice but to keep going. Somehow, that keeps me from looking at my fun Nike+ GPS Sportwatch (insert product placement here…hee hee hee) because it just doesn’t matter til I get home.

I plugged it in after I returned home and saw that I broke 5, yes count ’em 5, personal best records!! Woo Hoo!! Fastest time, Farthest Distance, Most Calories Burned, Record Times and Fastest 1k. NICE!! It’s fun to download the information from the watch and see what cool thing I did because it’s against ME. Not against someone else. It only cares about my own personal records. There is something very liberating about that. I can compare against other in the Nike+ community, but I don’t because my run is about MY run.

After I walked in the door, I grabbed my towel and a bottle of water and Michael is grilling out dinner! How awesome is that? Very!! I don’t even have to make the salad. He has it all done! So while he’s cooking that, I’m typing this and drinking my water. I wish every day could be like this. Relaxing, carefree, productive. But I guess because they aren’t, it helps to appreciate the days that are. And I am appreciating today. Maybe I can carry it over to tomorrow.

Easter Blessings

I’ll start by saying Happy Easter. That doesn’t begin to cover it. Thinking about all the things swirling in my head today, this could be a long blog post. Or, maybe I’ll try to keep it short and discuss in multiple posts. We’ll see how it goes. So bear with me.

4 years ago Michael was baptized in our church. It was less than a year after his accident that happened in July. He started going to AA as soon as he was well enough to be driven, but I don’t believe AA is what ultimately led him to the church. A higher power can be whatever you want it to be. I think people he met through AA helped him break through, but I truly, completely, passionately, believe God met him in his hospital room. I believe there were truly angels that saved him that night. One inch from a tree that would have caused his death upon impact. A nurse driving down the street who saw his crashed bike, but not him. She had a feeling and stopped, found him in the woods and began CPR while calling 911. This occurred on a road that at that time of night is usually deserted. His BAC being .378 and would’ve killed most other people. (And not to be picky about it, but it was .378 by the time they airlifted him to the hospital and they drew blood. I have to believe it was higher than that at the time of the crash)

But lets get back to church. He had been going to AA daily. They recommend 90 meetings in 90 days. He did 180 in 180. During that time, he discovered what has become our church home. He had never ever ever ever ever been religious before. He wanted nothing to do with organized religion. He was a self described atheist. Maybe something was out there but you couldn’t prove it, so its easier to not believe than to believe. Where’s the science? Where are the facts? The Bible is just a book written by people probably high on some local mushrooms and their visions were hallucinations. The Bible has been transcribed so many times, it has lost its original meaning. He had an answer for everything to not believe. Until he woke up from the accident in the hospital.

He says he had an encounter while he was there. Maybe he did. Maybe it was his head trauma. It doesn’t really matter, because to him, it was real and it was powerful. So he timidly brought up that maybe he would like to go to this church close to our house. We passed this church daily for years. He used to complain about the traffic. Now he wanted to go. But he wanted to go alone. That was fine. I sure didn’t think it would last. A few months later, he asked me to come with him. And I gladly accepted. He wanted to take a class about becoming full fledged members of the church. So we did. We met people who we still happily call our friends. We got involved and met more people. After much reflection, he told me he wanted to be baptized on Easter Sunday. The holiest of holy days. Significant. Impactful.

He was baptized that Easter Sunday in 2009. Since then, he has helped many, many others be baptized at our church. He has made friends who support and love him. He looks to one of our head pastors as his spiritual mentor. It’s truly a wonderful evolution for a man who didn’t believe in anything at all almost 5 years.

So Happy Easter to you all. And remember, Jesus is calling all of us all of the time. We just have to listen more than talk sometimes.

Gettin in da groove

Today was the first time this year that I was able to volunteer in the infant room at our church. We are on a quarterly rotation, so March is the first month we are up. Last week, I was sick as a dog, again, and I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone risk contaminating the young little babies of my germs. So today, I was back.

It is so refreshing to my soul to see the girls I serve with in the infant room. We can’t be anymore different, and yet, we have so many similarities and over the years, we have developed a bond thank I am so thankful for.

I am the oldest. They are younger, one is a professional for a large international very recognizable company. She travels the world and is very very good at her job. She has the kind of job that if I was younger and had any fashion sense whatsoever, I would be envious. She has an eye for it that I can never dream of having so I look to her for guidance in that department. The other is a stay at mom of 3 (including TWINS!!) and her husband is a very high ranking guy of another large international very recognizable company. The are both young, oh so very attractive, great kids and have the world at their feet. I feel like the old maid. That is until we got to know each other about 3 or 4 years ago.

I have to say I look forward to my “girl time” as I call it with them. We share. We vent. We cry. We cheer each other on. There is no judgement, only support and friendship. There is no envy, only congratulations and encouragement. It is a wonderful dynamic that we have. And even though we only have our “girl time” for a month each quarter, we catch up breathlessly and move easily through the month. By the end of the month, we are sad to see us go our separate ways, but we regroup, and reconnecting after a few months is something to look forward to.

I am also blessed this day to have a warm sunny day. Dusting off the running shoes and hitting the pavement for what I can only imagine to be a horrific run. It’s going to be slow and awkward and I’ll probably feel like I’m dying several times during the 3.4 miles, but it beats NOT going. What’s the saying? No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch. Or something like that. So I’ll keep telling myself that as I’m gasping for air and my legs are screaming at me.

I love having a routine. I’m good with routine. I don’t like how anyone who knows my routine calls me predictable. Like its a bad thing. Why can’t my routine be “reliable” or “dependable” or something like that.

So I’m happily falling into the routine of seeing my younger, hipper, cooler, more beautiful girls and the feeling of the sun on my skin while running and hopefully….spring really is around the corner.