Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Will Still Be Alone (And Other Thoughts On Marriage)

There are some things that married people do not tell single people. Some of those things should not be told, and you know it as soon as you are told one of them. Ooo, thanks for that disgusting detail of your life. I need to make a call now, to my THERAPIST.

But some things are not gross or inappropriate or sicky-sweet-I-want-to-stick-a-fork-in-your-puppy-dog-eyes. I guess they fall into that special category of authenticity (SUCH an overused word for such an important gift) that few people achieve with someone whom, well, they're not married to. But since I really want you to know, and I think maybe no one has told you b/c they're basically just afraid to open up, I'm gonna go ahead and share something with you.

When you marry the love of your life, your soulmate, the one you waited for with baited breath, The One From the LORD Just For You (or however you want to frame it)...you will still, essentially, be alone.

Okay. Take a deep breath.

You may as well know this now. Some of you may feel so alone now in singleness that you hope for some respite, some greener grass just over the hill, as a way of dealing with the present moment. And it is definitely true that a healthy and blessed marriage does offer its participants the simple joys of comraderie and conversation and intimacy.

But please search your heart right now. Because when two people live together, it happens sometimes that even legitimate needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever) cannot be met by the other person. You will be tempted to believe that your partner won't help you - that if they really wanted to, they could. You will be saner and more peaceful if you believe that for whatever reason on this particular day, they just can't.

Another dynamic that happens often is that of victim/rescuer or child/parent. Let me just go ahead and tell you that every married couple at some point(s) has to figure out what they're going to do about the child/parent thing. One partner needs some "help" (either perceived or directly asked for), which seems innocent enough...so the other partner gives the "help", and ends up acting or sounding very maternal/paternal in the process. This is a complex issue, isn't it? Because married folks are supposed to help each other - we're supposed to care, listen, empathize. But hear me carefully now - we are not meant to solve each other's problems, rescue each other from the consequences of our behavior, or be amateur therapists for each other. And why? Um, because you are no longer a child!

You have to see yourself and your partner as two equals - two grown adults who are each capable of taking care of their own basic needs. Any breakdown here can cause a laundry list of problems in your relationship.

But still, a legitimate need is not being met. And you find yourself alone with something you would rather not face alone. What do you do with this?

You have some options:

1.) Call your mama and complain. He will love this.

2.) Call anyone and complain. He will be elated.

3.) Flee, ignore, or deny the aloneness. Ever known someone with revolving door relationship syndrome? I have a hunch about them.

I will now confess that I have done all of the following:

1.) Turning up the pressure. Maybe he doesn't understand how important this is.

2.) Turning up the volume. Maybe he can't hear me.

3.) Pouting, glowering, and other passive-aggressive behaviors which El Jefe either does not notice or is smart enough not to acknowledge.

4.) Increasingly, I give the brutha a break, pull up my big girl britches, and get on with life. Because I remember how many times he has done exactly the same thing for me. Except he doesn't wear girl britches.

AND...I am more and more often brave enough to face the aloneness. The Bible tells me that I am never alone; I believe this. But you know what? Sometimes, I am alone. I feel like the Psalmist who sings, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God...My soul is downcast within me." It is a mystery that I believe originates in the brokenness of my soul and my family and your family and our humanity. But it is not, it can not...and it will not be the end of the story.

Take heart, my friends. You may still feel alone at times, but you are never without your Source.


DISCLAIMER: Lest any critical minds be tempted to believe that I am unhappy in my marriage or that my husband does not sacrifice himself on a daily basis for me and our little family, please allow me to assure you that I married one of the most unconditionally giving and forgiving men on the planet. Certainly the best one I know. I love him, and he loves me, and Jesus loves us - and a cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Freezer Meal #2 -- Black Bean Soup

My fellow Little Rock residents may have experienced the fabulous restaurant that is (was?) Vermillion Water Grille. And if you were very fortunate, you may also have experienced their fabulous black bean soup. I have tried a few recipes trying to find just the right taste, and finally, with Dave Lieberman's recipe - I found it! (The only discernable difference between Dave's recipe and Vermillion's recipe is that Vermillion mashes or blends their soup to an almost smooth consistency, probably using an immersion blender, which you could definitely do if you so desire right before serving.)

Inés and I made just one recipe last weekend, which is probably enough to serve 6-8 people. We split it. As far as freezer directions, we stopped right after we added the cilantro, allowed it to cool for about 30 minutes, and then put it in our freezer bowls. Again, not a bad idea to label anything you put in the freezer.

Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, or on the countertop for 6-8 hours. Heat to boiling, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Right before serving, squeeze in a little lime juice. Serve with whatever garnishes you desire - I just had a little fresh cilantro and some sour cream on mine, but you can also do green onions, shredded jack cheese, corn chips, etc.

Have I mentioned my love of Jiffy corn muffin mix? Or of quick breads in general? Ok, briefly -- quick breads are breads that require no kneading and usually (but not always) get their rising power from baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast. If you can make pancakes, you can make a quick bread. And don'tcha know I have a few ridiculously easy recipes for these as well? El Jefe loves homemade bread, but since I rarely have the hours required to make yeast bread, this is an excellent alternative for us. Anyway...here's the cornbread I served with the soup:

Jiffy Cheddar Green Chile Cornbread

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 c milk
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 oz shredded cheddar
Half of 1 (7oz) can diced green chiles, mostly drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you have an 8" round cast iron skillet, or even a cake pan, grease it with a little shortening or oil by applying with a paper towel. This will also make about six muffins; grease the muffin cups in the same manner.

Mix together the Jiffy mix, egg, milk, and pepper JUST until combined. It will be lumpy. This is totally okay and even desired. Dump in your cheddar and green chiles and stir just until mixed in; 5-10 stirs TOPS.

Dump the batter into your skillet or muffin cups. Muffins will take about 15 minutes, and the skillet will take about 20.

I will post some more quick bread recipes soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Freezer Meal #1

Mi hermana, Inés McBryde, and I have been cooking together on the weekends when both of our schedules allow it. We will make stuff that we can stash in the fridge or freezer for the coming week. As you can imagine, this cuts down on the last minute trips to the grocery store and slaving in the kitchen in the evenings when we'd rather be relaxing with our families. This past Saturday we cooked three meals and two loaves of homemade bread in four hours! We were pretty proud of ourselves considering it was only our second attempt.

As I imagine this freezer meal thing would be an attractive concept to my homegirls, I will start sharing tips and tricks and recipes as I have the time. The first recipe I want to share with you is for a ridiculously easy, and oh-so-good ham potato bake. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that was close to what I wanted, and then I gussied it up a little. So, without further ado...

Ham Potato Bake

2 (32oz) bags Potatoes O'Brien, frozen (cubed potatoes w/onions and peppers)
2 lb ham, diced or cubed (you could certainly use turkey or chicken here)
1 (16oz) bag frozen green beans (or broccoli, or peas)
3 cans cream soup (whatever you have on hand - we used 2 cans of cream of potato and 1 can of cream of celery)
1 (16oz) container sour cream
4 c shredded cheese (cheddar or colby is probably best - but again, use whatever. This isn't rocket surgery.)
1 c shredded parmesan
1 tsp black pepper (probably won't need salt b/c of the cream soups)
1 c milk (more or less)

Find the most gigantic mixing bowl you have (like 6qt to 8qt). Then grease your cooking dishes. Here are the possible combinations of cooking dishes:

- Two 9x13s
- One 9x13 and two 9x9s
- Four 9x9s

Dump all of the ingredients, except the milk, into your gigantic (seriously, it needs to be BIG) mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add milk as you go if you feel like it is needed. The mixture needs to have a slightly thicker consistency than what you will want the finished product to have.Divide the mixture among your cooking dishes. To freeze, cover tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of heavy duty foil. It's probably not a bad idea to use a Sharpie to write the contents and preparation date on top, either. Then just stash it in your freezer.

To defrost, put in the fridge for 24 hours. Or set out on the countertop for 4-6 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with the foil. Cook 30 mins covered, and then 10-15 mins uncovered.

Cost per serving :: approximately $1

-- To make this healthier, use chicken instead of ham, and all of the low fat/low sodium options you can find in the dairy products; and add another 16oz bag of frozen veggies.

-- This is a huge recipe. You can halve it and it'll just make one 9x13 or two 9x9s. But you know, even if you're cooking by yourself - if you have the room in your freezer, go ahead and make the full recipe. It'll keep for at least a couple months, and you certainly don't have to keep it all for yourself. You can help out a family in need by taking a frozen meal to them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

These Hands

I remember as a child laying with my head on my mother's lap and staring at her hands. They were much bigger than mine, and the skin was different. And they were soft when she rubbed my face and combed her fingers through my hair. I loved those nurturing times, and when I would stare at her hands, my thoughts would turn to wondering how many dishes she had washed and how many pairs of socks she had folded...in her entire life. In her entire, long life. A million? A million billion??

For a little dose of perspective, my mother was younger at that time - when she had four daughters in elementary school - than I am now with my first baby girl. To me her hands symbolized nurturance and kindness. And adult-ness. Adults can't be kids anymore. They have to have their act together and know about the world and have answers for kids' questions, etc.

Three days ago I was driving and Jelly Bean was in her carseat. I looked back to check on her during a stoplight, and she was sitting there with both of her hands raised, palms up, and she had the most contemplative look on her tiny face. Most people would say that she was probably thinking, What are these things? or How long have I had these and didn't know it? And she probably was. But you didn't see that facial expression. It seemed more like, What can I do with these? The potential! I wonder if they'll get bigger, or stronger. I wonder if someday I'll be able to do everything Mama does. After all, that's the stuff I wondered when I was a kid - but, I know, that's me and not her.

Before I started writing this blog post, I was nursing JB. Sometimes she does this thing while she's nursing where she quietly lays her little hand on her cheekbone, or over her eyes. Her little hand, that is barely big enough yet to completely cover her temple. And sometimes when she lays her hand there, it's more than I can bear, and I will lay my hand over hers and pray with all of my wrenching heart that I can protect her and guide her and love her the way she needs.

So, I am conflicted. Half of the time I want to be her adventurous/unpredictable Tour Guide For Life, a la Willy Wonka...and the other half of the time I want to hold her close to my chest and just stay home and scream out the front door, "You can all just stay away! Nobody here has anything for you, and definitely nobody will ever be interested in leaving to adventure into the broken world in which you operate and which you continue to make worse, by the way!" Okay, that's a lot to scream. And the sweet, retired ladies who live across the street are probably the only ones who would hear me and I don't think they're making anything worse. They mostly just keep their lawns immaculate and make small talk with me and each other during the long summer evenings. So, anyway...

I do realize that, if we do our job, JB will actually someday leave for her big adventure and we will not be invited. I will not be invited. And then probably years later...on some regular old day she will look down, as I have, during an unprotected moment and realize, These hands look just like my mother's.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Know The Plans

Written by Lori Chaffer

You talk of hating war
But where's your own peacetime?
You don't love anymore
All my children
You linger in your mind, "Everyone's so unkind"
But you forget about the mines you laid on your land

I know the plans I have for you
I know the things that I want for you to do
I know the plans I have for you
And it hurts sometimes to see you blind

You read up on the lies
And keep them in motion
So clever the disguise of devotion
You say that there's no time
But there you stand joking
But you forgot that I'm the one
Who weighs the words you've spoken

I know the plans I have for you
I know the things that I want for you to do
I know the plans I have for you
And it hurts sometimes to see you cry


Words from the heart of a prophet, I believe. May my fellow believers be encouraged by these lyrics to remember your responsibility to others, and your responsibility for the words you speak. For those words betray what you are so desperately trying to hide in your (black) heart. "So clever the disguise of devotion", indeed.

ELEVATE, my friends, beyond the petty concerns of temporary drama. There is a bigger story here, and you're missing it! Do you think you were made for more? Then, guess what? You were!

Get desperate. Get on your face in front of your Master.

There's not enough time!

Get off the sidelines today!