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A Friday Confession

Cheeseballs were my first food love. A gourmet from the beginning, there are several pictures of a very fat baby me with cheeto-like substance smeared across a big grin. My mother was such an enabler, she left me a can of cheeseballs in a cabinet I could get to easily in the kitchen. In her defense, she also made my baby food from scratch and my typical diet consisted mostly of green things and liver (yuck).

Fastforward to today. I still love eating. Cheese balls still hold some appeal, although I never buy them. And here’s my Friday confession: I’m sure I love eating; what I’m not sure about is whether I love cooking. This may bother a few people since I received more than one really great cookbook this Christmas and another for my birthday (thank you). I’m discovering that, compared to those who really love cooking and consider it a challenge, what I mostly love is consuming. Consuming is wonderful and gratifying and delicious. Cooking on the other hand is time consuming and involves me lifting a finger after work when I’m tired. Cooking also requires chopping things (which I hate) and planning ahead (which I’m not great at).

When Austin and I first married, I cooked a good bit. He went through an MBA program a year after our marriage and it was mostly up to me to put the literal bacon on the table. This was a really fun time and I discovered lots of fun recipes from various cooking shows, on-line sources and cookbooks. But, now that we’ve been married nearly six years, the thrill is gone.

Maybe the cookbook library I’ve acquired will serve as inspiration on a delectable platter. Perhaps, as I peel back each page, I’ll discover a world of food I thought possible only in restaurants. Then, I’ll whip up a cooking fury with these new recipes inviting friends and the homeless to enjoy a meal together. I’ll save the world from my kitchen with my chopping knife and perishable goods. Yeah, we’ll see…

Today, I turn thirty.

Thirty years ago today my parents rushed to a hospital in Amory, Mississippi. I’m told it was snowing. This was their first child and I can imagine their great anxiety during their forty or so minute drive. Being told they were to have a boy, they came prepared with a boy name (Barentine, called “Barry”) and blue baby stuff. That was their first parental lesson. Always be prepared. A little girl, named Eleanor on a whim after her maternal grandmother, was born.

Turning thirty, or any momentous age, requires you have a reflective moment. So, here’s mine: I think back and the best thing I can say is that I like myself better today than ten or twenty years ago. If perfection is bowling a 300 then I’m a 100, with lots of room to grow. However, compared to the person I was in college or soon after, I’m much more secure, thankful and peaceful. Much of this is attributed to God and my faith in Him. He’s brought me through some tough stuff. Much of this is also thanks to a few people, like my family and husband and close friends, who really love me. What an awesome birthday gift, just right for any age.

Much like “the great Tim McGraw”, I’ve considered some things I want to do in my next thirty years. Learn an instrument (hopefully the mouth harp), become a country western group dancer like those older couples who tour around to festivals, continue to travel and get involved in some kind of service are all on the list. Somehow I know the next thirty years will be even better than the last and I’m really looking forward to them.

“In my next thirty years” by Tim McGraw:

My next thirty years will be the best of my life

Raise a little family and hang out with my wife

Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear

Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years

Book Burn

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. What do all of these book titles have in common? Aside from making me sound way smarter than I actually am, they are all titles which gave me book burn. Book burn is the term I’ve coined for situations when I pick up a book, begin to read and lose interest/get bored/get distracted/ETC.

Here’s how it works: You find a book which entices you. Looking at the description you think “I’ve always wanted to know this” or “this sounds really entertaining”. Your pulse kicks it up a notch and hands sweat as you punch the “BUY” button on Amazon or Kindle or hand a sweaty wad of cash to the register guy at Barnes and Nobles or Half Price. Taking the book home, you delve in to it. And, rather than hanging on to every word as you imagined previously, you begin to stall. Things happen like a Law and Order marathon comes on TV and even though you’ve seen every episode you think “what they hey” and get sucked in. Outside your window, birds begin to have personalities, talking in thick New York, Jewish accents, and you imagine their conversations: “Larry, I told you to get the juicy worm this time. How many times do we have to go through this?” What’s happened here is book burn.

Book burn is the psychological state of losing interest in your previously beloved book. I’ve spoken with friends who are avid readers and noticed we all deal differently with this. My friend, Janice, gives the book 100 pages to redeem itself. After that, she gives up, believing life’s too short. Oopsiehubby, Austin, tries to make it through the book come hell or high water. He has principles. And, me? Well, I have no principles. I allow myself to be carried away by bird conversations and TV marathons until the guilt of leaving yet another book to the dust subsides. Then, I pick up my next victim.

Valentine’s Warning

Sweethearts: You've lost that love and feeling.

For me, Valentine’s Day will never be the same. The day after New Year’s I look forward to the sugary goodness of Valentine’s most timeless candy, Necco’s Sweethearts. Realizing it was a long way off from Valentine’s Day, or even the month of Valentine’s, I tried to fight the temptation to run to CVS and buy a bag of the small and big hearts (I love both since they each have their merits). I’m proud to say my will of steel, disciplined personality fought for six hard days. Today, after work, I caved.

 Leaving the store with a bag of small and big hearts along with a bag of red and white gummy bears, I popped the candy in my mouth on the way home. As the heart dissolved in my mouth, rather than recognizing the nebulous flavor of hardened sugar I tasted something else, something bitter. Continuing to eat the hearts I noticed how easily they dissolved, without their typical tooth-breaking crunch. And there it was again. An unknown flavor rattling around between tongue and tooth.

Getting home and observing the bag label led to even more bad news. Some not-so-bright exec type decided to not only change the flavor of these candies but to also remove the white candy for a medical tasting blue. Nice move. Seriously though, Necco’s has been around since 1847 and conversation hearts or sweethearts have been around since 1902. Why in the world, after more than 100 years, would you change a good thing?

In order for you not to suffer the same Valentine’s disappointment, I’ve provided you a thorough sweetheart taste scale, 1-5 (5 being the best).

New- Blue: Wow, this flavor redefines disgusting. Complete with medicinal after taste. 1

Pink: Supposedly “strawberry”. It was one of the least offensive in the bag. 4

Yellow: Used to be banana. Now, it’s closer to wannabe lemon. 3

Orange: Unsurprisingly orange is orange. Yuck. 2

Green: Tastes like apple mixed with licorice. 2

Purple: Still delicious. 5

No thought for plot

My quest as a wannabe writer led me to the Creative Writing department at University of Houston. I had a 2 o’clock meeting with Professor Serpas to find out about their masters program. Leaving work a bit early, I sailed to the UH campus, heart beating wildly as I, in typical fashion, got lost on campus and called Austin in a panic for directions. Parking in a lot without permit, my nerves soared at high altitudes as I crossed to the building. I was petrified of being late, making a bad impression. Entering the building, knocking on the prof’s door, I discovered she was the one running late. So, I sat down to wait.

After a few minutes, Prof. Serpas walked by and, without looking at me, mumbled something like “yes, come in.” I sat across from her and instantly felt dumb. There’s something about professor’s offices, all filled with books and stuff, that really causes someone like me to internally convulse while simultaneously hyperventilating. Looking professorial (aka smarter than me), she asked why I wanted to meet. Come to think of it, that was the thesis of the whole day. And, I blanked. Incoherently, I told her I was almost thirty and in search of a career I felt passionately about. Maybe, “this thing” for me was to write. She stared. So, I stared. And, instead of breaking the silence, I waited for her response.

She wanted to know more. I told her about my continuing ed class I took, how the prof commented on my “gift for description” and that I didn’t feel confident telling the story. Instead of finishing, I just ended it. “So you have a problem with plot” she said. I felt some hope, we were communicating and, maybe just maybe, she would diagnose me as a talented writer, with a simple, minor plot problem. I imagined this would be similar to a doctor telling someone with a cough they are allergic to dust and they don’t have swine flu afterall.

Hope still lurking I said “This plot problem is probably pretty common, right? I mean, you probably get that a lot.” She didn’t say anything. Rather than affirm I was like other writers, struggling in my craft, she responded with a prescriptive solution. “You need to read…” (and then began to list names). Continuing, she said “The best way to learn to write literature is to read it.”

Great. I read already. This was not the simple solution I hoped for. All I wanted, really, was to open a fortune cookie. The message would either read “God wants you to write” or “Stop writing. You are wasting God’s time.” But, as we all know, life and God don’t really work that way.

Leaving the prof’s office, she congratulated me on my pursuit. “Most people just get comfortable in their jobs and don’t question what their passion is” she said. I thanked her for her time. Walking back to the car, blue sky overhead, I wondered whether some people are destined to search for their passion throughout life. Maybe that was my destiny. Or, maybe I’ll open a fortune cookie and, in typical fortune cookie fashion, it will tell me something like “If you want the rainbow, you must put up with the rain.” It’s a good thing God communicates outside of fortune cookies.

Urban beauty

As I began to blog I also began to follow blogs. One of my favorites is Nest Decorating & Designs by Tamar. Tamar is a jewelry designer who has a site on etsy.com. Her stuff is really fun, antique inspired and always romantic and feminine. Although her grammar and writing is majorly “without”, her blog is very “real”. Often, she shares pictures of her land in Vermont and mentions her children and family. While sharing photos of her latest jewelry creations she also posts inspiring photographs of the terrain around her. Especially during fall, I am struck with a feeling of envy as her photographs reflect a landscape littered with jewel-toned trees changing their leaf wardrobe in preparation for winter. To put it mildly, the area she lives in is beautiful. 

Now, as many of you know, I hail from Houston, TX. Houston is home to many things like the largest suburban sprawl ever, an ethnically diverse population, restaurants and plenty of Tex-Mex (yum). But, what Houston lacks is the beauty I see in Tamar’s Vermont. You won’t find a ton of jewel-toned trees and rolling farmland in Houston. It’s urban to a fault. But, even in urbania, there’s beauty. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is some of the urban beauty I found in Houston, during a rare moment of snow. Take that Tamar’s Vermont. 

Snowy Houston from 12 floors up.

An Oopsie Nest

The only living tree in the hood, next to a warehouse.

What a special moment: To see REAL snow in Houston, TX.

Strangeness: Hibiscus covered in snow.

List of Thanksgiving

My mother always said I was a grateful child. Taught to express thanks by my parents and disciplining Southern aunts, I’ve always been at least mostly thankful for all I have. As I notice more laugh lines and increased patience, my sense of gratefulness is directed to smaller pleasures. In a sense, life becomes simpler each year, redefined by some hardship and God’s love.  In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d recount some things I’m grateful for. They include (and are not limited to):

A husband who knows me, understands me most of the time and always loves me.

A family who disciplined and always loved.

My co-worker who sings and jams to music all day. She consistently lifts my spirits.

My friends, Karen and Libbie, for their encouragement.

My little brother, Austin, who is becoming a wonderful young man. 

My church.

Other people’s dogs. I get to love ’em and give ’em back.

Books. After Charlotte’s Web it was true love.

Blogs and the people who read them. Thank you.

Susan Issacs and Donald Miller, two authors who put themselves out there.

The rose bush down the street. I don’t have to tend you and you smell divine.

 

I hope your list of thankfulness includes small pleasures as well as more important aspects of life. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving– gobble, gobble to everybody!