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Lessons Learned from A Year of Sucky Loss

 

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I sat down to write this post at least 100 times, but while my heart was sure of what I wanted to say, my mind couldn’t find the right words. Well, today, a powerful woman helped me find my voice. I went to see Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery speak at a little church, not far from my home, and while I knew what she was going to talk about, I had no idea that she would have the power to take the words from my heart and weave them together in my mind, so I could get them out in a coherent, meaningful way.

I will begin by telling you simply that this past year has sucked, massively! But as those words come out, I have to take them back, because amid all of the sucky loss and pain that have filled my world these past few months, God magically intertwined beauty and strength. So yes, I have experienced loss, anguish, and tragedy, but I have also been blessed with friendship, kindness, and a love that reaches deep into my heart.

Friendship is something that has come easily to me as an adult. I like to think that I collect friends along the way, and I cherish the people who have stayed with me, from kindergarten to college up through motherhood, because they have made my life richer. I live in a close-knit neighborhood, and over the past eight years, I have become friends with many of my neighbors. There are six of us that have developed a close bond that, through the events of the past year, has grown into a powerful core of support that I am eternally grateful for. In the past twelve months, one of us lost a husband to a battle with cancer, I lost my dad, another lost her grandfather, and another one battled a personal struggle with a great deal of hurt. It just seemed like we couldn’t get a break from the suffering. The common thread that bound us all this year was pain. Yet, somehow we managed, unconsciously, to use that pain to build something so beautiful, and I thank God for it every day.

What touched my heart today was Glennon’s perspective on pain. I sat in the front row, trying to be present and in the moment, but the nerdy teacher in me just had to take notes, because God forbid I forgot any of her brilliance! It started when she talked about crisis being like a sifter. At first, I thought she was crazy when she explained that crisis allows all of the “sand” to sift through, leaving all of the treasures behind and exposed. That was an epiphany for me. This year of suck has been a sifter for the six of us. It has forced us to discard all of the meaningless, and what was left was beauty, compassion, love, and true friendship. Those are the real treasures. Those are the blessings that can get so easily lost in the pain.

She also talked about how we desire to fix our friends’ pain because we love them. That is when I realized that we can’t take the pain away, and shield those we care about from the agony of loss or anguish of personal battles, but we can certainly walk beside them and cheer them on, whispering to stay strong. Our presence can simply be a reminder that the journey is not one of solitude, that there is a hand to provide stability or simply a soul to bear witness to the metamorphosis that a painful journey can bring.

So as I reflect on this really long year, with really hard battles, I am going to allow myself and my friends to feel pain, but I am also going to leave room for gratitude, for it is through these struggles, I have found five of the most beautiful treasures waiting at the bottom to love me, care for me, and walk with me, as I travel through my beautiful life.

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Sexy Wine, Lazy Sangria, or Delusions of “Healthy Drinking”

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Sometimes we just want to feel special and fancy.

Sometimes we just want to spice things up.

Or

Sometimes we are just too lazy to make sangria

Well, I was thrilled and inspired by my friend, Carly, the other night. She had a few girls over to catch up and see her new house. When we arrived, we were all intrigued with a beautiful plate of fruit and adornments that she had placed next to the open bottles of wine. All of us were excited to dress up our simple glasses of reds and whites, to resemble something more sophisticated and sexy.

What really caught my eye was the sugared rosemary. I was totally enamored with the idea of such conflicting flavors, not to mention that it looked like a little frozen branch of evergreen to compliment a winter drink. This concept was so simple yet sophisticated.

I also preferred to think that I was totally making my wine more healthy, therefore part of my diet. I will continue to believe this every time I slip out of compliance, for that is what makes me happy!

Whether you are hosting a girls night out, Valentine’s Day dinner, or a cozy night in by the fire, I highly encourage you to sexify your wine. It just makes you feel more special!

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Ingredients: (You can be more creative, feel free to add or change)

  • Pomegranate Seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 1 starfruit, sliced
  • 2 oranges, sliced (I used Cara Cara oranges)
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1 pint of strawberries, sliced
  • 8-10 small sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • spray bottle of water
  • Wine of your choice, red or white (I used Prosecco & Pinot Noir)

Preparation:

  • Wash & dry all fruit.
  • Remove the seeds from the pomegranate.
  • Slice the oranges, starfruit, and strawberries.
  • Spritz the rosemary with water.
  • Dredge each sprig through the sugar, shaking off the excess.
  • Arrange on a platter and open wine.

Mixing the Drink:

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  • Place desired fruit in the bottom of the wine glass.
  • Pour selected wine over the fruit.
  • Enjoy!

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  • Repeat with each refill. You can keep the same fruit in your glass, or snack on the fruit and add more with each serving of wine.

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Buffalo Chicken & Potato Casserole

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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We all know this phrase, and I usually can agree with this philosophy, but it can’t always be true, right? Well, at least it’s not true for me when I get a good idea to “fix” something, like say a casserole.

I found a casserole recipe on Pinterest. It’s pretty popular, and there are a bunch of knock-off versions, so I made it this summer to mixed reviews. My mom and my husband liked it, my kids, not so much. I also have a neighbor who tried it based on my Facebook post, but her feedback was so-so as well. Technically, this recipe was not “broken”, but I had an idea of just how to “fix” it.

For me the issue was a flavor thing. It needed a bit more depth. I absolutely loved the technique, but I felt it needed a little more complexity beyond plain hot sauce. I “fixed” it. You’re welcome 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium potatoes, cubed with skins on
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ½ packet of Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 cup of Buffalo wing sauce
  • 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup of chopped, cooked bacon
  • ¼ cup of chopped green onions

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 500°.
  • Chop potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and salad dressing mix, then toss until coated.
  • Line the bottom of a casserole dish with the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes. Check the potatoes around 30 minutes, and stir.
  • Meanwhile, chop the chicken and coat with the wing sauce.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven, top with the chicken, then sprinkle cheese, bacon, and onions.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 475° and bake for approximately 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the cheese is nicely melted.

**Because ovens can vary, ensure that the chicken is fully cooked prior to consuming.

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Parenting Inspiration From the White Haired Man Singing “Elmo”

So I’m having a very happy heart moment right now, but I’m struggling to not seem like a crazy stalker woman, luckily the mom next to me is in the same boat.

So, I’m sitting in the waiting room at my daughter’s physical therapy appointment, which is usually for me an hour of grading papers or reading, but tonight, I’m moved to tears by the love between a distinguished white haired gentleman & a sweet spunky little boy of about 2 years old.

While the rest of the adults were politely occupying themselves, this gentleman began singing to his little boy. The boys eyes lit up, he removed his pacifier and started to sing along. The love between them was obvious and endearing. I felt a little less stalkerish when the mom next to me whispered “I just can’t look away!” I replied, ” Neither can I!” It was just that sweet.

The first thing that struck me was the diversity. See, the man was a white man with stately white hair. He was dressed in khaki pants, a nicely pressed shirt, and an argyle sweater. The boy was the sweetest African American toddler with a truck pacifier and a great big smile. By appearance, you would expect this man to be the one politely occupying himself, and one of us yoga pant clad moms to be the one belting out the theme song to “Elmo’s World”. But that was not the case. He was the one in tune to his child. He was the one who didn’t care whether his singing voice was fit for public display. He was the one living in the moment.

So now, I, the mom politely occupying herself, want to be more present and engaged. I am making a resolution to try to emulate his engagement and not fall into the quiet mindlessness that surrounds me. I want to be this kind of parent. This will continue to make my heart happy. Now I just have to think of how I will do this, because I’m pretty sure my 9 year old does not want to hear me sing toddler show tunes for the whole drive home…

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Buffalo Pierogies

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Well the big game is here, and my family is expecting a buffalo smorgasbord! We have buffalo wings, buffalo chicken chili, and this year, we are adding buffalo pierogies. Now, my infatuation is a new one. I had two boxes left over from my last recipe, so I decided to try a new spin. Let me tell you, THIS IS SO FREAKIN’ EASY!! In fact, it was a no mess, one dish preparation!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of mini cheddar pierogies (I used Mrs. T’s brand)
  • 1 cup of buffalo wing sauce
  • 3 Tbsp of ranch or blue cheese dressing
  • 1 resealable sandwich bag

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 400° & line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Spray parchment paper with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • In a medium bowl, coat pierogies in wing sauce.

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  • Line up pierogies on the baking sheet and bake according to the package directions (16-18 minutes)

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  • Remove from the oven.
  • Pour dressing into the corner of a resealable sandwich bag and snip off a very small portion of the corner. creating a thin opening to dispense the dressing onto the pierogies.

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  • Drizzle each hot pierogie with a zig-zag of dressing & let sit for 2 minutes.

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  • Transfer to a plate & serve immediately.

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The best part of this recipe is that there are no dishes to wash, other than the mixing bowl!. Roll up the parchment paper, gather up the sandwich bag & toss! That’s it!

Enjoy the big game & the tasty treats that go along with Sunday Funday!