re: this week, a list

This week I:

Ate so much popcorn.

Had a nightmare about killer clowns.

Failed to convince the boy that he has eleven toes.

Wanted cilantro-lime rice.

Apologized to my cat by buying her a crinkly lobster.

Witnessed the most beautiful morning I have ever seen.  A pink and gold sunrise casting its pink glow onto everything, complimented by an enormous rainbow on my way to work.

Watched a really good film. (If you know me, you know that I don’t like most movies.)

Wore a shirt from high school.

Smelled some scented markers.

Washed scented marker off the boy’s face.

Drank tea with a friend.

No coffee.

Watched Jesse play video games.

Broke my water bottle.

Got an enormous thorn stuck in my tire.

Bought some books for the kids, but I will probably just end up keeping them.

Talked with the boy about someday when he won’t need a nanny anymore.

Cut the kids’ fingernails.

Thought that moving to Colorado would finally make me cool.

Met a dog.

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re: October

The theme of time passing has been on my mind.  Two months ago I was in Idaho, but it feels like years and years.  My chest aches when I think about it because it feels so long since I last saw my mountains.  However, when I look back at the last year, I think, “gosh, it can’t be October already?” This is the first day in a week that I’ve gotten to sit down in my house.  Jesse and I were gone all weekend, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation with some friends.  There was no cell phone service and it was just wonderful.  I took my camera but did not take any photos.  For the most part, I don’t regret it, but we explored an abandoned home that I wish I had put some effort into capturing.  It was left about eleven years ago. Clothes in the closet, food in the cupboards.  I wish that I had gone down in the early morning to get that cool light coming in the high, dirty windows.  I am a wimp about the cold, though, and it was so cold.  I’m to young for it to be cold.  You feel the cold so much more fiercely as an adult.  The kids who I nanny love winter so much, it could last forever and they would be thrilled.  Someone is always rolling them in blankets and bringing them hot chocolate.  They make s’mores in the fireplace and play in the snow.  They haven’t realized the horrors of always having snow inside your shoes, of scraping the centimetres of ice off of your wind shield in the dark every morning, of getting stuck in the slush, of feeling so fat in your layers and layers of clothes but still being so cold that your bones ache.

I’ve never shared a recipe but this is the only photo I have taken in the last week.  IMG_3341_1Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
(Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free)
Serves 2-3
Ingredients:
1 medium sized acorn squash
1.5 cups of uncooked quinoa
Season with: sage, garlic, onion, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper.

Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Put about a half inch of water in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Place the squash into the pan, cut side down.  Cover.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30-ish minutes (this depends on the size of the squash a bit), until a fork or knife can be easily inserted into the squash.  It should be nice and soft.

Rinse your quinoa and prepare it according to the package directions.  If you’re like me and buy in bulk, I do 2 parts water to one part quinoa (3 cups in this case) and prepare it like rice, covered, reduce the heat when it starts to boil and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes. When the quinoa is finished, it should be chewy but not gritty or grainy.  Turn off heat, season with onion, garlic, sage, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  My goal is to get it to taste as much like my dad’s Thanksgiving stuffing as possible.  I use quite a lot of garlic and sage.  If you’re feeling super motivated, you can lightly fry fresh onion and garlic and sage up while the quinoa is cooking.  It is definitely better flavor, but I just use powdered seasonings.

Spoon the quinoa into the halves of prepared squash and eat it out of the skin with a spoon.

You could serve this with prepared beef or poultry if you want meat with your dinner.  Jesse and I don’t eat a lot of meat, so we usually just make this its own meal.  You could also serve it with a light salad.  I would recommend spring mix  with cranberries and a vinaigrette.  Red wine, ale beer.  There you go.

re: spiders

I started working as a nanny about a year and a half ago for a family with three children.  These three children at the time were all extremely terrified by insects of every kind.  Ants, lady bugs, beetles, you name it.  Over the last months, my mission has been to decrease all kinds of fear in their lives, not by taking it away but by asking them to understand it.  Their reaction to insects has changed so dramatically.  They rescue ants off the slide, move worms and roly-polies off of the sidewalk, and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of spiders.  I feel so proud of them and a bit of myself because, honestly, spiders give me the creeps.  I’ve never been terrified of them like my sister but they do cause involuntary shivers down my spine.  I don’t mind them existing, but I would rather not touch or see them.  I don’t let the kids know that.

I have spent the last year intentionally exposing myself to spiders, reminding myself of their beauty, talking out loud about the many benefits they bring to the planet.  I would still rather that they didn’t touch me, but they don’t evoke the same gut reaction that they used to.  A few days ago, an enormous one came gliding out of the elm tree in the kids’ yard. The four of us watched it land on the driveway and carefully relocated it with a stick.  There was no panicking, no crying, no running (or walking)  away–from any of us.  I was as proud of myself as I was of them.

This weekend, I went to an art festival held in some warehouses and along the shores of Lake Erie.  There was some nautical themed fencing along the lake shore which was just crawling with great big spiders.  I went looking for them, counted twenty or thirty-some.  Got this shot.  The background is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

spider

re:california part I

I returned from California about three weeks ago.  I wanted to write about ten blog posts right away but decided to wait.  Let the experience become part of reality first.  I had too many words. I wrote down every detail while I was there.  Every conversation, every feeling, everything I noticed.  I went because I needed a break from reality.  I needed a break from Ohio, and winter, and (don’t get me wrong, I love my kids) but I needed a chance to be with my own people.  I needed a break from all of the white and all of the English.  I went to stay with my sweet Mexican friend and her Spanish family.  When I first met Xio she said to come visit her in California and her mom would make me authentic Mexican food.  I decided right then that was too good an offer to pass up.  It took a couple of years but did it mostly on an impulse.  She picked me up at the airport in the middle of the night and took me back to her little concrete house in Long Beach outside of Los Angeles.  It was Easter weekend.  I spent Good Friday on the plane combating airsickness and meditating on the concept that God died because of me.  God had felt sick, just like I did on the plane.  God understood.  God was here in the air with me and He was there with Xio and her friends in Los Angeles.  We touched down.  I went home to the little concrete house in the ghetto.  I woke up early.   My Spanish is terrible.

I could write a hundred blog posts about the next six days but I want to stop here on Easter.  It was the most beautiful Easter I have ever had.  A true celebration.  My sweet friend goes to a Filipino church and for Easter morning they were having an outdoor service.  We drove up a mountain to a park full of trees and flowers.  Los Angeles sprawled across the valley below, silent in the fog of the early morning.  We sat at tables with the loveliest people.  Everyone with a smile and a story.  Old people and young people, some who grew up in Los Angeles, some who came from somewhere else, but everyone there for the same reason–to celebrate the fact that God is not dead.  We sang in several different accents, we heard the gospel preached, we shared some delicious Filipino food.  There was laughing and joking and welcoming.  I made so many brothers and sisters.

We went home and I spent the afternoon with Xio’s adorable Mexican mama.  I cut cucumbers and radishes and onions.  She made salsa, she marinaded the meat in citrus juice, she talked to me in Spanish and I talked to her through Xio.  More friend came.  Spanish friends, Filipino friends, Los Angeles friends, me–the kid from New York.  We ate a meal.  We laughed.  We talked about eyebrows, and Mexico, and food, and what is Ohio like.  I told them how much I loved the mountains in California and that there are no mountains in Ohio.  I told them where I grew up in the forests of upstate New York.  City kids don’t understand how country kids make friends.  We laughed a lot.  I don’t know when I laughed so hard.

I have never felt like I belonged somewhere so much.  I felt God’s love so powerfully through the sweet people around me, through the laughter and the advice-giving.  We took some photos.  We gave compliments.  We told stories.  My new friend, Jen, slept over with Xio and I that night.

This is one of my favorite  days of my life.  I loved seeing God’s people and being with them and laughing.  I loved knowing that we come from different worlds but still love the same beautiful God.  I’ve prayed for them every day since and cannot wait to be with them again whether it is in Los Angeles or in the presence of God.  But either way, we will sing and laugh together again.

re: people

I grew up in New York State and spent an OK amount of time in The City.  Not tons of time.  I don’t like The City that much.  It’s like an anthill–too much movement, too much activity, too much noise, and work, and anonymity.  There is no identity, just movement, flashes of clothing and clips of accent.  There is no story, there are no eyes.

I was sitting on the steps of a library in Queens.  There was a Christian group across the street passing out tracts and engaging people in conversation. A man sat next to me, lounging on the steps all decked out in gold fabric.  He was watching the Christian group with an attitude of frustration, not hostility, just frustration.  His turban was orange and purple and his beard tumbled over his chest.  His eyes were bright green.  “I am a Muslim.” he said and began telling me about his beliefs and his life in Afghanistan before he came to New York. “I am a Christian.”  I said, a little reluctant to identify with the group across the street.  I asked him more about Afghanistan and his family.  We just made small talk for a while.  He continued to scrutinize the group across the street.  He had to leave.  He said it was nice to meet me and to remember, “We’re all people.”

We’re all people.  I brushed off the encounter and frankly forgot about it while dealing with the Subway transportation back to where I was staying.  It really didn’t even cross my mind again until lately.  I’ve been getting to know Jesus better and better. Getting to understand His attitudes and how He dealt with people, how He loved them.  I’ve also been working with teenagers and realizing that one of the biggest problems with people is that we fail to realize that our friends, relatives, and enemies all have the same depth of feeling and story as we do.  We’re all people.  I am not the only person.

We are all people.  We are all made in the image of God.  We all have hopes and dreams and feelings and stories and insecurities.  Jesus saw people this way.

re: early mornings

I’ve been waking up early.  

Not as in six or seven o’clock early but as in three or four o’clock early.  Today was no exception.

I’ve been surprisingly ok with this occurance.  If it was summer, I would probably go for long walks through my neighborhood, basking in the sunrise glow long before humanity begins to stir, sitting on the dock by the pond watching it steam in the early greyness.  But winter is still here, so I lie in bed with the magical warmth of my blankets wrapped around me, so aware of the temperature, the air pressure, the sounds of the house and the snow and the wind.  So aware of God and spiritual presences.  I pray.  I pray for my wandering heart, my fiance’s heart, my friends scattered over the world.

It’s Holy Week.  On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds mobbing Him, throwing themselves at His feet, preparing to make Him king, Himself preparing to celebrate the Passover and then die for His cause of love and justice to offer salvation to the world.  

This was my consuming thought yesterday–Jesus prayed for me.  Believers have prayed for me for the last two thousand years. This not only makes me a significant part of history, it makes me part of a community that I can’t even comprehend.  A worldwide, two thousand year old community of people who love.  My morning mind has been filled with images of people throughout history and all over the world having the same mindset as myself and one day holding hands and singing with these people, getting to see them, and know them, and speak with them.  Getting to love God with them.  Hearing every different accent and every new song ever made in its own time.  Seeing the eyes and hair and skin of every believer.  Every one beaming with the honor of knowing God, of living with the life He gave, of now being in His presence.  

We will truly be brothers and sisters. Home at last with our good Father.

I can’t wait.

These early mornings make me long for something more.

re: doxology

How different would my life be if I began and ended everything with the doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Just taking a minute to sing, a minute to refocus, a minute to remind myself that even if things don’t turn out the way I desire or expect, God is to be praised.  A moment of stopping to worship with a short prayer and remember who God is.  How would I change if I was more outspokenly thankful?  A lot of Christians now are very dismissive of the ideas of habit, and tradition, and old prayers or hymns.  While I agree with the common claim that these can become a religion instead of a relationship, there is still great value in them.  There is still great beauty and theology to be found in the songs and prayers of the generations before us.  In college we sang a hymn that dated back to the earliest days of the church.  There was something amazing about sharing those thoughts, and words, and that prayer of worship with hundreds of years of Christians before me.  What were they going through when they sang that?  What comfort did it bring to them?  What did it teach them about God?  Islam has been on my mind lately and a good source of thought and conversation in my office for the last weeks.  Muslims have religion.  They have rituals. They pray at the same time as all of the other Muslims five times a day.  And yes, it is sad that they cannot have a relationship with their God like I have with mine, but there is a lot of beauty in this practice because it demonstrates immense reverence for god and a really strong act of community.  There’s something beautiful about that act which is so often missing in Christianity. The distancing reverence of past generations has swung in the opposite direction to today’s attitude of Jesus is my homeboy.  Neither is true.  God is not distant and Jesus isn’t your buddy.  God is here, He loves you, and He is worthy of your most humble adoration.