Monday, December 22, 2014

Taco Seasoning Mix

You knew sooner or later I'd jump on the bandwagon and make up my own mixture to season taco meat, right?

Well, I did it.

After a great amount of research (aka reading everyone else's recipes and the reviews of them that I could find - there must be at least 100 variations!) and taste testing the powder against my favorite chemical-laden store-bought packet here is the recipe I've decided on:

Taco Seasoning

Very scant 1/3 cup chili powder
2 Tbl Tony Chachere's Bold Creole Seasoning*
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
Scant 1/4 cup cumin
Very scant 1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbl cornstarch
1 Tbl minced dehydrated onion
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl brown sugar

Mix together and store in tightly capped jar.  Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups.  Use 2-3 Tbl per pound of taco meat according to your tastes.  Simply brown and crumble the meat then add the seasoning with about 1/2 cup water and simmer for a few minutes.  Then you're ready to make some yummy yummy tacos or burritos or nachos or taco salads or...

Isn't it pretty?  I like it A LOT!  I like that there's no weird preservatives that I can't pronounce (unless there's some in the Tony's and I didn't look... I like that stuff too much and don't want to risk that there is something there that will make me want to kick that can to the curb).  And I like that this one is pretty straight-forward in the spices.  Some of the other folks out there in blog land use interesting stuff like cocoa powder and smoked paprika and I guess that's fine if  you want to incorporate those flavors.  I was seeking a really tasty, basic, use it in the weekly dinner rotation kind of taste and that's what I've got.  I also like that it's cheap!  I am estimating (because I used spices I already had on hand) that the total cost would work out to about $2 for the entire batch.  And I estimate it will make tacos 12-13 times.

The recipe above (minus the onions because I didn't have any) filled one of these cute little Classico jars that originally came home filled with pesto to the rim with enough left over to make tacos today.  I've kept the jars all along because I plan on spray painting the lids with brushed nickel paint and labeling with a cute round chalkboard label for the contents inside to store all my spices and mixtures like this.


Note:  Tony Chachere's Bold Creole Seasoning is a spicy seasoning salt.  If you don't have it, substitute your favorite seasoned salt or use 2 1/2 Tbl salt and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or use 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Orange Syrup

I really dislike the fake maple taste of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup.  It's the only thing Derek will eat on pancakes and waffles.  So... I was the one to compromise and that trash is the only syrup that's been in the house for the past 2 years or so.

Until today!

Now I care less and less every day what he wants and do the things that make me happy and feed my spirit.  Today it was Orange Syrup that put a smile on my face.

Oh boy is this stuff YUMMY!!

My inspiration came from 3 things.  First, the bag of oranges in my fridge that needed to be used.   It's true:  necessity is the mother of invention! Second, the blueberry sauce I made recently to accompany a baked french toast dish for a Church potluck Christmas breakfast was my how-to basis.  But really I was thinking about the pancakes and syrup I had for breakfast on a trip to Boise when I was barely out of high school in the mid-1980's.  That was the only time I got to know my cousin, Dale Clarke, and his sweet wife, Cindy at all.  I remember that she was expecting their first baby, Stephanie.  I don't think they knew she was a girl yet...  And I remember their dogs.  They had two Pit Bulls who were the most gentle playful dogs.  I always wanted to go back and spend more time in Boise and get to know these cousins but, like many things, life happened and I didn't get back until many many years later on short business trips.  Dale and Cindy had divorced and he didn't live there any longer and I didn't know how to get ahold of her or if she would even be willing to see me.  Just a few weeks ago, though, Stephanie and I made a connection via the magic of Facebook.  It's going to be fun getting to know her a bit and sharing memories and old family pictures that were taken or collected by my Mother.

I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at to even search and see, if by some miracle, it's still there or not but the image I have in my mind is that it was across a very busy multi-lane street from Boise State University.  It was in the parking lot of a hotel.  And late one afternoon there was a storm rolled in and according to the marquis at BSU the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees in 5 minutes time. Aren't the goofy details that stick with you funny?  That's about all I remember about the place. That and the house-specialty syrup.  It was a pineapple coconut concoction that just blew my young mind.  And now that I've got the how-to part figured out with the blueberries and the oranges, one of these days I'm going to make some of that and call it Pina Colada Syrup.  Pineapple, coconut milk, a hint of lime and just a touch of rum flavoring... and serve it over pecan encrusted french toast.

Ok, so that's my backstory.  And I know you're here for the recipe, so without further digression...


Orange Syrup

Grate the rind (just the orange part, not the bitter white pith) from 4 oranges into a saute pan.  Add the juice of all four oranges and sugar to taste.  I think I used about 1 1/4 cups but that could vary slightly depending on the sweetness of the oranges.  Add 2/3 cup water, a pinch of salt and 3 tsp of cornstarch and bring to a boil.  Whisk constantly until it thickens then remove from heat and stir in 3 Tbl butter.  Let cool.  You can use immediately but it's best to let it sit in the fridge for 48 hours to get all the orangey goodness incorporated well in the syrup and then warm slightly before serving over pancakes, waffles or french toast.  Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.  Or just drizzle the syrup over ice cream...  This recipe filled a pint canning jar about 2/3 of the way.

Yum!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Come home to me...

When you lose a furry family member the grief is every bit as intense as when you lose a human you are close to.  And you don't know if to greet people who say cruel and horrible things like "It's just a dog..." with a hard kick to the groin or pity for the lack of unconditional love in their life so you end up so you end up looking at them with an expression that asks "Are you from another planet?" as melt into yet another stream of hot, lonely, heart-broken tears.

The past few months it seems like so many people I know have had to say goodbye to a well-loved pet.  I've watched as they've struggled through the pain of having the very fabric of their daily life ripped apart.  I know that someday I'll face that with my boys, too.  Hopefully it's a long ways off... but I already dread its coming.  I didn't start the morning with such morbid thoughts, but a tender poem came across my Facebook feed and left me sniffling and reminiscing about the fur-babies awaiting me on the other side.  I LOVE the last line!  If animals aren't allowed in Heaven, it isn't home.

To my dearest friend...

I stood by your bed last night; I came to have a peep. 
I could see that you were crying you found it hard to sleep. 
I spoke to you softly as you brushed away a tear, 
"It's me, I haven't left you, I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here." 
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea, 
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me. 
I was with you at the shops today; your arms were getting sore. 
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more. 
I was with you at my grave today; you tend it with such care. 
I want to re-assure you, that I'm not lying there. 
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key. 
I gently put my paw on you; I smiled and said, "it's me." 
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair. 
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there. 
It's possible for me, to be so near you everyday. 
To say to you with certainty, "I never went away." 
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew... 
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you. 
The day is over... I smile and watch you yawning 
and say "good-night, God bless, I'll see you in the morning." 
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide, 
I'll rush across to greet you and we'll stand, side by side. 
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see. 
Be patient, live your journey out...then come home to me.


Rest in peace sweet fur-babies... Rest in peace my Coley, Ugly, Buttons, Smokey, Daisy, Mittens, Lizzie, Pepper, Harry, Suzy, Baby, and Taffy.  I can't wait to see you again!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Adventure Ahead

Every now and then I find myself repeating an apology for a prolonged absence... I must not be all that penitent because I keep doing it so I'm going to skip the I'm sorry part and just let you know that I spent a lot of the last month finding me and reconnecting my psyche with passions that had been put aside.  You know those things that probably contributed a big share in losing touch with myself and having that major crash...

Being away from blogging was actually a very good thing for me.  And I invite you to rejoice in that!  I'm more ready than ever to put the nightmare of the past couple of years behind me and move on to a bright and wonderful future.

The first thing I'm doing is adjusting my attitude.  With all the health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, even more serious relationship problems, still even more serious relationship problems, questioning everything I knew about life, love, God, the world... yeah, living has felt like an ordeal at times.

I'm letting loose of the relationship woes.  I did what was in my power to make things work and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for my wrongs.  That's all I can do.  So I'm just letting it go.  I'm giving up on the apology that's definitely owed me but I know will never come.  My next chapter starts now.  And it's all about adventure!

I'm taking care of me first.  For the longest time I couldn't even think of things that I used to be interested in or would see as fun.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I had a breakthrough.  I pulled out a quilt top I'd started years ago and got too busy so it was set aside and never finished.  Somehow it made it on the truck for my move and in a few weeks it will be all finished.  There was even enough spare fabric folded up with it to make some throw pillows.  My plan is to put these on my future couch.  I also pulled out the sketch book and noticed that I used to do some pretty awesome sketches.  I've been saving inspiration pictures to pick that hobby up again and studying artists whose style I like.  I've also done some research into what kind of colored pencils I need to get so that I'll be able to do some intricately shaded florals.  A few other long lost loves I'm planning to reconnect with is the Farmer's Market for Saturday breakfast and a little shopping, adding to my collection of antique silver spoons (and finishing out the big set of Columbia silverware), expanding my culinary skills by trying new foods and cooking methods and gardening.

Yes, I know I say every year that I want to garden in the coming spring and I haven't managed to make it happen for about 5 years now.  Whether I end up staying in this very house where I have plenty of room to do it right or have to start over again on my own and have flower pots on a balcony, I swear by Heaven's Most Almighty Powers 2015 will see me have a garden!

I'm going back on the job market.  Despite being chewed up and spit out like yesterday's bubble gum, I know I have skills.  And someone out there is going to have the intelligence to recognize that and get one heck of deal when they make me an employee.

I'm going back on the social market, too.  I moved to Georgia with the promise and expectation of being pulled into a big, happy, close-knit family.  I had the promise and expectation of being introduced to their business contacts and friends.   Both were over promised and vastly under delivered...  I found myself financially taken advantage of, stranded, lonely, isolated, far from anyone I knew and feeling very much like I didn't quite fit in.  No more!  I've started to develop my own unique social network.  I've met the neighbors.  I've found a wonderful group of like-minded folks in my church congregation.  I've already planned out a couple of evening classes for next year and a respectable list of events and places to visit where I'll no doubt meet other people with at least that specific interest in common.

I have real, honest, achievable goals.  They are all written out in detail, broken down into smaller steps and the work has begun.  I hope you'll stick around for the ride... it's going to be a heck of a show!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Science of Happy

Today in Relief Society we were talking about happiness.  I love that I am part of such a practical Church!  Much of our discussion was based on this 2006 Conference address by Jeffrey R. Holland called Broken Things to Mend.

I especially love the image he describes here of our walk with the Savior and how He can heal our brokenness if we will let Him:  "It seems clear that the essence of our duty and the fundamental requirement of our mortal life is captured in these brief phrases [refers to times He said "Follow me."] from any number of scenes in the Savior’s mortal ministry. He is saying to us, “Trust me, learn of me, do what I do. Then, when you walk where I am going,” He says, “we can talk about where you are going, and the problems you face and the troubles you have. If you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness,” He promises. “I will give you answers to your prayers. I will give you rest to your souls.”"

We also talked a little about the science of being happy... and yes, there really is a scientific background to it.  Much of our feelings of happiness stem from what's going on in the frontal lobe of the brain.  If you can imagine looking at an MRI image of the brain.  When a person is depressed one side of the frontal lobe is lit up with activity.  When he or she is happy the other side is lit because substances like serotonin and norepinephrine are plentiful and active.  The trick is to keep the activity primarily on the happy side.  Some of that is chemistry and that's why there are so many prescription drugs available to assist.  But there's also much we can do for ourselves.

A researcher named Hank Smith developed a list of 10 things that supremely happy people do.  Since that was our handout, I'm going to share his list.

  1. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.  Joy is contagious.  People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.
  2. Happy people try to be happy.  When happy people don't feel happy, the cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.
  3. Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves.  Givers experience what scientists call the "helper's high."
  4. Happy people have deep in-person conversations.  Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.
  5. Happy people use laughter as medicine.  A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters.  A study showed that children, on average, laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.
  6. Happy people use the power of music.  Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.
  7. Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet.  Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression,
  8. Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside.  Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.
  9. Happy people get enough sleep.  When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgement.
  10. Happy people are spiritual.

I think at my core I am a happy person.  I've just taken a detour on this adventure called life and I'm struggling a bit to get back on my path.  Mr. Smith's list is a good starting point... some good things to keep in my conscious thought and build better habits.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A House of God

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing,
and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting,
a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory,
a house of order, a house of God;
D&C 109:8

This is the scripture I'm using as a guide in managing my home during my 2015 rebuilding year and beyond.  It was revelation given to commence building the Kirtland Temple in late 1832/early 1833.  And since home is the only place on earth that can be considered as sacred as the Temple, I think it's good pretty darned good advice for making home into sacred ground.

The Kirtland Temple, Kirtland Ohio USA
Photo courtesy of Russ' Photo Journal.  View more pictures here:
http://russ-photojournal.blogspot.com/2010/07/kirtland-temple.html

I've been thinking a lot about what the phrase "home as sacred ground" means.  Some days I will just read through this verse and see which words catch my attention and other times I'll follow those thoughts and see if they lead me to personal inspiration about how to apply the advice.  One thing that got my attention early on in that thought process was that all of keywords are verbs; they direct the reader to take an action.

Organize, Prepare, Establish, Pray,
Fast, Faith, Learn, Glory, Order

But how do you do this?

From the footnotes in my scriptures, study notes jotted in the margins from past religion classes and Sunday School, more study now, prayer, and lots of thought I've come up with the following list of specific actions I can take in my own home.
  • Manage finances to meet current needs and plan for the future.  Work to free myself from being a slave to debt.
  • Magnify my Church callings within the home.  Show respect for those called to authority positions, do my Visiting Teaching, welcome my Visiting and Home Teachers into my home as treasured guests, hold Family Home Evening, hold family prayer and scripture study.  (Those last 3 need some tweaking since it's just me... but you get the idea.)
  • Keep a clean and orderly house.
  • Come and go in the name of the Lord.  Pray for peace and safety for guests and family.
  • Have uplifted hands always.  Go about doing good and looking for ways to help my fellow man.
  • Cease lustful desires.  Learn to be happy with what I've got, because it's really quite a lot!
  • Stock my home with good books and other media.  Refuse to let the bad stuff in.
  • Have food storage on hand as we've been asked to do for decades now.
  • Get to know my neighbors better and seek ways to serve them.  Let my actions teach them the gospel.
  • Read from the scriptures daily.
  • Display pictures of the Savior, Temples and scripture quotes in each room of my home as visual reminders of what I hold most important.
  • Play uplifting music.
  • Pay tithes and offerings.
  • Pray over everything.
  • Be a good citizen.  Be involved in the community.  Make my values known.  Make them count.
  • Attend Church and Temple services.

In some ways that seems like a daunting "To Do" list doesn't it?  And, yet, in others it's just plain common sense for any Christian who is truly living what they believe... things we should all be doing already.

Maybe that's the problem.  These are all things that sound good and right and worthwhile.  But it is just so hard to fit everything in with jobs and family and everyone having a different schedule and there's never enough money to satisfy what everyone thinks they need.  And pretty soon all that stuff that sounded so good on Sunday isn't getting done in the hubbub of daily life.

Guilty, here.  2013 and 2014 saw my finances spiral out of control.  Yes, I had "help" digging that pit but it's still a deep hole that I allowed myself into by placing trust in the wrong person.  And I haven't done a real good job with those other things in any recent time frame, either.  It's way past time for me to get myself together and get it done.  And trust me... if I can do it, so can you!!

And I'm going to do it!  No more excuses here.

Join me in the challenge?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Welcome To My Home

I wrote a short poem today.  Well, actually bits and pieces of it have been floating around in my head for a couple of weeks, but today is the day I got all the parts down on paper and decided it said what I wanted it to say.  And actually I'm kind of proud of it!  One of my great grandfathers was a superb poet and I always wanted to have inherited a latent poetry gene...  Maybe I got lucky and that wish came true?

Welcome To My Home

Welcome to my humble little home!

It’s not fancy, just some sticks and stone.

It’s known poverty and a bit of wealth,

And sheltered me through sickness and in health.

I've filled it with thoughts and people and things I love

As I begged for God’s blessings from above.

I’ve tried to learn from the bad to simply enjoy the good

And found it’s not about could, or should, or would…

But taking whatsoever I do have and sharing,

That is the best way to show my caring.

So come on in - you're fine just as you are

Friends always welcome from both near and far!!



My plan is to print it in a pretty font and put it in a $1 store frame that I've decorated with flowers and ribbons and such to make a rectangular wreath for my front door.  I think it's the perfect accompaniment to my 2015 goals, don't you?

2015: The Year of ME

Does it seem a little early for the New Year's Resolution/goal setting blog posts to begin?  Yeah, probably.  Guess, I'm just a little out of sync...

I posted this a day or so ago on Facebook, both to my own page and the blog page, as my personal theme for 2015.  Then I started thinking about how it might be taken as a threat and added a little extra explanation.

Photo credit to  https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheMotivatedType

In the coming year, I am going to continue to tell my story.  There are people who may not like how they are portrayed.  I'm still going to tell my story... MY story.  And if anyone is worried about their part in it then maybe they should have treated me better when they had the chance.  I'm not going to lie just so they can feel good about themselves or skip over events that are very formative to who I want to become.  A lot of horrible things happened in 2013 and 2014 and I learned so much.  While some of it is completely unexpected, I feel like God is going to use it somehow.  Really curious about how... But if telling it can help even one other person, then my story needs to be told.

Photo credit to the blog at FreePeople.com
The explanation I added talked a little about the New Beginnings program held each year for the Young Women in my Church where girls turning 12 are introduced to the program and the goals and achievements of the teens already participating are showcased. Impressive goals achieved in addition to school, extracurricular activities and often a part-time job. (You can satisfy your curiosity and learn more HERE.)  And that's what I want to do. Use the idea of New Beginnings to set some big goals and focus on fixing what's broken in me... trusting that every ending is followed by a new beginning.

Epic endings deserve equally epic beginnings.  And with that said 2015 is going to be the year I rebuild me!

In order of importance, but not likely achievement, here's what I want next year to look like:

  • I have a date set to get me back to the Temple.
  • I have my own home that is clean, safe and comfortable.
  • Food in the cupboard has replaced worry about the next meal.
  • I have a way to support myself.
  • I have a reliable vehicle.
  • My debts are being appropriately addressed.
  • I have access to quality medical and dental care.
  • My dogs are healthy and happy and have food and adequate veterinary care.
  • I'm able to pay back, pay forward and offer meaningful service as was offered me in my need.
  • I'm gardening and crafting and collecting antique silver again.
  • I'm drawing and writing and making cooking an adventure again.
  • I'm entertaining in my home and going places to meet new people again.
  • I'm involved in my community.

Photo credit: Rose Hill Design Studio on Etsy
It goes back to my deep need for stability and security.  I'm not a person that thrives on the edge... Adventures are wonderful as long as there is a safe haven to come home to afterward.  I've come to realize just how much I need that to feel like I can relax and be happy.  It's doing the simple things in life that I know to be right.  Right for me.

And who better to do that for me than ME?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Redeemed From the Poo Pit

For those who have felt concern for me the past few months, here's an update on what's going on to keep me away from doing the things I want to share with you here.  Hang with me on this post and read the whole thing because it does finally get around to the start of a happy ending!

A couple of days ago, I was stretched out across my bed reading scriptures.  I was working through a challenge to complete the Book of Mormon before the year ends, in particular.  Now... I've read these verses thousands of times before but on that day different phrases caught my attention and spoke as if they were written just for me.

Mosiah 27:28 says (emphasis mine): "Nevertheless, AFTER WADING THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God."
Mosiah 29:20 says (again, emphasis mine):  "But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power IN ALL CASES among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him."
Photo courtesy of Dairy Carrie.
I had a picture of the "poo pit" at Cannon's Dairy Farm come to mind when I read about wading through much tribulation.  (If you don't know what I mean, follow the link under the photo for a good explanation and more pictures of her farm from Dairy Carrie).  I imagined being called on to go muck out the poo pit and so I put on my tall rubber waders and it was still too deep and flowed right over the top of the boots.  That's a pretty accurate mental picture of how my life has felt most of the last year... no matter what I tried to do about it I was just wading deeper and deeper into poop (equate poop with tribulation) until it completely overwhelmed me.

One of my tribulations is knees with arthritis that suddenly and severely advanced... more in 6 months than the previous 6 years combined... and has now caused a curvature in my spine because I had no money and no insurance and therefore no way to see a doctor for treatment.  I also had some issues with my thyroid replacement drugs and a slow descent into a horrifyingly bad clinical depression triggered by the medical stuff and what was going on in my relationship with Derek. When our problems first started I told myself it was a temporary stress and that we'd find a way to work it out if for no other reason than commitment.  Sadly, it seems we weren't equally committed.

Now I'm trying to wade out of the poo pit instead of allowing myself to dwell in bitterness over it all.  I guess that equates to the scriptural phrase above of "repenting nigh unto death" and hoping that God will deliver me out of this bondage... hoping mine is numbered among ALL cases in His sight.

And I think it just might be.

This past week I received a packet from a former employer and have a small window of opportunity take a distribution from their pension plan.  That hasn't been an option before.  I know there are tax ramifications but in my case, I think it's worth it.  This will enable me to get a basic transportation kind of car come mid-January and possibly begin to address the debt situation.  That's some big stumbling blocks toward recovering my life knocked down to a more manageable size!!  There are a few more things that still need to fall into place and I am beyond excited to tell you about them when they do.

So... See?  My story is going to have a happy ending!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Fry Cutter Incident

Since Derek and I are in the midst of splitting but are still sharing the house this may seem a little like sour pickles to be posting stuff about him.  Oh well... I can live with that.  Besides I want to preserve these memories as much as a reminder of how miserable he made me sometimes so I don't ever make this mistake again as for the comic relief that a life stranger than fiction can sometimes provide.

A couple of nights ago we had an incident involving a french fry cutter.

You know I'm a die-hard Idahoan in my heart and nothing but fresh cut potatoes make real french fries... those over-processed garbage things from the freezer aisle are not real.  They are plastic fries.  And we do not eat plastic at my house.

Mine isn't this fancy but it works the same way.  It's
just a $10 "As Seen on TV" jobbie from Walmart.
The cutter pictured is from Rawsie.
A little before bedtime Derek poked his head in my office and asked me where the fry cutter was.  I went down and pulled it out of the cupboard because that was just easier than trying to explain...  Never thinking that he needed remedial fry cutting lessons, I went upstairs and did my thing and got ready for bed.

Around 2 am some loud banging from the kitchen woke me up.  Followed by a little cussing...  While I was still trying to decide if I should get up and see what he was doing or let it go, he came and poked his head in my door and said "I broke the fry cutter."

I was incredulous and asked "how?"  I don't know if he answered or not since even in my half asleep state I was thinking "how the H. E. Double-Toothpicks does one break a fry cutter?" but I followed him back down to the kitchen to see what mess he'd left for me this time.

Sure enough.  Remedial lessons should have been given.

The insanely obvious take it out of the box, set it on the counter, lift the top, put your potato inside and push the top down... I guess was somewhat less than obvious to him.  He took the whole thing apart.  Even parts I didn't know came apart!  And then jammed the top down over the base an inch farther than it should go and without the blade inside.  And it was stuck together.  I mean stuck!!

I tried pulling it apart and wedging a knife between the parts to get some leverage to wiggle them apart.  A table knife, not a sharp one.  I may be reckless but I'm not stupid!  Before I could get any movement, he took it away from me.  Just grabbed it out of my hands... same as the time he grabbed the new breaker thingy out of my hands and electrocuted himself on the breaker box because he took too much of it apart and touched an exposed wire.

Heaven forbid that I might know just the tiniest bit about what I'm doing...

Anyway, he still couldn't get it apart.  And he started wailing about the lack of assembly instructions on the side of the box.  I was miffed because he grabbed it out of my hands.  And he was angry and frustrated because he wanted fries and couldn't make them.

Yes, I said "couldn't."

Go ahead.  Roll your eyes.  I did as I said I'd just cut them with a knife and figure out the cutter in the morning.  So he hands me a big butcher knife.  The biggest one out of the drawer.  Like I'm gonna clean up potatoes and slice them into french fries with a gargantuan knife meant to hack a side of beef into all those different cuts?  Right...

I asked for a smaller knife.  And he handed me the next one down.  Again, too big for the job.  But... I took it and did what I needed to.  Nicked my thumb and it bled all over the kitchen.  I wrapped a clean dishcloth around it and cut his fries and then went and put a bandaid on my owie and crawled back in bed.

No thank you was proffered.  No inquiry if the cut was bad enough to need attention.  Nothing.  How rude, right?

The next morning it took me less than 10 minutes to work the fry cutter pieces apart.  It really didn't need all the cussing and pounding and wailing in the night.  So, yes I am going to refer to him as "dumber than a fry cutter" from here on out.  Maybe only in my imagination, but still!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pirkle Truck or... Purple Truck?

After my round of screw ups I wrote about nearly two weeks ago, I've only had one more big one that had the potential to be life threatening crazy.  Lots of small stuff, but thankfully only this one last biggie!

Picture by Linda Deal on http://fineartamerica.com/
Coming home from my therapist's office right after we'd talked about the dog fight and the knife I saw a purple semi truck and found it so distracting that I started turning the steering wheel to drive head on into it...  My mind wasn't, however, completely blank like in the previous incidents.  I was remembering Myrtle Olsen and a phone conversation I overheard, anyway I heard her side of it, at the drive-in restaurant she owned in Shelley, ID when I was a kid.  Now this was back in the days before everyone carried cell phones and trucking companies depended on GPS tracking to know where their trucks (and drivers) were at every possible second... and a dispatcher for Pirkle Transport had called Olsen's Drive-In, knowing that the driver she was trying to reach with an urgent message about his load, frequently stopped there.  For at least half an hour Mrs. Olsen, getting ever more frustrated and angry at the disruption, insisted there was no purple truck parked outside.

Simple misunderstanding, I'm sure.  "Pirkle truck" does sound very much like "purple truck."

But still... that little flash of memory had me headed toward plowing right through his grill.  And that was disturbing enough that I had to pull off on the next road and get myself together to finish driving home.  I was truly scared that my mindlessness was going to cause real bodily harm, or even death, to someone.  Maybe even me.

These are the kind of things that make driving exhausting!  I feel like I have to keep an iron grip on the steering wheel and have a constant stream of self-talk reminding me to keep my eyes on the road and not on trees, junk, road kill, advertising signs or whatever might be off to the side.

My therapist, his name is Tom and I guess I should start calling him that because it's easier to type and... it is his name... Tom thinks I'm still over-thinking about mindlessly letting the dogs out in the yard together and causing that huge bloody fight and that's making me read too much into a simple mistake.  He said more experiences that turn out ok along with time and self-permission to simmer down the hyper-vigilance about it will show me that it's ok to forgive, forget and move on with life.  I hope so!  It would be so nice for something to feel normal and right again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Help! I'm Screwing Up Again

I wrote a little bit here about a painful episode in my current life where everything came crashing down around me all at the same time and my psyche couldn't take it any longer.  I sought out help.

That's still not a fully comfortable thing for me to admit.

I'm glad I did it but there's still a little part of me that wants to hold back talking much about it because of the lingering stigma of needing help with mental health issues.  Today I'm going to try and step out of that doubt and talk about therapy a bit.  I'm still seeing the therapist a couple of times a month.  And this last time he reminded me that I haven't been doing so well at keeping up my end of things...

Photo credit: http://www.dailyhiit.com/
I haven't been writing, specifically, so he gave me two assignments to write out before our next appointment.  One is what I'm calling a 'Screw Up Journal" (and no he doesn't like the title, I'm to find something more positive) detailing all the stuff I'm forgetting so that there's a record to help determine if it's just the one big screw up leading to the next and the next and on to the next one after that OR if there's a more serious underlying cause.  The other is an essay about what a happy life would look like to me.   We had talked about stability, which was seriously lacking for a long time, being key but things are somewhat more stable now and I'm still not ok.  I know what's missing:  security is the other half of the equation.  And security is still elusive.  Why must it be so very elusive?

SOME OF THE ENTRIES IN MY SCREW UP JOURNAL

About 10 days ago, my lack of focus/concentration/attention caused an incident that was very dangerous.  Potentially lethal even.  It scared me in many ways.

With absolutely nothing on my mind, truly just a total blank, I let all of the dogs out into the yard at the same time.  They don't get along.  They fight.  That's why we keep them separated and have for many months.  All along I thought I was protecting Lightning from Thunder, but... what I'm really doing is protecting Thunder from Gizmo.

Gizmo attacked.  Then Lightning and Jack jumped in.  And between the 3 of them they took Thunder down viciously.  I had to break them up or they would have killed him.  In the process I was bit at least twice, scratched and badly bruised up.  Somehow I managed to get Lightning into a headlock and restrain him with my right arm while beating Gizmo with his spiked collar that had slipped off over his head as hard as I could swing with my left.  That gave Thunder enough of a break to get out of the middle of it.  I drug Lightning and Gizmo into the house still snarling and thrashing.

All 5 of us were bloody messes.

Luckily all the wounds ended up being small enough that I could care for them at home - no trip to the vet for stitches (and explanations!).  And thankfully I kind of switched into an emergency management mindset and did what had to be done before I sat down and bawled for 3 days.

The tears were partly because my actions put my baby in harm's way and got him hurt.  All of them hurt, really.  That's a huge amount of mental anguish!  And they were partly because I was shaken to the core and crying is how I deal with stress in pretty much any situation.  I don't necessarily feel great appreciation for that feature of my personality... but that's how I've always been.  Stress me out and a river starts flowing from my instantly red and swollen eyeballs.  And still another part of the tears came from fear... Fear of disappointing Derek and fear of having him see me as the utter failure of a human being that I felt like.

The next day, I tried to unsheath a knife that was not sheathed.  The particular angle of the blade in my hand didn't cut... but it had the potential of leaving a deep slice across my entire palm.

The day after that I walked away and totally forgot until the smell got to me that I had food cooking on the stovetop.  Yup, this Idaho girl burned the potatoes... literally.

These 3 incidents we discussed in the session along with the thought that I was feeling like a danger to myself and others.  That's the 'why' behind keeping a record.  Did the one big screw up have me so stressed out and worrying about screwing up that I subconsciously sabotaged myself into the others?  Or is there something more messed up going on inside my brain?

Sadly, my run of screw ups continues.

Coming home from my therapy session last Friday I nearly drove head on into a semi-truck.  It was purple.  And that distracted me from keeping my eyes, and mind, on the road.

Yesterday I nearly cut down the blackberries and tried to replant the poison ivy because I doubted my identification of which was which.  The leaves are somewhat similar in appearance but not in how your skin reacts to contact with them!

I hope we can fix this before someone is seriously hurt or, God forbid, dies from my mindlessness...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gratitude in God’s Timing

August 3, 2014

I wanted to call this Remaining Grateful When it Seems God is Taking FOREVER to Answer a Prayer… but that title was way too long to fit the space this blog format gives me to work with.  This is my “take-away” message from Church today because so much of the focus was on gratitude and that all prayers are answered.  We may not get the answer we want or get it when we want it but it is answered.

For the first time in a long while I felt an answer to my prayer one night last week.  Derek had a rough day filled with disappointments at work and during his bitter complaints there was a little piece of me that started to doubt his success in this career choice.  I had some moments of fear that he would do something stupid, like walk off the job, and send us plunging right back into the same financial crisis we are trying so desperately to escape.  I don’t have any more help cards to pull out so that is especially frightening and stressful to me.  When I spilled out my fears in prayer, I heard a distinct “Don’t worry… I got this!” in response.

That doesn’t sound like a very Godly way to word it, does it?  But that is what I heard.  And after a long dry spell where it felt like the heavens were closed to me, I’m not sure if I felt more excited about the offered relief or grateful just to get an answer!
Photo credit: http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com
/index.php?id=644

At Church a woman I’ve become rather friendly with mentioned finally receiving an answer to a prayer 24 years later.   You could see the amazement and gratitude in her countenance when she spoke about this long sought answer.  What a testament to patience!!  I think I probably would have given up, assumed the answer was no and forgotten all about it.  I know it probably doesn’t seem like nearly such a terrible wait in the reckoning of God’s time but it’s mind boggling to me.  And I sincerely hope it doesn’t take 24 years to see my prayer’s answer come to fruition!!

One of our lesson topics today was prayer or, more specifically, about listening for His answer when we pray and how sometimes our minds are so full of clutter and background noise that we miss it.  Maybe at some later time, we realize that it was there but “in the now” getting an answer is not part of our conscious recognition either because our own pride won’t accept an answer different than what we seek or that we’ve failed to calm our minds enough to hear His still small voice.  Somewhere in scripture it talks about the voice of God being in the stillness following whatever tumultuous event is giving us grief.  He doesn’t speak to us in big grand ways that get the attention of the whole world but rather in a soft quiet voice only we can hear… if we are ready to listen.  That darned “if” clause gets us sometimes…

Our Relief Society President was teaching the lesson.  Two months ago her husband had a stroke.  He made it to the hospital and treatment was started in under an hour and, amazingly, he’s retained much of his functioning.  He walks and talks so well that people who didn’t know what had happened probably wouldn’t guess.  If that’s not amazing enough in and of itself… they both count his stroke as a blessing because of what it’s taught them about prayer and paying attention to see God’s answer applied to their lives.  She gave some specific examples of how she’s doing that.  She spoke of things like turning off the radio chatter when she’s driving to work and using the time to talk to God and just be quiet and listen.  Sometimes she plays a CD of hymns as soft background to her reverie.   And it’s astounding what she’s learned about herself, her husband, how to meet their family’s needs, how to answer hard questions that are posed to her as Relief Society President, how to better meet the demands of her job and a long list of other things just by purposely making her drive a quiet time of seeking heavenly inspiration.

I’ve been trying to carve out some quiet in my day several times a week.  Actually, it's a line item on my To Do List though, admittedly, it’s something that gets sacrificed when I fall behind on other chores and has mostly been turning into a nap when I do take the time.  I’ve been telling myself that the napping is just part of getting my strength and stamina back so hopefully one day it can be what’s intended because I really want it to be my time to turn to the scriptures and pray… and listen.

Beef Barbacoa

August 2, 2014

Yesterday I tried something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and made Beef Barbacoa in my slow cooker.  It tasted perfect!  The only way it could have been better is if I could have started with the right cut of meat and been able to actually shred it.  But with stew meat in the freezer, and not a nice roast, I used what I had available.

Beef Barbacoa is a very simple dish to prepare.  Measurements are approximate because I eyeball stuff instead of dragging the proper tools out and assume about 6-8 pounds of meat are being used.  Simply brown your meat (cut the roast into manageable pieces) in a frying pan and then place in your slow cooker or crockpot.  Add a small jar of your favorite salsa and enough beef broth (or water and bullion or beef base) to submerge meat.  You don’t want it fully covered just submerged because you are going to, over the course of the day, cook off 90% of the liquid.  Heat on high until it is bubbling consistently then turn to low and let simmer for 6-8 hours.  A couple of hours before you are ready to serve, pull the meat out and shred it.  Return to the cooker with just enough brown sugar to cut the acid from the salsa and give a mildly sweet flavor to the remaining liquid.  Stir occasionally until dinner time.

I imagine a couple of you are mentally raising your hands with questions already… Yes, 6-8 pounds of roast is a lot of meat.  This is what I call a ‘Planned-Over’ kind of recipe.  What you don’t use right away can be frozen for quick meals later on.  And, yes, you can use pork roast if you prefer and it comes out just as perfectly delightful!

5 ways to serve Beef Barbacoa…

In a Mexican Style Salad
Place a big flour tortilla in the bottom of a large shallow bowl.  Add in this order:
Scoop of Green Rice (recipe at end of post)
Scoop of black beans
Scoop of Beef Barbacoa
A big handful of lettuce or mixed salad greens
Tomato and avocado wedges
Squeeze juice of ¼ lime over the top
A sprinkling of queso fresco
A few fried tortilla strips
Dress with ranch (or Google “CafĂ© Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing” for something absolutely drool inducing!)

In a Burrito
Place a scoop of Beef Barbacoa and a bit of shredded cheese on a large flour tortilla.  Roll up like a burrito.   Serve as is or top with Salsa Verde and grated cheese and place under the broiler until heated.  Serve with Green Rice, black beans, and salad greens on the side.

On an American Style Salad
Place a healthy serving of shredded lettuce or mixed salad greens on your dish.  Top with tomato wedges, grated cheese, thinly sliced red onion, a scoop of Beef Barbacoa and a handful of onion straws.  Dress with your favorite salad dressing and a drizzle of barbeque sauce.

On Southern BBQ Joint Mac ‘n Cheese
Go all out and make homemade Macaroni & Cheese with your favorite recipe.  Place a dinner-sized serving in a shallow bowl and top with a scoop of Beef Barbacoa, a drizzle of barbeque sauce, thinly sliced red onion, grated cheddar cheese, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

In a Sandwich
Place a scoop of Beef Barbacoa in a toasted hamburger bun.  Top the meat with a bit of shredded green cabbage (or coleslaw if you like it) or a thin slice of cheddar cheese and onion straws.  Especially good served with potato salad and pickle wedges.

To make Green Rice, I put a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and add long cooking white rice.  Toast it over medium high until the kernels of rice become mostly opaque (the heat turns them from translucent to a creamy solid white and acts to set the starch so that the rice doesn't come out sticky).  Add chicken broth (or water and bullion or chicken base) to cover.  Don’t worry about having enough water to fully cook it at this point, you will add more later.  When it comes to a boil, add half a jar of Salsa Verde, a small can of mild diced green chiles and 6-8 roughly chopped tomatillos.  Cook until rice is nearly tender adding water as needed.  When it’s almost done, add the rest of the Salsa Verde, a handful of chopped cilantro, appx. 1 tsp cumin, and some chopped green onion or chives.  Test for salt.  Let sit covered until the last of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender and fluffy.

Happy eating!

Coffee, Science and Judgment

August 1, 2014

Photo credit: http://kristentorrestoro.myadventures.org/?
filename=a-cup-of-coffee-and-air-miles

I’ve never fancied myself as a scientifically minded person, but I do like to know how stuff works.  And when I really want to know I will ask questions of every person who I think might have some possible insight.  I will ask and ask and ask, probably to the point of making an annoyance of myself.  That’s how I found out why coffee makes ibuprofen work better for my knee pain.

When I’m hurting badly and ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen just don’t touch it on their own, taking 800 mg (4 tablets) of ibuprofen with a mug of coffee brings the pain down to a bearable level.  Yes, I do know 800 mg is more than the recommended dose on the over-the-counter label but it’s less than you get with 1 prescription Advil.  And since I don’t do it every day my nurse friends tell me it’s a pretty safe dose.  For years now I’ve known that it worked but I didn’t know why.  And the “why” part bugged me.

Many years ago I worked with a man who had a prescription from his dentist for a cup of coffee every morning with whatever painkiller he was taking for otherwise untreatable tooth/jaw pain.  I rolled my eyes and thought he just liked coffee and needed the prescription to excuse it and keep his Temple Recommend so his wife wouldn’t kill him.  (He was, and I presume still is, LDS and drinking coffee is against the dietary code for Mormons in much the same way that Jews don’t eat pork.  As I understand it, the reasons are a little different but that a dietary code exists is similar.  For Mormons it’s a test of obedience while Jews are avoiding contact with an ‘unclean,’ and therefore harmful, substance -- for example, fat, naturally high sodium content, parasites and other diseases that would be readily transmittable because our body chemistry is so similar to swine that medical science can, today, use their organs for transplants in humans.)  I really didn’t give it much more thought until several years and a couple of jobs later when I found myself with a raging headache and a full afternoon of flashy PowerPoint presentations in a dark room ahead of me.  My boss handed me a couple of Advil and sternly told me to go get a cup of coffee and put my head down for 15 minutes.  Her persuasive powers finally prevailed…  And my headache went away.

I assumed it was the caffeine giving the painkiller a boost.  So, being Mormon myself, I tried to replicate the effect with other beverages.  I tried hot chocolate, Dr. Pepper, energy drinks, even caffeinated bottled water.  It didn’t work.  I got the energy bump but there was absolutely no effect on pain.

Ten years of asking everyone I met with any sort of science background and Googling it nigh to death… and I finally have my answer.  I met someone who knew and the patience to explain it in terms I understand.   FINALLY I know how it works!!

Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant.  That’s why you wake up or get the little energy bump from consuming it.  But caffeine is not the only stimulant in coffee.  The oil of the coffee bean contains bioflavonoids that specifically stimulate blood flow.  More blood, and consequently more of the painkilling and anti-inflammatory compounds in the ibuprofen, is delivered to the site of pain.  And that’s what gives the relief.

I really kind of love logical, tidy, simple answers like that!

The physician who explained this to me cautioned that the increase in blood flow is generally considered medically insignificant.  And, like any medication, the effect (pain relief in this case) doesn’t happen for every person who tries it.  But there is a growing body of documentation that for a certain segment of the population it is effective so maybe it’s more significant that medicine recognizes today.  And that is good enough for me.  There’s no guilt about having the occasional mug of coffee now that I know there is sound scientific reasoning behind my claim that it’s doing something positive in my body.  And I guess if I end up needing a prescription to justify it I can get past feeling so utterly silly asking…

Funny how sometimes it takes years for God to show you that your rash judgment of someone was way off base isn’t it?  Maybe that co-worker from years ago liked the pain relief more than the coffee.  I shouldn’t have assumed anything about his habits or motives.  I would do well to love more and judge less!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A (Short) Rant

July 29, 2014

Every woman knows that there is a time (probably lots of times over the course of relationship) when your man does something that just annoys you to the point of wanting to pull your hair out. It doesn’t mean you don’t love him with everything you have, just that there is something he does that so totally gets under your skin it makes you crazy angry for a little while. I’m going to tell you about one of those things that Derek does because I just don’t think I can pull off stark raving and bald… and writing IS part of my therapy.

First, know that I love him. This is just a rant because I’m annoyed with him right now and not that I’ve waivered in my feelings toward him. Even when he’s a complete screw up, he’s my screw up. Nothing I’m about to say changes the fact that I love him and am committed to our relationship. I just need to say my piece so I can process it and move on.

Who throws dirty clothes on top of clean, folded, ready to put away things sitting in the laundry basket?

Yup. That would be my Derek.

I can bust my hump taking care of dogs, cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking meals and whatever else happens to be part of that day’s To Do List. And sometimes between knee pain and depression issues that daily routine leaves me exhausted. You would think, as a loving partner, he could notice and take that stack of clean folded t-shirts and put them in a drawer three steps away before undressing himself. But apparently you’d be wrong!

Whatever clothes he’s worn that day just get tossed on top of the clean stuff.

When I complain and/or ask him why, he shrugs and says “that’s how my Mom raised me.” I think it makes me even more upset that he throws her under the bus for his bad habits. Whether it’s true or not that she raised him to be a slob is an issue to be hashed out between them. My point is there’s a time you must recognize you are an adult and the only one responsible for your actions. And if your parents didn’t teach you to take care of your possessions, then it’s time to learn how and change for your own sake and future prosperity.

Yesterday I took dirty socks away from Thunder 5 different times. I’m not overstating to be dramatic! Thunder drug 5 sweaty, nasty, dirty socks from somewhere in the bedroom out to the living room to use as chew toys. Sometimes he eats them. Both Thunder and Lightning have, in the past, strained mightily to poop intact socks with the terry cloth-like loops from being inside out still recognizable. Despite the jokes we made about scouring out the colon it just can’t be healthy for them. Dirty clothes, and especially the stray socks, tossed here and there drive me nuts!

And it’s not just clothes that are strewn everywhere. Dishes, tools, shoes, car care stuff… I swear my man leaves a trail of chaos everywhere he steps. Yes, sometimes he makes me absolutely crazy! But Derek is mine. And I love him!

Rant over.

Let It Go

July 27, 2014

This morning my friend, Heidi, sent me a text message asking how my day was going. Honestly, it’s ok. I’m a little tired from overdoing yesterday and kind of dragging my butt my there’s no real problems. I answered and inquired of her well-being. She replied that she was currently trying to kill a spider in her car, that she’s afraid of them and surely as soon as she started driving again it would jump out at her. I had to laugh because I am so much the other extreme. Whenever there’s an unusual bug I’m all “Oooooo let’s catch it in a bottle so I can get a good look!” Then I Google it and figure out what it is and if it’s not poisonous or otherwise the sort of thing you don’t want around I let it go.

(That doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t do the jig of utter panic if a spider or even a big ant (and we have some that are huge!) starts to crawl on my leg or arm or… It’s a time I can lay down some moves that might remind you of a spastic ninja!)

What I’ve found is that most of these little creatures are pretty fascinating. There is such diversity and creativity in God’s handiwork! And it always gives me a new way to look at things and imagine creating it myself. That need to create and the creativity to imagine and do it is what I think is our divine spark – the little piece of our Heavenly Father that we carry within us.

Curiosity and creativity are good things!

A few months ago I found a scorpion in the house. Derek was gone to work (he always seems to have a job with insane hours) and I’d come upstairs, either just getting up for the day or on one of those potty runs that happens when I drink too much water too close to bedtime, and the dogs came up with me. With the dim light of very early morning, or maybe it was the carport light shining in the door window, I saw the black spot on the kitchen floor just about the same time the dogs did. Of course, my “what the heck?” translated to each of them as “Yummy yummy morsel if I can be the first to grab this special and unexpected treat!!” and all three got stung on the nose as they took a sniff behind the one who’d just dropped it. By then I was thinking that it looked a lot like a scorpion… and grabbing for an old pesto bottle (I save the Bertolli ones because I have designs of storing herbs and spice mixes in them). All the years I lived in those Western deserts you’d think of as a natural habitat for scorpions I never saw a single one. Move to lush, green, almost tropical Georgia which doesn’t impress me as the place that kind of creature would be at home and there it is… my first encounter with this specific arachnid.

Google told me that it was, indeed, right at home here. The black little fella is known as a Georgia Devil. They are native only to the low mountains of northern Georgia. The pain equivalent of its sting is like that of a yellow jacket (not desirable but not end of the world as we know it kind of painful either) and they will only sting a person or pet if provoked. While he looked plenty provoked down in the bottle and I’m sure would have happily stung me repeatedly if he could, Google said these scorpions spend most of their lives eating other spiders and noxious bugs from around a house’s foundation and in the garden. I thought it was really interesting so I left the bottle where Derek could see it when he came home. He wasn’t nearly so impressed by my newfound knowledge or the little treasure on the counter but indulged my Mother Earth instincts and took it out to the edge of the woods and let it go.

I’m trying to use that example in the rest of my life and just let the little problems go like most of the strange bugs and lizards and whatnot I find in the yard (and occasionally inside). I need to focus my energy on the few things I can control and work on building more positives into daily routines. Besides, so many little problems only look scary until they are solved with a bit of faith, curiosity and applied creativity. And when the little ones are taken care of, big problems don’t seem quite so insurmountable either.

Home Again

July 25, 2014

Toward the beginning of July, I told Derek I needed to go to the Emergency Room and seek out some help because I had a problem that was out of hand.  He yelled at me the whole way there for letting it go, but we had no money for me to go to the doctor in May and get my levothyroxine prescription renewed.  I knew I needed it, I knew where to get the care… I just had no funds available to pay for either the doctor’s visit or prescription and we all know that doctors and drug stores want their money upfront so I put it off hoping that things might turn around for us in the near term.  They didn’t.

At the ER I explained the situation with the medication and that between feeling like crap physically and mentally (lack of thyroid hormone also effects mental abilities) and being in crisis financially, socially, spiritually, and emotionally I was extremely depressed and had laid in bed that morning (and a few others I didn’t mention) wishing I could die and be free of all the pain and stress.  Never mind that I had no real intent, no plan and no way to carry it out if I did form a plan… that statement got me 4 days in a psychiatric unit for observation as a suicide threat.  Immediately I had to surrender everything I had with me:  clothing, underwear, shoes, purse, cell phone.  Everything.  Security came to inventory the contents of my purse. (Mental note:  Always keep your purse clean!  They looked at EVERY old grocery list, Church program, card, bill, note and receipt I’d mindlessly stuffed in there for months.)  And then they ran the metal detector wand over me front and back to make sure I didn’t have any weaponry on (or in) me.  I got one chance to let my family and friends know where I was… just 1 call on my own phone before it was confiscated.

Basically I was a prisoner.

I had 3 roommates while I was held in the psych unit.  Weirdly one shared my birthday and another shared my first name and last initial.  Odds of one seem huge, but both of those events?  The statistic has to be astronomical!

Most of the people there were just as normal as you and me.  Everyone had been crushed under their own problems, yes… but they were not the psychotic blubbering idiots of Hollywood’s imagination.  Most were friendly, smiling and concerned with helping me understand what was expected to fit into the routine.  There was a lot of singing and some of the most amazing gospel voices I’ve ever heard, on the radio or off.  Several people had college degrees and to help fill the long boring days I got into some discussions on topics like philosophy, myth, religions, botany, chemistry, food, and travel.  The thing I found most annoying was the television.  It was on 14+ hours a day.  It was loud and no restrictions on what was playing meant often there were violent movies filled with destruction, bloodshed and bad language.  Ironic for the setting isn’t it?

While the TV annoyed me, there were really only two things that I found particularly distressing.  One was that the atmosphere and protocols (especially men doing night-time bed checks on female occupied rooms) tripped flashbacks of being raped in the hospital following my tonsillectomy many years ago.  And that would set off a panic attack and send my blood pressure through the roof (imagine that!  Being in a constant fight or flight state of high anxiety is supposed to make me calm and happy?) so then they’d force more drugs on me.  It seemed like patients were (over)medicated for staff convenience because it’s so much easier to treat symptoms than solve problems.  The other thing that I found upsetting is that, like me, most of patients were being released (often against their expressed wishes and with open beds in long-term programs) into the very same environment that landed them in inpatient psychiatric care in the first place.

I guess there are really three things that bother me…  When I was released, the social worker instructed Derek to remove his gun from the home.  It’s in a locked case, with the trigger also locked, he has full control of both keys and there is no ammunition for it here.  Even if I could get through all those hurdles, I don’t know how to load or fire it.  It’s perfectly safe.  It still had to be removed as a condition of my release.  Yet no one questioned the drawer full of very sharp knives in the kitchen.  Or that there’s rope downstairs and my entire back yard is densely wooded.  No, that’s neither formation of a plan (I don’t like pain and I imagine both of those would not only ultimately fail, but hurt immensely in the attempt) nor a political statement.  I say it only to point out the hypocritical idiocy of our nation’s mental health care system.

Ok, maybe it is a little bit of a statement about gun rights because if I actually wanted to hurt myself, or someone else, I could find a way to do it.  Taking the gun out of the house was pointless.

Thinking about it, there are more things I could complain about but I’m ready to just put that chapter behind me, move on and figure out how to have a happy and productive life.  Now I’ve been home and doing some outpatient counseling for about three weeks.  There’s good and bad to that:
  • My doggies still love me! And seem even more in tune with how I’m feeling on any particular day. On rough days they are happy to give extra snuggles and napping on the upstairs (guest room) bed is a special treat we’ve been indulging in most days.
  • Derek has a new job. He started exactly 1 week after I came home. It’s the job he says he was born to do. And I have to admit I’ve never seen him quite so charged up about work. He’s selling cars, both new and used, at Carl Black GMC over in Roswell. The commute is a painful 80 minutes if there’s no traffic and he has good luck finding traffic lights green. But the upside is that he has the potential to earn a very good income. He actually sold his first car halfway through training AND after one of the other salesmen backed into it while he was doing paperwork with the customer. Impressive to close that one, huh?
  • His long commute and longer work day leave me alone basically 23 hours every day. After being gone for 16 hours, he drags himself first to the shower then rummages for a bite to eat before going straight to bed. With no car of my own currently and a still small circle of local friends that puts me right back into the situation of isolation and loneliness that was a major factor in the depression to begin with.
  • My finances are a mess. With no resources left, I’ve defaulted on my massive credit card debt. My once really great credit rating is now trashed. Every time the phone rings with a number I don’t recognize I feel a mixture of despair, panic and extreme anxiety. When Derek tells me he’s got a plan to deal with the credit problems, it helps me feel a little less like a total loser… until the next time the phone rings anyway.
  • My Church family is helping by paying some essential bills (rent and utilities) and providing food until Derek is receiving regular paychecks. I’m more grateful than ever for the resources and forethought that went into the LDS Church’s private welfare system. I never imagined that I would have to use it and still say that being on the receiving end is not nearly as comfortable as giving. I always knew that Church Welfare was expansive and complete but I have a whole new perspective on it now. In all honesty, the meals I’ve made and eaten during the last two weeks are the most nutritious and varied in the past 2 years because of the amount and quality of fruits, vegetables and lean meats that were included.
  • To help distract me from the loneliness, combat depression and help me focus while my brain chemistry stabilizes and adjusts to the medications I have a very detailed daily “To Do” list. Some days it exhausts me and other times I’m bored and catch myself staring off into space with not a single thought in my head. It’s slow going, but I am accomplishing at least the basic activities of daily living consistently, working my way through getting the whole house truly clean and creating a healthy and whole me.
  • I’m taking the levothyroxine again and a low dose of Celexa was added to the daily regime. I’m hoping in a few months I can be off that one. I know I’ll never get off the levothyroxine (the need for it was something done to me while I was unconscious and couldn’t say no) but my firm intention is absolutely nothing more. I’m just not good at drugs.
  • As a way to help re-achieve some level of self-sufficiency, I’m going to start an Etsy shop. For starters, I’m crocheting headbands to keep your ears warm in the cold, granny square potholders, sock-style baby booties and Christmas stockings for both people and their pampered dogs. My hope is to launch it mid-September with those few items and as I can get the materials to do it I will add to the offerings.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Crispy Treats

Since the advent of Facebook and blogs and, especially, Pinterest... I've seen this same basic recipe in many dozens of places with about the same number of people taking credit for inventing the yummy bars.  I first learned to make them in High School, probably 1981.  It was a recipe shared by the new Home Ec teacher that year...   Her name was Cindy James. She was young, and cute and before we realized she was a teacher (barely 4 years older than most of us) all us girls were walking the halls trying to size up the new competition.  And, until the administration cracked down, she let us call her Cindy and not the more formal Miss James.

I've heard they don't teach Home Ec in school anymore... and, should that rumor be true, it's sad.  It was a great class to learn needed life skills and how to run a home and manage a family.

Cindy James' Scotcheroos
 Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly:
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Pour over 6 cups of crispy rice cereal.  Press evenly into a greased 9 X 13 cake pan.

Melt together 1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semisweet depending on your preference - mine is and probably always will be milk chocolate) and 1 cup butterscotch chips.  Spread over cereal mixture in pan.  Cool until chocolate is set then cut into bars.  Store airtight.
Inspiration picture from cookingclassy.com.

I've also pressed this into a loaf pan and cut as slices.  That is a pretty presentation on cookie plates at Christmas-time or for a party!

I wrote about them here not long after making them for Derek the first time.

But, you know, at my house these things must be tinkered with...  and tinker we have!

My first alteration to the recipe...
The first time I wanted to make them, Derek pulled faces and informed me that he doesn't like butterscotch.  So I started making them with just plain milk chocolate chips, using closer to 1 1/2 cups.  I still like the hint of butterscotch in them, but they are very good with just plain chocolate on top.

My second alteration to the recipe...
I started adding about 1/2 cup more peanut butter trying to get a slightly softer texture to the finished bars.  And I eyeball it since peanut butter is so icky to get out of the measuring cup and I'm 100% of always stuck with clean-up duty.

My third alteration to the recipe...
Cut 12-15 miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups into fourths and sprinkle over the top of the cereal mixture.  Melt 2/3 cup chocolate chips and drizzle over the top of the peanut butter cups.  (They look very much like the picture which was what inspired the addition of the peanut butter cups.  Proudly, mine didn't last long enough to get their portrait taken!)

The next requested alteration...
He wants more chocolate!  So we're going back to the melt 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips and spread over cereal mixture.  Cut 12-15 miniature peanut butter cups into fourths and sprinkle over the top of the melted chocolate layer.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Naomi's Song

I've said a few times that life needs a soundtrack.  And I've noticed that people who sing have one.  They frequently comment about seeing life as music... about finding their voice or singing their own unique song.  Some of those songs are happy little ballads about sweet and good and pleasant things.  Some are classical and maybe only understood by like-minded and deeply-spirited kindred souls.  Some would be best described as non-melodic cacophonies of discordant head banging.  And some are like the formulaic country songs where 'somebody done somebody wrong.'

Me?  I love listening to all kinds of music and I have definite opinions about what makes a song 'good' but I don't sing.  Trust me... if you ever heard me try you'd be happy I've given up the attempt.  Once I heard a TV character who was now profoundly deaf, but had been hearing as a child, explain her singing this way: "God created a lot of different notes and I intend to use them all."  I tried that.  But it made the cats cry and the dogs howl.  Even my best friend once said I could only sing two parts:  Solo and Tenor.  Meaning:  Solo - so low you can't hear it.  And tenor, as in ten or fifteen miles off-key!

It's good I can laugh about it.

Or we might not be such good friends...

But in all seriousness we each have a soundtrack, a song that we sing to the rest of the world telling them how we feel about our lives.  I've been following along loosely on a short Bible study about Ruth and by association, her mother-in-law, Naomi.  And Naomi has quite the song.  It's so familiar that we can add our voices for a rousing chorus without even realizing it sometimes.  Naomi, while she's in that self-absorbed mode, has the lead vocal on the pity party anthem... oh poor lil ol' me!

From Wikipedia's entry on Naomi.  Painting by
William Blake of Naomi telling her daughters-in-law,
Ruth (hugging her) and Orpah (leaving) to return
to their fathers' houses in Moab.
To quickly review her story:  Naomi lived in Bethlehem with her husband and family. There was the threat of a famine and so they left and went to Moab seeking to avoid the destitution they thought was coming but fell into even more trouble away from home.  Her sons married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah.  All the men died and when the women returned home they were truly destitute.  Naomi convinced Orpah to go back to her father but Ruth insisted on being a faithful companion to Naomi.  Naomi, a name that means "pleasant," asked to be called by Mara, meaning "bitter" though no one ever really does.  She goes on to say she'd left Bethlehem full but returned empty and blames God for making her life bitter.  But reflecting on that... things were not as bad as she'd thought.  Ruth finds favor in the eyes of a kinsman redeemer, Boaz.  And in the end they are saved.

Yes, I know... I left out a lot of details and nuances to their story.

The point, however, is that despite Naomi getting caught up in self-pity and blaming God for bringing bitterness into her life she is still redeemed through Boaz.  In her story, he is the 'type' or 'shadow' of Christ's redeeming love for each of us no matter how much we complain and try to lay the blame for our troubles on Him.  His love is all encompassing and forgiving of our mistakes no matter how deeply we dig ourselves into an awful situation.

And we'd all do ourselves better to make our life's soundtrack a song about that!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When The Lights Go Out

A few months ago I watched that much hyped documentary-style movie on National Geographic channel about a nationwide power grid failure.  I guess it had its intended effect... parts of it made me laugh and parts of it got me thinking about how well prepared my own home and life is should there be a power outage.

NASA Light Image courtesy of howequipmentworks.com

It got me thinking, but not acting.

So Karma, the Universe, perhaps God Himself... took the next step to get my attention.  We had a sudden partial outage in the house.  Derek was downstairs playing one of those fantasy football games and I'd just taken a shower and was getting some pajamas on upstairs when it went black.  Well, it went totally black for me.  I had a sudden thought flash of "did I pay the bill?"  I did.  And the next one isn't due until the 18th.  So it wasn't a matter of getting cut off by Greystone.  I didn't realize there was still some power in the house until I'd carefully felt my way along the wall, out the door, down the hall, into the guest bedroom, opened the closet and found the big flashlight/camp lantern to make my way downstairs.  And yes, by then I was sort of patting myself on the back for not getting hurt or letting dogs out of the bedroom in the pitch black of late evening!

We lost power for what we figured to be half of the house.

I did not know that could even happen.  I thought if the power was out, it was out.

We made some calls looking for help and were asked if we'd had Greystone come look at the line yet.  I hadn't so the gentleman on the phone explained that there are 3 wires in the supply line.  A neutral, or ground wire, and what they call an A and B phase that are both live and supplying electricity to the house.  A and B each carry 120 volts and connect to different sides (or trees - it seems electricians have their own language, too) of the breaker box.  Appliances like your range and dryer that have the higher voltage outlets draw power from both A and B while your other outlets and switches are tied to just one of them.

I wasn't thinking much about getting educated right in the minute, but I do like learning new stuff so this is kind of cool for me to know!

Greystone came and it wasn't their problem.  Darn!

Feeling super burdened from the financial strain it was going to cause we resigned ourselves to calling an electrician in the morning to come replace the whole electrical panel.  The anticipation was that half it had burned out/gone bad/whatever you call it when it no longer works.  The first place said someone would call us back within 30 minutes to schedule.  They never did.  So after my doctor's appointment I stopped at Home Depot and talked to a very nice, very knowledgeable electrical isle associate who not only pulled out a business card for an electrician but went the extra mile and called him to help get things moving.  The first available time was the next morning.

So going into night 2 of our weird power outage... It was a little inconvenient but doable.  One of the dogs followed me into the bathroom (I totally understand where young moms are coming from on the luxury of peeing by yourself!) and tripped over an extension cord Derek had rigged up so I could have a fan at night in the strangely always warm master bedroom.  What's weird isn't that he got a foot caught in the cord, but that when he did the lights flickered back on!  A little more fiddling around and we figured out that something was wrong with the outlet in the master bathroom and that was what was causing the rest of the outage.

I even understand how and why that happens and can briefly explain.  The inside wiring for the house's electric system begins at the breaker box and each light fixture and outlet is part of a "run" of wire from a breaker.  Multiple lights and outlets, frequently in more than one room, are included on a single run.  If one of them develops an issue, everything between the 'issue' and the breaker will still function normally but everything beyond it on that run will be powerless.  The runs in our house, while not technically wrong, are neither what I find logical nor how someone doing it new today would lay things out.

When the electrician, who is completely wonderful and I would highly recommend to anyone in the Atlanta area, came he confirmed that the outlet was bad.  Something with the wiring had come loose, got ungrounded and made the box itself live (1970's house - metal outlet boxes, not the plastic ones they use now and again not technically wrong just different than newly installed products).  He changed the guts out and we had power again.  Until... we didn't.  The suddenly working correctly outlet burned out the breaker.  And then, blam!  Back to no power.  So we called the electrician back and he fixed that, too, at no extra charge.

Anyway, that's the highlights of that little adventure.  And what have I learned?

  • Problems are not always what they seem at first so keep exploring until you get to the source.
  • Fresh batteries in the flashlights is always a good idea!
  • Knowing where they are is also a good idea - that I'd just unpacked the one big one and knew where I'd set it on the closet shelf saved me from feeling my way down the stairs in total blackness.
  • A correctly labeled breaker box is not just aesthetically pleasing.
  • The electrical system to the house is amazingly interesting and I actually want to know more.

A few weeks later another breaker burned out and I was complaining to some friends about how much it was going to hurt to spend another $100 on the electrician and they told me it was an easy DIY to change a breaker.  I went to Youtube and found the tutorial and it is easy!  So we got an $11 breaker.   Yet doing it, we somehow managed to have problems.  From my "research" I knew exactly what to do, but rather than let me, Derek pushed me out of the way and took things a few steps further than was necessary and then touched a needlessly exposed wire while turning the power back on and took a jolt of electricity.  We weren't sure how big of a jolt and since he was feeling strangely in more than just his finger that got zapped he got a quick trip to the Emergency Room to be sure he was ok.  He was.  We over-reacted.

How it should look!  Photo courtesy of wickedhowtos.com.
So what did round two of the great power outage teach me?  Apparently not a whole lot since two of the flashlights had dead batteries and I had no idea where Derek had laid down the third one and that after I did find it an hour later and opened the box we still did not have anything labeled so it was hunt and peck to figure out which one had gone bad (it didn't flip to the off position when it burned out so a label for what part of the house each controls would have been a helpful clue!).  I'm making that one of my upcoming "household organization projects" and I think I'll get another flashlight and attach it to the same wall as the breaker box with just enough cord or small chain so that it's useful there but can't be carried off and laid down elsewhere in the house!  I hope Derek has learned that sometimes I know what I'm doing when it comes to household repairs and that he needs to trust me to do it.  And that going above and beyond, while good for your career, can be detrimental at home and needs to be balanced with knowing when doing just barely enough is plenty.

A couple of months out now... have we acted on any of this new found how-to knowledge?  Nope.  Still tempting fate.

Please, God, don't smite me!