Friday, February 27, 2015

Super Christians: Ordinary People

Mariam Ibrahim became an international symbol. Although she is very accomplished she was just an ordinary woman who did what was right. She paid for it enduring months of uncertainty and terror. I remember seeing her in news clips after she was freed. She appeared to be a little taken aback by people’s praise of her courage.

 I recently read a post by a woman who who had decided to be obedient to God. In her view it wasn't really a choice she was just doing what she knew was right. I read the comments so many people were telling her how brave she was and how much they admired her. I stopped and prayed for her. I know how hard it is to be transparent when other people think you are brave. I put the link to her blog in my tool bar and checked from time to time to see if there was a follow up post.  Finally, she posted again. She spoke honestly about her struggles to believe in God’s divine plan for her life. She is an ordinary woman following God’s plan and hanging on by her fingernails.   

I think my favorite Old Testament “hero” is Gideon (Judges 6-8). He was just an ordinary guy. His story shows his fear and hesitation to follow God’s plan but through him God did some pretty amazing things. He did not start out as a mighty man of God; instead he grew into one because he learned from experience God is trustworthy.  It is human nature to want to put people who seem courageous is a glass case; to set them up as heroes to be admired. I think we miss the point when we do that. Let us rather learn that obedience through fear is acceptable in the eyes of God, through our weakness we glorify Him. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quick Zucchini Dish

So today after a very full day that included Wal-Mart. I faced the daunting task of cooking for myself. I was thinking maybe I would eat a waffle for dinner. (My inner nutritionist was waging her finger and tisk-tisking at me.) When out to the fog of exhaustion that had settled over my brain there wandered a zucchini. I had bought a couple because Mom had asked to pick one up for her. Dinner crystallized in my mind and I knew what to do.

I am fortunate enough to live in RV next to my fam and my Mom is a gardener. So in spite of the long dark winter there is a large planter of onions on the front porch. I grabbed a pair of kitchen shears and cut several green onion leaves. I walked back into the kitchen and there on the cabinet was an orange peel. It smelled lovely, so naturally I thought, “orange zest!” I sliced the zucchini and green onion. Then I grated the outer skin of the orange rind for its zest. Finally I added one of the greatest inventions since sliced bread, (drum roll here) squeeze garlic! I microwaved my dish for two minutes. The zucchini slices were cooked but still had some crunch. I added shredded mozzarella cheese and it was finished. It was wonderful! This is something quick and easy. As I was making it I was imagining all of the things that will be available in Mom’s garden soon. Add anything to hand that sounds good to you and you’re in business.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mrs. Roush versus Common Core

When I was in school in the 1970’s reading recognition was the order of the day. Students were presented with a list of spelling words they were supposed to memorize and stories to read that used those words. The student was then supposed to recognize the word and read it. I could not do it. I knew the word I knew what it meant; I had an excellent vocabulary, spelling- not so much. Then when I was ten years old a teacher named Mrs. Roush did something magic. In a small classroom, with four or five other children, she taught me phonics. She spent the first part of the year teaching us how letters work together to form sounds and how those sounds form words. We spent the rest of the time reading graphic novels. (We called them comic books.)  In that tiny classroom she gave me the key to the world.

My early schooling was and would be considered a failure. I always tested poorly and failed classes as a result. By the seventh grade I really did not see the point of school. By sixteen I had dropped out. But by teaching me to read Mrs. Roush allowed me to fail up. Because I could read, comprehend, and follow instructions I was always employable and I always worked. In my middle twenties I got my G. E. D. and at thirty-eight I began college. I graduated with honors with a degree in Human Services.

Now fast forward to today. I recently spent time talking to a former teacher. She taught in one of those tiny classrooms and she tried to give her students the keys they needed to fail up. She created a learning plan to meet the needs of each of her students. They were all making progress but that progress could not be measured on a standardized test. Administrators insisted she teach all the children in her classroom by the same lesson plan. She tried to explain to them that autistic children learn differently than children with other developmental delays. They were more concerned with standardized testing and federal dollars. She left the classroom because her hands were tied by test scores.

There are politicians and educators out there who seem to believe children are computers with legs. You plug in the same information, run a diagnostic and get predictable results. It just doesn't work like that.  Imagine a world where there are no Mrs. Roushs. No tiny classrooms to meet the needs of kids that are marching to a sound only they can hear. Imagine a world where educators no longer make magic and give little girls like me the key to the future. And you will have common core. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Doing the Walk of Shame at the Library

I remember when doing the walk of shame at the library really was traumatic. I would approach to circulation desk where a gray haired lady would be waiting. Reading glasses perched on the end of her nose; she would glare over them at me. Her expression stern, she would softly demand, "Yes?" I would hold up my shameful offering of overdue books and my library card. She would take them. Find my record and declare in a sibilant whisper, "These are overdue!" Now she was really scowling. I mutely held out the sweaty nickels I had been clutching in my hand. The god of the circulation desk was appeased. 

Today, I breeze in and hand my books to Marsha; she smiles and makes a joke. I hang my head and tell her my books are overdue. She laughs and checks my record. I ask about a new program and decide to go to a lunch program and talk about Bigfoot. I can go as long as I don't actually laugh in anyone’s face, Marsha said so....

Libraries used to be a repository of books. Today they are a repository of life. Librarians dance, sing, and play the ukulele. There are puppets and stories told in books and stories told out loud. Libraries are a place to learn. There are computer classes. Adults are learning to read and teenagers are learning to paint. The state distributes tax forms there. And there are even volunteers to help you file those pesky papers. Don’t let anyone tell you the kids are the noisy ones. I hear those line dancing seniors get shushed the most.  From chair yoga to quality quilting there really is something for everyone. The only limit to the uses of the library is money, time and volunteers. So the next time some politician or the wise guy next to you at McDonald's says we should cut funding to the libraries, lay into em and set em straight!  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Witness Cones

My sister, Bethany, is a potter. She recently bought a kiln. One day I was standing around admiring some of her first finished work from her new kiln. I picked up a narrow bar with three melted shapes on it. It was simple and spoke to me of suffering. I asked Bethany, “what were you thinking when you made this?” Bethany laughed out loud and said, “Those are witness cones.” Long story short to her I had just complemented the pop out thingy from the Thanksgiving turkey. Witness cones literally tell the potter that the kiln is heating correctly. That set me thinking about how witnessing life changes us. Of course the more I thought the more complex the subject became. I have decided to attack the ways we witness one at a time.

Some days all you can do for another person is stand watch with them. They are struggling with issues in their lives that you can’t fix. In those times you can listen, be there, empathize and pray. But you cannot fix it for them and you cannot fix them. I am a listener and I am a fixer. It is so hard not to try to fix when silence is best. Watching another person struggle can leave you demanding of God, “Why!  Why are you allowing this person to suffer such pain? Why? God why? If God chooses you may get to see the impact that person’s life has on the world around them.  Other times you get to see a person grow and change as God works through the hard times. But most days you just walk with other people in the moment. In those times you stand witness to life, the good and the bad. It changes you in profound ways. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

OK Seriously Though.

My nutritionist neither is neither evil nor is she a cult leader. We actually agree most of the time but she is a bit frustrating. One of her first gentle edicts (aside from all that water drinking) was no bread, rice or pasta at dinner. In the mad search for things to fill the void left by brown rice I found myself eating some surprising vegetable dishes. Last week Copper (Super Hound and Chef’s Assistant) and I made Sweet Potato and Apple Slaw. 
Let me say I never expected to be eating raw sweet potato. (And liking it) The grated sweet potato had a very nice crisp texture that contrasted well with the softer apple shreds. I made the recipe with what I had on hand. I used a Red Delicious apple and I used Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing; no doubt a sweeter result than the original recipe but wonderful none the less. The lovely photo in the center above is from Copper, Chef’s Assistant far right and you guessed my results are far left. Let’s just say my dish did not photograph well…..

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thoroughly Modern Mommy

This is my Mother, Carol Carlisle. I snuck this photo of her reading an article to me from her laptop. I thought about who she is and Thoroughly Modern Mommy popped into my head. I still remember when she began to study books on nutrition. I was about five; no six when the gravy stopped appearing at the dinner table. (I missed that gravy and bread.) “Empty calories,” my mother declared. (How come all the empty calories taste so good?) Mom has always been ahead of the nutritional curve.
Last week she made this salad for Go Getters at church. One of the ladies asked her to email her the recipe. I saw the email and asked her to forward it to me. I liked her style and wanted to share a bit of my mom with the world.

Here is the recipe for Cauliflower Salad--sort of!

2 pkgs. frozen cauliflower thawed and cooked (micro waved) for 3 minutes. Stir to make sure it is warmed through.

2 tsps. minced garlic

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup pitted olives -black or green

1 jar diced pimento-drained

2 tblsp. fresh parsley, chopped or 1 tblsp. dried

1/2 tsp dried oregano

pinch of red pepper flakes-to taste

salt and pepper to taste

dressing of choice

Toss all ingredients together, apply dressing to moisten well. Let marinate at room temperature at least 2 hours or overnight.

Now, I started with a perfectly good recipe, but I can never leave things as they are. I could have started with fresh cauliflower, but frozen is easier (and quicker). The recipe called for 2 tspns garlic, but we like garlic so I put in more. It called for olives, I started with black, then decided I didn't have enough so I put in some green ones. I could have used any kind of dressing. Our favorite is Sweet Vidalia Onion so that's what I used.
The point of all this, I guess, is that the cauliflower has very little flavor of it's own so you can pretty well make anyway you want it.  Adjust amounts of seasonings!  Add tomatoes!  Shredded carrots! Anything! Go to town!  It's all good!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

She May Not be Evil But…

So I went to the nutritionist today. She said how pleased she was with my progress. I have lost two more pounds and that made her very happy. Near the end of our visit she asks, “So how are you doing drinking the two twenty ounce bottles of water? “OK,” I say, “I manage to drink it all most days.” “Good,” she says casually, “Let’s try adding another bottle.” I look into her smiling face. She is not joking. Don’t panic! Negotiate! I smile reasonably and say, “Sixty ounces is a lot of water; could some of it be flavored with coffee grounds?” “Oh no!” she says sincerely, “Your water shouldn't be favored but you can add flavorings to your water.” Is that a psychotic gleam in her eyes? How did I miss it? This woman is nuts. “I think you are trying to drown me.” I say seriously. She laughs gaily as we head down the hall.
Yes my nutritionist is out to get me! One day I will be one of the acolytes in her weird little cult. Walking around with my snazzy water bottle saying things like, “Oh but coffee dehydrates your body!” I will wander around trying to convert poor sane people to the joys of drink only water. My friends you will be my only hope. You must save me! Yes the only thing to do will be to have an intervention with really good coffee and lots of donuts! Please I am relying on you…..