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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Velveeta Fudge

  Sounds like the weird name of a band but it's a real thing. We were at a friend's birthday party and I mentioned that I didn't like Velveeta cheese. Actually what I said was, "Velveeta's disgusting" and my husband replied, "unle-essss...it's in fudge", and then he opened the can of worms that is Telling People I Use a Pound of Velveeta to Make Fudge. There it is. Now you know my dirty little secret. No marshmallow fluff, burning stuff in double boilers or accidentally spraying the pan with garlic flavored cooking spray (cough, cough *my aunt* cough, cough) for this girl. This concoction of gooey goodness is almost (ALMOST)  fail proof. Since there was some suspicion that I just drew the recipe out of thin air, I feel compelled to share it here. Because I got this big on Slim-Fast and Diet Coke. My mom used to make this every Christmas as part of her bake-a-thon that her friends looked forward to all year.
                       Velveeta fudge
 1 pound butter or margarine (4 sticks)
 1 pound Velveeta
 1 cup of cocoa
 4  one pound boxes of powdered sugar (or however you want to get it up to 4 lbs of powdered sugar)

 1) grease a 9x13 baking pan
 2) sift sugar and cocoa into a large container
 3) cube butter and cheese and melt slowly in microwave, stirring frequently
  4) add melted butter/ cheese mixture to sugar/ cocoa
  5) grease your hands and start mixing
  6) when thoroughly combined, pour mixture into greased pan, pat down evenly and refrigerate. 
  7) wait until everyone has eaten some before you tell them it's made with cheese and enjoy the looks on their faces. (make sure they're not allergic to dairy first!)
  8) Don't think about calories
  
 Remember when I said it was ALMOST fail proof? Yeah. Be careful when melting that you don't scorch the butter cheese mixture. Not that I've ever done that. Also, if you use margarine, don't use low fat margarine or Velveeta. It leaves a weird oily layer on top. Not that I've ever done THAT, either. And really, you're using a pound of each and 4 lbs of sugar. Is saving 2 grams of fat going to make that much difference? Go for a walk and skip dessert tomorrow. <3

Friday, May 9, 2014

Do Good

     Lately, I've become almost obsessed with these things called Purity Balls. They're like a debutante ball but instead of announcing that your barely legal daughter is now "on the market", parents are effectively announcing that their daughters are off the market. Fathers and their frequently prepubescent daughters take pledges concerning the girl's virginity. The father pledges to protect it until she's married and she pledges to hang on to it until she's properly wedded off. Doesn't sound terrible in light of some of the nasty consequences of sex- STIs, pregnancy, heart break when you realize he only wanted "one thing", does it? Except it's part of this other movement called Christian Patriarchy . I would have thought that meant that G-d The Father was in charge but it doesn't. They're also, not surprisingly, part of what many refer to as the Purity Culture. I encourage you to follow the links provided. They explain these concepts better and in more depth than I want to right now. I also recommend these posts for further reading.    http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/whats-wrong-with-purity-balls-one-virgins-perspective/ sums up most of the objections I have to the Balls. I would add that it really seems, on reading the Generations of light website that money seems to be their primary objective. I also have a problem with the way our culture has to make an extravagant party about everything. If you're that obsessed with your daughter's virginity, talk to her about it and quietly lock her in a tower and spend that money feeding poor people. That's what Christians are supposed to do, anyway. And don't get me started on how these girls are absolutely not prepared for reality. And this post discusses another problematic aspect of the movement: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2014/04/why-purity-culture-doesnt-teach-consent/. And I'll just throw this one in for shock value  http://www.homecrusadersedu.com/Courtship/DaddysGirl.pdf. But those aren't even what I really want to spend time on any more.
     This isn't something I talk about a lot, but I'm a follower of Christ, or a Christian, in normal vernacular. This was a choice I made as an adult and feel like a person's relationship with G-d and Christ is very personal and direct. Each person has a path that G-d wants them to follow and each person is directly accountable to G-d. Not a priest, elder, bishop or, ultimately, a parent.  I believe that G-d is a god of love and wants us to be good to one another. I also believe that G-d wants us to have a relationship with them and religion, generally a set of man made rules regarding behavior, quite often, has nothing to do with that. In the course of a bible study several years ago, during study of scripture and prayer, I had an image of G-d as a loving parent who just wants their children to sit in their lap and be with them. Not carry out some political agenda and especially not browbeating total strangers into a confession of belief.
       Reading about the purity culture and patriachal movements has influenced my current struggle with organized religion. I currently belong to a denomination that could be considered a fundamentalist, protestant denomination, although, compared to some denominations, considerably less so. In all fairness, I have rarely if ever heard anything so extreme preached in any of the 7 churches in my denomination that I have attended. As I was becoming more and more outraged with what I saw as imprisoning and marginalizing 3/4 of the population, I was becoming more and more disillusioned with "church" and thought I would just separate entirely. Then I thought of the hundreds of really good people I know from the various churches I've attended in my life. I was reminded of the various charitable organizations and NGOs supported by Christian denominations around the world. I was reminded of friends who have gone on short term trips to build schools or help in disaster relief and friends and family members who've gone to stay. Some work under conditions that require secrecy and must keep a bag packed at all times in case they need to be evacuated immediately. When they are mentioned in media published by their denomination, they are only listed by their first initial and the location given is very vague. Other friends have felt so led to help, they have gone on their own, with no formal support of any denomination. One woman was a widowed nurse who went back and forth to Brazil to work with a doctor. She could only stay for a few months at a time and then had to return to the States. She used her own funds and received donations from church members to accomplish this. Yet another friend, also a nurse, and her husband, a teacher, gave up well paying jobs with benefits to move their family to Central America to run a school and do a lot of community development, helping a lot of the people in their town become more financially secure and independent.
    I also thought of the "ordinary' people who stayed home but do various things in their communities to help the people there. I had a friend in Mobile, Alabama who was 72 and drove some older ladies to their doctors appointments. The church I attended Millry, Alabama has a group of men who do various construction projects around the community for people who need them, from wheel chair ramps to commercial kitchens. Really. A local woman was making and selling special order cakes from her home to make ends meet while her husband battled an illness. In Alabama, you're required to produce the food in a commercial facility outside of your home. I guess it's a health code thing. Anyway, someone reported her so there went her cake business. But, not really. These guys from the church got together and built her a free standing kitchen that satisfied the Health Department.
    I could go on but I want to get to the point sometime in this century. I thought of all these stories and thought of the people who are just nice and brighten your day by just being friendly. I know you don't have to be a Christian and go to church to be nice to people, but that's the group I'm talking about now. I was thinking of all the good things done by good people that I know to make the world a better place and then I was faced with the question, "what am I doing?". Is reading all the internet articles on a subject I find abhorrent and then railing about it really doing anybody any good? I realized that instead of carrying on about something I dislike, I need to be actively trying to promote good. This is something I feel all Christians should focus on rather than vocally fighting those with opposing viewpoints in the public square but I can only control what I do. Where ever I am, in whatever small way I can, I need to love more and provide tangible proof of that love.   To quote Emily Dickinson,
 If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Girls

  Saturday, March 8th was International Women's Day. I was fortunate to spend it with some of the great women in my life. Sunday as well. Since then, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the women in my life. At the moment I'm surrounded by some strong, smart women whom I can really call friends. After having moved almost every year for several years, this is a welcome change.
  Not all the women in my life have always had such positive influences in my life but they have all, in some way, inspired me. Those of you who are smart, you inspire me to be smarter. Not smarter than you but to push myself to not act like a cotton headed ninny muggins. Those of you who are beautiful inspire me to explore my definition of beauty, realize that you are so much more than just a beautiful face and that you are probably not judging me because of my appearance so I should not be surprised when I discover you're an astro phsyics geek. That really happened. Shame on me. Those of you who are strong inspire me to, as one of my daughters says, "get a straw and suck it up!". You don't let excuses stop you from doing what needs to be done. And I would like you to know I have considered all of you all of these things at one time or another.
      Those of you who have fought or currently fight addictions of any sort, your courage and perseverance inspires me. Those of you who fight chronic pain, illness,  depression or other mental illness inspire me to not give up hope. Those of you who are afflicted with any of the above and seem to have given up hope inspire me to remember to show love to others I meet who are also suffering. I hope you take some comfort in knowing that if I can't help you personally, I have tried to offer someone comfort because of you.
   Working moms. "Nonworking" moms (kids are work!). Married Moms. Single moms. Moms of many. Moms of one. Moms who never got to bring their babies home from the hospital. Moms who loved and then lost. You inspire me with the way you love your children and I learn from your parenting successes AND failures or with the way you carve out a new normal every day. Women who remain childless by choice inspire me with their knowledge of self and strength to cast off the expectations of society.
     Those of you who seem to live a perfect life and do everything right and those of us who make as many mistakes and wrong turns as possible but never give up the fight, you inspire me. Battered women who got away but left pieces of their soul behind and are pushing ahead through life anyway because they fully appreciate their freedom, you inspire me to not take for granted what a fairly easy life I've led. Those of you who remain for whatever reason, you inspire me to support and encourage you and your sisters in the battle. Rape victims who speak out and say, "this happened and it wasn't my fault and it was wrong.", you inspire me with your courage to reject the shame and stigma people try to attach to the victim of such a crime. Keep yelling. Those of you who've suffered an attack and never said a word inspire me to keep talking about it until you are no longer ashamed and afraid to speak out for yourself. I love you and want you to know that nothing you did made it acceptable for someone else to do that to you.
   Nujood Ali, the 10 year old girl in Yemen who defied her father and her culture and sued for divorce from her 30 year old husband and won inspires me with her power and resolution. Her father's second wife who gave her cab fare and an address when her mother was too scared to defy her father also inspires me. The women in India in the pink saris (http://www.gulabigang.in/) who defend their neighbors against abusive husbands or family members inspire me to stand up for others who are unable at the time to  defend themselves. These women are defying thousands of years of cultural teaching at the risk of their own lives. The women who work for the various NGOs to disseminate health information and educate communities of the importance of allowing their young women to obtain an education and to postpone marriage and child bearing, for the health and safety of the young women as well as the economic benefits to the community inspire me to stop talking about the problem and get involved.
      I realize how good I have it and how easy my life is here in the U.S. but it's not enough. It's not enough that I can vote if all women can't. It's not enough that my daughter can serve in the military and, at the age of 20, marry the man of her choosing on her lunch hour. It's not enough that my daughter can have a child out of wedlock and not have to suffer in shame and castigation from our community. It's not enough that my 8 year old can tell me she wants to work at NASA when she grows up instead of having to worry about being married off before puberty. It's not enough that my son isn't being taught to treat women as property but as equals, capable of doing everything he can. It's not enough that my friend's daughter can ride public transportation home from roller derby practice wearing fishnets and booty shorts and not be harassed or assaulted. It's not enough that I can tell my husband, "No" for anything, or that he cooks for our family of 6 while I write, or that I could go back to school after 4 years of marriage and 2 kids. It's not enough that we enjoy and take for granted so many rights and privileges in the west and it won't be until women all over the world receive them and the equality inherent in them. I am inspired to keep speaking up, even if I annoy people and some stop listening. For every few who tune me out, some will continue to listen and sympathize. Some of those will do something.
   You are beautiful, smart, strong, funny, sensitive, fallible, a leader, a role model. Even if you don't feel that any or all of those apply to you, they do. I'm always watching to see "how you so it" and everyday, you inspire me. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

This magic moment

I've been going through a season of discontent lately. Maybe it has something to do with officially being 40something, maybe it's wanderlust. Who knows. I wasn't happy and I was making the people around me unhappy. I see other people living out their dreams, people my age that have done so much more than I have and I'm disappointed in myself with my ordinary, unglamorous, often messy and disorganized life. But yesterday and today I've been feeling what I can only describe as a really positive energy. We went to a home school function with the kids and we were with friends. I was surrounded by positive, stimulating people. Now by "positive" I don't just mean an absence of negativity. I mean people who were really uplifting and dynamic and a I could feel a happy, positive "vibe" when I was there.
   We went home and did some routine domestic stuff in the kitchen but we were all in the kitchen together and it felt really good, like for a minute, we were in harmony. Later, I went out with a friend. We had planned to go to a yoga class but decided we'd rather get a cup of coffee and just really talk. Again, I was in the presence of a really positive person. After we went home, I found myself snugged up in bed next to the hubs, with a cat on one end of the bed, the dog on the other, my youngest and several of her stuffies and I was really feeling the bliss.
  I had a doctor's appointment this morning and while in the waiting room, I read a parenting article that suggested parents back off and let their kids ruin their own lives in their own way instead of hovering and ruining it for them. Ok. I may have paraphrased that a bit, but they interviewed a bunch of people about their best childhood memories and no one talked about how much time they spent in the car on the way to activities or the times their parents were hovering in the wings for anything. The finding of the study was that  the best memories were the little triumphs that people accomplished on their own, not the stuff their parent micro managed.
    Today was sunny and the kids were playing outside while the hubs and I were taking care of lunch and a few other domestic things. The kids were actually getting along! Again, I just felt that positive, happy energy and everyone felt in harmony. My grandson fell and scraped his knee and my daughter brought him in to clean it up. He was completely unconcerned about the scrape but my daughter wanted to check on it and clean it a little. I was reminded of the book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Dr. Wendy Mogel, which for the record, I have only perused. Then it hit me. These little moments are what my life is. The big things are great and they make for exciting, great memories, but it's the little spontaneous things that can be really magical. Everyone cooperating to make lunch or get the kitchen cleaned up. My older daughter taking her siblings to the park when she takes her son. His first skinned knee, which is a milestone because he learned that he will fall but he can get back up. While I would still love to go on big adventures with my hubby and kids, I want to do it because it would be something fun that we all enjoyed, not because we're supposed to do these things to say we lived an adventurous life. Today, I will enjoy the small things and not bemoan the large things I have not yet accomplish because in doing so, I will lose my small, magical moments.
  And I wish you all bliss.