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Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."

I’ve been writing since elementary school, but…

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[Thanks to my friend, Mary, who shared in this conversation.]

An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

Source: An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

Source: Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

It’s not just me. It’s happened to you, too.

Here’s a little opinion quiz. We’ll talk about it in a bit.

  1. Have you ever had someone encourage you to start a project and say they had your back…and then, they didn’t?
  2. Have you ever waited for someone to come through, giving them – to your mind – an almost risky amount of time to deliver…and then, they didn’t deliver?
  3. Have you ever had someone change the trajectory of a shared project…without telling you?
  4. Have you, in a group or shared project/event, had someone alter the time frame to suit their needs…without seeing if it suited yours?
  5. And, as a result, do you hesitate to get involved in group settings, because you’ve been burned in the past?

Let’s say, for easy grading, that each question is worth 20 points and a “perfect” score is 100%. What’s your score? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s higher than you want it to be.

Why does it seem that, these days, everyone’s talking the big talk, but very few are walking the walk? Oh, they love meaningless sayings, like “Thanks for all you do.” Or, “You’re awesome.” But they’re not standing with us at the finish line, because they lost interest, got distracted, or decided it was too much effort to be there.

There’s a lot of blame being thrown around: we rewarded a generation of people for doing nothing and now, they don’t do anything without a reward; we’re a group of wiki experts with no real expertise; we’re maniacally busy; we lack leaders who promise and deliver, so we have modeled ourselves accordingly.

There’s a lot of excuses being delivered. Some of the ones I resent the most?

  • My memory.
  • My internet.
  • My phone.
  • My schedule.
  • My life.

Why so resentful, you ask? Because, on most things, we decide.

  • We take the job. We had the job description. Can we deliver? We’d better…and to the best of our ability.
  • We are assigned group work. Whether everyone is equally yoked or not, we pull hard and we finish. When we try to avoid hard work, we all fail.
  • We offer support. That means we’re going to be there.
  • We sign up. Did you do it out of guilt? Do everyone a favor. Don’t.

Do you have a poor memory? Write yourself a list. Bad internet connection? Tons of places have free wifi. Phone funking out? Tell people to email you and, then, read your emails. Schedule too busy? Drop something. It’s not a race and no one appreciates volunteering or working with someone who’s over-committed. Life got you by the cojones? Tell somebody. Tell the team. Let us know. We don’t need the dirty details (if there are dirty details), but we need to know who’s unavailable.

Did you let someone down? Genuinely apologize.

I want to work with people who stop saying, “I don’t know how you do it,” and help me get it done. I don’t need a hollow “Thanks for all you do,” which sounds somehow resentful, as if I’ve done too much and now, the speaker wishes I hadn’t done so much.

I know quiet a few people who were raised with the phrase: “Everyone has the same number of hours in a day.” Fact.

My mom used to say, “Jeri Lynn, everybody finds the time to do the things they want to do.” True.

It’s going to take a concerted effort to move our families, our communities, and our country forward. We need everyone walking the walk together. Let’s get in step.

monkee walk.gif

The photo and the gif are from the TV show and band
The Monkees (www.monkees.com).
If you don’t know their music, you should YouTube them.
I liked the show as a kid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Title Credit: Act-III, Scene-I in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

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Here’s the dream:

I am driving like someone who’s going to miss the cruise ship, the plane, the loved one at the gate.

My GPS starts losing its dynamic features. It goes from a detailed visual map, to a cartoon scene, to a blue screen. I careen onto a highway exit. I can see a drawbridge in the distance. I have to make it before the connector goes up.

On the bridge, I see that the first of the two sides extends halfway across the river. Cars have to line up, then the second half will extend so that we can creep across. This does not seem like a good system to me. In dream-like fashion, I can see the way the mechanics work from below and it’s precarious, at best.

But it’s my only way over. By the time I decide to try it, the bridge is retracting. I have to jump my car without any sort of momentum, as I see the watery gap below.

At this point, I’m no longer driving. It seems like a ferry ride, where you leave your car in the hands of a porter. Next, I’m running along a sidewalk to pick up my car, which is not in sight.

There are people handling the embarkation on this side of the bridge, very official with vests and badges, and they are explaining to me that I have no paperwork. So sorry. You can’t have your car without the proper paperwork. I know! I can imagine the reasons, but I had no time. Why can’t I get my car?

They explain that there are excise people waiting on this side for cars without paperwork. They’re quick, efficient, and they took my car. I am frustrated, stymied. I wake up.

_____

There’s a lot going on right now.

There’s a divide. There’s a connection that I don’t want to miss. It might not be up to me. You know me, so you know that this goes against every control-freak, Type A, Virgo, oldest child ruler-of-the-world bone in my body.

So much of it’s out of my control. There are folks in official positions with whom I can’t argue. You take what you get.

I’ve recently seen a newly-coined phrase: post-traumatic election syndrome. So little is up to us, in the end, it seems.

But I hope, if I ever get a chance to pick up the dream, that I fight to reach my destination.

You’ll Never Have This Recipe, Again. [Or, Crumb Kuchen, While Women March on Washington DC]

Today’s coffee cake, Crumb Kuchen, is brought to you by the notion that you can’t go back. You will go forward, armed with the experience of kitchens past. This is a great little cake, but I can’t make it what it once was–a recipe from my mother’s college roommate, Lois Hampson, from a time when buttermilk was scarce and you’d sour milk with vinegar.

No. My cake must move forward. I take the basic ingredients and I make it my own. I like to think I’ve made it a bit better. (Truly, it’s a bit better batter.) But I’m not the only person who can make a coffee cake great. Lots of people have the same talent and wherewithal. When my family makes Crumb Kuchen, years from now, they’ll make their own version, even though they will make it because I made it before them.

You also can’t make this recipe quite the way it’s pictured because, first, I made two mistakes. When it says “a handful” of the “like pie crust” mixture, it means about 1/4 cup. I’d removed too much. Also, the original recipe assumes the baker knows you need an egg to provide structure and richness. The lowly egg creates a smoother batter (it has a magical reaction that stabilizes the air bubbles called emulsifying) and adds flavor.

I realized my omission when I couldn’t spread the batter in the baking dish. I’m that quick. So I dumped it back in the mixing bowl, added the egg, and wrote “1 egg” on my recipe card’s ingredient list. I’d lost the first round of crunchy topping, but I’d miraculously kept a precious bit, which ultimately made a better crumble.

People do that: make mistakes. No one’s perfect. Not one person. No matter how great they think they are, they are just lowly human beings. I repeat: no one can fix everyone’s mistakes. It’s called “delusions of grandeur.” Or narcissism.

I hope the younger crumb-kuchen-2people in my family realize that the only way to get a good coffee cake is (1) to actually push your sleeves up and try to make one, (2) to read a recipe that reflects the combined experience of the cooks who came before, and (3) there’s no god-like baker who will deliver to them the perfect cake. You can’t just yell, “Make coffee cake great, again!” They need to believe they can and make their own.

Cake one bakes oneself tastes better, anyways.

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Crumb Kuchen
~Original Recipe: Lois Hampson | Adapted by Jeri Preston
Ingredients in bold font below.

First:
>Preheat oven to 325º.
>Add 1 T. apple cider vinegar (or white) to 1 c. whole milk to curdle. Set aside.

Next:
In large bowl, add
2 c. unbleached flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
3/4 c. chilled butter, cut in tablespoons
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
>Cut, as you would pie dough. (If you have no experience making your own pie, a pastry cutter run through your ingredients should cause them all to crumble together and form clumps the size of peas. You can also “cut” with a fork, if you’re kitchen accessory poor.)
>Set aside 1/4 – 1/3 c. of the crumbly mixture.
>Add
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Next:
>Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork until broken.
>Add egg and curdled milk to all dry ingredients. Beat 2-3 minutes on medium speed.

Bake:
>Butter or use baking spray on 9 x 13″ baking dish.
>Pour in batter. Spread w/ spatula if necessary.
>Sprinkle on previously saved crumble mixture.
>If desired, additional chopped nuts can be sprinkled on the top. (I used another 1/2 c. chopped pecans.)
>Bake @ 325º 30-35 minutes, until center is set. Glass pans may bake more quickly.

Topping:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
>Stir until dry ingredients are incorporated.
>Drizzle over slightly warm cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving when nobody died.

You’ve been there before.

Something happens. It’s jarring. Shifts seismic plates. Your world turns over, even though it appears, against all reason, to still spin.

You’re bereft. Abandoned. Left alone.

They say there are stages of grief.

In You Can Heal Your Heart, by Hay and Kessler, the authors claim “the five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.”

I must be strange. My grief swims around me like fish under frozen ice.

I wake up.

I’m trying to create plans for progress that will not see the light of day.

No one died and all my family is currently well. I suppose I am grieving a nation.

It’s not that I don’t think time and politics will go on. They will. And long after I’m gone.

It’s just that I grew up believing. My childhood was full of institutional trust. We had John F. Kennedy before I knew he was a womanizer (although, it appears there was consent), the moon walk, and the end of the Cold War. I was conveniently at the end of bomb shelters and just behind The Electric Koolaid Acid Test.

Farm land surrounded me. If I hurt, I walked. My brother walked. We dug in the dirt. We rode bikes. No one worried about our bumps and bruises, unless we were bleeding. And when we bled, the neighborhood came running.

The church was my home. I knew it as a space for community. You got together and you did things for other people. You did not question why you should want to help. People helped people.

I feel like someone drove me out to a far, far plain and left me. If you know me, you are aware I have no internal navigation system, even though I don’t always believe my GPS. This is me, right now.

Lost. I know this country from another time, but I have no compass inside to navigate these roads. I try and disbelieve, but I like to study. I read. I have always read, even if it was cereal boxes or Reader’s Digest crosswords. I seek facts and I grew up in a time when you learned how to validate. This place does not seem like mine. How can we be here? And yet, here we are.

It would be so convenient to blame the media. I am a media person, by trade, and I know you have to feed the beast. These articles, these stories, do not come from a dearth of news and a need to sensationalize. Slashings at OSU. Homophobic rantings online. Hillary rantings on an airplane. Friends unfriending friends. Families reading tools to navigate conversations surrounding the election over Thanksgiving dinner. A man coming into power who has suggested only property owners should vote. My brain finally explodes. What would that do to New York City? I can’t get a read on this. There’s no place to anchor.

But in the dark, when I worry and plan and pray, I think there is no need to fabricate. There’s just so much available. And so I’m grieving, even when I don’t know the dead.

 

What’s Wrong?

What’s wrong? This isn’t a rhetorical question. There’s just so much garbage. It’s getting harder and harder to tell, anymore, if anything is right. But here are some things I do believe about wrongness.

  1. It’s not okay to be untrustworthy. If you can’t trust me, we can’t have a decent relationship. You will always wonder if I’m going to screw with you. You’ll wonder if I’m going to cheat you or lie to you. I should not say one thing and do another.
  2. I should admit when I’m a jerk. When I’m alone in the dark, I hope I have the courage to say, “Wow, I was a jerk. The jerkiest jerk. I hope someone will forgive me.” If I’m really courageous, I’ll actually admit it out loud. Maybe ask for forgiveness.
  3. There’s a point at which I should shut up. I once heard someone pray, “Lord, don’t let me miss a chance to be quiet.” I’ll just let that one sit.
  4. If people are depending on me, I shouldn’t let them down. Did I make a commitment to you? I am honor-bound to see it through.
  5. There are more important things than being right. Did my righteousness come at the expense of someone else? Was I smiling when I ground their face into the dirt? Then my victory is cheap.
  6. If I am afraid, I should admit it. Fear corrodes.
  7. I am not in charge here. The best I can do is be a good mensch.
  8. I probably should be last in line. I’ve had a life of comfort, privilege, and blessing.
  9. I believe there’s a heaven, a hereafter, where all my friends – Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, Wiccan, without faith – can meet and be one.
  10. Love is the greatest commandment. I try really, really hard to get this one right.

I know a handful of people like this. You’re probably one of them. But where did the rest of us go?

I believe there’s an evil. It’s alive and at work. It wants us to believe we’re alone.

This is what’s wrong. That awful voice started, small and insistent: “This is terrifying. This will destroy us. This cannot work.” It gathered up fear in a dust bin and poofed the collected contaminated particles into the air. They continue to accumulate and swirl.

I heard someone say, just this week, why gather people and march? What will that accomplish?

freedommarch
Freedom March, Selma, AL | 3.21.65

I was stunned. It’s like saying, what can one person do, combined with another person, and another, until they all hold hands and link arms and build a community? It’s our only hope. We cannot do this thing, this life, alone.

Everything I see in the media right now insists you and I are alone. I am not. You are not. They’re lying. Certain people are out and out lying.

Evil wants us to give up. That’s what’s wrong.

[P.S. Since this is basically a message to my kids, you know I love you. Now, get to it. The world needs you right now.]

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Featured image: http://patshaughnessy.net/2012/3/23/why-you-should-be-excited-about-garbage-collection-in-ruby-2-0

Article image: barnesandnoble.com [http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/ennobled/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SelmaSlider.jpg]

“Up North” Food for an Army

Those of us who participate in a pilgramage to a place a few hours away – here, in Michigan, that’s usually “up north” – often find an army to be fed on the other end of the journey. After standing in a remote grocery store, shelves out of stock from the crowds, twelfth in line at the cash register, I groused that there had to be a better way to spend my time. While the family was back on the lake, I brilliantly came up with “the camp bag” plan. If this helps you, toast me from your beach chair.

Camp Bags
bagsI’ll be sharing a menu, but basically, you set your menu, write it down, shop before your trip, and pack your bags by the day/meal with a tag on each one. You’ll also need a cooler bag or two. These aren’t as important to tag, because it’s all coming out upon arrival.

Post your menu on the ‘frig when you get there. This may bring to mind “Cheaper by the Dozen.” It pretty much is…for which you will thank me and Frank Gilbreth, Sr. (the motion field study engineer and protagonist.) If the army you’re feeding feels like an entire ark, you’ll like his snappy attitude:

From Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)
Man on street: Hey Noah, what are you doing with that Ark?
Frank Gilbreth: Collecting animals like the good Lord told me, brother. All we need now is a jackass. Hop in!

Menu
Oh, sure. You could be fancy and wow your army with foodie menus. I’m a fan. Here’s the question: do you want to spend the day in the kitchen or on the lake? Good answer. So, we’re going to go with the “It’s home-baked!” cookie editreply, taking advantage of ready-made items and cooking/prepping ahead.

This is not a vegetarian menu, although there are certainly enough options: vegetarian chili, veggie burgers (from the freezer section), simple salads, and a baked sweet potato bar with toppings. But that’s a song for another time. Here’s my three-day, people-coming-and-going, variable-number-to-be-fed outline (base-line: 8). One of the pleasures of this menu is that you always have enough to add another plate. The more, the merrier!

Make Ahead Day (or After Work)
It took me about an hour and a half to pull the three make-ahead dishes together, which I had going all at one time. three items blogWith two large stock pots on the stove and the oven pre-heated to 350º, this was pretty easy. Another option for your pork is to let a crock-pot do the work and leave it on throughout the day, while you’re working. The point it that you are not working yourself silly during the vacation or before it, either.

This won’t come as a revelation to experienced cooks. I’m talking to folks who have yet to be responsible for the army and want to get in on the fun.  As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is primarily to leave a cookie-crumb trail for my own kids. (Holly, Sam, and Anne, of course it’s home-baked. You know that.)

Staffing
Right. I don’t have kitchen staff, either. But I find that people are very willing to do simple chores in the kitchen, especially if you explain that they’re scheduled for a certain item (refer them to the ‘frig list).menu Even little kids get into the spirit of help, setting the table or performing the ever-important kid job of husking corn (adults can follow up on corn silk quality control), if there are people bustling around and they’re part of the fun. Don’t be a martyr. Enlist the troops. Where I would use a helper, I’ve marked it “KP.” (For Kitchen Patrol. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it? More on sharing reponsibilities under Day Two: Lunch.)

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Day One: Lunch
Make Ahead Day (if possible):
1. Corn relish:corn relish 1 lg. bag frozen corn and edamame (rinsed), 1 med. green pepper and red onion chopped, 1 English cucumber diced, 1 1/2 c. Italian dressing, 2 T. lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, 2 T. sugar, salt & pepper. Store in a container.
2. Chocolate chip cookies (from a tube, made ahead). They’re home-baked.

Menu. Cold cuts, sliced cheese, two bread types. Canned baked beans: KP can bake in oven one hour ahead of lunch. Fruit (we had sliced strawberries & peaches): KP can slice.

Day One: Dinner
Make Ahead Day (if possible):
Spaghetti (2 lbs. ground beef, 2 28 oz. cans (or jars) marinara, 1 6 oz. can tomato paste, 12 oz. water, two yellow onions (chopped), 4 cloves garlic (minced), seasoning to “brighten” the canned goods (2 T. oregano, basil, 1 t. fennel, 1 bay leaf). Store in container.

Menu. Two-three lbs. spaghetti noodles: KP can boil and drain. Garlic bread: KP can open freezer bag or butter baguette. Simple salad: KP can tear lettuce and chop a tomato, avacado, or boiled egg. Newman’s Original Dressing travels well. Do you have any cookies left?

Day Two: Breakfast
Menu. Bacon, eggs, toast, and o.j..  Each item has a KP assigned to it. Or you be the grill cook. Like bacon in the oven? Great. Do you have a large cast-iron or oven-proof skillet where you’re headed? Make a frittata. (Pinterest it. They’re easy.) I’m taking frozen o.j., since it’s smaller and I’m driving four hours. It doesn’t matter if it thaws, because we’re going to use it…even if it’s for Screwdrivers.

Day Two: Lunch
Sharing the responsibilities:
Don’t pass up a chance to delegate to the troops, especially if they ask. Since I like to manage (aka control) the menu, I assign things I would normally buy. My daughter’s bringing the buns & chips.

Menu. Two pkgs. Vienna hot dogs (we like Koegels, because they’re from Michigan and they’re delicious), two pkgs. buns, chips (Better Made, because they’re from Detroit and ditto). Fruit. We always take this meal to the lake. It tastes like summer heaven.

Day Two: Dinner
Make Ahead Day: Pulled barbeque pork. One 4-5 lb. pork loin. Simmer on stove top until meat is shreddable – 4-6 hours. Seasoning: 3-4 T. kosher salt, 1 T. whole black peppercorns, 4 fresh bay leaves, 2 T. fresh ginger. After cooking, trim fat before shredding. Stir in one bottle of good barbeque sauce. pulled porkI used Famous Dave’s Rich & Sassy. Because, yes, to both.

Menu. Two bags sesame hamburger buns. Potato salad (this trip, it’s my mother-in-law’s famous homemade, but if you don’t have her, you can get it from the deli). Corn on the cob, if I can find it at the Market Basket (we drive by it in Beulah): KP husking. Cherry pie.*
Note on the pie: Of course, you can get these at the bakery. When I was careening around Trader Joe’s, they had a beautiful jar of cherry pie filling and those amazing boxes of non-refrigerated whipping cream. I’m grabbing a store crust and throwing that in the oven. It’s home-baked.

Day Three: Breakfast
Menu. Sausage & scrambled eggs: KP browns the sausage, cracks & adds the eggs. Can hold in the oven for late sleepers. Bakery cake donuts and o.j.  (if we have time, we stop in Cops & Donuts in Clare).

Day Three: Lunch
Menu. Leftovers. Clean out the ‘frig. (Note: If possible, I leave one-person servings of certain items for my wonderful mother-in-law, who lives at the lake all summer. It’s not easy to make spaghetti sauce for one, but it’s great to have a freezer container,
ready to go.)

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One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my mother-in-law is that things will hold a long time in the oven on low. Kick back, enjoy the view, and always serve at your leisure. Cheers.

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