Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Funeral, A Wedding, and a Baby Shower

All week long I was yearning for some down time--time in which I might feel free to read a book or practice a new recipe of culinary magnitude. Alas, those leisurely moments were not in the cards for me.

If you know me, you know that I rarely have time to sit down, nor do I function well when I am forced to relax and sit still. My mind and body have become rather accustomed to the stress that accompanies adult life, rather--the stress that sometimes defines my adult life. I can't remember a time when I didn't have 20 things on my to-do list and I wallow in guilt when I can't check off every item on that list. Yes, I am horrible at relaxing. Even now I feel like I should be scrubbing a bathtub rather than writing. I generally do not allow myself any time to relax until I am so burnt out that I can't function without sobbing. I was looking forward to this past weekend for that very reason. I could feel the growing tension in my shoulders that led to horrendous headaches. Patience has never been my strong suit and my already short supply was rapidly dwindling. And so I entered the weekend with a bit of trepidation, anticipating that the arrival of Sunday evening would find me completely worn out and cantankerous.

Here I am on Sunday evening, shocked that I am cheerful and thankful to the Lord for giving me such an eye-opening weekend when I expected to be run to the ground and unprepared to face another week. The weekend began with the Memorial Service for our dear friend Cheryl DeLeo (I posted about her a couple of weeks ago). She was such an incredibly humble woman who loved our Lord with all of her heart. I was blown away at the size of the crowd that gathered to celebrate the life of this loving, soft-spoken woman. What an incredible testimony to her loving personality.

Saturday evening, we drove out to the Angeles National Golf Course to celebrate the marriage of my friend Laura who I worked with at Starbucks many moons ago. What a beautiful day, and what a gorgeous bride she was, exchanging vows with her now-husband David. The minister spoke honestly of love and the commitment they were making to each other. David, who boasts a sarcastic and wonderfully dry sense of humor, is a big softie when it comes to his bride. The smile that lights up his face when she enters the room is a breathtaking sight to behold. I was reminded of the spiritual parallel of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride. What a love to experience!

And lastly, today--this Sunday morning I attended a baby shower. The shower was for a girl I hardly know, but I grew up with her husband. I am thrilled for them, of course. I am always so excited to see a friend welcoming a new life into the world and into his/her family. It is such a precious thing to witness: the vast, unmeasurable love that is felt for this tiny new person balanced with the weight of tremendous responsibility in protecting and guiding the child safely to adulthood and beyond. I am so anxious for that moment in my life when I can celebrate a new life growing inside of me. What an awesome privilege to take part in.

As I was reflecting over my weekend, not only did I feel refreshed to have been surrounded by dear friends and family, but the Lord opened my eyes to something remarkable: I witnessed the progression of life, all in one weekend. Birth, marriage, and finally death. I was struck by the brevity of a lifetime. How quickly the moments in life pass by until the end of it. I do not mean to sound morbid; rather, I wish to bring attention to you, my dear friends, how precious and important each moment is. I have again been reminded to live life with purpose and passion and to serve my God with my whole heart. After all, if I am not living for a purpose, I am living an empty life void of the joy of glorifying the Lord. Each person on this earth has a purpose for which he/she was created. I beseech you to find that purpose and grasp hold of it. Life is too short to spend year after year simply drifting through the days.

And on a lighter note, I also realized that "A Funeral, A Wedding, and a Baby Shower" sounds like the title of a movie. Hmmmm, maybe my purpose is to write the screenplay for a movie.... Only kidding.

So, friends, I hope I have challenged you as the Lord challenged me this weekend. I thank God for each of you in my life and the purpose you have served in being my friends. I am so thankful for each of you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kitchen Cleanliness

Who doesn't love a clean kitchen? After this evening's vigorous scouring, there's not a dish in the sink, the floors have been swept and the counters scrubbed. *Sigh* I can rest a bit easier now that it's done. I feel like I should take a picture to preserve this lovely vision.

I've spent very little time at home over the past 2 months. 4 out of 5 weekends are spent transporting box upon box to San Luis Obispo. Our weeknights have been comprised of packing as much stuff as we can into our rapidly diminishing box supply. To make matters worse, my husband is back on the graveyard shift so I'm trying to do all this in addition to all of my household chores. The goal is to complete all of this as quietly as possible. What I've learned is that household chores cannot be accomplished quietly. But rather than making good use of my time to cook and clean quickly and efficiently, it's become extraordinarily easy to procrastinate and allow slothfulness to reign supreme. Laziness has become my companion in the kitchen especially. I have not cooked a meal for TWO WEEKS!! Ouch--that was painful to confess. I've been existing on Kashi cereal and bread with the occasional salad thrown in when guilt strikes for not having eaten a sufficient number of leafy greens. Instead of cleaning up after myself, I've allowed the dishes to pile up for the said TWO WEEKS. The aroma wafting from the general kitchen area was finally enough to pull me back in. However, I would be lying if I said it was merely the aroma. It was the one-two punch that truly forced me to confront the kitchen head on: I had no clean dishes. What kind of housekeeper have I become?? Oh the shame!

Step #2 to come: the purging of the refrigerator. I have been inspired by Kristen of "The Frugal Girl" blog to weekly take inventory of the food that's gone to waste. Every Friday she takes a picture of the food that's gone bad and is subsequently wasted by the end of each week. She posts the picture on her blog to keep herself accountable. I think I will start doing the same thing every week in order to keep track of what we actually eat in a seven day span along with aiding me in becoming a more efficient grocery shopper. I'm actually excited to see how much money I can save.

I will close for now with the hope of becoming a better housekeeper. I bid you all a lovely evening and hope that your kitchens are just as lovely as mine.

Friday, May 28, 2010


This is the first of six days off. I couldn't me more thrilled. I take that back--I would be more thrilled if I had ten days off in a row. But I will take what I can get, and six is just fine with me.

Right now I'm sitting in my dark living room, curtains drawn (as they always are--we have a wall full of windows in our living room and when the curtains open, our across-the-way neighbors can see straight into our lives). There are piles of boxes all around me and I've tripped over every last one of them. My nerves are starting to wear thin as our big move to San Luis Obispo grows ever closer and our living room becomes progressively more cramped as the boxes grow in number. Our "stuff" has multiplied in the 3 short years we've lived here and I don't see why we can't just throw stuff away.

Terry (my husband) and I are very different when it comes to our living style. He likes to keep everything. He has a memory box for sentimental items (perhaps he doesn't want me telling people about his memory box). I, on the other hand, have been known to throw away family heirlooms. You think I'm kidding? Just talk to anyone who has lived with me or knows me well enough to know that I dream of Martha Stewart-esque closets with hardly anything in them but towels and the lavender used to keep them smelling spring fresh. Hey--towels we need. I take a shower every day. My grandpa's grandfather clock which nobody wanted--well, I figured since no one wanted it, we could just throw it away. When said clock was found in the giant dumpster later that day, my family was infuriated. "Why in the world would you throw this away??? This was grandpa's clock," which was said to me by several different family members. "What were you thinking?? This has been hanging on grandma and grandpa's wall since they moved into this house 30 years ago!!!" 30 years isn't that long. I'm 30 years old. It's not like great-grandma Olvia Lundstrom had brought it over from Sweden in the late 1800's. It was a clock--IN BAD REPAIR, I might add. And no one wanted it. I did what should have been done and chucked it in the dumpster. To make a long story short, the clock that no one wanted--the clock that I had laid to rest in the great dumpster, was quickly rescued from the pit and hung prominently on my aunt and uncle's wall.

Yes. I throw things away. I don't think it's as big a problem as everyone thinks. My mom used to go through my garbage bags as a kid to make sure I wasn't throwing away anything precious. Now Terry goes through my garbage bags. It's not like I'm throwing away gold, people--I'm throwing away chintzy toys (made from plastic, and in China to boot!). We don't have to keep every charger from every phone we've owned for the last 5 years. Terry has 2 keyboards from 2 different desktop computers that are long gone. Why have we kept the keyboards when we will never again own a desktop computer? We have plastic parts in my cupboards that go to who knows what that have been in a similar cupboard since Terry moved to Los Angeles in 2002. So my question is WHY do we have to move those things when they'll just take up space in our drawers and closets in San Luis Obispo??I will never understand this about my husband. As for me, I save letters. That's really the only thing toward which I hold any sentimentality. And I re-read them. I suppose others would think my affinity for the handwritten letter is a little odd and useless.

So as the pile of boxes grows, and as boxes are transferred from the guest room closet to the living room floor, my insides churn just a bit in knowing that If given the opportunity, I could cut down the number of boxes we need to move by HALF. And by the time Terry realized that I'd thrown away his 3-D dinosaur puzzle from Christmas 5 years ago, I could in all honesty say, "What 3-D dinosaur puzzle???" because I would be 80 years old and I would hold no memory of such a thing.

And with that, it's time to load said boxes into my car. There will be mumbling and muttering under my breath as I do so.

Monday, May 17, 2010


My dear readers:
It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've written anything and I've let you down. I don't even think I have readers anymore. I have no good reasons for being away from this woefully neglected blog apart from the usual day-to-day busyness. That busyness always leads to small bouts of depression that leaves me feeling as though I'm not living my deepest purpose. Depression runs in my family and I've struggled with it to some extent ever since puberty. Mine has never become so intense where I require medication, for which I am truly thankful to the Lord. Generally mine is a sign that I haven't been pursuing the things that matter to me, i.e. drawing, painting, reading, writing, composing letters to dear friends, and spending time in God's expansive creation. The ache runs deep within my soul during these times and I can feel it as we speak. Pushing away my desperate need to create something has left me dry and empty. Yearning to express myself, I've turned back to this blog with the hope that I'm left newly inspired to make time for my passions.

Along with a nook to create and express myself, this blog has become a journal to aid in catharsis. I have long known that I tend to write when I'm experiencing an extreme emotion--depression, anxiety, elation, love, and deep sadness. Today it is the shoulder of a friend as I weep for one battling for her life.

Cheryl is one of my mom's dearest, oldest friends. I have known her since the day I was born, quite literally. She and my mom had their children at the same time, providing built in playmates for us. Visiting Cheryl and her family was always a total blast. She let us play outside for HOURS while she would fix us sandwiches made of Wonderbread and grape jelly. I remember thinking she was such a beautiful woman with a genuine smile that helped my shy little girl of a self feel comfortable and somehow less of a child.

I got to know Cheryl as an adult after my mom founded an online e-mail group called The Sisterhood of Weather, or The 'Hood for short. The group is made up of about 20 ladies, most of whom have known each other since they were children. We share prayer requests, recipes, advice, and provide a sounding board and emotional support for each member. When Cheryl was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1990's, she has been in our constant prayer.

Slowly, Cheryl's condition has worsened and she no longer has the strength to sit at the computer to write to the 'Hood, so we hear from Cheryl's mom Billie who has come out from Arkansas to take care of her. We learned tonight that she's not eating or drinking and had to be hydrated by the emergency room doctor. The doctors have brought up the subject of hospice care, so we know that the end is near. I am so very thankful that Cheryl knows the Lord--she is His child and will get to spend an eternity in Heaven with Him. Even while there is a great sense of relief that she will be in the awesome presence of the Lord at last, there will be enormous grief here on Earth while we mourn the loss of our sweet sister in Christ.

If I still have any readers out there, please pray for Cheryl and her family. She has three sons, two of whom have young families. Please pray for her husband Mike. They have been married for almost 40 years. My heart is breaking for their loss. Please pray that the Lord provides them with every comfort necessary and that He surrounds them with His peace and joy in the blessed assurance that they will see her again someday.

Losing a loved one is a heart-wrenching difficulty. It's the hardest thing we as humans ever experience. I will never understand death, but am so thankful that through death, His children will be with our Savior God for the rest of eternity if only we trust in Him for our salvation. I am so thankful that the Lord has redeemed me and has given me something greater for which to live. I am immensely grateful that Cheryl shares in that salvation. Our Lord is so merciful and loving.

Lord, help us to rest in your mercy and love. You have pulled us from the muck and mire and given us a firm place to stand. Hallelujah.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bland No More!

I just finished spending the evening with my Aunt Jean. She's my movie pal. And I can always count on her, even if I want to see a movie that no one else cares about. She's always game. I love her movie enthusiasm! This evening we saw a movie that I've been waiting for rather impatiently and it's FINALLY out in the theaters.

The Julie/Julia Project with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams is the most uplifting movie I've seen in quite some time. It's kind of like 2 movies in one: Merly Streep plays Julia Child as she learns to cook, masters the art of it, begins to teach others how to cook, and finally, writes a cookbook with two other women. Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams (with a horrible haircut) is a young government employee who is burned out and bored with her job. Julie needs something to keep her sane, so she begins a project in which she will cook all 500-some-odd recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, and live to blog about it. Both women go through trials, challenges, joys and successes with the support from their loving husbands.

Maybe to some this might have been a dull movie about something as "boring" and commonplace as cooking. But to Julie, this project she undertook gave her something to look forward to at the end of a stressfull work day. When the previews first began for this movie, I was particularly struck by one scene: Julie is in her cubicle at work, and when she answers the phone, the man on the other end asks, "Do you have power?" Julie responds in irritation, "No." The man retorts, "Well I don't like the bill that's just been passed and I need to speak to someone with power to complain about it." This is what I deal with on a day-to-day basis as I answer phone calls from prospective students who are irritated by the massive budget cuts to the California State University system. They call the peons in the Admissions & Records office to "express" (rather, SHRIEK!!!) their disappointment with me, the Governor, their parents, and even God Himself.

There are some days I come home from work after such phone calls just to sit and stare at the wall, attempting in vain to erase some ridiculous accusation hurled at me through the phone lines. I know these people are upset, and some rightly so, but to deal with this kind of outrageousness day in and day out wears on me. I feel like I'm getting high blood pressure from the stress. I need a release. Something like...well, something like coming home to a great project into which I can pour my frustrations, stir my irritation, and have the end result come out--delicious. Heavenly. Decadent. I do so love to cook, but the time constraints put on any given day restrict me from trying anything complicated or exotic on a weeknight. But that doesn't stop me from compiling new recipes with strange and exciting spices, only to sit on my kitchen counter waiting to be tried when I have a more open time schedule.

For the first year of my marriage to Terry, I tried a new recipe every week. I quickly discovered that anything containing potatoes was a highly favored, and that the more meat a dinner contained, the better. But that didn't limit my creativity to those two ingredients. He ate everything I made and expressed his love and appreciation by eating seconds (and sometimes thirds). But I've grown lazy and Terry's schedule has him going in to work at strange hours, so rarely do I ever take the time to challenge myself with something new and exciting. Why cook for just one person? When I cook for Terry, he knows that I love him. He does the food dance. Yes. He has a food dance. And when I cook a new masterpiece, I can see in his eyes that he loves me more after dinner than before it. My man is easy to please. He brags about my culinary abilities to our friends, his co-workers--his parents, even. I am thankful to have such an appreciative audience.

But that's not the only reason I cook--it's not even the MAIN reason I cook (although it's a lovely side effect). I love taking ingredients and experimenting to create a dish so delicious that the aroma tantalizes our neighbors and has them begging for the recipe. Food is a daily necessity, but it's also the cement that holds together much of our social activity. There were certain attendees at our old church who would never show up unless there was word of a potluck. I don't blame them--the ladies in that community were amazing cooks.

This might sound old fashioned, but I believe there's something incredibly attractive about a woman who can cook. It says something about her personality, I think. It says she's creative and fun, and it also says that not only will she provide for her husband and her family, but that she wants them to enjoy themselves! I've known people who eat as if only to fuel a machine. Food is so much more than fuel! There is no joy to food without flavor. Bland is boring and belongs to those who do not enjoy life.

I am newly inspired to approach my kitchen with imagination and zest. I have been nudged to demonstrate my love and solidarity to my husband through my culinary creativity. Time to take inventory of the contents of my cupboards and the bounty of my refridgerator. I have a rather large collection of recipes that have been shouting at me from the inside of my neglected cookbooks. Restaurants be warned--I am challenging your high fat and calorie-laden dishes with sheer ingenuity and fresh ingredients! Ha ha! Take that!

It's time to browse the cookbooks and plan for the remainder of the week. Yes, it's late, but I'm inspired to make a fresh start! My pots and pans are due for some long-needed attention!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Lately I've been thinking a lot about raising children and the overwhelming importance of doing the job well. You can walk into any bookstore in the United States and stumble upon an entire shelving section dedicated to child rearing. You watch as frazzled parents walk up to the shelf in desperation, grasping for the titles that promise to bring relief from their parenting woes. No matter how much time a parents spends reading books about bringing up a healthy, socially adjusted, pleasant, well-behaved child, nothing guarantees that you won't end up with a monster.

I've often heard parents express how absolutely rewarding being a parent can be. I most frequently hear this sentence after one of my girlfriends with children has spent the first half hour of our afternoon together blowing off steam and relating tales of how she accidentally drank her son's urine (true story) or how she was kicked repeatedly in the shins by an toddler throwing a fit, or how she just doesn't sleep anymore. Ever. Once the mom has released her pent-up tension, she tends to throw in the above-mentioned sentence as a way to ease the guilt that has been steadily creeping into her conscience as she related the week's battle stories.

Despite my obvious fear of having horribly behaved, wild children, I am actually considering having my own. This comes as quite a shock to me (and also to my husband) since for the ten years leading up to my 30th birthday, I didn't think I wanted children. No, it was even more firm than that--I did not want to have children of my own. I even announced it to my mother. "Mother, I've decided I'm not going to have kids." without skipping a beat or even asking me why I had so firmly decided against reproducing, she simply stated, "O.K., well, you'll change your mind in a few years." I was irritated that she wasn't taking me seriously. So I responded more emphatically, "NO, I will NOT change my mind. I've been thinking about this for years now and I've decided I don't want kids. I DO NOT WANT KIDS." I think her initial answer might have been a cover so as to spare me from the tidal wave of Grandchild Desire that had been steadily rising within her since Terry and I began dating. But once I repeated myself, the wave came crashing down on me with passion. There were tears. And there were Bible verses--all of which I had heard many times before--that indicated that children were blessings from the Lord. And then she busted out the "Your father and I are entitled to a Godly heritage." And I busted out the "Kate and Brian can give you a Godly heritage." Silence. As a final resort, she wailed, "But it's not the same!" Yeah, I know. My kids would be cuter! Kidding, I'm kidding of course.

I stayed my course, and then my sister-in-law and brother-in-law had their son Landen. Shortly after Terry and I started dating, they became pregnant, so I've known him his entire existence. I simply adore him. And he loves me. When Terry tells people about how Landen loves me, he explains that I am Landen's. I am all his and when we visit, I am his property. This was made abundantly clear when Terry's brother and his wife had their second baby--a little girl. Whenever I hold Corrina or play with her, smile at her, talk to her, coo at her, I am suddently dive bombed by a little 2 and a half year old boy who is so green with envy he can't stand it. He will launch himself into my arms and get right in my face, nose to nose so that I can't help but look at anything, anyone but him. I have to admit that I love the attention. I love being the favorite. It has opened my eyes to the fact that children really are worth the sleepless nights and the 9 horribly uncomfortable months of pregnancy, the complete and total change--no, the upheaval in a parent's life after a child is born, the 18+ years of joys and sorrows and stress and endless reserves of the patience and love it takes to raise up a child and send them off into the world.

My mom was right. I would change my mind in a couple of years. Sometimes I wish she wasn't so ridiculously insightful. But that's part of why she makes such a great mom. If the Lord decides to bless us with children, I can only pray that He also gives me the same wisdom and insight He's given to my mom. I will do just fine as a mother if I'm anything like my mom.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Smell Red Jelly Beans

Ever since I was young, I have had a keen sense of smell. That sounds like a strange comment to make, but I don't mean simply that I have a sensitive nose. What I mean is that my nose has superhuman smelling ability. While the average person might walk by a house with an open kitchen window and say, "Hmmm, someone is baking--I think it might be a cake," I could walk by the same window and say, "Oooh, that woman is baking a cake, and she added a touch of orange zest to the vanilla batter!"

When I was very young, I woke up from a nap one afternoon and remarked, "I smell red jelly beans." Sure enough, upon putting me down for my nap, my mom had eaten one red jelly bean. Just one. I had been asleep for an hour and a half, but I could still smell it upon waking and could distinguish that not only was it a jelly bean, it had been a red one. My mom still tells the story and I get the sense that she's proud of my olfactory talents. She repeats, "I ate ONE red jelly bean. Just ONE," and holds up one finger rather solemnly, as if to say, "My daughter's sense of smell is so refined that she could be used in place of a trained police dog." Sometimes people are impressed, but other times I get the distinct feeling that after hearing about my "abilities," the newly enlightened become increasingly aware of their own personal bodily aromas and stand just a little bit further away from me and my amazing nose.

For me, memories are strongly linked to smells. Whenever I smell blooming jasmine, memories of my old childhood bedroom wash over me. It's even more intense than just remembering how my old bedroom used to smell, it's as if I'm once again 10 years old, sitting cross-legged on my twin bed, combing a doll's hair. I can smell the jasmine coming through the window on a warm July breeze mixed with the sweet mildew of the swamp cooler. My adult burdens of bills and work and responsibilities are momentarily lifted and I'm offered a sweet respite from being a grown-up.

About a month ago I experienced another one of my all too vivid scent-induced memories. I was in the grocery store, perusing the organic broccoli selection when a middle-aged woman whisked past me with her cart. She was moving so quickly that the hairs that had loosened themselves from my ponytail suddenly blew back where they belonged as a result of this woman's close proximity to me as she raced by. The aroma she left behind her, swirling around me in the produce aisle, jerked me back again to my childhood, to my Grandma's backyard. I was watching her hang clean laundry up to dry and she was in her "uniform," which, if anyone outside of my family saw it, they would say she was wearing a mumu. Grandma made her own "uniforms" for the summer time when it got too hot in the San Fernando Valley to wear clothes. Unfortunately, decency does not allow for the traipsing around of people in their birthday suits, so Grandma donned these beauties to wear around the house during the unbearably hot summer months. Apart from her mumus, she was actually a very fashionable woman and was famous for never leaving the house until she'd "done her face." That phrase used to worry me a little as a small child, but soon I learned that it meant she'd be applying her daily make-up. My sister and cousins and I would sit beside her at her vanity and watch as she drew in her brows, perfectly arched, brushed on black mascara, and applied her bright red-orange lipstick. She was classy. And she always smelled so good. Unlike most people, when she sweat it smelled clean--like soap. The soap smell was so prominent that it was as if she had just stepped out of the shower. It was a strange but beautiful mixture--her clean soapy smell combined with her Listerine mouthwash. That was my Grandma's smell. As far as I know, she didn't wear perfume or lotions--strong smells tended to give her immediate migraine headaches. But she always smelled fresh and clean, even in the sweltering heat. When I was still small enough to get away with it, I would sit on her lap or lean against her and bury my face into her, taking in a deep breath of her smell. I don't know if she ever knew what I was doing, but if she did, she never let on.

And so, when the stranger whisked past me in the grocery store, I stood there stunned, my eyes brimming with tears. She smelled just like my Grandma who has been gone now for nearly 12 years. Sometimes I can't remember what her voice sounds like and it bothers me. But I can always, whenever I think about it, recall what she smelled like, and in that instant, I'm standing with her, face buried in her uniform, arms wrapped round her as she bends down to hug me. And the sun beats down mercilessly upon our heads on that unbearably hot San Fernando Valley afternoon.