Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chicken Soup that Fights Colds Like Medicine

sick baby before chicken soup 
Someone in this house has been sick for months now.  We've thrown up, coughed, sneezed, and fevered for so long, I am starting to lose my mind.  I know I'm not alone.  The particularly awesome cold that started with a croupy cough, graduated to a snot fountain, resolved at a dry cough and then settled into a fever and sore throat has been wearing down all of my toddler-mama friends as well.  I have a scratchy throat for the third day in a row, but if it doesn't develop into a fever by tonight, I may have fought this thing off for a second time. This is my secret weapon:

My not-exactly-a-recipe for the chicken soup that has comforted us on more than one occasion.  I don't really use recipes too much, so these are ballpark amounts. Feel free to tweak as needed, but don't leave out the secret ingredient.  I usually make this when I have leftover cooked chicken already and so my story really begins there....

Start with a whole onion, the bigger the better and chop "rustically."
That's by hand, not in the food processor and not as big pieces as you'd see in a fajita.

Next, chop a bunch of celery including some of the leaves about the same size as the onions.
A bunch is the amount that makes sense to you.  I like celery and so I do about 4 stalks.

Now for some carrots.  I hate cooked carrots with a passion, but they do something for this soup that I can't explain. Maybe just the color? I usually do about 12 baby carrots. Which isn't much, but I get bored of chopping them into tiny pieces I can't quite taste and I don't want to grate them because they are so tiny I get my knuckles or fingernails caught on the grater.

In a large soup-pot, melt some butter...about 2 tablespoons and start to sauté the veggies, but keep adding the next ingredients.

While they cook, add in an obscene amount of minced garlic.  I don't know how to do fresh garlic, but I love that big ole' jar of minced garlic in olive oil.  It's not the secret ingredient but it's close.
I dump it in straight out of the jar, but maybe you would measure it at about 1/4 of a cup...or more!

Now. The secret ingredient:  fresh ginger.  Peel a chunk about the size of two of your fingers and then chop it tiny and throw it in with the veggies and garlic.

I start spicing the mixture at this point as well:  I like to throw in poultry seasoning, thyme, sage, and some fresh or dried rosemary to really take things up a notch.  If your sinuses were clogged, they should be feeling better over this steaming, aromatic concoction.  May I also suggest generous dashes of cayenne pepper, white pepper, fresh cracked pepper, and of course... salt to your liking.

To this, you can add canned, cooked chicken or leftover chicken or chicken you boiled in broth or baked, broiled or fried.  I really don't think it matters much.  I've done all of the above.  It's almost not about the chicken as much as it is about the broth, so pick whatever you like and toss it in with the spices and veggies to absorb those flavors a bit before adding the liquid.

Next, I mix Tones Chicken Base with water in some semblance of their suggestions on the label. Just don't assume, like one of my children who will remain nameless in this post,  that chicken BASE and chicken BROTH are the same thing and add the whole jar.  Cause that won't taste good.  I shoot for about 8 cups of broth, plus another two cups of water that will steam off.  I heat up the water in the microwave in a batter bowl, add the base, whisk it, and then pour it into the now-soft veggies.

Finally, I add a cup or two of parboiled rice. You can use instant or long grain or brown or whatever kind of rice you like, I just happen to find parboiled rice easiest.

I let the whole wonderful thing simmer for about 30 minutes or until some kid comes into the kitchen asking,  "What's for dinner?"

Even though they can see a pot on the stove that is full of soup. 

At the last minute, I like to go outside and snip off some fresh parsley... a small handful of it...and chop it small like I'm on a cooking show.  It gives the whole thing a great color and I always hear that parsley is really good for you.

We like it with oyster crackers. Or saltines. Or bread and butter.  Or by itself.  I'm not really about rules when it comes to cooking. Can you tell?

Feel better and eat your soup.

sick baby after chicken soup (and a day of sleep)
with all the hair bows she has.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Jumping and Pushing

When I was a teenager, I was part of one of those amazing 1990s youth groups that was so ridiculously cool, Buzzfeed made posts about us 30-something years later.  (seriously, just google Buzzfeed youth group)  On one our mission trips, we got to spend a day on a lake in West Virginia, waterskiing, tubing and cruising the lake on a pontoon boat, after camping all night (in the pouring rain of course).  I learned all my water-sport skills from youth group and on this trip, I was trying to learn to dive.

I knew how it looked in my head. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I was going to do it. But then I would stand on the edge of the boat and have my youth-pastor's wife Shelly, go over the mechanics again...and again... and again.  Finally, as I stood with my diving arms out and over my head, leaning toward the water's surface, knees bent to spring, I started to ask another question and Shelly put her hand between my shoulder-blades and shoved me into the water.

It was brilliant.

I learned to dive that day.

A few summers later, I stood at the top of of 70 foot platform overlooking the adventure park.  Harnessed at hips and shoulders and attached to the rope, I was stuffing down every human instinct to LIVE.  My hands are currently sweating as I remember that moment of youthful invincibility. I was terrified, but I also couldn't stand the thought of being too scared to actually do it.

I jumped.

I screamed all the way down with my eyes closed, clutching the foam-covered spring to my chest as if it was going to help.  I opened my eyes and screamed all the way UP as the spring brought me upward, and then I took a breath and screamed all the way down to the pillow below.

But I can boast to my kids that I bungee jumped.

As an adult, I've come to more platforms and felt the fear as I look over the edge.  The leaps are much less glamorous:  Do you buy a new fridge or a used one from Craigslist?   Do you stop your good-enough business to do something closer to your heart?   Do you address the situation that you see brewing or do you ride it out and hope it resolves on its own?

I am not a good decision maker.  It's one of the things I hate about myself the most.

Peter Rollins once described Rob Bell this way: "He just never looks back. He's just moving forward."

I have often thought about that and wished that I could be described that way.  Fix your attention in a direction and go there fearlessly.  No hemming and hollering.  No need to be pushed off the boat.  No screeching all the way down and all the way up and all the way back down again.

I don't know if I could ever be that person.  My personality is one that wants to bring as many people along with me as I can, not just forge ahead on my own.  I don't know if I will ever be fearless.  I don't know if I will ever be able to make a decision quickly and decisively. I don't know if I will be able to avoid driving my friends and family insane by talking about it, and talking about it, and talking about it before I finally jump or get pushed.

I guess that is why, in the context of relationships, I give people a LOT of time and space. Even if it is obvious they should just jump off the boat. Even if I am tired of explaining the mechanics or listening to the possible outcomes.  I have this idea that people know what they want to do. They are just getting ready to do it.  I recently heard this amazing quote from John Philip Newell

"Spirituality does not consist of being told what to do, but it consists of being reminded of who we are." 

It's true I needed a push to get off the boat. I'm sure you could almost feel that satisfaction in it.  I bet you can imagine all kinds of situations you would love to just push somebody:  the 11 year old with the loose tooth. The husband who hates his job.  The friend in conflict who just needs to make a change.  It sometimes feels like all they need is a good shove. But often, that instinct is more about us wanting them to be done with their transition sooner because transitions are annoying.  In a weird way, Shelley was actually affirming me by shoving me.  She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who couldn't swim.  She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who couldn't learn.  She wouldn't have pushed somebody off the boat who didn't know the necessary mechanics of diving.  That would have been mean.  Instead, she was communicating loud and clear that I was capable. That I had all the information I needed to proceed.  That even though I was scared, I could still do it.  Which I why I came up out of the water laughing, climbed up on the boat and spent the rest of the day diving off it again and again. And why I climbed that 70 foot platform and jumped off.  Because ultimately, being scared and screaming doesn't erase the fact that I am a person who will do things that scare me to death.  That is who I am.

So I don't know what you are facing right now, but I know that you are loved.
You are more creative than you know.
You are made in the image of God.
You have something inside of you that is good and sacred.

And you know what to do, even if you are scared to do it.

Consider this your shove.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

When You Feel Like Punching Customers in the Throat

A few weeks ago, I was at my favorite coffee shop and the barista asked me how my week was.  I reached into my thoughts and fumbled around like I do when I need to find something in the bottom of my too-large purse and fished out this as an answer: "Oh, busy."

And as soon as I said it, I grimaced and thought "Gross."  I looked at her friendly face and said, "That is such a boring answer to your question."

For months now, I have been living inside the busy machine, watching the wheels go around and around, observing the mechanisms, trying to figure out how to stop it.  I paid attention to what I enjoyed, but I had trouble really feeling that. But I started really noticing that my customer's questions on Etsy were beginning to anger me more and more.  If anyone but Robb could have heard the way I answered in my fantasies, you might be equal parts amused and horrified.  One shopper inquired if she could have a discount by way of free shipping.  Out of curiosity, I asked for her zip code. She replied by telling me that she actually has two houses, one in an expensive city, and that would be her preference that I send it there.

I fumed for a whole night and the better part of a day.

"So let me get this straight?  You have TWO houses and you want me to give you something for free JUST BECAUSE you think you ought to have it? Do you really think I'm just here to GIVE away my product?  Never mind that I took my baby out to a thrift store, sorted through aisles and piles of stuff, identified this item as one of value based on over a decade of experience, brought it home, cleaned it, photographed it, listed it so you could shop at your leisure, buy it with confidence that I would package it appropriately, ship it promptly and deliver it to your door.....you are so damn special that you deserve to get a discount, functionally asking for this service for FREE. "

"Thanks for the offer, but I'm going to pass this time!"  I breezily replied after hours of trying to decide what to do.

I actually considered taking her offer, because I hadn't had a sale in a few days and I was missing the money and the hit of adrenaline that selling brings.  But selling is hard these days.  In fact, the whole platform at Etsy has changed in the last couple of years, especially since the company went public.  Gone are the days of simplicity and smallness.  Gone are the days of curating pretty treasuries that you hoped would reach the front page. Instead, it is a huge marketplace with ever shifting suggestions and tips for mastering SEO, becoming a wholesaler, joining networking teams, blah blah blah....

I've been an online seller for almost 13 years.  I started on eBay back in the day when it was new and hot.  I had a borrowed digital camera that loaded 8 pictures at a time on a dial-up modem.  I reached Power-Seller status and we still eat at the kitchen table I bought with my first real profits.  Over the years, I've been able to spin a lot of hay into gold...scouring garage and estate sales, thrift stores and flea markets for treasures that needed to see the light of day.  And it was fun.  For a long time, it was fun. It was work too.  An actual career.  It fit with our family's time and values, and it helped pay for so many small, unglamorous things like school lunches and school clothes and furniture and paint.

When I was pregnant with Whimsy, I had that dream:  the one where you find a room in your house that you didn't realize you had and weren't utilizing.  It's a dream about potential.  It's your mind telling you that you are capable of something else.  That other possibilities exist. At the time it made so much sense.  Obviously, my life was going to change and I was amazed that I was still capable of having a baby at my age.  I knew that having a baby would affect my work, and I was open to what the experience had to teach me.

treat yo' self... to a decent breakfast at your own table

I love the character Dash in the move The
Incredibles (That movie has been an metaphor for my life on many occasions and it's one of my favorites).  I love when the family is all working together, doing what they do best and the mom tells Dash he can go "as fast as he can."   I totally understand his overjoyed disbelief at this permission. "AS FAST AS I CAN?!"  There have been many times in my life that I have longed to do that.  To just break it open and do everything I have inside of me as fast and as hard as I can.  To work without any limits, to express every creative urge, to bury myself in projects that interest me.  But it has been a long, long time since I felt that way.  For months now, I have confused low grade depression for what it actually is:  burnout.

My anger at my customer...while pretty legitimate...was disproportionate.  Paying attention to that anger was healthy.  It helped me realize just how much of myself I have been giving away without being replenished.  I have some huge projects on my plate right now.  I have said "yes" to some things that are very good things.  And now I need to say NO (maybe even "HELL NO!") to some other things.  I cannot keep living in violation of my own values and nobody but I can make that happen.  (Although, encouragement and support from my husband certainly has helped.) At the most basic level, I am a wife to Robb. I am mom to four amazing kids in super transitional seasons of their lives.  I am pastor of a fascinating church where I am just now recognizing the possibilities for me to lead and grow.  I am a creative and I long to give my creativity to those who will benefit from and enjoy it the most.

My biggest mosaic project yet.

More on this later...

this hand-lettering class was very relaxing

Find Old Wallace Simpson at The Little Craft Show on May 7

So for now, I am putting The Classic Butterfly on vacation.  In a month, after I have finished the Little Craft Show and completed two other large projects, I will re-evaluate selling online again. I suppose in glancing over this post, it seems so obvious that this is a good move for me, but it's hard to describe how much this job affects my daily life.  I get up and check messages first thing every day and answer customer's questions.  Whatever I have planned to do otherwise gets pushed aside to ship orders before the carrier arrives each day.  I am always on the lookout for new product.  Sunshiny days always mean taking some time to photograph stock and push myself to be better at product photography.  The marketing and networking never ends.  And in any free moment, I am writing listings.  This has been my routine for more than a decade and more than a whole room of my house is devoted to storing, photographing, and shipping product.  If you think it's going to be easy for me, please think again.

But I had that dream again the other night....the secret room.  I am open to some possibilities again.  There's more to my life than I thought.  

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