Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Goodness

"Okay guys, here it is!" I showed my kids the bacon wrapped meatloaf I'd created from a Wolfgang Puck recipe today.

"Ooooooooooooooooo!"

They were duly impressed by my high end culinary artistry.  I like to think I taught them well.

I spent over two hours slaving in the kitchen and loved every instant of it!  My home often smells like cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, shepherd's pie, homemade pizza or cheesecake.  Oddly, I eat precious little of the juice dripping lusciousness I cook.  My own diet always proves super healthy to compliment my body chiseling workouts but I cook as I sometimes do as a delightful hobby.  Meatloaf is in my category of "Man Food."  I don't eat it myself (I don't like it) but I love the feeling of making heavy, satisfying dishes, and I think it is part of natural God given femininity to enjoy making and distributing masculine pleasing meals.  Call me a cave woman if you will.

We pretend to be above such things in society and we often claim that a woman's highest end is competing with men in the workplace.  Instead of denying what a woman ought to be in the traditional sense, I love to embrace it and make it an art form!  I glance around the custom home I helped design and build and see the kids happily reading the books we borrowed from the library together, the detailed cross stitches I made hanging on their walls and recognize with satisfaction that we read scriptures together (nearly) every day.  I have a classically trained voice and use it primarily at this point not on stage but in singing lullabies, along with show tunes and hymns whilst mopping the travertine floor.

Too boring?

Add to that the hours I spend in practicing yoga, hip hop and Latin dance.  True, I cook intense food but mostly I like to keep my body engaged, limber, trained and fit.  Why not enjoy looking good for yourself and your family?  No sin in that, I hope.  Yes, I am hopelessly lost and can never be liberated from the shackles of the Stone Age.   And I couldn't be happier about it.  True it is that I work part time as a financial executive in a multimillion dollar construction enterprise, but that is merely to pay the bills.  This is where my heart lives.  I glory in being an old fashioned woman.

What can I say to those who insist that a woman in the kitchen is backward and wrong?   No judgement to them.  Live and let live.  I hope they are happy.  But God made us with divine gifts and joys specific to womanhood and I intend to live it up and bask in the joy of being what He meant and intended me to be.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Balancing Your Life

"The outside world will be there when you get there." 

"Don't hold onto anything.  You don't need to." 

"Open your heart up."

"Breathe deeply and relax your jaw."

"It doesn't matter what your neighbor is doing."

 "Relax and breathe."

"You are gorgeous."

 "Here's an advanced option...just if you want to."

 "No stress." 

"I know you can do this."

 "Listen to your body."

 "In yoga there is no forcing."






As my fellow yogis and I finish this blesséd National Yoga Month, I thought I would add a few words of gratitude for the art itself and what it has taught me.  The above are quotes and lessons from the yoga mat that my absolutely wonderful teachers have instilled in me.  I have used yoga as a way of releasing stress, working through trauma, letting go of injury, clearing my mind, strengthening my body, creating beauty, connecting to the earth, God, life and myself, and learning to respect all things in the universe both seen and unseen.  As September draws to a close and we subside into our typical routines throughout the year, let us remember to breathe deeply and fully, and blissfully enjoy the little things in life. And namasté!


The Mistake that Saved My Life

I have never told this aspect of my story until today, though I have thought of it often enough, first with shame and then gratitude to God.

Valentine's Day 2007 I was cruising to work on the freeway five months pregnant with my eleven month old daughter in the backseat and her middle aged nanny riding passenger when we were threatened to be sandwiched between a gravel truck and the guardrail.  My repeated efforts to avoid collision proved ineffective but just before we hit, I felt to try to move toward the guardrail without hitting it.  Hit it I did, and it slowed us down enough that the gravel truck met with only the front of my tiny Hyundai Elentra, sending us spinning across three miraculously empty lanes of morning rush hour traffic.  During this spin, time slowed down in my mind and for a moment I felt that all would be fine.  I don't remember hearing anything during the accident and because I could not hear the tires squealing I assumed we were not actually skidding. 

I was wrong.

Trying to regain control of the car I turned frantically out of the skid instead of into it.  My mistaken action caused the car to spin faster and finally hit the opposite concrete guardrail head on.  I know this has to be over soon but don't know when I thought.  Immediately after this thought flashed through my mind a tremendous blow unlike any mortal power I have ever felt smashed into the car and my head collided with the back of my chair.  Spinning once more I felt another crash and finally everything went still.  The car was totaled but we were safe.  The nanny sustained severe bruising but soon recovered; I walked away with small, light bruises on my leg, hip, and the back of my head along with the typical seat belt burn on my shoulder.  The blow from the unseen Atlas semi had hit the back of the car and entire backseat was obliterated except for where my infant daughter was sitting.  She received one small scratch on her nose and lost one drop of blood but was otherwise perfectly fine.  Her car seat was so badly pinned down that it was some time before the paramedics could redeem it to take us to the emergency room.  My unborn son was untouched.  

What if I had turned into the skid?  I would have been just in the way of this high speed, full sized semi to hit us head on and kill everyone in the car.  It was because of my blunder that we quickly skidded out of its path.  I cannot credit myself with this - I have to credit the One who gave me peace the entire way and carried the four of us unharmed through a very potentially fatal situation.  Indeed, news spread like wildfire in the hospital and upon my departure several nurses pointed at me and excitedly told each other that, "she's the one!  She's the one who is walking after being hit by a semi!" God uses our weaknesses, our mistakes, and our confusion for our good when we strive to follow Him and if it is right in His eyes.  Sometimes we think we have to do it all on our own.  We can't.  Sometimes we think we need to be perfect.  We aren't.  But God can take our weaknesses and imperfections and use them to strengthen testimonies, save lives and perform miracles.   

Miracles and a Sexy Greek Goddess

"Have a good day!" the sales rep called after me.

I turned back with a grin.  "Oh.  I certainly will now!" and proceeded to strut happily out of the store and into the opulent gardens of La Encantada.

Several months ago I had become entranced by a dress that had hung in the middle of the Concepts boutique.  It was fit for a Greek goddess and I couldn't help sneaking into the store to have a closer look at both the dress and the price tag.  Forty dollars on sale was a fabulous steal but the down to earth mommy in me decided the prudent thing would be to walk away and simply count the blessings I already had with joy and gratitude.  The months passed somewhat and God decided to put my mind, heart, spirit and faith to the test in a way I felt shattered my strength and pained me to the point of sheer exhaustion. 

As the fall months approached, I felt much impressed that the Lord intensely wanted me to dress as a Greek goddess for Halloween, which indeed I had wanted to do since last year.  I had all but given up on the former idea I found at La Encantada Shopping Center and simply headed toward the local costume store.  Immodesty and other considerations sent me reeling back, and I felt sure that by now the dress I had seen before was gone entirely, or at least back to its normal price, which I could not in good conscience pay.

Little by little the Lord impressed me to return to the shopping center, if only to window shop at another store.  My exhaustion and dejection from so much trial and pain kept me from thinking rationally and I meandered along, gazing listlessly into the various stores.  I glanced into Concepts and scanned the racks from a distance but only to find the dress was gone.  Nevertheless, I felt to ask if they had a website.  They didn't.  The rep asked what I wanted and I told him.  Eyes lighting up, he said, "Yes, we have that!" and rushing to the back pulled out my dress from clearance.  Apparently they had run out in the store and this masterpiece had been discontinued completely.  The dress had arrived from a boutique in Florida and hung there against all odds and in my size with a $19.99 price tag.  It fit like a glove. 

Sometimes I think God withholds blessings because He is reserving them for a more useful purpose in His own way and time.  I might have stretched out my hand and taken it when first I saw it, but in trying to do the prudent thing, God saw fit to change the price and presented to me at a time when I needed most to feel like some kind of supernatural, out of this world goddess.  It came at a time when I most needed to remember that He is my Father and thinks of me as a daughter, and that He delights in blessing His children.  It came at a time when I needed a reminder that He was aware of me and that everything could and would turn out well.  And most importantly, it reaffirmed my shaking belief that all could come together and be made right, even against every odd on man's mortal earth.


The Lavish Woman and the Construction Worker

The air conditioner poured cool relief into the car while an ipod attached to the stereo played the melodious joy of classical music.  One hand wearing a white opera glove held the wheel while the other rummaged through a Gucci bag on the passenger seat until it found a bottle of Vitamin Water and brought it to a woman's full lips.  It was she who wore the gloves and sang along in Italian.  Her ebony tresses brushed languidly against the Giani Bini shirt she wore as she cruised over hills and bridges.  Approaching a construction scene, her eyes grew moist and the overflowing love of her heart enfolded something she saw there.

A man, old and worn, with a salt and pepper beard adorning his sun baked face sweated profusely.  His look was tired, weary and it proved evident that this was not the occupation of his dreams.  Yet something kept him there and he labored and sweated every day in this endless purgatory of a blistering day job. 

As is my wont, I enthusiastically waved to him with a gloved hand and smiled.  I don't know the man, but I did know another one.  He is a memory from my early childhood and I can still smell the sweat on his red flannel shirt as he held me on his knee.  My grandfather lived in caves, labored on farms and finally worked in construction to support his family of eight children.  He used to say that when he thought of his children and grandchildren, the wheelbarrow's burden seemed light as feathers and he would work happily with renewed vigor.  It was his love for us that kept him working under the merciless desert sun.  Perhaps it was the same with this man I saw working in the dirt.  Whenever I see a man at hard labor my gratitude and compassion heightens.  This might be my grandfather, poor and worn but fully deserving of the deepest respect.  My grandfather's love gave my mother strength to also work in construction and eventually create Golden Star Properties, which produces the finest custom homes in Southern Arizona, and which also renders me the paycheck that supplies my opera gloves and education in classical tunes.  Those humble workers are the mortal, genealogical roots with which God has blessed us.  We don't know what their children or grandchildren may be able to do decades from now or how their descendents may someday give a much needed job to ours.    

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Be Wary of a Woman

"Sing to me, baby!"

I closed my mouth and turned to see my cousin Patrick leaning against the door frame of his parents' kitchen, watching me with an ironic grin.  I hadn't realized anyone had caught me pulling off some random opera.  That's a tremendous compliment because he gets paid for being the amazing songwriter and musician he is.  "Where I'm From" put my dad's hometown of Camden, South Carolina on the map in the country music world, but I've got to say that for the moment "Be Wary of a Woman" is my favorite. Listening to this from the perspective of a woman makes me grin ear to ear and snicker with delight.

Poor misguided women in this gender confused era have a tendency to believe that they have to behave like men, compete with men, become something they aren't in order to get attention, and give up their divine feminine identities in order to catch a husband.  Patrick Davis picked up his guitar and knocked all those misconceptions out of the ballpark in a gorgeously resounding home run.   My ladies, how would you like to be the sexy, feisty, happy, juicy, passionate woman that you naturally are and have a confirmed masculine player desperately fling away his freedom for you?  This song is a warning to all those other guys out there that against the charm of an amazing woman, their flightiness doesn't stand a chance.  He intimates that a woman just has to be her own fabulous self, in touch with her own feminine prowess, and then watch the men drop like flies at her feet.  And you know what?  He's right.  

"If you're a man like me who is good at leaving,
If you like your space and you love your freedom,
You don't see yourself settling down, having your whole world tossed around,

(Chorus)
Be wary of a woman, a woman so fine,
Don't want to change you, loves you just right,
Makes you feel like a man inside, sometimes she'll make you cry
Til you don't know what you're doing.  You're outta control
Forget about leaving, your heart won't go.
If you don't want that you'd better run and hide
And be wary of a woman like mine.

She can make you laugh when you feel like crying,
Make you want to live when you feel like dying
But if you like living your life in the dark, 
Better walk away.  You're going to lose your heart. 

(Chorus)

Man, you don't stand a chance, don't even try
And be wary of a woman like mine."

Catch Patrick Singing this Masterpiece in Concert!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

American Patriotism in a Mexican Dress

My daughter sat pouting, fighting back tears, "No!"  She insisted.

Exhausted and at a loss, I silently prayed for direction.

Today being Patriot Day, Julia's school expected her to wear red, white and blue, and ordinarily she is the most patriotic kid I know.  She has memorized various facts about all the presidents in US history of her own volition and knows that subject far better than I do. But her late Mexican great grandmother's birthday is also September 11th and Julia insisted on wearing a bright orange Mexican style dress in honor of her abuelita.  The problem arose when we found a massive tear in the skirt and it was time to leave for school.  The dress proved unwearable and the clock was ticking.  I couldn't prevail on her to change clothes and run out the door.  Upon my silent prayer, the answer immediately came.

Start sewing.

Rushing to my room I retrieved my sewing basket, pulled out some thread, got the dress off my daughter and feverishly started stitching up the skirt.  It wouldn't be sewn perfectly for lack of time but so be it.  At least it was modest.  Julia told me I was the best mom ever and danced happily off to school, at which place she miraculously arrived before class began.  

At first I thought that this illustrated a lack of American spirit but upon reflection, I think her behavior embodied it.  Are we not a country built upon independent thinkers?  Were our Founding Parents not those who followed their hearts rather than the crowd?  And though they loved their native Great Britain, did they not think first of the good of their families and homes?  As to September 11th, one plane gratefully did not meet its planned destination because of people who would not be cowed by intimidation.  We find our country in all its glory built upon the backs of resolute people who followed what they believed.  I remember Julia standing at her great grandmother's deathbed and speaking in her very best broken Spanish.  Are we not a country that has risen to its greatness in part because of our compassion on human souls?  And inasmuch as her great grandmother died some years ago my little Julia follows with all the passion of her loving heart the ultimate message of Patriot Day - to never, ever forget. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jesus Christ vs The Common Core

Looking for a moral battle against a hated enemy, are we?  Well that is exactly what I intend though not the fight one might think from the title.  I am not here to demolish the Common Core or prove its moral indecency.  In fact, I'm not going to analyze the Core at all. 

Some time ago I felt to post a status via Facebook inviting my friends to share their feelings about the Savior Jesus Christ.  As many of my friends prove avid Christians I expected something of an downpour.  Instead, I heard crickets.  Approximately 24 hours after the post one brave soul bore a touching testimony about her Lord and King.  Bravo to her, for among my friends she stood alone.  A few days ago I thought to enter into a social/psychological experiment and used a status to invite those who would to share their conclusions regarding the Common Core.  As I expected I received a flood of responses, vehemently arguing against the practice and criticizing its effect on children, society, and the country at large.  

My friends, why are we so quick to outlandishly unleash frustration and so slow to publicly give thanks for the greatest blessing we have?  Why do we answer passionately a political question and find ourselves apathetic about the far more important religious one?  Do we seek happiness in this life or misery?  If happiness, shouldn't we find reasons to proclaim things that make us happy and bring that joy to others?  Shouldn't we prove quick to shun the bad and focus on the positive?  I have written many posts in my various blogs through the years but the one that has received the most hits was a post on Mormonism, which an anti Mormon group found and exploited.  Why are we so quick to spend our time in being offended and outraged?  And within your own mind, think of what brought you to this blog post.  Was it your love of Jesus Christ?  Was it your honest desire to know how He might view today's education?  Or was it because you sought the thrill of a fight and wanted to see a legislation you despised crushed underfoot?  In truth, most of the world's battles are fought within the quiet recesses of the human heart.  Gandhi said it is where all our battles should be fought, and truly I believe that a very important fight exists within ourselves - the battle of who we will serve, what perspective we will have, and whether we will chose to focus on the negative or the light. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Recalled to Life by Indiana Jones

I stood dumbly, staring at the hours stated on the automatic doors of Urgent Care.  It had closed half an hour ago.  I had been holding on with all my will to be able to make it here.  Turning away my strength finally left me.

I vaguely remember hitting the sidewalk.  

A short while later, which passes to my mind like a blur, I found myself being wheeled into the nearby emergency room.  I remembered the impression that came to mind earlier when I began the trek to urgent care that I would end up in the emergency room instead.  My mind had been confused much of the day.  Stress pressing on my mind, attempting to exert emotional and spiritual strength to remain Christlike under conditions that might have led me to anger, frustration and bitterness had clouded my mind and I seemed in a fog of confusion and distress.  The hike to Sabino Canyon's Seven Falls had become particularly arduous after I lost access to the water I had brought at the farthest point from civilization, straining my dehydrated body under the Arizona sun.  Prayer had seemed all day to lead me to a lack of answers - something tremendously unusual for me.  I know of course that all trials are for our good under the hand of a merciful God but I had proven too overwhelmed to think clearly enough to altogether appreciate that fact.

So I sat in my wheelchair, hardly able to speak and drained in body and spirit.  I do not cry easily but I held my face in my hands and trembled dry eyed, my shoulders shaking with a sense of helpless misery.  I stared listlessly at the golf tournament on a big screen in the waiting room and vaguely noticed a man changing the channel.  I returned to my thoughts, straining to pray but again receiving no clarity of mind or spirit.  At length I languidly gazed back at the screen and caught my breath.  A massive grin crept over my face and I felt heavy tears of relief and joy course down my skin.  

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery argued on their way out of Nazi Germany.  And it couldn't have come at a better time.  Indiana Jones has for some time become for me a very intense symbol of peace and hope in my mind - something precious few save the Lord know about me.  It reminds me of the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and breathes to life the fact that heaven is real - sometimes just around the corner.  In darkness it reminds me that light can still come and that truth can triumph against all odds.  It at once answered with peace all the those thoughts and troubles that had clouded my mind and soul.  Had I the choice of any movie coming to my view at that moment I cannot imagine a more perfect comfort than that.  

I have, through my recovery yesterday and today, considered the implications and learning experience arising from that.  It has struck me forcibly that my prayers seemed wholly answered by confusion and mental stupor.  Had God momentarily abandoned me?  Not likely.  But He had a greater comfort in mind, one physically tangible and which arrived when He meant it to come.  And sometimes when we are in the darkest abyss, God only allows it so that He can bring us to greater heights of joy and light thereafter.