On Blackberry Dump Cake, Stats, and Goodbyes

Last Friday, I went to Lindale, Texas to meet my bestie Rachel to work on Statistics homework. I’m not gonna lie: it’s soul-crushing and brain-melting, enough to cause some students over 40 (me) to question their sanity for doing this in the first place. I mean, for most people, a master’s degree would be plenty. Not me! Nope.

Finding a place to do our homework together has been…challenging to say the least. If we work at my house, then we risk being constantly annoyed by my dog who thinks my only reason for existence is to play “fetch the cheeseburger toy” for hours. She’s very…persistent. If we go to Rachel’s, where she has small children, then she feels like she should have a babysitter so we’re less distracted. Not that stats are not fascinating. But there’s definitely a risk. Cute kids? Definitely distracting, because cuteness, and it doesn’t take much to make a person choose to play with kids over doing spirit-squishing homework.

Last week, we met at Collins Bakery, which I must say is quite a little jewel. Coffee, wi-fi, and pie…what’s not to love?

In front of the bakery, some nice folks were selling juicy peaches, red, ripe tomatoes, and blackberries bursting with purple-black color. I went a little nuts. I love produce stands, and they are one of my favorite things about summer–perfect for 4th of July celebrations.

My girls, who are grownups and have their own apartments (and dogs) come over every week to see me, and to encourage this I cook for them. So that if they’re ever sitting at home in their A/C watching The Walking Dead and feel the least bit reluctant to cash it all in for the Texas Summer Inferno to come over, they will decide it’s worth it because Mom cooks the most delicious concoctions, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of Ramen noodle dinners over there.

Last night, they stayed over, which meant a lot to me, because they are both moving in just a few weeks. Not down the street, or to a town nearby, but several hours away. Like a day trip, spend the night, kind of distance.

Mama’s having a hard time with this, y’all.

I’m so very proud of both of them for graduating from college and finding jobs in their fields and everything. That’s what I wanted for them from the beginning–that they would be able to do what they love and not have to spend their adulthood working at crap jobs like I did just to make ends meet. Now, they won’t have to.

Since I had those gorgeous berries waiting, I wanted to make something special. Since it was the 4th weekend, and one of the last weekends we will spend together like this ever, I may have cooked up the entire house. For a moment, I could make them a treat, pack it up with some coffee and send it with them to their jobs. For a moment, it felt as if they were still in school and I was making their lunches before band practice.

Just for the briefest of moments.

I made Blackberry Dump Cake with these juicy blackberry babies, and let me tell you–there’s nothing easier than this recipe.

Blackberry Dump Cake

2 cartons fresh blackberries (you can use frozen)

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick of butter

This is really all there is to it. I couldn’t lie to you. I know you’ll be tempted to add sugar to the blackberries, and you certainly can, because AMERICA, but resist, because this cake mix has about nine bags of sugar in it already. Like a whole sugar cane field worth. But I’m not judging if you want to sprinkle a tiny bit on them.

Melt the butter. Make sure the blackberries are rinsed and there aren’t any leaves or anything in them. Pour the blackberries right into the bottom of the pan.

Next, pour the cake mix, right from the box, on top of the berries.

Lastly, pour the melted butter on top of the cake mix. Try to spread it evenly so the whole top gets wet.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

Serve to your daughters for breakfast after their last sleepover. Try not to cry thinking about it. Try not to be a blubbering mess.

On Authenticity and Servanthood on Facebook

party 4

Sometimes I cannot believe Facebook. It looks like a high school yearbook! Everybody posts their kids awards, their husband’s promotions, a picture of the perfect peach pie. A post that demands you “like”  a picture of Jesus or scroll by and RISK YOUR VERY SOUL.

Sometimes, it’s too much.

To be fair, I’m guilty of this also–posting only the best moments from my life. Only showing the good side. I mean, nobody really wants to know the other stuff, do they? How my laundry looks like it’s been multiplying overnight and my son is mad at me. How I’m so stressed out I’m having trouble getting out of bed. How the holidays make me miss my dad so much I can taste it. How I had a disagreement with my husband, or daughters and it’s like Antarctica around here. That even the penguins are wearing jackets?

Nope. I’m likely not gonna share that on Facebook. First of all, it’s really not anybody’s business. Secondly, people don’t generally go on Facebook or social media because they are thinking,”You know what? I feel like being bummed out!” Or, “I feel like feeling inferior! Yes!”

On my page Nonpartisan Jesus, where I talk about authentic Christianity outside of political spectrums, I received a message from one of my acquaintances:

Maybe Jesus wants us to get off Facebook and follow him.

I’m not gonna lie. That one stung. I replied:

I’m not sure how/if Jesus thinks about Facebook much. However, since so many people use social media, doesn’t it make sense to try to make something positive of it?

On the flip side, I’m sure you might have a friend or two who shares every thought that comes to mind. The posts look something like this:

9:00 Thinking about coffee. #TheBestPartofWakingUp

9:05 Out of creamer. Have to go to the store. #Prayers

9:06 Can’t find a parking spot. Saw my pastor in the parking lot. #blessed

9:07 Walmart’s out of Folgers! AHHHHHH! #Agony

I somehow think this is worse.

Let’s face it–we all do it. We put on our best mask for Facebook. We only show the peanut butter sandwich with the crusts off. Everybody is guilty of this.

So what’s the alternative? How do we allow ourselves to be authentic without giving too much information? How do we share our struggles without seeming like we are looking for pity?How can we use Facebook as a ministry? Is it possible? 

Yes. We just have to be present.

For example, my friend Jennifer is the master of this. I’ll post something like:

Oh my gosh. Finals, errands, moving, planning a graduation party–I’m overwhelmed!

I have to admit, I might have seen the same post and kept scrolling. Of course it’s stressful to be moving around final exam times! That could have been better planned! Oh well.

Within seconds, I get a text:

Want to have the party at my house?

And I’m crying, unable to fathom what I’ve done to deserve such a sweet friend who would not only see a problem but propose a solution. A solution that creates work for her.

Jennifer has a servant’s heart. I have been the beneficiary of her heart many times over the years. It’s not easy to see somebody struggling and offer to help. It’s much easier to whine about Folger’s. It’s easy to like the Jesus post and ignore the friend who’s drowning.

Because of Jennifer, my girls had the nerdiest Star Wars Graduation blowout ever. For three hours, we invaded her house, bringing smelly tacos and balloons. For three hours, the girls and their friends walked around in Chewbacca masks, celebrating their achievement.

party 3

Because Jennifer and Josh are the best friends ever.

party 1

This year, I want to be more present. I want to be more proactive. I want to have a servant’s heart–seeing need and thinking a solution.

party 2

 

Thank you, Jennifer and Josh. Thank you both for being Jesus on Facebook! You guys are the BEST and we love you.

But right now, I have to go. The dryer beeped because my fuzzy socks are ready. #blessed

5 Things I Want My Son to Know

dad and bike

I know what you’re thinking.

How could you possibly sum up everything you want to teach your kid into bullet points? That’s crazy. That’s insane. Get this woman a padded room.

Be honest–doesn’t a padded room sound pretty great sometimes? It’s quiet, it’s comfy–nobody’s talking…

Okay, back to reality.

You’re right. Life lessons are complicated and people can and do write obnoxiously long books about them. Here’s the thing, though. We are busy! We have so much going on. Lessons and ball games and concerts, deadlines and grades and buying toilet paper and washing underwear and taking the dog to the vet (somebody has to). The list NEVER gets shorter, it just changes with age (like me).

It’s like the old joke about how to eat an elephant…one bite at a time.

Since I’m not a child psychologist or Oprah or anything, I just have to do this a bite at a time. If I wait for that “perfect moment”, inevitably it will never come. So here’s my best shot–5 things at a time. If you want to see the previous blog about this, click  here.

5 MORE Things I Want My Son to Know:

1.How to be a good dad. This is complicated, for sure, and when I think about things my own dad did that made me love him I think that 90% of it was just being there. He worked a lot (so did my mom) but as he grew older he noticed that sometimes just showing up was support enough. My dad wasn’t perfect, and he made lots of mistakes, but what I remember the most about him was that he never gave up. Not on me, not on himself. I don’t think he knew how.

2.How to be a good husband. Again, this is complicated, and not necessarily something that can be summed up in a few sentences in a blog. But the essence of being a good husband is, I think, in the little things. Like coming home when you say you’ll be home, and turning off the t.v. when you said you would. Like picking up the ice cream I like without being asked, or replacing that light bulb that’s out in the bathroom. Little things add up to love.

3. How to be stubborn about doing the right thing. Again, I’ve done                 and said the wrong thing MANY, MANY times…we don’t need any                 specific examples here, that’s not really the point…but I do hope that           MOST of the time I’ve modeled the right way to do things. I want to               be a good reference for what integrity looks like, and when I’m not, I             hope I own up to it and make it right.

4. How to properly wash a dish. Okay, I know this is NOT a “big” item, but it’s important. To be sure he understands this basic principle, I feel he needs lots of practice.

5. How to finish what you’ve started. This is a big one to be sure. Sometimes we start and stop and start and stop again. Sometimes big events are interrupted and that’s okay. The important thing is to keep trying and to stick it out. Sticking it out–in marriage, in life, in work-it’s all important. Sticking it out in the hard places, when you’re scared and blind and you have no clue what’s happening next or even  if this is the right thing. You stick it out, you stay put…you dig your heels in and you scream at the wind “I’m not going anywhere!” And if you’re lucky, somebody’s there holding your hand, sticking it out with you.

That’s what I want my son to know–at least for today.

 

 

Not Your Mama’s Sriracha Chili Meatloaf … and Feminism

Sriracha Chili Meatloaf and Buttery Lemon Asparagus

One of the most powerful things we can do as women is  to unleash our mad cooking skills.

Yes, I’m a feminist. Being a feminist does NOT mean that I can’t work cooking magic; it means I can. It just means it’s my choice to share my talents with the world–or at least the 4 people I love most. It means if I don’t want to, I don’t have to. But I want to, so I do.

I have found that meatloaf goes a long way towards smoothing things over after an argument. Did you know about the magical powers of meatloaf? If you didn’t know, it’s perhaps the fault of the cafeteria-style meatloaf experiences you’ve had in the past. This is NOT that!

I also must admit that since the price of beef has skyrocketed to almost $7 a pound (a pound, people!) I have been mixing beef and ground pork (I don’t like ground turkey.). But this time, I used pure beef. Because luxury.

I experimented with the glaze and it was amazing.

Ingredients:

Meatloaf:

5 pounds ground beef

1 jalapeno, chopped

1 can green chilies

1 package Knorr’s Beef Broth

2 tsp. dried onions

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

Seasoning to taste.

Glaze:

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sriracha chili sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 375.

In a blender, add the vegetables, milk, bread crumbs, broth, egg and spices. Liquefy.

In a big bowl, put the hamburger in. Pour the blender mixture on top. Mix thoroughly.

Place into a large baking pan. Smooth out so it doesn’t look weird.

In another small bowl, mix the glaze. Pour on top of the meat loaf.

Bake for about an hour or until the middle is clear.

On Homecoming Dances, Giant Mums and Growing Up

Hannah&Nate1Mum 2

A couple of months ago, I asked Nate what the plan was for Homecoming. He looked at me blankly and said, “I’m not going to any dance.”

I’m not surprised by this notion, because he has not been on any kind of date since Hannah moved to Seattle last summer.Since Hannah moved, it’s been pretty rough on the both of them. I think it would be pretty rough on anyone! There have been many tearful phone calls, many Skype dates, and many promises made.

“So, you mean you’re not going to go to any dances or events with anyone, not even as friends?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, Mom. I’m not going to anything without Hannah.”

Although I fully expected this response, it made me a little sad to think about the two of them missing out on some of the big milestones of high school: the homecoming dance, prom, the band banquet—all rites of passage that we remember all our lives.

“Hannah and I will have our own dance.”

“How so?”

“She’ll buy her dress, and I’ll put on my suit, and we’ll Skype each other.”

The thought of this nearly did me in.

Then this happened.

Here’s a picture of Hannah telling Nate that she had saved up the funds to come see him for Homecoming.

hannah

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Neither one of them has celebrated their 16th birthday yet, but in some ways they behave with the maturity of couples who have been married a dozen years.

Seattle is approximately 2,106 miles from Dallas as the crow flies. To make the drive, it takes about 31 or so hours. To fly in, Hannah spent most of the day in airports.

It’s really, really far.

(Here’s a pic of Hannah marking trees, earning money to come back to Texas).

working

But last week, they managed it.

airport

This is a pic of their reunion at the airport. I cried my eyes out–not that they noticed!

When his sisters found out, they spent about 3 days building the most beautiful mum ever. For those of you not familiar, it’s a Texas tradition. The bigger and more extravagant the mum, the better, and every girl going to Homecoming needs one. People spend tons of bucks on them! It’s crazy. When we first moved here we were schooled in the art of needing mums. It’s completely different now that we have a boy going through the process.

Jody and Sarah built Hannah’s mum with her in mind. They also made it with Nate’s marching show in mind. Nate’s solo, “The Peacock and the Sparrow” was one awesome piece.

As sweet as it was to pick her up from the airport, it was ten times more agonizing to take her back. Mum 2 Mum2

Y’all, pray for Mancub and Watergirl, and Mama Bear, will you? We all would so appreciate it.

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Fall TV: 4 Shows I Won’t Miss!

It’s fall–you know what that means. Fun, football and new TV episodes. I love it when a new season starts and all my favorite shows are back. Here’s 5 shows I love, love, love…and if you haven’t seen them I strongly suggest you check them out.

1. Parenthood
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5vCDj0tsEp0″>Season 1 Trailer

This show hooked me from the very first episode. The Braverman clan never disapoints. Well, that’s not 100% true. I was extremely disappointed (and yes, grossed out) when Julia kissed Ed last season. Blech! What is this guy’s problem? He always plays jerks (remember when he was on the Office playing Roy–still a jerk!) This is the “farewell” season and that makes me so sad. I love the Bravermans in their inperfection, although sometimes Max’s mom Christina annoys me since she always has the right thing to say. You never see her making the kids eat cereal for dinner or picking up drive-thru fare for her. Even when she was on her death bed, she managed to squeak out a request for Adam to check on Max at school. But overall, the characters are flawed and (except Christina) inperfect. I’ll miss you Parenthood!

2. Greys Anatomy

I hesitated putting this show on my list becuase it’s really not as great as it used to be, and Meridith gets on my nerves. Her lips have had so many injections that they kind of resemble Daisy Duck. But still I watch it. Why? I’m committed. I have to find out if McDreamy is gonna leave Meridith to take that job in DC where he’s working with the Prez. I also have not seen Cally and Arizona’s baby in a while. She’s always “conviently” somewhere else. She’s got to be like 20 now. I couldn’t believe that they are trying to get the viewers to swallow this stupid plot about Ellis having a love child with Webber back in the day that nobody know about. PULEEZE. Yet still I watch.

3. Modern Family

Even if there’s not a new episode on, I will watch the reruns. Why? Because they are hilarious. I love how they showcase Mitchell and Cameron’s ongoing rivalry. It doesn’t matter what it is they are competing. Cracks me up! Of the entire show I relate the most to Cameron. He’s at least honest about his faults. One question though. Why does nobody admit that Haley looks hispanic? There’s a story there.

5. American Horror Story Season 4: Freak Show

I missed the first episode so I haven’t started this one but I’m going to get around to it. I love Jessica Lange and this concept of modern Gothic tv. I never, ever watch this show if Nate is in the vicinity because sometimes there’s gratitutious parts for no apparent reason–I usally just fast forward thru those.

What’s your favorite fall lineup? Let me know! In the meantime, I’m gonna get caught up on the latest episode of Parenthood while I still can.

Jerkwads and 1st World Problems

 

This guy.

I’m a reasonable person most of the time. I don’t have a record. I pay my taxes. I buy 2% milk and take vitamins and never litter. I follow the rules.

But when I see stuff like this…well, I feel a little like a vegan trapped at a Texas barbecue. That’s CRAZY.

Why do people think it’s ok to do stuff like this? And what’s more, when I put it on Facebook, a friend of mine responded with “Yeah! I saw that guy there LAST WEEK DOING THE SAME THING.” So this guy is a repeat offender! GRRRR!

I guess I just don’t understand this kind of entitled mentality…someone who says to himself, “You know what? Even though parking spots are rarer than a Longhorn fan in Razorback country, I DESERVE two spaces for my brand new, untagged vehicle. I JUST DO.”

I would NEVER double park my giant truck in front of a popular sushi restaurant! That is unacceptable; only the biggest jerkwads would do that! (My dad, who never cursed, would call people jerkwads.) I might have used another harsher term under my breath.

But wait. Am I REALLY complaining about having to search for a parking spot? Is this the worst thing I’ve had to endure today in my cushy world? Wahhhhhhhh!

Whenever it dawns on me that I’m just as bad as Rude Truck Guy… I’m ashamed.

I often hear people joking about “First World Problems.” That’s really a catch phrase for entitlement. I’m guilty of this, without even realizing it. If the lady at the drive-thru at Starbucks doesn’t immediately come on to take my order, I get miffed. Every second that ticks by I get more annoyed. What’s taking so long? I’m BUSY. I have classes to teach and minds to ignite with knowledge! I can’t be expected to work my magic without my triple capp frapp! THE HORROR. There are people going through serious health issues, mamas grieving their children taken too soon, children going hungry. These are the real tragedies.

How spoiled I am! Here I am, on my way to have dinner with one of my sweetest friends (you all know her as Leigh Ann), at my favorite restaurant that is NOT cheap. Minutes before, I was watching Oklahoma with my Mancub, cuddling with my chihuahua, listening to the rain fall softly on the window of my cozy house. Hours before that, I finished up my first week of my dream job teaching students the joy of writing. I have so many things to be thankful for, but what do I post on Facebook? My outrage at this guy.

Forgive me Jesus.

Thank you for my cozy house that I have the privilege of taking care of. Thank you for my sweet hubby who puts up with my crazy ideas and my obsession with writing and literature. Thank you for my beautiful girls laughing in the kitchen, giving each other a hard time. Thank you for Mancub, who is transforming into a Godly man right before my eyes.

Thank you, Jesus, for these and many more blessings. Soften my heart and show me the ones in need you would have me help.

But listen, while I have you here, could you maybe send a little smiting Jerkwad’s way? Just the smallest smidge of smiting–like a giant bird doo on his precious window. If it’s not too much trouble. Amen!

 

Do you have a First World Pet Peeve you’d like to vent about? Go ahead! I’m with you, Sister!

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