Friday, January 28, 2005

Recommendation for Joyous Daily Inspirations

Sometime last year, I happened onto a used copy of "Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It's a pretty hardback book of 366 inspirations for women. Turns out it was a New York Times bestseller in 1995.

The backcover blurb gushes, "In the past, a woman's spirituality has been separated from her lifestyle. Simple Abundance shows you how your daily life can be an expression of your authentic you choose the tastiest vegetables from your garden, search for treasures at flea markets, establish a sacred space in your home for meditation (prayer?) and follow the rhythms of the seasons and the year. Here, for the first time, the mystical alchemy of style and Spirit is celebrated."

Flowery, sacchrine words. Almost made me dump the book. But I gave it a chance....thank God. It's glorious. I bought myself a brand-new copy at Borders for 2005.

The author is a Christian, although you don't need to be Christian to enjoy it. She's a gifted, creative writer who's a girlfriend. She knows us. She's a self-confessed former "workaholic, careaholic and perfectionist." She'd made money and worldly success the center of her chaotic life.

Writing this book in the mid-1990s changed her ways. In her intro, she says that as the book evolved "from creating a manageable lifestyle into living in a state of grace, I began to barely recognize the woman I once was."

She adds and I agree,"Simple Abundance has reminded me what to do with a few loaves and fishes and has shown me how to spin straw into gold. Simple Abundance has given me the transcendent awarenesss that an authentic life is the most personal form of prayer. Everyday life has become my prayer."

I recommend this joyous book for every woman. It will soothe your soul, grow your gratitude and compassion, and cause you to more fully appreciate the details of everyday life. It's done that for me. I think that has a name....Holy Spirit.

Check out Sarah Ban Breathnach's website, too....Simple Abundance.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Changed Lives in Two Hours

Have you ever had a day of such unusual, significant changes that it bore the distinct feel of God's plan?

I arrived home about 1:30 PM from an appointment to find my husband, arms outstretched, opening the front door for me. My 51 year old husband got fired from his crummy, tension-filled job. After chatting with him for a while, I checked my email. guessed it. I landed that plum job. I even get a small signing bonus. (I am now part of the press.)

Within the span of two hours, we both walk entirely new professional paths.

We're numb right now. No panic, no elation. None of the changes have yet processed. We're occupying ourselves with everyday humdrum: I'm making dinner and reading paperwork, Andrea's doing homework, and Ron's relaxing in the family room.

I would say we're grateful for these momentous events, but truth is....we have no idea if this is positive. It just is. It's reality.

Our only option, it seems, is to relax and follow wherever God is leading us.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Reflections on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision in the infamous Roe v. Wade case, in which abortion without limits was made legal in the US. Since 1973, an abortion may be performed at anytime during pregnancy and for no reason whatsoever.

At my political blog,
Heart, Soul & Humor, I republished a November 29, 2004 piece with my advice to the Democratic Party on this issue. The good news is that some leading Democrats don't support no-holds-barred abortion "rights." One of them, the new Senate Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, is a pro-life Mormon. (Yes, a Democratic Mormon. Interesting guy. I'll be publishing a piece on him soon)

But pragmatic, political advice and personal feelings can be quite different. On a personal level, I can never imagine having an abortion, and I deeply pray that our two daughters and two sons feel the same.

Three of the most meaningful, glorious days of my life were when I gave birth. I still remember every detail of my childrens' deliveries, 28, 26 and 13 years ago. I remember their faces, their cries, their tiny fingers. I remember holding each of them for the first time. Sometimes I think only a mother can truly comprehend Luke 2:19 about Mary just after Jesus was born..."But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Me, too.

Ten years ago, a relative casually confided to me that she had an abortion. She said it with little voice inflection, like she had a mole removed. Caught by surprise, I flushed and stammered. I think my reaction made her feel judged or guilty. We never again spoke of it.

I think about that lost baby. I've cried for that lost baby. I still cry for that baby as I write this. He/she would be about 24 years old. He/she would be part of our family...part of our lives...part of our celebrations and gatherings...part of our love. I wonder if my relative misses that child. I hope someday to finally meet that baby in heaven.

We know another woman who had two abortions as a teenager. She hides her history from her adult son, and maybe from her husband. She seems curiously disconnected from children. She's a Christian now. I wonder if she feels the peace of God's forgiveness for her abortions. I wonder if she thinks of those two babies.

Both women were able to have abortions because of the Roe v. Wade decision. The world is poorer because those three babies were never born and never had a chance to live fulfilled, joyful lives.

I hope Roe v. Wade gets overturned.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Embarrassment in Colorado Springs

From yesterday's New York Times, "Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge" by David Kirkpatrick....

"On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

'Does anybody here know SpongeBob?' Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show 'The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.'

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a 'tolerance pledge' that includes tolerance for differences of 'sexual identity.'

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth.
'The fact that some people may be upset with each other peoples' lifestyles, that is O.K.,' Mr. Rodgers said. 'We are just talking about respect' ....

On Wednesday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Mr. Dobson at Focus on the Family, said the group stood by its accusation. 'We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids,' he said. 'It is a classic bait and switch.' "

With all the violence, anger, greed, poverty, disease and even genocidal intolerance in this world, with all the children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or undereducated, and James Dobson uses a captive Congressional audience to complain about possibly gay tendencies of a fictional, cartoon character?

Dr. Dobson demeans and damages all the good his
Focus on the Family has done for families with his silly, childish behavior and grossly misplaced priorities. He's become an embarrassment to the evangelical Christian movement that he seeks to support. He could've accomplished greater miracles for families had he maintained Billy Graham-style Godly love for all, rather than morphing into a narcissistic, political caricature.

How sad.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Roast Pork in Mole Sauce - 2005 New Recipe # 2

I've been working too hard lately and have another long work week ahead of me, so decided to relax this afternoon by tackling a complex recipe. (If you remember, I made a New Year's resolution to make 30 to 50 new recipes in 2005. I'm an accountability group of one, and will be accountable by publishing each new dish right here....)

The elected new recipe for tonight's dinner ...the holy grail of Mexican cooking, mole. I created this bit of culinary heaven after browsing mole recipes in 4 cookbooks. Ron relished every drop of the rich, mutli-faceted sauce over savory roast pork . Our 13 year old was less impressed, but still enjoyed it. I recommend this dish when you want to inspire your gourmet dinner bunch, or romance a sophisticated Mexican food lover.

Once you've gathered the ingredients, this mole is surprisingly quick to prepare.

Roast Pork in Mole Sauce

major ingredients:
pork roast, preferably loin sirloin
garlic salt
1 dried chipotle chile
2 tbspns, ground red chile pepper
3 cups, chicken broth
3 flour tortillas, cut into small pieces
3/8 cup, tomato sauce
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbspns, raisins
1 tbspn, sesame seeds
1 1/2 tspn, sugar
1 square, unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tbspn, Laura Scudders natural peanut butter (smooth)
1/4 cup, canola oil
Cover dried chile with warm water for 1 hour. Then chop finely.
Sprinkle pork roast liberally with garlic salt, and roast at 325 degrees
for the appropriate time. Roast should be done
exactly when you finish the mole.
Combine into a bowl 2 cups of chicken broth and all other
ingredients listed above, except chocolate. Place in blender and liquefy until smooth.
Pour into large sauce pan, along with 1 cup chicken broth and 1 tbspn canola oil
Simmer until gently bubbling.
Add chocolate. Stir in while it melts.
Blend in1/2 tspn of each of the following....cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg,
ginger and 1 tspn of cumin.
Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Serve over sliced roast pork.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Passion & Perseverance, Peace & Serenity

I'm mid-point in a 17-day "try-out" for a position as liberal political editor for a major online info website. Early November, my son-in-law suggested that I submit an application, so I did. To my surprise, on Jan 5, they sent me an email expressing interest, and offering me a trial run that started on Jan 7. (My son-in-law, a freelance writer, works for them as national editor on an entirely different topic. )

My task is to create a website, using their God-awful software, devoted to current liberal (not Democratic) issues and emerging liberal leaders, with a fair and balanced, not ranting and raving, perspective. Typical me...for the sake of perfection, I make the job big. Then exhaust myself.

I must provide balanced and brief explanations, relevant links and issues papers on.....get security privatization proposals; the economy, monster trade deficit, income taxes, jobs and outsourcing; environmental concerns as global warming, preservation of wildlands and recycling; election reform and voting rights; death penalty; the wars on terror and in Iraq; abortion and Roe v. Wade (which I don't support, but still must explain); faith in public life (my idea...I have so much to say); health care; homeland security; stem cell research; education and "No Child Left Behind;" the USA Patriot Act and civil rights; and immigration reform. And leadership.

I'm tired with just 8 days under my writing and researching belt. But not too tired. That's part of the test....passion and perseverance, not just knowledge and writing talent. I have passion and perseverance in spades, so I'll finish this race, and finish it well.

But if I get the gig, which is not assured, the race will just be starting. I'll finally and officially be the journalist (press passes!) I started out to be when I was an undergraduate. I already find my mind continually preoccupied with news cycles, press releases and CNN breaking reports. I find myself eating badly and quickly, not exercising, drinking too much coffee, sitting all day and neglecting things I don't want to neglect.

My youngest is now 13 and almost a high school student. She's the last child at home. It's the perfect time for a new, satisfying venture to fill my life, but I'll need to learn to live it better than I have this past week. I'll need to integrate this new endeavor with my usual peace and serenity of everyday life.

Or else it's not worth it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wise Words for Today from Martin Luther King, Jr

To honor the January 15 birthday of an American son, visionary leader Martin Luther King Jr., a few quotes from him, courtesy of Brainy Quotes....

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in time of moral confict."

"The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving our peaceful tomorrows."

"Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase."

"Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies---our else? The chain reaction of evil---hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars---must be broken or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."

"We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

"Peace is not merely a distant goal we see, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

Amen, Dr. King.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Robert Frost on a Rainy Day

Rain rain rain has pelted us for days. Weeks. Rain with wind. Heavy rain. Greater Los Angeles has fourfold its normal seasonal rain level this winter, and it's only January. Streets are flooded and flooding. Our backyard is a lake, and the rain continues.

I don't mind rain, but I don't love it. It's a cold inconvenience. One wonderful thing about makes for cozy reading curled up on a couch. It gave me time to read poetry today.....Robert Frost. His words are simple and solitary, full of meaning.

The rain to the wind said,
"You push and I'll pelt."
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged---though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.
A Time To Talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, "What is it?"
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Mexican Potato-Cheese Soup - 2005 New Recipe # 1

I made a New Year's resolution to make 30 to 50 new recipes in 2005. I'm my own accountability group of one, and will be accountable for this resolution by publishing each new dish right here....

Ron and Andrea adored it. They slurped with such gusto, that I had to strongly stake my claim to save a bowl for today's lunch. This recipe is a slightly modifed version of that in "Coffee House Cookbook" by the University of California, Davis coffee house staff, 1996. (Buy, beg or borrow a copy of this fabulous cookbook of casual comfort food with an international touch. The no-fail recipes are extraordinary. I bought my copy when my oldest daughter was a a student at UCDavis.)

2005 New Recipe # 1 - Mexican Potato-Cheese Soup
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled & sliced thinly
1 tbsp, canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tbsps, garlic, minced
1 7-oz can, green chiles, diced
6 cups, chicken broth or water
2-3 tspns, garlic salt
1 tspn, cumin
1 tspn, black pepper
2 tspns, butter
2 tbspns, flour
1 cup, low-fat milk
1 cup, sour cream
1 cup, jack cheese, grated
In a soup pot, cover potatoes with water/broth and simmer until potatoes are tender.
In a separate pan, saute onions in oil.
Add to potatoes, the onions, garlic, chiles, salt, cumin and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, make a roux by melting butter and adding flour. Then slowly add milk, stirring constantly, until you've created a creamy, smooth white sauce.
Stir roux into the simmering soup.
Five minutes before serving, stir sour cream into simmering soup.
Serve with jack cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Truth and Overcommitment

Since the November 2 election, I've overcommitted, overpartied and overstressed. Happily, I might add, but still overdone.

I was a pollworker for 15 frantic hours on Election Day. As I moped around on Nov 3, licking my wounds of loss, my son called to say hello...and by the way, I'm getting married Nov 20 and we're having a baby in May. So with my ex-husband's wife and my new daughter-in-law's Spanish-only-speaking family, we frantically pulled together a lovely church wedding and sitdown dinner reception in 17 days. Yes, 17 days.

Thanksgiving was 5 days after the wedding, followed by the joys, wonders and jarring pace of the Christmas season. (See my Dec 19 post.) Two weeks with Ron and Andrea home. Two blessed weeks of planning and shopping, cooking and eating, presents and parties, topped off by fun New Year's Eve festivities.

This week I started researching and writing a series on a political subject that's been floating in my thoughts. On Monday and Tuesday, I published parts 1 & 2 at my other blog, Heart, Soul & Humor. Hits and readership for Heart have grown radically, wildly, in recent weeks, and I feel such passion for the topics. It's exhilirating.

I woke up today tired, though. Tired and hungry to recharge, renourish, ready to lie low for a couple days. Ron and Andrea are back to their day lives,and I regained peace and quiet. So I exercised this morning, took a leisurely shower, baked a healthy pumpkin-raisin cake (no frosting).

I read from my fave Christian devotional, a 1928 book "A Way to Peace, Health and Power - Studies for the Inner Life" by Bertha Conde. The chapter on "The Spirit of Truth" leaped out at me. These words hit deeply...."Truth demands courage, and that is why so many timid people are afraid of it or dare not utter it....All the blessings of human society would disappear if the spirit of truth were withdrawn."

I quietly prayed to know how God wants to use my recent passions. I do it because I seek to tell the truth, and to have the truth heard. I don't often feel heard outside family.

As if to answer me...I received an email this afternoon from a major internet site, asking me to "auditon" for their lead editor position for liberal politics. I'd submitted an inquiry months ago, had entirely forgotten about it. They've been reading my work, following my blogs, and they're interested. It would be an amazing opportunity for exposure and influence to bring truth to others.

I think I'll give it my best shot. Maybe this is where God is next leading me.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Christmas Card Stories

I can't bear to throw away Christmas cards. We have a basket in our family room full of cards and letters received over the last couple years. Sparkly greetings with trees, stockings, holly, beaches, bald eagles, candy canes and holy scenes, and always, people sharing family news, sharing dreams, sharing their lives. We don't often see some of these loved ones, so their greeting card gab is all the more precious.

This December, our mail box held photos of a family on the North Shore of Oahu; four siblings sitting on a rock, Center Court at Wimbledon; children swimming, surfing and fishing; four horses and three dogs (all on one card); 12 family members attending the Lion King musical in Reno.

There was a photo of Steve with his arm around his dad, who has suffered for several years with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Dad has been off chemo since summer. There was a photo of one-year-old Kate in front of presents and warming fireplace. Her parents are so grateful for their only child, who was born with disabilities and only one functioning kidney. There was a photo of my niece Emily and her new husband at their elopement wedding in the Bahamas. They look young and exuberant in wedding dress and tux, standing oceanfront just after taking their vows.

My sister sent us two cards, so her recordkeepng hasn't improved. We received cards and letters by email, which is just as touching and personal to us. One clever and always trendy family sent a letter composed mainly of symbols.....for sports played, places visited, musical instruments played, remodeling projects completed.

Today, I will retire our Christmas 2004 cards and letters to the family room basket. And in 2005, I will savor the smiling photos, the sentimental and newsy words, the pieces of peoples' lives.

God is good.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Perfect Start to 2005

Good company, good conversation, good food and a steamy kiss from my husband at the stroke of midnight.

The party started at 6 PM so I thought it would poop out by 10 PM. I was wrong. The potluck New Year's Eve party for 30 of all ages was great fun, with games, laughter and the Times Square ball dropping amid a festive crowd.

A perfect way to start 2005.