Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Night Lights!

It's football season! In addition to exciting College games and the beloved Sunday football, High School football is on the schedule this year. We have a great kid and an amazing athlete who lives with us. Tonight is the season opener! Go Eagles! It's kind of a long story, but TJ came to live with my husband and I right before our wedding 3 years ago. Basically, we got married and had an adolescent! Not the order most folks work with, but it's been good. We don't have any formal kind of custody through the courts or anything. We're just helping him out. I have a younger brother, but by the time I was 12, my mom and dad were divorced and we lived with different parents. So, I had never been around teenage least in my home. At times it's been difficult. If you're the parent of a teenager, I don't have to explain any of the challenges. On top of all the "normal" stuff, we've dealt with cultural differences, too. I've joked that we are our own little reality show: Two middle-aged, middle-class, white newlyweds and a black, ghetto, male adolescent. I promise you, it's been very entertaining here at times! Despite all of the times that have been hard, there are so many great things and it gets better all the time. It is a wonderful blessing to have this young man in my home. He is really growing up to be an amazing person. Not that he hasn't always been great, but...well, you know what I mean. He's funny, he's thoughtful, he cleans his room...I could go on and on. He turned 18 this month. He started his Senior year this week. I can hardly believe it! Three years have gone by so fast! TJ is also a fantastic athlete. He's a great football player, but his love is track. And he is soooo fast! It's very exciting to watch him run. The plan is to run track in college. So, we're talking to colleges and coaches praying that he can get a scholarship somewhere. This time next year, he'll be gone and attending college. Ughh...thank goodness I have a few months to get ready for that!

So, raise you's to a great kid...I mean a fine young man, a winning season, and a memorable Senior year! And thanks to God for blessing my life with this young man.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Banana Pudding

My daddy had great taste in desserts: blackberry cobbler, peach cobbler, cherry pie, almost any kind of ice cream. But I'm pretty sure his favorite was banana pudding. During the last few weeks of his life, he was at home with hospice care. The amazing people of FBC Weatherford brought us 3 meals a day for almost 6 weeks. It was a Baptist potluck everyday. I don't know about other denominations, but Southern Baptists are great cooks. One day I was looking for a snack; when I opened the refrigerator door I saw 3 bowls of homemade banana pudding! Clearly, the wonderful ladies from church knew what he liked. None of those bowls went to waste I assure you.

So, this weekend I made some for me...and my family. (Mostly for me.) If you're from the South, you already know that this is a traditional Southern dessert. The great debate, however, or cold? I've never met a banana pudding that I didn't like, but THE BEST way to eat banana pudding is warm. No questions. You're certainly welcome to weigh in on the great debate. Just know that there is only one right answer.

Here's my favorite recipe:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 (or so) sliced ripe bananas
Vanilla wafers

4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Combine flour and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in milks and yolks, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Start with a layer of wafers in the bottom of a 2-qrt baking dish. Arrange banana slices on top. Spoon about half of pudding mixture over bananas. Repeat the layer of wafers, bananas and pudding. Then I like to arrange wafers around inside edge of dish.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves. Spread meringue over pudding, sealing to edge of dish.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until golden. Please eat warm with a big glass of cold milk.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Remembering Billy

This week is the 3rd anniversary of my father’s death. I don’t feel the emotional intensity of grief that I did for so long. But I miss him terribly. As much acceptance as I have, at some level it still just doesn’t seem right that he’s gone. He was only 60 and truly one of the best people on the planet. A “good ol’ boy” cowboy. Everyone loved him. Ugh…these are the things in life that will never make sense.
Not to brag or anything, but I have dealt with this loss as well as anyone I know. I don’t know why; it’s just been that way. He died of cancer and we knew months before he died that his time was short. The grieving process began long before he ever left this life. Some of what I do to remember is cook his favorite food on his birthday, Father’s Day and this anniversary. I’m not cooking chicken fried steak today, but I am about to go eat one at Monument CafĂ©. It’s one of the best in Central Texas. However, I will make banana pudding. I read my journal from that summer. I look through photo albums and watch videos. I just remember. Daddy was buried Bell Falls Cemetary; a family cemetary in the middle of an old hay field. It’s an amazingly quiet and peaceful place. I love to go there. My tradition is to write Daddy a letter and read it at his grave. I “catch him up” on my life and our family’s over the last year. I believe that he already knows, but it’s been a very healing thing for me to do. After I’ve read it, I burn it and then bury the ashes. On the way home, I’ll have lunch at this small mom and pop restaurant…the fried catfish is awesome.
I’m a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Last season George’s father died. After he died, George and Christina had this conversation:

Christina, “
There’s this thing called the Dead Dad’s Club. You can’t be in it until you’re in it. I’m sorry you’re in it.”
George, “I don’t know how to live on this earth without my father.”
“Yeah, that (feeling) never changes.

Ugh…they’re both right. Life just isn’t the same and it seems like I’ll always feel a void.
Watching my father die was the hardest experiences that I’ve ever had. I still shutter when I remember some moments: like sitting up with him all night his last night alive giving him morphine. Even still, I will hold that event in my life as one of the greatest times of blessing. The list is long of the many things I have to be grateful for during that time, but not the least of which is the opportunity to say goodbye. I also came to know, really know, what it means to accept life as it comes to you and to be grateful. I came to a point in his illness where I could no longer pray for him to be healed and believe in that prayer. But what I could believe in was that God was and would continue to be present in whatever happened. So, I prayed for myself, my family and my father to know that presence and that it would bring us comfort. Somehow in the midst of that I was given a gift…a gift of peace that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7. It’s inexplicable and a mystery. That verse also says that peace will “guard your heart and mind.” That has been my experience. God gave me a peace that guarded my heart against anger, resentment, bitterness….any of which would have been perfectly reasonable. Instead what I could focus on was being grateful for every moment I had with him.

It’s hard to contain my thoughts and feelings into something short and concise. Hopefully I haven’t rambled too terribly. Today I’m just telling my story and remembering…its a good thing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I'm back

My intentions were so lofty…one blog per week. I didn’t think that was such a big feat. I was wrong. Yes, I’ve been extremely busy. When one works on commission being busy is a good thing. I think my absence runs a little deeper than the calendar. I just don’t think I have much to say, which is why I didn’t start a blog before now. I learn stuff, I have events in my life that I need to process, I’ve done some cool stuff in the last few months…but surely no one cares to read my ramblings. This is the stuff that goes on inside my head. But it’s those thoughts that I think are showing me an even deeper answer; one that seems to resonate as Truth but I would rather not really go there. Sitting in church a couple of weeks ago, I began to realize how disconnect from community I’ve become. I love my church, but for various reasons, I don’t go much in the last several months. That’s ramblings for another day. I lead the Youth at my church, but once Bible Study is over, I usually leave. I miss the community; I miss interacting with my friends. When I do stay, I sit in the back by myself. I recognize this most starkly at church, but when I consider the rest of my life I seem to be doing the same in other places…work and even home. I’m there; I talk to people; I’m involved in social things…sometimes. A lot of the time, I’m just by myself. Even when I am with others I often just feel detached. I’ve been depressed before, but this isn’t depression. I think it’s what happens when you don’t nurture your soul. I pray, I write, I prepare Bible Studies; I have a regular morning devotional ritual…do you see it? I do. I do this, I do that. I do a lot of good things; even for other people. I can see that my morning ritual is habit; it’s a good habit. I’m not sure, though, that it is time spent really being still, just listening…being aware of my soul. One of the books I read every morning is Sarah Ban Breathnach’s, Simple Abundance; A Day Book of Comfort and Joy. I love this book; she’s awesome. On August 1, she quoted Amercian Buddist, Jack Kornfield saying. “We must make certain that our path is connected with our heart.” That feels right for me…I think I’ve been traveling without my heart. I guess you can do good things without your heart being engaged, but I’m realizing it is leaving me feeling empty…and lazy…without vision…without passion. So, I’m making efforts to do some things differently. Changing routines, making dates with myself to do things I love (I got this brilliant idea from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), but mostly trying to just be still and quiet. This is hard right now, but at least I’m aware and hopefully making baby steps. It’s good to be here and writing today.