Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Tree

My brother is typically the one to speak in analogies in a blog - but I had a little moment today and I thought I would share it. All the loose ends of the analogy aren't tied neatly - but perhaps you'll find your own analogy in one of the hanging threads. Or, perhaps, you will just shake your head at someone waxing poetic and making something out of nothing.

As I was walking home from a date with myself (a date that went so well I asked myself to coffee after lunch and a movie) I heard a sound that reminded me of rain hitting the roof of the metal trailer in which I grew up. There was no rain though - and if there had been it would've fallen softly as snow in the sub-freezing temperatures. I was pretty certain that no one was foolish enough to be watering their grass either. I looked around for the root of the sound when I realized I was standing next to it - - a tree - - one planted for landscape decor in someone's front yard still had most of its leaves. They were brown and shriveled - turned inward upon themselves - but they clung to the branches when all the trees around stood with their veiny branches naked. The wind blew through and all the leaves shuddered a bit and rattled against each other in a soft rustle - and not a one flew off.

While I am sure this is not the only tree bearing brown leaves in the middle of winter - it is the one I saw today. I wondered about that tree - filled with foliage months after most of the leaves in the neighborhood had been neatly raked into piles and then stuffed into tall brown bags to be carted away with the other debris. Inches upon inches of snow and ice had fallen on those leaves - and even that weight was not enough to make the limbs release their treasure.

Perhaps in the spring it is an exotic tree. Imported from some country across the sea and it blazes in vibrant color. This knowing-it-is-special gives the tree strength to hold on. Perhaps the owner of the house has fed the roots of the tree with a special fertilizer, tended it with mineral-infused water, carefully trimmed the tree as necessary, all with the purpose of getting the most out of her yard decor. Whatever the reason - this tree is different than the others.

But I wonder what will happen later -- how long will the leaves hang on? Will they still be there - crumpled and brown when the other trees began to bud with green? Will the refuse to relinquish their position - claiming history, experience, seniority - - to the fresh and the young? Or, will the young and strong leaves - filled with the vibrancy of life - simply push the old out of the way when the time comes? Rise up with vitality and insist on claiming their spot?

It is enough to produce a somber self-reflection on how the tree compares to my life. Do I let my old leaves rustle in the wind - stubbornly clinging to old memories of a beautiful bloom long after that time has come to an end? Do I impede new growth by continuing to wave around old, dead things - demanding that someone still listen to me - that someone still notice the dead parts of me. When in reality -- all that death is suppose to do is make room for new life. in order to get to the spring - you have to go through the winter - strip your limbs bare - make them open and vulnerable - - finish the autumn - march on through the winter to the spring. It is a cycle - it is life.

Project 365: January

I managed to get a picture every day for the month of January! I'm off to a good start on my picture-a-day for a year goal.

Here are a few of January's Photos. Click to see others as well as titles and descriptions and such. :)

Hanging By A WireEco YearNetflix OrigamiShopping Trip
Sparkling FruitWe Struck Gold!Hope, angels, and spare change.Bless You
Old NewsYumVintage DecorationsPaperback
Taxi-ng DayThe ElDon't EatCoffee with Snow

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cold Weather Comfort Food

The kids had their first snow day the other day. I'm pretty convinced that the only reason they cancelled school was because the snow was going to be falling during the morning commute - and therefore the roads would not have been cleared yet. Because, the next day there was much more snow on the ground and school was in session.

I plan the menus for the house monthly - so it was a bit serendipitous that chili was on the menu for that day. I put it all in a crock pot early in the day and we enjoyed the nice hearty warm meal for dinner. I even got a "We love your chili!" comment - which, of course, makes this cooks heart smile.

My super-simple chili recipe (which is probably why they like it as they're not big on fancy stuff)

2 lbs ground beef, browned
1 onion, chopped
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans chili beans in mild sauce
chili powder to taste

I cooked it on the crock pot on low for about five hours.

Add-ons of choice: mustard, cheese, onions, crumbled saltines, jalapenos, hot sauce

What's your favorite cold-weather comfort food? As I'm fairly certain I'm in for some more snowy days.

(Note: the picture is from Day 8 of my Project 365. There is a link to my flickr set with all of my photos on the sidebar.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Greek Penne and Chicken

In an effort to find something different to make for dinner tonight I went to and clicked on their "quick and easy" link and then took the first recipe from there. Greek Penne and Chicken. I modified it a bit for us - but it was quite yummy.

I did the recipe x4 (which means i had two huge pots of boiling pasta and two skillets with browning chicken all going at the same time - a bit crowded on the stove top - and one of the eyes doesn't heat as well as the others so I was switching the two chicken pans back and forth trying to get everything cooked. Fun times. Fun times. I would've stopped to take a picture of this except that I was busy shuffling pans)

I left out the artichoke hearts - simply because artichoke hearts look funny to me.

Instead of mixing the chicken and pasta together I kept it seperate and I also bought some pita bread so people could choose to have their chicken with pita or pasta.

I also kept a portion of the dish cheese-free for my lactose intolerant diners.

I thought it was good (I had it with pita). I didn't get rave reviews - but the plates were clean at the end of dinner and a number of them got seconds. Even the cheese-free portion went over well.

I think in a normal size family it would be a quick and easy dinner - - around here nothing is quick and easy cooking for 12 though so I can't really comment on that.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


It's that time of year where we all make grand plans for our upcoming year. Things we'll do. Things we won't do. I find, much to my annoyance, that I too feel the need to make grand statements with the coming of 2010.

1. Project 365. This is something I've considered doing for years and I finally said I was going to make the attempt for 2010. All you do is take a picture a day for the entire year. I'll be uploading mine to flickr and sharing them here occasionally. The picture on this entry is from day one, 01/01/2010. I rang in New Year's with a couple of friends - one of whom introduced us to the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight - one each for the coming months - to predict your upcoming year. So there are mine. I must say, I'm looking forward to seeing if September is juicy or not.

2. Read Through The Bible. You may recall that I started a "Read the Bible in 40 days" thing last summer. I was on a good roll until the craziness of moving out of my apartment, in with my parents for a few weeks, and then to Chicago took its toll on my reading schedule. So, here I go again. I believe I've done it successfully two or three times before - but it's been years. This year I'm using the same reading plan as a number of other women and we're all sharing our thoughts and questions as we go. I'm really enjoying these first two days and look forward to the rest of the year. I'll go ahead and share with ya'll something I noticed yesterday as it does pertain to "new."

In Luke 5:36-38 Jesus is telling a parable and says, "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

As I don't often see wineskins in my modern life the example of the garments makes much more sense to me. I think sometimes I forget that even older versions of my Christian self are just that - old. I have fond memories of times in my Christian walk where I felt like I trusted more, obeyed more, or had more joy. I have a spent a lot of time wishing I could be that girl again - almost as if I'm trying to rescue the innocent and pure faith that I feel like got taken away by life. I am, if you will, holding tightly to a tattered garment and trying to mend it. The garment was a fine garment - beautiful in many ways - but it's old now. If we continue the analogy - the things I've learned and the ways I've grown since being that version of my Christian self are the "patches torn from a new garment." I think I've always seen this passage as old=non-Christian and new=Christian - but the truth is that we are being continually made new and I can't cling to or long for parts of the old Christian self anymore than I can anything else. I need to move forward.

3. Keep track of my reading. I don't so much have a number of books goal - but I do want to keep up with what I read. I'll probably add a link here on the blog eventually where I will keep a list of my books read along with my thoughts on them. I do want to make sure that I read a roughly equal amount of fiction and non-fiction. My non-fiction interests currently include books on Health At Every Size and Sustainable Living.

4. Charitable giving. I want to become more focused on where my money goes for charitable donations as well as to become a regular volunteer for a justice cause. My main interest is in volunteering for an orginazation working to end human trafficking and/or working to help women out of the sex industry. If you know of an orginaztion in Chicago who works in those areas please let me know! I also plan to add an "Act Justly" link on this page to list out some organizations which I believe in and/or sponsor. So, hopefully that will appear here at Mashena before too long.