Winter Storm Yum!

We love chili when frigid air hovers, and it doesn’t matter if its white or red. As a matter of fact, I prefer white. I make this when rotisserie chicken goes on sale, and good fortune preceded this storm, so yay! We’re in luck, because I’m just about to hit the kitchen.

If you’re new to white chili, here’s my recipe.

  • one shredded chicken
  • 1-2 chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1 can diced jalepenos to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2-3 cans chicken broth
  • 3-4 cans navy beans
  • pint of cream or evaporated milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

I saute the onion and garlic in butter, add all the seasonings and chicken and broth. I like to rinse my beans well in water. I lose the B vitamins, which are water soluble, but I also never get gassy, so it’s worth it to me! Simmer awhile. Add the cream/evaporated milk shortly before serving. I add a dollop of sour cream, some sliced avocado and grated cheese to the top and wowsers!!

Obviously I adore creature comforts, and this satisfies. Complete the meal with some cornbread and you’ve got a rib-sticking heart-warming dinner. Bon Appetit!

Narnia or Snowpocalypse? It all depends.

Winter’s death grip on the midwest remains strong. I took a 2-3 week hiatus from blogging during the holidays and our remembrance of Alma’s birthday. I didn’t have a lot of uplifting thoughts, anyway.

Then storms struck and we lived on generator power for a couple days. We saved the freezer. We heat with wood, so we stayed warm. But life between the haves and have-nots bore a strong distinction between those who loved the snow and those  who felt otherwise. I kept my computer at arm’s length awaiting our re-entry into civilized society.

Now I vacillate between pleasure over earthly comforts, ready to write, and at the same time I peer timidly into the future, with more ice/snow coming our way by week’s end. I see both sides of the perspective continuum.

Here’s the thing: Your perspective on winter landscapes depends on your creature comforts. In the throes of having no power, heating with wood and trying to keep a generator running, the snow became my enemy. When power was restored and our porch shoveled and the drive bladed by my good man, we headed to town and marveled over a magical landscape. It looked like we were traveling through Narnia.Image result for images narnia children crossing ice

Let’s remember, though, that the characters in Narnia didn’t enjoy the cold or the ice or the scenery as they struggled to survive. Spectators enjoy the scenery. Survivors not so much. We love our heritage as being rugged individualists and survivors, but we have been coddled into a generation of spectators. We need to be prepared for every eventuality and strong in the face of adversity. Civilization’s thin veneer is more easily punctured than you might imagine. We exist one disaster away from once again struggling to survive. Look up the FEMA recommendations for surviving a natural disaster and be the hardy pioneer stock we claim to be!

Thanksgiving is Easy When You Approach the Holiday Like It’s a Tactical Invasion

I love Thanksgiving. I really do.  I love all the foods, love having my family hang out, love the idea behind it.  It is my favorite holiday until about 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving night, when the Rhoads family Christmas tree goes up. But Thanksgiving for the uninitiated can be quite daunting…hence this blog.

If you are new to preparing the family feast, you’ll find it much easier if you approach the holiday with the tactical precision of a military commander planning the invasion of Normandy. I kid you not. It takes military genius to pull this thing off.

If your turkey isn’t already thawing, go now. Right now. Buy a fresh one. It takes 4 days to defrost an 18 pound turkey in the fridge. If yours is smaller, you may still have time. I keep mine in a picnic cooler with a thermometer. As it thaws it keeps the cooler about the same temperature as a fridge…but I have to watch if the oven is on too much. Sometimes I toss the cooler outside if it isn’t freezing, sometimes it moves in an out over the course of a day…I know, it’s a pain. But hey, that’s a lot of refrigerator real estate to fork over when it’s already jam-packed with everything else.

Tuesday morning dawns with my preparations in full swing. I make my mashed potatoes on Tuesday, using cream cheese and sour cream to keep them creamy and delightful. I start drying 2 loaves of bread for stuffing, and I organize ingredients with spices across the dining room table. Tuesday evening is cranberry sauce. Wash your berries, taking out the ones that float. I use the recipe on the package and even though Bill is the only one of the family who likes them, I make a double batch every year. If there’s a lot left over, I can always make more Jello, lol.

Wednesday is pie, jello and stuffing day. I bake pies and try to move them around so they don’t freeze while staying the appropriate temperature. Let me just sat this: Mother Nature, I want a steady 45 degrees through Thanksgiving! Morning; While the pies are baking I’m cooking giblets. Pumpkin pie requires putting everything into the bowl in the proper order so your spices don’t clump, but making them from scratch is huge. The canned pie mix is too bland or me. Afternoon: Jello time! I usually make a blueberry concoction with a nice frosting, but it was Alma’s favorite, so I’m exploring a new recipe this year. There’s no sense in crying through the day. Evening: By Wednesday night you need to have chopped and mixed the stuffing.  Don’t skimp on the sage. I mix it up and taste it an hour later to be sure it’s savory and perfect. If you can’t farm out the sweet potatoes, make those Wednesday evening as well.

Thursday morning starts at 5:00 am, when we stuff the turkey and stick it in the oven. I know. You aren’t supposed to stuff the bird, but hey, stuffing just isn’t the same in a casserole dish. I can always taste the difference, and since it’s one of my favorite things, it simply must get stuffed. Finish the Jello by 10:00 am. If your dinner is noonish, the potatoes go in the oven by 11:00. Make sure you take your turkey out a half hour before you’re ready to carve. Spoon out the stuffing.

Carving the turkey: First remove the drumsticks. Systematically remove the thighs and wings. Now cut down the center of the bird to bisect the breast. Once you’ve lifted it aside, it can be easily sliced. Do the same with the other side. Fill one half of the platter with white and the other half with dark.

Gravy time! Start with the appropriate stock, skimming off excess grease. Season it. Make a slurry of flour and water, and add it to the gravy, whisking like a madwoman. Continue the process, letting it cook as it thickens.

Image result for images thanksgivingThankfully, other family members are bringing sweet potatoes, rolls, appetizers, a vegetable casserole, and extra desserts. So happy about that! Trust yourself. You can do this. Just have a plan, and make it very specific. It makes Thanksgiving easy and your family will be so impressed. And thankful.

 

How to Cure a Dawdler Without Strangulation, My Five Tips

Passive aggressive children (coworkers, siblings, roommates) suck the energy right of you, don’t they? People don’t wake up one day and decide to be passive aggressive. No, they act that way because of years of practice, but it begins in childhood. It is most often seen in a child who is given a job–be it getting dressed, cleaning a room, or doing schoolwork, and who then dawdles through it. The child professes to be working at it so shouldn’t be chastised, but in reality is ignoring it, and it drives you to the point of pulling your hair out. That’s the key point in diagnosing passive aggression. If it doesn’t make you crazy, it isn’t passive or it isn’t aggression. But when you see it, before you reach the crazy stage, implement character training. It must be weeded out before it takes root and becomes a way of life.

We see this in the lives of people, not animals. First of all, no mama rhino would let her child be non-compliant. And secondly, dawdlers in the animal kingdom are eaten when the lions chase the pack. Therefore they cease to exist. The mama rhino knows that and trains it out of her offspring. Let us do likewise!

In us humans it’s different, and all too often we make allowances for it. Sometimes we think we can reason it away. Nope. The child (and counterpart adult) seldom voices the reason for passive aggression, and may not be cognizant of it. Thus scolding, talking, reminding and yelling are all ineffective. In our household this week, passive aggression came in the form of a young miss who just sat and did no math, while professing three hours later she was doing it but it was just so hard. (sob, sob) Sound familiar? (Let me just clarify here that when forced to do it, she completed her work in less than 15 minutes. Let’s not fall prey to tears, feeling sorry for the tyke. No, she was dawdling.)

Obviously a spouse, sibling or coworker acts outside the realm of your authority, so you cannot compel a change. Only influence can be brought to bear. But a child is your responsibility.  Your primary job is raising up a righteous generation, and refusing to deal with dawdling hurts not just the rhythm of the present day, but will impact your child in future years. No one enjoys being around a passive aggressive person, no employer likes to hire a passive aggressive person, and few spouses remain married to a passive aggressive person. Fail to deal with it, and your child will pay the price for a very, very long time.

Ready to fix the problem? These are my five tips for dealing with dawdlers:

  1. Move the child next to you. Children who see constant eyes upon them finally dig in and get the job done. K did her math in minutes once I had her within arm’s reach and kept my eyes on her. Of course it upsets your day and requires your attention, but putting in the required time pays off in the end. It’s your job. Just do it. Be the rhino. Everything else can wait when your child needs correction.
  2. Reward dawdling with consequences. K had math, math, math, math, math for all her subjects until I saw a change of attitude and performance. Only then was she allowed to work independently (away from my side) and then still on math, until she proved her good workmanship. In the words of an old song, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” For another situation it might mean cleaning the bathroom and the hall and the kitchen after the original chore was accomplished (with mom lounging in full view with iced tea in hand.) Life has consequences. Don’t thwart that natural order if you wish to raise a responsible child.
  3. Apply the Word. Scripture study and memorization of applicable verses reaches the soul. There’s the heart of the problem, right? Apply eternal light to a little speck of darkness. One of my favorites is 1 Samuel 15:23.
  4. Talk. Inspire. Praise. Passive aggressive children–after consequences have been applied–need a heavy dose of conversation. Why do you suppose you didn’t do your math? and Did it make you happy to be disobedient? and How do you feel now? Many of us act unconsciously when upset until we are able to sit down, ponder, and figure out what made us feel that way. If we have trouble pinpointing a problem as adults, surely we shouldn’t expect that same self awareness in a child. Focus on the situation at hand and let your child grow up a little before you try psychoanalysis, lol. But talk. A lot. Growing love inspires a child to be obedient.
  5. Do this as often as necessary. Your child needs to know that he/she will NEVER win the war of passive aggression. Clear the calendar as often as necessary and get ‘er done. Expect recurrences. Never let your child win in the game of dawdling.

be the rhinoParents, be the rhino! Of course if you home school, this is easier for you. You aren’t racing off with a non-compliant child to be on time somewhere. You can devote yourself to child training. Your reward? A few weeks of happy compliance before it starts all over again. But those few weeks? They’re worth all the hassle.

Let me encourage you, parents, to do your duty. Take the raising of your children as your primary source of employment, and do the job thoroughly. It takes time and effort, but you’ll love that youngster all the more as an adult, an adult who isn’t passive aggressive.

What To Do When Capitalism Goes Awry

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in capitalism over all other national forms of economic structure. I do believe, however, that something has gotten our economic system out of whack.

Right now the old aphorism that it takes money to make money has never been more true. Entrepreneurs, inventors, craftsmen and authors find themselves disenfranchised when it comes to getting noticed or marketing their products. It takes a hefty bankroll to break into the public consciousness.internet

Social media leveled the playing field for a short time, but then Facebook began manipulating the posts, so no one knows who actually receives what is put online. The ever mysterious metrics on Google make reaching people on the world wide web more a case of hocus pocus and less a marketing strategy that anyone can implement with precision. The slow demise of the printed newspaper has compounded the dilemma. Even catching the eye of a reporter is difficult when the electronic age insulates them from from unwanted solicitation. The cost of advertising on any of these platforms also favors the lucky recipient with a bankroll.

The result cheapens the market because we see is not necessarily the best of the best. Cream doesn’t always rise to the top in a manipulated market. And it’s not up to you or me to judge the difference…that’s been done for us and we’ve been spoon fed what we are allowed to see. The invisible faces of people pulling strings do that for us.

My question is: How long are we going to let the invisible entities muddy up the waters? It’s time to rise up and figure a way around the stranglehold. I have ideas. Pockets of people could create accounts for startups and we could finance ourselves. The successful startup would then pay back for the next recipient. We really need to get behind a new and more transparent form of social media. And finally, we need to champion the worthy causes we see around us.

internet2It isn’t easy, I know. I am one of the sisters organizing The Ultimate Expos. I see fabulous artists who go largely unrecognized despite our every attempt to showcase their work on Facebook. We commit ourselves to advancing their careers…we just have such a twisted and tightly regulated medium in which to do it.

I welcome other suggestions. It’s up to we the people to change things. What are your ideas?

Would You Vote for a 28th Amendment?

I know, we only find 27 amendments to our Constitution, a tribute to the foresight and wisdom of our founding fathers.  I think we need a 28th, however.  You see, I think government has gotten out of hand, and I see no inclination by those in power to reign it in.  Yup.  We need a 28th amendment on term limits.

Our founding fathers evolved into statesmen from a variety of occupations:  They worked as farmers, soldiers, shop keepers, journalists.  They served under penalty of death at the hands of the British, not for a lifetime stipend beyond the imaginations of the citizens, but for their love of country.  Their labor was a sacrifice of time, money, and in some cases, life itself.

Fast forward 200 years and we now see men and women who consider themselves career politicians with the bank rolls to prove it.  I mean no disrespect.  I merely state the obvious.  The best get the same pay and benefits as the worst scoundrels, and have you taken the time to count how many voted against their last pay hike?

I wonder how many would covet the office if they had to turn in expense receipts for reimbursement and served at the same wage we citizens earn as a standing jurist, $6 a day.  That’s right.  If the expenses were met for airfare and staples, but their only compensation was $6 a day, whose love of country would flame so passionately that he/she would serve at a sacrifice for the good of the country?

Of course, I can’t prevent money flowing under the table.  Evil will seek its own.  But I can lessen the damage done by giving each one less time and a better reason to serve.  Our two-party system may be so fatally flawed that not even a Constitutional amendment can fix it…but we owe it to our children to try.

term 1I was honored with the opportunity to meet Vice President Pence, Josh Hawley, and Roy Blunt when they flew into Kansas City last week.  I long admired our Vice President, and he was just what I expected.  Integrity gleamed from his eyes.  I loved meeting Josh Hawley.  His shy smile and honest eyes won my vote.  I already knew Senator Blunt, and I appreciated seeing him as well.  Why do I bring this up?  Do you know what goes into a visit like this?term 2

Airplanes the size of Nebraska (just kidding) fly in their armored cars.  Oceans of suits with ear buds scan the perimeter.  It’s a pretty big deal, and I realized how BIG our government has grown to require such measures.  We were but one stop…I can’t fathom what it costs to ferry around all these candidates spouting the same rhetoric we see on every commercial on TV.  I know.  It’s part of the process.  I respect that…but not what a huge thing it’s become.term 3

Will a 28th Amendment solve every problem?  No, I freely admit it won’t.  But would it be a reasonable first step?  Yes, I believe it would be.  I firmly support term limits.  I’d love to see a few million people agree with me.

Is Your Vision 20/20?

Am I 20/20?  Nope, not even a little bit.  People…I don’t know, people like doctors, maybe people who know me, the DMV, all wonder why I never wear my glasses.  Am I myopic?  Yes.  But here’s the thing:  I can see cars, signs, people.  If I know where I’m going, they aren’t necessary.  Truthfully, I suffer from a chronic malady rendering eyeglasses insignificant.  I am afflicted with chipmunk cheeks.  My glasses fog up when it’s hot and they fog up when it’s cold, so really, what’s the point?

Much more important to me is developing 20/20 spiritual vision.  Recognizing the signs of the times.  Realizing good for being good and evil for being evil, and rightly discerning the importance of world events constitutes perfect vision for me.  It requires stepping back, back, back…and looking at the big picture.

foggy statueThe minutiae of life makes everything fuzzy when we fail to look at the big picture.  Big ideas like liberty, salvation, faith, who God is…you know, the things that span eternity…require clear vision to fully appreciate them.  A recent trip to NYC brought that home for me.  I’ve seen Lady Liberty in gorgeous sunshine and brisk cold weather.  This was my first time to see her shrouded in fog.  It reminded me of how hazy the big picture looks these days.

Perhaps people become spiritually myopic in life because their God is so small that their frame of reference diminishes to a pin prick of self-righteousness.  Their vision gets hazy and they miss the big picture.  I see God in bold brush strokes painting an elaborately choreographed picture of His return.  If you agree, join me for further discussions!

How to Avoid a Moldy Life

The choice is yours:  A moldy life or living instant in season.  The Bible offers this one short phrase as an injunction for all of life.  At first I wondered what it could possibly mean, but I learned its lesson the hard way.  I now base much of my life upon it…but what does that mean to you?

Nike says it succinctly: Just do it.  I add the now.

I like this wry explanation. “Someday is not a day of the week.”  Penned by Denise Brennan-Nelson, her tongue-in-cheek view of the antithesis makes me smile.

Defined by action, being instant in season requires immediacy.  Thinking of someone?  Call or pen a note.  Yes, I’m old school.  Our children text or email, but the result remains the same.  The lifeline you toss to another may be just that.  Solomon talked about it:  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”  A prayer into the universe gets directed to you and what? You procrastinate? You choose not to answer?  Whose hope, whose life drowns because you chose to do it someday?  Lifelines save lives and heal hearts, as I’ve learned so poignantly these last few months.  Instead, be instant in season.

We once lived in an over-sized garage. We never redecorated or made it our own because, of course, it was just temporary.  Why pour money into something we’d be leaving behind?  Four years later it looked exactly the same as when we moved in, and I learned my lesson.  Make your life your own today.  Live in the now. Embrace the tangible and make it real.

The basis of living in season is falling in love with your life.  Create a life beyond mere existence, a life of passion.  Yes, goals may be long term, but actionable steps make the promise real today, not tomorrow.  Distilled down into the nitty-gritty, it requires taking responsibility for your hopes and your dreams, being the architect of your own future.

neverWhat happens when we fail to live our lives instant and in season?  Ever have to clean moldy food out of the refrigerator?  Your hopes and dreams become diseased and unhealthy when harbored past a designated shelf life.  Turned in upon themselves, you create your own desert of depression.  The cure?  Toss out the old and dream up some new.  My planner for 2018 reminds me of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote: “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”  I look at it and read it several times a day.  Yes, I believe that.  With all my heart.

When Bitter is more than Sweet

It’s a bittersweet day at the Rhoads house.  After 8 years of having Alma’s family closer than/better than neighbors, they move into town today.  Of course we support their decision and wish the best for them.  At the same time, I’ve been crying for days now.  It’s like losing Alma all over again.

How do we deal with these times of bitter change that don’t feel sweet at all?  I ask because boomers face more and more difficult changes as they age.  Knowing we traverse an expected transition does little to ease the angst, however.  Surely something moves the sweet into the bitter?  I mean, I’d love a sweetbitter experience over a bittersweet any day of the week.

So what helps?

  • Of course, counting blessings tops the list.  I am grateful we enjoyed so much time with these precious ones.  And hopefully out of sight doesn’t mean we’ll be out of their lives!
  • Crying helps.  Wait! What?  Yes, it’s okay to grieve loss.  I feel Alma very close these days.
  • Self-indulgence is permitted.  One day I have got to give up sugar again, but I still comfort myself with little treats.
  • Find new interests.  We’re working on that.  Easier said than done, because while we are a pair, we are still two very different people.  Writing helps me a lot.
  • Figure out how to survive without help.  Really?  Alma did 90% of the upkeep, and we see no viable solution here.

So, three out of five isn’t bad, is it?  The only problem is that we’ve been mired at this stage for months now.  How long do these transitions last?  Is there ever really a cure for a broken heart, broken dream, broken life?  We wear smiles.  We stay busy.  I write a lot.  But underneath the veneer little changes.  The bitter still outweighs the sweet, and this day more than most.

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Flag Down

flag downThe midterm elections lie inches away in my calendar timeline and I, for one, cannot wait. The cacophony of ads every time I turn around hurts my ears. He said, she said…and precious little corroboration for anyone’s claims. The vitriolic nature of discourse dim my hope for our nation. I fear it will soon be flag down, for good.

Now I’m not a political pundit.  Trust me on that.  Still, I think two simple words shade my voting tendencies.  I think two simple words will determine the outcome of this election for many of us.

Kavanaugh.  No matter where you fell on the Kavanaugh spectrum, the Kavanaugh spectacle made me sick.  Literally.  Have we sunk so low as a nation that judicial confirmation hearings look like an episode of Jerry Springer rather than an august deliberation?  And none of the participants in the debacle seem bothered by that? I fear for my country.

Word two: Caravan.  A mob of Hondurans march to cross our border. Again. And our response is…what?  Do we welcome them with open arms or arms fully loaded?  I hear little discussion on how to meet and greet these folks, but this only serves to highlight the tension surrounding border control.  Am I the only one who sees a problem here?  No matter where you stand on humanitarian immigration, I think we can all agree that should we accept thousands at a time we might as well switch our national language to Spanish. Habla espanol?

we the peopleI don’t know about all y’all, but I’m a two-word voter this election.  Kavanaugh.  Caravan.  You don’t have to sit on my side of the kitchen table to agree…these are two defining moments for our nation.  And our response to them will change the course of our nation. We the people better be figuring it out, because I don’t see a lot of answers coming out of either side of the aisle in DC.