06 November 2014

The Hidden Emotions


A photographer friend, LauraJanePhotography, was over for supper and snapped this of the fearless wonder. 

Eason (and his siblings) have been lately playing in a large, empty culvert/drain pipe that empties/opens by our house.  There is a club with some name I cannot remember.  There are flashlights.  They've been reading City of Ember with their father, and there are purposeful parallels being drawn. 

I told him (and them) that that was fine as long as they always let me know where they are (just like the woods behind our house), but that if it ever starts raining they have to get out immediately. It's bone dry 90% of the time, but when it rains, the neighborhood's storm water will come through it, and it won't be safe for playing. 

They all buck us.  They're just not yes men.  That's an understatement.  But, we don't want unquestioning obedience.  We want obedience, respect, and trust, but we've never shut down questions about our reasons (though we try to require a certain tone).  But, though they all buck us, they buck us on different things.

Ada Brooks has always been suspicious about whether we (or anyone can....) actually *know* more than she does.  One famous quote from years back was "Of course God can make a square circle.  That's the silliest thing I've ever heard.  I mean.. I can make a square circle..."    All of those philosophical problems are just idiotic and shortsighted, and if they would ask her, she'd straighten them out.  But, if I tell her to hold a knife a certain way or wear her seatbelt, she's like "okay.  Sure.  I don't want to die." 

And Collins has always been emotionally freakin' determined.  For example, if he's sad, you can kiss his behind before he magically becomes cheerful.  If he's mad, he's mad and you might as well sit on a tack before trying to change his mind.  If he's happy, all is well no matter what you say.  I always talk about controlling one's emotions. Well, I cannot control Collins's, but it seems he can.  Just only in the way he sees fit.  But, like his sister, if i tell him "Hey - that will kill you." He's like "Oh.  Sure.  Well, then I'll stay away."





Eason... not so much.




If you said, "who is your least strong-willed?" I wouldn't hesitate.  Definitely Eason.  He can be talked into most things.  He wants to please.  He wants to conform his behavior to the right, and he wants to find the right in what his betters say is right.  But his stubborn Achilles heel is that he believes himself to be entirely invincible.
And, problematically, his experience continues to affirm this delusion.  As many times as we've run him to the emergency room, he's never had a serious injury - no surgeries, no casts, no overnight stays in the hospital.  Staple his scalp back together, and off he goes.







So, I told him, "You can play in the culvert, but you must be careful.  If there is water, immediately return."



He was all, "I am invincible.  You are crazy to ever be cautionary."
I was all, "People drown. I want you to have fun and be adventurous.  I also want you to be alive." 
He was all, "Whatever. I am still invincible.  You are still a worrier."
I was all, "Promise you hear me and will obey. Now.  Say yes ma'am."
He was all, "Yes ma'am............"  

Complete flippancy.  His siblings nodded and promised and earnestly submitted.  He submitted in word, but you could tell he was patronizingly patting me on the head.




And yet...


Last night, he started wailing from upstairs 45 minutes after being tucked in.  He had worked himself into a complete state over the possibility of being swept away into drowning in the drain pipe.  From a conversation we had three days ago.

His (worry-wort engineer) father was like "My heavens child... that's not going to happen."

"But Mama said..."

"And she was right to say that.  But you're fine.  Just use your head.  Just mind the rules.  Just don't hang out twenty feet into the culvert when it starts raining.  Seriously.  Also, if you're scared, feel free to not go in there.  Lordy."  

His latent, genetic anxiety is so great that despite having had no scary experience, he cannot sleep. 

The other two... entirely unaffected.  Entirely confident. 


The energy it takes to truly know an adult is infinite.  It is the same for children.  And we have four (!) of them. 

If someone could figure out how to motivate him toward safety without giving him panic attacks, I'd be forever grateful. 

The distance from flippant to anxious for my second child is mystifyingly short.  In fact, he seems to be able to be both at the same time. 

I am tired.  
He is wonderful.
 I thank God for protecting him day in and day out. 

02 November 2014

The Ole Miss Rebel Blackbear Landshark Turkeys?





Last night, my dear and wonderful Ole Miss Rebels suffered a devastating loss.

Losing is nothing new - we've been losing all my life.  But, some are harder than others.  And this year we've been good.  Actually good and also sort of psychically good.  And, apparently, defeats are harder when you're good.

And we played our hearts out.  And so did they.  And everyone did well. And rah rah rah.  And at the end of the game, it was close.  And one of our guys had his ankle snapped in half while trying to score the go-ahead touch down. And he fumbled.  And we lost.  And it was awful.


So...all that to say, I needed solace.

I poured myself a glass of port and I got in my bed and I found solace in the easiest, most controlled thing I know to find (fairly superficial) solace in.  I menu planned.

I menu plan every week, but this called for something more stringent. Something dramatic.  Something about which I could feel accomplished.

I planned Thanksgiving.

I do love a Thanksgiving menu plan.

Boy howdy.
See:
 
20132012
2011
2010
2009

This will be our 9th annual Thanksgiving to host and our 6th to post the menu in advance.  It's like a tradition or something.  ;)

Actually, this year, we are going to the beach for Thanksgiving, but the various people involved demanded (me included) that we not forgo the tradition. So, we're having Turkey Day a bit early - the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Which is in less than three weeks!  So, it's almost a good thing that the Rebels lost and I needed therapy. 

The Before

Tomato Feta Crustini - Contributed by my Step Mother.  She's awesome, and so is this. 

Cream of Carrot Soup -  We've become soup people, and Carrots didn't make the sides this year, so I thought I'd put it here. 


The Standards

Turkey:  I cannot decide.  So, I guess I"m not quite finished planning.  But, we will have a Turkey.  I'm thinking of trying it in the oven overnight again.  I did that two years ago and ended up with a Christmas Vacation Hissing Turkey, but I did it for the first 2-3 years we did Turkey Day, and I had excellent results.  I'll either do that or continue with the Spatchcocking and Grilling tradition we've got going.

Dressing - Grandmother's.  Cornbread.  Onions.  Celery.  Perfection. 

Sweet Potatoes - Traditional.  Hotty Toddy written in Marshmallows.  Surrounded by Pecans.  Maybe. We'll see.

The Six Selected Sides

So, Dressing and Sweet Potatoes are sides, yes, but they're non-negotiable sides.  The rest are up for debate, and I love rotating and playing with it.  Six is the number I've settled upon.  Six Forsters. Six Sides.  We're going with it. 

Salad - Crunchy Romaine Toss.  It's a family favorite of ours.  Paul loves it. We all love it.  It's crunchy and buttery and sweet. 

Potato Chive Casserole - This one is new.  We shall see.  It doesn't seem, from its ingredient list and method, that it could possibly be bad.

English Peas Au Gratin - There was this restaurant in Oxford when we were there - called Boure.  It was perfect.  My twenty-first birthday was celebrated there.  I'll mention no more about it, but I will include a picture...  Wait... no...  But, anyway, they had one of those great lists-of-sides -  you know, you could order an entre and it came with two sides.  Most places that have that are kind of mediocre, but not Boure.  Oh no.  It was *perfect*.  And my favorite side of theirs was English Peas Au Gratin.  I still love it.  And it's time again to have it. 

Roasted Winter Squash - Plain Jane.  Maybe I'll mix Butternut and Acorn?  Just salt, olive oil, maybe some Thyme or Cayenne or Both? 

Corn Souffle with Creamed Onion Sauce -  It's in a favorite cookbook - Come On In - and I've been eying it for years.  It's time.

Wild Rice with Roasted Grapes -  What?  I saw it.  I thought "Why not?" It's the exotic option for the year.  Also, my mother in law told me she likes Wild Rice. 




The On-the-Tables

Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce - I've been wanting a bit more nip, and I saw a recipe in the NYTimes, so I'm trying it. 

Gravy - Of course.  My Stepmother's recipe.  For which I must remember to buy brandy.  Must.


Canned Spiced Peaches.  It was a tradition of mine growing up, and now my children ask after them at the first gobble.  This year, Eason saw a pumpkin in Kroger in September and said, "Oh, it's almost Thanksgiving!  That means Canned Spiced Peaches!"

Homemade Sweet Hot Pickles - Always

Bread - Stepmonster in charge.  She's good.  Really good.


Desserts


Char's Pecan Pie - There is this restaurant in Jackson.  Its pecan pie deserves its own holiday.  I discovered a recipe purporting to be their recipe.  I tried it.  It's pretty darn close.  It's so good.

Pear Pie - Pears are my favorite fruit.  Pie is my favorite dessert.  See? 

Blueberry Pound Cake - My friend has this pound cake.  I always think "nah - I'm not a huge cake person.  And I don't want blueberries in mine." And then I taste it.  And every.single.time, I think "Damn, Gina, that is good." (My friend's name is not Gina.  That's what Martin Lawrence's girlfriend's name was on his show Martin from the 90s that was highly inappropriate but sometimes I watched it late at night when Mama was snoring on the couch and I was drowsy and Ted Koppel had ended...  and Martin said "Daaaaaammmmmmmnnnnnnn Gina" every time he was enthused...) 

Chocolate Pie - Stepmonster again.  It's her signature.



It should be a good year. 

And the Rebels are playing that day.

I trust that we won't experience the kind of tragedy that we did this weekend.  But, if we do, we'll have available the only therapy that trumps menu planning therapy.


Cooking and eating therapy.


Food Policy and Giving Thanks





Food is near and dear to my heart.  It is a hobby of creativity for me, as well as one of the primary areas of service in my life.  I feed my family regularly, but I also have been blessed to be able to feed others.  Friends, church-members, strangers.

I read about food, food policy, cooking, growing, etc.  I (try to) keep up.  I've been aware, for a long time, that we have a problem here in America.  We are overfed and undernourished.  We have a growing population of hungry people. 

I've been becoming more and more aware of the reality of food for a good portion of our citizens.  Our family's experience - and that of our good friends - is not the experience of many Americans. 

Please read this article. 


People are hungry in our country.  A non-living wage very much contributes to this problem.  Another contributing factor is that our government subsidizes foods that are calorie-dense and nutrition-sparse.  This makes us not only hungry but fat.  

I know what our monthly food budget is compared to average family food budgets (quite small), but I also know what I'm able to do with it (fairly big).  The reason is not because I'm somehow awesome.  It is because my mother served me natural foods cooked at home, and it's because I've read many books and articles on food preparation, planning, etc.  I was both childhood-educated and self-educated.   

This is not an education that a government or an institution is going to be good at providing. I read an article recently about having a stay-at-home parent being a new sign of privilege.  I am privileged in a very real way; my family's food dollars go significantly further because my mother was at home cooking.  And now, basically, my middle-class-income family eats like an upper-class family because of the way I was raised. 

So, we educated people tend to look down upon the homeless-shelter mother buying fried fast food gizzards for her children (as in the above article).  The left will say that she needs more food money and that we need early childhood education. The right will say that she should know better and that it's her own damn fault.
They're both missing the mark. 


What we need is wholesome, grassroots, community-based, local education.  It is not something that can be institutionalized.  It's too slow.  It's too personal.  Learning to feed people takes years of calm, daily, regular ritual.  We need families. The reason that a stay at home parent is a privilege is because she (or he) provides an education not attainable in a classroom. 

Should we throw up our hands, then?  Say "Teach your own people to feed themselves and their future families - nothing we can do for anyone else." 

No. 

But, increased food stamp benefits are never going to solve the problem when the lobby of agribusiness has made sure that the cheapest calories in the grocery store are also the ones most likely to leave you fat and undernourished.  A living wage is a big step, but it won't solve the problem either because we are now operating on a paucity of knowledge, understanding, and ability.

Right now, the best thing I can do is to work with my four people - to bring them into the kitchen, to teach them what they're doing with food and what they're putting into their bodies.  Regularly, slowly, without ceremony, but with liturgy. 

Michael Pollan tells us to only eat food our great-grandparents would recognize as food, rather than the food-like substances on the shelves these days.  I think it's a great place to start. 

We can also take every opportunity to support service organizations that are locally minded and have long-term relationships as part of their strategy of support.   Find your local food pantry, and ask if they ever do cooking classes or seminars.  If you're capable of teaching one, offer. If not, offer to fund one.  As with all poverty assistance, relationships are exhausting and are time-intensive.  But, that's what it takes; relationships are key.  

Tell your Congresspeople that Food Policy in America must change.  Read Pollan and Joel Salatin for sane looks at food.  I have no idea what the solution is, but the USDA and the FDA and Michelle Obama are all failing us miserably.

Try to eat only whole foods for a month.  Try not to ingest anything that has any ingredient that isn't a whole food in it.  For a whole month.
Or just 3.5 weeks. 
From now until Thanksgiving. 
I dare you. 

Above all else, though, please give thanks.  Please don't make the mistake of being ungrateful for anything put in front of you. When you have control, do the best you can.  But don't let chicken nuggets steal your joy.  And certainly don't let powdered cheese make you ungrateful. Processed food is nutritionally of the devil, yes; but it is also of heaven in a very real sense, because it is food, and for it we should give thanks always. 

Wanting better - whether it be food, theology, or education -  for ourselves and our people should never make us feel like we are better people.  We are all dependent on our Creator for everything under the sun, and each of us is created imago dei, and we are each equally worthwhile and worthless.

And so, while bell peppers are better than canned condensed soup, you are not better for being able to choose them. 

Go, eat, and prepare for Thanksgiving, the ultimate food-and-gratitude holiday.  Receive your gifts with open arms, and give your gifts with glad hands.

And remember that Thanksgiving must (grammatically and logically) have an object to whom it is offered.

Give Thanks?  Give to whom?  

Thanks be to God. 


08 July 2014

Tomato Transitions


Reason Number Eleven I'm Never Allowed To Leave the House. 






Most people have, I think, thematic objects in their lives.  Things become representative of experiences and emotions.  A dog leash recalls all of those morning walks; a certain apron reminds us of burning the bread every single Sunday night for years; an outfit on a child brings up visits to a favorite restaurant.

I have this certain relationship with cans of tomatoes.

I cook a lot.  Canned tomatoes are a frequent ingredient - sauces, etc.  Since they are used a lot, I don't always just buy one.  You know the type of thing - right?  Might as well grab two, because you know you're going to need more.  Especially if they're a bit on sale.

With these cans of tomatoes, there is a patterin.  I buy two one week, three the next, and the pantry is over-full, and I become annoyed because why in the world did I think I needed all these tomatoes.  And then, for the next four weeks, I buy none, cleverly remembering my stockpile.  And then one Tuesday at 4:45 pm, I get all my stuff out for spaghetti, run to grab one of my ubiquitous tomato cans, and, in fact, they are all gone.  And I practice restraint and only say medium-level bad words and only to myself and the aquatic frogs which live on my counter.


14 April 2014

are coaches ever jealous?

Smoky Mountains, September 2013, "Let's all tie our jackets around our waists."





I'm not the athlete type.

I'm woeful in the physicality department.  I don't like to be out of breath; I'm decidedly not talented.  The best I can do is swim fairly quickly.  And by fairly quickly, I mean probably faster than the average adult.  Certainly never was fast enough to swim against people who, you know, swim. 

But, I do like sports a lot. I like watching them, screaming loudly (shocker), and keeping up with what's going on.  I kept stats at the local little league fields as my favorite high school job, and I briefly managed the basketball team at my high school.  I was - and am - an avid football fan.  I do know what a cornerback is. 

Lately, a telling sports analogy has been in the penumbra of the Forster household:



So, sometimes I'm talking to a grown-up, and I spell something, so that my third child won't know what I'm talking about. 

And sometimes, my first and second child just interpret for him. 




Great.  Thanks.  Love that. 


This week, for example, we're dealing with Collins's broken arm. 

We've been talking to him about the possibilities - surgery to add a wire or pins to help it heal- cast for 4-6 weeks, etc.  So, he knows.  We're not (and generally are against) keeping any truths from him. 

But, I try to not bring up trauma-causing things at inopportune times.  We try, as a rule, to discuss serious topics when it's appropriate.  But, grandmothers and friends have called over the last few days to check on him.  And, in the course of the conversations, a few times I've said, "well, on Tuesday, we'll find out if we need to have s-u-r-g-e-r-y."  Again, we're not trying to keep it from him.  I'm just not interested in stressing him out constantly.


This afternoon, I said the same thing, on the phone, to my mother.  As I said it, I was walking through the dining room, where all three kiddos were visiting at the table.   

Collins looked at his siblings.  They looked at him.  Without missing a beat, they, in unison, said, "Surgery.  She spelled surgery." 





It is not meant as a betrayal of me (as of course is my first instinct), but, rather, it signifies their loyalty to The Team first. 

They are a team. We are the coaches.  They love us, respect us, (imperfectly) follow our lead, but, when it comes down to it, they're protecting their quarterback, setting a pick for their forward, handing the baton off to their relay team members. 





This first either makes me mad or makes me sad.  But, it should do neither.  It should make me happy, proud, satisfied, calm.

Why?  

They can - and naturally do - operate outside of me.  

Don't get me wrong - They are with me always.  They inadvertently follow me to the restroom for goodness sake. 

But, they know what it is to be vested in someone else's interests first.  Their identities are independent of mine. 




When it comes down to it, they'd never obey one another first.  They obey me first.  It doesn't occur to them to mind one another. (In fact, it is anathema). 

However, it is natural to work for one another, protect one another, fight with and for one another, criticize, help, love one another.

They are each other's teammates.  

I do wonder.  Are coaches ever jealous?  
 
One day, these dear ones will have another team.  It could be a team of one or a team of seven.  But, it will be separate, distinct, apart. 

And then Paul and I will not even be coaches - but just enthusiastic fans.  

Box seats, Monday morning tape reviewing, griping and/or rejoicing over a beer, three-term Presidents of the damn booster club.  
All of those things.  And more.


But, I'm never going to be a teammate.

And it is so very good for us - and for them - to learn it now.  




(Also, we've now had a talk about when I spell something, I meant it to be in code, dadgumit.)

28 March 2014

Two November Babies



My November Baby. To see beautiful John Pearson, head over to his parents' blog at chroniclesofclay. 

There is this wonderful little family, the Clays.  I don't know personally know them - but we have a slew of friends in common.  They have a baby.  He was born on November 6, 2013.  His name is John Pearson.  He came here with a poorly formed heart. 

Here is this other little family.  We have a baby.  She was born on November 6, 2013.  Her name is Elsa Gray.  Her pediatrician describes her as in perfect health. 

Because of the world of the internet, I've been watching John Pearson and praying for him.  I suspect he's been even dearer to me because of their shared birthday.  The mutual friend network of Facebook allows for much connectivity, and I've gotten to watch his parents do amazing things by sharing their journey.  They are those people who just ooze grace - who are a testimony to the good.  They are kind, calm, joyful, peaceful, humble and loving.  Most of all, they are grateful to God. 
And this morning, their baby died.

I have been crying a lot this morning - since learning of John Pearson's passing.  See - it's not fair.  Of course it's not fair.  The world is broken.  Broken, indeed.  But, we never remember that.  It's too hard to remember that there is tragedy - always - around every corner.  That every person we meet has something over which their heart is truly grieved.  

And so, we focus on our petty grievances.  They are, see, more tolerable to our hearts.  But, in the end, more erosive.  Because, no one thanks God for broken wine glasses or the (third) cup of knocked over milk. 

I have not just one, but four children without any whiff of a health problem.  Our biggest issue is the occasional seasonal allergy and the inclination towards (self-inflicted) concussions.
And, let me tell you, I have a list of complaints a mile long.  If you spend any time with me, I'll list them for you.  They fuss, they whine, they just won't be quiet.  They are so messy.  The baby won't sleep all night.  And on and on I go.  Round and round  - I never stop.

I've known for a while that gratitude is the only worldly solution for confronting brokenness with any amount of health or honesty.  But, of course, to know something is not to practice it.  Knowing you should give thanks is like knowing how to drive a stick shift.  You can know it all the day long, and you'll still stall at the first stop sign.

First, give thanks.  Because, see, as broken as it all is, it's wonderful.  The Clays this morning started there and ended there.  And I'm sure they'll be lots of other places along the way as well.  But, first they are grateful for the five months that they had with their son, and then they are grateful that God has healed him and taken him home to heaven.  With shattered hearts, they give thanks. 

To some, this may sound trite.  To others, nonsensical.

But, see, it's the only way.  And if we aren't motivated toward gratitude by people like the Clays, we're missing the point.  If they can start and end with gratitude in the hours following their son's death, we can certainly give thanks amongst the piles of dirty laundry. 

I've heard from many that John Pearson's life has touched them.  He has touched the Forsters.  I only hope the lessons that the Clays have reminded us of will last - that we'll do what we know we need to do:  start and end with the acknowledgement that we are all interminably blessed.




I highly encourage any and all to read about the Clays here:  chroniclesofclay.com.

Kiss your children, thank your Creator, and pray for this sweet family.  



At the end of the Eucharist service in the Book of Common Prayer, the celebrant says, 'Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.'

And the congregation responds, "Thanks be to God." 


30 December 2013

Finding your Clean Sink

 



As I've turned into an old woman (which I clearly am), I've discovered patterins (not a typo, just quoting my child) in my world and in the world of those around me.  One of the ones I continue to see is that when life is insane, the way out of that external insanity and the way to hold on to some inner peace - is to find your regulating activity that makes it all better. 

For some, this is exercise.  The world may be falling down around a person, but if he can get in his morning run, he can begin to regain control or, at the least, not lose his mind to the crumbling columns.   For some, this is folded laundry.  For some, a regular reading quiet time.  For some, it is prayer and meditation. 

There is a woman on the internet - the fly lady, I believe - who says that if you'll just go to bed every night with a clean sink, you'll be able to begin to form new habits that will save you from chaos.  There is something to that - there has to be an external reality to make us all feel better.

There are three things I do when I need to regain control:

1) Pray a rosary.
2) Purge / fill my calendar.
3)  Plan my meals.