Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sacred Community

Whatever you may call it, and however it may look to you, I believe that a sacred community is vital to making it through this life.

In fact, for me it's crucial to my very existence. Spending quality time with my sacred community restores my spirit like a nice Venti Passion Tea from Starbucks quenches my thirst on a hot summer day.

I think we all understand the word community. I would define it as the people with whom I surround myself with. This can vary from your work place, your church, your running team (Go, Team Run Your Race!), or a group of young moms.

However, when you add in the word, "sacred," something changes. It kicks things up to another level. And, just so you know, I'm using the " regarded with reverence" definition of sacred.

I'm sure we've all experienced this notion of sacred community.

Maybe you've sat down with a co-worker in the lunch room sharing about your favorite vacation spots, when all of a sudden, you're bonding over shared sorrows or joys.

Perhaps you've met some fellow young moms for coffee and as you share about the trials of poopy diapers and sleepless nights and fears about whether you're doing things right, you realize that you feel intensely connected to these other brave women, and leave with a lighter heart.

And, maybe, it's finding a group of widowers who know what it feels like to come home to an empty home and bed...and while it doesn't completely fill the hole of the relationship you've lost, it makes life more bearable.

Or it might be pushing your body to run mile upon mile with a group of people whom you meet for several hours a week that you sweat, share about life, cry with, and cross finish lines with.

In all of these scenarios, there's one thing in all comes down to those little moments you share...and they're honest, and vulnerable, a little bit ethereal....and because of that....they're sacred.

Can a sacred community sometimes lead to heartache? Definitely. After all, it wouldn't hurt so much if the relationship wasn't so deep and a part of you. Do we say things that are hurtful and are hurtful things said to us? It's guaranteed to happen. Why? Because we're human. We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

However, I would argue that conflict -- which is inevitable -- actually makes a relationship and sacred community even stronger when it's handled in a loving and respectful way. And, when it's's just about the saddest thing you can ever experience....which can lead to a breach...which I've already talked about.

Nonetheless, the amazing joy and fulfillment that I have found within my sacred communities has been worth the risk of being hurt or the loss of relationship. To feel as though a group of people knows who I am, what I'm about (and who I'm working towards becoming), and supports me on that journey, and even better yet, will come alongside to walk it with me...that's a gift. And, it makes it an even richer experience when they invite me to do the same for them.

I've written about how Facebook scratches this itch for a lot of people. Say what you want about the annoyances of the social networking site, but has allowed people to express themselves. And, yes, sometimes it can get us in trouble. But, that's just like life. In "Facebook Land," apologies should be generously given and are sometimes even more necessary when it's easy to type before fully engaging our brain.

But, however helpful the internet may be in allowing people to interact with each other, it won't ever take the place of meaningful face-to-face dialoguing for me. A friend on Facebook can send you their well wishes, but it's not the same as having a friend come visit you in the hospital after you've had emergency surgery....or bring you a hot dinner...or take your kids to the park so you can have some "quiet time,"...or hold your hand at the gravesite service of a loved one...or stop by with a smoothie from Jamba Juice "just because"....these types of blessings cannot be duplicated in cyberland.

Yet I know that any form of connection is a good place to start. I have formed and developed some friendships through the portals of cyberspace. And actually, my husband and I initially fell in love by writing epic emails about our hopes, dreams, thoughts and ambitions. So, don't get me wrong, I actually think that emails, texts and social networking sites have made it possible for me to lovingly tend to the relationships that are important to me...and especially with those who are far away.

I crave connection on a deep visceral level. That's just how I'm wired. It's one of the many things that God created that I completely, utterly and unreservedly "regard with reverence."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Back to Basics....Revisited

So, I thought I'd give an update to my lengthy post a few months back about the state of food in our country that I entitled Back to Basics. I'm happy to report some good changes in our house -- although we are not 100% there yet. All progress is good, right?

One of the first things I have done is put my KitchenAid stand mixer (She's a 5-Quart Artisan in "Majestic Yellow" that I have named Mabel) to use in making fresh and homemade white bread. I'm happy to report that not only was it not terribly difficult, it was a great bonding opportunity with my 5-year-old. The family gave the bread rave reviews and had thirds.

Mmmm...warm bread. I'm not sure of the cost ratio between homemade and store bought, but if you matched it in terms of quality ingredients, then I believe I came out ahead. You can't compare what I made to Wonder Bread, after all.

Today was my first day attempting wheat bread and again...not terribly difficult and much enjoyed. I think we're on to something. 

Add in the chocolate stromboli I made the other morning (idea courtesy of my friend, Carmita) and I'm a dough making fool!

I've also sworn off most of the jarred/canned pasta sauces. Instead I've been buying canned whole or diced tomatoes and using my Cusinart food processor to blend them up. I add in a can of tomato paste and fresh garlic and other italian spices. My husband raved about it and it literally took me about 5 minutes to do. No high-fructose corn syrup needed.

Another recent purchase was the grinder attachment for my stand mixer. I've recently had a harder time buying and consuming ground beef because I think too much about what part of the cow it comes from and from how many different animals. People rave about this grinder because you can buy a sirloin roast and grind your own. Not only do you know for certain that your ground beef came from one cut and one animal, it costs less.  I have not used it yet, but I am excited to do so.

I'm also excited to use it to make some strawberry and peach freezer jam. With the abundance of fresh and tasty fruit here, it would be a shame not to at least try. And, since I have a pretty easy recipe to follow, I would be a fool not to at least attempt one batch. (My Walmart store decided to stop carrying canning items...but luckily my local Target started stocking them....sigh, I love Target!)

I was like a kid in a candy store...albeit a little confused with all the choices. This is going to be one of my projects to try for this week.

The other project I am going to attempt is making my own yogurt. I'm a huge fan of plain yogurt. However, I think it would be cheaper to make my own, as well as making it easier to adjust the level of thickness I prefer. I found this innovative way to do it with household products -- yogurt maker not necessary.

Also, since posting this, my cousin, Amy, clued me in to a recipe for making yogurt in a slow cooker that she got from our mutal friend, Amy. (Confusing, I know...wait until my other friend Amy chimes in!)

So, I'm changing things..slowly, but surely.  My next major purchase will be the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid. I cannot wait to roll the dough and then use the cutter to make my own angel hair. I can already taste the goodness.

And now I'm curious...what are you guys out there in CyberLand doing differently?  I'd love more share away!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Old Friends are the Best Friends

I've heard it said that "old friends are the best friends."  When I was younger, I thought it meant that your best friends would naturally be your oldest friends. And, while that might be true for some folks, it's not always the truth for all.  Now that I'm older and have more perspective, I think I finally understand what that adage means.

The friends that you have had for years and years and maybe even decades and decades are some of the sweetest friendships. It's not necessarily because of all the accrued time that you have logged together (although that might be it), rather it's the span of time you've shared over your two prospective lifetimes.

I know I'm not the only 30-something person who feels like high school was just a few years ago. It's only when I actually start mentally counting up from my graduation year (1991) that I am shocked to discover that so many years have actually gone by! Almost 20! How did that even happen? Of course, I can mentally flip through all the life experiences and occasions I've had since I was 17 and walking proudly across that stage -- but for some reason it doesn't jive with the reality of 20 years!

I have had many great friendships over the years. I can even remember my first best friend, Hailee. I wish that we were in contact, although I know so many years have gone by and you can only talk about Rick Springfield, the GoGos, and stealing blackberries from her dad's garden so much.

The other set of friends that really start the clock on my "oldest friends set" are from junior high and high school. I think it's mostly because it's at this point that we truly entered in more mature friendships. We walked through puberty together, laughed and cried about boys together, and shared our hopes and dreams for the future.

One of these friends is my talented friend, Lori, who spent the night on our couch last Friday, braving children crying and middle of the night potty breaks. I'm fuzzy on the details of how we met, but I think it was because of a mutual family friendship, and because we were both pastor's kids (PKs). Actually, it's a wonder we did ever meet since we lived two hours apart. However, meet we did, and we must have each seen something we liked in each other at the mutal age of 14, because we ended up corresponding by letter (before the days of email) and eventually both spent a week at each other's houses -- I traveled to San Marcos, and she came down to the desert of El Centro.

Because our shared PK status, we had lived sort of a parallel life. We both instinctively understood each other's life and the challenges we had and did face. We enjoyed the same type of Christian rock (Amy Grant, Whiteheart, Allies, anyone?) and clothing. And yes, we did end up buying the same sundress at Miller's Outpost and wore those things unashamedly to her church youth group.

We ended up in Texas at the same pastor's convention (that was fun!) and over the years, we attended the same summer youth camps. Eventually we both attended the same university (although at different times), and both spent time living overseas (at different times and in different places). We both got married (although neither of us could attend each other's weddings) and have continued to share our lives with each other via email -- and then Facebook. We've walked through our own tough times, and have even watched our parents get battered and bruised by church life, and have shared that pain with the other. We have that PK sisterhood and it's a club that offers some understanding into these things. Thankfully, we've both been able to share the restorative times as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I'm sure neither of us would describe the other as the end-all-be-all best friend....we are nonetheless good friends that have walked through life...well, together.  And the older I get, the more value and worth I find in that. Twenty years of friendship (and I think it's actually more like 22 or 23) is nothing to sneeze at...and actually it's a pretty big milestone. While I know that there are many who can boast 30, 40, 50, even 60 years of friendship, being able to count in the decades at all is a big accomplishment.

The years have only made me appreciate Lori even more. She has risen above some terrible moments in her life and has become the better for them. There is a honesty and depth in her. She craves authentic and transparent relationships -- something I also greatly value. She is a culinary wonder, and enjoys making food for the people she loves -- as I recently had the good fortune to taste for myself. She's also talented and accomplished photographer (as you can see in her food blog...btw, that's me thoroughly enjoying that roasted corn). But most of all, she's just a lovely soul.

I don't pretend to know all about Lori's life and her hopes and dreams -- just like she wouldn't pretend to know all of mine. And, I probably couldn't tell you about her 5 favorite things (hmmm...or could I?). But, I do know that the 14-year-old girl that I felt an instant connection to all of those years ago, is still a part of the Lori I know today. And, that matters. And, it also makes me feel like a part of her history. Just like she is a part of mine.

So...old friends...they may or may not be your current closest friends. But, nonetheless, they are still some of the very best.

Love ya, LJ!  I can't wait to see what the next 20 years hold for us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thrift, Thrifting Away...

So, I've been couponing, rebating and penny-pinching for a few months now and I thought I would take some time to reflect on how things have gone since I started down the path of "thrifting."

My biggest concerns when I started down this road were: 1.) it would take up too much time; 2.) I would end up spending more money to save money.

So, how have I done?

1.) I don't find that it takes up too much of my time. However, to be fair, I suppose you'd have to ask my husband and children. Yes, I do park my kids in front of Playhouse Disney from time to time so that I can print, clip and scour for deals. But, I estimate that I spend only about 1/2 an hour a day doing this. Admittedly, it is a bit longer when I add in putting it on my Deals Page. But, this is for all my readers (you know...all 5 of you), so how could I count that? 

Actually...let me just admit that I kinda enjoy it. It makes me feel like I have a grown-up job and that I'm being helpful. (If that's not exactly true, I don't wanna know!) In fact, I feel like it's my mission, in the way that some other (crazy) mothers feel like creating a cozy and spotless living home is their mission. So, lately when my husband asks why the dinner has not been started, I vaguely wave him towards the kitchen and say, "honeeeey, I'm working!"

2.) I have to be honest and say that I'm not really sure whether I've spent more money than I normally would have in order to save money (which can be counter-productive). I would tend to say I have done pretty well. I actually think rather than technically just "saving money," my thrifting has allowed to buy more/other things we have needed but couldn't afford.  I guess you could look at it either way.

I know that I have definitely had to learn to "walk away" from a really great deal because either:  a.) I didn't need the product or didn't know anyone who did, or:  b.) We just didn't have the money to spend on that item even though the coupon was about to expire. I have become really good at checking for products and when I find they aren't a good enough deal (or are not on sale which makes using the coupon(s) an amazing deal), I will leave the appropriate coupon on the product for some other lucky soul to find. (If you shop at either of the Clovis Targets, you're welcome!)

I know that I still have a lot to learn about the "ways of saving," but I've really enjoyed the journey. I cannot tell you the sense of pride and satisfaction that filled my heart when I used my $.48 Rimmel eyeshadow today. Not only did I save $4 ($2 off Target coupon & $2 Rimmel coupon), but I really needed a brown eyeshadow palette.

I'm almost completely unashamed to clog up an entire Target lane for 15 minutes (lane light getting flicked to the off position) while the harried clerk (and sometimes the CSM) tries to sort out my BOGOs, free gift cards, and sheaf of coupons. I only break out in a light sheen of sweat now as I try to make sure each coupon scans correctly and I get my due.

When I am strolling out with my cart and realizing that I saved $60 or $80, I am almost able to meet the eyes of the poor lady who got stuck in my vortex of discount shopping.

Today, I was feeling pretty good about my $43.98 worth of purchases that included 5 Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs (I only paid for 2) and eyeliner for $2.99. In fact I must share a photo of my loot:

Even though I know that there are frugalistas out there who probably could have gotten it all for like $3.95, I felt pretty proud of know, the "good" kind of proud.  The kind of proud that I imagine I would feel if I canned my own jam (I will one of these days!) or made my own laundry detergent!

Why? Because I'm being proactive! I'm working "my job" for all it's worth, and I'm feeling pretty darn fulfilled. Okay...and maybe a little buzzed from my "shopper's high."

So, my verdict?  Thrifting...I dig it. I'm pretty good at it. I like how it makes me feel. And, I'm not going to stop....

(Whoa...I just re-read that last sentence. Ummmm...on second thought maybe someone should check in with my family to see if I'm delusional and if an intervention is needed.)