Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Time Capsule

Spring Formal 2009 - 8 Years Ago
Apologies for the rambling nature of this post.  My brain is still recovering from the inevitable lack of sleep from an incredible weekend visiting one of my best friends.  Those of you on Facebook, I'm sure, have noticed the "On This Day" feature . . . where it shows you back through the years what you were posting, doing, etc. on this day in years past.  Often, I look at the status updates and wonder what I was possibly doing . . . and other times they serve as a reminder of how far I've come in my faith and life journey.  And, more often than not, they remind me just how blessed my life has been and is.

VA Trip 2017
Take a moment today to think about the blessings in your life, both present and past.  Thank God for them.  And don't take them for granted! Today I am grateful for family and friends.  And especially the wonderful gift of modern technology and transportation - the things that allow me to keep close to my friends even when 1000s of miles separate us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Recipe Corner - (Sweet) Potato Roses

This was my first year hosting Easter dinner, and I was excited to try out a new recipe I saw on Facebook:

I adapted the recipe somewhat - using sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes and no cheese.  But they were super easy AND super scrumptious!

Pre-baked roses looked so pretty!
I sliced the sweet potatoes using my handy mandoline (definitely a MUST HAVE for any kitchen).  Swirled the spices in the olive oil, layered the potato slices over a slice of bacon, spread the oil, and rolled them up.  Easy peasy.  I ended up using a mini muffin pan for baking . . . I'd advise toothpicks to hold them together if you're using a regular size muffin pan.

Turkey from Honey Baked Ham
Sweet Potato Roses from my kitchen!
Then I baked them, and they smelled delicious!  I am definitely making these again.  They were a huge hit at dinner, and my husband said I can make them any time I want.  

What are some of your favorite holiday dishes?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On Your Own Time

It's been almost two years (July 2015) since I first took the Florida Bar Exam (an awful experience), and then a few months later found out that I had failed . . . by 1/2 of a point . . . not even a full question.  At that point, I took it as a sign and a blessing from God that I didn't HAVE to be an attorney . . . seeing as I've never wanted to practice law.  While my immediate family and closest friends understood that and didn't really pressure me to retake it, I spent many months fending off inquiries, motivational speeches, and guilt trips from pretty much everyone else.  And all that pressure?  Nobody wanted to accept that I was completely and utterly FINE with not passing.  They just couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that my goal in life was (and still is) to be a wife and mother.

Fast forward to September or October 2016.  I'd spent the last YEAR explaining and re-explaining my attitude towards the bar exam and how I was absolutely, positively NOT retaking it.  Ever.  And while many people would love to take credit for what happened in the past six months, it was my decision, on my time, and for my reasons.  See, the first time I took the bar exam . . . it was like pulling teeth.  I didn't want to take it at all, but everyone convinced me that if I was graduating from law school, I had to at least try.  So I did.  I studied diligently.  I completed 100% of the bar prep program.  And I failed.  By 1/2 a point.  When people asked afterwards why I failed, I said it was (a) reading too fast and missing one of the triple or quadruple negatives PLUS (b) the fact that my heart wasn't in it.  Anyway, back to six months ago, I finally had my own reasons for retaking the exam - I wanted a backup plan in a worst case scenario, and I wanted to be able to help my husband with legal matters if we ever started our own firm.  So I looked at my old paperwork . . . and it turns out I only had to retake one portion of the exam, and my other scores were still good.  So I took the plunge, signed up, and started studying.  Of course, I wasn't going to spend $$$$$ on another bar prep program, but I did use many resources in the library to study - mainly hundreds of multiple choice questions.

Fast forward to February 2017.  I'd mostly forgotten the reasons WHY I decided to retake the exam, but it was too late to back out.  So there I was . . . sitting in the same room again, forcing myself to read "slowly."  I still finished with almost an hour to spare, and that freaked a lot of people out.  But whatever.  I've always finished exams super early.  When I walked out, people asked how I thought it went.  I very confidently told them that I got two questions right . . . out of two hundred.  And that was it.  I didn't have my hopes set on passing.  I didn't think I passed.  I didn't care if I did or not.  I'd tried again, and that was that.

Fast forward to April 10, 2017.  Bar exam scores were released.  I checked.  And double-checked.  And checked about another hundred times.  Yep.  The file number was correct.  The sheet said I passed and was ready to be admitted to the bar.  I admit I was shaking when I first read it . . . I mean, I passed the Florida Bar Exam!  Yahoo!  But I still don't plan on really practicing . . . except in an assistatory capacity with my husband.  And everyone so far that I've told has been far more excited than I am.  But I do feel blessed, and I'm sure God's got a reason for why I passed now.

Anyway, I did it in MY time (and God's) . . . not bending to the peer pressure to retake it immediately.  I waited.  I relaxed.  I got past the bad taste of law school and the bar exam.  And, most importantly, I WANTED to retake it.  I wasn't being forced to do it.  And that made all the difference, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sit Still; Look Pretty

Does it ever scare you how distorted modern music makes relationships sound?  That all men are selfish pigs.  That all girls are simply put upon and used.  That romance means a quick tumble in the backseat.  That love means a pretty girl and a hot guy.  I find it hard to listen to the radio these days (for many reasons), but chiefly because the lyrics depress me.  And they disguise their subversive message in upbeat, happy tunes - like "Sit Still, Look Pretty".  A fun tune to listen to . . . but the lyrics?
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no, I'm never gonna be 'cause I don't wanna be
No, I don't wanna sit still look pretty
The refrain makes a marriage sound like a death sentence for the women.  That their sole purpose is to make their husbands look good.  And the subliminal message, at least to me?  Women who choose to stay at home and care for their families with their picket fences are being used and essentially suffering from some kind of Stockholm syndrome.  
That Snow White
She did right
In her life
Had 7 men to do the chores
'Cause that's not what a lady's for
And then this!   As if women somehow feel entitled to have a man do EVERYTHING for them while they sit around ruling the world and doing whatever they want.  How have we lost the understanding that responsibility and a shared partnership in marriage is what it's really about?  That marriage isn't simply "the only thing a boy's gonna give a girl for free's captivity" . . . but that it's a beautiful example of self-sacrifice?  Or at least it's supposed to be.
I'm never gonna be that girl
Who's living in a Barbie world
. . . . . 
This queen don't need a king
. . . . .  
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Now, I understand that not every girl is as girly as I am . . . that we have different personalities and likes and dislikes etc.  And granted, Barbie definitely gave a skewed view of the world as well.  But not needing a king?  That's simply not true.  And I'm not advocating that every woman needs to get married.  Absolutely not.  There are definitely women who are called to the religious life or to the single life.  But in that case?  Their king is God alone.  And in a marriage?  The relationship between the husband and wife is meant to mirror that between Christ and the Church.  Wives are called to submit to their husbands - not to rule the world.  I mean, have you met women?  We're awesome at organization and love and brainstorming . . . but we also tend to think with our hearts first, which could have disastrous effects on a nationwide level.  Because in business and economics and politics, logic should come first.  Even if it feels awful.  And men are just better at that in general . . . at least, they used to be before society emphasized being in tune with their emotions so much that we wound up with a bunch of boys who can't handle adult responsibility.  And then women swooped in to take over and fix things.  And we've got the mess we have today.  And yes, I'm aware there's a lot more nuance to that story . . . but that's the topic for another day.

So what's the bottom line?  Other than the fact that these lyrics and all others like them really piss me off?  Marriage is a partnership.  It's a union of self-sacrifice and giving for the other.  It's helping each other get to Heaven.  It's not a phenomenon where the woman is constantly downtrodden and used as an object.  And it's not a situation where the man is constantly overruled by the woman and made to feel inferior and incompetent.  It's a union where the two become one and they use their individual skills and abilities and gifts together to create a firm foundation and a solid example for their children and the world.  At least that's my two cents on the matter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bloom Where You're Planted

Do you ever get that nagging feeling that something is missing?  Or the little green monster pops up unexpectedly at the worst times and reminds you of all that you're missing?  He compares your meager and measly life to the thriving ones of your friends and family, convincing you that you're never going to achieve your dreams and that life is just a drag - well, a drag for you anyways.

Believe you me, I'm well aware of how quickly and deeply that little voice pierces your soul.  And you catch yourself focusing on all the things you don't have yet and may never have rather than on all the blessings in your life.  There's a saying: "Bloom where you're planted."  And honestly, that's the answer to your jealousy and sorrow.  For better or worse, God has placed you where you are right now for a reason - maybe to test you; maybe to prepare you for trials ahead; maybe to give you blessings you don't even realize.  And that little monster talking about YOUR dreams and YOUR wishes?  He's trying to turn your attention away from God's plan for your life and make you focus solely on your own idea of what should be happening.  And then making you feel like crap when that isn't the reality.

Of course, blooming where you're planted doesn't mean you shouldn't be working towards those dreams as long as you aren't trying to go against God's plan.  And knowing what that plan is . . . well, that's a tricky business.  But if you pay attention, He'll show you.  Blooming where you're planted often means making the best of the situation you're in . . . focusing on the positive and learning the lessons you need to learn.  And oftentimes, being stuck in a situation far from your ultimate dream can help you discern what that dream really should be.

Your life isn't going to change with a snap of your fingers.  You have to make it change.  And if you keep trying and trying and hitting roadblock after roadblock, then either you're not trying hard enough or God is perhaps giving you a sign that you should try a different path.  Or maybe the devil is working against you.  Regardless, with discernment and reliance on God, you can figure out your path in life (at least for a few years down the road) and can then set about adjusting your present to prepare for the future you want.  If you want something, you're going to have to work for it.  The hard part is figuring out how.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Recipe Corner - Zucchini Lasagna

As you probably know, I'm supposed to be wheat, corn, and potato free . . . and rice noodles tend to be pretty nasty.  Which means that if I want any type of noodle dish, I need an alternative.  For a while, I've been using my kitchen contraption for turning zucchini into noodles . . . and those are really good.  But it's nice to mix it up every once in a while . . . even if you're still eating the same food.  This dish was inspired by a recipe I found for making enchiladas with zucchini.

First, I sliced the zucchini very thin with my mandolin.  I found mine on Amazon, and I absolutely love it!  It's perfect for slicing anything . . . including apples to make apple chips!  

I cut two zucchini in half, both across and long ways.  Then I sliced them with the mandolin fairly thin and placed the first layer in my greased 8x8 pan.  Since it's just myself and my husband, this was the perfect size dish for us.  But since it ended up so tasty, I'm planning on making it in the full-size pan next time.

Next, I cooked up 1lb. ground beef (I'd use more if you're using a bigger pan) with a little seasoning and mixed in spaghetti sauce.  I then alternated zucchini and the meat mixture until I was out of meat sauce.  I placed a layer of mozzarella cheese on top and baked it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

And voila!  This really was tasty AND low calorie AND gluten-free.  You could also make it dairy free by removing the cheese or using dairy-free cheese.  I'm planning to experiment with this more . . . maybe substituting shredded chicken for the beef.  Or making an enchilada-esque lasagna.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

As sanctity and holiness decline, energy declines.

First, a brief synopsis of this particular talk:
"Work hard."  To be happy, we have to do more.  Most of us live below the level of our energy.  Do all that you can!  Work to the limit of your abilities.  

Our world suffers from indifference.  Is it possible that our Lord suffers more from our indifference than He did in the crucifixion.  Don't be bored with life.  When you're in love, you'll do anything.  

Waste yourself on others - give yourself to others.  When we save things only for ourselves, it becomes sinful - lust (our body); avarice (our money); pride (our knowledge).  

When anyone asks you to do things, be prepared to do more!  Energy is renewed if we love.  "As sanctity and holiness decline, energy declines." 

"Believe the impossible, and you can do the incredible!"  If you have faith, the impossible things can be done.  

Be generous with yourself!  "As we give, we get.  As we pour out ourselves, God gives us strength."
So often we find ourselves caught up in the drudgery of daily life, focusing on all the things we must do and all the things we wish we could do if we only had the time.  We begrudge our aid to others in our lives, especially those closest to us.  We want everyone else to help us out and make our burdens less.   

I'm absolutely guilty of this myself.  Of relying on my own strength to accomplish everything and failing to increase my reliance on God, Who alone can truly give me the strength I need.  So waste yourself!  Give all of yourself through God to others, and He will give you the energy to keep going.  And if we all did this . . . if we all wasted ourselves on others, surely others would take care of us.