Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Real Julia Child

Here is Julia Child's cooking show's introducing "The Chicken Sisters". If you look closely, you can see Julia in the background dancing to the music.

Fred the Cat

Fred is the orange one on the left, giving you the "eye" for disturbing his naptime.

I've written about Fred before. When he was a kitten, his name was Fredo, the spunky fuzzy little orange ball with teeth and attitude. An older couple who came to look at him to see if they would adopt him had him pegged as an "alpha male". He was the one that fought his mom when she was trying to pick him up to move him, while she calmly ignored him and grabbed his scruff, dropping him "accidentally". He was the one who nipped our Golden Retriever, Ginger, on the nose when she came to inspect the litter. I started to handle him more so that he would calm down and stop biting people. Tough little fighter.

Fred is still a scrappy fellow, but he has a soft side too. He is the only cat I've ever known to love his stomach rubbed, like a dog. When he gives himself a bath, he jumps down to give Ginger a few licks on the nose as well. His preferred place for naps is anywhere close to Dennis or on him. He tolerates me picking him up and carrying him like a baby or slung over my shoulder like a sack. And if he goes outside when we don't want him to and try to catch him, he flings himself on the sidewalk onto his side in complete surrender. And he used to nap cuddled up to Ginger, their golden fur blending so well that you don't know where cat started or dog ended. Now he's ten pounds, and Ginger isn't willing to share her space with such a hefty guy.

A few months before we got Carly, Fred's mom, Dennis and I were sitting out on our deck one morning with our coffee looking at a scene where some rabbits were getting chased down by what we thought was an orange fox or a small dog. The scene seemed like it was straight out of "Wild Kingdom". When it came closer, we were amazed to see that the predator was actually a big orange feline. It had guts, because it was chasing down two rabbits in an open large lawn for at least half an hour before it gave up. When Carly got pregnant shortly after I brought her home, we speculated who the fathers of the kittens might have been. I haven't seen an orange tom since the rabbit chase, but I often wonder if he was the father of the three orange male kittens, including Fred, in Carly's litter.

Carly has been spayed since she weaned her kittens last year, and Dennis and I have learned the hard way that cats are older than they look. Carly is still small for an adult cat, and weighs nearly five pounds. We let her out, because she tears up the carpet if we don't. She has lost her kittenish ways, she behaves like an adult cat who is emotionally detached from me, except on rare occasions when she wants me to pet her and re-establish our bonds. She doesn't belong to me, but I belong to her. Dennis, not so much.

I worry about her outdoors, even though she is "street-wise". A month ago, she got into a scrap with a tom twice her size near the backdoor of our house. She had to fight him off, because she was trying to get in the house for safety and got cornered instead. By the time I got to the door, she ran in another direction in a panic to hide and the grey tom skulked off into the woods trying to spit out some of Carly's fur that got stuck in his teeth. I saw her later in the evening, with no scars or scratches anywhere on her, when I let her in for her dinner. She hunts, and leaves her prizes of large bluejays, moles, mice, robins and bats on our doorsteps.

Fred gets out, despite our best attempts to keep him in. He surveys the backyard from the top of our shed or the next door kids' playset like a sultan on his divan. He hunts, a little, not as prolifically as his mom but I think only when he gets bored from sitting in the shade all day. Fred is not a high energy feline. He will chase a squirrel, climbing up the trunk of the pine tree to make a point rather than actually catch the offending critter. One evening I heard a maddening ruckus of a pair robins in a panic, and Dennis found Fred with a baby robin in his mouth, still alive. He grabbed Fred and made him spit out the infant bird, much like Sylvester the cat with Tweety. A few hours later, the little robin was gone. Our theory is that he was learning how to fly, and after seeing a "putty tat" up close, was in shock and flew off when it wore off.

We can't find our camera, but I will post pics of our adult Fred as soon as I can. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos of Fred the Kitten.

Fred napping with Gina (the tortiouseshell on the right) and Sonny (the longhair orange with his back to us--he was the relaxed, laid back clown kitty)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

J.S. Bach, Sarabande, Suite No. 5, As A Modern Dance

If you listened to "Sarabande", the music would evoke many kinds of emotions, but the slow adagio is mostly melancholic. The dancer is expressing through his movement how that music makes him feel.

Bach is known for his music for the church, and I would surmise that his work could be described as Christian art. What about the dance? Enjoy the video.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Syrup and Honey

A lovely song by Duffy. Perfect for a slow dance. Perfect because the tone is vulnerable, not demanding that a loved one's priorities are all wrong.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

End of Sunday

The sun has set, and I'm listening to the birds in our backyard sing their lullaby to the day. We are waiting for the blueberry pies that Dennis made to bake (mine has the special "S" on it for "splenda").

We worshipped God today with a bunch of people we call our church family. Some of them we know well, some of them we don't. We sat in our conversation and coffee class to discuss today's sermon with a bunch of people we are getting to know. And I had a variety of people who I had conversations with, waved at and/or who just passed me by patting my arm and shoulder. Dennis and I had talked about going to the service only and then splitting out the door right after, but it was hard to do. We were actually energized by being with our church, not drained. We were encouraged to love and serve and honor God in a deeper and more thoughtful way than before.

Which brings me to mention an excellent book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck "Why We Love the Church". Stuff I knew already, but it was nice to see it all laid out in a logical and theological as well as brutally honest fashion.

But the day is ending, and I have miles of stuff to do before I hit the sack, ready to start a brand new week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Think Twice, Because It's Not Alright

"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" is a song about a man wanting freedom from a relationship--his heart wasn't enough, she wanted more. Probably a commitment. And that was enough to make him walk down the road at the break of dawn. She was asking for way too much. So, he is doing the honest thing by leaving.

And I wonder what the song would be like from her point of view? One of the deepest fears most people have is the fear of abandonment. From the woman's perspective, or even the jilted man's, it isn't alright. But the song just brushes it off as though the reciever of this wonderful "I'm leaving you" message shouldn't care about their loss. Besides, they didn't do much talking, anyway. This song isn't bittersweet. It is just plain old bitter.

But this kind of abandonment didn't just happen outside of marriage, it happens within it as well. You don't have to physically leave to leave a spouse. Years ago, I had a conversation with an elderly widow whose only remark about her late husband was that they had moved to opposite ends of their house, hardly ever seeing each other except in passing. They had this routine for decades after the children grew up and left. That they drifted apart is an understatement. In conclusion, she just shrugged her shoulders while I sat there in silent shock. I had expected to offer my condolences, but instead she seemed like she would have preferred my congratulations.

So, what's a couple to do?

Over the last 20 years of our marriage, I've noticed a few things that worked. The first is communication. In order for deep intimate conversation to happen, a lot of less intense exchanges need to happen. Dennis and I talk about facts, ancedotes, ideas and our emotions throughout our day. It isn't bad that most of our conversation seems superficial or even boring sometimes. We talk and we listen, all of it is important to us both. Whatever affects one also involves the other. But it makes it easier to talk about the hard stuff--the confessions, the struggles, the deep honesty and the transparency about our needs and wants. Because we listen to the little things and care about them, the big things that require more vulnerability to reveal aren't as scarey. We don't really work at keeping each other posted, we just do.

The other thing that helps is having a third party involved to talk to and get help from. For Dennis and me, that would be God. For instance, since I've been created by God, nothing that Dennis could ever complain about me to Him would surprise Him. Also, my deepest fear that I would be alone is already addressed by the fact that God has promised to never forsake me. I don't have to control or demand that Dennis be there for me--making him feel like he's chained to me. God is my source of security, I can have peace and trust in Him while at the same time revealing my heart to my husband that I have this issue and need help with it. Because I've shared this in a vulnerable way, my husband wants to be closer to me knowing that he's needed and desired. And appreciated.

God is about the best go-between you could ever want in a love relationship--He's big and powerful and trustworthy. He is faithful to deal with me or Dennis in helping us to change and grow. He shows me the right way to go about my marriage. And for our twenty year anniversary, we want to do a lot of praising Him for all His kindness and graciousness towards us.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mustard Recipe

I took stock of my kitchen this morning and realized that I had an abundance of mustards in my fridge. I don't know how we accumulate mustard--there is Dennis' favorite honey mustard, a spicey mustard, the regular French's, a German mustard I bought because I liked the jar, whole grain dijon and regular dijon. Then there is the rustic mustard in a crock produced in France. You can't find it anymore, I first saw it at Dennis' Uncle Lorenzo's house in Quebec.

Mustard is a condiment that I've savored ever since I was a kid. My brother and sisters adored ketchup, but I was a fan of the bright yellow stuff ubequitious at picnics and campfire roasts. It is the flavor of summer to me. I've often felt alone in a world populated by salsa freaks and other red condiment lovers. Until a few Sundays ago at a church potluck where a youngish father of four cut in line in front of me to squeeze a generous portion of French's on his hotdog. He zipped away with a huge grin on his face, as though life could not get better than this. And I remembered that child-like zeal I for balony on white bread with as much mustard slathered on as it could hold. The sandwich was a vehicle for the mustard, not the usual other way around.

Nowadays, I am more temperate in my affection for mustard. I downplay my preference but it is always there in just about every meal I prepare. These days, it seems I have a garlic-dijon-tarragon flavor combination fixation. I found packages of fresh Tarragon, regularly priced at $2.29 on sale for $.29 each. I grabbed up the last four on the shelf, Dennis thought I was crazy. He hasn't noticed yet the tarragon/mustard/garlic profile showing up in all my salads I've made since then--potato salad, ham and pea salad, marinated four bean salad, and the salad I made up to take to the Fourth of July barbeque at Joanne and John's house.

Today I have a new one--a brown rice salad with lentils. Usually I don't like rice or brown rice for that matter. Salads made of them tend towards blandness and dryness that I find repelling. But this one worked. I used a lot of vegetables I had on hand that needed to be used before they went bad.

Brown Rice Salad

In a rice cooker, cook two cups raw brown rice with enough water to cover by a half inch and a table spoon of Better than Bouillion vegetable bouillion. After it has cooked, transfer to a large bowl, fluff with a fork and let it cool. Add one drained can of Westbrae's organic lentils and fluff together. Add one cup of each: chopped red pepper, chopped yellow pepper, chopped tomato, chopped mushrooms, chopped yellow onion (soaked in water and salt to remove bitterness and drained) and one can of drained artichoke hearts in water, chopped.

Make the vinegerette as follows: In a small bowl whisk together juice of three limes, four pressed garlic cloves, an eighth of a cup of dijon mustard, four tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, two tablespoons Heinz tarragon vinegar, three tablespoons minced fresh tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour vinegerette over rice mixture in the bowl and mix well.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Emotional Labors

My friend, Shauna, sent me an article about "Emotional Labor" after reading this last week. My pastor, Kevin DeYoung, featured various people from our church every week to highlight their jobs and how they've dealt with economy downturn in Michigan. My turn came up last week and I shared about serving coffee to grumpy customers.

Serving (and making) coffee (and lattes, mochas, cappuccinos and frappuccinos) is the physical part of my job which in itself is challenging, especially when I am making and/or handing out several at the same time. Mentally, there is a lot, too when you factor memorizing customers and their drinks and the qualities of each kind of coffee bean we sell. I'm good at both these things, like all my co-workers are.

But the part of the job that is very difficult is the emotional dimension. There is the feeling you really have versus the feeling you are supposed to have in order to make a customer happy.
Maintaining integrity and honesty while serving hard-to- please people is a delicate balance to acheive. And my particular company attracts picky people who are very specific about what they drink. Everyone struggles with it-- even after ten years, I still do.

These days, when someone is extremely rude, I won't hide my taken aback or offended reaction. I may not say anything other than "excuse me?" in an assertive tone. Rudeness answered by more rudeness is not the way to go but I don't believe that it is my job or anyone else's to take abuse. But it is amazing what kind of treatment my co-workers recieve. My old manager was called stupid, a supervisor had a lid thrown at her and a fellow barista was yelled at for simply helping a customer order his drink easier. And I had been yelled at by someone who didn't understand that it was possible for me to prepare his drink while chatting with another customer and another partner at the same time.

How much dignity am I required to give up? And if I accept it, how much more abuse will the jerk inflict on the next service person unlucky to have to deal with them? So, they are having a bad day (or life) and can't still be decent?

It helps to talk to fellow baristas who know how it is, or swim laps or take walks. But sometimes it isn't enough. I do find peace in having faith in a good and soveriegn God who is a source of all strength. If someone yells at me, it isn't me that is the problem but it says a lot about who they are. Especially over something as minor as coffee.

An excerpt from the article Shauna sent me:

"When you engage in emotional labor, you control your feelings to fulfill the goals and expectations of your organization. From a practical standpoint, this means that you either (a) express only your positive feelings, or (b) hide or manage your negative feelings. To deal with negative emotions, people tend to do one of the following:

Show emotion they don't really feel.

Hide emotion they really do feel.

Create an appropriate emotion for the situation.
You can do this using two emotional labor techniques:

Surface acting - You fake, or pretend to have, an emotion by using unnatural and artificial body language and verbal communication. Smiling and using a soft tone of voice help you show emotion that you don't feel, or hide emotion that you do feel.

Deep acting - You control your internal emotions, directing them to believe that you actually are happy, and enjoying the interaction with the other person. Rather than feel like you're pretending, you convince yourself you're not experiencing a negative reaction.
When you continually need to show only those emotions that are appropriate for the job, despite how you really feel, this can often lead to emotional conflict between your real emotions and those you show to others."

"Deep acting", eh? So, I must be the Meryl Streep of coffeehouse barsitas. It's not possible to keep that acting up and not suffer some kind of emotional exhaustion. You think you can? C'mon, make a hundred thousand lattes and see what I'm talking about. Either you get more negative or you go crazy, it's that simple. What are the other alternatives? Mine is Jesus.

For the rest of the article"

Friday, July 03, 2009

Time Will Tell

Currently, it is one a.m. and I have been sick all evening. There are times that are perfect for blogging. This seems to be one of them.

The kind of writing that I am used to is personal--like the letters I've written or the journals I've kept. While in the basement the other day, I ran across my seventh grade diary. I only read a few pages and got bored. I don't know the eleven year old anymore and why she got so worked up about the things she got worked up about. But it was boring--page after page of the same problems. Instead of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, this kid kept driving herself into a deeper, blacker hole. Ugh.

In a way, I'm that same person only older but there are exceptions. Young Thea could not see past the end of her nose and got stuck analyzing one thing from every possible angle she could think of. Young Thea could not see the forest for the trees. Older Thea has a larger vocabulary and spells better. Older Thea lacks an imagination. Older Thea sometimes can not see the trees for the forest. Older Thea doesn't care. As much.

I put the diary up on a shelf, but I doubt I'll actually read it. A part of me wants to pitch it into the trash, but the other part of me realizes that a record of my immaturity is actually useful. Any time I catch myself being way too introspective or depressing, all I have to do is find that green plastic coated notebook with "PRIVATE" written all over it and see myself at my most embarrassingly worst. Everday, everything was the end of the world. And no one else existed.

This year, I quit keeping a journal except for my devotions or notes from classes or sermons. As I hear about the benefit and neccessity of journaling for self discovery or whatever, I recoil a bit. It's a discipline, true. But there has to be a better subject matter other than me. In thirty years, I want to be able to read something that remains just as true now as it was then. Hopefully, something interesting.

But maybe it would be a good thing that what I find worthier, holier, wiser and deeper in thirty years would make what interests me now look like trash.

What I'm Missing This Year

I've decided I've been to enough Dylan concerts for now. However, if he keeps this in his set list, I might reconsider. This is "Forgetful Heart" on his CD (which I play almost every day)but on this July 1, 2009 performance in Wisconsin, there is a different execution and feeling. I can't help thinking that Dylan is thinking about Michael as he sings.