On white decor, deaf dogs, and a folly-challenged blog

I’m taking a lesson from my wise friend Andrew and decided not to wait for something clever to pop into my head before I wrote a blog post.

Just write, he said. So that’s what I’m doing. Just writing.

(The advantage of this is that if you don’t like the result, blame Andrew.)

It’s 25° as I’m writing this and we haven’t seen temps on this side of 0 for some time. Lord knows when we will again, so I should be outside. Only my jacket is in the dryer right now, so there you go.

This is what happens when you buy a white coat — this is my smaller coat, not the huge quilt I showed you in my previous post. This one is more like a ski jacket, very lightweight but waterproof and windproof and surprisingly warm. It’s also white, because I have a thing for white coats.

That reminds me. There was a new alto in choir last Wednesday. She just moved into the area and was telling me how hard it was to find a house to buy. They looked at seven in their price range and one was really, really nice, but it had white carpeting in the dining room. So they went with a different house that wasn’t as nice, but at least it didn’t have white carpeting.

This led to a discussion among the altos and a couple second sopranos as to what sort of person chooses white carpeting for a dining room. The general consensus was that it was a childless couple with no pets. “And they only drink white wine,” I added.

Though really, it goes without saying. Only Pinot Grigio goes with white carpeting.

I used to have a white couch. It was a beautiful couch. I loved it very much. Then we sat on it. It wasn’t white anymore. But man, for those first 15 minutes? It was gorgeous.

One of the second sopranos said people who choose white decor are delusional. “Do they think it’s going to stay that way? They’re insane!”

I disagreed with her, but I kept it to myself. You just never know with second sopranos. They look harmless enough, but they can be feisty.

I think white decor enthusiasts know exactly what they’re doing. They know it will show dirt. It’s kinda the point. They want to know when it’s dirty so they can clean it. Such is their dedication to cleanliness.

And I am right there with them, too. Boy howdy. Totally with them. If I lived all alone, that is. And didn’t live in a slushy area. And have a black cat. Or drink red wine.

Like, ever.

white couch
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Yeah. Totally there.

Gah, I just had to let Dog out for the second time. She paws at the back door to be let out, then she walks around to the front of the house to be let in, waits five minutes and then paws at the back door again. Pretty sure she wants a walk.

What I should do is grab my coat and take her outside, but, you know, it’s in the dryer. And my other coat is way too warm for 25°.

The annoying thing is that the whole time Dog is outside, and I’m meaning the whole time, Merricat, who is not allowed outside, meows. On and on and on, she meows. And she doesn’t stop until Dog comes back inside.

Merricat in window

Oh dang, I just missed Dog at the front door. When I got to the door she had already turned around and was walking away.

She’s pretty much deaf now, so the only way I can get her attention is by throwing something at her.

Snowballs work, but I’ve got lousy aim. So now I have to wait until she’s facing me again. While Merricat sings the song of her people.

Don’t you wonder about dogs when they go deaf? I mean, they don’t know they’re deaf right? So they’re probably wondering why we’re not talking to them anymore.

Or maybe they feel bad for us. “Oh, my poor human. Her mouth is moving but no sound is coming out. I wonder if she knows?”

Dog

You know what I think my problem is? (I’m off the topic of deaf dogs now, she’s back inside.) This is regarding coming up with ideas on what to write.

I think it has to do with my title, Feeding on Folly. It’s hemmed me in. Fact is, I’m not seeing a whole lot of folly nowadays.

There was a time when folly was all around me. Working at a high school in an affluent area, people taking themselves too seriously, taking their jobs too seriously, taking everything too seriously. Especially the secretary who worked right across from me, the one who left anonymous notes in the breakroom regarding coffee cups she never used. Man, she supplied me with countless example of folly.

But now, working at a convent? There’s a woeful lack of folly. It’s weird, but of all people who probably have a right to take themselves seriously, nuns don’t.

chapel at convent
Sacred Heart Chapel (just down the hall from my office)

By the way, did you know they’re not technically nuns? Technically speaking, nuns live in a cloistered community. If they work outside the convent as teachers or nurses or whatever, they are sisters. All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

Not that it matters much. One of the sisters told me most Catholics don’t know the difference either, so they don’t worry about it. If people call them nuns, they just roll with it.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, a lack of folly. What to do, what to do…

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Write about the convent, what it’s like to work there, what I encounter and such, keeping in mind very little of it is folly-related. OR,
  2. Now that I no longer work at the school and there can be no repercussions, really let loose on the folly I witnessed there. OR,
  3. Alternate between the two, cause why not? OR,
  4. Write whatever the hell I want. Folly or not.

You know, this is about the time we should start questioning Andrew’s wisdom, but maybe he was on to something. (We probably shouldn’t tell him that, though. He’s a nice guy and we don’t want him to get a big head.)

Oh hey, my coat is dry and oooh, it’s so white and clean! Guess I’ll be taking Dog for a walk after all.

Okay, so that’s it for this post. Stay tuned til next week when we’ll be talking about nuns… I mean, sisters… or my folly-filled memories, or whatever the hell I want.

Keep it real, friends.

Beating the brrr

Most of our readers know we live in Minnesota and most of our readers – being the savvy, intelligent people they are – were aware our temps recently hit record lows (-59° wind chill). Hence, our deepest apologies if our hiatus caused you any worries.

Rest assured. We are alive.

In answer to your question as to how we managed it, we did so in the same way we handled Phoenix when it hit a record high (122°). We skipped town.

The week of the dreadful cold, we were in Denver for Hey You’s funeral.  And then our two day trip became a full week because for some reason airlines weren’t anxious to fly back to Minneapolis. Meaning I spent a full week sans laptop.

Yeah, yeah, I know I should have packed it. But it was only supposed to be two days and going through TSA is stressful enough for me. I don’t need to add a laptop to the mix.

So there I was with just my phone, checking my emails but only halfheartedly because if you’re going to get stuck in a city, Denver is one of the better places to do it. They got some mighty fine restaurants and many of them reasonably priced.

omelet with salad on top
Breakfast at The Early Bird Cafe (who ever thought to put arugula and roasted hatch chili on top of an omelet? It’s genius!)

In any case, all this is to say that once home, my inbox was cluttered beyond reason. No matter how much I tried, I could not gain the upper hand. Something had to be done.

But first, a word about the cold.

You gotta be wondering about it, yeah? How this Arizona gal is holding up? Is she filled with remorse, wondering what in God’s name she was thinking moving to such a place?

pine trees covered in snow with mailboxes in front
Pine trees at their finest

Even if you’re not wondering, I feel I must say something to my naysayers on Facebook. Those who, when I posted pictures of the first snowfall back in October with a caption that read, “It’s soooo pretty!!!” (or something to that effect), responded with a snarky and most predictable, “Tell us what you think of it in February!”

It’s now February. It’s still pretty.

bare trees in deep snow
View from my backyard. The Mississippi is back there somewhere.

Personally, I don’t see the point of complaining about weather. Back in Phoenix there were those who got upset about the heat. Some of them even seemed angry about it. Now where’s the sense in that?

Ducks at a frozen pond
The park near our home, right before the severe cold hit. I assume the ducks have left by now, though you never know with ducks. They probably have a cottage nearby.

It was about a year ago when we realized a move to Minnesota might be a possibility. Naturally, I did some research. Using search terms such as, “Winter tips” and “Surviving brutal cold” and “How do Norwegians stand it?!”

Christmas decorations in snow
Christmas lasts longer in these parts.

I learned there’s a Scandinavian saying,

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

With this in mind, I bought a Queen-size quilt with arms:

quilted down coat with fur-lined hood

Maybe you won’t find it on the cover of Vogue, but it’s rated at -50 “in moderate activity.” So far the coldest I’ve been in was a wind chill of -31°. Dog needed a walk and I couldn’t talk her out of it.

I’m here to report that Dog can do her job amazingly fast when she’s properly motivated. Also, L.L. Bean doesn’t lie. That coat is damn warm.

I learned something else from the Scandinavians: the key is not to endure winter, but to enjoy it.

Get outside when you can, appreciate the glistening snow and brisk air, wear comfy sweaters and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.

Find the beauty in a red shed covered in snow.

Red shed covered in snow

After all, winter won’t last forever. It may seem like it, but eventually Spring will come.

So no worries about this Arizona gal. She’s handling winter like a champ.

Her inbox on the other hand…

Okay, so on Saturday I set a timer and whipped through Gmail’s Promotions folder and Personal folder in two half-hour sessions. I was on a roll! Then I hit the Social folder and it all came to a screeching halt.

That’s where all the bloggers I follow wind up, and Lordy they are a productive lot. Initially I thought I’d delete all the old posts and only read the most current, but after deleting a few I got to thinking. Is it their fault I got behind?

So then I thought, oh I’ll just read them fast and click “like” without commenting, but… well, that felt wrong too. Instead, I decided to throw caution to the wind and read every single one of them and comment too. (I’m reckless like that.)

As of now, I’ve 28 left to read. Which doesn’t sound bad but the day is young. There’ll probably be 14 new posts by dinnertime. Meaning the cold might not be bad, but the emails might do me in.

But hey, I’m not complaining. I’ll just brew a cup of tea, curl up by the fireplace with my laptop and read its soft, blue screen.

fireplace

Living in Minnesota ain’t so bad at all. 😉

Hey You, Thanks

Soon after Husband and I married, my mother-in-law sent me a letter. Sort of a “welcome to the family” kind of letter.

In it, she admitted how she never had a particularly good relationship with her own mother-in-law. She always felt a little uncomfortable around her and never knew what to call her.

But it would not be that way between us, she wrote. And it didn’t matter to her in the least what I called her. “You can call me Roberta or Bobbi or Mom or ‘Hey You!’ if you want.”

Naturally, the letter I wrote back was addressed to “Hey You.”

And that’s how it stayed. Any letters we wrote, birthday cards we sent, gifts we gave each other. She was Hey You and I was What’s-Her-Name.

wedding family

Over this last weekend, my mother-in-law passed away. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, she’d been declining in health over the last year. The last time I saw her was in the summer and she didn’t know who I was.

I wasn’t even What’s Her Name. More like a “Who’s She?”

It didn’t bother me. Partly because I’d gone through it with my own Mom, but mostly because our relationship was above that. Even if she didn’t remember me at that moment, I knew her and remembered how she had accepted me into her family. How comfortable she made me feel.

That was the kind of person she was. She never made demands on people, insisted on her own way, was arrogant or rude. She endured all things.

And from what I know of her, she’d really hate my writing about her like this. Like, really hate it a lot. It’s embarrassing and unnecessary, she’d say.

And chances are good that if there’s WiFi in heaven, she really is reading this because she followed this blog.

So right about now she’ll be saying, “Oh Lord, why’d she have to write something like that?!” And then almost immediately she’ll smile, give that throaty chuckle of hers and say, “Oh, I don’t know…” Because she wouldn’t want me to feel bad.

Listen, I’m sorry to embarrass you so, but I wanted to write you one last letter. Okay?

Dear Hey You,

Thanks for everything. Of all the mother-in-laws in the world, you were the best.

Love always,
What’s-Her-Name

Ceiling Theology

According to my blog’s stat page, I haven’t written squat since Christmas Eve. Is that right?

*receives note*

Okay, my editor says I shouldn’t openly admit how long it’s been since I last wrote, and…

*receives another note*

Okay, I’m also not supposed to mention how my editor sends me notes.

*receives third note*

Oh for cripes sake, I TOLD you the chocolate is on the second shelf, toward the back. Sheesh!

Anyway, sorry for ghosting on you. Been a bit busy and all that. I’ve got a couple blog posts percolating, but nothing quite up to snuff. So instead we’ll be doing a quickie for today.

This came to me via a sister from the convent. She works with college students at a volunteer ministry and they were studying the creation story. One of them brought up the scene from the Sistine chapel. The part where God is reaching out to Adam.

You can picture it in your mind, right? I don’t need to show it to you.

Okay fine, I’ll show it to you:

creation

So the student pointed out something I was aware of, but never really thought about.

Look at how how God — he’s the one on the right — is stretching out with everything he’s got. You can see his muscles at work, he’s straining, doing all he can to reach Adam. The angels look like they’re holding on to God, afraid to let go.

And then there’s Adam. Lounging about, taking it easy, barely managing to hold his hand out.

I mean, he’s not even looking at God.

creation (5)

Did you ever notice that? I didn’t.

I don’t know what Michelangelo had in mind, but I couldn’t help thinking this is like an extremely condensed version of the entire Bible.

God — forget for the moment he’s shown as a white-haired old man (this is art, baby) — God is always reaching out to us.

creation (2)

Come on, people… just a bit farther… you can do it!… I’m right here

And we’re all, like…

creation (4)

Hmm? … Oh, yeah… um… I don’t know, God. I’m kind of swamped right now...

Isn’t that interesting? And when you think about the Biblical stories — taken as a whole, I mean — then it seems clear that…

*receives note*

Okay, my editor thinks I’m getting too religious and need to back off. But you all know I work at a convent now, right? It’s gonna be hard not letting it creep in a little.

*yet another note*

What do you mean you can’t find it? You freak out over a misplaced apostrophe, but you can’t see a box of chocolates right in front of your face?! Geez!

I better go. I’ll see you all next week. In the meantime, keep reaching…  😉

On nativity sets and bread pudding with bourbon sauce

For those of you who landed here in the hope of finding a recipe for bread pudding with bourbon sauce, let not your heart be troubled. For indeed, there is one.

And since I know how irritating it is to have to scroll through an entire blog post when all you want is the freakin’ recipe–seriously, do we need a picture for every time they crack an egg?–I made you a jump link straight to it: Click to jump to recipe

(Gosh, it’s been so long since I did a jump link, sure hope I did it right. If not, I wonder where they all went to?)

Oh well. On my nativity set. Here’s a picture of it:

Nativity set

The set is from the Willow Creek collection and is ridiculously popular, but for the record, I bought it when it first came out. Before it was popular. Just so you know.

It’s the first nativity set I ever bought and the only reason I did so is that Mary is holding the baby.

Nativity set with mary holding baby

Most sets have her praying, like she wishes he’d go to sleep already…

Nativity with praying mary

Other times she looks surprised there’s a baby at all, which I guess is reasonable given the circumstances…

Nativity with surprised mary

Once I saw a set where Mary was holding up a cloth. I told Husband, “Look! She’s got a diaper!” He thought it was the swaddling cloth. Sadly, I never saw the set again.

Anyway, the reason I’m musing on nativity sets, other than it being Christmas and all, is that it recently came to my attention it was St. Francis who came up with the idea.

(For those of you who follow this blog and don’t just come here hoping to snag a recipe, you’ll know I recently started working at a Franciscan convent. Hence, my recently acquired knowledge of nativity sets.)

It was St Francis who created the first living nativity. He set it up in a cave in central Italy and it was so popular that for several years after it was reenacted throughout Italy. Eventually they created small replicas for people to keep in their homes.

His intent, St. Francis’ that is, was to have a scene where people could reflect on the event; no one cared if it was historically accurate or not.

Nativity and st francis

Even so, for a lot of us, it became gospel truth. The stable, the wooden manger filled with straw, the shepherds and wise men jockeying for space, the stingy innkeeper, the whole shtick.

Several years ago I saw a video of a theologian talking about the nativity story. It was quite entertaining, mostly because he talked with so much enthusiasm.

According to this theologian — his name was Dr. Bailey — it’s far more likely Jesus was born in a home, not a stable. The homes of that time and region consisted of one big room, a portion of which was lower and that’s where the animals were kept at night. Mainly to protect them from thieves, but also because they added warmth to the house.

As for the manger, it was probably a concave spot cut into the main floor for feeding the animals on the lower level. When the angels told the shepherds, “You will find the babe wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger,” they would have pictured a home just like one they grew up in. The message was clear: “He’s one of us!”

There’s a lot more Dr. Bailey said, including specifics as to why they’d be in a house. If you’d like to read an article he wrote, you can do so here.

What I love about this rendition is that it becomes a tale of hospitality and family. A new baby lain not on scratchy straw but in a cozy nook, a young couple assisted by relatives they probably never met before, the nervous new mother comforted by wise and knowing women. And however poor the family, they would have shared their food as well.

It could be that this is where our present day Christmas gets it right. Families and friends getting together, sharing food and conversation, a extra room if needed.

And here’s where we segue into the bread pudding with bourbon sauce, because if you’re going to be hospitable toward your family, a little bourbon can’t hurt.

And if my jump-link worked, we’re now joined with our recipe hunters too.

Oh, hey there! Nice to see you again!

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

  • Difficulty: easier than you think
  • Print

This is a tasty, grown-up version of bread pudding, with cranberries because I’m not fond of raisins. But feel free to use whatever dried fruit you’d like. Also, if you’d rather not have bourbon in it, use apple cider instead. 

bread pudding

Ingredients:

  • 4 or 5 cups dry bread cubes
  • 2 cups half-n-half (can use milk or almond milk instead)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked a couple hours in  1/2 cup bourbon or apple cider
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Bourbon Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (reserved from soaking fruit)

First off, put the dried cranberries (or dried fruit of choice) in a bowl and soak in bourbon (or liquid of choice). Let soak for a good 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour half-n-half (or milk) in a mixing bowl and add the bread cubes. Stir gently until all the liquid is absorbed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Strain the dried cranberries, reserving 1/4 cup liquid for the sauce. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and add the cranberries, stir gently until combined.

Grease an 8×8-inch pan with the melted butter. Pour the bread and egg mixture into the baking pan; bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until the liquid has set.

To make bourbon sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in sugar and egg and whisk until smooth. Slowly cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens a little. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. (Note: the alcohol does not cook out.)

Pour the bourbon sauce over the bread pudding to serve. Enjoy!

On blogging, self-analysis, and a whole lotta $%*t

Several bloggers I follow recently announced they will be taking a break from blogging. Most gave a time frame for their return, others said, “we’ll see.”

They will be missed, but I commend them for taking a needed rest. Especially those who said it wasn’t fun anymore. I mean, if you’re not enjoying this blogging thing, then why do it?

working, frustrated, writer's block
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Which led me to think about this here blog. This Feeding on Folly.

You might have noticed our posting has been a bit sporadic. For the first three years there was an article every Wednesday, and sometimes a Saturday too if we were feeling especially productive.

But since this last June, around the time we relocated closer to Santa, the posting schedule has been hit or miss. There might be a Wednesday post, it might be Thursday, possibly Friday, or hey, maybe none at all. (Oh, the suspense!)

So after reading the fifth blogger in a row who wrote, “this will be my last post for the foreseeable future,” and I swear I heard a dirge playing in the background, I got to wondering if that was my problem. Maybe I’m in need of a break? Am I facing blogger burnout?

Has Fun left the building?

We decided to give the matter some serious thought. It was time for Self-Reflection, and if you’ve been following FoF for any reasonable amount of time, you know that Self-Reflection is our game.

For our evening of Rumination and Cogitation, we selected the chair nearest the fireplace and poured a glass of zinfandel.

Some might say pinot noir is a better choice for Introspection, but there is much to be said for zinfandel. The primary one being the zinfandel was on sale for six bucks and the pinot wasn’t. So there you go.

Sitting in the chair with Me was the Me doing the analysis. The Me doing the analysis was drinking Earl Grey, as she wanted to keep her wits about her.

Our conversation went as thus:

Me: It’s nice to see you again. How are things going?

Me: No complaints. You?

Me: Same. I noticed you didn’t do a blog post last Wednesday. Is everything okay?

Me: Aw, you noticed! That’s so sweet!

Me: Well, I didn’t notice right away. Truthfully, I forgot it was Wednesday.

Me: Right?! It’s so hard to keep track of those things.

Me: So was that it? You just forgot? That’s… troubling.

Me: Is it?

Me: What about Thursday, Friday or Saturday? You could have posted something one of those days.

Me: Meh. I just wasn’t feeling it. And now I’m kinda worried I might be facing burnout.

Me: Uh-huh. And how does that make you feel?

Me: Rotten.

Me: Interesting. Tell me, has the well run dry? Are you lacking ideas?

Me: No, I’ve got plenty of ideas. I just wasn’t sure any of them were blog-worthy.

Me: I see. Listen, how about you tell me one of the ideas and I’ll tell you what I think of it?

Me: Gee, I’m not sure…

Me: Hey, if you can’t trust me, who can you trust?

Me: Okay… well, for one of them I was writing about my new job at the convent and about how last week I was helping with this workshop thingy and when one of the nuns realized she forgot something she said, “Oh shit.”

Me: Really? A nun said shit?

Me: Yeah.

Me: That should be worth a blog post. A nun saying shit.

Me: Is it though? I mean, so what if a nun says shit? They’re human.

Me: Yeah, but you don’t expect them to say shit. That’s what makes it funny.

Me: Maybe. But there’s only so many times you can write shit before you wind up with a post full of shit.

Me: I see your point. What else have you got?

Me: Well, then I started thinking about how different this job is from my last job. You know, going from a high school to a convent.

Me: Go on.

Me: And how after two months of working here it was the first time I heard shit, but there–

Me: You heard it every two minutes?

Me: Something like that.

Me: Okay, yeah, I could see that being funny.

Me: Yeah. But then I got to thinking I was sounding all goody-goody, like I had a problem with people saying shit.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: And really, I don’t care. I mean, hey, sometimes I say shit too.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: But not at the convent. I don’t say shit there.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: Some places aren’t shit-appropriate.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: And then I started writing about how I finally met the oldest sister at the convent. She’s 103.

Me: No kidding? A hundred and three?

Me: Yeah.

Me: Is she the nun who said shit?

Me: No… though I bet she does, don’t you think? Say shit?

Me: Maybe.

Me: I bet she does. Heck, when you’re 103, I bet every morning you wake up and realize you’re still alive you say, “Oh shit.”

Me: I suppose.

Me: Yeah, I bet she does. I bet she says shit.

Me: Uh-huh.

Me: Listen, about this blog. What do you think? Give it to me straight – am I facing burnout?

Me: No, I don’t think this is burnout.

Me: Really?

Me: Really. Borderline psychosis, maybe. A touch of schizophrenia. Mild hysteria leading toward an eventual breakdown, sure. But not burnout.

Me: Oh, that’s such a relief. I feel so much better.

Me: Glad I could help. Now pour me a glass of Zin.

relaxed scene of sofa and two glasses of wine
Photo by Guillermo Nolasco on Unsplash

Working among nuns and radicals

On a post about five or so months ago, where I told of my relocation up North, I ended by saying I got a job at a hospital near our house.

Maybe you wondered why I never mentioned this job again? Or maybe you never thought about it, which is completely understandable because why would you?

The reason I never talked about the job was because 10 days into said job, I quit.

Have you ever started working at a place and as you stood there watching the other employees do their thing, know deep in your heart it’s not your thing and never would be your thing and what in God’s name ever made you think it could be your thing?

Also, what I was told would be my schedule turned out to be more theory than practice. It might one day be my schedule, but for now it was anything goes. So I went.

What followed was a time of self-reflection, doubt, and existential malaise. Or, what is commonly known as, a job search.

grumpy-cat-300x200I forget how many interviews I had. Or how many times Indeed-dot-com notified me with: “______ looked at your resume!” Without bothering to note that “_____” was in California or Florida or Guam.

I tried to stay positive.

Hey, with all this free time, I can write blog posts galore! Resuscitate its Facebook page, update the blog theme, tidy up the sidebar!

Gosh, maybe I’ll even dig out that novel I’ve been working on for… oh gee, I don’t know… 15 years? Hey, now I can be a full-time writer!

Oh, if only I had a smoking jacket! Or smoked!

But lo, this writer’s dream was not to be. I found that with no pressure on my time, I make sad use of it. I needed to get out of the house. I needed a sense of purpose. I needed—gasp!—I needed to be around people. (For an introvert, this is a startling revelation.)

Then Husband found a help wanted ad in the paper:

Administrative Assistant with desktop publishing and database skills; ability to write and format newsletters; creativity and good writing skills a must; knowledge of video editing software a plus. Please send letter of introduction with resume.

There was one peculiar addition:

Must be knowledgeable of Franciscan spirituality or willing to learn.

Forgot to mention, the job was at a convent.

So, yeah. I’m working at a convent now. Have been for a little over a month. It’s a fascinating place.

I don’t mean to put down men—honestly, I love you guys—but there’s something about women who choose to live without them. It’s like they come into their own.

Also, this Franciscan thing.

The couple I work for–they’re a lay couple who oversee two of the convent’s ministries–they give me books to read so I can understand their work better. They reserve a quiet room for me, I can get free popcorn at the convent’s top-notch cafeteria. We meet afterwards to discuss what I read.

It’s like I’m getting paid to attend a book club.

Things I’ve learned: St. Francis was a radical. And here I thought he was just a guy who liked birds.

St FrancisThese nuns can be pretty radical too. Never before have I worked with a group of people who are so focused outwardly. Even things like tossing a piece of paper in the garbage—Wait! That can be recycled!—Wait! Did we write on both sides first?

The woman I work for, let’s call her Mrs. Boss, said if anything were to happen in town—if some injustice was occurring—these sisters would be the first ones marching out the door, carrying signs in protest.

And I can see it happening, too. Though it would be a slow procession, given their ages and several using walkers.

walkersSuch is my life now. Living in a blue state, working among Franciscan nuns.

And here I thought the biggest change for me would be the weather. 😉

Featured photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

 

Dinner for Eight — Our Thanksgiving with the Professor

Many Thanksgivings ago, back when we lived in an old green house in central Nebraska, we were invited to an elderly professor’s home for dinner.

thanksgiving table

He was a widower, tall and lean, with thick, white hair and a gentle, noble demeanor that all elderly professors should have, if they can possibly do so.

We were joined by five others: a truck driver, a convenience store clerk, a school secretary, a dental hygienist, and one of the professor’s former students who was currently “between jobs.”

You might say we were a rag-tag bunch, but I won’t because I was part of it. Rather, I choose to believe we were an eclectic group of wise and witty conversationalists. A regular Algonquin Round Table, Nebraska-style.

The school secretary and unemployed student loved movies. They recommended Double Impact highly, but Child’s Play 3 was a disappointment. The truck driver admired the layout of our host’s home. The dental hygienist commented on the color of the drapes (mauve). The convenience store clerk had many opinions that he was only too happy to share, mostly with regards to Thanksgiving being a complete sham. (There’s always one in the crowd.) Husband played the role of devil’s advocate with aplomb, pointing out that whatever the original Thanksgiving was, at least now there’s gravy.

I delighted in the homemade cranberry sauce.

“It’s made with brandy,” the elderly professor said.

“That’s brilliant,” I declared. And it was.

I’ve been thinking about that Thanksgiving so many years ago. Imagining this kind man striking up conversations with people and upon hearing they had no plans for Thanksgiving, saying, “Well now, that won’t do! Stop by my place at four for cocktails, dinner’s at five. Here’s my card. Cheerio!”

Okay, maybe he didn’t say Cheerio.

Anyway, the idea is a lovely one and beings how Husband and I had no plans this year, I threw out the idea of following in the path of our kind, elderly professor. And we probably would have, but we found out the town in which we live has its own version. A community-wide Thanksgiving dinner that apparently is quite the to-do.

little fa

It started several years ago with the idea of it being for low-income and elderly people, but over the years it grew to include just about everyone, from all walks of life, all getting together to celebrate the day. And so many people want to help out, they actually have to turn volunteers away.

Fortunately we got our names in early; I think we have dish duty. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Back to our elderly professor: being the kind man he was, he shared his recipe with me.

You only use three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and a small amount of liquid which can be water, juice, or in our kindly professor’s case, brandy.

The amounts are as follows,

  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup liquid

Kindly Professor made his on the stovetop (cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens), but I’ve seen recipes that bake it (one hour at 325 degrees, giving it a stir every 15 minutes or so).

I’ve played around with the recipe because that’s what I do, and I like to add about 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and an apple. You could add raisins if you feel so moved, but if your family is anything like mine, it’s best you don’t.

Another note: in place of the brandy, I’ve used red wine and once did Bailey’s Irish Cream. I like the brandy version best, but if you’d rather not use alcohol, orange juice is an excellent option.

Final note: the fresh cranberries I used were Minnesota grown. Meaning I now live in an area with bogs, as that is where cranberries grow.

Mind. Blown.

fresh cranberries
Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🦃

P.S. Per Susie’s request, here’s a picture of a cranberry bog in Walker, Minnesota:

Cranberry bog Walker Mn

Right before harvest, the area is flooded and the cranberries float, then the harvesters wade in and collect the berries. According to what I read, cranberries are native to Minnesota, but most of the cranberries grown commercially are from Wisconsin.

 

Praying for Snow

A few days ago we had our first real, honest-to-goodness snowstorm. It’s Dog’s first and she’s not sure what to make of it.

A change of scenery

I, on the other hand, love it.

I also love the gray skies and the way my phone claimed it was -4° when I woke up yesterday.

Screenshot_20181113-053944

Mind over matter, folks. Mind over matter.

I’ve always loved snow so this desert gal is glad to be back in it. The -4 and dropping?

Hey, I can handle it. As long as I have my LL Bean boots and down coat, I’ve got this.

boots ll bean

I’m pretty sure our neighbors think we’re crazy. Moving from Phoenix, AZ to central Minnesota was the first clue, but when a grown woman tromps around in the snow and giggles?

Yeah, she’s a nut-job.

But then I’ve always been a little crazy when it comes to snow. Like, for instance, the time when I prayed for it.

I was an innocent preteen, back when there were such things, and we were headed to South Dakota in early October to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. We usually visited them in June or July, on account of school, but I was a good student and my teachers gave me plenty of work to keep me occupied for the entire 10-day trip. (I finished it in two.)

When my parents announced the trip, I was beyond thrilled. For the first time in my life, I might see snow!

Okay, let’s back up. I’d seen snow before, but I’d never been in it. Never felt it upon my face. In the winter Dad might drive us a couple hours north of Phoenix, point out the window and say, “Look guys, there’s snow.” That was about it.

Twelve years old and never built a snowman.

But now, in South Dakota, in early October? Will it snow?

“It’s too early for that,” Dad said.

Mom agreed. “It never snows this early.”

Never? Never ever?

“Well, it’s highly unlikely.”

So there’s a possibility?

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

Too late.

But I wasn’t leaving it all to chance. Every night, I made my requests known unto the Lord.

Please, oh please, oh pleeeease, let it snow! I don’t need a lot, just enough for a snowman. That’s all. All I want is to feel it on my face and build a snowman. That’s it. Please?!

Every night, over and over. (I was a strange 12-year-old.)

We left Phoenix on October 2. Two days later we were at a motel in Nebraska, right at the border to South Dakota. It was morning, our last day of travel, maybe three hours from my grandparent’s house. Dad took our luggage to the car.

He walked back in. “It’s snowing,” he said. Not happily.

What?!”

I zoomed past him.

“Christi, get your shoes on!”

“Prayer works!” I cried.

Alleluia and praise be!
This is the snow that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

My South Dakota relatives were not amused. It was one thing to deal with an early snowfall, but to find out your young relation had prayed for it? Hoo-boy, that didn’t sit well.

Even so, two of my uncles and one cousin aided me in my quest for a snowman. Despite everyone’s belief there wasn’t enough snow.

O ye of little faith. I knew better.

I had prayed for “just enough” snow and that’s what we had. Along with a lovely coating of leaves for rustic charm.

Uncle Bobby loaned his hat, Uncle Richard fashioned a pipe from a stick, Cousin Sheila found some fallen apples for the eyes and nose.

Me with snowman

My first snowman.

You know, it’s funny. As much as I love this picture and the flood of memories it gives me, I don’t really believe it was divine intervention that created that snowstorm.

Had it happened today, my dad would have checked his weather app before we left Phoenix and would have known all about the storm. And he probably would have stopped off at a gas station to buy his silly daughter gloves because she forgot to pack them.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe in prayer and I pray daily.

Well, mostly daily. Sometimes I forget. (Hey, I’m human.)

I think far too often we confuse God with Santa Claus:

If I’m a good girl and I pray really hard, God will give me what I want.”

Sorry. Doesn’t work like that.

I read something recently that said prayer is about making yourself open to a relationship with God.

Which, when you think about it, is a whole lot more scary and probably why I “forget” to do it.

Like I said, I’m human.

In any case, that’s my take on the situation. Maybe you have different views and that’s okay. There’s room enough for all here.

But right now there’s a layer of snow in my backyard with more to come, that’s for sure. And while I have no plans of building any snowmen, I remember a time when I did. With complete confidence it was God who made it possible.

And who knows? Maybe that 12-year-old girl had it right.

I mean, just look at the joy on her face.

me with snowman up close

Are you going to tell her otherwise?