Search This Blog

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Magic Words: Please & Thank You

This morning I watched this TED talk and I knew I had to write about my experience with learning to ask. Back in the mid nineties I was moving from apartment to apartment in the same complex. For some reason I decided this would be an easy move. I didn't rent a truck. I only had a few boxes. I didn't need any help, thank you very much. I profoundly underestimated the magnitude of this task.

When I realized I was in over my head, I did what I do. I talked about it publicly. Several people came up to me and offered to help. I thanked them. One guy in particular (who seemed to know who he was dealing with) pressed his phone number in my hand and said, "I would consider it an HONOR to get to help you move. It is not an imposition. I WANT to help you." I took his number and promised I'd call him. I lied. I went back to my apartment and sat in the middle of the floor and cried as I stuffed things in trash bags to lug across the parking lot. At one point I was carrying a mattress on my back across the parking lot at three in the morning when the wind caught it and I wound up on my back, on the mattress in the parking lot and I was dangerously close to a psychotic break. I called a mentor of mine and admitted that it wasn't that I didn't want help, the problem was that I couldn't make myself ask. Something was stuck inside and it wouldn't allow the words out.

Today, I know what was blocking me: my pride.

My spiritual adviser said, "Don't you realize that it's just as selfish to deny someone they joy of being of service as it is to see an opportunity to help and ignore it?" I'd never really thought of it that way. I'd always thought of needing help as something shameful but in my heart I always envied those people who didn't seem to have to ask, the girls who could say "I'm cold!" and guys couldn't get their letter jackets off fast enough to fix it. So I carried my own boxes, opened my own door, changed my own tires and built my own little fortress where I prayed...

Now before I go any further, please know that I am not advocating whiny helplessness. We all know people who expect life to cut their meat and peel their orange for them. Those people are annoying. You guys are not those annoying people. You guys are my people. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

I prayed a lot but I prayed for God to "fix it" and God sent boats and helicopters while I sent them away and watched the flood waters rising. Then one day something happened. One day I revised my plan and I revised my prayer. One day I said, "God, I don't know what to do, but I believe that you know what I need. You know where I am. I need your help. Please." Then the help came disguised as work and I said, "thank you." Sometimes the help comes disguised as something I'd love to do, sometimes it comes as something I'm afraid to do, and sometimes it comes as something I'm not sure I can do but it's help all the same.

I am not alone. I am not designed to do it all myself. I need and want help. This is the plan.

Just today I posted my special deals for Small Business Saturday. I'm sure there are some who are tired of seeing us plug our business on Facebook and I'm really okay if they hide me from their news feed or completely nuke me from their friends list but I'm not going to stop asking for help and I'm not going to stop offering to help. I believe that's what we're supposed to do. Thanks to all of you who let me know I'm not alone. Thanks to all who share my stuff and thanks to those who remind me that it's okay to ask for what you need. Peace, love and "BUY LOCAL!"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pie Oh My!

I'm obsessed. Several months ago I had a customer call me to order a chocolate cream pie. I assured her I could make a KILLER chocolate cream pie and I kept it to myself that I had never in my life made an anything cream pie. The good news is that I did a quick little internet search and I found a recipe that is both easy and good (it turns out chocolate cream pie isn't rocket science) and not only did my customer love it, she's ordered four more pies since I made her the first one. Just out of curiosity I made one for Big Daddy and me and yeah, that's a darn good pie!


For crust
  • I just buy a graham cracker crust. You can make one if you're feeling it, but I just buy one already made.
For filling
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted (I have used Ghirahrdelli and Hersheys Special Dark chocolate chips with good results)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
For topping
  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


Make filling:
Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).
Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.
Make topping: (I know they sell whipped cream in a can, it's not the same. Make the whipped cream, trust me on this!)
Just before serving, beat cream with sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spoon on top of pie.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Everyday is a Winding Road

It's been a minute since I've posted, so I guess I'll update you on the goings-on here at The Love Shack. A week ago Big Daddy and I went in to work and at the end of our shift, Big Daddy was informed that the place would be shutting it's doors in 24-hours. While we were give one explanation, we're clear that there were many factors that lead to a simple bottom line: they weren't making money.

I know this was hard on Big Daddy, aside from the obvious, this job gave him a lot of creative freedom and a lot of really nice plans were made for the future before the reality of the situation set in. It reminds me of a quote from Mario Cuomo, "You campaign with poetry, but you govern with prose." In my experience all jobs are like that, some more so than others.

I have joked a lot about how everyone circled the wagons when the chef lost his job, but no one even noticed that my budding dish washing career ended just as it began. I actually liked that job. (My feet weren't always crazy about it, but that's another story.) One of the things I liked the most, and this may seem strange to some, was that every Sunday morning, I cleaned the bar bathrooms. Each week I had a gratitude meeting that I am no longer someone who would leave garbage on the floor anywhere. I was thankful that I no longer live in a bubble where I don't notice or care that when I leave a mess someone else has to clean it up. I was thankful that I got to be the one to clean up this time. I'm not being smug here. I got to pay back a debt and it felt good.

The good news is that we're doing just fine. Big Daddy has some side work and is interviewing for a very interesting opportunity. I am planning for the holidays with Yes, Chef! Today we're not afraid and are thankful that we can help others while we take steps to figure out what's next. Today we're drinking some joe and making plans. I hope your Monday is filled with good juju. Peace, love & coffee!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Thanksgiving Project

This year we're having thirteen people over for Thanksgiving. That's fifteen total. Fifteen people will be in my little house on Thanksgiving day. We need a plan.

I started on the menu yesterday. My dad will be two weeks out of rehab and may be on a walker. My sister's in-laws are coming from Bulgaria. Our friends Carlos and Blakelee have just had a baby. Big Daddy will be working. I need a plan.

So I started yesterday. Step one: seating. Step two: funtivities. Step three: menu. Step four: schedule. Step five: ummmm yeah, we don't have enough silverware for all the guests. Can we have a Medieval Times table? Glad I'm working on a plan.

My main concern is keeping the kids happy. As a veteran of hosting holidays I have learned a big truth: if the kids don't have a good time, no one has a good time. With that thought in mind, I have planned several activities that should entertain/occupy all the kids from pre-teen to preschool. First they'll be making fall snack mix favors/place cards. Each kid has a job that matches their skill level. Then after lunch I have planned a fairly elaborate treasure hunt. This involves thirty or more clues that will lead them all around the house and yard. When they find the prize, it will be the stuff we need to play Thanksgiving Bingo. We are big fans of bingo in my family as it kills time, keeps everyone entertained and I offer cash/gift card prizes so the kids stay interested. This year I will be playing using a set that has pictures rather than numbers as we will have a pre-schooler and two non-English speakers as guests. I will keep you in the loop about my other plans and designs, but for now, I need to go find some silverware! Peace, love and timelines!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wrestling with the Boogieman

When I get afraid, I get angry. Fear trembles in the corner and anger feels like control--I know that when I'm angry I'm actually less in control, but that's not how it feels. I've spent several days struggling with fear and anger and I am not winning these matches. So I'm going to talk about and see if I can steal some of the Boogieman's power.

When Big Daddy and I got together and married it was glorious. We had the kind of partnership that I'd always dreamed of and honestly it made me smug. I felt like we needed to be teaching classes, something along the lines of "Wedded Bliss for Dummies." We had challenges in those first couple of years but we were in so much awe and gratitude that we had each other that we worked through those challenges with a certain degree of grace, or maybe I imagined that part. I don't know. I honestly don't know. I wrote myself a fairy tale love story and I have absolutely no idea what's true and what's not. What I do know is now we're sliding in to our fifth year of married life and some of the glitter has fallen off and it's all over the floor and life at The Love Shack got real. We're having to talk about, deal with, cry about, fuss over, and slog through real challenges and trust me, there's no Disney music playing in the background. I have become painfully aware of my childish reactions to responsibility and the need for some serious growing up. I have made myself crazy trying to get back to some romantic ideal that doesn't fit into day-to-day life. I need a reality check. My expectation that we're supposed to be grateful and graceful all the time is beyond comic. I have been so afraid of turning into one of "those wives" that I have denied myself the connection that comes with admitting and even embracing the fact that we are taking a ride on "The Hot Mess Express."

Most of my struggles stem from the same place: the fear that I will not be taken care of. When financial problems arise, the monster under the bed tells me that time I won't get through it (in Scaryworld, there is no "we," it's just me, alone and not okay). When my family members are sick and struggling, the monster under my bed tells me that I am supposed to be handling it better. I need to be proactive. I need to make something happen. I am supposed to know what to do and how to do it with no instruction or experience.  When my husband's work situation isn't ideal, the monster under the bed tells me that our life is about to fall apart. When my work situation wanes or feels too busy, the monster under the bed tells me I will not be able to do what has to be done. When someone wants something from me and I don't follow through the way I should the monster under the bed tells me I've ruined all the good I've ever tried to do. All of these lies presuppose that it's up to me, that I am alone and unaided. All of this fear ignores the fact that my okay doesn't come from me, my bank account, my husband, my job, or my reputation. The grace I live in isn't from me, isn't about me and isn't contingent upon me. It's grace.

So today I am going to pray and move forward. I'm going to shine the light on those shadows that I've convinced myself are out to get me. I'm going to breathe in the grace and exhale all the insecurities. Today I'm going to be part of "we" and "us" and I'm going to remember that feelings aren't facts, but grace is. Peace, love & blessed messes!