The Beauty of the Ordinary: Nieces and Nephews and a Book

Since I’ve been feeling a little better, I’m trying to spend more time with my Nieces and Nephews. It’s wonderful to get to share some new adventures with them again. And since several of them are old enough to start school soon, the pressure to enjoy freedom as long as possible has been felt. These are every day, ordinary things, but to us, they’re the most fun.

Adventure 1: The Dallas World Aquarium

If you haven’t recently reminded yourself of how magnificent and sometimes funny God’s creation is, stop by the Aquarium. From a sloth, ducks, and monkeys, to sting rays, sharks, and snake eels, the Dallas World Aquarium has much to see. You can move through it quickly or interact with all the information and learn a lot about what you’re looking at.

The highlight of the trip was the sheer joy of the boys when they saw the manatee.

Adventure 2: The Christmas Store

There’s no point in having little people around if you’re not corrupting them somehow. I’ve hooked two of my nieces on Lord of the Rings. And now, me and my sister are teaching, sharing, spreading the joy of Christmas to her two daughters.

Just before Imogene was born, Liz and I went to the Christmas store for her birthday. Now, almost three years later, we took Imogene back. She was so excited to go, and we played loud Christmas music and ate ginger snaps.
She loved all the trains, lit trees, and the pumpkins in the small Thanksgiving section. We all left with a special ornament and many happy memories. I even started working with her on memorizing all of the names of Santa’s Reindeer.


A Good Book

A good book is like magic, is magic. The Last Unicorn is no exception. I’ve seen the very strange and creepy cartoon several times, usually as a snarky event with friends, but I’d never read the book. Somewhere in one of the many different artistic groups I’m part of online, the book came up. At first I just moved on. The cartoon was so odd in an uncomfortable way. But the book kept coming up.
Finally I caved to the pressure and started reading it. Where has this book been all my life? It was beautifully written, had some of the most unique descriptions I’ve ever read leading me to wonder how he came up with the comparison, and was surprisingly funny. I cried. I laughed. I longed. I felt feelings I’ve only felt reading Lord of the Rings. It had that happy sad, lost and found, home feeling. It’s so rare to find that in a fantasy.

It refreshingly broke so many rules, and still managed to have an unbelievably touching moment of heroic self-sacrifice, love, and even Eucatastrophe.

Put The Last Unicorn on your list if you love fairy tales. It is just excellent.

Ordinary, everyday adventures. Special to me. Magical.

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Bread

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“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – JRR Tolkien

For many years the Lord has taken my eyes off glitter and shine and shown me, step by step, the beauty of ordinary life: good food, good friends, conversation, wine, beer, scotch, cake, earth under your fingers, books, flowers, stories, dogs, cheese, chocolate, pipes, coffee, home—the simple life. Normal, everyday, quiet, ordinary things. There is a very real magic here. There is the ordinary magic often missed by the world but cherished by the world too, when it stops to take a breath.

Over the last month and a half, my health has taken a dramatic upswing. It seems that almost all my problems stem from an issue with my body’s ability to make Vitamin B which inhibits my ability to process protein and pretty much everything else.

Now that I feel slightly more human, I am expanding my world again beyond the couch and TV. And lo and behold, a dear friend dropped a fun idea in my lap: BREAD.

Real, simple, fermented, yummy bread.

I love bread. I love all forms of bread, and especially artesian breads, not what is on the shelf in a plastic bag, but beautiful bread. Something with a nice chewy crust and a soft center. On Netflix there is a show called Cooked. I highly recommend it. Not only does it talk about wonderful food, it teaches you to appreciate the process of fermentation.

My bread project is all about creating natural yeast from the grain and from the air, also known as sourdough starter in the grand old USA. This yeast works with the gluten in the grain to release all the nutritional benefits of wheat and rye. Then you mix the starter with unbleached white flour, rye, water, and salt. This is your bread. No sugar. No processed junk. Just good, old fashioned grain and water.

My first batch of starter I named Fred. Fred and I got off to a rocky start due to my extra Dad’s week in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feed Fred twice a day and he developed a very strong alcohol smell which indicated he was starving. Sorry Fred.

Once the hospital stay was over, I returned to feeding Fred twice a day and he fattened up quickly, developing a nutty yeast smell and losing the alcohol scent. After about a week and a half of developing Fred, I was able to bake my first two loaves of bread. Boy, I was nervous. I worried I’d over work the bread, or it wouldn’t look right, or something. I searched YouTube for videos about kneading and baking sourdough bread.

Wednesday morning, bright and early I started my bread. This is an all-day project with lots of long breaks while your bread rises and fermentation reacts with the flour. Following the directions to the letter, I slipped my two loaves in the oven on a very hot day and waited.

Out they came, beautiful and smelling so wonderful. Success?

Well, we consumed the ¾ of the first loaf in one day. I think that speaks pretty highly to how it turned out.

Fred made great bread. But, I did run into an issue. Despite my dear friend Rachel’s help and the use of my calculator and double checking, making the two loaves took all my starter. Fred was gone. I had nothing left. Thankfully, Rachel had more starter to share with me.

George is now happily sitting on my counter waiting to be fed. I hope to make more bread next week. As I get more familiar with the process, I will start diverting from the recipes and making up my own stuff. I’m really excited to be making bread and can’t wait to start sharing it with my friends and family!

Happy eating! Here’s to enjoying the ordinary gifts of this life!

Links:

Starting a Starter: http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=58

Pain au Levain:(Baking Sourdough Bread)  http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=71

Videos:

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Thankfulness

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“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– JRR Tolkien

View from first room.

Recently, I spent six days in the hospital with my father-in-law. The first day started with a call at 530 in the morning saying he was in the emergency room because he fainted. We left the house without showers, me with no makeup, no plants watered, no dishes done, the curtains not even open. We got home around 700pm and were so tired, I only watered my elephant ears and fed my sourdough starter.

The next morning started slower and I was able to do everything that didn’t get done the day before including shower and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. Standing at the sink doing dishes, I was struck by how often I either complain about dirty dishes, or don’t really think about them at all. I never get up and realize that doing dishes in the morning is a good sign that things are normal in my home and in my family in general.

Everyday chores get a bad rap.

You know, one should never be that boring suburban family who never does anything artistic, adventurous, or amazing. Who could possible want to spend their life mowing lawns or rising kids, right? Travel the world, explore other cultures, and find yourself.

Attitude change: how about being thankful for a morning that starts off with simple things? Take the quite as a sign that your family is well, fed, and off to face the day. You never know when you might wake up and spend your whole day, or several days, in a hospital watching the people you love face major health issues.

Get your hands good and soapy, get out in the heat to water plants, make the bed, take a shower, and be thankful for the small things in life, the little things the Lord provides every day.

Like father, like son.

As another morning started with chores left undone and coffee in a freezing hospital, my heart went out to all the people I know who’ve had to spend so many more hours in one of these little uncomfortable rooms. My heart went out to those who didn’t have a family member feeling well enough to give every nurse and doctor a hard time. My heart when out to those who had to go through the soul-tearing struggle of coming home one family member short.

It was sooooo cold!

I’m generally good a empathizing with others, but sometimes that empathy needs to be reinforced with a shared experience. I imagined how tired those friends must have been, how worried they were to even go home to take a shower, how confusing all the doctors and nurses and information was. I sat in that cold room and remembered how many other dear saints that I know have sat here before.
Spending a week in a hospital makes you thankful for quiet days and it makes you pity others as they face the same thing.

Day after day spent hurrying up and waiting, gave me the wonderful joy of watching a real life example of love. I’m old enough now to have old parents and extra parents. Now, they aren’t old old, but we are starting down the path of old age. How terrifying is it as an adult child to watch your parents start down that path? Very Terrifying. The strongest become the weakest, the together come undone. Roles reverse. But, by God’s grace, there is beauty here too! For almost a full week, I got to see real love. Not silly Hallmark love, (my extra Mom loves Hallmark movies) but love that is there in sickness, frailties, grumpiness, confusion, exhaustion, surgery, and post-surgery. I got to see self-sacrificing love that didn’t run away, but chose to be there every day. I saw real vow keeping visible in stolen blankets, bathroom issues, tidying, carting, worrying, fixing, and fussing. And it wasn’t just my extra Dad that my extra Mom took care of. It was all of us. She made sure everyone else was taken care of before herself. Love expressed through action, day in and day out, in the most ordinary way.

My own love for my husband grew as he prayed over his father, worried, took care of his mother, and encouraged me to stay with them each day, while the dishes and laundry piled up. Self-sacrifice and love in action.

View from the second room, post heart procedure.

Six days in a hospital lead to fresh thanksgiving for the quiet ordinary things, fresh pity for others who have had to be here too, and a fresh idea of what true love really looks like, unfiltered and earthy.
My extra Dad is home, and we’re all happy not to have to spend another day in the hospital, but God gently uses everything to make us more like Him, and for that I’m thankful.

Waiting for him to come out of surgery, and trying to stay out of trouble.

He always makes faces when I take his picture.

Racing the elevator.

They weren’t alone in playing on the stairs and elevator, Wanda joined them. It’s amazing they didn’t kick us out! 😉