Recipe for a KettleCorn Weekend

I love kettlecorn--sweet and salty and something for everyone.


3 or 4 or seventy times seven

One holiday-grocery trip to Raley's (or favorite food supply store with favorable customer service and plentiful smiles)

1 potato water roll recipe from Mom

1 crockpot of Turkey Meatloaf and bowl of mashed potatoes left over from roll recipe (must eat after Thanksgiving eve church)

Three hours of Thanksgiving roll baking time with Coldplay in the background

Three hours of Macy's Day Parade on couch in pajamas

1 cup of coffee made at home in pajamas

1 phone call to Dad in Denver

1 happy husband

3 fun friends

2 bottles of Trader Joe wine

10-dishes for Thanksgiving feast*

An afternoon of relaxed conversation peppered with uncontrollable laughter

1 phone call to Mom in Denver

2 comfy couches

7 couch cushions for floor bed

1 pumpkin spice grande latte (with 2 shots)

1 Shane and Shane holiday CD

As many San Francisco zoo animals as you can fit into a day of sightseeing (including the ones we named, like Sir Alfred the Penguin and I-Kill-You the Tiger and Pierce the Rhinoceros) + 1 bowl of chili

A handful of kodak moments

1 beach-at-dusk

9 dishes of leftover Thanksgiving feast (plus 1 pumpkin roll)

1 and a half matinee hours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Three hours at Stockton Thunder hockey game with happy husband and four fun friends

1 plateful of late-night pasta dish to eat while blogging and listening to Christmas music while husband sleeps his cold off

Throw all ingredients into a pot and pop. Share with anyone who wants to join you!

*Best results occur if you phone a friend to make you baked brie in puff pastry and cinnamon walnuts, garlic mashed potatoes, and sour cream pumpkin pie in addition to the traditional dishes.


Unemployed Seeks Employment (and wonders if a commute to San Fran ain't so bad)

Today I hit an all time low on the scale of positive-outlook-for-future-employment. I found out that a local literary agency isn't hiring, which was a disappointment because it was my opportunity for a full-time LOCAL literary career. I seriously found myself wondering what I could have done differently with my life. Jonathan and I willingly chose Lodi together. I acknowledged that it would be difficult to find an on-site project editor or acquisitions editor job--even editorial assistant would be difficult. Those jobs are in San Francisco which is an hour and a half away. . .

. . . an hour and a half isn't so bad, is it?

Whenever someone asks me what my degree is in, or what I want to be when I grow up, I justify my choice of profession. It's because everyone wants to be a writer. Everyone is mentally splicing a novel, or pinning together a story as they go about their daily lives. Who am I to think that I should call myself a writer? At times I feel SO LOW on the totem pole--thinking that I'm nothing but a writer, and some people are five other things as well as being a writer. But here's the thing. I don't only want to write. I edit so that I can be a writer, and it's true--I love editing. I tell you, it's a respectable (and highly underrated) job in and of itself. I'm reminded of this every time I pick up a poorly edited book, and it seems like there's lot's of those these days. Publishing houses are hiring less in-house editors and either hiring freelancers or telling authors to find their own. It should be a good market for me, but wow. It's hard to get established and make connections.

Anyway, the day did get better when I found out that I have a few possibilities left. Then I went to worship practice, and on the way home a song came on the radio. I don't even like the station--it borders on idolatry with its famous worship leader profiles and contest about Michael W. Smith that's called something like, "THE ULTIMATE WORSHIP LEADER!" (that's how they announce it. Not kidding. Did I miss the BBC special about God knighting MWS?). Anyway, some guy was singing a song about how God times the sunsets and sunrises just right and knows our deepest needs, and I was completely humbled.

God not only knows my deepest need but he's already taken care of it. It's life. His saving life, coursing through my veins and pumping eternity into this greedy heart of mine. Since when did I start thinking that God owed me something? Especially a job? He's given me enough purpose to last a thousand lifetimes on this planet, and I'm wandering about complaining I don't have one.

This week I'm praying that God opens up my Lodi eyes to see what this community needs.


Twice the Christmas Fun

My friend Jen at The Perfect Umbrella recently posted a list of online stores that give a portion of their proceeds to fight the injustices of human trafficking, slavery, and inhumane working conditions. If you'd like your Christmas money to make a global impact this year, I encourage you to check it out. And why not include your friends and family in the joy of double giving? Print out a copy of the organization's mission statement, goals, and progress and include it with the gift so they know their gift is improving someone's life.

Thanks for the heads up, Jen.


Just One Margarita...

Is it bad that I know that one margarita--especially Jonathan's homemade margarita with fresh lime juice--loosens me up just enough to create the perfect blend of spontaneous thought and inhibition that makes for easy words that flow like the salmon of Capistrano?

I'm not gonna lie--I just googled "salmon of capistrana" to make sure I was spelling that right. So now I know that one margarita is not enough to cage the nerdy in me one bit...

Punctuated by the fact that I just used the Brit's favourite word "bit" and put it in quotes...

Now I know why junior high was so hard.

Book Ideas. Vote Now!

Regarding a book for the nameless book club...

I've had three suggestions for books and thought of some myself, so please let me know if you've read any of these or prefer one over the other or have other ideas:

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon
2. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
3. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
4. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
6. A Mercy, Toni Morrison

1. A Reason for God, Tim Keller
2. Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
3. The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
4. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

If you don't have a decent public library or don't want to buy the book, check out Bookswim . It's the book version of netflix.

Let me know what you think and we can get started!


Fear Number 2

I'm still amazed by the divisiveness of the election. People who normally profess the same beliefs, hopes, wonders and fears, people who would, in most cases, agree especially about the fundamental truths of their faith and their relationship with Christ, have taken up (and still reside) on opposite sides of enemy lines. And it confuses me for one reason: when Jesus came, he did not come to establish a political kingdom. He was not concerned with the Roman occupation, as Philip Yancey says in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew. This is a whole world apart from God’s Kingdom. I think too many Christians are placing their hope in the non-existent saving powers of government, believing that legislation equals redemption. It doesn't. It never will. It was never Jesus' goal while he was on earth. So why the fear of God's judgement on the country, when all we have control over is his judgement on ourselves individually?

But on the other side of fear is apathy and disrespect. There are people who are too spiritually motivated to care about our present and physical world. We saw the repercussions of this thought trend in the early twentieth century, when a generation decided they didn’t care about the poor, the hurting, because the “social gospel,” as they hatefully termed it, endangered the true Gospel message (it did in extreme cases, but that's another story). Today some people are still choosing this stance, especially when it comes to respecting and caring for our world. It’ll all pass away anyway, right? Why should we make the effort to recycle? To conserve energy? To provide food and shelter and healing for people? But to think this way is crazy. It would be like not going to the doctor when you’re sick because you know you’ll die eventually anyway. There are people out there who can't even begin to care about their spiritual wellness (or in fact, care about it more than we know because it's all they have) until their physical needs are met.

Too many of us are driven by unnecessary fear. In other words, we fear something that's out of our hands. I will not spend my life in California worrying that my stuff will get stolen. First of all, it's just stuff. Second of all, to use a still too underrated phrase: worrying doesn't solve anything. It's true. And this is true for our country as well.

Fear Number 1

It's Saturday morning and I should be picture hanging or desk organising. But I have a full cup of coffee to drink and the sun is shining just so on our dining room carpet, somehow reminding me of all the blog topics accumulating on my brain (and the fact that I've been wanting to write at all, full stop). Two have to do with unnecessary fear, one has to do with the theft stories I hear daily.

For those of you who don't know the central valley area well, let me just tell you that for the first time in my life we're getting renter's insurance. I'm taking my CD player out of my car every time I go into the grocery story. This is all a bit unexpected (although I had heard about the crime rate before we arrived--thankfully not violent crime, but still theft) but it doesn't help when I try to rationalize my fear away while in conversation with a local, expecting them to do the same, only to have them validate my fear by telling me more stories about their mother who lives in a nice neighbourhood near church who has had four break-ins in the last week. Then I turn on the news and hear about the nice church-going people in Stockton whose cars are being robbed while they're in the services and it all just makes me wonder how I'm going to set up a life here. We should not have to live in fear of our computers being taken every time we leave the house!

Not to deter people from visiting, of course--we do live in a gated community which helps a lot, and the people who lived here before us were never robbed, and they lived here three and a half years...

Still to Come...

The blogging book club. This weekend I'm going to do some research, find a book, and let you all know about it so we can actually start the club that I mentioned too many weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. Thanks for your patience.



What's "normal"?

A feeling of familiarity. Comfort. Hope for the tomorrows that you haven't seen yet.

It's waking up in the a.m. and believing in the day that awaits you--not knowing what awaits you, but trusting what awaits you.

It's walking into a party where the conversations are challenging, but reachable. With conclusions that are provoking, but promising.

Yesterday normal was achievable; today normal is being stretched in ways it doesn't flex. Any day now my world will snap. Is "surprise" the new normal?


The Roving Candle

Yesterday evening at 7:30 marked one full week in Lodi. I've spent the week moving furniture from one side of the apartment to another and trudging up and down the stairs with piles of towering boxes and odds and ends that trip over themselves and down the steps like a slinkie--

*pause for commercial break courtesy of the Lost and Found band*

"you keep on trying to crash my party but you can't--SLINKIE!--swallow my soul no no no..."

*resume to regularly scheduled programme*

--must be a mile a day at least on those stairs, and lifting heavy boxes from one corner of the room to a closet and to another part of the closet and then readjusting the contents a few times again--so much so that all the heavy lifting rested in my chest muscles so tightly that I wondered if I was having a heart attack one night.

But luckily, the sweet sweet fumes of a cucumber and green tea Yankee Candle have followed me everywhere. And I mean everywhere. A very thoughtful, anonymous woman left it for us in our new place before we arrived--and I bet she didn't even know that candles are my favourite! If I had a show like Oprah I would feature a new candle every single time--that's how much I love them (p.s. anyone see 30 Rock last night? "BORAH!" hehehe). This green candle has gone with me EVERYWHERE. Every time I move to another room to organize, I take the candle with me. The kitchen, the living room, the guest room, the bathroom, the closet (not really the closet, that was exaggerating a bit), it gives every room a cheery, inviting glow that murmurs, "welcome home!" in a voice that sounds very much like that southern cooking show host with the white hair and two sons I've seen a few times. I am so thankful for my candle.

Well, Jonathan just opened the front door and a gust of cool November wind and woodsy fireplace smoke blew in the door. Which makes me wonder if I mentioned we have a fireplace? We'll probably have to have it swept before we use it, but still--we have a fireplace! *sigh of contentment* Next on the list is a velvet red robe and a cigar and classical music, and I guess then I'll officially be able to label myself a writer (or a British telly programme host...) But a roving candle is a start.


Muted Muck

Just muted the constant whine of the election news guys on the TV behind me. . . ears sagging from war words. Eyes bleeding red and blue.

I'm knackered of it all, and I don't even get to vote.

But it's not just the election. I had a few thoughts about my discombobulated nature on Thursday while driving my car across the Sierras and in Sacramento traffic, trailing the 26 foot big rig Penske that Jonathan drove. The entire four days we spent travelling from Denver to Salt Lake to Reno and finally to Lodi felt weird. I kept thinking, This move doesn't feel real. I don't have a job waiting for me. We're leaving our friends and family indefinitely, with no time limit. Two months ago we were squeezed into a city of 8 million people, now we'll have room to breathe in a city of 60,000. Even now, after Jonathan and I have set up most of our possessions in our rented townhouse and we've been introduced to our generous, unselfish new church family, it still feels odd. Why?

I think I know why. It's crazy, I admit (and frankly I'm embarrassed to publish it, so let's keep it between you and I and the computer screen) but I think it has something to do with the fact that three people have told me within the last week that they think the world is going to end soon, and for some strange reason, I've absorbed it into the unfiltered part of my brain--the worrywart, unable-to-watch-suspenseful movies-because-of-stress brain, not the reasonable, level-headed ENFJ brain, of course. Case in point: As I've been cleaning and organizing the house these past few days, I've been mentally making some goals and planning a cover letter for my resume. But before I can stop my thoughts, I find myself thinking: Why should I make plans? The world will be over and done with and my energies wasted.

This is pure INSANITY! Besides the fact that throughout human history people have been unsuccessfully predicting the last days, up to the actual date and time, and besides the fact that God told us we will never know the exact time, there are so many reasons why both the prediction of and the fact of the world ending are not worth worrying about. Especially as I establish a new life with the love of my life. This should be a fun change. But regardless, these are my first emotional thoughts. The scared looks on familiar faces have imprinted themselves on my mood, and I am psychologically scarred by the combination of economic crisis + election + end time fear + personal life juggling.

All I want right now is to cozy up to the familiar--to laugh with people I love, to watch the Office, to fantasize about the same future I fantasized about as a girl, to have a world of possibility wide open in front of me. Is maturity really a backward process... going back to childlike faith?

I know God's plans are perfect. But sometimes my desires are just too normal for his supernormal plans.


Did I Say Dusty Boxes?

On August 23, 2006 I wrote one of my first blogs about our move to Reno for Jonathan's internship. Now I wonder what dust I could have possibly been talking about--because it definitely does not compare to the one year old dust from a month of earthquakes and shifting desert wind sliding underneath the door of our compact storage unit. We did our best to store almost everything in bins and two layers of bubble-wrap textured trash bags, but of course a bit seeped through. And now we have the fun job of attempting to unpack and de-dust without breathing in the dirt fumes. But I don't want to sound like a complainer, not after all the good God has done in our life to get us here to Lodi.

It was a long trek--began the day after the Huskers beat Baylor on a sunny red day in Lincoln. We drove from Omaha to Denver with my brother (he also met up with my two brothers in Nebraska to go to the game), spent the night in Denver and packed up a small truck, drove to Salt Lake, spent the night, drove to Reno (Fernley just outside Reno) and spent two nights with friends while we packed our storage unit into a bigger truck. Jonathan then had to drive a 26 footer over the Sierra Nevadas and into Sacramento traffic and rain, which took us four hours rather than 2 and a half. But we made it to Lodi safely the night of October 30th. And we were so thankful to have a place to live for a great price! The timing couldn't have been more perfect. A couple from our new church was renting out a townhouse and needed someone to move in by November 1st. One of Jonathan's fellow co-workers found out about it and took pictures for us, and we agreed to rent just a few days before we left Nebraska. We moved in Oct. 31st, and they were able to move into their new place too.

Our pastor recently told us that our new congregation is extremely rare--so much heart here and sensitivity to people's feelings that there's enough here to fill up other churches. We've already witnessed it. The day after we arrived, five guys from our church helped move us in. One of them is a professional mover, and things got situated into their proper rooms before I could even offer to help (I did try, but the professional mover told me to be the traffic cop). Someone else from church had even supplied dishwasher soap and toilet paper and dish towels and food and paper plates and lot's of other little things in our new place so we wouldn't be without anything while we unpacked. These people seem to go above and beyond--we're excited about getting to know everyone here.

After a year abroad and a quasi-relaxed month of visiting family and friends, it feels good to be sleeping in our own bed and to know that we can finally put down some roots. And the best news... Trader Joe's is only twelve minutes away from our townhouse!