Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Night Dinner:

Yesterday was a pretty awful day.  It was raining outside, confrontation was at a record high, loneliness was higher.  Sundays are like that.  You're dreading Monday.  And there's a certain nostalgia associated with Sundays... as a child you think its natural.  That's just how Sundays are... but it's not.  That's not true.  Just like a lot of things we believe as small children.  There's effort there.

So yesterday I cooked.

Just for me.  Which is the sad part.  But I was bound and determined to eat at least one good meal, and enjoy it.

I used the crock pot again.

2 unthawed chicken breasts
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 package of stuffing mix
1/2 cup fat free sour cream

The chicken breasts go on the bottom of the pot, covered in the stuffing mix, and then covered with the sour cream and soup mix.  Next time I will cover the chicken breasts in some seasonings (probably garlic, pepper, maybe something for a little kick...

This casserole simmered on low for three hours, which cooked the chicken all the way through.  If I had had more time, I would have left the meal in the pot for another hour to make sure the chicken was more tender.  This dish turned out moist and fluffy.

I also made brussell sprouts.  I know you think you hate them.  I don't know how you've tried them... but you've never had them like this.

I halved each sprout so it was bite sized. Seared the sprouts and a handful of almonds (may use pecans or walnuts next time, almonds tend to burn) in a pan with olive oil.  Then I drizzled honey over the sprouts, cooking until the honey caramelized some.  Then I added just a little bit more honey, took the sprouts off the heat, and added feta cheese.  The heat from the sprouts melted the cheese and the honey sweetened the whole concoction, with the nuts giving it some texture and added flavor.

Finally, though, I made beer bread.  Coming from a family of bread makers, anything that was not a Vaughan family recipe usually is not up to par.  But I didn't inherit one of the bread makers, and I wanted bread.  Not biscuits.  Not rolls from a tin pan.  I wanted homemade bread.  So once again, I turned to Pinterest.  And found a recipe for a honey beer bread.  I happened to have one Heineken left over from when Mary visited months ago, so all I had to do was buy a bag of bread flour.

The recipe is so simple.  3 cups of flour (2 all purpose, 1 bread), 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp white sugar, 3 tbsp honey, a pinch of salt.... 12 oz of beer.  4 tbsp of melted butter poured over top of the loaf.  Baked at 350 for 50 minutes.  It was, hands down, the best bread I've had that wasn't a Joe Vaughan recipe.

Sometimes, what you need is a homemade meal.  Sometimes, like I told her, you just want to feel like an adult.  Skip the mismatched couches and the Ramen and eat a real homemade meal at a kitchen table.  Even if you do end up eating by yourself.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


My friend gave me a crock pot and a blender last week.  Undoubtedly these things will change my life.

Yesterday, after a pretty intense weight training circuit at the gym, I came home and made a smoothie from a recipe I'd found on Pinterest.

Sometimes thing aren't complicated.  And those simplicities deserve some attention.

Here is the recipe.  I may change a few things next time, as the oatmeal left a chalky aftertaste.

I am at the point in my life where a strict, weight loss diet is neither desirable or logical.  I need as much energy as I can get.  And I am not unhappy with the dimensions of my body.  The shape, well, that's a different story.  But no crash diets for this mama.

My biggest struggle is not having time to eat real meals.  I love to cook and (when I have the time) am great at it.  But there never seems to be time.  The blender and the crock pot have already effectively changed that. Not to mention sparked a level of culinary creativity in me.

Hopefully over the next few weeks, I'll set some concrete goals, and you will get to join me on a journey of health and experimentation.

Friday, March 22, 2013


One thing I realized lately was this lie I'd let myself believe.  The key to defeating a lie is recognizing for what it is, whether you understand the root of it or not.  Just call it a lie.  Call it by its name. 

I woke up the other morning in an apartment.  The second floor apartment with mismatched couches and non-white, colorless walls.  And I realized I had led myself to believe it had to be this way.  To be "content" because things couldn't get better. 

Now.  I suppose there's something to be said about being "content whatever the circumstances", or whatever Apostle Paul said.  I don't like Paul particularly, and if he were here, I'd tell him so.  (He'd probably say, you know, Anna, I don't particularly like you either)  But I bet every once in a while he woke up and did not like his surroundings either.

Small efforts can quickly add up to small changes. 

And small changes, if they're just right, can build into large changes.  As scary as change can be, sometimes that's exactly what you need.  Increments of change, small goals toward the accomplishment of the big goal.

I said it, really just wanting to get off the other topic.  But I control the conversation.  We don't talk about what I don't want to talk about.  But this morning, I wanted her to express that what seemed to be wrong, wasn't really it.  What's wrong is: I have compartmentalized my life.  And each compartment has effectively bled into the other.  I cannot find the end of the knotted string, but the mess is driving me insane.  There is guilt, with no source.  And a sense of un-accomplishment, deriving from a deep-seeded lie about contentment.  A hectic pace, leading to a lack of time, resulting in a damaged self esteem and deflated hope and fizzled creativity.

I'm trying to sort multi-colored marbles.  And I haven't pulled one out, because there are equal amounts of all four colors, and I don't know what to start with.  Seemingly simple.  Trivial.  But a decision to get started, and I can't get started until the decision is made. 

I started, without realizing it, a few weeks ago when I organized Judah's room.  And when I sold my clothes at the consignment store. 

Every time I hang a picture, I make progress. 

I defy the lie.

Every time I take the time to hang my clothes. 

Every time I make a meal.

Every time I enjoy a whole cup of coffee.

Every time I learn something new.

The lie is defied.

So we talked about a pyramid.  Basic concrete goals, as the foundation.  Building, as I make the next right moves, the next best decisions, until I am able to obtain the more abstract, seemingly unattainable ones.  The top.  When it starts all over again. 

We talked about grad school, and the lie that higher education is not an option for me.  We talked about buying house, and how that may not be quite as scary as some people pretend it is.  Except.  It scares me for different reasons.

And I told her about the couch. 

About the desperate need for something to be proud of -- something tangible.  About how you walk into my second story apartment now and there is a homemade entertainment center my granddaddy made.  And two, brown leather couches that match.  There are new frames on the wall. A new spice rack in the kitchen.

None of which cost me much at all.  Little red clearance stickers.  Stuff pulled from forgotten boxes.  Secondhand, made beautiful, unique.  And the lie is defied

It's the simple things, really.  Actively defying the lie that things will not get better than this.  To settle into a state of contentment, so deep I don't strive.  Settling for how things are.  Instead of making room for growth, allowing for change, changing your position so you can change your perspective.

I'm hoping this train of thought trickles down into another area of my life.  But I'm not ready to follow it there yet. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The problem is, I keep trying to be creative.  I want the words to look nice, sound nice, feel nice.  I want you to enjoy reading the words, even if they mean something awful.  Even if I am only writing to tell you about laundry, damn it I want you to want to read about laundry.

That sounded terribly co-dependent and I apologize.  But it's what came out.  I will deal with it later, after I deal with this silly little desire to write well, instead of write something.

I'm trying to get it together.  My life, that is.  I live in a two bedroom apartment with my six month old son (who happens to be the size of a twelve month old), my almost 20-year old sister who sleeps on the fold out couch, and Vincent: the albino Beta fish Aunt Liv has kept alive for going on a month now.

The Christmas tree box sits in my psuedo dining room, next to the carseat Judah outgrew months ago.  The couches are mismatched, but I own the most comfortable arm chair ever from Goodwill.  I rarely hang up my clothes anymore, because I don't have time.  There are alwas at least three laundry baskets, full of dirty clothes, and a sinkful of dishes and bottles.

Lately, I've been trying to get it together.  I came up with the best way to organize all of Judah's clothes, getting them out of laundry baskets.  I boxed up all his small clothes he's grown out of, the many pairs of shoes his feet never fit in, and they are stacked against the wall.  I cannot bring myself to give them away. 

Last month I bought a lot of books.  Cheap.  For a few pennies on Amazon.  The only one I've finished is: The Fault in Our Stars.  Which is in no way an intellectual book; it did not increase my vocabulary or teach me to think critically.  But I couldn't put it down.  I enjoyed reading the words.  They felt nice.  Even the ones that felt awful.

The other books are gathering dust on the shelves.  Not because I don't want to read them, but because I don't want to dust.  And by the time Judah falls asleep at night, it's all I can do to keep my eyes open during an episode of The Big Bang Theory.  But there are books by Anne Lammot.  Slaughterhouse Five is sitting on my shelf.  My therapist recommended a book, which is sitting on my kitchen table, because I meant to read it.  Then I forgot to.

I was given a crock pot and a blender last night.  I am more excited about these two appliances than anything in a long while.  I have spent most of my lunch breaks the past few days exploring the archives for smoothie recipes, and crock pot meals so I can actually eat at night.  I'm not really interested in going on a diet -- I am too realistic for all that crap.  But eating regularly would be nice.  Something other than break and bake cookies and wheat saltines.

My work pays for a gym membership for me.  I get over there a couple of times a week, leave Judah in the childcare with some rather snarky teenage girls, and workout for about an hour.  I feel guilty every time I do, even though I know it's a misplaced emotion.  I pick him up from daycare and drop him off at childcare and think... surely he knows I'm coming back.  I lost all the baby weight by November of last year, but pregnancy changes your entire shape.  I am currently a shape I don't particularly care for, let alone anyone else.  But pregnancy -- baby -- also makes your body resistant to more change.  As if it's saying, "hold on.  The last time you had an idea, we were pretty uncomfortable for almost ten months.  Your ideas are bad." But I am working hard.  Setting small goals.  Attending zumba on Saturday mornings, which is more of an exercise in humility than cardio.  If the only thing I learn in 2013 is how to laugh at myself, I think I'll have accomplished a great deal.

Judah has started eating solids.  My sister taught me how to make homemade baby food a few weekends ago, and while I cannot do this at my own house, he is still eating on banana puree and plums.  I bought avacodos yesterday, after days of looking for ripe ones.  There's something I love about the idea of teaching Judah to eat many different kinds of foods early on.  Just the other day he started eating Cheerios for the first time.  He hasn't quite figured out the fine motor skill of finger to thumb... but grabs the food with his palm and brings his whole hand to his face.  The little things he learns on a daily basis are truly a miracle.  Every once in a while I get a glimpse of him as a four year old, of him as a teenager, and my mind is blown. All because of Cheerios. 

I sat in on a Citizen's Review Panel last Friday and was reminded of my commitment to advocacy.  Job searching may be my least favorite thing to do.  But I know I need to explore my options.  Sitting in on the brainstorming session, the social think tank, my mind was blown at the power of connection.  The networking of key players.  What blew my mind even more was that as I sat at the table in the school library, was that I was considered one of those players.

My friends have been telling me to take my own advice.  God opened my mind and heart a few weekends ago, after a week of feeling utterly hopeless and defeated.  I was sure no man in his right mind would willingly choose my little family.  No one would look at our situation and pick us. No good, responsible, kind, mature man, that is.  Which was when God reminded me, "Anna, how many good, responsible, kind, mature men do you know?" His gentle prodding led me to realize how young the men in my world are.  And God began to build a picture in my head.  Allowing a little bit of hope to grow.  Now that doesn't mean I'm going to join today.  I don't think. 

I am inheriting an entertainment center my granddaddy made. It's been sitting in my youngest uncle's garage and I've been trying to get it to my place for months now.  That might actually happen this week... this fire I have lit under my tail is really getting stuff done.  Even if all the "stuff" doesn't seem congruent, or is missing the corner pieces.  I am going to try and make my own headboard.  My bed has a basic, metal frame from American Freight that cost me $27 last summer.  There are pictures hanging above it that I reguarly hit my head on.  So I have found a place that sells burlap coffee bean bags.  I'm going to buy plywood and batting and borrow a staple gun and pretend I'm Martha Stewart. And make a freakin headboard.  I also have friends who renovated their house and have window frames in their basement.  They've given me permission to steal these and I'm researching now the different ways to use them to decorate.

I may live in a small two bedroom apartment with no washer or dryer and no more storage space, but I am tired of feeling like I live in a dorm.  Last week I broke down and realized I felt like all my houses for the past seven years have been temporary.  Seven years.  No permanency, no stability, no sense of home.  And if there's one thing I want to provide for my son, it's that.  A sense of belonging, of shared, lived-in space.  A home should reflect the people living in it.  And I may not be the most exciting woman in the world.  But surely I'm more interesting than the colorless walls. 

It just feels like a complicated puzzle.  Trying to get all the pieces to fit right.  I want to feel like I have it together.  Like I have a flat stomach and a strong butt and clear skin and no dead ends.  Like my clothes match and I know how to be a good mom.  I want to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation, be the sort of woman people come to for company and advice and comfort.  I want people to see grace in me, not hatefulness. 

And there's the progression.  There's the thing you cannot see. 

Because the whole time I've been trying to fix the outside, I'm trying even harder to fix the inside. I have tried to be patient and I have tried to be wise and kind.  I don't want to be admired for my home.  But for how people feel when they are in my home. 

There is something to be said for congruency, however.  And right now this is what I crave.  For the outside to match the inside.  For the results of years of hard work, of prayer, of struggle, of torn muscles and repaired wounds to finally make some sense.  For seamlessness. 

Not perfection.  I am one scarred, bruised, battered individual.  Even the healed places aren't smooth anymore. 

But I want what people know, what they see, and what they feel... to be the same. 

I want my mind to be stimulated.  I want to smell nice things, see nice things, feel nice things, taste nice things.  I want Judah to learn to crawl, then walk, and talk.  I want him to grow up knowing the importance of the inside being even more beautiful, more handsome, better than the outside.  But to have the peace, which comes from the congruency.

This has nothing to do with expensive things.  New things.  Nothing to do with money, nothing to do with what we can and cannot afford.  It has to do with the creative spirits we were given.  End of story. 

It has to do with telling a better story.  Being the kind of protagonist the reader falls in love with.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I'm sorry.

The words echo in my ears and I say them, repeatedly, knowing he doesn't know what they mean yet.

Unfortunately the reality of this world is that "I'm sorry" is often said and not meant, or never said when it should be.

And just six months into his little life, I already find myself begging his forgiveness.

Some stories don't need to be told.

But today marks the day of redirection.  A day, I can only pray, is a milestone.  That from this day forward, we only learn how to do better.  Just he and I.

I pray one day he will accept my apology, especially for those things out of my control.  That he might trust my judgement and be confident in my unconditional love for him.

And that one day I'd forgive myself and find someone to teach him how to shoot a basketball and lift the heavy things in our house.