Friday, August 30, 2013

What I Learned in August

#1 A New Word
Remember in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," when Lucy analyzes Charlie Brown with a variety of phobias? This month I learned of a new phobia, kakorraphiaphobia. The irrational fear of failure. The fear of defeat, or the fear of "looking bad." For much of my life, I have had kakorraphiaphobia, and didn't even know it. Well, I knew it mattered - deeply - what others thought of me. Looking ridiculous is painful for me. I have been accused of fishing for compliments. By putting myself down, it seems I am looking to be complimented. Not humility, but a grasp for approval. And, I seem to surround myself with those who do not dish out compliments generously. Which, in the long run, is a good thing. I learn to dig deep, to search within myself, to look for the confidence I want in the Lord and in myself. I had to laugh when I found this phobia. Like Lucy, I almost fell over backward with, "That's it!" It makes me realize how grateful I am to writers like Seth Godin who repeatedly encourage us to keep working, keep creating, keep putting the words out there without expecting perfection or needing accolades. The energy from a fear of failure, of looking ridiculous, can be turned to energy to keep working, keep practicing, keep up the effort without a focus on tangible results. And, writers like Brene Brown, who value vulnerability and courage. Which leads to the next thing I learned this month.

#2 A New Stance
In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes of shame resilience, vulnerability and the value of courage. I love it when what I read and what I learn from a wide variety of sources all ties together. Like it was designed specifically for me. The lesson: mistakes and failure are not an end-all disaster. They are part of the learning process, part of being in the arena. Her title is based on a quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, 
because there is no effort without error and short-coming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; 
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."
She writes in her Final Thoughts, "Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It's about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It's even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there's a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as believing that I'm standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen." Vulnerability is not weakness. Scarcity is not the opposite of abundance, but the same side of the coin. The opposite side is enough. Be comfortable with being enough. I still have much to learn. The book, checked out multiple times from the library, went on my Amazon wish list because I knew it was a book I would reference again and again, and my husband (love that guy!) bought it for me. Which is the next thing I learned this month.

#3 A Love
I love flowers. You know that about me. My husband is not a buy his girl flowers kind of guy. But he does buy me books, and I love that. I can grow flowers in the yard, in pots, in the garden. A dozen roses are fragrant and pretty, a bunch of sunflowers are bright and sunny, but when he buys books for me, I feel loved and encouraged. Touched by the beauty of the gems hidden within those pages, the words, the characters, the knowledge, waiting to be revealed like a bud, unfurled. I have a new appreciation for him, for understanding me enough to know what I appreciate the most.

#4 An Old Skill
I discovered I can still ride a bike! Don't remember the last time I rode - ages ago. Our son and daughter-in-law gave me a mountain bike. My favorite ride so far? A sunset cruise with our son. It had been a long, hot day. We both needed some space. We rode two and a half miles around the neighborhood, some dirt paths, back roads, not in any hurry, the sun drifting slowly down behind the mountains, the clouds back-lit by red and orange and yellow stage lights. By the time we arrived home, we were both filled to the brim with calm. Should do that more often.

#5 New Recipes
Last month, I mentioned a request for cream cheese recipes. We - almost - finished that mountain of cream cheese. We made cream cheese brownies (a daughter's favorite specialty), Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast, a chili cream cheese dip (recommended by a reader - a big can of chili with cream cheese melted in), a yummy crock pot recipe recommended by another reader (frozen boneless chicken breasts, corn, black beans, salsa, cooked on high five hours, with cream cheese added in the last hour), and of course, cream cheese on bagels and celery.  I wonder if next year we will remember August as the Cream Cheese month?

I love these last of the month posts sponsored by Emily Freeman, linked with her post at Chatting At the Sky. I browse through my journal, I look at the calendar events for the month, I remember. It is a way to close the door to this month, to pause a moment in the doorway, gaze back over my shoulder as the dusky sunbeams reveal the dust and the light filters in on the closing scene. Click the latch, quietly, grateful. With a light heart, turn toward next month's learning adventures.

illustration by Mary Engelbreit

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Keep Your Face to the Sun

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do."

                                                                                                                          -Helen Keller

Reading aloud is a critical part of our home teaching day.  I love the moments when the older guys are drawn into the story we are reading, moving away from whatever they were doing in another part of the house to come listen as I read aloud to our youngest.

We are beginning this school year reading an autobiography by Helen Keller. Over and over again she uses words like see or listen or look or notice or visible beauty. A woman, blind and deaf. Sometimes, as we are reading, I have to comment on a sentence, to stop and realize that the author can neither see nor hear, yet she describes "the shimmering light of a Christmas tree," or "the noisy-throated frogs."

In June, I read The Music of Silence, an autobiography by Andrea Bocelli, a popular Italian singer, blind from age twelve. One of his teachers, "Dr. Marcuccio, also blind from an accident...had explained that even darkness was a visual sensation, and therefore, a perogative of those who have the gift of sight. 'The blind,' he added, 'cannot see darkness, just like the deaf cannot hear silence, which is an auditory sensation, the antithesis of sound.'"

Those of us with the gift of sight still need to learn to see. Even with the gift of hearing, we need to learn to listen.

 Helen Keller described the smell of an incoming thunderstorm. Do you know that scent? She described a scene, meeting people in a crowded room, shaking hands with "frosty finger tips, it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others...whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child's hand; but there is as much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in a loving glance for others." Have you felt such awareness to touch?

 As a child, she loved the orchard, collecting apples and fuzzy peaches in her apron, the taste still warmed by the sun. Reading this autobiography aloud, together, gives us many opportunities to discuss the five senses and the beauty of our world. This gift, this perspective, seen through the eyes of a blind woman, gives us a deeper appreciation for the riches around us.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Anywhere there are people.

In the airport terminal. Wait. Watch. Exhausted mom with three little ones. Headed home to visit grandparents? A visit to a medical specialist, the health burden weighing heavily? Real cowboys. No dress for image, here. That is real dirt on their jeans, real muck on their boots, worn leather gloves tucked in their belts, wide brimmed hats pulled down on their foreheads. Their story? A rodeo circuit, three this weekend, Colorado, California, Idaho. Guess their horses stayed back at the ranch?

On the plane. Six across. Thirty-something back. Parents, children, couples, brothers, friends, strangers. A weekend flight, lacking the usual business travelers. Murmur of chatting, voices across the air, connections, strangers greet, share their stories. A baby, not so happy with his part in this story.

In freeway traffic. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. A geeky looking guy driving an expensive black Tessla. Wonder where he is headed, an errand for his boss? Cars loaded with luggage, one last family vacation before school starts. A car loaded with boxes, baskets, a lamp, young woman driving, headed off to her college dorm to study: psychology? philosophy? drama? The wistful eyes of the young teen, face turned to the window, away from her family, her eyes, beautiful, deep. A lone young man, sings to himself, grins, bangs the steering wheel with his hands, waggles his head like a bobbler on the dashboard, a private disco in his car.

A fast food restaurant. More than the food is fast. Bustle, movement, rustle, clatter, laughs, numbers called, a cell phone, smiles across the room. I listen. Snatches of storyline, voices drift above the noise.

In the hospital waiting room. Lives at crossroads, wait, watch the clock. Threads connect the seats, each one waits to hear, hangs on to hope. Family gathers. Friends greet, ask the news. A head shakes. Wait. Still. The beautiful young lady in the hall, waits for the elevator, tears brim her eyes, anguish. A tough story, held tight within her heart.

In line at the pharmacy. People chat, laugh, comment. "Hope my doctor called it in and got it right today," Health issues, compared. Coo at the tiny dog in the lady's purse. Others, quiet, withdrawn, "Don't talk to me," written on their face. Their story, not to be shared, private. A closed door.

At home again. The door open, welcoming. Our story. My story. Ours, written together. Relief, joy, smiles passed around. Stories shared.

Everywhere we went - all these places in the last four days. Everyone has a story. Some want to tell it - whether you want to hear it or not. Others, quiet and private. A story, told by words, or told in action and attitude, the expression on the face. Story, all around us, anywhere there are people.

Storytime. Anytime. Do you hear them?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zucchini Ooops

Isn't this a cute, harmless little zucchini palnt? If you have grown zucchini, you know what comes next. I am not very good at thinning plants. I did make myself thin one out of four zucchini plants, these two that I knew were way too close together. Should have thinned three out of four, especially since I am the only one in our household that even likes to eat it.

Those little plants become monsters that take over a garden and thrive on productivity. Daily picking. How did that zucchini get that big? I checked this morning and it wasn't there. Their huge leaves hide the squash growing at astronomical speeds below them. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. Just a little bit.

A soup recipe I tried once called for frozen yellow squash. I didn't know you could freeze squash, assumed it would turn all mushy. Sure enough, there in the freezer aisle, alongside the peas and carrots, I found a package of frozen, sliced squash. A little internet search, and there were the directions for freezing mountains of squash. Hooray!

With a few simple steps, working while our sons did their schoolwork, I froze six bags of sliced squash, zucchini and yellow, and two bags of grated zucchini.

The directions are easy. Cut squash in chunks or thick slices. Blanch - which means a short boil plunged in boiling water, or steam them - for three minutes, cool immediately in an ice water bath, drain, pack in freezer bags, and freeze.

Want to know a nifty trick? Stick a straw in the edge of the bag as you are zipping it up. Suck the air out, slip out the straw and finish sealing. Vacuum packed vegies!

The grated squash (frozen raw, without blanching) will be zucchini bread some day this winter, or I can toss it in spaghetti sauce or soups. The sliced squash will be a summery welcome on a dreary winter day. Now, I am not afraid to go see how many squashes are waiting for me in the garden. Let them grow!

Zinnias in the zucchini

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Enough God

"Eucharisteo has taught me to trust that there is always enough God. He has no end. He calls us to serve, and it is Him whom we serve, but He, very God, kneels down to serve us as we serve. The servant-hearted never serve alone. Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagently pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him."

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts 

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."

Mark 10:45

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Our daughter's first attempt with a time lapse video. Take a fun three minutes and watch Eddy the Jaguar come to life. Fascinating.

her website:

Keep the Hope

Do you remember the post in February about the plant my son said, "Didn't make it?"

Here it is, now, three times the size, full of blooms and bees and beauty.

Seasons change. Life changes.

Keep the hope.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Future and a Hope

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart."

Jeremiah 29: 11-13

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Full Summer Garden

This is my full summer garden, a raised bed, five by six feet, and two tomato pots. I was away for ten days, then we had family visiting here - this is the garden flourishing on its own with very little attention from me. Plant the seeds, water, watch them grow. Amazing.

It was raining when I took some of these photos, a much needed, deep rain. I could water every day, and need to in this desert climate, but a fresh, cool rain rejuvenates the plants far better than anything I could do.

On stage now: marigolds, tomatoes (cherry and beefsteak), bush beans, summer squash, chard, beets, parsley.

Coming soon: zucchini, corn, zinnias.

Waiting on the sidelines: mini pumpkins and mini peppers.