Decisions, Decisions

Well, everyone on the internet is talking about it. Everone’s plan for educating their children this school year is taking up quite a bit of bandwidth these days.

And as with everything 2020, this shiz is super polarizing.

Like, if you are considering homeschooling, you must obviously be anti-public school, and anti-teacher, and you probably don’t even appreciate what schools do for everyone, and guess what, now you have to fight Ms. Frizzle in a cage match because you’re such a horrible human.

Also, if you’re sending your kids back to school, I don’t even know how you sleep at night knowing that you’re offering your children up as actual sacrificial guinea pigs in the science experiment of life and you clearly don’t love them, you monster.

I am happy to say that, as for me and my house, we have come to a decision.

And because everything is so polarizing and high stress, I almost feel like we’re required to make an official announcement like LeBron did when he decided to take his talents to South Beach. Like, this is so high stakes clearly a serious announcement on tv is the way to go.

Do y’all remember when this happened?? It was maybe the single most awkward television interview I’ve ever seen. There was so much build up and it was so anticlimactic and disappointing for everyone in Cleveland and just indescribably cringy all the way around. Shudder.

So, obv I want to duplicate that in my own life.

Unfortunately for all of you lovely people, I could neither secure a television deal nor a Boys and Girls Club of America from which to film said tv special, so the ‘ol blawg will have to do.

Ahem.

I am pleased to announce that the Delagrange family will be taking our talents to……..the basement. And maybe the kitchen table. The backyard is also a possibility, weather permitting.

Yep. We’re going to homeschool for this school year and guess, what? Our reasons for making this decision really don’t matter. I mean, I’m happy to share our reasoning with anyone who genuinely cares, but y’all, it really does not matter.

You are not required to agree with me and I’m not required to agree with you. Our families are different, our needs are different, our hearts are different, and I guarantee we’re both doing our best. And that is enough. We do not need to agree with each other to love on and support one another.

Lemme say that a little louder for the people in the back: We do not need to agree with each other to love on and support one another.

I got this text from a friend the other day, and I 100% stand by my response. Mainly because she told me I’m smart, but also because I think I’m right and I’m not afraid to toot my own horn.

I hope y’all have a friend to text vent to…this is one of our less spicy text threads, I can assure you, and it is so delightful to spew my vitriol to a pal who won’t judge. So clearly my friend and I get a little heated when we’re texting. She does not hate everyone (all the time) and I don’t think everyone is dumb (all the time). But I think our strong feelings pretty accurately depict where we’re both at right now.

It is beyond frustrating to feel like every single decision is the wrong one. It is irritating and annoying to feel like every move we make regarding our family decisions are fodder for the judgement of others. It is exhausting to be constantly worrying, worrying, worrying about making the right choice only to open up to someone and have them poo-poo it like it’s the dumbest thing they ever heard.

I deeply believe that most people share opinions and advice because they’re seeking validation of their own choices. I see this with my doula clients all the time. People tell expectant mamas they absolutely must get an epidural or should absolutely never get one because they want someone to affirm that their own decision was the right one.

Guess what, that’s bull slaw.

Guys, there is space for all of the decisions.

I mean, if your plan is to lock your kid in the attic with a tablet and some Lunchables, I’m probably going to say maybe rethink that one. But otherwise, you need to do what’s best for your family. Your family. Not your neighbor’s family, not your cousin’s family, not your old maid aunt’s imaginary kids and family. Yours. That’s it.

And here’s another strong opinion to shake things up: If someone makes a decision that’s the opposite of yours, it does not mean your decision is wrong. It just means it was wrong for that other person. And newsflash, you can still be kind to someone who is making a choice that isn’t right for you. You can. I’ve tried and it works.

Guys, every single parent in the United States is feeling some sort of way right now. We are collectively stressed, worried, tired, and terrified we’re going to ruin our kids. It’s like a regular day of parenting only with the added perk of a global pandemic. We are all doing our best. My best is probably not the same as your best, and that’s okay. It matters much less how many people agree with my decision to homeschool than how many people feel seen, loved, valued, and supported.

I have friends who are planning to educate their kids in all sorts of different ways this year. I actually know one other person who is homeschooling for the same reasons I am and every single one of my best friends is doing something else. I’m pretty sure my very best friends all disagree with me on some Covid fundamentals, and we’re still friends.

It is pure foolishness to expect other families to make the same choices as mine. We’re all working with a supremely shitty situation and shaming, judging, and vomiting opinions at everyone will not help one single bit…

…which is why I’m done spouting my opinions all over the internet. Y’all, go be a good human. Do what’s best for your kids and give others the space to do what’s best for theirs. We’re all going to be just fine as long as we remember to treat each other with dignity and love. No matter what shape our kids’ education takes this school year, let’s let it be rooted in love, okay?

I Get a Little Texan When I’m Angry

I have a childhood friend named Kathryn who I regularly chat with online. (Facebook Messenger chat, though I wish we were rocking it old school and using AIM like the cool kids we are.) We were a few years apart in school and didn’t become real friends until we were adults, but we are bonded for life over the fact that we both grew up in the same tiny Texas town and now currently live in the north. I’m in Ohio, she’s in Michigan, so our experiences of being Texpats (that’s the Texan equivalent of being an expat, obv) are the tie that binds.

Some might say our bond is forged over both similarly warped in our youth. We say that we’re right and the rest of the world just doesn’t get our particular brand of weird which consists of frequently referencing Texas history, sharing clippings from our hometown newspaper, and recalling all of the childhood phone numbers we can remember. As I type this I realize how old lady-ish we sound. I assure you we’re real cool. Or at least Kathryn is.

Anyway, our coolness isn’t the point. The point is that we’re the only two people in the tri-state area who know what it was like to grow up in Canadian, Texas. (Yes that’s the name of our hometown; no, it has nothing to do with Canada and we will roll our eyes at anyone who suggests such nonsense.)

For example, Kathryn messaged me the other day to ask me if I could recite and/or sing all fifty states in alphabetical order…which obviously I can because Marilyn Wilson drilled that business right into our heads in 5th grade music class. We had to sing it alone in front of the whole class for a test grade. So, yeah…I can do that. Apparently all of Kathryn’s MI friends think this is bizarre. They also can’t sing their state song, bless their hearts. Not knowing your state song is just blasphemous if you’re a Texan. We just canNOT with these northerners sometimes, I swear.

So anyway, today Kathryn sent me a message asking me if I ever, “get more Texan” when I’m disciplining my children.

Y’all. Is that even a question? Does Chuck Norris kick bad guy ass when he’s angry? Is the name Ladybird acceptable for both your child and your dog?? Do we vehemently protest the addition of beans to chili?? Yes, yes, and yes. So, yes. Can confirm. I do get a little Texan when I’m angry.

I mean, most people who talk to me on a normal day genuinely wouldn’t guess I’m Texan. I think this is due to the fact that I took a kajillion speech and film classes back in the day and the Standard American Dialect was drilled into my skull just like, “Aaaaaaaalabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas…” was in music class. Honestly, I’ve found myself developing a Parma accent lately and if you’re from the greater Cleveland area, you know how dire a situation that is. Gracious. I need to have an intervention from Stephen F. Austin is what.

But, if I am absolutely losing my mind on the kids, the Texas for sure comes out. My voice drops into a drawl and I start in with the southernisms. My children know they’re in for it when the twang starts.

I get Texan when I’m angry, which means I also get louder. That’s probably hard for some to believe given how loud I am on a regular basis, but it’s true. I like to think it’s due to the fact that my ancestors’ own hollering had to be heard all the way across the Great Plains when their kids were acting like fools because y’all know the wind’s so bad down there. My loudness is purely an evolutionary development that allows my voice to be heard over a tornado, which obviously gives me a survival edge over non-Texans.

Either way, I go from Parma to Pampa in zero seconds flat and before I know it I am using words like, “dadgummit” and full on hollering at my kids. ‘Tis a delight to behold, just ask my neighbors.

Speaking of “dadgummit,” I used that one the other day and our youngest took a liking to it and decided to try it out himself. He was building with blocks and every time his tower fell down he’d try to yell, “dadgummit!” Only his version was, “DAMN-gummit!” and I have to say I think it’s an improvement on the original.

Fun story, one time after he had first moved to Texas to marry me, my husband was trying out some local colloquialisms and got them all mixed up. So instead of saying, “hot damn” and “boy howdy” he definitely said, “hot boy!” and it was my favorite thing that ever happened.

Another favorite Texplative from my childhood is, “son-of-a-buckin’.” As in, “Y’all need to git in here and clean up this son-of-a-buckin’ floor; we’re fixin’ to have company!” It really rolls of the tongue nicely. I’ve never used that one with my own progeny, though, as I’m afraid of the subsequent changes they’d make to it.

So anyway, here’s to old friends who knew you when and all the times our pasts make themselves known in the present. Here’s to being a little Texan when we’re angry and inspiring another generation to carry the torch of weird expletives into the future. And also, y’all go learn your state songs right this minute or William B. Travis will haunt your dreams.

Fashion Blogger Strikes Again

Well, I had not planned to write a blog post today, but sometimes life hands you a golden opportunity and you just can’t not share about it.

Mine came this morning in the form of this hair.

Y’all. Can we appreciate the fact that this hair is just next level amazing? I’ve already previously established that I am a fashion blogger and this is why. It’s because I wake up like this without any effort at all.

So this look is phenomenal, especially since the one thing I had to get done today was to renew my driver’s license. Obv, when I looked in the mirror at 7 AM this morning, I knew the day was shaping up to be a good ‘un.

So I hustled like crazy, tamed the hair, and got myself to the DMV bright and early before they opened so I could get in line behind all the senior citizens who are smarter than I am because they brought their own chairs. I had super low expectations for the whole thing because I had to get one of those certified licenses that’s next level you-can-get-on-an-airplane-please-enjoy-your-complimentary-bag-of-covid license and I had to bring a ton of proof that I am, in fact, myself.

Gracious, that was a lot of work trying to round up all of the paperwork to prove that I am who I say I am, but I was so thrilled because I got through the DMV outdoor screening and made it inside with all the right stuff and it went off without a hitch. Like, they didn’t question any of my documents, except my bank statement mail and that’s just probably because few people have that little in their bank account. It’s a real old account that only has $5 in it and I don’t know why I haven’t closed it yet, but it had my name on it and not my husband’s, so it counted as real mail and proved my identity, so holla atcha old account.

Anyway, the whole thing was seamless. The employees were so kind and friendly, it was super clean, every single person was wearing a mask and not being an asshole about it…all in all a delightful way to spend a morning! (And that is a commentary on our current situation.)

So I get to the part where I take the picture and I’m already laughing over how bad my hair was this morning and how funny it would’ve been if I had just showed up at the DMV looking like Bellatrix Lestrange ready to renew her broom license and it was all so humorous.

So I go to take the picture and was asked to keep my glasses on since I use them to drive. Cool. No problem. Next I’m asked to tilt my chin down, “just a millimeter or two,” just to reduce the glare on my glasses. Also, don’t smile because we need you to look like what you’re going to look like when you get pulled over. So I tilt my chin and there’s a glare. We repeat the entire process a couple of times, each time increasing the chin tilt until we end up with this gem.

Y’all. There aren’t words. The level of disgust that this photo encompasses is just astronomical. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but can I just vote myself Poster Child of 2020, or do I need to wait another month or two?

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “oh bless her heart,” and that is totally fine. Y’all are probably wondering why I didn’t demand another retake since I’ll have this photo for four years. Some of you are probably ready at your keyboard with your sweet comments about how nothing can diminish my real beauty.

Frands. I do not need any of that. All I need in this moment is proper congratulations for pulling of the most ah-mazingly fantastic i.d. photo that has ever existed. I cannot tell you how hard this has made me laugh or how much I genuinely love this photo. I am not lying, I love it.

Guys, drivers license photos are not supposed to be attractive. They’re, by nature, required to make you look like a psychopath and, gang, I. nailed. it. It is the single most wonderful photo that has ever existed of me and I am genuinely tickled to death that I get to keep it for posterity.

Y’all, can you imagine the glee I am going to have every time someone asks to see it?? I am going to cackle laugh every single time. I am going to start buying Robitussin and spray adhesives just so I’ll get carded and have the chance to show that beauty off! Can you foresee how many people I am going to bless with that i.d. photo?? It is such a gift and I am beyond honored to be the recipient of such a treasure.

I seriously sat in my car and laughed until I cried because that photo is so great. And then I sent it to my mom and we both laughed our faces off over it. Gosh, it is the absolute best.

So anyway, that’s my Monday and I’m thinking it went super well. Zero complaints, only compliments on my glamour shot from here forward, thankyouverymuch.

Speaking of which, I think in four years when I go to take another photo, I’m going to curate an actual glamour shot look. Like, how great would it be for me to show up in the studded leather jacket/biker hat combo? Or take my i.d. photo in an off the shoulder feather boa?? There are so many options and I know it’ll take a while to narrow it all down. Thank goodness I’ve got four years to plan!

For Such a Time as This

I had a really rattling experience the other day and I’ve been trying to decide if it’s worth sharing because it’s so layered and nuanced. I’m going to go ahead and share it with the caveat that I don’t have the answers, y’all. I don’t usually share too much political or potentially political stuff on this platform but I want to share this story because it’s important. I need to start by saying that I don’t expect you to agree with all of my feelings about this situation, but I ask that you disagree with charity. Also, this is going to be a real long post, so hang on to your butts.


So the other day I was driving my eldest to piano lessons and I had all the kids in the car. We were traveling down a street and I looked over and noticed that there was a man kneeling on the ground about a block ahead of me. As I got closer I saw that he was a large black man on his knees on the sidewalk just sobbing. Like, absolutely wrecked, entire body shaking, full on sobbing.

Y’all, it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. And I couldn’t just leave him there. But also, I had all my children in the car which always makes me nervous any time I’m tempted to interact with strangers on the road because you just never know. So I wasn’t 100% comfortable with stopping, but I was 1000% not comfortable leaving him.

So I turned around and tried to get back to him, but the streets in that area are all wacko and weird about where you can turn so it took me a minute and I ended up only being able to turn left and approach him from the turn lane. I rolled down my window and called to him, “Sir, are you ok? Do you need help?” and he just looked up at me and didn’t reply. I was pretty certain that he had been drinking since he was swaying a lot and was uncommunicative. I couldn’t stay in the turn lane much longer so I tried to turn around again all the while desperately wracking my brain to figure out who to call.

Normally, I’d just call the police, but that felt all wrong. (This is where you might disagree with me and that’s ok.) As far as I could tell, this man was committing no criminal activity (aside from possible public intoxication), he wasn’t causing a disturbance, hurting anything or anyone, and I just really feel like if you’re in a place in your life when you’re drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk, the last thing you need is a ticket for being drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk.

And honestly, I think that the police in that part of town would probably have been incredibly helpful. However with the current climate in our country, I just didn’t really want to risk things escalating when this situation didn’t necessarily warrant police assistance. I have never felt so stuck, so unable to find a solution, or so helpless. I was crying and praying and circling back to pull over again when I saw that someone else beat me to it.

I pulled up to a stop sign and looked over to see that there was now an older white man holding the black man in a deep, deep hug.

While I was turning around, this older white couple (who could’ve been poster models for the “Boomer” generation) got out of their car and approached this wounded black man on the sidewalk, picked him up, and held him. And it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time.

To be clear I’m not sharing this to say, “hooray for white people coming in and saving the day for this poor black man.” This isn’t one of those situations where you get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do in the first place. However, in a world where a lot of what we see is the ugly and the nasty, it was really wonderful to see humanity show up in a positive way. It was such a blessing to me to see such opposite sorts of people be so vulnerable with each other and it showed me a new layer of my own privilege and prejudices.

The entire thing left me feeling shaken and upset that I felt unable to help this man. That morning before all this happened I had made an Instagram post about how everyone at home was crabby and I was girding my loins by wearing a shirt that says “Perhaps you were made for such a time as this,” and my Stella Maris medal. If you’re not familiar, the shirt references the book of Esther and Our Lady Stella Maris is the Star of the Sea, symbolically guiding and pointing our ships to Christ through the storms of life.

Later, after piano lessons, I got a message from my friend, Meredith, who wanted to share with me a piece that she wrote for her church newsletter. In it she talks about the very scripture in Esther that my shirt references. I’m going to just go ahead and share Meredith’s piece with you because it is just so good and I can’t bear to choose just one quote.

So, here’s Meredith:

Esther was living in tumultuous times – the Jews were in danger, rulers were corrupt, everything felt risky, and she, a single individual who felt very unqualified, chose to be brave and stand on the foundation of her faith.  I’m sure in that moment, when she went to stand before the king, she felt like I often do – stomach in knots, shaking hands, and that nagging feeling that none of her efforts would make a difference, anyway.  But for those of us who are sitting here in the summer of 2020, we look back and we know: it made all the difference in the world.

“For such a time as this.”  What relevant words!  Throughout the ages, the saints of God have been standing on his promises, declaring the truth, standing up for justice and mercy, and proclaiming the gospel to the next generation.  They did it in the book Acts, as the early church spread like wildfire.  They did it during the early years of this country, as they helped each other to freedom on the Underground Railroad and did not give up hope.  They did it during World War II, hiding Jewish families in their homes and risking their lives for what was right rather than what was easy.  They did it in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, as they cared for the sick despite the sacrifices involved.  And they did it in all the times between, in the uneventful years, when wars were ceased and times were calm, as they pointed to Jesus in the everyday living.  

It has struck me recently that we are the saints chosen for “such a time as this.”  We are part of this enduring story that started with those early Christians and has passed along down generations of families.  We’ve had our faults and our failures, but the truth of the gospel has remained steadfast, and throughout wars, famines, disease, and unrest, the saints of God have stood firm on his Word and proclaimed the truth that we have hope and that all will one day be made new.

And here we are. We are living in a time of sickness, political unrest, and racial disparity. We are holding the torch – we are carrying the baton in this moment of history.  How will we, like Esther, stand firm, despite our shaking hands and nagging doubts?  For me, I will tell my children about the good God that I serve.  I will encourage others.  I will not stop standing on the truth that I know brings healing.  

One day, my great-great grandchildren will look back at this time, and it will seem like vague history – that’s ok. But I hope that these great-great grandchildren will be carrying the torch of faith with them as they face whatever trials they are facing.  I hope that my choice to stand firm on the promises of God will be the link in the chain that makes all the difference.

Meredith Priset

Guys, I don’t know the right answer to heal our broken country. I have a hunch that it’s a billion little answers that are nuanced and complicated but equally rooted in the Truth of love. I am never going to be a political mover and shaker. I will never be a lobbyist or a pundit. Just like Esther, Meredith, and so many before me, I most certainly am going to be unsure and hesitant about my role and will most likely feel ineffective and helpless again and again just like I did the other day.

But I am clinging close to the truth that we are building a cathedral. Each small act of justice, every whispered prayer, all of the tough conversations with children, the letters written to law makers, each and every interaction of love between strangers is more brick and mortar building us all up to heaven.

We were made for such a time as this, to bear witness to the Light. And when we see Light shining in the darkness, it is our responsibility to illuminate it further and to keep laying more foundation like all those who have come before us, one brick at a time.


“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household fo God, built upon the foundations fo the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:19-22

Trash Day

Y’all. I have a problem with Trash Day.

 

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. You’re totally, totally right. What’s so hard about Trash Day? You bag your trash, you put it out, the gentlemen pick it up, you take your can back, you’re done. Super simple.

 

Except I didn’t grow up with trash day, so…yeah. I mean, I grew up in the middle of nowhere. The thought of trash pick-up services coming to my parents’ house is laughable. If you look at their house from Google Earth, you’ll see an alien landscape. The Texas Panhandle is a gorgeous place, perhaps a bit of an acquired taste to some, but it’s beautiful. Google Earth did us no favors, though. I’m pretty sure they chose the driest, most dismal looking time of the year to photograph my parents’ house and it looks like they live on Tatooine. Seriously.

 

 

Because I couldn’t get the actual Google Earth pic to work, here’s an old-timey view…

 

…and present day. Well kinda. This was taken during a drought in 2011, which is basically what the Google Earth pictures look like.

 

 

And so my parents won’t yell at me for such harsh depictions of our homeland, here’s the Canadian River which runs through my hometown. Now if that isn’t beautiful, then I don’t know what is.

 

So, yeah. Garbage pick-up didn’t happen at our house. And honestly, I’m assuming garbage pick-up happens in the actual town of Canadian, but I’m too country to even know if that’s a thing. Guys, do you hear me? I’m so country I don’t even know if the town of 2,000 people had trash trucks. Surely they do. But I don’t know. Geez. All I know is Dad would load up all the trash in the back of his truck and take it to town to one of the many public dumpsters that were around, toss it in, and that’d be it. No big deal.

 

Here’s the thing about me. I know Trash Day is every Thursday. My problem is that I’ll remember this fact on Monday, Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning at approximately 3 a.m. After that time, Trash Day escapes my mind only to re-enter it when I hear the actual truck passing my house. I think it’s probably a serious medical problem.

 

And get this…there are no public dumpsters around here. So, when I miss Trash Day, I toooootally miss Trash Day. The Panhandle girl in me is irritated by this, simply for the fact that I’d like to be self sufficient. I mean, I can dump my own trash. It’s really no big deal. It’s nice of y’all to offer to pick it up, but I got this. Thankyouverramuch.

 

And then there’s the fact that our deep freezer was accidentally shut off the other day. (Thank you, dear children, you precious cherubs, you.) So we had some meat that went bad. So basically, I could not miss Trash Day this week.

 

And then there’s the fact that one of our trash cans needs to be thrown away. Now, if this was the middle of nowhere, I’d just toss my own garbage can and be on my way. But noooo, here in the city I’m left figuring out how the hell to get rid of a trash can with no bottom. 

 

I tried leaving a note, but the gentlemen who take our trash apparently don’t read politely worded notes on the pizza boxes they’re ramming into the back of their truck. Who knew?

 

Also, in the winter the garbage truck comes around in the afternoon. In the summer apparently it’s earlier. And it’s taken me all summer to realize that this is not just a random, “hey, they’re early today” kind of thing and it’s more of an, “oh, that’s just what they do” kind of thing. I’m thick.

 

So this morning, as I was attempting to get Senor Wiggle-Britches to take a nap for the love of all that is good and holy and refereeing the squabbling girls, I heard the melodic sound of the garbage truck at my doorstep. So I dumped the baby into his crib with his bottle, the way they tell you never to do, you know? And I ran outside in my bare feet like a bra-less wild woman to haul the rotting meat filled crap can to the curb.

 

And I made it. I was even able to ask the young man to just toss the whole damn thing in the truck and I thanked him for his troubles. Win, win, and win!

 

I was congratulating myself pretty heavily as I made my way back to the backyard. Because, I won Trash Day today, guys. I. Won.

 

Except that I totally didn’t.

 

Because there sits our other garbage can, completely full of trash and waiting for that magical journey to the curb.

 

I’m sorry, old buddy. You’ll have to wait till next week. Or the week after that. Or whenever.

 

 

Image 1 Source. Image 2 Source. Image 3 Source.

News Revealed…and a New Segment!

We’re back from Chicago! More on that later, but for now I wanted to reveal the good news I alluded to a while back…

 

Now that all of the official people have been alerted, I am free to announce that my husband, The Butcher, has taken a position at a new up-and-coming grocery chain set to open in August. This is a big deal because this store is going to be the absolute bomb, very similar to a Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Central Market. He’ll be working a meat case that includes very diverse items from bison and grass-fed beef to snake and camel.

 

Y’all. He’ll be selling people camel meat. In Ohio. Get excited.

 

This is very exciting for us because, not only is it exciting to be involved with new trends in the food scene, but it is a HUGE honor to be offered a position. They’ve selected only the top butchers in the entire region.

 

Did I mention that my husband has only been in the butchering program since August? Oh, and he’s only been out of the apprenticeship since May?? Oh, and that he’s brilliant beyond brilliant??? And that he’s my husband????

 

I’m just a little bit proud. No big deal.

 

I think what’s more exciting about this is that he’ll be employed by a company that is ideologically very much in line with how we feel about food. We’re passionate about food education and about knowing where our food comes from. We feel strongly that people need to remember that meat actually comes from animals, a sacrifice we’re very grateful for. We’re also passionate about cuts of meat, what part of the animal they come from, how that translates to tenderness or toughness and how that translates to cooking methods.

 

Ultimately, we feel that, as a society, we take things for granted. That to so many people meat is just meat, food is just food, days are just days. As a couple, we’re trying to instill in our children (and ourselves) that even the most commonplace things have intrinsic beauty and value. Enjoyment of these commonplace things can be significantly increased when we take the time to learn about them, appreciate them, and to use them properly.

 

It’s about meat and so much more.

 

And that is why I’m excited to announce a new segment on Oh Bless Your Heart. Once a month, I’ll be featuring a guest post by my husband primarily about getting the most out of your local butcher shop, but a smattering of other food related things as well. Because he’s not extremely confident in his writing abilities, he’s decided to call it “Butchering the Blog,” but I’m pretty sure you’ll find his writing ain’t too shabby. Anyway, here goes for our first installment! Leave the man some love and tell us what you think!

 

 

 

Top rounds being cut into London Broils…just a typical day at work for the hubz.

 

The world of meat cutting is a rather peculiar place.  The more I interact with both the employees and the public the more I realize there is a huge gap between the two.  This divide between butcher and meat purchaser has, like any relationship, caused a serious misunderstanding on both sides. Butchers are a grumpy lot, I know this first hand.  Many of them have worked in the industry since they were teenagers. Just for reference, the lightest box of meat we see on a pallet is no less than 50 lbs. and these 70 year old dudes regularly unload two full pallets a day, which consist of 15-20 boxes per pallet. They’ve spent decades in a job that has cast off by the public as nothing more than a glorified ground meat salesman.  While they may be grumpy, they love the job with a passion I have never witnessed in any of my other endeavors, and there have been many.

 

While they may be surly old men, some of them are masters of their trade.  While I was an apprentice I had the great fortune of working with a man named Bob who had cut meat for 45 years and the cuts he produced were true works of art.

 

Beef Florentine Pinwheels

 

Meat cutting isn’t as easy as it looks. People assume that anyone can do it, but the difference between a masterfully cut piece of meat and a poor quality one is like comparing Monet to Ed Hardy. It’s like if you went to the kitchen, grabbed some bologna and white bread and then cut your sandwich in half with a power saw. I’m pretty sure you’d end up with a mangled mess. Maybe somebody could do that easily, but not without practice. Just to be sure, maybe you should try it.

 

But don’t really do that, it would be a waste of bologna.

 

What I’m getting at is that there are a few people at YOUR local grocery stores who still view meat cutting as the art form and trade that it really is.  Do yourself a favor and seek these people out. They can be tough to sort out and intimidating at times, but if you really pay attention to the details of the work being produced you will be able to spot even fat trimming on steaks, cuts of meat displayed in a visually stimulating fashion and a passion for the trade. You just have to build up the courage to speak with them. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Unfortunately, this is a “while supplies last” kind of deal.  Every day we see more and more prepackaged meats flooding the shelves. These things are evil and must be destroyed.  I mean we don’t even cut fresh lamb or veal anymore! It’s a thing of shame.  Anyway, get to know your butcher. The good one. The one who doesn’t hand you something pre-cut off the main line or out of the service case when you need something really special. Find the guy who goes in the cooler and gets you the best piece of meat he can because it actually means something to him as well.  These artists may not exist forever so enjoy their work while you can.

 

A partial view of his dedication.
Photo courtesy of limelightphotography.com. Tattoo by Doug Kulbis at Voodoo Monkey, Cleveland, OH.

What a Cluster

Ever have one of those days where you are met with opposition no matter where you go or what you do?

 

You know, those days when, I don’t know…maybe you go to get a birth certificate for the baby since the state never mailed you one and you drive around the parking lot of the City Hall for ten minutes because you have no flipping idea which entrance to use. It’s a government operation, so there are about twenty doors, none of which are labeled and there are about three parking spaces, all of which are labeled, “Mayor.”

 

And when you finally park, you think to yourself, “Gee, I bet it’ll be easier to take the girls in via stroller so I don’t have to rip my shoulder out of the socket by carrying  the baby who weighs as much as five cannon balls while juggling the diaper bag/paperwork/holding Mags’ hand. Huzzah for me! This is a brilliant plan!” And you give yourself an extra pat on the back because you actually have the stroller with you!

 

So you follow the signs to the handicap entrance (or what you take to be the handicap entrance, as the signs point kind of towards-ish a door that is definitely not labeled itself). You fight the 400 mph wind to get your progeny in the door and you feel like a complete baller/shot caller ’cause you are all in in one piece.

 

That is, until you see the sign that reads, “Elevator to Second Floor” and it points right up a massive flight of steps. At the top is, indeed, the elevator to the second floor, leering down with pure contempt at your plight.

 

And then you go back outside and ditch the stroller at the car, carry the cannon ball and all of her paperwork inside and curse the day…

 

Until, until!  Your sweet husband brings you home a little somma dis stuff:

Couldn’t be more aptly named.

 

Somehow he surmised from your dulcet tones bemoaning your rotten day that this, and only this would make life better. And he’s right. He is so, so right.

Seven Things:Part 6

The first week of Advent is behind us and now we’re on to week two! I seriously can’t believe that it goes by so fast. I sort of wish we had more time to linger in Advent because I love the anticipation of Christmas so much. Alas, ’tis not to be.

 

But, what ‘tis to be is our Seven Things for this week! Here goes…

 

1.) Middle Earth exploded on the Cleveland Heights Public Library and it was ah-mazing. It was also exhausting, but very, very worth it! We had 108 people go on our quest and some even wondered if the program was put on by a nationally travelling group. We ain’t yo’ mama’s librarians! Here are some pictures of the amazingness:

Isn’t that the greatest thing you’ve ever seen? And the fact that it’s also an accidental Hidden Mickey makes my Cast Member heart smile!

 

 

The Shire

 

 

I need you to know that there was a speaker hidden in that rock so that the dragon could taunt people and then let out horrible shrieks of death when pierced by arrows. Legit.

 

 

And that is why you should support your public library system! And also why you should read The Hobbit.

 

(Please note that I had nothing to do with the creation of these really amazing set pieces except to gawk at the glory that oozes from my coworkers’ hands. However I did make all of the rocks, so you can stand in awe there.)

 

2.) On a completely different note, my sweet friend, Kate, has given me one of the most thoughtful and creative Christmas gifts of all time. I have never read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (shameful, I know) and she reads it every year. This year she’s reading it aloud and recording it so that I can listen to it! Isn’t that awesome? Aaand I’m loving it. I’d really forgotten how much I enjoy Dickens!

 

3.) Continuing on the literary strand, I’m currently reading this…

 

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.” Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

4.) Our church has gorgeous paintings of the saints on the ceiling. Last night at mass, Mag, who had to bring her Nativity people with her, was convinced that the depiction of St. Francis of Assisi was a shepherd. She then proceeded to look for the wise men and I’m fairly certain that she settled on St. Patrick for one of them. No word on the other two, but we’ll keep you posted.

 

5.) Last night I couldn’t figure out why it was so bright in our bedroom until I realized that one of our neighbors went all Clark Griswald on their house with Christmas lights. It is pretty awesome, I’m not gonna lie…there are moving reindeer and I’m pretty sure that there’s a helicopter involved somehow. Not sure what that has to do with the holiday, but we don’t ask questions.

 

6.) Lily is sitting up by herself. Which means she’ll be crawling soon. Which means that mayhaps I should start cleaning the floor now…

Why is my baby big enough to sit up all on her own? And why is there a walkie-talkie under my couch? Mysteries that plague me daily…

 

Also, I seriously can’t get over how much she looks like her Aunt Lauren in this picture. And I love the fact that Lil always makes this face in pictures…like a boss.

 

7.) Final thought for you today, from my Advent devotional by Henri J. M. Nouwen:

“Jesus didn’t live alone. He had Peter, John, and James around him. There were the Twelve and the other disciples. They formed circles of intimacy around Jesus. We too need these circles of intimacy, but it’s a discipline. ...Where are you getting your affection? Who’s touching you? Who’s holding you? Who makes you feel alive? Who says, ‘You are a beautiful person, you are the beloved of God, don’t forget it?’ “

 

I’m daily grateful for the circle of intimacy this blog provides me. Thank you for making me feel loved! And I hope you have a wonderfully restful day today in which you feel how deeply loved and treasured you are…because you truly, truly are!

Storm Update and Cake Recipe

This is a few days past true relevance since we really weren’t affected by the storm as much as others, but here goes anyway. (Do continue to pray for those affected by the storm, I can’t begin to imagine the emotional/physical/logistical state they must be in.)  So, anyway, we’ve been very fortunate since the storm hit.

 

We did have a moderately exciting night in which I attempted to cook some scrambled eggs for dinner but lost power mid-scramble. Luckily for us, we have a gas stove. So never fear, my sweet family was lucky enough to get their dinner, albeit late and lukewarm. Aren’t they so lucky to live with such a classically trained chef who whips up such delicacies in such trying circumstances? I mean, really!

 

The worst part of losing power was that Maggins was in the other room when we were plunged into darkness and it took us a minute to locate her. If you’ve seen my level of “housekeeping,” I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty in navigating through the garbage to find a panicking two-year-old. Luckily for us, we didn’t lose our connection to the interwebs and I was able to show Mags the hurricane videos from Sesame Street that my dear friend, Kate, shared with me earlier. It really helped with her anxiety. Seriously, I just love Sesame Street and if you haven’t seen the hurricane episode you have to. I’m constantly amazed that they’re able to deal with such big scary things with such sensitivity and poise. Sesame Street never panders or condescends and that, that is why you should support public broadcasting!! (And off of my soapbox.)

 

Anyway, we lost power for about a day, but were fortunate enough to be able to have the safe haven of Nana and Papa’s to retreat to. On our drive to said haven we saw  tons and tons of uprooted trees, which always makes me sad. It really was crazy though. I think due to the fact that we had about four days straight of rain and then got the high winds, those poor trees literally fell over, roots and all. At one point we saw a few old, old oak trees completely destroyed, roots in the air, lawns still clinging to their bases, truly a sad, sad sight. But, DO NOT WORRY. All, and I do mean ALL four hundred political signs across the street were unharmed. So you can rest easy that, despite inclement weather, Northeastern Ohio residents are still reminded that Josh Mandel and Sherrod Brown exist. Thank goodness! Without our televisions broadcasting their dueling puppet commercials 24/7, we might forget about them!!

 

Aaaand segway…So, if you’re stuck inside due to horrible weather or just have someone you’d like to send into diabetic shock, I recommend baking this cake!

 

 

So. Good.

 

 

So here are the ingredients you need to make this lusciousness:

  • 2 boxes of brownie mix, whatever brand you prefer. I told you I’m a chef!
  • 1 recipe of rice crispy treats (1 stick butter, 4 cups mini-marshmallows, 5 cups rice crispies, a bit of vanilla…melt, mix, combine, etc.)  *Note: Make your treats on the thin side so you’ll be able to cut the cake easily, and so you’ll have extra left over to eat later. I’m always thinkin’…
  • One recipe of buttercream frosting – I think I did, like, a stick or two of butter, whipped with some milk and then added a package of powdered sugar, as per Betty Crocker’s recipe. This is where I think I’d do something completely different next time. I may experiment with a saltier frosting, something with peanut butter or caramel, perhaps, because the cake is really just too sweet otherwise, said the woman whose family managed power through and eat the whole thing anyway.

 

Here’s how you do it:

  • Use your brownie mixes to make two round layers. I used a 9 inch round cake pan, which was perfect.
  • Using the cake pan as a guide, cut a 9 inch circle out of your rice crispy treats.
  • Assemble the cake by sandwiching the rice crispy layer between the two brownie layers. I put icing between the layers, as well, just to make sure nothing slid around. I don’t really think that’s necessary, though, since the marshmallows do a good job of keeping everything together.
  • Ice the outside of the cake however you like.
  • Say to yourself, “The Pioneer Woman would eat this!” and consume without guilt.

 

I still have no name for this cake, so any suggestions would be welcome! Have a great Friday, y’all!

 

Natural Childbirth Part II: Lily’s Birth

Here’s Part II of my reflections on my childbirth experiences. You can check out Part I here.

 

While giving birth to Maggie seemed to be an absolutely endless process of pain and waiting and more pain, Lily’s birth couldn’t be more opposite. My greatest desire was for this labor to be as peaceful as possible and it was pretty close to perfect.

 

I started having contractions around four in the afternoon on May 19th. I had spent the day running errands, playing with Maggie outside, and doing housework. Vin’s parents picked Maggie and me up to go out for dinner around 5:30 and we had a lovely meal at a cute restaurant. Even though I was fairly certain that I was in the early stages of labor, I was also fighting a very Texan craving for some spicy food. So, naturally, I ordered the “Ole Burger” for dinner. It was a huuuuuge burger with pepper jack, topped with onion rings, chipotle mayo, and, best of all, pickled jalapenos. It was soooo good!

 

I mention this burger because it ranks right up there with some of the dumbest food decisions I’ve ever made. I just couldn’t stop myself. The “Ole Burger” called my name and there was no turning back.  It was very similar to the time my brother ordered the “Blowout Burger,” or the other time he ordered the “Big Nasty.” We all knew no good could come of it, but sometimes you just can’t tear yourself away. And apparently the ability to resist terribly named menu items is not a skill possessed by either me or my brother. Suffice it to say that the “Ole Burger” will, like a bad, bad penny, keep turning up.

 

So, after I shamelessly destroyed the “Ole Burger,” we went home. Vin’s parents decided to hang out for a while until he got home from work which gave me the opportunity to take a nice hot shower and shave my legs, which I’m sure the medical staff greatly appreciated. The shower was a perfect comfort measure for me. I truly believe that going into labor is one of the most natural things a woman’s body is designed to do and therefore takes us back to our most basic nature. It only stands to reason that darkness and privacy are just what our animal nature needs to prepare to bring a baby into the world. It reduces stress, which can slow down the labor process, and relaxes the mind, body and soul.

 

After my shower, I felt very peaceful and continued timing contractions, which varied from about eight to five minutes apart. It was about 8:30 or 9 at that point so I went ahead and called Vin at work to let him know it might be a good idea to get home as fast as he could once his shift was over.

 

I basically spent the next two hours chatting with my family, watching TV with Maggie, rounding up bags, and swiveling my hips through contractions. I looked pretty hot doing my “dance moves”, I’m not gonna lie. But, whatever works, right?

 

I was kind of in awe that my body was actually doing what it was supposed to do so easily. Since Maggie was induced, I definitely had some nerves and anxiety throughout my pregnancy about how I would know when I was really going into labor. However, I was coached for months and months by Vin and my friend, Kate, a doula in training, to trust my body to do what it was designed to do so I adopted a lot of faith in my body and its ability. It was so refreshing and delightful to experience the natural onset of labor and I just kept thinking, “My body’s doing it! I’m really doing it!!”

 

When Vin got home from work a little after ten, my contractions were anywhere from three to five minutes apart and getting stronger. Vin changed clothes, we gathered up our loot, kissed Mags goodbye (since we couldn’t get her to stay in bed) and hopped in the truck to go to the hospital.

 

By 10:45 or 11 we were checked in and I was hooked up to the monitors to make sure this was the real deal. The house doctor checked me out and, much to my joy and surprise, I was already dilated to 5 – almost 6 – centimeters! Lily was doing great and, not only did we get to hear that precious heartbeat, but she had a ridiculous case of the hiccups that literally sounded like she was trying to sledgehammer her way out of my belly.

 

Soon after that we were shown to our room and the real fun began! Vin’s mom and dad were there for a while, which was nice while it lasted, but soon and very soon the “Ole Burger” began to take its revenge. It seemed like such a very good idea at the time…but, alas, if you’re a gal like me, the transition period (going from about 7 to 10 cm’s) means that vomiting is in your future. And for me, it most certainly was. I threw up while in labor with Maggie and, sure enough, the “Ole Burger” exacted its revenge about three times during Lily’s labor. Definitely not as good the second and third times around, I can assure you.

 

Shortly after I began puking my guts out I asked my in-laws to go wait in the waiting room. I don’t know if I’m super-private about this sort of thing, but I feel very strongly about it just being me and my husband in the delivery room. Personal preference, I guess, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those women who delivers babies with a ginormous audience of family and friends. The medical staff is enough for me! Also, I think it’s easier to focus and concentrate without having too many people around.

 

The only other person besides Vin who was with me the entire time was our nurse, whose name was Luda. You know, like Ludacris, only more eastern European and less thug. But basically the same. Luda was a complete rock star. She was incredibly encouraging. When I told her I wanted to do everything naturally she was immediately on board and never once did she pressure me to get an epidural or pain meds. She was pretty much the best nurse of all time. She stayed with us the entire time, mainly because Lily was so low that the only way we could get a consistent heart beat was if Luda held the monitor in place, readjusting it as needed.

 

Let me take a moment to tell you how much I detest those monitors. I know it’s important to get a good read on the baby’s heart rate and keep track of the contractions, but, Lordy be, those things are SO frustrating. I had hoped to be able to use a birthing ball and/or walk around during this labor, but since I was hooked up to an IV and both monitors, one of which was finicky, it was pretty much impossible for me to move around the way I’d like to. I spent the majority of the time on the bed, but it was nice to be able to adjust the bed how I liked it and move around a bit there. Still, though, I’m not 100% sold on the fact that the monitors are really, really, absolutely necessary. Again, I get the point, but they seriously get in the way and cramp my style. But, I digress…

 

Unlike Pitocin induced contractions, which are non-stop pain, natural contractions are, in my humble opinion, a total breeze. This is not to say that natural contractions are completely painless, but there’s a definite beginning and end to each one which makes the whole thing a lot more doable. I also thought that the contractions were a lot less painful. Vin, Luda, and I all talked and joked throughout the majority of the labor, which was really fun. Vin and I both agreed later that we kept waiting for it to get really, really bad, but it just never happened.

 

In my usual luck our OB was off the weekend that Lily decided to be born, so the doctor that delivered her was a mystery man from our OB’s practice whom we had never met. By the time we were ready to push and things were getting really serious, I had reverted to keeping a cloth over my eyes so I didn’t actually see the doctor when he came into the room. Imagine my surprise when I looked up at one point and saw that he looked like the cheap Halloween costume version of this man:

 

Gilderoy Lockhart, eat your heart out.

 

This doctor seriously had long, curly, poorly highlighted hair and had the personality of Gilderoy Lockhart. I need you to know that I almost laughed out loud when I saw him. Also, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt closer to my husband than when we both brought up the resemblance as soon as we had a second alone…as if it were the most important aspect of the whole night. Oh, how we love us some Harry Potter.

 

So anyway, once Lockhart finally got there, he pretty much took one look at me and told me to start pushing. Now, I’m not going to lie, the pain got pretty intense once it was time to push. I also cannot deny that I did drop another f-bomb during the process. Apparently I cuss when I’m in labor…what are you gonna do? Luckily for me, though, we only pushed through three contractions and perfect little Lily was born at 2:15 am! Yes, you read that right…we went from checking in around 11 pm to having a new baby at 2:15. Super-fast and super-awesome!

 

 

Lily was immediately put on top of me after she was born, the hospital’s version of kangaroo care. I requested that we have immediate skin-to-skin contact, and was assured that it was standard procedure, but we didn’t get as much time as I’d have liked. I think this is a classic example of both sides assuming that they’re on the same page. In the future I think I’ll be far more specific so that we get exactly what we want out of the situation.

 

The only other complaint I have about this birth experience is regarding the IV. I was told by my OB that everyone gets an IV when they’re admitted so that if anything goes wrong they don’t have to rush to get one put in. Sounds completely logical to me. Granted, I had to have antibiotics anyway because I tested positive for Strep B, but I still get annoyed with IV’s because they get in the way in the same way the monitors do. Anyway, I totally understand the preventative uses for giving everyone an IV upon admission. However, I found it highly ironic that, after having a serious amount of blood loss after delivery which required medication to control, the IV stopped working. Luda actually had to give me the meds through regular shots in order to stop the bleeding. Obviously, I understand that things malfunction and that those things can’t be controlled all the time. It’s just really ironic, that’s all.

 

I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so empowered than after delivering naturally. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and I was so grateful and proud that we had actually done it. I’ve also never felt closer to my husband. I can’t say enough how wonderful it was to have Vin by my side. Unlike, Maggie’s labor, in which I didn’t want to be touched at all, during this labor I couldn’t get enough. I basically wanted the affirmation that Vin was with me. He rubbed my back like a champ and I couldn’t imagine a better companion. I really feel like we got to be a team this time around; Vin got to take an active role as coach during this labor and he was absolutely amazing. Gosh, I love that man.

 

So, basically, delivering without drugs was really, really excellent. In my humble opinion, given my druthers, I’d much rather do things naturally. Stay tuned for a few more of my thoughts on the subject and a guest post by the hubz…and then we’ll stop beating  a dead horse, I promise!