Tuesday, June 21, 2011

~i'm afraid of the yeast in my freezer~

So I love my small town and the fact that they have a locally-grown farmers market in the Argenta district. Saturday I woke up and hauled my hubby & toddler promising them to stroll around and breathe better just by going to the outside market rather than a retail convenience store. I'm smiling from ear to ear with my cute recyclable shopping bag. I only came for blueberries really and as I'm tasting a couple that the farmer offered me to taste, before my purchase, I glance over... "OH! and can I get one of those cucumbers you have there?!" The farmer, poor thing, looks at me, baffled, and respectfully responds, "Ma'am, those are zucchinis." SHOOT! I think. Dang it. I've done it again. Hiding my ignorance I blurt out, "Well, I'd like one of those anyways..." Farmer grabs a couple and says, "Here. Take two." I smile, embarrassed, and pay him cash the price of 1, while placing my ZUCCHINI's and quart of freshly picked blueberries in my plastic bag. Stroll away laughing at myself...cuz it's better to laugh than to cry! Here I've been looking for zucchini's a whole year to make this delicious zucchini bread recipe I have, and kept thinking, "gosh, this store never carries zucchini!!" Come to find out...I don't carry the right mental image of what one looks like!

Later that same sunny, breezy Saturday, I'm feeling even more hippy/organic and I'm reading the instructions for this bread I've never made. I like to follow instructions. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist with a side of procrastination. Is it my Biology/Pre-Med background that does this? You gotta be exact when you're in the Chemistry lab. You can't just miss a decimal point or something in there might explode. So when the recipe says "squeeze the extra moisture from the zucchini..." Dang, I think. I wash my hands again and grab bunches of those freshly shredded green things and *squeeze* I go.... SQUEEZE in between my hands and trying to just let the juice out and not let the zuch slip down my arm....

...so I'm telling my friend, who gave me the recipe, "hey, do you really squeeze the zucchini in that recipe to get the extra juice out? or do you just shred it?" My friend says, "Did you SQUEEZE it? like...how?" and I felt that warmness in my cheeks, yet again, when I looked into her eyes....DANG. I've done it again. Who would've thought using a STRAINER is the next best thing to using your hands to *squeeze* things?...

Earlier I said I'd rather laugh at myself. It really is better. Just join the fun and laugh WITH yourself. When I used to take Spanish flamenco classes growing up, my teacher always threatened us that if we made a mistake, we never EVER ought to make a face showing our horror, nor stopping and losing track of our steps in the dance. She said we just had to look down at whatever we had dropped, if anything, and laugh at it, and keep going. So that's what I do when it comes to cooking and I make a *blurb*.

Deep inside you don't know what I've had to overcome to get myself to not care about this issue. It used to give me a lump in my throat if someone teased me. You see, I grew up without a mom my formative years. Then my widowed father hired a maid to cook and clean for us because we couldn't deal with our grief, among other things and he needed help. I wasn't really allowed in the kitchen. My one duty in life, per my dad, was to 1. Study, 2. Study, 3. Study, and lastly, if there was any time left over, 4. STUDY. So cooking? out of my orbit. I didn't have a need nor desire to learn about it. I had to learn English and get straight A's to get into a good university in the USA because I wanted to be a doctor. *phew* Later in life, once in college, I started feeling insecure about the fact that I had never boiled an egg, and everyone here seemed to have a fetish with those darn (yet delicious) chocolate chip cookies and I had never made them....ever....never boiled an egg. Remember?

So you know. Insecure. Me? a Latina woman who doesn't know how to cook? What? AND you don't cook spicy food? (that's a whole other blog post about the difference between spicy Mexican food and our bland, but still flavorful Central American food...) So I used to feel insecure but now I just laugh WITH myself. I made it thru college eating who knows how much cereal and other potluck leftovers and oh, the blessed Cafeteria food. When I got married, GEESH, now I had to feed him? Uh.OH.

I've made great strides and I now make some mean Black Bean Soup, chicken tacos a la Nicaraguan with my own twist, and have even learned some American recipes. I had to write about this more than anything to allow the humor to crush any insecurity that may creep up about my cooking. And who knows...maybe you "gentle reader", could relate with how I'm scared to death about this yeast package that's sitting in my freezer that my friend Rachel gave me to make honey oatmeal bread....Does that yeast have teeth? I'd rather keep it frozen. Just in case.

~I ain't no Rachael Ray

Monday, June 13, 2011

~2 alka seltzer's~

You know when you wake up moaning and something in your insides just doesn't feel right? like, you know it's not hunger pain? I hate to wake up on a Monday when my dear hubby is still out of town thinking I have to juggle the day with a toddler on my own...AND get Montezuma's revenge on top of that. Was it last night's hotdog? or yesterday's lunch burger? You guessed it. Probably both!

So I grunt and moan in silence so as not to wake up the baby, hoping that this buys me some time. I remember my father saying one last thing before they left last night, "if you need us, just call us, we're here to help." And I remember feeling that nudge in the heart that I usually feel when God tells me, "something's about to happen". And it's as if time slows down for 2 seconds. I can't explain it. This has happened to me since I was a little girl. That I know things are going to happen, but I don't know how they're going to happen.

So I remember what my dad says and I grunt, "Grrr. This is why he said that." And sure enough. I don't want to bother anyone. But he said it to remind me I can count on him. And he says it to remind me that I can count on HIM. That God I tell you...finding every possible way to remind me of His presence.

So I text and say, "bad. stomach. can you come? please pick up kid. take him to daycare." My stepmom responds, the angel that she is, "will be there ASAP."

My dad cracks me up. He comes with his home remedy, tried and true for years. I make a face. But first he's sure to ask me, "you sure you're not pregnant?!" I make another face as if to say, "whatever, hand me the alka seltzer." He chuckles and continues to give me a hard time about I have to swallow the medicine water fast and in his presence or I just won't do it. Why are you taking your time? Gotta be brave! Forget the bitter taste! Come on! He's messing with me and makes me laugh. Which also makes my stomach muscles grunt in more pain.

I managed to have the kid ready to jump in the carseat and my angel-step-mom takes him to daycare. Meanwhile, I had not idea 2 hours of storytelling with my dad ensued. The first thing I noticed was that the house was quiet. (of course, the toddler-kid is gone). The 2nd thing I noticed: I hadn't talked with my dad this long since before I gave birth. Always a kid crying or needing attention, you know?

I love listening to my dad. How we ended up talking about the time war broke out in Nicaragua in 1978, the year I was born, when we started talking about my stomach pains...I don't know. OH yes! I know. He told me how he almost *died* of indigestion one time in Nicaragua for not watching what he was eating (pork, chicken, and shrimp all in one day). When the doctor at the hospital asked him what he had eaten that day and my dad told him, the doc asked, "really? and a bag of nails you didn't want to eat as a side?" He made me laugh again. And the Alka-Seltzer's were starting to work.

I've always told my dad he needs to write a book. He's always wanted to. This year I think he's finally going to sit down and record himself telling us stories, in order to start figuring out timelines, dates, events, and put them in order. Today I was captivated as he started telling me details of events I've always heard about...

...you were a few months old when you came home from Spain...Nicaragua was in chaos... I used to be the assistant to the Vice-Minister of Urban Planification... great job, big bucks, I thought I had it made...

...few days before the dictator, Somoza, decided to flee the country because the Sandinista Liberation Front was taking control neighborhood by neihborhood...my boss came and offered me an escape route...the promise of a job and safety in Miami, Florida, if I left with all of *them*. My dad said, "no thanks. I'm staying here. I'm not leaving my country. I'm not leaving my family." and the promise to keep his mouth shut about "The General" leaving in his military plane with all his monies and all his peoples...

...then I was at church one Sunday and got a radio-call from someone saying I shouldn't attempt to drive home because the Sandinistas were taking over my neighborhood and killing all young men...my dad said, "should I follow my heart or should I follow this warning?" I wasn't able to return home that day and had to flee elsewhere.

...by then about 20 members of our family were hunkered down in our other house and hearing bombs drop...every morning your aunt Cloty would say, "let us pray for guidance about what to do today." and every morning the prayers and the decisions were life or death...

Life. or. Death.

My mother, Marivalle, with a 1 year old to care for, took the bold decision to disguise herself and get in her friend's Volkswagon, and drove/walked 20 kms to reach my aunt's house and try to get them out...cuz she had kids...cuz 500lbs bombs were being dropped in that neighborhood and they didn't stand a chance.

HOLD IT. I have diarrhea today and I couldn't even make it to the restroom without thinking how hard it is to care for a needy toddler while you got tha' runs. And I had to call my family to come help me....But you're saying that my mother did WHAT??!! and YOU LET HER??!! Dad responded. She was brave. We decided this together. If I went, they would kill me. I worked for the government. But a woman, a woman stood a *better* chance.

...so my mom and her friend, Mercedes, get all the way there amidst gunfire, trenches, and such, to find a stubborn sister in law with her 3 kids who didn't want to leave her husband. Why husband staying? If I told you I would have to kill you. Anyways. Off they go AGAIN, thru all the crap to return home to her mother in law going, "where's Zela? how come she's not with you??!!"

All I asked was for help. I got 2 Alka Seltzers and a history lesson. I need to start the recorder next time my dad begins speaking. He's getting old and sometimes the dates jumble in his head and we have to figure this out. It's good to remember where you've come from. I grow strength out of it when I feel weak. I remember the lessons that others have learned in their own skin, and try to not make the same mistakes. I would like to say I'm a brave and bold woman. But I'm still thinking that I act like a wimp sometimes and the things that make me fear are nothing like 500lbs bombs falling around you. And am reminded that the enemy has always tried to instill fear in my little soul.

So today I'm thankful for the diarrhea and staying home from work in my cozy house with my cozy bed and my delicious Ritz crackers. Time alone with my dad. Precious time listening to courageous stories. Need to write them down, for the record, so I don't forget the big God we have always served. Once I heard of Him. Now my eyes have seen Him.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

~we found our way, on the way~

I forgot to share this blogpost that Donna invited me to contribute to at our Fellowship North blog. About 40 of us women from Central Arkansas went on a 24-hour Silent Prayer Retreat near Hot Springs. Here is a nugget of what happened on the way. I'd also like to share another account of that beautiful weekend together. My sister-friend Alison Chino wrote on her own blog with pictures that I didn't capture. She will bless your soul as well.

We stood in a circle on Saturday afternoon, about 40 us, before the Communion Table and I noticed that the table beautifully summarized the beginning and end of our retreat time together:

At one end of the table was a broken, red heart made out of metal.
The night before we had immersed ourselves into Luke 24 and joined the saddened, downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. The journey started marked with loss and grief. Hope deferred. Wounds. Pain. Regrets. Confusion. Emptiness. Clenched fists. We all came with the same cry of our hearts “search me Lord”.

Then after the broken heart was a small trail of rocks and candles in the shape of hearts.
These symbolizing how the hearts of the disciples were burning when Jesus spoke words to them on the road. This path of rocks and candles reminded me of the journey we began Saturday morning. We woke up in silence, got ready, had a delicious breakfast without speaking to anyone, and then took off by ourselves for hours. We were on our own solitary path of silence, listening to the words of Jesus. Some sat by the lake, some under the gazebos or benches, some brought lawn chairs, some entered the peaceful prayer garden (more like a forest with trails!). During our silent journey we followed a prayer guide that started with the Cleansing Room, then the Abiding and Comfort Room, Identity Room, and finally, the Thanksgiving Room. We allowed the Spirit to speak. Some even chose their own path as the Spirit led them.

The path of rocks and burning candles led up to the Bread & Juice of Thanksgiving at the other end of the Communion Table.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we looked back at our hardships, situations, wounds, pain, loss, hopes, questions, doubts, and realized that Jesus had been there all along, we just hadn’t seen Him. The grief sometimes is too much to bear. But as we stopped, stood still and listened to His voice for about 5hrs, we couldn’t help but notice that He was present. He illumined our minds and our hearts. It was in the breaking of bread and thanksgiving time that He was most recognized as being with those disciples. Yet, He had been there all along. The journey that had started with loss and grief had ended in praise & thanksgiving. By the time we broke the silence at noon, we had bumped head on with the Grace of the Resurrection, Redemption, and Communion. All of which we already possessed, just hadn’t remembered, because we are forgetful daughters sometimes.

The sharing time after lunch & breaking the silence is one of my favorite parts of the Silent Prayer Retreat. The intimate things that were shared cannot even be uttered because they were so deep. Some women wrote poems. Some said even the trees, rocks, and clouds spoke to them. All read Scripture. We did some sacred journaling. But all women listened. Spent time with the Master. Slowed down our hearts.

We finished praying around the Communion table. One-word prayers. Love those. We just spoke one word that God had burned deep in our hearts, out loud, as well as writing the word on one of the rocks on the table. We left joyful and changed back to our community.

I’d like to end with this joyful invitation taken from a Mennonite Songbook that we read before taking communion:

This is the Welcome Table of our Redeemer, and you are invited
Make no excuses, saying you cannot attend; simply come,
for around this table you will find your family
Come not because you have to, but because you need to.
Come not to prove you are saved,but to seek the courage to follow wherever Christ leads.
Come not to speak but to listen, not to hear what’s expected, but to be open to the ways the Spirit moves among you.
So be joyful, not somber, for this is the feast of the reign of God,
where the broken are molded into a Beloved Community,
and where the celebration over evil’s defeat has already begun.