A recipe to forget your woes and remember your blessings.

To capture summer in an ice-cube-sized package:

Take all the basil your kids can bring in from the garden. Have the toddler, harvest, too, with calls of "Me help, too!"

Throw it in the blender with pecans, grown by your uncle in an organic orchard he converted from conventional practices. Think of how glad you are you don't have to be a pecan farmer for a living.

Add in some of Penzey's dried garlic, and some garlic you had left from your garden, too.

Throw in a big pinch of smoked salt, brought back from a neat little shop you found on your trip to California, slow smoked in small batches until it's so good you can't stop stealing pinches of it.

Douse the whole thing in basil-infused sunflower oil that you made at the beginning of summer.

Have your seven-year-old son be in charge of the blender, even though he says he wants "absolutely never, not even once," to have even a bite of the finished product.

Blend in the Vitamix.

Freeze in popsicle containers, just to freak your kids out, and so you'll have small sizes later.

Repeat, replacing basil with mint.

Serve the basil one over hot noodles, with tomatoes, fresh mint and basil leaves and pecans on top. Use the mint one to rub on roats.

Forget all else that ails you.


The message Christians sent today

There have been an awful lot of people posting self-righteous, pompous posts about the "message we sent today" by buying chicken.

Do they want to know the message that was heard by non-Christians?

You know, the ones who need to hear God's word? The ones whose souls need saving?

I'm not sure they do.

Because  frankly, the people who call themselves Christian who went to Chick-fil-A today to "spread the word that we can't be told where to spend our money" are missing the point.

Christians serve Jesus Christ. That's what it means, or used to, years ago, when I was a Christian and a Catholic. The Christ I knew was one who loved little children, lambs and Samaritans.

He loved and forgave prostitutes, fishermen and even the people who murdered him.

When people were stoning a prostitute to death, he said, "Let he among us who is without sin cast the first stone."

I'm not a Christian any more, though I love what Christ meant to my childhood.

I no longer believe there's only one path to God. I no longer believe that anyone on Earth has all of the answers. And I no longer believe that God makes mistakes. I don't believe that God makes ten percent of all species attracted to the same sex by mistake.

I don't believe that gay people are a mistake, any more than I believe that red hair, short people or people with big noses are a mistake, (though I sometimes wonder about men who have just one weird patch of hair on their back.)

Christ said to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn't say to be a slave to whatever interpretation of the Bible your language has translated this year.

Christ never mentioned the New Testament. Because it wasn't written then. It was written about Christ, and about what he believed, and what he believed has always been clear to me, though how people twist it to their own ends has always been astounding.

Christ believed in kindness. He believed in forgiveness. He believed in minding your own God-damned business about what other people were doing in bed until you were without sin yourself. He believed that you shouldn't be looking at the splinter in your neighbor's eye when you've got a great big 2x4 in your own eye.

And he believed that even after all of that, if you love and forgive and live your own life, if someone hurts you, well, you turn the other cheek.

He did not, not even once, say, "Go to a place that tortures animals for profit, that doesn't use ritual slaughter or clean practices, and buy their meat. Buy it in my name, because they contribute to hate groups. Go, in my name, and spend your money and give freely, so they can fund campaigns of hate against people. Because they're sinners, dammit, and I want to punish sinners."


So, the message Christians sent today?

Well, I know I don't want to be a Christian. If they were trying to save my soul, they lost it.

They lost a lot of others today, too.

The message was this: Christians are a hate-filled, vindictive people, full of anger. They want to use their money to fund hate groups, not charities. They are not inclusive, they are not loving, and they are nothing like Christ.

Are all Christians this way? No. Some of my best friends and the best people I've ever known are Christian.

But they weren't out there, pretending to speak for Jesus by eating waffle fries.

Whatever the point they were trying to get across today, I'm pretty sure, "I'm a hate-filled, angry representative of a loving God" probably wasn't it.

The Christians who came out to "send a message" today might win the Chick-fil-A war, but they're going to lose an awful lot of souls.


The Emu Egg story



Originally published April 9, 2009 

Sander was asking me about the emus today. He wanted to go see if there were any eggs left. I thought it was time to trot out the Emu Egg Story. Because some things never get old.

So. Put these words together into a story: Four-year-old boy. Two-year-old, fragile, rancid Emu egg. Hardwood floors.

You know where this is going. You can see it. You can prevent it in your mind.
So why, oh why, for the love of my nostrils and the love of being able to stand in my kitchen without throwing up, why couldn’t I see it coming???
When we moved here three years ago, my very, very, very old neighbor, named Eloi the Emu guy, had emus. He also had a very, very, ancient mother whom he carted around town in his ancient car and they went to What-a-burger for their weekly treat. He’s grumpy and mean and the only time we grunted at each other was when he rode his lawnmower past our fence. Occasionally we’d leave him some stale pecans to feed his emus (I have no idea if emus eat pecans, but something in his yard will eat them!)
He lives on six acres next door to us, with only a barbed-wire fence between us and the emus. He also has a goat and an animal that’s either a long-haired sheep or a very strange goat.
He also has, thankfully, a disgusting house, with so much trash and garbage and weird piles of stuff all over the front of his house that no one will ever complain about us not mowing the lawn.
Also, I figure if he has emus, a goat and a sheep-type creature in the city limits, we’re safe with chickens.
Unfortunately, his mother died recently, and the emus went away. So did the goat and the sheep, and someone came and cleaned up all the stuff.
It had been so bad on his porch that when my sister went by one day, after stepping though the piles of old bicycle baskets and coffee cans and weird piles of newspaper, she picked up a notepad on his porch to leave him a note and put her hand in a wasp’s nest (and you really want to leave him a note and not talk to him, because he answers the door in his underwear with no shirt on. Good look for Brad Pitt. Not-so-good look for Eloi.)
I’m really kind of bummed they picked it all up. It made my house look SO much nicer when it was a mess over there.
So, the emus. Scary. Mean. BIG. And there were three of them. One day a couple of years ago, Mark and the boys went for a walk and decided to cut through the neighbor’s yard.
Yah. Right through the emus. After the running and screaming and dodging the huge birds while Mark threw both boys like a javelin over the barbed wire fence to escape the HUGE claws of the giant raptors, Sander showed me their trophy: One pure white, giant, beautiful egg.
This was his treasure and his prize and the thing he loved the most in the world.
It was, of course, a time bomb waiting for the right moment.
Last week, Sander cleaned out his closet. Meaning that he dumped everything on to the floor so he could see all the “cool stuff” on the top shelf. Meaning stuff that I’d hidden because I didn’t want him getting into it.
Out comes the stinking time bomb of death.
“I LOVE my emu egg! It’s my favorite thing! I LOVE it so, so much!!”
And that was it. We tried to hide it again for three days. No good. He couldn’t sleep without it. Couldn’t live without it. 
So, yesterday, as someone is ON THEIR WAY to videotape my house and my boys for a documentary on how cool homeschooling is, Sander walks in the kitchen with the egg and a new plan: He’s going to keep it safe from bad guys. Something this valuable, this special, this amazing, will obviously be stolen. All he has to do is very carefully wrap it in this BANG

Silence. For a moment, a big breath to start tears. And then, forget about crying. Forget about anything else except getting the hell away from that kitchen.
Go outside and puke and hope to God you never, ever smell anything like that, ever again. It smelled like dead puppies left in the sun, wrapped in diapers of cholera victims. Rotten egg doesn’t even begin to describe it. And it wasn’t a smell -- it was a force field or a thick wall of nausea from which there was no escape.
This sucker didn’t break. It exploded with full force, leaving shrapnel from the pits of sulphuric hell embedded into my walls.
And we had guests on the way. And Sander was not having any comforting. He wanted me to fix the damned egg.
Everything in my house smells like rot and death and corpse. By the time the woman arrived an hour later, she said she couldn’t smell it. Probably because the chlorine gas from all the bleach I used while I was vomiting and cleaning destroyed her olfactory nerves in her brain. I can only hope to be so lucky.
Sander and his dad went to the now-abandoned emu yard last night on a hunt for another egg. They only found fragments of old ones.
God help Mark if he’d actually come home with another one...



On offering up a back rub...

Marriage is a funny thing.

Yeah, you're joined for life, yeah, you love him.

Yeah, he's everything you ever wanted. And yet you still have things you want that he doesn't want.

And he has things he wants that you're not going to give in on. Ever.

Mark and I have a deal. I get one speeding ticket a year. He makes it go away. He sends away for my driving record, files the paperwork for me to take a defensive driving class instead of getting points on my license and then, being the kind-hearted husband that he is, he takes the defensive driving class online for me.

I tried taking the class. I don't have the patience for it. The third year in a row that I gave up halfway through and just paid the fine instead, Mark stepped in and took over for me.

In appreciation of this kind act, the first year, I offered Mark a token of my affection and appreciation. Let's say, for the sake of argument and because it's none of your business what I really gave him, that I offered him a back rub. He's happy. I'm happy. It's a give and take. We have done this for ten years now, and it works for us.

And yes, the poor man gets back rubs just because he's a good guy. Once in a while, when the kids are asleep and we're not exhausted and we're getting along. This is just a bonus. 

Last week, I was going to California, and I asked Mark for some extra spending money. I told him it would come in handy, and I offered him, as a token of appreciation and affection, a back rub. Which he promptly accepted, and then said that we don't do nice things for each other in order to get paid, but because we love each other, and I would have to stick to my budget and would not be getting any extra cash.

I was not impressed.

However, now he has the certificate for this year's defensive driving class in his hot little hands. He got it in the mail today.

And he would like payment for his time and effort. In the form of, shall we say, a back rub.

Forget it, says I. We don't do things for each other to get paid. We do them because we love each other and want to do them.

And so he has, cheerfully and in good humor, locked away my defensive driving certificate until I pay up.

I'm not sure how this little battle is going to play out, but it's a lot of fun to see what's going to happen next.

Marriage is such an odd thing -- just when you think you have it all figured out, it's new again and you have to re-negotiate all of your terms. I'm astounded when people have been married four or five times. I'm still figuring out this one! 

I have ten days until I have to turn in the defensive driving certificate. This could get interesting.




Watching whales

This is the face of a seven-year-old boy who has fulfilled a dream.

We went on a whale watch off the coast of California this week. The day was glorious, the weather amazing, and off we went, 40 miles out to sea, with a group of people who had, apparently, lived in caves their entire lives.

They had never heard of being seasick. They had no idea that perhaps, before you spent more than seven hours out on the open water, you should, just maybe, stock up on Dramamine. That if you get a little queasy on a roller coaster, maybe a whale watch isn't where you want to be.

That taking little girls who vomit at the idea of vomit out onto a boat where every third person is heaving over the side might not be a picnic. And that if you're actually eating a picnic and there are people barfing onto the table next to you and it splashes onto your lunch, you might lose your lunch, so to speak.

So, despite the trauma of being on a boat surrounded by people who threw up, copiously, conspicuously, loudly and profusely, as well as, shall we say, closely, violently and often, the lucky few of us who were NOT part of the "barf boat brigade" managed to have a very good time.

Sander was a little green, but some Dramamine helped. Sawyer has my stomach, apparently made of steel wool and impervious to any movement. And Scout was rocked to sleep the entire time by the motion of the waves and so missed the entire technicolor experience.

When we could look away from the human drama inside the boat, what we saw outside was astounding.

The whales are migrating this time of year, and we were hoping we'd get lucky enough to see a humpback or two.

We saw 35 or 40. Plus a blue whale, 1,500 saddleback dolphins, six or eight bottlenose dolphins and enough sea lions to start our own Sea World show.

For a boy whose dream was to "see a whale in the wild," this was the trip of his life.

He still wants to see an Orca, and they weren't in this part of the world, and of course the platypus is still highest on his list.

The whales were amazing, and though I know that's an overused word, it's still a good description of it. To think that people went out in tiny rowboats to go and try to kill one, and that they succeeded! I was scared at the size of them while on a huge boat made of steel, with a motor to take me safely away. The thought of being on a wooden ship, with sails, or in a rowboat armed with harpoons is beyond my grasp. And how desperate you would have to be to even attempt it!

Plus, of course, the seasickness. We were able to laugh about it, but spending months and months like that, in the hold of a ship coming from England, or worse, from Africa?

And yet people survived it, and worse.

That's why we go on whale watches, I think. Because it reminds us of how we got here, how small we really are, and how little we know about the world around us.

And because the human dramas played out on the barf boat were every bit as interesting as the dramas played out in the water.