A Story Behind Every Cookie

I just made chocolate chip cookies with my eight year old. After the cookies went into the oven to bake, she ran off to play, and I was the one who carefully watched the timer and made sure the cookies came out at the exact right time, quickly sliding them off the cooking sheet onto a cooling rack so they wouldn’t overcook on the sheet. And it suddenly brought back memories. 

My friend Alyssa taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies. My mom was not a cookie maker. No one can beat my mom’s raisin cinnamon rolls or her brownies, but cookies were not her thing. So, I moved to Bethel, Alaska just before my 16th birthday without the great life skill of knowing how to make good cookies. 

Alyssa and I met pretty soon after I moved to Bethel, and our friendship quickly grew into Best-Friend-dom. We were in the same grade at school. Being a Christian was important to both of us. And that’s about all we had in common. Well, we both got good grades in school. She was on all the sports teams, President of the Student Body, involved in every single leadership thing there was and graduated Valedictorian. I practiced piano all the time, loved to read, had a quirky sense of humor, and did not hold any positions of leadership. I ended up being Class Secretary senior year because of her interference. She also would make crazy suggestions like, Let’s Go Running! What??? But, we adapted. I went running, she watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail with me. I like to think that we were good for each other. 

But let’s get back to cookies. Alyssa’s family had the secret “Mrs Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe (which Alyssa copied into a recipe book and gave to me for a wedding present and which I have passed down to all my children). One time I checked, very carefully, and was able to see that yes, there were some slight variations from her recipe and the recipe that comes on the chocolate chip bag.. But, I honestly think that the Key to her amazing cookies was knowing the exact amount of time to cook them. It’s a science. It’s taken me many years to figure it out perfectly, but Alyssa, you will be glad to know, I am now a master too! 

Alyssa’s house was the perfect tundra-living house. It was two stories, but all the living areas and kitchen were on the 2nd story. That way, you had a breathtaking view of snow and lights, sky, stars, going on for miles and miles. I remember long winter evenings at her house. We would bake cookies while munching on chips and salsa (also something Alyssa introduced me to). We would make the perfect cookies, play games, talk. Sometimes I’d play their piano and we would all sing together. Or we would go out and play in the snow. Alyssa and her family introduced me to the “STEAM” which is a far-north tradition. Small wooden building full of hot steam, so hot that you end up walking outside in Alaska winter in your swimsuit and it doens’t affect you. Her family also introduced me to Lefse (Norwegian potato pancakes), snowmobiling, and all the thrills of having a Dad who worked for Fish and Wildlife and was a trapper on the side. 

I get up from writing and go in the kitchen to grab a cookie. They sure are good. It’s funny how layered our lives are. We bake some cookies, but oh, all the stories and history behind that simple cookie. It’s good to take the time to remember every once in a while. 

P.S. My husband is back at work, mostly recovered from his covid, thank you for all your prayers!

Guarantees

Last Friday my husband texted me to say he was feeling sick, needed to come home and go to bed. 

Cue elevated heart rate. 

Ok. Come on home. Symptoms? Sore throat, headache, fever. Ok. It could be strep. We’ve had strep go through the house in the past month. Or…it could be covid. Ok, not going to go there till I have to. 

By the next day his sore throat wasn’t very bad but he was passed out with a fever. Ok. In strep, sore throat usually gets worse, not better. I went ahead and canceled everyone’s weekend plans and we started treating it like possible Covid. 

And I felt like I was back on the river in my canoe, rapids ahead. Get ready. Adrenaline pumping. High alert. 

I wasn’t able to get him tested till Monday, results came back positive. I’m starting to paddle fast now. Ok, we need to get groceries in, call all the schools, email them the test results, let’s get this laundry caught up. House needs to be clean. 

We need to be ready. Cause, I’m probably going to get sick too. And what if my teenagers get sick too? And what if my kids get sick and need to go to the doctor? And I’m looking at my husband passed out in bed, the sickest I’ve ever seen him, and I’m wondering how I’m going to keep taking care of my family while I am equally sick? Big rapids ahead. Get ready. 

In the middle of all this, my parents called, said, we’ve already had covid, we’re not going to get it again this soon, come to my house so we can help. 

It didn’t take very long to realize this was definitely the best option. Then we went into a full-blown quick retreat. Everyone pack! Take out the trash, wash up those dishes, clean up this mess, we’re heading to Grandmas. And I felt this urgency. I had a headache coming on and all I could think was, I’m going to be in bed sick very soon and I need to get my kids settled first. 

So, we all packed up in a very short amount of time and headed out the door. 

And I never got sick. And none of my kids got sick. But my adrenaline is still pumping as I watch my husband, still not sure how his recovery is going to play out. 

And I want guarantees. I want to know with certainty that all my loved ones will remain healthy and happy and cared for. I want to know that I’ll pray for healing, and healing will happen. I want to know that instead of going through the rapids, I can just say, let’s skip this part of the river, and I’ll be magically transported to another peaceful section of water where no giant rocks loom right under the surface, ready to upset my boat. 

But here I am. No guarantees. My boat is tipping all over the place. Actually,  I think I’ve already jumped out of the boat and am dragging it. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

I guess I do have a guarantee, that God is going to use every single thing that happens in my life to shape me into the person he wants me to be. 

But, I am looking forward to some calm waters, coming soon I hope. 

Fat Fridays: Moving Forward Inch by Inch

This past week I’ve been fighting a lot of my food addiction demons. Mindsets and thought processes that make me binge eat or just completely not care about diet, health, etc. It’s been a bit frustrating. I’ve done the heavy work of recognizing my unhealthy thought patterns, but how do you get rid of them? Sometimes, logic is not enough to break free from a sugar addiction. Or emotional eating. 

I’ll admit that my diet went out the window while I’ve been trying to figure this out. Then yesterday, I went to the store to get a pair of jeans. I live in the South. It’s still pretty hot around here, but I know that cool weather is on it’s way, and since my weight loss, I don’t have any pants my size. So, I went to the store and pulled about four pairs of pants to try on, all in the size I thought I was, and low and behold  none of them fit. They were all too big. What?? So I went back and got the next size down and that worked fine. I don’t know if men have this in their sizing but women have these W sizes which are cut a bit baggier in the butt and thighs. So, I am a solid 16W, down from a 22W. I was able to fit one pair of regular 16, but another style was too small. 

I decided then and there that I was going to just focus on losing the next ten pounds and maybe with that weight loss I’ll be a solid regular 16, not just 16W. I’m finding that looking at how far I have to go to get to my Dream Weight is overwhelming. So, I’m just going to focus on the next ten pounds. 

I think, in all of this, I keep having to remind myself that I am human. Not perfect. And perfection isn’t required of me. I’m on a journey towards health and sometimes the journey is going to be backtracking and side trails and mess ups and just standing in one place for a minute. But each day I get to decide to try again and see if I can move forward another couple inches. So, here’s to the next ten pounds!

See you all next week. 

Increase My Faith

We went camping as a family this last weekend. It was a lot of fun. Canoe camping. We drove into a National Park, put into a lake and then paddled over two hours before we got to a creek/small river. We took our canoes out and then had to carry our stuff up the bank, down the trail about the equivalent of a city block to our campsite. We got our tents up, a campfire going, cooked some supper. The kids were running around the woods having a lot of fun. Suddenly my daughter started crying and grabbed her chest. She ran over to me. Mom! My chest hurts! I need my inhaler! Ok. I got this. I went and got my ziploc bag full of all my emergency medicine that I always have with me on these trips. (Be prepared!) I pulled out her inhaler with her spacer, handed it to her, she went to press the button and something was wrong. The actual medicine tube had fallen out of the casing. There was no albuterol. Just the plastic casing. Crap. 

Ok. Take a deep breath. (Me, not the asthmatic kid.) I stood there, holding her in a hug while I rubbed her back. It’s ok. Let’s get you out of this woodsmoke and stop running around. We’ll find a nice quiet place to sit till you feel better. I could tell she was starting to panic. I was trying not to panic. We just stood there quietly for a while. I got a camp chair and moved it away from the smoke. Sat her down. My brain was racing. Ok. People had asthma long before inhalers came around. I took mental stock of what I had. I could pound on her back to help loosen things up? I remembered that in my medicine bag I had some essential oils. We could put some in boiling water and have her breath in the steam with a towel over her head. Ok. We can do this. I stopped and prayed out loud for her and she slowly calmed down. 

It was bedtime. The girls were all going to sleep in their own tent, but this had thrown my daughter off. She asked to sleep in my tent. Sure sweetie. Then it was a domino effect as the other girls decided that they weren’t brave enough to sleep solo if one of the sisters was missing. So then I had three extra kids in my tent. And an empty tent all set up. My husband abandoned ship and took one of the little boys and they went and shared the abandoned tent and I layed down, surrounded by little ones. 

As I lay there in the dark my heart was pounding and I found myself fighting off fear. Yes, my asthmatic child seemed to be doing better. But what if her asthma got worse? I imagined us jumping into a canoe in the middle of the night, paddling for hours, and then driving trying to find a hospital for her. My other daughter said her head was hurting and she had a runny nose. What if it was Covid? What if she suddenly got really sick in the middle of the night, and here we are, out in the middle of nowhere??

And I found myself casting out a desperate prayer, God how do I stop living in so much fear? And he answered me. I lay there and God showed me image after image in my head of how I view Him. My warped understanding of Him. My default worldview that has me thinking of God as someone distant who constantly disapproves of me. I come to him as a slave to a harsh master, crying for mercy, but not sure about getting it. And then he brought to my mind a dream that he had given me back when I was nineteen years old. In college. I didn’t even know what a prophetic dream was back then. I just knew that the dream had been different. I told my roommate, I think God was trying to tell me something in a dream. And after I told her about the dream she said, Yes! God was definitely telling you something! I wrote the dream down. But, I still remember it vividly. 

I won’t go into all the details of the dream. But it was essentially, God loving me as a groom loves his bride. And I thought how different, how much stronger my faith would be, if I could fully grasp how loved I was by God. How my prayers would seem different. Asking for help from your lover is so different from asking for help from a Master. I know that if I asked my husband for something, he would want to do it for me. Just because he loved me. And he would take pleasure in giving it to me. 

We read the story last night of Jesus with his disciples out on a boat in a storm. And the disciples were all freaked out and Jesus stops the storm with his words. And then in Mark 4: 40-41, 

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Do you still have no faith? And then they ask, Who is this? And that seems to be really key to not being afraid. Having a true understanding of who our God is and having faith that he will stay true to his character. Religion and law teach us that God is someone that we are constantly trying to appease by being good, following the rules. Relationship with God is different. It’s understanding that he First Loved Us and then he Made A Way for us to be reconciled to him because of his Great Love for us. 

I feel like I have been on a lifelong journey to move from the position of viewing God through Law to the position of viewing God through Grace. I’m not there yet. But, I feel a lot more like I know how to pray. I know better what needs to change. God, let me understand you better as a God of Love. Let me walk in a fuller understanding of your Grace. Increase my faith. 

Fat Fridays: A1c and Mountain Biking

Happy Friday everyone! Hope all is well with you. I had some good news this week. I went to the doctor for a regular check up and got my A1c checked (a blood test that gives you an accurate snapshot of how your blood sugar control is doing). So, my numbers came down this year from 6.0 to 5.6. Yay! It’s low enough that the doctor wants me to go off my Metphormin and see if I can maintain these numbers without medication. 

Weirdly enough, the thought of going off my medication is a little scary. I think the medication has always felt a bit like a safety net. Ok, I’m not eating exactly the way I’m supposed to, but this medicine will help with that. Not the healthiest thinking patterns. So here I am, taking the plunge and having to take full responsibility for keeping these numbers down. No medicine to help. It has certainly reinvigorated me to get back on my diet more strictly. 

I’ll be getting another A1c check in about three months, so that will be enough time to tell if I can continue to be responsible with how I’m eating, and keep up the exercise. It would be great to get that number even lower. 

In other news, my husband got me to go mountain biking with him last night. He is an avid mountain biker and I have never been in good enough shape to go with him. At least that has always been my excuse. Now I’m in good enough shape to go, but the real truth is that mountain biking terrifies me. The trail we went on was so narrow! And then there’s this cliff-edge drop off. And I fell several times because I couldn’t figure out how to downshift, pedal and do a switchback turn all at the same time. Fortunately, all my falls were in slow-motion cause they always happened when I was climbing. But still, I feel way too old to be falling off a bike. 

I know that Mountain Biking is something my husband hopes to share with me (evidence, he bought me a really nice mountain bike). So, I’m going to commit to his suggestion that I just ride the same trail over and over again until I get comfortable with it. But, I better get comfortable fast cause I am NOT an adrenaline junky! And that ride, for me, was pure adrenaline.

But, it was a good workout. Heart rate was definitely up. My fitbit informed me that I burned 575 calories in an hour. And I did have some satisfaction in knowing that I tried something that scares me. 

Today, I’m tired and sore. I had already run two miles yesterday before I went biking. So now I’m just going to get my workout cleaning my house. Have a great week everyone! 

Giving Testimony in the Messiness

A friend recently exhorted in his writing that we should give our testimony often. And it’s funny, because I had something good happen, and I thought, I should give testimony about that! But, then that something good twisted and ended up not being so great. And my desire to share kind of faded away. Because it didn’t turn out all smooth and neat the way I was hoping. It’s still messy. Still incomplete. Still a work in progress. But there is so much to give testimony about, especially in the messiness! 

Once again, it’s been a rough week. At one point in time, I felt like I had walked to the very edge of the abyss and was looking down at the sure promise of great sorrow and anguish. And I had no words to pray. I found my mind just repeating over and over again, Mercy Lord. Have Mercy. And the analytical side of my brain chimed in, “Why are you saying that over and over again?” and the parable that Jesus told about the widow who nagged the Judge for justice came to mind. I will nag and nag and nag until I get justice simply because the judge is tired of my nagging. Except it wasn’t justice I wanted. Just mercy. 

And God was merciful. In small measures. 

The situation is not resolved. I don’t have a tidy neat package where I can point and say, Look, a miracle! Isn’t God good! 

Instead I have the testimony that I am alive and moving. My children are alive and moving. Hope still reigns. I am still determinedly putting one foot in front of the other. The world is still turning. Night and Day are still happening. There is beauty in each day, along with sorrow. God’s word is still true. His promises still stand. 

And so I stand in the Assembly and give my testimony of God’s goodness to me today. My eternity is secure. I am not alone. And each day I move an inch or two closer to knowing more about God and his goodness. 

Bookworm

Most of you probably know that I am a bookworm. In all senses of the word. I remember it really started in second grade. The library at the old Haldeman Elementary School in Eastern Kentucky was dark paneled, high ceilened, musty smelling, and had wonderful tall bookshelves full of old dusty books. I found a section of books called historical fiction which I had never encountered before. I found books about Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. All of them written in story form. Long chapter books. I was hooked. 

After that I always had a book with me. I would hide it in my desk and when I finished my work before everyone else, I would pull my book out and read. I would also hide it in my lap, and if the teacher was being especially boring, I would surreptitiously glance at the book in my lap. I remember being caught every once in a while. But not often. 

By sixth grade, I was averaging a book a day. Not short books either. I remember that Little Women took me two days. It was so long! It was about that time that my English teachers started supplying me with books. Have you tried this one? Here, you should read this! When we were overseas in Haiti, with no library available, I would borrow from anyone I knew with books. And fortunately, we had a lot of book-reading friends. 

I was indiscriminate in my choice of reading. I read some really good books. I read some really bad books. I read some books that have stayed in my memory and the good things I learned from them have stayed with me for a lifetime. I’ve read some books where I still have a lingering sense of guilt that I actually read such trash. 

When I started struggling with anxiety, I had to take a break from reading. I found that books too easily messed with my emotions and when I was feeling fragile, I couldn’t risk letting a book tip me into anxiety again. 

When I struggled with depression, I found the same thing. Books became something I had to be cautious with. And this is when I started just reading fluff books. Or re-reading old books that I knew were calm and peaceful. Kind of like watching silly sticoms instead of watching artsy films from film festivals. Every once in a while I would slip up and read something new, that looked pretty innocent, and then it would take me down an unexpected path of self-awareness on issues I didn’t feel like being self-aware of. One book series I accidentally picked up, managed to jump up and down on all my old wounds and I ended up having to do a lot of soul-searching, talking, therapy, prayer, etc before I recovered from that. (Though I do not regret it. I came out the other side, a much healthier person.)

All of this to say, I am rather careful about what I read these days. Which makes my decision, this past week, to get a book from the library, rather surprising. I went to the library with only one child, and I actually spent time perusing the shelves and finding something that looked enjoyable. I thought I was up to reading something new. I ended up reading A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr. Very good book. Very depressing book. Very uplifting book (but only if you really think about it and analyse it a bit). It took me two days to read, and by the end I was waving my kids away, Just a minute! I’m on the last chapter! Hold on a second! And then I read the last line, slammed the book down and stomped off. Mad at myself for getting all emotionally involved in a book again. Unable to stop thinking about it. 

And then, during our bible study this morning, I found myself thinking about the book again, and realizing that the author was pretty in tune with the book of Romans. And I was glad that I had read the book. Even though it took me a couple days to really process it. In a nutshell the book is about the unrelenting sinfulness of man and the unrelenting hope of the cross. If you are up for an emotional roller coaster, I would highly recommend it. 

I am now comforting myself with Venetia by Georgette Heyer. A book I have read before, a most wonderful piece of amusing, clean fluff. (As long as you can overlook the latent sexism that seeps through any romance written in the 50s.)

My end conclusion is, reading is dangerous, proceed with caution. But it’s also stimulating, exciting, and can lead you on amazing adventures of learning and growth. Also proceed with caution. I know that reading has shaped me, good and bad, into who I am today. And I will always proudly wear the title of Bookworm. 

Fat Fridays: The Inconvenience of Getting Hot and Sweaty

Ok, all you exercise people. How do you work around the Hot and Sweaty part of exercise during a regular work day? I am finding the whole Hot and Sweaty question a bit of a stumbling block for exercise. 

First of all, it’s August. That is our State’s hottest, muggiest month of the year. It’s just kind of miserable. That means that any time you exert yourself, even for a walk down the block, you are going to get hot and sweaty. No avoiding it. 

Then, you have days like today where I get up and can’t figure out what to put on. I have to take a child to a doctor appointment in the middle of the day. Before I go to the doctor I have to drive children to school (and yesterday I made the mistake of thinking, no one will see me, I’ll just wear this ratty camisole shirt when I go to drop off the kids, and then my preschooler flipped out and I ended up having to walk him in instead of dropping him off, so yeah, I have to dress for drop off), I have to do laundry and mop some floors, but then, in the middle of that I have to go to the doctor’s appointment. And then this morning, I was just tired of wearing shorts and tshirts and so I put on a summer dress and sandals. Not exercise clothes. But very nice for going to appointments and school drop offs. And then I think, maybe I just won’t exercise today because I don’t feel like getting hot and sweaty. And I feel all fresh and pretty in my dress. And who wants to ruin that? 

This is a real hurdle! 

And my trainer is going to text me today when she notices that I haven’t completed my workout and she’ll say something like, So, how’s it looking for getting your workout in today? And I’ll have to say, sorry I couldn’t do it. I put on a dress this morning and I don’t want to get hot and sweaty. 

Arrgh. 

What’s going to end up happening is I’m going to have to finish taking all my kids to their various schools and then I will have to come home, change my clothes, exercise, take a shower, and then put the same clothes I started off with, back on. Not convenient. But I don’t know how else to do it. 

Exercise is not convenient. This is my take away. 

But, it’s worth it. 

Covid and the New School Year

I just read an article on SLATE titled, “I Have No Idea What I’m OK Letting My Kids Do During Covid Anymore” by Allison Benedikt. I was nodding and smiling the whole time I read it, cause yep, I’m in the same place. 

We are in the South. Our schools are not requiring masks, and our governor just made a rule that parents can opt-out of any mask mandates. The Superintendent of our school district made an announcement that our schools can’t offer virtual options when we have absences due to Covid. In a high school meeting we were informed that absences are a big problem and we need to have signed notes any time our kids are absent and make it a big priority to have as few absences as possible. Ok. Great message when you also don’t want kids to come to school if they have any symptoms at all. Our homeschooling co-op has a rule that if ANYONE in the family is sick, don’t come. Which is a pain in the butt when you have a big family, but it’s very effective at keeping any possibility of germs from showing up. But, public schools do not have that policy. 

So, my kids went to school the first week. Day three, one child came home and was not feeling well. By evening she had a fever. She ended up having strep throat and then three days later also came down with symptoms of the hand foot and mouth virus. Both of those are pretty common childhood illnesses that get passed around all the time. But, I want to point out something. Last school year my kids went to public school and wore masks. We did not get sick. The entire year. It was bizarre. No strep. No colds. No stomach bugs. And no covid. 

I talked to the nurse practitioner who saw my sick kids (cause yes, the strep and other virus both spread to all the other little kids). I asked her what she thought about masks at school and the idea that kids DO need to be exposed to childhood viruses so they can build their immune system. She hemmed and hawed. Wouldn’t commit to any stance (which is understandable, it’s a highly charged subject). 

I had one child who did not get sick. It was time to send kids to school, everyone from the elementary school was staying home except her. She had no symptoms. According to public school policy, I should send her to school. But, she COULD get sick. It was very possible that I would send her to school and then by the afternoon she could have a fever. What do you do? So, I gave her a mask and told her to wear it. No, it doesn’t block everything, but it does block some.  Hopefully it would make her less contagious. Well, when I picked her up at the end of the day, she was not wearing her mask. Said it was hot. Got annoying. Fortunately, she did not end up getting sick, but my thoughts of maybe sending my kids to school with masks kind of fell flat. Without it being a rule and someone enforcing it, there is no way they are going to keep them on. I also was talking to a therapist who works at the school and she said the kids who were showing up with masks were getting teased about it. 

I think the general attitude in our state is that Covid is a virus. It’s unavoidable. Like colds and the flu. Vaccines are available, but like flu shots, are going to be very limited in what they can do in the longterm, simply because covid is a constantly mutating virus. And so, we are going about the business of doing normal life with Covid. And it’s messy. No one knows what the rules are. No one knows who to listen to. The hospitals are filling up. When my father got sick with Covid, he ended up getting transferred to an out-of-state hospital. 

And us parents are standing on the sidelines, scratching our heads, hoping that we are making the right choices for our kids. But not sure.