Friday, November 24, 2006

If We Are The Body

Not long ago I was at a single's Bible study when I thought I recognized someone. This person and I formed a friendship when we were both on our church's praise team. She moved more than a year ago, and I was surprised to see her. Through our conversation I discovered that she is going through a very painful divorce--even more so because she has four young children. As she shared her story with me, she told me that one of the most surprising things she's found is how differently she's been treated since becoming single. People that she thought were her friends have backed away from her. I could totally relate. I said to her, 'It's almost as if they think what you're going through is catching.'

The contemporary Christian group Casting Crowns has a song that I love entitled 'If We Are The Body'. The lyrics ask the question, 'If we are the Body, why aren't His hands reaching?' In other words, if we call ourselves Christians, why are there so many who feel neglected and rejected by the body?

Jesus said the world will know we are his disciples by our love. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. Why don't we show more of that love to those who are hurting? Is it because we don't know how to help, so rather than make the situation 'worse', we ignore it? Is it because our own lives are going good, so we don't want to 'jinx' ourselves? Is it that we really don't understand what love is?

When I was going through my valley of pain situation, one of the most cherished things someone said to me was, 'I wish I had the right words to say to you, but I don't. Just know that I love you and I'm praying for you'. That was like a lifeline of hope to me. I didn't want someone to help me (there was nothing anyone could do, anyway), but I did want to know someone cared about me; that they were concerned for me and my family. Hearing 'I'm praying for you' gave me hope. It gave me strength. It's like trying to carry a heavy load up a hill, and then someone comes along and carries it a little ways for you. The relief that comes with that is incredible.

One thing I have learned over the past few years is empathy. I've always been an empathetic person, but now I'm even more sensitive to the needs of others. Even if I don't know how to help them, I know that most people just want an ear to listen to them. They just want to be heard, and they just want to know that someone cares for them--even just a tiny bit.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mango Salsa

Yesterday for me was a perfect day. Let me just explain something. I'm a single mom. About three years ago, my dd was diagnosed with a severe mental illness. It's been stressful to say the least. On Tuesday she was placed in a residential facility. On Thursday, I woke up and said, 'Hmm, this is an interesting stage of life for me. I can do what I want now.' It was liberating. It's not to say I just turned my daughter to this facility and said 'See ya'. But I can rest now. And I can live sort of as a single woman and do things I want to do. Not that I want to sow wild oats and live wanton and crazy, but just experience life. My job is hectic and my home life as a care giver has been off the chain. There were days when showering was optional.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, I woke up and decided that I wanted to go to Eastern Market. For those of you non-Washingtonians, Eastern Market is an open air flea/farmers market in the heart of DC. I have lived in the DC area for 18 years and have never been there. Correction. I have lived in Charles County, Maryland for 18 years. Charles County is worlds apart from DC. But anyway, I took the Metro, and got off at the Eastern Market stop (Blue Line, in case you're wondering). I could've driven, but I don't drive in DC. I actually worked in DC for a number of years, but it wasn't in the heart of the city. Anyway, back to the story.

Ok, I am a shopper by nature. I love to shop. I love bargains. To say I was born to shop is akin to saying Aretha Franklin was born to sing or Michael Jordan was born to play basketball or Albert Einstein was born to theorize. This place was incredible! Where have you been all my life, Eastern Market? First of all, those of you who've never been to DC, just know that every race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, color, religion, whatever is here. Everyone speaks a different language. I grew up military, so I love that! It was so cool. Everybody's speaking at once. It's busy. And the vendor's stuff. Wow! I nearly od'd on sensory overload. There's an explosion of colors, and textures. I felt like I was in Marekesh. There were antiques, gidgets and gadgets, jewelry and purses. Oh, my the purses. There was a Marc Jacobs purse with my name written all over it. Ok, it had Marc Jacobs's name all over it, but it was meant to be mine. Maybe next time, Marc.

Anyway, after viewing the flea market, I mosied over to the farmer's market. Have you ever seen cheddar cauliflower or purple cauliflower? Neither had I. Well, I perused the veggies and because now I'm a full-flegged foodie (nice illiteration, huh?) I got some collard greens, onions, cabbage and a few walnuts and pecans. One of the farmers tried to sell me some home grown kiwis, but I wasn't falling for that. How in the heck do kiwis grow in Maryland? Can somebody 'splain that one to me? But she insisted they did, but I wasn't buyin'.

Anywho, I was getting tired and didn't want to cart too much stuff back on the Metro, so I decided to head back home. But first I had to stop in a handmade oils store. I forgot the name of it, but they sold incense and whatnot. Mostly Egyptian wares. In my previous blog I forgot to mention that I am also into soapmaking. So yes, I have all the accoutrements for that also. Anyway, this store had beautiful handmade belly dancing veils--simply gorgeous. I kept that in mind when I take up belly dancing.

So, after leaving that storefront, there's a guy standing outside of his storefront. I guess business is slow because he calls out to me, 'Hey, don't you want to buy some salsa?' My first thought is 'No.' But then I think, 'Hmm, I am a full-fledged foodie now, and this guy's kinda cute, so why not?' Now, the old me would've demurred and said softly 'No thanks' until he begged me to come into his store. The new me answered enthusiastically, 'Sure, why not.' So, I find out that there are more salsas on earth than there are people. I have not seen that many salsas in Safeway or in my entire life. So the guy gives me the grand tour of the place and I see why 'cause there's nobody in there--not a soul. Ordinarily, I'm not so interested in salsa. When I have a hankerin' for Mexican I buy Tostitos chips and salsa and call it a day. But for some strange reason at that moment I was very interested in salsas and what you can do with them.

For instance, did you know you can cook it with meat or fish? I already knew because I watch Food Network, but why spoil a good salsa tour? What's-his-name also showed me an interesting postillo mix that they sell. Postillo is corn that is marinated in lime and chili juice and it actually changes the consistency of the corn. I learned all this from What's-his-name. He was very interesting to learn from. He was, as I already noted several times, very cute. I like tall, nerdy men that speak well, and surprisingly, he fit the bill.

Well, What's-his-name told me that you could put salsa on greens which I did not know, so he goes to get me a sample. What's-his-name and I are connecting on a level. You know how it is when you connect with someone. He was just about to ask me what else I had bought (we had already established the greens) and I had already planned my 'I'm a vegetarian speech' to which he would reply, 'Oh really? Well, I respect that. I'm semi...' And then we were going to have this even deeper and more meaningful connection and conversation where we would exchange names and e-mail addresses when at that very moment everyone and their grandmother decided that they must have salsa pronto!

Now, I don't know about you, but don't you think a) it's unusual for a salsa store to exist in the first place; b) for said salsa shop to be totally empty at 10:30 on a.m. Saturday morning except for a single woman and a single man. I checked the ring finger. Shut up, I know there's a possibility he could've had a wife, girlfriend, partner, significant other. You're ruining the moment; c) at the exact moment when the two singles are about to have a deep, significant connection, everyone and their grandmother choses that specific moment to have their salsa need satiated? See, you agree with me.

So, to keep the connection going, I tried a peach chutney, but I didn't like it. What's-his-name agreed with me. It was too savory. I finally settled on the mango chutney. It was good. I actually do like chutney. My mom used to make it. So, I couldn't try anymore salsas or chutneys because my mouth was hot and dry. They had bottled water, but I refuse to pay $1.49 for water, not matter how cute the proprietor is. I settled on the Uncle Brutha's Fire Sauce No. 9 and the Eaton's West Indian Mango Chutney.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking he was not interested in me. He was just trying to make a sale on a slow day. But I don't care what you say. I was there. There was a connection. I saw it in his eyes. And so what. It only cost me $8.68 and I got another reason to test my new chef's knife and cutting board.

Single and Satisfied?

From the time that I can remember, I have always wanted to be a wife and mother. In fact, my sweetest memories from childhood is playing with my Fisher Price Family Playhouse.

I dreamed of being a mommy and a wife. I dreamed of my handsome husband and our two adorable kids, a boy and a girl. I literally planned my wedding from age five.

When I was 12, I planned my life. I'd graduate high school at 18, college at age 22, marry at age 23, have baby number one at 24, and number two at 26. We would live in this huge fantastic home with a huge backyard and a pool. I would stay home and care for the children. My husband would work some sort of business. I didn't know what kind of business because I was 12. What did I know? Magically, dinner would be on the table when my husband arrived home at 5:00. I say magically because even then I didn't fantasize about cooking.

That was how I fantasized life to be, but that ain't how it turned out. At 23, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was and is the light of my life, but even though I became a mother, I didn't become a wife. For the first year of my daughter's life, I didn't even worry about it because I had a new baby and was trying to adjust to that. But by her second birthday, I started thinking how wonderful it would be for us to be a traditional family. So I started looking for a daddy for her. And a husband for me. Although I never would admit at that time that I was really looking for a husband because gosh that would mean that admitting that I was single, and who wants to admit that? I know, it sounds crazy, but that was my line of thinking at the time.

Let me just stop and say here that except for my daughter's father, I had no prior dating experience whatsoever. Well, I did go out on three blind dates, but those were disasters. Here's my background. I am an Air Force brat, so I grew up everywhere; however, Colorado Springs would be what I consider home. And no offense to my Caucasian brothers and sisters, but it is the whitest place on earth. So, here's me, 'That black girl' as I was commonly referred to, in a place where there were few other blacks. And there were even fewer blacks that lived on my side of town. And here's me, 'That black girl', who is dark skinned, and the few black guys who live on my side of town who actually date and like black girls (because most of them dated white girls) are not attracted to me because I am dark skinned and I wear coke bottle glasses. And I sport a Jheri curl for a time. About the only thing I have going on is during high school I had a banging figure, if I do say so myself, and I do.

Add to all this is the fact that I wasn't allowed to date. Check that. I was allowed to date, but the boy would have to come to my home and stay there. With me. And my parents. And my pesky little brother. Of course this would meant that my mother would inevitably ask my date, "__, are you saved?" [Sidebar: for non-Christian readers 'are you saved' is 70s/80s Christian lingo which means do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?] So, you can imagine that I went through high school dateless.

So here we are in the 21st century and nearly 20 years later in my singleness. I am older and wiser now. I have so much to say on singleness and being satisfied. I really don't know where to begin and where I want to take this post. I guess I want to say I'm always perplexed at two perspectives. One comes from my married Christian friends who say, 'Oh, singleness is a gift.' Ok. I know where they're pulling this scripture from. I know what they're saying. I heard the joke about marriage being like flies on a screen door: the ones on the outside want to get in, and the ones on the inside want to get out. I know marriage is hard. Lord knows I know people who should have never gotten married and rue the day that they ever did. But if you're a single like me, and all you've ever wanted from the day you were a little girl is to be married, hearing that is like having your heart pulled out. I'm being a little dramatic here, but you get my point. I know that being single opens our hearts to be about doing God's work. I get that. We have to get to that point, and it takes a little bit of time and a change of mind, I suppose.

The other perspective I hear is from single women like myself who spout little sayings like, "I'm single and satisfied" and "Jesus meets all my needs", and my personal fave, "You don't need a husband if you got Jesus". Now, here's where the rubber meets the road and where I'm probably going to tick off some of my good Christian readers. But in the words of Joan Rivers, can we talk here? I don't get this. I am content in my life for the most part. There are places in my life that could be better, but really I've learned you gotta take the bitter with the sweet. However, as much as I believe in abstinence and practice in my own daily life, I'm not seeing this perspective at all.. Because I'm just not seeing how Jesus is meeting "all of their needs" if you know what I mean. Abstinence is a struggle for me. I mean it's a battle, and these women just spout this off like 'I eat a bagel and cream cheese every day for breakfast'. Can somebody help me out on this one? Is it something I'm missing?

I love the Lord with all my heart. He is the Lord of my life, but this is one thing I'm not getting. If somebody has the answer to this one, please correspond with me and I'll be happy to chat with you on that.

For the Knife of Me

I have undiagnosed OCD--Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. How do I know I have OCD? Because I spend hours on web sites taking quizzes with questions that begin with, "Have you ever.." and end with, "If you answered 'yes' to five or more questions, you may have..." No, seriously, I'm pretty sure I have OCD. I'm not talking about washing my hands 100 times a day or organizing pinto beans in my pantry just so, but when I commit to a hobby, I commit fully and whole heartedly.

Let me explain. About 10 years ago I worked with this girl who made the most beautiful handmade, rubber stamped cards. She gave me the basics, and I was off like a bull with gas. Now, I have a love affair already with arts and crafts although I have no artistic ability. As a little girl I loved to color. I can't draw a conclusion, but I sure like to pretend. Anyway, when Nona gave me the basics on rubber stamping, I was hooked, and I was buying rubber stamps and ink pads galore. I have pigment inks, permanent inks, water based inks, heat guns. And then, HGTV happened. And then a little show called "The Carol Duvall Show" came on. And things got ugly. Real ugly. All I can say is thank God Michael's doesn't have its own store credit card because my house would be foreclosed and I'd be living on the street.

I have so much crafting "stuff" I could start my own craft store: "Elaine's Crafts 'n' Crap" or something like that. I have tried everything from beading to knitting to sewing and everything in between. I am semi-good at crocheting, knitting and sewing. Rubber stamping, scrapbooking and beading--eh, not so good. Here's the thing with me. When I start a new hobby I have to, I must have ALL the accoutrements immediately. I have to research said accoutrements ad nauseum before purchasing, because I am nothing if not a bargain hunter.

Anyway, about five years ago I moved out of the crafting phase into the home improvement phase. That was funny. If you've never seen an OCD person in home improvement mode, you should pull up a chair 'cause it's free entertainment. Thankfully I have loving relatives who talk me out of doing crazy things like building a banquette in my kitchen and changing my downstairs bathroom into a walk-in pantry.

But, as with every obsession, the magic soon fades and I must find a new high. Recently I've changed the channel to the Food Network. Now, my closest friends and family are going to burst into high flying guffaws because they know I hate to cook. I do. The thing is, I can cook and I can do it fairly well, I just don't like to do it. But the reason I figure I need to improve my cooking skills is because a) I like to eat, b) my daughter loves to eat c) I'd like to get married and my husband probably would also like to eat, d) my OCD is kicking in again.

So, because I've been watching the Food Network so much, I've noticed that all the cooks/chefs have these basic utensils and gadgets:

Chef's knife
Wooden chopping board
Copper pots
Gas stove
Kitchen Aid stand mixer
Cuisinart food processor

This past spring in Nieman Marcus I saw the copper pots that I desperately need to have. The entire set--including the lids because they are charged separately--is $2,499. So, I will make do with my crappy Farberware pots that I have now until I can swing the $2500. I'm only kidding. There is no way on God's green earth I'm spending that kind of cash for pots. Even if they were gold.

But I am going to get a nice set of copper pots. Eventually. I'm going down the list of things that I need to get. I already have the Kitchen Aid mixer and thank goodness because I just priced those things and I had sticker shock--they're almost $400! I think I can hold off on the Cuisinart for a little while longer. I found the Microplaner ($12) and the wood cutting board at Linens 'n' Things Friday night. And can I just ask why in the world is a cutting board $50? I didn't pay $50 for mine. I paid $7. I assume because it was an open stock. I just could not believe cutting boards were a minimum of $50. While I'm on the subject. Yes, I know I can use a cheese grater instead of a microplaner because basically it's the same thing. And yes, I already have several cheese graters, but they're not microplaners. Sheesh.

As far as the gas stove, I am scared of gas. We had a gas stove experience when I was little girl that has shied me away from gas forever. But if I were to get a gas stove, I would get a Viking because that thing rocks. But that would mean I would have demolish my whole kitchen just to fit the darn thing, and that just spells trouble for an OCDer. That just leaves buying the chef's knife. Let me tell you about my knife buying experience.

Friday night I was determined to get a cutting board, a microplaner and a good cutting knife. I forgot to add that I just decided to get all this stuff on a whim. Literally. I was driving home after dinner with a co-worker and thought 'Oh, you know what? I need a microplaner, cutting board and chef's knife.' Seriously. That's what I thought. And then I headed straight to the store. All right, as you can plainly see, I am naive about the cost of things, but I am a bargain hunter from my soul. I'm also the type of person that wants what I want when I want it. I go to Linens 'n' Things expecting to buy a chef's knife for about $19.

Ok, first of all, I had no idea that there were so many knife choices. Santoku, chef's, carving, paring, cleavers, machetes. All right, there were no machetes, but there should've been. I have never heard of a santoku. What is that? I am so glad to live in America where we have so many knife choices. Not just the type of knife, but handle choices. Silicone, metal, plastic. And then, there's brand. One brand gives you a knife lesson. Did you there's a part of the knife that's called the tang? I didn't.

Linens 'n' Things did not have the knife for me, so I thought I'd try Bed Bath and Beyond. Dismal. So the next morning I thought I'd trot over to the LNT in Alexandria, VA to find my knife. This one is worse than the one in Waldorf. I'm getting frustrated now because I went to Eastern Market (that's a whole other blog) to buy vegetables to chop with my new cutting board and chef's knife, and there's no chef's knife. So, I go back to Waldorf and go past the mall and think maybe I could find one in Macy's. I didn't want to go there in the first place because they're way over priced. But something told me to go into Kohl's.

And what to my wandering eyes did appear but my little chef's knife, and look, Kohl's is having a Saturday sale. The knife is usually $40, but at that moment it's $19.99! Yay. It's the one that I want with the silicone handle and the tang. So, I'm happy and I can chop veggies to my little heart's content. Ain't life grand?

A Most Unusual Answer

I am a Christian. That right there is going to turn a lot of people off. Oh well. For those of you that stick around, I have a relationship with Christ that sort of goes like this: "Hey God, that so-and-so really ticked me off. What are you going to do about it?" Or "Jesus, I don't really like this situation I'm in, when do you plan on changing it?" On rare occasions I tell him how wonderful he is like yesterday when I noticed how awesome the leaves were. He rarely gets a word in edgewise with me because I'm sort of ADD and a scatterbrain, moving from one thing to the next, so the best way he communicates with me is through dreams.

Ok, I am in a situation that is less than ideal. I'm not going to go into all the gory details since the person directly responsible has no knowledge of how irritated I am with them. Yesterday I was pretty angry at this person. And with me there are two kinds of angry. There's the 'black-woman-letting-off-some-steam-venting' angry and then there's the 'I'msoangryIcan'teventalkrightnow' angry. Guess which one I was experiencing? So, like any good Christian, I had to pray about my 'sit'chiation. And God, in his ever loving kindness gave me the coolest dream ever which I am going to share with you kiddies.

I'm walking along this country road with a man (don't get excited, it's Jesus. Or maybe get excited, it's JESUS!). We come to this old church--like the kind you'd see in England or New England. We're just chatting away like old friends. We continue along the road until without warning it ends--it's a 100 foot drop and on the other side is a bustling highway. He says to me, 'Jump down, I will catch you on my back." (Sidebar: Those of you who know me know that when you suggest to me to do something that is a little unusual or crazy I'm going to give you The Look. I did that to Jesus in the dream with a little 'pffpff' just in case he'd missed The Look).

For some strange reason, he insisted I jump, even though I insisted I was scared, but for an even stranger reason I did. The next thing I knew, not only was I on Jesus's back, but we were already on the other side of the highway flying at lightning speed. 'Where are we going?' I asked, but he wouldn't tell me. That's the thing about me. I want to know all the answers up front: where, when, how and why. So, Jesus at this point is quiet as a mouse. So, being the me that I am, I decide that since he ain't talkin, I'm going to read the street signs. Curious thing. I cannot read the signs. For one thing, we're going too fast; for another, they're crazy, weird words like 'Alexandaddle'. So, I stop trying and enjoy the ride. Hey, if Jesus is giving you a piggyback ride at lightening speed, what's your worry?

So, after our fantastic voyage, we come to an ocean. It's a strange ocean in that it's not so deep, but it is treacherous and there's a lot of people. There are people on other people's backs and there are people on vessels. Of course, me being the me that I am, I'm afraid to get in the ocean. Once again he tells me, 'Get on my back'. I do, sort of. I fell in the water, but I got on his back and we ride the waves--just not as fast (thank God because I get seasick). As I'm riding I see one of my other unhappy co-workers and I say '__, you need to get on Jesus's back. It's so much easier. Come on. You've got to get to know him.'

There's more to the dream, but as was told to the Apostle John, I have to seal it up. Anyway what I wanted to share was God's answer to me. The funny thing was that when I went to bed last night I was angry. I mean angry to the point of being numb. But when I woke up, I was laughing and I literally felt like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My specific prayer was, 'God, what is the reason that I am in this situation? I done all I can to change it and nothing. What is the lesson here that I am not getting? Sometimes if you're like me you want to know the who, what, where, when, why and how to life's every little dilemma. God doesn't always give us those answers. Sometimes, he throws us a curve ball. Frustrating, huh? However, he always asks us to trust him, and that sometimes is scary. It is scary to step out and walk on water. It's scary to trust God when our child is diagnosed with a severe mental illness. It's scary to trust God to stay or move or trust him with our very soul. But it's what he wants us to do. Trust him. I think he's safe to trust. Afterall, he created the world from nothing in seven days, I think he can handle our issues.