Hairy Experiences

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In my family, if something gross, disgusting, or disturbing must happen then it will happen to me. This is as certain as Murphy’s Law and gravity.

I have learned to accept this as my fate and even look upon the odd occurrences that make up my life as gifts in the form of ideas for my writing. After all, if I have to have these experiences than so do my characters.

But the hair… I wouldn’t even subject my villains to that level of trauma.

My first hair occurrence took place in Brazil. We were headed to the airport to go home on furlough and were on an eight-hour bus trip. We pulled up outside a truck stop restaurant and headed in along with everyone else for lunch. spaghetti-863304_640

It was a by-the-weight buffet (very common in Brazil) and after hours on a bus, and the stress of getting things ready for furlough, I didn’t feel much like eating. The only thing that looked good at all was the spaghetti. So I mainly put spaghetti on my plate and headed for the table to eat.

And that’s when I noticed that one of the strands of spaghetti was not like the others. It was dark and thin. Almost like hair…

Thus ended my lunch.

The second hair occurrence took place in Wales. I had traveled over to see my sister and we had decided to stop for ice cream. We ordered a waffle cone and I chose honeycomb as my flavor. It was delicious. Cool, creamy and studded with crunchy caramel.

ice-879552_640And then in my ice cream I noticed some caramel that wasn’t like the other caramel. In fact, it was dark and thin. Almost like hair…

 

And there went my ice cream.

My third hair occurrence took place in Shanghai.

After days of noodles and very few vegetables, I longed for something healthy. My aunt and I decided to go to Pizza Hut where we could get a salad and pizza. I looked forward to that salad all day long.

I looked down at it with anticipation as the waiter set it on the table in front of me. After asking a blessing I dug in. Two bites later I noticed something. Something thin and dark and

Well, you know the chorus by now.salad-374173_640

I probably should just write a book and call it, “Around the World with Hair in My Food.”

Then again, I really want to avoid any more, shall we say, research.

Have you ever found a “special” additive in your food?

The Mystery of Comfort Food

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The funny thing about comfort food is that it will always be as unique as the person chowing down. Regional, cultural, and familial traditions all have an effect on one’s taste buds. Typically, comfort food involves a hefty amount of calories.

I envy the soul whose comfort food is carrots and kale.

While visiting my sister, I started watching a youtuber who traveled the world and ate food. Sure, he visited monuments and tourist attractions, but mostly, he ate.

dragon-36748_640After growing up all over the world, his comfort food encompassed seafood, raw meats, and enough spice to win a contest with a fire-breathing dragon. After literally turning away from the screen rather than watch him stuff some raw fish into his mouth, I contemplated the individuality of comfort food — and how someone ate eight meals a day and still remained thin.

One of my comfort foods is, of all things, ketchup. I once read that ketchup is the condiment of MKs (missionary kids). While living in Brazil — a country that didn’t stock BBQ sauce, dressings, salsa, or taco sauce — ketchup became a versatile condiment. Add a few drops of picante sauce, voila taco sauce. (And, yes, I sometimes still have ketchup on my burritos.) Faced with manioc fries, nothing helped the dryness like a dose of ketchup. Weird flavors were easily masked by its familiar flavor. ketchup-29755_640

My mom’s chicken and dumplings also tops the list of comfort foods. As the child of pizza restaurants owners I was literally weaned on pizza, and it too makes the list of comfort foods. Parents that grew up in California meant many meals of Mexican food. I suppose our forefathers probably weren’t referring to a literal melting pot when they used the term to describe America, but they might as well have been.

Moving to Brazil added other favorites to my list of comfort foods. Passionfruit mousse will always be a favorite. Brazilian chicken stroganoff. Recently though, I have been all about craving pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread). Cheesy, gluten-free, and delicious, I feel no need to reach for the ketchup bottle.

My sisters’ comfort foods have also involved some melting in of other tastes. The sister who married a Brit now makes curries as a comfort food. Another sister with a husband of Ukrainian descent craves pierogi and wheat salad. Sugar cream pie and BBQ ribs grace another sister’s table.

What’s your comfort food? Feel free to include a recipe. Here’s the pao de queijo recipe we use.

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

5 1/2 cups grated cheese (traditionally a soft fresh cheese, we now use cheddar, mozzarella, or a mixture of multiple kinds)

3 1/2 cups tapioca flour (available in most gluten free sections at supermarkets)

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

4 Tablespoons Oil

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Eggs

Milk (Aged cheeses require the addition of milk to form the dough)

Mix all ingredients. Add enough milk to make a dough about the consistency of cookie dough and capable of being formed into balls. Roll into balls and place on greased pan. Bake at 400 until they are a little brown on the bottoms (about ten to twelve minutes). Serve warm.

 

Fathers with Daughters

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When a man has daughters, the signs can be obvious.

  1. If you see a grown man carrying a tiny pink purse, he’s probably a daddy.
  2. If a man can sing all the words of a Disney princess song, he might have little girls at home.
  3.  If a man who doesn’t like pets has owned cats, dogs, fish, and turtles, it’s a safe bet there might be a little girl who blinked her eyes at Daddy. My two-year-old niece might not have the largest vocabulary yet, but she has managed to say, “Daddy, puppy. Puppy, please.”dress-163552_640
  4. If a man has small plastic barrettes clamped into his inch-long hair, they were probably placed there by tiny girl fingers.
  5.  If a man is willing to change the channel from a football game to a Hallmark movie, there might be a girl sitting on the sofa next to him.

My father long ago accepted that he was outnumbered in the family. With a wife and four daughters, we sometimes chose male animals simply so he had a little support. Not that he ever minded a house that was far more likely to be filled with dress-up clothes than toy cars and conversations more often centered on Jane Austen than sports.

And we have been beneficial to him. The other day he was taking a quiz and correctly chose Jane Austen as the answer. He probably owes that entirely to being the father of all daughters. He also could probably identify all of the Disney princesses and some of Strawberry Shortcake’s friends.

basketball-147794_640Of course, we girls have also benefited from being from an all-girl family. We can plumb, wire, mud, build, and use a machete. He taught us theology and the proper way to throw a ball. Some of us have even followed sports — for a time.

In the past several years, the numbers in my family have begun to balance out. Three sons-in-law and four grandsons have provided my dad with male company. Yet with four daughters and eight granddaughters, my dad will probably never know what it is like to outnumber the girls in the family.

And I know he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Father’s Day!

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”  Psalms 103:13

What are some other ways one can identify the fathers of little girls?

 

 

 

 

Novels, Trust, and ER visits

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For some, trust is as easy as breathing. For others, trust is like trying to suck air into their lungs while in the middle of an asthma attack.

I am the second one.

I know the verses on trust. I can sing “Trust and Obey” in two languages. I trust God.

religious-316272_640I also have a very bad habit of offering God advice on what would or would not be a good thing to happen. Although Jesus ended His sentence on God’s will being done with a period, I preferred another form of punctuation there.

“Your will be done — but don’t let it be this.” Of course, commas also made their appearance. “Your will be done, and please let Your will be this.”

I just couldn’t bring myself to insert a period there. That tiny dot of punctuation that denotes a full stop. No extras. No advice.

I finally reached the point where I knew God was telling me to trust. From the children’s lessons I’ve been writing with their lessons on fear and courage, to the words of “Trust and Obey” running through my head. The final straw was True to You by Becky Wade. Her heroine struggled to trust God, and I could see myself in that character. As if that book had been written just so God could point to it and say, “Do you see yourself in this character?” I did. So I prayed, and I told God I trusted Him. I prayed for His will in my life. Period. Full stop.

Less than twenty-four hours later, an asthma doctor was telling me I needed to rush to the ER with the implication being that I was having a heart attack. This is not the typical ending when a character in a novel chooses to trust. Oddly, the thought of ending up in the ER had fluttered through my brain when I prayed for God’s will.heartbeat-163709_640

Doctors and medicine are my kryptonite. I am the girl who left first aid class to pass out in the hallway. A visit to the ER was not on my top ten thousand places I would like to be. I was terrified, but over and over, I heard the word, “Trust.”

Hours passed. Tests were done. Still, the word “trust” echoed through my mind. My worried mother wondered why her anti-medical daughter was laughing while hooked up to  heart monitor. Fortunately, I explained before she suggested I might need my head examined too.

Thankfully, my heart is fine, although I do have the side effect of “Trust and Obey” playing on loop as I worry about upcoming medical bills.

That’s okay though. I can always sing it in Portuguese if I get bored.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

Have you ever struggled to trust?

 

 

Pessimists, Optimists, and Realists

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There are three kinds of people in the world.

    1.  Pessimists–they see the glass as half empty.
    2. Optimists–they see the glass as half full.
    3. Realists–they have an optimistic view of their own pessimism and put a lot more thought into the whole empty/full debate.

For instance, a realist puts the glass debate into perspective.  If one is drinking from the glass, it is half empty.  If one is pouring into the glass, it is half full.

However, even this is up for debate.  While drinking a milkshake I don’t want to end, I see the glass as half empty.  My dad’s apple shake was another matter.smoothie-1610909_640

My family has always tried to eat healthy.  This has often included the addition of fruit drinks into our diet.  Notice I said fruit as in more than one kind.  This is a very important feature of fruit drinks.

Years ago my mother had been called away to jury duty, and my dad was left home to do the homeschooling and feed his four daughters.  Wanting to be a good dad, he decided to make a fruit drink.  The only problem was that the only kind of fruit in the house was apples.

Not to be deterred, my dad threw them into the blender and voila a healthy drink that tasted like warm, really bad applesauce.  The beverage also had the ability to multiply in the cup and never end.

In that day as I struggled to down my apple drink, I realized a glass could be half full and it could be a very bad thing.

However, as tastes are relative to people, some might see the milkshake as awful or my dad’s apple drink as a culinary masterpiece (if you do, visit the doctor for taste bud therapy).

So one can just go back to the original idea of whether one is drinking or pouring as a way of determining full/empty relativity, but what happens if you enter the room and there is a half glass sitting on the counter?

There is an exact mathematical formula to determine the answer.  First solve for Pi.  Next race around your house twenty times as fast as you can.  Divide the number of steps you took, by the time it took your breath to return to normal and multiply that by the first seven digits of Pi.  Look at the glass on the counter. math-1500720_640

By this time, I guarantee you will be so thirsty you will drink the glass of water without caring about categorizing its fullness/emptiness.

Okay, so that was a joke.  The real way to solve the problem is to get a cup out of the cupboard that is half the size of the glass on the counter.  Pour the liquid into the smaller cup and you now have a full glass and an empty glass.

Making pessimists, optimists, and realists happy enough to toast each other with apple shakes.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Are you a pessimist, optimist or realist?

The Lady, the Weather, and the Wardrobe

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The problem with spring in the Midwest is one can never be entirely certain what to wear. One might start off in a parka, change into a sundress, and then race for rubber boots and a rain coat — all within the space of an hour.

No matter how one dresses, it’s almost guaranteed that at some point in the day, one will be wearing the wrong thing. The weather loves to trick people. Put on a sweater since the weather is cold and rainy, temperatures will soar to the eighties. Wear a sundress on a sunny morning, and teeth will chatter before the day is through.

The weather is essentially the mean kid in school who always pulled people’s chairs out from under them.

Leaving the house for a day requires packing to cover any and all possible weather eventualities. Forget the survival kits of winter with handwarmers and MREs, spring survival kits must include both hand warmers and ice packs, swimsuits and emergency blankets, wool hats and sun visors.womens-clothing-3625190_640.png

By the time one gathers all the variety of clothing articles that might be needed, Midwesterners end up heading to U-Haul in order to have enough space to transport everything.

For me, a non-native, the worst part of Midwest springs is the danger of tornadoes. After a childhood spent watching The Wizard of Oz, I absorbed the terror of being carried away by the spinning wind, but I was too practical to believe that I might end up in a magical land wearing ruby slippers.

the-wizard-of-oz-516687_640Not that I have room for ruby slippers in the U-Haul anyway. I threw them out in favor of rubber boots, sandals, and snow shoes.

I suppose the best option to deal with the weather is to embrace the uncertainty. Whoever invented those pants that zip off into shorts probably lived in the Midwest. I’ve always wondered though what one does with the pant legs one has just zipped off. My purse barely has room for my phone let alone pant legs. What about someone who doesn’t carry a purse? Do they drape them over their shoulders? Stuff them in their pockets? Create earrings out of them? I mean, seriously, if we can’t even keep track of socks how are we going to keep track of pant legs?

Entire mystery novels could be written on the subject.  And while mismatched socks might cause some face reddening, imagine mismatched pant legs!socks-306249_640

Yet for all the griping Midwesterners might do about the weather uncertainty, pretty much everything in life is uncertain. Before my family moved to Brazil, we faced many decisions with the phrase, “Well, if we move to Brazil….” After moving to Brazil, the phrase morphed into, “Well, if we get our permanent visa….” And today, decisions still come with questions attached.

Which is why the one true certainty in life is a comfort…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Has the weather ever tricked you?

 

 

 

Milking It

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Milk is such a part of most people’s diets that it stars in quite a few adages. From not crying over spilled milk to milking something for all it is worth, this white beverage is also mentioned in the Bible multiple times.

My family has always been a 2% family. Whole milk is simply too thick and skim milk is colored water. We can survive on 1%, but give us 2% and we’ll celebrate your milk of human kindness.

When we first moved to Brazil, milk didn’t grace the dairy shelves in the grocery store. Instead, we found it sitting in boxes on an unrefrigerated shelf. These cartons looked like juice boxes but had no hole to make opening easier. box-305088_640Instead, one had to cut one’s way inside the foil-lined box by prying up the folded down flaps and cutting a bigger hole on one side and a smaller hole on the other.

A too small hole made pouring milk a marathon adventure, and a too large hole left your carton erupting into a fountain. The worst thing about opening a new box of this shelf-stable milk was pouring out the room temperature beverage. There is something disturbing about lukewarm milk on one’s cereal.

And pouring a tall glass of milk for enjoyment or to dunk one’s cookies didn’t really cross our minds.

After we moved to the northern part of Brazil, we lived on a cattle ranch. The owners kindly gave us  buckets of milk. We said thank you and made cheese since the milk tasted so different than what we were used to.

Eventually, my mother came up with the beverage that most closely resembled American milk — by using powdered milk.

cereal-1262202_640Now, people might scoff at the idea that powdered milk could create a taste of home, but they have probably never been exposed to the delight that is lukewarm, boxed milk. By combining two different levels of fat content, blending well, and chilling in the refrigerator, we were once again able to enjoy milk on our cereal — which we also had to make since cereal was rare and expensive.

I now live where “normal” milk is easy to come by, but sometimes, I remind myself to pause and be grateful.

And then enjoy my glass of cold milk.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”  I Peter 2:2

Do you enjoy milk?

The Magic in Mothers

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When a woman becomes a mother, something changes in her DNA. Where once she might have looked askance on macaroni necklaces and bouquets of dandelions, suddenly these childish offerings become beautiful in her eyes.

My mother received many such gifts. What I lacked in artistic abilities, I made up in quantity. Drawings of “roses” made of interlocked squiggles, creations made of wooden pieces glued together by unskilled hands, and flowers picked from the yard were greeted with equal delight. 20190510_191018

Somewhere around the age of eight or nine, my creativity turned to the written word. I pumped out stories featuring my family as detectives (yes, I was enamored with Nancy Drew at the time). While sorting through the garage recently, I discovered one of these “masterpieces.” My internal editor cringed, but my mother had always received my stories with excitement.

Recently I was on the phone with my sister when she received a precious gift from her son. This lovely, um, thing had been created with toilet paper and hand soap. No word on the actual purpose of the what’s-it, but my sister feigned delight and counted down the seconds before she could safely dispose of the gift.

My nephew is also the king of concoctions (see below). He recently created a “surprise” by floating chips in a bowl of water with orange segments and bananas. Another creation mixed applesauce, lettuce, ranch dressing, and oranges. His aunt’s stomach is churning, yet when a gift is offered in love, magic happens. The bizarre and peculiar transforms into beautiful and precious in mommy’s eyes.

I no longer give my mother creations of glitter and construction paper. Now, I buy her hanging plants for her front porch for Mother’s Day. But she is still the first person to read my books and now receives scribbled drawings and strange gifts from her grandchildren — with exclamations of delight.

So thank you, Lord, for mothers.

After all, someone has to wear those macaroni necklaces.

What’s the strangest gift you gave your mother or received from your child?

 

Face to Face with A Bible Character

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Lately, I have been having a difference of opinion with ants. With the advent of spring, they seem to think it is their turn to live in my room. I have been discouraging this notion with counseling, warnings, and the gentle application of a blowtorch.

Ants are not a new problem for me. On the contrary, Brazil is a hotbed of ant activity. While there, this transplanted Oregonian learned that ants are not small delicate creatures.

Three ants made the biggest impact.

Ant number one destroyed all my preconceived notions of the size an ant could be. The creature measured at least two or three inches long.  One could observe them and contemplate the verses in the Bible about working ants without straining one’s eyes, since they were large enough to be seen from a helicopter.

The second ant, which made a biting impression, was the fire ant.  These nasty little things were small, shiny, and homicidal. fire-ants-2783019_640

If you accidentally stepped into the midst of a swarm of fire ants, you quickly became aware of your mistake.  This happened quite often since fire ants were everywhere, doing who knows what, while they waited for unsuspecting humans to fall into their trap.   I often imagined the little ant general insanely yelling for his troops to attack and bring down the giant.  They followed his lead with gusto and the ensuing pain sent us running for the nearest water faucet to wash them off and cool the burning bites.

I have never been the type to kill a bug with my finger, but in the absence of a faucet I would grab the nasty insects off me and roll them into tiny squished balls.  Take that you nasty ant general!

The last ant to make my top three is the invader ant.

Invader ants, like their brethren I am currently battling, do not conform to the most basic of the rules laid down for ants. Mainly, that the house is for humans.

For reasons known only to their tiny insectoid minds, these ants would take it upon themselves to invade our porch, or a corner of our house, or our whole house.  Friends told us to welcome the invasion because the ants would carry away any other unwanted guests with them such as spiders or centipedes.

We weren’t too keen on having our house invaded, even if their tiny antish brains thought they were doing us a favor.  I’m sorry, but there is something about the thought of ants cutting a swath through my bed while I’m in it that cures me of seeing anything altruistic in their invasion. I can only be grateful that the ants I battle now prefer to send a few scouts rather than a full scale invasion.

The Bible commends these creatures.

“Four things on earth are small,
    yet they are extremely wise:
 Ants are creatures of little strength,
    yet they store up their food in the summer;
 hyraxes are creatures of little power,
    yet they make their home in the crags;
 locusts have no king,
    yet they advance together in ranks;
 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
    yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”

And while I take their example to heart, I much prefer to avoid contemplating their industrious attitude face to face in my bedroom. stack-2129070_640

Are you an ant fan?