Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mom's Recipes

As long as I can remember, Mom had a small, white plastic basket above the fridge where she kept her recipes. She would jot down meal ideas from cookbooks she checked out from the library or found in magazines. She and her friends would swap easy dinners on recipe cards she illustrated with pen and ink drawings and calligraphy.

I'm saving all of them.

I didn't realize until I started sorting the recipes that this collection began before I was born. There is one recipe ("Graham Cracker Squares") written on the back of a classroom pass from the high school where Mom worked when she and Dad were first married. Some recipes are so faded, yellowed with age, or stained from food spills, they're almost unreadable. There are recipes in my handwriting and others in my sister's. It's a family history of meal planning and desserts.

I'm scanning everything so I can compile them digitally.

My parents were health-conscious and didn't buy a lot of processed food, especially in the early years of raising a family. This is reflected in the recipes Mom saved. I've found low-calorie recipes for salad dressing and side dishes. Most of the desserts include oatmeal and wheat germ.

The ironic thing is that Mom was not a great cook. It wasn't for lack of creativity or skill; she and Dad raised five kids on a single income. Mom home schooled all of us during the years Dad was a pastor. Meals had to be easy, quick to prepare, and inexpensive. We ate Chili and Rice Casserole weekly, at least. The few times I remember Mom experimenting with something new, somebody complained. I remember a lot of bean soups, unseasoned cod, overcooked broccoli, and cabbage dishes.

But the other thing I remember about meal time as a kid was Dad's praise of Mom's time, effort, ingenuity, and skill. He would thank her after every meal. Sometimes he'd say, "Let's all clap for Mommy!" and we would join in the applause. He'd quote Proverbs 31 at the dinner table, "We rise up and call you blessed!" and lead us in a standing ovation for Mom. She would blush every time and say, "Aw, thank you."

To my dad, it wasn't about the spectrum of flavors or gourmet selection (he doesn't even have a sense of smell). The important thing was Mom's investment in her family. And I have the hand-written evidence of all her love and meal planning.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I turned 32 on Sunday. I've been thinking about what I want as the distinguishing features of my life this year.

So many people I know are experiencing various kinds of pain: cancer, depression, Alzheimer's, loss of a loved one; the list goes on. These are reminders to me to learn from every experience. To be content. To live every day with exuberance. To express love to the people in my life.

These words have been ringing in my ears this week and last night I put them on paper:

Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate you. Wherever you find yourself on life's spectrum (from the ridiculous to the sublime), my wish for you is a strong sense of peace and deep significance. You are loved. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Running Update June 2013

I am so proud of my progress as a runner.

From my running diary, which I started in August 2008:

I remember how triumphant that felt. I was amazed I could do it. I smiled all day and announced my accomplishment to anyone who would listen. 

Spring of 2009 I made more progress.

  • "Learned to breathe" meant that I figured out how to pace myself: inhale for a count of three steps, exhale for three steps (I blogged about that here). 
  • "Didn't kill husband." In other words, I didn't have the physical strength to take him down after (un)helpful comments like "Pain is just weakness leaving the body!" (more about being a cranky running partner here).

But it was slow going.

June 2009:

HMW = half mile warm up (walking)
HMC = half mile cool down
My notes-to-self were always written immediately after running and were full of whatever emotion was evoked that day.

6/30/09: "TOUGH run. Blech. Must drink more water."

7/8/09: "I walked 1/8 mile, choking back tears and panic. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

I don't think we ran at all in 2010. I joined the gym (which I compared to a sweat shop in this post).

Hubbins and I ran a few times together in 2011. That fall, I enrolled in Fit School for Women and got serious. In the winter, I ran with a headlamp for the first time. Something clicked for me in that group. The camaraderie of women made all the difference. In December I ran my first 5k

I blogged about running a lot in 2012.

I enrolled in Bellingham Fit again this year. I'm almost halfway through the marathon training program, and my longest distance to date is 12 miles. I can hardly believe it. I am so proud of my progress and grateful for the friends I've made.

Tip: a good way to maintain your pace is to
run with people who are shorter than you.

I'm challenged every time I run and still feel like a beginner. But it is so encouraging to see how far I've come. 

This week my feet and left knee are hurting, so I'm going to concentrate on my form and recovery instead of increasing my mileage. Running three times a week before work really helps the long Saturday runs feel smoother.

Avoiding plantar fasciitis 
Thanks for your concern, Rajah. Quit drinking my ice water.

Thank you Hubbins for believing I could run, even when I didn't want to hear it and hated you for expecting me to keep up. 

Thank you Carol Frazey for making running a social activity and incorporating laughter into every workout.

Thank you Diane, Nancy, Tina, Mayumi, Chris, Jenn, Penny, Kelly, Elizabeth, Theresa and Donna for distracting me with friendship so I forget we're exercising as we get to know each other. I can't wait to see what we accomplish this summer!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dear Emily, 1983: A Letter from Dad on my Second Birthday


Happy Father's Day, Dad. It's been fun to share the festivities this weekend. I love you and am so thankful to have you as my Daddy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Leadership Principles I Learned from My Dad

Cleaning up toys and doing yard work were chores my siblings and I always had to be reminded to do. Mom would ask us throughout the day to clean up after ourselves. A big family home schooling in a small house meant there were many opportunities to make messes. School work, toys, projects, clothes; as the day progressed so did the piles. Mom would inevitably get tired of nagging us and turn the situation over to Dad in frustration. He had three methods for getting us to pull our own weight.

My favorite was when Dad would make a game out of it. He would sit on the couch or stand in a central location and direct us to pick up each stray item by pointing at it. "Pick that up, put it where it goes" he would say over and over, pointing at dirty socks, matchbox cars, video cases, paper and pens, Legos, or abandoned dishes. It became a race to see which sibling was fastest; whoever had empty hands was the next person responsible to respond to “Pick that up, put it where it goes.”

We found this hilarious. Small, manageable tasks were fun! We all had to pitch in and the division of labor was equal. It was almost like Dad was cleaning with us! However, this technique required a lot of time and supervision from him.

So he and Mom asked us kids to help brainstorm a second method. As a family, we initiated something we called "The Clean Sweep." At 5:00 every evening when Dad got home from work, he would hunt through the whole house and confiscate anything left out where it didn't belong. He would hold it as collateral until we did an assigned chore to reclaim it. If somebody’s pillow got left on the couch and Dad confiscated it, that somebody had to do an extra chore before they could get their pillow back by bedtime.

We knew the rules (clean house by 5), the consequences (loss of item) and the remedy (extra chore to get the toy back). At 5:00, we would follow Dad around the house making sure everything was picked up. If we spotted an overlooked belonging, we raced ahead of Dad and quickly snatched it up to put it away. This method was less fun but still effective (at least until we found his hiding place for the confiscated items).

My least favorite approach was when Dad announced at the breakfast table early one Saturday morning, "Today is a mandatory family yard work day. No complaints, excuses, or exceptions. Everyone is required to participate and you can't leave until we're done." We sulked, complained behind Dad's back, and stewed in our juices the rest of the day. It felt like punishment.
We lethargically dragged brush to the burn pile. We pulled weeds slowly. We dawdled. We actively sought distractions, either by picking fights with each other or creating unnecessary projects. The guise of Look how hard I’m working! seemed a good way to avoid the less desirable tasks (“Dad, I can’t scoop dog poop right now, I’m organizing your bucket of nails!”). So the whole project took longer than it had to and we all had bad attitudes.

In Dad's defense, this fateful Saturday morning happened years after the "Pick that up, put it where it goes" game. As teenagers, we knew the responsibilities required of us. I don't doubt that if Dad had cheerfully asked for volunteers, he would have been alone working in the yard that day. I understand his rationale for laying it out with no room for misinterpretation.

Our grumbling wasn't about the jobs that had to be done outside. The complaints were because "clean yard" was a goal imposed on us. We didn't have buy-in. Dad used his you're-in-trouble voice and we hadn't even done anything wrong yet.  There was no mention of how great it was going to be to have a bonfire at the end of the day, roasting hot dogs over the very branches we'd cleared that afternoon.
My Dad's three methods taught me several lessons:
  • Leader involvement matters.
  • The energy and outlook of the person in charge impacts participants.
  • Following instructions is easier when you understand the rules, the consequences, and the desired outcome.
  • Big jobs can be accomplished in small steps.
  • Ultimatums are less effective than invitations.
  • Many hands make light work.
  • Lack of personal investment results in wasted time and energy.
Thank you, Dad. Sorry your bucket of nails is still a mess.