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(note: yes, this took place over a month ago.  Yes, I’ve just finished writing about it.  I’m working on a little thing called “discipline”.  It’s better than nothing.)

Organizing a family reunion is about as easy as getting an entire class of preschoolers to fall asleep during naptime.  Someone usually gets distracted by the toys, and there’s always that one person who just runs around the room screaming no matter what you say.  (Doesn’t that sound like your family too?)  A lot of times, there are only two forces of nature strong enough to draw the entire family to one location – weddings and funerals.  Most families, due to these two occasions, end up seeing each other at least once every couple of years.  But my family is all about efficiency – so a couple of weeks ago, we decided to hold both events at once.

My cousin Rachel got married on Saturday, 9-10-11.  Some reasonable person finally persuaded her not to start the wedding at 7:08 p.m.  Instead, the wedding was at 6:30, so Anna, Ryan, and I started the 6-hour drive to Pensacola, FL at 9 in the morning to make sure we got there with plenty of time to spare.  When I go on road trips, I like to bring lots of healthy snacks – so we started our trip with a visit to Dunkin Donuts.  I ignored Anna’s warnings that we would definitely throw up if we ate donuts in the car.  We had coupons!  And Dunkin Donuts had pumpkin muffins and pumpkin lattes!  And I LOVE FALL!!!!  Ryan took one for the team and ate seven of the dozen donuts in the next two days.

For those who have never been fortunate enough to travel with my family, the events that unfolded over the next several hours provide a perfect snapshot of what our road trips are like.  Here’s the breakdown:

 

9:00 – we “leave the house”.

9:15 – we actually leave the house.

9:45 – because of our sharp instincts and uncanny ability to make decisions under pressure, we only have to spend 20 minutes deciding which flavors of donuts we want  (umm… sprinkles?  What are those cream-filled ones called again?  No, the other cream-filled ones…  ooh, cinnamon rolls!), and then we’re finally on the highway.

11:30 – we “may” have gotten a speeding ticket for going 86 in a 70, because Anna’s toaster of a car (Rhonda the Honda) weighs 2 pounds and has no cruise control.

12:00 – Ryan is forced to drive in bored silence because Anna and I are scrapbooking like mad in the backseat.  The scrapbook was a late birthday present for my mom, and we planned to start it a couple of weeks in advance, “or else we’ll be, like, finishing it in the car.  Wouldn’t that be terrible?”  We didn’t actually finish it in the car – we started it in the car.  Go us.

2:15 – we stop for a nice, light lunch at Sonic, only to discover that our slushies aren’t half-price because it’s not 2:00 yet in western Florida.

1:35 central time – pulling out of the Sonic parking lot, I wonder where my cherry limeade went.  I pull into a gas station and watch a stream of red liquid run down the windshield.  The good news is that the cup was actually still on the roof of the car, so I got to finish my drink!  Rhonda was a little sticky, though.

2:30 – Ryan can’t play Angry Birds on Anna’s phone anymore because the battery is getting low, so we get creative and play an iPod shuffle game.  “The next song that comes on will be Ryan and Anna’s first dance at their wedding!  The next song that comes on is dedicated to my first child!”  It’s especially fun when the person whose iPod you’re using likes metal.  Try it.

3:30 – we’re almost there, so we leave the highway to try to find a cheap hotel.  We pick one that we figure has to be cheap because it’s super sketchy.  But despite the foyer being tiled in fake black marble, it’s still $70 a night.  We sit in the shade, eat a donut, and keep looking.

3:45 – Ryan and I decide that we don’t need the map to get back to the highway because we can just follow the road signs.  It will be an adventure!  Our “adventure” ends when we come to a “road closed” sign, just beyond which is a huge pile of dirt and broken pavement.  Anna tells me I’m not allowed to give directions anymore.

4:30 – we finally make it to a reasonably-priced hotel (which we had to book online, from Anna’s phone, to get the discount).  We take our bags up to the room and… decide to scrapbook some more.  Ryan looks around for a plastic bag to suffocate himself in.

5:30 – we realize that we should probably stop scrapbooking and get ready for the wedding.

6:05 – we get in the car – and realize that the wedding is 30 minutes away.

6:35 – we park the car and try to walk quickly in high heels.  Weddings never start on time anyway, right?  We walk up just as the last bridesmaid is walking down the aisle, and have to stand to the side awkwardly.  Did I mention that we left our house 2 hours early, and gained an hour on the way?!

 

Things went pretty smoothly after that.  Rachel’s wedding took place in the yard at her parents’ waterfront house on Escambia Bay, and the reception was there too.  The wedding was very pretty and very pink, the photographers made up for the bridesmaids refusing to leave the couch, my cousin bartended and made sure that the punch was much stronger than when my aunt mixed it, everyone danced inappropriately, and I let an eight-year-old beat me to the bouquet when it was tossed. We got back to our hotel around one, slept in and went to Burger King for another healthy meal, and then headed back to my aunt and uncle’s house for part two of the festivities – the funeral.

My grandma, my mom’s mom, died in 2003.  At her request, we had the body cremated, and put the ashes in a beautiful silver pitcher that had belonged to my great-great aunt.  Neither of my mom’s brothers wanted to hold the pitcher, so my mom brought it home to keep until we decided where to sprinkle the ashes.  So we put the pitcher on the piano and… there it stayed.  And then we moved to Colorado and brought the pitcher with us.  And then we moved to Florida and brought the pitcher with us.  Anna decorated around it for holidays.  We had the great privilege of asking friends, “do you want to meet my grandma?”  Wes opened the pitcher one day when we weren’t looking, poked his fingers in, and asked, “what’s this powdery stuff?”  (“Oh, that’s just my grandma.”)  When my mom moved to Tuscaloosa in February, the pitcher went with her.  So finally, she decided that enough was enough.  My grandma had loved the water.  We were all going to be together, near the water, for Rachel’s wedding.  Why not sprinkle the ashes off the pier at my aunt and uncle’s house?  So that’s what we did.

To understand my family, here’s a recap of our impromptu memorial service.

My mom: (holding the pitcher, standing on the end of the pier) Well, we all know why we’re here, and I’ve already cried a lot today, and I’ve had a lot of good emotions over the past two days… (continues on like this for a while)  Does anyone want to say something?

Uncle Lee: Uhh… Susan, you’re good at stuff like this.

Aunt Susan: Ann meant so much to me, and was such a big part of my life, and I’m so honored to be a part of this family by marriage.  People still come up to me all the time and tell me how much she meant to them and what a godly example her life was, and I still consider her the closest thing to a saint I’ve ever known.  I know her prayers have made a difference in all our lives, and I know it meant so much to her to know that we all had a relationship with Jesus… (and so on, perfect eulogy on the spot.)

 My mom: (tearing up again)  Alan, do you have anything you want to say?

Uncle Alan: (looking over the edge of the pier, watching the fish jump) Well, all I know is, if we dump her off that side, she’s gonna be fish food.

 

Yup, that’s my family.  We stood there and watched as my mom poured the contents of the pitcher into the water (Uncle Alan again: “looks like cement dust, doesn’t it?”) and tried to stay upwind of the cloud of ashes.  My mom decided it was a Kodak moment and made Ryan take 72 pictures of us.  My uncle tried to convince us to go for a ride on the jet-ski in our clothes, even though we had to be in the car in 10 minutes.  My aunt insisted that we come back for a long weekend to go out on the water and stay with them so that she could “force you to eat food you don’t want.”  We all remembered that we like spending time together, and that we’re the only family we’ve got.  The wedding/funeral combination may not work for most people, but it works for us.  Next time, though, there will be ABSOLUTELY NO SCRAPBOOKING.

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I’ve been working with kids on and off for the past 6 years, from age 3 all the way to age 17.  Most recently, I’ve been working with kids/youth continuously since December 2009, and middle schoolers for a good portion of that.  When I tell people what I do for a living, I am met with mixed responses, many with the supposition that I must have sustained permanent brain damage at some point in order to have accepted my post.  I can’t say that I disagree with them.  But I’ve discovered that all inquiries questioning my sanity can be met with a single phrase.

 

Why do you have 47 paperclips in your pocket?  I work with children.

Why are you going to a job interview in men’s shorts and a t-shirt?  I work with children.

Is that paint on your face?  I work with children.

Is that jelly in your hair?  I work with children.

Is that blood on your shirt?  I work with children.

Why do you have tiki torches and hula hoops in the trunk of your car?  I work with children.

You got a bloody lip at work today?  I work with children.

Did you just laugh at a fart joke?  I work with children.

Why are you drinking wine at 10 in the morning?  I work with children.

Why haven’t you posted on your blog in four months?  I work with children.

 

Yes, that’s my excuse.  Some of you out there may know what I mean – when you work with children, you’re always working.  It’s 11:00 at night and I’m telling Wes about the social studies lesson I taught.  It’s 6:00 in the morning and I’m planning the week’s art activities while I brush my teeth.  It’s 8:45 pm and I’m mentally dividing my class into groups for their science project as I drive home from work.  So I may not be able to return to my blog with accounts of all the fascinating experiences I’ve had in my absence.  But I have something better.

 

One of the biggest challenges of teaching middle schoolers is that I’m not supposed to laugh when they say hilarious things.  I’m supposed to keep my teacher face on and continue with my lesson.  But there’s nothing stopping me from copying down their comments when they’re not looking.  And out of the classroom, I figure it’s all fair game.  Even better is that most of you guys aren’t teachers, and are in no way obligated to keep a straight face when you read these.  So, for your entertainment… the “I work with children” quote wall.  Names have been abbreviated to protect the minors from abject humiliation.

Lent 2011

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. 

For those of you who don’t follow the Liturgical year, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the forty day period of fasting before Easter Sunday.  While Lent is most definitely a Catholic tradition, many Protestants observe it as well.  In an on-again, off-again sort of way, I am one of those.

I made the last-minute decision this year that I was going to observe Lent.  It was last minute because I didn’t have any idea when it started until the Saturday before, when I finally got around to looking it up.  So in the few days I had to think about it, in between work and Bible study and cleaning and more work and more Bible study, I decided I was going to give up sleeping in for Lent.

Sleep and I have a very tumultuous relationship, mostly because I am fully capable of sleeping ten hours a night, and have neither the time nor the desire to do so.  However, I never seem to remember these facts at 7:30 am when my alarm goes off.  Normally I hit snooze one or two or seventeen more times, until my alarm eventually gives up and turns itself off.  When I do get up, what follows is the most melodramatic five minutes of my day.  “I’m sooooooo tired!  Why do I have to get up this early?  It’s soooooooooo unfair!  I’m going to diiiiieeeee!”  I briefly contemplate quitting my job so that I can go back to sleep, because clearly that’s the best solution.  Then I brush my teeth, feed the cats, turn the coffee pot on.  By the time the coffee has finished brewing, I’m wide awake and glad I didn’t give in.  Mornings like that are great, they just don’t happen often enough.  So now I’m going to use Lent to force myself to get up.

Even those of you who aren’t familiar with Lent might catch a hint of wrong motive in the statement above.  Let me explain.  Despite my lifelong relationship with the season of Lent, I didn’t grow up in churches that practiced it.  My childhood church was non-denominational and charismatic, and Liturgy isn’t high on the list of priorities in a place like that.  We were lucky if we even got an Easter-themed sermon on Easter. (For the longest time, I thought I must have picked up the idea of Lent from my mom, who grew up Catholic.  Then I came home from college during Lent the year that I gave up coffee, and she laughed at me and told me we weren’t Catholic and brewed a big pot of Starbucks blend.)  But I did grow up in churches that practiced fasting.  You fast to clear the distractions out of your life so that you can hear God speaking.  You fast from something so that you can take the time you normally spend on that activity and spend it with God instead.  You don’t “fast” without seeking God.  That’s called a diet.  (And you don’t “fast” broccoli either – are you listening, 9-year-old self?)

 From the Catholic mindset, Lent is a time of penance, reflection, and fasting.  The penance part isn’t really part of my theology (although it would be an interesting study…), and the reflection part comes naturally to us internal processors.  So for me, Lent is really a time of corporate fasting.  And that, I can do.  I’ve been taught that you should fast the thing that’s hardest to give up.  In my case, it always comes down to sleep or coffee.  This year, it’s sleep.  Coffee isn’t keeping me from spending time with God.  Sleeping in is.

P.S. I realize that my observations on Lent are currently somewhat shallow, to which I will say: I’m not finished.  This is a blog, not a dissertation(I keep trying to remind myself).  And a season of reflection should call for…more reflection.  Right?

Monday night is date night for Wes and I.  For most people, date night usually involves leaving the house and, you know, going on a date.   (Most people also do silly, ridiculous things like celebrating Valentines Day and anniversaries.)  But Wes and I are not like most people.  (And all our friends say “Amen!”)  And while relationships are usually based on love and affection and respect and shared values, I think the real basis of our relationship is food.  Wes and I like food.  A lot.  We spend a lot of time eating food.  We spend a lot of time cooking food.  We spend a lot of time talking about cooking and eating food.  And then we go watch Harry Potter, which, incidentally, has a good deal of food in it and must be accompanied by appropriate amounts of candy.

I’ve decided that food is my love language.  I’m trying to pass it off as my spiritual gift, but I suspect God has other intentions for me.  So when one of us (and by one of us, I mean Wes) is fasting, my world gets pretty dark.  We drink cups and cups of tea and stare at each other, and I wrack my brain.  Isn’t there anything else we like doing?  Don’t we have any other friends?  Interests?  Hobbies that don’t include beer and garlic and butter?  And then we usually end up talking about God, and it all works out.  But I’m always relieved when the fast ends and my life can go back to normal and I can once again pretend that I’m a balanced, well-rounded person with a variety of passions and activities.

No one was fasting last Monday, though, and like I said, Wes and I don’t go out on date night.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  Apart from the fact that we’re still college student-poor, we’re also unashamed food snobs.  We cook for ourselves because we’re convinced that what we make at home will be better (often true) and cheaper (meh… sometimes) than what we can buy at a restaurant.  And yes, we’re Southern, but we’re not Paula Deen-Southern.  We still consider ourselves to be health-conscious.  If we cook at home, we can be careful about what goes into our food and avoid unnecessary preservatives and oils and fats.  But apparently, our concept of “healthy cooking” has some holes in it.

Last Monday, Wes and I went on a romantic outing to Publix to buy groceries.  Because we’re “spontaneous” (ie, bad at planning), our usual approach is to just look around until we get inspired.  If you know Wes and I, you know that this approach is… exactly as effective as it sounds.  But eventually, we decided what we wanted to cook.  Wes was inspired by the fresh brussel sprouts in the produce section.  (Fresh vegetables!  We’re so healthy!)  I was inspired by, um, heavy cream.  (Uh… dairy has lots of calcium?)  So we made chicken pesto alfredo and sautéed brussel sprouts.

Admittedly, not the most calorie-conscious meal, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood for healthy and I figured that at least this way I could take full responsibility for the degree to which my arteries were clogged.  Besides, the brussel sprouts were going to be healthy, and I wasn’t planning on eating a softball-sized wad of pasta.  I made the cream sauce with butter, half-and-half, pre-made pesto and some spices, and tossed it with linguine, sliced grilled chicken, and fresh parmesan.  Wes caramelized the brussel sprouts with butter and garlic.  We tasted the cream sauce, tasted the brussel sprouts, talked about how much better they were fresh, and started serving the plates.  Then I decided to clean up a little before we ate.

I had used half a stick of butter in the alfredo sauce and left the other half on the cutting board so Wes could use some of it in the brussel sprouts.  But as I cleaned up, I noticed it was still sitting there – and the other stick of butter was gone.  So I asked Wes about it.

“How much butter did you put in the brussel sprouts?”

“I don’t know.  Like a few tablespoons?  I used the butter on the cutting board.”

I pointed to the counter.  “But it’s still sitting there.”

“Oh,” Wes said.  “Then I guess I used half of the other stick too.”

So yes, our oh-so-healthy vegetables were seasoned with an entire stick of butter.  I think that’s my cue to get out of the South, now.  Apparently Paula Deen’s influence is far greater than we thought.  You think you’re safe, then all of a sudden, you find yourself deep-frying a block of cream cheese and wondering which recipe of cornbread casserole you should serve with your turducken.

Tonight is date night again.  Wes and I are going out for once, and I’m going to do my best to order a meal with lots of leafy green somethings.  Maybe there’s still hope for us.  But if you ever hear me talk about combining a sausage patty with bacon, eggs, and cheese and serving it between two doughnuts, someone please come kidnap me and force-feed me tofu until I come to my senses.  I will not let Paula win…

So I hear that some people who have blogs actually update them more than once every two months.

I haven’t been one of those people lately, so I guess first I should apologize to all my dedicated readers who anxiously await my next posting.  And by “dedicated readers”, I mostly just mean Wes, who foolishly decided to make my blog his home page and has had to look at my “state of the union” letter to my car every time he wanted to go online for the past two months.  Sorry, love.

I’ve apparently gotten really good at rationalizing lately, so I could give you tons of reasons why I’ve been AWOL (I’m a teacher now!  For the rest of the school year, in fact), but making apologies for the way I spend my time really isn’t what I want to fill my blog with.  So instead, I’m going to give you the world’s longest excuse, cleverly disguised as a blog entry.

Are you ready?  Here it goes:

Stress is a commonly accepted part of life, even among Christians, and Stress and I have been in a long-term relationship ever since high school (we met during physics my junior year, and got serious when I started filling out college applications and spending my spare time laying on my bedroom floor.)  But stress is really just another word for anxiety, and anxiety is really another word for fear.  Why do we have stress?  “In this world, you will have trouble.”  (see John 16:33)  Conflict is inevitable.  So how do I deal with conflict?

Back in April, I did a presentation for Geneva’s elders on systems theory as it relates to the life of a church.  If you’re like most people, your eyes glazed over just reading that sentence.  But I’m a poli-sci major, so I think systems theory is “really interesting”.  (I used the same phrase when teaching atomic structure to my science class; now they groan when I suggest doing anything else “interesting”.  Being 23 can only buy you so much coolness when you’re a chronic nerd.)  During my research, I learned all sorts of fascinating things which the oh-so-fortunate elders at Geneva now know too.  But, believe it or not, I haven’t thought much about my systems theory research since then, until now.

Human beings are unique in that they have three “brains” – three levels of thought.  The reactive brain is the most primitive.  It controls our instinctive or unconscious reactions to our surroundings, and the physical needs of our bodies.  This is where “fight or flight” comes from.  When something is placed in a crocodile’s open mouth, it bites down.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a stick or a fish.  That’s the reactive brain, which is the one that almost all animals have.

Next is the feeling brain.  It’s responsible for our emotions and emotional needs.  A dog can be happy or sad.  Horses are lonely and anxious when separated from their herd.  Many mammals operate according to a feeling brain as well as a reactive brain.

The highest level of thought occurs in the thinking brain, which is the one unique to humans.  The thinking brain is responsible for things like our speech, our capacity for learning, and our decision-making capabilities.  It was designed to overrule the other two brains – which is where self-control comes in.  Sometimes, however, the thinking brain can be tricked into serving the other brains.  (Rationalization, for example, is the thinking brain justifying what one of the other two brains has dictated.)

So what does this have to do with stress and my blog?  If I don’t deal with conflict using my thinking brain, I have two choices.  I can use my reactive brain, in which case I’ll probably either run screaming and hide under my bed or throw a shoe at whatever’s causing the problem.  (If the source of the conflict happens to be papers that need grading, this is a particularly ineffective response.)  Or I can use my feeling brain and choose from a myriad of emotions with which to address the conflict.  My approach is based solely on how the outcome will make me feel.  And you know what?  I’d feel a lot better if I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow.

This all sounds ridiculous, until you consider that fear is an emotion.  So when I allow stress to determine how I use my time, what I’m really doing is letting my feeling brain rule my life.  I’m reacting to conflict, rather than responding to it.  Because rational thought exists in the thinking brain, reacting doesn’t involve a whole lot of rational thought, and therefore, doesn’t involve choice.  When I respond to conflict instead, I choose what my course of action will be, instead of trying to protect myself or make myself feel better.

Right now, I have tests and study guides to write.  My house needs to be cleaned and my yard needs to be raked.  And I’m tired.  Is this conflict?  Sure.  But I don’t want to react to it by getting stressed anymore.  So I’m writing on my blog, even though there are other things I “need” to do.  I chose to get up early this morning and read my Bible, even though I could have used more sleep.  Fear doesn’t get to dictate how I use my time anymore.

Isn’t it funny how we have three levels of thinking and we’re also three-part beings?  Isn’t it funny that we have a body, soul, and spirit to go along with our reactive, feeling, and thinking brains?  Isn’t it funny that our spirits, which are rightly connected with God, keep having to fight with our souls for control of our lives?  Isn’t it funny that living from our souls results in so much fear and anxiety?  Think about it…

PS – Aren’t you glad that the only part of my systems theory research I talked about was the three brains theory?  Although I can tell you all about disease and growth cycles if you want to know…

Dear Mazda

Dear Mazda,

Whatever I did, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I’ve only washed you three times in the past five years.  I’m also sorry that one of those times was only a carwash fundraiser.

I’m sorry that I let you get 4,000 miles overdue for an oil change – twice.  (In all fairness, I haven’t had my hair cut in five months, so I know how it feels.)

I’m sorry I let my youth group kids make fun of you.

I’m sorry my summer camp kids hit you with a basketball.

I’m sorry for trying to fix all your rattles by banging on the dashboard.  I’m also sorry I applied this technique to your CD player.

I’m sorry for that time I backed you into a shopping cart, and that other time I backed you into a tree.

I’m sorry for all the coffee I’ve spilled.

I’m sorry I made fun of your aspirations to become a minivan.  It’s a great dream, really – shoot for the stars!

I’m sorry I never gave you a proper name.  “Mini” just seemed like a good fit – I didn’t know you were so sensitive about it.

I’m sorry for making you drive down a rutted dirt road at 45 miles an hour.  Trust me, I didn’t enjoy it either.

I’m sorry for refusing to vacuum you, and for repeatedly hauling around absurdities such as tiki torches and packages of men’s underwear.

I’m sorry for letting my friends ride in your trunk.  I’m also sorry for storing a microwave in your trunk for three months.

I’m sorry for mocking the sweet bass in your sound system.  I know you’re a bad ass.

I’m sorry I let my roommate abuse your sound system by playing songs like “Baby Got Back” and “Oops I Did It Again”.

I’m sorry for driving you around with a broken CV joint/suspension system/out-of-round tires for two months.

I’m sorry for the time I dripped caramel empanada goo on your seat and said I was leaving it as a “memory”.  And I’m sorry for actually leaving it too.

I’m sorry for making you listen to all of “Shutter Island” on tape.  We didn’t really enjoy the 2,397 f-words or creepy sex scenes either.

I’m sorry for the scratch all the way down your back right door.  I’m probably the only person that’s ever keyed my own car (although actually it was the bolt on the lawnmower that did it.)

I’m sorry for driving you around icy Indiana roads on a tire that was 15 pounds low on air pressure.

And I’m really, really sorry for making you drive through Kansas three times.

 

I miss you.  I miss your 30 mpg gas mileage and your broken radio that allows me to set my iPod transmitter to any station I choose.  We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately.  Why didn’t you tell me you were so unhappy?  I knew things were getting rough when you started threatening to stall every time you shifted gears, but I didn’t know it would all end with you getting towed out of the Living Waters parking lot.

Can’t we just work this whole transmission thing out?  We’ve been together for five years.  I’m just not ready to say goodbye yet.  And let’s be honest, dear Mini – at this point, no one else will have you.

We’ve been having relentlessly perfect weather in Florida lately.  Cloudless blue skies, low humidity, 78 degrees.  The kids here don’t have to wear windbreakers and sweatpants under their Halloween costumes, and when I carved a pumpkin last week, outside, my hands didn’t go numb. People are out walking their dogs and riding their bikes.  Everyone’s driving around with the tops down on their cars and gleefully commenting on how cold it’s getting up north.  Instead of fall, Florida usually just gets another spring in between summer and Christmas.  But today, the universe took pity on me.  It’s cold, grey, and rainy.

Especially after living in Colorado, with “300 days of sunshine”, I love rainy days.  Let me clarify:  I do not love rainy days on college campuses in Indiana, which usually involve walking 15 minutes to class in 40 degree weather while wind gusts blow freezing rain in your face.  After living there for four years, I can tell you: rain boots go with everything.  And umbrellas are never made large enough.

But I do love rainy days as long as I don’t actually have to be outside.  They make me want to sit on the couch under a blanket and drink hot cider and eat a cookie and read a book.  Especially in my dad’s sun room with the soft, fluffy white rug and the couch with the feather pillows.  Unfortunately, the blanket/book/cider combo isn’t happening today.  I have quizzes and homework to grade before tomorrow.  I have to write Bible lessons and learn how to make mentos and diet coke explode before Sunday.  And when you’re stressed because you don’t have enough time to relax and de-stress, then taking time to relax and de-stress won’t actually de-stress you.   But the cookies, I can do.

One thing I love about my dad’s house is that I can pretty much count on him to have all the baking supplies I need in his pantry.  That’s because I’m the one that put them there, and I’m the only one that ever uses them.  He might not have any milk or butter or bread, but thanks to me, my dad has brown sugar and shortening on the shelf.  And peanut butter, as it turns out.  So I made peanut butter cookies.

About the shortening: I’m pretty sure that whoever invented it should be tried for crimes against humanity.  What is it, exactly?  How does it help make my baking shorter, and why do I want my baking to be shorter?  What plant/animal does it come from?  The only greasy white mounds of goo I’ve ever seen in nature were definitely not things I wanted to touch, much less put into my body.  It doesn’t even have to be refrigerated.  Who decided it was a good idea to eat this?  And to make things even worse, mine was butter-flavored.  Southerners out there, explain this to me.  And while you’re at it, what’s the deal with lard?

But regardless of the other shortcomings of shortening – wait, really?  Did I really just say that?

Regardless of the other faults of shortening (thank you, thesaurus.com), it does make good cookies.  I don’t want to know why anymore, because these are yummy.

These aren't really gargantuan cookies the way they appear to be. The hershey kisses on the top are actually chocolate chips.

 

A food photographer, I am not.  And if I wanted to be, I’d probably need to invest in something other than a point-and-shoot digital camera.

all of my assignments would probably end up looking like this anyway.

So the bad news is, I still have papers to grade and diet coke and mentos to explode.  But the good news is, I’ve decided that all of the world’s problems can be fixed with cookies.  I’d be the worst diplomat ever.  Or maybe the best…

 

[note: this was really written November 4 and published today.  Which doesn’t matter at all, except that it didn’t rain in Florida today and I’m OCD and half of the cookies are already gone.]