Monday, December 26, 2016

The Beginning of the End Which Is the Beginning Actually, Again

It is finished.

The end of Advent season.
The end of another Yuletide.
The end of Christmas this year.
It's over.
We made it through.

And with the end comes my beginning. Again.

Christmas is the birth of Christ all those years ago. Oftentimes it is explained that Jesus came to die for our sins. But that is too simplistic.

Jesus didn't come to die. He came knowing dying was on the table but He "came to seek and save the lost" and when people, His people, denied Him it became the only option left to save us was to die for us. In His end he proclaimed (and I quote), "It is finished".

He ended so that we can begin. Again.
And then He began again.

So that's what I am going to do. Again.

When I was five years old my mom says I accepted Jesus into my heart, ie, I was, born again. But I don't remember that and at camp when I was 12 I rededicated my life to Jesus. Much like married people will renew their vows, I accepted the Christian lifestyle all over again. Then, when I was 19 I had another come to Jesus moment and begged His forgiveness and, again, committed myself to Him.

I walked the walk.
I talked the talk.
I did the work.
I praised.
I taught.
I submitted.
I shunned.
I justified.
I belittled.
I was ashamed.

But I recall His words: "It is finished"; which means I can begin again. Again.

December 27th is my birthday and I am going to do something I have never done before.
I am going to give myself a gift.

The gift of Release.

I am gifting myself the Release of trying to reconcile with those who refuse, thus shoving me into more shame.

I am gifting myself the Release of trying to measure up and to achieve what people believe I should do or be.

I am gifting myself the Release to know I am forgiven. Truly. Wholly. Deeply.

I am gifting myself the Release to live in that place of True, Whole, Deep forgiveness.

I am gifting myself the Release that I can speak in Spanish.

I am gifting myself the Release to be who I am now and not die over and over in the who I was. Who I was is a powerful and priceless person. Something bad happened and now, years later, I can still be a powerful and priceless person and I Release myself to fling into that person as I am now. Jesus does. My wife does. My children do. I can, too.

I am gifting myself the Release to not be bullied anymore.

I am gifting myself the Release to speak truth. Again.

I am gifting myself the Release to be joyful again.

As I am now.

It can be my best birthday yet. Again.

With the conclusion of Advent, this will be my last post on this Yule {b}Log. Hereafter I plan to work on my memoir/autobiography and this blog will go back to its original intent as a birth blog, once I am able to practice as a midwife again. Thank you for having read my thoughts. "One of the greatest things as a writer is to have readers." -Katherine Paterson

Sunday, December 11, 2016


This week's Advent is Rejoice.

"Why is the rum always gone?" -Captain Jack Sparrow

I was so totally going to save this recipe for next week's Advent, which is Joy but golly, it's just too good not to share and besides this is the beginning of the time people go to and throw festive holiday parties to which are almost always potluck. So here is our recipe for the reason we both gained 5lbs in the month of December alone in 2015.
Okay, okay... gosh. It's true. Yes. We *may* have even made two batches last year. But to be fair, it was a particularly difficult season for both of us. And by difficult, I mean it was bloody hell. But you can come hear me speak on that at Mudrooms next year. You know, if you wanna.

Sure, you can go out and buy a tub of this crap.
 Or even this faux grossness in a carton package.

But why? Seriously, this recipe is the shizzz... 

While purists can drink theirs like this,

 I stand by my 5lbs. But I would like to try this sometime, if anyone wants to invite me over. (hint, hint) I'm great at parties.

One thing that's great about this recipe below is that the kiddies and those on the wagon can partake. Simply leave out the rum. I'm told it's delicious but to be honest I hven't ever tried it because rum and I are pretty good friends. But I have tasted it with a spoon directly from the mixer. And the freezer also. Yeah, 5lbs.

I use cheap ingredients until it comes to the rum. On that I don't skimp. But be sure to use actual butter and not margarine. This isn't hot buttered plastic  margarine, folks. Use the real deal.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix
1 pound brown sugar
1 pound powdered sugar
1 pound butter
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 tsp each: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon
Mix all together and store in freezer until ready to use.

How to serve
Use 1 ice cream scoopful and plop mix into serving mug
Pour in boiling water
Add in desired amount of shots of rum (teetotalers omit rum)
Stir and Rejoice

Indecently, I feel a great obligation to tell all y'all that National Hot Buttered Rum Day is January 17th. I didn't make it up, I swear. Those wonderful people who make the internet told me so.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

This week's Advent is Peace.

It's a tradition, right? The annual trek to get the beloved Christmas tree which will illuminate the corner of the family room for a few weeks and where all of those piles of presents will beckon us from underneath. It fills our nostrils with its piney scent and, if we're lucky, won't dry out and stab our socks with those suddenly insanely pointy pine needles (appropriately named), before The Big Day arrives. Ahh... the hallowed Christmas tree. There's even a song about it.

So here's our story.
We make our plan the day after Thanksgiving on when just the right time is to go get our tree because, well, tradition. But first we have the same old discussion to make some very important decisions.
Let's see... if we go this weekend it won't last until Christmas. So let's plan for next weekend, how 'bout? Saturday it is.
Do we want to go cut one down, since we live on several mountains, like we did last year or go to one of the *two* lots? They're both fund raisers, you know. Remember last year's tree? It was so little it fit on top of our table! Oh yeah... it was more like a treetop than a whole tree. It was fun to get it, you'd never cut down your own tree in the forest before. We sigh with laughter over the memory. We have our old school all steel tree stand out and can't wait to put our blazing yule in it.

Saturday arrives. Tree Getting Day!
But I can't go. I'm *way* too sad. I spend the day questioning my whole life. Again. By late afternoon I feel better but by now it's way too dark to tromp through the wilderness to saw off a tree. We plan for the next day after church. Yeah, that's what we'll do.

Sunday morning. The new Tree Getting Day!
We go to church and our super friendly pastor greets us, standing outside with a beaming smile on her happy face. "Want to come over for scones after church?!" We look at each other... Um, well. We tell her it's our Tree Getting Day and she insists we don't come over. "Go! Get your tree!"
Inside near the coffeepot which lives in the foyer (read: foy-yay) and produces coffee which is guaranteed to send one to the bathroom sometime during the church service, our darling, community loving friend approaches,"Hey, I have two tickets to the final performance of King Island Christmas today. Would you like them?" Gah! What is this?! Cursed all-Saturday consuming sadness... We could have enjoyed our tree yesterday, had fresh homemade scones and attended a play for free today! I look at her and tell her thanks but no thanks (even though it's a major event here and her granddaughter had the star role and we both wanted to see it and it was front page of the paper and originates right here in Alaska) because it's Christmas Tree Getting Day. She's happy for us and gives the tickets to someone else.
Armed with excitement and our weekly grocery shopping list, we head to the supermarket which one of the fund-raising/tree selling lost shares. We get a fun holiday coffee from Starbucks (but not a PSL because those are disgusting. Yeah. You read that right, Pumpkin Spiced Latte's are gross. There. I said it.) and do our shopping. At checkout I hesitate but don't opt for cash back. Meh. Whateves.

We load our car and drive the 75 feet to the grove (aka: trailer from which fresh-off-the-barge trees are sold) of perfectly manicured shrubbery where an eager high school student greets us. We decided that, even though we live in a rain forest and don't need a permit to harvest our own, we'll support local. Crap. Cash only. How much you got? I only have a 10-spot. Well, let's go to the one closer to our apartment. Good luck with your fundraiser, swim team.

The one closer to our home is just across the bridge from us and is run by a family who has them shipped in each year and sells them out of their yard just below The Flats. Where do they ship them in from? I have no idea because, like I said, we really do live IN the woods. In the mountains. Loads and heaps of mountains. With trees. Thousands of trees. Organic, free range, gluten free trees even. Anyway...
It's like 20* and we wander throughout and watch their dog throw up and get jealous of all of their yeardspace with, how many raised garden beds? Clearly they get enough sunlight during all of the days.
We shake a couple of trees and look for the blue tags because that's our price range, er... I mean the size we want. Our apartment is only 600sq feet, after all.
We knock on the door, because they certainly aren't coming out to watch us look for trees in these low temps. Crap. Cash only. How much is it again? I can't believe we are looking to pay 50 bucks for a tree when we can go cut our own. Do you want to just? No. It's already 4:30 and we won't be able to see them now. We can go tomorrow. No! Today is Tree Getting Day!
Fine. We'll go to get cash. One of us grumbles about how in this day and age it isn't unreasonable to have a Square to pay with your card. I mean, come on. I hate having to pay $3.50 to get my own money because you only take cash. Or check. Who writes checks nowadays anyway?
We go to the store and grab a pack of gum. $51.30 for that pack of gum that's still in the car because we don't even chew gum.
We go back, one of us still grouchy, and I pay the kid and have to load the tree into the car our own selves. But he did put a fresh cut on the bottom for us. In the dark. Without a jacket on.
At home we unload the groceries, hoof the tree up the 20 most stupidly steep stairs drag it into our livingroom, pause, drag it back out again and put that thing to melt all of the snow and ice off in the hallway. Maybe we should vacuum that spot up sometime.
So, how do you want to rearrange the furniture? It was almost the question of death.
Move furniture? Can't we just put up the tree? Well, I guess so but... Yeah. No. You're right. Let's just do that and then we can arrange later.
No, no. This is important to you, so that' what we'll do.
No, really.
We rearrange furniture. 8:30pm. You hungry?
We're ready. The tree come in and we open the box with our tree stand inside.
It's so classic. All steel and painted red and green.
All steel is code for: Your tree better be the exact measurements this was crafted in or you will struggle and break out into a sweat trying to just assemble the confounded thing.
We sweat. And struggle. And maybe even swear a little. Okay maybe a lot.
Well, now it's like 10. Let's just put the tree into a bucket and put it up tomorrow. We should at least get it out of the hallway and bring it in. What's that stinky smell out there anyway?
We go to bed.

Monday we go to work and come home ready to tackle this tree. One of us digs into the shared storage space of five people to un-bury the saw we didn't need because we got our tree from a lot and didn't cut it down ourselves. For free. 15 feet off the road.
What are we going to cut it over? Should we cut it at an angle? I don't know... should we just go get another tree stand?
What a waste. We have a tree stand. But you're right. Let's just go to the nearest hardware store and get one. Oh brother. We have two in the storage unit in Idaho. This is ridiculous.
We'll make it fun and go out for dinner. But where? Sigh...
We go to the hardware store just across the bridge. The same hardware store which shares an entrance of the store where we paid $51.30 for that gum yesterday.
The only ones they have cost more than the tree itself and are gigantic. Crap.
Well, Home Depot? We roll our eyes because that's all the way in the Valley. Well, nearly all the way. Okay, let's try to find that Mexican place, eat there and then go to Home Depot.
We find it and it's delicious. Leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

7pm and we enter HD. The only ones they have on the shelves are for 15' tall trees. WTH?
Excuse me, sir, (he's maybe 23), do you have any other Christmas tree stands available? No? Huh.
Customer Service guy, can you tell us if there are anymore tree stands available?
He makes a call. No. The guy already told you we don't.
We see one with a tree inside it for display. Can we buy that one? Please?
We don't care about your inventory records, see.  We're customers with money wanting to buy something from this store. You're kidding me. You really won't sell it? Well Merry Christmas to you too.
Let's call Fred Meyer. I know, I know. It really is in the Valley but, our tree is in a bucket and it's 8pm.  Hey, Fred, do you have any Christmas tree stands for a, like 5' tree? You do? How much? $3 off coupon? Sweet.
We walk in, buy our stand and I hesitate at checkout. Should I get cash out?
At home we plop our tree into that 3-minute EZ set up stand and it's just in time. The bucket was dry.
That retro/old school/vintage stand is our next White Elephant gift. POS.

So anyway, this week's Advent is Peace.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ho, Ho, Hope

Hopium. It's the made-up drug millions of people all over the globe get high on this time of year. 

We've all been high on Hopium:

"I hope I get a pink pony from Santa!"
"I hope we have enough money for gifts this year."
"I hope it's a white Christmas."

But what about those who have run out of Hopium and are, well... hopeless?
Hopelessness is a lonely, drowning place. When all hope is lost then there is absolutely nothing left. It is what causes people to kill themselves and how people find loved ones on the floor in a fetal position.
What do the hopeless need? Many soup kitchens say that hope starts with a meal. Some say to let go and let God. Some say to let a person hit rock bottom and then make them ask for help because if they *really* want it, they will help themselves.

So let's do that, shall we? Let's watch people dwell in hopelessness until they feel worthless, put in their place and 'decide' to choose hope. Just like Jesus taught us to.

Oh. Wait. That doesn't seem right.

Our world was so incredibly hopeless that there was nothing left to do but to send in the ultimate reinforcement: Jesus.  And what He did was smeared hope and love all over the place. He tucked it into every nook and cranny and wrote it into the dirt with a stick. He scattered it on boats and food and rubbed it onto people's oozing grossness. Jesus dripped hope and love from His soul and stained fibers and even used it to the death of farm animals.

Because without it we are all gonna die.

What if we offered hope to the hopeless instead of watching and ignoring them/us? Let's dust the pride off of ourselves and serve up a heaping pile of steaming hot hope to not only the hopeless but especially to those who we don't think deserve it. Because who are you to make the decision on who should get it or not?

It doesn't have to be an over the top sweeping gesture. You don't even have to tell anybody about it. The person you shake hope onto will know and sometimes, just one is enough.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Warm Nuts, Anyone?

This week's Advent is Hope. While I formulate what I want to write to you later on in the week, I'd like to leave you with this tasty recipe. It's one my family and I have enjoyed over the years. It's an easy one and is excellent at parties. It was featured on Food Network and lest I get called out for stealing it, I have posted the link below. Prepare these to snack on for when you curl up in a few days and read more on Hope.

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon dried, crumbled rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 3 cups mixed nuts (pecans, cashews, filberts, etc)
Preheat oven to 350*F
Melt butter with dried rosemary, salt and cayenne.
Pour mixture over nuts, tossing to coat.

Bake on cookie sheet for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve warm.

Do me a favor? Please leave a comment if you make this and let me know. I *hope* you do.

Here's the actual link to the recipe.