the Contentment Delusion – BayArt

Cheeky Friends,

I share with you some wisdom from another author today! Love, Joan

 

 

Many of the clients I work with have a desire to be content with life, yet struggle to experience it at any significant level. To live a content life would be amazing wouldn’t it? To not feel anxious about tomorrow, to feel satisfied and at peace with today and to be free from any guilt…

Source: the Contentment Delusion – BayArt

This Is What Gratitude Feels Like

Modern Mommy Madness

I am 25 days sober, and I feel amazing.

For a full 3 weeks, I felt almost debilitated. I was depressed, lethargic, and miserable. I had nausea, night sweats, and diarrhea. Some days I literally had to talk myself through putting pants on, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going.

Are you asking yourself what I mean by “talking myself through putting pants on?” Here’s an example of how I shuffled through my days:

What’s the next right thing?

Putting on pants. I have to get some pants and put them on.

My pants are on. What’s the next right thing?

I need to get my purse. Okay, I have my purse.

What’s the next right thing? I need to find my kids.

Where are my kids?

Shit.

***

That’s what happens when a person suddenly stops drinking after her body becomes accustomed to metabolizing a bottle of…

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Girlfriends are like Quilts

Oh, Girlfriends!  How would a woman survive life without them?  They come to our aid before we even know we need to be rescued.  They understand our innermost feelings and needs in the deepest way.  They refrain from judgment.  Like Momma Bear protecting her cub, a great girlfriend will work wonders in your life and expect nothing in return.

I reach for my Mom’s handmade quilts every single day of my life for comfort.  Tattered and ragged, sometimes I drag my favorite one like Linus, as if the quilt could make me invincible.  Magical powers sewn into every square, crafted and pieced together by my Mother’s hands with abundant love and the greatest of hopes for a life well lived.  I literally can cover myself in her protection any time I want.  The girlfriends who have sustained me through life’s toughest challenges are exactly like my favorite quilts.

In this picture, I am in the most miserable physical pain you could imagine.  I had been laboring for over 2 days with my first child and was waiting the last few hours before heading to the hospital to begin the terrifying birthing process.  I am sitting on a heating pad because I have lovely back labor.  And draped across my knees is the “Cotton Boll” quilt my Mom made for me more than twenty years ago.  “Don’t machine wash this,” she cautioned.  “It will fall apart.”  Nope.  This thing might as well be made of kryptonite.  Virtually indestructible.  Just like my ties to my girlfriends, one in particular, my Pammy.

Pam took this picture of me when she delivered a beautiful Wendy’s lunch of french fries and a Frosty.  She had had her daughter the year before, I had been her “birth coach.”  I did not even know I needed her to check on me that day, my mind was swirling with nesting details and anxiety about the future.  I am sure we laughed about the indignity of the last day pregnant – I was hobbling around, grunting and moaning in my hugeness.  Pam’s presence was comforting, though, and nothing really needed to be said.  There was history between us (at the time we had been friends over 10 years, thinking we knew everything about life, love, family and careers!).

We both moved away from Kansas City for many years and hardly stayed in touch, but fate reunited us a few years ago, and we have both returned HOME:  to Kansas City and our friendship.  I can look at her and imagine what she is thinking and we both erupt in raucous laughter!  We have the comfort of each other’s company and support and a very long history of experience together to sustain us.  Friendship is, indeed, a joyous thing.  As a woman grows older, the comfort of a close girlfriend is one of the greatest treasures she can have.  Nobody knows us better or would go farther to show us who we are when we are lost.  And midlife, I am discovering, is a bit of a “curious wonderland” where one can get very lost, indeed.  I am finishing the intensive Mom phase and looking ahead to the second act (actually, it has begun, I am just in denial).  Pam helps me laugh away the embarrassment of my arthritic hips and knees when I try to get up gracefully from a restaurant chair.  She will be there with me, locked arm in arm, for the second act, and there will be laughter, joy and comfort.  And I am one grateful woman of a certain age!

 

Mention Cake First

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It’s as vital as the air I breathe:  CAKE.  Very early in life, I internalized the message that cake was equivalent to joy, happiness, satisfaction, togetherness.  Maybe it was the time my cousin’s Rancher Wife friend rescued me from the terrifying scene of watching Mr. Bird saw down the bull’s horn before it blinded him.  My other cousin, Patricia, was there to help Mr. Bird take care of the bull.  They left Pete and me (ages 6 and 8) in the farm truck (the “anchor”) and tied the bull to it and began sawing.  I began screaming hysterically immediately, so Mrs. Bird came and got me and took me inside to the warm kitchen.  She wiped my tears and opened her deep freezer (what a fascinating box of frozen surprises it was!) and pulled out a slice of carefully wrapped homemade coconut cake.  We sat in her small but cozy kitchen in the warmth and slowly the cake soothed the trauma of thrashing around in a truck tied to an angry and uncooperative bull with my cousin, Pete!  Mrs. Bird taught me that day that I was better suited for the kitchen than the ranch!

So, today, I am sharing with ya’ll one of my favorite Southern Cake recipes, Apple Dapple Cake.  The photo does not do it justice – it should be covered in brown sugar-iced fresh pecans, but where was I going to get fresh pecans during an ice storm this weekend? Give yourself and your family a big treat today and grab some delicious apples, peel and dice them and create the world’s most delicious cake.  And if it is work you must today, sweeten the evening with my favorite solution to any and all things intolerable:  CAKE.

Recipe courtesy of My Momma, Miss Rhetta

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups tart apples, chopped
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat eggs and mix with sugar, oil and vanilla.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and add to egg mixture.
  3. Fold in apples and pecans.  Pour into greased and floured tube cake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  5. For frosting:  Bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil.  Boil only 2 1/2 minutes.  Cool and spread on cake.

Eat it, You’ll Love It, and it will DRIVE AWAY any thoughts of ANGRY BULLS GETTING THEIR HORNS TRIMMED!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crockpot Italian Beef Sandwiches

This recipe is an adaptation from The Pioneer Woman.  The sandwiches are SO delicious and so easy to make, my family has asked for them twice this week!  Here ya go:

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • 1 envelope of Good Season’s Zesty Italian Salad dressing mix
  • 8-oz Giardiniera (Chicago-Style Italian Sandwich Mix)
  • 14.5-oz can of beef consumme
  • provolone cheese slices
  • hoagie buns

Directions

  1.  Place chuck roast into the bottom of a 6-quart crock pot then sprinkle with salad dressing mix.  Add the Giardiniera and beef broth.  Place the lid on the crock pot then cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork.
  2. Split buns in half then scoop the meat mixture on top and add provolone cheese slices.  Serve warm.

DELISH!!!!!

 

 

Dinner for a Droopy Day!

I’ve been feeling “droopy” (a “Miss Rhetta-ism” – my Momma’s signature speaking style) lately.  The heat and humidity of summer persist, fall schedules and allergies are pressing down on me, and I have a serious case of the “I don’t Wanna’s”!  Weighing heavily on my mind is the fact that it is my beautiful daughter’s SENIOR year of High School.  I am overloaded with scheduling ACT tests and tutors, college visits and organizing volunteers and resources for all her Drill Team fundraisers this year.  This girl needs some delicious, cream-based sauce and crusty bread for dipping!!!!

That’s when I go to the kitchen for comfort.  Sometimes, it is a tried and true recipe that comforts me, other times, it is a new one I’ve had my eye on that I will try.  Of course, leave it to me  to take a Cooking Light recipe and make it unhealthy and delicious!   I am ready for crisp weather and my French Girl dipping sauces made with scrapings of lovely browned bits from my saucepan.  I am at least 1/8 French (Grandmother’s maiden name is De Lisle, my legal Middle name), so craving delicious sauces is natural for me!

Here is the FREAKING OUT OF THIS WORLD pan chicken recipe I modified from the January/February 2016 Cooking Light magazine for my family last night – prepare to drool.

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Skillet Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Skillet Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots 

(Cooking Light Magazine, January/February 2016)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 8 ounces baby carrots
  • 8 ounces small, red potatoes, halved (*I did not include this in my recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (*How I wish I had an herb garden!  I used dried).
  • 8 thin lemon slices, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided (*I went for it and substituted one pint of heavy cream)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (*all I had on hand was vergetable stock)
  • 1/3  cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (*I never have this so I don’t use it)

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees;
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil, swirl to coat.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes or until golden brown (*I always cook a few minutes longer because I am scared to death of food poisoning); Turn and cook 2 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan.  Place carrots and potatoes (*I just used carrots), cut side down, in pan; sprinkle with thyme.  Place pan in oven; bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Return chicken to pan; top with lemon slices.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 12 minutes.  Remove pan from oven.  Place chicken and vegetables on a plate.
  3. Combine 1/2 cup milk (*remember heavy cream is WAY yummier – lol!), flour, and the rind in a bowl.  Return pan to medium-high heat (do not wipe out pan).  Add flour mixture, remaining 1 cup milk, and stock to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits (this is where your heavenly taste will come from); cook 3 minutes.  Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add chicken and vegetables to pan.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Razzle Dazzle Your Diners With This Simple French-Inspired Dish

Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

New Chances

It’s the First Day of School…..again.  Moms and Dads all over the world proudly and wistfully send their hearts out the door as their children take on a new year of challenges.  I am all too familiar with the emotions this day brings.  Big expectations and hopefulness, with a sprinkle of tears over the loss of another year of youth.

The start of a new school year is like a new chance – an opportunity to discover, redefine and experience life.  Our kids probably don’t see it this way, but we parents know how rarely in life we get new chances – and how easy it can be to squander such a beautiful gift. THAT’S why it is bittersweet for us.  We don’t want our kids to really know about the frightening and painful parts that new chances bring.  Sentimentality overtakes our senses and before we know it, we are overlaying the new chance with memories, stories, pictures and gratitude our children were once innocent.  That’s how the first day of school feels for me, anyway.

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Mario’s “Turkey Hand” from pre-school.

The backpacks stuffed with homemade craft projects coming in the door are in my past now.  I have them all, they are overflowing in plastic tubs but many of them I have framed.  The innocence and tenderness expressed through the art my children have  bestowed upon us is one of the best experiences of parenthood. Now, instead of art projects, I look into their eyes for those signs of love and expressions of how they are relating to the world.  This morning, I saw a freshness in my son’s eyes I have not seen in many years.  Hopefully some of the storms of his early adolescence have passed.  In my daughter’s eyes, I saw a beautiful, spirited young woman on the brink of leaving the nest – her “senior year” eyes.  She loves her journey, and I think we are both on the same page:  enjoy every minute.

So this brings me to my final point this morning:  I have also been given a second chance, and today is a wonderful day to celebrate and “mark” it.  14 months ago, I began my recovery from addiction.  I have been given a second chance to savor the present moment free from the numb world of alcohol.  Living in the real world, fully present, each day committing to accepting my journey without altering it in any way – is a beautiful second chance.  I am ready for Sophomore and Senior year of High School and incredibly humbled by the gift of this second chance.  Even the difficult days are grounded in goodness because they are real and offer second chances to grow into the future.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay To Be Late To The Party

13724844_10208785568789224_8461321461091356507_oI hadn’t really thought about my High School experience for years, especially while enjoying the vividly contrasting experience my children are having today in High School.  The world is so big (and scary to some – like me), and my children’s perspective of their future, because of the co-educational, diverse, academically challenging environment they are in for High School, is optimistic.  Personally, though I appear Pollyanna-ish, I am a cautiously optimistic person by nature.  “Expect the best but prepare for the worst” would be a good description of my life choices, and not always in a good way – I have missed alot of fun and friendship by choice because I felt I would not fit in.

Over a month ago, several of my former High School classmates lovingly and gracefully responded to the pleas of our friend and sister, Lori, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed support. Lori, the Boston College Graduate with a Law Degree from Washington University, an impressive curriculum vitae and solid history as a humanitarian and philanthropist, asked for her sisters’ loving consolation for strength.  Wow.  I reached out a couple of weeks after the group had formed (I was on a social media sabbatical) by joining along with my classmates in cheering Lori’s indomitable spirit on, as we all knew she would prevail, as always.

Throughout our 24/7 conversations that took place over about 21 days, I couldn’t help but remember one of the foundations of our High School education from Visitation Academy, a Catholic, all-girls school in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, founded by the Sisters of the Visitation:

St. Francis de Sales:  “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as true strength.”

In the moments between conversations,  I randomly remembered things that happened in those days and then judged my immature 17-year-old behavior against what I know about myself and life today.  The most difficult memory to reconcile involved Lori herself.  We were co-counsels in a mock trial against my scrappy best friend (who ultimately graduated from Law School and became the First Female Chief of Staff for the Governor of Missouri).  I knew she’d knock our teeth out in the first round.  So what did I do?  I hardly prepared – I let Brilliant, Sweet Lori do the majority of the trial preparation while I focused on what I liked to think of as “aesthetics” (e.g., flirting with our lawyer sponsor and shopping for my beautiful trial outfit).  Heavy guilt and shame to bear 32 years later when this sweet angel has included me in the most intimate conversation of her life.  In fact, more recently, instead of begrudging me for the things I did or did not do in High School, Lori reached out to support me in my Recovery from alcohol addiction.  I learned in later conversations with friends that Lori was doing the same with many, many people – sending cards, donations to charities, and anything uplifting she could think of to love and support others.

I realize now because of Lori that people like her – beautiful, strong, accomplished, immersed in life – ask for help and support when they need it.  That’s STRENGTH, not weakness.

I wish this story had a happy ending involving a massive reunion including Lori after cancer had left her body for good.  It does not.  She received devastating news about a month after her original diagnosis about the cancer having spread.  She learned there were no treatment options.  She continued to love and communicate positively with her dear High School friends until she entered hospice, passing away less than a week later.  Stunned and overwhelmed with grief, many of us who had been writing to Lori through her most difficult journey gathered in the presence of our dear Visitation Nuns and honored her.  We sang our School Anthem and prayed and embraced one another.  We ate donuts, Lori’s favorite treat, and tried to reminisce about the happiness she had brought us instead of the sadness we were feeling.

Truth be told, I almost did not go.  Even during my 4-hour drive to attend Lori’s service, I was tempted to turn around and go home to sit quietly on my comfortable couch.  Why?  Because I did not feel worthy of the experience.  She was so good and I have so many faults.  At one point, the voice in my head even taunted me and tried to make me believe that I did not belong – my presence would be meaningless.  Still, I drove on to be with my Viz sisters and embrace the women we have become. I am glad I did.  Lori taught me, even after her spirit left her body, that it is okay to be late to the party – it is okay to feel like an outsider, because we all have special gifts to give.  The nuns hugged me and were so glad to see my dimples and big blue eyes!!!  My friends fell over laughing when they heard my uniquely explosive cackling.  I may not have been Lori’s best friend, but I had a special connection with her.  I did belong and Lori made space for me, even unto her death.