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It’s not what you think.

My friend impressed me by making a cake from America’s Test Kitchen. That’s some serious baking, and if she didn’t live in Medford, it would have been hard for me to not invite myself over. The next day another friend induced serious cravings after sending me a picture of a congratulatory cake that her husband received after thirty years with Gallo Winery. That cake came from a bakery whose sticker said, “AWARD WINNING CAKE.”

Cake is my favorite dessert. Before Costco discontinued their sheet cakes, I would be up for sharing one with anyone who wanted to take on the feat. It never happened, but I liked the idea of it. I was always happy to take leftovers home after a staff party, and even store some in the freezer. Cravings do happen.

After the two teasers, Miss America’s Test Kitchen, and AWARD WINNING CAKE friend, I found myself obsessing about cake. As the cake fantasy persisted, I considered the approximate twenty five February birthdays in my life, and accepted that none of them were going to produce a cake in my presence soon enough to satisfy my immediate cake craving.

I have been known to make food for friends. But I’m not a baker. I feel fairly confident that if I deliver Chicken Piccata to a friend, they are going to be super appreciative. But the traditional cake our family looked forward to on birthday mornings, courtesy of Duncan Hines (or Betty Crocker, both are great!) and good ole canned frosting, is not something I would proudly deliver to someone.

So I decided to whip one up, with not a single person in mind with whom I would share it.

 

This is where PERFECT and SINGLE come in.

My box cake with canned frosting was incredibly satisfying to me. Unimpressive (well, the nonpareils do improve it) and exactly perfect.

After I made my cake, my Gallo friend delivered a chunk of the AWARD WINNING CAKE to me. What timing. If only a day sooner!

There are a lot of things to grumble about as a single person. I understand… married people too… But that’s a different story.

There are also many things one can enjoy about being single. For one, I can leave the fork on the plate. I don’t mean the plate I’m eating from, I mean the presentation plate. It’s not a great strategy if one is trying to lose weight, but apart from that, why remove it?

 

An imperfect person eating a perfect cake. Yum.

Just for the record, my AWARD WINNING CAKE friend texted me to say (because of course, when she delivered cake to me, I gave cake to her), that my cake was better than the bottom chocolate cake on her cake. You can’t go wrong with DH or BC.

My neighbors did receive a couple of pieces… because I love them, plus they loaned me the eggs.

 

 

 

This Thanksgiving was so different, but no different. While Covid was a component, it wasn’t the culprit.

The holidays are not my favorite time of year. In fact, they’re my least favorite, which seems almost sacrilegious, especially because, I am religious. Not only am I religious, but Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Tired of consumerism, but loving food to a fault, a holiday centered around foods unique to once a year and family, was just great with me. It segued into transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland. I relished the Christmas spirit, with my children underfoot or at older ages, making their Christmas gift lists overtly known. The gift exchanges with friends, baking, giving extra to those in need, I loved it all, but so much more, because it was done within the framework of my family.

Which is probably why it’s so hard to find joy in the holidays still, ten years after my divorce. Wait, it might be eleven! But I’m not counting. Those are the holidays that I still want, and cannot have. I made the decision soon after the divorce that I would not give in to the temptation of a stale emotional state. So, for the holidays, I would do my best to maintain the integrity of who I am. Each year, while on a lesser scale, but still in earnest, I pursue the holidays. I do my best to maintain a semblance of the home and traditions my kids grew up in. While the family we knew died, we don’t have to live like we died, but can live and thrive.

But that is no easy task. Thriving can mean striving, and if one is always striving, seeking that life that we desire, the one that brings us joy and peace, the process can be arduous.

Even today, with just my daughter, our two dogs, and myself, I made a full Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, a whole turkey, and the works. Because of medical issues, my daughter did not eat (these are not related to her medical issues she had in HS or college). I can imagine what some of you are thinking, and it’s probably not, “Can I have the recipe?”

Since the divorce, this family still struggles to find its footing. The reasons are complex, and for many families of divorce, this is not the case. But it is the case for ours, and I know there are others.

In spite of the big meals I make, the bounce in my step, the decorations of tinsel and sparkle, the holidays are difficult, and I find myself enduring them, instead of running into their arms with the excitement I once knew.

Well-intentioned people have advised me with admonishment to move on, reminding me that God is my husband and my father. My first response is to punch them. I want to say, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, since you have one.” Would one say that to someone who lost a child in death?

Punching them isn’t cool though, and I could not agree with them more. Without God as my husband and father, I would not be here today. Besides the health of my daughter, my relationship with my children, and living without my family during the holidays has brought me closer to God than any other thing. God created my family. It is his design. And I believe that as my heavenly father and husband, he mourns with me, with every ornament I hang, the disappointments I bear, and the tears that fall.

If you are divorced and strive to thrive, but face the glare of the holiday lights that expose the losses, and intensifies the pain, I see you. I feel you, and I know you. God created the design of family to be the pillar of our society, and our strength in times of good and bad. Every form of media emphasizes the value of family. That when we have our family, we have everything, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances.

What does that mean then, for those who don’t have family, or it’s been dismantled beyond recognition? When that family is no longer there, like the rag that gets tossed around a bit, yet still predictably, always ready for use when needed?

There are times I turn to some of my amazing friends. Some people will turn to romantic relationships, drugs, or alcohol. Determined to wedge something into that empty space, they attempt to complete the puzzle that was uniquely made for their family.

My friends are a generous salve. They are angels in my life, divinely appointed for me. And while they are sometimes an answer to prayer, they, nor drugs, alcohol, or romantic fulfillment can answer prayers or change hearts.

Every year, it’s the same drill. I brace myself, I prepare myself, I’m disappointed, I grieve, and I beg God for mercy. And every year, he delivers in specific, unique, and holy ways that are difficult to articulate, because I think, all miracles are.

This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. It was fragmented and disjointed. I couldn’t find the answer in one TV illustration on how to handle the complexities of Covid. None of the experts on TV addressed my personal scenario. But God heard my pleas and answered my prayers. He gave me courage to find the right words when I needed them, and tenderness in my execution. Angels were on my side and in my presence. My daughter and I shared a time of conversation that united us and a memory that I will treasure; one on which we can build.

The holidays shine a light on the brokenness that we work so hard to recover. But there is one who is the light of the world, whose light is so powerful, that he will not let the darkness overpower him (John 1:5). He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34).

Covid is hard. I understand that the destruction it’s caused. But the media and God are right. That when we have the love of our families, we can overcome any hardship. Of the hardships we face,  none compares to the hardship of losing one’s family.

Being this transparent is hard for me. But I know this hard walk. It’s exhausting and discouraging when we don’t reap what we’ve sown. It reminds me of some favorite movies. One I recently saw called The Biggest Little Farm. It documents the enormous energy that a family puts into building a farm out of nothing. One fiasco and tragedy after the other occurs, until ultimately they discover how all of those mishaps shaped their farm into the success it is today.

The other movie is more relevant to this time of year. That is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  After so much sacrifice and devotion to the people he loves, George Baily faces the potential collapse of his business, and not because of any fault of his own. Through an angel, and the beautiful gift of perspective, George is able to reconcile his losses and overcome his despair.

It’s true that in the end, George has his family. But it’s God who gives him the perspective he needs to be pointed in the right direction, positioning himself for God’s miracles.

Many of us can relate to George. If that weren’t true, they wouldn’t have made a movie about it! Look for your Clarence, and let him point you in the right direction.

You can do this, because God can do this.

PS: Oh, and a whole pie. These are the best store-bought homemade pies ever.

I could talk books all day long! Well, sometimes I could talk all day long on a lot of subjects. But this is definitely a favorite topic.

I haven’t read a book outside of the bible in ions. But I listen ALL. THE. TIME. I am in awe of the opportunities we have to access information and entertainment. It’s the ultimate juggle. Listening while I do housework, yardwork, putting on my makeup, making my bed, weeding the vinyl in my JoniTDesigns, working on a Juggle Source project, riding my bike, or taking a walk.

I sometimes use Audible, but mostly I use Overdrive through the library system. It’s a great way to preserve money. It does mean that sometimes I’m listening to two books at the same time, because if I don’t finish it within the 21 days it’s loaned to me, I have to request it again, and while I’m waiting, I’m on to another book.

Most of My All Time Favorites are books I have purchased and stay in my very small library.

Right now I’m listening to On Writing, by Stephen King, and Moneyland by Oliver Bullough.

My interests are all over the place, but mostly I gravitate toward non-fiction.

These are the books I’ve documented or remembered. They’re not in any particular order. I often forget to document them; I’m sure I’ve missed some.

I didn’t indicate the topics or why I like the books, so I’m happy to tell you if you want to ask. I love love love discussing books! Ironically, I’m not in a book club, largely because of time, but equally, because I have so many I want to read, and I don’t want to be limited to a book I’m required to read by the book club.

So, Happy Sunday, and Happy Reading, or Listening!

PS: Darn… I forgot to add the other book that MADE ME A READER!

“Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk.

 

It is so tempting to power through grief. To practice gratitude exercises and to count our blessings. To “look on the bright side,” to overcome disappointment, and to “get over it,” which for me is not a quick decision, but an intentional process. I don’t “just get over” anything.

I think these efforts have their place, yet they are not the solution to our sadness. God created every emotion in us. Happiness, joy, elation, celebration, fulfillment, expectations, anger, disappointment, sadness, and sorrow.

Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus was a man of many sorrows:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

I can see it now. Peter says, “Jesus! Come on. Pull yourself up by your sandals! You’ve got this!” I’ve been told this by well-meaning people on more than one occasion.  It’s everything in me not to say, “Really? That’s all you have?” I think I have said a form of that a couple of times, Oops.

If you know me, you might have the impression that I am a believer of “pull yourself up… get over it…” and all that jazz. It’s true that I am decisive and intentional. But my process includes tears, it doesn’t avoid them.

This morning on my walk I listened to Catholic radio (this is what I call it, but it was actually, Ave Maria radio… or mater day, or something like that… not sure I know exactly what it is… I learned that today is the day of St. Alphonsus Liguori… I knew nothing about him. I am not Catholic.

But I came home to read up a bit (thank you Catholic radio… more enrichment) and create something that I could revisit… maybe often, or daily during some stretches.

This is what attracts me to Jesus. This love that man cannot grasp.

Yet we who love him can know it. In our suffering, or in the beauty around us, like Queen Anne’s lace, or another day to see blackberries ripen in the month of August. It is love that transcends grief and transforms lives.

Happy National Lipstick Day!

I haven’t written in a couple of months. I just can’t think of anything to write about.

Ha. There’s so much to write about, my inexperience and writer’s block can’t narrow down the enormous content in the limited time I find between Juggle Source and JoniTDesigns.

But hallelujah, it’s National Lipstick Day! No controversy, just happy, beautiful, and colorful lips. Don’t you love them? There’s a color for every mood and motion. How can you not love lipstick?

Andriyko Podilnyk

Tamara Bellis

Nojan Namdar

Amanda Dalbjorn

Ken Mages

Karly Jones

I think this was a Russian name, so this is the handle! @eugenivy_reserv

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t mind controversy. I love conversation, exchanging ideas and opinions and could talk until I’m red in the lips. But these days everything seems to turn to discord that evolves into attacking each other, so lipstick it is!

My very good friend who lives in NZ hates lipstick! I think she’s possibly got lipstick PSD from a bad experience that involved a clown as a young child. Yes, LT: Comment on my blog and prove that it’s true!

I guess lipstick does invoke a tiny bit of controversy:

MASKS! When masks began to emerge, like many people, I resisted them. I stayed home and obeyed orders and went out only when necessary. I didn’t think there was a future for all the people who were making them, and I figured I needed one, maybe two.

I now rotate about eight, the bulk of which I got from this Etsy site.

It didn’t take too long for me to see I was wrong, in particular after a shopping trip to my local Safeway, where I left nearly in tears. It wasn’t so much because we had to wear masks. It was more about what it symbolized: that this thing called COVID 19 was serious and our world was in trouble, and that was before George Floyd was killed.

Our masks are an inconvenience to which I’ve adapted, and quite well, considering the grumpiness about them that I had to overcome. Mostly my annoyance is the hassle of remembering it, washing it, but yes, not seeing our faces. It’s true that we can’t see each other smile. And if we’re wearing sunglasses like most of us are on 90 degree days, then our faces are downright covered.

But I wear my lipstick anyway. Not that I look at myself much during the day, but when I do, seeing color on my lips makes me happier. It’s like my wardrobe seatbelt; I just don’t feel like I can go down the road without it. Or these days, down the hall.

And you know, mask or no mask, I just think that somehow the energy I get from my beautiful colored lips comes through. It surges past the mask, into my eyes, and affects the tone of my voice when I say hello. When I talk to the cashier, or pass someone on the way into the store, I think they sense my lipsticked smile; because when they smile, I know it, too.

So, Happy National Lipstick Day. Besides being a favorite thing, it’s also useful for mask hygiene. It forces me to wash my masks often, ensuring that they are well cleaned and ready for another day.

Photo Credits to the photographers of Unsplash (names under each photo). Since COVID, I am far more grateful for the access I have to resources on the Internet.  Unsplash has thousands of photographs they allow us to use for free. Thank you, Unsplash photographers!