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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.

It’s day 7, Sunday, the end of my first week of unemployment, or self employment. At the beginning of Week 2, I’m not sure what name it deserves.

I wish I had a map for this journey. Next to my OREGON map would be my INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY map. That’s where I want to go, but I haven’t seen that map. I think I have to navigate to this destination on my own (always with God in my pocket). If you’re following this blog, use caution not to take anything too seriously. I’m not sure which turns I’ll take, except to consider each intersection carefully, looking both ways before I cross the street.

An important part of this experience is to confer with wise and experienced people. Some of those people are friends who have a ton of knowledge and experience in owning their own business or consulting businesses. I talked at length with one friend last week who helped me identify some things that caused me to adjust my plan. As I sat down to begin and write out a business plan, knots began forming in my stomach, and I thought, “Dang. This is hard.” I began to question everything, and wondered if it’s possible to reach the destination I’m seeking.

I thought the same thing as I realized how lonely I feel during the day. I miss my co-workers and the camaraderie I had with them. When I was working, I longed for some breaks when I wasn’t interrupted and could focus for more than five minutes on a task. Now I long for an interruption after I’ve worked five minutes on a task. I want it all. I recognize the discipline needed to stay focused, the creativity it will take to feed my spirit with the energy I get from others, and that all of this has to be intentional in order to co-exist. I mentioned this aspect of working at home to my neighbor who is an at home dad. He said he finds that he spends a little more time talking with the cashiers at Safeway than he used to. Nothing against the Safeway cashiers. I’ve been going to the same Safeway for over 20 years and I would miss them if I moved. But I’m determined to be intentional and use my creativity that doesn’t include the Safeway cashiers. And yet… isn’t it just great to connect with people? I think I love them.

It’s just been a week, so I’m doing my best to grant myself a break. I’m in this weird place of knowing I’m in this season by choice and I’m on a mission, but I want to enjoy it, too. Like I’m heading down the road, but feel guilty when I stop for an ice cream cone. I want to write, but feel guilty if I do that, and read my bible, and make a dinner for a friend, get my hair done, and ride my bike. I want to free myself of those guilt emotions and find peace as I enjoy life and earn a living.

I’m working to sort out those emotions, but I recognize how easy it is to slip into patterns that I could regret. It’s been really hard to get myself to bed in time to get myself up around 5, the time I used to get up when I reported for work at 6:30. On days I rode my bike, I got up between 4:30 and 5. Because of that schedule I’ve earned an undeserved reputation of being a morning person and self disciplined. When one behaves so responsibly, it’s hard to convince anyone otherwise, but the truth is that I am not a morning person or self disciplined. I am determined, and that’s what drives me. I love to be up, so I guess I have to get up. Once I’m up, I love mornings and the solitude or productivity a morning gives me. I love to be productive, so I must get myself to bed. But I could watch TV, read, write, work on my t-shirt and party accessories business all night if there were no consequences to doing that.

WEEK ONE was getting my feet wet. WEEK TWO is stepping in a little deeper, with a little more knowledge, and committing myself to improved behaviors that will push me closer to: INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY.

Below is what I was able to achieve last week toward my business idea:

  • Discussed business idea with a few friends and listened to feedback.
    • This was invaluable. The business idea is the same, but I believe I’ve refined it after a couple conversations.
  • Met with graphic designer (friend) about logo idea.
  • Contacted insurance about commercial insurance for my business and car.
    • I think insurance will legitimatize my business and give customers assurance that their assets are protected. Also, since I’ll be using my car for business, it’s important that I am protected if something were to happen in the course of a work activity. I don’t want gaps in my insurance. Most auto insurance doesn’t cover personal vehicles when they’re used for work activities, and when people use their vehicles for business and only carry personal insurance, they’re putting themselves at risk.
  • Researched how to write a business plan and began writing it.
    • I Googled this and am going through each of the sections. The first is the Executive Summary. As I go through each section, I’m prompted to sort through and make decisions about each area, for example, pricing, scheduling, etc.
  • Researched and signed up for a scheduling system. I signed up for G Suite, but am not confident that’s the way to go.
  • Worked on design ideas for Christmas products for sales.
    • I worked in my Silhouette for some Christmas ideas to sell and worked on a product for a friend.
  • Worked a Nike Offsite event.
    • This was such a treat. The company with whom I worked was such a pleasure. From the collaboration and exploration of how to achieve the end goal to working with the personnel at the event. I got home around 11, and I used that late job to justify getting to bed late and getting up late. I’ll take anything I can get to justify a sleep in!
  • Exchanged emails with a friend for a Day Of wedding coordinator in August.
  • Purchased a Legal Zoom membership.
  • Spoke with attorney (referred to through Legal Zoom) about an LLC and trademarking my business name.
    • I learned that an LLC is the way I want to go because it will separate the business from my personal assets and protect me.

Some things I did that were not work related:

  • Read the bible.
    • This makes getting to bed early(ish) worth it. I’m at Job in a whole bible reading plan. I’m in year 2. Yikes. I loved the exchange between Job and Zaphor. Zaphor thinks he has the answers for Job, and when you read what he has to say, it seems Zaphor does have some good answers. But Job puts Zaphor in his place and tells him to mind his own business. What joy to see that people are people, in today’s world, and before Jesus’s time.
  • Made a Bday dinner for a friend.
    • So fun to make a meal for a friend and enjoy the process.
  • Yardwork, made a small dent in cleaning out Bridgette’s old bedroom, rode my bike, walked Winky, talked with friends on the phone, put up some fall decorations, went on a couple of walks with friends, took car in for service, got hair cut and colored, football game and food prep for the tailgate, and… drumroll please, went to Chick-Fil-A for the first time… and now I know. The chicken strips were so moist and succulent and the lemon slushy thing is to die for. They squeeze their lemons every day!

I gotta tell you. The work stuff I did is the stuff that gives me knots in my stomach. It’s like turning down a gravel road without street lights. The other stuff are things with which I’m familiar, so no knots. But knots and all, I’m not giving up. If it’s like anything else, the more I experience it, the less scary it will be. I’m counting on street lights in my future.

Now, on to Week 2!

To read about what got me here, read My Unexpected Season.

It was such a great mix of friends, family, work, personal tasks and ambitions, home maintenance, exercise, food, some tragedy (about Winky, but I’ll make that a separate post) etc. I made plans and I didn’t. I set my alarm and I didn’t. I did all these things, and there’s more I want to do! Like a great vacation spot that one leaves too soon, about this vacation I also say, ” I definitely want to come back some day.”

I don’t know what my favorite part was during my at home vacation (I guess it’s a staycation, but I’m so averse to trendy vernacular!). Every thing was so different from the daily demands of life, it was all awesome.

I created more products (but have to wait to share some of them) and continued exploration about the business side, which is not my favorite aspect of this side biz. I really love my new work space with my new stand up table my friend made for me. It’s making all the difference on my back, my mental state, and productivity.

Loving my work space.

A new product that I think is so cute!

I rode my bike a few times and once I stopped at Grand Central Bakery to eat their seasonal fruit coffee cake. It’s always between that and the brioche cinnamon roll, but when berries are in season, berries win. GCB isn’t an every day event, but I wasn’t on my way to work at 6:20 and I had just ridden my bike 10 miles, so I sat in a bakery and ate what I wanted in leisure. THIS IS VACATION!

I worked in the yard for hours, but not enough hours. I wacked, weeded, watered, moved and fertilized plants. I made a few bouquets for friends who could use some love. I worked in my friend’s yard and she treated me to steak and frites at Laurelhurst Market. I went to lunch with my former boss (she’ll appreciate me not using the word “old”) and I went to dinner with another friend and her husband. I went downtown spontaneously with a friend and split a lasagna at Piazza Italia, where it was fun to be served by an Italian waiter with a definite Italian accent. My friend and I talked about our lives over the last 6 months and then finished off our rendezvous with non dairy ice cream at Little Bean, a company that was created to change the world! I BBQed for myself and made some for my neighbors in exchange for some technology help. I visited with my sister and we ate pizza at Otto’s on Sandy Blvd. I experimented with my new Sea Beans I discovered at the McMinnville Farmer’s Market and made yummy salads.

This was only one victim of my hatchet session.

 

 

There are areas in my yard that I shake my head at, and then I look at this and am ok.

 

 

 

Sea Beans!

Yummy salad with sauteed Sea Beans, sauteed shitake mushrooms, power greens, red pepper, feta cheese, avacado, salt, pepper, and olive oil. 

Cilantro Chicken Marinade:
Cilantro, soy sauce, peanut oil, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes.

 

 

Cilantro chicken and roasted vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to Bradley’s church in Newberg and loved worshipping next to him. Jesus is the great redeemer and uniter of people, and in that moment of worship, I was more in love with my savior than I can express. The church is called Red Hills Foursquare Church and has a great energy. Somehow it’s comforting to discover he’s attending a Foursquare church, since Beaverton Foursquare is my home church, and was his when he was younger. We got to play Corn Hole and stand around and talk about nothing in particular with his friends. It was great. Bridgey’s been occupied for the last three weekends, so I’m looking forward to getting to see her soon, yet not soon enough.

Corn hole at church.

I called on neighbors to come take care of the biggest ugliest grossest spider that Emily (my friend’s daughter who lives with me) discovered in the bathtub. I’d sent out an SOS group text.  One neighbor came to remove the spider, put it in a jar, and gave it to his son. I was grateful for my neighbors who were willing to rescue me, because I honestly don’t think I can cope with a spider like this. I have new appreciation for my neighbors and may never move. I have a darling picture of my neighbor’s young son marveling at his new pet in the jar, but I can’t bring myself to post it. His son is cute, but I can’t look at a big spider, even in a photo.

A huge treat was to stay with two friends in a fancy yurt on private property. First we visited Rex Hill Winery. In a state where beer and wine are past times, too many other things are in competition for me, so it was lovely to sip, sit, and listen to the wine steward and talk with my friends under blue sky overlooking grapevines. Lunch was at Red Hills Market in Dundee where the salami in the sandwich was about a half a pound too much, but the Bloody Mary was perfect.

I think the bacon had a lot to do with this great drink.

We ate at Pura Vida in McMinnville for dinner, sat on top of the McMenamins rooftop for sunset, topped it off with lemon sorbet across the street, and headed back to our fancy yurt where we giggled our way to sleep.

I’m entering into a time of transition in my life that I won’t elaborate on right now, but the time was good to delve deeper into my side job and what I want to do. That sounds mysterious, yet it’s really just a time of determining where and what I want to do, and how to go about it. I was glad I was able to spend time taking further steps and contemplate some things. There’s more to do, so I’m hoping I keep my momentum. Writing, as it so often does, took a back seat, but I was able to also work on a writing project, and now I’m about to post!

Au revoir from Portland… I know that doesn’t make sense, but, saying it seems kind of like eating fruit coffee cake at 9am on a Tuesday.

PS: I am not a website programmer and I know the site is evidence of that. I hope you’ll bare with me and hopefully one day I will improve on that, too!

This week kind of killed me.  One minute I’m virtually talking trash to myself, and the next minute I’m singing my praises. My non crafty side asks what on earth I think I’m doing and my creative determined side pats me on the back when I have a finished product. I sound like a broken record, but I can’t say it enough. There are so many variables! Each project has a new twist that I’ve got to figure out. For example, I didn’t know that heat pressing over a seam would make one of those ugly seam marks we get when we iron. I had to research how to avoid that, which led me to purchasing heat press pillows. Then I had my blade inserted wrong, which led to having to take a couple of hours off of work so I could connect with Silhouette customer service, plus tons of wasted vinyl, and vinyl is money.

I know I sound grumpy as I work through this learning process. And at times I am super grumpy. I’m frustrated that I don’t know how to put vinyl on t-shirts, what settings to put on the Cameo machine for the various materials, and that I can’t see the cut marks to weed them off of their carrier. But then I come up with a design that I’m sure will please my friend (customer) and you’d think the Blazers won game 3 in the Western Conference Finals.

Or, I get perspective.

On Saturday I got to help at a fundraiser for an organization called Ethiopian Orphans Relief. I never thought I’d be helping with an organization about Ethiopian orphans. I have worked really hard to stay focused on the things that tug at my heart. I tend to be scattered with a lot of interests and I have to be dogged not to be distracted from the things that are already on my list of causes. It’s a challenge to know where to stop helping all the causes that need attention. I have a dream of starting an organization to help single moms who don’t have families to help them. They are in a sense orphans and I know God did not intend that anyone do life alone. The dream has so much potential, if only…

In the elevator from the parking garage I was making small talk with a couple dressed like they were country music fans. I was in downtown Portland and country music fans usually play in the suburbs or rural areas, yet, I’m definitely not in the know about where to go country dancing these days. The woman asked where I was going and when I heard myself say, “A fundraiser for Ethiopian orphans” I followed it with, “Really, I am. I mean, I’m helping at it.”

There are so many people in need close to home that I have this kind of promise to myself that I won’t get distracted by the needs across the world, when my neighbors are in need. That when my friend who is suffering from cancer and another good acquaintance recently died, that my energies will be put toward those things if I’m asked. With my sparse resources I have chosen Compassion First and Young Life as the two organizations I donate to consistently. And the way I work toward my dream of helping single moms, is to help single moms. When a single mom friend I know needs something, I do my best to be a resource for her. So, when I told the couple that I was going to a fundraiser for Ethiopian orphans, it sounded like I was trying to imitate a socialite in a movie, and I grappled to remedy it.

I wanted to explain to the couple that I was helping because the  co-founder of the organization introduced me to the Silhouette Cameo 3 that I now use for my business. She was integral in showing me what the machine was all about and I wanted to do something for her in return. But the elevator door indicated the conversation was over and we went on our separate ways. Which by the way, I was almost hit by a guy driving a big black SUV as I crossed the street (legally). Because I was voice texting the EOR founder as I crossed the street, my phone still has the words I was saying to the potential manslaughter criminal.

But he didn’t hit me (nor did he apologize, but a nice bystander witnessed my near death and comforted me by calling the driver a bad name) and on to the fundraiser I proceeded.

First, I have to say, it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in a nice hotel. The event was at the downtown Hilton. This sounds so ridiculous, but I didn’t realize that I’d missed being in a hotel. For awhile nice hotels caused me distress. I think I had a kind of PTSD about them after my divorce. I won’t go into that, but hotels had lost their innocence and I was happy to live a simple life where I could count on what I could see.

But I’m over my PTSD, and in fact had forgotten I’d ever had it. The evidence is how much satisfaction I had by just walking into the lobby and enjoying the luxury of design and service. The high ceilings, soft lights, and furniture design that reflects the current trends of mixing metals and wood. Oh, I loved it!

Working at the fundraiser was fabulous. The people I worked with care about their cause like I care about mine and it is equally legitimate. The organizers gave the guests good reason to spend their evening with them. The auction items were hard to say no to, and easy to say yes to. Guests were incredibly generous, as I observed when a dozen NOLA donuts went for $2800 and a three tiered chocolate cake went for $2700. The guests held back and only paid $700 for the bundt cake.

I love to watch people spend money at fundraisers. We can affect change in many ways, and sharing our money and for some, their wealth, is one of them. I was impressed and proud of my friend who makes such an impact for the orphans in Ethiopia, and grateful to discover this need and to bring it closer to home. And as always, perspective…

SILHOUETTE ITEMS

I’m sharing a few items I’ve made over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes I have to hold back posting them because it would spoil the surprise for someone.

No mistaking who this towel wrap is for.

Bridal shower cups

Bridal shower cups. I guess flamingos are a thing right now!

This is a yard sign flag. It got shipped to New Hampshire where my friend’s rock star sister graduated from NHSU.

School logo and colors

You wouldn’t normally put these flags in the toaster, but you can put them anywhere and everywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can so much happiness occur, two days in a row? Again, it has nothing to do with the typical things that produce happiness. Well, that’s not completely true. Food does typically make me pretty happy. But this is about more than food. It’s about using a piece of equipment at will, and achieving success. There’s a theme in these last two posts: use equipment and it works like it should. That makes me happy.

IMG_3166

I’ve had a charcoal BBQ for two years. The gas one died, and I didn’t want to deal with propane.  Bradley helped me at first with it, but since he’s moved I haven’t been successful with my attempts. I don’t know what guardian angel decided to tap me three times and grant my wish, but I’m happy about it. I longed to be able to come home, throw some charcoal on the grill, and cook me up some meat. My last birthday request from the kids was to teach me how to do it. My copy cat attempts from You Tube were failing me, so I’d hope my kids would be more successful. They must have decided that buying a gift was easier than figuring out the trick to a charcoal BBQ, because they didn’t come through with my request. I’m not complaining about the gifts I got, though. Bridgette’s got a great gift for gifts.

So, here is my success. And yes, it tasted as good as it looks. See below for my tips that I’m HAPPY to share.

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Lighting the Charcoal BBQ

Build the briquettes in a pyramid (got these instructions right off the bag). I purchased a cylinder when I bought the BBQ. It was recommended and I know a lot of people like them. But I wasn’t successful with it so I decided to do what the bag says.

Douse with BBQ fluid, about 10 seconds, placing it all over the briquettes. Don’t ever put the lighter fluid on top of burning briquettes. I’m not just saying this to protect myself from a lawsuit. I really believe it’s not a good idea.

Light the briquettes… light more than one. I lit as many as I could. The flame starts slow, so it’s not a problem to do this.

LEAVE THE LID OFF. The briquettes need oxygen.

Check on it in 15 mins or so. At this point I moved the briquettes around a little bit. I checked in 5 or so minutes, then spread the briquettes in a single layer (again, off the bag), but touching each other. I blew on them, to stimulate some flame. I’m not sure if that helped or not. It was a still night, so I decided to give it a little kick with my breath.

The fire seemed a little slow to get hot, so I placed the lid on, with the vent opened all the way. Remember, it needs oxygen. That seemed to get more flame going. Soon there was smoke, and I removed the lid, placed my chicken on the grill, and let ‘er cook. Flames began to ignite because of the drippings, so I played around with it, flipping the chicken occasionally. When the flames got too big, I returned the lid, and kept the vents open. That seemed to reduce the oxygen, but gave it enough to continue cooking. I really just watched it back and forth with lid on and off. In between I weeded my yard and talked on the phone with Bradley. I love to multi-task, and since I could smell the chicken cooking, I was feeling very accomplished.

CHICKEN RECIPE

I used 5 chicken thighs. I like ALL chicken. Mostly dark, but if white is cooked so it’s not over cooked, I like it, too. I put the pieces in a Zip Lock with about 2 T of olive oil, some garlic mixture (2 T?) I found in my cupboard, and half a lemon squeezed. I rubbed those all together while in the Zip Lock and voila (my computer doesn’t have the French accents), and that was it!

Happiness.