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Doing Time

He’s locked up
but you’re the one in chains,
anger binding you.
After everything he’s stolen
all the hurt he’s caused
all the second chances he’s squandered.
The audacity to ask for commissary.

But you see him lying there
on a dirty twin-sized mattress,
trying to lose himself
in the worn pages of a Grisham novel.
Rowdy gang members arguing and
throwing things within inches of his face.
Cellie bragging, his old lady
got him some rah-man noodles.

Your tears fall
knowing those noodles could mean
his belly is warm and full,
that he is loved.
But that cracks the door open
and soon a dollar becomes thousands
somehow.

And when he screams,
I’m not asking you for anything!
You almost believe him.
But then the anger comes back
to wake you up,
protect you.
It says
I don’t care!
You
 did this to yourself!

Then you see him clearly,
clean sheets
plenty of food
spending his days like a retiree
playing cards games and
watching Judge Judy.

Chocolate Power Balls

I’m no dietician, but I try to eat healthy. It’s hard because I have a major sweet tooth, and chocolate is a required part of my daily diet. Don’t argue with me. I need it to survive, I swear.

So, I set out to make a tasty chocolatey snack packed with as much good stuff as possible. I’m not saying they’re truffles (they’re NOT), but they hit the spot for me and are much more satisfying than a candy bar. I can even eat 2-3 of these for lunch and not be ready to eat my arm off at the end of the day. That’s saying a lot.

Chocolate Power Balls Recipe:

2 C old fashioned oats (uncooked)
4t chia seeds
3t dried spinach powder
3T cacao (not cocoa) powder
2 scoops protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
1/4 C almond butter
1T agave syrup or honey
2T coconut oil (melted)
Dark chocolate chips (either mini or chopped big ones)

Using a food processor or blender, blend oats into a course flour. Mix in chia, spinach, cacao, and protein powder. Add all other ingredients except chocolate chips and blend well. Add chocolate chips at the end and mix gently. Make into balls/domes using cookie dough scoop. Makes 15 balls. Store in refrigerator.

Tips:

  • If you want to make these more indulgent, you have to sacrifice some of the healthy stuff. Cut back on the dried spinach powder a little, and replace almond butter and coconut oil with 1/2 cup peanut butter.
  • Check your teeth! Chia seeds expand and can be pretty sneaky, so scope yourself out before smiling at people.
  • Dried spinach powder is pretty great. You can order it online and sneak it into any protein ball, smoothie, or sauce. It smells terrible, but flavor-wise, it seems to blend in really well when you add it to things, just changes the color a bit.
  • Cacao (ka-kow) powder has lots of antioxidants and minerals and a deep chocolate flavor. It comes from the cacao bean, just like cocoa powder, but it is cold-pressed and unroasted, while cocoa powder is roasted at high temperatures. The cacao way of preparation means it is less processed and apparently healthier (again, not a dietician). I frankly think it tastes way better. Order it online unless you have a great health food store nearby.

The Tightrope of Parenting

I participate in a group at church in which parents get together to discuss random life challenges while our kids attend Sunday School. Even though I can’t tell you the names of half the people in the group (and it’s like 5 people), I truly look forward to the conversations each week. I always end up learning something.

One week, a mom relayed a story about her preteen son getting into a fight. Or, rather, getting punched. Her reaction was very different from that of her husband. She was horrified by the fact that this happened at all and wanted to talk it out with the aggressor’s family. Her husband thought their son needed to stand up for himself and was disappointed he didn’t return the punch. As a group, none of us knew which one was right, and the mom herself had mixed feelings. Initially, I chalked this up as one more reason I’m happy I have two girls – less likelihood for physical confrontation. But that’s a stereotype, and even if it’s statistically true, having daughters does not make me immune from being faced with tough parenting choices.

Parenting is like walking a tightrope without a net. It’s a constant balance between being a confidant and a disciplinarian. The one who calms fears and the one who commands respect. The arms that hold you and the arms that push you forward. Should we shelter them from the storm or push them out into the rain? My philosophy sounds something like this – let them watch the rain from indoors while you teach them to build their own umbrella.

We can’t stop the rain from falling or the punches from being thrown. All we can do is build up our children so they are able to decide for themselves how to handle it when it happens. We may or may not agree with how it turns out, but at least the situation was theirs to own. They’ll never learn from our mistakes the way they will learn from their own. Our job is to help them process it all. Teach them to breathe. Help them discover who they are.

Kids are not a demonstration of our successful parenting techniques. They are people with personalities, tendencies, and genetic intricacies we will never fully understand. To think we can form them like balls of clay is absurd, and if you try, you will be constantly frustrated. Instead, let us treat them like the individuals they are, leading them down the wide path of human decency, making room for the millions of ways there are to walk it.

Easier said than done, I know…

Do Better.

In the 80’s
Our dads, cheek pressed to ours,
showed off his newborn for the camera
while cigarette smoke curled around
his overgrown mustache and into his baby’s eyes.

Now we know better.

In the 90’s
we used dozens of syllables to justify
the uninvited advances
of our overly excited colleagues
when “assault” would have done just fine.

Now we know better.

On the eve of 2000
we all held our breath,
divided in our belief of whether
the world as we knew it was about to end
when the clock reset to double 0.

Now we know better.

And now, we watch the oceans rise,
icebergs replaced by fatbergs.
We live through droughts and poison our water,
expecting Earth to heal herself.

As our angel laureate once said,
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.

So, what’s our excuse?

 

Pork Chili Verde

Winter has finally caught up with us here in South Dakota. I would say we’re lucky it took so long, but it’s hard to feel grateful for good weather after Thanksgiving if you understand climate change. After you ponder that for a minute, take a deep breath, then cheer up with a comforting bowl of soup.

Pork Chili Verde is a product of my husband smoking a giant pork loin and creating too many leftovers. I tried to get creative. While you can certainly pair a nice pork loin sandwich with some roasted sweet potatoes, that can only last for a meal or two. Then it’s time to spice it up.

This recipe is between a soup and a chili, really. It’s broth-based, but the creamed corn and “green sauce” give it a thicker consistency, and if you garnish with sour cream (you should), I think you have to call it a chili.

Pork Chili Verde

2 cups (or more) diced pork loin (smoked, or just cooked in some way)
2 diced bell peppers – one green, one colored
1 can creamed corn
1 can Great Northern beans
1 cup “green sauce” (your choice of salsa verde, green enchilada sauce, green taco sauce)
32 oz chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1 T Cumin
1 T onion powder (or you can use actual sautéed onion)
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)

Throw everything into a pot and simmer for 2 hours or until bell peppers are soft. (Or throw in crock pot on low for 4 hours).

Garnish with sour cream and tortilla strips/chips.

 

Easy Roasted Sweet Potatoes for Lunch

I never liked sweet potatoes growing up. They were weird and mushy, and people would always try to cloak them in marshmallows. I wasn’t going to fall for it. Then one day, I met the rustic, vibrant, self-assured tuber that is the roasted sweet potato. Allow me to introduce you as well.

How to make them:

Preheat over to 425.

Peel, then dice 2-3 sweet potatoes into relatively similarly-sized pieces*.

Put potatoes on oiled cookie sheet.

Drizzle or spray oil over potatoes.

Add salt and pepper.

Mix by hand until evenly coated.

Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender and slightly browned.

*If you scrub the skin well, you don’t have to peel them, but most people prefer them without skin.

Once you have roasted the sweet potatoes, your options are endless. They last a week in the fridge and can be reheated as a simple side. They also add great body to chili (recipe to come). One of my favorite combinations, though, is roasted sweet potato and a runny egg yolk. Mmmmmm. So good. So healthy.

Want to add a little extra? Roast up some diced bell pepper with the sweet potato. Add avocado on top of the egg. Use some hot sauce.

Lunch is served.

I’m Done with Perfection-Induced Hatred

Hello there, mom with a baby on your hip, hair cut stylishly to your chin with bangs sweeping gently across your perfectly threaded eyebrows. You patiently smile at your toddler, crawling around your platform booties, reaching up toward your new Kate Spade bag. The wide windows of your recently built home backlight your silhouette, curved in every spot it should be and nowhere that it shouldn’t.

Today, I make you this promise. I will not hate you for being perfect. I will not tear you down for waking up early to go out for a run or to make a green smoothie. I will not judge you for paying attention to fashion trends or question you for being able to live on less sleep than a giraffe. I will not envy you for being able to work full-time or stay home more than full-time with the grace of Dutchess Kate. And I will not resent you for being better at social media photography than I will ever be.

I’m done with perfection-induced hatred. It’s hurtful for you and me personally, and for women in general. Henceforth, I shall respect the game you bring to Insta, learn from the organic treats you provide at Girl Scouts, and engage with you like the human being you are. I will not measure myself against you anymore. This world needs us both.

Izzy and the Grumpy Cloud

I wake in the morning, and what do I see?
A cloud full of grump hanging right over me!

“Be gone, Grumpy Cloud!” I say to the fluff.
Even steam from my shower just isn’t enough.

As Dad drives to school, it follows the car.
We have to act quickly, we’re not going far.

“Go faster!” I urge him. He won’t even speed.
At this sluggish rate, will I ever be freed?

I need him to hurry, but what can I do?
Come on! I can’t stand it. “DAD, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”

I shout with no warning; a total surprise,
Then Dad turns around, and tears fall from my eyes.

“Just take a deep breath,” Dad says, “stay cool.”
I tell him I’m sorry, then run to the school.

I slouch in my seat throughout math class and reading.
Ignore it. Ignore it. I keep on repeating.

I make it to snack time, but crackers and juice
Are hard to enjoy with this cloud on the loose.

Then outside at recess, I’m running around,
I trip on the cloud, and I crash to the ground.

I wail out in pain with my cheeks glowing red,
But that cloud keeps on growing right over my head.

This cloud must be stopped, but it keeps getting darker.
I head to the art room, and take out a marker.

I map out my plan with the perfect precision.
This war can be won by the smallest decision.

My next stop is gym where I gather my tools.
Will it count as a win if I’m breaking the rules?

I knot up my jump rope without being seen,
and I lasso that cloud like a rodeo queen.

I’ll tie it up tight to the side of the bleachers.
It’s just a balloon, I’ll tell all the teachers.

It grows even bigger as I heave and I ho,
and then the rope breaks, and I scream out, “NO!”

I’m sent to the office and ordered to wait.
The principal’s calling my parents? Oh great.

Dad picks me up, and I’m covered in cloud.
Although he is mad, he says nothing out loud.

Now back in my house, I’m defeated at best.
Will I ever get rid of this terrible pest?

And here comes my sister, worst pest in the world.
A bundle of drama that looks like a girl.

“Go away, Gwennie!” I shoo her like flies.
But watching her face, I soon realize

She sees my cloud too, and she’s not impressed.
She sticks out her tongue, and she thumps on her chest.

She charges ahead like a knight off to battle,
But in place of a sword is a pink baby rattle.

Backward and forward, her footwork’s quite grand;
she’s slapping the cloud with the back of her hand.

Oh my, what a scene! As I step back and see,
I start to feel giggles. He he he he…

HAHA HA HA HA, Mom and Dad join in.
I can’t hardly breathe as I say, “Gwendolyn!”

She stops when I point and she looks at her foe.
I know how to make this old grumpy cloud go!

“I’ve got it!” I say, and then drop to my knees.
I tickle her tummy and give her a squeeze.

The giggles we’re making are rising like bubbles.
The cloud’s disappearing, and so are my troubles.

We’re laughing so hard that my eyes start to tear
Then I look to the sky, and I notice it’s clear!

So now the cloud’s gone, and the sun’s shining bright,
I realize it never had a chance in this fight

I just need to focus on all that is good
‘Cause laughter does more than a cloud ever could.

Get a Massage – 3 Things You Should Know

I am an expert at receiving massages. My qualifications include receiving many massages, talking about receiving massages, and now, writing about receiving massages. Recently, I was directed my a medical professional to get a massage every other week. It was by and large the most welcomed medical advice I have ever received.

Assuming you are not one of those people who doesn’t like to get massages (Note: the only reason I know these unicorns exist is because I’m related to one  – not by blood though, and I think that matters), receiving a professional massage is something you MUST do. If you have never had a professional massage, there are three things you should know.

  1. You will be almost completely naked with a stranger.

Don’t worry! You get undressed by yourself (most people keep their undies on) and you are under the warm sheets before the massage therapist comes back into the room. The sheet will cover your entire body except for the part that is currently being massaged. Most massage therapists are really great about maintaining your modesty and even look the other way when you roll over onto your stomach, which they typically direct you to do halfway through. And don’t worry about being cold, the table warmer is delightful.

  1. There will be good ones and bad ones.

Take recommendations from people you trust to find a good one. You will have your fair share of bad massages. They typically involve chasing some sort of groupon deal and ending up at an abandoned strip mall in a room where the music cuts in and out, the sheets are scratchy, and flannel blankets are nailed over the windows as curtains. You will be fairly certain you entered a serial killer’s den and instead of relaxing, you will spend the entire massage gauging exactly how loud you would have to scream for anyone to hear you. It’s not just the atmosphere though. The massage therapist is a heavy nose breather. It will be like his nostrils are too small, but he doesn’t want to breath through his mouth, so the velocity and overall force of the nose-breathing is out of control. *Shudder* This is the last time you buy a groupon massage.

You will likely also run into the Feather Duster, the Punisher, the Yogi, and the Jabberbox. You can tell the Feather Duster you like deep pressure, but she’ll never touch your knots. You might as well have your six year old niece give you a massage. It’s cheaper. The Punisher does the opposite. She will take out all of her aggression on you, tempting your reflex to punch her in the gut, but if you breathe through it, you will feel so good afterwards.

The Yogi spends more time stretching your limbs than massaging them, which can be nice, but maybe not what you paid for, and the Jabberbox is, well, chatty. The good thing about the Jabberbox is that you can usually shut that down pretty easily by just not responding or politely saying, “this feels so good, I just can’t even talk.” (Only 1 out of 10 times will that backfire and cause him to quit doing such a good job in favor of a conversation.)

A lot of massages will be Chicken Salad. Good, but not memorable. The memorable ones will probably be the Free Spirit and the Hobbyist. The Free Spirit believes massage is her calling, and she’ll treat you like the spiritual being you are. Aromatherapy concoctions chosen specifically for your aura, a complementary psychic reading, and she might even walk on your back as she practices the ancient art of ashiatsu massage. Oh, and she’ll think you are weird for leaving your underwear on.

Now, the Hobbyist. Don’t fault the Hobbyists. Being a massage therapist is usually an entrepreneurial situation, and the Hobbyists need to maintain a separate full-time job to pay the bills. The good news is the Hobbyist is usually very talented and passionate about massage. The problem is that she doesn’t have the time to work on the business aspect. So you arrive, maybe at her home massage studio, and she is not there. Your body is now shaking with disappointment, which makes you feel like an indulgent princess, sending you through the McDonald’s drive through for a conciliatory ice cream. Halfway through your McFlurry, she calls, saying she got hung up at her job and could you come back over. You do, of course, and she cuts your massage short since it’s now time to get supper on the table.

  1. It is worth it.

Someday, you will find the Perfect Professional massage therapist. He will talk just enough at the beginning to make you feel comfortable, then shut up. She will make you breathe through deep pressure when it benefits you, but ensure you walk out feeling relaxed instead of beat up. He will use the right amount of oil, leaving you feeling moisturized but not slimy. She will ensure the music is relaxing, continuous, and not interrupted by Pandora commercials. He will focus on your problem areas, but always make time for your feet. She will send you out the door with a bottle of water. Most importantly, you will feel amazing.

 

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