Florida

Two weeks ago, we set off for a vacation in Florida. For the purposes of this post we’ll pretend it was all that simple and didn’t involve many changes in plans and travel dates before we got to that point.

A few years ago, I would have definitely said I was not a beach person. Too hot. Too many people (wearing not enough clothes…). Sunburn. Sharks. Jellyfish. 100 foot tidal waves. You know, all the things sensible people are concerned about.

Then we discovered that you can go to the beach during a magical time of year called ‘off season’. The weather ranges from pleasant to tolerable and the people are few. Technically the risk of giant tidal waves is probably the same, but it turns out I can live with the sunburn, etc part of the list as long as I’m not sweating or socializing excessively.

It also turns out that my chronic health problems usually fade a bit when exposed to ocean air, plenty of natural vitamin D, and near constant ‘grounding’ as I go barefoot on the sand. Somehow, I have turned into a fan of the beach.

There’s not a whole lot to say about most of this trip specifically. We saw a couple of amazing sunsets, a double rainbow (though I think only one ever showed up in the picture), some cool looking skies, and a couple of shrimp boats (which look rather like pirate ships in my opinion). Not pictured, we also found a lot of nice seashells, and I read the next book in a favorite series while sitting on the beach.

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This was one of the few times the beach umbrella stayed anchored in the sand without blowing away…
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I tried to paint one of the shrimp boats we saw, and especially play off that resemblance to a pirate ship, but I was really unhappy with how my first attempt played out. Not only was I too rushed in mixing my colors, but the wind blew my paper around so much that I got accidental splotches of color in the wrong places from my paintbrush.IMG_3084

I repainted the picture later (on a screened in porch with a lot less wind) and was much happier with how it turned out. I’ve almost never tried to repaint the exact same picture (and probably don’t have the patience for it often) but in this case I loved getting the chance to make it a little more like what I saw in my head, and refine the idea based on what I did and didn’t like about the first one. The funny thing is, I was frustrated after my first attempt, but I think in the end I liked it better than if my first one had turned out well enough to leave it at that.

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Always Winter

It is culturally unacceptable to be cheerful about winter time. People bundled deep in layers of coats and scarves swathe themselves with grumbling as if in added protection against the cold. They range from startled to offended if you dare to suggest that the snow is actually rather pretty. And that’s on an average winter.

When the temperatures stay low for longer than normal and the clouds are thick with any manner of winter precipitation about to drop down on our heads and power lines, the only acceptable response is grumbling. After all, clearly, if God really loved us, it would be spring. Right. Now. (And probably forever.) A few little rays of sun between the clouds are not going to cut it when we know we deserve better.

And obviously, with our clear vantage point on all eternal knowledge, we know exactly what God should do if He really loved us.

Or at least, isn’t that what we’re really saying when we complain about what God is sending us?

Now I know everyone is rolling their eyes, because I’m that crazy winter person who really does think the snow is pretty and rarely gets cold and doesn’t even like summer all that much. But before you tune me out entirely (and leaving aside the fact that even I reach the point where I start thinking green plants might just be prettier than gray slush), let me remind you that I know something about waiting.

I understand being stuck in a season that you can’t change that feels like it should have been over a long time ago. I know what it feels like to ache, not in a theoretical sense, but in a physical, ‘I wonder if this is what a heart attack feels like’ kind of pain in the chest, every time you really know that God is saying ‘not yet’. I know that feeling of convincing yourself that you’re really perfectly fine and being slightly exasperated to find tears rolling down your face anyway.

And if you think I’m going to try to downgrade Winter to the status of a lesser problem, you’re mistaken. Winter may qualify as a major trial in your life, but even if it’s a small trial I wouldn’t write it off as nothing.

Sometimes the ‘big’ trials in life are, in a way, the easiest to deal with. They come at you head on, over and over again, and you can’t ignore them or pretend that you’re not supposed to be dealing with them. I can go straight from working through big trials in my life, and finding a place of peace and calmly trusting, to being completely exasperated that I can’t find a clean pair of socks.

Because overarching life stages are one thing, and God probably has those planned out, even when I don’t like it so well. But really, I have a morning schedule to keep, and I can’t do that if I spend ten minutes trying to find a decent pair of socks to wear, and since I don’t know of any huge life altering consequences to having clean socks, clearly God just doesn’t care enough to arrange these details for me, exactly the way I want them and on my own schedule.

Clearly.

Not like there’s any obvious pride issues that need to be dealt with there or anything…

But the funny thing is, if we can just accept the fact that God really does know what He’s doing, that He really does love us, and it’s all part of this huge happy ending fairy tale He’s writing in the world, it changes how we see things. Instead of being an insult to the eternal summer we think we deserve, that tiny ray of sunlight between the clouds is a promise that it won’t be gray forever.

Daily Thanks #27: Homemade Ketchup

This morning I made ketchup before breakfast.

We’ve been out of homemade ketchup for a few days, and also out of the tomato paste I use to make the ketchup. While we do have a half bottle of store bought ketchup sitting in the fridge from before I started making my own ketchup, it is increasingly just not worth it to the eat the store bought stuff.

I’ve become accustomed to thinking of ketchup as a healthy addition to a meal, an option for adding a probiotic boost to my food rather than a shot of chemicals. The idea of squirting corn syrup and msg all over my food suddenly makes the whole idea less appealing.

So, when we got tomato paste back in the house I took my first opportunity to make a new batch of ketchup while frying up some (organic) potatoes for breakfast.

It’s really good to be able to have healthy yummy food around the house, and to be so used to it that it’s a shock to have to go without it temporarily is clearly a blessing I should appreciate more often. (Did I just say I should make fried potatoes more often? I think maybe that is what that means…)

Daily Thanks #25: Sick Days

I know it sounds odd, but it’s true. I really am thankful for sick days. And not even just the fact that Colton and I actually get the opportunity to take a day off when we’re sick, though I understand that’s a privilege in itself.

After Colton spent the weekend taking care of me while I crashed on the couch trying not the think about food, he finally came down with the stomach bug today. I was feeling better enough to tackle some laundry and dishes, but still pretty tired. He came home from work about lunchtime and I got to spend most of the rest of the day just hanging out my favorite person in the world.

We talked about nothing in particular, but whatever it was must have been funny because Colton made me laugh a lot. I fell asleep while he watched a movie, then he told me all the good parts while I folded laundry, all to the permeating smell of peppermint oil.

Being sick is not much fun, but I have to say, sick days are pretty good anyway.

Daily Thanks #24: Milk Frothers

Many months ago I picked up a cheap milk frother on sale. It was a little wobbly and despite being touted as useful for beating an egg it froze up in any liquid thicker than milk. Still, it produced a reasonable layer of froth on top of my flavored milk steamers and hot chocolate, and I used it fairly often for such purposes.

And then it died. Whether it simply succumbed to the rigors of months of frothing milk or got water inside it’s motor housing I have no idea, but one thing was clear: I wanted a new milk frother. And, having already established that I would use a milk frother on a regular basis, this time I was willing to shell out money for a shiny new stainless steel Aeorolatte milk frother with four and half star rating on Amazon.

I waited eagerly for my new milk frother to arrive (along with my new cleaver and metal basket for my kitchen scrubbies). By the time it did arrive I had no milk in the house and had to wait until I got more. (Technically I did have sour milk in the house, but as there is clearly no point in frothing sour milk, it is irrelevant to this post.)

By the time I got more milk I was, unbeknownst to myself at the time, on the brink of coming down with the stomach flu. I drank a sip of milk and my stomach *hurt*. I decided this was a bad time to fix myself a latte or frothed hot cocoa.

When I finally got past the stomach pain of the bug I had, having eaten not only rice, but meat and potatoes and butter, I knew exactly what I wanted: a peppermint steamer. The new milk frother didn’t wobble at all and it whirred with a power suggesting that it might not balk at scrambling several eggs at once. It created a thick layer of, not just froth, but full blown foam on my peppermint steamer. It was amazing.

So here’s you, odd little gadget that looks like a battery powered whisk. You make this world a place with a little more foam on lattes and peppermint steamers and hot chocolate, and that is something this world needs very much indeed.

Daily Thanks #23: Rice

I’m not normally a rice person. I can tolerate it if it’s covered with lots of Chinese sauce and meat, but even then I’d normally rather eat the meat and sauce without rice. And if it comes to just choosing a carb I’d rather have any form of potato or garlic bread or plain bread and butter or corn pudding or millet or… you get the idea.

But when you come down with an odd form of the stomach flu where your stomach doesn’t tolerate food but forgets to shut off the ‘hungry’ switch, and you haven’t eaten anything solid except frozen banana puree (which is actually pretty good, but barely qualifies as solid) all day long, rice becomes an amazing substance worthy of sonnets.

Rice. It’s what’s for dinner.