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The Tao of the Panned Cake

I’ve been on a lifelong quest to make the perfect pancake.  I crave fluffy, light, toasty edges with blueberries or chocolate chips, dripping with real maple syrup.  I tried mixes, different recipes and even the kind you add water and shake.  Still, mine were hockey pucks landing in your gut with a thud.  My tribe would consume them, game faces on, then lay on the couch to let the boulders pass.

Recently I’ve become reacquainted with the Me that liked to cook and make things from scratch.  Seeking to discover the holy grail of panned cakes, I looked for the perfect recipe.  I enlisted the tribe to taste and critique, rather than suffer and hide.  Finally, with a few tweaks I landed on the PERFECT pancake recipe.  (Recipe at the end of this post if you are ready for pancake greatness.)

I have a teenager (!), an athlete and a husband who has rediscovered his love of the gym, therefore, when I make these I do a triple batch.  It means I’m flipping for almost an hour and there may (or may not) be some leftover to toast another day.  I have plenty of time to engage in a little griddle side meditation.  So I offer you: The Tao of the Panned Cake.

  1.  When the heat is too high, the cook is too quick leaving burns and goopy centers.
  2.  Too much mixing and fussing makes tough dough.  Leave it be and it will be.
  3.  Sometimes you have to hide the add-ins (chocolate chips or berries) so they flavor the whole pancake.  If not, they burn and become bitter.
  4.  Many kinds of leavening make a lighter cake.

I can understand the heat being too high.  I have burnt out more than once in church, school, family and jobs.  It left me with some crunchy edges that were a bit sharp.  My center has been goopy with compromise or unwillingness to take a stand and stay.

I haven’t blogged because I’ve been fussing with it too much.  I’ve been comparing my stuff with all those in blogosphere who have platforms, brands and other fancy ingredients.  I need to just be and it will be.

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Part of what makes our lives a little sweeter are the small lessons, gifts and experiences we tuck away.  My boys may not know the sleepless nights when I prayed over them, but I will.  Many have passed from our lives, yet the memories linger like Dad’s cologne on my cheek when he would kiss me goodbye.  I just had a quick call with a cousin who is a sister who, for years, I was a little intimidated by.  Now I celebrate her life and tribe as much as my own.

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I come from a long line of cynics, skeptics and professional melancholies.  We joked my mother could ruin a parade.  Depression is a badge we wear to show, “We have to take care of ourselves because no one else will!” (said in the huffiest, clutch your pearls voice imaginable).  I need to laugh, and play, and joke and make messes.  I need to lighten the load which is heavy enough without me adding any more weight.  I have kids who are wicked funny and a husband who is as clever as he is cute.  I have puppies who are great conversationalists (no, really, I speak Doxie).

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So, friend, do you have anything to add to my Tao of the Panned Cake?  Or will you try the recipe and laugh if it doesn’t turn out?  Will you let it be what it will be?  Please share your add-ins.

The recipe is below. 

Holy Grail Pancakes

 

  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder 
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 cups milk, plus more if needed for thinning 
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or other add in)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the griddle (My tribe doesn’t like them to be cooked in butter on the griddle~crazy, I know~they like the spray so either will work)
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients with a whisk until bubbly.
  2. Melt butter and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  Use whisk to aerate dry ingredients.
  4. Heat griddle to medium high.  Grease with butter or non-stick spray.
  5. Slowly pour in wet to the dry and mix only until just combined.  (Don’t worry it will be lumpy but that’s part of the magic.)
  6. Gently drizzle in butter and stir until butter is incorporated.
  7. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until you see some bubbles on top.
  8. Pour batter on griddle.
  9. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp (or so) mini-chips onto each.  Dunk and swirl them with a knofe so they are covered in batter.
  10. Flip when edges are dry and bubbles are on top.
  11. Keep warm until serving with REAL maple syrup.  (My tribe each has their own way to eat these-by hand, dipped in syrup, cut with butter and syrup…you decide.)
  12. Makes around 26-30 pancakes depending on size.

 

 

Farewell Frank

Fifteen years ago we met.  You stood tall and proud above all the others.  I couldn’t help but fall in love with you.

We napped well.  I think it was your super power.  I once called you furry valium, able to calm even the turbulent storms.

We traveled, sharing you with friends and family.  You loved New York City with all it’s smells and huge park.  We kept each other company that trip when I couldn’t walk.  You didn’t mind, it meant another nap.

When people met you, they couldn’t help but hold you or scratch your ears.  You reciprocated by making sure every crumb was tasted and accounted for.

The kids asked if you were their furry brother.  We said, “What do you think?”.  They decided yes.

When Dad got sick, you made it your mission to calm and comfort.  The tenderest memory I have of that terrible time, was you, cuddling beside Dad.  You knew when to walk softly and were always up for a post-chemo nap.

Anne LaMott has written that the love of a dog is a living reminder of the unconditional love God has for us.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  What I do know is the love you gave to us and ours wasn’t always motivated by treats.  It often came just in time accompanied by a cuddle and a sloppy kiss.

Today was a terrible day.  We had to let you nap forever-free from pain.  When we came home, we napped though it was a little colder without you under the covers.

Farewell Frank.  There will never be another like you.

A Clean Slate

I washed over 100 pounds of laundry.  I took over an entire corner of the laundromat.  I needed a clean slate.

My laundry is made of rabbits, multiplying at lightning speed.  Though I have inquired, the children can’t explain why their socks inhabit everywhere but the hamper.  Life and a general lack of a home management plan (that’s a thing—still don’t have one), created mountains of laundry on every floor of the house.  I packed it up in minivan sized trash bags and several tubs.  Three hours later I had a clean slate.

It’s a new year.  I have a new degree.  I’m looking for a new job.  New seems to be a theme for me.  However, if you hold tight to the old, there is no room for the new.

Here’s my top three ideas in my clean slate.

#1: Stepping out.

I am standing at the foot of the stairs.  If I grip the handrail, I’ll never ascend.  I’ll be stuck on the first step.  I’ll be safe.  However, I’ll miss what’s at the top of the stairs-a new career, responsibilities, self-image and the future. Seeking the new means stepping up to seek what’s possible.

#2: Endings are necessary.

I’ve been studying the book, “Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud.  Endings are a powerful part of growth.  Too few endings and your life is full of clutter.  Too many done poorly can drain your spirit and take away vital resources for growth.

#3: Play.

My 9-year-old tried to teach me Pokemon.  I had to wear reading glasses to read the cards.  Despite having a master’s degree, I couldn’t figure it out.  img_3249-2

We turned our attention to SkipBo, a game largely requiring the ability to count to 12.  He has beaten me 7 out of 10 games, a fact he doesn’t hesitate to remind me of-7 out of 10.  However, each time, even in the face of crushing defeat, I found myself relaxing, smiling, and leaving the table with a fuller heart.  Play reminds us not everything is life or death.  It reminds us of the wonder of a game well-played and the sound of laughter from those we love.

After one day, I have a full hamper from the ‘rabbits’.  However, I also have a full heart, ready to take the next step.  I leave behind and end things which have held me back.  I find reasons to play and vow one day (shakes fist to the heavens) to defeat Caden at SkipBo.

Share in the comments how you are stepping into the new year.  What does a clean slate look like for you?

 

Enough, Already

Over coffee my friend L and I were discussing the myriad of weddings she was in and how often people asked/pressured/judged her for not having a +1…yet.  It’s very much a desire of her heart, unfortunately bruised by well-meaning, yet subtly judgemental comments.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. “You know dear, the bible says if you delight yourself in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Subtext IF you REALLY delighted yourself in the LAWD you would already be a +1).
  2. “It happened so quick for me.  Just when I stopped looking there he was.” (Stop looking so desperate dear and he’ll magically appear.)

In the interest of science, I googled how many books/blogs, etc. related to this subject.    I started with men: how to become a husband/pray for future wife…there were FIVE total.    Women praying for their future husbands/becoming a better soon to be wife/get a husband…I stopped counting after SEVEN PAGES of links.  It’s a clear cultural signal to women.

How often, as women of faith, do we focus on how we AREN’T enough?   We focus on how to be a better mother, a better wife, a better soon to be wife or a better singleton waiting to become a wife.  The message is clear: we aren’t enough without a +1.

In one of my favorite passages of scripture, Jesus meets a woman at a well.  This violated every cultural and religious norm of the day (Jesus as rebel…my favorite!).  He asked her to get him a drink and to go and get her husband.  She told him she didn’t have any.  In response to her honesty , He gave her one of the greatest revelations in scripture-a promise that we would never be thirsty again when we are a +1 to Jesus.  (John 4)  The woman went on to transform her city with this powerful message.  Note, she didn’t go on to get married THEN transform her city.

I know Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful and multiple thereby setting the precedence that all should have a +1.  So then, what if the +1 isn’t around anymore, there isn’t one, right now, or ever?

My friend, KL, from Montana (sounds so cool to say that) is a writer, on staff at the largest churches in her town, an actress and the fiercest, fairy of awesome you could meet.  She recently posted this on her FB page:

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These are two talented, smart, beautiful inside and out women who both were considered lacking because as Christian young women the most important thing is to find a husband.  They are somehow considered less without a +1.

ENOUGH ALREADY!

For L, KL, and every one of my ovarian sisters I want to tell you something: YOU ARE ENOUGH.  Just as you are.  In your sweats, crying over Gilmore Girls reruns.  Working out at 4 a.m. so you can sparkle through your day.  Suiting up for the job.  Driving your son to fly across the country to start a new life.  You are enough for God.  You are enough to me.

This week let’s pinkie swear (because that’s what girls do…boys do the spit in the palm thing…seriously…ew.)  Let’s pinkie swear to be a little kinder to ourselves and our sisters.  Let’s ignore the messages subtle and loud that try to tell us we are not enough.

I’ll close with a quote from L that made me laugh so hard I had to pee.  “Timothy Keller’s podcast won’t help me meet my husband!”  No, a podcast won’t do that.  But maybe if we focus on here and now, we’ll get to meet ourselves and realize we are more than enough.

Rising Again

Meet MJ.  She was born three days ago.  Here she is smiling at her Pap’s deep voice telling her how beautiful she is.  I like to think she is in agreement as the world has yet to tell her otherwise.

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Her grandmother, J, had to leave just before her granddaughter’s arrival to take chemo.  J is in a lifetime battle with cancer.  A few months ago, it didn’t look as though she would ever meet MJ.  She was the first to hold MJ other than Mommy and Daddy and the first to hold her every chance she gets.

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This is Ron, her only Uncle.  He brought her a balloon to the hospital because it’s what Nana would have done.  She can’t, so he did.  A few years ago, it didn’t look as though MJ would have any uncles.  The one she does have can’t stop smiling and talking about his ‘peanut’.

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This is Caden and Ian, her only cousins…so far.  MJ’s Aunt T is freezing her eggs so she can bring another cousin to MJ.  Aunt T is tough and has kicked breast cancer…twice.  An award-winning baker, Aunt T told MJ all about the cakes they will make together, when she can eat them, of course.

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This is me telling MJ her first story.  It was about her crazy Auntie who will tell too many stories and feed her too much sugar.  I told her she has a future and a hope and that we are so thankful God lent her to us.

Her birth has filled us all with a sense of wonder (and not simply because her mother delivered in less than 12 hours like a rock star).  We keep hugging and crying as if the Steelers have won another SuperBowl (the only other time I have seen her daddy cry).

MJ is inspiring me to write new stories as part of LessMoreAbundantly.  Less heartache, more joy and abundant hope.

Circumstances of the past few years have broken us all.  In our brokenness, cracks visible and invisible alike, we have learned we can still smile, still love and ultimately be still and know that our lives are not our own.

Our family is rising again.  Not like a phoenix from the ashes, that is too complete a metaphor.  Rather we are taking the ashes, mixing them with tears and time, and using it to fill the cracks.  Discovering, as we put ourselves back together, that we cannot be broken in the same place, in the same way, ever again.

Some pieces we are leaving on the side of the road as we dare to take a step.  We walk, alongside little feet, into a future only dreamed about and whispered into God’s ear.

I love you, little peanut.  I pray you would have less heartache than we have seen, more love than you could ever imagine and an abundance of adventures.  I pray you would know that together we can walk through anything.

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Mother’s Day

“I haven’t slept in weeks,” the beautiful woman shared from across the blue covered picnic table.  A mother to a 17 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 month old-all foster to adopted children.  None from her body.  However, in the blue bruises under her sleep deprived eyes and hair in need for highlights, the grays peeking through, I only saw a compatriot in the trenches of diapers and attitudes and messes.

It took many years before we saw an ultrasound from my husband’s sibling.  They were told it would probably never happen, and yet it did.  The fall will bring a miracle baby into our family.

My dearest manager at work became a step-mother to an 11 year old who has now grown into a handsome, successful young man.  She humbly discounts her role in his life, but in the way he smiles at her, you know this is truly his mom.

My brother said he would never get married nor have a family.  He insisted he was fulfilled with spoiling our children and pursuing with passion his career.  Then she happened.  And in two short years he married and will be bringing a baby into the family this fall.

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My friend will be mothering her son’s girlfriend as she moves in for a time; bringing another woman into a house full of men.  Last night I made her laugh so she didn’t cry at the enormity of the changes.

Too many friends of mine have had complicated and painful relationships with their mothers.  One is spending this day removing freedom from her mother-in-law to save her from dementia.  Another has posted a meme on how birthing a child does not make a mother, rather heart does.

For me, mother’s day puts pressure on old wounds of mothering failures. While healing is ongoing, it’s so easy to feel the pinch of things remembered through the haze of depression and anxiety.

I remember my mother and grandmother.  Tough and tender, I never quite understood them until long after they were gone.

My Mother Kathy and Grandmother Ruth

I received this as a mother’s day gift from my sparkly 2nd grader.

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I spent the majority of the day in jammies sobbing over a maudlin Nicholas Sparks movie (the only one where no one dies).   I called my dearest sister (in law) and talked babies and summer visits and teaching and all things wonderful.

We went to a superhero movie and out to dinner.  At dinner I quickly grabbed my phone remembering we hadn’t called Joyce.  Then I cried.  Joyce is my mother-in-law who has been gone for 5 years.  So real is her presence still in our lives.

This day has been one where I have been thinking of all the kinds of mothers I know.  The ones still waiting, the ones who are walking through addiction recovery, the grandmothers who are mothering again because their own children are incarcerated or incapable.  I’m thinking of all the women who mother children in their classrooms or youth groups or on the job; like Wanda, the office manager, who taught me white people under-season their food and how vanilla should be quadrupled in any recipe.

To all the mothers from whom I learn so much, I say thank you and pray for your hearts to be full and your blanket warm and your nap uninterrupted.

Would you share about the mothers of all kinds in your life?  I would love to read about them.

 

 

 

 

 

Showing Up and Being Seen

“How often are you going to blog?” she asked me.  And it hit me, I’m in the arena and there are people in the stands.

I’ve often shared Brene’ Brown’s quotes and how her work has enriched my life immeasurably.  Here she shares about being in the arena:

Our arena is that place where we are at our most exposed.  The place where we face enemies from all sides.  The place of victories and defeats.

“How often?” was asked by a woman I deeply admire.  Miss Ellen is in the arena.  As a published writer who has crafted curriculum for children, she’s been a minister and a leader in churches for decades.  And she reads Lessmoreabundantly.

Getting back in the arena requires me to slay my self-critical demons.  You know the ones who whisper, “Who is going to read your stuff?” and “You’ll fail, because you always have.”  Stephen Pressfield calls this running tape of self-sabotage-Resistance.  In the book, “The Artists Way” it’s called-The Inner Critic.  Whatever it’s called, it wins every time I run away from the arena.

Miss Ellen revealed to me I’ve already won by hitting the Publish button.  I’m being seen and I need to keep myself in the arena no matter what Resistance throws at me.  I need to show real courage.

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This blog is part of me showing up.  Reaching out to you is me showing up on your digital doorstep to have a cup of coffee and share some stories.

My friend, Christie, is the first African American woman to be on city council in a community historically divided along racial lines.  She isn’t just stepping in to the arena, she is building a new one for women from all places in life.  Christie had her greatest leap forward when she stopped.   She stopped listening to those in the cheap seats who would rather throw criticisms then lend a hand.  Christie and Ellen are two women in my life who have the courage to show up and be seen.  There are more, but there stories are for another time.

Today, I want to ask you to share.  What is your arena?  Where are you showing up and being seen?  Where is your arena and how can I help you get there?