Thursday, February 28, 2013

Homemade Samoa Cookies

Over the weekend David and I were at a local restaurant, waiting in line to order our food, when we overheard a group of young adults in front of us talking about how many girl scout cookies they'd eaten the night before. David and I just looked at each other in disbelief and whispered, "Girl scout cookies??? We missed them???"

I'm not really sure how it happened, but we haven't seen a single girl scout - not in front of a Kroger, a Walmart, and no one came to our door.

I won't lie, standing there in line, we were disappointed. When every early Spring of the last 15+ years you've had a box of girl scout cookies in your freezer, you hate to miss out when you don't have to.

Well, for the last several days, I've been craving sweets a little more than usual, and all I can think about are Samoa Cookies. Samoa's are David's favorite. Ironically they're my favorite too, even though I hate coconut. If you want to know how much, ask my Dad. He has a funny story he loves to share about me, an almond joy, and the Burger King playground when I was about five years old. ; )

Since I hadn't seen any girl scouts selling cookies around town, and I had a little extra time today, I thought I'd use a recipe I'd saved to Pinterest for homemade Samoa cookies. I was able to quickly run to the store and buy the few ingredients I needed (and a rolling pin) and got to work right away.

Here are the things I learned about making your own Samoa cookies:

1. It takes a lot, lot, lot longer than you think. You can't just whip up a batch of Samoa's like you can chocolate chip cookies.
2. Coconut can go from white to brown in less than a second while "toasting" in the oven.
3. Caramel and Chocolate do not melt the same way at all... I didn't know how easy it was to burn chocolate or that caramel could bubble up and over the glass bowl it's melting in.
4. It is not something children should help with. I lost count of the number of times I burned my fingers/hands on hot coconut and/or caramel ... and multiple cookie sheets.
5. It requires a lot of hand washing.
6. Even if you ruin half the batch by dipping them in, unbeknownst to you, burnt chocolate, your house will smell better than any Sugar Cookie Yankee Candle could ever make it smell.

Long story short, I had to throw away half of the cookies, and the other half are chocolate-less.


But, even for a girl who hates coconut, I think they're still pretty tasty. 

Next year, if we miss the girl scouts again, I think we'll forego making our own and just go without Samoa's. And if we manage to find a girl scout, we'll definitely buy several boxes. : )

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where's Sperry?

This morning, as I was sitting down in my home office getting ready to start my work day, I heard all kinds of barking start outside. 

I let out a low sigh (one of those sighs where your whole body moves and crunches inward) and thought, "Sperrrryyy..." 

I knew, of course, that he was in the back yard. Our next door neighbors' have two dogs. The three of them get along very well, so I wasn't sure why they could be possibly be barking at each other, or at anything else for that matter, this early in the morning. 

So, I made my way toward the back of the house and opened the door to the deck. I looked to the left (in the direction of the neighbor's back yard) and didn't see Sperry.

I stepped out onto the deck and looked around to the left side of the house.

No Sperry.

I turned and looked to the right side of our yard. 

No Sperry.

"Oh no... How did he get out?" I thought.

I looked underneath the poor, beat-up swing set that was nearly killed by a tree that fell on it, hoping to see Sperry behind it. 

Nope.

As I straightened up and began to survey the perimeter of our yard to figure out how Sperry escaped, I noticed something move, ever so slightly, at the top of the swing set.

Sperry. : )



The barking started back up somewhere behind me. Sperry looked in the direction of the barking without making a sound, and then looked back at me, with a look that said, "Poor dogs over there. They must not have a swing set to play in. Come on, Mom! It's fun up here! Let's play!"

Needless to say, it really was a funny way to start my Wednesday. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunday Hike

I woke up Sunday morning with this overwhelming desire to go hiking. It's like I could feel the sunshine and cool breeze outside beckoning to my soul. David laughed when I shared my desire with him. He's become accustomed to my impulsive travel whims. Most aren't usually feasible (i.e. "Let's drive to Texarkana for lunch!"), but every now and then I have an idea that's pretty good and realistic. 

Soon we were dressed, with Sperry harnessed up, and on our way to Pinnacle Mountain. 

We'd hiked it the first weekend after we moved here to Little Rock. And, naively managed to pick the most difficult route up the mountain. It seriously felt like I was bouldering! So, this time we definitely wanted to go up the easier way (aka the West Summit Trail). 


See what I mean? So nice and manicured. It's like walking up stairs....


 Until you miss the turn that is! And then you get to hike up lots of these! 


I walked Sperry until we got to the first set of rocks, at which point David took him. 

At one point, I was using all four extremities to climb and keep my balance when I heard David behind me say, "Man, this is a workout." 

I turn my head around and see David carrying all 55 lbs of Sperry!!! The poor, pampered pooch was too small to get up and over some of the rocks. (He has such a good daddy!)

As we kept climbing up, I realized I wasn't favoring one leg over the other as I took my steps up and over each rock. Usually, I favor my right leg when climbing something, because for almost 9 years now, it has been the stronger leg. 

Some of you might remember that we've been praying for healing over my left knee. Over the last couple months I've started doing things that I haven't been able to do since I was 16 years old. Things like running, squats, lunges... 

As I kept making my way up the mountain, all I could do was praise God for the healing and restoration I was experiencing. 

We found a good sitting/viewing spot about half way up the rocky ridge and decided to take a breather and a few pictures.




When we finally got to the top, we took in the pretty view of the surrounding lake/river, I'm honestly not sure which we were looking at, but the blue water was beautiful! 
  



Our intention was to have "Home Church" when we got to the top of Pinnacle, but Sperry seemed intent to meet every other dog that made it to the top of the mountain. I was a little scared that he might lunge after a "playmate" and knock one of us off balance and down the mountain. So, unfortunately that part of my idea didn't come to fruition.

As we made our way down, I felt the change in my legs as different muscles started working. I noticed that I was now favoring my right knee. I took a big breath and made myself put my right foot down first, requiring my left knee to hold and stabilize my entire body. Rock after rock I stepped down this way, and then I made myself alternate, just like a normal, uninjured person would. 

My thighs and glutes were sore immediately once I sat down at the base of the mountain while we gave Sperry water. But, my knee was fine. Even today, it feels perfectly fine. It feels normal. And, I'm excited to get to my workout this afternoon. I'm excited to keep experiencing moments of surprise. Surprise at the simple fact that I can do something that so many people said I wouldn't be able to do again. 

Even now, as I write this, storm clouds are gathering thick around North Little Rock. The doctors said the weather would affect the early arthritis that was sure to set into my left leg. Well, not today! Today, it's fine! And, today, I continue to claim in the name of my God, that it will continue to be fine. 

Even though we didn't get to have an "official" church service at the top of the mountain, God used our hike up and down to remind us of his healing power.

Praise the God who made my knee, and the God who is restoring it!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday Sick Day

Yesterday, I woke up with a strange cough. I cannot remember ever having a cough. (I know I did as a child because I've heard my parents tell stories, but, I myself cannot remember ever having one.) 

It was a weird cough. Dry, but not the kind that's just a tickle in your throat. It was deeper. Once it started, I couldn't stop. 

"This is strange." I thought to myself. 

Anyway, I took a Mucinex and went on about business as usual. David left for school (also perplexed by my cough), and I got to work on the computer, soon beginning a Monday morning conference call with Dave Sr. All in all, as long as I didn't laugh (and trigger a coughing spell) I was okay.

Then 10:30am rolled around. A full-blown head cold had settled in.

"What is going on?" I thought heading to the kitchen. We don't keep "sick food" in the house. So, I pulled out a can of tomato soup and some Triscuits for lunch. It didn't necessarily "sound good," but I couldn't find anything that "sounded" better.

By noon, I was laid out on the couch, lights off, blanket nearly pulled over head, moaning. 

Sperry was utterly confused.

I remained quite ill, to say the least, for the rest of the day. At one point, I actually thought I was going to need David to take me to the Emergency Room, but the thought of getting into a moving car made me feel even worse.

Thunder storms rolled in about 3:30pm, and I wondered if the throbbing in my head was being exacerbated by the barometric pressure change.

Long story short, I didn't go to the ER, and David was able to run to the store on his way home from class.


When I'm sick, Milano cookies are the only thing that sounds good to eat. I usually pack a bag with me when leaving for a mission trip. David actually bought me two bags of Milano cookies, but I tore into the first one as soon as it was removed from it's grocery bag (so it didn't make the picture). 

Thankfully, that nasty, night time Tylenol (blue bottle) helped me sleep through the night. This afternoon I feel mostly recovered. Still a little weak, but I've been able to make myself eat food with more substance than the Milano's have.

David's asking me why I'm blogging about being sick.

Because, truth be told, this is the first time that I've been as sick as I was yesterday, and I didn't have my parents nearby to help take care of me. Even in college, whenever I was seriously ill, it always happened when I was home. It was always "such a blessing" that I happened to come home for some reason or another. Even over the past two years of being married, the couple times that I have been very sick, my mom was always a 20 minute drive away and available to bring me soup, medicine, tender loving care, etc.

This time it was just me and David. Just us.

David did a great job taking care of me. I'm a typical "nurse" patient. I don't do any of the things you're supposed to do when you're sick. I won't take medicine. I won't eat. I won't go to the doctor. I'm a tough patient to take care of. 

But, he has a way of kindly reminding me that I'm being stubborn and making me do whatever it is I need to do to get better.

Yesterday was significant, not because of how sick I was, but because it was another milestone for us as couple.

I only had David. With every other pressure and demand he had placed on him yesterday (which happened to be by far the most demanding and stressful day yet of Spring Semester), his bride needed him to also be everything for her. And he was.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Door Decor

Running in the sun, crunch of leaves under paws, rustle rustle, leap, turn around, breathe hard, look up, smile, leap the other direction, and run!!

The sun is starting to go down, and I'm so happy that it was out for such a long time today. It's been so cold and dreary for days. Even I could feel myself wrestling with the "weather blues."

Sperry has obviously forgotten about the shot he received at the vet earlier today as he tears back and forth across our backyard chasing the air. I "pretend" to chase him which gets him even more excited as he runs and leaps off the deck. 

David calls from his cell phone to see if there's anything he can pick up for me as he makes his way home from school. 

I'm so happy he's on his way home. I soak in the sunshine enveloping our little red barn house and wish I could literally put it in a bottle to release when the cold, dreary days return.

Sperry, now worn out from chasing, basks in the sunshine as he lays next to the significant hole he's dug in the ground.

I head inside and open our front door to let more sunshine into the house. Since the middle of January, our front door has been sporting a red "LOVE" sign to get ready for Valentine's Day. 



Most of our neighbors are incredibly festive. Every single holiday is worthy of it's own door decor. 

I head towards the kitchen and try to forget about the fact that I only have one more day left before the "LOVE" sign will need to come down, and I will have to produce a new front door decoration. Often, I feel the need to keep up with the Jones'. I try to think about dinner and begin to clear off the kitchen counter, grabbing my keys to put them into their "spot." I stop and stare at the keys and smile as I look at the liveORIGINAL bracelet attached to my key chain. 



Kevin Cross had given it to me after the evening David and I spent with him as part of our premarital counseling. It was an incredibly fun AND challenging session. (I highly recommend you read his book "Embezzlement: A True Crime Story." It will change the way you think about "managing" your finances.) As we left, he gave us each that bracelet to help us remember that we didn't need to conform to the material expectations the world has for us. Having that bracelet on my keychain has actually helped me on several occasions put back an "impulse" purchase, reconsider a commitment I'm making, and remember that living within our means is just one way we can be good stewards of our resources. 

Over the last few days, I had been thinking about making an Easter wreath, and I still might make one. But, as I look at the bracelet, I feel my body get lighter as I sigh in relief... I don't have to meet the world's expectations for what my life should look like on the outside or for that matter what I hang off the outside of my front door. 

It doesn't matter what the WORLD says I should spend my money on, or my time, or my energy. It doesn't matter what timeframe the WORLD expects for me to achieve certain milestones within. And, it doesn't matter if the WORLD has a problem with my lack of door decor.

What matters is whether or not I'm glorifying my MAKER with my money, my time, my body, my decisions, my achievements, and my life. What matters is whether or not I'm trusting His timeline and His will for my life.

I look outside as joggers pass by our front lawn and the neighbors' cars pull into their driveways. 

I see the sun sink behind the house across the street from us, and I smile, grateful for the reminder in Kevin's bracelet that steers me back towards the truth when I feel the pressures of the WORLD telling me I need to be something different that where I am.

David pulls into the driveway as I close the opened windows. I look at the front door and smile at my "LOVE" sign. It might just stay up for a few days after Valentine's Day. After all, the WORLD can wait. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FIGHT

I am incredibly grateful for modern technology. I kid all the time, "Can you imagine if we were pioneers??" 

Just the other day when we were experiencing weird weather here in Arkansas, I told Brenda (my mom-in-law), "Can you imagine if we were pioneers? And we were just making our way West in a covered wagon, and in the morning it was sunny and sixty degrees and in the afternoon we're looking at a tornado, and the next day it's nearly freezing... There would be no meteorologists or weather updates to tell us what to expect..." 

It's a silly example, but the reason I think about these things is because I am so grateful for the technology in my home and the technology that is being used to help and educate people.

This morning, however, I was specifically grateful for FaceTime. My mom (Janet) and I were able to look at and talk with each other via FaceTime while we unloaded our dishwashers, tidied our kitchens, and ate breakfast. And, it was wonderful to get to look at my mom's pretty face while we got our days started. 

My brother and sister (Paul and Katie) all agree that one of our most FAVORITE things about our mother is her smile. If you've met Janet, or even seen a picture of her, you know exactly why we think this. Her smile is contagious and beautiful, and I honestly think that is what God's smile looks like. Full of joy and happiness and love. And when you see that smile, no matter how you feel inside yourself, you know that love and peace exists somewhere in this universe, because it is there on her face.

24+ years ago when God decided it was time to bring me into the world two weeks earlier than my parents expected, my dad (Randy) was out of town interviewing for a new job. Mom was staying with her best friend Roxanne. They'd been best friends since high school. And, like the stuff that inspires movies, when the cardiologist delivered me not 20 minutes after getting to the hospital, Roxanne was right there by her best friend's side.

Growing up, we used to giggle at our mom because whenever she'd be talking about Roxanne she always called her "my best friend Roxanne." And we'd laugh, because we knew Roxanne. I think Roxanne has always just been that special to my mom, that my mom wasn't specifying to us which Roxanne she was talking about (to this day, she's the only Roxanne I've ever known), she was being endearing. Because Roxanne wasn't just "Roxanne," she's her best-friend. So, to us, Roxanne has never been "Roxanne" she's been, "our-mom's-best-friend-Roxanne." To us, she's not just a lady that my mom's been best friends with forever. She's so special to us as well, that we've each adopted and added that term of endearment to the front of her name when we talk about her.

Roxanne has always reminded me of superwoman. She has always been fit, and healthy, and in very good shape. I remember one time, when she visited us as kids, noticing her arms. They looked so strong! She's beautiful, and confidant, and like my mom, has a smile you wont forget.

One morning, late last summer, I was talking to my mom on the phone as I was driving to work, and Mom asked me to pray for Roxanne. She'd been having this pain in her back and was going to the doctor that day. 

None of us expected the news we got when the test results and scans came back...

I'd taken care of patients with pancreatic cancer before... I knew what it looked like, and I knew about how long those patients made it.

The night we found out, my sister and I sat on our beds, states apart from each other and cried into the phone as we prayed over our-mom's-best-friend-Roxanne. 

My mind kept telling me that Roxanne probably didn't have much time left with us and to be prepared. But my soul knows the power of my Creator. And my soul knows that the answers and projections we get from modern technology aren't always right. As a matter of fact, while most patients newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only live for a few weeks, it's February now, and Roxanne is starting a new treatment this week.

...

I painted the top of a shoebox over the weekend and hung it over our desktop in the office. It's a verse my good buddy Isaac frequently encouraged me with while we were trudging through nursing school.


Moses said this to the children of Israel when they ran into the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army was coming after them. It didn't look so good for the Israelites. I mean, an army behind them, a giant body of water in front of them. They were so scared that they actually said to Moses it would have been better if they'd just stayed back in slavery, because now they're going to be killed. They didn't need modern technology and a mathematician to figure this one out. 

And, God responds to them, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward." (Exo 14:15).

They're looking at a HUGE body of water, Pharaoh's army is getting closer, and God tells them to "go forward." (I bet a couple dry humored Israelites started laughing at this point, "Good one, God.") But, God tells Moses to lift his rod, stretch out his hand, and divide the sea into two parts. So, he does.

"So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left." (Exo 14:22)

So, amazing, right? They're being chased, and then there's a big obstacle with no way around it, God PARTS THE WATER SO THEY CAN WALK THROUGH IT, I mean, that would be good enough right there. But, God does more! The Angel of God is actually there standing behind the Israelites like a wall protecting them from the Egyptian army (Exo 14:19). AND THEN... He actually sabotages their chariots and tells Moses to stretch his hand back over the water. When he does, the water returns back to its original place wiping out the whole Egyptian army (Exo 14:24-27). 

Can you imagine what the Israelites' faces looked like? I mean, at the beginning of all of this, when all of the data told them they were going to be killed, Moses said, "The Lord will fight for you," so they shouldn't have been too surprised. Right?

No matter what the data adds up to, or the tests say, or the scans show, our Creator is the same today as He was that day when the Israelites, standing on dry ground had a wall of sea on their left and a wall of sea on the right. And, as I look at my little shoe box painting, or the smile on my mom's face through my iPad, I cling to the fact that matters more than anything - my God loves me so much, that He'll do more than I can expect Him to. He'll even fight for me. 

So, we're praying and expecting that a day will come, very very soon, when all test results and all scans say "The cancer is gone." Or as Dietrich Alb says, "The cancer is killed." 

This week, as we stand up to cancer, I stand up for my-mom's-best-friend-Roxanne. AKA Superwoman.