{ Happy Mother’s Day }

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God gave Minnesota moms a beautiful day on Mother’s Day 2019. Just because it was my day, I got to bring everyone along on a double trail walk. Then we came home and ate turtle tracks ice cream. Watch my son cringe as I say, “Noice…very noice.”

Mother’s Day is kind of like the Superbowl or Academy Awards for moms. And, the week before Mother’s Day can resemble an extended pre-game show — at our house, at least.

This predictable, annual phenomenon may include:

  • Family members choosing sporadic sociability over phone use. By this I mean that when I come into a room, they look up and smile. They pause a moment and cheerfully answer my “What was the highlight of your day?” and perhaps two other questions before glancing down at their phones again. They may look up again at me and smile yet again if I loiter.
  • My older daughters peppering me with questions the Sunday before Mother’s Day:
    • Mama, what do you want to do for Mother’s Day?
    • What do you want to eat?
    • If it rains and we can’t go for a walk, then what do you want to do?
    • What’s your favorite store?
  • My youngest boys showering me with gushing, matriarchal flattery. Their compliments and gift-giving escalate in intensity throughout the week:
    • Monday: Here’s a picture I made for you — You’re the best mom ever.
    • Tuesday: I’ll open the door for you, most excellent mother!
    • Wednesday: You’re the best mom that anyone in the whole world ever had.
    • Thursday: You’re the greatest person ever. Except for God.

When asked, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”  there’s a teeny, tiny, selfish part of me that wants to spend *my day*  alone on a remote, sunny beach inhaling an entire bag of salt and vinegar ripple chips all by myself, choosing drinks from a cooler packed with my favorite kombuchas, and soaking in the sun where no will talk to me for 24 hours.

But that would feel empty, and it would be as silly as Superbowl athletes hiding from the crowds inside the locker room, or movie stars heading to the Oscars, makeup-less in their sweats.

This is Mother’s Day — a day to shine; embrace my precious, living gifts; receive a million hugs; and absorb the fleeting moments that God has given!

 

 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…
 Psalm 127:3

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My sister and I with our dear mother!

 

 

 

 

 

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{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

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“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.

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Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{Abstruse & Scurvy-Free: Saturday Rambles}

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I mentioned last time that I had finished writing another health article — long by my standards– at 1800 words. These long-winded articles are all about health supplements. These are not household words like protein or gluten. Their names are abstruse and often separated by hyphens. I am a blank slate when it comes to knowing anything about L-pyroglutamatic acid or L-phenylalanine.

By the end of my 1800 words, I did learn how to spell phenylalanine — I just remembered the “lala” in the middle.

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I start collecting article info by Googling: “L-pyroglutamatic acid for Dummies” then Googling “L-pyroglutamatic acid for kids.” This gives me usable, chewable information, allowing me to begin writing.

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When it comes to health supplements, I am very impressionable…every article completion has so far wrapped up with my purchase of some health supplement.
This time I was writing about L-proline, which is a key ingredient in collagen. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and elasticity. Several amino acids go into the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a huge part in the formation of collagen, so when we don’t get enough vitamin C, our body can’t make the collagen we need. Our skin suffers, our intestines are prone to aeration, and left without collagen, our blood vessels would collapse.

So fascinating how God designed our intelligent bodies — the organs, enzymes, and amino acids are so needful of what we eat but everything (temporarily) covers for us when we take in junk. These articles leave me in awe of God’s creation.

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At the same time, they leave me craving things like lean protein, cabbage, berries and vitamin C. I feel like I am finally grabbing hold of such important tidbits of knowledge, such as what scurvy did to all those unfortunate sailors we learned about back in school. (Was that in history class or health class?)


Today, I’m looking forward to the Amazon package that should be in the mailbox today, holding a few jars of encapsulated, raw Vitamin C.

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On a completely different note, it’s Minnesota Hockey Day and my son just left to play in a hockey tournament, in weather under 10 degrees.

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I feel safer here inside with my L-pyroglutamic acid, phenylalanine and big cup of hot coffee.

Son gave me a hug goodbye; I handed him a protein bar and said, “Bye…have fun…make them be nice to you.”
No, Mama,” he said with a smile.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

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Photo Credits:

Dose JuiceThato Lehoko

Pixabay

{ January 2}

On January Two, I know what to do —
I’ve got resolutions ~ the year is brand new!

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My diet will start and miles will be walked
I’ll dust off the weights and the scale will be shocked

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I’ll stop biting my nails, stop checking my phone

Stray socks will be matched, each one with its clone;

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I’ll start on the taxes and organize rooms
Spiders? Homeless! — when I’m done with my broom.

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I’ll read meaty books that challenge my brain,
I’ll cut down on coffee & from sugar abstain,

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I think I can do it, it’s not so absurd…
….but I’ll be ready to quit on January third.

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© Lisa M. Luciano 2018

Photo credits:

Pixabay, Shutterstock and Unsplash:Kristopher Roller

New Year’s Resolution-making: one of your traditions?  Do you make them?  Do you keep them?  What are your goals for 2019?

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Reposted from Betty Jo’s site: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/47394897/posts/10105

{ Untamed & Dangerous }

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The tongue.  That fiery, kind, brutal, life-giving, encouraging, poisonous puppet.  It doesn’t do the damage on its own; there’s a mysterious channel that runs from the heart and brain, looking for a way to get out. So, the tongue obliges, spilling its venom, or healing balm — whichever the heart dictates.

“She’s written about the tongue before,” you say.

Yep. I wonder why? Because it’s an ongoing, never-ending battle. I’m not what you’d call “a talker.”  But, I think a lot of thoughts and they boil just like anyone else’s.

So, I had a lot of these bubbling thoughts the other day — and it was a stinky brew. There was a real and present danger that it was going to force its way out of my mouth, via the formidable tongue.

Which led me to read (again) the words from the book of James (see bold words below) And, I read and wrote and summarized what I was reading, hoping that I will totally understand and assimilate the living, powerful word of God. The basic thing I want to remember: the tongue is untamed and untameable — humanly speaking.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot try to control it.  When I ask God for His help, He will give it.

This is my uninspired paraphrase of James chapter 3, the revealing and helpful “tongue chapter” of the Bible:

We are prolific stumblers.  If you don’t stumble when you use your tongue, you must be a mannequin or a robot.  Just like small bits guide the big bodies of horses…and just like seemingly insignificant ship rudders control unwieldy, bulky ships, the tiny tongue effects enormous power and potential — for good or evil.

Forest fires are started by a small spark, and the tongue’s work is like that at first — a mini controlled blaze – one that turns into a menacing, chaotic firestorm.

The tongue is the Creator’s design, but it is a notoriously sinful member of our bodies — staining lives, reputations, and setting relationships ablaze. The tongue is a useful weapon in the soul-enemy’s arsenal.

Wild creatures worldwide have been tamed by humans — but not the wild, unruly tongue. It never can be tamed.  It’s restless and seems to be always itching for trouble.  Our tongues are double agents — blessing and cursing at will. How can both poison and healing come out of the same opening?  But that’s the sad truth about the tongue.  Kind words, and cutting words; helpful and damaging, encouraging and murderous — all pouring out of the same mouth…

James 3: 2-10 from the Bible:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. ~ James 3:2-10 ESV

 

Photo credit: Sarah Louise Kinsella

{ Closed Doors and Open Windows }

Life is a series of closed doors and open windows. And open doors and closed windows.
Then, there are doors that you thought were open that shut abruptly in your face.

On the other hand, doors you thought were locked can be surprisingly easy to kick open.
And occasionally, a tightly closed window will fall open, unhinged, enrapturing your soul.


Why write this?
In a desire to avoid a traditional Christmas letter, I still want to look over the year thoughtfully and learn the lessons I’ve been given. That’s what you do when you are fifty-plus. You learn that it’s worthwhile to spend 30 minutes reflecting, so that you can avoid months of making the same mistakes.

Or to be more honest, if I don’t write it down, I will forget.

January 2018 began with some confusion and a closed door. It brought the opportunity for us, as imperfect parents, to seek wisdom from the Wisdom Giver and use it to give sage advice. It’s a humbling tightrope to tiptoe upon, but asking, seeking, knocking and walking in faith will always get you to the destination God has for you.

When a door slams, the breeze it creates can heal and cause growth.

June brought another graduation, which means pasta and purple-frosted sheet cake. I leafed through old photos, amazed at how God closes precious doors at the same time He offers those looming, open windows. They lead to who-knows-where and it’s a little scary. But He is holding our hand as we slide our way through them.
Summer 2018 days were traditional and new at the same time:

  • Swimming lessons in a different pool.
  • Beach trips to new local shores.
  • New project ideas at the same old county fair.

The garden was stingy with tomatoes, but generous in zinnias, bees and butterflies.

Then came a wide open window, a chance to see an old friend after many years. That meeting was unexpected & sweet.
Summer ushered us gently into fall, so we basked in apple-bounty and we crafted on a shoestring. New doors opened for my husband and his job shook up our schedule, but it also gifted us with new stories and opportunities.
In November we celebrated Turkey Bowl #19. My husband is almost 60 and runs around a football field with such agility that his fellow amateur athletes think he’s 35. I will continue to thank God for my husband’s good health, even as I get out the Tiger Balm and Epsom salts.
And shortly after we hosted new friends for Thanksgiving, I looked at my kitchen with fresh eyes:

We have lived here for 20 years. It’s time to give this place a face lift.

  • I am shutting the proverbial door on those faded chicken curtains and poultry art in general.
  • I am ready to toss threadbare towels and lose that bright yellow bathroom.

(These are the types of Home Decorating Mission Statements that I hope will propel me through 2019.)
So, paint chips have been secured, walls stripped bare of rooster paraphernalia and Pinterest has been feverishly scanned. I hope next year’s recap will include some home decor success stories.

Still in 2018, we have a son who is following an idea, a dream, a possibility. It’s progressing; it’s full of many little steps. And if — after all the steps — this son finds a closed door, it will be okay. The hallway he walked down has been worth it.

Sometimes a closed door gives you the oomph to scale a ladder and pry open a window, where you find something better.

And sometimes, you just pivot, re-trace your steps, turn the corner and look for another inviting door to try.

Oh, I forgot the books.

Books and audiobooks (new & old favorites) inspired and entertained us in 2018:

In 2018, we saw new babies born and sick marriages die. People entered our lives and our church, and people exited. A dear family moved miles away and started a new chapter and we are happy for their open window…but it looks a little like a closed door on our side.

And still in 2018, our peers became in-laws and grandparents and we were reminded that we are all getting older. This happens slowly–and never in our hearts — but always in the mirror.
Well, I’ll end here for now — unless I God opens a window in my brain and reminds me of something important I forgot.
© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

white infinity doors:Filip Kominik

colored locker doors:moren hsu

blue windows:Paul Fleury

{ DIY & Dubious Thanksgiving }

Our Thanksgiving was a little different this year.

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My sister and family were spending the holiday with her in-laws. My brother and family live in San Diego now.  My single cousin Clee, who usually spends holidays with us, was with her brother’s family.

So, our guest list would simply be: my mother and her friend, Marlene. Marlene is a dear widow who is legally blind.  She is a classy dresser who wears red-rimmed cat-eye glasses.

In addition to the sparse guest list, we threw another curve ball when we told the children,

“This is a Do-It-Yourself Thanksgiving.  You can all plan one dish, buy the ingredients and prepare it yourself.”

Then, our oldest daughter mentioned that a Facebook acquaintance was in the area for Thanksgiving weekend: Nathan, a seminary grad student from Sri Lanka.

When my daughter asked if he could join us for Thanksgiving dinner, some of the other children seemed dubious…even shocked.

I regret to admit they said things like:

  • We don’t even know him.
  • He could be a weirdo.
  • Why would we invite someone we’ve never met?

So much for the Christian spirit of hospitality.

In the end, we all had a marvelous time:

  • Marlene and mom were excellent company and formidable game-players. We learned new things about both of them.
  • Everyone stepped up with the DIY dishes; we had abundant leftovers, as usual.
  • Nathan was friendly, intelligent and a definite non-weirdo. (If he’s writing a blog, I wonder what his prediction and assessment of us would be?)

So, I am thankful for uncertain opportunities, new friends, and rich experiences that help us grow!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.  I wonder how you spent it?

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. ~ 1 Peter 4:8-9

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:  Zbysiu Rodak

{ Oreos in the Library }

Lisa E. is our spunky, non-stereotypical local librarian.

She slipped us some photos the other day.

“Here are some photo story starters.  Get writing!”

Lisa was intrigued by this mysterious photo that’s been circulating on the internet, and she wanted us to make up a story about it:

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With access to every library in the world, Lisa has a lot of power. I’m not going to cross her. So I wrote my story and handed it to her.  The next time I walked through the library door, she demanded that I empty my pockets.  She was looking for contraband. This is why:

The O.R.E.O. Society

There’s not much to do over a cold Minnesota winter. The windchill forces normally independent Midwestern folks into their homes. After three days of winter’s house arrest, even the most adventurous souls begin to forget that there is an outside world. We hunker down, glad we are well-stocked with coffee, bread, milk, eggs, cream and more coffee. We have a stash of dried beans for emergencies and chocolate for daily sustenance. Stacks of books line the walls, serving the dual purpose of reading material and extra insulation.

So, we stay inside.

We wrap ourselves in cozy, minky blankets. We position the coffee pot next to our armchairs and sofas (or beds). We are entertained by books, energized by coffee and sedated by the radiant logs in the fireplace.

And we keep reading.

We read fiction to cheer our souls and warm our blood. It’s dark half the day, but when we finish a book that we know it is time to sleep.

When we feel isolated, we chat online about the books we are reading.

And this was how the O.R.E.O.** Society was born.

During a particularly bleak and snow-dumped winter, several disgruntled Minnesota readers happened to share their common discontent with the story endings of books like these: 

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • My Sister’s Keeper
  • Mockingjay
  • Gone Girl
  • Goldfinch

Amongst the group, there was a visceral hunch that something was very wrong.

When you are in a cold state of semi-hibernation with books as your dearest friends, you feel more deeply the injustice of an incomplete or unhappy ending.

And they had a whole seven months (typical MN hibernating phase) to stew over it.

One member of the group would share his dissatisfaction and then another member would read the book and agree. Bitterness and rage spread. Nightmares replaced normally peaceful sleep patterns. Disturbing dreams were tangled up with dangling denouement from closed books. 

January and February were spent in a trancelike state, with life hanging in the balance between “fiction grief” and the voracious hope for a perfect ending.

But this hope seemed to be a bunch of malarkey.

Then the April sun peeked out.

Like a tulip bulb that blooms after a hard freeze, the reading group came to life before the first of May. They were ready to take action. They had one large online chat and appointed a leader. They named the group O.R.E.O.** and planned “lethal action against all dissatisfying books.”

Then, they passed out the Sharpies.

The plan was simple:

  • Enter local libraries.
  • Locate a bad book ending and attack with a Sharpie.
  • Connect with fellow conspirators and debrief.
  • Enter another library.

And, how would the members find one another? Besides their pale skin and disappointed looks, they would know each other by the sign of a common Oreo cookie (regular, not Double Stuff) positioned as a signal near at each member’s reading station.

So, if you happen to see an Oreo cookie in a library, you have two choices.

  1. Report any suspicious activity to a librarian.
  2. Grab a Sharpie and join them.

**Opaque Revisionists Entering Our Libraries

© Lisa M. Luciano

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{What’s in Your Hand?}

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This is a wreath made from the abundance of healthy and aggressive wild cucumber vine that took over our yard last summer.

 

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘What is that in your hand?’” Exodus 4:2

When summer arrives, my children start thinking about making art projects for the County Fair.  Come rainy summer days, they pile crayons, markers and paints on a table and create potential first-prize-winning art.

Rather than load up a WalMart cart with manufactured foam shapes and fake gems, I try to encourage the young artists to forage around the backyard for art supplies.

In our “big outdoor art supply store”, they can glean grapevines, sticks, twigs and seed pods. They choose smooth rocks for painting and we grow birdhouse gourds that eventually become Mod Podge masterpieces.

When we create with these materials, at least we will know that — for better or worse — our projects will be unique.

After all, no one else could possibly bring the same oddly-shaped, wood-burned gourd studded with round pebbles to the County Fair.

Speaking of using what’s handy…let’s look at the life of Moses. When God chose Moses to approach Pharaoh, Moses objected. He doubted that he could persuade the king of Egypt of anything.

God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  It was his shepherd’s staff– his familiar, occupational tool.

What power could an ordinary staff possibly hold? Yet, God eventually used it to confirm Moses’ prophetic message and showcase His own mighty acts!

We can also ask ourselves, “What do I have in MY hand?” What has God given me that I can use for my family’s needs?

What has God given me that I can use to help someone?  Bless someone?

When we put forth our everyday supplies (however ordinary they are) God seems to add something to them.  When we offer up ourselves and our humble assets, God can do amazing things!

 

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt