December 13, 2019

Making Space

Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when the kids won't let him sit beside them on the bus? Seat's taken. Can't sit here. Taken. Remember how it made you feel the first time yous saw that movie? Of course it's about more than just a seat. It's about making a statement to someone that they don't belong. I had a sort of experience like that last night at Harry Potter trivia.

My friend and I were meeting up to play trivia together for the first time at a local bar. She's basically an encyclopedia of Harry Potter knowledge, so I felt a bit guilty that even though I love HP, I might not be able to contribute much on obscure facts, etc. So we had discussed that if I got to the bar early, I might scout out other already formed teams we could join.

I should have gone with my instincts and sidled up to the foursome wearing crimson and gold ties and homemade S.P.E.W. lapel pins. Lesson learned.

Instead I grabbed a couple seats for us at a long table that was already occupied on the other end by a youngish couple. I asked them if they were there to do the trivia and they said yes. Then, I decided to just go for it and ask if they would be open to having someone (me and my friend) join their team. 

The girl said, "Ummm, I don't know. I'm feeling sort of competitive tonight." I'm still not even sure what that meant exactly, but the gist was, "No, you can't join us."


I mean, people, I get it. We're talking Harry Potter trivia here. Nothing of life altering importance. But then again, maybe it is.

If it wasn't important, why did it make me feel such a gross feeling? Like total ick. I looked down at my vintage Boston sweatshirt. Not cool enough for them? My big old granny purse? The fact that I was alone? Random reject hanging out in a bar? Not cool enough to have a big group of friends of my own. Y'all, I went down these rabbit holes for several minutes.

In the end, my friend and I had a blast doing trivia just the two of us. She killed most every question and I added moral support and cheer (at least I hope).

But what's the deal with this? Why do we (and I'm including myself here) have such a hard time making space for others? I get it Harry Potter trivia girl. You have your own friends. With your own inside jokes. Your own history. You don't want some random nearly middle aged thrift store queen on your trivia team. That's totally your prerogative.

But if we can't make space for people in tiny, unimportant ways, what does it say about our ability to make space when it really matters?

I've been there. I've been the one unable or unwilling to make space. Some of the time, it was definitely on purpose, but honestly, I believe the other times I was just oblivious to the needs of others to belong....which is just as bad.

In my life, I get the privilege of moving in and out of a lot of circles. One day this week, I started out by doing a television appearance demonstrating holiday drink recipes, then was emailing back and forth with some media bigwigs and later, making holiday ornaments with a 3rd grader who told me her mom had just gotten out of a half-way house.

Sometimes it's hard to make space for all these things. Especially when, in the light of some difficult or challenging circumstances, the others seem trivial or silly. I'm trying to figure it out as I go. And I'm trying not to get discouraged when the tragedies and heartaches of people I care about seem to swallow up the rest.

Not being on a Harry Potter trivia team is not a tragedy. I get that. But it was a good reminder to me that I want to widen the circle. I want to open my heart to people who feel like there's no place for them. And I am grateful to those people who have widened their circles and hearts to me.

December 11, 2019

3 Simple Ideas for a Christmas Drink Station

No festive occasion is complete without a few signature drinks and this Christmas, I'm putting my own uniquely simple spin on things with a DIY drink station. Whether you're hosting brunch, lunch or dinner, these tasty drinks might inspire you as you're planning your menu.

The best thing about these drink options is that they are delicious without alcohol, which saves you time because you don't have to offer separate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Any guests who want to enjoy a more spirited concoction can simply add it to the base recipe. But the basic options are fine for kids or any non-drinkers you might be hosting

First up is a favorite combination of mine, which I'm calling Poinsettia Punch. Poinsettias are indigenous to Mexico, but were introduced to the United States in the late 1800s. They definitely provide some festive cheer when used in your decor.

Poinsettia Punch

To make Poinsettia Punch, you'll need cranberry juice, and some type of seltzer water. To make this drink more spirited, skip the seltzer and add prosecco or champagne. 

Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few fresh cranberries. It's really quite simple, but looks so beautiful in a stemmed glass. 


Taking inspiration from that classic cocktail the "Screwdriver" and paying homage to our favorite villain-turned-hero Ebenezer Scrooge, I'm calling this one a Scrooge-Driver. 

To incorporate this recipe into your Christmas drink station, have plenty of good orange juice on hand. Of course, you can also use your favorite citrus juice, like lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine or pomelo. I grabbed a great option from Whole Foods, with the added ingredient of carrots for some extra healthy goodness. 

Top off a tumbler half filled with juice with a good quality sparkling soda...I like the Whole Foods store brand from Italy. If you want to stick with the orange flavor, match your soda to your juice. If you want to mix things up, try some other tasty combinations like grapefruit juice with lemon soda, or pineapple juice with blood orange soda. 

Add some pomegranate seeds for color or garnish with my mom's favorite, orange slice candy. 

To make this one more spirited, add vodka or champagne, depending on your preference. Or gin. Any alcohol really. It's up to you. 

St. Nick's Nog

Eggnog is one of my favorite Christmas drinks. You might think it's a bit rich to drink with your meal, but you ain't seen nothing yet! I'm taking it to the whole next level with Cruze Farm eggnog ice cream. Yes, you read that right. Cruze Farm eggnog ice cream + eggnog + cream soda = a delicious eggnog float fit for Saint Nicholas himself. That's why this is called St. Nick's Nog. 

You can play with the proportions. I put one scoop of eggnog ice cream into a glass, topped with a bit of eggnog and then added cream soda. You could also use club soda if you don't want any added flavor in your soda option. 

Sprinkle on some nutmeg and garnish with a cinnamon stick for a beautiful presentation. It's a bit decadent however Christmas comes but once a year. So drink up and enjoy! 

December 9, 2019

Tears in Heaven

My great grandmother on my mom's side was a devout Free Will Baptist preacher's wife. I can't speak to what all Free Will Baptists believe, but some of the things my great grandmother held tightly to were her belief that women should not cut their hair because it was their "Crowning Glory" nor should women wear pants or God forbid shorts! (only long dresses). She didn't believe in drinking alcohol, working on Sundays, or owning a television. She was far too complicated (and wonderful) a person to sum up in a few paragraphs, so I'm not even going to try.

What I want you to learn about her was that she got really emotional at church. Long after my great-grandpa had a church where he was the main pastor, he was invited to guest preach for area congregations. And my family would sometimes go to whatever church he happened to be guest preaching at. Side note: Sometimes he'd direct me to bring my portable tape player, complete with the required six D batteries it needed to work, and sing a song or two.

I don't remember ever going to church with my great-grandparents, whether my grandfather was preaching or not, that my grandmother didn't have a wadded up tattered Kleenex in her balled fist. She'd get emotional and start to cry, or shout, or repeat loudly, "Well, praise the lord." If I close my eyes, I can see this scene as clear as anything. I can imagine the way she'd kind of hop back and forth, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, all the while crying and shaking her Kleenex around.

As a little kid, it scared me somewhat. I wasn't really scared that anything bad was going to happen, but maybe anxious from the uncertainty of what she might do. However, it didn't bother me because I knew that even though some of my grandmother's ways were different than our norm, it was all genuine. I'll never believe for one minute that it was put on or contrived, or anything other than authentic. She cried during church because it meant so much to her.

While I was growing up, my parents took my brother and me to a big, traditional First Baptist church. Where ladies that spoke in a southern drawl wore beige suits and matching hats. We sat straight up in the pews and weren't even allowed to draw or play tic-tac-toe on the back of the offering envelopes. I don't remember anybody crying, EVER. Except maybe a random child whose parents opted not to send them to the children's nursery.

The contrast between the church we regularly attended and the churches we attended with my great grandparents was stark. And even though I have always believed in God, I can't say that big emotional outpourings have ever been something I did at church.

My husband and I have been visiting a Lutheran church for about a year. I had no prior experience with Lutherans nor had I ever been to that type of church before this one. We go to the early service, which probably averages about 35-40 attendees. We're two of the youngest people by about 20 years. It's pretty low-key and we sit in the back, but I feel something different than I've ever felt at church. I love the quiet, simplicity of the services. I love the ebb and flow of the liturgy. Many Sundays, I am moved to tears by one small thing or another in the service and find myself trying to control my weeping, because it means so much to me.

Tonight I attended a mid-week Advent service, that started out with soup in the fellowship hall. Sometimes Emmanuel God With Us looks like split pea soup with big hunks of ham in it. I went back for seconds and just pushed the ham to one side, not wanting anyone to feel weird because I'm a vegetarian.

When we got to the sanctuary, the service started with recognizing and singing Happy Birthday to a member in the congregation who just turned 99. The rattle of her oxygen machine was a bit distracting at first, but after a few minutes, it became part of the experience.

At the end, the pastor asked everyone to gather around in a circle at the front for Communion. I stood by the 99 year-old who is deaf and partially blind, waiting to receive our elements. I thought of my great grandmother, who would be 105 years old were she still alive today.

I can't say for sure, but I bet she never attended a Lutheran church service. I don't know how she'd feel about them using real wine or having a lady preacher.

But when the ministers came around with the wafers and the cup, and looked into each person's eyes, saying "This is the body and blood, broken and shed for you," I did the big ole ugly cry, complete with snot dripping from my nose. I think my grandma would have understood that. Now I need to remember my Kleenex the next time.