Fiction Catch-up Week Post 1

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted whenever my pregnancy brain lets go of my creative cortex.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)  Because three people asked about Kissing Frogs this week, I am going to try to post at least two more installments this week, and get back to the regular Friday posting.  Try.
Out of the corner of her eye, Tracey saw Jack and Joey step quietly back into the break room.  Her fingers were slightly numb from the pressure with which Andrew was holding her hand.  Pressure she certainly hoped was intended as reassuring support.  All of that, however, was eclipsed by the overwhelming presence of her father.

She couldn’t handle this today of all days!  There was too much riding on today, and she just couldn’t let daddy step in and take it all off the rails!


Mudding sheet rock was boring and, unfortunately quiet work.  There was nothing at all to muffle the clear voices that began, almost simultaneously, and ran over each other, in the hallway, directly outside the break room door.

“Daddy, I can’t do this right now!  I’m sorry you had to see me with Andrew like this, but I can’t take time to hear the ridiculous and partisan things you’re going to say.  I have an important appointment to keep that could well be the tipping point in Sophia Publishing history, and whatever you think you have to say would probably benefit from a cool down period.  I’ll come by the club for brunch on Saturday and we can hash it all out there.”

“Tracey!  I just can’t do this right now.  I am so sorry to arrive for a quick father/daughter lunch and find you . . . like this.  I can’t stand here and hear the ridiculous partisan things I’m sure he will say.  I have an important appointment today that could be a very good thing for Sophia Publishing but I can’t talk to you without a cooling down period.  Come by the club for brunch on Saturday and we’ll hash this out like a civilized family.”

The sound of footsteps, and stairs descended, and doors closed followed leaving only the sound of trowels scraping putty across taped seams.

“They’re not paying us enough.”  said Jack, earnestly.


Sitting in the back seat of Andrew’s town car, his fingers resting on her shoulder and the city passing by, Tracey felt like she was a passenger on a runaway train.  She had that same feeling in the pit of her stomach as just before take off any time she had to fly.  She closed her eyes and told herself the same thing she did every time she was in a plane.

“It’s going to be all right.  I’m in good hands.”

“You certainly are,” replied Andrew, startling her.  “There’s no reason to be nervous.  You’re about to give Sophia publishing the launch a thousand publishers in your place could only dream of.”

The sweat popped out on her neck and gathered a little at her temples.  She could feel the shakes in her legs already and her mouth was as dry as flannel in a prairie.  She nervously mopped her temples, and put on her joking face.
“Well, at least no one’s going to have to see me.  One of the great things about radio, right?”

Andrew’s eyes went completely serious, and he turned his body toward her, abruptly dropping all physical contact.

“This is the new media, Tracey.  We video stream the entire show live to tens of thousands of subscribers.  I thought you understood that.  I have hair and makeup waiting at the studio.  That’s why we’re arriving an hour before the show goes live.”

Tracey blinked, and put on her best smile.

“Well.  I better dazzle them then, hadn’t I?”

Andrew relaxed and patted her thigh.  “That’s my girl.”

The airplane in Tracey’s stomach had just gone acrobatic.

How Irrational Word Association Caused My Family to Miss Out for Too Long

For years I have been hearing and reading the phrase “Pioneer Woman” in reference to food.  The first references were before I encountered my cooking renaissance, and when I heard, “Oh, Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for Polenta” my eyes would glaze over and I would go to the packaged food aisle in my head.  Soon, though, as I was learning to cook and began to learn the types of food my family liked and didn’t like, I began hearing Pioneer Woman’s name (title?) in more and more places.  The most often frequent PW name dropper was (is) my friend “lizzie” who is undergoing her own cooking renaissance.

Here’s the thing.  I would hear about, or even actually eat, some really delicious food, but when I heard that it came from the Pioneer Woman website, I would tune out.  I heard “Pioneer Woman” and assumed (yes, I know) a load of baggage with that name.  I expected a website full of free-range, hormone free vegetables with organic seaweed and tofu.  I don’t buy into most of the food religion that exists right now, and because most of those people claim to be “back to the land,” I assumed that a woman who called herself “Pioneer Woman” was making the same claim.

Yes.  I am aware that the real pioneers didn’t eat tofu.  Or seaweed.  Or even free range poultry – the hawks and coyotes would have eaten them.

Two Mondays ago, at our neighborhood weekly craft night, my friend Rachel began describing this amazing cauliflower soup she had just served her husband.  Just the description of the recipe made my mouth water, and the next day I (a) bought a head of cauliflower and (b) googled “Pioneer Woman.”

Okay.  No seaweed.  No tofu.  A LOT of red meat and pork.  This is the type of food my family loves!  Instead of the contemporary guilt induced recipes I was expecting, I discovered recipes that made me think of my Dad and my paternal grandmother.  Braised Short Ribs, Creamy Tomato Soup,  (okay, Grandma would have never used sherry, but the heart is there.) and the Cauliflower Soup, with half and half, and sour cream.  I mean, she has an entire section of recipes called “Cowboy Food.

The cauliflower soup was a HUGE hit and has won its way onto a regular spot in the meal plan.  Today I sat down to do my monthly meal plan.  I started at Pioneer Woman.  I should have done this AGES ago.  🙂

I Share Because My Kids Amaze Me. . .

I love my kids.  I love being at home with them and watching them grow and develop and become little individuals with their own personalities.  I laugh a LOT during the day, because they’re really funny little people but most of the laughter right now is situational and doesn’t transfer to blogging well.  Believe me, I have tried.

Yesterday, however, were two great stories that I think you will appreciate.  To give you some context, I call the cheesedoodle “monkey” at home.  For good reason.

After bathtime, the mackerdoodle stands on a pink stool to brush her teeth at the bathroom sink.  On a normal night she gets down from the stool and stands beside me when it’s time to get into her pajamas, but last night she tried to lean herself from the stool, over to my lap, leaving one foot on the stool and one jabbing desperately at her pajama foot.

“You have to step off the stool mackerdoodle!”  I told her.  “You’re going to fall and hurt yourself.”

Without looking up at me, and with her arms resting on my knees, she stepped, very gently, from the stool, then popped up, arms over her head, and said, “Ta-da!”

I couldn’t help but laugh, and she laughed heartily along with me.

I finally asked her, “Do you do those things on purpose to make mama laugh?”

She flashed her little dimples at me and said, “Yes.  I.  Do.”   Well.  Mission accomplished, I say.

Only twenty minutes later we were gathered in the mackerdoodle’s bedroom wrapping up our bedtime routine.  we had finished our bedtime story which was Hug by Jez Alborough, a favorite in our house.  The mackerdoodle was saying her prayers and the cheesedoodle was looking at the pictures in Hug, intently studying each picture.  When the mackerdoodle had wrapped up I said to him, as I always do, “Okay, say night-night.”  This is generally followed by an enthusiastic wave.

Last night, however, he pointed to the page on the book, and pointed to himself.  I said, “Oh.  Do you want a hug from mama?”

He shook his head emphatically, and turned a few pages until he found a page with the little monkey all by himself.  Then he pointed to the page, and back to himself.

“Are you a monkey?”  I asked, slightly incredulous.  He grinned and nodded, pointing several times from the monkey to himself.  What mama wouldn’t swoop him up and give him laughing hugs at that?  I couldn’t resist.


The wind is blowing crazy wild here in St. Louis.  The cheesedoodle was woken from his nap when a huge gust of wind blew our *full* garbage can against our basement door with a significant thump.  The tree limbs look like dervishes and sound like those rain sticks you can buy at fairs and import stores.

In the midst of this swirling tempest, the lawn men are attempting to clear the grass and parking lots of leaves and acorns, using a leaf blower and a riding mower.  You really can’t even tell where they’ve been and where they’re going.  It’s sort of like trying to clean your house while your toddlers are awake.

I empathize with the yard guys today.

Can’t see the Forest for the Twigs

Last week I found out that one of my oldest childhood friends has cancer, and two friends’ marriages are falling apart, one slowly and painfully, one quickly and painfully.  It sort of puts the whole “none of my clothes fit properly” complaints into perspective.  It also shocked me out of a personal pity party I was permitting myself.  (How’s that for alliteration?)

Jonathan’s schedule last week was HORRIBLE!  When it showed up in the e-mail inbox I pitched a fit.  Unfortunately, I pitched it by e-mail to my friend Becky.  I engaged in some ungodly attitudes and thoughts and general “poor me” behavior.  I grumbled.  I complained.  I felt sorry for myself and expected others to do the same.

Then I kept getting news from friends.  Pretty soon I was thanking God for a series of late nights and long days, and Jonathan put things in even more perspective when he reminded me that we have to guard our own marriage from the things that have attacked these others.  I didn’t need to be complaining to God about a few 10 hour days.  I didn’t need to pray against a 10 am – 8 pm Saturday shift.  Instead, I needed to be begging the Lord to keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil.  I was so lost in the twigs, I had lost perspective on the forest.

The final straw of conviction was coming to the end of the week and realizing that unlike cancer and broken marriages, the difference between a bad schedule and a good one is seven days, and sometimes less than that.  A training day that had been scheduled for Sunday was rescheduled for a Wednesday, and Jonathan’s schedule has been reworked from five shifts of six or seven hours, to three shifts of ten hours.  That means four suppers and bedtimes with Daddy instead of two.  It means three nights he can do his homework after the kids go to bed, instead of sometimes having to put in a couple of hours reading or studying after getting home at 11:00 pm.

It means that while my friends are dealing with real struggles, I was pitching a fit about something so temporary as to be laughable.  This week I’m delighted in the new schedule and reminded that most of the things about which I complain are both fleeting and irrelevant.

It means this week, when I’m tempted to complain about regular pants being too small and maternity pants being too big, I’m going to stop and pray for my friends and their families and hopefully look up from my little twigs, to see the forest around me once in a while.

Pregnant or Not, Some Things Don’t Go With Pickles.

I’m a pretty big fan of dill pickles.  So big, in fact, that when I was a teen, my mother used to include a jar of dill pickles in my Christmas stocking.  Yeah.  And my kids have apparently inherited this passion.  We bought two jars of pickles at Aldi on Saturday and today there are only two pickles left in the last jar.  The cheesedoodle will stand at the refrigerator door, pointing at the pickle jars and giggling.  So we have a lot of empty pickle jars in our house is all I’m really saying.

When we had our friends Josh and Betsy and their two boys over for Canadian Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago, Betsy brought what I have dubbed, “Betsy’s Dip Your Own Face Caramel” for caramel apples.  OH!  SO!  GOOD!  As Jonathan and I were licking the last of the caramel out of the bowls that evening, Jonathan asked me, a little stickily, if I could get the recipe.  I was happy to serve my husband in that manner and when Betsy sent me the  recipe, I went out and bought the ingredients and made it that night.

After making the caramel, and dipping my face apple slices into a fresh warm bowl of it, I set out to store the rest for future dipping delight.  I reached into the cupboard and grabbed a clean jar that looked the right size and had a lid.  The caramel fit perfectly and was placed in the refrigerator for safe keeping.

A couple of days later, Jonathan was remarking that he wanted something different for his coffee, and I thought of the caramel sauce.  We eagerly retrieved it from the refrigerator, and Jonathan’s face lit up at the sight of the deliciousness trapped in glass.  He grabbed a spoon and undid the lid but recoiled as the lid came off.

“It smells like pickles,” he said, obviously disappointed.  I was forced to admit, after tasting the stored caramel, that it tasted like pickles.   Caramel isn’t supposed to taste like pickles.  I have rarely had such a food related disappointment.  The jar had gone through the dishwasher, but dill pickle must have some staying power.

So, here’s the recipe (exactly as Betsy gave it to me), because it’s OH SO GOOD!  Just don’t, for the love of gastronomy, store it in a pickle jar.

“Betsy’s Dip Your Own Face Caramel”

1 stick butter
1 c brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c light corn syrup
I let the butter melt most of the way first, then stir everything else in.
Then just let it simmer a little bit until the sugar melts in and it’s nice and smooth.
Then dip your face in it!!

How Government Beaurocracy Helped Us Make a Decision

I think most of you regulars know that I am not a fan of big government.  And that is an understatement.  In the last two years, I have had a better look at the inside of government inefficiency and byzantine policies than ever before and it has done nothing to change my mind.

One such experience has been this third (fourth) pregnancy.  When we moved and purchased private health insurance for our seminary time, we chose not to have maternity coverage.  We had two beautiful children and were going to be avoiding pregnancy and maternity coverage would have almost doubled my premium which was pretty expensive for “just in case.”  And then, surprise, we needed maternity coverage.  So I am on pregnancy medicaid.

I am also of “advanced maternal age” this time around the pregnancy track and such a label comes with increased risk of  . . . well, everything.  There are some early non invasive screenings that most doctors recommend for women who are over 35, and they need to be done between 12 and 14 weeks into the pregnancy.  My doctor in Georgia wouldn’t be your doctor if you didn’t do them, but the doctor here was very flexible and left it up to us.

Did we want the early screening or not? The thing is, that the only reason to screen so early is to catch a pregnancy within the “legal abortion” window if something is wrong.  Everything the early screening detects will be detected later in other scans and tests and will be far more accurately diagnosed.  So did we want the early screening or not?  There is nothing morally or ethically wrong in the tests themselves.  So did we want the early screening or not?

In the midst of this, my medicaid paperwork got all messed up and for two weeks I was assigned to the wrong provider, so my doctor couldn’t see me.  The reason?  I received my enrollment package two days after the deadline to enroll in a provider program.  I called the “helpful” 800 number and was told that it wasn’t their problem.  They fixed it, of course, but only after a two week waiting period and a series of duplicate phone calls.

So I’m scheduled to see my O.B. today at 13 1/2 weeks into my pregnancy – too late to schedule the early screenings, and with a big dilemma lifted from my shoulders.  God used government inefficiency to make the call for me.  Proof that God is sovereign even over gargantuan labyrinthine government programs that seem to take on a life of their own.