Lemon Curd

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When one of my kids was going through the put-all-in-mouth stage, I recalled the day clearly when his path crossed with a slice of lemon.  We were at a restaurant, and I was having one of those sinking feelings that everyone was staring at my child’s ill-behaved mother for not “doing something about it,” whatever “it” was that was bothering fellow patrons about children in general.

Well, little man dipped his fingers (that had now been all over the place) into my glass of water. EWWW. He made a lightening fast decision to grab the lemon and shove it in his mouth. The rest of us saw it coming; my neuropaths were all lit up with anticipation. I imagined his was, too. You should have seen his what-the-hell-was-that face. What surprised me was that he went back for more…definitely his mother’s child. Who wouldn’t go back for more lemon?

So, we made some lemon curd this week. It took three of us to make things go really fast.  I was surfing on the internet, while the kids were zesting lemons and juicing.

Here is the recipe (crediting lemon-lover’s kindergarten teacher):

1.  Bring the zest of 4 lemons, 1 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 1/4 cup of sugar to a rolling boil over medium/ high heat.

2.  Meanwhile, cut 6 oz of butter into small cubes and set aside.

3. Crack 6 eggs into a large bowl and whisk till lightened in color. (Do NOT ignore the large bowl requirement.)

4. When the lemon juice mixture is at a rolling boil, add small ladles of liquid into the eggs while whisking continuously till the outside of the bowl becomes very warm to touch. The goal is to not cook the eggs. (It helps to have an assistant for this step: One to whisk the boiling lemon mixture, one to whisk the egg mixture.)

5. Carefully pour the warm egg mixture back into the boiling lemon mixture and continue whisking.  Lower the heat to medium and cook till the mixture returns to a boil, stirring constantly.

6. Once at a boil, remove from the stove and strain into a large bowl.  Whisk while slowing adding cubes of butter till melted. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming.  Keep refrigerated!

The kids were happy to just lick the bowl, but we preferred lemon curd on ice cream, or whipping up greek yogurt and lemon curd for tartlets (pate sucre crust is a fabulous tart crust: https://deliberatelysusan.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/rhubarb-pop-tarts/).

photo 1photo 2 (3)

Delicious, and no scurvy for our family this week!

Users Are Abusers: A Mother’s Wake-Up Call

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I notice that many parents abuse children around here.  Many will not accept what I have to say… after all, I run in highly educated circles and spend time with people who dig discussing childrearing philosophies over designer cocktails. Folks in my neighborhood (Capitol Hill) invest heavily in their kids…Soccer on The Hill, French classes, sewing lessons, visits to the White House… We are all about igniting our kids’ dreams and passions. In such a crowd, nobody would admit to being abusive.

Abuse is, after all, actions of monsters. Abusers rape and beat their children. Abusers do not take their offsprings to the Smithsonian museums followed by trips to Annadale for Korean barbeque, and then nights out at the Kennedy Center.

I wonder if we are willing to bring to mind the parent who could not say “no” to a child for fear of his disapproval. Will we consider the parent who projects an idealized perfectionism toward her child? (That is the stereotypical Washingtonian parent.) Such a child can never fail, as every weakness risks [emotional] abandonment from the parent. Will we recall the mother who keeps having children so that she could hide behind them and disengage with everyone else? Does this parent ring the bell: He constantly modifies the family menu and controls the eating of his children because of his own body image issues?  More privately, there is the mother who has a momma’s boy, and the father who has a daddy’s little girl, the children who have been made surrogate spouses to play the roles of confidante, caretaker of siblings and mediator between parents. Do we consume our children? Do we abuse them? Are we a ball of turmoil when we cannot control our children…or do we shut down (go watch TV, kids! or the more sanctioned version: I signed you up for another activity so you can leave me alone)?

Using children as a way to gain approval and comfort is a form of abuse to cope with unresolved pain and anger. Like rape, this kind of consumption can cause PTSD and other psychological issues. The kinds of abuse I just mentioned are subtle and insidious. I am burdened to write about this topic, because our parenting can look so good on the outside, yet we can still be seriously harming our own children by our violation of their personal boundaries. I witness chronic abuse in some families, and it breaks my heart.

The only way for parents to stop abusing our children is by giving ourselves the grace of time to process our emotions and needs often and thoroughly (self care is NOT selfish) so that we do not project our unresolved needs onto our children. These days, when I have to make a parenting decision, I make sure to ask myself, “Am I using them?” I had certainly centered parenting around my own needs at one time. I am so glad to have had a wake-up call about the dangers of this kind of child abuse; my family has been happier and healthier for it. I hope this message will bring about many positive changes in presently abusive families.

Head In The Clouds

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I am not fond of flying. For our honeymoon, Mark took us to Les Saintes, a remote corner of the earth with pristine beaches and French cuisine. At the time, he didn’t know me well enough to know how much I dreaded the three-legged trip. Our second of three flights was on a two propeller airplane from San Juan to the main island of Guadeloupe.

Shortly after takeoff, we experienced an interesting optical dilemma: Looking out the window, we were able to see the individual blades of the propeller. I clutched onto Mark’s hand for dear life and felt blood draining from my face. I continuously said my last prayers: “Dear Lord, please let me have more than 24 hours of married life…Dear Lord, please!”

Then, there was pandemonium aboard. The French speaking passengers did not understand the Spanish/English announcements from the flight crew to “fasten your seatbelts. There appears to be a mechanical failure in one of the propellers.”  Mark and I tried to keep control over our lives by taking over the translation, but we were hopelessly at a loss for the word “propeller.” Monsieur Rattner from high school did not prepare me for this moment. AT ALL.

I was not brave that day.  The plane turned around and landed safely in San Juan minutes later.

Three days ago was Mother’s Day. My son got a things-I-notice-about my-mom checklist from Sunday School. I was acknowledged for my sense of humor but not for my courage. He was right.

Two days prior, I was flying from Orlando, Florida to Panama City, Florida for a wedding at Seaside. When the 35 minute flight turned into 40 minutes, 60 minutes…etc. I began to imagine hijacking scenarios.  I borrowed my daughter’s Kindle for a few rounds of Fruit Ninja to get over my overwhelming sense of doom. Maybe I got on the wrong plane? Nobody on board seemed concerned? How could I parent my child through this crisis?

One hour and thirty five minutes of flight time later, we landed. Turning on my phone, I quickly learned that I had entered into a different time zone. How worried I had been because of my ignorance of the time change. How paranoid I had become because I took to heart what was printed clearly on my reservation summary. Time of departure: 11:00 am. Time of arrival: 11:35 am. I believed in facts, and I was entirely misguided.

I meditated on how I had conducted myself. I realized that I could not draw absolute conclusions, because I did not know all the facts.  I did not know that I would live to see the beautiful beaches of Les Saintes, and I did not know that Florida covered two time zones. I let fear, paranoia and fantasy guide my behavior.

Hereon out, I am going to give myself permission to “not know” often. I am going to recognize my limits. If something is not a universal law,  I am not going to draw conclusions. I am just going to stay curious and open. When I eliminate fear that comes from my own inclinations towards conclusive catastrophism, maybe I will fly to more places and love more people.

Maybe next year, “courage” will be checked off next to my name.

Isaiah 55

8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12  “For you shall go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall break forth into singing,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall make a name for the Lord,

an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

 

Returning to Precious

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The dawn of my being was both good and tragic.  I am still, to this day, trying to come to terms with the goodness of myself: The fact that God is deeply delighted with my existence and is devoted to my preservation, that when I was born, or even before that, I was ordained to be unconditionally loved… Could it be so?

The first shadow of doubt was casted at St. Teresa’s Hospital, Hong Kong, on September 8, 1973. I was told that the attending labor and delivery nurse brought my helpless self to my mother with an apology, “It’s another girl.” I came out of the birth canal 33 months after my older sister.  In Chinese culture, there was/is a pervasive lie that a girl was just not as good as a boy – not as able, not as worthy, not a name bearer.  First strike: I was a girl; girls were no good.  Second strike: I was “another” girl; seconds had no position.

My brave mother came boldly to my defense: “But look at her big eyes,” she said.

I never knew about my birth story till she stood up and told of it during the rehearsal dinner of my wedding. She had tears in her eyes as she relayed the events of that day. She was proud that she fought for me. We, in the audience, were moved to tears by her valiant effort to love me.

But the fact remains that on that day I came to be, she rejected me as she embodied the culture’s rejection of my womanhood. She did not resolutely say, “A girl is perfect.”  Instead, she said, “But look at her big eyes.”  “But” was a shame-filled word.  And then, my appearance was elevated above all else. What if I had small eyes? What else would have been left of me?

How moved we all were by my birth story,  but how duped. We were collectively deceived, fighting one lie with another, never really embracing the whole person God had intended for me to be. Mother’s declaration and defense of my state of being only operated in a disempowered, culturally acceptable frame.

In my forties, I still hear the echoes of that day and am often filled with self doubt. Was the script that I was less than somebody true? Does this script still have power over me? Sometime during my marriage, I gained some weight, and my mother asked me if I ever worried about my husband’s displeasure of my appearance. So, not only was I as good as my appearance, but I was only as good as another’s acceptance of me. Has she always believed this for me?

What your mother, or your mother culture, believe about you, is powerful. I have felt my adaptation to this self-annihilating mode of being: My young self experienced rejection, and my adult being manifests perpetual shame and a constant lack of self resolution; self doubt presents itself in constant need for soothing and approval. I ask my work, my dinner, my children, my spouse, my friends, my sexuality, my talent, my property: Are you my mother? (Yes, Dr. Suess. Good title!) Do you approve of me? And then, I walk away with unbelief of the praise and the acceptance that I have worked hard to generate.

Of course, I forgive that nurse, and my mother.  I cannot even begin to imagine where the primordial trauma of the human self began that has brought this pain and oppression into human history and into my own history. How can I blame my mother? We are all in it together.

I see where my pain comes from. It has informed me. But no, it has not defined me. I have a precious self, after all. My precious self is the self that my mother was not able to fully see the day that I was born. As I also do not see myself in full, my task at hand is to recover my original image. My memory must go further back, then. I must replace those first words I heard with even older words, and I must ask for faith to believe them, so I can be restored:

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Valuable Friendships

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Every week, I get together with an incredible group of women. I even pay a babysitter so that I can get together with these folks. I am extremely attracted to this gathering because of the unique setup where I feel liberated to be myself.

As with every community, there are guidelines for membership and participation.  The suggested mode for this group is that we do not give advice and only talk about ourselves. We do not assume what people need or do not need. We do not make suggestions. We do not advice.  We just share our stories.  I admit to being awfully skeptical with the idea that talking about myself (sounded selfish at first) can lead to good friendships. But I have found that when I walk into the group, my mind is so free from any need to meddle, judge, fix, or control others, that I am able to be my most genuine self. Others feel that freedom as well. As a result, I get authentic and unfiltered versions of people’s stories, and they are a deep encouragement to me. The message I inevitably take away is always, “I am unconditionally acceptable.”  When I look at others, I am able to admire their courage and share in their journey of joy and sorrow.

Sometimes, I need my friends. I do not expect anyone to come to me, assuming they have the right answers. In fact, I always hope nobody comes with any assumptions, as I find them presumptuous and demeaning. Instead, I go and tell them exactly what I need and see who is willing to cry with me, go to the movies with me, or recommend a reading. With every passing week, I have come to realize I favor this way of doing friendships over any other.

I am really quite done with judging people, gossiping, and qualifying my sense of self. It is pleasant and freeing simply to be me. I lament that our world is sometimes not generous and filled with grace, but I value that I am able to receive the unique gifts of unconditional love and acceptance in actual practice. It is amazing how when nobody is out to change me, I feel a strong urge to becoming a better person and friend.