Friday, October 2, 2015

10 Things I Learned in September

At the end of each month, I share things that I learned. This habit helps me pay attention to life, myself, and God's presence. It's my way of reflecting and celebrating. In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month:

1. Fantasy Football is surprisingly addicting. 

This is my first time playing in a FF league with friends. And while I'm very ambivalent about the NFL in general, I really care about how my pretend team does. Even though it has no bearing on real life whatsoever. This is probably due to the competitive streak that runs in the family. 

2. Making new friends is like going on blind dates. 

You test the waters with people, seeing if there is any meaningful connection and potential for more. Sometimes you part ways, sometimes you find a person you click with. It takes some courage and risk, but maybe you end up with someone who becomes a true and lasting friend.

3. A good water bottle is a life changer. 

I used this Camelbak for years, and it was great. But after moving to a tropical (hot) climate, my water bottle needs changed. So I got this Hydro Flask. At about $30, it was an upgrade. But it was totally worth the money. Now I have a water bottle that keeps water cold for hours, and it doesn't sweat all over the table. I'm a fan of the Hydro Flask.

4. Stand up comedy is one of the bravest things people can do. 

Steve and I went to a stand up comedy show, and I was in awe of people who can write some jokes, deliver them in front of an audience of judges, and hope that their performance will connect with people enough to make them laugh. We have a few friends in the stand up comedy world, and I salute those people for their bravery.

5. When you mess with the status quo, you will encounter opposition. 

Change is challenging and uncomfortable. It unearths people's fears and insecurity. I am seeing this reality play out in several ways around me as I make some changes. It is important for me to remember opposition is to be expected, and even a good indication that something meaningful is getting birthed. 

6. My frustration or anger toward people is inversely proportional to the amount of compassion I have for them.

When I have compassion, concern for other people's suffering, there is decreased space in my heart for anger. Conversely, if I feel angry or frustrated with people, that's a good indicator of how little compassion I have for them. May I become more filled with compassion for others. 

7. Fall is a strange season in Hawaii. 

Pumpkin spice lattes and autumn color schemes seem completely displaced here. I mean, I love me some pumpkin bread, but it's just not the same when the day is 80 degrees and you're wearing shorts. 

8. I have evil fatigue. 

With the racism, mass shootings, hatred, and all the other awful, horrible things happening around our world, my heart aches. I am struggling against the feeling of being overwhelmed and disengaging. I am so very tired. But I want to fight and hope too. 

9. My grouchiest, most irritable time is when I wake up in the morning. 

I vaguely recall being a great morning person. But now I have a baby who is a terrible sleeper, and two other kids who wake me up before I'm ready. So I'm in a foul mood each morning - annoyed that I'm already tired at the beginning of the day, worried about the things I need to do, and longing for the experience of feeling well rested. I typically have a cup of strong coffee, which helps me ease into the day with a better outlook. But still...before coffee, watch out for Larissa the Grouch.

10. People are seeking spiritual guidance. 

Every time I tell people that I'm a spiritual director, I get responses of intrigue and curiosity. "What is that? Tell me more," said one woman who had come to my door trying to sell me something. When I explained that I help people encounter God and pursue spiritual growth, her eyes lit up. "Oh, you're like a coach for people's spiritual journey. I need that!" she exclaimed. When I have interactions like these, I am reminded why I'm doing what I'm doing. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lasagna Soup

When I think of my mom's cooking, her lasagna is one of the first things that crystallizes in my memory. Our family was in for a great dinner when our oven was baking her lasagna. Her version included meat, mushrooms, spinach, basically everything you could possibly include in lasagna without it becoming just chaos. Good homemade lasagna really is the mark of familial love.

Lasagna soup is all the deliciousness of lasagna, dished into a bowl. It's a nice option to consider when you don't want to put together all the layers of an actual lasagna. But be assured, all the wonderful, familiar flavors of lasagna are here - Italian sausage, tomatoes, pasta noodles, basil, all topped with melty cheese. Do not skimp on the cheese!

Lasagna Soup
adapted from A Farmgirl's Dabbles
print this recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage
2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
8 ounces pasta noodles, such as penne or macaroni
2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried basil)
salt and pepper to taste
toppings: shredded mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

While soup is simmering, cook pasta. Set cooked pasta aside. Right before serving, stir spinach and basil into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Add pasta, and top generously with mozzarella and parmesan.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

That Time I Lost It With My Kid

Before I became a parent, I used to imagine there was this child-raising formula: love + good intentions = great parenting. Now that I have actual experience in actual parenting, I realize that it doesn't really work that way. Because guess what? Parenting involves human beings. And sometimes, humans beings are messy. 

I lost it last week with my daughter.

She is three. She is passionate, feisty, and sometimes goes berserk (as three-year-olds are inclined to do). On average, she has about 3-4 meltdowns per day. These meltdowns may be triggered by any number of horrible experiences. Such as her oatmeal didn't have enough milk in it. Or I asked her to pick up the utensil she dropped. Or her pull-up diapers "feel squishy."

Last week, I was helping her get ready for naptime. She was in her bed, and asked me to turn her fan on. I did. Then she complained, "I can't feel it!" I adjusted the fan closer. "I still can't feel it!" I pulled the fan as far as the cord would reach, and positioned it four inches from her face. "I still can't feel it!" I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I needed to be the calm adult, and moved the fan again. "Okay, this is the best I can do," I told her. She kicked the air and shouted at me, "I STILL CAN'T FEEL IT!"

Snap. My frustration boiled over, I lost that tiny shred of rational thinking, and I shouted back, "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?"

Which is obviously a productive question to ask a toddler. But I didn't stop there. I stormed out into the living room, to where my husband was sitting on the couch.

In a desperate attempt at sympathy and help, I said, "I don't know what to do with her FUCKING FAN."

It was basically my version of a tantrum. Things were not going the way I wanted, and I was angry.

Steve's eyes went wide, as he silently pointed toward the coffee table. Crouched under the table was our six-year-old son. My kid had just witnessed his mom yelling the f-word loud and clear. While that new bit of information dawned on me, my gallant husband tried to play off the moment, saying, "Hey Aaron, were you hiding from Mom? She had no idea you were there! Okay, time for your nap."

In that moment, I was completely horrified at how badly I had messed up.

Mean, accusing voices spun through my head. What a terrible mother you are. Good parents don't yell at their kids. Those are the words I hear when I screw up. I know they are lies, yet I still hear them.

But then a different voice spoke up in me. You're human. She's human. Humans screw up sometimes. You're learning.

A mentor of mine, who I consider to be an amazing mom to her three kids, once told me, "I love my kids. But sometimes, I really want to just kick them." Her words capture for me just how human and messy this parenting thing is.

I love my kids and try to do my best as their parent, but sometimes I really screw up.

I'm learning to be okay with losing it once in awhile. And to apologize and ask forgiveness. And to extend compassion when other people lose it.

Maybe parenting isn't so much about doing it great all the time. Maybe it's more about sticking with each other through the mess and screw ups, and continuing to love each other.