5/03/2016

Chuck's Two–Tiered Dark Chocolate Cake from scratch with Cherry, Raspberry, Rhubarb, Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

I guess you could say cake auctions are a joy. Cake auctions with an amateur auctioneer in a sombrero preceded by a top–notch taco bar fundraiser with homemade donkey piƱatas are pure delight.

Jas and I decided to come packing some mega–heat for the cake auction... twenty dolla bill y'all.
The bidding began. I had my eye on an authentic, gooey, made from scratch and passed down from generations family recipe of a German Chocolate cake (ok, not sure all those things are facts, but that's how downright delectable that baby looked). Jason had his eye on a nice, thickly frosted, tray of brownies. Then a lovely little number came up for auction.
We were pretty sure we saw Chuck, one of our very favorite friends, carrying it when he walked in to the party with his wife, Mary Lynn (another very favorite friend), following close behind. Before the bidding our amateur auctioneer began to try to describe the lovely two–tiered item.
"Here we have what looks like a chocolate cake with... strawberry frosting..."
"Nahh!" Chuck raised a hand in the air and elevated his voice to be heard over the ambient nose of children scurrying and people chatting in the church gymnasium. "It's cherry! and raspberry! and uh, and uh, rhubarb, and cream uh cream cheese buttercream frosting!"
"So everything ever you wanted in a frosting, frosting on a two-tiered chocolate cake..."
 "It's a chocolate, no dark chocolate cake from scratch." 
Jas and I looked at each other as if to simultaneously say "We're in!"
"Alright who'll start the bidding at five dollars? five dollars five dollars, five dollars, Five dollars!"
And before we knew it we were the proud owners of a $10 two tiered dark chocolate from scratch cake with cherry, raspberry, rhubarb, cream cheese buttercream frosting.

As we were cleaning up and clearing out the event Mary Lynn passed by and we told her how excited we were to have won her cake.
"Oh no." Her eyes were wide with smile. "That's Chuck's cake. He made it all by himself. Scoured recipes online and came up with it all on his own."
You can imagine Jason and I's surprise and delight! "You're kidding! This is the best."
She shook her head, "I really think we need to give you your money back..." 
"What? We got a great deal!" 
"When he was working on it in the kitchen I could hear all sorts of moving and shuffling around in there... he kept yelling out questions for me. 'Is powdered sugar the same as real sugar?!' And then he did't remember to set a timer. I started to smell something and let out a yelp! He got it out of the oven and was trying to take it from the pan and THUNK it went onto the counter." I'm uncertain of the last time Jason and I were laughing so hard. Mary Lynn put her finger to the side of the cake, testing how hard it really was, grimacing. "Then we had to scrape off the frosting in the middle because he'd had big chunks of butter all through it..."
"Hey! I thought it would probably melt in there." Chuck had come up behind Jason and decided to stand behind his cake and all decisions in the making of it. "I believe I followed all the directions."
"We got it all scraped off and blended it up and spread it back on... ... oh I hope it's alight. Edible at least. I really feel like we aught a have you over and repay you with dinner and another..."
"No repayment necessary!" Jason and I chorused each other. "Now we know the back story I'm sure we couldn't be happy with any other cake."
"Well... I don't know about that." Mary Lynn sighed, her eyes flitting up to Chuck. "But the roses on top are right off Chuck's very own rose bush! And I washed out all the bugs."

We figure we got the best deal of the whole Girl's Camp Fiesta Fundraiser & Cub Scout Cake Auction.

A good story is always worth more than a perfectly crafted two tiered dark chocolate cake frosted with everything you ever wanted in your frosting, frosting (and yes, it really was everything you ever wanted in your frosting, frosting).

4/12/2016

Hurricanes and other emotional disasters


In the weeks and months following my ectopic pregnancy I was plagued with grief and sorrow and loss—but also, and unexpectedly, I was lost in confusion. Confusion in my faith and God and what I had always thought I'd known as "revelation" or "inspiration". In this state of confusion and fractured faith I also felt misguided, misled... a deep distrust settled over my shoulders and gripped me tightly. My world darkened as my trust faded. I'd always been told to trust in Christ, to trust in the Holy Spirit as it would guide me, light my mind with Heaven's view. Now I questioned those feelings I had thought had come from the Spirit, those feelings that led Jason and I down the path of a second round of IVF and ultimately nearly end my life. I went through each day numbly; the numbness a sort of protective coating for the doubt and pain that enveloped me, too poignant and fresh it was sure to draw blood. I could hear screaming in the quite of my mind. It was mine. My silent screaming. That too became numbing, like the hum of white noise.

How could something have felt so right? So good? How could we have felt so assured? How could we have trusted in a feeling so completely? How could I have believed so completely and felt life inside of me and fell in love so quickly? How could we feel as if we'd witnessed a miracle only to have it ripped from our fingers so aggressively, so harshly, so destructively?

With this nimbus cloud encircling my spirit I struggled to put one foot in front of the other and into our church building. Jason and I sat in our usual spot, surrounded by our usual church family. We were early. Our friend sat in the pew in front of us and turned around, chatted with us as we waited for the meeting to start. I don't recall how or why he started to tell his story, but it fell upon me like a rush of air, like a wave crashing onto a parched, dry shore.
He was talking about his job (emergency planning manager for Los Angeles County public health/emergency department) and where he'd gone to graduate school (New Orleans, LA). "You know it was funny, neither of us wanted to go to Louisiana. We both hate humidity, we both don't like being too hot, we don't love barbecue or southern food. We couldn't believe it when we felt the prompting to go there for school. But it was so strong we knew we had to go, even if we didn't know why." It had felt so right and so clear and so good to them. Our friend and his wife packed up their new, little family and headed for Louisiana... then August 2005 came, as did Hurricane Katrina.
"The Lord didn't need me to go to grad–school in New Orleans. The Lord needed us to go through a hurricane."

The screaming in my head ceased. Silence. Some sort of understanding dawned, then deepened.

The Lord needed us to go through a hurricane.

It's funny how we, as humans, make all sorts of plans and time–lines for ourselves and our lives and our families. We map out exactly how we believe our lives should be and we feel so proud and sure of ourselves. And aren't we silly? We're not in charge here. Not really. God is over all. And what keeps me going, what keeps me hoping and believing and trusting, is knowing that He knows me. He knows me better than I know me. He loves me, better than I love me. I don't profess to know why things happen. I don't know why when we did IVF a third time last May we lost that sweet one too. I don't know! I wish I could, but maybe I don't get to yet. I know his plan for me has to be better than anything I could dream up for myself.
I have to believe this. I have to hang on to this. I have to know this truth.

He needed me to go through a hurricane. Ok. Done. Now what does He need me to do? Because I'm in. I'm all in.

3/29/2016

"Dear family of my angel donor..."


We woke early for an Easter sunrise, adopting a beautiful tradition from a beautiful friend, but there was something incredibly important and special about this specific Easter and this specific sunrise.
The clouds were socked in, it was misting throughout the wee hours of the morning, and the rain began to really come down. We all huddled under our umbrellas and our blankets. She used the same umbrella for protection on that rainy morning as I had used that sleepless night in 2012 in the waiting area during that nine hour surgery. We wondered if it all might be for not, the sky darkened in agreement. We wondered if we should just finish our hot chocolate, call it off, and hope for the possibility of a lovely sunset. We started sharing stories of other sunrises and sunsets, stories of Travis.
Then, almost imperceptibly, the rain was gone—it was all coming down, then it was gone, and it was the quietest change. It took several minutes before anyone noticed. Once our heads were freed from the umbrella's shelter we could see above us and out in the distance a few silver–linings scattered around the sky. We all felt happy with "seeing the silver–linings" and decided to just be grateful with that, then... gold! Bright, white, shining, gold burst through and between the thick clouds and gold fell on the hills around us and kissed our cheeks.

We gathered together to take it in, our breath taken by the sight. Now, it was time to listen.

A while ago Jason sent a letter "Dear family of my angel donor", then a few months later we received a message "I think my brother might be Jason's angel donor". Those two greetings are what catapulted us to this highly anticipated weekend, when Debbie and Amy and Dustin flew to Texas and we had the honor of meeting the newest members of our family.
It was as if we had known them forever, and we loved them and prayed for them before we ever knew their names. Over shared meals, through our adventures all around Sea World, riding in the car together, meeting atop our hill for the sunrise, and FaceTiming with our families, we came to know these lovely people and Travis Jericho Tillett.
Travis, a tall, blonde, entertaining, beautiful sixteen year–old boy who just got his learners permit. Who selected to be a donor without a second thought. He adored his mother, he called her Chap, he watched over her and she him and they were partners for each other. They went through life as soul–mates and were spontaneous together chasing the sea and the sunrise and the big, bright, full moon. He went out of his way to brighten and better the lives of all those around him. He knew just how to make his sister, he called her Sweetpea, laugh and laugh until she cried. He was thoughtful and driven and excited to get a job to buy a car and finally be finished with braces. He was on his way to school at SUN tech one morning, mid September 2012, when he was in a fatal car accident... only a couple days later we received The Call. There were beautiful lungs, perfect for Jason, ready for surgery. We would receive the sweetest, most selfless gift.

In the days preparing and throughout their trip, Debbie (Travis' mom), Amy (Travis' sister), and Dustin (Amy's son, Travis' nephew), experienced SO MANY tender mercies, so many miracles and signs along their way. From things small and simple as finding many pennies from Heaven when they reached their hotel room and even as they received their boarding passes to fly back to Pennsylvania—to a patient Jason had in his chair a few weeks ago, who just so happened to be head of admissions at Sea World, who told him they would be honored to host us with free admission for our special visit—to the clouds bursting open and the light reigning down on us for a moment so utterly personal and sweet it's nearly impossible to put into words.

Easter morning the air was thick and fragrant with fresh rain, our hearts were full and bursting with the sun shining around us, and Jason pulled his stethoscope from his pocket, Amy pulled hers from her purse.
Debbie slipped it into her ears, Jason guided her hand to his lungs. Amy readied herself as well. Jason took a long, deep breath. Debbie closed her eyes. Listening. "... ... ... ... Travis. ... It's Travis! There he is! Ohhhhh... ... it's Travis."

We all wept.






God was with us during our time together. God was with us throughout this tragic and terrible and beautiful and painful and miraculous journey that made our paths to cross. And I promise you God was with us on that hilltop hoping for the sun to rise. And I know that Travis was there too. I think Travis was pulling strings and walking along with us for his family's whole visit to Texas and I think he was glad we all finally found each other.

God is good. And Christ is Risen. And because of this we can all hope, we can all find joy, we can all try and love and look up and reach out to others and do our best through this walk of life. And after this mortal journey is through we can anticipate a glorious reunion in the end. Because of our Savior. Because of Him it can truly all be ok in the end.

Until then—Travis isn't gone. Travis is everywhere. And oh boy! Do we love him, and love those who love him.


"He lives on in others who now see the beauty of a sunset through his eyes, hear the coo of a child through his ears, breathe the breath of life through his lungs, and feel the pulse of life that lives on in his heart. Travis is no longer with us... He is now everywhere." –an excerpt from Travis' obituary, written by a close family friend


11/02/2015

All the sudden we live in Texas... !

Oh deer.

And so our great Texas Hill Country adventure begins!  Y'all.  All y'all.
If we wanted to get all technical, our great Texas Hill Country adventure began in July. But I'm not certain we really wanted to get all technical, and I wouldn't continue to be me if I did any sort of blogging on schedule.

Already we've met a giant tarantula, who's name is Terrance, who lives somewhere in our front yard. We've come to an understanding—he eats all the scorpions, he doesn't jump on us, we keep face to face time at a bare minimum, and he can stay. Maybe.

We've named several of the neighborhood deer. And have heard true tale of the deer/goat who roams one hill-top neighborhood over—my personal search for this mystical creature continues.

We are lucky enough to find ourselves working with lovely people and have made some great friends.

We've stumbled into free gym memberships at the same fitness center Thomas Haden Church (yeah... I wasn't sure exactly who that was either) has frequented, spotted exercising in his gym–shorts and cowboy boots.
Jas and I have both gone once. And no famous people sitings.

We've got finger–lickin barbecue/brisket up the road a ways and have been introduced to the breakfast taco and Rita makes em upright here in downtown Kerrville.

And! We are proud first-time-owners of an actual landline. It is the only way to carry on a full phone conversation as cell service is super spotty where we currently reside, unless you happen to be calling on a particularly cloudy day. Toto, I've a feeling we're not in California anymore.

Not to make us sound overly Pure Country, we're totally big city here, we have a 'Penny's.

10/10/2014

Because I'd like to remember July 4th, 2014

I know it's October... but I didn't want to forget that 4th of July we went to the Rose Bowl stadium, watched some wicked motocross, tried my first funnel cake, and sang in the fireworks to Hey Jude by a rather smashing Beatles cover band.

The irony of hearing a cover band for a British sensation on a completely American holiday was not lost on me. And it was fantastic.



 Afterward we all met up at Sonic for hotdogs and slushies.

Two thumbs up for America.