Valuables

When I came home after a truly stressful Wednesday, Julio, the head maintenance man at my apartment complex, was sitting in his golfcart in front of my building.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he asked. So friendly, I thought. He always says hi when he sees me.

“Okay,” I said. It had been a hard day. He got out of his cart and started walking with me, which was a little weird.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your apartment was burglarized today.”

Wait. What?

We stopped walking. “Oh my god. What?” I said, dumbfounded. I live in sweet safe suburbia. This sort of thing happens in “bad areas.” Safety and security, I was harshly reminded, are illusions we feed ourselves so we can rest. We reached my front door. It looked like the demo scene on an HGTV show. I tried not to visibly shake.

Apparently, soon after I left for work, a team of thieves broke into my apartment and a few others in my complex. They stole anything that could be used as a weapon.

Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t do drugs. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t have sex. Wear a condom. Wear sunblock. Wear a seat belt. Wear a helmet. If you see something, say something. Just say no. Stop, drop, and roll. Stop, look, and listen. Look both ways before you cross the street…
Safety is an illusion. Bad things can happen to anyone at any time, whether you follow the rules or not. You can check left, check right, check left again before you step off the curb and into the crosswalk, but that won’t stop an anonymous asshole in his shitty pickup from putting you in intensive care…
-Megan McCafferty, Perfect Fifths

It’s a strange thing, coming home to hard realities like that. I wandered through my house stupidly, feeling so scared and thankful (my kids and I weren’t home), as I tried to think a cohesive thought.

The police came, the maintenance team fixed the doors, the insurance people were kind and helpful, my boss graciously gave me a day off, and my sister offered her home as a sanctuary that night. I was in a daze. I didn’t sleep for two days.

It’s funny what people find valuable. These thieves took only those things they knew would be valued in a fight. My family and friends, my colleagues and my apartment complex gave things of far greater value: empathy, space, real concern, and tangible help.

As I went to make a sandwich Friday morning only to discover the thieves took all my knives, I thought about them. I wonder how sad and hard their lives are, how scared and heartless one has to be to live as they do, and about how they can’t trust anyone. They walked past photos of my children and rifled through the meager possessions of a single mom, unable to see what was really valuable in this world. Their hardened eyes were only looking for things they could use to hurt others.

People have generously asked if they can lend and even replace what I’ve lost, which is incredibly generous, but the truth is I think I may have found more than I lost. I found strength, and courage, and I found that those who care about me are even more kind and good than I knew.

To each of you who helped me through this rough week, thank you.

Posted in gratitude, Safety | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Falling

It’s October. (It appears the Lord hasn’t had time to turn the calendar page: it’s in the 90s in Houston. I can understand that, though. This year’s been a full-time job for any deity, and the continual misery just seems relentless.)

We’ll elect a new president in a few weeks, a prospect most people I know are viewing with absolute dread. Our country is falling. The Shining City on a Hill has suffered the effects of a mudslide that’s left that city a mess, and embarrassment, an open sepulcher.

This election reminds me of extreme fundamentalism and radicalism, often on both sides of the aisle. A lot of people are behaving as though we are in some sort of holy war against the opposing party, and their leader can do no wrong, so many following their choice blindly into the muddy battlefield, hacking away at their countrymen with little consideration for the consequences. Many conservatives are excusing and even praising behaviors that no sane or decent person would even think, much less defend or support, in order to be seen as more conservative, which now means more anti-Her. Many liberals are ignoring a preponderance of troubling information affecting national security and other issues to seem more liberal, or more anti-that-walking-tanning-bed. Luckily for the media, this is all really great for business.

It seems as though extremists on both sides love their party more than they love their country, and the America media loves its ratings more than anything.

I’ve been quiet, not writing here because, truthfully, my personal world has been in a bit of turmoil as well, and anything I have to say about the Current State of Things will only be additional whining in a world that needs a bit of peace and quiet.

So, dear readers, I apologize for my absence, but not for the quiet. Peace to each of you.

"People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient and then repent." -Bob Dylan

“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient and then repent.” -Bob Dylan

Posted in America, Conservatism, current events, flowers, Fundamentalism, politics, Random thoughts, Silence | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Rodalena Recipes: Red, White, and Blueberry Pie

Independence Day is coming. We need pie.

My favorite dessert is Red, White, and Blueberry pie. It tastes like an American summer; it wows any crowd, and it’s deceptively easy to make. (That last part will be our little secret.)

Before you begin:

1. Take your shoes off. This is a southern dessert, by golly.
2. Turn on some classic America music. My choice this time was Ray Charles:

3. Find a cute kid to help you.

Red, white, and blue ingredients

Red, white, and blue ingredients

Ingredients:

1 refrigerated pie crust
1 quart (maybe a few more…) fresh strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
5 oz. white chocolate for baking
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 C cold milk
1 pkg. white chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 C fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
Cool Whip (I get that extra creamy kind)
Other Stuff:
Parchment paper
Pie plate
Optional: lemon zest

Song Break:

To make:

Place pie crust in pie plate; prick bottom with a fork and bake according to package instructions. Cool completely.

Choose 8 uniformly sized strawberries and slice in half, leaving leaves. Set aside. Hull and slice remaining strawberries and set aside.

Melt chocolate in microwave by heating for 30 seconds intervals, stirring between each heating until melted. Dip strawberry halves in melted chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper. Spread remaining chocolate on bottom of the prepared crust to evenly coat the entire bottom and sides. (Melt more chocolate if you need to: this step keeps the crust from going all soggy on you.) Layer sliced strawberries over bottom of crust.

Beat cream cheese until smooth; slowly add milk until well blended. Add pudding mix and beat until mixture begins to thicken. spread the pudding mixture over strawberries. Arrange the blueberries on top, then pipe Cool Whip around outer edge of the pie. Give cute kid extra blueberries. Place the chocolate-dipped strawberry halves on the Cool Whip border. (They may not all fit so you might be forced to eat the extras. This is where that cute kid learns that helping in the kitchen has some rewards.) Garnish blueberries with lemon zest if desired. Chill overnight, or until you just can’t stand it any longer.

Red, White, and Blueberry pie

Red, White, and Blueberry pie

Happy Independence Day!

 

 

Posted in America, and Blueberry pie, Red, Rodalena Recipes, White | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Rodalena Recipes: Lavender Bath Salts

Life is stressful.

Everywhere you look, there’s something happening that threatens to raise the blood pressure and set one’s teeth permanently on edge. It seems as though everyone is tense, from those with whom we work to those we share a freeway lane with, to every single person on the news. Between careers, traffic, terrorism (my God, Orlando…), politics (this years choice is either Dolores Umbridge or Voldemort. Marvelous), weather, and the relentless irritating noise of the world, everything is hard. Heck, one of the most popular tunes on the radio is “Stressed Out.”

Tyler and Josh are even stressed out because this song has been so relentlessly overplayed. Sigh. We all need some stress relief. I’ve got just the thing: it’s time to tune out the world and draw a bath.

Bath salts are a wonderful way to relieve stress and improve overall health. This recipe combines several I’ve found, and makes plenty to share with your stressed-out friends.

All you need in order to relax is right here.

All you need in order to relax is right here.

Rho’s Lavender Bath Salts

2 cups Epsom salts

2 cups Dead Sea salts

2 cups kosher salts

1 1/2 cups baking soda

1/4 (adjust to your preference) lavender buds

10-20 drops lavender essential oil

Optional

2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Purple food coloring

Why, yes, you can bottle relaxation.

Why, yes, you can bottle relaxation.

Mix all salts together in large glass or plastic bowl. Add baking soda; mix. Add remaining lavender buds, rosemary, and oil drops and mix well. Add food coloring, carefully! (You can add more but you can’t subtract.) Pour into 8 oz. jelly jars. I like the cute quilted ones from Ball. They have purty labels. (This recipe yields 8 8-oz. jars.)

To use: after you’ve run about 2″ of hot water in the tub, let approximately 2 handfuls of the salts run under the faucet as the tub continues to fill. Let the salts dissolve, stirring the water a bit as needed. Sit in silence. Smell. Soak. Enjoy.

“Our culture encourages us to plan every moment and fill our schedules with one activity and obligation after the next, with no time to just be. But the human body and mind require downtime to rejuvenate. I have found my greatest moments of joy and peace just sitting in silence, and then I take that joy and peace with me out into the world.” -Holly Meister

“Our culture encourages us to plan every moment and fill our schedules with one activity and obligation after the next, with no time to just be. But the human body and mind require downtime to rejuvenate. I have found my greatest moments of joy and peace just sitting in silence, and then I take that joy and peace with me out into the world.” -Holly Meister

Lavender bath salt benefits:

Baking soda cures everything according to the interwebs.

Lavender is used to fight insomnia and decrease stress and anxiety.

Rosemary helps the treatment of eczema and joint and muscle pain.

Bonus benefit: after making this recipe, your home will smell marvelous.

Posted in lavender bath salts, Recipes, Rodalena Recipes, Simple Living, Stress, Twenty-One Pilots | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Love Pays Attention

Love pays attention.

Love pays attention.

There are always fresh flowers when I arrive
and he can tell when I’m getting cold.

He knows how I drink my coffee
(like Winston the Wolf:

“Lotsa cream, lotsa sugar”),
And that I prefer a Connecticut shade wrapper.

He knows I still struggle with the past
And that my kids are my heart.

He knows I love the Dixie Chicks;
I know he’s a Little Feat man

And a cheese connoisseur.
I know he loves the roar of a bad-ass V-8,

A well-made gun, a Liga T-52,
and a beautiful watch.

He likes his coffee with just enough
milk to make it look like

A dirt road in Texas
after a 10-minute shower.

I know he’s passionate about protecting those he loves
and that a good workout clears his head.

I know he has no interest in super hero movies
And his daughters are his world.

On paper, we are opposites:
The extrovert and the introvert

The gun guy and the flower girl
iPhone and Android,

The Beach Boys and Alabama Shakes,
Mercedes and Hyundai, but

Down deep we are simpatico
Kindness matters to us both.

We both love John Prine
A good steak and a fat novel,

Porch swing and modern art.
We’re having our own adventure

learning each other intentionally.
Because love pays attention.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged | 2 Comments

Inadequate Mothers

There are some who have the incredible privilege of celebrating Mother’s Day with hearts full of gratitude and many happy memories. There are others for whom this day is an ache, because the woman who birthed them was incapable (for as many reasons as there are incapable mothers) of loving and caring for a child as one should be. Even moms can only be who they are.

I am in the latter group; I had an incapable mother.

That, along with my own failings makes me an inadequate mother.

But, three wondrous people call me “Mom” and I want them to be in that first group. As one who had to come to terms with a mom who was not suited to motherhood, I approach motherhood with both awe and joy: children are an unspeakable gift not all are able to have. I have been blessed far more than I deserve. Loving my children is as effortless as breathing, but raising them to be people of integrity and kindness and grace despite the inevitable pains childhood and real life brings is…really freakin’ hard; attempting it as best I can is the most wonderful privilege of my life.

I’m so glad I’ve had help.

Happy Mother’s Day to each woman in my life who has been a much needed and beautiful example to me and my kids. You each have had a part in teaching me and mine to learn and grow and love and play well. Whether you have children of your own or not, you are instrumental in helping me raise mine, and for that I am truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to the fathers and men who stand in the gap when mom can’t be there, physically, emotionally, or otherwise. Maybe because she had an early meeting, is sick, or maybe because she just can’t, for whatever reason.

And, to my three wonders, one of which is…wait for it…making me Mickey Mouse pancakes right now, thank you for being you. ♡

My three wonders

My three wonders

Posted in childhood, family, love, Motherhood | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

List: Things Kids Can Do After a Natural Disaster

Hi kids,

Y’all must be climbing the walls. You are stuck in the house after a natural disaster like the recent flood in Houston that has shut school down for a week. You are so bored you actually want school to re-open. You’ve binge-watched everything in your Netflix queue and you’ve mastered every video game you own. You have reached the outer limits of you-tube, and have even completed the list of chores your parents gave you and your homework.

What in the world are you gonna do for the rest of the week? Mom’s getting That Look. Again. She may make you scrub a bathtub or something if we don’t act quickly.

You have better things to do.

Don’t panic, and for Pete’s sake, don’t be like these guys, who appear to have forgotten they have brains. There’s lots of important, helpful, and even fun things you can do. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re helpless or that your input and ingenuity during tough times isn’t needed and valued. Kids, you can help your families, your neighbors, and your community while school is out during an emergency.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Memorize a famous poem like Litany by Billy Collins. (If this three-year-old can win the internet reciting Billy Collins, so can you.)
  • Write a poem, short story, or even a novel. Get published!
  • Read a classic: this post has some good choices
  • Learn to diagram sentences. Diagram a sentence in your favorite novel.
  • Study geography: memorize the capitals of all countries and be able to locate them all on a map.
  • Google math-ish tutorials. Astonish your math teach with your new ninja-math skills.
  • Google science experiments; terrify your mom by replicating the most interesting ones at home.
  • Google flood prevention. Write a letter to the mayor suggesting new ways to respond to and prevent these situations.
  • Work with your parents and friends to organize a fund or a clothing/diaper/dog food/book-and-toy drive for your fellow students who have been displaced in the storm.
  • Visit displaced kids, seniors, and families. Read aloud to them. Listen to their stories. Seriously: seniors have awesome stories.
  • Grab some friends and your favorite board games and offer to give weary parents in shelters a break by playing with their children.

You can help: HoustonFoodBank.org

Sometimes we get sad or bored when we focus on ourselves and our situation, especially if there seems to be little we can do to change it. By opening our eyes to the world around us and stepping into the shoes of others and walking around awhile, we can see a bigger world, one in which each of us plays a key part.

Kids can be a powerful force for good in hard times, just ask Malala. There are tons of things kids can do while school is out, and while it’s in for that matter. Kids are a vital part of our community, and your smiles and spirit will have a positive affect on relief efforts. Use this list as a starting point, brainstorm with your parents and friends, get busy, and have fun!

Posted in childhood, Community, compassion, current events, Disaster, Flood, Growing Up, Kids | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Symphony

Nice place to spend a Saturday night.

Nice place to spend a Saturday night.

My boyfriend wanted to share one of his favorite things with me: the symphony. He got us four tickets to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Jones Hall here in Houston. We spent several weeks looking forward to the event. Life happened, and he was unable to make it, so he insisted I go with others who would enjoy it. My daughter, one of my lovely co-workers, and her husband joined me last night.

It was glorious. If you have never been, go.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Loosely translated, that means "brotherhood."

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Loosely translated, the above means “brotherhood.”

I love music of all kinds (my boyfriend and I have a little contest going to see who has the more eclectic playlist), but there is something very special about classical music. Composers speak to us across centuries and oceans in a bizarre mathematical language of lines and dots. Conductors and musicians practice their craft, listen intently over and over and over in order to do their part to translate to music lovers what the composer meant in the most beautiful and collaborative way: the symphony. The end product, when done well, is a treasure.

Beethoven’s 9th asks big questions in different ways during the first three gorgeous movements, and answers them with astonishing beauty in the fourth. He wrestles with serious questions we still wrestle with today, and a quick google search will reveal that while interpretations of his intended meaning vary, the general consensus is this: he wanted to display the beauty and power of the brotherhood of man.

Jones Hall, Houston

Jones Hall, Houston

Men and women of African, American, Indian, Asian, Latino, and European descent performed an incredible act of interdependent human cooperation last night as the packed house listened, with intent appreciation. Everything from the construction of the room years ago to the craftsmen who formed the instruments to the utilitarian metal stands looking like birds’ feet standing all across the stage to the wires and lights glittering above us like lightning bugs and spider webs on a summer evening to the musicians and their conductor, all worked together and resulted in hundreds of people time-traveling using the vehicle of their work to meet in that room at that time to accomplish and appreciate one thing: a symphony.

Strings and voices sang. I was certain the first chair violinist was going to fall off his chair because he was on the edge of his seat; he played as though his life depended on it. The fingers of cellists moved with spectacular force and speed (I wonder how deep their callouses are). The singers filled the room with a volume and power that could be felt in the marrow, and then, at the direction of the conductor, they sang with such intense softness as though they were telling a powerful secret.

Each performer in the symphony had a different thing to say and a different perspective from which to say it. Regardless, they all communicated together with a harmony that was grand. Some musicians spoke for a long time; others briefly. Some loudly, others softly, some spoke alone, others spoke as part of a group. Some musicians were animated, others performed stoically. The audience listened, entranced. When they finished, we stood and applauded thunderously for at least five minutes, the director returning three times from backstage to accept our gratitude.

Andres Orozco-Estrada

Andres Orozco-Estrada

The conductor, Andres Orozco-Estrada, led with a silent intensity. His curls shook. His body was totally committed to drawing both powerful volume and intense softness from the musicians, all of whom were as intent on the music as he was and they seemed to respond to his commands out of devotion, not obligation. His gaze was everywhere; every person mattered, every person’s contribution was appreciated, and the result was one voice, a marvel of what humanity is capable of when we work together toward a common goal.

I imagine some of the musicians last night have differing opinions on what Beethoven was trying to say when he wrote his masterpiece and how it should be performed. I imagine some came to the stage last night with unseen pressures and sorrows. It’s likely there is as much behind-the-scenes drama between the performers as there is cooperation. But, above all of that, there was an evident respect for the music, for the composer, and for the conductor.

Watching him lead with his quiet passion, I thought perhaps we should look among symphony conductors for our political leaders. A good conductor respects history, adapting it to the present with reverence. They honor the institution they represent in their leadership, even if they lead dramatically. They appreciate the contributions of each person in the symphony, and understand the power of collaboration, practice, study, and, most importantly, they lead by example, giving as much as they demand from those they lead. And, truly, the world is more wonderful when their work is done than before it began.

Posted in Beethoven, Community, Cooperation, creativity, Culture, Music, Symphony | 7 Comments

Top 5 Covers

It’s cold. We need some covers.

My daughter shared Disturbed’s incredible cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” with me the other day, and it got me to thinking: what are the Top 5 Covers? Here is my list which, in typical rodalena fashion, contains more than 5 songs:

1. Disturbed – The Sound of Silence

2. Il Divo – Amazing Grace

3. LeAnn Rimes – Purple Rain

4. 2 Cellos – Thunderstruck

5. Dixie Chicks – Landslide

6. Your Song – Ewan McGregor

Posted in 2Cellos, covers, Lists, Music | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Exposure

You push through the hard shell;
You fight against hard walls

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. -A. A. Milne

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. -A. A. Milne

Only to expose yourself to a
Cold winter wind.

Red camelias mean excellence and perfection in the language of flowers

Red camellias mean excellence and perfection in the language of flowers

You worry:
Did you make the right choice?

Is this courage or are you stupid?
How much exposure to these

Brutal elements
Can you bear?

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. - Maya Angelou

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. – Maya Angelou

The wind is a raging constant.
You fear you’ll fail.

But, the sun is still there, and it will feed you.
Cool waters will come.

Keep striving.
Spring is coming.

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow. -Mary Ann Radmacher

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow. -Mary Ann Radmacher

Posted in perseverance, photography, Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment