Nachos and Green Tomato Salsa

canning jarsMy husband is getting ready to attend a play with friends. I am happy to stay home and putter, but he hesitates with keys in hand, looking around the kitchen with a concerned expression. “I may not be home in time for dinner.” One of the many perks of our empty nest is that occasionally I find myself blissfully alone. “I know. I will be fine.” He opens the fridge. “There may be some leftovers.” “I told you, I will figure something out.” He says, “You ate all the Wheat Chex last week.” Now I am annoyed. “Go! I will cook for myself.” He snorts and leaves. I go off and hermit around my workspace until hunger drives me back to the kitchen. I peer in the refrigerator, the freezer, the pantry, the refrigerator again.

My husband is truly gifted at cooking. I am not. This was established early in the relationship. On our first date he made a picnic lunch with teriyaki pheasant. A few dates later I burned a chicken concoction and we went out for pizza. In the first year of our marriage we attempted to trade off, but when my husband started graduate school, he took over. He said he wanted a “creative outlet.” We were both relieved.

It is hard to know what came first – my profound lack of aptitude or my subsequent lack of interest. One usually follows the other. For years I have sat on a stool at the edge of the kitchen island, watching my husband intently, trying to figure out the difference between us. We are both smart. We both love to eat. Perched there, eating scraps of food out of prep bowls, I have discovered clues. My brain thinks in geometric lines, taking apart and putting things back together in a linear process. If the points are not perfect in my quilt blocks, I remake them until they line up. I think: what is the most efficient way to go from point A to point B? What are the steps to achieve a specific result? My husband’s brain thinks like a lava lamp, organic, he perceives a million details at the same time. He chops and stirs and sautes this and roasts that. He senses temperature and color and somehow five dishes appear at the same time. If something doesn’t taste right he adapts the other ingredients to balance. He thinks: what flavors go together? What recipe fits the weather?  

Today I decide to make myself nachos. I find chips, pre-shredded cheese and an old piece of steak which I chop up and layer on the top. I turn on the broiler and can hear my husband’s voice in my head telling me not to burn them. In fact, why not use the microwave?

Our children grew up in a home where Dad was master of the kitchen, not just cooking, but preparing gourmet meals that people came to rave about. Dinner at our house was a culinary adventure and we loved entertaining as a family. I tried to feel that my contribution was bringing home the bacon rather than frying it up in a pan, but the referenced woman in the commercial could do both and look sexy. I worried that my lack of domestic proficiency diminished my value as a wife and mother. One Mother’s Day this was reinforced when the boys came home from Primary presenting a project they had made in class. It was constructed of two paper wheels held together by a brad. The top wheel had a window revealing tiny messages and pictures underneath. The title read: “My mother does many things for me!” and when the child turned the wheel, the captions below read “She bakes cookies!” “She makes dinner!” “She washes my clothes!” “ She meets me after school!” To which my little son gleefully confessed, “I told them that my mom doesn’t do any of those things!” My older son shook his head thoughtfully. “No, no she doesn’t.”  

I also faced incredulous clucking from other women assuring me of my “luck” in finding a man who would “help out” and cautioning that I had better “hang on to him” as if my inability to time an egg threatened our long term prospects. At first I would defensively explain that it all evened out, that he had a surly disposition and I cleaned the toilet. Eventually I just surrendered and shrugged. I had been judged by the dial-a-good-mother wheel and found wanting.

I don’t burn my nachos but they look boring so I dig through a pile of jars created from my husband’s new hobby, small batch canning. I find something green and chopped and open it. It smells like salsa. I taste it. The hacienda heavens open and choirs of mariachi angels sing. It is delicious. I dump it all over my nachos and devour them.

In his book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon shares that most parents love their children at birth, but must learn over time to accept them. He says that “love aspires to acceptance” and that most parenting happens in the grey area between what we try to change in those we love and what we choose to celebrate as it unfolds. I believe this applies to how we view ourselves as well. Learning when to develop and push ourselves and when to simply be ourselves is an ongoing challenge. There are so many bad habits I know I must fix – my selfishness, my dental hygiene, my matchstick temper. In comparison, I can shelve the less urgent deficiencies, ignore the lists of shoulds catalogued by others and even revel in the quirks that make me who I am. My children may appreciate a mother who can make sock monkeys dressed as literary characters just as much as a mother who knows that Honey Nut corn flakes and strawberry yogurt should not be used to bread chicken nuggets. In the words of the very wise Queen Elsa, I am going to let it go.

Later that night, when my husband comes home, he asks what I ate for dinner. I tell him nachos which actually required use of the oven. Then I say, “So that green stuff I found in the pantry? It is amazing. I ate the whole jar.” He lights up. “It is green tomato salsa. The neighbor brought us all these green tomatoes and I made up the recipe in order to use them.” I assure him that it was the best salsa I have ever tasted. And that I never take his gifts for granted. He wonders if he will be able to replicate the recipe again. I say, “I am sure you will come up with something.”

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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting – Linda K. Burton

Pres Burton

Linda K. Burton

Linda K. Burton, General President of the Relief Society, opened this Women’s Meeting as the first speaker – and set the theme of “Temples” which continued throughout the meeting.

She discussed being prepared for the temple – starting with Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins: five of whom were prepared for Christ’s coming with oil in their lamps and five of whom did not prepare and were not ready to welcome Christ, the bridegroom. President Burton noted (and I agree with her) that gaining symbolic “oil” is a slow and consistent, life-long process.

She continues with the suggestion that the home is one place where we can prepare to enter the temple: creating a home environment that is peaceful and full of the spirit (like the temple) acclimates us to “things of the spirit”.  We, therefore, will feel comfortable  in the temple, allowing our spirit to receive revelation from heaven.  She emphasizes the importance of saving ordinances.

President Burton focuses most of her examples and her quotes on the Savior, which I appreciate.  Throughout her Presidency she has focused on Christ and that has impressed me.

While I found her personal stories in this particular talk were simplistic and her language overly “flowery”, I thought her message came across and was positive: prepare now and each day to know the Savior and to be ready to partake in the saving ordinances of the temple.

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Relief Society Lesson 22: Prayer, a Commandment and a Blessing

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Cry unto Him over the crops of your field, that ye may prosper in themWe Need Prayer

Prayer is something that we need, not that the Lord needs. –Joseph Fielding Smith

Why do we need prayer?

As you watch this video about church member Daisy Ogando, pay attention to her testimony of prayer. How has prayer helped her? Consider both the tangible and intangible. Think about how prayer has helped you.

Video: Prayer

Our prayers are uttered more for our sakes, to build us up and give us strength and courage, and to increase our faith in him. Prayer is something that humbles the soul. It broadens our comprehension; it quickens the mind. It draws us nearer to our Father in heaven. We need his help; there is no question about that. We need the guidance of his Holy Spirit. We need to know what principles have been given to us by which we may come back into his presence. We need to have our minds quickened by the inspiration that comes from him; and for these reasons we pray to him, that he may help us to live so that we will know his truth and be able to walk in its light, that we may, through our faithfulness and our obedience, come back again into his presence. –Joseph Fielding Smith

How does prayer help us? How does prayer change us?

Gratitude

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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting: Sister Neill F. Marriott

Sister MarriottThis past Saturday eve, Sister Neill F. Marriott, represented the Young Women General Presidency. She began her remarks by suggesting that there are “two responsibilities we carry: adding gospel light and truth to our lives, and sharing that light and truth with others.” Then she asked if we know how important we are, and shared a quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard affirming that “we need more distinct voices of women.” She addressed us as “Sisters,” and told us, “You strengthen my faith. You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.”

Shortly thereafter, she shared a quote from everyone’s favorite, President Deiter F. Uchtdorf that I wish I would have recorded more in full. What I did record touched upon “a darkening world” and the gospel as “a joyous message.” Sister Marriott emphasized the light. “If you want to give your light to others, you have to glow.

Where there is a temple, it pushes back the darkness. As an earlier General Authority, President George Q. Cannon expressed “Every temple completed… lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness.” Sister Marriott asked, “Isn’t our purpose similar to these houses of the Lord, to push back darkness in people’s lives?”

There was one moment in her life, when she prayed in the temple, and “was given a painful truth about herself.”

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Virtual Oases

Here are some links to check out!

Did you attend the Women’s meeting last weekend? Would your 15-year-old son or brother listen to Hermione talk about feminism?  Tell us in the comments!

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Filling the Seats – General Women’s Meeting

Last night I listened to the General Women’s Meeting in the company of my sisters from the Mt. Vernon, Virginia Stake. I enjoyed the added international presence, the messages from our leaders, and the inspiring music.

As the camera captured the large stand in the Conference Center I noticed the many, many empty seats. These seats will be full to capacity next weekend during General Conference with quorums of our leadership, but last night the General Boards of our female auxiliaries filled only a couple of rows.

I had a vision – as I looked at those empty seats.  A vision of hope.  One day – I see quorums of women filling those seats! A happy thought.

Do you have this same vision of hope? Do you see women in leadership filling those seats?

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September 2014 General Women’s Meeting: President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I know I am not alone in loving President Uchtdorf. Today I was grateful for his heartfelt, genuine talk. I appreciate how hard he tried to articulate his love for the sisters of the church and how important he thinks we are. I thought it was important that he specified that this, the General Women’s Meeting, is the opening session of conference and should be counted as such. I think this counts as a change in the way we discuss this meeting. I also thought it was important that President Uchtdorf repeatedly mentioned the existence of Heavenly Parents.

It was obvious from his address that President Uchtdorf wants to help us return to our Heavenly Parents. He believes that the best way to do this is to walk the path of discipleship and obedience. President Uchtdorf acknowledged that obedience isn’t always joyful but that we need to have trust that God’s vision is larger than ours. Heavenly Father is eternally loving and focused on getting us home. Uchtdorf encouraged each us to cherish the light posts of obedience that will help us return to him.

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