Fun Lunches

In recent weeks, I have been making "fun lunches" again, as Blueberry likes to call them. Bento boxes are magical in our house, inspiring us to look for cheery bits of loveliness peppered in the day.


One Dress, One Shirt, One Month


I lay awake at night thinking about them. Day breaks and I ponder where they are now. I wonder if they have eaten or if they are cold or if anyone has shown them kindness. I wonder if they have lost hope or if they still hold fast to the belief that good, kind people still exists and are working to find them and help them. I pray fervently for their hearts and their minds: that they will find healing. I pray that they will be rescued and that tomorrow will be different. I pray that tomorrow brings freedom.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in every state in the United States. It happens to women, to men, to children, to US citizens and to foreign nationals. The poor, and those who find themselves on the fringes of society, are most vulnerable.

For the next month, I will join a campaign One Dress, One Shirt, One Month to represent those who are enslaved in sex trafficking by wearing the same attire for thirty days. By doing so, I hope that together we can learn the signs of human trafficking and be ready to alert authorities to the whereabouts of victims. The campaign is raising funds for a local safehome for children rescued from sex trafficking.

What you can do:
Read 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking
Sponsor me for $1 a day, benefiting The Tree House, a safehome in Boone.
Start a campaign in your city like this one. Contact Break Out, Walk Out for details.
Pray for change. Pray for freedom.


Oh my Lard!

We have several hundred pounds of pork meat in our freezer. To make the most of all the cuts, we bought Beyond Bacon cookbook. We canned pounds and pounds of sausage for Christmas. We watched videos on how to brine bacon. We are working up the courage to cure our meat in a new-to-us charcoal smoker, which is still sitting in the box on our porch, and this week, we borrowed our neighbors' meat grinder to render the fatback into lard and crispy lardons.

We began traveling down the road to slow food and local eating several years ago. It has been a journey to assess what we eat, where it comes from, how it is grown and raised and how all those facts influence our health, our community, and the greater good of others and the earth. For a couple of years now, we have endeavored to slowly make the switch to buy all our meats directly from local farmers. Most of the meat in our freezer this year comes from New Life Farm, just over the hill from our Little Creek. In fact, we went WHOLE HOG with a pastured pig raised out in the grass and mud, fed leftover grains from a local brewery and allowed to forage fallow fields for organic delectables.

Thanksgiving weekend we went out to the farm to say "Thank you" and "Goodbye" to the kind animal that would grace our table for the coming year. I have always thought that if I had to "get close" to my food - ie, acknowledge that those neat packages of plastic wrapped meat in the supermarket came from a beautiful animal that was living and breathing the week before - that I would probably freak out and never eat meat again. However, my experience has been different, and I have found that seeing the animals out on pasture at the farm and then being a part of the quiet days of butchering and processing has given me a deep respect and thankfulness, albeit tinged with sadness, for the life the animal lived and gave. The sentiments compel me not waste any or as little as possible of the animal, a concept dubbed "head to tail," so that their life (and death) is not in vain, so to speak.

My grandmother, who grew up with chickens and hogs in the yard, much prefers to have food packaged ready-to-eat with just a quick zip in the microwave. She declares I am crazy to go back down the road she left far behind. I can't contradict her on the crazy part, although my notions of food and nourishment are pondered and purposed. What about you? What are the influencing factors for food and nourishment in your life?


Family Portrait: The four of us


I have been plotting a family-of-four photo shoot for a number of weeks, and the perfect timing came 'round last night. We were home and rested. It was not raining (like it is tonight) or fifty-three degrees cold. Everyone was in a good mood (or at least we all were up until the camera started rolling). The sun was setting, so the light was soft. I had portrait whites picked out and ready for us all to wear. I lugged a heavy church pew down into our field and set up the tripod.


The church pew had been used earlier that afternoon as a seat on a bus. Blueberry had boarded it several times to come visit Baby Peace and I, where we lazed on one side of the porch. After changing into her white dress, she made us each a bus ticket for our ride. I grabbed the baby, and he carried her down to the station. The light was not quite right, and so we shifted the bench and the tripod. He explained to Blueberry that we were changing buses.


I adjusted the camera, set the self-timer to shoot 95 photos over the next three minutes, and then issued a challenge: At the conclusion of our photo session, whomever was smiling into the camera for the most photos would get to eat the biggest piece of chocolate cake. My subjects perked up and started practicing their smiles. I joined the fam on the bench.


The camera rolled. We smiled with vigor. We told jokes. We cut up. An airplane flew overhead. The birds sang in the trees. The wind blew through the grass. We lost focus. We forgot about the chocolate cake. Actually, that isn't true. It turns out that one of us is highly motivated by chocolate cake. Never go up against a four-year-old when chocolate cake is on the line.


As we were sitting there, enjoying our bus ride, she reached forward and grabbed a long sheath of grass, one with a lovely, ripened seed head... and it sliced her finger. Mountain Man and I continued to smile at the camera, oblivious. We were oblivious, that is, until the pain took over where the shock left off, and she began to cry. Poor angel. It was a bleeder, and I imagine it must have stung like a paper cut. We inspected. We sympathized. We had kissed it. We had a parent-moment. We offered extra kisses. Then we called it quits.

PhotoVisi Collage

We came inside and regrouped. I scrolled through the photos while he bandaged her wound. A colorful band-aid revived her mood. Meanwhile, in photoland, it was rather slim pickins'. From the lot, we picked out our favorite pose and determined to try again. The light had shifted, so we had to move our bench and tripod again. Back on the bench, our original gusto fizzled. We spent the better of part of the three-minutes with pasted smiles on our faces while the baby protested.


I have an ever growing respect for photographers who turn out "wow" family photos on a regular basis. Seriously. How is that even possible? What I do know is that I learn a little more every time. And while I am learning, we are making memories. Freak accidents and fussy babies aside, some of those memories are real keepers.



40 Years

“Most people spend the first half of their life focused on being successful, and the second half of life focused on significance. Often time people discover the priority of significance far too late in life.” - Super Steve


I was thirty-eight, an age I once never imagined myself yet now a memory, when I providentially welcomed these words into my life. Words of reflection for him, yet timeless and transformative for me connecting my present to my past and my past to my future. For it was my future he was speaking into as he reflected on his past. It was these words that penetrated my ears, entered my head and fell down into my heart.

Success and significance, two words, competitors or companions? Competitors when one accepts a narrow view of success: meaning, the gaining of wealth or fame, or a favorable outcome of present activities. Possible companions when one accepts a broader view of success: meaning, a positive outcome of a life lived in significance, full of meaning, balanced with important family, faith and friendships priorities.

There are years, and there are milestone years. Years that become markers in our lives that help us measure our successes, our significance, our hearts. This is one of those years. A milestone year that is sometimes the subject of office jokes and comments, as I crest the hill towards a destination of crises for some, a mid-life crisis. In 2013, our Blueberry Gal turns four and I meet forty. For me, this is a very likely halfway point of a presumed life lived to eighty. This is my point of reflection. A nostalgic look back to acknowledge the joys, fears and tears that have marked my life journey thus far. An optimistic look forward acknowledging the likely joys and challenges that await me as I continue this journey of life in a world with the hope redemption for those that choose faith. A world where success, significance and failures co-habitat, intertwine, compete with and sometimes support each other.

As I enter my latter half of life, significance must play a bigger role. Bigger is better when it comes to significance. Unfortunately for many, including myself, the narrow view of success too often precedes significance in our thinking about life. Significance always outlasts success and if I choose to prioritize significance, success will come. Come my eightieth may I look back at a life of significance, a life that faithfully intertwines priorities of faith, family, friends and career. Now that would be a successful life. Eternal success.