Saturday, April 30, 2011

Great Granola

Our granola breakfast looks like this upside down--
lots of fruit on the bottom with a little yogurt and
granola on the bottom.  But taking photos of my
creations and uploading them is too overwhelming
(Today's my 46th birthday, here's a birthday gift for you--my granola recipe!)

I make a truly great granola. 

I discovered granola while doing Weight Watchers 8 years ago.  When I ate a generous serving of fruit with a spoonful of nonfat plain yogurt and a sprinkling of granola, I wasn’t hungry until lunch.  So fruit, yogurt and granola has been Scott and my staple breakfast ever since. 

My sister has loved homemade granola far longer than me and tried a bunch of recipes.  But apparently, the one I invented is the best—she couldn’t believe I created it on first try.  It might be a tiny sensitive spot in our sibling rivalry issues.

I learned a key tip from Josh, who’s also renowned for his granola.  At a grad student summer fellowship meeting the opening question was “What was the best wisdom your parents ever passed on to you?” 

He answered, “Always put the honey in before the oil.”

As one who’d always done the opposite,  I ran up to him after the meeting and he told me that when the oats soak up the honey they just need a little slick of oil on top.  His father’s wisdom meant I cut the oil in my recipe by ¼.

As in so many things culinary within our family, a chef has no honor within her own home, so none of the kids will eat my granola.  They think granola is gross. 

The one exception was last summer in China.   I brought along a mid-size container of granola.  But when we landed and realized we weren’t going to spend $100 yuan per person on the lavish buffet breakfast at the hotel, we bought yogurt and fruit and everyone, even kids, ate it with granola.

I hadn’t planned on kids eating granola, so alas, it was gone in a week and we had to revert to raw oatmeal with yogurt and fruit, our own version of muesli.  That’s when there finally was a little appreciation!!

But returning home, they won’t eat it again.  When they complain there’s nothing to eat for breakfast and I suggest my fresh baked delicious granola, they just groan and roll their eyes. 

Someday when they are grown-ups and have to watch their weight, they will think back to how their mom baked fresh granola every three weeks and provided abundant fruit and yogurt and how they sneered at it and her.  When they come home they’ll beg me for a granola care package and it will take a lot of spiritual maturity and forgiveness to not hold their hard hearts, er palates, over them.  But I will give them granola because that’s what a mother, and a chef/cook, does.

Kathy’s Granola

Mix together until well coated:
1 42 oz. tub of rolled oats (not quick ones)
1 cup honey
1 cup wheat germ (optional—I don’t use it anymore)

Drizzle on top and mix in:
¾ cup oil (I use canola)

Add & mix in:
2 cups coconut flakes or more

Bake @ 350 in a large pans for about 20-30 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes, then every 5 until granola is light brown. 


8 oz. slivered almonds
1 cup. Pumpkin seeds or pistachios
1 cup sunflower seeds
(or any other combination of nuts you like.  I’ve also used cashews, pecans, sesame

Bake until granola is the color you like and nuts are lightly toasted.  I often turn off the oven and let it sit there.

When granola is cool, add:

1 pkg. chopped dates
Raisins, Craisins, dried fruit to your liking (I just put in some big handfuls)

Serve over whatever fresh fruit is in season with yogurt or milk.  Scott likes at least 3 each morning. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Death, Dyeing and the possibility of becoming a Skunk Head

I turn 46 tomorrow, and although I’ve already hit the mid-way point of my life, somehow the number 46 seals it for me. I’m sliding down the second half of my life towards death and freaking out just a little bit!

I always hoped I’d be the sort of woman who aged gracefully, who accepted her gray hairs, who grew wiser and kindlier and more open with each passing year.  But now I’m not so sure.

Take hair dye for instance.  I swore I’d never dye my hair because in Hawaii there are all sorts of Asian old ladies walking around with white roots that turn brown then black—the skunk look. 

I’ve always thought that women dye in their early 40s because they feel too young to gray, only to wake up in their 50s realizing it’s normal to be gray but then not bearing to face the process of growing it all out. 

I’ve also noticed that the women who dye also have moms who dyed.  Both Mama and Scott’s mom never dyed so I have a little more permission to follow their paths.  Because Scott’s been around Hawaii and seen the skunk-headed old ladies everywhere, he’s asking me not to take the plunge because he knows how I can let things go.  He knows if I dye there’s a good chance his wife will be a skunk head in no time.

But as the gray hairs proliferate, my former resolution begins to waver.  Especially when I notice how I’m in the minority among women my age.  During Ren’s Sleeping Beauty play I served on the makeup committee.  We grayed the hair of the kings and queens and royal courtiers between Aurora’s birth and 16 year birthday. 

The head make-up lady said, “I don’t think this is right—any self-respecting queen would never let herself go gray,” and when I looked at the heads of the whole committee, sure enough, I was the only one who didn’t dye.

It was even a little more sobering to think I have an almost 15 year old, so I have aged just as Sleeping Beauty’s mom did.

Ren, as Robert, chief steward to the king, really wanted his hair grayed—we couldn’t spray enough gray for him and it showed up well against his brown hair—but when I pointed out his hair shouldn’t look much grayer than mine is, he said, “Yeah, but you’re getting pretty gray Mom!”

Graying and sliding down the second half of my life to death. 

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Loving Students

Several years ago I thought of leaving campus ministry to take a church job.  When I told my kids they literally began weeping and wailing, “No!  Don’t do that!  We like InterVarsity!  We love students!”

I didn’t leave InterVarsity, but I did leave direct grad student ministry to direct our team and work with faculty.  My kids are less enthusiastic about both aspects of my new job.  
As Ling said recently, “What’s great about hanging out with a bunch of 40 year olds?”

“You really miss students, don’t you?”

“Well yeah!  We used to have barbeques every week and they’d play with us.  It was even fun after I turned 7 and you said I couldn’t jump on them any more.”

Last night, 2 former students came over for dinner and it reminded me of the gift it was for my kids to grow up with kind Harvard grad students surrounding them.

Danny, who now serves at our church with 2 kids of his own, and Nick who just ran for Parliament in the UK, got to watch me change 4 month old Ling’s exploding poop diaper while I led our first Mark Bible study at the Kennedy School.

I can still picture Paul, now a research scientist in Berkeley, sitting against the wall with 3 month old Kai-Kai in his lap, gently and repeatedly stroking her curly black hair. 

We hosted apple pie baking parties and pool parties and multiple dinners.  Through it all, my kids provided entertainment for students, and students who loved on my kids helped me get my job done.  To my kids, Harvard grad students’ sole reason for existence was to be playmate and friend.  And that identity was actually really good for the students!

Lily got to know the kids last summer when we were all in China together, and she stayed in Beijing to study.   Home on a visit, she wanted to see the kids so she and her fiancĂ© came over for dinner. She asked questions about high school and middle school and appreciated Kai’s deviled eggs. They reminisced together about the summer.  The kids were even somewhat cooperative about cleaning up from dinner because they wanted to look good for Lily. 

I work in student and faculty ministry because I think the university is one of the most strategic places to invest my energies.  The students and faculty we work with will shape our future in every aspect of life—education, technology, business, medicine, academia and more. 

But the best perk has been loving and being loved by students. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Torturing my Kids

My 2 younger kids claim I’m abusing them.  Is it because I’m forcing straight As or piano lessons or some other Tiger Mom stricture?  Is it because I’ve decided to go vegan on them and expunged the house of chocolate and junk food? 


I signed them up for swim team and am forcing them to exercise. 

Yesterday the whining started 2 hours before swimming even began.  It got so bad that both parents lost it before almost forcibly carting these kids off to the Y.  When Scott told me I needed to pick them up, it felt like he sentenced me to my own version of hell. 

But when they bundled into the van, despite a few complaints, they were relatively calm and in a good mood (for them).  They’ll never admit it, but 2 hours of working out made them feel better, inside and out.  And that’s why I’m going to enforce exercise in their lives until they leave our home.

Today is my father-in-law’s 90th birthday and he looks at least 20 years younger than his age.  My mother-in-law turns 81 in June, and she also looks at least 20 years younger.  They’re vigorous and active.  The secret?  They exercise. 

My kids get this anti-exercise lethargy from my side.  My C+ in sophomore PE was the only C that was acceptable in my family.  Even though I took advantage of free dance classes at Northwestern, did Jane Fonda videos, and even took up running at various points between birthing kids, I exercised when it fit into my schedule and sometimes it didn’t fit for weeks and months at a time.

When I married Scott, he lectured me, “You put eating, sleeping and exercise in your schedule first, then fit everything else in!”

But I didn’t. 

Then I got gestational diabetes with my 3rd pregnancy and had to prick my finger 4 times a day to test my blood sugar.  I had to go on the diabetic diet and gained 10 pounds less than I had with the 2 previous pregnancies.  After Ren's birth, the endocrinologist said I have a 60% chance of Type 2 diabetes unless I keep my weight down and exercise 4-5 times a week. 

6 months later, Scott signed me up for the gym, knowing I’m so cheap I’d never pay a monthly fee and not go.  And because I really don’t want to get diabetes or waste money, I’ve pretty much exercised 4-5 times/week without fail for the past ten years.

My mental health now needs my workouts.  I actually crave vigorous exercise if I don't get it.  And despite being in the top 1% of allergic people and having a kidney disease, other than my killer allergies (which are hitting right now), I rarely get sick.

There are many lessons I hope our kids will learn from us, but the discipline of regular exercise feels non-negotiable.   So the 2 younger ones are swimming and Ling’s on the track team.

I’m praying that at some point in the next few months Kai and Ren will make the connection between swimming hard and feeling good.  Until then, don’t be surprised if I write about DSS coming to call with the yelling, screaming and even tears each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. 

With all the chaos, I just might call DSS myself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Last of the Typewriters

This morning on NPR I heard that the last company that produces manual typewriters has just discontinued them.  There are 10 English typewriters left of the 200 in stock—buy one now! 

I turn 46 on Saturday.  The passing of the manual typewriter and my impending slide towards 50 makes me nostalgic for times gone by because my first manual typewriter was like a best friend. 

When I took Typing in 10th grade, I was the third best typist in Mr. Kusonoki’s class, just behind Martha and Jill who sat directly in front of me and competed for the top spot.  But they had taken typing before, and I was brand new, so in my own mind I was actually the best new typist in the class.  By the end of the semester, I typed 70 words a minute.  By the end of my senior year, I clocked myself at over 100 words a minute.  To this day, I exult in the power of my fingers--with my skill, no matter what happens to me, I can always get a job as a secretary.

Punahou demanded that we either take Typing or prove we could type 35 words per minute.  I resented Typing taking a time-slot where Glass-blowing or Journalism or Marine Biology could have resided.   But to my surprise, Typing taught me better life and learning skills than many other classes I’ve taken. 

Typing taught me the power of repetitive training, of learning things the right way--that if your forefingers are in the right place you can change the world, but move them just over one key and all that comes out is gibberish. And perhaps most surprisingly, my proficiency in typing taught me how to pray.

Because Punahou required that all high school papers be typed, Mama bought me a tiny plastic portable manual typewriter, so small and light it fit in my lap. My mini typewriter not only typed out multiple drafts of high school papers, but also became my closest confidant, my therapist and my spiritual director during the ego, spirit and emotion battering years of adolescence. 

I can’t remember when I started writing letters to God, but when I hit 75 words/minute, I began typing to God instead.  I could type almost as fast as I could think, which meant that typing letters to God was almost as satisfying as yelling.

My typewriter was the only physical presence on earth with which I felt permission to brutally express all my negative thoughts and emotions, the demonstration of aggressive emotions a taboo in my Asian world.   While I had screamed, yelled and thrown fits with Mama my entire life, she made it clear that my insatiable need to argue, rage, and cause a ruckus in the family was patently evil and daily proof that America had corrupted her progeny. 

All my fights with God, Mama or life drummed out of my fingers, through my tiny typewriter, and onto sheets of college-ruled, three holed paper.  My family joked they could tell I was really upset when the door was shut to my room (shut doors a taboo in our family) and the clattering of furious typing came through the door. 

30 years later I type my prayers on my week old Macbook Pro which I LOVE in so many ways.  But I have to admit, if you're going to have a temper tantrum with God, it’s just not as satisfying as banging on those old plastic keys.        

Friday, April 22, 2011

True Self/False Self and the Problem of Baking

(yet another blog that sort of picks up on the theme of true self/false self)

My kids have spent vacation week doing a camp called the Possibilities Factory. They’re trying to raise $500 for Japan tsunami relief and send 500 letters to kids in Japan by 5 p.m. TODAY.

Yesterday, I showed up as my kids were volunteering baked goods for the bake sale.  They wanted to bake:
·      chocolate chip cookies
·      sugar cookies
·      lemon squares
·      AND have me bake 3 loaves of banana bread.

And it was already 4 p.m.  

I vetoed the cookies, pointing out that banana bread alone takes an hour to bake.  “I don’t want to spend my night waiting for things to bake when I’m sleepy and want to go to bed.” 

But when we got home, Kai wanted to make cupcakes with the pineapple cake mix that I bought by accident for her birthday party (thought I had grabbed chocolate) and I gave in because when else will we make pineapple cake? 

I stayed cool as I was peppered with questions like:

·      What lemon square recipe should I use?  
·      How do I fit parchment paper in the pans?
·      The food processor won’t process the double recipe of shortbread! (because you’re not supposed to double a recipe in a food processor)
·      What do I do with the lumps of frozen butter that remain? (You’re not supposed to use frozen butter--just smoosh it into the dough)

I even suggested making cream cheese frosting AND found cream cheese in the back of the fridge for the pineapple cupcakes since the picture on the box shows pineapple upside down cake but doesn’t include any pineapple or instructions for how to make pineapple upside down cake.

Then Kai said we ran out of eggs and whole milk.  So I ran to the store and even picked up pineapple so the pineapple cupcakes would look more authentic.

Then I made dinner, squeezing between quarreling kids who argued about:
·      Who got to open the pineapple can (a BIG argument—don’t ask me why)
·      How to cut maraschino cherries
·      Who got to decorate the cupcakes
·      How to decorate the cupcakes
·      The injustices around number of cupcakes any child got to decorate and quality of what each child produced.

It was 8:30 by the time I began banana bread.  My prediction happened—I was exhausted, my kitchen was a wreck, and I was going to have to bake.

And then I found that both brown sugars had never been tied up so they were rock hard and impossible to soften.  At that point, I lost it.  Forget my Lenten criticism fast—I was mad and tired and sick of providing all sorts of staples for folks to bake with when they don’t bother to tie up brown sugar so it’ll be usable when I don’t want to bake, but HAVE TO BAKE!!
imagine the words coming out of my mouth

Kai knew I had reached the end of my rope as she meekly asked what she could do to help and willingly cleaned up as much as she could.

So on this Good Friday I’m asking myself some questions:

·      Where was my true self in this debacle?
·      Who was my true self?  (Maybe the one with feelings and needs more than anger?)
·      What’s the relationship between criticism and control?
·      What false self perfectionist performance orientation led me to use the latest Cook’s Illustrated recipe where you literally need to microwave and dejuice bananas then simmer banana juice until it concentrates to make the most bananaey bread possible? 
·      Who’s going to clean my kitchen?

I’d attach a banana bread recipe, but on this Good Friday, remembering Jesus’s death on a cross so I don’t have to prove myself, I’ll just wish you peace, with or without the baking. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Big Kathy/Little Kathy Take Two

(This is blog post #5 in a series on True Self/False self--you probably want to read #1 before reading this to know what's going on)

Lily Tomlin as Edith Anne.
I was quite a bit smaller.
Eleven years after my first Big Kathy/Little Kathy vision, God brought me back to that same vision.  I now lived in Boston, was married to Scott, the mother of two kids and in such rough shape Scott had declared “You’re out of control!  You need a retreat of silence!” 

He bundled me off to at the Society of St. John the Evangelist for 3 days.  I was still nursing 11 month old Kai-Kai, so he brought her to me on Saturday morning and evening.  (Yes, my husband is awesome!)  In between nursing dates, I tried to meet with God.

As I journaled about something or other, most probably my normal angst about feeling unsuccessful in all the arenas of my life, the image of the little Kathy in an enormous rocking chair came into my mind again. 

Once again, the vision was blurry.  Once again, I felt how uncomfortable it was to be dense real little Kathy.  And I was immensely discouraged to see how little Kathy still hadn’t filled the chair.  In the intervening years since my first vision, I had often remembered the image of Little Kathy in the big rocking chair, and had assumed that as I grew in wisdom and spiritual maturity, I would grow larger so that I would somehow fit the chair.  Now as the vision returned, not only was I still Little Kathy, I might have been even a bit smaller. 

The years of marriage and motherhood had made me wiser—at 27 and receiving the first vision of Little Kathy/Big Kathy, despite disasters in my life, I still thought pretty highly of myself.  But eleven years later, I had come face to face with my failings and no longer harbored illusions that the crap in my life was someone else’s fault.  It was clearly mine, and mine alone. 

Knowing this made me feel even worse about myself as I looked at Little Kathy sitting there in the rocking chair. 

But once again, I sensed God’s voice.  

With a metaphysical chuckle, He pointed out that I had it all wrong.  I was never going to grow or mature into becoming Big Kathy.   I was always going to be Little Kathy, even Puny Kathy.  I was never supposed to fill the chair, because God and God alone was big enough to sit in the chair.  

But if I wanted, I could sit in His lap.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A "True" Test

(This is blog post #4 on a series looking at True Self/False self.  Click here to read #1, #2, and #3)

Two weeks ago at my daughter's 13th birthday party, I foolishly left my open computer sitting on the kitchen island while 11 girls helped themselves to pizza, cupcakes, soda and ice cream sundaes.  As one of Kai's friends poured herself a glass of water over my keyboard, in as calm a voice as I could muster so as not to startle her, I said, "Could you please pour that water just a step or two back?" 

She looked up at me, then down at my computer, and backed away slowly.  I snatched the Macbook, smiled, and said, "It's OK, it's just my life. . ."

According to Adele Calhoun, our spiritual director, the false self is composed of anything you can lose.  Your possessions, your job, your relationships, even your roles.  Some of us women wrestled with that concept.  If my kids die, will I no longer be a mother?

Well, today I'm facing perhaps one of the greatest challenges short of losing a child, family member or friend. 

My Mac has died.

It didn't die in a splash of water or with a cupcake smooshed into its keyboard.  It didn't die from falling out of my unzipped computer case (which happened 2.5 years ago).  It just died a quiet death sitting open while the family watched "The King's Speech" (the R rated version--totally worth it--unfortunately for my kids, no language in that movie that they haven't heard in our house!).

I bought a external hard drive about a year ago when a colleague's Mac died and she lost everything.  I've even been relatively good at backing up so I should have everything until a week ago Monday.  But I've heard that certain things don't back up, so I won't know everything I've lost until I visit the Apple store, buy a new computer and restore everything.

Last night, as I prepared for bed with a sick feeling in my gut, I thought about what I know is lost and the implications:
  • My journal musings from the spiritual retreat--but at least God heard and remembers my prayers
  • The budgets for my team and the pdfs I still haven't sent out--but at least my boss has a copy and pdfs aren't that challenging to make
  • The minutes from our Cana marriage ministry leadership time, including the colors I changed in the schedule--but at least there were 3 others there who hopefully took notes and remember what we decided.
  • Any appointments I scheduled in this past week--so sorry if I don't show up when you were expecting me!
Everything I wrote for this blog got posted.  I didn't write anything for my book or interview my parents.  I didn't create any new recipes.  I didn't download the pictures from the birthday party yet, so they're still on my camera.  And it's a sign of our family's privilege (and Scott's IT job) that we still have 2 functioning computers in the home--hence my ability to blog.

It's going to be a hassle figuring out what's gone and reconstructing how I want to compute in the future.  I've been trying to wean myself from Entourage--now may be the time.  And I could never get Quicken to balance our various banking accounts correctly (I know, I know, operator error!), so maybe we'll just start from scratch.

Turns out I didn't lose my life after all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will the "True" Kathy please stand up?

(Blog #3 in a series on True Self vs. False Self.  Click here to read #1 and #2)

Growing up, I was the black sheep of the family.
I didn’t drink, take drugs, or sleep around, but my parents thought I was a juvenile delinquent because I failed to meet their Chinese standards for an oldest daughter. 

For them, an exemplary oldest daughter shows irreproachable and responsible behavior, both at home and at school.  When asked, she joyfully washes the kitchen floor on her hands and knees with damp paper towels.  She doesn’t forget her homework assignment on a regular basis or lose her sneakers or whine about practicing piano. 

A good oldest daughter promotes harmony with her younger siblings.  She selflessly provides for them instead of spending a good portion of her energy trying to figure out how to wangle the largest brownie or biggest cookie.  She certainly never runs around the kitchen holding said cookie in the air while the others chase her.

Most importantly, and where I failed the most, the perfect oldest child never defies her mother.  Like Confucius, Mama believed that the greatest virtue is filial piety—devoting oneself in obedience to one’s parents and elders.

“I never asked to be born oldest,” I’d defend myself.

Despite my holy terror identity at home, in the outside world I was a perfectly behaved, high achieving, polite and respectful Chinese Christian girl.  So Mama regularly called me a hypocrite. 

And she was right.  I didn’t walk my talk.  

In fact, I still don’t, no matter how much I’d like to.

So who’s the real Kathy?  Good Kathy or Bad Kathy?  I always assumed that the true Kathy was the selfish rebellious jerk at home, and the fake Kathy was the high achieving nice person outside the home.  As a result, I experienced a butt-load of good ole’ Chinese shame and self-loathing.

I’m thinking about this because all my kids are re-living my life pattern—negative and challenging at home, impeccably behaved and perfect outside the home.  And I’m giving them the exact same messages I received, that their true selves are awful and their false selves are the perfect visages put out to the world.  But somehow that seems wrong.

Yet my friend Jeff says that Mama got it right.   The Bible seems to say that our true selves are the rotten rebellious self, that every part of the good creation we were created to be is now corrupted.  He knows the Bible and theology a lot better than I do, so I had to think about that.    

So here’s where I’ve come thus far.  I don’t think either “sucky” Kathy or “perfect” Kathy can be the “true” Kathy because both identities are based on behavior, one positive and one negative.   

In my experience, I am most truly myself when I embrace that I’m a frail broken human being but that I am deeply loved, forgiven and that God won’t give up on me so you shouldn't either.  To use Biblical language, I’m a sinner saved by grace.  When I rest in the reality that I’m deeply flawed but also infinitely valuable, I don’t need to prove anything.  I can just be.

Unfortunately, I seem to be able to inhabit “true Kathy” for about 30 minutes after a 3 day spiritual retreat.  When I step into the house to greet my kids, everything crashes again, only it’s usually the kids fighting for the bigger cookie. 

Can I be the “true” Kathy when I’m shrieking at the top of my lungs at kids?  


I wanted to be a mom, so I have no one to blame but myself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Voldemort and True Self vs. False Self

The first night of my spiritual retreat last week, Adele gave us a chart contrasting the True Self from the False Self.  I took one look and thought, “Shoot (or some other word)!  I’m completely living in my false self!

The more Adele described the true self, the more I wondered whether I even have a true self.  I worried that I’m actually more like an onion—peel all the layers away and there’s nothing underneath.  But then she said, “The true self is very little, very vulnerable and pink.” 

False Self Voldemort
Ah!  I thought.  Voldemort!!


Immediately, I pictured the scene in Book 7 at King’s Cross where both Harry and Voldemort may have died.  Harry looks and feels like Harry only with healed wounds and perfect vision.  Voldemort looks like a flayed, pitiful, unloved, ugly baby mewling under a bench where he’s been abandoned. 

To the wizarding world, Voldemort may look powerful, brilliant, and fearsome.  But on the inside, he's an extremely damaged, unloved and undeveloped barely human baby. 

Big Voldemort vs. Little Voldemort.  False self Voldemort vs. True self Voldemort.

Maybe the fact that both Harry and Dumbledore look like themselves at their right ages and right size means their true selves are remarkably similar to what the world sees, despite all their struggles with power, identity, worth and recognition.

Hmmm.  The theology of JK Rowling and Harry Potter.  No wonder I love the books so much!

It seems to me the good news in our Muggle world is that no matter how flayed and ugly our true self may be, how damaged and undeveloped, Jesus always invites us with the question, "Do you want to get well?" 

But maybe when Jesus heals, our true self doesn't get to become grown-up and powerful.  Maybe it stays little and vulnerable and pink.  A well loved, welcomed and cherished baby.   

Anyway, here’s Adele’s list.   Choose who you want to be, Harry or Voldemort.  (Or alternatively, my secret dream, Professor McGonagall.)

  • Redeemed self—draws life from within

  • Divided self—externalized identity

  • Doesn’t need success/Lives hiddenly

  • Needs to prove itself/craves recognition

  • Free—non-needy self

  • Compulsive—needy self

  • Doesn’t need a pecking order

  • Needs to acquire position/Acquired self/Self you can lose

  • Christ in me self.  Knows God in the silence beyond words

  • Who I think I am, and who I think I need to be.  Talkative self propped up through words

  • Gives and receives love

  • Wants a return on love

  • Blesses Extravagantly

  • Comparative and fault finding

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big Kathy/Little Kathy

(This is the first of 6 reflections on True Self/False Self.  Read #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)

My 2nd ever spiritual vision happened 19 years ago at a student camp in New Jersey.
At the end of the week, we sent everyone out with a bag lunch for what we called a retreat of silence.  Anyone who’s actually spent any time in the disciplines of meditation and solitude would call those three hours a long quiet time, but for students between eighteen and twenty-one, it was challenge enough.

I took my guitar and journal onto the lake’s dock and tried to sing worshipful songs softly, both because I didn’t want to disturb the others, and because my singing can be almost as flat as my chest. Between the singing, journaling and attempts to quiet my soul, I experienced my ever-present companion to spiritual disciplines—drowsiness. 
Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann

So I snoozed off and on between attempted prayers and attempted silence. 

Somewhere in the midst of prayer and dreaming, a picture came into my mind:  I sat in a huge wooden chair.  It was my version of comedienne Lily Tomlin’s Edith Anne, where she plays a little girl, sitting in a gigantic rocking chair and musing (with a stuffed up nose) on life as she sees it. 

Like Edith Anne, I filled only a quarter of the seat.  My head reached only half-way up the back of the chair. 

I was a little Kathy in a very big chair. 

When I strained and pushed real hard, I could puff out my edges to become a big Kathy that filled the rocking chair.  But it took so much effort to push out to Big Kathy that when I took a breath, I would shrink to Little Kathy again. 

Little Kathy was very real, dense and compact and everything about her was authentically herself, which was why she was so teeny because all the hot air and fluff had been drawn away.  It’s like those theories that if you remove all the space between electrons and protons and just condensed the sheer mass of the world we’d all fit on a pinhead. 

As I drifted in and out of sleep, the image in my mind continuing, Little Kathy pushing out with all her might to become Big Kathy only to deflate back into Little Kathy and start all over again, I sensed God telling me that the little Kathy was the real me, the true Kathy, but that I spent an awful lot of energy trying to project a bigger image of who I am. 

God wanted me to know that He loved the little Kathy.

When I got home from the retreat, my boss and apartment mate Bobby, asked me what God had done at camp.  I gave him all the highlights, and then hesitated before telling him about the Little Kathy version of Edith Ann in a big chair. 

“I don’t know if this is just a dream I made up or if it’s from God,” I said.

Having witnessed my character as only a roommate and boss can, Bobby grinned and said, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely the word of God for you.”

I just spent the past several days on spiritual retreat with my InterVarsity team.  Adele Calhoun who wrote Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (IVP) led us, and the material she gave us to pray and ponder was so rich I will probably blog on it for weeks to come. 

The first night she raised the concept of true self vs. false self, sending me back 19 years to Little Kathy/ Big Kathy.  The questions she raised started me wondering how my parenting impacts my kids' relationship to their true selves.   Have I been helping them worship their false selves with my criticism and desire for good behavior?  How do I help them identify and embrace their true selves, the self God loves?  

I’ll fill you in as I keep thinking and praying along these lines.  But for today, I’m asking for grace to let myself be little Kathy, and let my kids be little and real too, with or without stuffy noses.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Food Hoarding and Black Bean Soup

How do you make dinner after a 3 day Chicago work trip followed by a weekend filled with 5 performances of “Sleeping Beauty,” followed by a Monday catching up with work and watching 5 kids after school so there’s been no time to grocery shop?   Be a food hoarder like me.

I get food hoarding from my mother, who grew up poor in China despite her father’s Ph.D. from Harvard.  She stocks every nook and cranny of our home with cans, snacks and condiments so that whenever any of us kids goes home, we spend a day or two emptying the home of expired and rotten food. 

I also grew up feeling poor because my father was a physics professor instead of a doctor or lawyer or Waikiki developer like all my friends at Punahou.  I’m also just a little addicted to good food, so to my shame, like Mama, I have an inordinate need to stash pantry staples and chocolate so I can feel safe and secure.

Here's what they actually look like!  Mmmmm
It used to drive my roommate crazy that my pound of See’s dark chocolate marzipans that can only be bought on the West Coast or Hawaii would take up room in our tiny NYC refrigerator for a year.  And I was selfish—only doling out chocolates if I wanted one.  By the end of the year, the marzipan was all dried out.  I trust that Jesus lives in my heart, but a box of See’s dark marzipans living in the corner of my fridge gives just that extra little boost.

Unfortunately, these days my kids sneak my stash of chocolate no matter where I hide it so that when I finally want a nibble I’ll find only an empty bag where Lindt 60% dark chocolate peppermint truffles used to reside.  Scott gives no sympathy because I’m not supposed to be eating chocolate anyway since we’re on this perpetual diet in our attempt to fight the ‘40s flab.

As an MBA, Scott points out that my Chinese need to have a lot of inventory around is actually poor financial stewrdship.  But that Monday, I felt justified.  Digging around I found:

·      Almost slimy but still edible cilantro and scallions
·      2 lbs of dried black beans
·      3 shriveled but not rotten red peppers
·      almost sprouting onions and garlic
·      whole wheat tortillas (I buy 7 packages at a time from trader joe’s and throw them in the deep freeze)
·      Chicken broth
·      Canned tomatoes and Rotel
·      very old frozen corn that I forgot we had
·      spices
·      3 almost rock hard limes
·      a 2 week old avocado that held up well because it was in the fridge not the counter

Not my soup, but mine looks very similar!
Black bean & Tortilla soup!! had a 4 fork recipe--who cares if I lacked some of the key ingredients?  I made do with what I had.

And the family LOVED the soup!  They raved about the soup!  They made me feel like I was a culinary genius.  Most importantly, NO ONE COMPLAINED!

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve fed that soup to my writing group, the Boston Faculty Fellowship, and the Harvard Mark manuscript Bible study leaders. 

But don’t worry if you're one of those who ate the latest iteration of soup, I bought fresh vegetables before feeding you. . .

Black Bean and Tortilla Soup
Serves about 8-10

2 lbs dried black beans, boiled and softened, or 8 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 Tbs.  oil
2 large onions
10 cloves garlic
3 red peppers, diced
1 jalapeno minced (optional, I didn't have it)
2 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 can Rotel tomatoes/chilis or 1 can green chilis and 1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn
5 Whole wheat tortillas cut into 1x 2 inch strips
8-16 Tbs. chopped cilantro
Juice of 3-4 limes
Salt to taste

Optional Garnishes:
Diced avocado
Minced scallion or red onion
Sour cream
Cilantro leaves
Shredded jack cheese

Note:  If boiling your own dried black beans, add 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp. salt to the cooking liquid to keep the beans black and intact
1.     Saute onions in oil until softened.  Add red peppers, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, garlic, and sautĂ© until peppers are softened. 
2.     Add black beans, Rotel or canned chilis, chicken broth, and bring to a simmer
3.     Remove 1/3 of the soup and puree it in blender or with stick blender, return to soup
4.     Add frozen corn and cilantro
5.      When soup is boiling and several minutes before serving, add tortillas
6.     Add lime juice just before serving
7.     Serve soup and pass around garnishes

Friday, April 08, 2011

A mother-daughter spiritual conversation

“How’re you doing with God?” I asked Ling during our “special time.”

I’ve been a “professional” Christian for 21 years, so you’d think I ask that question often, but we usually talk about school and friends.  

So imagine my guilt when she said, “Terrible!”

“Really?” I said, “What’s going on?  Are you an atheist now?  Are you struggling with believing God exists?  Do you have a lot of big questions?”

She looked at me like I was crazy.  “What?!?” she almost shrieked, “Who do you think I am?”

Well, in all honesty, I don’t know!  New moods or challenges arise by the minute so that I’m not always sure who I’m talking to day by day.  And I wrestled with those very God questions when I was 14.  Frankly, I still wrestle with big questions today.   

“So why are you doing terribly spiritually if you still believe in God?” I asked.

Turns out, it’s because she never “hears” from God.  Apparently our church youth group emphasizes listening to God with one’s intuition, where words or pictures come to your mind.  Other kids “hear” all sorts of things, but Ling says her mind’s just a blank.

Wow!  Like mother, like daughter! 

I spent several years in high school thinking God didn’t really love me because no matter how I asked, I never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit manifest through speaking in tongues.  I joke that I’m the anti-charismatic.  I believe in a supernatural God who works in supernatural ways, but rarely does anything supernatural happen to me.

It was time to hit the basics.

“Ling,” I said, “What’s the #1 foolproof way to hear God?”

“Um, I dunno.”

“Think!  Think!  You know the answer.” 

To myself:  How did I miss teaching this most simple concept???

“Here’s a hint, it’s a book. . .”

“Oh. . . the Bible?”

“Yes!  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!”   Ling rolled her eyes at my Whole Foods gelato counter dramatics, but I continued, “The Bible tells us 99% of what we should do with our lives—love God, love people, show kindness, mercy, humility, care for the poor, set free the oppressed, etc.” 

Because she still seemed interested, I went on to talk about other ways we hear from God, wise counselors, community, tradition, circumstances, and yes, even the still small voice that whispers in our hearts.

Kai-Kai also doesn't "hear" from God.  But she doesn’t seem to feel bad about it.    At dinner, she said, “Oh, I think ____ is just faking it,” mimicking things this other child “hears” from God, and making us all laugh.

Giving _____ the benefit of the doubt, I pointed out that if this person hears “God loves us” it’s true whether there’s faking going on or not. 

And isn’t that the trouble?  We assume God’s up there judging us for how insufficiently we do our “spiritual thing,” how so often it feels like we're failing or faking, when in reality, God's waiting to run to us like the "prodigal" father when we finally turn towards home.

I hope Ling was encouraged by our conversation.  I hope she won’t struggle as I did with trusting God’s love.  Frankly, as long as she’s willing to keep talking with Jesus and trying to hear His voice albeit imperfectly, I don't think it's possible for her to do “terrible.”  Instead, I bet God thinks she’s doing just fine.

Note:  Ling gave me permission to tell this story and even use her name.  You've probably noticed that I try to keep my kids anonymous when there's questionable behavior happening!  

Thursday, April 07, 2011

All you need to know about Barbie Princess Cakes

A friend who reads my blog but skips all recipes said I must re-post this recipe because it's the best thing I've written.  So even if you care nothing about Barbie Princess cakes, I invite you to read and enjoy!  Bon Appetit!

Click here to read the recipe!  (I've moved it to my new blog)

Someone else's Barbie cake

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

13 years ago today with "How to make a Barbie princess cake" as an added bonus

As of 4:41ish, I have 2 teenage girls.  Today is Kai-Kai’s 13th birthday, and even though she’s acted like a teenager since age 4—from her awareness of the latest fashion trends to her general outlook on life and her parents—today she finally crosses that line.

13 years ago today, I awoke at 2 a.m. feeling a twinge.  A few minutes later, I felt another twinge so I got up and went to the bathroom, only to have the toilet clog on me.  I woke Scott and said, “I think I’m in labor.” 

We knew the 2nd child should come faster than the first, but we didn't hurry.  He got out of bed, showered, and called our friends Kent and Patty who were our “on call” baby-sitting service for Ling and shuttle to the hospital.  “Oh, and ask them if they have a toilet plunger,” I reminded Scott. 

When they arrived, I plunged the toilet—Patty says she’ll always remember me doing breathing exercises while plunging.  Once the clog was clear, we decided to get on our way, with Kent all of a sudden realizing that a woman in labor might not be good news for their newly leased Civic.  So we grabbed a garbage bag for me to sit on, and took off for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

During the 20 minute ride, the pain increased so that I really had to work on my breathing.  By the time we got to St. E’s and I walked into the birthing center, assuming I was only 3-4 centimeters dilated, I thought, “Wow, this hurts a lot more than I remember,” .

But the nurses exclaimed, “You’re 9 inches dilated!  This baby's on the way!”

“I guess I’m not getting an epidural, am I?”

They shook their heads.  “Nope, no epidural this time.”

I needed to go to the bathroom, but the nurses became very concerned—worried that I was going to deliver my newborn into the toilet, hardly believing me when I said I had to do #1, not #2.  “Are you sure you don’t need to push?”

I shook my head, waddled into the bathroom, did my business without depositing the child in the toilet and came back.  No sooner had I sat back on my bed than that undeniable force of nature called “needing to push” hit me like a ton of bricks. 

“No!  No!” the nurses said, “You can’t push.  The doctor isn’t here yet!”  Apparently the doctor who was on call had already delivered a bunch of babies, so they wanted me to wait for my OB to arrive, but she was 20 minutes away.

I spent the next 20 minutes with 2 nurses coaching me through how to keep your body from pushing when every nerve and muscle cries out to do so.  It was miserable.  

When my OB finally arrived, I finally pushed for 20-40 minutes.  A slew of medical students tromped into the room to observe my nether regions.  One bearded young man’s eyes bugged out and I wondered why I didn’t care that all these total strangers were gaping at my most private body parts. 

Kai-Kai was born 2 hours and 41 minutes after my first labor pain, ripping me to shreds in the process, probably because she came so fast.  Dr. Jackson sewed me up for the next 40 minutes and because I hadn’t had an epidural, I could feel every stitch.  

When they put Kai in my arms, my first thought was, “Oh!  She looks like Ling!”  When Ling came out, she looked like a total stranger to me.  With #2 it was nice to realize our kids had a family resemblance.

Kai’s Chinese name means soothing peace that comes after victory.  I don’t know if we’ve had a lot of peace since she was born, but we’re sure happy our curly headed girl came into our lives.

For many years I didn’t get why we celebrated the child on her birthday, why we baked her cakes and plied her with presents.  After all, she didn’t DO anything to get born.  Instead, I felt like the mother should be the one who gets lauded, fed and showered with goodies. I did all the work of carrying the child, pushing the child into the world, and a huge proportion of the raising the child as well.  It’s the same reasoning that it doesn’t make sense that Jesus died on the cross and we get to eat lamb and chocolate bunnies on Easter.

But I guess that’s what the gospel’s about—humankind hasn’t DONE anything to deserve our grace, but God loved and suffered for us so that we could be spiritually born anew. 

Of course, my attitude about birthday celebrations has little sympathy from the kids, so I’ve planned multiple birthday parties, baked about 6 Barbie princess cakes, face-painted galore, and come up with all sorts of creative celebrations.  (Maybe that’s just because throwing terrific birthday parties is one of the only things I know I do well as a parent, so it’s really all about me after all). 

On Friday, 10 girls will descend for pizza, primping before the 7th grade dance, and then a sleepover.  The Barbie princess birthday cake is long gone, with decorating your own cupcake replacing her.   

To Kai-Kai--Happy Birthday!  We love you and are so glad you're our daughter!

To everyone else:  Pray for me--I have 2 official teenagers now!

How to make a Barbie Princess Cake
Someone else's Barbie cake

1.    Swallow hard and buy a Barbie, even if your feminist mores make you morally opposed to Barbies.  A Barbie of any ethnicity will do—I have used every single kind.  
2.     Strip her naked, raise her arms above her head as if in abject surrender, hold her upside down so her hair flops above her head and wrap her head and hair in plastic wrap, making sure her hair is completely covered.  You can put her hair in a top-of-the-head ponytail if you like. She will look like the fantasy object of masochists and all the grown men walking through your kitchen will make comments to that effect, to which your toddler daughters will ask many questions. 
3.     Do not answer the questions.
4.     Buy or find an 8 cup Pyrex bowl, the kind that’s round and looks like a hoop skirt if you turn it upside down.
5.     Buy a cake mix, any cake mix you like, follow it’s directions, pour it in the Pyrex bowl and bake it until a long skewer poked in the middle comes out clean generally between 1.5- 2 hours.  (Use a cake mix because after baking for 2 hours, any homemade cake recipe is hopelessly ruined so you might as well just go for ease)
6.     After the cake is cooled, turn upside down on a platter and spear Barbie’s legs through the top so that she’s now standing in the middle of the cake.  You will see that the cake only comes up to the top of her thighs. 
7.     If this distresses you, you could also bake a whole other sheet cake, cut it to the circumference of the bowl and give her skirt a little more height.  Or you can just fill in a lot of frosting around her thighs and butt—a visual metaphor for the saying, "I might as well paste this donut straight to my thighs." 
8.     Buy a Wilton cake decorating set along with at least 4-5 Wilton cake icing food coloring canisters.  Read directions on how to pipe cake frosting.
9.     Either make or buy frosting (I used a buttercream recipe I found).  Make different pots of differently colored frosting.
10. Frost Barbie’s skirt with one color, adding large lumps around her butt and hips so it looks like a skirt
11. Pipe little stars all over her breasts and waist and back to create a bodice.  You will once again get all sorts of comments from the older male contingent about licking, frosting and breasts.  Do what you will with those comments.
12. Pipe decorations and designs over the hoop skirt
13. Let Barbie dry for awhile
14. Carefully lower her arms so she doesn’t knock off her top
15. Unwrap her head and hair.  Hopefully you let her dry long enough that her hair doesn’t stick to her clothing
16. Put candles wherever you think are appropriate, light them,

Present the cake to your little princess while everyone sings “Happy Birthday” and bask in the glory of what you’ll lower yourself to do in this adventure called parenting.