This past July, a church committee requested a new message on the electronic sign, which faces the Oak Ridge Turnpike. The message they requested was “Black Lives Matter.” The board of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, or ORUUC, voted to approve it, and the message was added to the sign’s series of scrolling messages.
I’m not a religious person. I don’t classify or call myself anything in particular except maybe leaning towards spiritual. It’s not because I don’t believe in “something” but because I see validity is so much. A few years ago, I felt a strong push as I heard a loud voice tell me to go to the ORUUC. Over the course of two years I found the family I’d been promised by the winds. They didn’t come in the shapes, sizes, or ages I expected, but there is not a doubt in my heart or soul they are my blood kin.
From the youngest children, such as Rayn, to the oldest of children such as Miss Marge, I was blessed with knowing, learning, and understanding some of the most beautiful people I could have asked for. Outside of the confines of the church there were some people whom could meet my level of tomfoolery, but never in my adult life have I found the encouragement to be everything I was meant to be as I did there.
But how can I say that an entire church is my family? A church? It hardly seems possible. What I learned from them, will follow me everywhere I go because I value the life-lessons I was given.
When I first started going to the Unitarian Universalist Church, I was wisely advised to take my time in selecting what I wanted to do because everything has passionate players. They weren’t kidding. I watched the different volunteer positions to see which I felt I could be enthusiastically involved with. I discovered I loved to greet people, loved to protect, and loved to serve. I ended up joining the safety team, co-leading the hosts and greeters, as well as serving as fifth Sunday usher. I even did coffee a couple times. Find what you’re passionate about and without excuse or what-if’s, jump in and do it.
One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning was to be greeter. I have a knack for remembering the names with faces I see often. I could greet nearly everyone in our medium sized congregation by name as they approached the door. That I could do that, hug them, welcome them, demonstrated I truly was glad to see them. Learning people’s name that you see every day no matter who they are is key to discovering some of the coolest people you might never had opportunity of doing so if not for that small effort. When you remember people’s names, they know that someone in the world knows they exist. I believe that’s crucial to mental health.
Talk is cheap, Action is richer
Many times I’d listen to people in the neighborhood where I lived talking about how unhappy they were with where they lived (I was one of them for a while), their circumstances, their addictions, their kids, the etc. What I noticed was that none of them were doing anything to change any of that. They just noted it sucked but continued the same behaviors. I learned that it’s okay to complain because, really, that’s just an acknowledgment that an issue exists.
Once you’ve realized there is a problem, making a difference is the only way that problem will go away. You can kick sand over it, behave like an ostrich, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but once you know it’s there, it’s the Universe’s way of nudging you to make it better. Terry Goodkind wrote in his Sword of Truth series (loosely quoted), “You already know what the problem is, think of the solution.”
I saw solutions pouring out of the people at ORUUC far more than I saw problems. It was the most collaborative group of people I’ve ever worked with. Even when hackles got ruffled, which happens in any large group, everyone worked to make sure that the final solution was a balance. Do what you need to do to bring the positive changes into the world because happiness is worth it.
Fool for love
Pastor Jake Morrill’s closing words for the services he gives are ones I took to heart. He says, “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love!” What profoundly simple words with such an enormous responsibility behind them. If he chose a different closing, I’d walk away rather bummed because I truly took on the challenge when he would use it.
I believe we should all fall madly in love with the world every day. No excuses, just open your eyes and fall. Even the people or things that irk your sensibilities the most are worthy of love. It’s not for you to choose who is okay or what is okay to love, just do it.
I’m not in any way implying that you can’t have preferences, nor that you should eliminate safety measures for the sake of love. I’m saying that when you look at the world as if it were your intimate lover and you its muse, you’ll find a different kind of kismet with the divinity that is everything; The atom of begin times, the eve of creation.
To clarify, I call everything the Universe, because as a rule, we can all agree there is one. If I called the Universe God, then that specific version that you know/doubt/reject/hate/don’t believe in, would negate this idea. BUT! If I call it the Universe, we can meet at whatever version of that ultimate we accept.
Using this idea, be the fool for love because love has a transformational magic that can be witnessed where two hearts meet in unison. Thus, if you’re falling madly in love with the world every breath you take, does it not then make sense that love will rule your world? And further that love will light your path to happiness because love doesn’t hurt? Indeed. As I was taught by those who love me there, be that fool for love.
A short while before I moved away, I received an email that reminded the Sunday volunteers of the roles they promised to step in to fill. A reply to that email was astounded at the amount of people that took responsibility to make the service appear to be without effort. It made me giggle a bit because I was actively involved in the volunteer activities. I knew how many people it took because of that.
Sidenote: My husband would get really frustrated with me because I’d try to do way more than my body could handle. He’d have to verbally remind me, “Mare, you’re not Atlas. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
It’s the same when facing life’s many challenges (like moving out of state with a weeks notice). You’re not Atlas. Just like sharing your great experiences with your friends, sharing burdens makes them easier to bear as well. Nothing limits you to only putting on your good face. Being a human with All The Bumpy Bits is by far more deeply satisfying overall in my experience. When you find people willing to be human with you, that’s a rare and beautiful gift. Shine for them even from your darkest places. It’s worth it.
There are so many lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful people I am honored enough to call my friends at ORUUC that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one writing. I hope you will bear with me as I process this tremendous life shift. Together we can be incredible humans together on this wild journey called life.
Blackberries and Celery
As a younger woman, around 26 or so, I moved in with my Gram due to unforeseen circumstances. She lived on 13 acres about 10 minutes from town. Country convenience she used to call it. In early summer along the back acres there were lines and rows of blackberry and raspberry bushes ripe with luscious fat black and red juiciness. She’d send me out with a colander to collect enough for the three of us for dessert (My Grandpa Pat, too). Dutifully, off I’d trudge.
When we got our berries this week, I dang near wept. They looked like one of the safest times in my life. They were bursting juice out of the containers as if they’d been styled by a food artist. Purple tartness pooling in the bottom of my bucket. I could hardly wait to gorge myself. But. I didn’t.
Instead, I found a non dessert way to experience the tasty goodness of Blackberries. I found the recipe HERE.
Pork Chops with Blackberry Port Sauce
- 6 (4 ounce) boneless pork loin chops
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 2 shallots, minced (onions work too)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 3/4 cup sweet port wine
- 3/4 cup blackberry juice
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons water
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and pan fry the chops until they are lightly browned and no longer pink in the center, 2 to 3 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). Set the chops aside.
- Heat 1 more teaspoon of olive oil in the skillet, and cook and stir the shallots and thyme until the shallots start to become translucent, about 1 minute. Pour in the port wine, blackberry juice, chicken broth, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil, scraping off and dissolving any brown flavor bits from the skillet into the sauce. Cook until reduced by a third, about 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water into a paste, and stir into the sauce. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the blackberries. Simmer until berries are hot.
- Return the chops to the skillet, and turn to coat with sauce. Serve hot, topped with sauce.
This was incredibly flavorful with the rich blend of flavors dancing in a delectable sauce. OH BOY!
I still had celery left from the last time. It was still crisp and fresh. Martha Stewart had a tip to wrap the celery tightly in aluminum foil and it keeps the celery the way we like it. But truthfully, I’m overwhelmed with celery. I thought it only for sticks that you put dips and peanut butter on as snacks. I never really thought of making other things with it being the primary ingredient. Here are a couple really easy ideas.
HINT: If you’re going to make this cream soup, put together all the ingredients (you can also use vegetable stock which works just fine) but the milk and freeze. Thaw out the starter, add the milk to the thawed product and you’ll have “store” quality with homemade taste cream of celery soup. Further, keep in mind that this celery we’re getting is really fresh so the flavor is incredibly tasty. A little goes a long way, so adjust accordingly.
3 quarts chicken stock
3 pounds celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound carrots, julienned
1/2 pound onions, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 quarts hot milk
- 1 cup margarine (I use real butter and the flavor is way better)
- Pour the chicken stock into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the celery, carrots and onion to the pot.
- Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and milk; add to the pot along with the margarine.
- Boil for 10 minutes, then strain out the vegetables by pouring through a sieve, or if the vegetables are large enough, a colander may be used.
- 1 bunch celery, cleaned and cut into 4 inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 cube chicken bouillon
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Arrange the celery in a single layer on the bottom of a large skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with butter. Dissolve the bouillon cube in boiling water, and pour over the celery.
- Cover pan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
I have not tried this one yet, but it looks easy enough for even a hot day quick cook side. Plus, it also appears to have a great deal of potential as far as “doctoring” to my families likes (garlic and onion with a zing of peppers, for example). Any comments if you try it, would be appreciated. See if you can beat me to it. 🙂
www.allrecipes.com (One of the best recipe sites I’ve found. The comments really bring life to each dish.)
The orange halo of the street lamp stands sentinel against the imposing shadows, ozone aromatizes the night.
The edges are fuzzy with skittering raindrops that become blurry with animated protests from jitterbugging leaves.
The paparazzi lightning flares vivid purple/white/lavender rapidly with undulating rolls of thunderous applause.
The gray asphalt steams refused moisture like a lover refusing to be lit afire with passion, darkened by gravity.
A gust of harsh wind bullies a weak branch with a vicious shove downward. Lightning showcases, thunder tattles.
The depression in the parking lot pools a pond where frogs take solace from the forest. They croak there.
The white noise lullaby on the tin roof begs to be only heard through drifts of deepening sleep which I can’t grant.
The wee hours tick-tock-tick-tock, the clock strikes 13, 4, 9, 11 but it doesn’t matter, I dream sleep away.
That’s a lot of days to walk around the sun. 47 years for the math challenged (Dude, really, I used Google instead of using a damn calculator!) As I read through the Facebook reminders about my trip, I see many kind words and good wishes. I really love that. It reminds me that I made it around again trying to outshine the stars.
What I’ve come to love the most is when I get feedback from the people I frequently deal with that shows me how I am perceived by others. I know it sounds flippant to say it doesn’t matter, it does but it doesn’t. However, it does give me a valid self check about what I’m doing that not only feeds my spirit but helps others along the way. I truly feel blessed.
When I think of my personal definition of inspiring, I think of the people who teach me more things about the kind of person I want to keep working towards becoming. I wrote several times yesterday that I was inspired by the greatness of my Grandfather, aka Bapa, either directly or indirectly through his children, my aunts and uncles. When I apply the word to myself, I’m not really sure how that works. I do things to make the world a better place because I was taught that. I stand up and defend those who can’t because I was taught that. I love with all I have because I was taught that. Nearly all of that came from the Coleman side of the family. The rest I had to learn on my own.
To think of inspiring others from my life, I think of all the horrors I’ve seen. I think of all the struggles I’ve met and overcome. I ponder the battles I’ve had to fight in order to make it as far as I’ve come and I can see where that would shine the light for others too. I’m blessed to still be here. I’m blessed to know you too.
If there is one thing without a doubt that could be said about me is that I love to laugh. I love to laugh so much that I commonly laugh at my own jokes or the absurdities that I come into with each new adventure. I love puns. I think farts are amusing. I love spoonerisms, knock knock jokes, high and low brow humor. George Carlin was one of my very favorites because he was a thinking man (Nothing sexier in my book). I love Ellen DeGeneres because she’s brave and incredibly witty. Robin Williams was a man I identified with so deeply, I seriously, all jokes aside, mourned for weeks. I knew when his light went out.
I’d rather be the butt of a joke than to let an opportunity slip by that held the potential to make my sides ache, my eyes leak, and snorts to come flying out of my nose. I love to tell funny stories because when I can make people laugh, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing I touched them in such a primitive way because I know for a fact we all laugh in the same language.
This one rather tugs at me a bit. I asked several people what exactly this means. I hear, “Mare, just keep being you.” “I love that you’re so you.” “You keep doing what you’re doing.” And there I am screaming at them with a blank look on my face, “Who the fuck else would I be other than maybe a wealthier version of me. I could handle that.” I tried for years to be someone else. I WANTED to be anyone else but me. One day, I woke up and said, “I’m going to chuck it in the fuck it bucket.”
I say what I want as politely as is necessary, sometimes to the point of being brutally honest, but I won’t lie to you. I try love and compassion first because those work best in nearly every situation. But, I also will not allow anyone to walk on me. Four of my favorite quotes are, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Eleanor Roosevelt; “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi; “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde; and “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love.” Rev. Jake Morrill’s Sunday service closing.
Hugs. Hugs! Hugs? Human contact is so crucial to our survival that babies who are not touched, hugged, or cuddled enough are commonly considered infants with a failure to thrive. It’s the cruelest form of neglect I can think of when it’s one of the easiest things to give. A simple hug to reassure another human or creature that they are not alone in this world. I warm, compassionate, loving moment that gives them a place of safe haven if only for the time of the hug. It’s a transcendent feeling for me when I am allowed access into someone’s personal bubble to give them love. It makes my eyes well up with tears to think of the beauty I find when I’m granted that permission. I love hugs. We should hug more often.
I’m told that I bring light. When I was born my mother knew something I didn’t. My birth name is sealed away but I will confess to you that name out of reasonable disclosure. My name was Helen Elaine. I was named for two very important people in my mother’s life that brought her light. Both names have the same meaning of Light. I kid you not.
I changed my name legally in 1996, after my Gram passed away, to Marilyn. Nobody ever calls me that. I’ve always been called Mare since I disclosed my desire. My birth name always felt like someone else’s shoes. It didn’t fit me. It was an unruly unfashionable clunker of a name that hid far more darkness than a name should. I didn’t change it out of spite. I changed it out of self-preservation.
With the advent of Mare Martell (Martell is my birth name and although I abhor the man who handed it down, he will not win. I will honor COLEMAN under the banner), I was given rare opportunity to reinvent myself. Only, it’s not rare. Anyone can choose to bring the light. Anyone can shine but most choose not to. They let people like me do it and I’m okay with that. I’ll bring my light from my darkness. Mare, yes I’m speaking third person, can be anyone I need her to be. THAT is my light. She’s a brilliant chameleon and I love her dearly.
And that is my summation of my 17, 167.4 days around the sun. Thank you for making it through. Love, Light, Blessings of Peace,
This summer has been a crash course for me in what vegetables actually look like, cook like, and what those “exotic” veggies in the grocery store actually taste like. I’ll admit, I’m fond of just sticking to what I know in the food department. I rarely scoop up anything that isn’t in the bargain bin anyway, so this has been quite the adventure.
I had no idea what arugula is. I really had to look it up. Go ahead and say it, “Who doesn’t know what arugula is?” I’ll raise my hand and let you know, I’m one of the ignorant. I’m looking forward to trying this. I found an easy quick (as in you can prepare it an hour in advance) pasta dish by Martha Stewart Living. Although her recipes tend to the higher end, this one seems to meet my beer budget while indulging in champagne taste.
Spinach Linguine With Walnut-Arugula Pesto
- 2 small garlic cloves
- 3 ounces walnut pieces (about 3/4 cup), toasted and cooled
- 4 ounces arugula, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 pound spinach linguine
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse garlic until very finely chopped. Add walnut pieces and arugula; process until a coarse paste forms, about 5 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in the salt and Parmesan cheese, and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add linguine, and cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander, and immediately add to bowl with walnut-arugula mixture. Drizzle with the oil, and season with pepper. Toss thoroughly until coated evenly. Serve immediately.
I am a huge fan of bacon. I say that as I sit here with my well rounded bottom at a computer where my limited mobility talks to my need to be creative instead of active. But, bacon reminds me of family (No, I was not raised by pigs despite my brother’s prodding insults.) I’m originally from Michigan. We’re a hearty stock with rich curves on the women and strong backs on the men. Bacon was served commonly for breakfast, so to me, it feels like home. Here is a Paleo Recipe I found that will help the abundance of summer squash have a rich flavorful compliment.
Summer Squash and Bacon Bits Recipe
SERVES: 4 PREP: 15 min. COOK: 40 min.
- 2 lb. summer squash, sliced;
- 8 slices of bacon cut into tiny pieces;
- ¾ cups green onions, sliced;
- 1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves;
- ¼ cup mint, coarsely chopped;
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped;
- ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil;
- 1 clove garlic, minced;
- 1tbsp. capers;
- The juice of half a lemon;
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste;
- Preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the oregano, the mint, and the parsley, and transfer to a bowl.
- Grind the capers and the garlic. Add them to the herb mixture, and stir in the olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a big bowl, mix in the squash, the green onions, the bacon bits, and the fresh herb sauce.
- Empty the bowl into a baking dish or a big skillet and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the squash and the bacon bits are nicely cooked.