Posted in Culture, Family, Food, Relationships

Chicken (Tortilla) Soup For the Soul

I was an adult before I had ever heard of or tried Chicken Tortilla Soup. The only time my mother ever served me soup was when I was sick. Even then she would usually warm up a can of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars. (Chili and stew don’t count – Momma rocked those!)

I once got food poisoning from old broccoli and cheese soup at a Black Eyed Pea Restaurant and I refused to eat it again for thirteen years. True story. Ever since, I always choose salad over soup at a restaurant. But Chicken Tortilla Soup is good – I mean really good. So about eight years ago, I decided to make it for the first time. My kids loved it! In fact, my oldest loved it so much, she wouldn’t stop eating it. I think she had nine large servings before she finally threw up un-digested chicken tortilla soup all over my kitchen floor. She begged me to never make it again and after the great broccoli and cheese incident of ’91, I was happy to oblige. We were kindred. Soup had scarred us both.

Now that it’s November in Texas, the temperature has dropped below 100 degrees. ‘Round these parts, that means soup! (Or chili – whatever.) Last night I decided to make it again. I also made a very small pot of vegan tortilla soup for Parker (recipe below.) My house smelled of garlic, cumin, and lime. The cilantro, avocado, and sour cream were fresh. I couldn’t find the cheese grater so I used dental floss to finely slice the block of cheddar. I still don’t know where that grater is.

Our front door was open, letting in the cool autumn breeze (and possibly airing out the kitchen after I burned the first round of tortilla strips in oil.) I was just about to scald my tongue when I heard a woman’s voice saying, “knock, knock” from the open door. It was our friend, Ally! She stopped by to drop off gifts for Olive. We exchanged pleasantries, chatted about her parents, and she was on her way. I finally took my first bite and it was awesome.

After some silence, I asked my husband if his mom made Chicken Tortilla Soup when he was growing up. He gave me “the look” which means, “Are you serious?” (Some people that know him interpret it as, “Are you fucking stupid?” There’s a fine line.

“Chicken Tortilla Soup isn’t a real thing, baby.”

Not real? It looked real. It smelled real. It tasted real. The jalapenos and green chilis were really making my forehead sweat. It took a really long time to make and real dollars to pay for the real ingredients. Was this somehow the Emperor’s New Soup?

“It’s just a made up thing,” he explained.

Well, of course it is made up. At some point, some person threw all the ingredients (whatever they had in the fridge, most likely) in a big pot, added some spices, and called it Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s not like there is some natural body of soup out there that we can just take soup from…
Split Pea Springs
– River of Creamy Potato
– The Egg Drop Ocean
– Lake Lentil

I understood what he was trying to say, though. He meant that it wasn’t a traditional Mexican dish. His mother made caldo; trendy restaurants made Chicken Tortilla Soup. I didn’t know that. My mother’s dinners were mostly spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, BBQ, burgers, and her signature dish – pork chops, ranch style beans, and mac & cheese. It’s not like I grew up eating diverse foods, unless we were at a restaurant. (My first experience with curry was revolting.)

My Vegan Tortilla Soup is, in fact, made up. By me. Last night. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
olive oil
1/3 can of green chiles & tomatoes (I used Ro-tel)
1/3 can of sweet kernel corn (rinsed and drained)
1/3 can whole black beans (also rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
cilantro, avocado, lime, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper to taste

optional: tofu

Directions:
Pour vegetable broth, Ro-tel, corn, and black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Add tofu chunks (optional.) Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper to your preferences. In a separate pan heat olive oil until it simmers. Add celery, onion, and garlic and saute until tender. Add contents of pan to pot. Voila!

Serve with fresh avocado chunks, chopped cilantro, fried tortilla strips, and a squeeze of lime!

soup2

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Posted in Uncategorized

Remember When Safety Pins Were Punk Rock? 

Remember when safety pins were punk rock? 

There is a new movement on Facebook and the news encouraging people to wear safety pins as a sign of solidarity with groups such as the LGBT, minorities, and women.
“You are safe with me.”
It began in the UK following Brexit and was picked up in the US following the election results.

I remember when safety pins were punk rock. I wore tons of them on my jean jacket along with band buttons, patches, and anarchy signs. We thought we were so cool. (And we were!) Just recently I wore 89 safety pins in one evening. It was my no-sew Halloween costume. I was a monster from Where the Wild Things Are.
I won’t be wearing a safety pin to prove that you are safe with me. These days, if I am wearing one, it’s most likely due to a wardrobe malfunction.

My no-sew 89 safety pin Halloween costume. 

It’s not that I’m against the movement, in fact, I support it. There are people genuinely scared and I love to see our society coming together. I have dear friends that are passionate about this, handing them out at bars and street corners. I think that’s awesome. But I’m still not going to participate.

I don’t copy and paste. I’m pretty sure Jesus knows I love Him without me having to share a meme. I don’t own a dipped, powder coated, bedazzled, monogrammed Yeti. I didn’t put a rainbow flag across my profile photo when marriage equality passed, I didn’t do the ice bucket challenge, I  didn’t check into Standing Rock, I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I never bought a Chevron print rug for my bathroom, and I didn’t do the things we were supposed to do about Kony. I don’t even remember what that was. Maybe a change.org petition was being circulated or another image across our default photo on Facebook? Whatever happened with Kony?

It’s so hard for me to jump on the social media bandwagon. It’s like, if I’m being told by the masses or media that I should be doing/watching/buying something, my immediate reaction is to not do the thing. It feels trendy and disengenuine.

I’m not a monster. Well, except on Halloween. Yes, I support marriage equality, encouraging other to feel safe, I want clean water for all humans and animals, I don’t believe children should be exploited, I think coffee should stay hot and tea should stay cold, and I’m quite certain GoT is an amazing show. 

I have nothing but love for those that do these things. I am in no way trying to put them down. I respect the passion! It’s just not for me.

I will continue to do my part. I smile at every single passer-by, wink and wave to every small child, and reach out when I can. Some days, that’s all I can do, other days, I quietly move mountains. I won’t be posting my random acts of kindness to social media, or touting my efforts against social injustices.

That’s just me, and maybe in some small way, that’s just a little punk rock.

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Personal, Relationships

Cart to Cart

Picture it: Grocery store, 7:00 pm, Health & Beauty Aisle

Olive’s barefeet are dangling through the leg holes of the basket while I’m trying to select the right conditioner for me. Color treated hair? Deep conditioning? Repair & Restore? Avocado, Coconut, or Moroccan oil? Is there a product that has all of these things, because I think I need all of these things. My husband is exercising his patience while silently praying that I’ll just make a damn decision before the store closes. I ask Olive for advice and she stares back at me with her goofy little grin, exposing her 3 bottom teeth. Her smile is crooked and it always reminds of Popeye without the pipe.

An elderly man in a motorized shopping cart rolls up, eyes sparkling as he sees Olive flutter her eyelashes at him. She giggles. His USMC trucker hat sits slightly awry on top of his balding head. His white collared shirt is so thin after seven thousand washes that I can clearly see his v-neck undershirt.

He raises a gnarled, arthritic hand to the basket and gently pats Olive’s. They are in awe of each other, both winning the staring contest. Decades stand between them; he could be her great-grandfather. I marvel at the circle of life right in front of me, clutching my bottle of Pantene as they both sit in their respective age-appropriate carts.

“Well hello, sweetheart,” he says to her. “Aren’t you just the most precious thing God ever created?” It’s possible I’m biased, but I nod my head in 100% agreement. Olive cocks her side to the side and then in response she…

…blows him a raspberry.

OH MY GOD. I want to slink down the (invisible) drain the way my last bottle of conditioner did when it was left on its side with the cap open in the bath. (Thanks, kids.)
“OLIVE!” I admonish. She looks at me, smirks, and blows me a raspberry, too.

“Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll leave you alone now little girl,” he says to her and we hear the reverse beep on his scooter. I see the sadness in his eyes. He is visibly hurt. I want to apologize, I want to hug him, I want him to stay so he can see adorable Ollie really is. He is looking the other way while backing up, but he does say good-bye. Olive knows this word all too well and she immediately starts waving. I desperately want him to see this.
“PLEASE TURN AROUND!” I am yelling at him inside my head.

He gets his cart into position and finally looks back at us. He smiles. I sneak a peek at Ollie, hoping she is still waving. She isn’t. Instead, she is eye-locked with him again, but this time she…

…blows him a kiss.

olive

Ollie

dally

My oldest Dallas and my grandson Lyric Cody

arg

My daughter Mikayla and my grandson Mason

Posted in Personal, Work, writing

November Now

november

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
Though I am not participating in the project this year, I have (finally) completed my first book – a children’s picture book. My 720 word count story hardly compares to the 50,000 word minimum required for participation; however, it was enough to motivate me to not only complete my story, but to actually submit to a publisher.

I’ve always considered myself a writer, just not a professional one. My short story, “Bartenders Are Gods” was published in Industry Magazine years ago, but beyond that – nothing. I did once submit a blog post to the Elephant Journal only to get rejected. I’m not going to lie, it hurt. I think the fear of further rejection has kept me from submitting my work elsewhere. Until now. Today is the day to “live out what’s in my heart.” It’s not too late to follow after what I really want, and getting published is what I really want.

In the last five years of writing this blog, I have learned quite a bit. Though I will occasionally write short story fiction, I prefer to write stories about my life, hopefully told in a humorous yet relatable fashion. I always thought my first book would be the same – just a longer version of my blog, told in an Erma Bombeck-ishy way. Never would I have thought I would pen a children’s book.

I awoke one morning with what I thought was a brilliant idea. Taking that idea and running with it wasn’t too difficult either. It wasn’t until after I completed my first draft that the hard work began. The editing process is brutal. I fell in love with my protagonist. Everything she said and did was important (to me.) How could I choose what gets to stay and what has to go?  Watching your ideas disappear from the screen as the delete button gets pressed over and over again causes the kind of anxiety you never knew you could feel. And the formatting, OH MY GOD, the formatting. Of course I wrote my story before doing any real research. You type up a WORD document set in default, thinking you’ll just send it off to a publisher (who will most certainly adore your story) and before you know it, you’ve got a book deal! Oh the naiveté…

Now that the research is behind me, stalking editors and literary agents social media accounts, Googling EVERYTHING, and narrowing down my options to the one publisher (who is accepting unagented work) that I think is the best fit for me and my story, I am ready. Ready to break down my wall of fear like the Berlin Wall was broken down exactly twenty-seven years ago today. Ready to submit my work and ready to wait. Ready to start my next project. It’s possible (likely, even) that I will get rejected, but I’ve decided that I would rather try and get rejected than not try and always wonder. I don’t want to live a life of, “what if?” Do you? I hope not. It’s a new day, a new era. We elected a new President last night. Please try to let go of your self-doubt…

…”You matter. Finish this year with a bang, so next year will begin with true fireworks.”
November is the month of now or never.