Goals vs Flow?

Will someone please tell me how to get everything done I want to do every day? Prioritization and organization and schedules are not enough of an answer.

My coworker has a garden that is producing well — I’m sure due to her dedicated care. She gave me the eggplant, squash, zucchini, and cucumber. So, one of my plans for this weekend was to use at least one of them (in addition to the cucumber).

But, I had other plans this weekend, too. It came down to today.

So, let’s review today, shall we? My amazing grandchildren had a sleepover last night with me. When we got up, we had pancakes for breakfast and then bath time (ie, includes play time). I got them out and dressed just in time for their parents to pick them up just before I Zoomed in for a church service. That went until noon. Then, I napped — because, did I mention I had a sleepover with a 1-year-old and 3-year-old?

Then, I found two eggplant recipes and made my shopping list. One was the main recipe I wanted to try (Eggplant and Buckwheat Patties) but this Brown Rice with Eggplant and Cheese Custard recipe was the alternate in case I could not find the ingredients. Sure enough, not only did the store not sell any celery with leaves still attached (some weird kind of modern commentary surely is waiting to be made on this), but also no buckwheat groats. Another day then — I wasn’t going to go look at another store tonight.

I had wanted to make the patties because I like other things I have made with buckwheat. But the real reason was because the patties were to be cooked on the range versus this recipe that used the oven–twice. That is why I have not been sharing new adventures with vegetarian recipes lately — North Carolina summers are too hot to be using the oven, if you can avoid it.

By the time I put away the groceries, relaxed for a few minutes, and read over the recipe again, it was 9:00 pm. But, I really wanted to have this dish for leftovers this week. So, I started cooking at 9:00 pm. I wasn’t really feeling a musical accompaniment tonight, so I put on a podcast. And what always happens with podcasts for me? If they are worth listening to, there are often notes I want to take, which you can’t do while you are cooking . . . agghhh

This layer, on top of the eggplant and before the
custard topping, was just too pretty not to photograph.

Anyway, it is well after midnight, now. The cookbook calls this a “meatless version of Greek moussaka.” I am embarrassed to admit that I have never had moussaka before. I cooked the rice with 1 tsp of salt and added 0.5 tsp salt both to the tomato/onion mixture and to the custard (because this book never uses salt, I have found).

I can’t really tell if I like it. If I make it again, I will definitely add more salt to the mixture and the custard as well as salt the eggplant slices. Maybe more pepper, too. I always cut back on the pepper, but I probably should have used all the recipe called for. It is not bad, just underwhelming. The walnuts add a wonderful texture, though. I am hoping that, after the flavors meld, I will enjoy the leftovers more in the coming days. We’ll see.

Also, how lucky am I to have an amazing and generous coworker?

In the end, while I would not have changed a single thing about what I did or how I did them today — I did not do nearly all the things I wanted to do. I wrote most of this post while it baked. How is this acceptable in life? It is not one of my favorite parts, to be honest. I don’t like making choices of what not to do. I want to do it all.

Off to bed – I have to work . . . today.

Recipe was from Rodale’s Basic Natural Foods Cookbook, 1984. pg. 308

Legion: For We Are Many

[I originally posted a longer version of this review on another blog in June 2017.]

Exploring Moral Injury in Sacred Texts is a compilation of essays written from various perspectives – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and civil. Some of the essays resonated more with me than others, but that is generally to be expected in such a work.

In the Christian Bible, remember the man who lived among the tombs, who gave his name as Legion? Michael Yandell offers a unique but coherent treatment of this story. He imagines a scenario in which this man’s suffering is from moral injury that resulted from his experiences as a soldier and from shouldering the mental/emotional/spiritual burdens of his entire legion. When the man approaches Jesus, he is seeking out a representative of his victims from whom he seeks forgiveness but also interacting with a benevolent religious figure. The healing is neither instantaneous nor completed by the end of the narrative. Rather, he is given work to do within his community to continue the process of healing and reintegration.

My reaction to the essay written from a civil perspective was interesting. I initially recoiled at the term civil religion, even though this is not a new term. If religion is supposed to have some hint of the divine within it, then equating secular activities with the sacred can feel like an affront. But, Daniel C. Maguire makes a powerful case for how the one has been co-opted by the other. He explains the power that is intentionally built by using themes and techniques found in the Bible, in sermons, and in religious music, intensifying national fervor and patriotism. He also notes a troubling result: Our culture is so overwhelmingly patriotic that thoroughly questioning the morality of a specific (or all) military action is immediately interpreted to be at odds with this national moral code of patriotism.

Additional essays I found particularly interesting were:

  • “Division of Spoils after Battle” by Brad E. Kelle, mainly for highlighting the community’s responsibility in sending soldiers into battle.
  • An essay discussing our sacrificial language and imagery by Kelly Denton-Borhaug, including recent literary examples capturing its effect on returning soldiers and on the communities who remain at home.
  • “Peter and Judas: Moral Injury and Repair” [or failure of repair in the case of Judas] by Warren Carter. This is an excellent contrast of outcomes.
  • The story of Aṅgulimāla as told by John M. Thompson, mainly for contrasting the Buddhist focus on “how to respond?” with the Western question of “what is just?”.

I think anyone working with moral injury, particularly moral injury resulting from military service, would find this book thought-provoking.

Does God Kill?

If God is Love, does God kill? Ever?

I was reading 1 Nephi 4. I kept putting it off, but I was working on a project and the only way through it was, well, through it.

I had already decided that the “Spirit” did not tell Nephi to murder Laban in cold blood, no matter what his rationalization might have been for telling himself and us so. But, as I was mulling over this chapter, I noted that Nephi specifically calls forth the story of the Egyptians being drowned in the Red Sea.

Stories like the drowning of the Egyptians . . . or the flood of Noah . . . take the question back further and lay it squarely with God. There are quite a few tidy rationalizations here as well. For drowning everyone but Noah and his family: it was saving future generations from being raised in wickedness and thus having their free agency curtailed by never having the opportunity to be taught righteousness. The Egyptians? Well, we are not to judge–judgment belongs to God. And sometimes that godly judgement is a death penalty.

And so all these stories stay in our “scriptures” and our “sacred texts,” if for no other reason than to teach us that prophets were human, that God uses the imperfect to accomplish God’s perfect will . . . and that God is a jealous God–that we shall have no other gods before the great I Am.

But, I wonder if studying the scriptures and sacred texts as they are currently canonized and enshrined teaches us that, on some level, there is an eventual justification for murder, for killing.

If we fully embrace this concept of God, then, either consciously or subconsciously, people (each of us?) have the foundation to take it to its logical conclusion: If snuffing life is good enough for an omnipotent and omniscient God, then will some believe it is good enough for them in extreme circumstances? If “the Spirit” commands it, demands it? Perhaps they tell themselves their cause warrants violence or “revolution” or violent resistance “if necessary” but, you know, without targeted murder. After all, who is to say when Armageddon (God’s very own bloody war) begins?

It is the subconscious foundation that concerns me.

This is what we have sewn. This is what we reap.

I do not think that God, the God that is the manifestation of Love, kills.


I think these are the stories we have told ourselves and turned into the “sacred.”

I think we should stop telling ourselves these stories.

I think what is sacred, what we should study, are the stories that inspire us to be like God, a God that is Love. A God that does not kill.

The Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

My daughter’s birthday has taken on a holiday status larger than that of a simple birthday–all because of this cheesecake.

I only make it once a year, on her birthday. All year, we anticipate her birthday and this cheesecake much like any other major holiday with its accompanying signature recipes.

This year was at least my twelfth time making it.

And it was almost a disaster. I went shopping for the ingredients last night and easily found everything–until I got to the cooler that should have had whipping cream and heavy cream neatly lined up in rows upon rows.

This is what I found.

When I asked about it, I was told that they are starting to have supply chain issues again and, again, it is random in what is suddenly not available. Because it was so hot, even in the evening, I took my groceries straight home rather than check another store on the way.

I made the cake (the whipping cream was for the ganache – luckily last to be made and done separately, but not to be left out). Because I am a night owl, things got started at 8:45 pm. Hamilton was the baking soundtrack and a pretzel purchased earlier from Lidl was the accompanying dinner. I planned to search, high and low if necessary, for the whipping cream first thing in the morning.

And so it was that with fear and trepidation, I ventured down the aisle of another grocery store just as the world was getting its day underway this morning. Ahhh, plenty of whipping cream!

This has been a hard summer. It was nice to have a little sweetness connected to many other happy memories.

The grandchildren got to decorate their pieces with the hard sugar store-bought decorations and enjoy their raspberries separately. And, yes, it was simplest just to avoid chocolate-covered clothing on the youngest!

Only one tip from me:

  • I use chocolate Teddy Grahams for the cookie crust. It needs at least 2.5 cups of Teddy Grahams, perhaps even closer to 3 full cups.
  • Oh, and I start checking it at 50 minutes. If you can smell its deliciousness, you need to check it quick.

“Yeshiva Girl” by Rachel Mankowitz

[I originally posted this review on another blog in May 2019.]

The author of Yeshiva Girl, Rachel Mankowitz, navigates several delicate lines, and she does that well.

Most prominently, Ms. Mankowitz captures the emotional chaos that results when an adult (here, the father) persistently and aggressively manipulates his child, his spouse, people at his work, and his religious community. In the novel, that manipulation coexists with additional sexual abuse and threatening physical behavior, but Ms. Mankowitz does not dwell on graphic details of these events. Rather, it is the resulting fragmented thoughts and perceptions of his victim and the distorted reality experienced by other adults that is the dominant, and important, storyline. Graciously, the author rescues us from overwhelming despair of such a disturbing topic by including characters who are genuinely caring and good, despite also being human.

Additionally, Ms. Mankowitz explores religious questions that surface when people interact with sacred texts. Because her main character, Isabel, is a teenager, it is natural for her to challenge conventional accepted scriptural stories in a way that seeks for God to make sense and to be approachable. Isabel both demands this possibility and desperately needs it to be validated. These explorations of thought give the novel an added thread of interest to follow, especially for those who have experienced their own faith crises and have, themselves, demanded more of religion than what has been presented for their acceptance and obedience.

Finally, because Ms. Mankowitz expertly chooses and develops characters who have varying ways of expressing their Jewishness and who are all, in their own ways, trying to understand what being Jewish means to them personally, she is able to help readers seamlessly navigate this world, even if it is not that of their own culture or belief.

Clearly, the abuse and manipulation that is the foundation of this story is a content warning for those who desire to approach such topics with awareness and care. Once that concern is acknowledged, the story is skillfully told and worth the read.

* * * * *

“I was seven years old at the time and I did believe in God. I was pretty sure he looked like Grandpa and had butterflies flitting around his head, whispering secrets about all the people he needed to help.”

“I couldn’t help smiling at him [Grandpa], but he was the good kind of smile, the one that warms your belly and makes your shoulders relax out of fight mode.”

Discussing the stoning of women (but not men) for adultery in the Bible: “‘But, . . . how did they get the women to stand still and allow themselves to be stoned?’ . . . ‘Or,’ I said, ‘Maybe the society has so convinced her of her own guilt, teaching her what it means to be a good wife and teaching her how much God hates her, that she just stands there and lets them kill her.'”

One of the boys in Isabel’s class writes, “I feel like the rabbis are trying to bottle up my soul . . . and sell it back to me piecemeal because they are afraid of what I will do if I breathe God, without their guidance on how to use the resulting power.”

One of the rabbi teachers, in response to Isabel’s question about the story of Esther, “We study Torah every day, and in these stories women are used over and over again for the sake of their families’ desires, righteous or otherwise. Have you noticed that? You sit here and I wonder if you hear any of the words you read out loud. . . . My point is: these are not lessons to be followed as is. More often than not we’re reading stories about the pitfalls our forefathers, and foremothers, fell into because of their human weaknesses . They were jealous or lonely or selfish or just plain stupid. You are adults, or you will be. If something sounds wrong to you then maybe you’re the one who’s right.” [Underlining added by me.]

Barnhill’s “When Women Were Dragons”

The image-sound-emotions that arise when I think of this novel are an amalgamation of the screaming-yell of Eleven when she channels every spark of power within her against Evil in Stranger Things, a pastoral scene from an intentional community, and a refrain from Hamilton, the voices coming together to sing, “Rise up!”

That’s not by accident. That is art.

A friend of mine recommended the book in a post the day after the Uvalde massacre (May 24) (which occurred on the heels of the leaking of the draft Dobbs decision (May 2) . . . and everything else). In her Acknowledgements at the end of the book, Kelly Barnhill says one of the things the book is about is rage. My friend said that it is also about “what you can do when you imagine more and push beyond accepted limits of society.” First comes rage, then imagination, then, hopefully, the doing that leads to change.

It is a wake-up call to rouse us from our sleepy complacency in a Dickens style. Barnhill tells us a story of dragons that is engaging and fascinating and, at the same time, she holds a mirror before us. Her characters wrestle with socially sanctioned silence and self-applied blindfolds. Through her story, we hear the call to not sit down, to not be quiet, to not continue floating with the tides set in motion by others.

For, “[w]hen power belongs, not to the violent, and not to the wealthy and well-connected, but to the people, a different sort of future begins to present itself.” pg. 332

Make sure you read the Acknowledgements once you have finished the book. This is a story born of and for our times.


Humble men, in Churches, by the hour
Of women, their wisdom, praises shower. 
“We men must learn,” they say,
“Like you to read and pray.”
“This is why God gives men all power.”

~by me, July 7, 2022

From what I’m reading:

“You have brought me here, gentlemen, in hopes of conquest–in an attempt to rein in this feminine largeness, to shrink it down and force it to acquiesce to your paternal control . . . This, my friends, is an impossibility. . . .

When Women Were Dragons, by Kelly Barnhill, pg. 280.