We are each born with different genetic predispositions. Some are good, some bad, some neutral. For the most part, I never used to give much thought to my genetic makeup or how it affected my daily life. Things just were the way they were. But now, as an adult, I’m beginning to see how these different puzzle pieces I inherited from my parents are shaping my life. And, like I said, some are good, some bad, and some neutral. But they are all a part of who I am.

There are a select handful of people who know about the specific genetic predispositions I inherited. But, for the most part, I tend to keep things like this silent. Maybe a part of it is shame, I don’t know, but I think most of it honestly has to do with not having the energy to try to make people understand. Because, when you say, “I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” people tend to respond in less than understanding ways.

Why is that? Honestly, I wish I knew.

For whatever reason, people tend to severely misunderstand OCD, thinking of it as an affinity for neatness and order and not an often debilitating anxiety disorder. The term “OCD” gets thrown around on the daily, but it is often misused. “I’m so OCD,” people often say (which annoys me simply for its grammatical incorrectness, much less the fact that the statement, 9 times out of 10, is false). Or, they might jokingly say to one another, “OCD much?” or “Stop being so OCD!” What is worse, though, is when people treat those friends who actually struggle with OCD as though it’s some sort of a game. They re-arrange things that have just been arranged or intentionally do the opposite of their friend’s compulsions just to get a rise out of them. And, while it may seem funny to watch a friend compulsively move to fix whatever you’ve just undone, they may never be able to explain the amount of anxiety your little joke just caused them.

Fact is, most of the people who say and do these things unfortunately have only a very limited understanding of what it actually means to be obsessive-compulsive.

OCD is a disorder that centers around anxiety. People who struggle with OCD suffer from what are called obsessions (uncontrollable thoughts, feelings, mental images, etc. that repeatedly occur and most often push the person toward their compulsions) and compulsions (the ritualistic behaviors they follow in order to lessen the anxiety they feel and/or the presence of the obsessions). There are many variables to OCD, and it looks different for different people. But the anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions are always there.

And I’m pretty sure this is also true across the board: Having OCD is exhausting. It means being hyper-vigilant, even when you don’t want to be, never being able to just “turn it off.” Always keeping track, always counting, always trying to appease the obsessions in order to get just a moment or two of peace. Sometimes it is more of a background issue, like an itch you can’t scratch. And sometimes, it takes up the entire forefront of your mind and makes it difficult to focus on more important things. Overall, it takes more energy than you might think.

I’ve lived my entire life with OCD. And, while I’m able to handle my obsessions and compulsions much better as an adult (and after years and years of prayer and concentrated effort) than I was as a child, it can still be debilitating at times. My compulsions fall into the category of “counters and arrangers” (I only recently realized there were categories, and it made me happy to have this bit of normalcy), which basically means my compulsions are all about things being symmetrical and/or corresponding with certain numbers. Thus, because I’ve always struggled with things being symmetrical, getting ready for the day has always been (and may always be) the most frustrating part of my day. And, depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning, it may be either a routine part of the day or close to a meltdown-level catastrophe.

Throughout my life, getting ready has consisted of the following rituals (and other small things):

  • putting all clothing on right-side first, only (and putting both sides on in exactly the same way)
  • (as a small child) putting on/taking off clothing a certain number of times before actually being able to put them on
  • putting the correct socks on the correct feet (yes, socks have specific feet) and in an exact way
  • hair being perfectly symmetrical, esp. in tightness
  • shoes being the exact same tightness
  • etc.

And that’s just the getting-ready part of the day. My days have, in addition, been consumed with hand washing, counting everything, overstepping sidewalk cracks with alternating feet, opening/closing doors all the way, doing things in specific number/time increments, and other compulsions. And, like I said, I’ve come a long way since I was a child. Things that once sent me into tantrums/meltdowns now are much less debilitating. But I still struggle.

For example, I recently bought new socks from the store, only to get home and realize (after putting them on) that they all have a logo on the upper left-hand side. Which means, whenever I wear them, one foot will have the logo over the baby toes and the other over the big toe. The first time I put these socks on, I nearly, as a 22-year-old woman, started screaming and crying like a small child. The anxiety that rose up in me over something so small and inconsequential is impossible to explain. Needless to say, I quickly took off the socks and shoved them back into my drawer.

But here is one major difference between my child self and my adult self: I wore those socks. Not at the moment, no. I waited for a day on which I was less stressed. I mentally prepared myself for the lack of symmetry. And, throughout the day, I made a valiant effort to not look at my feet or think about the socks. When I would feel myself starting to panic, I would think of other things, distracting myself until the panic subsided.

So what’s my point?

Mainly, this: I know it’s routine for some people to joke about having OCD or to intentionally get their obsessive-compulsive friends riled up, but is this really the best way to love people who actually are obsessive-compulsive? I’ve overcome so much in the way of my OCD in the last 5 years or so, but I’ve needed the help and understanding of my friends and family along the way. We need your help, people of the world. Not your jokes.

To make things simple (and hopelessly cliche), I’m going to make one of those “6 ways to love your obsessive-compulsive friend” lists. 3 negative, 3 positive. Because who doesn’t like lists, especially when they’re perfectly symmetrical?

1. Stop calling yourself obsessive-compulsive.

Yes, we know you alphabetize your DVDs and make your bed every morning. Good for you. That does NOT make you obsessive-compulsive. Unless you suffer debilitating anxiety when those things don’t happen, unless these habits interfere with your daily life and occasionally even make it a living hell, you don’t have OCD. And, by claiming that your affinity for neatness is actually OCD, you’re diminishing the battle we fight every day to live normal lives.

2. Stop undoing our compulsions.

Do me a favor. Close your eyes and picture the thing that drives you crazy faster than any other thing. Imagine that thing is happening. Imagine your stress building. Now triple that stress. Now triple it again. Sucks, right? Now imagine you take the time to right that wrong (whatever it is). Take a big sigh of relief. Feels good, right? Now imagine someone comes by and intentionally undoes all of your hard work. The stress comes back, only tripled again. You’re starting to panic. Do you give them the reaction they’re looking for and let them laugh? Or do you hold it in and pray they leave before you explode?

That’s more or less what it feels like when you intentionally mess up something I’ve just compulsively fixed. Panic upon panic upon panic, upon anger and frustration. It doesn’t feel good. You may laugh about it, but it makes me feel like crap ten times over. Ask yourself honestly: is it worth it for a laugh? If you’re that desperate, go watch a comedy.

3. Stop saying, “OCD much?”

Believe it or not, I know I’m obsessive compulsive. I don’t need you to remind me and make me feel even more stigmatized than I already do. Even though we know you’re probably just teasing, it can often just make things more stressful for us.

4. Offer to help us, but don’t be too offended when we say no.

I know, this is a little counter-intuitive. When you see us floundering, starting to panic over something as small as packing a suitcase or tying our shoes the same tightness or whatever else, it makes sense to want to help. And to get upset if/when we say no. We do appreciate it, really. But chances are, at least for me, that I will say no. Because it’s my compulsion, and having someone else’s hands in it may just increase my anxiety. But, if you can handle the possibility of rejection, please do keep offering. It means a lot to us. And, besides that, we just might surprise you every once in a while and say yes.

As a side note: You don’t necessarily have to offer to help with a particular task (i.e. folding laundry or packing). Sometimes, if you see us stressing, the best reaction is just to ask, “What can I do to help?” rather than offering to do a particular task. And we’re much more likely to let you help that way, too.

5. Ask us about it.

I find it incredibly ironic that people joke constantly about OCD, but when it comes down to finding out a friend actually has OCD, people freeze. They either keep joking (which honestly doesn’t help) or ignore it altogether. I don’t want you to talk about my OCD all day, every day, but I’d love the chance to tell you what it’s like or explain what specifically sets me off. When we’re so used to people misunderstanding what OCD really is, we usually choose to not talk about it. You asking shows you really care and want to understand.

If you want to go the extra mile, do some research! Look it up on the internet. Check out research books from the library. Read novels with obsessive-compulsive characters (Martin in Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is a perfect, though somewhat extreme, example).

6. Treat us like normal human beings.

This probably goes without saying, and thankfully most people do this very well. But aside from acknowledging our obsessive-compulsiveness in the moment and trying to not to make it such a laughing stock, really the best thing to do is just treat us as normally as you can. (For most of you reading this, you probably didn’t even know I had OCD before now, so I’m sure that’s been no problem before. ;) ) Believe me, we don’t love living with the constant reality of our OCD. Sometimes its nice to not let it have the stage (and it can be incredibly healing to focus on other things).

——-

So there you have it, folks. Hopefully this was a helpful little post and not too harsh. Also, please note that I’ve drawn mostly from my personal experience here. So if anyone who reads this disagrees with me, please do let me know. But also realize I can only speak from what I’ve experienced. OCD is a vast and varied disorder, and everyone’s experience is in some way different, just like with any other part of life.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Spatzi | November 13, 2013

Why I don’t say “It’s okay”

I’m a people pleaser. I like for things to be harmonious and peaceful, for everyone to be content, and for there to be absolutely NO CONFLICT. Even so, I think I maintain a pretty healthy balance of not being a walking doormat, which is not something I can claim for my younger self. Actually, during my high school and early college years, I pretty well determined never to voice my opinion or desires. Instead, I essentially let others do whatever they would like. (Brave? No. But it felt safe.)

As a result, I developed an awful habit of responding “It’s okay” to just about every injustice, inconvenience, or hurt that I suffered. It was as though, if I could just convince everyone that I was unaffected, it would be true. So I never really thought through forgiveness or excusing the wrongs that were done. Instead, I just muttered, “It’s okay,” (of course not meaning a word of it) and continued on, all the while holding on to what had been done.

In my freshman year of college, I met a friend who challenged my use of “It’s okay,” among many other things. One day, we found ourselves in the midst of an argument. He had asked me for forgiveness for something-or-other (I seem to remember that it wasn’t anything big or something I necessarily viewed as needing forgiveness). I casually responded, “It’s okay,” thinking that was the same as expressing my obvious forgiveness. However, to this particular friend, it wasn’t the same thing. Not by a long shot.

This is where the argument arose. He was searching for a verbal acknowledgement of his need for forgiveness and a response to the affirmative (“I forgive you”) or negative (“I’m unable to forgive you”). But my thoughtless “It’s okay” addressed neither of these. In fact, in reacting to my response, he inadvertently hit the heart of the situation: I was accustomed to responding “It’s okay” to any given situation regardless of whether it was actually okay or not. The words were entirely meaningless.

I don’t know that I immediately stopped using the phrase. I’m not even sure if it was done with much intentionality at all. But I do know that, today, I don’t say “It’s okay,” and it’s very intentional. Because, here’s the thing: If someone does something to hurt me, it’s not “okay.” I can extend forgiveness to the person or assure them that there are no hard feelings. But I’m no longer willing to offer a meaningless, untrue phrase in order to make someone feel better about a wrong they’ve done. I would rather address the issue, admit I was hurt, and work through the situation with the person than put a verbal band-aid on the situation. I think that, in the long run, it ends up being much more productive.

Posted by: Spatzi | November 9, 2013

The Dangers of Comparison

“You need to stop comparing yourself to everyone around you and compare yourself to the person God created you to be.”

It was one of those rare, deep, heart-to-heart moments that quality time people like me thrive on. I was sitting in my favorite chair in the living room, legs tucked underneath me and head cocked to the side as I pressed the phone to my ear. I had just confessed a mountain of insecurity that I had not yet spoken to anyone. My mother, one step away from exasperation by the unreasonable size of said mountain, gently (but firmly) admonished me with the above words.

They hit me like a ton of bricks. I sat in my cozy little chair, suddenly out of breath from the weight of those words. But it wasn’t over there. I got quite an earful about the impossibility and danger of attempting to measure up to other people. And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I can look back over my life and realize that much of my time has been spent in this comparison game. And I know I’m not the only one.

When my friends look at me, (I’m told) they see a strong, capable young woman who has overcome adversity, who works hard for what she gets in life, and who is tender-hearted and empathetic. It’s not that I would disagree with that assessment necessarily, but it is difficult to accept that partial truth when I know the full weight of my humanity that lurks beneath the surface. I know not only where I have come from (which is in some ways a terrifyingly dark place) but also the dark and ugly depths of my own soul. Sometimes, I think I forget that Jesus has washed me clean of all of that. I look at the “perfect” believers around me, the ones who at 20-something are already 3/4ths of the way to having a “perfect” little American family, with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, not to mention a thriving ministry/job/whatever… and I just feel out of place. I can’t look at our radically different pasts and see a common, safe, reliable future. It just doesn’t add up.

But here’s the thing I’ve been missing all along: God didn’t create me or allow certain events in my life with the intention that I would someday live up to Susan’s or Mary’s or Betty’s potential. If I accept the truth that God is sovereign (which He most assuredly is), then I must also accept the truth that everything that has happened in my life, good and bad, has been under His sovereignty. I must accept that God is bigger than my past, bigger than my failings, and bigger than my insecurities.

Further, the state of my future (or present) is not dependent on how good I am or how I measure up to Susan or Mary or Betty. And thank God for that, because if I were the captain of my fate, I’d be somewhere radically different than I am today, and I’d have a lot less hope to go along with that.

So here’s what I’m getting at: comparison is dangerous. We all do it, whether it be in fashion, dating, academics, our walks with God, or any number of other things. I’ve watched friends battle depression  over their inability to measure up to other people. I’ve seen relationships fall apart over the same thing. And I’ve seen people’s walks with God deteriorate over comparisons. How are we to be the people God intends for us to be if we are all trying to be like Susan or Bill or whoever else?

Instead of focusing on what we lack, let’s focus on what Christ is doing in us. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, let’s compare ourselves to Christ and who He desires us to be. (We will still inevitably fail, but I believe we will be striving for the right thing and growing in that direction.) Instead of walking in fear of never measuring up, let’s live our lives in the freedom of grace and truth He has given to us.

We’ll never do it on our own strength. Thankfully, though, we don’t have to.

Posted by: Spatzi | September 28, 2013

Is Chivalry Dead? The perspective of a 21st century woman.

Just the other day, I had an interesting encounter that got me thinking. I was running down the stairs to the chapel’s first floor, hoping to not miss the opening of the first song. I happened to reach the door at the same time as a group of young men who pushed and crammed their way through the door, leaving me standing with one hand on the door, wondering whether any of them had even seen me there. Of the twenty or so young men who shoved their way through that door, not one offered to let me go in front or tried to take the door from me. Only one stopped to say thank you.

Annoyed, I rushed down the aisle and slid into the seat my roommate was saving for me (ironically, a seat right next to a couple of the aforementioned young men). “Gentlemen,” I whispered to her in a huff, “do not exist.”

The question now, of course, is this: Do I really believe that gentlemen don’t exist? Do I really believe that chivalry is dead?

The simple answer is no. But I do believe that a number of our young men (and women) have forgotten what chivalry really is, and how it came to be.

In the Middle Ages, knights were held to a standard known as the Code of Chivalry. They were called to support justice, defend the weak and defenseless, assist widows and orphans, respect women, live by truth and loyalty, be courteous to others, avoid scandal, and fear God, to name a few. It is from this code that the concept of a gentleman was derived. However, there are days when I wonder whether this is an idea that is beginning to die out.

On the whole, do men nowadays occupy themselves with thoughts of fighting for those who are unable to fight for themselves? Do they determine to live by truth, loyalty, and fear of God? Do they strive to avoid scandal? Do they respect women?

The issue with this last idea isn’t really about opening doors or walking on the street side of the sidewalk, although that’s certainly a part of it. The issue of respecting women, as I see it, has to do with the ability to see women as they truly are. I believe that men and women are equal in the Lord’s eyes, but they are by no means identical. We have different strengths, weaknesses, and roles that have been given to us by God. A part of men respecting women (and, conversely, a part of women respecting men) is recognizing these differences and choosing to embrace them rather than shoving them aside for a misunderstood concept of equality.

On the flip side of my earlier story, I recently spent a weekend in California with my family for my brother’s wedding. While there, I had the opportunity to spend time with a cousin of mine who I could tell was really striving to embody the idea of a gentleman, even down to opening doors for me and pulling my chair out for me at dinner. Did he have to do these things? No. Were they a little weird to accept? Yes. But they also gave me a sense of security. They conveyed the idea that I was worth doing something for, that I meant something to him. These little things, no matter how insignificant they may have seemed, made me feel worthwhile and beautiful.

My point here isn’t that guys should have to go out of their way all the time to do every little thing for us women. I’m perfectly capable of doing things on my own, and I surely won’t die if I have to open a door for myself. The point is, guys, that what you do makes a difference, and that through embracing (or ignoring) those little, seemingly insignificant things, you convey much more than you may realize.

The fact is, we want to know we are important to you. We want to know we’re worth the effort, even if it’s a little annoying. We want to know that you see that tender, fragile part inside of us that needs protecting, and that you are willing to make that sacrifice. We want our brothers and friends and boyfriends and husbands to realize that, though we may not be lesser, we are different. And, within those differences, there is a part of us that, no matter how capable we may be, desires shelter, protection, and affirmation.

So, if you think we’re worth protecting, cherishing, pursuing, even loving… tell us. Show us. Because it means more than you may ever know.

Posted by: Spatzi | September 15, 2013

A Letter to Us All

I know I have posted this poem before, but it’s been nearly a year and a half, and it is without a doubt among my favorites that I have ever written. After taking a short trip down memory lane in reading some of my old posts, I thought I would share this with all of you once again. Enjoy! (As always, comments/criticisms are welcome.)

 
I’m baffled by the person behind the lies,
by the shadows behind those eyes that you hide behind two dark squares of glass,
whispering with false bravado that nothing has happened,
he never touched you.
I wonder at those lies.
 
You are a flash of lightning on a dark, still night,
unexpected and beautiful, here one moment and gone the next.
Your heart is not protected behind those cool, grey walls
but it’s growing colder, lacking the warmth of the Son.
I’d offer you a space heater if I thought it would help.
 
And I wonder what would happen if we each took two steps
to the left, away from those shadows, in order to gain some perspective.
Take my hand, we’ll make it, for beneath the glassy stare of your eyes
I know there is hope not yet quenched by the frigidity of your past.
You have not been forgotten.
 
Does it really matter where we go, so long as we go?
We make plans for ourselves, disguising them in false pleas for guidance.
Isn’t it true that we have to surrender everything before we can be made new,
and that, without Him, our dreams are not nearly as big as they should be?
Take a moment to listen.
 
We are not unforgivable, unredeemable, unmistakably broken.
We are stronger than they’d ever allow us to be, broken free from those unwanted glares,
ready to fall into something greater.
So fall, fall, and don’t look anywhere but Up, where hope comes from.
It’s okay to let go.
 
We are young, but we are not niave.
We have been branded by the past, but scars fade and 
the flower blooms even after the storm.
Through the cycles we come face to face with faithfulness.
Don’t worry about being perfect.
 
The depths of His grace are too great for your small form;
If we were alone, we’d be crushed.
But I saw you swim in that ocean, bathed in that fine Light,
and I smiled for all that you were.
True beauty is never what they expect of us.
 
Who are we to walk down the streets just like everyone else?
We were not made to fit that mould,
pressed into cookie-cutter shapes of what the world says we ought to be.
Don’t sell yourself for that bit of appreciation.
Do you honestly think the attention is real?
 
Listen, remember that ocean!
Did you forget what it felt like to be warm when you forsook the open arms that had for so long held you?
Acknowledge that wrong already, admit that it wasn’t your fault. 
And tomorrow, when your eyes open to the Light, you’ll remember the warmth.
His arms are never far away.
 
I remember when we used to dance through the sprinklers
like hummingbird wings fluttering 80 beats per second.
You didn’t so much tiptoe through my life as leave permanent bootprints,
like that old saying about true friends.
Let’s be children again.
 
Isn’t that the only way to go, with wide eyes and open hearts?
What makes us so inclined to hide away that pure, untainted shard of what once was,
as though that child could be hurt again so better to not let it live at all.
I miss that clarity of mind, when you spoke your words out of nothing but honesty.
If you’d hated him, you would have said so.
 
And now? Are you ready to admit it?
Say the words, speak them aloud,
acknowledge the wrong and hold fast to the right.
Bend over backwards, fall like a leaf tumbling from the heavens.
“I was never alone.”
Posted by: Spatzi | August 14, 2013

The truth about parenting: It matters.

In nine days, I will be turning 22 years old. Although most days I feel incredibly young (and in many ways, I know I still am), it’s impossible to deny that, somewhere along the line of my growing independence these last five years of college, I stumbled onto adulthood. So forgive me if I use that big, scary word throughout this post; I know I’m younger than many of those who may read this. However, bear with me. There’s a bigger point to be made.

As I progress further and further into my early years of adulthood—and the responsibilities that come therewith—I’ve stumbled upon a realization: How parents raise their children really does affect the person they become in their adult years. (To those wise adults who are chuckling or rolling their eyes, bear with me…)

Perhaps the greatest gift my mother ever gave me was her availability. We were blessed as kids to have a mother who had the option to not work. For the first twelve years of my life, I had a mother who was always available (not that she was unavailable once she began to work). She took us to school in the mornings, brought us home, cooked us meals, helped us with homework…  Whatever needs we had, Mom met them, and then some. And, perhaps most important of all, she taught us many lessons of adulthood in the context of our little world.

She taught us the basics of cooking, how to properly clean dishes, and how to do the laundry. She taught us to blare our music and dance around the house while we cleaned. She taught us to love reading and enjoy life. She taught us to work hard for what we wanted (or, at times, what we didn’t want but did need), chase after the good things God had for us, and always put others before ourselves. She taught us to save and manage our money, to take care of the nice things we were given, and to say please and thank you. She taught us to smile and make conversation with the checkout lady, to always be courteous, and to treat others the way we wished to be treated. She taught us to resolve conflict and to listen when someone else was speaking. She taught us to pick up after ourselves (though I, more than anyone, fought that one every step of the way) and treat someone else’s belongings with more care than we would treat our own.

I was shocked when I went to college and found that 75% (this is an approximate from my interactions, not a statistic) of students had never done their own laundry, cooked a real meal, or learned how to properly maintain a home. I’m not about to point fingers at their parents for not doing a good enough job, because I don’t know their specific situations. All I know is that, for many, college is the beginning of a very long journey into adulthood. For many, careers, apartment renting, house buying, and sometimes even marriage come soon after college. Even for those who move back home, it’s important to understand how to keep and maintain a home, cook meals, maintain money, and so on. If nothing else, it makes life just a little easier on those who share a living space with them.

I remember one day in my sophomore year of college walking into the kitchen area of my dorm to find a sink full of dirty dishes (many caked with food) and ants crawling everywhere. I was shocked and disgusted and immediately got to work cleaning. The frightening thing is, that wasn’t the only time it happened, not by far. Nor was that particular kitchen the only place I encountered such a mess. In fact, I’ve found that college students can be very messy people, and many of my friends confessed that they were never taught to do simple things like dishes, laundry, or cooking. Are our young adults living off of popcorn and ramen because they were never taught how to cook a meal for themselves?

Here’s the thing. While my mother was always there for us, she didn’t hand everything to us on a silver platter. Truth is, we could probably have done with a little more struggle, but I’m incredibly grateful for the work ethic my mother taught me. I’m still learning, of course, but I’m grateful for the time she took to teach me how to do things for myself, and how to do them well.

So, to those parents who have loved and labored for us, thank you. To those who are just starting off: keep going, because it makes a difference (not just to your child, but to his or her future roommates and spouse). And to the wonderful lady who raised me, thank you for all of the lessons, the truth, and the times that I didn’t understand what you were doing (or why) but learned from it anyway. Thank you, Mom for everything. I love you.

Recently, because of a particularly bad flare-up of my hyperthyroidism, I’ve had to make some changes in the way I eat. For me, this meant completely cutting out all wheat and iodized salt (no more eating out or “cheating” for me!). Due to the awful combination of hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia, I’ve also started adding coconut everywhere I can in my diet. I use coconut flakes as a snack and in my morning yogurt and use coconut oil and milk just about wherever I can in replace of other fats and such. Thankfully, being mostly dairy-free, I already use a number of coconut products in my cooking, so the adjustment wasn’t too difficult.

Today, I was bored of the few breakfast foods I’ve been cycling through and wanted to try something new. It turned out far better than I expected, so I decided to share my good fortune with all of you here. Whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypoglycemia or just want to try something new, this breakfast is nutrient-packed to help your blood sugar and metabolism. Plus, it’s super tasty!

photo-(1)

You will need:

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage

1/2 cup rolled oats (gluten free if necessary)

2 tbsp Qi’a superfood cereal (I used the cranberry vanilla flavor)

1/2 tbsp coconut oil (approx.)

1/2 tbsp raw honey (approx.)

Finely shredded coconut flakes (as desired)

Directions:

1. Heat the coconut milk and coconut oil in a small saucepan on the stove.

2. Add the oats and Qi’a cereal, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to become more solid (like regular oatmeal).

3. Add the raw honey, stir well.

4. Remove from heat and serve, adding coconut flakes as desired and mixing well.

5. For added antioxidants/taste factor, enjoy with a glass of green tea.

Posted by: Spatzi | April 3, 2013

Sugar free (stevia-sweetened) custard recipe

You will need:

4 eggs

2 tbsp stevia powder (or 12 packets)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

3 cups whole milk (or milk alternative)

ground nutmeg

ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease six ramekins (or one bread pan if you don’t have ramekins) and place them in a large baking pan.

3. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over the stove, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla extract, stevia and salt.

5. Add the heated milk and stir until well mixed.

6. Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, and a small bit of extra stevia, as desired.

7. Pour hot water into the pan within 1/2 inch of top of cups and place the pan in the oven.

8. Bake until knife inserted near the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes (45 to 50 min for custard baked in a bread pan). Remove the ramekins from hot water and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

9. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, then serve and enjoy.

Posted by: Spatzi | March 19, 2013

Homemade Apple Butter Recipe

On a recent visit home, I was cleaning up around the house and stumbled on a pile of apples. They were past their prime but still good, and I wanted to come up with some creative way to use them that wasn’t applesauce, as we already had a jar of mostly untouched applesauce in the fridge. My solution? Apple butter. It’s surprisingly easy, though also a bit time consuming. Next time, I think I’ll look up a crock pot recipe.

I loosely followed this recipe here. My main problem, aside from having a general aversion to recipes/measurements, was that this particular recipe called for four pounds of apples. I had about five smallish apples and a jar of applesauce, which I threw in after pureeing the apples so I could have more apple butter. So here is my loose adaptation. I was happy with it, and I hope you will be too if you feel like making a smaller batch to enjoy alone or with a friend.

Don’t hate me for the lack of precise measurements. ;)

You will need:

Apples

Apple cider vinegar

Water

Sugar

Salt

Cinnamon

Ground cloves

Allspice

Lemon juice

Directions:

1. Cut the apples into quarters. I removed the seeds and any nasty spots, but it’s best to leave the core and peel on.

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2. Place the apples in a medium to large pot and add enough water that the apples are well-covered (they’ll float, don’t worry about that). Your water/apple cider ratio should be 2:1. For instance, if you use 2 cups of water to cover the apples, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. If you use 1 cup of water, use 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar. Etc.

3. In the covered pot, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until apples are soft. Remove from heat.

4. Using a pestle, mash the apples through the strainer into a medium to large bowl. Remove the skins from the strainer as necessary so the pulp can go through the strainer and into the bowl. (Note: The recipe above calls for a foodmill or chinois sieve. I had neither, so I used a regular mesh strainer. It worked fine, but I have a feeling the suggested pieces of equipment would be easier.)

5. Add your sugar. This is where I had a vast difference of opinion with the recipe above, which calls for 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple puree. I had about 3-4 cups of puree, and I used about 1/2 cup of sugar. So, add however much you find necessary based on your individual preferences or the sweetness of the apples you used. Mix until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved.

6. Add your spices to taste. I used approximately 1/2 tsp each of ground cloves and allspice and 2-2 1/2 tsp cinnamon. When in doubt, start small, taste, and work your way up. Mix. Add your lemon (I used about 1/4 cup, again follow your preferences).

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7. Cook uncovered in a large/wide pot on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. It took my mixture about 1 1/2 hours to reach the right consistency and color: thick, smooth, and medium-dark brown-red.

8. If you plan to can your apple butter, follow the instructions on the recipe posted above. I put mine in a tupperware, as I knew it wouldn’t last too long.

Enjoy!

Posted by: Spatzi | March 12, 2013

The beauty of cliff-diving

Today, I visited his grave for the first time in a long, long time.

It looks exactly the same. Old, neglected, surrounded by mostly-brown grass and a patch of dirt in which a whole hoard of insects have found their playground. And underneath that worn bit of sone, I know there is nothing left worth returning to.

I used to sit and talk to him, share with him the milestones in my life. I shouldn’t have been alive, and I knew that he, of all people, would understand that. At the same time, I didn’t really believe that he was listening. It just felt good to talk, for once, to be honest without fearing judgement.

This time, I didn’t talk to him. I had no need to. Instead, I poured out questions I’m sure I’ve spoken before to the only One who has been there to hear all of these conversations. I asked God why He kept me from death time and again, against all odds, but He let my friend die. Eight years later, it still feels like a sick exchange of fate, and I’m angry for it. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.

And I wish I could say that a loud, booming voice sounded from Heaven and gave me the answers I’ve been longing for. I wish I could say I suddenly learned every detail of the life that was lost far too soon, that the puzzle was miraculously complete. But none of this happened.

What did happen was this: My Daddy, in His infinite compassion, placed a whisper in my heart, reminding me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

I have to accept that there are things in this life that I will never understand. And though I often fail, I’m learning more every day what it means to trust in the One who has all the answers.

It feels like diving off a cliff, blindfolded, and trusting that there is water below to catch me.

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