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The Wedding Gift and Mr. Housman

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 | 8 comments

Toulouse from Reed and Barton Select

Mr. Housman was a crusty old man with gravel in his voice.

 

A stubble of white dusted the sides of his head. His skin was a map of liver spots and blotches. When he stood his tallest I could look him square, and his belly looked like he had swallowed a watermelon whole.

Mr. Housman was never in a hurry. Even if those stubby legs could’ve shuttled him faster, he wouldn’t have bothered. He had lived long enough to learn that getting there quicker wasn’t always better. Better than most, he knew life was less a straight shot and more a tangled road.

If Mr. Housman were a book, you’d do yourself wrong to judge him by the cover. He was much, much more than meets the eye.  Slipping out in a wink or slight nod, mischievousness might’ve been his superpower.

He had been with the company longer than I had been alive.

When I first met him, I was intimidated. I was fresh out of school and he was a walking institution. I thought I knew something until I was around people like him. When in the presence of a sage, I became aware of how little I knew, how brief my life had been in comparison. People like Mr. Housman had trudged the history I had only read about in school.

My perception started shifting as soon as the stories began. His prickly veneer masked satin.

Mr. Housman had one son and one wife. He’d say he got it right the first time. Among a pile of surprises I’d learn about Mr. Housman was finding out he and his missus fostered children. More than you can count on your fingers and toes. That’s something.

That’s great love.

 

When I got engaged, the company I worked for hosted a bridal luncheon a few weeks before I left to start my new life. I remember sitting around a long table full of people, most of whom probably came for the good eats more than the good-byes. Mr. Housman wasn’t among them.

A few days later he stopped me in the hall and squired me to a quieter spot. He handed me a beautifully wrapped gift, heavy and easy enough to guess what was inside–a set of flatware. Though I would never admit it to him, I knew we weren’t going to use it. I had bought a good set of stainless when I moved out on my own a year earlier and I had registered for “nice” silverware when we engaged.

Soon enough, however, I would discover Mr. Housman’s gift was a seed for a dream…

 

…but that’s another story for another time.

When he handed me the gift, he winked and said something like, “This is just a cover…” and I was confused as he reached to shake my hand, an odd gesture even for an odd man. He withdrew his own hand leaving a small slip of paper in my palm, or at least that’s what it felt like until I looked down.

It was a yellow post-it note with three words in his familiar script. One of those surprises about Mr. Housman you wouldn’t have anticipated was his beautiful penmanship.

“Go, and quietly.”

I turned it over and it was stuck tight to a neatly folded $100 bill. (In today’s dollars, about $212, a very nice gift.) I quickly glanced up to challenge him – it was much too lavish a gift – and, without a word, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand as he turned to walk away.

Twenty-eight years later, the flatware is still unopened in its original box, still a dream’s seed.

Twenty-eight years later, Mr. Housman’s wedding gift is the one I remember best.

 

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The Perfect, Most Delicious Way to Cook a Steak

May

20

Posted by on May 20, 2015 | 3 comments

The Perfect Way to Cook a Steak

Google “How to cook the perfect steak” and you’ll have 6.7 million returns telling you how to do it. Pioneer Woman, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Gordan Ramsay, Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine – even Martha Stewart – all have recipes and methods touting theirs as the best steak in the world.

But then there’s Wes. The guy next door you’ve never heard of. Wes, who makes the best steak I’ve ever had. Wes, who also happens to be my neighbor.

Lawsy, we hit the jackpot.

Wes is an analytical kind of guy who appreciates the science of cooking. He understands the relationship between acids and bases and what happens to food on a molecular level. I understand as long as Wes understands, it’s all good.

Really, REALLY good.

If you’ve already signed up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge, you know it’s not all about beef–that just happens to be my favorite type of protein. (Which made it a no-brainer to work with the Georgia Beef Board during Georgia Beef Month to promote the #ProteinChallenge.)  A slow-cooked roast with carrots and potatoes is practically my love language. Beef tacos is a family favorite. And burgers on the grill? Well, no one does ’em better than my own husband.

One of my favorite discoveries during the 30-Day Protein Challenge is all the delicious-sounding and good-for-you recipes they have. If you’ve been reluctant to try the challenge because you think you’ll be eating the same thing three meals a day for a month, you should sign up for access to so many meal ideas (all the other information is bonus).

Except for cooking a good ol’ filet or rib-eye. For the perfect steak, you’re going to want to do it Wes’ way. Anything else is sloppy seconds.

Wes’ World Rocking, Life-Altering, Magical
Way to Cook the Perfect Steak*

Preparing the perfect steak

 

  1. Buy high quality steaks from your favorite grocer. My favorite is a filet but my husband will choose a rib-eye for the marbling every time.
  2. Lightly coat steaks in corn oil, about a teaspoon per side. Wes uses Mazola, which works out just fine for us, because that’s all I’ll use for the Best (Apple Pie) Crust in the world.
  3. Season heavily with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, coarsely ground.  Apply equal amounts of both the salt and the pepper, and be careful to season with respect to thickness of the steak.
  4. Heat a large, seasoned cast iron skillet to very hot on a propane burner outside; you’re going to sear the steaks, and at this high of a temperature, it’s best to do so outside because they will smoke.
  5. Sear at high heat two minutes per side or until outside is a nice dark brown (not black).  After taking them off, allow to rest at least 5 minutes.
  6. Finish in 500° oven or grill (indirectly only) 10-20 min until desired temp is reached.  I use a baking pan, but a rack on top of a pan is ideal.  Finishing will take some practice; each steak is different–i.e., ribeye cooks different than filet. Or you can feel the steaks with your finger to judge the doneness. A meat thermometer can help as well.

My friends at the Georgia Beef Board suggest medium rare as the optimal level, cooking to an internal temperature of 145°.

During the searing process the steak should reach approximately 100°. At this point you can actually put the steaks in the fridge and finish them in the oven later or even the next day.

Make sure to allow time for your steaks to rest at least 5-7 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

Be sure to sign up for the 30-Day Protein Challenge for daily tips, recipes and great inspiration to eat better, in order to feel better. 

Also, if you haven’t yet entered to win one of four prize packs sponsored by the Georgia Beef Board (including $100 toward beef at your favorite grocer’s), there’s still time! Enter here.

NCBA_PC_FeelTheDifference_300x250

 

 

*Which Wes actually got from his friend Laurence…which is very similar to Alton Brown’s method of preparation.  

 

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The Fantastical Birthday Miracle

Mar

30

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 | 19 comments


The Birthday Miracle at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna

 

Last year for my birthday I got a miracle.

Definition of miracle

No exaggeration, textbook definition…I know miracles when I see miracles.

It wasn’t that I had the good fortune of celebrating in Vienna, Austria (traveling with my husband on a business trip) or that I got to spend time with my dear cousin Ellie and her mate, Walter. Those things, though extraordinary, are easily explainable.

Chocolate cake and whipped creamIt wasn’t my scrumptious dessert, either – equal parts chocolate cake and fresh whipped cream – though that was something special.

It wasn’t even that we were able to find this particular restaurant after first taking a wrong turn or two, off the beaten path but one Ellie and Walter had stumbled upon five years earlier.

And what makes this story all the more wonderful is what happened the year before, the year I turned 50, when – among a laundry list of challenges – our waiter hated me so much he threw my food on the floor rather than serve my birthday dinner.

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but this story is God’s honest truth. Just thinking about it makes me want to happy-cry.

(I started to tell this story then, but never got around to finishing it….)

It started rather ordinarily at a kitschy Austrian restaurant and local wine tavern, Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht. Forgive these awful pictures; lighting was poor and I was more interested in living this than documenting it well.

After all, until it happened, how could I know a Fantastical Birthday Miracle was about to occur?

 

Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht

Selfie at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht

 

Birthday Dinner at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna Austria

 

Kitschy walls at Weingut Heuriger Reinprecht in Vienna

 

Dinner in Austria

 

But we’ll get to that. First, let’s look at more memories.

My dinner…I wish I could remember what it’s called. Much more interesting sounding in German, it was basically a roast with carrots and potatoes. Fork tender. Dee licious.

 

German roast, carrots and potatoes

 

And the musicians…HOLY MACKEREL, THERE WERE STROLLING MUSICIANS….! I’m pretty sure the guy playing the guitar sampled every wine the tavern offers before he started work that night…

 

Strolling musicians at Austrian restaurant

 

 

I requested Arrivederci, Roma, a song from Seven Hills of Rome, a movie you’ve probably never heard of but one for which my grandmother had the album. I remember sitting next to her massive stereo/tv/radio combo and playing that song over and over. I thought it was beautiful and fancy and SO GROWN UP.

I’m pretty sure this joker was making up the words, though….

(By the way, you get a glimpse of The Fantastical Birthday Miracle in the video).

They sat at our table for quite a while laughing and telling stories, my cousin interpreting . Most of it was lost in translation.

Eventually it came up that the Americans were there to celebrate my birthday, so of course, they broke into an Deutschlish rendition of Happy Birthday.

And then it happened.

 

They said something in German and pointed to a lady behind them. Ellie, translating, squealed and explained it was her birthday, too. One translated question led to another and we discovered WE WERE BORN ON THE SAME DAY, THE SAME YEAR!!!

The next thing I knew, the lady had run over to our table and was sitting next to me, hugging and weeping and telling me it had been a very bad year. I asked, “Children?” because children can give plenty of reasons for having a very bad year, but she shook her head, “No children…” and she hugged me again. I decided it was best not to press.

Corinna (named after the song Corrine, Corinna because her parents loved it so) was from Berlin and a friend of hers had brought her to Vienna for a birthday getaway. They happened upon our restaurant by “chance.”

What are the odds of two women born on the same day, 4,600 miles apart, ending up celebrating their birthday in a tiny Vienna suburb at the same restaurant AT THE SAME TIME?!?!

 

One in a centillion, I tell ya.

So we hugged some more, and I held her face in my hands and told her she was beautiful and she was a very special birthday gift to me. Tears streaked her face and she hugged me again. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Her friend joined us and we visited a while longer and entirely too soon it was time to say auf widersehen.

I still can’t believe I have a Berlin Birthday Sister.

 

Corinna is a wonder, a marvel, to me. A miracle.

 

16769264608_b9bb010f19_b (1)

 

And so a year has passed and I find myself thinking about meeting her again, wondering if she’s thinking about me, savoring our memory like I am. I’ve prayed for her as she’s come to mind, hoping this past year has been a better one for her.

And I regret not having the presence of mind to exchange contact information, last names…anything, so I could check reach out to her again.

But maybe it’s exactly as it should be.

* * * * *

In celebration of my birthday, I’ve got a wonderful giveaway for you (RV $150)! Click here to check out the details and enter!

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The magical thing about pigtails

Sep

22

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 | 17 comments

Darling pigtails

Today I put my hair in pigtails.

I’m not even sure what prompted me to do it. They’re messy. It doesn’t look good or cute or even appropriate, but I had no idea it could be an instant attitude adjuster. I mean, on the day girlfriend gets a new cut and color, I’m as confident as I’ll ever be. But two ponies in the back of my head? Boom! I’m one better than that–I’m s a s s y .

I don’t know if it’s pathetic or precious (I’m hearing Jen Hatmaker in my head as I write that), but I’m sassy with no one around. Sassy people will understand (so I hope you understand).

What pigtails lack in fashion they more than make up for it in fun. When I turn my head from side to side they swish my neck. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, it feels like six years old. Have you ever known a six-year-old who didn’t think the singular goal of life was TO have fun? Exactly.

When my husband and I were dating (and apparently serious), I remember putting my hair in pigtails one day and he thought I was darling. I’m the worst rememberer in the world, so the fact I recall this is telling. I remember him swishing them with his hands (see? fun!) and saying, “When we have a little girl can she look just like you?”

That’s the magical thing about pigtails I suppose–no matter your age when you wear them, you’re always a little girl.

* * *

It’s no fun if you don’t play along–what makes you feel sassy or six again?

 

Image: Boo from Monsters Inc., quite possibly the darlingest pigtail wearer ever imagined.

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The Global Body of Believers: a guest post by my daughter. Sorta.

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 | 1 comment

Beautiful quote about paying it forward

If you follow my blog, you already know my oldest has been interning in the Philippines this summer.  After almost three months, I’m ready for her to be back.

Rachel has been a reader since she could distinguish A from B, and at times her appetite for books was insatiable.  What was discouraged in me by my own father, I encouraged in her as a counterattack of sorts.  All I can figure is after my mother’s death Daddy was concerned I’d get lost in books, or maybe hide from my reality of life without our mother. I understand now he was trying to protect me, but I never appreciated this parenting decision.

Rachel’s library is an enviable one and I remember the night she devoured a newly-released Harry Potter book in one sitting, because good story, sometimes, is more important than sleep. I suppose if “you are what you eat” she should be a book. Of course, that’s ridiculous and impossible, but she’s on her way to becoming the next logical thing: a writer.

Now, writing is not her passion (yet…?) and as a serious student who loves learning, she hasn’t really had time to develop her style. But I see it already–proofreading her papers for college has been a window into her future in more ways than one.  She understands words and how to use them.

No one has encouraged me more personally and deeply in writing than my daughter has this year (though my sister runs a close second place after gifting me with someone else’s words).

Rachel attended and subsequently interned with an amazing organization the past few summers, H.E.A.R.T. (Hunger Education And Resource Training).  HEART was established as “a practical training center for Christian workers going to serve in developing regions of the world.”  It is the only place of its kind in our country.  EVERY idealistic student who thinks he wants to enter vocational ministry in developing countries should attend, if even for a short-term session.  It will crush any romantic notion of missions work and replace it with an accurate portrayal of what to expect.

While at HEART, Rachel become close to Heather, a staffer who has become a trusted friend and wise mentor for my daughter.  They have remained in touch and Rachel extended permission to Heather to share her letters on HEART’s website. They provide a wonderful picture of how HEART principals translate into practice.  Also, my baby girl is a natural encourager, and it’s always good to give and receive feedback.

Anyway, Heather shared with me Rachel’s latest letter-turned-into-post; some of which I already knew, some of which was news.  It was so good and such a lovely Atta Boy to HEART, I wanted to share it here.  Below you’ll find an excerpt and I hope you’ll read it in full and then share it with others.

Reposted from HEART's website

{Excerpted from The Global Body of Believers}

One of my community development professors just flew in to the country to do research…. He made the observation that we are totally immersed in the culture, with absolutely no breaks, and no contact with ex-pats. When he said that, I realized that he was right; he was the first white person I had talked to in person in 2 months. While sometimes this is exhausting (mostly due to the language barrier), it’s also contributed to an incredibly rich experience in connecting with the global body of believers. That was a phrase I heard a lot in class: “connecting with the global body of believers”, and I thought that sounded nice in theory, but the reality of it has rocked me. There are so many different components to what I mean when I say that, but I just want to talk about two different experiences.

When I’m in Manila, I’ve been attending this church called Victory Christian Fellowship with one of the friends I have made on the CCT staff. One week, she went out of town to go visit her family, but encouraged me to go without her. She told some of her friends in her small group about me, and after the service was over, I received a text inviting me to lunch and small group that afternoon. I didn’t know any of the girls who were part of the group, but I was interested to see what a Filipino women’s small group looked like, so I went. When I met them in the church cafeteria, they immediately came up and gave me a hug and kissed my cheek, and led me to their table. Victory’s mission is to “honor God and make disciples” and I have seen that in action, even with my short amount of time spent there.

This group of women started with five people, and the group has multiplied to over one hundred women, with the original five now leading their own groups. I was able to attend a meeting with three of the original five women, and I was overwhelmed by their love. Because of my pitiful Tagalog, they laughingly agreed to have an “English only” small group, so that I would be able to understand and participate in discussion. We started out sharing our “highs and lows” of the week, then walked through a passage of Scripture together verse by verse. As we talked through how this applied to our lives, I was struck by our core similarities, as sisters in Christ. In different contexts, some of the day-to-day struggles varied, but our prayers were the same: more love for God, the first and greatest commandment. For, in A. W. Tozer’s words, “we have tasted the goodness of the Lord, which has both satisfied us and made us thirsty for more.”

Joining with my Filipina sisters in this prayer and being a recipient of their genuine love struck me deeply. It made me want to be a Christian. And isn’t this what Jesus prayed? “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. Unity in the body is supposed to show people the love of Jesus. That’s why Satan works so divisively within us—stirring up envy, racism, pride, selfishness—anything it takes to separate brothers and sisters.

 

I know she’s my daughter, and this is of most interest to me and our family, but it’s really too wonderful not to share with others.  To see any life challenged with the truth of the Gospel is beautiful. Her words and observations are inspiring, convicting, encouraging and outright challenging.

And they might just move you to tears.

I hope with all my heart you’ll click to continue reading; it was hard to excerpt only one part because the entire account is incredible.

 

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The incredible gift everyone – EVERYONE – wants (and probably needs)

Jun

26

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 | 5 comments

Your soul sparkles - Celebrating You

My sister gave me a gift last week and it made me so happy I screamed.

Literally.

We were alone in my house sitting on my youngest son’s bed, for a reason I can’t recall now. She handed me a package neatly ribboned and wrapped in the brown paper sack from the gift shop explaining, “I’ve had this forever but kept forgetting to give you.”

I clawed off the paper and grinned, already judging this book by its cover.

Celebrating You book - image by Robin Dance

My sister thought she was giving me an 8″x8″ gift book;  but as STINKIN’ DARLING as it is, the book itself wasn’t exactly the biggest part of her gift.  No…planted among its pages was a magical treasure, undetectable by eye, discernible only by the heart.

Her gift was in seeing and knowing me in the deepest ways I long to be seen and known.

 

I shrieked lunatic-crazy after every single page–think “wolf howling at the moon” and you’ll get a close approximation. Ask her if you think I’m kidding.

THIS IS THE BEST PRESENT IN THE WOOOORLD!

IT’S MY FAVORITE GIFT OF ALL TIIIIIME!

I LOOOOOVE THIS BOOK!!

Counting each double page as a single (one illustration with a companion sentence), there are just 27 pages (aka 27 screams). Thankfully, or the neighbors might’ve called the police.

Possibility - Celebrating You

We’re just 16 months apart but she’s always been the boss of me. I think she felt this was her God-given right and responsibility when we lost our mother so young. Or maybe it’s a first-born thing. Whatever it is, I’ve always accepted it and at times even appreciated it.

(It just occurred to me that she has known me longer than anyone else alive. Whoa…I’ve never thought about that before this very minute.)

One of my best childhood memories is sitting across from one another in her bathroom – her, on the toilet (lid down), me on the edge of the tub. She was my eager audience of one and I delighted in entertaining her…Edith Ann and Jimmy Carter impersonations (my Georgia roots showing), and I don’t know who else.

Her laughter was my paycheck, her approval, a bonus.

 

Quote for the best gift to give - Robin Dance

Even though sometimes she is maddening, she’s always been my biggest cheerleader.

Adventure - Celebrating YouLike when I was an upcoming high school freshman trying out for cheerleading and I suffered a major groin injury doing a split but not sufficiently warmed up (red hot knife searing pain that left me in a puddle in front of the judges). Back in the coach’s office, my sister gave me a “pep” talk:  inches from my face she screeched GETCHUR ASS BACK OUT THERE AND FINISH YOUR TRYOUT!

I thought she was cool to say “ass” in front of grown-ups. Bad to the bone.

I hobbled back to the gym, finished my tryout, and made the squad. Thanks to her.

While we’ve had our differences through the years, she’s still my cheerleader and champion. I suppose it’s not that difficult to understand how she could see me and know me so well, what with our history and sheer amount of life together.

And then she sings it back to me by way of a gift in a gift.

The pages in this little book spoke life and love and affirmation and beauty.

She told me I already am who I long to be.

Strong - Celebrating YouAnd though I know we are intimately known and loved by the God of the universe, sometimes a girl needs it in human form. On the very best of days He is gracious to find the perfect person to deliver the message.

My husband knows me and loves me in a way that she never can, but it’s she who has spent my entire lift knowing me in a way he never can–her blood runs through my veins.

It is wired in our DNA, this desire to be known and loved. And I believe each one of us has the capacity to give this gift to someone in our lives who so desperately needs to receive it.

Will you take a moment to consider the people in your life who might thrill to your notice?  Will you follow through and find a way to express it to them?

I don’t know if Celebrating You will be a conduit you can use to encourage another, but for less than ten bucks, if you know someone whose love language, like mine, is words of encouragement, it might be perfect.

I’m curious now…what makes you feel well known and most loved? I guess it centers around your love language.  If you’re willing to share, I’d really like to know what could turn you into a howling wolf…:).

 

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

 

 

Affiliate link used for Celebrating You.

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