Because their future *is* my future.

I don’t have children of my own. I am not a mother. I haven’t had contractions, been in labor or signed legal papers.

I do, however, spend a lot of my time choosing to volunteer with and mentor to the children in my community of Cleveland, Okla. Those children aren’t mine by birth, but I invest in them because I believe it is part of my repayment to society for what it has done for me. It’s what humans should do for each other, right?

It takes a village, and our village is a collective asset — the people, the places, the things, the triumphs and the problems.

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Birthday Presence: 37 things I tell myself about life


This week marks the passing of 37 years that I have been blessed with breath in my lungs.

I am not one for wanting a big to-do on my birthday. Kind words and thoughtful best wishes are gifts enough. That’s not because I am scared of growing older, nor am I someone who declares to be forever 29.

To me, the value in marking one more year is powerful in a quiet way. I have seen lives end much too young. Becoming wiser, maturing through mistakes and celebrating milestones is not a destiny afforded to all.

So we have to take it. Run with it. Love it. Live it.
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The time my hair fell out and I grew a pair of wings

Because sometimes the inspiration to rise from the ashes, squeeze lemonade and soar like eagles comes from the unlikeliest of people and places.

I posted on Facebook this morning about my “bad hair day.”

I did it mostly because I don’t mind making fun of myself. In fact, that is one thing I can say I am good enough at doing I should be earning a professional paycheck for it.

We must try not to take life or ourselves too seriously.

I was given a boost from some construction workers this morning. Keep in mind those guys were working in Tulsa, where they have so many potholes to fill, they likely won’t have time to look at women for the next 25 years.

The potholes basically worked as beer goggles as I went by, my hair a nest under my disguise of a ball cap.

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When the Girl Scouts cookies are gone

It is October and my freezer is officially void of Girl Scouts Thin Mints. After trembling in fear, with a death grip on the empty box and a glazed look in my eyes, it hit me.

I have a recipe to make these cookies myself!

The winter months will indeed be heavenly, but this knowledge comes with heavy responsibility. Raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I understand that by using this recipe, it doesn’t absolve me of my duty to buy cookies from the neighborhood Girl Scouts in the spring.”

Because there is something magical about a little girl in pigtails and a sash that makes it perfectly reasonable to fork over $4 per box.

P.S. Do we get a  baking badge for this?

 

Homemade Thin Mints

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint extract

Preparation

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk and the extracts. Mixture will look curdled. Gradually, add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into two logs, about 1 1/2 inches (or about 4 cm) in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough is very firm.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice dough into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick – if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp – and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cookies will not spread very much, so you can put them quite close together.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are firm at the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Melt on high power in the microwave, stirring every 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is smooth. Chocolate should have a consistency somewhere between chocolate syrup and fudge for a thin coating.
Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to set up for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm.
Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and easy to dip into.

Makes 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.
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Baby Back Ribs and Texas Blackjack Sauce

I saw this recipe in Woman’s Day magazine in 2005. It immediately went in my Big Black Books and I prepared it for the first time that summer, my last in Chicago. I remember being very leery of the fact there was coffee (blech!) involved… but I quickly got over it. The unique flavor sent my palate over the top.

We fired up the grill on game day, spun the TV around so we could watch the action from outdoors, and every single Cubs fan who walked by en route to Wrigley Field made a comment about the divine smell. I joked that every game day I should sell ribs off the side of the balcony in brown lunch sacks.
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Fighter. Champion. Ironman.

Dear Baby Brother,

You have trained for this moment for seven years. We all have loved you and believed in you for the nearly 25 years since you took your first little breath.

As you prepare this morning for the biggest challenge of your life and to reach a level only the most elite of athletes attain, know these things and meditate on them.

The nervous moments ahead of competition are normal, even for Olympians. It’s OK to have them, just don’t allow them to win over precious space your head. Nervous moments mean you understand the adversities. They mean you not only want to slay the beast, but also that you respect it.

As our man Rocky said: “That’s how winning is done.”

Because you are ready. You are prepared. Say that to yourself as you walk to check in.

“I am ready. My body is ready. My mind is ready. I am prepared. My body is prepared. My mind is prepared.”

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Today, I want to live here: Granny’s kitchen

Even if you grew up in the city, there’s probably something familiar about a farmhouse kitchen.

I see one and am reminded of my Granny’s haven. I was only 5 years old when she died, but I still remember her kitchen. It wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was the opposite of fancy. It had an old ’50s-style table, and in my memory, there is a pie in the center of it, covered with a muslin tea-towel.
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Berry Bliss(ful) Cake with Lemonade Glaze

It’s that time of year: Berries, berries and more berries. Farmers markets, grocery stores, roadside stands… they’re everywhere. And I love it. My favorite is raspberries, which I suppose is because they taste like candy. Good, healthy candy.

The following recipe is from Gourmet magazine. I was mesmerized with the possibilities. Raspberries. Blackberries. Blueberries. Cranberries. Even plums or peaches. I liked it so much that I clipped, um, stole it… I ripped it right from the pages of an issue in a waiting room. I know, bad girl. But because I was bad, it went into my Big Black Books and you now know about an awesome cake. This moment was worth the risk.
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