Saturday, December 31, 2011
It's the last day of 2011. Tomorrow will be a whole new year. I have decided to take a trip through this year and look at the changes that have come about. Sometimes, it's important to remember that stuff, you know?
In January, I was going through the turmoil of ending my relationship with my ex-love Tony, extricating myself from his house, his life (and his wife's life). It was not pleasant, and I spent much of the month being overwhelmed, emotionally bereft, and generally broken. I really think the best post to explain it all was the one I wrote on trust. Trust was a large factor in my life, broken trust especially. It's something I still struggle with, partially because I've had trust broken so many times over my life in big ways, and partially as the blow-out from the break-up we went through. Poly "divorce" (for lack of a better word) is a highly unpleasant thing at the best of times. This one was not at the best of times.
Lent was my focus through much of March, and I wrote a lot about my impressions of it. I especially like this post because it touches on my beliefs as a "hybrid" of Greek and Christian beliefs. There's also a labyrinth poem that I am somewhat proud of for its meter and rhyme. I find myself now looking ahead to Lent in the New Year, and what sort of revelations it will bring to me...
Spring started coming in April, and I spent more time out of doors. I went for a walk at a friend's brand new land, and ended up breaking my right ankle. Ouch. That's the first bone I've ever broken, and it was not something I enjoyed at all. I felt very trapped in the house in Hinsdale, unable to leave my room, dependent on people who were not only no longer lovers or family, but who were rapidly choosing to become enemies. April was the month that I broke all of my own rules, and did something so horrible that it almost destroyed me, my family, everything I've worked for through the years. I'm still recovering from it today, which is a part of that whole trust issue I mentioned before. It's hard... it's frightening! I haven't given up, though, and I persevered through all the nastiness and pain and anguish, and I'm not in April anymore.
building foundations again. It was close to graduation and ordination time, and also approaching the time when we would be leaving the house that was now owned by Tony and wife, and going to a new place. We didn't know yet that our dream house would fall through, though we had (by this month) seen the new house which was destined to be our own. We had been razed to the ground, and now it was time to lay that new foundation. The big rocks (family, relationship) had to be firmly laid at the bottom, so that nothing else could topple whatever we built. I know at the time I didn't feel as if I was doing a very good job, but I can look back now with a bit of mercy on myself and see that I was doing the best I could.
I can explain June in two words: confirmation, and ordination. The whole month seemed to be eaten up by those two ceremonies. Confirmation was fairly quiet, but very heartfelt. Ordination was a huge production number, and I loved every moment of it despite shaking in my boots throughout. I went on retreat, took my first Communion as a confirmed Christian, re-dedicated myself to my Greek gods, and accepted the anointing of myself as an Interfaith Minister.
July had me living alone in the parsonage of our church. It was a peaceful time, although I was mourning not having a garden. I tried to grow tomatoes in pots, but it just didn't work out. I had lush leaves, but almost no fruit at all. Still, I tried. It was a way of laying in my dreams (and prayers) for this winter, I suppose. I still ache that I can't open a jar of our own tomatoes in January, when I want them most, but at least I have a few dilly tomatoes and one package of frozen home-grown beans left. I plan on using them around my birthday, I think.
I'd forgotten to pray for myself for a very long time. A friend got badly hurt, and some things happened that got me very emotionally hurt. It was also the time that I started to realize that I could exist outside of my relationship. I'm still not sure I like that, to be honest. I realize it's a healthy realization, and I'm not trying to bury it or anything. There's a certain scariness to it, though; the idea that even if Gray or sis were to leave, even if the kids were suddenly no longer in my life, I could continue on. It might hurt, it might ache, it might burn like the fires of Hel, but I would go on, and I would live my life. It's not a comforting thought, really, because of the pain it involves. I don't fear death; Hecate cured me of that some years ago. I do fear pain, though... and most of my life has been spent running from one shelter to another, avoiding pain. For the first time in my life, at 40 years of age, I feel as if I can walk through pain and still be standing. I suppose that must mean I'm grown up now?
September was a month of food for me. I was at the parsonage, now joined by Gray and sis and kids. I was cooking a lot more, and I even tried some fun things like fudge. I made one of my favorite Hungarian recipes, chicken paprikash, and shared the recipe with the blogosphere. I dealt with a lot of emotional issues, some of which are still ongoing, but I dealt with a grace I didn't know I had.
We moved into our new home in October, and I learned that the land here is quite numinous. We spent hours lugging boxes, cleaning, scouring carpets, and settling in. We got children registered and going to their new school. It was a time of new beginnings, which might seem odd for October, but suited me just fine. I celebrated a number of holy days, some Jewish and some Christian, most Hellenic, and enjoyed the fact that the new house and land provided me with peace to do such things.
In November, I finally got my altars set up. For me, this was a way of saying, "This is HOME." I'd never gone so long without altars (the ones in the parsonage were fairly rudimentary, but at least they were present). It was with a sense of true relief that I pulled out all my sacred items and placed them reverently in their places. Since then I've moved a few things around, but the basic lay-out has continued to stay the same. I love it! My room is truly wonderful, a place of sanctuary for me. I look forward to spring, and the time when I can throw open both windows and let the clear, cleansing breeze blow through.
The angst and anger of January has faded. I can't say that I've completely recovered from the blow of my relationship ending and the resulting "divorce" situation, but I have come to terms with it and moved on. I try not to think about the bad times, even when that means doing things like deleting a few pictures off my hard drive. I don't even spend much time thinking on the good times, to be honest, other than to take the lessons I learned (how to grow food in a garden, how to raise and butcher chickens, etc.) and apply them to the new life we've started here. Though we intended to stay close to where we were previously, fate has moved us an hour away, and that seems to have been a wonderful thing. Life is good. Life is good. Life is good.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
There are people all around the world who celebrate something amazing in the next few days. Some celebrate Christmas. Some celebrate Hannukah. There's Kwanzaa, Solstice, Mithrasmass, Yuletide, and even New Year. Almost all of these touch on the idea of bringing something new and exciting into the world, bringing in light and joy and hope. The themes are similar, even downright suspiciously so in some cases. And it really doesn't matter at all what you celebrate.
Whether we celebrate the birth of Christ, the rebirth of light, the birth of the new year, or some other type of birth, may your winter holy days be TRULY holy.
Written by Allyson Szabo at 5:43 PM
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Dear Santa, Jesus, Holly King, Dionysos, Strega Nona, and whoever else might be listening...
I like this time of year. Even though there are a few blowhards who are so "bah humbug" that they ruin it for themselves, the majority of people of ALL religions and none are happy and humming around this time. I like that people tend to actually remember their pleases and thank yous. I like that politeness sneaks back into a lot of people's daily lives. It might be fleeting, but it's nice that this time of year encourages everyone to think of others rather than of themselves.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about others the past few months, and a bit of time thinking of myself, too. I've tried to make sure that my thoughts on myself have been of the more altruistic variety, though I know I've had a few "me me me!" moments that I'm less than proud of. Still, I don't think I've done too badly this year.
Peace in our country. That one tops the list. I get scared when I read about our politicians changing the Constitution, sidestepping it, or just plain ignoring it. I get scared when I hear about possible loss of rights, like the right to a swift trial and to a lawyer, and the loss of the right to freedom of personhood. I'm terrified when I get told that having more than a week's worth of food is now considered a terrorist activity by some. I'm worried about myself, my children, my family... my country. It's a scary time. I'm not asking for instant peace, mind you. A gentle up-swing in sanity would be awful nice, though.
Self-esteem. Yeah, I know this one's mostly just for me, but it does affect my family a lot. I'd like to know that I'm worth what I use up around here. I'd like to know that my contributions make a big difference. I'd like to be comfortable in my own skin.
Food. We always have food, even if it isn't necessarily what everyone wants to eat. But I have friends who have real problems with finding enough to eat, who live on food stamps or hand outs, who struggle to make every single penny count. I'd like to know that the people around me aren't starving. I'd like to know that my friends and neighbors, and their friends and neighbors, can grow and raise enough food to feed themselves healthily. I'd like to live long enough to see the world NOT be starving over vast acres of its surface.
Inner silence. Another one for me, Santa. I'd like to close my eyes and not hear bickering or crying or upset or heartbreak or grief or worry or concern. I'd like to close my eyes and know that everything is right around me. I'd like to sleep each night aware that at least in my corner, the parts I have the ability to touch, are just a little bit better today than yesterday. I'd like to go to bed with silence and joy in my mind.
I know those are tall orders, Santa. But they're my wishes. I want my family to be truly, deeply happy. When they are happy and relaxed, I tend to be, too. I truly love seeing the smiles on the faces of those I love, excited for the holy days just over the horizon.
Blessings, Santa... Blessings!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
* 2 large cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 cans crushed or diced tomatoes
* 1/4 cup red wine
* 2 bay leaves
* spices to taste
Ingredients, chicken parm:
* 3 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
* approximately 1 cup bread crumbs
* 2 eggs, scrambled with a touch of milk or cream
* olive oil for cooking in
* salt and pepper to taste
* one slice mozzarella (or other) cheese per piece of chicken
* 2 cups shredded parmesan
Make your sauce first, as it will need time to reduce. In a large sauce pan, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil and your chopped onion. Saute on medium high heat until the onions are just starting to clarify, but before they become mushy. Add the wine and garlic, stir well, and saute another few moments. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Spice to taste; I use a sprinkle of salt and pepper and nothing else. Lower the heat to allow the sauce to simmer but not boil. Stir occasionally as you allow the sauce to reduce.
Take your chicken breasts and slide them into a plastic baggie, or wrap in saran wrap, or put between two pieces of wax paper. Using a meat hammer or rolling pin (or even an empty wine bottle), pound each chicken breast until it is about a half inch thick. Try to stop before the breasts fall apart, but for flavor's sake it's better to go a bit long than a bit short. Set the breasts aside on a plate while you prepare the breading. While you are doing all that, heat another tablespoon or two of olive oil in a cast iron or other good quality fry pan.
Pour the breadcrumbs into a large flat container (I usually use a straight edged pie plate) and add salt and pepper to taste. Some people also like to add oregano, but I didn't this time. Mix well with a fork. Cut the chicken into serving size pieces (about the size of your palm) and dip each piece into the egg mixture. Lift it and allow it to drip and then dip it into the bread crumbs, flipping to coat well on both (all) sides. Place the chicken into the fry pan and allow to cook about two to three minutes per side (you want your chicken mostly cooked, but NOT completely!). Preheat your oven to 375F.
As you're browning the first batch of breaded chicken, check your sauce. It is probably still very liquid, which is fine. Into the bottom of a casserole dish or high sided baking pan, pour some of the liquid. You don't want to drown your chicken, but it should cover the bottom of the pan just barely.
As the chicken pieces are cooked, place them into a single layer in the casserole dish. Once all the chicken is in the dish, pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the chicken, being sure to cover all of it. On top of the sauce, add a slice of mozzarella (I didn't have mozza so I used provolone, and it was DELISH). On top of the entire thing, sprinkle your parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is just beginning to brown and bubble.
I served this dish with a mix of jasmine rice and orzo, which I cooked separately and then mixed together with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt, and a side salad. I must say, I'm very pleased with the results. The chicken was tender enough to cut with a fork (easily), the sauce was very tomato-ey and flavorful without being too tart or watery. My family gave me feedback that included the phrases, "restaurant quality" and "gourmet." Yay for me!