Quiet Night

We are having a quiet night at home after a busy day. It is so nice to be here enjoying Texas for a few days. Our internet is out so I  am posting from my phone. Suffice it to say, life is good.

  Here is some great fried catfish from a cafe across the river in Oklahoma. 

Here is the sign for that cafe. 

  Visiting Texas without eating catfish just wouldn’t be right. 

  
This is Lake Texoma. Near the catfish place. 

Having lots of good food and fun with our Texas friends. 

Talk tomorrow. 

My Mother’s Birthday and St. Stephen’s Church

Today is my mother’s birthday; she would be turning 97. Alas, we lost her 15 years ago to lung cancer, a full 20 years after she stopped smoking. It seemed only fitting that we were in Sherman today and were able to attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal church here. This was the church where my mother was a parishioner once she moved to Sherman in 1972, and the one we attended from the time we moved to Sherman in 1986 until we moved to LA in 1994.

I saw many old friends at church today. These are people who have known me since I was in college and are still going to St. Stephen’s all these years later. It always feels like old home week when I visit. I can tell I’m still “one of Helen’s youngest children” to them and my mother’s name comes up a lot. “Go talk to that woman over there,” one of the women said to me today. “She knew your mother back in Bonham.” (Bonham is my hometown, which is 25 miles to the east.)

This is one of the advantages of having a church community. These people are now in their 70’s and 80’s and they still recognize Ray and me and want to hear how our girls are doing. We remember them and their children and their now deceased husbands and wives and want to hear an update on children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. We are all connected by our faith and our church. It’s as if we’re one big extended family.

I believe that is one of the greatest aspects of any faith community. The longstanding connection that is possible there. Unlike a school community, there is no “aging out.” You can attend from birth to death or move in and out and still return to visit. Some of the same people – the faithful – will be there whether it’s 1972 or 2015 with a big smile and a welcoming hug.

I’m glad I could quietly celebrate my mother’s birthday today at church with some of her old friends. How lucky I am to still have people in my life who knew and loved my mother. That is a gift in itself.

Stephen's

Our Completed Victorian Apartment

We have just finished work on a furnished upstairs apartment in Lyon House in Sherman, Texas.  This is a fabulous space with a huge living room, a turret, a bedroom with a Victorian bed and dresser, as well as a brand new small kitchen, big closet and a bathroom.  Please let me know if you happen to know someone who might be interested in a space like this.  We will begin the renter interview process soon.  I can be contacted at lenleatherwood@gmail.com.

Upstairs Living room front room

Turret

turret

Inside Turret

inside turret

Kitchen

kitchen2

Bedroom

bedroom2

Bathroom

bathroom

In Defense of the Impractical

Ray and I could be poster children for the impractical. Our whole married life has been a reflection of this approach to life, from buying and selling antiques early in our marriage – not the most “practical” profession – to moving to Los Angeles from our town of Sherman, Texas – not the most practical of moves.

Alas, we did try once to operate with practicality in mind – we moved back from LA to Sherman shortly after my brother died, the person who had encouraged us to move there in the first place.  The Texas return seemed to make the most sense. After all, we owned a house outright and I took a perfect job for me: the executive director of a drug and alcohol prevention program. We made it exactly eight months. Despite economic security, we simply were not as happy as we had been in LA and we made the very impractical decision to move back there even if it meant we might have to toss burgers to make ends meet.

We have never regretted that decision to move back to Los Angeles (and we never had to toss burgers) though we do love Texas and eventually bought another home there so we could visit. But, for us, the return to LA was the right choice even though it involved a fair amount of risk.

A few years ago, I discovered a personality test online called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and Ray and I both took it. We came out with the exact same profile except for the extrovert/introvert scale. The Keirsey is like the Myers-Briggs and Ray scored as an ENFP and I scored as an INFP. The E and I are extrovert and Introvert, the N is intuitive, F is feeling, and P is perceptive. The gist is that these types of personalities are Idealists and they operate directly from intuition, feelings and perception, not logic.  Based on our personality types, if things don’t feel right, then we are just not going to do them for long, no matter how practical they may seem.

So, tonight a friend of mine from LA was telling me that she didn’t know what her next career move should be. She said she would love to stay in LA, but it might be more practical to move somewhere cheaper since she’s not sure what job she’ll be getting. My response, “Call Ray or me if you want support to go with the impractical choice.”

Sometimes the most logical choice simply isn’t the right choice. Particularly if you have another option that you really would rather choose but are having troubling justifying. I know from our many years of trying to decide whether we should live in Texas or California. On a pros and cons list, Texas won hands-down. This was where we owned property outright, where our family was and where life was easier on a day-to-day basis. However, as Idealists, California holds an intangible allure for both of us. LA is the land of dreams and despite the fact that many people end up waiting tables rather than becoming movie stars, there is a “Go West, Young Man” spirit that permeates the city. Many people there have actively chosen not to operate out of practicality, but rather from their dreams. They may not “make it” in the way they expected, but they have the satisfaction of having tried.

Ray and I returned to LA with no idea how we were going to make money. The only thing we knew was that we wanted to live in LA. The money has come – even if the recession nearly killed us – and we have made friends with lots of people who are as crazy as we are in terms of jumping off the cliff and seeing where we’ll land.

If the practical feels right, by all means make that choice; but if it doesn’t, then trust your intuition and go where your heart leads you.  Sometimes a little risk can make all the difference.  Sometimes, it can change the course of your entire life.

Here is the Keirsey link, if you’re interested.  You can take the temperment sorter test for free. http://www.keirsey.com/

Back in North Texas

I am sitting in our house in Sherman alone; Ray has gone off to play a trivia game with our friends. I am not ready for that. I am barely here, only arrived a few hours back. Besides, I can’t remember the last time I was in this house alone. Well, the truth is our renter is here in her little apartment, but that doesn’t count since we’ve already had our “Hello, How you doing?” conversation and I don’t expect I’ll see her again this evening.

I am an introvert, believe it or not, and while I truly love people, I need my time alone to recharge. I don’t count Ray being in the house as being “with others” since we are comfortable going off to our separate spots for long periods of time. Still, like tonight, his extroverted self feels ready and willing to head off for group fun while I shrink at that idea. I need some time to regroup. I don’t mind writing this during that time, but please don’t make me go sit in a group of people right now. That does not sound like fun.

On the other hand, if this were the only time that I was going to see this people – which it is not –  then I would have sucked it up and gone. I understand the importance of showing up. I would go as far as to say that just showing up is about 99% of what is required for most of the important/difficult moments in one’s life, such as wedding, sick beds, funerals, etc. I would venture to say that you can show up and say the wrong thing and still people will appreciate that you made the effort. So many people I know won’t visit someone in the hospital because they don’t like hospitals or else they won’t go see someone who has just had someone die in their life (like a mother, husband, child) because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. I am aware from my own life that the only thing you really notice if you’re on the receiving end of the showing up action is that the person is there. What they say is almost not important unless they say something so outrageously insensitive that it’s impossible to ignore. (Which most of us would never ever do no matter what the circumstance.)

Anyway, I am happy to be at our home here in Texas. I am happy to see all the progress on the multiple projects we’ve had going here, and I am delighted to settle in for the evening and get my sea legs before moving into visiting mode. By tomorrow, I’ll be all set. It’s just this first night after two days of busyness that feels so precious.

On that note, I’ll close.

I hope you are well, dear reader. Thank you for reading my ramble. I’ll be seeing you again tomorrow.

north texas

5-Star Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had these cookies the other night at a party. They were so good I asked for the recipe. The most surprising thing about them is that they are no-bake. Quick, easy and delicious. Hard to beat that combination.

If you try the recipe, please let me know. I would love to hear how they turned out.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup cashews

2 tablespoons coconut flour

3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

Grind the coconut and cashews down to flour in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients (except nibs). Process briefly to combine. Stir in the nibs. Press the dough into a small plastic wrap lined container (making it as thin or thick as you like). Chill in the fridge at least 1 hour and then use a cookie cutter to make shapes or slice into squares. Chill in the fridge or freezer at least a few more hours. Dip into the melted chocolate and set on a parchment paper lined tray.

For a mint chip cookie: add a few drops of peppermint essential oil

Chocolate

1/3 cup melted cacao butter

3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave

1/3 cup cacao powder

Add the syrup to the cacao butter in a bowl that is set over a pot of hot water. Sift the cacao powder over top and gently whisk in until the chocolate is smooth.

Recipe by Chef Heather Pace, http://www.sweetlyraw.com

heart cookies

A Memory of Mom…

Today I worked with a graduate student in Psychology on a paper on “Differentiation in Family Systems.” Differentiation is basically when children establish their own personhood that is separate from the family unit. I remember a moment when I was 13 when this concept played out in my own life.

When I was 13, I hated everything about my mother. The way she walked, talked, and even breathed. I’m sure this was evident to her in my sassy attitude, rolling eyes and long sighs whenever she said anything. Some of this was normal for an adolescent; some of it was born from my anger at her for going to graduate school and leaving our family (and me) for long stretches while she studied in one town, worked in another and lived in a third.

One day my mother, who was working on a Ph.D. in Psychology, sat me down for a chat. I don’t remember the occasion, but I do remember her words very well. She said, “What you’re going through is a developmental phase called individuation. You are becoming your own person separate from the family. This is not only normal but also important for your human development. I can promise you that no matter how much you dislike me now, one of these days, you and I will be friends.”

I remember feeling a huge amount of relief at her words. I felt guilty that I hated her so much. I was glad to know there was a word to describe what I was experiencing.

She was right. Over time, we did become the best of friends. Gone was the need to exercise my power to be different; replaced by my pleasure at having her near.

I was reminded today of how helpful it is to have ways to identify family dynamics in order to facilitate understanding. This is one of the true benefits of psychology and one of the great helps of psychotherapy.

I also am very aware that I was lucky to have a mother who was so tuned in to human behavior. This helped me to shift from guilt to growth and move forward to that time she had predicted.

I emulated my mother’s approach when my own children were teenagers and throwing all their irritation in my direction. I saw relief on their faces when they heard this was “just a phase.”

I am also lucky to have students who give me the opportunity to revisit information that was presented to me so long ago. Nothing like a discussion on individuation to spark memories of my mom. Yes, I was truly fortunate to have that sensitive and sensible woman in my life.

adolescence-the-bottle-neck-10-638