Chipotle Chili, A Charm Bracelet Miracle, And The Long Awakening

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About 11 years ago now, one of my dearest writing friends, Lindsey O’Connor, gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl named Caroline.  That happy moment suddenly gave way to a trauma that would leave Lindsey’s life hanging in the balance for many long weeks and months.  She writes poignantly of that episode in her life, of what it was like to be “someplace other” and to try to make sense of it all once she woke up, in her brilliant memoir, The Long Awakening.  Warning: do not start the book until you have time to read it all. It is impossible to put down once you begin.

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Here’s a story Lindsey shared in her book, a memory I still look back on, and marvel at. In fact, I went to Texas two weeks ago, drove past the little store mentioned here, smiled and gave thanks in remembrance.

Near my daughter Allison’s birthday, my friend Becky had emailed Kathy asking for our home address so she could mail a birthday present she’d brought for Allison. Becky and I had started our friendship as writing and speaing colleagues and had grown into sister-friends, who knew and loved each other’s children, and she had wanted to get something special for Alli’s tenth birthday. She dropped in at The Mineola Mercantile, an East Texas boutique not far from where she lived, and told the owner what had happened to me and that I was lying in a coma missing my little girl’s birthday.

The woman told Becky she thought she knew “what God wanted this little girl to have.”

She pulled out a silver charm bracelet and the three silver charms – one said “Big Sis,” another of a heart with “mother and daughter” written across the front of it, and finally a letter “A” with a guardian angel peeking through the “window” of the letter.

The store owner said, “Now tell little Alli that charm represents her guardian angel that is always watching over her all of the time.” Becky went home, wrapped the present, wrote Kathy for the address, and only when Kathy replied did Becky discover a fact she had not know when she’d bought the gift.

It had been my tradition on each day of my daughter’s tenth anniversaries, their double digit day, to give them a silver charm bracelet…

Such a thing. Comatose for months;tradition intact. Unthinkable …..Coincidence? Perhaps.But I don’t think so. Loved by her God?  I believe so.  His eye was on my sparrow. ”  (Excerpt from The Long Awakening by Lindsey O’Connor, Revell, 2013, pg. 97-98)

Now, let’s fast forward time. Lindsey, of course, came out of the coma, and though the road was arduous, she is very much alive,  amazing us all. Caroline has grown from baby girl to double digit young lady following her sister Allie, who is now in college.   In addition to being the proud owner of a charm bracelet, she’s also of age to want to try her hand at cooking. I posted the picture of this Chipotle Chili, recently, on Facebook, and her mama, Lindsey, asked for the recipe.  There was a Chili Cook-off at church, and Caroline wanted to make an award-winning batch of it, all by herself. I gave her my best “Auntie Becky” style directions, and Lindsey let her daughter loose in the kitchen.  Later that night, Linds wrote in an email: “Carolyn was ecstatic when she won first prize!  She probably said, at least ten times while were cooking that she wanted to win, and thought she would win. And she loved knowing it was your recipe. She really did the whole thing by herself. I taught her how to cut an onion, stood back while she used her knife and kept wanting to take it from her the whole time. Taught her how to use the food processor.  She had such fun! Thank you for sharing the recipe.”

I hope this true story warms your heart, and the recipe warms your tummy.  Please visit & “Like”  Lindsey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindseyOConnorAuthor and tell her I sent you.  (I also write a story of Lindsey bringing me a wonderful Greek meal, including a favorite recipe,  watermelon mint feta salad,  in our book, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)

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Becky’s Quick n’ Easy (Award-Winning!) Chipotle Chili

1 ½ lb.  ground beef or buffalo (if you have leftover roast or other beef, you can dice that up and throw it in too)

1 onion diced (if you like onions)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 large (28 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 – 3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (a little can in the Mexican food aisle… — you can freeze the leftover ones in a Ziploc bag to use in another recipe or salsa)

1 can (15 oz) Ranch Style Beans, with liquid

1 can (15 oz) Kidney or Black Beans, with the liquid

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

1 t. chili powder

1 t. smoked paprika 

1 T. cumin

1 T.  brown sugar

Directions:

Brown the beef with onion in a big pot. Meanwhile,using a food processor or blender,  blend the big can of  tomatoes with the chipotle peppers and clove of garlic.   (If you want some chunks of tomato in your chili, don’t blend the whole can. But my husband Greg thinks I’m trying to kill him if there’s any visible chunks of anything but meat and beans in his chilli.) 

Add the blended tomato mixture to the pot,  then add the 2 cans of beans, and the rest of the seasonings, tasting as you go to make it balanced as you like it. Adding more sweet, or heat, or salt until you just love it.

Heat on med high and then turn down and simmer on low, for about 15 minutes, stirring often. (You can simmer it longer, but typically my family is in a hurry to eat it, and it doesn’t take long to be edible and yummy.)

You can top with sour cream or Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, jalapenos, diced avocado, green onions, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips… whatever you like. 

Always a hit with hot buttered corn muffins.

 

 


Solitude, Self-Care & Tortellini Soup (Welcome Author & Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman)

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(Becky) I’m thrilled to share our blog today with new author, compassionate therapist, and dear friend, Lucille Zimmerman. We’re celebrating the fresh release of her new book on self-care for women titled Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World.

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I was thrilled to endorse it and wrote: “This is a book that I want to give to every woman I know. It contains wisdom I wish I had at twenty, and reminders I still need at mid-life, to regularly refill my own well. Lucille shows that in order to have something to give to those we love, we have to replenish our physical, spiritual and emotional energy. With wonderful personal stories and a therapist’s keen insight, Renewed, is a like a cup of cold water to women who are parched for permission to take care of themselves.”

Seriously, you gotta get this book.  Even better, pamper yourself futher and  read it while you sip her comforting recipe for Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage.

Below are some personal words, a short excerpt on self-care and Lucille’s soup recipe. One of the reasons she loves it is because it allows her to chop veggies, a calming and centering activity for her. Enjoy!

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

Guest Blogger Lucille Zimmerman, Author of Renewed

(Lucille)

I’ve noticed I’m the most stressed when I can’t focus on one thing. Right now I’m trying to finish up the grades on the counseling course I taught, I have a series of blog posts that need written, a daughter who is planning a wedding but is prohibited from driving until medical tests prove she’s not having seizures, and I’m launching my first book. Needless to say, the multitasking is causing me stress. I am in need of solitude.

Here is a little excerpt from my book, Renewed, on the topic of solitude:
 

So what do people gain from spending time in solitude? One researcher said the mere presence of other people obliges us to coordinate our actions. Right now I am alone. Snow is falling silently outside and the only sound I hear comes from water trickling in my office fountain. Right now I can do whatever I want. I can slurp my split pea soup while taking intermittent bites of a chocolate bar. I can sit on my chair with one leg tucked under in unladylike fashion. I can take a break to let the dog out, and I can sing badly while doing all of the above. I’m still wearing my workout clothes from yoga, my bangs are hanging in my face, and I don’t have on a stitch of makeup. These little freedoms are not to be underestimated.

Humans may be social beings, but solitude has been shown to have great societal value. It is like the rests in a line of music, giving information, nuance, and structure to the melody. Without it, our lives are a cacophony, a never-ending noise that wears us down. Solitude is essential for our spiritual experience – it is where we hear the still, small voice. Jesus was our model, showing us how to balance being with people and being alone. ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed’ (Mark 1:35), and ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). In these verses we see Jesus becoming known as a great healer and teacher, but he still took time to rest and pray.

So in spite of my to-do list, I put everything aside and took a walk in the sunshine. Then I made a tortellini soup. If anything brings my calm and focus back its sunshine, exercise, solitude and chopping fresh, colorful and fragrant vegetables. 

(Excerpted & Adapted from Renewed, by Lucille Zimmerman, Abingdon Press. Lucille’s info and blog is at http://www.lucillezimmerman.com)

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Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage: shared by Lucille Zimmerman


1 lb sweet Italian or turkey sausage
1 cup onion
2 garlic cloves, diced
5 cups beef broth
1 cup water
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ T. basil leaves
½ t. dried thyme
1 (8 oz) cup tomato sauce
1 ½ cups zucchini, sliced
1 (8 ox) fresh tortellini pasta
3 T. fresh parsley (use less if dried)
Parmesan cheese

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In a 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 T of drippings. Sauté onion and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, basil, oregano, thyme, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer 30 minus. Add tortellini last 10 mins. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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