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The 2023 April Collection
: soups, pain, and finding my nothing box :
Welcome to new subscribers Jessica, Grace, wild_star, Traderpro, mccornwell, macarina, Nelly, & Kara! You’ve joined what I think is the best group of readers around, bringing our total to 361! Here’s a cool breakdown of reader locations:
Last month I introduced a new way to support my writing (and by extension support the work we are doing in our small town) through one-time donations at Buy Me a Coffee. Thanks to Kerri who purchased three! You’ve joined Michael in the Release and Gather Hall of Fame!1
I’m wondering if I should keep this tradition alive after I hit a year of collections next month. What do you think?
Check out past collections if you missed them:
THE 2023 JANUARY COLLECTION - a fancy lunch menu, mysteries & memoirs, and the case for fuzzy blankets
THE 2023 FEBRUARY COLLECTION - flatbread, books that challenge, and the glorious full moon
THE 2023 MARCH COLLECTION - the best meal I've ever cooked, bumping into a Mississippi author, and more on listening
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
*You can use these links to jump around to different sections
What I’m Cooking
Last month I wrote about our attempt to steer clear of flour-based foods, sugar, and alcohol. I doubled down on my resolve after a visit to my physical therapist/chiropractor who told me he thought I had “a touch of bursitis.”
“What the heck is that?! Aren’t I too young for these ‘-iteses’?”
He’d already told me I “may have a bit of arthritis” in my lower back at a previous visit, and after looking up these conditions, I knew that I had to get serious about cutting out foods that could contribute to inflammation in my body. We’re still holding strong to our new way of eating with an occasional dinner at a favorite pizza place sans the ale we normally pair with it.
So is it working? Do I feel better? I don’t want to give it away just yet, so keep reading, but I will tell you I’ve dropped about ten pounds!
We’re eating a lot of soup because soup is really easy in these busy days, so here are a couple you might want to try.
Tumeric Chicken Soup
I found this recipe at cleanfoodcrush.com and made it one Sunday evening. We ate it enough times that I should have been sick of it, but I wasn’t. It’s a comforting, filling dish!
Our daughter Brittney insisted this recipe was phenomenal, and I have to admit that it felt like a big cheat. Here’s her version:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 lb ground beef or Italian sausage
15 oz ricotta cheese
12 oz Italian style cheese, shredded
12 oz mozzarella, shredded
32 oz reduced sodium fat free chicken broth
16 oz fat free beef broth
12 oz oven-ready lasagna noodles
16-24 oz spaghetti sauce
1-2 cans (14.5 oz) Italian style diced tomatoes
Tomato bouillon chicken flavor
Basil, oregano, garlic pepper, and seasoned salt
Mix small tub of ricotta cheese with 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese & 1/3 cup of Italian cheese.
Season meat with onion powder & garlic powder and brown. Drain fat and return to pot.
Stir in 2-3 cups of favorite spaghetti sauce.
Turn heat to high and add chicken broth, beef broth, and diced tomatoes.
Crush lasagna noodles into soup.
Add 1 tsp garlic pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, 2 tsp tomato bouillon, 1/2 tsp seasoned salt. Add onion powder and garlic powder to taste.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 2-3 spoonfuls of cheese mixture.
Increase heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add extra spices to taste.
Serve with a dollop of the cheese mixture on top.
For my version, I used ground turkey and added fennel and crushed red pepper to the spices. I omitted the noodles and added a diced bell pepper. I also omitted the heavy cream and cheese mixture while cooking (see step 8) and just put a small bit of the cheese on top before serving.
If you try either of these, let me know what you think. And please pass along any soup recipes that you love!
What I’m Reading
Diversity by the Wilkinson County Elementary School 2nd Graders
When a local teacher posted that her students had created a picture book, I knew I had to order some copies—one for my own library, one for our Little Free Library, and one for our next storytime event at Planters. I never imagined I would be so touched by the words of these children. I only wish it were available to order from your local bookstore.
Since you can’t read it, I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here. I’ve quoted the students just as their handwritten words appear.
We are all different in the best way. It is bad if we are all the same everyone does not have to look the same sound the same. That is not harmony. It is good to be different. Evryone is different in a spealal way.
I am black some are white. We are like a box of crayons. Each one of us is unique, but when we get together we are complete.
You don’t have to look very far to see someone who’s different from you or me. Maybe they come from a land far away or maybe they’re people you see every day. With different hair and different clothes. Different nose. A different Idea that you haven’t yet heard a different language.
I've been readingfor a while and even hop on the Write Together Friday Zoom call as often as I'm able. is an exceptional host, poet, writer, and person, and I'm so thankful for her book My Road: A Runner's Journey Through Persistent Pain to Healing.
As I mentioned, I’ve been dealing with back pain and body aches and finally decided to do the work of getting to the bottom of it—especially after reading this article by:
I had been living with pain for months, but I was trying to ignore it, hoping it would eventually get better. When I read Don’s post, it was my kick in the pants to just make that appointment with my chiropractor. After a month of therapy, I was still having flare-ups in my lower back and hip, so I decided to focus on my diet as well. I also began reading Julie’s book at this time, savoring a chapter each night.
My Road completely changed my mindset about my pain. A licensed physical therapist and marathoner, Julie shares her journey to the Boston Marathon and all the challenges, pain, and self-discovery it took to get there. “She had to face her darkest secrets, challenge her beliefs, and rethink pain to achieve her dream.”
Julie’s book inspired me to rethink my pain:
What are we making our pain mean?
There was a time I was making my pain mean that I couldn’t bend, do yoga, lift heavy things, or slouch. If I bent over, I felt a sharp pain. If I sat for too long, my back would tense and stiffen. When I went for a run, I would feel buzzing and tingling in my legs. Pain was that overprotective parent again, stopping me from exploring or playing with movement.
I realized that I had been “watching out for my back” for so long that it was a habit, and maybe my back didn’t need me to protect it so much. So I changed my attitude and began to speak about my pain in a different way. I’m not the only one. It seemshas also written about this topic recently.
Is my pain completely gone, absolutely not! But In the last couple of weeks, I have turned a corner, and I believe it was a combination of therapy, cleaner eating, and my shift in mindset. If you are struggling with chronic pain, I recommend reading Julie’s book. You’ll be encouraged, and you’ll just love her story. You can also check out her most recent release, Staring Down a Dream, which is on my to-read list.
On the Web
On Consistency and Discipline
Consistency and discipline—I’ve read several posts lately that remind me that in whatever goals I set, the only way to achieve them is by showing up consistently, and that takes discipline!writes about her struggle with consistency and gives her readers a wonderful "oceans" soundtrack and a beautiful photo tour of her world. featured a wonderful quote by Nick Cave on showing up to work as a songwriter.
Andreminds us to just start somewhere.
And while working toward goals is good (and I can be the Queen of Lazy if I don't stay disciplined), I also have to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.hit a nerve with this post:
Enough. What a slippery little word. She’s a wily beast, a silverfish of the mind. She’ll pop up just about anywhere there’s a crack in your thinking, but only ever a nuisance, only ever mildly gross, never so problematic to call in the forces. Still, she is my worst infestation. When I hear myself say I have not done enough, whether it’s enough texting my friends or skiing or going out or reading books or whatever, I know that is merely the head of the dandelion. The root driving that general disappointment is hidden and it has a death pact with the soil around it. Also, I am allergic to dandelions.
When my enoughs start to appear under pots and in the backs of cabinets, I know what I’m feeling is a kind of stasis. I’m not seeing the growth that I want to, and in my impatience, I mistake still for stale. Also, growth can be a bitch.
What I’m Noticing
I saw a counselor this week. It was time. Years ago I spent many hours with a couple of different therapists, learning about myself and my role as a parent, wife, and individual. I’ve used so many of those skills I acquired to float me through the last few years, but I recently sensed I needed a tune-up.
If you’ve been reading along, you know that the past year has been a lot, and while I’m thankful things have calmed down, I’m struggling with my role in this season of life. How do I make sure I’m being a good parent, child, sister, aunt, and wife in this season of calm? How do I maintain intentional relationships with my people who are spread across multiple states when I have so many activities in my life here?
So I discussed these things with a new therapist, recommended by a friend, and I felt so much better. I won’t share all the details, but I’ll tell you that one thing she suggested is finding something to do for myself. I’m taking care of myself physically and spiritually, but how am I taking care of my creative self?
This week I’ve been decorating for an upcoming event at our venue. Normally, clients rent my space and either hire a decorator or do it themselves, but this special client asked if I would create a magical evening for his birthday.2 I’ve been planning and purchasing and designing on paper and in my head for three months, and the party is finally here. And you know what I have realized? Event design and execution is my happy place!
Creating beautiful tablescapes, balloon garlands, floral arrangements, and shimmering backdrops is my nothing box. If you’re not sure what a nothing box is, watch this:
The general idea, however, is that men have a nothing box their brain is able to go to at any time. This is where they can think of absolutely nothing, so it’s true when we ask them what they’re thinking and they say, “Nothing.”
Women have 967 tabs open in their mind-browsers. It’s nearly impossible to turn our brains off, and we’re completely envious of men’s ability to do this.
Readers, I found my nothing box.
I’ve booked four more event designs for the year, and I think this is part of the way I am taking care of my creative self.
Do you have recipes you cook on the weekend when you know you have a busy week ahead?
Have you, like Julie, overcome years of misdiagnosis of your pain?
How do you deal with your pain?
Do you struggle with consistency and discipline? Or do you wrestle with feeling you’ve not gotten enough done?
Did you know about this nothing box? Do you have one?
How do you take care of your creative self?
Let us know in the comments!
Last month I considered creating a real Hall of Fame with a Sharpie in my actual hallway. When I hit five Buy Me a Coffee supporters, it’s happening!
Do you remember the post I wrote a few months ago about having our friend over for dinner and setting an extra place at the table in anticipation for the life partner he has still not met? Same guy. Still waiting for Mrs. Anderson.