Pick an Apple From the Happiness Tree

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CC image from DaMongMan from Flickr.

IBQ Writing Prompt: What is Happiness?


With the fleeting nature of emotions, is it possible to pin down the feeling of happiness? Or is it a state of mind? Is happiness a harmonious balance between the physical body and the chemical and hormone ladled brain?

I believe that happiness is a state of being that is fleeting. It is an emotion that you cannot necessarily describe, but you undoubtedly know it when you see or experience it.

If I taste something that is peculiarly interesting, I am happy. In fact, if I eat something that is so one-of-a-kind delicious, like a Honey Crisp apple, I may even break into some stunted and cholicy happy dance that looks half like a gout attack and half robot dance. Then the taste fades into a memory.

Try another bite. It’s great, but it doesn’t match that first time. You will never duplicate your first experience. You just have to be content that your flavor explosion is in the past. Sadly, if enough time passes, you may even forget how incredible Honey Crisp apples taste.

You may even defer to a far inferior product, a Granny Smith. Happiness is fleeting like a breath. Enjoy it if you can.

Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe–Conway, AR

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Mediterranean cuisine is never on my radar, but we (me and my Mercy Chef buddies) decided to try it out. It’s not like there are a lot of options in Conway, AR, anyway. It looks like it is one of those fast-casual sit down-but order at the counter sort of place.

For starters, we enjoyed some stuffed grape leaves. They were nice and leafy. They were also sour and angry. The combination was a delightful treat.

The main deal was a lamb gyro without that cucumbery tzak…whatever sauce. Add some roasted red peppers and horseradish sauce and you have something special.

If that wasn’t enough, it came with roasted red peppers with a nice balance of olive oil and lemon juice. Overall, it was a flavor profile that awakened my palate.

This place appears to be a small regional chain, but Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe is certainly worth indulging.

I do have to note that they comped the meal. They said they refuse to accept money from disaster relief workers. Free is nice, but when a table full of chefs give the establishment high marks, you can color me impressed.

Operation: Vilonia Part II

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I had a chance to pass food out in some of the affected neighborhoods today.  It is the same story no matter how many times you see a disaster.  Every time it makes you sick to see all of those hurting souls.

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It’s hard to put the experience into words.  Disaster relief can be very difficult, both physically and spiritually.  It is also a place where you can see the better side of humanity when you see strangers show compassion.

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Now it’s time to sift through the rubble to uncover the pieces.

Operation: Vilonia

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It seems that spring is a good time of year for disaster relief. Not that you want people devastated by disasters, but when the inevitable happens, thousands of volunteers from countless organizations are ready to serve.

There are various types of disaster relief. The most common is cleanup. I’m a part of a different kind of relief organization. We provide hot meals to both victims and relief workers as they work to put lives back in order. When you think about it, it doesn’t really seem like much, but providing a hot meal to a hurting family can bring some measure of comfort.

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I’ve volunteered with Mercy Chefs over two years now and have been on so many deployments, it’s hard to keep them straight. I’ve seen so many faces. Aside from those I regularly work with, I can only remember Benny.

We went to Greeley, Colorado after the flooding in September 2013. Benny was an out of work guy who volunteered every day we were there. He said, “I don’t have a job and don’t want to waste my time on the couch.” That’s my kind of guy. Sometimes it can be hard to worry about others when you don’t know how you are going to pay the electric bill.

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We are in Vilonia, Arkansas this week after a tornado ripped through town Sunday. In less than 24 hours we were on site. I hear another of our mobile kitchens will leave for Louisville, Mississippi tomorrow.

I don’t know how long we will be here or where I will be sent next, but I always have a bag packed.

The Electric Gulag

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CC image courtesy of Dan Perry on Flickr.

Ben’s great-grandparents met in the internment camp colony forty one years ago. They were only two in a sea of millions driven to the camps colonies because of the famine.

Generations lived their entire lives in these resorts. They must be resorts. Nobody works. They don’t have to. They spend their time on leisurely pursuits. Everything is provided by the government.

He watches the black smoke from the power plant dissipate as he considers tomorrow’s big day. His birthday.
Ben eyes the transmission lines from the plant as they fade into the horizon. He thought, “I wonder where they lead?” The propaganda drones say the outside world is a desolate wasteland.

As Ben reflects on his life, he realizes that he will finally see the inside of the plant tomorrow. The government provided Ben a comfortable life, and tomorrow will be a very special day.

He’s seen those olive drab government limousines scuttle about almost daily and he will finally have his turn to ride in one tomorrow. The government will honor him when the limousine delivers him to the plant. He will be incinerated.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/flash-fiction/

Busted Knuckles and Formaldehyde

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I hate breaking a sweat. Manual labor and I don’t get along. Monotony comes with driving a hammer or repairing a busted sewer pipe. The moment I start a task my mind starts screaming “Nooooooooo!”

I have fallen back on my radio broadcasting skills before, but honestly, you can make more money delivering pizzas. I spent many years teaching myself how to cook. That is something I enjoy, though.

If I was going to be stabbed in the neck with a drywall saw if I refused to pick a skill I wish I had–I would choose mechanic. I could wear a shark skin suit and tell everyone I’m the mechanic for Vinny the Knife. Wait. Wrong mechanic. I’m not looking for 20 to life. And I’m not tough like Charles Bronson. And he’s dead.

I have a few automotive skills. I’m certainly not competent enough to sell my services. Not even as a shade-tree mechanic. Those are very good skills to have and will be highly sought after the zombie apocalypse. I can imagine all kinds of broken machinery that only a skilled mechanic can bring to life.

I just changed my brakes the other day. It’s usually a simple job. When a rotor is stuck and you try to knock it loose with a framing hammer, it’s time to get mad. That’s what I hate about automotive work. Crowbars, hammers, even hitching a team of draft horses are sometimes needed to bust a part loose. I can’t stand that. Those equines won’t work unless you feed them and that gets expensive.

I could also be a mortician. Not that I would want to learn that trade, but it’s practical. Your customers don’t complain if you eat a ham sandwich while you do whatever ghastly things a mortician does. It would be a difficult job with my sensitive nose. Who wants to smell dead people?

There will never be a shortage of dead people (thanks to those meddling zombies) and machines, so there will always be a market for morticians and mechanics. I get queasy at the sight of coagulated blood and liquified organs, so I’d rather be a mechanic.

11 Questions

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I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Nicole Davis. Swing by her blog! Thank you so much for the nomination!

The Liebster Award is awarded to bloggers with under 200 followers to try to promote their blog a little and also bring together a community of bloggers. The rules of the competition are as follows:

•The nominated user must provide a link back to the person who nominated them.

•Provide 11 facts about yourself.

•Answer 11 questions set by the person who nominated you.

•Choose 11 more people and ask them 11 questions.

Here we go:

11 Facts About Me:

1. I love to cook.
2. I’m a volunteer for Mercy Chefs where I have plenty of opportunities to share Christ’s love through cooking.
3. When I’m not cooking I’m thinking about food. (I know you think this is a copout answer, but it’s the truth).
4. I have chronic pain from a botched vasectomy.
5. I’m presently seeing a rheumatologist to diagnose an autoimmune disorder. Ankylosing spondylitis is on the table right now.
6. I ate street food in Haiti. I didn’t get sick though the “restaurant” was next to a dump.
7. I’m funding a mission trip to Honduras for my wife and I by selling lasagna. This is our third year.
8. I started learning how to cook within two weeks of meeting my wife. She invited me over for dinner and we had Hamburger Helper.
9. I once put a dead cottonmouth in bed with my wife. I had cut its head off after I caught it stealing fish off my stringer.
10. I jumped off a railroad bridge into the Mississippi River when I was eighteen. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.
11. I rode a camel in Israel.

Questions for me:

1. What is your simple pleasure in life? That one thing that puts a smile on your face.

That’s a tough one as I like being cranky. Cooking for others is probably the best.

2. If you could talk to one dead person, who would it be? Why?

Lavrentii Beria. There is a cloud of suspicion around Joseph Stalin’s death, but most think Beria poisoned Stalin with Warfarin. I’d like to ask him myself.

3. What is one thing you lost that you wish you had back?

I didn’t lose it. I traded in my first vehicle. I’d love to have my first truck back. It was a 1987 Dodge Ram 50. I loved that truck.

4. If you were in your dream home, describe how the view from your back window would differ from your current view.

All I can see is wooden fence and trees. I’d like to see a nice swamp out my back window. Or mountains.

5. Do you share your blog with family/friends in real life?

I told my wife about it, but I don’t think she ever looked at it. My kids know about it. Other than my household, I haven’t told a soul.

6. Do you have any annoying habits?

My wife hates it when I say, “Huh?” I have rotten hearing and will yell that across the room.

7. What habit do you find most annoying in other people?

Giving too many details in a conversation. Listening is work.

8. What is one life event you never saw coming?

Easy. The way my world was turned upside down because of a vasectomy.

9. At what age did you truly grow up? If you haven’t yet, what age do you think you will grow up?

I started around five years ago. I have a long way to go.

10. If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be and why?

I was a disc jockey for a dozen years. I would tell myself to get a marketable degree. Radio never paid the bills.

11. Tell us about something that has made an impact on your life.

Definitely my conversion to Christ. That was around 5-6 years ago. My life made a complete turn around. The botched vasectomy was a gift that drew me nearer to Him.

11 questions for my Nominees:

1. Is there anything you hope to accomplish with your blog?

2. What is your current occupation? What do you wish it was?

3. What is the stupidest thing you have done?

4. What is your favorite 70s sitcom?

5. Are there any obstacles in your life that make you not want to get out of bed in the morning?

6. If you could put one band on a bus that careens off a cliff, what would it be and why? (Not that I advocate violence, but there has got to be a band that annoys you).

7. If you would live in any time period, what would it be and why?

8. Do you talk to your neighbors? Why or why not?

9. What is your favorite food? The least favorite?

10. If you had to choose between phantom pain from an amputated pinky finger or a hip replacement, which would you choose? Why?

11. What is your number one priority in life?

11 Nominees:

1. A ‘Mike’ for Christ
2. Mostly Cloudy With Some Bright Spells
3. RA the Natural Way
4. Transplanted to the South
5. Spinebook
6. simpson BBQ
7. carbs&cardio
8. Lavender Gables
9. Kitchen Sanctuary
10. Alive in You
11. Dinner Daydreams

Apple Flaxseed Muffins

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I prefer bacon.

The Luoma house usually isn’t known for health food. With all of the sausage, bacon, and pig parts to season beans, gumbos, and pastas in addition to the cakes made with sweet cream butter, Heather decided she wanted to try a “healthier” menu. I’m willing to give it a shot, but I’m concerned that our meals may suffer from a flavorectomy.

I found a great looking recipe for flaxseed muffins. Yeah, I don’t know what flaxseed is, either. It smells kind of nutty and reminds me of the remnants at the bottom of a box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran. This flaxseed stuff is nothing like cracklins.

That reminds me of a time I hit the drive thru of Southern Made Donuts. They had a sign that they had fresh cracklins. They did not disappoint. They even gave me the end of a crackled snout. It had one and a half nostrils and some hair was still implanted. I enjoyed every bit of that hairy snout.

I adapted this recipe, and I have concerns trying out coconut oil. It looks like petroleum jelly and it tastes like coconut. I’m not a huge fan of coconut, but I promised my wife I would try cooking with it.

1 1/2 cups flaxseed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons orange peel
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 chopped apple
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease cupcake pan.

Mix all ingredients together.

Let stand about ten minutes. I presume it is to allow the flaxseed time to absorb some liquid, but what do I know? I don’t know what flax is and I’m too lazy to google it.

Pour batter into pan.

Bake approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 15. I know the pan only makes 12 muffins. You’ll have to get creative.

I have to admit, these muffins polarized our household. Heather thought they were yummy, Alli thought they were great, Zoe’ liked them so much she had to go back for more, and Maddie licked the mixing bowl clean. I didn’t care for them. Maybe if they were Bacon Apple Flaxseed Muffins I would enjoy them. I don’t know if I’m compatible with health food.

Fundraising With Lasagna

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I adapted my recipe from my mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe. Actually, she said get got it from a friend when she worked at a bank in St. Paul.

Growing up, my mom would make this recipe maybe once a year because it was time consuming. I’ve streamlined the process for my lasagna. Not having to make meatballs shaves some serious time.

For the past three years, I’ve been selling these lasagnas to fund our mission trips to Honduras. People are now starting to come to my door for one. I always have these delights in my freezer for customers. After all these years, I’m still my biggest customer. I eat this lasagna with great regularity.

The lasagnas inspired us to start a small catering business. We haven’t built a site yet, but are on Facebook. The hope is to generate enough money year round to help fund my trips with Mercy Chefs.

Images courtesy of Josh Guthrie from MegaPxls.com.

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Burn Baby Burn

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CC image courtesy of Señor Codo on Flickr.

I am utterly revolted. I just read on the Matt Walsh Blog that aborted babies are being burned to generate electricity. Seriously? Baby murder is already big business, but to burn the corpses? I’m aware that we have limited resources, but incineration as a creative solution?

We live in a wicked society where adultery and homosexuality are lauded as normal. Abortion is a common method of birth control. Forget about controlling your animal tendencies to behave like wild donkeys because morality is no fun.

Matt Walsh is right when he says we regard stray cats and dogs as more important than a human. Actually, I think he referenced dolphins, but dolphins are basically sea-cats. (I’m sure the ASPCA is working on an ad campaign to save the sea-cats). We no longer fear The Lord and we do what is right in our own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

When will this death cult reach the bottom? This post-modern society has no absolute truth. Everyone has their own truth. What do we do when two truths collide? Which truth supersedes the other? If I have a bigger stick, my truth wins.

If our Truth doesn’t come from the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our lives are built on sand. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says that all things are lawful, but not everything is profitable…unless you are in the business of torching aborted babies.

Just to be clear, I have no issue with people rescuing animals, but we are Imago Dei–our priority should be to focus on human needs. It’s chilling to see people stop to rescue abandoned puppies in the street, yet ignore a homeless guy.