Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Blogger: Life Coach, Author, Reformed Perfectionist: Joan Webb!

I love all my friends, but it is amazing how many of them -- who I could happily spend hours of conversation with -- are either writers, therapists or life coaches. Inevitably all three come with deeply human, relatable stories. Also, most tend to be excellent listeners, as eager to share, as they are curious to listen and learn something new from you. In short, delightful company.

One such person in my life is Joan Webb. When I first met the vivacious Joan, and listened as she openly and honestly shared her struggles to stop doing it all, and do it perfectly, I was all ears. Then she shared some of her written thoughts and stories -- about how she put a stop to overcaring, overfixing, overworking and well, over-everythinging. I found that not only could I not put her manuscript down, but that the more I read, the more relaxed and free I felt.

Today it is my pleasure to be a "whistle stop" on Joan's blog tour for her newest devotional book for any woman who struggles with trying to do it all perfectly, and falling short every day. (Or every hour!) The book is called It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make it Just Right (Regal, 2009). Below is a sample devotion. It sure spoke to my over-striving heart this morning, and I hope it also soothes yours.

Uncomplicated Delight

God is more powerful than man is. -Ecclesiastes 6:10, NCV

I sat in the auditorium next to the guests I’d invited to join me for this special event. While engrossed in the beautiful music, it dawned on me: Joan, you’re enjoying this concert for the sheer pleasure of it, without being preoccupied with your guests' thoughts, feelings or reactions. I smiled then and I’m smiling now as I remember.

For years an overzealous sense of responsibility overshadowed my personal enjoyment. When I invited another person to attend a church service, concert or even a luncheon, I felt duty-bound to see that she enjoyed the time and gained new insight. Now I realize that I’m not responsible for someone else’s perceptions, attitudes or knowledge.

Through my years of life coaching and speaking, I’ve noticed an epidemic of over-helping. Those of us who want to join God in his work sometimes live by a false premise that we must fix what’s broken, heal what hurts, and right what’s wrong (in our opinion.) This over-active sense of responsibility can lead us to believe we’re more powerful than we really are. It’s exhausting.

God is the Almighty One, and he wants to release us from this unnecessary responsibility. He is the one in charge of the world, not us. When we give him our shoulds, musts, and ough- tos, we begin to live in genuine freedom. What uncomplicated delight!

Lord, I'm not responsible for anyone else's life fulfillment.

Only my own.

Making It Personal: Jot down an unreasonable I should or I must that has worn you out and threatened to keep you from experiencing your own satisfaction or pleasure.

If you'd like to join Joan's blog train tour and receive more samples of Joan's devos this month, the next stop will be at tomorrow! Or check out all the stops at

Here's to a day of letting go and relaxing into our wonderful, imperfect lives!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dinner for a Dozen in 30 Minutes!

I often tease that if I had a cooking show it would be The Fastest (and Messiest) Cook in the West. Tonight we had 12 people coming for dinner & a game of Texas Hold'em. It's been a snowy weekend so we weren't sure it was going to happen until almost the last miunte. So I pulled a dinner together for 12 in no time flat without breaking a sweat. Then I thought, "Hey, my blog readers might enjoy having this menu as an easy meal to throw together for holiday company!" So here you go.

The menu was Homemade Chili, ham & cheese rolls, sliced pineapple, sliced carrots, and Rotel Cheese Dip with tortilla chips. Nothing fancy, but came together well, and was so, so easy. Plus it filled up a crowd!

On your mark, get set... COOK!

First start the chili. Brown 3 lbs ground beef with a 2 cloves garlic (I use a garlic press but you can use canned or garlic powder...) in a large stock pot. While meat is browning, open 2 32 oz. cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 16 oz. cans Ranch Style Beans and 1 16 oz. can black beans. As soon as meat is browned, drain any grease and add all 5 cans to beef. To this, add 1 heaping tablespoon cumin powder, 2 t.
grill or steak seasoning, 2 T. Thai sweet chili sauce (or if you don't have this, add 1 T. brown sugar and dash Tabasco). Finally toss in about 1/2 c. picante sauce.
Check seasonings and let simmer...uncovered. (You can also toss in leftover corn, any chopped tomatoes that are needing to be used up, bits of leftover roast or steak... )

Now, using 16 large prebaked dinner rolls.. (I highly recommend Sister Schuberts rolls - that now come in frozen food section at Sam's; but Hawaiian or Potato rolls from the deli are also nice..) place them on your largest cookie sheet(s). Slice each roll open and squirt a bit of your favorite mustard on each. Stuff with 2 slices of deli thin ham (folded over) and little square of cheese. (I just tore American cheese slices in quarters.) Cover with foil and bake at 350 until warm.

While chili simmers and rolls are heating... microwave 1 can Rotel tomatoes with 16 oz of Velveeta cheese in a big oven proof covered bowl, until melted. Stir. Pour tortilla chips in a bowl. Queso and chips, done. Keep queso covered to keep warm until serving time.

Now peel and slice 6 carrots (or use mini pre-peeled ones).. arrange around a little bowl of Ranch Dressing. (Or conscript a helper to do this for you!)

Slice a fresh pineapple. Here's how I do it. Fast, fast! Cut off top and bottom. Stand upright and cut in quarters. Take knife and slice the core (long triangle shape)off of each quarter. Then run a sharp long knife around the skin of the pineapple to remove fruit. Then slice pineapple in thin pieces... and serve.

Put grated cheese, chopped green onion and sour cream in 3 bowls on a big serving plate to garnish chili.

Call troops in for dinner. Use paper bowls and plates to make your life easier.

Serve slice and bake cookies for dessert, warm from the oven..

Everybody's happy. You've filled up a hungry crew without knocking yourself out in the kitchen all day!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Tear Down that Wall!" Memories from a 7 Year Old German Boy's Eyes

(Dr. Earl Henslin's lovely daughter Amy with her German Love,Stephan Benzmann)

One of the perks of working with Dr. Earl Henslin on the book This is Your Brain on Joy was meeting his lovely, kind, and talented daughter Amy who often assisted us in gathering information or promotional help. During this time Amy fell in love with one Stephan Benzmann, who is from Germany. Her already beautiful smile seemed to grow wider and wider.

This week, the 20th anniversary of the "Fall of the Wall", Amy shared with me how deeply significant this day was to her boyfriend, Stephan, and so many of the Germans who never dreamed this day would come. It was to so many Germans, what the election of a black President must have been to so many African Americans. They truly never thought this day would come. And here.. it was. I love it when dreams that seem too crazy to come true... somehow, do.

Stephan was seven years old, twenty years ago, and I asked him if he would please share his memories of the event in honor and celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. He graciously did and here his recollection, in his own words.

I was eight when we got the news that the wall fell and East Germans were allowed to cross the boarder. My family was touched by what happened because my dad and his family flew out of East Germany to West Germany in order to cross the border in Berlin one year before the wall was build. The stories he tells today about this experience seem unreal. When I was 6 or 7 I was in Berlin a year before the wall fell. I remember standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate wondering what is behind it. I remember how it took us eight hours to be allowed to cross the border in our car, how they checked everything, how they walked in the rain with our passport just to be rude and how they copied everything written we had with us.

The day the wall fell "accidentally" was very emotional. I watched TV with my mom when they said in the news that they will open the borders. My mom called my dad who was still in his office and told him to come home. He didn´t believe her that they opened the border and it took him some time to come home. When he saw on TV that it was real he started crying. I had never seen my dad crying before...

The next day we drove to the border in Lauenburg where they had a checkpoint. My parents said that they needed to see it otherwise they wouldn’t believe it. The scenes at the border were unbelievable. People were crying, celebrating and hugging people they’d never seen before. Everybody was just happy. The West Germans welcomed every East German car by hitting their Trabbis (this is what East German cars were called, they only had two brands)with their hands. I will always remember when one East German lady was running towards an East German soldier crying "Why did you do that to us? Answer me! Why did you do that to us?"

A few weeks later we travelled to Berlin. We hammered little pieces out the wall by ourselves and we walked through the Brandenburg Gate for the first time......
When I had an internship at the German parliament a few years ago I had to walk through the Brandenburg Gate every day in order to reach the parliament building. I felt blessed every time that I walked through it, that this wall fell, that families or even married couples aren’t divided by this wall anymore, and that all Germans can live in peace and freedom today.
Well that was in a very, very, very short way what I remember about the Wall. I started writing everything down in German, so I don’t have it in English. If you have any questions please fell free to ask.

Thank you so much, Stephan. I post this on Veteran's Day, a day that is so significant to me now since 3 summers ago, when Greg and I went to Europe with two World War 2 vets who were portrayed in the movie, The Band of Brothers. At one of the stops, a war memorial, we met an old German vet, who went up to Buck Compton and Don Malarky to shake hands. Amazing to see men who were forced to fight against each other so many years ago, now shaking hands, smiling and putting the awful past behind them. This is what freedom is, isn't it?

It is not only when walls of brick and mortar fall, but when hearts of hate and anger and opposition also give way to reconciliation and friendship.

I wonder today, what walls in my own life, perhaps, need to fall?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thai Pineapple Chicken Curry

The first time I went to a thai restaurant on a visit to California, it was love at first bite. I started with a wonderful coconut lemongrass soup and dove into my first taste of spicy, peanuty Pad Thai, and haven't stopped craving thai food since. But I'm still learning and trying out many of the dishes. My friend, Carolyn Purcell, encouraged me to try the Pineapple Curry, which is nothing like the Indian curries I'm not crazy about. I fell in love, again. I've since had it two more times and made my own version tonight. Red curry paste is made of ground chilis, garlic, lemongrass, salt and kefir lime and you can buy a little jar of it on the aisle of almost any oriental aisle at major grocery stores. Coconut milk is also very easy to find on the oriental food aisle. It's a sweet/ savory dish.

1 to 1 1/2 T. red curry paste
1(13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into thin strips
salt or fish sauce or soy sauce to taste
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 firmly cooked sweet potato, peeled and diced
(optional green and red pepper slices)
1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained

(Jasmine Rice cooked to make about 4 cups)
Saute thinly sliced chicken in wok or big skillet, along with onion, sweet potato and red/green pepper (if you like) season with a little salt or fish sauce or soy sauce. In a bowl, whisk together curry paste, sugar and 1 can coconut milk. Pour over chicken and vegies and cook until sauce is hot and bubbly. Check seasonings to taste.

3. Remove from heat, and stir in pineapple. Serve in bowls over the cooked rice. You can add a slice of lime for garnish and extra zip if you like.

I like to use a spoon to get every drop of the sauce.