Category Archives: Current Events

I Can’t Breathe

Quarantine, Day 74
Minneapolis Riots, Day 3

I appreciate/understand that I’m blessed. My husband, son, and I are all healthy and safe at home. My husband and I continue to work (from home) and get paid. We’d really like to get back to the gym and church, but we’re safe, healthy, and our needs are met. Not everyone is that fortunate right now.

Likewise, we live in undeserved privilege because we were born white. I can wear a dark hoodie in public, or a face mask, and no one looks at me like I might be there to rob them. My son can go for a run after dark and not fear that he’ll be shot or arrested because he might be running from a crime scene. If I get pulled over for something like speeding or expired license tabs, I don’t worry that one wrong twitch will get me shot.

I can’t even begin to pretend that I understand what it’s like to be a person of color in America. They face challenges I will never experience. They are judged and threatened even just going about their law-abiding day-to-day lives.

When I was a child, I went about my life thinking that racism was mostly a southern thing, and that the overt kind of racism was limited to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white trash “Bubbas,” and ignorant old people. I grew up in white small towns in the middle of nowhere, and I believed that Martin Luther King fixed things.

Even after I grew up, moved to the city, and got educated – though I learned that racism and slavery were alive and well – I still didn’t think it happened here. We’re “Minnesota nice,” right? I got to know some people of color. We went to church together, raised our kids together, and worked together. I gave very little thought to the color of their skin.

Then police shootings started to make headlines. I took my usual stance of “calm down,” “hear the whole story,” and “think before you act.” That’s kind of who I am. There are two sides to everything, and I hate when people freak out and make a situation worse because of their inflammatory behavior (something a lot of people need to consider before they hit that share button on Facebook…). But have I extended that same courtesy to the accused? We’re innocent until proven guilty in America. Yet I’ve been quick to jump to the defense of police, but not the accused. That’s evidence of my inherent white privilege bias – the “whole story” is a principle that needs to be evenly applied.

The dawning of my racial awareness has been slow…

Yesterday I woke up and MY city was on fire.

  • I can’t tell myself that racism doesn’t happen here, because it does. It did. It costs innocent people their security and their lives.
  • Being a cop is a hard, thankless job, and they deserve our support, but so is being a person of color in America. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, a chance to tell their stories, and our support as they go about their lives trying to do the right thing and take care of their own.
  • Yes, there are criminals out there – lots of them. Yes, they deserve to be prosecuted and punished. But the law, and the benefit of the doubt need to be evenly applied. And there are bad cops out there, too. They deserve to be prosecuted and punished, too.
  • I wish good and bad were fixed, concrete ideas, and that good always won and bad was always defeated. But the simple truth is that sometimes everyone is right AND everyone is wrong. I understand the anger and the protests. I don’t understand the looting and burning. This is our city, our home. Rioting vents frustration and sends a message that the world can’t ignore, but it also advances stereotypes of violence and untrustworthiness. It damages the businesses we depend on and widens the gaps between people.

I want to DO something, but I don’t know what to do. God knows I have a lot to learn, and that I don’t have solutions. I just want to serve my neighbors who are wronged. I want to support justice. I want to pull out the roots of my own biases. But I also kind of want to hide. I don’t have answers, or the right to speak for others. But just worrying about my own attitudes and behaviors doesn’t feel like enough when my city is burning.

I’m frustrated. Heartbroken. Angry. So I pray. I examine myself. I talk to others who want change without violence. I pray some more. I try to educate myself so I can do better and be better in the future.

I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. It’s too hard to breathe like that.

Moments

True confession time: I don’t like Christmas. I know that’s probably an unpopular thing to say, and it’s a strange thing to bring up in the middle of April, but stick with me for a minute. I’m not totally Scrooge; I get the magic of the season. I just get so overwhelmed with all the busyness, the pressure of expectations, and the expenses that I’m ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

A few years ago, my wise husband suggested that I change my perspective, and start looking for moments of joy in all the chaos. I think of them as “moments of Christmas,” and it’s made a world of difference for me. I find moments of Christmas when the congregation sings the traditional carols, when the candles are lit on Christmas Eve, and when I see little girls twirling in their Christmas dresses. I find moments sitting quietly beside my lit Christmas tree, and when I put up my beloved nativity set.

This Covid-19 quarantine period is the same way. It’s easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed by the statistics, the sickness, the chaos of distance learning, and the economic devastation. Those things are very real and have to be considered, but I want to encourage you to not lose your mind over them. Though it may not feel natural, I want you to look for moments of joy in the chaos, and find things you can be thankful for.

  • My son came home from college early, and I get to hear him play cello again.
  • I get to wear PJs. A Lot.
  • My family has been holding weekly Zoom meetings from our homes across the country, and we’ve started playing games together.
  • Our dog is loving all the cuddles, walks, and attention.
  • The sun is shining, and we pulled our ’97 Mustang project-toy out of storage (and had time to replace the headlights).
  • People are covering their windows with hearts, and kids are out coloring the walk with chalk drawings.
  • We rediscovered an old online game we used to play when Jacob was little – when it was hard to get a sitter and go out – and we started playing together again.
  • We have time to watch movies, clean out closets, read books, and play board games.

I’ve been snapping pictures of the small moments. Some day when quarantine is just a memory, I’ll have my pictures of dinners, Zoom meetings, and heart windows to remember that this time wasn’t a total loss. Hopefully it will remind me that we found a way to hold church (and even take communion on Good Friday), that neighbors stepped up for one another, and that we learned to appreciate the essential occupations like cashiers and trash collectors who often get taken for granted. I hope you too can find moments of joy in spite of the chaos!

Scratch Cooking

If you’re not sure what day it is, let me be the first to say TGIF! I know, I know, one day is the same as another in quarantine. Here in Minnesota our “shelter at home” rule kicks in tonight.

As we face shortages at the store, and maybe because we have time on our hands, more and more people are turning to scratch cooking. So I thought this week I’d share with you some of my favorite made-from-scratch options.

Baked Beans
1 package dry navy beans, covered in water and soaked overnight
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
onions and/or bacon as desired
12 oz tomato juice

Soak beans overnight. In the morning, cook beans and water with a pinch of baking soda on the stovetop for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Place drained beans in a slow cooker, and add the other ingredients. Cook on high at least 6 hours, or low for at least 10. Add water as needed to keep moist.

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Soft White Sandwich Bread (based off a recipe from eHow) – Makes 2 loaves

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp dry, active yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
6 cups flour (bread flour is best, but I’ve also made it with all-purpose, whole-wheat pastry flour, or a mixture of half whole wheat and half white flour)

Put the water in your mixer’s bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let sit for about ten minutes until there’s a bubbly foam on top of the liquid.

Add the salt and oil to the yeast mixture, then slowly stir in the flour, one cup at a time. When the dough is well-blended, knead it for a few minutes, then place it in a greased bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Allow the dough to rest and rise for about an hour, or until it doubles in size.

Punch down the risen dough, knead for a few minutes, and divide the dough into two portions. Form each into a loaf, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover loaves with clean cloths, and allow to rest and rise for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

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Beer Bread (Missing something for sandwich bread? Maybe you have what you need to make beer bread)

3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 can beer (12 oz)

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Quickly mix all ingredients together, and spoon into a greased loaf pan. Top with shredded cheese if desired. Bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the loaf size.

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Pancakes from Scratch

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Sift together dry ingredients and place in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix until smooth. Scoop onto a heated griddle. Turn to cook both sides until golden.

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Scalloped Potatoes

8 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
4 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk, gently warmed

Melt butter. Add milk and flour. Stir and cook until thick. Add potatoes and pour into a greased baking dish. You can add cheese, ham, bacon, diced onions, etc. Bake at 350 for one hour.

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I hope this is a valuable resource for you! Stay well!

Fresh Eyes: Another Lesson from Puzzles

I hope you are all healthy, calm, and have plenty of toilet paper. What a surreal couple of weeks we’ve had.

Like many of you, my workplace is closed. I’m staying home, working on things I can do from a distance, and keeping myself busy around the house. My husband is moving our son home from college, so for a few days I’m social distancing with just the dog and the internet for company. Naturally, I decided to pull out a puzzle – the wide, rectangular puzzle that doesn’t fit on my card table.

You know about my puzzle habit; I’ve written about it before. I like the quiet, orderly, accomplishment of a jigsaw puzzle. You can work on them while doing other things, like watching television or talking. You can spend five minutes at the table, or lose hours.

Yesterday I was working on my difficult new puzzle, and the later it got, the harder it was to find the pieces that fit. I thought it was because I did the easier part first. There are a lot of tiny details in this puzzle. I eventually called it a night.

This morning I wandered up to the kitchen and sat down with my coffee. Immediately, I started to see pieces that filled the holes in my puzzle. Pieces were flying into place. I was baffled – I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet!

In that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. “Sometimes you need to step back and take a break to see things clearly.”

In light of current events, that resonated with me deeply!

We suddenly have time on our hands, and we’re inundated with information and misinformation about this virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are in danger. Supplies are hard to find. The future is uncertain. How do we sort through it all, find the truth, and act on it? How do we find peace in the chaos?

The answer is right there in my puzzle lesson – step back, take a break.

Rest on these words:
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Stay healthy and sane, everyone!

5 Steps to Surviving an Election Year

Because I’m an historian, you would think that I’m into politics and current events. But in reality, I dislike the political process. History is done. We can find new evidence, but we can’t change what happened. I love digging for clues and coming up with answers. But current events are a different deal. They’re still unfolding, they’re hard to corroborate, and they’re flat-out rude and contentious.

The Democrats allegedly care about the poor. The Republicans supposedly care about the unborn. The Democrats claim to care about education. The Republicans promise not to raise my taxes. Both sides want what’s best for the country, they just have different ideas about what that is. And I’ve found reasons to appreciate and to hate both sides.

You can try voting for candidates based on their personal merit, but let’s be honest, there isn’t always a candidate with a lot of personal integrity. It takes a certain, shall we say, ego, to want national political office, and driven, leading types tend to be bullies.

And what if neither side puts up a candidate you can respect? You can dig around and vote third party, but both sides will tell you that you’re throwing away your vote. (If enough of us vote third party, though… But that’s a different topic all together). Sadly a lot of us end up voting based on who we think is the “lesser of two evils,” though that still has us voting for “evil.” (maybe not literally evil, but you get the idea)

Don’t even get me started on the ads. For nearly a year leading up to the election there’s a constant hammering of scare tactics, arguing, and intimidation thrown at us with each commercial break. She broke promises. He’s in the pocket of special interests. She wants to take away medicare. He wants to tax you to death. Blah, blah, blah. I swear it’s a miracle we don’t all have some kind of trauma damage by election day.

So how do we survive this election season?

  1. No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne
    This truth should calm your heart. Historically, America has gone back and forth between conservative and liberal leaders. I honestly think this is part of God’s plan for out nation, because it has kept us from straying too far in either direction. God is not a Republican. God is not a Democrat. God is not an American. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. One election is not the end of the world, because God is still there and He is still in control. Take hope in that.
  2. Pray
    Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
    1 Timothy 2:1-4 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
    God’s goal is the Heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. But He is aware and involved in our life on Earth, including our politics. Whether your candidate won or lost, pray for those in authority. Pray that God would get hold of their hearts and use them and their decisions for His glory.
  3. Pay attention, but don’t let it consume you
    Ugh, the ads. Right? And the anger! I hate those “news” shows that bring on diametrically opposed people and let them yell at each other on television for an hour. What’s the point? I’ll admit it – I’d rather put on my noise-cancelling headphones than pay attention to a debate. But as a responsible adult, I have to do a lot of things I don’t want to do (paying bills, going to the gym…). Paying attention to the political process is one of those things. We have to know who the political candidates are and what they stand for so we can make an informed decision. Voting is your responsibility as a citizen. Take it seriously. But don’t let it take over your life.
  4. Look for reliable and varied sources
    Listen, if you love Fox News, CNN, or a certain website, and that’s where you get ALL your political information, you will have an imperfect understanding and the biased belief system that they fed to you. As a human being, it is impossible to be unbiased. News sources are run by human beings, and the biases bleed through. Seek a variety of sources for information. Talk to people who have a good heart but see things differently than you do. You might not change your mind, but you’ll have a clearer understanding of why there are different ideas out there and why you believe what you do. There’s nothing worse than an individual who wants to cram their political views down everyone’s throat but refuses to listen to why there are other opinions out there.
  5. Respect
    What it really comes down to in my mind is respect. I have my opinions, but I respect that yours vary. You’re not stupid for seeing things differently than I do. In fact, there are probably things I can learn from you and your perspective, just as there are things you can learn from mine. At the end of the day, my vote is one tiny thing, but my relationships with friends and loved ones are a huge part of my life that will last longer than any politician’s time in office. I can’t change the world with my vote, I can only do my part. But I can change the world by treating others with respect and compassion. People first, politics second.

Repeat this with me: The fate of the country does not depend on me convincing everyone else to vote like me. My relationships with the people in my life are not worth losing over an election. I will seek out varied and reliable sources, both for information and to build up my compassion for those who differ from me. I will pray for God’s will to be done in our country as the election approaches, and pray for those in authority for their whole term. If my candidate loses, God is still on the throne, and He has a bigger and better plan than I do.