Sunday, March 28, 2010

Quite a Nice Little Saturday

I'd like to start this post by apologizing for not taking more pictures of this momentous day. My Dad got married, and one of best friends got married...and I'm only posting a handful of pictures. All I have to say for myself is that it was a conscious decision to be present in the day instead of a watchful observer through a camera lens. There were photographers at every event, so hopefully I'll be able to post some more real shots soon.

At 10:30 AM the Bryant and Clark families joined forces "til death do us part." Konie has four children (2 boys-Justin and Jared, 2 girls-Jessica and Jenna) just like we do, and we are now officially BIGGER THAN THE BRADY BUNCH :) Both families have lost a parent, and are a loving tight-knit group...It's going to be a trip figuring out just how we are all going to mesh...when you consider that our IMMEDIATE family (with spouses included but not even beginning to count grand-children) will now be 18-members strong. I think we're going to have to special order a dining-room table :)

It was an intimate ceremony--just Dad, Konie, and their children, in the backyard of one of Konie's closest friends. I don't think I realized, until the ceremony started, what in particular I had been so anxious about concerning this moment. However, as Dad and Konie turned to face each other, I realized what it had been--Mom and Dad renewed their vows three (seemingly very short) years ago. That was a very intense experience for me and still vivid enough that I could almost palpate it. I was terrified that watching Dad and Konie would feel like an eery twilight zone--the same but different, and I was fearful of how bad that was going to hurt, and what my reaction would be (there in front of my new family).

The Lord spared me that grief. As I watched Dad and Konie pledge themselves to each other, I realized that this was not deja-vu, because Konie is not my Mom. This was not a re-do, this was a "new flight," as Dr. Fain so beautifully said. The only time I even got a lump in my throat was when Dad and Konie recited "in sickness and in health." Even then, the lump wasn't grief for my Mom as much as a prayer that this time Dad wouldn't have to know so much sickness...I'm ready for them both to enjoy a little more of the "and in health," part of marrigae. I don't know any two people who deserve that more than they do.

So, there are no pictures of the ceremony, or of the beautiful and delicious brunch we shared as a new, very large, family :) I did get a couple shots of Dad and Konie after we went back to her house to wish them off on their honeymoon:
Justin (Konie's oldest son) grabbed a bag of Kettlecorn from the pantry, so that we'd have something to throw. (And yes I'm going to tease you by only showing our new family's backs. I just don't have any good group shots, and I want to do them all justice.)The girls were present, and brought a nice element of comic relief to the morning:And while I didn't cry at all throughout the potentially-super-emotional morning , I have burst into tears about eight times at the sight of this picture Taylor snapped of me telling Dad goodbye...'s still gettin' me!
SO, I left, while the rest of my sisters joined the Bryant children in a "now that the grown-ups are gone let's see if we cant get to know one another" time that I hate I missed, BUT I rushed off to join Lindsay!!!!
With her dark chestnut hair, sparkling blue eyes, and cute little grin, Lindsay made a classically beautiful bride. Absolutely stunning!
This picture cracks me up for some reason. That vision of Southern elegance in the middle of a smattering of bridesmaids, is B, Lindsay's grandmother. Just typing her name has added a drawl and a lilt to my thoughts. We all (the bridesmaids) got dressed and pampered and pictured at B's house before the ceremony. Everything about B and our little party was p.e.r.f.e.c.t. I don't believe she knows how to do things any other way :) I love the South, and I love elegance, but when I saw that there were decorative sterling fork holders, to contain the monogrammed, silver forks...I realized I was dealing on a whole new level.Lindsay's dress was made for her from a combination of her grandmother's (B, mind you) and mother's dresses, and was so simplistically beautiful! Then that veil. That VEIL! Oh my goodness, it was gorgeous!!! Solid lace that had been worn by three generations of women in Lindsay's family. I wanted it bad y'all. Do you think it would be weird to wear a veil with my Easter dress?? :) They don't even make lace like that anymore and don't think this picture does it an iota of justice.

My favorite part of Lindsay's wedding was being close enough to see the way that she and Jon Mark rubbed their fingers over each other's hands all through the ceremony. It was like they were both saying, "I'm here. It's just me and you and God. And forever has never looked so exciting."

I'm not going to touch the reception, because with pink roses and green orchids covering the Birmingham Country Club...I think it may have been the nicest reception I've ever attended. I need pictures to take you there with me, and since my neighbor Bryan did the photographs, I can hardly WAIT to see the beauty he must have captured.

Whew! It's all over!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Japanese Magnolia Set Me Free

For the past month or so I've felt a bit like a toy of Pace's. It's a fairy with big collapsible wings and a long rope hanging from her feet. You wrap the rope tighter and tighter around her, and when you have her all bound as tightly as possible, you rip the rope as hard as you can and she goes spinning and flying all over the room. The rope's been winding tighter and tighter around here, but I haven't been able to find anybody to help me rip away the chord. I actually found myself mopping the kitchen last week and thinking, "If I had a genuine nervous breakdown, maybe I would get checked into the hospital and I could really rest." THAT'S when you know you're going nutso--when the hospital sounds like a fun break!

I told y'all about last week's list...and getting sick. I did get my taxes turned in and have been chipping away at all the paper-work that has to be completed before Jeremiah can begin his fellowship in Seattle. It's just that it wasn't only the physical stress of having a lot of things to check off my "To Do" list. I was dealing with some mental anxiety as well. We were facing our second wedding without Mom. We were facing it without her...and with Konie. We were facing it without her, with Konie, and with my normally very sensitive Dad, sporting the sensitivity of...a tree stump :). Before I go any further, let me point out that I would not be telling you any of this if I had any anger, or even anything negative to say about Konie. She has been the picture of kindness, discretion, helpfulness,...absolutely great. Konie is not the problem. The hard situation was the problem.

Most men don't like to talk, especially about awkward things like emotions or relationships. My Dad has never been most men. He lived in a house with five women, and while he is a man's man from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, there is also nothing in the world that he likes more than to have us all gathered around him for a good talk. However, when Dad is under stress, his people skills and his emotional radar don't tend to function very well. We know this. It's not a new condition, but when you combine his extremely high stress level (wedding at his house, planning a lot of it himself, his own wedding a week away, taxes, demolition/remodeling beginning yesterday to get ready for Konie to move in, 2 daughters in college...) with the sensitive matters being handled you get a volatile mixture to say the least.

So, on Sunday afternoon, when the wedding was over, Taylor and I sat down at our dining room table with Dad and vented a whole lot of crap. And cried. And talked in circles. And cried. And could hardly talk because we were crying so hard. He listened, apologized for some things, explained some others, and also had a few areas where we had hurt his feelings as well (which I didn't know was possible--shows how sensitive I am). It ended in hugs and relief, and eyes that were so swollen (on my part) that I could hardly keep them open.

I slept the entire drive back to Birmingham--until I was awakened by Jeremiah calmly but severely stating, "Abby, you need to wake up because something b.a.d. is happening with the car." I opened my eyes and we were bu-bu-bu-bumping our way down the shoulder of I-65. A tow truck, some divinely placed family members that could cart 2 adults, 2 children, a dog, and enough wedding luggage to clothe a small country on to Birmingham, a friend who works at a Chevrolet dealership down the road from the break-down site, and $1300 later (agghhhh!) and all is well, with the car.

I, however, was still not doing what I would call well. I felt like somebody had significantly loosened the rope binding me, but it certainly wasn't ripped off and letting me fly around the room. And then... ... ...I took my first run in real Spring weather. I almost didn't go, because I still have a lot to do, and today was the first day my sickly lungs have felt 50-75% better. But I just WENT, and about 200 yards into the run I knew Somebody was about to set me free. I let it all go, pounded right out under the bottoms of my shoes. With the sunshine on my face, and cool air filling deep down into my lungs I let Winter out and welcomed Spring in. Then, I spotted the biggest Japanese Magnolia I'd ever seen. A profusion of big pink blossoms stretching towards the sky, a green lawn, and crisp white house in the background, and Somebody had ripped the cord--I was flying. On the drive home from the gym, we rolled all the windows down and I pointed out the beauty of the Japanese Magnolia to the girls. They proceeded to squeal with delight and point out each one that we passed (which are a lot in our neighborhood right now). We took the long way home just because none of us could get quite enough of the beauty and the wind. It's funny what He uses, isn't it?
**I "stole" both of these flower pictures from Google images. My camera is still in my car in Clanton :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Blair

Let me begin by saying that all of these pictures were taken by Caroline's sweet friend Brooke (the cute blond on the left), who I think may have a future in photography if she wants one. Thanks for letting me steal these from you, Brooke! My camera is in the back of my car at some car dealership in Clanton, because we broke down on the side of the road on the way home yesterday :) YAY!!!! A story for another blog.We had a BLAST, over the last few days. (This is all four of us Clark girls for anybody new.) And if this were high school, I feel pretty sure Caroline and Riley would have been voted "Cutest Couple" and "Best Smiles" Don't you just want to pinch them?! They were absolutely glowing the whole weekend.
We kick-started the wedding festivities with a rehearsal dinner, hosted by Riley's parents. It was in the old train station in historic downtown Dothan and was a great combination of elegance and rustic charm...and a delicious four course meal!
I love rehearsal dinners. Hearing about the couple through the eyes of their friends is so...telling. I heard that Caroline is bubbly, loving, giving, organized, loves the Lord, and could eat Riley with a spoon. I heard that Riley is a strong Christian leader, devoted friend, role model, former Casanova :), loves Caroline enough to set the world ablaze, and never once raised his voice towards his mother :)
And look, it's all the new one we love enough he should be one.
I am amazed at what a gift these men are to our family. I just never thought about how much fun it would be to add a bunch of boys to our tight-knit group of sisters. Honestly, if I thought about it at all, it was probably more with a sense of leeriness at what husbands might do to spread us apart;...the opposite has been true. Seeing them love each other and us has added more love, and lots more fun, to the old Clark family. I could not ask for better brothers!

Now on to the wedding day! I feel certain my Mom was whispering in God's ear on Saturday morning, because we could not have personally ordered a more perfect spring morning. Seventy degrees, bright sunshine, and a cool breeze. Absolute perfection...just like these beautiful bridesmaids:
And these groomsmen, who apparently have an inner model just bursting to get out.
And maybe a little silliness too (sorry Reed, but this was too funny to pass up :))Somewhere between that picture and this next one, we watched God bind together two souls before a great cloud of witnesses.The reception was planned totally by Caroline and Dad, and they did an INCREDIBLE job! There was such a sweet and touching simplicity in watching Caroline be married in my Mom's wedding dress (that my Grandma made) and then celebrate in the home where we'd all grown up. It felt...right, easy. And every little imperfection in the yard or house (which were very few because Dad and Konie both scrubbed and painted and decorated like mad people), is what made it home.

There was a bluegrass band playing in a big white tent in the front yard
And food and cake on the back patio, underneath an arbor (that Jeremiah and Tommy built together one summer) laden with Confederate Jasmin.And after food had been eaten and dances were danced, it was time for Mr. and Mrs. Blair to head off for their honeymoon.
Pace was excited that she was finally going to get to throw the rose petals she'd been too nervous to scatter down the aisle :)And we all lined our circular driveway to tell them goodbye

and they drove off into the sunset.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Ulcer Makers

We've got some things going on around here in the next couple of weeks! I've also managed to catch a miserable cold that includes a croupy chest, clogged sinuses, and a low-grade fever. Can I list it out for you?
Wednesday: Get my hair cut and highlighted (because it has grown so long and dark that I look like a Gothic hippie), undergo the humiliation of another spray tan, and pack to leave for Dothan. Make a late-night drive with both girls, still covered in spray-tan gook.

Thursday: Help handle all the little details we have surely neglected for Caroline's (that's my sister if anybody is new around here) wedding. This would include an inspection of the house (where we grew up) to see if a man (my Dad) is truly capable of rendering it spiffy enough to host a wedding reception, without the help of a woman (my Mom). I know you've "got it," Dad, but I've been a little nervous :)

Also, go to my grandmother's house where she is hopefully going to help me with the dilemma that BOTH of my bridesmaid's dresses have grown a little snug. She said we'd try a girdle first, before she starts cutting breathing holes :)

Friday: We're supposed to have a bridesmaid's lunch and do all sorts of little funnities...but I'm worried we're going to be doing yard work on the aforementioned house :) Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Any good speech ideas?? And I might add that Jeremiah is singing and Pace is a flower girl...another reason my stomach is cramping right now at the thought of all that could go wrong.

Saturday: Caroline and Riley's wedding!

Sunday-Wednesday: Clean up and recover.

Thursday: Go back for another spray tan, because it will have been over a week and what kind of state will my tan be in at this point?! I'm going to get addicted aren't I?

Friday: Rehearsal and Rehearsal dinner for Lindsay's wedding! Again, any good speech ideas?

Saturday morning: DAD AND KONIE GET MARRIED! and we go to brunch with our NEW FAMILY to celebrate.

Saturday afternoon: Lindsay's bridesmaids' lunch and pictures.

Saturday night: Lindsay and Jon Mark's wedding!

Does anybody else feel like they're developing an ulcer? Today, I have pledged to do my taxes--at least that will be one less thing making my heart beat fast--and start a Z-pack to knock out this cold and give me some energy. Seriously though, I am so excited and blessed by all three events...I just wish they weren't happening so close together :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Mrs. Linda on Her Birthday

The number goes without notice (even though it is an exciting one :)), but the day cannot possibly. I am so thankful to have you as my mother-in-law. Thankful for your example of what it looks like to spend your life sacrificing for others, while still maintaining your own identity. Thankful for the advice of one who has walked the path of being married to a highly devoted medical student, resident, and (eventually) surgeon, who taught me to live and love now instead of always waiting for tomorrow. Thankful for the example of loving and giving lavishly, that has blessed me and made me want to do the same. Thankful for the son you've raised to be a strong and creative man and taught how to live confidently in both. Thankful to be facing a life without my own Mom, with you by my side. Thankful for the six months (after I lost Mom) you continued to love and be there for me, even though I was angry at you for the simple and unavoidable fact that you weren't my Mom. Thankful for how you love our girls and how you turn into silly Moogie just for them. Thankful that you've made me feel like your daughter and not your daughter-in-law in all aspects of life. Thankful for all the fun we've had and all the fun to come. Thankful for you...every single last funny, beautiful, smart, creative drop of you. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ear Infection and Birthday Dinner

We are still here. This weekend Jeremiah was on call, and apparently quite a few people were in the mood to break bones. I always hate when those loooong weekends roll into a loooong week and Pace says on Sunday night, "Is Daddy going to be here when I wake up in the morning?" "No, baby, he has work again tomorrow." "Well, is he going to come home early?" "No, I don't think so." "Mommy, are you sure he isn't out of town?" :)

Well, she may not have woken up on Monday morning to Daddy being home, but she did wake up to a raging ear infection and a 102.7 degree fever! Yesterday was crazy. Between a sickly hurting Pace who just wanted me to hold her, a little Lucy who couldn't be anywhere near Pace, but who also wanted to be held, and a mischievous Dapples:
Thankfully, we survived until last night when Ashley had us over to celebrate Jeremiah's birthday (which will be here tomorrow...but he's on call tomorrow, WOULDN'T YOU JUST KNOW IT!). She had flowers and her finest china on the table, crystal and silver, filets with a whiskey cream sauce (that I wanted to pour over my entire plate instead of just my steak), and Jeremiah's favorite dessert that only she can make...and I know it took her hours. Thanks Sashey for a wonderful end to a very hard day! We even left her with all the clean-up because the ear infection was a-raging like fire. Could a man ask for a better sister or a wife a better sister-in-law?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Speaking of Austin

Speaking of Austin, my Aunt Sheila is from there (Well, technically she is from Dothan, Alabama, just like the rest of my Dad's siblings, but she has lived in Austin as long as I've been alive.), and whenever I think about a great cook, a picture of her big smile drifts across my mind. I'm sure there are some technically greater "masters" that I've come in contact with through the years, but Aunt Sheila has a joie de vivre that makes everything pop. She loves life, and food, and cooking, and even if you think Texas popcorn (that would be fried jalapenos) isn't your thing, I guarantee that if you had it from her happy hands in her warm and alive kitchen, you'd be won over in a moment. I have an especially great love of her now, because she has lived in Dothan for the past year or so (because of some temporary changes in her husband's job), and has single-handedly rescued my Dad from a life of tomato soup and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches...the thought of which kept me up at night after Mom passed away. Saying all that, I would now like to share Aunt Sheila's Chicken Enchilada recipe!

Can I give a shout-out to Jenny Strange here? Who emailed me for this recipe over a month ago, and I haven't responded because I've been meaning to post this recipe for that long. Sorry Jenny, but here it is!

Ingredients: 1/2 stick of butter (melted), 1/4 cup of flour, 2 cups of chicken broth (or stock), 1 can of chopped green chiles (I use 2 to add an extra kick), 8 oz sour cream (more like 12 oz if you're me), 6 large flour tortillas, 4 chicken breasts (or a rotisserie chkn), Monetary Jack grated cheese (about 10 oz)

I hope you've all made friends with your local Rotisserie Chicken:

Every time a casserole calls for "chicken", it's what I use. It's tender and tasty and worth every last one of it's five dollars. (I think they sell them at all grocery stores that have a hot food section--including Walmart, but I will say that they are best from Sams.) I also pour my "drippings" (you know, that juice in the bottom of the dish holding the chicken) into a pan where I will later make my rice. Don't turn your little nose up! I guarantee that every good southern meal you've ever had, has been due to the magical presence of drippings.

Pull off the meat (and try not to get grossed out by the fact that these chickens have NECKS and BUTTS) and chop it up. Grate your cheese, and mix these two ingredients together as the filling for your enchiladas.Make a white sauce of your first five ingredients. I suggest adding them in the order they're listed (You know, mix your melted butter and flour together first and so forth) in order to prevent clumps. Aren't you excited to have an enchilada recipe that doesn't call for any "Cream of..." soup? It makes all the difference!Spray a 9x13 baking dish, and pour a layer of white sauce in the bottom (because your enchiladas are going to be filling the pan so tightly that none of the good sauce will be able to get down there if you don't...and they'll taste kinda dry.)

Then, take your flour tortillas,Fill them with a few tablespoons of your chicken/cheese filling mix.Tuck 'em and roll 'em.Pour the rest of your white sauce over the top (scooting the rolls around a little to get sauce in all the crevices). Sprinkle with some grated cheese (if you happen to have some in the fridge like I always do) to add some color, and bake at 350 until bubbly (30-45 minutes).

While it's cooking I make some Mexican rice and beans to go with it. I make my rice by doing a 1:2 ratio of rice and chicken broth (don't forget those magical drippings as well) and add a can of Rotel. (For those who like hard numbers--like me. Pour 1 1/2 cups of rice, 3 cups of chicken broth, and 1 can of rotel into your pot that has some drippings in the bottom. Cover. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer until tender. Stir it up and serve.)

And now, my dirty little secret...I like refried beans, better than black. Gasp! If I was having company, I'd probably do black beans, but I'd be missing my dirty 'ol refried beans. Somebody asked me recently how in the world I make refried beans. In case that was you, get ready for it...

I open the can and dump them in a pot to warm over the stove.

Take out your bubbling, delicious enchiladas.And serve it up (With a salad, of course, if you have the last name Maddox and you can't eat dinner without one)!

I'm sorry that this picture is so bad. Is that drop of refried beans on the white plate driving anyone else crazy? By the time I was making plates, my girls were sitting at the table banging their forks (we're so civilized!) and Jeremiah was standing behind me saying, "Are you seriously taking pictures of our dinner plates?! Step away from the camera." as he tried to slide his plate away. So, the finale picture is bad, but I hope you enjoy Aunt Sheila's Enchiladas!!!!