A Rant, Because We Weep

The shootings are incredibly tragic and everyone is seeking answers. I am weeping as I type this. We weep and we rant and we close our eyes to so much and put our faith in what we hear on the news. Seriously? (Warning: rant follows.)

As a society, we are interpersonally disconnected and profoundly media/internet influenced (dare I say brainwashed?) We all say, “Don’t believe everything you hear on the internet and TV” but many believe with no one in their sphere of influence to provide the voice of reason. It disturbs me no end that I do not see the mainstream media taking responsibility for their part in perpetuating the problem. Media sensationalism, media contagion theory, perpetuating racial/religious/political hostility, romanticizing/glorifying violence in films and shows — all of these have a huge impact on the emotionally and psychologically impaired and especially on our media-driven youth culture.

The media says, “Nothing to see here! Lookee over there, everybody! Focus on guns!” But it’s not the guns or the knives, or the molotov cocktails, or even the drugs. It’s the REASONS behind the misuse of those things. It’s people with mental and emotional health issues not being recognized, not getting help, not knowing where to turn (but thinking they do) because no one in their lives is willing to express opinions not embraced by popular culture, including the “You do you” attitude that unquestioningly says, “Whatever you believe is ok”. Equally disturbed people on the internet and in the media intentionally or inadvertently encourage the flawed belief structure that promotes violent behavior. How blessed are those of us with someone in our lives politically incorrect enough to say, “That’s crap, don’t listen to that” because a lot of people obviously don’t have that. Focusing entirely on gun control is like putting a bandage on metastasized cancer. Focus on what is being constantly streamed, uncontradicted, to the youth and troubled of society by the media and to some extent (tragically) our educational system that continues to compel teachers to alter their lesson planning to conform to media-driven culture.

And pray. Just pray. Pray for the victims and their families as well as the disturbed perpetrators and their families. But pray especially for violent perpetrators in the making – those who can actually be stopped right now from future violence. Pray that these future perpetrators will slip up in their hidden thoughts and hidden plans, and that someone in their lives, somewhere, will have the wisdom and insight to see what is happening and care enough to step in and do whatever it takes to help. If we really want to care, we need to get off our devices and pay attention.Be interpersonal. Be politically incorrect. I do believe that each of us actually can change the world, each from our corner of it, one person at a time.

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Why Should You Read This? Because – Chocolate!

My son requested chocolate cake for his birthday so I trotted to one of my two favorite markets for the awesomely delicious gluten-free store brand cake mix we usually use (because one member of our family can’t have gluten, and three others probably shouldn’t) only to discover – gasp! – that it had apparently been discontinued. (So disappointed in you, HEB!)

I could have made it from scratch but – oops! – out of cocoa, so decided that I was officially in the mood to experiment. Yay! (Sarcasm.) I grabbed a box of Aldi’s Live G Free Chocolate baking mix (from my other favorite grocery store) which inconveniently had NO recipe for chocolate cake using the mix on either the box or the website. Seriously, Aldi?

Soooooo – I went to Aldi’s Facebook page where several ladies had posted recipes that sounded great but were still not quite what I was seeking. So I whipped out the baking corner of my brain and forced it into creative submission with the promise of chocolate. Because, like most estrogen-based life forms, I can force my brain into almost any (mostly) non-violent behavior with the promise of chocolate.

I threw together a variety of mystery ingredients and confidently slid my first attempt into the oven and sat down to type out the recipe so I would have it for the future. But as the Good Book does say, pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Speaking of falls . . .

Time for Intermission

Let’s a take a minute to ponder famous falls. The dictionary defines “fall” as “moving from a higher to a lower level, typically rapidly and without control” – such as The Fall of the Roman Empire, Niagara Falls, Custer’s Fall, The Fall of the Third Reich, and some of the more dramatic falls of Evil Knievel. Anything, really, that could be considered an Ultimate Fall. Getting my drift here? Have you pondered enough? I certainly have.

Intermission Ends

The fallen cake tasted delicious, though, so I am freezing the remains for a future chocolate trifle (another family favorite) since fluffy oomph is not really a requirement for trifle – just cut up cake bits.

I tried again with the following combination of ingredients and titled the result:

Karen’s Chocolate Cake To Remedy Aldi’s and HEB’s Fails
(Am I calling out Aldi and HEB? Yes. Yes, I am.)

1 Aldi’s Live G Free Chocolate Baking Mix
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour (or any 1-to-1 GF flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 to 2 tsp almond extract (Optional, but adds a light fruity flavor.)
½ cup softened butter (Or, in my case, melted butter – because I hadn’t softened any ahead of time.)

3/4 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (Because, hello? Have you met me? More chocolate is a GOOD thing!)

Preheat oven to 350. Using electric mixer on medium speed:

  1. Mix liquid ingredients until just slightly foamy.
  2. Add in dry ingredients.
  3. Add chips.
  4. Mix until everything is combined and batter tastes yummy.
  5. Pour into two 8″ round cake pans to make a low-profile layer cake, and bake for give-or-take 30 minutes (you could probably also make a 9×13).
  6. Against the advice of every nutritionist on the planet, give bowl and beaters to children to enjoy. Keep the spatula for yourself because you certainly don’t want to miss out on the batter.

I frosted the cake with gluten-free frosting and added a nice, thick coating of berry preserves on top of the frosting in between the layers, then decorated it as you see in the photo. The cake was low profile but quite good, if slightly dense (as some of us just are, so don’t judge . . .).

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that the first cake, presently known as The Ultimate Fall, actually tasted richer, moister, and more chocolate-y. When I figure out how to make it taste that way and remain among the unfallen, I’ll post the recipe here 🙂

Hunting Thoughts

Pokemon Go arrived at our house in 2016 via my daughters. My husband and I resisted the influx of Pokecritter-seeking energy except for occasional designated driver responsibilities. Not that my oldest daughter can’t drive, you understand, but she wisely decided driving while simultaneously staring at her phone was a questionable decision at best. Whew! Another good life choice! I am a success as a mom.

Sometime in 2018, we had a Pokemon crisis. My older daughter ceased playing and my younger daughter firmly stated that she now needed help with hunting and raids. Yes. Raids. I had no idea Pokemon Go was so violent. Soft-hearted sap that I am, I found myself with a new phone app and a burning (not really) desire to locate something called shiny Pokemon.

I have started to have Dr. Seuss moments. Every time I turn around there’s a Beedrill in my bedroom, a Pidgey in my fridge, a Rapidash in my bath, a Jigglypuff in my stuff, or a Clefairy in the library. The only one I can find some excuse for is the Electrobuzz in the carpet fuzz. A little static electricity and that kind of makes sense.

In an effort to instill the Hunt with reason and practicality, we recently knighted our two rescued canines “Official Hunting Dogs”. They excitedly pull us along on high-energy walks as we seek weirdly named cyber-critters who manifest randomly on our phones. I’m still not too sure about the game, but the exercise is good.

Just a sec – timeout – my daughter informs me we must catch the Squirtle in the living room. That just seems wrong – shouldn’t something called a Squirtle be in the bathroom?

I do have to confess that I have some questions about how the technology works and if there are possible oddish effects on the human brain. How does Nintendo park imaginary characters with crazy names around my house, neighborhood, and town? Are these critters just floating around on satellite waves? And if they are floating around, can they float through our brains and affect our thoughts and communication? Would we know if they did? I am seaking to understand this whole phenomenon – I would hate to think we are surrounded by parasects and don’t realize it.

But I am not, after all, a conspearowcy theorist! The whole Pokemon thing appears to be sheer mankey business so I don’t want to get too krabby over it.  There are far more important concerns, such as the situations in Kangaskhan and Magmar, and wasn’t there an uprising recently in – I think it’s . . .  Kabuto? Gastly situation – it haunters me.

There’s also flu going around and, with all the weezing and koffing, I’m concerned about the family getting sick. Probably shouldn’t mention it – wouldn’t want to jynx them! No point in taking a chansey. I worry enough about my husband, anyway; when he gets drowzee he can really snorlax. Perhaps he should be tested for sleep abra. Maybe hypno therapy would work?

And personally, I find the current political situation more arcanine than Pokemon Go could ever be – I just want to cloyster my ears and ignore it all. The issues surrounding the office of Exeggutor-in-Chief can make my temper flareon and sometimes the news is completely in-tangela to me! I wish there was a way to raticate the problems before I golbatty because I get a venomoth headache just thinking about it all. But enough about these dragonite issues – I should probably just take a few minutes to relax with an apple dratini.

Alakazam! Time to wrap this up – there’s a Charizard in the yard and it’s freaking out the dogs. We’re off to capture it.

Drop. Your. Stone.

We are all part of this thing called Humanity. We may have different skin colors and different cultures but we are – above all other things – human. Just for my own mild amusement, I occasionally get literal with demographic forms and write “Human” under the request for “Race”. (A teen once told me this is politically incorrect and I replied that the truth often is.)

Unlike Darwinian evolutionists, I do not believe we descended from apes or any other order of simians with different subsets of species going through evolution at different times, causing a separation into different “races” and therefore making some humans more developed than others. That way lies bigotry and red herring arguments. Rather, I believe God created us all in His image, of equal value, of the same race, descended from two people who were probably a nice medium brown, give or take, with a broad and varied genetic code. It seems to follow logically that different gene pools developed as humanity filled the earth, with different physical characteristics (skin color, eye shape, etc.) becoming more prevalent in certain people groups as families scattered over the earth and procreated with those nearby. Different cultures developed because that’s what people groups do – develop cultures. Most of the problems we have in the world today have less to do with differences among cultures and more to do with a failure to recognize similarities among humans.

So – my point today . . .

While first responders in general are often admired and honored, it also seems that criticism and hostility against law enforcement has increased in recent history. In the vast majority of cases, police are first on every scene, doing their best to protect those involved while having to make spur of the moment decisions in dangerous and unpredictable situations. They usually appear confident and in-charge, but we need to remember that officers and all first responders are subject to the same concerns and fears as everyone else – the difference is that they have decided to handle those fears and concerns with action, with the raw courage it takes to face down the darkness in order to protect the innocent. (I’m kind of doubting most of us are as innocent as we like to believe, but you get my drift here.) Sometimes officers make mistakes – sometimes tragic mistakes – but sometimes we all do. Just because a man or woman puts on a uniform does not make that person exempt from everything that makes all of us human. If we open our eyes to see the similarities we share instead of the differences, there would be much less judgement and much more compassion, much less crime and much more honesty, much less darkness and much more light.

Instead of looking for the light of shared humanity in each other, humans too often listen to their own fears and biases and rush into judgement – usually with incomplete information about the person, situation, culture, or circumstances. In the Bible, there was a moment when people stood in judgement over a woman caught in adultery and wanted to stone her to death. Legally, they had the right. Jesus was not one to care about legalism. He told the crowd, “He who has done no wrong among you, cast the first stone.” In that moment, Jesus called upon each person in the crowd to look upon themselves and each other, to see the shared humanity, the shared mistakes, the shared need for understanding. They dropped their stones and walked away. I like to believe that they each saw the truth in that moment. We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness. We all need compassion.

That is not to say that we do not have consequences for our actions, both good and bad. Of course, consequences must be faced. Criminals must not be allowed to prey on those who try to do right. But I encourage you, when men and woman make mistakes in the process of trying to do the right thing – look inside the soul and see the part of that person that is just like you. We are all human. We all share so much under the skin. We are much more like each other than we are unlike. Rather than stand in judgement, choose to stand in compassion.

And drop your stone.