Venus Fly Traps Don’t Really Eat People…

So last weekend was all about doing stuff around the house and yard. We finished up a raised garden bed and cleaned out the pop up camper so it would be ready for our upcoming adventures.

I ended up “getting” to go to Home Depot at 2:00 on a Saturday to buy dirt for the garden. While I was in line I saw a display that spoke to me. It said “Feed Me Seymor!”

It was a corrugated display full of little plants with clear plastic domes on top, sort of like a milk shake from McDonald’s but without the whole for the straw. There was condensation on the dome so it was hard to see what was actually inside but the graphic on the display was all I needed to see to realize that those little containers were holding freakin man eating venus fly traps!

The image was a cartoon version of this muscular, man-sized venus fly trap just about to close it’s mouth on a fly the size of a huge pumpkin. It was the sort of artwork that you would imagine seeing on the arm of someone who had a bright idea for a tattoo in 1989. I immediately conjured up memories of “Little Shop of Horrors” and  how memorized I was by that crazy plant that ate people. Now that I think about it, it’s hilarious how that movie captured my attention so effectively at age 9. It really had more of an adult theme but I suppose you can’t under-rate the power of a singing, man eating house plant:)

Anyhow…

I had plenty of time to consider the purchase since I had the great pleasure of waiting in line staring at it for about 20 minutes while the guy in front of me purchased about 900 a la cart nuts and bolts of different sizes. I’ve always been amazed by the fact that Home Depot bar-codes every individual nut and bolt in those countless bins. What I learned on Saturday though, is that the bar-codes fall off. It was like price check hell! The items seemed to range from a dime to 50 cents each and Home Depot was determined to garner every last nickel they had coming. The lady had this kid running back and fourth between her and the nut bins, reporting on prices as he gathered up more to run and figure out. I thought I was Mr. Smart Guy Jones checking out in the Garden section…so did nuts and bolts guy…

Anyhow…

I bought it, and brought it home and excitedly showed it to Rebecca and insisted that Eli would love it. One thing lead to another and I never ended up taking the time to give it to him myself. Rebecca gave it to him while I was at work on Monday I think. She and I were talking tonight, just recapping the day. She was telling me about her day and also painting a picture for me of what Elijah was up to and how he handled life today. As a side note… I can’t even begin to describe the joy I get from those reports. I lead a very busy life and often I’m home late in the evening. Rebecca is a remarkable mom and is really intentional about keeping me in the loop. I think many couples end up resenting one another when one does most the working outside the home and the other does most of the working inside the home. I think the truth is, we get a bit jealous of one another sometimes but overwhelmingly, we do a good job of keeping each other in tune with what’s happening in our respective “other than together” worlds. It would be very easy for her to choose not to be intentional  about letting me in related to Eli’s progress and accomplishments that happen during the day while I’m away but she doesn’t and I’m thankful.

Back to the Venus Fly Trap…

I opened it and looked at it on Monday and truthfully, my immediate reaction was that it should be illegal to allow a company to convince me to by something based on a super cool depiction that looked so wimpy in real life. It’s super small and looks like a fly would kick it’s butt!

Rebecca was talking to Eli about it…

Rebecca: Hey Buddy, that plant eats bugs.

Eli: Huh?

Rebecca: That plant…, it eats bugs.

Eli: Huh?

Rebecca: It eats bugs, maybe it would even bite your finger, put it in it’s mouth and see:)

Eli: Huh?

Rebecca: Put your finger in it’s mouth…

Eli: (pulling his hands down and back behind him like a pit bull just snapped at him) “NO!”

…I guess he saw Little Shop of Horrors as well…

"The Man Eater"

How I met my favorite people…(part 3 of 3)

If I was just making her mad with my position, I probably would have kept my sleeves rolled up and my heels dug in but I wasn’t making her mad…I was making her sad…I was disappointing her. Rebecca has a bit of a short wick when it comes to general frustration but disappointment in me is something that only shows it’s face when I’m way off base with something so I respect it when I sense it. She kept asking me the same question in different ways. The general question was, “why is it that you think it’s better or more gratifying to have a child that we conceive naturally?” and I answered it in different ways but my general answer was “I DUNNO IT’S JUST BETTER OK!”  Eventually, as I began realizing that my reasoning wasn’t as compelling as her passion for the idea of adoption, I told her that instead of going round and round about it, I needed some time to process and think and pray about it. Over the next several days, we talked more openly about it and I really heard her and felt her heart on the issue. I  started thinking about it in a different light as the days went by.

Part 3 of 3…

As the chip began falling off my shoulder, Rebecca stopped tip-toeing around things and began really sharing with me. I had never likened adoption to the way God felt for me, but in listening to her..and to God, I began understanding. Finally I realized that not only was I warming up to the notion of adoption, but my heart was starting to break for children in need.

I’m not one to sit on things so I came home from work one day and and created an environment that invited straight talk. (In other words I came home from work and told Rebecca I needed to talk to her about something important.) I told her what was going on inside me. She was visibly elated and it didn’t take long at all for her to invite me into the world she had been living in…the world of adoption. We spent hours looking at websites and talking about things we hadn’t really talked about. Not only did we agree that we wanted to adopt, but we decided we wanted to adopt internationally. Not only that, but we decided we wanted to adopt from Ukraine. Before I knew it, we were off to the races and busy building our “dossier”. This is the stack of papers an adoptive family has to put together and send to the country they hope to adopt from. This process took flight sometime in June of 2007. For the next season, we worked with government agencies to get criminal clrearances, hired an “expert”, took classes, raised money, spent money, wrote essays about why we wanted to adopt, filled out paperwork,got documents notarized and authenticated, read about Ukraine, read international adoption blogs, talked endlessly, and prayed…

In January of 2008, we were finally finished with our dossier and sent it off to Ukraine…

A few short weeks later, we were informed by our “expert” that Ukraine had decided to close it’s doors to Americans for adoption. At the time, there was no reason given. As of Februaray 2008, we had lost nearly nine months and twenty thousand dollars and were faced with either starting over or giving up. We cried ourselves to sleep that night. Our adoption had taken on it’s own life. We prayed for our child often and grieved the fact that we were apart from one another. Our hearts were absolutely broken for our child that was withering away in an orphanage as we swam through red tape…now it was over. The only thing I can think of that resembles what we felt would be a miscarriage. Just like a pregnancy, our child was alive and waiting to be united with us and all of the sudden, it’s over and there is nothing we can do but grieve. We prayed out of a place of brokenness. We were mad, and sad, and confused. We begged God to reveal his plan for us and cried the question…WHY!

 

A few days later, Rebecca and I were volunteering at a fundraising dinner. We were serving dinner for people in our community who came out to eat spaghetti and give generously in order for students to be able to travel to New Orleans to help out with the post-Katrina re-building effort. At some point, a young lady that we knew well, approached Rebecca and asked if she had a minute to talk. The girl confided in Rebecca that she was pregnant and very scared. Rebecca consoled her and insisted that she had nothing to be frightened about, that her family loved her very much and everything would be ok. She even offered to join the girl when she shared with her mother. This happened on a Friday. On Monday, the young lady came to Campus Life (the youth program Rebecca and I served with for the eight years we lived in IL) and was excited to report that she had talked to her mother and Rebecca was right. She said her mom was very supportive and that they had talked it through and decided that the best thing to do was to place the baby for adoption. Since the moment Rebecca told me about what had happened at the spaghetti dinner, I was quietly wondering if this was all happening on purpose, if it was all part of God’s plan for how our family would grow. It was the sort of wondering that causes you to be ashamed to even wonder but I was wondering all the same. I saw the girl talking excitedly to Rebecca and decided to “overhear” what was going on. As I realized what was being talked about, I made my way over and interjected with a big hug for the girl and a simple “I’m so proud of you” ….followed by…”As you probably know, Rebecca and I have been working through the adoption process for about a year and we just found out that Ukraine closed it’s doors to Americans so we are wondering what to do next. If you think you might like to talk about what it wold look like for us to adopt that baby in your belly, don’t hesitate to call because we would love to talk about it with you.” She seemed taken back by my straightforwardness and simply said “ok?” As Rebecca and I laid in bed that night, I asked her  if I had “John’d” the situation to which she responded…”I don’t know” and then turned over and pretended to go to sleep. I fought the temptation to call the young lady on Tuesday…

On Wednesday, Rebecca answered her phone in the evening and I watched and listened to her side of the conversation. 2 minutes later, Rebecca reported that we were invited to dinner the next evening at the girls house in order to spend some time with her and her mother talking about what the adoption would look like. We had known the girl and her mother for several years so dinner was warm and intimate. We all talked openly and freely about what was in front of us. We left her home that evening pretty sure that we would be adopting the baby that was growing in this dear girl’s belly.

At this point, birth-mom was due in just a few months so we had to move fast in order to have all the paperwork completed in time. We stayed in touch with birth-mom and worked tirelessly to prepare the room, fill out the papers etc.

On May 4th, 2008…Elijah Truman Pack was born, 2 weeks early.

I can’t even describe what it was like to meet Elijah, my son for the 1st time. I had an immediate connection to him and it has only grown stronger in the last 2 and a half years. Just yesterday, someone stopped us at church to let us know how much we resembled one another.

So this is the story of how I met and fell in love with my other favorite person. This experience has taught me more about the way I am loved by God than anything else in my life. Even though Elijah doesn’t have my blood running through my veins, he is very much my son, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.


Asparagus is awesome….and makes my pee smell…

As an intermission to “how I met my favorite people”, I thought I might report quickly on asparagus and it’s effect on my bathroom “situation”

I’ve always been WELL aware of how asparagus causes my pee to smell weird. Until now, I’ve always thought that the quantity I ate of this delicious green food was proportionally related to the pungency of my next 3 #1’s.

NOT TRUE….

Yesterday I came home to a beautiful meal consisting of Grilled orange marinated chicken breasts with sides of potatoes, green beans and…asparagus.

The problem is that the Fetching Mrs. Pack decided to use the grill I got on craigs list last month to prepare it. I failed to mention to her that the low setting is so hot that food still needs to be monitored like a 6 month old with a high fever. Her efforts produced the following…

As you can see, the finished product was a bit rough. For whatever reason, I decided it best that I taste it to make sure it was actually as burnt as it looked. (for those of you that haven’t been married very long, don’t report on kitchen failures in public.)

It was in fact as burnt as it looked so we enjoyed the rest of our great meal.

An hour later, I had some #1 action to take care of and to my surprise, the asparagus effected my deal as if I had eaten my fill!

The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter how much you eat, the result is the same…and it’s awesome.

* For the record, Rebecca is among my favorite cooks in the world and it was my shoddy grill that  caused the above disaster, not her ability to prepare remarkable food.

“a few stems of asparagus eaten shall give our urine a disagreeable odor; and a pill of turpentine no bigger than a pea shall bestow upon it the pleasing smell of violets.”…Ben Franklin

It is said that in a venerable British men’s club there is a sign reading “DURING THE ASPARAGUS SEASON MEMBERS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO RELIEVE THEMSELVES IN THE HATSTAND.”

 

Actual explanation: (provided by Jessica Saras at eHow.com)

Asparagus contains a sulfur-containing compound identified by scientists as methyl mercaptan. A colorless gas, this compound is also found in blood, feces, garlic, eggs, cheese and even skunk secretions. In fact, methyl mercaptan is one of the major contributors to bad breath and flatulence odors. In addition, another ingredient found in asparagus is asparagine. Present in foods like dairy products, seafood, poultry, fish and nuts, this amino acid is known to have a distinctive smell when heated. To metabolize both methyl mercaptan and asparagine, the digestive track must break these compounds down and it is this breakdown that’s responsible for your urine’s strange smell.

How I met my favorite people, contiunued…(part 2 of 3)

 

I prayed for composure but moreover I prayed that God would give me words to use that would compel her to allow me to remain in her life. I got myself together and went back to the table. I told her that I understood what she meant and agreed that I had stepped out of bounds with the letter. I told her I would go as slow as she wanted and I promised that I wouldn’t mention it again so long as we could remain friends.


TO BE CONTINUED…

… She said ok but she was reluctant to give me an inch of hope, for fear of me taking a mile and having her back in the roller coaster next to me too quickly. We went our separate ways and I didn’t call her the next day…or for the next four days. I simply let the whole thing breath, knowing in my heart that she would call eventually. She did call on the 5th day to see if I wanted to “hang out”. I checked my calendar and then jumped in my coaster and rolled over to pick her up…GAME ON!

It didn’t take much for us to be back to normal. Rebecca smiles easily and beautifully therefor I’ve always been very motivated to extract smiles from her. In fact I would say it’s among my very favorite past times and has been since the day we met for coffee. Anyhow, we hung out, mostly with friends nearly everyday again just like before, and just like before I had a nagging feeling that we were wasting time. As the days wore on, I grew less and less content in the dreaded “friend zone”. One night, Rebecca and I went with four or five other friends to see a band called Blues Traveler. They were playing a free show at pier 39 and I was a huge fan. We spread out blankets on the ground and listened to the oral acrobatics of John Popper and his harmonica. If you’ve never heard him, I encourage you to download a song called “The Mountains Win Again”. It’s ironic that we had the good fortune of going to this particular show because that song was important to me at that time related to what I was feeling… well sort of but not really.

"The Mountains Win Again"  by Blues Traveler
I pick up my smile put it in my pocket
Hold it for a while try not to have to drop it
Men are not to cry so how am I to stop it
Keep it all inside don't show how much she rocked ya
Ooh can you feel the same
Ooh you gotta love the pain
Ooh it looks like rain again
Ooh I feel it comin' in
The mountains win again
The mountains win again
Dreams we dreamed at night were never meant to come to life
I can't understand the ease she pulled away her hand
This time in my life I was hurt enough to care
I guess from now on I'll be careful what I share
Ooh can you feel the same
Ooh ya gotta love the pain
Ooh it looks like rain again
Yeah feel it comin' in
The mountains win again
A pocket is no place for a smile anyway
Someday I will find love again will blow my mind
Maybe it will be that love that got away from me
Is there a line to write that could make you cry tonight
Can you feel the same
Yeah ya gotta love the pain
Ooh it looks like rain again
Ooh feel it comin' in
The mountains win again
Ooh the mountains win again

Anyhow…everyone seemed to have disappeared at once to get beverages or go to the bathroom. It was just Rebecca and I sitting indian- style next to one another on the ground, gazing at the stage. I wasn’t paying any attention to her and all of the sudden she moved over and positioned herself in front of me like you would  if you were going to get a back rub from a friend. She leaned back and put her head against my chest and she took my arms and wrapped them around her. It was the strangest most wonderful moment. In some ways I felt like we got married twice. Once on May 17th 2002 but 1st on this perfect night several months earlier. We never really spoke of it and never once did we feel the need to have a “relationship status” conversation. We belonged to one another from that day forward. When it was time to walk back to the car, we stood up, she slid her hand into mine and we’ve been hand in hand every second since then. We only dated for a couple months after that. I proposed at a new years party as we rung in 2002 and we put our wedding together as fast as we could. I could write and write about all the nuance that exists in our relationship and how those very things are what produce the magic and I suppose I will write about those things…but not today. This is the story of how John and Rebecca met, and then fell in love, at slightly different times and at different velocities but beautifully all the same. Chasing her early on was good practice because I still chase her, and I still love doing it even if she does have a thing for crazy glasses:)

The Fetching Mrs. Pack trying on some fashion specs:)

My other favorite person is Elijah Truman.

The name Elijah means “Yahweh is my God”, and this is our greatest hope for him, that he would grow into a man after God’s heart. If you read in the bible in 1 Kings chapter 18 from verse 21 through verse 34 you can get a sense of the no nonsense kind of faith he had. I have “faith” even though I haven’t seen, but Elijah’s faith is so plain and so sure that it doesn’t seem like “faith” at all but rather a simple belief in something that is true because it is simply true. In the story, he challenges the worshipers of another God. He basically said…”Ok fellas, let’s build a couple alters and put an appropriate sacrifice on each one. You pray to your whatever you call him and I’ll pray to Yahweh and let’s see which God comes to consume the sacrifice.” He has team funny business go first and they pray till they begin loosing their minds and nothing happens. Now it’s his turn, but before he asks God to do the deed, he has a bunch of water poured on the alter so there is no mistake about how able God is to do as he pleases, regardless of the circumstances or seeming impossibility. Finally, instead of getting all silly, he simply asks God to accept his sacrifice and BAM, fire comes from the sky and ignites the sacrifice. It’s like the Babe calling his homer but WAY WAY more awesome!

His middle name is after my brother and best friend, Adam Truman Pack.

Rebecca and I started “trying” to have children after we were married for a couple years. Long story and four years later, we accepted the fact that we probably wouldn’t get pregnant the old fashioned way. It was determined that I shoot blanks-ish. It’s not that I have no “mojo”, I just don’t seem to enough “mojo” to get the deal done….medically speaking of coarse. We started off pretty far apart on the issue. My immediate thought was to lean on modern medicine to assist us, as there are lots of things people in our situation can do. To my surprise, Rebecca wasn’t convinced it was best for us. She explained, and we had talked about it before, that she’s always had a heart for adoption and always hoped that we would adopt one day anyhow so why not now? I said,” because I don’t want to, I want to have a child of our own.” The look on her face when I said that made me immediately wish I would have considered my words before spitting them out. She was hurt by the sharpness in my tone. She began explaining that it would be our child and that we are all adopted by God but I was hearing bla bla bla to be honest. We went back and fourth and I could just see her respect for my reasoning fading away by the second. If I was just making her mad with my position, I probably would have kept my sleeves rolled up and my heels dug in but I wasn’t making her mad…I was making her sad…I was disappointing her. Rebecca has a bit of a short wick when it comes to general frustration but disappointment in me is something that only shows it’s face when I’m way off base with something so I respect it when I sense it. She kept asking me the same question in different ways. The general question was, “why is it that you think it’s better or more gratifying to have a child that we conceive naturally?” and I answered it in different ways but my general answer was “I DUNNO IT’S JUST BETTER OK!”  Eventually, as I began realizing that my reasoning wasn’t as compelling as her passion for the idea of adoption, I told her that instead of going round and round about it, I needed some time to process and think and pray about it. Over the next several days, we talked more openly about it and I really heard her and felt her heart on the issue. I  started thinking about it in a different light as the days went by.

My other clown...

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

How I met my favorite people (Part 1 of 3)…

This may come of as boasting….and it’s meant to.

I met Rebecca in April of 2001. I was sharing some thoughts about what it looks like to follow God at an event for college aged people in the Bay Area. She was sitting in the front row…It was the second time I had seen her. The 1st time I noticed her was at a coffee shop I used to spend a lot of time in. She was leading a bible study with a group of high school girls. I was pretty new to the Jesus thing so it struck me as odd, and totally hot! Needless to say I was happy to see her again. I quickly instorduced myself and smilled really big because my mom always told me I had a pretty smile and well….I wanted to look pretty for her:)

I immediately sent my friend Glen out on a re-con mission to find out if she was seeing anyone. He came back a couple days later to report that by all accounts she appeared to be single and that she worked at a local church in reception. The good news was and still is, that I have no shame when it comes to involving myself in the life of someone I want to know better. I called the church one day, she answered and before she knew what hit her I sold her 10,000 printed envelopes. They were very complicated envelopes and the complexity demanded that I call nearly everyday to ask a question or report on status or something. I tried to make her laugh while sounding really smart at the same time which is harder than it looks. I felt like it was going really well and then one day I called and she was sort of mean to me on the phone. I was saying something really charming when she suddenly cut me off and indicated that she didn’t have time to talk and hung up the phone.

That evening as I was letting my friends at the coffee shop know that I had struck out with the church girl, she walked in and came right up to my table and interrupted to let me know that she was sorry to have been ubrpt on the phone earlier. She said it was just bad timing and people were coming at her from all directions. I smiled really big again and asked if she wanted to get a cup of coffee. She accepted and we sat by the window and talked until the place closed at midnight, then we sat on the tailgate of my truck in the parking lot until nearly sunrise. I was elated to have met her and in my heart I already knew she was my wife. I asked her if she would like to go on a real date that night and she simply said no. She said that she didn’t “date” for the sake of dating and that we should just be friends and see what happens. I was embarrassed but I hid it well and asked if she wanted to hang out…she said sure. We hung out nearly everyday for several (4) weeks. Almost never were we alone as to not be confused with dating of coarse. I was head over heals and was feeling pretty confident that she was too so I decided to write her a good old fashioned love letter. I let her know about all the gushy things I was feeling and I also let her know that I believed her to be my wife. I invited her to…”get on this roller-coaster with me so we can enjoy the ride together” and lots of other crazy scary stuff like that. It was one of those emails that you hoover over the keyboard for a long time with before sending. Finally I sent it on it’s way and then laid awake in bed wondering if she had read it. The next day I called the church around noon to say hey. She was short on the phone. I wanted to ask her if she received the email but I didn’t and she didn’t mention it either. We got off the phone and my heart was pumping so fast I thought I was going to pass out. I sat there and stared at the phone for 2 hours then called again. This time I asked her if she received it and she said she had. THATS ALL SHE SAID! She had her poker face on and she wasn’t about to show her hand. I asked if she wanted to hang out later and she said she was busy. I asked about the next day…busy, and the next…busy.

This is a theme in my life. When I excited about something, my “enthusiasm” is often perceived as weird. I had scared her away. The problem was that I knew she was just wasting time by avoiding me because she was going to be my wife one day. I got my nerve up and called the next morning. When she realized it was me she quickly sounded “busy”. I explained that I understood if she felt I was nuts and pleaded that she at least meet me for dinner so we can talk like adults and not end things like middle-schoolers. She agreed and we met that afternoon at Red Robin. She was pretty straight forward as she explained that I scared her with the letter and that I was jumping way ahead. Her words hit me much harder than I thought they would. I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I made it to the stall and began to cry. I prayed for composure but moreover I prayed that God would give me words to use that would compel her to allow me to remain in her life. I got myself together and went back to the table. I told her that I understood what she meant and agreed that I had stepped out of bounds with the letter. I told her I would go as slow as she wanted and I promised that I wouldn’t mention it again so long as we could remain friends.

TO BE CONTINUED…

A “situation” worth noting…in a good way

Recently, the three of us (Me, Rebecca & Eli) went to a mall in Millpitas CA to have lunch and mess around at one of those kids places with blow up stuff everywhere.

We made a lap around mall and I got a back rub for 12 bucks. Only catch was it took place in the middle of the mall out in the open and it was more crowded than TGI Fridays on a Friday. Totally worth it….besides Eli taught me recently that all I have to do is close my eyes and nobody can see me.

At around 11:51 I started getting really hungry and that is usually followed grumpiness if not squared away in fairly short order. We casually clawed our way through the weekend crowd and posted up at a table that looked to have only been eaten at thirty or forty times since it’s last wipe down…we’re lucky like that. If you’ve ever been to a food court on the weekend with a 2 year old, you can appriciate what a truly stategic mission it is. If you haven’t, liken it to Contra (Nintendo) but you promised yourself not to employ the up up down down code so really need to think your moves through carefully. (shout out to the 90’s)

We huddled and then looked out at the landscape to take in the possibilities. This is one of my favorite moments. It makes me feel how Bill Cody must have felt just before he muttered “giddy-up!” and then raced down a hillside into the valley to take his pick of a vast herd of buffalo.

 

The options send me reeling, then before I can organize my thoughts, Rebecca says: “Wow John, this is right up your alley, I think just about the whole world is represented in this food court.” She was wonderfully correct! My words failed me as I reached into my pocket and wandered off to read menus and take pictures.

Mongolian BBQ
Mediterranean "Gyros"

I have to admit, a bit of anxiety started setting in as the reality of having to choose just one started hitting me. I decided to let it breath for a moment and procure a hot dog for Eli so I could have a moment to think.

Once he settled in with his tube steak I returned to the task at hand…

Looking back on situations like this remind me of what a remarkable woman I’m married to. I’m weird about stuff and it’s less than endearing when I’m overtaken by a food court or some other silly thing but Rebecca understands that at the end of the day, I’m a pretty simple guy and I get excited about pretty simple stuff and she doesn’t huff and puff and roll her eyes about it, she let’s me charge the valley and choose my beast carefully. Thanks babe!

Filipino Thai
Peruvian

 

I didn’t really know what Peruvian food consisted of so I figured maybe most people didn’t…

Peruvian cuisine stems mainly from the combination of local cuisines and ingredients with the cuisines of Spain, China, Italy, West Africa and Japan, due to the arrival of immigrants from those locations. Due to a lack of ingredients from their home regions in Peru, these immigrants modified their traditional cuisine using items native to Peru and those which had been introduced by the Spanish during the colonial period. The three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and beans. These ingredients have been combined with a number of staples brought by the Spanish, such as rice, wheat and meat (such as beef, pork and chicken). Many traditional foods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, chili peppers and several roots and tubers, which had been tossed aside for European products since Colonial times, have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent decades with a revival of interest in native Peruvian food crops and culinary techniques.

Mexican

Rebecca loves me and encourages to be me, but I was closing in on ten minutes trying to decide so I put my game face on and did what any reasonable person in my situation would have done…I went around and started sampling the food! Food court establishments are famous for believing that if try their particular version of really sweet chicken, you will be immediately hyptotised and order a heaping pile of it. Unfortunatley for them, I’ve been building my tolerance for these little morsels for many years so I put a hurt on nearly all of them.

Vietnamese

 

 

 

 

Are you starting to feel the pressure…

 

Japanese

I am, and all I’m doing is remembering it…

 

I took a long pause at the Vietnamese offering. I’ve been eating Phoa (delicious noodle soup) at least twice a week for the last ten weeks or so and the smell just calls to me. I regrouped and got serious though, why would I eat what I always eat at a time like this. I did some mental jumping jacks and on got back to business.

Chinese

This Chinese place almost got me with the sweet chicken. I saw the servers’ sinister smile as I bit into it, he thought he had me right were he wanted me. I was sobered by his glance. I slowed my bite and rose my head, smiling right back at him as I placed my spent toothpick in the Styrofoam receptacle. Close call but my vision was taking shape…I knew what I wanted.

 

Korean BBQ & Noodles

I turned and headed toward the homeland when this guy walks by with a heaping bowl of noodles topped with what looked to be spare ribs or something. It was the final test. Fortunately I had enjoyed Korean BBQ just a few days earlier so my defense systems were working exceptionally well related to those particular aromas.

Finally a approached the final destination with a clear vision of what to fill my plate and my belly with.

 

I realized I hadn’t had a Cajun meal that I didn’t prepare myself since I arrived in CA. I ordered the Blackened catfish with Dirty Rice and spicy cabbage. It was very…very good.

CAJUN GRILL

Beef is forever…

Ink is permanent…

My Tattoo of a Flaming T-Bone
My Tattoo of a Flaming T-Bone

 

When I was 21 I decided to get this tattoo of a T-Bone Steak on my arm. My good friend Gordon was a hot rod artist and was excited to draw it for me. I was really just kidding when I told him what I wanted but after I saw the drawing I was sold. I had to have it on my body. When it’s all said and done, I don’t consider getting a beef tattoo to be the very smartest thing I ever did, but it certainly wasn’t the dumbest thing I ever did. In light of the season of life I was in, a tattoo was inevitable but I didn’t want to simply get a tribal band or pre-drawn dragon or anything like that. I wanted it to represent something about me that I couldn’t see ever changing, no matter what happened. This criteria caused beef to rise to the occasion! I’m thankful today that I didn’t decide to make a political or spiritual statement with the tattoo because much has changed about both for me since I got it, however my affection for beef is alive and well. All in all I’m comfortable with my tattoo-osophy of not getting too deep with it’s message but not being too shallow either:)

 

 

Rebecca and I were treated to dinner (for my 33rd birthday) tonight by our good friends Ed and Rebekah. We ate at Texas Roadhouse. It’s a chain restaurant with lots of flare, like dancing servers and peanut shells on the floor. I had never been there before but Ed and Rebekah insisted that the steaks were exceptional. I’m happy to report that I agree completely! The beef is dry aged and even at medium rare (cool red center) it was one of the most tender pieces of ribeye I’ve ever had….and I’ve had a few.

dry aged and ready for my belly...

Since today’s post is mainly about beef and my affinity for it, I have to report the details about the largest steak I ever consumed…

9 years ago, while Rebecca and I were making our way to Chicago from the Bay Area to start our lives together, we got into an accident on the interstate in Lincoln Nebraska and totaled Rebecca’s 1996 Saturn Coupe. Fortunately, our good friends Jackson and Angela were making the journey with us so we were all able to cram into Angela’s 1986 Honda Accord to finish the journey. The whole ordeal stressed me out a bit, causing a craving for some comfort food. Lucky for us there was a steakhouse across the street from the motel 6 we were staying at. We (I) ordered Rocky Mountain Oysters (beef testicles) as an appetizer. They were sort of chewing with very little flavor although they did serve as a nice delivery system for the batter they were fried in and ranch dressing. I proceeded to order and then consume a 48 ounce Prime Rib. It was 2 inches thick and 9 inches in diameter. I know it lacks wisdom to be proud of dumb accomplishments….but I’m proud of this dumb accomplishment…sort of:)

 

My 16 ounce Ribeye from Texas Roadhouse

 

 

 

 

 

“If God didn’t mean for man to eat animals, why did he make them out of food”?

Uttered by either Beavis or Butthead while working in a fast food restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Steak

Oh Luscious Steak
How your savory juices slither
down my esophagus
to make love with my stomach

Carnal feelings for you
erupt within my mouth
Oh how I long
to batter you until tender
and slather you
in my sauce of choice

My love for you ravishes my soul
leaving me sullen
until the moment you grace me
with your presence
until the moment I put you on
for a minute on each side
over a blazing open fire
to lock in the flavor

Cameron Severn

“Cajun Alfredo Rolls” and why I love all things Cajun…

I like to cook. I enjoy eating, but I absolutely love Cajun cuisine, people and culture. Rebecca and I spent spring break in NO for several years after the storm, helping to rebuild. We, along with most of our best friends would take a large group of high school students there in an effort to remind the people of NO that they are not alone and to give students an opportunity to actually give themselves over to something other than their own agendas. These were among the most powerful experiences in my life. To this day, I can’t distinguish who was blessed more by our efforts… me, the kids or the people of NO:)

People there are really gracious and hospitable. Even though they had just lost everything, it was pretty common for the person receiving our help to feed the entire work team some delicious Cajun food. My love affair began as I sucked my first boiled Crayfish down in the back yard of Keith Masons (below) house and it’s only gotten stronger since.

My good friend Keith Mason

I’ve pretty much learned to cook the basics, gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, Cajun shrimp, crayfish boil…etc, but these days I’m often simply turning other stuff into Cajun / Creole food by including the flavors and techniques I’ve learned over the years.

This recipe was inspired by a Cajun Lasagna recipe I used a few weeks back. I had a couple pasta sheets left over and started messing around with them and this dish sort of just happened….

It’s really easy and was seriously excellent. Hope it makes it onto your “to cook” list:)

 

 

 

 

“Cajun Alfredo Rolls.”

Ingredients:

* 8 big lasagna noodles

* 1 16 ounce jar of Alfredo sauce or make it yourself if that your deal.

* 1 pound of spicy Italian sausage (removed from casing)

* 5 or 6 fresh white cap mushrooms (optional)

* 1 onion (diced finely)

* 1 stalk of celery (cut into 4 or 5 big pieces)

* 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella

* Cajun seasoning of your choosing to taste.

Instructions:

* Cook noodles as per package then drain and set aside.

* Fry the sausage just like you would ground beef in a skillet. (save renderings)

* Add sliced mushrooms to skillet for last 2-3 minutes of frying.

* Remove pork / mushrooms and set aside.

*  Put the diced onion in the skillet and cook them until they are soft and mushy. (3-6 minutes on medium)

* Pour the jar of Alfredo sauce into the pan with the onions and turn the heat to medium / low. While it’s heating up, add the Cajun seasoning to the sauce and stir in.

*Add the celery. (Just for flavor so just cut into big pieces you will be able avoid when ladling the sauce later.)

(Between the seasoning and the pork renderings you left in the pan, it’s going to transform the sauce into a nice spicy creamy situation.)

* Once it’s to where you like it in terms of spice, turn it to low and just keep an eye on it.

* The dish is designed to feed 4 people with each person having 2 rolls.

* To make a roll, lay it flat on the counter then sprinkle with cheese about as heavy as you would a pizza. Then ladle a few tablespoons of sauce right on top of the cheese. Lastly sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the pork / mushroom mixture on top. Roll it up nice and tight and plate it in the dish you will serve from. Do this 8 times and line then up on the plate nice and snug to one another.

* pour the remaining sauce over the top and pour the remaining pork /  mushrooms over that.

* Sprinkle one last time with cheese and then put it in the broiler on high for 4 minutes just to brown  / melt the cheese.

* Enjoy!

PS: If you actually make this at home, please take a picture and send it to me because I’m not happy with the one I took of it. It actually looked very good in person:)

It’s hard to believe we ever wondered…

We’ve learned a few things about ourselves and our family as a result of adopting Elijah. Before we adopted him, we asked ourselves the same questions that run through your head as you consider the notion. (it doesn’t make you a bad person)

* Will we feel as strongly about him as we would if he was our biological child?

A: I feel so strongly about Elijah that I worry about whether I can ever love something this way again. When he was a baby, we flew from Chicago to San Jose to visit our family. We got on the plane and Eli was on my lap. I introduced my self to the teenager next to me and then introduced Eli.

I said, ” You might want to take a mental picture of this young man.”

He said: “What do you mean”

I said: “Listen closely, his name is Elijah Truman Pack. Try and remember it so in thirty years you are able to tell your family and friends that you sat next to the President of the united states and his father on a plane when you were young.”

He said: “ha ha, ok?”

I said: “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m serious, remember his name.”

There was a part of me that was joking but a much bigger part of me wasn’t.

Now I fully realize today that I was behaving like a fool but I really am only able to see him in a remarkable light. I’m sure this is true about most goofy parents with their 1st…and this is my point. Just like most other parents with their 1st, I believe my son is the most unique and special human ever born:) I’m so proud of him and in love with him that it causes me to gasp as I consider that the God of the universe loves me in the same starry eyed way. I’ve learned more about the way God loves me through examining my feelings for Eli than anything else in my life.

* Will our family love him as they would if he was our biological child?

A: Our parents collectively and individually behave like Eli has yet to sin. They cringe as we discipline him because their love for him is so strong that it irrationally convinces them that he’s innocent. The funny thing is, if you’ve met Eli you would know that he’s rarely innocent when it comes to insubordination in the name of silliness:) Seriously though, I believe with my whole heart that Elijah resides in the deepest most intimate part of their hearts. I know this because I know how it feels and I recognize it when I see it in others.

In light of these anxieties being shattered by sincere and profound love for Elijah, Rebecca and I decided to begin talking and praying about really stepping out as it relates to growing our family. We are in the process of becoming foster parents in our county. We are hoping to care for a sibling group of up to 3 children. Our ultimate desire is that we would be chosen to foster a sibling group that needs a permanent home and parents to call their own. We are well into the process now and hope to be ready for a placement by June 1st.

A few hours ago we finished an 8 hour class for CPR and 1st Aid as part of the licensing process. In a couple weeks we start a 4 week class called PRIDE training. When that’s complete, we hope to get our license to foster. This means that in just a few short weeks, this blog will start getting REALLY interesting…Stay Tuned:)

The reason I fish for men…

I wanted to take a minute here in the onset of this blog journey to share one of the nuts and bolts stories that has shaped the man I am and the one I hope to become. This site is my venue for articulating my heart related to Faith Family and Food. You will find that they all tend to weave in and through each other. I think this story will lend insight into what drives me and sustains my passion for life in general. I intend to post most evenings so feel free to subscribe or pop in often as the content will evolve rapidly now that it’s got a bit of momentum behind it.

I’m in a phenomenal leadership development class right now and one of the excersises was to share “your story” in 4 minutes or less.

I was asked to share first and this is the transcript from that night…

As a teenager, I read a lot of books…made me feel smart I suppose.

The books I read caused me to believe that it was silly to claim you knew god or knew how to spell his name. I liked to debate the topic with “Christians”.

I dated Lindsey all through high school . She went to a weekend thing at a church and came back believing she had the “holy spirit” living inside her. I broke up with her for that statement

I wasn’t willing to do life with someone that was willing to latch on things that simply weren’t true.

The problem was we believed we loved each other so the separation hurt…

A couple months later I jumped on an opportunity to move to Fremont to run a print shop for my families business in Chicago.

I quickly found myself with an opportunity to provide tons of printing for Microsoft. In order to do it, a guy had to come out and “certify” my shop.

The meeting was set for 2:00…

At 10:00 I received via fedx a package from Lindsey, I tore into not knowing what I was hoping to find, but surely not what I found…A king James study bible with a note that read…”I love you and miss you but moreover I want Christ for you, take some time with these pages, it will change your life.”

It pissed me off and I threw it across the room and it landed on a table clear on the other side.

At 2:00 Shawn Coleman came in, scanned the room, saw the bible and smiled…”I didn’t realize you were a believer, this is great!”

Yep, I lied

He went on and on about his precious Jesus and I nodded and smiled. At the end he insisted that we start meeting on Tuesdays for bible study since I hadn’t plugged into a church yet.

Great, I lied.

30 min into the 1st meeting I confessed I didn’t believe and he confessed that he knew I was full of it all along. He challenged me to take the high road and engage for a while for the sake of knowledge. I agreed. He made it clear that I should come each week, armed with questions and he would come with answers. I’m like, GAME ON,

so I brought em every week, dinosaurs, Hindu’s, aids, divorce, tofu, turkey bacon, anything I could think of that seemed to prove there was no god. He responded with a grace I’d never experienced before and it caused me to think…

Eventually he invited me to an event called promise keepers and I reluctantly accepted.

Holy crap, I always thought Catholics’ hated Baptists’ who hated Pentecostal’s who hated Lutherans’ and they all got together to hate the Episcopalians’ and Methodists’ but this place was blowing my mind. All of the sudden music starts playing and they all grab hands and start singing this song…”It’s better than life so I’ll glorify you, spirit within me call out my name, I have found your love heals my soul.”

All at once, the reasoning from my past, Shawns’ answers, my heart…it all came crashing in at this crossroads and I was being transformed. As much as I didn’t want it, I was beginning to believe it.

Dude gets up and starts telling us about how we really don’t deserve a relationship with God in the 1st place but we are given an opportunity to have one anyhow through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, Eventually he invites anyone who has decided to confess their sin, and accept this gift to come forward.

Half the place starts bum rushing the stage and I get the Jim Jones Kool-aid feeling so I don’t move.

Long way home that night, feeling like I should have drank the Kool aid like everyone else. Shawn pulls up in my driveway and says, “you don’t have to do it like that, if you have stuff to say to your maker, get in there and say it!”

I start cryin and ran to my house, get to my room and hit my knees. An hour later I stood up having given my life to Christ for real. I acknowledged I was a screw up, I accepted the gift that came through Christ’s death and resurrection and I promised not to be one of those pew sitting Christians that said they believed but behaved like they had the key that unlocked the door to eternity, and it was only for them.

Fast forward…Each day since that day has been better than each day prior to that one as I’ve sought after Gods heart and worked to point others toward him.

Today…I fish!

“And Jesus saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”—Matthew 4:19.