Sunday, November 10, 2013

Compassion Doesn't Run Out

"... Justice is not a finite commodity, nor are kindness and love." 

- Matthew Scully

The above quote, in its original context, addresses Scully's belief that it is not an excuse for people to offer no concern toward the plight of abused animals when there is already so much human suffering in the world requiring our attention. He is suggesting that we can't plug our fingers in our ears when presented with a difficult subject, with the reasoning that our capacities for caring about problems in our world are already at maximum and that we will focus on those, and not issues that seem secondary. We can care about starving people and starving animals and not feel guilty for letting seemingly "smaller problems" occupy our thoughts. Right? Sounds good to me.

I have theories on activism like this. I believe that in the same way that each of us has different talents from each other, we are also gifted with different "big problems" that nag at us and prompt us to action. For some of us, it is a widespread issue -- women's rights, hunger, pollution, or another  subject that we are passionate about no matter where it arises. 

For others of us, we are concerned with a specific place or thing, which can comprise of many of issues such as the above. We may care for the struggle of a certain endangered animal, which can be a matter of lack of habitat, environmental problems, lack of food, etc. We may be concerned for a certain place -- maybe a neighborhood -- and want to do something about the violence and poverty for that area in particular.

My theory is that we should absolutely care about all of these things. We do not have the finances to support every cause that is out there, or the time to research deeply into every single one -- time and money are finite. But allowing ourselves to feel upset over something that is wrong and offer prayer and encouragement to those who are devoting their resources to that issue? That is totally doable and I can't think of an excuse out there why we are incapable of doing that. 

There's no reason why we can't make room in our hearts for a tiny bit of awareness for every injustice that we come across as we go about our lives.

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed."
- Psalm 82:3

Transitioning into what led me to begin thinking more about this issue...

Just by my casual reading of comments on news stories, our "Christian" nation does not offer much of a heart for the plight of Detroit. We should just blow it up and start over, says the mayor of another city that experienced a tragedy that makes this comment incredibly insensitive on all counts. We should call it De-toilet instead. Because Democrats were in charge so much of the past decades, we should not give a rip about what happens now because we don't believe in their principles. Everyone in Detroit is racist against white people so we should just stay out and let them see what happens. (Seen the new mayor yet?)

The same people will book trips to Chicago and New Orleans, which also have very high violent crime rates, which is one of the many reasons they proclaim that they will never set foot in Detroit. 

I may not have known better, either, if I hadn't ever come here myself, and been able to explore Detroit with people who do understand. There are burned out shells of houses, but there are also some incredibly expensive homes inhabited by wealthy people, too. There are very fine restaurants and entertainment venues. Thousands and thousands of people live there every day, making their way how they have to and how they want to. Plenty of people can leave -- they choose not to.

I propose that if every person in this country let themselves just think that maybe it isn't a trash heap unworthy of saving -- maybe it contains national treasures that epitomize what America is all about, and diversity that makes our country colorful and rich -- and that that would make a difference. Not just slamming what they don't understand very well. Every person can afford that. It just takes a few seconds. Think that there are faces and names to the people that live here and that they do matter. 

That's all that someone has to do! And it could change the country, our politics, our churches, and so much more, just to say out loud, "I will choose to think positive about Detroit."

It's not to ignore the very real and serious problems, such as violence, blight, poverty, drugs, corruption, and the like. Thinking positively in fact propels more people to do something about these problems and be a part of building up, not tearing down.

I challenge anyone who comes across this to become a supporter of Detroit, even if just in spirit.

I have a Pinterest board devoted to finding things that might help you see a side of Detroit that you might not have before!

Anthony Bourdain just posted about his season finale of Parts Unknown, in Detroit, and might explain a little bit of what I am thinking, too. (There are a few crude words, just FYI.)

I will not pretend to be an expert or that I have done so much work rebuilding Detroit myself, but I am not afraid to go ahead and say that people need to spend a little more of their compassion on that city, no matter where they live. 

Rockin' the 313 with you,

- Lara

Monday, August 5, 2013

Web Wins

I used to feel guilty about spending so much time on Pinterest. I probably should still feel a little guilty about spending so much time on Pinterest -- you ultimately end up spending hours finding things that you likely will not look at ever again, much less attempt to cook, build, or style in real life. BUT! Sometimes there are gems on there that are well worth the discovery that you say to yourself, if I hadn't lied on the couch all morning in my U of M sweatpant capris on my laptop, I would've missed on on this.

My primary obsession with DIY's and making things from scratch is not really to be all-natural or anything like that. Although I do greatly appreciate knowing what ingredients are in something I'm eating, if you leave a plate of the chemical storms of horror that I am sure Oreos are in front of me, I will eat them and not think twice. The driving goal behind my missions is to save money. Some things are such a ripoff that it drives me absolutely crazy. We get the bill at a restaurant like Longhorn and I about faint, because that chicken and rice was not worth that much, let alone some beers.

I am all about saving money! Then I can buy more stuff for me that's fun! :) Right, Darin?!?!?


1. Peasant Bread

I am in disbelief at how beautifully this bread turned out. It was so mega easy that I can actually see myself making it on a semi-regular basis for our ordinary bread usage -- sandwiches, toast, anything. You don't have to knead it, and and if you stick the dough in a Pyrex bowl, it can rise and bake in it without any fuss. It was way tastier than I had imagined. Try slicing it up and serving with this outrageously delicious and simple feta dip. These two recipes comprised my dinner last Sunday all by themselves. If you are not culinarily blessed -- try this bread! It's almost foolproof!

A nice buttery, crispy crust!

2. Homemade Laundry Detergent

Way back in the winter time, I made my own powder laundry detergent. And it sucked. I probably should have put all of it in a food processor or blender to make the particles smaller, but I was afraid of my smoothies tasting like baking soda for the rest of my life and left the mix as it was. Chunks of soap would keep not dissolving in the wash (especially since I like a cooler wash to save energy) and would subsequently melt in the dryer and just be a big fat mess. Lame. Luckily, I found this alternative recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent!

The best choice was buying Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap. I hadn't heard of it until I read this method of making detergent -- it's a really neat company that is fair trade and has all-natural ingredients. And this huge bottle was under $15.00. The amount of soap I used for my huge batch of detergent was like, two tablespoons. I found it at Meijer, so I guess it's pretty mainstream now and at most regular stores.

(Pic from Amazon where you can buy it as well)

I poured my detergent mix in a huge Tupperware bin and just give it a good shake before scooping a cupful into the washing machine, and there you have it! Saving mega dollars and no dyes or irritating stuff, in case you have people with sensitive skin in your life. I feel like a pioneer when I use it and that works for me.

Now there is no way to make alfredo sauce with healthier ingredients that won't sacrifice taste a bit. Accepting that fact, I gave the above recipe a try and was really, really pleasantly surprised at how good it was. If you are okay with the mild taste of cauliflower, this sauce is really good! I found myself tasting it over and over when it was heating up just because I straight up liked it. 

I melted a good bit of parmesan cheese into it and mixed it up with some tricolor pasta and grilled chicken and Darin ate it, so that's a healthy meal success in my book! But this sauce's tour de force for me is as the sauce on a healthy pizza. OH MY GOSH! I had it for dinner tonight and it was every bit as satisfying as a real white sauce pizza. I toasted a healthy flatbread (this kind from Aldi, which is really really tasty) and put my cauliflower sauce on, and some chicken and a half cup of mozzarella cheese, and had an awesome under-400-calories dinner that I couldn't even finish.

Melty goodness with pesto chicken on top. 

Yes, please. Where was this tutorial in February where our bathroom was so cold that I chose not to get razor burn from all my goosebumps and just my leg forests thrive? (Ew, sorry that I wrote that.) I only tried the first step, and rubbed my St. Ives Apricot Scrub on my legs and rinsed it off before shaving, and HOLY WOW did it make a difference. So soft and fancy. I am now on an exfoliation mission -- it probably solves many other skin woes. This was one of the few beauty/health tricks I've encountered that actually worked in a noticeable way, not just a placebo effect. I think? Maybe I'm losing it.

Nevertheless, give these four Pinterest discoveries a try. 

Now enjoy photos of what we have been up to lately. 

In my opinion, a sweet shot of the Ambassador Bridge as Darin and I locate a certain rum that my dad wanted that we could only find across the border.

Darin and I enjoyed a nice shower at DTE Energy Music Theater (or Pine Knob, if you prefer) to watch Dave Matthews Band.

Our view from our room at the wonderful Yorkburg Manor Bed & Breakfast. I seriously loved this place. 

Happy to have arrived after a painful, painful many miles over hot sand dunes.

Love the photobomb of my sandal in my hand.

Lake Michigan is very pretty... and very freezing.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a neat place. I highly recommend not trekking across them to the beach -- next time I will be content to roll down them like the little kids do.

It was sweet to get some fresh air on our anniversary in Williamsburg & Traverse City. We had a great time! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The 313

I am really amazed and nervous about how quickly time flies away. Our first wedding anniversary was this past Sunday already (I LOVE YOU, DARRY!!). Maybe time flies because things are going so swell -- the first year of marriage was not as hard as I had expected it to be. We got into tiny little tiffs and misunderstandings about dumb things, but the time spent biking in the woods, trying not to sound suspicious crossing the border just to get alcohol at the Windsor duty-free store, playing N64 in the basement, growing and killing plants in our yard, and all of our other adventures was way greater. 

What also really blows my mind is that right around now must be my one year anniversary of moving up to what a Floridian considers "the Great American North." (Yes, Michigan is typically categorized as the Midwest, but we seriously touch Canada. That does not make much sense to me.) Not only did I relocate to a much colder place with a higher percentage of wild bunnies running amok, but to a metro area that most people were pretty shocked to hear. "Detroit? You know that people are leaving there, right? And you're leaving Orlando for that? Good luck to ya." The decision to move up here was out of practicality more than a driving desire to defy all conventional expectation, but living near the Motor City became a lot more than that.

I had some fairly serious reservations about Detroit prior to being two miles away from it. Mind you, we do not live in the city, and anyone who says that they're "from Detroit" but do not live there are kind of being cheap to you. It's not really the same, so I can't say that I know from experience what it's like to live in the city. Darin sure can. In fact, his experiences had me a little traumatized to the point that we had to settle on somewhere else to start out. No little twenty-three year old girl enjoys her fiancé's car getting completely destroyed by semi-automatic gunfire because his neighbors had an argument with someone else, where a bullet hole went straight through the driver's side window. I agreed to be the one to move away from my family and home as long as my setting was a little less dangerous. And that's what we did, and I am happy with our home in what I guess is the "suburbs," although I've also gotten looks of surprise about Lincoln Park. I guess there are shadier parts of it? Not really sure.

We do things here and there in the city. We get saganaki in Greektown. We watch the Tigers play at Comerica. We shop for flowers and food at Eastern Market. We look at the cars at the Renaissance Center and then take the elevator to the top. We have a pretty darn good time.

We see beautiful things. 

(If you have ever watched the Superbowl, it is pretty clear that I did not make this video.)

Detroit is a city that most of America can't understand. Why would people stand behind a place that is essentially zombie land? Why don't they just let it fall to rot and let the crime lords take each other out? What good is it anymore? People who think that Detroit is a toilet and that its people are subhuman can stay home, keep shopping at their strip malls, and reading their Oprah book club books. Those people don't like culture, grit, history, flavor, diversity, resurrection. 

"Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus -- We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes."

All eyes are on this place now that the emergency manager declared Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. It's a public spectacle to see the biggest American city let the court help in restructuring the massive debt, caused by the worst of government cronyism and con artists elected to office. This move sealed the deal for a lot of people's opinions, that they'll keep themselves firmly planted where they are and pick somewhere else to go on vacation (as if Detroit was ever on their mind). It may not look good, but it's a chance to make a comeback.

Darin and I are not planning on leaving anytime soon. We in fact hope to move into the actual city someday. (Fingers crossed, maybe the BK will open up some nice real estate! Haha.) Does it make any sense? Not really, if you haven't set foot into the city, and have no idea that there are hundreds of incredibly committed individuals to making the city a better place and trying to change it into something unexpected. It seems like a dumb place to settle down and one day raise a family. 

It might be nice for our kids to say where they were born, and people already know where they come from.

Florida is great and will always be my stomping grounds, but I am enjoying the four seasons, the sports, the music, the art, the food, and the life. Orlando had no shortage of fun around every corner, but Detroit is an old soul, one that whispers in a way that many people can't hear it, or refuse to hear it. We want to hear and give back.

All of my thoughts might sound silly since my experiences are really from a point of observation, still living in another chunk of Wayne County. I do not have the feelings and thoughts that someone would who was born here, and died here after a hundred years. But I have some. Detroit, you have one more voluntary visitor and promoter -- I plan on backing you up in my heart even when the world says to tear you down.

Godspeed to the future, Motor City.

Love, Lara

P.S. I realize that writing has fallen by the wayside, which is a shame. We will get caught up someday. I especially owe my awesome, BFF spouse a tribute considering that I just waxed eloquent about the most dangerous city in America, hahaha. Much love!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Word of 2013: Intentionality

How embarassing. I have not written a thing in quite some time. I suppose most of our days are pretty ordinary and don't seem worth writing about afterward, but it is pretty pathetic since last I blogged! It's not that I anticipated becoming an international web sensation or anything, but man -- I at least want to pretend we are adventurous and exciting people up here in Michigan.

Alas, though, most of all people's days are spent doing very ordinary things. I spend the majority of my days driving to, working at, and driving home from the law firm. Darin's are spent at the YMCA. Days crawl by but weeks fly; I can't believe it is MARCH already.

It has been difficult at times to feel purposeful post-college. Those were such carefree times that I had no problem spending a day at a new place with friends, taking on a mission, volunteering for weeks in a faraway place, or having long coffee talks and really bonding with people. Those were generally very, very rich days in my life. Once you cross that stage and turn your tassel, though, you likely have to wave some of that fun good-bye. I am very happy for people who have found really energizing jobs already, but a lot of us have to accept what comes our way and get a paycheck, even if it is for sitting in a cubicle all day. (Disclaimer: the people I work with are super funny and I am very fond of them, so that helps out a lot.) Ruts have the chance to begin forming in the ground, the same old path every weekday and a lot of resting and lack of imagination on the weekend.

We all need to take a step back and inject intentionality into our lives when they get this way!

We need challenges and to spend more of our time doing and less of it just existing. One of my hugest struggles, truthfully, is sloth -- I enjoy lounging around in my Star Wars pajama pants and go on Pinterest for hours after I get home from work. But I want to spend more of that time exercising, trying out a new exotic recipe, cleaning my house so that it's more pleasant to be in, reading the bible, having a meaningful chat with Darin, or any other of a myriad of ideas.

I want to start finding out what is around us and what we can do out in the great city and towns all around us on our Saturdays, not just sleep in super late and watch TV. It'd be great to start visiting family members or calling up ones that are far away when there seems to be nothing to do. I can take up a new hobby, read new books, and see new sights. We can purposefully set aside money to really go farther away and go on a real adventure, or say yes to an invitation even though we are feeling lazy and want to stay home and at least give new experiences a shot.

I want to spend more time planning what I eat so that it's more healthy and more delicious, and is more valuable to me. I want to spend more time moving and being active and appreciating the health I am lucky to have. I want to be more focused on Christ and seek out more opportunities to make His name great and lay myself down for others so they can see Him better.

I want my life to be completely full, every hour chosen and used intentionally.

My hope is that anyone else who is struggling with feeling like they are always stuck in the same feelings, places, and situations is encouraged as well to make some changes and experience more life because of it.

Love y'all, and hopefully I will have more things to share as our lives move towards fuller and fuller enjoyment of God and His world!

Love, Lara

P.S. Despite many parts of our routine lives being boring as all-get-out, we did snap some moments along the way to kind of give anyone an idea of what we've been up to!

Christmas Eve, enjoying some light snowfall. This was back when I found snow charming, before the real storms hit and ruined my commute too many times. We'll be on good terms again next winter.

Our Christmas party set-up. I was so rustic and Pinterest-ing that I loved myself a little too much. 

Later on, we took a little day trip to Belle Isle and saw the oldest aquarium in the United States!

Maybe I am spoiled having grown up in the land of Sea World, but since it took 15 minutes to look at the whole aquarium, I was a wee bit underwhelmed.

The conservatory was actually way cooler. Maybe I just liked how warm and humid it was inside, or that there were orange trees, or many other things that reminded me of Florida, but it was also just cool anyways.

A view of Detroit from a snowy Belle Isle.

We went to a gorgeous and special wedding in Detroit, and the reception was at the Majestic Theatre and was so lovely. Detroit's former opulence at its finest.

For our Valentine's Day dessert, we made creme brulee and it was magnificently scrumptious and really easy to make!

The GORGEOUS flowers Darin got for me... that arrived at 10:00 p.m. although they were originally to arrive at my workplace. :) Haha he was so, so happy about it.

Made cevapi with one of my favorite friends, Kristin, and her boyfriend Mark came over and dined on the Bosnian delights with all of us. They turned out pretty good, minus the fact that I missed my favorite other country afterward. :(

Darin got a cardigan, which is my FAVORITE piece of clothing that all men should own, and I had to photograph how much of a stud he is in a sweater.

My attempt at making mozzarella cheese. This literally was all that formed out of a whole gallon of milk. I will figure it out someday!

The joyous occasion when I found a real, self-serve and self-decorate frozen yogurt place in Michigan that was close to our house. Yogurtown in Dearborn. Get you some. Florida had tons of these and I was hurting without them nearby for a less-guilty dessert option. (Or any option, since Dairy Queen was closed all winter until this weekend!!! Grrrr!)