Dads. War. Lemon Jam.

We have all heard the statement before.

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“When life gives you lemons you make lemonade.”

Other statements we have heard sound like this: “When life gives you lemons squeeze them in your hair and go surf!” or “When life hands you lemons make Limoncello!” or this is always a good philosophy quote, “When life gives you lemons grab the tequila and call the girls!” BUT first we hit that emotional crap that says “When life hands you lemons … squirt them in people eyes!” There is nothing more satisfing at times than a little evil thoughts that bring a little vengence. If we are not careful though those little thoughts turn into a fifth of tequila, a serious hangover and clothes strung out all over the place.  🙂

The boyfriend and I were handed a couple of lemons in our life times, our fathers. Some times it seems like those lemons get carried around with us everywhere we go. Want to emphasis this. Evvverrrywheerre we goooo. (Insert eye roll here). This morning one of the lemons resurfaced in the realization that the boyfriends father now has a Facebook profile. Really all I could come up with for a text statement was … eventually everyone will end up on Facebook. My father also has a profile but he never goes on the darns thing. It would make things a lot easier if he did since he likes to call and ask how things are going but if he would just look at my profile then things would be less cumbersome on the phone.

Just realized how awful that sounded when the best thing really is a personal touch instead of the digital world taking over our lives. In this case though it would make things easier. You can probably see the tension in the air even as you read this. The relationship hasn’t been great. Here is a quick history: He left. Mom was pissed. My life crumbled. There enough said about that. So for years of course I had to hear about the evil things my father did or stood for, had to listen to my mom belly ache about everything. As a teenager going into high school the last thing I needed was a messed up relationship that was going to drag me from one state to another for summer or holiday vacations. Needless to say I was a hot mess. one letter was written by me to him informing him that for the time being it would be best to stay away. I couldn’t handle the drama. There was a 10 pound lemon bag that was draggin my ass to the ground all the freakin’ time. Little did I know at the time of the war that was raging … not only inside of me but also around me.

Years went by and I finally figured out that the bag of lemons were getting a bit moldy and needed some serious attention. The little net bag had lost its paper label and the lemons were a bit sorry looking. Wasn’t until recently that a solution to the lemon problem surfaced and a reasonable explanation could fix it all. Wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was able to think clearly about the cure for this little lemon sack.

Thank God for His patience.
Yes, He waited.

Trust me, I had my fair share of tequila and girl nights. Honestly, the clothes never got strung all over the place but there were plenty of mornings that were rough. Now that the thinking cap has been screwed on a little straighter things are looking a little more clearly. I have gone through a divorce in my life, ok two, and I get the fact that it takes two to tango but really you are not just dealing with the other person and the other persons attitude or mood swings or the fact that he doesn’t listen, doesn’t care or whatever excuses you can come up with but you are also fighting those evil little bastards that were handed down all those generations ago. You also come with our own little demons that talk smack and they compete against your partner too, so don’t think that you have the perfect package wrapped up in a bright bow! Those freaking little demons that sit on your shoulder daily, hell hourly and “help you make good decisions”. Well my middle finger flies up to those little “helpers” They have helped enough. The war that they are raging is unfair and completely uncalled for. They may have preserved that 10 pound lemon sack for all these years but it is time for me to fix them up and figure out a better plan.

That I have. The plan has been set in motion. The plan to heal and to be free is under way and so has Project Lemon Sack. One can really only make so much lemonade before the enamel the teeth starts rotting away. So troubles have started to melt like lemon drops (minus the Vodka). My attitude at this point is SCREW keeping calm and sipping lemonade. It’s high time to start squeezing the lemon juice right in the eyes of the “helpers”!!

My solution is to make lemon jam.
Yeah that will teach ’em.

IMG_8878_2 Fumbling through a vintage recipe book the other day and found a quick simple paragraph describing how to make this yummy jam. (Humpf.) My initial thoughts after reading the instructions. You just need a little lemon juice, a pinch of lemon zest, equal amounts of weights for lemons and sugar oh yeah and don’t forget to cook it on the stove for hours. Well that really doesn’t work for most people so I have fixed the step-by-step process.

Ready?
You are going to get more then you bargained for when you keep reading.
Satisfaction guaranteed.

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Now, I am a girl that likes substance. You know the pulp! I love the thick pulp in orange juice too! If you are not a pulp drinker then please by all means strain it out. For me the pulp is the susbstance that adds to the mix. It’s the raw material that makes up the whole, it’s the problem that needs the solution. It’s the part of the whole package and needless to say I love a good challenge so in this case the pulp stays.

Grinding away at the peel of a lemon can get a little weird, reminds me of picking at the scab on your knee from falling down. You want to take it all off so that the bitterness comes out and the sweetness can get on with things. No one wants to hurt, no one wants to bleed and no once wants that sour bitterness to linger in their lives after there is no more need for it. Kinda like the rough peeling of the hardness of our hearts. We could gently peel the layers off like an onion or we could just go straight for the gusto and shred that crap off! So we can pick or in this case we shred the lemon peel for the zest. The recipe called for a pinch, remember? In this jam we will use the peel of four lemons. We will use the total of 8 lemons or if you so choose you could use 12, 16, 32, 89 whatever you want just make sure you double, triple or use the 10x rule when adding the sugar.

Find a pot and fill it with four, count them four cups of water.
One of the four basic ingredients to everything.
Water the life force behind everything.

The one wet substance that thrives to make our lives easier when it comes to washing out the bitterness to the lemon peel or the scrapes on our knees. Salt water maybe the cure for anything that ails us but for this purpose we will only use clean fresh water as the cleansing department for the rinds that we have shred.

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Turn the stove on to medium so that the zest and the water have a chance to cook out that nasty bitterness. Let it simmer down while you work on the rest of the lemons. Those precious simmering moments are perfect for thinking. Mindless job of cutting up lemons, squeezing out the juice and separating out the seeds handed quiet moments to think about the time that has been lost because of carrying around this almost moldy 10 pound bag of lemons.

Squeezing the juice reminded me of the bag that was squeezing the life out of body. Separating the seeds out was a good reflection of separating good thoughts from the tough ones. Truth will set us free and thank goodness for the truth that has been coming out through the transformation of this 10 pound lemon bag. Those truth thoughts are the happy makers, the bliss makers.

Working with lemons is tough business. If you have a cut on your finger the juice gets in there and really burns! I kept rubbing my eyes and getting the juice … well you know what I am saying. So here is my word of caution:

DON’T STICK YOUR FINGER IN YOUR EYE IF THERE IS LEMON JUICE PRESENT.

Back to the pulp or back the real business of fixing up this lemon mess that we were dealt with. We are now at the stage where we can squeeze the juice from the lemons that we just cut in half and that we just shredded the rinds off of. There are many ways to get the juice out. Please by all means use your favorite method. My method was a little unorthodox. I took one half of the lemon in my left hand held it firmly and and squeezed the first parts of the juices out. In my right hand I had my favorite butter knife, I than began to scrape the insides out to free more of the juice but really to get more of the substance out. Then returned the halves back to the cutting board (aka the counter) I sliced them thinly, you know MORE PULP!  Seeds were left to the counter. Must admit though some of them made it into the simmering juice. I did fish them out later.

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One of the most impressive ways for me to go at problem is to go straight for the core of the issue. So what! Maybe I like cutting to the chase and using a butter knife is somewhat safe. Somewhat. Safer then a steak knife! My methods of juicing are not recommended in a commercial kitchen setting but hey, I would never be allowed in that type of setting anyways. “Scary!” as the boyfriend would say.

With the four other lemons that are still whole and sitting on the counter I turned to them and cut them in half. Every problem or situation that comes our way always has 8 different sides. Every aspect of our lives are touched. Our emotional health touches are physical well-being which in turn touches are spiritual side that then brings shame that bounces off of us and bothers our social sides. When one side gets left out then the issue really never gets resolved. For instance, my bag of lemons was handed over to me the day I was born. I didn’t deserve it, nor did I want it, nor was I raising my hand endlessly, excitedly or beggin for them. The unfairness of it all.

My father passed on family secrets and troubles that he was unaware of and so did my mother. As a few of these “issues”  have been unearthed the healing has begun. The truth is beginning to be revealed and who I am as a person is starting to become more clear. The little “helper demons” are vanishing and the sweetness is beginning to be brought forward with the simmering of the bitterness. What has cause so much bitterness can actually be contributed to more then just my own actions. Do I dare blame my parents? Hell no! Do I blame their parents for passing on poor decision making? Hell no! Could I possibly blame my great, great grandparents for there actions and their part in this whole family torment!? Well that too would be a hell no! Could I blame Eve!? Ooooooooh, how I wish I could but even then the temptations of us all drive us to create our own sacks of lemons.

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So I scrap. I scrape the inside of the peel to my hearts content. All the scrapings drop into the steaming pot of zest and water. Zest, juice, and water simmer a little longer trying to rid the pot of the last bit of bitterness.

I don’t time anything. As for this project there was no stop clock there was no timer set and gawd forbid I reach over and clear the microwave to see the digital digits of when I started! The recipe did say to cook for a while, remember?

For me the process takes time. It takes the smell of the substance it takes the patience of the slow simmer to reveal the true sweetness. Admittedly, every issue that has come up in life has always boiled down to the slow simmer, the endless thoughts of the what if’s or the hours of weed pulling to come to the perfect solution. Yes, it drives people crazy that I don’t have an answer right away but for me its about listening. chewing, believing. Have I dreamt of having the perfect relationship with my dad? Well of course I have but the reality sits at this: we are simmering to perfection.

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One of the greatest advantages to having 8 sides like a stop sign is this, friendship. We all need a little help now and then to get through the rough patches, to help us get through the sludge that we find ourselves knee deep in and a helper who will just sit and listen. The best ones are the ones that listen and don’t talk. Some of the greatest artist, chefs, and structual engineers have people around to help them solve their problems whether it be struggling with the perfect color green for sea water, or the amount of salt to drop in a sauce or finding the perfect balance between water and waste on the ships ballast. Every time I am in the kitchen creating some sweet master piece or just plain dinner I always have my right hand guy!

Buck-roo has heard it all. He is the one black boy that will sit right in the middle of everything and just listen. Of course he likes to throw out his opinions on samples of what’s cookin’ but most of all during the hardest questions he stares back and just wants more lovin’s. Really that is what it all boils down to. We all want more lovin’s. We don’t need the false help. We don’t need the misguided trust of lies. We don’t want the crap dished out from our great grandparents. We don’t want the hate. We don’t want the bitter bite of sourness. We just want love.

So we add the sugar.
2 cups of sugar to be exact.

OR 1 1/2 cups of sugar and half o’ cup of honey.
Your choice. We prefer the honey.

While the mixture simmers down and the jammin’ up begins we can clean out and sterlize the jars that we need to put the new jam into. Cleaning out the trash of our hearts, cleaning out the spiderwebs of anger, cleaning out he dust of mistrust and years of unbelief helps us understand that there is more to life. There is more to the saying “when troubles melt like lemon drops!” (Thank you IZ for the remake of that amazing song. I will always sing that line.) We can freely step up and sterlize our lives with that fresh clean water and fill our selves with a new sweet substance that everyone will appreciate.

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Is this enough? Is 2 cups of sugar really enough? Yes, the magic within the natural pectin of the lemon, the juices and the water mixed with the sweetness of the sugar lovin’s all become the perfect solution to the never ending history of problems. All sides of us can let go. We can taste the sweet and let go of the sour. We can enjoy the moments that we are able to create fresh and we can enjoy a little lemon jam on our cornbread. We can finally let go of the netted sack with the lost paper label that was tied around us. We can be free from the tormenting helpers and learn to love the way that were were intended to give loved.

Once the lemons have been mulled over, squeezed and simmered they make the sweetest jam. Most of all we can shelve those lemons for another day. We can share them with friends, we can eat them at feasting time, or we can sit back with our feet up and enjoy a tablespoon in our tea. Those lemons no longer have their hold on us and they no longer give off the bitter flavor that sours and clouds our minds or our hearts. Lemons can be like Garth says: “Some of Gods greatest gifts are unanswered prayers” or in some defiant, arguable cases they become answered prayers.

So raise those sterilized jars in gratitude, bless the jam that is about to fill them, seal the sweet substance and let cool. Once the seals have popped closed you know that you are free to let go! Put them on a shelf and never look back but share the experience every time you crack open a new jar. Smile and reveal in the experience of growing you just never know who may need to learn from your story. Cheers!

 

 

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