Why I'm angry

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I was in charge of an old fashioned Christmas Nativity for our ward party.  It was chaotic, touching, joyful, funny, spiritual and musical.  Everything anyone would want in an old fashioned nativity.  We had Mary and Joseph.  We had 3 wise men and their gifts and entourage - even a camel.  A huge set had been built with a stable and Bethlehem skyline and twinkly stars.  We had a donkey, an adventurous 8 year old to be the star. We had shepherds and many sheep.  The sheep had a tendency to “wander”, but it added to the charm.  And angels, we had many beautiful angels. At our dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, we were ready.  The costumes were distributed and worn, the songs were sung, thank you ornaments and candy canes were distributed from me to all the beautiful children.  The angels loved jumping off of the stage to “fly” with their wings, usually shouting at me, “Watch me, Sister Hawker!  I can fly!”  The performance was set for the coming Saturday morning with a wonderful ward brunch.  We were so excited!
This had been a difficult year.  We had just experienced hurricane Sandy, along with the power outages and clean-up that followed.  It had made our ward closer.  This party was much anticipated.  I was Relief Society President at the time, so I was tired and just as excited as everyone else.  My favorite thing to do in the world was music with children.  I was in my special happy place with this program.
I didn’t mention that the ward was the Newtown Ward in Connecticut.  We are a large ward that covers 5 small neighboring towns.
On Friday, December 14, things changed.
I don’t have the words to describe the panic and upheaval that the Sandy Hook shooting wrought.
One of the angels from the Nativity was a victim, her family a much loved and valued part of our ward family.  She was 6.  A beautiful, smart, exuberant little girl who was in first grade.  Everyone in this tight, protective community knew at least one (usually more) child or adult that was gunned down.  Other children from our ward attended that elementary school and saw and heard things that no child should ever see or hear.
I wasn’t a first responder.  I didn’t see the carnage in the school.  But I saw the eyes of those around me.  In those eyes I saw such pain and grief and disbelief.  I saw helplessness and despair.  I still see those eyes.
As a ward we gathered that Friday night to try and offer comfort to each other.  As RS president, I hugged all the sisters there, wishing I could do more to comfort them.
The next week is still a blur.  I answered hundreds of telephone calls and emails from all over the world.  One of the priorities was protecting the victims.  The VT of our sweet ward family who lost their daughter, acted as intermediary for all of the meals and emails.  She was and is one of my heroes.  I received gifts for Newtown of books, CDs, blankets, stuffed animals, and much more.  We received thousands of hearts and snowflakes.  Everything was accepted with thanks.  I hope that it helped others to heal.  
I visited people.  I called people.  I set up therapy and grief counseling, grief massage, meals, help for the first responders.  I offered a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
I wish I could have offered a blessing to so many who needed it.  A blessing from a loving sister and mother for those who were not comfortable asking a man in a suit - and there were many.

I could not.

I had to petition for permission for all that I did, because, even though I had a “leadership” position in our ward, I did not have priesthood authority.  I am still trying to come to terms with that.  I’m trying.
Two weeks after the tragedy, one of the bishopric asked if I would still lead the children in singing, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, the favorite song of all the kids.  I said no.  I just couldn’t handle it.  In sacrament meeting, the member of the bishopric called the children to the front and announced that I would be leading them in the song.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I am still trying to forgive him for that.  I’m trying.

When I was nine and my younger brother was baptized, it was a huge thing that he was on the path to gaining the priesthood.  That is when it was explained to me that I could never be on that path.  When I was 18, a freshman at BYU in 1978, a friend introduced me to someone who had been excommunicated for questioning why people of color couldn’t have the priesthood…3 months before “revelation” was received that supported his questions.  When I was 19, at BYU, I was sexually assaulted.  I was counseled by my bishop that the BYU president and he didn’t want me to report the assailant because, “We wouldn’t want to ruin this young man’s life.”  I was then told to repent for tempting him and putting myself in a compromising position.  When, at 21, I went through the temple for the first time, I was appalled and thought that I was in a cult.  That was the time when penalties were acted and an odd man in a dark suit was part of the session.  I was shamed and told that I needed to repent for not feeling “the spirit”.  When, at 22, I returned to a new ward in SLC (somewhere I had never lived) from a very difficult mission, I was pitied and shunned because I was not married.  When I married (in my 30s), my husband and I were investigated and lost our temple recommends for the 6 months the investigation happened because we were “intellectuals”.  My husband was a fairly new member and we both read and questioned.  It was 1993.  I guess that was my second church purge. When we lost a baby through miscarriage and through my bout with cancer, my sweet husband had the power to give me priesthood blessings.  He could support me in that way, but I was not allowed to support him in the same way.  I could not hold my babies when blessed.  I could not even act as witness to their baptisms.  My offers of a mothers blessing were refused because my children had been taught to be wary of any without the priesthood.  A 12 year old child has more authority than I will ever, ever have in this church.
I am now, two years after Sandy Hook, struggling to have a desire to stay in the church.  I am struggling to stay in the church that I love. I was RS president of the Newtown, CT ward during 2012 and 2013. During that time I lost both my parents, sent a son on a mission twice, experienced hurricane Sandy, my husband was hospitalized for 2 weeks, I had a minor heart attack, one of my counselors and secretary had babies, and then the culmination of the shooting at Sandy Hook where everyone knew many of the children and adults that were murdered. It would have been so wonderful to have been able to offer blessings through the authority of the priesthood to the mothers and sisters who came to me for comfort. After the trauma of Sandy Hook, after all the furor and grief became manageable, I was released along with my counselors. Since then, and with the whole apostasy thing with Kate Kelly, I feel like the church has turned it's back on women in general. It feels like I have been shunned by my church family. I am good for a meal or some nurturing, but I have no authority to do anything simply because I do not have external genitalia. If we truly believe the 2nd article of faith, why are women still and forever being punished for Eve's sin?
The Heavenly Parents and Brother that I love would not deny me, or any of their children, the power of their love or divinity.  The priesthood is that power.  I believe that.
As recently as yesterday, my sister asked me, Have you thought of maybe putting aside your anger?  Okay.  Im trying.  

I have hope that things will change.  I believe in the power of love, the power of prayer, the power of knowledge.  I love and feel and hope and strive to continue learning.  However, I will continue to be angry over complicity with severe and in-humane torture - just like I will continue to be angry about child abuse, spousal abuse, bigotry, racism, slavery and so many other things.  

Im trying.


A winter epiphany

I have been dreading winter since last winter.

I love spring - the rebirth of the earth.  The new growth and renewal.

I love summer - the abundance of the earth.  The green and the beauty.

I love autumn - the glory of the earth.  The harvest and the color.

I have not appreciated winter.  Until now.

I live in Connecticut.  For those who have never been here, the entire state is heavily wooded.  I also drive (deliveries) for one of my jobs.  I drive all over the state and all over New York state.  That gives me an abundance of thinking time.  I love it.

 As I was driving this week, I was pondering all of the trees.  Remembering how, mere weeks ago, the foliage was like a constant sunset.  They were bright and glorious as a bouquet of flowers.  Now they are naked.  Stripped of that which makes them beautiful.

Then I really looked.  They are still beautiful!

The trees, these aged beautiful and strong beings, were standing naked before the sky, before God, before the universe.  They had dropped all of their excess and "baggage" and were seemingly vulnerable before all.

They were beautiful.

I thought, "Isn't it great that they have dropped their leaves before we get a good snowstorm?! Without their leaves, they will be strong enough to hold the weight of the snow.  Sometimes a branch will break off under the weight, but the tree will usually heal.  If the tree falls, it is still beautiful and useful.  It can be a mother tree, shelter, warmth."

Then I made the connection - a personal epiphany, if you will.

It is only when we drop all of our excess and all of our baggage and stand naked and vulnerable before God/ourselves/the universe, that we can receive the strength to withstand the obstacles that fall on us.  Sometimes a part of us will break, but we will heal and be even stronger.  Yes, we may have scars, we might even fall, but we are still beautiful, strong, and useful.

That was my epiphany.

I love winter - the endurance of the earth.  The strength and the wisdom.


Caramel Corn

I like popcorn.

I don't like popcorn.

It's a conundrum.

Okay, I like popcorn that I make at home that isn't microwaved or full of fake stuff like the movie theater chemical slurry "butter" or flavoring.

I love caramel corn. (except those little shell casings that always get stuck in my teeth......) *TMI warning* - I'm picking them out right now.

I have said before that my oldest kiddo is very allergic to peanuts.  Try finding a caramel corn that isn't at least "made in a facility that processes peanuts" or has traces.  Really - if you do, please let me know.

So, if we want caramel corn in my house, we make it.  It's pretty easy.  Here's how.  Don't be afraid.

Love my whirly-pop

Caramel Corn

huge bowl of popped plain popcorn - I used 1 cup of unpopped popcorn.  I don't know the equivalent of microwave popcorn (you really shouldn't use that stuff)

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 - 1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium pot, combine the sugar, butter, molasses and water.

Bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently.

Boil the caramel until it reaches the hard crack state, about 320 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer, don't worry.  Hold up the spoon and let it drip into the pot.  If the drips end with a spider web-like thread, it is done.

Take off heat.

Working quickly and stirring constantly, add the baking soda.  It is going to bubble and lighten in color.  Keep stirring until the baking soda is completely incorporated.  This is a chemical reaction and will keep the caramel from becoming too hard and binding your teeth together (like Hagrid's treacle fudge in the Harry Potter series.)

Pour over the popcorn and start turning, stirring to combine.  
Keep stirring until the kernels are separate and yummy.

Eat it up.

Buy floss.


Three Sisters Harvest Stew - vegetarian or vegan


I can't believe that Thanksgiving is 2 weeks and 2 days away.  How did this happen?

A decorated old foundation in Redding, CT

The leaves have fallen.  The summer CSA is over, BUT, The Farm at Woodbury is offering a winter CSA!!http://www.thefarmwoodbury.com/Winter-CSA.html

I know!

We are getting a lot of winter squash along with autumn veggies (turnips, leeks, rutabaga, potatoes, etc.)  We also are getting fruit, honey and their lovely heirloom tomato marinara sauce.


Since I seem to have a great supply of winter squash and it is almost Thanksgiving, I thought I would make up a hearty Harvest Stew.

I used the red Hubbard today
Native Americans did companion planting, the 3 sisters showing up most often in their lore.  The 3 sisters are beans, corn and squash.  The beans climb up the corn and the squash shades the ground to preserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Look it up, it's pretty nifty.

In this stew, I used canned beans and mixed them up.  I also used hard apple cider, but that is not necessary.  Any winter squash will do, too.  Here's what I did.

Three Sisters Harvest Stew

3 cups roasted winter squash (about 1 red Hubbard OR  butternut  OR 2 acorn squash)
2 Tablespoons butter OR olive oil
1 large onion (or enough to make about 2 cups)
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (12 ounce) bottle hard apple cider OR beer OR 1 1/2 cups water plus 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
3 cups water
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional - if you don't have the real deal, don't do it)
3 cups cooked beans, rinsed (I used pinto and black)
2 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Roast the squash on a foil lined sheet at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until soft.  Set aside to cool a bit.

If you use the pre-diced squash that you can get at the store, roast it the same way for about 40-45 minutes. (Whoever thought to pre-dice butternut squash deserves a raise.)

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the butter or olive oil.
Add the onion and the sweet potato and sauté until starting to brown.

Deglaze the pot with the cider, beer, or vinegar and water.  Cook to reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the herbs and salt and pepper.

In a blender or food processor, scoop out the roasted squash and blend with 3 cups of water.

Add to the onion mixture.

Add the beans and corn and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with fresh bread.


How to Make Pumpkin Puree - It's Easy!

It is November 1st.

Featured are spaghetti squash, red hubbard, delicata, turban, acorn, butternut, and pumpkin.  All are waiting to be cooked up and pureed.  The turban squash tasted like a cross between butternut and zucchini - very tasty

Don't throw out that pumpkin!!!!!

Don't do it!

Okay, if it is moldy and sunken in, go ahead and throw it away, but if it is not carved and whole and firm, cook it up!

It's easy.


Trust me.

The smaller, rounder pumpkins are the sweetest, in my opinion, but all of them can be cooked.  You can cook ANY winter squash this way.  

Here is what you need to do.

Take your gourd and cut it in half.

One pumpkin and one turban squash.
Scoop out all of the seeds.  You can wash the seeds and roast them, too, if you want.  I give mine to the chickens.  Actually, they got a whole pumpkin because I have a lot of them.

Half the halves of pumpkin (or any winter squash) if it is really big.  Small ones, half is fine.

Place them on a foil lined large baking sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until a fork can easily pierce the pumpkin.

Remove from the oven and cool it until you can easily handle it.

Scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. 
 If you cooked a spaghetti squash, don't puree it, eat it for dinner with your favorite sauce. You can also leave it chunky if you want.

Put it in freezer bags.  I pre-measure 2 cups per bag, it makes it easier to cook with later.

Freeze it.

That's it.



Now you have pumpkin puree to use in so many recipes.  Here are some of my favorites.  Go ahead, try them.  http://ahawker.blogspot.com/2014/01/pumpkin-bread.html


On the Farm - Quiet Book

I made another quiet book.

No, I don't have little kiddos.
No, I am not a grannie.
No, I don't have a lot of free time.


I just like creating things and I like to sew.  This one was inspired by The Farm at Woodbury (where I have my CSA share).  The farmer has a little girl named Madelyn.  She just turned one.  I think I'll give her this book.

Hope she likes it.

The wheels of the tractor button.


I got one of those light-up balls at the dollar store and took out the light. 

I put plastic over the plate and put the velcro on top of the plastic.  Velcro tears up felt.  Everything comes off the page except for the plate.

All of the jack-o-lantern stuff snaps on and off.

Lift the flap (trees) and build a snowman.  It is a farm in CT, after all.  I know, penguins are not farm animals.  Don't judge.