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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Lenten Journey: Reflections on Faith

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home –
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene — one step enough for me.
- John Henry Newman

Today we explore the concept of faith. What do you think of when you hear this word? For many Catholics, I suspect that the Creed, or Profession of Faith, comes to mind relatively quickly, if not right away. But is this faith – a series of statements about the things I believe?

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ
I believe in the Holy Spirit
I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church

Certainly these are components of faith, but during this Lent I want to look even deeper than this. It is not enough to simply “believe” to say that I have faith. I believe in gravity. I believe that I need to drink water to survive. I believe that friends are important. These are things that I believe, but I wouldn’t say that these are things in which I have faith. Why? Because faith goes beyond mere belief. Faith is defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as, “the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God” (II-II, Q. iv, a. 2). Look closely at this definition. Faith is actually an act, something we do. It is the willful act by which we say “yes” to the truth of God. To assent to this truth, though, is beyond our natural capacity; we rely on the gift of God’s grace to move us and enable us to give this response. So, I believe in gravity, water, and the merits of friendship because these are things I can observe, test, and understand through solely natural means. Faith, though, is supernatural, and is, ultimately, an act of total trust.

Faith requires such complete trust that sometimes it might mean placing our trust in something that we aren’t even certain we truly believe. Do you recall the story of the boy possessed by a demon that the the disciples of Jesus were not able to cast out? When Jesus asks the boys father about the child the father says, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And what is Jesus’ response to this? “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Here the man’s father is not certain of the power of Jesus – he doesn’t necessarily believe that Jesus has the power to heal his son, but then he cries out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24, emphasis mine) These are truly words of faith – words of trust!

When we trust, though, we do make ourselves vulnerable. We leave ourselves open to being hurt, taken advantage of, or even just disappointed. Trust can be a scary thing, even when we place that trust in God. While we know that God wills only the best for us – his adopted sons and daughters – we also know that God’s will is not always the same as our own. It would be easy to trust God fully if we knew that God wanted for us the things we want for ourselves, wouldn’t it? Maybe we want a better job, a nicer car, a bigger house, more money, a husband or a wife, children, a vacation to Hawaii, or another hour of sleep. But that’s where the trust of faith becomes risky – while these things might be what we want as humans, they might not be what God knows we need. By placing trust in God, we may not actually get the things that we ask for. The result, of course, is that so many people decide to place their trust – their faith – in themselves and in worldly things. They might think to themselves, “if God won’t do this for me, I’ll do it on my own.”

I have known many smart, religious people who do not have a firm grasp on this issue of faith, of trust. They get so caught up on the things that they think they need to do or to provide for themselves that they forget to trust in God. These people often start sentences with something like, “As soon as I…” Don’t get me wrong, planning for the future is prudent, but as soon as that planning gets in the way of letting God’s will be done we have a problem. Jesus tells us, “do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides” (Luke 12:29-31, emphasis mine). This is hard, though! It is natural for us to want to be in control. This desire for control is not unique to the modern age – we see it all through salvation history. Adam and Even grasped the forbidden fruit to “become like God,” King David sent Uriah to the front-line of battle so he would be killed, King Zedekiah refused to heed the words of the prophets and ended up in exile in Babylon, Peter wouldn’t believe that Jesus had to suffer, St. Paul persecuted the early Christians…

All of these people wanted something that seemed good to them. They had plans for the future. They had hope and dreams. But they forgot (or just ignored) God and the message of love that he had for them. They were so busy looking ahead that they forgot to focus on taking that next single step. This post starts with the first stanza of the poem “The Pillar of Cloud” by John Henry Newman and I think it provides a very powerful image of faith and trust. We are a people often wandering in the dark, but we know that God provides us with light so that we might see where we are going. God may not show us the whole future, but he will always provide us with the light we need to see the next step.

This coming Sunday, the second Sunday of Lent, we will hear Mark’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. In this story, we hear how Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain to pray when suddenly Jesus is transfigured before them, becoming dazzling white, as Moses and Elijah appear and speak to him. This story appears in the three synoptic Gospels, but Luke adds this, “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him” (Luke 9:32). This concept of being “overcome” is important, and it is not the first time we see good things happening when total control is in the hands of the Lord. Adam falls into a deep sleep, and when he awakens God has given him Eve (Genesis 2:21-23); Abram falls into a deep sleep and is covered by a cloud at the time the Lord establishes the covenant (Genesis 15:12-21); Samuel was sleeping in the Temple of the Lord when he was called by name and appointed a prophet (1 Samuel 3:1-18); Mary submits herself fully at the words of the Angel Gabriel and Jesus, the Messiah, is born into the world for our salvation (Luke 1:26-38). Giving up control is not bad – it’s a good thing!

This Lent, I would encourage you to look at your own faith. How much do you trust God? Are you so busy worrying and thinking about “what you are to eat and what you are to drink” that you are missing that kindly light which is showing you the next step in God’s divine plan for you? What are the things that you are grasping for? Where are some areas of your life that you are trying to plan, to control, to become totally self-reliant? Think about these areas – pray about them. Visit the Lord in the blessed Sacrament, and cry out to the Him like the possessed boy’s father saying, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Remember, God loves you, and when you trust in God you will find only love. It may not always be easy – God the Father loved Jesus, God the Son, who suffered – but it will always be full of grace. Turn yourself over to God this Lent. Trust in His divine plan for you. Listen to His voice and answer His call. Look for His kindly light and take that next step.

This is the first in a series of Lenten essays exploring different areas of the human experience. For more information, see the introduction.

Categories: Faith | 3 Comments

Shrimp & Tofu Red Curry

Shrimp and Tofu Red CurryAs part of my ongoing effort to enjoy healthier, tastier foods while reducing the amount of red meat I eat, I concocted this delicious curry dish for lunch today. It’s fast, easy, and had under 300 calories per serving (without rice). Because I used a pre-made simmer sauce for this dish, the sodium content is a little high. You can reduce the sodium by making your own sauce, but it will take much longer.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz extra firm organic tofu, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp Safflower oil
  • 1 bottle (11 oz) thai red curry sauce
  • 1-2 Cups water (to your preferred consistency)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 can (5 oz) bamboo shoots
  • 3/4 lb shrimp, shelled

Preheat the safflower oil in a large saute pan. Pat cubed tofu dry with a paper towel and then saute undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Turn the cubes gently and allow to cook an additional 2-3 minutes, again undisturbed. Remove tofu from pan and set aside.

Add red curry sauce and water to the saute pan and bring to a boil. Add peppers, onion, and bamboo shoots. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until the peppers are tender and liquid is partially reduced. Add the reserved tofu and stir gently. Allow to simmer an addition 3 minutes. Add uncooked shrimp and stir in. Allow to cook, covered, 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and tender. Remove from heat and serve over rice (Hinode Brown rice pictured).

Serves 4.

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Introduction to the Lenten Journey

Lance on Ash WednesdayHappy Ash Wednesday! Today marks the first day of Lent, 2012, a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that will last until Easter Sunday, April 8. This post is the first in a Lenten series that will invite my readers to explore various aspects of their daily lives with an eye towards improving themselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

So often we think of Lent as simply that time before Easter where we give up the things that we enjoy, like candy, television, coffee, or even Facebook. What is this season really about, though? Certainly sacrifice is a significant part of good Lenten discipline, but if we stop there, I think we miss out of the much deeper, richer treasures that Lent has to offer us.

Sometimes we might find that there are certain luxuries to which we have formed attachments and that these attachments are impeding our relationship with God or are preventing us from living up to our full potential. I know this has been the case for me – more than once I have found myself wasting away time watching Netflix, time that could be better spent on a myriad of more productive endeavors. If you find yourself in a similar situation, giving up Netflix for Lent might be a great idea… as long as you don’t just replace Netflix with Hulu, that is. But what about other things that aren’t necessarily preventing you from living up to your full potential? I have several good friends that love chocolate, but I wouldn’t say that any of them are controlled by it or that it is in the way of their success, yet there may still be great value in giving it up for Lent. Why? It all comes down to intent.

As one of the priests at St. Dominic’s, Fr. Stephen Maria, said in his homily today, “Why do people seem to be repulsed by the idea of giving something up during Lent? We are never repulsed when we see sacrifices being made for children, parents, friends, and the people we love. So we should make our sacrifices during Lent out of love for God.” I found this to be a particularly powerful idea. I’ve heard people say, “you can’t give up something you really love – you’ll just be miserable.” Perhaps this is true if you’re giving it up because you feel there is some social obligation. After all, how many times do you hear the question, “what are giving up for Lent?” But if we see our sacrifice as something we do out of love, it takes on a whole new meaning – we are uniting ourselves more closely to the sufferings of Christ, yes, but we are also preparing ourselves to share more fully in the new life of His resurrection.

But this series is not going to be solely about sacrifice. At its core, Lent is a time for spiritual renewal, a true springtime for all people. While there are many ways that we can approach Lent, over the next 40 days, I want to focus primarily on two very important questions:

  • What is getting in the way of my relationship with God?
  • What is preventing me from being the person I am called to be?

In addressing these questions throughout the series, we will definitely see sacrifice come up several times, but more so we will see that Lent really offers us a chance to become new people, to transform our lives in a meaningful way. I hope to show one way that this is possible through an exploration of eight key areas of our lives that we can develop during Lent.

  1. Faith
  2. Relationships
  3. Personal Finance
  4. Fiduciary Duty
  5. Maintenance
  6. Fitness
  7. Hobbies
  8. Vocation

In the coming weeks, I will explore each of these eight areas separately, beginning with a reflection on the role I see each playing in my own life, and then exploring ways in which we can work to improve these areas during the Lenten season. At the end of the series, I will look at four overarching themes:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Emotional
  3. Physical
  4. Intellectual

Taken together, these four overarching themes contain the eight key areas and make up the picture of a complete human being. And since Lent really is a time to transform ourselves, what better way to end the series than to wrap it all up with a look at the whole person?

I am excited to embark on this Lenten journey with you, and I hope that these topics that I will be exploring can help your own experience of Lent be much more positive.

NB: I would be remiss if I failed to thank M.M. for inspiring me to write this series of articles. Over breakfast this past Sunday we got to talking about Lenten disciplines, and he suggested that there was a lot of potential in these eight areas and four overarching themes. I decided to write this series, then, as part of my Lenten discipline so that I could not only explore these topics myself, but also maybe help others on their own journey. For what it’s worth, I made a suggestion of my own to M.M. for something I thought he might consider incorporating as part of his Lenten discipline and I really hope he decides to take on the challenge.

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Where are they now?

Friends from Notre Dame

Dinner & A Movie Night

This is actually rather embarrassing, but today, quite by accident, I discovered that I had a scanner at home. Apparently a printer that I got for free with the purchase of a computer a couple years ago was an all-in-one unit, something I had apparently been entirely oblivious to until today. I can’t tell you the number of times that I wished I had a scanner in my house. I’ve been carting the most important things that I want scanned to my office and doing it there.

Other things that aren’t so urgent, though, have been put on hold. For instance, I have a huge box of photos in my closet that’s just been sitting there for the past five years. I’ve often thought about how I would like to scan at least some of them so that I could preserve them digitally, but the obstacle – however small – of getting the photos and a scanner together in the same place at the same time has prevented me from doing anything about it. Until today.

Immediately upon discovering the (well concealed) scanner on my Canon printer, I grabbed a small envelope of old photos from the box in the closet and looked through them. How this particular assortment of photos ended up together I’m not entirely certain, but among them were several photos from a dinner and a movie night that one of my friends hosted, with full permission, while house sitting for someone while we were all students at Notre Dame in March, 2002. As I was looking at these photos, I realized just how different life was ten years ago. I had just turned 20 years old and I had still never had a serious girlfriend. Sure I’d been on dates, but I wasn’t really much for dating in high school, and pretty much only had a date for things like Prom. I was studying finance and film and I planned to pursue a career as a film Producer. I hadn’t yet traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China, India, Kenya, Spain, Ireland, or Scotland. I hadn’t yet met Adam Fairholm, so it certainly hadn’t entered my mind that I would one day be running a San Francisco-based tech business with him. Imagine how little each of us knew about the future of our lives that night. As we gathered to eat dinner (tacos) and watch a movie (Annie Hall, if memory serves) on that March evening, I doubt any of us was thinking about what we would be doing on February 21, 2012. I certainly wouldn’t have said that I’d be sitting in a Palo Alto Starbucks writing about that night.

So what did all of these people get up to, and where are they now? With the exception of two people in this photograph, I’ve actually seen everyone pictured at least twice since we graduated in May, 2004, and some of them I’ve actually kept in touch with pretty regularly. So, here’s what I know.

DongHyup - Dong was one of my closest friends at Notre Dame, and we’ve traveled somewhat extensively together. Domestically, we’ve been in New York, California, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Utah. Internationally, we’ve traveled to Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Australia. Not quite three years ago, Dong returned to his native Korea to fulfill his obligatory military service. He had a strong fashion sense, so I always pictured Dong completing his military service in Prada boots with a custom tailored Burberry uniform. I don’t think it was quite like that. In fact, early in his military service he was a tank driver – a mental image that I still think of with a smile. After that, though, word of his skill in the kitchen had apparently gotten out and he was assigned as the private breakfast chef to the General. He recently completed his military service and is now living in Seoul working for a major Korean technology manufacturer – the company that manufactured my cell phone, actually. We have stayed in touch regularly during the 8 years since graduation and the next time I’m in Korea, I will almost certainly see him.

Matt – Matt is one of the two people in this photo that I’ve neither seen nor heard from since graduation. Matt was roommates with Johnny (see below) during our senior year, but I more or less lost track of him after that. I heard that he went to medical school, but that’s where my knowledge ends. It seems that even Facebook and LinkedIn can’t answer the question of “Where is Matt now?”

Suzanne – Suzanne, Karrie, and Laura were all roommates when this photo was taken. Of the three of them, Suzanne is the one with whom I’ve had the most interaction since graduation. During a particularly stormy winter in Denver, Suzanne came and stayed at my dad’s house for a night while I was visiting for the New Year since the roads were closed to her home in Vale. Several years after graduation, Suzanne got married to another Notre Dame grad, Mike. I attended their wedding in Omaha, NE. Mike and Suz have been to visit me in San Francisco twice, and I’ve also been to visit them in Denver, CO several times. Mike and Suz spent nearly a year traveling through South America in 2010-2011, and I had hoped to visit them there, but it never materialized. They are now back living in the Denver area and Suzanne is working at an elementary school. I actually just had them over to dinner at my dad’s house while I was there in January of this year.

Johnny – Johnny and I were roommates at the time time this photo was taken, and of everyone in this photo, Johnny is the person with whom I have most recently spoken on the phone. Our last conversation was just yesterday, in fact. Immediately after graduation, Johnny, Dong, and I all traveled to Korea together to celebrate. It was Johnny’s first, but certainly not last, trip to the Asian peninsula. After graduating from Notre Dame, Johnny went to Harvard Law School, where I had the chance to visit him one time during a trip to New York. It was my first visit to Cambridge, MA, and a very memorable one for several reasons. First, I discovered that Cambridge Commons has an amazing selection of beers on tap and also fries up a mean batch of Tater Tots. I also had the chance to attend a student Mass, a story which Johnny can relate to you if you’re ever fortunate enough to meet him. After graduating from Harvard, Johnny went on to work for a prestigious law firm in New York City, and I was able to visit him there during his tenure, as well. At that time, he was living near the East Village, in close proximity to one of the intersections where we shot scenes for Across the Universe during my stint in the Hollywood film industry. In 2009, after a couple years of corporate law, Johnny received an offer to teach law at Seoul National University, an opportunity that he jumped on. It’s not difficult to convince me to travel (have you learned that about me yet?) and within the first few months of his time in Korea I was already back over there to visit him for a week. We discovered an amazing bar – TV Bar – which, sadly, has since closed. When I last spoke to him yesterday, I learned that Johnny is now married. He told me in December that this was a likely development, but it was a surprise to learn that it had already happened – it was done without pomp and circumstance in New Haven, CT, a few weeks ago. I hear rumor that there may be a larger ceremony in the works in Korea (he met his bride there), and, surprise, surprise, I’ll make every effort to attend should that happen. He is still technically employed by SNU, though it sounds as if he’ll be returning to the United States this year and return to the legal practice in New York.

Karrie - I last saw Karrie at Mike and Suzanne’s wedding, but prior to that I had actually seen her in San Francisco when she stayed one night on my futon during a drive up to the Seattle area. She came with her dog, Jacc (named for the building at ND’s campus), and it was nice to catch up with her. Karrie was a pilot with the Navy and spent a good deal of her time on air craft carriers around the world. Apparently she is now living in Texas and, like I just did, she is preparing to celebrate her 30th birthday in March.

Laura – Laura and I met through a mutual friend, Nicole, and it was actually because of Laura that I ended up meeting both Karrie and Suzanne. We were both studying film and would end up working together at the student television station that I started with a small group, NDtv. Laura and I would also later date, an experience that was, if nothing else, transformational for both of us. After graduation, Laura joined the ACE program and went to teach in Pensacola, FL. After that ended, she began to work as a Campus Minister in New York, a job that she had the last time I saw her at Mike and Suzanne’s wedding. That was the first time I had seen her since graduation and it was a perfectly sociable reunion. I would end up seeing her one more time in New York during a visit out there – the same one where I visited Johnny in the East Village – but I haven’t been in touch with her since. The last I heard, she was no longer working in Campus Ministry, but was now working at her high school Alma Mater.

Lance - Read all the entries of this blog to learn what happened to this guy.

Diana – Diana is the only other person, apart from Matt, that I’ve completely lost track of. Since Johnny and Matt had been roommates, I at least had the Johnny connection to keep me somewhat more informed about his whereabouts, but Diana has, sadly, slipped away entirely, it seems. If the Alumni directory is to be trusted, at least as of 2009, she was living on the East Coast, but more than that I don’t know.

Eight people in this photo, and eight vastly different stories. Some of us have flown planes, others have flown tens-of-thousands of miles in planes. Some have worked on movies & TV sets, others have watched movies & TV. We’ve turned into doctors, teachers, architects, entrepreneurs, business executives, husbands, and wives. I feel so lucky to have had such good friends 10 years ago, and even luckier that I’ve managed to stay in touch with at least some of them to the present day. I wonder which picture from this year I’ll look at in in 2022 and think, “wow, life was so different back then.”

Categories: A Day in the Life | Comments Off

Chilkoot Trail Here I Come!

Manor Avenue House

Our House on Manor Avenue

It’s funny how quickly things can change over the course of only ten days. Ten days ago I posted a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in my thirties. On that list was to return to Alaska for the first time since the fifth grade. My family lived in Alaska for one year when I was in the fifth grade and I really loved living there. I remember the address of the house we lived in: 4366 Manor Avenue, Juneau, AK 99801. I even remember the phone number we had: (907) 789-1235. (This phone number is now assigned to the Association for the Education of Young Children – Southeast Alaska, apparently.) I have a lot of fond memories of my time in Alaska: Bullwinkle’s Pizza, getting picked up from school by a limo on my birthday, family outings to Fred Meyer, wandering in the woods, visits to Mendenhall Glacier, accidentally bringing down the computer system of a global mining company, my first experience of a BBS, and having a huge crush on my fifth grade teacher.

Mendenhall Glacier

A few weeks ago my friend Mike Liliedahl asked if I wanted to hike the Chilkoot Trail with him from Alaska into Canada over the summer and I was really looking forward to it. We were going to start in Juneau with his brother’s wedding and then head up to Skagway to begin the journey. By the time I posted my list, though, it sounded as if that wasn’t going to be able to happen, after all. But, a few days later I got word that Chilkoot was back on, and now here I am only 10 days into my 30s and I’ve already booked the plane ticket to Juneau, we’ve purchased the passes, and we’re scheduled to summit the Chilkoot Pass on July 26, 2012. Now that the trip has gone from the conceptual stage to the “this is actually going to happen” stage, I find myself both excited and a little nervous. I love hiking – I grew up hiking in the Rockies and I’ve done plenty of hiking in California, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and elsewhere. That said, though, this will be my longest hike – 33 miles – and the first time that I’m hiking with camping gear.

Elevation Profile for the Chilkoot TrailAdd to that this slightly daunting elevation profile and you’ve got the makings of a truly challenging journey. On the first day we’ll be hiking to Sheep Camp. We’ll overnight there and then undertake the bulk of the vertical climb on Day 2 as we cross the border into Canada and end up at Happy Camp. On that Day we’ll climb over 2,000 vertical feet into a high alpine ecosystem. Despite the long days, I’ve heard that even experienced hikers have been known not to make Happy Camp. Day 3 will take us to Bare Loon and Day 4 should be a breeze, landing us in Bennett, BC.

It looks like I’ve got some training to do! Thankfully, I’m currently training for a 10K trail run in Napa that will include 700 feet of vertical climb in the first 2-miles, so I’ve already started a portion of the training for an ascent. The elevation, itself, should also be manageable. After all, I grew up in the high desert, so 3,500 feet should pose no problem. So, it seems that I’m already starting the check things off my list. So far, the 30s are treating me pretty well.

Categories: A Day in the Life, General | 2 Comments

Learn Korean

Learn Korean at IICLast night I was out at a Karaoke Lounge call Do Re Mi for a friend’s birthday party. It seems that, for some reason, karaoke lounges are a huge deal in east Asian culture and this particular one, despite being in Japantown, is actually a Korean music studio. Ever since college, I’ve had a fascination with all things Korean, primarily due to the fact that I had some very good Korean friends while studying at Notre Dame. I’ve already visited Korea three times, and I’m considering another trip later this year. As I noted in my post on Entering the Fourth Decade, I want to learn a new language and Korean is one of the languages I’m really interested. So when I walked out of our karaoke room after four sweet hours of karaoke goodness and saw this sign for “Korean Classes at IIC,” I was very excited.

San Francisco is a city with many things, but one thing that I had never really seen before was a good Korean class. I’ve actually looked for them before, and I have found several language programs that claim to offer Korean classes, but they are four or six week courses that meet only once a week and offer only introductory lessons. I already know a tiny amount of Korean, enough to say hello, order food, and generally confuse Koreans, so a single four week class where you would learn to say hello, order food, and generally confuse Koreans wasn’t what I was looking for. It turns out, though, that IIC offers seven different levels of Korean which meet for an entire semester. Unfortunately, I’ve missed the chance to register for the Spring, 2012, semester, but now that I know this opportunity exists, I might finally be able to learn the language. Now if only I could find an actual use for speaking Korean.

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Szechuan Tofu with Green Beans

Last week I bought some spices for a Szechuan pork dish that I was creating and I decided to put those to use in this vegan friendly dish for lunch today.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz extra firm organic tofu
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp hot broad bean paste
  • 1 Tbsp ground chili paste
  • 2 Tbsp chili oil, divided
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh ground ginger root to taste
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/8 cup cold water

Drain tofu and cut into 1/2″ pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, bean paste, and chili paste. Drain any excess water from the tofu bowl. Add hot sauce blend to tofu and stir gently to coat. Cover and let sit 30 minutes.

After tofu has marinated, heat half of the chili oil in a large frying pan at medium to medium-high heat. After oil is heated, spread tofu evenly in the pan and allow to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, place the green beans in the tofu marinating bowl and stir to collect any remaining hot sauce. After 2 minutes, gently turn the tofu and allow to cook undisturbed an additional 3 minutes. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Without rinsing, add remaining tablespoon of chili oil to the pan. Add onion and saute over medium heat until tender. Add garlic, ginger, and beans and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add warm water. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and let cook until the beans begin to feel slightly tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small dish make a slurry with corn starch, the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, and cold water. After the beans are cooked, uncover and allow liquid to reduce, if necessary, to a quarter of the original liquid. Add slurry to the pan and stir moderately until the sauce thickens. Add tofu back to the pan and mix in gently. Allow tofu to heat thoroughly, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Serve over brown rice.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Food | 1 Comment

Red Chinos and Saints

It would seem that red chinos are currently a very fashionable item. That is, at least, if the analytics for this site are any indication. Over the past month, the most common search term that ended up displaying Lance’s World in the search results was, in fact, red chinos. Why would my site appear so frequently in these results? Apparently, it has to do with this post about red chinos that I wrote several years ago. Far be it from me to actually write anything useful about chinos for men, though! The only thing interesting about that post is that it demonstrates the fact that at some point in my life I had the delusion that a pair of red pants for men was a good idea.

This seems a fitting post for today, Valentine’s Day, given that the color red is of such great importance on this (choose one: romantic, mushy, depressing, uplifting, frivolous, commercial) holiday. Red roses, red candy boxes, even red chinos for men! And of course, one other thing that’s red today – the word Memorial in the Liturgy of the Hours. While the history of Valentine’s Day is actually rooted in the Christian tradition, as my friend Mike Liliedahl points out in his Valentine’s Day blog (which is free of all reference to red chinos, I promise), today is no longer celebrated on the Roman Calendar as the Feast of St. Valentine. Instead, today is celebrated as the Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Saints Cyril and MethodiusThese two Saints are honored in a very special way in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. In fact another friend of mine, also a Michael, who is an Eastern Rite Catholic, shared this Wikipedia entry link about Saints Cyril and Methodius with me today. Michael went on to say, “We are all called to be Saints… Saints are normal everyday people living the lives God calls them to live.” It sounds like he may have been at one of my talks over the past few weeks at St. Dominic’s where we explored the lives of the Saints and how those lives reveal to us just that – that we, too, are to live the lives we have been given in the best way possible. Saints Cyril and Methodius are part of the Church Triumphant, but we, too, are members of the Communion of Saints as part of the Church Militant.

So, no matter your relationship status on this Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius, remember that the most important relationship is your relationship with God. Follow the example of all of those great Saints that have gone before us and lead a good, holy life. I promise you that such a life will bring you greater joy and happiness than any pair of red pants.

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A Year in Review – 2011

At the end of each year, I like to look back at the things have happened – a retrospective of sorts. I haven’t always been completely diligent about doing it, though a few of my previous attempts are available for your perusal: 2006, 2007, 2010. We’re already a little more than 6 weeks into 2012, but I still feel like 2011 is recent enough to take a look back and see exactly what happened.

2011 was a transformative year for me in multiple regards. It was a great year for business, friendships, travel, and personal health. Here is a summary of my year in 2011:

  • I attended a “bar-warming” party at the home of my friends Ryan and Caitlin (1/8/11)
  • I joined the ranks of Godfather when Emily Mia was baptized (2/19/11)
  • For Lent I gave up the elevator in my apartment building, a decision that would indirectly lead to me losing about 50 pounds by the end of the year (3/9/11)
  • The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan put the Pacific Coast of California on Tsunami Watch (3/11/11)
  • My friends Trish & Jamie welcomed Siena Frances Beckman into the world (4/10/11)
  • New Orleans beckoned when Adam and I were selected to present at the National Catholic Educational Association conference and I had the good fortune of being able to visit my friend Hans there, too (4/26-29/11)
  • I made my own marshmallow for the first (and still only) time (4/30/11)
  • I visited the State of Tennessee for the first time on a business trip (6/1-3/11)
  • I visited the State of Tennessee for the second time for the crazy purpose of taking a girl out on a date for her birthday; at least I got to see Graceland on that trip (6/23-28/11)
  • Mike and Saribel got married at Mission Santa Clara; I smoked my first-ever cigar at Mike’s bachelor party (6/5/11)
  • A dear friend, Kane Hardenstein, passed away after a tragic swimming accident in April that left her in a coma for over two months (7/4/11)
  • World Youth Day was in Madrid, Spain, and I got to go shoot video interviews with really cool people (8/16-23/11)
  • New Hampshire and Vermont got checked off my list of States to visit, though my plans in Vermont had to be changed at the last minute because of the terrible flooding they experienced (September)
  • Jesse and Christine got married in Newport, RI, and on that trip I bought a case of wine from Newport Vineyards (9/4/11)
  • My car was broken into in my garage, causing a delay in my departure for a wine tasting trip to Napa (9/18/11)
  • 8 people from Germany, France, and Belgium stayed with me as part of the Couch Surfing project (October)
  • I was a judge at Cupcake Camp; I had to jump start the car of one of the contestants afterwards, too (10/23/11)
  • My friends Binh and Nina got married (10/29/11)
  • I ran in my first-ever “competitive” race, the Triangle Expressway 5K in North Carolina (11/20/11)
  • I hosted a dinner party that started at 6 p.m. and didn’t end until 5:30 a.m. the next morning – it was truly epic (12/10-11/11)
  • I flew approximately 40,262 miles
  • The dinner club I started in 2010 gathered to enjoy seven amazing meals; together we shared about 40 different wines and at least as many exciting culinary experiments, including Seafood, Citrus Salad, Blue Cheese Ice Cream, Grill Roasted Duck, and Croatian Soup

While there were some difficulties during the year, overall, 2011 was a really fantastic year and I am very grateful for all of the experiences that I had. I’m looking forward to an amazing 2012, as well!

Categories: A Day in the Life | Comments Off

Entering the Fourth Decade

Today marks my 30th birthday, and so I enter into my fourth decade of life. I have to say, my first 30 years have been pretty amazing. When I reflect back on the things I have accomplished and the places I have been, I am truly grateful for all of the opportunities that have been made available to me. It hasn’t been a cake walk, but I have been a very fortunate individual. I have been blessed with an amazing family, good friends, good food, WINE, a fantastic education, and a magnificent world to explore.

Looking back on my life, I realize that there are still a lot of things that I want to accomplish. While I’ve never been one to pay much attention to my age – each individual day is much like the one before it – in the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about things that I would like to do in the next 10 years of life. Here are some of the goals that I’ve set for my 30s.

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Categories: A Day in the Life, Faith | 4 Comments