Category Archives: Life

Journal-ish entries about my journey through this world

Ready.

Much Ado full infoThe eve of an opening night is always tangled up in small details and too little sleep.  It’s already 12:43am. I ought to be in bed.

The past few weeks have been one of the most unique experiences of my life at New Covenant School. Working with one’s peers in something as stressful and creatively fun as a Shakespeare play always reveals secrets of your own heart.

Honestly, I scoff at my acting attempts. Give me an audience of thousands and a cause, and I’ll joyfully speak with little fear.  But set me in front of a few score friends and acquaintances and ask me to “become someone else,” and I must fight. for. every. inch. of. authenticity. on. the. stage.

So hard.
I’d much rather direct.
It’s so much less vulnerable.

I have loved seeing these second-sides of my fellow teachers’ personalities during rehearsals.

Most people discover that basic acting is more hard work than talent … but one or two always rise to the surface in any group, and they sparkle on stage.  I love seeing people find that in themselves.  Quiet folks who get missed in the crowd suddenly bust out fantastic elements of character that no one expected. Who knew Katie could mimic a New Jersey accent so well?   I grew up just across the state from Jersey, and my “accent” (if you can call it that) morphs crazily from one region to another during any given scene…. Katie sounds like she grew up just under those fuel tanks you see on the opening to The Sopranos.

The faculty in their roles in Much Ado About Nothing, gangster-style
The faculty in their roles in Much Ado About Nothing, gangster-style

My colleagues have been so patient at taking direction given in my bossy, task-oriented tone.  Their enthusiasm and willingness to “try it again” (especially when rehearsal the day before was rough or when they just spent an entire day on their feet teaching) encourages my heart so much. Adults don’t complain about a rehearsal schedule — if anything, they’ve come to me and asked several times to schedule more.

Sometimes my soul gets battered working with young’uns– I love them dearly (!) but attitudes wear me down after a while. It was refreshing: to remind the cast of the MLK day rehearsal and hear most of faculty cast members say, “Really?! We don’t have school that day?! Awesome! I’m so glad we can do just a rehearsal on Monday!”  (Joey, I’m talking about you. And you wrote the school calendar! LOL)

Tomorrow’s first run of Much Ado will be rough, I know.  Because we are all strapped for time (thanks to our ‘real’ job), I cut the rehearsals down to less than minimum.  We aren’t kidding ourselves.  Opening night won’t be polished, impressive, cutting-edge, or anything fancy.

Katie flapperBut we are proud of our community.  Of the fact that we have come together to build something bigger than ourselves — and we chose to do it, because we wanted to give our students a gift… a piece of ourselves they never get to see otherwise.

*raises glass*
To the ones for whom we pour out our lives each day:
We are happy to have finally shared this experience with you — to know personally the frustrations, long hours, and effort necessary to bring a story to life on a stage.
We did it because we want to make you laugh,
and because we delight in working together.
What a wonderful crew of people God has drawn to this school to be His instruments of change.

On with the show! 

The Tyranny of the “American Dream”

Somewhere along the way, Christian theology got hijacked by Horatio Algiers’s concept of the “American dream.”

And it’s pissing me off.

Before teaching I never truly realized how much pressure American society and well-meaning adults (and kids themselves) place on young adults to “succeed,” to “find themselves,” to choose a good career long before most teens have any idea what they actually love doing or what they’re good at.

We imply that life’s pathway is a narrow road winding through steep hills on a lone journey toward … something. we. can’t. define.  
The entrance is a tiny little gate labeled “What I’m Supposed To Do With My Life.”
And most of us were pretty stressed out over the whole deal between 17 and 25.

By contrast, I’ve come to understand better lately just how big the “will of God” is.

I’m noticing that my hardworking, productive, Kingdom-oriented adult friends didn’t follow any such voodoo.  Many of us simply graduated from college or high school, scoured around for a job, and took the next step.  The “lucky” ones got 3 or 4 or 10 job offers and had to flip coins or pray for slammed doors to help them make the decision.  The rest of us had one or two basic options in our practical reach, and we picked the one that made the most sense at the time.

Since then, life has twisted and turned and gone entirely differently than any of us could have expected.  Nearly half of college grads don’t even work in their major field. Really.

For me, I’m spending my days (and nights) teaching kids, building relationships (with occasional success), working out the theology of grace-based education (hopefully with more success), and thinking about how to spread relational, grace-based models of Christian education into the classical education movement and beyond.  This wasn’t what I signed up for 7 years ago, or anything I “prepared for” in college — yet, by Providence, I amprepared. More or less. 

God’s will isn’t some private, gated community to which only a few people have the proper keypad combination. The Kingdom is broad. The work of redemption offers multiple avenues.

Making your life count for something isn’t as hard as we make it. Sin’s effects are so ubiquitous, you can’t set foot anywhere without finding a task that needs attention; a new ministry to start; some vision of peace and healing and creation to unfold.

Neither has God left us clueless — I desperately want my students to realize God didn’t make a mistake when He created them with certain desires, a particular package of talents and gifts. Choosing the “practical” career over pursuing their own gifts usually ends in frustration, extra years in college, or an unhappy working life.  Somewhere along the way, we stopped teaching kids that God intends us to enjoy life.

We need to release our children from the tyranny of the American dream. 

My life is not my own to waste as I please, chasing some self-defined notion of happiness — and yet it is my own toenjoy in abundance as I develop the abilities to do what God built me to enjoy.

Back in the day….

As I swabbed off the top of my dryer recently — not a normal procedure, since I don’t really care whether the laundry room is dusty or not — memories of our first house in Greenville came rushing to mind.

the original RameyDomus
the original RameyDomus

Back then, I not only dusted the top of the trusty Maytags, I also disinfected them daily. See, our kitchen was miniature, probably smaller than our guest bathroom now. The washer/dryer hookups were in the kitchen; thus the W/D provided a couple feet of very valuable counter space.  I chopped plenty of onions on that washer! lol  Baking was the worst — flour got everywhere.

Life in the 20’x20′ cottage was uber. A perfect ‘first house.’
Back in the day …

  • when we got back from our honeymoon, our dear friends had kindly unloaded all our wedding gifts into the house and stocked the pantry with a few staples. They also went around labeling all household furniture and surfaces with sticky notes in different languages. haha
  • we never locked our front door. Ever.
  • we had only one outside door. And 6 windows. LOL
  • we took down the bedroom door from its hinges because 1) we didn’t really need it and 2) the bedroom was so small that you couldn’t open the door into the bedroom once we got a queen-sized bed!
  • The door went into the attic along with everything else we couldn’t fit downstairs.  A lot of books up there. A lot.
  • putting up a Xmas tree required creative geometry. (We usually disassembled our table during December.)
  • we owned a W/D and our friends next door owned a dishwasher, so we each used the others’ appliance as needed.
  • we’d come home to find a random college friend folding laundry on our couch.  If they were a really GOOD friend, they also were cooking supper. 
  • we packed about 20 people into our tiny living room one time for a party.  So awesome.
  • we lacked good A/C, so when Jeff & Kirsten moved out next door, we sneaked over there and took theirs (which was the university’s) and installed it in our living room window. Ah, relief!
  • we laughed the time Jeff was watering his lawn sitting on the hood of his truck after church (since honestly, the yard was small enough that you could spray the whole thing from one spot) and soaked Jeff Stegall (on purpose) as he drove by on his way home from Sunday dinner!
  • we also laughed at Jeff Stegall’s secret plan to quietly install a swimming pool under the very nose of Provost Smith and against campus housing regulations… he was going to call it a “rain cistern.” hahaha
  • the time Jeff came over and begged to have the beat-up antenna someone had left in our attic because he was desperate to watch March Madness b’ball games, and Kirsten wouldn’t (yet) give in to let him order cable…..  he managed to pull in a very fuzzy basketball game.  Kirsten eventually relented. 
  • Mrs Harris invited us to that Christmas party for the neighborhood. We and the Alexanders were the only two couples there under the age of 45, I believe. Most people were in their 70s and 80s and discussing ‘back in the day when the university first moved to greenville in 1947’ (!)
  • speaking of Mrs Harris — remember “The Eye of RA”?  …. I think we’ll put that on the tree this Christmas just so people have to ask. haha
  • we contributed to the destruction of several marriages by teaching our friends how to play Settlers of Cataan.     Thus far, no one has won a game faster than John Ingold, who beat us & Dawn in about 20 minutes. Still bitter about that one….
  • I can’t tell you how much I miss Jeff’s “boss burgers” cooked on his grill. Those were the best….

Good times.

Of Mice and A Man

Reynold John DeAngelis
September 30, 1932 – June 7?, 1999

I like to post stories about my dad. He passed away 9 years ago today (probably — we’re not entirely sure of the time) so I’ve been wracking my head for a good story….

My dad during his Army service, probably around 1954
My dad during his Army service, probably around 1954

For a man of his size and profession (blue collar, working man), Dad definitely had a soft spot for animals. We had numerous critters around our property through the years, including a couple dogs (he named the really dumb, lazy one after the current governor of PA! haha), many cats, my brother’s cranky horse, and a spurt of chickens. (“Spurt” refers to the fact that we kept chickens for a few years till he decided it wasn’t worth the trouble of fending off the possums.)

My favorite “dad & critter” story took place when I was in high school….

As most of you know, I grew up in the mountains of Western PA, a rather secluded place. Wanting to get out of the city, my parents bought 12 acres of wooded land on top of “Rich Hill” (definitely *not* named for its economic status, unless the surveyor had a sick sense of humor). Dad and my 2 brothers built our house up there in the midst of the forest. It’s a pretty part of the world, and I can feel my heart longing for the wooded hills whenever we’re in similar parts of Appalachia.

our driveway looks like this … which explains why people never seemed to be able to find our house! lol

anyway
We lived a solid 10 minutes from town (Connellsville, the not-so-bustling former coal town of 7,000 residents). Dad would usually make a Saturday run into town to pick up a week’s worth of mail from the Post Office and restock the family pantry. (He took early retirement due to disability — another story for another time.)  The trip down Hwy 711 into town is a thrill– lots of downhill and curves. 

Although dad was a manual transmission, truck kind of guy, he tended to buy automatic cars for my mom’s sake (who had to drive 20 or 30 miles to work every day).  By the time of my story, we owned a little blue Ford Escort that zipped up the mountain just fine and got decent gas mileage. Mom was driving the more reliable Buick to work every day. The Escort lost its spot in the garage and got parked outside near the wood pile. (And boy, did we have a wood pile! lol)

My dad noticed one spring that a mouse had decided to build a nest in the wheel well of the Escort (which didn’t get driven much except on weekends).  He cleared out the nest and tried to encourage the mouse to find itself a different home in the great outdoors.  But when he hopped in the car one Saturday for his weekly trip to town, he noticed the mouse scurrying around near the car.

Dad parked at the Post Office and got out to lumber inside for the mail. (I say “lumber” only because my dad — though not tall — was a sizable man with enormous shoulders and huge hands — hard-earned tools won through several years of woodcutting and hauling after he ‘retired’).   Anyway, he realized when he got out of the car that the mouse had hitched a ride!  It hopped out and scurried away. Dad chuckled, wondering whether the mouse had gotten tired of its country life and plotted an escape to the city. 

A few minutes later Dad returned with the mail …. only to find the mouse waiting patiently near the car for him to return!!  According to dad — I am not making this up — the mouse hopped onto the underside of the car for his trip back up the mountain!

I guess the city life wasn’t for him either? haha

I’m sorry that very few of you ever met my dad.  He had a hard life and a lot of problems to work through — but the struggle itself ground a good deal of patience into his soul by the time the Lord called him home.
He passed away a year after Coart & I were married, just a few weeks before we were scheduled to visit him in PA (our first visit after our marriage).

“Sweet, Sugary Goodness!”

I used to be bitter about apparently losing my original chocolate chess pie recipe, but I think the one I’m using now might be a little better.  Happiness in a pie shell for sure, and takes like 10 minutes to put together.    This is my “no fail” recipe when I suddenly need a dessert.

Give it a shot! 
Hershey’s cocoa gives your pie the distinct flavor of a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar. The deeper, richer European cocoas make dark, sultry pies.

Lori’s Chocolate Chess Pie
1 ready made rolled pie crust (like Pillsbury), thawed and set into a pie plate

1 cup white sugar
3.5 Tb cocoa powder
1 5oz can evap milk
1/2 stick butter, melted and smooth
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tb (or more) of high-quality vanilla OR your favorite flavored liquor
(I’ve successfully used amaretto, kahlua, dark (espresso) kahlua, Frangelico, Godiva chocolate, etc)

Preheat oven to 400

Mix all ingredients one by one, in order, until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie crust.

Bake on bottom rack as follows:
400 for 10 minutes
325 for 20-25 minutes
(The high temperature at first will crisp your bottom crust, but the pie itself needs a lower temperature.)

It’s done when it’s got an even crust across the top … NOT when it’s solid! This is almost like a custard or fudge. It won’t turn solid like a cake.

Enjoy. 

White Choc-Cranberry 7 Layer Bars

Came up with this over the weekend for the NCS staff Xmas party.  They were good, so here’s the recipe — a fantastic and FAST recipe for Xmas baking!

White Cranberry 7-Layer Bars

1 box graham cracker crumbs
2 sticks butter, melted

2 bags white choc chips
1 bag Heath toffee bits
1 cup slivered almonds or chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup (or more) craisins

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 375
Grease well a jelly roll pan or two smaller pans.
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press firmly into the bottom of the pan.
Layer on top the chips, toffee, nuts, and craisins.
Puncture the can of milk (in 2 places) and drizzle the milk over the layers, covering evenly.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes — the edges will be kinda toasty.

Score and cut into bars BEFORE they cool.  But let them cool in the pan before stacking.

Cran-Apple Pie with Sweet Walnut Topping (thanks, Emeril)

I had to track down this recipe so I can make one for Thanksgiving in GA.  Thought I’d share with the rest of you.  I *promise* it’s an easy pie to make and I *promise* it will absolutely kick the pants off any other apple pie you decide to make this holiday season.

Cranberry Apple Pie With Sweet Walnut Topping
By Emeril Lagasse / modified by Lori Ramey
Ingredients:
Basic pie dough to fill 9-inch pan, either store bought or make your own (ingredients and recipe below, if you want to make your own) —I use store bought Pillsbury Ready-Made crusts (the ones that come folded in fourths)

1 3/4 cups light brown sugar

5 tablespoons cornstarch  **I highly recommend using Ultra Gel or some other modified corn starch product in this pie because it is VERY juicy. If you can’t get Ultra Gel, use more cornstarch!

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 4 cups)

2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over (I used frozen and they’re fine)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup walnut pieces

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Prepare the Basic Pie Dough and line pie pan (recipe below) Refrigerate until ready to fill.  Or use a Pillsbury crust.
3. In a bowl combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix well.
4. In another bowl combine the apples, cranberries, and lemon juice, and toss well. Pour the dry mixture in your other bowl over the fruit mixture. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and pour it over it all and mix thoroughly.
5.Turn the mixture into the pie shell and bake the pie until the fruit is tender, for about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set the pie on a rack to cool. I recommend baking the pie at 425 for the first 15 minutes, then at 325 or 350 for another 30 to 40 minutes–makes a crispier bottom crust.
6. In a large skillet on medium heat, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with the granulated sugar. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is bubbling and the consistency of a thick roux, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Mine always takes just 3 to 4 minutes to get to this point.
7. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and walnuts and cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes. Spoon the topping over the cooled pie and refrigerate overnight.
Ingredients and directions for basic pie dough:
2 1/4 cups of flour
Add 2/3 (or 10 2/3 tbsp.) cup very cold unsalted butter, or shortening, or lard
4 and 1/2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon salt
1.In a bowl combine 2 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 2/3 cup very cold unsalted butter, or shortening, or lard. Work it through with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using a fork, stir in 4 1/2 tbsp. water, 1 tbsp. at a time. Work it in with your hands just until you have a smooth ball of dough. Don’t overhandle the dough.
2. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out onto a floured surface. Unfold it into a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges, or pinch the border.
3. To serve, cut the pie into wedges, and add a scoop of ice cream, if you like.
Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse © 2000
Last Updated: Oct 30, 2002 by Lori Ramey