Vulnerable, Honest, Bare-Faced Love and Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon

Dear Joey,

Somewhere along the lines when I was growing up, someone (and honestly, I cannot remember who it was) told me that if I wore make up everyday, then people would be so used to my made up face that my un-made up face would look sort of funny to them. In my young mind, I thought that meant if I chose to start wearing make up, I had better always wear it, in every situation –even when I was at home, sick — in order to not look funny.

Jokes on me, because the closest I came to wearing make up this week was that little bit of mascara I wore yesterday when I took Addie to the doctor’s office. Other than that, I’ve been bare-faced and pajama clad, wiping noses and tears and hands and mouths, miraculously dodging the bug that has infiltrated our house this week. And you have forgiven me this, praising my endurance and coming to my rescue with Children’s Advil, Vapor Rub, Kleenex with lotion, and Chocolate Truffle Coffee (which you have had ready and waiting for me in the coffee pot many mornings this week).

I shouldn’t be surprised at this. After all, the first time you saw my unshowered, no make-up self, you ended up spending the whole Saturday with Christy and me lounging around in the living room playing Mad Gab, eating deli sandwiches, introducing us to Tapioca Express, and listening to our stories with an eager ear.  You didn’t seem to notice my bare face, messy pony tail, saggy gray sweatpants or frumpy college sweatshirt.

And then, in another surprising moment, I answered your early morning knock on the door with towel-dried hair and a not-yet-made-up, somewhat confused face; it was the time you came to tell me how sorry you were that you hadn’t asked me to dance with you the night before, when we were both at a wedding for our dear friends. I remember the way your face looked when you saw me that morning, choking back tears as you told me how beautiful I had looked the night before, and I remember thinking two things in that moment: the first was disbelief that you would say these things to me while my make-up-free face was staring back at you, and the second was really wishing I was in love with you.

It took some time, but now here we are nearly six years later, and my wish came true, and you have probably seen more of my bare face than you bargained for. You’ve seen my I’m so sick I can’t move face and my I haven’t slept since last May face and my I’m trying to hide the fact that I’ve been crying face. You’ve seen my swollen, pregnant face and my angry face and my happy face and my excited face and my frustrated face and my content face. All, might I add, sans make up.

When I look back on those moments, the ones when I was brave enough to let you see the real me, both before you loved me and the ones well after, I realize those are the moments that showed you who I really am, the moments when you really saw me, and you still wanted to marry me because no matter how I appeared, you saw the real me beneath it all. Bare faces are beautiful because messy or not, they are vulnerable and honest.

With the girls’ colds have come red-rimmed, weepy eyes and  swollen, stuffy noses, and even though they have been too sick and frail to do much other than cry or whine, I realize how deeply I love them. I love them because of who they are, not who they appear to be in their messiest moments. It astonishes me that even though I’ve scarce had time to change my clothes or brush my hair in these past few days, let alone fuss with makeup, neither they nor you seem fazed by it. In fact, you all seem to love me even more.

That’s the kind of love we all need: vulnerable, honest, bare-faced love. Perhaps the world would be a better place if more people loved like that.

Love, Scratch

Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon


This soup is not at all fancy, but is sophisticated and delicious all the same. It began as a simple chicken and rice soup, but became something special when Joey suggested we add lemon juice to give it a bit of Greek flair. The result is sort of like  avgolemolo, but is made without eggs. Don’t let the lemon deter you: it gives the soup a bit of added zing that is most welcome when you’ve got a stuffy nose and sore throat. We use Meyer lemons, but regular lemon juice can be substituted easily. Start with 1/3 cup and add more to taste. The soup should not be sour, but should have a distinct lemon flavor. 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large carrots
3 large celery ribs
1/2 medium yellow onion
6 cups chicken broth (I usually use Better than Bouillon)
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
juice of 3 Meyer lemons (or about 1/3 – 2/3 cup lemon juice)
Optional: 1/2 cup whole milk (2% or half & half can be used if needed)

Heat broth on the stove to boiling. Throw in the chicken breasts (frozen is ok). When they’re cooked through, remove them and set them aside to cool. Meanwhile, cook up the rice. Once it’s done, set it aside until ready to use.

When both the broth and chicken are cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside. Strain the broth, reserving it in a large pot and discarding any unwanted chicken bits.

Next, dice the onion, carrots and celery ribs. (I usually cut them into about 1/2 cubes, but they can be chunkier if you prefer.) Sauté them in a little bit of oil until softened, adding some salt and pepper to taste as they cook. Add the cooked vegetables, chicken, pre-cooked rice, and lemon juice to the reserved broth; bring it up to a boil and then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes or so, which will transform the broth into thicker, more creamier version of itself. The soup is ready to serve at that point, but if you’d like to amp up the soothing creaminess factor (and your family can handle dairy just fine), read on.

Temper the milk a bit (by gently warming it up in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds), then swirl it into the soup pot. I don’t make it at our house this way anymore, but this step was standard before Emery joined our ranks. The good news? The soup fares well either way, so the decision is completely up to you. (Ah, food allergy flexibility.)


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