General, Uncategorized

I don’t need your help.

The holidays are over. I am both sad and happy but glad that we can focus better now. I like to stay focused even if I find it hard to do at times. I do miss all the joy with my family. I don’t take them for granted, that’s for sure. I love to spend time with people I love.

The holidays are a great time to see the world come together. More people were eating out together, going to church, going to parties, helping at local organizations, and just a general togetherness. I miss that. I wish we had the Christmas spirit all year long. Of course, that never happens because of the stupid responsibilities that come with keeping up with everyone you know. The holidays are all about doing too much. You can’t do that all the time. So here we are- bored and liking it.

That giving thing is the part that I am going to work hard for this year. I have big plans to get out there and do a little more. Or at least find people that want to do more with me. You know that would make a big difference. We need to take good things and multiply them. Only good things will come from it. I mean, nothing is perfect, but you get what I am saying. Turning the wheels in the right direction gets you closer to the finish line. I hope. I think. I do have faith in that because I have seen it first hand.

People always ask me if I need help with anything for The Treasa Barley Foundation. I always say the same thing- I don’t. I don’t need help. At any time, I can do less or more. It doesn’t matter because the need is so great. I can always choose to feed two people or 100 people. Of course, I prefer to feed 100. That is the better choice. I have done it myself and enjoyed every minute of it also. I guess enjoyed is not the right word. It’s hard to have a word to describe the experience. I get the same amount of joy from doing it all myself as I do with a large group of helpers because I am there for myself — my personal growth.

It’s not that I need help. It’s not that the homeless need our help. It’s not that the hungry don’t need or couldn’t use help. Or myself, I don’t have all the time in the world. It is nice having someone to help create, organize, and work side by side. However, I don’t need it.

You need it. It would be best if you changed. You. Well, and me. I am part of the collective “you” in this story. There is not one person who is without needing to be a better human being. We all need a reality check. Helping a person who is less fortunate than me does precisely that.

You will become so connected to God. I don’t believe I am saying this. I was so against even talking about God. Like some bad thing that no one should ever discuss. I avoided healthy things. Why? I don’t know.

What I do know, being a person with PTSD, I struggle when I see people who are hurting. I do get emotional and have a hard time grounding myself. It takes me back to the past. I don’t want it to, but it just is unavoidable. You can’t take the past out of your mind. It is not a possibility. Not unless you get your memories erased. But this is not Marvel, so you are stuck with your memories. Sorry to say. And sad memories do weaken me. But now that I pray and walk in the path of Jesus, it is different for me. God is using my pain. He is a driving force that is going full speed ahead. I do still feel it. Like today I am feeling a little emotional. But God is putting this fire in me.

It’s hard because my best friend had her life taken from her. Her father molested her for her entire life. So she killed her self with the heroine. I watched her be destroyed by it. She withered away a little at a time until the end. Then she died in front of me. That is not something you easily forget. It is life-changing. This war against drugs is fierce. It’s so hard on everyone who has been touched by it. These are people we love, like our parents and siblings, our children, and even grandchildren. It is such a catastrophic problem, and there is no easy solution. Although it appears that everyone thinks they know what to do. However, no one does anything. The end is insurmountable. So we pray it goes away.

Here’s a news flash for you- It won’t, especially if we spend all of our time judging and not doing.

But God is with me. He is showing me every time I go into battle that he went there before me. God didn’t just know I was there. He went before me. That is what it says in the bible. Deuteronomy 31:8 “8The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I would have laughed about that before. Now it gives me peace in my heart. Now I go because He is with me. Jesus showed me the path to forgiveness. It is a battle. You can see it. You can see the blows. You can see the blood and sweat from the battle — the death and awaking. We are fighting drugs and sexual violence. We are making a difference too. That’s not because of me. God is using my pain to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. There is not a person that will convince me otherwise.

If you want to see your purpose in this world, go outside of your comfort zone and help someone you said you would never support. Find a person on the side of the road. That guy that begs for money, and start a conversation with him. Please don’t ask questions like how did he get here. Why won’t he work?. Ask his name or if he needs anything besides money? Can we have some lunch together? Want to sit in my car and get warmed up? Tell him about yourself. Talk about his family, the president or the mayor, their families, or friends. It’s scary. What if he robs me? What if he does something worse? What if they are high and will hurt me? Well, you don’t have to let him sit in your car. But you can still talk to him in public with a lot of other people around. Just do it. Help, because you won’t be disappointed that you did it. I believe you may be disappointed that you didn’t do it sooner.

When you are sitting with your new friend, remember, loneliness is a leading cause of depression and self-destruction. Look up how loneliness affects us. It affects our bodies and our minds. I have even read that it makes a person colder. Homeless people are already freezing in the winter, and that is a big reason why homeless people stay together. They want to avoid loneliness. Unlike popular belief, they don’t want to die. Their minds are just so corrupted by the enemy that they can not see past the despair. A drug controls everything, and they don’t see an end, just like we don’t see that end. So they avoid doing the right thing, just like we as a society are avoiding it. However, we have a nice bed where we sleep and a family that loves us.

So no. I don’t need your help.



If you give people the power to feed you, you also give them power to starve you.

So many times, I have said this to others. When I was an angry person, I felt that in a hostile way. I felt like I couldn’t allow anyone to control me. It’s still true. I don’t let anyone have the power to feed or to starve me unless it comes from a place of love.

When I say “starve you,” I am not just talking about food.

People can starve you financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and through your stomach. You have to take care of yourself. You have to do it for yourself.

I know that sounds selfish, but it’s not. We are better people if we work on ourselves. Sometimes that means going to church, going to counseling, exercising, eating right, sticking to a budget, spending time with your family or loved one, and all the things that would typically come to mind.

For me, it’s helping others unconditionally. That is how I work on myself. It humbles me in so many ways. I have to make sure it’s without conditions, or it doesn’t work for me. I can’t get involved in what is happening to that person. I can’t personally take on what God intended for them. I love them where they are and let God do the rest. As soon as I start listening to drama, gossip, or what people say behind my back, or lies about me, then I am allowing that person to starve me. It drains me emotionally and spiritually. I am not useful to anyone that way. No one is.

When you are starving, you are left weak and helpless.

We can’t do God’s work if we are starving spiritually. That’s the other way I work on myself. I need the constant forgiveness of Jesus to help me because he is the anchor that keeps me grounded. My mercy reminds me that I am here solely on that forgiveness, and I have also to forgive others. Not forgiving will starve you quickly.

Forgiveness, as I am learning from my Christian studies, is not about trust either. It’s not about allowing that person to continue to be toxic. You can forgive a person and still keep them out of your life. You can forgive a person and always demand boundaries. What I have learned is how It’s about your relationship with God. It’s about finding peace even when that person doesn’t apologize or admit they are wrong. It’s about finding peace also if that person continues to molest other children, or beat their next wife, or cheat on their future spouse. If you don’t forgive, you are only hurting yourself. You are giving those actions the power to starve you both spiritually and emotionally. Physically too, because you will lose sleep.

I have given it to Jesus. He already died for it. I will no longer let it stop me from living my fullest life. I will allow the world to exist as it is and be grateful because, after all, we are only here for a brief moment. I will spread love in spite of the hate. I have chosen to forgive because that is where I find the most peace. I am finally full and satisfied.

If we were discussing this even ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face. I have had to work on myself to get here. I am still a work in progress as they say. I probably always will be. I am a rebel and fighter at heart. I will continue to fight the fight for myself and my children because I want them to know that they can fight too. I want them to know, and I want them to use it to teach their children to fight for themselves.

When we heal, we heal generations of pain. We halt the starvation in its place, and we don’t allow those that starved to death to die in vain. That is why it is so essential to work on it and never stop fighting for it.

We can strive to make life better. We can teach others to feed themselves with self-love. To do that, we have to put the power in the right hands.

Recipes, Uncategorized

Chicken Alfredo Mac and Cheese for a Crowd

This meal uses simple and inexpensive ingredients. I spent less than $1 per person. The process is pretty easy too.

This recipe makes enough to feed 100 people, and it is easy to adjust to the size of your crowd. It tastes better the next day, too, and everyone loves it. That makes it one of my favorite meals.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

How to make the chicken:

I used 2 large aluminum, full-sized steam pans (20.75″ x 12.81″ x 3.8″). I buy them at Sam’s club in bulk. They are very sturdy and are the best price I have found.

I bought chicken at Aldi for less than $2 a pound. I bought three packages, each roughly 10 pounds.

Your herbs are going to coat the chicken. So I mix them in a bowl. Then I cover the chicken entirely on both sides. These seasonings are where all the flavor comes from, so don’t skimp on the coating.

Add one can of roasted peppers to each pan. I just sprinkled mine right over the top of the chicken.

Cook the chicken in a 400-degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, until the meat thermometer reads 160. You want the oven to be sweltering. Cooking meat at high temperatures locks the juices in and keeps your meat very tender and juicy. You also do not want to overcook your chicken. Be sure to get a meat thermometer if you don’t have one. They are essential cooking tools. You don’t want to do all this work just to have a chicken that tastes like you’re eating a shoe.

While the chicken is cooking, you can cook the macaroni noodles. I have a large stockpot that I use for both the noodles and the sauce we will make last.

When the chicken cools, you want to cut it into strips or chunks.

I slice the chicken and put it right back into those beautiful juices. Those juices will make this dish stay creamy throughout the process, as well as keeping that tremendous flavor that those herbs put out.

Now you add the cooked noodles and uncooked spinach. The spinach will cook with the hot sauce and when you reheat this to serve it.

How to make the sauce:

For this recipe, we will ditch the béchamel and make our sauce with 3 simple ingredients- cream cheese, milk, and grated parmesan and romano cheeses. I used the canned kind, but the best is to use fresh. Sam’s club sells this fantastic cheese that has large shredded pieces of asiago, romano, and parmesan mixed. It’s really worth the extra money, in my opinion. But going to Sam’s is not always easy for me, and it’s still really delicious without it. I got no complaints from those that ate this meal. Everyone wanted the recipe.

So in the same large pot that I cooked my noodles, I put all the cream cheese and all the milk. I cooked it down until all the cream cheese melted. Watch it closely, so it doesn’t burn. The milk burns easily. Once the mixture is smooth, I removed it from the heat and added all the parmesan/romano cheese. When making cheese sauces, it’s best to not add the cheese to the pan while it’s on the heat. It will scorch immediately. Blocked cheese like cream cheese and Velveeta are different and can withstand the heat. Just keep your eye on them.

Then I put my pot in between the two pans of mixed chicken ingredients. I added the sauce about 5-6 large spoonfuls at a time. You want it to be distributed evenly. I added, then stirred, then added, then stirred, then added, then stirred…

The finished dish looks and tastes so amazing. Everyone will want to know how you did it.

If you are serving it that day or the next, you want to cook it until it’s bubbly. Mine was cold when I put it in the oven, so it cooked about 40 minutes, and I stirred it pretty often.


General, Uncategorized

Fred’s Boots

This story is about how a pair of boots will change my life.

For my readers that don’t know me, every month, for the past year, I have gone to homeless camps once a month to deliver a hot, homecooked meal to the homeless. I have also cooked and served homecooked meals to the homeless for nearly 2 years. I call them Wednesday Lunches with the Homeless. I have met with hundreds of homeless people. Not everyone I see is homeless. Some are in homes but love the company of the Wednesday lunches.

I wish I would have started to write about the people I met a long time ago. I have come across some miracles, tons of love, and some grave disappointment. So many ups and downs. People. We are connected to them for a reason. I do believe that. I see it often actually.

Something I strive to do, bring awareness to why people “choose” to be homeless. My goal is not for people to feel sorry for the homeless but to have genuine empathy for others, in general.

Loneliness is no joke. When a person gets a place that is far from their family of other homeless people, they do get lonely and discouraged. It’s sad to see them deteriorate. You would think getting a place would be better for them. I wouldn’t argue that point with anyone either. I do believe it is better to have a roof over my head. But I have learned that a home is just that- a roof over your head. It’s the people in the house that makes all the difference.

It’s not uncommon to go a few months without seeing someone. They will find their way back to me. It’s pretty awesome to see them again. They light up when they see me. It feels good to be loved that much. They aren’t just homeless people, they are my family. Some have cried, and some come to me starving because they are unable to get to the foodbank. Not all of them are like this, though. I have seen just as many people turn their lives around. That is why they stay in camps. It’s comfort in so many ways. If a homeless person is forced to choose- having a roof over their heads and being lonely, or living in a tent with a community of loved ones, they always want love. Just because they don’t have it together, maybe they are addicts, doesn’t mean they don’t need love. They still need people to love them. Period.

It’s hard to love people that have hurt us. I have been hurt and had to cut people out of my life more than once. Mostly for the safety of my family or myself, as well as my mental health. It’s hard. Losing someone you love because they can’t stop using or drinking, lying, or whatever it is that is hurting others is really hard. You want them to stop, but they can’t. I know I feel bad sometimes.

Especially when my parents died, I wanted nothing more than to have a good relationship with them both. Because my father was an alcoholic, that never really happened. That is really hard to do if that person is always drunk. It’s impossible to get close to someone that hurt you when that same toxic behavior is present and lingers in your life. They are unwilling to change, and you need them to change so you can have a real relationship with them. It’s a vicious cycle that seems to not end, leaving you drained mentally. I don’t hate the people that I have cut out. I just don’t trust them. I pray for them. I pray that they have people in their lives to love them because I do love them. I think that is a huge reason I do the things I do with the homeless. I believe God led me there because someone prayed for those people that I help. People that love them asked God to help them.

Many homeless people are homeless because they are toxic to people in their lives. That is the bottom line. But someone prays for them, just like I pray for those that are not allowed around me for the very same reasons.

What does this have to do with Fred?

Fred showed up at the last Soup Run. He stopped to talk to me and a few other volunteers. He was so excited about his new boots. Someone donated some really nice boots that were also Fred’s size. He also traded bookbags with us. He needed a larger one but left his smaller one for someone else.

Our conversation was about his boots and how God led him there that day. He said that he wasn’t going to come, but for some reason, he came. Fred insisted that God led him to us to get those boots and supplies. He told us he got a new job and had to walk half a mile to the bus stop every day. Fred didn’t have a good pair of shoes, and his feet were suffering from it. Now he has new boots.

Fred said something really important. “I prayed I would meet you today.”

Um. No Fred. I prayed I would meet you today.

His gratitude and love for God really touched us. This is why we were there. Someone prayed, and here he was. I know I prayed for him, maybe not specifically for Fred, but for God to move in this foundation. I prayed many times for God to bless the work we all do with the homeless.

Answered prays are always so inspiring. Not because we have so much. Everyone thinks having money is a blessing. Fred had no money. Fred couldn’t afford to buy a pair of boots. Such a simple thing. My husband needed boots and went to the store and bought them. He just did it. “Hey honey, I am going to get some new boots,” and off he went. To Fred, those boots were like winning the lottery.

Fred’s happiness reminded me why I am there, and to show me that we can be grateful even in the hardest moments of our lives. Did the boots change his life? I believe he can get to work now in comfort. So yes. Did Fred’s boots change my life? Absolutely. This often happens when I interact with those that are down on their luck. They are so grateful and willing to tell you about how much it means to them.

Helping others helps us in so many ways. It doesn’t enrich our pockets with wads of cash. It enhances our very existence. And if it enriches our lives in this messed up world, I can only imagine what it does for the next life. I am not saying we have to feed homeless people to get into heaven. I know that Jesus already gave me that gift. However, I believe what we do here does affect the next life in some way. We may not be standing at the pearly gates with a long list that weighs our accomplishments versus our sins. I don’t think a God that is omnipresent needs that. I just think we are here for something, and not only to suffer. I like to believe that our lives have a purpose, even when things are not going our way.

Fred’s boots proved that to me.

General, Uncategorized

My Cabin

I have this “cabin.” It’s a shed. A nice shed made up to be a cozy spot.

I originally got this cabin for my dad. He wanted to move back to Ohio. I thought it would be nice to spend time with him after mom passed. I wanted that. Many people want to have relationships with their parents, even in trauma-induced situations. That was my dad, even if he wasn’t my blood. He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine. He’s the man my mother married, and she loved him very much. He was part of my life. I wanted that relationship to be the best it could be.

John was a stubborn person. He wouldn’t even look at the cabin. Although it was for the best in the long run, I wanted that to happen. It was a terrible idea. I was just mad that we went through all that preparing, that he agreed to do it, and then he wouldn’t even look at it.

I let that cabin sit. I was frustrated with it. Mad. So mad. He took my mother from me. That’s how I felt. He was a difficult person, and his decisions made my life a living hell at times.

That is what trauma does. It makes you feel one way while wanting another thing. It’s an overwhelming amount of emotions. Many people just shut down completely. They don’t grow up with Clair Huxtable as their mother. Clair was famous for sitting with her family and counseling them, so we all wanted Clair to be our mother. That is why the show was so memorable. That is also why the world was so shocked by the behavior of Bill Cosby. What a disappointment to anyone who grew up watching that show. The truth is the world is full of “Bill Cosbys.” I think that is why our society is obsessed with binge-watching TV. It is a release from the real world. A place where we can hide for a few hours.

That sounds so familiar to addiction. We all seek relief in some form or another.

That is why I can relate to homeless people so well. I know that feeling of wanting something better but not being able to make that better thing happen. Yes, I have a wonderful marriage. A nice home. Beautiful children. But those are not the sign of success, in my opinion. I think it is more successful in finding peace amongst a world of discontentment.

So I was outraged and did nothing with that cabin. Then I read about Airbnb. I started thinking about my cabin and cooking for others that stay there. I could have my own bed and breakfast. Those are my reality-escaping dreams. I want to buy a huge plot of land, with a lake. There is a house close to me that has all of those things. It’s empty, so it’s easy to really dream about those places. What if I could just win that lottery? My husband and I like to trespass on the property and sit by the lake. It is the middle of nowhere.

So how cool is it that I now have my own bed and breakfast. I may not have 1.5 million to buy that farm, but I can use what I have, where I am. The cabin is now a hot spot on Airbnb. And guess what every review says? Breakfast! Oh my, does that make me happy. I thought I was going just to make a couple hundred dollars. I wanted to put a beach at the pond.

God never ceases to amaze me. He is using that cabin for so much more.

One of my favorite things about food is how it evens the communication field. People that you don’t know, you can talk to them with ease over a plate of delicious food. You can sit across them and find out a lot about them. Sometimes we are so busy racing around we don’t take time to sit with others. Food forces that awkward connection with others.

Today one of my guests left crying over his overwhelming feelings. He shared his story with me. His story is very similar to mine. He and his wife were so open about the homeless. They also minister to and help with the homeless. They are not the only amazing guests. I have had so many. Almost every guest sits with me in the mornings, over coffee, and farm-fresh breakfast. We talk about everything. They are mostly looking for a respite. Here? They find peace and solitude in my back yard. I look at my backyard and see toys, a broken fence, tree stumps, and many other imperfections.

Why do we do that to ourselves, anyway? Why do we always feel like we are not enough or do not have enough? Then someone comes into your life and reminds you that what you have is so much more than what we realize. That is what I am learning from this experience, feeding others. To appreciate my life. How does that even happen? Feeding people teaches me to appreciate my life? I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I see a larger purpose in it. It’s hard not to.

God. He always brings people into my life like this. He uses food to do it too. I am obsessed with food. This is why. That is a success in my eyes. Not because I am a successful chef, or bed and breakfast owner, or that I can provide a roof over my head. It’s that I found peace in every aspect of my life.

It’s not like it’s all gone. I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Those are always going to be part of my brain’s make-up. But what God is doing with it-that is where success is measured.

If you’re holding back for any reason, especially because you’re angry, don’t. You never know what God is going to do with your life. You don’t have to be a “bible-thumping Jesus freak” to be used by God. He knows our stubbornness and will and loves us anyway. It’s his will that we undervalue in our lives. Finding peace is not easy. I cried today; actually, I cried yesterday too. It is hard to let God use us because it puts us in a vulnerable position. I hate vulnerability the most. Guess what? He uses that too.