Archive for December, 2017

December 27, 2017

Are We There Yet?

I must confess, I’m ready for this year to be over – are we there yet? Let’s close this chapter down and get on with a new one. I’m ready! Some years bring ease and comfort and others throw the book at you. You can make the best choices in the world and still be bowled over by loss, illness, natural disaster, betrayal, or unexpected financial stress.
calendar
Today, a post about food will just send me running back to the bathroom. I’ve had 2 stomach viruses in as many weeks. I don’t have any tips to share. I can barely get myself upstairs to take a shower. Once I start following a train of thought, it’s quickly interrupted by my rumbling tummy. I’m typing this wondering if there’s any point in sharing at all? Nonetheless, share I shall.

In the past month, I’ve had two colds and made a trip across the country in addition to the two bouts of stomach flu. I haven’t worked out since I left on a trip December 13. I haven’t cooked since I returned. I had to cancel a trip to see my elderly cousin because of today’s illness. In between, I did a real estate closing and kept my grandson when his parents had an emergency. I’ve reviewed video and built graphics for our cooking show. I am tapped out, exhausted, and generally worthless.

The point is, we all have times like that. Hopefully, they don’t come often or stay long, but no one is immune. When I was growing up, my great aunts would band together to take over duties for an ailing relative. It didn’t require great discussion, they just divvied up the chores and went into action like a well-oiled machine. In my circle of friends, no one currently has access to that kind of family support. Many of us tough it out with very little help.

It can be hard to find reliable friends, partners, vendors, volunteers, and employees. Without those, life can feel like a constant fight to get something done. Many systems are broken or unconcerned about the individuals that depend on those systems. During good times, this can simply feel like a waste of time and energy. During difficult times, it can be the straw that leads to extreme frustration. Sometimes this frustration is expressed as violence – at home or in the community.

When you feel alone and overwhelmed, an ignored request can feel like a slap in the face. Unfortunately, ignoring has become standard operating procedure. Veterans’ physical concerns were ignored in order to enhance performance statistics. Overzealous police departments have ignored concerns of minority communities. Women’s harassment in the workplace has been ignored when the harasser is a powerful man. Clients ignore email and phone calls. Friends ignore invitations instead of responding that they can’t join you.

This year, I was even ghosted by an organization for which I wrote. I made all my deadlines. My posts were getting 10s of thousands of hits per week on Facebook. My editor never gave me any notes. He didn’t ask for rewrites. Suddenly, everything just stopped with no word whatsoever. This passes for professionalism? Not in my book.

There is a certain amount of power that can be wielded through uncertainty, chaos, manipulation, and stonewalling, but it is not the sort of power that inspires loyalty, respect, trust, admiration, or gratitude. In the coming year, I’ll be faced with many choices. I can choose to be a trustworthy and reliable friend. I can choose to respond even when my response is not what a client wants to hear. I can choose to be considerate and listen. I can choose to model patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

Admittedly, making these choices may not always be appreciated or even noticed. But that’s the thing about leading – you lead your children, colleagues, and community by your actions whether that leadership is acknowledged or not. Deciding what sort of leader you want to be determines the mark you leave on the world.

So, it’s time to leave this year behind and embark on the next one. Can I make 2018 better than any year that has come before? While I can’t determine what will happen to me or around me, I can prioritize what I make time for. I can surround myself with things that inspire me. I can determine the sort of parent, grandparent, employer, colleague, and friend I want to be, then make choices that support those values.

These final few days of 2017 when I’m lying on the couch trying to recover are perfect for reflection, truth telling, and planning. Without the stomach flu, I would have allotted less time for that so I am choosing to be grateful for the interruption. I’ll be just as grateful when I feel like eating steak again!

As you wind down your year and prepare for the next, I’m wishing you flavorful food, fragrant flowers, thoughtful friends, and strong, reliable partners!

December 21, 2017

Wrap it Up!

It’s about time to wrap it up – the last of the holiday gifts, your yearly To-Do list, the final expenditures of the year, all of your accomplishments, wishes and dreams for 2017 – wrap it up! The year will be over in less than two weeks. If there’s anything you MUST finish before next year, now is the time. I think I’ll just nap!
gifts
Nap
My father-in-law used to swear by the power nap. He came home for lunch, took a power nap, then went back to the office. He could see more patients in a day than any other doctor I’ve known, so maybe there was something to it.

Sleep organizations tout the health benefits of zapping stress and boosting your mood while making you more alert. My motivation is more that it seems a little bit naughty to nap during the workday and I’ve been way too nice this year. Plus, I read in a Men’s Health magazine article that napping after learning something can make my memory of what I learned five times better so a nap just makes sense.

Rest
If you’re not napping, and you don’t sleep enough at night, you’re in good company. According to the CDC, more than a third of us don’t get enough sleep. Sleeping less than 7 hours per day is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and obesity.

Perhaps a contributing factor is that few of us have learned to rest. We fill every moment with work, sports, shopping, kids activities, partying, hobbies, travel, or bombarding thoughts of work, sports, shopping, kids activities, partying, hobbies, and travel. When our minds don’t know how to rest, our bodies have difficulty sleeping.

Regroup
Taking time to reflect on the state of our lives throughout the past year can lead to the insight that it’s time to regroup. A little courage and determination can lead to a happier, less hurried, and more productive 2018. Just think of it as organizing the closet of your mind.

Once I have things reordered in a way that supports the things I value, I’m able to create the life I want. It doesn’t always happen in a moment, but at least I know that I will be supported during the process. That can make all the difference in whether I get from point A to point B.

Rejuvenate
Napping, resting, and regrouping contribute to feeling revived, energized, and de-stressed. They may even make you look younger. I like to think so.

Move forward
Next year, my focus is on finding a path to joy. I know the feelings of fun, laughter, inspiration, awe, and reverence. I’m lacking in what it means to feel carefree, blissful, unhinged exuberance. Once I find the way to joy, I know I’ll want to wrap it up!

https://sleep.org/articles/napping-health-benefits/

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/napping

https://www.menshealth.com/health/21-health-benefits-of-napping

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html

December 11, 2017

A Bottle for Ideas Brings the Enticement of Exploration

I went to an art sale today where I bought this bottle for ideas. I chose this one rather than a bottle for courage, truth, or inspiration. As you can see, my bottle is empty. Although I consider myself a veritable well of ideas – many of them good…right now I got nothin’. Maybe I should have opted for a bottle of inspiration, but I digress.
ideas
Since I’m fresh out of ideas, I think I’ll just share some things I’m pondering:

Why are cowboy boots so comfortable?
They don’t have memory foam or padded soles or special arch supports, but they always feel great! Maybe that’s why my dad had a closet full of them.

Who decided high heels were a good idea?
While I’m on shoes, I may as well question why anyone thinks the unnatural stance and awkward gait created by high heels are a good thing.

Why can’t all clothes feel like pajamas?
Of course I mean feel like pajamas and look like tailored, polished, professional clothes! Actually, they can look funky and creative but fit well while feeling like pjs and I’d be pretty happy.

Have I ever had a favorite color?
I like lots of colors and color combinations, but I can’t think of a color I consider my favorite. I think I used to answer paisley to this question because the question annoyed me.

Why do popcorn and coffee smell so good?
You don’t even have to like coffee to like the smell of it. Before I was a coffee drinker, I wanted to pour it over my head so I could feel the warmth and breath in the fragrance. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve craved popcorn simply because its aroma filled the air.

Why do products I consider superior disappear so quickly?
The obvious answer is that I like things very few people like. That could be true, but I don’t think so. Anyone else have this problem?

Why would anyone think you need to add sugar to dried fruit?
Ever notice how hard it is to find dried mango, papaya, cantaloupe or pineapple without added sugar? Fruit is sweet to begin with and drying it concentrates the natural sugar. That seems sweet enough to me.

Am I going to have to create a winter garden in my house to get vegetables and fruit with flavor?
It is a constant source of frustration that my local grocery stores are filled with fruit and vegetables that have no flavor. In the winter, farmers markets are not an option.

Why do we still use QWERTY keyboards?
Hardware has outgrown the need to slow down our typing speed. Wouldn’t we be more productive if we could text faster?

Why do fire trucks use sirens when driving in Christmas parades?
Those things are really loud and kinda scary for small children.

Why do weather reports seem less accurate now that we have more technology?
Maybe there is so much information available that we can’t interpret it properly or maybe we just arrogantly believe weather can be predicted with certainty. At this point in time, it cannot.

Should an increased genetic tendency for a specific cancer lead to preventative surgery?
This is an individual patient choice and should be an informed one. To me, it seems dicey to recommend surgery when, like the weather, we cannot predict with certainty whether a patient will develop cancer. Many camps will disagree with me.

If an increased genetic tendency for a specific cancer can be a reason to recommend something as invasive as surgery, why would a physician be remotely hesitant to recommend a gluten-free diet to someone with a genetic tendency for celiac disease?
This has stumped me for years. A gluten-free diet can be nutritionally complete so ?????

Why would a healthcare provider automatically send me home with a prescription for 30 opioid pills after a minor procedure instead of waiting to see if potential pain could be controlled with acetaminophen, a NASID or naproxen?
There are probably a lot of people asking this question right now.

What are my intentions for 2018?
Will they lead to changes in my job process, friendships, boundaries, or financial transactions? Will they lead to ideas?

No matter how much I ponder or what direction my thoughts take, I know I feel best when I can see a wealth of possibilities opening up in front of me. Sometimes the best way to get to that point is to sit still and allow myself to visualize what can be without the encumbrance of fear or practicality.

I can figure out the how later. I don’t need ideas right now. All I need is the enticement of exploration.

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=prescribe

December 4, 2017

Dump Soup – Perfect for a Lazy Day

This morning, I’m making dump soup. I’d like to say it’s because I’m having a relaxing day with nothing else to do. The truth is, I’m sick. I don’t feel like standing in the kitchen, but I want some soup to sip on.
veggies
The good news is, I have remnants of broccoli, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh rosemary, and ham in my refrigerator — all left over from last weekend’s family meal prep. I also have a bag of small red onions I picked up on sale. The other good news is that the broccoli has already been cleaned, the potatoes were peeled & sliced for scalloped potatoes (but wouldn’t fit in my dish), and the tomatoes were chopped for a salad. I can just dump everything in a pan, no prep required!!!!

Dump soup, unlike a carefully prepared stew, doesn’t require chopping. It doesn’t require potatoes that haven’t turned dark. You don’t need to cut the leaves off of the celery or pull the rosemary off its stem. You can just dump cleaned veggies in a large pot, season with salt, pepper, garlic (dump some fresh in if you have it), and any other herbs or spices that compliment your flavor profile, then add meat & water.
ham
Any leftover or uncooked meat will work — ham, chicken, and bacon are my favorites. Dump soup is a great place to use chicken or turkey necks, hearts, livers, and gizzards. It’s the perfect excuse to skip closely trimming a ham bone. Leaving some meat on the bone will add even more flavor to the soup. If you don’t have meat handy, mixing some chicken stock in your water will deepen the flavor of the vegetable broth.

If you’ve ever made chicken stock, you know that once the broth is flavored, you remove all of the chicken and vegetables because they’re overcooked and have given most of their flavor over to the broth. Dump soup is the same. What you’re going for initially is a flavorful broth. Slowly simmering your mixture for 3-4 hours will result in a rich broth. The lengthy cooking time is another reason it’s perfect for a lazy morning or a day you’re stuck at home doing chores.

After 3-4 hours, dump in whatever you’d like to chew on in your soup. First, remove all the meat, vegetables, and herbs. I don’t worry about straining out little remnants, but you can if you want a clear broth. Today, I’ll probably dump in some brown rice, but pasta, quinoa, or lentils are good options as well. If I felt like spending more time in the kitchen, I might add chopped vegetables and/or meat.
biscuits
I’ll serve today’s dump soup with some ratty looking gluten-free biscuits I threw together this morning. I keep the dry ingredients mixed up so that on days like today, I all I have to do is cut in some shortening and add the milk and buttermilk. That means it takes about 5 minutes to mix the biscuits and get them in the oven. Obviously, I didn’t take much time rolling or cutting these! A piece of fresh fruit will round out the meal.

And I’ll have plenty of everything left for tomorrow. Of course, I hope I’m feeling better by then but you never know. Having something warm and comforting already prepared makes me feel less anxious and able to rest more easily while I try to get ahead of this virus. There’s also something comforting about the delicious aroma filling the house.

In a matter of minutes, I cleaned out 80% of the contents of my refrigerator, made the house feel comforting, and created several meals — all by making dump soup. Not bad for a morning when I’m mostly lying around watching TV!