Monday Musing

Monday musing = It is Monday and I am musing. Sometimes things are simple and mean what they seem to mean. Let’s keep it that way.

In fact, I’ll muse about simplicity for a moment.

mountain view
Height of Land in Bethel, Maine

I prefer simple communication.
I prefer simple, straightforward communication to flowery flattery or free flowing expressions of affection. I’ve had too much experience with ridiculous euphemisms and vague hidden messages. I CAN handle the truth…and I prefer it.

I like simple solutions.
Often I find them by improving the process. The time, energy, thought, and effort put into planning and organization pay off over and over again by preventing convoluted outcomes. Process solutions free of secondary complications can be as layered and responsive as required. And they can keep me from spending all of my time fighting fires.

Simple solutions can also be found in the moment.
When I left the butter out overnight, I realized I automatically use less when it’s easy to spread. Now I keep some salted butter on the counter and some in the refrigerator.

When my brand new roof leaked and I discovered a tiny bit of mold, I learned I could kill it with vinegar. I didn’t need the hassle and expense of a hazmat-suited team armed with chemicals.

In the middle of an argument, I quickly remembered I can eliminate most food disagreements with a toddler by offering limited choices. When I give my grandson DJ a choice of oranges or grapes and hummus or cottage cheese, he happily chooses one from each category and eats them without fussing. (While this is more difficult to accomplish with my two-year-old granddaughter who has Down Syndrome and cannot talk, we are working on a choice between milk or water using sign language. She also needs to learn that she has options and can determine her path.)

Many simple solutions are obvious.
I can walk more by parking further away. I can drink more water by carrying it with me or drinking only water in restaurants. I will have more time to read if I turn off the TV. I will have more money to spend later when I save now.

Great food can be simple.
I ate a harvest vegetable risotto last week that was scrumptious. The flavor came primarily from the sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes amidst the rice. No heavy seasoning or sauce was needed. In fact, making the flavor profile more complex would not have improved my enjoyment. I love dishes like that!

A workout can be simple.
One day I decided walking up and down my stairs would be an easy way to get some aerobic exercise. I figured 10 trips up and down would be fast and easy. There are 24 steps. I set out at a quick pace. Three flights later, I was huffing and puffing. Walking stairs is a simple workout, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Fun can be simple, too.
I don’t really need bright lights, loud music, and lots of people around to have a good time. Give me a gorgeous mountain view, an uncrowded swimming pool, a good book, a spirited discussion, an inspiring performance or exhibit, and the uninhibited giggles of a grandchild and I can have a wonderful time.

Difficult decisions can be made using a simple process.
Narrow your options to those that align with your intentions and values. Review each remaining option asking: Does this option solve a problem, accomplish a defined goal, benefit my finances, make life more pleasant or peaceful? Rarely will each option have an equal number of benefits.

If all options seem equal, review the options again asking: Does this option benefit my family as well as myself; does it put me in a vulnerable or questionable financial position for a period of time; which choice will benefit me more in one, five, or ten years? Again, it will be rare for every option to be equally weighted.

Break down the complicated.
If you still find yourself stuck or paralyzed and simply can’t make a decision, you are most likely caught in some issue other than the decision at hand. Recognizing this frees you up to move away from spinning your wheels trying to make a particular decision and put that energy toward examining the source of underlying paralysis. Once that’s addressed, the decision will become simple.

The simplest actions can mean the most.
Take the time to let your children know you see them. Look your friends, family, colleagues, and enemies in the eye. Actively listen. Say thank you. Stay home when you’re sick. Choose kindness. Apologize. Be dependable and reliable. Say no when you mean no. Give time.

Well, I mused so long it’s now Tuesday. Time to stop musing and go vote!

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If Your Work Does Not Garner Attention, Is It Worth Doing?

If your work does not garner attention, is it worth doing? In 2009, my son’s friend Ester directed the documentary film, Butterflies. The film follows the lives of six people dubbed weblebrities for gaining fame for doing nothing but appear on a website called YouTube. At the time, YouTube was only four-years-old and there was no such thing as an influencer.

In fact, although the film explores the power of the internet to challenge the future of traditional media, I don’t think anyone took the weblebrity phenomenon too seriously. I know I didn’t expect that 10 years later a 7-year-old could make $22 million in one year reviewing toys on YouTube.

As timing would have it, there was a synergy in the effects of the Real Housewives, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, smartphone cameras and YouTube. What was initially viewed by most as distasteful exhibitionism morphed into acceptable and then a model to emulate.

Growing alongside those franchises were FaceBook and Twitter soon followed by Instagram. While these are marketed as ways to connect, they are equally ways to garner attention. Clicks and likes became a measure of whether you matter in the world. The fact that likes are generated by the lewd, violent, or dangerous as well as the cute and cuddly lost any distinction.

Ten years after Butterflies, being a YouTube star has become a career goal. This is not inherently a bad thing. Using YouTube to showcase art, music, spoken word, fashion, dance, interior design, cooking, scuba diving, sailing, rowing, gymnastics, workouts, gardening, auto repair, appliance repair, history, 3D printing, and new technology is a great use of the platform. Showcasing new products is fine too. But hoping to be famous for being famous or outrageous has limited value to society.

On the other hand, being famous for being famous or outrageous now pays really well. Because we use money as a primary measure of success in this country, celebrity for celebrity’s sake has been legitimized. So what if you create an algorithm that improves hospital efficiency, design an improved washing machine, engineer a safer bridge, or improve the delivery mechanism for chemo? What if your true talent is caring for a disabled child or fragile senior?

What if the most significant contribution you make does not get any attention at all?

The truth is that the most important work you do in life may not garner much attention or much money. We used to know and accept this. We followed internal guidelines that focused on hard work, dependability, honesty, integrity and doing our best at any task we were given. Our sense of accomplishment was based as much on HOW we did the job as it was on what we achieved or how much we were paid.

When we tried hard and failed, we weren’t crushed as long as we had done our best. We absorbed the experience, learned something, and moved on. We expected less from others and more from ourselves.

During the past decade, there has been a shift from primarily internal to primarily external motivation and validation. And the shift hasn’t been to external validation from people who can look you in the eyes or hold you when you’re crying, but to validation from total strangers who only know a one-dimensional version of you and only care about you when you stand out from the digital noise.

Depending on someone else for a feeling of accomplishment or measure of success takes away our power. It leaves us vulnerable to a sense of self based on fickle trends and short attention spans. With more exposure to that vulnerability we are seeing skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and mass killing. And why not?

When your sense of self is based on other people, how do you know you matter if you don’t get any likes? How do you know you’re living up to your potential if you turn off your phone to focus on your kids and can’t see whether you have any new followers? How can your accomplishments matter if only your boss knows you wrote the code to make a driverless car stop? If your friends aren’t DMing or tweeting you, do you even exist?

We can shift back to internal value systems, but it will take courage and introspection. It will take parenting differently. It will mean making a conscious decision that it’s more important to make a contribution than to be known for making that contribution. We can take back our power and choose not to react if our achievements are hidden, overlooked, or under-appreciated.

  • What if the only thing you accomplish in your career is making everyone else’s job easier? Is that a bad thing? Wouldn’t you appreciate someone else who makes your job easier or more pleasant?
  • What if your courage allows you to stop the line more often than anyone else when you see something amiss? You may be considered an annoyance to your supervisor, but you are contributing to quality and safety.
  • What if the only thing you give to society is making sure your children feel not just loved, but valued? That single accomplishment could save lives. When we have been valued, we are more likely to value others. Valuing ourselves and others makes it much more difficult to take another person’s life.
  • What if you never make much money, but give comfort and assistance to those who are struggling on a regular basis? Is this not a valuable and badly needed service?
  • What if your accomplishments are to keep your home clean, organized, and peaceful? Those are significant contributions to your family’s well-being. They provide a foundation for the family to excel.
  • If you are an agent for change, you may get more negative attention than positive. Does that mean your work is not worthwhile or that you should stop pushing for change?

Our sphere of influence may be as large as the universe or as small as our nuclear families. Within either realm, we have power and responsibility. What we do and how we do it matters. It feels great to have our accomplishments noticed and appreciated, but if the reward is not in the work itself we will never feel satisfied.

Considering our current focus on external response, it’s worth asking whether your work has to get attention for it to be worth doing. If it does, are you setting yourself up to feel perpetually dissatisfied?

Big questions may be hard to ask, but they’re so easy to answer! It’s just fear that keeps us from asking. I feel strongly about doing something that comes with internal motivation and reward. It’s the way to feel as though you haven’t worked a day in your life. And if you choose something you know is worth doing, it won’t matter a whit whether anyone notices or posts a like.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1381735/?ref_=nm_knf_i1

https://www.businessinsider.com/ryan-toysreview-7-year-old-makes-22-million-per-year-youtube-2018-12

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4853817/

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/america-without-family-god-or-patriotism/597382/

https://www.netflix.com/title/80202283

https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/being-agile-eleven/9780133375640/ch09lev2sec1.html

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Ever Feel Like You Were Born on Opposite Day?

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. In yoga, when most people feel a stretch on the left leg, I’ll feel it in my back on the right. I can move and shift and never find a stretch on the left. While students around me tried to avoid teachers with a reputation for being difficult, I sought out the toughest English, chemistry, and biology teachers. I fired an easy flight instructor to fly with one who turned off the fuel on takeoff to see what I would do.*
opposite
I’m out of sync with the mainstream in other ways. I don’t want to go home from the doctor’s office with a bottle of pills if there’s another way to fix the problem…even if the alternate solution takes months or years. When my tummy feels like it needs something bland, eating a piece of cheese or a banana will send it into absolute spasms for days but a bowl of black beans has no ill effects.

This weekend I watched The Goddess Project with some friends. Afterward, I just kept thinking that I never feel limited by being female. I’m not saying I don’t see inequities in corporations, organizations, and institutions or that I haven’t sometimes had to figure out ways to navigate that wouldn’t be required of men. I’m just saying, I haven’t ever felt like I shouldn’t pursue whatever I want to pursue because I’m a girl.

Why am I writing about any of this? I’m not exactly sure. It has something to do with watching that movie, taking care of a 2-year-old, and trying to be present when everything feels raw. There’s a point lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Maybe I’ll find it if I just keep writing.

There are times that my grandson DJ pouts and whines about something and I just smile and walk away because the behavior is best ignored. There have been other times when he has behaved badly, gotten in trouble, and then thrown a B.I.G. fit. My first instinct is to lay down the law. After all, he’s already gotten consequences and now he’s behaving worse.

But one day when this happened, instead of being punitive, I picked him up, held him close and told him what a good boy he was and that I was pretty sure we could figure out how to solve the problem. He stopped crying, yelling, and kicking, calmed down and was cooperative. It was an eye-opener. I have no idea why it struck me that was the thing to do, but somehow I knew he needed the opposite of what logic was telling me.

I often need the opposite of what convention offers. Support groups don’t make me feel supported. Attending a class doesn’t make me more likely to work out. Pushing me doesn’t mean you’ll get a quicker or better result. Talk therapy leaves me in an emotional loop I can’t get out of. (I can, but it’s by integrating my body into the process using somatic experiencing and yoga.) I tolerate directness, confrontation, and anger better than evasiveness, subterfuge, and manipulation presented in a very polite fashion.

I feel annoyed when “experts” promulgate the idea that they can predict what will trigger a traumatized person. What triggers one person will not phase another. The idea that there are specific words, phrases, and sounds that should be summarily eliminated from our lexicon feels like dismissiveness to me and I experience emotional flashbacks.

Of course it’s comforting to think that if we as a culture make a few blanket eliminations of words or phrases, then we have done our part to facilitate healing. But the way that often plays out is that I experience individuals who do not believe they need to hear my story, get to know me, or feel my pain. Language and topic policy provide them a comfortable cushion for avoiding genuine interaction.

Again, I understand that I may be in a small minority, but here’s how I feel. I’m a big girl. I can figure out the best way for me to deal with my own triggers. If you feel you must decide for me, you do not view me as your equal. Boom, I feel diminished and dismissed. That does not contribute to healing.

Conventional wisdom is sometimes just convention and convenience that makes us feel comfortable being emotionally lazy or fearful. If we’re willing to really see each other, it is never that simple. Hurt masquerades as anger; fear masquerades as acceptance; shame masquerades as advocacy; vulnerability cloaks itself in imagined limitations. When we really see each other, there is no us vs them. There is just us.

If you are like me, it may be harder to feel supported because what works for the majority of people just feels wrong to you. You may have to be more articulate than your colleagues to get your point across. You may sometimes feel excluded or shunned.

You may spend a lot of time twisting yourself into what you’re not in order to feel accepted. If you do, I am so sorry any and all of us have made you feel you must do that.

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. You may too. Perhaps the only point worth making is that you are not alone. I get it.

I also choose to believe there is nothing wrong with us for being out of sync with our peers. And I know the world needs our voices just as much as it needs other points of view. I won’t try to get you to unite. We’ll leave that to those who were born on regular days.

https://www.pca-nwa.com/trigger-words/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/cheri-cheri-quite-contrary/

*I don’t mean he pulled the throttle back, I mean he turned the fuel OFF. The engine was not coming back on. Okay, in truth the easy flight instructor screamed a lot when I was learning to land and I couldn’t stand that anymore. Also, I didn’t know Mike would turn off the fuel until the day he did. I just knew he intimidated all of the young male pilots and gave lots of notes. For any pilot reading this and thinking that move was reckless—we were flying a Cessna 172 and without me noticing, Mike had put his leg up to block the yoke so that I couldn’t pull it back if I panicked once I realized we weren’t climbing. I didn’t. I immediately put the nose down and prepared to land on the remaining length of runway. He knew we had plenty of runway left and if I hadn’t responded with the correct procedure, he would have taken control of the plane.

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Make the Kitchen Your Happy Place

If you want to improve your family’s eating habits, make the kitchen your happy place! Watch any home improvement show and you’re sure to see a lot of emphasis on kitchen design. Even tiny house occupants often insist on full-size appliances. This could lead you to believe that Americans love to spend time in the kitchen. But according to former consumer packaged good consultant Eddie Yoon, only 10% of Americans love cooking.

Why do we go to all the trouble and expense of large refrigerators, stone countertops, and multiple small kitchen appliances if we don’t want to be in the kitchen? It doesn’t make much sense. On some level, we must still believe the kitchen is important. Since the only way to really know what’s in your food and thereby ensure you are meeting your health and nutrition goals is to begin with fresh food, it would be good if we enjoyed our time in the kitchen.

So, how do we take a basic space or a beautifully appointed kitchen with a custom pantry, elegant countertops, decorative backsplash, and ample refrigerator and turn it into a space we want to use, a space that draws us in, a space that feels like our happy place?
pancakes
Make it Yours

Forget all the sparse, neutral images you see on TV and online. Those are just showing you a blank canvas waiting to be personalized. Let your kitchen become a place filled with things that make you feel good.

Personalize
Put your grandmother’s cookie jar on the counter and keep it filled with homemade cookies just like she did. Add a wireless speaker to the top of the refrigerator so that meal prep can be choreographed to your favorite dance tunes. Get a spoon rest that makes you laugh. Buy a handcrafted cutting board that makes you feel connected to the outdoors. Get cabinet organizers that reduce frustration by making everything easily accessible. Get rid of appliances you never use so you don’t feel guilty for having them. Buy a small appliance if it will invite you into the kitchen to use it (for more than the first week or two). Add a collection of decorative objects you love. A kitchen does not have to be cold and clinical to be functional and efficient.
teapot
Add Color
Don’t be afraid to add some color!!! All white, mostly gray, or somber black and brown can dampen my mood! Unless your house is listed for sale, there’s no reason to be hesitant about adding something bright and happy to your kitchen. If you’re not comfortable with painting the walls or cabinets, bright curtains, a painted island, decorative plates, unique pottery pieces, wall art, vintage salt and pepper shakers, flowering plants, or potted herbs can help make you feel happy to spend time in the kitchen.

Get Comfortable
If you love to converse while you prep veggies, add a bar stool or a comfortable chair near your prep space. Share a cup of hot chocolate, hot tea, or coffee and conversation with a friend, neighbor, partner, spouse or child while your hands are busy. They don’t necessarily need to help. They can just keep you company. This can be a great time to exchange recipes or share cooking techniques.

My great aunts used to shell peas together. They’d gather at my Aunt Nola’s house, sit outside in metal chairs with a bushel basket in front of them and talk while they worked. They actually did many things as a group – crocheted, quilted, and painted ceramics. The grandkids ran free in the yard or around the farm while the women stayed in touch and made work seem like play.

Experiment

If you’re new to cooking from scratch (without the use of something that is already prepared or in existence), but love to play around with color, texture, and flavor, the kitchen may soon be your favorite place! I tend to visualize how flavors will taste together in my head before I try them in real life, but I also get inspired to pair flavors when I taste something that excites me.

A cucumber, jalapeño ice lolly I ate on a hot day inspired my recipe for Chilled Honeydew Soup, a delightful and refreshing combination of honeydew, cucumber, with a hint of jalapeño. Soon after eating that ice pop, I began experimenting with ingredients in varying proportions and possible additions until settling on the best combination. After that, the recipe faced 2 more tests in order to meet the Cooking2Thrive quality standard. For me, each of the experiments was fun!
tomatoes
Good Taste

Even if experiments don’t excite you, It’s hard to resist a room filled with delicious food. Remember, many ingredients do not require cooking to be scrumptious! If you are reluctant to cook, consider constructing simple salads. These following salads rely on flavorful fruits for their flavor and texture. They do not require cooking and they are both delicious.

No Cooking Required
Tomato and Avocado Stacked Salad
Layer tomato slices, avocado, and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, chopped basil, salt, and pepper. Add a slice of crispy prosciutto if you like.

Simpleberry Salad
Combine fresh blueberries and blackberries with sliced bananas and tiny cubes of cantaloupe. Dollop with sour cream or plain yogurt and top with grated nutmeg. Add a dash of cinnamon if desired. You can also sprinkle with a granola crumble if you like some crunch.

Bake Something
When you add baking to the equation, the kitchen will fill with warmth and the smell of browning cookies, yeast bread, pizza dough, and cake. Yummmmmm!! Who can resist the kitchen then? It’s like having your own personal bakery.

Add the Family

The smell of fresh baked cookies, pork tenderloin, or a casserole will bring the family running. A kitchen filled with all ages creating a meal is a wonderful place to connect and bond. Food is a source of comfort. Connection is another source of comfort and joy. When you begin to associate cooking with comfort and joy, it automatically becomes your happy place! Even the cleanup process ceases to be work when it’s a shared experience of laughter and fun.
dough
When my kids were growing up, there was always someone sitting on a counter in my kitchen. Sometimes it was my kids. Sometimes it was their friends. Sometimes it was me. One or two of us would be preparing a meal and the others would be engaged in the conversation while warming the counter. I don’t know why this seemed natural in that particular house, but it was. During cleanup, the roles reversed. In between, we enjoyed a meal together. This didn’t happen every day of the week, but it happened enough that that’s how my kids remember meal time.

Both of my sons are good cooks. Not only can they fix pancakes or steak and blacken Brussels sprouts, they bake yummy pies and cakes. They feel no limits when they’re in the kitchen. It’s a place they’ve always felt comfortable. I didn’t emphasize cooking back then. It was just a regular part of our lives, but it set the stage for them to cook in their own homes. That’s the benefit of making the kitchen your happy place!

My grandson DJ and I read “Green Eggs and Ham” on a regular basis. Whenever he balks at a new food, I simply say, “Try them, try them, and you may. Try them and you may, I say.” He knows exactly why I’m saying it. If you have never really gotten your hands dirty in the kitchen using fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch, but don’t think you like cooking, I’d probably say the same thing to you, “Try it, try it, and you may.”

And if you don’t, every family needs a cleanup crew in a happy kitchen!

https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-grocery-industry-confronts-a-new-problem-only-10-of-americans-love-cooking
http://time.com/money/4370620/food-spending-restaurants-versus-groceries/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3471136/
http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-1-the-food/
http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-2-the-fun-2/
http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/