Archive for ‘Motivation’

June 20, 2017

Do Something About It or Let It Go?

How do you know whether to do something about it or let it go? Last week, I saw a news story in which a mother gave her 10-year-old son some sage advice. The son was angry that some graves in the veteran’s cemetery where his grandfather was buried did not have flags on them. After a few hours of listening to him complain, his mom told him simply that he needed to do something about it or let it go.
brain maze
That’s the best parenting I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also great advice for all of us. Complaining, ranting, and raving on their own just leave us feeling powerless and increasingly angry. Eventually this affects those around us, poisoning our relationships and social interactions. Observing injustice for what it is and bringing it to light are important steps toward facilitating change. Unfortunately, the complaint phase is an easy place to get stuck.

There’s a ton of injustice in the world. There is avoidable tragedy, inexcusable cruelty, disregard for those who are different, deliberate predatory behavior, negligent laziness, and power-grabbing manipulation. That’s a short list. The real list is long, long, long, unending, overwhelming, and impossible for any one of us to fix.

That means we have decisions to make when we feel the crushing effect of personal dismissal or the heartstring pull of another’s adversity. Should we leave the affluent doctor who verbally abuses our children or should we just rant about what a jerk she is and continue to let her support us? Should we continue to give low pricing to the customer who always wants extra thrown in or should we raise the price and risk losing the business? Should we consider adopting a child even though we’re in our 50s? Should we sue our employer who has fired three different employees because they used sick leave to be present after their wife gave birth? Should we buy our 16-year-old a brand new car, or buy a used car and spend the rest of the money to buy a car for a working single mother whose car just died?

Many of these decisions are difficult, multilayered, and complicated. Our decisions will have ripple effects. Of course it’s easier to rant, rave, and complain about injustice than it is to make a deliberate decision to do something or let it go.

But what is it that really stops us? Is it fear, weakness, or the belief that we have no power? Or does that even matter? Does examining, reexamining, and trying to understand ourselves only lead to paralysis?

Can we be better served by practicing the process of making a choice to do something about it or let it go? Or as my grandmother would have said, to “stop stewing in your own juice.” Let’s start with a simple issue and explore what that process would look like.

contractorScenario 1 (Complain)
I observe that my contractor only shows up 1 out of 3 times that he’s scheduled.
I tell my sister how annoyed I am.
I schedule him again.
He stands me up again.
I more heatedly tell my sister how annoyed I am, then I also tell my neighbor, my uncle, and several other people.
I reschedule the contractor again.
This time, he texts me, but he still doesn’t show.
I call everyone I complained to before and rant this time throwing in a few “why me?” questions like, “Why is it always me who gets stood up?”
I feel angry and powerless.

drillScenario 2 (Do something)
I observe that my contractor only shows up 1 out of 3 times that he’s scheduled.
I tell my sister how annoyed I am.

I begin the process of determining whether I will let him go and find someone new, or try to work this problem out with him.
Here’s how that works:
I review why I chose this contractor…
He’s inexpensive, he does quality work, and he’s fast.
I compare him to other contractors I’ve used…
When he shows up, he’s 80% better than 90% of them.

I decide that it is best to do something to try to make this relationship work.

I set boundaries I can feel good about…
One no show with a text is acceptable. A no show without notice or a 2nd no show with or without notice will be grounds for firing him.
I call the contractor to reschedule…
I tell him simply that I like his work, but he needs to show up more consistently or we won’t be able to work together any more. Then I tell him my specific boundaries. I state them in a clear, concise, straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. I do not apologize or pressure.

I schedule him again…
We’ll see what happens. No matter what, I have a plan. I no longer feel angry or helpless. I won’t feel bad if I have to fire the guy because I know I clearly stated my expectations. The decision is now his. If he chooses to show up, he has a job. If he chooses not to, he doesn’t.
I feel relieved.

hold onScenario 3 (Let it go)
I observe that my contractor only shows up 1 out of 3 times that he’s scheduled.
I tell my sister how annoyed I am.

I begin the process of determining whether I will let him go and find someone new, or try to work this problem out with him. 
Here’s how that works:
I review why I chose this contractor…
He’s inexpensive, he does quality work, and he’s fast.
I compare him to other contractors I’ve used…
When he shows up, he’s 80% better than 90% of them.
I factor in that I need the work done before a family reunion.

I decide that it is best to hire someone I can rely on in order to make my deadline.

I let the contractor know that I can no longer work with him on my project because I have a deadline. I move on and hire someone else.
While I will not recommend the fired contractor for deadline projects, I might tell someone to consider him when there’s no deadline. I feel no need to trash him on social media, continue to complain about him to my family, or even think about him again. I just let it go.
I feel relieved.

Obviously, this is a simple scenario I’ve described, but the more I practice the process, the easier it becomes to follow that process even when the relationships are closer and the feelings more complicated. The resulting peace and freedom I feel each time I embrace my power to do something about it or let it go builds my desire and courage to repeat the process.

And that little boy who received the advice from his mother? He chose to do something. He has now placed over 20,000 flags on veteran’s graves. Thanks Preston Sharp for your service, and thanks mom for your wisdom!

See the story here:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-boy-11-becomes-the-pied-piper-of-patriotism/

May 30, 2017

Stretch Your Greenbacks with Forgotten Greens

When you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget, you can stretch your greenbacks with forgotten greens! It’s hard to grow up in the South without eating greens. They’re a staple in every home cooking, soul food, and barbecue restaurant and many grandmother’s kitchens. Most cooks have a favorite green. Some prefer collard, some mustard, and some turnip. When you generically refer to greens, it’s assumed you mean one of these three or a mix of them.
carrot
Often overlooked are the other greens that abound in Southern homes. We consume beets, radishes, carrots, and celery on a regular basis. Most of us have added kale to our menus, and many of us enjoy kohlrabi and bok choy in the occasional stir fry. In an effort to eat fresh, local food it’s more and more common to buy these vegetables from a community garden, neighborhood farmer’s market or CSA (community supported agriculture) produce coop.

If you shop in these venues, you know that the vegetables aren’t always uniform in size and shape, they may arrive still covered in soil, and most of them will have beautiful green leaves attached. It’s tempting to quickly chop off the leaves and discard them before cleaning beets, carrots, or radishes, and many cooks in my family do just that.
radish
I’ll admit it takes more time to clean and shred the tops, but you can also end up with a delicious mix of greens just by saving what you’d normally throw away. This weekend, I cooked a pot of spicy greens using radish, kohlrabi, and bok choy greens, plus some Swiss chard. That’s not a special mix. It’s just what I had on hand. As is true of most combinations of leafy greens, they’re delicious together.

Of course, you can also use these tops in a salad or soup. Unfortunately, I don’t really like cabbage tasting greens in a salad, and I’m unlikely to make soup in the summer. But thinking of edible vegetable leaves in the way I think of turnip greens gives me another avenue for preparation. Seasoned with chicken stock, onion, garlic, dried chile peppers, salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar, these greens have wonderful depth of flavor and a peppery bite.

I’m not sure how collard, mustard, and turnip greens came to be the standard for greens, or why my grandmother never used the radish greens or carrot tops she grew. I do know that I can stretch my greenbacks by broadening my definition of greens to include beet, bok choy, broccoli, carrot, celery, chard, dandelion, kale, kohlrabi, and radish.
greens
And by cooking the greens attached to my vegetables, I gain another vegetable to serve, stretch my food budget, and include all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make leafy greens an important part of a healthy diet. I also reduce my food waste. That makes me feel good.

December 29, 2016

Environment Affects Healthy Habits

new year
It is clear that environment affects healthy habits. I’m in my hometown for a holiday visit with family. Funny thing is, there’s not much family left here so I’m not running from party to party with no time to spare. I’ve had time to notice how quiet it is in this little town. It reminds me of a snow day when there’s no traffic and a blanket of white absorbs the noise.

There’s a wonderful new restaurant in town. I eat there every time I’m here. Last night when I finished eating, the manager walked me to my car. It was about 7pm, but really dark outside. There were more bright stars visible in the sky than you can imagine. The whole scene struck me as ironic. In a town so small that I can see every star in the sky, the restaurant manager is courteous enough to make sure I get safely to my car…at 7pm.

This stands in sharp contrast to a recent experience in the neighborhood where I live. After a concert at a highly touted restaurant, in order to reach my car I had to walk past two men who had rolled out a mattress in the parking lot where they were openly smoking crack and talking to the car next to them. The car was empty, but the alarm had gone off causing the men to loudly admonish it. There was no security guard and certainly no restaurant volunteer to walk with me.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered a crack-encumbered man outside of an upscale restaurant in my city. One night on the way to my car, another man who was flying high hugged me after I told him I wasn’t going to give him money. He could just as easily have shot me.

I felt pretty sure a gold-toothed man I encountered at a gas station was going to hurt me whether I gave him money or not. I don’t go to that gas station any more, but I don’t think my instincts were wrong. Four people have been shot and killed near that intersection in the past year. And so it goes where I live. In the past month, a two-year-old and a 3-year-old were shot and killed while riding in cars.

You might dismiss this as a large inner city problem, but I don’t live in a large city. The population is under 200,000. You might dismiss this as my choice of neighborhoods, but I live 5 blocks from the governor’s mansion. In an even more affluent nearby neighborhood, two women were recently robbed at gunpoint in a grocery store parking lot. My daughter-in-law had just left that store moments before.

Today I’m left pondering the contrasts – a small town that is often called ultraconservative, redneck, closed-minded, uneducated, bigoted, and the most racist small town in America where a total stranger wants to make sure I’m safe on a short walk to my car vs a small city that is considered more sophisticated, diverse, educated, inclusive, and enlightened where it is commonplace to encounter danger and uncommon to encounter concern for my welfare.

If I had grown up in the community where I now live, would I believe that I would live long enough for healthy habits to matter? Would organic produce seem important when I’m rolling off the couch into the floor to crawl away from external walls because I hear the rapid-fire shots of an AR-15 and the screeching tires of the car out of which it’s being fired? Would I be more likely to seek comfort in a high carbohydrate, endorphin releasing meal?

I can answer one of those questions. The most recent drive-by shooting at my house was within the past year. Nothing seems more important than hitting the deck when you hear gunfire outside. Period. You’re not going to make sure to grab your phone so you can call the police. You’re sure as hell not going to make sure you grab a salad while you wait for your heart to stop pounding.

If there’s a way to import the attitude of community concern I experience in my insular hometown, sans bigotry, to the city where I currently live, it’s sorely needed. Self-care begins by giving our bodies good nutrition, adequate sleep, plenty of movement, and enough stillness, but the feeling that we are worthy of self-care begins when we feel valued. That feeling comes when our environment provides safety and responsiveness to our need for food, warmth, comfort, and touch.

It is ideal when that responsiveness comes from our parents and extended family in our first moments, but it can be healing even when it comes later. The violence and divisiveness in my community exposes a huge need for healing. Extending a hand may require courage. It could make us vulnerable. But if we don’t begin to summon some courage to reach out, we all become more vulnerable anyway.

As I move into the new year, it is with an acute awareness of the unhealthy environment in which I live. No matter what I do within my household, I am still affected by my neighborhood and the community at large. I must decide how I can best take care of myself while best contributing to the larger community. It is the ideal time for reassessment and reevaluation.

The extent to which I am willing to face my failures, own my weaknesses, understand my limitations, enforce my boundaries, and feel my shame will determine the extent to which I am effective in contributing to healing, health, peacefulness, and joy.

In 2017, I hope you will join me on a journey to create an environment for ourselves, our partners, our children, and our communities in which we can all become healthier as well as more whole, peaceful, and joyous. We may not solve the world’s problems, but when we show concern and kindness one walk to the car at a time, we will make a difference.

Happy New Year!

Additional Reading:
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42878/1/924159134X.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12034132

October 23, 2016

If It’s Paleo, It’s Gluten-Free

paleoIf it’s Paleo, it’s gluten-free so go ahead and give it a try! I have been stuck at my office literally watching concrete dry for the past 4 hours. Yes, I knew in advance concrete would have to set up. No, I didn’t realize things would go exactly like they went, so the snacks I brought weren’t enough. Now, I’m starving.

I need to find some food that’s quick, close, and microwaveable. The neighborhood store has Tastefully Plated® frozen Paleo meals. I think I’ll give one a try. The sausage & egg scramble with cauliflower grits sounds interesting. It has 21 grams of protein and 280 calories. Not only is it gluten-free, this selection is also milk free.
plate
Now that I’ve removed the meal from the box, I finally understand the Tastefully Plated branding. Each meal comes seated on a white plastic plate that has been vacuum sealed with plastic. The plate is a step up from most frozen meal packaging. The problem is, when you shrinkwrap sausage, eggs, and cauliflower grits, the result looks a whole lot like a regurgitated meal on the plate and that’s not too appetizing.

Knowing that we eat with our eyes first, perhaps the viewing window in the boxes isn’t such a great idea. The plate is the unique part, and it isn’t even visible when the meal is in the box. Perhaps the die-cut in the box could just show the edge of the plate and feature a photo of the food. Looking at the product in the store, I kept wondering why it said Tastefully Plated when it looked like something I may have plated a couple of times after a late night of drinking too much Scotch.

I will confess that I’m not a frequent purchaser of frozen entrees or meals, so in a sense I’m comparing this frozen meal to my memory of a home or restaurant cooked version of it. I was recently reminded how widely quality can vary. On a Thursday afternoon, I grabbed some scrambled eggs at a racetrack snack bar that had limited gluten-free choices. That night, I stayed at an old resort hotel. The building was beautiful, but the room was showing its age. The next morning, I ordered room service scrambled eggs and bacon thinking they’d be a repeat of the previous day’s meal. Boy was I wrong. The eggs were light, but firm and unbelievably good even after sitting under a metal cover. 

In fact, there was no comparison between the racetrack meal and the hotel meal. The hotel, in spite of its deteriorating decor, fuzzy TV reception, and questionable plumbing still can deliver an incredible egg. It is possible that the difference is that those eggs are cooked on site rather than being rewarmed on site.

I mention this to say that while it would probably be more fair to compare a frozen entree only to another frozen entree, that’s not what happens in my real life, so it’s not what’s happening here. This frozen Paleo meal was passable. The sausage seemed a bit more bland than my usual brand. The eggs were fine, but not full of flavor. The cauliflower grits, were watery and lacking substance.

The meal wasn’t so bad that I’d say I’ll never eat it again, but it wasn’t good enough for me to remember to choose it again on purpose. Perhaps I’d be more pleased with the braised beef with chipotle sweet potatoes & broccoli, or the grilled chicken breast with plantains & petite green beans. I like those food combinations.

I am grateful that these Paleo meals exist. They got me out of a jam without having to resort to frozen gluten-free pizza, mac & cheese, or tacos. And they offer other interesting combinations like braised pork with roasted potatoes, mango chutney, and salsa verde; cajun style shrimp with root vegetables, corn relish & plantains; and sweet potato hash with scrambled eggs and chicken apple sausage.

Paleo Tastefully Plated meals are appropriate for anyone who follows a gluten-free diet. With that being said, I can only see buying these when I’m in a jam.

So, what’s the takeaway? Perhaps this: anything that’s Paleo is, by definition, gluten-free! Anything that’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet compliant is, by definition, gluten-free. Anything that’s gluten-free may or may not be Paleo or SCD compliant.

If it’s any of the three, it can be tasty – especially when it’s made with love in your kitchen.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

http://www.tastefullyplated.com/