Archive for ‘Tips’

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.

April 25, 2017

Sometimes You Have to Stop in Order to Start

Today is a great reminder that sometimes you have to stop in order to start. I am organized, efficient, and a solid multitasker with the ability to make long-term and short-term plans at the same time. I can make a great backward timeline. I am known as flexible, resourceful, and a problem solver, but today I am spinning.
spin
There are simply so many things on my schedule requiring input from so many people in such a short time frame, that It’s hard for me to slow my mind down enough to begin anything. When I do, I see the 10 other related things that must be handled and I feel like quitting before I start.

I know it would be easy to send me organizational tips, instructions on setting boundaries, encouraging affirmations, and reminders that this too shall pass. I’d prefer you show up with a home cooked gluten-free meal, clean up my kitchen, fold the laundry, wash my car, fill it with gas, pick up the mail, collect from my two renters who are behind, locate the contractor who keeps failing to show up, and contact the bank about the suspicious activity on my account while I attend to the lengthy list that remains.

Sometimes life is overwhelming. Each of us has a limit to what we can handle — physically and emotionally. A little difficulty helps us develop resilience, but too much can send our defenses springing into action. Those defenses may look like many things, but they often involve disruptive or destructive behavior: failing to follow our health regimen, drinking too much, acting demanding or controlling, hoarding, neglecting responsibilities, fighting, aligning with dangerous people, seeking to be rescued, playing the martyr, excessive spending, and more.

As my morning reminded me, it’s better to recognize how I’m feeling and stop before I hit the point of spinning out of control. I know it sounds crazy to stop everything when there’s too much to be done. After all, how will you make up that time?

While you won’t get more time in a day, stopping will allow you to be more productive as you move forward. Over time, that will make up the difference. Today, after deciding that a 30 minute wait on the line with the bank was not how I wanted to spend my time, I walked away from my desk and my list and worked out. Paying attention to my breath and my workout allowed me to recenter my focus.

When I came back downstairs, I began doing one task at a time and marking them off the list. I may not get done with today’s list. I may have to work late, or reschedule something later this week. I may have to say no to something I really want to do. I’m not going to worry about any of that right now. Until 5pm, I’m simply going to work diligently down my list. At the end of the day, I’ll see where I am and adjust accordingly.

Experience has taught me that I’ll typically have accomplished way more than I believed I could. It also has taught me to be kind to myself. At the end of the day, I will rest if I’m tired — at least for an hour or two and I will be open to renewal.
trees
It’s easy to deny ourselves renewal when there’s no time for a vacation or a full day off, but renewal is available in small doses all around us: noticing how good the breeze feels, watching an herb garden grow taller and smell wonderfully appetizing, receiving and embracing appreciation or a compliment, enjoying the sunset, laughing, or learning something new.

At the end of each day, I write down the things that made me feel good that day. Armed with these lists, I can intentionally repeat and build on those things so that I gradually feel good more often in spite of many current unexpected and difficult life events.

Like yoga or gratitude or shame resilience, building good feelings can be practiced. Like other practices, the more I practice the more proficient I become. And who doesn’t want to become more proficient in feeling good? I just have to remember that sometimes I have to stop in order to start.

April 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning Pantry Challenge

A spring cleaning pantry challenge is a great way to start spring cleaning in the kitchen! I’ll admit it, I’m not really a spring cleaner. That doesn’t mean I don’t do deep cleaning. It just means I tend to do it at the odd times that a spill, utensil search, or crawl under the bed to grab a baby toy lead me into intolerable dust, dirt, or disorganization. Then I stop whatever I had planned and start cleaning. I may not finish moving all the furniture to clean under it right then, but I stick with the project until it is complete.
spring
Whether you’re a sporadic deep cleaner like me or part of the 78% of people who regularly spring clean*, it’s easy to forget about the pantry. With larger tasks like oven cleaning, curtain washing, grout scrubbing, baseboard dusting, and window washing looming, it can be easy to reason that the pantry will take care of itself through regular meal preparation.

The problem with that approach is that few of us have pantry space that’s designed one item deep and one item high in a manner that everything is visible at once. And if you can’t see it, you’re bound to forget about it. Who hasn’t bought some ingredient for a recipe, used part of it and put the rest in the back of the cabinet to be forgotten? I have bottles of fish oil, rice wine vinegar, and real maple syrup sitting in my pantry. I don’t use them often and I can’t tell you how long they’ve been there. It’s definitely time for a pantry challenge at my house.

What’s a pantry challenge?

A pantry challenge is a period of time dedicated to using everything in the pantry before purchasing more groceries. In other words, you’re challenging yourself to plan meals using what you have on hand. Now, obviously you may need to buy milk, eggs, fresh produce, or meat to go with your pantry items, but the goal is to use what’s available in your pantry as quickly as possible.

Before starting the challenge, discard any outdated items. Once those are discarded, create some menu items that include the remaining pantry contents beginning with anything that’s open, partially used, or about to expire. It’s always fun to see what new combinations come to mind when you have limited ingredient choices.
pantry
During my pantry challenge, I’ll be enjoying red lentil soup, homemade yogurt, gluten-free pasta with red sauce, molasses cookies, roasted red pepper cornbread, applesauce muffins, and tuna croquettes. That won’t completely deplete the pantry offerings, but it will pare down some of the older items. Before I restock, I’ll clean all of the shelves and drawers and organize whatever remains.

I’ll also take a minute to review my organizational system. There may be some tweaks that will make every day cooking easier. If so, I can implement those changes now and easily incorporate upcoming purchases into the revised system.

As I’ve pared down my furniture, knick-knacks, clothes, shoes, and jewelry over the past couple of years, the over abundance in my pantry feels more noticeable. Because my job includes creating recipes, I can swiftly end up with clutter-creating remnants. I don’t want to wastefully discard them, but I am aware that I need to develop a system for making sure they’re used in a timely manner. My pantry challenge will be a great opportunity to think through this process.

Spring cleaning may not be fun, but a clean, tidy environment can make fun times more joyful. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I’m elbow deep into cleaning out the pantry!

*https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/blog/17104-dread-spring-cleaning/