Death and the Written Word

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I am a murderer.

It was an accident. Crazy, Bobby, and Freddy Jr. were in a vase while I cleaned their tank. I was quite pleased that the cleaning was going so smoothly, when I looked over and noticed that Crazy, the big guy, was on his side. Fish don’t do this normally so I mention it to my husband who walks over and realizes that the water is hot. The fish were cooking!! I had put the vase on the counter above the dishwasher which was running and the heat from it was warming the vase.

Crazy died in the vase. We thought Freddy Jr. was going to last but shortly after returning to the tank he died. Bobby seemed to be holding on. Thought we had saved at least one. But a couple hours later, when my son was going to bed, it was discovered that Bobby just couldn’t survive the loss of his friends and the shock of the whole ordeal. Bobby passed at 8:40pm.

What I found most interesting of the whole event was that through the tears my son asked me to post an article about them. If you recall I did write about the passing of Freddy #1 several months ago, a very traumatic event. My immediate thought was is this part of the Facebook culture seeping into his 8 year old body, the need to post about your every feeling and event? Since he has no experience with the addiction to likes and follows etc. of that world I believe his request goes deeper than that. Writing immortalizes our loved ones. The written word can last for thousands of years, perhaps longer as technology advances, while the body comes and goes in less than a single century.

Human beings want to hold on to the good memories and the best way to do it is by putting it in writing. A thought, a memory, an opinion has far greater power in writing than the average person understands. If the written word can keep a person alive forever in our memories, it has powers that should be respected.

Write down your memories, big and small. Don’t let the good ones slip away into oblivion.

To respect the wishes of my son I would like to immortalize his faithful friends….

Freddy Jr., Crazy, and Bobby died on Sunday, December 18 between 7 and 9pm.They lived a short life but provided great happiness to their owner, a sweet 8 year old boy.

Freddy Jr. was a little guy, fearful of the bigger fish. His owner would have to throw an extra pinch of food while the big guys were distracted so that it would fall to the bottom where Freddy waited.

Crazy was the big guy and he was crazy. When food came he would jump out of the water for it, thinking he was a dolphin.

Bobby was the most responsible one. He methodically scanned the walls, going side to side, up and down, always looking for something. He liked to rest on the pebbles as well.

They were our friends. May they enjoy the giant fishpond in the sky, knowing they made our lives a little better.

 

A String of Lights

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A simple string of lights has power beyond explanation. Placed in a child’s bedroom it is able to scare away the Boogeyman, ghosts and other unsavory visitors. Hung in a restaurant results in a hip new place to hang out, more guests and more money. Whether it is a single string or thousands of strings, at Christmas time the lights bring magic to our lives.

Multi-colored, white, blue, green, red, orange, funny shapes, blinking or not, these lights have a power to make people feel for a moment that they have been transported to another, more magical place. It may be for a split second as your walking your dog and you look up at a house with a few lights. It may be a longer time as you sit amidst a display of lights.

As you go about you’re crazy, insanely busy days leading up to Christmas, take a moment to look at the lights. Forget about the traffic, the long lines at the stores, the frustrated parents who can’t find the asked-for-gift, the family obligations or the lack of family and feel that peaceful, magical place the lights have shown you. Bring that place and that feeling back into your day. Let the magic of the lights help you slow down and enjoy everything around you.

 

 

 

Food Safety

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I am always concerned about what goes into the food I am giving to my family and friends. If feeding them only organic, farm-raised foods was the answer than that is what I would do. However, the all too ugly truth is there is no purely safe food. Our food has an extremely long process, touched by many hands, passing through many environments, before it lands in our bellies.

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has only the power that food giants will allow it to have. Traveling to Europe and Japan for food shows I have found that many of the ingredients we consume daily are banned from even entering their countries.

Organic you say is the answer. Well how about the farmer who is spraying insecticides on his crop, the wind and rain can bring that insecticide to the the organic farmer’s crops just down the road. Or the field hand or factory worker packaging the food could inadvertently infect the product before it even arrives at the grocery store.

You are constantly hearing about foods and drinks that appear to be perfectly safe for years and suddenly they are infected with something, or it is discovered that they are inherently bad for us. Just this summer I heard a new story saying bottled water had E. coli – bottled water people??!!

We cannot live in fear and we cannot live without food. I don’t have THE answer. All I can say is what I am doing and what I am teaching my kids to do.

  • Never use RoundUp. I might write a whole article on this sometime and how it is banned by most countries, including Russia and China, because of direct links to cancer.
  • Clean your food well.
  • Buy from reliable sources. If you have a farmer friend who believes in minimal use of pesticides buy from them.
  • Make your food as often as you can from scratch. That way you know what is going into your food and avoid the hidden preservatives, extra sugar and salt.
  • When you buy food make sure you can read and understand 90% of the ingredients.

Let me know if you have any additional suggestions that the everyday working mom and dad can incorporate into their life.

Eat well and stay safe.

3 Steps to Find the Treasure

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We are constantly being bombarded with how bad things are around us. The economy is collapsing, we are under attack, people are corrupt and the list goes on. But did the world suddenly become exponentially more evil?  Was the awfulness of society always there but thanks to the ubiquitous media we now see it all the time?

I do not believe everything is going “to hell in a hand basket.” I do think that is what sells in the world and that is what will make the headlines. In general, people have a bad tendency to dwell on the harm done more than on the good.

For example – you’re on Yahoo News and you have the option to open a story about a guy who saved a puppy and a story about another attempted attack in a major US city. Which will you open first? Admit it to yourself – you are more likely to open the story about the attack first, and then if you have time the puppy story. Because you read stories about murder, disaster, flooding, and so on, more than the feel good puppy stories, the news agencies give you more of it. Now the world starts to take on a Doomsday gloom since every time you log on to the news it is about sad, bad, and not so good things.

You might not even notice but you are a news reporter, often highlighting the bad and not the good. Look back on your day. Are you more likely to come home and tell your hubby or friends that Jane at work bought you a cup of coffee to brighten your day, or will you highlight the fact that your boss passed you over for a prime assignment? I fear the majority of us will report the injustice of our boss first, maybe even dwell on it for some time, and maybe mention the coffee as an after thought.

As Mark Wahlberg in the Transformers- Age of Extinction said  “So even if you got no faith in us, I’m asking you to do what I do. I’m asking you to look at all the junk and see the treasure. You gotta have faith, Prime, in who we can be.

I challenge you to spend the next week only looking at the good. Try to see the treasure in the junk. Follow the next three steps and see if it changes your perspective.

  1. Don’t open the stories involving sadness, evil, killing, and politics.
  2. Really focus on the people doing good around you, however small.
  3. Say one thing you are thankful for each day.

Good luck. Let me know what happens.

YUMMY Butternut Squash Soup with a Kick

Fall might be my favorite season. It is the colorful finale of summer. I think of farmers harvesting their last crops and preserving all that goodness, in soups and baked goods, to carry us through the cold winter months.

Unfortunately, I cannot do as much cooking and baking as I would like. However, one item I must make at least once every fall is my Butternut Squash Soup. This soup captures all that fall goodness in a bowl with a couple surprise flavors from the cumin and the red pepper. Here is the original recipe for all you lucky folks out there who can still tolerate the cream. Keep posted for modifications to this recipe for the lactose intolerant coming soon.

Ingredients

3 Tbls butter

2 chopped onions

5 lbs peeled and chopped butternut squash

7 chopped cloves garlic

3 tsp grated ginger root

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

6 cups chicken broth (substitute vegetable broth)

1 cup water

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp cumin

2/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

Saute the 2 chopped onions in butter for 10 minutes.

Add butternut squash, ginger, red pepper, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes.

Add chicken broth and water and simmer for 20 minutes. Toward the end of the 20 minutes add the salt, pepper, and cumin.

Puree and stir in heavy cream. Serve warm with grated gouda cheese on top for a little extra flavor.

Note: Just remember soups are one of the most forgiving meals. If you are short on time there is no need to chop things into tiny bits and everything could probably go in at the same time without effecting it. Enjoy.

6 Steps Away From Pain

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So many people are in pain at this very minute. You might read this and think “that’s me” or “that’s my neighbor, my mom, my uncle…..” Young or old pain can enter your life and fester like an open wound, coloring your world all shades of grey.

I know pain. At different times of my life there was a pain in my hand, in my shoulders, and in my foot that lingered and colored my life in every shade of grey, from light to dark. Various doctors, including specialists, had different opinions and wanted to treat me in different ways, with a whole array of medicines. Most were wrong.

During this time of pain, visiting doctors, taking medicines, and no results, I would start to think, is this it? Is this how I have to live my life – in pain all the time or taking medicines that adversely affect me? Despite my best efforts I did give in to the anger, the bitchiness, the depression, the “life is treating me so unfairly” feelings sometimes.

At some point you have to choose to either let pain dictate who you will become, or fight back and be the person you want to be.

Over time I have learned a few things and reduced them into my  6 steps away from pain. Maybe you’ll find an alternative below that cures. At the very least you will have some ways to help you on your path to choose to be who you want to be, and not let the pain take control.

1 – HUGS

This may sound corny but there truly is nothing better than a hug. Hug someone, anyone. If someone is not available try a fluffy bunny, a dog, a baby, or a stuffed animal.

2 – CONNECT

Over and over, studies continue to show that personal connections will prolong our lives and keep us healthy. If you are in a lot of pain, and your life is revolving around just surviving the day to day, you have the tendency to do the exact opposite. This is where a good old fashioned kick in the butt may be needed. As NIKE states “just do it.” Stop the texting soundbites and the idyllic Facebook posts. Pick up the phone and call a friend. Arrange an outing with a friend and stay connected.

 3 – ALTERNATIVES

There are definitely great doctors out there who are brilliant, always learning, and not guided by the drug companies. But even those doctors are limited by what you tell them, what they know about your history, and what they know. Try physical therapists, massage therapists, alternative medicine doctors, or your grandma – they know things! Use your judgement and don’t cut off your doctors, but if that route is not working for you open up your options.

4 – PREPARE

What we put into our bodies has a direct effect on how our bodies feel. I am a firm believer that there are harmful chemicals in the prepackaged food that we buy. When I did food shows in Asia and Europe there were a ton of food additives in our U.S. companies’ products that were banned as being harmful.

But food is good, good for us and an absolute necessity to life. Do your best to prepare your meals with as few prepackaged items as possible. Make that pasta sauce with actual tomatoes. Roast a chicken yourself. Make some scrambled eggs. We can’t avoid the additives and the recalls 100% by preparing our own food, but I can guarantee you are reducing the bad things (I’m so scientific) entering your body if you make this change. No one has the time or energy to do this all the time, but even one meal a day can make a difference.

5 – FLEX-ABILITY

Yoga – I used to laugh at people that said they did yoga; a bunch of hippies sitting around meditating, calling that an exercise. Well I am a changed woman and fully believe in the benefits of yoga. As our bodies get older everything gets a little stiffer. When something is rigid there is a greater tendency for it to break. That is the same concept with our bodies. If we keep it more flexible there will be less breakage. So try out a yoga video or go to a class and just start stretching.

6 – FORGIVE

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – forgive yourself when you fail to do the above steps, when you get angry and depressed because you are so sick of the pain and the failure to cure it. I used to beat myself up that one of these set backs meant I was a complete failure and I should give up altogether. That is not the case at all. If at 1:00 pm you have a melt down, then at 1:20 pm you can recommit and start all over again.

Time

Time has slipped through my fingertips. It shifts from one moment to the next as erratically and quickly as the sand grains in the waves along the beach.

Time is this untouchable concept and yet it touches every part of our existence. We fear it. We want it to slow down, speed up, stop, never stop. But just like the waves, time keeps moving.

The only power we have over time is to fill it full of memories so that time is not forever lost. That is the only way to not lose it, to slow it down, to hold on to time.

And yet we are constantly missing this, losing time forever with our kids, our loved ones, ourselves. Stop the clock, fill each moment of life with a memory and don’t let time shift with the waves and be lost forever.

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Friends

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Artwork by SKK

Friend…such a simple word and yet there is a ton of power behind its simplicity.

What is a friend? There is no one definition of what a friend is or how they should act. Friends don’t always have to be there for you; listen to you; get along with you; like the same things as you; or really have to be or do anything. A friend could be a friend because of a shared experience; a common interest; a chance encounter; a travel companion; a fellow mom or dad; a colleague; a schoolmate; or for no reason at all.

I look back on my life and see a life rich with friends. Some I knew only for a very short time and some I’ve known all my life. Some that I am sorry are not around more and some that I need to call more. I have felt the pain of friends lost because of distance, or a wrong word said, and even because of death.

But what is at the heart of this friendship thing? We strive with all our power to make friends as children. Sadly too many kids without friends or feeling friend-less are driven to killing themselves, or hurting themselves or others because they lack that necessary ingredient in their lives…a friend. We are told in old age that keeping our friendships will help us live longer.

Does the government know how powerful this friend stuff is – coloring our lives, making us do things counter to common sense, extending our lives….??? Pretty soon they will bottle it up and use it as a weapon of war if we aren’t careful. I can just imagine the government opening up a canister of the latest bio-terrorist chemical called “No-Friend”, and the oldest generals on the enemy side start to age immediately, the young kids on the line drop their weapons, crumble up in a corner and start to cry.

There is no one definition of a friend and what they can do for you or be for you. You have to take each friend as they are when they step into your life, and again when they step out of it. Do not beat yourself up if you do not stay friends or you can’t always stay in touch. I have done this and it doesn’t fix the past it only hurts the present.

In the end that friend was there for a reason. Friends good and bad help put color in our lives. Some stay and become a permanent background color and others just drop a spot of color here and a dash of color there. It is our job to let them in and let them color our life for the time they are to be part of it. The color they left on your canvas will always be a part of you, and as other colors get added along the timeline of life, the picture begins to make sense and become more beautiful.

Thank you to all the friends who have added color to my life.

Another Person’s Shoe

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Humaneness,

Benevolence,

Compassion…

All these words can be found as part of the definition of humanity.Humanity, empathy, vulnerability seem to be qualities that are missing, or disappearing altogether, in today’s society. But why?

Allegiant passengers clapped as a dying father and his son were escorted off a plane after the son suffered an allergy attack; happy apparently that they would no longer be delayed. Images are omnipresent of people killing other people, at homes, at schools, and in the workplace, no longer just in war. Rage is increasing all around us -road rage, standing in line rage, rage at the teachers, rage at the parents, rage at the boss, rage at the colleagues….we are at war.

The warrior or soldier is trained to be in stressful situations by blocking, through training, some of the feelings that make them vulnerable. Soldiers are still human and have these feelings, but they are trained to put their training first and these feelings second. They cannot be an effective soldier in a dangerous place if they are debating the good and evil of things, places, and people while shots are being fired over their head. In those combat situations they are in high stress mode and trained to do what they are directed for the good of the team and the country they serve.

Unfortunately, people in this era of media showing one catastrophic event after another are, in a sense, in a state of constant combat, at war in every day situations. People are feeling as if everyone is the potential enemy.

We need to remember to empathize, to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.Several years ago we had a death in our family and it involved a motorcycle. I know for months I had a really hard time driving, and would panic if a motorcycle was anywhere near me. I was that slow driver, probably annoying everyone around me. All I could think is that “I am sorry. I know I am doing this but if you only knew what we just went through….” Now that time has healed some of that pain, and the fear has subsided, I still try to put myself in the other person’s shoes when a car is going too slow in front of me. I think are they on their way to the hospital, did they just have a really bad day and my decision to honk and tailgate them could make it worse. I try to think this way. I am not always successful, but I try.

We can transpose this situation to any number of day to day situations: the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, school, work. Too often we just think of ourselves, our family, our immediate need. Anyone beyond that is the outside, in some cases the enemy. We do not put on the other person’s shoes, see the situation from his/her perspective, and suddenly the mundane annoyance turns into a battle. Our stress elevates, we say or do things that we later see as being “over the top.” Like the Allegiant passengers who now know what idiots they were because media has “put them in Giovanni’s shoes” by letting them know what he was going through.

If life is going to be enjoyable, we need to make connections and feel fulfilled. In order to do that we must break down the barriers, pull back from the combat zone and put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes. You have to be vulnerable. Next time you feel yourself getting irritated at the old lady in front of you at the grocery store, the young clerk at the DMV, or the assistant at work  think about what they may be going through before you act or speak. Once you start thinking of all the possible scenarios for the other person’s actions you begin to soften, your patience returns, your warrior side breaks down, and you become a little more human.

 

 

Gourmet Wine Club

I love a good wine, with good friends and good food. I particularly love the science and art of wine; how it enhances the flavors of the foods from its own terroir.

The creation of the Gourmet Wine Club was purely selfish on my part in that I wanted to enjoy that marriage of food and wine made for each other, with my friends, and not have to do all the work myself. That is exactly what the Gourmet Wine Club does. It makes a group of friends find great wines, make great food, and enjoy it all together. If you are ambitious you should also blog, or record it in some manner, the events – the recipes and wines. After 3 years I am finally doing just that with this first post. I will try to post some of our favorite recipes and wines so that you and your club can learn from us.

This club was initially made up of 8 couples. At this point, 3 years in, we are closer to 5-6 couples that regularly show up. This is actually a really good number as you will see with the requirements. Any more and you will end up too stuffed and drunk to remember the evening.

Commitment

  • 4 times a year, 1x/quarter
  • Each couple commits to one of the nights, in the end you are hosting 1 time every 2 years.
  • We created a Facebook page for the event coordination.
  • The host picks a country or region for the wine. Then each couple is to pick 1 or 2 wines and  a dish from that region.
  • To keep duplication down to a minimum we try to encourage posting of wines and dishes in advance on the Facebook page. With busy lives sometimes this is not done and thus we might end up with a duplicate wine but rarely a duplicate dish.

 

More to come as I post about specific events…