Weekly Photo Challenge: Container

IMG_20140719_203850_152

Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you. It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.
Florida Scott-Maxwell

Be part of The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post.

Be part of The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post.

  . . . and check out these posts on the threshold of brilliance . . .

Sunlit container for thirst . . .
WPC: CONTAINERS | MY WALL

Colorful market containers . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers | DS Photography

Containers full of intense color . . .
Color Powder in Containers | asnappshot

A beautiful container garden in an unlikely place . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers | MythRider

What comes out oaf a container is not always the same as what goes in . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers | Dot knows! elleturner4

An unusual container for an unusual contents . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Container 2 | Judes Photography

Pretty cute  . . .
The bucket contains… | wingrish

An old container . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers | Jinan Daily Photo

Fun containers for a 6-yr. old boy . . .
6th Bday 2: Weekly Photo Challenge: CONTAINERS | The Adventures of Iñigo Boy

Beautiful copper brewing containers . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic 07-18-14 | Polit-onomics & Travel

 


The Kitchen: Heart of the Home

IMG_20140719_200225_256It is called the heart of the home.  The kitchen is where, no matter how big or small, everyone gathers at the same time.  The dinner table of my childhood was in the kitchen, nestled tightly between the basement and back doors, and the pocket-door to the dining room.  The traffic pattern rivaled Grand Central Station, yet five of us sat comfortably, served from the white gas range which stood against the wall.

The floor that was there before it was upgraded to linoleum was speckled, as were the counters.  The incandescent light was small, and gave off a golden glow amplified by the cheery yellow walls.  Frilly curtains ruffled from the window over the sink.

The kitchen is where Dad got me to eat canned peas by telling me they taste better when squished with the back of my fork, and fresh tomatoes by sprinkling them with sugar.  He put a scoop of ice cream on cantaloupe, and he dolloped ketchup on his beef stew.  Most of his meals he ate with a slice of bread slathered with butter and strawberry jam.  I can still summon his spirit with a slice of that goodness.

IMG_20140719_200749_195The refrigerator has changed remarkably since I was a girl.  Not only has it gotten bigger with more compartments and easier to maintain, it contains a plethora of condiments, seasons, sauces and flavors that never existed in my childhood fridge.  We had ketchup, mustard, Miracle Whip, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Hershey’s syrup, and possibly a leftover jar of pickles or olives from the last holiday dinner.  There was no salsa, chili paste, Szechwan sauce, hot peppers, tabouli, pesto, hummus or even minced garlic for that matter.  Back then there was meat and there were vegetables.  If you were lucky, there was Jell-O for dessert.

Cooking and eating were not the only reasons we spent time in the kitchen.  My mother and grandmother ironed things like sheets, handkerchiefs and underwear in there, discussing the best practice for dampening the wrinkles, or starching the work shirts.  A child-sized iron and board sat in the corner, for pretending.  It really plugged in and warmed a little to the touch.

Haircuts were given to my reluctant teen brothers, who would rather have donned long sweeping styles like that of the Beatles.  Draped in towels or old sheets, the boys argued, whined and complained while the buzzers and Dad’s special hair-cutting scissors removed lengths of hair to the kitchen floor.

IMG_20140719_200807_532We shared news in the kitchen.  My brother leaving for the Marines, another getting engaged and later having children were all disclosed at the dinner table.  Accounts from the day and headlines from the paper were discussed over cups of milk or plates of spaghetti.

The kitchen was a classroom.  This is where my mother learned to cook from my father, who learned what he knew from his mother.  The grandmother I never knew was one heck of a cook, whose lemon meringue pies cannot be matched to this day, I am told.

My mother, ever the student, one time subscribed to a cooking class encyclopedia.  She pledged to take it one class at a time until she was a master at the art of French cooking.   She cooked for hours upon hours, and did finally serve a delectable coq au vin in our formal dining room by candlelight, but not after scouring the city for chicken feet, or beaks or some such part.  We laughed all through dinner about how she had finally given up and used chicken wings.  It may have been the only recipe she ever used from that expensive volume of books.

IMG_20140719_200507_780Of course, I learned my love of food, both eating and preparing, in that kitchen.  There were early mornings watching Dad prepare the Thanksgiving turkey.  Late nights helping Mom with Christmas cookies.  Favorite casseroles cut from the newspaper, salads created from the side of a pasta box.  The heart of the home.  The home of my heart.

After my mother’s death, the things from my childhood kitchen were laid out, dollars and cents scribbled on tags hurriedly attached on the handles.  I will leave this full story for another time, but I was told, “These are just things.  They can’t bring her back.”  The words were meant to comfort me; to dry the tears rolling down my face.  At the end of the day, I did end up bringing home the things that meant the most to me.  And do you know what?  It does bring her back.  Just a little bit.

 

The photos in this post are some of the things I grew up with in my mother’s kitchen and are now a part of my daily life.

Peace . . .

 

From Shirley’s Kitchen:

Chicken Breasts with Wine

  • 4 boned chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 1/2 c. flour, seasoned with garlic powder and paprika
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1 c. sliced fresh white mushrooms

Coat chicken with flour mixture. Brown in oil lightly. Remove chicken, melt butter, add wine and mushrooms; sauté over low heat until the mushrooms release their moisture.  Pour over chicken in baking dish.

This may be done the day before baking and stored in the refrigerator.

Bake uncovered 350˚ for 45 – 60 minutes.

 


The Measure of a Great Communicator

The nice thing about being with someone who has been a bachelor most of his life is that we can live somewhat autonomously.  That is, he does his thing.  I do mine.  We don’t nag about when the other is coming home, or synchronize what we’re going to eat for dinner.  If we’re hungry, we eat.  If I want to cook I do, and if he wants to cook . . . um . . . he brings home takeout.  But sooner or later , just like every other couple, we need to plan and compromise, and that takes communication.

The measure of a great communicator is how well she is understood, not how well she is heard.  Talking louder will only get you heard.  Real communication will get you understood.  My favorite book on relationship building is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  It is, of course, marketed to parents, but I say the title should be How to Talk so  ____ Will Listen & Listen So ____ Will Talk.  Readers can fill in the blank.  They would have sold a lot more copies, and there would be a whole lot more people communicating.

 

Cover of "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...

Cover via Amazon

 

How to Talk So Your Spouse Will Listen
& Listen So Your Spouse Will Talk

..~~*~~..

How to Talk So Your Doctor Will Listen
& Listen So Your Docter Will Talk

..~~*~~..

How to Talk So Your Boss Will Listen
& Listen So Your Boss Will Talk

 

I’m serious.  This should be on every business management reference shelf.  After all, children and adults are all just people.  No one wants to be ordered around or controlled.  We want respect and freedom to choose.  We all want to know that we are heard.  The methods in this book absolutely work for all of your relationships.

At a previous job, my manager’s manager had something she asked me to do.  It wasn’t an altogether unreasonable request.  It was a good idea, and I was the right person for the job.  It just wasn’t the right time for the job.  There were higher priorities, and I knew it.  I said to her, “That’s a great idea!  Would you like me to do that now, or after I finish reporting the monthly inventory?”

Either answer would have been fine.  After all, she was my boss’s boss.  But I knew as well as she that the inventory was a higher priority.  In the end, she felt heard, I let her make a choice, and the work got done in the proper order.  I also got to show her that I am a person who communicates.

I could have told her “Sure, no problem!” then rolled my eyes and talked about her behind her back, but I chose to understand and be understood.  Talking and listening. That’s communicating.  The best things I learned about management I learned while parenting, and this book was a great resource.

Another method of communication I like to use is to relate to people the way they relate to you.  I try not to swear around people who don’t swear.  If someone is very casual and calls me Hon, I have no problem calling them Dude.  If someone is very straightforward, maybe even blunt, most likely they won’t want me beating around the bush.  People who are in a hurry, will not want me babbling about the weather.

And sometimes you need to talk in the language they understand.  Not like French versus Italian . . . but especially in my home, I need to use language a bachelor can relate to.

For instance, yesterday at the dog park, Sabbie wouldn’t take the new balls we found lying around.  She only wanted to play with the ball we brought from home.  Bubba didn’t understand . . .

Untitled

Bubba:  Why won’t she bring that ball back?
Me:  It’s not her ball.
Bubba:  But it’s just another ball.
Me:  She isn’t invested in it.  It’s like when you meet a girl at the bar.
Bubba:  Ah . . .
Me:  If you just bring her home for one night, you aren’t invested.  But after you play with her a while, get used to the way she smells, and bounces, and snuggle up against her at night, you start to worry that you might lose her.  So you don’t want to play with the other new girls.  You’d rather stick with the one whose smell is familiar, even if she smells like dog slobber.
Bubba:  Oh yeah . . . that makes sense.

Okay, maybe that didn’t come out exactly like I wanted to, but I got my point across.  You see, to be understood, it helps if you know your audience.

Peace . . .

 


Sun Tzu on the Art of Blogging Controversial Subjects

Cymraeg: Sun Tzu. mwl: Sun Tzu. Português: Sun...

Sun Tzu  (Photo credit: Wikipedi

Yes.  I wrote one post about my religious belief (or non-belief) and suddenly I’m a self-proclaimed expert.  There were a couple of commenters who used words like “courage” and “guts.”  These commenters are, as am I, the non-confrontational sort.   However, in writing — as in battle — it is best to have a fair amount of strategic planning on hand to make up for wavering courage.  For this I bring you Sun Tzu, who must be the most quoted strategist  who ever lived.  He speaks to those of us who struggle with conflict when he says,

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

I am, and always have been, one who goes with the flow and rolls with the punches.  I don’t like to rock the boat or stir the pot.  It is a commonly held myth to say that those of us who relate to the aforementioned clichés have no opinions.  We do, we just prefer to stay out of the fight.  We seek out those who agree with us, and voice our opinions there.  If you are ready to pick up the mic, I have some suggestions for you, backed up by our old pal, Sun Tzu.

“Know yourself and you will win all battles.”

Spend time getting to know yourself.  What are you “all about?”  Come up with a mission statement.  At work, we strive to “end hunger through community partnerships.”  When there is a conflict or indecision, we defer to our mission.  The answer is always in there somewhere.  Is your mission to treat the planet with respect?  to spread random kindness?  to treat animals ethically?  Once you have your mission, you have your backbone.

“You have to believe in yourself. ”

Spend time letting others know who you are.  Publish posts on non-controversial subjects first.  Let them hear the tone of your voice.  Do you use humor?  Are you straight-faced?  Be yourself, and your spirit will come through.  When you decide to speak out, they will hear you, and know that it is not some rhetoric you picked up on the internet.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

Write on your own experiences.  There is nothing to contend if you are speaking about yourself.  In March I posted Two Peas in a Very Small Pod prior to publishing Living in Sin, which was finally succeeded by My Spiritual Path and Creed in April.  Using the word “I” instead of “people” or “everyone” makes it my story and the incontrovertible truth.

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

Don’t worry about commenters.  You have already established your voice.  Because you speak from a peaceful heart, those who are looking for a really ugly online argument mostly likely won’t comment anyway.

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. ”

On your blog, you rule.  It is quite possible that by writing something different, you will pick up a new reader.  If you do get someone who comments disrespectfully, he or she has not spent the time getting to know you by reading your other posts.  Remember you are the general in this war, and they are on your turf.  You may choose to delete this comment, claiming victory with one simple click.  Personally, I have never found the need to cut a comment from my blog.

“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

Go ahead and look them in the eye.  I urge you to face them one on one.  Pull up your big-girl camo and prepare to take them down.  You own the same right of expression as they.  Use respect. This allows you to expect the same from them.  Keep your words peaceful, and it becomes a one-way argument that paints them as rude and narrow-minded.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Remember your audience.  Be mindful of the broad spectrum of people who might read your blog.  In my life, there are friends, family, old schoolmates, neighbors, co-workers, and even unborn grandchildren who may someday read my words.  While I have many supportive, encouraging commenters, there are hundreds of faceless followers who neither comment nor “like.”  I like to write today as if I were going to meet each of them tomorrow.

Peace . . .

It is important to note that  Sun Tzu may not have agreed with the way I interpreted his words for my use.  In fact, it is most likely accurate to say he would not.  As the most quoted source of strategic warfare, it’s one of those things he probably has to put up with a lot.

A Chinese bamboo book, closed to display the c...

A Chinese bamboo book, closed to display the cover. This copy of The Art of War (on the cover, “孫子兵法”) by Sun Tzu is part of a collection at the University of California, Riverside. The cover also reads “乾隆御書”, meaning it was either commissioned or transcribed by the Qianlong Emperor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sun Tzu (also rendered as Sun Zi) was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China. The name he is best known by is actually an honorific which means “Master Sun”: His birth name was Sun Wu and he was known outside of his family by his courtesy name Changqing. He is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an extremely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy. Sun Tzu has had a significant impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture, both as the author of The Art of War and as a legendary historical figure.

(Credit:  Wikipedia)

 

 


. . . and then what happened?

 

In the book of my life, each decade has a chapter.

 

Table of Contents

  1. The Child
  2. The Teen
  3. The Young Adult
  4. The Mother
  5. The Self

Ah yes!  I loved the chapter about the SELF!  That is the chapter when you finally make sense of all the chapters that came before.  And after that I had so much insight and confidence and lust for life, I couldn’t help but think . . .

 

“Oh. My. God.  The 40s were so awesome.  I cannot wait to see what the 50s bring!”

And I eagerly turned the page without looking back.

 

. . . Only to find myself transported, via tractor beam, into a space vehicle.  My brain was taken out, probed, implanted with alien “stuff,” rewired and pushed back in my head like grade-school homework in a backpack.

 

Uncanny things are thought to happen at night ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is the only explanation I can come up with for what ensued.  I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and I didn’t recognize myself.  There were bags.  Under my eyes.  On my hips.  On my stomach.  There were hairs in places hairs had never been before, lacking pigment of any color.  My nails grew ridges and shredded in the winter.  My ankles swelled.  My joints hurt.  The sleep sucked.  My metabolism slowed to the speed of tar pitch.

 

That’s when I realized this chapter wasn’t going to be an easy read.

 

And I have this sense of urgency — the knowledge that time is running out.  There are places unvisited.  There are classes untaken.  My story line hasn’t even been sorted out yet.  Anyone who has come this far knows two things.

 

  1. The first 50 years passed in the blink of an eye.
  2. Time flies faster the older you get.

 

I drove by the local arena the other day.  All the schools hold their spring graduations there, and the police were directing traffic.  The following conversation took place:

 

Me:  Gee, I sure am glad I’m done going to graduations.  The long-winded speeches . . . the crowds . . . finding a place to sit on an uncomfortable bleacher . . . trying to find your kid in a long row of like-dressed kids . . .

Me:  Yeah, but you’re probably going to have to go as a grandparent.

Me:  I’d forgotten about that.  And it will be even more uncomfortable to sit on the bench, and harder to hear the windbag giving the speech.

Me:  Will I even be alive?

Me:  Well, even if I got a grandchild miraculously today, that would still be 18 years off.

Me:  (Doing the math)  Ohmygosh.  Yes.  I will probably be alive in 18 years.

Me:  Am I ready for that?

Yes, I was alone at the time.  But these conversations occasionally crop up when I’m not, too.  Bubba doesn’t care.  It gives him a break from speaking.  Once again I digress  . . . 

In 18 years, a child can grow from a helpless infant into a young man or woman.  How young am I, then, to have just as much time to write an epic ending for this old book?  What a thrilling twist of plot to be abducted by an alien vessel!  What transpires?

The objective is to make this story of mine more of a can’t-put-it-down kind of book – the kind you finish and wish you could keep reading, rather than the long drawn out chapters with an ending that doesn’t make sense.  But then, we are each the author of our own life, aren’t we?

What will your page to read today?

Peace . . .

 

 

 


High Standards + Low Expectations = Peace of Mind

Half Full or Half Empty? (LensBaby 8)

(LensBaby 8) (Photo credit: Today is a good day)

I like to think of myself as a realist.  My glass may be half full or half empty.  I’ll let you know after I find out what’s in there.  Wine?  Dang, that glass is half empty.  Fill ‘er up, eh?

As a realist, there are things I understand.  Not everyone is going to like me.  Nothing is perfect — not a job, not a friendship, not a house, not a spouse.  Nothing lasts forever — not possessions, not happiness, not life, and certainly not cake.

For these reasons and more, realists sometimes are mistaken for pessimists.  But as a realist, I also understand that everywhere I go, most people are going to like me.  And my job, friendships, house, and Bubba are really awesome.  In addition, most things will last just long enough to get what you need out of them, including grief, strife, childhood, and life.  Even cake.

Another misconception is that people with low expectations harbor low standards.  While I know what superb results look like, I know there are times I just won’t achieve them.  To avoid stress, it is in my best interest to be realistic.

Perfection is where high standards meet high expectations and can lead to procrastination and eventually paralysis.  The dreaded 3 P’s.  Look it up.

Take my last month at work and, for all I know, the next month or more.  We had a software conversion.  They tell me I am a super-user, which means all questions and issues from my department funnel through me.  I work in a customer service position.  Our software conversion is causing issues not only for internal users, but the people we serve.  There are inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations.  There’s that word again.

post-it

post-it (Photo credit: myrrh.ahn)

My email and voicemail inboxes are brimming with unanswered messages.  I am not meeting my high standards of customer service.  I am afraid I won’t help my co-workers feel comfortable in the new system.  I have lost management of my time.  My long hours are shrinking my personal time; my real life.

And on one particular day I crashed.  I threw a hissy fit right a my desk.  Papers were thrown.  Tears were spilt.  Someone in the neighboring office may have freaked out.  Just a little.

The biggest problem was the level at which I had placed my expectations.  I expected June to feel normal.  I expected a manageable routine by now.  I expected sleep to come 7 hours at a time.  After five weeks in the new system, I expected to meet my high standards.   When they weren’t, I imploded.  Or exploded as the case may have been.

It is time for a game plan.  And while I don’t completely have that plan figured out, chances are it is going to include lowering my expectations.

The difference between expectations and standards is that you can lower your expectations without sacrificing your self-esteem. I don’t think we can say the same of our standards.  While our circumstances are often out of our control, both of these attributes are not; we can them set deliberately.

I have set my standards sky-high.  Due to circumstances out of my control, I just can’t meet them . . .

 . . . yet.

 

 

 

 

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25 Songs, 25 Days (Day 25) A Song I Could Listen to All Day Without Getting Tired Of

marathon thirst

marathon thirst (Photo credit: darkmatter)

Cue up the fanfare and pyrotechnics!  Someone hand me a glass of water.  I’ve crossed the finish line.  It was touch and go there for a few days, but I made it.  I may not have come in first, but I came in on my own two feet.

Eventually, listening to a song too often is going to wear it out.  Music is like sex.  The high you get from the rhythm, lyrics, and melody stirs something inside.  The unexpected change in key is exhilarating.  A drum or guitar solo can send you over the edge like the climax of an orgasm.  You want it again and again . . .

Until you don’t.  Sooner or later you’re going to want to eat, or watch a movie, or just stare into space.  But you can no sooner listen to only one song any more than you could stand to do nothing else but have sex all day long.  I’m not saying you wouldn’t want to give that a try, but I’m older and wiser and I know this stuff.

If I were going to do it all day . . . get your mind out of the gutter now . . . . I’m talking about listening to one song.  It could very well be Stay Home by Salf.  It appeals to the introvert in me.  Even the band name is appropriate.

My alarm clock woke me up with this song for months.  Every morning at 5:00 a.m. my iPod would start up. Then my toe.  Then my foot.  Before I knew it, I was dancing around my bed singing (or was I yelling?), “I WANNA STAY HOME TODAAAAAY . . . “

Shrek (the first one) has my favorite soundtrack ever.  I know.  I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to soundtracks.

Other favorites from this movie include (in no particular order):

 

(I compiled this list using Wikipedia and all links lead back to that page.)

Yes, I know that’s almost the whole soundtrack and then some.  It’s THAT good.

While you listen to this song a few dozen times, I’m going to go rehydrate after this 25-day haul.  I did break my personal best record of posting five days in a row.  I don’t know about you, but I think that deserves some type of celebration.

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