Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Trove of Treasure

A few years ago, we packed up my Grandparents home as they became unable to live independently. We moved them into my Dad's house so they took some of their belongings and each of us grandchildren chose to keep some of the things with special meaning and memories of our time with Gram and Pap. Last week, Gram's rolling pin provided me a way to crush coffee beans in the power outage. This week, while packing for a move of my own, I went through the box of the other treasures I had saved from their house and found another gem - her recipes.

I remember standing in the kitchen on a stool, not yet tall enough to reach the counter. She and I would spend the days together cooking up a treat or dinner for the family. She always made sure to combine cooking with learning about measuring, and doing things in order, and dry vs. wet ingredients. She also passed along safety rules in the kitchen and I still make certain the handles of pots and pans on the stove are turned in to avoid an inadvertant bump and spill of the hot contents.

We would laugh and taste and try something new from the latest magazine or newspaper column. Some of the things turned out plain awful and we didn't care. Most of our creations were soon enjoyed by the family and she and I would glow from the compliments. Cooking was something we did together. To this day, she will happily tell the story of the time she asked me to wash the potatoes for dinner and later found me standing (on my stool) by the sink scubbing the potatoes clean with dishsoap.

As I leaf through these pages, I can't help but wonder if we've lost the treasure of cooking with our children. In our fast-paced, get-things-done-kind-of-world, families don't cook much at all anymore. And, what many people now consider "cooking" is to open a box to throw it into the oven.

I fear we are raising a generation of kids who won't have the chance to benefit from one of the sweetest memories of my childhood. Cooking isn't something to get done. Cooking is something to savor and enjoy with the people we love. A world, and dare I say hearts, open when you stand in the kitchen with someone and prepare food out of raw materials.

I think our world, our hearts and our kids could benefit from a great big dose of cooking together. A humble thought, perhaps, and one worth considering.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor With Love

For most of us, Labor Day is a holiday and considered the last hurrah of summer. There is a certain quiet about Labor Day morning... people are enjoying a lazy morning at home, perhaps preparing for a cookout later and you can taste the beginnings of Autumn in the air.

As you enjoy the relaxation today here is a question for you to ponder... Are you doing what you love? We spend a great deal of our life toiling for something else. It matters not if you work outside the home, are self-employed, are a stay-at-home parent, are in school, retired or a community volunteer. It is all called work as far as I'm concerned. Somewhere along the way "work" became a dirty word. How did we let that happen?

Part of the joy in life comes from the accomplishment of making the circumstance a bit better for someone or something else. And far too many people, in my humble opinion, are miserable because of it. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I had some personal experience in this realm recently. I was doing work I didn't love and even though doing so was for the sake of being able to do what I loved, it was a great reminder of the importance of spending each day in harmony with your heart.

If you're not, make a plan to get aligned. If you're not really sure what you would really love to do, get a piece of paper and answer these questions:
  • What age do you want to live to?
  • When you die, what do you most want people to remember about you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you most look forward to each day?
  • Who, or what, makes you smile?
  • Where in nature do you most like to be (ocean, mountains, desert)?
This is really the first step to help you get back in touch with that little voice inside. The little voice is pretty darn powerful if you give it some room to speak. It is unstoppable if you start listening to it. Give it a try... what do you have to lose?

Everyone should be doing what they love. It makes everyday better. It makes sleep better. It makes love better. It makes life better. You can get there. I'm here to help you. I'm cheering for the collective 'wow' when follow our hearts and labor with love.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank you, Irene.

The power in my home went out in the middle of the night on Saturday. I'm not exactly sure what time but would guess somewhere around 1 AM. I managed a reasonably good night of sleep despite the howling winds and rain blowing on the side of the house it never really blows on.

There still wasn't power when I woke Sunday morning. And we remained without power until 1 PM this afternoon - this is now Thursday. This is, by far, the longest I've ever gone without electricity in my world and I must say I learned a few valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: Wishing for Something Different is Futile
For the first 36 hours or so, I would wander around telling the power to come back on. As if it could hear me and as if my pleas would make any difference. It made me feel powerful, for a time, and then it made me feel desperate. I stopped asking it to return.

Lesson 2: Ingenuity (or desperation) is the Mother of Invention
I was able to boil water for coffee as I have a gas stove and simply lit the stove with a lighter. I did not, however, grind any coffee beans in preparation. Sunday morning. No power. Rainy and damp. Whole coffee beans mocking me. I wanted my coffee. After a few moments of pondering, I got a Ziploc bag and my Grandma's old rolling pin which I'd kept for the memories. A towel on the counter and a bit of good whacking and I had myself some crushed coffee beans. It was, perhaps, the best cup of coffee ever.

Lesson 3: Habits are Hard to Break, Unless they're Pointless
I knew the lights wouldn't work and I knew turning the faucets wouldn't produce any water. And yet, time and time again, I would flip a switch or turn a knob and nothing. It took until sometime on Wednesday for me to not do so 100% of the time. I was improving and wonder how much longer it would have taken for me to give up the habit completely.

Lesson 4: Silence is Golden
A few short hours into Sunday morning and slowly the din of generators began to fill the neighborhood. I had one, but since I was spending my time willing the power to come back on (and was convinced it would work), I didn't bother dragging my generator out until late Sunday (or more accurately asked my son to do so for me). By then, I figured the refrigerator could use some juice before everything spoiled and, quite honestly, I wanted to charge my mobile phone, laptop and air card (yes, this wasn't the slumming version of blackouts, I'll fully admit). I went to bed with my generator humming on the rear deck and the slightly less loud humming of the generators from my neighbors. And it quickly and firmly drove me crazy. I turned mine off and went back to bed, resigned to tossing some food and convinced that sleep was more important than a few bottles of condiments, some cheese and some kale. I did throw away the food, gave the fridge and freezer the best cleaning ever, used the generator sparingly throughout the day to charge my electronics (and grind my coffee beans) and had a much more peaceful existence.

Lesson 5: Change is Freedom
Relatively quickly, I established a new order. Have old water cooler bottles filled at the fire station for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Take the dog for a long walk in the morning. Go to bed with the darkness. Read by candelight. Keep up with only the critical work tasks and do the many things normally left undone in our busy lives. I cleaned out closets. I sorted books. I went to have a massage (mostly for the shower afterwards). Made some phone calls. Created piles and piles of things to donate to charity.

I think, perhaps, we get so caught up by what usually see that we forget about our ability to see things differently. I had a "plan" for my week which was carried away with the winds and rain of Irene. I had my routines which were replaced with only the truly necessary things. And, gratefully, I had room to live a different life for a few days.

Thank you, Irene. You opened my eyes in all the darkness you brought.