Words of Love

I wanted to write you in words so alive

They’d jump from the paper and land in your heart.

I wanted to write you in words of such passion

They’d sear you with heat that stirred deep within.

I wanted to write you of love oh, so true,

Unleashing any doubt of my loyalty to you.

I wanted to write you all this and more…

And then I realized that words are only necessary after love has gone…

A Final Rambling…

The words themselves that we use to describe the season of winter are as terse in sound as the season itself – bitter, blustery, biting, chilling, arctic – all resonate with a sharply negative sound that feels much like the season as it bears down on us. Mired in layers of clothing as we fight Mother Nature’s determination to steal our body heat. Snowflakes at first laced with serene beauty and peacefulness as they fall from the skies become piles of dirty debris and stone as they are moved aside to allow us to attempt at our daily routines. Children clamor in the morning with hopes to hear of a school closing – or at least a delay – while parents stress over how to accommodate them should they occur.

Winter is certainly a child’s season. Sledding and snowmen, snow angels and snowball fights are “fun” for the young. Oblivious to the cold, they romp and dance in a fresh snowfall like a ballerina on stage…. fingers and toes tingling and noses running to be ignored in exchange for the vigorous need to stretch their limbs…to laugh with glee and childish joy…

The foods we tend to enjoy in this coldest of seasons reflect our desire for warmth – stews and hearty soups become a regular fare on the menu from which we will feed ourselves. Oh, and we will indulge…no longer hostage to the swimsuit diets of summer… sweatshirts and sweatpants replace shorts and a tee – good at hiding those extra layers we put on our bodies in an attempt to provide even more warmth to them. And the holidays of the winter season allow us to over-indulge our palettes as well… turkey, ham and all of the traditional trimmings. And there will be dessert with these meals, which we’ll make room for in our stomachs no matter how much we’ve eaten. Holidays are causes for celebration and while the children are more interested in the gifts, the adults are more interested in a pretty table laden with our finest dishes – bowls and platters over-flowing with the food items we “save” for a holiday meal.

Nonetheless, the season of winter keeps us on edge – always concerned about events even beyond school days that are scheduled to occur and may have to be cancelled. We listen intently to weather reports….the merest hint of an impending storm has us rushing to the store for necessities – like the squirrels feeling the change in weather and hurriedly searching for food that will keep them fed when the ground is covered with snow…

And the trees – stripped bare of leaves except for the hearty evergreen – whose boughs toss and curl in the gusts of wind – become laden and bent with snow as it falls and sticks to them….

After the holidays, the real ‘feel’ of winter becomes ominous. No longer gatherings and celebrations to look forward to and plan for… life becomes a routine that is mundane and without change – we fight our internal desire to hibernate inside while we cringe against the undaunting task of bundling up for a trip outside. We admonish ourselves for all of those times, during the heated and humid summer, when we wished for colder weather.

Winter is. Unlike the other seasons, it shows no great changes as it passes. Except for the avid skiers, most of us wish for a ‘mild’ winter. We feel stagnant, and daylight dawns too late while dusk falls far too early. Grumbling about driving to work and home again in the dark… grumbling as the wicked wind finds its way through our deepest coats to chill us… grumbling because the dog needs let out… grumbling about the heating bill… grumbling because the kids are full of energy and have nowhere to expend it… grumbling because we need to take the trash out… just grumbling about what seems like an eternity of time as this season slowly passes… Relying on our faith that spring will eventually come, according to Mother Nature’s plan, and wishing she’d just get on with it already…

If we’re lucky, the first hints of spring do finally show themselves sooner than later… a melting of the now detested piles of old snow, the first flower of spring peeking its head above the barren ground, the joy at seeing what we know as “the first robin of spring”. Anticipation begins to build slowly as we wait for the genesis of spring to show itself, our guarantee that we’ve somehow successfully muddled through the deviousness of winter… Soon, our schedules of coming and going each day will appear at the onset of dawn and end at the onset of dusk…

Hope renews – that is the gift that spring gives us with its arrival – and we take notice of the changes in the outside world with zealousness… buds on trees, the sounds of birds, grass starting to be green instead of brown… crocus and forsythia showing off in delight that they, too, have survived, followed by daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. We await the days until we’re 100% sure we can stash those heavy coats, gloves, scarves and boots that have laden us. We don’t think about the onset of summer and those summer days when we’ll be again wishing for the cold weather that has just released us from its torment…

Living life, to me, seems like the seasons. We adjust through the changes, grumble about the ones we don’t like (winter), glory in the ones we do like (spring) and just get busy living life the rest of the time (summer and autumn). Our moods tend to elevate and ebb according to the seasons as well. If only we could have the same hope, when within our mood of winter, that spring will revive us…

I live in a place with 4 seasons. I still prefer cold over hot. I couldn’t imagine living in a place without snow, I couldn’t imagine Christmas without thinking it will be cold. (I admire my friends in the southern hemisphere who celebrate this holiday in what is the middle of their summer.) What each circle of seasons teaches me is to have faith that things will not remain just as they are at a given moment… that living life is also a cycle with its goods and bads in each cycle… and the best we can ever hope for is to be alive for the next cycle….

(P.S. If you’re in the midst of the heat wave starting today and lasting through the weekend here in my part of the country, I hope this made you think “cool” while you read it!)

Cleaning is such a dirty job!

I want to start this post by giving kudos to people who earn a living cleaning up after other people. Whether it’s housekeeping in a hotel, cleaning private homes, cleaning offices, schools, hospitals or any public building, it is a physically demanding, often unappreciated and dirty task.

Having been in the hotel industry for over 20 years, I’ve cleaned my share of rooms and done more than my share of laundry. I’m happy to say that more than 50% of guests in a type of lodging are fairly neat and considerate. Other people take advantage of the fact that someone else will clean up after them and become lazy and entitled. And ask anyone who has ever worked cleaning up after a sports team has lodged there, and they will tell you that this is the worst of the worst. The parents who are along are far more interested in gathering with each other and drinking than paying active attention to their kids, and some of them show their kids how to be messy by example.

No, I don’t mind having to move all of your “stuff” just to make the bed! NOT!
I’m honored to pick up every wet and dirty towel! NOT!

Nonetheless, does any of us really enjoy cleaning? And aren’t there cleaning tasks we hate worse than others? For example, I absolutely HATE to dust. I would rather scrub a toilet than dust! Of all cleaning chores, dusting is the one that doesn’t show any real change, therefore not offering a sense of accomplishment. And you know, unless you live in a dust-free bubble, that dusting is going to be the first thing that will look like it was never done in the first place!

I’ll admit I’m not a super-organized cleaner at home. I tend to start in one place, have to put something away in another place, then see something else in that area that needs done, so do that. Aging and having minor aches and pains these days also means I can accomplish less at one time than I used to. And I know that, living alone with very few visitors, I tend to let some tasks go longer between cleanings than I should.

How do you do your cleaning? Do you start with one task (like dusting) and do it all over your house before you move on to the next task, or do you completely clean one room at a time? Do you spread out your cleaning over several days or tackle it all in one day? Do you have any good hints and tips about making cleaning easier that you’d be willing to share here? I know I’d be grateful, and I’m sure other readers would, too. If you can, please leave them in the comment section! Thank you!

Got Baggage?

This is so powerful that I wanted to share it with my readers as well!

commonsensiblyspeaking

Recently a close friend referred to needing to end the pursuit of a love interest because they had too much “baggage”. I understood immediately this was not the literal possession of a vast number of suitcases. It was a representation of emotions, feelings, hurts, or misperceptions that someone carries with them long after the event that elicited such emotions or jaded views. But I assume it can also mean more tangible things like kids, debt, exes, and the like. To be honest with you, I never gave much thought to the specifics of what that meant till I heard it this time.

The first thought that popped into my head was not this new realization that I had a fuzzy understanding of what that word conveyed. The first thought was that we all have baggage of some type, whether we recognize and admit it or not. So, the idea of…

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Perfecting Procrastination

People who know me will probably tell you that I’m NOT a procrastinator, the proof of which is that, until this year, my Christmas gift shopping was usually (or mostly) done by this time of the year. I’ve always done that for two major reasons: 1.) I consider myself a thoughtful gift giver and when I see something I’m sure the recipient will like, I buy it while I can, and 2.) It’s more helpful to my budget to spread the costs of gifts throughout the year as opposed to a big chunk being spent in a short period of time.

I recognize that much of my reason for not procrastinating has to do with the stress of trying to get things done at the last minute. I also have perfectionist tendencies, and so the thought of having something be less than perfect is also overwhelming.

Anything you read from a psychology perspective will tell you that procrastination is a “bad” thing; in fact, there is a myriad of self-help books to overcome it. But is getting something done too soon any worse than waiting until the last minute?

Each year, as the Christmas season comes closer, it’s impossible not to see people out and about doing their shopping. There is a buzz, an excitement, as they go from store to store, searching for gifts for their loved ones. Not liking crowds, I prefer not to be a part of that. (No matter when I do my shopping, much of it is done online.) But you see them, bundled up in coats, scarves and gloves – some with lists in hand – carrying bags with different store names on them. And when you see them returning to their cars, laden with those bags, their sense of accomplishment is almost palpable. The thought they have put into their choices and the joy they anticipate when the gifts are opened are very much forefront in their minds, and it adds to the excitement of the holidays.

On the other hand, they are at the mercy of what the stores they visit have in stock, at the mercy of the ticket price on each item, not to mention at the mercy of their credit card merchants when those big-amount statements arrive just after the holidays.

I, on the other hand, found gifts throughout the year – was able to wait for a sales price, added only a little bit at a time to my credit card statements, and didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t be able to find what I perceived as the perfect gift. It’s definitely far less stressful than waiting until the last few weeks!

But while there is no stress, there is also no chance to get caught up in that buzz and excitement, no sense of accomplishment when a much larger task is finished in a short period of time. There is also the risk of buying what you deem as the “perfect gift” for someone only to find a different “perfect gift” for the same person and, either blowing your budget or possibly regretting that you didn’t wait longer before that first purchase.

So I’ve decided that my new mission in life will be perfecting procrastination. I have been experimenting a little here and there with procrastinating small tasks, and I’ve still managed to get things done well and on time. (The meditation I spoke about in a previous post has come in handy with this!) And yes, I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I felt when that happened! I believe there must be a balance, and that, with some tasks, the stress of putting them off produces more negativity than the positive emotions of successfully procrastinating. The art will be discovering the stress versus excitement with each task in front of me, as well as its value if I should procrastinate too long and not accomplish it as perfectly as I would like.

And yes, I have purchased two Christmas presents – but just this month – and I do not feel pressured by not being done by now, as I’m known to be.

I do think it’s okay to procrastinate as long as one finds a balance!

So which do you prefer – getting things done with plenty of time to spare or feeling the adrenaline rush when you’ve procrastinated until the last minute?

Hacks from my Happy Place – V

For our Fourth of July feast, my bestie had what I call a “happy accident”. I use that label to apply when you are cooking and without one of the ingredients, so you substitute something in its place and it turns out even better! One of our entrees was chicken, which was to be cooked on the grill with barbeque sauce. My poor bestie discovered that morning that she didn’t have any barbeque sauce! What she did have was a bottle of steak marinade, so she used it as a marinade for the chicken. It was fabulous! It had some of the sweetness of a barbeque sauce but also some of the smokiness of a beef marinade. I have tried different brands of barbeque sauces, never finding one that was quite the right blend of flavorings to suit me. Well, thanks to that “happy accident”, I’ll be using steak marinade instead in the future. It really WAS that good!

I love cabbage any way you cook it. Cabbage is one of those foods that you either love or hate, and I’m a lover. Years ago, I learned a recipe for fried cabbage, which I make now and again. It’s pretty simple. You fry bacon and set it aside. You fry loose sausage and set it aside. You fry chopped onions and set them aside. Then, in a non-stick Dutch oven, you add chopped cabbage and fry it over medium heat until it has almost completely softened (you’ll want to stir it now and then so you don’t burn it). When it’s just about soft, put the lid on and continue cooking until it’s completely soft. Remove the lid, add in the bacon (crumbled), the sausage and the onions, and stir until combined and everything is hot. Dish up and serve! I can eat this as an entire meal by itself, or it can be a side dish to a main entrée. Either way, it’s yummy! If you really want to make an impression on guests, dish up hot fried cabbage into a casserole, sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese(s) and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. The fried cabbage will last for up to a week in the fridge!

Did you know that you can brown flour? Flour is often used as a thickening agent for sauces and gravies and such, but using it in a roux (equal parts butter and flour, stirred until completely combined) does tend to lighten the color of whatever you add it to. To keep the rich, dark color of your sauce/gravy/etc., simply put flour in a frying pan and heat over medium heat, stirring about every 5 minutes or so. You will begin to see the flour turn brown. Keep heating and stirring until all of the flour has browned. Now when you use it as a thickener, it will help keep what you add it to from turning light. And, as a bonus, you can make this and keep in an airtight container in your pantry for as long as you’d like, so you don’t have to make it every time you want to use it!

“Brown butter” is a butter sauce you usually only see in Amish or PA Dutch cooking. But yes, you can brown butter. Again, do it in a frying pan, stirring repetitively, until you see the melted butter go from a pale yellow to a golden tone. Once you’ve reached that color, pull it away from the heat immediately. Serve over noodles or, yes, cabbage, or any pasta or vegetable of your choice. Browning butter gives it a subtle nutty taste, but it does, indeed, add taste to your butter! As an appetizer, add spices you would like and serve it with chunks of bread, like they do with oil in those fancy restaurants. Delish!

Well, now I’ve made myself hungry! Hope I’ve made you hungry too! Try some of these simple hacks, and here’s wishing you a “happy accident” in your future!

Thank you, Dr. Perry!

Eric Perry, Ph.D, is a doctorate in psychology from Sherman Oaks, CA. I stumbled across his blog back in my blogging beginning, having found an article called, “Narcissism versus Narcissistic Personality Disorder” which was quite enlightening. I immediately chose to follow his blog and also his site on Facebook.

The other night – well, actually, oh-dark-thirty morning for me – I saw that he was doing a live podcast on Facebook and decided to tune in. He was hosting a small, but comfortable, group in meditation. Now, I’ve never been one to meditate; my mind does not silence even when silence is enveloping me. But I decided to listen anyhow – his voice is a calming baritone and as easy on the ears as his photo is on the eyes.

As I listened, I could feel myself stilling – breathing deeply as he suggested, focusing only on the moment in front of me. He often repeated the breathing directions, creating a tempo, and several times in between he would simply say, “Everything is okay” or “You’re okay”. And in those moments, it was and I was – – I was at a place of peace that, if I’d ever experienced it before, it had been a long time.

The podcast wasn’t long, especially since I’d tuned in after it started, but it was powerful. I’m using the memory of that event now, often practicing it whether I need it or not, and it makes a difference. This morning, I was thinking about a project I need to do in a certain time frame – and as usual – I’m either finished too soon or procrastinate to the last moment. I’ve been procrastinating on this one. The moment even the tiniest bit of anxiety rears up to remind me I need to get this done, I just take a few deep breaths and tell myself that, in this moment, I am okay. And it’s true!

I intend to use this whenever I start worrying about the future – or about any potential in the future – and just focus on the present, on the moment. And I’m sharing this because we ALL need a place to slip away to whenever stress rears its ugly head. It’s easy to just stop, take a few deep breaths, and remind ourselves that, in this moment, everything is okay. And it is more helpful to me because I can hear his voice on the outside reminding me.

I have not written this post with Dr. Perry’s permission. His blog site does not allow for comments to his articles, and though I did post a comment during the podcast, I’m hoping he’ll get wind of this article so he knows how much impact those few moments of his time made.

So thank you, Dr. Perry. THANK YOU!

If you’d like to read his blog, you can find him at: https://makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com

Also, if you search for him on Facebook, you may be able to find the podcast I listened to. I suggest you take the time to listen to it as well.