Say what you mean and mean what you say

Ok, so we’ve got this Facebook thing.  It’s like a giant white board/bulletin board but more organized.  People post random thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and lists.  It’s a quick form of communication that feeds our human desire for instant gratification.  It’s a great way to keep connected over long distance and sometimes even short distance.  My husband has been known to message me on Facebook when I’m on the laptop in the bedroom and he’s using the desktop in the laundry room.  I have a friend who loses her phone at least once a week.  She updates her status to read, “I’ve lost my stupid phone, again.  Somebody please call me.”  It works like a charm.  She’s even started posting updates to share with her FB friends regarding who had the honor of being the first caller.

            Social networking, I’ve determined, is here to stay.  But, keep in mind, it sometimes limits our connections.  I have another friend, who refuses to join Facebook on principle.  It’s not a big deal except when there is a group event that gets posted on a FB events page and invitations go out from someone’s “friend” list, my buddy doesn’t get an invite.  Luckily, his wife is a Facebooker, so she’s got him covered.  But, what about my grandma?  She has no desire to even touch a computer, so she’s out of the loop.  And, what about people who don’t own computers for financial reasons.  Sure, they could go to the library, but helping your friend find her phone via a Facebook call-out requires constant monitoring.  It’s just not practical.

            Facebook etiquette is another issue.  People post random thoughts.  Friends comment on those thoughts or “like” them.  Is it the profile user’s responsibility to address each comment individually?  What if the comments are a string of added information and updates?  Is it bad form to share what you know even if it’s similar to the previous persons post?  This is new territory.  Someone has to blaze the trail.  What if you inadvertently offend someone by not responding to his or her comment?  Do you own him an apology?  Should the apology be posted on her wall or in a private message?  Wow, this is complicated.

            But seriously, there is one thing to keep in mind.  Before you post, in writing, on that giant bulletin board, take a pause to think.  Are all your Facebook friends, (including your Great-aunt Sally from Texas) going to understand your intention?  Does Aunt Sally really need to know you “like” – “Everyone I know is getting married or pregnant and I’m just getting drunk”?  Also, think twice about having that argument with your ex-boyfriend, right there on his Facebook wall, where everyone (including Aunt Sally) can see.  I’ve heard it said, to always be intentional with your words.  In the case of social networking, err on the side of caution.  Once it’s out there, in print, it’s hard to forget.

Please don’t take my sunshine away

There is something about the weather this time of year that just makes my soul sing.  The rains have subsided for a day or two and the sunshine has done wonders.  My little tomato plants seem to grow greener right before my eyes in the beaming rays of the sun. Late spring delivers those hazy golden sunsets with a dreamlike quality and everything comes alive.  It really is my favorite time of year.

            I’ve been struggling for the last week with the dreary weather blues and a beautiful weekend was just what the doctor ordered.  I worked hard this weekend.  There was dirt under my fingernails and bug bites on my shin, my back ached and my muscles were sore but I felt better than I had in a long time, in my head.

            I guess the lesson here is to move you.  When you feel yourself sliding into that rut of lethargy at your desk, get up and get physical.  I’ll be the first to admit that when the day is gray and I have a mood to match, my instinct is to hunker down and shut the door.  Truth is, I always feel better if I get out of the chair and do something.  Thank you sunshine for luring me back outside.  A little dirt under the fingernails never hurt anyone.

Silk from Sow’s Ear?

My Purse

I love writing at Strange Brew Coffee House.  There are distractions here but sometimes the distractions and conversations overheard are fuel for the writing.  A young woman sat down across from me and we talked about her purse.  We agreed that women who carry a clutch make no sense.  Why would you carry a purse that ties up one hand all the time?  What if you need to answer your cell while holding your coffee?  What do you do with a clutch?  I guess a purse can tell a lot about a woman.

I carry a small rectangular purse with a zip down outside flap.  I keep all my crucial I.D., credit card, and money in that flap for easy access.  All the junk goes in the zip top on the inside.  I recently put a little bag in the glove compartment of my car for extras like dental floss and Tylenol so I could free up space in my purse.  My purse says, “I like to keep it simple.”

My sister-in-law carries a huge bag.  It is stylish, floppy and spacious.  She usually has a full-sized can of hairspray, a hairbrush, a bag of nuts, large bottled water, an apple, an orange or banana, her camera, a book and an entire make-up kit in there.  When we are out having lunch, she will periodically dig through her bag and come up with various gems.  Her purse says, “I am prepared for anything.”

I met a woman in Vegas who carried a bag like that and she had a habit of digging through hers every few minutes for something.  She was a smoker so most of the searching was for her lighter but I kind of felt like it was a nervous thing.  She took comfort in digging through that big purse.  What does your purse (or wallet, guys) say about you?

Thank you for this food, Amen.

 

Why is it, the same day I sign up for Weight Watchers Online, again, everyone wants to talk about food?  Patti Digh, author of Life is a Verb talks about slowing down and actually enjoying a meal.  Life flies by to the speed of three meals a day while we multitask our way to senior citizenship.  Looking back, we don’t remember the yogurt cups devoured while checking email or the cups of coffee slugged back while rushing to carpool or the dinners served buffet style so everyone can eat according to his or her own schedule.  The meals that matter are the ones where we actually share a table with others.  A meal, served with company and laughter and no time limit, seems like such a luxury these days. 

When my husband’s grandmother turned 91, she asked her only two grandchildren and their spouses to take her to Las Vegas.  A world traveler, she had been there in the 1970’s and wanted to see how it had changed.  While we were there, Gram treated us all to a once in a lifetime meal.  My sister-in-law made reservations for a restaurant at Ceasar’s Palace named after it’s chef Bradley Ogden.  Based out of the San Francisco Bay area, Bradley Ogden was a ground breaker in “farm fresh, American” cuisine.

The five of us were seated at a private table in a room of our own and introduced to our personal maitre d’.  I don’t remember his name but his service was fabulous as he poetically guided us through a menu like none I’d ever seen.  Organic, farm fresh everything shipped in daily from all over America to make a meal for the four of us and little old Gram: bison steaks from Oregon, mini blue corn cakes from New Mexico, micro-green salads from California and hand selected wine to pair with each course. 

After we made our selections, our maitre d’ invited us to visit the kitchen and meet the chef…the Bradley Ogden.  So, off we traipsed into an unbelievable kitchen space.  Now, I’ve been in many commercial kitchens in my time.  My husband worked for Marriott hotels for many years as a building engineer so I’ve had my fair share of back-of-the-house tours.  The Bradley Ogden kitchen was like a surgical suite.  I’ve never seen a kitchen so well-lit, sparkling clean and organized.  Covered in stainless steel, every surface seemed to glow with divine light.  It was like a dream world.  Then we entered the walk-in cold pantry and were assaulted by color; stainless racks filled with rows and rows of brilliant produce, fresh from farms across the country.  Clear acrylic bins were stacked full of vegetables organized by color.  Sweet red peppers, next to orange carrots, followed by yellow squash and green asparagus, it looked like the set for a magazine cover shoot.

Back at our table, we were served our first course, poached Foie Gras (goose liver) with sea salt.  Our maitre d’ described this delicacy in such a romantic way that I just had to try it.  The buttery texture in contrast with the crunchy bitterness of the sea salt was an experience I will never forget.  When I got home, I looked up Foie Gras and found that I am politically opposed to it, but I’m sort of glad I didn’t know that at the time.  

The meal that ensued was a kaleidoscope of color and flavor set to a chorus of, “Mmmmm,” and “Aughhh” around the table.  We tasted from one another’s plates and laughed and listened to Gram tell stories of food adventures in Egypt.  In contrast, she shared memories of meals in a dirt floor farmhouse during the Depression in what is now urban Hammond, Indiana.

This was truly an experience of a lifetime.  For one night, we ate like royalty holding court with Gram, our queen.  The memory is like a dream, Gram’s last big adventure, a meal I’m glad we slowed down long enough to share.

To find out more about Bradley Ogden click here:  http://www.larkcreek.com/bolv.htm

Because I Said So (A Mother’s Day Tribute)

Mother's Day 2010

It’s interesting how friendships occur throughout a lifetime.  In school we make friends with people involved in similar activities.  In college we make friend with those who live in close proximity and whose schedules fit our own.  Then if after marriage we become parents, the kids take over the friend making process.  We find ourselves spending time with the parents of our kid’s friends.  We make play dates and plan school parties together.  We go on field trips, attend school plays, and sit in the stands together. Over time, we blink and find that together we’ve raised a generation.  Though sometimes we disagree and make different choices, we are bonded in parenthood.   

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve picked up from some fabulous, fellow mothers.   

A (The improv mom):  “Don’t negate.  Say yes, but with limitations.” “Yes, you may have a cookie after we eat dinner,” softens the blow where a “No” would have sparked a nuclear meltdown.  Save yourself the headache.   

K (I mean business):  Sometimes there’s nothing left to do but pull the car over and give them your FULL attention.  That’s usually what they’re after anyway.   

Mamma L (The shepherd): Make them cut their own switch.  Kids will typically punish themselves worse than anything a parent could come up with so let them make the call.  You’d be surprised, really.   

V (Just V): Laugh with your children or when appropriate laugh at them.  A sense of humor is a gift to be passed on.   

A (The juggler):  If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.  Choose how much trash your kid is exposed to wisely.  Put in a lot of love and that’s what you’ll get back.   

L (The chauffeur): Playtime and coffee is only good until somebody gets hurt.  We have learned from experience that there is such a thing as too much fun and it usually ends with somebody going home in tears.  Most of those events are curable with a good nap.  (Naps for mommies have double curing power.)   

My Mom (numero uno): Kids lie.  They don’t mean to, but they do.  So, call them out and teach them that life is easier to navigate when you don’t have to remember which version of the “truth” you told last.   

I guess I would add two of my favorites to this list:    

1.) Only say it, if you mean it and are willing to follow through.  Too often in the heat of the moment we react to our children.  I have found that it is much better to say, “I am not happy with your choices and there will be consequences…I’ll get back to you on that,” than to say in anger, “You are grounded for the rest of your life!”  Let’s face it; I don’t have the patience or the stamina to enforce that one.   

2.) Counting to three works.  I don’t know why.  I’m not even sure what happens if I get to three.  It also works in reverse as a countdown…3, 2, 1.  I tried it on my teenagers the other day just to see if it still works and it does!  Though I did get a little feedback at 2, to the sound of, “Wait, I’ve got to finish this level!”  It’s a beautiful thing.   

I hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day.  Feel free to add your favorite parenting tip to the list.

Leaving Pleasantville

A little over a week ago, my good friend Amy invited me and our photographer friend Lisa to join her on a road trip.  She wanted us to travel with her along the path she drives to work every day.  She wanted to digitally document the people and areas in need along her daily path to help people understand that we have an opportunity to make a difference right here in our own back yard.  Amy took Lisa’s images, compiled them with a collection she already had, and put them to music resulting in a moving slide show.  You can see it at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/video/video.php?v=1376934218096&ref=mf.

Following our road trip, I was looking for a writing exercise to get me warmed up to blog and good old Fred White, author of  The Daily Writer challenged me to write in haiku form.  Anyone educated past third grade probably knows that haiku is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines with a syllabic pattern of 5-7-5.  I have no experience beyond high school in writing haiku and I’m no poet, but Fred said to do it so here goes.  My haiku attempt based on Amy’s Humanity Road.

Boys stand chest to chest

Building anger in their eyes

Stare and drive on by

Spray paint marks the wall

Tall brown grass and broken glass

Plywood for windows

Dusk falls on fountain

Lonely man sits on park bench

Pretty girls look on

Nightlife is hopping

Man with sign collects their change

Pass without a glance

Becoming aware

Noting the poor feels empty

Time to take next step