goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Planner or Reactor?

For those of us who are Facebook people, you know there are often small surveys you can complete to find out if you know the slang used in a particular state or the foods eaten in different areas of the country. What would be interesting would be a questionnaire series to determine if an individual is a Planner or a Reactor.

For example, this past Saturday Graham and I participated in the March for Science at the state capitol in Salem, Oregon. Graham asked me early Saturday…what time should we leave?  My mind automatically went into 30 minutes to drive there, 10 to find parking, 10 to walk from where we park and add a 10 minute fudge factor and there we had the time to leave the house. Do you do that? You might be a Planner.

I’m sitting here, past noon, thinking about pizza…..and how can I work it out so we can go to a pizzeria after an evening meeting today when my husband makes a comment about pizza.  So I get off my butt and grab the bread maker and pizza dough will be ready in time for supper. Got the sausage out of the freezer, we have cheese, and there are some assorted other toppings in the frig. We’re set. How about your supper plans? Do you have them in the works early in the day (out of the freezer the night before counts) or does supper prep happen when you get that hunger pang later?  Your typical routine will very much indicate if you are a Planner or a Reactor.

When I lived in Connecticut and my two older kids were elementary school age, I often checked out the camp offerings when there was a fair in February. I couldn’t believe that action needed to be taken that early but found out it sometimes was the case that a special camp with limited spots filled quickly.

Years ago I planned a family trip to Nova Scotia. It was my youngest’s location of choice for his Golden Birthday Trip so he was involved and we started planning the summer trip in February. Good thing for the ferry, because the spots for cars were sold out by March. One of the planned events turned out wonderfully. We all like to cook so on our trips we usually try to fit in a cooking class for something local. When I contacted the chef in charge of the cooking classes I found listed, he did not have his scheduled planned out as far as July.  He asked what I would like to learn. Well, I told him I knew how to boil a lobster but another way to prepare it would be enjoyed. Or perhaps, something from Acadian cooking.  We showed up for the class, held in a teaching kitchen space at a local supermarket chain. The regular attendees had left the front row vacant for us because they had been informed about our trip and the early communication. As the chef announced we would be learning some Acadian recipes everyone cheered and one woman said that they never would have had been offered that if it had not been for us. Now, that isn’t even the end of the story! A couple of years ago, about 6 years after the trip, I received an email from the chef. It was something he had mailed out to everyone on his list that he was changing the direction of his business. I responded that it was great what he was planning to do, told him a little about my business, Can-Do Real Food, and then reminded him who I was. He remembered us and now we can compare local food concepts on Facebook.  Amazing how a bit of planning made the world a friendlier and smaller place.

Nice, but so what?  All these things, being a tad late instead of early to the March, going out for pizza instead making our own, getting the kids into a certain camp, and even making a memory with a chef in Nova Scotia, have only small impact on our day to day life. But there are other more important issues how the contrast between a Planner and a Reactor can influence the lives of many.

The concept of a happy marriage is more than happy bed partners. Yet many people forget to find out if they know how to TALK with one another and can work through disagreements.

The concept of raising healthy and well adjusted children requires a lot of planning. When you react to your child’s antics, you tend to discipline in ways that are not as well thought out if, alternatively, you had planned that lesson before it actually was needed. How would you know the lesson would be needed? You simply remember your own childhood and think how you wish your parents would have handled it. Somewhere between what mom and dad did and what you wanted when you were a kid is the right answer, but merely smacking a butt when angry is NOT what will work long term. 

The concept of leadership for any successful organization usually requires that members of that organization have a way to have their voice heard. It means the leader has to be thoughtful, willing to hear all sides, and be well educated in history, science and more in order to make decisions that are wise and sound for positive long term effect.  Choosing such a leader also requires recognition that bluster does not indicate brains, that speaking his mind does not indicate an ability to get along with others, that being the king of the empire does not translate well to leading a system with others having strong voices. 

And so now it seems that we must react because so many people did not plan well. Activism in a March for Science is but a drop in the bucket but amazing how many more people showed up to show that TRUTH and FACTS are needed…..more than showed up for the inauguration.  Activism is needed is you feel SOMETHING pro or con about a subject. 

So, essentially, planning will ease your life from some stresses but being able to get moving in reaction to events is also something needed. We must be both.


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My Real Job

I graduated from Rutgers College in 1976 and was already working for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s office of administration. They had started a judicial PLANNING office and since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, it made sense to them. I was happy for the job and my kids are now amused that my starting salary was $6,000.  That’s a year, not a month.

Tennessee-SealI enjoyed the work for the Supreme Court.  I did lots of tasks that often fall to the newest/youngest on staff but finally one piece of my education was useful and I got to be in charge of a project!  I had taken a year of computer programming in high school. I had managed to talk my dad out of the more typical college prep physics class for this newfangled concept. We learned a Fortran language and used the computer across town at the university since the high school only had a card sorter. This fantastic skill was useful to the Supreme Court because it was miles ahead of everyone else on staff and we were implementing a new court information system that was going to use key punch cards. It is pretty funny now.  But I loved it, other than not fully knowing all the court related vocabulary I needed, because I got to travel to all 95 counties in Tennessee and let me tell you, that is one beautiful state.

But a few years into that work experience I realized I was getting further and further from my education and applied for and won a job at an engineering and planning consulting firm. That one also included travel. Some to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and Bossier City, Louisiana, but I also got to spend a winter in Miami and then six months in Europe. Not bad. However, I got laid off when Reagan because President and cut funding for environmental issues as part of his economic program. I will not make a political statement here but it is tempting.ronald-reagan-24-11-82

The next few years during that recession were difficult. Planners with a masters degree could not get work so I switched gears and started in real estate. I sold houses for a few months and did okay but I never loved it. My broker suggested I start an appraisal division for him, and within two years I bought out his interest and had 12 people working for me in the booming real estate market of the 1980s.

AppraisalReportsI loved that job..half in the office writing the reports and half out and about in the beautiful northern part of Connecticut. I learned quickly that the emotional appeal many people feel about their house could be achieved in many properties for me. I also learned that many people react to the way things LOOK, not the way things ARE and pretty finishing hides a lot of shoddy workmanship.  Loved what I did. And it was in the mid 1980s that I deeply learned that THAT was NOT my true job.

My REAL job was to raise my tiny children to be healthy functioning adults.  At that time it was a challenge because my husband was a troubled person. I’ll keep it simple and just say he blamed me for red lights and the rain. I did not buy it, and the time came when I told him, for the sake of the kids, we MUST live apart. He filed for a divorce soon after. Fine.

I have always been a nice person. (There are a few that would argue about that, including him, but all those people have, like he does, a perverted view of reality and the responsibility they have for their life choices.) I listened to the question one counselor posed, “Is it important for your children to know their father?” and decided it was. And that, my friends, was probably where I should not have been so nice. But I am who I am.   So we had numerous wrestling matches over the years and now, we have some major fallout.

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago when I found out my ex had made a choice that is socially reprehensible. He is ostracized and yet, our children are torn. They do not approve of his behavior, but he is their father. And so, they feel a need to be there for him.

Yes, they had good times with him. And he helped them with challenges. But that is nothing above and beyond the scope of normal parenting. We can and should celebrate he had some normal motivations and abilities.  But we need not exaggerate it.estranged

I see the homeless here in our town and have gotten to know many as they hang out on the church grounds where my commercial kitchen is located. Without knowing any of their stories, I recognize that they have made life choices that have left them estranged from their families. And so, I understand that we have many people, operating at all levels of functionality in society, who are isolated and confused why. Few recognize that the choices made in their own behavior and the ways they treated people who once loved them and trusted them caused alienation.  Many blame it on others; it is easier to do that than recognize one’s own place in the divergent pathway.

So, I recognized, over 30 years ago that my REAL job was not what paid for the bacon, but to nurture and continue to help feed the lives of my three children.  All adults now, they are amazing young people and I am super proud of them. They have not been fault-free; that is some fairy tale not based in reality. But they are thinking and caring people who are facing their responsibilities and enjoying their pathways with close and dear friends.an nlanders

I am not ready to retire, but I love basking in the glow.

 

 


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I didn’t see that coming

Parenting is hard. Parenting with a partner is hard. Single parenting is hard. Any way you look at it, if you are doing it “right”, parenting is more than full time and you HAVE to put your own ego, your own desires, your own agenda aside.

It was when my kids were two and four years old that it became clear that my job was not my work as a real estate appraiser. My job, much more powerfully important that getting someone’s mortgage to an approval and closing, was to raise those two little pipsqueaks to be healthy, functioning contributing adults. It became apparent when my marriage was on such shaky grounds that the analysis HAD to consider what the kids would be learning if I stayed with their father.

I erred on the side of being “nice”. I told him we needed to separate. I had no plans at that moment for a divorce but I knew the kids needed a healthier environment for their daily life. I allowed him generous time with the kids and had to talk with them quite a bit when he hurt them because their needs were not compatible with what he wanted to do.

And when he filed for a divorce because he wanted to control the situation, I was okay with that. In fact, I was kind  of worried that if he knew how okay I was he would withdraw the petition, but he didn’t.  He told the kids I divorced him. I refused to talk about it with them (until they were adults) saying it was a grownup decision and both mommy and daddy love them.

I read a lot about kids going through divorce. I participated in programs the elementary school offered and we all had counseling sessions together. I was asked in a session, what my goal was. I stated, simply, that I wanted us to get along well enough that we could sit together at school events so the kids only had to play to one part of the auditorium. He said that was not his goal. He never said what goal he had.

And so, at high school and college graduations, we sat apart. Often his family sat with me. Not because they were taking my side but because they were taking the kids’ side. They got it.

He never did. He married again, as I did. And life moved on. The kids are now adults in their 30s and sometimes we still talk about what might have been. They ended up with a new brother with me and two new brothers with him. They are close to my youngest. The other little ones need them, but the new life their father has built has pushed them away.

I got news today that my ex is in trouble. That choices he has made has once again brought him into a world of hurt and he is most likely scared and unable to figure out how things turned so badly.  He has a pathway in front of him that I never dreamed he would take.

My feelings are confused. I know, intellectually, that there is nothing I did or did not do, nothing I might have done, that would have given him a different pathway. I know, intellectually, that his actions must have continued after my time with him with little thought of the consequences.  I know, intellectually, that no one can make this better for him,

However, I am surprised at how much emotional pain I feel. The “what if I had made him do this or that” syndrome is running through my gut. It is a worthless exercise. I know that.

 

 

 


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Family Ties

Following the Christmas holiday I don’t need to tell YOU that your family is……..well, challenged.  I have one myself. I had an aunt that my mother disliked so much she never talked to her brother but, because of family dynamics, I needed to allow her to sing her warble of some song I didn’t even know at my wedding.  I had another aunt who, in the 1950s got a (whisper here) divorce and all we ever heard was “don’t come running home to us if you have problems with your husband.” Not exactly a helpful life lesson.

So, we all have less than perfect families, and if we are true to form, we don’t do such a great job at parenting. We do what we know, so unless you have sought out a parenting class, you will have a tendency to teach your children in the same dysfunctional way you were raised.

In the interest of changing that here are TEN RULES TO BETTER FAMILY LIFE:

  1. Recognize that the reason you love your friends more than your family is because your friends let you do the shit your mom and dad won’t. That doesn’t mean that shit is good. It still is shit. Your parents literally cleaned up your shit as a baby and into your childhood, but  now it is time for you to realize that your actions have consequences and you really need to accept responsibility. When you grow up, your relationships with the long term people who are on your life path AKA your family, will improve.Illustration by Nate Powell.
  2. Let go of anger. We want to be RIGHT! We want others to know they are WRONG! Let it go. It is not a helpful manner of communication. If you really feel strongly that your little sister or your second cousin is on the road to perdition, sit down calmly, maybe with a cup of lavender tea (ha ha) and ask why they feel their pathway is going to bring them the life they want. LISTEN.  They probably will not come around, but at least you’ll understand better and maybe they will turn to you when they recognize they need to change their ways.being kind
  3. Look in the mirror. Recognize your own flaws. Now praise your skills realistically. Understand that each of us is made of the entire ability spectrum. You and your buddies are not the only ones who can do things right. Even your parents get it right some of the time.looking-in-the-mirror
  4. Learn from others. Yup, even that warbling aunt of mine probably had something worthwhile to share with me……hard for me to imagine but I am remembering her with a child’s memory. If you are an adult, you can go where I was unable to perceive.learning
  5. Look at your children. We watched Home Alone again this Christmas and a few things were obvious to an outsider that the family members did not perceive. Be fair when you think over your kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t have them do what YOU wish you could have done as a kid if they are not interested. Help them develop their own interests. Help them learn to read and research. Your-Kids-Look-up-to-You-for-Guidance
  6. Look at your children again. Help them learn life skills like cooking, sewing buttons and hems, how to wash laundry and iron to press a shirt to make a good appearance,  and how to swim.  A man who expects his wife or girlfriend to do all the cooking does not realize the stress that constant task causes. More importantly, he never sees her face light up in pleasure when he prepares her a nourishing meal. A man who can cook is sexy.LifeSkills-750
  7. Look at your children again. Teach your kids to change their oil and their tires. You may not be that proficient yourself. Learn it together. Your daughters too.  Watch your tendency for sexism. Let your sons and daughters learn they can access the entire array of  arts and skills.Nike-Voices-Feature
  8. Tell stories to your kids. Turn off the television and the electronic gadgets. Have one evening a month (or more) when you gather to share the stories of your childhood. Keep it as upbeat as possible. Your baggage with your parents need not be their baggage.  Tell about adventures you had when you were tested and succeeded. Tell about times you thought you could do something but failed and how you responded to that experience. Let them tell stories too. Use a talking stick to pass the right to talk around the circle. talking stick
  9. Explore together. Food is an excellent vehicle for exploration. Move away from what you know. I remember when we visited England for the first time and I asked for bangers and mash at a pub because I had read about it in numerous British stories,. The server paused and then said, “You know that is nursery food?” In other words, for little kids. That was okay, since it was a new experience for me, but it is not okay for you to turn to mac and cheese every few days. Time to learn new tricks. You are an adult now. You have control over your gag reflex and will not barf into your plate. Really. Taste new things. You need not repeat if you honestly do not like it. But your world will open when you explore the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world. 11646-learning-culture-through-food-mexico
  10. Realize, if you change your ways, your birth family members may make some snarky comments. That’s when you get to practice your smile and say, yeah! I’m doing great and I’m proud of my kids! And mean it.keepgoing


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Are Adults Incapable of Responsibility?

We have known for over 30 years that tobacco caused cancer and yet adults are still smoking and chewing.

We hear there is a national epidemic of diabetes, and yet more and more adults are overweight.addiction

Each day people head to the bars or the liquor stores or the pot shops or their local dealer to get what they use to try to escape their reality.

Each morning people report to work hung over and perform less than their best.

Every day there is another news item where some innocent person was shot accidentally by a gun going off unexpectedly or handled by a child.

 

tv-dinner-feltEach night people turn on the television and then zone out, zombie like, listening to laugh tracks in mindless shows. Or talking heads who provide analysis over what someone in the public eye really meant when they said whatever.

Few people read more than headlines. Fewer people know the difference between a news article and an op-ed (opinion or editorial).

Few people meet with others to work on community efforts of any kind.

Few people meet with others who are not like them.

Few people strive for excellence and accept mediocrity. Einstein-Mediocrity-Quote

Few people understand the issues that are facing their own communities, let alone try to get a handle on the national situation or anything else going on in the world.

Few people are working to try to better the system.

angry-familyPeople know who they hate but not why. Most of the time they are people who are different and unknown. Other are family members.

Few people set goals. Fewer know how to work towards them.

Some people have an image that the boogeyman is going to get them. He may be a zombie in the apocalypse in some scary alternative future. It might be the drug crazed homeboys from the bad side of the tracks. It might be the mother-in-law with her fruitcake. So they need a weapon and they are not afraid to use it. They will kill a person they say.

Few people know how to cook from scratch.

Few people know how to change a tire.

Few people know how to sew a seam or a button.How-to-Sew-On-a-Button-38

Few people know how to set a budget and live within it.

Few people would know what to do if the electricity failed for more than a day.

Few people would know how to survive if the store shelves were empty. If they could not gas up their car. If the cell phone network failed.

Many people complain about about how the kids today don’t know how to hold a job or be respectful and they refuse to admit they are parents with problem kids.

The list goes on……and on…..and on…..when will each adult stand up and assume responsibility?

Lessons

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A few years ago I took care of a 10-year-old while the mom worked Fridays through Mondays.  So after school on Fridays and Mondays and during the weekend, the girl would spend time with us. She wanted to do what she did at home, park in front of the television all day. What we did was involve her in all the things we normally did including food shopping and meal preparation, sewing, some light cleaning, and other normal activities including going to church.  We chatted at the dinner table and shared stories about things we had done that day.

We read together and played games and yes, we worked on homework also. She hated that.  She was not used to being accountable for doing her work.

One day the mom was also with us as we went somewhere in the car.  I was driving and I pointed to a road sign, one of those orangey-yellow ones that showed a curve coming up. I asked the girl if she knew why the sign was yellow.

Now this was the kind of question I had been throwing at my children since they were little to get them thinking, so I did not think it was particularly difficult.

Not only did the girl have no idea but neither did the mom. So I stepped them through the logic, asking the colors of the traffic lights and what the green, yellow and red mean. Once we got through the typical giggle that yellow means go faster and agreed it was a caution color, I figured they would get the connection. It didn’t happen so I simply said “yellow signs are warnings. Not hard rules but strong suggestions for safety.  So when you are driving and see a yellow sign, know there is a caution there, something to be careful about.”

Instead of the “oh” acknowledgement I expected, the mom got angry and shouted “Is everything a teaching opportunity for you?”

Yes.

I make enough dumb moves in my life. If I can avoid a repeat bad performance, I will. But there has to be some brain involvement to think about why things went less than smoothly. Otherwise, rinse and repeat will be the life activity, not the life lesson.

As a parent, I have the responsibility to raise my kids to be healthy functioning adults. To help them develop their own skills to be able to do what they need to do and to make decisions as wisely as they can. To love them enough to not always do what is easiest.  To love them despite their own stumbles in their choices. To love them enough to expect they will succeed, knowing I have done what I can to teach them life skills.traffic sign

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A friend of mine moved to Croatia after retirement. Her parents were from there and she had fallen in love with the country whenever she visited family. She knew her small retirement funds would stretch farther in that economy and so made the move.

Much of her experience is joyful. Much of it is similar to the life she would have had she stayed in California. But there are differences.

She often says that the Adriatic nation’s male dominant culture is where the US was about 50 years ago. Little boys seem to be raised that they are the correct ones, and she often sees adult women deferring to their 10-year-old sons.  She sees young women who feel they are unable to do what they want because of the roles society has given them.  What amazes her is that women are the ones who perpetuate this situation. They often are very angry and domineering to other women, trying to maneuver for a small bit of power in their restricted world.

When I hear this current contrast I remember the way I felt growing up wishing I was a boy not because of gender confusion but because I recognized, even as a 5-year-old, that boys could chose to do whatever they wanted but girls had to comply with more rules. I knew that was not fair, not equal. I wanted to be able to chose my own pathway.

And when I hear woman friends talk about statements their boys make that put women down and laugh because they think it is funny, I see we have not come so very far after all.equality-of-sexes-8-728~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Facebook has a lot of nonsense and a few bits of wisdom, I have seen a theme more and more recently, mostly posted by adults in the 50-70 age bracket. Generally it is a list of all the things we did as kids that kids today can’t/don’t do. We rode bikes without helmets.  Sat in cars without seat belts.  Got spanked. Had chores. Were respectful to our teachers.  Went to church.

The punchline: we turned out all right.

The concept: Kids today are not well behaved and as nice or respectful as we were.

What is missing is the understanding that we are the current kids’ parents. We raised them to be the way they are.

So either we didn’t like the rules we had as kids and changed our parenting methods in reaction or we just abdicated our responsibility without any thought.  We wanted to do what we wanted to do without any thought to the consequences down the road.responsible parenting

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Also on Facebook I get into some conversations with people who are strongly anti-abortion but do not want any sex education in the schools. They feel that this is the family’s responsibility and yes,  I agree, information about the maturation of the body is part of what parents should be discussing with their kids.

Age appropriate discussions should start when the kids are toddlers about touching and move on to making responsible decisions about all things through childhood. Before age 10 the understanding that their body will be going through a normal change needs to be started. Before age 12 kids need to learn that their body may get some feelings they never have had before and there are responsibilities to take on, things to know, so they don’t have unwanted consequences. They need to know about pregnancy and disease.

But many parents don’t have these discussions. Many feel it is “not the right time yet”. Many deny their own sexual feelings as a part of the human body’s system. Not discussed, it is secret and forbidden. Normal feelings are understood to be dirty and should be hidden.

And so, unless we empower the schools to step in, we have a problem. We have 12-year-olds who are sexually experimenting. We have 14-years-olds having babies. We have 18-year-olds with sexually transmitted diseases that will affect them the rest of their lives.

Abortion is a horrible choice. No question about it. But without education and availability of birth control, it is going to be a part of this culture with all its ethical and biological issues.sex ed~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Consequences. Life happens. You can’t control all of it. But with a brain attached, you can think through your options and develop strategies to avoid unpleasant repercussions. Learn your lessons early to avoid rinse and repeat.Rules of life

 

 

 

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Celebration of Life

My youngest, Sam, is now 20. Wow…where did the time go?  He was born when I was 40 and no, he was not an “accident”. Mature but still active hormone production was partly the cause for a  two-year effort but I also miscarried (1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and I fit that statistic) and he actually was conceived one month after the D&C. I suggested to my OB-GYN that perhaps older women have more “gunk” (no, not a medical term) inside and maybe zygotes have more trouble attaching to the uterine wall. She thought it an interesting concept and was planning to review the literature.

Anyway, life with a baby and toddler and young munchkin can be full of excitement but when Sam’s dad, Dave,  was diagnosed with brain cancer before Sam’s 2nd birthday, that additional factor added a new dimension.  Dave swore to my mom he would live long enough so the baby would remember him. And he told me to keep life as “normal” as possible, so there was Cub Scouts, and family trips, and singing with the Nashville Boy Choir, and so much more.

FL SW hats

Flight attendants borrowed the kids’ Disney hats to present the safety talk-said it was the first time everyone actually was watching,

What was a 3-5 year life expectancy crashed 10 years later.  Dave died in his sleep the night after Sam’s 11th birthday. My daughter Lisa demonstrated some wisdom telling Sam how my father had died the day after her 14th birthday.  She said she believed he had waited until she was old enough to understand it was his time to go and while she would miss him, she would carry him in her heart forever. While Sam did not find complete solace in her words, they struck a chord and helped.

A year later my mom’s struggle with post-surgery complications ended three days after Sam’s birthday. (Doctor, the surgery was a success but the patient died.) And a year after that, two days before Sam’s birthday, Dave’s older brother also ended his fight against cancer. yahrzeit candle

This one week in October is powerful. At the time of Dave’s death I was very careful to help Sam see that his birthday was not ruined at all.  In fact, the timing  helps us remember and memorialize these special people. We light a yahrzeit candle and spend a few minutes sharing memories….celebrating life in its best continued form.

We chose this pathway instead of focusing on the pain of the losses. After all, in many ways, they are still with us.