I admit it; I struggle with understanding poetry. I want to. I believe that really, really smart people understand and love poetry and I want to be one of those people. There is one poet who when I hear his words, I feel his meaning. Shel Silverstein is that poet. I hope Silverstein's poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends touches you too.
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Good food and good company are standard fare at Thanksgiving but how about good conversation and fun. I'm not talking about the quick comments made during half time or as the family takes a minute to stroll around the block after each football game. I'm talking about making eye contact and laughing out loud. There are many board games and puzzles that can entertain for hours but how about a game that gets people talking and stimulates the imagination while getting the creative juices going.
Here are three games that will do the trick. The first one is 100 questions. 100 questions stimulates ideas by asking meaningful questions that leads to great conversations. You can play for fun or keep score by voting on the best answers.
Next is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person shares two true personal facts and one that isn't. The lie must be as good as the truths they tell. The fun begins as everyone tries to figure out which one's the lie.
Third is Snap Shot Stories. Gather old family photos or current images from a magazine and put them in a bag. Have each person draw a photograph and tell a story about what is happening in the picture.
These games are intergenerational and requires minimal setup from the game organizer. The ultimate goal is to connect with people you care about and have a good time.
Next Thursday is a blue ribbon food event in the United States. Families and friends will gather to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner; a meal where all cooks who love preparing food will channel his or her favorite chef, recreate mom's signature dish or embark on creating a culinary journey of their own. Beginning this weekend, culinary craftsmen will be shopping, chopping, mixing, stirring, basting and baking until their Thanksgiving masterpiece will be displayed on the good china in the dining room. Success will be measured by the number of times these words are spoken, "I am so stuffed. I won't be able to eat for a week." Of course, everyone knows that's not true because in an hour or so those same people will meander back into the kitchen to sneak another piece of pie or munch on a small bowl of stuffing.
But today, I am thinking about the day AFTER Thanksgiving. You put your heart and soul into preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal and the next day, you got nothing. I mean who wants to go near the kitchen on Friday after spending hours the day before putting together a gigantic feast. A feast whose cleanup alone is a testimony to the effort required to pull it all off with taste and style. Plus Christmas is on the horizon and the Black Friday sales are calling your name. Well, I got two words for you...turkey soup.
Yes, I know that turkey soup is usually reserved for the left over spot a week after Thanksgiving but I beg you to reconsider. Soup is nurturing, calming and in the case of this recipe easy. All you need is a crock-pot and a few basic ingredients so that you are free to shop, lounge or work on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This is a great tasting soup that will remind your spouse and family that good food does mean love. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Slow Cooker Turkey Soup
2 stalk celery, diced
1 cup of diced onions
4 cloves of minced garlic
4 bay leaves
2 cups of peeled and cubed potatoes.
4 peeled and sliced carrots
1 teaspoon of white pepper
Kosher or sea salt to taste
4 cups of chicken broth
2-4 pounds of leftover turkey
1. Add all ingredients except the turkey to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the carrots are tender.
3. Add left over turkey 30 minutes before serving and cook until thoroughly heated.
**I told you this is easy and it is but if your arms aren't sore from all the Thanksgiving preparing, you may add an additional step by sautéing in 2 tablespoons of olive oil the celery, onion and garlic before adding it to the crock-pot. This adds a few calories and takes another ten minutes but I think it brings out the flavor of the vegetables particularly the garlic.
***If you and your family enjoy a touch of spice, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of crushed pepper flakes.
If you've read the book The Alchemist then you've looked into the heart of this man, Paulo Coelho. Krista Tiippett's interview allows you to hear him talk about crafting a life that is full of joy. He truly makes life sound like an adventure that we can all craft and experience in our own way. Have a listen at On Being...Paulo Coelho-The Alchemy of Pilgrimage
Colorfully whimsical are the words that come to mind each time I look up from my computer to see the print by Brian Andreas hanging on my wall. I like to think that I am one who goes as the wind goes without a care in the world. But under the harsh stare from the woman in the mirror, I know this to be an illusion. I like order. It's satisfying to be in control and fun to wake each morning with a to-do list as a map for my day's journey.
Now keep in mind, there is one caveat to my love of order and control; I must control my to-do list. After working for someone else most of my adult life, I started my own company so I could be in control. This too is an illusion but one that is more palatable than the other option.
Since Matthew's accident, I have returned home to organize and control. I have cleaned and rearranged closets, kitchen cabinets, personal and professional files, flower beds and even the basement. Not so subconsciously I've worked to wrestle control from the chaos that hovers on the periphery of life by organizing my physical world. This too is an illusion but one that results in a clean house and basement.
Quite frankly the real marvel in this world is not how many things go wrong in our life but how many things go right. Billions of people go about their business each day without a major mishap and while the minor ones are irritating, they are only as irritating as we allow them to be. So I have returned home to create an illusion that includes color, whimsy, gratitude, a clean house and letting go of the irritating stuff.
Want to know something that really annoys me? Bloggers who disappear with no hug goodbye, see you in the funny papers or explanation of why he or she went silent. I mean, I thought we were friends, I signed up for your newsletter, laughed at your jokes and even tried that high calorie dessert that you said was fabulous and then puff, you were gone. My attitude toward that blogger was less than charitable. I am here to tell you I got an attitude adjustment the hard way.
During the wee hours of August 17th, I got THE phone call that stops the heart of every parent. My son, Matthew, had been airlifted to the Atlanta Medical Center. AMC is a Trauma One facility that is in the business of saving lives and my son needed the expertise of its doctors and surgeons. He had been training for the Lake Tahoe Ironman by cycling through the Appalachian Mountains near Dahlonega, GA. As Matthew descended one of the mountains, a local man hit him with his car, breaking 4 or 5 of his vertebrates, 7 upper ribs, both clavicles, right scapula, his C1 and collapsing a lung.
The moment I heard that Matthew had been airlifted, I stood straight up and starting packing for a flight to Atlanta from New York. Marty and I received the call at 2:15 AM and by 8:00 AM that same morning I was by his bedside. I have not been home since. I sat by his bed in ICU for 6 days and watched him go through one surgery and the installation of a Halo. I caravanned with Marty and Matthew to Brooks Rehab Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida and witnessed him learning of his limitations for the next 12 weeks. Since being released from Brooks, I've been with Matthew and his 4 children at their home, washing clothes, caring for Halo pins and generally doing whatever I can to support them during this time of recovery.
I tell you all this as part of the explanation for my silence. I am not the only one to help my son and his children during this time. It has truly been a family and community effort but this event changed my life. I had grand plans for Footsteps this fall. My energy level was high after my sabbatical year and I was ready to blog about my new raised herb beds, fall in the Hudson Valley and my training schedule for Run the River 5K in October. But to quote Allen Saunders: Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. My son and grandchildren need me and I love them, so here I am.
I am still going to blog about the raised bed but I will now be sharing with you the ins and outs of coming back from a major health trauma. Some of the lessons I learned I want to pass on to you with the prayer that you will never need them.
Hugs to you all,
Time travel is possible. I can attest to that reality because each time I smell newly mown grass or fresh peaches, I am transported back in time. I am delivered to a place and time when thunderstorms were a daily "happening" and summer vacation lasted so long that returning to school was welcomed with anticipation and a new pair of shoes. The challenge with time travel triggered by smell is you can't control it.
Yesterday afternoon moments after a brief rainstorm, I was transported to the South of my childhood. Steam rose from the asphalt as the cool summer rain struck the hot road releasing the smelly fragrance of water, chemicals and dirt. With the first intake of the odorous smell, I was gone. I found myself playing chase in the rain with my red-faced, sweaty neighborhood friends; a game that abruptly ended with the first rupture of lightening against the livid and menacing thunderclouds. We took cover in the carport until the storm wore itself out and a rainbow signaled the all clear.
All this brings me back to peaches. Peaches are the quintessential summer food. Eat one plain or whip up a peach cobbler for a perfect summer dessert. My favorite is peach ice cream. At family gatherings the adults would take turns at the hand crank keeping the dasher rotating in the can. My cousins and I would take turns packing ice and salt in the tub working hard to make every ice cube count. Today I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker; the process is easier but not nearly as much fun.
Do you make homemade ice cream? Do you have summer smells that release strong memories? How about time travel, been anywhere fun lately? Don't be lulled into thinking summer will go on for ever, it's not long before school starts again so go outside and play.
Peach Ice Cream
1 cup of well chilled, whole milk *
3/4 of cup granulated sugar
2 cups of well chilled, heavy cream
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
3 cups of diced and mashed peaches **
1. In a medium bowl combine milk and granulated sugar.
2. Whisk to mix until sugar is dissolved.
3. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
4. Pour into freezer bowl and churn
* Fat is what makes ice cream rich and creamy. The higher the fat content the richer the ice cream. But sometimes I use skim milk and it is tasty too.
** Some recipes call for sliced peaches or chunks. I've found that large pieces of fruit in homemade ice cream freezes hard and isn't all that flavorful. I mash my peaches to keep them from becoming tasteless ice balls.
Growing up I remember clearly my mother saying, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". That maxim along with her belief that you don't talk politics or religion at the dinner table was the core of her life philosophy. My mother was a nice person who was gracious and kind to all her friends but she was not open to sharing much about herself with others. Her philosophy, while workable at dinner parties and bridge parties, didn't leave much room to discuss the struggles that touch us all at some point during life on this planet.
I don't hold to Mom's hard and fast rules about not sharing with others the events that shape life but I do worry about joining the TMI (Too Much Information) Camp. I am not that person whose life dream is to spill all on the Jerry Springer show or weep affectionately with Oprah on TV. Nope that's not me but I have learned that as human beings we share common experiences in life and that we can learn from one another. I'm not ready to discuss religion or politics but I will chat about what drove me to take a sabbatical.
I was burned out. I was burned out on life. It wasn't just my work; it was everything. Why did I think I was experiencing burnout? I had several of the ten classic symptoms. They are:
Lack of Motivation
Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
Slipping Job Performance
Personal Problems at Home and at Work
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Being Preoccupied with Work...When You Are Not at Work
Generally Decreased Satisfaction
The most concerning symptom was the negative emotion I was feeling. I was angry. It is uncomfortable even now to admit but I was. I had been diagnosed with and treated for cancer, hit by a car, watched my mother's health fade as she walked her end of life journey and sat by helplessly as my ex-daughter-in-law walked out on her marriage to my son. And all this happened in a 5-year time frame. I was tired and I was just plain pissed off. As a 5-year old I might have packed up my favorite stuffed animal and run away but adults aren't allow to do that so I went on sabbatical.
Giving myself permission to reorder the priorities in life allowed me to regain the balance needed to recharge and energize. I am blessed that I was able to take the time to rest, create and spend time with people that I love but it was necessary. I didn't want to become some bitter old woman chasing kids and dogs off her lawn because they were getting too near her gnome collection. (I don't really have a gnome collection but I might one day.)
What do you do when you feel the symptoms of burnout and can't take a year off for a sabbatical? Start by making sure you are taking these actions. First, get enough sleep. Sleep helps you replenish your energy and allows you to manage the stress in your life effectively. Next, unplug. Set boundaries for yourself and your family. As a teenager, I was bummed that we weren't allowed to take phone calls during dinner. As an adult I understand. Third, get serious about relaxing. You must relax during periods of high stress. Illness, caring for aging parents and work all require your attention but without periods of down time, life becomes burdensome and burnout may result.
Have you experienced burnout? If so, how did you handle it? I would love to hear you solutions to managing burnout.
A year ago I shared with you my desire to take the time and dedicate the energy to delve into goals that were not driven by work. To that end, this past year I did just that. The outcome was not as envisioned, it was better. My sabbatical year allowed me to decompressed and refocus on the people and "work" that I cared about and helped me clarify how I want to live the Fourth Quarter of my life. My time has been well spent. If you're thinking of taking a sabbatical year, here are a couple of things to help you with your planning.
First, make a plan for the year but be open to unplanned opportunities. Everything I read before committing to taking a sabbatical year stated that having a plan would help make the most of my time. I found that my willingness to follow the path where ever it would lead me to be the most rewarding and enlightening part of the journey. Don't let adherence to "the plan" take over your sabbatical.
Next, be prepared for friends and family to be confused by the term sabbatical. Sabbaticals are traditionally the purview of college professors and eccentric designers, not small business owners. The idea that you may deliberately take time to do something other than work is foreign to others and in my case always ended with the other person saying, "Oh, you are retired". No, I am on sabbatical.
And finally, there may be no ta-da or grand fanfare at the end of the year. In my case, I will make a few changes in my life based some of my experiences from the past year but I am not running off to join the French Foreign Legion or start skydiving. An example of a change I am making is spending more time out of doors everyday. I will no longer be tied to a computer for hours on end without a "go outside and play" break.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you some of the other changes I am making. So let's chat and catch up!