Are you sure you’re old enough to be here?

5817022049_4d1a1fc05b_mFor as long as I can remember, people have gotten my age all wrong. When I was around 5 or 6 or 10 (those ages are all clumping together at this point) people used to think my brother and I were twins. Bear in mind, now, my brother is 3.5 years younger than me, although he will deny this if you ask him. That is all odd enough. But what makes people particularly odd and unique as creatures is that I am often asked questions pertaining to my age, as if people think I’m one of Ashton Kutcherr’s tricks, here to punk them (channeling my best digital Joe Pesci there).

I am proud to say that I actually had an encounter with a celebrity (of sorts) in this particular regard. Back when I was in college, James Carville came to speak at my campus. I was excited to see the excitable Cajun I had been watching on TV. I have absolutely no recollection of what he said during his presentation although I am sure it was very intelligent and well-said. After the talk, we all got up to introduce ourselves. I waited patiently in line, excited to shake Mr. Carville’s hand. Hey, I’ve been a political junkie for a long time. That’s what happens when Abraham Lincoln is one of your great heroes. Anyway, as I finally approached Mr. Carville, ready to look up at his weird face in admiration and star-struckedness, he asked, “Are you sure you’re old enough to be here?”

I can honestly say I have absolutely no memory of how I responded, if I responded at all. I’m sure I could have retorted with an immensely insightful comeback that would have inspired Mr. Carville to hire me onto his staff or some such, but apparently that was not the outcome.

To be fair, Mr. Carville is not the only person to question my age-appropriateness. He’s merely the most famous to do so. So far. The shining moment of my high school career (and there are many contenders) occurred one sunny day as I was walking down the sidewalk, ready to walk across the street to put in some slave labor I meant to help out at my family’s business. As I was walking I started hearing this, “Hey…hey!” Now, I don’t know about you but often times when I hear someone saying hey, or when I see someone waving, they are in fact attempting to communicate with another person, so I always strive to play it cool. Also, if you are in fact hearing voices you want to lay low a little anyway. In this particular case, the source of the sound became clear as I passed one of the school busses that was lined up, ready to take my little minion peers home. It was a bus driver beckoning to me. I saw many minion faces pressed against the glass of the windows as he asked, “What grade are you in? What grade are you in?”

Have you ever had a moment where you feel like a spotlight has begun to shine on you just as you begin to pick your nose?

Not that anyone picks their noses. But you get my point.

Given all of these experiences, you can’t blame me for having one time approached one of those “guess your age” fortune tellers at a festival. My dad and I thought the prize money would be a gimme. Every other person on the planet misjudged my age. Now I could FINALLY make some money out of that fact. I was about 12 at the time and I believe the person guessed spot on (they had some margin for error of course). “You carry yourself with too much maturity,” they said, seeing my frustration.

There’s a moral in there somewhere.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdlasica/5817022049/ via Creative Commons

Of Kid Menus, Crayons, and Sippy Cups

4876620694_3742373838_mWhen I was in high school, the cards of popularity were pretty well stacked against me. I looked “different,” first of all, which in the world of adolescents is pretty much a curse. Insofar as sports went, to say that I was not talented would be a horrible understatement. The fact is that my only athletic talent was catching spherical objects with my face, regardless of the size of said spherical object. I would get pain in my ribs after running for about 2 minutes. However, there was one thing I did in high school that I unquestionably dominated, and that was domestic extemporaneous speaking on the speech & debate team. Don’t get me wrong – this was no ticket to the popular crowd. However, every Saturday for months at a time, I was the person to beat. I brought home a trophy almost every weekend. I felt respected, in my element.

Then, my team and I went out to dinner before a big tournament.

Imagine going out with a group of people whom you like but whom you also are sort of competitive with at the same time. And then imagine having someone pull your pants down in front of all of those people.

Don’t worry. That didn’t *exactly* happen. However, something that felt similar did happen. As a hostess came over to seat us, she asked one of the coaches if we’d be needing a kids menu. The question, of course, was in reference to me. Suffice to say, I cried, the hostess cried, the waitress cried…I think even the manager burst into tears at one point. It was awful.

Of course, this was not the first nor the last time I would be offered a kids menu or other related material in completely awkward situations. I was eating lunch with my mom at a mall restaurant one day and the waitress asked if we’d be needing a sippy cup. Bear in mind, now, that I was in high school at the time. Did the waitress see a lot of 12-year-old kids that needed sippy cups? Did she experience a lot of young looking people who had extreme eye-hand coordination problems? I’ll never know. However, I did say yes to the sippy cup. That’s how I roll. I didn’t get it.

Perhaps the most puzzling instance in which I was identified as a child was when I went out to a business lunch. I was dressed rather formally  - I think even in pinstripes, and the hostess asked if we’d be needing a kid’s menu. I have often wondered what kind of kids she saw. I mean, this was a Bob Evans, so I wouldn’t think parents would go to the trouble of dressing their kids to the nines in order to eat sausage gravy and biscuits. But apparently children came in their in business suits often enough that the question was warranted. Go figure.

These scenarios used to bother me a lot (see high school experience). Nowadays, if someone offers me a kids menu, crayons, or a booster chair (that really happened) I tend to say, “Yeah!” This infuriates my brother when it happens in his company. He feels I am helping the hostess or waitress demean me. I figure that if they want to give me a dollar hot dog I’ll take it, and I have always loved coloring.

I suppose if I were a truly enlightened person I would take the host or hostess aside and say, “Hey there. I know this is hard to understand, but even though I am small to your eyes, I am actually a big girl. All the way grown up. Sometimes people come in different shapes and sizes, and as you’re in the service business you should strive to be more sensitive.” I may get to that point one of these days. For now, I’ll enjoy my sippy cups.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sliceofchic/4876620694/ via Creative Commons

The Dip In Which I Stand

Sometimes being "different" can be overshadowed by a little success.

Sometimes being “different” can be overshadowed                  by a little success.

It seems to me that humans spend most of their time trying to differentiate themselves from other humans. By dress, by ways of talking, by mannerisms, humans strive to make themselves memorable in some way. And yet, if you have a bad date or encounter a person who creeps you out, you will describe them as, “Uh, kind of different…” It will be understood that “different” is not good. It is not a bragging point for that poor nameless soul.

I am not sure but I would wager that all of us have a moment when we realize we are different from other people or that other people are different from us. Great men like Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Faulkner have talked about this moment when you notice with a start that we are not all the same. For King, this moment came when he suddenly was not allowed to play at a white friend’s house anymore. And Faulkner, betwixt moments of inebriation, wrote about how slave children and the master’s children suddenly realized they couldn’t play with each other anymore. That recognition of difference pops up at the most inconvenient times.

You might well wonder how I could fail to notice that I was “different” compared to other kids, but the fact is that this point eluded me for about the first four years of my life. I suppose I reckoned that I was a kid and kids were meant to be small. The ads for Flinstones Vitamins, which I hated, promised that if I ate one vitamin a day I would grow up to be able to reach the door knob, and I had perfect faith that this was so. If other people were bigger than me it was because they were older. My vitamins and I would catch up. In the meantime I was differentiating myself as a young tot by announcing that Amadeus was my favorite movie and that anything bad I did was actually the responsibility of Margie Stoopee. That was different enough.

My moment of “I’m different” finally came upon me as I was walking in a single file line in Kindergarden. There was a long line of windows that we had to walk by I think on the way to the gym. I was wearing a big fluffy purple 1980s winter coat and felt a little bit like I was a marshmallow. Suddenly, I looked to the right and I noticed, without warning, that everyone else had their heads at pretty much the same level, but my head was much lower. There was a dip where I stood and it followed me wherever I went. What was that all about?

Nobody said anything. There was neither a cue for Twilight Zone music nor a chorus of angels praising my awareness. But from that moment on, I was aware, keenly, that I was different somehow. I asked my parents not to show me pictures from school concerts because there was a dip where I was standing. I hated having my picture taken with friends because I was always standing in a dip. In college I event went so far as to make my friends sit down if we were taking our picture together (believe it or not some of them even squatted or sat on their knees to accommodate me. How cool and different is that?).

The thing about being “different” is that in the end you have three choices, usually. You can make peace with whatever makes you different, you can try to change what makes you feel different, or you can turn a blind eye.  For me, changing what makes me different is not really an option, primarily because I’m not a great athlete and thus I feel stilts would be a bad idea. But I do have the option of making peace with the dip where I stand. It’s always going to be there. And I can try to change what other people say and think about the fact that there is a dip where I stand.

We are all “different” in some way. Even if you don’t feel all that different now, at some point you are sure to be thrust into a situation where you feel like you’re standing in a dip. Knowing humanity, someone may even be there to point it out to you. At that point, you can try to fight it, you can try to make peace with it, or you can try to change how people feel about it.

Which path is yours?

Yes, I’m Really Standing

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This is not me getting punched. This is just what it looks like when someone in front of me checks their watch.

When I was in high school, especially during my senior year, my parents were quite intent on me getting a job. They claimed it was because they wanted me to contribute to my pending *massive* tuition bill. In retrospect I am fairly certain they were looking for ways to get me out of the house. An over-achieving pubescent female facing a major life-change is no treat. You’ll say anything to get away from these strange creatures so closely resembling your dear loved baby.

Whatever their reasoning, I took the suggestion of my parents and applied for a job at a craft store. I had always been interested in crafts. In fact, anything befitting any 87-year-old woman I had felt keenly was also befitting me. I was called grandma more than once during this stage of my life, although I never did get one of those plastic bonnets. I figured that getting a job at a craft store would be the perfect way for me to proceed in spending every penny that I earned. It was job security. That store would always have at least one customer, and I knew it. Amazingly, and for the one of the only times in my life, I was hired after my first interview.

Working at a craft store is an interesting experience. One expects everyone to be sweet and charming because after all, only sweet and charming people do crafty things. My experience was a little astray from my expectations. One time when I was cashing out a customer, a seemingly sweet older lady, I found many “notions” (those being needles, pins, and the like for you craft-jargon impaired) rolled up in some fabric she had purchased. Surely she had simply neglected to unroll her fabric at the counter, I told myself. Only I had been warned that this was the most common way people shoplifted merchandise. I also learned that craft store aisles apparently have signs, invisible to me, that say, “Please fart here.” I would be walking around “putting things away” (code for shopping) and would walk through the most impossible clouds of methane you could possible imagine. Sometimes the guilty party would be nearby and I would swear they would grin as they watched me, subtly, out of the corner of their eye, walk through their vomitous wreckage. Sometimes no one was around. That was almost more disturbing. A fart with staying power is something to lament in this world.

The most educational part of this job for me was discovering, first-hand, that people do not become more mature or more sensitive as they age. I had perhaps naively assumed that this was a natural progression. Of course you get picked on in high school, I reckoned, but once you get out of those hellish halls, you will be around adults, and adults are more aware of their impact on others. You see, as fate would have it, I am 4’5 instead of 5’4 or 6’4. I got picked on rather mercilessly at school. I started my job at the craft store ready to be exposed to the world of grown-ups, where I would be accepted simply for who I was, green apron and all.

The thing about humanity is that when there is a lesson to learn you don’t just learn it once and move on. The universe has a way of hammering these lessons into your head. My years at the craft store exposed me to some fantastic ways in which people can be educational.

I learned, for example, that people do not really understand anatomy. A lady asked me one day to help her find a particular kind of fake flower. Finding anything in the floral section was enough to give me the trembles. All of that smelly eucalyptus and tangly ivy. Nightmarish. But ultimately I found what she was looking for, high up on the top of the shelf, of course. I pointed, using my finger. The nice one. Instead of saying “thanks” the woman inexplicably said, “Wow, that’s so high. I bet you can’t even see that high.” Forgetting for a moment that I clearly could see that high as I had just pointed to something up there, let’s take this moment to note that no matter how short you are, your neck still enables you to tilt your head back so you can look up. Granted, there are some people of any height who may be encumbered in this regard, but it is not in fact size-related.

I learned that some people require something familiar in order to understand the strange. I was helping a customer once and out of the blue they blurted out, “You remind me of my aunt. She was also little.” <Pregnant pause as I certainly had no idea what to say. Does one thank a person for this information?> “She was a real spitfire.” Was this granting me permission to respond in a repulsive and unladylike way? I had no idea.

I learned that people don’t really understand relative size differences or references.  I was checking out a customer’s items close to closing time one night when suddenly she said, “You are so tiny. You must keep your shoes in an index card box.” Of course a million brilliant comebacks entered my mind. After the fact. In the moment I was simply so dumbfounded by the comment that I had nothing to say.

Perhaps the best thing I learned, however, is that people can be deliciously gifted in not noticing the obvious. I was working one day, busily sewing buttons to cards (we had to look busy even when the store was empty because this would make “CORPORATE” happy) when someone rang the customer bell. I walked over and began checking the man’s items out. Suddenly he said, “Well, aren’t you going to stand up while you do that?” Bear in mind, now, that at the cash register I had a five-inch tall platform I stood on, so this gentleman had actually watched me grow 5 inches right in front of his eyes. Also bear in mind that I had walked, using my two legs, over to where he was. Unfortunately, and I assure you, much to my chagrin, even standing on a slightly elevated platform, I was still short. So short, in fact, that a man thought I was sitting in an invisible chair whilst ringing him out.

Do not be confused. Do not feel deceived. Even though I am not as tall as you are when I stand all the way up, I can assure that yes…I am really standing. Believe it or not.

Social Media: A Real Life Digital Town Without Pity

6165556884_702d8cfca9_nThis past weekend was pretty brutal. On Saturday morning I found out that a woman I respected in the online world, Judy Martin, had passed away suddenly at the age of 49. Judy wrote often about the work/life balance. She did her thing, always seemed to be positive, and in my few engagements with her she was always, ALWAYS, kind and supportive. To think that someone like her could just be snuffed out came as a bit of a shock.

The next day I learned that one of my favorite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, had died of a drug overdose at the age of 46. It seemed impossible that such a great talent could also be snuffed out so suddenly. Boom. Gone.

The shock of these deaths was bad enough, but what made it worse and perhaps even more horrifying was the complete lack of compassion I encountered in the online world. While many of my friends mourned and lamented the death of Hoffman, others took it upon themselves to almost celebrate Hoffman’s death. That’s what he deserved. If you do drugs, dying alone in the prime of your career is exactly what you have coming to you.

As for Judy, when I noted her passing, people did not, interestingly, simply acknowledge that it was sad that someone had died suddenly. “Who was she?” was a common question. I find this odd. If you do not know of a person but find they have died suddenly and that this is making someone sad, would you not focus first on the fact that this person is gone? Your knowledge of them is not the most important thing at that moment. Or am I crazy here?

It’s all about relationships

You don’t have to skim Twitter or Facebook for very long before seeing the word “relationship.” It’s all the rage these days. Engage your audience. Be human. Be authentic. Be real. These sound like great ideas, but some of the things I saw this weekend make me wonder if people actually remember what relating to people is about. A relationship does not mean that things only matter if they are connected to you. When someone notes that they have experienced a loss, what you do not want to do is say, “I wrote a post when my uncle died. [link] (Yes, I’ve seen that happen). When someone has lost someone, your first question should not be, “Well, who were they?” To me this insinuates that if the person was meaningful enough you might note that their passing is sad. If they don’t cut the mustard it’s not really worth thinking about. “I didn’t know them,” you seem to say. “therefore they must not have mattered.”

I wonder, after this weekend, if social media is actually reducing the human capacity for compassion. People who sounded off against Philip Seymour Hoffman got a lot of comments. A lot of traffic. Sure, some of that feedback was negative (something about ruthlessly attacking a man who just died and who had obviously been in pain). But still, if you are trying to gain Klout points, comments are comments. I find myself wondering, although I am horrified to admit it, if there would have been more posts about Judy Martin if she had been one of the “guru gang.”

It’s not new, it just seems worse

I have been watching humanity drip out of the online world for awhile now, slowly but surely – at least in the marketing/business realm where I tend to hang out. Personal uses of social media are different and usually better. But in the professional realm, where you would think there would be more of a focus on decorum, the actual humanity…the capacity to relate to others…has been steadily dissipating. I really became aware of it after the passing of Trey Pennington. Blog posts started multiplying as fast as bunny rabbits. Everyone was now an expert on emotional distress and suicide. I raised an eyebrow. Then people started throwing LinkedIn “parades” and others commented on posts supposing that Pennington had just been a jerk-off fake.

All of that was wretched. A month later, when Bruce Serven took his own life, the silence in the online world was eerie in contrast. Was it because Bruce had not been as popular or as well-known? I wonder.

I am painting with a broad brush. Not everyone online is bereft of compassion. But I am noticing enough scenarios where compassion has gone missing that I could now call it a noticeable trend. Sympathy is becoming a traffic booster. Antagonism is becoming the new way to connect. Judgment is becoming the new handshake. This is not just bad for business. This is bad for us as people.

Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you’ve seen compassion and empathy increase these last few years. Tell me this weekend was just a blip in the radar.

Please. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me we aren’t living in and creating a real-life town without pity.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rayterrill/6165556884/ via Creative Commons

 

 

New Recipes, 2013

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to try *at least* one new recipe a week. Geoff Livingston suggested back when I made that resolution that I should collect everything I make and publish at the end of the year. So here we are :)

1. Mexican Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken – This is a recipe I found on Pinterest. It is so stinking easy and there are ways to make it healthier than it is to begin with. All you do is put 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts in a crock pot with 1 cut up onion, a can of black beans, a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, and a packet of taco seasoning. I know some of those ingredients could be tough for a low sodium diet – really the taco seasoning packet could be replaced with some red pepper or chili powder, and if you can get fresh veggies, go for it! That all cooks on high for 6 hours. At that point, you shred up the chicken and you add a packet of cream cheese (8 ounces). I used 1/3 less fat but you could probably even use fat free. You cube that up and then cook for another 30 minutes. The recipe suggests serving over rice or with tortillas but I opted to serve it with blue tortilla chips. VERY nummy!

2. Black Bean Salad – The key to this salad is what you marinate the vegetables in. It’s very easy to put together, and the dressing actually ends up just on this side of being too sweet. You can find the recipe here. I’ll say this – when they say this is a hunger-fighting salad, they are darned right!

3. Crockpot Apple Oatmeal – This recipe is extremely simple. Cut up two apples, put those pieces, a third-cup of brown sugar, a and a teaspoon of cinnamon at the bottom of the crock pot. Add 2 cups of oats, 4 cups of water, do not mix. Cook on low 8-9 hours (a good overnight recipe). This turned out…ok. It would be good for a big family for a weekend breakfast, but warming it up the next day did not work very well. The texture was also kind of weird. I probably won’t make this again.

4. Quinoa Mac & Cheese – This sounded like a great idea. I got the recipe off Pinterest. Basically all you do is cook the quinoa and then mix it with an egg, some milk, and cheese, and then bake it. For me, however, it came out as very dry and just kind of…weird. I’d be curious to see if you all have better luck.

5. Vegetable Tian – This came from a cookbook – Barefoot in Paris (not an affiliate link). It’s very simple but a little time consuming. Essentially you sautee onions and garlic in olive oil and put that mixture on the bottom of a greased 13/9 pan. Then you cut up tomato, potato, and zucchini into quarter inch slices and layer them on top. Spread some thyme twigs on top and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the thyme, add gruyere cheese, and bake another 30 minutes. It was VERY tasty!

6. Lemon Flatbread – I improvised this from a recipe I found on Pinterest. That recipe involved making your own focaccia dough, but I was pretty sure flatbread or pita bread would work just as well. And indeed it did. All you do is spread some olive oil over the flatbread, then some rosemary, then lemon (the recipe suggested slices but I did smaller chunks), then drizzle oil and a significant amount of sea salt on top. I baked at 350 for about 15 minutes. Really tasty!

7. “Paleo” Tacos – This is not exactly a recipe per se. The general idea is that instead of using a corn or flour based shell, you use a leaf of iceberg lettuce. The recipe I saw called for browned turkey but I used refried beans. The “salsa” is just tomato mixed with cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and whatever other spices you like. Top off with fresh avocado. Super easy and amazingly filling, even without that yummy cheese and sour cream :)

8. Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore: Normally when I think of Chicken Cacciatore I think of a lot of spices and the use of sherry. This recipe doesn’t use sherry, but man is it ever good. Essentially, all you do is toss some chicken into your crock pot, cover it with 28 ounces of tomato, onion, and whatever fresh herbs you like, and then cook on low for 8 hours. After the 8 hours are up crank the heat up to high and take the lid off. My only problem was I didn’t drain the tomatoes – and I think you should :) Here is the recipe I used: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/06/crock-pot-chicken-cacciatore.html

9. Grilled Chili-Lime Tilapia: This was a scary one for me because I don’t cook fish a lot, usually overcook it, and I don’t cook much with chili powder either. However, I have to say, this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. I did the “bake at 350 for 15 minutes” version as I don’t have a grill. Here is the recipe: http://mrmrsbeeze.blogspot.com/2012/06/weekend-recap-grilled-chili-lime.html

10. Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings: I never got to have my grandma’s chicken ‘n dumplings (at least to the best of my recollection), but my mom always said it was to die for. I highly doubt this is THAT good, but the ratio of effort to tastiness is just perfect! The only thing I would change is that I think I would only use one package of biscuit dough instead of two, but it’s hard to say – I have  a LOT of dumplins, and I am okay with that :) Here there be the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Slow-Cooker-Chicken-and-Dumplings/Detail.aspx

11. Powerhouse Pesto Pasta: This was really good although I didn’t have quite enough pesto and it didn’t end up looking quite exactly like the picture. It was easy to make and and easy to eat :) Here is the link to the recipe!

12. Lime Cilantro Chicken Tacos: Another winner. This makes a lot of food so it’s great for a family or a party gathering. It’s very very simple and tasty. I substituted a Mexican “fiesta” spice for the recommended taco mix because I figured it would cut down on the salt. Still just as tasty. Check it out here!

13. “Better than fried?” Chicken: I had never done much experimenting with Greek yogurt so I was pretty nervous about this recipe, but it did turn out really juicy and tasty. Better than fried? Well…not so sure about that :) Here’s the recipe!

14. Herb Crusted Pork Chops: I’m not really sure why they’re called “Herb Crusted” but they are darned delicious and simple to make. Super quick too. A little dijon goes a long way and the panko adds that nice crunch crunch to feel like you’re being a bad dieter type person. The chops are very tasty and very juicy. Check out the recipe!

15. Sage and cinnamon chicken: Another super easy recipe, but this one requires a little experimentation. In my first run I used the amounts of sage and cinnamon in the recipe, but it was a *little* too sagey for me. Still, the mix of sage and cinnamon is flavorful and light and good for a warm day. Recipe is here.

16. Spaghetti with kale and lemon: Kale is another substance I had never cooked with before. This recipe is slightly work intensive but not too bad, and I thought it tasted really really good. My only mistake is that I used egg noodles, so they stuck together and got clumpy. I’d have also broken the kale up into smaller pieces – it gets a bit chewy! Recipe here!

17. Balsamic Chicken & Potatoes: I was a little worried about this recipe because it combines lemon with an oil & balsamic vinegar mix. However, I need not have worried. This dish is pretty darned easy and also happens to be super tasty. It would be great for fall but wasn’t too heavy for a hot summer’s day. Recipe is yonder!

18. Garlic Herb Tilapia: I improvised with this a little because I didn’t feel like buying McCormick’s Italian seasoning. It was light but super tasty! Recipe here.

19. Southwestern Stuffed Spaghetti Squash: I thought this was going to be really work-intensive but actually it wasn’t too bad. Next time I think I’ll add more “stuffing” – really tasty and filling though! Recipe is here :)

20. Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad: I don’t know you can really call this a recipe. It’s just mixing up aforesaid ingredients. It was really good though!

21. Quinoa Vegetable Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing: This was really easy to put together and it was a very good summery salad. The lemon basil dressing is just 2 tablespoons of lemon juice & 2 tablespoons (I think) of olive oil and then some fresh basil, so that is a dressing that would taste good with a lot of different salads. Recipe here!

22. Mongolian Tofu: I took a recipe that my pal Karima-Catherine sent me and did a bit of an overhaul. The main thing is the sauce, which consists of ginger, soy sauce, and brown sugar. I opted to treat it more like  a stir-fry and it still tasted pretty darned good. The basic recipe is here.

23. Crock pot shrimp scampi: This recipe was tasty but I don’t think I’ll make it in a crock pot again. The ingredients you put in the crock pot, which you’re supposed to have on low for 6 hours, mostly end up disintegrating. What remains is a good tasting thing, but I think you could just as easily let things simmer in a pot for a much shorter time. Recipe is here.

 

#100reasonstolive

Add a link to your post here. Let’s collect hundreds of reasons to live this month :) This post is inspired by Molly Cantrell-Kraig’s book titled I want to die: 100 reasons you shouldn’t. Please make sure you tag her book as you write your post – some of her proceeds will be donated to suicide prevention programs.

 

#100ReasonstoLive

#100ReasonstoLive

Based on Molly Cantrell-Kraig\'s book I want to do: 100 Reasons You Shouldn't, the goal is to collect lists of reasons why people want to live.

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    communion

    communion

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    Margie Clayman's 100 Reasons to Live

    Margie Clayman's 100 Reasons to Live

    Margie Claymans' 100 reasons to live.

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    Purpose Defined

    Have you ever wondered why you are here on this earth? What is the meaning to your life? Purpose, is the reason of your existence. Everyone has a God given purpose. We were all created with a specific purpose. Life without purpose causes one to become unbalanced, trying to figure which direction to go.

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    #100ReasonsToLive

    After reading a book called " I Want to Die: 100 Reasons You Shouldn't," my talented friend Marjorie Claymon recently wrote a blog post called " My 100 Reasons to Live " and asked other to share their won 100 reasons. I procrastinated a bit, got busy, forgot and I am just now getting to it.

View more lists from Marjorie Clayman

My 100 reasons to live

Today I read a book by Molly Cantrell-Kraig called “I want to die: 100 reasons you shouldn’t.” (not an affiliate link). Molly’s idea is that sometimes a person who is in despair just needs to be reminded that life is worth living, and she gives 100 reasons why life is worth holding on to. Molly’ will be giving portions of her proceeds to suicide prevention programs.

Molly’s post got me to thinking. What are 100 reasons I want to live? I think it’s a good exercise, so here is what I came up with, in no particular order.

1. The ocean – the sound, the mystery, the different waves, the different shades of blue and grey

2. Sunlight that is warm on your back but not too hot

3. Reading. I still have not come remotely close to reading every book about Abraham Lincoln, not to mention every other historical figure I adore!

4. Fresh out of the oven cookies

5. The joy of plotting surprises for people

6. Eddie Izzard (he is so smart and so funny – how could I miss out on him?)

7. The lure of travel. I haven’t even been to Europe yet, and the places I have been have been spectacular.

8. Fresh fruit and vegetables (I have become addicted this year)

9. Gardening – waiting for little seeds to turn into big beautiful flowers or whatever they might be

10. My family – my parents, my brother, my cousins, my aunts and uncles – I am so very lucky

11. Dancing. I might look terrible doing it but boy is it fun.

12. Yoga

13. Tai Chi (and I still haven’t learned the 32 steps of the form I’m working on. Got to finish that!)

14. Knitting – I have so much to do and I need to get so much better!

15. My grandpa’s recipe for iced tea – the taste of summer

16. The first blooming forsythia in spring

17. The first snowfall (that loses its charm rather quickly)

18. Thanksgiving

19. Curling up in bed while it storms outside

20. Raking leaves. I know. I’m terribly weird.

21. That first moment you realize, “Hey, it’s still light outside. Neat!”

22. The sound of laughter

23. Monty Python – who could ever want to leave a world in which Monty Python exists?

24. Coffee – oh, coffee..I could never quit you

25. Massages

26. Those cool breeze days where walking outside feels like you are walking through silky sheets

27. Seeing relatives after a long time apart (especially at holidays. I’m a mush)

28. Meeting an online friend in real life for the first time (so far I’ve had good luck!)

29. Sushi

30. A hot shower on a cold day

31. The smell of flowers, each different, each unique

32. Noticing little things, like the veins on a leaf

33. Learning new things (that never runs out, btw)

34. Museums

35. Kitties

36. Fighting with Jason Konopinski and Ken Jacobs about how to eat a bagel with lox

37. Depressing myself by watching my Cleveland sports teams (it’s still fun in a weird way)

38. Flying on a plane (it still amazes me)

39. Mozart. Even Mozart’s Requiem makes me want to live

40. Van Gogh’s art. Some day I will go to Amsterdam and see his museum :)

41. Newborn snuggly babies

42. Soft furry animals of any kind pretty much – how can you be sad when you’re holding a puppy?

43. Coming up with a new business idea every day with Erin Feldman (and feeling determined we will make at least half of them happen)

44. Learning to cook a new recipe (even though it’s terrifying)

45. Finding the perfect pair of shoes

46. Hearing that you cheered someone up or made a positive difference for them

47. Writing

48. Live music events, especially if you like the music

49. Deciding to sleep a little longer on a Saturday

50. Inside jokes

51. Witty exchanges of sarcastic blather (I excel at that I think)

52. Seeing someone you care about succeed (in whatever way may come to them)

53. Trying something new

54. Conquering a fear or a problem

55. A phonecall with a friend

56. Birthdays

57. My peeps – Michelle, Paget, Karima, Erin, Olivier, Geoff – the family I’ve adopted :)

58. Getting something in the mail that’s not a bill or a sales promo

59. Wonderful television shows like Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad (sniff)

60. Discovering people online whom you went to school with 30 years ago (this really happens)

61. Being on the receiving end of random acts of kindness, like the lovely note I got from Ms. Mila Araujo just today

62. Playful banter that tends to occur on my Facebook wall (sometimes it even gets too weird for me)

63. Trading cloche hats digitally with Ms. Kaarina Dillabough

64. The sound of tree frogs in the fall, which I can hear singing right now

65. Summer thunderstorms

66. Tea, hot

67. Family traditions

68. New haircuts

69. Getting to network with incredibly amazing and inspirational people like the aforementioned Molly, Angela Daffron, Mark Horvath, Sam Parrotto, and many others

70. Getting to tweet an author and say, “Hey, I liked your book. Thanks for writing it.” That will never get old.

71. PJs

72. My favorite parks

73. Hiking your troubles away

74. Yarn festivals, complete with alpacas and angora rabbits

75. Hot dogs. There is just something about them.

76. Feeling motivated by others – I get a kick out of people who kick my butt

77. I still plan on running a marathon for my 40th birthday – gotta be alive to do that unless I want to be a zombie on a zombie run (which I don’t)

78. Charity work – It makes everything seem better

79. Getting recognition for something you thought no one noticed

80. Happy secrets

81. Candles – especially ones that aren’t too cologne-like

82. Boston. Let’s just say it. Boston.

83. Girls’ nights out

84. Going to movies (even on your own)

85. That feeling when the laundry is done (though I hate doing laundry)

86. Comfort movies (one of mine is Secret of Nimh, I’m not ashamed to admit)

87. Celebrity crushes. I have a few.

88. Documentaries that change your perspective

89. Hawaii. Um, yeah.

90. The redwood forests of California. This will change your perspective on everything.

91. Children – they are pure human concentrate and often too wonderful to describe

92. Waiting for your favorite moment in that movie you’ve seen 10 million times

93. Canoeing (I need to do more of this)

94. Getting a hug right when you most need it

95. Pleasant surprises (they always keep you guessing. You can’t give up because you never know what’s around the corner)

96. Watching Karima lust after shoes (really – it’s admirable!)

97. Watching people in real life perform Tai Chi and other martial arts

98. Singing in a choir

99. Singing in general

100. Poetry

So there are 100 things that keep me going. Now it’s your turn :)

Book Review: Exodus, by @geoffliving

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 9.28.00 AMImagine a world where technology has been shunned and people are back to a pre-machinery existence. It sounds idyllic, but not all is well in the world that Geoff Livingston has created in Exodus, book one of his series called The Fundamentalists. A powerful Christian sect has been rising under the watchful, rather demonic eye of a power-hungry, nay, power-crazed emperor named Pravus, and the growing empire is forcing people to recall the days they had only heard stories about – days when Christians killed Christians, when Christians killed Jews, when Fundamentalist Muslims killed Christians and Jews, and so on. While Emperor Pravus’ army asks people to convert to the proper faith, survivors, like those in Harper’s Ferry, must make peace with the fact that this new Christianity is not about faith or even religion, but merely about power.

Exodus is a widely sweeping book covering a lot of geographical expanse (Atlanta to New England to the Rockies) and a lot of time (knowing about the Crusades can be a big help as much as knowing about what is going on today). The confusion and violence of this world is seen primarily through the eyes of Jason, a young man who is struggling to find his own voice and power while fleeing the only home he’s known with his people. Jason is not a character who is easy to like, nor is it easy for his loved ones to deal with him easily a lot of the time. His mixture of humility tied to entitlement means that anything anyone says can set him off at any moment. He is self-centered but reveals this in his mindset that he must do his duty to his people.

The exodus from Harper’s Ferry, where Jason and his people had lived, is much like the Exodus story from the Bible, a parallel that Jason does not use as guidance because he views the Bible as a tool of this new evil Christian sect. There are moments of great doubt, decisions that must be made that are “make or break,” and there are the occasional moments of hope as well. By the end of the book you are thinking that perhaps the day will be sunny, but dark clouds hint at future significant obstacles Jason and his people will have to face.

I found this book extremely hard to put down, but then like Jason’s mentor Brachus, I find religion extremely fascinating. Those of you who have strong religious faiths of any kind may find this book a little difficult, because it requires an acceptance that sometimes the world’s religions become deeply flawed not because of the faith but rather because of leaders who use peoples’ faith as a chance to further their own lives. Christians, Jews, Muslims…all must come to terms with the fact that horrible things have been done throughout history in the name of faith or religion, and that is a difficult pill to swallow. However, it is a lesson that is worth revisiting, or worth thinking about for the first time if that’s your situation. Geoff’s book makes these lessons of history come to life in a new, dark world, a place, potentially, where we could be headed.

In short, I highly recommend you give this book a read. Get in on the series right at the start. The book officially launches Monday, August 26 (tomorrow as of this writing) and it can be purchased here. When you read it come by here and let me know what you thought of it!

Amazing People Doing Amazing Things

4256488240_cd51679c2f_mOften times here on this blog, I have quarreled with social media in front of you. How uncouth! While it’s true that social media and I have more conflicts than Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, there is one positive facet of my online world that I will never regret, never doubt, and never wonder about, and that is the veritable flock of unbelievably amazing people I have gotten to know and/or stay in touch with. Not long ago I noted that I felt like my Facebook world was sort of like a pre-Revolutionary Parisian salon. There are authors, musicians, poets, philosophers, teachers, social do-gooders, and so much more amongst the people who float about within the textiles of my life. It’s truly a great privilege.

I thought I would take this opportunity here at the beginning of the weekend to share some of the fantastic people I know and what they are up to. Enjoy, explore, and let me know who else I should get to know!

Dr. Alex Reed

I’ve known Alex since college. I met him his first day, I think, and we discussed cornish hens. I am not sure why. Now, many an eon later, Dr. Reed is an accomplished musician, a professor, and a newly minted, published author. He has written a book called Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music (not an affiliate link) which I am looking forward to reading. You can follow Alex (and his book) on Twitter here. By the way, if the dad in your life is interested in Industrial music and/or musical history, I bet this would be a much-appreciated gift.

Doug Hagler

Doug is another person I met in college, and I am so delighted I have been able to keep in touch with him. Doug is really one of the better people walking the face of the planet. As if that wasn’t enough, Doug is going to be a published author in early 2014 with two co-authors, Aric Clark and Nick Larson. I was greatly honored that Doug asked me to give their manuscript a read, and let me tell you, this book is going to make some WAVES when it comes to light. The book is called How Not To Pray. It is an honest look at Christianity – how people have strayed away from the real teachings of Jesus and how that has negatively impacted the world. I can’t wait to be able to discuss this more with you all. In the mean time, you can get to know Doug, Aric, and Nick at their blog, Two Friars and a Fool.

Jennifer Windrum and her SMAC! Monkeys

I’ve written about Jennifer and her SMAC! effort before. She successfully reached her fundraising goal and was able to share that victory with her mother. Now the monkeys are getting ready to being their part of the work. Jennifer has started a thunderclap to help spread the word – a quick second will help the monkeys know they still have support. I love everything about this effort and think it’s spectacular!  You can follow the SMAC! Movement here on Twitter.

Choose2Matter by Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers is a master educator whose mission is to remind people of one thing via two words – You Matter. Now Angela is taking her vivacity and passion to a new level by encouraging children to realize just how much they matter and how much they can change the world. Quest2Matter is a contest that actually ended today, but now the real fun begins as I’m sure we will get to see what projects kids around the world submitted to help improve their worlds. I think this is an amazing program and I truly admire everything Angela is doing with it. You can read more about it here or you can follow along on Twitter here.

Geoff Livingston and a dream come true

I have often raved about Mr. Livingston on this blog. He has become a very important mentor for me professionally and I am quite fortunate to call him a friend. Today Geoff announced that he has been working on a massive sci-fi series, the first book of which will be coming out later this summer. Geoff has tinkered with this idea for 19 years and never gave up on it. He is a brilliant writer so I am really looking forward to reading what he has put together, and I am so proud of him for staying true to his objectives while doing all he has done professionally. Sign up to get an early peek at the book here. You can also offer congratulations to Mr. Geoff on Twitter.

Olivier Blanchard pursues a dream

For the last year and a half, my good friend Olivier has been plugging away on a trilogy of his own. His first book is now done, and I am hoping it finds a publisher soon. I am honored to say I had a chance to read a manuscript of this book and it is phenomenal, as in I read over 600 pages in about 4 days because I couldn’t put the darned thing down. If you are a regular reader here, you know I do not say such things lightly. I am proud of Olivier for sticking with this labor of love and prioritizing things so he could do so. You’ll want to stay tuned to these happenings – cheer Olivier on and keep updated via Twitter here.

Doug Haslam Bikes Against Cancer

For the last five years, Doug has participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise funds to fight cancer. Doug’s goal this year is to raise $7,500 and he’s just about halfway there. The consistency of Doug’s efforts and his clear passion in what he is doing – I find all of it admirable. If you want to donate to Doug’s efforts as I will be doing, you can just visit his page, which is here. And of course, don’t forget to say hi to Doug on Twitter to cheer him on.

There is a common thread that ties all of these amazing people together, and it sounds so simple. Do you know what it is?

They wanted to do something. So they did.

It is people like this that make me want to continue to strive to do more and be more, so on top of everything they are already doing, you can add inspiration and motivation to the list.

I am thankful for these people and look forward to continuing to follow their successes. I am grateful I can share them with you via this medium. That is pretty darned cool, without a doubt.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lel4nd/4256488240/ via Creative Commons