Thursday, November 19, 2009



Especially the ones from my garden.

Here is my ode to tomatoes:

Spring is here, alas I till and toil
For preparation for growth
Is most important in the soil.
To my baby plants I profess my oath
I will water thee, prune weeds
As you grow up and out.
I wait for heat, and watch for my favorite color
To emerge, it is something my soul needs.
German heirloom so rich, Early Girl so stout.
Savoring, enjoying, all I need is another.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Flavor Makes Me Happy

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom would talk about the bread pudding that her mom made, for which she didn't have the recipe. We would be at a restaurant, she would see bread pudding on the menu and consider getting it just in case it was somewhat close to what her mom made, just to savor that flavor once more. Any time she would order, it would never compare, and the disappointment wasn't worth the ordering any more so she just stopped. I had always wondered what the flavor was, or was it just that her mom made it and that was what made it great? There were of course other dishes that my mom loved because they reminded her of growing up, and her mom.

I discovered a flavor that reminds me of my mom (which is a really good thing). Thyme! She used it in a lot of savory dishes, I never really noticed- because I grew up with it I think. When I got married and started doing the majority of cooking I never really considered using thyme. I recently made one of her dishes that called for thyme and the taste really brought me back to the dinner table on Lindig Street. So I started using it more. It is amazing that flavor can really spark a feeling and memories. It is a great feeling for me to cook with and eat thyme, it brings me closer to my mom.

In fact, scientists say that smell (which is a huge part of taste) calls up powerful memories using our "emotional brain." So, you can feel happiness by just smelling something. I think most of us have heard/read that smells can remind us of events, people and a time in our lives. But what I haven't read much about, is if we know something tastes or smells so wonderful because of the memories associated, why not "pepper" our lives with it more? It just might make us a little bit happier, or more fulfilled.

I especially think this taste/memory experience happens around the holidays, with all the food we make that has been on the menu for years. Tradition is full of these flavors.

-What flavors remind you of something good or happy?

-Can you/do you work it into your regular menu?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

City Bus Culture

I was riding the bus yesterday and had an interesting experience.

There is a certain culture on the city bus. Those of you who ride the bus know what I'm referring to. I will explain a little about my perspective on City Bus Culture- because as an enthusiastic person, it was a little hard to get used to. When I get on the bus I say hello to the driver, to be respectful and recognize their responsibility in driving a lot of "personalities" around the city. I then proceed to not look around, except to find a seat, sit down, and mind my own business. I am almost always a racial minority on the bus compared to the rest of the bus population- which is totally cool with me, but something to note. I sometimes read, or just sit there because it is too loud to read. I sometimes pretend to read if a "personality" chooses me to talk to. I have learned that if you are too nice on the bus, you will unwillingly make friends with people you really don't want to be friends with. I happen to ride the bus that goes between Mpls to St. Paul and a lot of interesting people ride this bus.

So, what happened yesterday? I was conducting my scan of seats, toward the back of the bus as it is most efficient to take a seat there first, so those behind me can get a seat too. The only seats were next to men who were obviously taking up two seats and didn't want to share their space, so I turned around to take a seat closer to the front of the bus. I had to excuse myself by a man with luggage to do this. The woman adjacent to him, said (I think to luggage man) "girl don't wanna sit by the niggas" (imagine a little attitude in the inflection.) I was shocked. I've never gotten that type of comment before. I was immediately angered and that fueled a comeback from me. I looked directly at her and said "that is NOT the reason I'm not sitting back there, I would have to sit waaay to close to someone, there's no room." Then I turned around, and fumed. She replied "I don't wanna sit by the niggas neither." I just minded my business after that.

This was interesting for me though. As a really white person who is middle class I usually don't experience things like this. I won't know what her motivation was for saying that, it doesn't really matter. What I didn't want was anyone perceiving me as racist. It is really important to me that I do my part against racism, I think that's why I reacted so strongly. Was it a good thing for me to react like that? Does my "bus cred" matter? I'm not sure.

H1N1 Probably?

I was away from my blog for too long! I have an excuse though. I (probably) had H1N1 and barely could push the buttons on the remote let alone think and type. I now wish that I blogged through the whole experience to let those of you who aren't going to get it know what it is like "on the inside."

I'll sum it up here. Ever had the upper respiratory flu? It was like that. Only more congestion in the lungs than usual.

I'm hoping that I have some sweet immunity to this junk now. Who knows if getting something really helps your body fight it in the future. Hopefully! One thing I don't suggest is going to a Swine Flu Party. They are these really REALLY STUPID parties where sick people (with H1N1) get together to get each other sick, to build immunity. WOW. I guess there are moments when I am aghast by the things people do, this is one of those moments.

So, please wash your hands, don't touch your face and be healthy this fall. If you do get it, take care and watch your body. Make sure to have the most up to date information.

Here are my fav websites for up to date H1N1 info:
World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Micromanagement on a Macro Scale

Over the last year or so I have conducted some research about micromanagement and found some interesting articles ranging from really bad advice to some excellent tactics to help workers through their situations. I will give you the short of what I thought was useful.

Webster's Dictionary defines micromanagement as: "to manage with great or excessive control, or attention to details." I of course have to reference the TV show The Office, micromanagement was defined by Michael Scott as "management on a more personal level," also known as 'microgement.' A way of categorizing micromanagement is with the phrase "The more you use the reins, the less they use their brains" causing disempowerment and retarding growth. Myra McElhaney, a corporate trainer and consultant, said that micromanagers deprive workers of the opportunity to learn through their mistakes. Most of us have experienced micromanagement at some point, at home, work, church etc. It really does boil down to personality differences and need for control. Micromanagement can truly be based in fear of failing, looking bad etc. Based on learning styles and personality, some of us can handle it more easily, and some of us can't. Here are some useful tips and a funny graph…

If You Have to Report to a Micromanager:

Five strategies for change By Laura Raines For ajcjobs
1. Find the boss's good qualities.
When someone doesn't trust you to make your own decisions, it clouds how you think about him or her. Thinking of your boss as an ogre, dictator or drill sergeant may blind you to some of his or her good qualities.

"You first have to separate the behavior from the person," McElhaney said. "It doesn't work to confront your boss by telling her she's a micromanager. Identify specifically what the person is doing that frustrates you." Is it the structuring of your workday, the time-consuming reports that you have to fill out, the pointless meetings, or his or her insistence on being copied on every e-mail or document?

By separating the behavior from the person, you might find that you respect your boss's position, hard work or experience, despite the micromanaging. That could be a place to start to build a better relationship and trust.

2. Be deliberate and thoughtful in reacting to your boss's behavior.
"It may be tempting to get even by sabotaging your boss. Maybe you'll decide not to do your best work, not tell him key pieces of information or treat him rudely," McElhaney said. "That usually reflects on you more than on him and could backfire.

"Approach his behavior professionally, with honesty and politeness. Treat him as you want to be treated. That comes from being deliberate and thoughtful about your actions, not just reacting to his. Hard work and professionalism could be noticed by others."

"By choosing to be responsible, reliable and true to your word, you can build trust and change behavior," Smart said.

For example, an office manager worked for a doctor who constantly was interfering with administrative tasks and getting the staff stirred up. Realizing that her boss had high standards and was afraid that everything wouldn't get done, she took a proactive approach to allay his fears. She suggested a Friday afternoon meeting to review the running of the office. In 30 minutes, they would review the completed week and preview the upcoming workweek.

"By [her] establishing an open communication, he felt informed about operations without having to be involved in everything that went on. He was more comfortable and less fearful about letting her do her job," Smart said.

3. Understand and adapt to the boss's behavioral style.
Not everyone works the same way. "One assistant had a boss who was creative, spontaneous and not a morning person. The assistant was task-oriented, consistent and liked to come in early, but she had to leave work on time in the afternoon in order to catch her train home," McElhaney said.

Inevitably, the boss would come up with new ideas or projects late in the afternoon and would make her assistant miss the train.

"[The assistant] began asking her boss if there was anything she needed to do an hour before quitting time. If it was more than she could finish, she assured her boss that she would be in early the next morning and would it get it done by the time the boss arrived. Her strategy helped balance their work styles and retrained her boss not to call for help at the last minute," McElhaney said. "Adapting to someone else's needs goes against the grain of some people, but it's easier if you focus on the goal you want to achieve."

4. Identify the boss's objectives and calm his or her fears.
"Put yourself in your boss's shoes and ask yourself two questions: 'What does he desire?' and 'what does he fear?' " McElhaney said.

If your boss wants to look good to his or her boss and wants the work to be done correctly, then focus on accuracy in your work. Check back early with updates. Assure him or her that you understand the importance of the work and that it needs to be right.

"Show him that you can be an ally in reaching his goals and not a potential problem," she added.

"Keep in mind that micromanaging can be in the eye of the beholder," Smart said. "Some personality types want to be left alone to work, while others appreciate having direction and their boss involved. They don't want full responsibility."

While one person sees someone breathing down his or her neck, another sees a boss who cares. There's a fine line between mentoring and micromanaging. Before you address the issue with your boss, take a close look at the quality of your work and whether the micromanaging is teaching you important skills or keeping you from making costly mistakes.

5. Know when to get assertive -- and when to call it quits.
"If the situation is making you miserable, then it's time for an assertive conversation with your boss," McElhaney said.

She describes "assertive" using the image of children drawing pretend playhouses in the dirt. Playmates will step over the lines to visit someone else's house, because stepping on the lines makes them disappear.

" 'Aggressive' is someone who steps all over your lines," she said. " 'Passive' is allowing someone to step on your lines, but 'assertive' is protecting your boundaries, while at the same time respecting the boundaries of others."

McElhaney suggests that employees use a behavior, effect, feelings/thoughts and results model for an assertive conversation. First, state the behavior you think is excessive, such as double-checking all your work, she said. Describe the effect: It costs both the employee and boss time -- time that he or she could spend effectively managing higher tasks. Tell him or her how it makes you feel, such as like a child or as though he or she has no respect for your abilities. Then present the result you would like: "Could we handle this differently in the future? How about if I do the work, and you give me feedback on the final product?"

The behavior may not change. There are dysfunctional and incompetent bosses who have no interest in learning new skills. If nothing happens, you can wait for the boss to move on, ask for a transfer or look for a new job.

"If you've given it your best shot, and nothing happens, chalk it up to a bad environment for you," Smart said. You'll be happier and more productive somewhere else.

Something that I can suggest as well is to try and emotionally separate yourself from your work. Especially if you HAVE to keep the job you are in. Write down why you are working, what is really important to you and keep that at the top of your head when a micromanager is getting to you. They don't matter, but your list does. When we have bigger and better reasons for working through something we don't like, it is a comfort to know that those you love (or whatever reason) benefit from all your hard work. Also, another way to work through it is use your skills elsewhere. Join a group or start a project where you can use your passions and motivation. If you can't do it at work, you really need to use it out of work to stay afloat and keep learning.

Stay above the stress by using stress management techniques. Take a deep breath. Picture your absolute perfect scene. Stretch your neck and arms. Listen to some powerful visualization sessions. These are things that the micromanager can't tell you how to do, and can't "touch."

Uh oh… Am I a Micromanager?

No micromanager would ever think that they are micromanaging. Everyone should take this test.

Are you a micromanager?
From Brain Death by Micromanagement

If you demonstrate any of these seemingly admirable qualities, there's a big clue that you might be making zombies.

1) Do you pride yourself on being "on top of" the projects or your direct reports? Do you have a solid grasp of the details of every project?

2) Do you believe that you could perform most of the tasks of your direct reports, and potentially do a better job?

3) Do you pride yourself on frequent communication with your employees? Does that communication include asking them for detailed status reports and updates?

3) Do you believe that being a manager means that you have more knowledge and skills than your employees, and thus are better equipped to make decisions?

4) Do you believe that you care about things (quality, deadlines, etc.) more than your employees?

Answering even a weak "yes" to any one of these might mean you either are--or are in danger of becoming--a micromanager.

What can you do if you are a micromanager?
Admit it, and deal with the two driving forces: concern for quality, and need for speed. Invest in the time and training to give your employees whatever they need to make the decisions or complete the tasks you find yourself needing (or wanting) to do. And if caring is the big concern, well, you get what you create. If you treat employees like zombies, then zombies is exactly what you'll get. Sometimes all it takes is giving people a chance to develop more skill and knowledge, the space to use their brains, and a worthwhile challenge. Let your employees fail if they need to. Most people learn by doing, not by being told exactly what to do.

The Macro of Micromanagement
Unfortunately 79% of workers will experience this at some point in their careers. For some it will be debilitating and others it will be minor and easier to deal with. Either way, I'm sending my vibes of strength your way. The bottom line is that we all have choices, whether it is in how we choose to react or even leave the job, we can choose what we do about it. Choice is something, my friends, that can't be micromanaged.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being Prepared for Major Disasters

I recently attended a training related to knowing what to do when large scale bad things happen and thought it was a great thing to be reminded of.

Obviously the big worry right now is H1N1. There are several groups of people, those who are totally freaking out, those who are like “come on, it is just the flu! Get over it!” and those who are in-between. Well, there is a (really small) chance that society could shut down if this flu changes and acts like the bad flu from 1918, so it is best to have a plan. If this doesn’t happen- awesome, it really isn’t a bad thing to be prepared if something DOES happen. Remember Katrina? Really bad tornadoes etc. can still really put us out for the count.

Having a plan, (if you are one of those who are scared) is like having a little sanity back. But more on this later.

There are two areas to think about/prepare for if something big hits us.
1. Have a plan for physical survival
2. Have plan for mental survival

Let’s talk about the 1st one:
There are plenty of websites out there that help you make a plan. I will summarize my favorites. has a 3 step plan. Get a kit, Make a Plan, Be informed

Get a kit:When preparing for a possible emergency situation, it's best to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth.
Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
· Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
· Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
· Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· First aid kit
· Whistle to signal for help
· Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
· Local maps
· Cell phone with chargers

Make a Plan:Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.
Family Emergency Plan
· Identify an out-of town contact. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
· Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
· Teach family members how to use text messaging (also knows as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
· Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.

Be Informed:
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency.
However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Learn more about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them.

I would like to add that knowing where to turn for news and information is also a good thing. Figure out what is the best source in your area.

Psychological Health During and After a Disaster
This is less concrete and hard to define. How do you stay sane during a disaster? Well, you pretty much don’t. You use what you have to work with and figure the rest out in the moment. There are things you can do to be more mindful and focused to aid in getting through hard times. Some of the following are just suggestions and may not be appropriate in all situations. I will be including a list of them in my emergency kit as a reminder to myself if I need it.

Emotional Health
· Stress management
o Breathing exercises
o Visualization
o Meditation
· Think about and plan for what you CAN control
· Make sure you are taken care of, your loved ones and then others. It is hard to help someone if you aren’t.
· Avoid things like alcohol and drugs

The basic objective of disaster preparedness is resilience. Our community wants to survive and thrive. Being prepared is purely to do work pre-disaster to make it just a little more easy, physically and mentally if something happens. So, take care- and think about what is right for your family. It never hurts to be ready, but it can hurt if you aren’t.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Staying Right Here- in the Moment

For some reason, I have really been living in the future lately. When there is a lull, or I don't like what is going on at the moment, I hop into what I am getting ready for or excited about. I even sometimes enjoy anticipation more than what I was anticipating. So, my (not so new) idea is to try and live in the moment more often, and not wait for my precious time to pass.

I love the line in Sheryl Crow's Soak Up the Sun song "It's not having what you want, It's wanting what you've got." To me this means appreciating what is in your life, even the moment.

Hey! Come back to the moment!! Tips:
Here are some tips about how to work on staying in the moment, and they are so simple that I love them- gotta keep it easy!!

1. Bring your mind back:
If you are having a "moment" without thinking about it and all of the sudden your mind starts reeling about the things you have to do, or have forgotten to do, stop, breathe, and gently bring your mind back to the present. Don't push yourself into worrying that you aren't in the moment, just re-focus on the now. I sometimes write down what I need to do or remembered, then shut off the worry.

2. Take advantage of time to make moments:
Go for a walk. Call that person you feel like connecting with. Plan a dinner with someone. Or simply appreciate the time you have before you.

3. Focus on the five senses.
Take a deep breath. What does the moment smell like? What sounds do you hear? What do you feel on your skin? These are the details that make each moment special. When you can’t stop the interior monologue from intruding, take a minute or two to create a mental catalog of what this moment feels, smells, looks, sounds, and tastes like for you. It can be a pretty effective way of quelling that inner voice, and at the very least, gives you a few minutes to savor the moment before returning to what’s on your mind.

4. Journal a little bit:
This is one way to get out of meta-thinking (thinking about thinking). Journaling comes in many different fashions. You can old school it by writing in those things called journals, with a pen and all. You can write a letter to someone close to you. Maybe you like to update people everyday on Facebook. You can have an online journal that either only you can see or your Friends too. You get the point, expressing yourself really brings you to think about the now, if that is what you are writing about.

5. Talk it out:
Tell someone about the moment you are in. It can be really simple, like "Wow, check out that sunset!" Or, "Right now I am ______. And it means _____ to me." If you are processing a moment and trying to figure it out, it can be way more fun or meaningful to include another person.

What if I Hate This Moment?

So, what if the moment you are in sucks? I am one who LOVES escaping sucky moments, however, I have also noticed that connecting with the sucky moments can really connect you to yourself. It also makes that fear of the bad a little less powerful. If we have mastered sucky moments in the past, we can do it in the future too. I truly believe what we have experienced has helped us become who we are, so the sucky moments are really important, as long as we do something good with what we have learned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grieving as a Part of Life

Good grief!! Did anyone ever say that to you when you were pushing buttons and testing limits? I think I've heard this many times over... The question that occurred to me today is, is there "good grief?"

Grief visits us in many ways for many reasons. We can deal with it through a cultural context. For example, many cultures have expectations of family visits, food deliveries and time frames for activity restriction. As far as I know, we don't have any particular cultural rules, more expectations and understandings. Below is my take on the whole deal.

Why do we grieve?

According to the helpguide website, there are many reasons to grieve, and we may experience different levels or intensities for different events.

Some reasons we may grieve are:
Death of someone close to you
A relationship breakup
Loss of health
Losing a job
Loss of financial stability
A miscarriage
Death of a pet
Loss of a cherished dream
A loved one’s serious illness
Loss of a friendship
Loss of safety after a trauma
Even subtle losses can lead to grief:
moving away from home
graduating from college
changing jobs
selling your family home
retiring from a career you loved

What does it look like?

I know when I have experienced grief, especially after my mom died, people gave me a lot of advice asked and unasked for. I think only a few people really had good advice. One person told me to "be how I am." It is funny that after someone gave me permission to be me, did I feel comfortable doing so. It is however, excellent advice. Grief looks and feels different to everyone. And- we need to go through it in our unique ways in order to become the changed person we are to be. That's the kicker about loss, we are never the same after it happens.

Each person exhibits grief in different ways. Some may be uber emotional, some may not. Some may not be able to sleep/eat. Some may feel achy. There really are A LOT of symptoms of grief. The key thing to remember is that you need to let yourself grieve, don't ignore it. Also, you need to let others grieve their way. MANY people assume if someone isn't acting like they are grieving that they aren't dealing with it. Avoid this! Being supportive and asking what you can do, and what they think helps them grieve, is more helpful than telling them that you are worried and think they aren't dealing with it.

Many sources site the stages of grief. For me, it was a nice to know, not super helpful but interesting. For some, it is a great relief to know that they are going through what so many have before them. From Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the “five stages of grief.”

The five stages of grief:
Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Grief a part of life? Really - does it have to be?

After experiencing a major loss, the first I have ever really gone through, I had one of those A-HA moments. And, folks, it wasn't a fun one. I realized that grief is such a part of life that we may as well become aware of ourselves and others around us, learn what a healthy balance is for you. You may be like- DUH, I totally already knew that!!! But for me, in my happy all the time bubble, it was a realization. So, let's get good at grief, embrace how we are built to endure and grow. And don't forget- grief can be good, in the way that it lets you feel the depths of humanness.

Please visit the Helpguide website site for more information and help during times of grieving: Coping with Grief and Loss.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Racism Exists

I realize that I blog about pretty surface issues/topics but this issue is something that I think a lot about but say little. After hearing a personal account of not so nice experiences this weekend at a neighborhood BBQ, I thought "I'm talking about this."

my journey

Through working in social services for 3 years, I learned A LOT about our culture and the cultures that are foreign to me. Namely poverty and racism. I have never been poor, probably never will be. I am white, I haven't experienced racism like others have. I was able (I feel) to put away a lot of my assumptions and expectations and see all of my clients as people who have amazing qualities. You see- it is hard to appreciate someone who is really different, unless we stop expecting them to be what we think they should be, and starting to accept their uniqueness.

My neighbor's accounts of his experiences in the last two weeks startled me- even though I know racism still exists. I just don't feel it like he does- I'm white. Simple things like riding a bus, going to the doctor, and visiting a big box electronics retailer in Roseville, MN were made uncomfortable, and impossible to accomplish what he needed to just because of his skin and their assumptions.

Before my eyes were opened, trust me, this has been a journey and is still happening, I had some assumptions about people. I was scared to even say the word white or black (or any race) person. Scared to even talk about it with people that I wasn't really close to. I felt that there were still great inequities in our culture, but what they were- I didn't know. I'm sure that I am privileged and have not known my impact on others. I hope that it has been minimal. I knew that the time of "I don't see color" or "we are color blind" was really weird. I was white, you were not, so what, am I supposed to ignore it? Side note: please don't ignore color, race and origin is a large part of who we are, to ignore it is to make someone more like you, thus ignoring part of their true self. Negating it and making it not important.

My experiences bring me to today, where I feel a responsibility to our culture and the people who experience inequities. I have the power to bring this up in the white culture, and I will.

what can even be done?

Most people unaffected by racism don't know that it still exists. Of course! When you don't see it, feel it or aren't close to someone who does, why would you think it exists.

I have come to understand what I feel my responsibility is when it comes to racism. Here are some things that I do:

-Think about me and my actions and thoughts and try to remain supportive and loving of all people.

-Let others like me know that racism isn't going away unless everyone becomes aware of how deep seeded it is in our culture, especially those who AREN'T affected. Also, if you are white and have never been subjected to racism that it does exist. If you have experienced it, please act to educate against it.

-Never forget those around you. Life isn't about what you (or they) always want to talk about, hear and engage in- if someone around you is being racist, don't accept it.

-Something that I do on many occasions is to look at people- all of them, and compliment them in my head. Or think, I bet they have some quality that is really cool. It helps me look at people as individuals, also it makes me shed expectations. If I have an experience with them, I get to know them organically, without judgement.

-Look at these websites:
White Men as Full Diversity Partners
The Working Group
Youth Noise


My neighbor ended the conversation about racism this weekend by saying "I don't let this gorilla (racism) out of the closet anymore. I locked him away a looooong time ago. If I let him out, anger will consume me and eat me alive. I wouldn't be able to live my life. I choose to see the good."

After all he has been through- Amazing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Google Everything

To me, google is a verb. It is something I "do" very often. Anytime anyone asks me something I don't know, I tell them to google it. Anytime I start a project, I google what I am about to do. In a way, it feels like asking the elders what I should do. I don't always get the perfect response, but I ALWAYS get a response. Google is there for me (ooop- I guess it is a noun too).

I have a little obsession with finding out what I can about things. Thus the blog. I google and then blog (most of) the things I obsess about. I'm pretty sure this started when I was in debate in HS... Yes- I was in debate. You had to prove what you were saying with research. Now I have a hard time believing a "fact" unless I like the source it came from (and there is a little research behind it). My idea of research may not be purely scientific (i.e. tons of opinions from the mass public) but to me it is worth something, and it helps me form what I want to think about a topic.

I know there are other search engines out there, but google is like the Cub Foods frosted shredded wheat I grew up on- I like THAT taste and none other. The others are similar but really just does not taste the same. Of course when I wanted to blog, I went to google. I am thinking of making a real website (not a fake one!!) and I will be doing that through google. I just love the way it makes me feel when I use it. Whhhoa- is there such thing as a google high?? I think I'm hooked on it.

So, raise your mouse and salute google! Or whatever site you love.

Do you have a particular site that you LOVE? Please share- I always like to try something new.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food, Flavor and Preference

Ahhhh yes- here is the post you all have been waiting for. Food. Delicious, yummy, satisfying food. Hmmmmmm.

Right now my meal obsession is fried eggs served on fried tomatoes. SO GOOD!

Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you tend to go towards the salty variety? I would eat bags and bags of sweets when I was in highschool, now I have to have salty or savory often to feel satisfied. I also have to have some sort of "salad" which in Maega terms is something of the veggie variety, usually involving tomatoes (as of late). DH gets sick of hearing that “I need salad!!!"

Nature, Nurture and Taste?

The real question is why do we have food/taste preferences? There is a lot behind the answer- and it does have to do with nature and nurture.

Genes and environment lend themselves to the reasons why we like what we like.

"Recent research has demonstrated that our genes help to determine how we detect the basic tastes by influencing the configuration of taste receptors," says Stein. "Part of why you might like broccoli while your best friend finds it bitter is because you have different genes, which code for different bitter receptors."

"Experience is also an important determinant of food preferences," says Stein. "For example, infants and young children need to learn what foods are safe to eat. Even before birth, information about specific flavors of mothers' diets passes to infants through amniotic fluid" (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield).

Sweet vs. Salty

Apparently we are all predisposed to liking some degree of sweet- as humans that is. As for the salty preference, it seems that there are more questions that haven’t been answered. “Bernstein, who co-authored the study, which was published in Appetite, says researchers found that the loss of electrolytes and sodium during morning sickness has an impact on the offspring's salt preference” (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield). So if we really like salty food it may be because when we were in-utero our mom had morning sickness! Hmm, makes me less hungry- poor mom!


That is not an insult to your mommy. Umami refers to a flavor, a savory, meat, broth-y flavor to be specific. It is a Japanese term that directly translates to “wonderful taste.” We sense this flavor in a completely different way than sweet and salty. In fact, I'm surprised we don't find snacks out there that are "Sweet! Salty & Umami!" I happen to love umami flavors- bring on the umami!

Training Your Taste

You know those slimy mushrooms you used to hate but now love- maybe you hated the taste of broccoli and now you love it- well, tastes can change and you can inspire them to change.

"Repeated exposure can increase relative liking for a food but may not be able to change a disliked food into one that is liked. In other words, exposure may make a disliked food less disliked. While repeat exposure to a food can decrease dislike, it can also increase liking. " (The Science Behind How We Taste, Heather Hatfield).

We also know of “acquired tastes” like beer, tea, wine (what is on my brain right now??) caviar etc. Social situations can inspire us to start liking something. Just like being conditioned to want popcorn while watching a movie.

Taste Over Time

Have you heard that your ears and nose get bigger as you get older? Well- your tastes change too. Your body creates less and less taste buds as you age, so you aren’t able to taste as well. SAD! So, if you are one of “those” who likes hot food you will just have to increase the intensity of the hotness as you get older- how exciting!

Super Tasters Unite!

Did you know there are people amongst us with super tasting powers?!? Maybe you are one of them… We are on to you! “Among humans, there is substantial difference in taste sensitivity. Roughly one in four people is a "supertaster" that is several times more sensitive to bitter and other tastes than those that taste poorly. Such differences are heritable and reflect differences in the number of taste buds on the tongue” (Physiology of Taste, R. Bowen.)

So! Go out, taste away- and if you don’t like something- give it another try in a fun happy environment.

Happy tasting!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm Sorry, I Thought That Was Assertive

Recently I have been involved in researching what assertiveness truly means. My experience has been that aggressiveness and selfishness are often confused with assertiveness. You see someone in line at the cafe barking an order that they said non-fat not 2% milk- NOT assertiveness. A co-worker asking you to cover their shift while walking out the door- NOT assertive. On the flip side, not saying anything about the 2% milk when you truly wanted non-fat. Also, not confronting the co-worker who assumes you will just cover their shift. These are also NOT assertive, or good for both parties.


Assertiveness is a form of communication in which needs or wishes are stated clearly with respect for oneself and the other person in the interaction. Assertive communication is distinguished from passive communication (in which needs or wishes go unstated) and aggressive communication (in which needs or wishes are stated in a hostile or demanding manner).
Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, About.comCreated: February 19, 2009 Reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Dictionary definition:
Assertive; Adjective; confident and direct in dealing with others; assertively adv assertiveness n Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006


It seems that there is a balance to assertiveness- sorta like a continuum. As anything learned (trust me, we aren't born "assertive") these things are journeys- we don't always get things right the first or second time.

What I LOVE about assertiveness is that the basis of it is meeting the needs of both parties. Not violating the rights/respect of one for the other. Also, I am really on an authenticity kick right now and assertiveness is directly tied to being authentic to yourself. If this assertiveness thing could happen just a little more in our lives, it could possibly lead to more harmony!?! Maybe that is my forever optimist speaking...

Assertiveness reduces stress??

I do know for a fact that Assertiveness Training is prescribed to some for stress management. This is something that I truly believe works to reduce stress and get your needs met- wherever you happen to be at the moment. From personal experience- using assertiveness techniques can be a freeing experience. It makes sticky situations more clean and simple feeling. It has given me a tool to stop wasting energy. I can't tell you how cool it is.

I own this book called The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, LCSW, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D. In this book are a bizillion tricks to being less stressed (I HIGHLY suggest this book it is AWESOME). Maybe I'll do a few reviews on my fav parts. Anyway, one of the techniques in this book is Assertiveness Training, the professionals suggest it for Anxiety in your personal relationships (spouse, parents, children, etc.)Depression, hopelessness, powerlessness, poor self esteem and Job Stress. Wow... sounds depressing. But there is hope! Cue Assertiveness!


The LiveStrong website has a post about assertiveness that is GREAT. There is a quiz, research and suggestions for development. All excellent. The author is James J Messina, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with more than 35 years of experience.

Part of the post explores myths about assertiveness. I really think our culture (or the expectations we have about our culture) can inspire non-assertiveness. Here are the myths that really struck me:

Myth 2, Modesty: The inability to acknowledge or say positive things about and to accept them from others. Some people fear that positive self-statements seem egocentric. They fail to discriminate between the accurate representation of accomplishments and over exaggeration.

"Myth 3, Good Friend: This myth assumes that others can read my mind based upon our past relationship, e.g.: "She should have known how I felt" or "My husband should have known how hard I have been working and given me Saturday morning free." One must remember that individuals don't always respond in the same manner to the same situation."

Myth 4, Obligation: This myth indicates that some people disregard their personal needs and rights due to a belief in personal obligations to others. They are often unable to make requests of others they project that others feel the obligation to meet their needs, too. This myth, along with the others, facilitates neither self-respect nor the development of open, healthy relationships.

It can't work ALL the time...
I am a pretty optimistic person- but I am also realistic. I realize that being assertive doesn't always feel great or right, sometimes it doesn't lead us to our preferred outcome. Sometimes it even makes others uncomfortable. However, it is a process and a learning experience. We know now that being assertive DOES lead to a better outcome more often than not. It also helps us move forward with our relationships, our self esteem and our rights.

So. Where does this leave us? My suggestion: Google assertiveness or read the article about it from the LiveStrong website and decide what is best for you. Is this an issue for you? Most likely, there are areas in all of our lives that we could be more assertive. Use assertiveness to the advantage of yourself and others.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To Blog or Not To Blog...

For the last three or four months, I had been considering if I should write a blog or not. I have a close friend that blogs- she is a writer and editor though, and reads A TON. Other super smart people have blogs- and they seem to have so much motivation and really interesting information to report. Me, however, I wasn't sure if my enthusiasm over my obsessions would warrant a blog. Would my writing be interesting? Do I have enough to write about? I had many questions. After mulling it over for a few months, I decided (along with another friend) to take the plunge- see what it is like to blog.

Since then, I've been very enthusiastic about blogging. It is a BLAST!

Here is why:
  1. I find myself looking at my experiences with a blogger's eye. I am more apt to think about what is happening, and what kind of sense I can make of it.
  2. I feel like I am more accountable for what I (think I) know. If I am going to write it down for others to see, I really need to make sure that there is some research and "meat" to my writings.
  3. I don't usually write my ideas down, and now I feel like they won't be lost (because I forget A LOT of things). Wait, what was I writing about again.? Oh! Yea- blogging...

Here are some stats about blogs that intrigue:
--175,000 new blogs are being started each day. (Technorati)
--The number of active blogs grew from 56 million to 62.3 million between October of 2006 and January 2007. (Gartner)
--The total number of dead, abandoned blogs out there has exceeded 200 million.(Gartner). SAD!!
Found from: SFGate

There are some blogging basics to know however. I must admit, I have already broken some of the rules... oooops!! My information comes from an experienced blogger Michael Pick with info from by Robin Good.

What is a blog?
"The word blog is a contraction of "web log", a phrase not so commonly used these days. In the simplest definition of the term, then, a blog is a log of your thoughts, ideas, useful links, photos, videos, or the latest news."

Why write a blog?
"There is no single reason to write a blog, as it very much depends on your motivation. Nevertheless, blogging can have a number of benefits, whether it is to help boost the presence of your business online, or just to share and debate ideas with like-minded people."

What to write??
"While this will obviously depend on why you are blogging in the first place, one piece of advice you should definitely consider is trying to find yourself a niche. Unless you are writing for your family or a couple of friends, the best way to distinguish yourself and build a readership is to focus on a particular niche topic or interest."
"There is bound to be something that you are passionate about, that really motivates you, and that is in some way unique to you. That's where to begin your blog from."

If you want it to stand out:
"The most important part of your blog posts are the titles. Because that's what will make a reader that finds your content through a search engine decide whether to visit your website or not. This is the make or break point that determines whether you get read or passed over in favour of someone else's content. Robin Good, in his article on How To Write Great Titles And Headlines For The Web notes that: "Do not try to make the title "smart", by using irony, word play or other "journalistic" approach."
This is precisely the rule I have broken... My titles aren't really searchable....... I'll have to think about it- do I want to lose the cute titles?

How to keep a reader on your page??
Once you have a great title the next thing worth thinking about is what happens when your reader actually arrives at your website. A lot of readers will disappear from a site in seconds unless they are captivated and encouraged to stay.
Muhammad Saleem writes for CopyBlogger that: "Readers will often read content diagonally to determine its usefulness before giving it a proper read."
Robin Good (Information: Beginners Blog Design) writes that "chunking" is important in a blog:
"Chunking is an approach to the formatting of the text that strives to "modularize" contents into the greatest number of meaningful text blocks possible." So chunks of writing- not BIG blocks.

Be bold!
"In order to facilitate readers scanning page contents, it is a great idea to use some "bolding" to highlight the first three or four words of content paragraphs that are particularly important."

A picture tells how many words?
Use pictures- people love them.

Where to begin?
My suggestion is to start thinking about a theme and then decide if you want to keep up a blog. At that point, there are so many research tools out there you can run crazy and be a fabulous blogger! If you start one! LET ME KNOW!

Happy writing!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Opposite of Enthusiasm?

I was reading The Happiness Project Blog and the author wrote about her term "Drift." I thought her definition was pretty interesting. As I was discussing it with a friend, it occurred to me that this could be the opposite of enthusiasm.

Drift means "the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility." Per the authors own words. I think that this is a very key understanding in looking at what enthusiasm is not. I know enthusiasm isn't a direct form of decision making, but it can motivate a decision. Here are some definitions of enthusiasm I found on google:
  • Enthusiastic - With zealous fervor; excited, motivated.
  • Enthusiastic - having or showing great excitement and interest.
  • Possession by a god; divine inspiration or frenzy; Intensity of feeling; excited interest or eagerness.
  • Enthusiasm (ἐνθουσιασμός enthousiasmos) originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus (inspiration) or by the presence of a god.
  • Antonym: Indifference.

There are many areas we are indifferent in our lives- and for good reason. It would sometimes suit us better to drift more. Like when the neighbors are crackling their left over fireworks for days after the 4th. Or, the person who lets the door slam in your face while your hands are full. Things like that. Maybe when a relationship is tense and making no move or being indifferent to the bad (for a bit) is more healthy. I think the author has a point with considering where we are drifting and understanding if it is good for us.

After just a few moments I realized my area of drift is with my connection to people who are not in my immediate surroundings. I am SO bad at sending cards, calling people and regular communication- even electronically (I'm a VERY lazy facebooker). Unless there is a specific reason for me to reach out. This is where I drift, and I have no idea how to be better. I have completely lost touch with some people because of this- isn't that sad? I've tried making lists, buying bulk cards, making reminders on my PDA phone etc. It seems that I only can remember those closest to me, and then sometimes they fall through the cracks. It is a goal of mine to work on this- but drifting is so much easier. Doing what I always have done is what I continue to do.

Are there drift areas (where you are just indifferent) in your life? Do you have a way of working through them? Do you use drifting as a positive tool?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hmmmm..... Bread.

Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread, especially the rising yeasty kind. Hmmmmmm...

A while back, probably around a year now, I started hating what I was reading in my store bought bread ingredients. Take a look the next time you go to the store, many may have changed to a more natural sweetener, but most still contain HFCS, that is High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is a sweetener that has been the basis for much debate in the last few years. If you ask a lot of parents, foodies and nutritionists they would tell you that HFCS may just be the cause of childhood onset of diabetes these days. If you ask people in the corn industry, they say HFCS is completely safe in limited quantities and it is our culture that is causing the diabetes. The problem that I see with the corn industries argument is why is it in most of our processed foods that we eat on a daily basis- like bread? If you ask me, I say it is both, and regardless, I don't want it in everything I eat. Thus, I became the Maega bread baker!

I have never been a super big bread eater. In college I had a stomach issue and bread-y foods just made me feel icky. But the thought of warm fresh bread (with butter of course) was something I liked, and I like to try new things so I started learning how to make bread. Also, my DH is a carb consumer. You want him on board when selling carbs- he loves them. I thought it would be better for him too to have something wholesome and HFCS free.

So, my first, say, 5 loaves totally sucked. Seriously people. Bricks. It was worse than trying to make sandwiches out of large Melba toasts. And, to boot- they were completely wheat based- so try to swallow that. Uffda. Now, you are wondering, I can see the gleam in your eye, how did DH fare with this experiment of mine? Well, I happened to have married THE most patient man I could find, so he just ate the bread and said things like "great job" and "hmmm, fresh baked." At least our house smelled yummy, right?

Anyway, on to success. I figured out that, yes, it does matter what kind of flour you buy. Also, when the recipe tells new bread bakers to NOT start with wheat, they had a reason. Smart people! After a few successes with white bread, I tried my hand at wheat, and now can proudly say that I know some little tricks of the trade myself. It just took a few google searches, a Mississippi market trip, and some time and- voila yummy bread.

I must add a plug for the Kitchenaid stand mixer (I hated reading these when I didn't have one- sorry non-owners!). If you plan on making more than two loaves a year, get a dough hook!! It is like having a maid (I guess I wouldn't know, but it seems like it would be that awesome). I use the KA for all of my mixing needs- maybe I should just blog about that sometime.... adding it to the list.

I figured I would share my all time favorite recipe for everyday bread with you, with my changes and additions. The original is from a website called Hillbilly Housewife- because they are known for their baking skills... (I think)

Maega Bread
1-1/2 cups of White flour (plus a little extra flour for kneading)
1-1/2 cups of Wheat flour (NOT GRAHM FLOUR)
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet, or about 2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
1 cup warm water (not hot, just warm)
~2 teaspoons of soy lecithin granules (I got mine from Mississippi Market in bulk area)

1. Ingredients:-Put your 1 cup of warm tap water into a Pyrex type deal, put your yeast and soy lecithin in there as well, mix just a bit with a fork and let sit.
-In a large bowl (or Kitchenaid [KA] bowl) put your oil, honey, and salt. Then get all your other ingredients out of the cupboards (to give your yeast and soy lecithin a chance to get to know each other).
-Gently mix the warm water mixture together a bit with a fork, then pour it into the bowl of your other sticky ingredients, mix around with a rubber spatula until all the ingredients have "met each other."
-Now, add one cup of wheat flour and mix with a spoon (or hook on your KA) for like 60 seconds. Stop, add the 1/2 cup of wheat flour, mix for a bit, stop add the 1 cup of white flour mix for a bit, stop add the 1/2 cup of white and mix until all of it is mixed together as best you can.

2. Kneading: important note* If you are mixing this by hand be ready for a work out. Dump your dough (it is o.k. if it is a little chunky) onto a slightly floured surface and start kneading like you hate someone and knead to get that energy out... (WOW bad jokes... can't help myself). You will knead to knead (can't stop!) for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough looks like it has started to string up a bit (see above recipe link for more info on kneading). For you KA owners, "alls you gotta do is" scoop the bottom ingredients to the top and set your mixer to a 2 or 4 speed for like 5 to 7 minutes. You should consider lifting some weights during that time to get the same workout though.... Just a thought.

3. Rising/Baking: Here is a tricky deal. Your bread kneads (k, last joke) to rise enough to be beaten down before the 2nd rise. Here is what I do: microwave a cup of water for a minute to warm up the microwave. Pop your little ball of dough into a bowl that has been oil sprayed or EVOO'd a bit, cover with a tea or drying towel and put it in the micro (micro will be unavailable for a while). You aren't cooking it in the micro, it just sits in there! If you have to use your micro for other things- stick it in the oven or a warm cupboard. I let mine rise for about 90 minutes before I check it. It will take longer in cool weather and shorter in warm weather. You know that it is ready to be punched down when you stick your finger in it and it leaves a hole (that doesn't pop back up).

-When the hole stays, you use your fist and gently/slowly punch it down so the air is pushed out. Grab a loaf pan, or whatever you are baking it in, spray it with the cooking oil/ non-stick stuff (don't use EVOO- the bread will stick). Take your dough, gently massage (yes- I used massage for a bread recipe) it to be similar to the shape of the pan, and put the dough in. Cover it up with the drying towel and stick it back in the micro for about 90 minutes again. When it has risen (indeed) put it in the oven at 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes. It is done when you take it out of the pan and a flick to the bottom sounds sorta hollow.

Now- if you are like me and have a job, you just don't have time to sit around waiting for bread to rise (let's start saying that- "She is so lazy she waits for bread to rise!! ha ha ha!"). So, this is my modification. Go back to step 3. Rising. Instead of letting the bread rise a second time in the micro- stick it in the fridge overnight and bake it in the morning. The max it should be in the fridge is 12 hours. Forgotten dough gets tough- this I know from experience. The people you live with will love you forever by the way. Fresh baked bread in the a.m. is awesome.

The whole process takes about 25 minutes of my time total. I usually double the recipe and make 2 loaves. I freeze one and we have bread for a week and a half. This bread goes bad in about 3 or 4 days unless you keep it wrapped in aluminium foil, then you have about a week with it.

So I thought I would share with you my enthusiasm for freshly baked homemade "everyday" bread, seeing as we will soon be baking in the July sun ourselves.

Happy baking!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tea; Te; Tee; The; Sweet tea...

For my first post, I am choosing to write about tea. It isn't one of my most recent "opportunities for enthusiastic obsession" however it is a life long obsession so I will share my journey.

Are you a person who enjoys drinking either hot or cold tea? Maybe you've tried it and thought, "hmmm tastes like dirt" but wouldn't admit you've tasted dirt and just commented that you "didn't like it." Well, that was my first experience with tea way back in high school (alllll the way back). Healthy eating habits hadn't escaped my dad's understanding of nutrition. I think he had either acquired some tea from a family member, or found himself in the tea isle one day. But what he brought home was named something like "joint comfort" and "weight loss" tea
. Now on the yummy scale, these were really close to the yuck side. Well, when dad says "you kids should drink tea, it is good for you!" Then you drink tea. This was precisely the moment when tea reminded me of dirt, which I didn't admit of course.

The summer between sophomore and junior years at the U of MN I was introduced to a woman who would become a best friend, and reintroduced to tea all at my new job in Academic Advising. This woman, we will call her AG, brought in some tea because the AC was pushing out some mad cold air. She brought in Lipton Blackberry. Imagine, a tea that tasted like fruit, and had a kick of caffeine. I was in love. We drank and drank this tea until she said "do you think other flavors are as good?" We slowly began a journey of tasting. Today, we have gone in slightly different directions with flavor preferences, however very much enjoy this obsession together just as much. We even report to each other when we have "brought another on board the tea loving express."

Now for the fun part. Here is what I want you to know about tea. I'm sure you know a few tidbits (or all of this) if you have jumped on the recent tea craze wagon, but hopefully you can pick something up from my life long obsession.

Did you know:
-There are 4 types of tea all made from the same leaves? Yup!

  • Black, oolong, green & white- in order of processing. Black is most processed, white is least.

  • The leaves are processed differently, and sometimes grown differently (but from the same type of plant)
-Teas like chamomile and rose hips aren't actually tea? Yes again!
  • these teas are actually called tisane's, and are a source of judgement from me. Yes, people loving, super understanding me judges the people who only love chamomile tea. IT ISN'T TEA PEOPLE!!! IT IS A TISANE. How could you even miss that.

-That tea dates back to 600 BC (probably before)? There is so much history and tradition around tea that you really should just google this one.

-Tea is VERY good for you? I will list my favorite stats- which only represents some of the benefits. (from: &

  • Anti cancer properties: There has been much research surrounding this topic. Bottom line is that they found antioxidants in tea.

  • Boosts mental alertness

  • Boosts immune system

  • Lowers stress hormone levels

  • Effects on bad breath: Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago stated that polyphenols help inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath. I'm not so sure about this one- I am always feeling like I have "tea breath"...

  • Cardiovascular health: Research published in April 2009 by the University of L'Aquila suggests that drinking just one cup of regular, black tea per day may help to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Please note that I am not a doctor, nor an expert, and this blog isn't meant as professional advice. Always ask your doctor when making decisions about your health.

So this concludes my first blog. Albeit a long one, I could write for days about tea- but then you would stop reading my blog and NEVER return for fear of complete boredom. I will leave you with some words steeped with history...

Tea that helps our head and heart.
Tea medicates most every part.
Tea rejuvenates the very old.
Tea warms the hands of those who're cold.
J. Jonker, Amsterdam, circa 1670