Zen Baby

For those of you who have been reading my stories, you know that I have been on a quest to find some “Zen” in my life for quite some time.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging for me in the Zen department. For the first time in almost 20 years I had a patient tell me to “F%*K Off!”  What???? I was so shocked I didn’t have a chance to respond. In hindsight, that is probably a good thing. Later my staff informed me that they thought there was some alcohol involved. (Not me, just in case you were wondering.)

I am no stranger to the F-bomb.

I come from both an Irish and German/Danish lineage so there is some fire running through these veins.  It’s just that I usually use it around people I am emotionally connected to – like my family, friends and loved ones.  I would never use it on a stranger. Sheesh.

It got me to thinking…..

  1. Why is that all I can think of – when I had many other lovely patients these last few weeks?
  2. What can I do to manage the unmanageable?
  3. I am pretty sure that is why Zen masters don’t work with the general public.
  4. What would the Dalai Lama do?

It just so happens that I went to my Mom’s last night. I found an old Zen book in an abandoned bookcase. I started reading it and think it is right on target. It was written in 1995 and I have had it probably for 15 years. It is called, “It’s Easier Than You Think” by Sylvia Boorstein.   There is a lot of useful stuff in that book.

First of all, you need to know that trying to be Zen or Buddhist is not going to interfere with your other religious beliefs.  You can be both. Please don’t email me telling me I am going to go to hell. Thanks!

In a nutshell, the entire thing is devoted to one simple idea/plan. How can we manage the events in our life that are beyond our control? That’s it. Simple, right?

There are 4 Noble Truths in the Zen world.

The First Noble Truth:  Pain is inevitable.Buddha quote 2

We can’t control what happens, we can only control how we react to what happens.  Pain is not an option.  It is going to happen no matter what. Because my lovely friends, in order to experience a full life we will inevitably go through pain. Lots of pain. That is the human condition.  Everything will eventually change and/or die. Please don’t despair and go stick your head in the oven. It’s not that bad…. I have said this for years and I totally believe it….you get points for trying.  I think. Well, in my Zen World you get points for trying.

So once you have figured out that life is just a series of painful events…. Then you have to make a decision.  This is the important part. How you suffer is on you. Read that again. How you suffer is on you.

The Second Noble Truth:  Clinging To Attachment = Suffering

This is a tricky bit. Obviously, many things require commitment. Which in my mind is the same thing as attachment. So, what’s the problem? I think that sometimes we chase the fleeting moments that we have been lucky to experience and wish to make them into something permanent, expected, and certain. Clinging to that notion leads to suffering.

I have loads of examples of clinging leading to suffering. You probably do too.  How many times have you longed for the early days of a relationship when you couldn’t get enough of each other? You didn’t need to eat, sleep, breath oxygen… it was so good. So then you settle in to everyday life. Something happens and it’s not the same. While the relationship is still good- it’s not crazy good anymore and you can’t help but wonder what went wrong? Nothing is wrong. Clinging to the notion that the next moment should be like the first moment is wrong.

Looking in the rear view mirror leads to a lot of wrecks.

You need to focus on what is right in front of you.

How can we not want to want? Fundamentally, that means that craving anything is suffering. (That is in the book.)

I crave lots of things. I have some work to do in that department.

Maybe I can put together the NEW ZEN DIET PLAN and make a ton of money. Don’t crave anything. Eat whatever you want and whatever you think is good for you and see what happens. My sister says you have to wear structured pants (not yoga pants) at least once a week so that you know if you are still okay. Don’t try to be the same you as last year or when you were 27. (I picked 27 because those were some pretty good years… no wait! That is super un-Zen!) Anyway, let’s just strive to be the best we can be now.

Let’s talk about clinging some more.  There is a quote in the book that goes something like this, “My life happened when I was busy making other plans…”  Sounds about right. I am a list maker, a dreamer, and lots of other things. I have to say, the here and now just doesn’t work for me. I am always better in the future. Now that I think about it, I was better in the past too. I think this whole thing may be a Jedi mind trick.  It is THE FORCE! George Lucas is probably a Zen guy.

Remember the old school yard saying?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?”

That is total bullshit. I have broken a bunch of stuff. The bones and ligaments healed. They don’t hurt me at all anymore. But words? Words hurt.

In the book, Sylvia used a little demonstration very effectively. How many of you have had bones break or other bodily injuries? Raise your hands. Now, ask yourself… does it still hurt? If so, keep your hands raised. Very few hands were raised. Next question. How many of you have been hurt by other people’s words? Hands go up. How long ago was that? In the last year, last five years, ten years or more? Lots of hands were up.  Words hurt.

Where am I going with this?

Forgiveness. That’s the ticket to addressing my issues with my patient who told me to F%#* Off! It happened. It’s over. Nothing more is going to come of it. Time to forgive and move on. It’s over.Buddha quote 1

I have to say, once you forgive someone it is kind of hard to keep caring if they told you to F%$* Off!

It just doesn’t matter! (Remember the movie Meatballs?) It just doesn’t matter… It just doesn’t matter! Yeah, baby!

So now that we have figured out that we have to forgive all the morons who hurt us in the past- we have to figure out how to handle the “Now” part.  Okay, we need to try to be decent human beings. In the book there is some discussion about how to live your life when there is the burden of knowing that every action has the potential to cause harm. Yikes! That is kind of overwhelming. Trying to avoid shame or dread is a good start. Uh oh….there goes my crazy dancing at my favorite band! Just kidding. Not that kind of shame or dread- only the real deal bad kind of shame and dread.

Instead of going through a whole list of Don’ts…. Let’s focus on the Do’s.

I am going to try to say, “Yes!” whenever possible as long as I am not going to die or do something harmful. I like that idea. That idea really works for me. A good friend of mine has a saying, “I’ll do anything… twice!” She’s living a very interesting life by the way!  She is pretty good at living in the moment. I’ll ask her what the secret is and get back to you.

There are two more Noble Truths but they will have to wait. It’s Sunday night and the Green Bay Packers are playing tonight. I have to go make a lasagna and some garlic bread (double carbohydrates) and go watch the game. It is a good place to start with enjoying the here and now! Nothing is happening in Wisconsin until the game is over.

Zen baby.

GGJ

Crossing Muddy Waters

Have you ever wondered what makes a relationship last?  Not just romantic relationships, but friendships as well?

Last night I had a great talk with one of my dearest friends.

We did not grow up together.

I met TR (The Rock) when I moved to Oregon to go to optometry school. I had met one other person at a summer class the previous summer, but other than that I was moving to a place where I did not have any friends.

I did not meet TR right away. A few months into the first semester I went on a group shopping trip into Portland with some girls. She was there. We both were complaining our boobs were too big and nothing looked good. We promptly whipped off our shirts and compared boobs.  A bond was forged.

For the following 4 years TR was the “THE ROCK” of our group. She and her husband had a great relationship, she knew how to cook and she was absolutely committed to her pursuit of optometry. She fed us, let us stay at her place to study and we basically did everything she did. We all passed with flying colors and had a pretty damn good time doing so.  Left to my own devices, the outcome may not have been the same. Twenty odd years later, we are still great friends. We have now been friends for more years of my life than we have not been friends. I like that feeling.

I think in life, people are either rocks or floaters. My friend TR is a rock.  I am a floater.

Rocks are solid, durable, permanent.  They do well on planet Earth. Gravity works in their favor. They are great planners, nurturers and have the ability to stay the course. They are happy where they are and don’t seek constant movement or change.  Rocks sometimes suffer when forces beyond their control erode them and put them into unplanned or unexpected motion.  Storms can be tough on rocks. Rocks can sink.

Floaters are different. Floaters go with the current and are in a constant state of change. Floaters can try to tread water and stay in one place, but it requires a lot effort and leads to fatigue. Floating is effortless. All you have to do is let go and rise to the top. (It’s those boobs.) When you float, it’s easiest lying on your back. It allows you a great view of the sky and the world of endless possibilities. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination?” That was written by a floater. There is a downside. It is easy to lose sight of the shoreline unless you constantly look back or to the side… floaters can get lost.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

This summer I was on a boat with a group of people who were going to swim across Lake Butte des Mort in Oshkosh on the 4th of July. It was a motley crew… all ages and all abilities. The swim was in memory of a fantastic woman who used to swim across the lake every day.  It’s a big lake and the water is kind of brown. One of the swimmers lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and commented that the wake churned by the boat motor looked like “fine cognac.”

Initially I wasn’t sure I would swim. I was on the boat mostly for fun. When the swimmers started to swim I had to make a choice. My ex-boyfriend who is now a friend was doing a running commentary about the performance of the swimmers and their choice of bathing attire. I shed my shorts and t-shirt, jumped in and started swimming.

I guess when push comes to shove, I am not designed to sit on the boat and observe. I had to swim.

I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go… I am not in the best shape of my life. I was fairly confident I would not drown and just figured the rest would work out. I used a combination of breast stroke, back stroke and side stroke to get across the Lake. I stopped looking at the shore. I looked at the sky, the HWY 41 overpass with the semis going by, I looked at birds. I could hear the hum of motorboats and the weird tinkling sound water makes…it was a symphony.  Every once in a while I would look for my spot across the lake. I kind of got off course, but I would just make an adjustment and before I knew it I was across the lake.Swimming Lake Butte des Morts 2015

That is kind of how life works too.

Rocks and Floaters make great partners. I think that is why my friendship with TR has endured.

She has helped me more times than I can count. Her husband is kind of big so whenever my heart has been broken she tells him he needs to go beat that person up. I love that. She is my professional role model. What worked in optometry school still works 20 years later. I just do what she does. She said we should get board certified- so we did. It was a pain in the ass but it was good for me and for my profession. TR knows what to do.

I think I may be of some use to her right now. TR was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. (MS) The sucky thing about MS is that is un-curable and unpredictable.  It’s not like cancer (which is horrible) where you cut out the bad stuff and kill it and get fake new stuff and move on.  You never know what the next day will be like. One day you are pretty good and the next day you can’t get out of bed.

She told me she fell yesterday. She got out of bed and her brain thinks she is normal- but her legs don’t work right and the next thing you know you are weaving around like a drunken sailor and boom, down you go. I told her that was okay, that I fall down a lot too. I like to wear slippery socks and my house has wooden floors. Sometimes I run to get a Diet Pepsi or go pee pee during a commercial break and boom, down I go. We laughed.

She is doing fine. One big thing that everyone who reads this should think about is this- It is absolutely imperative that you have proper disability insurance and financial planning. My friend is going to be fine in that department no matter what happens. That didn’t just happen- she had a plan.

(I was actually a little jealous talking to her – she is in a much better place than I am. When you are jealous of your friend who has MS and her disability plan- that is sick my friends.  Being single makes it even more important to have a plan. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about whether you are going to have to eat cat food when you are 80.)

OK, back to the story.  So we talked about that and then we got to the nitty gritty…..

The hardest part of having to deal with this illness is the unexpected changes. TR has a plan. She wants to get her youngest kid off to college, work really hard (because she likes it- crazy, I know!) and finally have the time and ability to treat herself and her husband to some traveling, adventures and really good shoes. And not feel guilty. MS is a sucky disease. I think it pretty much guarantees that you have to wear practical footwear for the whole rest of your life. WTF?  That is crazy.

She had her plan She thought that her next turn in life would be a turn to the right….. EXCEPT….. The road doesn’t go right. So now she has to go down a road that she’s didn’t choose, doesn’t know where it goes and …she has to cross a river. It’s a big river.

Now the river’s wide and deep and brown And she’s crossing muddy waters….–John Hiatt

The river is a scary place for a rock.

That is okay, she is best friends with a floater.

I don’t care if the water is deep, I float.  I don’t care if I can see the bottom or where I am going.  I will look at the sky.  She doesn’t have to do a thing. I have a strong grip and I will get us to the other side. It’s not going to be a straight line and it may take a while. That’s okay, it’s the journey not the destination.

Crossing muddy waters… it’s my specialty.

GGJ

The Outgoing Introvert

I don’t know about you, but I am glad that crazy “Blood Moon” business is over. Whew…. Last week was a rough one. The crazy chain got broken over the weekend and sure enough, a new story is born.

After running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I got a chance to do whatever I wanted on Saturday AND Sunday! Yippee! For those who read my blog, you know that I am an optometrist. That means that I talk non-stop all day. Which is fine… I was voted most talkative my senior year of high school. I can talk a lot. You would think that would make me an extrovert, right?

Nope. I was told once by a very intelligent human that you can tell if you are an introvert or an extrovert by how you re-charge your batteries. Do you need down time and solitude? Or do you need to blow off steam and surround yourself with people? I need some down time. I would classify myself as an outgoing introvert. I like people…. just not a lot of them at the same time or for long periods of time. Lol. I prefer the company of dogs.

That got me to thinking about being alone. The more I thought about it, the more I thought we should talk about it a bit. People, even if you don’t like to be alone you need to learn how to do it. And not suck at it.

Years ago I was in a relationship that was having trouble and I went on a vacation with a girlfriend to see her relatives. I talked about what was going on and I was asked, “Can you live without him?” I said, “Yes.” Aha! That is bad, right? I defended myself by saying that I could live without anybody… you know, breathe in and breath out, but I would prefer to not have to live without that person. I thought that the very idea of thinking you could not live without another person was absurd. My brain doesn’t work that way.

It is a very romantic and kind of neat idea to think you could not live without the love of your life. Until you have to live without the love of your life. Then it is a stupid idea. Here is some advice. If you find someone who really loves you then make him/her buy a long-term care policy and some good life insurance along with the ring. If you can’t find someone who sells these things let me know and I will hook you up.

My ex-boyfriend who is still a friend had both. I really liked that. He would say things like, “If you have to tie my shoes, I can pay you for that because I have a long term care policy that includes home health care.” I would smile and say, “Great!” Although in my mind I was thinking that we would pay a stranger to do that while I went golfing… but you know… you got to go with the flow. There was a big age difference too, 17 years, so you have to think about things like that as well as death. You have to make sure that there is someone or money to pay someone to take care of you when you are the last one standing.

I don’t think he would have picked me to take care of him anyway. I am too picky. He is a white guy who has had too much sun so he had some actinic keratitis…the scaly icky skin that is kind of scabby… and I would be giving him a back massage and suddenly pick that shit off his back. Ouch! No scabby icky skin on my watch. Like I said, I think ultimately he would have hired a professional instead of having to worry about what I would do next.

I have some older friends who are a mess. They have let their spouse do all of the cooking, all of the books and all of the decision making and when that person is no longer around they are not only sad and lonely…but kind of useless. That leads to either dying or hooking up with the wrong person so that they don’t have to do their own laundry. Listen up, people. If you are with someone like that you must teach them how to do some banking, laundry, and to cook a few basics like scrambled eggs and toast and how to make mashed potatoes and a pot roast. Sheesh.

I can’t wait to be old enough to get into ‘assisted living’. There is a great place in my neighborhood that has a killer view of the lake. It also has a bar with a big screen TV, a workout room, beauty salon and good food. I went to the grand opening celebration and they had a chocolate fountain! They stole a really good chef from town and his dinner was delish. It seems pricey, but when you figure out the cost of food and property taxes and lawn and snow removal and all of the stuff that comes with home ownership… it may not be that bad. Sigh, I will have to wait.

For those of you who are new to being alone and it freaks you out, let me give you some tips. The hours between 2am and 8am are for the alone.

For many years I would work 11-7pm. I would come home from work, spend time with people I liked or loved and would wait…. until they had to leave or fall asleep.

Then I would get to listen to music, read, think, take a bubble bath and go to bed late. It was awesome. (I have had to reset my natural clock with my new business because I have to get up early. The vampire days are gone and I miss it.)

I read an article in House Beautiful one time where a very talented designer said the best couples have separate bedrooms but no one wants to admit it. I agree with her… separate beds and separate TV’s may be the secret to relationship longevity. Snore….snore…..cough…. gasp….snore…… it’s not conducive to creative thought.

The early morning hours are great for exercising by yourself and not feeling bad.

Try it.

You will notice that most people are by themselves and are dedicated to maintaining their health and wellness. No one feels weird walking/running by themselves in the morning. I saw a couple walking together this Saturday and I passed them twice. The husband was talking her ear off and gesturing a lot. She looked like she wanted to slit his throat with a butter knife.

See, walking alone is a good thing. If you wear big headphones like I do, you don’t have to say a word. You can just wave if someone says, “Good morning!” I see the same people over and over again, so in a way we are friends – but not really. It’s perfect.

I was invited to a Blood Moon party last night and it was pretty neat. Great food, a few friends, some telescopes… it was a fun time. I am looking forward to the next one in 17 years 364 days…

It’s time to crawl into my big bed with a bunch of books and magazines, three clickers, two pairs of glasses (and usually a dog but she is with my Mom tonight) and watch The Green Bay Packers play some Monday Night Football. Be jealous! XO

GGJ

Doing the Right Thing

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have to get this off my chest.

I had the best weekend with my family.  Watching the Packers beat Seattle was the icing on the cake. But….  I could not  get the images from the Sunday news out of my mind.

What is happening in Syria is wrong. There I said it. Before everybody gets all pissed off – let me explain myself. I don’t have an answer to the problem. It’s a very difficult and scary situation.

I can only speak for myself but I would imagine that some of you feel the same way.

I am afraid of Muslims. In my head, I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. It’s just that the most recent terrorists have all  been Muslims. That being said, we have had a few of our own… Timothy McVeigh….the Unabomber….and the multiple gunmen who have massacred innocent movie goers and school children… there have been a few.

I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Germans were Nazi’s and not all gun owners are shooters of schoolchildren. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being scared makes it hard to see the forest from the trees…or the trees from the forest.

I was trying to recall some of my history lessons….

When I was partying in New Orleans many years ago we made a pit stop into a museum.  Many historical parts of New Orleans are paved with the original cobblestones. Do you know who laid those bricks?  Slaves? Creoles??  Nope, those bricks were laid by Irish immigrants. They were cheaper than both slaves or Creoles because they had zero guaranteed rights regarding food/water/shelter/hours. Immigrants have long suffered.

World War II was such a bloody and terrible time in World History. From what I remember – the US got involved after we were attacked by Japan.  We didn’t involve ourselves in the genocide of over 6 million Jews until the attack hit home. I read a lot of novels so I can’t be trusted with historical fact- but it is my understanding that the Vatican wasn’t exactly helpful in that time either. Hmmm…. I think Pope Francis is a totally different cat – in a good way.

From what I gather, Syria is conducting genocide on its people.  It’s not like they have a choice. If I had to choose to either die by chemical warfare or bombings or other horrible means…. I would start walking.  I would hope that if someone was able that they would help me.

It’s not like we as Americans are having to face 3 millions refugees parked at the front gate. The Atlantic Ocean is too big and rough… the dinghy’s aren’t going to make it. (If you need to see a scary Atlantic Ocean movie, watch The Perfect Storm)  I haven’t seen a lot of refugees talking about a desire to get to the US. They want to get to Germany.

After tossing and turning all night, I came up with a plan that makes me feel a little better. Today I made a contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

I am not going to wait for the government. (When we need to wait and trust the government to do the right thing…. something is not quite right. I  am not completely comfortable with that on a number of levels.)

I know there are administration fees and that only 93.7%  of the funds will go to helping people. That’s okay, I gave enough that I think it will still help someone.

People are worried that ISIS has infiltrated the refugees and has a plan to infiltrate the US. It probably has already happened. It is my opinion that we have a far greater risk of creating terrorists by putting refugees in fenced- in areas and blasting them with tear gas. If that happened to me, I would never forget it.  On the other hand, if someone gave me food and water and a safe place to sleep….. I would never forget that either. I want to be on that team.

Giving money is easy. Let me tell you how I am financing it. Pantry

I am having a lean year with having just purchased a new business. But, I am not completely broke. I looked in my vehicle and in my loose change jar. In my purse alone I had almost $37.00. That is the money I usually put in my Las Vegas trip jar. I thought I could do better than that so I decided to eat out of my existing pantry and freezer tonight. I have to wrap this up because my ham and scalloped potatoes are done.  Tomorrow I am going to make chicken piccata and watch the premiere of NCIS. Normally, I would get some Thai take out while hoping that Leroy Gethro Gibbs survives and that Tony and Ziva get together.  There, that is my donation.

I don’t know if it will make a difference. I hope so.

This blog is only a hobby for me. I have never asked anyone to share my stories  or tried to profit from it.  This time, I am going to ask my friends and family and readers to share it ….if they know someone who may be willing or able to help. There are other organizations that are trying to help… Unicef comes to mind as well. I picked the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) because it was easy to access and donate. Whatever you can do and feel good about is the goal. Let’s try to move the dial on this one.

Thank you.

GGJ

A Recipe for…

One of the Sisters had a birthday this last week. We all got together to celebrate and it was fun. I wanted to post a picture of the two of us on Facebook…. so I looked for a good one.

I found a picture of us on horseback riding the beach at Big Sur, CA taken quite a few years back.

Fantastic news….it is possible to get better with age.

I think we both look better now than we did then. It helps that fashion has evolved from faded Mom jeans and huge Badger sweatshirts to a more fitted look. That and hair straighteners….flat irons or my preferred method, keratin treatments, have made a world of difference.

It got me to thinking… almost all of the good stuff gets better with age.

Take bananas for instance. They are picked when they are green and have zero imperfections on the surface. They also taste like shit. Compare that to a fully ripe banana- cosmetically unappealing but full of flavor.

Why is that? I am pretty sure if comes from oxidation. (Flashback to science class…LEO says GER….loss of electrons = oxidation, gain of electron = reduction.) It’s complicated, but I think it has something to do with its reaction to oxygen (O2). Oxygen is important. Essential for survival. Okay, it makes us weather and age but adds flavor… I am cool with it.

Sometimes when I am mad (usually on someone else’s behalf) and I am being dramatic I like to say, “He’s not fit to breathe the same oxygen as you!”

It’s as close as you can come to cursing someone without worrying about bad karma.

The Sisters both come with curses.

My oldest sister has somehow invoked the wrath of the traveling gods and is destined to have late departures and arrivals, weird weather patterns (like inversions when it snows in the valley and fogs at the top of the mountain), demolished luggage and “lost” vehicles at the park and ride place. When you travel with her you better have a change of undies and a couple of mini-Bailey’s in your purse just in case.

The other Sister was the one with the birthday. Her curse is that she never gets what she orders in restaurants.

This came up on the ride to the restaurant to celebrate her birthday.

She said, “They can serve me a big flaming turd and I am going to eat it.”

The previous week they had gone out of town to a supper club that is renowned for its steak and salad bar. (How 80’s…) It’s also not cheap. Sister ordered a fancy steak with gorgonzola sauce. When all of the dinners arrived, her steak wasn’t what she ordered. She asked the server about it…and the server said, “This is a blackened steak” and she whisked it away before Sister had a chance to respond. She then waited 25 minutes for her dinner to arrive. Meanwhile, the other two people ate their dinners at the pace of a tortoise in an attempt to wait to eat with Sister. Sister ended up eating alone. It was sad. She said that she would have eaten the blackened steak but it all happened so fast that she didn’t get a chance.

This time she was determined to eat her birthday dinner with the group.

I said, “If they serve you shit on a shingle, will you eat it?” and she said, “Yep. With a smile on my face. I have to turn this curse around. I am determined to eat whatever is put in front of me.”

At this point Mom said we had to change the subject because if we kept going she might lose her appetite. We all laughed. The mood was set and we were all on the same page. We were going to have fun- no matter what.

It’s so bizarre…but I think the curse may have lifted. We got to the restaurant and it’s a crazy place. Basically, you usually have to elbow your way to the bar and stand three deep and hang out for a while. When we walked in I started to scout a place in the bar and found an open table in the corner. No way! We were just settling in when we got summoned to our table. Again, no way! Sister even got what she ordered. It was insane. We all got ice cream after dinner drinks. We thought the bartender might kill us for getting 3 different kinds… Grasshoppers X 3, a White Dove and a Brandy Alexander…but we didn’t get killed. They were so huge we couldn’t finish them all. It was awesome.

The following night Sister went out to a different fancy steak place and got…. exactly what she ordered and it was perfect. Very interesting!

This is kind of deep…. so hang with me. I think it might be a step in the step process…it’s the Serenity prayer and goes something like this (don’t quote me because I am not going to look it up but just wing it instead.)

Lord, give me the strength to change the things that I can change, accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Remember that the next time you go to a fancy super club.

All this talk about food has gotten me hungry.

I will tell you a secret. I didn’t come up with it…

A long time ago, a person who shall remain nameless, was at a Christmas work party and got snookered. He was sitting next to a person who was also bombed and they were both having surf and turf for dinner. You know, when you get the little candle holder with the butter dish suspended above it? That’s the one. So the other bombed guy said, “You’ve got to try this.” And he proceeded to dip his tenderloin steak into the leftover lobster butter sauce. They proceeded to devour the remaining turf. I thought they were seriously deranged… until I tried it. OMG.

I give my foodie friends permission to steal this concept.

I would recommend serving the little candles with suspended butter dishes as an extra and charge the heck out of it. I could see having a lobster butter sauce and also maybe some kind of Cajun butter sauce….

You can thank me with gift certificates.

Let’s get back to bananas, shall we? My Mom grew up on a big dairy farm. Her Mom used to bake all of the breads and sweets and make huge quantities of food. My Mom was her helper. I think all of that cooking early on kind of ruined my Mom for cooking later in life. She would conjure up dinner but I think she would have rather been golfing.

Anyway, she is good at making certain things. She likes to say that everything she can make can “serve a thrashing crew.” Which means that she is good at turkeys and pot roasts and mashed potatoes.

I asked her for her banana bread recipe as I have a couple that have seen a better day. She dug out her Mom’s old cookbooks and gave me this recipe. I hope you like it.

Grandma B’s Banana Bread recipe.

1 ¾ cups sifted flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs well beaten

1 cup ripe bananas (2-3)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until lite and fluffy. (Grandma’s exact wording.) Add eggs and beat well. Add flour mixture alternating with bananas a little at a time until smooth.

Turn into a well-greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan and back in moderate (350 degree) oven about 1 hour and 10 minutes until done. Makes one loaf.

I hope yours turns out.

My Mom's old cookbook
My Mom’s old cookbook

old cookbook 2

Baby dolls, it’s not what you are having for dinner….it’s who you are having dinner with that matters. Butter goes with everything. When in doubt, use a recipe that has stood the test of time. Don’t forget the salt. Ever. Curses can be lifted. Going with the flow is easier than fighting the current…. most of the time. (Unless you are heading for a massive waterfall and are going to die… then swim at an angle for shore.) Keep breathing.bananas

GGJ

The 80/20 Rule

Have you ever heard about the 80/20 rule?

Basically, it applies to everything but is used most commonly in business. Here’s the gist – 80% of everything is noise and/or junk, aka a complete soul sucking waste of time, money and effort. The other 20% is the real deal- what makes your profit, your satisfaction and should in theory be the focus of your efforts.

Good to know.

I thought about this concept a lot yesterday. I spent the day at a continuing education conference in Madison, WI. Optometrists are a funny bunch. I usually go to conferences in other States as it is a better learning experience and you can offer up some meaningful tidbits when you aren’t giving away your best trade secrets to the competitor two blocks down.

This year I lucked out and ran into a doctor that I used to work for years ago and we are still friendly. We also live far enough apart that we have zero overlapping patients. Plus, he is light years ahead of me in terms of his business so I am kind of like his pet.

Anyway, I had a killer seat in the back row (I was smart enough to save the seat before chowing down on the free breakfast.) He hadn’t saved a seat yet. I gave up my killer seat and we sat together somewhere in the middle.   Like I said, he is a pretty good friend.

As we sat down the first thing he said to me was, “I would rather be drinking a beer and going to the Badger game.” I said, “Amen, brother.” and we settled in for the duration. The conference was a rapid fire kind of deal – 20 minutes per speaker on stuff we should know. The 80/20 rule was in full effect and for six hours we listened and tried to pay attention. He told me that he just tries to take away one or two useful tidbits and call it quits.

It is too great of an expectation to think everything should be fascinating.

He also advised me that many people make their lives and jobs too difficult. For the long haul you have to be able to endure many ups and downs and the best way to do that is keep it simple. The KISS rule…Keep It Simple Stupid. He’s a good doctor, a good person and has a good relationship with his wife and kid. Smart guy. I am glad I sat next to him.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the 80/20 rule. As I was driving home, I started thinking about it. I am super lucky. I am the youngest of three. I have two older sisters who are very intelligent and extremely capable human beings. For my whole life, I have pretty much just followed in their footsteps or did what they told me to do. It’s worked out great. There have been some epic failures, trust me. But, truth be told when that happened it was because I didn’t listen to the Sisters.

The result is that in my life I get to be a kind and gentle soul (80%) with a dash of sarcasm and spontaneity (20%) thrown in. My sole function is to be funny and game for the unknown.

Years ago, one of the Sisters and I did a little trip to Carmel, CA. It was the early days of the internet and Sister booked us into a fantastic hotel (The Highlands Inn- which is fantastic by the way) and had some restaurants all picked out. We did it all and it was fun. One of the restaurants was kind of famous for being famous (I think Clint Eastwood went there at some point) but it was a little snooty. We had one more night and didn’t know where to go. I asked the valet guys were to go for a good meal and good atmosphere and they sent us to Flaherty’s. It was perfect.

I am the girl who askes the guys in the parking garage where to go and then actually does go. It takes both kinds of travelers to be successful. No planning is bad and nothing but planning is bad.

On that trip I also got to pick an activity and while we were at breakfast I saw an advertisement for sea kayaking on my placemat. We made a call and the next thing you know we were in Monterey Bay watching a baby sea lion get born. But then it got too close and it seemed like he was trying to get in the kayak…. and it was against the law and the guide yelled at us, “Paddle!” So we paddled. We were worried about the sea lion and made the guide go back and check. He said it was fine. I still wonder about that, he better not have lied. Anyway, it was a fantastic experience. All because of a little placemat.

I must give Sister credit though, she was the one who had researched the breakfast spot.

Birth order is fascinating. In my case, not only was I the youngest but my parents were oddities in that they had children much later in life. This is normal now, but in the 60’s it was kind of nuts. So, I arrived on the planet and my Dad turned 50 shortly thereafter. He retired when I was in middle school. Both of my parents are outdoorsy- so I would come home from school to find a five dollar bill on the table with a note saying, “Take Elaine to The Hut for dinner. Back home before dark. Love Mom, XO.” It was fine. The Hut was and still is a great spot for hamburgers and fries and it was cheap. I could take Elaine out to dinner and still have some money left over for things like smut books.

I used to ask my Mom if they ever worried about leaving me alone and she said, “We gave you just enough rope to hang yourself.”

I have never really been sure about that statement but it all worked out fine so it doesn’t require any additional deep thinking.

A friend of mine had a similar situation. He was the youngest of five with a 16 year age difference between him and his older brother. Pretty much everyone was out of the house for his childhood. We sometimes tell stories about growing up. He laughs and likes to say he was, “raised by wolves.” It worked out for him too. His parents worked like crazy and were never home. That was alright, he had a girl friend whose parents worked all of the time too, and he would ride his bike over after school and they would boink like crazy until 5pm and then he would ride his bike home in time for dinner. What can I say? It was the 80’s. He said it was super fun. I believe him.

I didn’t get to do any boinking because my Dad was a staunch Republican. They are uptight about stuff like that. Also, I had the bad 80’s perm thing going with a modest amount of baby blubber. I was a late bloomer. Things are better now. So, instead of boinking I hung out with our hunting dogs and read books. Then we got cable and I saw Jaws and it ruined me for swimming in the ocean to this day.

Younger siblings grow up fast and I think it has to do with being exposed to the older kids’ lives. I give my parents credit (actually, I think it was probably because they weren’t paying attention) for not censuring my reading material or TV/movie viewing.

They used to make my older sisters babysit for me- and little did they know but we weren’t exactly staying at home. They just took me along. I was at the Drive-In movie theater and Brown’s Point (a summer time party spot) at a ridiculously young age. The upside was that I got to say yes or no to just about everything early on. I never really had an issues with the whole drug/alcohol thing because (once again) I just did what the Sisters did. Thanks girls, you did a great job.

I have always been a deep thinker. If only I had applied the 80/20 rule and saved myself the trouble of caring about a lot of useless things.

As the years go by, it would seem that I have about 20% left. I have whittled it down to the people who matter, I am not seeking approval as much (that never goes completely away- my Dad will have been dead 20 years November 3rd, and I am still trying to please him- but that is a story for another time.) and I am mostly content with my choices. That is a good feeling.

There must be another mathematical equation at work here.

Does something happen when you get past the halfway point? Kind of like when you fly over the Pacific Ocean and you don’t have enough gas to get back to North America…. it’s not an option anymore… the only direction is to keep moving forward.

As I write this, I have this song stuck in my head. It must be a sign.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose… (that is the good part.)             

and nothing is all that Bobby left me…. (that is the bad part.)

                            -Kris Kristofferson/Janis Joplin

That’s okay Bobby, you sound like you were a hoot while you were around. But, when I think about it…. The Sisters would have canned your ass for being unreliable. Hit the road.

It’s time for me to wrap things up tonight.   Tomorrow is another day. I am going to try to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. If you do it too, keep me posted on the outcome.

The World seems a little nutty right now…. maybe if we all work together we can shift the Universe.

Zen baby.

GGJ

 

 

Skinny People are Boring

Skinny people are boring. There, I said it.

Before you get into a tizzy let me explain. If by some chance you are skinny by nature or have a metabolic disorder or are trying to cheat death because your arteries are clogged….then you get a free pass and this does not apply to you.

But (and the important part always comes after the but) if you are skinny because you want to look great- then your chances of being boring are greatly increased. Something happens when people get skinny. I don’t know why but it seems like their personality dissolves with all of the fat.

I have been a chub my whole life. Not exactly fat, but definitely not skinny either. I am also very healthy. I exercise and eat mostly healthy foods and drink relatively little for living in Wisconsin. My last life insurance health tests and blood work put me in the cheapest category. Yay! Still, why do I feel like I should be skinny? I am going to stop that kind of thinking right now. I think it is good to want to be fit, healthy and strong. Being skinny is for the birds.

Years ago, (about 13 years I think) I did get skinny. I was coming off an ACL knee surgery and had put on some weight. I joined Weight Watchers and dieted down to my goal weight (which was too low) and became a life time member. I could fit into my sisters jeans and she is four inches shorter than me… it was great. Boys liked me and I was getting a lot of attention. I was a skinny chick aka tits on a stick. Ok, stop right here. Let me state for the record that boys that like girls who are tits on a stick are morons. That alone is enough to call it quits and eat a cheeseburger.

Girls, listen to me…. If you ever get a smart, funny, sweetheart of a guy who likes you just the way you are- he’s a keeper. I have also found that guys who are a little chubby themselves are great in the sack. I think they have to try harder and develop certain skills to keep the ladies happy. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

I was skinny for a while. Finally, one day my sister told me, “You are skinny, but you aren’t fun anymore.” She was right. I had restricted myself to zero alcohol and practically zero carbohydrates. I was weird about eating in restaurants and ….I WAS BORING!

This weekend I came down with the hives. I don’t know why but it started out Saturday morning and by Saturday night I was a mess. I met some good friends to watch the Badger game and have a few drinks and dinner. I showed them my hives. Everyone agreed they were super gross and felt bad for me. Because they were good friends they still let me sit at the same table and shared a few bites of food with me. As the evening progressed, my hives seemed to be getting worse. A friend went to the bar and got a marker and circled a couple of welts on my arms. We continued to eat and have a few beers and watch the game. Awhile later we checked the marks and I thought maybe they were the same….but then my friend told me they were worse. It takes a good friend to tell you that your hives are worse.

I went home and took a bunch of Benedryl. The next morning I woke up and looked in the mirror. OMG, they were spreading to my face. I freaked out and took four Benedryls. Then I put some clothes on and walked to the ER which luckily is only two blocks from my Mom’s house. It was 7am so it was very quiet. I checked in and the lady took one look at me and I said “Hives” and she said, “Yup” and she got me in right away. The nice lady doctor took one look at me and I said, “Hives” and she said, “Yup.” and we talked about the possible causes but it can be pretty much anything and the treatment is the same so it doesn’t really matter. She gave me a prescription for some steroids and I was back to my Mom’s in 20 minutes. Then the 4 Bendryls I took kicked in and I was too far gone to operate a motor vehicle so my Mom got the steroids for me while I took a sedated nap.

I spent the whole day hanging out and napping at my Mom’s. We watched tennis and car racing and read our books. We weren’t super hungry so my Mom made up some toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner. Then around 9pm she made me an ice cream cone. Butter Brickle on a sugar cone. It was amazing.Cone

I wouldn’t have been able to have that at my place. I wouldn’t have had the bread, the ice cream or the cone. That really got me thinking…..(keep in mind I was still stoned on Bendryl)

It really is the simple things in life that make us happy. Being too fat is bad and being too skinny is bad. We need to find a good balance. Restrictive behavior is a drag. This applies to many aspects of life. Who likes being told they can’t do or have something?? Not me, that is for sure.

So, I am going to try to adopt a new way of thinking. I can have or do anything I want within reason.

One last thing about being skinny. It makes you look older. My chubby wubby face is keeping the wrinkles at bay. I like that. When I take a good look around, it seems like the people who are laughing and dancing and enjoying life are somewhere in the middle… not too skinny and not too fat. Have you ever noticed that skinny people are afraid to dance or look silly? It’s the pressure that comes with being fabulous.. caring about what people will think.  It becomes restrictive all on its own. I think that being in the middle takes the pressure off.

It all comes back to finding balance. Zen baby.

My hives are going away. I went to the grocery store and bought a lot of healthy things. I also bought the makings for chicken enchiladas which I love. I will put the recipe below.

GYPSY GIRL JILLY’S CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

  1. Buy a rotisserie chicken for 7 bucks. It will save you time and money. Wait for it to cool and then pluck the meat off it.
  2. Add a can of Original Rotel. (tomatoes and onions and spicy stuff in a can.)
  3. Add a packet of taco seasoning mix.
  4. Add water to get it a good consistency and make the spices stick to the chicken. Don’t worry if it is watery- it all gets cooked and absorbed.
  5. You will need either flour or corn tortillas. Put some chicken in and roll them up and put in a baking dish. Or you can be lazy and layer the enchiladas and chicken like you are making lasagna.
  6. Pour over canned Red Child Enchilada Sauce (I use La Preferida Mild.) I like the big cans but you can’t always find them so then buy 3 small cans.
  7. Stick the whole thing in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
  8. Let it rest so you don’t burn a flap of skin on the roof of your mouth.
  9. Generous dollops of sour cream go on top. Eat and enjoy.

Gypsy Girl Jilly Makes a Friend

Yesterday I moved. Again. It’s been a recurring theme for me over the years. I have never been attached to a property- but I do get attached to the people who make a house a home.

When I first moved into the house over 7 years ago, it was chaos and my place was a total mess. I had spent several months gutting the house and replacing a lot of things… so I had been around but hadn’t been living in the house. One day I was in the kitchen getting ready to go for some exercise. I had some bottoms on but I was topless digging through a laundry basket and putting on a jog bra -with no curtain in the window.

My neighbor Jerry just happened to be returning my garbage can to its rightful spot when ….BAM….he got a full frontal assault of my considerable rack. We both panicked. His eyes got wide and he was heading across the driveways in record time. I knew it was a crucial moment. This would record me as the nutty naked lady or I had to fix it. So, I quickly got some clothes on and yelled out the door, “Hey Jerry, I didn’t mean to give you an eye-full!”

He came back and said he was really sorry, he was just putting the garbage can back for me. He told me he had raised four daughters so he was used to seeing stuff like that. We both laughed. It was going to be okay. Just like that….we were friends. A few days later I come home to a little sign tucked beside the window that said “BEAR AREA”. It hung in my carport shed for the next seven years.

One of the first summers I lived there, we had a mama snapping turtle come up the bank, dig a hole in my yard and lay her eggs. We marked the spot with a stick and waited. And waited. One day, there was some activity and we watched the baby turtles emerge. Jerry and I felt we had an obligation to make sure that the baby turtles made it back to the river without being gobbled up or smooshed. We took our baby turtles named Harry, Hermione, Ron and Lord Voldemort down to the river. I kind of tossed one of mine in the river. Jerry said, “Well, that’s one way to do it.” He put his turtle gently down on a stick and let the baby turtle find its own way into the river. I learned something. When you are trying to save something it is best not to kill it before you have a chance to save it. Patience, little grasshopper. I did better with my second turtle.

It’s not like it happens overnight. But, little by little I would reveal bits and pieces of my past to Jerry. He was a good listener. He had a very successful marriage, so he was pretty good at giving out love life advice. He spent a lot of years in the automotive industry so he would take notice of the vehicles that would sometimes park in my driveway. Sometimes, he would ask where the Honda went and I would say, “He’s long gone Jerry”… and he would say, “He’ll be back.” And then we would laugh. He lost his wife a few years back and asked me if I liked being alone. I told him I liked being alone more than I liked being with the wrong person… but I would like it better if I could be with someone who didn’t drive me nuts. It’s tough out there. When you find someone who doesn’t drive you nuts, I would recommend you hold on tight. I think Jerry would agree with me. See, I was listening.

Winter in Wisconsin can be tough. Early on, Jerry showed me how to use his snow blower ‘just in case’. I really never had to do any snow-blowing because he would do it for me. He knew my schedule and I would hear the snow-blower start up around 6 am and he would plow me out. He did my driveway before he did his own. That is a major act of kindness. Last year, I did get to do some snow-blowing because Jerry had a bum ankle from falling on the ice. I would go over and fire up the snow blower and start plowing his driveway. He would yell at me to go do my own and leave his for later. No way! This was my chance to finally reciprocate. It’s a good problem to have when you and your neighbor are yelling at each other for getting the others driveway plowed first. Kind of like when you go out to dinner with old friends and everyone fights over who gets to pay the bill. Those are the days! By the way, snow-blowing in the moonlight is kind of fun in a weird Zen way. Just trust me on this one. I think it may have something to do with sniffing gasoline.

I travel sometimes and would most often remember to give Jerry a heads up about my absence. He hung a little thermometer in my kitchen window (scene of the nakedness) so he could check to make sure my heat worked during the winter so I wouldn’t have frozen pipes if something bad happened. Sometimes, I would forget to tell him about my traveling so he would call my Mom to make sure I was okay.

When you live alone, it is nice to have someone notice if you might be dead or not quite dead laying in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs.

I really could go on and on… about the time we took on the City government for giving us tickets for improper sidewalk maintenance and we were victorious, or our many garden projects including the ill-fated asparagus patch or the hornet’s nest incident…. You get the picture.

When I had to leave for the last time, we both got really teary. I told Jerry, “I refuse to say goodbye.” He said, “Okay.” As he was walking down the driveway, I yelled “I love you Jerry!” and he yelled back, “ I love you too, Jill.”

If you are going to yell at someone, those are the best words to use.

GGJ

My Latitude Made Me Do It

I just watched a TV show (Mind of a Chef, Season 3) where Edward Lee mentioned that he has found that he is comfortable and “home” at a certain latitude. His places happen to be Louisville, KY and Korea. His latitude is 38.25 N.

My latitude is 44N. I have spent the majority of my life living plus or minus 2 degrees of this latitude. I was born here, so it’s not like I picked it. Central Wisconsin, baby! Interestingly, when I went to Optometry School I chose to attend Pacific University College of Optometry in Oregon. Right outside of Portland. Yep, you guessed it…..45 N. I loved it. The physical beauty of the landscape, the people who became my friends…. Everything.

Very interesting…I think Edward Lee is on to something. I wonder if we are somehow programmed to become comfortable with the amount of daylight or darkness dictated by the changing of the seasons.

Is there some kind of magic associated with living at a certain latitude? Alaskans seem like happy people, as do those gorgeous smiling Scandinavians. How can that be? Hmmm…Anchorage is 61 North and both Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden are at 59 North.

Compared to let’s say…..who seems grumpy? The first person who popped into my mind was the leader of North Korea who freaked out about the movie The Interview…what’s his name again? Kim Jong-un. His latitude of birth is 39N. So that got me to thinking about more bad guys and I just had to look up Charles Manson. Hold on, you are not going to believe this….born in Cincinatti, OH which just happens to be latitude 39 N.

Perhaps match.com should implement a new question regarding latitude into its database.

It’s not like we don’t have our fair share of lunatics here at 44 N.

We are just a stone’s throw away from Plainfield, WI. Birthplace and home of Ed Gein. He liked to make people into lampshades and other stuff. A friend of mine just got a wooden ship model with “canvas” sails for his birthday- supposedly made by Ed Gein. I have to wonder about those sails…. What are they really made of???? Creepy, but very interesting. There are more serial killers and whatnot but I have to stop or this story will never end.

I really don’t know if this has any scientific merit. There is one way to find out. I must research my lovely latitude of 44 North some more. Lucky for me, Bordeaux France just happens to be on the list. I think that might be an excellent place to start. I am not opposed to checking out those northern latitudes as well. I really think there must be some kind of cosmic woo-hoo going on up there. I will keep you posted.

Peace, GGJ

Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right: Directions to a Parallel Universe

Last night I ran into an old friend who asked me if I was still blogging. I was so happy to have someone ask about my blog and to actually remember some of the posts that I was giddy the whole night.  I haven’t written anything for quite some time. Why? The usual lame excuse. I am too “busy”.  So, I was thinking about it and decided to write this story.

On the path of life you have four options. Keep going straight, take a left, take a right or go backwards.  For me, I have no desire to go backwards. Been there, done that. It’s useless and most often a bummer.  So that leaves going straight or taking a turn.

Six months ago I decided to take a major turn.

I left a very comfortable long-standing job and bought my own business.  I can’t honestly say whether I turned left or right.  When I think about the words left and right… what does that mean?

What is left? Is that what remains when all of the useless people/things/trappings have been removed? Leaving someone or something? Heading West? My initial reaction to the word left is somewhat negative.  Until I really think about it. Sometimes going left takes guts.

What is right? Doing what you should do and not what is easiest? What is the right thing to do??? Human rights, animal rights, environmental rights, religious rights…. Hmmmm….right is a really interesting word….right, rite, write…..

It would seem that going right takes guts too.

While I was out last night another old friend asked me if I had lost a lot of weight.  I laughed and said, “No!” but I think that maybe taking a lot of turns in life speeds up your metabolism.  Either that or my sparkly tye dye sweater was working wonders.

Something weird has happened. I wake up before my alarm goes off. I like going to work. That is so weird. Good, but weird.

It’s early days yet, so I can’t tell you the outcome of my new business venture. So far, so good.

Mostly, I think that what I have learned is that I like the turns. Either direction. I have the same life but it is much more satisfying. I think I am now occupying space in a parallel universe. Almost everything has stayed the same, but that one change has shifted everything.

It didn’t happen last night, but every once in a while I take two left turns and go backward for a very brief period of time. It involves a rare combination of old friends and good music. In those hours we are young again, drinking whatever is cold and dancing like maniacs for hours.  Usually Desperate Otto’s are there to escort us on our journey with some great tunes, both original and covers of the best songs on planet Earth.

Going backward is a tricky thing, and seems to be best accomplished by dawn. When the sun rises and the new day begins, it’s time to travel forward. Pop a few Advil for the aching head and knees, and drink a ton of water. Time travel is hard on the body.

If I see you in my parallel universe, flash me the peace sign. I am always looking for a few friendly faces.

Peace and love,

GGJ