Sunday, April 3, 2022

Mission Statement-Begin to Heal

     I do take part in my employer's wellness program, not so much because I believe it will impact my overall health by much, but because if you do participate, and do contribute to your own health savings account, they will also make a donation if you complete certain physical and educational tasks through this program. The main task for this month was to write a mission statement for ourselves.

    My statement currently fits in with my belief on how we can help heal the world and make this experience of living better for ourselves and each other.

    The first task to recognized the things I can do for others, and the things I cannot do for others, and then to act accordingly.

I often feel helpless and overwhelmed by all the sorrows and difficulties in the world, like there is nothing I can personally do to alleviate those suffering from the impacts of war around the globe. Then I do nothing because I am overwhelmed and I end up feeling so hopeless. 

In reality, I can at least take an action to help in my own community, to help alleviate the suffering of others-such as people that are undergoing treatment for various illnesses and need blood or platelets. I am able to take a 4 hour block of time out of my day once a month or every other month and do a donation of a triple unit of platelets. It can’t fix global ailments, but it can help with local suffering, and if we all follow that lead-of helping out when and where we are, we could heal the world bit by bit, by healing our own communities.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

So, This Is 100?

     I have been thinking all day about what  I might post. Should I do a final re-cap on my baking journey and goals from 2021? Should I shake the dust of 2021 from my shoes and focus on the goals and dreams that are 2022? Then when I logged into my blog I saw that this is going to be my 100th post. It feels like it should be monumental, that I should somehow mark it with some special wisdom. 

    Except that I don't have any great advice. The more I think on it, the more it turns from a happy thought to anxiety. Isn't that true in life? It sure is for me.

    And that brings me back to my exploration of words that I started towards the end of last year. I think there have been times in my life when I have not fully appreciated or respected the power that words have, the words we choose to replay in our minds, the words we assign ourselves, our situations, and others. 

    I must become a better caretaker of the words I use when I speak to myself and to others. When I tell fictional stories, when I tell my stories, and when I help others tell their stories I need to use great care and respect with the words that are used to convey these truths.

    Here's to the hope of a new year, to the community that comes from sharing our stories, and the hard work of thoughtfully choosing the words we give to each other.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Words Matter

     As a writer, I love the power that words have to convey emotion, to tell the stories I am trying to tell. As a regular human being I sometimes hate words, for the power they have to cause pain or division. I know this truth, this aspect, as I have seen it too many times in my own life and in the life of those I care about.

    I want to focus right now on the power of words to give comfort and healing. As some people know, this past year has been an extremely hard one for our family, not just because of the world wide pandemic that everyone has been struggling with, but because of the deep loss in our family with the passing of my father, and then my mother's many struggles with her health and well being.

    Hospice used their words of guidance and encouragement to help me be prepared for the reality of our situation, to know that the actual end was extremely close, so that I could make strong choices such as fighting to be in the care facility with my dad, and then knowing when the time was at hand to stay 24/7, that there was no turning back from this.

    And then when the unfathomable happened, just before what would ordinarily have been a joyous Christmas holiday season for our family, it was the words of friends and family that brought great comfort. A dear friend of mine has been through a similar loss with her mother just two years before. Her priest had passed on comforting words to her, among them the thought that God takes home the ones He has the most tender heart for during the Christmas season, the souls He holds in closest regard. Those were words I clung to then, and still cling to today for comfort.

    Little could that priest know that his words of comfort to my dear friend, would later be giving comfort to others, to me. We never know what sort of impact our words will have on others. I am trying to be more mindful of the words I choose to share with others, of the stories I am creating for myself, and for them, to help us all be able to write the best outcomes possible.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Pause in the Journey

     As summer winds down I took a pause in my baking journey. This holiday weekend I chose to work with one of my standby cookie recipes, my sugar cookie recipe. I decided it was not time to delve into any new recipes. Several of the new recipes I have in my queue appear to me to be more autumn oriented. My sugar cookie recipe is year round for me, changed to be seasonally appropriate depending on the cutters I use. Since I bought several new cookies cutters at the summer sidewalk sales, I figured now is a good time to try them.

    I also made batches of my citrus trio cookies, as they seemed to be a great addition to my end of summer theme I wanted to create. I was quite pleased with how they all turned out. It was fun to indulge in some cookies just for me. I still created several gift plates, had sets of cookies I brought to two family gatherings, and my best friend was able to use several plates of cookies at her family gathering as well, so I felt I was being true to my journey for the year in that regard, while sort of recharging my battery for my creativity for myself.

    This Labor Day, as I pause to reflect, one aspect I have been grateful for on my baking journey this year, is taking the time to learn and work on new recipes just for the sake of learning something that I want to know more about and share with others. People have said in the past that I should do this as a business or as fulltime work, but for me that would take away the joy and relaxation that I experience when I bake, the ability to shut off my anxieties and just be. 

    One practical offshoot of this endeavor has been allowing myself to look at other labors or work that I do in my life with a new perspective. I have never had the best relationship with any of my past jobs in my younger days, always being way too dependent on them for my daily existence, for all aspects of my life, and so afraid of what might happen if I ever unexpectedly lost that integral part of my existence.

     Learning for the sake of learning has been the tool I needed to change how I relate to work. It has allowed me to take the time to step back and look at how I relate to my tasks and make changes that might not seem practical to others, but are necessary for me to finally have a healthier relationship with the concept of work, learning, career, and how I fill my time on a daily basis. 

    This Labor Day that is my hope for others, that they too may be able to figure out what it means to labor, to work, to create, to contribute to their life and their community, and how to do so in productive and healthy ways.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Baking with Crisco

     So, as I have been sharing my baking journey this year, friends and family have been sharing recipes with me, and challenging me to try some of their favorite treats. This has been an unexpected bonus to me as I never know what interesting tidbits I might learn.

    The other day I was overjoyed to receive an message from my dad's cousin, Wilma. She then advised she would be mailing me her mother's, my great-aunt Jessie, cookbook from 1930. Wilma and her husband John did not waste one moment of time getting to the post office. The book arrived just a few days later.

    I decided that my next new cookie recipe to try would be one from this cookbook, The Art of Cooking and Serving by Sarah Field Splint, published in 1930. 

    I knew I wanted to do the orange sugar cookie as it would fit in nicely with two of my other new to me cookies from this year, the key lime and lemon cookies. Another reason I wanted to do an orange cookie is because Wilma and John are from Florida and I figured this would be a nice little tribute to them, oranges always are associated with Florida in my mind. 

    I wasn't sure how it would go as I have never baked or cooked with Crisco. I knew I wanted to be authentic to the cookbook and follow the recipe exactly as printed at least for the first batch. I was able to find some Crisco at our local grocery store. They didn't have any of the cans I remembered sitting on the shelf in my grandma's cupboard back in the day, those were all sold out. I did manage to snag the last packet of butter flavored Crisco sticks and used that. It was easy to work with and the dough was very creamy and smooth.

    I now have what I call my Summer Citrus Trio. This has been one of my more popular gift plates of cookies. They are just fabulous!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Resolution Review

     This year I took a different approach to New Year's Goals/Resolutions. 2020 was such a year of losses and grief for everyone, especially for our little household. We are still reeling from our new reality, the loss of my dad. That loss colored my approach to goal setting for 2021. I knew I needed to make a resolution that would set me up for success, that I couldn't take any more failure or loss. I also knew I wanted it to somehow honor him, distract and calm my churning mind, and maybe bring about some sort of good in the communities I belong to, somehow, in some small way. 

    After a lot of contemplation I came up with this plan, to try at least one new cookie recipe, new style of cookie decorating, a new dessert, or candy each month, that would be at least 12 new things this year. My dad was a great cook and he really loved to eat all the dessert I would make,

    I happened to start well, dove in when I had moments of ability to focus, and baking is a cozy thing to do during a cold Michigan winter. I also decided to share my baking experiments with others, especially with parents of friends of mine that found themselves having to be assisted living care or have lost their spouses, and always making sure to make my mom plates of treats. She has no interest in my new experiments. For her, I make her tried and true recipes, favorites that her mother, my grandma Marie, used to make. My mom's choice is usually either brownies or chocolate frosted chocolate cookies.

    I am happy to say that I have reached one aspect of my goal. I hoped to try at least 12 new desserts this year and I have already exceeded that goal! I have also shared many plates along the way, learned new stories about friends and family as I shared these treats, and have healed small parts of my heart. 

    Along the way, many people have sent me recipes they want me to try, so that has now shaped my approach on what desserts to make next. I also have been studying  more on the history of baking, cookbooks, recipes, and ingredients. Happily, this has proven to be a very satisfying endeavor.

    Here are the new to me treats I have made so far this year: 1.Almond Molded Candy, 2. Almond Melt Away Cookies, 3. Blueberry Muffins, 4. Chocolate Chip Roll-out Cookies, 5. Chocolate Frosted Chocolate Cookies, 6. Coconut Macaroons, 7. Espresso Cookies with Mocha Ganache, 8. Ginger Turmeric Shortbread, 9. Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies, 10.Key Lime Sugar cookies, 11. Lemon Lavender Cookies, 12.Lemon & Thyme Shortbread, 13. Molasses Cookies.

Monday, July 5, 2021

PSA-Let's Talk About Death

     I'm not sure why it was never discussed. I don't know if it was just us, or if other families have this same issue. I have started asking other folks about it, now that we went through this last year.

    My parents didn't have a will. Even after all my dad's health trauma in 2019, and him moving in with me and my husband in July of that year, we never discussed the possibility he might die some day. Even with all the years of my mother being ill, we had never discussed-what if she actually died, or he did. Even when it got to the point that he had already outlived the time frame of his immediate family by a decade, it never occurred to me to think about a time that comes to all people, that one day he might not be here with us any more.

    Once my dad moved in with us, we were so busy just getting through each day; finding small pleasures in watching old movies and me making him his favorite foods for breakfast, lunch, and supper, it never occurred to me to think about the what ifs. It never crossed my mind to consider if they had burial plots or ideas about their funerals. And being 2020, would any of their plans have mattered in the cluster mess that 2020 was???

    As it became clear toward the end of 2020, that time was not on our side, hospice was called in for help. And their help was invaluable. They helped guide me each step of the way. They helped me reach out to the national archives for my dad's discharge papers for his military service since he was entitled to a burial plot for himself and my mother, to military honors funeral, even if it had to be abbreviated due to Covid-19, and helped me find a funeral service company, Michigan Cremation and Funeral Care, that works with veterans and their families.

    At least now, since we have been through this with my dad, we have talked with my mother, about what she wants, what her thoughts are on death and after death. I have written down my thoughts in regards to the what ifs for myself, and advised what notebook they can be found in. My husband and I have had the hard conversations. It can happen to anyone, best to think it out now while everyone is well and can say what they want. Because if the unthinkable happens-a life altering illness or injury-it is hard to make those types of decisions for someone you love so dearly.

    My hope is that if even one person can have a bit of their pain lessened from the lessons we learned, then it will make all the panic and confusion we went through have some sort of meaning. We need to do better as a society in making conversations about death just as much a part of life as all the other things we fill our days with.