Friday, June 28, 2019

Fruit For Thought

About a hundred years ago when I was in third grade, we used to get The Weekly Reader, a little kid newspaper that we read as a class. Each issue had a Central Idea, and it came jam-packed with all sorts of articles, activities, and corny jokes to keep eight year-olds occupied and enriched.

I don't remember the Central Idea of this particular issue, but I do remember a statement it made that bothered me so much it has stuck with me for lo these 52 years. The article posited that in the very near future, oranges would cease to exist and science would provide us with juice filled disks that tasted like oranges.

Again, I have no context for this dire (and obviously now false) prediction, but I recall feeling very upset and uncomfortable. I liked oranges, and they held a real familial connection for me. My grandparents wintered in Florida every year. If my parents went down, they would bring home oranges that they picked themselves. One of my grandpa's good friends, Jeptha, worked at an orange grove. What would he do? As was always my way back then, I didn't share that story or my worries with anyone. I sat with that concern myself for a long time, thinking and wondering and probably losing sleep over it. I probably stopped eating oranges for a long time, hoping it would help save them--stretch them out and make them last, maybe.

The good news is that my efforts worked! We still have oranges today, in spite of climate change and whatever threatens the citrus crops seemingly every year.

This got me thinking lately: what fruit, if it suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth, would I generally Be Okay with? I'm not talking about fruits that I don't eat anyway, like dragonfruit and kumquats and durian. I'm talking about everyday fruits that I eat or cook with. Here's my list of

Three Fruits I'm Willing To See Disappear

1. Blueberries
2. Oranges
3. Watermelon

Obviously, I'm going to talk about this list.

1. Blueberries, however healthy they may be, simply do not do it for me. They taste like an old root cellar smells. And heaven forbid you get a mushy one--ugh. They're cute and readily available, but as far as I'm concerned, they can go anytime.

2. I. KNOW! I worried myself sick over Oranges leaving, and now I'm cavalierly bidding them farewell. But, honestly, I don't eat them all that often and I have never been an Orange Juice Drinker. How anyone can drink it in the morning is beyond me. Perhaps my Early Trauma waved me off Oranges so successfully that it ruined my enjoyment of them. Who knows?

3. I can just hear all of you wailing and gnashing your teeth over my banishment of this summertime crowd pleaser, but Watermelon bores me silly. It's also not worth all the effort, much like crab legs. It's a bitch to heft around, store, and butcher. It's messy as hell to eat. And unless you get a seedless one (and sacrifice flavour), you have the annoying seeds to contend with. Forget it. Good riddance.

What fruits are you willing to say sayonara to? And no fair using technicalities to offload your Tomato, Olive, or Cucumber bugaboo.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Last Of The Wise Words And Helpfulness From The Dept. Of Nance

This week we toss in a little bit of everything, from Parenting to Getting Stuff Done to Whatever Lies Between. A few of you decided to share meaningful sayings in Comments last week, so our series will end here. Did lives change immeasurably from our exchange? I'm betting No, but I never made the claim that they would. Instead, we had a chance to share What Works For Us in hopes that we'd lend a little glimmer of light along the way of someone else's pathway in Life.

Let's get started, shall we?

Reader Denise Fortney, in an effort to teach her children personal responsibility, used to tell them, "If you're going to be dumb, you'd better be tough." The longer version, she said, was, "If you're dumb enough to do it, you better be tough enough to handle the consequences." I think this applies to Life in general, where personal responsibility seems to be sadly lacking. The twenty-four hour news cycle is full of people making stupid decisions, stupid statements, or performing stupid stunts but not taking ownership of them. Or acting surprised when they are confronted with their actions. Good heavens! There are cameras and recorders everywhere. And would people everywhere learn how to simply say, "I'm sorry" and then shut the hell up? Too many apologies aren't.

Bridget, from The Ravell'd Sleave, finds this traditional saying to be very true: If you want something done, ask a busy person; the other has no time. I really get this. When I was working, I did so much stuff! I look back on it now, and I marvel at the Superwoman that I was. There were days when I fed the boys, took them to the sitter, went to school for an early meeting, taught all day (grading papers and creating exams in between classes), picked them up, did the grocery shopping, went home and put it all away, made dinner, bathed kids, graded more papers, then finally went to bed. These days as a retired person, I fritter away so much time and feel incredibly imposed upon if I have to do anything out of my usual little routine. The day I had to go get my oil change almost killed me. When I'm busy, I feel like I'm in Go Mode--I do a ton of stuff. But when I have only one thing to do, I will put That Thing off until I absolutely have to do it.

NCmountainwoman at Mountain Musings shared this as a favourite, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but if one of us is going to be angry, then it might as well be you.” I have to admit that I'm not too sure about this quote, and that either I need some context or I'm just not understanding it very well. I tried to imagine myself saying it to my husband in a discussion or argument under some circumstances such as me confronting him about his habit of leaving piles of mail all over, or the unfinished basement tile project. But I just can't imagine saying anyone. I'm sure I'm just misunderstanding the saying, and I know all of you will remove my blindspot in Comments.

Finally, I wanted to share with you a very practical piece of advice that made a huge impact on my life, both professionally and personally. It's a small thing, really, but the difference it made has been incredible. First, a little backstory:

I grew up in a family of six in a tiny bungalow. We had one bathroom with only a tub. We had two bedrooms for four kids; we three girls shared an attic room. My father never did a bit of housework, ever. My mother did just enough, but laundry alone (and we had a wringer washer for ages) took forever. As a result, things were clean, but not always tidy. We were crowded, and if each of us left one thing out of place, it looked messy.

As a teacher, I quickly learned that Organization is your Best Friend. I put into place so many failsafe systems for grading, recording grades, filing, and make-up work that my students were awed. They could never claim that I lost a paper, forgot to enter a grade, or never got a make-up assignment. The System Never Failed. Ever. Other teachers got sick of hearing about how they "should ask Mrs. D. about her system."

I heard the advice on some local chat show. No idea who it was or why she was offering it, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was great advice for me. She said, "Touch something only once and act on it immediately." She went on to explain what she meant, but I only half heard the rest. I already knew what she meant and that it was easy to do. Stop piling mail on the counter to look at later--toss the junk and put the bills in the bill folder NOW. Don't drop your clothes on the chair--hang them up or put them in the hamper NOW. Don't leave the clean crockpot sitting on the counter--put it away NOW. Don't let the clean clothes languish in the clothes basket--Put them away NOW. Don't wait to fill out that form--fill it out and put it in the mail NOW.

I think you get the idea.

That piece of advice is now so ingrained in me that it's involuntary, instinctive--I do things immediately as a matter of course. Even when I absolutely do not feel like it, and it's then when I realize how little time those things actually take. The serenity of having fewer loose ends and an always tidy environment is my reward, and for me, so worth it.

I do hope you've enjoyed this Series of Wonderful Wisdom from our mutual friends here at the Dept. of Nance. And, as usual, we all look forward to your discussion in Comments.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

More Free Wisdom And Helpfulness From My Readers: Part Two, The Things Others Told Us

This week we leave the homey atmosphere of the kitchen and its focus on cooking and head into perhaps the living room or coffee shop booth or office where we listen to some advice from a mentor or friend. We've all had those moments in our lives when, whether we've sought it or not, someone has told us something we needed to hear. That bit of wisdom arrived at just the right time, and we squirreled it away in our toolbox of Life Skills, taking it out as needed to hammer into shape some stubborn part of this project we call Living.

For Julie from Thinking About, it was her boss. He once told her, "You should celebrate everything that you can and want to because Life is hard enough; you might as well have some fun." She especially took this to heart when she found herself unemployed ten years ago. Julie says, "I looked for work, and tried not to worry about money, but I limited the time I was willing to spend looking for work. An hour or two a day, max. My theory was, there is a lot of bad that goes with being unemployed, the main ones being the money, the ego hit one takes, and the uncertainty of not knowing WHEN another job will come along. One should try to find the up side as well. So I took a lot of naps, walked the dog, went to matinees, borrowed books and movies from the library, had lunch with friends, and went swimming." Julie also celebrates lots of holidays, Canadian and American Thanksgiving, and anything else that sounds interesting.

I like this philosophy, which I read ages ago on her blog and took to heart immediately. It reminds me of how Rick and I don't keep track of the price of each bottle of wine in our cellar, nor do we believe in "saving" wine, per se. If we are together, that's occasion enough for a good bottle of wine. It also reminds me of my Creative Writing class. Every time my students finished reading a poem aloud in class, we all clapped enthusiastically, no matter what. I believe in a Lot Of Clapping, even now, for people in general. If I would not be looked upon as an Insane Person, I would clap for my cashiers. Seriously.

Ortizzle's wisdom arrived rather cataclysmically, during a breakup with her first serious boyfriend. His parting shot was cruel and ugly, but it stuck with her in a backhandedly beneficial way. Those words were "You should learn to keep your mouth shut." Many, many years later, she says, "I still haven't mastered it, but I am definitely a lot better than I was. My life-long instinct has always been to react verbally to nearly everything, and it has been a long, slow process of knowing when a few words will help and when they will hinder or make a situation worse, however much I feel they should be spoken."

Sigh. I learned this way way late in life. And like Ortizzle, I am still working to fight that instinct to weigh in, say what I know, correct some error, or generally blab. I recite Silencing Quotes to myself all the time: Discretion is the better part of valor. Less is More. Or, I'm reminded of Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird, “It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike- in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowin' more than they do.”

Ah, To Kill a Mockingbird! That leads me to Reader Jennifer D., whose advice came to her from that book, from dear Atticus Finch. Jennifer D. wrote that she sometimes has "a tendency to get anxious about things and my mind gets carried away with the what ifs. In those moments it is helpful to me to remember the words of Atticus...when he tells his children, 'It's not time to worry yet.' It snaps me back to current concerns."

Longtime Readers here at The Dept. know of my profound love for TKAM. So much wisdom is contained in that novel. I learned a great deal about parenting from that book, from Atticus, and that it gives someone guidance and comfort in other ways does not surprise me in the least. "It's not time to worry yet" is something I often said to my children even as I masked my own anxiety and concern.  Perhaps this summer I'll read it again, despite the fact that I know whole chapters practically by heart.

I have one more post of this series to share. If you'd like to contribute, it's not too late. Email me: deptofnanceATyahooDOTcom. Have any of these Wise Words struck you? Chat with me in Comments.


Thursday, June 06, 2019

Free Wisdom And Helpfulness From The Wonderful Readers Of The Department Of Nance: Part One, The Kitchen

Gosh, I do hope you all managed to Live Your Lives without helpful Sentences to assist you and make you Change Powerfully For The Better while I have been off wringing out my skin and trying to keep mushrooms from sprouting in all the rooms in my house. If one of you is somehow In Charge Of Rain in NEO, please do STOP ALL OF IT. AT ONCE.

I am forced to bake something just to keep dampness at bay because it is 65 degrees inside and outside, and I refuse to put on my furnace in June.

But I have decided that THIS WEATHER WILL NOT BREAK ME, so let's get to some of the Helpful Things you all have passed along to assist us in our daily lives. I'm going to spread them out over a couple of posts so that we have the luxury of discussing them.

Here's one from Kathy B., who credits a friend for this saying I really love and plan to use myself. Kathy says she was "fretting over hosting Thanksgiving for a vegan, a dairyfree teen, a cardiac rehab uncle and five little kids who only wanted mac and cheese." First of all, kudos to her for hosting Thanksgiving for anyone besides her immediate family. I cook only for my sons and my husband and the occasional girlfriend who may be in the picture. Thanksgiving dinner is fraught with tradition and fussiness. And an abundance of side dishes. And now poor Kathy has Special Dietary Considerations and Picky Kids. Her friend told her this:
It's nobody's last meal. 
 How great is that? It's a terrific reminder when you're stressed out about cooking for other people; besides, chances are that they're not there for the food anyway.  They are there for the companionship and fun. (And some actual Last Meals aren't all that impressive, either; here's a list.)

Speaking of cooking, here are a few practical tips from Ortizzle, who shared:
*There is no solution for too much salt. Start over.
*Fried food is perfectly cooked when it floats.
*Recipes were meant to be altered.

I like practical kitchen tips, like put sour cream in a plastic bag and cut the corner off to make it easier to apply to tacos; or thaw meat on an aluminum pan because it's faster; or get rid of onion and garlic smells on hands by rubbing them on the stainless steel sink because they're just that, practical. All of us who cook and bake have tweaked recipes--many times due to necessity--and created things we like better than the original. (And if you've ever read the comments section of any recipe, almost no one makes anything as written, ever.)

Whenever I think of advice about cooking, my father instantly comes to mind. I don't know how my mother kept her temper in check and didn't throw something at him every time he walked into the kitchen. He absolutely did not cook, did not help with prep, and never did the dishes. (We kids all chipped in and bought us them their first dishwasher.) My father was, however, a fount of advice whenever in the kitchen while my mother was cooking. Here are his three favourites:

1. That flame is too high.
2. Make sure you washed your hands.
3. Add more of those tomatoes.

Now that I've typed those, I have to laugh. I say those things all the time myself. But they aren't the only things I say, and of course, I do everything in my kitchen. So does Rick, except for much cooking.  I hate cooking without him.  He cleans as I go and does a ton of prep.

If you have some great cooking, kitchen, or entertaining wisdom, do share it in Comments.  Or certainly chime in with comments about what's been shared here.  I'll be back again with more Wisdom From My Readers about all kinds of things.

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