Monday, April 13, 2020

What I Love About the COVID-19 Era

I know, I know... what’s to love about a world pandemic that sweeps through our new decade, interrupting normalcy, shattering lives, and leaving a path of destruction and uncertainties? Please stay with me for a moment in your thoughts and ideas...

While each person may be affected in different ways, essential workers, non-essential workers, the young and fit vs. the vulnerable to health challenges, each of us has had to face something that was unthinkable only a few weeks ago. We cannot “go back” - we are told. We start to realize our culture, our habits; our very being has been changed forever. Never before has this pivotal time been realized with such significance to the population of the present era. 

Here is what I love, despite the tragedies, frustrations, and random loss of human life.

I love that sheltering in place brought a new sense of “home” to so many that rarely took the time to just “be”... “at home”.

I love to see children riding bikes and playing in driveways - a scene that rarely appeared for past decades as so many families would rush around to meet the many schedule demands. Kids get to have days that are fluid and they are learning to entertain themselves, some for the first time ever.Theirs mealtimes have evolved from the former grab and go, take out menus. 

I love the artwork! The creativity, sidewalk chalk drawings and painted rocks through the neighborhoods.

The baking, the bread making, new recipes! 

Photojournalism is more creative than ever, from the professional videos to the television commercials, to the homemade social media “stories”. The messages and how they reach our minds – so clever!

Waving to the passerby has never before had such meaning - such enthusiasm behind this simple greeting. Like a reassurance from one human to another saying,"yes, I’m ok".

Parents are learning to appreciate what teachers do for their students. 

Kids and families are receiving the gift of time together. Home cooked meals. Dinner table conversations. 

I love that he millennial generation is breaking their steadfast "text-only" commitments to pick up the phone and have ”real” conversations with loved ones.

The walkers! Taking walks! For many, taking a walk is new thought. It is the simplest practice and now a known privilege.

Some of us have more time to reflect during this quarantine.Time to really think things through! With much of the addictive distractions of our culture abruptly removed, we are shifting, and realizing that there IS choice in what the future holds. There always was, but now many of us are motivated to use “choice” in new ways, as our freedoms will become reinstated over time.

It is amazing to think of the things we once took for granted... the appreciation for the most simple and ordinary freedoms we once had. We now have time to decide which things we really want to keep - once there is another side to this pandemic threat. 

Each of us can expand on this list and it will, in all likely hood be a different list from person to person. In spite of these differences, this era demands we all reach deeper, hold on tighter, search and seek gratitude in ways we never before thought possible. These “gifts” will serve us for many years to come. 

My hope? That this will be a time of new ideas to expand on, and that we find what is truest to our souls. Individually... and collectively. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas Cards

Dear Ones,

Thank you so much for the Christmas card!

I opened it with excitement to hear from you… the wish received for a wonderful Holiday was received, and made us both smile. If you hand wrote a little note, even more special.

Receiving greetings, notes, pictures and updates, we never tire of… ever! Please know that truth - in spite of the absence of a return greeting in your mailbox.

The minute I opened and read yours, I mentally wrote you back a long letter full of memories and updates from our family. I also wish you peace, joy, and the gifts beyond material things for you this Christmas. My wishes extend to your loved ones as well. The key word here --- mentally.  Alas, my thoughts never transcribed to the pen and paper... Sadly, the thought to reciprocate by sending you a New Years card never quite made it either. However, it was a great idea when I thought of it! In January, as I put away the box of Christmas cards and stamps I bought, I have learned to bless my intent and forgive myself for not following through…

The detailed updates are always fun to read. There was a day when, I too took time for this tradition, adding photos, updates, and sentiments. Life changes over time - and crazy/amazing family situations occurr, and it gets complicated… A milestone was reached for our family as adult kids left home and it seemed an appropriate time to hang up the tradition in favor of simplification. It is difficult to start new traditions if one cannot let go some of the former… But, it is not for lack of love of the tradition itself, or for the desire to connect with you at this special time of year!

So keep them coming as you will, and yes, let's connect in the New Year. 
This new decade is a perfect time for that!

Merry Christmas!

With much love,

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Devil in the Fire

The devil in the fire...
This photo, taken in November 1, 2002 shows the salon I worked in burning to the ground. A speeding vehicle had plunged into the building as the driver swerved to pass a car on the highway and completely missed the mark. By the time I arrived at the scene, the last flames were being extinguished and the realization that we had no building to work in, no tools to work with and suddenly, no income, were slowly sinking in. We did not even know which clients were on the books for the coming week. The appointment books, the contact numbers, everything went up in smoke. Gratefully the one stylist that was supposed to be working that night, her client had cancelled, so the building was empty. The driver found himself in the middle of the salon, got out of the car and escaped without injury before the series of explosions occurred from the igniting hair product chemicals and hairspray cans.

Linden Salon Fire - 2002

If you look very closely at the picture, you will see an image present in the flames. There is an old Fire House phenomenon that when Fire Crews come upon a fire, there is often an image of the devil within the flames. This photograph was the second of a series of three photos taken that night in 2002, and seeing it gave us the chills….

Realizations of loss took days - and even weeks to process - as we quickly sprang into action finding a salon in a neighboring town to take us in, gathering basic hair equipment, doing what we could to secure licensing…. Having proper paperwork in order was impossible, we did the best we could and just kept going, knowing the loss could have been worse if it was our homes or if anyone had been working in the building when the fire occurred.

I will not even pretend this experience compares to the current situation of then Camp Fire Victims in California – or any other fire victim that lost homes, their home town, or loved ones. The purpose of me finally recording these events – 16 years later - is to share some of the “take always” that it took years for me to process.

It. Changes. You.
Surviving any tragedy resulting from any level of fire destruction is a traumatic event. It is a major marker on your Life Calendar, you will refer to things that happen over time by referencing, “before the fire,”, or “after the fire”. As you journey through the following days, weeks, months, you will become more tolerant of change and more compassionate of those around you. The support of community, the sharing of your experience is helpful throughout. You value things differently. You value LIFE differently… It changes you forever.

Recovery Processes
Once that devil of the fire is finally put out, there is a long road ahead for the processes to evolve.  I pluralize "process" because there are many factors to pay attention to, and you cannot possible take them all on immediately. There are many side stories to my own ordeal, and there will be many for so many California fire victims.

Protecting your health is your number one priority, you cannot possibly be of help and support to so many suffering around you if you become sick and needy yourself, this goes for anyone working on relief efforts as well. To do this, it is essential to prioritize establishing a routine, taking your medications, get your eating and sleeping under control, protecting yourself from smoke exposure, etc... Please address any trauma issues you might be experiencing., Seek out Crisis Counseling services, talk about it, write about it, cut yourself slack for forgetfulness as you take in the overwhelming amount of information that comes your way.

No Short Cuts
For the relatively short time a fire burns, there is no short cut to getting back on your feet. Expect to take time with this entire process. The tedious job of identifying and valuing each little item that you lost is painful and overwhelming.  Most of us want to stick out heads in the sand, and be done with the tragic experience. We want to magically feel normal again, put the whole memory behind us. There are many reports from fire victims that it takes 18 months to 2 years to reach a recovered state, materially and emotionally. It is especially difficult to live through this time period with so much uncertainty about the final outcome.

Filling out forms, securing temporary housing, searching out resources and all the while protecting your health from the lack of routine, sleep issues, stress trauma, is so important though daunting. Take baby steps as you can. Try not to think about everything at once, easier said than done. As you chip away at each recovery task at hand, be clear on prioritizing which things to attend to first. This is especially important when it comes to financial assistance and working the insurance claims.

Insurance Adjusters are Humans
We heard a lot of awful “insurance adjuster” stories when our salon burned down, but also acquired some awesome support and knowledge from our clients as we moved through the process of an insurance settlement. This took many months and I am clear that every situation can be very different. Gratefully, I saw that a retired Insurance Agent recently came forward in one of the Facebook Groups for Camp Fire Victims offering this same advice. You can read his words here.

It is so important to remember that the professionals you are dealing with, (even as they try to devalue Aunt Mable’s precious wedding ring that you lost in the fire) are human beings with a job to do.  Be kind, courteous, and business like. Try not to let your emotions rule. However, do argue the value of each and every possession as it is warranted for your case.  Do NOT be in a hurry to “settle” quickly for you will be remembering forgotten items for many months to come.  Be fair and honest but do allow for the fact that, most likely, you are not able to list full value on everything you own.

To wrestle “the devil in the fire” takes time on every level, emotionally, physically, and - from a business perspective. This is your new job now... resolve to do it well. Your future financial security, AND your general well being count on your willingness to be alert and find the ability to chip away at the many tasks you will be facing.

There will be little blessings along the way… acknowledge them, look for them, expect them. Once you find yourself on a better side of this whole process, and surrounded by your shiny, new  possessions, take the time to love the level of gratitude you have learned through the entire experience. You so deserve every level of comfort that awaits you!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mommies are Magic

Celebrating Motherhood

mothers day 2018
"Mommies are Magic"

I always wondered how my Mom found out so many things that we thought she could not possibly have known. Always amazed that her knowing nod would reveal her understanding or observation about the smallest things, or what we thought were secrets.

“Mommies are Magic”, my cousins would say, as if that explained everything.  It became apparent that the “Magic” extended to Aunts and Grandmothers alike, and really, Sisters, Teachers, or any woman you looked up to for guidance or advice.

Motherhood is sacred and is not limited to the traditional type of Mother, the diversity of Motherhood is celebrated year after year, from Country to Country.  There are no borders or boundies if your heart sings of this nurturing relationship.

Happy Mothers Day and may we celebrate the diversity of Motherhood… and the Magic!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's A New Year

2017 – a year containing the gift of time – good times and fun surprises as well as challenges and unexpected disappointments…. and a few things that I have not quite figured out by year’s end.

new year
New Year - 2018

My takeaways this year?

The days go by fast. However, quality over quantity means that easing into the day is a sacred rite, and a chance to start on a positive note. What we think and say during these waking moments drives the direction of the day.

Big decisions need time - sleep on it, then decide.

Focus more attention on what the world needs more of - every day! This is a personal decision.

Complaining zaps good energy away and does not solve problems. I try to sidestep this tendency - there are so many better ways to spend my time!

Frozen Blueberries do not work in the pancake batter unless they are patiently thawed first. While on this subject – (note to self) - put a rubber band on the container of fresh blueberries when you take them camping!

Keep looking up!  Stay positive - but when that warning light keeps going off, pay attention. Intuition is at work!

Time spent outside makes problems seem smaller - this goes double at the beach!

Feeling judged is usually a sign of judging others too much.

Owning the moment means being present no matter the circumstances. Each experience is a stepping-stone on the path, skipping too many “steps” may cause one to stumble.

Strive for contentment, but most of all, notice it.

Put forth intent, on purpose and deliberately!  This is a huge and important step towards achieving what is most important to us!

Every year brings new discoveries, and chances to learn even more. This IS the “abundance” in a life lived fully.

When the tides change, you can swim against the current, or get out of the water and walk along the shore.

Expect Miracles! (Look for them).

Direction matters more then the speed at which one travels.

Finally, and I learn and re-learn this every year, but it bears worth repeating - The best parts of Life are usually not about reaching the destination…

May we know Peace, Love, and Joy in 2018!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Camping Pancakes

I know most campers believe that pancake mix is a no brainer when it comes to packing up the family for a camping trip - but I will share with you my recipe for "pancakes from scratch" because I have found a way to bring what I call "real pancakes" to the picnic table at your favorite campground.

This practice is not new, it's the way I was raised. I never really understood pancake mixes - pancakes have relatively few ingredients and you have to dirty the bowl either way! Though many of the mixes are good, when you assemble your own ingredients, I think you will find your pancakes to come up a notch or two in quality. It really is hard to go wrong here.

So I have a tried and true "recipe" for a pancake mix that travels easily. We always take eggs and oil with us, so to add these and water to my mix is really not a problem or a bother. I like to use Grapeseed Oil for baking and cooking.

pancakes, camping pancakes, pancake mix, homemade pancakes
Fresh Strawberries & Pure Maple Syrup on Camping Pancakes

Camping Pancake Mix

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup powdered milk
(I omit the 3/4 teaspoon of salt that most recipes would call for, but you can add that if you want to.)

I do have a secret ingredient that gives the pancakes the best flavor! I sometimes add 1/4 teaspoon of Penzey's Baking Spice or a dash of Cardamom. It gives it a little bit of a Swedish pastry flavor.

You can put these dry ingredients in a jar or a quart storage bag and add a label with directions:

Add 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cups water, & 3 Tablespoons oil.

You can opt to replace one of the eggs with 1/2 cup shredded apple (delicious!)
Add some Cinnamon too!

That's it!

Wisk the ingredients up and pre-heat the griddle or fry pan to medium-low heat, you are on your way to bake some pancakes to remember.

Tip: when the bubbles stay indented on the first side, the pancake is ready to flip.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Hill Station" Chai Tea

How I learned to make Chai Tea

chai tea, tea, hot tea, straw, reed straw, reed straws, spiced tea
Spiced Chai Tea - shown with the "Reed Straw
Tea time is my age-old friend.  To share a cup of tea is love and friendship.  To savor a cup of tea is a chance to pause.... and breath.

I first tried the Chai Tea Latte at the coffee house on the advice of a friend, and was instantly hooked! From then on I tried different "Chai Tea" products and tea bags - all to have them disappoint me. I am not sure if what I tried had a different balance of spices?  Or the quality of the tea leaves?

I ran across a Facebook post that showed how to make Chai Tea and was intrigued. Before I even tried the method and recipe in the post, it spurred a conversation with a man that frequents India! This was good luck for me, and now, out of that conversation, I have developed my own method to make Chai Tea.

First, the spice "brew" needs to be made separately for the Tea.  Long ago, I read up on the art of tea making.  It is a big deal not to steep those tea leaves too long.  My rule, 5 minutes, black tea, and 3 minutes, green tea.

Now, back to the spices - the conversation went like this:
"My chai blend is gleaned from a restaurant in India: Black Tea Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Sesame Seeds, Black Pepper, Red Pepper, Cardamom, Fennel Seed, Vanilla Bean, and Nutmeg
If you try it yourself, know that it takes awhile for the Sesame Seeds and Cinnamon Bark to suffuse. And don't over do the Black and Red Pepper."

We agreed that a Crockpot is one good way to make this brew.  And that the brew can be used over a period of a couple of days if you "refresh" it periodically with another slice of fresh Ginger.  The tea is added to the cup of spice brew so as not to steep the tea leaves too long.  You can use tea bags or an infuser.

So into my pot of water go the cinnamon sticks and the sesame seeds first, giving that the most time to steep before adding the additional spices:

2 cinnamon sticks
1 t. of sesame seeds
then add:
1 slice of fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
2 whole cardamom pods - crushed
1 T. of Fennel Seed - crushed
1 small piece of whole nutmeg (or a grating)
1/2 of a vanilla bean (split)

Let this brew steep for a couple of hours. You can use a warming plate or the warming tray of your coffee maker, as well as a crockpot for this.
Pour the spiced brew into a cup.
Add quality tea leaves in an infuser or tea bags to the cup. Use the recommended steeping time guidelines for tea. Remove the tea leaves (or bag).

To serve: You can add cream and sugar but I love it without!

My Facebook friend added to the conversation:
"If your experiments lead to something that needs a name I think 'Hill Station Chai' would be appropriate. In the days of the Raj, Hill Stations were where you could get away from the heat and dust of the dry season. Not everyone could afford it, but not everyone was able to afford the selection of spices in the more elaborate chais, either."

Now to sip my tea while my mind drifts to visions of life in India.....