School Supply Shopping: Load Up on Good Memories

I’m still enticed. Every year. Late summer comes and I see them. School supplies line the School Suppliesaisles of Target, Office Depot, even Walgreen’s.

The aisles of notebooks, pens, folders, planners, backpacks, and crayons kind of get me fired up. It’s a fresh start, new beginnings, a clean slate. I haven’t been in school for a long time and my kids are in their 20s. But when I see those school supplies lined up, awaiting their new home, I tell myself, “You’ve been kind of slacking this summer, getting loosey goosey. You can do better. Buckle down!” And then I may throw a pack of Post-it Notes or new Sharpies into my cart.

I wanted to know what other people thought about school supplies. The responses were as positive as a package of pink erasers.

“Buying supplies makes you feel very productive, but no work is involved so it’s a false sense of productivity,” said A___, a 26-year old grad student.  A___ elaborated: “You get to go and buy new things, and I like to buy new things, but you need to buy them so you’re not feeling guilty.”

A__ is sporting an avocado pencil pouch, and avocado and houndstooth binders as grad school begins. Who can’t succeed with that?

21274-crayon-box-sharpenerWhen asked whether he liked school supply shopping, N__ said, “I don’t. It’s a necessary evil…like all shopping.”  Like most 21-year-old engineering students, N__is a bit of a contrarian but he did soften a bit on the subject. “Yeah, I like it,” N__ said.

Soon N__ will return to college and he’s packing some notebooks, folders, and mechanical pencils. Nothing fancy. He’ll also bring along his cigar cutter, laptop charger, and hot sauce collection. And his sarcasm.

L__ has been out of the school supply shopping business for decades but carries good memories. “It feels good,” L__ said, “I like to get organized.” L__ may have other issues like feeling his life would have more order and discipline if he wasn’t surrounded by less organized minds.

For M__, seeing the school supplies is also a positive vibe. M__, 27, said that she misses school supply shopping. She works in the healthcare field, but still has fond memories of playing store with her sister on the porch after bringing home the load of supplies. It brings back good memories.

My mind rushes back to the ’70s when my school career began. I loved summer more than most things. I resented school’s impostition on my free time. School supplies, however, were a different thing. New clothes. Yawn! It meant new knee highs and blouses for my school uniform. And I didn’t care about who my next teacher would be or who I’d sit next to in class. But school supplies were oh-la-la!

Now for me, school supply shopping surpasses any New Year’s resolution for sheer motivation to be more productive with my time, get back on a routine, get my head in the game. And it lasts longer too. Even if I don’t buy a single pencil.

Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping (or Rule 2)

12 rules

Jordan B. Peterson has captured the attention of many people like me who are yearning for some heterodoxy. Upon hearing or reading his dissidence, you’ll think it is what used to be called common sense. JBP reads a lot, thinks even more, and has written a best seller that cannot be reviewed as one book because it is so full. I’m taking a few of my favorite chapters and giving you my take. Get your hands on that book though. Or listen to his podcast. Or hear him interviewed on someone else’s podcast.


Rule 2  Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping is not 33 pages of looking in the mirror and speaking self-affirmation. That’s unless the mirror is the two biblical creation stories and a glance at the naked ape.

The chapter begins with Peterson questioning why a third of people don’t fill their prescription for medication, and why of the those who do fill it, half don’t take the medication correctly.

He notes, however, that people will fill and properly administer medication for their pets. That predicament leads this psychologist to wonder what makes people prefer their pets and how much shame must exist for that to be true. Peterson has some answers that are well thought out and researched, but hardly take you on a straight line. You might have to read paragraphs more than once but you’ll see some things make sense, especially if you believe in God.

Shame is the start of the journey through Genesis into the nature of the world. Scientific truths can only account for the past 500 years worth of viewing the world.  Man viewed the world before that as a subjective story of shared humanity.  Every drama or story contains the elements of chaos, order, and consciousness.

Chaos is the unexplored territory. It’s “all those things and siturations we neither know nor understand.” Chaos is freedom too, and freedom can bring forth all kinds of good and bad.

Order is explored territory. It’s the structure and certainty of life. But when man relies too heavily on it, “order is sometimes tyranny and stultification [tedious and routine].”

Back to the first creation story, where we are introduced to chaos and order. Chaos was the unformed world and order was spoken forth by the creator who said it was good. (Does true speech always brings order to chaos?) As the human brain developed over millennia (our minds are older than mere humanity), it represents the expressions of these two views as a hemispheric structure. Order and chaos. Right and left brain. The hemispheres in the cortex reflect the division between order and chaos. After all, every human understands that chaos, disaster, and mayhem can rear its ugly head anytime, especially when things are going very well.

Allstate embodies this in their commercials with the cocky antagonist Mayhem who envisions and brings about the worst case scenario that no one forsees – which is why you buy insurance. Mayhem is good at what he does and we can all relate to it.

“We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos. We eternally occupy known territory, surrounded by the unknown.” Petersen says. “We experience meaningful engagement when we mediate appropriately between them.”  It’s the yin and the yang, baby!  The human condition.

That leads us to the second creation story (as both Genesis stories were combined from two different Middle Eastern sources into one account): Adam and Eve, Eden, the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Who read that account and didn’t emerge with lots of questions?

Adam and Eve represent the consciousness needed in a drama, that mediating between order and chaos. Because their story begins with relative innocence and unconsciousness also known as nakedness.

The snake comes with the chaos enticing the humans with the thrill of the unknown, the adventure of a new dimension, the promise of improving their lot. or the Prior to the snake, their only danger was what order-only brings: remaining permanently stilted and immature, and having no purpose. Was that more or less dangerous than the challenge of the snake? God knew.

But what does that have to do with nakedness? Shame is the crux. Shame, self-consciousness, and self-contempt to be more precise.  However, the story unfolds to show that the human’s nakedness unsettled them to such a degree that they hid and lied. Fear was introduced. And sometimes you hate the thing you fear. They were awakened to their flaws and inadequacies – to be able to look at themselves with contempt. Enough to want to withhold prescription medication for yourself and not your dog?

Dogs, like most mammals, are predators. They kill to eat. They destroy the life of another to survive. They aren’t mean. They don’t know their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They don’t act out of malice. Humans know “how and where we can be hurt, and why. That’s as good a definition as any of self-consciousness.” according to Peterson.

Good and Evil enters the world as humans who hurt others because they now know how badly it inflicts damage. Through premeditated suffering. Through the terror we enact. Animals didn’t and can’t create the guillotine or the bomb. The rise of self-consciousness exposed humanity’s free will (chaos) and its reluctance (Adam hiding) to walk with God and embrace our divine spark to speak out the truth (order).

In order to care for ourselves properly then, we need to no longer see ourselves as fallen creatures and be able to respect ourselves again.  Living in Truth, “we might treat ourselves like people we cared for.”

Humanity suffers less from its violent impulses as it did in its barbaric past but instead is bogged down in shame and self-contempt. But Peterson teaches, “It is not virtuous to be victimized by a bully, even if that bully is yourself.”

Peterson builds up a linear argument that is challenging to summarize. But we should treat ourselves well because our well being affects those with whom we are linked. We should respect ourselves, our diving spark, our human ability to overcome and thrive. We even deserve some sympathy for being “subjugated to our mortal vulnerability, tyranny of the state, and the depredations of nature.” So we should cut ourselves some slack.

Respect and care for yourself despite being fundamentally flawed. Respect your being and its divine spark. Consider what is truly good for you. (Since a theme of this book is responsibility, what is good for you might not be what makes you “happy.”) Define who you are and articulate it. Ensure your life has meaning. Once again “walk with God in the Garden,”

Half way through this chapter when Peterson is explaining the evolution of the human brain and the intricacies of the creation stories, you might lose track of the original treatise. But he gets you there, and you feel as if you understand it better than ever before.


Spring: Are You Here for the Right Reasons?

Spring is coming again. I need to have a talk with myself. “You’re going to be disappointed. How can you stop yourself from being crushed?”

Of course I like the idea of spring and the end product. I am willing, more than willing. But I have major trust issues. I’ve been burnt or, rather, frozen by spring before.

When you live in the Upper Midwest, the beginning of March means you’ve been through three months of winter. Winters may be mild or harsh, but when they come, they stay for a while. They get a permanent parking spot. You know what to expect: short days, cold, and snow.

Spring is fickle here. I hate fickle.

I’m here for the right reasons.

Spring is kind of like The Bachelor. In case you’ve missed the past 17 years, 23 seasons and 242 episodes of the show (14 seasons of the Bachelorette with 159 episodes) because you value your time and your soul, or you clip your toenails on Monday nights, here’s how it generally goes: 30 contestants show up eager and willing to find true love and, in the case of the Bachelor, get them a husband. (The Bachelorette flips the script and lets a bunch of dudes find themselves a Mrs.)

Yes, it’s a game. Many think it’s unrealistic and cruel, which brings me back to spring.

Lots of people write flowery love stories about spring. “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring.” Or “An optimist is the human personification of spring.” Or “Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.”

The sentiments are dreamy, hopeful, fawning, and bouyant.  Like falling in love.

But when it snows on April 5, you think, “Spring, I thought you felt the same way about

snow flower
Trust issues

me. You really seemed to be into me.” Then like the rejected contestants on the Bachelor you feel blindsided, embarassed. You put yourself out there and opened up – even if that is hard for you – and you feel like an idiot for it.

You had looked ahead: a pedicure and sandals, light jacket, sunlight, warmth, revival, sitting outside and smelling the lilacs, etc. You could see yourself and spring moving forward toward the ultimate conclusion.

Then the thermometer reads 34 degrees on April 25.  The newly sprouted leaves wonder if they should have taken the risk, like all those desirous husband seekers. “Can I just steal you for a minute, Spring? Was I misreading your intentions? You know, I’m here for you! I’m here for the right reasons.”

Spring courts me every year. It cozies up to me with its sunshine and warmth. The chirping birds, the buds pushing up, the longer daylight. All the promises of the future to come. Can we make it through this ordeal and come out together?

Spring breaks me heart every year because it can. It has the upper hand because I am more willing than it is.  While spring woos me and still plays patty cake with winter, every year I show up and give it my heart. I just never know how long I have to wait. But I do.


Who Let the Fairies Out?

Don’t be fooled by the very intriguing title, this post is a recipe. It’s one of my favorites: Irish Soda Bread.

(Real) Irish Soda Bread rarely comes with raisins or currants. I can’t imagine why people add caraway seeds to it. And if you’re eating Irish Soda Bread and it doesn’t have a hard, crunchy crust and full of nooks and crannies, spit it out. It’s an imposter.

I believe Irish Soda Bread was made for butter. However it would go good with a nice soup or stew too. I mean put peanut butter on it if you want. Jam or marmalade. Eat it plain, I guess, but enjoy the chew and the crunch and the simple flavor.

This recipe comes from a recipe book I got in Ireland in 1990. I’ve made it at least once a year since, usually on St. Patrick’s Day, and even when my husband went gluten free for three years.

The author is Darina Allen and if she doesn’t sound particularly Irish to you, here’s the rest of her bio: she owns the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. There’s some good cred.

My favorite thing about this recipe besides the finished product is the one line in the

Freshly cut cross! 

directions that says, “…and cut a deep cross on it to let the fairies out.” Fairies in Ireland are not necessarily Tinkerbell or the little charming nymph who collects teeth. Fairies can be evil, vicious, and out for blood. You certainly don’t want them running amok in your bread. I mean the carbs alone might kill you.

This recipe has five ingredients. It is simple and lovely and will make your eyes smile!

White Soda Bread

  • 3 1/2 cups ap flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bread soda (baking soda)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups buttermilk (can use sour milk
Ready for the butter!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees while making loaf. Mix well or sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and kned lightly for about a minute, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches deep and cut a deep cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 450 degrees, for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven to 400 for 25-30 minutes. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

To make scones: You can also flatten the dough into a round 1 inch deep and cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes in the 450 degree oven.


Benefits of Weight Training

At one time, I was a one-trick pony about exercise, I did cardio. About 12 years ago I got this information from an open house at a health club. It made me think about weight training, which is how all changes happen with me – I mull it around and think about it. 

Slowly I began incorporating some weight training. I was hesitant because I didn’t think I would burn as many calories and get that sweet, sweet runner’s high. That idea slowly changed to as I got more informed and started practicing.

These aren’t just ideas now but tried and true. Give them a try – or at least think about them first and then try it.

Starting or continuing your weight training program is much easier if you know some of the benefits derived from weight training.

  1. Weight training tones your muscles, which looks great and raises your basal metabolism, which causes you to burn more calories 24 hours a day. You’ll burn more calories while you’re sleeping.
  2. Weight training can “reverse” the natural decline in your metabolism which begins around age 30.
  3. Weight training energizes you.
  4. Weight training has a positive effect on all of you 650+ muscles.
  5. Weight training strengthens your bones, reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
  6. Weight training improves your muscular endurance.strong
  7. Weight training will NOT develop big muscles on women…just toned muscles.
  8. Weight training makes you strong. Strength gives you confidence and makes daily activities easier.
  9. Weight training makes you less prone to lower back injuries.
  10. Weight training decreases your resting blood pressure.
  11. Weight training decreases your risk of developing adult onset diabetes.
  12. Weight training decreases your gastrointestinal transit time, reducing your risk for developing colon cancer.
  13. Weight training increases your blood lovel of HDL cholesterol (the good type).
  14. Weight training improves your posture.
  15. Weight training improves the functioning of your immune system.
  16. Weight training lowers your resting heart rate, a sign of a more efficient heart.
  17. Weight training improves you balance and coordination.
  18. Weight training elevates your mood.

Tak Bak Kum: Korean Chicken

The Racine Art Museum’s benefactor, Karen Johnson Boyd, was a great cook and loved to entertain in her home. She allowed the museum to compile some of her favorites that were sold in the museum store as fund raiser for RAM.

Here’s the recipe:

Marinade for 1 1/2-2 pounds chicken:

marinated and ready to bake
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp sesame seed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki or sukiyaki
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 8 squeezes of fresh ginger
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped or 8 green onions, chopped

Make mixture ahead, marinate the chicken in it for at least a few hours to let the flavor soak throughout. Bake chicken at 350 for 1 1/2 in juice, basting occasionally. Drain juice, save and heat to serve on the side. Broil chicken until crisp.

Where I deviated: We really like chicken thighs so I chose to use those. I made the marinade the night before while making dinner and so the chicken was able to sit for 24 hours.

I don’t know what “squeezes of fresh ginger” really means so I grated some fresh ginger. I  also chose to use a chopped onion rather than the green onion since I thought they would do better with the heat and duration of cooking.

I did baste a few times and that did make the skins crispier – which I really liked.

Conclusion: This chicken was delicious, full of flavor. I didn’t bake it the whole 1 1/2

finished chicken

hours, more like 1:10 hours. There wasn’t left over juice to heat and serve on the side. I may consider reducing it in a separate pan instead of basting.  That “juice”/marinade is so flavorful and you should make sure it’s either used for basting or a sauce.

I served this with basmati rice and green beans. A nice Asian slaw would be good too.

The Force: Grandma and the Aunts

In 1976, my older brother graduated from high school. A large party seemed to drop from the sky, in my 11-year-old eyes. In reality, it was a lot of work. If I stretch my memories, I recall some unwanted nagging, knowing my mom was stressed about cleaning the house and making sure it stayed clean.

IMG_1117But on party day, it seemed effortless. A lot was because of these three ladies. Sisters. Grandma and the aunts. When there was a holiday, they sprung. When there was a wedding, they baked. When one of their children had a party at their house, they became a united, untiring force.

I was never privvy to the coordination but I knew there was a conversation something like this: What does Sue Belle (my mom, Lorraine) need for “Jackie’s” (my brother named John aka Jack) graduation party?

And then it began. These ladies were devoted to “a la famiglia” in the micro and macro.  We were noisy and rambunctious, and seemed to be the light in their worlds. We all had very special bonds with our own grandmas. I knew how my grandma hummed when she cleaned or cooked. I knew what kind of candy was in her purse. I knew the smell of her house for Sunday lunch. I learned to love provolone cheese from her. We also had bonds with the aunts.

In the limited way  that a kid understands people, we knew that that these ladies worked hard because they were always busy. Also, when they were done working, there was a bit of fanfare as we were asked to “rub Auntie’s feet” or “get me a glass of water” or ” grab my purse for me.”  They slowed down to play cards or talk, and you usually got to hear an interesting story or a some laughs. Or bickering, which they could manage standing up too.

Each of these ladies had their own personalities and strengths. They would probably be a good case study on the birth order effect. They had their marriages and children and grandchildren. They had mutual friends, but each had their own spheres of influence.

But when I see this picture, I think of them as one. They shared so much of life together. They shared their families with each other and each other with their families. They were “grandma and the aunts” and they worked well together, probably better together.

The youngest sister just died at age 100. My grandma, the oldest, has been dead since 1981. The middle sister died some time in between. We joke that they are bickering with each other again, but I imagine they feel that oneness again, with everyone and everything.