This pandemic has driven many to turn to food as a source of comfort. I would be lying to say that I haven’t indulged in the occasional “bad” carb after a particularly stressful day. People are cleaning out the junk food in supermarkets while leaving the produce and grocery aisle practically untouched. The emphasis on certain comfort foods reminds me of one of my favorite food experiences as a kid and teenager. Camping. There is absolutely nothing that tastes as good as food made by a campfire after a long day of hiking. I went camping with a group of people and while we were outdoors, no expense was spared as far as the food budget. S’mores, grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, tacos, peach cobbler, vegetarian hotdogs and other delicious wonders were available in abundance. It was a great time to enjoy nature while also experiencing the community component of preparing food in large quantities and having good conversations as we huddled around the campfire for warmth. Nowadays, I find myself preparing more food than I ever have at any point in my life. I make dinner in the evenings and meal prep for most of my lunches at work. I’ve become more comfortable doing it and I find myself making more things from scratch and passing on some of the more processed foods. Nothing excessive but just a more intentional effort to eat a bit healthier than before.
I had what one might call a pretty rigorous religious upbringing. The mandatory family worships every morning and evening and attending church services weekly. My family was at church even when other people weren’t and we did hundreds of hours of volunteer services for the good of the church. Church was never a suggestion, it was a requirement. My parents (bless their hearts) kinda sabotaged my spiritual life, I wasn’t allowed to choose what day I could be baptized on and what my religious beliefs would be. It was already chosen for me. My beliefs followed me through high school and college due to the extensive foundation. After graduation from college, I moved 1000 miles away from home and continued to attend church regularly as I had been taught. I found a church and I was very involved. However, as I was going to my graduate school classes and working I realized that I really hadn’t taken the time to develop my own set of beliefs. I learned so much from all my classes and realized that my religious background was ill-equipped to address the questions that arose. I became a bit of a religious wanderer and joined a huge church with 7,000 members and immediately became very involved. I was there at least 4 days out of the week assisting various ministries. But I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me. Needless to say, my upbringing has made me think about how I would like to raise my future children and I have to say it will be much different.
I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics. There’s something to be said about watching people compete to be the best in the world. I remember wanting to attend the summer games when the Olympics were in Atlanta. We only lived about 3 or 4 hours away but my parents quickly vetoed that course of action. But in their defense, they DID have 4 children under the age of 7 at the time. As a homeschooler, I talked my mother into letting me write a report on the Olympics to count for school credit and I watched for hours at the 2000 Summer Games. I remember always thinking about how old I would be when the next Olympic games came around and what my life would look like. So much has changed every four years in my life up to this point. From watching the games in my living room in the middle-of-nowhere Alabama, to watching in between classes and homework as a college freshman, to watching highlights online in my Colorado apartment because I didn’t have cable as a struggling graduate student, to watching in my living room as a doctoral student in metro Atlanta. I have so much respect for all the athletes who have dedicated their life to a literal pursuit of being the best in the world in a particular sport. It takes so much focus and determination and work behind the scenes to be able to get to that point. They have pushed themselves over and over again and now are engaged in a competition where they will have the chance to prove themselves and bring home the gold to their home countries. But it’s also a reminder to me to do something interesting or reinvent myself in some way every four years. There’s too much time in that 4 year gap to not do something unique and productive. After all, they say “good” is the enemy of “great.”
It’s not quite Thursday yet but this song deserves some early recognition. I love how music can bring back so many memories that you don’t always readily remember. I realized that I hadn’t posted a song in a long while and this one is definitely a throwback. I remember when I first read about B2K in a magazine and heard their first single on the radio. I was hooked. I knew the names of all the guys and determined that I would somehow get my hands on their second album. It was one of the first secular albums that I bought and it kept it hidden away. This particular song brings back memories of vacation in Florida and listening in the wee hours of the morning on my personal CD player (back when those were popular). I have to say that this is a great song. It’s catchy and speaks of (implied) undying love and commitment. I definitely was one of the many people who were disappointed when the group decided to go their separate ways but I’m glad they kept it together long enough to make this album.
Growing up, music was a big part of my life. Both of my grandfather’s appreciated good music and played it quite often whenever my family and I visited. One grandfather had a radio in every room playing a different radio station at all times. It was chaotic but still provided music to fill any resemblance of silence. There are a few members of my family who are quite musical and my grandfather decided that I should have the benefit of music as well. So I started piano lessons at age 5. I took to it like a fish to water. I had a great teacher named Aimee who let me teach myself and just have pointers. I don’t remember how she did it but she taught me to read music in a way that made it easy to learn. In fact, to this day I don’t remember not being able to read music because I was so young when I started. I remember getting my first music book and playing on the black notes before graduation to the white keys. I was so eager to learn that I learned all the music in the book within a week of getting the book. I practiced all the time and really enjoyed it. Abruptly after my lesson my wonderful teacher started to cry and told me that she was moving away. I was devastated. She referred me to another piano teacher who she promised would help me to develop my natural talent. The next teacher I had was a taskmaster. She had a ruler she would use to hit my knuckles when I hit a wrong note. She emphasized technique and memorization. I slowly felt my affection for the instrument fading away as it got swallowed by hours of practicing songs I didn’t like and keeping my nails short. The funny thing is that I actually started to improve. Eventually I changed teachers and started to get even better. I practiced a lot and was faithful in my hand exercises that were designed to make my fingers more nimble. I was being trained to be a classical pianist but my parents religious convictions about certain things prevented me from being in competitions. Needless to say, I knew I was good at playing but I never knew exactly where I was compared to others my age. My parents aspirations for my playing seemed to not go much higher than accompanying a church congregation. However I continued taking piano lessons–even when my favorite teacher died of cancer. All that being said, I had about 16 years of piano lessons. The longest hobby I’ve had to date. Playing an instrument taught me about discipline and sticking with something. I can still read music and I have a deep appreciation and respect for musicians and for music that actually has musical value. While I know that all kids aren’t musically gifted, I think that creative outlets are very important. Children who are perpetually bored tend to find non-productive ways to spend their time that sometimes become criminal in nature. That’s why I think it’s important to support the arts and expose children to somethingthat is new to them.
I’ve been left handed for as long as I can remember. It’s always been weird bumping elbows with people at the table and using scissors that are excruciatingly uncomfortable. The combination of being homeschooled AND left handed lent itself to the assumption many people made that I was smart. The jury is still out on that one but I must admit that being left handed requires you to think a lot more. You have to write really weirdly on spiral notebooks and judge distances when you are trying to navigate activities designed for righties. Let’s not forget how uncomfortable it is to sit at a right handed desk and actually take legible notes because you don’t have anywhere to put your elbows. The funny thing is that while I use utensils and write with my left hand, I do pretty much everything else with my right hand because it just comes more naturally. I don’t know that many left handed people and I remember reading stories as a kid of parents who forced their children to be right handed when they saw that they favored their other hand. I ran into this interesting article that talk about characteristics of left handed people and it was rather eye opening for me. I won’t comment on all of the assertions of the article but I will say that as a leftie who knows a few other lefties, I do think that we indeed do get angrier in certain stressful situations but I don’t know if that should be blamed on being left handed.
I’m the type of person who really hates feeling confined. I’m not a fan of small places and while they don’t evoke a panic-like reaction from me, I don’t go out my way to experience them. My parents attest to this fact by reporting I was an escape artist as a toddler. For some reason I hated my crib and would often raise my foot above my head to the guardrail and hoist myself over the railing and fall to the floor. Somehow I managed not to permanently injure myself as I escaped multiple times from my jail–I mean crib. Growing up and being homeschooled afforded me the ability to have a nice balance of structure and flexibility. I remember playing outside in our backyard one day in rural Alabama and saying to my mother that we should go visit my grandparents in Michigan. She liked the idea and within about four hours we had embarked on the 17 hour roadtrip north. Totally unplanned and random. I personally know a lot of people who stay so tied to their to do list that they miss out on a lot. Flexibility is a trait that can come in handy because it demonstrates an ability to think on your feet. I love structure and predictability but I’m also a firm believer in planned spontaneity. Those are scheduled times where I get to do whatever I want (within reason) without an agenda. I’m still in the process of finding a great balance of structure and planned spontaneity but I believe it can be found.
As I’ve mentioned before in some previous posts, I don’t watch a huge amount of television. As a result, I’ve grown to have an appreciation for the commercial free atmosphere of Netflix. In addition, it’s nice to watch seasons of shows instead of waiting for a week before the next episode. One show that has really grabbed my interest is Dexter. I just finished season 4. I only watch the show in short bursts because it can be fairly intense, but I’m drawn to the complexity of Dexter’s childhood and how it has affected his behaviors as an adult. By no means do I think that the show is child friendly but it is SO intriguing from a human behavior/psychology perspective. The show is about a blood splatter analyst (Dexter) who has a secret of his own. He wrestles with being a traditional family man and keeping his big secret from others. Dexter has had a traumatic experience in his early childhood that has set him apart from other people. He had a father who taught him how to function in a way that would prevent him from spending the rest of his life in prison. The unique thing about the show is that the storyline is in first person. Dexter struggles in every episode with what he is expected to be and who he really perceives himself to be. While Dexter’s challenges with his secret are more marked than many other people, in every season he becomes more of a person. Watching Dexter navigate his personal and work relationships is a reminder to me of how often we can stereotype or assume things about others. On the surface, no one would ever guess that Dexter has this huge secret because he struggles with being genuine and honest with himself and others. As a result, Dexter has few close relationships.
I was a really interesting child growing up. My parents emphasized the importance of independence and doing things for yourself. However, they were by every definition pretty strict. I wasn’t allowed to wear colored nail police (only clear) and a host of other guidelines that were specific to our household I didn’t necessarily agree with. As a result, I learned ways around the rules that I decided were pointless. I decided from an early age that my parents were amateurs so I wouldn’t be too hard on them when they messed up the whole parenting thing. They were inexperienced so I would cut them some slack and not expect perfection because I knew they were trying even if their methods were highly flawed. With this perspective I proceeded to find ways to bend the rules. It was then that I had a childhood epiphany. While bending the rules or breaking them without getting caught required stealth, strategy and good timing, I had to make the decision before I broke the rules that I was willing to deal with the consequences of my actions. So it immediately became a toss up. Was the reward of breaking the rule bigger than that of the corresponding consequence? While this was a lesson I learned as a child, it also has larger ramifications. As adults, we are not usually subject to the discipline of parents but we can experience discipline from our jobs, from school, or other entities. Even as adults, it’s easy to make a decision without counting the cost. This can be especially true in situations where you have to make big decisions about careers, relationships, and goals. Sometimes you have to make a decision without having as much information as you’d like. However with the making of the decision you automatically assume all the risks and benefits that come along with making that particular decision. You are the one who deals with the consequences. You can’t pawn it off on others. But on the other hand, you are also the one who can benefit from your choices as well. You just have to make the right ones and then let the chips fall where they may.
One of my goals this year is to travel more and I haven’t been the greatest at that as yet. This weekend I took my first trip this year. I was a kid that grew up traveling all over the Southeast and Midwest area of the United States. Sadly, these trips usually included of 12 hours or more of riding in a van. As I got older and learned to drive, the trips were more enjoyable because I could actually do something instead of sleeping or reading in the car. My siblings and I had some great experiences exploring the downtown areas of different cities and going to various museums and zoos. Even today, while I like going to my tried and true favorite spots, I also love to go places I’ve never gone before and have a totally new experience. The problem with traveling for me is that it takes probably about six weeks of planning in order to make it happen. While I am spontaneous and I like spur of the moment stuff, living in the middle of nowhere really puts a damper on that. I have to coordinate all my job schedules, find a place for my dog, ensure that I have no prior obligations, and plan for flights and transportation. In addition, this also includes doing school work in advance and then doubling up when I get home in order to ensure that I don’t fall behind in assignments. All of this can easily become a logistical nightmare. However, there are few happy feelings that beat walking onto the elongated trailer thingy that connects to the plane. The start of a new adventure and a chance for new experiences and people. I’m determined to have more of that this year. Despite all the logistics and financial challenges, life is too short to feel trapped in the middle of nowhere. I’m traveling more this year.