Giving away power

I was always a hugger. I can remember at church on Sunday’s when I would see all the older women. I knew they had life savers in their purses, and I would charm them, give them a hug, and hope they would share their Lifesavers with me. See I never had much candy growing up, so Lifesavers were a bright light (especially after a church service).

In any case, I was never forced to give a hug to the older ladies at church. It was my choice. I have no idea what it would have been like for me if I was forced to hug them. This Daily Om titled: “Repressing the Inner Voice” talks about giving away our power. When we are forced to hug family members against our will. It will make me that much more aware when I have kids of my own, and make sure I do not put them in situations where they might not want to share a hug with another individual.

I know as I have gotten older, I am definitely aware of when I want to share myself with another. I am probably entirely more open with love and hugs than I was when I was younger, but it is still my choice. Kids are often in positions where they do not have a choice, and parents need to make sure they are listening when their kids voice their opinion that they are not comfortable. This is such a great end to this Daily Om:

“All we have to do is have the confidence to listen to our own voice and let it guide us as we make our own decisions in life and remember the necessity for balance.”

Balance? Yes. That seems to be an ever occurring reminder in my life. Balance. Balance. Balance. Be sure that you are not giving away your power and that you are not putting others in a position of giving away their power.

“You get what you believe.”

Sometimes Oprah just nails it. I saw this quote from Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook over the weekend. There was one of her big mega events in New Jersey and author Elizabeth Gilbert joined her for the event. Oprah said:

“YOU DON”T GET WHAT YOU WISH FOR; YOU GET WHAT YOU BELIEVE.”

Wow. That really made me think: Do I wish for things, or do I believe in them? Then my mind goes in a few ways. See, I have had a lot of anxiety going through my thoughts these last few days. I have had this flu bug thing for literally an entire week and when you get slow and spend a lot of time on the couch, your brain slows down. For me that means I think about each and every little thing, but in slow motion. All the events happening in the next few weeks, and all the things I have to do for those events. Both in my professional and personal life. Let me just say that it is a lot. To get it off my chest, I shared the list with Chris on Saturday night. In between blowing my nose, coughing, and snuggling into my pillow and blanket.

My mind then wonders — if you get what you believe does that mean that you think something bad could happen, then it will? Or is this just specific to good things? While I do not have an answer to that question, Elizabeth Gilbert later shared this on the same Facebook thread:

“Lay your wishes aside for a spell, and look deep into what you believe about yourself. Make sure your beliefs about your own life are anchored in greatness, in holiness, in worth, in grace, in joy, in excitement —in internal certainties rather than external circumstances. Because that belief? That’s where you’re heading, no matter what it may look like on the outside.”

So — then I should err on the side of leaning towards the good. I should be excited for what is before me, regardless of whatever might make me anxious at that moment, or about what I anticipate. Instead, believe it all to be good. Believe in my own worth, in my goodness, and greatness.

Believe it to be better than I can ever imagine.

Encyclopedias were my Google

I am not that old, but I did not grow up with the Internet at my fingertips. Instead, I had World Book Encyclopedias. They were not cheap either. At one point my mom sold encyclopedias. I always found it kind of odd. However, looking back I have a hunch she sold them so that we could have the sample set in our house. Whenever we would ask a question about something my mom would tell us: “Look it up.” I was never really a fan of pulling out the volumes that were massive like “S” and always wondered what was in the volumes like “Z.” “Q” (like Z) were in mint condition because they were rarely opened.

I had not really thought about encyclopedias in years, until I read this in the book: “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn:

“Encyclopedia salesmen were a fixture of suburban America in the 1950s and 1960s, widely mocked by comedians. Regardless of the brand, the hard sell invariably included an expression of grave concern that a potential client’s children would suffer without having a ‘library in the living room.’ Most offered a payment plan to help ease the impact of the investment, which could be the equivalent of half a year’s rent.” Page 81

Her book is such a great memoir and reminder of so many items long forgotten in life, such as Chef Boyardee (which I wrote about a few days ago). It is actually incredible if you think about how fast the sharing of information has changed over the years. In addition to encyclopedias, we also had issues upon issues of National Geographic. While some of the covers and photos inside horrified me, it was a view into other parts of the world. Now we can do that in just a few clicks.

Today we are spoiled rotten. We do not have to wait to print a new version of encyclopedias and know that the money we shelled out for an entire edition of encyclopedias are old the second they are printed. We can read more than one can ever imagine after a few key strokes. We have instant access to good information and instant access to time-wasting information. It makes it much harder to know the integrity of the details, but there is plenty of it, and it is fast. We never have to worry about having a “library in the living room.”

Chef-Boy-R-D

I remember as a kid that my mom made a few items for dinner that I just found nasty. I will name a few: creamed dried beef, Brussel sprouts with vinegar, lima beans with nothing (yuck, lima beans in general makes me gag), too-thick hamburger burnt on the outside and still raw on the inside, and hard, break-your-teeth pizza. Now do not think for a minute that I am throwing my mom under the bus. She tried and I know my family was finicky. I for one was. There were so many things I hated as a kid, but I am sure a lot of it had to do with the rotating meals — many of which I could not stand. What I want to tell you about was the pizza.

My mom would make pizza from a box of Chef Boyardee. I used to make fun of the name, and spell it out: Chef-Boy-R-D with a slight accent. For us it meant buying an item at the grocery that was “name” brand. It was supposed to be special, but I found it disgusting. It tasted nothing like the pizza from Pizza Hut (which I had the opportunity of having occasionally due to Book It – where in grade school you could get free pizza for reading). I was recently reminded of our pizza adventures when reading the book: “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn where she shares:

“So imagine their delight when they discovered a local grocery carried the new ‘pizza kit’ from Chef Boyardee. The box contained ‘all the ingredients for a traditional Sicilian-style pizza’: a package of add-water only pizza dough, a small can of tomato sauce, and a packet of dried Parmesan cheese. Following the directions, they spread the dough with oily fingers into an inexpensive pizza pan, spooned the thin sauce over the top, and then sprinkled it with the powdered cheese.” Page 12

She says it so well: add-water dough, can of tomato sauce, and dried Parmesan cheese. Which part of that makes you think yummy? It tasted like cardboard. Pizza night should have been a fun night and instead I wondered what excuse I had to get out of eating it. My sister remembers a different pizza story. She remembers a much later phase when my mom began making pizza from a can of biscuits. Hopefully you can see that our pizza experiences eventually got better. Not amazing, but better.

We would open the can of biscuits, and place each individual blob next to each other on the pan and then roll them out together to form the dough, add tomato paste (yuck who uses tomato paste for pizza)? Then shredded mozzarella, and then she baked it. I rarely remember other toppings. I think very occasionally she would get a tube of sausage and cook it so it became ground sausage and sprinkled it on top, or at a random time she might have purchased a packet of sliced pepperoni. Otherwise it was cheese only. I do not remember there ever being spices. Almost as though she tried to recreate what she saw, but forgot the flavoring part of it.

The evolution of the canned biscuit pizza did evolve into a treat. Somehow we started having dessert pizzas. Canned biscuits rolled out with pats of butter chunks were laid around the crust, brown sugar and cinnamon were then added on top of the butter. Whatever fruit we had (not all kinds worked) put on top and then baked. Often it was an apple. I never cared so much about the fruit, the brown sugar and cinnamon was what made it all worthwhile. Yum!

Clear. Focused. Present.

Last night I responded to an email that had been in my inbox for a few weeks. I apologized for not responding for so long, yet I have to say it is normal for me to do that. Am I horrible friend? Maybe. Or I just care about sending a focused, well thought out response? Yes, yes, yes. I feel like when I finally have quiet time to respond, I want to make sure that I truly focus on that individual. Almost as though I am sitting right across from them at a table in a coffee shop, or cozy on a couch (depending on how close you are to said individual).

I want to give their message my undivided attention. I answer their questions, check in on life, and give an update on my world. What is it that makes me do this? I care that much. Maybe it was so many years of emails in my past work life, but I think about the effort I put into a message, and I think about the person on the receiving end, hoping they feel cared for by having contact with me. Now, do not worry, I am not an angel, nor am I trying to paint a picture of goodness. I merely am sharing because I think it is a way to care for someone in this crazy, fast, digital age.

So if you write shorter emails with minimal questions you will probably hear back from me quicker. If we have a more involved conversation via email, and I do not have focused windows of time to get back to you, then you might have to wait for an answer, but you will know that when I respond to you, it will be all about you. Focused. Present.

Do you think about that when you respond to emails? Do you just try to be done and move on to your next task, or do you really focus on the other person?

Complete presence. Clear focus.