Lollipop of mediocrity…

Mediocrity. It is not a word I think much about, as I am not much for being mediocre. I am all about driving excellence, doing your best thinking, pushing the envelope, and iterating over time to hone a craft, project, or outcome. I have extremely high expectations for myself, and those in my life. I am not looking to surround myself with mediocrity. So when I came across this Fast Company article this week, and read a quote I had never heard before about Gap’s new CEO, Art Peck, I had to smile:

“The 59-year-old hates classic rock (because “it’s stuck in time”) and has a quote next to his bed framed by his wife: ‘Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once and you suck forever’.”

After a quick Google search I found the quote is from Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. It is a quote that helps to visualize mediocrity. In a lot of ways it is a good mantra to never settle, to always push, to create new ways of looking and thinking about our lives each day. Whether you are a firefighter, a school teacher, a boss, or you are in a job you hate, you always have a choice of whether you are going to come to work each day and be mediocre. What is the point of life if not to change, learn, and grow? How can you do that when you do not try to be a better person, friend, employee, or family member?

While I do not plan to frame this quote by my bed, it is a great reminder to continue to push myself (yes, I know I am already relentless). To never settle, to ask questions, dig deeper, and live my life to the fullest. I already have a very full life, but whenever the naysayers want to talk me down and bring me back to mediocrity, I will be reminded to stay away from the lollipop.

Never settle.

Random recipe: Chocolate Chess Pie

My mom was not always the most amazing cook or baker, but somehow I have childhood nostalgia for a few recipes we made as kids. My mom’s recipes had a bit of an early burial. After college my sister purchased a used laptop. This was back in the day when a laptop was as thick as a brick, and cell phones were used in cars for emergencies and also looked like bricks. Not long after she purchased the laptop she decided to transfer all of my mom’s recipes over to the laptop and get rid of the paper versions. Made sense at the time right? Not until the laptop died and she lost everything on the hard drive. This was before we had a zillion ways to back up a computer.

It was a sad day. Over the years I have thought about that laptop and all the recipes we lost. I still have some of my mom’s cookbooks, but the recipes on index cards, worn and used are long gone. A few of the recipes I remember and have not tried to recreate, but there was one particular recipe that I have tried countless times to recreate with no success. I have tried to remember the ingredients and put together what I think were the amounts, and I have tried to find a recipe on the Internet with similar ingredients, with no luck. I have had runny finished products, nasty tasting ones, and ones that were just boring. Chris has given up on me finding it. I am relentless. I will try until I find it.

Recently I found this version on Design Sponge. Still not my absolute favorite but it gets closer to the real deal. We were lazy and purchased a pie crust rather than making it from scratch. For the full recipe click the link below (pie crust included). We also just used ice cream rather than their whip cream. To me a good Chocolate Chess Pie should be served warm with cold ice cream to make the pie congeal. A bit like a warm brownie and ice cream. If you have your own version, let me know – I will try it!

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chess Pie (From Design Sponge)

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

In a medium bowl, stir together both sugars, the cornmeal, nutmeg and cocoa powder, mixing until completely combined. Stir in the vanilla, butter, eggs and evaporated milk and mix until fully incorporated. When ready to bake, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the pie and cool for at least one hour. Serve with ice cream.

Our toys have gotten shitty

Our niece turned one year old a few weeks ago. We decided to send a few toys and one of them was reminiscent of our childhood. Do you remember the Fisher Price Little People Farm? It had a barn door, and when you opened it, it mooed like a cow. There were other farm animals, a fence, and a grain tower. There was a little window at the top of the barn that opened and you could put the little people in there so they could look at the farm where the bales of hay were stored. Ahh….memories.

So a few weeks ago we are in California at Charlie’s house, and the Little People Farm comes out, and we are flabbergasted. The thing is a cheap piece of crap. The barn doors do not open. There is no mooing noise. The little people are not little. The animals are funky looking and fat and their legs do not bend or move. The fence is chintzy. We spent over $40 on hoping to create our childhood memories for Charlie and find that she got the raw end of the deal. It was horrid.

I want to send a note to Fisher Price and ask what they were thinking. Her barn – well the top comes off. No noises come from the farm, and honestly it just looks like a barn lunch pail. Saddened that such a shitty birthday gift made it on her doorstep (compliments of Amazon), we later found a toy store and had fun seeing what fascinated her. In the end we found a cute bowling set up of animals, and had fun having her roll the ball to knock them over. What child does not love knocking over anything? I have to say, I am not biased or anything, but Charlie is damn good at kicking a ball.

After some online research, I found the original Fisher Price Little People Farm going for over $100. Seriously? Fisher Price needs to go back to its roots and produce a toy that lasts as long as the one I used to play with — I mean it lived in the nursery of my church for years and years. Bring back your vintage farm. It was worth it just to hear the moo when you opened the door.

#Childhoodnostalgia

Markings etched deep

From time to time I ponder getting a tattoo. I have an idea of what I would get, potentially around my wrist. It would be small and almost like a piece of jewelry. My problem? I cannot stand the sight of needles. They freak me out, whether if it is for a blood test, or to pen a part of me permanently. The pain does not matter so much, I have a high tolerance for that, it is the thought of the needle and the blood that comes after said needle. I get woozy, faint, and useless. Yet, somehow I still kind of want a tattoo.

So when I finished reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I thought again about a tattoo. I was intrigued by this novel just from the title. It resonated with me. As an orphan myself, I wondered what it was about and if I would be interested. It was a quick read novel, and it easily sucked me in. A one sentence synopsis: A girl who is basically an orphan does community service (or go to juvenile corrections) with a 93-year-old woman, they bond, and learn that the woman lost her entire family when she was nine in a fire. You can imagine what happens, but it is the rich story that pulls at your heart-strings.

So what does Orphan Train have to do with tattoos? This quote shares a bit more:

“The things that matter stay with you, seep into your skin. People get tattoos to have a permanent reminder of things they love or believe or fear, but though she’ll never regret the turtle, she has no need to ink her flesh again to remember the past. She had not known the markings would be etched so deep.” page 214

There are so many things I have experienced in life that have etched deep markings on my soul, my brain, and my body. Physical events that have taken a toll on my body. Experiences that have been etched in my brain (both good, amazing, bad, and horrible). Many I would never want etched into my skin. My memories are reminders enough. Sometimes we forget how deep the pain has seeped into our skin. Other times we are reminded of the touch of another and how deep that runs in our veins. The touch that calms us, brings tears to our eyes, and who we really are is brought back to the surface. The best invisible tattoo yet.

A letter has a life of its own.

I have always been a fan of letter writing. There is something that comes out of your soul when you pen ink to paper. It is not the same when you send a text, or when you write an email. There is something private, raw, and real about a letter that shares from deep within a heart. Maybe that letter was not the first draft. Maybe it had been written over and over after many drafts, and the final version is what takes the journey from mailbox, to post office to truck, to mailbox, to the hands of the recipient — who has a moment to absorb themselves into the words shared with them over many miles. They have a choice to keep and treasure the letter or to throw it in the trash. That letter or card has a life of its own.

A life of its own. This is why I love that, in a few weeks, it will be National Letter Writing and Card Month (April). This article from Huffington Post shares about a contest from Crane called: “The Letters You Keep” — which invites people to share about the letters they have received over the years. I still have quite a few letters from my past. My mother and grandma wrote me telling me what was happening in their lives while I was away at high school. Later I received letters from my grandma while I was away at college, and while a counselor at camp. I have the 10+ page letter my father wrote to my mother telling her how she had ruined our family with the sickness that had plagued her body. You might wonder why I have kept that long letter? It is a moment of history. It tells me a bit about my father. It reminds me where I come from, and how far I have come.

What I regret is all the letters that are missing. The letters I received from Santa (penned by my father). What wisdom might they have told me about life or given me wisdom today about my father? Were there letters between my sister and me? I do not have any. Maybe we were always together? Maybe we communicated more via phone. I also regret that I no longer have the emails between Chris and I from the early stages of our dating life. No they were not handwritten, yet those were the earlier days of emails and instant messaging. We probably were excited and passionate about how quickly you could go back and forth to share our thoughts and feelings without having to wait for the mailman. We actually saved a lot of them, but they were lost on a hard drive that died when a laptop crashed to the floor. I still have that hard drive in hopes that someday we will be able to magically resurrect our early days of falling in love.

Whether or not you join Crane’s contest, I hope you will at the very least take a few moments to send a card to someone you love, someone you appreciate, or someone who has not heard from you in eons. As the Huffington Post article states:

“A handwritten envelope found amidst catalogs and credit card bills is the equivalent of a still-cold canteen in the middle of the desert. It’s refreshing and gives you reason to keep going.”

Think about who in your life needs that still-cold canteen. Reach out to them. You might just find someone to be there to quench your thirst.