Friday, April 18, 2014

Thing #13

       Thing #13. Learn to do something with your hands, like knit or crochet, so you can be productive while watching television or waiting at appointments.

I learned to knit and crochet as a teenager. I’ve never mastered the ability to follow a pattern—I think it requires a mathematical brain, which I lack—but I’ve made a great number of scarves and blankets in my day. My mother-in-law taught me a simple crochet pattern—slanted shell—that I use for most things. She’s made afghans for all of her children and grandchildren, and many, many other people.

I’ve also learned a few things off the internet—granny squares and a very pretty scalloped edge stitch, for example.

What I like about crocheting is it’s something easy that can occupy those idle moments when I’m watching TV or waiting at an appointment. I am able to be productive. And the things I make become special hand-made gifts. If you master following a pattern you can make sweaters, bags, hats, socks. My sister Jeanette even makes stuffed animals.

My friend Liz (pictured) is never far from her knitting needles. In this photo she’s finishing up an amazing cowl scarf while I’m starting a new baby afghan during a movie marathon at her daughter’s home. Fun times.

Another nice thing that can come from a hobby like this is the opportunity to build relationships with others who share this interest. I have friends who are in knitting clubs. And learning a new stitch from a friend—or a mother-in-law—creates special memories.

So give it a go. You’ll never watch movies at home the same way again.

Here's a recent project for my friend's baby. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thing #12

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Thing #12: Speak up.

This is a lesson I have spent most of my lifetime learning, and I can’t say I’ve mastered it. I am often hesitant to say what is on my mind. I don’t know if my opinions are worthwhile, if my ideas sound smart.

You see, I’ve never thought of myself as an especially bright person. I was a “B” student in a household of “A” students. Even my best friends were on the honor roll. But, over time, I’ve come to understand that it’s only in certain areas where I’m not as bright as others. In other areas, I’m very smart.

Especially at work. I work in communications, and I have learned a thing or two over the last 30 years, so I am getting better about speaking up in discussions. It also helped hearing a co-worker once tell me she liked it when I spoke up.

I’ve also learned that sometimes there needs to be one person to voice a differing opinion in order for other people to say “Yeah, me, too.”

I heard of a situation recently where the board of directors of a company made a controversial policy shift and when that policy was made public, it was, shall we say, not well received. They quickly reconvened and reversed their decision. It came out in those subsequent discussions that some of the board members had never been comfortable with the original decision—but they never said anything.

So, my friends, trust yourself. Speak up. Take the risk. Sometimes you’ll be shot down, but other times you’ll hear those lovely words, “Yeah, me, too.”

Let me leave you with the words of Christopher Robin, speaking to one of my favorite characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, “A Bear of Very Little Brain.”

You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thing #11

1.        Thing #11.  To remember a joke, tell it to someone else as soon as you can. And then tell it again.

I heard a good joke on the radio this morning on my way to work.

        Did you hear about the two antennas that got married?
       The wedding wasn’t much but the reception was great.

I didn’t want to forget it, so I repeated it to Abby, who was driving me to work. She’d heard it, too, of course, but I wanted to repeat it so I could remember it.

A couple hours later, one of the older gentlemen in our organization came by my department. He’s well-known—and loved—for his cache of funnies. I told him the joke and he gave a hearty laugh. Then he told me one in return.

                A mother went to wake her son one Sunday morning for church and he told her, “I don’t want to go to church today.”
                “Why not?” the mother asked.
                “Nobody there likes me.”
                “Well, I’ll give you three good reasons why you should go.”
                “Okay,” he said.
                “One, it’s Sunday. Two, it’s good for you. And three, you’re the pastor.”

We had such fun swapping jokes. I’m so glad I had one at the ready.

To remember a joke, tell it to someone else as soon as you can. And then tell it again.

Did you hear about the two antennas that got married?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thing #10

Thing #10. Memorize a few good questions to serve as conversation starters when meeting new people.

From time to time, we’re all in situations that require us to chat with someone we don’t know. It’s helpful to have a few standard questions in mind to get things rolling. Here are some suggestions:

·         What do you like to do in your spare time?
   o   How did you get started doing that?
·         What do you do for a living?
     o   What would be your dream job?
·         How long have you lived here?
      o   What is the most interesting place you’ve lived?
·         Do you have family in the area?
      o   Where does most of your family live?
·         What is your connection to [whatever created the circumstances for meeting the person-- the event, the party host, the company hosting the event,. . . .]
·         Ask the person you’re chatting with the question she just asked you. (If she asks you to name your favorite movie, ask her what her favorite is.)

What are your favorite conversation starters?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thing #9

Thing #9. Write someone a letter.

Yes, a letter. A hand-written, on paper, fold-it-up-and-put-a-stamp-on-it letter. Or a card. Cards are good.

Letters mean more than they ever did. Email, texting, and phone calling are easier, quicker, and more efficient. But a letter. A letter has meaning and value.

business,contracts,documents,fountain pens,inks,men,office supplies,paperwork,people,signings,implements,writings,academicMy mother was a good letter writer. While I attended college 400 miles away from home, I received a letter from my mother every Wednesday. As I read each one, I pictured her sitting at the kitchen counter on a Monday morning, recounting what happened the week before, anticipating what lay ahead. It was never anything particularly profound, but the fact that she wrote me every week reminded me I was loved and missed.

That’s the value of a letter. It says that you cared enough to stop what you were doing for more than 30 seconds and think about what you could say to someone to brighten their day, to let them know you care, to remind them they’re loved and missed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thing #8

Thing #8. Use your cell phone for personal reminders.

This is really a tip from my hubby. For years, Doug has put reminders in his cell phone using the calendar feature—doctor’s appointments, people’s birthdays, . . . .  He’d say, “I put it in my phone” so often that it almost became annoying. But then I tried it. I wanted to remember to put the trash out every Wednesday, so I put a recurring event in my phone’s calendar. Now, every Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. I get a buzzing reminder from my phone. Before long I was hooked, setting reminders to bring snacks to work, to buy tickets to a concert, or to make a phone call.

Sometimes, the mere act of entering the item into my phone sears it onto my memory banks and I remember without any prompting. But quite often, the reminder is a critical trigger to getting something done.

I've been known to use the reminder feature for something that is less than an hour away. If I need to leave work early to pick up Eric from school, for example, I’ll put a reminder in my phone. It’s easy for me to get involved in a project and lose track of time.

So if you have trouble remembering to do things, use the little alarm clock you carry around in your pocket. Works like a charm.

I remembered to post this, didn’t I?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thing #7

Thing #7: Learn to use your slow cooker. It saves time and money.

This seemed like an appropriate tip for this week because Hubby’s office had a soup day, for which he used our slow cooker, and my place of employment had a “Crock Pot®-luck.” We had 30 slow cookers lined up with everything from soup to nuts. There was pulled pork, baked potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, chicken wings, something called Chicken Tagine (which was super delicious, thank you, Sydne), pineapple upside down cake, and my contribution: corn pudding. Very fattening, and delicious. Corn, corn bread mix, sour cream, butter. You get the idea.

The slow cooker makes my life easy. Throw everything in, turn on the cooker, and you’re done. Quite often I throw in frozen meat, and it always turns out great. My favorite thing to slow cook is soup, and if my recipes weren’t in a book I’d share them with you. (I don’t want to violate anybody’s copyrights.) But I do have some good websites to share:

  • A creative young blogger named Stephanie O’Dea tried a new slow cooker recipe every day for a year and has a cookbook to show for it. Her site has lots of recipes and tips. She’s really funny and uses lots of photos. My kind of gal.

One more note: A lot of these recipes call for chicken breast, and I always substitute chicken thighs. I prefer the juicier meat of the thigh and am happier to spend less money. Yes, there is a bone in a chicken thigh, but it’s a [as in singular] bone, people. Not that hard.

I know some of you are thinking, “I’m just one person. Slow cookers aren’t practical for me.” Super Slow Cooker Stephanie O’Dae offers this suggestion: Cook a smaller portion in a dish placed inside your slow cooker. She says, “Insert an oven-safe dish into your cooker and then put your food into the dish. This will create a smaller cooking vessel which will insulate your food and keep it from getting over-cooked or lost in a huge machine.”

Besides, leftovers are a good thing, yes? Or invite my family over. Problem solved.

So pull out that slow cooker in the morning, dinner’s done by five. Let’s eat!