Let’s Talk Turkey

It’s getting to be that time of year again.  We’ll all be getting out our “fat pants”.  Don’t roll your eyes and pretend that I’m the only one that has two sizes of pants on hand, just for this season.  Now is when we start to ramp up and get ourselves in perfect position for a strong New Year’s resolution.

Here in America, we kick it all off with Thanksgiving.  According to tradition, most of us have a nice turkey, with all the trimmings.  The other day at work, my friend Ryan asked me if I’d ever heard of turducken.  I have heard of it, but it seems like quite an oddity to me.  Ryan said he was thinking about getting one for Thanksgiving this year.

I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food choices.  As it turns out, turducken is not that unusual.  It’s quite common in other parts of the world.  In case you don’t know, turducken is a turkey that’s stuffed with a duck that’s stuffed with a chicken. In some places they call it a “three bird roast”.   When doing a bit of research before writing this post, I came across many variations.  What do you think about a turbaconducken?  Would you like to have turporken this year?

I guess that some people aren’t crazy about plain old turkey.  Okay.  I am in the group that thinks that you shouldn’t fix stuff that’s not broken.  How far do we have to go to make things more interesting?  I saw one example of turducken that has a quail’s egg cooked inside.  I guess that the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

My daughter-in-law, Amy, is a vegetarian, and so are her sons.  They are not having turducken at their Thanksgiving feast.  They are having tofurkey.  I’ve never tried it, but I haven’t had much tofu, the animal that tofurkey comes from, either.  I can’t say that I don’t like it.  It’s in that same unknown territory as turducken.

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m giving thanks for all the simple joys in life. I know each of us has so much to be thankful for.  There’s one thing in particular that I feel blessed with.  My son-in-law, Richard, is passionate about cooking a big turkey for us all!

– Cat

Growing Up In a Musical Family

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When I was a kid, we didn’t watch much television.  My parents didn’t own a color TV until I was grown and gone.  On a regular basis, we would spend evenings playing music and singing.  My Father played the guitar.  Mom has many musical talents.  She would play the piano, and sometimes pick the banjo.  She plays the bagpipes too, by the way, but usually not in the living room.  My sisters and I would sing along, and we worked our way through a big Alan Lomax songbook.

If you don’t know, Alan Lomax is famous for collecting songs from all over the United States.  Most people credit him for introducing millions of people to American Folk Music.  This type of music is the foundation for my love of music.  Like children do, I took this blessing for granted.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I grew to appreciate these evenings gone past.  I didn’t know that in some families, they didn’t get together in the evening to make a joyful noise.

As I became a teenager, I turned to rock and roll, and expanded my journeys into musical landscapes.  As a young adult, I liked all kinds of music.  I went to live concerts with my parents, and then my friends.  I started my own family when I was quite young, and had four kids in short order.

As a young mother, I often doubted that I was doing everything the way I should. One thing I know I got right as I worked through the days bringing up those sweet babies.  They had a soundtrack!  Through the years, I made sure that we listened to all kinds of music.  I shared and recounted the old songs, like most parents do.  But I’ve never been afraid of discovering new music and moving with the times.

We listened to music at home and in the car.  As soon as they were old enough, maybe sooner, I would take them to see live music whenever I could. Now, we share musical discoveries with each other.  We still see and appreciate live concerts.

 Before long, they were each moving to their own rhythm, so to speak.  My oldest son, Thom, is a fantastic drummer.  He always amazed me with his ability to pick up different drumming styles within a minute or two.  My second son, Travis, plays guitar and sings, the same way I did growing up.  I’m always impressed with the way he sounds, whether he’s playing electric or acoustic.  My youngest son, Tyler, is a beast on the bass.  He’s a versatile bassist, and has a love for writing music as well.  I don’t get to hear any of them play as much as I would like to.  They have discovered that when you have to adult, you don’t get as much practice time in. 

My daughter, Catie,  is a huge fan of music, like me.  Her ears devour every new sound, every old familiar tune, and she sings to her son.  My grandchildren are the next generation of music lovers.  One of the best feelings in the world is when I sing to my grandson Carl, and when I’m done, he looks at me and says “again”.

When my Grandmother died, they buried her with her harmonica.  She started playing that when she wasn’t able to play the piano any more.  I love my musical past, and my musical future.  I’m so grateful that my parents took the time to teach me to appreciate a good song.  I’m also blessed when I hear my kids sing it back to me.

– Cat

Self-Esteem – Where Can I Get It?

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There is so much talk these days about self-esteem.

Sometimes people hold others accountable for damage… or even possible damage, to their self-esteem.  We often feel that high self esteem is something that we’re all entitled to.  Some folks think that everything hinges on it.  Others downplay it’s importance.  It’s definitely become a catch phrase.

I can hold you in high esteem, but I can’t hold you in high self-esteem. Self- esteem comes from within the self, not from external sources.  It is how you view yourself, take pride in yourself, and is often reflected in the way you care for yourself.

How can you make an impact on the way you view yourself?  What you do, and what you say to yourself, should be your concentration. Here’s how you can do you… and increase your self-esteem while you’re at it.

Find Some Work Worth Doing

When you spend your time contributing to society, you will feel your self-esteem blossom and grow.  This is usually done through your work, which is where you spend most of your waking hours.  Unemployed? Use this time to learn a new skill, do some self-reflection, and make good use of your time out.  Can you volunteer? Do something that interests you.

Be Helpful

Just pitch in.  Get started.  We all have talents that we fail to use to their potential.  If nothing else, we all need encouragement.  Ask yourself “who can I encourage today?”.  A smile goes a long way.  Make it your goal to give smiles away and collect them in equal measure.

Forgive Yourself

Are you experiencing depression, financial trouble, or relationship problems?  It’s easy to blame yourself.  Start today to forgive yourself.  “Why can’t I feel better?”, “Why am I so bad with money?”, “Why can’t I make my partner happy?”.  Feeling guilty and beating yourself up never works as a strategy for coping.

Talk to Yourself

You can run a negative talk track with yourself, or a positive one.  You have total control over what you tell yourself.  Even if you have to “fake it until you make it”, you have got to nourish yourself with kind words.  No matter what your issues are, you just can’t afford the luxury of talking down to yourself.

Have an Open Heart

What do I mean by that?  I mean that you approach everyone you meet with an open heart.  Be willing to be present in every interaction.  Don’t downplay the importance of connecting.   Listen and reflect on the conversations you have with others. Every path you cross is an opportunity for you to make a connection outside of yourself.

So, to wrap it up, how you choose to spend your time and resources can bring you the biggest sense of pride in yourself.  Don’t wait for others to serve you up a heaping dish of self-esteem.  No matter the circumstances, your self esteem is yours to claim!

    – Cat

You Could Spell Pigeon If You Had The Right Letters

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Photo by Tyler Lambert

 

In my family, we play Scrabble.  My daughter plays. I play. My Mom plays. Her Mom played.  Other women in our family, as well as close family friends, have joined in over the generations.  We even let the men play from time to time.  We’ve had marathon games, and we’ve  heard stories about memorable games over the years.  It’s kind of like sports in other families.  At family gatherings, we would fix dinner, eat, clean up, and settle in to play.

My daughter has the deluxe version of the game, with the rotating turntable board.  It’s the actual one that I bought for my Granny.  The styrofoam is missing from one corner.  It was chewed away by a raccoon that got into it at Granny’s house, when she stored it in the basement.  Inside the lid, you can find documented historical moves.  You can see the date when Granny’s best friend, Francis, dumped her rack.  You can also see particularly high score games and other outstanding accomplishments.

My husband is from Scotland. We played Scrabble on our wedding night.  He likes to think he can use words that are common usage in the UK, but I only allow this when we are playing in UK.  He is a good player, and it’s usually a pretty close game between us.  I keep a little notebook in my Scrabble box, so that I can keep a dated record of every game played.  My letter tiles are in a bag that my Mom sewed for me after the original bag gave out.  It’s made out of a pig print fabric, because I love pigs.

You see, there is a reason why you have to get dinner, and all the clean up, done before you start to play.  You never know when a game is going to end.  It’s not unheard of for a nap to happen between moves.  There is a story of one such game that has been retold many times in our family. It presents a great analogy for life, so it’s value is immeasurable.

So, Granny, Francis, and her Aunt Clydie, are playing into the night.  Granny’s son, my Uncle Chris, is a little boy sitting on laps.  He  moves around the table as the women take their turns.  He knows he is not allowed to give away any secrets.  He can see all of the letters on everyone’s rack, and studies them as he moves from seat to seat.  The play is long, the room is quiet.  My Uncle looks up and says “You could spell PIGEON if you had the right letters”.  Everyone has a good laugh at this punchline.

The point is, you can spell anything if you have the right letters.  So it is with life.  As you move through life, you will sometimes get the distinct feeling that your rack is full of vowels, without a consonant in sight.  Sometimes, you have all the high scoring letters, but you’re sunk without a vowel. Then there are the times when you’ve got an awesome word, but no place to play it.  Some days, everything works for you, and you dump your rack.  You will struggle as you grow, trying to beat your Mom, or your Granny, in a game.  When you do, it may not feel as sweet as you expected.

You get to pick your letters, but you don’t get to see them first…  Just like life.  We need to accept our letters and play our best every day.  It’s always easier when every thing goes your way, and your letters are perfect. Sometimes, though, when you have no other options, just play your word and move on. 

Bombing Our Way Into Peace

Veteran’s Day is almost over.  I’m thankful for every person that’s ever worked to defend our country.  I’m thinking about this:

I wonder if most people make up their mind to be “for” or “against” war.   I think it really depends on the situation.  I think it’s unrealistic to think that we can put an end to war.  It seems we’ve been beating each other up over the ages, probably before we could walk upright!

When Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, he tried to persuade him that the atomic bomb should be built.  He later said that he regretted his decision to make the appeal.  At the time, he was afraid that Germany would develop nuclear capability.  Although Einstein wasn’t directly responsible for building the bomb, it was his work that made it possible.  And there is the letter.

Although most people are horrified at the thought of nuclear weapons, there are differing opinions on whether it was the right thing to do to end World War II.  There is the argument that by bombing Hiroshima and wiping out half its population, around 180,000 people, we prevented many more American casualties, possibly in the millions.  We shortened the war.  We ended the discussion.  This also ended Russian aggression in the area, for a time.

On the other side of the argument, there are those that say that the war would not have gone on for much longer anyway.  We had the upper hand, and were winning the battle.    We went way too far and took too many innocent lives when we dropped the bomb.

The thing that makes me suspicious is the timing.  We bombed Hiroshima on August 6th, and then bombed Nagasaki  three days later on August 9th.  Didn’t the bombing of Hiroshima send a direct enough message to Japan?  Did we wait long enough to see what the response would be?

As I was looking into this question, it appears as though I had it backwards.  I seems that actually, we didn’t continue on to Nagasaki.  We stopped at Nagasaki.  We were prepared to keep going.

Can we actually bomb our way into peace?  Can we fight one last fight that settles things? We could start a group of representatives from countries all over the world and work together for the common good of humankind.  We could call it the United Nati…nevermind, that will never work.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices that veterans, and especially their families, have made for me, my family, and my nation.  Thank you for your service!

  • Cat

 

 

I’m My Mom. By the Way, My Daughter is Me.

So, the audiologist looks at me and says “You have mild to moderate hearing loss”.  It sunk in.  I remember when my Mom started losing her hearing.  I would get so annoyed when she would ask me multiple times to repeat myself.  Sometimes she would answer the question she thought you asked.  Never mind the actual question.  My Granny, Mom’s  Mom, was deaf at the end of her long life too.

I’m older now.  I am becoming my Mother.

In so many ways, I’m lucky to be like her.  She always says hello and starts a conversation with strangers.  She likes to help.  She’s quick-witted.  She has a weird sense of humor.  She has the Scrabble gene that runs strong in our family. She loves music.  She doesn’t watch sports.  She loves to hear and tell stories.  I’m so lucky to have her.

I have a daughter now.  She is the very best parts of me and her father all mushed together.  Although we’ve always been friends, I always admired her because she was different than me.  She never went through that bitchy teenage phase. I did.  She always seemed very quiet and private to me.  She is an artist.  She used to be embarrassed when I talked to strangers.  She always seemed wise beyond her years, and sometimes I wasn’t sure who was raising who.  She’s all grown up now, married, and has a son.  I love him to pieces.

We share a lot of things.  She calls me nearly every morning and we talk about EVERYTHING.  We both love music, even though we’re not musicians. We share and build playlists together. All her brothers are musicians. She and I are fans.   She encourages me, and I return that encouragement.  She talks to strangers more than she used to.  We play a game of Scrabble now and then.  She’s good at it.  She has a weird sense of humor. She loves to help, and teaching is her passion. I’m so lucky to have her.

My daughter is becoming me.  Still different in so many ways, but I’m starting to notice the similarities more. She’s older now.

She’s having a baby in June.  I hope it’s a girl.

 

  •  Cat

 

Being A Phoenix

When I opened my blog about a week ago, I asked the question “Can we reinvent ourselves?” For me, it was a rhetorical question.  In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird who dies in a fire of its own making, and then rises up from the ashes to live again.  I know a little something about being a phoenix.

If you’re reading this right now, you know something about it too.  We all have setbacks, whether we’re given to high drama, or whether we keep things to ourselves.  History is full of stories of famous unsuccessful attempts.  The Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan, all failed.  You know that saying, credited to George Custer, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up” ?  I’m here to testify; It’s TRUE!

I’ve failed, I’ve been embarrassed by my failures, I’ve doubted that I could rise up again.  But I’ve done it.  A failed first marriage, two failed businesses, estrangement from loved ones…you know, the usual stuff.  It has taken tenacity.  Some days I had the sense I was just compelled to push on.  I do feel like a phoenix, and that’s a special kind of energy in itself.  That’s what matters.  It’s not what others think about your successes and failures.

When you fumble the ball, get it back as soon as you can and run for a touchdown.  Now, your chance to get the ball back may not come on the next play.  It may be the next game, or the next season, or you might even have to wait until you get traded and someone else gives you another chance to have the ball. But, you’ve got to be ready when it comes.  (I’m not into sports. I don’t know why I used that analogy, but I like it).

So, just go ahead and rise up from the ashes!  Be a phoenix!  It’s never over, as long as you get up in the morning.

 

 

 

Who Is The Average American?

If you Google “Average American”  Your search results will start with:

HOW MUCH HAS THE AVERAGE AMERICAN SAVED FOR COLLEGE?

HERE’S WHAT THE AVERAGE AMERICAN WILL PAY FOR OBAMACARE, BY AGE, IN 2017

HERE’S HOW MUCH THE AVERAGE AMERICAN HAS SAVED FOR RETIREMENT

So…Is it all about money?  What makes a person qualify for this club.  Is it your ancestry?  Unless you’re a Native American, we all come from somewhere else.  Is it our religious background?  Here, you are promised religious freedom, and the ability to worship the way you want to, or not at all.  These days, that assertion would be challenged by many.

Some would say that the average American has a certain cultural ideology, but I’m not sure that the “average” person in America would pass that test either. Members of political parties feel that their party is the special one…the one that represents the average American.  How many people have you “unfriended” for opposing views in this crazy time election?  I’m talking about social media, and real life.

Why can’t we feel, on average, the sense of unity and patriotism that we felt on September 12, 2001?  Does it take that magnitude of tragedy to us to move us to the realization that we are all on a journey together as Americans?  Let’s just make up our minds to feel that emotional about our country everyday, without going through such a great loss.  It seems that we have built this great club…this community, and now we have decided we don’t like it or want to be in it. At least not with “them”. Our country’s motto, “E pluribus unum” translates to “Out of many, one”. We’re not meant to be the same, but to work together.

Where do you stand?  Are you an average American?  Has the description turned into an advertising ploy?  Did the “Average American” get lost in the “Good Old Days”?

 

How I Fell In Love With Tony

My friend Tony, who works at my nail salon, gives me a reality check and a great leg massage at the same time.  He loves to talk while he’s practicing his art, and we’ve had some great conversations.

One day, he started our exchange of ideas by telling me that he “Loves being in America”.  In addition to his day job at the nail salon, he goes to the community college and studies computer science.  Tony loves talking to customers, and to people in general, because it affords him the opportunity to work on his English language skills.  They all speak Vietnamese at his home here with his Uncle and Cousin.

There was a particular time that he told me of the experience he had on his first day in America…his new country.  Tony stepped onto American soil in California, filled with awe and anticipation.  He was really hungry, and couldn’t wait to eat a cheeseburger.  He went so far as to go to the fast food restaurant.  He had a twenty dollar bill in his hand.  The thing is, the twenty dollar bill was all the money he had in his new country.  He really, really wanted that cheeseburger, but he knew that he just couldn’t swing it.  So he went hungry for a while, eating frugally until he saved up enough to buy a cheeseburger.

He’s a naturalized US citizen now, and can eat a cheeseburger when he wants to.  When he went for his interview to gain his citizenship, they asked him if he loved the United States. He told them “Of course I love America, that’s why I couldn’t wait to get here!  I love America!”

If you were born in the good old U.S.A.,  then you probably take the good things about being an American for granted.  I know I do.  It’s easy to get caught up in the cynicism.  It’s easy to get annoyed by 24 hour election coverage, especially when a lot of people don’t like their choice of candidates.  I just can’t imagine going any place else in the world with the equivalent of twenty dollars and making a go of it.

I’m so glad to be an American, and I feel so blessed to have Tony as a friend!

  • Cat

Diva Dorreen

Diva…what does that mean?

My friend Dorreen had a birthday yesterday.  She’s the kind of friend that you have a “sister” connection with.  We don’t talk that often, but in the 9+ years that I’ve known her, it’s always good when we do get a chance to catch up!  You never have to wonder about how she’s feeling at any given moment.  She is accessible, and always up front when she speaks.

I want to say how much I admire her tenacity.  She’s been faced with life threatening illness and major surgery, along with the rest of all the stuff that we go through as parents and grandparents…and she always puts on a brave face.  Anything she decides to do, she goes right ahead and does it!

A while ago, she decided she’d like to write a romance novel.  Done!  Then she wrote another one!  Bam! Her novel sells on Amazon.  Her pen name is  Diva Dorreen, and she is a force to be reckoned with.  Even though I’ve decided to take a try at blogging, I am pretty sure I would have to move mountains of self-doubt and uncertainty to tackle such a big project.

What an inspiration for so many people who have you in their lives to one extent or another.  Shine on, Dorreen!  Whenever I hear the word Diva, I’ll have the image of you in my head and a smile on my face!

–  Cat