Monday, May 9, 2016

A to Z Reflection, atozchallenge

Again, this year, I felt under pressure to get the posts completed for the 26 days. I find if you don't write them ahead of time and then post on the day of, it doesn't work too well. I don't believe I put my best creative foot forward with this challenge and I completed it, mostly, to just keep my word and commitment. But that is not what writing is for me. I have a job and a family and I write as a form of expression and creativity. I don't write to get noticed and I don't make much advertising money from blogging. I felt a sense of falseness when other bloggers would visit my blog in a 'scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' gesture. I did make one brief, genuine connection with another blogger, but all in all, this felt too much like inauthentic marketing, and life is too crowded and too busy to pass by opportunities to be genuine, while instead engaging in activities that don't help me grow, flourish or help someone else. I don't think my blogging enriched anyone else's life, and for me, my enjoyment didn't outweigh the nagging feeling that my time could be better spent in a way that connected to others more authentically.
Sorry if my reflection is not very favorable. How could my opinion be changed? I suppose better blog categories could help - I would jump around the list to find blogs to visit, as part of the obligation, but many blogs weren't pertinent to my interests and some had topics that were so diverse and specific, which is totally ideal in the blog world, but not enjoyable for me to visit. Likewise, I bet many of my visitors didn't find mine very interesting! So if all of us bloggers could have a better idea about content, or have a matching system to make blog reading better, and make our own blogs a better experience for readers who are interested, the whole challenge would feel better.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z - Zymöl #atozchallenge

My husband loves Zymöl auto care products . The wax uses Floridian and Brazilian carnauba, and essentially more carnauba than other brands to make a great wax. Also, interestingly, they make a line of products for musical instruments like fret board glaze and natural wood finish protectors.

Try them! They are awesome!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Y - Yellow Ledbetter, song parodies

It's funny what lyrics people THINK an artist is saying snd one of the funniest parodies is of the great Pearl Jam song, Yellow Ledbetter.
If you haven't heard it, check out this parody video.
Listen to this great parody

Here's a nice live video of the song. 

It reminds me of Pheobe on Friends when she misheard  Elton John's Tiny Dancer :)

W - Water #atozchallenge

This is one of my favorite quotes that marvels at the qualities of water, and what we humans can learn from it.
"Like water, be gentle and strong. Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth, and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world." - Brenda Peterson

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V - Volkswagen/ Audi #atozchallenge

V - Volkswagen/Audi

The four interlocking circles on Audi vehicles symbolize the combining of four companies that were independent at the time, named: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The owner at that time was a man named August Horch and the new mega company was subsequently named after him. 
He owned Horch, but created Audi prior to the merger and since he couldn't call the new smaller company by his name, they translated it to Latin and rolled with it (no pun intended). In German Horch means "listen/hear" and in Latin, audi means to listen. So there it was! 
Each of these four brands were retained and produced vehicles for differing segments of the market. DKW - Motorcycles and small cars, Wanderer - mid sized cars, Audi - deluxe mid sized, and Horch - luxury top end cars.

In 1960, Volkswagen acquired Audi and relaunched the brand in 1965. Shortly after VW introduced Audi to the US in 1970, and it is now one of the best selling automobile brands in the world. 
(Taken from Wikipedia photos)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tea #atozchallenge


A stream of consciousness
mindful without words
a simple blanket on the throat,
history longer than my own.
I ask of it, to give to me,
each morning,
several times a day-
so for once I bow to it,
and give it these words to say:
thank you 
I love you

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

X - X Factor Charity #atozchallenge

X - X Factor, Charities

I love to hear about charitable acts, big and small - and since X is a hard letter, I'll note that the proceeds from the final rounds of each prospective X Factor winner goes 100% to a selected charity. That year it was for hospice children with life limiting illnesses. 
Kudos X Factor!  :)

U - Under Armour #atozchallenge

Under Armour

This brand was started with an idea by a team captain to make shirts for the team that were cooler and didn't saturate with sweat... The idea, his garment samples and maxed out credit card for start up, blew into the major defining brand it is today.
Run with your ideas kids!!

Also, this Baltimore based company has the vision to manufacture their products in the markets where they are sold - so make it in the US to sell it in the US and likewise in other countries. Let's hope they, and other companies like them will do the same and transfer jobs back to this country, bit by bit. 

R - Religion, word origin #atozchallenge

Word Origin - Religion
The origin or the word religion means to bind. 

I find that interesting, especially in light of recent discussions about spirituality vs religion - Are you spiritual or religious? Is there a difference?
Watch this video.
Whether you are religious, believing or not. He basically says that going to church is a way to gather several together to enhance their relationships and experience. It's simple, not shaming, not binding.

N- Nice #atozchallenge

Word origins often intrigue me - check out the origin of "nice" - talk about a change over time!!

Nice meant ignorant or foolish Back in the fourteenth century and has evolved many times over to now signify pleasant and kind. Yes, we can all remake ourselves, just like nice did, bit by bit, year by year. 

"The word nice, derived from Latin nescius meaning ‘ignorant’, began life in the fourteenth century as a term for ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’. From there it embraced many a negative quality, including wantonness, extravagance, and ostentation, as well as cowardice and sloth. In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve. It was society’s admiration of such qualities in the eighteenth century that brought on the more positively charged meanings of ‘nice’ that had been vying for a place for much of the word’s history, and the values of respectability and virtue began to take over. Such positive associations remain today, when the main meaning of ‘nice’ is ‘pleasant’ (if with a hint of damning with faint praise; it may yet turn full circle)" from Oxford Dictionary

M - Marriage #atozchallenge

We could all use some more love... Here are some quotes about M for marriage:

“For you see, each day I love you more 
Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” —Rosemonde Gerard

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” —When Harry Met Sally

“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” —Judy Garland

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” —Lao Tzu

L - Leopard Dog #atozchallenge

I have a Louisiana Leopard dog, also called a Catahoula Cur. This breed is the state dog of Louisiana and is used to assist in taking down the wild boar population by baying the boar. The can have spots and may have cracked or blue eyes, and webbed feet. They are said to be derived from a mix of the Red Wolf, Alano Mastiff, greyhound and Beauceron.
These wild hogs are nasty animals - if you remember in Old Yeller, these were the bastards that threatened Old Yeller near the end. 
Most say Catahoulas are very protective, tend to be alpha and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. By watching the videos of them working with hogs, they appear aggressive, but are actually even tempered, just serious about their job. Abbey has a great history of them, for all interested!

K- Kimchi #atozchallenge

Kimchi is a Korean style of a cabbage and/or vegetable side dish that is fermented with lactic acid bacteria. Foods that are fermented impart health benefits because of the probiotics they contain, and kimchi can offer these health benefits, just like yogurt or other fermented dairy products. Probiotics, simply, are "good bacteria" that can help to renovate our guts and promote health. But in addition to this, kimchi, because it is made from cruciferous vegetables, also contains fiber and other compounds that go above and beyond eating these vegetables alone, or yogurt alone. This Korean food is very flavorful and is often used to compliment rice dishes, or really any dish and is eaten with nearly every meal in authentic Korean culture. Not a bad practice!
Try an authentic recipe and enjoy!

Q - Queue #atozchallenge

Queue - how often are we waiting in a line or a queue on the phone! I am running out of ideas today so here is an acrostic for queue!

Q - questioning success
U - understanding patience
E - exercise mindfulness
U -  unanticipated time cost
E - exist in a world beyond immediacy

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J - Joy #atozchallenge

Choose joy this day!

"Joy is the best makeup." Anne Lamott

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." Henri J. M. Nouwen

Saturday, April 9, 2016

P - Phone #atozchallenge

This conversation I happened verbatim with my daughter in January. I transcribed it afterward because it was so clear, and telling. 
G is my girl, and M is me, mama. 
Ms. G likes to tell me, like other kids do, about all the things her friends have that she doesn't, often to include a phone. She had told me a couple times about phones and about a particular friend I call Isabel. Isabel has lots of privileges. I've heard of her, but I don't actually know who she is. Isabel has a phone, uses Instagram, wears eye shadow and probably has raging sleepovers with all the other girls who simply must be doing those things too. So I sat and listened to her for a moment and asked her to elaborate on this "everyone has a phone" statement she frequently throws at me.

G: Everyone has a phone.
M: Like who
G: Isabel has a phone, and she brings it to school.
M: Who's Isabel?
G: I don't know about Riley.
M: Yeah, what about Riley and Alexandria and Maya? You've told me all about what Isabel has, but those are your closer friends.
G: Oh. Don't know if Riley and Alexandria have a phone, I never asked them. [she giggles, lost in a moment] We're always too busy playing games and having fun when I see them on the playground.
M: Ahh. That tells me everything I need to know.

S - G. B. Shaw, quotes #atozchallenge

George Bernard Shaw quotes - always good for a laugh or a "huh..."

"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means"

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

"The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post." 

"When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition until death do them part. [G.B. Shaw, preface to "Getting Married," 1908]

"Youth is wasted on the young."

O - Opportunity Cost #atozchallenge

Opportunity Cost - an economic term, definition:
The loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
There is always an opportunity cost to any decision or action - consider this when taking that action, and be mindful of what your giving up to do something.
Such as, is this blog challenge worth the time commitment and effort of doing it? Is the potential gain of the return worth my alternative? (Time!!!)

I - Infinite Jest #atozchallenge

This is a post about that really long book titled, Infinite Jest .If you know it, or the movie The End of The Tour or the Rolling Stone guy's book, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, you may want to skip this post...or if you like reading, you may find it interesting.

I saw The End of the Tour and wanted to read Infinite Jest. The characters in the movie were eating it up. The writer himself is overwhelmingly intriguing. (And in the end, tragically messed up because he ended up killing himself.) So I started the book and am near 200 pages into the lice-egg sized font book and have really only made it through 10% of it. 
All the other books I want to read are popping up into my mind like brownies when you're on a diet. I suddenly burn to read them. My daughter came to me with an infinitely cheesy middle grade book that she miraculously has two copies of and she wants to do a "mommy daughter book club" with it, starting tomorrow, and I am suddenly excited. (Books are usually my selfish time- my time is limited and I want to read for my own enjoyment, it's is not a sacrificial task, thought this may come as a terrible shock to my "gimme, gimme, I need, do-for-me" children.) 
This book started off interesting, though disjointed. But it continued on in this way and never connected any dots. It is a big long rambling of inner mind clutter of Mr. Intriguing Wallace. He makes up new words, uses abbreviations for many things and tells time by the year that random items were developed, like the Year of the Adult Depends Undergarment. (Which for the record is 1984 because I looked it up)
So I started to read some reviews to see what people saw in this book. It's like listening to terrible music that sells millions. I am not getting it.
"Infinite Jest is potentially infinite, an endless shaggy dog tale with no punch line. Chockfull/ of brilliant riffs, it is also repetitive and boring." Ethos Review Infinite Jest
--John McGowan is Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Part of what clicks in a lot of Wallace’s work is that he writes in a way that maps to the way (at least some) people think. At its best, his voice mimics the infolding, obsessive, self-conscious, reflective brain voice that we think belongs only to ourselves but that most people have in some degree or another. And to my mind, one of the central theses of IJ is that to live with that voice only, to fail to escape your own head, is toxic. It’s why Hal, early on in the text (though late in the timeline) says “I am in here” while clearly manifesting to the deans as anywhere but in there." Daryl L

It turns out, I think, that this book needs to be read as a sort of study. Like a text book. It is not just a open it up at night and enjoy some mind-hot-cocoa before bed. (It weighs many pounds and will probably sprain your wrist, or possibly dislocate some fingers if you did that). One reviewer described using two bookmarks, one for his place in the book and one for the place in the back where Wallace has many footnotes that can go on for several pages, derailing the scattered plot even further, and he was often chewing on one of them. 
Inevitably, many readers appreciate Infinite Jest because it was like a marathon they had to train for, relapse from and finally, one day complete. You have to work, mentally, to get through it, you have to persevere through the hard times and you have to commit and dedicate yourself to a mindful conscious study of this text. It is a journey in focus and a memory challenge (because something from page 49 will finally relate to something from page 763 and you need to remember these one-liner somethings.) It is also a lesson in the fact that life never buttons up perfectly, because after climbing this massive jaggedly mountain of a book, apparently there is no resolution in the ending. There is no view at the top of the mountain. 
Infinite Jest turned me off from reading it by that 10% mark and it even turned me off from reading in general. It took my bean of reading joy, cooked it and stepped on it so the fibrous inner bean pulp squeezed out of its rough and colorful skin. And then my dog ate that bean and shit it out. I love to read so this is not a good reaction from this book.
I think that life has both handed and thrown at me these same lessons that this book imposes upon its reader. I don't need to learn them by request, they will come to me again and again - from parenting, from cancer, from working, from loving, from simply living. This book was meant to be devoured like those people in the movie were doing, but it is not that for me, right now. There are some good, enjoyable, thought provoking parts but that is like getting rocks thrown at you and picking up the pretty ones in the lot and wishing to get a stoning again to increase your collection. But in conclusion, I will be like Wallace and give no resolve for this post: I won't stop reading Infinite Jest, and I won't voraciously dig into it. As he said, you can find the answers somewhere to the right of the text, beyond the covers. For me, the answer is beyond the end of this post...
I laughed at this Jest review: why you shouldnt read infinite jest !! Enjoy!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

H- health #atozchallenge

I work in health care. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist, so I regularly tell my clients (mostly adults) strategies for eating healthier and what foods they should eat less of or more of depending upon their medical diagnoses. Dietitians tell people what foods are healthy, and this can translate, naturally to how we feed out families and encourage their food habits at home. 

Our expertise lies in many things, the aspects of food science, to counseling, but really the unique piece is our knowledge and ability to provide nutrition therapy for disease conditions. (And this is in fact unlawful to do if you don't have a qualified certification in your state, or the nationwide RDN) 
Still, it is often true that many other lay people have a real good idea of what is good for them and their kids, and they should! And many of us tell our kids to eat things because they are healthy....not so fast parents!
Well, an interesting study came out finding that when you tell young kids something is healthy, will make them strong, will make them grow...etc, they eat less of it. It turns out that if you attribute one characteristic to a food (like those I just listed) they see that as ruling out other characteristics for the food, i.e. it's tasty, it's sweet, it's yummy. Basically, if you tell a kid a food is healthy, they translate that to: it doesn't tastes good.
The study authors concluded that if you want your little ones to eat their veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc. don't tell them about how they are good or will make them stronger and smarter. Just put them on the plate like they belong there, and tell them to have their meal. 

Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach. If It’s Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food. Journal of Consumer Research, October 2014

Thursday, April 7, 2016

G - good kids books about tough topics (a tiny list) #atozchallenge

Good kids books about some tough topics: A tiny list of ones I've used or can think of!

Being bossy:

Staying connected to someone - weather by distance or even death:

A parent who has cancer:

Moral Lessons:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

F- Fun #atozchallenge

I'm sharing this because it is fun. 

My daughter is taking the State tests this week and she tends to get apprehensive, but these teachers at the wonderful Mott Haven Academy- a charter elementary school in one of the lowest income areas of NYC in the Bronx, made this fun video to get the kids feeling a little positive about the tests this week.

Way to get creative, put yourselves out there for the sake of the kids, and show them that adults can have a little fun!

Partnered with the city's largest social service agency, The New York Foundling, this school serves mostly at risk kids currently in foster care and the child welfare system. The Mott Haven section of the south Bronx is historically the lowest income area in all of New York City.
Kudos to all the teachers at: Haven Academny

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

E- Earth #atozchallenge (a poem for small steps)

The shading off a crumpled can
mustn't puncture the laziest of us
to cover among our
orange peels, bitter and bright
or half a meatball
tiny tummies couldn't but

if all that is chosen
for performance
is the branded aluminum sweetness
or but one box
that bounced from Kentucky
to DC to New York
connecting the dots
of the gloved and uniformed
if only one is put on stage 
this week 
he scored better than last

We can applaud
not that you
hugged upon the trees 
of your neighbors,
a standard immune to ridicule,
but that this week
you did better than 

Monday, April 4, 2016

D - Diamonds and what matters #atozchallenge

Here is a poem for D- the first word that struck my creative chord was diamond. (Of course I was listening to Paul Simon... See W day from 2015, )

Diamonds on the soles of my shoes
magnetic fuel of grateful beauty
I walk atop that which is valued most
by those who estimate me the least.
A rock so hard, by many
is treated like fragile glass
my heart hardens under
the pressure of their eyes
but on my soles, I walk
with my softer brilliance
wrapped around my fingers

Sunday, April 3, 2016

C- chemo #a to z challenge

This is a photo of my husband taking all his chemo and related pills every morning:

Here's an acrostic to go with the segmented visual:

Cure is elusive
Heal when I'm better
Emotional indigestion
Memories of youth and health
Only time

B- Black Cherokee - a post about judgement and being heard #a to zchallenge

If anyone has lived in New York City or driven down the busy FDR drive, you've probably seen the assumed homeless man there, or evidence of him. He'll set up weird standing arrangements, quirky, funny or just strange signs, or he may be standing there himself with props, often fruit. Well, this icon of Manhattan driving is not, in fact, homeless, not mentally ill to the point of lacking awareness of what he was doing or the motivation for it. His name is Otis Houston, Jr. and he lives nearby in East Harlem and works as a custodian at a health club. 

Mr. Houston claims he puts on this "show" to entertain and inform his audience of drivers in the natural bottleneck of this stretch of the FDR. He came to New York as a teenager from South Carolina, but fell into selling drugs and spend some time in jail years ago. While locked up, he took art classes and after his release, he used this spot on the roadside as his studio, trying out his skills as an artist and using the position to get himself noticed. That he indeed did! He's been noticed and known by thousands, passers by will often honk and wave and call out his nick name, Black Cherokee, for his part Cherokee heritage. Mr. Houston is simply an artist going old school to get people to see his work.
Two NYC filmmakers noticed him and put together a very original documentary about Houston that highlighted him in a whole new way than these urban drivers would ever know. There are clips of him caring for his father ill with Alzheimer's, and him giving conversation like any other New Yorker.

This post is an obvious lesson in withholding judgement. Everyone you pass today, in New York City, to Nebraska to South Dakota, has a story, and we're all just trying to be heard.

Below are some tags from everyday New Yorkers enjoying the Black Cherokee on their way to work:
(And him, as you can see, really enjoying what he does too!)

Friday, April 1, 2016

A- Asparagus #atozchallenge

Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.” 
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingslover a few years back and I remember reading one of her first chapters about one of the first spring vegetables, asparagus. I sat on a park bench with my book as my kids played on a tiny neighborhood park down my street and I read, with delighted child-like wonder about these little shoots. They squealed with free limbed freedom and I flipped pages, all quite equally happy. 

In March, asparagus is working, behind the scenes under the dirt. In April, the vigilance must begin. Kingslover states, "An asparagus spear only looks like it's picture for one day of its life...The shoot emerges from the ground like a snub-nosed green snake headed for sunshine, rising so rapidly you can just about see it grow." She goes on to say that if you don't cut it at ground level at this precise point of it's rapid emerging, it will continue on to grow, with each scale on the delicate spear growing on into a branch until it's a four-foot tree with needles resembling a dwarf Christmas tree. 

Her chapter on the asparagus was a literary delight. Two of my favorite things, food and words, combined to entertain me. But it is also a reminder of how divorced we are from our food supply. We can get asparagus all year round. It comes to us no matter where we are. But if you grow them, or go to a farmers market for them, you have that one golden opportunity in early spring, then you might as well move on to thinking about Christmas because they're done.