Doing Nothing Well

I’m really good at nothing. Hello, Thursday Morning friends! I’m so glad you’re here. I’m thinking again. Uh-oh. Right?

You know when someone asks you, “What are you thinking about?” and you say, “Oh, nothing”?

Is it even possible to think of nothing? Or to be thinking of…nothing?

You might think I’m being negative when I say I’m good at nothing, but you’re wrong. I am really good at (doing) nothing. In fact, I excel at it. If not for ole guilt, I’d spend a lot more time doing nothing. Thinking of…nothing.

But guilt keeps me going. Doing everything but nothing. The problem is, I tend to take on too much. You know the feeling? It’s a problem for many of us, especially this time of year. If you’re a mom, it’s magnified. Everything has to be perfect. You want your life to be a Hallmark movie. Or at least a little bit like one.

The Hallmark movies are like reading the condensed version of a novel. You see only the high points and low points and they wrap up quickly into forever love. All the extra stuff that goes on gets cut out. Life is not that predictable.

Yes, there are moments when you get to relax and breathe and enjoy relaxing and breathing. But those moments are B-O-R-I-N-G to everyone except self. Personally, I love those moments of nothing. Maybe because I know they are only scattered here and there throughout my busy, busy days.

But I’ve noticed something very important. If you’re too busy, if you say yes too many times, you may become overwhelmed. And then you’re really good at the negative nothing. You don’t have the time or the patience to be really good at anything. Or, if you do manage to accomplish all those things on your list and/or calendar, you’re probably going to be too tired to enjoy your accomplishments.

Then you’re going to DREAD the holidays because they represent negative things like failure and disappointment.

My advice to you, right now, before it’s too late, is to take a breath. Pause between the question and the answer. “Can you volunteer to do the decorations for the dinner?” “Will you head the committee to spearhead donations for that?” “Oh, and by the way can you also (insert task here)?? You’re just so good at that!”

Take a breath. Pause. Think it through. What will you remove from your list to make room for whatever you’re being asked to do? Maybe the more important question is, what’s your immediate gut reaction to the request? Is it a cringe? Go with that. Don’t wimp out. Say the word. “NO.”

Yes, the holidays come once a year. With good advance planning, you will survive them. If you haven’t made a plan, it’s not too late. Almost, but there’s still time.

Make a list right now, of THE most important things you need to do in order to have the kind of Christmas you really want for your family. Now, include your church family, or those outside your family with whom you are connected.

Next, go back over the list and prioritize the most important things. Keep the little ones in mind (if you have them). What will make their Christmas memorable? Hint: it’s not things. It’s probably time with you. Time, and a smile on your face.

I’m not slapping hands here. I’m reminding myself. My calendar is full and I have regular work and tasks to deal with on top of those. I’m dealing with a sense of dread. It’s too tempting to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage, a blankey, and a holiday movie. I have to remind myself that’s okay once in a while, but not all the time.

Well, coffee’s ready. I’m going to spend a few moments sipping, breathing, and contemplating nothing.

My calendar is full today. And tomorrow. And the next day. But, I’m keeping my eye on the prize of a stellar Christmas celebration.

Have a splendiferous weekend. May you find time to breathe and kick back, if only for a moment.

Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.–Luke 6:35-36 MSG

All I Want for Christmas-Part 1

crown-1299136_1280If I were a beauty pageant contestant, I’d say, “All I want for Christmas…is world peace.”

But I’m not, nor have I ever been a contestant in a beauty pageant.

Most ordinary people want to live a peaceful life. Especially those who have teenagers living in the house.

cat-787733_1280⇐⇐⇐I’m more like this…

…and my list starts with…something entirely different. It’s been a busy year. If you keep up with my blog posts, you may have noticed that.

I’m not sure what happened to bits and pieces of last year. They’ve disappeared entirely from my memory.

  • Fallen through the cracks between the big stuff.
  • Part of my winter, all of my Spring, part of my summer.
  • Gone.

clock-691143_1280So one thing I’d like for Christmas is time. Time to think. Time to remember the stuff that happened in between. Maybe after I finish my latest work-in-progress. It’s due by end of year. I’m nearly there. Nearly finished, nearly at the end of the year.

Yes, that’s the first item on my list. Time.

turkey-1456681_1280Yes, I’ve overdosed on turkey, so if I’m a little woo-z, that’s why. But there’s a reason behind the madness. I promise. I will have a point.

I plan to share another item or two next week. I’m determined to put some fun in December. Smile at a stranger. Share a joke with a friend. Give a gift. Forgive a transgression. Honor those who love you with your time and presence of mind–not just the big lump of your carcass while you peruse Facebook or play video games. Put the electronic devices down (end of rant).

Most people spend more one-on-one time with their fur babies than they do with their human loved ones. 😦

By the way, in my opinion, Thanksgiving and Christmas–entirely too close together. Let me know what you think. See you next week!

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Smaller Servings

VeggieSoupNow that the big dinner is over, I’m back to learning something new. Cooking for two. My tendency is to fill a big pot and cook so much, we have to eat it for days. So I’m training myself to create smaller servings.

legs-434918_1280You can take the girl out of the country … you know that saying. I’ll always be a country girl at heart. I love a piping-hot skillet of cornbread. So I figured out how to make it smaller. I buy a well-known brand of cornmeal that comes in a round box with a recipe on the side. I follow the recipe and combine all the dry ingredients. That’s my “step one.”

Step two – I get out my kitchen scale. I love that thing. You can also use measuring cups, but for what I’m about to do, the scale is easier. I divide the dry ingredients in half. I try to get as close as possible. I bag up one half, label it as “cornbread mix,” and put it aside. Then I finish the recipe with the other half.

I think heating the pan with the shortening in it makes a big difference. You can use an 8″ skillet, an 8″ pie or cake pan–I’ve even used a glass pan–like the one you use for a small batch of brownies. I put half the amount of shortening in the pan (remember you’ve halved the recipe). I have to say here, I’m generous with shortening. I use half butter and half coconut oil.

You can’t halve an egg, so I use the whole thing, then half the milk–pay attention to this one–I tend to pour in the full amount. Yeah, thin batter. Take the hot pan out of the oven and pour most of the melted shortening into the batter and mix it. This is why I’m generous with the shortening. I leave a good layer of it in the pan. Pour the batter into the hot pan (I love the sizzle). Then place the pan back in the oven and leave it there for the required time. By the way, you can also heat the pan on the stove top or the microwave (if it’s glass) to melt the shortening. Handle with care.

I go away and do other things. It seems to take a long time for the stuff to cook, but that’s only because I’m waiting. It’s like waiting for water to boil. Now, don’t burn it, but don’t take it out too soon. In the last couple of minutes, it turns this beautiful, toasty brown. I love that. It has a nice crispy, crunch to it, and the center is moist.

cornbread2If you’re a fan of cornbread mixes, you’re probably wondering why I go to all this trouble. Here’s the reason: because I want to–it’s very satisfying–and I like it better than any mix I’ve tried.

So I guess my last “Thankful” is that I’m cooking for two, not one. We almost lost one this year.

I love learning new things. Actually, I try to make enough to send to work with hubby the next day. So maybe I’m actually cooking for three.

What’s your favorite small recipe? As the Christmas holidays approach, sometimes it’s easier to pick up a meal out, but what if you’re on a budget? I’ve found many things I can cook at home quicker and easier than waiting for someone else to do it. I know the ingredients are quality, and I trust the cook. 🙂

Link to simple cornbread recipe: http://www.quakeroats.com/cooking-and-recipe/golden-corn-bread

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Stirring Up the Spirit

Every year, about this time, radio stations start playing Christmas songs and carols. Beautiful, colored lights are twinkling. And stores have long since begun their Christmas sales and advertising. I’m reminded of the hawkers of old, yelling about their wares, trying to woo customers.

ab82d-imgp0386All my friends put up their trees and decorate their houses like showcases then put pictures on Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram.

I try to prod myself into enough of a “Christmas spirit” to prepare a few Christmas cards, and eventually, deck the halls. Right now, almost a week past Thanksgiving, there is nothing in my house that says Christmas. And I’m okay with that.

c7551-shutterstock_165919043I’m not sure where this scrooginess comes from. I’m not really a Grinch, just a procrastinator. Maybe because it doesn’t look like this at our house–

Our grass is still green and there are a few blooms left in our gardens. Winter tends to arrive late, long after our northern friends are snowed in.

But with a family to buy for, I have to eventually get myself out there. I need to finish the shopping to allow plenty of time for cookie baking. And so, around this time, each year, I get out the Christmas coffee mugs. I turn on the music and fill the house with yummy gingery-cinnamon-nutmeg smells. And then I go shopping.

I shop early on weekday mornings, to avoid the crowds. So that’s where I’m off to today, probably about the time this post goes up. But I’m wondering, am I the only one? Do you find yourself fighting similar battles each year? Perhaps you do, and you know the reason why. Maybe you lost a loved one, or are estranged from family. If this is the case, I’ll say a prayer for you as the holiday approaches.

But if you, like me, don’t really know the reason, I hope this helps you realize you’re not alone. And I guess there’s nothing wrong with us–it’s our normal.

So here’s a little something to help you put on your Christmas spirit. Happy shopping!