Food: survival or experience

This week I have come to the realization that most of my life is tied to food!

If I want to celebrate, it includes food. If I want motivation, the prize is often food related. When I’m sick I want comfort food. If I am caring for someone else, it often involves giving food.

Weddings, birthday parties, even a date with my husband includes a meal or snack.

But take away food and things feel hard. Nourishment is one of our basic needs. Without it everything gets harder.

According to NASA, the basic needs humans must have to survive are air, shelter, water, and food. And who am I to argue with NASA?

But when I look at that list and then look at my life, I certainly have more than I need.

Air: We control the air around us. Temperature, flow, purity, even scent. As I sit writing this, my house is working to maintain a comfortable 72 degrees. At least until the outside temperatures dip a little lower and my husband switches over to heating the house. Then it will drop to a frigid 65 degrees. I have a purifying fan running to keep air flow. I have a candle burning giving off the scent of frosted spruce and eucalyptus. This is more than we need for survival.

Shelter: Yes, I have four walls and a roof. But I also have hardwood flooring and carpet, a king size bed, a separate bathroom, a kitchen, and multiple living spaces. I am sheltered from the temperature and the weather and outside sounds and dangerous animals and people. I feel safe in my home. I do not worry about my survival.

Water: Not only does it flow from several faucets in my home, but I also filter it and adjust it to the temperature I desire. I don’t have to work for it or really even think about it. I just access it whenever I want.

Food: At any moment in my day (or even at night), if I want to put some form of food in my mouth, I have access to it. So my basic need to eat is covered.

Clearly, my basic needs for survival are complete. I don’t stop and take notice of any of these unless something goes wrong. We’ve had the air conditioner go out. We’ve had our well pump die. Our house has been hit by a tornado (that’s a story for another day). We’ve had a missing ingredient to a recipe, but usually we can adapt or run to the store to acquire it. But this week, I lost my sense of taste. That doesn’t really have an impact on my survival (neither did the time the air conditioner went out, although my children might have thought differently with how grumpy it made me). What surprised me was how much of my day to day was changed because of my lack of taste.

  • My morning coffee wasn’t something I slowly enjoyed. It was warm, but it didn’t make me smile.
  • I burned my bagel that I cooked for breakfast. Normally, I would be frustrated and toss it and cook another or eat a bowl of cereal instead. But this time I just ate the burned bagel.
  • For lunch I ate some leftover beans and rice. Usually when I make this dish, I severely under salt it. This time, I have no clue if it needs salt or not, although I can guess the answer is yes.
  • I thought it would be fun to go out for dinner, but with no taste, it seems like a waste of money. If we eat out, it is more than just the need for food to survive. It is an experience! A master chef, even an amateur chef, would tell you how important it is to taste your food. I learned that on Worst Cooks in America!

So today, after four days with no sense of taste, I am realizing just how important that is to me. Not in a bad way…because we could talk about how obsessed I am with food. But food is a way we connect with people. We learn about each other with food – favorite ice cream flavors, veggies we don’t care for, and if we are cilantro lovers or haters. The Bible is full of stories where Jesus met people and had deep conversations around the table. The kitchen is referred to as the heart of the home.

My first thoughts were about how obsessed I seemed to be about food and how it dominated much of my life. But as I have thought more, I realize it is part of my survival and not just the nourishment from it, but the experience around it. I’m not really missing the food. I’m missing the experience.

Know Yourself

Susan is an amazing designer. She can walk into a room, move a few pieces of furniture, grab a picture from another room, add a plant and a lamp and make what was a basic room look like royalty lives there. Ask Susan to cook dinner and she pulls out the menu from the quaint restaurant down the street and orders a yummy family style meal.

Jodi can pull together a fabulous event. Planned from beginning to end. Everyone who attends raves about what a glorious time they had. Jodi pays for a technological assistant to help her remember when to pick up her kids from school or when her doctor’s appointment starts.

Rachel loves going on field trips with her kids and volunteering in the classroom or with their sports teams. When someone asked her to serve on the board for one of their activities, Rachel declined. She knew she was good with the kids, but not good with administrative details, planning or dealing with conflict.

Gayle delivers amazing speeches and runs her team meetings smoothly with everyone participating and leaving feeling like they accomplished something. When asked to write for a local magazine, Gayle turned down the offer and suggested someone on her team would be a better person to ask.

Each of these women are amazing at what they do. And each of these women know how their strengths and weaknesses. Because of that, they know when to say yes and when to say no. That doesn’t mean they don’t stretch and challenge themselves, but they know their limits and they allow others to shine in places where they know they won’t.

I have a tendency to want to be good at everything. But I’m not. I’m good at connecting people to resources. I’m good at seeing the big picture and breaking it down into smaller tasks. I’m also really good at over-committing, but I stay pretty scheduled so that when someone asks me to do something, I know what is coming up and if I have the time to commit or not.

Take some time to write down some of your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure of what those are, ask some of the people around you. Your spouse, your kids, your sister, even your parents. Consciously or unconsciously, we all have a standard that we believe we must meet – a person we believe we must be. But actually discovering who we are – our strengths and our weaknesses – allows us to be truly honest with ourselves and with others.

Never-Ending Laundry

Have you seen the meme that asks “What is always there for you? Laundry. Laundry is always there.”? It is sad truth. You can feel like you have accomplished something major by finishing the laundry, wash, dry, fold, put away. Then as you get ready for bed, you discover almost a whole load of dirty laundry again. It is a never-ending cycle.

Years ago, laundry brought me to tears. I had six children, 10 and under. Their clothes may have been smaller, but they were at the age where they wore four outfits every day. Add in towels and bibs and sheets and blankets, it was overwhelming.

One day I was talking to a friend who at the time had no children. She said she was dreading changing the sheets on her bed. I laughed so hard, like the lost-her-mind kind of laugh. She said “bed”. If I were to change all the sheets in my household, it would have been SEVEN beds!

My routine for doing laundry was to collect all the laundry from around the house and sort it into piles. I didn’t have a laundry room. Really in twenty-six years of having my own space, I have never had a laundry room. Laundry was always either a closet in the hallway or the walk-through to the garage. On laundry days, you would see piles of lights and darks and towels. It would spill into the kitchen or dining room. As the clothes cam out of the dryer, they would end up on the sofa or on my bed and I would methodically start the folding process.

Folding was a whole story by itself. Shirts, pants, socks and underwear. With three boys and three girls so close in size to each other, it was a lot of tag reading. Laundry took up the majority of my time. That’s when I hit a breaking point. I needed a new system.

Everyone had a laundry basket in their rooms, so I started doing laundry by room. Each room was assigned a day.

  • Monday – Mom and Dad
  • Tuesday – Little Girls
  • Wednesday – Little Boys
  • Thursday – Big girl
  • Friday – Mom and Dad
  • Saturday – Big Boy

Of course it wasn’t perfect. Some days overlapped. But It meant I was only washing, drying and folding a load or two. And if I washed sheets and blankets and towels for that same room, it wasn’t such a big task.

As I folded, I could monitor what their needs were. Pants with holes, socks with holes, shorts that were size 8, but one random pair that was 4T? A week of laundry and only one pair of underwear? Time for a conversation!

This made it easier to transition to making the kids start doing their own laundry. They had their day and knew when to get their laundry done.

Now kids schedules changed and the weekly schedule has moved around in new seasons. Kids would negotiate or add uniforms to each others loads. It became a lesson in learning to get along and plan ahead.

Today, as I was folding clothes for a big kid that is working hard, I reflected on how many years I have been doing laundry. And there are many more years to come!

Life Is An Adventure

I have a very distinct memory riding in the car with my mother when I was little. For whatever reason, I remember asking her, “Are we lost?” Her response is one that she would repeat often during my childhood.

“No, we aren’t lost. We are on an adventure.”

There are many events, both big and small, of my life that I can attach to that phrase. Marriage, kids, work, etc. How we approach things can have a profound impact on how we respond.

I recently found an essay I wrote in high school that documented what my graduating class all dreamed life would be like in 20 years. It has been longer than 20 years, but it was surreal to look back at what I thought I would be doing and compare it to my current reality.

I thought I would be giving birth to twins while running the family engineering firm. Um, hello reality. Funny how my 17 year old mind thought I could do it all. And I never pictured wrinkles or stretch marks! Strangely though, my imaginary husband was named Michael. Proof we can be right some of the time.

My real life has involved happiness and pain; life and death; joy and heartache; success and failure.

See here is the thing about adventures. They wouldn’t really be adventures if they didn’t have ups and downs. Roller coasters are fun because of the ups and downs and changes in directions.

Lets do an exercise. Think about the last fiction book you read and loved. Was it all a feel good story? Did it have a moment or two (or ten) of crisis or conflict? Did something not so great happen or a failure or sadness? Of course! Because that is what makes great stories. We don’t appreciate the good things if we haven’t experienced the hard things.

Today, with the beauty of things like Waze (if you don’t have it yet, go get it! And always – well almost always – trust Waze) and other GPS systems, we don’t get lost often. So we get from point A to point B just like we want. But real life doesn’t follow a GPS. Real life is where the adventure is at. So look up, look around, and start to see the beautiful adventure happening in your life!

Say it Out Loud

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

I don’t know if it is the isolation or the age, but for some reason I have had several instances this past month where I have just not cared what anyone thinks, I am speaking my truth.

Let me give you some examples.

One Saturday, I had to attend an event where my kids were involved. I delivered them and then parked my vehicle. I was not required to make an appearance, but I wanted to be there to cheer on my kids. However, I was afraid that no one would talk to me and I would be alone. I was going to be wearing a mask, but I was pretty sure the majority of the people would not. I was going to be in the minority. As I sat in the vehicle, my thoughts began to spiral. My heart raced and I had actual tears begin to form. I could recognize it as a mild panic attack. In that moment, God reminded me that speaking the truth calms the spirit. I sent my friend a Marco Polo. (If you don’t know what this is, look it up in the app store. It is the best for communicating across time zones and amidst busy schedules!) I told her, I am afraid of being rejected and unseen. The purpose of me being here is for my kids. I am going to go cheer for them and take pictures. And if no one talks to me, I will still have achieved my purpose of being here and will survive. Guess what? I survived. I clapped for my kids. I took pictures.

This past week at work, I shared an idea I had been thinking about for a while. The idea was outside of my normal day to day tasks. I had been thinking about it for several weeks. It was shot down. But you know what? I’m still here. And just because that idea wasn’t accepted doesn’t mean the next one will be rejected. Somehow in that experience I was able to separate my idea from my identity. The rejection was not of me, but of the idea.

When you have kids, one or twenty-one, you will get asked to volunteer to help with their activities. I am not great at this. There are some things I am willing to do. But in all honesty, I just do not have the brain capacity to manage a fundraiser. I do not have the patience to be a chaperone. I think I still have PTSD from chaperoning the 3rd grade class to Hershey. This year, I have just said no. I can’t. Right now, my kids need me fully engaged. My work needs me to be present. My husband needs me not stressed. All of these require me at my best.

Speaking the truth in all of these situations has been very freeing. And let me say, speaking that truth required me to speak it out loud. Not just in my head, but for my ears to hear my voice say it. And if I still struggle to believe myself, then I write it down in my journal. Hearing the truth, writing the truth. All of that is helping my head and my heart to believe the truth.

Try New Things

We all have our daily routines, whether planned or not. We brush our teeth the same way every day. We like our coffee a certain way. We sit in the same spot in the family room or at the table.

But sometimes, we just need to try new things. In my attempt to embrace the season, I asked my family to take me to the local corn maze. At 46, I have never gone through a corn maze. Not even a kiddie maze.

My kids have gone with their friends or my husband has taken them for a fun daddy time. But in the many years that we have lived down the road from our local farm that puts on a great Fall attraction, I have never gone.

We approached our maze decisions very differently. Some of my family was very specific in their approach. They always chose to turn right when they came to a fork in the path. I looked at the ground to figure out which path was more well used. My son always chose the opposite of what the rest of the family chose.

We made it out, had a great snack, and picked some pumpkins. Not as scary to try new things as I sometimes think it will be. Each new thing makes us braver to try even more new things.

What was the last new thing you did?

Embrace Autumn

I hate Autumn. I know that is a bold statement, but to me, Autumn just feels like the announcement that winter is coming, things are dying, the daylight is disappearing.

This year, one of my goals is to complain less, to embrace the now and see what gifts God has for me. I have seen the gift of time together in this pandemic. I have embrace the slow evenings on the deck. I have worked from my Adirondack chair, soaking in the sunshine.

But then September happened. And while the equinox says Autumn is still a few days away, this morning’s temperatures said differently.

When I set my goal to complain less, I was not thinking about September. I didn’t realize what a challenge this would be. But here we are.

So now, let’s find somethings to celebrate. It will be my reminder when I have to start digging out gloves and boots.

My daughter’s birthday. My oldest child turns 24 this month. This past week, we celebrated the amazing woman she has become. She loves people deeply and has such a strong desire to help them know that God loves them. I pray she understands that God loves her for how he created her, not for the things she does. I hope I allow that to sink deep into my soul as well.

This week was the start of the National Football League. That is definitely something to celebrate. I love football. I turn into someone different when it comes to football. I can preach kindness to my family all day long, but put me a t a football game and suddenly I am the woman in the stands yelling, “put his face in the grass!” I have tracked players since the 1980’s superstar Chicago Bears team of Jim McMahon, Walter Peyton, Mike Singletary and The Fridge! (That 1986 Superbowl may have started my dislike for the New England Patriots.)

We have played a lot of games during quarantine, but there are some games that are reserved for Autumn and Winter. They are the games that require a little more time. The games that you might even leave on the table for the next day. I do enjoy these games, even if I usually come in last place.

Autumn is also a time to spend a little more time with Jesus. There isn’t as much running and even when I do start to feel a little like an Uber driver, there is still a lot more sitting and waiting. And my favorite scents for candles are usually spice related.

And finally, if we are really honest, Autumn ushers in the time of year when we make Rum Cake. And that is definitely not something to complain about.

Decision Making

We make decisions every day.

Really we make decisions so many times a day, we don’t even realize we are making them. You decided to get out of bed this morning. You decided to take a shower, or not. You decided what you would wear, what you would eat, and the list goes on. All day long.

This is why morning routines are so important to people. They want to pre-decide what they will do so they don’t have to think about it every day.

Some people wear the same “uniform” every day – very Steve Jobs like. Some people eat the same thing for breakfast.

But then there are bigger, more life-altering decisions we have to make. These ones are more stressful for me. School choices, job choices, family choices. They have longer lasting consequences.

If I made a poor choice in what to wear today, I can change, or vow not to wear that uncomfortable shirt again…ever! But making a poor decision about a job offer could be life altering.

When faced with a big decision this week, I shared with my daughter the two options my husband and I were trying to decide between. She offered just a short, but very profound sentence in response. “Well, I guess you just need to pray a lot.”

That was really what it all came down to. Either decision required us to trust God with the outcome. One was not really better than the other. In the end, we looked at the motivation and our core beliefs. As if the lights turned on, when we looked at it from that perspective, there was complete peace. We felt good about the decision. Even if other factors changed, the motivation and core beliefs didn’t.

Will we still question if we made the right decision? Probably. It is what we do as humans. But we are still trusting God with the outcomes.

Change of Perspective

Change. I may say I don’t like change, but look around, change is happening all the time! Right now it is the end of summer and the beginning of fall. I LOVE summer. If given the opportunity to move to the Bahamas or Southern California or Porto Seguro, I would say yes before I even knew the terms of agreement. So I make the leap to saying I don’t like the change of the seasons. I do like the start of school and the preparation for the fall. (and if i’m honest I do like apple cider too!)


I can talk about wanting to change the schedule or change the routine or change the world. It all points to improvement, but the process isn’t always pleasant. I can see how rearranging (changing) a room can improve the flow.

Things that change regularly:

  • the seasons
  • the moon
  • the look of social media
  • hair color
  • job requirements
  • what my kids like
  • insurance requirements

Some of these I expect, some are irritating, some are frustrating, and some feel overwhelming. But here is what I find interesting, there are some changes that I do like:

  • a new haircut
  • a new house
  • a new recipe
  • a fresh cup of coffee
  • a new blanket
  • a new shirt
  • definitely new shoes

And there are changes I long for:

  • a new vehicle
  • a new purse
  • a new ability to travel

When I started to evaluate the change that I liked versus the changes that I didn’t like, I discovered most of that was about control. The changes I didn’t like were things I didn’t have control over. Facebook didn’t ask me if I wanted a new look. The insurance company didn’t consider my schedule when they changed their policies. My kid didn’t consult my budget when they decided they only liked a certain brand. My boss didn’t ask me before making changes to my work routine. And then here is the kicker…God didn’t ask me what I thought before he brought about changes in my life. (And he certainly didn’t get my opinion before creating winter!)

So now I pause when I start to get irritated, frustrated or overwhelmed and ask myself,

  1. Is this change really bad, or is it just unexpected?
  2. Is this change something I have to participate in?
  3. In four weeks, will this still be irritating, frustrating or overwhelming?
  4. Is there anything I can do right now to CHANGE how I feel about this change?

Today, as I start September, as I say goodbye to summer, I am committing to look at change a little differently.