Connecting with Strangers…it’s good for the soul

Connecting with Strangers…it’s good for the soul

By Barbara Coleman, Fleeting moments

It was a very ordinary day.

In just a few short days it would be Christmas and I was working at the busiest store in town…it was shoulder to shoulder in the store, but I was about to experience how connecting with a stranger could change your soul. I volunteered to work a particular spot in the store because nobody else liked this spot and it was widely felt nothing extraordinary ever happened here. I liked the magic that could happen in this spot.  It was the small moments that connecting with strangers could bring.  Connecting with strangers…it’s good for the soul.

Wendy was a very unassuming women, dressed for a rugged winter day, I could see it on her face she just wanting to get what she came for and get out. She approached me with a new iPhone case and I took the handheld device out of my back pocket to help her with this quick, mindless transaction. This should have taken about 30 seconds….but I found a stranger’s story so compelling, it’s impact will be in on mind and in my heart forever.

The transaction begins

I rang up Wendy’s iPhone case and her credit card was rejected. My mind quickly choosing the words to minimize the situation and reassure her it was ok. The look on her face told me this was the edge and she was being pushed over it. Her eyes filled quickly with tears and I could see a quiver across her lips. She apologized. She said “I’m sorry. Things have just been so difficult since my husband died”. I put my arm around her shoulder and told her how sorry I was. As I tried to offer words of support, I stroked her back.

She had been holding her emotions together until I, a stranger, showed her a little bit of kindness and empathy. Suddenly she couldn’t hold on to her emotions any more. Wendy began to sob on my shoulder like a toddler who couldn’t catch their breath. Wendy told me the story of her life with her husband, how he died and how she’s lost without him and I wrapped both of my arms around her. I could feel the despair as I held her in my arms and I couldn’t let her go.

Listening and Responding

After I listened to Wendy, I comforted her, then I pulled her off my shoulder, grabbing her by both arms and told her she wasn’t alone. “Wendy, your husband sounds like an amazing man. I know you miss him desperately. I’ve been through loss in my life too and I know the pain you feel. I know the hardest thing to do is figure out how to live with such grief. It’s not a matter of handling your grief, it’s about choosing to live….choosing to look for happiness again.

I told Wendy I was sure, based on what she had just told me, her husband would not want her living a life of tears and pain. “Wendy, you’ve got the best medicine right in the palm of your hand.” I pulled my own iPhone out of my back pocket and told her “Music isn’t enough….Walking isn’t enough…..Talking to people isn’t enough….but if you put them all together it can be magic. I shared the playlist I carefully crafted with songs that made me walk with a little bounce in my step. I reassured her “you’re not going to FEEL better immediately, but I do believe if you behave your way into choosing a well lived life, the feeling will catch up to you”.

“Wendy, I want you to put your tennis shoes on everyday. Put those earbuds in your ears and walk down to this store and say hello to me. I’m always here.”

She nodded, dried her tears and walked out of the store. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her again.

Later that evening,

I was making sure everybody handled their closing responsibilities. Almost all of the customers had started leaving the store, so when someone walks in, we all noticed. I looked up and there was Wendy! She had another woman in tow and I could see her scanning the store like she was looking for something. My first initial instinct told me she brought somebody back to help her get that iPhone case. Our eyes met and we walked towards each other. I smiled and told her I was glad to see her….and she smiled back.

She introduced me to her sister-in-law….her deceased husbands sister. Wendy not only had a smile on her face this time, she even carried herself differently. I could tell Wendy had shared our entire encounter together with her sister in law. “Pam, this is the person I was telling you about”. I asked Pam if she liked music and would help Wendy find some additional tunes to put on her iPhone for her walking playlist. I had given her a list of my personal favorite guilty pleasures. They were songs very well suited for walking….singing or just feeling good while I got my self through some inane chore.

Pam nodded and said, “Oh Wendy, those Black Eye Pea kids are great, they even say Mazel tov in their song!”

Wendy said, “We want to take you out to dinner!”. The store closed earlier on Sunday, so it was the dinner hour. I had to decline….That night we were shooting a music video in the store as our “Christmas Card” to all the other stores. It was silly fun and I had already committed.

A little night music

The store closed and we started the production of our little music video…a bunch of twnety somethings singing and dancing around the store along with yours truly. I called myself the Grannie Smith of the Apple store because I was old enough to be everybody’s mother, but still just a little tart. As we danced and sang our hearts out, I could see Wendy and Pam outside with their faces pressed against the glass watching….and laughing.
Wendy started coming to the store everyday. Training at the store taught her how to use her computer to make a book for her children. The book was a memorial of her husband. The entire process was so cathartic to Wendy. You could see the changes in her physically. She wasn’t shy about telling people about why she comes to the store everyday….It was a good place to be.

Whenever Wendy came into the store she’d search me out and let me know she was ok. She’d walk by, touch my arm and give me a smile that let me know she was doing ok. I always felt great after I saw her. Her adult children stopped in and let me know they were all doing well. I felt like I had become part of the family.

My Lesson Learned: Connecting with Strangers…It’s good for the soul

I heard a speaker years ago at a corporate retreat talking about communication. He used a phrase that has stuck with me for years. He said people really aren’t happy with achieving independence….true happiness comes from learning how to live “inter dependently” with each other. If we learn to help each other and allow others to help us, it brings a level of satisfaction we don’t know if we’re acting solo, or independently. Acting interdependently was merely a quotable quote until I connected with a stranger.

One woman was frozen in grief, the other woman needed to be needed.  This one small moment shared in a crowded store changed both of us. If we both hadn’t open ourselves up to a stranger, we would have missed out on a very important moment in our lives.

Connecting with Strangers...it's good for the soulBeing present and connecting with the strangers around you make chance encounters like this possible. Make eye contact, “read the room” & speak up. I did the talking that day, and she showed me how to walk the talk. She walked through grief with grace and I took mental notes the whole time. She let me know every moment after we met just how grateful she was…That day both Wendy and I were interdependent and the residual effects will last forever.

Connecting with Strangers…It’s good for the soul.

Even Psychology Today agrees!

We’ll talk later,

How to survive holiday shopping in 12 steps

How to survive holiday shopping in 12 steps

By Barbara Coleman

tree-with-lightsComfort & Joy doesn’t exist in the same context as holiday shopping.

Holiday Shopping… hell, just being out in public this time of year is stressful.  Too  many people, not enough space and a time crunch to get everything done in time.  If we all work together we can make not only this time of year, but the entire public experience much more palatable.

Let’s start with some basics….

Holiday Shopping doesn’t have to be so stressful….let’s follow these simple guidelines and I just know we can all get along…

  • Go IN the IN door and OUT the Out door
  • Don’t walk down the middle of the parking aisle…move closer to the parked cars….It’s not that I’m tailing you, I’m trying not to run over you!
  • “I’m sorry” isn’t the same as “Excuse Me”….”I’m sorry” immediately follows your cart crashing into me….”Excuse me” allows me to get out of your way. I like to be part of the process!
  • If you haven’t yet decided what you’re eating, pull over in front of the beef jerky section…NOT in front of the produce everyone is trying to get at.  We all need the celery!
  • Three abreast in an aisle is three too many.
  • Don’t abandon your cart in the middle of the aisle to go retrieve something somewhere else.  I’ll take it and move it so you can’t find it.
  • There are other people in the store…Just be conscious of your surroundings.  Other people shouldn’t surprise you when they’re trying to get around you.
  • Make eye contact with other people – It makes navigating around each other SO much easier
  • Retail Workers:  There are customers in the store, look alive, smile, say hello & and walk around people.
  • Shoppers:  Retail workers only have so much knowledge about product, placement & usage of said product, do your research at home.
  • Ladies:  Don’t bring your husband along to hold your purse.  He doesn’t want to be there and he’s taking up valuable space.
  • Take the time to either move your cart to the cart coral or take it back to the store.  Don’t leave an abandoned cart in the middle of a parking space.

And one last thing….

pajama-shopping
Pajama pants are for at home in front of the TV….

Unless you have had a fire at your house that morning and ran out in your pajamas, you look stupid wearing pajama pants.  For god’s sake put on a pair of yoga pants, jeans or something else!

Good luck everyone and Happy Holiday!

Barb Signature

An Empty Nest Thanksgiving….good news & bad news

An Empty Nest Thanksgiving….good news & bad news

By Barbara Coleman

file0001013755186We’re having an empty nest Thanksgiving this year!

I always “owned” Thanksgiving.  I LOVED it!  No presents, no decorations & no stress.

The kitchen has always been my comfort zone – when things got rocky, I retreated to the kitchen.  I’d pop my son up on the counter and he’d be my official counter…a very important job I assured him.  He was in charge of counting the number of eggs, cups of sugar, flour, etc.  If the counting was done incorrectly our efforts would result in failure.  He was always up to the challenge and I always knew where he was. That was almost 40 years ago, and now he’s got a family of his own and starting his own traditions.

The kitchen still represents a place where all good things start.

That’s what Thanksgiving reminds me of….my comfort zone and everybody in the kitchen sipping on a glass of wine chatting while I cooked.  It was like pure therapy.

This is my first Thanksgiving on our own.  For a time, even though the kids had families of their own our house remained the go to spot for the holiday.

They are busy with their own life now, so this is the new normal.

First the good news:

We’ll start the day off with a little something extra in our coffee and some beautiful pastries.

A little something extra
A little something extra

We may or may not get dressed right away.  Hanging out in our Jammies is heavenly!

My husband will take his place in the kitchen as my Sous Chef and I will cook exactly what we like, no special requests any more.  We’ll talk and sip wine as we cook.

I’ll watch the Thanksgiving parade as I slowly go about my regular kitchen duties, and because nobody is there to ridicule me, I’ll even sing along to many of the songs featured on the parade.

Later the football game will be on and there will be no screaming at the TV.  Just two people conversing while the game is on in the background.

We’ll eat a meal that makes both of us happy and grateful for the many abundant things life has given us.

Our clean up will be easy because there will be the two of us and we will only be cleaning up after ourselves.

We may even watch a movie that appeals to just us old farts.

Ed & Stanley
Take the dogs out please

We’ll make time to walk the dogs in between our activities, but we’ll do it together.  That’s not an empty nest thanksgiving!

Instead of all the weekend chores, we’ll be chore free and focus on what we have in life and not what we need in life. That’s not an empty nest Thanksgiving!

The Bad News:

There isn’t any.  The kids are off to start their own traditions.  The goal was to raise independent adults and now that’s exactly what they are.  It’s my time now.

Whatever kind of Thanksgiving you are having, I hope you have the moments to reflect and appreciate how extraordinary our lives can be.  Be the author of your own story and create the ending that’ll make you feel loved and valued.  Please share your new Empty Nest Thanksgiving ideas….the more you know.

 

Barbara Coleman

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A Friends Birthday…and a 28 year friendship

A Friends Birthday…and a 28 year friendship

By Barbara Coleman

Today isn’t just your Birthday, it’s my friends birthday, and as I lay in bed thinking about the card I didn’t send, the drink I won’t buy, the cake that will not be baked and the words I have swirling around in my head and was afraid I would not get a chance to say my feet lead me straight away to my keyboard.

It’s been 28 years (I know this because I had to pull up an old resume to verify it) and I am keenly aware at the moment that I haven’t stuck with anything else that long, but our friendship.  You’ve outlasted homes, marriages, jobs….marriages and the continual moves across the country each of us keeps making.

As I consider what goes into such longevity I know the big things account for a large percentage in such a relationship…loyalty, kindness, etc.  We’ve both seen each through a barrel full of heartache, that’s for sure.  but it’s the little things that pile up to make the mountain of memories no one else can share.

No one else but a very good friend;  Hands you a magazine back cover up because that’s the way you read them,  or notices after not seeing you in several years you have switched to a different style of bra, or even that you have a new straw in your Starbucks Cup.  It’s been a great ride and NOBODY has been in the car but us.  Thanks for being the Thelma to my Louise.

So I wish you a very happy birthday, my friend, and hope you will continue to take the journey with me as we age, even if it is long distance.

But there is one thing!  I do wish we knew then, what we know now!

 

On Turning 60 Without Fear!

On Turning 60 Without Fear!

By Barbara Coleman
Barbara Coleman
Barbara Coleman middleSage

You know that uncomfortable feeling of impending doom, right?  In 256 days I’ll be 60 years old, and the number 60 sounds like it could have all the earmarks of PBS (Pre Birthday Syndrome).  You know what I’m talking about.  Since I’ve never turned 60 before I don’t know what to expect, it just the ring of one of those landmark birthdays that could signal depression, a period of “what have I done with my life”, examine my own mortality, or in the words of Peggy Lee…Is that all there is?  Click the Sound Bar below if you’d like to have Peggy serenade you while you read the rest of Turning 60 Without Fear!

I’ve actually got 256 days to go, but I believe in being prepared…especially for this one.

Several years ago, I worked with a woman who, upon turning 60, went through a major depression. She saw Tina Turner on TV and realized she was also 60 and by comparison….well she had lost her urge to roll any where, let alone down the proverbial river.  Mortality sometimes sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

The only birthday I had like that was 24 and looking back I realized it wasn’t the birthday causing the depression, it was courtesy to my life being in the dumpster at the time.  Bad marriage, no career or real purpose at all, lots of personal issues…I had no idea where I was headed or what I wanted out of life.   That’s not what this is about though…35 years later I married a good man, figured a lot of those issues out and am happily retired from a pretty successful career. Whew, glad I turned that ship around.

It’s not 60 I’m preparing for, it’s the funk, the depressive state, the blues I fear may come with 60 I’m preparing to ward off. and to do that I need to be in top condition.  What I’ve learned throughout my journey is; to remain stagnate is dangerous….you must continue to learn and grow.  My life, my spirit, my body, my brain must be exactly where I need it to be when the magic date hits the fan, and it’s solely up to me to make that happen.  Here’s my list.

I will work with a trainer to make sure my body is in strong condition.  When I get to 60 I want our activities to be more about moving around and less about sitting around.  I want to feel good in my skin, feel good in my clothes and not dread passing a mirror, or running into someone from my past.1403100231r3xuq

I will visit my Chiropractor and Doctor(s) on a regular basis to prevent the aches/pains and maladies that come with Aging.  (Prevention isn’t indulgent, it’s smart, it’s taking care of yourself so you can take care of others!)

I will eat right so I feel good about my weight and it is exactly where I want it to be.  Healthy. (God, I wasted a lot of skinny years thinking I was fat!)

I will search out and find regular activities to stimulate my mind and soul.  (Trying to constantly reinvent myself will come to a stop.  It’s time to simply BE.  Find things to enjoy and THAT is who I am).

I will continue to  keep the word “hate” from my everyday vocabulary (It is amazing what eliminating this one word has done for my perspective on life…c’mon do you really feel that strongly about Brussel Sprouts or do you just prefer Beans?  Hate is powerful – keep it as far from you as possible)

I will focus on the joys of just being me and finding comfort in that being enough.  I AM GOOD ENOUGH just the way I am and should you disagree…  A favorite line from my husband addresses it quiet nice…”it is not necessary for you to agree with me, for me to be right”.

Finally, I will carefully plan the my birthday to be exactly as I want it to be and not wait for others to make it so.  WITHOUT GUILT.

Finally, you know why we use so many pictures of fall colored leaves here? I was told a long time ago by someone much smarter than myself that you could compare aging to the leaves on the trees.  We start out green, easily bendable in the wind, and it’s not until the aging process begins do our bright colors begin to show.  Yes, we are a bit more fragile, but we have a beauty that only comes with the endurance of cold dark nights.

images-12It’d be a shame to waste all of that wouldn’t it. Let me know how you’re handling the Big Birthdays!

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Comfort & Joy:  In Bed With Dick Clark

Comfort & Joy: In Bed With Dick Clark

By Barbara Coleman

Photo on 12-10-12 at 10.19 AMHappy New Year everyone!  I don’t know about you, but I like waking up on New Years Day without a hangover.  The year that lies ahead seems much more promising.

When I think about New Year’s Eve, I think about Dick Clark.  I told my husband last night, I’ve spent more New Year’s Eve nights in bed with Dick Clark than any other man, and now that Dick has passed on, my husband has an opportunity to catch up and pass our his record.  Dick always represented a past and  promising present for me – Whenever I watched him (except for the last couple of years) I was reminded of how well this man was aging.  It was encouraging to know that with the passing of every year he stayed the same.  I had hope I could age the same way.

Frankly, this “holiday” has never seemed like a big deal to me.  I get really anxious when I’m around drunks, I guess divorcing an alcoholic will do that for you.  I especially hate the amateurs that 1384551438ey7fyaren’t very good at it.  So we find our solace in the comfort of our home – again, eating good food, watching a good movie or three and talking about the year to come and what we want out of it.

I’m not much for waking up on New Year’s Day and making a resolution, but I want things and I have to figure out how to get them.  The universe doesn’t stop to pause and consider the year past nor the year that stretches out in front of me.   Why should I?  I guess the answer for me is, now after writing for the past year I fully believe I am the author of my own life and if I want something to happen in my life, then I am the one to make that happen.  I think my mantra for 2014 is No one is coming.  It’s all up to me.  Since I don’t believe in resolutions I am looking at the New Year with a different set of eyes.

A practice I developed when I was still working was, every year I, along with my department did a SWOT analysis for both themselves and our department.   This gave us as a team, and us as individuals an idea of what we needed to do in the coming year and why we needed to do it.

I haven’t visited this practice since I walked away from my pencil skirts and high heels.  If you’re not familiar with the SWOT analysis, SWOT stands for

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

2014 is the year I get back into the practice of my own personal SWOT analysis.  I need to know where I’m going and why I’m starting a journey in that direction.  I need to know where middleSage is going and what Lee and I need to do to get it there.

So before we get to our resolutions this year, we’re both taking the month of January to reassess and do our own SWOT analysis. We’ll be addressing our Strengths, our Weaknesses (gulp), the Opportunities that may be hidden in the new year that stretches out in front of us and finally, we’ll get real about the Threats that may be nipping at the seat of our pants, too.  So, that’s what we’re going to be thinking and writing about in January….I hope you’ll join us!

Comfort and joy:  Christmas Midlife Style

Comfort and joy: Christmas Midlife Style

By Barbara Coleman

In November we talked about Gratitude and Thankfulness.  We turned over every stone and looked in places we sometimes didn’t want to go, but we found it!  The turkey carcass hasn’t even been stripped clean and we are in the midst of the Christmas season.  Shopping, “Bring a Dish to Pass”, Cookies, Decorations, Family Dysfunction & More Shopping.  This month, we’re looking at  Comfort & Joy.  LIFE Comfort and Joy!  What brings you comfort and joy?  We’ll share ours and we hope you’ll share yours.

For your listening pleasure…Barenaked Ladies “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”  

Photo on 8-19-13 at 11.09 AMIt’s Christmas Eve.  Not a creature is stirring, the stockings are all washed and put away where they belong, St. Nicholas isn’t coming because we’re not entertaining this year and the children…well, they’re busy creating Christmas magic of their own for their kids.

Last week Lee wrote about finding comfort and joy in new traditions.  At mid life you’re looking at an empty nest…and I mean a really empty nest, not the temporary empty nest where you’re kids come home from college simply to do laundry and grab a home cooked meal.  I’m talking about the kind of empty nest where you’re kids now have kids of their own and need to start their own traditions and have to split any remaining holiday time with another family – the in-laws.  I readily accept and acknowledge their need to traditions of their own.

It’s time for me to start looking at things with a different perspective… to quote a line from the Uppity Blues Women;

seems that when you reach around middle aged, you don’t want a final chapter…you want to write another page.

As a former grinch, I spent a lot of energy in the last few years standing strong in my stance to no longer acknowledge Christmas (at least the over commercialized version)…I wanted to exclaim from the highest mountain… There is no comfort & joy this time of year!  Everyone you meet is completely stressed out.  I was becoming the spirit of Charlie Brown – Christmas is just an over commercialized time of year.

I found myself guilty of embracing the unhappiness that followed me from childhood.  Christmas seemed to bring out the worse in my mother and the only memory of Christmas I have as a child is an overwhelming feeling that the shit was about to hit the fan….stay low, keep your head down, it’ll soon be over.  I thought if I could repel file2701263517189the season, I’d finally be free of the hot breath of unhappiness I could always feel breathing down my neck…especially this time of year.  One thing I’ve realized and fully embraced since I’ve begun writing is this; it’s up to me to create the happiness in my life – Since I can’t out run the unhappiness from childhood, I have to stop trying and start running TOWARDS something else.

Last week I tried explaining my Christmas dysfunction to my hair stylist.  He said my Fa La La was broken and I just needed to come to his house.

As I sat and thought about this last week, I realized I still had some planning to do.  My husband and I had begun new traditions, and I realized I was looking forward to the day.  Even though we have no tree, there are no presents and we have no family to join us this year, we still have created a day I look forward to.  Instead of the traditional Christmas trappings, we have created a day that’s perfect for just the two of us.  A traditional dinner that always includes – A Beef Tenderloin that I have (if I do say so myself) perfected – we both really enjoy great food!  The tenderloin wouldn’t be complete without the  requisite side of heavy cream whipped with horseradish.  I look for new creative sides each year and we always have a stunning dessert.  We spend the day hanging out, watching movies, taking a walk and enjoying all of our favorite foods.  I always know his cell phone won’t ring, but mine will.  We’ll for sure FaceTime with the grandkids.

So Instead of running away from that unsettling feeling every time Christmas comes around, I’m embracing the new page we’re writing.  The comfort and joy I sought out in my youth and repelled in my adult years has turned to a much more significant type of comfort and joy.  What a wonderful life to be in being in a happy relationship, having a comfortable home and not feeling the pressure to pull magic out of my ass hat.

Next year will be different.  My Son and Daughter In Law, along with their 4 children will be living with us.  We’ve all agreed Christmas (as most people know it) will be back on the calendar in 2014.  Together we will make new traditions and might even borrow some old ones. Next year I will be part of a Christmas celebration and not the responsible person to construct it…that makes me look forward to a future that includes Christmas.

Do you struggled with a new kind of Christmas?  Tell us about it!

Oh, and just in case you’re interested….give a listen to the Uppity Blues Women singing about middle age.  It has nothing to do with Christmas, but it’ll make you smile!  

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Comfort & Joy:  A Trip To A Favorite Taste

Comfort & Joy: A Trip To A Favorite Taste

By Barbara Coleman

In November we talked about Gratitude and Thankfulness.  We turned over every stone and looked in places we sometimes didn’t want to go, but we found it!  The turkey carcass hasn’t even been stripped clean and we are in the midst of the Christmas season.  Shopping, “Bring a Dish to Pass”, Cookies, Decorations, Family Dysfunction & More Shopping.  This month, we’re looking at  Comfort & Joy.  LIFE Comfort and Joy!  What brings you comfort and joy?  We’ll share ours and we hope you’ll share yours.

For your listening pleasure…Barenaked Ladies “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”  

Photo on 8-19-13 at 11.09 AMI seem to be more analytical now in my mid life years.  I wonder why things make me angry, I wonder why I get frustrated, I wonder why I can become so intolerant and I even wonder why simple small moments make me happy for the rest of the day.

5 years (or so) I stumbled into a little shop that only sold flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. It was a quiet shop, just me and the gentleman who owned the shop sitting behind the counter.  We said hello and he asked if this was my first time in the store.  When I said yes, he jumped to his feet and gave me a dissertation on the benefits of olive oil.  He suggested I try certain combinations.  The little plastic cups stacked in Oli+Ve-Oils&Vinegarsfront of each stainless steel urn, where there waiting for everyone to try out a new combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  When he first made the suggestion of trying a taster, I thought he was mad!  It sounded crazy – tasting straight up oil and vinegar.

With some suggestions of great pairings I began to sample.  Persian Lime Olive Oil with Lemon Balsamic Vinegar…Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar with Blood Orange Olive Oil….Espresso Balsamic Vinegar over Ice Cream!  OMG, I was hooked!  I purchased Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar and Blood Orange Olive Oil and made a salad that night.  My husband and I have been eating this same salad almost every night.  Every night I say, we should be getting sick of this salad by now….a couple of bites in we look at each other and say “nope, still good”.

That first store (The Bleu Olive) was in Wheaton, IL.  When we moved to Minnesota, my first mission above and beyond the need for a new hair salon, or doctor and dentist was to find another Olive Oil and Vinegar Store.  A quick search and I was dragging my husband to Stillwater Olive Oil Company.  We were able to satisfy our need to try new tastes and friendly people.  In less than two years we were moving again – this time we were headed to Atlanta.  I launched another search and found Oli & Ve.

One of the first Saturday’s we were here we plugged the address to Oli & Ve into our GPS and about_us_store-2headed out to find my new store.  I don’t know what it is about these stores, but I have found the people working in them to be to be especially good at welcoming people, sharing their knowledge and encouraging them to try some suggested pairings.  As we walked out of Oli & Ve with our new tastes bagged up, I was conscious of an overwhelming feeling of Comfort & Joy.

The analytical part of me wondered what it was about this store that made me feel so good.  Just like my anger, frustration and intolerance, I wanted to know where my comfort & joy comes from.

As I let my mind wander and find the reason, I was surprised that the basis for this Olive Oil obsession that brings me such comfort & joy comes from the same source as my anger, frustration and intolerance.  I remember even as a small child being curious about new foods and their tastes. When I was 12, all I wanted for my birthday was to try Lobster.  When I was much younger than that even, I remember seeing honey in my mother’s cupboard and I wanted desperately to taste it. My mother (who didn’t have joy in anything she did) said I couldn’t taste it.  So it is said, so it is done.  Honey was off limits.  We all know what happens when you make something off limits to a kid…their need becomes even stronger.  Every time my mother would open a cupboard and I could see the honey in plain sight, I’d see it and imagine what it might taste like.  So close, but yet so far away….I NEEDED to know what this honey tasted like.

I never dared cross my mother, fear was my babysitter as a latch key kid.  I knew her rules and the fear of being caught not following the rules was an equal partner with my own curiosity.  One day the curiosity won over fear and I crawled up on the counter and grabbed the honey.  I put a small amount of honey on a teaspoon and got myself ready to taste….or break the rules.  I didn’t know which one was winning in my overall internal battle.

6-2-2006-027What surprises me about my honey experience is, I still remember the complete Joy in trying something new and being alone to do so.  It was my first experience at finding my own Joy and not letting my mother dictate what I could or couldn’t try and what I would like or not like.

I like knowing the root cause for everything I feel, it seems to help guide me to make better choices.  I stay away from things that are going to set me up for frustration, anger and intolerance and I purposefully seek out my comforts….my joys.

Tell me about something that grew out of your childhood that brings you joy today.

 

My Comfort & Joy:  A New Cookbook, A Cup Of Tea & A Footstool

My Comfort & Joy: A New Cookbook, A Cup Of Tea & A Footstool

By Barbara Coleman

file2571261720030In November we talked about Gratitude and Thankfulness.  We turned over every stone and looked in places we sometimes didn’t want to go, but we found it!  The turkey carcass hasn’t even been stripped clean and we are in the midst of the Christmas season.  Shopping, “Bring a Dish to Pass”, Cookies, Decorations, Family Dysfunction & More Shopping.  This month, we’re looking at  Comfort & Joy.  LIFE Comfort and Joy!  What brings you comfort and joy?  We’ll share ours and we hope you’ll share yours.

For your listening pleasure…Barenaked Ladies “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”  

Photo on 8-19-13 at 11.09 AMIt’s cold out today, for Atlanta anyway.  It’s a good day to hunker down inside, prop my feet up on the footstool, turn the TV on (purely for background noise), and make myself a pot of tea as I flip through a new cookbook.

This has been a regular source of comfort and joy since I was a kid.

Ever since I was a latch key kid letting myself in the house after school, I found myself gravitating towards cookbooks.  Being alone in the house, I loved imagining what new recipes actually tasted like!  As I read down the list of ingredients of each recipe, I could imagine the taste  of each finished version.   My mother wasn’t much of a cook, or perhaps she just didn’t find any joy in cooking, but she only had the obligatory Better Homes & Gardens cookbook in the familiar red and white plaid notebook and one set of cookbooks that divided recipes into 5 different books….and with no pictures!  There was the appetizers/soup/salad book, the meat book, poultry book, side dish book & dessert book.  I always drifted towards the dessert book, meat was too intimidating, besides all the meat in our house was wrapped in white paper and frozen.  For immediate results I had to stay with desserts.

Before I found the cookbooks….

When I was a very young girl, home alone and left to my own devices I was curious about making an Angel Food Cake, (I had never tasted one, but I had heard of them.  It must be amazing tasting otherwise why would it have such a heavenly name?)  There was a listing in the front part of the phone book back then for “information”…there was a number to call…for information.  I had a burning question; How many eggs in an Angel Food Cake?  There wasn’t anybody around I could ask so I did the only thing I could think of…I called “information”.  The kindly operator (my hunch tells me now that she was probably a mom) told me politely the number I called was for “INFORMATION”.  I knew that!  Even at my young age I knew what I needed was “information”!  How many eggs in an Angel Food Cake?  I like to think I was responsible for having that number changed to “Directory Assistance” years later.

That was at least 50 years ago, but my passion for new cookbooks has grown and evolved over the years.  In the last 8 years my husband and I have downsized considerably.  We live in a smaller place now…it’s perfect for us, but not for a collection of cookbooks.  When we moved out of our 13834217098h321home in Michigan I had to make a decision of which cookbooks were the most important to me and save only a dozen or so books.  It was a little like Sophie’s Choice, but I did it.

Now, I buy all of my cookbooks digitally to be read on my iPad.  In addition to my bookshelf, I have an app called Recipe Box that holds all the recipes I deem worthy from online sources.  All my magazines, Southern Living, Real Simple, Taste of Home, etc are on my iPad and I can find the recipes online after flipping swiping through the each one of them.  Instead of passing recipes to neighbors, friends & family our community of recipe gatherers have their own blogs and Pinterest.

One of our new favorites in our dinner rotation is from a blog.  The ingredients are simple, but the writer was so passionate about this being the most awesome sauce ever, seduced me into trying it. I’ve since subscribed to her blog just because of this recipe.  Check it out:  Table for Two

So now that I’ve finished telling you of just one of my comforts…and my joys, I’m off to brew a pot of tea, swipe through a new cookbook and enjoy my quiet life.  Today I’m brewing a great White Pear Tea (from Revolution).  If I find anything exciting I’ll let you low.

My top 3  favorite hardcover cookbooks

images-6I couldn’t dream of putting this list together without this cookbook.  It was a real game changer, not only in the way I cook, but the way I eat…and I even think the way I live.  Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be spectacular.  With only three ingredients Rozanne Gold delivers gourmet recipes (and you won’t find a can of soup in any of these recipes).  This book continues to offer the greatest joy because so many of the recipes are also like a science project….I have to make them because I’m not convinced it’ll work! Read More

I like this one so much I even have it digitally…don’t leave home without it!

 

 

 

mainI used to love watching Nigella on TV before there was Food Network.  My son called it food porn before “Food Porn” was an acceptable term.  Read More

There’s the recipe for the “cloud cake” that’s one of our favorites!

 

 

 

 

 

515D25EN3SL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I love anything that offers “The Best Of”…This book holds the recipe for my pie crust.  For this alone, it is a keeper for me. Read More

 

 

 

Tell me what you’re doing today to bring a little comfort & joy to your life.

 

 

 

 

Comfort & Joy?

Comfort & Joy?

By Barbara Coleman

file2571261720030In November we talked about Gratitude and Thankfulness.  We turned over every stone and looked in places we sometimes didn’t want to go, but we found it!  The turkey carcass hasn’t even been stripped clean and we are in the midst of the Christmas season.  Shopping, “Bring a Dish to Pass”, Cookies, Decorations, Family Dysfunction & More Shopping.  This month, we’re looking at  Comfort & Joy.  LIFE Comfort and Joy!  What brings you comfort and joy?  We’ll share ours and we hope you’ll share yours.

For your listening pleasure…Barenaked Ladies “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”  

6-2-2006-027

Let’s be honest, Christmas isn’t always about Comfort or Joy.  For many people it brings out the worst in family members; dysfunction is at an all time high.  Depression hits hard this time of year.  If we’re all honest with ourselves, the season couldn’t be more stressful.  We [women especially] try to make magic happen every year.  We run ourselves ragged, we run ourselves into debt and we’re over whelmed with time commitments and family obligations.

Reports of Black Friday Violence are astounding to me.  A shopping frenzy caused by people buying whatever they can get their hands on….because it’s discounted.  Comfort & Joy?  It’s a Wonderful Life?

There’s been a lot of outrage over Macy’s — the retailer most synonymous with Thanksgiving and family with its parade of floats — deciding to open its stores on the day when we are supposed to give thanks. Petitions have cropped up online against other retailers like Target and Walmart lobbying them to stay closed on Thanksgiving [read more].

Great.  Another push from society to tell people they should be home with their Norman Rockwell family, celebrating the holidays like you’re supposed to.  What if you don’t have a family, what if you have a family, and the level of dysfunction they bring with them is beyond toxic?  What if you find your job to be your only “soft place to land”?  It doesn’t conform to the notion of “Comfort & Joy” so it will be protested.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/5685642071/">Loren Javier</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>The music, the movies, the very special holiday episodes of all the television shows give you the notion everything stops this time of year and all is forgiven, all is bright, o tidings of comfort and joy…comfort and joy.  It’s easy to see why depression is so high this time of year, we just can’t compete with George Bailey!  In order for you to feel the magic of Christmas, you’ll need to spend more money than you can actually afford, your work/life balance is thrown completely out of whack pursuing your “It’s a Wonderful Life” Christmas.

It’s hard to imagine, but there are people in this world that don’t live the George Bailey Life.  It’s still a good life, but it doesn’t take place in Bedford Falls.

There are people that have no one and the only interaction with the outside world they might have is going to work.  Why would anybody protest that?  Having been alone on the holidays before, I can honestly tell you I’d rather go to work than sit home and watch television interpret the kind of holiday they think I’m supposed to be having.  Not everyone has a “George Bailey” experience every year.  It’s not always a wonderful life.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox!  On to Christmas, I mean Comfort & Joy.

file2831261625182-1I’m sure if you’re a regular reader here, you know I don’t do Christmas. At least I don’t do it in the way the masses thinks I’m  supposed to.  I find comfort & joy during the entire year.  I’m thankful for those occasions not just on Thanksgiving, but as the moments occur.

So here’s the focus for this month…this season.  Comfort & Joy.  MY Comfort & Joy.  The things that bring me great comfort, the things that bring me joy.  It just might not have much to do with Christmas.

 Tell me about your comfort…or your joy!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/5685642071/”>Loren Javier</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>