Forest bathing

Have you heard of forest bathing? I have, but only in vague terms. This NPR story talks about it in more detail and I encourage you to read it if this concept intrigues you.

Forest bathing to me is just a fancier way of describing a walk in the woods, which I happened to do late yesterday. The reason for that walk was not to relax, however. It was to see if I might find my daughter’s driver’s license, which she unfortunately lost while walking her dog in a nearby forest preserve. The driver’s license remains lost.

In spite of this task, I tried to look around me at the new Spring growth as I walked along. I spotted the following wildflowers in bloom and couldn’t resist photographing them.

Food

In my family, a lot of talk revolves around food. I doubt we are much different from any other large family. The older we all get, the more we seem to talk and reminisce over food. This past weekend, my wife and I were able to spend time with extended family and we enjoyed some delicious food along the way.

One meal was rack of lamb, roast potatoes, and asparagus with a wonderful peach huckleberry pie for dessert. The portions were just right and there were no leftovers. Lamb has always been a favorite for me but I don’t think I’ve ever had rack of lamb before, and it was covered in bread crumbs mixed with several different ingredients including finely chopped anchovies.

On our way home, we decided to stop and eat at The Courier Café, a local institution that has a lot of history in our family for various reasons. However, in spite of that history, I had never eaten there before. We got a table right away and ordered two different appetizers that largely consisted of baked/fried potato skins with loads of stuff on top. Delicious!

We then drove to another local institution, Art Mart, where we enjoyed slices of white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake.

Neglect

I’ll admit it: I’ve neglected this blog lately. I’m not sure of all the reasons why although the most common one is that it has felt like one more thing to do. And I don’t need or want “one more thing to do.”

I read an interesting article recently about someone in higher education who discussed something similar to what I’ve been feeling. Essentially the author said that many people are at their limit of time and effort and that reasons for this vary. Undoubtedly the pandemic is part of it but also the increasing amount of work is too, when institutions cut back on their workforce. More work for fewer people.

This resonates with me as I have struggled with various health issues and more work responsibilities. I just don’t seem to be as capable of juggling everything as well as I used to. As a result, I have been taking a careful look at all of my time commitments and identifying those that really are not important to me. Whenever possible, then, I have tried to cut those less important things out of my life. It hasn’t been easy.

Increasingly I find myself asking, what truly makes me happy and fulfilled? If I’m doing something that doesn’t fill me up in this way then why am I doing it? I’m also asking myself each day questions like, what is one thing I really need or want to accomplish today? Then focus on that. Or, what is something fun and enjoyable I can find in my life today? And then revel in that fun or enjoy whatever it is that brings me joy. Each day is increasingly precious and only comes once.

As with most things in my life, this is a work in progress. Some days this new attitude works and some days it doesn’t. I am determined, though, to focus less on doing more things and more on enjoying and appreciating things in life, especially relationships.

Menagerie

Welcome to the new year, all.

New year, new start, including (hopefully) more regular posting on this blog.

We are a family that loves animals, and we have a bit of a menagerie now: three dogs, two parakeets, and the most recent additions: two kittens. You guessed it, the kittens were Christmas presents for two of our children.

Life is much more complicated with them about, to be honest, but so far, we are coping reasonably well. Many of us have cat allergies, and that is why we didn’t adopt any cats before now, but so far we are all doing pretty well. That’s a relief. Long term, more symptoms may appear.

The Beatles to Beyoncé

I have no use whatsoever for the Beatles. Never have. I know I am in the minority here, but seriously, I have never understood their popularity. They have a few good songs, but that’s about it. What little I know of them individually and as a group just … annoys. What also annoys is the sort of hagiography with which they are routinely treated. They didn’t change the world, or at least, my world.

Another music persona who gets treated with awe and wonder by most people is Beyoncé. Here, I can understand some measure of adulation as she is clearly very hard working and talented. My favorite song she’s sung is “The Way We Were” in honor of someone else I really don’t care for: Barbara Streisand, who famously sang the song originally. This was for a Kennedy Center honors show. Beyoncé adapted her vocal style admirably. But this is the only song I enjoy. Everything else she sings is not my thing at all. I get the popularity and adulation, and I’m sure as a person, she is a decent human being. But her music and style are just not my thing.

There are many other music/stars whom the majority of the universe seems to think are superb and wonderful. Most of them, I just don’t get. I am glad other people enjoy them, and I can acknowledge such and such a song or performance is good, but I don’t seem to connect at all to the music.

My wife says I’m a very picky person — I guess she’s right. The main message, however, is to take all of this fame/fortune/reputation/adulation of music/stars with a healthy dose of skepticism. Just because the rest of the world seems to fall at their feet, doesn’t mean I have to.

Chicken and dumplings soup for the soul

Recently, my wife made a wonderful chicken and dumplings soup, which was quickly devoured by us all. Not only was it tasty, it was comforting and soothing. There are many kinds of food like that, wouldn’t you agree? Some that I can think of:

  • A well-made cup of tea (favorites include Irish or English breakfast teas)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Beef stew
  • Eggs and bacon (I prefer fried, over easy)
  • Soft-boiled eggs with butter, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Quiche
  • Fresh-baked bread
  • Clam chowder
  • Split pea soup
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (I always have them with jam on top)
  • Green bean casserole

As I jotted those ideas down, I realized how many of these comfort foods are highly starchy and not very healthy — oh well.

What would you put on the list?

Strange(r) things

Strange(r) things have been happening lately. For example, did you know that such a thing as Green Bean Casserole Pizza exists? And that it is actually tasty? And that it comes from Aldi? Weird, but true.

Another example: a coworker asked me how I know for sure what I believe (referring to my faith). This is strange for me because I work in a faith-based environment and it is a question that I don’t often get asked. I found it deeply interesting even as I came away from our discussion wishing that I had a better, more well rounded explanation.

Then there is the seemingly ever-present organizational weirdness (remember the name of this blog? The OW (organizational weirdness) Factor) in my workplace. It flares up quite a lot and frankly I don’t have the energy to deal with that crap so much any more. It is exhausting, and I’m reminded of a post someone shared recently on social media that said something along the lines of: “It’s not the work itself that is problematic, it’s the culture.” Amen to that. One of the biggest causes of organizational weirdness, I think, is people’s insecurities.

Finally, there continues to be such widespread misinformation and disinformation about COVID vaccinations. I can’t even begin to wrap my already sore brain around the outrageous conspiracy theories that abound, let alone the thinking of public officials who threaten to sue anyone who adheres to federal vaccination requirements. I mean, wow, we really, really live in a cray cray world.

An on- and off-again love affair with Apple

Since they first came on the scene decades ago, I’ve had an on- and off-again love affair with Apple (the computer/device company). I can distinctly remember the fascination I felt when viewing their first mouse-controlled computer in the ‘80s, for example. I’ve owned many Apple computers and devices over the years, and still do.

But the problem with Apple devices is that they are so darn expensive. Too expensive, in my view. An example of this is AirPods and AirPods Pro. I was really excited to be given enough gift money to purchase my first AirPods about three years ago. At a cost of somewhere around $160, they seemed exorbitant and gift money was the only way I could hope to afford them. I enjoyed them for a while but became jaded over time with their reduced battery life. I’m still not sure the $160 was a worthwhile price to pay.

Fast forward to today, and my recent hankering to get AirPods Pro, at an even more eye-watering price of something like $230. Here again, gift money was a key factor, but there was just no way I could see to afford a new pair. Instead, I turned to Craigslist to look for a used pair. After some searching, I hit upon what I thought was an incredible deal to buy a new-in-the-box AirPods Pro for a negotiated price of $110. I was so excited at this “steal” but my excitement gradually turned to frustration when I could not get the devices to work consistently and properly, over and over again and especially in trying to pair them with multiple devices. I found it hard to believe that Apple could make such an expensive device that was so patently terrible.

Then I made an appointment to have these AirPods Pro looked at by an Apple technician at an Apple Store. Almost immediately, they spotted that the AirPods Pro I had purchased from someone on Craigslist were — you guessed it — fake. I was told that the pair I had purchased was a better fake than anything they had previously encountered, and I was shown real ones to compare to the fake ones. Honestly, I doubt that I could possibly have spotted this myself in the first place, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly dumb at being so easily duped. Lesson learned.

Eventually I decided to go ahead and purchase the real thing and although the Apple Store offered them at a discount, I still paid over $200 for them. The bargain I made in my mind to justify this is that I’d sell other gear on eBay to make up for this cost. (I had wasted all of my gift money on the fake ones.) I’m still working on achieving enough eBay sales to pay off what I spent on the AirPods Pro.

However, I will say that in the case of the real AirPods Pro, Apple’s often repeated “it just works” mantra has proven correct. Although I am not an audiophile and have no pretense to special expectations for audio, I am greatly impressed with how well these function. Everything that Apple’s marketing claims project has been on target with them. They really are a joy to use, and I can easily switch from my iPhone to my iPad to my Mac Mini to whatever else, and they just work. I get noise reduction, I get spatial audio (pretty neat IRL), I get a great fit in my ears (a problem with my old AirPods). I have lots of video calls for work for which these just work so smoothly, effortlessly.

Bottom line: I’m still an Apple fan. And Apple things still are way too expensive. But I still pay, when I can afford it.

Witness

Yesterday, we attended a cross country race invitational in which one of our children participated. The weather was nearly perfect, about 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a cool breeze and lots of sunshine. Our child finished eighth with a best finish and personal best time. It was great.

What I really wanted to mention though is something that happened after the race to which I was a witness. I looked up and saw my child carrying a teammate in their arms who was obviously in severe pain. They went to their team’s gear area and immediately started caring for this teammate, trying to get them comfortable. They then went and found the mom of the hurt teammate and spent time together with her on massaging their legs. It turned out the problem was severe shin splints, and it took a long time to reduce the pain.

All of this was done with no fuss or fanfare. Our kid just took charge and did something to help another person, carrying them about 60 yards just after finishing the race themselves and throwing up due to exhaustion. Honestly, I was so impressed and proud of them, more so than whatever happened in the cross country race. To me, this incident showed their true character.

I’m a proud dad.

Acceptance

It has been too long since my last post. My focus has been on so many other things and it has been difficult for me to think clearly about what I want to write as a blog post, and when. Mainly, I think God has been working in me through the past several weeks to come to a place of acceptance. By this I mean, acceptance of various circumstances that have not turned out the way I planned or wanted.

There is a fine line between acceptance and resignation. The latter word seems more negative and the former more positive, so I will stick with “acceptance.”

I have accepted that now is not the time for me to transition into a higher level job. That door seems to have shut for now. I have accepted that I have made as much progress through counseling than is possible, and I should probably wrap it up. There is acceptance, also, of multiple relational situations in my family. Acceptance does not exactly mean that everything is wonderful and happy clappy, but it does at least imply that I am more at peace with various issues than I have been in a long time.

As it turns out, there is a lot of change I am having to adjust to in spite of acceptance of various things. A new boss has resulted in a big shake-up of the entire library organization where I work, along with more responsibility for me. I also have a new (much nicer) office, as well. Some of the most negative and long term aspects of my work environment have drastically improved, almost overnight.

I am thankful for all of this, and it helps solidify my attitude of acceptance about life difficulties and decisions.