A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for February, 2011

Parenting 101A

Today a 13 year old cried in front of me. She hid her face in her arms and sobbed and wailed as though her heart was broken. If you hadn’t seen the whole episode, you would have thought that her puppy just died. She blamed it all on a coworker and I, of course. We were guilty of the unpardonable offense of calling her out on being a bully. Say WHAT???

Truly, honest to goodness, we pulled her and a friend of hers aside separately and told them to stop picking on a very sensitive boy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. They had been teasing him during lunch and my coworker heard what they were saying and told me. Sick to death of hearing this student tease other ones, I called her on it. After the standard denial, I told her I didn’t believe her, nor did I believe the denial of her friend. Neither one could come up with a plausible explanation for the boy’s distress, and so realized that they were caught. They resorted to that most inefficient weapon, tears. They put their heads down on the lunchroom table and shot us dirty looks for the remainder of the period. An hour or so later, this teenager also told another teacher that we called her a liar. Ugh. So we went through the whole incident again with her and told her to not twist our words to suit her purpose. That’s when she burst into tears – when she was realized she was completely and totally without any valid defense, because she was guilty of being a bully. The truth hurts.

I wish all parents would read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” to their children and teach them that the truth is ALWAYS the better route. When a child tells half truths and untruths all the time, they are setting themselves up to not be believed at any time. We need to teach our children that they are, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, being judged “on the content of their character.” I always taught Louise that she would be better off telling me the truth about something doing something wrong, because then we could both a) work on why she behaved badly, and b) work to resolve the ramifications of the bad behavior. However, if she lied to me about an incident and I found out, her life would be much more uncomfortable than had she fessed up. It’s a model that has worked beautifully for the past 18 years, and I believe her to be a young woman of great integrity today as a result.

The Girl Scout Law says, “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do; and to respect myself and authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place and be a sister to every Girl Scout.” Wow – those are qualities we should strive to embody as adults as well! Bo Bennett, a businessman, philanthropist and motivational speaker also said, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” Bo and his wife Kim created a not-for-profit organization called “Bellado” to promote kindness, respect, generosity, forgiveness, honesty, and patience. All these are the qualities that are in precious short supply today, the qualities that are SO refreshing to see, even in tiny doses. These are what we NEED to teach our kids. Can you just IMAGINE a world full of courageous, responsible, considerate, generous children like that? It would be Heaven!

Parenting Tip of the Day

Teach your children to be honest. Call them on every lie they tell. Advise them that to tell the truth is ALWAYS the better path. Teach them the Girl Scout Law, but tailor it to your family. Make it the Smith Law or the Jones Law, and refer them back to it with love every time they goof up. Every day is a new opportunity to make a difference in the life of your child.

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My Favorite Books

95, 96, 97, 98, 99… Believe it or not, that’s the number of cookbooks in my house. 99. They run the gamut from cajun to seafood to Indian to general. Some are VERY specialized (like Gordon Grimsdale’s Book of Sauces), and some have every recipe your grandmother made (Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook originally published in 1948). Since I read cookbooks like novels (front to back, marking the pages with PostIts as I go), it seemed like a good idea to share my favorites with you – let’s call it Coleen’s Book Club. These books are the ones I refer back to time and time again, the ones that have stains in them, dog-eared pages and torn spines. To be sure, I have some favorite recipes in each one of them, but mostly use them as inspiration for my own creations. Check them out!

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The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond

This book is my go-to book for inspiration for fresh cooking. My first introduction to the Diamonds was when I read Fit for Life in the 1980s. Their philosophy was that one should have only ONE concentrated food at each meal, and this cookbook backs that up. It is a great reference book for cooking grains and vegetables. The recipes are simple, delicious and packed with flavor. Having said that – stay away from the blended salad on page 142. Disgusting!

My favorite salad dressing is in here (pg. 124), the basic “cream” soup recipe I use all the time (pg. 191), and Louise’s favorite hummus recipe (pg. 131). Here is that hummus recipe. As the Barefoot Contessa says, “How easy is THAT?”

Linda’s Delicious Hummus

2-3 T olive oil

juice of 1 lemon (3-4 T)

1 medium garlic clove

1/4 cup tahini

17 oz jar or 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained

Measure olive oil and lemon juice into blender or food processor. Add garlic and tahini and blend until smooth. Add beans and blend until mixture is creamy. (Note – I drop the garlic into a running food processor to turn it into little chunks before I add the other ingredients.)

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A Little German Cookbook by Gertrude Philipine Matthes

This is my go-to book for our Oktoberfests, or whenever Rick is in a wurst mood. It’s a teeny tiny little book (4×5 inches with only 60 pages including the table-of-contents and index), but has nearly every traditional recipe you need. Spaetzle, pork roast, cabbage dishes, sauerbraten, applecake. Yum! Hundreds of people have eaten the food out of this little book – I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth!

Here’s a twist on Sauerkraut (pg. 30) that you might find intriguing…

Sauerkraut

1 lb. can or jar of sauerkraut (use the refrigerated bag if you can find it)

1 small onion, diced

3 slices of bacon, chopped

2 tsp. oil

1 small apple, diced (peel still on)

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 peeled potato, grated

salt and pepper

water (about 1 cup)

Drain and rinse sauerkraut thoroughly. Fry the bacon and onion in oil until bacon is crisp. Add sauerkraut, apple, carrot and potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with water and boil for an hour. (Note – The recipe originally called for uncooked sauerkraut. However, we can only find cooked kraut here, so reduce the cooking time to 15 or 20 minutes or so.)

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International Meatless Cookbook by Jean Hewitt

This is a funny cookbook. It says it’s meatless, but includes chicken and fish recipes, as though their flesh wasn’t meat. Interestingly enough, I use the chicken recipes in here a LOT. The chicken section includes such standards as Brunswick Stew, Sancocho, Tagine, Marengo, Coq au Vin, Cacciatore, Paprikash, Normandy, Chicken and Dumplings, Mole, Scarpariello, Arroz con Pollo, Kiev, Parmigiana, Florentine, Provencal, Chausseur, Vindaloo, Chicken with Snow Peas, Sukiyaki, Scaloppini, Tandoori, Satay, and Teriyaki. It’s a GREAT chicken reference book!

It’s also a great book for soups and appetizers. This recipe (pg. 47) is, indeed, meatless. It’s my go-to hot summer day soup.

Chilled Cucumber Soup (Turkish)

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

16 oz. yogurt (use full fat if you can find it)

8 oz. sour cream

2 T snipped fresh dill

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped walnuts and dill sprigs for garnish, optional

Put the cucumber, garlic, yogurt, sour cream and dill in the container of a blender or food processor. Whirl until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill. To serve, put a T of walnuts in each of four bowls and pour soup over. Garnish will dill. (Note – I never use the walnuts. This soup is best served a day after it is made.)

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Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni

This is the book that changed everything in my kitchen. The more recipes I made out of here, the more I wanted to learn about Indian cooking. The more I wanted to learn, the more spices I bought, and the more versed I became with Indian ingredients. This book is a MUST if you are interested in learning how to cook Indian food. There are sections on cooking techniques used, chapters on spices, herbs and seasonings, and on planning and serving Indian foods. Then the recipes – oh my, the recipes. Some of my favorites are Fish in Velvet Yogurt Sauce (pg. 253), Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce (pg. 274), Cumin and Turmeric Rice (pg. 364) and the following recipe, Masala Dal (pg. 330).

Masala Dal (Spice and Herb laced split peas)

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas (toor dal)

1/3 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. Kosher salt

for the Tadka:

1/2 cup light vegetable oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 1/2 cup finely chopped onions

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 T finely chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

  1. Sort and wash the peas. Put the peas in a bowl, add enough hot water to cover by 1″ and let soak for an hour. Drain.
  2. Put the peas, turmeric and 4 1/2 cups water in a deep pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to keep the peas from lumping. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, or until the peas are thoroughly cooked and tender when pressed between your fingers. Stir now and then to ensure that they don’t stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and beat the peas with a wooden spoon or whisk until finely pureed. There should be about 5 cups of puree. If not, add water until you reach 5 cups. (You can refrigerate the puree for up to 4 days if you want, or freeze. Defrost thoroughly before proceeding)
  3. When ready to serve, simmer the puree over low heat until piping hot. Check the consistency and add water if it is too thick. Set aside and make the tadka.
  4. Heat oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. When it is very hot, add the cumin seeds and fry until they turn dark brown (about 10 seconds). Add onions and fry until they turn dark brown (about 20 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Stir in red pepper and pour tadka over split pea puree. (It will sputter – don’t get your face too close) Garnish with coriander and serve in small bowls.

(Note – I pour the tadka over the puree when it is still in the pot and mix it in. This isn’t authentic, but I prefer it over having the oil sit on top of the puree.)

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Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath

This is a great book. Period. End of story. Seriously, this book contains some of my favorite recipes EVER. Garlicky smothered bell peppers (pg. 98), Garbanzo Beans in Tangy Tomato Sauce (pg. 160), Lemon-Sesame Rice Crowned with Vegetables (pg. 136), Palak Paneer (pg. 166), and the recipe that got my husband to eat cabbage, Gujarat-Style Baked Cabbage (pg. 115). Some of the recipes are complicated, but everything I have made out of this book is wonderful! The pages are coated with stains and scribbled remarks like “Great!” and “Yum!”

This dish should come out with a crispy texture like a potato pancake or hash browns. You can serve it with ANYTHING. If you have a clay baking dish, use it – you get better crispy edges.

Gujarat-Style Baked Cabbage

2 cups firmly packed finely shredded green cabbage

1 medium onion, halved and finely sliced

1/4 cup grated coconut, fresh or thawed (you can use unsweetened dried – just rehydrate in a little hot water)

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 or 2 fresh hot green chiles, chopped (serranos are a good choice)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. salt

3 T mild vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

sesame seeds

  1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F.
  2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to mix well. Add the oil and water and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8x8x2″ baking dish (a 9″ round works fine). Press lightly to spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the top with as much or as little sesame as you desire. Bake until the top is browned, about 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  3. To reheat, place the baking dish in a cold oven and turn the heat on to 350F. Bake until heated though, about 12 minutes.

(Note – You can easily double this dish and bake it in a 13×9″ rectangular baking dish. Don’t double the salt, though. Just increase it a little bit.)

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Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen by – you guessed it – Rick Bayless

 

This book was written by one of my favorite chefs. Rick Bayless, owner of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago (where I plan to celebrate my 50th birthday) is a master of Mexican cooking. He was working on his Doctorate in Anthropological Linguistics in Mexico when he wrote his first cookbook about regional Mexican cooking. In nearly every recipe, Rick offers variations and improvisations, showing that Mexican cooking is flexible – truly an art, not a science.

This recipe is one of 14 different sauces (salsas) and seasoning pastes that he writes about. It is quick, easy and one of my absolute favorites. Presented here is the version with canned chipotles in adobo, because it’s the easiest. The version in the book also shows how to use dried chipotles (both black-red and tan).

Essential Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce

3-4 chipotles in adobo

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 medium-large round or 9 to 12 plum)

1 T rich lard or olive or vegetable oil

salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

  1. Remove the canned chipotles from their adobo.
  2. In a heavy, ungreased skillet or on a griddle over medium-high heat, roast the unpeeled garlic until blackened and soft in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel and coarsely chop.
  3. Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4″ from a very hot broiler. When they blister, blacken and soften on one side (about 6 minutes), flip them over and roast on the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes. (Note – you can skip this step and use a 28-oz. can of Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, either whole or diced. Just make sure they’re the fire roasted ones.)
  4. Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor and add the chiles and garlic. Pulse until nearly a puree – it should have more texture than canned tomato sauce.
  5. Heat the lard or oil in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and concentrates to an earthy, red, thickish sauce – about the consistency of a medium-thick spaghetti sauce. Season with salt.
  6. This freezes well. You may need to simmer when you defrost it to thicken it up again.

(Note – This is quite spicy with 4 chipotles. The first time you make it, use 3 chiles and go from there.)

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There you have it – six of my favorite cookbooks. I’m curious to know what yours are – please write and let me know. Who knows? They might become one of my new favorites, too!

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Food Porn

{cue 70s lounge music…}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you hungry yet?? 🙂

The Smack Upside the Head

Today in church the readings included, “Cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … If you love only those who love you, what recompense will you have?” Also, from a song that I chose last week to be sung at this week’s Masses, “When love is torn and trust betrayed, pray strength to love till torments fade, till loved ones keep no sense of wrong…” These passages came on the heels of a section of forgiveness I read last night in After the Ecstasy the Laundry, a book on inner transformation written by Buddhist teacher and meditation master Jack Kornfield.

I think someone is trying to tell me something. Is it coincidence that a Buddhist meditation book I’m reading conveyed the exact same message that is the basis of the week’s readings at my church job? I don’t believe in coincidence. I think that coincidence is our unseen guides, angels, relatives, God, whatever label you want to use, tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, pay attention, moron!” Because I didn’t get a tap, but got a celestial whack upside the head, I’m paying attention. (Side note: As I wrote those last words, Louise showed me an online gif of a penguin smacking another in the head. Hmmm… Another coincidence timed with my thoughts on coincidence?? I’m listening…)

 

 

 

Jack Kornfield says that “to forgive, we must face the pain and sorrow of our betrayal and disappointment, and discover the movement of the heart that opens to forgive in spite of it all.” So what instance of “pain and betrayal” is still stuck to me? Who is it that I need to forgive? There are three people in the last 20 years or so that fit the bill, but I suspect that the one I am going to tell you about is the one I need to address. It comes up in my thoughts and dreams over and over…

A year and a half ago, an older woman who is very dear to me (we’ll call her Donna) said some very hurtful things to Louise. Because Louise is not exploring any religion at this point in her life, she was called “selfish” and a myriad of other insults. {sigh} Even 18 months later, I still feel distress when I think about that day. Donna later told me that she had a knee-jerk reaction to my very stubborn daughter and didn’t really mean anything she said. However, she said that to ME, not Louise. She flatly said that she wouldn’t apologize to her. {sigh} To me, this was a double insult, because she acknowledged her error, but would not rectify it with the one person who needed to hear it most.

I think I was also so offended because my thoughts on religion are similar to Louise’s, although Donna didn’t know that. Even though I grew up in the Catholic church, I don’t embrace the vast majority of its teachings. The divinity of Christ (I believe he was a great teacher, nothing more), transubstantiation, priestly celibacy and abstinence, the ordination of women, virgin birth, the process of sainthood, confession, the infallible pope, purgatory, etc., combined with the absolute arrogance of priests and laypeople who say the Catholic church is the one TRUE church – it all makes my head spin. I don’t believe a word of it. So this insult was also an insult to me. (I should say here, however, that there are things about the mystical side of the church that I find intriguing. I do find inspiration in certain aspects of this and other Judeo-Christian traditions. But that’s another post.)

When Louise was 9, right after her first communion, I pulled her out of CCD (Catholic religious ed). I was uncomfortable forcing her to study something that neither Richard nor I believed. I don’t think I did anything wrong – I think it would be morally wrong for me to force her to believe something I found abhorrent. I know when Louise feels a need to explore this part of herself, she will do so with as much fervor and dedication as she now explores science and math. It’s vitally important, however, that her spiritual exploration be on her timetable, not mine or Donna’s anyone else’s. Otherwise it’s meaningless. Her heart, her faith.

I have tried over the last 18 months to forgive Donna. There is a huge wedge between us still, mostly visible on my side. It is still a deep and raw wound. I sometimes wonder if I should let our relationship heal with the wedge in place. I know that’s not the right thing to do, but it would be the easier path. I’m sure she feels the effects on her side. It has affected every communication between us since then, and I want it to go away; I want healing to happen. In After the Laundry, Jack Kornfield tells a story about forgiveness. He writes, “(Forgiveness) is like the meeting of two former prisoners of war. When one asked, ‘Have you forgiven your captors?’ the other replied, ‘No, never.’ The first ex-prisoner looked with kindness at his friend and said, ‘Well, then, they still have you in prison, don’t they?'”

My guides and God are the ones looking at me with kindness now. I don’t want to remain in prison – I want the freedom that forgiveness brings. I want to completely love and trust Donna again. Louise long ago decided that it’s not worth the energy to stay mad. She may not be terribly fond of Donna anymore, but that’s OK, because she was able to forgive without an apology. I know I’ll always be a little wary, but I need to let this go, too. It’s been too long, Donna is far too important to me, and I love her far too much not to forgive her.

Forgiveness is close. I am “facing the pain and sorrow of betrayal and disappointment” in my heart. I can feel the shifting and opening of my heart, and look forward to the day when I wake up and feel nothing but love again. But I swear on all that is good and holy, this journey is a ridiculously hard one.

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The Tao of Ribs

Picture a full rack of raw baby back ribs. The pink of nearly parallel bones curves away from you. There’s a luminous white layer of fat under the bones that cushioned the pig when he still wore them. The meat between the bones is tender, slightly marbled with more fat that will provide flavor and moisture during cooking. In a small bowl, you mix up brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, and thyme. You scoop the dry rub up with your hand and pat it gently – don’t rub it – into the surface of the meat. When all the ribs are equally coated, front and back, you put them in the smoker. Smoke them low and slow over apple or hickory wood for at least 6 hours – overnight is better. When morning comes, you mix ketchup, whiskey, brown sugar, lemon juice, worcestershire, garlic and dry mustard in a small pot. Simmer this mixture until it is thickened and glossy. The ribs get bathed on both sides with this thick, sticky glaze and an intense heat is applied. As a crust develops from the caramelizing sugar, a tantalizing aroma fills the air. You KNOW that this is going to taste good. These ribs are going to be incredible! The anticipation is almost unbearable. Finally they are removed from the heat, and, still sizzling, you slice them apart, noticing the pink ring that indicates they were penetrated by the smoke. You bring a moist, tender, falling-off-the-bone rib to your mouth, the scent of smoke and chiles and whiskey flooding your head. You take a bite. The combined flavor of the sweet glaze, the spicy rub, the aromatic smoke and the melted fat explodes in your mouth and you are transfixed, sticky and blissfully unaware of anything, incapable of moving until your brain catches up to your senses.

This orgasmic experience is one that everyone should have at least once, as it is a beautiful metaphor for Life. Life as a seductive baby back rib. Life as it could be. Consider this…

Imagine that your life is a rack of ribs. You are born pink, new, fat, with huge potential. Your future stretches in front of you with different “bones” of experience waiting to happen. These bones are common to most every life: toilet training, learning to read, finding faith, driving, graduating from high school, finding a partner, getting a job, losing a job, retiring, and that beautiful little meaty end of the rack is your death. The bones are the structure of your life.

The rub that is applied is your youth, the time before you are released into the world to discover yourself and live your life. It is those sweet and spicy years before you are held in the smoke to cook and solidify. They are your first kiss, your discovery of punk rock, speaking in front of your class. They are infatuation, getting dumped, being bullied, breaking a bone, choosing a college. They are the things you do and the things that happen to you that affect you forever.

When you get your first job, when you are working to buy a house, setting up your retirement accounts, you are in the smoke. These are the years that Life swirls around you. Sometimes it feels like you are going in a circle or standing still, and everything passes you by. It is tedious, it may be dull. But when you come out of the smoke, you know who you are and what you need to be complete. Your identity is obvious now.

The fire is the moment when you begin to live. Really live. You build a glaze for your life. A glaze of sweet and sour, of spice and bitter with a hint of salt. You fall in love for real, experience the death of a loved one, you travel to faraway places, you get a divorce, you rediscover faith. You take the job you’ve always wanted, or you leave the job that no longer serves your purpose. Your experiences are vivid and bold. Their flavors are vibrant. There is the unspoken knowledge that there isn’t a lot of time left; you’re getting to the meaty end.

Thinking about this metaphor, it occurs to me that most of the flavor is a thin layer on the outside of the meat, that the rub and the glaze are the moments in our lives when we are caught between the comfortable and the unknown, between smoke and fire. These are the moments when we are most alive, the times when we are living “in the edge”. We are caught up in a place that is at once exciting and terrifying. The Buddha said that impermanence is the nature of the human condition. We want what is familiar and comfortable, but we are truly alive when we don’t know what comes next. When we are about to be thrown out of the nest, and are creating and experiencing and loving fully and with all that we are, without regard for what comes next, those are the times when we are living in the edge. We should strive to stay there, because that’s where all the flavor is.

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“If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” – Emile Zola

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Books That Changed My Life

Throughout the course of my nearly 48 years, there are many books that have made a HUGE difference in the way I think and act. I wanted to share them with you one at a time. The most important book I have EVER read is PsychoCybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz. Without being melodramatic, this book truly saved my life. This is a hard story for me to tell, because it’s painful for me to return to that time in my life, but here we go…

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When I was in my early 20s, I was in a serious blue funk. It was probably a clinical depression, but since I didn’t tell anyone about it, it went undiagnosed. My parents had moved to Hawaii shortly after my college graduation, and I found myself alone with no one to sit and talk with. There were all these questions about Life, about how to move forward, about what to do with this seemingly useless education. I was lonely and afraid, didn’t want to leave my apartment, and my biggest fear was that I would die all alone. I felt completely unloved. I was so desperate for the familiar that I booked a short-notice, $1500 first class ticket to Hawaii and spent a little time with my parents. It didn’t help in the long term, but it certainly kept me off the ledge for a few more months.

At the YMCA in White Plains, where I was the front desk membership clerk, there was a masseur named Kevin Grady. He would come to my apartment to give me massages, and we would talk for hours. When Kevin discovered my depression, he told me about a book that had made a difference to him. It was called PsychoCybernetics and was written by a doctor named Maxwell Maltz in 1960. Billed as “a new technique for using your subconscious power”, he said this book was worth a study. So I borrowed his copy, read it, then ran right out to buy it for myself. It changed my life. That sounds corny, but it really, truly did.

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. He discovered throughout the course of his practice that a large number of the people who came to him for “improvement” really just needed to feel better about themselves. There was no physical defect that needed correcting, no “real” reason for surgery. So he would counsel them on their self-image prior to their surgeries and many of his patients decided NOT to have the surgery after talking with him – they realized they were just fine as they were.

This is one of the earliest books I know of that explores the mind/body connection. In simple, straightforward manner it describes the fact that your body doesn’t know the difference between a real stimulus or an imagined one. If you can imagine yourself in some terrible, horrible, painful situation, your body will respond as if it were actually happening. Imagine that you are trapped in a car that is filling with water and you will get short of breath, your pulse will race, you will get lightheaded. Now imagine that you were on a beach somewhere, feeling the heat of the sun beating down on you, pushing your body into the sand. Your pulse will slow, you will get sleepy and your pupils will dilate.

The key to this book is that it uses this mind/body connection to say “imagine that you are happy” and “imagine that you are a success”. He said that the pursuit of happiness is not a selfish thing. We all DESERVE to be happy. We all DESERVE to feel like a success. Dr. Maltz then goes on to describe a definition of success that he used, using the word “success” as an acronym. It was posted for years on the side of my fridge, and I still refer back to it when I am feeling wonky. This is a radically abridged version.

  • S = Sense of Direction – We have goal-seeking brains. When we don’t have a goal, we tend to wander around in circles, feel lost, and find life aimless. Get interested in something because you WANT to and you will have that sense of direction.
  • U = Understanding – We expect other people to have the same response to situations that we do, based on the same set of facts. We forget that fact and opinion are two different things and that different people see situations through different glasses. Try to understand problems from another person’s point of view and you’ll ultimately help resolve it.
  • C = Courage – Nothing in this world is guaranteed. You should assess a situation, plan different strategies to resolve it, pick the course of action that seems most promising and then MOVE FORWARD. Bet on yourself – you’ll never know what you can accomplish unless you try. Be willing to fail – you can always correct your course, but only if you’re moving forward.
  • C = Charity – Successful people have a regard for other people and a respect for their problems. Try to develop a genuine appreciation for people by realizing that they are unique, creative personalities. Stop and think about things from the other person’s point of view. Act as if other people are important, because, in truth, everyone is.
  • E = Esteem – Get it through your head that a low opinion of yourself is not a virtue, but a vice. Stop dramatizing yourself as an object of pity and injustice. If a person can esteem the stars or all of nature, then that person can also esteem himself or herself because of their inherent worth and beauty.
  • S = Self-Confidence – Work on forgetting your past failures and remember your past successes. Reprogram your CPU (your brain) to “see” success. Everyone has succeeded at SOMETHING. Focus on that and build from there. (A personal note – I remember vividly meditating on this while playing the harp at a restaurant one night. I was convinced I was a total loser, but I looked around the restaurant and knew that nobody else in the place could play the harp like I could, and that was the thread of sanity I held onto that night. It got me through.)
  • S = Self-Acceptance – “Most of us are better, wiser, stronger, more competent – now – than we realize. Creating a better self-image does not create new abilities, talents, powers – it releases and utilizes them… You are NOT your mistakes. You are Somebody – right now!… Accept yourself… Be yourself.”

The book then goes into the “Failure Mechanism” that uses the same acronym format. I present these with minimal explanation, because I don’t want to dwell on them. I prefer to focus on Success, keeping these in the back of my mind as a rudder.

  • F = Frustration, Hopelessness, Futility
  • A = Aggressiveness
  • I = Insecurity
  • L = Loneliness (lack of Oneness) – Remember that Loneliness is different than being alone.
  • U = Uncertainty
  • R = Resentment
  • E = Emptiness

The book then goes on to talk about forgiveness, how to remove emotional scars and unlock your real personality, and offers some do-it-yourself tranquilizers. There are chapters on rational thinking, turning crisis into creative opportunity and dehypnotizing yourself. I could go on for days expounding on the importance of Dr. Maltz’s book, but I will instead suggest that you get a copy and read it. Don’t get it at the library – buy it. You’ll want to keep it around.

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To everyone who reads this post, please remember the Truth about yourself is this:

  • You are not Superior
  • You are not Inferior
  • You are simply You.

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Parenting 101

Recently a comment by someone sent me into a mini-tailspin. I don’t think the person making the comment had that intent, but that was the result, and it made me question my 18 years of parenting. The comment was in response to my Helicopter Mom post from a few days ago. I believe my post was misinterpreted and a judgement was leveled based on an extremely limited knowledge of my parenting style or ability. I was then gently chided and told that my REACTION to the comment was perhaps incorrect. The sort of situation that puts me in knee-jerk territory (but that’s a whole other topic). I took a deep breath and stepped back.

I was going to write a post correcting my earlier post, a blog errata. This afternoon, though, I got a really uplifting EMail from a dear friend down south who made me realize that there was nothing wrong with my reaction to the comment, there was nothing wrong with my initial post and there was nothing wrong with my parenting.

Having a close relationship with my daughter is not a bad thing. She has benefitted immensely from her upbringing and is not in any way resentful of our closeness. In fact, she told me last night “Mommy, you’re a GREAT Mom. Don’t listen to that stuff.” Were I doing something wrong, there would most likely be daily tension between us, frequent eye rolling, numerous arguments, and a lot of disrespect aimed at me, all of which are lacking. My parenting has allowed her to grow up secure, able to make mistakes and have failures, knowing there was someone to discuss them with and to design a plan of attack to learn from those mistakes. She has grown in myriad ways and will continue to do so as she goes through the college experience. Even after college, I will not abandon Louise just when she has the BIG Life questions, nor do I think that is a good thing to do. Our relationship is adjusting to her growth and is ever evolving, as it should. My parenting when she was young was different from that when she was a tween. In turn, the style that worked when she was a tween is no longer valid now. The parent/child connection is a living, breathing organism.

My intent when writing about helicopter parenting was to illuminate the separation pain that I am experiencing as she grows and starts to leave the nest. I was illustrating my growth in what, to me, was a poignant manner. I used as the vehicle for that an argument we had one day when we both were cranky. She subsequently apologized and so did I. The matter was settled and we both learned something from the experience. To take that ONE argument, that ONE instance and use it to categorize my parenting is plain wrong.

This is the one and only time I will EVER defend my parenting. It does not need defending, because it is good.

Parenting 101 Tip of the Day: Don’t ever assume you know what is right for someone else’s child.

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