Wrenched

Two days ago I discovered a minor plumbing problem that I knew I could DIY. As per my usual I found plenty of instructional videos made by handy females, legit plumbing professionals, and several “Gee shucks, here’s what worked for me” kinds of fellows.

They were all variations on a theme but with a common recommendation. “Use an adjustable wrench,” they said. Well, I didn’t have one so I used some well worn pliers with rubber coated handles. Mind you they were grubby and coated with a greasy black film but they were the right size for the job. Several adjustments later, new teflon tape having been applied in the appropriate places, my job was done. Or so I thought until it was time to return the water valve, just a quarter turn mind you, back to the “on” position. I tried with all my might but the shutoff handle wouldn’t budge. It hadn’t been all that hard to turn off in the first place so it was maddening that it was now immovable.

After further rummaging in the garage I spied a gleaming pair of pliers, similar in size but these were spotless and clearly marked, “Made in Germany.” Eureka! The perfect, well-crafted solution for sparing me an hourly plumber’s fee. Regardless, after repeated attempts, I fell sleep last night defeated, hands aching from the darn pliers, side cramps from multiple physical contortions (“maybe if I work it from THIS angle . . .”) and a water line still stuck in the off position.

This morning I awoke with renewed purpose. The darn shutoff valve was not going to conquer me, I was going to conquer it! The tool that the YouTubers had mentioned was readily available at my nearest big box hardware store along with the promise of “You can do it. We can help.” There, at the crack of dawn, on aisle 17 in Bay 05 the solution lay waiting. I was in and out like a ninja, my $4.28 purchase in hand, well equipped for one final attack on the shutoff valve.

I write this today as a victorious woman. One who firmly believes in ingenuity and improvisation but one who needed a reminder that there’s just no replacement for using the appropriate tool. Sometimes it has more to do with using the right tool for the job than it does with the actual problem. Sometimes you get wrenched a little while learning that.

Happy Inauguration Day to all. 🇺🇸♥️

Patterns

Do you find a repetitive pattern to be comforting or confining? Not that it has to be one or the other. Maybe there’s no real conscious awareness of your own patterns but I’ll bet you have some. Even most creatives (though perhaps unaware) have patterns that play out preceding moments of great originality while they color outside of the lines.

Patterns exist everywhere; in nature, in manufactured items of all sorts, and in our very own behaviors. From the petals of a pink camellia to the rippled water rings of a tossed pebble to our own mundane morning routines. And there’s something steadying about our patterns whether they include a morning cuppa and meditation, or a loudly blaring radio on a familiar freeway route, or the walk with the dogs around the block and back. These routines, yes patterns, somehow prepare us for the potential chaos of each new day by bringing an unconscious sense of familiarity.

Although I personally feel that the word “intentional” is overused right now, nevertheless, it is good practice. Good policy for the soul. Being intent on doing a thing is so very necessary especially in these days. If you are feeling adrift in this bizarre pandemic, politically charged, economically challenging season our entire globe is experiencing then look to installing a new pattern. A regularly scheduled quiet moment devoid of iPhone, laptop, vaccine updates, political unrest and such. Whisper a silent prayer—a request for peace or an acknowledgement of gratefulness.

You’ll begin your day more grounded and you never know . . . it just may become a new pattern. ♥️

Fragrance of Frugality

Ahhh, the amazing aroma this candle has, even though it’s never been lit. If it were to be, the entire room would be filled with fragrance and a radiant glow of light. But I don’t dare light it because I want it to last forever! Once lit it will gradually burn out and I don’t want that.

My grandmother lived through the great depression on her family farm in Kansas and as a result she was quite frugal. Yes, she would on occasion wipe down a used piece of aluminum foil and fold it up to be used again. She found clever ways to use leftovers of all sorts rather than to waste them. She mended items of clothing instead of replacing them and those beyond repair were cut up and made into quilts to keep the family warm. Her only daughter being raised with this rationale grew into a woman who tended toward the opposite. All that frugality made her feel deprived around the edges. Having grown up under the influence of both of these women I’ve become a blend of each of their mindsets. I credit Grandma’s frugalista tendencies for my not wanting to light this candle—even though I know it could be replaced in a few clicks on Amazon.

There’s an underlying emotional layer to this also. When you’ve lost something near and dear to you such as a faithful pet, a job that you loved, or an important relationship, you’re going to be shaped by it. You’re going to react in one of a myriad of ways. I’ve known some who’ve lost a pet or a spouse who replace them immediately to fill the void in their heart, hastening to move on to new feelings and new experiences that help to bury the loss of the previous ones. I, on the other hand, I am not quick to replace people or pets or things, apparently including a favorite candle.

Thus far I’ve denied this candle of its primary purpose to burn and to give light. And why? Because I’ve wanted to preserve its sweet fragrance. I don’t want to use it up. I don’t want to lose it.

Occasionally I recognize this tendency and reach for a match . . . I’m working on it.

All Dressed Up

I just realized I’ve been posting more food pics lately. I suppose the holidays and brisk weather (more indoor time?) could be why.

This is my easiest recipe with only two main ingredients not counting any extra garnishes.

Pour a 13 ounce can of coconut milk into a medium sauce pan and warm over medium low heat until simmering. Stir occasionally. As the milk simmers but before it even gets close to a boil, stir in 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips then stir, stir, stir with a wooden spoon until its glossy smooth. At this point stir in a pinch of fine sea salt but this is optional. It won’t taste salty but it takes the sweet edge down about a half a notch. Immediately pour into 6 or 8 ramekins and chill until firm. Garnish based on what you have on hand from caramel to coconut to fresh berries. Final fancy dressing up aside its just two ingredients that make up this impressive, rich, chocolatey dessert. ♥️

And today’s takeaway: It really doesn’t take a lot to be fabulous as long as your core ingredients are good ones.

Whether you dress it up or down—its what we’re made of that counts, not how we’re garnished. Fancy trimmings are a nice touch, and for the record I’m all in favor of judiciously applied personal embellishment, but its got to be about the main ingredients. Honesty, integrity, sincerity, loyalty, generosity, kindness, love . . . any combo, gently simmered over the fire of life experiences can produce an impressive and noteworthy recipe for an extraordinary life.

Garnish that! ♥️

Tiny Teddy

This little bear, who fits in the palm of my hand, was tucked into a package of gifts I received this Christmas. It was love at first sight! Finding out that this tiny Teddy was not fresh off the shelf but vintage endeared him to me even more. He’s a pre-owned model and no doubt previously loved. He reminded me of a sweetly emotional restoration that was featured on the Netflix show, “The Repair Shop.” Watch it if you can for nothing more than to marvel at the ingenious craftspeople who passionately and expertly restore time-worn treasures for their owners.

While watching the episode of two tattered teddy bears being brought back to life I realized how the vulnerable human heart attaches sentiment to inanimate objects that remind it of the past, especially when tied to someone in it. All of the items receiving restoration at The Repair Shop are dearly loved by their owners, most of them being directly connected to a loved one. Less sentimental folks will readily toss away a broken item but these owners are seeking help.

A diminutive Teddy such as mine, or a Teddy of any size for that matter, may embody the love that we cannot express now that we’re in adulthood or maybe a love that we’ve lost. From a childhood of dreams or the lack of one, a much loved teddy silently grants permission for the heart to hold on to a person or place in time. A place of love and acceptance or deep need for it. Oh so much more than stitched together bits of fur, stuffing of excelsior or cotton batting, button eyes and a satin bow.

Objects designed for great purpose or ornamentation only, just like the human heart, may benefit greatly from a little time in the hands of the master craftsman . . . in the repair shop.

Put It Out There

A bag of wild birdseed was delivered to my doorstep followed by a charming bird feeder the very next day. Gifted by someone who knows how to make my heart sing. Of course I dropped everything else to get this hung as quickly as possible. Soon the birds that frequent my garden fountain would be enticed to linger and partake in a mid-morning snack. Oh the joy!

But I’ll tell you what . . . in putting something out there specifically for the birds I was unprepared for the IMMENSE JOY that I felt when little Squirrel Nutkin (Beatrix Potter reference) was the first one to come to the table. Its been so many months since I saw him sipping from the fountain under the cover of night. I’d assumed he’d found greener pastures. This video doesn’t capture the entire scene of the very merry un-birthdaylike celebration that took place. He was as giddy as the Mad Hatter at the tea party!

Thank goodness for iPhones that enable us to capture a moment that can be enjoyed again and again. Just like a good book but a billion times faster to produce. Anyway, the thought came to me that we all need to put our own gifts out there to be enjoyed by others. So what if your target audience has wings yet the ones who come to the table have bushy tails instead? Put it out there and don’t get caught up in trying to reshape your message or your gift or your personal offering of any sort to attract a certain clientele or market. Just do you, the true, most sincere version of you and if your followers prefer nuts to seeds, just keep putting out more. You just may have a broad appeal that will attract more of God’s creatures, great and small, than you might imagine.

Put it out there.

Flow

Would you agree that coffee grounds are similar in size to grains of sand? Not talking about finely ground espresso but rather what you’d expect when brewing a good strong cup of dark roast.

I found myself glued to the unfolding news reports, particularly live video, of the events at the US Capital building yesterday. It was shocking, disturbing, and I couldn’t stop watching. The last thing I needed was another cuppa coffee because my heart was already racing but that’s exactly what I wanted. There were no beans in the house so French press was out of the question but I happen to be stocked to the gills with K-cups for my Keurig. Covid preparedness, don’t ya know.

But the Keurig wouldn’t work despite multiple attempts to brew. Its been awhile since its gotten a good internal cleaning. My bad. But on a day of Breaking News heard round the world you’re going to fail me? On one of many repeated tries I got about a tablespoon of dark rich coffee and gulped it down.

With a restless night of sleep following the unbelievable drama in DC yesterday I woke in the wee hours with one thing on my mind. When would my nearby Starbucks open? Maybe the drive-through McDonald’s in the shopping center would be open earlier? But instead, at 2:30 am, I asked Siri to find me instructions on how to clean a Keurig. BINGO! I cautiously followed the steps which included using a paper clip to gently dislodge any coffee grounds in the area that punctures the K-cup. Voila! That did the trick. As I enjoyed my dark, rich cuppa I realized something. Sometimes something as small as a grain of sand can block the flow. Also this: you have to get in there and get it out if you ever want to get the flow going again. Life lesson right there.

Excuse me while I go brew another cuppa.

Wishing

Today was supposed to be the day that my patio fountain got repaired. Though it’s motor burned out some years ago I’ve continued to fill it daily with water. Its been a watering hole not just for birds but sometimes for the late night visit of a squirrel or even (don’t tell the HOA folks) a neighborhood rat.

I rose early before the sun, bundled up, then at dawn’s first light got busy cleaning the fountain. After removing vast quantities of accumulated sludge I left it to dry in the early morning sun.

Then quickly came the disappointing discovery that the new pump from Amazon was too big and wouldn’t fit no matter how I repositioned it. Oh, I had done my research and watched installation videos on YouTube but the darn thing would not fit.

Though 45° is not technically freezing its colder than most Southern CA residents wish to tolerate. I abandoned my failed repair attempt for the warmth of the kitchen and a third cuppa joe. As I thawed out I noticed a couple of young doves had arrived at the fountain for a morning beverage and bath. One of them quickly assessed the situation then hopped onto the fence nearby. The other refused to accept that there was no water. The fountain has never, ever, EVER been dry before. The thirsty dove paced repeatedly around the rim then hopped down into the well, pecking around in vain. I continued to watch as he/she flew off then returned, at least four times, repeating the entire pattern. For whatever reason it absolutely broke my heart to watch the poor creature’s disbelief.

Then it stirred a thought.

How many times have we gone back to a place or a person that has always met a need for us in the past only to find that it is dry and no longer serves the purpose we sought? Even after the resource or the fix or the support has dried up we return in disbelief rather than fly off to find the resources in another well.

Lots more to ponder here if you care to . . .

Gingerbread Cookies

This is photographic evidence of my final attempt at making gingerbread cookies this season. Each time I’ve obtained wildly different results while trying to recreate a childhood favorite. Yesterday’s batch came closest to the taste and texture I had aimed for but still somehow missed the mark.

I eat healthier now than I did in my childhood. No more baloney sandwiches made with Wonderbread for me. Still I was longing for a taste of something I’d enjoyed a long time ago.

Half of the white flour in the recipe was swapped out for finely ground almond meal. The hydrogenated shortening was replaced by a combo of Irish butter and organic coconut oil; white sugar was exchanged for a nutritious sugar substitute. Pretty much only the molasses and spices in the recipe remained the same.

I had erroneously used blackstrap molasses on my first try in early December and even so a neighbor found them addicting when in fact they were abominable. They were filled with somewhat expensive ingredients yet were medicinal rather than delightful to my taste. They’d been dipped in melted chocolate as a last ditch effort to salvage the time and effort I’d expended. The darn cookie dough was turning into a money pit with each desperate attempt to re-capture the idyllic gingerbread cookies of my past . . .

However one comes by a life lesson, so let it be if it speaks truth to your soul. How many times have my expectations been truly unrealistic while trying to recapture what has passed? The funny part I suppose is tied to using entirely new ingredients yet expecting to replicate a delicious memory that was never really healthy in the first place.

We don’t often see it when its right in front of us. We innocently, unconsciously dream of recreating something belonging to another day and time. A relationship, an environment, a situation that refuses to be duplicated because it belongs to the past and not, my friend, to the “now” where our reality resides. We may try to reshape the here and now to suit our memories rather than embrace the new day right in front of us. My new goal? Savor the good of the past as I attempt to create new outcomes and new recipes in 2021.

Take it Down

Who else is taking down their holiday decor today? A quick aside – in my mind the word Holiday is a contraction of the words holy and day so it does not bother me at all to hear or to use this word when referencing Christmas.

Down came the twinkling colored lights, the row of three foot tall lit candy canes, the cutesy inflatables, and the flashing snowflake lights strung as high as I could get them for the entire length of my patio. This year, above all years, it made my heart happy to go as tacky as I could and I loved every minute of it! I’d heard a few people here and there say that this just didn’t seem like the time to do a lot of Christmas decorating. They had no energy to bother And took a hard pass.

I know that my particular neighborhood was not the only exception to this but having lived here for over 20 years I can say that I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic display of joyous expression. Finally something to be giddy about perhaps. Even a safe activity to take the neighborhood kids to after dark, to stroll the street at your own pace in the crisp night air. And many nights there were families with strollers who walked and talked while the kids oo’d and ah’d.

But it all has to come down and not just because in a matter of days it will become an eyesore worthy of a citation by the homeowner’s association landscape review committee. It is time. This year of all years the “taking down” part is my symbolic affirmative action to put away the old and make room for the new.

The patio lights that I had mourned being broken by the landscaper have been restored and will be rehung. The broken fountain that is heavily visited by all the neighboring birds will have, at long last, a new water pump that will restore it to its former majesty.

Sometimes we hang on tightly to old things feeling that it’s all we’ve got left. But now, right now, is as good a time as any to make room for the good things that will surely come next.

I’m ready for you, 2021!