Lost Your Way? 9 Unique Ways Xennial Women Radiate Success
Oct05

Lost Your Way? 9 Unique Ways Xennial Women Radiate Success

How do you define success? There are many external indicators of success for which we are socially trained to judge ourselves and others. Many of these result in stress and anxiety as we try to live up to benchmarks that don’t always align with our values. Today, let’s take a look at what happens when you define success in your own words.

How I measure my success has changed since I started focusing more on what I value; however, it wasn’t until I came across this quote from Brene Brown, that I realized that it wasn’t just my value system that had changed, but my definition of success.

“Defining success is one of the most powerful things you can do as a family, as a couple, individually. There is a default definition that is, ‘money, materialism, accomplishment, and achievement.’ So if you don’t come up with your own subversive definition, there is a default.”

A Little Back Story

Earlier this year, I found myself sitting in a Starbucks at the Flatirons Mall, in Broomfield, CO. Originally from Colorado, I now live in France. I’d popped home for a short trip to see my family and to consider moving my 9-year-old son back to Colorado to live with his father and step-mom.

My aunt and my cousin are two women I admire immensely. I felt especially grateful for the chance to meet with them on this cold Colorado Day. My aunt came, as she often does, with a new book for me to read. My cousin arrived with a smile on her face, despite living for over a decade with the daily trials and pains of cancer.

As we sat chatting, I mentioned that as I turned 40 this year, I’d set the intention to be a success, finally. To stop failing at things and get IT done. My family tends to be pretty good at hiding our emotions and playing it cool, but when I mentioned that I’d not been successful, both my aunt and my cousin couldn’t help but momentarily lose their composure. I instantly felt silly.

Wait. A. Minute.

 

I had to stop and ask, what is success to me? Just as we say that “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder, often, so is our success. And so began my investigation into my evidently unfounded feelings of failure. Why did I not see the successes that other people saw? Why is it that some of us see success where others see failure? Why did I not understand this before?

The Definition of Success in Life

In April of this year I turned 40, and as I’ve done every year since I turned 33, I took the time to reflect on the last year and to set goals for my coming year. Consciously reflecting on my past through the filter of “what is an authentic indicator of success?”  I began to realize that just because life can be messy and unpredictable, doesn’t mean that we are not successful.

I now recognize  my success not as a chart of achievements to fill out a professional resume, but rather as living life by my values. Taking the time to look within and check-in with myself, but also taking the time to connect with my fellow humans. I accept that being vulnerable to life is being successful, because it means that I am alive and am living, breathing, learning and connecting. I understand that I need to work less at doing it all on my own, and surrender some of my control  to a higher power, the universe and my community.

The definition of success in life is not a one-woman show — that is just lonely and hard.

Unexpectedly, a few days ago, while working on this piece, I received an email from Rob Hatch titled “We Never Do it Alone,” in which he proposes precisely this, that success is a community effort. Although I’d already been going down this path, reading Rob’s story, I had another revelation. We often hear that success is measured by the lives you touch, but Rob’s experience and my experience take this a step further. Our success does not happen in a vacuum; it occurs in a community.

Our success does not happen in a vacuum; it occurs in a community.

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We never do it alone!

 

Success is Sweeter Together

No matter how hard you work, your success is not only yours, it is also that of everyone that supported you, be it your mother or your mentor, your priest or the guy that took a chance on you at your first job. Yes, we must take responsibility for our actions, and we must set goals for success, but we don’t achieve progress alone, it appears in the form of community.

In the spirit of community, I decided to ask my peer network of Xennial Women for their definition of success in life. I sent them some background and then asked: “define success in your own words.” Each interpretation of success is valid and whole as it stands alone, it is enough.

Living a Purposeful Life: 9 Inspiring Definitions of Success by 9 Xennial Women

#1 – Malia

Success for us is living a life in line with our core values. Our daily choices and habits reflect our values and help us to live out our life and interactions without feelings of dissonance. We have decided our family’s general core values include spending time together, promoting environmental stewardship, and maintaining an active/healthy lifestyle, and supporting our independent passion projects.

We (my husband and I) have worked very hard to live in harmonious accord with these values. We have both selected to be self-employed, so we can attend our kid’s performances and school events. We purchased a home within a mile of the kids’ school, and everything Lafayette has to offer and make it a habit of biking to as many of these places as possible.

We also have made it a habit to select kids activities that are within biking distance, to continue our environmental stewardship (right now we bike to school, piano practice, kung fu, dance lessons, trivia, Spanish class, and the library on a weekly basis). Our healthy lifestyles are evident in the hiking we do with our kids and their relationship with exercise. At ages 10 and 8, they already have over 300 miles of backpacking and lots more of hiking under their belts.

As for passion projects, my husband enjoys music and is starting to get back into the DJing scene for non-profit galas in Lafayette, and I am trying to determine if there is anything that could compete with real estate in making me excited to get up in the morning. We have worked hard, and saved money, and will be financially independent by next summer, and will have more time and opportunities to continue to craft a life in line with our values, living our version of Success daily.

Success is a worldly imitation of grace

#2 – Sarah

Two years ago, at age 35, I was in a depression after a minor surgery turned into proof that I was unable to have children. In the aftermath, I also found myself unable to sustain the endless cycle of increasing hours and accomplishments I had set up for myself in my career.

I needed physical therapy, long-term hormone replacement options, and time to grieve. I found I had built a false narrative about how I could prove my worth by earning accomplishments and being the best at whatever I was doing. But the best was always just out of my reach.

The big achievement I craved as something I could point to and say “I am worthy because I did that” was always a fleeting mirage, something I couldn’t catch. I had no proof of my worth, and now I wouldn’t be able to have a child of my own and say, “This is the value I have given to the world.”

Fortunately, I had my faith. God’s message is that He doesn’t require results, only faithfulness. And grace is called grace because you can’t earn it – it’s a gift. Success is a worldly imitation of grace; it looks like a distant oasis where you “achieve” all the things you think you wanted. But just when you think you’re about to arrive, it moves. Frankly, I found it exhausting.

Grace is counter-intuitive, you can’t chase it because it’s already there. You can’t earn it by being worthy – grace IS what makes you worthy. You can only accept it. Radical acceptance. And so, I come to success by riding on the coattails of grace.

Now, my measure of success is not feeling the need to explain or prove myself to the world. I show up every day; I try to accept the condition of my body on good days and bad. I try to count the number of times I belly-laugh. I let myself feel what I need to feel, grief or gladness or pain. And I work on accepting the grace given to me.

SUCCESS IS FINDING A ROLE THAT PROVIDES DEEP PERSONAL SATISFACTION

#3 – Anna

Defining success does not feel challenging for me. Perhaps that’s because I was raised by parents who didn’t suggest I use their definitions and encouraged me to ask questions and pursue my own interests. (I was also fortunate not to feel the need to strive for a hefty salary, which I believe – right or not – was partially a function of growing up feeling financially sound and partially a function of being a woman, which meant I felt less pressured to support my family).  Or, perhaps it’s because I landed upon a path that feels good and suits my personality well.

In my twenties, the word ‘success’ would conjure up images associated with money. At forty, that definition strikes me as unsatisfying. Successful people aren’t always wealthy, and the rich aren’t always shining models of success. To that point, I’ve come to largely disassociate the word wealth from success (though I think an individual’s basic financial needs have to be met to fulfill the journey of pursuing broader goals).

In my mind, success is finding a role that provides deep personal satisfaction, serves a purpose beyond one’s self (this often heightens the feeling of personal satisfaction), and fits squarely within an individual’s nature.

After recognizing that I had an affinity for the outdoors, and paying particular attention to the fact that human health is directly affected by the state of the environment, I began dabbling in the field of “environmental health.” Down a winding road I went – starting with an introduction to environmental health through the world of nonprofit grant-making, followed by a Master in Public Health, and then working with several nonprofits.

When I became a mother, my concern for the future health of my children amplified my desire to protect the environment. One of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had yet was having grown into the role of an environmental activist. After recognizing a local threat (an outdated, dangerous nuclear power plant), I dug deep and extricated personality skills I didn’t know I had. Because of this, I was able to organize communities toward action.

Now, though my work as the Manager of the Speakers’ Bureau for Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility is only part-time, it is entirely fulfilling because the goal of the organization is also a goal of mine: limiting the threats of large-scale environmental catastrophes on the human population. How fortunate I am to be able to tie my life goals into my work goals.

success is how we value ourselves

#4 – Afsheen

Growing up in the East and completing my education and then settling down in the West, I am amazed at the fact that even with opposing end goals, the measure of success is universal and always a value judgment by others. How the world perceives us and our accomplishments is somehow more important than what we think and feel about ourselves.

My definition of success has evolved over the years, and the current version is that “success is how we value ourselves.” Being content is bliss to me and contentment comes from inside. We are so used to viewing ourselves through the filters of society and judge our successes via these filters as well that we forget who we are, and the discontentment causes a sense of failure.

We all have different callings in our lives and only if we follow what our heart desires are we able to be successful. The idea is to be happy with whatever you are doing and taking pride in doing it. This idea about following your passion has been out there for a while, but we still fall into the trap of the default definition of success which relates to materialism and accomplishments. I’m certainly not against any of these things and hope to accomplish my goals in life, but I strive to have this sense of validation from within because if I start to look at others there are twice as many opinions and reasons to doubt myself.

The most challenging thing for me at this point in my life is how to teach my kids to be content. In this ever-growing world of digital and social media where the success is measured in ‘likes’ and ‘number of followers,’ how do I teach my kids to be happy with themselves. The only way I can think of doing this is to be a role model for them, and it’s not easy. Like most people, I’ve had many challenges in my life. To start each day with this sense that it’s going to be better than yesterday is an uphill task but I am adamant about making it work to the best of my abilities and satisfaction, and that to me is a success.

success is about living a purpose driven life

#5 – Elly

To me, success is about living a purpose driven life. It’s about actively striving to make a positive difference in the world, making conscious decisions, and enjoying the journey along the way. If I can learn and grow, and make a positive impact on the lives of others, I’m meeting my definition of success.

Living a life without regrets or ‘what if’s’ is an integral part of my philosophy. Seeking opportunities and adventure are key components of my life, and I love to inspire others to follow their dreams. For me, it’s not about having a nice car or a big house, and I’ve consciously opted out of that lifestyle in pursuit of freedom. Instead, it’s about feeling fulfilled, excited and happy about the choices I am making each day.

In our family, we’ve set the values of ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘meaningful relationships.’ When we make decisions, we try to ask ourselves whether those decisions fit with both of our family values. This ‘freedom of choice’ helps us to work together as a unit and decide whether to move forward with a decision or think of an alternative.

As a holistic health and fitness coach my goal is to inspire people to make positive, sustainable changes to their health, fitness, and lifestyle. By empowering someone to take control of their health and step by step make decisions that support their goal of a healthy lifestyle, I’m achieving a small milestone in my overall picture of success.

As a family, our current focus is on building a location independent lifestyle. We didn’t wait to make it happen: we simply packed up and took a one-way ticket from our home in New Zealand to South East Asia. We’re working on making our dream a reality and have launched two new websites this year to support our vision. We still have a way to go, but we are super excited to see it all unfold. We’re enjoying the new adventure just because we allowed ourselves to take that first step and go for it.

SUCCESS IS HELPING MY CHILDREN

#6 – Amy

My definition of success revolves around a handful of things in my life: my family, my mental and physical health, my marriage, and my creativity/business.

When I think about my definition of success, the family immediately comes to mind. As a mother of two kids ages 10 & 13, my life has revolved around these now not-so-little people since they were born. Raising healthy, adjusted, happy kids has been my biggest priority, and often my biggest challenge. I feel successful when I know that I’m helping my children navigate their way through this complicated and sometimes scary thing we call life.

Having open and positive relationships with my kids and my husband is of great importance to me. Interpersonal communication has never been my strong suit, so it’s something I have to work at regularly.

Spending time together as a family is important to me. We all have our own things that we enjoy in life, but, especially as my children get older, making sure that we come together regularly is a goal.

In addition to family, my personal health (physical and mental), as well as feeling fulfilled creatively also defines my view of success. It is very important to me to take time almost every day to exercise, spend time outside (even if it’s in my own yard), and work on my jewelry business. Making earrings, which is in large part my creative outlet, also helps me contribute a bit financially to our family.

My biggest current challenge is a bit personal in nature as it involves helping one of my children with their mental/emotional health. I also have the ongoing challenge of working on my communication with my husband. In addition, I am always trying to expand my earring business — by making more designs, reaching out to local businesses and growing my online presence via Etsy and social media.

FREEDOM AND PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE

#7 – Natalie

Success for me means the freedom to follow my professional passions while also creating a fulfilling personal life. I have always been a creative thinker who yearned for wide open spaces, fresh writing pads, and the ability to share my voice with the world, so it’s no wonder that I didn’t go down the traditional college-business suit-retirement track.

In my early 20s, I wanted to be a lawyer, so I enrolled in law school, and promptly realized that it was not the career for me. Ten months (and lots of soul searching) later, I enrolled in an English master’s degree program and fell in love. From there, I honed my skills as a college adjunct professor, a job that I loved and one that gave me the flexibility to still travel and spend plenty of time with my husband.

After I found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I wanted something that was even more flexible: I’d always considered working for myself, but making that transition was tough without a motivating factor. Tentatively, I began to look for freelance writing work and was able to start bringing in a few jobs here and there. After my daughter was born, I began to focus on ways to include my then-hobby blog into my writing portfolio and spent countless hours reading about how to build and grow a blog.

I now have two young kids, a growing travel blog, and more work than I can generally handle on a daily basis, both from a parenting perspective and from a business standpoint. The struggle to balance these two portions of my life are my biggest focus in my quest for true personal success: I ultimately would love to have a career that allows my family and I to travel around the world together. Having the financial security to give those experiences to my kids, my husband, and I while simultaneously writing about it would be the ultimate way that I would define success.

success to me is a feeling that I’m making a difference with my work

#8 – Amanda

Success, to me, is not measured by a bank balance, or by becoming Prime Minister or the head of a huge company. It’s much more complicated, and something that changes form pretty regularly.

On the whole, however, success to me is a feeling that I’m making a difference with my work. I like to juggle a few hats – it keeps me enthusiastic – so I tilt into several differences over time. In my job as social media and blogging consultant and trainer, success means I help the clients I work with to feel confident about sharing their business online and doing it in a way that is a win-win for everyone. As a travel podcaster and blogger, success means I encourage people to travel more and to reflect on the many amazing personal development benefits that traveling can give you.

While I might find it hard to define precisely what success means, I know how it feels. When I’m successful, I get so excited inside, and sometimes outside, and I jump and squeal. I’m not kidding. When I finish putting together a great podcast episode that I know will help change someone’s attitudes to travel, I hop and skip around the house with genuine glee.

When I wrap up a workshop where I can tell that I’ve reached someone in a way that will completely change how their business goes, I hop in my car and scream with joy. I really do! If I don’t get this feeling for a while, I know it’s time to adjust my goals. I guess if I can continue finding and reaching for goals that give me this ecstatic feeling of success, then that will be a life well-lived.

SUCCESS IS NURTURING

#9 – Daisha

My definition of success began with learning the hard way that I couldn’t let others define it for me. At the time in my life when I was most “successful” by external standards, I had a job related to my degree that paid more money than I’d ever made before and included a fancy “director” title. What it did not include was joy, not for me or anyone I cared about.

In the middle of all that, a friend died after a long illness. She didn’t have a prestigious career that paid well, but hundreds of us showed up to her funeral because of how deeply she’d impacted our lives. It was jarring to realize that so much of what I was investing in didn’t matter too much when it was held up to the light of something that did.

Shortly after her funeral, I gave up my job with no idea what was next. It was humiliating and hard, and I felt like a failure for tearing it all down. Ultimately, though, tearing it all down has made room for other things to grow, including a new way of defining success. Success, now, is when I am well and when I contribute to the wellness of others. Success is nurturing, success is generosity, success is practice, success is continuing to grow. Success is still hard work, but many of my old metrics (e.g., completing projects or achieving goals) now seem like side effects of success rather than its essence.

This has been fertile ground for some good things. One of my current projects is helping to fund a land preservation project that will permanently protect 300+ acres of historic farmland, forest, and wetlands for generations to come. Another thing I’m doing is putting time each day toward writing a book, and all those words are finally adding up!  Perhaps most importantly, I’m actively supporting each of my three kids in reaching a goal they have. Just touching these things counts as success for me; and they all include joy, which is a pretty great bonus.

GRIT VERSUS COMMUNITY

Chasing Success?

Of the many things that I find so satisfying about these nine insider looks at success, are the common threads of environment, health, and community.  Especially, community. Be it an inner circle of family and friends or the broader circle of spirituality and the world.

When we see our success as part of a community effort, we feel greater happiness and connection. We connect with each other, and we contribute to our collective success.  Stronger together. Community success is something that not only women but that our world desperately needs.

As an American, my upbringing taught me to value rugged individualism. And as a parent, I am infatuated with the concept of GRIT, because I want my kids to be successful. But let’s look at this idea of success a bit further. You may have heard of the marshmallow test. When first carried out the researchers decided that kids that could wait for a second marshmallow already had the personality traits that led to success.

The Marshmallow Test In Community

More recently they redid the study in Germany and Cameroon.  Do you know what the new results show? The kids that could wait for a second marshmallow grew up in environments that taught them to trust their community — to trust the adults in their lives. The kids that ate the marshmallow right away? They didn’t believe they’d get a second one. In other words, by the age of 3 or 5 years old, kids’ success is already influenced not just by their GRIT, but rather by their faith in their community.

Humans are social animals and from birth we rely on other humans to succeed, while also contributing to the success of our family. We never do it totally alone. And so, when you are feeling down and out, and wondering how you can do it ALONE, find a way to reach out to your community instead. In community, in service to others, you will receive the support and the strength to find and define success. No one should have to “go it alone.”

And so, my dear friends, I’ll confess that this has been a bit of a deceptive exercise because our “personal” success is not truly personal, is it? Our success relies upon our community of support and we contribute to the success of those around us. 

Success is an inclusive, not an individual experience.

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Success is an inclusive, not an individual experience.

I am aching to know, after reading this has your definition of success changed? Do you see yourself in a better light? Do you now envision ways that you can increase your sense of self-contentment by cultivating your community?

More…

For more on these amazing Xennial women follow the links:

 

Amanda

Amy

Anna

Elly

Natalie

Sarah

How 9 Xennial Women Define Success

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The Perfect Heartfelt Gift: Homemade Strawberry Jam
Sep25

The Perfect Heartfelt Gift: Homemade Strawberry Jam

Summer is Gone and Gift Giving is Upon Us

Easy low sugar strawberry jam with Pomona’s Universal Pectin

Looking for the perfect personalised gift?

Already missing the colors and flavors of summer? 

Make some easy winter strawberry jam and feel the rays of summer sun shining right in your kitchen! Bonus? This recipe is for low sugar strawberry jam and you can even substitute in honey, agave or stevia! 

Tie up your jam jars with pretty bows and custom kraft labels and you’ve got the perfect holiday gift or end of year thank you for your clients, customers or friends and family.

Everytime I give my jam as a gift, everyone is absolutely delighted. It’s the first thing they mention when they see me and most of them are very careful to return the empty jam jar.  Some straight-out explaining that they hope to get a re-fill next season! 

Why Strawberry Jam?      

Because it’s the best. I’ve had a long-standing love affair with strawberries. At the age of three, I ate an entire mixing bowl full of strawberries that my mom had prepared for a cake. Soon after I broke out in hives, but like all obsessive lovers, a little bump in the road didn’t stop me from coming back for more.

For years the only flavor of ice cream I ate was “strawberry” and my favorite person in the world was my grandmother, who made a tantalizing batch of strawberry jam every summer. Ripe, juicy, sweet strawberries are still my favorite fruit. 

Grandmother’s Strawberry Jam

My grandmother, bless her heart, continued making strawberry jam every year into her late eighties. A few years after she’d retired from the strawberry jam business, I decided I needed to follow in her footsteps and learn how to make my own strawberry jam.

First, I called up my grandmother to get her recipe, forgetting of course that my grandmother, a fabulous cook, didn’t actually have recipes. She had habits and instincts from all her years of cooking that she magically implemented in the kitchen.

That said, what she did have were plenty of tips, the so-called “secret sauce” or insider knowledge that takes an average recipe and makes it delicious. 

The Inside Scoop

My phone call to granny did not disappoint. I learned that I needed a recipe for strawberry jam with pectin. She recommended Pomona’s Pectin and a recipe that allowed me to use lemon juice to accent the natural flavor of the strawberries.  Adding lemon juice both brings out the flavor of the strawberries and allows you to use less sugar.  

My grandmother told me that to get a the strongest strawberry flavor, to use the least amount of sugar possible, adjusting upward for berries lacking in natural sweetness. She said she rarely used more than a cup of sugar in a recipe. Guess what, Granny’s strawberry jam is so good, because it is low sugar strawberry jam! 

A low sugar strawberry jam recipe is healthier,  but most importantly, the reduced sweetness really makes space for the flavor of the strawberries to shine through. Especially when accented by the lemon juice. Don’t worry, you can’t actually taste the lemon, it just magically makes the strawberry flavor “pop.” And don’t worry, the jam is still plenty sweet. It’s just not cotton candy sweet!

In addition to my grandmother’s advice on making the jam, she also suggested that I should pick up a copy of the Ball Canning Guide. The one and only definitive book on preserving food that you will really ever need. 

Make Strawberry Jam anytime of year!

Frozen  berries?                 

For a few years after my first son was born, I lived in a house that had a huge strawberry patch. For the last 7 years, I’ve had to make do with store-bought (or farmer’s market) berries. The first year we moved away, I missed strawberry season due to the move, so I decide to try the recipe with frozen strawberries.  And guess what, this recipe works fantastic, even with frozen berries! Trust me the flavor will still knock your store bought jam right out of the ball park!  

Yes, you read that correctly, you can even make jam from FROZEN BERRIES. 

Winter Strawberry Jam from Frozen Berries

If you want to make strawberry jam in the fall or winter (or really anytime it suits your fancy) a 2-pound bag of frozen strawberries will do just fine. Defrost overnight in the fridge and drain before using.

I put mine straight into a colander over another bowl to drain so the juice and water drip out as they defrost. Once the berries are fully defrosted and drained, you’ll mash them with a fork and follow the recipe below.

Everything else is the same!    

Why Low Sugar?

Some jam recipes call for an equal weight of sugar to fruit. With Pomona’s pectin you can make jam with as little as ¾ cup sugar (I like 1 cup). Or you can use honey, agave or even Stevia! The key is not to overcook your jam as this ruins the pectin. What could be more enticing than fast cooking, easy to make jam that is low sugar and thus  healthier, tastier, and easier to make!   

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

Jam Making (Canning) Supplies: do I really need them?

If you have never before made jam or canned any other foods, you will have to make a small investment into proper canning supplies. This is not a place to cut corners or “cheat.” If you are going to can, you need to do it right.

When I first started to make jam, I bought a big canning pot, but not tongs or a funnel. The result? I nearly got a 3rd degree burn removing my jars from the canner and it was impossible to fill my jars without spilling the jam. Regardless of where you buy your supplies, check-out the link below to a canning kit and make a list of everything you will need.

The good news is that these supplies are timeless. Once you have bought your supplies, you can use them for years and pass them on to your kids!

Shh! A secret tip: if you are terrified by the sterilizing process, then simply make sure your jars are cleaned with warm soapy water and store your finished product in the fridge. This is tricky for gift giving, but if you plan to eat your jam, it’s just fine! If you plan to give your jam as a gift, bite the bullet and do it right!

Canning  & Gift Giving Supplies

Affiliate links . . . when you click on these and order your supplies, I make a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Pomona’s PectinStainless Steel 5-quart ColanderStainless Steel WhiskStainless Steel 8-Quart Stock PotDigital Kitchen ScaleBall Mason 4oz Quilted Jelly JarsCanning Kit, 9-Piece½” Red Satin RibbonKraft Paper Vintage Gift TagsNeed gift ideas?

3 Easy Steps to Making Your Jam

(set aside 2 to 3 hours)

Prepare and Sanitize Your Jam Jars & Lids

Once you have all your ingredients and supplies laid out and clean. The very first thing you want to do is to prepare your jars. This part might sound really scary. It’s not. I promise!

Preparing your jars just means you need to boil them. And although jam is often made in the summer this is actually a perfect fall and winter activity, because all the steam warms your kitchen right up!

  1. Even if brand new and or apparently clean, wash your jars with warm soapy water or on a light cycle in your dishwasher. I use the dishwasher.
  2. Prepare you large canning pot (canner) with water. Sterilize your jars by placing them right side up on the rack of your canner. Make sure the water is at least 1 inch above jar tops. If you are at sea level, boil your jars for 10 minutes.
  3. If you are at a higher elevation, add 1 minute for each additional 1,000 feet of elevation. So if you live on the Colorado plains like me, boil your jars for 16 minutes.  
  4. Turn off the flame or heat, but keep the jars in the hot water and don’t disturb them until they are ready to be filled. Right before you fill them remove them to a heatproof surface or towel and drain them.
  5. Lids: wash the lids and bands with warm soapy water or on a light cycle in your dishwasher (or according to the directions on the package). Keep them clean and untouched until ready to be applied.

Making Grandmother Mary’s Easy and Delicious Strawberry Jam Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Quart Strawberries (about 2 pounds / 900 g) – fresh or frozen strawberries 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp pectin water
  • 2 tsp pectin powder
  • 1 cup white sugar

Note:

The first rule is only make exactly this recipe. Unless you are a super experienced jam maker, never attempt to double a recipe. If you are making jam to give as a gift and you need more, make separate batches. Once you have the process set-up, it will work best this way anyhow!

If you are using frozen berries, use their weight (see kitchen scale above) after they are thawed and drained, not before!

  1. Follow standard canning procedures to prepare your jars & lids. Leave in hot water until ready to fill (see above).
  2. Follow instructions on Pomona’s Pectin to prepare your calcium water. Set-aside. (Ideally, store leftovers in a container with a lid unless you are making multiple batches of jam.)
  3. Clean, chop and mash about 1 quart or 2 pounds (900 grams) of strawberries to yield 4 cups of mashed fruit. Drain off any excess water (fresh or frozen berries).
  4. Add strawberries and lemon juice to a stainless steel 8-quart saucepan. Stir in two teaspoons of calcium water.
  5. Mix 2 tsps of pectin powder into your sugar. Use a wire whisk and make sure it is completely and evenly mixed. No clumps. Set aside.
  6. On medium heat bring your fruit mixture to a full boil.
  7. Stir in your sugar and pectin mixture while mixing with a wire whisk.
  8. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved and the mixture returns to full boil. If it foams, just scoop off the foam.
  9. Don’t over cook. Don’t cook* any longer than a few minutes! This is why this is EASY.
  10. Remove from heat. Can while hot!

*Many jam recipes call for 15 minutes or more of cooking and a wrinkle test to see if the jam set. If you do this with Pomona’s Pectin, it degrades the pectin and it won’t work! 

3) Filling Your Jam Jars

  1. Remove jars from water and drain. Set rightside-up on a heatproof surface.
  2. Use your canning tools (funnel, tongs, etc.) to pour jam into hot jars leaving ¼ to ½ inch space from the top.
  3. If you spill any jam on the jar lip, use a very clean (sterile) paper towel or cotton cloth dipped in a bit of boiling water to wipe down the edge. Your jam lip should be clean at least 1/4 an inch from the top.
  4. Once you have poured all the jam, apply the lids and seals following the instructions on your packaging.
  5. As the jars cool you will hear them “pop!” This means the seal has been made and your jars will be shelf-stable. Don’t move or touch anything until the are 100% cooled down. This may be overnight!
  6. Once your jars are cool label them, wrap with a bow, do whatever you wish to dress them up! I like to use a red satin bow and a kraft tie for a vintage look. 

Variations:

  • Replace strawberries with raspberries or blackberries
  • Replace 1 cup sugar with 1 cup honey or 1 cup agave (changes flavor)
  • Pectin free: A friend’s grandmother made a very simple and yummy jam recipe with strawberries and other berries. Instead of using pectin, she simply added sugar and sliced lemon to the berries and then cooked them up to the jam stage. She made sure to include a lemon slice in each jar, which is very pretty! If you can’t find pectin, try this and let me know how it goes! David Lebovitz has a lemon only recipe, but I’ve not yet tried it out!

Resources:

If you love this recipe and you want to do more canning or you want to learn more about pectin free canning read this article from the Colorado State Extension.

Pomona’s Universal Pectin also has lots of online resources, including a PDF of their recipes.

Want to Grow Your Own Berries?

If you have the time and space to raise your own strawberries now (fall) is the time to plant them, so get going! Why grow your own? Even if organic berries can now be bought year-round at the grocery store? Unless the birds get them first, homegrown berries are simply sweeter, so you can use less sugar. 

Show the Love

Did you love this recipe? Have you tried it? Do you have any questions? Be sure to comment below and share the recipe with your friends. 

https://www.alibcandid.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Spread-Joy-200×300.pnghttps://www.alibcandid.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Low-Sugar-Strawberry-jam-3-200×300.png

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Why practice makes progress. Don’t be a wannabe!
Sep14

Why practice makes progress. Don’t be a wannabe!

Bill Border

My father, Bill Border, started his life as an artist around the age of 7 or 8 with simple pencil and a legal pad from his dad’s office. When you ask him why he sketches and paints, he responds that he is “simply driven to create.” Growing up as his daughter, I know this to be an honest answer.

Driven to Create

Not only did I watch my father illustrate biology textbooks and interpretive panels until late at night, painting on the weekends, I watched him create in all other aspects of his life. He cared for our mountain home just as if the property belonged on a canvas.

Every brick on our patio he laid to perfection in a perfectly leveled bed of sand. The bricks alternating direction to create a pleasant patchwork pattern. As a kid, my parents paid me a penny per weed-pulled to keep this master piece clean and sully free.

If my mom or I left a grocery list or note on the kitchen table, we returned to find it illustrated with a comical character and an appropriately goofy message. Or sometimes he simply copied our handwriting so perfectly, that we didn’t realize he’d added “56 sardines” after the milk and bread on our list.

My grandmother collected smooth rocks, which she kept in a planter in the corner of her living room. Periodically, they’d appear perfectly painted, a little grey mouse or a bunny with whiskers, peaking out of the greenery…

Cinq Chevaux

Make your bed.

A video traversed the web a few weeks ago profiling a graduation speech by a respected general. Start the day by making your bed and you will have already accomplished one task.

This is also my father’s mantra and perhaps alongside his drive to create, the the second indicator of his lifetime success as an artist.

Each night, my father prepares a to-do list on a small yellow legal pad. He preps his coffee machine with fresh water and coffee grounds. And he goes to bed.

In the morning, the very first thing he does is make his bed. If you knock on his door even a few minutes after he wakes up, you’ll never know he slept the night before. The bed will have already been made with military precision.

Before he gets in the shower he lays out his uniform for the day. The outer layer will vary depending on his plans, but the underlayer never changes. Each morning he selects from his dresser drawer, a neatly folded white crew neck tagless undershirt, white boxers, and white socks, rolled up military style.

Maintain a Routine

During my early childhood my dad laid these items out on his bed, before he got in the shower. During my late teenage years a feisty Himalayan cat named Thani joined our family. My dad adored the cat. The cat adored stealing my dad’s socks, while he was in the shower.

Ultimately, my dad had to relocate his socks to the top of his dresser. A few years ago he confided in me that he is such a creature of habit that even though Thani passed over the rainbow bridge a decade ago, he continues to layout his socks up high on the corner of his dresser.

Practice Makes Progress

My dad is now 84. Except for the past few years of his life in which he has unfortunately had to spend a few nights here and there in the hospital, my dad has created art everyday of his life. As his daughter, I can recognize his brush stroke in an instance, but I am continually surprised by the works that come out of his studio.

Recently I heard a rephrasing of the old idiom “practice makes perfect.” The new idiom is “practice makes progress.” I think my dad is the epitome of this philosophy. The act of painting is never to create perfection, but rather as my dad says, “to capture a fleeting moment in time, realistically frozen or perhaps an abstracted essence that flows eternally.”

Whatever you want to be or do. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for progress. Work on it everyday that you can. And you will arrive.

Republished on Medium

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Don’t Get Burned: You Need to Know the 7 Fresh Ways to Identify a Xennial Woman
Sep09

Don’t Get Burned: You Need to Know the 7 Fresh Ways to Identify a Xennial Woman

Don’t Get Burned: You Need to Know the 7 Fresh Ways to Identify a Xennial Woman

Earlier this summer a Facebook meme caught my eye, it read something to the effect of “How to know if you’re a Xennial.” I took a quick look and actually said out loud, “Hell, yeah! I’m a Xennial. I am a Xennial Woman.” And then I shared it. True story. As time passed, every time I thought of the term “Xennial” a warm wave of happiness and contentment washed over me. Kind of like the universe just gave me a big hug. I’ve always felt like a lost generation and I just like the way the word “X-en-nial” rolls off my tongue.A few weeks later while researching a Brené Brown talk to send to a friend, I came across an interview she’d done for her newest book:

This post contains affiliate links.  Alibcandid is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.  

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

In the interview Brené says: “Defining success is one of the most powerful things you can do as a family, as a couple, individually. There is a default definition that is, ‘money, materialism, accomplishment, and achievement.’ So if you don’t come up with your own subversive definition, there is a default.”I read this statement and I had an “ah-ha!” moment. A revelation. I am a Xennial Woman. And as a Xennial Woman, I can write my own definition of success. One of the first tenants of success for me is that real success is never 100% personal, success takes a team, a community, and so, I started to think about my generation, my community of Xennial women. Yes, we need to write our own definition of success, but first, let’s get down to the business of claiming our generation. The textbook definition of Xennial (up to this point) only encompasses the years 1976 to 1983. This time frame feels a bit restrictive. I hereby declare, that if you are a woman born between 1975 and 1985, and the Xennial shoe fits, then join me in making it our own. And so, without further ado, let’s dive into why Xennial women are awesome.

Reason 1: A Xennial Woman named Sarah coined the term

I’ll start with the best reason.  The individual who coined the term, well, she’s a XENNIAL WOMAN. Sarah Stankorb, in an article in Good Magazine, coined the term Xennial.  “Xennial” combines Gen-X and Millennial to forge our own term while indicating the overlap between the two distinct generations.In the article, Sarah embraces being a Xennial, but her co-author does not. He happens to be a guy.As Xennials, we know that Sarah is an epically Xennial name. Indeed, according to the US Census Bureau, the name Sarah peaked in 1981 with 16,893 babies named Sarah (with an “h”).  Sarah is the name of my first best friend (our mothers met during pregnancy). And it is also the name of my first baby doll, the one that now belongs to my daughter.Incidentally, thanks to Elvis Costello, Alison is also a Xennial name. My mom who is not a Xennial would like you to know that our friend Costello released “Alison” 6 months AFTER my birth; thus ushering in an era of Xennials named Alison and Sarah. 

A graph

Reason 2: Xennial’s are Resilient

We don’t like whiners. We are not afraid to modify the rules to fit our objectives. We do not easily admit defeat. When we fall off our bike, we pick ourselves up and keep riding.I recall with surprising clarity the day my high school youth group invited some recent university grads of “Gen-X” to tell us about the “real world.” I didn’t learn anything inspirational from the grumpy and grungy group of Gen-Xers they brought in, except that I shouldn’t listen to naysayers and I should forge my own path.  The Gen-Xers didn’t actually tell me these things, rather they taught me by example. They’d done what they were supposed to do and they were supremely unhappy. Me on the other hand? I set my sights on “I’m gonna Heal the World.” It’s a work in progress, believe me, but I am not done yet. Xennial Women still have plenty of time to kick-butt.

Reason 3: Xennials are Humble “get it done-ers”  

Insert Image

Many people praise Millennials for their confidence, I’d call them cocky.  My friends often note that for a Xennial, I am more confident than they’d expect. This always surprises, me, because we (I)  sometimes confuse cocky for confidence, and I really don’t want to be seen as cocky. Xennial women as a whole are not motivated by fame, but rather by making a difference. Xennials don’t brag about their accomplishments, Xennials just hunker down and get it done. Especially Xennial women. We also understand the importance of investing time, money and or effort into our achievements. Male math-teachers, uncles, the lady in the school office might all have told us “you can’t do that,” but for every naysayer, we had a champion. I am proud to have watched my female Xennial cohort become rocket scientists, political scientists, attorneys, doctors, and more. Most of them while also being mothers. The ones who aren’t mothers? They are awesome too. If a Xennial woman can’t find someone to do a job right, we’ll gladly do it ourselves. 

Reason 4: Xennials by nature understand life-long learning and change

Xennial Woman: do you Remember Your First Walkman?

We may not all be early adopters when it comes to tech and new fads, but we grew up in a time of unprecedented change and we excel at learning on the fly.Our parents may have played records on a HiFi, but we dubbed, redubbed, and made mix tapes on our personal recorders and our Boomboxes.  We remember distinctly the day we got our first SONY Walkman. First, we took our tunes on the road with our Walkmans, then our  Discmans, and then our iPods.

We ordered books off of Amazon in university and used Google before anyone else had heard of it…even Millennials. We are at ease with technology and without…we played the Oregon trail on Thursday at the Computer Lab, after writing in our diaries, locked with a little brass key.We got an email address at university before our parents even knew what one was… Our first cell phone fit with ease in our pockets, still only to be used only in emergency situations (or for work). And we have likely tried to explain wifi and the internet to older relatives on more than one occasion. 

Reason 5: We Read

We read (past-tense). We read (present-tense). We love book-clubs. We love our Kindles, but we also love the smell of a real print book. We remember Book Stores and Libraries (full of books, not just multi-media). We actually remember reading print newspapers. Before Candy Crush, we had Crossword puzzles (and we just might have a crossword puzzle app on our phone). We may even still subscribe to the NYT (online).  

7 Radical Traits of a Xennial Woman

We came of age in a time in which the social strings of society still seemed reasonably tied together. 

Reason 6: We are Citizens of the World

Thanks to modern broadcasting, Xennials around the world, from the USA to Madagascar to the UK and Australia, grew up watching many of the same shows and listening to the same music. American Xennials, absorbed the USA for Africa song in 1984.As the result of a major expansion of study abroad programs in the late 1990s (my university added about 30 countries to our options during my tenure), we quite possibly really experienced life abroad as a citizen of the world.We grew up with Star Wars (the movies and Reagan’s strategic defense program). Around the world, we watched the Berlin Wall fall and the break-up of the USSR. We experienced the world in which “the Russians’ love their children too.”We think that Space is the Final Frontier and that we should still give peace a chance.

Reason 7: We came of age in the Last Age of Innocence

In a post-WWII, post-Vietnam, post-Civil Rights, pre-Columbine era and pre-Internet era, we had TraperKeepers, Rainbow Bright, and My Little Ponies. Labyrinth and the Princess Bride. Queen Latifa and Prince.  The big concern at school: lunch and snack items with sugar as the first or second ingredient. Not whether or not someone might shoot us in the cafeteria. We studied about lies, damn lies, and statistics. We may be fascinated by and dismayed by viral media. We take this all this with a grain of salt and we know to check SNOPES before sharing.

Are Xennials generational misfits?

No. In the original article at Good Magazine, Sarah wrote: “Evidently, I am a generational misfit.” This may have been true BEFORE she wrote the text, but once she clicked “publish,” Sarah (like you and me), became a Xennial.

Alibcandid’s Definition of the Xennial Woman

A woman born between the years of 1975 and 1985. Xennial women are life-long learners, humble and resilient. We are comfortable with technology but still love a good print book. We take pride in our origins and we are citizens of the world. We believe in humankind and do our part to build a better future.

Did I leave anything out? What would you add? 

Xennial Women you have a mission:

  • Own your definition of success;
  • Take care of yourself, be resilient;
  • Stay humble, but be confident;
  • Keep learning;
  • Keep reading;
  • Be proud of your origins and be a citizen of the world;
  • Make a difference. 

Press the spacebar to continue…

Just kidding! Hit “share” and tag your favorite Xennial (or 12). It’s a movement!

Let’s win this one!

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What is White Privilege and Why Should I Care?
Aug31

What is White Privilege and Why Should I Care?

<h1><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The Complicit Generation</span></h1><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As a Xennial White Woman, I am obligated to write about white privilege. My generation grew up post Civil Rights Movement. We grew up with Sesame Street, Different Strokes, Dr. Huxtable and Oprah. As a white woman with friends from varied ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds, I once called myself color blind, because I did not personally see or experience racism. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Born in 1977 on a morning supposedly graced by a late spring snow and seven rainbows I am a quintessential Xennial Woman. We ate organic before it was hip and I could watch 30 minutes of TV before being sent outside to play (unsupervised). And, my mom brought home the very first Mac, so she could write her doctorate. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I attended a magnet school (public) for international and ESL students, so my classmates were actually pretty diverse given the whiteness of Boulder. My fourth and fifth-grade teachers proudly attended the Peace Circles leading up to the shutdown of the Rocky Flats Nuclear plant. </span> <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>My classmates were either the children of hippies or professors (sometimes not a mutually exclusive state), with names like Rainbow, Forest, and Destiny. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>My 7th-grade teacher had a composting toilet.  And my school held “Diversity Days.” </span> <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As a university freshman, I recall sitting in a philosophy class where a student who grew up in D.C. professed that CU Boulder “was too white.” I proudly claimed that “Boulder might be white, but we are colorblind.” No one even whispered a word of surprise or discontent at this statement.</span></p><p><em><strong>I am part of the complicit generation.</strong></em></p><h2><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I Once Was Blind But Now I Can See</span></h2><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In 2010 I happened to be watching CNN when a program with Anderson Cooper came on. The show presented the findings of a recently released study on perceptions of race in kindergarten-aged children. If you haven’t seen the show go </span><a draggable=”false” href=”http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/index.html”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>watch it.</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> </span><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The frightening take away from the show is that white kindergartners have the luxury of being colorblind. At age 5 they are already recipients of white privilege. On the flip side, black kindergartners already know about race. Society does not give them the privilege of being ignorant about the implications of skin color. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Awareness of race and skin color is evidence that already, white children benefit from white privilege. White children don’t need to worry about race, they have the privilege of being colorblind. If you are a parent of white children think about that for a minute. Maybe you read your kids books about people of different races, colors, and backgrounds. The children’s book, <em>10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes</em>, is a great example. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>You may teach your children to be colorblind, but do you also teach your children that these different backgrounds, mean we also have different life experiences? Do you teach your children to stand for right and wrong? Do you role play with them what they might do if they <br /></span></p><h3><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>An Even Deeper Problem</span></h3><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”><br />For a variety of reasons, some discussed in the study, black families feel the need to make sure their children understand perceptions of race. Some of this is to protect them from racism and some of it is to prepare them for the inevitable. This reality is perhaps surprising to a white person who may not actively see or practice racism; however, it shouldn’t be. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The most disruptive take away from the study, in my opinion, has to do with self-perception. Not only did the study find that black children knew they were black, but that both black and white kindergartners have already taken on societal norms of beauty. Norms that embrace white as beautiful and black as ugly. As a mother, this makes my heart break and my emotions rise up in anger and in sadness. As a human, it disgusts me. </span></p><p><b><i>What kind of world do we live in that tells a child “white is beautiful, black is ugly?”</i></b></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Watching this show I had a breakthrough realization. I could no longer be colorblind. If a 5-year-old kid can’t be colorblind, then as a responsible adult, I needed to make a change. </span> <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As MJ said, “</span><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>If you wanna make the world a better place, Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”</span></p><h3><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Racism is Real</span></h3><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In 2012, I married into a multi-racial, multi-ethnic family. My understanding progressed further. My in laws, despite experiencing atrocities and inequities in their life, definitely raised their children with the same ethic as Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” At the same time, they live a strange dichotomy. </span> <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As a Malagasy family, their ancestry is both mixed African and South East Asian, which means, for the most part, their skin is on a color wheel, closer to mocha than ebony. And so my family has the luck to experience both active racism with a side of “well-meaning” colorblindness. </span></p><p><em><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>When you live with racism, it is far from comforting to have one white person, often a friend, say to you “well you’re not really black.” </span></em></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>The thing is, we live in a world and not just an American world, an Occidental, Western European influenced society, in which the status quo perpetuates that lighter is “better,” but white is best.  If you want to read some firsthand examples of active racism I recommend this thoughtful and eloquent piece on </span><a draggable=”false” href=”https://onbeing.org/blog/what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>the very real experience of racism</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> by Krista Tippet. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Ultimately, to claim “color blindness” or to deny your part in white privilege really doesn’t do any of us any good, because there are millions of people each day, who still actively experience racism. It’s a real thing. It’s an active thing. And although it may never go 100% away, we need to make an active effort to end it, while also working to heal the wounds. We need internal medicine, not just band-aids.</span></p><h2><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Make An Effort, Not An Excuse</span></h2><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>And so, I write this piece in the spirit of intersectionality. I acknowledge that each of us is unique, each of us has a different experience. Not one of us should judge another before trying to walk in her shoes. Most importantly, I acknowledge that I and that </span><a draggable=”false” href=”https://onbeing.org/blog/what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>many of my white peers have been complicit</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> in our experience of white privilege. No excuses.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I think this is one reason so many of us “white and color blind” felt shocked at the recoil experienced in the USA during and following the election of President Obama. In our effort to be color blind we completely discounted the experience of our Black American, Native American, Asian American, Central and South American, and immigrant sisters and brothers. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>But we need to make an effort not to be complicit. We need to think about it and we need to talk about it. And we need to not remain silent if and when we see or hear racist things go down. We need to make an effort, not an excuse because it is the right thing to do. </span></p><p>The fact of the matter is that most white people in the United States (and Europe) live in primarily white neighborhoods. Our communities (for reasons we can debate another day) remain segregated. One reason we don’t think racism exists is that we don’t have the opportunity to see it in action. </p><p>Where we live and most importantly where we grow up, means we often benefit from white privilege simply by the luck of birth. This doesn’t mean that there are not poor or disadvantaged white people. What it does mean, is that we don’t all have the same experiences. </p><p>In the article by Tippet that I link to above, she describes an experience one day in a university course in which a white male student gripes about reading a book on Malcolm X, because he can’t relate to it…</p><p>Think about the books that we read in high school and university. Most of them are by white male authors. How do you think people from other backgrounds relate to these books? This is, in fact, one of the major reason many universities created departments of Women’s Studies.</p><h2><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Racism is Taught</span></h2><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As the study I mentioned earlier on highlights, racism is learned, it is taught. Babies are not racist. And if we raise our kids thoughtfully, neither are they. White parents, black parents, parents of all backgrounds should speak to their children about race. About the experience of race and about what it means to be a good person. </span> <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>We should build our children up, but not at the expense of others. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>You probably saw <a href=”_wp_link_placeholder” data-wplink-edit=”true”>this video</a> of a Virginia dad and his beautiful, smart daughter last year, but just in case I will share it with you here: </span></p><p> </p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>My husband also asked that I share a story from our family. Earlier this summer, my husband asked my eldest son (his stepson) who he would marry when he grew up. Would he marry a white, black, Chinese or another kind of person? And our son answered, “I don’t know, skin color isn’t what is important, it’s who the person is…and if I love them.” He may only be 10, but he knows that beauty is only skin deep.</span></p><h3>Bad things happen when good people stand by and do nothing…</h3><p>I first heard this saying in my son’s Kung fu class. Kung fu is a peaceful (defensive) martial art. The goal is not to attack, but to be prepared. Black parents talking to their kids is a bit like Kung fu. They are preparing their kids to go out and succeed in the world. Awareness is not an OFFENSIVE attack. It is preparation. </p><p>Similarly, acknowledging that white privilege exists and that if you are White in America you benefit from White Privilege. No matter how poor or rich, how hard you have worked or studied, you benefit to some extent from white privilege. This article does a good job of explaining the inner-workings of the <a href=”https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/”>uneven playing field</a>. </p><h3>Perspective &amp; Awareness</h3><p>Not all Americans have the same experience of being American. </p><p>What is American to you, may not be American to me. </p><p>American as Apple Pie…?</p><p>Pretty much anywhere you go in the United States of America, you can find an Apple Pie. But is Apple Pie even American? Or is it German? Or Dutch? French? Or Swedish?<br /><br />Pumpkin Pie is likely actually American, as pumpkins are a native fruit from the Americas. But what then about Sweet Potato Pie? Does it really matter?</p><p>My point is, that neither you nor I can precisely trace or claim the origins of white privilege any better than we can the origins of Apple, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potatoe Pie, but we can acknowledge that they all exist. Awareness is vital. </p><p>Once I became aware of white privilege, I started to notice it in action. Sometimes in the form of <span style=”background-color: #f6d5d9;”>simple </span>privilege, sometimes in the form of outright racism against someone in my presence. </p><p>What Can We Do?</p><p>We can be aware. We can discuss the origins and the history of race in America with our children. We can discuss the reality of diverse backgrounds and experience. We can question our assumptions. And we can speak-up.</p><p>Silence is complicit. Awareness is mental Kung fu. </p><p><em><strong>Bad things happen when good people stand by and do nothing. </strong></em></p><p> </p><div style=”display: none;”><img draggable=”false” src=”https://alibcandid.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Ruth-1-16-200×300.png” alt=”Picture of black hands and white hands being held.” width=”200″ height=”300″ /></div>

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The Secret to a Long Life: Community Coffee
Jun23

The Secret to a Long Life: Community Coffee

A Story of Longevity, Love, and Community

Coffee Beans.

One of the many wonders of the world.

A prized commodity that can only be found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

The post contains Amazon affiliate* links and other non-affiliate links.

I grew up in a household run by Folgers

My dad is 84. Pretty darn good for a man born into depression area conditions at the start of WWII. His earliest memories involve rationing of sugar and collecting scrap metal at school. The most amazing thing about my dad’s longevity is that he grew up literally in the midst of an oil refinery. My grandfather led chemical engineering projects for Shell Oil. Most of my father’s childhood meant a home literally on the grounds of the refinery. My father also inherited his love of coffee and legal pads (a story for another day) from his dad, my grandfather.

My father's antique Folgers coffee tins organize everything!

The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!

Before the advent of local and small batch roasters, my dad drank Folgers. Since perhaps the beginning of time, Folgers packaged their coffee in a large red coffee tin (it’s now plastic). My dad, an artist by trade, loves to organize everything. Unlike many collectors, however, my dad’s artist aesthetic means that he organizes everything that he collects.

Folgers’ tins can thus be seen in his studio organizing everything from nails and screws by size and type, to old pencil stubs and erasers. Some of the Folgers’ cans are likely more than half a century old. At the least, they arrived on the scene before I did, in 1977!

A few years ago my father found himself in the hospital with heart problems. Not blockage or heart disease from an unhealthy heart, but simply a tired heart. He and my mom thought for sure that the doctors would scold him for his coffee consumption. Instead, his doc told him that his coffee habit might actually be a positive contributing factor to keeping him alive.

Not only is coffee packed with antioxidants, the stimulant in the caffeine may actually help keep his heart pumping. Today, my dad continues to start his day with a cup of coffee.

Coffee and Good Health

Despite its perceived bad rap (perhaps perpetuated by tea companies), coffee is genuinely known for its health benefits. Multiple ongoing studies, from respectable institutions, such as Harvard, continue to turn up results indicating that coffee may, in fact, protect against a variety of diseases. From Type II Diabetes to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even cavities! In this article and video “How Coffee Loves Us Back,” Chopra a leading researcher into the benefits of coffee consumption at Harvard advocates drinking several cups per day!


Now, to be sure, other medical type folks, such as the Mayo Clinic, suggest that adults should not consume more than 400 mg of coffee per day (about 4 cups) and children should outright avoid coffee (and all forms of caffeine). They also acknowledge that different people react in different ways to caffeine. Some have a higher tolerance than others.

Coffee Loves Us and We Love Coffee!

Conditioned to love coffee through its inviting smell, the comforting sound of my dad’s Cuisinart coffee maker in the morning, it’s not a surprise that I am an avid coffee drinker. Almost everytime I drink coffee, I think of my dad. On the mornings when my husband rises before me and starts the coffee pot brewing, the sound and the smell of the brewing coffee is reason enough to get out of bed!

At an existential level, drinking coffee connects us to the community of coffee drinkers around the world. Coffee shops open early and close late, creating a welcoming space for travelers, students, those seeking solitude in a crowd, and everyone in between.

The Bean: An Introduction to Community Coffee

We only ordered hot drinks, but in spirit, we joined a community.

I had my first mocha at age 15 and my first latte a few weeks later. In the USA, teenagers have a terrible time getting into bars, but coffee is totally legal (especially in Boulder, CO). I don’t know exactly when the first dedicated coffee shop opened in Boulder, but I do remember the first time I ventured in.

Boulder is normally a sunny place, even in the winter, but this day mother nature delivered cold biting wind, rain, and a distinct lack of sun. The kind of weather that answers the question as to why Starbucks got a start in Seattle, not say, Rome. With her drivers’ license hot off the presses and an inherited pair of wheels, my friend Jeanne picked me up and introduced me to the coffee house culture.

Jeanne pulled into a parking spot and we ran to my first encounter with community coffee. Followed by a gust of the wind and cold rain, we tumbled in the door and found ourselves in the warm and funky comfort of THE BEAN. We ordered Mochas. We felt like adults, even if we ordered a coffee drink cut by chocolate (which seemed to be slightly less wild than ordering a latte). We only ordered hot drinks, but in spirit, we joined a community.

Do you want to get a coffee?

The Bean and the Boulder Bookstore Coffee Shop soon became regular hang-outs. We started with mochas, but soon we’d moved on to drinking lattes. Within a few years, I’d be starting my day with a cup of black coffee, just like my dad. Today, I still meet my girlfriends for a weekly coffee. And every once in a while, I like to “pay-it-forward” by buying a stranger a coffee.

After nearly 25 years of drinking coffee, I can’t count the number of coffee houses in my mental Rolodex. Of the more frequented locales, Boulder Book Store Coffee House probably earns the biggest part of my lifetime coffee investment, even more so than Starbucks. At one point, I even dated their manager…! Sadly, even that era came to a close when they shut their doors for good a few years ago, but the memories remain.

Singing Rooster small-holder coffee sustainable fair tradeWhat do Roosters and a Canadian have in Common?

At the age of 22, I fell totally in love with a tall handsome Canadian. Looking back, I think caffeine had to do a lot with my infatuation. The Canadian liked to return home early in the morning around 6 or 7 AM (think astronomer, not a party animal) and walk around the house waking up my roommates and me by clapping and singing. Sexy, right?

He’d, of course, made sure to brew a pot of fresh coffee before waking us up, which in my opinion made it all okay. That said, it seems unlikely that my housemates possessed a genetic predisposition to drinking coffee because out of the 10 of us (we lived in a Co-op), only a few of us appreciated the Astronomer’s early morning caffeine-fueled antics.

A Genetic Predisposition to Love Coffee

Evidently, my predisposition to drinking (and loving) coffee runs a little bit deeper than simply environmental conditioning. For Christmas this year my mom bought our immediate family DNA test kits. In the report from 23andMe, it turns out that my dad and I carry a gene that predisposes us to drink coffee. Go figure.

Finding Community in Coffee: Grandfathers and Grandmothers

The same grandfather who worked for Shell Oil, died a few years before my birth, so I never met him in person. My image of him comes purely from black and white photos and stories recounted by my dad, my aunt, and my grandmother. Supposedly on Sunday mornings, my Grandpa Lem liked to drink a cup of coffee and read the New York Times from cover to cover. He’d finish up by completing the crossword puzzle.

This “memory” connects me to my grandfather. I adore both crosswords and the New York Times. And, I firmly believe that both crosswords and newspapers should be enjoyed with a cup of steaming black coffee.

To this day, my favorite, my ideal Sunday morning is spent in exactly the same way. Unfortunately, living in France my New York Times and my Sunday Crossword only come in digital form, but with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I can use my imagination.

Community & Coffee Growing

My husband grew up in Madagascar. When he shops here in France, he always buys “Grandmother’s Coffee” a brand of French coffee that reminds him of his first experience with coffee. As a boy, he and his siblings drank coffee when they visited their grandmother. His grandmother, a smallholder farmer, both grew and roasted her own coffee, which she then served to all visitors, regardless of age.

Today, many people in Madagascar still grow coffee for local consumption. Here is a picture of a recent harvest, much like I imagine my husband’s grandmother may have done!

Smallholder Coffee Beans

I love to buy and grind my own beans. I’d do it all the time if I could. In Colorado, I loved to buy my beans from local coffee shops. And even occasionally, direct from a roaster. Here in the Southwest of France, my only option is to buy from the Supermarket, but occasionally I will get a special delivery from the US.

Working in Haiti, I learned that the Haitian hills provided a perfect environment for smallholder farmers. Not only did my husband’s grandmother grow coffee in Madagascar, but so do many women around the world, including in Haiti. In this sense, drinking coffee can do a lot to support small business owners who are often women.

A Spoonful of Sugar

Normally I drink my coffee black, but when in Rome do as the Romans. In Haiti, morning coffee is strong and very, very fresh. And, although I don’t normally enjoy sugar in my coffee, there is something about the humidity and tropical climate in Haiti that makes fresh, strong Haitian coffee with a spoonful of sugar the perfect start to your day. Even better than Folgers in your cup. Actually, light-years better than Folgers.

What’s Better than a Singing Canadian? A Singing Rooster…

Not everyone loves a Singing Rooster, but when you visit rural Haiti, they become a part of your daily life. And trust me, a singing rooster is infinitely better than a singing goat!

Returning from my fresh coffee experience in Haiti, my all-time favorite roasted bean coffee comes from Singing Rooster, a nonprofit organization, started by an American couple. Singing Rooster works in a cooperative format supporting and providing a reliable market for smallholder Haitian coffee farmers. Singing Rooster sells Haitian coffee, a shade-grown Caribbean coffee, ideal for small crops grown on steep Haitian hills. Not only is their coffee amazing in flavor, but drinking it means that small female-run farms continue to grow and thrive.

A true win-win situation!

When I worked for the Colorado Haiti Project, we purchased Singing Rooster coffee at wholesale prices to sell as a fundraiser for both organizations.  If you consider the goals of sustainable development and fair trade, the collaboration between Singing Rooster, Haitian Farmers, and American nonprofits, is an amazing example of community. If only all businesses could be run this way!

Disclaimer: Although I am a former customer of Singing Rooster and I am a former employee of the Colorado Haiti Project, this post is not sponsored nor endorsed by either organization. All of these opinions are my own!

Fairtrade: A bean to fuel the world.

Coffee is both much loved and much maligned. Nearly every corner has a Starbucks or a local coffee roaster on it (some have both). And yet, I perpetually see and hear people talking about quitting coffee, giving up caffeine or doing a caffeine detox.

Sure, caffeine is an addictive stimulant, but as my example above with Singing Rooster shows, coffee can also keep the world going. As a crop, coffee likes shade and hills. This means that coffee is perfect for deforested regions and ideal for smallholder farms. Steep hills are not ideal for mechanization, so coffee remains a crop best harvested by hand.

Coffee needs people. People need coffee.

Don’t believe me? Look at this piece about the effects of deforestation on Haiti. And then read this piece about local economies and deforestation. Or this one summarizing the positive outcomes of working with FairTrade coffee farmers. In short, drinking Fair Trade or sustainably grown and harvested coffee with your friends and family is not just a pleasant thing to do, but an activity that has a positive effect on the world.

And, in 2017 I would be remiss to not acknowledge the online community around coffee. Not surprisingly, millions of people a day engage with their favorite coffee brands online. This report looking at the engagement of fans and the Top 10 US Coffee Brands on Facebook really drives this point home!

Afraid of coffee? Trying to quit…?

My response to people who fear coffee and caffeine: even good things must be consumed in moderation. Carrots are healthy, but if you eat a bushel, you may turn orange! And in my humble opinion coffee really is the perfect longevity beverage!

But there is so much more to coffee than it being a simple addiction or even a predisposition. I drink coffee because it brings me joy.  

Before I go to bed at night, I can often already taste and smell the earthy roasted flavor of my morning coffee. Sometimes, I am tempted to make a cup of coffee right before bed, which I don’t do…but my dad does!

If you are a social coffee drinker then you surely understand. With a cup of coffee in my hand and in your hand, we can find common ground (incidentally the name of another of my former coffee haunts). When I sit here with my steaming cup of Joe, I remember the happy moments and I dream of future adventures. I can imagine the roaster or the rooster.  Thinking about the coffee farmer, the coffee sorter, and other coffee drinkers, I know that I am part of something bigger.

I drink coffee because I like it.

Black Coffee

After years of drinking coffee and tasting coffees around the world. I confess that I am a bit of a coffee snob. More politely termed, a coffee connoisseur.

In my opinion, good coffee can and should be enjoyed black.

I only add sugar to weak or bitter coffee. Or, as mentioned above, if I am enjoying delicious, freshly harvested, and freshly roasted smallholder coffee somewhere in the Caribbean or Africa…

Good coffee is like a glass of good wine.

You can roll it on your tongue. You can inhale the roast. You can taste the terroir.

Some roasts and blends of coffee seem to be stronger than others. Every once in awhile, I will drink something that is delicious and that gives me a giddy buzz. Death Wish Coffee out of Saratoga New York is a prime example.

On a daily basis, I drink my coffee more for pleasure than for a buzz. This means that I am a fan of a medium roast Arabica bean. Despite Arabica originating in Ethiopia, I tend to prefer South American and Caribbean coffees. I like my coffee shade grown on the side of a mountain. Haitian or Dominican Blues, Colombian. Maybe it is also something in the soil.

Unfortunately, because I travel a lot, I can’t always find my favorite blends. Lavazza is an Italian company that sells in both Europe and the USA, so they are a consistent go-to brand for a respectable cup of medium roast Arabica coffee. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to do Fair Trade, but in a pinch, I know they will deliver for flavor!

On a more exciting note, even Singing Rooster can now be found on Amazon!

The Best Ways to Make Coffee: Grind and Brew

Most dedicated coffee drinkers can’t afford Starbucks or their favorite local coffee house for every cup. To fully satisfy my daily consumption requirements and to get a cup of coffee in before even brushing hair or my teeth, I require a live-in barista. Or at least a reliable method to grind and brew my own coffee.

In the ideal world, I think many coffee drinkers would love to have the time and the ability to grind their beans fresh every day or at least every week. In reality, we must often settle for pre-ground coffee.  I grew up using the classic steel blade coffee grinder made by Krups. After 40+ years of life and usage, the grinder that my mother received as a wedding present still works! Mine is in storage in the US and you will not find me springing for anything fancier.

If you do decide to grind your own coffee beans, be sure to store it in an airtight container and out of the sunlight. Room temperature is best, you don’t need to freeze or refrigerate beans to preserve flavor (that is all a myth). Indeed the only scientifically proven benefit of freezing beans appears to be that frozen beans have a more uniform grind. And thus, theoretically deliver a fuller and more consistent flavor when brewed.

Grind and Brew Coffee Maker

This is perhaps the lazy (wo)man’s dream. I have yet to try one. If you have one, I’d love to hear your thoughts. In an ideal world, I’d replace all the K-Cups, coffee pods and Nescafe’s with grind and brew coffee makers. The idea of single serve coffee is completely contrary to the community culture, the smallholder farmer culture, all the positives in drinking coffee go right out the door with single serve coffee pods.

I could rant and rant about my dislike, but suffice it to say they are a capitalist money-making invention. Whoever figured out that instead of selling 1 lb of coffee for $8 to $16 per bag, suddenly coffee makers could quadruple their profits and make a bunch of plastic trash in the process!

At the very least, if you insist on using a coffee pod or K-cup device, please, please invest in a few reusable pods or refillable cups and buy your own coffee!

French Press

I have friends who swear by the French Press, which is great if you live in an area where you can get custom ground beans (or you grind your own). The biggest challenge with the French Press is that it requires a coarser ground than your standard drip coffee grind.

If you try and use espresso ground or drip coffee in a French press, you may end up with a thick, grainy cup of coffee. The flavor will be good, but the texture a bit like sand.  For those that master the grind, a certain aesthetic satisfaction and meditative quality are experienced through the art of brewing a perfect cup of French Press Coffee. “French pressers” are definitely their very own coffee community!



For many years Bodum made the classic French Press; however, with modern design, dishwashers, portability and all that jazz some serious competitors now exist. I am personally fond of the Kona that is both stylish, stainless and dishwasher safe.

Cowboy Coffee

For those moments when one does not have access to a coffee pot, the ability to brew “Cowboy Coffee” is a must. When camping or hitting the road, some people pack their French Presses, but I actually kind of like drinking Cowboy Coffee. It reminds me of when my dad took me camping as a kid and brewed cowboy coffee.

The recipe is pretty simple. Find a pot, find a safe heat source, pour in water and coffee grounds, bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, set aside for a few minutes. As the grounds start to settle, pour your coffee directly into coffee cups. You may get a few grounds, but heck, that’ll make you tough, like a Cowboy!

And, if you really do not like grounds, you can always pack a small pour over coffee filter!


To be true “Cowboy authentic” I also like to drink my cowboy coffee from an enameled steel coffee cup and coffee pot. I prefer the blue, but green or red is also classic! I don’t know how long my father has had his set, but mine came mismatched between the local Army Surplus and REI.

Reliable Perfection: Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

For my daily coffee fix, I personally rely on a drip coffee maker. My all-time favorite is the Cuisinart Brew Central because it is PROGRAMMABLE.  I received my Cuisinart coffee maker, as a wedding gift in 2005 and at the time a programmable coffee pot made my day. As the manager of the Guest Services Department at a hotel, I often returned home at 11 PM only to be back at work by 7 AM.

I quickly fell in love with a coffee machine that I could program to start every morning at 6 AM. My dad also loves the programmable feature and bought himself a Cuisinart coffee maker a few years after I received mine. Ha!

When my alarm goes off, it is so much easier to roll out of bed to the sound of brewing coffee. I definitely think that my next pot will be a slight upgrade to a grind and brew coffee maker. Freshly ground and freshly brewed. All before I even lift my head off my pillow.

The Classic Percolator

Percolators are known for making weak coffee. Company break rooms, Coffee Hour after Church on Sunday. I can’t in good conscience recommend a percolator for your daily coffee habit. Although, as a logophile,  I do enjoy saying the word “PERCOLATOR.”

All judgments aside, there is a comfort to be found on a rainy day in a church rec room with a percolating pot of coffee. And when it comes to serving up coffee to groups of 20 or more, well, sometimes you just have to go with a percolator. Fortunately, your church or local caterer probably already own one, so you can stick to the details of brewing the perfect cup of joe at home!

Community Coffee: Side Effects

Let me apologize if you came here to answer the question: “Should I quit coffee?” As you can probably guess by now, my answer is “no, you should not!” And, if you came here to find out if you can drink coffee on a diet, generally the answer is yes. After all, there are only 4 calories in a cup of black coffee.  Adding sugar and milk by the gallon or drinking Frappuccinos, on the other hand, is generally not diet friendly.

Okay sure, some people get headaches from too much caffeine. Others get headaches from caffeine withdrawal. I grew up to the sound of my father’s coffee machine percolating away in the morning. In my early 20s, I’d often joke that I took my coffee intravenously. Quite simply, I adore coffee and I appreciate it’s side effects.

On a more serious note, drinking coffee can be sustainable. It can support smallholder farmers, it can help combat deforestation. And, drinking coffee can bring you joy and a sense of community.

Community Coffee: Sit down, drink some coffee!

Sit down. Drink some coffee. You will be fine.

Seen at Ocean Coffee Bar in Saint Jean de Luz, France.

If you are adverse to coffee, many of the same benefits can be found in tea. (Black tea with milk is my second favorite beverage.) It’s been said that a hot cup of coffee or a hot cup of tea is medicine for the soul.

Drinking coffee is a perfect way to start the day. Hot coffee helps us to find calm in a storm. Meditating over a cup of coffee can settle the mind. Meeting for coffee can connect us not only with our friends or family but with the world.

Moral of the story? If coffee doesn’t like you, don’t drink it. And, if you are tired, get more sleep don’t drink more coffee. On the other hand, if you are concerned that your coffee consumption might be a bad thing, don’t be. Remember, everything in moderation. Even carrots.

Drinking coffee makes you part of the worldwide coffee community, so enjoy your coffee. Or as I saw on a sign at Ocean Coffee Bar in France: “Sit down. Drink some coffee. You are going to be fine!”

 

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Logophilia and a Retrouvaille: A Writer at Your Service
Jun08

Logophilia and a Retrouvaille: A Writer at Your Service

Lost and Found

Bookworms and bibliophiles love books. Foodies love food. Oenophiles love wine. As a logophile, I love words. Can you guess my favorite word of all? I’ll give you a clue: at the age of 21 this Colorado girl found love in Madagascar. And then as a result of distance (oceans and continents), time and circumstance, it became a love lost. 12 years later I found it again. Retrouvaille definition: In French “trouver” is to find something. Add the prefix “re” and you “re-find” something. Retrouvaille thus refers to a friend that you have found again, but not just any friend, a bosom-buddy, a BFF, someone who “get’s you.” In English, we find the words to represent these close friendships, but we lack any truly “retrouvaille feeling words” in English, which means that we’ll just have to use the French!

Do you have a retrouvaille in your life?

Logophiles love words.

Yep, that’s me. I am a logophile. ​​​​

As a logophile, I can quickly get excited about the etymology or the origin of a word. I am fascinated by words that exist in one language, but not in others. And, I adore words that have slightly different nuances. As a student of anthropology, I also tend to note how vocabulary reflects the differences between languages and cultures. It’s an inside game for me to modify my word choice to suit my audience, be they American, English, South African or Australian. My thesaurus is a reliable and dog-eared friend. Tragically, my love of words nearly spelled death for my career as a writer. Thankfully, the experience of retrouvaille presented me with the time and the situation to reflect and find my path home, back to the written word.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.  Any purchase you make through an affiliate link on Alibcandid generates a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

How my logophilia prevented me from becoming a writer.

Logophilia & Lover’s Quarrels

As a logophile, I confess that I am apt to get a bit snippy over how people use words. The connotation of a word is critical! If someone (up there) is keeping a tally, the record indeed shows that I am willing to defend the virtue and intent of my word choice. Disagreements of course often stem from misunderstanding — if only everyone paid attention to word choice, perhaps we’d have world peace!

Logophilia comes into play in my life as I search for words to express the perfect meaning or make an underhanded joke (or insult). I am also concerned with the implications and connotations of words. Contextual intersectionality, for example, is an excellent example of how word choice can help us to acknowledge or deny another person’s experience. By definition a logophile, of course, loves words.  The root word of “logo” hailing from the Greek verb “to love.”

Logophilia definition: By definition a logophile, of course, loves words.  The root word of “logo” hailing from the Greek verb “to love.” Logophilia is then the act of loving words, but also the act of wordplay. When you love words, you can’t help but also play with them!

One of the reasons I love my husband so much is that he also loves words and meaning. He is particularly fond of word jokes with subtle sexual undertones. He too adores riddles that trick people (usually our kids) into saying or doing something silly. One of his favorites is a line of questioning about Napolean’s horse that concludes with most neophytes responding that cows drink milk (not water)!

The definition of a Logophile

Some couples argue about finances or the kids, while our most heated and memorable disagreements often center on words. Notable debates include the following words: silly, indigenous, and mammal. Not all on the same day or even the same week mind you, and yet these were severe disagreements involving dictionaries, raised voices, and internet research.

For better or worse, my arguments with my husband over the connotation of words and appropriate vocabulary choice is not a solitary experience. I’ve been getting into trouble over words my entire life. From the time I spent a morning in the quiet room as a three-year-old, to just last week!

___TVE_SHORTCODE_RAW__<p> </p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Before Google: Dictionaries &amp; Writers Inc. </span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In 3rd grade, I earned the nickname “dictionary.” My claim to fame did not yet refer to a propensity to use and love large and or exciting words, but rather that I had mastered looking up and finding words. Our teacher kept a huge, ancient, and leather bound unabridged dictionary on a podium off to one side of our classroom.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Looking up a word in the dictionary, required taking a step up onto the podium and flipping through the papery old pages. I loved the experience and the power of knowledge, literally at my fingertips. Standing on a podium is also pretty sweet at the age of 8. If my classmates needed a word looked up, either to verify the spelling or to learn the meaning, I could find it in that big old book in an instant.</span></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>A Crushed Spirit</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>By 6th grade, I owned a thesaurus. And in 7th grade, I learned to write essays. Essay writing thrilled me to no end. Literally! I kid you not! What fun to use the power and influence of words to argue, persuade, compare and contrast.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Sadly, in 7th grade, I also had my spirit crushed. My first essay came back with a large “D” written on the top. And, even when I thought I’d cut back on my creative wordings, my papers came back marked in red with “word choice” and “delete this” peppering the page. I had my work cut out for me as a student of Honors English. I wrote and rewrote until I earned an A. </span></p><img src=”https://alibcandid.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Writers-Inc-216×300.jpg” alt=”The original cover” width=”216″ height=”300″ /> The original Writers Inc cover!<h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Writers Inc</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>On a positive note, my English teacher also introduced me to a technical manual called <em>Writers INC</em>. </span><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>As an excellent reference and a source of great diversion, <em>Writers INC</em> became my writing Bible. At the back of the book, the authors included a handful of useful appendixes. The most valuable of these appendixes: a list of MLA proofreading marks. The most fun: a list of bad translations from foreign languages into English.</span></p><p><a href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0669529958/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=0669529958&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=arakoto-20&amp;linkId=c2f59383debf024d4f1f7a14a26a4580″ rel=”noopener”>Writers INC: A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning (Great Source Writer’s Inc)</a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=arakoto-20&amp;l=am2&amp;o=1&amp;a=0669529958″ alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ /></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Lost In Translation</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Every time I needed a good laugh, I could count on the page of translation mishaps, a list of 20 or so informational signs poorly translated from various foreign languages, into English. You can find several of these mistaken translations from Writers Inc. on this </span><a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humour_in_translation”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Wikipedia page</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”> that explains the origins of translation humor. The following sign, purportedly from a hotel in Moscow, is one of my all-time favorites:</span></p><p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>A sign in the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery states: “You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.”</span></em></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Writers Inc helped me to keep my writing grammatically accurate until the book fell apart and disintegrated. Fortunately, this didn’t happen until it had been in use for a good 10 or 11 years, and by then I had an entirely new resource at my fingertips: Google. Today, Google remains a loyal ally.  Each time Grammarly or Microsoft Office tries to tell me a word is not in their dictionary, my fingertips run to Google for validation. And, if I need a good laugh, searching “translation fails” on Google is sure to deliver!</span></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Follow Your Passion</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Frankly, most, if not all of my successes and achievements in life relate directly back to my ability to write and my passion for communicating through the written word. Surprisingly, a Scientific Writing course in the Biology Department at CU Boulder did more to hone and refine my writing skills than any other class. Unlike my middle school teacher, Professor Sally appreciated my love of words and creative word choices. She understood that effective technical and professional writing should also be engaging.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Under Sally’s tutelage, I learned to write compelling and fluid, yet technically accurate reports and documents.   In the years since, I have penned service guides, technical manuals, fundraising plans, employee handbooks, newsletters, research papers, blog posts, articles, marketing copy, white papers, and grants.  </span></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Effective writing is like water</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Before moving to France in 2013, I spent several years as the Executive Director (ED) of an international NGO. I wrote my way into that job by creating a 3-year financial development plan for their outgoing ED. In the span of a few months, I went from volunteer to ED. I wrote my way into my dream job.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>My most reliable recommendation for the job: my relationship to the written word and my ability to organize ideas persuasively. And yet, despite my writing successes over the years, from the honor of graduating Phi Beta Kappa to writing and winning a $100,000 grant,  I didn’t ever consider myself a writer.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Good writing is like water. It can go just about anywhere it wants. (That may be a quote from Writers Inc, I don’t quite recall.)  I write to communicate. I chose words that engage my senses and give me pleasure. When I write, my underlying goal is to ensure not only that what I write makes sense, but that my document flows and captivates.</span><script type=”text/javascript”>amzn_assoc_placement = “adunit0”;amzn_assoc_search_bar = “true”;amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “arakoto-20”;amzn_assoc_search_bar_position = “top”;amzn_assoc_ad_mode = “search”;amzn_assoc_ad_type = “smart”;amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”;amzn_assoc_region = “US”;amzn_assoc_title = “Shop Related Products”;amzn_assoc_default_search_phrase = “How to be a better writer”;amzn_assoc_default_category = “All”;amzn_assoc_linkid = “371d9fed7b24b4f43cf2b61b85a09d05”;amzn_assoc_rows = “1”;</script><br /> <script src=”//z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US”></script></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I am a writer</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I have a sensuous relationship to words. I love how certain words roll off my tongue. I hear words, phrases, and idioms in my head like music. And I know that words are the magic behind humor. But, until recently, I never considered my relationship to words to mean that I am in fact a writer. In my mind’s eye, I saw my love of words as cheap and silly. I shied away from sharing my musings, and I simply wrote to communicate or achieve predetermined goals. </span></p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Why did I think this way?</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I remember the moment, sitting at my desk, with the late afternoon light shining in from behind me. I’d come to speak to my middle school English teacher to find out why exactly she’d marked my beautiful essay with big old ugly “D.” In a few words, she said, “your writing is too flowery.” That to be an effective writer, I must put down my thesaurus and stay focused on the assignment at hand.</span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>She may have taught me to structure my writing efficiently, but she also crushed my young love affair with words. Alison the “dictionary” and the budding logophile, came to an abrupt end sitting at a desk in an English class. The irony.</span></p><a href=”https://www.billborderart.com”><img src=”https://alibcandid.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/From-the-mundane-to-the-powerfully-dramatic-all-subjects-provide-a-challenge-for-visual-communication.-300×300.png” alt=”Bill Border Painting” width=”300″ height=”300″ /></a> My father painting<p> </p><h4><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>A Simple Epiphany</span></h4><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>A few months ago, I started writing a piece about my father, </span><a href=”https://www.billborderart.com/”><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>Bill Border</span></a><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>. I’d been inspired to write a biographical sketch of him for an art magazine. When I asked my dad why he paints, he responded that since childhood, he had no choice, but to create. A few weeks later, I had my epiphany when I realized that my path is through the written word. He paints. I write. </span></p><p><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>In April, I committed to a personal 30-minutes-a-day blog writing challenge and found that my biggest problem is only writing for 30 minutes. Once I start writing, I have trouble stopping. And so now my mission is to embrace my logophilia and my writer’s spirit, by putting them to good use, both to make a living and to make the world a better place.</span></p>__TVE_SHORTCODE_RAW___

A Personal Retrouvaille: Me, Myself and I

Sometimes our best friend is not waiting to be found, but already inside. Rediscovering my love of writing and embracing my love of words is like rediscovering a best friend. Finding purpose at my keyboard is exhilarating. And helping others to find themselves through words and language is inspiring.

I have arrived. I am home. I might be feeling a bit precocious.

If you need to say something with words, but can’t find the right ones or are not sure what to say, ask me, I am at your service.

How I rediscovered my love of Writing

The Greatest Retrouvaille of All

We are not yet at the end of the story.  The most noteworthy reason for my love of the word retrouvaile, is that my husband is the greatest retrouvaille of my life. We first met in 1998. I’d flown half-way around the world from Colorado to Madagascar for my semester abroad.

While in Madagascar, I lived with my husband’s family, falling in love not only with him, but with his entire family. The experience changed me forever on a spiritual and an intellectual level. But at the age of 21 I didn’t really believe in true love nor did I know how to make an international relationship work.

Fast forward 12 years and my husband decided to take a road-trip across the United States. The moment we saw each other the electricity flew.  The greatest retrouvaille arrived at my front door and life forever changed. Not only did we find a way to write our own story, but the experience cracked me open in a way that continues to provide opportunities for me to grow and discover.

Do you have a retrouvaille story of your own? Are you a logohpile? Share your stories of retrouvaille or the written word below  — I want to know!

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Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time
May19

Four Emotions that are Simply a Waste of Time

 If you follow Facebook or LinkedIn there are any number of articles appearing in your feed (or at least in mine) each day about all the little things successful people do to be successful. So what happens when either you do all these things (or at least enough of them) and yet you seem to be stuck? Why do some seemingly successful people always feel stressed or anxious? Why do some people apologize over and over again? Why do some people fail and keep going, while others fail and call it quits?

Maybe when we get desperate or anxious or lose our way, even when we think we are doing all the right things, maybe what we really need is a change of perspective….

I talk a lot about gratitude because I have found it to be a foundational component of my own feelings of happiness and success. Gratitude is a commonly accepted character trait and practice of successful, happy people. If you read certain texts or books you might come away thinking that gratitude is the magic bullet to a happy life.

But then how do you explain the experience of a highly successful entrepreneur who practices gratitude and yet is perpetually anxious? Or how can we explain the thousands of stay at home moms (and dads!) who have everything they need, who adore their children, who are so grateful to have the possibility to stay home, and yet they feel incomplete or stressed?

They say you are a success, but you don’t feel it?

continue reading here

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