Tastes Good/Made Bad

I read an article in Prevention Magazine about how some of our favorite foods are made. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Sometimes I do not want to know how some things are made. I just want to eat Oreos dipped into my hot coffee and hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Well, this article slanted my thinking. 

First, coffee creamer. I have written previously about my coffee love. I do not use sugar but I do use cream and it has to be just the right color. I do not like straight black coffee. All three of my boys drink it that way. I may just not be man enough and I’m totally fine with that.

We all know what a stellar job the food industry does at packaging items to appeal to our senses. The packaged food industry is a trillion-dollar business and they will do whatever it takes to get the color, texture and flavor right.

Coffee creamers are at the top of the list for swaying us, at least the coffee drinkers among us. They look and sound so amazing; sugar cookie, almond joy, Irish crème, pumpkin spice, Cinnabon. Plus the TV commercial of the lady (with perfect hair and Audrey Hepburn slim pants, classic sweater set and ballet flats) curled up cozy in front of her fire drinking hot coffee with these delightful creamers, well it’s pure marketing genius.

The article stated that though these flavors are tempting, in addition to all of the added sugar (or high fructose corn syrup, more likely), these also contain a lot of oil—specifically hydrogenated oils. Plainly put, these are industrial fats known to be extremely unhealthy. 

Another item mentioned in the article is jelly beans. I do not really care for jelly beans, but oh my, when  I was a kid, I loved them. They are shiny and cute and brilliantly colored. Just looking at them made me feel happy. Well, I’m not happy anymore. 

Jelly beans are often coated with shellac. This shellac is, yes, a relative of the same topcoat you use for your home manicures. Shellac is also used in insulation, sealants, and varnishes. And one more fun fact. Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug found on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes then dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac. Um, gross. This needs to be reported to the Easter Bunny right away. Unless he is in on it, which would be a whole other story.

Lastly, shredded cheeses. Most of us have heard that it is better to buy a block of cheese and grate it ourselves, just like our mothers did. One of the rules of thumb with shredded cheeses is that if it sticks together, chances are, it is better. The non-clumping agent known as cellulose is more familiar to us when we call it what it actually is—wood pulp. Instead of giving us what we pay for and want, which is more cheese, companies fatten up the bags by adding wood shavings. 

If I have ruined your dinner tacos piled with shredded cheese or taken away your coffee joy or tainted your Easter dreams, I apologize. 

We all want truth until it starts messing with the things we love.

Life Lessons/Serious Sunday

My husband loves the movie Nanny McPhee. I know that sounds kind of weird. He loves it because several years ago he heard a speaker make reference to the movie in regard to the way the Lord works in our lives. That piqued his interest and we watched it the next week.

It is one of those movies you have to stick with because, in the beginning, it is easy to lose interest. 

The movie is set in Victorian England in the 1860s. Cedric Brown is a widowed undertaker with seven unruly children. He loves them very much but since the death of his wife, is unable to spend much time with them and do the parenting needed.

The children terrorize and run off several nannies and all seems bleak until the frighteningly hideous Nanny McPhee appears. She tells Cedric that she is a “government nanny”.

McPhee is not the least rattled by the children’s behavior. She is as cool as a cucumber. In time, with discipline and a little ‘magic’, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she changes from ugly to beautiful. Her warts and unibrow disappear and her oversized nose shrinks. 

Over time, the children change into responsible, well-mannered people and are able to help their clumsy father with his own problems, thus making Nanny McPhee less and less needed.

This, of course, is the storyline. The children have come to love and appreciate her and want her to stay. Oh, the irony.

At the end of the movie, Nanny McPhee (who is now lovely) magically makes it snow. The children are thrilled. When she turns to go, against their cries for her to remain with them, she has this great line, “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”

There are myriad lessons to learn from this film. If you see the movie, find the golden nuggets that fit your life. They are to be found. 

One of my (several) favorites is that Nanny McPhee is fair and wise. She teaches the children that they cannot rely on ‘magic’ or luck to improve life. She reveals to them that they must, along with a higher belief system, use their own brilliant minds and creative thinking to change their circumstances. 

What a novel concept. 

Not Flawless

I was out with my mama running a few errands. We got into our car after a stop at the post office. A young woman crossed the parking lot, coming from the quick market on the corner. She was wearing a tank top with sparkling Times New Roman font stating “Flawless”. 

I mentioned in an earlier blog that it takes a lot of chutzpah to wear certain graphic tees. Well, this one ranks right up there.

For staters, she wasn’t flawless. Who is? She was ordinary-looking; a little pudge in the tummy, marshmallowy-soft arms, hair that needed a bit of attention, and that was just her exterior. In other words, she was like 90% of us. 

But flawless? No.

However, those are things that 25 year-olds can get away with. And of course, that is the target marketing audience. A 60 year-old knows better than to wear something like that, even if there happens to truly be a flawless-seeming one out there, you know, a Christie Brinkley type.

I wish there were T-shirts made that stated something like: Flawless In Progress or Flawless Pursuit of Kindness or Flawless Hunger for a Pure Heart or…you get the idea.

But flawless? No, not even for one day. 

Something in my Eye

Speaking of Walmart, I stopped by there last week on the search for a specific item. I walked through the men’s department and discovered some interesting pieces of clothing in the graphic T-shirts section. On one tank was a silk screen print of a creepy-looking cat riding a surf board on bad design waves.

Alrighty, then.

Another tee I ran across stated “Of course your opinion matters, just not to me. I feel that way at times.

But this one pictured above, caused me to stop and ponder. It brought a pause. 

First, we all need Jesus. The way I see Jesus is God incarnate. I find comfort in visualizing the concept of God sending a boy/man-God to live on this earth and literally show people how to live a better life; how to make good choices and treat others with an unselfish love. Yes, we all need that kind of example.

I have certainly had moments when that statement ran through my head. I just feel like it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually to walk around with this shirt on your body.

It brings to mind a little story J-man told in the book of John in the bible. He clearly was addressing the issue of judging others. Here is a direct quote: “How can you say ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will clearly see to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Bam!

As my dear daughter-in-law says “Who are we kidding?”

I suggest that anyone audacious enough to wear this T-shirt, may also want to purchase a guide dog. That plank in your eye could make walking a bit difficult. 

Serious Sunday

Easter Sunday in all its glory.

I remember many things about childhood Easters. There was always egg coloring, which involved little plastic bottles of food coloring mixed with vinegar. We would then put the eggs back into the cardboard egg box and into the refrigerator. On Easter morning, our special one would show up in our basket, along with jelly bean, Peeps, foil wrapped marshmallow eggs and chocolate drops. How fun it was to awaken and find those six baskets, oldest child to youngest child, full and lined up on our dining room bench.

My oldest son, a student at Yale Divinity School (about to graduate!), sent me a text message yesterday. He was in the midst of writing a paper entitled “Hellenistic Cultural Influence on Imagery Used in Early Christian History and Worship”. Wait, huh? Yes, he is warmly brilliant. I told him he needed to modify/simplify that title for me, which he patiently did and it was totally fascinating.

At the end of his text he said “Being the night before Easter, I’ve been thinking about this quote from Søren Kierkegaard, ‘There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is.’ 

Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He had a passionate commitment to God in the face of uncertainty.

In connection to Kierkegaard’s quote, how apropos that this year, Easter, a sacred Christian holiday, fell on April Fools’ Day.

I do not want to be a fool and I do not want to be fooled. I want to believe what has always been and will always be, the beautiful truth.

Happy Easter.

The Best Time to Fight Back

I read an article entitled The Best Time to Fight Back. The temptation might be to do it immediately, while the wound is still fresh, but that is not a good idea. Miriam Browning, the former deputy chief information officer for the Department of the Army suggests, “You really need a cool-down period, even if it’s only a couple of hours. The worst thing you can do is fire off an email or make an angry phone call, or, even worse, throw a punch in the heat of the moment.”

She suggests that instead, write down all the emotions, take some time to review them and then form a rational response. “That way, you can think things through and decide whether or not it’s even a battle worth fighting. If it is, you want to do it within the first twenty-four hours, but not within the first hour.”

Taking the extra time also provides an opportunity to line up some allies, people to hold in reserve, in case things do not go as well as you hope. And when you do retaliate, do it with facts, rather than opinions.

While taking all of this into consideration, there are those rare occasions when something happens that is off-the-charts egregious. At that time, an emotionally charged response may be exactly what is called for. However, Browning cautions, “You need to deploy that only after the most aggressive kind of attack.”

I have experienced typical work difficulties. I have muddled through personality clashes and minor disagreements in social settings. In those instances I have found that an apology always works wonders, even when I knew it was not my error.

Proverbs 15:1 states: “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.”

Softness and contrition almost always diffuse a heated situation. I wholeheartedly agree with taking time to regroup and give thought before responding.

Thankfully, I have not encountered an aggressive personal attack. If and when I do I will try to remember these guidelines and words of wisdom.

If an aggressive personal attack or something extremely egregious ever involves my children or (hopefully some day) grandchildren, control is off the table. There will be no cool-down period. There will be no waiting 24 hours.

The old adage “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is certainly true.

But, oh honey. My adrenaline level will kick into high gear. My eyes will turn a fluorescent white, the back of my shirt will rip apart, my long pants will suddenly become distressed-look, ragged capris, my skin will become green and I will toss anything or anyone in my way as I race toward justice.

This mild-mannered 60 year-old will be mild-mannered no longer.

There are moments in life that require us to go all-out batshit crazy. And age is non-issue.

National Everything You Think is Wrong Day

I have felt that way, that everything I think is wrong. And by George, that pitiful mindset now has a national day of its very own.

This is one ‘national day’ that I am not going to fully buy into.

There is a mantra of being open to (hopefully constructive) criticism. That is a good thing. There is a mindset of self-degradation. That is an okay thing. It can even be a charming thing. There is humility in realizing your own lack of knowledge about certain subjects. That is a healthy thing. There is honor in being able to admit you are wrong. That is a great thing.

However, not EVERYTHING we think is wrong.

I believe we have lost confidence in what we know is truth. Perhaps that is because we think truth is elusive. It is not. Truth is founded and grounded and rock solid.

My children know I love them. That is truth. They know it is truth and never, not ever, do they doubt that. Gravity is truth. We can prove it at any moment. Free choice is truth. Consequences are truth. Pizza is good for us, that is truth. Oops, sorry, I got a bit carried away. That last one may not be truth. But everything above it most certainly is.

As a disclaimer, some ways we think are indeed wrong. But, not everything you think is wrong.

My husband would say, no more “namby-pamby” business. Let’s man up and woman up and trust our truths.

I sound like one very bold 60 year old. I’m not always. However, I want to be brave. I want to trust my brain to be right about some things.

This day is dumb. That is my philosophical opinion.

No, that is RIGHT.