Thursday, February 25, 2021

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover. How I Became Aware of My Unconscious Stereotype

I previously published a version of this post on 10/23/14. Since newer readers may not have seen it, I've revised it a bit and I'm sharing it again. 

Never judge a book by its cover is a worn-out cliché, but it is true advice that I should have remembered during a brief encounter in the past.

Three old and worn hardback books propped up between some pumpkins
The covers on these books have seen better days, but the contents are still classic. 

I visited an auto parts store to buy jumper cables

Almost a dozen years ago, I stopped at an auto parts store one afternoon to look for the jumper cables. I had promised these would be our donation for the “car-care items basket" my son’s class was assembling, to be auctioned at the School PTA fundraiser later in the week.

I wandered up and down the somewhat scruffy and cluttered aisles, feeling very out of my element. I was surrounded by people who all seemed comfortable locating what they needed. I perused every aisle, but couldn’t find the jumper cables.

The store shelves were disorganized and I was overwhelmed

My frustration mounted and I was nearly ready to concede defeat and leave empty-handed. Suddenly, a man in dusty jeans and a rumpled store vest approached and said, “I’ll be with you in just a moment, Ma’am.” (He must have read my mind . . .)

Seconds after he spoke to me, my eyes spied an inexpensive “Emergency Car Kit.” The label bragged that it included all sorts of emergency items, including the jumper cables I had hoped to buy. Lying partially covered by another item on a bottom shelf, I had nearly missed seeing it. 

I was taken by surprise by the excellent customer service

When the salesperson returned to my side, I asked him if the contents of the kit were accurately depicted on the packaging, and told him why I needed it. He confirmed the contents. 

To my surprise though, he added,

Monday, February 22, 2021

How a Mistaken Identity Led to an Unexpectedly Delicious Oatmeal Recipe

Most of us know it is a wise practice to label food items before storing them in the freezer. Sometimes, though, we get lazy or just assume that we will recognize them. Or at least I do. 😊 

Food without a label can acquire a mistaken identity. This can have unexpected consequences, as proven by the oatmeal I made for breakfast.

A bowl of bright red oatmeal

My recent oatmeal "oops" 

To improve my diet and also just because I enjoy the taste, a while back I started eating oatmeal almost every morning for my breakfast. Not the prepackaged sugary kind. I get out a pot, place it on the stove and add some 5-minute oats (or more recently some steel-cut oats) with water, a pinch of salt, and some fruit. I cook these until they are nice and creamy, then scoop them into a bowl. A dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts, and I see no need for any sugar. 

I recently read that while quick-cooking or 5-minute oats are better than the sugared individual-packet kind, steel-cut oats are even more nutritious. They take a little longer to cook, but the benefits (and the texture) are well worth it. 

I flavor oatmeal without sugar in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I add a little peanut butter and/or jam. It is really yummy with the addition of some fruit. Most often I just add part of a banana or some sort of berry. Fresh or frozen fruit cooks up equally well. 

This week, though, I accidentally added something quite unique ...

Friday, February 19, 2021

My Favorite Hat is a Helmet!

Note: This is a revised and updated version of a post previously published on November 22, 2014, but it seems worth sharing again, while a lot of the US is in the midst of a snowy winter.

I hardly ever wear a hat

I like hats - but I look terrible in them.  Something about the shape of my head and my hair just means that they never fit right.  I rarely wear a hat.

But - - there is one exception.  My ski helmet!

I never wore a helmet when I was younger

When I learned to ski as a pre-teen, there was no such thing as a ski helmet.  About 20 years ago, you might have spotted a ski helmet worn in a ski resort terrain park; then parents gradually started buying them for their small children.  

An article published by the International Skiing Association, Ski Helmets, How We Got Here, states “from 1995 until 2010, helmet use increased from 5% to 76%. Over that period, the rate of serious head injuries dropped by about 65%.” That's a pretty impressive statistic!

Not exactly cute, but it makes you look smart when you wear one

Gradually, more and more skiers over the past few decades have begun to realize helmets are a good way to protect their brainpower.  I was finally one of them.

It took a bit of convincing - I actually bought several but returned them without ever wearing them. I just felt really ugly every time I tried them on.

Finally, I found one that really fit, and I conquered my vanity. It has adjustable air vents for temperature control, a removable (washable) liner, warm ear muffs, and (my favorite) a dial to loosen or tighten the fit.  (Giro calls this their “in-form fit system.”)

Helmets are available at a wide range of prices.  

Even the most expensive price tag would seem like pennies, however, compared to a hospital bill ...  or a casket. 

The very first time I wore my ski helmet, I became a convert.  

Right away, I realized there are three good reasons to wear a helmet

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Did you know this week is National Random Acts of Kindness week? Neither did I, until today. 

Staring out at our snowy property while I'm writing this, I pondered what random acts of kindness that I have experienced. One immediately came to mind:

Returning home in the wee hours of the morning, after a long and treacherous road trip in winter weather, my husband and I were dreading our steep driveway. We knew the snow would be so deep we would be unable to get up it. The thought of having to park at the bottom and trudge up the snowy hill, with all our bags and two very sleepy young children, in extremely cold temperatures, was almost more than I could bear in my sleep-deprived and weary state. 

To our immense surprise and gratitude, when we arrived we found that someone had plowed the driveway for us, while we were away. We never found out who kindly did it - but I will forever be grateful. 

As you may have guessed from my posts on February 1st and February 4th, I've discovered that it's fun to check the National Day calendar and see the celebrations or recognitions suggested there. 😊  Since "kindness" is one of my chosen "words of the year" for 2021, I cannot let a week devoted to kind acts go unnoticed. 

Actually, I think every week should be filled with random acts of kindness, but if designating one week of the year as such boosts the occurrence of these acts, then I'm all for it.

An Amelia Earhart quote about kindness on a photo of a pine forest

I tried to find a definition for random act of kindness. According to Grammarist, it "is an action that is performed for another, usually a stranger, simply to bring that person happiness." Most often, these acts are done without expecting anything in return or any praise or recognition. 

Paying for the coffee order of the person behind or ahead of you in line at the coffee shop, feeding a stranger's meter, or allowing a person to cut ahead of you in a line are some examples of random ways to be kind. Being kind, however, can be just as simple as saying something nice.

For example:

  • Telling a grocery teller you appreciate how speedy she is at her job, might just brighten up her day. 
  • A word of thanks to the mailperson for delivering mail even in subzero weather will warm them up a little. 
  • When you see a parent being patient with a toddler (or a teenager!) tell them you admire such good parenting. Better yet, if you witness an impatient parent (and if this action seems appropriate to the situation), try to sympathize with them and offer to lend a hand; it may defuse their anger and frustration.
  • In this hard time of social isolation, give a call or send a letter to someone you think might be lonely.
  • If you read an article or see a youtube video that moves you in some way, leave the author/creator a comment, give it a like or a clap, and/or share it with your friends and on social media sites. You'd be surprised how much that positive feedback to the author actually means.
If you are interested in other ideas of how to spread kindness, the Random Acts of Kindness website has a bunch.

Recently, news reports have contained a lot of anger, pain, and sadness. Goodness does still happen, though, and the following stories helped restore my faith in the goodness of humanity. They are worth taking the time to click and read them:

Remember that while random acts of kindness are often done for strangers, we should also extend these kindnesses to our friends, family, pets, the environment, and ourselves.

Did you know that in addition to being an aviation pioneer, Ameila Earhart was also a writer? She had some wise things to say about kindness.

"No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves."   ~~Amelia Earhart

Have a wonderful, kind, and caring day. 

Please social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, get vaccinated, stay healthy, and keep making the most -- of all your moments!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day 2021

How can we celebrate Valentine's Day during a pandemic?

small flowering cactus and valentine's day card
This card, showing a masked kitty with a facemask was sent to us by friends of ours and designed and printed by Ritzy Rose in Pickerington, OH.

February 14th is a day for showing sweethearts, friends, and family that we care. 

Are you at a loss for how to celebrate Valentine's day during this year of pandemic restrictions and fears?

Opportunities may seem limited right now, but it seems more important than ever to show others just how much we care. 

Here are a few last-minute ideas for you.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

How to Never Pull Up to the Wrong Side of the Gas Pump Again

Unfortunately, I don't know any good tips for saving money when you buy gas, but I do have an easy tip about how to save time (and avoid feeling frustrated) at the pump. I learned it from my son.

gas tank locator arrow

Our cars all needed servicing a while back, so I drove all three of them within a week. Later, I commented to my son that I wished that it was standard for all cars to have the gas tank on the same side. I complained that it is frustrating to realize, after getting out of the car to pump the gas, that I've pulled up on the wrong side of the pump. I am usually in a hurry, so even the few minutes wasted while having to reposition the car can cause me to be late for something.

My son laughed at me. In a kindly "Oh, Mom" sort of way.

Then he said,

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Don't Let Super Bowl Sunday Become Super-Spreader Sunday

man making chicken wings and giving the peace sign
We'll make chicken wings just for two today, as we have no guests coming to watch the Super Bowl.

I had no plans to write anything here today. But Super Bowl Sunday has me fired up. 

No, I'm not an avid football fan and I'm not passionate about who wins. Instead, I'm feeling fear, frustration, and anger at the possibility of Super Bowl events becoming COVID-19 super-spreaders. 

I feel I must weigh in with my two cents.

If people are not careful, today could become "Super-Spreader Sunday."

I was drinking my morning coffee and idly listening to a Sunday morning news show. The newscaster reminded us of what I'd already read, COVID-19 related hospitalizations have dropped to the lowest level since before Thanksgiving. Yay! But then she grimly commented that today has the potential of becoming a

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Homemade Soup Day

At the beginning of this week, I wrote some thoughts about National Freedom Day. Today's topic is also about a day of "national" recognition, but it's less serious and a whole lot tastier!

A bowl of vegetable soup with pasta, beans and greens

February 4th was somehow designated as National Homemade Soup Day.
Numerous references to it can be found on social media and the Internet. Curious, I did a fairly in-depth google search, but couldn't find much information about the history of this designated day. There is no mention of what person or organization started this trend or how it gained traction, but National Soup Day is listed on the National Day Calendar.

I'm perfectly fine with soup having its own day. Really, though, any day is a good soup day! 

February 4th was a well-chosen soup day for people in northern climates. There are few foods as comforting as a steaming bowl of soup on a bitterly cold day. For people in more southern regions, a cold soup, such as cold cucumber soup or a gazpacho would be a perfect choice this time of year.

Last weekend, a friend sent me a photo of the soup she had just made. It looked so pretty and so tasty, I asked her for the recipe

Soup recipes are usually pretty forgiving and easily adjusted.

Yesterday, I decided my friend's soup was the perfect thing to make for dinner. However, I didn't have all

Monday, February 1, 2021

Celebrating National Freedom Day in the USA. Is it Hypocritical?

The USA has always put a strong emphasis on freedom.

"Land of the free ... let freedom ring ...  ... with liberty and justice for all." 
Woman holding an Equal Rights for All sign
Peacefully protesting for equal rights for all on a very chilly day.

There are countless famous phrases and song lyrics that celebrate freedom as the bedrock of the United States. We even have a designated day to remind us that the United States is a country dedicated to the ideals of freedom. On June 30, 1948, a bill was signed by President Truman, which proclaimed February 1 as National Freedom Day. On this day, we honor the resolution signed by Abraham Lincoln, abolishing slavery.

All Americans do not have the same freedoms and opportunities

I have taken my own personal freedom mostly for granted throughout my life. I've been free to live life