I remember the first time I used a computer. Yes, I belong to the predigital age, an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people lived in caves. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago in the hoary past, but I do still own a black body Nikon camera with 35 mm film. I take seriously my antique credentials and flaunt them. You’d be surprised how many folks today have never seen a “real camera,” since they only have one on their phone.
Changing the film on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens, I happened to draw a crowd. You’d think they would be more interested in a building from 2,500 years ago than in a tool from 50 years ago, but technology moves so quickly today, many had never seen a film camera. The tourists saw two archaic sights in one site that day.
My first experience with a computer was as a teacher when I had to input the class grades. Finding the ON button was my first challenge, but after twenty minutes, I discovered it hidden on the back. “If they want us to use it, why not make it easy to turn on?” Perhaps only those with secret gnostic wisdom are allowed access to this strange machine, but we didn’t have the internet of things yet. Openness wasn’t a theme.
Once inside, my 1982 brain could easily make the data entry to fill in the blanks of student names and grades. This was just typing in another format. I took typing in high school because I would need it in college and in business later on.
Over the years, I’ve learned the computer skills for word processing, spreadsheets, blogs, page making, newsletters, bookkeeping, and photoshop. If I needed a new skill, I went out and acquired it. Most of the time, I downloaded the program and began working in it. I learned as I went. Taking a class was too slow or not available. The online tutorial was good enough for me.
I happen to be an early adopter of media because I have confidence in my learning abilities. Since I was a teacher, I teach myself. I figure I can’t mess it up. And if I do, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, I practice frequent “saving.” This means I’m always able to revert to a prior good version of my work. (What? You don’t do this? Maybe you should! You can learn something from us old dinosaurs.)
My local Kroger now has the new Scan Bag Go system. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and came back for a second go round. I found it easier this time, perhaps because I’d had some practice. Also, my store had been rearranged on my first visit, so I had to travel every aisle to find my usual items.
On my second visit I cut 30 minutes off my original time. I usually take an hour to 90 minutes because I chat with folks. I’m not a task focused shopper as some are. I tend to socialize and offer help to people I meet. It’s part of who I am, and anytime I can help add to the well-being of our community, I’m glad to do it.
The little ray gun is fun to zap the bar codes of the foods I put into my grocery cart. I have my Star Trek fantasy as I put my phaser on stun and immobilize the vegetables before I take them over to the weigh scale. When I shoot the bar code, the scanner tells me to put the broccoli on the scale, it determines the weight and price, asks if I want to pay this amount for it, and I click YES. Then I weigh the next fruit or vegetable the same way. I engage the engines of my starship and take off for another part of the galaxy or my local Kroger.
I have friends who will not ever use this system, since they think real people will lose jobs. The checkout clerks I talked to think they can be used for higher and better purposes, such as pulling groceries for people’s click list orders, helping people in store, stocking, and customer service. My friends who won’t use it are mostly people who don’t like technology or aren’t familiar with technology. They’re also middle aged or older. Younger people see the writing on the wall–they know they need to train for flexibility and change in the world to come.
In the last 40 years computers have changed our lives so much. Once we waited until the newspaper landed on our front porches to hear the news. Now we know in minutes when Twitter blows up with someone’s rant or a school shooting happens. While news can happen instantly, we cannot process it immediately. Our lives cannot heal from the trauma of the pain to which we’re exposed daily.
As we age, one of our tasks is keeping our brains limber by learning new skills. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term used to describe the process of maintaining, repairing, and creating new neural connections in the brain. Keeping to the same old path is a recipe for losing our minds, or dementia. If we want to live with a positive attitude, with our minds intact, adopting new technology as it comes down the pike is one way to train our brains for keeping a healthy outlook on life, even if we cling to our old fashioned cameras.
Can I live on $4.17 per day for 7 days? I went to Texas Motor Speedway for NASCAR and Indy Car racing. While I was at the Lodge I stay at when I go over for these weekends, I usually shop at the Brookshire’s grocery in the next town over bay.
I just spent $86 on a week’s groceries–my normal average. I normally eat “high on the hog,” as the old timers used to say. Eating unprocessed foods cooked in my own kitchen is healthier for my pre diabetic body than foods manufactured with too many salts and added sugars. These boxed preparations also have the fibers ground out of them for some reason. Maybe they’ve been between too many steel plates or under too high heat during the processing. Or, it could be the difference between a food cooked to an al dente texture versus mush.
I did buy things I didn’t need:
- $ 4 Stacy’s Pita Chips (2 bags for price)
- $10 olive oil (I didn’t remember if I had any)
- $ 5 Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate baking cocoa
- $10 beer (for medicinal purposes, you understand…)
- $29 Extra food items.
This is still $57 total or about $28 over my total SNAP budget of $29.17
Obviously, I joined the SNAP challenge after shopping and while on vacation. In hindsight, this isn’t the best way to go! An interesting aspect of food insecurity in America today is how the economy is affecting younger seniors, aged 50-59, who typically don’t have small children at home and who are often the first to be laid off since they often have the highest pay.
“Good nutrition is important to help keep the body’s immune system healthy and to prevent chronic diseases. Research has shown that access to enough food is necessary for a healthy life.20 However, we know that in America not everyone has access to nutritionally balanced meals at all times. As a result, millions of Americans feel the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of hunger and our nation feels the negative economic effects. Those who are food insecure experience significantly poorer health, are more likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to see a psychologist.21 ” http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/aarp_foundation/2014-pdfs/SNAP-Access-Barriers-Faced-By-Low-Income-50-59-Year-olds-AARP%20Foundation….pdf (page 3)
This is the dinner I call Spinach Taco Salad. I don’t use lettuce because it has almost zero nutritional value, so it’s a waste of the food dollar. It has a tomato, a bell pepper, onion and garlic, and 4 ounces of 85/15 drained ground beef. It also has about one cup of baked sweet potato and one serving of Stacey’s jalapeño chips. This is 510 calories, 29 grams carbs, 29 grams protein, and 16 grams of fat. This is acceptable nutrition for someone with prediabetes who has their blood sugar under control with diet and exercise.
Maybe we don’t shop with our eyes open because we’re worn out just trying to make it from day to day. How much emotional energy do you spend just trying to get home in one piece from your job? Some people spend that same amount of energy trying to hold their lives together while they look for meaningful work or any work at all. When you get home, your day got “valued” with a pay check, but their day was devalued because they received no remuneration. Unfortunately, we tend to devalue them as people also. This is wrong, but we do it. No wonder they become depressed–we would go there too, most likely. Maybe we need to rethink how we view those who struggle with hunger and unemployment.
Seniors in Arkansas rank first in food insecurity in the USA, with nearly 40% of Arkansas seniors affected. That is a huge number! For resources see:
Families have difficulty meeting the calorie needs of growing children, but WIC/Women, Infants & Children food subsidies can help. For a complete listing of acceptable foods see this link:
An interesting note: the only WIC acceptable potato is the sweet potato, never the white or baking potato, whether fresh or frozen. This is because the sweet potato has more nutrients and fewer calories than the ordinary potato. I almost never eat the white kind anymore. Just don’t sugar and cinnamon the baked goods up to equal the calories of the old white ones!
Some folks object to the WIC program’s restrictions on choosing the least priced item in the store (these are marked with WIC labels). As a frugal shopper, I shop the sales, what’s in season, and determine my menus from what’s available. There are months in the year when I don’t eat fresh tomatoes: too expensive, too little value, as well as too little taste. I will wait until a “real” tomato comes back into the store.
I have a life of privilege. I’m on vacation. I was able to go to my doctor’s office to get treatment for a lingering sinus infection. I was self treating because I try to avoid use of needless antibiotics. When I began to over use nonprescription analgesics, lose my appetite, and snarl at all comers, I knew I needed real medicine. However, more than 4 out of 5 families unable to afford basic necessities are also classified as food insecure, illustrating that struggling families have difficulty not only meeting their basic needs, but also their need for food as well. People will brush their teeth without toothpaste, or use a toothbrush which has outlived its usefulness. Other ways to deal with food insecurity are skipping bills, delaying payments, putting off needed medical or dental care, or not changing diapers on babies as frequently.
The middle class calls these activities “slow pay,” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” but some of the efforts are the same. I used to cry when I couldn’t pay my bills by the due date. I felt like a failure. One of my clients told me, “You’re no different than most of my customers. I can’t pay my bills till they pay me. This is how America works. You pay when you get the money. Just don’t go crazy spending what you don’t have!”
In a recent survey, in January, 2016, 56.3% of Americans admitted to having less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings account. Over half the country is living “paycheck to paycheck.” In an emergency, 56.3% of Americans would need to borrow in order to survive. Rather than focusing on building wealth, the primary focus of a majority of American families is to get through the month. http://www.forbes.com/sites
While I was shopping, I noticed a small carton of six eggs was $1.78 with the second second carton only a penny more. Normally a whole dozen eggs at $3.29 is a bargain over two regular priced half dozens, but not if the small size is on sale. Usually you pay less if you buy in bulk, but not if they are selling the small stuff out. If you pay attention to the pennies, you can come up with the dimes later on.
The same went with the salad I bought. I had the choice of a bag or a cellophane box, but I chose the bag for the $1 saving. This also means I’ll have to eat it quicker, for the box keeps it fresher. I did bring a keeper box with me, for I plan to take a meal out to the track each night. Yes, I brought those pieces of chicken pre cooked & ready to eat along with avocados and tomatoes from last week.
One of the good aspects of the WIC program is it covers whole grains: whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, tortillas and cereals. Both dry and canned beans are covered, but not flavored beans (baked beans, most likely exceed the sugar content). Likewise, mixed beans with flavors aren’t covered (high salt content, I suspect). Frozen and fresh vegetables and fruit are covered, but not if they are sugared or spiced up in any way. Cooking and prep work is encouraged.
This might be the most difficult aspect of the SNAP challenge for modern families: cooking a meal nightly and sharing it. Many young people don’t have the experience of being at the table each night with the whole family. Dinner began early, after homework and play was done. My brothers and I would begin hovering nearer the kitchen steps, anticipating the smells coming from the oven and the stovetop, soon to be floating out over the Camilla blossoms and mixing with their scent
“Wash your hands!” My mother would shout at us, as the screen door slammed behind the last whirling dervish to bolt into the cut through to the hallway.
More slowly we returned, chastened by the scrubbing of the soil and sweat from our hands and arms. Most of the time we even washed our faces too, for once we were arm and hand clean, our faces looked and felt as if they belonged to someone else’s body. Looking into the bathroom mirror, we could tell we weren’t all that clean. Afterwards, we felt renewed, even if we didn’t have fresh clothes. By this age, we knew better than to get that dirty right before dinner!
Arriving in the kitchen, we lined up for tasks. My youngest brother got the simplest tasks, as was right. Later, after he mastered placing metal, he would move onto others. My next brother was onto the breakables: he was placing dishes and glasses in place. I was in charge of drinks and other service before hand. As the oldest, I was trusted not to spill. Tonight we all hoped daddy wouldn’t have late rounds, so he make dinner on time. I remember most of these meals as times of learning how to share about life, telling about heartache and triumph, and receiving encouragement and sometimes reprimand for my day. Other times, we regressed into silliness, telling jokes we’d heard at school, and playing I spy games.
My family tolerated my sculpting my food into shapes when I was a child or my playing games while I told stories about it as I ate it. I tolerated my daughter’s preoccupation with white foods. I knew she would eat a colored food when she got hungry. Every day she got a vitamin. My parents told me, “people are starving in China. You need to clean your plate.” I told my daughter, “I’m not cooking in between meals. Eat what’s on your plate or make it yourself. ”
I’m not sure either of these messages are good, but we don’t battle over food in my family. Parents aren’t short order cooks at a restaurant to meet a child’s whim of the moment. Parents know what a child needs because they are the grownup in the relationship, they have the experience, they have the training, and because, as my folks used to say, ” Because I said so, that’s why!”
After dinner, the cleanup goes apace: the brothers did their same chores quickly and daddy took them back for their baths before bed. Mother and I washed and dried the dishes. This was back in the 1950’s, when we were glad to have a clothes washing machine and an outdoor clothesline, but we still washed dishes in the kitchen sink. There’s a lovely rhythm of this routine if two hearts beat as one and four hands work together as if they belong to one body and one mind. Mothers and daughters can find this rhythm easier than sons and fathers or sons and mothers, I think, for we’ve not only heard the maternal heart, but we are connected to all the mothers’ hearts all the way back through our line.
The sink fills with hot soapy water. A large hand washes the dish, passes it under the flowing stream of clear water in the empty sink, and passes it off to the small hand who drys it and lays it aside. If the washing, rinsing, passing, and drying work correctly, the laying down happens as the next dish comes up for drying. This can be done in silence, as is it were a meditative dance, or it’s an activity full of chatter and sharing. Sometimes it’s one, the other, and at other times some of both. One or both partners can get out of sync so easily, if only by following a stray thought too far.
“A penny for your thoughts,” my mom would say to me. She was interested and valued my daydreams. Once upon a time, a penny was worth something. Then again, if you take care of your pennies, you’ll come up with your dimes when you need them.
Ever wish you could pull over to the side of the road, refill your gas tank, grab a bite to eat, and maybe sleep overnight? The Petrified Wood Station in Denton, Texas, would suit you to a T if you were around in 1927. I recently traveled to Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR and Indy Car races. I usually stay in Runnaway Bay, well north of the track, but my place was hit by flooding and a tornado. I stayed with a very hospitable Indian couple managing the Staybridge Suites in Bridgeport instead.
On Sunday I ate dinner at Sweetie Pie’s steakhouse on the square in Decatur. I took the wrong highway out, even though I could see the setting sun down the road I should take, I turned the other direction. I’ve found that when I ignore my good sense, it’s because I need to see or learn something down this alternate path. This is the mark of a creative person. In kitchen terms, this is the difference between a chef and a cook. The chef creates and the cook executes. Chefs will take alternate paths or make unusual combinations. Cooks make the food the same way every time. I don’t cook, in case you haven’t guessed.
As I drove along the Old Chisolm Trail on what was the old highway before the interstate and bypass were built, I realized I was following the railroad tracks also. I was back in 1950’s America, when cars were large and gas was low. I turned the corner and saw this old Texaco station made of petrified wood. I thought, “Oh yes! I have traveled back in time for sure!” Then I read the sign, NO GAS. Nope: no time travel, just an historic property that called me from afar.
This place closed up in the 1960’s or thereabouts, so the motel is closed completely. The old station belongs to the original family who keep it as an office. The cafe reopened a few years ago and seems to do a good local business. This place has memories it could tell if it could only speak. The locals claim Bonnie and Clyde stayed here a few weeks before their gory demise.
Today I travel homeward, with a layover in Shreveport. The Red River there is at a 70 year flood crest. Not the “100 year flood” but close enough for plenty of troubles. How’s your day going so far?
Pour up a cup of good coffee, sit for a spell, talk with God about these things. Getting them off our chest and out of our minds is a form of cleaning spiritual house. They no longer clutter up our thoughts, so we’re free to think clearly about the now in which we live.
If we put our thoughts or feelings out in a journal (paper or computer), we gain power over them. Every time we write a word, a sentence, a story, a memory, a song, a poem, or a dream that woke us up in the night, we survive. A collection of moments of survival is life! Days of moments is living!
One day we’ll wake up to realize we are stronger than our memories, braver for our pains, and more compassionate for our woundedness. This is the day we discover the Christ who lives in each of us.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I’m having a TV dinner tonight. Craving chocolate the past couple of days, but not wanting to torch my hard won losses after spending a month on an “accidental vacation,” I decided I needed to give into a sugar fix in the least negative manner. Thus I opted for 1 serving of Nutella stirred into my cottage cheese, peanut butter, & frozen strawberries. On occasion I touch the two pound jar on the shelf at my local Sam’s Club, but I allow myself to venerate it at the club only. My condo cabinets are too cozy to contain this massive sugar icon.
I’ve had odd cravings today: made some spicy garlic air popped popcorn. I might have been a bit heavy handed with the cayenne pepper, but that’s why God gave us iced tea!
I have given up microwaved popcorn, except for traveling. My Kroger had an air popper for under $20. I figured I would pay for it in a month since a bag of popcorn is only a $1 and the microwave bags are fifty cents each. The lack of nasty chemicals in my lungs will be priceless, however.
I will blame my predilection for experimentation and new tastes on the moon which is waxing gibbous & will be full on Saturday, July 12th. If it is increasing, my appetite will also increase! That’s my story & I’m sticking to it ! Attached below is a heavy calorie double stuffed cheesy potato with bacon topping. Two small potatoes make a good serving. Four make a feast size serving.
Y’all have a good week. Cornie
Got home from vacation late last night or early this morning, if one has to be exact about the time. My military pals call it “0 dark 30″…an indefinite time at which no self respecting human being should be awake, but when the trumpet sounds, those who serve leap to the ready. My only ready at that time was for my very welcome bed!
Now I am lazing about, having laid waste a pot of home brewed coffee and a bowl of Chobani Greek yogurt with peanut butter, strawberries, cocoa, and muscle tech powder. I may get to the laundry today, or I may just sort the mail and go out to eat with friends.
Let’s not get back into real life too quickly. On vacations we take the time to watch the sky, to notice the play of light and shadows across the ground. We take photos of this beauty, but we don’t take photos of the equally beautiful sunsets of our everyday lives. These days remain unmarked for their uniqueness, for our eyes are fixed on our to do lists, our computers, our work surfaces, or whatever is our daily grind.
Take the time to look up. Pause and breathe for a moment. Give thanks for the day. There will not be another one like it. This was a gift: we call it the present. These moments are beautiful and transitory, as are our breaths.
Pause. Breathe. Give. Thanks. Be.
The barbecue, the pool or the lake, fireworks or a festival, and more food with my family is the sum of my memories of Memorial Day weekends. When we were just little ones, our back yard was our whole world, week in and week out. Memorial Day was the official first day of summer in Louisiana, as in so many other places. This meant water play, but not with fancy store bought pools and toys, for we grew up in the 1950s. These were simpler times, in which we invented our own games and used what was available.
This photo of my Mother and I was taken before my younger brother was born. I’m cooling her off after a hot day of housework. That old metal tub was used to carry yard waste, garden clippings, and we kids used to bang on that drum all day when we weren’t into ordinary play. That garden sprinkler doesn’t have any moving parts! What a dinosaur! But it makes a great shower for a hot mama.
As we got older, Dad took his outdoor grilling duties seriously. He had a special technique for building the charcoal briquettes into a step pyramid, then saturating them with lighter fluid, and then waiting for the liquid to sink in. It was the waiting, he said, that made the difference. Trying to hurry the fire meant that it would burn out quickly and your food wouldn’t cook well. He was like a warrior, armed with a water bottle to knock down the flame ups and a long spatula to turn the burgers, hot dogs, or steaks. At his side was the wire brush to clean off the grill before the heat bonded the food to the wires. He seemed to know from the feel and look of the meat how done it was; this is experience.
Mom always took care of the interior or kitchen food. She made the yellow potato salad, the veggies for the burgers and hotdogs, and drinks. If we kids were super lucky, we got Koolaid made in the signature Koolaid pitcher with the eyes and the smile. Mom and Dad had sweet tea with mint pulled from the patch underneath the window air conditioner’s condensation pipe. Dad would always bring his offerings inside to the kitchen table as if they were the blue ribbon winning prizes of the state fair. We who were past hungry from the day and all our play eagerly awaited this gift.
I was sent outside once to pull a few more onions from the garden, even though it was quite dark as we prepared to eat. I knew where they were, I could feel their thin leaves in my fingers, and the tiny bulb was the same green onion shape. I washed off this produce, cut off the little roots, and put it on the veggie tray. As Dad bit into this delight, his face twisted and his eyes opened and shut tight. Hr did not die from this, but I had mistakenly pulled up some new growth flower rather than an onion.
We celebrate Memorial Day this weekend–many of us today will only have memories of family gatherings and civil celebrations. For some of us, it’s just a three day weekend to relax, travel, or do a home renewal project. My Dad was a WWII veteran, and my Mom and the others at home shared in the war effort by participating in rationing and buying bonds. The other wars before this, especially the Civil War, and all the wars that come after this, will involve people who love their families, their country, and their way of life. At some point in time, we make a peace, go home, love our families, our country, and live our life again. I hope you share God’s love around your table this weekend.