A Prayer for the Lovelorn

Recently I was listening to a friend describe some challenges in their love life and I was filled with empathy and sadness for them. The person they are in love with is what I refer to in my own mind as a “transactional lover.” To them love is an exchange. They provide their idea of love to get something in return. Sometimes what they are seeking is affection, rescue, financial security, comfort, friendship, even company… it can be many things. In exchange for it, they will be your lover, your partner, they will try to give you what you ask for.

The problem with these relationships is that both partners end up feeling that they are trying to earn each others love. On the one hand, the transactional lover feels obliged to give in to the partner to appease them to earn what they need from the relationship all the while resenting it. In their minds, they are earning, buying and paying for that “love” and they want whatever they feel they’ve negotiated.

The less transaction based partner who is unaware of this may just love unconditionally, gives freely and doesn’t really understand the dynamics at play. It may seem to them that no matter how much they give, reassure and love, it never seems to truly satisfy the transactional lover. They aren’t reassured, they can’t seem to really just settle down and commit to the relationship. It might feel that they always have one foot out the door. It’s true, because for the transactional person, the earning and striving to transact IS the relationship. The need to maintain the ability to walk away is how you maintain the power to renegotiate terms as needed. With a transactor, power always resides with the one who is most willing to walk away.The concept of loving unconditionally is foreign and unbelievable and the idea of willingly giving up power and being vulnerable to a loved one to demonstrate commitment seems a special kind of insanity.

The mismatch between these two styles can be incredibly painful, primarily for the person who is capable of unconditional love. Because most transactional lovers will see someone who is strong enough to love this way as weak, will view them as easily manipulated and have little respect for them. Their indifference, power games, inability to recognize the gifts they are being offered are deeply offensive to the psyche of the more open and vulnerable unconditional lover who is laying their whole heart out in a display of remarkable courage.  Unconditional lovers see this relentless manipulation and game playing by the transactional lover and often choose to overlook it and give anyway, out of love. They hope that somehow security and repeated demonstrations of acceptance, reassurance and love will eventually soothe the soul of the person they love. Alas, in my experience it doesn’t happen.

If someone doesn’t believe in unconditional love, they are not only unable to return it, which is what my friend really deserves, they are unable to see it, believe it, even accept it from someone else.

The hardest part when you are in such a situation is acknowledging that there is nothing you can do to help them see the world the way you do. If you think about real love, true love…think of your mother, father,  your children, of course they don’t have to do anything to earn your love. They just are, and that’s enough. You’ll know someone is important to you when it’s not what they do for you or how they make you feel, so much as when you think of them you are just so happy and filled with warmth and joy that you know them. Their existence is enough for you. That’s real love.

It’s hard to let go of people. It’s hard to learn how to lose. Accepting loss is one of those things I’ve written about before. It’s just a part of life that has to be faced, embraced and lived. It will hurt. It will heal. It takes time. I personally work hard to stay in a place of acceptance every day. I choose to believe that those of us who love unconditionally are blessed. I know I found my way here through many struggles and losses. I finally believe I deserve to be loved the same way in return. God loves me this way. I have him if no one else. I love people this way and that’s OK. If someday, God wills it, perhaps someone will look into me and find me that lovable as well.

I pray this for my friend. I hope they come to believe that the ability they have to love deserves that kind of love in return. I hope they come to believe that happiness and joy can be their lot in life. There is no one I know that deserves it more. They have been through so much, learned how to make good decisions from making bad ones, drawn close to God and they have one of the most generous and giving spirits of anyone I’ve ever known. I hope that they can trust that God will see them through.

So I’m sending out a special poem/prayer for my friend. It always makes me feel better, find a little peace:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,

For you are my Father.

prayer of abandonment – charles de foucauld
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Invisible Hugs

In my last post I mentioned that at a very difficult time in my life I had prayed for God to let my life be useful to others. It’s still a prayer I say every night and it sustains me daily. Every time an opportunity appears for that to happen, it’s almost like I’m receiving a special invisible hug from God. It really can transform the way you experience your daily life.

It reminds me of an experiment I once tried that was so successful that I have just adopted it as my modus operandi. Pick a person in your life, or it can be a random colleague or co-worker. Preferably this would be someone who you find challenging to get along with. Now, the experiment is to find one thing a day to sincerely admire about that person and then find a way to mention it or compliment them about it. I know! It’s REALLY hard at first. Especially if you are angry and resentful at that person, or if they have hurt you.

You have to force yourself to drop that stuff for a bit, step back and look at them with open eyes. At first just find something easy. Maybe notice some task they are good at, or their vocabulary, or attention to detail! Maybe they notice what you do or don’t do all the time, darn them! Well, that can also be a strength. Think about that until you believe it’s one. Then let them know how you’ve been meaning to tell them that you really admire that attention to detail. It’ll be awkward as heck at first. They will be suspicious. They will think you are being insincere, flattering them, trying to get something from them. Just keep your cool, mean it and leave it at that. Then do it again the next day. Find something else, mention it and move on. It’s a discipline, like any exercise it requires effort and practice.

After a few weeks, don’t be surprised if they confront you and ask you why you are acting so nice to them. They might accuse you of secretly hating them and want to know what you are after. Just tell them the truth. Tell them you realized you hadn’t really taken a good look at who they were, and the more you got to know them, the more the “real them” began to shine through. Be sincere. What you will discover is that being honest, sincere, and vulnerable with people and just making yourself look into them and then talking about their positive traits will change everything in the way you see them, the world and the people around you. Try it. I dare you.

Switching gears a bit, I am going to talk about some kind of mundane stuff for a change now. At my consulting job a couple of the gentlemen I work with have started calling me by a nickname which I confess totally delights me. I just LOVE nicknames. My name is so unusual and I am fond of it and I guess it really suits me so people don’t generally give me nicknames. A couple of my best boyfriends figured this out about me and gave me sweet endearing ones and I was total goo. I especially liked the ones that liken me to cute animals. Who doesn’t right? I am fond of Otters for example. They live in the water half the time and so would I if I had the chance and who doesn’t want to be considered as adorable as one? Then there’s variations on the term Smidge because I’m kind of little. So nicknames are cool. They call me Cinnamon at the office here …which is great because it’s my favorite spice, I’m a total cinnamon junkie and because it sounds a bit like my name sounds:  Cinnamon= /SinJun/ So Yay Nicknames!

I got sent a few of those “greatest proposal ever” videos with these big elaborate dance numbers or intricately choreographed moments with family participation and it seems sweet and overwhelming and everything. Then I was nearby when my Mom was watching a show she follows called “The Glades.” In it, the main character is struggling with his feelings for his girlfriend in the season finale. She is in Atlanta studying while he is in Miami working. They are dealing with long distance relationship issues. Other women are hitting on him. She is guilty for taking this time to go to school for herself. But they love each other. She finally passes this big test and she is out celebrating with the women who have been training her. She decides not to call and tell him, but to drive home and tell him in person the next day as a surprise. She doesn’t have to though because he walks into the bar they are at, smiles, congratulates her and asks her to come outside. He tells her they need to talk and starts to explain that he can’t do this anymore. She objects and says she loves him, she knows they can figure out a way to work things out. She has this horrible he’s breaking up with me look on her face. He shakes his head and says he doesn’t know how they’ll work it out, but he does know he can’t do this anymore. He looks down, then he gets on one knee, pulls out a ring and proposes!

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show "The Glades" on A&E

Jim Longworth Proposes to Callie Cargill on the TV show “The Glades” on A&E

He says, I need to know that however we work it out, we know we are going to be working it out together. Will you marry me? She is stunned and that’s how they end the show/season.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I think this is one of the more romantic proposals I’ve seen. That may sound crazy, but here’s why. He is full of anxiety about this relationship but he finally has an epiphany that what is bothering him is that he doesn’t ever want to lose her. So what does he do? He doesn’t waste a minute, he drops everything, he goes right then to a store, buys a ring, flies to Atlanta, tracks her down and basically falls at her feet to beg her to marry him. I mean…that is ROMANTIC. That’s what I want. I don’t need or want elaborate, fancy or prepared. I want someone who is crazy in love and desperate for me to say yes and can’t wait to get to me and ask for me to be his for the rest of his life. No dance, lip sync, art gallery opening or trick will ever top that. Do you agree?

Moving on to my next mundane topic…the show Political Animals: If you missed it, get ye hence and go watch it. Especially if you are a lady. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as always.

Lastly I have noticed that since I have moved back down to Alabama my total crush on big trucks has come back. Plenty of them around here too. Sikorsky, the helicopter plant is here and there are lots of truck driving men around here. They take good care of them too. A very entertaining young lady who works at the plant where I am consulting drives her boyfriend’s massive Dodge truck to work every day with its Hemi and shiny rims. It’s very intimidating when I park next to it. I think I am just feeling bad because my beat up little Nissan is really starting to sputter a bit. I’m afraid it may not last much longer. I do coax it and talk to it daily. It does its best. I miss my Audi. I really shouldn’t though. I am afraid the car buff and technology junkie in me are the pieces that cling the hardest to the materialistic mindset. Of course the girly girl within whines about my formerly frequent mani-pedis, the fancy salon and my shoe budget but I am quite the frugal fashionista now and proud of it so I can shrug that stuff off. Easy to beat that back simply by thinking of other things that money could go to, charitable stuff!

But the part of me that lusts after a nicer car with a powerful engine and smooth suspension, along with a jack for my phone so I can play Spotify through the speakers? The eternal whisper of the need for a faster, stronger laptop, an upgraded phone soon…oh and how am I even living without an iPad? Those are the hardest to ignore.

I prefer to leave such acquisitions in the hands of God now, I would rather let him provide. Not at my pace, but his. It helps me practice another discipline I mentioned not long ago, that of patience. Practice as you know, is the only way to improve.

Speaking of improving, I had my tutoring orientation for church today and it was super exciting. I met new people, I got this book

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC

I volunteered to maintain a Facebook group. I already got assigned a student! We get to have dinner with them and then spend about an hour helping them with homework. How awesome is that? See? Another invisible hug from God.  How can an iPad compete with that? 🙂

Let my life be useful to others…

I got excellent news today, the artist who is designing the cover art for my upcoming book sent me the comp today and it is GORGEOUS! I am so thrilled. I did a little happy dance and promptly began showing it off to everyone in my immediate vicinity. We all agreed that fans will be tattooing it on their bodies in no time. Well, we thought it would not be at all surprising if they did.

The big news where I am is Tropical Storm, sure to be upgraded at any moment to Hurricane Isaac. Accuweather.com which is my preferred weather source is much calmer than the others so I recommend their site in the event of Weather emergencies. I can hear the wind blustering outside even though he’s just brushing by us. My sister and aunt came to stay with us to get out of harm’s way in Mobile where there’s more likely to be unpleasant power outages and wind and water damage. We might get some power outages here in Troy but they will likely be brief and a few squally storms and blown down limbs isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s nice to have them visit. I’ve missed them.

Meanwhile in other projects: I’m doing a little something to make me happy called OperationPAL through MarineParents which aims to send support and encouragement to wounded Marines. Here are the first two cards I am sending. I plan on picking up a couple more tomorrow to mail.

Letters to OperationPAL

My first two letters to OperationPAL

I included my new Personal Cards from Moo.com so they would know who the card came from. I recently printed both business cards from VistaPrint and Personal Cards from Moo.com and they both arrived today. The difference in quality was really stunning. VistaPrint’s were on thin shoddy paper with weak inks. Moo.com’s were on thick over sized card stock with vibrant colors on both sides. No contest really.

So I’ve mentioned the other projects I am actively working on: The book, the consulting, the Veterans project. While researching the Veterans project I came across another thing I can do now so I will be rolling that out in a day or two. It will involve sending care packages to Marines in Afghanistan. My first contact represents a small group and my second represents a battalion, both from North Carolina that is hoping for some support. The small group is of 50 males and his description says:

Their electricity is provided 220 generators, they live in tents and have very few supplies to cook. They do not have electric stove tops.

The other contact represents a battalion also from North Carolina and they have over 500 males and 40 females and the contacts descriptions says:

75% live in cans (I investigated and this is some kind of hut or could be just cargo containers retrofitted to sleep in) / 25% live in tents and sleep on cots. They have 110 electricity in 90% of the areas their power source is generator. They have no cooking ability. 25% have refrigerators. They have no microwaves.

I will be creating a new page on my blog about this and providing a list of things I will be collecting as well as providing a link if you can pitch in a few bucks to help buy stuff to add to the boxes. You can help with money, or you can pick up or collect the stuff I am accumulating and send it to me… that would be awesome as well. I will make sure it gets packed correctly with the right customs forms and that nothing illegal gets sent. I will also be soliciting donations in my local community. One thing they hope to get are things like Magazines. I know I can collect those at my fitness center and it’s likely some of the other items they want might come in through there too.  So look for the new page with all the details on my blog to go live soon, I’ll be taking pictures of the packages and posting them as I send them! It should be fun.

While continuing to research the *big* Veterans project, I discovered that my regional VA office has an interesting training program and I have inquired into it. Hopefully I will be able to share more details soon but it’s one of those discoveries where you are like, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?! because it is so right up your alley and everything you want to do.

I also heard from the church I’ve been attending in Montgomery about transferring my membership there, so I went ahead and got the paperwork together today…I was hoping to go to a tutoring volunteer orientation there on Wednesday anyway so the call was serendipitous. It allowed me to sign up for that.

Lots of very meaningful stuff! Thank God for answering my deepest prayer, let my life be useful to others.

What did you say? I didn’t hear you…

A soldier of the 1st platoon Comanche Co

A soldier of the 1st platoon Comanche Company of the United States Army secures a position on the road as they detain a suspect of setting a roadside bomb in Buwri Tana District in Khost Province on August 7, 2012. (Jose CABEZAS/AFP/GettyImages)

I just read a great article called Afghanistan War: Americans Tune Out Afghan War As Fighting Rages On.

You know what I find embarrassing and appalling? That most of the comments on HuffPo, a site I generally enjoy, are flailing and railing at past and current administration policies instead of understanding the important information in the article.

1. Afghanistan was the ONLY military action we took that was actually a response to the attack on us in 9/11. Despite strategic challenges and the nature of the beast that is Pakistan/Afghanistan, the US has made significant inroads and has accomplished important strategic goals. While people in the US may be “bored” and lump it together with Iraq because, I don’t know, both countries have an Arab populace… they are different theaters.

2. This article is about the lack of support the MILITARY, TROOPS and their FAMILIES are getting. That means there isn’t even a 5 minute piece on the nightly news covering the war. We aren’t sharing any of their sacrifices. There aren’t drives to write letters, adopt a soldier, send care packages in highly visible places. They exist, but it’s not front and center like it would have been in say WWII. I feel our forces are fighting for a just and honorable cause. They are attempting to keep the word we as a country made to our allies in the region. They are providing an alternative to the network of terrorists who want to abuse civilians and trade on their poverty to create safe havens for the very people we are trying to defend against. Do we see any of that? Not so much. This is just another example of how profit drives news. There used to be a law that a certain amount of time had to be dedicated to NEWS, no commercials, so no commercial interests or ratings mattered. Remember when the news was like that? If not, take my word for it. Every channel had DIFFERENT stories too, DIFFERENT depths of reporting and that’s how you decided who to watch. Not which pundit screamed the loudest.

3. I admire those who wish to be active against war altogether. Or rather you write in tones of disgust that you wish people would be active. Just remember that the men and women who are serving our country are being active, they are actively living a life of service. They are trying to make their life be about something bigger than themselves, something most of us aspire to do. Many of them come from poorer backgrounds and joined to learn a trade, skill or be able to afford college or provide for their families with a small but steady pay check. In exchange they promised to serve the needs of our country… which they do with bravery.

Their families also serve and share the burden. Are we not neighbors? Are we so uncomfortable at this situation that we shy away from such decent people who are working so hard on behalf of us for so little reward?

Also please consider your rhetoric. Believe me, I’ve been researching this lately and what I’ve learned is that service members read these comments and posts and words can hurt them. Service members feel rejected by the people of the country they love when they hear words like “their sacrifice is a waste” or “they died for nothing” They think of brothers and sisters lost. Not only is it offensive, it is untrue.
4. But what can you do? You are a smart, articulate person. Read up on this subject. I just created a Twitter list for my research, you can check it out here. Or you could read a Neswpaper style aggregation of the best curated stories updated twice a day by visiting The American Service Monitor.

They are both good starting points because they link to so many sources of information if you want to start to know what is going on. Even a few small actions can make a huge difference. I mean, did you know you can donate blood just for the military to use so that our troops always have enough? Or that there are ways you can help combat soldiers get phone cards so they can call a spouse? There are real tangible ways to remind yourself it’s not all congress, policy and helplessness. There’s you, able to make a difference to a real person who could really use some. I hope you’ll consider it.

This May Get A Little Controversial

While I haven’t updated as frequently as I have wanted to that’s because there has been so much happening. I have been polishing up my online presence, giving my old consulting site a facelift, a Facebook page and reactivating it’s Twitter feed. I’ve been sorting through the way too many websites and blogs I’ve left littered all over the place in the last few years to try and determine what to leave up and what to take down in preparation for launching my book. I’ve also been working on the integrated social  media strategy for it, because of course, online is interwoven into the plot. How could it not be when I swear I think part of my brain is somehow wirelessly connected to the Internet already? That reminds me, I need to open a savings account to start putting away some dollar bills for Google’s Project Glass. Talk about tech lust. That has my name written all over it.

Here’s what THAT is:

I read a little bit of the Bible (NRSV) every night. I just open a random page and see what’s there ya’ know? Last night I opened it and it fell to a page that started about midway through the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:14 which began with “You are the light of the world” and continued through the admonition to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” One of my all time favorite verses is in the middle of the page, I wish everyone would take it to heart which is Matthew 5:42 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Notice it says nothing about checking to see if they deserve it or what they are going to spend it on.

Anyway I bring this up simply because that Rep. Akin who talked about “legitimate” rape made a lot of women feel persecuted with his careless words. I am guessing there are already some people who think women are making too big of a deal over it. Actually I am sure of it. While I think this man shouldn’t be in any position to make laws or policy, I don’t want to be angry at him. I just want to forgive. Oddly enough, after reading an earlier post by Eve Ensler that moved me more than I can say because it captured the pain his words engendered, The Onion posted an article that made me laugh my ass off. After reading it, I was able to let go of my anger and forgive. I still think he should quit, but you know, I can pray for him. Pray for him to find understanding. Pray for him to retire. Even if you aren’t looking to forgive, I think you will still really enjoy this article.

I’ve mentioned that I’d been researching the Marines because of a character in my forthcoming book. I also met someone who even though I’ve only known them a short while is one of those people that nudges you into a new way of looking at the world. I wish I knew them better than I do, but even the small amount of time I have spent with them was enough to open my eyes and engage my deeply passionate heart about the issues facing active duty military and veterans who’ve returned from combat. My own almost painful sensitivity to people who are suffering already makes me naturally empathetic to issues facing warriors who are wounded both physically and mentally. In fact I would say that the hidden wounds call to me even more.

God has blessed me with many gifts and some challenges as well. One of the gifts has been an eidetic visual memory and the ability to hold and process  seeming incredible amounts of information in my head. I also periodically come across a problem, issue, or subject area that calls to me and nothing will do but for me to quite literally digest every bit of usable information I can find on the topic and and anything that relates to it. I consume it voraciously with an appetite that does not end until a kind of information map is created in my mind and connections and solutions start appearing. They are usually connections and solutions that are new because no one has aggregated the kinds of sources I do before.

Because of the almost visceral way I am plugged into the Internet and my instinctive understanding of how information is added, circulated, archived and indexed, it makes it easier for me to find unique as well as standardized sources of information. Once I start to identify causal relationships, dependent conditions, redundancies, all the little islands of duplicate efforts and all the places where there is no communication…things really start to cook. That’s where I am right now. So that is something that is happening in the back of my mind while I am also consulting on documenting peanut butter manufacturing processes and trying to finish my book.

The friend who started all of this isn’t much in my life though I pray every day that that could be different. When we do get to check in, they offer much needed feedback and input to help me direct my energy and most recently steered me into working to develop a concrete plan that we could perhaps work to execute together to make a real difference in the lives of many who are suffering. It would mean a lot to me to help even one sufferer. The recent soldier suicide report was extremely upsetting and left me very shaken. Especially if you consider it only took into account the month of July for one branch of the service, the Army, which isn’t even the force that is serving most heavily in Afghanistan… that would be the Marines. It also doesn’t take into account the number of suicides by Veterans who’ve recently returned or in the other branches of US Military service. Bottom line: No one in our military should feel alone or unsupported.

I don’t give a rat’s ass if you don’t support the war, the administration or whatever. YOU ALWAYS SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! Why? I can’t believe I have to explain this to anyone. They are attempting to live a life of service to this country. In many countries a year of service is mandatory. Service to others, your community, your neighbors, your fellow brothers and sisters in uniform and your country is something to admire and be proud of.

Our armed forces don’t “die for nothing.” If I ever see that posted in a comment on a website again I think I will lose it… I swear. What an utterly insensitive, cruel, judgmental and wrongheaded thing to say. I understand feeling helpless, angry and sad when young people die in service, especially in a war you may not support. But you need to respect that sacrifice and understand that they didn’t die for some political reason…they died to protect their brothers and sisters, their unit, the ideals we stand for as a country which in many cases is about being the representative of justice, compassion and protection for civilians who have no one to stand between them and death. That’s what America has always tried to stand for, the side of good, the side of justice. Sometimes I read posts where people say, why us? Why should we be out there helping those people? I don’t know…maybe because we are a tiny fragment of the Earth’s population but we use the majority of its resources. Don’t we have a responsibility to give something back in return? Shouldn’t we honor agreements we’ve made with allies? Don’t we have a duty to keep commitments to people who risked everything to help us find and reduce the threats to our nation?

I’ve recently heard from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that people have looked at them with disgust when finding out they served in combat. That they’ve been treated shamefully by Americans who feel distaste at reasons we were in Iraq. They had no control over that. I am such a peaceful, compassionate person but I wept silently and was filled with a kind of fierce protectiveness to hear the break in such strong men’s voices, to hear shame for something they had nothing to be ashamed of. To hear stories of young men overcome by it and killing themselves rather than facing that kind of hostility the rest of their lives. Did we learn nothing from Vietnam? I was born after that war but my family raised me to understand that the way veterans were treated during that time was one of America’s greatest shames. How can it possibly be happening again?

All I ask if you are reading this is to please check any knee jerk reaction you might have to the military and the “war.” The people fighting it are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands. Their spouses, children, mothers and fathers are living here in agony waiting for news, dealing with news or trying to adjust to the changed person who has returned.

These folks who enlisted are mostly kids who went in for lots of different reasons, unsurprisingly a lot of them come from poorer families and they were looking for a steady paycheck to provide for a family or a chance to go to college or learn a trade. They dedicated themselves. They worked so hard to make it and then they serve in dangerous and unforgiving places around the world to meet the needs of our country. Honor them. Check this stuff out. Listen to your heart and see where it’s calling you. The media is barely covering this stuff and I can’t tell you how isolating it is to the families to know that America seems to have virtually forgotten them. I know people better than that. They are just like I was, they hadn’t crossed paths with someone who gave them a nudge and changed the way they saw the world forever. I now wish it for everyone.

Tonight I am praying a special prayer. It goes out to my friend and to all those who are suffering.

Father please be with those who are alone with their fretful thoughts tonight. Quiet the images, the noise, the restlessness and the fear. Soothe them, nurture them, give them peace and balm so that they find deep slumber and rest. Stay with them through the night, comfort them, those they love and those who love them. Be with them as they wake, at their rising and as they go about their work…whatever comes. Guard them and protect them, waking or sleeping, always surrounding them with your love. All this I pray in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Not Voting? The Koch Brothers Thank You


Corporations have every reason to think they own this country when they have managed to convince so many that their vote doesn’t count. Whatever party you vote for, figure out what you believe, choose the people you think will represent those views and go vote for them. You need to register now if you haven’t already. It’s one of the few responsibilities you have for the privilege of living in this country and we all need to take it seriously. If you are disgusted by the way government is failing us, its priorities, where it spends its energies and money, do something about it. Show the angry minority they really are THE MINORITY by making yourself known. The government only represents you if you let them know you are there. It’s made up of the people who speak by exercising their right to vote. Hate intolerance? Want civil behavior, something done about education, climate change, jobs? Be heard…actually VOTE. It’s not bitching in the comments section of websites or flaming people online that makes change. It’s that one simple act and it matters tremendously. Especially House and Senate races. So few people vote in those that it is incredibly easy for corporations to buy and sell them. Take back America? Just show up and it will belong to the people again.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Chock Full of Nuts

I have learned so much about the making of peanut butter in 3 short days. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to take a tour of one of the nation’s automated food processing plants, you are missing out. This is the fourth such facility I have been able to walk through and it’s really quite amazing. I know you are probably shuddering and thinking “you have no idea what could fall into an industrial food system” etc. But they really are incredibly resourceful and clever in making sure the food is sterile, safe, tested and pure.

The first place I got to tour was the Sara Lee Bakery where my mother was in charge of a line that baked bread. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies and I am good at it. I actually credit the “A” I got in chemistry in High School to the skills I grew up learning in the kitchen baking homemade bread, cookies and cakes. I was impressed with the industrial sized mixers, enormous proofing boxes and the automatic flow of bread through the ovens.

The next tour I went on was of a frozen dough bakery. They baked all kinds of gourmet bread and roll dough for grocery stores and sub shops. The stores and shops would thaw, raise and bake the bread “fresh” at the location. The most interesting part of that pristine environment was the chilly temperature so many people had to work in. Brrr!

My favorite was Kraft/Nabisco where I got to have a hot Chips Ahoy cookie right off the line as it crisscrossed a huge cooling room. Mom had to try all their stuff right off the line, poor thing. Oreos, Triscuits, Wheat Thins. I also really enjoyed the scent of the chocolate room where they stored all the chips and bits they use for all their special recipes. It was a huge and amazing facility.

Where I am right now is nothing like that. It’s relatively small. So far I’ve spent a couple of days with the Roaster who has a pretty complicated job. It’s kind of like roasting coffee beans. You have to take the raw peanuts and roast them to the perfect color to make the perfect consistency and color peanut butter. The Roaster operates a somewhat complicated series of ovens powered by gas that he monitors and times. He adjusts the ovens as needed to meet his target. The roasting process takes about 35 minutes per batch and then he can test the color using a high tech scanning device called a colorimeter. He takes a sample of peanuts, grinds it into peanut butter paste and the scans it with the colorimeter and it spits out a number. The number has to be within the guidelines on the specifications sheet provided by the company ordering the peanut butter. His job is to make it a few numbers above the target because as the peanuts get completely processed the color will lighten slightly. That’s because peanut butter has a few additives like salt, sugar and dextrose to stabilize it and these things make it lighten.   Today I worked with the man who is in charge of those additives and the machinery that dispenses it. I find it fascinating. Organic natural peanut butter has no additives, it’s just the nuts! I had to skip the grinder who comes between roasting and additives because he was out but I am supposed to get him tomorrow.

I moved ahead and worked with the Jar Scrambler in the afternoon. Jar Scrambler? What the heck is that?! It’s a funny machine that you dump empty, sterile plastic peanut butter jars into and it spins them around, blows air into them and sets them right side up into a line of straight up ready to be filled empty jars in a line. Fun to watch. American ingenuity at work.

Tomorrow is my daughter’s 22nd birthday, which she no longer celebrates due to her religion, but hey I still celebrate it. It was a very important day in my life. I met someone who changed my world forever and instantly became the center of it. So I always celebrate it, even if I can’t share it with her.

In my book news, there is a major re-write in progress! I am very excited by the direction it’s taking. I can’t wait until it’s ready to share and I can check it off my to do list. I think I might make that mid September target date after all!