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Ever do perfect? Impossible.

Kindergarten 101 revisited: no perfect.

Remember?

Unleash the fire!

Unleash the fire!

So, why is it that in my mind I do everything perfect? Or I don’t do. In other words, I don’t do lots of things that really matter to me because I know the outcome will not measure up to my super high standards.

Many of my students in my writing workshops are the same way. They say something like, “I don’t want to write my novel because it will never be a best seller.”

My advice, of course, is always: “Write it anyway. Just write it.”

You can’t LIVE a dream if the fabric of it lays snarled around your mind and never sees light of day. Yes, an idea CAN LEAD to a reality; but meanwhile an idea is as dead as dead can be if it does not take shape, color and form.

Imagine this eulogy:  “She always had that book in her mind but now neither she nor the book will ever see the light of day.”  Sad indeed!

For months, okay, nearly a year, I agonized over this “Backyard Therapy” blog. I wanted to revamp it. Tweak it. Change it. Transform it until it screamed with all its might, attracted millions of followers and fans …, and … phew, let me catch a breath … the reality is, months have gone by, and NEVER MIND changing anything – I did not write one word, NOT ONE!

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Voltaire said; one of my favorite modern-day uplifting writers and thinkers Gretchin Rubin periodically refers back to that simple, but profound thought.

And, here is how I think of it: “Don’t let good out-shadow good enough.”

So now, at least for today, I have broken the frame around my picture-perfect world and I’m back again. I am especially grateful to some fellow bloggers and very special friends like Aileen DePeter O’Sullivan who actually inspired me to move out of my mind–not always the best of places to reside–and come out to be found, found out or, better yet, just find myself. There is no better company than that of other fellow travelers who like me, irk at exposing their imperfections, but marvel to see that these shortcomings are what bind us, inspire us and join us to the core of the soul.

So with that said welcome to a new year and a totally revamped blog: WTF (Where’s the Faith?) …a more critical and crystallized vehicle of expression for a very niche audience…faith-filled and spiritual inspiration for people living through personal crisis and loss…a group that I am most proud of being a member.

 Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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Fall's Masterpiece unveiled!

Here we are in the early days of October and it seems that already every leaf peeper on earth is out on the trail.  Even my, otherwise, quiet hamlet of Easton, Connecticut, has turned into a bumper-to-bumper standstill of city folks hauling shiny pumpkins to their automobiles and waiting in lines at Sherwood’s Farm to partake of slow hayrides through the pumpkin patch.  Likewise, if you are trying to book an overnight stay at a New England Country Inn, good luck!

There is no better time than now here in New England to join the many other trailblazers and go outdoors.  To really rejigger, collect a few colorful leaves and scatter them as decorations indoors.  If you have friends living in less colorful areas, plan a day trip with the sole purpose of collecting leaves for them.  Then for five bucks or less, laminate them on an oversized sheet and drop the creation along with a sweet note into the mail. (I actually borrowed this idea from a woman I overheard at a copier shop doing this very thing for a friend.)

Color, color &, yes, more color!

Isn’t that the best way to rejigger, share your joy of the day-tripping experience with a friend?  Let’s face it, e-mail is a convenient way to keep in touch, but taking the time to send an “I care” package packs a stronger message of love

World's Largest Buffalo Statue in Jamestown, N...

Image via Wikipedia

This past summer, Parade Magazine had a delightful write up, titled, “Visit an American Original.” The gist of it was a list of 50 giant-sized landmarks.  From the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown, N.D. to a giant roller skate in Anchorage, Alaska.

Does your town/city/village have a giant…something?  If it doesn’t, is there anything colossal to visit?  Think of the statues in your area around town and in parks and don’t forget your local cemetery too.  Are there any diners or eateries donning a giant hotdog or mega-burger on the roof or on its premises? Think.  You’ve probably passed it by.  Now, go and visit the landmark again.  Take some photos; delve deeper and find out who was responsible for the landmark.  I mean, I can understand the world’s largest strawberry in Strawberry Point, Iowa, but the world’s largest filing cabinet in Burlington, Vermont?

Atop Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul

Rejigger and set your next day trip travels around something big; big may not always be better, but it sure gives you lots of food for thought—with no calories.  It’s a great way to teach kids about a quirky way to appreciate and learn about things that may be big and under our noses, but we still miss them each and every time.

Maine Night

Image by Vanderlin via Flickr

“I’m alive,” he said to the boy, as they ate a bunch of dates one night, with no fires and no moon.  “When I’m eating, that’s all I think about.  If I’m on a march, I just concentrate on marching.  If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.

“Because I don’t live in either the past or my future.  I’m interested only in the present.  If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.  You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

~ The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Want not! Nature Center, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

Outdoors, winding down after a long day of travel, I chatted last night with a good friend. I should say, I chatted. She, on the other hand, exclaimed, raising her arms toward the night sky, “It’s so clear! So clear. The moon is like a moon on a clear night in Maine. It’s a Maine night. Look how clear you can see the stars and…look at that moon. It’s crystal clear.”

I nodded, glanced and kept up my talk…how I would straighten out the world and everyone in it, if only…mind chatter that equaled mindless chatter…blah…blah…blah. In the toilet bowl of my mind, I missed “the moment.” I was alive. She was alive. We would never meet at that point in time again. I missed it, because of the gray matter nonsense between my ears. When I find myself in that messy place, quite frankly, it’s not real; it not the place of here and now.

Suddenly the sweeping skyscape swept me off my feet; my mind became as clear as the night’s sky. “Wow, do you see those blue stars? They are so blue, they are almost violet.” One flush of that messy gray matter, and I transported myself back to life…the real, perfect McCoy.

On your next day trip, rejigger and stop talking about yourself for a moment and start talking “it” up; “it” being those insignificant things that are so significant when we stop and notice and say, humbly and sincerely, “Thanks! I am not the end all and be all, and I can rest in your supreme and perfect presence.”

Old Orchard Beach, Maine: Beautiful Blues

 

You say there are no miracles?  Look above, no I’m not just talking heaven here, I’m talking that there have been some unbelievable sky masterpieces around our neck of the woods.  As I refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger* on my day-tripping experiences, I can’t get over the spectrum of blues ranging from robin egg to turquoise that have colored the sky. 

The clouds, too, have been potent and interesting.  You can spend an hour guessing what the puffy forms resemble.  The other day, I found mermaids, puppy dogs and rabbit ears!  Whether you live in Big Sky, Montana or Brisbane, Australia, as you take a day trip, remember to glance up at the summer’s sky.  It will take you where you need to be, in the here and now. 

Look up and feel the blood pressure go down.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

My famous vegetarian-style stuffed grape leaves make any picnic a smash!

An impromptu, planned picnic, say what?  You can’t plan spontaneity!  Oh, yes you can!  The best picnics are coordinated days beforehand, step by step.  By the time picnic day rolls around—you choose a time, figure out a location, perhaps call a few last-minute companions to join in the fun.  Now that’s what I call a stress free spur-of-the-moment day trip.  Grab the stuff, out the door, no hassle; don’t even worry about the rain, it’s in the plans too.

Here’s how.  Each day, beginning midweek, Wednesday, you start getting everything ready.

Wednesday

1. Get your (preferably reusable) basket(s), tote bag(s), cooler(s) or take-along(s) ready.  Double check to see if you have enough dinnerware and utensils; napkins (preferably reusable cloth) and other supplies.  Make sure you have frozen ice packets or ice bags.  Don’t forget the chairs/blanket; umbrellas and rain attire (for plan B). 

2.  Check to see what condiments you have on hand, such as salt/pepper, butter/margarine, hot sauce.  For trouble-free packing, transfer, if necessary, items to smaller containers. 

3.  Decide if you want to add any special touches, like candles, hand fans or silk flowers. 

4.  Create a shopping list for any missing items. 

5.  Decide on a cold food menu (this way, you don’t have to worry about keeping food hot) and add to your shopping list. 

Here is a sample menu.  You are welcome to use it:

Cold Vegetarian-Style Stuffed Grape Leaves (see recipe below)

(Optional) Chicken Quesadilla Pinwheels (or an assortment of finger sandwiches of your choosing)

Fresh Green Salad or Fresh Vegetable Assortment

Stacy’s Sensational Potato Salad

Fresh Italian (or any other kind of) Bread

Additional condiments of your choice:  pickles, mixed assortment of olives, assortment of cheese, crackers.

Soft drinks, water, whatever you like

Assorted fruits, yogurt, your favorite dessert.

Thursday

1.  Shop for supplies/food/condiments/ice. 

2.  Pack ALL utensils and non-perishable supplies in their designated baskets/tote bags.  Have them out-the-door ready; in fact, place whatever you can into the car’s trunk NOW (one less worry).  Pack chairs and any other bulky items in the car, too. 

3.  Prepare rain gear, have it out-the-door ready, too.

4.  Sort out soda/water/beverages into cooler. 

5.  Prepare and pack condiments.  Remember, if a jar of pickles is too large to take, break down the volume and pack in an appropriate container.

5.  Wash all fruit and veggies; air dry overnight.

6.  Scrub potatoes and celery root; peel.  Boil both.  Refrigerate.

7.  Cook rice; I like jasmine in preparation of stuffed grape leaves recipe.  Refrigerate.

Friday:  

1.  Purchase bread. 

2.  Assemble potato salad (see recipe below), and pack in appropriate container and refrigerate.  3.  Assemble grape leaves, and pack in appropriate container and refrigerate. 

4.  Prepare sandwiches or Chicken Quesadilla Pinwheels.

5.  Prepare dessert.

Now here’s the fun part:  Wake up Saturday at your leisure, pack and add ice to remaining picnic foods.  Chose a perfect picnic location—if it’s raining, obviously find one that has overhead protection or roof like a gazebo or pavilion—and go, rejigger* with all your might!!

For the sake of novelty, conduct a brainstorming session and come up with some off-the-beaten-track picnic spots, perhaps, for instance, on a museum’s grounds where the public is allowed.

Behind the CT River Museum, Essex, makes a flawless picnic backdrop

Westport's (CT) Sherwood Island: A unexpected picnic guest drops in

Recipes:

Cold Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Approximately one jar of vegetarian-style grape leaves (available in the ethnic section of the supermarket); I prefer Peloponnese jarred variety

Approximately two cups of rice, instant or long cooking, any variety or flavor; again, I prefer jasmine

One small jar of pine nuts

One Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet (I can’t cook without Knorr’s!)

One 8 ounce can of chopped tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes

Two tablespoons of rice vinegar

Your favorite oil and vinegar salad dressing, approximately three cups: enough to soak/cover a completed tray of stuffed grape leaves

A squirt of fresh lemon juice

Sprig of parsley for garnish

Rinse, do not blanch grape leaves—about half of the jar, depending on desired quantity.  Cook two or more cups rice, depending upon desired quantity.  Add the contents of one Knorr’s Vegetable soup packet to rice, mix.  Sprinkle in pine nuts, gauge amount to personal preference.  Squirt lemon for taste.  Place about one teaspoon of rice mixture on underside of each leaf near the stem’s end.  Covering stuffing by folding left and right sides of leaf until they touch.  Roll up leaf from base to tip, pinch in the sides if necessary.  Repeat with all leafs and line all rolled leaves in baking dish.

Cover baking dish of rolled leaves with salad dressing and juice from one whole lemon.  Add two or three good squirts of rice vinegar.  Cut the remaining lemon and decorate tray with rime.  Top off with canned or chopped fresh tomatoes.  Garnish with a sprig of parsley.  Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until boiling.  Cool and refrigerate for picnic time.

Stacy’s Sensational Potato Salad

One bag potatoes, I prefer Dole brand potatoes

One celery root (found in the produce section of the supermarket)

One large sweet onion

Two scallions

One Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet

Mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann’s)

Two tablespoons of rice vinegar

One or two boiled cold eggs (optional)

Chopped fresh dill (optional)

Cook and dice potatoes and celery root (dice both about the same size).  Dice finely raw onions and scallions.  Mix onions, scallions and Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet and about a cup or more, depending on taste preference, of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise into potatoes and celery root combination.  Add rice vinegar.  Add dill and boiled chopped eggs, if desired.  Chill in appropriate container until picnic time. 

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Consummate Author! Consummate Journalist! Consummate Motivator!

Through simple secrets to a happier life like day-trip adventures and a gratitude journal by the bedside, I have not only been able to overcome many obstacles in my life, but erase negative and useless thinking…and, yes, learn to relax, rejuvenate, rejigger. *

Rejigger *

* “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

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Day Trip Travel — Experiences Over Things

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