It's that time of year again. Time to spring clean? Not yet. Time to declutter? Always. Time to take down the Thanksgiving decorations? Umm . . . definitely.
It’s time to invest in those around us by telling them how much they are loved. I’m actively preparing for my annual Galantine’s Day party. Each year I take the time to invest in women who I want to celebrate by thanking them for being in my life and telling them how much they are loved. This all started in February 2019 and was inspired by the Galentines Day on Parks and Recreation. It has become one of my favorite days of the year.
It’s time to invest in those around us by telling them how much they are loved.
I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. My mom made holidays special by doing fun things for us and my teachers always let us exchange Valentines in the most fun ways. I love pink. I love hearts. (My childhood bedroom was decorated with heart bedding from JC Penny.) I love chocolate. It’s a fun time to celebrate Love and the God who is Love. All this makes me look forward to Valentines Day every year.
But for some people it’s not a fun day. They don’t have good memories of their childhoods. They are lonely and in desperate need of encouragement. They don’t feel loved. There are so many women and girls who are longing for love - the love of a spouse, the love of children, the love of a lost family member. With so much hurting and longing it can be discouraging to see all the hearts and reminders of painful longing. Too many people face the depression of a cold winter on top of the ubiquitous reminders that they are alone. This is why we need to invest in the women around us.
I would love to see more Galentine’s Day parties this year. I’m already hosting mine and my guest list is the girls in the class I sponsor at my son’s school. This is a precious opportunity to pour love into them and empowering them. I want the girls I spend time with to know that I love being a wife and mother but that there is so much more to being a woman. I don’t want them buying into the idea that Valentine’s Day is just about romantic love and if they don’t have a man than they are somehow less of a person.
- Photos of Galentine's Days Past -
So here’s the challenge - who are you going to invest in? Are you lonely? Plan a get together. Are you a single mom? Invite your kid’s friends or their moms. Are you empowered and confident? Plan a get together. Here’s my stragety for hosting a great event:
How to host a Galentine’s Day Party:
So that’s it. Who is going to do this with me? Who is going to help share love and joy with others? If you are a believer in Christ you should have love to pour out and share and this is a great place to start.
The last few months have been challenging to say the least. Two members of my close family have passed into the next life and we've been missing them dearly. That's all I can say about that for now. God is good and he has promised to provide beauty for ashes.
The world can be an ugly and stressful place. People can be rude and destructive. Assumptions and judgments are made about others and if your beliefs don’t match with others you can suffer derision and scorn. Sicknesses of all kinds are rampant and death is not restricted to unknown strangers. With all this going on in the world my home has become an extra special place. I work in my home, entertain in my home, and study my Bible as well as a large variety of subjects from my home. I’m home with my crazy dog who needs lots of work and activities. In summary, I spend a lot of time at home.
This being the case, I have fallen really hard into houseplants. Yes, my home may look like I’m slowly losing a game of Jumanji, but there could be worse things to fill a home with. Here are a few of my beauties. Some houseplant gardeners like to have multiples of one particular plant. Not me. While I do have a few multiples, I prefer variety.
Aren’t they amazing? Each plant’s leaf has a different color, structure, and shape. Each is unique in its own way. They remind me that God is creative and loves his creation. Yes, these plants are readily available to me at grocery stores and garden centers, but for millennia these were solely in their own ecosystems, quietly glorifying their Maker. Today there are hybrids and cultivated varieties, but they all shout praise with their incredible design.
When I study my plants, I see the toxic danger of root rot. I am reminded to be rooted in Christ. Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” If my foundation is weak, if my roots, what grounds me, is sickly, I can not thrive and I will never bear fruit.
That’s all for me today. I’m off to work around the house. Come see me. Stop in for a visit. I’d love to share some coffee and show you my plants. They are gorgeous.
If you’re interesting in learning about plants, I would recommend these books. There are a lot of how to grow guides but most of the information in them is easily accessible from a quick Google search. These two books get into details and share some more in depth information.
Do you believe that your words matter? Sometimes, when viewing the massive number of available books, podcasts, blogs, TikToks, Reels, etc., I assume that my words are insignificant, that they only add to the cacophony around us without making an impact. When I start to feel like that though I find that I’m looking in the wrong direction. When I fall into thinking, “I don’t matter,” I realize that I’m forgetting whom I matter to. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.” (NIV) This is referring to those with the gift of speaking but I think also applies to those of us who have the freedom to share and speak or write to others as an ambassador of Christ. In some versions, the word oracles is used. An oracle is one through whom the gods speak. In writing to the believers of the early church, Peter is conjuring up imagery and wording that would have been familiar with this imagery. Peter is challenging believers to speak as though they are speaking God’s words. That’s quite the challenge! Too often we speak our own words acting like they are God’s words. We put our words in His mouth instead of putting His Word in our mouths.
Recently, I was discussing the web-like connectivity of the Bible. An example of this connectivity is the idea that we need God to be the foundation and sustainer of our lives. The Israelites were told to collect manna every day and that to only collect what they need for that day other than the Sabbath. Jesus alludes to this when he asks for daily bread (Matthew 6:11) as well as later when he tells his followers not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough troubles (Matthew 6:34). We can cast our cares on the Lord and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22) like the wise man who built his house upon a rock (Matthew 7:24). The idea of only speaking God’s words is not isolated to I Peter 4:11. Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” We are to hide God’s Word in our hearts and meditate upon it because we can’t speak words we don’t know. Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of people who have all seen and loved a movie you have not yet seen? Their entire conversation becomes quotations from the movie as you realize you have no frame of reference for these quotations. If you tried to quote the movie it would quickly become apparent you don’t know what you’re talking about. You haven’t memorized the lines. You haven’t made the quotes from the movie part of your everyday language. (Lest you think I’m exaggerating about movie quotes being part of language, I dare you to think of the word inconceivable without coming around to thinking about the Princess Bride.)
So what about you? Do you know God’s words well enough to quote them? I struggle with memorization but have good comprehension. I love doing what I did above and finding connections between verses and peppering my writing and speaking with them. I like to read multiple passages over and over to help me understand and absorb more. Before speaking at an event or counseling with students, I pray that I would only speak God’s words. This isn’t some weird mystical thing, it’s just making sure what I’m saying aligns with God’s Word. Before a salesman goes out into the field he needs to make sure that he knows the product he is speaking about and trying to sell. If he is misinformed it will reflect poorly upon the company he is representing. Political leaders pick their own ambassadors because they want people who will represent them well.
Your words matter. You impact the world with your words. You will be held accountable for your words. Lest you think you are off the hook because you are not a speaker or writer, I will remind you that your words on social media matter - and not just what you write but also what you share from someone else. Your words to the sales person at the store or your server at a restaurant matter. Most of the world is short staffed and it’s easy to become impatient, but Christians are called to be the light of the world. We can demonstrate our love for others and our willingness to be different simply by being kind.
In my life, there have been many dreary days when the sun did not shine and it was too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. On those days I could read and travel around the globe with books. Sometimes I went to places that were real and sometimes I traveled into Narnia or Wonderland. In my travels, I discovered that from there to here, from there to there, funny things are everywhere.
When I grew up I became a teacher and had students who would rather eat green eggs and ham than read. They wouldn’t read in a box or with a fox, in a house or with a mouse, but with some work most discovered that they liked reading everywhere.
March is celebrated as Reading Month by schools and families across the country. Special days and contests are designed to help students discover the joys of reading. We celebrate reading in March because March 2, is the birthday of Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Geisel did much to expand the library of children’s literature by creating high-interest stories as an author-illustrator as well as the editor of Beginner Books. He worked with P.D. Eastman and Stan and Jan Berenstain to create a library of titles that would motivate children to read including Go, Dog, Go and Old Hat New Hat. One of his requirements was that the illustration on the page had to match the words to help struggling readers self-correct.
This year, the day is being swallowed up by controversy about the work of Dr. Seuss. I’ve seen more posts about the controversy than I have about reading month! So here’s my plan of action - I’m going to move forward without heeding any of the articles because they don’t affect me and I doubt they affect you. One story states that a school district in Virginia is dropping Dr. Seuss and another states that six books will no longer be published. Although I have opinions about these issues, neither announcement has any immediate effect on my life. I don’t live in Virginia and I already own a copy of And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.
Andy Warhol predicted a world where everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I’ve seen people achieve those minutes in a variety of ways but it seems like a current popular method is to cancel something. People start sharing their approval or disapproval and soon it’s all anyone can talk about. But what happens then? We aren’t talking about the benefits of reading, rather we are arguing and fighting for something that really has no impact on us. I’ve seen many shares of the anti-Seuss campaign with great consternation and while this is understandable it has to stop. Social media gives you a positive feedback loop so the majority of what you see affirms your own viewpoints. This gets us nowhere. I strongly encourage you to read “The Zax.” It’s only a few pages long and can be found in The Sneetches and Other Stories. (That whole book is incredibly relatable right now. In “The Sneetches,” Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the Sneetches by exploiting their desires and encouraging divisiveness.) In “The Zax,” a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax run into each other while walking across an open plain. Neither would deviate from their course and so they stayed butting heads for a couple of years until the growing world grew around them. Arguing with people on social media feels like that. I can argue and refuse to deviate course but what will that accomplish?
So today, I’m asking you to join me. Don’t be a Zax. Don’t let Sylvester McMonkey McBean manipulate you. Pick up a book and read. If you can, read a Dr. Seuss book aloud today. Luke (age 2) was delighted by Green Eggs and Ham this afternoon and I plan on reading and discussing some of The Sneetches and Other Stories with Logan this evening. Read The Lorax and discuss conservation or read The Butter Battle Book and discuss nuclear proliferation. For a taste of what it feels like to age read You’re Only Old Once, but follow it up with something positive and inspiring like Horton Hatches an Egg.
I know it’s upsetting to read about things “getting canceled” but you don’t have to participate. No one is coming for my books (yet) so I’m going to fight back against cancel culture by going around the “other Zax” and sharing my love for reading and learning with others. At night, don’t spend time fretting over what others are doing or refusing to do, rather inspire those whom you have the ability to influence then lay your head down saying, “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
We are in the midst of a polarizing political season. Facebook and Twitter are full of very angry people trying to convince others to agree with them, or more often crititizing those who don't agree with them. People shout and yell then they feel good when they get likes and shares which bolsters their viewpoint. They forget that the platforms’ algorithms show users what they want to see which causes further polarization. I make a habit of following others whom I do not agree with in order to get a broader perspective of the issues. I constantly go back to God’s Word as my foundational belief before proceeding with any belief.
Although this has been a long time concern, I have been noticing it growing increasingly worse. Individuals who may agree with a group on an issue are being attacked for not being zealous enough or for deviating from the party line. The concern is that these people who feel marganilized and attacked will fail to participate in the voting process at all.
Based on the conversations I’ve had with many people lately I’ve compiled a list of things that make me say, “You lost me,” when I see your political post. These are things that make my respect for people’s viewpoints diminish and weakens future ideas you promote. Please read these and share if you agree. I don’t think I’m alone here. You lost me when . . .
So what can you do to persuade others to agree with you? Well, in all honesty, in some cases, nothing. Some people, despite your best efforts and the best arguments, will never agree with you. So don’t waste your time arguing with them. Move on. If you have to get along with them because they are a co-worker, neighbor, family member, etc. find common ground and meet them there. However, there are people searching for answers and looking for direction. Here are some ways that you can influence them.
So, there it is. I have been purposefully vague regarding specific candidates. My purpose in discussing politics isn’t to debate the 2020 election but to encourage others, particularly believers in Christ to do so with compassion and critical thinking. Now more than ever it is important to be a light in the darkness of this fallen world.
As you may have heard, we are living in unprecedented times. Just kidding - I’m sure you’ve heard this 1,000 times. It’s mentioned at least five times during each press conference and at least twice during each news broadcast. These unprecedented times have us all scrambling and doing new things. I’ve tried at least 10 new recipes (several of which are winners). Kids are trying new home science and craft projects they didn’t have time to do before. Parents are realizing just how hard teachers work to educate their children.
Many of us are getting frustrated and antsy to get back to life while others navigate the phases of reopening. To some, staying home feels like a waste of time and every day begins to look like the day before it. Our days seem like anything but unprecedented. It’s all been done before. Sun goes up, the sun goes down. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. Our frustrations begin to sound like Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
How depressing! At the beginning of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sounds like he could sit and commiserate with Macbeth. I imagine them sitting languidly staring into a fire.
Macbeth: “All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.”
Solomon: “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”
By the end of his pondering though, Solomon has moved on and left Macbeth behind. He concludes, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
So that is it. As followers of Christ we are not promised freedom from trouble. In fact, Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You will have trouble - not great words to put on a recruitment poster, but praise God the promise doesn't end there. Christ overcame the world and through him we are more than conquerors. There is so much debate about masks, reopening, social distancing, etc. We must research, ask questions, seek out reputable sources for answers, and responsibly share with our people. Our first priority should be raidating Christ's message to the world so we should be very cautious about alienating people with charged political statements.
Fear God and keep his commandments. Not exactly the easiest conclusion to execute, but that's what we've been given. Even if the days are looking the same and things become monotonous God is there. God is good and His way is perfect.
The baby that I nanny for has reached an important stage of development that is both challenging and fun - he’s acting independently. As babies leave the newborn stage and grow they are carried around and interact with the environments they are provided with. Slowly they realize they can do things even if they know they are being told no. I will NEVER forget the moment Logan realized he could act independently of me. He was crawling across my in-laws’ family room floor and he reached for their DVD player. I said, “No. No touch.” He looked at me, looked back at the DVD, touched it, then looked back at me. I could see him reasoning out, “Mom says not to but I really want to touch it. Ha! That was so satisfying. Uh-oh, look cute! She’s looking upset.”
Today, Luke climbed to the top of our pool slide. I was right beside him the whole time. I know it’s good exercise and the view from the top is beautiful so I let him climb and protected him from any harm. Then came the trouble. He knows slides. He has a little slide in his playroom at home. Slides are exhilarating and there is ground at the bottom. He KNEW that slide would be so fun. He’s a slide expert. But here’s the problem. He was wrong. At the end of this slide was a pool with 52° water. It was only 45° outside. He was wearing a coat, hat, shoes, along with all his clothes. I knew that him going down that slide would end in misery and could keep him from enjoying the pool when it was warmer and much more enjoyable. So back down the ladder we went. He screamed at me. He was mad. I hugged him and told him, “No slide.” Logan came out and he ran to Logan babbling and pointing at me and the slide. I imagine he told Logan that I was crazy. I was ruining all the fun he could have had.
I was immediately struck with the thought that just a few minutes before I had been contemplating our current circumstances. I was thinking about fall school plans and friends who were saying that their schools are already preparing for online learning to continue. I was saying, “No, no, no! I can’t do this. This won’t work! Things are just not going to work like this.” I wasn’t trying to problem solve as much as fight the circumstances around me. I was like Luke sitting at the top of that slide. I know what needs to be done. I KNOW what is best. I have experience as a teacher. I have experience as a parent. God was trying to lead me in the way that is best for me and yet I was kicking and screaming, “I know better!!!”
So now I’m back on the ground, but what do I do now? Bury my head in the sand or say, “No worries! Noting to fret about here,” with a maniacal smile while I slowly lose my mind? Hardly. I should bring my concerns to God. Pray for ideas that will help me help my son and the others who need help through the storms ahead. This could be a wonderful opportunity for the church to share the gospel with lonely, hurting people.
I don’t know what the future holds, but right now, I’m going to rest in the knowledge that God knows what’s at the bottom of the slide even better than I do.
I'm currently reading a book called Oh, Ranger! It is a collection of stories and essays written by National Park Rangers. I was moved by an essay written by Shelton Johnson, an African-American National Park Service ranger. While looking through photographs at Yosemite's research library he found a photograph of 25 African-Amerian soldiers who had protected the land from ranchers who were grazing their animals on park land. Their names are not recorded but these soldiers protected Yosemite until they were relieved by another regiment who noted their excellent service. Often African-American men would choose to serve in the military because it was one of the few jobs that provided a pension available to them. That said, they still failed to receive proper respect. Ranger Johanson wrote them a letter thanking them for their service and for allowing himself to be caught up in their story. I found the ending particularly poignant:
"Thank you for clearing the trail that I followed 100 years later. You cannot imagine how your passage has made my journey infinitely easier, as I hope mine will be for those who follow."
My heart hurts when I read stories about violence against others because of how they look. These stories go back for hundreds of years and involve all sorts of people. They are sad, dark, and full of hate. Do you hate these stories too? Perhaps, like those soldiers who protected Yosemite, we can do some things to make the journey of those who follow us a bit easier.
If you ran yesterday and posted about in on social media, good for you. Now keep running. Keep moving. Call someone in an elected office. Create a petition. Volunteer to help others. Look each person you meet in the eyes and see them as a life created for a purpose.
One of my favorite preschool memories is Jay asking Maddie what color her new baby was going to be, brown or white. Maddie, whose mom was very pregnant, was the only fair-skinned child out of my 10 students. She looked around the room and said, “I don’t know, probably brown.” They honestly didn’t know why our skin looks the way it does. It appeared to be about statistics to them and asking about it was as casual as asking a friend to pass the playdough.
Aging robs us of the innocence of youth but it doesn’t have to rob us of our curiosity. Below I’ve provided a list of books that have helped me get into the lives and experiences of those whose heritage I do not share. True these are fiction, but the experiences of the characters are very real. I, like Ranger Johnson, thank those who have come before me. I come from a line of curious and compassionate people. My wish is that my life will pave the way for future generations to share God’s love with the world as I try, yet often fail, to do.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1968 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick
Chains by Laurie Hase Anderson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodson
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Underground by Jean Ferris
Several years ago while scrolling through Pinterest, I saw the quote “Stop the glorification of busy,” and I liked it, but I never let it sink into my life. Growing up in a Christian home I heard the word glorify often in my church and Christian school. I knew what it meant when it applied to God, but recently I’ve unpacked it more thoroughly.
Today's Word: Glorification
Five syllables. Pronounced [glawr-uh-fi-key-shuh n]. noun. Defined on Dictionary.com as the act of glorifying or the state of being glorified. The Bible talks extensively about giving glory to God. We are told that whether we are eating, drinking, or whatever we are doing it should all be to God’s glory. Glory is defined by Dictionary.com as to give adoring praise to something. Glorification is the act of giving glory.
So how do you feel about busy? Try this experiment. Tell someone you have a busy weekend and see what they say back. People love comparing busy. Tell them you’re going to sporting events for each of your three children, attending an event at the library, and going to your grandma’s birthday and they’ll tell you about the six sporting events, two birthday parties, and the cooking class they have squeezed into the weekend. I’ve decided to stop playing this game. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot going on. There are seasons and days where there are many things to do. During Christmas, I want to do ALL THE THINGS! See the lights, visit family, catch up with friends, decorate, the list goes on and on! There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being busy, but when we glorify it we are putting our focus on the wrong thing.
When we give our praise and adoration - How do you do it all? - to "busy" we are focusing on the person. Rather than “God has given me the energy, health, and resources to accomplish this,” we focus on, “I have to do these things to fit in or to be a good parent or to make my kid succeed.” (I really struggle with this last one. God is slowly and painfully teaching me that I can’t in any way MAKE Logan succeed. Only he can do that.) Busy also makes me look at others and how they manage their lives instead of looking to Christ. So often I’ve asked other moms, “How do you do it all?” but what I’m really doing is comparing my failures to do “all the things” and seeking to find success in a way that God hasn’t planned for me. This self-focus drives me inward instead of driving my thoughts upward.
For the last several months I’ve been working as a nanny for very dear friends of ours. The baby is absolutely adorable and so incredibly good. Despite the relative ease of this situation, I’ve been unhappy at times. I see other people doing things I love such as teaching and I want to be there so badly. They are running around going, going, going and I’m not in that place. Staying home can very challenging because I feel like I don’t accomplish anything. I do laundry, wash dishes, clean up spilled toys, then the next day I have to do it all over again. I realized that I was longing for busy. Our culture values the production of something which leaves stay-at-home moms (and nannies) feeling like we aren’t contributing to the world.
In the past few months, as I’ve been unpacking this concept of savoring life and avoiding busy, I’ve learned that life isn’t about accomplishing things on a to-do list. God has brought this little guy into my life and he is a precious soul that I get to spend time with on a regular basis. So what if “play hide and seek” isn’t a product that I can showcase or sell? He is learning object permanence and having a marvelous time doing it. I accomplish nothing for myself when I sit with Logan and his homework, but I am teaching him perseverance and demonstrating my love for him. Yesterday he even identified adverbs and adjectives with ease which felt like something worthy of great celebration. When I stop glorifying busy and start glorifying God with my life I find great joy and peace.
This doesn’t mean I can sit back and hit the snooze button on life though. I no longer feel the need to justify my schedule to others, but instead, I try to see it as God sees it. When my calendar is run through that filter, things line up differently; to be honest it is quite daunting. Who am I helping? Why am I going there? Which of the calendar activities is best? But I rest in knowing that I am prayerfully doing my best and that is the best I can do.
How is your schedule? Do you feel worn down? A friend passed on a quote to me the other day and I absolutely loved it. “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” Isn’t that great? Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." These verses always bring me peace because Jesus didn’t say, “Pull yourself together and grab a cup of coffee. Go do the things.” Instead, he said that He will give us rest. As you finish this likely hectic week, I’ll be praying that you find rest in Christ and that you don’t let "busy" steal your joy.
In late November our family traveled to Italy. Our trip actually started last summer when out of the blue Jason asked, “Do you want to go to Italy?” I thought about it for 1.5 seconds and gave a resounding, “YES!” I knew the trip would make Christmas all the more hectic because we would “lose” days for activities and shopping, but I also knew how our family needed time to grow and bond.
One of my favorite parts of any trip is the anticipation of adventure. I knew that we were flying into Milan and that we would visit a few cities in the surrounding area. Other than that I was leaving everthing up to my travel expert of a husband who had worked out the details. He arranged our lodging and purchased our entry into the Ferrari museum in Modena. I looked up some museums and cultural activities but didn’t book anything specific. When we talked about what we were most excited about, we always agreed that it would be eating.
We left Detroit on Thanksgiving Day and after arriving in Milan we set out for Verona. Yes, THAT Verona - the one where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set. Despite being exhausted, we explored for a few hours then we grabbed some lunch. Logan picked out a thick piece of pizza and Jason and I chose a pizza to share. I was excited, but at the same time wondering if this heavy meal would leave my stomach overstuffed and add to my exhaustion. I could not have been more wrong. Logan’s thick slice of pizza crust was light and flaky. Ours wasn’t quite as light, but still much lighter than any pizza dough I had ever tasted. We sat in the shop to eat and complimented the chef on our way out.
Every meal was absoulutly delectable, but it wasn’t only the food that left us wanting more. It was the way they eat. Meals are slow. Guests are welcomed into the restaurant and offered a table knowing there is no rush or crowd of hungry diners waiting behind them. Nothing is rushed. Drinks and chips are brought out right away then you choose what to order. We shared appetizers as we sat and looked at the menu options. With food like Parma ham and parmesean cheese you must savor the deleciate flavors. Both are aged and contian all kinds of interesting notes that must be savored to truly appreciate. We chatted with our servers about recommendations and sometimes they had questions about where we lived. The portions were smaller than typical American restaurants but they were far from small. Most of the food is made in house. At The Enzo in Modena we visited a mom and pop restaurant that was literally run by mom and pop. (See photos.) Much of this experience is similar to high-end American restaurants, but we observed (and were occasionally frustrated by) one glaring difference. Cafes and restaurants only took in a certain number of diners then closed. Once a restaurant is full they refuse anyone else. The guests who have been seated can eat and talk the rest of the night.
It didn’t take long to notice something else; they have very little food, if any, that is sub-par. American food stores, particularly convenience stores, offer a great deal of food that is meant to be consumed on the go. Most of this food, if we really consider it, is not that great. When is the last time you truly savored the delicate flavors of a fast food meal? Maybe it’s just me, but I usually eat fast food when I’m unable due to time to prepare a meal or we are traveling and it’s the only option. I LIKE what I eat, but when I’m done I rarely feel pleased with how my body feels after a heavy combo meal.
Look at the photo above. This is the breakfast display at a rest area along the highway. This is not a fancy cafe. This is a rest area. Notice anything? On one side there are sandwiches made with fresh bread with cured meats, fresh lettuce tomatoes, and onions. On the other there are pastries and these are not previously frozen. (I always opted for the croissant filled with Nutella.) Behind the counter is the coffee bar where the baristas were busy at work making espressos and cappuccinos. After ordering you would receive your food and coffee, but the coffee does not in our accustomed “to-go” packaging. Throughout the small rest area, people crowded around counter-height tables and drank their coffee while talking. They looked at each other in the eye and looked at the food they were eating.
This may seem like a slight difference, but according to medical journals, distracted eating can causes us to find less satisfaction in our food and to eat more than necessary later in the day. What we saw while in Italy was a focus on food that by simple content is deemed "unhealthy" by American standards, but the time we spent eating, the focus we gave to our food, and the miles we walked around before and after eating all made a significant impact on our bodies digestion of the food. Stress - including the stress of "EAT! We have to get yoru work done!" - increases cortisol levels which can cause weight gain among other major health concerns. Trying to remove distractions from eating is harder than it sounds. So much of our eating is done while on our way to other activities or while in front of a screen that as I'm trying to break this habbit in my own life I am really having trouble. It's hardest when it's just Logan and I. Sometimes we play a game to allow us to interact in a special way that sets our dinner time together apart from the rest of the time we are together. This is still a distraction, but not in the same way as more of our brains are activated.
The contrast of our relaxing time with the ridiculously hectic Christmas season was glaring. I did my best to keep up without becoming overwhelmed. Ever since returning home we've been cutting back on activiteis that keep us feeling "busy." I like being active and am always on the go, but I don't like the feeling of busy. Busy feels like just doing a lot of things because that is what is expected. Active feels like doing many things because we are in an active season of life. Part of living an intentional life is removing activities that we do “just because.” I don’t care if everyone else is doing it or if we’ve always done it that way. I want to look at all our activities and ensure they are absolutely necessary. I refuse to accept that God’s plan for me or my family is to feel busy, exhausted, and unhealthy. If our life requires us to regularly eat fast food in the car to keep up with everything we are doing we will be reevaluating our choices and dropping a few things.
Now, I need to admit an obvious bias and I don’t want to sound as though I am hating on America or others who live a fast paced lifestyle. First, the obvious bias during our Italy trip was that we were on vacation. We didn’t have homework to rush through and we didn’t have to get to work. Our mindset was more relaxed and we were exploring something completely new. Also, the busy American lifestyle has made America a leader among the nations. We take up engineering and technological challenges and succeed where others have not. Unfortunately, that tireless work is exhausting us and leaving us with crippling health problems. My interest in rethinking the pace of our lives is not to stop us from achieving success, but rather to allow us time to rest physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Carving out healthy time is no easy task, but it is very much worth the effort.
Are you frustrated by busyness or are you happy with your pace of life? What are your tips for savoring your food as well as savoring the time spent with family and friends?
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."