Tag Archives: simplification

Follow the Recipe. Or Don’t.

Last night I made tofu Banh Mi for supper.  Well, more accurately, I made something that kind of looked like Banh Mi from about 20 feet away.  By way of background, Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich with of one or more meats, accompanying vegetables like fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and white radishes in shredded form, and spicy condiments. Mine was seasoned fried tofu topped with carrot ribbons, sweet onion, and thinly sliced cucumber sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes-and a healthy shot of Siracha.  I got the idea for this meal from a cookbook, but I used the recipe as more of a guideline than as a set process.

That’s kind of how I handle a lot of things.  Someone comes up with a strictly regimented process and promotes it as “the” way to do something.  Then I come along and trouble-maker that I am, I take a look at the process and go my own way.  I tend to look at the end I wish to achieve, and work the path backwards from it to where I presently am and hit pause.  Once I see how I can get the result I want, I hit play and away I go.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Even if I mess up along the way, I can take a detour if necessary.  And I try to learn from my mistakes.

This is my take on Banh Mi.

Setbacks and Moving Forward

I’ve been building a home obstacle course the past few weeks which I have been calling my “mini-Ninja” course, inspired by the show American Ninja Warrior.  When it’s done it will look like a grown up version of a kid’s jungle gym.  The problem I have been facing is that the darn thing is so heavy it’s difficult to assemble on my own.

That came home to roost last Sunday when the structure collapsed while I was trying to raise the taller of the two end pieces.  I managed to dodge most of it, but I torqued my left forearm a little trying to stabilize it before I saw the futility of that effort.  I admit, looking at that pile of timbers an pipes I felt more than a little discouraged.   I may even have sung a few choruses of “the old four letter serenade”.

There thing is, it’s not a bad idea-it may even be pretty good!  It’s the execution that has been problematic.  So I have come up with a new idea for stabilizing the two end pieces in two directions at once to help keep them standing.   Instead of trying to man-handle 12 foot long 4 x 4 timbers into place in brackets to connect the two ends, I’m going to use two 12 foot long 2 x 4 timbers which will be much easier to maneuver and will accomplish what I need just as well.

The upshot of this is that when you suffer a setback, it’s OK to get angry and annoyed.  Go ahead and vent-I sure did!  But get it out of your system and get back to what you were doing.  If you need to, rethink the process and come at the problem from a different angle.  Just don’t give up.

Here is my revised plan-bracing in two directions!

Here is my revised plan-bracing in two directions!

The (Elusive) Simple Life

I want to live a simple life, I really do.  But sometimes it just seems to be a pipe dream.  There is always something coming along to derail my plans, efforts, and progress. It is so easy to get distracted and forget my accomplishments, or fail to realize I have alternatives.

I feel like I am always working on my 100 plus year old house.  For every repair or project I finish, there’s always another and another and another.  On the other hand, I’ve gotten a lot done.  I’ve insulated, re-sided, and re-roofed the place.  My big projects before winter are to finish some foundation repairs and replace a couple windows.  Everything else is sheet rock, paint, and cabinetry with a little easy plumbing thrown in.  So, maybe it’s not so bad.

I’ve been trying to avoid getting wrapped up political issues, as it just raises my blood pressure and little else.  The problem is that no matter where I turn, I’m inundated with the scandal-du-jour.  It transcends party lines and geography.  I find as much political annoyance locally as I do at the national level, with no end in sight some days.  On the other hand, there is so much in life which brings me peace and joy.  My church, my friends, my family, my pets, my exercising, my hobbies, and so on.   When the political dross shows up in my Facebook feed, TV or e-mail I can just scroll past, change the channel, or hit “delete”.

On balance, there are many more things in my positive column than my negative column.  I just need to learn to adjust my focus.

There is something good in every day.

Alone But Not Lonely

I have been thinking a lot about being single at 57 years of age, lately.  Without going into unnecessary detail, I was briefly married a long time ago to an unpleasant woman.  I have never felt compelled to take a chance on repeating that mistake.  That is why I find myself single well after the half-century mark.

Here’s the thing:  I am not bothered by being alone.  I have always been comfortable with my own company.  I believe that this has fostered in me a certain self-sufficiency.  I answer to no schedule but that which I choose, and I find a lot of satisfaction in that.   I would probably make a really good hermit, as long as my cave had WiFi.

Frankly at my age, it’s hard to imagine having someone around all the time.  I have work, church, and friends, so I’m not planning on changing any time soon.   I am, as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, alone but not lonely.

Solitude need not be isolation.

What Motivates You?

I strenuously exercise on a regular basis because I want to be healthy.  I eat vegan because I don’t want animals to suffer on my behalf.  I decrappify  because I want less stuff cluttering up my house and attention.  I do 90 percent of the repairs on my house to save money and frankly, because I can.  So there you have it, the motivations for four of the big ticket items in my life.

Here’s the thing:  motivation is all at once personal and situation-specific.  At the end of the day, each of us must identify that which we value and how much we value it.  For example, if you want to lose weight but aren’t willing to move a bit more and eat a bit less, you like the idea of losing weight but you aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary work.  I lost count of the number of times someone has told me they’d love to drop a few pounds, but when I suggest easy ways to start, they balk.

They are not motivated so much as they are wishful.  Well guess what, there ain’t no genie in a magic lamp here.

It isn’t just weight loss, either.  Anything that can or should matter to you (and I leave it to you to make that distinction) is subject to motivation.  And, that which is subject to motivation is also subject to its loss.  So how do you find and maintain motivation?  Here is what works for me: keep the reason I started something in mind (I keep my “before” photo on my fridge to remind myself why I exercise), I participate in online accountability groups for support and feedback, I view challenges (like home repairs) as opportunities not limitations, and I don’t let setbacks define my level of success (speed bumps are not the end of the road).

So, what motivates you?

A bear chasing a cyclis-that's motivation!

       Motivation isn’t always this obvious-luckily!