Last Friday I found myself in a place I’m not that fond of at the end of the week- the grocery store. It’s usually quite busy on a Friday afternoon, but I had no choice but to get myself there to buy some food for the weekend. And so as I meandered my way through the aisles, dodging children, grocery carts and displays that were oddly placed right where I needed to go, I tried to maintain a positive and upbeat attitude.
Man, it was busy there!
And so there I was, blocking an older man while I perused the chicken cooler. I apologized for being in the way as I tried to pull my cart to the side so he could pass. He told me he was 78 years old and wasn’t in too much of a hurry. Then he started to tell me about how his shoelace had come undone in the cereal aisle.
In his halting voice he said, “I had to tie up my shoe or I would have tripped.”
I looked down at his shoes, now perfectly tied.
“Everyone was rushing around to get their groceries and they were none too patient, it was plain to see. There was this one young woman who seemed quite put out at having to wait for me to tie my shoe so that she could pass.”
“Too bad for her.” I said, sticking up for the guy.
“So”, he said, “I was already down on one knee tying my shoe, and I looked up at her angry face. And I said to her, ‘Will you marry me?’”
You could say that unglued her, just a little.
The two of us had a great laugh there beside the chicken cooler; and then I went on to finish my shopping in a much more lighthearted mood. I was still chuckling to myself as I greeted other harried shoppers. They smiled back and some of us joked as we kept meeting, aisle after aisle. My world had brightened considerably. His little story showed me to not take myself so darned seriously.
I don’t know the man’s name and perhaps our paths will not cross again, but just because of that moment in time and a shared laugh, I’ll never forget him and the lessons he taught me about humor, compassion and kindness.
This is a picture of a framed print I have had forever…kind of apropos, don’t you think?
On Saturday we are going to a Mediterranean dinner and guess what I have been asked to bring…BAKLAVA!! Lebanese style, of course. Most people think its very complicated to make, but I’ll share with you my easy recipe, complete with pictures. The recipe is straight out of my memoir-cookbook, Eat Where You Are.
Making Baklava has to be one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in the kitchen, aside from making bread from scratch. This method was taught to me by my Uncle Eddy, a great Lebanese chef, some years back.
We will be making rolls of baklava.
Syrup: make this first.
6 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3-4 Tbsp orange blossom water (found in specialty/international section of grocery store)
Combine sugar and water in a pot; stir until dissolved and then boil it over medium heat for five minutes. Add lemon juice and orange blossom water and boil for five more minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.
While the syrup is cooling, make the baklava:
4 ½ cups of crushed unsalted pistachio nuts
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 – 3 Tbsp orange blossom water
Combine these three ingredients in a bowl.
You will also need:
2 packages of fyllo dough (in the refrigerated or frozen section of the grocery store). Keep the fyllo dough covered with a damp tea towel until needed as it dries out quickly.
1 cup of melted butter
Place 2 sheets of fyllo on the counter or cutting board and brush them with the melted butter.
Place a not too thick line of the nut mixture across the center, width ways.
Take one end of the pastry and fold it over to the opposite end, covering the nuts. Tuck a little fold under the nuts and roll it all the way to the end, like a jellyroll.
Lay this roll in a 9 X 13 greased glass-baking dish and brush with butter. Then make another roll and place it beside the first one. Repeat this procedure until you have used up all the nut mixture. You will need three or four pans. Using a sharp knife gently cut across the rolls in each pan, making cuts every 2 inches.
Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. The baklava should just be starting to brown when you take it out of the oven.
Immediately pour cold syrup over the baklava in each pan, using all the syrup. It looks like a lot but the syrup will be all absorbed. Let it cool completely before eating.
Why indeed. You can’t imagine how many people have asked me that question.
You can’t imagine how many times I have asked myself that question.
I arbitrarily set this challenge at 84 days because that is the length of Bill Phillips Body For Life Challenges. Twelve weeks. I have done this get-healthy challenge a few times, always with excellent results. It has helped me to get on, and stay on a routine of sustainable nutrition and exercise that has become a part of my life for more than ten years.
It would appear that doing something for 84 days really makes it stick. So I figured the same could be true of having a positive mindset. I know that a bad habit can be broken in a short period of time, but is it sustainable? Does the bad habit come back?
In my experience it does.
So, if doing a Body For Life Challenge for 84 days more than ten years ago has resulted in a healthy lifestyle over that period of time, why not do the same for a mental attitude change?
I figured that 84 days should be long enough to get entrenched enough into a positive mindset to make it stick. It did indeed stick. However, I wondered whether or not I would have enough to write for 84 days. I wondered if I could stand it. I asked myself why I didn’t do it for 30 days, or even 45 days.
But life happens whether or not you are counting the days. I found that especially on days that I got out of the house and was around other people, situations kept presenting themselves for me to work on my positive mindset. It made me think that having a positive mental attitude would be quite easy if it wasn’t for other people!
So now that the challenge is over, I will continue to work on my positivity, hopefully for the rest of my life. How about you, Dear Reader? Will you continue?
I am going to take a short break while I visit my parents in Newfoundland, but after that I will be doing another challenge.
Some things I have considered are:
– a healthy meal a day challenge
– a gratitude challenge and
– a no spending on anything new challenge
If you have any other ideas, let me know! I would love to hear from you.
And now I would like to give a big THANK YOU to all of you who have read me every day, those of you who have commented on my ramblings, and those who have sent me notes either on email or Facebook or in person. You have encouraged me enormously as you have tried to get the negativity out of your own lives while reading about mine.
I’ve learned that there is never a perfect time to do a no negativity challenge. There will always be heartaches, sickness, grey sky days and strained relationships. We live in an imperfect world and the thing is to find a certain happiness and hope in our corner of it. That’s why it is called a challenge.
During the four months that I have been trying to get the negativity out, my son was in a car accident, my mother was diagnosed with a life threatening illness, my friend had surgery, my sister-in-law ended up in hospital with a heart attack, and another friend was diagnosed with cancer.
I’ve realized that every day is precious and that there are no guarantees that the person I am angry with today will be here tomorrow. So it is important to me to be at peace with everyone I love. It is especially important to be at peace with myself.
On Day 1 I wrote two reasons why I wanted to do a no negativity challenge:
1. To see whether or not I can really do it and
2. To find out how it will change my life.
Well, the first reason is accomplished. I did it.
And the second reason, so naively and innocently written, has also been accomplished, in ways I could never have imagined. Doing this challenge has indeed changed my life. Here are some of the ways:
– I am better able to deal with a negative situation now. Rather than stewing in negativity I say a quick prayer and move on to another activity. This is major for me.
– I’ve learned to put things in perspective. Not all things are earth shattering right now, today. Sometimes things need a little time to gel and to work themselves out.
– Most of the things I fretted about during the past few months have either been resolved or I have accepted them, proving to me that worry accomplishes absolutely nothing.
– Dave thinks that I take things more in stride now, whereas before I would react to just about anything as if my horse had died.
– I’ve become more assertive. Last week we finally did make it to Boston Pizza. We ordered the coveted Cactus Cut Chips, but when the waitress put them on the table they were soggy and dripping in grease. Rather than sitting there and complaining about them, I respectfully returned them with a smile.
– Getting up at the same time every day and forcing myself to write whether I felt like it or not has made me realize the importance of honoring self-promises. In so doing I have gained confidence.
– I haven’t been desperate about my weight loss or lack thereof. I’m kinder to myself because I am not obsessing all the time. I enjoy my meals and have been eating good quality food. My weight is great! (and I am fabulous!)
– Finding joy in my life has been more evident since I started practicing positivity through mindfulness. I am happier more of the time, realizing that the most important things in life are relationships, not things.
– As I wrote down five things to be grateful for every day I became a more grateful and appreciative person.
– I am more tolerant of people who are not like me. Well, that means just about everyone, because each of us is unique. So rather than wishing more people were like me, or trying to be more like other people, I am happy to be me.
Somebody, somewhere is having a good laugh at me the past few days. As the end of this 84-day challenge draws near, my positivity is seriously being put to the test. And I thought I would go out with a bang.
It all started a few days ago, Super Bowl Sunday to be exact. I am not a football fan, but Dave is, so he went out to watch the game with some friends, an annual tradition that I’m sure has more to do with the beer and the man-food than with the actual game.
In the meantime, I figured I’d have some alone time to write, do some quilting and then go to bed with a good book.
“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray…”
I started out by reading something that upset me more than I care to admit. I started stewing about it and then realized there was nothing I could do that evening, so I might as well get busy doing something else.
To take my mind off potential negative things, I moved on to sewing up thirty squares for my latest quilt. When they were all sewn, I went to iron them only to find that my 10-year-old iron had finally bitten the dust…at…that…moment. But wait! We have a spare iron; I worked up a sweat ransacking the house looking for it, to no avail. It must have been put in a very secure place so that we’d find it readily when needed. Right.
Thinking that I MUST remain positive, I figured this would be my golden opportunity to get a new iron, and this time it would be the Cadillac of irons. It would heat up to incredible temperatures, the steam would melt away the most stubborn wrinkles, and it would be a charm to handle, swivel cord and all.
With thoughts of that Cadillac Iron, I turned to the computer to write what should have been this blog entry.
On opening the Word document where I work on these writings, I realized, to my dismay, that my 120-page Positively No Negativity Challenge document was GONE! I spent the best part of the evening scouring every corner of my hard drive, once again, to no avail. (Something will have to “avail” sooner or later.)
And then I thought:
I’ve surely had better evenings, but I’ve had worse.
I asked myself, “What will this matter in a year’s time?”
I told myself I was still fabulous.
I could write about this in my morning pages to put it all in perspective.
I could be flexible and find something else to do.
So I made a list for the next day:
-Buy a new iron. Get the best one I can find.
-Bring the computer to the ‘shop’ to have the hard drive scanned for the missing document
– Make a couple of phone calls
And off to bed I went.
Today I am grateful:
For a great visit with a friend
For a new iron
For a smoothly running computer (but no found document)