Things I Want My Son To Know #23 ~ Value Every Life

The whole country is rejoicing that our armed forces finally got Osama Bin Laden; and well they should. But there is something troubing about the over the top, hysterical parties celebrating death; it is somehow unseemly. The interviews with the first responders who survived 9/11 have a very different tone, and we should learn something from that. They are glad but subdued, they know its right but know it won’t bring anyone back. In general, a death for a death is not a good policy if you really think it through. But, as usual, I digress.

What all this is really about is that we should not celebrate death, we should celebrate life. When you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t laugh or make fun of them; try not to look away. Each of those people is or was the loved one of someone, a son, a daughter, a father, a brother. They are not homeless and dirty because they chose it as a way of life consciously or rationally.

When you meet someone you dislike, try to listen to their point of view; try to understand how they came to it. You may never agree but you may learn something. How people got where they are is extremely instructive about how they think and feel and why.

When you think about crime and criminals remember that nobody is just the one worst thing they have ever done. You don’t want to be judged by the one worst thing you have ever done. They are also sons and daughters of parents who loved them in many cases; in other cases they were the children of terrible abusers. Either way, it is not just about the crime.

When you meet a farmer in overalls, don’t assume you are better then he because you wear a shirt and tie to work. Farmers feed us and, hopefully, take care of the earth. It is terrible hard work, often with little reward. Listen to what he has to say; you will definitely learn something about work ethic and committment.

When you meet the President, whether you agree or disagree, you should respect the office and the terrible obligations it presents. You should be able to hold a conversation ~ be well read enough and know enough about your world to speak with intelligence.

In every case, value what is good in people and don’t dwell on the bad. In every case, be a good listener and you will be a good learner, you will understand people just a little better. In every case, be able to talk to people. When you can talk to a homeless woman on the street and to the President with equal interest, and everyone in between, then you will be a well-rounded person.

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Practical Advice For My Son #4 ~ How To Make A Roux

I have told you before, you can put almost anything in a good cream sauce and look like a genius cook to a date. To make a good cream sauce, you need to make a roux. I’ll bet you didn’t know how it was spelled, despite almost four years of French class. And we have been over this a few times, but I really don’t expect you will remember, so I am putting it here. Of course if you would like to call home and ask your mom, you can always do that too.

You need to melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Then add two tablespoons of flour, preferably Wondra, which is extra fine and will help you not have a lot of lumps but any flour will do. Normally you would whisk this up but I don’t really expect you to have a whisk, so take a large fork, use it flat and stir in circles against the bottom of the frying pan. Hopefully this is not a nonstick pan or it won’t survive many tries at this. Let this cook, stirring pretty frequently, until the flour turns golden brown. Once it is nice and golden, add 1 cup of milk and stir (whisk) constantly. You can use half milk and half broth if you like, it will be less creamy/thick and a bit more liquid, like a different kind of sauce. You can double this recipe, just keep the proportions the same. Generally I put a few drops of worcestershire and a few drops of tabasco to give it a bit of flavor. Salt and pepper will do.

You will want to let it bubble gently and it will thicken. If its too thick, add broth or milk. Generally speaking, a few sauteed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, some egg noodles and you are in business. Or some precooked shrimp (you can buy a bag) and some nice rice pilaf (comes in a box) and you are in business. Add a bagged salad and a storebought desert and poof! fabulous dinner for two.

If by some chance you want to make comfort food, one of your favorites, just buy a rotisserie chicken and cut it up and put it in the cream sauce, make buttered toast and voila! creamed chicken on toast. Remember if you add frozen peas, they will melt and add water so make your sauce a little thick.

A good roux can go a long way, there are many things you can do with a cream sauce. You can even put it over pork chops, or whatever. Experiment with flavors; just remember to smell things before you put them in… if it doesn’t smell good, if it doesn’t smell like it would go together, don’t do it.

Just remember 2, 2 and 1. Two tablespoons, two tablespoons and one cup. Roux is just one of those things that is good to know in life. It’s an easy trick that will take you far; like most things it is simple once you know how.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #3 ~ Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

I think its fair to say that your father sweats the small stuff; the smaller it is the more sweat. And it causes him a lot of angst. He is truly a mensch when it comes to the big stuff. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t have you! We had just moved in together and I called home and said I was bringing home a teenage girl who needed a foster placement ~ no big deal. Call him in the middle of the night for an emergency, he is up and out in a heartbeat; but leave a dish in the sink and his head explodes.

So more than almost anything he would tell you… don’t sweat the small stuff, it will just raise your blood pressure. And more importantly, it is almost all small stuff. There is very little that you will face in life that is actually life threatening. There is no question that you will face things that will force change in your life; change is not bad, it can just be very disconcerting. Fearing change can cause you to make bad decisions; trust me, we know. Most decisions, fortunately, are not irrevocable. The good news is that faith will carry you through most change, and most change won’t kill you; small stuff.

With any luck you will never go to war. Hopefully you will not face life threatening illness, catastrophic accident or the untimely loss of a loved one. But you cannot count on these things; these are the big things. You will sweat these things, they are hard, painful and demand your attention. These are the things it takes time to recover from, the things that leave scars on your heart. Pretty much everything else is small stuff.

If you remember that it is all small stuff, you will have an easier time in your relationships; the necessary compromise will come more readily. If you are able to let the small stuff go, you will waste a lot less emotional energy on things that don’t really matter. You will be able to survive any tragedies that come your way. If you don’t sweat the small stuff you will have the emotional space for the things that really do matter… your loves, your passions, your joys.

Things Effie Wants You To Know #1 ~ Give Yourself A Break

Having empathy for others is a great thing; and you have it in abundance. Your heart is always hurting for someone else that has been hurt. Sympathy for other is also a good thing but not as good as empathy; feeling sorry for others is not as important as feeling for them.

Having sympathy or empathy for yourself is even better. And self-pity, self-indulgence and patting yourself on the back don’t count. What matters is that you not be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake, have sympathy for yourself; everyone makes mistakes. Have empathy for yourself when you are having misgivings, doubts or fears. It is important to be kind to yourself even when you are disappointed in what you have done or accomplished; when you feel you have failed.

If you do your best, then you have done your best. And if you have, give yourself a break because that is all anyone can ask of you, including you.

Things I Want My Son To Know #16 ~ Its Just A Thing

Things are just things. Houses are just houses. Phones, TVs, gadgets, cars. They are all just things. Now I won’t deny that things make life more comfortable, more fun, more convenient. But in the end you don’t find meaning in things.

Robert Frost wrote a poem about home, if you haven’t read it you should; home is where they have to take you in it says. Home is not the house and home is not your things. Home is where the people who love you are. Home is where your heart is. As long as your father and I are alive, you will always have a home with us because you will always be in our hearts. And when your heart leads you to your own home, where your love lies, we will be there just in case you get your heart broken and need to come home one more time.

The loss of things is always hard, losing a house, a car, things that get stolen; it always feels like a violation, unfair. But it is only hard because we invest our things with so much meaning. Whenever I see a story of a family who has lost a house to natural disaster, I always think “what would I take if I could only take one thing”. Obviously this is assuming that the living things, people, pets, were safe. Always, it is the photos, not the things. I have many things that carry memories, but the people are in my heart. The photos are the closest thing, the thing that keeps the memories green.

I think we invest our things with so much meaning because we don’t know how else to “store” the meanings. Our culture is so much about things and what they represent that we sometimes don’t understand who we are without the things. Work hard at knowing who you are, who you would be, without your things, dropped in the middle of an ocean, in a desert, in an emergency.

Enjoy your things, especially the ones you earn. They will brighten your everyday. But they will not brighten your life the way your accomplishments will. They will not brighten your heart the way your loves will. They will not brighten your spirit the way your children will. So try to remember, while you are enjoying your things . . . they are just things. Remember what matters.

Practical Advice For My Son #2 ~ How To Use The Washer

I wouldn’t normally do two practical things in a row, but in an homage to a commenter, I felt compelled to write this. A man I don’t know commented that I should tell my son how to run laundry because most men don’t really know how to use a washer or a dryer. His comment was that these machines should be shaped like women!

So here goes. First, there is never a real need to use hot water, warm will always do. Saves money, saves the environment. Second, don’t put your wadded up, inside out, socks and pants in the washer without unwadding, unfolding and generally right side outing everything (except black which I will get to in a minute). Check your pockets, we have washed a lot of IDs, licenses, important school papers, money, over the years. You never know when you might want that phone number and once its washed you can’t read it.

Since you will always use Shaklee (purchased, of course, from your mother) you will put one to two ounces of laundry soap in the bottom of the washer along with a small scoop of laundry booster. Turn on the water, let everything dissolve. Separate light and dark and very heavy items (do these in their own load, like the towels). If you have new colored clothing, do it separately or only with like colors. If you have nice new blacks, turn them inside out to wash, it will preserve the black. Make sure you do your sheets and towels at least once a week! If you like softener, put the correct measure of softener in the post. Set the water level to the size load and put on regular wash, no need for extra rinses.

Put your clothes in the dryer with a dryer sheet (recyclable of course) and set on either regular or permanent press (for synthetics, dress shirts/pants, blends, things you would prefer not to have shrink like favorite t-shirts, regular for jeans, underwear, socks, towels, etc.) There is never a need to use high heat. If you use dryer balls you will shorten drying time, save on electricity and lessen wrinkles. If you don’t know what they are or where to get them, look it up on the internet, a skill I know you have. If you take your clothes out as soon as they are dry and fold or hang, you will reduce your ironing by a lot. Remember, most things will smooth out nicely when removed warm and treated right. And that doesn’t just go for laundry.

Things I Want My Son To Know¬†#11 ~ Know How To Live On Your Own

I am amazed by how many young women, and men, simply don’t know how to do basic things, don’t have basic life skills. You should never be in a relationship because you can’t balance a checkbook or iron a shirt; these are not good reasons to pick a mate. And yes, you can pay people to do a lot of life skills things, but you may not always have the money for that, or wish to spend it on that. There are often far more important things to spend your money on; choices to be made. So it is important that you know how to live on your own and take care of yourself.

Remember we have always said there is nothing worse than a single man’s bathroom. If you want a second date, know how to clean a bathroom, especially the toilets. It not hard and you won’t catch anything. Spray, swish, wipe and don’t forget the underside, outside and the floor around the base!

Know how to cook a few basic meals. Remember you can put almost anything in a basic cream sauce and be impressive; butter, flour, milk, a little chicken, some rice, you are a genius. Spaghetti, eggs, salad, you know you can.

Know how to manage your own money, balance your checkbook and invest your savings intelligently. Shop sales and remember, never pay full price just because you want something today. Save something every time you get a paycheck. If you do you will retire with enough money to live. You will be able to help your children when they need it.

Know how to iron your shirts, when you have a job interview you need an ironed white shirt, always. And depending on where you work, you will need one for work sometimes. And know how to iron your pants. I hate to say it, but if you actually hang things up with a crease, they need less ironing. Maybe when you don’t have someone to iron for you, you will hang them up.

Know how to make good coffee, a reasonable cup of tea, a box of brownies. Know how to make your bed and run the washer/dryer. So many life tasks, so little space to write. Generally, be a competent self-sufficient human being. Know how to suit up and show up, feed yourself, do your bills and clean your house. Don’t depend on people to do these things for you. That way you can rely on yourself and find the people that enrich your life in real and special ways; not the people you need so you will have clean clothes.