Sweet Potato Pie

Just a quick follow-up here…

Cottage pie is a staple now. Potatoes are arguably my favorite starch, and sweet potatoes are even better. There’s now a debate on whether they really are good for dogs, but my dogs have always loved them, and Gg still gets a bit of dehydrated sweet potato twice daily, to stave off the early morning hunger pangs and to give her stomach acid something to work on while we sleep at night.

This is a great recipe. (photo credit to healthyfitnessmeals.com) I was skeptical about the potato topper with no extra moisture (read: butter), but don’t mess with it, except to add cumin and cayenne pepper to taste. We’ve found those two spices LOVE sweet potato and ground turkey, so after trying the recipe unaltered, I will now add a dash of cumin and a healthy shake of cayenne to both the potatoes and the turkey. No, I’m not giving you a suggestion of how much, because we like heat and I’m pretty sure our teaspoon each is too much for some. On the cumin… literally, a dusting on the potatoes and the turkey.

If you too like sweet potato and ground turkey, you have to try what we call “Sarah’s sweet potato chili.” (No, Sarah isn’t the blogger/cook, but she shared the recipe with me, and so…) The only personalized touch to that one is we DO add beans, whatever white beans happen to be in the pantry. Drain and rinse the beans, but don’t get hung up on the turkey amount; I have stressed because my favorite grocery store tends to only have ground turkey in 16 oz. packs, and especially with the can of beans in there, you don’t miss it. Sure, use the 20 oz. pack if it’s available, but both recipes work with 16 oz. of turkey too.

Back to housework and taxes. What’s on your weekend agenda?

Dusting off

So much for writing more, more often.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I bet you can avoid the path to settling by dusting yourself off and doing it later rather than not at all. Good intentions are dreams deferred. No one means to abandon her plans; we all INTEND to get back at it just as soon as the obstacles stop knocking us down.

The secret is not to wait for perfect timing, not to hold out for the ideal circumstances. Yeah, if it’s meant to be it will be, but objects in motion tend to stay in motion. So here I am, exhaling and making a moment to write, even though I still have laundry to do, even though dinner isn’t going to make itself.

Better late than never. Inch by inch… whatever your favorite “little engine that could” mantra is, practice it. I know I need to, and now that I’ve taken a little action, held myself accountable, I’m going to hit “publish” and go start dinner.

Sweet potato cottage pie. Maybe I’ll report back on how it goes; it’s a new recipe in this house.

Ghosts of Valentines Past

I’m showing up. I’m writing. But more importantly, my mindset is better today. Whatever was pulling me down is gone. I’m back to feeling freer and happier, despite the mound of laundry staring me down. I need to hang and fold and put away, but I really needed to get out and enjoy the unseasonable warmth and sweat a little with Gretchen. So… I did. Now, we’re getting ready to settle in for the Superbowl.

It’s a new month and my new favorite month. I’ve disliked Valentine’s Day since at least Kindergarten. I remember arguing with my mother and anyone else who would listen about the ridiculousness of being forced to send a sappy card to every single person in my class. Fair?! No way! Early on, I valued candor highly and had no desire to give bullies little hearts that said they were the cat’s meow or whatever. One or both of my parents ended up buying several of those class-sized boxes, so I had enough simple “Happy Valentine’s Day!” versions to placate my young forthright heart… and mouth.

Fast-forward to middle school or junior high, or whatever it was called where you were. Early teenage angst and insecurities were blown out of proportion when some well-meaning (and wise marketing) adults agreed the French Club should/could sell giant flowers made of dime store tissue paper and thin wire. I think it was white, red and yellow, each with a different meaning. I bought as many yellow (friendship) flowers as my dear ol’ Dad would finance, and sure enough, kids were counting flowers and making fun of those who got none as soon as the flower deliveries started. I hated it. I hated getting flowers from people I didn’t send them to, I hated having more flowers than some friends, and I’m sure I didn’t like having fewer flowers than the super-popular ones either.

Adulthood, even as one of the only female firefighters, was no better. The entire shift watched to see if I got flowers, from whom, and on the off chance I was not working on the dreaded day, I was still grilled before and after about my plans, any gifts received, etc. And yeah, I still hated getting flowers or candy from the wrong person, with the whole dang shift standing there watching.

Last year, I went to the beach and avoided it all. This year, I’ve decided that pink and red are two of my favorite colors, I’ve long used a heart of some sort to sign cards, even in digital signatures, so why shouldn’t I ditch the ghosts of Valentine’s Days past and celebrate love? It’s also a special friend’s birthday, so personally, I’m going to celebrate that and whip up a ton of red velvet brownies with cream cheese icing and take the day as it comes. In fact, I’m going to enjoy the whole, short little month, because February and I are both short and we both look good in pink and red.

Do you struggle with any holidays?

Showing up

I don’t know where that originated, but I found it on a knitting/spinning friend’s Facebook page a few days ago. It made me happy… because I can relate, and because I can’t even aspire to be Glenda the Good Witch. I am quintessentially Dorothy, complete with the little terrier in my basket bounding down the Yellow Brick Road, but I have also spent years explaining to folks that I really am more comfortable “dressed up” vs. super casual.

Thank you for those kind words on my last post. I’m flattered and amazed that you not only still follow and read, but you remember dreams, random comments, thoughts shared on all the different blogs over the years. I am going to take Kath’s advice and show up more. I miss reading and writing every single day, but I’m also going to take a business mentor’s advice and give myself grace; I most certainly do have a lot going on. So I’m going to show up here more, write more, and heaven only knows what you might read here!

I suppose I have been honing my “just show up” skills in the gym. I haven’t competed in well over a year. Some of that is injury/recovery related. Some of it is (lack of?) a life balance issue, but in spite of the reasons and myself, sometimes amazing progress happens just by showing up.

We’ll stick with the gym, knowing it is an analogy for life in general. While I’ve been not following a serious training program, not getting in the gym 5 days a week, my squat has held its own. In fact, a gym friend shared with me a few days ago that I’m still a state record holder from two years ago! I can’t even defend the record because I’ve aged out of that division. My bench has gotten stronger, as has my deadlift. In addition, I’ve added all kinds of tricks to my bag; I can now do pushups without modifications in almost any quantity. I can do *A* single pull-up, and I’m working on turning that into a string of them.

I haven’t done any real running in more than 3 years, but my half-mile time was stronger than ever (well… in the past 20 years or so?) this summer, and Gretchen and I can still run at a 10 minute mile pace whenever her little heart desires. All of this is proof that just showing up can yield gains, however underwhelming they might be, so why not apply that here too?

Lastly, there’s exhibit C… the little fur-princess herself. Y’all may recall how stressful car rides have been for Gretchen Greer, but she always came anyway, because she’d rather be anxious as can be with us than be left behind. Progress was slow, painfully so, but here she is at almost 11.5 years, just hanging out in one of the beds in the back seat. She didn’t even pop up when I made turns, when I announced that we were almost home. She was content,chilling in her little nest.

Evidently, just showing up can lead to big accomplishments, so look for me to show up here more, even if I don’t have time, don’t have much to say.

About me

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams, goals and my “tribe.” Everything, everywhere, is challenging me to dream, make goals, etc. Frankly, it’s a little uncomfortable to even share that much, so … that means I need to keep grinding. (Aside: that’s how I’ve been addressing my workouts for several months; if it is difficult or makes me uncomfortable, I need to do more of it, more often.) Makes sense to apply that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” logic here too, right?

The big, over-arching dream is easy; it hasn’t changed since about age four (for real!) – I want to be a writer. Now, I clearly am a writer; I won my first story contest in first or second grade, I was published in a national publication in high school, and… well, this is writing, right? So obviously, that one needs some fine-tuning, some measurable goals, etc., because just BEING about writing in a casual way isn’t cutting it anymore.

We’ll come back to that. Not today, or maybe not even this year, but remind me, and we’ll nail that one down one of these days. At the moment, I’m more … challenged? drawn to? unable to escape from? the harder to articulate “what are you trying to do/say?” or “what do you want to be known for?”

Think social media. Think the “about” sections here, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It makes me as uncomfortable as writing the “mission statement” at the top of my resume. Why do I keep putting pieces of myself out here? What am I trying to accomplish?

Here’s what I do know; I’m a good story-teller, even if I do run on like a bad run-on sentence sometimes, even if I do make James Joyce look like he didn’t know how to do stream of consciousness well at all. (I have loved him and Portrait of An Artist… since the first time I read the opening paragraph. “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo”)

… and yet, I can’t give you three words or things I want to be known for. Dogs and pearls are also life-long identifiers (along with writing), and those of you who have followed me from ChanKnits to here (and how many blogs in between?!) already know I’ve had a knitting phase, a running phase, a competitive powerlifting phase, and I’ve dabbled with spinning, handbag obsessions, Lily P, obsessive reading and more.

Could I just keep on spitting in the social media wind just because it seems like the thing to do? Sure, and some of you dear, supportive folks would keep on following along – and I love you for that – but see the opener… I do have dreams and goals and we all know I lost myself for at least a decade, maybe two, and … I need a plan, because I need to get to where I feel driven to go.

In an ideal world, on a sunny, warm afternoon at a local winery, Starbucks or somewhere on the Downtown Mall, I’d assemble my local tribe and we’d talk, laugh, roll our eyes and I’d take notes and have a vision at the end of it all. Or maybe Marjie, Krystle and I could meet at Carriage Corner, and gMarie would have time to join us in a friendly little brain-storming session that would make things clearer. I could keep going with more and more names, because each of you has helped me along the way, and I count you all as friends. But the simple truth is, life is hectic and that isn’t likely to happen in even one instance…

So, dear, trusted reader friends, give me words and phrases. I’m not a mom – although I think Nichole, Susan and Sue make an argument for dog moms being some of the most selfless, wise women I know. I’m not a wife, and despite “years in residence” I don’t know that I ever really walked that walk the way many wives do, so two of the identifiers most women hang their hats on don’t work for me.

Here’s what I do know:

  • I admire and connect with courageous women with compelling stories
  • I am physically strong and enjoy a good sweat/physical challenge
  • I love knowledge for its own sake
  • I would rather cheer for you than blow my own horn
  • Authenticity matters, especially when dealing with the woman in the mirror
  • I need to be needed, but in a healthy way – if that makes sense?
  • My dog is family
  • There are no coincidences

I await your comments.

Resilient

I believe in the power of words. As a very wise friend explained it to her young daughter (said girl had just hurled mean insults at her sister and obediently offered a “sorry” of barely sincere proportions) so very well… words slide so easily out of our mouths, but stay out there in the universe forever, and may stay in other people’s memories that long too. There are many cases for the power of affirmations and positive thinking, but that simple explanation offered ancedotally has stuck with me for years. (The insulter is now a mom herself.)

My friend Sarah may not have been the first to introduce me to the idea of a word for the year, but as with the blogless friend referenced above, she’s the one who made it stick for me. (Erin McDermott offers a discounted “word” piece of jewelry every year, and I’ve had a necklace for years, and took it as a sign I’d picked the wrong word when a bracelet disappeared from my wrist a few years ago.) Some years, the word comes easily, and some years (the Gaelic word on the bracelet that vanished), I have to dig and scrape and it just doesn’t fit. Still other times, I’ve claimed a word as my own mid-year, because I’m not really much on the whole “New Year, New You” thing.

(Personal growth and such is why we’re here, in my opinion. We are here to become the best versions of ourselves, and if we’re lucky, we might inspire a few other folks along the way, or lighten a load, make a difference, etc.)

This year, I backed into “resilient” almost accidentally. Before I saw Sarah’s post, I’d seen the My Intent “What’s Your Word” quiz, but didn’t click through, and another friend posted her word and the Day Spring word finder. (I got “Stand” and was almost offended; I’m not feeling as though this is a stand my ground kind of year, or stand still phase or… but then I realized one can also stand tall, stand in the gap…)

Long story short, “resilient”came to me via the My Intent quiz. I ended with “empowerment” which always speaks to me, but still wasn’t just right. Luckily, the good folks at My Intent do a little synonym block, and there was resilience, waiting for me.

Google’s dictionary says:

re·sil·ient/rəˈzilyənt/adjective: resilient

  1. 1.(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize” Similar: strong tough hardy quick to recover quick to bounce back buoyant difficult to keep down irrepressible adaptable flexible Opposite: vulnerable sensitive
  2. 2.(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.”a shoe with resilient cushioning” Similar: flexible pliable pliant supple plastic elastic springy

All of that resonates, deeply. I do hope I am capable of being vulnerable and sensitive, but otherwise, THIS. IS. WHAT. I. CLAIM.

I am going to live this year, this phase of my life, with resilience. I had a long run of cocooning myself, maybe even losing myself, and I have had a couple of years of opening my eyes wide and embracing change. If life is like a heavy squat, my very strong legs and glutes are ready to propel me back up!

… because that’s how springs and recoil work, right? Once a spring is compressed as much as is possible, it RECOILS with great force and energy transfer happens.

Do you have a word? If so, I’d love to know what it is and/or how you landed on it.

Christmas already?

… not to be confused with Christmas all ready!

… because I’m not ready. It’s been a year too full of changes, long hours and failed good intentions. I’m working on cards now (after a series of techno-fails that almost literally brought me to tears last weekend), so I hope the good folks still on my card list celebrate the twelve days of Christmas from the 25th to January 6th. Personally, I celebrate Christmas as I do birthdays; why confine joy and good cheer to a block on the calendar? In that spirit, the cards will be mailed in the morning and phooey on anyone who gets uptight about when they arrive.

There probably won’t be a year in review. Gg and I are doing really well, and the challenges that remain are ones I don’t care to hash out here. I’ve found a line of activewear I adore and Gretchen Greer has minor dental issues we will need to address in 2020, and that’s as exciting as it gets.

Maybe if I get everything baked and wrapped with time to spare, I’ll add another post with more that just a photo of my cute girl and the briefest update ever, but if not, know we wish you a merry Christmas or a happy whatever you are celebrating, and we hope 2020 brings lots of love and laughter your way.

If you are all ready or taking a break from holiday preparations and/or celebrations, share your tips with me!

Un-Apple?

Who out there has broken up with Apple? (No, I don’t want to hear from the Android all along crowd, unless you have break-up information.) I’m not big on regrets, but right now, I’m really sorry I let my first smartphone, an Android, turn into an Apple. (It was a company phone, and…) I’ve been quite the i-Girl for a long while, but especially after FOUR calls to/from Apple to sort out something that was actually straightforward (and not resolved to my liking), I wish I could just trade in my phone, watch and tablet and make a clean break.

I don’t like proprietary bunk, and I especially don’t like being told I can’t wholly edit my account. Sadly, all of my i-devices are alive and quite well, so I can’t really switch them all out in the foreseeable future.

I am Google and Chrome all the way, and may have sincerely been one of the first people with a Gmail account, so it makes sense to go Android when I can, but if Apple won’t allow me to change my “alias” email (I can add, but can’t delete the one I want to see go away), it makes me want to plan my break-up NOW, ages before it will happen.

So if you’ve made the switch, what do I need to know? What do I need to do? I know apps will change, and that’s not the worst thing. I can certainly download all of the photos and save the important (read: dog!) ones, and I presume the phone company will have some way to export/import contacts – or not?! (I am suddenly reminded of all of the friends who post on Facebook “New phone; lost all contacts… message me with your number please!”)

I’m going to go do some yoga. I actually told one of the Apple reps he made me want to throw my phone – and I meant it.

Customer Service

I took a day off last week to go to the Social Security office and to DMV, along with a few other spots, in pursuit of making my legal name-change official. (So yes, if you don’t follow me on Facebook, I have returned to my maiden name. Really though, once this election season is over, just Chan or Channon is plenty. [And if you are local, no I’m NOT Chan Bryant. We both use Chan as a nickname, but our given names are notably different, and I am not running for sheriff.])

I am going to guess DMV and Social Security offices look a lot alike all over the country. It would be foolhardy to suggest our local DMV is the only one understaffed, using a convoluted alpha-numeric “take a number” system (that actually has some logic behind it, strangely enough), but our local DMV has had a reputation for poor customer service and very long wait times, so I was only hoping that I’d get done with both efforts (literally across the street from each other, so no travel time involved) in time to tackle few other errands before the close of business.

I reviewed the requirements, filled out the applications and double-checked my documents before I headed out. I didn’t take it as a good sign when I met a computer kiosk for check-in at Social Security, but I waited fewer than five minutes, and wasn’t with the efficient representative in the back much longer than that before I exited with the receipt saying my new card would be in the mail.

Riding that wave, I was optimistic when I went across the street to DMV. I wasn’t shocked to hear I couldn’t get a Real ID without the actual Social Security Card, and given that I have no big travel plans ahead, I happily enough proceeded with the “Federal Limits Apply” version. After less than 10 minutes, my number was called and I found myself in front of the friendliest person ever to work at DMV. She answered a few almost random questions I had about the name change, Real IDs and more, and again, I was on my way with less than an hour invested in BOTH offices.

Next stop was the bank. My bank is actually a credit union, and for thirty years, we’ve had a love-hate relationship. Every time I am about to break up with them, someone with exemplary customer service wins me back. The branch manager at my favorite location won me back in spades after my purse was stolen last fall. The entire mortgage department locked me in indefinitely time and time again over the winter-to-spring refinance debacle (not their fault and not a story worth revisiting), and the two tellers I saw last Friday continued on the remarkable trend. Even their annoying app that brought me to tears the night of the stolen purse (no ability to shut down my card through the app!) is being continually improved.

It was a day filled with women dishing out good service with a smile, and I feel the universe owes them all this mention, even though they’ll likely never see it. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned much at all about my job in years, but the thread of customer service is continuous, from firefighter/medic/dispatcher to today’s Service Coordinator in a multi-franchise, spanning much of the state automotive dealership.

When pressed to define what I do, I laugh and say I bat clean-up. Others say I’m a Jill of all trades. The manufacturers I hold credentials with would likely say I’m alphabet soup (BDC, service advisor, brand champion, etc.), but in the end, I spend all day trying to assure happy customers, happy technicians, sane service advisors and more. So when I am on the receiving end, I have very high expectations of customer service and at the same time, I try to be very patient and tolerant when those hopes are dashed. I hope for good service, and I want to be as gracious as is humanly possible when I’m disappointed. I know some days it’s harder than others to leave not-work on the back burner while you are working, and almost without fail, the person waiting on you isn’t intentionally raining on your parade.

When was the last time you had great customer service? What businesses have earned your loyalty and trust?

And are you a customer who inspires above-and-beyond levels of service? There’s one customer in particular who is my role model. I met her just before she was diagnosed with cancer. Even when her brother had to drive her and the car in for service, she was radiant and exuded joy as she introduced him to me and thanked me for inquiring about her health. I think of her when I know my foul mood is showing, and it inspires me to exhale and smile whether I want to or not.

There’s a co-worker who is sarcastic and very much a realist, but he NEVER fails to speak or tap on my desk as he goes by, even if it’s the 15th time we’ve crossed paths before lunch. He’s the one who dubbed me Chanpagne. He just has an easy, humorous way about him, and even when he’s griping, I laugh. He also finds acerbic yet publicly appropriate ways to call me out when I have let someone get under my skin. We can’t all be PollyAnnas, but we can all make others’ days brighter, in our own ways.

So thank you, to those of you who have been along for the ride through the various renditions of my blog. Kindness and candor are always appreciated here, and many of you have helped me, taught me, more than you know.

Little Helpers

There’s so much I want to say and share, but digging deep and baring the soul is hard work. In the meantime, let’s get to know each other (again, better, etc.).

Today, it’s all about the little things I’ve discovered that make life easier, better. We are all about finding joy and laughter, crafting peace and living with grace.

Old friends know Gretchen is high maintenance. (Read: the dog is highly intelligent and overthinks everything, creating much anxiety in her little head.) I have mixed feelings about “home hubs” and too much automation, but the “puppy plug” changed our lives instantly.

Amazon calls it their own smart plug. We used it to replace the (broken) old school timer we were using to light the living room in the evenings, whether I was home or not. Here’s the best part: you don’t have to buy a hub! I downloaded the Alexa app, created an account linked to my Amazon account, and selected a pre-sunset turn on time.

Best of all, as long as the house and I both are connected to WiFi, I can do what I please with the plug. The pampered princess won’t have to be in the dark if I forget to bump the timer up or back as the nightfall moment changes. The pet sitter doesn’t have to remember to leave a light on for the girl. I don’t even have to remember to turn the light off.

Our perfect, precious sitter is much more than a little helper, and if you don’t know the story, Gretchen found her on her own. We are so, so grateful for our amazing neighbors, but especially so for that one young woman who loves Gg and tends to her happiness.

Chike is my morning everything. Thanks to the magic of manufactured nutrition, I get my coffee and the high protein breakfast I need in one large cup. I just can’t do FOOD in the morning, but I am not fit to be around without coffee and sustenance. I’ve used a lot of protein powders and Chike peanut butter flavor is the one constant on the smoothie shelf in the pantry.

I sure hope the summer heat is on its way out, but I need help staying hydrated year-round. I drink at least 100 ounces of water daily, but like a lot of people, I need electrolyte support sometimes. I keep a tube of Nunn tablets in my purse, at my desk at work and in the drawer at home. My favorite flavor is the watermelon, but I also like lemon lime, tropical and … all the flavors. I use the sport formula, but again, all of them taste great and work as advertised.

There are plenty of other goodies I use daily and loyally, but that’s the list for today. What makes your life easier?