Kwitcherbitchin, or How I Solve Your Meal Planning Problems

Menu calendar. Win.

I may have already written a post with Kwitcherbitchin in the title, but I’m too lazy to check. When I was young, I used to go to a friend’s camp on a lake, and there was a little sign with Kwitcherbitchin painted on it. It took me forever to figure it out, but when I did I thought it was awesome. Anyhow, this post isn’t about signs or camps or friends. It’s about the negative Nellies, and it’s about food, and it’s about solving your meal planning problems forever.  A little history first.

This post is inspired by two recent articles: First, the article ‘What if You Just Hate Making Dinner’ by Virginia Heffernan. I despised this piece. Is part of a slew of recent articles and writing that are nothing more than whining and breaking down other people. I’m so incredibly tired of it. “Wahhh I don’t like making dinner”! “Wahhh! Look at these beautiful cookbooks full of things people have taken time and effort into making,I’m going to make fun of them!” It’s very mean girl. It really is. Secondly, there are SO many women using this tactic to make names for themselves sort of branding themselves as feminists. OK, we get it. You don’t like making dinner, you think people who put time and effort into making beautiful food are wasting their time. Good job. Good job making the rest of us feel like bad feminists for taking the time to make something to eat. We all know you can’t be a good feminist if you take care of your family and cook dinner. No, in fact you actively have to rail against it to be a good feminist. My other problem is this: What the hell is she eating? She spends the whole article whining about how she hates cooking, and then breaking down cookbooks that she thinks are dumb, without ever offering a solution to what she does. Is it all take out? She must have a lot of money. Also, she’s feeding the myths that 1. Cooking is hard and 2. Women MUST do all the cooking. OK, I’ll stop. Now I’m just railing against her railing. It’s a loop. But you should at least skim her article so this makes sense.

Michael Rhulman does a phenomenal job taking the Heffernan article to task in his post, “What if You Hate Cooking Dinner” If you must know, I think Michael Rhulman is friggin’ awesome, and highly recommend his books, especially The Making of a Chef   One of the best pieces of food writing I’ve ever read, and also one of my favorite books in general. I digress, again. Anyhow, Rhulman takes Heffernan to task, for many of the reasons I mentioned above but also adds what I think are some good, real word solutions. For example, just make some hot dogs with chips and good pickles. Cooking is not hard, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just read his article, it’s great. I’ll wait here.

Now that you’ve finished reading both of those articles, here’s what I have to say. Let me repeat: cooking is not hard. I think, from reading the Heffernan article, that a lot of her problem is planning. You know what’s not easy? Figuring out what you’re going to eat at 5:30 when your kids are freaking out and you just got home from ballet and everyone still needs to do homework and take baths. That downright sucks. Guess what, I’m going to tell you how to fix your meal planning problem for the rest of your life. I KNOW, RIGHT? Are you excited? I actually use this and it is life changing. Here’s what you do:

  1. Fire up Google Calendar or similar calendar program. It must have the ability to repeat events. Sharing is also a nice feature if you have family members that will also use this.
  2. Input a meal on each day of the week and then make it repeat based on how often you want to eat it. For example, I have beef stew on repeat every 6 weeks, but pizza is on repeat every week.
  3. Don’t forget to input days for takeout, and leftovers.
  4. Each week your menu is ready, and you can adjust as you want, but your ‘base’ is done.

There you go. Menu plans done for eternity. My planning is done, and I after shopping, I have ingredients for 5 meals a week (one night is takeout and one night is leftovers). I do not follow the menu/days of the week like a crazy person, except on takeout night (Friday) and I do a crockpot meal every Thursday because it’s a really busy day and I don’t have time in the evening. Sharing the menu calendar with your family allows anyone to look at it and say, “OK, we have stuff for tacos, fish chowder and roast chicken, which one do I want to make tonight?” Also, you can easily adjust it. So, if I’m looking at my menu for the week and I see crab cakes but  I’m just not into it, I just change it to something else. What’s important is that the base menu is done. Forever.

You’re welcome. Now go make a menu calendar and Kwitcherbitchin.


Little Goods and The Big Bads

It was even more beautiful in real life.

It was even more beautiful in real life.

My parents put their dogs to sleep yesterday. The dogs were sisters, 18 years-old, and suffering from a variety of ailments ranging from heart disease to deafness and random seizures/strokes. It was time for them to go, for sure. However, this loss was on the heels of a month of pretty hard hits. The loss of my brother in-law. A good friend lost her baby. And these are just things that pertain to my immediate life, the news is also filled with horrible things.

When I told my daughter that her grandparent’s dogs were gone she was pretty unmoved by it. She pointed out that they were really old, and calculated their dog-years at 136. Then, about an hour or so later she said, “When will all this bad stuff stop happening?” I stumbled around for an answer before dropping her off at ballet. I thought about her question for the next two hours. What I did not, and do not want, is a kid or anyone, including myself to become sucked down into the world of “All this bad stuff always happens to me” which is incredibly easy to let happen. I know people like this. People who take no joy in even big amazing happy things, because they are just waiting for the next bad thing. Because as you know, “bad things always happen to me.”  Here’s the thing – (SPOILER ALERT) This is true. Bad things are going to happen to you. They are going to happen to me. Bad shit happens to everyone. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are. It doesn’t matter what religion you are. Bad shit is going to go down. You are going to get divorced, or lose your parents, or lose your job, or go bankrupt or become disabled. Who knows?  You can’t control it. It’s just the way. What you can control is your perception of life and the world.

I’m going to try to explain this without being too New Agey. Let’s look at the examples I gave you of the bad things I’ve experienced over the past 30 days. 3. 3 really sad horrible things. Obviously bad things carry different weights, the loss of a dog is not as heavy as the loss of a loved one (some people are going to argue withe me here. Don’t. It’s not the same.)But let’s weight them the same and math this out. 3 bad things over 30 days. During those same 30 days, I’ve experienced hundreds of good things. Dozens and dozens of little moments that would be unnoticed if I hadn’t been paying attention. Things like, my son learning the word ‘Happy’ and saying it over and over. Hundreds of hugs and snuggles from both my kids. A nephew is due to arrive any moment. A lovely trip to the apple orchard that resulted in 40lbs of apples and consequently pies and crisps and other treats. I have a refrigerator full of food and a tank full of heating oil. And there are more. Many more. All of these little goods can easily be swallowed up by the big bads if I let them. And in the face of big bads, it takes genuine effort to pick out the little goods and acknowledge them. However, when you do, you start to realize that ‘bad things always happen to me’ is not true. What IS true is ‘bad things and good things happen’. But, how many times have you heard someone say, “Good things ALWAYS happen to me!”? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that. But it’s just as true as the converse. And honestly, a lot of the time life is about neither. It just is. Nothing is happening to you. You are just doing your thing, going to work, picking up the kids, making dinner, going to bed, etc. I’m going to put that in the good column. You don’t have to though, you can just put it in the neither box.

When I picked up my daughter from her ballet class she was all smiles. She’d had a great class. She loves ballet, she even invented a new stretch for ‘The other girls with long legs like me!’.

“These are the good things” I said. “These things, ballet, your friends, having fun, these are the good things that happen all the time.”  She didn’t say anything. Then, we both noticed that the sunset was incredible. I pulled over and took a picture. “This is another good thing. Look at this beautiful sky. If you are only thinking about bad things, you wouldn’t notice how pretty it is.”

“Mom. I get it. Roll up the window. Did you make tater-tots?”

And I had. And they were good.


First Ever Blog Giveaway!

I’ve decided to do a giveaway! No, I’m not trying to drum up likes or traffic. I think some bloggers, like me, actually give stuff away because they want to do something nice, and believe in a product. I’m giving away 2 copies of this book:

This book is amazing. While it is Buddhist pilosophy, I think that it could be useful for anyone of any religion or non-religion. (Shout out to the Atheists!) I myself, in case you were wondering, am Agnostic. The most wishy-washy of all religious types. I pretty much steal from everyone and mash it up how I see fit. I digress. Back to the book, it’s fantastic. It’s not just for times of grieving or hard times, it’s a great read even if things are going well.

As Amazon says, this book explains:
•  Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
•  Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down
•  Practices for reversing habitual patterns
•  Methods for working with chaotic situations
•  Ways for creating effective social action

I mean, who couldn’t benefit from this book?

I’ve decided to do a giveaway because I love this book so much I’ve been wanting to send it to everyone I know. I feel that strongly about it. However, it might seem odd to my friends if they all just start getting copies of this book in the mail. By doing a giveaway, people can just tell me they want it!

Oh, I’m supposed to let you know, this is totally my own thing. I’m not being paid to do this giveaway. Amazon doesn’t have anything to do with it, Pema Chodron doesn’t have anything to do with it. I don’t know her, or anyone at Amazon. (I think that should cover it, right?)

So! If you want a copy of this book, just write a comment. Only enter once. Don’t be greedy. If you enter more than once, and you win, I will not send you the book! How do you like that, cheaters?

I will select 2 winners at random in 2 weeks. (Oct 10, 2014) Good luck!

PS, if this goes well, I might do more book giveaways. I love books.

PPS, it would be really nice if you’d share this far and wide. I’d like to spread the love for this book, but you don’t get extra entries or anything. Also, be sure to comment HERE and not on FB. Thank you.

Grateful. Humble. Lucky

Via Creative Commons

I’ve been thinking about writing thank-you cards. Notice I didn’t say, “I’ve been writing thank-you cards”. I can’t quite find the words to express the depth of my gratitude to each individual person that’s helped me. For some reason, it’s easier and seems more meaningful to let the world know how I’m feeling right now. If you know me personally, you know that I recently lost my brother in-law. We were friends for over 20 years. I will miss him every day. I wrote a little about it here.

After he died, I debated for a few days about whether or not to say anything about it on Facebook. Yes, I’d made dozens of phone calls to inform those closest to him about his passing, but something about social media seemed so strange. Also, he hated Facebook. I decided to go ahead and do it, it was the fastest way to inform everyone I knew, and by proxy most of the people he knew what had happened. The response was both what I expected and entirely unexpected. Dozens of shocked and saddened friends e-mailed and called me offering support and sympathy. Friends that I hadn’t spoken to in years reached out. It was a humbling and enlightening experience. Thank you.

Aside from social media, my family received the normal offers of support. I am not trying to minimize these offerings in any way. All of it was extraordinarily helpful and kind.  Food, cards, offers to babysit, hugs. We needed these things badly. I had a terrible bout of insomnia and didn’t sleep for 3 days. Meatballs and chicken soup and lasagna from friends kept me going, not just because I needed food, but because I knew that all of these things were prepared for our family out of love, and with each bite I was reminded of the support system we have. Thank you.

I experienced something I was totally unprepared and am eternally grateful for. Friends peeled back protective layers of carefully curated bandages and armor and showed me their scars and grief tattoos. They pointed to these old wounds and said, “This is where I sustained a near mortal wound. It hurts still. I don’t like talking about it, but I will, with you, because I love you. Because it will help.” And we talked about lost siblings, and mothers, and fathers, and grandparents, and best friends. And they all told me almost the exact same thing, “I didn’t think I could get through this, but I did. You will too. It will be OK.” They all said, “Anything you feel is normal. Grief is weird. Your body is weird. Just roll with it.” In order to help me, these friends opened up and exposed brutal old wounds. It was an extremely courageous and loving thing to do. Thank you.

I’m still going to send some cards, but I just want the world to know what an amazing group of people I have in my life. I am lucky. Thank you.


100 Days

This 100 thinger came from

I’m not going to lie, I’m writing this post mostly because I have a ton of other things to do. I’m staring at a huge pile of laundry, and I have some assignments due for school. (Oh you didn’t know I’m back in school? I am. I’ll tell you more about it later) Anyhow, you guys know I love making challenges and joining things and whatnot, right? Go check out the unreasonable goals. That’s my annual list.

In light of recent events, I’ve made 3, 100-day challenges for myself. That is, I would like to do each thing consecutively for 100 days.  However, much to the dismay of my OCD, I started them all on different days. Oh well. Anyhow, this is the craziness I’m up to right now.

100 day plan.

Exercise – 20 minutes every day – minimum. No excuses. I am currently on Day 7.

No Booze. 100 Days – currently on Day 14.

Daily 10-minute Writing Prompt Exercise – currently on Day 1.

I am not going to post my daily progress on these. Maybe I will just make a spreadsheet. Nay, I will definitely make a spreadsheet. I love that shit.

Why am I doing this? I don’t know. I like doing things like this. I got inspired by Jillian Michaels 100-Day challenge, but I like doing other things than just her workouts, so I changed it a bit. The no booze is just a self-improvement experiment. The writing is something I’ve been needing to commit to for a long time.

I like keeping busy. I like measuring progress. I like setting difficult but attainable goals.

The Grief Tattoo

This is how I envision my grief tattoo. Could be worse, I guess. If you have a grief tattoo, post it in the comments. It’s very freeing to put an image with your horrible tattoo. Via Uproxx

I lost my brother in-law a little less than 2 weeks ago. It’s been incredibly painful for everyone that knew him. I’ve had a hard time. I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning a lot. It’s only been 11 days, I cannot profess to be the grief guru yet, but I did want to share something that I have realized and I think will remain a constant through throughout this process:

Grief is not something you get through.

Now, now. Don’t freak out on me here. Bear with me a moment, OK? When I am going through something, I am an obsessive researcher and reader and reacher-outer. So much I’ve read online is about ‘getting through grief’. Here’s what I say, “That’s Bullshit”. Grief is not something you get through. Grief is something you absorb. It is not a marathon or a Tough-Mudder. You will not power through it via endurance or brute strength. Grief is more like being held down and tattooed against your will. It sneaks up on you while you are just doing your thing, throws you in the back of a van with some huge scary dudes who proceed to tattoo something horrible and not of your choosing onto you. It is  frightening and incredibly painful at first. It burns a lot. It’s violating and traumatizing. Then, the dudes let you out of the van with a couple of band-aids and some tubes of antibacterial cream. Huh. That was weird and horrible, right? Your new tattoo throbs and aches and oozes blood and clear stuff. But no matter how much you hate it, you must not let it get infected, at all costs. Put the cream on it. Keep it clean. Tend to it every day. Try very hard not to pick the scabs and crust that form over it. Oh, it itches so much. SO MUCH. It drives you crazy, this new, unwanted tattoo. You want to claw at it and rip it off and dig the newly healed spots. But you can’t. You mustn’t. You must keep putting that salve on it. Eventually, it starts to get better. I don’t know when yours will feel better. People heal at different rates. Someday you will be left with a completely healed, horrible tattoo you don’t want. You will look at it every day, but it won’t hurt anymore. You will be able to point to it and say, ‘Let me tell you how I got this really stupid tattoo I hate.” and you can tell the story.

And that is why you don’t get through grief. You just let it sink into your skin like ink, and you learn to live with it, and you will hate it, but it’s OK. It’s part of you now.