Always the Student

Photo Always the Student

“It does not take much strength to do things, 
but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what do to”
Elbert Hubbard

First, there’s the line drawn down the center of a piece of paper, noting pros and cons. Then, there’s some research to be done on the subject. Next, I like to get the opinion of others. Young, old, eccentric, intellectual; their views all get mixed into that big black cauldron in my head. If I’m very quiet, I can begin to stir it up and sense what suggestions will start to rise to the top. Asking for advice and being open to criticism and suggestion takes practice. 

Really listening without speaking is even more difficult. Lately, I’ve decided to take advantage of the forced tranquil lifestyle that’s been dealt us all and concentrate on what I can learn from everyone that I’ve come into contact with. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • How an older gentleman reminded me that in the sink or swim restaurant business, his little catfish restaurant (now 42 years old) has endured, due in part to his motto “We do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
  • How 12 women exchanged their weekly lunch outings for brown bags and started using that money to support local charities in my town. Now 250 strong, this powerhouse of a women’s club has donated their time, talents and over $85,000 just last year. 
  • How one young man’s homage to his favorite uncle, who died too soon, sweetly lived on when he sported a bolo tie on a dating app photo and it caught the eye of a lovely young woman whose grandfather was also a fan of the style. To his surprise, on their first date, she sported her favorite bolo tie and the rest was history.
  • How the tides can change when a young man with a simple love of the ocean became an oceanographer and at 84 years of age wrote his first book, enlightening readers as to how tides and currents actually changed the course of history during historic wars. His first book has since been awarded the gold medal by the Military Writers Society of America.
  • How living in a home that is open to the public 365 days a year is not as glamourous as you might think. “Keep your memory short and your skin thick;” this shared from a Duchess who runs a 300-year old castle on 160 acres in England. On her first day, the then young bride, from a farm village who married into aristocracy, was “welcomed” by the staff when she heard them whispering “Have we broken her yet?” 
  • And, last but never least, how JC*, who never ceases to amaze me with her ageless sense of wonder, spunk and positive attitude, has powered through this last year. Whether she’s painting, knitting hats for charity (she was grateful to have one to wear when her power went out recently), playing Rummikub against herself for practice, reading or researching where our first post- COVID family vacation should be, she is the inspiration that reminds me how important it is to have a teachable spirit. 

If, at times, I can scramble out of my comfort zone, with humbleness and modesty at my side, helping me along the way; if I can walk with my arms open and let them be the antennae that captures all of life’s prospects, then I’ll be content to always be the student. 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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Decision Making: Lessons From Veggies, So You Don’t Get Steamed

 

Photo Veggies Decisions.png

Pity the poor cauliflower. Known as one of the world’s healthiest vegetables, it was content to swim in an occasional warm cheese sauce or crisp itself under some butter and breadcrumbs. Life was good, until some overzealous chefs convinced this seasoned, yet impulsive veggie to recreate itself as a starch. Now labelled as a faux, it graces dinner tables masquerading as rice or mashed potatoes, leaving foodies thrilled to discover a new craze, while confused as to its station, both in life and on the buffet line.

I don’t usually look to vegetables for life lessons, but in this case, I’ve made an exception. Having to choose between two or more courses of action can be quick and trivial or agonizingly life changing. Decisions constantly confront us and each person’s approach differs. Whether we do endless research, toss a coin or just put it off, we know that sooner or later, we need to deal with it.

According to the website skillsyouneed.com, the best method to help you come to a conclusion is to apply a combination of both intuition (that gut feeling) and reasoning (using facts and past experiences). Here are some simple steps they suggested to help improve the decision-making process:

  • Brainstorm: What are all the possible options available?
  • Time factor: How long do you have to make a decision? Will delay affect the outcome?
  • Information Gathering: research will help your confidence level.
  • Risk factors: Consider the worst possible outcome. Is it better to be safe?
  • Pros and cons: Put a line down the middle of a page and get to work.
  • Make the decision: Don’t allow yourself any “what ifs” and move on.

Here’s what I did not notice on the above list:

  • Fortunetelling: I still get chills when I think of the fortuneteller in a New York City restaurant, many years ago that guided me in making some important decisions and then disappeared, never to be found or heard from again.
  • The Ann Landers’ syndicated newspaper column: For 56 years, the column doled out advice and helped America make decisions from meatloaf ingredients to family disputes.
  • The pieces of paper that we folded up as children, wrote a series of end results down on each fold, then manipulated them in our hands to see which would one it would open to.
  • The eight ball: We would take turns asking it a question, turn it around a few times, the answer would magically appear and the yes, no, or maybe response always seemed to be the answer we had hoped for.

And now, back to cauliflower; not wanting to be considered a flash in the pan, he spiced up his life and had a heated fling with a carrot, resulting in the birth of orange cauliflower. Currently fresh out of rehab, cauliflower is now busy counseling zucchini as she makes her way down that same lonely road to stardom, playing the lead as the vegetable of choice with the Veggetti, the spiral vegetable cutter that will turn her into carbless pasta.