Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letting Go in the Rain

On a recent road trip, I had the coveted passenger seat while my skilled driver for a husband navigated our way through many miles in a torrential downpour. Me? I would have pulled over and waited out the storm. There is a certain amount of visibility I desire while driving, and this rainstorm didn’t allow for much to be seen.

This recent trip had way more rain that I was used to seeing and I frequently found myself engaging in as many personal relaxation techniques as I could remember. Look off to the side and not at the road in front of me. Breathe slowly. Think positive thoughts. This time, I raised the bar—I prayed our way through the storms. Quietly, of course. I worked hard at being silent. I wanted to say “Why don’t you pull over?” but instead I sent my quiet thoughts upward. God, help us. God, protect our family. God, don’t let us hydroplane. God, let my husband choose to pull over. (Okay, so I want to have some control here but I think God understands.) God, protect us as if in a bubble. God, let that truck behind us slow down.

And then it hit me. I needed to trust. I needed to trust my husband’s driving ability and I needed to trust God. This trust required that I look somewhere other than what it was that was worrying me. I needed to simply go along for the ride and my only job was to turn off the crazy thoughts. Sounds so easy and yet it is so difficult to do.

By the way, I had one final prayer that afternoon. Thank you, God. The rain cleared.

Tip of the week:
Slow down. Slowing down to think about what I eat and slowing down while I am eating are both tips I need to remember for success in maintaining my health. I think it’s good to slow down while driving in a torrential rainstorm too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

I love to bake. Always have. Why? Because I love to eat. Still do, after losing over 100 pounds. My favorite? Sweets—in any way, shape or form.

There’s a downside to baking, though. Maintaining my weight loss of over 100 pounds requires that I change how often I indulge in this fun hobby. I can’t afford to bake, and eat, the oven-fresh deliciousness of cakes, cookies and breads on a regular basis. Yes, I still bake from time to time but far less often than I used to.

A recent family celebration gave me an excuse for the fun opportunity to bake again! The cake: an old-time classic called “1-2-3-4 Cake” for my mother-in-law’s birthday. This beautifully large white cake, topped with homemade frosting, is an indulgent result of the simple recipe with a few ingredients.

There was one problem, though. The recipe itself.

You see, I have attempted to bake this cake dozens of times over the years, and it never quite worked. Instead of a cake, I’d get a pancake. Why can’t I get this simple cake to work properly? I tried again for the birthday event. I pulled out the slightly stained and bent index card from the recipe box with the familiar handwriting of a family friend listing the ingredients and instructions. I engaged in some of my favorite activites: I stirred, blended, poured, tested, baked, cooled and frosted, and then it was time to cut the cake.

It fell. Again.

This time, I decided to check the recipe itself. I never considered the recipe to be a problem before, since it was a hand-printed treasure from my wedding shower. I still have the collection of recipes I received along with the shower gifts that day, and many of them are old-time favorites like this cake recipe. But every time I baked this cake, and it fell, I checked and fixed all the usual potential problems: my oven temperature, the ingredients themselves, and the length of time to bake the cake.

Onto the internet I went. Recipe research resulted in one simple flaw in my version: my recipe indicated that I should beat the final batter for TWENTY minutes before baking. This is unusually long, but a dense cake, like this one, can require this length of time for the proper batter consistency. I never questioned it. My research, on the other hand, corrected the flaw. It became evident that the final batter is to be mixed for TWO minutes, not TWENTY. One little zero—from a two to a twenty, and my recipe problem is solved.

I think it’s funny how one little flaw, one little zero, can make a big difference. Years and years of trying to make this cake with the wrong recipe produced the wrong results.

It’s like this in life, too. If I proceed with the wrong recipe for success, I will surely get the wrong results. Every time. This cake-baking experience reminds me to be concerned with the little things in life more often. There are little zeros that can make all the difference. For me, those little zeros are habits like giving a smile to a person I pass on the street, letting the other car pass me on the road, slowing down to give my family members a hug, noticing the flowers in bloom in the neighborhood. Little things like reminding my husband I love him, making sure to take my morning Bible time, and thanking God all along for everything, even flopped cakes.

Tip of the week:
When I am tempted while making favorite treats, like 1-2-3-4 Cake, I make sure to pop a piece of gum in my mouth to help remind me not to lick the batter. The chewing gum trick comes in handy at other times, too, like cooking dinner.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bumper Car Insights

It’s summertime and with it comes the amusement park excursions. Recently, I visited an amusement park with an old-time feel; it has been in existence since the 1940’s and is still thriving due to the family-oriented, relaxed environment combined with amusement park rides of decades past. It’s fun to ride on the same type of carousel, tilt-a-whirl and teacup I rode as a kid. The true classic that struck a chord with me was the bumper cars.

I’m not 20 years old anymore; that single fact helped me to decide against going on the bumper cars. Yes, they’re fun, but I wasn’t up for the jolting impact of a stranger’s ride slamming me into my next chiropractic adjustment. It was a blast, however, watching the riders. I noticed two types of bumper car drivers: those who look for the most ‘bumping’ opportunities and enjoy slamming their cars into as many people as possible. The second: those who enjoy driving the car around and around and avoiding the jammed collisions of the first type. What’s interesting? Both types of people are smiling. They both engage in this same ride with different focuses and yet still have the time of their lives.

It’s like that in life: we’re all on the same ride, potentially going in circles. We all have choices to make—do we ‘slam’ the others or ride around in circles with the intention to avoid the collisions? Even though both types of people are smiling, I’ve learned that the shared smiles do not imply shared experiences. It’s personal, whether we think it’s fun to go in circles or collide. The only common factor is seeking after the fun. It’s pretty obvious: no one choose the bumper car ride to have an experience that won’t make them smile. In life, we have choices on how we ride our own circles of experience: with a smile. I pray we are all blessed with those smiles today.

Tip of the week:
Need more water!? Use a straw! We all know it’s important for our health and hydration, especially on hot summer days, to drink a lot of water. Sometimes it’s hard to drink the amount of water we need. I found it’s easier to drink faster when using a straw. I don’t know why, but it works. Try it out!