Stand up, sit down, oh never mind

I’m coming to grips with the fact that whatever I do, it’s never quite right. Anything. Everything. No matter what any of us do, it’s never quite right.

I was pacing before I wrote that opening paragraph.

Why?

Because researchers say we sit too much. Even if you exercise 30 minutes a day, sitting for extended periods increases risk for developing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

I wrote the previous paragraph sitting, but nonalcoholic fatty liver disease sounds so disgusting that I’m standing again. I don’t have a treadmill workstation or standing desk, so I am upright with my back and shoulders hunched so my fingers can reach the keyboard. I am probably doing damage to my spine.

Ergonomic experts suggest that for every half-hour of office work, people should sit for 20 minutes, move around for 8 and stretch for 2. To accommodate all that non-productive stretching and moving around time, the 40-hour work week could easily expand to 60.

Another suggestion is to go cycling 10 minutes of every hour. Still another suggestion is to avoid the conference table and schedule walking meetings. Why not just cycle while you meet?

There’s more, but you’ll want to sit down for this one. Other ergonomic experts warn that too much standing can also have negative effects: varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease. I guess to be healthy, you need to be a virtual Jack-in-the-Box.

Plus, it turns out we’re losing our grip on our handgrip strength. According to the Journal of Hand Therapy, millennial males have far less grip strength than their 1985 male counterparts. If they’d done studies on young males fresh out of the service after World War II, they would have encountered men like my father and all of my uncles who all enjoyed exchanging crushing handshakes. Too much or not enough?

Then there’s the battle over carbs. My personal physician, Dr. Web, MD, states that eating too few carbohydrates causes blood sugar to dip too low and eating too many carbs can elevate blood sugar.

Whether I am eating too many or too few, I am doing the wrong thing and not getting it right.

The coffee debate never stops brewing. One camp claims drinking several cups a day will make you smarter, help burn fat and lower your risk of Type II diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and is good for your liver. In the other corner of the ring people claim that coffee causes restlessness and insomnia, leaches minerals from your body and is addictive.

What we all need to do is sit down, stand up, grab a coffee, run in place, take a load off, stretch for two minutes, dump the coffee, cycle a while, have a seat on the sofa, eat some carbs, abandon pasta, practice opening vacuum-sealed jars and think these things through.

I’m reasonably certain you’ll come to the same conclusion I did—it’s impossible to get it right.

Calling all chocolate mice to the kitchen

As requested by a number of readers, here is the recipe for the chocolate cookie mice mentioned in last week’s column on traditions that come with a “tail.” Ahem. Am posting a few other goodies as well.

A word of warning, I left the mice on the counter a week ago and a certain 3-year-old kept buzzing in and out of the kitchen with an oh-so-happy look on her face. She’d been eating the tails.  Not big on chocolate shortbread, but loves licorice!

Lock ’em up! The cookie mice — not the kids!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and may the spirit of thankfulness to God, the “Giver of every good and perfect gift from above,” permeate every day of your life, rain or shine.

Chocolate Cookie Mice

3/4  C  granulated sugar

1/2  C butter or margarine, softened

1/2  C  shortening

1  tsp vanilla extract

1  egg

2 1/4  C  all-purpose flour, or unbleached

1/4  C  unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2  tsp  baking powder

72    miniature chocolate chips

36    red or black licorice strips, cut into 2″ pieces

Preheat oven to 325

Beat the sugar, butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and egg; blend well. Add the flour, cocoa and baking powder; mix well. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls.

To form a mouse, pinch one end of the ball to form the nose. For the ears, make 2 tiny balls of dough and flatten slightly; gently press into the dough on the upper front of each mouse body. For the eyes, press 2 miniature chocolate chips into the dough below the ears. Place the shaped cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 13 minutes, or until set. For the tails, immediately place a piece of licorice into the rounded end of each cookie. Remove from the cookie sheets.



Thankfulness as a way of seeing

Saying, “Thank you,” is one of the first social graces we teach children.

One of the criticisms of Alexa, a popular voice-controlled virtual assistant—an electronic tower you can set in the center of your home and order to play songs, solve math problems give you the time, the temperature and even tell knock-knock jokes—is that it conditions children to be demanding.

Alexa doesn’t require that children say thank you; she just does what she’s told. Ask and you shall receive, just like that.

But why single out the kids? Many of us find ourselves in short supply when it comes to being thankful.

We have a natural tilt toward the negative.

There are 150 psalms in the Old Testament. Roughly 33 of them are psalms of thanksgiving and 54 are psalms of lament.

The nays have it by nearly a 2:1 ratio.

Thankfulness doesn’t often come naturally. The whining and complaining, the grievances and the sulking—now, those come naturally.

But thankfulness? It’s a tender shoot that needs nurturing. It’s far more multi-dimensional than making a list on paper. Routinely practiced, thankfulness becomes a way of seeing.

Thankful people often share a common denominator. Threads of suffering have woven through their lives—hardship, health problems, unexpected setbacks, outright failures and tragedy. But in an ironic twist, thankful people see not so much what they lack, but what they have. They exercise a boldness that, despite difficulty, reaches deep and gives thanks for the blessings and bounty before them.

It would be like starting out on a voyage across the Atlantic, confident that God is the wind in your sails, then struggling for two long months at sea under wretched conditions. You finally arrive at your destination, which turns out to be a wilderness far more raw and untamed than any had imagined. You hurriedly build primitive shelters and face off against a brutal winter.

The food supply shrivels. Scurvy, small pox and influenza rage. The sick tend to the sick. There is death and more death. Parents lose children, children lose parents and parents lose one another.

By spring, half of the original sailing party has died. A native of the land wanders into the crude settlement and teaches people how to fish and forage for food.

In the fall, a bountiful harvest follows. The natives who befriended you, Samoset and Squanto, gather members of their community to join with you for a thanksgiving feast that lasts three days.

What about the dead? What about all that suffering and loss? The suffering and loss are not erased or forgotten, but a choice was made—not to dwell on that which they lacked, but to give thanks to God for that which they had.

Thanksgiving was a way of life for the Pilgrims. In circumstances that made sense and in circumstances beyond human understanding, they lived the words of the psalmist, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord.”

 

Some family traditions come with a tail

The mice are back.

No, not that kind, the chocolate shortbread kind. You roll a small ball of dough, shape it like the body of a teeny tiny mouse, pinch out two teeny tiny ears on each side, place two teeny tiny miniature chocolate chips for eyes, bake them, remove them from the oven and carefully insert teeny tiny strings of licorice for tails.

And then you lose your teeny tiny mind.

I’ve made them for years. Then, a few years ago, someone said she never really cared for them. That was essentially a declaration of war in my book, but I got over it because we are related by blood.

I quit making the mice. Hey, the mice and I don’t need a rat trap to know when we’re not wanted.
This morning I had an email asking if I would be making the mice. It was from one of the kids (and yes, she’s my favorite right now) who enjoyed the mice and wants her little ones to enjoy them, too.

I hereby sanction the chocolate mice as official family tradition.

It has occurred to me that many family traditions are born of accident as much as they are of intentionality.

I can’t let go of the story about a woman whose husband asked why she always cut the end of the ham off before she baked it. She retorted, “Because that’s how my mother did it!”

One day she asked her mother why she always cut the end of the ham off and her mother said, “Because I never had a pan large enough for the whole ham.”

The one unnegotiable tradition of Thanksgiving is the turkey because it was what the pilgrims ate. Of course, they had fish, too. Fish and fowl. Some holidays, when I’m wrestling the big bird, I dream of whipping up to the corner Fish and Chicken and returning with a big bucket—fish and fowl, just like the Pilgrims. The gesture would not be warmly received, so I continue a second round with the big bird.

A friend had a tradition of making Sloppy Joes every Halloween using a recipe her mother had used. There’s no tie between Sloppy Joes and Halloween, but it was a tradition that became part of their family.

My mother-in-law had a holiday tradition of making sweet potatoes in her electric skillet. A stick of butter, mountains of brown sugar—it was decadent. And delicious. I would continue her tradition, but who has an electric skillet?

My mother, her mother and all my mother’s sisters always made Waldorf salad for holiday dinners. If I asked our brood if they’d like Waldorf salad, they would answer in unison, “Huh?”

I suppose that’s my fault. I let the tradition slip.

Family traditions are reminders of who we are, the tables we came from and ties to those who have gone before.

I’m suddenly hungry for Waldorf salad.

The Sock Slider should have been mine

I’ve come up with a fair number of inventions in my time, but most of the things I’ve wanted to invent have already been invented by someone else.

The antibacterial wipes you pull out of a canister one at a time to wipe down countertops and door handles? My idea. Clorox beat me to it. By about three years.

Frozen yogurt? That was mine, too. I was freezing yogurt in high school and pretending it was ice cream. But it froze like granite and was nearly impossible to chip off a bite to eat. Eventually scientists invented a process to keep frozen yogurt smooth and creamy. I like to think I was in on the ground floor.

Press’n Seal was mine, too. I remember standing in the kitchen one day thinking, “What if you crossed wax paper with plastic wrap?” Then I went to the store and there it was.

When Facebook dawned, our son registered his dog, Max, for an account. Max immediately got 20 furry friends. I toyed with launching Pawbook. I never got around to it. Just as well. I’d be tangled in lawsuits with Mark Zuckerberg and defending Marmaduke from accusations of fake news posts.

All of which brings me to the Sock Slider. Have you seen it? Oh my.

The Sock Slider is one of those As Seen on TV wonders. It is a small, blue plastic contraption that you stretch a sock over and then slide in your foot.

I’ve been beating myself up for days over the Sock Slider.  It so should have been mine.

“Why?” you ask.

Because anyone who has ever engaged in battle with a pair of tights or pantyhose should have envisioned the Sock Slider.

What woman can’t count the number of near-death experiences she’s had trying to put on pantyhose? There you are, stretching an elastic waistband made with incredible built-in resistance, holding it taut, while attempting to scrunch up the legs of tights or pantyhose, standing on one leg, poising the other leg for insertion when ZAP! You lose control of the waistband. It zings back on you and catapults you onto your backside.

If someone already patented a Sock Slider, you can be sure the Pantyhose Slider isn’t far behind.

I’m not happy with my invention record to date, but I’m not out of the game yet. I have more ideas in the works.

How about a purse that lights up on the inside when you open it? Genius, right? No more digging in the dark. You can see to the bottom of your handbag.

OK, one more. The outdoor mat that cleans the bottom of your shoes. It’s like a wet jet Swiffer or an upside down Bona mop. You step on the mat; your weight triggers a mist beneath your shoes. Then you wipe your shoes dry on the textured (machine washable) upper half of the mat and enter the house with clean shoes.

Call me, Shark Tank.

I know, I know. I’m keeping my day job.