Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Pie Theory

My mom, without a doubt, makes the world’s best rhubarb pie.  I mean it’s not even close.  The thing is just absolutely unreal, and no words I use could possibly do this pie justice.  That’s how good it is.  I love this pie.  The funny thing here is that for the longest time, I wouldn’t even eat the pie.  Well not all of it anyway.
My mom makes her rhubarb pie in the spring every year, that’s when the rhubarb grows in the backyard, as it has for as long as I’ve lived.  Every year usually in the first week or two of May, when the rhubarb has gotten long enough, my mom would go out and pick some stalks.  We’d cut off the leaves, clean the rhubarb and chop it up.  We’d usually make at least a dozen or so pies.  A couple for family, a couple for neighbors, and some for coworkers.  Rhubarb pie time was always an event in the Stueck neighborhood.
As I became an adult, I would always look forward to getting my pie from mom, even if I wasn’t helping make them anymore.  As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t eat all the pie.  I’d have one piece and in the fridge it would go, and there it would sit.  You see, I really liked the idea of having pie to come home to.  The thought that I had pie at home made everything else in life that much better.  Bad day at work?  At least you’ve got pie at home…  Car needs some repairs?  At least you’ve got pie at home…  You get the idea.  Well eventually you have pie at home for long enough that the pie goes bad.  No more pie, but it was good while it lasted right?  
The photo I sent my mom as
proof of eating the pie.
The problem here is that I never got to enjoy the whole pie.  My enjoyment, while it was nice to look forward to, was never fulfilled.  I would have gotten so much more out of eating the pie, as it’s meant to be.  Instead I was worried that there would be no more pie.  There’s no shortage of rhubarb out there, there’s no reason to think I couldn’t ask my mom to bake another pie, or better yet, have her show me how to do it.  But I didn’t do any of those things, I held on to one thing in fear of not having it again.  What else am I hanging on to in life out of fear of it going away?  What else am I not getting what I could out of it out of fear that it would be used up?
Shortly after sharing this pie theory with my mom, she showed up at my house with a pie and a request.  “Eat the whole pie, enjoy the whole pie”  I did, and it was fantastic.  Obviously, I didn’t eat it all at once, but I enjoyed it, every day without fear of it running out or being gone.  There will always be more pie in life, just like there will always be more of the important things, don’t hold on to something in hopes of enjoying it in the future, enjoy what you’ve got now.  Mom will always make you another pie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why your Dad’s horrible music was good for you

       When I was growing up, my dad had a joke.  He would say that he likes “Both kinds of music…..  Country AND Western.”  Then we’d proceed to listen to the twangiest old bad country music the 1980’s had to offer on our 3 hour trips up north.  Then of course there were the chores that needed to be done.  Whether it be shoveling, doing the dishes, or helping to scrape window frames or the old farm house for painting, if I didn’t like it, it “built character”.  Everything built character, mowing the lawn, my first manual labor jobs, or complaining about the long days when my own kids were young(er).  It seemed as though if it made me the least bit uncomfortable it built character.

I started thinking about all this on a recent trip with the kids when I decided to play the song “Shotgun Willie”  by Willie Nelson.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, please take a break now and listen to it.  As soon as I started playing it, I got groans from everybody and the earbuds all went in.  Later I noticed on our cable TV of 2 million plus channels, that we no longer need to sit through commercials, and the options are definitely more varied than the 4 channels we had to get up to change when I was young.  I could go on and on about how rough I had it compared to my kids, like video games!  I had to win a fluke bingo game in order to get my half of the money for a Nintendo, now the kids can play just about anything on their iPods, AND TAKE IT ANYWHERE!!  I’ll stop going on and on now.  My point here isn’t to complain about the old up hill both ways thing, but to wonder where do the kids “building character” moments come from now that they aren’t innately built in to every day life?  They don’t have to sit through stupid Bob Uecker Miller Lite commercials any more, although I’d love to see those make a come back!  Kids don’t have to put up with a “bad song” being on the radio, the next one is at their finger tips.  Hopefully they are still doing some chores around the house and grumbling about that.  

This isn’t going to be a post where I offer some great answer.  Everyone parents differently, and there is no wrong answer.  So I’m going to leave it with a question.  Where am I giving the kids the opportunity to build character, and to be ok with a moment that isn’t quite perfect?  Where am I teaching the kids to enjoy both kinds of music?  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What socks taught me about multitasking and productivity

Laura and I have 5 kids.  When you have 5 kids, you have a lot of socks to match.  A. LOT.  If I were smart, I would match these socks after every load of laundry and the kids would put them away and all would be right with the world.  Obviously this doesn’t happen, and on occasion our sock situation gets to the point where there is a laundry basket full of socks sitting there waiting to be dealt with.  Right next to that basket there are 5 kids complaining that they don’t have socks to wear.  Most of the time this chore gets passed to the kids to take care of, and the pile goes nowhere.  

When the sock situation gets sufficiently out of control, I’ll suck it up and sit down in attempts to get my laundry basket back and get matched socks back in the kids drawers.  This entails me taking over the living room floor and starting my grand scheme to match.  I’ll have my socks to my left, in two piles, athletic, and work.  In front of me I’ll have 3 or 4 different piles for the kids, and to the right I’ll have a pile for Laura.  It’s quite the elaborate system.  Most of the time I’ll be ready to burn them all by the time I just get them sorted into these piles.  Also most of the time Laura will come and sit next to me.  Then something amazing happens, she just starts matching socks!  No separating into piles, no athletic vs work, no kids vs adult.   She just matches them.  Typically Laura will match 7 or 8 pair to my one.  How is this possible?  How can she be so productive at matching socks without a system?  How does my system and plan fail so miserably?  I believe the answer here is that she sees one problem.  She has one sock that needs a match, she finds a match for that sock, i.e. solves that problem and moves on to the next “problem”.  I on the other hand have 30 socks that need matches, and I’m trying to solve 30 problems at once.  In hindsight it’s easy to see why Laura is so much more efficient at matching socks.  Solving one problem and then moving on to the next is way more efficient than trying to solve 30 at once.  Now take this scenario into other areas of life.  How productive are you when you’ve got 100 things on your to do list and a significant other or kids or pets wanting your time and attention as well, and the list keeps piling up?  Do you drown yourself in issues, and feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done?  If you’re like me sometimes that answer is yes.  Productivity goes way down and frustration goes way up.  So next time  you’re faced with a to do list that is a mile long and feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, “How would Laura match these socks?”  Then take one item from that list and do it well and move on to the next.  You’ll be much happier and productive for it.