Posts Tagged With: community

Turn on the Slow Cooker and Let It Simmer a While

While hanging out at this service thing with a bunch of people a couple of  weekends ago I witnessed tons of hugs, hellos, smiles and general all around friendliness. Maybe even a bit too much chattiness and not enough getting-er’done going on. But that’s okay.

photo-25 copy 9I’m near two women when one leans over to the other and says, “I love how everyone’s so friendly even though we all come from so many different walks of life.”

The other woman replies, “That’s so right! It’s like this place works like a great big crock-pot.”

The other woman agreed wholeheartedly.

I had to perform some mental gymnastics to stop myself from correcting her metaphor. I’m sure she actually meant to say “melting pot” not “crock-pot.”

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about that metaphor:

melting pot 

1 a place (such as a city or country) where different types of people live together and gradually create one community

2  a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole

3 a process of blending that often results in invigoration or novelty

That term was first used around 1887 about immigrants to the United States as they assimilated, contributed and became part of the culture here.

To clarify, a crock-pot, or slow cooker, simmers or cooks at a very low temperature over many hours. This process tenderizes meats, rarely burns the food, and simplifies meal preparation and cleanup. It’s one of my favorite appliances.

Can you see why I felt a little queasy at the mixed up metaphor?

Imagine a big pot of melted cheese (with a side of tortilla chips please.) Mmm. I could go for some Queso about now, couldn’t you? That’s how I picture a melting pot. Everything blends together into one big indistinguishable gooey mass of deliciousness. There’s nothing that really stands out or looks different. It’s all good, but it’s all one flavor.

Photo By jeffreyw (mmm...veggie beef soup  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0

Photo By jeffreyw (mmm…veggie beef soup Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0

I like the crock-pot image better for what my friend observed and tried to put into words.

After a day of simmering, whatever ingredients thrown into the pot in the morning still seem familiar and beckoning in the evening. Carrots, meat, potatoes, onions, peas, celery have spent enough time together enduring the heat that they’ve sort of shared flavors with each other along with the spices and broth in the pot. Lifting the lid on such a concoction sends out such an aroma of comfort.

Or maybe what you throw in the crock-pot is beans, rice, corn, meat, tomatoes, green or red chili peppers, onion and garlic. Ten hours of basking in the heat makes for melt in your mouth, warm up your belly wonderful nuances of shared flavors and mixed tastes. Nothing beats a big bowl of chili this time of year, with autumn singing its promising song.

Isn’t that what we want when interacting with people different from us? A little something of them rubbing off on us and maybe a bit of us making them a bit sweeter or spicier? Spending time together, even if only metaphorically, ought to make everything better.

Expecting a kind of total agreement and sameness sounds so boring and sad. Imagine cheese dip every single day, all year long, every year.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to these wise words:

“Just as the natural environment depends on biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.” ~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

I love that idea! Pluralism really does define how society naturally works best. In case you were wondering the Oxford English Dictionary defines pluralism this way:


1 A condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority etc. coexist.

2 form of society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions. 

Reasonable, right? That’s what I think, too!

imagesWhat worries me happens when political correctness or peer pressure or social media onslaught demands conformity from everyone. Seems to me that insisting on complete and total agreement, drowning out differences of opinion actually takes away from the idea of unity that all those louder, bigger voices say they want.

Tension and repression and discord become the norm and actually kill off unity.

Some days I feel like I’m watching this country attempting to force a giant stew into a blender and turn it into baby food. Ick! Nothing delectable there.

Can’t we just simmer down and enjoy each other’s differences and work together somehow for a happy outcome?

The crock-pot’s set on low for a while.

I’ll bring a few loaves of fresh-baked bread, if you’ll bring along some butter.


Categories: good ideas, People, Politics? | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

We Get By with a Little Help from our Friends

My sister-in-law, Cheri Mitchell, a super-star woman with incredible energy and optimism who’s also a nurse, took off for Nairobi, Kenya a month ago to see what she could do to help lighten the load and smooth the path for a few people there.

The photos she’s sent and the status updates she’s posted have added perspective and angst to my life. I feel so decadent here in America when I see and read about life in the orphanage where she’s volunteering.

Today, I’m sharing a tiny part of what she’s experienced so far, gleaned with her permission, from her Facebook page.



“Some of the very happy sweet kids at the KCC Slum project. Also a pic of their water supply. Volunteers built a filtration system to clean it. Some previous volunteers started a school there and are doing amazing work. Living conditions are below poverty level yet they are all smiling. I don’t think I have a thing to complain about…Feeling grateful.” 
tents“Same day Thursday, we also visited an IDP camp (internally displaced persons), they live in “tents” made of what ever they can find, old rice bags, plastic sacks, sticks, cardboard, tin, etc. It was truly heartbreaking for me. Overwhelmed with the cycle of poverty, yet again, smiling. The children were so happy to see volunteers and have new people to play with. We played soccer, and some of them taught us some songs.”

“We brought flour with us for the families, bagged it and distributed it to them. They were very grateful and appreciative, some of them did little dances of joy.  Wish we could have brought more… Very humbling day.”
“A clean pit latrine…”
pit latrine

“First day at Wakimai children home.. with Jorge. They need lots of love and play time…there was also puppies and kittens, and baby chickens.”

mortuary sign“Today was the funeral service and burial for a baby boy from the orphanage we are at, he died on Tuesday at the hospital. Somber experience, and very close to home. Heaven has another Angel — feeling sad.”


“Today we did some good.  Yesterday we bought cleaning supplies, blankets, diapers and baby goods and we went back to the house today to clean and organize. We swept and mopped and got rid of all the broken and destroyed shoes that didn’t have mates and reorganize their shoe shelves. Folded laundry, hung laundry, fed and played with the kids. Then we went to market… what an awesome experience. Purchased huge bags of corn, beans and an enormous bag of potatoes for the orphanage. It is pictured in the back of the truck.”

“Water tank project..gutters on, tank plot cleared, now waiting on tank..hmmm. african standard time.”


doctors and clinic workers“Another help for the wonderful people who selflessly serve at the Uthiru dispensary. They were in need of a foetal heart Doppler. Thanks to donations, the doctor, nurses as well as the expectant mothers can now hear their babies heartbeats in utero. This will help them feel closer to their newborns and encourage them to seek proper prenatal care. God bless contributors. And THANK YOU!!!”


Dr. Ester and the wonderful staff at Uthiru dispensary free clinic, with the fetal heart doppler that donations paid for, and medications received from NVS. Thank you so much contributors. God Bless you.”

“They could really benefit from some more donations, quickly. There are some incredible stories here, some miraculous, mostly sad tho. The kids range from 2 months to 14 yrs. There’s 62 kids and one sweet woman with a helper to run the place. It isn’t funded by government and relies on volunteer help and donations.”

Cheri and Stephi

Cheri and Stefi

“We have done some things here to greatly increase the quality of life for these children.”

“So much more can be done. Winter is here and not all children have blankets. Our donations even helped get a little boy, who was hit by an angry neighbor, a CT Scan. He has been ill since the incident.”
“Thank you again for all who have donated and if you still want to, and can, here is the site again. God bless you, we only have a couple more weeks here and I really want to make a difference for these sweet children.”
I hope you can help her to help these sweet children. 
Maybe we could skip one morning’s latte’ this week, or go without an afternoon smoothie, forego tomorrow’s burger and fries and brown bag it, or rent a movie instead of going out and send the difference. Just that much can go so far. Every bit helps Cheri to help them immediately and directly.



Categories: Love, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Power of Family

The power of Family swirls around me. You can’t argue with the simple evocative strength of the word Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Cousin, Aunt, Uncle, Grandmother, Grandfather, Grandchild, Husband, Wife, Niece, Nephew.

As strong as the ties of friendship might encircle and bind, they cannot entirely compete with the strength and veracity of Family. Maybe they aren’t supposed to compete.  Maybe they are supposed to complement.

If you doubt what I say, then attend a funeral of someone whose life touched thousands.  There are a select few who warrant inclusion in that sacred circle of Family ties, but only a few.  The rest are inherently barely outside the circle, pressing in with love, support, tears, memories.

There are many family like relationships out there.  I am called Auntie or Sister by those I have shared incredible life-changing experiences with. But does that make me Family?  It feels like family, it tastes like family, the hugs mimic family hugs; perhaps sometimes even exceed them in emotion.  But it isn’t Family.

Big “F” little “f”

Maybe the distinction is merely semantic or the difference between Family with a capital “F” and family with a small “f.”

Or is it all about legality and blood lines?  I have no idea.

I do know that I want my Family to know I love them.  I want my Family to know that those connections include a willingness to sacrifice for them.  They come first.  They are the why behind everything. I draw strength from the collective power of the love they have for me.  I count on their unconditional acceptance.  I am who I am in large measure because of their influence in my life, present or distant.  They are foundational and firm and forever.

Schorn Log Cabin, ca. 1700, with the cemetery ...

Schorn Log Cabin, ca. 1700, with the cemetery in between the cabin and church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about that second circle that surrounds me, my family of friends?  They are included in my willingness to sacrifice.  In fact, it’s that sacrificial nature of those relationships that has made them feel unbreakable.  Their losses are my losses.  My losses, and I’m sure of this, are their losses.  They are family in ways my blood kin are not, in different ways, like chinking between logs in a cabin, or shingles on a sturdy roof.

Both kinds of family feel necessary.  Both house and clothe me in safety, love, reassurance, gentleness and kindness.

To be the recipient of both Family and family is a rare and opulent gift of surpassing beauty.  I hope never to squander such richness.  I hope I can share it, one on one. One heart, one tear, one smile, one hug at a time.

My New Year’s Wish would be that such circles include more people that feel outside of one or both. Does that sound unrealistic?  I don’t think so.  If one person this next year feels more loved, safer, cared for, part of something bigger, because I reached out and pulled them into my Family or family circle then their world and mine improves, lightens and grows.  Would you join in with me in reaching out, including, caring, loving?  Just one person. That’s all it takes.

Categories: Family, Love, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Do I Have to Spell It Out For You? Body Language, Sign Language and Mind Reading

I know an adorable seventeen-month old girl who uses sign language as part of her repertoire of communication skills.  What a marvelous thing to watch her sign “more please” or “all done” or “milk” instead of wailing, crying, throwing a tantrum or simply being frustrated beyond all reason.   After being in the car for way too long one day she kept signing “all done” to her mom in the rear view mirror.  She was definitely all done being in that car seat and ready for a change of scenery.  Such an adaptive kid!

I’ve thought about her and wondered if I need to add some kind of sign language to my life.  Not American Sign Language necessarily.  What I’m thinking I need to have is something akin to the universal sign for I’m choking, (hands at the throat, turning blue, panic on your face) or you’re an idiot driver, (we all know what that looks like, eesh!) or hello (waving a hand.)

I’m thinking something a little more helpful. What I need is a sign for “you’re right, I was being selfish, I’m sorry.”  Then, I need another sign that admits no guilt but apologizes profusely, “Can you ever forgive me, I’m so very sorry.”

I love You

I love You in ASL (Photo credit: purprin)

I also need a sign that clearly communicates, “tonight would be a good night for you to get take out for dinner.”

There is a big need for a sign that says “please don’t talk to me right now or I’ll come unglued.” There’s a more urgent need for a sign that clearly means “please notice me and pay attention and give me a hug before I implode.”

Too complicated? Yeah, probably. Okay, how about a sign for “lonely,” “need a friend,” “in over my head,” “check back in a bit,” or “I like you.” A little too direct maybe.  Hmmm.  Maybe we need direct and concise and less nuance.

Sure, I know there’s that whole body language thing, but it’s so subtle that it’s not always clear.  The “chin wave/head nod” is a great example of this.  It’s a guy thing, or a teenager thing, or both.  There’s a sort of eye contact, but not quite, and then instead of waving hello the other person kind of lifts their chin at you.  Like a fist bump, but not.  When you get a “chin wave”  you feel cool and accepted, but not quite acknowledged.  Couldn’t they have just waved?  Do they not want anyone to know they know you?  See, mixed message.

My favorite universal sign is the smile.  The genuine smile.  Try smiling at the kid in the grocery cart.  Then wait for it.  They get this surprised look that turns into a grin.  Then wink.  Okay, maybe not wink, the parent might get weirded out.  But smile at them like you’re really seeing them.  Smiling at children always surprises them and their response is fun to watch.  You just might make their day! And yours!

While you’re at it wave at the sign holder on the corner, too.  I have a friend whose walking route took her past one of these human sign holders.  She took some time every day to chat a bit, found out this woman’s story.  What a story!!  Now instead of looking away, or pretending distraction, I wave back at her because she is a real person, doing a tough job, (especially tough in the AZ heat) and I want to acknowledge her.  I’ll bet those people hardly ever get a friendly wave.  Wouldn’t you want one if you were them?

But I digress.

Wish I could do the Spock Mind Meld on some people. Boy, would that come in handy!!  Alas, mind reading is another topic for another day.

I’m just trying to up my communication skills here.  Thinking out loud.  Any suggestions you can shoot my way would be very welcome.

Here’s one last idea.  We could try using words.

Categories: Humor, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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