Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Monday, February 27, 2023

For the Love of Peanut Butter and Living in the Now

I had a plan. I was going to raid my extensive recipe collection for my favorite things to make with peanut butter because that is the topic of this week’s podcast – “For the Love of Peanut Butter”. Instead, I decided to drive out to West Texas for a few days with my hubby, Mark, to visit friends and family while he does his annual service at South Plains College as a member of the Sound Technology Advisory Committee. I figured I could write my blog in the car on the way down and have it posted first thing Monday morning. What I didn’t count on was sleeping almost the entire drive after having only two hours of sleep the night before, and my failure to make copies of my recipes before I left. So here I sit, with no recipes, and no idea how I can write a blog about peanut butter. So…change in plans (although I will share a family favorite recipe at the very end).

Two years ago, this situation would have sent me over the edge. I don’t really deal with change. I’m not flexible. I get stuck in routines and plans, and I get anxious and even angry when those plans don’t go my way. I really don’t want to sound like a broken record, but reading Eckart Tolle’s “A New Earth” was a life-changer for me. So now, instead of getting all bent out of shape over not having the supplies I need to complete my task and feeling the crunch of not having finished it in time, I am calmly looking at what happened and trying to find the lesson to be learned in all of this. Tolle has helped me learn to accept what “is” and move on, rather than dwelling on what “should” have been. I can look at what went wrong, tuck that bit of knowledge away for the future, and start looking for a solution rather than someone or something to blame.

As I look back at why I might have wound up in Lubbock, Texas without my recipes and a fully-written blog post, I think it is pretty clear that “Perfect Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance,” as my husband would say, as does getting a good night’s sleep the night before – two topics we’ve discussed on our podcast are the main culprits. I had started packing for my trip earlier in the week, but when I reviewed the list, I didn’t think everything through to print several of the documents I would need while on my trip (not just my recipes). And the sleep issue came about because I was up very late trying to get it all packed – something I should have done much earlier in the week. I was living “behind the clock,” as Amber would say, and it was my own fault. I tried to do too much, didn’t follow my own plans, and let distractions and spontaneous opportunities steal my time and deplete my energy.

Good planning is essential to creating a balanced and purpose-driven life. I like to call it “being a grown-up.” Think about it this way…children are not capable of thinking in the long term. When you tell them that Santa comes at Christmas, and it’s only July, that time span feels like an eternity. They can’t really plan in the short term, either. They might want to eat a snack at 5 o’clock when dinner will be served just an hour later. A child’s focus is entirely on the now, and what they want in the moment – instant gratification. A child does not think ahead or plan for the future. As we mature, we (hopefully) learn to delay gratification, understanding that there are more important things than play, acquiring the next toy, or eating a whole package of cookies. We learn that work comes before play, actions have consequences, and instant gratification is a fleeting comfort. 

Can you imagine if we all lived our lives with the mindset of children? Stop for a moment and picture your life lived as a 10-year-old child. What would that look like? Would you eat junk food all day, stay up all night, skip school or work to play video games, buy every gizmo, gadget, and sparkly object that catches your attention, and get mad whenever things go pear-shaped? Do you do that now?

An adult, a mature adult, has the capacity to differentiate between what they want and what they need. A mature adult can put off what they want in order to take care of what they need. Planning, responsibility, forethought…these are all hallmarks of a mature adult. But what about now, you ask? Isn’t this idea of thinking ahead, planning for the future, and taking care of responsibilities ahead of time in direct opposition to living in the now? Absolutely not

Living in the now does not equate to YOLO (you only live once), which became so popular with younger generations a few years ago. Eckhart Tolle teaches us that acceptance is an important aspect of living in the now. Accepting our responsibilities without complaint – doing the things we must do, managing the tasks that are required or expected of us, following through on the commitments we’ve made, and engaging in the everyday necessities of life – these are the characteristics of maturity. It is in the acceptance of these responsibilities that we find we are living in the now. When you can go through the motions of a dreaded chore while embracing the moment that is, accepting, or even enjoying, the process without complaint or grumbling about what you would rather be doing – that is the essence of living in the now. Be in the moment. Savor every minute of every day…every task, every duty, and every burden in surrender and peace rather than thinking about what you would rather be doing, or worse yet, shirking those obligations in favor of momentary diversion or fleeting pleasure.

So go ahead and plan. Plan well. Think ahead. Consider every possibility. Look at every detail. Give yourself time to take care of your responsibilities, and then add some extra time to it and schedule it to be done before it is due. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to plot out what is urgent vs. what is important. And always, always follow through. Drive your life like you mean it. Live it like you are an all-star batter, hitting that mid-field home run that affords you the leisure of jogging through the bases with no worries, rather bunting and then sliding into first just in time to avoid being tagged out, only to have to worry about how to get to the next base and the next. Be the grown-up. Make the plan. Follow through.

Is it foolproof? Not in the least. Will you still have to play catch-up, switcheroo, or scramble to get things done? Count on it. But it won’t be as stressful. It won’t throw you out of sorts. And you will be amazed at how much time is left over for all that fun stuff when you actually plan everything out.

Oh, and as promised, here is a family favorite peanut butter-based recipe that you probably haven’t tried – Thai Rice Salad. I discovered this recipe over 30 years ago when I worked for Furr’s, Inc., a regional supermarket chain based out of Lubbock. The company hosted a Food Fair at the local convention center, and the corporate office employees (me) got to attend the night before it opened to sample food, take home swag, and learn about various vendors and suppliers. Uncle Ben’s rice had a booth there, and they were giving away free recipes. As my husband is a huge fan of Thai food, we decided to give this recipe a try and it is truly one of our family favorites. You can serve it warm or cold, and I have prepared it with various forms of cooked chicken including boiled and rotisserie. I hope you enjoy it!

Listen to the podcast this week and then join us on MMC Chat for discussions of all things peanut butter. And don’t forget to comment about the blog below.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Making Your Bed: A Metaphor for Life

We’ve all been there. We just can’t get it together. We wake up late, throw some clothes on, and leave the house without making our beds.  As the school year nears its end, I confess that I find it harder and harder to wake up in the morning, which makes it challenging to complete my morning routine, including making my bed. Making your bed can be so much more than the act of physically making your bed. 


Last September, we podcasted about our daily choices, including “brushing your teeth or taking a shower.” I find that among the choices that I have to make in the morning to avoid running late for work is the choice of making my bed or not. Do I make that choice? I admit, not always. Some days, I just throw the top sheet over the bed and call it “made.” On other days, I take my time to make all the sheets straight, fix my pillows, and smooth out all the wrinkles in the bed. Those are the good days. The days I wake up and have time to do everything I want to accomplish in the mornings, which includes relaxing and having a cup of coffee (rarely happens). As I sleep later and later, I’m lucky even to get fully dressed as I run out the door. Sometimes, the act of physically making my bed is daunting.

Aside from physically making your bed, the concept itself can apply to the consequences of life choices. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” this may be due to the fact that you made some sort of choice that didn’t have the best consequence.

Think of your life as a bed. What kind of bed do you have? The type of bed you currently sleep in says a lot about you, and not just how the bed looks and feels, but the appearance. What color comforter do you have? Do you even have one? I currently don’t. I find that it’s easier to wash a quilt over a comforter. Do you decorate your bed? Do you make your bed every day? What kind of pillows do you like? I personally like backrest pillows, but I most recently discovered the most amazing pillows, Memory Foam Cluster pillows, from Walmart that haven’t gone flat since I bought my first one two years ago. I have since replaced all my pillows with that particular pillow.

I have slept on many different types of beds in my life, and they often reflected the different financial situations I was experiencing at the time. For example:
  • The first real bed (not a crib) I ever had was a bed that was purchased by my parents. We went to Golden’s Furniture (a place that doesn’t exist anymore), and I looked at all the beds. Eventually, I chose a canopy bed of princess-like quality. The bed was white with pink flowers and a pink canopy. I slept in that same bed and never asked to change it until I moved out of my parent’s house at 18. That bed represented the comfort I had at home and my childhood as an only child and youngest grandchild – the “princess” of the family. As I grew up, the bed didn’t grow with me, and I never asked for a bigger or less-youthful bed.
  • After living in a series of dorm rooms, Christen and I moved into our first real apartment, and I chose not to bring the “princess” bed from my room at my parents’ house. Instead, I opted for the cheaper, cooler, college-like futon that I could easily move from bed to couch depending on how much room I wanted in my small apartment bedroom. That bed represented freedom to choose. I bought the bed myself with money from my job at Braum’s, an ice cream shop I worked at while I attended college. That bed also represented the financial instability of a college student on their own. After six months, the bed broke, and I started sleeping on the floor on top of the mattress. I named the bed my “magic carpet” and it was actually quite comfortable after I stacked layers of blankets and comforters on top.
  • When I moved to my very own apartment, my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday/Christmas and I told them I wanted a real bed because I was finally tired of sleeping on the floor. I didn’t want my childhood bed, but a real, comfortable bed. My parents and I went bed shopping. We ended up at a place that also doesn’t exist anymore called Mattress Outfitters. The salesman didn’t see my mom coming that day. After a couple of hours of my dad and meI laying on every bed in the store, we left with a brand-new bed about half the price that it was originally priced for, a mattress protector, and a bed frame my mom talked the salesman into giving us for free. I had never slept on anything so comfortable. The bed felt amazing and I felt like I had upgraded in life (with the help of my parents, of course). The bed represented coming back into the fold. At that point in my life, I had dropped out of college for a couple of years and was working at Dillard’s, selling shoes. My grandmother talked me into going back to college, so I moved to a tiny two-room apartment across the street from the University of North Texas and started taking classes that fall. I kept that bed through the rest of college and my first teaching job.
  • The next bed I slept on was the most uncomfortable couch in my grandmother’s living room. A few years after I graduated college, my mother had a series of strokes and became very ill. I was substitute teaching and living in the most expensive apartment I’d ever lived in, struggling to pay the bills. I quit my job and put everything I owned in storage to move in with my grandmother and take care of my mom. I spent two and a half months sleeping in hospital chairs, hospital couches, and, sometimes, my car, driving back and forth from the hospital to my grandmother's house (an hour away). I slept on the couch for about six months before my cousins helped me clean out my grandmother’s sewing room enough to take my bed out of storage. The couch represented a disruption in my life that eventually was overcome. After I was able to move into my grandmother’s sewing room and my mom was able to somewhat take care of herself, I found a local teaching job.
  • When my ex-husband and I got our first house, we bought a used king-sized bed that wasn’t very comfortable. I had always thought that you finally made it in life if you could afford a king-size bed. I traded in my comfortable, small bed, for an uncomfortable king-size one. This bed represented my first marriage. It was something that I thought I wanted, but I sacrificed my comfort and peace for it. The bed was difficult to maintain and move during the many moves I endured in that marriage. When I moved after my divorce, I left that bed on the side of the road. That also meant I didn’t have a bed moving into my post-divorce apartment, the first apartment I had lived in since my mom had her strokes eight years before.
  • This brings me to my current bed. It’s not the most comfortable bed that I’ve slept in, but it represents the uncomfortable moments that I went through to get to this bed. It also represents freedom from the struggles I had gone through to get to this bed. I had finally made a bed that I was comfortable lying in. After my divorce, I had no credit. It took me months to find an apartment that would accept me for who I was and the money that I independently made. I had barely any furniture to place in that apartment (I still don’t) and I was driving my grandmother’s car. My uncle offered me the brand new bed that he bought to place in my mom’s old room. My grandmother had recently moved to the nursing home and didn’t have a use for the bed. I jumped at this opportunity because I could barely afford to move into a new place much less buy a new bed.

What does all of this say about me? My current bed is pretty basic, but I have spent almost two years making it into the most comfortable bed I’ve ever been in. After my divorce, I decluttered my existence where only the basics of who I am exist and that includes my bed. I opt for a simple quilt in aesthetically pleasing colors. Underneath, I alternate between a micro plush blanket and a sherpa blanket, depending on the temperatures outside. I cover my bed with the most comfortable and colorful pillows of various shapes and sizes. Do I always make my bed? It depends on my time and mood, but I can tell you that I feel better when I get into a freshly made bed at night. My cats even prefer a freshly made bed with clean sheets. So, I do like to take that time in the morning.

Making your bed and lying in it has meant many different things to me over the years. I love my current bed and have no problem lying in it. Can that bed be improved? I work on improving it every day, little by little. 

I want to hear from our readers. Do you make your bed every day? Are you comfortable with the bed you are lying in? What are some things you can do to improve your current situation? Comment below!

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Building Better Habits by Creating Better Routines


I am a creature of habit. No, seriously…I love routines. I love organization. People have often accused me of being pragmatic, inflexible, and anal-retentive. I’m a planner. I like things to be a certain way, and I get really frustrated when things don’t work smoothly or the way I expect them to proceed. When I find a routine that works for me, I find it hard to change, and once that pattern gets disrupted long enough, I find it hard to get back into the routine that I miss.

I’ve been trying to get my routine ironed out for a while now. As a stay-at-home mom for almost 20 years, my routines were dictated by the needs of my family: up at the crack of dawn, feed the kids, get them off to school, come home, clean house, pick the kids up in the afternoon, get them through their homework, make dinner, wash dishes, put the kids to bed, and then, finally, I could put my feet up and enjoy some TV while I crocheted or did some other handy craft. I was busy. I was exhausted. But I miss those days. The routine was so simple, it was hard to mess up.

I’ve been struggling with my routine for several years now. It seems like everything has become so complicated, and even when I do settle into some kind of routine, it doesn’t stick for long…something always comes along to mess it up, and then I can never get it back on track again. Take my sleep routine, for instance. It doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I try, I can never get my body to settle into a decent sleep pattern.

When I was younger, and I had a job outside the home, I was usually in bed by 10:00 PM. I had to be up by 6:00 AM in order to be showered, dressed, and get to work by 8:00. During that time, I also had to feed the kids and drop them off at school and/or daycare. My husband, Mark, who is an audio engineer, often bemoaned the fact that I was already in bed and asleep by the time he got home. He often worked late. When he wasn’t recording bands in the studio, he was often teaching night classes to future engineers at the local community college. We were like two ships that passed in the night. 

Eventually, everything changed for both of us. Mark took a job that put him in the studio during normal business hours, and with the kids grown and out of the house, I started working as a travel agent, working from home, making my own hours, which were usually late, since most of my clients contact me in the afternoon or evening. I suddenly had the leisure of being able to sleep in once in a while, and that eventually became all the time. Without the necessity of an early wake-up, my sleep pattern slowly drifted to a later and later bedtime, until [gasp!] I found myself unable to fall asleep before 4:00 AM! Now I am the one up all night, and Mark is the one in bed and fast asleep as soon as the sun goes down.

Let me tell you, it’s not good. While it feels good to stay up and have this lovely quiet time to myself to get lots of things done, it is not very healthy. Do the math. If you stay up until 4:00 AM, the only way you are going to get a healthy eight hours of sleep is if you stay in bed until noon. And even if that were possible all of the time (which it most certainly is not), you miss half of the workday! It can be a real challenge to get all your work done if you only have 4 or 5 hours in which to get it done. And what tends to happen is that family and other commitments start to encroach on that time so I wind up working later and later just to get everything done. It’s a never-ending, vicious cycle, and I feel like I can’t win.

For the last several years, I’ve struggled to get my biological clock back on track. I dream about being in bed by 10:00, 11:00, or even midnight, but nothing I’ve tried has worked. It was even one of my 8 goals in Cultivate What Matters. I thought I had it conquered after our Christmas cruise. While we were vacationing, we got up relatively early every morning to have breakfast together as a family and to get off the ship for excursions and such. And we were tired every night, exhausted from the day’s activities, ready for bed, out like a light. When we came home, we were still tired, so I got to bed early, and it felt so good. But then, I had some work pop up that had a deadline, and I had no choice but to stay up late and get it done. And that was all it took to ruin my early-to-bed sleep pattern.

This year, even though I am not using the Power Sheets system any more, I am still doing some serious goal-setting, but I decided to shift my focus away from getting 8 hours of sleep, and instead am looking at it more as a “big picture” kind of issue. It doesn’t do any good to fix the sleep pattern if I don’t fix all the things that disrupt my sleep pattern. And that involves setting up some pretty serious rituals and routines. My first step was to think really hard about what I wanted my day to look like, and to script it all out, planning it in great detail. My therapist, who has been trying to help me with this, looked at my daily agenda and said, “You can’t do all that in one day!” She’s probably right. She suggested that I take that plan and actually lay it out on a schedule…this is when I will do this, this is when I will do that, etc. So that is the next step in my goal-setting process for this year…to get real about what I can and can’t do by actually scheduling it, with a properly allotted time for completion.

I’m really looking forward to giving this system a try. I think by creating a careful and thorough plan for how I will spend my day, allowing time for interruptions and emergent issues, I can manage my work schedule, home life, down time, and sleep in a more productive and healthy manner. I’m anxious to give it a try, and I think that adding in the #mmcmakeyourbedchallenge to the mix is a great way to kick it off. I hope you’ll join us in it! I’m anxious to hear from everyone whether it actually made a difference or not!

If you like what you read here, please join us over on our MMC Chat Facebook group, where we can continue the conversation! And don’t forget to listen to the podcast. New episodes air every Wednesday. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Heard it on the Podcast - February 22, 2023


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we do most Wednesdays to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S3E8: Make Your Bed Challenge

The video we referenced of Admiral William H. McRaven's commencement speech at the University of Texas - Austin can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/pxBQLFLei70

If you participate in our "Make Your Bed Every Day" Challenge, be sure to tag us on your Facebook and Instagram posts:  @ModernMusingsMMC and #mmcmakeyouredchallenge

5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...