Stop With the Paprika – & Other Lessons From 2019

Simply-Organic-Smoked-Paprika-19517-Front_32Today is January 1, a day which only comes approximately once a year. It’s a day to sleep in, get up and have breakfast at McDonalds, go look at the ocean, put a beef stew in the crockpot, and reflect. Reflect on the previous year – which only seems like yesterday – and hopefully turn some of the events of last year into teaching moments. What important lessons did I learn in 2018?

Lesson One – Stop With the Paprika.  2018 was a year I learned more about cooking, which was good news for me, and for my daughter who lives with me. We both became more experimental in the kitchen and cooked a lot more, and some of that food was actually good. But a glaring reality stared me in the face this morning as I was putting together the above-mentioned beef stew… I have at least four containers of paprika in my pantry. Oh sure, one of them is smoked paprika, and so it’s good to differentiate that one. But there are at least three – and possibly more like seventeen – containers of identical paprika in my pantry. One of them is the giant size, about the size of a super big gulp. It’s just too much, and obviously I’ve gotten a little careless and impulsive with the paprika. So what I’ve learned, and hope to pass on to you is – stop with the paprika. You probably have enough. This lesson is not a metaphor for anything – just stop buying so much paprika. That’s it.

Lesson Two (Also From the Kitchen) – Check your labels. Two refrigerated bottles of dark-colored liquid, of similar size, stored near each other in your refrigerator, are not necessarily the same thing. Another way to put this lesson – worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar are not interchangeable. This lesson is also probably not a metaphor, but I guess it could be.

Lesson Three – Get Rid of At Least 53 Friends. That is, if you’re using “friends” in the fake world of social media, where your list of “friends” can grow ever higher, to the point where you’re not sure how you’ve accumulated so many, not unlike containers of paprika. When your friends seem less like friends and more like paprika, you probably have too many (that’s the title of my next book). Anyway, on New Year’s Eve day I decided to look through my list of Facebook “friends” and see if anyone needed to be dumped. Too many “friends” are like too many of anything – you don’t know where they all came from, they’re not really helping you, and they’re taking up space. So today I’m about 53 “friends” lighter heading into the new year.

I’m using quotation marks around “friends,” because “friends” and friends aren’t the same thing, as anyone who’s used social media for a while can tell you. Here’s who got cut from my list…

  • People who I can’t recall ever meeting, or having any sort of remote connection with, in real life. I figure they won’t notice me cutting them, so they’re gone.
  • People who have more than one Facebook account. It just feels dishonest to say I have 650 friends, when a handful of those are duplicates of one another. In a few cases, I had to guess which “friend” was the real “friend,” but I pretty much based it on which profile photo I liked better. Hopefully it will work out.
  • People who are dead. I know a handful of people, both friends and “friends,” who have died over the past several years. Yet for some reason, they’re still in my “friends” list even though they rarely, if ever, post anymore. I hope to see them again someday, but I doubt if it’ll be on Facebook. 
  • People who I have actually met or spoken with in real life, some with significant frequency, but who have turned out to be just nuts. People who post stuff I can’t deal with – because it’s not true, or it’s offensive, or it’s dripping with ignorance – or all three. A few of those people had to go. My guess is they probably won’t notice. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with people who don’t agree with me – I have a lot of non-quotation-mark friends like that. That’s no problem. I do, however, have a problem with people who are crazy, and feel the need to express that craziness in social media. I’m too old, too busy, too something. I don’t need it.

OK, there it is. Three of 2018’s most important life lessons – stop with the paprika, check your labels, and use this new year to trim off some of those excess “friends.” You’ll have a much better 2019.

 

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Walking

 

On Saturday October 13, Loving One by One Ministries will hold its 2nd Annual 5K Walk/Run at the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes. Along with a lot of other Loving One by One fans, I’ll be there with my running shoes on (and other attire as well), completing each one of those 5 K’s. We’re running or (let’s be honest) walking to have fun, and raise funds to further the efforts of the New Hope Medical Centre in Uganda.

New Hope Medical Centre (notice how it’s “centre” and not “center”) is the newest venture of Loving One by One Ministries, an organization I’ve been involved with since 2011. In addition to our work in Uganda with orphans and education, we have always been involved in helping people in Ugandan villages and slum areas with some of their basic medical needs. Well, years have passed, and Loving One by One has grown, and now in addition to some of the mobile, pop-up medical clinics we do in some slums and villages, we now have our own permanent medical facility on our land, near the town of Kiwenda about an hour north of Uganda’s capital of Kampala.

New Hope Medical Centre, just completed a few months ago, is a lifesaver for the people living in and around the small town of Kiwenda. Most don’t have access to any form of healthcare, so it’s common for small, insignificant medical issues to become life-threatening problems. Accidents, burns, and infections are serious when you are basically living in shacks with dirt floors, and malaria and typhoid are commonplace. Not to mention the types of cancer in Africa that I’ve never heard of here in the U.S.  But now with New Hope Medical Centre up and running, the LOBO staff will be able to more efficiently provide the care that is needed in our local community. LOBO’s goal for this 5K is to raise the funding needed to purchase a sonogram machine, and a CBC machine. A sonogram machine is familiar to us; a CBC, or Complete Blood Count Machine, will be used to perform necessary tests on a patient’s blood to come up with a diagnosis – quickly. Until now, we’ve had to put patients in our van and drive to the nearest medical facility that has these capabilities, and more often than not, the machines would be unavailable or not working.  Having our own CBC and sonogram machines will enable our clinic to function more efficiently, for the good of our local Kiwenda neighbors.

My goal is to raise $1000.00 toward this equipment. If you’d like to participate in this effort with me, here is the link for my Facebook Fundraising account. Just click on it, and you’ll have the opportunity to give whatever you’d like toward this project.

This is the link. Click it. Thank you.

Next summer, I hope to return to Uganda for the 5th time, and you’ll hear more about that in a few months. But for now, thanks so much for your willingness to help with this project!

franco

 

 

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Why I Won’t Yelp About Food

pinkI’ve never been a big Yelp-er, but once in a while, when a restaurant or other business really does a great job, or more often a really bad job, I’ve felt compelled to tell the world about it. And today, I almost Yelped about my lunch experience, but then I just couldn’t go through with it.

The problem is, I’ve been reading too much about poverty and the billion-plus starving people in the world. And to make my Yelping problem worse, I’ve been to Uganda several times and worked with some of their millions of people who can’t afford to eat every day. And that made me feel a little small for wanting to gripe about my lunch inconvenience.

But, I was facing quite a dilemma. Because I waited in line gosh darn it, and paid kind of a lot (about two weeks Ugandan wages), and then waited again – almost 20 minutes (oh the horror), and I finally got the food only after I went up to the counter to express my annoyance. And the whole time I was waiting, I was thinking two things – 1) I’m going to Yelp the crap out of these guys and let the whole world know how slow they were, and 2) there are a billion-plus starving people in the world, many of them in Uganda, and I’m mad because I have to wait a little while to get the overrated, overpriced hot dog I paid two weeks Ugandan salary for.

I wrestled with it for a while – a long while, actually, because the food place was pretty slow. Then I finally got the order, and found a table in the food court, and sat down and got my phone out and got ready to Yelp the crap out of this overrated, slow, overpriced hot dog place (without mentioning the exact name). I pulled up the Yelp site on my iPhone (because I need an iPhone), and then I was annoyed again because I was going to have to wait again, while the Yelp app reloaded on my iPhone, which I just replaced a month ago. So I was having a pretty bad lunch so far – waiting too long for an overpriced, overrated hot dog, and then Yelp taking forever to download on my new phone. Didn’t they realize how much I paid for that hot dog (in case you’ve forgotten, it was about two weeks of Ugandan wages)?

And then I realized, again, how much I paid for that hot dog and how the price of my overpriced, overrated hot dog could have fed a family in Uganda for several days.

**Here’s the point. I don’t want to make this a lecture about how we shouldn’t be going out to lunch and eating overpriced, overrated hot dogs because kids are starving, etc. etc. It’s nice to be able to go have an overpriced, overrated hot dog once in a while.

But – having the opportunity to get an overpriced, overrated hot dog, and then wanting to complain about it online, when a billion-plus people won’t eat anything today…. well, that seems kind of small.

So although I may still occasionally Yelp about other things, it just seems kind of small of me to Yelp about anything having to do with food. So I’m not going to do that anymore.

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Yesterday I Got Older

164510786-612x612Yesterday was my birthday. That’s good news and bad news; good, because birthdays are generally fun. You get stuff. You hang out with people you like. (Yesterday I got a new ukulele, which is good because you can never have enough ukuleles). It’s also good because people sing to you, tell you how great you are, and write Facebook posts with a lot of emojis. And although I don’t get the appeal of the emoji, there’s no denying that the appeal exists.

The downside to birthdays, however, is the numbers just keep getting higher. I’m turning into an old man, whether I like it or not. I got out of bed on the morning of my birthday and my back was sore. If I play the piano too long, my fingers hurt (and the listeners’ ears hurt). My hair is mostly gray, and I need reading glasses – not that they help all that much, because I’m always losing them. I wake up early even when I don’t need to, and I want to go to bed by 9pm. I enjoy having conversations with people about which freeways to take to certain places, and why those freeways are better than other freeways and although I know those conversations are painfully boring, I can’t make myself stop once I’ve started. I peek through my blinds to see who’s walking past my yard. And I think most music written past 1980 is stupid. Not that I can hear all that well – although, I guess I can just keep getting bigger speakers and turning them up. If I can just find a way to carry those bigger speakers around without hurting my back.

Sometimes children at school ask me if I have grandchildren. Those children, of course, receive F’s.

There’s always a temptation to fight getting older, and I certainly fall into that. I walk a few miles most days (on purpose). I eat fairly well. I have a lot of young friends; but there’s the rub – I’m finding that more and more people are younger than me, so that means my “young friends” list is always growing. I’ve played in bands for many years, and I’ve gone from usually being the youngest member of the band to usually being the oldest member. That’s where being the band leader helps – no one’s going to say anything about me being the oldest member.

All things considered, you really can’t fight it – the numbers keep getting higher. The only alternative is dying, and I’m too young for that. So you just keep finding ways to make the most of your life (which should be true at any age). Trust God. Learn new music (but nothing written before 1980, because it all sucks). Make new friends, and deal with the fact that they’re all kids and don’t know anything. Go to Uganda – or someplace where they need you – and make a difference. Play the ukulele, and keep piling up more of them. Take advantage of the fact that old guys are supposed to be grumpy, and have fun with it. Tell people to get off your lawn, and if you don’t have a lawn, tell people to get off someone else’s lawn and act like it’s your lawn so people will think you’re crazy, and they’ll be fine with it.

And have fun with the “big one’s” – those age numbers that end in 0. But – don’t ever let anyone make you claim one of those numbers until you absolutely have to. I have another year before I have to deal with one of those. And now, I’m going to grab my new ukulele, go play it on the lawn, and yell at people walking by.

 

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We Might Lose a Guitar, But It’s OK

taylor-bt1-baby-3-4-size-travel-acoustic-guitar-with-gig-bag-2-1177-pToday, I loaned a school guitar to a middle school kid. It’s quite possible this kid will lose it, or break it, or forget he has this guitar. But it’s fine.

I’ve known this guy since he was in 1st or 2nd grade. When he first came to us, his mother had recently died and our little school community became an extended family for him. He might be classified as a “spectrum kid;” he has autism symptoms. He functions well academically, but has a tough time with normal social stuff.  He’s kind of forgetful, and kind of awkward.  And the whole five or six years I’ve known him, he’s never had very good motor skills when it came to playing any kind of musical instrument.

When he got to around 5th grade, I thought he might like the ukulele (because, who doesn’t), but he had a hard time with it. He couldn’t hold it right. He couldn’t get his left hand to make the chords, and he couldn’t get his right hand to play rhythms. And tuning it was out of the question. When he came to music class, if it happened to be a ukulele day, you could see him kind of check out.

But now as a 7th grader, something weird is happening – turns out this guy can play the guitar. He’s never learned from anyone before, and you’d think if he struggled with a small 4-stringed ukulele, he’d struggle more with a larger 6-stringed guitar. But, he’s doing it. For some reason, he can play the chords, and he can change chords somewhat on time, and he can even tune the thing.

We are a school with a lot of good resources, including a bunch of nice guitars and ukuleles we can loan out to kids. We’re pretty free with loaning out the ukuleles, but since the guitars are more expensive, I always have a parent sign a form saying they’ll replace it if it gets damaged. In my 7/8th grade music class, kids can choose either guitar or ukulele, and the kids who want a guitar are pretty good about getting that form back to me quickly, because they want to borrow one of our cool Baby Taylor guitars. But this kid was different with the guitars (he’s different with everything) – I couldn’t get him to take a form home to be signed. I kept saying, “Hey _____, you’re pretty good with the guitar. You should get your dad to sign this form and then you can take one home to practice on.” But he wasn’t interested at first, and then later he decided to take a form home and lost it (the form, not his home). And then he took 3-4 more forms and lost them too. One day I even told him he could take a guitar home at the same time as the form, and just bring the form back later, because I trusted him. But he didn’t want to do it that way, probably because that wasn’t the normal rule. So I finally just assumed he wouldn’t be taking home a guitar.

Until today after school, when he and his dad showed up in my room after school.  His dad asked me how come his son wasn’t carrying a guitar back and forth to school, like the other kids. (Let me throw this in – his dad is a great guy, and wasn’t accusing us of leaving his son out. He just wanted to see what was up with the guitars other kids were carrying). I explained everything to the dad, while the kid wandered distracted around my room as usual. I got a guitar out of the closet – where it didn’t belong – and put it in the hands of the kid – where it did belong. The dad gladly signed the form, and they left, and I got back to my music lesson.

But as the dad and the kid were leaving the room, I said – “Oh hey, just make sure you leave it in the bag when you’re not playing it. And don’t leave it in a hot car. Be careful with it. Etc…..” But the kid had already checked out, and the tired-looking dad nodded, and they both left. And as I was giving those directions to him, I knew that unless the dad personally watched that guitar all the time, the kid was going to lose it, or break it, or forget he had it. Or leave it in a car, or just about anyplace. But hopefully, our kid will learn some more chords, and get to enjoy being good at something musical.

So we might lose that guitar, but it’s OK. It’s not doing anyone any good in our closet, but it may do a 7th grade boy a lot of good in his closet.

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How to Install Outdoor Christmas Lights

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1. Go to garage to get the lights, which you packed last year in a place that would be easy to find.
2. After opening 11 boxes of Christmas stuff and moving countless items, get the lights you packed last year in a place that would be easy to find.
3. Get new cool ladder, which you purchased earlier this year on sale, with this day in mind.
4. With lightning speed and cat-like precision, begin clipping the lights onto the gutter, amazed at your efficiency.
5. Stop to wonder how that tree branch, which was never in your way before, grew so much since last December.
6. Carefully dodge the ants that are living in the tree branch that grew so much since last December.
7. After noticing the wasps flying around the tree that grew so much since last December, make a strategic decision to leave those few lights unclipped to the gutter for now.
8. Finish clipping the rest of the lights to the gutter, and hurry back to the tree, where, in a life-threatening move, you quickly install the remaining lights into their clips and attach to the gutter. All the while, keeping an eye out for the wasps.
9. Happily notice that the lights you intended to hang in the tree that grew so much since last December are actually STILL IN the tree that grew so much since last December, having never been removed last year.
10. Move on to the other, smaller tree, and install its lights, taking a moment afterwards to brush the ants away from your clothing.
11. Go back to the garage to look for the special extension cord you bought last year specifically for the purpose of plugging in the ant-filled tree lights.
12. Go to Lowe’s and purchase a new extension cord for plugging in the ant-filled tree lights.
13. Look up at the house to admire your work.
14. While looking up at the house, take note of 7 lights that are not working. Climb up and down the cool new ladder several times to tighten the bulbs, which solves the problem for all but one light.
15. Go to the last nonfunctional light, and twist it a few times. Notice with amazement how all the lights go out when you accidentally break the bulb, leaving part of it in the socket.
16. Decide that since you never liked that particular string of lights anyway, you’ll find different ones in the garage.
17. Move boxes out of the garage rafters, eventually finding other lights you like better – along with last year’s extension cord.
18. Begin attempting to install newly found lights onto the house, only to discover you need more of those plastic light clip things. Return to Lowe’s, purchase them, and return home.
19. Begin the process of installing plastic light clip things onto newly-chosen lights. Soon realize there aren’t enough light clip things.
20. Make a decision to return to Lowe’s tomorrow, and then warm up leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, content that you’ve nearly finished a 30-minute job in just under 4 hours.
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Fun Signs From the Bus

In Uganda, we spend much of our two weeks on a bus, for hours at a time. Everything we do is far away, but if you want to get in there and help people in some of those out-of-the-way places, there’s no other way. Your butt will become good friends with our bus.

For today’s short and fun blog post, here are a few photos taken of Ugandan signs, from the bus with my iPhone. That means they’re not the best quality, because usually we were moving (at least a little bit). But here they are, with explanatory commentary gladly provided…

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Milk for your baby, presumably quite pure.

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I saw this billboard all over the place. This guy is really, really happy about his data plan.

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Not happy with your job? Maybe you need to change to Panda Copy Paper.

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Trespassers will be persecuted. Not prosecuted, because that’s all legal and boring. Our trespassers will be poked and prodded and hassled to death.

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Jeez. I’m not ready either.

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“Divert” means the same thing as “detour” here in the U.S. But something about the “divert” sign, and the little girl sitting by it, caught my attention. Too many people are diverting their attention away from these kids.

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