Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

1001…


I admit it freely – I’m a tab abuser. I turn them up way past 11. When we talk about multitasking, I’m not normal.

Only thing is, I think tabs should be used in multitude. Why have tabs for your browsers at all if you don’t take advantage of the functionality? It better matches how my brain works. The closest thing to a mind map that internetwork can offer. The way I’ve evolved my work relies on the use of tabs as part of my system of processes, switching between task, after task.

When I mention to colleagues that I have multiple tabs open, they often jump in and agree. “I’m like that too! I must have 15 tabs open right now!”

I smile, but they do not understand. They really don’t. Fifteen is nothing. ‘Tis but a drop.

However, I know I have grown a monster that is difficult even for me to manage. And I’m looking for solutions. And you’ll probably ask something about why I haven’t stored them in groups, etc. And it’s because of the many times a browser update has drop-kicked all my tabs, all my collections, my presets, etc.. Been through it too many times.

So I have multiple tabs open and I reload them upon every startup. But the number is getting out of hand. In fact, even I’m surprised that my browser hasn’t crashed sooner.

Thus I’ve been looking for apps and programs that can best help me both manage and pair down the massive amount of data my computer is trying to process as well as how much I’m trying to consume as well. Because my brain handles a LOT of multitasking, but it also has limits and I need better systems and organization to do everything I must.

Sometimes you gotta clean house.

I’ve been looking and digging for months, trying to find something I like, that makes sense to my brain. So this morning, I downloaded Tab Manager Plus for Firefox.

I have no idea yet if it will finally be the one, my tabular soul mate. So many beaus before have tried and failed. I’ve been told I’m too demanding and high maintenance, but somewhere out there is a tab managing system that’s meant for me. One day that prince will come. Maybe it’s this one. We’ll see.

It did show me what kind of tab user I am though. 1001. That’s the number of tabs open in my Firefox alone. That doesn’t count Chrome, MS Edge, Safari, or Explorer. I have 88 open just on Chrome right now.

No, I don’t feel bad about it.

Oh, and this is just my laptop, not counting my desktop. Of course, Firefox has a special design to it that does not activate all open tabs at once, unlike Chrome. So my Firefox tabs are not stressing the system at 1001. Probably more like 101. Give or take.

Anyway, so I’m not sure if I’m the worst of tab users out there, but I think it’s safe to say that I rank pretty high. I’ll let you know how the new gear checks out.

Pics or it didn’t happen? Screenshot below!

1001 Browser Tabs Open Screenshot

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

When You Think Of Donations, Please Consider This Mission For The Glioblastoma Community…


If you have been diagnosed with a Brain Tumor you are not alone.

Meet my friend Greg Cantwell. He is now a 16-year glioblastoma survivor (aka GBM, grade 4 brain cancer). He is also one of two Texas brain tumor advocates to the State. He created a 501C3 called Greg’s Mission for the sole purpose of helping other brain cancer patients – because he’s been there and he knows!

Greg is here to help other glioblastoma patients navigate the system so they can make educated and informed decisions on what’s best for them.

After all, it’s their life!

If you know someone with glioblastoma, or any form of brain tumor (remember, even benign brain tumors KILL) – get them in touch with Greg for support. His services are free to brain tumor patients and their families.

Brain cancer patients have a much lower survivability rate without an advocate. It’s just reality. And most small hospitals do not understand enough about GBM to act quickly enough to educate patients and their families fast enough. In many cases, the smaller local hospitals don’t understand anything about this rare disease at all.

Greg plays a very important role in the brain cancer community and helps patients and their families all around the US.

However, this mission needs financial support.

Brain cancer remains the least funded of all cancers. This is true for research, for financial aid and for cancer support systems that help families with the stress and aftermath of living with brain cancer.

As important as Greg’s services are, as much as brain cancer hospitals rely on and refer patients to Greg for coaching and support, due to insurance regulations and laws, his advocacy services are not considered insurance billable services.

And therefore, the only way Greg can continue this mission – to help glioblastoma patients navigate the system when they have the fastest moving cancer known (glioblastoma can double in size every 2-3 weeks) – is to rely on donations. And most glioblastoma patients cannot afford to donate themselves!

Please share this information and consider supporting Greg’s Mission.

Something as simple as registering Greg’s Mission through https://smile.amazon.com and letting your purchases benefit his 501C3 charity will go far to make a difference in the lives of brain cancer patients and families everywhere.

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Education From “The Funny Papers…”


When I was a kid, my grandfather had an expression he frequently used to refer to people with no sense in their heads. People who “get their education from the funny papers.”

I used to think it was such an odd expression. An odd phrase. I loved reading the “funny papers.” I think it even helped improve my reading skills.

“Blondie” was one of my favorites. Along with “Beetle Bailey” and others. I recently mentioned to my son when he made himself a giant sandwich that he’d created a nice looking Dagwood Sandwich. He froze and stared at me, then asked me what on earth was a Dagwood sandwich. It never occurred to me that he might not know.

I spent the day today working and then attended a local veteran’s festival event that supports vets and their families. Met some good people and organizations, which I’ll share about later.

However, it was emotional for me. I stood there, surrounded by soldiers and vets, in uniform and out. And I burst into tears. Ugh. I tried to keep it together, but really couldn’t quite. Still, it was a good event and I had some pleasant conversation by the time I left and everyone was taking down.

The afternoon of overwhelming emotion left me stripped though. And instead of getting right back to work, which I needed to do, I wanted nothing more than to run away, find a movie theater or binge watch Doctor Who or Good Omens on auto-replay. And I can’t.

So, I did the next best thing. My son and I sat down to eat dinner in front of cartoons tonight. And when my daughter came home from her classes, she joined in with us too.

We started with Phineas and Ferb and ended with Ducktales. Cartoons we used to watch together with John at one time or another.

And it was interesting how helpful it was. I mean, I almost never watch TV on my own. I watched TV with John. And since his death, I don’t watch much of it at all. (In fact, John bought “me” our first TV when we were dating. “Look honey, I have a surprise for you,” as I recall it went.) So it’s been weeks since I sat down to watch anything. And here it was just cartoons that I turned to for relief. Even the ridiculous commercials for kids between cartoon breaks were oddly comforting.

What really struck me though, especially as an entrepreneur, was the Ducktales episode. At the beginning of the episode, Louie approaches Scrooge for money to fund a new hair-brained business venture. And Scrooge tells him that if he wants to be in business, he needs to find a problem that needs solving and then provide a solution. That this was his key to success.

And I was struck by how awesome it was that this cartoon was teaching principles of business to kids. And how Scrooge, who had plenty of money to hand out (and was even at one point willing to give Louie a small loan, but not a huge one), offered advice instead. He encouraged Louie to be enterprising.

It was refreshing, as I try to grow my social media and writing business, now that I’m supporting my family all on my own. Refreshing to hear a solid business principle come out of a cartoon character’s mouth.

Huh, an education from today’s modern “funny papers.”

I wonder how many kids who watched this cartoon when it first aired way back when are now business owners today.

In the next scenes, Louie brainstorms with his siblings to find problems to solve and needs to fill.

He asks them – what does everyone need? And his sister pipes up and says “Crochet hand grenade holders!”

And with that, I just want to make one.

It sinched the deal because I was already thinking earlier this week that I need a Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch. And that the Maker in me very much wants to make one for prominent display inside my family TARDIS.

And she’s right. I’m going to need a holder for it.

Amazon Affiliate Link - Crochet Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch

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Filed under crochet, Crochet Ruminations, Friends and Family, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts, Writing

‘Tis A Silly Place


TARDIS - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet setup

“It’s like you’re a Doctor Who evangelist.”

That paused me.

I measured my gaze.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking over.

“Every group of kids who come to the door! You’re like, ‘Do you like my TARDIS? Do you know what a TARDIS is? It’s from Doctor Who! You should look that up on YouTube.”

My daughter’s wry smirk looks just like her father’s.

I smile.

She’s not wrong.

Halloween is a geek’s and cosplayer’s dream holiday.

Only for me, I haven’t been costuming up that much the last few years.

This year, I grabbed my handknit Doctor Who scarf, a brown “Indiana Jones” hat and one of my wool coats and called it good.

But what I really look forward to each year is dressing up my yard.

Right square in front of our door is a lifesize TARDIS that’s my pride and joy.

You have to walk through the TARDIS to enter my home. Literally.

I bought it in a charity auction 4 years ago, the October before John was diagnosed with brain cancer.

October is our birthday month and I knew this TARDIS was perfectly my birthday gift. I also found a killer deal on a BlendTec the same month, so I was doubly happy.

Little did I know how important that BlendTec would be for John in the coming months.

The TARDIS matched our house under the overhang, beautifully. And the kids and I crafted a garden of hand mines that year to go with it.

It was glorious.

And only the knowing had any idea what they were looking at.

We were only lacking in Weeping Angels at the time. A fact I rectified last year. There are now at least 13 in my yard, hidden everywhere.

I’m sure some delivery people believe we must be very Catholic. Or simply very into angels.

What they don’t know just might steal their future though!

And then there’s our annual spider infestation.

I was so pleased when I first heard that the newly introduced season of the 13th Doctor had an episode with mutant spiders in it. Though in truth, I was disappointed with how they concluded the episode. I’m a fan of spiders and that ending was frankly illogically cruel.

But from a yard decor point of view, my spider invasion combined with the TARDIS and Weeping Angels makes my yard a pretty authentic fan fiction of its own.

Finally, after all these years they wrote an episode just for me.

We’ve lost 3 trees since John died, but we still managed to put up a good infestation of spiders this year. I couldn’t find all my crochet spider webs that I’ve made over the years. Not sure where they got put, but the giant one went up and giant momma spider, the 10-foot spider we have, was hung on the web with care.

And the effect paid off as always, demonstrated by the audible gasps when people rounded our 200-300-year-old live oaks to step onto our front walk.

You have to have big old trees to display a 10-foot spider in the air.

“There are some fun decorations in the neighborhood,” one kid told me. “But nothing compares to this! Your house is the coolest. I was here last year!”

You can believe that boosted my ego.

Though in truth, the TARDIS and angels stay up year-round.

I only take down the spiders outside. And mostly inside.

But the eclectic inside of our family TARDIS is a story for another time.

“This house has chocolate! Omg, we can have more than one piece??? You are the nicest!”

I love the smiles on the kids’ faces. Even the dubiously older ones.

Here, take another KitKat.

John always believed in handing out only the good stuff for Halloween.

None of that generic crap. The kids get plenty of that from everyone else.

Chocolate. Every year we give out chocolate.

I heard of a family that gave out king-size Snickers bars to kids one year.

I think that’s cool, but I’ve never gone that big. I stick with fistfuls of smaller bits.

I used to have a bucket of shiny pennies that every child under the age of 6 could stick their hand in and grab a handful to take home.

I liked the idea of fostering a healthy experience with a money blessing.

To give little kids that magical feeling of receiving generosity, without measure, only that they must reach out, seize it and receive it.

Besides, there’s something so pretty about shiny copper.

I need to get back to doing that again. Giving change to little kids is not very expensive at all. Especially when you consider the cost of candy.

Halloween is an odd holiday for sure.

And while it does occur during The Day Of The Dead celebrations that we have here in Texas (which culminate on November 2nd), I’m not really speaking to that part today. Though there’s certainly an influence and a magic in that part, which I do obviously appreciate.

It’s something else about Halloween. I share my perspective as someone raised without the holiday, who later came into the participation of it, thoughtfully, as a mother.

No one thinks about it being a holiday of generosity.

Its American celebration may have started out with the goal of curtailing mischief, but today, it’s evolved into an opportunity to exercise our imagination, to dress up and play as adults, to face our fears, and to bless strangers.

How interesting is that.

STRANGERS.

Of all things.

Without guilt.

Without shoulds.

Without major expectations.

Without commandment.

I mean it’s simple. It’s candy.

And fun.

And we tell each other how cool our costumes are and find out our favorite superheroes, movies, legends, and puns.

Don’t forget the puns.

No family fights over obligations.

No tantrums for not getting the latest iPhone.

And it’s OK to buy yourself something, just because you thought it would be fun.

Or thought it would make someone laugh.

Not because it was practical or necessary or expected.

It’s an interesting holiday, with something to teach.

If we let it.

Hope yours was great.

Giant spider - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet

 

 

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Filed under Friends and Family, Halloween, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts, Writing

Paradox…


How can my soul speak, when your language isn’t clear.

I flip through my collection of filters.

Each lens allows me to experience and express reality uniquely.

Colors, musical notes, equations, sound waves.

Geometric shapes, lights, patterns of stars and cells and DNA.

The mud, the bark, the rocks, the slime, the webs, the flowers.

Water, wood, metal, earth, fire and wind.

Each virtual reality filter at my fingertips.

My soul seeks, but the words are not there.

I cycle through like a ham.

Orchestrating a message of parts that even I cannot speak

And only raw flesh can comprehend.

I pull it all together into a ball and set it spinning.

A beacon, a light, pulsing with meaning.

A wolf scattered in space and time.

Casting my net into the void.

Searching for you.


11-30-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Tonight I want to tell you a story about my husband John…


My name is Julia. My husband died from a terrifying brain cancer called glioblastoma. Tonight I want to tell you a story about my husband John…

John was my best friend in the world. I remember the first time he told me that I was his best friend. And I remember after years of marriage, still feeling bewildered. That John Chambers thought of me as his best friend. Because he was the toughest guy I knew. And he was cool as shit.

I asked him about his sister, and his best guy friends, all of whom he was very close to. Because I figured surely they were his best friends before I was.

And he said “That’s true, but it’s different with you. You’re my life, you’re my breath. I trust you implicitly with everything that I am. I trust you more than anyone else in the world.”

And I was humbled by this 6’5″ operatic giant, who was intelligent and tough, and who believed in always doing the right thing. That the strong should protect the weak. That the able had a responsibility to use their strengths for good. And I was slightly terrified to be entrusted with so profound a thing.

John was a hero and a great leader to others. The guy who rescued people from elevators during power outages in a snow storm, because it was the right thing to do. And he was the only one strong enough to open the doors to do it.

He was Super Man, and out of everyone, he cherished and trusted me most.

I was stunned at the beautiful confirmation that our souls spoke beyond words. He was my everything. Together we were empowered. Together we could do anything. Together, no one could stop us. Together we were both better individually and collectively.

How did I come to be the one to hold the precious jewels of his heart and trust. It was easy for me to see why I trusted him. Why I fell so hard for him. He was such a good, good man. Not to mention he had an enchanted singing voice. But for him to fall so hard for me, to so deeply trust me…. How did it come to be?

John told me a story about a lesson he learned from his widowed grandmother. One summer during college, he stayed with her, helping her paint and repair the home that his grandfather built. John loved great conversation and he cherished the time he spent with his grandparents. At some point during this summer, the subject of relationships came up, and John made some comment to his grandmother about the kind of (tall) woman he needed to find to marry. And she told him “You don’t marry a body, you marry a mind.”

Her words struck his core profoundly, and he never forgot. “You are gorgeous,” he said to all 5’1″ of me, “But more than that, your heart and mind are astonishingly beautiful. I love who you are inside. Others don’t see it, but I do.” It was a raw moment of love and joy. To be truly seen, soul to soul. A moment I couldn’t believe I was lucky to have.

John told me often during our 22 years together that it was his job to remind me how beautiful I was, inside and out. To set things right and make up for traumas of the past. To help me to see my beauty and believe in myself. To help me experience that life could be fun. John taught me that I had a right to safety and that it was OK to have healthy boundaries. And he told me, over and again, unto the last weeks of his life, that I was the reason that he was a better man. That without me, his life wouldn’t have been enriched and that because of me he wanted that much more to be a better man. That he wanted that much more to do good things, to help others and make a difference in the world.

And here I thought it was he who taught me more about real love than anyone I’d ever known.

As I stumble through the shards left of my reality after his death, I try to hang onto his words. I remind myself that one of the best souls I’ve ever known never stopped thinking that my mind was smart and beautiful. He even thought I gave good advice. I always counted on his, and boy could I use some of it right now.

I wrote before about the gift of holding our children’s beginnings. The part of life that later our kids cannot remember. The part of their beginning that no one else sees. No one else contains more of those moments than we parents. We hold our children’s first stories.

I did not expect the astonishing reality of holding my husband’s ending. It is a terrifying, yet precious gift. To hold him, his heart and soul. To walk his last walk with him and share his nightmare. To fight for him with every drop of my blood, every beat of my heart, every breath in my chest. To crack wide open and pull out every possible skill I could to save his life. To be the one to bear witness to every honorable and gritty detail. The one who contains his final story. The one to be entrusted with his death.

I am his horcrux.

I hold his story. Together he can never be defeated.

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Filed under Glioblastoma, Grief, NaBloPoMo

Graph…


Life has always been a series of Stories.

Some more enjoyable than others.

There’s always a Path.

There’s always a Creative Lesson.

There’s always some Pain.

There’s always some Joy.

Some days are Zen.

Some are Hell.

Some are Kittens and Sunflowers.

Some are Simply Now.

Some days we’re Aligned.

Some days we’re Not.

Life is a Line Graph.

Up and down, back and forth.

Never in the same place twice.

Except when Lightning Strikes.

When the heartbeat of my line graph flat lines,
I have to ask myself these things…

What are my trigger points and why?
What needs have I neglected?
What boundaries do I need to repair?
What am I not giving voice to?
What message is my soul desperate for me to hear?
What nourishment am I starving for?
What circulation has been cut off?
What relationships need cultivation?
What is the urgency I feel in this moment?
What is aching to Move?
What actually Matters?
What actions will help me to slow down?
What does it take to Breathe?
What programs are running?
What flow is missing?
What routines need to Be?

My dear, dear Julia
What Sign do you Need?


11-28-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Graph - By Aberrant Crochet

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Comfortable…


“Why do you keep doing? It seems like no one notices. Has anyone told you they cared? What value is there in continuing to give in ways that may never return to you?”

And I don’t know what to say to her.

I mean,

I have never…

known…

what to say

to reason.

I saw things differently as a child.

I see things differently as a mother.

I’ve been different all my life.

I’ve never focused on the “fairness” of giving without condition; of serving without thanks or feedback.

I see need and I scramble to salve it.

Because someone must.

The world is just mommy spit and kisses away from being lost.

I do not do

what I do

because I need

permission

from anyone

other than

myself.

“But you are giving everything away and nothing is coming back,” she tells me.

I still don’t know what to say.

Is that true, I wonder?

Is nothing coming back?

Am I hurting myself?

Considering how comfortable my conscience is,

I doubt the damage would be too much.


11-27-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Making Bone Broth: 19 Must Read Resources To Teach You Why And How…


Making bone broth is one of those recipes/activities that has become a staple in my kitchen. I don’t always get to have leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving (if I’m not hosting, I’m not usually making the turkey), but turkey carcasses make the bestest of bone broths in my opinion. Usually, I’m making bone broth from an organic chicken carcass.

Bone broth may seem “new,” with the Primal, Paleo and Keto diet movements, et all, but it’s actually steeped in history. From the root word meaning “restore,” the first “restaurants” were places you could go to get restorative bone broth, for the ill or the weary with travel.

It’s not hard to make and it’s so, so very good for you. I think everyone should learn how. So I thought I’d provide my must read list of resources to help spread the madness.

In my opinion, the list of links below represent some of the best information available on bone broth. Not just instructions, but why’s and variations. I think nearly half of these links are from doctors, which is nice if you want to learn *how* bone broth can help the body heal. With loved ones in my family suffering from diverticulitis and Lyme disease, I was especially interested in how bone broth could be helpful in healing from those diseases. I was raised on nutritional thinking and natural healing, so digging into resources on managing diverticulitis or healing Lyme naturally was second nature to me. The Eater.com link below provides more on the history of bone broth. Comparative recipes and methods can be found via the other links.

The 7 day broth link, and a post from a chef that I couldn’t find again (sorry), are the resources that convinced me to cook my chicken bones for at least 5 days. In fact, I often crock pot my bones 7-10 days with no problems. Works great. I also use my Instant Pot when I want a quick fix just right now. It’s a good broth, but there’s something I prefer about a week-long simmering broth that I drink from and add herbs and vegetables to every day.

I’ve researched through far more than just these articles, but didn’t save everything I’ve read.  Hopefully this list will arm you with solid information and help get you started on your own.

Tell me how it goes!

http://chriskresser.com/how-to-prevent-diverticulitis-naturally

http://primaldocs.com/members-blog/commit-to-your-health-drink-bone-broth

http://www.amymyersmd.com/2014/05/roasted-chicken-gut-healing-bone-broth

http://terrywahls.com/homemade-bone-broth

http://draxe.com/diverticulitis-diet

http://draxe.com/natural-strategies-to-cure-lyme-disease

http://draxe.com/lyme-disease-natural-remedies

http://draxe.com/the-healing-power-of-bone-broth-for-digestion-arthritis-and-cellulite

http://draxe.com/recipe/beef-bone-broth

http://realfoodrn.com/7-day-bone-broth/

http://drhenriroca.com/2014/05/bone-broth-benefits

http://nourishedandnurtured.blogspot.com/2013/01/how-to-make-bone-broth-and-my-favorite.html

http://www.thepiggery.net/pigblog/bone-broth-recipe

http://paleoleap.com/making-fresh-bone-stock

http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-bone-broth-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-215311

http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/difference-stock-broth-bone-broth-article

http://www.eater.com/2015/2/12/8025027/what-is-bone-broth-and-why-is-everyone-talking-about-it

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cooking-with-bones/#axzz3cVjrOSAd

Do you have other good bone broth links?

Please share them with me in the comments below!

soup-bones-bone-broth

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How: The Question Of Overwhelm…


Instead of asking, how can I make this easier?
Ask, what can I do to make this easier?

Instead of asking, how can I be happy?
Ask, what do I need right now to be happy?

Instead of asking, how are you going to do that?
Ask what steps will you take to carry out xyz?

Instead of asking, how are you doing?
Ask, what are you feeling?
What do you need? What is helpful?
What can I do that will make a difference?
What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person right now?

Instead of asking, how am I going to get everything done?
Ask, what can I cut out that will free up the most time?
What tasks can I rearrange to reduce the stress I feel?
What resources can help me win this?

Instead of asking, how is this going to work?
Ask, what is our plan? (Do we have a plan?)
What is our focus? What can we accomplish this week?

Instead of asking, how could they do this to me?
Ask, what boundaries have I not set?
What expectations do I have?
What needs have I not expressed?
What messages am I sending that I didn’t mean to?

Instead of asking, how was your day?
Ask, what was the most interesting part of today?
Or most entertaining? Or most terrifying? Whatever fits?

Instead of asking, how will I afford this?
Ask, what are our goals?
What do you need to meet our goals?
What actions are needed to make this happen?
What are some ways I can cut my expenses? Increase my income?

HOW is too often the nebulous, undefined question of stress, reaction and overwhelm.

For forward-motion, focused solutions and freedom, instead ask WHAT.

 

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I Got People For That…


Community. Tribe. Team.

It’s what human beings are drawn to.

Even when we’re loners.

A network of friends and family and resources and colleagues.

My 10th level wizard on speed dial.

Outsourcing my spells.

Ideally united in the goal of making things better in the world.

It’s who we desire to serve, and what we desire to build.

Our hope for tomorrow.

As humans have never in history ever thrived alone.

I’m not infinite enough to learn and do it all.

So I appreciate the experts in my life.

The people who are willing to be experts in the things I can’t absorb too.

The friends willing to share the collective burden of tasks gathered in a single lifetime.

I selfishly hope my mechanic and chiropractor never, ever retire.

And in truth, I’ll help them however I can, should they need my skills.

I even already have.

Exchange of comparable value.

Expertise for expertise.

An ear for an ear.

Value for value.

The freedom to know that I don’t have to worry about “that thing” that I’m uncomfortable with.

Because, “I got people for that.”

Isn’t that a level of cooperation we all seek?

I appreciate the experts in my life who can focus on the things I cannot.

I want to be someone’s “people for that.”

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Job Satisfaction…


As I wrestle with the packaging of my protein bar,
driving in the car on the way to my appointment,
I can’t help but think that I might enjoy a job in
designing better packaging for snacks on the go.

Aka, meals on the go.
Because… you know… no time to eat.

It’s probably not as glamorous as it seems in my head.
But I bet the job satisfaction is pretty high.

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If You Want To Be In, Get The App…


I listen to the sales rep tell me about their customer service.

He says, “Really, the best thing is to download our app. It’s basically a control center in the palm of your hand. You could do anything from the app! You can schedule service, you can chat with a representative when you need help, you can order parts, and you can look up all of your service contracts!”

“Oh that’s interesting,” I say. “So can I pay my bill through that too?”

“Actually,” he says, “you have to have a different app to pay your bill. So you need this app to keep up with your service contracts, and then you need this other app in order to manage your billing and payments.”

“So… I need two apps to realize the full benefit of all your services?”

I wonder if he can tell that my inner Gen-Xer is rapidly losing interest.

“Well yes,” he says. “But then if you want our premium membership services too, then you need this other app for that.”

:: blink ::

I get why Amazon has multiple apps. I don’t get why this brick and mortar store that I walked into does.

“Do I have to have your app in order to look up my service contracts? Or can I just look them up on my computer?” I ask.

“Oh sure,” he says. “It’s just easier if you have the app since it’ll all be right there in your hand.”

Considering that I have almost no room left on my phone, and I value what is already there, the last thing I want to do is install 3 apps just to realize all the benefits of shopping at one store I just walked into.

But that’s the way of the world today. Everybody wants you to have their app now. Everybody wants you to register an account.

Everyone wants to help you for the low, low price of your email, address, phone number and GPS location.

Just to get coupon discounts on fabric that used to come in the mail, they want me to create an account.

If I want to use any service with extra benefits, I better be ready to surrender my phone number too.

Gone are the days of just simple favors and discounts. Today everybody wants to track every conversion. Today everyone wants to plug into me 24/7.

And I can’t blame them. I mean I want to know how well my marketing efforts are working too.

However my inner rebel says enough is enough. There’s not enough of an “in” anymore.

If I don’t want it bad enough, I’m not signing up for one more account to keep track of.

Just how many different accounts with user names and apps is it reasonable to expect a single person to have? Our digital footprint is rapidly becoming humongous. And if I were to die tomorrow, how many fragmented bits of accounts are going to be left floating around out there because they’re not really that important. Should I expect my kids to go close all of my accounts for the fabric store, the grocery store, the appliance store, the department store, not to mention all the online places I might shop?

What about the newsletters for the city, the neighborhood association, the drug store?

Will there come a day when all my bills will be required to be paid via app?

Does there really need to be one more app? One more account, for that?

social tree

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The Waters Of Dragonfly Pond…


I’ve always loved the idea of having chickens, though I’m not actually sure on the follow through. I certainly enjoy buying eggs from friends who raise them.

When the kids were much younger, they took pottery and drawing lessons. The drawing lessons were especially helpful for my son, who had both dysgraphia and amblyopia.  The lessons were amazing, and came from an art studio based out of a beautiful little ranch/farm property north of town. It was called Dragonfly Pond.

The family who lived there and owned the studio didn’t really have an actual “farm” like some of their neighbors, but they did have chickens, peacocks, guineas, geese, and all sorts of other birds that freely roamed their entire property.

Did you know that peacocks will hunt snakes? Such beautiful birds, and very loud.

In the back of the art center, the owners built a little bubbling brook; a man-made fountain stream, running through the back “yard.” There were bushes and Texas holey rocks and flowers and bits of pottery projects all around.

A picnic table and tree swing was set up next to the little stream. Parents and students would wait on their lessons outside in the little garden brook area (and enjoy the scenery). It was beautiful and the farm birds roamed everywhere. There was plenty to enjoy even while waiting for lessons to begin or end.

I enjoyed some blessed little Zen moments waiting in that little garden stream area for my kids. Waiting for the moments when they would rush outside, “Mommy, mommy – look what I made!” Cheering them on. Picking up acorns, feathers and rock treasures and soaking up the fresh air.

Happy moments.

Though the art studio family had a fenced off coop for the birds at night, the chickens would literally lay eggs just about anywhere and everywhere. Eggs could be found in the rocks by the stream, by the parking area, even in the prickly pear cacti! Seeing eggs nestled up against the base of a cacti is one of those moments I wish I’d caught on film. I mean, just imagine…

Many of the chickens were very docile and there was one in particular that my daughter Jack would pick up and carry around. The little hen seemed to beg for her attention, follow her around. And once a year when the peacocks shed their tail feathers, the art studio would let each kid take home a feather.

Coming there every week was an amazing and healing experience for the kids and I both. Back in the days when John was deployed. The days when the kids first cried every night for their father.

And I always thought, you know – that’s the way to do it. It was obvious the birds were happy in this place. And it was such an organic experience for the kids and I both. If I were to have chickens, that would be the way to do it.

Sadly Dragonfly Pond has since closed and sold, years ago.  Volente bought the ranch land backing their property with the intention of putting in a water park. I’m not sure if the park will ever be built, but there was a big brew-ha-ha when the land was first bought. Several homes on the other side of the fence sold. Supposedly the water park was going to be like a Robinson Caruso theme park, with tree-house hotels. But nothing has yet ever been built. Sad.

I’m just glad someone introduced us to the studio and that we were enriched by it. And during a time we needed nurturing. I’m grateful that it became part of our treasured memories before it went away.

I’m not sure I’ll ever own chickens one day or not. But if I did, that would surely be the way.

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Making Time For Social…


Like most artists and artisans, I’m not a full-time artist. I have other jobs to do, other responsibilities and hats I don. And I have to balance family and work life too.

Making time to blog and to continue the social conversations begun within my niche community is a challenge sometimes. Sometimes we’re out of ideas. Sometimes we’re self-conscious. Sometimes life becomes an emergency. Sometimes we are buried in other concerns and forget that our world is now no longer simply physical, but digital too.

It’s easy to let digital anything fall by the wayside when other parts of life get demanding. It’s also easy to think of blogging for our businesses as an extra, or luxury. But the world of marketing and communication today has evolved into something new. And that new is the digital social landscape. Especially if you don’t own a brick and mortar store front, and you want to stay in business; seriously it’s not a luxury to skip out on social – it’s a need that will break you if you don’t satisfy it.

So how do you move past the hurdles and unfreeze yourself and your message? How do you breathe life back into your blog and your social communities if you’ve neglected them awhile?

1) Forgive yourself. Stop the should haves and just get to it. As artists, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for not being more left-brained about what we do when it comes to marketing. And it doesn’t do a thing to serve us.

2) Routines. If working on social media interactions and blogging every day is too much, then scale back. Don’t promise the moon to your followers and then not deliver. Set the expectations that they can count on and then deliver. Keep investing in the conversation.

3) Give the best you can give when you deliver. Quality, engaging content and conversation will carry you when you find that you are short on time. (But don’t over think it and freeze back up because the word “quality” caught you.) Be genuine.

4) When ideas come, keep notes. Write a rough draft or queue up a title for future consideration. Save a list of links for research. Baby steps will help you be prepared when you sit down to create. Really, I view this as no different from my 50+ unfinished crochet projects – all filed away, that I may grab one at anytime to finish up as I feel moved or need inspiration. Only in this case, I also have a 50+ queue of writing and conversation ideas.

5) Stay active socially. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. I don’t have to blog every day or even every week to keep people coming to my site. But I do need to care. I do need to interact. I should be involved with my niches and my communities. And I should generate quality evergreen content on my site that aims at helping the people in my community whom I’m already engaging with.

What evergreen content should that be, you might wonder? For me, that evergreen content reveals itself as I stay engaged with my community and listen to what that community needs. When I pour care and effort into my social media relationships within my community, and reflect that care into my blog (even when I go through dry writing spells), people who want/need my help will come to find me pretty regularly. But I have to stay active in the social side.

How about you? What are your tips on how to re-engage?

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My Current Favorite Method For Instant Pot Roast Beef…


I joined the IP madness last year on Black Friday. Got a killer deal on a Duo Plus after researching them for a few months prior.

Ever since, I’ve been absolutely smitten by this little wonder pot.

I grew up with pressure cooking, but also never forgot the time my mom blew up a pressure cooker in our kitchen. Nor had I forgotten what a pain the pressure cooker pots were to clean. So I really kind of ignored the whole IP frenzy for a few years. After all, I had TWO pressure cookers in my cabinets that I just didn’t want to use, because I didn’t want something to go wrong or have to clean them up.

Enter the magical world of Instant Pot (IP)!

Now, I wish I’d never waited. It’s very portable and travels easily. I’ve used it to cook dinner in hotel rooms and to help out when I visit friends and family.

Instant Pot would have saved the day many times while John was sick. Not to mention all those times we’d look at each other around dinner time and ask each other – “Hey, did you pull the meat out of the freezer? “No, I thought you did….” “Sigh… Sh******!”

As long as it fits into the pot, it doesn’t matter what shape your frozen food is in – the Instant Pot (IP) will cook it in no time!

My current favorite recipe right now is this roast beef method on This Old Gal. This method is surprisingly quick and exceptional.

It’s been a big hit for our family, and our gatherings, but I tweak it this way…

I use Apothic Dark for the wine, skip the fish sauce, mustard and TOG seasoning. For the rub I use grape seed oil, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, Fiesta fajita seasoning and salt/pepper instead. And 2 bay leaves added to the pot, not just one. Rub it all over with minced garlic too! This time I also sprinkled on smoked paprika. AND I let the roast rest at room temperature for a couple hours before putting into the pot. Resulting in this beautiful baby!

Instant Pot Roast Beef - Raw

For reference, this is a 2.45 lb eye of round beef roast. Ready to go into The Pot.

Instant Pot Roast - medium rare

Instant Pot (IP) Roast Beef – fresh from the pot! Slicing up thin.

Just like the recipe calls, I use the sauté setting to just barely brown the roast on all sides, then use the meat setting on high pressure for 4 minutes.

After it’s reached pressure, I let it natural pressure release (aka. NPR) for 25 minutes.

I didn’t use a thermometer on mine to gauge it. I just found that with this small of a roast, this got me where I wanted the doneness to be.

In this photo, though, the roast is a little more done than I wanted, because I accidentally let it NPR about 40 minutes instead of 25.

But still, not bad! And quite tasty!

Know what my 2nd most favorite part of making roast in the IP is?
Warming up leftovers!

Instant Pot Roast - warmed up -medium

Leftover Instant Pot Roast Beef warmed up on the STEAM function. 3 days later!

So here’s the thing. You can warm up your leftover roast (steaks and such too) in the Instant Pot – without over cooking it, without slicing it and packing it in ice and putting in the oven, and without a number of other often suggested ways that usually result in overdone meat and lots of time.

Instead, put your leftover roast into a Pyrex container on a rack inside your IP. Make sure there’s at least 1 cup of liquid in there. Put the pot on the STEAM setting for 13-15 minutes. Then NPR for at least 15 minutes.

And voilà! It may not still be medium rare, but it’ll be hot and medium!

Just look at my photo on the right! That’s the same roast, warmed up on the STEAM setting 3 days later!

And it tastes almost like I just made it today!

Let me know if you try it! 😁

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Tonight…


Tonight is one of those nights where I feel discouragement. The holidays are around the corner and I have butterflies about re-entering the job market and interviews – all in order to find a good paying position with good major medical benefits. And to become debt free after all this devastation. Heck, even debt reduced.

I haven’t had to look for a job in two decades. My self-employment was helpful to the family, but it never supported the whole family all the time. It took both John and I to make things work in life. Now I’m doing his job too.

In order to make sure my son stays alive, I need to figure this out. Because I’m not yet making it financially alone and without John. So many responsibilities. Part of me would be relieved to step in to help solve someone else’s problems for awhile.

It’s been 14 months and I look around and still see so much to do. So much still to pay off. Nothing feels quite like it’s going right, like trying to work at 10 times the speed with only thumbs to help. And the world weighs heavy on me.

I know all this will pass. I know I’ve been through the worst already. I know I have good reason to be stressed and I know that being stressed doesn’t change the reality of things. I know I’ve been through hell and maybe not quite back. I know I won’t feel this way in a few years. Maybe. I hope.

But tonight is one of those times when you wonder if anything you do has meaning anymore. If you’re screwing it all up and maybe you don’t have any clue what you’re doing after all. No matter how much advice you seek or how much you study. Nor how much you pray for guidance and help.

I’ve been there for others through times like this. Surely I can do this too.

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You Know You’re In Central Texas…


Indoor Snowballs from Kohl's

Indoor Snowballs from Kohl’s

…when this is a thing.

I was tempted, yellow pee balls and all.

We’ve recently had lots of full-on freezing early in our season after lots of rain, but no actual ice yet.

It doesn’t usually get this cold this early in the year here. Come Christmas, we’re usually wearing shorts.

Probably a good thing ice hasn’t materialized. No one here knows how to drive in it. We certainly don’t have much in the way of snow gear here, so people tend to die while everyone tries to go on with “business as usual.”

But that means my kids have barely gotten to see snow their entire childhoods.

When we do get snow, there’s usually barely enough to dust the yard, and it melts super fast. We run outside, scrape together as much snow as possible and make miniature snowman on the hoods of our trucks.

And we set out bowls in hopes of catching enough flakes to make snow ice cream.

If you’ve never had snow ice cream, it’s pretty simple to make. You just take a bowl of clean snow and add sugar and vanilla to taste. Pretty simple and tasty.

I’d say avoid the yellow snow, but as you can see below, in the very rare event that we finally get snow, usually the ground melts right away and all that’s left is snow on the cars!

So if you find yellow snow on your car, I’d say you have more than one problem at hand!

This is a photo taken a decade or so ago with my daughter Jack building her mini snowman and wearing the ear hat I made her when she was quite little.

Do you know – she still has it and wears it to college on cold days. Still looks almost the same.

If ever I wanted confirmation on the quality of my crochet designs and my choices in yarn blending, she’s my 21 year proof.

One more reason I like crochet.

#ItGrowsWithThem

Miniature snowman scraped together off the truck.

Central Texas Snowman

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Erased…


Speaking about my Love does not hurt me.

It grants me freedom.

Hearing his name does not make me cringe.

It’s music to my ears.

The silence is what hurts.

The desert of his name upon your lips.

You who called him family.

Uncle, brother, friend.

As if he dies a second death.

Unremembered. Unrecalled. Unspoken.

Erased from our experience.

This isn’t the way we honor.

“Please speak of me kindly and often. I cannot be there for them.”

11-15-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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As It Is…


In life we sail united

Stored our memories at 7-Eleven

Queso dip and garlic bread

We pay homage at the altars

 

An artistic angle beckons

At the crossroads of bells

Leathery wings cloud the fire

West to the waterfall

 

A rock is desired

A clift is found

Angels lift their voices

All for the want of a Doctor

11-14-2018
Copyright © 2018 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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