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the Fs that matter

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The warmth of the late morning sun comes through the slats; radiating on our business conference room table.  I trace the lines as I eat a slice of cornbread for breakfast; one of the few bread items I actually enjoy.  Those who know me cannot fathom my lack of enthusiasm for bread or cakes and  assume I count carbs.  But this is not the reason.   The cornbread is an exception.  Why?

Because it is simply made.  There are a total of five ingredients in the entire recipe.  I like flatbreads and things unleavened.  I espouse SIMPLE.  In all things that I do.

It has been an interesting path, to make my way towards simplicity.  I usually love complexity and depth in people, in food and in life.  Part of the fun was figuring things out and discovering little nuances and hidden meanings.  I felt intellectual and smart; intercepting innuendos and tidbits of knowledge.  I “got it” and felt like the  privileged few getting the inside joke.

In years past, when the month of November arrived I busily shopped; my Christmas list soon-to-be complete.  The hunt and fun was in finding “the perfect gift” and creating “the perfect ambience” and having the most involved recipe for all things holiday.  The intricate pie with cut out leaves, the sumptuous sides and glossy magazine table settings.   The picture perfect Kodak moments.

I still enjoy these things and appreciate the work and time it takes to create them.  But I no longer am the person orchestrating them.

Because the thanks giving  during the holidays was in thanking the Lord that they were all over.  The giving.  The busyness.  The mess.  The financial burden.  The family feuds.

Since 2009 I have slowly streamlined this process and I can now give thanks for things that matter; my Fs.  Faith.  Family.  Friendship.  Freedom.  Food.  Fitness.   In years prior I also would count my blessings for finances; the accumulation of savings accounts and things.  FOLLY.

 Faith.  Family.  Friendship.  Freedom.  Food.  Fitness.

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The hubs left the Sur la Table catalog on the table and my eyes feasted upon the autumn colored dishes filled with involved gourmet recipes.  Since 2009 he and I have tried to embrace the Slow Food movement.  Instead of buying fast food we take the time and effort to cook at home.  It is a slow and tedious process; difficult in the fall amongst a full schedule and three sons.  But cook we continue to do.  It is time consuming and there are many days that I long to drive somewhere or call for take-out.  I  wondered aloud if our kids even knew the difference or cared; this work we do to create slow, home-cooked meals.

I observed the shoppers that  walked through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and occasionally Whole Foods.  They are smartly dressed on smartphones; filling their carts with things organic.  But I often wonder if they even know what they are buying?  Is it really organic?  Because if the item they bought came from Argentina then the carbon footprint of the airplane fuel used to transport it into the US goes against the grain.   Do they look at the organic label of various canned items and find ingredients that read like a science experiment?

We get lost in the distraction and grasp onto the labels we want to believe.  Organic.  Healthy.  Perfection.  More.   The catalogs and magazines call to us to create the most perfect memories with recipes, crafts and decor that evoke the holiday spirit.  FOLLY.

Because the holidays began as simple affairs.  It is only in our first world society and over-the-top zeal that makes it a capitalist’s dream.  And each and every year I find myself buying into it; literally.  My wallet lays open for that one thing that I have to have.

On my path to simplicity I walked uphill faster and faster; pushing to the next level.  But the joy of the walk was lost in keeping up; putting value in appearances and fitness levels.  Insanity.  I remind myself that I have to love what I do; to remain consistent.  That harder and faster may get me to my destination sooner; but the value was, and is, in the journey.  That a healthy heart isn’t just about elevated heart rates on monitors.  A healthy heart comes from within.

I repeat my mantra of the Fs that matter.

My demeanor is more direct, these days.  With the physical growth spurts of my sons comes the mental growth to discern what is meaningful.  To not waste any more time.

Is what I do for personal gain?

Does it strengthen our family values?  Spiritual growth? 

Does it promote healthy eating?  Healthy living?

We enjoy the freedom of making our own choices and I am training myself to proactively do them.  Actions speak louder than words.   These days I choose to remain under the radar; to anonymously donate time or talents that have meaning; that accentuate my Fs that matter.  I walked the open air Farmer’s Market; my eyes drawn to the multicolored vegetables on display.

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 Faith.  Family.  Friendship.  Freedom.  Food.  Fitness.

Maybe the F I should really remember this holiday season is frugality.   To be simple and plain.

I erroneously thought when I decided to be SIMPLE that my path would become easier.  It is NOT.  It is much easier to accumulate things than to filter and sort what is important.  Taking inventory is  taxing; easily pushed aside to deal with more acute matters of the here and now.

It is also painful.  Painful to realize what you thought was true and authentic was another F word.  FRAUDULENT.  The things in people and life that you thought would bring happiness and instead bred disappointment.  The ties that bind become parachute strings.  They held you aloft for awhile but never allowed you to touch ground; drifting in limbo.  You never know where you stand.

And so I cut strings and ground myself.  I shred papers, shed clothes and unwanted junk to organize what’s left; to know what I have.  It is only when you take stock of your life that you can truly be grateful for it.   The hard part is discerning what to toss and what to keep.  And then comes the maintenance; to continue to cultivate, appreciate and protect the things that matter.  To return to the basics.  To take strides, out of the box.

To strive towards SIMPLE.

 Faith.  Family.  Friendship.  Freedom.  Food.  Fitness.

 

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