Where Do I Belong?

Going through files I came across this gem. I took a course a while ago that pushed me to explore creative writing. I loved it and this week I’m going to share some of those goodies!!

Walking through the doors on my first day of junior high I was speechless. Even though everyone around was familiar, something was different. The new building gave the impression that entrance on its own changed you from the inside out. Classmates that used to be my friends were merely acquaintances now. Apparently, growing up meant that you had to start all over. As the first days of junior high grew into weeks, something happened.  Everyone had to belong to someone else. Suddenly, we emerged from grade school with the inability to be alone. I have learned over the years that this realization became a way of life from that moment on. We all need to feel wanted and want to be needed.

 When in time did this desire to build cliques begin. Looking back through history I found instances where individuals came together in their own sects. In Biblical times the disciples were a group; the Pharisees and Sadducees were together; even the priests had their own inner circle. The United States was founded on the beliefs and dreams of an inner circle. Through these recollections it has become clear to me that as a race, we need to belong. We were born different, raised different, taught different, and matured different. But those differences bind us together in some form of social interaction.

 I find it interesting how social we are as a human race. The need to find a group feeds this longing. Even a hermit is needed by someone or something. While the majority of the world seeks out a group of likeminded and commonly grounded foes, the average hermit finds solace in four walls of shelter. After all, there is no part of history that dictates who or what we must belong to . We all scoff when reports surface of an old lady with 500 cats in her house. She longed for fur balls and the soft purr of a friend that enjoyed her company. Who are we to judge?

 This idea of finding a place to belong began way before junior high. But the lasting effects of this desire surface around the ages of eleven or twelve. Friends become more than someone you see at school or play with on the weekend. Friends become your guide and, in some cases, your moral compass. The groups formed in junior high have a fifty percent chance of surviving the social pool that is high school.

 Entering the doors of high school offers a similar experience to junior high. The difference is that we’ve had two or three years of practice. The halls are bigger, the teachers are meaner, the lines are longer, and the expectations are much higher. Suddenly we realized that finding a group needs to happen immediately, this can’t wait. All around groups are forming like a mass exodus to the only remaining ant hill in the field. Where do we belong, why must we belong? Do we stand out or fall in line?

 Even Aristotle and Plato had an inner circle. They were the brilliant minds of our past so, they must have had a heads up on this “belonging” business. Now that high school has taken over our lives the social need is greater. If we don’t belong to anyone or anything the days get longer, the tasks get harder, and the end feels like it may never have a sunrise. Once we found a place, a people that understood us, or so we thought, life became easier. These groups and cliques helped us navigate through struggles and life lessons hard fought. But were they the right guides? Did they genuinely care about us? 

 This innate desire to belong lives with us forever. We feel great relief when the diploma lands in our palm and the pomp and circumstance plays its last tune. The survival of the fittest has come to end and now, growing up wasn’t so hard to do – or so we thought. Life moved on at a quick pace, but suddenly we realized that this longing hasn’t gone away. Not only has it grown, it has become more complex. The things and people we need are more sensitive, their needs are greater, their lives are evolving, and most importantly no one stands still for long. If you take an extra minute to fix your hair in the mirror you might miss their departure.

 Now we must find a new belonging. The stakes are higher, while the formation of the school ground is in the rear-view mirror, the gathering of more sophisticated means is a figment through the windshield. But what do these groups look like? How, in a world of millions of adults, and things, do we find where we belong. Suddenly the need for guidance is lost, but the need for reassurance is much stronger. We are not growing into people any longer, we are trying to maintain what we have grown.

 This longing, this deep desire, is it required. Can we manage on our own? According to God and his followers, absolutely not. But what about those people that don’t believe in a higher power, why do they congregate? I have come to believe that no matter what or where we put our faith, the desire to share and have common ground is stronger than any self-disciplined individual. For that matter, even animals survive in groups. Walking through the zoo, nine out of ten residents have company. So, what will come of this odd inner struggle to find a place?

 Everywhere we look there are options. We can become athletes, join a book club, become communication Rembrandts, or simply fade into the collections we have created to fill the void. Whatever we chose, a selection is made. Life is about belonging. Beginning new jobs, joining new clubs, and becoming a member of a bigger family all raise that familiar feeling and universal question of “Where do I belong?”

 I have found that this simple question can be traced back to some of the memories and events of our past. Inevitably, at some point we chose the wrong group or person to belong to. Choice were made that took us down a path not so bright. I find it ironic that, while this longing is bread into us, the decisions aren’t always positive. Something we must do carries the weight of being completely wrong and life altering. Ask the guy in cell 453 at the local prison. He’ll tell you he belonged, but that belonging was built on progress not sustainability. How can such mere desire be backtracked and filled with disaster? I guess you could ask Adam and Even the same question. They are the ones that got us into this mess. They needed to belong to wisdom. Now they, nor us, know what to do with it.

 As a child we longed for the days of making our own decisions. As a teenager we would daydream of the moment our lives would become free and full of adventure. As new adults set free in a magic world, we begin to realize that not much has changed from our days on the recess yard. The view is bigger, and the needs are greater, but the outcome is still inevitable. Do we join the geek table? Or maybe the cheerleaders well accept us. Worst case scenario, the band cluster always has room for one more. The faces may change as an adult, but the need to belong will never go away. It just becomes more sophisticated. length;d

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I fought the Pot, and We Both Won

I took a step back.  I researched and studied.  And I stand (well, sit actually) here proudly and ready to share that I may have lost the battle, but the Instant Pot lost the war.   Yes, I’m dramatic, get used to it.  Just to recap, I attempted to make a pot roast in this beastly kitchen appliance a few weeks ago and was sadly disappointed.  I walked away damaged and destroyed by an electrical object.  However, my mama raised no quitter.  The internet may have a lot of fake news, but when it comes to the Instant Pot, it’s legit!

Not only did I win, but I made the best meal we have had in over a year.  I’m no Gordina Ramsey, but I’ve got chops in the kitchen.  I’ll admit, I can’t take much credit for the succulent pile of tender and juicy pot roast that was lifted out to a chorus of ooh’s and ahhh’s tonight.  Here’s the shocker . . . the roast wasn’t the star.  When preparing this most loved meal I always make mashed potatoes.  My potatoes are good, and I’ve perfected the recipe from a combination of friend’s recipes over the years.  But these potatoes?  I’d like to think they were amazing and the best I have ever had.

First of all, if you have come here for a healthy recipe, you will be disappointed.   If you have come here for a recipe in general, stay tuned, you’ll get that when I am able to recreate this genius and record it.  Let me just say, the potatoes cooked with the meat for 2hrs on high pressure.  After a natural decompression I then prepared them as if I were making mashed potatoes like any other day.  The magic was in how they were seasoned and cooked in the Instant Pot.  These potatoes tasted like GRAVY!  I’m not joking.  I didn’t even make gravy because these potatoes turned out so flavorful that we didn’t need it.  The meat was juicy, and every bite was like you didn’t deserve it for free.

I have a saying I live by: If you didn’t learn anything, go back and look again.  I truly believe this applies to every part of our lives, even in the kitchen.  After my first instant pot disaster I had to go back and figure out what went wrong and how I couldn’t get a stinkin’ kitchen appliance to comply.  It wasn’t easy and I’ll admit, there have been 2 other massive failures prior to this most excellent success.  But there is a bigger picture here, no matter what, keep going.  And yes, I just took this journey to an entirely different level.

In the kitchen, in the bedroom, heck, even in the bathroom, pretty much anywhere, if you feel like a failure, like there is no way to succeed . . . you just keep going.  I sat down to blog tonight and caught myself flipping through pictures.  Isn’t digital media amazing?  I love that I can tap something, swipe another, or just speak to Alexa and I have my past looking back at me.  This Instant Pot war reminded me of my mom.  She couldn’t cook for crap.  Seriously, the lady had eight recipes and rotated them with Chinese take-out, Little Caesars Pizza-Pizza, and Arby’s.  But this lesson goes beyond the kitchen, it reminded me of my moms’ tenacity and her incomparable desire to be the best she could be.

This woman fought a rare cancer for 16 years.  She fought for two years prior to that to even get a doctor to listen to her and believe something was wrong.  She died on April 6, 2012.  She did not die from cancer.  Cancer did not win.  She passed due to all the complications and damage that years of chemotherapy had done to her heart and her lungs.  She experienced remission three times!  Her last breath was on her own terms, with her family by her side, and with no shame.  Would she have wanted another day?  Absolutely.  But she lived her life and lived it well.  She didn’t let the little things, or the big things derail her for long.  And when she noted a derailment, she made the corrections. 

My mom (front left) with my grandma, aunts, and uncles (2009).

“We aren’t supposed to be perfect; we’re supposed to be whole”.  I heard Jane Fonda say that once.  We get whole by seeking out the lessons, learning, rebuilding, and trying again.  In the face or aftermath of disaster, we must keep going.

A picture of our meal, or even an Instant Pot seems appropriate.  But instead, I decided to throw in some pics of the reason I keep moving.  We all have them; we just need a reminder from time to time.  Sure, some of these pictures remind me of heartache, rough times, lost love, and moments I’d love to bury. I won’t bury them because they remind me what I’ve learned and where I’ve come from.

“Sing (Sing a Song . . . Sing Out Loud)”

Do you think music has changed over the years?  The other day I was relaxing and chatting with my amazing little four-year-old granddaughter, Ari.  In the background the Beatles “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was bopping away and Ari was humming and swaying to the music.  It got me thinking, does the music we hear now affect us the way music did when we were younger?  Let’s discuss . . .

My mom was an interesting character.  She was a strong independent and opinionated woman.  She paved a path thought to be unconventional and often exceled at anything she set out to do.  Anyone that spent a few hours with her walked away knowing her love of music.  My siblings and I were raised with a fantastic musical tapestry to highlight not just moments, but life in general.  We grew up on Jim Croce, Elton John, Billy Joel, Iron Butterfly, George Michael, Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Wham, Chicago, Phil Collins, The Carpenters, Don McLean, Anne Murray, and so many others I can’t even begin to name them all.  But these here, these were the classics that forged a musical medley for everyone in our household.

Road trips are etched in my memory not for the excitement and destinations, but for the “mix” tapes mom would make in preparation for the car rides.  I use the term “mix” loosely because the woman didn’t mix anything!  She would record one song, back-to-back, over and over, one after the other for the entire side of a cassette tape.  If we were lucky, she’d change it up and have a different song on the B side.  We weren’t always lucky.  This, my friends, is the sole reason I know every word to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Careless Whispers”, and “Love Song”.

These artists and their tunes are simple.  Simple isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but it is so different from what I hear when I turn on the radio or give Alexa a bit of choice in my song selections.  Play a few older songs, then turn on the radio.  Do you notice the difference?  I won’t lyric hate.  I believe that if all the annoyance and distraction is stripped away from several modern songs, the lyrics are stunning and can and do stand on their own.  But when did it become necessary to add all that junk in behind the words?  I’ve learned in my old age that I like simple.  I love the genuine flow of a song that allows the words to do all the work, no bass drop needed.

I will also admit that these older songs aren’t always peppy.  That’s for another discussion!  My kids will openly inform you that I’m boring and my music is like attending a funeral.  That is not true!  But I do like calm tunes to back up my day.  I can get excited and rowdy all on my own, I don’t need music to yell at me and tell me to “jump” or that “thunder” is coming.

Where am I going with this?  I have no idea.  But I will say this, music transports me.  Music has become not only my soul grounder, but my way of communication.  Life gets messy and we forget to stop and take a minute or three for ourselves.  Take time today to sit and listen to a song you haven’t heard in a while.  Before you know it, it’ll be 35 minutes later, and you’ll have taken a journey in your head to places near and far.  Even better, share those songs with your kids!  When my kids are caught humming songs from well before their time, I count it as a parenting win.  Are you winning today? 

As much as I love all genres of music, nothing gets me like the oldies.  Phil Collins knew me well; Rod Stewart speaks my language, and in the calm of the night, Paul, Ringo, John, and George sung me many lullaby’s.  Rhianna, Imagine Dragons, and Ed Sheeran just don’t have the same effect on me.