Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Changing Instincts

I was recently approached online by a woman who wanted me to share her Facebook page. It’s called  Brittany's Message.

Curious, I went to her page. She talks about having a neurological condition that affects her muscle tone and speech. Brittany tells the story of having been in a local restaurant with a friend ordering food at the counter. Her friend ordered but the employee apparently could not understand Brittany and walked away.

She and her friend went to eat elsewhere, but the story doesn’t end there. Brittany wrote an honest and respectful letter about her disease and the incident itself. She took it back to the original restaurant where the employees read the letter and apologized. Brittany is adamant that she’s not looking for pity or sympathy. She’s trying to disseminate her message: “Everyone has a voice and deserves respect.”

My thoughts, my questions really more than thoughts, grew out of our discussion. They’re about instincts.

I don’t know Brittany, I can’t vouch for the veracity of her story. I’m a skeptical person in general but I do believe her. Either way, the truth of the matter is that a story does not have to be factual to inspire thought and discussion.

After reading her FB page, Brittany didn’t like my first reaction; “your page is heartbreaking and heartwarming.” She shot right back at me “why is it heartbreaking??”

I told her that it’s heartbreaking because in this day of so much awareness in terms of differences; be they physical, racial, sexual preference, religious . . . we still instinctively recoil from people who are different from us. I talk to my kids about bullying (I even wrote a post about it called I Apologize), about celebrating differences, striving to understand as opposed to giving in to fear of the unknown. I want the world to be a better place for them. I think they’ll do their part, but it hurts whenever I’m reminded that many others may not. After all, this is the environment in which my children will live.

She responded with tolerance: “many people just don’t know.”

I don’t accept that. I cant. SO much is available in terms of information. SO much out there about bullying, about acceptance, a virtual plethora of awareness. Especially with the internet, social media, blogs, etc. How can people not know?

But part of what’s heartbreaking to me has nothing to do with knowledge, it’s the other component, instinct.

We have instincts as a way to ensure survival. There are very basic ones; to procreate to continue the species, to drink when thirsty and eat when we’re hungry.


Bacon Cheddar Beef Rolls - Baking In A Tornado
Bacon Cheddar Beef Rolls

Bacon Cheddar Beef Rolls - Baking In A Tornado

Bacon Cheddar Beef Rolls
(going to the grill)

Fight or flight is a real and a purposeful instinct as well. It has years and years of evolution behind it. As I understand it, it’s a chemical reaction to fear and it’s steeped in self-preservation.

Fear is incredibly powerful. I believe that fear is the cause of bullying and ultimately is at the root of most all forms of hatred.

Withdrawing from a fearful situation is instinctive.

And the unknown is a major component of fear. What we don’t have experience in, and therefore have difficulty understanding, can cause stress. What is unknown varies from person to person based on their life experience. How they perceive the unknown varies too. What evokes fight or flight in one person can just be a challenge to another. This is where I see hope.

Two situations that can cause the same instinct: If I’m afraid because I’m alone in a dark parking lot and someone seems to be following me, I want that adrenalin pumping. I want fight or flight to set in. I’d imagine we all do. But if I’m uncomfortable or even afraid when faced with a stranger exhibiting, for instance, unusual body movements and slurred speech, when I’m behind a counter of a lighted restaurant with coworkers there, do I want to instinctively react in the same way? Do I even have a choice?

In the restaurant scenario, I choose to believe that there was no thoughtful animosity in the worker’s withdrawal from the situation, just an instinctive retreat from the unknown. You could fear that the customer is high on some drug or possibly drunk, fear that you’ll insult them by asking them to write down their order or by asking their friend to help because you don’t understand.

Ultimately, though, I want a world for my children in which we err on the side of insulting by reaching out as opposed to insulting by walking away.

I’m fully aware that there’s a maturity, an intellectual, and a life experience component, the whole nature vs nurture thing. And I know that there are strategies for changing our behaviors. This would apply to situations in which there is time for rational thought, long past the point where fight or flight would have kicked in and resulted in an instinctive response.

But I also think that part of changing the mindset of our society is the hope that we have some control over the neural pathways involved in instincts. If they differ from one person to the next, we must have some ability to impact them. But how? If fear produces a chemical reaction in our brain, can we change those reactions, create different pathways, instinctively assess situations differently, distinguish between levels of circumstances that cause fear?

There are so many lessons we teach our children. And, honestly, fear is one of them. When my kids were young I wanted them to have a healthy fear of dangerous situations. I didn’t want them falling into a pool or running into traffic. But do we give enough thought to and direction concerning distinguishing between situations that should legitimately invoke fear and those that are unknown, but benign unknowns? I’m not sure that I myself did.

Instincts are, by definition . . . well . . . instinctive. So can we mold them? Re-route them? Where there are beneficial components, can we tweak instincts without eradicating them completely?

I hope so.
Baking In A Tornado
PS: Thank you Brittany, for initiating the conversation, inspiring thought, and allowing me to incorporate your story into this discussion.


Bacon Cheddar Beef Rolls
                                                                          ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
2 # lean ground beef
2 TBSP seasoned salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP chopped roasted red peppers
2  chopped scallions
1/3 cup cooked, chopped bacon bits
3 slices of sharp cheddar cheese each cut in half
OPT: Shredded lettuce
6 hoagie buns
 
Directions:
*In a bowl, just barely mix the ground beef, seasoned salt, garlic powder, roasted red pepper, scallions and bacon bits with your hands. Don’t over-mix.
*Separate into 6 fairly even pieces. Roll each into a log about 5 inches long. Flatten each onto a piece of plastic wrap.
*For each of the 6 meat rolls, take a half of a slice of cheese, fold it into thirds, place in the center of the meat and re-form the beef into a log making sure the cheese is enclosed inside. They’ll be about 5 ½ inches long and resemble a sausage. Roll each separately into plastic wrap and refrigerate the beef rolls for one hour and up to a day.
*While your grill is cold and turned off, grease the surface. Heat your grill to medium. Remove each beef roll from the plastic wrap and place on the grill. Use tongs to turn them so they cook on all sides. How long will depend on how hot your grill is and how you like your hamburg cooked. I cooked my approximately 20 minutes to medium.
*OPT: toast the hoagie buns on the grill while the beef rolls are cooking.
*Place lettuce in the bottom of each hoagie bun, top with beef roll.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fly on the Wall, July 2014

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 14 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house.

 Fly on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

I’ve talked to my kids many, many times about doing a Guest Post for my blog. My younger son is about to leave for college so I thought I’d appeal to him one more time:
Me: You know, this is such an interesting time of transition, I think you should write about it. How about a Guest Post for my blog?
PurDude walks away.
Me: Come back here, I’m talking to you. Why are you walking away while I’m talking?
PurDude: You’re just spouting nonsense.
Me: So I guess this means that you want to think about it?


Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

We had one of our cars being fixed (ouch). Hubs took mine to work and I needed a few things at the store. Son came home from work and I told him I was taking his car and running to the store.
I come back 10 minutes later with a few bags of groceries and I walk in the house:
PurDude: I know you want me to let you know when we run out of things so you can put it on the list. We’re out of mozzarella.
It’s a very good thing that the words in my head did not escape through my mouth.

 Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

It’s not always easy having College Boy home. He’s been off doing his own thing, making his own choices and schedule.
One day last month he woke up and we had an argument about a long-standing issue.
I was telling him what the rules are in my home and he was telling me why they didn’t apply to him.
And the argument went on until College Boy walked away to call his dad at work to tell on me.

 Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

College Boy decided that instead of the dorms he’s going to live in an apartment. I can’t see this working out for him for many reasons, including doing his own grocery shopping and laundry. So I stopped doing his laundry and told him that he couldn’t use my washer. The hope was that he would take responsibility for getting himself to a laundromat. A sort of trial period.
College Boy: Mom, do you want to go to the clothes store with me.
Me: No. I know what you’re doing. You’re going to try to buy new clothes because everything you own is dirty.
College Boy: No, that’s not what I’m doing.
Me: What ARE you doing?
College Boy: I’m going to try to get YOU to buy m new clothes because everything I own is dirty.
Me: Oh, that’s much better.

 Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

Back in April I talked to PurDude about Skyping with me next year. He doesn’t like Skype and won’t use it.
Me: But I want to talk to you and see you.
PurDude: There are other options, Skype isn’t the only one.
Me: OK, but you need to set me up on whatever we’ll use and teach it to me so we should do it soon.
PurDude: I’ll let you know.
Me (in May): So what are we going to use to talk when you go off to college? I need to get set up and learn how to use it.
PurDude: I’ll let you know.
Me (in June): So what are we going to use to talk when you go off to college? I need to get set up and learn how to use it.
PurDude: I’ll let you know.
I’m thinking “I’ll let you know” has a similar meaning to “the check is in the mail”.


 Chicken Brunch Cups - Baking In A Tornado
Chicken Brunch Cups
 Chicken  Brunch Cups - Baking In A Tornado


PurDude usually mows the lawn but he’s working more hours this summer than College Boy so a few times I’ve asked College Boy to mow. He hates doing it, feels like he did it for 2 years and now it’s his brother’s turn but when his brother was a work a week ago and I asked him to mow and he agreed.
About 95% of the lawn was done and he came in to tell me that the mower stopped and wouldn’t start again. I took a look and the cable had snapped.
I would have thought that he had done it deliberately, but I know this kid, he’d do it when the lawn was 5% mowed, not when it was mostly done, so I guess it really did break.
So now our lawn has a Mohawk. Wonder if I should spray paint it blue or something. If I’m stuck with it I may as well go with it, right?

 Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

We have a double garage and a single garage. In between the two I have a flower pot:

Garage Flower Pot - Baking In A Tornado

One day, Hubs was leaving and I was going out to water the plant. He saw me standing in the garage holding the water and waiting for him to pull out. He pulled out, I walked out and started watering the plant. He put the garage door down and left.
And that, my friends, is why you always keep a fresh battery in the garage door keypad.

Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

Here's something that doesn't work. Think of it as my version of a Public Service Announcement:
Make a casserole, heat up the oven. When the oven beeps that it's up to temperature, take the casserole off of the counter and put it into the fridge. An hour later, abracadabra: no dinner!




Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

Me: I think there’s something wrong with my phone.
PurDude: What’s wrong?
Me: It has a lag. When I’m on FB and when I play my games.
PurDude: How many programs do you have running at once?
Me: Just the one I’m using.
PurDude grabs my phone, presses some magic buttons in some secret way.
PurDude: You have 46 programs open including BlueTooth.
Me: Well I didn’t open them.
I think he rolled his eyes so hard I actually heard them.


Flies on the Wall - Baking In A Tornado

I have a pretty sullen (at times) teenager at home. So I just love when I earn a smile, a fist pump and a “yesssss” from him. Unfortunately I’d rather it not come after this short exchange:
College Boy: What’s for dinner?
Me: Dad’s not home tonight so I’m not cooking.


Now click on the links below for a peek into some other homes:



Baking In A Tornado
 PS: See another version of this recipe here: Toasted PBJ Cups

Chicken Brunch Cups
                                                                              ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
6 slices of bread (I removed the crust)
Approximately 1 cup of cooked boneless skinless chicken, chopped
6 slices of fresh ripe peach (with or without the skin)
12 leaves of spinach
6 sharp cheddar squares
 
Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either spray a 6 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or grease the cups with butter.
*Using a rolling pin, flatten the bread slices.
*Pinching the sides in, fit the bread slices into the muffin cups. Tamp down the sides and bottom.
*Divide the chopped chicken amongst the bread cups, top each with a slice of peach, 2 leaves of spinach and a square of sharp cheddar.
*Cook for 15 minutes.
*Remove from oven, run a knife gently around the sides of each cup and carefully remove from pan.






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Testing

Last week, in anticipation of my upcoming empty nest yet desire to continue blogging, I published an application in my Help Wanted post. I’m trying to find applicants with attributes similar to those of my boys to take on their ability to cause the stress that results in my inspire me to both bake and blog when they both leave for college in a month. Anyone who’s read this blog over the past two years knows that those boys are a pain in the a$$ unique in their attitudes and actions.

Congratulations to those who’ve made it through the application process. Before we sit down for an interview we have one more step. I’m conducting a test. Don’t be concerned, there’s no right or wrong, this is just to help me better understand whether your natural instincts are a good fit as a stand-in for the boys.

Testing - Baking In A Tornado

For each of the scenarios below, just pick the answer that you feel fits best with who you are. To assure that you respond with your initial instincts, you’ll only have 1 minute to complete this survey so use your time wisely. Good luck.

Questionnaire

1) The phone is ringing. Do you:
     a) answer it
     b) mind your own business
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

2) The tornado signs are going off. Do you:
     a) bake
     b) put on your headphones
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

3) The toilet is clogged. Do you:
     a) grab the plunger
     b) keep flushing and flushing and flushing . . .
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

4) There’s only a little milk left in the fridge. Do you:
     a) ask if anyone needs it for baking
     b) drink it based on both first come, first served and finders keepers, losers weepers
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

5) You’re called to dinner. Do you:
     a) sit down and eat what you can
     b) say you don’t like it even though you don’t know what it is yet
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

6) The hand towel from the bathroom is in the wash and no one’s replaced it yet. Do you:
     a) call out to see if someone can bring you a towel
     b) air dry your hands by waving them around, flinging water all over the bathroom
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

7) The newspaper is in the driveway. Do you:
     a) bring it in the house
     b) run over it with your car
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

8) The timer goes off, the treats are done and no one’s around. Do you:
     a) pull the pan out of the oven and put it on the counter
     b) open the oven and eat the treats out of the pan so they don’t burn
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above


Toasted PBJ Cups - Baking In A Tornado
Toasted PBJ Cups

 Toasted PBJ Cups - Baking In A Tornado



9) There’s a $20 bill sitting on the desk in the kitchen. Do you:
     a) leave it there, it’s there for a reason
     b) take it, it was clearly meant for you
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

10) I’ve bumped my toe on the coffee table. I’m writhing on the floor, wincing and trying not to cry. Do you:
     a) see if you can help
     b) step over me so you don’t have to ask me to move out of your way
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

11) You’ve borrowed the car and it’s almost out of gas. Do you:
     a) go to a gas station and put a little gas in
     b) rush home hoping you make it
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

12) The windows are open and it’s just started to pour. Do you:
     a) quickly get the windows closed
     b) assume that they were opened for a reason
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

13) You’re locked out of the house, you’ve forgotten your key. Do you:
     a) use the keypad outside the garage door
     b) break a window, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

14) Most of the cake is gone, there are 2 slices left. Do you:
     a) eat one slice
     b) eat them both so no one can fight over them
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

15) You come in to work in the morning. There’s no coffee and you know how I am without my coffee. Do you:
     a) quickly get the coffee maker started
     b) quietly back out of the house and call in sick from the driveway
     c) all of the above
     d) none of the above

All tests will be scored when I d@mn well get around to it immediately. For every question that you responded to with a “b”, you will be awarded one point. No other answers acquire points. Anyone scoring 15 points can expect to be granted an interview.
As I said last week, interviews will be scheduled by employer. Baked goods will be served. BYOB.


Baking In A Tornado
PS: A more savory version of this recipe can be seen here: Chicken Brunch Cups.


Toasted PBJ Cups
                                                                         ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
6 slices of bread (I removed the crust)
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup jelly of your choice
6 marshmallows
6 berries
 
Directions:
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either spray a 6 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or grease the cups with butter.
*Using a rolling pin, flatten the bread slices.
*Pinching the sides in, fit the bread slices into the muffin cups. Tamp down the sides and bottom.
*Mix together the peanut butter and the jelly.
*Put a dollop of the peanut butter mixture into each of the 6 bread slices. Press a marshmallow into the center of each.
*Cook for 15 minutes, until the marshmallow is browning.
*Remove from oven, run a knife gently around the sides of each cup and carefully remove from pan.
*Place a berry on the top of each marshmallow.