Friday, December 8, 2023

Expand. Embrace. Empower.


Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #Bread

Expand. Embrace. Empower.

If this country were to need a new watchword, and it does, this is it.

I know that we all feel that there is strength in shared experiences, outlooks, and core beliefs, in identifying with our tribe. But it is less strength, and more comfort. Comfort is necessary, of course, but it can also be limiting. Stagnating. The risk of missing out.

I wrote a post a couple of days ago called What the Immigrants Knew, if you didn't read it, I hope you will. It's a personal story about a lesson from my great grandparents. In many ways, I'm making the same point again today, but through my own, online and blogging experiences.

Shortly after I started blogging, I made my first real online, never met in person friend. We had a connection right from the start, she had a great sense of humor and was supportive of everything I wrote. 

I am skeptical by nature, and even more so online. I'm well aware that people can say they are whoever they want to online. And there are scammers everywhere, but this woman was the real deal.

So when my first friend was thinking of giving up blogging, I convinced her to continue by coming up with a writing challenge, the Secret Subject Swap, and talked a bunch of other bloggers to join in. Although it was meant to be a one time deal, it blew up. Bloggers asked to join in. At one point I had 30 bloggers participating and was running 8 different challenges.

The challenges were open to all, but when someone asked to join, I always checked them out, looked at their blog and social media.

At one point, Stephanie asked to join. Her social media was full of Christian proclamations. She was, of course, welcome to join, but clearly would never be a part of my personal inner circle.

But I got to know her, this woman who ended every sentence with two exclamation marks!! She is a kind, positive, fun, and funny friend, always up to join in on anything I came up with. I saw her strength when she finally got up the nerve to leave her abusive husband with nothing but a beat up car and her kids. 

Reyna is someone else who joined the challenges with whom I had nothing in common. It was difficult to read her posts, she was not a deep thinker, and clearly did not have a grasp of sentence structure or punctuation, something that makes me crazy.

But, I came to see, she was an empath, a warm and comfortable person, and a fiercely supportive friend. 

Some of these people, with whom I had little in common, supported me in ways and at times when I needed it the most.

I could have comfortably lived in my own "tribal" bubble but oh, how I would have missed out. Expanding my little writing world, embracing what others had to offer, taking the time to look beneath the surface, has been empowering.

There is black, there is white, and then there is all of that vibrant color in between. We should be looking for it.

Expand. Embrace. Empower | graphic designed by, featured on, and property of Karen of | #MyGraphics #blogging

I acknowledge the nurturing strength of like-mindedness and shared purpose. The truth is though, that there is an added layer of power in diversity. Growth lies in the acceptance of, the embracing of, diversity.

Tribalism is comfortable, yes, but it can also be counterproductive. Inclusion based on exclusion is a recipe for societal atrophy.

Heterogeneity, all it can bring us, and all it can teach us, provides balance. Depth of flavor.

Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls | recipe developed by Karen of | #recipe #Bread
Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls 

I was talking recently with Sage, someone who I got to know through my Baking In A Tornado FB page. Her children are on the autism spectrum and are gender diverse. She and her husband are currently estranged from her in-laws who are not accepting of their own grandchildren. 

Sage has had difficult times, including a challenging childhood and the loss of her twin. She deals with physical challenges and has had multiple surgeries. People are often distant with her, uncomfortable with the burdens she carries, often see her as damaged, not even willing to get to know her past what they (think they) see.

Are we really that shallow?

Yes. Yes, we are.

Shallow, closed minded enough to embrace: listless over vibrancy, constrained over dynamic, stagnation over progress, blnded over enlightened, immobility over growth.

The divisiveness of tribalism has become dangerous.

An open mind is a healthy mind. And it is only an open society that is poised for a healthy future.

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Cream Cheese Nutella Cinnamon Rolls        

Printable Recipe

1# loaf frozen bread dough
2 - 3 TBSP flour
4 oz cream cheese
2 TBSP Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

6 TBSP powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp milk

*NOTE: to make these ahead, bake the day before, cover and refrigerate, then just warm up and frost the next day.
*Wrap the bread dough in greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Spread the flour onto the counter, unwrap the defrosted dough and place on the flour. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
*Grease a 9 X 13 baking pan.
*In a bowl, mash together the cream cheese, Nutella, brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon using the back of a spoon.
*Roll out the dough to about 20 inches in length by about 12 inches in width. Spread with the cream cheese mixture to about 1/4 of an inch of each edge. Fold the short sides in, just 1/4 of an inch.
*Using the long end, roll up to about a 20 inch long tube. Cut into 16 slices and place them, open side down, into the prepared pan. Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 4 hours.
*Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes. 
*Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, remaining cinnamon, and the milk until smooth. Drizzle over warm rolls.


  1. One of the perils of our times is how easy it is to slip into a bubble or be fooled. Social media panders to our leanings by complex algorithms that place us into what it thinks we want to hear. Scammers and others find it so easy to pretend they are someone they aren't to gain our trust. Now, deepfakes will make us distrust what we see and hear. But blogging (and social media) have also introduced me to people I'd like to know better. Maybe they don't present themselves in a polished manner but we must always look beneath the surface before we make a judgement, as you point out. One woman especially I've grown to admire possibly did not receive the education she deserved but she is courageous and inquisitive and has a zest for learning not everyone has. I salute her.

    1. It sounds like we've had similar experiences in the blogging world. I'm grateful for them and for the people I've come to know.

  2. So much to think about in today's post. I am guilty of political homogeneity...but...

    1. We all need a place of comfort, where we feel we belong, as long as we don't close our eyes to what else is out there.

  3. Expand, embrace and empower are great words but not things some people are capable of it is like they don't understand the meanings of said words the word they understand the most in judgmental something I try hard not to be. my grandchild Sam says it what she loves about me as they struggle to understand who they are

    1. Not being judgemental is a wonderful thing for your grandchild to appreciate in you.

  4. We meet all kinds of people we never would have met otherwise and that's a fun thing.

  5. I spent the first few decades of my life surrounded by people who were just like me. It wasn't until the kids were older that they started hanging with a wide variety of friends....and I started hanging with those teenager's parents.

    Later when I started blogging my first commenters were people I already knew, but eventually that circle expanded too. Unless someone leaves an obviously spam comment on one of my posts I let it stand. I like a wide variety of opinions.

  6. I enjoy having people in my life from all ages, stages, walks of life, and lifestyles. Even if I think someone is wrong about something, it's a reason to discuss in my book, and let's see if we can talk it out and come to a better understanding.

    The grandparents who won't talk to their daughter or grandchildren makes me very sad. My parents are deeply Roman Catholic (I am Presbyterian, but only because I can't get to a Quaker church, yes, I am odd), and one of my brother's children is an FTM (Female to Male transsexual). It makes my parents very sad, but they love this child no matter what and this child lives with them. They are not going to throw out their grandchild just because they disagree with something he's doing, and neither will any of us. We were raised better than that.

    1. You show every day, and in every way, that you were raised better than that, Mimi.

  7. A really profound Post, yes, diversity is enriching and exposure to that which is different than ourselves is important. We all easily connect with our 'Tribe', but, like you, some of the most growth and enrichment has been when I've connected with people who are vastly different, diverse and bring something to the table that I never would have experienced had we not been part of each other's lives.

    1. There's a line we all have to draw between being open to people who are or who think differently, and putting up a wall between us and those who think differently in a toxic way.


Warning: Comment at your own risk. I have Comment Moderation, meaning I approve all comments before they show up here. So go ahead, I'm not scared!