On Cooking and Cleaning and Generally Having a Ball

Original Photo by  taliesin on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by taliesin on Morguefile.com

The past few days have been spent in a frenzy of baking and cleaning. I have made two batches of chocolates, chicken and dumplings, assorted other meals, and a breakfast casserole that’s currently waiting for the oven. Additionally, there have been mucho cleaning and dog bathing. Why? There’s really no reason—no friends or family visiting from afar. No reason to put myself out, and yet, I enjoy it.

Yes, that has been quite a revelation over the past few days. I have thought about all of those years that I spent reading history and literature, thinking that I was doing important work. I certainly enjoyed the intellectual challenge, but I don’t know that I ever really had fun while I was in college. Perhaps this view is only in hindsight, when I have received so little return on my degrees. Maybe it is “sour grapes,” and I am latching on to the one thing that remains, cooking and cleaning. I am still partially employed, but it is not fulfilling work. And finding additional work has been difficult, if not impossible.

I am sore and worn out from my work lately. Still, tired as I am, I get a kick out of baking and cooking and generally being a housewife. I find myself collecting recipes on Pinterest and looking longingly at various home projects. Puttering around the house with my animals, I have been happy. The life that I once thought degrading seems a bit sunnier now.

On my way to the store yesterday, I thought about my grandparents who had very little education. They didn’t travel worldwide, take expensive vacations, or have fancy stuff. However, they knew how to manage money, garden, cook from scratch, and take care of their family. And they certainly weren’t afraid of a little work. Some today would consider that to be a “small” life, one that hadn’t truly been lived. Still, I think they had a richer life, one that focused on those things that truly matter, and they had work that was fulfilling and meaningful.

Somehow chickens and a garden sound mighty fine to me. And one final thought came to me on my shopping trip: finding meaning in any work that you do. Can any work be meaningful and fulfilling? Possibly. I guess it depends on where our heart is.

Spaghetti

Original Photo by MaxStraeten on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by MaxStraeten on Morguefile.com

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” –Dale Carnegie

Throwing spaghetti against a wall or cupboard is one way to see if the pasta is ready to eat. A little messy, but it apparently works. Lately I have been thinking of this technique in relation to my own life; it seems an apt metaphor for life and change. A time of uncertainty—such as unemployment or divorce—can often lead to desperation to produce any sort of positive results. Throwing our passions and talents against a wall, we hope that something sticks.

Admittedly, this sort of period in life won’t necessarily be fruitless. When faced with the loss of comfort, we often find our own creativity or latent talents. For example, a month ago I would not have considered manipulating photographs for a hobby. My husband was the one with visual talent, not me. Too without the immediate need for some sort of employment, I probably wouldn’t have written an article, much less a blog post. My focus was on my work and others’ writing, not my own expression. Both in the areas of writing and photos, I have discovered that I do still have something to share.

However, without an overall plan or vision, the efforts can lead to nothing. So far, mine have resulted in plenty of spam emails, but no real job or contract offers. Perhaps I need to redouble my efforts or refocus them. Or maybe the strands just need to “cook” a bit longer.

As with cooking pasta, continuing with the process is important. Even if work or applications don’t “stick” this time, the efforts may bear fruit at a later date. Unfortunately, as a middle-aged woman with a family, waiting for that future time is much more difficult than it might have been when I was younger. When I fail, I’m not the only one to suffer. My husband and his daughter have to do without, leading to their dissatisfaction and resentment. The desire to avoid this and a natural lack of patience lead to my desire for results now.

Perhaps, though, age and responsibility bring some benefit as well. Humility and wisdom—at least, hopefully—have been gained by this point, along with a greater focus on quality work. Having come through my 20’s and 30’s, I see with a different perspective and know just how much I still need to learn. Also there is the experience of past successes as well as failures. Yes, maybe age does bring something along with the wrinkles.

For my family and myself, I will keep trying. I’ll keep throwing spaghetti up against a wall until it sticks, and then we’ll all reap the benefits of my continuing to try.

Rejection

grantburkebox

We all have to learn how to deal with rejection in some fashion. Whether it is a “thanks but no thanks” email from an HR department to which you’ve sent an application or a betrayal by someone you love, rejection hurts and finding positive ways to cope with continued abandonment can be a challenge for even the strongest of us.

Lately I have experienced rejection in all of its different and interesting facets–automatic emails from companies thanking me for my interest in a position that has just been filled, the loss of friends and acquaintances due to drama not even associated with me, and public humiliation at the hands of another. It has been a difficult month, to say the least.

As Burke says in the quote included with this post, experiencing rejection can lead to introspection and self-evaluation. Being afraid of loss or abandonment will not lead to a mature outlook, and it just isn’t reasonable. It will come into our lives, no matter who we might be. And often it will not be as a result of anything we have done. Persecution and the feelings of rejection that result are a part of life. How we deal with rejection is another matter.

Personally, I have found that a realization of the fallen nature of our world helps. We know that this world and the people in it–including ourselves–are not as we should be. There is evil in the world, and I have seen a small portion of it in my own little corner of the universe. A strong statement? Perhaps. Any look at the actions of people throughout history and in our current events might confirm this. We all have a fallen nature and need salvation; then can the goodness of Him who is greater than we are help us to act in a kinder, more loving fashion.

Too I have a stubborn streak. I will not be chased away from a difficult situation. As we experience difficult feelings and are forced to rely on ourselves, we either discover an inner strength or capitulate. I think of what my grandparents must have gone through during the Great Depression as well as the many Christians facing persecution across the globe, and I will not back down.

Does it hurt? Darn tootin’. But in this time of trial I have found an unexpected and wonderful group who are providing me with support. Their kindness and the love of my family help me to stand. With the evil of this world, there is goodness. And with that shared goodness there is strength.

Endings and Beginnings

I suppose that today is officially the end of my online teaching job. All grades have been submitted, and the students are eagerly looking ahead to their new classes. There will be no goodbyes, no packing up of desk supplies. Just the simple shutting down of my email account.

Although the work could be overwhelming at times, I will miss that job. It was challenging to find ways to convey concepts and ideas related to writing and literature. Too, there were always the “thank you” emails from students as well as those students who showed such talent and dedication. They definitely made the work worthwhile.

And yet, even with endings, there are beginnings. This blog, for one, and the return to writing. There is some excitement brought by the change and the new endeavors. Also some recognition has already come my way, bringing happiness of its own. One of my Hubs, What to Do When Your Family Member Has a Mental Illness, has been nominated for an award for quality content. You can vote for it at this link. This makes the loss of my job at least a little bit easier.

So yes, jobs come and go, but perhaps we’ll be alright.

A Short Guide to Me

Image
Photo by EmmiP on Morguefile.com

Yes, I’ll admit it. My Scrooge-like motivation for beginning this blog is to gain an online presence and hopefully obtain a job. Who isn’t, right? With so many out of work or even dropping out of the workforce altogether, I know I’m not alone.

Much of my situation was brought about by me. At the age of 40, I realize the mistakes I made in choosing my degrees and subsequent work. With degrees in English and history, I wasn’t qualified for much other than library tech, writer, or teacher. I wish now that I had listened to my parents when they tried to guide me toward a more practical degree path, but that won’t change the past.

At the time, I was on fire for writing and learning from the work of others. I wrote constantly and thought little about the future and what it might be like to be middle-aged. I take a bit more practical view nowadays. I still love reading and writing–and helping others to find their own love of those skills–but I also need to eat. With time comes responsibility as well as the desire to care for those who rely upon us. The passion is still there, but I regret not being able to care better for my family.

Now, having lost my teaching position due to budget cuts, I need to find additional work. My family relies on me solely for income, and I cannot flub this one up. This blog is therefore a part of my attempt to “show off” my writing skills and possibly gain some gainful employment.

That being said, I hope that it will be much more. So keep reading. As Tom Bodett might say, “I’ll leave the light on for you.”