Sunday Scripture: Strong Women July 20, 2014
“He fills me with strength and protects me wherever I go.” Ps 18:32
Scripture is filled with passages about strength. Flip open any bible and you’re sure to come across a chapter or verse dealing with God’s gift of strength to us, the strength of those in the bible, and various other versions of it. The recent bestselling book “Lean In” offers women words of wisdom regarding work-place strength and if you’ve watched the news lately, you’ve seen a lot reported on and written about the rights of women and women of power. They say strength is a virtue, virtues are in the bible, so who then, do I consider “strong women?” Some, may surprise you.
She’s not in the bible, but Clarissa Ward is one such woman. You may not know her by name, but you’ve heard her reports. She’s the 5’10” blonde reporting for CBS News from all over the globe. She may look like a movie star but this Yale-educated smartie pants has covered conflicts many a male wouldn’t touch and speaks fluent Mandarin, Russian, and Arabic. Can you say impressive?
I’m also impressed with the strength of my friend Kelly who has been dealt several blows in the past few years. Still, her faith sustains her and her God protects her. I’ve also always considered Bernadette, the young French girl who Mary appeared to in Lourdes, France, as incredibly strong. Here was a young girl who knew what she saw and heard and stood by her story even in the face of both ridicule and punishment. Anyone who knows me also knows how much I revered Princess Di, a woman of grace and style who longed for nothing but love and who single-handedly changed the way Britain’s royal family does business. Now that’s a strong woman!
Many consider Hillary Clinton the perfect example of a strong woman. Not me. In my opinion, she is a woman who married her way to power, stuck by a man who repeatedly cheated on her and humiliated her in a most public manner, has forever sidestepped scandal after scandal, and who just never really seems satisfied. I will, however, give her props for the job she and Bill did raising Chelsea, who by all accounts seems to be a well-rounded and respectable woman. That just may be Hillary’s most important and impressive accomplishment, ranking way above Senator or Secretary of State.
On the flip-side, someone who many ridicule is a woman I do consider strong: Sarah Palin. Here’s a woman who negotiated with the Russians, didn’t marry her way to power and took on her party’s leadership head on, ran for vice-president, has raised a family that includes a special needs son, always looks put together, and can shoot her dinner then cook it. Now that’s what I call a feminist!
Lastly, I respect the many women in the military and those supporting them at home. My level of esteem for single moms could not be higher, and I applaud all good teachers and nurses. I also truly admire those who are simply trying to make this world a better place, starting with their families and communities in which they live.
The Power of Ruth
But, back to scripture. Our bible study recently read the Book of Ruth and my friend Catherine discovered some interesting bits of inspiration from Ruth that we can all relate to and draw encouragement from.
Ruth shows us where to turn and what to do when life hurts.
Ruth gives us permission to be bold when we need to be.
Ruth demonstrates the beauty of humility and hard work.
Ruth proves that a woman doesn’t have to be beautiful to get a man’s attention.
Ruth teaches us the value of speaking our minds and opening our hearts.
Ruth makes it clear that patience is a virtue worth cultivating.
Ruth gives us a glimpse of God and the hope He offers.
Amazing, right? All this coming from a woman of old, old school and yet still so timely today.
Women of Excellence
Finally, I’ll leave you today with tips of being a “woman of excellence” as discussed by Karla of the “Classy and Fabulous” blog. She was inspired to do so by a speech given by Joel Osteen and inspired me as I read it.
Being a woman of excellence is not the same as striving for perfection, but rather it’s a standard by which you run your life. You give your very best and you do your finest work. First of all, you must have the right mindset. Start your day with a positive thought and try your hardest to steer clear of complaining, whining, and general negativity. One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.
A woman of excellence is also respectful and takes her work seriously, whether it’s running a large corporation or running her household. She is a woman who honors her commitments, is responsible, reliable and trustworthy. She also enjoys being of service to others and looks for opportunities to make life less about herself and more about those around her. Most importantly, she does these things even when no one is watching, which is perhaps the biggest character-revealing action of all.
Still, she cares about her appearance and makes the effort to present herself respectfully and well-groomed. Lastly, she allows faith to play an important role in her life, knowing that the ultimate judge sees her every move.
How can we all do a better job of being women of excellence and strive to be more like Ruth and less ruthless? Ask yourself what you are most proud of as a day ends. What did you work really hard on and put extra effort into? Could you have been kinder? Could you have been more tolerant or patient? If you were faced with challenges, did you handle them calmly or could you have done something different? Don’t beat yourself up, but evaluate and reflect.
None of us are perfect, but that shouldn’t be our goal anyway. Our goal today and every day should be simply to try our best and do the right thing. If you stick to those two things, everything else will most likely fall into place or fall away. Either one is what’s meant to be.
I’m interested in knowing who you consider a strong woman. Please share!
Are You For Real?! July 15, 2014
(All photos courtesy Con ‘Olio)
I attended a fabulous Olive Oils and Balsamics Workshop this past weekend and learned so much. The cooking class also consisted of a chef’s preparing of three healthy and flavorful salads, so I thought I’d share some of the many tips I acquired as well as one of the recipes. Thank you Faraday’s Kitchen Store and Con’Olio!
First, a little background. The recent and increasing popularity of the long celebrated “Mediterranean Diet” has resulted in massive amounts of olive oil being sold and consumed across America. It seems we’ve discovered what Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards have known for centuries: consumption of an olive oil-rich diet has immense health benefits. The key however, is making sure you are consuming real olive oil. Yes, sadly, there is what’s basically fake olive oil and it’s probably on your favorite grocer’s shelf.
Researchers at UC Davis recently concluded that roughly 70 percent of the EVOO, or extra virgin olive oil, sold in the U.S. is tainted and falsely labeled, a stat echoed in the book “Extra Virginity.” Most of the oils you find on a grocery aisle are pressed, imported, bottled and sold with no regulation guaranteeing their freshness or authenticity. In the most common practice, EVOO is blended with, or sometimes even substituted by, lower-grade olive oil and processed from olive-pressing waste and over-ripe olives. In Mediterranean countries, this type of oil is called “lamparte or lamp oil and is considered unfit for human consumption. Yikes!
Other common fillers found in so-called pure olive oil are canola, sunflower, and hazelnut oils, as well as chlorophyll, which gives the fake stuff the popular greenish tint. You’ll also find these types of oils often bottled in green bottles. I’m not going to mention any names here, but just know that some of the market’s biggest and most popular brands have been found guilty of doing so, largely because there aren’t laws in the U.S. protecting consumers against such products. This practice is so widespread that producing and selling fraudulent olive oil is said to rival that of the illegal drug trade.
It’s tough to regulate the olive oil industry in the U.S. because virtually 98 percent of it is imported. There has been no need to protect domestic olive oil producers and the EU’s International Olive Council’s grading systems carry no weight stateside.
And, don’t think that just because you spend a lot of money on an olive oil it’s going to be pure and real. Price is not a sole indicator of this, but if you pay less than $10 a gallon it’s likely the product you just bought isn’t made of olives, much less pure ones.
FOR THE HEALTH OF IT
The attraction to an olive oil diet is understandable. EVOO is high in anti-oxidants and is known to help cardiac health, lower blood pressure, protect against certain cancers, ease symptoms of ulcers and gastritis, lower gallstone formation, lower “bad cholesterol” in the blood, protect bone density, and it’s a proven anti-inflammatory. It’s also said that consuming just three tablespoons of fresh olive oil a day helps with joint, heart, and memory health.
How then, can you know you’re buying the real deal? Of course Con ‘Olio recommends you buy all your oils from them, but if you don’t, here are some tips they shared:
Make sure the product you’re buying has a “Harvest” or “Crush” date. This is the day the olives fell off the tree. Keep in mind that all those health benefits I mentioned earlier are really only around the first year of oil’s life. Any oil that has a “best by” date less than two years out is considered good and contrary to what many believe, an olive oil can be used on high heat as long as it’s six months or younger.
During the class, we actually tasted olive oils much like you would wine at a wine tasting. I was so hesitant at first, but it’s amazing how wonderful a good olive tastes! It is vibrant and lively and not greasy or oily…at all. When tasting an olive oil, it’s recommended you slurp it then continue with a few more “slurps” as it goes down your throat. It should feel crisp and slightly more and more peppering with every slurp. That’s how you know you have a new and high-quality olive oil. After experiencing this, you will know right away when tasting an old, rancid, or just not good olive oil.
So now that you’re looking in your pantries and seeing that the olive oil you have may just be one of those “blends” of olives from different countries and may contain mysterious fillers, what to do with it? Use it on cutting boards, wooden salad bowls, and other similar items. One more tip: do away with all those decorative olive oil decanters for counter and stove tops. The best place to store an olive oil is in a cool, dark pantry or cabinet…not on a counter where sun or artificial light can hit it all day.
We are Austin’s source for the highest quality, largest selection of Ultra Premium extra virgin olive oils & aged balsamic vinegars on tap! Our oils are imported fresh from the Northern & Southern hemisphere, chemically verified & sensory evaluated to ensure authenticity & quality. Harvest dates & full chemistry provided. Come taste the delicious difference!
Balsamics, on the other hand, are often better the older they are. In fact, a balsamic that’s been cast-aged for at least 12 years is considered the finest. Thankfully, a good balsamic will last up to three years in your pantry and considering that “balsam” is the Latin root for “to cure” or “to restore,” you can bet they have health benefits as well. In fact, they have been used medicinally since the middle ages!
Now to the fun stuff: the recipe for Chef Katy Parker’s fabulous salad!
Quinoa with Arugula, Butternut Squash and Cranberry Salad
For the salad:
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 pounds pealed butternut squash
1 cup rinsed quinoa (considered a “super food” and the only grain that’s a whole protein)
2 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups baby arugula, rinsed and spun dry
¼ cup dried cranberries
For the vinaigrette:
Juice of one lime
2 T orange juice
2 T lemon olive oil
2 T strawberry balsamic
½ t salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425. Place butternut squash in large baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and beginning to brown. Remove from oven, set aside, and cool.
While squash is baking, make the quinoa by warming 1 t olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add quinoa and stir until toasted. Add water or stock, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. (Katy recommends rinsing quinoa before cooking to reduce its bitterness, look for dark quinoa for more flavor, and cook your quinoa in a flavored liquid like stock or wine.) Quinoa is done cooking when grains appear translucent except for a whitish ring around the middle of each.
Remove quinoa from heat, fluff with fork, and transfer to large bowl. Cube squash and add to bowl, along with arugula and cranberries.
In a small bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and pour in bowl, tossing to coat all salad ingredients.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Serves 4 to 6.
Decisions, Decisions July 12, 2014
A crisis has happened in my life. No, it’s not a crisis in the real sense, but to me, it’s still a crisis. I’ve become a person who finds it hard to make a decision. I don’t know why and I don’t know what’s caused it, but I have decided it’s driving me crazy!
My husband says I over-analyze things waaaaaay too much. Yes, I do, but is that a bad thing? Maybe not if the decision is a big one like selling our house or changing jobs, but deciding whether to sign up to volunteer somewhere for four hours or stay home to putter and read probably should be made much easier than I’ve been finding it to be. This makes it look pretty black and white, but it’s not always the case:
I am committed to improving my ability to make choices, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s been proven that making and sticking to a decision is an actual source of happiness. I learned that in the July chapter of “The Happiness Project” and it really made me think. At this point, just making a decision and not lamenting over it would make me happy!
One positive step I’ve made toward doing this is eliminating all the “shoulds” from my life. I should do this, I should like that, I should stop something. Nope, no more shoulds for me. Should has officially been replaced by “want” or “need.” End of story. It’s been decided.
I’m pretty sure one of the biggest obstacles in my inability to make a decision is my fear of regret. I’m so afraid of making a decision I’ll later regret. Big or small. I’ll find a way of seeing the grass could have been greener or even worse, should have been greener. “I should have just stayed home and read my book.” “I sure wish I had gone with my friends instead of just staying home reading my book.” I guess, in a sense, I want to do it all…but I can’t, and neither can you.
We have all made decisions we later regret. Some of them have been life-altering, some just lead to undesirable results. In researching this topic, I discovered that making sound decisions is not necessarily something that comes naturally to us. In fact, doing so is considered a skill that needs to be developed. Great. Now I get to learn something else.
So, learn I will.
Surprisingly, many experts agree that going with your gut instinct is often a safe bet. You will, of course, want to take into consideration many factors when deciding yay or nay, which may include all or some of the following:
Data. Basically this is the “give me the facts” stage. Statistics weigh heavily here, but keep in mind that basing decisions solely on data are often flawed.
Information. This is a collection of the data but with meaning and context added.
Knowledge. Information, but information that is refined by analysis and is tested and verified.
Decisions made at the gut level may be either easy or quick to arrive at, but they come with greater risk than those made analyzing data and information. You also want to factor in any and all sources of information. Are those sources credible, reliable, and without bias? If not, find other sources.
“Don’t let other people make your choices for you because you are the one who will be accountable for them I the end.” Joyce Meyer
I’m not one to ask people’s opinion when grappling with a decision, but seeking input from friends, family members, and co-workers can prove beneficial to many. Don’t ask too many people, though, as sheer volume of opinion will just lead to more confusion on your part. Stick to trust sources and rely on the quality over quantity equation. In the end though, go with your decision.
It is said that nothing will test someone’s ability to lead more than their ability to make decisions. In fact, a Forbes magazine article that I sourced for this blog states that you cannot separate leadership from decision making and that the two are inexorably linked. Sadly, it usually takes years of solid decision making to elevate your position, but it only takes one bad decision to lead to your demise.
Also recommended in the “make a decision” process is to always have a back-up plan. I also like the idea of incorporating a choice that goes against everything you normally would consider. Lifehacker.com says doing the exact opposite is sometimes the best way around a decision-making impasse. Step outside of your comfort zone. Rattle things up. Throw in an option that is essentially the opposite of what you’d normally do. Chances are you won’t go with that choice, but having to consider it may just make the other choices much easier to pick.
Another idea is to pretend you’re advising a friend on making the very decision you’re contemplating. Sometimes our emotions make it difficult to make a decision, but helping a colleague do the same may seem less intimidating.
I like to use is the “pros and cons” method. You know the drill, on one side I list all the pros of said decision, and on the other side I list all the cons. This will normally paint a pretty fair picture of what you’re analyzing and has helped me many times.
Okay, maybe that’s what I should start doing…flip and coin and go with it. Yeah, right. I’ve decided the mere thought of that scares me to death! Maybe I’m too much of a planner. Maybe I worry way too much. Maybe I’m not trusting enough. Maybe, as my husband says, I JUST OVERANALYZE TOO MUCH!!!!
“You don’t make decisions because they are easy, because they are cheap, or because they are popular. You make them because they are right.” Theodore Hesburgh
In the end, probably the only question that should be asked when making a decision is “Is it the right thing to do?” If the answer is no, your decision has been made.
Friday Funny July 11, 2014
I saw this on a friend’s Facebook this morning and just couldn’t resist. So corny. So funny. Happy Friday!
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.