Tag Archives: Comfort zone

A Jumbled Approach

I said that I would bring a treat in to work this morning.  I said it on Monday, so I had time to plan – sort of.  Other than being at work most of each day in between, sleep, eating, household chores and so on.  And it doesn’t help that I haven’t really been to the store in over a week so some supplies are short.  A few challenges.


On the plus side, I have been baking for a lot of years – since I worked on my Girl Scout cooking badge and realized that I liked to bake.  And I’ve been a parent for more than a few years, so I know how to make do in a pinch.  I do like structure, but I have learned how to take the structure I can find and make new connections to get where I want to be.


Butterscotch chocolate chip bars are the result.  Baking requires more precision than other kinds of cooking, true enough – but experience in combinations and an understanding of the different ingredients means that a recipe isn’t absolutely rigid.  A calculated risk or two can lead to success.


Substitutions need to have similar properties to account for consistency of the batter and the potential for flavor changes has to be considered as well.  After looking around the kitchen and thinking about recipes I actually had a couple of choices.  Since my energy level remains low thanks to the ongoing winter, I opted for a simple recipe even though I’ve never made it before.  (A word to non-bakers and cooks – it is almost never a good idea to try out a recipe for an audience the first time.)


The bars smelled fabulous while baking, but that isn’t necessarily a good indicator.  My son hovered ready to be my first taste tester, but he has inherited my sweet tooth so also not a good indicator of success.


I have had my share of spectacular failures as a baker.  Mainly due to an excess of hutzpah and a glaring lack of experience plus knowledge.  But I learned more from those flops than I would have if I had taken a more conservative route in my baking past.  I think this is true in most aspects of my life.


Now it remains to be seen what my team thinks of my approach.


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved


Getting to ‘Normal’

I usually keep Christmas décor up until on or about January 6th, so now I am in the process of taking it down.  Getting back to ‘normal’.  In our house this often means this pile up of Christmas that you see in the picture.  Almost every piece tells a story – of the person who gave it to me, or the shopping trip when I found it, or a family member no longer with us.  Sometimes I need an interim period before I’m ready to pack everything away until next year. 


The rest of the house looks a bit spare and bare now stripped back to its standard decorations.  Normal.  Not festive.


Outside the snow blows and looks bleak.  Normal January.  No green except tiny spots of evergreens waiting under snow mounds.


I used to briskly put away Christmas items in one fell swoop, the boys would leave for school a day or two after winter break ended seeing Christmas and come home to regular, every day house.  Festive to normal in a few frenzied hours.  Now I put out less of our Christmas bounty and take much longer to bring myself to store it.


I think more about what normal means.  All of its definitions and connotations.  How normal shifts all of the time, even while we think it is safe and steady.  Normal is sturdy, utilitarian – without sparkle – background expected to support effectively without attention or effort.  Certainly not expected to crack, break or suddenly alter to something unfamiliar.


Here in Illinois, Normal is actually a place on the map that you can visit or live if you choose.  For a little while The New Normal was a show that we could all watch on TV, though I don’t think that it lasted.  ‘You’re not normal’ probably still shoots around schools as an effective epithet, meant to lance an offender, real or imagined, to the quick.


How do you feel about normal?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Random Things for which I am Thankful: Making Connections

I read this short story in my early teen years that described an unusual and cleverly designed prison.  The cells were set up in a sort of spiral within a stone enclosure.  Each cell contained one prisoner and the prison term for that prisoner was based on the length of time that it would take for his cell to work through the spiral to the opening once again.  During his term he would have no contact with other people.  I found this both fascinating from a logical standpoint – how would he eat, how did they remove waste, etc.; and horrifying from a human standpoint.


I no longer remember the title or the author but the premise for this story stuck in my mind.  Perhaps because it is the antithesis of our social human experience.  The time alone appealed to my introverted side, but disturbed my extroverted brain cells.  Even the most rabidly introverted person can usually see some benefit in connecting with other people, if within a much smaller group.


At about the same age that I came across this story, I believed that if you made a deep connection with someone, you would remain connected to that person forever.  I have a collection of hurtful memories that belie that idea.  Connection does not equate loyalty or longevity, but it doesn’t require these traits to be worthy.


A person met in a time of need and never seen again can have a profound effect upon you.  One person caused a terrifying car accident when my boys were very small but I choose to remember the dozen or so strangers who stopped and offered assistance without ever expecting anything in return.  I return this gift by doing the same whenever I can for other strangers in need.  These are the fleeting connections that go under the name of random acts of kindness.  They strengthen our humanity.


We have blood connections with family that extend from close relatives to cousins two and three times removed.  There are shared experiences of various family gatherings, there is a built in support network when times are tough.  My aunt and uncle took time out of their busy schedules to drive up and sit with my boys when I had major surgery a few years back.  It was right before Christmas but they understood that my boys would need to have advocates who had been through such an experience before.


The sibling relationship is so nuanced and complex.  We have shared so much, but sometimes as rivals and sometimes as allies.  When it comes down to it, a brother might be the worst tease of a sister but don’t take that to mean that as an outsider to the family you can do the same.  The brother may take you to task.  (Can you tell that my brother teased my sister and me mercilessly as children?)


Then there are friends and acquaintances.  The selection process for these connections begins randomly – a shared class or activity – and grows deliberately in depth, breadth and length as we nurture the relationships.  My oldest active friendships originated in my junior high years.  The interactions may go dormant here and there and due to all my moves we have a physical distance as a barrier, but we remain friends.  Connected.  In this past year I have added new people to this category; met randomly, identification of some kindred sensibility, connection growing.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to  4 of the 13, not counting myself.

I should have written names back in the day, but I am still connected to 4 of the 13, not counting myself.


Sometimes I might feel as though I am stuck in a stone cell, but I can shake this feeling off by remembering all my varied connections.


© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Coloring, Color, Colorful

Did you like to color as a child?  A boxful of crayons and a coloring book, a rainy afternoon, a good spot at the table – happiness was mine.  I envied the kids who got the big box of crayons but I could do a lot by blending colors.  I manage to revisit this simple pleasure periodically – with my own boys, then nieces and nephews.  The kids grow out of their coloring stage and my urge goes dormant.

My Crayon Stash

My Crayon Stash


But not the joy that I get from color – I am not a monochromatic person – my preference for color is always active.  Over the years the colors on the palette that attract my eye the most have changed.  In childhood it seemed that everyone said their favorite color was blue, so I decided that I wasn’t a fan.  Until cobalt blue came into my life.  And I had a sweet little electric blue car for a few years.  Plus combine blue with green and I can feel my muscles relaxing.


Walk through a garden with its green and splashes of color and suddenly you realize that there are countless shades and tones to a single color.  I dare you not to smile.  Your heart not to feel just a bit lighter.


I live in the suburbs, more green that many cities, but mostly shades of concrete.  Bleh.  When I can get in the car and drive away until green is the predominant color, I can feel my breathing getting deeper and my eyes seem to see more clearly – cleansed of all the suburban tans.


I do wear the neutrals – your grays, blacks, browns and tans – as a basis for some type of color.  I would have made a terrible Goth going around trying to add a spot of color to everyone else’s outfit.  Just ask anyone I see regularly who wears too much black.


How about you – how does color affect you?  Or doesn’t it?


© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

In Our Circles

Growing up, The Carol Burnett Show was part of prime family time each week, bits and pieces of the skits becoming part of our family vocabulary and identifying points.  Madeline Kahn was a frequent guest on the show and one of her skits where she played a pretentious acting coach for Eunice was a favorite for us.  Something that Madeline says repeatedly in this skit, ‘in our circles, in our circles, in our circles’ became part of our family sayings.


Madeline Kahn publicity shot

Madeline Kahn publicity shot

Madeline Kahn was spoofing Method Acting concepts for great hilarity, but this phrase has come to represent both an effort to center myself and a way to be aware of my comfort zones.  Even when firmly in our comfort zones, we can still need to center ourselves at times.  And we really need to be aware of how to center ourselves when we are outside of our comfort zones.


Madeline Kahn had this wonderfully rich, theatrical voice and I can still see her now – head slightly tilted forward, eyes closed and hands circling around as she chanted, ‘in our circles, in our circles, in our circles’.  (Carol Burnett as Eunice lapping it all up and imitating every action.)  This is a great example of how humor can impact us well beyond the stress-relieving immediate laughter.


Remaining centered is a supreme act all in itself most of the time.  Things, events, people are all working quite hard, and seemingly deliberately, to push us off center.  Out of our circle.


Our comfort zones can hold us back from progress – at work, in relationships – because the next thing that we need is beyond the perimeter of comfort.  Out of our circle.


Some people have a fairly easy time adjusting to unfamiliar and making it part of their comfort zone and others really struggle.  Of course capability to adjust can be affected by how much the new thing is wanted, needed or liked – except for people that really can’t deal with change.


Full disclosure – I am actually writing this one for myself because my comfort zones are shifting and I needed to remind myself that it’s ok.  I thought it might be a message that would resonate for others as well, so I’m sharing.


In our circles, in our circles, in our growing shifting circles.


© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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