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It’s time for “How Does That Make You Feel?”

My famiy’s name begins with “R” but to avoid embarrassing them I will call us the name “Ralph”.
In my family of “Ralph”, a “Ralph” prize is a gift  the receiver hopes/expects to use his or herself. The recipient may not need/want it at all – let alone think about getting one. An example of this:
Some years ago I lived in Chicago. My father came for a weekend visit. One Saturday morning I heard him banging away downstairs in the kitchen, trying to find something. He called up that he can’t find my coffee machine or any coffee – where is it located?
I explained – again –  I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t have either. I have plenty of tea.He said no thank you, and went down to Dunkin Donuts for get his coffee.

That Christmas, he gave me a Mr. Coffee machine.

Receiving an “Ralph” prize.

How does that make you feel?

My mother’s best recipe is for her gingerbread cookie.
Over the years I have found when I make some for parties or giveaways, they are always loved. The recipe is often asked for.
I want to pass it on to any cookie makers looking for a new cookie for the season.

Danish Gingerbread Cookies
~100 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.
I usually double this recipe, as I give lots away.

1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup honey
1 t grated lemon rind
1 t vanilla
1 t ginger
½ t cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
~ 4 cups of flour

Day #1
Cream butter and sugar. Add corn syrup, honey, lemon rind, vanilla and the spices.
Add the salt and the soda. Now, add the flour, a cup at a time, until it is soft dough you can pick up as one large ball. Refrigerate the ball of dough in a covered bowel overnight.

Day #2
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll chunks of dough onto a floured surface, about a ¼ inch thick. Cut out fabulous patterns using your extensive cookie-cutter collection. ( Holly leaves and Gingerbread boys taste the best ).
Place on greased and floured pans; bake for 7 minutes; cool on a wire rack to room temperature, prior to frosting.

Day #3 (can be combined with Day #2)   –   Frosting time!

1lb confectioner’s sugar
4 T melted butter
1 t vanilla extract
Milk (or soy milk)

Using an electric mixer, combine a 1/3 of the sugar with the butter; add the vanilla to make a paste. Add the rest of the sugar, keeping it moist via milk. You want it smooth enough to spread but not runny. (If it is too runny, add more sugar; too thick add more milk).
Use food colouring, decorating bits etc. and channel Martha Stewart.

(Or better yet, channel my mother).

This year I am making gingerbread javelinas.

“Shoulds” are matters one feels badly about not doing. Guilt and/or shame arise when these are not done. Some Shoulds are philosophical or moral; others are voluntary decisions – ‘I should be doing this every day because if I don’t there are consequences”.

How many “Shoulds” can I come up with? Every day I should do the following:

A morning prayer of thanksgiving for the day.
Practice relaxation breathing techniques
Floss my teeth.
Make the bed
Eat some sort of breakfast
Drink green tea
Strain the cat’s litter box.
Read – and respond – to email.
Put any dirty dishes into the dishwasher.
Water all the plants in containers.

Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Practice the piano.
Practice the pan pipes
Do another Spanish lesson on the Rosetta Stone
Take all daily prescriptions and vitamins
Fetch and open the mail
Give Someone a hug
Write all progress notes and evaluations that occurred that day.
Return all phone calls from work
Read some of the daily newspaper that arrives each morning.
Prepare and eat a balanced dinner.
Brush the cat.
Write a daily blog entry.

Visit blogs (nicknamed ‘making rounds’)
Do my daily routine of yoga/stretches
Read something/anything, not work related.
Write in my diary.
Evening prayer of thanks for the day being done

Somewhere in all this I am supposed to hold a job and do the things I would like to do!

(post-script: perhaps, on a good day, I do a fraction of this list. These are ‘shoulds” not what I do. Such is life.)

My grandmother called gifts ‘prizes’.  Examples: ‘What kind of prize did you receive on your birthday?” and “I don’t want any prize for Christmas!”. The expression would have died off but Mother didn’t like it. She thought the word sounded as if we had to earn or win something. We kids picked up the expression in merriment and as a spoof of Grandmother.
To this day my family gives and exchange “prizes”.
An annual Thanksgiving tradition is ‘Christmas prize discussion’ at dessert time. Over pies and tea and coffee, we discuss ‘how we are going to do it’ this Christmas.  You would think after 40 or so years we would have a routine but every year some new sort of system is proposed. The explanation for this may be simple; the family keeps expanding with marriages and children.
I suspect it mostly comes from our need talk and organize and reorganize and make lists.

So, I want advice. We have the 2 parents, an uncle (with little $ but we want him as part of this), 4 brothers, their 4 spouses. There are 4 children now. That totals 15 people.
This year’s modest proposal is each person draws a name out of a hat and there is a limit to spending. Reasonable enough, but it is already unraveling (as is the wont). People feel the four children should get something from everyone.

So, for bloggers with big families – how do you “do Christmas?”

Today we went to the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.
We saw the local flora and fauna.
Here are some cacti for the area.

Here is a local deer.

Here is a Mexican Wolf for Mr. Foxy Stone.
Here is a dear little javelina.
The black bears were not cooperating for the photographers.

So here is a photo of our two friends Stan and James.
My but I have woofy friends.


A is for age: 44
B is for beer of choice: Watney’s Red Barrel
C is for career: Physician; Board Certified in Neurology and Psychiatry
D is for favorite Drink: Tea (2nd growth Darjeeling)
E is for essential item you use everyday: A pill box
F is for favorite song at the moment: In the Bleak Midwinter
G is for favorite game: Cryptic Crossword Puzzles.
H is for hometown: Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan
I is for instruments you play: piano and the pan pipes
J is for favorite juice: grapefruit
K is for kids: 2 nephews rather
L is for last kiss: today
M is for marriage: Maybe next year, when we do the 10th year anniversary?
N is for name of your best friend: Scott AKA Scooter
O is for overnight hospital stays: mid 90s, for pneumonia; while in hospital my telephone was stolen.
P is for phobias: tarantulas, and being late to the airport.
Q is for quote: “Only the wounded physician heals.”
R is for biggest regret: I wasn’t brave enough to go to the northwest when I could.
S is for Shirts: I have made 3 dozen so far
T is for time you wake up: 530 AM
U is for underwear: Mostly boxers.
V is for vegetable you love: Homegrown tomatoes
W is for worst habit: ruminating
X is for x-rays you have had: chest and wrist
Y is for yummy food you make: gingerbread cookies (I will post the recipe next month)
Z is for zodiac sign: Cancer


As today is Thanksgiving, I am canceling How Does That Make You Feel? Thursday to write something else.

For which I am thankful

I am well
I have Someone
I have a loving family
I have good friends. My best friend Scott would walk the world over to get a blade of grass that I wanted if I asked him.
I have a house
I have great neighbors.
I have employment.
I have enough money really.
I have health insurance.
Despite several dark times, I have survived them.
I have the blogger world – with 40 new friends and probably more to come.
I have seen most of the places in the world I have wanted to see.
I have spent my entire adult life trying to ease the sorrow of my fellow man, so I believe my life has not been a waste, or a regret.

(And)

Homegrown tomatoes
Tea
Wine
&
Soup

Mozart
Mahler
Brahms
&
Arvo Part

Enya
Loreena McKennitt
&
The Boswell Sisters

Shakespeare
James Joyce
&
Dickens

And the Marx Brothers.

Now that the holiday season is approaching, I can get out the Christmas CDs, of which I have plenty. I want to share with you one of my favorites albums, by Loreena McKennitt.

Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian singer whom I used to know slightly. She is a friend of friend in Stratford. I remember her over at his house back in the early 80s when she was a chorus girl at the Festival. He would design some of her greeting cards. Later, when she came to Chicago for a concert, I met up with her afterwards. (The audience was half empty. There was I and several displaced Canadians, wild with happiness as they could not normally get a ticket to see her back home).
Over the years she has become internationally famous and I am no longer in touch with her. I adore her music. It is a combination of Celtic, Moroccan and other folk music. She is popular with the New Age folks, Mystics, Celtic music lovers. Her lyrics often are ballads, with lyrics from the poetry of Yeats or Shakespeare.

Her “Christmas” album is “To Drive the Cold Winter Away’. I use the term “Christmas” loosely as while there are carols referring to Christ’s birth the whole album has a more ancient feel to it. I call it my “Solstice” album. Missing are the usual Christmas tunes. She has a combination of ancient carols (example; the Wexford Carol) and some of her own. Her song” Snow” is gorgeous. I point it out as a marvelous holiday CD. I point her out as a marvelous singer.

By the way, she now has her new album out! It only took 10 years of waiting!

The title of the blog entry was coined by C.G. Jung. He is emphasizing even caretakers need some care taking from time to time. When I attend a movie in which a therapist is talking about his/her problems with their own therapist, I often hear snickering in the audience. They think ‘how can this person be caring for others if they have to be helped themselves?” I think differently; this person is getting supervision and assistance  – a wise counselor indeed. A basic premise in psychology is one doesn’t easily see one’s Shadow; you need others to help you see it and deal with it.

Back in Evanston I had my mentor and analytical professor across the hall for such assistance. He had someone as well.

In Michigan I was a member of a ‘men’s peer group’. This consisted of eight counselors, all men, who met for breakfast every other week. We discussed cases and each other’s hang-ups and troubles. I miss being part of this group. I was somewhat ‘odd man out’ as they were all social workers; I was the only psychiatrist. But it kept me in touch with my counseling skills. And in exchange I helped them with ‘medication questions’. Mostly I miss the camaraderie

I don’t have such a set up here in Arizona as I don’t know anyone and my job is not set up to ‘meet people’. I work long hours; I get my lectures and updates on CD-ROMs (no longer going to conferences and conventions). I work with another doctor but when I am in clinic “A”, he is in “B” and vice versa. He is a ‘different cup of tea” so what little professional and personal interaction we’ve had hasn’t been fruitful either for ideas or for friendship.

Blogging has taken over for the mentioned group. It is where I go to escape the day, unload and to think. Now if only I could some of you over for breakfast

Every few years I changed jobs. I worked for 8 years in Chicago, combining a State job with a private practice. Then there were 4 years in Michigan, when I worked in two clinics. Now I am in year #2 at another clinic in Arizona.
These changes have all been changes in location; I am considering next time a change in career.
Back in my teens I thought it would be a good idea to change careers every 10 years or so and do a variety of different jobs. It sounded exciting. Now it sounds scary. I am trained to be a physician. What else can I do? I have the yearning but no ideas. I am not trained to do anything else. I know from my patients it is hard enough to change jobs in your 40s, but change careers? I see some things that strike my fancy, such as running a Bed and Breakfast, but I only see the personae of these jobs, not the real work. And I am not a business man. My only regret from my father was not learning about how to make money.

One of my favorite short stories is by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is “The ones who walk away from Omelas”. Read it some time. It is about the brave souls who decide their present lives (and the system in which they live) can no longer suffice. They go onto something new. And they don’t know where they are going. But they go nevertheless.

I am working up the courage to “Walk Away from Omelas”.

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