It’s Been A While…

A few years ago, I started this blog to capture all that was going on in this head of mine. I wrote almost weekly for about 18 months about my family, current events that interested me, my job, and other odds and ends. I enjoyed using this form of media to express myself, and I found that lots of people read what I wrote. I was honored.

Over the past few years, a lot has changed in my world. My girls have grown a lot. Lydia is in 8th grade, and is training to be a world class pole-vaulter. She cleared 7’6″ the other day – only 8 more feet to go and she could be an Olympian. I’m hoping 4 or 5 more feet gets her a college scholarship of some sort. Ansley is in 6th grade, and has become a well-rounded tween girl – music, sports, school, and talking back are her specialties. Clarissa is in 2nd grade and is always smiling and laughing. She loves soccer and writing and singing and watching her shows. Lydia and Ansley are taller than their mother, Carrie. Clarissa is taller than Lydia and Ansley were when they were 8.

Our pet population has changed. Babe the mini-beagle is our eldest pup. We have Asuna the slightly psychotic cat. And now we have Arlo our “bagle” – beagle/basset hound mix. Arlo is an interesting pup. We rescued him from a lady who rescued him from some shady people who had him in a cardboard box in the back of a pick-up truck. She brought him home and let him live in a barn until she could find a good home for him. He’s slightly stubborn, and he still thinks he lives in a barn from time to time. We also have a beta-fish who no one really takes care of but continues to survive.

The world has changed a lot over the past few years. We have gone from the first black president in our nation’s history in Barack Obama to a president whose most recent claim to fame is starring in The Apprentice. Mr. Donald Trump has turned our country and world on its proverbial ear, and we’re still trying to get our bearings back. His speeches are normally 140 characters and can be found on Twitter. It would be awesome to be a speech writer for Trump. Not much editing involved. Just random streams of thought in 140 character bursts. The Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series after over 100 years of futility. Joe Maddon, the Cubs’ manager is the Phil Jackson of Major League Baseball. There’s a new series of Star Wars movies. The next one is called The Last Jedi. Now the world is wondering what that really means especially after Luke Skywalker’s brief appearance at the end of The Force Awakens. The New England Patriots just won their 5th Super Bowl thanks to Tom Brady and Darth Belichick.

Who would have dreamed any of this stuff could happen?

My work life is virtually the same. I still have the same job in the same place. Carrie does too. We still attend the same church. And we still have the 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L I blogged about in April 2013.

We still live in the same house on the same street. We do have some new neighbors who have lots of kids and have recently opened their home to foster kids. They are truly special people. I would like to have more kids, but Carrie says we’re too old for that.

I have 592 Facebook friends. I’m hoping to get to 600 soon, but I’ve become more selective about my friend choices thanks to the election. I can only handle so many political posts, and that’s all Facebook is these days. Political posts and advertisements for companies and products I purchased a long time ago. I miss the days of pictures of people’s kids and constant bragging about how perfect people’s lives are. Today my feed is filled with posts about why Trump is awesome and why Trump is an idiot, and why Obama is the reason Trump is having so many problems. I did enjoy the Obama/Biden meme’s for a little while. Some of them were hilarious.

That’s all for now. Gotta go pick up Lydia from her friend’s house.

She’ll be driving soon.

That’s a scary thought.

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An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment.

Urban legend says Twinkies last forever.  My wife decided to put it to the test.  Today, the package looks as good as the day we bought it last year.  Will it ever spoil?  Who knows?

An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

Last November when Hostess Brands announced that it was closing its bakeries and liquidating all of its assets, Carrie and I realized that our children had never had the opportunity to taste an American icon – the Twinkie.  On that Friday night in mid-November, I raced all over the eastside of Spartanburg attempting to find Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, Zingers, and Sweet Sixteen Donuts.  I went to three grocery stores, Wal-Mart, and about 3 other gas stations before I finished amassing my collection of tasty treats for us to share.

Hostess Collection 2012

Over the next few days, we enjoyed eating our treats together as a family.  The kids were getting to experience something that Carrie and I enjoyed when we were kids – actually me more so than Carrie.  She was more of a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll girl.  Lydia really enjoyed the Sweet Sixteen donuts and the Ding Dongs.  The girls didn’t really like the Twinkies as much as I thought they would – not enough chocolate, I guess.

Lydia Hostess Pic

As we got down to the last few items from our stash, Carrie decided it would be a good idea to set aside one package of Twinkies to see if they really do spoil after a period of time.  In doing my research on the topic, I found that the Old Hostess Brands, Inc. guaranteed the freshness of their products for 26 days.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. will guarantee that the Twinkie will stay fresh for at least 45 days.  A common urban legend claims that Twinkies have an infinite shelf-life – well not infinite, but more than a year.  Twinkies are made of mostly sugar and flour, but they do contain a lot of ingredients that you find in processed foods which help extend the shelf-life of the product.  If they contained real eggs and milk, they would spoil much quicker.  In his book Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger notes that each Twinkie contains 1/500th of a real egg in each cake.  It also contains only one real preservative – sorbic acid.

As I’ve done my research before writing this blog, I have found that Carrie is not the first one to take on this experiment.  Apparently, there is a school in Maine that has a Twinkie that is over 40 years old.  The Twinkie hasn’t crumbled, but the appearance has changed dramatically – a “ghastly ash gray.”  The folks at NPR are also a year and a half into their own experiment.  Their Twinkie looks good, but it is as hard as a rock.  Our Twinkies are still soft and still look edible if you ask me.  It’s tough to see on the photo, but the expiration date for my pack of Twinkies is December 9, 2012.

2012 Twinkie Pic

Fortunately, this isn’t the last Twinkie in circulation.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. started manufacturing Twinkies again July of this year.  I might have to go buy some so I can get my fill of polysorbate 60, sorbic acid, and sodium stearoyl lactylate.  I am a chemist, but I think I would have a hard time drawing the chemical structure for that last ingredient I listed!

Happy eating!

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

How do you handle stressful situations?  With so much going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I thought I would share my current method of escape.  Some people exercise.  Some people read.  I’m eating ice cream – and lots of it!

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream.

When the Going Gets Tough…The Tough Stop and Eat Ice Cream

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”    ― Theodore Roosevelt

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed.  I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.

On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.

On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.

As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being.  Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine.  There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.

Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one.  I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses.  Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.

I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today.  I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall.  And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law.  All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself.  That’s for sure.

On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family.  It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister.  Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.

So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about.  And that’s one of my problems.

I can’t stop thinking!

My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.

On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice – “productive paranoia.”  When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo.  I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge.  I’m always planning for that next step.  I don’t like surprises.  I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people.  According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.

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On the home front, I think about other things.  With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other.  Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week.  I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….

Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations.  I also try to learn from them.  Is it their faith that helps them get through it?  Is it their friends or their family that help them?  Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?

For me, I stop and eat ice cream!

I know.  It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream.  Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream.  Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.

Gigi-Reviews: Ben & Jerry's Cake Batter Ice Cream    Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cake | Haight | FunCheapSFMayfield Dairy Select Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

It’s my way to escape.  It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great.  It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.

When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do.  Others read books or write blogs.  Others like to cry.  Others listen to music.  Others call their friends to vent.  Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.

Right now, I eat ice cream.  And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.

Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone.  It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline.  I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…).  But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.

It should disappear, right?

Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired.  How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her.  There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind.  Abraham Lincoln.  Moses.  Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines).  All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.

So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place.  If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible.  If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.

For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream.  I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle.  Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.

The Ice Cream Informant: REVIEW: Mayfield Snickerdoodle

 

Sounds awesome to me.  How about you?

Stranger in a Strangeland

If you were Jewish, would you live your life as a Christian?

Would you try to hitchhike across America without a penny to your name?

Would you walk across the street to spend quality time with your neighbor?

These questions and many others will be discussed in my most recent post.

Stranger in a Strangeland.

Stranger in a Strangeland

The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America

While I was on vacation at the end of last week, I took the time to read a couple of books – actually finish one book and read another.  As a chemist with a sociology degree, I am drawn to the nonfiction realm.  Lately, I’ve been on a biography/memoir kick.  Most of the stories involve a person/author who feels the need to live life outside of their comfort zone.  The author is normally at a point in his/her life in which he/she wants to do something different.  He/she wants to interact with people that they wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis – to experience new things.

To have these experiences normally means leaving a job, their home, friends, and family.  In some cases, it means living a totally different life – like a devout Jewish person living a year as a Christian as I discovered in Benyamin Cohen’s book, My Jesus Year.  Or hitting the road without a penny to their name to see if society will still open up their lives and their homes to complete strangers in Mike McIntyre’s The Kindness of Strangers.

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith

The common theme in each of these books is the author’s reliance on others – normally complete strangers – to help them discover their purpose or achieve his personal mission.  For Cohen, it was living life as a Christian to gain a greater appreciation for his own religion.  For McIntyre, it was hitchhiking across the United States penniless, relying solely on the kindness of strangers.

How many of us today would even think of stopping to pick-up a hitchhiker?  Apparently people still do.  People from California to the coast of North Carolina stopped to help McIntyre achieve his mission – travel the country without a penny to his name..  And very rarely were they middle class people like you and me.  They were mostly people of limited means who knew what it was like to be in McIntyre’s shoes – penniless, living off the kindness of strangers.  For me the book sent a powerful message, and made me question how far I would go to help others.

When I read Cohen’s book, I asked myself: How many people would take the time to share their beliefs with a non-believer or even with fellow believers?  Could I do it?  In the book, Cohen shared his experiences with people from many different faiths – Mormons, Baptists, Evangelicals, Monks – and how their faith helped shape their everyday lives.  They all opened up their lives to a complete stranger – in this case Cohen.  As I read the book, I was a bit envious.  I have a hard enough time sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife – much less a friend or a stranger.

So, you’re probably asking, Delton what is the point of this blog?

I’m not telling you to run out and pick-up hitchhikers or to run tell your wife or your friends your innermost thoughts and feelings.

The point I’m trying to make is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  Experience new things.  Be kind to people you don’t know.  Share your thoughts and ideas with new people.  Build a relationship with a co-worker, a fellow church member, or even build a stronger bond with your husband or your wife or your children.

Get to know your neighbors better.  As I’ve read in a number of publications and books, many of us hardly know our neighbors.  We are strangers in our own neighborhood.  So learn more about your neighbors and their families – not just what they do for a living or where they’re from.  Have a deeper discussion.  You never know when that neighbor could make a huge impact in your life or you in theirs.

What do you think?