Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Detoxing from rapid internet mode

Check out my recent column on The Bargain Hunter

Social Media - Weapons of Mass Distraction (by Hunter Langston)

I used to be a voracious reader. In all my thrift store gleanings I have compiled books known and obscure, stacked in a neat pile ready to be devoured. My nightstand groans with my “to-read” pile, and I have added an extra stand, slender with shelves, so I can pile more. That’s right, I have two nightstands with book stacks – doesn’t everyone? 

As of late, though, I’ve stumbled across a troubling thing. Something that if really is true will be the end of me because I won’t know the cure. The problem? I’m having a terrible time staying focused on my books. I used to be able to sit down in the evenings and read several chapters. If the book was really intense, I could read for hours during the day. Now I have problems finishing a chapter and books are becoming harder and harder to finish. I think I know what the issue is and don’t want to admit it. I believe I’ve succumbed to the social media/technology disorder. You know the one? Where you can’t go five minutes without checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed? I might settle in with my book, get comfy and cozy, read a few paragraphs, and then my palms start itching. I start thinking about what might be new or have been said and bam – my book is facedown and I’m scrolling. This, my friends, is what we used to yell at our kids for.

Technology has become part and parcel of our world. On our hand-held smart phones the world is at our fingertips. We can’t go anywhere without it or we feel disconnected and apart, and I can’t believe I’ve succumbed to it. I’m not really sure that there is a cure. When I think back, it’s only been 10 years since we got our first computer. The first time I got online it was like magic, even though it was dial-up and took years to get on. Cell phones, big and clunky, were purchased and through the years became more streamlined and full of more options. Now, my laptop is my portal to the writing world where I gather ideas, and also where I type up the thoughts that come to my head. It was only last August that I caved to the iPhone and finally decided I needed one. That was the last straw. I’m now connected wherever I go, even in the Walmart bathroom if need be. It’s a constant at-the-ready deal and one that, I believe, has taken away my ability to focus on something (like reading) for an extended period of time. 

I’m not sure how to cure this because we all know that technology isn’t going anywhere. It’s only becoming faster and better every second of every day. We don’t have to bow to it, this I know. It’s become the norm, though, to be available at all times. I have to say that I do miss when I was out and about and could disappear from the world in the grocery store and let my answering machine at home pick up the calls. Alas, our answering machine went out the door years ago along with the landline phones. I say good riddance, in all sincerity. Has anyone else experienced this phenomena? The inability to concentrate on the simplest things like browsing a magazine or reading a lengthy book? The fast paced world where pages fly by and tabs are opened and closed with alarming speed. I would love to know that I’m not alone. I would love to know how everyone else deals with this. I love social media/technology and know that I must learn to embrace it yet manage it. I’ve simply got to learn how to switch my Internet-fast mind off and learn to switch off the phone and computer as well. Our brains are computers that can be trained as well, because after all, I have stacks of books waiting for me. But unlike technology, they will never change – they will remain static, full of their words, and wait for me to come back to them

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Losing my passion for cooking

My newest column on The Bargain Hunter:  

I’ve reached the end of my cooking skills, folks. I humbly submit to you my resignation from the kitchen. I’ve got loads of recipes pinned to within an inch of their lives on Pinterest, my favorite cookbooks claim a space on my kitchen shelf, and my brain – oh my brain – used to think up great things to eat. 

No more. I think my food switch has turned off and I don’t know how to turn it on again. This is not good news for those that live in my home. 

When the kids were small and I was a stay-at-home mom (in my heart I still am) my refrigerator was stocked with easy to make foods. Casseroles, hearty and rich, found their way to my dinner table several times a week. Soups like potato and ham, broccoli, and even chili (which is not a family fave) with cornbread were served. I tried new recipes and honed the ones that everyone liked and the ones that were not so likable. I had a great little repertoire going on that had new ones inserted every now and then for good measure and to mix it up. Marinated meats were put in juicy containers and pulled out to grill in the evening and along with a baked potato the meal was complete. 

Somewhere along the way the kids grew up, and along with their many outside the home activities, the supper table became a once a week type deal. It was a place to crash when we realized, “Hey, we’re all home tonight. Let’s sit at the table!” Glasses would clink merrily, mundane everyday details would be talked about, and the food would be plentiful and down the hatch. 

Things change over time, like kids moving away, going to college, and getting jobs. I’m down to one child in his last year of school and I should be cooking everything he likes plus more. Instead, I’m drowning in my own cooking foibles, unable to even muster the strength to pull out a tried and true recipe and give it a whirl. My son just laughs and says, “Mom, you’re trying to starve me!” My husband laughs as well and says, “Just fry me an egg with potatoes and I’m good.” This is not me, though, this is not who I am. Aside from cooking the occasional Mexican meal (which I can do in my sleep) I’m in a rut and can’t see my way out of it. 

I’m thinking that I’m mourning the loss of being important in the kitchen. I work part time and when I come home I can’t think past making coffee and sitting down in a cushy chair. When I’m home on my days off I try to make something good to make up for the other days that I didn’t do such a good job. It’s a constant struggle and to you working moms that have little kids I commend you for being able to get supper on the table. 

As for me, I need to break out of this funk and get back to myself. Maybe I need a change of scenery in my kitchen. Trying some new ingredients or a fancy recipe I never would have tried before is the key. I should re-arrange and clean out my spice cabinet, and I should finally try cooking with asparagus or some other green vegetable the kids would never touch. When the last child is gone in six months or so, I will be left with a yawning space that was once filled with laughter. 

I do look forward to filling this space with what my husband and I have always wanted to try in the food world. I should break open a bottle of wine to sip while I cook, turn up the music, and pull some shrimp and scallops from the fridge to sear in butter and garlic. Along with a nice pasta or rice plus greens, a new way of cooking will be born. Transitioning from a big family to cooking for two - I think that is what’s troubling me. I am going from, “Mom, mom I’m hungry!” to a more richly slow, yet yummy way of cooking. No more huge casseroles filled with mac and cheese or the filling hamburger potato casserole with carrots my kids loved so much. No more Kool-Aid in the fridge and gummi snacks in the pantry – these will be replaced with things that we love. I will no longer have to hide the fancy cookies I like to dip in my coffee, and my husband’s favorite things will take precedence in the pantry as well. I will have lots of years of that – having my pantry just so. I’m in a funk now, but it’s time to pull myself out of it and cook for my son what he loves before he’s gone. Because when he’s gone I will wish I could hear his voice in the kitchen yelling, “What’s for supper, mom!” And those are moments, even though you move forward and enjoy the new ones, that you can never have back.so true : sometimes i really don't feel like cooking...kids can be so ungreatful