Copy cat burgers and strange conversations

I follow Iowa Girl Eats and her recipes have started making it into my rotations pretty frequently.  I don’t cook all that much these days, so when I say I made two of her recipes in the last month, that’s heavy rotation.  Around 5pm or so I saw her post on some chili lime burgers she made based on a Trader Joe’s burger and I thought I had enough ingredients on hand to riff something like that and dinner was decided!

::photo from Iowa Girl Eats blog::


I had ground turkey instead of ground chicken.  I didn’t have cilantro and it would have been cooler if it did.  Otherwise, I followed her recipe pretty close and it was delicious!

photo by me!

I even made the asparagus-tomato side dish.  Yummy!  Thanks Iowa Girl Eats!  Click on this link for her complete recipe.

Meanwhile, I was working in one of our grocery stores today when one of the assistant managers asked if she could ask me a personal question.  I said sure, braced myself, and then all she asked is if I was married.  That was an easy one.  I replied no, that I had been at one time, but not any longer.  Then she and another store manager spent a solid 10 minutes telling me all the reasons they wish they weren’t married and that if they had to do it all over they would do it completely different.  How all they want in the world is to come home and have some alone time.  That they are so tired of taking care of other people.  That they resent the people who ask them for help.  Granted, one of them had some tough stories, a disabled husband and son that needed a lot of care.  And she did it.  And she was miserable doing it.

Yikes.  Just a classic case of the grass is always greener, I suppose.  I miss taking care of someone.  I want there to be someone at the end of the day.  Someone to spend 42 years with, or 12 years with.  Do I think a lifetime with someone works?  I sure don’t know.  I find that coming home to two cats wonderful sometimes.  And sometimes it leads to patterns of enabled laziness.  I was obsessed with the movie Shall We Dance for a while and there’s a scene where Richard Jenkins and Susan Sarandon are talking about why people get married.  They say, “we need a witness to our life.”  I agree.  If there’s no one to see it – does it happen?

There are moments that are so great alone.  But I believe they are better with a witness.  I’ll never forget this one night where I was still married, but ex husband was traveling all the time.  I was working through all the seasons of Grey’s Anatomy like a fiend.  The farmer’s market had started and it must have been early because asparagus was in season.  I found out how to “borrow” television shows from the internet and had downloaded the rest of Season 4 because I couldn’t wait for it to come out on dvd.  Which means I had to watch the shows from the computer room because we didn’t have all the internet on tv stuff that I do today.  I also had the MOST uncomfortable office chair.  Picture it…I had a few drinks, decided to make an asparagus/rosemary/goat cheese tart for dinner and then a strawberry vanilla custard tart for dessert.  I do this and then decide, in a mostly intoxicated state, to drag a living room arm chair into the office so I can settle in and be more comfortable while I eat and watch my show.  If you could have seen me drag this chair around the corners of the hallway and office door.  This is one of my most ridiculous nights.  I laugh and laugh and laugh at myself when I think about it.  And there wasn’t anyone to witness it.  Is it as funny as I think if there’s no one there to witness it?  Those are the nights I think I’m so innovative and funny and easy to love.  And there was no one there to see it.  Even writing this story – it isn’t funny!  You really had to be there.

When I told my grandparents I was going to get married, my grandmother told me to proceed with caution.  She thought I was too young.  Grandpa, on the other hand, told me I could still do things that I would have done single – but now I’d have a partner.  And things were better with a partner.  I’m with Grandpa on this.  Love should give you wings, like they say Red Bull does.  I don’t know, I’ve never had any.

Red Bull, that is.  Not love.



Self awareness is expensive

I had what you might call a breakthough moment at grad school this past weekend.  I feel it’s a lesson I knew rationally but had not internalized until having to face it and put words to it in front of my classmates.

I thought the lesson was as simple as I don’t feel I’ve learned something if I can’t show it on a test.  I was still frustrated by the professor and her approach to the class.  I wanted to explore the text book concepts and walk away more equipped to quote theory and apply models discussed within it. At the end of day 2 she made us take 15 minutes to go someplace by ourselves on campus and just reflect.  I couldn’t even do that well.  I ended up texting Gentleman Friend during this time.  I was talking about what I was thinking, but I’m bad at self reflection.  This is when I came up with I like to demonstrate mastery with a test.

This is not the breakthrough.  I thought it was.  It’s not.

I’m stubborn.  Also, not the breakthrough.  But for the first time I realized that my stubbornness is not always persistance.  I pride myself on being persistent.  I think that’s a good trait.  Turns out, the other side of that coin is stubborn.

After the 15 minute reflection/text a boy period is over we had to go back and do a verbal discussion board.  A classmate asked the professor if instead of us posting our essay like residency weekend wrap ups online to do them verbally in a peace circle.  I take a while to warm up.  I wasn’t quite ready to bear my soul.  I thought I’d keep it top line and talk about vision and asking the next question, which is some thing I admire in my classmate Doug.  He’s good at calmly asking the next question after I think a task is already completed.  Then the peace train begins and there’s opening up and there’s crying and sharing and oh dear.  I compromised.  I did not cry.  Quite frankly, I don’t think I had any thought that deep, but I did reveal a more personal level of awareness.  My peace circle monologue went like this:

We’ve talked a lot about emotional hijacking within the classroom during an activity that has made us frustrated.  I enter the classroom emotionally hijacked.  It’s no secret to anyone that has been sitting around me the last two residency weekends that what I wanted out of the class is not what you (looking at Jane the professor) are going to give me.  I wanted concepts and models from the book to become a more well spoken subject matter expert.  I got divorced a couple of years ago which is tragedy all it’s own, but I took part in some destructive hobbies during that time and I had a friend say to me, “Those activities are a distraction, not the solution.”  I’ll never forget that and I am applying it to what’s happening here now.  Wanting the ‘book learning’ so bad might be the distraction I want so I don’t have to focus on the self awarness/behavior profile/personality assessment malarkey that you want us to focus on.  I can’t take a test on that stuff.  Wanting to is the distraction, and I need to spend time understanding my values and who I am to be a better OD practitioner – that is the solution.”

I was feeling good.  I thought I had a real ray of light creep into my brain.  But I wasn’t done being self aware yet.  I said it even more eloquently, more concise and perhaps more drilled down to the core during our wrap up Sunday afternoon.

“It’s no surprise by now I’m the one who wanted to get the book stuff out of this class.  I’ve learned that sometimes I can be so focused on wanting X, and so mad and closed off when I don’t get it, that I can’t accept what the other person is offering – which could be the rest of the alphabet.”

This was the breakthrough.

I get mad when I don’t get what I want and how I want it.  Which makes me bratty.  I know.  I never thought of it that way.  I thought if people knew me and ‘got’ me they would know what to do for me and how to do it.  And this has created a void – what have I been missing that’s been put out there for me??

Immediately the story of how my ex husband proposed comes to mind.  I am a girl who likes special plans.  I like romance and I want to know there was thought and planning put into special occasions.  I always thought I’d have a grand gesture proposal.  Even if it was ring in the champagne flute at a favorite restaurant.  My ex husband proposed one evening after coming home from work on a random Thursday.  I had brought the mail into our bedroom and started reading some of it wearing my blouse and pearl necklace from work that day, but not my pants.  I had already taken those off and hung them up (or thrown them on a chair, which is far more likely).  I’m sitting on the bed, wearing boring white cotton underwear and a black shirt and chunky pearls when he starts rambling on about something.  And I catch on that it’s important after a minute.  And a minute later I think he’s bought me a watch because I told him that was a really special present my dad always got my mom and I would like one from him as a token of our relationship being very important to him one day.  And then a box much smaller than a watch box is produced and there’s a lovely diamond ring inside.

But I’m a brat.  And what I would come to remember most about this day is that there was no grand gesture.  That there was no sapphires on my ring like I wanted.  That I was wearing gross old white cotton underwear and reading the mail.  What I could never see until right now is that there was a man who couldn’t wait another minute to ask me to marry him.  That he didn’t need a big gesture because he loved me that was big enough.  I clung to being grumpy about my lack of special engagement for a long time.  What a silly, stupid girl I was.  I was being offered so much more in that moment and it could have been such a sweet tale.  I ruined it.  I can be so narrow minded.  I’m just so sorry about this now.

This was a life lesson kind of weekend.  It was the kind of lesson that will make me a better person going forward.  It’s the beginning of wisdom and a sliver of grace.  I just wonder what I missed because I was focused on something so small.  Here’s my promise to the universe: I’m ready to accept what comes my way.  Whatever it may be, and however ordinary it may seem.

Perfect Score!

Whooo!  I logged back in my school site to work on the final and found a new grade waiting for me!  It was a simple discussion board post in response to our first residency weekend with this particular professor, whom I found aggressive and the weekend was frustrating.  This was the weekend full of self assessments.  I know you’ll have no context of the professor or the weekend, but here is my perfect score post!

During our second residency weekend there were several moments that elicited an a-ha reaction.  I was able to apply moments from the weekend to concepts from the textbook, such as psychological contracts from Chapter 3 and organizational climates from Chapter 10, and had moments of reflection that were not represented in the text, such as thinking differently about self assessments.  Having taken time to reflect on the weekend, my take aways have evolved from less of a place of how I “felt” about them to what I “know” about them.  

The first a ha moment was a struggle over expectations about the graduate school program overall.  For years I have coached managers with the phrase, “Clear expectations are the number one driver of performance.”  This encourages leaders to ensure they have provided clear direction and definitions of success when assigning a task or goal.  Personally, I love to have clear expectations and any one of my supervisors will attest to answering the questions, “What does success look like?  What are my measurable objectives?” on my first day in a new job or on a new project.  The concept of organizational climate, “a measure of the extent to which people’s expectations about what it should be like to work in an organization are being met,” (Bowditch, Buono, & Stewart, p. 335) which focuses on individual perceptions of a learning environment was where I struggled this weekend.  A combination of the type of learner I am and personality I have, lead me to desire professor led facilitation for the majority of the weekend.  I need someone to tell me what the rules of the game are before playing.  That was not the same goal Dr. Wheeler had for the weekend.  I like a systematic approach to instruction – review concepts from text, apply to real life scenarios, form plans to apply in our own life.  I left Sunday afternoon very frustrated because my personal expectations for the class were not met in the way I wanted them to be met.  As I drove an hour to return a rental car, catch a plane, fly home I had second thoughts about investing in a program that aggravated me so much.  

As I’ve thought about how to answer this question for most of this week, I reviewed the text chapters, started reading the next assigned chapters and put some distance between the weekend and the learning.  It was then that I could apply Dr. Wheeler’s classroom methods with Organizational Behavior and Psychology.  Self directed learning is going to require that I manage my own expectations.  This applies to my future in organizational development in that my clients will often have different expectations than me also.  They will have different ways of finding a solution, they may have different ideas about what the organizational changes are.  It’s not up to me to get my way in these scenarios, but to work with what is in front of me.  It took all week to get there, but once I did, my aggravation and frustration dissipated and I’m ready to come back in March.  

 My second a ha moment came not from one particular self-assessment that we completed, but from the discussion that followed the debrief of the assessments.  Our cohort discussed the impracticality of having every person we interact with take a self assessment prior to having a conversation with them so we learn their style.  Of course that is not realistic, but the intent is good.  I have always felt the real value in self assessments was not increased self awareness, but the ability it gave me to approach others in a way that was best suited for them.  For example, understanding that if my employee is an introvert they would want to be rewarded and recognized differently than a more outgoing employee.  I have had colleagues with different communication needs and I work very hard to manage to what other people need, not what is comfortable for me to give.  I was very surprised with the results of my assessments.  I’m also surprised when people use theirs as a shield for noncooperative team behavior.  For example, a colleague who is blunt and forceful and steamrolls others may hurt feelings, but excuses the behavior with, “Well, that’s just who I am!”  I’m very sensitive to not letting who “I am” interfere with what others need.  I think that has led to a very low self awareness.  I was shocked to find my pragmatic score on the Philosophical Orientation Questionnaire as high as it was.  Me?  Pragmatic?  If I don’t spend time to define my values and attitudes it will harder to find the right fit with organizations going forward.  I’ll experience more cognitive dissonance in my career and won’t be able to tap in to my strengths.   

I did not anticipate these being the takeaways from the class when I started the weekend.  It was a residency that stretched my comfort level.  I understand that I will need to take more ownership of my education if I want to get everything I desire out of these classes.   The greatest overall takeaway is about managing expectations, mine and others, which I can do through developing my own self awareness.  


Writing Mojo

I have an essay final exam to finish, so I’m warming up my writing muscles.  What to write about…

It’s no secret I was feeling funky last week.  It didn’t exactly fade over the weekend either.

So here’s what I think.  It’s time to reassess some things.

I said 2012 was going to be about three things:

Grad School  I am overwhelmed by grad school still, but in a good way.  I really enjoy the course material.  I’m learning to deal with what will be non stop group work.  I’m trying to understand self directed learning and how to get what I need out of this model of one residency weekend a month and the rest of the program online.

Work  This I’ve got nailed.  It’s apparent I work on a fairly low expectations team.  I came in, I evaluated the 5 week training program, I made several recommendations for changes to the format and 95% of them are being implemented for the group starting today.  This is still a test, I need to see if the recommendations and changes are more effective based on feedback from the participants.  If all goes well, the hard part of my job is over for the foreseeable future.  Run this program.  I don’t have a lot of control over how other aspects of the training department run, and maybe that’s okay. School takes up so much time and I’d like to have a robust personal life, especially with spring and summer fairs and festivals coming up.

Running  Time for reassessing.  I feel pressure to run.  I feel like it’s something I want, but I’m still mentally holding myself back.  I want to put running on the back burner for a while.  Not exercise, just running.  I want to go back to Zumba.  I want to do these strength programs I found in Shape and Women’s Health magazine.  I want to do things I enjoy.  My confidence is pretty shaky these days.  Perhaps it’s being shaken by grad school, opening up to Gentleman Friend, events of last year, or just not loving what I see when I look in a mirror.  I’m the only person who can fix this.  And I want to do it by feeling sexy and having fun.  Zumba always made me feel that way.  I still want to run.  I just want to feel better about it when I do it.  I’m avoiding exercise in general because I’m dreading the act.

Must go write essay.  If I finish in a timely fashion I’ll be back to tell you about my calling… I found it.  Stay tuned…

Pork tacos are delicious


I came home hungry today.  I was at work at 6:30am and walked in my door at 6:10pm.  In that time I had a banana, half a veggie sandwich and some pita chips.  I was looking forward to making some random things in my fridge work for me.  Most importantly, some shredded pork that came from a pork roast I made weeks ago.  After I made it I had divided it into 6 portions and froze 4 of them.  I forgot about them until a couple days ago.  I put one of the portions in the fridge to thaw and on the drive home started thinking about what else I could add to it.

I had some flour tortillas in my fridge, the last two of a package of 30.  They seemed to last forever and stayed good the whole time.  A quick warm up in the microwave for them and the pork and I was ready to assemble.  An avocado and a head of red lettuce were sliced and added.  A small smear of Greek yogurt went on each taco as well.  I added about a tablespoon more of this pomegranate chipotle sauce to the pork and dug in very happily.  Seriously, they were delicious.




What made them extra delicious is this sauce!  I bought a bottle at a church craft fair years ago.  When I finally realized it I didn’t even remember how to order more.  I looked up the brand name and it was a Tastefully Simple product, the home party company.  I ordered 4 more bottles through their website.  It is sweet and smoky and a perfect addition to the pork.  


Get some!

Good Grief

Today is my dad’s birthday.  He would have been 62 years old.  I wrote about him a couple of years ago on this blog.  The thing I’m sad about the most is that he never got to know me as an adult.  I have 3 siblings.  I was not a daddy’s girl growing up.  My dad wasn’t a daddy’s girl type of dad.  My sister Emilie was the clear favorite, and that’s okay.  My father owned an asphalt paving construction company and Emilie was always willing to go do dump truck chores with dad.  I would rather read a book.  Or do homework.  Or create family newsletters on the typewriter.  My dad was funny.  As a kid I didn’t always understand it – he was really sarcastic and I was the most sensitive child.  I couldn’t take a teasing, my dad told me that often.  He and I would have done better as adults.  He died 6 months after I graduated college.  I can remember talking to him about which job offer to take – he liked that I went to work for Harrah’s because it was a bigger company and would have more opportunities and would be a safer choice.  I remember coming home later after a night out with friends and he was still awake sitting in his rocking chair in the pitch black living room.  He startled me by saying hello and then telling me we should have a glass of wine that someone brought us.  In my life I had never seen my dad drink anything but Busch Beer out of cans.  “Blue Bottle Riesling” is the first wine I remember drinking and it started that night.  I’m sad he didn’t know my husband and sad he wasn’t there to put my marriage ending in perspective.  It was in fact his voice I finally heard in my head that made me realize ending my marriage wasn’t the end of the world.  I could hear him saying, “Oh Sarah, stop crying about it.  Do something about it.”  My dad would love that I work for Save-A-Lot grocery stores.  It’s a humble company and he always thought I was a little stuck up.  He’d be glad I’m doing well.  He would think I shop too much, like my mother.

He never even got to know me.  Just the silly high school me.  The over-sensitive cry baby middle schooler who couldn’t take a joke.  He doesn’t know that I’m successful and I have cats and I love Zumba and lived in Louisiana and finally took sewing lessons from my Grandma and make the greatest chocolate chip cookies and that I’m in grad school and that I traveled a lot for work and that I battled unemployment by washing dishes at cooking school and I live in the city.

He would love that I’m going to see Newsies on Broadway in a couple of weeks.  He loved the soundtrack to Newsies.  Friday nights were dad’s night to drink with his co-workers after work and he would come home and shuffle/dance around the kitchen to the songs.  He also loved the Disney Tarzan soundtrack.  And he loved Cat Stevens, only later he claimed that he didn’t.  That’s a longer story.

This has been a hard Brad week as well.  It started this past weekend.  I pulled out my Ally McBeal dvd’s to watch while cleaning my room last Saturday and was suddenly overwhelmed with loss.  Brad had bought me the Ally McBeal box set.  He was everywhere in that minute. It’s ridiculous, I can remember every piece of clothing I ever wore with him, every meal, every bottle of wine.  I was suddenly longing for movies he and I watched together (Elizabeth and When Harry Met Sally) and restaurants in Chicago we went to (Chicken Hut – strange, but true).  I was swept up in memories of his apartment, what it smelled like (his Snake Peel Axe body wash and cologne – the commercials are true – it’s a sexy smell) and what it looked like in the evening with his solar candle jar on the patio and the glow of all of his electronics lighting up his small living room.  I remember what it sounded like as Lake Shore Drive rushed past below and Lake Michigan lapped at the beach just beyond that.  It was always cool with the balcony door open.  I miss watching movie previews from Apple TV and bad television shows on BBC America on Saturday mornings (there was that was kind of like Hoarders only worse).   I miss the wine store and making dinner and this funny way he picked up utensils (he had a flourish – it was very showy) and the fact that he let me fall asleep on top of him cuddled on the couch under this dark red blanket.

I’m caught up in these waves of grief this week.  I miss my dad.  I miss Brad.

It’s okay to grieve.  It’s not crippling me.  It’s the right thing to remember them.  And miss them.  I feel their loss tonight.

Nothing is forever friends.  Seize the Day.  It’s what the Newsies would have done.

(100 bonus points if you get that.)  :)