Posted in meandering

Maybe the talent isn’t skill-based

We might agree on talent: does it exist? What are the circumstances? And so on.

Regardless, no one—talented or not—makes it in a skill-based pursuit without hard work. A lot of hard work. And then more hard work. Topped off with a bit more hard work.

Discipline. Focus. Pushing through “I don’t feel like it.” Giving up other things.

Which got me to thinking…

Maybe the skill, or the ease of picking up the skill, isn’t the talent. Maybe the talent is a work ethic, and the skill happens to be something that lights a fire for the work ethic to stoke.

Posted in food, physical health

Healthy, frozen summer treat

There are a lot of recipes circulating that claim to be healthy “treat” food. (If we’d stop using language like that, it would take away some of their power.)

Unfortunately, all of the ones I’ve seen and/or tried are either not actually healthy or not actually tasty. Sure, I can make cookies out of oats and applesauce, but the results are unpalatable.

This recipe, however, is different! It is healthy! And it is delicious! (Unless you hate or are allergic to bananas…)

The Safeway near us occasionally has “overripe” bananas for cheap. At least half of the bananas in the bag are at their peak of ripeness — not crunchy, not mushy. Perfect. But the skins have brown spots on them, so people won’t buy them. (People, you are foolish!)

Your folly is my gain! I get a bunch of ripe bananas cheap.

Some of the bananas are a bit past their prime. And by the next day, maybe two, they’re really not delicious to eat any more.

What do you do with overripe bananas? Well, you can make banana bread, but anything with that much sugar in it isn’t really bread—it’s dessert. And while banana bread is delicious, it’s not how I want to spend my calories.

Peel the bananas, break them into pieces, lay them on a plate or a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. No need to cut out minor flaws. After a couple of hours, they’ll be frozen, and you can put them in your storage container of choice. (We’re a glass family here, so no plastic bags.)

In buying a watermelon recently, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We ate some; the rest we chopped up to eat later.

When later came, we decided to turn it into ice cream. Or a smoothie. Whatever you want to call it.

We put about two frozen bananas and maybe two or three cups of watermelon pieces in the Vitamix, turned it on, and voila! Delicious frozen treat!

Cold, creamy, sweet, perfection!

We did it again a day or two later (these things are a staple in the summer around here), but instead of watermelon, we used peaches. (Organic, please—peaches are on the dirty dozen.)

Actually, we’ve done this one with a variable—with room temperature peaches and with frozen peaches. Frozen peaches win. I was surprised at how different they tasted.

Went to the store, bought two peaches, cut them into chunks, stuck them in the freezer for a couple of hours. (You could also just buy frozen peaches.) Put the peaches and two frozen bananas in the Vitamix. I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain yogurt and a bit of water. With fresh fruit, water isn’t necessary, but if everything in there is frozen, maybe a quarter cup of liquid gets the job done. I would have liked to try almond milk, but we didn’t have any. 

I sometimes will throw in some spinach. If you put in just a handful, it turns the whole thing green, but it doesn’t taste spinach-y. I find that the blender chops frozen spinach more efficiently than fresh. So even when we have fresh, I put it in the freezer. (It freezes really quickly!)

The possibilities and combinations for this are nearly endless. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, milks, maybe even a dash of cinnamon or cocoa powder. (Cocoa powder is bitter, so use sparingly.) As long as what you put in it is unsweetened and not highly processed, you should end up with a delicious healthy treat!

You can also take this and pour it into popsicle molds. Yum!

Posted in mindset

Tales of a budding “astronaut engineer”

The Kid has been very interested in astronomy off and on. He’s “on” right now, wants to be an astronaut engineer when he grows up (his definition of that varies), reads about space, watches videos about space. Right now, space is where it’s at.

Coincidentally, right now, Jupiter is visible to the naked eye. And with binoculars or a telescope, we can see some of its moons. (We were able to see two with binoculars and, on a clear night, four with a cheap telescope.)

After looking at Jupiter, of course we had to look at the moon. With our little telescope, we could see craters. It was pretty neat.

And the telescope has a lens that is good for taking pictures. I don’t know what makes it such, but I was able to snap the lead photo with my iPhone. Not bad!

We’ve gone out several nights. He’s very excited both to see what we’ve already seen and to look for new things. (On the night that it was somewhat cloudy, he reprimanded us for not buying a better telescope… not accepting that the problem was clouds, not equipment quality.) He’s “discovered” star clusters.

Not sure how long it will last, but for now, it’s pretty neat.

Posted in education, know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting

Shaming isn’t useful

A few years ago, I bought a course by Brené Brown through Udemy. The course is no longer available for purchase, but I still have access to it and go through part or all of it from time to time.

At one point, she said (paraphrased), “85% of adults interviewed remember something so shaming from school that it forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners.”

That’s a lot of power. “Forever changed how they thought of themselves as learners.”


I know more people than I’d like who were explicitly told by their music or choir teacher that they can’t sing. My mom was told to stand in her spot and lip sync.

That horrifies me.

People discouraged from taking certain classes or career paths, regardless of content or grade level. (I know stories kindergarten through grad school.)

(There are just as many stories of people who were totally lifted up, inspired, or saved by teachers as well. And there’s a difference between “these are skills you need to work on and it’s going to be a lot of work” and “you’re not good at this and shouldn’t bother.” The second is both mean and pedagogically lazy.)

Of course, it’s not just teachers. Parents use shame all the time. There are awful (and, unfortunately, widely celebrated) videos of parents publicly shaming their children.

Culturally, shame is a national pastime.

The thing is: shaming is not an effective means of punishment. It doesn’t work—not the way we do it. And it’s strongly connected to addiction. (Coincidence that we have an enormous addiction problem in this country?)

My therapist told me once that we’re the only animals who shame their offspring and don’t follow up with love. The shame becomes internalized. We learn that this failure is who we are instead of something we did.

Unless you’re feeling secure in what that love follow-up ought to look like, bypass shame as an intentional attempted motivational technique.

What people feel shame about varies; different people feel shameful about different things. Your family of origin is typically where those seeds are planted, though as we just learned, school can do it as well, or really anywhere/anyone influential in childhood. So something that doesn’t seem shaming to you could feel very shameful to someone else. (There are oodles of cultural examples of this, no? Ask people if they change by their locker at the gym…)

As teachers, as parents, as people in a civilized place—skip the intentional shaming. We’ll all be better for it.


Posted in follow-up, know better do better, podcasts, tips

“I don’t know how to interact with women any more.”

In blog writing, I have a few rules I’ve set for myself. Always proofread at least twice (once immediately and once after walking away, ideally for a day, but an hour will do in a pinch). Don’t share identifying information about people or share other people’s stories that aren’t mine to tell (unless I have permission). And listen to the whole podcast (or read the whole book, or whatever) before sharing pieces of it.

I broke the last rule yesterday. I had 20 or so minutes left of Michael Gervais’s interview with Abby Wambach when yesterday’s post went live. Because I listen a lot less in the summer than during the school year (less time in the car; more time with The Kid in the car), I didn’t get to finishing it until later.

While the quote I picked out was indeed a good one, if I was going to choose one bit of that interview to focus on, it wouldn’t have been that one … if I had listened to the whole thing.

What might I have focused on instead?

They talked about the plight of men right now, and how so many are lamenting that they don’t know how to interact with women any more since the rules are changing. (To be honest, they had a lot more empathy in that than I do.)

Her advice?

“Mind your own body.”

Simple. Largely effective. Keep your hands, eyes, and body-based comments to yourself. Doesn’t address systemic issues or things of that sort, but for your basic, daily interactions? It should get the job done.

She also talked about inequalities between men’s and women’s sports. If your argument is “men’s sports make more money!” this would be a good clip for you to listen to. (I believe Freakonomics also addressed that a bit, but I couldn’t tell you what episode … or even what season…)

So if these pique your interest, listen to maybe the last half hour. Or just listen to the whole thing. It was interesting.

(And I will stick to my rules in the future!)