Charting life's circuitous path

Leave a comment

Oh, the places you won’t go…

It’s 3 am and I’m scouring the internet for a career.  I’m well into my 30s with two degrees and I’m asking myself “what do I want to be when I grow up?”.

I have a job.  It’s not bad – good pay, decent hours for part-time, and even benefits.

But I feel suffocated.  I dread going to work most days and when I’m there, I watch the clock for when I can leave.  The job itself is okay, but my hands automatically type and my eyes scan the information without much prompting.

And it’s driving me slowly batty.

I was lucky.  When I graduated from high school,  I picked a university that gave me a full scholarship based on my grades.  Then, when I went off to get my masters, I picked another university that nearly paid for the ride with scholarships and work pay.

What broke my luck was my degree choice.

No one told me that I’d be sitting here one day with a lot of useless degree baggage no one wanted to claim.

Going into my bachelor’s, I picked geology.  I loved the idea of working with the earth and the creatures stuck in its hard shell.  I grew excited going to my geology classes and loved sitting in lectures.  But math struck with a big fat C in calculus.

I was a perfectionist.  Type A all the way and getting any grade below a B was akin to failing.  I wish I had told myself not to run scared to my adviser to change my degree to English.

I wish I had an adviser that had the courage to tell me to pick something else.

I wish I could have thought of my future and not solely about my interests and playing it safe.

Getting my degrees in English was wonderful.  I genuinely loved the courses and I loved reading all of the arcane texts.  I learned how to interpret, how to read not only passages but human behavior.  I became more of a person through my degree and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

But what I wish I could change was my focus.  Instead of having a degree where my job prospects include teaching and more teaching, I could have minored in English and majored in, say, health, business or other real-world focus.04399997f33e249ad3640ef0690dc409

This year, millions of bright, young adults will be clutching new high school degrees and dreaming about “big things.”  They’ll be told that they can do anything, be anything.  They’ll pick degrees, choose paths that will guide them through at least four years or thirty years or more.  And while some will find the right path, many will find theirs lined with deceptive quicksand.

For all of those graduating and hearing the speeches about dreams: look at your feet.  See them firmly on the ground.

Keep them there.

Don’t be afraid to dream.  Don’t be afraid to reach for those dreams.  But remember to keep your feet on the ground.  Grab the dreams and hold their balloon weight in your hand, but keep your feet from flying away.

Life is a mix of dreams and reality.  Learn to mix them for dreams alone are like vapor.  And when the vapor clears, all that’s left is hard reality.

1 Comment

Keep on “Rolo”-ing

Sometimes, it’s the smallest people that help us bigger folks grow up.

roloMy little nephew, only 10 months old, has spent more time in the hospital than I’ve ever had to my entire life.  He was born with a rare vocal cord condition that has resulted in multiple invasive surgeries, long hospital stays and the saddest, pleading eyes that grab your heart and make you want to smuggle him home under your coat.

We went to see him in hospital this past weekend after another, and hopefully last, surgery.  The tall glass-plated building housed gigantic wooden animals wearing bright scarves and Beatrix Potter-esque murals.  The halls were quiet, even though people milled around the sunny waiting areas.  After signing in, we raided the small gift shop and shared our fluffy bounty – a round, blue bear for the little one and an equally round Pooh for his older brother.  The couple of times I stayed in hospital when I was little had always resulted in gifts – it was something that made being ill just a bit easier to handle.  Seeing his tiny hands clasp his blue bear, even for the brief second before he jilted it for the glitzier purple poodle, made me very glad that I had made the 3 ½ hour drive to see him.

His room was rather large for such a little guy, but it was clean, bright and cute – insofar as a hospital room can be.  We burst into the small space with all the noise and enthusiasm that our family could muster.  When we do noise, we do it well.

His big, round eyes brightened when he saw us and a huge grin followed as we crowded around his metal crib.  We cooed and waggled his arms as he kept his foot propped up in his baby way to hold the humidifier tube in place.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied and wallowing in my self-imposed stagnation.  My job was making me feel unfulfilled and frustrated, days were filled with chores and to-dos, and I seemed to have a complaint list a mile long.  Just a few wrongs would make me feel like my life was spinning out of control.

But as I tucked my nephew’s IV under his pillow, I was faced with my own selfishness imagesand was reminded of a quote from a book I was reading by Howard Behar, the past President of Starbucks, titled It’s Not About the Coffee.   Behar’s book about leadership and lessons learned had more to it than that simple description implies.  It’s filled with a lot of really good points about relationships, not only with your company, family and co-workers, but with yourself.  In it, he discusses the idea of not hiding who we are.  By keeping “different hats” for different situations, we aren’t true to ourselves and just wear out (amongst other more negative results).  He asks:

“If someone came into your home and listened to the walls talk, what would they say?”

rolo1And that, folks, brought a stain to my cheeks that even my hardest run could not rival.  While I wasn’t saying most of my frustrations out loud, they were seeping into my dreams and into my approach to everyday tasks.  I let my emotions feed on themselves and it wasn’t the green, leafy variety of food, either.  The only way my nephew could eat was through this tiny, clear IV tube.  Here I was, totally vocal, healthy, happily married, munching on decadent desserts (like the one below), but moaning about my “bad” life.  My little guy couldn’t even moan if he wanted to, and by the look in his eyes (we ranked him a 4 out of 10 on his “how am I feeling” chart), he really needed a good moan.

I could, at any moment, “feed” my life with those nutrients that I thought were missing – the art classes I was going to take at the new year?  I’m going to look into our options this week.  The frustrations at work?  I need to address them with my manager.  There were actual steps I could take to alleviate this sense of whirlpool, but I was letting myself drown.

For my brave little nephew, his path seems clear – to get out of that hospital room, to get home and, for the first time in his life, to howl up a storm.

Here’s to more howling in all our lives.  🙂

rolo cheesecake bars 005

And here’s a recipe for Rolo Cheesecake Bars from Bakers Royale that will make everyone sing your praises.  I made them for work this week and they are filled with mini-rolos, cream cheese, caramel and chocolate – what’s not to love?  The entire batch was gone before some even knew I had brought any dessert.  Oh, yes, and they’re a cinch to make.  It’s a wonderful addition to my rolo repertoire, and a new one for many of my co-workers after I fulfill all of the recipe requests that came pouring in.

 Rolo Cheesecake Bars

(Note:  The original recipe is by Naomi from Bakers Royale and I didn’t tweak it too much.  The next time I make it, I might tweak the sugar quantities – it’s delicious, but I feel like a drop in sugar wouldn’t harm it, especially in the crust.  I did up some of the quantities slightly to make a 9×13 pan’s worth rather than the original 8×8.  I also decreased the chocolate layer since I didn’t want quite as thick a layer as the original’s.  It was a good decision since the chocolate balanced well with the cheesecake layer rather than dominating it.  All of my tweaks are in red.)


Crust layer

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used 2 whole sleeves of Trader Joe’s Graham Crackers)
  • 10 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar

Cheesecake layer

  • 8 oz + 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese (or 1 ½ blocks), softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • A heaping 1/3 cup of caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Caramel Sauce instead of making my own)
  • One 8 oz bag of mini rolos

Chocolate layer

  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup

4-5 tbsp caramel sauce for drizzling


Line a 9×13 pan with foil so that it overhangs the sides and heat oven to 350.

Mix crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well mixed and press into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 7 min.  Remove and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, place cream cheese, egg, vanilla, caramel sauce and sugar.  Mix on medium until smooth.  Stir in rolos and spread the mixture evenly on top of the crust.  (I tried to line up the rolos on top of the crust, but ended up mixing them in anyways. Save yourself the effort of even spacing and just mix the rolos into the cream cheese before you pour.)

Bake at 350 for 35 -40 minutes. Begin checking for doneness using a toothpick at the 30 min mark, depending on your oven.  Mine took a bit longer than 35 minutes before my toothpick came out clean.

Remove, allow to cool, and make your chocolate topping.

Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup into a pan and heat on low until melted stir frequently (you can also do this in the microwave, but be sure to use small time intervals so as to not scorch the chocolate). Spread evenly over bars and allow to cool completely.  You can fridge the bars now or cut them.

Cut bars using a clean, warm knife (clean the blade between each cut).  Heat caramel sauce in microwave until warm (about 20 sec depending on your microwave).  Using a spoon, drizzle sauce over cut bars.  Place back into fridge until ready to serve.

They’re good cold, but we preferred them when they were allowed to sit at room temperature for a few minutes.  The chocolate softens and the caramel becomes less solid.

rolo cheesecake bars 011

1 Comment

Little keys open big locks


The morning greeted us with snow coated limbs and pillowy piles.  The winter storm of the night before was more like a lamb and left us with a lot of fluff and little in the way of a roar. These kinds of storms I can file away in my slim folder of “good winters”.  Storms that bring long calls with insurance companies and rental car employees are less worth filing, but are somehow, unfortunately, more “memorable”.

A year has fluttered past with little heed to my own desire that it stay a bit and have a cup of tea.  Instead, it’s packed up, shuffled on and in sweeps a new year for all of us to get used to, again.  I’ve been thinking about the passing year, like most, and had come to the conclusion that, well, not much had happened.  The previous year seemed full of excitement – my health improved, I reached weight goals I didn’t know were possible for me, and I was finally getting a handle on what made my life live.

So, in a way, this year felt a bit ho-hum.

Until I came across this list that I had made sometime earlier this year pinned to my refrigerator underneath other clippings.


I made that list because I had begun to slid.  Just a little.  Perhaps around our vacation in April, or earlier.  Whenever it was, I wanted to keep on the path, so I came up with a list that, looking at it now, seems a bit stark.  Note the huge “NO” at the top.  It reads more like a prescriptive plan from my doctor than anything I could really follow or want to.

These kinds of lists are designed for failure.  Telling yourself “NO” will only make it worse when you ultimately cave and sneak a donut for breakfast on Wednesday.  Setting allowances is a good step, but setting absolutes can lead to guilt, avoidance, and an unhealthy relationship with food and with your own desires.  Perhaps that’s why this list was all but forgotten under other bits and bobs.

If taken verbatim, yes, I failed this list.

If I looked at how I’ve incorporated this list into my own life, then I won.  I don’t eat donuts except for special occasions, and I only buy them from our favorite donut shop.  I have stopped eating cereal from the soup bowl and instead, I’ve easily transitioned to the smaller dessert bowls.  I don’t eat snacks at work, but apple slices and half a homemade granola bar, if hungry.  I eat only one slice of pizza and no more.

I do, however, drink my mochas and I thoroughly enjoy them.  Especially when they’re paired with a chewy cookie or a slice of cake and topped with marshmallows.  Yes, I do eat baked goods during the week, but I’ve learned this year to portion size – our cakes and pies provide 12 slices rather than 8 and we eat a couple cookies rather than half the batch.  I’ve embraced sugar as my drug of choice, but I want to keep it recreational. 😉

In a lot of ways, I’ve been successful with the resolutions I set for myself last year. I’ve found a bit more balance with diet, exercise and life.  I’ve discovered that I can do things I’ve never dreamed I could, and that success isn’t always dependent on what happens at the end.  I’ve been less hateful of myself – to the point where whole days or even weeks will go by without me hating some body part.

I’ve yet to discover my career path.  I know that my current career is more of a pit-stop and I really need to face my fears.  I’ve yet to shrug off the anxiety that the weight will all come back (and then some).  I also need to focus more on the now and less on the emotions driving me through my days.  So much is lost as I allow myself to be swept along by my feelings.

So, here’s to 2013.  May you be bright.  May you be happy.  And may you be fulfilling.

myyear(image from Pinterest)

(quote in post title from here)