Archive for the ‘Editorial Thoughts’ Category

Finding Joy by Bringing it to Others

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020
Yes, it’s the smallest Christmas tree I’ve ever had, but it still makes me smile.

It’s the holiday season, which is my favorite time of year. In the past I’ve written about my love of all things December. However, 2020 has had a nice way of putting a damper on some of that excitement.

As an empty nester with four adult children in their own homes and my husband and I in a short-term rental, I knew that Christmas would be different this year. I was fine with not having our usual decorations nor having the kids come home. We planned on traveling to Phoenix to celebrate the holidays with three of our four children. Then Covid decided to turn the world upside down.

I dragged my feet on cancelling our plans. My gut told me that it was the right thing to do, but my heart wanted to wait. In late November, I decided to treat this like a bandage- pull it off quickly. I talked with our kids and let them know we wouldn’t be coming and went about canceling all of our reservations.

Then I felt sad.

However, I don’t like moping. Why wallow when in reality I am actually very fortunate? We are all healthy and employed. The kids are self-sufficient and happy. My husband and I are together and discovering a new place that will be home. Sure, Christmas will be different, but that is temporary. Never mind that so many people are experiencing this; my pain was not special nor excruciating.

Rather than feel sorry for myself, I decided to try and bring joy to other people, which in turn would make me feel happy.

  1. As a food blogger, I try to bring happiness via cooking. For the month of December, I’ve shared a cookie recipe from Think Tasty each day as a way to hopefully inspire someone else.
  2. As the Director of Community at Wasabi Ventures Stables I am adding cheer by randomly awarding a prize to a club member every day.
  3. At home, I have created an advent calendar for my husband and me. Sure, the countdown to Christmas Day feels different, but it’s nice to give each day a little something to look forward to.
  4. At the grocery store, whenever my husband or I shop, each of us buys a $10 store gift card and give it to the clerk to help pay for the next person in line.

When I do any of these things, I get a wonderful feeling of joy. Doing something for someone else, no matter how small, makes my heart feel a little bit fuller.

No, Christmas this year won’t be typical, but I’m glad to say it will be filled with joy and love. Here’s to 2021 when the world is healthier, and I get to spend time with my family again!

Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
I don’t even own boots with bootstraps.

My dad is a fan of colloquial phrases. I can’t even begin to count the number that he used regularly throughout my childhood. I do remember giggling (out of Dad’s earshot) with my brothers over which phrase he might use next.

“He’s going to say something about the southbound end of a northbound . . .”
“No, it’s going to be the one about squeezing a nickel until the buffalo. . .”

I’ve been thinking about my dad and his phrases recently, as I hit a mental rough patch with work. I became complacent and let the status quo of work move me forward. I wasn’t working on new ideas, being more pro-active, or trying to make my projects bigger and better. Honestly, I spent a chunk of my time reading articles online instead of focusing on work. Although I tried to assure myself that the reading was focused on work, as a self-employed woman, I also didn’t have to validate my time or efforts to anyone.

Then, a few weeks ago, I gave my head a mental shake and decided this wasting time was silly and fruitless. I added a project to Monday- review stats and make a plan for the future. I really thought that the numbers would show that it was time to throw in the towel and let Think Tasty go into hibernation. To my surprise the numbers were better than I thought. They showed a slight upward trend. It wasn’t time to quit; it was time to work harder.

At Think Tasty I changed the way I post on social media. I created a schedule that is more active and highlights all of the food and cooking in my day. I also increased my publishing schedule and spent more time editing photos.

With this little nudge in one area, I began to work harder on other projects as well. I have my WSET Level 3 certification, but I am using it minimally. To try and correct that I sent a proposal to a local college for a series of courses I could teach. I also began some behind the scenes work for other wine-centric projects.

This one small thought has reinvigorated my passion for these two projects and given me the drive to work harder. Now instead of wondering about how I’ll fill the day so as not to have guilt about being productive, I wonder how to cram all of my activities into the day. It’s not a bad problem to have.

So, how does all of this newfound work activity come back to my dad? The first thing I thought once I was working vigorously again was, ‘I just needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps.’ I can hear my dad using that fine phrase. Although I could have sought advice from others during this time, I know myself well enough: motivation comes best from within.

Feeling much more inspired to work, I decided I should blog about it here. (It is yet another area in which I’ve lacked ambition over the last couple months.) I decided that I should research the history of that phase as part of this post. To my surprise I learned that I’ve been using it wrong all these years. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps; it’s impossible. The phrase actually means to do something absurd.

So, maybe “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” isn’t the colloquial phrase my dad would have used. I’m sure he will have another phrase that could work. There always seemed to be an endless supply. Perhaps I should give him a call and see what best describes this situation.

Empty Nested & Pet-less

Thursday, September 10th, 2020
The one and only, Gonzo the Gecko

For the past four years I have been living a semi-empty nester life. As my daughter, Sam, was away at college, it was just my husband and I at home for most of the year. With her senior year ending this spring, I knew that she would find a job, get her own place, and we’d be full-time empty nesters.

The good news is that even with the craziness of 2020, my daughter did get a job. She also got an apartment. Thus, we now are empty nesters, and while there’s a twinge of sadness for that part of my parenting life to end, it was expected.

What wasn’t expected was my sadness at becoming pet-less at the same time. Ever since my son went to college six years ago, I have been the keeper and caretaker of his New Caledonian gecko, Gonzo. He had a spot in my office. Then when we moved to Arkansas, he made the roadtrip (successfully sneaking him into hotels every night). Post-travel he’s had a spot in our living room.

Although he doesn’t really interact with people, I talked to him during the day. (No, I am not crazy.) Every morning, I would turn on his light and look to see where he was inside the tank. Some nights we would take him out and let him sit on one of our shoulders, which he seemed to like. When I went to bed, I turned his tank light off and said good night. He was this other presence in our home.

The plan always had been for Sam to take him once she got her own place. Because of my son’s job, it wasn’t an option to have Gonzo. As my husband and I will be spending time in different locations, trying to determine where our next home will be, it would be best for the gecko to have a permanent spot.

Thus, when my daughter left Arkansas in late July, heading to her new place in Phoenix, Gonzo was placed in the passenger seat to begin the journey as well. Re-entering our condo it felt odd. In the following days I had to stop myself from saying hi to Gonzo when I got up or checking on him during the day.

As I reflected, I haven’t been pet-less for more than a month or so. Ever. My parents always had dogs and cats when I was little. I got my first kitten when I was five, and since then I’ve had an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens, lizards, hamsters, and guinea pigs in my life. Now, I have a husband and two plants.

It’s now been six weeks since Gonzo headed to his new home. Like many things, my sadness has faded. Although I am looking forward to the future in which my husband and I choose a new location (or two). Once we are more settled, I am pretty sure there will be a dog there also. Then, once again I’ll be able to nurture a creature!

Monday Nights Are for Us

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020

As our marriage was a second for both my husband and me, we didn’t start our relationship with just the two of us. Rather, it began with four children and a couple animals. Thus, a good amount of our time from the very beginning was spent with the usual family activities- sports, school, adventures, and more.

However, no matter the age of your children or the newness of your relationship, it’s important to have time for just the two of you. Without meaning to do so I created a tradition that gave us that one-on-one time in our home every week. Twelve years later that continues today as empty nesters. That tradition is Tapas Monday.

My husband played a small role in the creation of this tradition. In the fall of 2008, he had a weekly Monday call at 4:00 pm PT added to his work schedule. Living in New Hampshire, that meant he would be on the call until at least 8:00. With middle school-aged children, that was way too late for our regular family dinner. So, I hatched a plan.

The kids would have dinner at normal time, around 6:00, and then around 8:30, my husband and I would have dinner. Not one to settle for simple, I decided to make this late meal more than just a reheated version of the kids’ dinner. Rather every week while he was on the call, I would create a menu of tapas dishes and chill a bottle of sparkling wine.

With a format for the meal planned, I added other elements to the meal. It was always served by candlelight. Children were not allowed. In the earliest years, there were pauses in the meal to tuck children into bed. As the years progressed, a teen might pop his or her head into the dining room, arriving home after a sports practice. The majority of the meal was just the two of us, eating and talking about random subjects.

When I first created Tapas Monday it was a way for us to connect outside of our children without leaving the house. As years passed and the children began being busier on their own, giving us more alone time, we still held onto this tradition. Not only does it give us time to connect, it really is a highlight to look forward to on a Monday. No need to lament the start of the workweek when you know there’s a romantic dinner at the end of it.

Today, we are 100% empty nesters, and yet we still celebrate Tapas Monday. We start the meal earlier now, as there is no late meeting nor children in our house. Sometimes the menu is simple because the day has been crazy, but it’s always served in a fancy manner with a bottle of sparkling wine.

I would love to say that I appreciate this meal immensely, and I do, but I also take it for granted because it just is part of our weekly routine. Yet, every once in a while I tell someone about it, and I hear a sentiment of, “How romantic!” In that moment I realize it really is an amazing tradition we have.

So, here’s to Tapas Monday- an evening to dine, converse, and reconnect.

PeKu- What’s in a Name?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
carrot cake scones being topped with cream cheese icing

Sometimes it’s more than you imagine.

When I first launched this publishing company in July 2008 I named it Wasabi Media Group. I chose this name as I had been an entrepreneur in residence at Wasabi Ventures and thought it could be beneficial to be known as part of that family.

Over the next four-ish years, I made three discoveries. First, because I had an affiliation with Wasabi Ventures and shared their name, many people assumed my company was venture-related. Second, using the phrase media group, newcomers thought that my business involved music, entertainment, and more. From a purely business aspect, my company name was not a good choice.

My third discovery was personal and reflective. I was the key builder of this business; its name should be related to me. With that idea in hand, I decided to create the name PeKu, a blending of my two last names. Since that time, PeKu has become my persona on many levels. PeKu, the company, was my baby that I nurtured and grew. PeKu, the name, has become my social media handle and how I refer to myself at times.

However, this history lesson on my company’s name doesn’t stop here. Over the weekend I received a middle of the night email that seemed spam-like, but I read it nonetheless. The author let me know that peku means bake in Slovenian. Using an online translator, the meaning was confirmed, and I was astounded.

As I read the translation I was in awe. I initially built this publishing company after spending a year developing Think Tasty, my food blog. While it was never my intent to have a second meaning to PeKu, there had been one hidden there all the time. How crazy! To think, my passion for baking and cooking, which started this publishing company 13 years ago, was unknowingly wrapped in the meaning of its name.

Kismet, karma, mere happenstance, whatever you want to call it; this double meaning in PeKu is priceless.

Can I Do This?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Some people have an enormous base of confidence. Some people have very little. I am somewhere in between.

I once had a friend ask where I got all my confidence from. I laughed. I don’t ooze confidence, but what I do is fake it until my confidence levels rise.

At so many times in my life, when approaching a new task or a public event, I have sweating palms and butterflies doing somersaults in my stomach. As much I would love to avoid the whole scene, I put on my bravest face and begin. If it’s public speaking, I know that the first thirty seconds are the toughest. I may clear my throat more than necessary. I may clench my hands behind the podium. As I begin to speak, I am hesitant, but then I feel a sense of calm settle in, as confidence seeps into me. When I’m done, I have this amazing sense of euphoria. I almost want to shout, “I did it!”

I have experienced this in so many different settings. As a teacher, the first day with students, open house, and parent-teacher conferences would bring an initial sense of fear, followed by (usually) the feeling of success. Anytime I speak in public, I blush horribly in the first minute until I hit my stride. Most recently, I went through the same roller coaster of emotions when teaching my first online wine class.

Leading up to this class I prepared heartily. I created the course, made an outline of what I would teach, built a slidedeck, practiced it by myself, made my husband act a student in my second walk-through, and finally got myself situated and ready an hour before the class was to begin. Even with all of this preparation and practice, I was nervous when the students appeared online.

Then, as typically happens, I fell into the groove and leaned back on my knowledge. The class flowed smoothly, as I shared information and took questions from the class. When it was done, I felt incredibly pleased with myself.

Although I could wonder why it is that I doubt myself before starting a new endeavor, I won’t waste the time on that. I have been this way since I was a little kid. While it may seem odd, the exhilaration I experience once I am successful is worth all of the nerves leading up to it. In fact, for me, those nerves are what make me work harder and prepare more, which in turn is what makes that event a success.

Maybe my thinking “Can I do this?” is really just a sort of self-motivation. While not fully doubting myself, I am challenging myself. Am I up to doing the best that I can?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”