Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

100,000 HITS! THANK YOU!



With my last blog post, I have surpassed 100,000 individual "hits" on Frazzled at Forty. I am truly humbled by this. I still consider myself a very small fish, maybe even a minnow in a very very large sea. I am astonished and amazed that I have hit this milestone.


I wanted to take a moment to thank my readers who have been with and supported me since the beginning of my blog back in April 2010. I am still going strong 315 published blog posts later with several dozen drafts waiting to be polished and put up. This blog is my love, my burden, my unpaid job, and sometimes my frustration. I do consider it like my child.


I started this blog 6 1/2 years ago. My mother, during her last week of her life, stated she wanted me to do something with my writing. I had wrote since I was a young boy but had considered it nothing more than a past-time hobby which I would do every now and then. I vowed for Mom on her last week here to write regularly and often.


The best way to accomplish this goal for me was start to a blog. I loved the format. It fit my writing style. I have always dedicated my blog to Mom. It was her kick in the pants which lit the proverbial fire under my butt. Mom passed on April 10, 2009 and I finally started this blog a year later as an homage to her with my first short essay being posted in April of 2010. http://frazzledatforty.blogspot.com/2010/04/hello-40.html


The concept, Frazzled at Forty, was thought up as a scattered brained 39 year old adult, entering his 40s, aka middle age. I wanted to show where I've come from, what I'm doing, where I'm going, and how to survive the impending mid-life crisis. (And boy did I have one or two!)


Along the way, I wanted to impart some wisdom on what I've gained. I've talked about friends, family, my previous employment, growing up in high school, college, vacations, and even touched on social issues with colorful commentary.


I have even developed a continuing blog project, "Cooking Through My Family" where I have made almost all of my Mom's family recipes and some of her favorites. I'm finally jumping off into the several baking recipes with trepidation! We'll see how many I can get through this holiday season.


I have never once been nasty or insulted someone. I wanted to write a blog which could appeal to a wide range of people. There are too many blogs out there which tear people down. I wanted to bring people up, make them laugh and make them smile by sharing my life. I like to think I have succeeded.


Many have suggested I start "vlogging" (video blogs) because that's the popular thing to do now. Thanks, but no thanks. I am truly a writer first. It's in my blood. I will continue to write and maybe every now and them occasionally put out short little video embarrassing myself. I am more likely to put up a daily selfie (oh you know I already do!).


So where do I go from here? Well, there was never really any end game planned. I write for writing's sake. I will continue writing these posts as long as good friends, family, and more and more of the public will read them.


In 2017, I'm going to start picking 100 or more favorite essays to format into memoir form and hopefully publish. If I finally publish it, at least I am guaranteed of at least 10 sales from friends and family. LOL


After "Frazzled at Forty" what lies ahead? "Freaked Out at 50"?  Probably more like "F*cked Up at 50" LOL. We'll see. Until then, I've got 3 more years of being just FRAZZLED.


The best compliments I receive are when you my readers connect to a particular blog post and let me know as well as when you tell me that I write like I speak. You could imagine me speaking it before you. That means the world.


THANK YOU!


Thanks go out to my sister Sheryl and my brother Adam for all their continued support through these last 6 years. They put up with me posting embarrassing cringe-worthy memories but hopefully ultimately laughing along with the way as I do. I know I get some of the details off,  but I truly appreciate your support. Thank you Sheryl for being my unofficial "editor" too.

Thanks to my step-mum Martha and Dad. Love you both. Martha always makes a point to send me a note after each blog post letting me know how she relates to it. She also shows my Dad the blog posts for me. It means so much Martha! THANK YOU!


Special thanks to my good friends and fraternity brothers Chuck Buda and Alex Spiezio. Both are accomplished published authors themselves. Your support and encouragement with my writing keeps me going. And Buda, I will be bending your ear as I prep for publishing!!!


Thanks for all of my friends, family members, and other readers who have read and commented on my blog posts. YOU are my audience. YOU are who I write for. YOU keep me going.


Lastly thank you to the Big Ragu. Your support is most important.







Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Awkward Questions? Try a Moment of Silence!




The other day while driving to work, I was listening to a great interview on NPR and thought that parts of it were meaningful enough to pass on. A woman comedian was being interviewed and was talking about how to get through various awkward situations and I felt that others could completely relate to it.


One of those was situations was when someone asks a single person "Why are you still single?"  Maybe people do not realize it but this is a pretty rude question. It's no one's business. It seems though that during family or holiday events, a glass of sangria, spiked holiday punch or eggnog will chuck all decorum out the window.  Do you stop to think how small that makes a person feel as if being single is bad and wrong? Don't you think they'd like to meet someone???


So for my single friends, when someone asks you that, there are some retorts you can toss their way.


Question:   Why are you still single?


Answers:   Why are you still married? How's your marriage working out for you? Is it everything you'd hope it would be? How many times have you been divorced? How'd that go for ya? Remind them dryly of the statistic that 40-50% of marriages still end in divorce.(www.apa.org/topics/divorces/)


And my favorite answer:  Since you are married, are you still having sex?  (I can guarantee this answer will bring stunned silence.) Make the conversation as awkward for them as it is for you.


Another awkward question which riles me up is "Why don't you have children yet?" "Don't you want children?"  THIS DRIVES ME BONKERS! It's none of your business!!!


Now you could be an adult and take the high road. My friend Lara's advice:  just roll your eyes and walk away.  Honestly though, I'm tired of dealing with ignorant questions. People sometimes need to be schooled.


I AM TIRED OF HAVING TO ACCEPT SOMEONE'S IGNORANCE WHEN IT COMES TO PRYING ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. Start speaking up! Start countering them on their ignorant questions!


One more suggestion from the NPR broadcast which I found useful was giving a full minutes' silence.


If someone asks you a stupid or awkward questions, or makes a racist, sexist comment, just stare at them for ONE FULL MINUTE and watch them squirm. Seriously, it needs to be one full minute! LOL


One evening a relative said something extremely sexist to me. I just stared at him … for a long time. He began to stammer and over explain what he meant, digging a deeper hole. I shook my head, and walked away. I didn't need a comeback. The silence spoke for itself. (But as you see above, the comebacks can be just as fun too.)


Food for thought, keep your own questions about someone else's relationship status to YOURSELF. If the single person didn't ask for your opinion on their relationship status, why do you think you need to give it?


I am getting more and more frustrated with ignorance. So if you find me staring at someone for a minute, think to yourself ... what ignorant comment did that person just make?


Bloggers Note:  The original broadcast I am referring to came from the radio station NPR. I could not find the corresponding online article. Check out NPR for other great broadcasts, articles and essays.
www.npr.org (National Public Radio)








Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Angst


My friends, we are all still here. The world has not imploded.

My candidate did not win. The other guy did. I am disappointed and angry. Not my first, second, or tenth choice. Our system worked and the candidate who won the electoral college is now our President-elect. (((shudder)))

Life goes on for now. We will continue working, continue paying taxes, and maybe drink more in this time of uncertainty. If you feel the electoral college needs to be overhauled or abolished, then work towards that. There is nothing that can be done now about that at this particular time except starting or joining a movement to abolish it.

For many this is a bitter pill to swallow. For others, your voices were heard. Let's hope he lives up to the hype that his supporters perpetuated. We need to come together and start to heal the wounds of this divisive election. Many of you say that is impossible. I hear you but disagree. I think we need to to remember that the US is a special country, a country that picks itself up, moves on, and works (for the most part) together to become the greatest country in the world. For the record, I already thought American was great.

Here are some suggestions for getting through the next couple months.

1. Drink
2, Hug a loved one
3. Do nothing
4. Buy a coloring book and color
5. Visit a petting zoo and feed the animals
6. Exercise your frustrations away
7. Focus on your home
8. Focus on your close friends and or family
9. Protest peacefully
10. Become politically active
11. Turn off social media for awhile ... except my blog
12. Do yoga to relax ... um... no, not for me. :)
13. Get out a set of drums and pound away your frustrations
14. Play with your pets!!!! Hug, cuddle, and snuggle with them.
15. Rake leaves or come to my yard and rake my leaves. NO SERIOUSLY, have you seen my yard? I have a ton of leaves!!!!
16. Take up macrame or needlepoint. LOL
16. Indulge in some really really good ice cream.
17. GET POLITICALLY INVOLVED
18. Boycott companies that do not follow your views as you see fit (but not Google or Facebook as my blog is on there. LOL)
19. Get involved in a charitable organization, it will make you feel good and you'll be helping others.
20. Sit back with a sense of curiosity. For the first time in our country's history, we have a non-politician who will be leading this country and will be commander-in-chief.
21. Drink heavily.

Lastly, Pray. Pray for the well being of our country and our way of life.

Seriously, if you do not agree with the current administration, become politically active! And protesting peacefully is your right. And to my Republican friends (I do have many), stop complaining about the protesters. That is called freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Two great ideas our country was founded on. If Hillary won, you don't think you'd see Republican's protesting? I think we would have. And that would've been their right to protest.

To the protesters, again I say please do it peacefully! Rioting does not achieve anything and just shows lack of intelligence, lack of maturity, and a lack of focus. You can get your message across by protesting within the law.

To my Democrat friends, in 2018, there is a chance to flip the Senate back to Democrat. Works towards that. I know I sound like a repeating record but get politically involved. In 2020, works towards electing a Democratic candidate back to the White House.

In the meantime, I hope and pray that our President-elect surrounds himself with some intelligent people who will prevent him from making any rash or off-the-cuff decisions.

For those of you that think I am betraying Democrats, read the blog again. I am not, I am a conservative Democrat and I wanted Hillary. I wanted a woman president. I am being realistic and matter of fact at this point. After careful reflection this week, I feel we need to have hope that this will be a successful time.

If you still feel I am betraying my party ... shrug.




Monday, November 7, 2016

Mom's Beef Stew (Simple Recipe)

Mom's Beef Stew
I remember Mom making this recipe only a couple of times. My sister Sheryl remarked that Mom only cooked the beef stew when she could afford to buy the beef cubes. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of money back then so this was a special treat when she did make it. It reminds me that I'm very lucky for what I now have.

Mom served it over rice or with a side of buttered egg noodles. I looked online for hints and suggestions on a simple beef stew recipe and there are so many variations it will make your head spin. There are variations on cooking time, specific steps, seasonings, vegetables etc. It is a bit overwhelming. I added a little more direction here and there but this is 95% Mom's own recipe.

You can add thyme or a couple bay leaves for more flavor. If you add the bay leaves, make sure you take them out before serving. Some people also add chopped up celery when adding the onions, potatoes, and carrots. Others sauté garlic when browning the meat.

I used 'Steamables' brand potato medley with golden, red, and purple potatoes. I still cut up the potatoes into 1 inch cubes though. It gave the stew some nice color besides the carrots and peas. Instead of cutting up carrots, I chose to use the baby carrots. Just easier than chopping everything up. The flour seasoning mix made a tasty gravy. Lastly, I chose to add a basic Italian seasoning blend of basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I couldn't find any bay leaves to add.

As I've stated before, a lot of these older recipes were "basic" and didn't go crazy on the spices. These are family recipes, meant to be enjoyed by not just one person, but as in MY case, two parents and three kids. A lot of recipes weren't too spiced up back in the 70s and 80s. Feel free to add something to spice it up!



Ingredients Ready! 

Beef Stew (Simple Recipe)
by Abby Deeds

1-1/2 lbs beef cubes (beef stew cubes)
2 Tbsp cooking oil (or olive oil)
3 1/2 cups water
2 medium onions sliced
4 medium potatoes (cut into 1 inch cubes)
5 medium carrots sliced
1 1/2 cups uncooked peas
1/3 cup flour
salt/pepper to taste

1. Combine salt, pepper, and flour
2. Coat meat cubes with seasoned flour
3. Brown meat cubes in cooking oil over medium heat
4. Sprinkle remaining seasoned flour over browned meat
5. Stir and add water, cover tightly
6. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until meat is "knife" tender in a stew pot, skillet, or Dutch oven (I simmered 1 hour and it came out perfectly.)
7. Add onions, potatoes, and carrots
8. Simmer covered 15 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally
9. Add peas and continue cooking until tender, about another 5 minutes.
10. Serve with buttered noodles or rice


Serves 6

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mom's No-Bake Fudge

With Halloween a week away, this is an easy recipe you can make for that Halloween party you've been "dying" to have. GET IT??? LOL Sorry, couldn't resist a bad joke. Or you could make it for a holiday party or hostess gift. Anyway, I wanted to make this over the summer but obviously the heat and humidity would've melted that idea. HAHAHA! (Forgive my other bad joke.)

Mom made this during the holidays and my sister also makes this recipe with great success for her annual Halloween party. The nice thing about it is that it's easy enough to add marshmallows or nuts without messing up the recipe. Almost fool proof. So this fool ...  ***ME*** ... decided to whip up a batch of fudge and see how it turned out.

Mixed fudge ready to chill!
It came out great. It was pretty sweet. I did have some difficulty getting it out of the pan. I had to bang on the bottom of the pan with a meat tenderizer until the fudge popped out. Scratch one dented 8 inch pan. I brought some into my coworkers and no one died so SUCCESS!!!!

Now technically this is not baking but it is a dessert type recipe. I have a fear of baking and as a result have put off trying to make any of Mom's dessert recipes involving baking. My goal for the fall and winter is to over come my fear of baking and finally complete them. Wish me luck but before you try something I bake, you may wanna have some Tums on hand...



EASY NO-BAKE CHOCOLATE FUDGE
by Abby Deeds

1- 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 - 6 oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or the equivalent of 1 1/2 12 oz bags)
8 oz chopped nuts (your choice, optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
dash of salt
Mini marshmallows (optional)

1. Over low heat, melt chocolate morsels with the sweetened condensed milk.
2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. (I used chopped pecans.)
3. Spread evenly in a wax paper lined 8 inch square pan.
4. Chill 2-3 hours until firm. (I covered the top of the fudge with wax paper as well before placing in the fridge.)
5. Turn fudge over onto cutting board and remove from pan. Peel off paper and cut into squares.
6. Store loosely covered at room temperature.
7. Can keep one week.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don't Let Them Rattle You.



DANGER! RATTLESNAKES!
***This blog post is dedicated to that close childhood friend going through her own tough times, I hope this helps.

"Don’t let them rattle you. Don't let them see you sweat."

 

These are two sayings that we have all come to know but how to go about putting them into action? It's easier said than done. But with some hints and prior preparation, one can don that Teflon vest in face of adversity and get through those difficult situations and meetings.

 

A close friend of mine is going through a divorce. It hasn't gone smoothly for her. Imagine that. :(  I feel for her and sense her stress and anxiety each time a conference comes up with her ex. It's a shame but these conferences have to happen. I wanted to help her so I thought about the tense stressful conferences that I manage on a daily basis with my job. What advice could I impart to her?

 

My advice was to tell her don't let him rattle you. I guess it's not that easy but it's important that she stand her ground, stand firm to her beliefs, and in this important meeting, don't let her emotions get the best of her.

 

In my career as a domestic relations officer, I hold conferences about child support, spousal support, and other domestic relations issues involving children, relationships and family. I establish orders and if need be, I enforce them. I prefer not to go into too much detail about my job as obviously I have to safeguard my clients' privacy.

 

With that being said, my conferences can be very difficult. I am put into many situations where I can be potentially rattled by either an emotional or violent outburst. It is only after years of practicing my profession that I have been able to remain pretty calm, cool, and nonplussed even in these tense and stressful situations.

 

In this ridiculous election year, no matter whom you are voting for, each party has reduced themselves to try and rattle the other candidate during the televised debates. In the second debate, the Republican candidate Donald Trump attempted to rattle Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with three women from former President Bill Clinton's past who accused him of sexual misconduct as well as a woman who was raped by a man that Hillary Clinton defended back in the '70s. Hillary Clinton was nonplussed by the move.

 

In the final debate, Hillary Clinton has invited two "true" billionaires (as she terms it) as her guests, Meg Whitman and Mark Cuban, to try and rattle Donald Trump, a billionaire who has refused to release his Federal taxes citing an IRS audit. Donald Trump has invited President Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, as his guest to try and rattle Hillary Clinton. Malik Obama has Kenyan and US citizenship and switched his parties from Democrat to Republican over his disappointment with our current President's administration. I wonder who will be rattled? I'm sure both candidates have been schooled in keeping their cool (some better than others). It may sound cliché but it's appropriate to say that this entire election has certainly become a sad state of affairs.

 

So enough with examples. How do I keep from becoming rattled? Here are some tips that I use which I have found helpful during tense situations:

1. Pump yourself up prior to the meeting, Practice scenarios and the appropriately calm responses to intense questioning.

2. Put it into perspective; there are a lot worse things that could be happening to you at this point.

3. It's just words. I understand that words may be hurtful, but remember they are just words, nothing more, nothing less. You have the power to control your reaction to them. You can either let it rile you up or you can control the situation and remain calm in the face of adversity.

4. Focus on WHAT is being said and not HOW it is being said. It may be a condescending question or answer, but ignore that part of it. Answer the question, calmly, firmly, succinctly, and move on. Don't offer up any further info for the opposing party to latch onto.


5. Take a sip of water to collect your thoughts. Don't react immediately. Take a moment, think, and then state your rebuttal.

6. Don't lower yourself to their level. When they go low, you go high. (Hmm, where did that come from?) Using curse words or throwing verbal darts just exacerbates the situation and makes you look just as bad. Rise above them. (http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/michelle-obama-when-they-go-low-we-go-high)

7. Take a quick break if you have to. Leaving the room is another way to collect your thoughts. It helps defuse the situation and gives each party a bit of time to relax. I will excuse myself to make copies to get a breather, and then come back in, ready to continue and forge ahead.

8. Practice deep breathing. Do this before the event in the comfort of your own space. Think yoga, meditation, etc. This will help you keep your mind, emotions, and response in control when the situation becomes stressful and tense.

9. Your voice may quiver, your hands may shake. THIS IS NORMAL. Again, deep breathes to calm yourself.

 

And lastly, you can and will get through whatever stressful meeting, conference, or situation or you are. GOOD LUCK.




Thursday, September 29, 2016

Beers at the Hosey with Schmidty

Last night I ended up at the hosey for a couple beers. For those of you who don't know, the "hosey" is a regionally colloquial term for the fire house social club. I don't know how it originated, possibly from the word 'fire hose'. I hear it across the Mid-Atlantic states. I usually have to explain it to anyone outside of Jersey or PA.


Chicken of the Sea Sardines
My hosey is the Summit Station Fire Company where I actually bartended for a couple years. When I go there, I see friends, play the games of chance, chill out with the awesome bartenders Snoopy and Janet, and knock back a couple of cheap brews. One of the gambling games you can play  are the punch boards where you get 10 punches for $1.00. You can win prizes such as a large bag of chips, a box of Tasty Cakes, a mini-hunting knife, a jar of tomato sauce, a bottle of laundry detergent and other pretty crazy odd stuff which you may or may not use everyday.  

Last night, my buddy John was on one side of me playing the punch boards for 3 cans of Chicken of the Sea sardines. Now I would've tried the punch board to win a jar of peanut butter, but that's just me. I was hanging out with my good friend John Schmidt on my other side, who also lives in my community, Lake Wynonah, and hangs out at the Lake Wynonah Lodge when I now bartend.

Schmidty (as I call him) will do anything for anyone; he is a true genuinely friend. He's a Vietnam Veteran with a heart of gold and seen things, experienced life to the fullest - the best and the worst. He is an old soul. There are only a couple of other men I consider just as wise as he.

Me n' Schmidty
Schmidty has also become my unofficial volunteer security guy at the Lodge, hanging out patiently until the end to make sure the bartenders are alright. And one more plug for Schmidty, he sings and helped form a Philly doo-wop acapella group, 2nd Chance. Check out their website at http://2ndchancephilly.weebly.com/ .  These guys are so good; they are the Real McCoy when it comes to acapella doo-wop groups!

Anyway, John had just won the three cans of sardines and Schmidty and I began bustin' on his ass for even playing for the them! He shrugged and said he wanted to get them for camping and then I changed my tune because they are actually a really good camping/hiking snack. They are high in minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and contain a whopping 37 grams of protein per 1 cup serving! (You learn something new every day, huh? LOL.)

Schmidty leans over to me and says, "Oh I looove sardines, they are good!"
"Yeah," I began, "they are pretty good, I'm just messing with John. That's actually a good idea, gettin' them for camping. I remember when my brother Adam and I would eat them as kids for an after school snack. We would eat just can after can of them!"
"And Marc, they are so good for you, so healthy," he replied.
"And do you know what the best part of them are, Schmidty?" I asked.
"What"?
"When my brother and I would eat them, we loved ...."
And we both said at the same time, "CRUNCHING ON THE BONES!"

Schmidty and I started laughing and laughing. We couldn't believe we had the very same strange thought. My memories came flooding back of my brother and I freaking out my sister Sheryl by crunching on the sardine bones and eating them.

Life is full of these incredibly unique and yet odd experiences. And sometimes, you connect with wonderful genuine people you would never expect to like me and Schmidty. Two generations of men, who just enjoy sitting down and conversing about the meaning of life over bottles of beer, laughing (and sometimes crying) about what we've gone through. But MOSTLY laughing. And sometimes talking about ridiculous shared experiences like eating sardine bones.