Ah, chocolate. The albatross of Valentine’s Day. Snarky online articles will chide you for taking the easy route of buying your lover such clichés as flowers or a heart shaped box of sweets. But let’s be honest. Chocolate is pretty amazing. As the poet Rita Dove wrote about the treat, “dark punch/ of earth and night and leaf, / for a taste of you/ any woman would gladly/ crumble to ruin.” Who would turn up their nose at that?
If you’re starting to squirm over what to lavish upon your valentine, relax. Whether it’s a friend, sweetheart, or family member, most people’s hearts are warmed more by a thoughtful tidbit than by an outlandishly expensive trinket. And you can make your offering that much more meaningful by taking the few minutes to whip it up yourself.
Don’t worry. I haven’t chosen something complicated or time-consuming. We’re going with classic chocolate truffles. Sound boring? Not when you taste them. And here’s the best part: they only require four ingredients, unless you get crazy with the toppings. And you may want to, because it’s pretty fun. Chopped nuts offer a savory balance, or for a pop of color and unexpected flavor, try pink Himalayan sea salt or pomegranate seeds. With any luck, your amour will be as smitten as Rita Dove. Assuming you don’t eat them all yourself first.
1 pound dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of bourbon or liqueur (I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream liqueur)
Coatings: Chopped almonds or hazelnuts; cocoa powder; pomegranate seeds; pink sea salt
- Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water.
- Gradually stir in cream.
- Gradually add bourbon, stirring gently to blend.
- Cover and chill overnight.
- Once chilled, shape the mixture into balls, and roll them in your chosen topping.
(adapted from Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook by Whitney Wheeler Pickering)
We think we know our family, that our parents have been honest in who you’re related to and who you’re not. That is until the day you meet a member that you had no idea existed, even more surprising if it’s in an out-of-the-way place such as Borneo, but it happened. I was standing with my camera at attention in a wildlife sanctuary, when suddenly out of the trees swung my distant cousin. As soon as I saw her eyes I knew, I could see she recognized it too, we stood staring at each other. Breaking the awkward moment was her daughter, reaching from her arms, offering me a piece of fruit.
Sadly, due to linguistic differences we were unable to discuss our shared history, sort out when her family moved to Sarawak and how we were related. Sure, we had some differences, she’s much hairier than anyone in my family, has longer arms, and clearly superior tree climbing abilities, but the face, just look, chubby cheeks and all; we’re related. I did some research and was able to find out about her family, or should I say our family, the hominids, and our similarities. We all use tools, interact socially, enjoy eating fruits, and have similar reproductive terms (9 months in the womb, 22-30 days menstruation). While my city life is fundamentally different than theirs, there are definitely people living in the Indonesian archipelago, even Borneo itself, that live similar nomadic lives in the jungle, wearing little, and enjoying the fruits of the wild. It is hard to consider the realities of the Orangutans and not believe that we’re related.
Even though we’re in the same family, we’re driving the Orangutans to extinction. In our lifetime we may see them go functionally extinct, surviving only in captivity, or there may be none at all. For animals that we’re so closely related to, that we’ve shared earth for millions of years with, this is disturbing. Just like people do with outcasts from their more direct family, billions of people are determined to ignore the overwhelming evidence that we’re related. While claims that we were related to animals seemed incredulous in a world we knew little about, it’s ridiculously simple-minded to hold those beliefs today. We’re now able to travel the world and see it ourselves, connect-the-dots, and understand the relations between animals. It was once possible to live in a world of only what is immediately around you, but knowledge is fully accessible, travel is relatively accessible, and we can see with our own eyes what it took millennia to understand: we’re just part of an interconnected, related animal world. With this knowledge comes the responsibility to do something to protect the planet from ourselves.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: All in the family
I didn’t know Jim King well but as we have learned in our collective grieving the past 24 hours, everyone in Louisville seems to have a Jim King story, including me.
The first time I ever had an extended conversation with Jim King was just over 5 years ago when Jerry Abramson announced he would not seek reelection and Jim King’s name immediately circulated as a likely candidate for mayor.
A local community leader and mentor of mine called me and said “You have to meet the man who is going to be Louisville’s next mayor, Jim King. You will be very impressed!” I said I’d love to meet Mr King and that I had met him before but only causally and that I didn’t have a good sense of what he was like but would love an introduction and opportunity to get to know him better.
A meeting was set up and I went to one of Mr King’s banks and he met with me promptly at the exact time we had scheduled. He talked about his background, his business, and most of all, his vision for the city of Louisville and the kind of leadership he felt was needed and that he felt he could offer.
I was, indeed, very impressed.
After I left I called my mentor/friend and thanked him for urging me to meet with Mr King and introducing me to him. “What was your impression of Jim?” he asked me. “Do you think he’ll win the mayor’s race if he runs?”
“Jim King certainly has a very mayoral presence. That’s for sure.” I said. “He commands respect and has an even greater command of the issues facing our community and seems to care deeply and genuinely about our city. Those are all important qualities but I’m not sure that is what makes him stand out most as a possible candidate for mayor.”
“What do you think makes him stand out most as a candidate?” I was asked.
“Well,” I hesitated because I wasn’t sure how I was going to say what I was feeling. But it came out like this: “Well….I think after my one brief meeting with Jim King I would say that his greatest strength as a mayoral candidate is that….is that after you meet him you feel afraid NOT to vote for him.”
We both broke out into laughter before I interrupted. “I don’t mean that like it sounded. I mean that people want a strong personality for their mayor and a sense that their mayor will protect them. I felt that for sure from Jim King. He is a strong and forceful personality who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The mayor is a CEO-type office and requires a CEO-type personality and Jim King certainly has that, too. He seems like the consummate ‘no nonsense, get ‘r done’ kind of leader. The challenge for people like Jim King in politics is that they sometimes don’t have the patience for the beauty contest aspects of a long political campaign. They just want to get on with running things”
My friend said, “Maybe so but no one will work harder or smarter than Jim King.” I agreed and that is where we left our conversation.
Jim King did run for mayor and, of course, didn’t win, but like the determined community leader he was he never let up and continued working away on behalf of Louisville and Louisvillians in the leadership role he did secure as Metro Council President. And he was relentless. A relentless worker but most of all relentlessly passionate about his work, and his family, and the betterment of the city we all had the privilege to share with Jim King.
After my first meeting with Jim King I had the opportunity to visit with him on several other occasions and these subsequent visits left a markedly different impression on me than my first. I got to see the other sides of Jim King. He was incredibly thoughtful and caring and compassionate in ways that ran far deeper than his seemingly tough exterior. He was a complex “big picture” leader, on the one hand, and yet also was easily able to singularly focus on every issue before him, no matter how small or big. And he was a local leader our entire community came to trust and rely on far more than we were ever fully aware.
After my first visit with Jim King there was never another time I used the word ‘afraid’ in conjunction with his name —until yesterday. When I told a good mutual friend that “I am afraid our city has just lost one of it’s greatest citizens.”
And we have.
RIP Mr King
My lovely wife Rebecca has, again, failed to fully appreciate me and the gifts I possess.
Tonight, or this morning really, Rebecca woke up to me making clanking sounds in our closet as I pushed unneeded hangers into the garbage can. I was so proud of my work. I had stayed up much of the night clearing out and organizing my side of the closet and knew Rebecca would really be excited. Actually, I just hoped she wouldn’t be mad because I did make a lot of noise the last 30 minutes and did wake her up.
Well, you guessed it. She wasn’t really happy or proud of me. She instead seemed irritated with me–just like she was when I stayed up late at night cleaning out my closet in November and woke her up. (The closet had gotten disorganized again since November.)
Rebecca didn’t say “Thanks” or “This looks great” but rather the more disappointing and familiar “John, this is not normal behavior.”
“Well, you know what?” I offered, “I’m not completely normal. OK? And that’s a good thing. In fact, I think my behavior is probably a sign of something that is very positive. Like above average intelligence.”
“Oh really?” Rebecca said while grinning in a state of disbelief. “No. It’s not.”
Oh, yes. It sure is. I remember reading that many years ago in college in a book by Jim Fixx called ‘Running.’ The book was about the benefits of jogging —which I didn’t do–but that’s not the point. In fact, part of the reason I didn’t take up jogging is he died of a heart atrack right after the book got published but that’s not the point either. The point is that in some part of the book the author mentions he is in MENSA, the high IQ society, and lists some of the behavioral traits of highly intelligent people he has met in MENSA. And one of those traits of highly intelligent people is that they need less sleep.”
“Oh, that’s nonsense.” Rebecca blurted as she rolled her eyes and walked away.
“Not at all.” I countered. “He lists a lot of different traits of highly intelligent people and I rememberer that one clearly because that was the only one I really had in common with MENSANS and it allowed me to hold out hope I might have some kind of giftedness. So, you see, this is just part of who I am. Part of the John Brown package and there are, admittedly, some annoying traits mixed in but that’s just part of the whole really good –on balance– ‘package deal’ you got with me.”
“Oh really?” Rebecca said chuckling. “Well, then, we are about to start going through this package and throwing out a lot of the parts in it.”
“But you can’t do that.” I explained. “It’s all one integrated system”
“I always throw away accessories that aren’t needed.” Rebecca said unconvinced.
“That won’t work here. Look, if I had gotten you some big…some big…machine ….for Christmas, like a vacuum cleaner –you know, something you put together– you wouldn’t look at the different pieces and throw out the ones that you didn’t like. You need all the pieces or it won’t work. You see?” Rebecca still seemed unconvinced. I went on, “Think of this piece of me that is irritating you this morning as being attached to the motor –my motor—that is me. You can’t throw away a piece of a motor. The machine stops working then. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
“Oh Lord.” Rebecca said exasperated. “Are we going to church?”
“Yes, of course.” I agreed. “But would you mind running out and getting us both some coffee first? My motor could use some fuel right now. The good part of my motor, that is. The non-annoying part. The part that you like”
Rebecca left to get the coffee and I couldn’t tell by the way she was walking really fast —like she does when she is trying to leave the room before she says something she doesn’t really mean— I couldn’t tell if she was really convinced about my whole “high intelligence–motor –cleaning out the closet half-the-night” theory or not. I just didn’t know.
But here’s the funny part. I made it all up. Seriously. The truth is I couldn’t sleep and cleaned out my closet and was being annoying –but tried to make Rebecca believe my odd behavior was really a reflection of something grand or gifted about me. But it really isn’t. At least I don’t think it is.
Is it? Who knows? Heck, maybe it is.
Hey, at least I made myself wonder if there’s something to my theory, even if Rebecca doesn’t buy it. And that has to count for something.
If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times, fitness impacts everything about ourselves. From personal relationships to our jobs to our self confidence in ourselves, working out actually enhances ourselves to be better at many things. BUT life is busy and often times other people take priority over ourselves. Our spouses, our friends and family and our jobs take precedent over our own needs. It is a huge dichotomy over what we need to do and what we want to do.
I train people all day. I often think about my clients needs before I think of my own. For example my toe. I have a staph infection and for 10 days refused to do anything about it for fear I would miss a session or something would be off. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze into an appointment between clients and all was great. However, my unwillingness to take care of myself could of caused a big problem.
I also focus a ton on my client’s mental and emotional well being. This is important to me because if the mind is cleared and focused anything physically will be a piece of cake. I often find that people do not do a good job of taking care of their selves in one manner or another. So I compiled a list of 5 things that you should start doing for yourself to make life a littler easier and a lot more enjoyable:
Start Spending Time with the Right People
These are the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways. They are the ones who make you feel more alive, and not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be, unconditionally. If someone does not do any of the above, think about the relationship you have with them and what can be done to improve it or eliminate it.
Start Appreciating What you Have
It is easy to look at what other people have and become envious. It is also natural. However, when it becomes a battle internally on why someone has something you do not and then you take it a step further and continue to beat yourself up for it, this becomes a vicious cycle. I challenge you to look around you and see all the things that you do have and just how special they are to your life. Worrying about what you do not have is a waste of time.
Start Giving your Dreams a Chance
In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work. Most of the time you just have to go for it! And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win. Fear nothing, achieve everything.
Start Accepting Things When They are Less Than Perfect
Remember, ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good.’ One of the biggest challenges for people who want to improve themselves and improve the world is learning to accept things as they are. Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal. No, you shouldn’t accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things when they are less than perfect.
Start Concentrating on Things You Can Control
You can not control what happens to you but you can control how you handle it. Concentrating on things you cannot control is the biggest waste of worry and energy. When you start to worry, ask yourself “what can I control?” If the answer is nothing then there is no reason to worry about it. Give yourself the credit you deserve by concentrating on things you CAN control. Life will be much simpler then.
Life is hard and will beat you to your knees if you let it. However, how we handle ourselves defines how we handle life. By implementing the above you can take your happiness and life to the next level, which will only help you fitness goals.
Family vacations are full of wonderful moments that create even better memories.
But don’t be fooled by happy Facebook posts. Every family, including ours , has periods during a family vacation that are less than festive. There are inevitably occasional periods that are unpleasant where everyone is exhausted and irritated.
But when that happens in our family there is a silver lining.
No matter how bad things get we have a safe place we can go where we are all on the same page –and it is this: Each family member can agree that they don’t really like me and that I am to blame for everything. And that includes me!
It may not sound like much but at a vacation low point it means a lot when all family members can be reminded there is still a unifying point where we all can be on the same page together –disdain and disgust toward Dad. And from that agreeable touchpoint we always seem able to work our way out of our petty and momentary frustrations and get back on track toward moving to a happier place.
I told the story to my son about how my grandfather (and his great grandfather) got the rarefied and much coveted opportunity to argue before the United States Supreme Court. He lost. But had one of the bolder moments of an attorney before the Supreme Court. Probably too bold.
Of course, for such an august task as arguing before the Supreme Court, an attorney would be well served by a strong self-esteem and command of the courtroom. But John Y Sr, in… the middle of his oral argument, became irritated that Justice Arthur Goldberg didn’t seem to be listening and instead was shuffling papers. John Y Sr stopped his argument and said something to the effect of “Justice Goldberg, I have looked forward my entire legal career to have the opportunity to argue before the U.S Supreme Court and I would appreciate it if you would stop shuffling those papers and listen to my argument and allow the other Justices to as well.”
Justice Goldberg complied. But Justice Goldberg also was assigned the task of writing the majority opinion, which was unfavorable to my grandfather. Coincidence?
Who knows. But I suspect Justice Goldberg took a request from a Southern attorney for common courtesy as something closer to a brazenness. Again, who knows.
But thanks to my cousin Benham Sims for finding this gem. We both are surely proud of our grandfather and are grateful for the long list of amusing and memorable courtroom stories he left behind as part of his legacy.
I want my wife to know how hard I am working this morning.
We are on vacation but it is still a work day for others and I have to put in several hours this morning.
I know Rebecca knows I work hard but I worry that she doesn’t fully appreciate just how hard.
She was with me this morning in the car during several important calls when we went out to get coffee. I think that impressed her but then I dropped her off at the hotel and stayed in the car to work since I didn’t want to wake up the kids. I went back to the room an hour later to let her know there had been several more calls –and even more calls to come after that.
Granted these “calls” don’t involve manual labor or any kind of real physical work, but I want my wife to imagine my conference calls are the equivalent –or harder — than draining physical labor.
I just texted her again to tell her about some emails I am having to respond to and how stressful my morning has been but how I won’t allow any of this to impact our vacation plans today. I hope this will underline for her –and our children — all the sacrifice I make for them and how “I work so hard to support our family.” They love hearing me say that. Not really. But I love saying it. A lot, as a matter of fact.
Rebecca texted back her standard response that she appreciates all I do. And this time even included a smiley face. Which I apprecited.
The text has a picture of Rebecca’s healthy face but is a washed-out or white generic emoji to emphasize how drained I must feel.
I thought about texting Rebecca that I might be having some mild chest pains right now to emphasize for her how hard I am working and hopefully get more than a smiley face on her next text back. But since I am not having chest pains and am actually in a well air conditioned Starbucks enjoying coffee while doing my laborious “emails,” I am not going to do that right now.
But I am going to post on Facebook about how hard I am working this morning and how much I do for our family and tag her.
And then text her and ask her to have to kids read my Facebook post about how hard my day has been so far — and how I hope they appreciate it.
I am not asking them to praise me or tell me how grateful they are for me and all I do or to maybe tell me that I am a totally amazing husband and father. Although any of those things would be nice. All I am really asking is that they at least acknowledge my efforts in some small but significant way. Just “liking” this post would let me know my message is getting through loud and clear. Or at least vaguely and inadequately. Which is enough for my over-sized and needy male ego this morning.
I am mad at my wife right now –at 12:50am — and am going to write about it on Facebook.
I am mad at Rebecca because she got a little exasperated with me for asking her a question again —and said I had asked her that same question 20 times and the answer was the same for the 20th time — that she didn’t know.
Then I decided I wouldn’t be talked to like that and pretended to go to sleep until Rebecca settled down and apologized for hurting my feelings.
For one thing, I didn’t really ask her that question 20 times. I only asked her 3 or 4 times. Or 5 times, maybe, tops. But definitely not 20. So she is exagerating about that. And she didn’t tell me she didn’t know the answer 20 times either. Just 3 or 4 times. Or 5 times, maybe, tops.
And to make matters worse, after I pretended to go to sleep waiting for Rebecca to apologize, she never even apologized. Or said anything at all. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. And then I waited a little more. Finally I said, “Good night,” to let her know I was serious about going to sleep and that she better hurry up and apologize fast before it was too late.
But she never did. She just said “Good night” back and went to sleep herself!! And now is in a deep dern sleep and I don’t know what to do because I never did go to sleep like I was pretending I was about to.
It sure doesn’t look like Rebecca is going to apologize to me tonight. And she probably won’t remember this whole episode tomorrow morning — and the need to apologize to me unless I remind her. But when I do that it usually doesn’t work out well for me —and somehow before it is all over I am the one apologizing to her. And I don’t want that to happen again.
I am thinking about coughing or stirring in bed to wake Rebecca up to give her one last chance to apologize. But the last time I did that Rebecca didn’t apologize at all and told me to quit coughing and quit moving around and go to sleep. Which made things even worse for me. And I don’t want that to happen again either.
So this time I am not going to wake up Rebecca but just write about her a little bit on Facebook — like I am now and calmly lay out my entire side of the story all factual-like and rationally and remind her how I didn’t wake her up or bring it up in the morning like in the past. I am simply going to tag Rebecca on this post.
If things go as planned, Rebecca will wake up and read this post and realize how she overreacted and what a great guy I am for not waking her up or reminding her about it the next morning and feel really bad about the whole thing. Bad enough to apologize to me for getting a little huffy with me and then tell me she knows I really didn’t ask her that silly question 20 times but only 3 or 4 times. Or 5 times, maybe, tops.
Oh…And after I forgive her and tell her not to worry about it she will tell me how much she loves me and what an amazing person and husband I am.
At least that’s my plan. Fingers crossed!
At Dave Chappelle show at the Palace with Rebecca.
Great show…sitting in a sea of white people —each of whom is thinking “If Dave looks at me he will probably realize I am not as ‘white’ as the other white people around me.”
Until we look at each other in the audience. And realize Dave probably won’t think that.
The lowlight, for me, of the Dave Chappelle performance last night.
It was during the warm-up.
The DJ was trying to get the audience going and pumped up to cheer on Dave taking the stage.
He shouted, “How many 90’s babies do we have out there?” There was a big cheer.
“How ’bout let’s here it for the 80’s babies out there tonight.” Another big roar.
“All you 70’s babies in the crowd tonight, stand-up and let me heaaaar youuuu.” More cheering though a diminished amount.
And as I waited eagerly to stand up and rock it out for 60’s babies in the house, the DJ stopped at the 70s.
Asshole DJ. What are we? The grandparents driving the rest of the audience home?
Oh well. The joke was on him. I was too tired to stand up again anyway.