How can so much happiness occur, two days in a row? Again, it has nothing to do with the typical things that produce happiness. Well, that’s not completely true. Food does typically make me pretty happy. But this is about more than food. It’s about using a piece of equipment at will, and achieving success. There’s a theme in these last two posts: use equipment and it works like it should. That makes me happy.
I’ve had a charcoal BBQ for two years. The gas one died, and I didn’t want to deal with propane. Bradley helped me at first with it, but since he’s moved I haven’t been successful with my attempts. I don’t know what guardian angel decided to tap me three times and grant my wish, but I’m happy about it. I longed to be able to come home, throw some charcoal on the grill, and cook me up some meat. My last birthday request from the kids was to teach me how to do it. My copy cat attempts from You Tube were failing me, so I’d hope my kids would be more successful. They must have decided that buying a gift was easier than figuring out the trick to a charcoal BBQ, because they didn’t come through with my request. I’m not complaining about the gifts I got, though. Bridgette’s got a great gift for gifts.
So, here is my success. And yes, it tasted as good as it looks. See below for my tips that I’m HAPPY to share.
Lighting the Charcoal BBQ
Build the briquettes in a pyramid (got these instructions right off the bag). I purchased a cylinder when I bought the BBQ. It was recommended and I know a lot of people like them. But I wasn’t successful with it so I decided to do what the bag says.
Douse with BBQ fluid, about 10 seconds, placing it all over the briquettes. Don’t ever put the lighter fluid on top of burning briquettes. I’m not just saying this to protect myself from a lawsuit. I really believe it’s not a good idea.
Light the briquettes… light more than one. I lit as many as I could. The flame starts slow, so it’s not a problem to do this.
LEAVE THE LID OFF. The briquettes need oxygen.
Check on it in 15 mins or so. At this point I moved the briquettes around a little bit. I checked in 5 or so minutes, then spread the briquettes in a single layer (again, off the bag), but touching each other. I blew on them, to stimulate some flame. I’m not sure if that helped or not. It was a still night, so I decided to give it a little kick with my breath.
The fire seemed a little slow to get hot, so I placed the lid on, with the vent opened all the way. Remember, it needs oxygen. That seemed to get more flame going. Soon there was smoke, and I removed the lid, placed my chicken on the grill, and let ‘er cook. Flames began to ignite because of the drippings, so I played around with it, flipping the chicken occasionally. When the flames got too big, I returned the lid, and kept the vents open. That seemed to reduce the oxygen, but gave it enough to continue cooking. I really just watched it back and forth with lid on and off. In between I weeded my yard and talked on the phone with Bradley. I love to multi-task, and since I could smell the chicken cooking, I was feeling very accomplished.
I used 5 chicken thighs. I like ALL chicken. Mostly dark, but if white is cooked so it’s not over cooked, I like it, too. I put the pieces in a Zip Lock with about 2 T of olive oil, some garlic mixture (2 T?) I found in my cupboard, and half a lemon squeezed. I rubbed those all together while in the Zip Lock and voila (my computer doesn’t have the French accents), and that was it!
https://i0.wp.com/jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/img_3166.jpg?fit=480%2C640&ssl=1640480Joni Thurberhttps://jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Joni-Frances-Transparent-Banner.pngJoni Thurber2016-05-31 20:35:012018-02-19 15:45:06I Am So Happy, Again. Tips on Lighting a Charcoal BBQ
Those words are usually reserved for romance, proud parent moments, or maybe a significant accomplishment in education or a career move. My happiness in this moment comes from none of those. It comes from something more ordinary, yet elusive up until now. I am sitting on my back deck with a glass of red wine. The deck is clean and pretty, with lights strung from one side of the covered deck to the other. And, the rest of the yard is under control.
I’m not happy because it was I who did it. Yes, I did do it. But I’d have been very happy for someone else to do it. I don’t feel the same satisfaction some people get because they accomplished a task. I get satisfaction simply because the task is complete. Regardless of whether someone else has done it, or if I have done it, I own it. I own this house, this yard, my children (you know what I mean), these dogs, this life. It was important to me that the yard be functioning, and I wanted it completed. It was an ongoing project since we’d moved in almost two years ago. It was like looking at an unmade bed each and every day, and I wanted it made!
As I mowed yesterday, I thought, “How long does it take a single woman without lawn mowing knowledge and who is ill equipped to mow a lawn?” The answer in this case would be, “About a month.” I’ll share with you some back story, but this post is mostly about the lawn mowing. It makes some sense as to why a big project like a yard overhaul might be difficult, for anyone. But I thought mowing the lawn would be easy icing on the cake, and when it wasn’t, I was reminded of how the most simplest of tasks aren’t simple if one doesn’t know what they’re doing. I need to remember this lesson when my kids confront me with a similar frustration regarding something I ask of them!
When I bought this house two years ago in August (I cannot believe it’s been that long), the back yard was a mess. The sellers had big dogs that they trained, and they had the run of the back yard. The front yard was decent, but the sprinkler system didn’t work, so it also began to deteriorate. I finally made a hard decision last November to pay for a landscape design and had it installed. I didn’t implement the new design in the front yard because the front yard was good enough. But I had the foundation of the back yard installed. It was flattened, sod was laid, and big concrete squares were positioned into a patio. I saved a lot of money by being responsible for planting the plants (I wish I could say that meant that the project was inexpensive, but it wasn’t). A couple of friends listened to me whine about it, and they helped me with some planting as well as some other yard work. When one is soley responsible for everything in one’s life, a friend who offers to plant a plant or do some trimming, is like an umbrella in a rainstorm. They are a relief and a refuge, and it hugely warms my heart.
The yard has been an ongoing project. It’s been through winter and spring rains (with some sunny relief), weekends and after work that I’ve soldiered through finalizing its completion. It’s consumed me as I raced to beat the seasonal time clock of the harsh summer sun. While others bemoaned the rain, I quietly praised God. When it didn’t rain, I spent an hour most nights watering plants in my desperate effort to save my investment.
So much attention was spent on the digging, moving dirt (clay and rocks), uprooting old shrubs, pruning, and watering, yet one other task was unavoidable; I had to mow the lawn. I procrastinated at this project because I was certain I’d whip it out in no time at all. I have three small patches of lawn. I had a reel mower that I’d not cared for well. In the moves from house to house it got ignored and sat outside. But I was certain that it was good enough for my small job. But I was wrong. It didn’t cut well. I decided to sell it and buy a new one. I assumed the poor cut was due to my lack of good care.
But of course, it wasn’t that simple. First, I tried to get the Fiskars reel mower sharpened. I called two places within 10 miles of my home and neither of them would sharpen a Fiskars reel mower. So, then I decided to sell it, and use the money toward another mower. I Craigslisted it, and fortunately sold it.
Buying a new mower wouldn’t be simple, though. Would I get gas, electric, battery operated or stick with my plan and go with the reel push mower. The latter was appealing on so many levels. No gas, no complications when pulling the start cord, and the biggest was this: I get to work out while mowing my yard (workouts have gotten very low on the priority list). I purchased the store’s recommendation and bought their reel mower.
It met all three objectives. I didn’t have to buy gas, there were no start complications, and I got a workout. Like, I really good upper body workout and not so good lower back workout. And, my grass looked like, crap. Ugh. I do hate that word. But there’s no way around it. The mower was eating it up the lawn. A goat would have given it a better finish. The mower missed large clumps of grass, no matter how many times I went over it.
The grass on the edges fell over, laying flat around the perimeter of the lawn. So, I purchased an edger. I had more decisions to make, but suffice it to say, the options for the edger were the same as for the lawn mower. I purchased an electric edger after work one day. I couldn’t wait to use it, but it sat in the garage for a couple of days like a piece of chocolate cake that had to wait until the big day to be eaten. The lawn taunted me each day I pulled out in the morning and pulled back in for the night, begging me to rid it of its scraggly perimeter, but my schedule wouldn’t allow for it. Since the plants were at risk, I had no choice but to place watering at a higher priority, and let the edge of my lawn hold out like a badly needed haircut until the stylist had an opening.
While the edge waited for attention, the weeds, grass, and blossoms popped up over night and every night. Edging was not the only thing that needed attention. I mowed the lawn first, hoping for improvement over the last attempt, with my brand new shiny reel mower. But there was no improvement! Crap. Crap. Crap. Between each “crap” I asked God to give me a break. But I eeked out a wee bit of hope. It all rested in my new edger, in a hope that it would compensate for the sub par lawn cut. After assembly (another learning curve), I revved it up with hope beyond hope. But there would be no satisfaction on this night. I hadn’t anticipated yet another learning curve. I didn’t know how to use an edger.
You Tube here I come, again.
By the time I was done, green grass and wet mud spewed onto surfaces that weren’t intended for grass and mud. Bark dust was covered and grass stains smeared my cement squares that make up the patio. I love power wash, but I couldn’t imagine when I would find the time. My handling of the edger carved a new lawn design that looked more like a jig saw puzzle than anything else. I wanted to cry.
The amount of energy I was expending on my yard without success was depressing and I had an overwhelming sense of failure and loss of hope. My work days are full and I have a limited amount of time and money to spend on my home, and I’m tired of the constant effort that produces so little harvest.
I texted three or four friends who knew I’d been working on my yard and showed them some pictures and shared my frustration, to a severe degree. My filter was thin. They encouraged me, and offered help. As much as I like help, I knew that wasn’t the answer. Help would be never ending. My answer would be in new skills. I have to know how to whip out a mowed lawn, so I can still cook dinner or see a friend or pay bills in an evening. It seemed like such a simple task. I’d had the yard designed for easy maintenance, yet it was very hard (for me).
Yesterday my friend and her husband came over so he could show me what I might be doing wrong, and it made all the difference. He determined the brand new shiny reel mower was not cutting the grass (yea, I wasn’t all to blame) and he showed me how to use the edger. After some time, they left and I left too, headed straight to Orchard Supply to purchase a new lawn mower (I knew they were having a 20% off sale, plus they’re super nice and helpful there). As I pondered back and forth, feeling anxious about another wrong decision, a customer in the lawn mower aisle assured me that an electric lawn mower was a good decision. After 2 more stores (stock availability) I drove home with my new Craftsman electric lawn mower and determination to finish my lawn.
Again, a learning curve. I hadn’t considered the abuse by the heavy extension cord my plants would take, nor did I anticipate tripping my circuit breakers. After several trips to the garage I realized I need to turn off all the lights on that circuit when I mow and I need to move the mower forward and back, not in the traditional square or circle we’re used to with a gas mower. This will help with cord management. Oh, the things I’m learning.
Then, I decided to hang the deck lights that I’d purchased from Costco a year ago. Off to Orchard Supply for the fourth time in a day, to purchase eye bolts and quick links (new terms to me), per my instructions from Build.com on You Tube. After almost two hours I got them hung. The lights are heavy duty, so they’re weighty. I had a hard time on a ladder matching the hook part of the string to wood that would accept the eye bolt.
All this detail for what seems like the most ordinary basic things. My friend and her husband were so gracious in ensuring that things were in good order before they left. While Blake was playing around with a sprinkler head, he proclaimed that he had broken it. I was a bit alarmed, but I trusted him to make it right. Within twenty minutes he’d muddied himself but it was fixed. That twenty minutes would have taken me hours, days, or weeks, dependent on my schedule, other peoples’ schedules, and their availability. I forgot to add that I had finally got the sprinkler system fixed, after many attempts to connect with sprinkler people. We never did meet in person. We communicated through emails.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb
Thank you Blake and Sally (OK, Sally was mostly here for support) for showing me what I needed to know, so I can mow my lawn, and cook dinner in the same night. And mostly, so I can enjoy my home. This makes me so happy. And maybe next week I’ll “get to” power wash.
https://jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Joni-Frances-Transparent-Banner.png00Joni Thurberhttps://jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Joni-Frances-Transparent-Banner.pngJoni Thurber2016-05-30 18:05:342018-02-19 15:45:51The Long Road to a Happy Night
My view when I walked in the door, and was greeted by our sweet receptionist with: “Do you like your new office?”
I know that having a job isn’t a big deal to a lot of people. I know that there are good bosses, and corporations and companies that have wonderful work environments. I know having an office is standard for some. But I also know that there are a lot of people looking for work, or looking for a better job, or wishing they didn’t have to sit in a cubicle and listen to their neighbor on the phone or eating their lunch. I have been blessed. I have the great privilege of working at Atkinson Insurance Group, and every day, I really can’t believe it.
I don’t know why that is. I have been faithful and intentional and asked God for the right opportunity. But in truth, there was a nagging voice, with every resume I submitted and every interview I went to, that wondered how I would get a job that could satisfy so many of my personal needs. How would a 54 year old without a college degree and out of the work force for twenty years be granted a job that could satisfy a sense of purpose and provide a sufficient income? And, meet my logistical needs so that I could remain available for my son (and duh dogs)?
Yet, my personal needs have been met, and more. I’m heading into my fourth week on the job and continue to be intrigued by the insurance business. It keeps me engaged and captivated. Our work environment is friendly and respectful, and some days I eat better than my son does, because of some work function that brings in lunch. Last night I got home at 6:30 (that was rare, and it wasn’t because I was still at this job… I was working on a property that I’m managing). I asked Bradley if hash browns and eggs would be okay for dinner. I’d had Pizzicato pizza and salad for lunch, which isn’t fancy, but it wasn’t breakfast!
In the last twenty years I’ve made a lot of decisions. Every second, every day, we all make decisions. We decide what time we’ll get up and what time we’ll go to bed. Whether we’ll pray, read our bible, exercise, what we’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or if we’ll eat the candy in the candy jar. We choose church, or not. We choose to get drunk or remain sober. What job we’ll take and whether to go home after work, or accept an invitation to go out. We choose to retain a friendship, or distance ourselves. We choose to date, or not. Whether to marry, who to marry, whether to divorce and how to manage that. Some of our choices are easy, some are excruciatingly difficult. Our choices point us in one direction, and if it’s the wrong direction, we get to redirect ourselves with a choice that sets us in the right direction. Our choices are our own, and they all point us in a direction that gets us to one place, or another. And then there’s God.
This morning I had an out of the office training session. When I stepped in the office, I was greeted by our sweet receptionist, who stood and with her Vanna White arms directed my attention to my new office. The previous three weeks my co-worker and I had been sharing an office with two banquet tables. Even though I knew the office was imminent, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of it.
I took a picture and sent it to Bridgette and Bradley right away.
Bridgette sent me flowers. I wasn’t prepared for that, either.
I am grateful for more things than I can cite. Among them, for the ability to have made decisions along the way, the easy and hard, the good and the bad, that have led me to this place. I’ve had to redirect a million times, and God has been with me with every decision. Yet, I’m sorry God, because I still, really can’t believe it.
The building where I work. It’s especially pretty early in the morning.
Yes, I took the State Insurance Exam on Friday. After my last blog post it was determined that we would be taking the test for certain on Friday at 3:30. Both the other gal who was hired and myself were concerned about this, and our concern increased as the week went on. The pre-testing quizzes were taking us a lot of time between the site not cooperating and having to take the tests over until we passed. There were about 40 quizzes, about 8 of them had 50 questions each.
I can’t tell you how foreign the whole insurance vernacular was to me, and my comprehension was equally shallow. So much seemed like legal jargon. Everything I read made me wonder what I was getting myself into. The quiz questions were complicated. “Johnny, an uninsured motorist, let Joni, an insured motorist, drive his car from Oregon to Kalamazoo, but before she left, he told her not to fill the tank with unleaded fuel. Joni hit a telephone pole when she was talking to Johnny on her cell phone to tell him that she forgot to use Premium gas. Joni also broke her wrist, and reported to the emergency room after the car was towed. Who is at fault and will insurance, if any, pay for Joni’s broken wrist and Johnny’s car?” For a literal thinker like myself my head spun in circles and triangles, all. week. long. The class we had taken the week before was directed solely at learning the material so we could pass the test. We weren’t allowed to ask questions, so we madly took notes, with little understanding of what the notes meant. I had to have faith that I would figure things out in the end. I had to ignore the little voice that didn’t believe it was possible. I had to eat more chocolate.
I had an ongoing QUESTIONS sheet of paper. When we went over it with our boss the Thursday before the test, I had figured out the answer to most of the questions I’d written down. For example, I kept hearing the term, “a covered auto.” My literal thinking brain was working over time. When I heard the term “a covered auto,” I figured that the auto was covered, as in a protective material or something. I envisioned an auto fitted nicely with a heavy fabric. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a “covered auto,” is an auto that is covered by insurance. So passing the pre-exam quizzes that were stated like trickster questions was a long arduous process.
The test was at 3:30. I finished my pre-exam quizzes at 4pm the Wednesday before the test. That was a team effort between my co-worker and myself. Once those were done, that gave me only Wednesday night, Thursday, and Friday morning to read the 175 some pages of written notes and try to not only memorize and digest insurance: Property and Casualty, Auto, Homeowners, Ocean and Inland Marine, Workman’s Comp. I was frantic, barely taking a break to go to the bathroom, and when I did, I read my notes on the way to and from, and kept my notes in site while there. Multi-tasking at its finest. This week Bradley was on his own and there was no Farkle.
Friday at noon I picked my fellow employee up at her house. One minute I was speaking words of peace and encouragement, the next minute she was comforting me. I wanted to cry; I wanted to be done. It wasn’t so much that I felt I had to pass to impress my boss. He was adamant that we shouldn’t stress about passing the first time, that it was common for people to take the test over. I simply wanted to pass so I could move on. I wanted to go to the bathroom unencumbered. I wanted to make a meal for Bradley and play Farkle. I didn’t want Bradley living with an absentee mom, present, but not really. I didn’t want to be a hermit behind an office door, with a singular focus.
My fellow employee and I got to the test site about 3 hours early to get finger printed and then to have lunch while we studied and put the finishing touches on our brains (thank you, boss). We wondered how we could possibly make a difference this late in the game. But we knew that we could pass or fail, by one question, and neither of us could bear the thought of that. I needed to pray before my test one last time. I wanted to pray in union with someone. It wouldn’t do to mutter a final prayer under my breath, so I muttered to Jesus that he would protect me from embarrassing either myself or my new friend, and I asked her if she had a faith. Her answer was longish but clear: She shared enough and I asked her if we could pray. As we drove back to the test site I asked aloud if God would reward us for our hard work, and that his will would be done, and that we would relieve ourselves of the pressure we had put on ourselves. AMEN.
I was surprised when I finished the test with an hour left. I had the opportunity to go back over my questions. With that much time left, I considered it, for fear that I was foolish not to. I went back about five questions, but then decided I wasn’t going to do it. I knew what I knew and that wasn’t going to change. Going back might sabotage my results. I hit the SEND button that indicated I was finished. The test calculated for a minute. I looked at the screen and saw the word PASS. I was stunned. I bowed my head and thanked Jesus, truly in disbelief.
I walked out of the testing room, beaming. The proctor congratulated me and showed me my results. I passed by O-N-E question. I am certain it was God’s hand that allowed me to pass it, by one question. Every second I shoved that information into my head paid off, but I know my heavenly father was looking out for me. He knows my limitations, and I was stretching them.
It was with great relief that my co-worker also passed. She passed by more than one. We had articulated our concern about one passing and one not. We were both thrilled to celebrate our successes with a quick drink. We went our separate ways; I went to the high school basketball game. My friends indulged me while I beamed and expressed myself gleefully.
Both kids are away at a church camp. Bradley’s a camper and Bridgette is serving. The weekend was mine. After church today I went to Ross Dress for Less to see if I could get a couple things for my work wardrobe. I really hate shopping. I love clothes, and I love to have clothes. But I don’t like the process of getting clothes. But I couldn’t pass of up the sales. I ended up purchasing $189.00 worth of clothes (16 items!). I made it home in time for the end of the third quarter of the NFC Championship game. I’m so glad I stopped shopping when I did.
So… I have my Insurance license. I do understand what an umbrella policy is (we had one when I was married, but I didn’t understand it), I know what my deductible is, I know what Homeowners is, I understand the concept of Commercial General Liability…
I’ve finished my first week on the job, which was spent in school. 120 handwritten pages, and three pens, and this back that doesn’t like to sit all day has survived. I wasn’t crazy about school, but I liked the information (most) I was learning. I could have done without Ocean and Inland Marine insurance, but it’s part of the license exam, so it’s part of the class. Bradley wondered why he has to learn about some of the algebraic lessons he’s learning in school right now, and I can to relate to him on a whole new level.
I don’t know if I’ve ever gone through a pen! And yes, that is my donut. My diets include half donuts.
I learned that in Oregon’s Workman’s Comp, there is more benefit to the surviving spouse due to death than there is in a divorce. There is even a clause that provides compensation due to what is called “Consortium,” which is the lack of affection (sex) that the surviving spouse will experience. That illustrates several things to me, among them that the sanctity of marriage is regarded and upheld within in the insurance environment, and less within a divorce. I recognize that death and divorce are different, but I believe they are incredibly similar, and possibly, divorce is more difficult to manage than is the death of a spouse. I understand that opens up a big conversation, but I’ll stop there. It’s a fascinating subject to me, and the class kept my mind weaving scenarios in many aspects of life (except for Ocean and Inland Marine).
I didn’t keep my morning schedule as clean as I wanted. I did work out each morning. After the first day I knew it was going to be very important for my body to move and stretch in order to survive the all day sitting. The first Monday had me out of bed at 5 (yes, like my excitement for the first day of school). I shoved reading the bible, praying, stretching, a walk, and then getting ready and managing the dogs and Bradley. But each morning thereafter was just like the 2nd, 3rd, etc days of school. I wasn’t able to get to bed by 9.
I’d get in bed, but stayed up a bit studying. Yes, those are Sees Candies (My favorite. My former mother in law keeps the tradition of always bringing them to me, which I enjoy.) They only accompanied me on the first night of studying, before I realized the wardrobe challenge in getting ready for work. Some people wore their workout tights to the class. I was tempted.
So, in the mornings I’d push the snooze button and all I managed was getting out of bed to get either in a walk or to the gym. The wardrobe was a scramble each morning, too. I may have gained more than five pounds. It’s a bit of an issue right now. It’s not so much that I mind being five pounds heavier. At 54, I am able to accept a bit of weight. The bigger issue (ha, the bigger issue?) is that I don’t want to spend money (or time) to purchase new clothes to support the five pounds!
Time was tight for sure, if I’m trying to accomplish all the things I want to. It wasn’t possible for me. Saturday came with relief. I awoke with a sense that my Saturday was mine. I wasn’t nearly as productive as I would have liked; my house remains undecorated. But my free time was mine to schedule, without the burden of more job seeking, or a pre-occupation with the responsibility to work or look for work. Having an “at home” job for me meant working on Saturdays and Sundays. My time never felt like my own. Free time had a price, because I felt I owed someone (not sure who!) time that should be spent looking for a job. Studying, blogging, hiking, housework, decorating, can all be done without the weight of uncertainty. Dave Ramsey has a class called Financial Peace University. It’s so accurately named.
My exam will be within the next couple of weeks. We’re still sorting out when to take it. I may not pass it the first time which seems acceptable to my boss. But the last thing I want to do is continue in this studying cramming mode. I’m not a good memorizer, so it’s going to take a lot of discipline on my part, more than what comes natural to me. For example, studying in the evenings when Bradley is home requires a complete mind shift. It feels wrong to isolate myself. Each night I’d tell myself I was going to have Bradley make his dinner, but I didn’t do that. Not because I don’t think he can do it. But because I’m his mom, and it’s a gift to him. Life is and will be different. So I want to make up for it in ways that I can and preparing his dinner seems like the least I can do. We played Farkle for about a half an hour one night and I was anxious, but I needed that connection with him. He needs love and nurturing as much as I need a job. In fact, I think what he needs is more important than a job, and that’s why it’s taken me this long to get serious about one.
I studied for 2 or 3 hours each night. This stuff isn’t coming easy to me, so I’m going to have to increase that. I’m comforting myself that once I take my exam my schedule will be more flexible. It may mean rearranging either my exercise or my bible reading though. This is all such an adjustment.
https://jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Joni-Frances-Transparent-Banner.png00Joni Thurberhttps://jonifrances.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Joni-Frances-Transparent-Banner.pngJoni Thurber2015-01-11 08:35:412018-02-19 15:49:28The New Year is Under Way