Ramble: Relationship Advice from a Single Man

So here I am thinking about relationships and how to be a good partner. How to be a good man in a relationship. Fair warning I am single. I am terrible at starting relationships. At heart I am rather reserved and inherently shy – and well that just don’t fly with the ladies. My version of badass is adding extra hot-sauce to the chili I just cooked.

So without further sad puppy delay, here are my life lessons of being a good partner:

Fight Fair

All couples fight. Conflict is part of a healthy dynamic and growing relationship. Successful couples do not fight less, they simply fight fair. Adults in a relationship communicate their own feelings and needs, and ask about their partner’s feelings and needs. Adults do not judge their partner feelings and thoughts as faulty. Now yes it is true that in a relationship women are more likely to bring up problems for discussion, while men are more likely to withdraw at the first hint of conflict. And when a man turtles, then women tend to move the subject toward a critical note, which simply makes things worse. In a fair fight, avoid personal attacks especially ones armed with a “you” statements —“You’re so inconsiderate!” “We’re going to be late because of you!”—which lead to defensive responses and counter-attacks. Whenever possible stick to “I-statements,” such as “When (this happens), I feel (frustrated, angry). What I needed was…”

Your Partner isn’t Your Child
Partners need to speak as equals – no matter how much of an expert one thinks they might be! Mansplaining is not required. Talking down to a partner will create resentment! Never ever belittle what your partner feel/thinks/values. If we make the other feel inadequate, we threaten their independence and sense of self. We all hate feeling like we are being managed/monitored – how much worse is that feeling when it is supposed to be someone that loves and respects us? That doesn’t mean we cannot have boundaries that we should expect our partners to respect – but it means we need to be clear about those ahead of time and we need to respect each others boundaries!

Ask Your Partner for Advice
If you want your partner to trust you – tell them honestly what you are feeling/thinking and ask for their input and advice. If you learned your partner was asking/telling other people about personal thoughts/feelings they hadn’t shared with you – might you not  think you are not a priority in the relationship?

Show Appreciation for What Your Partner Does
Most of us won’t ask for it but we all enjoy a dose of well-deserved praise. We each need to feel our partner is proud of us and they see our contribution to the relationship. Yes men do tend to be more act-focused in displaying affection; and women tend to be more verbal and touch oriented. Taking an action for another – be it putting away the dishes/laundry, leaving out a cup of tea, or making dinner, these are all acts of affection and kindness for another. Just as a touch on the arm can be a sign of connection, doing small things is a way of showing care for another. Acknowledge those acts, and remember to say please and thank you!

Always be Open to Physical Affection
In general women require a sense of emotional intimacy to engage in physical love, while men generally express emotional intimacy through physical acts. In both cases the physical connection can overcome emotional disconnection. Turning away from a partner’s physical touch can feel like emotional rejection. Sex should never be expected/demanded as a right of a relationship – but physical intimacy of touch, hugs, holding hands are required to maintain emotional intimacy! Sitting knee to knee while talking over a tough issue can keep you connected to each other’s anxiety levels and remind you that you do indeed love this stubborn mule who shares your life!

Don’t Try to Change Each Other
Humans are not redecorating challenges! Any person can change, but no one appreciates being forced to change. In fact (as cliché as it is…) we can only make real change by changing ourselves! Any relationship in which a partner cannot be themselves, is a relationship that will fail. No one wants to feel that they have to pretend to be something they are not – sometimes you have to accept that your partner is just “that way” and remember the things you enjoy about your partner! Communicate openly and honestly about your needs – just remember your partner has needs and

Decide Together
Finances are the number one source of disagreement in any relationship! Generally this is because spending a large amount of money affects how you will spend your time, and what other choices you are able to make as a couple. Anything that affects the other partner will impact the affection you have for each other! If you are partners then you need to be aware of each others choices, and as much as possible share the making of those choices.

Forgiveness
Seeking and granting forgiveness strengthens relationships, and in the long-term leads to greater satisfaction in one’s partner. BUT apologizing cannot be empty words. Saying I am sorry is not enough. An apology must show understanding of why the partner was upset and an acceptance of responsibility for what was done. A true apology always acknowledges harm. And the last part in healing is asking “how can I make this better?”. When an apology is sincere and forgiveness is given, then that means all sides must let go of the past – no dredging it up in a list of “past sins sinned” (See Fight Fair).

Turn to One Another
The concept of “turning to the other” is put forward by many relationship coaches. It is contained in each of the earlier points but I wanted to state it explicitly. At its core the act of “turning to the other” shows the need for the partner AND displays vulnerability to the partner. The natural response when we are show vulnerability by the one we love – is to protect and cherish that vulnerability. It is the cat showing you his belly. And yes a cruel partner may just gut you – but then that means you need a new partner!

The most important part of any relationship is communication. Communication is not a passive activity, but one that requires active engagement of all parties to the conversation. One person talking is not communication – it is a broadcast.

If you want your relationships to last and grow stronger then you need to do this!
LISTEN/OBSERVE
ACKNOWLEDGE
SPEAK
TOUCH
KISS

Repeat each part as required.

And as my full disclosure shows keep in mind I am a single (aging!) man who hasn’t had an intimate relationship in years. Those who can do – those who can’t write up pointless blogs!

Ramble: What Ontario Teachers Don’t Understand…

Ah August – the summer holidays wind down and thoughts of Back to School float through the air like jingles embedded into unwanted advertisements. Oh wait those are retail advertisements heralding Ontario “Back to School”. Maybe. Possibly. Mostly.

You see the teachers are mostly in a legal strike position. And feeling rather pissed off still about the last round of labour negotiations. Which really weren’t much of a labour negotiation as much as a desperate Government saying: “Take it.” The “leave it” option not even being left on the table.

So here we are again going through the same rhetoric and pissing matches of the last round. Oh joy.

On the one hand we have a Government looking to reign in spending. We have an education sector that accounts for close to 1/3 of the annual budget. Currently 24.8 billion dollars is spent on education in Ontario. That is a lot of money. And there is ultimately a lot of room for clawing some of that money back. Every budget I have ever worked with is allocated as 80% accurate and 20% fudge. And often that fudge is really really bad!

On the other side we have the teachers who work hard, do a good job, and provide an excellent school system for our children. It is a lot of work, and it is demanding work.

I speak with my friends and acquaintances who we are teachers, and I hear their stories of long hours, of dedication, of going that extra mile to help. No one in their right mind is a teacher for long without having a good and caring heart for the welfare of the students they teach. I respect teachers for the job they do, and the effort they make.

However. Yes the shoe is about to drop. What teachers do not realize is that the rest of Ontario has no sympathy for what they are claiming as a hardship.
Teachers work hard (and so does everyone else…)
Teachers work extra hours (and so do all professionals…)
Teachers bring work home (and again so do most professionals…)
Teachers work with challenging and difficult people every day (and so does everyone else…)

What teachers do not realize is that the perception from outside the cozy teacher huddle isn’t very good! This is what most non-teachers see:
Teachers get really good pay (the starting teacher salary is more than the average salary in Ontario)
Teachers advance in pay very quickly (by ten years of service a teacher’s salary has almost doubled – placing a teacher in the top 25% of wage earners in Ontario)
Teachers get excellent benefits and a solid pension plan (most Ontarians get no pension)
Teachers get lots of holidays (teachers work 194 days each year – minus 6 days for Professional Development)

Now the come back to those points is “shouldn’t everyone have those same perks?” Good pay, good benefits, good retirement plan, reasonable work hours? And yes that is true. But it isn’t reality. Telling someone that they are being short-changed, while you appear to be asking for “more please!” doesn’t generate sympathy.

Let’s examine the last perceived point – “Teachers get lots of holidays”. Teachers get Christmas break (close to two weeks) and a Spring break (one week). Plus they get summers off in Ontario. No work for July and August. No childcare expenses for July and August. Plenty of family fun and sun. Yes teachers are not paid for the summer – however having an above average wage kinda negates that point! Assuming a teacher is paid only for a 7 hour day that means teachers are hired to work for 7 times 194 days or 1358 hours. The typical full-time employee is expected to provide 1820 hours of time in that same one year period. In other words teachers make more than the average worker in Ontario and are only required to do 75% of the work!

Or perhaps they work 10 hours each school day for 1960 hours of work in the year. A year round 40-hour work week requires 2080 hours – and on average gets less yearly pay. And fewer benefits.

Now the reality is most teachers do work long hours by marking and preparing for the next day at school. Give back many hours by supporting extracurricular activities. There are a lot of “unaccounted” extra hours required to keep the school system working. In my experience it is usually teachers who put in a lot of extra time and effort to make the year a success for the students.

So what is my point? Mostly it is simply this: we each live in our comfortable bubbles of reality and we forget that the perception from outside those bubbles isn’t what we think! Often it isn’t even close. Holding up a mirror to see yourself doesn’t resolve the issue – because all you see reflected back is what you want to see and expect to see.

From my point of view the Ontario Education system is outdated, antiquated, and in need of a major overhaul. A complete gut and rebuild. Education should be provided by one central organization (get rid of all these stupid school boards!). No more French/Catholic/Public mish-mash of unneeded supervisory oversight. Want to save 2 billion dollars? BOOM.

Then transfer all assets and building and properties to the local municipal governments. No need for school boards. No need for infrastructure resources being duplicated to run and plan schools when we have to run and plan communities. Set unified and coherent standards that are for everyone across the province to create community hubs focused on continuous education and on building community.

Then step back and let teachers teach the curriculum and be in charge of their own classrooms. If teachers are professionals and adults stop trying to micro-manage how they teach – and fix an education system that is bloated and unresponsive to real progress.

I have more I could say but really who wants to read it anyway?

Ramble: Apple Turnover Battles

There is no way around this. I am large. Full on fat.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

I am corpulent. Disgusting. Rotund. Obese.

Go ahead judge me. Place me on the scales of social comment and weigh me down with your words. I can take it – after all I am a big boy. And I do mean big. Huge even. Go ahead snicker and snidely aside to your trim posse of the svelte.

The past year. Well really these past many years I have tried to lose some weight. I set reasonable achievable goals of 5 pounds this month. 2 kilos. And it does work. For a while. I have dropped 15 pounds some years starting from January and keeping on into September. Then October hits and it starts with the food fests – Thanksgiving, Halloween, and into Christmas. Food glorious food!

My bane however is a simple pastry. An easy to make and easy to eat flaky fold of delight. The apple turnover. Oh how do I love thee – let me count your flaky sheets of joy! Here are the food stats on a typical apple turnover.
Calories:400 Sodium:150 mg Total Fat: 16 g Sugar: 26 g
Nutritional value? minimal amounts of vitamin C and A. Not exactly a health food.

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My obsession

For the past ten years I have walked past a coffee shop on my way into work – and the smell of cinnamon and coffee has lured me in nearly every morning. Fresh baked goodness tickling my nose, tantalizing my tongue. Pavlovian zombie I slip inside. Grab a cup, fill it up. Add 1% milk to cool the hot black brew. Make a promise to only buy the coffee. Stand in the line that snakes past the pastry display. Resolve firm. Smell cinnamon. Eyes glance. See that delicate curve. Soft gleam of sugar. The seeping hot inner juices wanting to be set free.

Just. One. More. Time. Only. I surrender, slip one into the white paper bag. Quickly pay and rush out with my sweet sin firmly in hand.

I walk out with coffee and apple turnover. Back into the fresh air. Slip the pastry free of it coverings, and savour the first sweet flaky mouth filling bite. This is happiness. This is joy. This is guilt. Once more I have given into that wonderfully seductive pastry.

For years I justified that excess by not eating breakfast. After all breakfast is about 400 calories as well – so it is all a trade-off right? Except breakfast may contain other ingredients – many with real nutritional value and fibre. And a heck of a lot less sugar. But none are as sweet and as full of joy as my apple turnover.

This January I resolved to stop the pastry guilt trips of gluttony. This January I did the math – 400 fewer calories primarily from sugar and complex carbs times 5 is 2000 calories. Times 52 is 104,000 calories. And that is 29 pounds. That is of course the optimal count – let’s be conservative and say 20 pounds for the year.

And dollar-wise that was $1.50/day. $7.40/week. $390/year. Again let’s be conservative and say $300/year saved.

Here it is 6 months later in July, and I have managed to *mostly* avoid the lure of apple turnovers. I should be 10 pounds lighter given all else being constant. Weight check: Up 5 pounds. WTF!?

So I reviewed my food diary (as spotty as my record keeping is…) and the problem is of course that I didn’t really stop eating that 400 calories! As I mentioned I had already deluded myself into making apple turnovers a part of my (un)healthy breakfast. By eating breakfast at home – even if it was one piece of multi-grain toast with butter (or cream cheese) and a small serving of fruit – I was still eating at least 400 calories. A slice of multi-grain bread with butter is about 200 calories. A banana is about 100 calories. That breakfast is 20 grams of sugar and 8 grams of fat. Plus more fibre, and other nutrients. So plus on the better eating. Not so much on the caloric intake.

And here is the kicker – because I ate breakfast at home I was finding myself hungry by mid-morning and snacking. Now my snacks are reasonable on the healthy scale – being some combination of fruit/veggies/nuts/yogurt/water. BUT under my own “less healthy” eating pattern I never ate snacks.

Conclusion: Fat man FAIL.

This morning I walked past that coffee shop and walked into the tantalizing sinful aroma of sweet pastry sins. It was the best god-damn fricking pastry I have ever eaten. It was like going home for Christmas and finding out that Santa Claus is totally real. Cinnamon sugar fantastically awesomely real. In case you didn’t quite get that: I enjoyed that apple turnover like nothing before. I’d go all cliche on you and say it was better than sex – but since fat-men don’t have sex I wouldn’t really know!

Whew. That was good. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I need a smoke.

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Fat man fail – but still it was very good!

Food : Prime Rib BBQ!

English: USCA Choice standing rib roast (2 bone).

Preparations

First you will need a Prime Rib roast. How big should it be? Depends on how many people and how much meat they like to eat! And how much you want to spend!

HOW BIG?
The rule of thumb is: 1 Rib feeds 2 People. So a 2 Rib roast would feed 4 People. For a backyard BBQ feast that has a lot of other food you can probably estimate 1 Rib for 2.5 People. This is assuming 1 Rib is equal to about 1 Kilogram or about 2.2 Pounds.
Adjust things accordingly for weight!

When you buy your Prime Rib roast look for one with good layer of fat. Fat is flavour. Fat keeps the meat moist while cooking. You can always cut off the fat when serving! You want at least a 1/4 inch (less than 1 cm) of fat on the side away from the bones.

Get a GOOD Meat Thermometer!
The most important item you need in cooking a Prime Rib roast is a good meat thermometer! Prime Rib should not be overcooked. Yes you can estimate times but really the best way to cook this premium cut of meat is with a good, reliable and accurate thermometer. I use a digital thermometer that stays in the roast throughout the cooking process. The one I use has a long lead from the meat probe to an exterior display that sits outside the oven. Very nice for monitoring the cooking progress without opening the door!

COOKING THE ROAST

1) Let the meat come to room temperature before roasting. This may take an hour. A cold Prime Rib will not cook properly, with the outer portion overcooking. Never try and cook a frozen Prime Rib roast!!! Use paper-towels to pat dry the surface of the meat.

2) DO NOT SALT. Salt pulls the moisture from the meat. Season with garlic, or some other rub if you desire. I just rub on some fresh ground pepper.

3) OPTIONAL: Garlic! grab a garlic clove or two and slice into small slivers. Now take a very sharp thin knife and slice small holes all around the roast, inserting a garlic sliver into each hole.

4) OPTIONAL: While the roast is sitting out (see step 1) you can do this! BBQ Rib is even better with a good roast rub. Here is a rub recipe (and you can make your own!).

1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake

Mix together the pepper, onion, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes.
Remove the butcher’s twine and lightly coat the roast and ribs with oil.
Season on all sides (including the space between the ribs and roast) with the dry rub. Re-tie the beef roast and ribs back together. Now let sit at room temperature for an hour.

5) Set up your BBQ (grill) for indirect heat and preheat to low (250-300°F).

6) Place the roast, bone-side down, on a roasting rack and pan combination. Add enough beef stock or water to fill the pan about 1 inch deep. Optional: Add some dried mushrooms to flavor the liquid base! If you are using a digital thermometer insert it into the roast!

7) Place the roast and pan on the grill on the indirect side where you don’t have any burners on. Close the grill lid and cook until the rib roast hits 10 °F less than your desired level of doneness.
NOTE: This should take about 3 hours for medium rare. It’s a good idea to turn the roast around every 45 minutes or so. (For rare – pull at internal temperature of 115°F. For medium rare – 125°F. For medium – 135°F).

8) Remove the roast and pan set up and let rest at room temperature until the internal temperature stops rising – about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, turn up the grill heat to high (you want it very hot – about 500 °F).

9) Taste the au jus (seasoned broth in the pan) and season to taste with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the au jus warm.

10) Now fully remove the rib bones. Then place the rib bones cut side down over the heat. Also sear the roast 2-3 minutes on the cut side and 1-2 minutes on the other sides.

11) Once the outside of each portion is nicely seared remove from the grill. You may let it rest for a few minutes but it isn’t needed – as it already settled during the previous rest.

12) Slice as desired. Top with some of the au jus and serve.

Sit back and enjoy summer!

Ramble: Baby Wisdom

Babies have it all figured out – at its most basic life is simply this:
Eat; Rest; Excrete.

Take in; Ponder; Release.

Let in; Let be; Let go.

It is just that simple.

Of course the more we grow,
the more able we become,
the more we get distracted by the wonders of living and being alive.

Squirrel.

And in our distraction we forget the essence of being:

Let in;
Let be;
Let go.