Measuring Cups are essential in baking and in life. Cooking allows for more variation, of course…you have the opportunity to taste as you go while cooking. Baking, however, is entirely different. First you decide what it is you want to make! Today let’s choose to bake a cake.
Then we often entrust that outcome to a recommended recipe—our own or one that has been referred to us by trusted friends or sources. Some of our favorite restaurants publish cookbooks that tantalize us with their tasty treats. Often donors to charities donate their favorite dessert recipes to be compiled into fund raiser cook books.
All this to say that we tend to follow a recipe, measuring ingredient by ingredient, paying particular attention to how many teaspoons of baking soda compared with how many cups of flour. A quarter teaspoon measurement for baking soda is equally important as a cup of flour, even though the measurements are not equal. It’s the combination that is essential to a great outcome.
We combine the dry ingredients first, so that there is even distribution throughout, and then fold in those dry ingredients into the beaten eggs and liquid substance. We’ve all learned that no matter how great vanilla smells, the taste of raw vanilla is quite different! (And no matter how sublime that smell is, we can’t fall prey to “over doing it” by pouring several tablespoons in, because of the tantalizing smell.) We blend our batter well to best ensure smoothness, free of lumps. Lumps contain pockets of flour and dry ingredients which will remain cakey when baked, rather than contributing to the whole cake or dessert.
Air, too, can wreak havoc on an otherwise splendid dessert…so we are taught to grab the baking pans by both sides, raise them a couple of inches from the counter top and then drop them straight down to allow any submerged air bubbles to rise to the top and break. Otherwise, they’ll remain within the dough/batter, and form caves and pockets that are unsightly when the cake is cut. So, all these precautions to ensure that once we’ve allocated the proper amount of ingredients in the correct proportions, we are pretty assured of the result that is, presuming our oven temperature gauge is correct.
Each recipe calls for the oven to be set at a particular temperature, and for our batter to remain in the oven for a certain amount of time for optimum results. A few degrees hot or cold will significantly alter the consistency of the result, and could either result in over baked, slightly burned or damp or liquid in the center—neither of which are desired outcomes. You can’t suppress the temptation to open the oven door for a quick look, you say? Do so at the peril of having your cake fall. After all, you DO need all the ingredients in the batter for the cake, so what ingredient would you “sell” out of, mid-way through the final baking stage without ruining the cake?
The same thing with your effectively diversified portfolio too, which somewhat resembles a cake too, with various cake slices invested in various types of mutual funds—those that invest in large company stocks, small company stocks, international stocks, corporate bonds, global bonds, balanced funds, and Treasuries and Certificates of Deposit. Remember, there are people—you chief among them—that will need the sustenance of that complete cake in months and years to come. Don’t shortchange yourself and them by a precipitous action now.
You see, no matter how tantalizing the press and the media is about snagging our attention for hours at a time, and nearly roping our minds and eyes to their screens and radio waves for the latest updates and breaking news on the markets, we must follow our recipe for success which includes measurements of the named ingredients, following our recipes—inclusive of saving each and every paycheck preferably into our pension plans and managing our outflows within our inflows–and discipline to limit our exposure to the press’ “high heat”.
So measuring enough units of happiness in our lives is in some cases a talent and in others, a learned skill. Especially amidst a tsunami of negativity, we really need to measure and fold in a cup or more of laughter into each day. We need to measure our love for ourselves and our love for others—seen and unseen. We need to counterbalance the negative with more measurements of positive so that before we put ourselves into bed each night, we can expect to arise the next morning with a smile on our faces.
Whole areas of our lives exist outside the realm of our finances, such as our health and that of our families. As I’ve learned from experience, the news of a death or serious illness in your family of origin or choosing will instantly make all this press mania background noise. Your focus will be redirected towards what ultimately matters—personal relationships and family. Think of that, and thank God if you are among the lucky ones today and each day if you are spared such news.
While money often buys us extra choices in some seasons of our lives, in other seasons when money isn’t as plentiful for whatever reason(s), these are a few of the free or less expensive joys of life, many of whose benefits are priceless:
- Our ability to flash someone a smile.
- Our ability to pick up the phone and call someone just to check in.
- Our ability to show support to someone we love.
- Our ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the community.
- Our ability to access the internet for learning (or buying and selling our stuff).
- Our ability to hand write a thank you for a simple kindness.
- Our ability to hike for an hour.
- Our ability to hug our family and friends and pets.
- Our ability to be grateful for 10 blessings each day.
These are things we can “DO” amidst market volatility and I suggest we gain control over ourselves and what we allow to influence us. We can control our minds and our language. We can control our moods. We can control the number of compliments we give out each day or each hour. We can control the emails we send or forward. We can control the amount of hours we spend watching TV, and we must!
We can control our reactions and our emotions. We can control the most useless emotion of all…worry! So, ok…you say you HAVE to worry. Fine. You worry between 1:45-2:00am ok? When you can tell me even one positive thing that you accomplished by worrying, I’ll be all ears. In the meantime, do yourself (and the universe since no action is an independent action after all) a favor; stop spending valuable waking time doing something that won’t produce anything valuable! Let’s face it, if what you are worrying about happens, you’ll have to deal with it. If it doesn’t you won’t. Wouldn’t you rather have an overall life strategy that contains basic principles like, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, if God takes you to a problem, God will take you through it. Or, the confidence that as a thinking adult, you can handle it (whatever “it” is) just like you’ve handled other major decisions—great or small—all through your life.
What would we teach our children or grandchildren about choices in times like these? They’re watching you know. They’re especially picking up things we don’t say. Do you realize that we communicate MOSTLY without words? Our actual words represent only 7% of all communication, with tonality and physiology representing 38% and 55% respectively.
So why when we know that markets operate in cycles, would we ever get so confused as to think that money was the most important resource in our lives, when clearly our minds and attitudes FAR outweigh the particular amount of money in our accounts on any one day?
What’s a day, you say? To someone with a terminal illness, that’s another sunrise and sunset. That’s another memory to forge with their grandkids. That’s another candlelit meal with their friends. That’s another conversation to share. We waste time without thinking. The value of time FAR supersedes the value of our financial liquidity, just ask anyone with a terminal illness or their family members.
Time is what we have plenty of, until we are threatened with the loss of it. Then we can’t squeeze enough into each hour. We waste more time and money fretting, and worrying and sending negative energy into ourselves and the broader universe. I urge each of us to take responsibility for ourselves.
God, Higher Power, and the angels are beckoning us to learn as much as we can, experience life as deeply and richly as is possible, given each of our resources. And how many of us are putting God/Higher Power/angels and the attainment of our happiness contingent on some externality, like the value of our investments at 4pm? Most of us were happy at some time over the past two weeks, until some lame brain boisterously announced what the DOW closed at today. Who cares? Let’s shout back, enough already! Enough focus on the negative! Enough mud slinging. Let’s regain our common human bond; and in America, our American bond. Let’s do so absent a terrorist trigger. And yes, let’s do so amidst market fluctuations.
Let’s use the assets we command in our minds in order to properly assess our next steps. Whatever it takes, we can do; that’s what we know. We can endure discomfort, yes we can. We can rise above the negativity hour after hour, day after day, because we must.
We can vote, and we must. We can get involved at the local level of governing in our communities and we must. Let’s show our kids and grandkids that if the people lead the leaders will follow. Let’s lead by example.
Certainly as Americans, we have good lives, we have assets that will regain and surpass their original value if we “leave them in the oven” long enough. We have measurements in teaspoons and tablespoons and cups of our own power and grace and tenacity.
Stay tuned for more suggestions on where to place your focus, to create a fully inspirational life, despite any background noises.