From Vitamin C to Vegetable Oil: My 2022 Learnings

As I prepare for a new year (i.e., change over the check register; is there anything else we must do?) I thought I’d take a few breaths and look back over the year to see what I’ve learned. This is not an exhaustive list; these are just the ones off the top of my head.

First, a winter scene from David’s collection:

Dave’s photo of Bolton Mt, Vermont. He has such a great eye.

1. In January I learned that too much Vitamin C can bring on kidney stones. Two of them. Gigantic ones, requiring surgery. Yes, those Vitamin C gummies were yummy, but five of them each day was simply too much. Lesson learned.

2. Throughout the year, I learned of the considerable cultural differences in what is considered insulting. How easy it can be to take personally something that was never intended to be offensive.

3. In March, in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine, AirBnB waived their service fees for rentals in Ukraine. I rented a lovely little two room flat in the heart of Kiev for a four-day weekend. What I received was a lively conversation with the grateful owner. Even in the midst of madness and brutality, there is good to be found.

4. In June I had a small office procedure done on a toe. The lesson came to me three months later: when a surgeon says (of the surgery he’s proposing) something along the lines of, “this is a simple procedure; twenty minutes and you’re done,” it’s important to know if he’s speaking of his role as surgeon or of mine as patient. He was referring to his!

5. The desire for good communication may be universal, but how we go about achieving it is definitely culturally determined. Want specifics? Think how you feel when you are (for example) interrupted. I had a year long reminder that there are cultures that feel THE OPPOSITE. Interruptions for them show the listener is actively engaged in the conversation; quietly waiting one’s turn, as we’re taught here, is hurtful — akin perhaps to presenting an academic paper and having no questions at the close. Ouch. I want to write more on this, once I’m done chewing on the lesson learned.

6. Everyone agrees that LEAPFROG: How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era is an important, timely book that everyone should read. But what I’m discovering is that no one wants to read it. I’m still deciding whether to let this one go or work harder to promote it.

7. In July, Woody and I drove to Canada for a long overdue and eagerly anticipated gathering of the Starkweather clan. One older brother, two nieces, one nephew, and various assorted children from toddlerhood to ten gathered for most of a week. Lessons learned?

(1) I’m now in the generation that is not expected to cook for large gatherings; excellent.

(2) Happy children are really noisy; I’d forgotten.

The two lessons balanced each other out and we’re enthusiastically looking forward to our next gathering.

8. November was particularly hard. On the heels of Sasha’s passing in September, I unexpectedly had to return Jackson to the rescue group from whence he had come two years prior. Lesson learned: Jackson had been a great buffer to my grief over Sasha; it was doubly hard losing him.

9. As the temperatures dropped these past two months, I learned that popple trees (often called aspen in other places) make terrible firewood, particularly if said popples were cut down five years before and allowed to become dry. Lesson learned, sadly. We’ve turned our thermostat up to 62.

10. And finally: Vegetable oil is not an appropriate substitute for vegetable shortening when making pie crust. Sure, there are vegetable oil pie crust recipes; but the ratio is quite different. Lesson learned, embarrassingly.

What have your lessons been this past year?

7 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    All great lessons, especially #2 (and it is not always a cultural thing either). Thanks for sharing. I learned some lessons as well. 1) Most of my problems have been brought on by myself, 2) I need to be careful not to try and do too much in one day, especially while travelling, 3) I can’t please everyone
    Darlene Foster recently posted…2022 Goal ReviewMy Profile

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I can learn from your lessons learned, especially the one about overdoing it with vitamin C. As soon as I feel a cold coming on, it’s dosing with zinc and vitamin C. I guess I need to go easy on the C.

    You probably mentioned your going to Kiev before, but reading about it again refreshes my mind about how generous your visit was in spite of risks and how global your reach with kindness, just as you did years ago in Kazakhstan.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, I was pleased to learn I may have brought on my my own kidney stones with all that Vitamin C. Gave me a sense of control. (See Darlene’s list above). But I must not have been clear about my “trip to Kiev.” It was only a fund raiser for the people of Ukraine, organized by Airbnb. It was a way to give them money (renting their space) then not showing up. Ukraine was under siege in March, and Ukrainians were flocking to leave. It felt good though to be able to actually converse with someone in the thick of it.

      Congrats on the new book, btw. It looks great.
      Janet Givens recently posted…From Vitamin C to Vegetable Oil: My 2022 LearningsMy Profile

  3. Carolyn
    | Reply

    Thank goodness I never thought of the vegetable oil substitute and have kept to veg fat (or margarine for sweet pastry). You have saved me. We have a shortage of wood in my area and prices are ridiculous but we get supplies of sawdust briquettes from a local garden buildings merchant and they are very cheap, very effective and leave little ash. Win, win.

    Have a splendid 2023

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sawdust briquettes! What a great idea. They sound very light weight too.

      I remember the moment I decided to “go ahead” and use the vegetable oil. I simply didn’t want to go out in the cold for the shortening. What difference could it possibly make? I asked myself. Then, I learned. Live and learn, thank goodness.

      Happy New Year, Carolyn.
      Janet Givens recently posted…From Vitamin C to Vegetable Oil: My 2022 LearningsMy Profile

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