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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday 5: I'm still alive!

Hey lovely readers!  All of you that managed to stick around after I have alienated you for the last several months.  I'm sorry, y'all.  I'm really sorry, but I have found myself appallingly uninteresting lately and instead of subjecting you to my dull self, I have refrained from writing full stop.  I guess I should at least try to get back up on that horse, but my fat ass is gonna have a hard time lifting itself up into the saddle.

We'll start out nice and slow, with a little Tuesday 5 to let you know I am, in fact, still here.  No in memoriam for me, at least, not yet.

I'm still a dullard, but I'm YOUR dullard on duty, got that?  *snicker*  Duty.

Anyway, here we go!

1)  So, I finally watched Trainwreck last week and I have to say, I had probably one of the most improbable reactions to it.  I cried.  A lot.  Like really, a lot, to the point where my husband asked me if I was crying in a voice that sounded like he was really weirded out by it.  I was weirded out by it.  I'm still not fully sure why I was crying, but I think it may have had something to do with a conversation Amy had with the good doctor toward the end when she was admitting her vulnerability.  Full on tears flowing.  I'd like to say that was out of character for me, but well, it's not.

2)  I am not a touchy feely, super emotionally in touch person.  I close myself off a lot and try to project a slightly intimidating exterior, if only to save myself from questions.  However, I cry at a lot of things.  I cry at commercials, I cry at Youtube videos of dogs being reunited with their military service family, I cry at that scene in Anne of Avonlea when Anne Shirley turns down the rich dude.  I cry at a lot of important things too, though.  I don't know that I've cried harder at a movie than I did while watching Hotel Rwanda.  It's a true story, people!  TRUE.  STORY.  Full on sobbing for half an hour after it was over.  Watch with caution.  Someone at work asked me why I baked so many damn Christmas goodies this year and I told them it was to fill a small void in my cold, cold heart.  I guess what I'm saying is that I feel big emotions in GIGANTIC ways and even though I am a hardass sometimes, it's not without some deep thinking and some compassion that I make certain decisions.

3)  I received an adult coloring book in my stocking this year.  I am excited, because I haven't just sat and colored in years.  My daughter is going to lend me her gel pens for use and I cannot wait to try it out!  I was the OCD kid that outlined the picture, inside each separately lined area before coloring in the middle.  I actually won a contest at Easter when I was 6 through a local Wal-Mart because my picture was the one they chose as the best colored.  I won a plastic wheelbarrow that was chock full of Easter candy and a huge fluffy pink bunny.  We broke the wheelbarrow that same night, pushing each other full speed around the dining room.  Whoops.

4)  Currently reading a book called The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and cultivating a lot of deep thinking during it as well.  The sisters are all named after Shakespearean heroines and all come back to their parents' home when they find out their mother is ill.  I am engrossed.  That is what I will be doing as soon I post this sucker up.  The book is outstanding so far and the sisters all read constantly.  It makes me want to gather up a thousand books and get lost in the words.  Reading is the bees' knees y'all.  Bee's knees?  Eh, one or all of the bees may be thrilled.

5)  My husband and I are two big nerds who saw Star Wars VII:  The Force Awakens on opening night Friday (not to be confused with premiere night Thursday).  We really, really enjoyed it and I have a lot of questions now.  Love the new characters and I am excited with the way it's headed.  Our priest gave a homily that included Star Wars that gave us some insight into our viewing.  He said that George Lucas is Buddhist or admires the tenets of Buddhism and that one of the central beliefs is that everything is cyclical.  That helped me absorb a bit more of the story.  I do have several nits to pick over the movie, but overall was satisfied.

How about all of you?  How have you been since I took my mini-break?  I hope everyone has had a spectacular holiday season and are ready to be mentally refreshed in the New Year.  I know 2016 will keep me on my toes.  Thanks for reading and I appreciate any time you share this page with friends.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tuesday Random 5: Debbie Downer edition

1.  So, this one's depressing. I had to euthanize my dog, Bear, Monday morning. He hurt himself Thursday and I took him to the vet Friday night. They diagnosed him with osteosarcoma  (bone cancer) that metastasized to his lungs and bowel.  There wasn't much they could do, so we decided to bring him home for the weekend, spoil him, and let him go.   I already miss that loveable dude so much. It is weird not to see him. He was a beautiful dog, half German Shepherd, half retriever, and he loved kids. He used to sneak out of the gate and run off over night. At first, I was so worried something would happen to him, but every single time, he would be sitting on our porch the next morning. He always knew to come back home.
2. I have had high anxiety days, today and yesterday. At mass tonight, I really thought I was going to pass out.  Last night, I made Rick keep his arm around me all night. I slept like shit and I feel kind of depressed. Please say a special prayer for me, if you do that kind of thing. I think it will be another long night tonight.
3.  I am officially the office Grinch. I always kind of have been, but it was solidified today. My coworker who sits right next to me put up lights outside of her cubicle and someone suggested that they string lights all down the aisle. I politely suggested they skip over mine. I got a weird look from my supervisor.  I am sorry, but my work is not my life and I am not going to make it all cozy, because it is not the be all end all. I just want to do my job and go home.  *sigh*
4.  I received an email from a case worker in one of the local offices today that convinced me she is barely literate. It was truly appalling. Who sends an email full of shorthand and no capitalization or evidence of grammar to a coworker? So bizarre.
5.  I know it is the depression and anxiety, but I just want to sleep right now and it's not even 8:30. Yikes.
Have a better week friends.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday 5: Take me out to the ball game

In the midst of MLB Division series right now and finding I am quite enjoying the matchups so far this year. There are some great storylines going on this year, too.  Disclaimer:  I am a sports nut, particularly the NFL and MLB so if you aren't,  you may not love this one.
1. Watching the Cubs - Cards game 4 right now. By now, I am sure you have heard that Back to the Future predicted the Cubs win it all this year. How crazy is it that they are as close as they are to making a movie's sub sub subplot come true? I wouldn't mind another I-70 series, but I would love to see the Cubbies there instead. ETA: Cubs just won. WTG Cubs! Good luck in the NLCS!

2.  As you may have surmised, I am a fan of the Royals. And yes, I have been a fan since I was a kid and grew up watching their games on TV and listening to them on the radio. I really, really hope they make it back to the World Series, but we have a tough game ahead against the Astros.  It was so hard to just get occasional updates at work when the magical comeback occurred yesterday. I didn't wear my Royal blue shirt that day and so now I cannot wear it tomorrow.  I am that superstitious,  yes.

3.  As a fan of baseball, I hated Chase Utley's super late, super high, tackle/slide at Tejada in the Dodgers - Mets game this weekend. There is no need for that. Yes, he may not have intended for Tejada to be injured, but he did get injured. An apt analogy is that someone speeding 55 in a 20 MPH school zone may not intend to hurt someone, but driving recklessly can still get someone hurt.  For that reason, and the fact that the Dodgers are basically trying to buy a ring this year with all the dough they spent, I am hoping the Mets win their game tonight.

4.  Toronto, I don't know what to say. I liked you at one point, but then Josh Donaldson started acting like a petulant child and my give a shit button started shorting out. Fix that, cuz I truly like Tulowitzki and your city.

5.  Finally, I just have to say that I have followed baseball on and off forever and it really is such a great sport. I am not a fan of the emphasis on homer hitters and homerun-friendly ballparks, but I can understand it with this younger ADD generation.  I will never forget Kirk Gibson pumping his fist,  rounding third after hitting a homerun while injured, John Smoltz stealing home in one of the many 90s era Braves postseason appearances, or the shock and tragedy of the earthquake that hit before the 1989 Bay Area World Series. If you love it like I do, you really should visit Cooperstown. It's amazing. George Brett's pine tar bat is there, as are all the greats. If you can't make it there and live near KC, get down to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Baseball is in my blood and there's nothing to compare with the sound of the crack of the bat, the smell of peanuts and cotton candy, the taste of ice cold beer, the feel of a weathered glove, or the sight of a beautifully executed double play.  If you love it like I do, get out there and absorb it all. Root, root, root for the home team and enjoy the playoffs! Go Royals!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tuesday 5: On Food, Hair, and Humans

1.  I was up way too early this morning, planning restaurant dishes in my head. Do I own a restaurant?  No. Am I a trained chef? No. But, if you need a sandwich called "The Homeland" that features Vienna sausage, homemade sauerkraut and a condiment that features mustard with some kick, you know where you can't get it! My imaginary restaurant that serves international cuisine.  (Including entremets for dessert. Different ones weekly!)

2.  We got a pretty good deal on a new TV for the office this week. Previously, we had an old CRT TV. In honor of the occasion, I dedicated myself to playing on the old PS2. Vice City, Gauntlet, and Ratchet and Clank are my favorites. Good times.

3.  I got my hair updated with some fall highlights. One of the colors is a deep brown with a red tone. In certain lighting, it looks kinda purpley. It makes me wanna dye my whole head that color. What do you think?

4.  I love fall food, but I am trying to stay away from a lot of it, because it usually has a lot of starchy stuff featured. What are your favorite fall recipes that are also good for you? I need some ideas that are tasty and everyone will enjoy.

5.  I cannot be the only one who has 0 interest in reality TV these days, am I?  I saw a promo for Little Women:  LA on the Lifetime network and it skeeved me out. I know these women are apparently okay with exploiting themselves,  but it's just so icky. If you want something worth reading and following, I recommend Humans of New York. He is currently featuring a series on refugees and it is heartbreaking and breathtaking and will help you to refocus on real humanity.  HONY is on Facebook and Instagram. Look at the world, and your fellow human beings, differently and with love and dignity, my friends.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My child would be...

My child would be 4 1/2 now.  My favorite age.  They would be saying funny things and singing silly songs.  We would be reading a book to them every night and tucking them in with a sweet kiss on their head.

My child was one of the 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the United States that ended in a miscarriage.  I was only 7 or 8 weeks along.  I didn't even know I was pregnant until I miscarried and honestly didn't realize right away that I had miscarried.  I have two stepchildren and have never been able to get pregnant again.  

My child would be in preschool.  I would have picked them up and seen the smile spread across their cherubic face.  My child would have given me sticky kisses and grabbed my hand with dirty hands of their own.  

But, my child is none of those things.  My child instead is in heaven and every day I wonder how different my life would have been had I not miscarried.  My child will never be an adult, a teenager, a bride or a groom.  I will never get to wrap my arms around them.

Now though, I will speak up and speak out.  I lost a pregnancy.  I am one of those statistics and if you are, too, you don't need to be silent.  15 to 20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage.  That's a lot of women and men suffering from losing a child.  October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  It happens more than most people realize and it isn't shameful.  There is support.  Please reach out if you need it.

Until then, I pray for your babies and you.  If you believe, know that one day you will be reunited with that child.  My child would be 4 1/2 right now, talking and laughing and scraping their knees.  Instead, they are in heaven and I am here, holding on to hope.

Give love.  Be kind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guarding Hearts

I have been thinking a lot lately about marriage and divorce.  No, not for the reason you think!  I found out the other day that another neighbor of ours (#4) got divorced.  I also had a neighbor tell me a story about how a former friend of hers, who knew my neighbor no longer wanted to be friends with, tried to ingratiate herself with my neighbor's family and gave my neighbor's husband a lingering hug, but didn't say anything to my neighbor.

I have been ruminating on the topic a while because I was thinking about how all these micro-circumstances, micro-thoughts, micro degradation of morals can all lead to marriage failure.  I am not sure I'm going to be able to articulate this well, but I'm going to try.

What do I mean by micro degradation of morals?  Well, I sometimes peruse a website quite well known on the interwebs for mom blogs.  It also has a community forum and a confessional.  When I first happened upon this site, I read the confessional.  It was a lot of funny, heartfelt, and sometimes juicy snippets of others' lives.  Quite often, you have people that confess to lustful thoughts and actions and out of those, many of them are confessing to having affairs or wanting affairs.  I used to read them with a bit of an ego because I had a marriage I felt was very workable and very good.  We truly care for one another and put each other first and I never for a second thought about doing anything that these people were confessing.

However, after so many times of logging on and reading these, I noticed a change in my thinking.  I started thinking about how easy it must be to get away with these actions, because there are so many people confessing to them.  I also thought about how this must be something that a lot of people did because there are so many confessions talked about masturbating at work, watching porn, giving people handies or blowjobs because you needed something from them, and yes, having affairs, with neighbors, friends, bosses, and coworkers.  

I told my neighbor (the one with the ex-friend hitting on the hubby) that I felt like, even if you would never do those things, and you know your spouse would never do those things, that sometimes allowing your mind to start seeing those things as natural occurrences could lead to something harmful within your marriage.  Does that make sense now, when I talk about small things degrading our morals?  I'm not trying to sit on a high horse and say you must never have lustful thoughts.  I'm simply saying that for the safety and security of your marriage, sometimes it's best to just Not. Go. There.  

And yes, maybe not everyone is going to fall into those traps and certainly, there are a large faction of individuals who truly enjoy porn and sometimes use it with their significant other, who will undoubtedly testify that it hasn't hurt their marriage, but enhanced it.  Yes, maybe that is true.  Maybe you ARE able to have an open marriage or be swingers and it not affect your bond with your spouse. Great!  I would never advocate that, but I'm not you.  

What I AM saying is that circumstances can lead to outcomes we do not foresee.  When we place ourselves at the mercy of our wants, without boundaries, it can sometimes end badly.  And, when we allow ourselves the luxury of thinking it can't happen to us, it oftentimes does.

That little flirty text to a coworker one night because you are feeling neglected by your spouse can lead to more texting, perhaps with feelings developing over time and lunch dates and so on.  The idea that you are going to withhold intimacy from your spouse as revenge because they didn't do the dishes can lead to masturbating at work, which can lead to much more.  And yes, reading confessions about other people doing these things can lead to niggling thoughts about how easy it would be.  I should try it, just this once.  My spouse will never know.  

Look, I have an acquaintance whose wife left him for a door-to-door salesman.  Any time you let the guard on your marriage down, you have left the door open to doubt.

We should always be guarding our hearts and our minds from outside traffic.  No one wants to think their spouse would do this, so we better damn well make sure we are on our toes, too.  

I have since discontinued reading those same confessionals.  I couldn't allow myself to let weakness creep in.  I noticed that change and I stopped.  This may make some of you upset, thinking that I'm just doing the old fire and brimstone act and we're all going to hell spiel.  That's actually about the furthest thing from the actual truth.  I'm talking about this today because it is real.  These small wayward thoughts and individual self-satisfying actions can and have led to marriage failures.  I don't want that to happen to me.  I don't want that to happen to you.  If this makes you uncomfortable, good.  That was my intent.  It made me uncomfortable admitting to myself the reason I needed to stop reading the damn things.  I was hanging on every juicy dalliance.  

I care about you and I care about the health and strength of your marriages.  I hope I have made my point in a way that's not too officious.  Please, rant at me in the comments if you disagree.  I appreciate any and all feedback!  To steal a line from Red Green, "Remember, I'm pulling for you.  We're all in this together."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I think about Them

My husband and I are the nonresidential parents of his son and daughter. We get his son every other weekend and Tuesday evenings. We get his daughter usually every weekend.

This weekend, as I mentioned in my Tuesday 5 last week, my husband had to work and my step kiddos stayed with their respective mothers.

I had the house all to myself! What to do with all my free time?

Well, I did get some good garage saling action in and got all my laundry nearly finished. However, I found myself thinking about them all weekend, too.

On Friday night, we talked about the kids and how they were doing in school and sports. On Saturday,  I found myself thinking about a song that Ashley likes and singing it while I was picking up a garage sale item I found for her. Today, I was thinking about how they both do such great jobs around the house and while going through the week's mail, found Daden's scorecard from last week's league bowling match. I proceeded to post it above the dry erase board on his room's door and then writing him a note of inspiration. I couldn't leave Ashley out, so I left her an encouraging note about her volleyball skills on her dry erase board.

As a stepmother, especially as the household that neither kid resides in, it's tough to go as long as we do without seeing them. I know there are people who can't stand the family they gained through marriage, but I will never know those feelings. My husband and I cherish the time we get and we try to be there for them as much as we are able, but we still miss the, every day they aren't here.

I think about them a lot in all I do. I always wonder what they are up to, if they are having fun, if they are acting as the calm and responsible teens we see on the weekends, if they know how much we care for them and pray for them.

Do not try to tell me I don't have the right to be concerned for them. Do not try to tell me that I shouldn't be involved because it may step on toes or hurt some feelings. Thankfully,  we have very amicable relationships with both of their mothers. But, I would be involved no matter what, because they are my children, too...step or not. When you get random hugs from your sweet teen daughter, that step part vanishes. When you fully understand your son's anxiety and ADD, because you have it, too...that step part disintegrates.

You do the best for your kids no matter the situation, because they ARE that important. Step doesn't need to lead or follow. No equivocation. I think about them and I miss them and I love them, with or without those four extra letters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday 5...on a Tuesday?

So, have you heard of this thing called blogging?  I don't seem to be doing a very good job of it lately, but I've heard that when it's done consistently and well, it can be interesting.  Obviously, I haven't reached that point yet.

One more attempt at getting consistent is coming up!

1)  I have been crocheting a lot lately.  I went and bought some new hooks and a bunch of yarn last week and now I just need to set aside time in which to get all of my projects done.  I am really good at starting projects, not the best at finishing.  Here's hoping I can actually start finishing some of them and shipping them to my family and friends.  I have learned a lot of stitches already and have found that Google is a great help when I need a few tips and tricks.  There are a LOT of great crochet blogs out there.  By the way, apparently one of the most stolen items from our local library is a magazine titled Crochet World.  I guess crocheting and knitting really IS getting popular!

2)  Tonight was homemade fettuccine alfredo.  Well, the alfredo sauce was homemade, not the pasta.  It's a 20 minute delicious meal.  Not good for the waistline necessarily, but delicious nonetheless.  What's your favorite go-to quick and easy meal?

3)  I am excited for all the season premieres this week!  We've already watched the newest Big Bang Theory, but the new Modern Family is coming up tomorrow night!  I really hope they resolve the Haley-Andy plot and I hope it ends with them together!  Adam Devine is ADORABLE as Andy and Sarah Hyland is always great as Haley.  They are so cute together, even though I liked Dylan, too.  What are the shows you are excited for this season?

4)  So, I'm reading a book called "Trip of the Tongue" which explores certain enclaves of language throughout the United States.  She started with several Native American languages and talks about the extinction of a lot of these languages and how that happens, etc.  Anyhow, one of the places she visited was Forks, Washington.  Apparently, that is the setting for Twilight?  I don't know, never read 'em.  She was talking about how there is a HUGE tourism boom there because of the books and that they give tours of the town, even though the book is FICTION and none of those characters ever actually lived.  Yikes. That just makes me want to shake my head, but I guess it's similar to wanting to see the foundations of Tintagel Castle in England because according to legend, that is where King Arthur was conceived, so who am I to judge...well, maybe I still will a little. ;)

5)  I may have the house all to myself the majority of the weekend this upcoming weekend.  Rick has to work all weekend and it's Daden's off week and Ashley wants to stay at her mother's, because she has to redo her "real" baby school experiment because she gave it too many head tilts last time.  Oops.  So, now I'm thinking about all the things I want to do this weekend.  What's the one thing YOU would do if you had the entire weekend to yourself?

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Belated 5: Acting with Compassion

In my small city, our city council was recently debating a law regarding "aggressive panhandling".  It would have outlawed panhandling in certain places and banned "aggressive" tactics like following an individual, continually asking, touching someone without consent, and intentionally blocking or impeding the free passage of an individual or vehicle.

These sound totally reasonable, except when you take into account that even the local police say these instances are practically nonexistent as it is.  You can usually see anywhere from 1 to 5 people sitting at intersections with signs in our city.  Oftentimes, it is single men, but every once in a while you see single women and the occasional couple.  I used to be the type that refused to give anything to a panhandler, except the occasional advice to seek out the mission in our town.  I heard those stories about the individuals who refused to take the food offered, instead asking for money and I thought, "Well, to heck with them.  They just want cash to abuse alcohol or drugs."  

However, over the years, I have asked myself the difference between myself and these individuals.  I had a job, a husband with a career, and a large network of supporting friends and family.  I've never known true hunger and I've damned well never had to drink rot gut vodka just to make myself forget my hunger and sleep through the night.  Who am I to set limits on my gifts? 

 I have prayed for many years to have a softer heart and to be more giving to others.  It's hard to be compassionate.  There are many different ways that we can act with compassion.  I have decided to make this Tuesday Wednesday 5 about compassion.

1.  Judge less.  

I know, I know, easier said than done, right?  It's a lot easier to look at and think about every way a person is doing it wrong or living their life in moral decrepitude or relying on addiction.  As I said above, I try very hard not to put MY limitations on other individuals.  I am not them.  Judgment of a person based on their color, creed, gender, religion, etc. is not only not helpful, but it usually has the opposite effect intended.  Maybe instead we should ignore those things and focus on the person.

2.  Open our hearts more.

I subtitled this one:  LOVE without ceasing.  In order to act with compassion, we need to look at that person and decide to love them.  We need to cast our negativity aside and open our hearts to helping them.  As Dr. King stated (and I paraphrase), dark cannot drive out dark, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

3.  Actively listen and (attempt to) understand individual struggles.

Some of us may never know what it's like to lose parents at a young age, to lose children, to be raped, or beaten, or ignored.  We may never know the realities of war or loss of limbs or bad health issues.  Those of us trying to practice compassion MUST take the time to ACTIVELY listen.  That does not mean listening and ignoring or nodding our heads throughout.  That means to engage that person and ask questions or give comfort while attempting to understand that person's struggles.  When we do that, we act with compassion and open the door for that person to realize they are important and loved.

4.  Do good works selflessly.

Acting with compassion sometimes means stepping up and helping out.  It can be as simple as direct eye contact and a smile, holding a door open, or picking up something that fell out of someone's purse or shopping cart.  Recently, my daughter and I were at Joann's Fabrics and a mother was there with an infant in a car seat in one cart, another cart piled with fabric, and a toddler.  The toddler started grabbing stickers off a hook on an end cap and dropping them on the floor.  The mother saw this and gently grabbed her daughter away.  I immediately nudged my daughter and she picked up every one of those sticker pages and hung them up, without question.  Doing good isn't always a grand gesture.  Doing them selflessly is important, because even though doing good works does foster good feelings and a sense of accomplishment, our main goal shouldn't be to boost ourselves, but to uplift others.  This is a great example of compassion in action.

5.  Speak directly and sensitively.

This one can be difficult to do as well.  Part of acting with compassion is being sensitive to the person you are talking with and actively listening to.  We must be sure that they hear and understand that we have taken their humanity into account.  Speaking directly is an act of compassion as well.  This means that we are trying to direct them to better choices while also realizing that they are adults who get to make the final decision.  

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Compassion is something that we need to foster in our youth and I feel it is sorely needed in today's world.  When we have refugees drowning while trying to flee murderous religious tyranny and LGBT individuals killing themselves at an ever increasing rate and people hating others based on their occupations, or color, or religion, we have a society lacking compassion and empathy.  Please, act with compassion, and encourage others to do the same.  LOVE (and pray) without ceasing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Battle I Wage

Today I wore my comfy dress.  I woke up at my normal time, laid in bed snuggling up to my husband's back and let my mind drift to the end of the work day and what I was going to do then.  Today I thought about everything that happened yesterday.  I thought about everything that didn't happen yesterday.

Today I beat my anxiety.  I felt that coil in the bottom of my stomach, that very beginning of a churn, the first click on the roller coaster, and I shoved it down deep inside of me again.

Yesterday, the clicks whirred several times before I was able to stop it.  Tuesday, I stared down the first hill of that coaster track and as it does, the coaster tipped, slowly, every slowly, over the edge of the hill, and came racing down.  You can't control it once it gets too far over that ledge.  It speeds up and keeps going, hill after hill, turn after twisty turn.  Sometimes it even flips me upside down.

The worst part is that sometimes it's so unpredictable, I don't even know what I'm responding to.  Tuesday I was looking at Mapquest at work and seeing how far down Highway 1 goes in California.  I followed it down further and further, 'til it hit the tip of the Baja peninsula in Mexico, surrounded by water.  My mind started retracting back and my head started spinning, thinking about looking at the Earth from that far away.

I knew looking at pictures or videos of space or views from a great height was a trigger, but I didn't think just looking at a flat, non-3D map would do it.

I can't even think about getting on a plane some days.  That triggers it.  If I get a dizzy spell, it sometimes triggers it.  Intense dramas trigger it.

A lot of things trigger it and it's amazing how quickly the downward spiral progresses.  It's overwhelming sometimes to feel that churning and try to swing myself out of it.

Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath, get up, and move around.  Tuesday wasn't quite that easy.  I, of course, had to click off what I was looking at.  I took some breaths.  I desperately tried to keep my mind out of that black hole of anxiety.

It's been nearly two years since my anxiety began.  Six months after it happened, my husband and stepdaughter were baptized and made full communion in the Catholic church.  It was warm in the church and the incense was cloying, per usual.  I started feeling stuffy and slightly overheated and the anxiety attack got into full swing.  I was trying hard to breathe, but all my mind could think about was what would happen if a gunman came into the church and started shooting.  My stepdaughter and Mom are across the aisle, my Dad and Rick are several pews in front of me, and two siblings and their families were sitting clear up at the front.  I couldn't get to all of them.  How could I get to them before the gunman did?

This is what anxiety does.  It tricks your mind into thinking about the worst case scenarios of everything and questioning how you will make it through.  Sometimes, when it's extra bad, you are paralyzed with fear, you can't breathe, your stomach churns, and in those moments, you truly believe that you are going to die.  You just know it.  Your teeth clench and your fingers lock, just waiting for oblivion.

At its worst, I sat in our tub full of the hottest water I could stand, with the hottest water pelting down on me.  I would beg my husband to go to bed at the same time as me because I didn't want to try to fall asleep without him there.  The boogeyman in my head would lie to me and fill it with the scariest thoughts.

My anxiety desperately tries to control me.  It wages a war in my body and my mind every. single. day.

But today, I beat it.  I'll take today.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I live in a Cat House.

So, have you ever seen The Best Little Whore house in Texas?  It came out in 1982, starring the good version of Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton.  My Mom loved that movie and I'm pretty sure I watched it, more than once, before I turned 8.  As the title implies, Dolly is the proprietor of a home full of  young women just looking to save up some money for college.  *insert eyeroll here*  I really must develop a sarcasm font.

Anyhoo, here's the synopsis from

"Town Sheriff and regular patron, fights to keep a historical whorehouse open when a TV preacher targets it as the Devils playhouse."

You know, it's quite interesting how society nearly 35 years later keeps trying to ban things that people deem immoral.  I'm not saying that we should have courtesans giving handies during debate on CSPAN or anything, but as far as immoral acts go, I think consensual paid sex is lower on my list of priorities to go after, ya' know?

What was I saying again?  Oh yeah, my home is a cat house, too, but instead of hookers and blow, I get indifferent animals and puked up hairballs everywhere.  I have two cats.  I would say own, but any cat "owner" knows who really owns whom.  Amirite?  And yes, according to the Googles, it is "who owns whom".

Gonzo is the lover boy.  He's a total mama's boy!
When we purchased this home, over 5 years ago now, we had not anticipated that the lovely cream color of the carpet in the basement would eventually look like the Jackson Pollock of cat puke.  We relegated the two demons (no seriously, I love these furballs, but ya know..?) to our laundry room, which had no carpet, only concrete floors.  This is where we set up the litter box and placed the water and food dishes.

The greatest thing about them being down in the basement was that we could shut the door so they wouldn't come upstairs at night.  My female calico (Princess) likes to be nosy and she gets into everything.  She also hides things.  At our old house, we were cleaning before the move, and moved a large console radio/record player.  We found Barbie clothes, hair ties, milk jug rings, twist ties, used Q-tips fished out of the trash, and socks.  She's pretty much half a ferret.  So, now the door gets closed and dishes don't end up on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night.

I do miss having Gonzo (our male black cat, officially named Tony Gonzalez, Jr.) snuggle up on the bed during the night, but I know my husband doesn't miss him.  Instead, we now get wake up meows from the cats sitting on the stairs demanding food.  Gonzo is my diabetic cat and so we had to switch from dry food to wet food a while back to help him keep his carbs down.  He seems to be doing better.  He used to weigh 21 pounds and is now down to 14 or so.  Princess has slimmed down as well, from 12 pounds to 9 pounds.  (I wish I could lose weight so easily.)

When I'm sick, Princess knows the cure.
Now, they meow like crazy until they are fed.  They each get a can early in the morning and another one in the evening.  Believe me, they will let you know if you neglect them!  Gonzo is very vocal and doesn't like his supper to be held up.

Princess, my quirky girl, she likes to climb.  In our basement, we have a large shelving unit in the laundry room.  It holds all of the holiday decorations and tubs full of photos and memories which probably won't see the light of day until I die.  We also have the drop down ceilings and we don't have the plastic covers over the fluorescent lights that hang down there.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Yeah, my husband was sitting downstairs watching TV one evening when he looked up to see Princess staring back down at him.  She had climbed up into the ceiling and was wandering around like it was her little loft space!

My cat house is crazy and very much like the little whore house in Texas, it has its own unique smell.  Since my cats now eat wet food, Gonzo can clear a room with his farts.  I set up the empty boxes from Amazon for Princess, because she loves to play in them.  They are 8 years old and I hope they will be around for at least another 10.  I love my kitties and if you have animals, you know the special place they hold in your hearts.  Being owned by a cat can be rewarding in its own way, even if they seem to condescend to put up with you.

My Bear, with his puppy cut last year.
Do you have any animals in your home?  We also have a big, slobbery dog named Bear.  He's 10 and I taught him a new trick today.  Tell me about yours and their names.  I love seeing pictures of other animals and their hoomans, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday 5: Frustrations of a Step

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking this is going to be your typical stepmother rant about their stepkids.  I want to assure you that is not the case.  Unlike what you may read every day in the confessionals on Scary Mommy, not every stepchild, stepparent relationship is full of enmity.

In fact, I would be willing to venture a guess that most people who end up as stepparents get along very well with their stepchildren.  For some reason though, we only ever hear the angry ones, perhaps because they are the loudest.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't have valid frustrations in regards to this relationship.  I do.  I have a lot of frustrations, but they don't have anything to do with the children.  It's more like what rends my heart with concern and heartache for my children.

Without further ado, my list of the top 5 frustrations stepparents face with their stepchildren.  (Okay, my perceived top 5.

Getting our geek on at the Houston Space Center, 2013
5.  I think most stepparents will willingly admit that the frustration they feel over the time they get with said stepkids is a frustration that occurs more often than not.  If we are the non-custodial parents, we have to plan months ahead of time for any vacations we may take with our children.  It never feels like enough.  I will never be able to spend enough time with my kids.  Whether we are playing games, going to the park or the library, or talking with them about their week(s), when it's time to take them back to their mothers', it hurts our hearts to see them go.  When my husband and I first started dating, his daughter was only 9 months old.  It has never gotten easier to give hugs and let go.  My stepson didn't become fully part of our lives until he was nearly 8.  (Long story short, his Mom lived in Cali for the first 7 1/2 years of his life and my husband couldn't move there, because he had his daughter here.)  We missed SO MUCH TIME with him.  When our interactions with our children are limited to Tuesday evenings and every other weekend, we miss out on a lot of fun stuff in between.  Which leads to another frustration...

Catching snowflakes at Grandma and Grandpa's
4.  Not all of us get to be the parents that greet our children every day after school.  I've never gotten to watch my children get on or off the school bus.  I've rarely gotten to help with their homework.  I've rarely gotten to go to their schools and help out.  The schools oftentimes don't even contact us when a major event is coming up and they need school snacks.  We are the 'other' parents.  We are the ones that they only have to contact when a bad behavior occurs.  Even then, we aren't the first ones to know.  It's very frustrating to be treated like an afterthought.  We love our children and would LOVE to be more involved, but it's difficult when I feel like I may be stepping on the mothers' toes.  I'm not trying to show off, I just want to show up!

3.  One of my biggest frustrations is the assumption that I'm not a 'real parent'.  I know many stepparents feel this way.  The first time I showed up with my husband to his son's parent-teacher conference, my stepson's mother was livid.  She proceeded to tell my husband later that I wasn't a 'real' parent, so what was I doing there?  Thankfully, my husband nipped that s*%$ in the bud and told her that I would be there, no matter what, whether she liked it or not.  When she still argued, he suggested setting up separate appointments.  Suddenly, she was totally willing to allow me there.  BUT, I better keep my mouth shut.  Even though I work in the state's social services, I was not allowed to voice an opinion on my stepson's welfare.  (If you know me, you know that didn't stop me!)  Stepparents are just as real as those who helped create those children.  And really, is it so BAD to want extra support for your children?  Why would you WANT your child's stepparent to have nothing to do with them?  Can you imagine the damage THAT would cause?

I bet several of my friends recognize this fountain!

2.  A frustrating thing for many parents and stepparents, is when the children express their desire to live with the other parent.  We went through this a few years ago with my stepdaughter.  She confided in me that she would love to live with her Dad and I, but she didn't want to leave her mother all alone.  Her mother was having a tough time, because my stepdaughter's grandmother was threatening to take her mother's eldest child away from her if she kept living with her then-boyfriend.  The grandmother had guardianship, because her mother had him when she was 16 and she gave her guardianship back then.  My stepdaughter was so afraid that her mother would be all alone.  Rick and I had several very deep conversations about this.  We desperately wanted her in our home.  Our home is not run down, she has her own room here, we have better schools near us, and well, we love her and would have loved to have her.  I told him though, that I thought it best if we allow her to guide us to a decision.  I knew how much it weighed on her heart to give voice to her fears.  I couldn't allow her to feel like she was abandoning her mother, so she stayed.  She still lives there, but our door is always open.  If you have loved a child, any child, you know how gut-wrenching of a decision that was.

1.  The number one frustration I have as a stepparent is wondering about the future for my children.  Unfortunately, the child support system in this country is severely broken.  They penalize the non-custodial parents to the point that they can't even save for their children.  My husband pays so much in child support that if it wasn't for my paycheck, he'd probably be living in his old dinky 900-square foot, 2-bedroom home.  The calculations they use are fairly ridiculous.  I worry often about whether the mothers are saving for their children's college.  We can't.  We can't even pay into my husband's retirement account.  I often think about how these children will afford college and beyond.  We have savings accounts for them, but the only thing that goes into it is a part of their allowances right now.  I also worry about the negative influences they may be around in the other homes.  Nothing inherently bad, but sometimes the bad habits are recognizable.  My stepchildren both have mothers that weren't very involved in their school at all.  Neither one of them graduated from a traditional 4-year college and neither of them really played sports or were in band, or any of that.  My stepdaughter has already quit softball, volleyball, and band.  All done surreptitiously, because she knew we would be upset.  Her mother was totally fine with it.  Just this past Sunday, I put her on blast for her choices.  I'm so worried that with no motivation or drive to do extracurricular activities, she will fail to get any decent scholarships.
South Carolina, 2014

Mainly, I worry about how our relationship will change as they grow, get into high school, graduate, and go on to their own families.  Have we done enough to show them we love them unconditionally?  Have we left enough of an impact that they will come back to visit us?  It's scary.  I used to joke that I was just waiting for them to say, "I hate you!  You're not my mother!"  Now that they are 13, that day seems to be inching ever closer.  I only hope that they know we've only had their best interests at heart.  I love those kids so much and am so proud of them.  I hope they realize that.

Until we know for sure, we'll just keep loving them and spoiling them with our time, because if I've learned one thing through all these frustrating moments of being a stepparent, it's that you can never spoil a child with love and time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Midway Point

So, here I am with an update.  If you recall, in this post, I mentioned that I would be updating you on my fiscal fast in August.  Well, here we are at the midway point.  As a refresher, I first did this experiment in 2013.  All the details for that year's fiscal fast are here and here.

This year was a bit different.  Instead of participating in a CSA, we planted our own garden.  We grew zucchini and yellow squash, green onions, bush beans, sugar snap peas, green bell peppers, pickling cucumbers, and 3 kinds of tomatoes.  The tomatoes were romas, a varietal called mortgage lifters, and cherry tomatoes. We also did not get a meat bundle from the locker ahead of time, as we already had some left in our deep freeze from a while ago and I wanted to try to use up as much stuff as possible.  Finally, as I stated 2 years ago, we have kids, but they are my stepkids, whose primary residency is with their mothers, so we don't have to directly pay for school or clothes or whatnot, because of the child support my husband pays monthly.

Okay, so once again I premade a bunch of bierocks.  This year I made up 3 batches of them, which WOULD be 36 overall.  I say would, because my husband is the one who fills and crimps the bierocks and well, he likes them to be stuffed.  So, instead of 36 bierocks, we got 26 bierocks and 10 homemade hot pockets, made with pepperoni slices and mozzarella.  My husband has already pretty much demolished them.

This year I also went to the store and stocked up on necessities, as well as planning a bit of stuff for meals because what we had in our freezer would probably not have been enough for the entire month.  I got paid on July 31st, so I used my normal food budget for two weeks ($350) and bought cat litter, dog food, and toilet paper at Target.  I ordered my cat food from Amazon as well as coffee, because I have a Senseo pod coffee maker and you can only get those online.  I have a diabetic cat, so I researched the lowest carb food for cats and crossmatched that with least expensive and came up with the 9 Lives Seafood and Poultry Favorites.  I haven't been able to find it at any store I normally shop at, so I order it off of Amazon.

Then, I hit the grocery store.  I wrote down everything I remember, so here it is:

pork loin chops (pack of 4)
9 lbs. of ground beef
a package of chicken tenderloins (much less expensive than chicken breasts)
2 packages of bratwursts
2 1-lb. packages of breakfast sausage
3 1-lb.  packages of sweet Italian sausage (for bulk pasta sauce)
2 packages of unsalted butter
2 packages of cream cheese
1 small carton of whipping cream
2 cartons of unsweetened almond milk (you can't even taste the difference in cereal, gravy, or pretty much anything and BONUS, it lasts over a month!)
1 16-oz. carton of sour cream
1 large package of unbleached white flour
1 large package of whole wheat flour
1 medium package of sugar
butter spray (my husband uses this on the grill a lot)
large container of white vinegar
2 cans of evaporated milk
1 loaf of wheat bread
1 package of tortillas
4 6-packs of Dr. Pepper (my husband's lunch drink)
1 4-cup bag EACH of mozzarella, quesadilla mix, and cheddar cheese
2 rolls of biscuits (for homemade donuts, as a treat)
4 4-packs of fruit cups (peaches and pears, for my work lunches)
mustard (we were out)
a bag of medium-grain white rice
2 bags of pretzels (for lunches)
2 bags of potato chips
4 15-oz. cans of tomato sauce (for bulk pasta sauce)
4 6-oz. cans of tomato paste (for bulk pasta sauce)
2 6-oz. cans of mushrooms (we use them in everything from quiche to sloppy joes)
3 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (for bulk pasta sauce, but our tomatoes were so abundant, we didn't use them)
a package of penne, a package of spaghetti, and a package of lasagna noodles

The purpose of the fiscal fast is to save money quickly, by not spending what you would normally spend on food, gas, entertainment, clothing, etc.  However, you still budget your normal monthly bills, such as your mortgage, phone, gas, etc.  We were able to get by on the extra gas money we hadn't used from previous paychecks.  This is because we use a modified envelope system, much like Dave Ramsey's money system.

So, at the midway point, we are doing well.  My parents came in for a visit this last Saturday, so we actually got to eat at a restaurant for the first time in 2 weeks, because they are very generous people.  We ran out of bread last week, so on Sunday, I made up the bulk pasta sauce (it made almost 2 gallons!), a loaf of wheat bread (my last fiscal fast I linked to the recipe, called Whole Wheat wonderfulness), 2 loaves of zucchini bread (for breakfasts this week), and a large batch of cucumbers and onions in vinegar and sugar.

We have relied on the bierocks to get us through on those days we want a quick meal without much hassle.  I have also found some great recipes tailored to what I have in my pantry and freezer.  I made a pasta dish with white sauce last week.  It only included the sauce, so I added in all kinds of veggies from our garden.

We have plenty of entertainment, too.  Usually we end up playing board games (we have a multitude) or watching TV.  Occasionally, we go to the park or hang out at friends' houses.  We have books coming out our ears (mainly due to the collection we keep on hand for our Little Free Library) and oftentimes will hang out and do some gardening or writing or, as in the case of my husband, listening to podcasts.
This could be you, but perhaps without the lame business attire.

We have made it more than halfway through the fiscal fast, but I know the more difficult time is ahead of us.  The great thing is the real life positive of this fast.  We have already saved $1200.  I anticipate saving at least $800 more!

So, if any of you have ideas for some hodgepodge casseroles for me, I am willing to give them a try.  I also hope this has encouraged some of you to try a fiscal fast of your own.  Finally, if you have ever done anything similar, please let me know.  I'd love to hear variations on this idea.  It's a great time to save lots of money, which is always handy when Christmas is just a few months away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Life in the Middle

As you may have heard, today is National Middle Child Day here in the United States.  This quasi-holiday was established in the 1980s by one Elizabeth Walker, who wanted a day for middle children because she thought that children in the middle of families often felt left out.  I feel like Elizabeth Walker may have been a kindred spirit.

As many of you may know, I am a middle child.  I have 6 brothers and sisters and I am actually number 4 in the birth order, making me smack dab in the middle of the middles.  I think that I am pretty classically middle child, though some may argue that since I was the baby for 5 years before my first younger brother came along, that it may somehow skew the results.

I have a theory about middle children.  I believe they are typically the hardest, most trying of the bunch, but they also can be the most faithful and loving as well.  Time and time again, I have heard from friends who talk about how they have this one child that infuriates them on a daily basis.  The child doesn't want to listen, they act out, they may throw temper tantrums, but they are also silly, quirky even.  They are typically the avant garde dressers, the ones who throw their passion into a source of creativity, and the ones who work very hard to be good at something!  Nearly every single friend who describes that child, when asked which child it is, will tell me it's their middle child.

It's often thought that middle children act out because they don't get enough attention.  The eldest is typically the straight A, always-do-right kid.  The baby is the oh-isn't-(s)he-cute, can-do-no-wrong child.  The middle child, or middle children, usually have to fight to be acknowledged.  There are even studies that show that middle children are typically NEVER the 'favorite' child in a household.

However, what middle children may lack in attention from their parents, they more than make up for in EXCESS EMOTION and perhaps a wee bit of MELODRAMA.  'Tis true.  Middle children are a bit more hypersensitive than most, I would wager.  I certainly was and sometimes am.  I am not a drama llama anymore, mind you, but I may have sobbed over missing a church meeting last week when it slipped my mind.  (I did.)  I also may tear up over sappy commercials.  (I do.)

Life in the middle was sometimes overwhelming and exhausting, but I got a bit of the best of both worlds.  I wasn't the first one to test the limits.  *cough* older sister *cough*  I learned how to read when I was 4 (my older siblings taught me).  I was never mistaken for an older sibling at school, because I was extraordinarily unique (i.e. WEIRD, really UNCOOL and WEIRD, with WEIRD clothes).  I also never had to worry about people treating me like a little kid even when I got older, because I learned to be fiercely independent.

First borns may have the brains and babies may have the unrestrained limits, but we middle kids don't have it so bad...we have a national holiday!  Middle children unite!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Spaghetti Tuesday on a Wednesday!

I'm sure you guys are getting used to me failing to write up my Tuesday 5s, right?  I know, I know, I'm falling behind.  I actually had a really good reason for it being late THIS time.  I was gone all day for work, then I took my stepdaughter to a concert.  The One Direction concert, to be exact.  How was it?  Well, that's the topic of this week's random 5, so read on...

1.  It was hot as balls last night and the concert was at an outdoor stadium.  Yeah, sitting in the sun for an hour before the opening act, then an additional hour after the opening act, only served to make us sweaty messes by the end of the evening.  Added to that, my legs and feet swell in the heat.  My toes looked like Vienna sausages and I had cankles even Hillary Clinton could make fun of!  

2.  I guess it's a thing that at every 1D (we're that close now, obvs) concert, they read the signs that people bring.  Well, all I can say is this:  Some parents didn't do a very good job at screening the things their children were writing on the signs.  LOTS of inappropriate signs that my 13-year old shook her head in disgust at were there last night, making pretty blatant references to sex and genitalia.  Thankfully, the guys looked right over those and only commented on the ones that were funny or sincere.  My SD also said that she heard Louis and Liam on their mikes during that part and even they were appalled at the crassness of some of the fans.

3.  Flip side was some great FUNNY signs, including one that said she loved the band more than Netflix.  In this day and age, that's devotion!  There were also a lot of "MARRY ME" signs.  Harry was the main one working the crowd whenever the band took a little break.  He was actually very funny, working the crowd and commenting on the signs.  

4.  The concert was actually very well done, once the band got started and I actually had heard several of the songs.  However, the shrieking...oh my, the shrieking!  I forgot my earplugs, so I endured quite a bit of it assaulting my ears.  There were girls a couple rows in front of us who were screaming and crying.  I got to live a little bit of my teenage years in that moment, because I never got to see any of my favorite bands in concert as a teen. Next time I will remember earplugs though.  Those girls can hit some high pitches.

5.  The best part?  My stepdaughter's face whenever they first walked out on stage and each subsequent time they featured Niall.  He's her favorite.  She was grinning ear to ear practically the entire concert.  Sweat and heat didn't faze her and neither did waiting so long for them to come on stage.  All that mattered was the moment she giddily clutched her new 1D tour shirt, grinned, and thanked me.  This was her first concert and as much as she enjoyed it, I'm sure it won't be her last.  As a fan of all kinds of music and especially loving going to concerts, I can't wait!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday Random 5: Bierocks, Board Games, and Brownies, oh my!

It has been a multitude of weeks since I last posted a Tuesday 5 list.  I have been overwhelmed with summer time activities.  We have hosted a 4th of July BBQ, been gardening, cleaning house, prepping for August's fiscal fast (you'll read more about that in another post soon), reading, etc.  So, I finally decided to prioritize my blog again.  Today's Tuesday 5 is a hodgepodge of thoughts and happenings.  What have you been up to this summer?

1)  It is actually very liberating to unfriend people on Facebook.  I try not to do it much, because I try not to add individuals that I don't know fairly well, but eventually I find that I'm not getting much out of our connection and I have to cut those ties.  I also HATE advertising that I'm doing it, because it seems like such a "Look at me!" sort of statement.  I know, I know, I'm blogging about it now.  *sigh*  It's only because I want to mention how great it is to finally let go of baggage that was hurting your heart.  True friendship is more than just meaningless platitudes.  Don't friend me on Facebook or accept my friendship on Facebook if you don't want to be friends with me in real life.  Also, friendship is actions AND words.  I don't care if we haven't seen each other for years, I can still feel loved and cared for by people in the way they treat me when they do get to see me and talk with me.  I hope those people feel the same.  However, there are some individuals that love to say they have all these friends, but never put those supposed feelings into action.  I guess what really made me unfriend people this time was talking with a good guy friend in February.  I was telling him what I felt about how a group of people was treating my husband and I.  Specifically me, because well, EVERYONE loves my husband and I'm a lot tougher to like.  I know this.  I have accepted this.  It doesn't always make it less painful, but it is something I've come to terms with about myself.  Anyhow, I was telling him about all of the things that they had done, outwardly and covertly, whether it was intentional or not and he pretty much asked me why I was still friends with them.  I couldn't answer that coherently.  It stuck in my mind and my heart and I ruminated over it for weeks and months.  After a recent conversation with one of the individuals I thought was a friend and subsequent actions after that conversation, I realized I really didn't know why I was still hanging on to something they didn't care about one way or the other.  So, I let go.  You know what's really funny, too.  I unfriended this bunch a week ago and haven't heard a peep from them since.  You will know your friends by their actions and well, now I know.  It still hurts, don't get me wrong, but when it's time to let go and you finally find that courage, it is truly liberating.

Pluto?  Nope, the delicious dough!
2)  I made a bunch of frozen bierocks this past Saturday.  My intention is to prep for August and have quick and easy meals if we didn't feel like cooking.  So, I made up enough dough for 3 dozen bierocks and what I thought was enough filling for 3 dozen bierocks.  My husband and I do this in tandem.  I get the dough flattened into a circle and he does the filling and crimping.  Needless to say, the filling only made about 26 bierocks.  What to do with the other 10 lumps of dough?  Well, Rick ran to the store and picked up mozzarella and pepperoni and we made 10 "hot pockets" out of those.  I'm excited to thaw them and try them in August!  I baked half of the bierocks and all the hot pockets fully and half the bierocks I only baked halfway.  I hope this means that the ones we'll have time to bake the rest of the way will be tastier.  We'll microwave the others, more than likely, with a slightly damp paper towel around them.  The dough does turn a bit chewier, but it's still pretty tasty for a quick homemade meal.

Finished product!  Yum!
3)  I have a Little Free Library in my yard.  You can find more information about that at Little Free  So, I keep a pen in there with a notebook for people to write questions and comments.  The first one was removed about a month or so into us having it.  I finally replaced it a couple weeks ago and it was gone again in a matter of a day or two.  I had it affixed by twine to the notebook and put a little tape around it just to keep it from sliding around.  Sure enough, they took off the tape and took the pen.  I do not understand this behavior.  Why does anyone want to take a generic 39 cent pen?  I'll put another one out there eventually.  I don't care if they need a pen, but why take it from a community resource like that?  Just come up to our door and ask for pens.  Heck, I'll go buy you several packs of them!  *smh*  Kids these days.

4)  As some of you know, Rick's Dad passed away last May of 2014.  His stepmother had to move into town from the farm, as she didn't care to live on her own in the middle of nowhere.  When we helped move some of her things, Rick ended up inheriting an old game from the 70s & 80s called "The Farming Game".  It's set up very similarly to Monopoly, but instead of buying properties, you purchase acreage for grain, hay, and orchards, as well as livestock, pasture land, and equipment.  As you get to certain areas of the board, you enter harvest season for the different types of acreage.  You then roll a die to determine how much income you netted off that harvest and what operating expenses you have to purchase are determined by drawing a card.  It is a lot of fun.  I had never heard of it before, but we played it the very next weekend with the kids.  It entertained us for FOUR hours.  Yep.  4!  I've been itching to play it again.  What are your favorite board games?

5)  Finally to the end, sorry it took so long.  I guess since I haven't posted in two months, I finally had a few interesting things to say!  So, for number 5, I'm gonna do you a solid.  Try this recipe soon.  It's for zucchini brownies and it is GOOD.  No milk.  No eggs.  Delicious!  The batter can be dry, but the zucchini adds moisture.  I have eaten several of them already!  Mmmmm.   Fudgy Zucchini Brownies (Egg, Nut & Lactose-Free)  ENJOY!

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hot Summer Nights

The title of this post may embellish upon the story I am about to tell.  However, I believe that we can all relive some memories here, both based upon the title and the story I set forth today.

No, it's not about a Grease marathon, or a little Jack & Diane running off behind the shade trees.  It is more similar to "This one time, at band camp..." but with a LOT more naivete and awkwardness and a LOT less graphic nudity and vulgarity.  I present to you, the story of my first kiss.

This one time, at 4-H camp (hey, I told you it was similar, but this is where those similarities END), when I was 12 or 13 years old (I really don't remember how old I was, so for the purposes of this tale, I am 13), I met a boy.  Actually, more like a boy showed interest in me.  

Okay, for those of you unfamiliar with 4-H, it's an organization that is dedicated to helping teach children hobbies and life skills, that features a lot of agriculture and arts and crafts.  Most counties have at least one 4-H club in my state, if not several, and there's always a county fair and state fair where people enter their homemade arts, crafts, photography, clothing, cows, goats, and pigs they've raised, even chicken, geese, and bunnies.  I myself, being a small town girl, and not a farm girl, usually entered stuff in baking, cross stitch, photography, and ceramics.

Anyhoo, they had a week-long camp each summer that you could attend at a ranch that had a bunch of dormitory style buildings and opportunities to swim, walk trails, canoe, ride horses, etc.  They also had a lot of different speakers and demonstrations, nightly bonfires, and of course, THE DANCE.  

The dance was always one of the last nights that we were at camp and it was kind of a big deal if you actually went with someone.  Of course, I never did, because at the age of 13, I was taller than pretty much every boy, loud, and probably more than a little obnoxious.  I of course had crushes on boys, but I never actually had any of them show interest in me.  (You know, due to the height, weight, loudness and obnoxiousness heretofore mentioned.)  

Back to the summer camp.  So, I'm not sure when I first met this boy at camp, but I know that he had talked with me before and kind of made it known that he maybe sorta liked me, I guess.  Anyhow, the day before the dance, I was at an activity making ice cream and he told one of my friends that he wanted to talk with me.  Oooooooh, interesting!  So, we of course had a little chat in which he asked me to the dance.  OooOOOOooooOOOooooh.  (That's supposed to be the girly noises in the live studio audiences when Zack and Kelly kiss.)  I remember being so EXCITED.  OMGeeeee, a guy actually LIKED me?!  That was unheard of.

The dance came and Keith (last name started with an 'H' I think) walked me to the dance.  We danced a few times, we chatted and then, he asked me to go on a walk.  I was nervous and my palms were sweating.  I was practically mute (for once), but nodded my head.  

He took my hand.  (13 year old me was kvelling.  Not Jewish, but kvelling nonetheless.)  We walked through the moonlight and he ushered me to a little overlook where we sat down on a bench.  (Imagine like moonlit Paris, but slightly muddy, LOTS of trees, and probably owls, too.  Since I'm already imagining, let me just say I do not recall the EXACT spot where the kiss took place, but I'm sure it was quiet and I know that no one else was around.)

This is me in the 80s.  Well, not me, it's Jennifer Capriati,
but I think we've all learned a lesson here.
We chatted and my stomach churned.  My good Christian upbringing was rearing its head and I was confused as to what I should do if he tried to kiss me.  It's probably not good to kiss a boy I'm never going to see again, right?  But wow, I've never been kissed before.  Oh goodness, my stomach just kept churning and the already pale moonlight probably struck my 13-year old chalk white face and fem-mullet (thanks Mom!) and made it even paler.  

Then, it happened!  He leaned in for the kiss.  Instead of recoiling, I leaned forward too, very awkwardly trying to figure out how this worked.  I mean, I had seen Dirty Dancing by that point, but you know, he was no Johnny Castle, and I sure as hell wasn't Frances Houseman!  Closer, ever closer, until our lips locked.  My 13-year old mind exploded in fireworks and I was euphoric.  (Not really, but I'm sure I was not thinking clearly.) Wait, wait a second here, hold up!  Ew!  Gross, he slipped his tongue in my mouth?!  Well, I guess I should go with the flow.  

We slobbered on each other for a few more seconds, before we stopped and I, shaking, got up and practically ran away, back to my dorm. building.  I was equal parts euphoric and sick to my stomach.  I couldn't believe that my first kiss was a French kiss.  I couldn't look at the poor boy at breakfast the next morning, because I was so horrified at myself.  I remember telling my friends about it and actually crying, because I was so upset.  I was mad that I had done it. embarrassed that I apparently didn't know how to do it properly and I regretted it because it was not what it was cracked up to be.  After camp was over, I was also kinda happy because I'd finally been kissed, but I still didn't feel great about it.

I think I was really upset, because I just kissed him, even though I barely knew him and then was disappointed that the kiss wasn't actually pleasant, in any regard.  But really, what could I have expected, at that age?  I also had a lot of Catholic guilt, because I thought I was being a little hussy. Ah, the naivete of youth!

Needless to say, my friends didn't let me live it down for several years.  At softball, after we got home from camp, my whole team started calling me Frenchy.  (So, I guess it is kinda similar to Grease, too.)  

My kissing has shown marked improvement in the interim 24 years.  At least, I think so.  However, I do have to say that I'm still not super fond of "Frenching".  I think I may be scarred for life!  Ha.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tuesday 5: Body Positive Edition

I have been feeling rather dumpy lately. My legs hurt, I have gained back some weight, I hadn't worked out in 3 weeks. I just plain haven't been feeling it. Today was my first day back at the gym in 3 weeks and it took everything in me to pull into that parking lot, change clothes, fill up my water  bottle, and start my workout.  The reason for my absence?  Well, I was sick for a week, my shoulder hurt the next week, and the week after that was just laziness. I felt every bit of it today, too. That was one of my most difficult workouts,  mentally and physically.

So, in the interest of keeping myself going, here are 5 things I love about myself no matter my weight!

1.  My Eyes.  I think that I have very pretty eyes.  I have long eyelashes and my eyebrows are even and filled out.  They are thinning a bit, as everyone's does as you age, but not a lot.  They are arched perfectly over my eye.  I think my eyes are expressive, too.  You can usually see a lot within them.  

2.  I am tall.  I am 5'10" and I love being this height.  I can reach pretty much anything I may need from higher shelves and I carry my weight well.  Plus, it comes in handy if you are feeling confident, because sometimes with my height and weight, I intimidate people.  I'm not saying I like intimidating everyone, but it definitely has its perks in certain situations.  I can help people at the grocery store, too.  My favorite part of being tall is being super tall in high heels.  I'm lucky my husband is 6'2", so even in heels, he's still usually taller than I am.  

3.  I have great hair.  It's naturally wavy, thick, and glossy.  I rarely use product in my hair and I don't often color it or use heat on it.  That keeps it looking very shiny and healthy.  It's wavy enough that I can diffuse it into curls or straighten it fairly easily.  I just got a bunch of blonde highlights in it and chopped it for the summer and it looks great!  I also look good with longer hair, though I don't keep it long very much anymore.  I am definitely getting some grays, but they actually blend in pretty well.  

4.  I have a lot of scars that remind me that I'm a survivor.  I have scars from open and closed heart surgeries, my pacemaker surgery, and scars where they put tubes in my stomach as a baby.  I have scars on my hands from burns and cuts and scars from a bike wreck when I was in 5th grade.  They define me in a way that nothing else can.  They show that I have lived and been hurt and gotten up and dusted myself off and kept going.  As a child, I was asked a lot about my zipper on my chest and I never remember feeling bad about it.  I was proud.  It made me different.  It made me feel strong.

5.  I like my brain.  There are a lot of things about it that drive me crazy, like its need to obsess over little things and the endless counting of ALL THE THINGS, but it stores quite a bit of information.  My brothers tease me that I'm only 'trivia smart' and while I agree that I know a lot of useless knowledge, I know that I'm not stupid.  I pick directions and hobbies up very quickly.  Once you show me something, I don't usually have to ask how to do it again.  I have phone numbers stored in my brain from YEARS ago.  (I still know all my good friends' phone numbers from when we were kids as well as my library card number from my hometown library.)  I still know Mark Antony's soliloquy from Julius Caesar and I have a vast inventory of 90s songs, titles and artists, in my brain.  I have pretty good critical thinking skills and great short-term memory.  (That was helpful in high school for a lot of tests in which I studied 20 minutes ahead of time and passed the test with flying colors.)  My brain is big and beautiful, just like me.
I'm sure this random 5 was boring to a lot of you and may seem braggy, but I truly believe positive self-talk is crucial in making things happen.  I don't like feeling down and dumpy and with my anxiety, sometimes I feel like I have no choice.  Today, though?  Today I have a choice and my big, beautiful brain is telling me that I have a lot of good things going on.  I will chip away at the weight gain, little by little, and I will conquer more major steps in my journey.  I hope all of you take the time to be body positive today, too.  There's lots to love about all of us, so come on, tell me your best feature below!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Random 5: Supper Time

1. Lasagna and garlic bread for supper with homemade meat sauce. I let it cook for an hour, not an hour and a half like the recipe said, because otherwise,  we wouldn't be eating until after 7! OMG on the sauce, though. New recipe and it is ridiculous! So yummy! The secret? Sweet Italian sausage and ground beef!

2. Due to the sauce and complexity of the recipe, I did not make real garlic bread. Womp. Womp. The Texas Toast 5 cheese stuff is a decent substitute though.

3. I made polenta for the first time last week. It was super easy! It was also really good and has a texture similar to grits, which I love! I will definitely make it more often now.

4.  I just checked on the lasagna and bread. (They are still in the oven.) I snuck another spoonful of leftover sauce. That's some life-changing sauce!

5. I think it's a perfect night for lasagna.  It is gray and rainy here. What's your favorite meal to make on a rainy Spring night?

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Random 5: Gardening Edition

Do you know what I like about gardening?  Getting dirty.  I love coming inside and having mud-caked shoes and feet, dirt under my nails and my outfit covered in dirt.  Gardening is elemental and practically a spiritual exercise.  With that thought, here is my garden edition of the random 5!

1.  I planted a butterfly garden tonight...all by myself.  Meaning that I dug the hole, 4 ft. long by 1 1/2 ft. wide, placed all the individual plants and backfilled and watered it.  We are doing what we can to help save the monarchs.  They apparently only lay their larvae on milkweed, so we have some red milkweed.  I paired it with ornamental grass on either side and some gaura in the middle.  It looks great, but my back is sooooore.

2.  Things are blooming!  My mandevilla is going strong and my Kansas peonies are blooming.  They are a beautiful dark fuchsia and smell great.

3.  If you have a dog, you probably already know this, but BEWARE the land mines!  Ugh.  They are everywhere and stink so badly.  I love my dog, but his poop is a different story.

4.  Buying from an actual nursery is expensive, but usually well worth the time and money!  Our local nursery was great about recommending plants to pair together in containers and had so much variety of everything.  You can't find quite the same stuff at Home Depot or Lowe's garden centers.  You also have a hard time finding help at those least I do!  Bonus:  My nursery loaded pretty much everything for me!

5.  One of the best feelings in the world is wiping off your brow, leaning on the shovel handle, popping the tab on a fresh beer, and surveying your handiwork.  It's a delight to know that I can help things grow through some hard work and great plant choices.

Now that I'm done with the butterfly garden, I have my sight set on some cascading plants to fill the trough my husband built and hung on the inside of the fence next to our new patio.  Any gardeners out there with colorful and low maintenance selections?

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mom's Day Rant

I hate commercialized holidays.  Okay, maybe hate isn't the right word.  I intensely dislike them with the passion of a thousand burning suns.  Is that more accurate for you?

As you can see, this makes the holidays I do celebrate somewhat limited.  It also makes me feel a little guilty this year, because well, I'm a stepmom and I did get an actual gift for Mother's Day.  It was something I had suggested for just such an occasion to my stepdaughter when we were out shopping one day. 

I resent such a day being corrupted by the odious machinations of a world in which people are practically shoved into a Hallmark store, thrust a dozen roses, and forced into making a reservation for brunch at some chichi place, thereby spending a sum total of half a paycheck in order to make me feel secure in the fact that I am okayish at taking care of two needy teenagers who thankfully haven't yet told me they hate me and I'm not their mother.  

I loathe to celebrate a day in which I am told mothers are the bestest and do the haaaaardest jooooobs in the most gratingly whiny voice, then spend the next 5 minutes berating their deadbeat husbands and complaining they only got a stupid card.  

My Mom, sister, and I.  I'm in front, sis is in the back.
Mom's a hottie, yo.
I am not wont to participate in a day in which fathers blog about how much their wives are worth to make sure they get half the internet to praise them for FINALLY being the ONE man to understaaaaaaand us.  I am not a fan of the needlessly endless list of hats mothers wear that people tout to somehow absolve themselves from any guilt over not really wanting to have kids.  Or, I don't know, maybe they do it because they really feel like mothers are that unacknowledged, even though it seems like this time of year we are inundated with the exact opposite of that?  Sorry, but throwing together PB& J doesn't make you a chef any more than gluing feathers to your butt makes you a bird.  Likewise with someone saying they are a nurse when all they did was spray some Bactine and slap on a bandage.  

I'm not discounting that mothers have difficult jobs.  My Mom raised 7 of us, all hardheaded, Type A personality children.  She and my Dad were and are, great parents.  My Mom is a saint for the times she held back a few choice words about her dumbass kids and their dumbass decisions.  She is also admired and respected for the times she let loose and let us have it as well.  My Mom makes the best pot roast (like candy), loves bargains, and has the WEIRDEST answers in Scattergories.  I won't even play the game unless she and my brother Eric are both playing, because they have some crazypants thoughts!

My siblings and I constantly refer to her 'Momisms' because well, how do I say this politely Mom?  She is smart, but sometimes tends to the flighty and forgets obvious things.  Love you Mom!  

My Mom is a great one and I am so thankful for her, so for a day like tomorrow, I will take the time to acknowledge that my Mom is pretty awesome.

I will never profess to be the hardest working or best at mothering.  I came upon this fate by marriage.  I have even heard people say that I am not really a mother, because I didn't have a kid myself, I just have stepkids.  To them I say, F*&@ off!  Mothers aren't magically nurturing because they squeezed out a kid.  Mothers are made, through hard work, sacrifice, lots and lots of alcohol, crying, prayers, and nightmares.  I'm not a mother because I didn't birth the two humans who take up space at our table and take half the money.  I'm a mother because I stepped in, stepped up, and gave a shit.  

I don't need roses or a card or brunch.  I don't need no stinkin' badges or medals.  I do however, need support, and lots of it.  I need support from my Mom, my sisters, my friends, my husband, and my God, because like every other 'real' mom, I need help to raise these suckers to be the best dang kiddos they can be!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has ever stepped in, stepped up, and given a shit!  I don't care if you are foster mothers, single women, mentors, adoptive mothers, mothers who have lost their children, stepmoms, or 'real' moms.  You. CARED.  And for THAT, this day was made.

Hallelujah!  Holy Shit!  Where's the Tylenol?