Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.





Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in Review

Since next year is the end of the world, I thought I might take some time to revisit this past, last year.

It was a hot/cold year for us.  Overall, I would have to say a good year- we're all here at the end, gainfully employed in careers we love, kids are doing well.  If you dissect it, piece by piece, it looks bad on paper.

The first six months sucked at my work.  I could not, for the life of me, find someone who would show up on time and work.  I am not a micro-manager.  People always say they hate when they are micromanaged, however, I have learned that some people never grow up and need constant monitoring.  I am not willing to do it.  Next, please.  In June, I finally found someone fantastic.  This made for the first six months basically being a blur and the next 5 months playing catch up.  Not a terrific year if you look at "the numbers."  But again, on the flip side, I really enjoyed the year.  I spent more time doing what I loved at the office, streamlined a lot of systems and am very excited about 2012, Armageddon be damned.

My husband had a miserable summer.  His first summer without having to take classes in 10 years and it was filled with my reduction surgery, lice (did I mention in the blog that we had a few run-in's with lice this summer?  If we didn't call for playdates, now you know why), broken bones, sick kids.... not great.  But he loves the classes he teaches, he had some fantastic students, and he works with some wonderful colleagues.  And some not so wonderful colleagues.

And the broken bones.  My poor daughter broke both bones in her lower leg on our first day of vacation.  She spent a month in a wheelchair, another few weeks in a walking cast.  Then for one entire week we were good to go.  Then my son broke his arm.  It truly slowed us down. We used to swim every night in the summer.  Nope.  We used to bike ride every weekend.  Nope.  It's been hard to get back off the couch.  The second my back started feeling better and I was good to go, the broken bones started. 

But again, everything happens for a reason.  We were probably a bit overscheduled.  Between soccer and swimming and dance lessons, there was very little time to hang out.  Because we couldn't do any of it,  we had a lot of good family time together.  Even better, everyone healed and their bones are truly even stronger than before. 

Our summer vacation sorta sucked, but our spring break trip was flawless (except for my issue with the towels-- the hotel ran out of towels- really?).  Shane and I both lost some weight, gained some back, lost a little more and are ending the year a little lighter.  And so the year went.

So if I truly had to sum up, it was a perfectly balanced year.  A little good, a little bad.  Nothing fantastic, nothing horrific.  After the last few years, balanced and even a little boring is okay by me.

I don't know what 2012 holds- perhaps Armageddon, perhaps great fortune, perhaps something life changing or perhaps more of the same. 

While I'm not a resolution setter, I am an optimist.  A new year is like crack for me-- it's the present under the tree Christmas Eve.  The anticipation of what's in the package is often better than the actual gift.

So when the ball drops, or in Vegas when the fireworks go off, I'll be ripping the paper off the new year- anxious to see where it leads and completely content if I simply circle back to where I am today.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays

Uh oh, from all the Facebook updates I've seen, that hideous phrase incites anger in millions.

Yes, Happy Freaking Holidays.

I have been living under a rock somewhere and did not realize that saying this greeting offends my Christian friends.

Oh wait, I'm Christian, I'm not offended....

In fact, I have to say that having someone wish me ANYTHING happy makes me smile.

So what's the big deal about this phrase that irritates people so much?

From what I can gather, people feel that it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ.

How?

Christmas is one day.  And hey, here's a historical fact, Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th.  It's an old pagan holiday that once the Roman emperor decided to "go Christian" for political purposes, he declared was now the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Everyone already had the day off.  Kinda like President's Day and Martin Luther King Day- not Washington, Lincoln, or King's actual birthdays. A date of convenience.

And besides, I think Macy's, Wal-Mart and every other retailer has adequately destroyed the true meaning of Christmas many years ago- not that horrible saying of -- hang on, here I go again "Happy Holidays."  Gives you shivers doesn't it?

When I tell someone "Happy Holidays" (sorry, I can't stop myself) it's for a two reasons.  The first one, I mean it as an all encompassing greeting that covers the time period from Thanksgiving through New Year's.  As in the holiday season. I'm not just wishing you one day of good wishes, I'm giving you an ENTIRE season of yuletide cheer.  And yesterday, Christmas Day, I said Merry Christmas to everyone.  I, however, intend to spend the rest of the week celebrating the wonderful holiday season.  Again, I waited until Thanksgiving to start, so if you're a Christmas Lights Up November 1st person, I'm guessing you're burned out.  I like to pace myself.  (And FYI, the Twelve Days of Christmas are supposed to be celebrated AFTER Christmas, awaiting the arrival of the wise men.)

The second reason I say it, I have friends of many faiths.  No kidding.  I'm crazy like that.  I even have friends who are Hindu.  Wow.  And they are all citizens of my wonderful country.  I think it's what makes my country wonderful.  I love that my country was founded as a place to avoid religious persecution.  You can be yourself here.  That's not the case in a lot of places.  The former Soviet Union, China-- for many years banned religions.  Even they realized they couldn't destroy faith. 

And you know what, with that said, if you want to put a nativity scene on government property, go for it.  Religious freedom allows it- calls for it even.  The separation of church and state doesn't mean the elimination of church from state.  It simply says the doctrine of a faith shouldn't override what's in the best interest of society.  I agree.  There are some crazy religions out there.  Ask people under Taliban rule.  Ask Iranians.  It happens.  My only request is, if someone wants to put up a menorah, you have to be good with that, too.

I also find it ironic that I have never had a Jewish friend or non-Christian friend be remotely offended when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas.  I've even asked if they are put off by my Christmas cards.  Their overwhelming opinion "Um, I'm kinda used to it. No biggie."  But holy crap (literally), if I say "Happy Holidays" some people want to call me a heretic and burn me at the stake.

I never get offended when someone of another faith says a prayer or offers blessings and kindness to me and my family.  I'll take whatever I can get.  I think it's a sign of love and friendship.

So here's the scoop folks, if I happen to say "Happy Holidays" to you it's with the sole purpose of wishing you and your family, regardless of your religion, the same joy and love that my family feels during this time of year, relax.  There is no politically correct undercurrent of me, trying to destroy your faith.  Let's face it, if your faith is that shallow, you should probably work on that.

And the next time someone says something nice, from the heart, that you find offensive, I hope you take the time to get the stick out of your ass and simply say "Thank you."
My children and I in front of the Christmas tree.  We are inadvertently blocking the Nativity-- it is by accident.  Not a statement of protest in my support of people having a Happy Holiday.



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Year of Blogging

A year ago I decided to start blogging.

I never really understood why anyone would want to blog.  The reason I was motivated to start Mama Bean's World was because I started to notice that people's parents were requesting to friend me on Facebook.  People I had never met-- not the parents whose kitchens I hung out in as a kid, but complete strangers.  When I would ask their child "Why does your mom want to be my friend?"  I found out it was because my status updates were being quoted.  Their parent thought I was funny, and hence the friend request.

So I started making my updates a little longer.

Then I thought, hmmmm.... if people find me this entertaining, I might as well start a blog and see how it goes.

I started with about 20 friends who read it.  By the end of the month, it had grown to 75.... now I get about 1,200-1,500 hits a month.  My readers are from all over the world.  Some, I know exactly how they found me, my readers in Malaysia- no idea, but hey, welcome to my world.

I found out that although I often feel alone in my thoughts or stuck in my life, I'm anything but unique.  My stories ring true with many.  My daily frustrations are shared.  My dreams are common.  My politics, well, that might be a different story, but I hope I bring a wider perspective to people who maybe think differently than me.  Or, perhaps, the realization that the US isn't nearly as divided as you might think.

I'm limited on commenting on many things, due to the nature of my job.  The positive impact of that has been that I've really been able to look back and see, over the past year, that I am substantially more than a job title.  My position as a mother, a wife, a citizen, clearly is more important than my business card.  I'm not sure if I appreciated that as much last year.

I started writing this as something fun to do.  I have always wanted to be a writer.  I took a writing class about 8 years ago and the instructor said the best way to improve your writing is to simply write.  Every day.  With free blog space, it's much easier to do.  My hopes, of course, is that my blog goes viral and I can somehow turn it into something more-- but for now, it serves it purpose.  I get to write funny stories about my life, share my opinions and improve my writing.  It's been far more cathartic than I would have thought.  I have records of the silly things that happen to me and my kids will be able to read them and laugh long after I'm gone. Maybe someday Oprah will read it and I'll have my own talk show, but honestly, life is pretty darn good as it is.

People who don't know my kids may question some of my stories.  Trust me- they are as I write them.  They are terrific little philosophers.  They are bright little buggers.  They also love to help me blog.  Sometimes when they do something they tell me "Mom, you HAVE to blog about this."  I love it.  My interview with my son?  He sat on the desk next to me, and I asked him the questions.  They help me edit.  So please don't worry that my new hobby is taking away precious time from my family.  It's not.  As I always say, I don't watch much TV, so I spend that time on Facebook playing Scrabble or blogging.  My kids are fine.  My daughter is snuggled next to me while she gives play by play commentary on my son playing Wii.  My husband appreciates the quiet time when I write.  I had two of my neighbors both comment recently about what a kick they get out of my blogs since they know the kids and often witness our antics first hand.

And my husband has also been a great advocate of my new hobby.  He gives me honest feedback on my blogs- he has his favorites.  I never write anything about him without having him approve it first.  My comment about his Destructo Man Hands is now a common phrase in our household.  He is making me a cappuccino now.  I hope he doesn't break anything.

And as for me, I have loved every minute of it.  One of my favorite moments in the blogosphere was when my friend Julie saw my blog posted on the wall of her friend.  When she asked her friend how she knew me, she didn't.  She had gotten it from a friend of a friend of a friend--- very cool.  It is very strange to be quoted-- I run into people and they tell me they use some of my catch phrases.  It's really fun.

I love that my cousins read my blog.  We haven't done the best job staying in touch over the years and we were all fairly close growing up.  It's nice to see them share and comment on it.  Truly nice.  They are all terrific people and it's fun to see how we still have so much in common.

My most popular blogs are a recent one I wrote in support of gay marriage and the letter that I wrote to my children last year on Mother's Day.  As much as people love the goofy ones where everything in my day falls apart, it's my more thoughtful, political ones that get more traffic.  I find that interesting.  I think my passion about compassion comes through in those.

My favorite blogs are usually about my husband.  I loved the one where I complained about how he breaks everything I own (and to his defense, he says he also breaks everything HE owns-- he just showed me a new shirt he bought that I need to fix because he tore it- like I said I can't make this stuff up) and my all-time favorite is the story about when we signed up for E-Harmony.

I would love to go viral and have 1,000,000 readers, but honestly, I figured 10-20 friends would be all that read it to begin with.  It has exceeded my expectations, but I'm competitive.

But at the end of the day, I did this to have fun, to find my voice and to have some documentation of my existence.  I have achieved all of these goals.

Thank you so much to everyone for reading!  I will keep on writing as long as you keep on reading!

My Awesome Daughter

I had planned on writing a blog about my daughter on her 6th birthday regardless of the past 24 hours.  Yesterday, my facebook status:
Happy 6th Birthday to my very beautiful, funny, smart, outgoing, vivacious, sweet, kind, silly, confident, loving, AMAZING little girl. You are truly my role model.
 Sappy, I know, but the truth.
When I write about my daughter Zoe, I want you to know that I am being completely and totally honest- except about her name.  But truly, she is a pip.  Two of my neighbors told me recently that they can "hear" my kids in my blogs.   I swear I am not creative enough to make up the things they say.
I think what makes my daughter so special is that since birth, she's sparkled.  Not in the "LOOK AT ME!  LOOK AT ME!" way, but in the way that she inherently knows she is terrific.  She was not a pretty newborn- she had the world's largest cheeks, baby acne-- but still she drew people in.  When she was 6 months old, she would make faces in the mirror to crack herself up.  I used to say we lived with a baby Gilda Radner-- her expressions and timing were perfect.
But what really amazes me most about my baby girl and why I really DO want to be her when I grow up, is her quiet confidence.  She is very comfortable being herself.

In pre-school, they have windows to observe.  One day I thought I should drop in and see how she was doing.  She said one little girl was mean because she wouldn't let her hug her.  Zoe is VERY affectionate and touchy.  I am not, so I could see where the girl was coming from.  I asked the mom about it and she laughed and said her daughter was really freaked out by it.  And of course, my baby girl then became obsessed with hugging her.  As I watched through the window, Zoe began her attack, the other little girl said something and Zoe looked like her heart was broken.  It killed me to see her like that.  Then, about 30 seconds later, she started making faces and doing a funny dance.  She got them laughing and the next thing you know, they were all playing together-- no drama.

That was the moment I knew I didn't need to worry about my daughter.  She had found a way to fit in-- her sense of humor.  She was 3 1/2.
I asked her once what made her so happy.  She smiled, but her hand on hip, threw the other hand in the air and said "Me.  I make me happy."  Truer words were never spoken.
She also isn't afraid to ask for what she wants.

When she was 4, we were at Kennywood.  She and her brother were waiting for the kiddie ferris wheel.  Zoe asked if they could ride in the pink car.  If it had been me, green being my favorite color, I would have stood there chanting in my head "I  hope I get the green one.  I hope I get the green one," and if I didn't, I would have solemnly gotten into whatever.  The ride operator said sure, let a few people go in front of her (which she had no problem waiting for what she wanted), and she rode in the pink car.  With my son who is like me and never thought to ask.  



Every time we go somewhere and they give her crayons or a balloon, she always asks for pink or purple.  But the best part- if they don't have it, she doesn't throw a fit, she says thank you and takes what they have. 

Apparently, it's easier to get what you want if you actually ask for it.  And if it doesn't work out, go with it.  Hmmm... interesting concept...
She is a blast to hang out with-- I can take her anywhere.  In fact, the last time she had a temper tantrum was 2 years ago at the pottery place when she learned that they would be putting the worm she had painted into a kiln to fire it.  I can't say I blame her for freaking out. 

My daughter is an original.  She is spunky, yet gracious.  She is confident, yet kind.  She is funny, but not obnoxious.  She is creative, but not flaky.  She is a loyal friend, but also calls a friend out when they are doing something wrong. 
She is everything I could ever dream of her becoming-- and she is 6 years old. 
I feared having a daughter.  I am not a girly girl.  My son and I are a good team.  What I did not count on was how much I would learn from her-- she is magical. I smile more since she's been in my life.  A lot more.

So when you see my posts on Facebook that I want to be my daughter when I grow up, it's because she just did something that I wouldn't have the nerve to do- not at 6, not at 41.
She is my hero and I adore her.
Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Last 24 Hours

Okay, so after my very uplifting blog about my awesome friend Renee, the past 24 hours have left me somewhat exhausted.

The mission work went off without a hitch.  Well organized, great group of people.  Yeah us!

I picked up my daughter and since I hadn't eaten all day and was starving and we are having a girls' week while the boys are off hunting (don't get any ideas-- we have an alarm system...), I thought it would be fun to have rootbeer floats for dinner.

And cheese curds.

Oops.  Apparently, at Grandma's (she watched her while I was off saving the world), she had made cookies, eaten some batter-- had a fantastic day with Grandma.

My daughter is the kid who loves to eat fruit and has been known to turn down ice cream.  She is NOT a junk food kid.

So at 2 am, she barfed.  Twice.  And went back to sleep.

Luckily, she is crashing in my bed while the boys are gone.

I was awakened by the stench.

In my bed.

I woke her up-- happy she hadn't choked.  Started the bath water and began to strip the bed while trying NOT to barf.  If you don't have children and think that there is some sort of magic shield that makes your child's vomit not gag you, you are mistaken.  It's just as gross as if someone on a plane next to you did it.

She was a good sport- hopped right into the bath tub and washed herself up.  I started the washer.

Here's my first gripe- our washer SUCKS.  I think it handles about 3 socks at a time.

My next gripe- we have a GIANT California King bed.  This is what happens when you marry someone 6'5"- your furniture looks like something from up the beanstalk.

Combine the two gripes and you can't just simply throw everything into the washer.

Oh- and it soaked through the mattress pad all the way to the cover.

This equates to 4 separate loads.

And the bedroom is upstairs.  The washer and dryer are downstairs.

And if you've followed my blog, you know I have an old dog Charlie whose body is giving up before his mind.  He also is attached to me.  When I go up or down the stairs, because he no longer can join me, he either a) whines like he's been hit by a car (how dare I desert him) or b) throws himself up or down the stairs in what can only be described as the most painful process I've ever witnessed.  If I say things like "Stay there-- I'll be right back " it makes no difference.  If I say "Shut the hell up- I'm coming right back after I get rid of the pukey sheets!" it also makes no difference.

And of course, as my daughter is bathing, my old dog, who also has, um bowel issues, has taken a dump in the bathroom.

So it's 2:15 am, I have a naked 5 year old in a bathtub, a 14 year old dog whining and crapping, and I'm trying to shove the sheets (after scraping off vomit) into my washer made for Lilliputians.

On a positive note, I realized that I had forgotten to take out the garbage... 

I finally get back upstairs to find that the old STUPID dog has made it halfway down the stairs.  I get to carry him back up and finally clean up his shit (at least it was nice and firm-- sadly that is a bright spot).

Now I'm on to combing out vomit from my daughter's hair.  She is continuing to be a good sport:

"Look, Mommy, it's night time!"

Yes, yes, it is.

I get her all situated, depukified, dressed and off to bed in her room, because my bed is off limits.  We only have 1 mattress cover and 1 mattress pad because we rarely vomit in bed.  The kids all have back up's.  Anyhow, my room smells like vomit, so I Febreze it to death and immediately start sneezing.

The sheets are done, so then I move on to the mattress cover - since I can't do anything until the bottom layer is done.

Charlie, the old dog, of course is whining and starts to roll down the stairs.  AAAHHH.  I get him halfway and take him outside.  He doesn't have to pee. He just wanted some company.

Then I see Dixie, the young healthy dog, tear past us with a doll.

So I chase her.  It's 3 am.

I try to get the doll- back-- I hear my daughter yelling "DIXIE HAS MY DOLL!!!!"-

So now I'm chasing her around the backyard using the verbal skills I acquired in a prior life as a drunken sailor and the dog thinks I want to play.  I'm tired, smell like vomit and really don't have time for this.

I retrieve the doll, tuck my baby back in and then go to start the next load.

Now there is water all over the floor.

The stupid GIANT mattress cover was too much for the washer.

At this point I decided to grab a hard lemonade. I have drank alone exactly one other time in my life.  I went on Facebook to lament.  And people found it funny.

Those great friends I chatted about in my last blog??  Same people who laughed at my misery.

And I realized I had left Charlie downstairs.  Whining.

So halfway through the lemonade,  I decided I am not the type to drink alone, it's 4:30 am (I had to mop up the floor), I trudged back down the stairs to get my moronic old dog who hates to admit that I have to carry him and I decided to crash on the couch.  I think I finally fell asleep around 5:30 or so.

Then my friend Renee called at 8 am to thank me for helping yesterday.  She logically assumed that since I had kids, it was a weekday that I would be awake.  I told her normally that would be a safe assumption...

Once we chatted, I checked out the condition of the washer, figured it was a balance issue (which I could relate to completely) and threw in the last load.

I spent the rest of the morning wrestling with the @((#*&$(*&# mattress cover on the #(*$&#(*$& ginormous bed.  Picture me, exhausted, holding one corner down, then running around to the opposite corner before the last one pops up since I can't reach both sides at once... thank goodness my daughter was sleeping or she would have learned some new language- similar to what my neighbors heard at 3 am.

The good news, I have a coffee maker and I didn't have to go to work. I was able to finish up everything in my jammies and my assistant is doing everything else.

Even better, my daughter just had the Too Much Junk Food flu, was completely fine and kept me laughing all day.  We made cupcakes for her birthday tomorrow.  We saw "Chipwrecked"-- not the best movie to see if you're exhausted-- the shrill Chipmunk voices (and there are fewer people in this one, I think) are like nails on a chalkboard.  But she loved it.  We had a great dinner.  We bought some cool stuff for her "girls night" birthday tomorrow with her best friends.  When we were icing the cupcakes before bed, she licked the bowl.  We had a "sample" one and she stopped halfway through and said "Mommy, I think I had enough with the icing..."

She is now in my bed, with a bucket and a towel next to her.


Wish me luck.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Crazy Friend Renee

I have a crazy friend Renee.

When they first moved to Las Vegas, they were so compelled to do something about the homelessness and poverty that plagued their new home that they drove around and gave out meals from their car.

Then she offered to help with the City Mission.

Before you knew it, she was providing care packages, homemade cookies, etc etc to nearly 1,000 homeless people.

She coordinated with some local businesses, but in general, she did nearly all of it on her own.

HER OWN.

I told you she was crazy.

She has a group of friends from her Bunko group, her husband Dave and her sister Lynette (also a fantastic crazy person) who help.  And she gets me involved from time to time.

This is how she got me to get involved this year:

In November I get this call:

"Hey, I know you're into all this charitable shit, so you're helping me serve dinner to 300 people at the Casa de Luz down behind the Stratosphere.  Okay, here's what I need you to do...."

Did I mention she's from the Bronx?

So since yes, I am into charitable shit, I said sure.  Sorta.  I think I said sure.  To be honest, we were not going to be in town this weekend, but hey, all plans are adjustable, right?

I played a VERY small role in this event.  I cooked a few turkeys, as did many of the other people.  I made some broth.  I bought some dressing and way too much cranberry sauce.  I put out the info to my friends.  Donna made the corn (which turned oddly to be a HUGE hit on the seconds-- many people passed on the first round, only to come back for giant quantities!).  Shana, Tessa, Caroline and Jan all showed up to help.  Kari and her company Retro Bakery, made 300 cupcakes.

Renee did cookie bags.  She made the gravy FROM SCRATCH.  The stuffing, too.  She made these amazing sweet potatoes over the past month with a whiskey sauce.  She made creamy mashed potatoes from scratch.   For a month she's been peeling, mashing, baking, slicing, dicing-- all for a meal for people who were used to potatoes from a box, processed turkey, stuffing from a box-- institutionalized soup kitchen meals.  Not to knock the meals- I appreciate they need to make the most of very little--but everything was HOMEMADE.

Her theory is that just because you're homeless, doesn't mean you need to eat crap.

She also stepped it up a notch and provided table service, rather than the degrading food line.

Even better was watching Renee interact with the people we were there to serve. One gentleman was throwing a fit because he didn't want to wait.  Rather than be put off (I was ready to clock the guy), she put her arm around him and got him a plate. He came back for seconds and then thirds and was an entirely different, gracious man.

It wasn't the food.  It was the kindness.  But I should also point out, the food was insanely good, too.  The woman can cook. 

She also coordinated with the Venetian and Palazzo for the coat drive, the blankets, the toiletry bags... and on and on and on and on.

My favorite line of the day was from the very skinny man who was clearly an alcoholic.  He had a HUGE smile-- you could tell he appreciated that the food was homemade- and he said while getting his third plate "This fills me up way more than Bartles & James!"  And he thanked us.

So today I worked at a mission in the worst part of town.  And I was reminded that the person's who birth we celebrate this week was really on to something.  We fed the poor in the parking lot of a muffler and tire shop- coordinated by one person- not an agency.  Not by a huge mega church in a multi-million dollar facility that spends more time preaching about the word of God than doing anything remotely related to making the world a better place.  Yes, the pastor blessed everyone, but that was about it for the preaching.  No judgments.  No doctrine other than kindness.

After all, isn't being kind and loving one another what it's all about?

It is to me.

And I have to say, as I watched Renee and all my friends interact with the people whose lives had taken a different turn for whatever reason, I felt like the richest woman in the world- with friends like this, I will never be alone.

Merry Christmas!

For more information on Casa de Luz, please click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Many Ways I Fail at Making Christmas Magical

I was reminded today at how I really disappoint at Christmas time.  I read a hilarious blog about those stupid Elf on Shelf things.

Over Achieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies

I think the things are freakish and creepy.  I pointed out that if they had been called Odd Metrosexual in Unitard Child Stalkers they would not have been quite so popular.

Wow. People LOVE their elves.

I apparently am Scrooge.  My friends on Facebook politely defended their little buddy.

Well, here's the scoop, while I do enjoy the holiday season, I prefer Thanksgiving and Halloween over Christmas.  No pressure.  They are one day events.  I can handle one day.

Christmas falls at a bad time of year for me.  My daughter's birthday is the 20th, so I'm always trying to pull something out of my butt to make it look special and not over done by Christmas.  It's also the end of the year for my business, so I'm hurrying to make sure all those silly things that MUST get done, get done.  Real things that if they don't get done, I can get fined or penalized.  Kinda sucks the fun out of it.

Then throw in the fact that the entire point of the holiday has now become shopping (something I hate) and decorating (not my forte)-- it's starting to wane a tad as "the most wonderful time of the year."

So here are the ways that I really screw up at making Christmas extra special:

Gifts
My kids barely get squat for Christmas.  Seriously.  They get 2 gifts from Santa, a gift from my husband and me and some stuff in their stockings like socks, an activity book and a yo-yo.  Between all the relatives, they are happily gifted.  I do go out of my way to make sure they get something they like.  But I swear to you, that's it.  I normally wrap gifts and keep them at my office.  I had a friend ask "Where are the rest of them?"  She further freaked when I explained that was ALL the gifts- aunts, cousins, nieces, nephew, etc.  My mother-in-law asked one Christmas if that was it.  When I said yes, she sorta nodded.  I realized it was because she personally had gotten them more than we had.  I was COMPLETELY fine with this.  I supply the little folks all year with things like lunches, clothing, tuition---- I'm totally fine if someone else wants to buy them extra stuff.

Fortunately, there is enough of a break before school starts that they don't even remember enough to talk to other kids.  If they did, they would know they got screwed.


Decorating
My husband does 90% of it.  He is color blind.  Enough said.

The only thing I contribute is hanging the wreath out of the teeny tiny ledge on our second story.  This is the second year that I have done it without using profanity in front of my children.  Hey, you have your freaking elf, we have our OWN traditions... Mommy talking like a sailor while suspended out a window for all the neighborhood to hear is ours.

Cookies
My grandma made a million cookies.  Before I had kids, I used to make cookie baskets for all my clients.  I make very delicious cookies.

I now have children.  I am fat.  We'll make sugar cookies 2 days before Christmas.

At some point it hit me, as I screamed at my children and my feet were aching while I was trying to unjam the cookie press "Why am I doing this?"

I'll tell you why- because I like to eat them.  To paraphrase our Weight Watcher's leader- I've already eaten enough cookies in my lifetime.

I also was wound waaaaaay too tightly about it. Now, if the sugar cookies come out ugly, I just tell everyone the kids decorated them.  Even when it's the ones I decorated.

So Grandma, I'm sorry.  Not this year.

Shopping
Amazon.  I click.  I pay.  It shows up on my door step.  What a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I Say No
We don't go to every party to which we're invited.  It's not to be rude, it's just that we can't.  We used to run around complaining about all the parties we had.  Then last year, we seriously had none.  It was as if the karmic gods had heard us bitching.  So this year, when the invitations started rolling in, we picked the ones we wanted or needed to go to and that was it.

Traditions
Aside from my potty mouth, we don't really have any traditions.  We don't have an elf on the shelf.  We don't all snuggle in bed the night before reading "Polar Express" or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  We don't have a Christmas Count Down Clock.  Every year it's a bit of a crap shoot.  Some years we go on the Polar Express.  We went caroling last year- that sorta sucked because none of the kids know Christmas carols since they can't sing them at school any more.  Our holiday activities are a result of how tired we are, if we have any money and if the kids are behaving.  Who knows?  Maybe the free for all holiday thing IS our tradition.  Oh- wait- I do force my family to watch "A Christmas Story."  Is there truly any better holiday movie?? 
 
The Christmas Brag Letter
I did one, once, about 11 years ago when I couldn't STAND reading another bullsh*t letter from friends about their perfect lives.  I had had a bad year.  I shared this with everyone.  It was HILARIOUS.  My aunts were concerned.  A friend from college said he was framing it.  It was darkly disturbed and bitter- the only honest one he had gotten.  I also hate when people only send pictures of their children- particularly people I haven't seen in years.  I don't know your children.  I will probably never meet them.  I just assume you've gotten really fat if you don't include yourself in the family photo.  Or gone bald.  I'm sure you didn't include THAT in your letter...

********************

With all this said, what can I say?  I suck at the traditional American Christmas.  I love the lights, the music, the time with my family, but I'm not going to shove it down everyone's throat until they feel the same.  My husband noticed that last year I actually donated more gifts than I gave to our family.  He thought it was pretty awesome. It's why I love him.  With the exception of a very nice Dora dress, my kids also thought it was terrific.  This year, we're helping a friend make and serve dinner at a rescue mission. I think it's really the whole point of the season.  Today was the only day I've been remotely stressed and it all turned out okay.

So God bless all you overachievers out there with your classy cocktail parties, meticulous decorations, perfectly wrapped presents, homemade goodies out the ying yang, and an attic full of "perfect" presents.  Knock yourselves out.

As for me, I will be kicking back, have some egg nog and truly have a very merry, albeit low key Christmas.












Friday, December 9, 2011

Ivon

This week I'm stealing someone else's story- a friend of mine, Ivon.

I met Ivon about a year ago. She was in my husband's mock trial class.  He invited me to come watch the trials.  He had a group of students that he was very proud of and he thought I'd enjoy it.  I took the morning off and went to watch.

My husband was right to be proud.  Two of the students caught my attention- Ivon and Christian.  The other students were good, but they both stood out in my mind.  I had met Christian earlier (he is now a student at Penn in the very selective Huntsman program), but Ivon I had only known from the stories my husband shared.  At break, I asked him "Who is that sassy girl?  I love her-- she's one smart cookie."  He replied- "That's Ivon- that's the one I told you about.  She's one of our valedictorians.  Isn't she great?"

She was absolutely fantastic- well spoken, professional beyond her years.  Clearly a bright future lay before her.

Over the summer, before she headed off to college- University of Nevada-Reno, where she received the millenium scholarship-- she babysat for us.  She was already working full-time at McDonald's.  She came over after her day shift ended to babysit.  The kids loved her immediately.  My daughter especially.  They shared a joint love of Hello Kitty.

When we showed Ivon around, we were hanging out in my daughter's room.  She looked around and seemed very wide eyed.  She said she wished she had a room like that.  I said "When you were little?"  And she replied, "No now.  I love this..."  My daughter's room is bright and sunny and full of flowers-- much like her personality and much like Ivon's.

It wasn't until later that I learned that Ivon had been homeless during her junior year.  The home they had was in an area of town referred to as The Naked City.  Not exactly the environment where valedictorians are typically found.

This fall Ivon and I become Facebook friends.  She entered a few online scholarship contests and I always made sure my friends voted for her and knew what a fantastic, hard working young woman she is.  She became a finalist for the K-Mart Latina Scholarship.

Then something amazing happened to Ivon.

She entered the Dr. Pepper scholarship contest.

She made the final rounds.

She won $2,500 for her video and the chance to throw footballs into a giant Dr. Pepper can during the SEC Championship game half-time show.

So she did what only Ivon would do-- she worked with the UNR quarterback and had an engineering student help her develop her technique.  She was a drama nerd- an English major-- she had never thrown a football in her life. She came up with a plan.

For the time leading up to the final rounds, she practiced.  A lot.

She made the next round.  The Friday before the game, she needed to finish in the top 2 of the 10 finalists.  She did.  She would get to be one of the students to compete in the half-time contest and she was guaranteed a minimum of another $23,000 of scholarship money.  She was excited to have made it that far.

And here's where a great story gets even better.

She won.

She won $100,000 in scholarship money that she has 25 years to use.  More than enough money and time to pay for her undergraduate studies and her dream of law school.

And so on national television, Ivon broke down.  If you knew her, you knew that in that moment, all her hard work- not just in the week before throwing the football- but ALL her hard work- finally paid off.

Her comment "Dr. Pepper you are the best thing to ever happen to me" made the internet rounds.  Her tears were mocked.  Some people even made fun of her "over the top" reaction and said it was planted by Dr. Pepper for marketing.

I'm here to tell you, it wasn't.  Dr. Pepper did change her life. In that 30 seconds, what was once a far-fetched dream of a young girl in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country became a reality.

In a world of cynics and naysayers, Ivon's win was a welcome reminder that truly in this life, anything is possible.  She could have easily given up, walked away and kept her job at McDonald's.  She didn't.  She found some opportunities, came up with a plan and did the work.  This wasn't luck.  This was tenacity.

Congratulations, Ivon.  I hope that this is only the beginning of the wonderful accomplishments in your future.  You truly deserve it! 




Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Thoughts on Gay Marriage

There's this video going around on Facebook from the MoveOn.Org website.  It's a very well spoken young man, testifying in Iowa on their proposed amendment to ban gay marriage.


Quite simply, he rocks.  He was raised by two women.  He is quite impressive.

And before you ask, no, I am not gay. 

I am, however, human.  I happen to have been born straight, like 92% of most people.  I had my first boyfriend at 6.  I married a man who shoots things and hates cologne. To quote a very good lesbian friend when, after a bad break up I commented "Maybe it's time to change teams"- "Sweetie, you are as straight as they come.  Not that I wouldn't appreciate the cappuccino maker for converting you."

Call me crazy, but I happen to think people are born with their sexuality.  I believe the 1 out of 11 stat.  I have a large family.  On one side, I have 10 cousins.  One is gay  On the other side, I have 14 cousins.  One is gay.  When my parents "told" me about my cousins at various times, I have to say I laughed and replied "And?"  I've known them both my whole life.  I kinda already figured it out. 

I also had a fantastic roommate who I watched struggle with coming out.  I like to say we were "Will & Grace" before Will knew he was Will.  I never would wish that struggle on anyone.  Ever.

I would never choose to be gay in today's world.  If you think someone voluntarily chooses to be ostracized, quite simply, your ignorance frightens me.

As for gay marriage, here's my thought- at the state level it's a legal document protecting two individuals and their property.  I think everyone has a right to that protection.  Period.  I think banning gay marriage is about as ridiculous as banning interracial marriage. 

I absolutely respect your church or religious institution to not allow it.  You have the right to your opinion and beliefs, just as I do.  Your spiritual beliefs are yours.  Just don't force them on me.

I think Jon Stewart said it best when he commented that he changed his mind on gay marriage when he realized he would not be forced to leave his wife and marry a man.

But the parenting issue.... that's always been the big argument against gay marriage.  It'll supposedly turn the kids, our future Americans, into homosexuals.

Actually, it's the opposite.  I've done my own logic proof on this.

Consider this.
  • Straight parenting results in 9% of their offspring being gay.
  • Gay parenting results in 91% of their offspring being straight.
  • Straight parenting accounts for more than 97% of all parenting (27% of gay households report having children under 18.  As 9% of the population, that accounts for just under 3% of total). 
  • Gay parents account for less than 1% of gay offspring (.03*.09)
  • Straight parents account for +99% of gay offspring.
  • Therefore, straight parenting causes gay offspring.
If you are worried about proliferating the gay lifestyle, straight parenting- not gay marriage- is where your focus should be directed.  Let's pass an amendment banning straight parents.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

Now maybe you get how ridiculous "banning" gay marriage sounds to me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Son's Broken Peeper

This is an old one, but I was reminded last night that it was too funny not to share....

When my son was about 4 years old, I was working at the computer, my then baby daughter was napping.  Skip came up to me with a VERY serious expression...

"Mom, I need a hammer and some nails," he asked.

"What do you need a hammer and nails for?" I asked back.

"It's an emergency.   My peeper is broken," he replied.

"Your peeper is broken?"  I asked with some concern.  All things peeper related are generally redirected to my husband because well, he has one.  "What is wrong with your peeper?"

"It keeps sticking up.  I need a hammer and nails to keep it down, " he explained .

"It's sticking up?"I asked quietly.

"Yes.  And the more I try to push it down, the more it stands up and gets bigger.  That's why I need the hammer and the nails," he said earnestly.  I should point out that Skip is quite serious and very task oriented.  He saw a problem, had a solution, and asked for my help.

As I was trying not to laugh, and trust me, this was nearly impossible, I told him he should probably talk to his dad about it.  I really didn't think it was broken and he probably should leave the hammer and nails out of it.

I immediately explained the situation to my husband, trying to keep a straight face.  He asked what I said.  I told him I referred the kid to him. 

I'm not exactly sure what was discussed between father and son.  Honestly, I don't want to know. 

Two nights later, Skip was playing in the tub.

"MOOOM!" he yelled out.

I rushed in to see him floating happily on his back with his, um, "sail" at full mast.  He had the biggest smile on his face.

"Look, Mom!  My peeper is fine.  Daddy said it wasn't broken!  It feels good!"

I'm not exactly sure what I said, but I do know that that image is burned into my brain forever.  When he is graduating from college with his probable engineering degree, I will most certainly flash back to this exact moment.

I told my husband he could relax, his son's peeper was good to go and he was enjoying all that it offered.

My husband just laughed, smiled and was happy to help.  After my being the primary caregiver, I could feel him slowly encroaching on my territory.

And I have to say, I was more than happy to pass this one on!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  And not just because of the food.  Don't get me wrong, I love to cook and even more I love to cook for other people.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I get to give thanks.

I get to take a moment from my busy life, to stop, look around and be grateful.  Truly grateful.

I have been very fortunate to have a good life surrounded by friends and family.  I am healthy.  I have healthy children.  I have a strong marriage to someone that I respect and adore.  I have a career that I am passionate about and get to work with clients that I would gladly invite into my home. 

I am very, very fortunate. 

It hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows.  I always joke about my "homeless period"- the three months that I couch surfed- but it's always made me appreciate having a roof over my head and more importantly, the value of my friends.  And I've had other things happen that might surprise you, but they always have made me a better person, more appreciative of all that I have.  The bad things are as interwoven into my soul as the many, many good things.

With all the negativity in the world, I may seem a Pollyanna, and that's okay with me.  

As I sat at the table on Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, I was overwhelmed as I am every year-- even during the couch surfing days- to be surrounded by so much love and so much good fortune.

And I gave thanks.



Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Power of Friends

So this week the scale stuck, but I ate before weighed in which I normally don't do.  Not to make excuses, but with tiny movements on the scale week to week, every little bit matters.

Anyhow, this week was all about Thanksgiving (I'm anticipating a 62 point meal- 29 points a day is my norm.  If I stay within the my points all week, I should be good).  Our meeting leader also discussed how to deal with food pushers-- the people who are constantly telling you to take another bite, have another drink, etc, etc.

As he spoke, I immediately thought of people I had known over the years that clearly fit the bill.  My favorite was a former colleague who was drop dead gorgeous.  I had lost 30 pounds in between the kids and her response (in a whiny tone) "If you lose weight then you'll be smart AND pretty and that's not fair!"

Great.  Way to have my back, sister.

But now, it's very different.  My mother-in-law has recently lost a large amount of weight (I don't know if she wants me to share how much!).  My husband has lost 125 pounds and is still going strong.  Three of my best girlfriends- Shelley, Ellen and Lisa are going to Weight Watcher's meetings now with me.  At work, my assistant with the evil supercharged metabolism is supportive.  My office mate is supportive- she is a stick, but her husband has lost about 50 pounds this past year.  In my book group, quite a few women are WW devotees and have lost a lot of weight and kept it off.

In fact, I cannot think of anyone who doesn't support me.

I think I know more people who have gotten fit, lost weight or are in the process in the past 2 years than I ever have in my life.

I know Americans are supposedly getting fatter, but around me everyone is shrinking. Even better, these friends are being incredibly supportive.

A good friend I saw last week tried to get me to have a glass of wine last week when we went out, then stopped herself and said "I'm sorry.  I know you're being good.  Good for you!"

Much better than my former colleague.

My husband and I have had issues when one of us is committed and the other isn't - we now joke about it.  One of us will say "Want some ice cream?"  The other responds "No..."  The non-dieter says "C'mon..." and the other eventually caves.  Not any longer.  No dieting, just changing habits.  Together.

I have no intention of scaling back on Thanksgiving.  I added up the points already.  It's a lot.  If this is truly NOT a diet, then Thanksgiving is not going to scare me.  I am going to eat more than I normally would.  Period.  I love this holiday.  I love all the food.  It is one day.  I will have wine.  I will have pie.  I will love every bite.

What I won't do is have seconds. Or thirds.  I won't continue to eat like every day is a holiday all weekend. 

What's even better is that I can count on my friends and family to back me up on my choices.




Friday, November 18, 2011

The Legend of Ishy the Bear

As told to Mama Bean....

My name is Ishy.  It wasn't always Ishy.  I didn't always look like this. But here is my tale....

About 6 years ago a kind, older woman with salt and pepper hair purchased me at a gift shop.  I was excited.  It was close to Christmas time and I envisioned myself as part of her household decor for the holidays.  A prized spot upon the mantel, perhaps.  My name at the time was Lovey Bear.

Alas, it was not to be.

I was stuffed into a box and spent nearly 2 weeks traveling alone, in the dark, via what I can only imagine must have been the Pony Express.

I arrived and was first touched by a woman whose name I later learned was "MOOOOOMMMM!"  She saw me, smiled briefly and then said:

"Great another stuffed animal.  Just what we need, " and then tossed me onto a bed where I was surround by other furry friends.

They all assured me that so far, so good.  There primary job was to simply lie on the bed.  From time to time they are moved, dusted, and put back into place.  Sometimes the woman known as Mooooooommmm will even smile and talk to them discreetly.  They seemed to imply that this was top secret information.  The big guy known as Daaaaaaadddd, was a little rougher with them.

About 5 months after I arrived, Mooooooommmm was on the phone and irritatingly said "She is a baby, I don't think she really has taken notice of any stuffed animals yet.  She is more into playing with the sunbeam.  Okay, fine, I will give her the bear....the really soft one, right?"

And this is where the tale of horror begins...

"You're right, it really is soft..."

I was then tossed into what I can only refer to as the Cage of Despair.  This small person, who I later would learn is named Potato Cakes, Sweetie Pea and other veggie laden names, latched onto to me with a piercing grip.

"Hmmm... she does seem to like him... Sweetie Pea, do you like the Squishy Bear?"

Did she ever.... or so you would think.
That's me on the right-- all fluffy and clean.  She looks innocent.  Don't be fooled.

For the next 18 months this kid would not sleep or leave the house without me.  Yes, I am adorable and fluffy and normally I wouldn't have minded except for one thing...

It looks like a Teddy Bear picnic, but please note her death drip around my neck.  I had done NOTHING wrong.
She liked to suck on my tail or my head and carry me around hanging out of her mouth.

It was mortifying.

My head is not a straw.  And again with the Death Grip.
I would simply be hanging there, like a leftover piece of lunch while everyone laughed.

And my name.... because the kid couldn't talk yet, when she finally did, I became Ishy.

Every night she fell asleep with me jammed up against her little face while she sucked on my tail.  Sometimes, Mooooooommmm would come in and try to save me-- bless her soul-- but alas, the little one would hang on for dear life.  I was stuck in the jaws of death.

Then one day a little dog licked my tail and the kid stopped sucking on it.

But the torture did not stop...

The poor doll is getting the abuse while the kid throws back another bottle.
Suddenly, she began hiding me in places.  Dark, scary places.  The pantry.  The toy box.  A box inside the toy box.  A box inside a box inside the toy box.  In her brother's room.  In her brother's room inside a box inside a toy box.  In closets.  In night stands.  In end tables.  In kitchen cupboards.  In the bushes outside.

And I would hear her cry out my name at night "ISSSSHHHHYYY!"  I could hear Mooooooommmm and sometimes even Daaaadddd (although more often he would say "She'll be fine... she lost it... let her learn") shuffling about looking for me.  When they would find me, it was with a look of exasperation. I felt the same.  Part of me happy to be out of the box, part of me scared at what more lie ahead.
I was scared to death.  I had no idea what her plans were. 

She started to dress me up.  I have to say, this part was fun.  I like to look good.  The barrettes were often too tight and I didn't particularly care for the ponytail holders around my neck, however.

She reads to me now.  It's really fun, but personally, I prefer historical non-fiction, not Barbie.

I got to go to school on Wednesday for Show-and-Tell.  I saw more terrorists- hundreds of them.  I was really scared.

But I survived.

The worst part-- by far the worst part-- is the vomit.

Whenever this kid gets sick- blech- all over me.

She says she loves me, yet when she starts to feel sick, I am the one who pays the price.

Sweet, little old me.

Last night was one of the worst.  Apparently she had had spaghetti.

Why she felt the urge to hold me all night, after she puked in the sheets, I have no idea.  I wondered where Mooooooommmm was?  She normally would clean this up.  Apparently the kid did not want to wake her up.  I can appreciate that.  If you think I'm a bear, this Mooooooommmm person puts me to shame if you wake her up.

But alas, finally Mooooooommmm came, wiped me up, cleaned the sheets and I am drying out now, telling her my tale.

As for the kid, she was fine.  Didn't even apologize.  Just told Mooooooommmm that I smelled awful.

No kidding.  She didn't smell like roses, either.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds for me. I would try to run but honestly, I've thinned out quite a bit these past few years.  My paws are worn.  My ribbon is merely a thread.

The other animals are jealous.  They feel discarded.  If only they knew what the price of this "love" truly was, they might not be so jealous.

But I trudge on.  My duty is to the Teddy Bear code- to be loved to death.  And I assure you, I get more love than you can imagine.






Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shopping and me

I hate to shop.

There.  I've said it.  I've outed myself.

I should state there are 3 exceptions to this-- farmer's markets, Williams-Sonoma and book stores. 

If you're a good friend you already know this about me.  If you're a good friend and don't know this about me, well, I was just being polite when you drug me around shop after shop after shop.

I HATE SHOPPING.

Passionately.  Vehemently.

Malls make me want to run screaming.

And it's not because I got fat and hate to shop for clothes.  I hated shopping for clothes when I was a size 8.  I loved when I found that I could order everything from catalogues in college.  And then Amazon... oh, sweet Amazon.  What a great service.

But holy cow, mindless wandering makes me nuts.

I am a buyer.  I make lists.  I buy the things on the list.  I then leave the store.

This really came into play this weekend.

My husband and I spent a romantic weekend in Santa Fe, NM.  I had a business trip and we dove tailed it into a long weekend to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  I'd been there once, on a quick trip.  Everyone said how great it was.

It is a very cool city.  Tons of history.  Lots of restaurants.

And an insane amount of shops.

Specifically jewelry shops.

Which would be a great thing if you liked to shop and liked jewelry.


Two things I don't understand.


When we asked the concierge what to do, "Oh shopping!  You'll love it."

No, no, I will not.

I tried.  Honestly.  I did.  But I couldn't keep a straight face.  I tend to mock people who shop.

After a half day of faking it, I 'fessed up to my husband.  I was having a miserable time shopping.  He said he thought I was shaming my X chromosome.  The good news, he's not really a shopper either.

I just don't get it-- wondering around looking at stuff that I don't want or need?  Why?  I'm not a knickknacky gal. Why on earth would I buy a dreamcatcher?  Ever?

So I guess this means I am an embarrassment to not only my gender, but my country as well.  If you really want to see my freak out, take me to a Super Wal-Mart.  I nearly get hives.

The good news, if I ever doubted that my husband was my soul mate, I have no doubt whatsoever now.  Today, sensing that I couldn't look at another piece of turquoise or chotchky, he found something I would really love-- The Museum of Nuclear Science and History.  And yes, he loved it, too.

Rather than try to be normal and get all excited about a designer geode on a mirrored display  (I prefer to find geodes in the desert, not a gift shop), we got our geek on and went to the museum.

Ahhhh.... now that was fun.

In fact, I even bought a t-shirt that said "Talk Nerdy to Me"-- a secret clearly my husband already knows.



 



Sunday, November 6, 2011

I've been struggling...

I haven't written anything too heartfelt lately, aside from my adoration of my dog, because with all the anger in the world right now, I have too much to say.  Since I'm also VERY limited on discussing anything financial or economic on the web, I can't really say what I think.  Or defend what I think with actual data.  It's a new concept to many people who have lots to say but no actual facts to back up anything they are saying.

So I will keep it short, so I can get it out and get over my writer's block.

#1- The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street people bother me both equally.  You both are saying very loudly "Where's my piece of the pie?"  You both feel screwed somehow.  You both feel that others have something that you don't.  I find it ironic.  I do want to emphasize, I am very glad that people are motivated to FINALLY get involved after years of being apathetic.  For the record, I've been complaining about PAC's, the wealth gap, excessive government spending, the growing dependency on government benefits for years- both movements' issues.  Truly.  To a point I've killed a few dinner party conversations.  The answers lie in the middle.  And now I must not speak any longer.

#2- The government is not a business.  Please stop trying to compare it to one.  The government provides services that are needed (or that's what they are supposed to do).  They are not supposed to be profitable.  And when you do bitch about taxes or spending being too much, you can no longer bitch about how long it takes to get anything done with our new, leaner government.  Yep, you're gonna be on hold and waiting in line  a lot longer.  You asked for it, you got it. Now shut up.

#3- Education is a good thing.  Learning more is always positive.  Being intelligent is a good thing.  Getting a diploma is not necessarily the same thing as getting an education- especially if it was based on multiple choice tests online.  Reading, asking questions, being able to communicate-- these are good things.  Having an educated public is essential for economic growth.  Having an uneducated public gets us to where we are today.  When did being smart become a negative?

#4- Some day something bad will happen to you.  It might be you who loses your job, has a sick family member, has a special needs child.  Just because you've been lucky doesn't necessarily mean you've done anything to "earn" it.  When these bad things happen to you, I can assure you, you will be reaching out for help. 

#5- With that said, my success does not impede yours.  When you were riding the gravy train of success, I didn't tell you to buy a house you can't afford, take trips that you can't pay for and not save a dime.  For crying out loud, live within your means.

#6- Without quelching everyone's new motivation to be involved, here's the scoop-- is it really that bad?  Is your biggest cut back that you had to drop HBO?  Cut coupons?  Not eat out every night?  Seriously?  People all over the world live in the fear of their own military, they don't have water, they have to decide which child lives or dies....  and I don't mean shut up and be grateful.  Be loud with your concerns, but be grateful.

The world is a wonderful place.  I've just been frustrated with all of the misdirected anger.  Our political system is clearly broken, but our hatred of each other needs to stop.  I know people who have read my blog, realized I'm a Democrat and stopped-- suddenly my insights aren't so insightful.  I find that sad.  Very sad.  I'm quite moderate actually. 

In the end, I believe that we all agree more than we disagree.  And I think we all need to turn off the TV and think about what we, in our hearts, truly want for ourselves and for our nation.  It is not anger.  It is not hatred. 

Thank you for letting me get that out.  I hope my crazy, middle of the road opinions haven't ostracized everyone.

Now, I will go back to my usual blogs on important issues like fundraisers, laundry and wacky people I meet.






Friday, November 4, 2011

The Things We Do For Dogs

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you know that I have 2 dogs- Dixie, a lovely Australian Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix (Golden Aussie is this hip term) that we adopted last year about this time and Charlie the Bear, my soon to be 14 year old bionic bichon. Charlie almost died 2 years ago and has fought back valiantly and let us know that, no, he is not ready for the next life. He's quite fine in this one.

In the past few months, he's had a few bad days back to back.  The vet, who has been a big advocate of his (a great mix of helping me keep him comfortable without doing ridiculous procedures) had said it's time to start tracking the good day/bad day ratio.  Then she changed his meds a bit and honestly, the dog is running about 20% bad days to 80% good days-- better than my ratio last year!

He is, however, still having difficulty walking and some bowel trouble.  For awhile he had given up on the stairs, but has had a recent uptick and now conquers them every night.  It takes 20 minutes or so, but darn it, don't even THINK about trying to help him.

The dog is stubborn.  The dog is feisty.

So at the dog park last weekend (with Dixie), I met a vet.  She went to Purdue. Nice lady.  She is also a homeopathic vet.  She does acupuncture on dogs.

Okay, go ahead, laugh.

But here's the scoop, Charlie spent a year in complete discomfort because no one believed me that his issues started after he ran into our sliding glass door after being chased by the neighborhood cat.  After testing the dog for everything, it appears that well, his ambulatory issues are, in fact, neurological.

He's 14.

I'm not having spinal surgery on a 14 year dog.

I'm not THAT nuts.

I will however, give acupuncture a shot.  Pun intended.

Chiropractic did wonders for me.  I think there is much more that we don't know about the human body, than we do know.  I think somewhere between Eastern and Western medicine lies the best treatment.  If I have an infection, I want an antibiotic.  If I have something pain oriented, I'm willing to try something other than painkillers.

In other words, if I had this issue, I would give acupuncture a chance.

So I called and and Dr. Caroline came to the house.

And here's why I liked her--

Charlie has had a weird thing on his eye this week.  The earliest I could get in to see the vet I prefer was Tuesday.  I noticed that his eye had started to bulge a bit but I wasn't concerned.

She was.  She said to call the the other vet and insist they see him today.  She was concerned it was an ulcer or that he had high pressure in his eye.  She didn't want to do anything until that issue was addressed.  She also was open to the fact that I was most definitely going to keep him on his prescription food and current painkillers.  She didn't promise me magic. 

She did say she was really impressed with how Charlie had adapted.  She told me that most dogs in his situation would not have been able to muddle through for the past 2 years.  They would be dragging their legs, have more atrophy.  Not Charlie.  He just trudges through like it's a slight inconvenience.

We went to the regular vet and Charlie, who gets really nervous, made me walk him around for the half hour we waited.

They tested him for glaucoma, he was fine.  No doggie bongs in his future.  I think he was disappointed.

It wasn't an ulcer.  So no fear of any tearing.

Worst case, it might be a tumor behind his eye.

Once again, my dog has evaded medical diagnosis.

So the least I can do is acupuncture.

I made my friend Shelley promise me to not let me become the crazy lady with the dog in the wagon.

I never said anything about not letting me become the crazy lady with the needles in the dog.

Once I had kids, I really paid significantly less attention to my dogs.  The crazy part about the last few years with Charlie is that I'm growing more attached than I've ever been.  I find him inspiring.  He's loyal.  He's fiesty.  He never gives up.  He has taken every bizarre twist that's been thrown at him and kept pushing.

For all the stress that he's adding to my life, I have to say, it's not been nearly as big as a deal as you might think.  He's like having my own little motivational speaker.

He still wants to play.

The least I can do is give him the chance.

But no wagons....maybe a stroller?????

 







Sunday, October 30, 2011

Every Week Means Every Week??

From my other blog "My Quest to Put Down the Donut" at skinnymamabean.blogspot.com

Apparently I misunderstood when I joined Weight Watchers.  Although they kept saying "Don't dial it in," "Follow the program to a tee, " "If you bite it, write it,"  those bastards meant it.

And today's meeting was for me and my friend Ellen.  It was about staying on course when it's not going so well.

We both had a gain this week.

Rats.  My first one.

Oddly, this was the first week I started to notice that my clothes were fitting more loosely.  I would also like to add that Ellen is looking great.  She's been diligent about the gym.  I added a spin class this week.

Oh and I ate like a pig.

I "technically" stayed in my point range.  At WW's they give you 49 points to spread over the course of the week, so if you're hungry, you eat.  If you have a party, you can eat a piece of cake.  It's quite brilliant.  It takes away the sense of deprivation.  If you exercise, you can add points and then it will let you "use" more points.  It defeats the point of exercising in a way, but it DID get me to spin class.  It was Saturday, we had a few parties to go to, I needed some extra points!

Lesson learned this week:  Follow the program.

Sigh.

I also have been a bit lucky the past few weeks.  With all our festivities I still pulled out losses.  So I got a little cocky and I pushed it.

I deserved the .2 pounds that I gained.  My weekly average loss is down to .6.  At this rate, I might get to my goal in 2 years.

And SPARE me the platitudes about how it will really stay off.... yes, I know that.  I have no intention of spending the next year making all these positive changes to gain it back.  But I was hoping it would only be a year, not 2.  I don't want it to feel like a diet, but I think if I want to get serious, I might want to be a bit more focused.

On a positive note, I bought a t-shirt this summer a size smaller than I normally get.  I wasn't sure what size my boobs would end up (I had reduction surgery in June).  Sadly, the sleeves and the mid-section were a little snug.  I've been sleeping in it because it was a bit too tight to wear out.  On Monday I had it on and realized that it fit.

Also my "weigh-in" pants are really baggy.  I've been to this point before with these same pants.  Which brings me to my next question for the audience...

A friend of mine is getting married next November.  There is a J Crew dress I have been dreaming of for years.  Do I buy it in a size 8 and hang it in my closet?  Will it motivate or mock me?  I've never done anything like this before because I've always feared that I would waste my money.  In other words, I've never had faith I would get there.  At .6 pounds a week, I won't.  Has anyone done this?  Has it worked?  My friend is someone that I "met" quite a few years ago on Spark People and actually have met her in person.  Our table will be all sparkers-- and I'm not the only one using her wedding as a motivator.  She's completely fine that we're stealing her special day as a weight loss goal since that's how we all met.

Please comment!!  I'm curious what everyone thinks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Doing Wrong

I had to take an online training this week for my securities licensing on ethics. 

Oddly, the topic has been on mind quite a bit this week.

You see, the priest that married us, recently confessed to stealing $650,000 from my former parish.

I really liked him.

I still do.

I sorta kinda left the church awhile back.  It's not a long story.  There was no one thing.  I decided that I had become a cafeteria plan Catholic.  I don't think you should dial in religion.  Either be in or be out.  I opted out.  It really came down to a great homily that Fr. Kevin gave.

It was during the Bill Clinton "What is the Definition of Is?" debate.

Fr. Kevin stated simply that there is a right and there is a wrong.  There are no grey areas with regard to morality.

Ah, but I can already hear you arguing that certain things are debatable.  I would have agreed with you until that sermon.

Fr. Kevin went on to elaborate that everyone has a line that they draw.  Once you cross your own moral line, you start to justify and rationalize your actions.  You never have to justify or rationalize doing the right thing to yourself.  Those little voices that you hear in your head telling you to go ahead, no one will know-- that means you've crossed your line.  Rationalization is for attorneys.  No one can tell you where to draw the line.

You're nasty to your kids- the voice says "Well, you were tired. It's okay."  It's not.  Apologize to them.

You tell your boss you're sick and what you really want is a day off-- "Everyone does it." They don't.  Ask for the day off.  Don't lie. It IS a lie.

You start to gossip about someone that you work with- "Well, everyone KNOWS he drinks..."- they don't.  Stop.  Leave the conversation.

Someone walks into your house and threatens your family, has a gun.  You shoot them.  No need to justify.

See how it works?

There have been a few times since I heard that sermon that the little voices start rationalizing in my head and I immediately stop.  I am trying to justify crossing the line.  It was actually life changing for me.  I always joke that I'm not a practicing Catholic because I got it right and don't need to practice any more. 

Doing the right thing has never caused me pain or grief.  I may have had to explain my reasons to someone else, but I've never had to justify my actions to myself.

It's quite a lovely moral code to live by, I believe.  I do good things because I think it's right, not because I'm being told to do them.  Or the fear of eternal damnation.

There is a right and there is a wrong. 

Enough said.

I can only imagine the personal agony he must have been experiencing.  Those voices must have been screaming in his head.

He is a good man.  He had a flaw.

And before you think "Wow, that's a lot of money, how did no one notice?" They did.  That's how he got caught.  It also was over more than 10 years  and the parish has thrived under him.  New school, even.  It's a very large parish with 10,000 families- it nearly doubled under Fr. Kevin.  My uncle, a deacon, saw the bulletin (I brought him an article they had in it).  One week of the collections was more than his parish took in in a year. 

I'm sure he used the fact that so much was being accomplished to justify that he wasn't hurting anyone.  It would be easy to rationalize.  He probably brought in much more money than he ever took.  Can you hear the voices justifying what happened?  And yet it still is wrong.  Very wrong.

Fr. Kevin confessed to the authorities.  From what I've heard, he's cooperated fully and intends to somehow repay the money.

It wasn't a Catholic thing.  It wasn't a priest thing.  It was a human thing.

And from one human to another, I hope he finds compassion in his own soul.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10 Secrets to a Successful Marriage.... or at least to my marriage...

This Thursday was my tenth anniversary.  Since my parents have been married 45 years and most of my friends from high school are getting close to 20 years, I did not think it was a huge deal.  Apparently, it is.

So without any actual knowledge of what makes a successful marriage, no professional training in this arena, and only an open internet audience, I offer my tips.

1.  Marry the Right Person
Mr. Bean is the key to my successful marriage.  I like him.  I even love him.  This makes it very easy to stay married to him.  I had quite a few other options, believe it or not, but being stuck with the wrong person for all eternity frightened me considerably more than being alone.

2.  Don't Date Others After You Are Married
I always joke about this because it really does seem to be an issue for some folks.  We both assumed once we got married that we wouldn't be dating others.  In fact, it was even a bit of a plus.  We both were a bit tired of it. 

3.  Don't Have Sex with Others After You Are Married
Again, seems obvious and somewhat outlined to #2, but we've seen it enough to note that it probably should be more clearly defined.  It doesn't matter if it's Republican or Democrat sex. 

4.  You Can Always Leave
WHAT?  Shouldn't divorce be off the table?  Maybe for some folks, but for me, what works is knowing that there is no gun to my head making me stay.  I am there voluntarily.  If it sucks, I should probably do something about it.  I happily and willingly married my husband.  Every day I chose to be happily married.  Most of the time.  Some times I need a nap.  See #5.


5.  Go to Bed Angry
I get really pissy if I'm tired.  Why make it worse by trying to resolve every little stinking thing?  You never will.  Sleep on the couch if you must, but my guess is, 8 hours later, after some sleep, you'll forget whatever it was that had you so uptight the night before.

6.  Give your Spouse a Break
Not physically (since everyone in our family seems a bit breakable...).  I honestly don't think my husband snores as a secret plot to make me nuts.  He also doesn't run the dishwasher in the morning, after he leaves, to piss me off.  Although it makes cleaning up after breakfast with the kids a pain (he leaves at 6 am), wakes up the dog and I can't use the garbage disposal, I don't think it's intentional.  I think he's simply trying to have clean dishes.  I also don't forget my clothes in the dryer to destroy his day.  Okay, maybe sometimes... Anyhow, you probably aren't a bag of sunshine either, so lighten up.

7.  Have a your own Life
I hate when people disappear into couples.  Have a life.  Have a hobby.  Have friends.  It helps keep the conversation going.  Expecting your spouse to be your BFF, your entertainment coordinator, your business partner is a bit of a tall task for anyone.


8.  Kiss in Front of your Kids
Yes, they find it totally disgusting, but it's really your only opportunity some days.  We're not business partners, we're spouses.  The kids should know we like each other. 

9.  Be Willing to Compromise
My husband came up with this one.  I told him I think what he really meant was "Do What Your Wife Wants."  He agreed.

10.  Date Night isn't Optional
Since you won't be dating other people, you might as well date your spouse.  Otherwise, it's a roommate with whom you share a closet, some kids and some debt.  Sexy, huh?  I really enjoy hanging out with my husband. I would probably forget that if we didn't hang out.


Anyhow, take it for what it's worth.  Not every day has been sunshine, rainbows and unicorns, but I have to say, I'm pretty darn happy.  And not to be completely nerdy, but I can honestly say, I love my husband more now that I did 10 years ago.  It makes me sad that marriage is becoming less trendy-- it's by far the best decision I've ever made.  It's nice to have someone who knows me better than anyone and yet still loves me.  Very cool.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Bean!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zumba and Mama Bean

I went to my second Zumba class today.  Wow.  It is way too much fun.

For those of you that are following my secondary weight loss blog, you are probably aware that this time on my quest to lose weight, I decided to only do exercise that I like.  This isn't too terribly difficult, as I like pretty much everything.  But this time, I'm raising the bar.  I don't mind working out, but I wasn't loving it.  Every time I went to the gym it was a reminder on how much I had let myself go. Working out used to be a great stress reliever.  I could feel my muscles grow stronger every time.  Now, I can't even find my muscles beneath the layers of fat.

So no more cross training.  No more weights.  No more treadmill.  For now.  When I'm at a point where I'm trying to get fit, I will add those back in.  Right now, I'm just trying to get to fat.

Seriously.

I have 21 pounds to lose to be "just" fat.

I will be the happiest fat person in the world once I get there.  Or as I will refer to myself- non-obese person.

What a sad goal- to be fat.

But alas, it's where I"m at right now and I'm okay with that.

So rather than look at this next year as a giant mountain to climb, I decided to dance up it.  I just had some cookies, too.  What I didn't do was eat a dozen.  I had some.  Last week I had ice cream.  Tonight, I will have a glass of wine at my book club.

And every week, I have lost a pound. 

And every week I've only done things that I liked.

Now I'm sure if I really put my mind to it, like the folks on "The Biggest Loser" or "I Used to Be Fat" I could get most of this weight off much more quickly.  Trust me, it would find me again. 

I have very intentionally decided to do this sloooooooowly.  With fun and a little flair.

So today I shook my booty.  The hard part isn't to shake it.  The hard part is to get it to stop shaking.  And as I was gettin' down with my funky self, I noticed the treadmills.  The people on them looked like drones.  Not the runners-- but the walkers. They were my size or bigger.  Headsets on.  Eyes glazed.  Trudging through life.

I wanted to tell them "You're not going to stick with it.  Trust me.  Might as well have some fun." 

I'm not by any means the biggest or the most uncoordinated person in the class.  I don't even think there's a profile for the class.  I may even be on the younger end.  I'm not sure.  There's a wide range of ethnicities, too.  There's a gentlemen who must be in his late 70's-- he rocks.

It's all very motivating.  Dancing doesn't discriminate.

The older women who have adopted me in the back row, keep me going.  I keep them laughing.  It's nice.

According to my heart rate monitor, my cardio health is improving.  According to my scale, I'm losing weight.  According to my smile, I am having fun.


And that's what it's all about, isn't it?