Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Old Sucks

“Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age.”
― Gloria Steinem 
 There was a time when I could have intravenously injected straight caffeine into my bloodstream and I STILL would have been able to get a good 10 hours of uninterrupted, dream-infused sleep.  Today, I believe I had a SIP of coffee at about 4pm yesterday afternoon and I've been wide awake since 3am.

42.  Magic for Jackie Robinson.  Me? Not so much.
My "girl doctor" (which is just a polite way of saying "gynecologist"...I can't call her my OB/GYN because the OB part of me doesn't even exist in dreams anymore) told me on my last visit a couple of years ago that I just can't take the caffeine anymore with my aging system.

My aging system.  My aging system.  (It echoes, doesn't it?)

I don't like to think of myself as getting old.  In my HEAD, I'm easily 12.  My favorite ALL-TIME joke (if I used names in this blog, I would totally give a shout out to DT who provides a public service every June with her own personal Corny Joke Month) is:

Q.  What does a nosy pepper do?
A.  (PLEASE include finger wagging and head shaking)  It gets JALAPEÑO business! 

Is it really appropriate for women over the age of 40 to guffaw hysterically EVERY TIME they hear a joke they've told for about two years?  No.  No, it isn't.  But I do it.

I realized not long ago while purchasing adult beverages at my handy local liquor store that I am EXACTLY TWICE the legal drinking age.  I have lived two lifetimes of legal drinking.  Somehow, I did not celebrate 42 with nearly the same enthusiasm as I put into 21.  If I'd THOUGHT about it earlier, I would have thrown an amazing party for 42.  "Woo hoo!  I'm legal TWICE OVER!"
No, I don't FEEL 42 in my head.  My body, however, begs to differ.

  • When I roll out of bed in the morning, it's now less of an actual roll and more of a grunt, groan, shove.  NOTHING I do is graceful.  In my defense, I have never been graceful but I had hoped that maybe grace would come to me on the back nine.  So far, it's eluded me.
  • I actually wince when I step onto the floor in the morning.  This morning my right foot had this weird shooting pain right in the arch.  Every morning it feels like my feet are actually if they've been screwed on by some twisted cobbler who visits in the night like an old person's Tooth Fairy.
  • My breasts actually point down.  Sure, they sustained not one but TWO human lives and their usefulness has passed but STILL...I am somewhat concerned that those jokes of tying them together and tripping over them and tucking them into the waistband of my pants may actually come true.  
  •  I am seriously concerned that I will suffer from female pattern baldness.  My hair is SUPER thin.  And it comes out in clumps.  I'm going to have to look into that comb-over thing, I just KNOW IT.  
  • My knees creak and moan with every step now because the cartilage I DID have there apparently packed its bags and left for warmer climates.  I have seriously considered shooting Jell-O straight into my knee joints because I just feel like Jell-O has the consistency I need.  And there would be a pleasant fruity odor wafting up every time I moved.
  • My eyes (which underwent some very expensive Lasik surgery years ago) can no longer read the newspaper without the assistance of reading glasses.  Fortunately, they make reading glasses in fun colors so I'm not totally upset about that.
  • I have some SERIOUSLY WEIRD stuff cropping up on my skin.  Have you ever looked at baby skin?  It's so beautifully SMOOTH and NEW.  My skin gets these strange bumps and lumps and dry patches.  It's all different colors now.  I now resemble some kind of an odd skin quilt that some blind person patched together.
  • My friends and I now discuss our various maladies on the phone. Classic.  Where is my rocking chair and WHAT DID I DO with those knitting needles?
I realize that (God willing) I have a long way to go on the Back Nine.  But I truly do not want to grind to a slow halt.  I would much prefer to go with all my bodily functions in (mostly) working order.  I keep promising myself that I will eat healthier (I do, for a week or two) and work out consistently (I do, for a week or two) to build strong muscles that will carry me through the next twenty, thirty years (God willing).

But, for now, I'm going to drink my coffee, turn on the morning news,  and yell at the weather man.  I'll save the twerking for another day. 

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Facing the Current Me During Reunion Time

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.”
                                                ― Nora Ephron

Next Saturday, I will be attending my 24th high school reunion along with the class of 1988 (their 25th).  I have spent the morning uploading high school pictures from various alumni to Flickr for use in the video to flash on the screen throughout the evening.  And I have been focusing on how small my waist was.  How thin my arms were.  Other than the big GIANT 80's hair and the bushy caterpillar eyebrows...I was SMOKIN' HOT.

Circa 1988 vs. Circa 2012.  Sigh.  The old me.  And the new.

Well, my BODY was smokin' hot.  And I certainly do wish I had flaunted it more.  And I know that so many of us look back and wish for the return of those carefree kids in those photos with the thin physiques and the wide-open futures.  But as I look back at these photos LONGING for the return of that effortlessly skinny girl (I ate COOKIES for lunch, for goodness sake..which may be how I came to be so much...thicker), I realized something:  that girl no longer exists.  Sure, I've added (a lot) of pounds since those days.  But that's not the ONLY thing that's different.


  • I am more confident.  That girl was a mouse.  She thought she was ugly, too skinny, not smart enough, never funny.  
  • I am wiser.  That girl made poor decisions...ALL THE TIME.  She leaped without looking (OK, I still do that a lot) and she sacrificed herself continually.
  • I am less alone.  That girl walled people off.  She kept them at arm's length for fear of being hurt even more than she already had been.
  • I speak my mind.  That girl was argumentative, sure.  But she didn't speak the truth.  She debated but she did not share.
  • I am more aware.  That girl had blinders on about most things. She had a streak of idealism but she never really paid attention.
  • I seek a higher power.  That girl was convinced that God did not exist.  She knew better.
I know people often don't attend reunions because they fear people will look at them and wonder what happened.  They might have bigger, softer bodies.  They may not have the career they thought they should have.  They may be markedly different from those days in high school.

But isn't that the POINT of growth?  

I don't WANT to remain stagnant.  Sure, I'd like to make healthier choices to get back to my thinner self but, you know what?  I am not defined by how I LOOK.

I. Am. Not. Defined.  By. How. I. Look.

None of us are.  We TRY to define people in any way we can.  We label:  fat, skinny, white, black, Asian, gay, straight, blue-collar, white-collar, short, tall, athletic, dumpy, disabled, and on, and on, and on...

When will we be judged by the content of our character?  Martin Luther King's speech echoed once again in every house in our country with a television just a few weeks ago.  When will we start living his dream?  I am going to my reunion next week.  I am proud of who I have become (even though, MAN, I still have a long way to go...) and I look forward to the event.  I don't look the same.  I don't act the same.  I am not the same.  And I hope that I never, ever STAY the same.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.


We are Coddlers (or, How We are Not Doing Kids Any Favors)

“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.”
                                             ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

At the risk of sounding like the crotchety old lady I am almost certain to become, I have to say that we have gone too far in the pendulum of parenting.

When I was a kid, we got RIBBONS for Field Day.  There were many field days when I came home with nary a red, blue or green ribbon to boast about.  I received one blue ribbon EVER on field day...for the three-legged race (and, to this day, I have no idea how....perhaps it's because I'm ACCUSTOMED to being someone with two left feet).  There were other kids, the natural athletes, who received FAR more than their "fair share" of ribbons and, boy, did I sometimes envy them.  Look at all those ribbons, I would marvel to myself.  Next year, I'll try harder...and maybe I'll get one of those ribbons for myself!

Now, ALL of our children are winners, right?  They are ALL EXACTLY THE SAME!


They are NOT all winners.  They're not.  Some kids are better at things than others.  Some kids have to work really hard to FIND their natural talents.  EVERYONE SHOULD NOT GET A TROPHY.  (Participation trophies are my pet peeve.) 

We teach our kids that they're great at EVERYTHING.

Newsflash:  they are NOT.  

Just as WE are not good at everything, our children watch us try and fail.  They watch us carefully to see how we handle our own mistakes and our own setbacks.  So why are we teaching THEM that they are so amazing that they won't have setbacks? Why are we teaching them that EVERYTHING they try they deserve a trophy for?

If they're already so good at everything...what are they going to DREAM ABOUT?  What are they going to reach for?  How are they going to learn to strive to achieve if we say to them every single time, "THAT was AMAZING!"?  Are we still going to be telling them that everything they do is amazing when they're still comfortably reclined on our furniture when they're 35 because life with us is so....easy?

Trust me, I am FAR from being a non-coddler.  My kids, like all the rest, do too little for too much reward.  They have too many "things" and they want for so little that they have a difficult time coming up with a wish list for birthdays or holidays.  SERIOUSLY.  They are heavily indulged children...much to my chagrin.  I want their self-esteems to be healthy.  I do.  But they know how much I loathe participation trophies.  And they know that the words "Bonus question" on any test or homework assignment read "Thing 1" or "Thing 2" because I WANT them to go above and beyond.  And I tell them to find things that they enjoy...things that they are passionate about...because they are not going to be good at everything.

If we continue on this parenting road we are on, the future will be bleak (but so very, very EVEN).  I'm telling you.

The World in 2040

  • War.  If we (God forbid) have to go to war, our children will drive to the battlefield with ergonomically fitted gear.  From their heated tank seats, they will engage the enemy.  "You are not being nice."  (See?  They are USING THEIR WORDS just like we taught them!  Proud, proud parenting moment!)  And, because even the game of Tag was outlawed at their elementary school (true story), they don't even know how to run away.  BOOM!  Blown to smithereens.
  • Business.  We will accompany Jimmy and Susie to their boardroom meetings where we will sit beside them and speak up for them when they are addressed. 
    • Random Business Guy:  "Thing 1, the projections for this quarter are dismal."  
    • Thing 1: "Well..."
    • Doddering Old Mom: "I'm sorry, I don't think he understood that what the company needed was to MAKE MONEY.  He was expressing his creativity and I don't think that profit should impact his life choices."
    • Boss:  "You're fired.  You AND your idiot mother." 
  • The Office of the President.  OK, there won't be just ONE president anymore because that would signify that one person might be BETTER than everyone else.  We'll have a Presidential Team.  They'll meet to have coffee and doughnuts.  Sugarless doughnuts.  The Presidential Team will decide to do awesome things like make EVERYONE the same color.  Maybe they'll choose a nice shade of green.  No differences means no conflict, right?  Wait in line to get your new shade!  And they'll decide that all of us should have equal amounts of money...JUST like in Monopoly.  Anyone who starts showing initiative and getting ahead will be moved back to the starting position...along with EVERYONE ELSE.
  • Neighborhoods.  All existing houses will be removed.  They will be replaced by neighborhoods with perfectly leveled streets that are all EXACTLY the same.  House numbers will be removed because lower (or higher) numbers might indicate differences which could be interpreted positively or negatively.  Homes will include the exact same furniture in the exact same colors so that no one could possibly envy anyone else.  All the green people who live inside will be the exact same gender and sexual orientation combination.  Children will be assigned as necessary when procreation is permitted.  Children will be painted green upon arrival. 
  • Food.  The Day New York Banned the Super Size will be heralded as a national holiday.  All portion sizes will be mandated by federal law.  All MEALS will be mandated by law.  Mondays will include chicken, two (approved) vegetables, gluten-free bread and an unflavored water (no ice).  Tuesdays will be vegan days, etc.  Drinking and smoking will be banned.  But pharmaceuticals will be promoted extensively.  Meals will be accompanied by mood regulation pills.  
Do we really want our kids to all be the same?  Do we really not want one kid to stand out?  Do we not want the rest to find their OWN passions?  What are we doing? 

More important, perhaps, is the question:  HOW DO WE STOP?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Monday, September 23, 2013

We Should All Make Bucket Lists. Today.

“The only wishes that will ever change you are the kind that may, at any moment, eat you whole.”
                                                ― Janette Rallison

I woke with a start this morning at 3:18 a.m. trying to make sense of whatever garbled dream I had been having.  It isn't unusual for me to be wide awake in the pre-dawn hours but this morning's early rousing was accompanied by a slight panic state:

I still have SO MUCH LEFT TO DO.

People who are close to me know that I have no true fear of death.  It's why I can jump out of a plane without a second thought or walk alone in dark cities at 2 a.m.  It's why I'm OK with leaving doors unlocked (Attention potential burglars:  I no longer DO THIS.  Thing 1 gets annoyed when I don't lock the doors).  It's how I can make middle-of-the-night trips to that sketchy WalMart when I can't sleep.  It's not even that I'm not scared, though;  I relish the thought of dying.  I LOOK FORWARD to it because I think THEN...FINALLY...I will have all the answers.  I am NOTHING if not a Little-Miss-Wanna-Know-It-All.  The advent of the Google age has given me tremendous abilities to find answers to all of life's questions.

BUT...I'm not ready yet, according to this morning's brief panic attack. I still have a LOT left to do!  I'm not talking about places I need to go...those may number in the thousands; my travel bucket list is only limited by the fact that the world itself isn't infinite.  I'm talking about the STUFF I need to do.

Now, I HAVE been skydiving (once...and I WILL be going again...soon!), Rocky Mountain climbing (yes, I've been to the peak of Colorado's highest mountain) and I certainly went more than 2.7 seconds on that mechanical bull at Arizona Pete's.  But I have SO MUCH MORE to go! 

  1. Go on a cattle drive.  (What a fun thing to start the list with! I mean a REAL one...camping out under the stars on a roll of blankets and eating beans out of a tin can warmed on an open fire.)
  2. Speak at a commencement ceremony.  Even if it's only at the local old folks home for those people who graduated from basket weaving class.
  3. Speak more than just English.  My limited "necessito dos cervezas, por favor" doesn't count.
  4. Learn to fly fish.  In Alaska.  While high. (On LIFE.  Sheesh.)
  5. Take my kids on a cross-country adventure.  We've done the Northeast.  I need to be hardcore and take them all the way to the west coast.  In a car.
  6. Get my pilot's license. Tell everyone I have it.  Everyone.  Arby's drive-thru:  "Will that be all today?"  "Yeah, hey...did you know I have my PILOT'S LICENSE?"
  7. Talk to my kids about sex.  Again.  Ad nauseum.  Not because I haven't done it before but because they HATE IT SO MUCH it warrants doing over and over.
  8. Watch the stars out of one of those REALLY BIG telescopes.  Like the professional kind.
  9. Train to be an astronaut.
  10. Talk about running for president.  Develop a following.  Drop out before they discover that I wear ladies underwear.  (Oh, wait...that's OK, isn't it?)
  11. Live in a house that stays clean for longer than two days.  Once.
  12. Plan my funeral.  Include a disco ball and a recording of Whitney Houston singing "I Will Always Love You."  Ensure that fresh popcorn will be clowns.
  13. Hire a marching band to make some grand announcement.  (My life has never included an actual grand announcement.  Maybe I should make that next...)
  14. Figure out something grand to announce.
  15. Sleep the entire night for more than three days in a row.
  16. Get married in Vegas.  When I'm 70. 
  17. Tell CEO of Starbucks he has changed my life.  For good.  
  18. Take over loudspeaker at big box retailer.  Sing "Sweet Caroline."  Ask everyone to sing along.
  19. Get healthy.  Make it stick for more than a week. 
  20. Become a person who says, "I think I'd like that" instead of "OMG, that is the BEST IDEA EVER!" when someone asks if I'd like butter/sugar/to go to a movie.  I think the former type of person must be more stable in general.  Not that I would know.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Move Over, Miley: Why I Can Never Be a Role Model

“If your kid needs a role model and you ain't it, you're both f****d.”
― George Carlin

Immediately after lunch on Friday, I did this:

In a fit of conscience immediately after popping that delectable sugary caramel-y goodness into my mouth, I pieced together the shreds of hastily torn wrapper and found that the tasty treat has 200 calories (OK, I've seen WORSE) but 29 GRAMS OF SUGAR!!!  Holy mother of pearl.  That is REALLY a lot of sugar packed into one delicious treat.  I begrudgingly wrapped it back up and stuck it into a desk drawer for the ants to find later.  Let them die of a sugar coma.

I would be horrified if my children ever put a 29-grams-of-sugar treat into their mouths.  I can put this sugar-laden grenade into my system without a second thought (until, granted, I read the nutrition information..."nutrition" being a VERY loose term for this item).  I KNOW that children emulate what their parents do...but, MAN, I sometimes suck as a role model.  Sometimes, I need to go sit in a corner and think about what I've done.

  • Driving.  Sometimes, I have to admit, I drive too fast.  And I have texted while driving (although not when my kids are in the car...they TAKE my PHONE away if I try!).  I practice rolling stops at certain intersections.  Very often, I am rifling through my purse for that tube of lipstick or a pen or that coupon I tucked away while I'm hurtling down the highway.  I do all of this because I believe myself to be a FABULOUS and terribly competent driver.  I'm sure that will be etched on my gravestone someday. "Here lies Kelly T.  She was a fabulous and terribly competent driver.  Until she crashed."  
  • Emotions.  I cry at the drop of a hat.  I do.  I admit it.  I get teary over EVERYTHING.  Sad, happy, you name it.  On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes, my anger flashes up quickly and I snap at people.  I also have days where I just can't seem to get out of my pajamas.  Instead of being rational and reasonable, I FEEL my way through life.  I do recognize myself in most of the Lifetime: Television for Women movies.  
  • Procrastination.  There is nothing I can't put off.  I TELL myself that I operate best under a tight deadline, but really I am just delaying the work stuff so I can do the fun stuff FIRST.  Sometimes, I also eat dessert before dinner...because I could DIE before dessert if dinner always comes first.  I almost NEVER choose work before fun.  It's why I can often be found cleaning my house at midnight because all the fun people have gone to bed.
  • Denial.  Pffft.  OK.  SOMETIMES I pretend to myself that everything is OK.  SOMETIMES I am very Scarlett O'Hara-ish in my approach to life:  "I'll think about it tomorrow."  Today, everything is sunny if I simply don't focus on those cobwebs in the corner then I can look at the SUNSHINE STREAMING THROUGH THE WINDOWS.  For a moment...for TODAY...the cobwebs don't exist. This is not exactly healthy.  I'm just sayin'.
  • Addictions.  So, I don't really know if "having an addictive personality" is a really REAL thing defined by psychologists or if it's JUST another excuse we addictive-type people have to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.  I WILL tell you this:   I avoid drugs like the PLAGUE because I KNOW I would be an AWESOME drug addict.  I would forego everything in my life to have ONE MORE HIT.  I know myself.  So I don't touch drugs.  I've been a borderline alcoholic (perhaps even crossed over THAT particular red-flag zone a time or two...when you desire a beer while DRIVING TO WORK in the morning it MIGHT be a bad sign).  I've smoked.  I've eaten myself into oblivion.  I've indulged in countless other self-destructive behaviors over the years that I would never, ever want my kids to see or to emulate.
 Thing 1 and Thing 2 are blessed to have MANY adults in their lives who serve as FABULOUS role models.  In many ways, their dad is a terrific role model in the places where I fall short and I manage to fill in the gaps where he might have an issue or two.  They have their grandparents and some friends of the family and they've had many wonderful teachers, coaches and Scout leaders to look up to.  Those Things are blessed in ways they can't imagine.

And I just thank God that it's NOT all up to me.  It truly does take a village, doesn't it?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Accidents (or, How I Came to Know I'm Not Crazy Through Blogging)

Because my theory is, there's no such thing as life,
it's just catastrophe.
                                                  ― Anne Carson

Six months ago, I began to blog.

Oh crap, I know you're thinking.  Here we go with some other load of self-important mumbo jumbo.  Why can't this chick ever just post funny cat pictures?  Why do we always have to go inside her freakin' HEAD? 

The answer?  You have to go inside my head because IT'S MY FREAKIN' BLOG. 

My blogging was born out of this fervent need to get a bunch of hogwash out of my head.  I walk around much of the time with my brain so full of...well...ME....that I sometimes can't make heads or tails out of anything.  For most of my life, I've just let the stuff sit there, like hair clogging up a drain.  There was no real "flow" in my life because everything kept getting stuck on this massive glob of JUNK I had in my head.  I have spent a huge portion of life just trying to get around myself.  (And I do realize that this is all gobbledygook...but I'm a ridiculous mess of a person who's trying to make sense out of the chaos.  Bear with me for a moment.)  

One day, I sat down to write.  And, instead of jotting down the twaddle in a personal journal or starting yet ANOTHER angst-ridden or self-ridiculing short story, I decided to share.

And share I did.

I have spewed in the last six months more ridiculous crap than I thought possible.  The words just kept coming.  And coming.  They spilled out of me like water.  All of it has been free-form.  Almost none has been edited (other than by some very kind friends who know how much I abhor misspellings and poor grammar choices).  All of it has come from whatever odd place in my head I am in on any given day. Trust me when I say that there are many, many odd places in my head.

And, lo and behold, transformation has occurred.

Writing a blog is a lot like skydiving...sometimes, you just have to let go and jump.  And, yes, this IS me.  On the bottom.
Because I let go of fear and I let go of judgment (against myself and my words), I have become free.  I realize (sometimes in an extreme fit of chagrin) that I tend to go WAY overboard on the sharing.  (I cringe to think how much passing acquaintances now know about me...but I will tell you HONESTLY that I never quite expected very many people to READ this blog.)  But, man, I will tell you this:  the truth will set you free. I know the terminology is overused and has lost its meaning.  But I have grown tremendously because I've done something I never imagined I could do:  I have taken my shame...and I've shed LIGHT on them.  Darkness cannot thrive in light.  And that, my friends, is freedom.  Cleaning out the cobwebby ickiness of life through telling the truth is transforming. 

I've done some tough work on myself over the last 20 years.  I've faced some terrible demons.  But I don't think anything has freed me the way this very public revealing has.  It has caused some problems in relationships...problems that I'm still figuring out and trying to avoid.  This is a fledgling effort and eventually I hope to find my voice and maybe stop making people mad (but I kinda doubt it). 

So...thank you.   Thanks for reading and for not being TOO terribly hard on this self-absorbed nerd.  Thanks to all of you who have written to me saying that you recognize a little bit of yourselves in what I write.  Thanks for being patient when the great majority of what I write is absolute garbage.  Thanks for laughing when it's funny and for politely looking away when it's just embarrassing.  

Thank you for viewing my 123 posts (so far...and counting!) many, many thousands of times over.  Thank you to the people who read this blog regularly in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Ukraine, Poland, France, Japan and Malaysia.

Most of all, thank you for helping to set me free.

I can't promise it's going to get any better as far as reading material goes.  But, here are the top six blog posts of the last six months.  I look forward to the next six months!  (I try not to make any commitments longer than THAT...I'm terribly fickle.)

My Ex-Husband Is So Lucky to Have Me

Waxing Nostalgic:  Why I Think Reunions are Fun

Who Am I?

Worst Parenting Fail EVER: The Target Story

You Just Can't Take Me Anywhere

Forgiving on Father's Day

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Living the Miracle

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
                                                                                      ― Albert Einstein

 Do you ever wonder if people over the age of 80 consider each and every day a miracle?  As we move through the twilight years of our lives, do we stop trying to achieve perfection? Do we slow down and listen to what others are saying?  Do we apologize sooner?  Laugh quicker?  Forgive easier?  

We hear stories all the time of people who have recovered from horrific accidents who say that NOW they consider each and every day to be a gift.  We hear of people with terminal illnesses who say that they are grateful for every day.

What does it take to get us to understand that every day IS a miracle?

What does it take for us to turn off our cell phones while we're sitting at a table with other people?  What does it take for us to smile more and criticize less?  What has to happen in your life to get you out of that chair in front of that TV and live your life in color, out loud?

  1. If a doctor told you that you had three weeks to live...what's the FIRST thing you would do?  Why aren't you doing it today?
  2. What's the sweetest sound you hear every single day?  Are you truly listening to it?  
  3. If your child, your spouse or your best friend was heading to surgery RIGHT NOW, what is the one thing you would want to tell them before anesthesia?  Have you told them that today?
  4. When is the last time you made pictures out of the clouds in the sky? 
  5. Do you pause in the morning as you rush to your car to look around at the grass, the sky, the trees and be in the moment, for the moment? 
  6. When is the last time you truly looked someone deeply in the eyes?  What did you see there?
  7. In the madness and chaos of the day, do you say "I love you" and mean it?  Or do you rush through it like you do everything else?
  8. Have you heard anything by Vivaldi lately?  Try it.  If you don't know Vivaldi, please get to know his music.  You won't be sorry.
  9. When's the last time you appreciated your body?  Instead of looking at your wrinkles or your fat or your too-short arms, think about how amazing it feels to stretch.  Think about the beautiful miraculous machine that gets you from place to place.  
  10. When is the last time that you really appreciated on how beautiful this life is?  In spite of its tragedies, its pain, its drudgery, its worry....this life is a gift. We can do a better job of it.  Can't we?
Focus on the miracle.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Getting Back to Nature...or Die Trying

“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”
                                                                      ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

I had a brilliant idea last Thursday:  I should pack up all articles for survival and take the hoodlums and the four-legged beasts into nature.  They will LOVE camping this weekend...out in the fresh air with the birds and the bees and the cool start of autumn.  This will be GREAT.

I am nothing if not an optimist.

Day 1

So, I requested a half-day of vacation on Friday and proceeded to spend the next 16-18 hours madly making lists and planning and packing. I found an open campsite at the last minute and I hurriedly squeezed and shoved our gear into the car.  I patiently waited for Thing 1 and Thing 2 to return from school and then we hit the road less than 10 minutes after they arrived home.

We are fortunate to live in North Carolina.  From our home centrally located in the state, we can be at the beach in about three-ish hours and the mountains in less than that.  We arrived at Stone Mountain State Park before dark with plenty of time to set up camp and get a campfire going.

Things 1 and 2 are accustomed to my Great Adventures and have become fairly proficient at setting up a tent and getting a camp vibe going.  Sparky is also a willing participant and Mr. McDougal was a like a tiny crack dog, barking at everyone and everything in sight as if to say, "Ya'll gonna MESS with me?  No?  I didn't THINK so!"
Night 1 at the camp site.  The dogs are still (relatively) clean.

That first night, my campfire never really did get to raging and the temperature had plummeted so we all decided to get to bed.  Did I mention that technology is not allowed during our Great Camping Adventures?  We go old school...funny how the hoodlums are ready for bed SO MUCH EARLIER when no technology is present. 

At about midnight, I woke with a start.  I remember thinking that I was being suffocated by a ghost.  I batted around my face and felt the tent fabric all around my head.  "What the....???"  In a few seconds, it popped back into place.  And that's when I noticed the wind.

We had started our adventure on the sharp edge of a cold front moving through the area.  Our tent was positioned just so and the wind was slamming into the broad edge and basically collapsing half of it with each gust. 

The wind whipped and slashed through the little valley where our band of misfits had made camp.  The force of the wind was collapsing half of the tent ON TOP OF ME.  The boys, finks that they are, ABANDONED me to go to the car to sleep in relative peace and comfort while I battled the elements with the dogs.  Around 1 a.m., I had had enough.  I put on my flip flops and, waving the dogs back into the tent with one hand, managed to slip out through the zippered door into the raging wind.  I unfastened the fly from the tent poles while managing (somehow) to keep the whole thing from flying away.  Once one side was unfastened, the entire fly billowed out into the air like a makeshift parachute.  I struggled with the stakes, the pole and Velcro ties and finally balled the entire thing up, tucked it under my arm and, while keeping the dogs at bay with one hand inside the tent, managed to unzip and re-zip the tent door with the other hand.

I collapsed, panting and exhausted, onto my air mattress and THEN...oh, THEN...I looked up.  Up above me in the most intricate of nature's designs was the night sky.  Unmarked by light pollution, the stars had to number in the millions.  I stared into that sky and immediately said a prayer of gratitude for the gift of all that beauty.  I smiled.  The work and the wind and the cold faded away as I stared up into that velvety blanket of stars and I drifted into sleep...


Mr. McDougal woke up in some sort of doggie panic attack around 3 a.m.  I don't know WHAT he heard or what he thought he saw (because now, of course, he was able to see EVERYTHING without the tent fly on) but he did a mini-doggie-flip-out and barked his way frantically around the tent.  He raced around and barked completely immune to my efforts to calm him.  Finally, in a last-ditch desperate effort to get some sleep, I pulled him INTO my sleeping bag with me.  I spoke in a low soothing "It's OK" voice and petted his trembling body until he finally relaxed against me.  And sleep came again.

Day 2

We woke to a crisp, clear morning in the mountains.  After a hearty bacon-and-egg-cooked-out-in-the-open-air breakfast, we decided to hit the trail.  A 4.5 mile trail, to be exact.  Marked "strenuous" on the map.

I'm not only an optimist.  I'm also hardcore.

I am not going to go into the details of this hike, mainly because I think you should try it if you ever happen to visit Stone Mountain State Park.  I will say that arthritic knees will suffer on this loop.  Greatly.  Severely.  And, two days later, I STILL can't really walk comfortably.  But, the hike was beautiful.  And magical.  And it was an amazing workout.  And Mr. McDougal, tiny trooper that he was, never gave up in spite of the fact that his legs are approximately four inches long.  He DID stop and sit on the trail at one point, panting and refusing to budge.  I think, in his doggie mind, he may have been cursing my existence.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 at the Summit of Stone Mountain

Boys and dogs at the summit.  Note Mr. McDougal is hiding his face.
Hours later, we emerged from the trail, victorious.  Hungry and thirsty, we all piled into the car and made our way back to the camp site where I figured out pretty quickly that I had forgotten ALL of our sandwich supplies in the refrigerator back home.  We opted to use our handy GPS and found out Sparta, NC was only a 12 mile drive "down the road a piece."  Grateful for the air-conditioned, seated comfort, we drove to a Burger King and loaded up on protein.

Back at the campsite, I dragged my air mattress out of the tent and found a shady spot under the tree.  Exhausted both from the night before AND from the long hike, my body and mind quickly shut down and I slept.  I woke almost two hours later with a boy propped up on each side of the mattress, reading.  The dogs were sprawled out beside them...and the view was beautiful.

My post-nap view from my air mattress.

One of my OTHER post-nap views of Sparky and Thing 1.

Yet another post-nap view of Thing 2 and Mr. McDougal

Day 3

We woke up to a heavy dew, ate breakfast and packed our gear back into the car.  At home, we unloaded and I spent the next eight hours cleaning the car, mowing the lawn, unpacking the gear, washing everything, setting the tent up in the yard to dry, giving both dogs a bath, drying everything and then repacking it all into containers for the NEXT Great Camping Adventure... 

...which will take place as soon as I forget how much work camping really is.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No Need To Worry

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
                                                           ― Corrie ten Boom

One of my all-time favorite things to say is this:  We only get this ONE CHANCE...this ONE life.  I use it when I'm trying to decide if I should clean my sty of a living room or go out to dinner with friends (dinner wins, hands down).  I use it when I'm opting to take my kids camping instead of staying home.  I use it when I sit down and play games with Thing 2 instead of doing the dishes.  And now, I've started applying it to worry with a little added spin:  If I die tomorrow, is this important? 

I'm not a BIG worrier anyway.  But every now and again, I get caught in some weird spiral which usually results in me being wide awake at 3 a.m. dealing with ALL the "issues" in my life.  Most of the time, I choose NOT to worry (because, believe it or not, worry IS a CHOICE) but sometimes my guard is down when I'm feeling particularly lonely or sad or overwhelmed.

Things You Don't Have to Worry About

  • Stuff. The kid with the most toys at the end does NOT win.  If you collect ALL the world's Star Wars figurines and store them on the shelf in pristine condition, you do not win.  Ask yourself what PLEASURE they are bringing to you and/or to others.  I don't worry about my STUFF.  Ever.  Ask my kids.  If they break something, I usually figure out if they're OK and then I sigh, shrug my shoulders and say, "Accidents happen."  Unless it's something we NEED, I usually don't bother replacing it.  There is sometimes a pang when it's something that someone special gave to me...but, in reality, I have memories of that person.  The "stuff" is just representative.  I choose not to worry about stuff.
  • Money. Money isn't everything.  It isn't ANYTHING, other than a tool.  I know it's a shocker but I really try not to worry about money...even when I don't have very much of it.  I use money as it's meant to be used:  a tool.  I share it.  I give it away when I can.  I use it to make memories with other people.  But if I were dying tomorrow, I wouldn't think about all the money I'm missing out on.  And, as the saying goes, I certainly can't take it with me. I choose not to worry about money.
  • Work.  Work gets me down sometimes.  I focus on getting my job done (and done well) but I know it's not something I am in love with at this point.  I am looking for fulfilling work that I am passionate about.  But every day, I pull myself AWAY from worrying about my job.  I choose not to worry about my work.
  • Health.  It's easy not to worry about health when you have it. But my knees are shot.  I'm looking at double knee replacement a few years down the line.  I try to eat right.  I exercise at least a little bit almost every day.  I do what I can.  And I realize that my health is somewhat in my control.  But I could be blindsided at any moment.  I don't worry about it though.  It is what it is. I choose not to worry about health.
  • Kids.  This is one I struggle with.  Because if I were dying tomorrow, I WOULD worry about my kids.  I love Thing 1 and Thing 2 with every breath in my body.  I want them to make good choices.  I want them to live long, healthy, happy, caring, loving, fulfilling, nurturing, true lives.  But I am NOT THEM.  I can't live their lives for them.  All I can do is provide them with tools to live a beautiful life.  I can give them a sense of safety.  I can show them what faith looks like.  I can act with kindness toward them. I can provide unconditional, faithful love.  I can teach them to communicate effectively with people they love and with people they've just met.  But I can't do it for them.  I can't make their choices.  I can only trust that they will take this solid foundation we've attempted to give them and make their own lives in the best way they know how.  I choose not to worry about my kids.
  • Love.  I sometimes believe that I will die alone and, after my dead carcass rots away for a few weeks or months, that not a soul will come to my funeral.  I realize this is overly dramatic because my children will almost CERTAINLY feel obligated to attend.  I am not always a good friend.  And I wasn't always a good wife.  And I wasn't a good girlfriend at times.  And I am alone.  Being alone can be scary.  But then...just when sadness starts etching away at my happiness, love finds me.  A friend calls to have lunch.  Someone else calls out of the blue just to say hello.  I am pretty sure that this is where God shows up.  Love exists in my life in beautiful and profound ways...and not always in the way I would have expected years ago.  But it's real.  And it's solid.  And I can depend on it.  I choose not to worry about love.
  • Living.  I work hard to do this life right.  Every day, I make choices that I hope are better than the day before.  I learn and I give and I love with all that I have.  I screw up.  I start over.  I hurt the feelings of people I love. I get angry when I shouldn't and I build massive walls almost instantaneously.  But I apologize.  And I knock down the walls.  And I start over.  I work hard at this life.  I try to appreciate the gift that it is.  I choose not to worry about life.
What are you worrying about?  If you were told today that this was IT...this was your LAST day on earth...would you STILL be worrying about it?  What would you do instead?  How do you choose to spend your time:  worrying or living?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Candy Pumpkins, Sweaters and Leaves: Everything Falls into Place

“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.”
                  ― William Cullen Bryant

Years ago, I lived with my then husband on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.   If you've never been, I strongly urge you to visit if you can because Hawaii truly is paradise.  My pace slowed there and the smile seemed to come to my lips even quicker.  The people I knew on Oahu were warm and engaging, just like the island itself.  I made friends and I managed to visit the ocean if only for a glance almost every single day.  I loved living in Hawaii with the fresh pineapple and the warm sunny days stretched into months and then, before I knew it, a couple of years passed.

But each autumn I spent on the island brought a twinge of sadness.  On Sunday mornings, I would peek through the window next to the front door of our town house and see a beautiful blue sky.  It was the kind of sky that should smell of crisp leaves and the teasing edge of winter.  As I opened my door to retrieve my Sunday paper, I would brace myself for the crisp air...only to breathe in the warm, fragrant smell of the island with a hint of sea salt and flowers.

Poor, deprived woman, you're probably thinking.  How it sucks for you that you had to endure two autumns in paradise.  

Please don't get me wrong.  I did love loving in paradise. But, autumn has its own brand of magic that you simply can't experience when it's 82 degrees and sunny.  Autumn, for me, is the beginning of a yearly renewal that concludes with spring.  It's the period of re-birth when the earth sheds its skin to languish through the winter for a vibrant "HooWAH!" in the spring.

Some amazing things happen in the fall.

  • School starts.  Who doesn't love a cornucopia of freshly sharpened pencils, new shoes, fresh sheets of notebook paper, clean erasers and the unblemished slate of a new beginning?  School starting is one of my favorite things about fall and the reason why I'm sometimes sad for year-round schoolers who will never associate the fall with their new pencil cases and lunch bags.
  • Candy pumpkins fill the shelves.  Well, they fill the shelves everywhere but HERE apparently.  I have the darnedest time finding these little sugary goodies.  Candy pumpkins are happiness in a bag.  I have an ongoing debate with several friends about the deliciousness of candy pumpkins vs. candy corn.  I'm not worried, though...they'll see the light soon enough.
  • Hot coffee is delicious all day long.  There is nothin' better than a steaming cup of joe when the air is crisp and the leaves are orange.  You can find me all through the fall with my fingers wrapped around a coffee cup hand warmer. 
  • Sweaters.  What could be cozier than some soft yarn stitched together to keep you warm?  Sweaters wrap you up in a knitted hug all day long.   
  • Boots.  Short boots, high boots, flat boots, heeled boots. Boots mean you don't have to ensure that your toes are painted or even that your socks match.  Boots are perfect for a hot mess like me.
  • The mornings are dark.  I love waking up in the fall before the time changes.  I greet the day in cozy darkness and I see the sun rise almost every single morning.
  • Backpacking and camping.  Get me outside in the fall. I want campfires and I want to sleep in a sleeping bag.  I want to wake up in the woods, make my coffee and fry bacon in the open air.
  • Halloween.  OK, I know some people have a problem with Halloween...but it is HANDS DOWN one of my favorite holidays.  I think this holiday alone is responsible for the fact that I've never quite become a real grown-up.  My costume selection process starts right about now...and I get to pretend to be a superhero or a cartoon character or a real b***ch or a very funny lady for a day.  Pretending is good for the skin, I think.
I am aware that now is the beginning of the autumn of life for me.  How SPECTACULAR!  I can only hope that I will blaze as bright as the maples over the coming years.  

You people can keep summer.  And spring has its own special joys.  Winter should exist only for two weeks in December.  But autumn?  Now, that's livin'.   It's just around the corner...and then I'll be able to say, "Happy fall, ya'll."

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

10 Secrets for Happiness

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln

I obsess about happiness.  "Am I happy?"  "Are my kids happy?"  "Are my DOGS happy?"  "Is that cashier happy?"  I have no idea why I do it.  I do know that I've ALWAYS done it.  I have these long rambling journals from my teenage years (yes, I do realize nothing's changed) where I ponder the meaning of happiness, how happiness is achieved, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  I've read entire BOOKS devoted to happiness. 

I've finally discovered the secret to happiness:  Be happy.


I know.  It's ridiculous.  And it's easy.  BE FLIPPIN' HAPPY.  Happiness is a choice.  Anger is a choice.  Misery is a choice.  CHOOSE HAPPY.  It's that easy.

In order to add credibility, however, I'm going to share the elusive 10 secrets to happiness.  Ready?  This is life-changing so you may want to take a shower and look pretty before you go shouting it out to the streets.

  1. Share your life.  Share it with people you love or people you like.  Share it with people who make you laugh.  Share it with pets.  Share it with social media. Share it with the stranger you meet on the street.  Connect.  Connect.  Connect.
  2. Smile.  Have you ever heard the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it?"  It's true.  Smiling makes you happy.  It's really hard to frown when you're smiling.  Try it.  Right now.
  3. Give of yourself.  This is different from sharing your life.  This is doing things for other people.  Even if it's as simple as opening a door.  Try going through your day just doing really simple, easy things for others.  It's a huge mood booster.
  4. Wear something that makes you feel handsome/pretty.  I'm not saying you have to dress up every day.  But wear something that makes you think, "I look GOOD."  You'll feel happy when you think you're rockin' that leisure suit.
  5. Go outside.  Every day.  No matter the weather. Take a walk.  Drink your coffee on your front porch or your back deck.  Breathe it in.  What a beautiful world we live in.  
  6. Breathe.  Deeply. And appreciatively.  Every breath is a gift.  Pausing to appreciate it always makes me smile.
  7. SingSing a song, make it simple to last your whole life long.  Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear.  Just sing, sing a song.  I have loved that old Carpenters song for my ENTIRE LIFE.  It's true, too.  Singing begets happiness.  I dare you to sing (out loud) and not feel good.  
  8. Move.  Get off your keister.  Move your body.  Find an exercise you enjoy.  And then...enjoy it.  You can't be miserable if you're hula hooping or bowling or playing tennis.  There's just no time for it.
  9. Turn off the TV.  The stories that other people make up are mesmerizing. But more and more people are watching what I call junk tv.  They're watching reality shows with miserable people making miserable choices. Don't watch it.  Turn it off.  Live your own stories.
  10. Learn.  Every day, learn something new.  Don't just skim over that word you don't recognize.  Look it up.  Use your brain.  Stretch your mind.  
Happiness is attainable.  And you can get to it in this instant.  Start small.  Maybe just a slight upturn of your mouth is enough for now.  But start.

Life is a gift.  We should receive it happily.

END NOTE:  There are some cases where choosing happiness just doesn't work.  I do realize that clinical depression is REAL.  And the above steps and choices do not apply in that situation.  If you are clinically depressed, I hope that you see a doctor to help guide you into a better state.  I DO know that depression is a will deceive you and destroy you.  If this is your truth, I send love your way.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

The Dire Straits Did Not Lie on MTV: You CAN Get Your Money for Nothin'

"That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Get your money for nothin' get your chicks for free..."
                        --Dire Straits, Money for Nothin'

Author's Note:  OK, it's the middle of the night.  I can't sleep.  I can't promise any of this will be coherent.

It's September.  Do you know what that means?  It means that CHRISTMAS is just around the corner.  Because we have completely and totally lost the meaning of Christmas (it's harsh..but it's true), we begin the STRESS of Christmas right  We start thinking about gift giving.  Actually, we start thinking about gift BUYING, don't we?  I'm not going to get into the whole commercialism nightmare that we've managed to turn Christmas into.  (Believe me, I have a LOT to say about does everyone else on the blogosphere.  But, I'll spare you just this once.)

Here's the thing:  most of us buy gifts. If you're like ME, you HATE to go shopping.  I like the fun and festive atmosphere of shopping at Christmas but then I get depressed when I look around and see all these frowning, stressed out people.  And I don't deal well with crowds.  Or lines.  Or stupid people (did I say that out loud?).

So, every year, I shop from home.

LAST year, however, was different.  I discovered the magic of Ebates.  I am totally going to sound like an infomercial right now but I have to tell you this:  EBATES IS MAGIC.  You know why?  Because I go to Ebates, I find the store that I'm already buying from anyway and I click on their link and then THEY tell me how much I'm going to get IN CASH just from buying the stuff I was already going to buy anyway.


OK.  Let me give you an example.  I bought Thing 2 a backpack for school this year.  Well, I ALWAYS buy backpacks from Lands' End.  They're sturdy.  I've never had one wear out...they just get outgrown.  Instead of going straight to Lands' End, I did this:
  • I went to Ebates.  
  • I searched for Lands' End on the Ebates site.  
  • A linked popped up that showed me a coupon code to use for Ebates AND a 3% cash back incentive.
  • I clicked on the link.
  • I went to Lands' End and ordered the backpack, just like I always do.
  • I later got an email telling me how much money I earned from Ebates.  For that transaction, I think it was something like $2.00.
Just this year, I've earned $171 from Ebates just buying things I was already going to buy anyway.  Now, $171 might not seem like a lot in a year but a) it's basically "free" money and b) that was in addition to the coupons I used from Ebates that saved cash anyway.  They send you a check once a quarter.  It's fabulous.

AND, here's the fun part:  If you start now, you can do all your Christmas shopping using Ebates and you can get CASH after Christmas.  They send you a CHECK just for shopping.  WHAT?

If you refer friends, they give you money for THAT, too.

It's ridiculous.  And it sounds too good to be true.  But it isn't.  It's cash money.  For doing NOTHING but clicking on a link.  

OK, so your assignment is to get started right away.  Click on my link to sign up (because I totally get money if YOU sign up and actually use Ebates).  And then share YOUR link with YOUR friends and YOU'LL get money when THEY sign up.  I'm telling you...this is easy.  Seriously.  Do it.  You will not regret it.  (And, quite honestly, even if you don't use my link to sign up, I hope you will sign up anyway.  It's just a smart thing to do, right?  Just go to  Remember that!) 

MTV did not lie....get your money for nothin' and your chicks for free...(OK, fine.  I am NOT telling you that chicks are free. We're actually very, very expensive.)

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.