This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I use vinegar a lot for cleaning (more on that next Tuesday!) and everytime I open the bottle I think of dying Easter eggs. I had graham crackers and milk almost every day for after school snack for 12 years, so the smell of graham crackers makes me feel a little uptight - like maybe I have homework still to do...
And finally Bubble Gum Lip Smackers Gloss. Junior High my friends, Junior High.
What scent memories do you have?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Yep, it's the end of January all right.
I read a feng shui book that had a lot of information about stale energy. If I have any energy at all right now it is certainly stale, so I thought I'd get the book out again and brush up on the cures. It turns out the cure to stale energy is to get moving. sigh. I don't want to get moving, but okay, I'll play along. The book said to move 21 items in your home. Unfortunately cleaning up, while extremely good, doesn't count as moving items. I think I'll give it a try. That candle on the mantle that has been collecting dust could be (dusted) moved upstairs to my bedroom. The picture frames that I keep meaning to fill could be filled and hung up. Maybe the throw pillows on the couch in the living room could be switched with the ones on the couch in the basement? Perhaps I can recycle a pretty glass jar I received at Christmas as a new pen holder on my desk. Maybe I'll even add a ribbon to it. Or add a fun label to the jar. Heck maybe I'll print out a collection of black & white toile labels and give my desk a coordinated French country look.
Okay, maybe there is something to moving 21 items. Just thinking about moving the items I feel more energetic. I'll start with moving the biggest item: myself, and then see where it goes from there.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The advent of digitized music has made it possible to carry thousands of motivating, uplifting, encouraging, and happy songs with you everywhere you go without creating a lot of waste or toting heavy equipment (remember the 'boom boxes' of the '80s?).
Having music in your life is good for your body because it gets you moving. It's good for your mind because listening to music is proven to increase intelligence. It's good for your soul because (depending upon your song choices) music can be so uplifting.
Dance. Sing in your car. In the shower. Everywhere you go. You'll be healthier. So will the planet.
Monday, January 25, 2010
So I take my daughter to the dentist. It is raining so hard it's like being in the shower. The wind blows my umbrella inside out as I attempt to walk from her school to the car. It actually hails a little bit at some point in the short 15 minute trip between my daughter's school and the dentist's office. But we make it. Wet. Glasses fogged. Umbrella broken. But safe. And on time.
The receptionist looked a little surprised when we walked in but was very professional: asking my name. Asking my daughter's name. Flipping through her appointment book (book? They are still using a book?) with a small, professional smile on her face. Flipping. Still flipping. Why is she flipping through so many pages? How many pages does it take to show an appointment that starts in 5 minutes. I decide to make a little small talk: chatting about how awful it is outside and how I wouldn't be out at all on such a nasty day if we didn't have this appointment. The receptionist looks up, raises her eyebrows, smiles and says:
"Ummm, ma'am? I think you may be a little early for your appointment..."
"Oh, I thought it was 1:30. Did I look at it wrong, is it at 4:30?"
"No ma'am, it's at 1:30. It's at 1:30 on Monday, February 22." (smirk, small giggle)
"You're kidding! But I have an appointment confirmation card right here! It clearly states my appointment is on January 25!" (I pull out card to wave my proof under her smirking nose.)
"Yes ma'am, I see where you may have gotten confused. You were looking at the 'Mail by' date. The appointment date is down here. Highlighted." (lots more smirking, patient and hygenist in first room off reception are openly laughing but I'm sure they're laughing about something else.)
I admit I am completely deflated. She's right, the date is clearly written and highlighted. It's embarrassing! I took my daughter out of school early! I broke a perfectly good umbrella! Even my socks are wet! And why did I have to sound so indignant and actually wave the appointment card at the receptionist?
Does this kind of thing ever happen to you?
Friday, January 22, 2010
Mozzarella sticks as an entree? At my pricey-little-bastion-of-education?
Let's face it: as a society we don't prioritize teachers highly enough to pay them well enough to get consistently high quality teaching. (Especially our substitute kindergarten teachers, but that's another post...)We don't prioritize nutrition enough to make it imperative that under no circumstances would mozzarella sticks be considered anything more than an occasional addition to an otherwise healthy meal.
My daughter's school generally does really well with meal planning. She has an amazing salad bar available to her every day, fresh fruit and vegetables are always plentiful and fairly varied (especially considering they are catering to an audience of 5-13 year olds), and most of the entrees reflect an attempt to keep lunch interesting as well as nutritious. And, as in any job, some days the lunch crew drops the ball.
I don't blame the school, per se, I hold our society responsible for letting things get to the lowest common denominator where lunches like this are even considered. Our children will (eventually) eat what they are given. If we give them junk, well...what do we expect? Of course they will want more junk!
Moderation. Perspective. I don't think mozzarella sticks for lunch are a great choice but that is one meal one time. I am in charge of what she eats for breakfast, morning snack, afternoon snack, and dinner. She is still young enough that I control most of what she eats. It is my job to ensure that even when the school drops the ball, I don't.
It's my job to be a parent.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Well, both. I had never even heard the term "organic food" before 1999. I'm sure there were a handful of "hippie" commune farmers who had always grown their own vegetables before then. And I'm sure there were always the "crackpot" environmentalists who believed in using sustainable farming methods. But until the last decade or so, those people were on the fringe. Well that's all changed now and almost overnight mom-and-pop-organic-farms have become a staple in the pantry of the health-conscious, environmentally aware, and the trendy.
It all started for me when my daughter had a diaper rash that just wouldn't go away. I had also recently watched Oprah where her guest, Dr. Andrew Weil, had spoken about a wide-spread but mostly unknown allergy to dairy that plagued many children and adults. He mentioned that for some people it may be the protein lactose which they don't digest very well, but for others it may be the amount of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides present in the dairy that made them sick. I decided to go dairy free to see if it would help my constant hay-fever-like-allergies (they went away within 2 weeks) and to buy organic milk for my daughter to see if it helped her rash. The rash went away. Completely. Within days. A few weeks later I bought regular old milk again (thinking I had cured her and could return to regular habits) and her rash came back immediately. Curious. We have had organic dairy products since then.
I opt for organic dairy products first, followed by organic frozen fruit (because I eat a smoothie every day). Next I'll go for antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat. Then organic eggs. Then organic vegetables. Finally, if I'm feeling really rich I'll buy organic shampoo and conditioner. I try to prioritize based upon our consumption, availability, and my ability to make natural substitutions that while not organic, may at least be less processed. Our family doesn't eat a lot of meat or dairy, but we do eat a lot of fruit, eggs, and veggies. I can afford to be all-organic on the dairy and meat because I don't have to buy very much. I make the fruit and eggs a priority because we consume a lot of them. I can find a lot of veggies at farmers' markets or locally grown so I don't worry about organic as much with them. Personal care products are a minefield of chemicals but they are also easy to make yourself from stuff in the kitchen (but that's another post...).
Organic is healthy. It's also very trendy. Be both: choose one item you consume a lot and see if you can switch to organic. There, don't you feel better already?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Send e-cards and e-gifts.
I know, e-cards have existed for years, but they weren't always that great. Recently though, while looking for a way to connect with my 3 year old niece and celebrate her potty victory, I re-examined http://www.hallmark.com/. Their website has completely changed in the past couple of years. No longer are you stuck with just a few designs with dicey clip-art that appears on the screen while tinny background music plays too loudly or softly in the background. Gone are the days of e-cards that look like a 6 year old got hold of PowerPoint. Now there are many e-cards available, many of them are hilarious, that contain animation, music, and dialogue that will have your recipients laughing and sharing the e-card with others. I went ahead and bought a subscription for $9.95/year. I have already sent about 15 e-cards (which would have cost $.99 each) and plan to send many, many more. I am even considering sending e-cards for Christmas to all my friends and family who have email. I don't know if I can go quite that "green" yet, but I am considering it.
And the e-gift-card options are endless. You no longer have to send a gift card that may get lost in the mail, or not have a proper activation code, or that just ends up in a landfill when the credit has been used. It is a procrastinating environmentalist's dream, I tell you.
Now if only I could convince my puppy-wanting-daughter to get an e-pet instead...
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
I have achieved Cougar status.
You know I have noticed lately that many of the women in the gym are younger than me. And come to think of it, that woman on the Pilates mat next to me yesterday may not have wanted to strike up a conversation with me because she may have looked at it as talking to someone who could be her mom. Just because my daughter happens to be 10 doesn't mean I couldn't easily have a child who is 20. When did this happen? I'm still buying acne cream and yet I really do need some wrinkle cream (especially under my eyes, dear Lord it's not pretty). I remember being in my 20s. And in my 30s. But I don't remember aging!
I am looking forward to 40. I don't feel it's old, though it continually surprises me when other people do. I have made a commitment to myself to be in the best shape of my life at 40. (Thus the Pilates, sigh) As Steve and I celebrate our 19th Anniversary this year (child bride, what can I say?) I certainly feel like our marriage is better than ever. I'm certainly better equipped to handle my verging-on-teenage-hood-daughter than I would have been 10 years ago. I'm even better at making (and most importantly, keeping) friends than I was 10 years ago.
Still, realizing that to the young men at the gym I'm the scary Cougar is quite an eye-opener. Don't worry boys, you have nothing to fear from me, I'm old enough to appreciate what I have, live my life in the present, and not create any drama for my future. Grrrrrrrowl.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Today I took the Pilates Mat class. Ahhh, no scary equipment, just a simple peacock blue mat.
Amazing how much pain can be inflicted upon a person with just one innocent looking mat. "Resist!" my instructor Kylee would command, "Pull your belly button into the mat! Drag your legs up from the mat, hold that 45 degree angle and slowly, with control resist all the way back down!" Sweat was pouring down my forehead, back, and chest. My legs are shaking. My abs are weeping. "Hold it until I tell you to bring your legs down!" Kylee would bark. Surely she won't notice if I lower my legs just a tiny bit, right? "Beth! Bring those legs back up!" Hmm...she noticed. Next exercise: the swan. Well what a pretty image that conjours up! How hard can something called the swan be, perhaps I can even chat with the woman on the mat next to me? "Lay down on your stomach. Pull your stomach up and press your hips down!" But wait, my stomach kind of flows into my hips - if one is going up the other sure as heck isn't going down. "Press your palms into the mat on either side of your shoulders. Now press up to lift your head and chest while pulling your palms back toward your heels. Press! Press hard!" Okay, I cannot even describe the pain of stomach going up, hips going down, palms pressing down and back while head and chest stay lifted for, oh I dunno know, maybe 2 minutes! Needless to say I was too busy sobbing to chat with the woman next to me.
After an hour I rubber-legged out of the Pilates studio. I rubber-legged down the stairs. I hoped I didn't need to stop fast on the way home because I'm not sure that my rubbery-muscled legs would have reacted in time. Reaching up to get the Cafe Express chai latte for my Keurig was pure pain (and shaking arm muscles). As I type my left arm feels sore yet numb. I am wiped.
Pilates, not for the weak minded. Or for those with a long commute home.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
So why am I posting a "green" tip? Well I'm glad you asked! When I was at the library this weekend I noticed what a good selection of magazines they had. I hadn't ever considered checking out magazines from the library but when I got to thinking about it I realized it made a lot of sense. I love magazines but I tend to read them really quickly (sometimes within 10 minutes of getting them). If I borrow the magazines from the library, I can still get all the info, look at all the pictures, and have the satisfaction of having read the magazine without the environmental impact of printing, shipping, and even recycling that a subscription would cause.
(Probably this tip is not a favorite of the magazine industries' subscription departments)
I checked out 6 magazines on Saturday. It is Tuesday. I have read all six. (Well, looked at the pictures). Usually I would experience a bit of letdown at having whipped through my magazine so quickly but now all I have is anticipation: I'll walk to the library (okay, if it's cold I'll drive), drop off the old magazines, check out new magazines, and be so darn "green" that I may even make myself a little bit sick. I may even check out magazines where I have to read the articles! It'll be a whole new green intellectual Beth. Smarter people are better for the planet, right?
Don't you just love Green Tip Tuesday?
Monday, January 11, 2010
Usually when I call AmEx (which is rare because I really like how much functionality they have online) I have a quite enjoyable calling experience: friendly English speaking person, my request or question answered easily, maybe even a bit of a rapport before the call is ended? Well everyone has an "off" night now and then and recently I drew the short straw when I called customer service.
AmEx: Thank you for calling American Express how may I help you? (said in thick-but-indeterminate-accent)
Me: Hello, I'd like to change my statement closing date.
AmEx: I can help you with that ma'am. Is there a reason you need to change it?
Me: Well I'm glad you asked. I need to change it because I was given incorrect information the last time I called to find out when my statements close. I was told they close every 30 days but in actuality they closed 31 days in September, October, and November and only this last statement closed at 30 days thus making the payment due one day earlier than I thought it would be due thus making my payment 1 day late a crime for which you charged me $77 in late fees which I thought was very uncool considering how often I whip out my AmEx card and market for you.
Me: So now I'd like my statements to close on the last day of the month.
Me: Is that possible?
AmEx: Ma'am I guess I'm not sure why you want to change the closing date.
Me: Because I don't like the statement closing in the middle of the month, I find this very confusing especially since it doesn't really close every 30 days it closes whenever you feel like closing it and since I watch this very carefully I got confused and was 1 day late with my payment and I got charged $77 in fees. If it closes on the last day of the month then I will always know when it closes.
AmEx: Ma'am you can find your closing date online and you can also set up your account to email you when your bill is due.
Me: I know all this! I am the queen of online bill pay! I just want my statements to close on the last day of the month!
AmEx: I can do that ma'am. I can make your closing date the 28th of the month which is the best I can do because not every month has more than 28 days.
Me: Okay. When will this change take effect?
AmEx: Your statement will close as usual on January 16 but then will not close again until February 28. Is there anything elseI can do for you today ma'am?
Me: Okay January 16 this month is great because that gives me time to adjust my budget. Perfect. Thank you for your help.
AmEx: Thank you ma'am, have a nice day.
Wanna know when my statement closes according to online bill pay? January 28. Not January 16. Apparently my rant about the $77 in charges didn't go over very well (as well as calling the charges "uncool") and indeterminate-accent-man decided to see just how flexible my budget could be.
Well played, AmEx, well played.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
For the record she would have been happy to go to the Aero stores in any mall, it was I who insisted that with a strict budget she would be better served to shop the outlet and the get the most for her money, a strategy that really did pay off as she was able to get 2 pairs of jeans, 1 shirt, and 1 bag for her $50 in gift cards.
But while I was waiting outside the fitting room door... I saw the usual assortment: moms waiting for their kids to model, kids waiting in line for an available fitting room, even a grandmother laden with what looked like 10-12 outfits stood patiently in line. "Wow, I thought, that poor grandma really has a lot of clothes! I wonder where her granddaughter is that she makes her poor Nana hold all those clothes." Our daughter tries on jeans, finds her size ( yippee! there is an abundance of her size in the outlet! Apparently 0/0 short wasn't a big seller this year!), my husband goes to search out her requests for bootlegs, flares, and skinny jeans while I continue to wait for the next modelling session. But wait, why is the staff member unlocking a fitting room door for grandma? Where is her granddaughter? Why is grandma going inside? Hmmmm, this is getting weird. Oh well, she probably got smart and decided to get a fitting room just to sit for a minute until her granddaughter joins her. I mean surely that woman isn't planning on wearing the clothes, right? She's easily 70-80 years old! Oh my, I can see grandma's feet under the door and she is definitely trying on clothes! Our daughter finishes strutting her runway moves (as much as anyone can strut with easily 25 people waiting in an area designed for 2) and is ready to checkout. "Hey sweetie, I'm going to look around here at the jewelry" I say to mask that I must wait to find out what grandma is going to do. And heeeeeere she coooooomes! Well, well, well. Grandma has just exited the fitting room and is jockeying for position at the checkout line. Worse yet, she hasn't zipped up her jacket and I can see that she is currently right this minute wearing an Aeropostale T-shirt! It is in fact the same shirt the girl at the checkout is wearing. Of course the girl at the checkout is maybe 20, so her boobs fill out the AE part of the vertical logo running down the side of the shirt. Whereas Grandma's boobs are filling out the PO part of the logo! I get in line behind Grandma. She is buying these clothes with an AERO gift card!!!!!! My almost-11-year-old and someone's Nana asked for and received the same Christmas present!!!!
Ladies, I beg you, have some self respect. You have a cute figure that fits into teeny-bopper sizes? Great, take that figure to Ann Taylor Loft and you'll be in size 2 heaven. Wear the tiniest-most-slim-cut T-shirts you can find from Talbots. Go skinny-jeans crazy at Coldwater Creek online. Just please, please, respect the age limit clearly defined by the music, posters, and staff at certain stores.
And for God's sake, please don't use a gift card!
Friday, January 8, 2010
I live on the East Coast.
But I was raised in the Midwest.
I think absolutely nothing of striking up conversations with people I meet in public. We're all here sharing some planetary space, right? Don't you want to discuss with me the merits of the book you just selected versus the one I'm holding? Why wouldn't you want to share with me how well you like the one-pump-sugar-free-caramel in your chai latte versus the plain old latte? And aren't we all annoyed in line at the post office? Shouldn't we be bonding, as a species, over these shared experiences?
Maybe not so much on the East Coast. Recently I was in Michaels craft store. I was in the yarn aisle. A woman who looked to be about my age was in the yarn aisle. We are standing no more than 18 inches apart. I am breathing her exhaled molecules, for goodness sake. So when I ask her, quite pleasantly with my slight Midwestern twang that should communicate friendliness and openness, if she knits or crochets, should she abruptly turn and glare at me as if I'd just asked her for a tampon? No she should not! And was it necessary for her to hiss "My son has a project!" and then run from the aisle? Again, no it was not! I'm not a stalker. I'm not even (that) weird looking. (And since we're now discussing my looks I should really mention that new-stylist Lisa outdid herself on my latest cut and it is super cute, not stalker crazy).
I frequently hear people, well mostly me, complain about how hard it is to meet and make friends as an adult. No wonder ladies! If you are guilty of the glare-and-run when a stranger with nice hair asks a simple friendly question then you have no one to blame but yourself if you outlive your spouse and are a lonely old cat lady (no offense to my sister-in-law who now has..5..maybe 7..cats).
As for me, I'll be hanging out in the yarn aisle at Michaels. Perusing the book selection at BJs. Sifting through picture frames at Target. Reading the recipe cards at the end of the meat aisle at Hannafords. Say hi, I promise not to run. You can even borrow a tampon.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Basically my chores aren't done.
Hey, don't blame me, blame Deb and Chellie. You see I do my chores while talking on the phone. Housework is boring and lonely so I depend on my girls to get me through. Frankly they haven't been holding up their end of the deal lately, citing things like work, studying, work, hair appointments, and work as excuses to not distract me from the drudgery, the work, the sheer annoyingness of making the dirty clean over and over again.
Usually when Deb or Chellie are not available I listen to my iPod or a book on CD. However, it is Deb's fault that I can't listen to a book on CD because she got me into this Jen Lancaster fixation and my local library didn't have any Jen on CD and I can't contaminate Jen's musings with another author, now can I? It's Chellie's fault I can't listen to my iPod because after years of listening to Chellie's devotion to the Bare Naked Ladies (and other adult bands) I actually listened to them and now I'm finding my musical tastes are perhaps moving beyond Wham!, Madonna, and the soundtrack to the Lion King so my iPod songs don't really feel like a fit right now. (Though I am still preeeetty happy with Abba selection).
If nothing else is available I will sometimes (in desperation) entertain myself by creating blog posts in my head while doing the mindless task of cleaning. I can't do this anymore because (Deb's fault) Deb suggested I actually write down some of these ideas instead of letting my brilliant posts drift away with the minutia in my mind and I can't possibly write down a blog idea while scrubbing a toilet, right?
Finally when I am absolutely desperate for something to think of while cleaning I mentally re-decorate the room I'm cleaning. This is a last resort because all-too-frequently those kinds of thoughts lead to dissatisfaction with the room, a compelling urge to put my ideas into reality, and an expensive (financially) and conflicted (maritally) result all because I can't make a bed without a buddy. Even this not-perfect solution isn't available to me because (Chellie's fault) Chellie agreed with me when I said I would call American Express and get my statement closing date changed which led American Express to extend this billing cycle by 13 days which threw the budget into meltdown and thus any redecorating on my part would result in us having to eat the cat's food because we couldn't afford groceries.
See? My friends have some 'splainin to do, yes?
Monday, January 4, 2010
The problem is, I'm afraid of wind.
Crazy right? Well it all began 35 years ago... One of my most pronounced childhood memories is of huddling in the bathtub with my brother, pillows on our heads, breath held, waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the all-clear from my dad to come out as the twister passed overhead or on the next street or wherever it went. I remember the air earlier in the day: it was yellow. Can you see air? Well, I could and it was yellow and heavy and hard to breathe. I remember my mom yelling at me "Where are your shoes? I can't believe you can't find your shoes! We have a tornado coming and you're just going to have to put your sandals on and if your feet get all cut up then it's your own fault!" The next morning my beloved swing set was found in a neighbor's yard and stories of devastation were all over the news: homes gone, families killed, children missing. Good times, good times.
Fast forward 25 years and you have me with my 5 week old baby. Steve is out of town on business and my mother-in-law came to stay the night. There is a bad storm that night with high winds. Wee hours of early morning my father-in-law calls sounding slightly panicked "Are you all right?" "Yeah, Dad, why?" "There's been a tornado about a mile from your home, major damage!" Later that morning it's all over the news: apartment buildings sheered open as if with a giant can opener, cars thrown about, lives destroyed.
Fast forward to December 2008. A major ice storm hits the northeast. I awaken in the wee hours of the morning to what sounds like gun shots. I wake Steve and insist he come downstairs with me. The wind is howling, the storm is raging and the "gunshot" sounds are tree limbs breaking all around us. Our power is out for days and the damage to the area runs into the millions. 100-year-old trees are uprooted and one falls through our garage, just a few feet away from the room in which we'd been sleeping.
Wind. I have to find a way to feel sanguine about this force of nature or I'm not going to be getting a lot of sleep at night or peace during the day. "Why are you so crabby today?" My husband asks, and I don't know what to say. Do I tell him how on edge I feel? Do I yammer on about childhood traumas involving wind? Do I just suck it up and get over this fear?
I keep trying to provide myself a peace filled spiritual outlook on the wind: winds of change, out with the old, in with the new, I am like the willow I bend with the wind I do not break.
But the howling just creeps me out.
Friday, January 1, 2010
After our New Year's celebratory dinner we all did just that, rolled up our papers with the intention side out and tossed them into our fireplace in the living room. I like the symbolism of this act: the "bad" thing from 2009 is wrapped up, tossed away, burned up and the "good intention" feeds the fire, becomes the ash that nourishes my plants, and a small part of which will always be in the bricks of the fireplace.
I don't know if it's good feng shui or not, but it certainly feels like good chi to me.
I wish you a blessed, abundant, Happy New Year.