Sunday, December 4, 2011

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Search of Coffee

Up until now, I have not been similar to those of my generation who are hugantic coffee drinkers. I found it bitter and hot and generally not my thing. However, when I was in Las Vegas earlier this year celebrating a good friend's 40th birthday, my guy and I went out to a nice restaurant together for dinner one night. After a delicious meal, we were offered coffee. I said I would try as long as I could doctor it with cream and sugar. They brought out all of the fixings and our own little pots of coffee. Since then I have been hooked.

So I have started trying to navigate the Starbucks coffee menu, which is daunting at best. Most of the time I approach the barista and say that I am Starbucks virgin and need help ordering something not too overwhelmingly coffee-ish with lots of cream and sweetness. Unfortunately several times, I have gotten the new girl on the block who really has not been much help at all, always sweet, but not helpful in my quest for what my taste buds are after.

A couple of weeks ago, I went in and the new girl helped me to order a grande latte, which normally comes with two shots of espresso. It was way to bitter and full of coffee taste. It was also too hot for me to drink. I brought it home, halved it into two mugs and began the doctoring process. I added lots more milk, chocolate syrup, sugar, almond extract, and even a little cinnamon. It was very tasty, but I am sure huge on the calories!

About a week later, I tried again. This barista was more helpful in guiding me to a grande mocha with only one shot of espresso and whipped cream. I really liked that one. Although, I had to let it cool considerably before I could fully enjoy it. What added to my low coffee ordering self esteem was the lady who ordered after me. She said some intricate order which included the words upside down. Upside down? Whatever on earth did that mean?

My mom pointed out when I told her of my latest more successful attempt that the whipped cream has a lot of calories. I said she was probably right, but it couldn't be as much as I had put in that first attempt when I doctored it at home! She nodded!

My guy and I tried again last weekend at the Barnes and Noble Starbucks. Finally a quiet atmosphere and a very helpful barista! She taught us some new Starbucks vocabulary, which included the fact that we could order our drinks at "kid temperature" if we didn't like it scald-your-mouth-and-throat hot. Then we asked her what upside down meant. She said it only meant that the shots of flavoring were put in last rather than first as some people prefer to have them mixed in from the top rather than the bottom. How much simpler that was than whatever I was imagining. Where do people learn all this stuff? Hopefully they stumble upon helpful baristas such as this nice lady!

I did again order my grande mocha with only one shot of espresso and whipped cream with equal success. I don't even feel the need to add extra sugar. Although my guy thought that I should have; he said it was too bitter, but he likes things even sweeter than I do. He had ordered the salted caramel something or other. It was all right to my tastes, only just a bit heavy on the nutty flavor. Plus my guy said that at the end it was way too salty because all the sea salt she had sprinkled on top had settled to the bottom. I didn't taste it at the end, but would have to say a bit of an "eww" to that one!

Maybe I have found my magic concoction. I don't know if I dare to try something different lest it make me shiver and quiver with unnecessary bitterness! Let me know if you have a favorite brew or some new vocabulary for me to learn in this silly new search of mine!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Switchfoot Concert

Two weeks ago my guy and I went to the Switchfoot Concert. It is his favorite band and we went a couple of days before his birthday as his present.

I knew that he liked this band but had never really listened to their music before. I had checked out many of their CD’s from the library and had been listening to them in the car and on my MP3 player. They were growing on me, but I wasn’t feeling super passionate about them.

The concert was up in Boulder and was all general admission. We were able to get seats up in the balcony, which was much better than standing with all the college kids in the mosh pit atmosphere down on the floor. We are getting up there in age! They guy at the door was checking id's as it was an over 21 concert. I asked if he needed to see ours. He paused and looked up into our faces and said, "Oh no, you can go ahead!" Thanks, I think!

There were two bands before Switchfoot: Atomic Tom and Anberlin, both of which I had not heard of before.

Atomic Tom was mostly a cover band out of New York. They were personable and joked and talked with the crowd.

Anberlin was a little more well-known to other non-novices. They were fairly hard rock: a little too loud and full on bass. They did some unplugged songs in the middle of their set, and I liked those ones very much. I am not one for the super hard rock where all it sounds like is screaming into the microphone. I am such a visual learner and low on the auditory scale. If I cannot hear the words clearly, I really cannot understand them and then I don’t enjoy it as much. But the bald man a couple rows in front of us was rocking out and singing along, so I think it was more his cup of tea!

This is the video for Stars, which is my favorite song of Switchfoot's.

When Switchfoot took the stage, the crowd was delighted. I was glad too. They played almost all songs I knew, except a few towards the end that were from their newest CD, Vice Verses, which I had only picked up at the library that morning. They played my favorite of their songs, Stars, as the second song, so I was very happy about that.

The thing that moved me the most, and it surprised me that it moved me so much, was when the lead singer, Jon Foreman, got down into the crowd for two whole songs. He wasn’t crowd surfing; he was actually walking in and amongst all of the people, letting them touch him and hold his hands. He stopped and stood on a railing at two different points. Prior to entering the crowd, he had a conversation with a man holding a sign with two of their album names on it, one on either side. He said he enjoyed the memories the sign evoked. I just found it so moving that he was developing relationships with these people. It wasn’t just the band on stage putting on a dog and pony show. They were there for the fans.

This is one of the songs he sang while down in the crowd: Dare You to Move.

Despite the bone jarring bass and the ringing in my ears for the next 24 hours, I actually really enjoyed myself. My guy had a great time as well. He hadn’t been able to go to the concert last year and was very disappointed about that. He was ecstatic that we were able to go. I am not even sure how many times he thanked me for the concert and the company.  The only thing I really wanted to do that I would seriously never have done is to offer Jon Foreman a barrette. I know so silly and so very mom of me! He just had this longer hair that kept falling into his eyes and he continuously swept it to the side. I did lean over and ask my guy, “Is it wrong that I want to offer him a barrette?” He just laughed!

My guy and I have this goofy tradition of taking a self portrait when we are at a major event together. There are two funny things about this picture. 1. The flash on my guy's cell phone was blinding! We are both laughing because we are trying to hold our eyes open! A previous picture didn't turn out because both of our eyes are closed from flash shock. 2. The guy behind us is smiling like the Cheshire Cat and was trying to be in the picture. He asked if he made it into the picture after we took it. We had a short, funny conversation with him. We tried to take a third picture, but could never keep our eyes open long enough because the flash was literally blinding us!

I felt that I had done my due diligence before we had gone by checking out the CD’s. However, once we were there, I found myself asking myself lots more questions about this band. What does Switchfoot mean? How did they come together? How long have they been playing? How many CD’s have they released? I knew they were a band that kind of walks the line as far as Christian music is concerned. They never really mention Jesus or God in their songs by name, but the meaning is often there. They are certainly not preachy, for which I am thankful. I love that their message is overwhelmingly positive. They are edgy and rock-n-roll. In concert, they are loud and full of bass beats that rock your whole body.

I looked up some information on them on Wikipedia. They are a band out of San Diego. Switchfoot is a surfing term to express what happens when one foot is moved in front of the other switching balance from the foot in front to the foot that was in the back but is now in the front. It’s a balancing term. John Foreman and his brother, Tim, started the band with drummer, Chad Butler. They eventually added two more members, Jerome Fontamillas and Drew Shirley. Their music has been featured in several movies: A Walk to Remember (Only Hope, You, Learning to Breathe, and Dare You to Move), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (This is Home), and The Passion of the Christ (On Fire). Jon Foreman doesn’t necessarily follow the distinction of the band being called a “Christian Rock Group.” He likes to think of Christianity as a faith not a genre. "We've always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us 'Christian rock' tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them, and that's not what we're trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that's what we want.”

 I just love that statement. Sometimes Christianity is so exclusive when really it should be the most inclusive thing around! I had even been telling my guy earlier that night about the Christian radio station here in the Denver Metro area and how in the early 80’s, I remember that they would not play any Christian music that included heavy drums or bass guitar. I also remember how scornful they were of Amy Grant when she released a secular album. They even stopped playing her Christian songs for a while because they felt she had turned her back on Christianity by releasing more worldly songs. I think it would be a heavy cross to bear (yes, pun intended) to be labeled a ‘Christian’ band. I think Switchfoot has done a lovely job of getting out a positive message while not passing judgment on others.

This is another great song of theirs, This is Your Life. I have been playing it for Hannah and trying to help her understand that she is the one in control of where her life is going as well as she needs to learn to be the best Hannah she can be, not a Hannah of someone else's creation. She really loves the song and sings along every time it is played. She says she does want to decide what she wants to be and to be the best Hannah she can be. In addition, this is a video of them performing live, so you can see how he tries to connect to the crowd. It is really nice that it is not just about the dance routines and how sexy someone can look, but rather that they are there to connect with the fans. In this one he sings into someone's video camera. In the concert we were at, there were a couple of times when he wore a hat or two from people in the crowd and then handed them back.

Cinnamon and Honey

In yesterday's post, I said that I had added cinnamon and honey to the Jillian Michaels' water weight loss drink. I have been using cinnamon and honey for all kinds of purposes from the weight loss drink, to an acne cure, to a healthful drink. I received a chain email from my mom earlier this year that had all of these tips for using cinnamon and honey as a health benefit.

I, personally, make the cinnamon and honey drink. I think it says below to add it to your tea. I just make it as the tea itself. I warm up a mug of water in the microwave. I only warm it for one minute because I do not like my mouth to be burnt to a crisp by a hot drink. Then I add around a tablespoon or so of honey and then sprinkle a teaspoon or so of cinnamon and stir it up. It actually tastes very good. It can calm your stomach, and I hope that it has been helping my arteries and such. It is hard to tell with my blood pressure. I am on the low blood pressure extreme. Even when I am stressed to the max and am sitting in the doctor's office crying, my blood pressure reads 114/68. Before I had kids, my norm was around 90/60, and the doctor would ask if I was dead! After kids, I am usually around 100/65.

Besides drinking it, I have also made the cinnamon and honey into a paste. I then apply it to my face at night, coating any problem pimple/acne areas. In the morning I just wash it off. I have found that it makes an area clear up much more quickly than with regular acne medicines. I have also successfully extracted out millia, which are hardish white areas that form and can be caused by eating excess sugar! (Yes, I have a sweet tooth!) I had an aesthetician dig out a millia once, and I thought I was going to go out of my skin, and I have a huge pain threshold. I have done it myself after applying the honey and cinnamon without thinking I was going to fall over dead from the pain. I don't do the honey and cinnamon paste every night, just when I notice more of a breakout. Please note, it does dry on your face as brown marks, so if your children see you, they may be a little concerned! As in, "Mom what happened to your face!" It does taste good if you get any in your mouth though! And you should beware of your cat that likes to sleep on your pillow as she might be interested in snacking on your acne cure in the middle of the night!

Below I am attaching the original email from my mom so you can read through what honey and cinnamon might be able to do for you!

Honey is the only food on the planet that will not spoil or rot. It will do what some call turning to sugar. In reality honey is always honey. However, when left in a cool dark place for a long time it will do what I rather call "crystallizing" When this happens I loosen the lid, boil some water, and sit the honey container in the hot water, turn off the heat and let it liquefy. It is then as good as it ever was. Never boil honey or put it in a microwave. To do so will kill the enzymes in the honey.

Cinnamon and Honey

Bet the drug companies won't like this one getting around. Facts on Honey and Cinnamon: It is found that a mixture of honey and cinnamon cures most diseases. Honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists of today also accept honey as a 'Ram Ban' (very effective) medicine for all kinds of diseases. Honey can be used without any side effects for any kind of diseases.

Today's science says that even though honey is sweet, if taken in the right dosage as a medicine, it does not harm diabetic patients. Weekly World News, a magazine in Canada , in its issue dated 17 January, 1995 has given the following list of diseases that can be cured by honey and cinnamon as researched by western scientists:


Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, apply on bread, instead of jelly and jam, and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries and saves the patient from heart attack. Also, those who have already had an attack, if they do this process daily, they are kept miles away from the next attack. Regular use of the above process relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada , various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as you age, the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and veins.


Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. If taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon honey and half teaspoon cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week, out of the 200 people so treated, practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain, and within a month, mostly all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis started walking without pain.


Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder.


Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of cinnamon powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water, given to a cholesterol patient, was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours As mentioned for arthritic patients, if taken three times a day, any chronic cholesterol is cured. According to information received in the said Journal, pure honey taken with food daily relieves complaints of cholesterol.


Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honey with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for three days. This process will cure most chronic cough, cold, and clear the sinuses.


Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also clears stomach ulcers from the root.

According to the studies done in India and Japan, it is revealed that if honey is taken with cinnamon powder, the stomach is relieved of gas.


Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacterial and viral diseases.


Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.

A scientist in Spain has proved that honey contains a natural 'Ingredient' which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.

Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Take four spoons of honey, one spoon of cinnamon powder, and three cups of water and boil to make like tea. Drink 1/4 cup, three to four times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age. Life spans also increase and even a 100 year old, starts performing the chores of a 20-year-old.

Three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it next morning with warm water. If done daily for two weeks, it removes pimples from the root.


Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm, and all types of skin infections.


Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.


Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder for one month three times a day.

Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens, who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts, are more alert and flexible. Dr. Milton, who has done research, says that a half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3:00 P.M. when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, increases the vitality of the body within a week.


People of South America , first thing in the morning, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water, so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.


Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder, taken in equal parts restores hearing. Remember when we were kids? We had toast with real butter and cinnamon sprinkled on it!

Feel free to use what you want or don't. I just like what it has done for me and like to pass on the tips to others.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Man of My Own (This Time Without the Question Mark)

My guy and me.
 I am hoping he won't freak out too much that he is appearing on my blog! : )

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two entries about my own desires and questions about my relationships with men. I have thought about and processed out pretty much all of my questions and complaints in this past weeks.
It really helped that my current dating guy read my blogs and actually wanted to talk about things with me. He had some questions as well as insights. We also joked a little about the commitment phobic comment, which he didn’t actually deny. He liked that I had mostly nice things to say about him. It is true I admire him very much and find him to be quite an honorable person. And of course, the nice part is that he actually brought it up and we talked for a long time until the subject seemed resolved. This is not something I have experienced in the past. Mostly for me if things start to go south or even a little off skew, then the man just walks away, usually degrading me as part of the process, blaming me for any of the relationship’s downfalls. (Remember I have said that I do take responsibility for any part I may have played in a relationship’s demise, but there are always two people in a relationship with at least two sides to every story.)
We talked about that other guy from the dream a bit. I really do think that dream guy (Please note: that this is simply a distinction of him appearing in my dream rather than that I actually believe him to be the man of my dreams.) is not the right match for me. It is not to say that he is not a nice person. I just think we live in two different worlds and come at life from very different perspectives and perceptions. My current dating guy’s question was why I am even interested in this guy if I feel that he isn’t the right one. That really is a tricky question, and I think it goes back to the root of many of my man problems. The answer I gave to my guy is that it ends up being about loyalty really. Here is this man with whom I have a past and some of that past was quite nice, so I actually feel a bit of obligation to try to make things work out simply because he shows interest or acts like I should be part of his life. I have done this with other men in my life, and I can’t help but wonder if much of it doesn’t stem from that ever present father/daughter relationship which revolves around the same principles of obligation and misplaced loyalty. Should I be interested simply because he asks? Should I jump simply because he says to jump? Or should I stop and question whether it is healthy and beneficial for both of us to be in a relationship together? I need to be asking myself does he deserve to be with me rather than wondering if I deserve to be with him, to which my answer almost always seems to be no. I need to start feeling deserving of love in a relationship; that I am just as worthy to be part of the couple as the man is.
Then my guy and I talked a lot about that dream in which dream guy appeared. My guy said that he is hearing from me a lot about a need for safety and security in a relationship, which I think is spot on. Current dating guy is quite the perceptive fellow! I often times find myself just waiting for the other shoe to drop in a relationship. I don’t usually feel safe and secure that there will be more than just another month or so of time for the relationship to last. I like to know that whomever I am involved with wants to be invested in me and wants to be with me for me as I am, not constantly wanting to change everything about me.
I said to my guy, “How do I know that you are not going to see someone else walking down the street and think, ‘oh yeah, she’s the one for me!’ and off you will go.”
 He asked, “How is that any different than if we were in a ‘committed’ relationship? I could go right now and do that, but I have no desire to do any such thing.”
My reply, “Of course, you are right. I mean, we have both been married and stood up in front of God and everybody and said those vows promising all those things, and yet we both know that doesn’t mean anything for anything if the person you are with didn’t really mean those things when he/she stood up there and said those things with you and supposedly to you.”
I just feel that the way we have things and the way we feel about each other is the best it can be and works the best for us. We don’t have to speak everyday or see each other every day to know that we still care very much about each other and want to spend time with each other when we do have the chance. When the free time comes around, for the most part we are the ones each other chooses to be with outside of family and other close friends that are the same as family. I do love his boys very much, but I have no desire to try to blend families, and he feels the same. That just seems like a whole lot of work. Why can’t we just enjoy each other and each other’s kids when it works for schedules and other times as we can arrange them?
At the end of the discussion, we both agreed that we were on the same page. My guy is still reluctant to say certain words or make any promises of what the future might look like. I really don’t care. He knows that I love him and that he is the one that makes me happy. Maybe that is just my job right now to love and just let it be. I do feel safe with him and want to be with him when I have the time for a date. He is one of my best friends.

He was joking about the Jerry McGuire quote of “You complete me.” I said I didn’t believe in that quote.  Instead I brought up one of the quotes from the end of Band of Brothers. If you have seen the miniseries, you may recall at the very end when Major Winters is doing a voice over of what ended up happening to many of the men of Easy Company when they returned home from the War. When he tells about his good friend, Captain Louis Nixon, he says that after the war he returned home to work for his father’s company, but struggled with alcoholism and a broken first marriage. Then one day he met a woman named, Grace, and it all came together for him. I said that was maybe what it was like for us. That we had to have all of our previous experiences to make us complete all by ourselves so that when we came together as a couple it all just came together. We don’t need someone else to make us whole, we need someone else to compliment us, make us better, and bring out the best in each other.

Jillian Michaels' Water Weight Gain Diet Drink

My sister told me about this drink in August that would supposedly make you lose five pounds of water weight gain in a week. She said Jillian Michaels, one of the trainers on The Biggest Loser, had made it up. She was going to try it and wanted to see if mom and I wanted to try it too.
This is the recipe she gave to me. I think it differs slightly from the one above that is under Jillian Michaels’ picture.
·         60 ounces of distilled or filtered water
·         1 teaspoon of sugar-free cranberry juice
·         1 dandelion tea bag
·         2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Drink this each day for seven days to lose 5 pounds.
This picture has Stevia in it, although my recipe did not call for it, nor is it in the recipe in the picture. I got this picture from Pinterest; I did not take it myself, not sure why they have the Stevia. I also used lemon juice from a bottle rather than squeezing it from the lemon each day.

The first day I tried it almost exactly as it was written, except it was pretty bitter. The dandelion tea is fairly bitter. I did add an extra splash of the cranberry juice.
Then the next day I added even more cranberry juice, maybe a quarter to a half cup. I also added more lemon juice, maybe a tablespoon or so. Also with the cranberry juice, her recipe says to use the sugar free cranberry juice. However any of the diet ones that I saw at the grocery store had aspartame in them. I try to stay away from all of that chemical stuff. So I ended up buying the 100% Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice. It didn’t have any added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, so I figured that was better than a chemical sweetener. I know the cranberry juice is good for your urinary tract, so adding more to the drink didn’t seem counterproductive.
By the third day, I also added about a tablespoon or so of honey and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon. Both of these items are supposed to be great for your body. Honey has natural antibiotic features and is known to clean out your arteries. Cinnamon is an antioxidant. With all of these refinements, it was actually quite enjoyable to drink.
So basically this is a diuretic, making you lose the weight by eliminating the extra water weight in your body. I would venture to guess that if you simply drank 60+ ounces of water a day, you may have similar results, but all of the items added to the 60 ounces of water do have beneficial properties. The lemon juice has Vitamin C. The dandelion root tea is supposed to be a liver and kidney cleanser. I have already said what the cranberry juice, honey, and cinnamon do, so it cannot hurt to add these things to the water. Be please be aware that you will be going to the bathroom all day long for the seven days because this drink really does make you have to pee!
Did I lose the five pounds in seven days? Not quite. I lost about 2 pounds, but more importantly I lost 2 inches from my waist. AND I have kept that 2 inches off since then, which was the first week in August and now it is almost the last week in October.
Do I recommend it? Yes. With my modifications, it really was a nice tasting drink and like I said nothing in it is going to harm you, only benefit you. You can make it according to Jillian Michaels' recipe if you choose. I am just not one for the bitter taste, so that was my main motivation for modification.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Boys Should Be Boys

Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker, M.D.
I saw this book at the same housecleaning client’s home as The Six Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make. They read good things!
I read this book because I don’t know boys. I was raised with all girls: two sisters, all but two girl cousins, and a plethora of aunts. Then I had a son and no husband around for teaching all of those man code things!
Before reading this book, I felt lost about how to raise my precious little Fred!
After reading this book, I really feel empowered! I feel like I can actually do this! Actually raise my son into manhood!
There were a couple of key items that were major AHA’s for me:
1.       That boys must be transitioned into manhood;
2.       And that boys need organized religion.
Dr. Meeker says that the Number One Mistake parents make in raising boys is that they do not transition boys into men. This is why we have all of those man-boys running around out there. (Oh yes, you know what a man-boy is! You know; those men who are never truly responsible, independent or generally mature!) Boys will not transition themselves into manhood; they need their parents’ guidance in order for it to happen at all, not just effectively, and pretty much past the age of 25 if it hasn't been nurtured into happening, it never will. She gives all kinds of suggestions for making this happen from service projects to managing their own money and chores around the home.
Dr. Meeker feels organized religion is so important that a huge portion of the book is dedicated to the topic. She says it does not have to be one specific religion; it can be anything: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or even Islam. What matters is the moral compass that organized religion provides for a boy. It isn’t that the parents cannot also teach religion, but religious teaching within a church, synagogue, or mosque can provide role models and more than just what can be taught at home.
As the title suggests, Meeker does also spend a lot of the book talking about giving boys the opportunity to run, play, and imagine while they are playing outside or roughhousing or just being boys! It cannot be underestimated that boys just need time to be boys.
This is another highly recommended book, especially for parents of boys, teachers, or anyone who works with children.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Milk Carton Jack-O-Lanterns

I think I saw this idea in a Family Fun magazine or even just their advertisement. Either way we made these up last year, and have had so many positive comments about them.

They are super easy! We just decorated washed out, empty, gallon-sized milk cartons with whatever kind of jack-o-lantern faces that we wanted. Then I put in orange indoor/outdoor string lights. I think the instructions said to use white lights so they looked more like ghosts, but we like the orange, so they end up looking more like jack-o-lanterns.

During the day when they are not plugged in, they do sort of look more like ghosts, so we have the best of both worlds, I suppose!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Six Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make

I saw this book at one of my housecleaning client’s home and thought it would be a good one for Hannah to read just because it would be good information. Then for school she has six book reports this year. The first one was fiction and the second one has to be nonfiction. I thought about having her do a biography for the nonfiction, but when I looked at the list for the whole year, a biography will be required during their third trimester.
Hannah does not love reading. I find that I have to prod and pry her to read. It is hard for this prolific reader to have a child that cannot find reading for pleasure on her to do list ever!
For her fiction book report, I let her read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer because I also have it on cd. I put the book on her Zune (mp3 player) and she had to read along to the book while she listened. It worked pretty well except that she started a little late, and we had to do marathon reading and a big cram session to get the book report done on time.
I found The Six Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make at the library on cd and paper. I do think I will end up buying our own copy because the book form has some extra exercises and illustrations that are not included on the cd’s. I listened to the cds and just finished so that I can help Hannah with discussion and with getting her book report completed. I have found that it is hard for me to help her on books that I haven’t read as well. She seems to need a lot of assistance with finding reference quotes and general comprehension.
Sean Covey is the son of Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Sean also has a teen version of his father’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. He starts out the Six Decisions with a review of his seven habits as they are interrelated with the six decisions. I also checked out The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens on cd and will let you know how it is when I am finished.
So the six decisions Sean Covey covers in his book are
1.       School
2.       Friends
3.       Parents
4.       Sex and Dating
5.       Addictions
6.       Self Worth
He does a wonderful job of talking about the high road in each of these areas. His delivery is very accessible for teen and pre-teen readers. He talks about that we all will make mistakes, but smart people learn from their mistakes and really smart people learn from the mistakes of others. He gives examples of teens who struggle in each area as well as examples of teens who are successful in each area.
I was a little wary of the section on sex and dating when I saw it was one of the decisions list, but it is handled very well. He comes at it from a standpoint based solely on principles and the consequences of making poor sex and dating choices. There is no explicit sex education, only what can happen as far as STD’s and unplanned pregnancies. He also addresses the emotional consequences of having sex as a teen. I really liked that he not only addressed sex but how to date and how to choose a good dating partner. He gives tips on what to do on dates so that sex doesn’t even have to be an issue. He gives some good phrases for teens to use when/if they are pressured to have sex. Overall I was pleased with the chapter.
For each of the decisions he talks about teens and people in general being made up of four parts: heart, mind, body, and soul. He addresses each of the parts for each of the decisions.
I would highly recommend this book for teens and preteens. I actually thought I wish I would have had this as a teen for myself. I think that might be why I didn’t ever have successful dating experiences; no one ever taught me how. I was making mental notes all the while I was listening!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Own Part

Alone and mostly happy that this is how my life is. Look at me! Don't I look thrilled? This is last year's Thanksgiving dinner. I do actually do just fine making holiday memories for me and the kids solo, without a man!
After I wrote yesterday's post about the lack of a man, sort of, in my life, I worried that it all sounded like a big whine fest. I hope I haven't taken a page from Fred's book of Mr. Whiney Pants!

I wanted to say then today that I do know I hold a lot of the responsibility for staying single.

I acknowledge that I do like the arrangement I have with current dating guy. I do like having autonomy over myself, my kids, and my household. For the most part, I don't dream of having someone here changing our routines and structure. I really hate feeling judged, especially in my own home.

I honestly hate dating. It will be hard to find someone else when I simply refuse to put myself out there and try to find someone!

I know that at times, I am not the easiest person to live with. When I was married, I think the first several years were probably the worst for my husband. I do suffer from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. It took until after I had Hannah before I finally acknowledged that I might need some medication to help ease a little of the edge to my behaviors. Once I started the medication and saw how other people are able to let things just roll off, I was startled at the difference. I apologized no less than about a thousand times for being too hard on him. I don't think he ever accepted it though. He never did acknowledge his role in the demise of our marriage, citing only that I was a psychotic bitch with personality disorder. I suppose whatever works for you!

I also feel just broken, and I don't know if that is ever going to go away. It wasn't my divorce that left me feeling this way, but the end to another relationship a couple of years after the marriage. I had been dating my old high school sweetheart. He is a pilot and was based in Milwaukee. He wanted to go ahead and move in here about a year and a half after we started dating. I said whatever he wanted to do was fine with me because he would be the one that would have to commute. He assured me that yes, it was what he wanted. He moved in here and three weeks later, he said that things weren't working out and he thought we should break up and he should move out. A couple of weeks later, he came back and gathered his belongings. He said that it was just too much family around here for him. He made it my fault as was his pattern. This was a man with whom I had a long and storied past. We dated on and off through college and even a little beyond. He was a frequent cheater. After my divorce, he said that was all in his past, so stupidly I believed him. About a year after he moved out of my house, he became engaged to another woman, his first fiancee ever. I saw him that summer, and the story had come out that he had been seeing this other woman about six months prior to moving in here with us. At first I was glad to know some of the story, then I was a little taken aback, now I am mostly just angry that he had the nerve to even say he wanted to move in with us while dating her all that time. It really was his idea alone to move in here. I wondered why he did that to us. And the part that makes me the angriest is that he made it my fault. Even during the visit where I saw him last and he explained how he had met his fiancee, he said that some of it was just embarrasing for him and that he felt like I had made him lie to me. Really? I made you lie to me?? I was sad at first because I missed my friend, but since then I feel like he just owes me the world's largest apology. But something broke in me that day. I had been so sad for over a year that he had gone away and I felt that somehow I had driven him away. I had let him into our lives, my home, my family and all the while he was cheating. I just don't know if I can ever trust someone else to come in here and be a part of my family for fear of the betrayal.

I know I shouldn't live from a state of fear, but it is different when the kids are involved. It is not just me that is affected by a man leaving me. The kids loved this old high school sweetheart too. They didn't understand why he moved in and then moved out so quickly. I feel that I have the responsibility to protect them as much as possible. If that means that I am single until Fred is 18 and moves out of the house for college, then really so be it!

So while I sometimes wish, and apparently dream, of a man of my own who would love me for me and with whom I could form a partnership and support system, I think that realistically this is the best life for me and Fred and Hannah for the time being.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Man of My Own?

Maybe I will just have to settle for wax men!

 Sometimes just when you think you have something all figured out, then all of a sudden you feel like you don't! Why does this happen? Why can't I just feel settled about this one particular area of my life? In Eat, Pray, Love, Liz Gilbert calls it brooding. Oh yes, brooding over relationships and what they mean for me.

Currently, you could say I am single, although I have a guy that I date, but he doesn't like to be thought of as a boyfriend. In fact any kind of verbage along the lines of boyfriend or something more than friend, literally, freaks him out. I actually really like our arrangement. We did try the full-fledged couple thing, and it really didn't work for us. It didn't work, I think, because I am so independent, and he is a hugantic commitment phobic, and it was extremely hectic to try to blend four children, his two and my two, and different family styles. We have pared way down. We do still have times when we get all four kids together for a meal at McDonald's or some other small, not all day, event. We see each other once or twice a week. We may talk once a week on the phone. Sometimes we text or send each other an email or two. However, there is no set schedule or expectation that we need daily contact. I am sure that I love him, and he has said that he cares about me and wants me to be happy.

Really I do love not having someone here all the time, underfoot, or bossing me around. I enjoy having complete decision making in my own home. I can paint the walls whatever color I would like. I can buy a piece of furniture and come home with it guilt free and place it just where I want it. When I was married, I ran the household myself anyway. Being on my own, makes it so much nicer because there isn't someone disappointing me by not doing things or not being supportive all the time. I truly feel that I am more at peace and happier on my own than when I am trying to bend my life around a man's life, which seems to be what inevitably happens in every relationship with a man that I have had.

So why, oh why, did I have one of my overly vivid and realistic dreams the other night in which my guy and another guy that I had previously dated were vying for my attentions, and the other guy ended up asking me to marry him. I even said yes, although I spent the rest of the dream pondering if that was what I really wanted to do.

These dreams that I have are so realistic, and they stay with me for days, weeks, and sometimes even years. I sometimes contact the person or people that are in the dream because I often wonder if it isn't the Universe or God or whomever telling me something is wrong with a loved one. I did tell both of the guys that I had had a dream. I didn't tell the other guy about the marriage proposal part. My current guy said it is just normal to have these feelings and thoughts about wanting to have a regular, stable relationship.

I don't feel that the relationship I have with my current dating guy is unstable. However, it doesn't always feel secure in the fact that I know he will always be there. I don't really think he is going anywhere, but he could because there are no ties keeping us together. Mostly, I just feel like the dream and its resulting brooding is just so girly and fairy taleish. I know that fairy tales are not real. I also feel that marriage is sometimes just a societal pressure trap. But I have been sidetracked by this dream and the renewed desire to have that lasting, loving, stable relationship with my own special person.

I see other family members or friends of mine who seem to have those fairy tale relationships. I have always been envious of those that seem to be able to find that other half of themselves. In recent years, I have found myself thinking that is just not going to be my story, my life.

Mostly I don't think it will happen for me because I hate dating! I hate having to retell my story all the time. I don't want to get to know someone all over again or tell all my stuff all over again. I just don't have the energy for it! It can be exhausting rehashing things and draining listening to someone else rehash all of their things. It seems selfish to just want to keep closed up, but maybe it is more self preservation than selfishness. I don't know.

I actually had a nice, and rare, Saturday evening out with my current guy. We had a good dinner and great conversation. I hadn't intended to tell him about the dream, but then ended up spilling it all. Then I just cried because I hate feeling vulnerable. He was supportive and sweet and nonjudmental. He even called on Sunday evening, and we had a brief chat about the upcoming week and how nice the past weekend had been. I really would be fine if we just dated or didn't date or whatever this is for a very long time. I feel that he is one of the best matches for me that I have ever dated. He is smart and educated. He is an educator and we seem to speak the same language. He is for the most part, not overly egotistical or arrogant, but he is still a man and can have his moments. As I am sure he thinks I have my girl moments as well. He really is nice and caring. He is probably the best suited to me. I guess I would just like to know sometimes that he actually loves me and would want to do this (whatever it is that we have) for a long time too. I have heard of couples that never end up living together or getting married and yet are together for decades. They just know they do better living in separate homes and leading separate lives, yet still being together.

The other guy in my dream has rejected me several times. He has said he is not interested in a romantic relationship right now. However, I wonder if that really just means mostly not with me, and he is trying to spare my feelings. We officially dated a long time ago, when I was first graduated from college. I remember him being nice and sweet and accepting of me as me. Now we are sort of friends, although it is hard for me to find the energy to have just a friend. It sounds horrible, I know, but I have so many other things going on in my life, that I just can't rally myself to try to spend time with someone for whom I care very deeply and know that it would never be more than just friends. Plus, I think that he may just be the same as many others, very close in characteristics to my dad, and I definitely do not want that. I feel like after the dream that if he were to say, "yes, let's give it a shot," I might actually say yes to him, and yet I know deep down inside that is probably not the best course of action for me. I think in the long run, it would just end up in heart break all over again.

I think, for the most part, I have set my life up like this. Current dating guy says that all these guys pursue me because I don't ever close the door completely on any of them. I think that part of that is true, although there are some that I have been very clear with and they still stick around, and others that I cannot bear to say, "no thank you," to because they are going through bad times, and I don't want to add to the bad.

Another guy, not in the dream, has been semi-pursuing me. He is an old friend from high school going through a bad divorce and many other sad times. He calls sometimes and mostly just vents about what is wrong. I do really care, but I find myself feeling drained and strained when he is done. Last week, he called and vented for almost an hour. He did ask me at one point how I was doing. I should have just said fine and left it at that, but instead I said that I had been having troubles getting both kids back into the swing of things with school. During my explanation, he just started laughing. I stopped abruptly. He apologized for laughing, but said he is looking forward to the day when those are all the problems he has to face. I do understand that his problems are very big right now, but it really didn't make me feel very good with him trivializing what feels very big to me right now, especially after having listened to all of his mire for almost an hour.

I would like someone who can support me and accept me for me, who would be willing to have give and take rather than take all the time and I have to give until I am so drained I can hardly stand up. I am awful at asking for help and mostly have no idea what to even say when someone asks how they can help me in my life. I would like a guy with initiative, who could just come along and help without making me feel inferior or judged. Does someone like that really exist? My dating guy asks me how he can help, but I truly have no idea what to tell him. What should I say? Would you like to come over and vacuum my house on Tuesday evening? I just don't think that will happen either.

I think some of the thoughts are still roiling around in my head because I was watching the Shania Twain series on OWN this weekend. She has been through a similar end to her marriage as I had with cheating and betrayal. She ended up starting a relationship with the man who was the husband of her friend that cheated with Shania's husband. (She does admit this is a crazy twisted scenario, but somehow ended up working out!) Her new guy, Fred, seems like such a sweet and gentle man. Shania's sister describes him as an angel. He seems that way. He seems supportive and helpful and encouraging. He comes in beside her and helps her. When I see things like that, I wonder if that would ever be possible in my life? Or am I just done? Am I just better off alone? Is it just too hard having young kids and finding someone who would take me as I am with all my baggage in tow? Of course, Shania Twain has this. Look at her; she's Shania Twain! She is beautiful and talented and seems to be a real person who is kind and loving.

I heard a story once about Kurt Warner the football player for one of the NFL teams that won the Super Bowl in somewhat recent years. The story goes that he was a regular at a restaurant and consistently tried to ask out this waitress, Kathy. She always declined his offers. Finally he wore her down and she conceeded. However, when he went to pick her up, she said she would have to cancel because her babysitter didn't show up. Kurt said that they would all just go out to dinner together. She said that would not be a good idea because her oldest son had cerebral palsy and that would just be too much for a first date. Kurt just came into the house picked up the son and carried him downstairs to the car and off they all went on a date. Of course they eventually married and had several more children together. I don't know if stories like this make me feel better or worse. Would it mean there was really hope, or is it that I simply could never actually attract a man like that?

I swear that the only man that I can attract is the same one over and over. I think I am a magnet for the wrong man. If there is a man out there remotely in my radar, he will be the same overly arrogant, self-centered, egomaniac that I see my father being. Basically the only man I can attract is my dad over and over again in different forms. My sister was able to break the cycle, but I just cannot seem to do it. If the guy isn't some right-fighting, negative, judgmental man, then he is so afraid of commitment that he cannot see straight.

I really think there are no answers for me. All of this has just been weighing heavy on my mind since the dream. Maybe I just need to have a good cry all by myself, then get back up, put on my big girl pants, take a deep breath, and keep moving forward.

Also on OWN this weekend, was the behind the scenes of Oprah's new series, Oprah's Life Class. In it she says that her show was her therapy. She never actually had to go in to a therapist's office. All of her issues and struggles were worked out with her guests on her show. I wonder if my blog is becoming the same type of venue for me. I feel like I should thank any of you who managed to make it to the end of this long, rambling entry! So.... Thanks for listening and until next time take care of you!