Sunday, August 25, 2013

Quiz Show

1.  What is your favorite word?
Shenanigans (it’s fun to say, spell, and do!)

2.  What is your least favorite word?
Moist [shudder]

3.  What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Jovial agreement/collaboration: the spontaneous recognition of being simpatico

4.  What turns you off?

5.  What is your favorite curse word?

6.  What sound or noise do you love?
Laughter (especially when I helped create/extend/deepen it)

7.  What sound or noise do you hate?
Free weights dropping hard onto the floor at the gym (there’s a sign politely asking you not to do that, jackwagon!)

8.  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Performing-arts critic/journalist

9.  What profession would you not like to attempt?
Teacher (oh, I’d be so very horrible)

10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Now we can start the party!”

Friday, August 9, 2013


Well, this seems about right.  School just started back in session this week for my girls, so Wicked M picked the right time for a quiz.

1.  What is your favorite word?

2.  What is your least favorite word?

3.  What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Positive attitudes.

4.  What turns you off?
Naysayers...Those that don't even try.  And people who don't act their age.

5.  What is your favorite curse word?
Well, if you ask my children, they will say that I like to say "piss" a lot.

6.  What sound or noise do you love?
Running water sounds in nature -- like brooks, streams, rivers, the ocean, etc.

7.  What sound or noise do you hate?
The voice and laugh of one of my coworkers

8.  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Singer.  I know I'm super not talented enough for it, but I'm dreaming, right?  So, yeah, I want to be a singer.

9.  What profession would you not like to attempt?
Tax professional

10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Well done, good and faithful servant."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Quiz me!

 1.  What is your favorite word?

 Margarita.  Mmmmmm, only six months til I can have one. 

 2.  What is your least favorite word?

 Pantiliner.  It gives me the squirms.

 3.  What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Time and Energy.  That is, I think that I’m a pretty creative & spiritual person in tune with her emotions who is too darn busy and tired to tap into them very often.  Whenever I’ve had good sleep, eaten well, and have some time to myself to recharge, and (this is key) when I know that I have a bit of open time ahead of me where I will not be needed by work or children, then I tend to launch into something creative. 

 4.  What turns you off?

Smugness and self preservation.  I think we’ve become a cruel, dog-eat-dog world (country) lately.  The empathy is dialed down low.  Whenever I hear someone’s smug self-satisfaction, or see someone elbow others out of the way to get their own, I have to turn away.

 5.  What is your favorite curse word?

 Rubber Duck!  (think about it)

6.  What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of my children playing nicely together.  In a different room.

 7.  What sound or noise do you hate?

The sound of my children (usually Cubby) crying at 2 a.m.  It still happens sometimes.

 8.  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Actor!  Actually, truthfully, as a nod to my admitted limitations in the arena of acting, I originally planned to aim for being the creative director of a well-respected regional theater.  Then the bottom dropped out of the economy, and the bottom did NOT drop out of my ballooning student loans, and so I had to make a more financially stable and less competitive choice of career.  But that’s what I’d do, if it all turned around.  Maybe I still will try to make the leap, years from now.

9.  What profession would you not like to attempt?

Exterminator.  Spiders. Ugh.

 10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

While we prepare your spa-like room for eternity, please relax in one of our celebrity-guest waiting rooms.  Would you prefer the Brad Pitt lounge, or the George Clooney swim-up bar?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Quiz

One of my favorite shows is Inside the Actor's Studio.  I love James Lipton and I love how he delves deeply into actor's histories, minds, and methods.  One of my favorite parts of every interview he does is the Bernard Pivot quiz.  I love hearing what other people's answers are and why.  I am also always surprised by at least one answer!  I tend to find having just one answer is tough for me, but I will try (I promise!).  I thought it might be fun to have my fellow Women complete the quiz.  So, here goes:

1.  What is your favorite word?
Mama.  Said in any way by my sweet Superboy.  I also love the words yes, sunshine, and happy.

2.  What is your least favorite word?
No.  I hate to hear it and I hate to say it.

3.  What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Complete and utter joy.  Complete and utter abandon.  Complete and utter raw emotion.

4.  What turns you off?
Criticism.  Negativity.  Harsh words.  Lying.

5.  What is your favorite curse word?
This one is easy.  FUCK.  Any form of it.

6.  What sound or noise do you love?
I love the sound of a smile.  You know how you can just hear someone smile?  I love that.  I also love the sound of my son laughing.  Him squealing.  That childlike joy is an amazing sound.

7.  What sound or noise do you hate?
People weeping in pain or despair.

8.  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Professional shopper.  Because, well, duh.

9.  What profession would you not like to attempt?
Mortician.  Hands down.  Or any job having to do with dying.  I am far too emotional to handle it.

10.  If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Welcome.  And all of that does not matter.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Truly Grateful

I have so many things to be grateful for.  I truly, truly do.  If I started to list them all, well, we would be here for a very long time.  This past year has taught me a lot and I have learned so much in the last 365 days.  So what have I done that I am most grateful for?

I learned to stop listening to other people criticize or judge my parenting decisions.  Hoo, boy.  This one has been tough.  As Superboy gets older and I meet more parents (and in most cases, moms), I find that people tend to ask some leading questions to weed out people who they may be different from.  Did I nurse or not?  Did I have a natural labor?  At what hospital did I deliver?  How do I feel about the princess culture that surrounds little girls?  I find these questions unsurprising but I am shocked at the things people say and the judgments they make based on my answers!  The biggies for me have been nursing and bedtimes.  I find this insane and I have had to bite my tongue more than once to avoid saying something I will regret.  I have to know that I made (and am making!) the right decisions for myself, my son and my family and then I get to move on.  Judgmental people are jerks and I can choose whether or not I want to spend a lot of time with them.  So, there is that.  It has helped me feel empowered as a mom and as an advocate for myself and Superboy.

I learned to stop listening to other people criticize or judge my decisions about being a stay at home mom.  I have actually been really surprised at this judgment.  I live in a neighborhood nearly full of SAHMs and most of them are on the level.  Several women I have come into contact inside and outside my community have made fairly rude comments about my staying at home.  Things like how I am wasting my college degree.  Things like how I am teaching my son that women cannot do anything but be homemakers.  Things like how I am putting feminism back hundreds of years.  That last one actually made me laugh out loud because the very first thing that came to my mind was that I was singlehandedly setting feminism back hundreds of years?  ME.  ALL ON MY OWN.  RAWR.  Sadly, I had to just recognize that some people are idiots and that I have to get away from them as quickly as possible.

I had to learn to doing things for myself.  Now, I am not talking about doing my own laundry here.  I learned that during college!  I mean that I had to realize that getting myself out of the house for even an hour here and there does wonders for my brain.  Getting myself a hair cut and enjoying an ice cream cone out in the sunshine makes me a happier person.  Being away from my adorable almost two year old allows me to talk to adults and to miss him a little bit.  Going for a run every Saturday makes me feel strong and helps to remind me that my body is mine to make strong.  Watching a beloved t.v. show when it is actually on t.v. allows me to hear adult humor and to laugh out loud at inappropriate things.    You know, the normal things to remind myself that while I am always someone's mom, that I am also Wicked M.

I had to learn to stop and enjoy the little moments.  Being a stay at home can sometimes seem like drudgery.  Mondays are cleaning days, Tuesdays are swimming days, Wednesdays are play get the idea.  Living with an almost two year old (how did that even happen??  Wasn't he just born yesterday??) can also make you want to pull your hair out.  It is true that I came to motherhood later in life and there are some pros and cons to that.  Obviously.  One of the biggest pros for me is knowing that this is fleeting and that I should appreciate the littlest moments.  Once Superboy was past infancy and the fog of sleeplessness exhaustion passed, I started to get my bearings.  Superboy started saying adorable things.  He did adorable things.  I was rested enough to truly appreciate them.  I find that at least five times every day I am stopping  to just appreciate the beauty that is all around me.  How precious it is when he reads to himself.  How sweet he is when I read his bedtime story to him.  How snuggly he is all the time.  How much he needs me.  How I am always the first person he runs to when he is upset, or needs something, or wants a hug?  I mean, it does not get better than that.  For that I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My 365 day journey

This year has been filled with lots of wonderful things.  An abundance of happy memories and blessings that showered my sweet family of 4 during these past 12 months quickly come to mind.  Trips, game nights, garden tending, academic accomplishments...the list goes on and on.

But this "wonder" will be all mine.  Something that occurred because of me and no one else.  Something that I alone accomplished and has, most literally, changed my life.  Almost exactly 365 days ago, I began down the path of better health.  In just shy of 365 days, I have dropped 41 lbs.

I'm not going to chalk my weight gain up to health issues (although fertility drugs do have a way of packing on the pounds long before the baby weight arrives).  If I get to take credit for the weight loss, I need to hold myself accountable and take credit for the weight gain too.  The truth of the matter is, I simply ate too much.  I was eating junk food all the time.  Eating 3 or 4 helpings at dinner.  Stuffing my face with every sweet in my office at work.  I barely exercised.

After I delivered my beautiful surro-babe, I dropped 20 lbs or so of pregnancy weight.  After that, putting absolutely no effort into my health, I was stuck.  I had never weighed so much in my life, but still saw myself as relatively thin when I looked in the mirror.

That all changed last July when I was visiting my parents in Missouri.  We had just rafted down a river in southwest Missouri.  As we were pulling off onto the beach at the rental shop, we noticed a local news reporter and cameraman.  They approached us, wanting to interview me for a story they were doing on the low water levels of rivers and lakes in the area.  I declined, but my dad offered to help.  We watched the newscast that night and, you guys, I kid you not, I thought I was going to cry.  In the background, I saw someone sitting in the raft beside my mom.  This girl was facing the river, her back to the camera, and I could not understand who that really, really fat girl was with my bathing suit on.  Then it struck me that the super fat girl was me.  I was embarrassed, shocked, tearful, and struggled to breathe.  I vowed to myself - right there on my parents' bed - that I would lose weight.

I purchased a scale and weighed myself for the first time when I got home.  I had an appointment with my doctor where I learned that I was pre-diabetic (diabetes runs heavy in my father's family, so that was fun news to hear).  My BMI put me in the "obese" category.  Yep, it was that bad.  Not only did I look bad, but I discovered that day that my body was in bad shape health wise. 

I started slowly.  I scoured the internet looking for tips to lose weight in a healthy manner.  No diet drinks.  No quick fixes.  No weird stuff for me, please and thank you.  I began logging in every.single.calorie that I consumed into an online program.  I started walking on my lunch hours.

I began to lose weight.
I began to see a difference in the way my clothes fit.
I began to gain self-confidence again.

Fast forward 365 days.  I am 41 pounds lighter than I was a year ago and I am so proud of my accomplishment.  I hear compliments from friends I haven't seen in a while about how good I look.  My coworkers are inspired.  In all honesty, I hate the attention.  Instead of saying "thank you" like I probably should, my canned response is, "Well, it's been a lot of work."  I still don't know how to handle the compliments, I suppose. 

The best part, however, is that I feel great.  My BMI is now in the "normal" range and I am no longer knocking on diabetes' door.  I still eat sweets and not-so-good-for-you stuff, but only in moderation.  I eat tons of fruits and veggies, drink at least 64 oz of water per day, and chew gum like a mad girl to keep from mindless snacking.  I do interval training, walk with weights, do yoga stretches, and core exercises.  Jas gifted me a fitbit for my birthday in January and I wear it religiously.  In fact, I think I may be addicted to it, but it's a good thing!

It hasn't been an easy road to travel.  There have been so many ups and downs along the way, but my gosh, I've stuck with it.  I am grateful for the unending support I received from Jas.  I am grateful that my girls finally have an example of healthy living in their lives.  I am grateful for the free gym I have access to here at work.  And, if I have to be, I'm grateful for that stupid newscast that shed light on my issues in the first place.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I wonder what one thing I did this past year that I will one day be so grateful for?

In July 2012, I took the Alabama bar exam, and then set off for a weeklong adventure in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with my love.  We drank margaritas with a lecherous former mayor of the city, ate green chile in front of a rotary fan on a terraced restaurant patio in 100 degree heat, had a beer on the second-story balcony of a bar overlooking the square where a crowd danced in front of a band, spent a half hour most evenings in the hotel hot tub before wrapping up in fluffy robes and deciding the next day’s itinerary.  For souvenirs we purchased one piece of turquoise jewelry and one painted tile, which still make me think fondly of the trip every time I see them.  I did not buy the seven hundred dollar boots I yearned for.  I am so grateful for that trip, an adults only adventure that will (have to) sustain us for many years hence.

In August 2012, we moved into our new house, which echoed from the lack of furniture.  We purchased a solid kitchen table with benches, one that is scrawled already with marker and has a ring or two from a hot pan.  We eat as a family at that table every night.  I am grateful for our house.  I am grateful for our family table.

In September 2012, I began work at a new job with people that I very much like, and work that I enjoy.  Although sometimes it feels like too many hours (and sometimes not enough), my salary (along with my husband’s) helps us pay the ridiculous amounts to student loans that are making those babies disappear, helps us pay our car payments and gas and mortgage, helps us buy clothes for our growing boys, helps us put a miniscule but growing amount into savings.  In this time of economic misery, I am so, so grateful for my job.

In October 2012, my boys dressed as a bat and a Frankenstein for Halloween.  In November 2012, after a bout of pneumonia that left me feverish for a week, we drove the children to my parents’ house in Nashville for a family Thanksgiving.  In December 2012, we spent our first Christmas in our own house, a family of four.  I am so grateful for my usual good health.  I am so grateful for holidays with my boys. 

In January 2013, we traveled to South Carolina to welcome a new niece.  I am so grateful for nieces.  In February 2013, I took the Florida bar exam.  I’m so grateful that I don’t have to take any more of those suckers.  In March 2013, we enjoyed our first Mobile Mardi Gras – with one quick trip to New Orleans for a taste of our Mardi Gras past.  I am so, so grateful for Mardi Gras. 

In April 2013, we celebrated Jake’s fifth birthday with a party in our backyard.  I’m so grateful for that little boy, so grateful we have a great home for him to play in.  In May 2013, we made a baby who will join us next January.  I’m a little mad at this baby for torturing me, but I’m so grateful s/he is coming.  In June 2013, we celebrated Cubby’s birthday at a baseball game.  I’m unbelievably grateful for Cubby, my little soldier, my little shadow.  In July 2013, my morning sickness faded.  I’m beyond grateful for that, you just can’t imagine.  I’ve done a lot of things in the past twelve months that have made me so grateful, things that I will remember and be proud of for the rest of my life. 

Please don’t make me pick just one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MSO Rin's brain didn't make it back with the rest of her luggage, so she's going on a quest to find it. The problem is, since she doesn't have her brain, she's heading west instead of east. Sigh. Kids these days.

We'll be back to your regularly scheduled programming around July 8. Should another Wonder Woman choose to post, just consider it a bonus for your loyal readership!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MSO Rin made an executive decision to give the Wonder Women a break this week. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she didn't have time to come up with a Wonder for the week and then write her Monday post b/c she was getting ready to go spend the rest of the week with Wicked M (and see super jane, too!). No indeedy. It did not.

Now ... can G Love get a last-minute flight north for under $1K? Not likely, but she'll be with us in spirit.

Friday, June 14, 2013


I generally like to spend time alone and be by myself.  My husband likes to remind me of how when we were first living together that I laid down a law that I needed five minutes to myself when I got home from work every night.  I just needed that five minutes to decompress and shed my day.  I prefer quieter activities to loud and crazy ones.  I find big groups of people make me anxious and I almost always wish I were at home, in my comfy clothes, and watching some sort of trashy television.  Part of it is that I am an introvert.  I am shy.  I worry that people will not like me.  I mostly worry that people will not like me because I do believe that I am sort of hard to like.  I can be opinionated.  I can be bossy.  I am a know-it-all.  I own all of these parts of myself but I hate being judged because of them.

Growing up, I never had a lot of friends.  I have always been the type to have one friend and make that one my bestie.  We would do everything together.  Then, my friend would move away.  This happened to me consistently through elementary and junior high school.  In high school, I made a few friends through sports and was subsequently dropped by those friends because I chose to attend a different college than they did.  Nice, huh?  So, as I look back through my life I have really only had a handful of best friends.  True friends.  People who I felt like I could tell anything to and that I would do anything for.  I always felt like those people felt the same way about me.

I have found as an adult that friendships have only become more complicated. People have careers, kids, spouses, etc.  It makes getting together nearly impossible and my few truly good friends have become scattered across the world.  I have to admit that I often find myself lonely.  Superman travels for work every week and I find myself with a lot of alone time in the evenings.  Most of the time this is a nice reprieve from the craziness that is day-to-day life with a toddler.  However, there are some nights that I desperately wish I had a girlfriend I could call to come sit on my couch with me, drink wine and gossip with.

In the last few years, my circle of friends has become even smaller.  I had a friendship that I had fostered since college that slowly slipped from my grasp.  I am still confused by how it happened and what exactly I may have done wrong in the situation.  My friend never said a word to me, but our friendship grew strained and with distance factored in, it was easier to just let things go.  She just slipped away.  There were actually three of us that had been friends since college.  We did most everything together.  The other two girls in the friendship were friends before I came along and I felt mostly lucky to just have been accepted as part of their pair.  We complemented each other well and we had a lot of fun together.  We all had varying interests and did our own things, but we could always come back together and be ourselves.  I treasured that relationship and felt like I did everything I could to keep it strong.  Part of me desperately wants answers.  The other part of me definitely does not want to know what happened.

The part of me that definitely does not want to know what happened is because I have another friendship, a family relationship actually, that has erupted into a firestorm and I have been given "answer" after "answer" and they all hurt.  I have been ripped to shreds and told that I am nothing.  Someone who I loved dearly and never expected to hurt me has hurt me deeply and the relationship is not likely to recover.  How could it, really?  How could I ever want to spend time with people who have decided I am not a good person and that I do not have the best of intentions?  I am still shocked by how this all happened.  It has been months and my brain still cannot reconcile a situation that I walked into with a hopeful heart was used against me as an ambush and a chance to break my heart.  I have tried several times since this initial ambush to put the pieces back together again and have been met with resistance and repeated attacks.  This person is lost to me.

This post may not make any sense to anyone.  For that I am sorry.  I just had to get some of this out.  It has been a rough time for me lately and I have been doing a lot of soul searching.  I apologize for using Wonder Women as a way to work out some of my issues.  Still, I do believe that Wonder Women was started with some of this in mind.  I just miss my people is all.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Likes and Dislikes - Then vs. Now

I like:

1) sales at the grocery store - I love saving me some money, so when I can score something for cheap, I'll stock up.  My younger self never ventured to the store except to purchase beer.

2) cheap gas - I will drive just a teeny bit out of my way to save a few pennies on gas.  My younger self wouldn't even bother to check the price because I knew my allowance would be coming at the week's end.

3) losing 1 lb. - Good Gosh it takes me FOREVER anymore to drop 1 lb.  My younger self would realize that my pants were getting a little tight.  I would only think to myself, "I think I need to lose a pound or so" and viola -- the pound would magically disappear.  I swear I never tried to lose weight; it would just happen.  Why does that not happen now!?!?

4) a clean home - My younger self loathed cleaning.  I look at pictures from when Jas and I were first married and am embarrassed by how our home looked!  Somewhere, somehow, I became a little bit obsessed with keeping my home spic 'n span.  I love a shiny, clean home - especially when it's mine!

5) mowing the yard - What a great workout!  I can burn nearly 500 calories push mowing our near 1 acre of land.  It's awesome! 

I don't like:

1) staying up past 10:30pm even on the weekend - I just can't do it!  My eyes automatically close at 10:30pm.  It's involuntary, really.  My younger self wasn't much better; I'd usually hit the hay around 12:00pm even on the weekend!

2) sleeping in - This is a weird one, I know, but I have found that I'm actually more tired when I sleep in.  This means that I set my alarm for 7am on the weekends.  I feel better and am less cranky sticking to my normal sleep routine.  My younger self never set an alarm clock on the weekends.  I couldn't get enough sleep back then!

3) big social gatherings -  My younger self craved parties.  Oh how I loved a big get-together with loud music and 100+ of my closest friends dancing in a small room (I never did, however, like the club scene).  Now, I would much prefer a smaller group of friends.  There is still music and me dancing, but it's not so large scale anymore. 

4) rap - Just kidding.  I still love rap.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Glamorous Life

1. Tanning
THEN - Awesome!  I went to the beach and I got so tan, and I don't even have bad tan lines because I moved my straps!  I look hot.
NOW - Awesome!  I went to the beach and every inch of me is as white as ever - I even remembered my ears and the tops of my feet!  

2. Exercising
THEN - I just ran two hours, but I'm still so faaaaaaat because I ate THREE Papa John's breadsticks.  Ugh, why am I so gross?
NOW - I squeezed in a half hour run into my hectic schedule, and it was awesome but now my knees hurt so baaaaaaaad.  (I no longer care about being fat.  The glory of 35.)

3. Boys
THEN - He likes me??  Then I must like him!  It matters not whether he's remotely interesting, kind, funny, attractive to me, or has any motivation and skill.  He likes me!!!  I'm in LOVE!
NOW - He did all of the dishes, laundry, mowed the lawn, dropped off the recycling, changed the garbage bags, and made dinner while I flopped all over the couch holding a miserable sick 3 year old.  Then he rubbed my shoulders after the 3 year old finally went to bed.  I'm in LOVE!!

4. Alcohol
THEN - Giggle giggle giggle giggle giggle.  Tee hee.  I think I'll have a CIDER.  I'm so bad!  Hoo hoo, I've only had one and I'm tipsy!  Giggle giggle.
NOW - It's ok to have three glasses of wine on a Wednesday night, right?

5.  Leisure Activities
THEN - Lay out on a beach towel on the grass and read a book.  Or maybe go for a swim, then lay out by the pool and read a book.  Go see a movie.  Get ready to head out to the bars at 11pm, get moderately toasted, return home and sit out on the porch stoop with friends, having one last drink and wondering about life.  Sleep it off til noon, then spend the remainder of Sunday watching movies and eating junk food.  
NOW - (this space intentionally left blank)

6. Sick Days
THEN - Awesome!  I have a sick day, that means I can relax and watch bad tv!
NOW - Shitballs.  I have a sick day, that means I have to try to bill from my couch despite my bouts of vomiting, and will probably work all weekend.

7. Money
THEN - OK, I think I have enough to cover student loans, rent, car insurance, food, gas, and utilities.  I don't really have much left over, but I'm cool.
NOW - OK, I think I have enough to cover student loans, mortgage and rent, car payment and insurance, food for four, gas for two, daycare, health insurance, pet care, home maintenance, car repair, savings, retirement, and utilities.  I don't really have much left over, but I'm cool.

8. Eating
NOW - Fuck it.  Yummmmmmm.

9. Women's Equality Issues
THEN - Huh?

10. Home Furnishings
THEN - This thing I found in the dumpster will look awesome in my living room.
NOW - This thing somebody on etsy found in a dumpster and re-finished will look awesome in my living room.

11. Coffee
THEN - Gross.
NOW - Nectar of Life.

12. Vitamins
THEN - Always bought them, struggled to swallow them, threw them out three years past expiration.
NOW - Flintstone gummies, ya'll.  It's the mature way to get your daily B6.

13. Kids
THEN - I want them.
NOW - You want them?

The More Things Change ...

ME NOW: I like kale and spinach and bok choy and fennel and will even eat tomatoes and mushrooms when they’re in a really great recipe. Actually, I enjoy the majority of produce found at our wonderful farmers’ market and will even go to the farmers’ market just to go even if I don’t need to do any veggie-shopping. ME THEN: Tomatoes? Mushrooms? Never. Please pass the Wavy Lays and French onion dip—those count as vegetables in my book. And why are you setting your alarm for 8A on a Saturday to go walk around a parking lot to look at plants?

ME NOW: I cover myself in SPF 15 or higher every single solitary day, even in the middle of winter when there’s no sun to be seen for a week. ME THEN: Who says Norwegians can’t get tan? Watch me! I will spend the entire summer before sophomore year of college stretched out on the back patio from 11A-noon … prime baking time!

ME NOW: I love my Ford Escape Hybrid. ME THEN: What’s a hybrid? Are you still talking about plants? Did you end up becoming a science writer like Dr. Mac suggested?

ME NOW: The Boy and I get a kick out of trying new wines from all over the world. We usually make our picks based on the label art. It’s our little way to travel every couple of weeks. ME THEN: Hey, weirdo, wine is for snobs. Where’s the Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Also, while we’re discussing alcohol, tequila is gross—it smells and tastes like gasoline. ME NOW: No it doesn’t. Tequila is awesome. Just don’t drink too much of it … you get mean. Really mean. ME THEN: Whatever. At least you don’t like beer now. Do you? ME NOW: Ugh, no way. ME THEN: Good.

ME NOW: My idea of a perfect date is curling up on the couch with The Boy, wine in hand, after a yummy home-cooked dinner to marathon-watch “True Blood” or “Battlestar Galactica” or “How I Met Your Mother” on DVD. ME THEN: Except the wine part, that actually sounds pretty good. But you should at least go to concerts or out dancing or throw a party or something every once in a while. ME NOW: Yikes. Those options sound so exhausting.

ME NOW: We are recalculating our budget in anticipation of putting our condo on the market/house-hunting in the near future. ME THEN: Why do you need a budget? Doesn’t your job pay you enough to just buy what you want when you want it? ME NOW: And what job is that, exactly? ME THEN: I don’t know … something in publishing or writing or theatre or something … right? ME NOW: And that is why I have a budget. You probably should have spent more time thinking about career goals and less time fretting about boys during senior year. I mean, life is wonderful and I’m just where I want to be, but still, you had absolutely no clue how to look for a job. It’s a little embarrassing. ME THEN: I have no response to that.

ME NOW: I am extraordinarily excited about the prospect of meeting the kids of two of my best friends this summer—one in June and one in July. ME THEN: Wow. Kids. That’s wild—they must be so happy! I don’t think I’m interested, personally. Not not interested in your friends’ children … I mean in having any of my own. ME NOW: I knew what you meant. And that doesn’t change.

ME NOW: My thrilling Memorial Day weekend was spent doing laundry, cleaning the house, and moving almost every stick of furniture we owned so we could have the carpets done. ME THEN: My thrilling Memorial Day weekend was spent driving two states away to hang out w/my sorority sisters and drink and see Dave Matthews Band for about the eighty-fourth time. I win.

ME NOW: Sometimes when I get to the top of the stairs at home after a long day at work, especially when I’m carrying groceries or something, just for a few seconds I feel like I got hit by a small but powerful truck. ME THEN: Maybe you shouldn’t have stopped going out dancing all the time. That’s the most fun kind of cardio in the world. And it must be the secret to keeping in shape, because, dude, do I get sweaty when I dance! ME NOW: Well, there are other forms of cardio that are actually more fun ... ME THEN: I don’t get it.

ME NOW: One of my favorite little thrills at work is getting to use our colored Liquid Paper on forms that are blue/yellow/pink/green. ME THEN: That. Sounds. Awesome. Do you also have cool pens? ME NOW: Yes indeed. I’ve mentioned them before. ME THEN: Up ‘til now, I wasn’t sure about you. But I think you might not be so lame after all. ME NOW: Thanks. You might not be as frivolous as I thought. I’ll be sure to mention that in my current blog post. ME THEN: What’s a blog? Are you talking about plants again?

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Little Thrill

As a young person, there are sure to be a lot of things that you said you would never do;  things that you said that you would never care about.  There were definitely things that never crossed your mind that you would consider fun or a big deal.  These days, though, if you are anything like me, you are finding that there is a certain thrill in some things that your younger self would die over.

Superman and I have this happen to us periodically.  One of us will come in from somewhere and exclaim, "I just got the best deal at yzgyzg (name changed to protect the corporate machines!)!"  Seriously, I just saved so much money!  We both celebrate a little and then give each other that look.  It is a look that we both know well now and after we see it, we always laugh.  Then, one of us says something like, "Man, my twenty-two year old self just died a little inside."

It is a funny thing how time sneaks up on you.  As a kid, you always want to be more grown up and bigger.  Then, before you know it, you are an adult and you are doing adult things that are a lot less fun than you thought they might be.  Paying bills, for example.  However, as a young person with my first job and my first apartment, I used to get so excited when I had paid all of my bills for the month.  I felt such relief and accomplishment!  Then, it would occur to me just how little money I had left over and the sixteen year old in me would be all, "Ugh!  I just want some new shoes!"

So, here are some things that have recently happened to me or that I have said that would shock the hell out of my younger self.

1.  I recently got all geeked out over the fact that I fit all of the dinner dishes into the dishwasher like a Tetris master.  I even did a little dance.  Who am I??

2.  I managed to stay up until 11 o'clock one night two weekends ago.  This was a major accomplishment.  Anyone remember how 11 o'clock used to be when we would be leaving to go out for the night??

3.  Woo!  I slept past 6 a.m.!  (Actually, Superboy slept past 6 a.m. and this was MAJOR cause for celebration!)  Young me cannot even believe that getting up before noon is an option.

4.  Yay!  New patio furniture that we got on sale!  Young me still cannot believe we have a house and that we even need patio furniture.  I mean, aren't adult always going out to dinner and doing fun things away from home?!

5.  I just drank three beers.  In a row.  And I did not fall asleep!  Young me cannot even believe this one.  I mean, three beers?  That is it??  And they were not even really beer as they were more like cider.   Young me would have pounded actual beers and then done some shots and would have been ready for more.  Me now is just ready for bed.

6.  Oh my gosh!  I finally got rid of the baby's diaper rash!  Young me is all, "Wha???"

7.  I got out of Target for less than $100!  Actually, young me is quite impressed by this.  That is quite a feat, folks.  

8.  I totally just painted the hell out of that bathroom.  Look, no mistakes and all done!  It is beautiful!  Young me is just like, "Dude.  You painted a bathroom.  This is your excitement now??"  Other iterations of this excitement include, "I just found the perfect shade of gray for our bathroom!" and "Wow!  There are so many paint colors to choose from!  We may have to go back to  Sherwin Williams to get more paint chips!"

9.  I just found the perfect thing to go in our upstairs nook.  Finally!  I have been looking for months!  Young me is just dumbfounded.  You spent actual time looking for furniture?  Why are you not sitting by the pool reading a book and working on your tan?

10.  Man, my knees hurt.  Young me is frightened by this.  Things hurt now?  Yes, yes they do.  We also make old person sounds now.

11.  Oh my gosh.  Did you see Superboy's face when we gave him his first tricycle?  He was just so happy.  I will never forget that face so long as I live.  Young me is happy about this too.  I mean, you finally got to where you were supposed to be, lady.  

Being an adult is not all that bad after all.  In fact, it can be quite awesome.  It is just funny how you can going along and SMACK(!!!) you realize you are not quite as young as you used to be.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Belated Happy Place

Sitting on a balcony terrace, a tall cold beer in hand.  Riotous flowers spill over the sides of enormous terra cotta pots perched on the terrace.  Over the edge of the terrace wall, down below on the square, a band has set up on a portable stage.  They play, and a crowd in front of them dances, or perches on the walls around the fountain, sit in camp chairs and chat.  

The air is hot and dry - none of your Southern humidity here.  We order light appetizers - it is too hot for a meal.  The beer is cool and refreshing.  We sit at a tall table, feet hooked into the crossbars of our stools.  We talk, and sometimes we don't talk.  The evening passes, and eventually we walk down a set of steps and head into the square ourselves.  The official band has packed up and left, and two old men remain, strumming Old Crow Medicine Show while a little boy spins in a circle.  Eventually, we wander over to the art district, sip complimentary wine and pore over paintings that we wish we could afford to buy.

I've never lived in Santa Fe, but sometimes it feels like my home.  I'm drawn to that city, its vibrant downtown square, its happy residents, its art and sense of life.  It has all of the jubilation of New Orleans, but none of the dysfunction.  

This isn't like "outside" or "the theater" - in that it's very specific and it's pretty darn far away from me.  This is not a place I can go when I need a recharge (that would probably be outside and/or the theater!)  But it is a place that makes me very happy whenever I am in it.  It was the first thing that sprung to mind when I thought of how I would answer this question.  One day, we've talked about being snowbirds (what's the opposite of snowbirds?  heat-escaping birds?)  We would spend winters in our Gulf Coast home, but summer up in Santa Fe, where the temps are much more bearable.  

I'll make sure to bring my guitar.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy Friday!

No "wonder" for this beautiful Friday because my brain is already in weekend mode.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Actual Magic

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, “Montana is my happy place.” It made me smile and nod … right on, man. Mine, too. But my fellow WW have written so evocatively (or will, in G Love’s case, I’m certain) of their happy places that are out-of-doors and/or related to nature and the seasons—I’m not going to repeat what they’ve said. I’ll just smile and nod … right on, man. Mine, too.

And yet. My hands-down happiest happy place is a theatre. Any theatre, any performance, anywhere. I prefer evening curtain times but I’ll take matinees, too, so let’s add “anytime.” Theatre is active, breathing, ephemeral art. It’s actual magic, being practiced right in front of you. In a theatre, you have permission for everything (except having your phone on): laughter, tears, breathlessness, longing, delight, heartbreak, anger, love, disappointment.

If you’re on stage, you are transported by your character’s needs and actions … you conjure with your humanness. If you’re backstage, you are transported by the rhythm and mechanics of what must be accomplished … you add to the incantations with your craft. If you’re in the audience, you are transported by the willing swan dive away from yourself and into the story … you complete the charm with your investment.

No matter what mood I’m in beforehand, the moment I step into a theatre, I’m on the cusp of happy. I know there will be magic worked around or with or through me and the anticipation of it is intoxicating. To be present for an honest-to-goodness spell—to be part of an honest-to-goodness spell—is simultaneously soothing and exhilarating and frightening.

Theatre is alive. Celebrating with something that’s alive … what’s happier than that?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Happy Places

I have always tried to focus on finding happiness in the little things every day.  I found that if I placed too much value on one single thing making me happy that I was setting myself up for failure.  However, there are some things that make me happier than others and those have always been my happiest places.

Some of my happy places are seasonal.  For example, I love to sit outside in the summer sunshine while reading a book and working on my tan.  Feeling the warm sun on my skin and losing myself in a mindless read has always made me gleeful.  I love sitting at a winery with a glass of wine in my hand in the springtime.  The flowers are bursting with renewed colors and everyone around me is always so happy to be out of the house and out in nature again.  In the winter, I enjoy curling up on my couch with a trashy magazine or a cross stitch project and losing myself.  The snow falls outside my window, I am snuggled up in a warm blanket and I have a glass of mulled wine at my side.  Ahhhh, cozy.  I find that in the fall my favorite times involve some sort of project -- carving pumpkins, making decorations, etc.  I guess that is just my time to prepare for winter and settle in to months of being inside.

My happy place these days is spent with Superman and Superboy.  I love when the three of us are all together and laughing.  Superboy is always doing funny new things and Superman and I love to look at each other over the top of his head and smile at each other with delight.  The three of us shooting hoops is fun, the three of us reading books together is a joy, and the three of us eating dinner together on Sunday nights is heavenly.

There has been one constant happy place in my world though.  It does not matter what season it is or what is going on in my life.  I recently reclaimed this happy place for myself on the two days a week that Superman is home.  I am running again.  After writing this post, I realized just how unhappy I was with my body.  My workouts are great, but running will always be my working out soul mate.  I truly missed it and I decided that I was no longer going to talk myself out of doing this one thing for myself.  So what if Superman has to rearrange his schedule a little bit?  I do that every day of my life now, so I decided to be a little selfish.  I am pleased to tell you that running is exactly as I left it.  I can blast my iPod and pace myself to a little Britney Spears.  I love rediscovering my running playlists.  I love exploring my newish neighborhood and waving to fellow runners.  What I love most is that it is fantastic exercise and an amazing way to clear my head.  It gives me 45-60 minutes to just lose myself and turn off the noise of my everyday world.  I pound that pavement and reclaim myself.  That is my happy place.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I wonder where my Happy Place is....

Lately, I've been focusing on my happiness.  It's not that I'm depressed or really unhappy.  It's just that I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that I'm living life on autopilot.  I'm not really enjoying my life.  I'm not really, truly, 100% happy.  I'm ho-hum and for whatever reason I'm having trouble with it.

After this realization, I decided that I was going to be purposeful in my happiness.  I would think of those things...those events...those people that have brought me joy over my lifetime and intentionally place them in my life.  For instance, I have admired my rose bushes and other flowering beauties that grace my landscaping for years.  They make me happy to see them.  Work, however, does not bring me so much happiness.  So, before leaving for work last Friday morning, I snipped a beautiful rose and some other tiny flowery thingy, and placed them in a dainty, light blue glass vase.  I brought the tiny vase into work with me and sat it next to my computer monitor.  That tiny glimpse of my garden brought me much joy that day. 

It's things like this that I'm trying to incorporate more into my world.

Just yesterday, I discovered where my Happy Place is.  I have always enjoyed the outdoors.  I have always loved the smells of outdoors, the sounds, the woods, rivers, and creeks.  I didn't realize until yesterday, however, just how much nature calms my soul and rejuvenates me.

After dropping my youngest off at a birthday party, my oldest daughter and I drove about 10 minutes to a state park.  We paid our $5, stuck the receipt on the dash, parked by the nature center, and took off in search of adventure.  And while we found some adventure in scaling a massive, slippery with mud, nearly vertical hill which left my daughter in tears with fear, I found peace; I found beauty; I found rest.  I found pure happiness in those woods.  I guess you could say that I found myself.

I realized yesterday exactly how much I love the woods.  It also donned on me that I've been depriving myself.  I haven't escaped enough from the hustle and bustle of Mommy World to focus on me and what I like to do.  I'm always giving to my kids and my husband.  I do what THEY like to do all the time.  Very, very rarely do I ever do what I want to do!  So, I'm putting my foot down!  My family is more than welcome to join me on my next nature hike, but even if they decide to do something else I know I'll return feeling happy, rebooted, and ready to go.

So what about you?  When life seems crazy and you need a break, what do you do?  Where do you go to refresh your soul?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Yes, Virginia, there IS a passport for that!

This week’s wonder is prescient for me, too, but not because of the lottery. I adore my job and just yesterday told Wicked M that I plan to retire from it (also at about age 80 like G Love speculates may be her fate) … but, to put it mildly, work has been extremely difficult lately. I won’t go into details here, but if you want a long, sad, boring-to-anyone-but-me story about all of it, call me.

Anyway. Until this moment, I hadn’t considered what I might do instead.

I’d have to do something, because I am a sloth. When left entirely to my own devices with no plans and no tasks that must be accomplished, I will vegetate like a champ. I might mix it up a little and read instead of just watching TV, but I will still be sitting down and moving very little apart from my eyes and hands (turning pages or pushing buttons on the remote). That’s my natural state. It doesn’t occur to me to randomly go for a hike or ride my bike somewhere or even take a drive to explore. Well, I’ll actually explore the kitchen and wander around in a little circle for a minute or two if there’s nothing worth eating, but then it’s right back to the couch.

So I’d want to travel, especially if The Boy also got to be work-free and we could venture afield together. We have a goal of wanting to camp in (or as close as one can get to) every single US National Park, of which there are 59. While we have visited a few more, we have camped in only three (we’ll have bagged #4 about a month from now). So that would take up a nice chunk of time, especially considering that there’s one as far away as Guam. And especially considering quite a few of them are in Alaska, which means timing is everything. And extra-especially considering I’d have to make it home for some proper in-my-own-bed sleep in between each trip. The entire enterprise would take a couple of years but would be so very worth it.

That’s what I’d do, fearless readers: sleep on the cold, hard ground inside a nylon dome after spending the day tramping up and down and around and through and under and over. Because it would be, as my little sister Kat would say, “stinkin’ beautiful.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I've Already Won

Like Super Jane, I often dream of hitting a lottery jackpot.  I think we all do.  You hear about these huge amounts of money and you let your mind wander to a place that you know is just a distant dream.

I used to have a job that required I visit an office and wear actual work clothes.  In those days, I would have dreamed of quitting my job via an email that basically said, "See ya later, losers!"  I would run off with Superman and we would live in a beautiful beach house.  We would spend our days on the beach and drinking beers with the locals at night.  We would eat delicious seafood and soak up the sun.  We would travel the world and do all of the things we are not able to do because we are tied down to jobs and paying bills and basically working our lives away.

These days my dreams are a little different.  I no longer have a job that allows me to leave at 5:00 and leave the work behind.  The job I have now is a 24/7 job that never ends.  My dream now a little hazel eyed boy who I would lay down my life for.  Now my dream would be that the lottery jackpot would mean that Superman would no longer have to travel for work in order to provide for us.  The three of us would buy a house for ourselves on the beach and a house on the beach for my parents.  We would spend our days on the beach and watch the sun set at night.  We would eat delicious seafood and soak up the sun.  We would travel the world and show that little boy all of the possibilities that the world holds.  We would be able to send him to whatever school he wants.

So what would I do?  It sounds like I would drink a lot of alcohol, travel a lot and live on the beach.  Big dreams, for sure.  However, that is just how I like them.  Big dreams pay off in a big way.  I may not have won the financial lottery yet, but I have won the lottery in every other way.  So, for now, I am good.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"We being with breaking news..."

It's funny that G Love would decide on this wonder for the week.  A few of my coworkers and I were discussing this exact topic just a few weeks ago.  There are a group of about 25 of us that each contribute $2 when the Lotto jackpot gets high.  Our designated ticket buyer will purchase, and subsequently scan, 25 tickets at a local gas station.  All participants then receive an email which includes the date and location she purchased the tickets, as well as the scanned images of the tickets.

Unfortunately, we've never won.

Okay, I take that back.  I guess technically, we have one, but the most we've ever won was $4.  Our ticket buyer reinvested our $4 to purchase more tickets, but none have been winners thus far.

I cuss every time we lose.  Because, seriously, who doesn't want to hit the big jackpot?  And it {almost} always happens to groups of people who pool their money, right?  And the winners {almost} always purchase their tickets from a grocery store or gas station that has a "Lottery Jackpot Sounding Name," right?  Can't you just hear the news headline now?  "We begin with breaking news.  A group of 25 University employees hit the Lotto last night.  They purchased the winning ticket at the Dinner Bell on the south side of town."  Doesn't that TOTALLY have a ring to it? 

Of course, each time we pool our $2, we dream about not coming into work the following day.  Some of us are kinder and say we would stay and give our two weeks notice.  Others of us aren't so kind and vow to call in the very next day to quit.  I like to think that I fall into the latter group, but I know my conscience would get me.  No doubt, I would come in the day after we hit the jackpot and give my two weeks then.  'Cause I'm nice like that.

But, I tell you what, once my two weeks were up, I'd be outta there and I would never look back!  (I just need to add here that my neighbors really did hit the lottery about 1.5 years ago.  He hit it with a group of coworkers, so if he can then I can too, right?  Or do you think my odds severely diminished because what are the chances that neighbors would both hit?  Am I thinking too much about this?)  After hitting the lotto, I would start living a life free of time and financial constraints.

During the school year, I would volunteer at my girls' elementary school.  I would go in a couple of times a week to staple worksheets or cut out construction paper apples or hang artwork in the hall.  I would do all of that stuff that teachers don't have time to do and I would love every minute of it.  I would work there in the mornings and then eat lunch with my girls.  After that, I would run errands or do whatever needed to be done before heading home to make dinner.

On the days I didn't volunteer at the school, I would either volunteer at another organization (like the local pet rescue or food pantry) or simply take those days to focus on myself.  I would love to attend a yoga class or maybe a gardening class.  (My neighbor who won the lottery?  She quit her job and took up cooking classes!)  Yes, I would have the freedom (both in time and in finances) to do those sorts of activities.

Summers would be especially sweet because I would have my girls with me all the time.  They are at such a fun age (10 years and 8 years); an age where you can really do stuff with them.  We would have the time to hike the parks together, visit ice cream parlors, pick strawberries, tend a garden, spend hours attending the activities at the local library.  Just thinking about it all makes me positively happy and yet positively miserable.  Happy that it's a possibility, but miserable in the fact that it most likely won't come true.

But, I'll keep wishing.  And I'll keep making the commute.  I'll keep putting my hours in in order to receive my monthly paycheck.  I'll keep on keepin' on.  But, it won't stop me from dreaming.

I Wonder What I'd Do if I Didn't Have a Job . . .

Hello all!  As the other Wonders will know - because I have been talking of it incessantly - I just finished my first trial as a brand new baby lawyer.  That was yesterday, and it consumed my life briefly, but now it is over and I can do my Wondering duties once more - albeit a day or two late.

I thought about how much work that trial took, and how I would have preferred gardening or picnicking or swimming or doing any summer type activity on Memorial Day, instead of kicking it in my freezing cold office with my space heater kicked on, reading over medical records I've read fifty times already.  And then I wondered - what would I do with my time if I didn't have a job that takes most of my time and energy, and small children who gobble up the rest?  (And Wicked M - you may have stepped out of the office for a while to raise super baby, but you don't need to tell me that this is a time in life when you get to do very little for yourself.  If you didn't have the hard constant work of managing and maintaining him - doing it solo most of the time - what would you do?)

This is a wonder in which I often indulge - mostly when the kids have done my head in and I think about being a retired empty nester.  When I'm sixty (seventy?  eighty?  will I ever retire?) I will be very sad and miss my darling boys, but I will also be able to do some things I really want to do - like take long bike rides and hikes, read a book for an hour with a glass of iced tea and NO INTERRUPTIONS, go to movies, plan and plant and tend to and harvest a large and lovely garden.  We want to winter in the south, and then spend summers at a small vacation home in Santa Fe.  We want to travel for months at a time, renting villas in Italy or France and writing short stories.  These are all things I would love.  But there is one thing that the husband and I have been planning on for years - since Jake was a swimming little tadpole in my tummy - and we are still looking forward to it.  And that project - one which requires both retirement and self-sufficient children before I can begin to think of doing it - is to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

There are three major nation-crossing trails in the United States. The most famous is probably the Appalachian Trail - the newest, and least finished, is the Continental Divide trail.  But the one that captures both my husband's and my attention is the Pacific Crest Trail.  The PCT, established in 1968 and completed in 1993 (thank you, Wikipedia), is a 2,663 mile hike from Mexico to Canada, about a hundred miles inland from the Pacific coast.  It takes between 4 and 6 months to complete, and, as you can imagine, requires a huge amount of advance planning and training.  A friend of mine hiked this trail in one season with her boyfriend (now husband), and self-published her diary about the trip.  And after reading it, I just knew that thru-hiking this trail was something I had to do.

The Appalachian Trail beckons as well, but I've never been as interested in thru-hiking it because of the sameness.  I've read a number of books on this trail as well - the most famous being Bill Bryson's hilarious A Walk in the Woods.  From these, I get the impression that there is not much variety in the landscape of the AT.  I think thru-hiking the AT would be an almost monastic experience - an opportunity for self reflection that can only occur when each day the sun rises over a similar landscape, and you face virtually the same experience, hour for hour, that you went through the day before, and the day before that, and so on and so on.  This is not to say that there is no variety, excitement, or terrain change in the AT - but that large swaths of it mean that you spend months at a time looking at similar scenery.  I have the typical millenial short attention span, and this sounds like a recipe for depression for my particular brain.

The PCT, by contrast, has wildly different terrain from week to week.  There are climbs and descents, rugged deserts sometimes and enormous redwood forests other times.  It's less frequently traveled, but I get the impression it passes through more populated areas more often, which would soothe my anxieties about being alone and off the grid for so long.  (My anxieties surround my children needing me, more than my own needs.)  It just speaks to me, and to my husband as well.  To be honest, if I could put the rest of life on pause I would do this right now.  I think that my body is in the best shape it's ever been, and I thirst for California, my childhood home.

However, there is no such thing as "pause" except on the DVR.  Our children are young and I would never leave them for more than a week or so.  Our careers are also young.  Our money needs saving up.  Sadly, we will have to let our old bodies deteriorate over the next couple of decades before we could think of taking this project on.  We've even discussed the possibility that a hike like this, taken deep into our sixties, could cause enough stress on our joints and bones to shave a year off our life, or reduce our mobility at an earlier age than would otherwise happen.  (It could also, I think, make us healthier and less stressed, and add years to our lives!)  Nevertheless - I feel called to do this, pulled to it.  My body is strong now - I will work to keep it strong over the next twenty years.  I will take my calcium supplements.  I will nag my husband to eat his vegetables, so that he is also strong.  We will enjoy this season of our lives with our children, and enjoy the careers that we both love.  And when this season is over, and the children leave us, and the careers wind down, and the speed of our lives begins to slow, and we owe less of ourselves to others and have more time and energy to devote to ourselves . . .

Well, when that happens, I'll see ya on the trail.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Like Butter

Cupcakes, cakes, brownies...those are more my specialty in the kitchen.  I can bake the hell out of bread and desserts and breakfast delights.  I am sort of famous for my bruschetta recipe and I have quite the reputation for cookies.  Cooking, however, is always something I tend to see as a chore.  I try to make dinner an easy event around my house and I often use my crock pot to allow me to do as little work as possible during the actual dinner hour.

I love cookbooks and enjoy trying new recipes but with only two of us here most days of the week, I almost always stick with one of my go to recipes so that I will not feel like I am wasting food.  As I have gotten older, my palette has expanded.  I do like to try new things and this is quite a change for someone who almost always ordered the same three things off of any given menu!

My mom grew up on a farm and they used the freshest ingredients and recipes.  Those recipes became my childhood meals and I tend to follow my mom's style of cooking.  My mom may not use a lot of fancy spices, but she can cook like nobody's business!  If I could just master a couple of her famous meals, I would be happy.  The "spices" my mom used most often growing up were salt and butter.  Awwww, yeeeeeah.  I mean, anything made with salt and butter is bound to taste good, right?  Not everything she made were made to give us heart disease from an early age.  We had tons of fresh vegetables and we ate a mostly vegetarian diet for a long time.

I find that I do not use a lot of spices in my cooking.  Sure, if a recipe calls for one or two, I toss them in.  On my own, I tend to use salt and pepper the most.  Garlic is a major player as well.  I also love cilantro and basil.  Cayenne pepper is also a favorite in my house.  I toss bay leaves into my homemade marinara sauce.  I would like to give a shout out to garlic salt (what, what!) and Lawry's Seasoned Salt (hey, hey!).  Those two things make life very easy and tasty!  Also...butter.

Not a lot of spice in my kitchen

Oh boy.  I hate to admit it, but I'm really out of my element on this topic.  I cook a nutritious meal for my family {nearly} every night, but the meals I choose are basic and don't have a lot of fanfare.  I keep my dishes easy and use only recipes that require a minimum number of ingredients.  I have been known NOT to make dishes simply because the number of ingredients required exceed my maximum -- which is about 5 or so.

Spaghetti noodles are covered with a pound of ground beef and sauce from the jar.  No added seasonings.

Tacos include a pound of ground beef and a packet of seasoning.

Strips of raw chicken are covered with Bisquick and baked to golden perfection.

Chicken pot pie is created with ready-to-bake pie crusts, chicken, and frozen mixed veggies.

See?  This is the excitement level of my cooking.  Spaghetti, tacos, chicken strips, chicken pot pie.  All of my dishes are surprisingly delicious, but admittedly, they are neither exotic nor complicated.  Heck, I don't even add salt to any recipe that calls for it!

If pressed to select one spice, however, I guess it would be garlic.  (Honestly, does that count as a spice?  I'm not sure that it does now that I type that out.)  And, in keeping things simple around my kitchen, I admit that it's not even fresh garlic.  In fact, I've never in my life purchased a garlic clove.  I watched my friend work a garlic clove once in my kitchen when she was making homemade guacamole.  Sadly, that's the only time my kitchen counter has entertained a garlic clove.  When I do add garlic to a dish, I will sprinkle a little garlic salt or dried garlic from the McCormick's container.

Folks, I'm a boring cook.  An efficient and surprisingly delicious cook, but a boring cook, nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Curry. Not Tim.

I am a cook.  Not a chef, not really a baker - never will be any kind of fancy nuthin' in the kitchen.  But I am a cook, and I've been cooking daily long enough to have reached a sort of "Next Level."  By that I don't mean so much that what I make is amazing.  What I mean is that I now have a general understanding of various (admittedly Americanized) genres of food.  Like - you want a Mexican?  Pick a protein (black beans, chicken, shrimp), slice some vegetables in long strips (green peppers, onions), use cumin and oregano for spice, heat it up and put it in some sort of tortilla (roll it up for a burrito, roll it up smother in sauce and bake for enchilada, lay out flat and layer with filling for a quesadilla, etc.)  If you want Italian, it's basil and oregano, some sort of tomatoes and garlic, a pasta, and a filler (zucchini for us, usually).  For Asian, cut some vegetables into thin slices, make rice, throw soy and hoisin in a wok and heat it all up, voila.

These are the basic themes, and I can perform them in infinite varieties, but after my fifty seventh cumin-and-oregano-meal I began to tire of these basics, and my inability to go beyond them.  Yes, I have stores in my cupboard and can make a number of delicious dishes without a recipe - but only very basic stuff.  Yes, I can switch it up enough to keep the interest of the family who eats the food - but I myself began to get bored cooking these things.

So.  I have decided to move up a level, and try some new stuff.  And my latest fetish is for very simple vegetable curries.  And people - can I just tell you that "curry" is, like, a single word in American English.  But I think for Asian peoples, they must have dozens of words for curry - like the proverbial Eskimos and snow.  Because when you send your husband out with a grocery list that says "curry" on it - well, you just never know what you're going to get.  There is curry paste, which comes in little pots - some green, some red (probably some other colors, too).  You've got your curry powder, which most of us probably have in our spice cupboard but rarely use except maybe in a chicken salad when you're getting fancy.  There are curry bars - kind of like a chocolate bar, and you break off a piece and that's your serving (it dissolves in hot oil and coats your vegetables and whatnot).  There are also pre-made curry simmer sauces which come in korma, roganjosh, masala, vindaloo, madras.  Each of these have different variations depending on the regions from which they come.  Recipes involving curry tend to also include turmeric, ginger, basil, coconut milk, peanut or sesame oil, and lots of stuff that I cannot rattle off the top of my head which is kind of the point.

My journey into the land of curry began with a coconut curry shrimp soup that I got from here.  When I saw how easy it was, I decided to delve a little deeper.  I went into foodgawker, typed curry in the search box, and away I went.  (foodgawker collects recipes from all over the web, and allows you to search by ingredients.  When you find what you like, click on the picture and it will lead you to the site where the recipe is - kind of like pinterest, if you're familiar.)  What I particularly love is trying different kinds of noodles - udon, glass noodles, even fettuccine sometimes. I've also learned to cut vegetables into batons.  This is my new favorite trick.  Little batons of zucchini, batons of bell pepper, batons of carrot.  The curry is awesome, but the batons and the glass noodles helped get me out of a rut.

So there you have it.  My latest and greatest fave spice.  Because it's forcing me out of my oregano hidey hole, and opening me up to a whole new and fascinating world of cooking new fun stuff.  And it makes cooking less of a drag and more of a creative venture - just about my only creative outlet these days..  Ah.  I love it.  Ya'll are welcome to stop by for a curry any time.

Monday, May 20, 2013

That's for Remembrance

Spices aren’t really my thing. I’m not a wunderkind in the kitchen any way you look at it, and I’m definitely not too adventuresome when it comes to things like curry, allspice, cumin, paprika, white pepper, or cardamom. But set me loose with some previously leafy, plant-based add-ins and I’m a madwoman. Basil, chives, oregano, tarragon, mint … I’m so going to Scarborough fair, y’all!

My favorite feeling-fancy frou-frou for food is rosemary. Rosemary is all-powerful. Sweet, savory, woody, delicate … and a major player in three of my go-to recipes. Full disclosure: I didn’t invent any of these recipes on my own. And one of them I can’t really call a “recipe” because I’ve never attempted to concoct it on my own—I’ve just ordered it more than once. But they’ll make your mouth water all the same and I’m going to keep this short so I can go make or order one of the three very soon.

  • Garlic-rosemary shrimp: this is, hands down, the most fantastic, sophisticated, showstopper of a dinner I’ve ever made (which I acknowledge isn’t saying much). Tasty shrimpies are covered in a light, heavenly bread crumb/garlic powder/pepper/fresh-chopped rosemary powder and oven-baked ‘til they’re juicy and crunchy and the color of fresh wheat. Serve those bad boys layered over creamy cannellini beans with pressed garlic and a splash of chicken broth  that sit steaming on a bed of fresh baby spinach and people (well, people I know) will think you know your way around a Cuisinart.
  • Rosemary and pine nut sugar cookies: a plain ol’ sugar cookie is hard to beat, especially when it’s nice and crisp, but this is my favorite gourmet version of the classic. When you roast pine nuts yourself you feel wise and capable despite the time it took, so I recommend it whenever feasible. And adding something that is usually put in lamb or turkey dishes to your dessert is thrilling—it seems so avant-garde and naughty! A perfectly cream-colored sugar cookie studded with brown and green flecks, dunked in milk until that exquisite moment right before the sodden bit breaks off and floats to the bottom of the glass is a true crowd-pleaser. So is the rich, buttery taste of sugar mixing with bracing rosemary.
  • Black Diamond: I’m not going to try to describe this to you. Someone else does a much better job. Let me just say that I promise to take you out for one and also promise not to grab the sprig right out of your glass and gnaw on it. Unless you leave it unattended.
I’m certainly not trying to poo-poo other plants, especially not cilantro (which I often claim I would eat on anything, even cereal), but rosemary is the queen of all herbs. Her name means “dew of the sea” and her flowers are often purple, for crying out loud: my love for this culinary diva was preordained.

Without which herb/spice/seasoning would your Top Chef dreams wither? What sundry gets you as jazzed as Julia Child?

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Back in February, I posted this.  Since I've already discussed the worry that plagues me when it comes to my girls, I'll let you take a sneak peak into my brain and discover the worries that are swirling around in there at this very moment.

1.  The associate director in my office is leaving.  I have not worked one day at this joint without her.  She's been with me for 10.5 years and soon she'll be gone.  She has been like a big sister to me and has been my mentor since Day 1.  I worry how I'll do without her.  And I worry about who will take her place.

2.  My car is a beater.  I'm fine with it looking the way it does, but I worry about it breaking down on me.  I don't worry so much that I'll be stuck on the side of the road; rather, I worry about having to purchase a new vehicle.  We haven't had a car payment in 5+ years, so the thought of actually having one makes me queasy.

3.  I worry about retirement.  I know this sounds so stupid considering I'm only 35.  I have years of work ahead of me, but I think about retirement constantly.  Honestly, I'm probably a bit obsessed with it.  I run different scenarios in my head and research exactly how much money I'll need in order to live comfortably after I stop working.  I pop numbers into Retirement Calculators every month or so to make sure I'm on track.

4.  My sister and I both live in Indiana and my parents live out in Missouri.  For years, they have discussed moving back to Indiana in order to be closer to the granddaughters (and my sister and me, of course).  It all seemed like an awesome idea, but now I worry that maybe it isn't the best thing for them.  Don't get me wrong.  I want them closer.  But, I worry about their happiness being so far from the friends and life they've created in Missouri.  They would have to start all over again in Indiana.  I don't want them to move and then be totally miserable.

5.  Back when we purchased our home in 2011, the home inspection man said that we would want to watch and make sure termites didn't set up shop in the back of our home.  The front of our house is brick and the back is wood.  He found a few spots in the back where the soil was close to the wood (or something like that).  Anyway, we haven't sprayed for termites and Jas assures me that we're fine.  But for the past 2 years, I've had this nagging dread that we'll get termites.  Sadly, I think about this daily.  Daily, people. 

I worry constantly.  And if I'm not worrying about something, I worry that there's something happening that I should worry about that I'm not.  It's a crazy, vicious cycle.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Get It Honest

No one can worry like a mother, right?  And my mother is the queen of them all.  When I fly anywhere, she worries that my plane will fall out of the sky.  When I drive to see her in Nashville, she worries that my car will be totaled in a terrible accident.  When she hears a sniffle over the phone, she asks me about my "cold" and how it's doing for the subsequent three months.  When I rented an apartment, she worried that I didn't own a home, and when I bought a house, she worried that I would become trapped and maybe I should rent.  And don't even get started on the dating days.

I am a mother myself, and grappling with my own worry about my preshuss snowflakes is definitely one of the hardest parts of the job.  The funny thing is, the bulk of my worrying time (much like my mother's) is spent worrying about highly unlikely, catastrophic disasters.  I suppose the more mundane, more likely worries are too hard to draw close, and so I push them away by occupying myself with ridiculous notions of danger.

I worry that they will electrocute themselves in the bath.  Every time I draw a bath, I check the whole room for plugged in electronics.

I worry that they will stop breathing when they sleep.  Each morning when I go upstairs to wake them, I wince a bit until I see their chests move up and down, up and down.

I worry that they will pull knives down off the kitchen counter onto themselves.  This happened to Jake one time - before I knew he was tall enough to reach the counters, suddenly there he was feeling overhead and grasping the edge of a cutting board.  A large kitchen knife slid down the board toward his face, and only my lightning fast mom reflexes saved him from getting a heavy, sharp point in his little bald baby head.  That ruined me forever after, and four years later I still push knives off the cutting board and to the back of the counter.

Speaking of eyes, I worry that they will trip while holding a fork and poke out an eye.  I worry that they will fall off their chair while eating dinner and put a fork in an eye.  I worry that they will just be playing around at dinner (as they often do) and carelessly put a fork in an eye.  The integrity of their beautiful, wee little eyes keeps me up nights.

I worry that they will fall down the stairs.  Cubby has fallen down the stairs, top to bottom - he talks about that fall a lot, even though it happened last summer when he was only one year old.  Apparently when children fall down stairs, they bounce right back.  Nevertheless, I worry.

I worry that they will lean against the baby gate, which we keep on the deck steps outside, and that it will suddenly give way and they will fall down those stairs and into the grass.  What occupies me about this particular scenario is the possibility for little fingers to become trapped in the little fencing bit of the gate and possibly get bent back or broken during the fall.

I worry that they will stop breathing while I'm driving and they're sitting behind me in the car seat.  I check them in the rearview mirror pretty regularly while I drive, always preparing, preparing myself for the worst.

I worry that when I am holding them in my arms while we walk around the second story of a mall, or an outdoor condo or hotel railing, or some sort of open air area, that I will suddenly fling them over the edge in a spastic, involuntary movement that sends them hurtling out into the open air.

I worry that they will be hit by flying debris flung from the back of a parade.  I worry that they will disappear into a crowd and won't be able to find me.  I worry that balconies will fall out from under them, or that railings will give way when they lean on them.  I worry that if they get too close to my office window on the 22nd floor, that it will suddenly pop out and a current of air will whisk them out and down, down, down, and I will have to jump out after them.

I worry that they will go over to a friend's house, and his parents will step out for a few moments, and he will pull out his dad's gun "just to show you."

I worry that a tiger will escape the zoo and pick them up in his enormous paws.  I worry that a rattlesnake will crawl up out of the wooded lot beside us and chase them down, fangs bared.  I worry that a spider will crawl into their beds at night, bite their little pudgy feet, leave them gangrenous, swollen, falling off.  I worry that they will catch leprosy, tuberculosis, pertussis, measles.  I worry every time they have a fever that in a few weeks I will be bereft, clutching a sodden tissue and saying "I thought it was just a fever!  I didn't know it was THE END!"

I worry that they will stop breathing while I am still breathing, and then I will have to learn to breathe air in a world in which they do not exist.  And so I fixate on the worries that are easiest to brush aside, and tell myself how foolish I am for thinking of them.  I laugh at my silliness, and think Of course they're safe.  Of course they are.  There are no tigers running rampant.  You have never met a single person who poked his eye out with a fork when he was a kid.  You have never spastically flung a solitary thing over a balcony in your life.  Be rational.

They are protectable.  I can protect them.  As long as I check for plugged in hairdryers, secure baby gates, kitchen knives, and vaccinations, they will be safe.  So I am vigilant.  I am careful.  I am watchful, thorough, swift.

And I am constantly - forever and ever from the minute I knew they were going to be born - worried.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Worried Silly

I worry about really laughable things. Don’t get me wrong: I worry about serious things, too, but it’s too frightening to type any of those worries out—I don’t want to actually face them. I’ll just lay out my innumerable inane worrisome thoughts in a grand gesture of denial and frivolity instead. Here they are, in no particular order.

Did I remember to put on deodorant this morning? I suddenly cannot remember. Will I have time to re-watch all my DVDs of “Arrested Development” before the new season comes out at the end of the month? If I don’t, will I feel left out when everybody I know has binge-watched it except me? Are my summer clothes going to fit when I finally get to pull them out of storage in June? Will any of the seniors’ feelings be hurt if I don’t go to Graduation? Or worse: what if nobody at all notices if I don’t go? What was that crazy noise my work computer made yesterday? Are ants going to infest my office? I’m pretty sure I drop a few crumbs of my breakfast Lärabar every now and then and we do have an ant problem in the building. How long is it going to take me tonight to figure out what to wear tomorrow so I can pack my bag for the gym before bed?  What books should I pick out to take on our July road trip so The Boy’s not bored when I read out loud to keep us both awake? Are we too old for the Matched trilogy? Are we too wimpy for the Millennium trilogy? If I have a piece of chocolate at 9:30P, will it keep me from being able to fall asleep at 10:15P? Or worse: what if I forget to have a piece of chocolate at all today? Are we ruining the carpet in the home office by not having a plastic mat thingie under the rolling desk chair? When am I ever going to find brown knee-high boots that are both cute and affordable? Are my legs simply too pale to wear shorts in public? Did I wait so long to make a haircut appointment that my stylist will be on vacation and I’ll have terrible hair when I visit Wicked M next month? If the orange juice smelled and looked fine, was it still OK to use in a recipe even though the “best by” date on the bottle was last week? What if nobody is reading this Wonder? Or worse: what if everybody is and they think I’m not funny?