Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Learning to Give It Up!

I just finished reading Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno. The book is about Mary’s journey to simplify her life and the benefits of doing so. She renounces one thing per month in order to make her life less complicated. She gives up shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, coffee, multitasking etc… The book chronicles lessons learned as she gives up some of these life essentials. Carlomagno comes to realize what is most important to her life and the experience of giving up changes her forever.

I thought of my own life and my desire to simplify. What would I need to give up each month in order to achieve that balance? I began by brainstorming items and activities which seemed to zap my energy and time. The list included things like: internet, television, ipod and shopping. Then I made a list of things that cost money each month, but may not be all that good for me. This list included: Diet Mountain Dew, Sweets, and movies. Then I made a list of other things I might need to give up or curtail like complaining, gossiping and fiscal irresponsibility. I reviewed my list repeatedly and decided that I don’t believe I am strong enough to give up any of these things for an entire month. I am the poster child for the lack willpower

It is now July 31st and tomorrow begins a new month. What a great opportunity to begin my quest to simplify by following the example of Ms. Carlomagno. I am beginning to get a bit excited at the prospect (I am sure this is fleeting), but here is my blueprint for the next 12 months to take stock of my life and create a more simplified existence.

August – Sweets (candy, desserts etc..)

September – Diet Mountain Dew (this might not seem like much, but I have about a six-pack a day habit)

October – Dining Out – this one will be REALLY difficult

November - Complaining (every time I complain, $1.00 will go into a jar for compassionate ministries)

December – Taking the closest parking space (I will park after the last car in the lot)

January – Fiscal irresponsibility (taking control of my assets)

February – Internet (outside of ONCE a day checking and responding to email)

March - Shopping

April – Impulse buying (I will not purchase ANYTHING over $20.00 without waiting 24 hours)

May – Television/DVR

June – Movies (going, renting or buying)

July – Ipod (yikes)

How about you? Any readers out there care to join me? Make a blueprint of your own—share it, because it will make you more accountable and then let me know how your life is affected.

I do maintain the creative license to change the monthly assignments, but the tasks will remain the same. So, I am off to eat my last piece of birthday cake as well as the package of Twizzlers sitting on my cabinet----

This I know for sure…

Monday, July 30, 2007

It's My Birthday!!!

Birthdays sure aren’t as fun as they used to be. Turning 45 is no where near as fun as turning, let’s say, 18!! When we were young, it was all about the “day”, now, we might celebrate a day early or a day late or a week late because of convenience.

Do you remember the anticipation that led up to the big day? Now-it is more a dreaded feeling of growing yet another year older. I do celebrate the fact that I do not “feel” like I am 45. I remember when my mother turned 45 and I thought that she was “really old”, I don’t feel like that “old person”. Don’t get me wrong, I still like birthdays I just wish I could conjure up the marvel and wonder of those birthdays gone by. Perhaps time skews our memory and grown-up birthdays are really more “cool” than we realize.

My favorite birthday gift this year (I hate to say that because everyone has been SO generous and I am truly grateful) is my digital picture frame. I downloaded many pictures that scroll through the frame. Whenever I go into the kitchen (where it is plugged in) I smile when I see a picture of the boys or of Kent or of my widow friends. I am blessed and though life has been less than what I would call “fair”, I still feel fortunate

On this birthday I reflect on my life as it is today. I have the love of family, friends and a very good man. I am, truly, surprised that I could be so fortunate. I also know that life can be very short and that I must claim the blessings granted to me. SO---today, July 30, 2007, I claim that I am a blessed individual—that life can, not only continue, but thrive after heartache…

This I know for sure…

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I have been tagged to share eight random facts about myself. This particular tag comes from my brother, Evan. I am then to tag 8 others to do the same. I read Evan’s list and got to #8---I have NO IDEA what it means, so my random facts will be on the less intelligent side.

Here are the rules:

1. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
2. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their eight random facts.
3. Players should tag eight other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Here are the random facts:

  1. I am a TV junkie—I love it all, reality shows, mysteries, detective stories even a Lifetime movie or two (not a great fact for a teacher ‘cause I don’t like Discovery or any of those learnin’ channels).
  2. I speed—too much. I don’t condone it for anyone else, but it is confession time.
  3. I have a crush on James Spader (of Boston Legal – not sure why – he’s smart and witty I guess).
  4. I despise “No Child Left Behind”. It has created an educational community more concerned with testing than with children. Someday soon we will all realize how ridiculous it is to believe EVERYONE learns EVERYTHING the exact same way in the exact same time frame. Wonder if the President will “get it” then?
  5. I force myself to eat anything green because I know I should.
  6. I have the attention span of a mite. I know this is a well known fact, but the game said “random” so….I included it.
  7. I hate the outside of my house, but LOVE the inside.
  8. I went on the Adkins Diet in high school with a friend of mine. We ate pork rinds by the bagful—seems soooo---yucky now.

So for my tag---I tag the following:

Trish, Andrea, Tanja, Pentha, Shelly, Chad, Joy and Fred

Vacation - the Summary!

I just returned from a vacation with the boys. It began in Cincinnati at the ordination of my sister-in-law, Julia. It was a beautiful ceremony that seemed to take me back to my spiritual roots and the legacy of the church I am so proud of growing up in and which continues to be such an important part of my life.

How, you ask, was I able to get two teenagers and two 11 year olds to sit through a two hour ordination? That’s easy—you bribe them with a week of amusement parks. Following the ordination my whole family met at Kings Island for the day. It was a nice time of being together. The boys and I stayed at Kings Island for another day and then, if that wasn’t enough, were off to Sandusky, Ohio to Cedar Point. Here is where the adventure began…

I “Pricelined” a hotel in Sandusky. We arrived late Sunday night and as we pulled into the parking lot I had a feeling this might not be good. Boy was I right. I checked-in anyway and headed to the room. It was a dump—and there was NO security. Anyone could get into the facility at anytime. Here I was a single mom with four kids with me and the possibility of having to stay in an insecure hotel. I immediately got a sick feeling in my stomach. I loaded everyone back into the car and started calling local hotels—with little luck. I finally got through to a Hampton Inn about 6 miles away that had a family suite available. Though VERY pricey, I decided peace of mind had NO price and we checked out of “America’s Best” and headed to a suite at the Hampton. The room was great – two king-size beds and one queen-size. I guess everything works out for the best because we were very comfortable with our lodging arrangements. I chalk this one up to one of those experiences I wish I never had to do alone, but dealt with it as I could.

Cedar Point was a blast. Each of my kids brought a friend with them on this trip, so I was the odd one out. I found that a little difficult, but didn’t let it stop me from spending time with the kids. Two days at Kings Island, two days at Cedar Point equals 38 hours of amusement park frenzy and one worn out mom who is glad to be....HOME.

This I know for sure...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Life Sucks; Get a Helmet"

I am, by nature, optimistic. The last two years have made it more difficult to remain sanguine, but I have strived to remain hopeful. I do; however, have my moments. This quote by Dennis Leary was posted this week in a thread on an e-bulletin board that I frequent. I KNOW Dennis Leary is far from anyone’s idea of a role-model, however sometimes the profound comes from the profane. His quote simply states:

"Life sucks; get a helmet."

When I first read this quote I chuckled, but only for a moment, for I slowly began to realize that these words contain truth. We can’t change the fact that life isn’t always the way we dreamed it to be. We live in a world that brings heartache as well as joy. All of us are in need of some type of “life helmet”; something to protect our hearts and minds as we maneuver the course.

This “life helmet”, I suspect, is composed differently for everyone. Some need a helmet of pure hope or one of self-confidence. Others may need a helmet of faith or one of comfort. Most likely we wear “life helmets” that are a composite of many different protective qualities. Perhaps these helmets change, as we change or as our life situations change.

I must admit that at times I grow weary of donning the “helmet”. Occasionally I take it off thinking that I am handling things well and no longer need it; but then, unprotected, I get thumped by yet another unpleasant aspect of this life that has become mine. What happens next is that I sink into a pit of self-doubt and pity. This continues until I choose to reach down and place that dang helmet back where it belongs. It is then that I feel safe from those “life daggers” which are constantly hurled my direction. Yes, “Life sucks” (at times) and we all need to “get a helmet”.

This I know for sure…

Monday, July 16, 2007

Handling Disappointment Like a Grownup

Well, I don’t---handle disappointment like a grown-up that is. I pout, feel sorry for myself, make impulsive decisions in the midst of being upset and exhibit less than mature behaviors (attractive image isn’t it). HOWEVER, I am not sure I ever want to change. The flip-side to this character flaw is that I do tend to get over "stuff" quickly and move on, so people only have to deal with my lousy attitude for a short time. What scares me a bit is that the older I get the longer I hold onto resentment-just something else I find troubling. Don’t know why this qualifies as a legitimate blog post, but it does. Besides, seeing it in print somehow validates my attitude. So there, I will simply take my ball and--------------go home.

This I know for sure..

Sunday, July 15, 2007

From the West Coast to the East!

I just returned from Boston. I had never been to the east coast and was looking forward to the trip – I was not disappointed. After arriving in Boston on Wednesday we were honored to meet two widow friends from the board. The extra treat was being able to see and tour Eric’s beautiful Colonial home located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is always amazing the instant bond that is created through our shared experiences.

Whales are truly magnificent animals! The highlight of the trip was whale watching in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Even our guide could not contain her excitement with what we were able to see on our watch. She said we were lucky to have experienced so many whale behaviors in just one trip.

Top Ten Boston Style

10. Take the Freedom Trail—but I would walk one-way and ride the other.

9. East Side Grill in Plymouth---excellent seafood and great ambiance.

8. Quincy Market—downtown Boston—the hub of the city—lots of great entertainment and great food.

7. Faneuil Hall – another downtown Boston landmark that is fun.

6. Newport mansions – these are truly amazing homes—what was with this gilded age?

5. Newport sea drive – there are amazing homes and terrific harbor activities going on all the time.

4. Plimouth Plantation (yes, I spelled it correctly) – this is a MUST on the trip. Take a step back in time.

3. Plymouth Rock---a little bit under-whelming BUT, hello, it’s PLYMOUTH ROCK.

2. Lobster – here is the BEST tip for the east coast – walk, in fact RUN past any hoity-toity restaurant and proceed directly to the nearest ocean-front DIVE and order the lobster---it is an AMAZING dining experience.

1. WHALE WATCHING – it is by-far the best part of the trip.

It was a trip of a lifetime-- more pics, if you are interested

Flicker Photos

This I know for sure...

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I get this Lou Tice inspirational email everyday--yesterday's installment had me thinking about what it means to SURVIVE! I not only want to survive--I want to thrive, but this post really spoke to me and I think it contains so much truth that I wanted to share it with all of you.


When times get tough, some people fold and some are made even stronger. Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be able to handle life better than others? Everyone likes to think that they have what it takes to survive adversity and tough times, but when the chips are down, some folks definitely do better than others.

The real survivors in life (not the participants in the recent glut of "reality" survivor TV shows, that only seem to bring out the worst in human behavior) have developed personalities that allow them more options. They also have a strong and clear intention to survive, and to do it in good shape. When problems or setbacks occur, they don't waste time complaining and they don't dwell on the past or what they've lost. Instead, their energies are focused on getting things to turn out well.

Survivors believe that, no matter what happens to them, they are the ones who are in charge of their destinies. They don't get mad at the world for not treating them better, but they do have an extensive menu of behaviors they can choose from, depending on the situation. In other words, survivors are option thinkers, instead of black and white, either/or thinkers. They also have a wonderful ability to laugh at adversity because they know that even if they lose everything else, they will still have themselves.

People with survivor personalities can walk confidently into the unknown because they expect to find a way to make things work out. So, if you want to be a true survivor, try focusing your attention less on safety and security and more on developing positive beliefs and expectations.

Lou Tice
The Pacific Institute

This I know for sure...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Life Lessons from Little League!

I had begun drafting a new blog entry entitled “Why I Hate Little League” when the events of the last few days caused me to pause and re-think my position. The original post summarized my feelings about my youngest sons little league experience this summer. He has been in, for lack of a better word, a batting slump since about the second game of the season. It has been discouraging for him, but he has never given up and has been at every game with an amazingly positive attitude. I, on the other hand, sit on the sidelines frustrated—upset at the coach for his lack of guidance and encouragement—upset with our circumstances because Chandler doesn’t have a father at home to help him with his game and just down-right ticked off at the fact that if Chandler doesn’t get to play much, how the heck is he supposed to improve? My oldest assures me this is exactly why “mommies should stay out of baseball—they just don’t get it”.

This past week my youngest son played in a baseball tournament. He only played 3 or 4 innings the entire week. I could tell he was down on himself before Friday’s game. Once he arrived at the game he showed true panache and cheered his team on. The team played well and ended up playing in the consolation game for third place. When the team began to win—my son’s lack of confidence seemed to fade as he placed all of his energy into cheering on his teammates. Though I was fuming on the sidelines at the injustice of the whole situation, I noticed his confidence actually increasing and he wasn’t even playing. How could that be? His attitude is a prime example that, for some reason, for boys—it is all about winning---to moms---it is about making sure our kids have a sense of self-worth. But what mommies don’t seem to get is that boys don’t obtain their self-esteem through being coddled or being “put in” just because—they get an amazing about of confidence simply being a part of a team.

Fast forward to Tuesday night’s game—two team members were unable to attend the game so Chandler was put in from the beginning of the game. When it came time for his first at bat---he straddled the plate with more confidence than I had seen in a long time. At the crack of his bat he hit a single RBI—the crowd roared—his teammates cheered as he ran to first base. He went three for four that evening and the coach awarded him the “game ball”. He was beaming with pride. On the ride home he called his grandparents, his uncle and my best friend’s husband to share his victory. Who knows if he will ever make another hit again this season, but he had his time in the spotlight; his moment of glory and the opportunity to feel a great sense of accomplishment that comes from truly doing a good job and being acknowledged for it.

I often learn from my children. They are not only a constant source of blessing, but also a basis of strength along the way. When I am in situations where I have a tendency to become frustrated, even discouraged, I need to remember the following lessons I have learned from my son this day:

  • Attitude is a big part of being content where you are.
  • Cheering on others can be as rewarding as succeeding yourself.
  • Patience and persistence are the qualities to overcome a "slump".
  • Sharing accomplishment with those you love simply makes the victory sweeter.
  • Mommies can "get it"--- given time and swift kick in the "life lesson" pants.

This I know for sure.