Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So Long 2009, 2010 is Nearly Here

I am sorry I neglected our blog this past month. I had an early case of the winter blues which would have resulted only in dribble so consider yourselves lucky. Too much work and no play makes for a very boring blog I know. By the time I shook myself out of it, there was only a week to go before Christmas which resulted in more than enough stress for the whole month jammed into one week. Talk about not heeding your own advice!

The good news is I got my act together in time to enjoy the holiday with both our families together at our place.

Luckily, we had decided to go non-traditional with our meal and ordered pizzas ahead of time, so we could just put them in the oven. This made more sense for us since we really didn't have room for 12 people to sit down at tables. It also allowed everyone to just keep enjoying each other's company rather than being squeezed in the kitchen trying to do last minute cooking, etc.



Our memories of the evening included a surprise visit from Santa for my nephew (my husband Ben), the arrival of my brother in law's girlfriend who was supposed to be in California and lots of laughter and fun.

Now, I am looking forward to a New Year's Eve with friends including the girls from the blog who haven't been all together in one place since this time last year. I know we will have lots to talk about. Although 2009 was a pretty good year, I am anxious to continue making more progress on what I started. Sue, you and I can work on continuing to change our lifestyles together. My goals include incorporating ways to plan and shop for our meals, so that we do more of our own cooking during the work week. I know you could probably help me with this. And perhaps, I could help you with putting a routine together that includes some techniques for strength training as well as cardio? One step at a time of course! We can talk more about it tomorrow night:)

As for our readers, I just wanted to say thanks for sticking with us through another year. We hope you had a wonderful holiday as well and that you are looking forward to your own joys and successes to come At Work, At Play and At Home in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where Did We All Go?

It looks like we all let our December get away from us! If your month has been anything like mine, I can see why! I got carried away with baking and shopping and wrapping and planning and volunteering and celebrating my daughter's return from Spain. Ok...with the exception of the last one, that pretty much sums up everyone's month:-)

With the holiday finally upon us, I plan on enjoying every moment with my family. However, I am looking forward to the new year. At that time, I will be starting a new series called, "How the Fat Girl Ate Susie". It is my attempt to get a handle on what is eating me so I can stop eating. I am hoping that it is an interesting and useful self-examination.

So until then, I hope you all have a very, very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year:-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman

The holidays are a time to take stock of our lives and be thankful for all of our many blessings. This year, the season has also been a reminder to me of the inherent strengths that we women possess when we are able to harness the simple power of a positive attitude.

Every family faces its own battles, its own crises. Sometimes, those struggles are enough to really knock us down for the count, to bring about a negative attitude or even depression. I know I've certainly been there. Whether it's financial worries, marital issues, parenting concerns, health problems or a plethora of other difficulties knocking on our front door, our daily life struggles can be downright overwhelming.

Both sides of our family struggle with virtually all of those same issues as well. Divorce, drug addiction, Alzheimer's, financial crises, depression. Yeah, we seem to have it all covered. Yet, this past week I reveled in the fact that I smiled and laughed more than I had in quite a long time. And, for the most part, it was thanks to the women in my husband's family.

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my in-laws' home. (My family is out of state. We'll whoop it up with them for Christmas.) The entire clan was there. My husband has two older sisters, one of whom lives near us and the other flew into town with her two kids.

It's funny how the heart of a home is often times its kitchen. Perhaps this is an old fashioned attitude, but it's one that I still believe to be true, at least for my family. Whenever my husband's family is all together, we gather at my in-laws for a wonderful meal that we all contribute to. While it's being prepared, we women gather in the kitchen and tell our stories. Our stories of success, of failure, of laughter, of tears. Stories that have been told time and time again or perhaps for the first time. I guess it's a kind of oral tradition. Our 20-year old niece has been joining us in the kitchen for many years now, and our 13-year old niece chose to spend much of her time with us for the first time this year instead of playing with her little sister and my son. A woman's life lessons are passed from generation to generation, with my 78-year old mother-in-law at the helm. And as we cook, we laugh and chatter, our smiles encouraging more smiles and more laughter, lifting each other up and lighting up the room with hope and promise for the future.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Domestic Super Bowl

Over the Thanksgiving season, we had lot's of time to watch educational TV. One in particular struck a cord with me. It discussed the history of the holiday. When we got to the Rockerfeller age, they pontificated that being a housewife and mother was a thankless job. Thanksgiving is the one day of the year when women could parade all their skills to the delight of the entire family.

Really? So that makes Thanksgiving, my superbowl. And if it that is true, I stuck the landing:-) (I guess that is an inappropriate sports reference but it sounded good right?)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't Stress About The Holidays and Shopping...

I have been waiting for this Thanksgiving break for weeks and finally it is here. It's my chance to get away from all the craziness at work, take a breath and relax with family and friends and get ready for the Christmas holidays. With visitors coming tomorrow, I have lots to do today so I am hitting the dishes, the laundry, the polishing, and the errands with zest... wait wasn't this supposed to be a break? Feeling a little overwhelmed I just sat down to take a breath at the computer and found this worthwhile article to assure me that Stress Free Holidays is a possibility.

I also found what I was looking for to get my online holiday shopping started so I thought I would share several of the links from a terrific web site for meaningful and inventive Christmas gifts:

Best Guide for Surviving Black Friday

Gifts for the Hard to Buy Types

Where to Find the Best Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

Meaningful Christmas Gifts- Giving Gifts in a Loved One's Name

Handmade Gift Giving Ideas

Top 5 Christmas Gifts for Women Under $25

Best Places to Buy Online Gifts for Men

Electronic Christmas Gifts for Men that Fit All Budgets

5 Holiday Gifts You can Make with Digital Photos

Here is an article for you Susan: Best Christmas Gifts for Autistic children

My new passtime lead me to this unique story Christmas Gifts for Yogis

I found all of these and more on the Associated Content's Holidays page.

Now it's back to work. Hope this helps. Happy Holidays ladies...

Monday, November 23, 2009

HUGE History

HUGE history was made this week.

Oprah annonced that she is calling it quits after her 25th season. I have been a HUGE fan for ALL of those years. I knew this day would come but, I don't know that I am ready:-) I mean, I was a Junior in high school when she started. My oldest daughter will be a Junior in college when she's done. That's a lifetime!

Jimmy Johnson won his 4th consecutive championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This is something that has NEVER been done before. We are HUGE NASCAR fans and so this is a HUGE deal in our house. Seeing someone do the impossible makes me want to do better in my own life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Scary Predicament

I had very mixed emotions after hearing about the recommendations of the United States Preventative Services Task Force against mammograms for women ages 40-49 and women over 50 should only have mammograms every two years. My first reaction was fear that insurance companies will now use this as an excuse to change their policies for coverage of mammograms prior to age 50. I have heard way too many stories of women prior to age 50 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to feel good about this.

I was relieved to hear that the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology were not supportive of the new guidelines and hopeful that insurance companies would listen to experts who have been studying cancer for years. In fact, a review of various clinical trials by the Oregon Health and Science University found that mammograms for women ages 40-49 reduced deaths from breast cancer by 15% (Lichtenfeld, 2009). That is a significant number in my eyes.

A friend of mine had the insight to say that perhaps this was a political move by Republicans who would quickly take issue with the proposed government health care plan setting this as an example of what happens when the government gets involved. And sure enough, that is what has happened since Tuesday.

As a woman who will turn 40 next year, I was not looking forward to routine mammograms each year, but, I did feel better knowing that it would be one more assurance of staying healthy. Now, I feel stranded knowing that if I want to be tested I will likely have to pay for it myself in the future. The end result will probably be not getting tested nearly as often or perhaps not at all. And that is a scary predicament. It is even more so for women who have a history of breast cancer in their family, but do not have enough money or the coverage for a routine physical let alone paying for a mammogram. Let's keep our fingers crossed this won't happen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Generally Annoyed by Ignorance

I recently attended a state funding panel discussion at my local school district. Since I have absolutely no political background, I thought it would educate me in how my child's school is paid for. Oh, I was educated alright!

I learned that our state spreads out our tax dollars in a three-tiered system: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Since our district is considered "property wealthy" we only qualify for primary funding from the state. So, we pay taxes for all three but only take out taxes for one of the tiers. Conversely, Milwaukee recieves funding for all three tiers. Ok...it is the classic "fortunate taking care of the less fortunate." I get that.

The second thing I learned is how completely naive and downright ignorant some of the people in this area are. One woman raised her hand and asked the senator, "That doesn't seem fair?" The state constitutional promises equitable education. Equitable doesn't mean fair. Naive. She then went on to prove her ignorance by saying, "We work hard all our lives. We have made all the right decisions and followed the right paths to buy houses in good school districts. We should be rewarded, not punished for that."

Ok...so, the people in Milwaukee public school districts don't work hard? They haven't made the right decisions in their lives? They haven't followed what you consider the "right path"?

Now, I don't claim to have all answers on how to run the world however, I do know enough to not assume anything about anybody. Does anyone else find this statement to be highly offensive?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Stress

The crush of the holidays is upon us and for some reason, I find myself more stressed about it than usual. I think it is because I am in unchartered territory of being a new elementary school mom. That has really distracted me away from my normal holiday trance.

I am working hard to establish myself as a useful entity in the school. I volunteer often in the classroom (twice in the classroom plus a field trip and that is just this week). I am co-leading my daughter's Daisy troop and I have showed up at nearly every PTO meeting that was held this year. I am also co-chairing the bake sale. I said to my husband, "Can I get a show of hands of those who really thought I wasn't going to chair this my first year?" He said that he was sitting on his hands:-)

It is possible that I am biting off more than I can chew however, I am having a blast. I didn't get to do any of this with my older daughter. I almost feel like the more I help at school, the more I am healing that wound. So, it isn't stressful at all.

What is freaking me out is that it is November 9th and I don't have my Thanksgiving menu set yet!! By this time last year, I had 6 pies and 48 rolls nestled in my freezer waiting for the big event. This week is a wash so...think of me in a frenzy next week as I struggle to pull this holiday out of the ashes of my own procrastination.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I neglected my family

...for 10 days while reading the Twilight series. Wow, was I ever sucked into that story. When a friend of mine suggested I read it and handed over all four of her books, I was somewhat doubtful about a sojourn into YA literature. As a 39 year old woman, I figured I wouldn't enjoy teen lit enough to invest the time required of the series, seeing as book four alone is 700-some pages. The only reason I really even agreed to do so was that I was a big Anne Rice fan when I was in my teens and 20s, and, to this day, Bram Stoker's Dracula is still on the list of my absolute favorite works of literature. So, I guess you could say I'm kind of into vampires.

As I began reading Twilight, the story immediately appealed to me. I loved the first person narration by Bella. Despite the simplicity of the writing, I was drawn into her emotional world and could easily relate to her vulnerabilities and feelings toward Edward - many of them seemed similar to my own when I was a teenager and involved with boyfriends in high school. Throughout much of the series, I also thought Bella's strengths were an important appeal to female teen readers. Being a feminist at heart, I cheered on author Stephenie Meyer as I read. Ok, sure, Bella is awkward and has some self esteem issues, but she's definitely her own person, walks to the beat of her own drummer in many regards, is certainly portrayed as an intelligent young woman who takes her academics seriously, and makes important decisions for herself without folding under the pressure of others' opinions. Plus, she has the two bad boys of the series, the vampire and the werewolf, wrapped around her finger in no time.

At the same time, as I progressed through book three and book four, I started to get a little pissed off at Meyer. She had done such a great job in the first two books with portraying a nice, healthy dose of morality and feminism for her teen readers. Edward and Bella hold off from having sex until they are married. But wait a minute - what's the deal with Bella getting married while still in her teens??? And then having a baby to boot??? Not exactly what I was expecting from Meyer at that point, and I was pretty disappointed about it too. We never see Bella go to college as Edward so fervently wishes for her to do. Instead, before she's even 20, she's married, has a kid, and becomes a vampire, basically foregoing all of the choices for her future and settling down into the cottage behind her in-laws' house. Hmmm. Not exactly my idea of the the kind of life I'd imagine a young, bright woman of the 21st century would lead. And if I had a daughter who went down that same path (minus the vampire part, of course), I'd be FURIOUS, not giddy with joy like Bella's mother. My own parents would have disowned me had I made the same choices.

So, Meyer, shame on you! What's up with the turnaround?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seeing Your Fat Ass on TV

...is great motivation for getting back into your workout routine after the flu:-(

For those of you that don't know, I compete in Iron Cupcake challenges here in Milwaukee. This summer, a local food show called Wisconsin Foodie filmed me and two other bakers preparing for our sugary battle. Today, it aired and my large ass (in all it's glory) was the only thing I saw. Nice triple chin too:-(

And so, it is back to getting up at 5 a.m. in front of the DVD player to walk my pounds away. Luckily, I didn't gain back any of my 10 pound loss from September however, I didn't lose more in October either. So, come on November!!! Make me fabulous for 40!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Losing the Olympic Bid Was Good for Chicago

I am sorry this doesn't fall into the category of "a blog for and about women" but, I needed to post this second one as well this week because it is something that has hit close to home and could really be a problem anywhere. During the 2008-2009 school year, 33 Chicago Public School students died. While I am sure this number was a disappointment to the Mayor of Chicago's office at the time, I don't recall any national news coverage that came of it. Now, looking back on the events over the past couple weeks in Chicago, I would say perhaps it was a good thing that Chicago lost the Olympic bid after all. Why have I made the connection between these two things?

It has been a month or so since Chicago found out it would not be hosting the 2016 Olympics and while some may be diappointed, many Chicagoens might agree, that perhaps, this was a good thing for Chicago. Since then, Mayor Richard Daley, has turned his attention to the problem of youth violence that has been building over the years in our city. This followed the well publicized death of a Darien Albert, a 16-year old honor student who was beaten to death on September 24,2009, an event that was caught on video and may have very well influenced the decision not to hold the Olympics in Chicago. Mayor Daley, after realizing that the Olympics would not be his ticket to re-election, has now made the fight against youth violence in Chicago his pet project for the past several weeks.

I would like to believe it was just because the death of a teen was serious enough, but, I have a feeling that if Chicago hadn't lost the Olympic bid, this story might not have gotten the attention it deserved, nor the visit from the the Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that followed on October 7th to meet with Mayor Daley, local leaders, and the fellow high school students of Darien Albert three weeks later after he died. You see why I made this connection?

My question is, why didn't it happen sooner? The problem of youth violence is very troubling in Chicago and other communities as well. I hope that in the end something real does come of all of this or this teen's death might be in vein. Again, sorry this is more of an editorial than our usual post,but, I know you understand why it had to be said.

What I got is good! So, why not share a little...

I admit it, I have been spending way too much time this year concerned about my ticking clock. Those of you regular readers know that I have been pondering motherhood for some time, but, instead of thinking about being a mom or not being a mom, and if I do decide to become a mom, would I actually be able to have kids because it may be too late or some other health issue, etc. This week I dicided to give it a rest and it feels good. Instead, I am going to enjoy what I got.

My husband and I have been married for over three years. Both of us love our jobs for the most part (every job has its drawbacks, and the only thing I don't like about mine right now is the hour commute). We are still very much in love and no matter what we decide as far as having children, we have a lot ahead of us. Because we are older and don't have kids, we do have a lot of good quality time together and we enjoy the freedoms of not thinking about if we go out to eat one more time, how will we pay for school for our children, etc. I am also able to focus on working out 3-4 times a week without wondering who will take care of my kids.

I am sorry if it sounds like I am bragging, but, what I am getting at is we may not have the joy of raising kids or a house of our own, but, I do realize this is a tough time for a lot of women and I am very lucky not worry about paying the bills. For this reason, I also decided to make good on all of my talk about getting back to volunteering and choose an organization dedicated to helping women and girls in our area before the end of the year. I don't have a lot of time other than the weekends and every other Thursday (my flex day) but, darn it, I have more time than other women my age and there are a lot of women out there who need help. I will let you know what comes of it before the end of the year. Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Breaking in the new car...

...literally.

I have to admit, this story has very little to do with any sort of issue of import relating to women. However, this woman needs someone to talk to, and, blogosphere, you're it.

Recently, we bought a new car. My husband and I were so excited to get rid of our 2000 Jetta which turned out to be a piece of junk. It was a beautiful car when we bought it (and since both of us are German teachers, we thought we were so cool at the time - you know the whole Fahrvergn├╝gen/witty VW commercial thing), but, after a few years, the interior began to fall apart and it was like an avalanche from then on; more and more repairs needed to be done and the car was getting to be a total financial burden.

Since my husband and I try to be environmentally responsible, we bought a Toyota Prius, one of those cool hybrid cars. It's a nifty vehicle - sleek, black, and modern. We are also pleased that Consumer Reports gave it top ratings on reliability. We're counting on that, so that we don't blow as much money on it as we did fixing all of the problems on our junk-o-rama-Jetta.

We are encountering some issues with the Prius, though. First, my husband just very well might cause the demise of our entire family in that car. The Prius has a neat computer screen on the dashboard from which you can control many aspects of the car's performance. It also displays the gas mileage you're getting and updates it continually, so you can see it rise and fall as you drive. The more responsibly you drive (no lead foot driving - easy on the accelerating and braking), the higher your gas mileage goes. Of course, being a guy, particularly a guy who loves competition and the rewards that go along with good performance, my husband can't keep his eyes off of that computer and the gas mileage updates. If he is the passenger, there is a lot of back seat driving that the driver has to put up with: "Your gas mileage is tanking!! Ease off of the accelerator!" If he is the driver, he barely has his eyes on the road - they're fixed on that d*** computer. And if I'm not in the car, I'm typically scared to death for my son who is with him, because then not only are his eyes not on the road, but at least one hand is not on the steering wheel, as he's calling me up on his cell phone to blast into my ear: "54 MILES PER GALLON, BRENDA!!! Can you BELIEVE that?? No, no WAIT! 55 MILES PER GALLON!!!!"

And if my husband doesn't cause us to get into an accident that's going to wreck our precious new car, other Houstonian drivers will. Sometimes, I absolutely despise driving in Houston. The experience is often chaotic and terrifying. Streets are strewn with litter in many places and things fly off of the backs of trucks all of the time. My husband and I have seen buckets, huge plastic garbage bags filled with clothes, sofa cushions, and even a ladder fly off of trucks going down the HIGHWAY. Yes, the HIGHWAY. How scary do you think that is going 65 miles per hour?? Pretty darn scary!!

So, the other day, two things happened to me in our Prius in the course of just one day. Driving home from my son's school, I see a brown lunch bag fly up from under the car in front of me. It was too late to avoid it, so I drive over it thinking it was just filled with air. Nope. All of a sudden I hear, "CLANK, CLUNK, BANG!" under my car. I come home to find a huge set of keys with about 15 keys on it nestled in the metal rim of the car that creates a semicircle above and around the top of the tire. Apparently, that was in the lunch bag. I inspect the tire, and it appears fine.

Later that day, I'm driving onto the entrance ramp of the highway, and a large dump truck is in front of me. You know what's coming. A huge chunk of something flies out of the dump truck. I'm too busy watching it hurl toward me thinking, "Please don't hit our new car. Please don't hit our new car. Please don't hit our new car," to think to look at the truck's license plate and note the company name on the truck which my husband asks me about later. Of course, the huge chunk of something hits our hood and when I arrive at my destination, I find a nice, big ding in the paint job.

Plus, I have a flat tire from the keys.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

I don't know about anybody else but I am so over the cold and flu season already!! I have had it. My youngest has had it. My mom has had it. Heck my oldest has had it all the way in Spain!! What the heck, people? It's worse than having Christmas decorations up before Halloween!!

And, we are the not the only ones feeling it. Last week, 12% of the student body reported being out with flu symptoms. We weren't the worst either. There were schools in our area that had 60% out and the health department had to close them. What the heck, people??

What is going on? When we were kids, I don't ever remember missing school because someone else was sick?? Has it really come to this? Are we really this weak? I don't know about you guys but this scares the crap out of me!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Should I be concerned?

I am a wimp when it comes to haunted houses and scary movies- for these reasons, I used to not be a big fan of Halloween. The thing that I am just a little bewildered about is that nearly every television show that I watch regularly has a morbid theme usually about death or illness. Don't laugh, it's true. Here is a list of the shows I am watching currently- Bones, The Forgotten, Fringe, The Mentalist, Psych, House, and Flash Forward. I also used to be a big CSI fan before it morfed into two other shows. The only one that I watch that does not fall into that category is Drop Dead Diva which is done for the year. I am sorry, but, I am not a fan of reality TV- I am too old for Gossip Girl or Melrose Place(and I don't think I would watch them anyway). Should I be concerned?


The last couple of years since my nephew has become old enough to try trick or treating, however, have been pretty fun. Last year he was a little scared of all of the costumes and walking up to people's houses in the dark, but, I think this year we have prepared him a little more and he is old enough (nearly 3)to understand that it is all in fun. I hope...we are looking forward to finding out. Happy early Haloween and have a good weekend all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alzheimer's hits home

My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We all saw it coming, but the reality of the disease is now starting to rear it's ugly head. My mother-in-law deals with a good deal of forgetfulness and confusion which has been quite embarrassing and frustrating for her. Additionally, her days of driving seem to be over since she has started confusing the accelerator and the brake. This means her children (and their spouses) now need to chip in a bit more to help her and my father-in-law out.

For me, it means paying her a visit once or twice a week while my father-in-law is out at the flying field. He flies model airplanes that he has built himself. We all know he enjoys his time there and none of us want to deprive him of something he is so fond of doing.

I'm sure that we are all in for some difficult times ahead. It's time for me to seek out some literature and perhaps other resources about Alzheimer's to become a little better informed about the disease and the task of caregiving for the individual stricken with it. So far, I've been given one book recommendation: The 36-Hour Day.

Any other recommendations or words of wisdom from readers out there?

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Usually Don't Do This But...

I usually don't get involved in the debate between stay-at-home-moms and working moms but...sometimes, it isn't fair.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I volunteer at the school all the time. I have supervised Safety Town, math centers and literacy centers and, I have stuffed Friday folders. I have attended the PTO meetings and I am even leading my daughter's Daisy troop.

The working moms can't do as much as I do and I don't expect them to. However, when it came around to sign up for the pumpkin farm, all the working moms took off work, signed up and got the gig. They can only take a certain amount of parents along on field trips and I got bumped because this is the only opportunity they have to volunteer.

Now, how fair is that? I have worked hard at the school over the last two months and when the holy grail of volunteering comes around, I have to step aside? I am doing all the work and they get all the fun. I feel like the custodial parent who is all liver and onions and veggies and the working moms are french fries and ice cream. I understand that they are just trying to make it equitable but this is one instance, when it just isn't.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

Why is it that the busier my family gets, the less time I have? My daughter starts kindergarten and I am at school just as much as she is. My mom starts water aerobics and I am running her around everyday of the week now. I am phoning my blog posts in, my garden is a weed fest and my husband can't remember what I look like naked. Mama needs some time!!!

Let me see...I can pencil you in Thursday morning between 9 and 9:15:-)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why Losing the Olympic Host City Bid Was a Good Thing

I am sorry this doesn't fall into the category of "a blog for and about women" but, I needed to post this second one as well this week because it is something that has hit close to home and could really be a problem anywhere. During the 2008-2009 school year, 33 Chicago Public School students died. While I am sure this number was a disappointment to the Mayor of Chicago's office at the time, I don't recall any national news coverage that came of it. Now, looking back on the events over the past couple weeks in Chicago, I would say perhaps it was a good thing that Chicago lost the Olympic bid after all. Why have I made the connection between these two things?

It has been a month or so since Chicago found out it would not be hosting the 2016 Olympics and while some may be diappointed, many Chicagoens might agree, that perhaps, this was a good thing for Chicago. Since then, Mayor Richard Daley, has turned his attention to the problem of youth violence that has been building over the years in our city. This followed the well publicized death of a Darien Albert, a 16-year old honor student who was beaten to death on September 24,2009, an event that was caught on video and may have very well influenced the decision not to hold the Olympics in Chicago. Mayor Daley, after realizing that the Olympics would not be his ticket to re-election, has now made the fight against youth violence in Chicago his pet project for the past several weeks.

I would like to believe it was just because the death of a teen was serious enough, but, I have a feeling that if Chicago hadn't lost the Olympic bid, this story might not have gotten the attention it deserved, nor the visit from the the Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan that followed on October 7th to meet with Mayor Daley, local leaders, and the fellow high school students of Darien Albert three weeks later after he died. You see why I made this connection?

My question is, why didn't it happen sooner? The problem of youth violence is very troubling in Chicago and other communities as well. I hope that in the end something real does come of all of this or this teen's death might be in vein. Again, sorry this is more of an editorial than our usual post,but, I know you understand why it had to be said.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

39 and Holding

I turned 39 yesterday. There I said it! I don't feel 39, but, I am putting it out there for the rest of our readers to know. This week, I have decided that I have spent enough time reflecting on the things that I still want to achieve- what some would call the "bucket list". Instead, since I do have 39 years of knowledge to share, I am going to write a list of things I have done that I would totally recommend everyone try and do before they hit 40 if you haven't already done them:

• Live in a city or town other than where you grew up for at least a year.
• Do something that scares you every once in awhile (but be smart enough to take percautions if they are necessary).
• Live with someone who you are having a romantic relationship for at least 6mos.
• Live with a roommate for at least a year.
• Live by yourself for at least a year.
• I would say have a child, but, this is one that is on my list.
• Love someone so bad it hurts.
• Love someone and lose them.
• Take any one more of the following classes: cooking, photography, guitar, painting/sketching, dance, voice, crafts or a foreign language. (My friend Kristin would probably add improv classes to the list)
• Travel to someplace in Europe- I highly recommend Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, London and Ireland (anywhere in Ireland is beautiful).
• Travel somewhere tropical- Jamaica and the San Juan Islands, WA (yes, I consider this tropical).
• Have a one night stand that you do not regret.
• Explore the U.S. (I admit, I need to do more of this, but, my favorite places of those I have been thus far are Washington, D.C., and San Diego,CA). Hawaii is definitely on my bucket list...
• Keep a diary for a period of time and then read it- it's a gift you can give yourself that doesn't cost much at all.
• Dance like a child at least once a year.
• See a Broadway show.
• Read or reread a classic novel for fun.
• Do something you haven't done since you were a child.
• Say you are sorry when you are wrong.
• Stand up for what you believe when it's important or when someone else can't do it for themselves.
• See a big name musician in concert (20+ and counting)
• Work at a job you love (and this includes being a mom).
• Go to a museum at least once a year.
• Make a few mistakes.
• Try snorkeling, windsurfing, or scuba diving (scuba diving is on my list).
• Do something out of character at least once a year.
• Volunteer at least once a year.
• Go out of your way for a friend.
• Go out of your way for a stranger or at least an acquaintance.

Now, a few of these are easy- many of us would have them on our list of things they have done, but, how often do we really think about their value? These are things we should all celebrate. Even the ones that may not seem positive at first glance. In some cases, they are valuable lessons learned.

I don't mean to seem like a know it all- I know there are still some things out there I have yet to experience, but, reflecting on what I have accomplished has given me confidence to keep moving forward.

I am sure there are a few more I have forgotten, but, I wanted to see what else others would have on their list. Feel free to share and perhaps, by next year, I will have a few of your recommendations that I can add to the list of celebration.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Uninspired

Well, Ladies...it has happened. I am at a loss for words today. I've got nothing except this flu. Does that ever happen to you? Where you just feel like phoning it in?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Tis the season...

...to be scared out of one's mind. With October 1st right around the corner, Halloween is quickly approaching. And I'm not quite sure how my little guy is going to make it for the next month with all of the goblins and ghouls that will be popping up in various forms around town.

Right around this time last month, we made a family trip to Lowe's one day. Lowe's already had some Halloween decorations for sale, including a life size grim reaper of sorts near the entrance. Of course, it scared the living s*** out of my 4-year old son. Ever since then, he's been coming into our bedroom at night and staying in our bed until morning. Now, I know The Nanny would shake her thumb at us about this in disapproval and encourage us to remedy the situation immediately, getting that boy back into his own bed...for the entire night, every night. In truth, I empathize with my son and let him snuggle up with us just because I know what he's going through. I was always a scaredy-cat myself when I was young. Nighttime was not the happiest for me. I remember being really scared often. Plus, for some asinine reason, my dad thought it was ok for me to watch The Exorcist on TV when I was about ten years old. That movie pushed me over the edge. I swear, I should've gone to therapy because of that damn film. I was totally traumatized by it and didn't get over it well into my late teens. So, I know what it's like to be scared at night, and I really don't want my son to grow up with the many nighttime anxieties that I grew up with.

So far, we are doing what we can to help him avoid scary situations. We're keeping him away from stores that might have gruesome Halloween decorations. He likes books about Halloween, but we are getting books from the library about the holiday which won't frighten him.

Any other advice for this parent about how to ease my son's mind of these type of fears? I could sure use some.

Monday, September 28, 2009

40 and Fabulous

I wrote about my Second Attempt at weight loss earlier this month. I am here to tell you that I am very encouraged by some success. I feel fantastic and I have dropped 10 pounds. Now, 10 pounds is a drop in the bucket to what I need to lose however, it is a really good start. And I have found some motivation recently that I want to share.

I am turning 40 on May 28 next year. So, my goal is to be 40 and Fabulous. Now, I am already fabulous in many ways however, I want to be even more fabulous by dropping more of this weight by my big day. I am not putting a number on it. I know it when I feel it.

Also, I had another cupcake challenge this weekend. I know that this seems really counter-productive to my overall goal however, the challenge took place a Goldie's Shoe Parlor. If you are in the Milwaukee area, go directly to Goldie's...do not pass "Go"....bring $200. They have the cutest stuff on the planet!! It is one of those rare boutiques that have clothes for real sizes. So, my goal is to buy something fabulous for the my 40 and Fabulous birthday!!

Wish me luck! So far....so good:-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friendships for Your Health

Our 100th post got me thinking last week, that I am lucky to have so many friends. True, not all of the friends I mentioned are as close as others, but, I still hold them close to my heart and I wanted to let them know.

With another birthday looming, I have found myself reflecting over the past week or two- how much life changes, sometimes without your even realizing it and others it is more in our faces than you would like. At certain points in our lives, some friends come to the foreground while others fade away. Thinking about this made me a little sad, but, I know it is not something that always happens on purpose. It just does.

After reading an article called "You Just Gotta Have Friends," in the October issue of Self Magazine, I was reminded of the four different levels of friendship including "acquantances, casuals, close and lifers". Regardless of the level, each of them is important to our well being(Frankel, 2009).

In 1998, a study at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor found that people who were isolated had an increased risk of mortality similar to that of cigarette smokers. More recent studies show that lonely people "get high blood pressure, sleep poorly and have weakend immunity". People who feel connected, however, "are simply healthier- they have better cardiovascular health and report a higher level of satisfaction," says professor of social psychlogy, Shelly Gable, Ph.D. (Frankel, 2009).

The article goes on to talk about how some people who form smaller networks of friends have found they can be just as valuable, if not more so, as those who have larger ones. I am sorry I could not provide a link because the article is not yet available on line, but, the issue is worth a read for this article and a number of others.

Keeping in touch when life gets rough or busy is hard, but, most of us are lucky enough to also have friends who all you have to do is pick up the phone and it won't matter how long its been since the last time you talked. I thank God for that and any time one of them chooses to place the call to me in return, she knows I will be there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Difference Between Men and Woman

Over the last week or two, I have experienced two examples of the difference between men and women:

1. My husband has lived in this house since 1996. I joined him in 2001. Since my move in, I have met ALL the neighbors. I have had playdates with some, got strawberries and apples from others and even got a poker night in or two. My husband, just talked to the neighbor to our north...this week! Yep...that's 13 years living adjacent to someone with a polite wave while mowing the lawn but no verbal exchange.

2. Moms can walk into an elementary school, no questions asked. They belong there. They are supposed to be there. Dads walk in an they get the third degree. "Who are you again?" "What are you here for?" "Who is your child, again?" Not fair for Daddy:-(

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Could I really do it?

Sorry for posting so late in the day, but, I have been playing catch up all week. It has been one of those horrendous periods at work where I am working late most nights, getting in some working outs, eating okay for the most part, going home and vegging and then it starts all over again the next day at 5:15 or so.

We can barely handle the new kitten that we have added to the family in the mornings. It is times like these that my husband and I both wonder, could we really handle being parents in addition to all of this when things get rough? So, we are still floundering and putting it off. I have been very tired lately and my nerves have been a little shot. As a mother, I know fatigue is often a part of daily life. I also wonder how I will continue to meet the expectations of my colleagues and myself at work. These are just a few of my concerns none of which even begin to broach the subject of being a good mom (that is a whole other set of concerns).

I need to get back to work, but, had to put this out there. I am sure there are other working moms who may have something to share in response. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kindergarteners have it rough

My son started 4-yr. old preschool in August. I'm in shock that he is growing up so quickly. During the three days a week that he is in school, I often wonder where the time has gone. Down the street from us, there are a few kids who are 5 and started Kindergarten this year. My own memories of Kindergarten (albeit very few) include coming home for lunch and then taking a nap if I was really tired out. In this day and age, Kindergarteners have it rough. Our neighborhood kids get on the bus before 8 AM and don't walk in the door at home again until after 4 PM. Is it me, or is this totally crazy?? I can't imagine putting little 5 year olds through such a long day, but that's what we do now. Since when did Kindergarten become an all day affair? I mean, it has essentially become 1st grade, if you think about it. It sure does seem like a lot for our little people to have to handle, and I'm not too thrilled with the prospect of that kind of life for my son next year. Unfortunately, our income won't allow for attendance at a private school, so we're stuck with what is offered here in our public schools. And, no, I'm not even considering homeschooling. My sanity must be preserved. 'Nuff said.

I haven't researched the matter, but I'm assuming all day Kindergarten came about as a result of two things: 1) mothers started working full time out of the home and needed childcare, and 2) our academics across the nation went down the toilet in comparison with the rest of the western world, so we decided our youth needed to learn more at an earlier age.

In spite of those two reasons, you can mark this mama down as not a fan of all day Kindergarten. I just don't think it's necessary for our 5 year olds. Why can't we let them enjoy their childhood a little longer like we were allowed to when we were young?

What's your opinion on this one?

Monday, September 14, 2009

100 Things We Admire

This is our 100Th post and to commemorate the occasion, we are listing 100 things that we admire in other women and in ourselves. So, in no particular order:

1. Strength.

2. Intelligence.

3. Beauty.

4. Perseverance.

5. Resilience.

6. Compassion.

7. Nurturing.

8. Organization.

9. Baking.

10. Cooking.

11. Hugs.

12. Kisses

13. Encouragement.

14. Spiritual.

15. Determined.

16. Focused.

17. Not Afraid to Make Hard Decisions.

18. Knowing How to Live with the Consequences of those Decisions.

19. Loving.

20. Generosity.

21. Green.

22. In Touch with Her Emotions.

23. Lives Life to the Fullest.

24. Entrepreneur

25. Passionate.

Brenda's list:
26. my mom's unconditional love for me and my brother...and now for her grandchild.
27. my mom's selflessness and attendance to our needs when we were growing up...and still now.
28. my mom's influence in developing my love of travel, music, art, and so many other things!
29. my mom's strength in being a breast cancer and open-heart surgery survivor.
30. my mom's yummy cooking.
31. my grandmother's unending generosity.
32. my grandmother's faith.
33. my grandmother's style and flair.
34. my grandmother's endearing vanity of wearing lipstick everywhere...which has now become my own as well.
35. my aunt's ability to look absolutely terrific...even at 80.
36. my aunt's impeccable taste in decorating and fashion.
37. my mother-in-law's knack for organization
38. my MIL's work ethic at her artistic crafts
39. my MIL's ability to make a lovely home and garden look so easy
40. my sisters'-in-law kindness, good-naturedness, and ease at great conversation
41. my mom's and my passion for teaching.
42. my girlfriends for so many things...such as their kindness...
43. ...and ability to forgive even when it's hard...
44. ...and the way we can make each other laugh...
45. ...and the immediate offer of a shoulder (or an ear) if I need a good cry...
46. ...and the way we can work together to create something special...
47. ...and the way they can get us organized when my skills are lacking the ability to do so...
48. ...and the way they've been strong and turned lemons into lemonade.
49. my love and dedication to my son.
50. my dedication to nursing my son...for 42 months! (no, I'm not crazy, really)

51. We can grow people. How cool is that?

52. We hold our families together

53. Katy Perry was right, "Hard to resist, so touchable"

54. Even when the going gets tough, we still get up in the morning and keep on going

55. Being a mom makes you feel powerful. Don't get between me and my kid, man...I'll take you out...I don't care if you're a linebacker!

56. Behind every great man is a great woman. I'm almost 40 and am now just starting to grasp how real this is. Men would be lost without us, don't you think?

57. When my mom tried to buy a house in the 70's, they wouldn't give her a mortgage because they didn't think she'd be working very long before she stayed home to have babies. I bought my own house at 28. All by myself.

58. That was two years after I went to Europe with 2 of my best girlfriends. They helped me fulfil one of my grandmother's life-long wishes. Neat, huh?

59. I think it's awesome that many Native Americans thought women were so powerful when they had their periods, they separated them from the rest of the tribe. I wish we still thought of it that way.

60. Suffragettes, like Susan B. Anthony. For that matter, there's a lot of other noteworth women I admire for what they've done, and how they've lived their lives.

61. Sally Ride

62. Katherine the Great

63. Katherine Hepburn

64. Jackie Kennedy

65. Eleanor Roosevelt

66. Sojourner Truth

67. Barbara Bush

68. Maya Angelou

69. Julia Child

70. Emily Dickinson

71. Betty Friedan

72. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

73. Rosa Parks and all the women who pioneered "firsts" for the rest of us

74. The wonderful women I write this blog with

75. My daughter, who showed me the kind of woman I want to be

From Kari: Let me preface this by saying I am lucky enough to have women in my life who have a number of the following traits in common; I am pointing out the traits I admire that are more predominant.

76. My mom's sensibility and ability to manage numerous projects at one time

77. My mom's ability to make me calmer just by being there

78. My aunt Teri's strength even though she doesn't know it's there sometimes

79. My cousin Jen's resilience

80. My sister Charity's generosity

81. My friend Kristin's sense of humor

82. My friend Janet's sense of self

83. My friend Brenda's dedication

84. My friend Sue's tenacity

85. My friend Diane's moxie

86. My friend Therese's devotion

87. My grandmother Marion's sense of style

88. My grandmother Evelyn's courage

89. My aunt Barb's patience

90. My friend Amy's enthusiasm

91. My friend Lisa's perceptiveness

92. My friend Nancy's jovial attitude

93. My mother in law Mary's good naturedness and devotion

94. The many who are gifted and willingly share their gifts with others

95. The many who can make me smile or laugh

96. The many who are insightful

97. The many who inspire me to try harder

98. The many who know what it is to be a friend unconditionally

99. The many who know how to listen

100. The many who know how to love in unique ways

Monday, August 31, 2009

Attempt Number Two

Since my first weight loss attempt was an utter and complete failure, I am going to give it another college try (mind you, I quit college too so, take that at face value:-). I hereby pledge to take care of myself first so I can take care of others second.

Anyway, my plan is to get up at o'dark-hundred to workout. I am going to continue my walking tapes until I can get a Wii Fit and the money for the Wii Fit in the same room at the same time. In addition, I am tracking my nutrition stats through my recipe/grocery software. The Living Cookbook rocks in this regard. I just type in my menu plan and viola...success:-)

Now, why am I boring you with all this? I am not sure except that I needed to purge my soul and my other blog would have spit it out:-)

So, wish me luck on this second quest to find health and to take care of me:-) Let's hope this time it sticks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A (Political) Rant

It turns out that Kermit the Frog was wrong. In fact, it is quite easy being green. Don't worry - I haven't been stricken with some horrid flu virus that has turned my skin a sickly hue. I'm actually referring to living green, doing one's part for the good of the environment.

Now that my part time teaching jobs have started again at the beginning of a new school year, my focus is very much about learning and teaching. One of the places that I learn the most is when I'm in Germany. People who read this blog may be sick and tired about reading my posts about said country. I do apologizefor the redundancy, but I have one more entry about the Fatherland that I just have to write. Now I warn you, this post may get a tad political and hence ruffle a few feathers. So, if you're not the type who appreciates a different political perspective other than your own, you may want to skip this one.

I was in Germany for 2 weeks this summer. I've been there many times before but hadn't been back for 4 years. Every time I return to the country, I'm struck by how clean and orderly it is and how beautiful the vast majority of towns and cities there are.

My first steps onto foreign soil there already tell me I'm somewhere far from home. I see a garbage can that doesn't just have one hole, but three. Three holes that ask you to separate your garbage when you discard it. Above the holes are signs that say, "plastic," "paper," and "remaining garbage." These garbage cans are standard fare for Germany; they are all over the country, everywhere you go.

According to a recent article I read about Germany, this garbage can thing shouldn't be a surprise, because Germany has been named The World's Greenest Country. That's right, it is more environmentally friendly than any other country on earth. Being a person who tries to live green as much as I can, I appreciate this. In fact, over the decades that I've been to Germany, I always suspected this to be true but never had any proof to support my theory. I've been struck by a number of ways that Germans live their daily lives which include the following:

1. Germany is a very clean place, both inside and out. You just don't see a lot of inside grime or clutter, and outside, one immediately notices that there isn't much litter...anywhere.

2. Germans don't use as much gas as we do and can get away with it for a number of reasons. Their inner cities (which have a positive connotation in that culture's language due to all of the culturalperks inner cities there have to offer, not the negative one we have in English of poverty and violence) are pedestrian zones. People walk and ride their bikes to go shopping and often to work. Public transportation is excellent. Many cities have streetcars, buses, and a subway. And don't even get me started on how awesome their train transportation is. Germany also has fairly strict laws about the kind of condition your car is in. You can't go around driving some clunker that's spewing smoke and gassing out everyone behind you. This means better and newer cars which get better gas mileage. Plus, because their country is only about 1/2 of the size of Texas, yet is home to 80+ million people, they're not afraid to look like wimps and drive small cars, like the Smart Car, for example, to get into that rarely available and teeny tiny parking spot.

3. And while Germans are shopping, you see them with their canvas bags or woven baskets. If you want a plastic bag for your groceries, you have to pay for it (and paper bags aren't even offered). A few months ago, I bought myself 5 canvas bags from my grocery store to use instead of plastic bags - a recent trend here in the USA. Germans have been doing this for decades.

I'm going on a rant about all of this, because I sometimes find my adopted state of Texas...well...filthy. This is especially true when I come back from a trip to Europe. And it bothers me. The smog, the litter (when I first came to Houston, I used to call it, "Houston...The City With All The Crap On The Side Of The Road" - not the most endearing nickname). My little subdivision here in Texas doesn't even recycle. That's right, we have no recycling pick up service. And I find that very annoying. My solution to this problem is to bring my paper recycling to the recycling bins behind an elementary school that is 3 minutes from my house. I bring plastic and glass to public bins that are on my way to work. I know that most of my neighbors are not recycling, though. I see their cardboard boxes out on garbage pickup days, and I can just see the landfills piling higher and higher.

Sometimes, I think we Americans could learn a thing or two from our European counterparts.

And here's the political part - so don't say I didn't warn you.

I just don't get why our society is freaking out about Obama's supposed efforts to make this country more "European" and the accusations that he's turning us into socialists. First of all, life is pretty darn good in all of the socialist countries in Europe that I'm familiar with, and I've traveled extensively there. And they're all democracies, too. We're not talking communism here. They have the same rights that we do. And when it comes to their system of socialized medicine, there are no death panels (where ARE there death panels, anyway?? I mean, come on!!), and you don't have to wait for 6 months for surgeries either, like many people claim. My aunt who is German and has lived in Germany all of her life, found out she needed stomach surgery in June. She had the surgery 2 weeks later (and it was only 2 weeks later, because we were visiting her for those two weeks!).

For this Euro-wanna-be, I personally think this country could use some European influence. From what I've seen first hand, it would definitely make life here a a little bit more pleasant.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Depression Survival Tips

Older daughter off to Spain? Check.
Younger daughter getting ready for kindergarden? Check.

With my house almost empty, I have got to make sure I have my time completely filled or I am going to go nuts. As a depression survivor, that is one thing I have to do. So, here is my list:

Closets to organize.
Carpets to clean.
Gardens to weed.
Jam and apple pies to make.

See? I have lot's to do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Baby

Today is my first baby's birthday. She is turning 19 today. That's how old I was when I became pregnant with her. Looking back at the young woman I was and the young lady she is, my heart just bursts with pride. This girl has got it together and she is on top of the world:-)


At 19, I had:

...dropped out of college to be with my boyfriend.

...gotten myself pregnant with said boyfriend.

...a job at Burger King.

...barely been out of the state.


At 19, she is:

...on her second year of college with the credits of a Junior.

...staying away from boys (at this point).

...working towards a future in which fast food is not her only option for employment.

...getting ready to fly to Spain for a semester.

We all want better for our children than what we were able to have ourselves. In my case, I have not only reached that goal but surpassed it by leaps and bounds. The world is her oyster and she is savoring every moment. I am so proud of her and I know that the path she is on will lead her whereever she wants to go.

Happy Birthday Baby! I love you very much:-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Try

Not much is new this week, but, I do want to clue you in on someting that I am planning to do next week. I have decided that now is a good time to give it another chance since my exercise regimend is in better shape than it has been in years and I am eating more fresh foods including veggies, fruits and proteins as well. In spite of these changes, it seems I still need something else to kick in, because I haven't lost anything in months so I am going to try Weight Watchers online.

I have been to meetings for months at a time over the years, but, would give up after I realized that I was having a hard time with the restrictions and sometimes I cheated myself by not really giving it my best. I haven't been to one for at least four years now. I was considering going in person, but, with the work/commute schedule and working out 3-4 times a week, I am not sure it will fit into my lifestyle. I figured I would give the online program a try since I was able to succeed in getting my Masters online, perhaps this would be a good way for me to hold myself accountable. Has anyone else had success with WW online? I am curious if you have any tips to share.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rules of Engagement

I love it when my friends are on maternity leave because I get to see them more often:-) This visit was just as nice as last week and we covered a wide range of topics. One of these topics was about play dates and how different we are from our mothers. Times sure have changed.

Our mother's rarely had to organize play dates for us when we were kids. She would send us out the door in the morning and tell us not to come back until supper. And all the while she would tell us to "go find something to do" or "go find someone to play with". If we did that nowadays, we would be hauled into Social Services on child neglect charges.

Also, there is a whole subculture and etiquette to playdates. First, you have to find time on both your busy calendars for the event. Then, it's all in how you ask for the date that tell you the rules of engagement. For example, if a mother said to me, "Would your daughter like to come over and play?", then I know that it is a drop and go. I drop off my daughter, leave the premises and return when at a mutually acceptable time to retrieve my child. The means that the inviter is accepting responsibilty and entertainment for your child but they don't necessarily want to strike up a friendship between the adults.

Conversely, if a mother said to me, "Do you guys want to come over and play?", then I it is a whole different playgame. This parent does not want to full responsiblity of watching your child however, may be interested in striking up a friendship among the adults involved.

So, things are a lot more complicated for us than for our mothers however, as long as we know the rules, we should be ok:-)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Face Lift

My parents have lived in the same house for nearly 40 years. It was over a hundred years old when they first moved into it, so you can imagine over the years their home has pretty much always needed some kind of work. My husband spent the past week or so giving the front of my parent’s home a face lift. I thought I would write about it and show a picture of the flowers we both planted, because, it’s not too many husbands who would spend a week living with their in laws without their spouse doing something he wasn’t asked to do.

I love my parents, sister and nephew very much, but, I also recognize that it’s not the easiest time in their lives. My mom just had double knee surgery (just call her robotic mom). My dad is 66 and is usually working more than 10-hour days because he is afraid he might not have a job next year if he doesn’t. My sister is 35, working part time and living with her parents. Combined, they are helping to raise my 2 ½ half year old nephew who has more than enough energy (not to mention verbal capabilities) to outmatch all of them.

Ben must really love me. We had a very nice weekend catching up with Sue and her husband before her mom came home, picking out and planting flowers, catching bubbles with my nephew and visiting my folks.

Hopefully, it will help to give each of them a little place to relax and enjoy.

Sorry for the late post. Even though it was my flex day today, with all of the appointments I had been putting off, it was just a little busy. I figured that Diane hasn’t been posting on Fridays anyway, so I would still write about something. Hopefully, once she manages to catch her breath from being mother to a new born she will give everyone an update;) Have a good weekend anyone!

Monday, August 3, 2009

In Through the Front Door

Well, my mom is home from her latest medical ordeal. I knew that her catherization was going too smoothly and my fears were well founded because she did develop complications. I find myself desensitized to even the most serious of situations: the ICU. Her life threatening events have become par for the course for me. In my systematic numbing, I have learned something very unsettling: not all patients are created equal.

It isn't a prejudice that we are used to. It isn't race or religious affiliation that causes the deviation in handling. No. In my vast experience in the haloed halls of these establishments, the difference is how you get there.

If you are admitted to the hospital through the ER, the goal is treat and street. This is espeically true if your physican does not hold privilleges at the hospital of your choice. If that happens, you are an unarmed solider in your battle to return back to your baseline. Your attempt to try to enter the "back door of the hospital", will result in them throwing a bandaid on a gapping head wound and sending you home before you can even sit up. And, it is not only the fault of the doctors. The insurance company views you the same way. If you don't have the good sense to prevent yourself from ending up in the ER, the mighty insurance company will not grant you the wish of mending you back to health.

On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to find a doctor who will admit you to the hospital, then you get the red carpet treatment. Upon your arrival, your gold plated invitation to the dance is confirmed and your wheelchair chariot will gently carry you off to your party destination. The lyrics to your tune is "just a precaution" this and "just to be safe" that. The insurance company will fall over itself to get you to accomodations that your situation requires. And when you are fully recovered, nurse and doctors salute your departure like cruise ship employees. You can breathe freely knowing that you came in the "front door".

So the moral of the story is, if you are going to have a catastrophic event, make sure that your doctor is there to greet you at the right door!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Woe is me...

Allergies have taken this family for a loop. Last year, in February of 2008, we had our son tested for allergies, only to discover he has a plethora of plant, dust, and food allergies. Dealing with that alone has been a challenge. For the last six months, I've had a terrible flare up of adult acne on my neck, an area I've never had trouble with before, even though I've suffered from acne since my teen years and into my 20s and now 30s. After reading on the internet that acne can result from food allergies, I decided to get myself tested for allergies as well. My test results came back with just as many allergies as my son. I was ASTOUNDED to discover the sheer amount of foods to which I have an allergy. The list has put a major cramp in my style when it comes to cooking, because, as you'll see for yourself, there just aren't too many basic supermarket foods left that are OK for me to eat. So, in response to my need to do some major venting about my situation, I thought I'd share...

The Complete List of Foods That F*** Me Up:
(Please excuse the implied use of a highly tasteless expletive. I know it's terribly ill mannered, and I am duly sorry, but it is merely an expression of my extreme FRUSTRATION!)

I am highly allergic to...
1) peanuts
2) tomatoes (Good thing I am mostly German, because I have to renounce my Italian side - sorry, Mom.)
3) soy beans (Farewell to many of my favorite Asian foods!)
4) chocolate (Kill me now! Just do it. I mean it. NOW.)
5) shrimp
6) crab
7) scallops
8) chicken (hmmm - about 40% of my cooking repertoire is knocked out with that one - how to rebound??)
9) pineapple
10) pecans
11) coconuts (This is the only one that doesn't bother me one bit - BLECH!)
12) squash
13) cabbage (Ummmm, OK, maybe I have to renounce my German side, too.)
14) cucumber
15) broccoli
16) green beans
17) ginger (Farewell to most remaining Asian foods and all home remedies to help my motion sickness in vehicles - sigh)
18) cauliflower
19) almonds

After this list, one might wonder: What's left?? Oh, but wait! Here is the list of foods I am borderline allergic to and can only eat once a week:
1) eggs
2) turkey
3) oranges
4) strawberries
5) peaches
6) blueberries
7) cinnamon (It's a good thing I lack inspiration in the kitchen, cuz' I don't bake much.)
8) coffee (Someone is out to get me, I SWEAR.)
9) carrots
10) peas
11) onion (Stop the madness! Call me a bad-breathed, tootin' weirdo, but I love onions!)
12) garlic (Life. is. over.)

I'm wondering how to keep track of all these. Actually, I think I've pretty much given up and decided it's impossible. I'll try to do what I can with the first list but this is really just too CRAZY! The other day, I spent two hours looking through cookbooks for new recipes to try, and I found a whopping THREE that I could eat! Out of the 30 recipes or so that I used to make on a regular basis (I had a month's worth of recipes that I rotated for my family), I'm down to about five that I can still cook. In the meantime, I'm becoming more and more malnourished by the second...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Saving for More Sunny Days

I haven't blogged the past two weeks because I have felt pretty uninspired. Following our staycation, I returned to work with a heavy heart because I had to go back to work while my husband, the teacher, continues to enjoy his summer days. It was fun while it lasted. Since then, I must admit, I have been a bit down in the dumps.

Now, I must admit, he hasn't been completely carefree. It's like I have a totally different husband for the summer. He cleans like no one's business. Not that he doesn't help out here and there, but, it's nothing like what I have come home to lately. For instance, yesterday he did five loads of wash (including folding) and sorted out papers in the office for filing and shredding. I know I am lucky, but, I am still jealous that he is home while I am at work.

All in all, it has been a good summer, but, it has been going way too fast- only 1 month left. And even though we have had to scale back a bit, we are still luckier than most considering both of us are still working and we are still moving little by little towards a goal. The goals have shifted a bit, from buying a house to paying off our debts and saving more money, but, none the less they are goals. Like many, I have learned a lesson from this economy; always put away something to plan for the unexpected. Also: work on paying down your debt whenever possible. In the long run, it will get you further.

Speaking of which, I recently found a new resource about saving moneysavingadvice.com. As you probably guessed, the web site offers lots of helpful tips on ways to save, freebies, financial news and includes a number of blogs on personal finance.

Hope you are planning to enjoy what's left of your summer days in whatever way makes you most happy. And as for feeling jealous, I think I am getting over it. Having learned some lessons about my personal finance, I am hopeful there are some brighter days ahead for all of us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Precious Memories

My family and I are back from our travels overseas. It was a great adventure! We made some wonderful memories and took some pictures that will be cherished for generations, I'm sure. The minute I booked my parents' and my family's tickets back in February, I knew this trip would be a real tear-jerker, and I was so proud of myself that I held it together for the entire trip without balling at every turn.

You see, my father stated that this would be his last trip back to Germany (having a high degree of Wanderlust, he'd rather explore other parts of the world like Hawaii or Alaska). That alone choked me up. The reality of a final trip to Germany for my parents, who are 68 and 74, had never entered my head before. My memories of Germany over all of the years of my time spent there are all about being young, really. My first real memories of Germany were from our trip when I was 16 (I had been there as a little kid but don't remember much). Then, I studied in Bonn (the former captital of West Germany) at 19. I spent a lot of time with my relatives that year. My dad's sister, my aunt, was about 60 then, and she was definitely my surrogate mother during my time there; we became very close. I visited her often at her home in Detmold, the city of her and my dad's birth and where they grew up. She was a very energetic woman who was always smiling and laughing. During each and every visit, I had a lot of fun with her walking through downtown Detmold, shopping, eating in cafes, and hearing countless stories about her and my dad growing up. In fact, even though I spent a year away from my dad during my time studying there, I came home that next summer believing I had gotten to know him better than I ever had. My aunt's stories revealed a lot about my father that I had never known. And just spending time among Germans for a year opened my eyes to so many of my dad's mannerism, speech patterns, and quirky habits that before then I had thought were just a little odd; after that year, I discovered they were typically German and that his homeland had truly shaped the man who was my father.

This summer's return to Germany brought together two families who have all gotten older. My dad hadn't been back to Germany for 19 years. His sister, my Aunt Erika, is now 80. Her son, Martin, my only first cousin, is over 50 and has 3 boys. I'm married and am a mom to a preschooler. Although I've been there numerous times since then, this trip made me realize how long ago it was that I spent my year there exploring the country and soaking up every minute of youthful freedom, independence and excitement that studying abroad instills in a person. Time continues to march on.

During this trip, we spent a few days in Detmold where my dad lived with his family until he was 21. We accomplished the one thing I had wanted to do the minute I booked our tickets: we took a picture of 3 generations of relatives in front of my dad's childhood home. It's a huge half-timbered house that was probably built sometime in the late 1500s/early 1600s. Here we are (my son, me, my dad, and my aunt):

And here we are in the center of town (my cousin, my aunt, me, my dad, and my son):

Who knows if we will ever get pictures like these again. For my son, it may be the only time he is ever with his Opa in Germany. I will keep my fingers crossed that this won't be the case, that my parents will remain in good health for years to come and that we will all travel there together again someday. But for now, we will all cherish the precious memories that we made this summer and look to the future with anticipation, certain of many more to come.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the Road Again...

This week, we are headed on the road again heading east. My husband's family is having a reunion and that is the ultimate destination. Along the way, we will have mad-cap family fun in the car, consume some Cincinati Chili AND we are taking our youngest to her very first amusement park: Coney Island:-)

So wish me luck on our latest adventure:-) I won't be back next week because of the trip but keep my family in your thoughts because we will be taking a second crack at my mother's catherization on Wednesday the 29th. I will let you know how everything goes in August:-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

I Am Exhausted

That is pretty much how it is going over here....exhausted. Last week's trials with my mother's healthcare has left me spent with little or nothing to give. I tried to blow off some steam this weekend but I fear, it has only delayed the problem.

In my house, we live in a culture of sickness. Her illness permiates the house. Joy is supressed before it even has a chance to flourish by the constant nagging afflictions that she brings us. I am wasting my youth in her decay. From that, my spirit is abating. How can I be in this vocation that I was born with? How did her problems become my fate? I struggle with this everyday. I will be straddled with this corrosion until the day she leaves this earth. By then, I will have been squandered.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stress Busters and Staycations

Reading Sue's blog from earlier this week got me thinking... I am glad that she is asking for some advice. There are many women out there who feel challenged or stressed by obstacles and part of our problem is that we have a tough time asking for help- especially those women who are used to taking care of others. Sue, I will call you tonight or tomorrow to see how things went, but, I hope you know you can always pick up the phone and call me even if it is just to talk it out.

Sometimes, rather than giving or getting advice,listening can be even more valuable. I also found this great article in Reader's Digest that offers 79 Instant Stress Busters that anyone can easily do. They include everything from buying yourself some purple lisianthus and light blue or green hydrangea, a flower that has a calming effect, to drinking some cool water and going for a walk.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I don't mean to belittle what Sue is going through as normal stress that can be solved all that quickly. Sometimes life throws us a punch that nearly anyone who would normally keep it together might need to ask for help and taking care of a sick parent is one of those things... In fact, the article states, that a sick family member is one of the top 10 stressors, but, doing a number of these things in times of stress can help.

What am I doing to relieve stress this week? I am on staycation with my husband. Like many in this economy, our costs have been rising due to the ripple effect. Fortunately, my husband and I are still both working, but, we realized a vacation might not be the best thing for us right now financially. We still needed a break, so I took some time off and we are taking the time to do some things we normally wouldn't do in our own city without the added cost of travel and hotel.

We have eaten at restaurants more than we usually would. We have taken in some tourist attractions, a movie at the theater(something we only do every couple months), went to the beach, road our bikes, and generally relaxed. I also purchased a book about cheap ways to enjoy Chicago that gave me some tips for free, sometimes free or discounted activities. Now, I know not everyone lives in a big city, but, if you take time to do research on the place where you live, I am sure you will find something you might not have thought of before.

Taking time for yourself is important, because if stress builds up, you could end up being in a far worse predicament with your health. It can also help your relationships and even your approach to work once you return. Hope everyone is taking time to enjoy their summer where you are and taking time to let go of a little of your stress. Feel free to share how you do it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Managing Stress

My mother had an abnormal stress test. This has resulted in an echocardiogram Tuesday to see if the valve she had replaced in 2000 is leaking. If it is, she needs surgery. Then on Wednesday, she is having a catherization to find if there are any blockages in her arteries. If there are, she will get a stent or angioplasty or surgery. So, as you can see, I am going to be under a lot of stress over the next couple days.

My job is to get her to her appointments, be there for any questions the doctor has for her, communicate to the family what is going on and make any hard decisions that need to be made. That's quite a bit for one person so, I am implementing all of my stress relieving arsenals that I learned in therapy. Deep breathing. Slow down. Focus. It's pretty scary but, I have been here before and I am sure that I will be back. All of my struggles before will not be in vain if I can maintain myself through this again.

So, if you could find the time to send me some positive energy on Tuesday and Wednesday, I would really appreciate it:-) I have tools but...everyone needs a little help now and then, right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy 4th Everyone

Sorry my posts have been absent for the past couple weeks. I have been a little more busy than usual and more tired lately on the weekends as well, so I haven't been up to writing. I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish everyone a happy 4th of July with some thoughts about how much I appreciate living in the United States.

One aspect of living in a big city like Chicago is that I get exposed to more people of a variety of cultures and backgrounds than I might otherwise. Nearly every day that I ride the train, I hear people speaking a different language and it's not just Spanish. I work with people of different backgrounds as well. Many are from different states and different countries. I appreciate having the opportunity to work with them and sometimes even experience a bit of where they come from. I have been fortunate enough in my life even in my high school years (when I lived in Milwaukee) to experience some of this, having attended a school that celebrated the differnt cultures we all come from.

On something of a different note, I recognize how lucky we are not to have the wars we fight going in our homeland and am grateful we have so many freedoms that others do not. As American women we are very lucky. In other countries, we may not have a choice to work. We might not have a choice as to who we marry. We may be limited as to how many children we could have. We may be persecuted or scorned. We may be treated as property or trash.

Now, I know the reality is there are some American women who are still in these circumstances, but, for the most part this is not the norm. I pray for anyone who is suffering in such a way, regardless of what country they are in. Times have been tough lately, but, we are still more fortunate than most. On this 4th of July, take a few moments to consider the people around you and the good fortune you have. Best wishes for a safe a happy holiday!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Have Child, Will Travel...We hope...

Traveling with children can be a challenge, but it's one that I am up for. My family plans to make two big trips this summer - a two plane ride trip to Germany and a car trip from Texas to Wisconsin.

Our four year old son was in Germany when he was a baby, but now that he's a cognisant preschooler, this intercontinental trip will be a whole new experience for him. We are actually supposed to be with our German relatives in The Land of Beer and Oompah Bands at this very moment, but children have a way of throwing one's plans to the wind. Three days before our departure date, our son came down with a fever that turned into a febrile seizure later that evening which sent us scurrying to the ER (this was his first febrile seizure and although harmless they are still scary). The poor child still had a 102 fever the day we were supposed to fly, and we just didn't want to take the risk of traveling on that long of a trip with a sick little boy. So, the people at Continental Airlines were very gracious and allowed us to postpone the trip at very little cost. (Kudos to you, Continental, for making this mommy a little less stressed out about the whole situation.)

We're hoping our next departure date will be uneventful and we'll be on the plane and on our way. (Keep your fingers crossed for us!) I've prepared as well as a mommy can. I bought my son a few new toys for the trip: a neat new coloring book of sorts, called Holes, in which the child colors in holes in each page of the book that turn into something else on the next page. It's pretty neat, you mommies of preschoolers/young kids out there should check it out. I also bought two easy reader books about Transformers, a 2-pack of small Transformer robots, and a small Matchbox car and mechanic shop. We decided not to take the plunge and buy a DVD player. I hate sitting my kid in front of a TV for hours on end, even in circumstances like one of long travel that might warrant it. I hope we made the right decision!

What do you do to keep your kids occupied on long trips?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scrapbook Connection

I have a feeling that we are going to have some baby news this weekend so, I thought I would post early.

Obviously everyone has been touched by the trio of iconic deaths we experienced this week. Ed McMann, Farrah Faucett and Michael Jackson. The world took a HUGE cosmic hit. I always feel like we all lose something positive when legends pass on and they were all legends in their own right.

I was mostly touched by Michael Jackson's passing. Mostly because it was so sudden but also because he was a big part of my childhood. As a child of the 80's, you would have to live under a rock to not be a fan but I was much more than that. We listened to his music. We watched his videos. We witnessed on TV his global-shifting performance at the Apollo. We hung the posters, bought the T-shirts and envied those fortunate enough to see him in concert. His passion was clear in everything he did and it was contagious....especially to an impressionable starry-eyed dreamer like me. I took all my little visions of singing and dancing and put them into my admiration for him.

I collected every piece of information that I could about him and put them into a special scrapbook. Magazine covers, newspaper articles, posters, pictures...anything I could get my hands on went in that book. It was my attachment to him. I came across that scrapbook a couple years ago and I had a blast going through all the old memories. I enjoyed remembering the young wide-eyed girl I used to be. That was my connection to me.

Ironically, I had rid myself of that little piece of nostalgia last year. I was cleaning out a closet and I needed to let go of those memories to make room for new ones. I didn't regret my decision until today when I got the morning paper. Of course, the front page read of his passing. I paused a moment and remembered the feverishness in which I clipped those articles for that book. How fitting this would have been for a final entry. Fitting and sad. Fitting because he held the dreams of a younger me and sad because he could have been much more. If he were, perhaps, I would still have that scrapbook.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Although this is a blog about and for women, many of us are mother. Without fathers, there can be no mothers. So today, I am taking a break from the normal girlie stuff we talk about around here to pay tribute to my man: Jeffie:-)

I couldn't do everything that I do without him. Not only is he a great husband and father, but he is the most generous person I know. He started off buying his house in 1996 as Bachelor Extraordinare. When I joined him here in 2001, he got two for the price of one because my older daughter and I were a group package. We added our youngest in 2004 and he was outnumbered 3 to 1. Then in 2007, when my mom got sick, he opened his heart and his home to yet another girl in the house. He is swimming in a sea of estrogen over here.

He does it all for us. He brings home the bacon and on ocassion, he fries it up in a pan. He fixes the things we break, mows the lawn, programs our computers, unplugged our sinks, takes out the garbage and kills our bugs. He is literally and figuratively the strength of our family and we are VERY lucky to have him.

Happy Fathers Day, Honey! Enjoy your presents, your BBQ, your computer games and your race! You deserve it all:-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spousal Satisfaction High

The fun days of summer have been in full swing at our household for several weeks now. My husband, a teacher, is home for the summer, too, and I've been keeping him busy. When we're not visiting family out of state during these hot months, there isn't much else to do in Hotter Than Hades Houston other than tackle house projects inside where the air conditioning keeps us all from hating this place too much. House projects are all good as far as I'm concerned. They keep my husband busy and productive, and we are both happy and highly satisfied with the outcomes. So far, my husband has tackled some pretty big tasks. He's fixed our sprinkler system, installed a ceiling fan, and completely redone our guest bedroom. This last job was quite the project. We painted it two-tone, installed chair railing, and moved all sorts of furniture around in order to hand the room over to our four year old son, who has outgrown his smaller bedroom and has been ready for a big-boy bedroom for a while now. We also bought him a huge bookshelf from IKEA, as he's accumulated quite a numer of books which were in piles all around his room before this point. Here's the finished project (well, almost - my hubby still has to fix some of the chair railing, but, generally speaking, this project is done):



Not bad, huh?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nostalgia

ER had it's final season this year. Now, for most of you, this was the closing of a TV program but for me, it was the end of an era. To me, it signified the end of my 20's. My husband laughs at that statement. "Your 20's should be over....you are almost 40". Shut up:-)

For those of you who don't know, Diane (another author on this blog) and I were roommates for those formative years in our 20's. You know, the years between college and marriage where you are trying to find yourself, find a career, find your husband or just find the next party. It was the mid-90's and on Thursday nights, we got together for "Must See TV". It was a chunk of TV that we could really relate to because in many ways, we were "Friends" in real life. Anchoring our Thursday programs was ER. Now, many of the shows have come and gone (including "Friends" which was another one that was hard for me to swallow) but the last hanger onner was ER.

So, when it became clear that the last piece of my 20's was calling it quits, I decided to not let it go uncermoniously. I chose to not watch any of the season as it happened. It was going to end on my terms. For my birthday, my gift to me was the whole season that was waiting patiently for me on my DVR. I made it through half of the season.

The rest remains on my DVR waiting and waiting for me. Maybe, if I don't ever watch the whole thing, a piece of me will always be 20 years old. Do you think it will work?

What about you? Do you have something like this that clearly marked a sign of passage in your life? I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Allergies strike again...

There are a few things in my life recently that have made me take a hard look at my physical health and start to make some changes.

First and foremost, I'm about to leave for Germany for a family reunion of sorts on my dad's side of the family. My aunt, his sister, turns 80 soon, and we all decided to take the trip to celebrate with her. My dad, who was born and lived in Germany until he was 26, hasn't been back to the Fatherland since he visited me when I studied there in 1990 - that's 19 years. So, my parents and my family are all traveling there together which I am very much looking forward to. In any case, my relatives there are your typically stylish Europeans, and at 38, I decided it was time to get into shape and start my quest to be age-appropriately cute so I don't look like a completely frumpy schmuck overseas.

Second, as I approach 40, there are some aspects of the way my body looks and feels that I can simply no longer tolerate. For example, I no longer wish to be slightly overweight and definitely out of shape. The muscles of my youth are almost nonexistent, and I wouldn't mind seeing a trace of them again. It's funny...I sing a lot in front of my son, because he enjoys it, and recently I taught him, "My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean." Since then, my son sings it on his own, but at 4, can't quite remember the words. I cracked up hysterically when I heard his version of the chorus, which I have since adopted as my exercise mantra:

Give back! Give back! Give back my body to me, to me!
Give back! Give back! Oh, give back my body to me!

Probably the most troubling aspect of my physical appearance is that I still have a pizza face, still struggle with acne after all of these years. I decided that I'd research and find a solution to this problem first, since, well, this is the issue about my health that, frankly, really pisses me off the most when I think about it.

After doing some online research, I discovered that adult acne can be caused by food allergies. This struck a nerve with me, because my son has food allergies. I've always blamed my husband's side of the family for his problems, because my husband's father and sister both struggle with plant and food allergies. On a whim, I decided to get myself tested at my son's allergy doctor.

Well, as it turns out, I am the source of most of my son's allergy problems! The results of my tests showed that I am allergic to a host of tree, grass, and weed pollens, dust mites, and also quite a few foods, including soy, chocolate (KILL ME NOW!), shellfish, peanuts, and tomatoes (OK, I am 25% Italian and LOVE tomatoes - I CAN NOT DEAL WITH THIS ONE). These initial results also indicate that I am probably allergic to other foods as well. Next week, I'll have my last round of food allergy testing done.

For the last few weeks, I've done my best to avoid the foods I'm allergic to, and I've noticed my skin has improved some, but, even more dramatically, my energy level has increased a lot. Furthermore, since my early 20s, I've had occasional neck and back pain and also joint pain. These problems have also improved lately. My allergy doctor says those are all common complaints from food allergy sufferers. Imagine that, I always thought my problems were due to getting a little bit older and not staying in good physical shape, but the culprit was mostly FOOD. Unbelievable.

As far as my acne goes, I paid (yet another) visit to my dermatologist and essentially told him, that's it, I've had it with acne, I want it gone. So - and, pardon my French, I don't know why the HELL he didn't do this earlier - he did some really gross test (don't read this part if you're eating right now as I just may induce your gag reflex!) in which he poked a bunch of my zits, squeezed some puss out of them, and sent the goo off to a lab to be tested. Apparently, if one suffers from acne for a long period of time, it can become resistant to the medication/topical treatment one is using. Sure enough, my acne turned out to be resistant to the prescription foam wash I had been using. So, now I am using a new topical lotion and it is working much better. I am happy to say, there has been a definite improvement in my skin and I've only been using the lotion for about 2 or 3 weeks.

All of this has taught me an important lesson. It's so important to be proactive about one's health. I always thought I was, but apparently not enough. In the past, I'd always hated running off to the doctor for something unless I was really suffering. Clearly, this is the wrong approach. I've been quite amazed at how I've been able to make some wonderful improvements in the quality of my life and health. And I'm proud of myself for taking the initial steps that have generated those results.