Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Turtle and The Scorpion

I was reminded of this story in a recent conversation with a friend. It is believed to have been written by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami in the 1500s, but there are multiple variations of it in existence. Despite it's age, I recall having heard it as a child and believe it still has a lesson to teach.

The Turtle and The Scorpion:
A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.

The scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked the turtle to carry him on his back across the river.
"Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown."
"My dear turtle," laughed the scorpion, "if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you, and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?"
The turtle thought this over, and saw the logic of the scorpion's statement. "You're right!" cried the turtle. "Hop on!"
The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:
"Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there'd be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?"
"It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion sadly replied. "It's just my character."

Unfortunately, as the moral goes, you cannot change the nature of some people and not everyone acts on logic. There will always be turtles and scorpions. It's about balance. How we deal with them is what matters.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

10 Small Victories

Having done the dieting roller coaster and on a much more reasonable pace, now, I've learned to appreciate the small stuff when it comes to weight loss. It's those things that keep me going and fuel my goal of a healthy lifestyle. So, each week, I try to think of 10 small victories and keep track of them. They have amazing power when written down and available for reference. I use them as fuel and to combat some of the negative aspects, such as those I stated in my earlier post, "The Ugly Side of Weight Loss."

My 10 Small Victories, this Week:

1) I can wrap a bath towel all the way around me and give it a generous tucking in.

2) 3 people who didn't know I was trying to lose weight told me I look good, this week.

3) I can do Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred, without pain.

4) Water tastes way better than Soda.

5) I can fold 3 baskets full of clean clothes without sitting down.

6) I don't need that 3rd cup of coffee. A good morning workout works just as well.

7) I have no desire to watch tv. I can't sit long enough to watch an entire show.

8) 3 Miles - Not so hard.

9) The smell of McDonald's makes me nauseous.

10) And, It now takes me 3 meals to finish 1 lunch meal from the local Chinese food place.

Simple and a tad bit silly, I find these things very satisfying. Small victories are my way of reminding myself that the process is worthwhile, no matter how slow things seem to be going.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wine A Day

There's a bottle of wine in my fridge, that has been there for over a month. When company stopped by recently, they were surprised by this, because I apparently talk about drinking wine quite often. The truth is that while I do talk about needing or wanting a glass, I rarely end up having a glass. So...to clarify, below is my Wine A Day list, taken from last week:

Sunday - Worked in to the evening. Looked at the bottle of wine, but went to bed, instead.

Monday - Labor Day. Poured myself a glass of wine and sat down on the couch to enjoy it. Took a few sips before my daughter came bounding on to my lap, forcing me to quickly set the glass on the bookcase. It was still mostly full when I found it there, the next morning, and dumped it.

Tuesday - Took the bottle of wine out of the fridge and set it on the counter. Tended to the children and got distracted doing other things. Remembered there was a bottle of wine on the counter. Put it back in the fridge and went to bed.

Wednesday/Thursday - See Sunday.

Friday - Poured myself a glass of wine and set it aside. Tended to the children and then, forgot where I left it. Looked for my wine for about 20 min before giving up. Put the children to bed and then, found my wine. Decided I was too tired to drink it and went to bed.

Saturday - Had friends over. Finally got to drink an entire glass of wine (plus 2 more). Still did not finish the bottle, even with help.

Maybe I need to buy smaller bottles?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years After 9/11

I feel like I should blog something about 9/11, but not quite sure where to begin on a topic that is so close to my heart. It doesn't feel like 10 yrs, to me. It's hard to explain how it feels to me, because I was there. I saw it happen. I felt it happen. I smelled it happen. I heard it happen. I watched as everything around me disappeared in to smoke. I was surrounded by it and that memory is both hard to erase and hard to explain.

Every year, I have loved ones that call me on 9/11, to chat and to check in. I know they mean well, but don't fully understand what this day means to me. I can't make them understand and sometimes, that's difficult to accept. Shortly after 9/11, a relative gave me a 9/11 Tribute book, thinking I'd like it. Then, a year or so later, I was given another book. I admit I flipped through them, though they've never set on my coffee table or seen the bookcase. I think they're on a shelf, somewhere, or in a closet. I've kept them, though I'll never feel the need to read them. A few years ago, I was given a DVD play-by-play of the events of 9/11. I watched it, just once, before sticking it on the shelf with all of our other DVDs. I think I saw myself in there, somewhere. And, then, of course, there are the yearly tributes, which everyone thinks I need to watch. The answer is always, "No...I'm not watching it."

Today, seemingly on schedule, I received my yearly call from a relative. They were watching the live memorial show, aired on a major network. The conversation went something like this:

Relative: "Do you have the tv on?"
Me: "Yes"
Relative: "Are you watching the 9/11 memorial?"
Me: "No. The children are watching a movie."
Relative: "Oh, you should put it on. It's amazing and so sad."
[puts phone to tv]
Relative: "They've been reading names forever and they're only on G."
Me: "There were almost 3000. It's going to take a while."
Relative: "There were 2900 and something. You should really put it on and watch it."
[puts phone to tv, again]
Relative: "Listen to the pretty flute music. It's a wonderful tribute."
Me: "That's okay. I don't need to watch it."
Relative: "You need to watch it, so you won't forget."

The conversation continued and I eventually gave up trying to explain that I don't need to watch a show on tv to remember. I'll never forget. I can't forget. I was there. In fact, I find much of the media attention sickening in the fact that somewhere, someone is making a profit off of such a somber event. I'd rather remember the day in quiet reflection, which is the way I know best to honor the fallen. It will always be a day of remembrance, but I choose to remember it by focusing on those around me and by appreciating how much I have. It's not about how many lives were lost, but that those lives were someone's brother, sister, husband, wife, child... I was lucky to have been merely a witness to the events and not something or someone else. I heard evil whisper in my ear and I saw what it could do, but I never met him in person.

On this day, 10 years after 9/11, I will not watch a tribute on it. I will not read a book on it. I will not turn on the radio and listen to song after song about it. I will not remember it by looking at or hearing about it. I will remember it in the faces of my children. I will remember it in the memories I cherish from my life. I will remember it in family that have passed of natural causes, not having their lives stolen by evil. I will remember it like it happened yesterday, because I can never forget it. On this day, I will hold my family in my heart and hold those things most dear to me in high regard. I will choose not to call everybody and talk about it. Though, I may tell you my story, someday, it will not be today. Because, today, it doesn't matter.

On this day, 10 years after 9/11, I would love to see everyone just step away from the media; step away from all the hatred and conspiracy theories, and computer-generated play-by-plays. I want everyone to walk outside, look around them, smell the flowers, play a game with their children, have lunch with a good friend, and be thankful for the things they have in this world, while remembering those who are not here to enjoy those same luxuries. That, to me, is the teaching of 9/11. To acknowledge that evil is out there, lurking, yet continue to live our lives in all that is good. As a country, we were/are targeted because of our freedoms, so why not embrace them on this day, both to honor the dead and to offer up quiet justice. Choose to watch or listen or read about it. Choose to feel saddened by it, but don't let that sadness fall on those around you. Be free and loving and appreciative, not just today, but everyday. That is how I choose to honor those that lost their lives on 9/11, not because I want to forget, but because I cannot forget.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Favorite Recipes - Carrot or Apple Cake w/Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients (Cake):

1 1/2 c. Sugar (or 1 c. Sugar + 1/2 c. Honey)
1 c. Oil
3 Large Eggs
1 t. Vanilla
1/2 c. Unsweetened Chunky Applesauce (I use Musselman's brand)
2 c. Traditional or White Whole Wheat Flour
2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
For Carrot Cake: 3 c. Shredded Carrots (about 5 medium)
For Apple Cake: 3 c. Diced Apples (about 3 medium, cored and peeled)
1 c. Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
1/2 c. Raisins*

*Add raisins to a bowl/cup of hot water for 10-15 min to moisten. Drain & set aside.

Ingredients (Frosting):

1 pkg (8 oz) Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) Butter, softened
2-3 T. Milk
1 t. Vanilla
2 c. Powdered Sugar

Directions (Cake):

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of pan (use 9"x13" rectangle, 2 - 8" rounds, or approx. 18 muffin tins)
- Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and applesauce.
- Add remaining ingredients, except carrots/apples, walnuts, and raisins. Beat on low until well blended.
- Mix in carrots/apples, walnuts, and raisins.
- Pour into pan. If using muffin tins, fill to 2/3 full.
- Bake rectangle for 40-45 min, rounds for 30-35 min, or muffins for 15-20 min., or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool 10-15 min and then, remove from pan(s) to wire racks. Cool approx. 1 hr before frosting.

Directions (Frosting):

- Cream together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar.
- Whisk in milk 1 T. at a time, to desired consistency. Frosting will thicken as it cools.
- Pour/spread over cake/muffins. If using rounds, spread small amount of frosting over 1 round, to coat evenly. Top with 2nd round and spread remaining frosting over top and sides.
- Optional: Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts over top as decoration.
- Important: Store frosted cake/muffins in the refrigerator. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quiet Misery

It's amazing how things change when you become a parent and get to the point of sending your children off to school for the day. It's a nerve-wracking experience, but also one that comes with a strange feeling of being free and not quite knowing what to do with that freedom. I've been a stay-at-home mom for a little over 2 yrs and other than those years I worked out of the house, I can't think of a single day I've gone more than 3 hours without my children. Before I had the children, I relished my days off, always thinking of 1 thing or another to do, to pass time. I relished the quiet that came from vacations and holidays, enjoying a work-free day without phones to answer, computers to repair, and things to type. I'd shop, take a nap, play in the yard, go for a hike...there were endless possibilities. I think back to that time, now, and can't imagine such a stress free and easy existence. Having children in my life has changed my viewpoint in ways I could not have dreamed.

When I first learned our local school would be switching to full-day Kindergarten, I was apprehensive, but happy to have the chance at some much needed "alone" time. Last year, with my son in 1/2 day Kindergarten and my daughter going to Preschool for 3 hrs, 3 times a week, I juggled errands in a limited time-slot, shuttling children back and forth to school, as needed. "This year will be a great chance for me to get lots of things checked off my to-do list and really focus on myself," I thought. The kids had been fighting quite a bit and so the idea of having long stretches of quiet seemed so needed. I could feel the stress lifting as I pictured myself running through the grocery store with a regular shopping cart, checking things off my list at the speed of light - no children begging for sugar-laden snacks, no wide-turning car cart, and no one asking me to read every sign and box.

The night before the first day of school, the reality started to sink in as I packed their bags and laid out their clothes for morning. "This feels so strange," I thought. "I'm losing both of my babies. Life will never be the same." I got them to bed at the correct time and no one complained or stalled about the process. They were excited to go and I had no idea why that bothered me so much. The next morning, I put them on the bus, walked back in to the house, and stared at my coffee. I didn't cry, even though I felt like I should. I really didn't know what to do. I must've sat there for at least an hour, waiting for something, anything, to happen. The house felt so quiet.

I was in a bit of daze that day. I did some cleaning, folded the laundry, and tried to get to that to-do list. It was all very surrealistic and without motivation. I slumped through the day, checking the clock multiple times, wondering when the kids would be home. It was just so quiet. I turned the radio on, turned the TV on, played the piano...It wasn't the same. I caught up on blog reading, flipped through a magazine, checked the weather...I looked at the clock. What time is it, now? It's only noon. What am I supposed to do with this day? All my plans of leisure and productivity and "alone" time went completely out the door with the kids. I forgot everything. Back to staring at my coffee...

Now, on day #6 of school, I'm thinking back to my college days and how my mother reacted when I, the youngest of 4, left the house for the 1st time. I remember my mother called me, every day, for at least a month, checking in and asking when I'd be home to visit. I remember laughing about it with my friends. It was a bit annoying, at the time, and felt intrusive as I set out to discover my adulthood. These past 6 days have made me understand her actions a bit more, as I struggle with new-found independence after being without for so long. The quiet is deafening and it seems strange sitting here, no one asking for anything or striking up a silly conversation. I even miss the fighting, just a little bit. If I could, I would most likely act just as my mother did, checking in with them constantly, partly out of curiosity and partly to make sure they're okay. Maybe it's instinct to be like this or maybe, it's just a selfish need to be needed. Either way, it's a strange, nagging feeling.

I'm sure it will get easier, but right now, as I sit here at 10:00 am with my 2nd cup of coffee, I miss my kids. I miss their personalities. I miss their conversations. I miss my daughter's random, made up songs about everything. I miss the noise. I hate the quiet. I know that 3:00 pm will come much faster than it did that 1st day and I'll be once again breaking up fights, dishing out snacks, and lecturing them about leaving shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor. As with every night before school, I'll dream of quiet and think about how nice it will be once they go to bed, until they do. It's at that point, as I pack their backpacks and lay out their clothes for the next day, that it will all begin again. I'll send them off to school and start counting the hours and days 'til Saturday comes and the house gets back to a normal din. It's the thing I relish as a parent. It's the thing that makes me realize I have the best job in the world, because it's a job I don't want to be away from. I don't relish the quiet, but relish all the wonderful noises my children produce, ear splitting and all. I reserve the right to complain when someone's screaming a foot from my ear, but in the end, I don't mind it that much, because it's still better than quiet.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ugly Side of Weight Loss

I have been on a mission, the past year, to lose some nasty weight gained from having children. Having lost 80 lbs in the 4 years prior to my marriage, I looked at this as a fairly easy challenge. I mean, I only have 1/2 that to lose, this time around. That shouldn't be too difficult, right? In my mind, I expected everything would go as it did before and I'd be back in my old clothing in no time. Now, 28 lbs in to round 2, I've learned some interesting things about my body and how it's adapting to my shrinking size.

1) Your body changes after having children. Just because you wore that dress and looked good in it, before having children, you can't assume you will look good in it, after having children. Even if you can fit back in to it, it mostly likely fits you in a completely different way. There are those lucky enough to escape this problem, but for most, having children has left it's mark in some strange ways. Though, I admit I've kept a few things from the past, just because, due to lack of closet space, I was recently forced to take a hard look at the amount of ill-fitting wardrobe I've been holding on to. In the end, I sent 3 garbage bags to the Salvation Army, stuffed with items that were either out of style or made for a much younger version of myself.

2) Our skin loses a certain amount of elasticity as we age. This is a fact of life, unfortunately. Having lost a significant amount of weight, followed by back-to-back pregnancies and breastfeeding, my skin is shot. While daily exercise has helped to tighten up some areas, I've found the sagging more accentuated as the weight has come off. This is especially true around the middle, causing a few issues in the clothing department and a general dislike of bathing suits. There's really no inexpensive or easy fix for this problem. A friend recently joked that I should invest my money in a "mommy makeover." If I could afford the cost and downtime necessary, I'd be totally up for some nip and tuck. For now, though, I'll have to be content to wear clothing with a little added spandex.

3) At some point, you will have no idea what to wear. While I'm rarely a speed dresser, I've recently hit a point in my weight loss where nothing fits or if it does, just doesn't fit right (see point #1, above). This is a tough one, since replacing an entire wardrobe is an expensive undertaking. I've tried to stick w/necessity items, figuring I'll add more upon reaching my ultimate size goal. However, it seems as soon as I replace a pair of pants, for example, I find I need shirts. And, what about undergarments? As I realized on 1 outing, they are just as important as everything else, and there is no inconspicuous way to deal with a pair of underwear that has fallen down inside your shorts. As body parts have shrunk at their own pace, my wardrobe has become a bit of a piece meal. I've tried to stick with similar color patterns, but there are still items with no matches, from buying an outfit and then, losing a size on top or bottom shortly after. I've spent hrs trying on clothing, emptying my drawers and yanking things out of the closet, only to end up with a pile of give-away clothes and maybe 1 outfit to wear the next day. It's a bit frustrating, even if it isn't an entirely awful thing to have to deal with.

4) Shopping for clothing can be an overwhelming and time-consuming experience. As a larger person, I found a certain comfort and ease when it came to buying clothes. I'd simply see something I liked, try on the largest size available, and either work down from there or put it back on the rack. I knew just by looking at something whether or not it would fit, often times purchasing an item, without trying it on first. I could always return it, if it didn't fit. A few days ago, I made the decision to go shopping for a couple new tops, to go with some jeans I'd purchased in the spring. I'd been putting it off, due to lack of time, but with the weather changing, I needed something other than tanks to wear. I never anticipated it would be a stressful experience, but upon walking in to the store, I was immediately overcome with a sinking feeling. I walked around the racks, pushing a few items around, pulling others out and holding them up. Am I an M or an L or an XL? I can't be an XL, anymore. This looks about right when I hold it up, but when I try it on, there's just too much skin showing. Is it supposed to fit like that? I'm not ready for that. That style used to look good on me, but is just wrong, now. Brain overload kicked in and I simply gave up. I never expected to feel so lost and so utterly confused about buying clothes. I've lost weight. This should be fun, right? In the end, I grabbed a pair of exercise shorts and some inexpensive tanks to workout in. I didn't bother trying them on, since it's likely no one will ever see them. Maybe next time I'll get something I can wear outside of the house.

What comes of this is that, while it's great to lose weight, it can also be an ugly experience. Unless you have money and a lot of time to burn, at some point, you'll end up at an odd place where you hate your wardrobe, hate your body, or are just fed up with the whole process. It's an inevitable part of weight loss, especially if you've lost a good amount. Right now, I'm doing my best to push past this strange place I'm in and just keep on doing what I'm doing. In the end, I know it will all work out. I'll reach my goal and once again get to the point where it becomes familiar. Changing my body has been the easiest part of this process. Changing the way I view my body and accepting those things which are unchangeable has been far more difficult to accomplish. Patience...

Favorite Recipes - Sugar Free Pear Muffins

To offset the extremely unhealthy Cinnamon Roll recipe, I thought I'd post a healthy recipe. This is a favorite with the children, especially when made as mini-muffins.


1 c. All-Purpose Flour (or White Whole Wheat Flour)
1 c. Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 t. Baking Soda
1 1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/2 t. Salt
1 c. Fat Free Vanilla Yogurt
1/4 c. Vegetable Oil (or 1/8 c. Oil + 1/8 c. Unsweetened Applesauce)
1/3 c. Honey
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 c. Canned (in fruit juice) or Fresh Pears, Pealed & Chopped w/Juice


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups.
- Mix together flours, baking soda/powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set Aside.
- Combine yogurt, oil/applesauce, honey, and egg. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.
- Add in pears/juice and mix.
- Spoon batter in to muffin cups to about 2/3 full.
- Bake 25-30 min for full sized muffins or 15-20 min for mini-muffins.
- Cool on rack and enjoy.

Favorite Recipes - Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Glaze (modified for Bread Machine)

*WARNING* - These are neither low fat, nor low sugar. But, they are oh so good. :-)

Due to the amount of time it takes to make these and also, the fact that they're not the healthiest option, I make this recipe only for special occasions or by request. When I do make them, however, they are always a big hit.

Ingredients (Rolls):

1 c. Water, Room Temp
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) Butter, Softened
1/3 c. Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 t. Salt
3 1/2 c. All-Purpose or Bread Flour (I use Unbleached, White Whole Wheat flour)
1 1/2 t. Active Dry Yeast (not Quick Rising Yeast)

Ingredients (Filling):

1/4 c. Butter, Melted
1/4-1/2 c. Sugar (optional)
1/4-1/2 c. Cinnamon

Ingredients (Vanilla Glaze):

1/4 c. Butter, Softened
2 c. Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 t. Vanilla
2-4 T. Hot Water


- Add all ingredients, except yeast, to the bread machine, as ordered above.
- Make a small well in the middle of the flour and add yeast, making sure to avoid contact with wet ingredients.
- Set the bread machine on the dough setting and start (should take 1 1/2 hrs).
- Turn machine dough on to floured surface and knead a few times to remove any bubbles.
- Using a rolling pin or by hand-stretching, roll dough to approx. 10"x15". I use a similar sized cutting board as a guide.

Add Filling as Follows:
- Pour melted butter over top of rolled out dough.
- Using a pastry brush, gently spread butter to evenly coat entire dough surface.
- Sprinkle/shake cinnamon over dough to evenly coat (approx. 1/4-1/2c). Follow with sugar, in the same manner, if desired.
- Using a pastry brush or your hands, gently work together the filling over the dough, to evenly coat the surface. Be careful not to rip the dough.

- At this point, decide whether you want a higher amount of smaller rolls or a small amount of large rolls.
- Roll up the dough on the longer side for small rolls or on the shorter side for large rolls.
- Using a sharp knife or string, cut 1" sections along the dough roll. You should end up w/approx. 8 large rolls or 12 small rolls.
- Place rolls on side in greased 9"x13" baking dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Allow to rise in a warm location for approx. 30 min or until rolls have doubled in size.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 min or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 min, before adding glaze, if desired.

- For glaze, mix well all ingredients listed. Pour over rolls and allow to soak in 10-15 min before serving.
- Serve Warm. If consuming the next day, warm individual rolls in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, for best taste.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Day in the Life of Soda the Cat - A "How To" Guide


Step 1 - Wait in hallway for owner's bedroom door to open.

Step 2 - Sneak in to owner's room.

Step 3 - Jump on bed and clean self repeatedly until owner kicks you out, forcing owner to get out of bed.

Step 4 - Beg to go out.

Step 5
- Refuse to go out, because it's raining.

Step 6 - Repeat Steps 4 and 5 at each outside door until convinced it's raining out all of them.

Step 7 - Return to original door and beg to go out.

Step 8
- Go out, walk around for 5 min. Beg to come back in.

Step 9 - Dry self on owner's pant leg.*

Step 10
- Eat.

Step 11 - Repeat Steps 4 through 10 at least 2x.

Step 12
- Nap on some books.

Step 13
- Sit next to full food bowl, but beg for treats, instead. Follow owner around room, until you get treats.

Step 14 - See Step 11.

Step 15 - Hunt for bugs on windows.

Step 16 - Nap on shelf in owner's closet. Push owner's clothing on to the floor 1st, to free up space.

Step 17 - Eat.

Step 18
- See Step 14.

Step 19 - Repeat Steps 4-18 until dark, alternating nap location.

Step 20 - Sleep in hallway.

At dawn, return to Step 1.

*Be sure to clean self in between each Step.