Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Full of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. We like to spend time eating good food and talking.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and it seemed like we were with my dad for nearly every Christmas so my mom always made sure that Thanksgiving was our big holiday. We went all out with the food and music. Our favorite tradition was to watch a few of our holiday favorites while noshing on favorite foods.

Ever year it was the same three movies: White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. Those three movies are still some of my favorite movies and I fully intend to make my children suffer through them too. It's been fun incorporating my husband's traditions in with my own. Turkey and stuffing sandwiches on rolls for breakfast, Christmas morning. Yes. Please.

I love November 1st through January 1st. There's hope and something to look forward to. As someone who hates the winter and snow (I live in Utah, home of skiing and I'd rather get a root canal than plummet down a giant mountain at 3000 miles an hour), I can tolerate the white fluff and frigid snow until the holidays end. Then, I'm begging for summer. There's something about twinkling lights and Christmas music that make the snow feel much cozier than it really is.

I have been blessed with a wonderful family. Even though we fight like crazy people and there are times we flat out refuse to speak to each other, we love each other and when push comes to shove, we have each others back. I love that I have added to my family with two beautiful girls and equally crazy, but lovable in-laws. It makes my life much more entertaining and fulfulling.

As we go into Thankgiving mode, I have a lot to be thankful for and not very much to complain about. When I look at my blessings, my problems are really put into perspective.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving full of turkey, pumpkin pie and holiday cheer!

Friday, October 10, 2014

My journey as a writer

As I sit in front of my computer, I’m trying to come up with ideas for a few pieces I am writing on rustic furniture. If you look around my apartment, my furniture is definitely not considered rustic. Used and worn, yes. Rustic—no. 

There would have been a time when I thought that writing three articles on rustic furniture would be beyond my skill level. I would have thought I wasn't smart enough or versed enough on the subject to create anything worth reading.

That was then….

When I started college, I was 17. I knew I loved to write and I loved to read so I took a creative writing class my freshman year and was slightly dismayed when my writing wasn't the best in the class. In fact, I wasn't even close.

I did however find a creative writing club through that class. I met with five other students and shared things we’d written. That writing club, the New Word Order (weren't we creative?!), was the first place I felt comfortable enough to share my writing with anyone. I finally felt like I fit in. Every week, rain or shine, I was there. Even if I was only one of three to show up. I never felt belittled. It was the beginning of me learning to accept my voice.

During that time I was majoring in English-Literature. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes. I loved reading the stories. But I hated interpreting and analyzing the works to death. I fully understand the importance of learning from other writers, but ripping stories to shreds took away the magic for me, and it wasn't something I felt passionate about. I realized I was stifling my voice. Instead of studying other writers and teaching people what other writers had to say, I wanted my voice to be heard.

As I transitioned from an English-Lit major to a journalism major, I started to feel like I’d found my place, but I was scared. I know now that a little fear is good. It pushes you to be better, and that’s what journalism did for me. Journalism really shoved me out of my comfort zone. I was forced to use my creativity by following strict rules. As a journalist you have to present facts, not opinion. There are grammatical and structure rules and you have to be willing to edit, rewrite and really dig in.

I did fine in my classes. I worked my way up to an editor on the college newspaper (a job I still remember with fondness) but I was never the teacher’s pet. I wasn't the star writer of the class and my work was rarely, if ever, picked to showcase in class. At the time I was frustrated. Why couldn't everyone like my work?

My first job after college was at the Standard Journal, a small paper in Rexburg, Idaho. If deciding to major in journalism was scary, starting my first day on the job was terrifying. I can still remember turning in my first article like it happened yesterday.

My editor, Joyce, called me to her desk and had me watch her as she fixed every single thing I’d done wrong. I was horrified. I was certain I had written a much better article than that. I went back to my desk in tears, certain I was a hack.

Day after day, article after article, she called me to her desk and showed me everything that needed to be edited. At first, I thought she was torturing me. I kept waiting to get fired. If I kept making so many mistakes, how could I ever be good writer?  Eventually, the number of edits my work needed decreased.  And then one day when she called my name, it was to tell me that I had written an excellent piece and that my article would kick off a series we were running.

This experience had a bigger impact on me than anything else I've ever done. I truly credit my first editor with any success I've had since. Once I really learned to follow the rules, I could play with them. I could start letting my voice be heard, and people would hear it.

Eventually I got married, had our first daughter and stopped working at that newspaper, but I continued to write. I filled notebooks and jump drives with articles, book ideas and stories. When I finally ventured into freelance work, I was terrified, once again, that I wouldn't be as good as I thought I was. And I’m probably not.

But I am good. It took me a long time to accept that I am a good writer.

It’s taken me even longer to feel comfortable saying that I’m a good writer. I still get rejected. I have clients who don’t like the way I write something and I get an ego slap-down, when I have things sent back to edit. But, I've come to realize that I’m human and sometimes my writing is going to stink. And I've also grown comfortable with the idea that not everyone is going to like my writing style. Heck, I don’t even like my writing sometimes.

When I start having doubts about the choices I've made, about my decision to keep pursuing my writing even when I didn't think anyone else cared or noticed, I stop. I look back at the freshman me, naive and unmolded, and I realize that this is what I am supposed to do. I may have been just a wanna-be-writer when I started college but now when anyone asks what I do, I say “I’m a writer,” and I am.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Call to Arms

Over the last few weeks many of us have read or watched stories surround Bengal rookie Devon Still and his daughter’s battle with cancer. As a parent, I can only imagine the terror and other flood of emotions he must feel. The Bengals made a classy move when they assigned Still to their inactive roster just to ensure that he was able to get a paycheck and his daughter would have access to the insurance she needs to get the proper treatment. (He was recently added to their active roster)

The Bengals have furthered their commitment to helping his family and the families of others who have children suffering with pediatric cancer by donating all proceeds made by the sale of Still’s jersey to pediatric cancer research. His jersey quickly became the fastest selling jersey in team history.  A major thumbs up to those who are so willing to contribute!

In Sunday's game, the New England Patriots played classy by showing a tribute to Still’s daughter on their Jumbotron screen during a time out and  donning their entire cheerleading squad in Still’s jersey. What a classy move. One reason I love football is that this type of behavior doesn’t feel out of the ordinary or like a publicity stunt. It feels genuine. In season’s like this, football feels more American (or at least what America should be) than baseball.

As I sit here thinking about the classy move by the Patriots and the Bengals, it makes me wonder why more teams don’t get involved. The NFL has serious power. Millions of people tune into games every week. If all of the NFL teams could unite for this cause, they (and all of their fans) could easily raise millions of dollars for a good cause.

If two warring countries can enjoy a snowy football game on a Christmas Eve in one of the biggest wars in history (The Christmas Truce, 1914), surely battling football teams could pause for a moment of silence or unite in a rally to raise funds to help cure childhood cancer. Let’s raise our voices against childhood cancer and encourage the NFL and all of their teams to show support for Still and all  parents who are facing this daunting and terrifying challenge! Send word to your favorite NFL team to get involved and lets see if we can make a difference. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Three Realities, One Truth

As I was fighting my way through traffic to get to a doctor’s appointment the other day I had a thought. Well, I had two thoughts. The first was allergies and driving do not mix well, every time I sneeze and my eyes water while I'm speeding down the road, I'm pretty sure I'm riding the line between life and death. But, the second thought was “I'm an idiot.” And here’s why:

There are three things that are currently true about my life. My three realities that consume so much of my thinking energy I should be making a salary.

My first reality is that I'm fat.
Yup. I used the F-word. Fat. Fat. Fat. Sure, you could say I'm overweight but really, I'm fat. Or, to make my mum happy, my body is fat (because, I'm Angela and fat isn't really an identity… but for me it kind of is.) At 5’4 inches, I weigh north of 200 and south of 245. When I got married almost 10 years ago, I weighed 145. Two kids, too many fast food meals and a desk job later… well here I am. I don't like being a fat person. I hate it. I hate myself for getting this way.

My second reality is that I can’t afford what I want to do:
I want to take vacations every year. Particularly to Disneyland and the beach and fancy schmancy hotels. I don't care if I don't live the fancy life the rest of the year, but on vacation, bring it on. I want to live in a house. We live in a pretty nice apartment complex. It’s quiet and the neighbors are nice enough. But I hate that we don't have our own space. I don't like having to tiptoe at night so we don't disturb anyone. I want to paint my walls and make my kids mow the lawn. But, we can't afford it. Are we broke? Not really. We have debt that we are trying to pay off. Much of it comes from the 8 months my husband was unemployed/working at a dead-end-job for less than $9.00 an hour. The problem is we don't really budget and we spend far too much eating out.

My third reality is that I’m pretty damn unhappy:
It’s true. I love my husband. I love my kids. But I feel like this dark cloud smothers all of that. When I think about why I'm unhappy it’s because (and here’s where the I'm an idiot part comes in) I’m fat and I can’t afford to live the life I want. Yikes. It also hit me that I have one problem that’s tied to all three of my realities, I eat out way too much. It’s not even that I'm too lazy to cook. I don't mind cooking really, even on super busy days it’s not impossible to toss something into the crock pot. I know how to cook healthy or at least mostly healthy dishes. It’s just easier to eat out. Also, I'm an emotional eater. I get bored, pass the chips. Feeling stressed? I'll take that cookie. Not only do I feel emotionally comforted with my food, I feel like my life is better when we can spend money to eat out.

One Truth:
This is going to sound really weird, probably. But, I think if we're sitting down together as a family eating out, which must mean life is good. That must mean everything is okay because we can eat out like normal people. I told you, it isn't rational. But, it’s just what I think and while it’s usually subconscious, sometimes it’s not.

There are a few other things I could do to make my life a little easier, but I had this thought in my mind that this really is a huge problem for me. A stressful day with work or the kids is a huge trigger for me. And when we head out to do something fun, I feel like it has to end with a good meal. And sometimes, that’s fine. Hanging out with friends? Okay. Planning a meal out with a fun activity, cool. But eating out whenever we step outside: Not okay.

Now that I've figured that part out, I just need to figure out how I'm going to nip that habit in the butt. Of course I’ll need to find my emotional blanket elsewhere, but I feel like this baby step change could make a huge difference… Have you had to give anything up to make your life better?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Are you Crying Again?

Today sucks. I don't even have the energy to try and be come up with a more professional/acceptable word. Traffic always gets me cranky but this morning, some lovely coffee-seeker was acting like a bozo hogging the entire road and nearly caused an accident while I was driving my girls to school (and we were running way late to top it off). My girls listened as I yelled that the driver was an idiot and honked at her like a crazy woman.

Thirty seconds later, I hear “You scared me, mommy.” From the backseat. Great. I offered an apology and explained that I was just mad that the driver was making the road unsafe but my oldest went off to school looking slightly dejected and I left feeling like a major jerk. Still in a dour mood, I headed to the grocery store pharmacy to grab my youngest daughter’s seizure meds. I called the prescription in three days prior because this pharmacy is known for never having it ready by the next day. Ever. When I went to get it they informed me that hadn’t filled it and acted like I was a bozo because I “tried” to use the phone system. Tried? I've been doing this for months, pretty sure I know how to operate a phone.

So we waited.  We waited twenty-five minutes because there were other customers they had to “take care of first.” Lovely. While we waited, I talked to a manager who informed me he was working on it. I’m not the only person tired of the runaround apparently. By the time I got home from what should have been a 30 minute trip, an hour and a half later, I was exhausted. But I still had to get my youngest daughter cleaned up and down to the bus stop. 

After she got on the bus, I left to go get a small fry from McDonald’s because honestly, I stress eat. And fries sounded yummy (don't act like you don't do it too!). I tossed the bag on the seat and turned out of the parking lot and the ENTIRE bag tipped upside down, dumping my fries everywhere. Really?

I am just out of sorts today. I'm cranky and on edge and I just cannot figure out why. I don't really have time to be this cranky because I have a million things to get done today. This week has been one heckuva week. This morning after the grocery store debacle, I was crying because I couldn't find my phone. I thought I'd left it at the store and was in a slight panic. My daughter came up and put her hand on my cheek, "Are you crying again mommy." Yes. Yes I am.  

Is there a reset button, anywhere?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To live... to live would be an awfully big adventure

When I heard of the passing of Robin Williams, I was a bit surprised at my emotional response. It’s always sad when someone dies. And while I felt sad when other celebrities have passed away, Robin’s passing felt more personal. I'll openly admit that I've never cried when I heard of a celebrity’s death. Felt the loss? Yes. Felt that terrible clench in my stomach? Yes again. But, I actually cried for the loss of Robin Williams. And not just tears trickling down my cheeks either.

Part of the reason that it hit me differently than other famous deaths, is that I grew up with his voice in my home. Whether it was Aladdin, Fern Gulley, Hook or Jumanji, we were watching it.  Then I grew to appreciate his appearances in movies like Patch Adams, Dead Poet’s Society and Jakob the Liar (quite possibly one of his best films ever). I was familiar with his emotional trials, and as someone who has long struggled with depression, I empathized with him.

But, I believe a bigger reason this struck me so hard is because I was already feeling let down. It had been a hard day. With news of an impending surgery that would drain our vacation fund (and more) and feelings of frustration and irritation with my kids, quickly followed by guilt for feeling so cranky with my kids, I was already thinking about how I didn't feel like I was really living the life I wanted to live.

His passing opened a floodgate of emotions about the fragility of life, and even more guilty feelings because I’m upset about a financial setback when other people are struggling with much more difficult things.

It isn't that I don't enjoy my life. I love my husband and my children. I love them more than anything in this world. It’s just that feeling like you are running on a treadmill. You aren't really going anywhere even though you keep moving and sweating and pushing.

I've been trying to make a lot of big changes in my life, from healthy habit changes, to a more focused spiritual life, more organization in my work life, and more patience and focus when I’m with my kids. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and to lose sight of what’s really important.

As I was reflecting this morning, a quote from the film Hook popped in my head. In the film, Peter (Robin Williams) has returned from Neverland and Wendy says to him “So…. Your adventures are over.” To which Peter responds, “Oh no. To live…. To live would be an awfully big adventure.” And I realized the importance of what Peter learned and what Robin Williams taught us. Living is an adventure.

When we embrace the idea of life as an adventure, complete with our very own Captain Hooks and monsters to battle, as well as our own treasure to find and places to explore, it becomes less about getting to the “next thing” or the “when’s” and more about accepting each part of our adventure as it is.

Sometimes our adventure is full of heartbreak, devastation and pain. And sometimes those adventures are too overwhelming for someone to handle. But sometimes, many times, our adventures are full of beauty. Yes, we’ll likely have to postpone the vacation we've been talking about and planning for months and yes, I’m not a perfect mother. I don’t have my crap together all (or even most) of the time. But, there is also a lot of beauty in my every day.

Instead of focusing on the things we cannot control and feeling guilty about natural, human emotions, it’s time to start living. Stop making excuses for not getting what you want. Setbacks are a part of every adventure. If getting to the end of our adventure were too easy, it would be quite a boring adventure.

While we mourn the loss of a fantastic artist, we should also embrace our own adventures and face our personal pirates with the bravery of a grown up Peter Pan.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Breathe in, Breathe Out

In the summer semester of my freshman year of college I took a stress management class. We learned about things that create stress and how to handle stress. Our classroom consisted of seriously comfy reclining type chairs set in a circle. During a few of the classes we turned the lights out, sat with our eyes closed and listened to our professor talk us through relaxation techniques. It was easily one of the easiest, and most enjoyable, classes I took in college.

I'd used a few of the techniques to help myself fall asleep and it worked well. Recently my kids have been craaaaazy about going to sleep on their own. They were doing fine for a while but suddenly I have to be laying in there with them. One night I'd been sitting in their room for an hour. I had work to do and as much as I enjoy cuddle time, I needed to get out of there. I was on the edge of losing my cool, when this class suddenly popped into my head. It was an answer to a prayer!

I told my girls I was going to help them fall asleep by telling them a relaxing story. I had them snuggle in their blankets and close their eyes. I had them take a few deep breathes (and tried not to laugh hearing their little selves breath as deep as they could.) Then I started talking in a quiet, calm voice. I described a big fluffy bed and had them imagine themselves climbing in the bed and get cozy. Then I talked about each of their body parts (ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders neck and head) feeling heavy and relaxing. I described relaxing sounds and feelings (warmth, heaviness etc.). By the time I finished they were both snoring.

It's now a routine for me to tell them "relaxing" stories. I've had to get creative because they want new scenes to listen to. It's remarkably easy, calming for all of us and it completely (okay, mostly) eliminates the nighttime routine terror I was dealing with before.

I did some research on it last night and found a few sites with actual scripts, they encourage your to read them and record your voice so you can listen to the script yourself. I think it's a brilliant idea and I may just record the scripts so my kids can hit play if they wake up in the middle of the night and need help falling back asleep.

I enjoy making up the stories myself, its the writer in me, but even I feel a little funky, like my descriptions are too silly. They don't seem to mind though, so I encourage you to give it a whirl if your little one is having a hard time sleeping. Just picture the most relaxing scene you can think of and take your time describing it in a quiet, calm voice. Just be careful, more than once I've put myself to sleep too!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Changing my perspective

I have thought about this blog post for a day or so and tried to decide how I should write it, or even if I should. But, I came to the conclusion that I can’t possibly be the only person dealing with this and if some other mom is sitting at home feeling like a horrible person, then maybe my honesty will at least make her feel a little less horrible.

When Elizabeth was born, my husband and I were excited to raise another beautiful girl. We were excited to watch her grow up and learn. When she didn't roll over by herself until she was 8 months old, I thought she was just taking her time. She started walking by the time she was 12 months old and in every way seemed to be developing normally.

At 18 months we started noticing that she was acting odd. She would stop playing mid action and freeze. Her face would go completely blank, she’d twitch a bit and then she’d snap back into reality and just start playing again. The first time it happened, I figured she just spaced out. But the episodes started to happen more frequently, sometimes up to 10 or 12 times per day and they got more severe. She fell over once and other times I was worried she’d hit her head on the table during dinner.

She was finally diagnosed with myoclonic epilepsy, basically she was having absence seizures. After several months of testing medications and dosages, we finally found one that worked well with few side effects. Some of the most difficult times were the frequent blood draws. It was a nightmare every time we had to get her little arms and hands poked to make sure her liver was handling the medication.

It’s been two years in November since her last seizure. Once we reach that milestone she could be weaned off of her medication. We are excited and hopeful, but the medication and the seizures have taken their toll. She’s behind in speech and learning. I was told this was a possibility from the get go but I’m not sure I really comprehended the idea.

Her sister, Emmy, is very bright. She’s excelled in reading and enjoys socializing. In every way she’s a normal 7-year-old who happens to be very good in English class. Liz is very quiet. At five she still has trouble with her colors and numbers. She can say the alphabet and count to 15. But she can only name a few letters and she can’t write any. She is the most loving little girl, but she struggles in some areas.

We were excited when she first started preschool. We hoped being in the learning environment with other kids would be helpful. During the first few weeks we were approached by a Special Ed teacher who asked us to consider having her tested for learning delays. This wasn't a huge surprise, but my stomach clenched a little. Liz’s IEP (Individualized Education Program specialist) has been a godsend. She’s wonderful and Liz loves her. Over the last several months her personality has blossomed and she is making more friends. She’s still quiet but she can speak in full sentences and her focus is better. The extra help is working.

We have been preparing to transition her to kindergarten next year. Planning on taking her and Emmy to school together every day. Debating whether full-time or part-time would be better and worrying about how she would handle a new classroom.

I was approached by her IEP specialist the other day with the suggestion that I consider enrolling Liz in a slower-paced kindergarten class. If she attends she will be bused to a different school and attend class with 7 other kids (instead of 29 other kids!). The pace will be slower and the teachers will have more 1 on 1 interaction with the teacher. Her IEP specialist is concerned that Liz will get lost in a traditional classroom.

I attended the open house today to learn more about it and I wanted to cry. I feel like every time I talk to a new teacher I have to emphasize that my child isn't stupid. Whenever I talk about Liz needing help in school I feel like my friends and family should know that’s she’s not getting extra help because she’s dumb. Because secretly I feel like I did something wrong. Maybe I’m not teaching her enough or working hard enough to help her get better so she needs teachers to make up for what I lack.

It’s this constant guilt. Maybe if I stopped working on my writing projects, maybe if I spent hours reading to her and creating perfect crafts and learning tools. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe, she’s just a little girl who is having a hard time in school. Maybe she’s just a little personality who needs extra help.

I've watched mom’s with children who have far more serious disabilities and delays and I wonder how they do it. In perspective, Lizzy is doing well. Things could be far more difficult and I know there are moms who are dealing with a lot more. But, still I somehow feel like a failure. Like I’m failing as a parent because Liz isn't “just like everyone else.”

I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure I mess up a lot. I know I could do better. But, I am trying. Maybe part of this journey is learning to accept that there are things I can’t control. There are things that I can’t make easier for my little ones, no matter how much I want to. Maybe.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Telling Nasty Nelly to Shove Off...

I am starting week three of T25. If you haven't heard of it yet, it's a Beachbody workout program that takes 25 minutes (really 28 with the cool down). It's not very long but it's also not very easy. And as a woman who has a lot of weight to lose it's almost torture. Fortunately, I have a good husband who sweats his duff off alongside me and kind neighbors who endure a half hour of stampeding overhead.

It's hard. It's short but it's hard. So I should be proud that I've managed to stick it out for two full weeks and I have enough motivation left to keep going into week three. I should be happy that I've lost almost four pounds in the last two weeks without starving myself.

I've made small changes (like actually eating breakfast) and opting for healthier dinners. It really hasn't been nearly has painful as I thought it would be. But instead of being excited after I got through my workout today, I was bummed. I just kept thinking, 'What if I'm not doing enough?" "I'm not working hard enough."

It's like this constant battle in my head. I know I'm making good changes and I know I didn't get fat overnight so I'm not going to get healthy overnight either. I know there are more things I can do to be even healthier, and I am working on it. But, it's still so easy to belittle myself and my efforts. It's really hard to keep that Nasty Nelly voice out of my head.

Maybe I'm not perfect yet but I'm trying. I feel like part of the reason I (and maybe other women too) keep losing this weight battle is because we are setting our expectations too high and we don't give ourselves enough credit for what we can do. It's just so much easier to berate ourselves for not being good enough than to actually be proud of ourselves for doing something so seemingly small.

My mom made a comment about this earlier that stuck with me, she said that our brain learns habits. It retains things we repeat (like tying our shoes and feeding ourselves). When we repeat an action often enough it becomes lodged in our brain. These repetitive processes can actually change our brain. So if I've been telling myself I'm not good enough or not doing enough often enough (and I can assure you I have), my brain actually thinks it's true. I don't know if I can ever fully reverse the damage of lousy self-esteem, but I'm pretty sure I can repair the damage.

I'm making a goal to replace all of my negative thoughts with a positive one. So when I think, "Well, that was a great 25 minute workout, but you should probably be doing something more," I'll replace it with "I got through that 25 minute workout and I am still standing. Hot damn."

Do you have any tricks to staying positive?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

For the Love of Women

Lately I  have been extremely frustrated with this upswing of hating on other women. Everyone knows bullying is wrong, especially when it comes to our kids. We preach tolerance and talk to our kids about being kind and not spreading rumors about other people. And then we pick up a magazine for women and peruse through snarky comments on celebrity clothing and hair styles.

I'll be the first to admit that I've flipped to the worst-dressed list more than once. I've even entertained myself by looking up ugly prom dresses. But, Self Magazine took it to another level when they contacted a woman and asked for a copy of  a photo of her running in a marathon in a tutu. They then used HER photo as an illustration in which they made fun of her. In addition to being dishonest and tacky, they also managed to insult the wrong woman. This brave lady is battling a brain tumor. And if you look at the photo closely you can see that her friend's badge says "Die tumor die." In addition to being nasty, their editors and writers were apparently oblivious.

I stopped reading the gossip rags a long time ago because I simply can't handle the snark and blatant insults tossed around. But, I love Self magazine. The magazine is designed to empower women who are trying to get healthier. And yet, this magazine that promotes self improvement and confidence thinks it's okay to turn around and belittle a woman who is obviously bettering herself by running in a marathon. The commentary was high-school at best. I'm disappointed.

This magazine is not the only place that this type of behavior happens. All over the internet on blogs and on women's/mother social sites (cough cough....Cafe Mom...cough cough) women take precious moments out of their day to slander other women. It's disgusting and it's disheartening.

I firmly believe that we are all entitled to an opinion and we are entitled to express that opinion, but just because we can doesn't mean we should. It's one thing to take a stand against something that ruffles your morals (scantily dressed women, prostitution etc.) it's an entirely different thing bash and insult women because you don't like what they are wearing or how they look or because they don't do things the exact same way you do.

With all the preaching of a modern woman and empowerment it seems we would be better off spending less time pursuing "sexual freedom and empowerment," and more time finding ways to build other women up for the more important qualities (compassion, kindness, brilliance, bravery etc.)

As women we need to stop acting like high school mean girls and set an example for our daughters. It isn't funny or brilliant to insult belittle women. It's degrading to our gender to support this type of nasty behavior.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pinching Pennies

So we're planning a Disney trip for next year and I'm super excited. But as we're planning and finding out how much things are going to cost it's a bit overwhelming. Between trying to pay off debt and keep up with monthly expenses, it can be overwhelming. My hubby finally has a job that pays well and we're getting back on our feet from a rough year. This vacation is going to happen come heck or high water.

I've been doing research, crunching numbers, looking at our bank accounts and trying to figure out ways we can save the cash we need to pay for our vacation. Here are a few ideas I've come up with and PLEASE feel free to share a few more ideas!

Stop Eating Out:
This is pretty obvious but I had a major wake up call earlier today. There are times I like to stop and grab a burger or a treat after I drop my kids off at school. I come home, kick back and catch up on an episode of Grey's Anatomy on demand and snack away without having to share. It's relaxing. Not only is this unhealthy for my waistband, it's not helping my wallet any.

I figured out that if I spent $5 a day (pretty average) on a snack I would spend $20 a week on my extra snacks I'll will have spent $80 a month. When I multiply that by 11 months (the time before our vacay) I will have spent $888. Holy smokes! That's nearly as much as plane tickets to California! Ouch. Goodbye eating out.

Cut Entertainment Expenses:
We like to watch movies. Right now we're paying for cable, Netflix streaming and Netflix DVDs. Not only is that FAR too many options, it's costing us at least $60 per month. If we cut cable and the DVDs we can still watch movies on streaming and save $50 a month.

Cut Cell Phone:
We both had smart phones and we don't really need them. When our contract ends in August we're ditching the smart phones for flip phones and saving about $90 a month!

Turn off the Lights:
One of our biggest bills is electricity. We've started shutting off lights whenever we aren't in the room and unplugging anything we aren't using to cut back on electricity. We flip open the blinds and let the natural light warm our apartment, helping us lower our gas bill too!

Use the Library: We love the library. You can check out movies, CDs and books for free (if you remember to return them on time!) This helps keep us entertained and our budget a little tighter.

Shop Car Insurance:We switched car insurance in February and saved over $60 per month! Yay. You should shop your auto insurance at least every two years to see if you can get a lower rate. It's free and it only takes a few minutes. Consider using a service like Answer Financial that will compare several companies for you and give you a new rate within 10 minutes.

Do you have any more tips on saving money?! A vacation for four isn't cheap, but we're bound to get rid of debt and pay for our vacation out of pocket! What tips do you have to share?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

To be or not to be.... Fat

Photo courtesy of harmonyharbor.com
The other day I went to the store to get a pair of jeans and they didn't have a single pair in my size. Not one! Now, I know that I am overweight and it is something I am making a conscious effort to fix, but I think it’s silly that stores don’t carry anything larger than a 12. It’s embarrassing. I walked out of the store in tears, tired of being fat.

I have been reading a lot of blogs today about weight loss success stories and tips people have for sticking with it. I have wondered for a while what the difference is between the person who is able to succeed and the person who doesn't.

It can’t be that one person just has better luck. We all have crappy things that happen to us and often the people who lose a lot of weight have suffered far worse than those who can’t seem to hack it.

It certainly isn't money. A lot of people lose weight using nothing more than an outdoor track and their own body weight.

I had a wake-up moment yesterday, in which I think I figured out the major difference between the people who successfully get healthy and those who keep failing. My husband and I hit the gym yesterday for the first time in a while. I was pretty pumped up about my work out until I came home to shower. I stripped and was standing in front of the mirror and it just hit me: Losing the weight I need to is going to take forever, and wham! Just like that my excitement and adrenaline rush dropped through the floor.
It didn't seem to matter that I figured out how many pounds per month I needed to lose to meet my goal (or that the goal was pretty doable), it didn't matter that I’d busted my arse on the elliptical and it didn't matter that I’d given up soda. I was fat and the weight was not coming off easy.

When I told my husband that going to the gym made me feel even fatter, he responded that I was “looking at it the wrong way.” He told me, instead of focusing on how far I still have to go, that I should be focusing on what I already accomplished. I went to the gym-for the first time in six weeks and I didn't die. I haven’t had soda in 53 days. We haven’t eaten out in 36 days.

What I think the difference is between people who successfully lose weight and those who keep failing is that those who finally succeed do so because they start focusing on the right things. Instead of focusing on what they “can’t have” or how much longer it’s going to take, they really focus on what they are going to get in the end.

No, I can’t have my Dr. P. No I can’t snarf down pizza for late night snacks and no, I can’t sit on the couch for hours on end and expect to lose weight. Yes, it hurts like mad to work out. Yes, I cry because I’m an emotional eater and I am no longer eating to get rid of my stress and it’s an embarrassingly emotional issue for me. Yes, it’s going to take a full year for me to lose the weight I want while maintaining a lifestyle that is doable for me.

I know that I am capable of a lot more. I just never finish anything because it gets to hard or too stressful. I know if I can just lose this weight I’ll know that I can do anything, and my hope is that boost of self-confidence will help me make improvements in other areas of my life.

So my goal this week is to stop the self-sabotage. Stop quitting before I really get going. Stop making excuses to avoid the long journey and just do it. Like I tell my girls: Suck it up Buttercup! It’s time to put my big-girl pants on so I can fit into little girl pants!
In what ways do you find yourself sabotaging yourself when it comes to finishing a goal?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Giveaway Winners

Wohoo!! Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you all had a great day (and at least treated yourself to something special!). I am so excited to announce the winners of the Skin Care 1 gift certificate giveaway. The following names were chosen at random. There are several alternate winners as well. I have sent an email to the five winners, if I don't hear back from you within 48 hours I'll have to award the gift certificate to an alternate winner.

Drum Roll............. And the winners are:

Karrie Millheim
Katy Narchi
Bahjet Yousif
Darlene Carbajal
Billsn Beaks

Congrats to all the winners. Remember to keep coming back for more giveaways in the future, and to keep up on the blog! I love reading your comments, it  lets me know I'm not just talking to thin air! (0=

Lots of love!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Facial Freebie!

First: quick apology for being away so long. The flu bug hit this family like a ton of bricks. We're finally recovering and life is getting back to normal. Phew.

This last month I was asked if I wanted to test out Collin Intensive Exfoliating Gel for Skin 1 and review it for my readers. As a former reporter, it's pretty ingrained in me to disclose pertinent details so my readers don't get the wrong impression. feel like I'm being sneaky. I received the product free for my review. My review is an honest as possible. I'm not a professional makeup artist or skin care person, so it's pretty much just what I thought of it.

I have been using Collin Intensive Exfoliating Gel for the last month and I really like it for the most part. There were a few things I wasn't super psyched about and a few things I really liked.

The smell was a little odd. It doesn't smell bad, just sterile. I'm admittedly a wierdo about smells so most people probably won't care. 

This is not a con so much as trial and error/lack of following directions on my part: The directions say you should use it one to three times per week. I opted for three times, which worked great for me. However, I do not suggest using it two days in a row. It burns a little bit if you do. 

Directions were a little confusing to me. I'm not hip with facial techniques and I still am not sure if I was using it right. 

The directions read:  "Use after the cleanser (used it after my own), apply a generous layer. For optimal exfoliation, let the product work for 10 minutes.. For toning affects allow to dry. Humidify with fingers, massage and rinse.

Now, I have no clue how to humidify anything with my fingers so I just put it on and rubbed it around a bit. It worked okay, but I think the instructions are a little odd.

It was super gentle. Aside for the time I accidentally used it two days in a row, it was super gentle on my skin. I was actually a little worried it wasn't going to work because it wasn't scratchy like other exfoliates I have used.

It worked. As I mentioned above I was pretty convinced it wasn't going to make my skin look any better because it wasn't sandy and scratchy. Despite my ineptness at the directions I noticed that my skin felt much softer after the first use. After the second use my skin was visibly smoother. I always feel like I look dull... maybe because I don't have a very good skin regimen but I felt like the Colin Intensive Exfoliating Gel actually cleaned my skin. 

It was super easy to use. So, the directions are a little confusing, but I put the gel on as soon as I got out of the shower, massaged it a bit and then just let it set while I put my clothes on and fixed my hair. Then I just rinsed it off and finished my makeup. It didn't add much time to my morning routine which was nice 

Overall, I would use it again. I have a hard time finding products that don't kill my face, so I appreciated that it was so gentle on my skin and that it worked. 

Would you like to try it out? I have five free gift certificates worth the value of the product ($38) to give away.  If you are interested, check out the contest form at the bottom of the page for more information. Rafflecopter will monitor the contest to help choose five winners.The contest runs all week.  Winners will be announced on Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 13, 2014

So far... So okay

We're almost two weeks into the new year and I'm doing OK on my resolutions. I have not had a single soda since New Years Eve. The first three days were extremely difficult. I was exhausted, had a major head ache and struggled not to give in. The temptation is still there of course, but I find it much easier to gulp a glass of water and be satisfied. I have had  a few cups of juice which I think helped with the sugar cravings a bit.

I haven't been to the gym yet, I feel like I'm in repair mode from the holidays and I haven't figured out how to snap out of it quite yet. My major goal this week is to hit the gym at least twice and to get back in contact with my trainer.

We are starting a 100-day challenge for your family. For 100 days we are not going to eat out. At all. I saw this video and thought, we could do something for 100 days. So no eating out for us. As relatively frequent visitors of McDonalds and Dominos it is going to be difficult. Our oldest (Emmy, 7) is totally on board. Our youngest (Liz, 5) is not so much. She got this terribly sad look on her face, which upset me until I realized it was my fault, so then I got mad at myself. She shouldn't be upset because we shouldn't have been eating out that often. The frown lifted a little when I told her we were trying to save for a Disneyland trip. Not only will we cut calories, we'll save quite a bit of money in the meantime.

I'm still awaiting my new hair style, but I'll get it done- (hopefully this week, and I'll add a photo of the new look). I've been trying to read more nonfiction books and spend time with my kids. The year has gotten off to a slow start but I'm more determined than ever to get us to Disneyland, happier, skinnier and with more life experience under my belt.

How are your New Year's resolutions going?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

In my Humble Opinion

After we were married my husband admitted that he initially thought that I was opinionated and it was intimidating to him.  I laughed it off for a while, me... opinionated?! Hah. Well, he was right. I have very strong opinions and I like sharing them. I have this habit of getting involved in debates because it's entertaining to me. I like having intelligent discussions, especially when I don't agree with what the other person thinks. It isn't about being right or even contention. I feel energized when I am having an intelligent exchange of ideas and I love when I can keep up.

Now, Facebook presents a huge problem for me. People are ALWAYS giving their opinion on something. It's fodder for debate junkies like me. After many unsuccessful attempts to stay out of debates with people online, I've come to the conclusion that I'm pretty much hopeless.

I have also discovered that there are people in these online debates (on Facebook or other news or entertainment websites) that take away from the enjoyable experience of sharing opinions. Now, this may be my opinionated side coming out, but there are a few groups of people I've noticed that wheedle their way in and ruin (or at least attempt to ruin) a good debate.

The keep-your-mouth-shut's:

These people attempt to kill a debate by arguing that "if you don't like something you should look away or ignore the issue." These type of people should just move into the book 1984, where a differing opinion is discouraged, and even punished.

This doesn't work for me. I am grateful to live in a country where I am allowed to speak my mind, even if I'm wrong. If there is one thing that I support to the death it is that everyone has the right to choose. That includes what they think and what they say. I may not like it and I may not agree with it, but that doesn't give me the right to tell you that you aren't allowed to express your opinion.

The kill-joys, also known as the guilt-trippers

 These type of debaters drive me INSANE. They jump into debates with comments such as "My neighbor's, cousin's friend was squished by a meteor the other day. You should just be grateful for what you have instead of wasting your time talking about this." There are also the "do you know how many cops/firefighters/soldiers died.... why should we care about this."

Guilt-tripping is a low blow and bad form. It's the easy way out of a debate and it's also a little mean. I mean, how can someone disagree that whatever tragedy is slapped in their face isn't sad or more important to someone? Bad things happen every day to very good people. It's nothing to make light of and it certainly should never be used to guilt people out of a perfectly legitimate discussion.

The mud-slingers

Nothing ruins a good discussion better than someone who doesn't know anything intelligent about the topic so they start insulting everyone involved. These peeps are often referred to as trolls with good reason. They lurk in the ether waiting for the chance to taunt for pure entertainment sake. Not only are they typically extremely mean and hurtful, they distract from the actual debate and that's annoying.

I should point out that while I do agree with everyone having the right to express their opinion, I don't necessarily enjoy or support certain ways people choose to portray that opinion. There are ways to express your opinion without insulting someone's family all the way back to Adam.

I enjoy a good debate and I am more than willing to conceded a point or even my entire position, if I find that the other person has an intelligent case. It's a great way to learn more about topics and look at things from a different perspective, it's also fun to sound intelligent. It isn't fun or entertaining trying to navigate a debate while dodging lobs of guilt, mud and keep-it-to-yourselves, so play fair!

Do you enjoy debating online? What type of comments drive you crazy?