Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankful for ... Thanksgiving

As my sister-in-law so delicately pointed out last week, I "suck at being thankful."

Yes, my faithful followers (all two of them) noticed that I didn't exactly meet my goal of posting once a day for 30 days.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

In my defense, though, I am thankful for a life that is too full to allow me to spend time blogging on the daily.

While I did not have a camera to record this with, I had a fantastic Thanksgiving.

Here's why:
  • For the first time in what seems like forever, I was not getting together with the in-laws for a wedding, shower, party or quick-turnaround-trip. We actually had three days to spend in each others' company, and had a fantastic time!
  • My nephew let me hold him, without crying, for the first time since he was a newborn and sleeping the whole time. He is one cute kid.
  • My sister-in-law and I made a bonding experience of going to Whole Foods to buy a loaf of French bread. We ate 7 different kinds of cheese, and tried three flavors of crackers. All in an attempt to escape the chaos of my home!
  • After about a month of stressing, my Thanksgiving preparation paid off. Everything was prepped and waiting in the fridge the morning of, leaving me ample time to hold said nephew and chit-chat with the girls.
  • My table was awesome. Every dish came out perfectly, or so imperfect it was perfect (mashed potatoes should be lumpy on Thanksgiving!). The rented table held every dish--and guest--delightfully. When I held up my glass of champagne, I was proud.
  • Everything on my table was made from scratch: Stuffing, cranberries, pies. No mixes for me this year! Incidentally, I won't ever buy canned cranberries again. It's too easy to make your own.

So, this being the last day of November, it's time to quit being so darn thankful already!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanful for ... the PMS post

Today, I am thankful for warm blankets.

Cozy socks.

Sue Sylvester from Glee last week.

Chocolate covered raisins.


Malted milk balls.

PINK sweatpants.

Oversized t-shirts.

Bubble bath.

The episode of The Office where Pam has her first art exhibit.


Cuddly dogs.

Empty couches.

Rainy days off work.

The end of "The Time Traveler's Wife."

Chores that have already been done.


Twilight (the book, not the time of day).



A new issue of InStyle.

Moping for no reason at all.

Crying for no reason at all.

PMS is only enjoyable when everything else in life is going right and wallowing in discomfort, cravings and moodiness is an indulgence instead of an inconvenience.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful for ... organization.

I need Monday this week. I need it to recover from my weekend, during which I went mad and turned my house over, top to bottom.

It started with me needed to get all the junk out of the guest room so my beloved mother-in-law can have a place to rest her head during Thanksgiving week. I'd planned on just taking my junk out and shifting it to my bedroom, clearing a path and a place for a bed.

But just looking at the room where all the things we don't really need go to be forgotten, I was overwhelmed. So it took it all out of the room and started with a blank slate. That's what they say you need to do on Clean House and DIY network, anyway. (The stuff I dismantled and re-mantled included my two bookcases and the hundreds of novels housed therein.)

Four hours later, it was done. I got rid of a desk, an exercise ball, five shoeboxes, four paper bags full of goodies and two Rubbermade containers that stopped opening without protest sometime in 2005. Now it looks like a real room, one that I wouldn't mind moving into. If I wouldn't miss the hubs so much.

On Saturday, we took a family trip to Costco to pick up necessary items above and beyond our usual Saturday (under $100, thankyouverymuch) trip. Matt got a much-needed ladder, we picked up Christmas lights and enough peanut oil to deep-fry our entire Thanksgiving dinner. After that, I stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond to buy out their kitchen organization section, then did the week's grocery shopping at Safeway (London broil was half off!).

No sooner did I think I was home for the day than the hubs convinced me to head to Target to pick up a fire pit. Finally ... it was 4 p.m. and I was ready to get started on the big kitchen remodel! Everything out of the cupboards, useless packets of Shake and Bake thrown away when husband was outside ("Honey, if I knew we had it, I'd use it!" Yeah, right.) and everything back in with new shelves, steps, dividers and Lazy Susans.

But it was only 8 p.m.! So I surveyed my bedroom, host now to all the keeper junk from the guest room. Only one place left to scour: my closet. Out went everything, and out stayed everything while I grabbed my 8 hours.

Bright and early Sunday morning, I declared war on the items in my wardrobe I can never bring myself to get rid of (bye-bye, semi-flattering-sweater-I-only-wear-once-a-year and Doc-Marten-sandals-circa-1998!), forced myself to sort through the tiny items that are too good to throw away but not good enough to use or keep, and put everything back with room to spare!

By then, however, the dog had gotten a bath, so there was the bathroom to clean. And in cleaning the bathroom, I noticed the sad state of the cleaning closet. Which led me to investigate the linen closet. And on Sunday afternoon, the hubs and I despaired at the state of our home. All this organization had left the house disheveled, with piles of trash and recycling everywhere. To the dump! By dinnertime, we'd gone through and cleaned up after ourselves, and sank into bed exhausted (the hubs didn't even make it under the covers before he was snoring away).

But today, with a clean, organized and purged home awaiting, I feel proud and accomplished.

And not a little tired and sore!
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Thankful for ... the marathon post

I'm thankful. I really, really am.

I'm just lousy with follow-through when it comes to the blog! So here's a list of mini-entries to cover the past seven days:

Thankful for ... my husband.

It's sappy. I'm almost kicking myself for going this route, but it's also true. Why, you ask? Let's skip all the mushy stuff and skip straight to the kicker: He makes me a better person.

Without him in my life, I'd still be living the carefree life in Auburn. I'd still be spending beyond my means, I'd still be messing around with strange men and too much booze and the party lifestyle.

I'd never have had a chance to grow up, to become a step-mother, to take a chance and move across the state or to take care of a house. I'd never see myself grow and accept the challenges of a savings account, a monthly budget or another individual.

I'd be 30, I'd be me, but my life would be so very empty. I wouldn't have a quarter of the love and happiness in my life right now.

Thankful for ... my family.

Another go-to! But hear me out: I am a supremely confident woman. Some might say too confident, but to them I say who needs you?

I was blessed to be raised by four parents who taught me valuable lessons:
  • My stepmom taught me that I am an amazing person ... and that there must be something wrong with anyone who doesn't like me.
  • My dad taught me to do the right thing always. There's no excuse for doing anything different.
  • My mom showed me how to present myself to the word, and gave me the tools I need to navigate relationships and business.
  • My stepdad taught me about punk rock, accountability and not living my life for other people.
Pretty vital lessons, all!

Thankful for ... my stepson.

Yep, this is the kid that I never knew I always wanted. He's the closest to motherhood I plan on getting (at this point, anyway) and I'm so grateful to have him! He's funny, sweet, whip-smart and sly (in a good way). He's generally agreeable, sensitive, generous and grateful.

I like to think we have a special bond, and I'm always so excited to see him. It's amazing to have watched him grow from a stumbling toddler to a maturing third-grader. I can't wait for what comes next!

Thankful for ... Hawaii.

In the way that it provided me with the most incredible week of my life. About a week ago, I was walking Koa and randomly struck by an intense homesickness for the condo we stayed in for our honeymoon. It was nothing fancy ... a small timeshare in Kihei on Maui with a foam couch, traditional Hawaiian furnishing, pastel beach scenes on the wall and windows that never quite closed covered with blinds that never quite closed. In the afternoon, the wind would tear through and there was always a strange smell.

But what I wouldn't give to be heading back to that exact condo right now ... or anytime in the future! Even though we had to drive an hour to get where we wanted to go, even though the couch let out a whoof of air every time you sat down ... it was perfect. And I miss it!

I've been on a lot of vacations in my life, but none so perfect as that one!

Thankful for ... girlfriends.

Man, do I ever miss my girlfriends. My closest BFF lives six hours away ... but honestly, if one of them lived right next door it would never be enough.

I challenge you to find something more satisfying than a few hours of conversation with your best girlfriend. You could be in a coffeshop, a living room, a hotel room, wherever. No activity on earth gives me the warm fuzzies like talking to my friends.

Thankful for ... calendars.

Calendars are my favorite thing in the world. I have one on my desk at work, one on my computer, one at home, one on my phone ... and if I could, I'd carry a day planner, too.

There's something enormously comforting about seeing the next year boxed off neatly in black and white.

Thankful for ... Caphalon.

OK, not Caphalon specifically, although there isn't much I don't love about baking cakes and cookies that don't stick! But my kitchen gear is near and dear to me. I love knowing that, if I'm ever bored, I can head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of something wonderful.

For instance, a couple weeks ago I bought four adorable mini-muffin pans from a yard sale, and am feeling compelled to make some mini-pumpkin-muffins and mini-red-velvet-cakes. In fact, my compulsion is so strong that it includes buying a piping bag so that my cupcakes come out as neatly as possible. And so I can make adorable dollops of cream cheese frosting on top.

And last time I was at Costco I saw a flat of condensed milk that I feel should be in my pantry for holiday cookie time ...
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thankful for ... Law & Order

That's right, I'm thankful for a television show. But listen to my reasoning ...

There is some terrible stuff going on in the world today. Every time I turn on the news, it's frustrating and terrifying and disheartening. It's hard for me to believe that people who can, say, stand by and watch a 15-year-old girl get raped exist in the world.

What's worse is that sometimes our justice system seems bound and gagged by its own rules. The bad guys don't always get punished; and the good guys often lose.

But not on Law & Order. I watch the SVU brand (oh, that Det. Stabler!), and yesterday I caught a marathon, including a couple of my favorite episodes. "Slaves" (the girl in the box one) and the one where Det. Munch cries.

The wonderful thing about settling down for a formula drama like L&O:SVU is that all the frustrations I feel watching the evening news are soothed. The bad guys ALWAYS get caught. The good guys ALWAYS triumph. Everything (except for the episode where the college student had the affair with her art instructor) is black-and-white. The actors even take time to patiently explain the background of the episode's issue each week.

It may not be real, but it sure does help me survive the evening news sometimes!

Thanks, Dick Wolf!
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My Skinny Pants Don't Fit


Here is what happened.

I lost weight for the wedding. Then ate like a pig on the honeymoon. Then started marathon training to lose weight. Then ate whatever I wanted because, hey, marathon training is depleting! Then I ran the marathon ... but didn't stop eating whatever I wanted!

So it's time to check the closet floor and under the bed for the old willpower, and go back to those pre-training healthy eating days. I think I've even narrowed down my problem.

It's snacks.

See, I eat the same breakfast daily: Three egg whites on a whole-wheat pita with a glass of fat-free milk (and some Parmesan cheese for flavor). I even gave up coffee to ditch the added calories.

I don't mind reigning it in for lunch. While the cafeteria at work offers delicious pastas and potatoes, I can make my own low fat soups and bring hummus and veggies and be just as happy. Mostly.

Dinner is a lost cause. I like to enjoy food with the Hubs, and we like our red meat, cream sauces and the like. But that's just one meal a day; and with a good workout it shouldn't matter much.

The snacks, though, get me. We have ready access to muffins, cookies, pie, donuts, cake and candy here at the office. Which is a remarkable coincidence, seeing as my favorite snacks are muffins, cookies, pie, donuts, cake and candy.

So I'm thinking: What happens if I just swear off work snacks until, say, Thanksgiving? Fresh fruit and trail mix from home are far better options, anyway. I wonder if that will make a difference?

I'll let you know!
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Thankful for ... weekends

OK, lame-o, I know. Who doesn't love weekends?

It's just that this past weekend was one I particularly needed. Last week piled one thing after another atop my shoulders until I was near collapse. Friday came at just the right moment.

This weekend happened to be the right kind of weekend to have after such a week. My stepson was over for a visit; my husband and I had (for once) kept on top of all the chores so no massive efforts were required; and there were no obligations to attend to.

The kid and I had arts-and-crafts hour while Dad was at work. We made chocolate chip cookies (he made, I supervised), and we played with the dog. When Dad came home, I left to do the week's grocery shopping while those two yahoos rented "GI Joe" and a Sonic the Hedgehog Wii game.

Dinner was delicious teriyaki chicken quarters and Cesar salad, and then I was free to retire while the boys watched the action-adventure. It was awesome, I was told, because, "There was soo much blood!"

On Sunday, we spent a lazy morning eating cinnamon rolls and reading the newspaper as a family (the youngest member of the family opted for the Target toy catalog) before the Hubs started up the lawnmower, the kid fired up the Wii and I tuned in to the past two weeks on "Modern Family."

Altogether a semi-productive, semi-laid back, quality-time-with-the-whole-family sort of weekend. We didn't go to Disneyland or cure cancer, but we basked in each others company in a wonderful way.

Thank you, weekends like that! You prepare me for the week ahead.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Thankful for ... forgiveness

I am a Capricorn. So is my husband. Our astrological symbol is the goat, and it couldn't be more appropriate.

We are loyal, we are independent ... we are stubborn.

Sigh. It makes Dr. Phil and good communication a necessity, not a luxury, in our house. We are slow to anger, quick to be defensive, right-fighters and slow to forgive.

I know what you're thinking. What on earth made him propose? Why did she say yes? What makes them think this marriage will work?

In a word: forgiveness.

I'd like to think it doesn't happen often, but a couple weeks ago I flat-out lost my temper. I was stewing over a small inconvenience, and found myself seething, spitting and shouting mad. I got the last word in what became a heated argument, Matt left the room and I immediately deflated.

"Dammit," I sighed, smacking myself on the forehead after realizing that I was very far from Being Right. Then I went after him to whole-heartedly apologize for the whole incident. I had no excuse, I explained, but that I'd lost my temper. I understood how awful it was to bear the brunt of it, and I was really very sorry.

Minutes later, we were laughing about a strange incident from his day.

"I'm glad there's forgiveness in my marriage," I thought to myself that night, grateful for a partner who could accept my (myriad) flaws and move past them.

Last night, the tables were turned. I was angry at something my husband did, and felt myself falling toward that place of stubborn unyielding. And then ... I forgave.

It's been a long, terrible week. But while I could be sitting here angry at my spouse, I just feel love. It's a relief, really, with the frustration that abounds everywhere else around me.

I'm so thankful, still, that there's forgiveness in my marriage. And I'm not ashamed to say that it's my husband who teaches me how to do it.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Just this mile"

Here's the part where you all realize how self-centered I really am.

Over the past few month, I took the opportunity to train for the Nike Women's Half Marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. We met twice a week for workouts: A muscle-crushing two-hour track event on Thursday nights, and eight to 12 mile runs on Saturday mornings.

Plus, I had to raise not a small amount of money in donations for LLS.

Sure, the organization is doing a great thing. Sure, blood cancers are horrific and finding a cure is top-priority. Sure, I was honored to help and inspired to give.

But mostly, I just wanted to get in good enough shape to run a (half) marathon. And I did. I surprised myself with my finish time, and the support of my team and coaches meant the world to me.

I didn't realize how much I appreciate all the training they gave me until I hopped on the treadmill this morning. Since I've reclaimed my Thursday nights and Saturday mornings (despite an open-arm policy for returning to train with the team for the rest of the season), I've been trying to log four miles before work every other day.

Before Team in Training, I'd fire up the treadmill with good intentions, but hop off about halfway through my workout. "That's enough," I'd think. Or, "Eff this" (more often). Or, "Ooh, my shin is starting to hurt. Better stop before I injure myself" (ha ha).

Now, two mantras keep me pushing away until I complete my mileage:

"I did Team in Training. I don't quit halfway though." Then I picture a mentor, or team captain, or teammate and how I'd feel to see the look on their face if I walked off the course before finishing my run. Despite my exhaustion on some (most) of the training runs and track workouts, I had unlimited and unquestioned support from teammates, coaches and mentors--but absolutely no tolerance for quitting. Even when I was close to tears and stumbling over my own feet (or sometimes cursing through muscle aches), I had a kind but iron force pushing me on.

If you do Team in Training, you don't quit. Period.

"Just this mile." That's what got me through my marathon. It was not exactly a mantra from Team in Training, more like something I took from the mentors who slowed their pace to help me through difficult sections of longer runs. "Just run to the tree, then we'll walk," they'd coax. Or, "Walk the uphill, but run the downhill." During Nike, when 13.1 miles were giving me the evil eye, I chose to focus on one mile at a time.

"OK," I told myself time and time again. "You just entered mile five. Just get to mile six. Just this mile. That's it." Lo and behold, I made it to mile 13, saw the finish line and swept across.

Now during my short-and-sweet daily runs, I can recognize that mile 1 might be difficult as I warm up; mile 2 is where my energy is at; mile 3 is "More than halfway there!"; and mile 4 is where I ratchet up the speed every quarter mile to get to the finish line all the faster.

So thank you, Team in Training, for taking me further than I ever expected to go, and teaching me how not to quit.

Thanks Coach Ed and Coach Jay. Thanks, Captains Ana and Brandy. Thanks Mentors Angela, Eileen, Heather and Jax. Thanks, Martha. Thanks Falcons Alanna, Daniel, Kate and Ronda. Thanks Makos Abra, Allison, Angela, Dirk, Laura, Peyton, Stacy and Wendy. Thanks Cheetahs (wahoo!) Amy, Camille, Cathy, Connie, Joanne and Shanell. Thanks honorees Greg and Dr. Suess.

I am more grateful than I can say for the lessons you've all taught me. Go Team!
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When the going gets tough ...

It's easy to be thankful for the blessings in your life when skies are blue and seas are calm.

During those times, you can look around and be overwhelmed by the things you have to be grateful for, from the sun on your back to the extra chocolate chip in your brownie.

But when things aren't so sunny--say, when you just had a fight with your spouse, or when you've spent your last dime with a lot more to pay, or when the Very Important work project fell through--it's harder to play Pollyana and remember to give thanks.

At least, for me it is. My husband is consistently (but kindly) pointing out that as the glass goes, mine tends to be half-empty. I'm that little girl with the little curl. When things are good, they are very, very good. But when something goes bad, everything is horrid. On good days, I defend myself by claiming practicality, which is sort of like saying, "Yes, the glass is half empty--but that means there's room for more."

Then there are days when I know I'm a flat-out pessimist. Just call me Emily the Strange.

So today, when all I wanted to do in the world was to escape my house, I'm thankful for having a job to go to. A really good job. A really good job to go to with great benefits and a solid salary. A really good job with great benefits and a solid salary where the hard work I put in during college and my early career is recognized and appreciated.

These days, if that's not something to be grateful for, I don't know what is.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I'm hoping SugarMamaBakingCo won't mind, but I'm stealing an idea.

After a year that would have turned most of us bitter and angry, Candace has come through. Maybe not at the other end, but with enough perspective to see--or imagine--a light at the end of the tunnel.

She's even spending her November giving thanks. Because we all get lost in our own lives, I think it's a good idea for everyone. So as she's blogging daily about what she has in life to be thankful for, I will too.

I think you should, as well.

With so much to choose from at the beginning of the month, I'll choose to be thankful for inspirations like Candace (who really won't mind me copy-catting her idea now!). Friends, writers, bloggers and others who turn our expectations upside-down; who inspire us to do better, be better or try better; who find the wheat among the chaff, the needles in the haystack and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This week (aside from Candace) I was inspired by the writer/director/actor Kevin Smith. I went to his Q&A session in San Francisco with my husband just for laughs--he's a hilarious storyteller. I laughed until I cried, until I couldn't breathe, until I thought I was going to pee.

Then he told a serious story. He talked about what happened when Judd Apatow came on the scene and started successfully making movies quite similar to the ones that Kevin Smith is known for.

He talked about asserting his talent in an "I'll-Show-You" movie we all know as "Zach and Miri Make a Porno." He talked about how it felt when the movie didn't meet all those high expectations out there, and how that low point led to an epiphany: That when you're approaching 40 and have had a successful career for 15 years, it's hard to tell sincere stories about 20somethings struggling to pay bills and find themselves.

He told the audience--comprised of hundreds of his biggest fans--that he's not going to do that anymore. That he won't be making those kinds of movies anymore. That he's taking a break from writing his fantastic films until he can find his (new) voice.

Then he made us laugh again. But more so than the belly laughs, I applaud him for standing up and being real. In a world where Jon Gosselin and political scheming dominate, I appreciated someone telling us he tried, he failed, but he's going to keep on trying because that's what he loves to do.

So thanks, Kevin Smith. Thanks, Candace. Thanks, Mr. Ottini. Thanks, Duggar family. Thanks, Michelle Obama. Thanks, Jorge Munoz. Thanks, Coach Ed.

I appreciate the inspiration.
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