Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deciding to be Happy

My better half and I had a good talk the other day, in which he pointed out how my blue-ness not only affects me, but everyone around me. It wasn't easy to hear but I needed to hear it.

As a result of that conversation, I decided to not let myself become sad about the things that are making me sad. To be honest, I didn't think that was going to work - it couldn't be that simple....but surprisingly it really seems to be. I'm not saying that it's a 100% fix to what ails me but for the last 24 hours, whenever I've found myself getting down, I've refused to go there.

There are a couple of surprising things I've noticed:
- I get a bit blue on a pretty regular basis (on average, about once every hour - it was more yesterday but it doesn't happen as often today)
- my spirit is, perhaps, a bit stronger than I originally thought it was in that I can refocus my mind towards a better place
- it's a HECK of a lot more enjoyable to be happy and enjoy life than it is to be upset about what's going on in my life

So - thanks very much to my husband (who is standing behind me as I write this) for pointing out the tough truths and giving me a chance to do a better job. 'Tis the season for joy, after all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cooking Report #3...the big one

Jenn's Thanksgiving Dishes

I am the first to admit that these pictures aren't anything real special to look at, so I'll describe today's Thanksgiving cooking, in hopes that it might elicit some ooo's and aah's from the blogosphere. 

My brother fried a turkey, but because he is a very creative cook, he ended up using curry seasoning. Luckily, my mom had requested that I try a new cranberry chutney recipe she'd found - those two tastes together were just amazing. 

I also made my traditional herbed cornbread stuffing, which is pretty darn labor intensive but well worth it (according to my family). I start a few weeks ahead of time by boiling organic vegetable broth with fresh herbs wrapped in cheesecloth. That's frozen until Thanksgiving day. A few days before Thanksgiving, I bake the cornbread and mix it up with fresh herbs. You'd be surprised how long it takes to shred enough rosemary, thyme and sage for a huge dish of stuffing.

In addition to the new cranberry chutney, I made my traditional brandied cranberries and of course green bean casserole (my husband's comfort food). Each year, I try something different with sweet potatoes but the recipe NEVER involves marshmallows (shudder...). This year, they were roasted pretty simply in the oven with olive oil, cinnamon, etc. They were ok but not my favorite of all time.

Let's see...what mom found a great recipe for asparagus with dijon vinagrette so I made that and then pulled together some tarragon butter to go with my brother's awesome homemade bread. Other than the pies, I think that covers our meal. The pies were pumpkin (my son's favorite) and chocolate/pecan/whiskey (my daughter's favorite).

So many things in life aren't tangible and I think it's really good for my ego when I've done something like this for my family and it makes them happy. Again, as I've said before, it's a HECK of a lot cheaper than therapy. Even when you buy the $25 bottle of wine to go along with the meal.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking Report #2....sort of....

I completely forgot to take a picture of the fancy shmancy mac and cheese that I made tonight when it came out of the oven (which recipe I received in exchange for re-starting this blog, I must point out....). So, after I was already in my PJs, I had my son take a picture of the 1/2 way empty bowl so I'd have something to post. It looked rather blurry and you won't be seeing that picture.

Instead, I feel like blogging about bullies. You see, my girls (meaning my daughter and my niece) watched the Chrissa movie this afternoon and it was all about one of those "mean girls" who pushes others around. Yikes. I tell you what, I was a walking bullseye my entire life for those girls (and then boys later, but that's a topic for an entirely different posting). My girls have each faced it themselves this year and I was shocked at how upset I got while watching this film. It was as if all those years of being the un-cool kid came rushing back at me...and, to be honest, I started making associations with stuff going on in my current situation - getting bummed about feeling a little stuck where I am, thinking no one likes me - you know, the typical stuff for me. So I guess none of us ever completely grow up - we try to say that we're past all that kid stuff but maybe we never really are.

Luckily, I'm with my family and they gave me the obligatory raves about my mac and cheese. We even got to have an adult meal because all four kids are finally old enough to entertain each other. They entertain each other very LOUDLY but as long as we can let that go, then we get our own meal. That perked me up a bit. And tomorrow I'll be buried in stuffing and pies - so that'll be therapeutic for sure.

My mom loves to spoil her grandkids. Ok, she loves to spoil me too - she insisted on paying for my haircut today and if I hadn't cut in line and handed over my credit card really fast, she would have paid for my lunch also. My daughter and niece will each be getting the Chrissa doll tomorrow for absolutely no reason except that my mom wanted to give them the dolls. As a matter of fact, she recently made a freakingly enormous purchase from American Girl. Here are some of the boxes just sitting around her house. I don't even know what's in all of them.

And now I need to go outside because my husband recently bought a motorized mount for his telescope, which makes it easier to focus in stars and stuff. He's now hovering over me, waiting for me to join him outside - I'm going to freeze to death but at least I'll die while looking at Jupiter's moons. So I'm sure it will all be worth it. Right?

Cooking Report #1

A lot of who I truly am during the holidays comes out in my cooking. I haven't been very good about uploading pictures on my blog lately, so I figured that showing you guys what I'm making this week is a good topic for blog pics. These cookies are made out of Earl Grey tea. I made them, thinking of my brother (because he always loved that tea as a kid) - and my son fell in love with the tea in the process. As soon as I got to my mom's house, I made a pot of tea and set out these cookies so that my kids and parents could enjoy a tea party. It was a great way to start the Thanksgiving holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tonight I Ran, Last Night I Baked

It had been a while, but I was able to run again tonight - just a little bit - but I still ran without pain. (That "without pain" element is key, in my opinion.) Once I got that (insert appropriate obscene adjective here) cast off my leg, it took me a while to trust that my foot wasn't going to give out on me again. But tonight Beyonce, ABBA, and I were able to take a few laps around the track - I must say that I felt pretty energized.

This is a good thing because it is FOOD WEEK. Luckily I've completed a bunch of my Thanksgiving cooking already. There are two pies in the garage (not enough room in the fridge), cookies in the car, and a fridge FULL of frozen and cold food that will be packed into the cooler tomorrow morning. What can I say? I'm a southern woman - and I express my feelings best through holiday food preparation.

So....dear family....I've obviously got a ton of faults, but I hope you can tell that I love you when you eat my extremely yummy cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pecan whiskey pie on Thursday. Stay tuned, readers - I'll try to remember to post a picture of the overburdened Thanksgiving table.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon Night

Last night, I took my daughter to the opening of New Moon. It was SO MUCH better than Twilight (not all that hard to do, to be honest) - the acting was quite improved, as were the effects. What was really fun were the glimpses into her life. For example, as we left I asked her if she was Team Jacob or Team Edward and before the words had completely left my mouth she said: "Team Edward. Elizabeth and I have already discussed this at length and decided." (Yes, she really did say "at length.")

Parts of the movie that I found scary, she didn't think were very scary. And we saw a trailer for a really sweet romantic movie that we both decided we needed to see.

When did this happen? I now have a young lady living with me instead of a kid. Don't get me wrong, she'll go see the new Disney movie with me at Christmas I'm sure (if for no other reason than to keep me company because I'm so excited about a new princess movie) - but there's no way it will supplant the Twilight movies in her mind.

I'm actually very excited to be at this stage of life - I know I'm lucky that she still lets me into her world a little bit and I hope I don't do anything to mess that up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I've signed into my blog a few times in the last week and have just stared at the "new post" screen - unsure of what I wanted to say. Finally, tonight, I decided to pull myself together and put something on paper (so to speak...technically there's no paper involved....).

I began to wonder what I was avoiding because if I ever don't want to write, it's a clear sign that I'm avoiding an issue. To say that I'm feeling overwhelmed is the understatement of the century. There are all of these choices - all of these decisions to be made. Many of them don't seem that significant, at first glance, but the aggregation of the choices I'm having to make is blowing my mind.

I know, I know - I'm making it sound as if the fate of Western Civilization rests with my next decision when, really, I'm wondering what I'm going to get my father-in-law for his birthday and when I'm going to make it to the grocery store to purchase fresh herbs for my cornbread stuffing.

Plus, I CONSTANTLY worry that I'm not giving my children what they need.

I'm starting to get to a point where every decision, no matter how minuscule, becomes this crossroads in my mind. Perhaps A Prayer for Owen Meaney is starting to rub off on me....I'm starting to think that everything means something and I'm concerned about making the wrong choice. You know, worried that the one time I really do hit the baseball out of the park, I'll end up taking someone out with it. (Sorry to those of you who haven't read the book....I'm sure that reference escaped you.)


That's the word that is circling in my mind right now - it's all I can do for myself. Just bit by bit that's what I'll do. It will involve saying "no" more often than I'd like this holiday season, but I need to remember that by doing that - I'm saying "yes" to my kids and to me.

So....yes to me. Yes to me. Wow. That really sounds weird.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanks, Poppy.

Today is Veterans Day and I am here to tell you that although I do not fit the image of someone that you might consider to be traditionally "pro-military" - I really am. In my own way, that see, I'm not in favor of what has traditionally been called the "military industrial complex" (wasn't it Truman who first called it that?) - rather, I'm in favor of the individuals in uniform. This morning, I heard someone on the radio talk about how every single moment of the day when we enjoy our lives, we owe those moments (at least in part) to our veterans. I absolutely believe that.

I don't like war. To be honest, who really does? No one who truly understands what it means and who is also truly human. But this morning, driving down the road, I thought about my wonderful life and then I thought about my grandad. Poppy lied about his age to join the military before he was 18 years old, and went off to fight Germany and Japan during WWII. I started thinking about what our country would be like today if Hitler had won. What a horrible thought. Truly, "horrible" doesn't even BEGIN to cover it. And because of Poppy, and many other men and women - my kids and I live a great life.

So thank you, Poppy. Thank you to my cousin (a tour in Iraq dismantling roadside bombs right after high school), and thank you to my uncle in law whom I never met because he was killed in Vietnam two weeks before my husband was born. And of course, of course...thank you to the men and women of Fort Hood.

Do you ever see the veterans on the street, asking you for a dollar? According to an NPR program I heard the other day, veterans are at a much greater risk for being homeless than those of us who have a "regular" life here at home. How could this be?

All I'm saying is that we don't have this great life because we are better people than others who suffer. We don't deserve this life more than kids in Africa who are forced into violence before they are 10 years old or more than women in the middle east who can't even show their face for fear of being attacked. They deserve it too. But we got it. From the pure dumb luck of being born in the United States.

So, thanks Poppy. I really do hope that someday the concept of war is gone for good. In the meantime, I'm going to remember that although I might not support certain policies or institutions, I will ALWAYS support the humans in uniform.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

First Family Campout

We had a fun experience last night - it was our first ever family campout for all four of us together. (You might remember that my daughter and I went on a campout by ourselves a while back.) I suppose I should qualify this posting by pointing out that, by "camping" I mean we set our tent up in Cameron Park Zoo, we were fed Dominoes pizza and got a behind the scenes zoo tour before hitting the hay at about 10 p.m. So it's not as if we were really roughing it. But we were all crowded into a tent which is technically a four person tent but I must say that it was a very tight squeeze. Good thing I'm pretty short and our kids aren't yet teenagers. (Well, to be honest, there are many reasons it's a good thing my kids aren't yet teens...)

I was cozy BUT I wasn't terribly fond of the cold. My husband and I slept on top of one sleeping bag (because we didn't have enough to go around) and I kept hypothermia at bay by wearing my hoodie to sleep. I was surprisingly happy, however, to have my whole family in this little space...I could reach everyone just by stretching out my arm. Somehow it felt very safe to know that everyone was RIGHT THERE. I liked it enough that I told my husband I thought it might be neat for the two of us to campout one night - we could drop the kids off at his parents and just sleep under the stars.

I think what I like best of all is waking up with the sun and the birds - I felt much more in sync than I normally do in the mornings...I have to get up early every day anyway - this makes me think it would be a good idea to start my day by stepping outside for a few minutes. I'll try to remember to do that tomorrow. It's a lot more comforting to be in rhythm with nature than it is to be in rhythm with the TV or even the coffee maker (although I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have my java each day).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cheapest Therapy Ever

I've been watching Ally McBeal.....a lot. You see, it's out on DVD now and I've been Netflixing it. When it first came out, I was a brand new lawyer- a baby lawyer really. I think it was my first year as a lawyer, at my first law firm. Tons of fun, really.

Tracey Ullman was Ally's shrink and she was great. I ended up getting free therapy by watching the show and it's been very helpful to re-watch it. Shrink Tracey recommended, among other things, that Ally get a theme song - not a moody, sad theme song (as I might be inclined to choose) but an upbeat song. So I did that. Back in 1997 I chose Oh-bla-di by the Beatles, and it's served me well ever since.

This time around I'm getting even more from Doctor Tracey. She's full of gems, including telling Ally that she can't believe what a "wimpy little thing" Ally is and telling her that she has the problem of not wanting to be noticed for her attractiveness (ok, ok - Shrink Tracey said "sexuality" - not attractiveness) but being upset when she's not noticed. She could be speaking directly to's fabulous.

I've spent a fair amount of money on shrinks over the year and they really and truly don't work very well for me. They don't get me at all...really, they don't and I've never understood it because I don't think I'm all that complicated.

I'm not. Apparently I'm just Ally - someone who asks "what's so great about the real world, anyway?"