Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time Flies

Time is flying.  Literally.  I flipped my calendar from May to June today, and had to stop for a minute to wrap my head around the fact that (as of tomorrow) it is JUNE!!!!!  How did that happen?

When I gave 4 months notice for my job, it felt like an eternity.  Now, here we are, 2 months to go, and I'm starting to think to myself "This time in 2 months, I'll be packing up".  Worse, with Ben heading to SLC this month, I find that I'm now counting the days until he leaves, rather than weeks or months.  *tear*

So, between Ben leaving in a few weeks, Relay For Life in Ohio next weekend, and my replacement arriving from Peru at the beginning of July, needless to say, my summer seems to be slipping away from me already!  

Knowing how fast these next 2 months are going to go, I want to make the most of my time here - soaking up every last giggle, smile and hug from the munchkins as I possibly can.  It hits me a little more each day, just how much I'm going to miss the kids, and in general, our life here. 

We spent a wonderful weekend walking at the local dog park, strolling through downtown Lodi, and enjoying some early summer California weather - I'm going to miss all those things! 

I'm going to miss chatting with the moms and teachers at preschool.  I'm going to miss walking into Starbucks and having the barista ask me if I want my "usual".  I'll miss chatting with the folks at my grocery store, who have gotten to know me all too well over the last 4 years (considering I make multiple trips a week!).  I don't know what I'll do when my mornings don't begin with waking up Jack and Molly, being greeted with hugs, smiles, and yes, sometimes a case of the cranky pants. 

Yes, it's possible that, one day, I'll feel the same way about my life in Salt Lake City.  I know I'll meet people, find a Starbucks that I love, become familiar with my grocery store clerks, etc.  But, something about knowing that time here is limited is making me feel nostalgic for all things California, and more specifically, Lodi.

As Anna Nalick sings "life's like an hourglass glued to the table." - truer words were never spoken (or put to music).  So, as time whizzes by me without the convenience of a rewind button, I will make the best of it.  I will soak up every precious moment I can with Ben before he blazes the trail to SLC, and I will enjoy all that I can every day before I wave goodbye to the place and the people that have made this my home for 4 years.

Friday, May 27, 2011

House Guests!

I love having people come to visit.  Ever since I moved to California, I've been dealing with the fact that my family is on the other side of the country.  If we want to see each other it requires not only advanced planning, but also various plane rides, and more than a few vacation days.

They say that fish and house guests go bad after 3 days - I haven't found that to be true.  We are blessed with wonderful family, so rather than dreading visits and counting the days until they leave, we never seem to have enough time.

Having people come to stay at our house somehow makes me feel like a grown up.  Maybe it reminds me that I actually live on my own, or maybe it's just that I'm excited to use the guest room for something besides storage.  In any case, when anyone comes to visit, it makes me feel like I'm on vacation in my own home.  We plan our menu, have a schedule of activities, and tend to branch out and do things that we wouldn't ordinarily do on our own.  

This weekend is no exception.  Abbie and Chad (Ben's sister and brother-in-law) are staying with us for the weekend as they finish a week-long road trip through California.  Our schedule for the next 2 1/2 days is already filling up with various activities, outings, and big plans for relaxation.  As is often the case, no matter what we end up doing, we're surely going to have fun!

With our upcoming move to SLC looming in the not so distant future, this weekend will likely be our last with visitors until we are official Utah residents.  Then, we will, once again, begin counting the weeks and days until our first visitors arrive. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

Today begins a new tradition - Thankful Thursdays.  A chance to sit back for a few moments and think about something (or someone) that I'm truly grateful for.  There is, of course, a time and place for rants, complaints, and general observations, but there also needs to be a time for thanks, and this is mine.

Today, I am thankful for my husband, Ben.  While I'm thankful for him every day, and probably don't tell him enough, today he really saved me. 

I called him this morning when my check engine light came on while taking Jack and Molly to school.  He patiently asked questions to assess the severity of my situation, and advised me to call him after I'd dropped off the kids.  As I made my way from the school to a local repair shop, I called him and found that he was getting dressed so he could come pick me up.

Long story short, he spent the entire day chauffeuring me from place to place while we waited for my car to be fixed.  Between 2 repair shops, to school to get Molly, to lunch, to an automotive parts store, and then finally home. 

Now, he's at home, dutifully cleaning our (not so tidy) kitchen in preparation for his sister and her husband to arrive tomorrow for a visit, after dusting, vacuuming, and straightening for the better part of the day yesterday.  

He is my hero.  He picks up the slack, always with a smile on his face, and a big bear hug ready to go.  He gives me space when he knows I need it, but is always there if I need a snuggle. 

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful husband, best friend, and partner in life. 

So today, as I am every day, I am thankful for Ben.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One Of Those Days

Do you ever have days that seem to just suck the life out of you?  From the time you wake up in the morning until you drag yourself to bed at night, everything is a challenge.  It's not even a particularly frustrating or difficult day, it's just a day that seems to be devoid of any real amount of energy or enthusiasm.  A day of going through the motions - surviving until tomorrow.  A day that has you thinking "how badly do I need to pee, because I just don't want to get up".  On those days, we want nothing more than to crawl back under the covers and wake up tomorrow, or perhaps start an IV of caffeine to help jolt you out of the funk that seems to have taken over!  In any case, there usually isn't a solution (at least not one that I've found), so we're left to fend for ourselves. 

Today has been one of those days for me.  I don't know what the problem is - the weather, typical mid-week blues, or I'm just plain tired.  All I know is that today has been a struggle since my alarm went off. 

The worst part is, the day isn't over yet.  This is one of those rare occasions that I will be responsible for dinner, baths, and possibly bedtime for Jack and Molly before I can finally head home and crash!  Isn't that always the case?  The day that you want nothing more than to call it quits until tomorrow turns out to be the day that would not end!

I don't know what the problem has been today, but hopefully my energy level and mood rectify themselves by tomorrow, because I've got one more day of work before I can enjoy 4 whole days off!

*While we all need time to vent every now and then (I am certainly no exception), I am beginning a new tradition here on "Making Lemonade".  Thankful Thursdays will be, starting tomorrow, a weekly fixture in which I use all of my available energy and enthusiasm to focus on something (or someone) that I'm truly thankful for.  I'm looking forward to putting a positive spin on even the most challenging weeks!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Car Dilemma

I need a new car.  No, I'm not just whining "want" a new car - I think I literally need a new car!

I bought my 2005 Suzuki Reno (please try to control your laughter) when my Jeep Grand Cherokee died.  Literally, it was going to cost twice what it was worth to fix it...no thank you!  Unfortunately, at the time, the Suzuki was just about all I could afford, so, I picked one that didn't make me physically ill, and tried to make the best of it. 

Now, here I am, 6 years later, and still driving a car that I was never crazy about to begin with.  Yes, it's been pretty good to me - it got me, my mom, and all my worldly possessions from Ohio to California in one piece, and has been a nice "buzz around town" vehicle.  I've just outgrown it.  It's the kind of car a high school kid should be practicing parallel parking in, or maybe something for a college commuter to get from point A to point B with.  Not necessarily ideal wheels for someone making a move to rather hilly and snowy climate.

The plus side of Little Red (as we've come to call it) - it's fully paid for!  Honestly, the day that I mailed my last car payment was one of the happiest of my life!  So, you might ask, why am I so anxious to take on another car payment so soon?  The truth is, I'm not.  I don't want to take on a new car payment.  I don't want any additional financial responsibility leading up to our move to Salt Lake City with the possibility that income could be nothing more than a trickle for the first few months once we get there. 

But what I don't want even more, is to have to drive my car this winter in the hills (ok, mountains) of Salt Lake City.  I learned to drive in the snow, I've been driving in snow for years, so that's not the issue.  The fact is, I've seen how this glorified matchbox on wheels handles on flat ground during a snow in Ohio, and honestly, I don't think anyone (including my soon to be fellow SLC drivers) wants me on the road with this little red devil!

So, now it's dilemma time.  Do I make it work (and take my life into my own hands) with Little Red until I'm more confident in our financial situation?  Should I lease a small SUV?  Are we better off looking into getting a pre-owned vehicle with lower monthly payments?  Should I just shut my mouth and be happy that I even have a car?  What's the answer?!?!

Sigh...where is the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol when you really need them?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Clip, Clip, Save, Save

About a week ago, Ben and I watched an episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC.  If you haven't seen it, it is (mostly) women, spending anywhere from 30-60 hours a week clipping coupons, organizing them, planning shopping trips, and then (after hours spent in the grocery store) getting hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars worth of merchandise for a fraction of the cost - sometimes free!  They have HUGE stockpiles in their homes, literally with enough food and toiletries to last years!

At first I was simply amazed.  How was this possible?  How is it that we didn't know such savings existed?  Why have we just been throwing our money away? 

Then I realized, it's because in our house, we don't have 30+ hours per week to dedicate to clipping coupons.  Ben and I both work, and our free time is so rare and precious that we're not willing to sacrifice it, even in the name of savings.  Not to mention, it also requires a level of organization (and patience) that I simply do not possess. 

But, as we have gotten hooked on the show, we have agreed that in the interest of saving money, we'd be foolish not to take advantage of at least some of the coupons that print out at the register during our frequent shopping trips. 

So, this afternoon, we spent about 30 minutes cutting and organizing coupons from the paper and online.  It's a small step, but as a (fairly) newlywed couple wanting to get a new car, buy a house, and start a family, we need to pay closer attention to our budget.

While I don't expect to become the crazy coupon ladies that we see on what is rapidly becoming one of our favorite shows, I'm sure I can learn something from each of them, even if my ultimate goal is only to save some money, rather than build a stockpile that would rival most nuclear fallout shelters!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Heart The Weekends

Weekends are such a magical time, especially for anyone over the age of about 8.  I remember how my friends and I used to look forward to them - we'd have sleepovers, order pizza, stay up late, watch movies, eat junk food - basically all the things we didn't get to do during the week.  

Now, even though we've outgrown sleepovers (at least the kind where we curl up in sleeping bags on someone's family room floor and talk about boys), most of us still look forward to the weekends.  Work, family, kids - they are all we think about during the week, so the weekends grant us the opportunity to sit back, relax, and (hopefully) do things at our own pace.  Want to sleep in?  Go ahead!  Want to make a big elaborate breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon?  Enjoy!  Feel like spending the day in your jammies?  Kudos to you - showering is optional!

I love not having to set my alarm and get up at the butt crack of dawn.  I love that my schedule is (usually) my own.  And, I love that it's a time to unwind, recharge the batteries, and finally focus on me!  Even with things that I "have to do", I get to do them when and if I feel like it.

I know that life won't always be like this - at some point we'll add kids to the mix, and I know that sleeping in will be a thing of the past. Work and life will only get more hectic, so lazing around and relaxing will also be more difficult, but hopefully we'll still be able to enjoy this "at our own pace" feeling.  For now, however, we're going to soak it up!

So, until Sunday evening rolls around, and I begin to pout about how fast the weekend went by, I'm all about relaxation, enjoying some sunshine, and taking advantage of some well deserved time off!

*Happy Weekend*

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Would You Want To Know?

I was only a teenager when my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and, unfortunately, I didn't really make the connection that it would possibly affect me later in life.  My dad is one of four children, so the fact that he has now been diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer's perhaps means that his siblings won the genetic lottery, at least for the time being.

After my dad's appointment with his specialist last week, my mom shared that the doctor had mentioned genetic testing.  While it wouldn't be anything definitive, if my brother and/or I are interested in being tested, he would be willing to set it up for us.

Since the diagnosis last fall, it's been little more than a fleeting thought that perhaps one day, it could happen to me.  Now that it's been thrown out there - I honestly don't know how I feel about the possibility of getting a glimpse at what my future holds.  Especially because of the HUGE disclaimer that comes with it.  There is still so much that is unknown about Alzheimer's, nothing is definite.  You could have the gene for it and never develop the disease, while there are plenty who don't have a family history and yet wind up with it anyway.  So no matter what the results, there would always be a big question mark hanging over them.  

So, the question becomes - would you want to know?  Would you want to know that you either have or don't have certain genetic factors that might possibly lead to developing this terrible disease at some point?  What would be gained by finding out?  Would it change the course of your life?  Is it better to always wonder, or to know, while always second guessing the results?

At this point, I really haven't made up my mind.  Part of me is curious, but the other part of me realizes that it's a bell that you can't un-ring.  I'm being offered a peek into a crystal ball, but if I can't trust the information, what is the point?  Perhaps ignorance is bliss and I'm better off living my life, and jumping off that bridge if/when I come to it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Husband, My Hero

I love my husband more than I can possibly say.  He is so wonderful in so many ways, I can hardly begin to describe them!

I have a difficult unconventional job.  I'm a full time nanny, and when we met, I was living in the home of the family that I work for.  My life revolved (and still kind of does) around work, but rather than run for the hills, Ben accepted it and blended seamlessly into our family.  He's a really good sport about semi-raising kids that aren't ours, and does so many things that would likely drive anyone else crazy.  He comes with me to get them from school, gets them dressed, helps them go potty, plays games, helps with baths and bedtime - you name it, he's probably done it with a smile.  He loves the kids, understands my crazy work hours, and doesn't get upset when I come home completely exhausted.  He just gets it, and by extension, gets me!

Yesterday was a long day for me.  I got to work at 6:00 a.m. and didn't leave until 7:00 p.m.  By the time I got home, I was wiped.  All I wanted to do was crash on the couch.

Thankfully, he had made a yummy chicken and rice casserole and kept it warm until I arrived.  I settled in with a (much needed) glass of wine and my delicious dinner.  He basically pampered me all evening with countless "what can I get you, patoots?".  He even jumped up to get me a 2nd helping, so that I wouldn't have to get up.

When bedtime finally rolled around, I was delighted to find that he had remembered to wash (and dry - which we often forget to do) our sheets - I had mentioned it on my way out the door that morning and completely forgot!

Long story short, Ben is my personal hero!  He's so wonderful, takes such good care of me, and puts up with much more than I wish he had to.  I really don't know what I'd do without him! 

*Love you, patoots*

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fashion Police

Why is it that everywhere I look, I see grown adults wearing cartoon apparel?  Let me elaborate.  I'm not talking about teenagers, families at Disney Land, or folks at a kid's birthday party.  I'm talking about random adults - often seen without children - in malls, restaurants, and grocery stores, donning Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, Daffy Duck (and numerous others) t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, etc. 

I don't understand.

Now, I don't want to insult anyone - I just need answers.  I like Mickey Mouse just as much as the next person, but for whatever reason, I'm not inclined to wear a sweatshirt proudly displaying his face to meet my friends for dinner.  I realize that sometimes you can't find anything else that's clean, you're having a "fat day", or maybe you're sick and can only stand to have on a sweatshirt - there are definitely specific times when any old sweatshirt will do, even the one you bought as a souvenir last summer and never intended to wear again.

Is that what's happening?  Am I just hyper-sensitive to it?  Do I somehow gravitate towards people who are having one of "those" days?  Do they, in turn, look at me and wonder "why the heck would she wear something so boring?"  I'm certainly not one to dish out fashion advice, this is just one style choice that I don't understand.

One thing I will admit that I am guilty proud of is wearing shirts with sports teams.  Between Ben and I, we have multiple Ohio State, University of Utah, and Utah Jazz shirts and sweatshirts taking up space in our closet.  While on a random day I've been know to wear one of them out and about, I usually save them for game days - gotta support the team - or in the evenings at home over my jammies!  Yes, just like everyone else, I have days when only a sweatshirt will suffice (usually if it's cold and/or rainy), so I default to my OSU hoodie (sooo comfy).

Is that the same thing?  Do the cartoon wearing people look at sports wearing people with the same level of confusion?  What about those who exist on a level of fashion that doesn't include sweatshirts?  Are we the odd balls? 

In any case, I simply don't understand the cartoon clothes.  Perhaps I need to just file it under "Things I Don't Get" (right next to the fake "balls" that people hang from the backs of their trucks) and move on. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The "Dirty Thirty"

Birthdays are awesome!  Especially when you're a kid - you get a party, tons of presents, and usually enough cake and ice cream to sink a small ship!

As we slowly grow up, we start to look forward to the "milestone" birthdays.  "I'm 16, I can drive!!!", "I'm 18, I can do whatever I want", "I'm 21, now I can legally buy beer - wanna see my brand new ID?"

Then, somehow, we lose our enthusiasm.  The 20's ramble on, and before we know it we're 25 and hit with the realization that we're MID WAY through the decade we had so looked forward to as teenagers.  Then, as we enter our late 20's, the next milestone looms in the distance, growing ever closer with the inevitable realization of "Holy crap, I'm 30...now what???"

Exactly one month ago, I had just such a realization when I turned the big 3-0, the "Dirty Thirty" as it's been called by numerous friends.  Something about beginning a new decade makes you stand back and take stock of your life.  What have I accomplished?  Am I where I thought I'd be at 30?  Am I too old to go to grad school?  What am I really doing with my life?

Is it possible that the new mid-life crisis hits at 30 instead of 50?

I'm certainly not where I thought I'd be at 30.  Not for lack of motivation or hard work - things just look much different than I imagined they would. 

I can't say that I'm unhappy with where I am, or where I'm going, I'm just still struggling to wrap my brain around the fact that I'm *gulp* 30.  I guess part of me feels like it's all downhill from here - or is the best yet to come?  Either way, I've hit this milestone head on, and it hasn't left me with answers to life's big questions - it's just given me more questions!  Where should we live?  Should we buy a house?  Can we even afford a house?  What do I really want my career to be?  Do I even want a career at all?  When should we start a family?  If we start a family, do I keep working?  If so, what do we do about childcare?  If I stay home to raise babies, will I go nuts?.....and the list goes on.

It's just, now that I'm *double gulp* in my thirties, I feel like I should have more of life figured out.  I somehow thought that magically my life would make sense, because people in their thirties "have it together". 

Apparently not! 

Maybe I'm not the only one!  Maybe everyone who hits 30 has to take a step back to really think about life.  Maybe they all expected their lives to be different, or to have the answers to life's big questions. 

Or...maybe not...maybe it's just me...out there...on my own.....

Either way, "Dirty Thirty", I won't let you intimidate me.  I'll get this whole "life" thing figured out - and I bet what I end up with will be even better than I'd imagined!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

At A Loss

Alzheimer's sucks.  Let me repeat, in case you missed the gravity of what I'm saying...ALZHEIMER'S SUCKS!!!  It's the most unfair, cheating, infuriating, painful, emotionally draining, leave you feeling helpless disease I can think of, and that's just for the family of the Alzheimer's patient!  Unlike cancer, where at least some of the time the patient has a fighting chance, there is basically nothing to do, but watch your husband, wife, father, mother, sister, brother, neighbor, friend, whoever, slowly drift away from you.

My dad (JB) was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer's in November 2010, at the age of 59.  Our family just (and I mean in the last few weeks) decided that it was time to let those around us know about the diagnosis.  We'd done the "grieving on our own" thing, and knew it was time to "come out of the closet", so to speak, to embrace the support and love of our extended family and friends.

While those of us closest to my dad knew (or suspected) that something was wrong long before he was diagnosed, he refused to acknowledge what we were saying when we would voice concerns.  Over time we made excuses for him, put it on a back burner, and hoped that he'd come out from whatever cloud he seemed to be under.  But, alas, when a memory loss specialist confirms your worst fears, it's difficult to keep making excuses and ignore the pink elephant that's taken up permanent residence in the room.

As we've gone through 6 months of trying to adjust to this new reality, we've dealt with it differently.  My husband, brother and I are a daily combination of sad, angry, scared, and frustrated, and yet we want to spend every moment we can with my dad, hoping to suck up as many JB-isms as possible before it's too late. While we can step away, to a certain degree, my blessed mom has been front and center through this whole process.  She notices every little change and misstep, deals with her own feelings of anger and loss, and also deals firsthand with my dad's denial. 

I can't say I blame him - I'd love nothing more than to pretend that everything is fine, but I realize that denial won't help anyone...it will just make things harder to deal with down the road.  We can choose to ignore the fact that during any given conversation he'll ask the same question at least 3 times, that he can't follow a tv program without having to ask "What's happening now?", or that he had to make up a cheat sheet to carry in his wallet with his name, address and phone number on it, but in the end, there comes a point when you just can't ignore it any more.

Meanwhile, JB still doesn't seem to want to admit that anything is wrong.  He continues to make excuses, gets defensive, and walks out of the room when we try to have a discussion about what's happening.  Again, I can't blame him, but as one who has watched the symptoms progress, has listened to my mom in tears because she feels helpless, and has had numerous infuriating conversations where JB makes no sense whatsoever, I am beyond frustrated. 

I know that things are only going to get worse - such is life when you're dealing with Alzheimer's.  And so, I will continue to grieve, continue to support my family as best I can, and continue to wonder, with no small amount of regret and sadness, what the future will hold for us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thankful for Friendship

It's no secret, I've been through my share of challenges over the past several months.  Between my mom's cancer, my dad's Alzheimer's, the passing of 2 grandparents, and an upcoming relocation, needless to say, things have been a bit rocky.  In addition to the fact that I've dealt with all of this while on the opposite end of the country, my plate's been a little full. 

While, at times, the obstacles I've been faced with have seemed insurmountable, somehow, just when I need them, my friends have stepped in and given me the little boost I need to get through. 

I have been truly blessed with a wonderful network of friends from high school, college, and life since, that have surrounded me with love, support, humor, and anything else I've needed to make it through.  While I've been somewhat reliant on email and Facebook to reconnect and keep in touch with those that I'd otherwise have lost contact with, I've embraced any opportunity to interact with people who have influenced my life at one time or another. 

As the years have passed, I've always felt as though I've maintained the same "core" group of friends - I don't know if they know who they are, that I still consider them some of my best friends, or if they even feel the same about me.  I have contact with some more than others, but they have all been incredibly important to me over the years, and have come to my rescue when things have looked dire.  A random phone call, a cheerful text, a kind worded email - they have been there for me and made me realize how blessed I am to have them, in any capacity.

So, to my dear friends, (hopefully you know who you are) I want to just say, thank you.  Thank you for being there, for accepting my friendship, and for offering yours.  (Wow, should I cue the Golden Girls theme song now?).

As I've just been hit once again with an enormous outpouring of support (after the passing of my grandfather) I wanted to be sure to let you all know how much I've appreciated your love and friendship.  I only hope that, if needed, I can be there for you just as you've been there for me.

*My friends are the lemonade in my life*

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Papa

 It's never easy to lose a loved one.  Whether their passing is expected or not, whether they were old or young, they leave a little hole in your heart, one that will never quite be the same.  

Today, there is a hole in my heart.  This morning, my grandfather (the last of my 4 grandparents) passed away.  He wasn't ill, wasn't being hospitalized, he was just old.  It was just his time. 

It seems that with my other 3 grandparents, their passing was the finale in a dramatic chain of events.  Whether due to a fall, progressing Alzheimer's, or simply a failing body, with each of them, we knew that their last days were just that, the last days.  We had time to prepare, we knew it was coming, and we made as much peace with it as one can expect before their bodies finally gave out. 

After enduring the tense moments that we now associate with his predecessors, we had all hoped that Papa's passing would be quick and peaceful.  That he wouldn't linger in a vegetative state, that he wouldn't be hospitalized, or be the victim of an incapacitating fall. 
  As it turns out, he was more than willing to oblige.  There was no emotional build up to the final days, there wasn't even an indication that we were near the end.  It was just, over.  He had slipped away.  A phone call early this morning, the quick realization that he was gone, and we all began to mourn the peaceful passing that we had prayed for. 

Rather than focus on things that I can't control - I wish I'd seen him recently, I wish I could be there to hug my mom, I wish I could be there for the funeral - I'll, instead, use my energy on something more positive and productive.  I will remember him as he was for the bulk of my life - one who gave fierce hugs, who flirted with nurses, who truly loved his children and grandchildren, and someone that I was blessed to know for 30 years!

*In Loving Memory*

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blogging and Seinfeld

Everyone has their own way of winding down in the evenings after a long day.  Some may exercise, go out to dinner, take a shower.  Ben and I watch reruns of Seinfeld.  This is a fairly new routine in our house, but one that we've come to enjoy over the past few months.

Yes, we have other shows that we love - NCIS, Deadliest Catch, Blue Bloods, House (to name a few) when we want something a little more "grown up", but somehow, Seinfeld just lends itself to vegging out.  Even though we've probably seen every episode at least once, something about it is always funny. 

So, the other day, we were sitting in our typical post-workday vegetative state, and it struck me - blogging is just like an episode of Seinfeld!  Laugh if you want, but I think I'm onto something here.  Seinfeld is a show about a bunch of random interactions - a day in the life...  "You'll never believe who I ran into", "Wait until you hear this", "Listen to what just happened to me", etc.  They discuss whatever is happening in their world, analyze it, brag or complain, discuss possible solutions, then (cue exit music), the show is over (bop a dat bee dee bow bow) and in the next episode, they encounter an entirely new set of problems.

Blogging is much the same.  Take a look at life, wait for the inspiration, then write about it.  So much of what I write occurs to me that same day (except for this one...I've been stewing over this since last week).  When it's happening, or fresh in my mind, it's so important, then before I know it, my attention has moved to something else - the next random thought, event, crisis, cause for celebration, or opportunity to stand on my digital soap box and rant. 

The great thing about blogging (and watching Seinfeld) is that you don't need to know the whole history to understand each entry (or episode).  There are reoccurring themes and characters, but in general, each account stands alone as its own thought.  They are a snapshot of an individual experience.

So, as I move ahead with my blogging, I (in the spirit of Seinfeld) welcome the opportunity to explore my day, my interactions, the little things that make my life unique, even if it is, in the end, a blog about nothing!
(Cue exit music)

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Love Affair With Starbucks

I have, according to those close to me, a bit of a Starbucks addiction.  Our flirtation started only a few years ago.  Every so often, I'd require a mid-afternoon pick-me-up at work, so I'd make a coffee run for the few of us who needed it.  I'd meet a friend for coffee from time to time, but that was about the extent of my commitment.  Never predictable in my need for it, I kept a healthy distance from my new "crush". 

Then, I moved to California.  Something about being in a strange place, you look for anything familiar to latch on to.  I first located Target (which is another issue entirely), and many of you know, where there is a Target, there must be a Starbucks close by!

And so, our relationship began to blossom.  If I was bored, or needed something to do, I'd treat myself to a frappuccino.  This seemed to happen more and more frequently.  Then, as I began to make friends, it seems we were always going for coffee on the weekends or on the random week night that we each had nothing to do. 

More recently, our casual relationship became something much more intense.  I'd crave the mid-morning boost that only the frappuccino could offer, and unfortunately, I managed to drag Jack and Molly into the dysfunction with me!  We couldn't drive past a Starbucks without one of them saying "Can we get a mocha?" (which is what they each called Starbucks, because I always get a mocha flavored drink).  They were my little enablers - who can resist the little voice from the back seat calling out "It's Starbucks!"  Apparently, not me!

I began to sense that my dependence was a problem when they started writing "Molly's Mom" (assuming that was me) on my cup instead of asking for my name.  Surely I wasn't frequenting their establishment often enough that they knew Molly's name!  In fact, I was.  I'm ashamed to say, in response to this, I started planning visits to various locations - I wouldn't go to the same place twice in the same week, so to each barista, I was only a semi-frequent patron.  I was well aware of the damage I was doing, not only to my waistline, and sleeping habits (the caffeine wasn't always a good idea), but also to my bank account!  At the end of each month I'd look at my account online, and if I sorted my transactions alphabetically, the number of "Starbucks" charges were staggering.  

So, it was time to cut back.  To begin to draw away from a relationship that I knew, deep down, wasn't good for me.  I gave myself a month - I figured if I couldn't get over my  hang-up in that time, then I was officially hopeless and might as well get a job there, so that at least I'd get some kind of an employee discount!  I allowed myself one Starbucks run per week.  I'd hold out as long as I could, so that when I really needed a fix, I wouldn't feel too guilty indulging. 

Amazingly, it worked!  Once I got over the initial urges, I felt empowered!  My dangerous infatuation had come to an end.  I no longer felt like I'd explode without a frappuccino, and found myself no longer looking forward to it the way I had before.  Life once again made sense, and I was able to live in a world without daily Starbucks fixes.  

Unfortunately, the best intentions are often foiled by a simple twist of fate.  On one of my (much less frequent) visits to Starbucks, I was introduced to "Your Frappuccino, Your Way".  Apparently now you could get it any way you wanted it!  Decaf?  No problem!  Shot of peppermint?  You've got it!  Non Fat?  Bring it on!
And so, the flame of our love was fanned, and I was once again head over heels in love. 

The season of Lent brought a unique challenge to my life, when I decided to give up caffeine.  Fortunately, my dear Starbucks was more than willing to accommodate me by making my beloved frappuccino a decaf upon request.  I've gotten to the point where I don't even want a regular - so I remain, even weeks after Lent ended, caffeine free!

As time has gone by, we've had our ups and downs, but I find that, at last, we are in a good place.  Molly and I still enjoy going to Starbucks (if it fits into our schedule), but nowadays, it's more to do with the fact that we've gotten to know a few of the baristas, and actually enjoy talking with them for the few minutes that it takes to make my grande decaf peppermint mocha frappuccino.  As we tighten our purse strings over the coming months, I have a feeling that I'll find myself cutting back once again, though I'm sure I can survive with the help of those close to me who seem happy enough to provide me with the occasional Starbucks gift card!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Indecisive Diners

I love my husband, Ben, more than I can possibly say.  He is my best friend, my rock, my soul mate.  He makes me laugh and smile every day.  I can't imagine ever finding a more wonderful person.  In almost every way, our personalities compliment each other perfectly.  Except for one huge issue...dinner!

I HATE dinner time in our house!  Yes, I'm using the "H word".  It isn't often my day that stresses me out (well, sometimes it is).  More and more frequently, the anticipation of having to figure out what to do for dinner that night is what gets my blood pressure up!  It is quite possible that Ben and I are the two most indecisive people on the planet when it comes to planning meals.  Neither one of us can make a decision about what to have for dinner! 

I place partial blame on myself.  I don't like to cook.  Yes, I'll do it when I need to, but in general, I don't enjoy it.  I'm certainly not one of those people who looks forward to preparing a meal.  Instead, I worry about having all the ingredients, timing each item so that they're ready when they should be, and cleaning up the mess when we're finished.  My idea of a good time is sitting in a restaurant and having my food brought to me, or even better, opening those glorious take out boxes and letting the aroma of the already prepared food fill the kitchen.  I'm apparently missing the "female cooking gene" (thanks, Mom!).  I have a few relatively simple recipes in my arsenal that I'll make when the mood strikes, but seriously, there are only so many times a month you can stand to eat the same meals over and over! 

I'm not sure that Ben's issues run as deep as mine - honestly, if either of us got the "female cooking gene", it was him!  He would probably be happy to cook 5 nights a week if I asked him to.  That's just the problem, it's not a matter of who will cook, it's WHAT to cook!  Ben is so easy going, he'll generally eat whatever I'm having a hankering for.  But since I often can't decide what I want, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. 

So, until one of us steps up with a resolute "This is what I want for dinner", our afternoons and evenings are spent with an unending dialog of "I don't know, what are YOU hungry for?", "I could eat anything, so you choose", and "It's not just up to me, you have to eat it too!"

Last night, there was just such an exchange at our house.  Ben had set out 2 chicken breasts to thaw before leaving for work, so we were going to grill them, and fix some couscous as a side.  For whatever reason, chicken and couscous just didn't sound good.  I couldn't get a taste for it, no matter how I tried.  So, I made the big mistake...I spoke up.  It seemed innocent enough at the time, but inevitably we were thrown into our typical exchange of frustrated sighs, semi-enthusiastic suggestions, and impatient tones.  After much deliberation, it was decided that Ben would simply go pick up Subway. 

Later, as we sat happily munching on our sandwiches, I began to wonder if this is how we're destined to spend the rest of our marriage - perpetually indecisive about one of the most basic human instincts.  Some couples argue about what to watch on tv, others fight about money, but not us.  The big headache of our marriage will be "What's for dinner?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sunny Afternoons

Summer days are meant to be spent outdoors.  Whether you're at the park, in your backyard, playing on a beach, or splashing in the pool, there's nothing quite like it.  The smells, the breeze, the warmth of the sun on your skin - it all adds up to something magical. 

I think as kids, my brother and I literally spent every minute we could outside.  We played in the yard, rode bikes, spent countless days at the pool, and all with seemingly boundless energy.  Somehow, summer days spent outside equaled freedom.  Not just a freedom from school, but a kind of carefree feeling that you couldn't help but allow to envelop you. 

I miss that.  I miss those days of childhood lightheartedness, before responsibility became such a bit part of my life, before the stress that as an adult, you simply can't escape.  Sure, I still spend time outside - there is nothing better than floating around the pool with a glass of ice water and a good book.  But, somehow it's different now that I'm an adult.  Even in a "relaxed state", my mind is always going, maybe a little slower, but yes, still going.  I'm thinking about what I could be doing with the time that I'm wasting in the pool, worrying about something that I've forgotten to do, or making endless mental lists.  I just can't tune out the way I did as a child!

I watched Jack and Molly play in the pool today.  Jack, as he repeatedly jumped into the deep end, swam to the side, then jumped right back in.  So majestic is the discovery of the cannon ball to a 5 year old!  Molly, splashing around the shallow safety of the steps, giggling as she blew bubbles in the water, lifting her head slowly and inhaling as the smell of roses swept past us.  I realized that to them, life was as big as the pool for those precious minutes.  They didn't have a care in the world.  Nap time was a distant thought, school had long been forgotten, and all that mattered was the fact that we were playing, enjoying the pool and the sunshine together.

As I find myself at the beginning of yet another summer, I am excited by the prospect of getting to spend more days just like we did today.  Sure, there will be days when we simply can't - life will get in the way - but every chance we get, I guarantee we'll be doing what we can to enjoy all that a summer day has to offer!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Battle Won

A little over a year ago, my world was turned upside down when my mom informed me her doctor had found a "large mass" in her abdomen.  I think I'll remember that day for the rest of my life - it was like a slow motion nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.  As she carefully explained the "uncomfortable feeling" that was her first sign of a problem, the slow progression of symptoms and what finally prompted her to go to the doctor, I listened silently, willing myself not to break down.  While I tried to hold it together on the phone with her, and absorb all that she was telling me, I silently emailed my husband with a simple "I need you now!", knowing then that I was going to lose it as soon as I hung up the phone.

Over the course of the next month, multiple blood tests, doctors appointments, and finally surgery to remove the mass, our worst fears were realized.  She had cancer. 

After the surgery I flew to Ohio to accompany my parents to the oncology appointment, where we found out the final prognosis and course of action.  I swallowed my nerves, forced my hands to remain still, and kept my eyes clear and focused.  I couldn't let my mom see how scared I was.  As I sat with her in the office, taking notes and listening to the specifics of what they had found, I watched my mom, my hero, put on the bravest face I can imagine.  We left the doctor with a clear plan for treatment - 6 rounds of chemo therapy.  Our hearts were heavy, we didn't know exactly what to expect, but the doctor was confident, so we put our trust in him and began the painful journey that only those who have been through it themselves can truly understand.  
A few days later, I returned to California, to attempt "long distance support".  After each chemo treatment in the months that followed, I could hear the pain in her voice, and with each conversation, my heart broke a little.  She, along with the rest of us, tried to put on a brave face, to muscle through the discomfort, knowing that at some point it would be over.  I sent cards, flowers, presents - anything I could think of to remind my mom that although I wasn't physically with her, I was there in spirit, thinking of her, praying for her, wishing with every fiber of my being that I could be there to give her a hug, a smile, anything that would help. 

Thankfully, after several long months, she had her last chemo treatment, and the healing process began.  The cancer was gone, and aside from the fact that she was rocking a haircut that would make most Marines jealous, you'd never know what she'd just put her body through. 

Now, flash ahead almost a year.  She is still cancer free, the hair has grown back, and we are getting ready to celebrate her successful battle at the upcoming Relay For Life in Hudson.  We will join countless others in honoring those who are battling, or have battled, the terrible disease that cancer is. 

My husband and I, along with devoted family members, friends and neighbors can't wait to look on as she walks the Survivors Lap at the start of Relay, view luminaria that display her name, and proudly walk countless laps around the High School track for her team.

The 24 hours of Relay promise to be nothing if not emotional.  Remembering what 2010 meant for our family, thanking all those who provided support, prayers and love during an impossible time, and of course celebrating a battle won!

*I love you, Roo!*

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Simpler Time

In my lifetime, there have been many historic events: the Challenger explosion, the Berlin Wall coming down, Desert Storm, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine shooting, Hurricane Katrina, and perhaps most significantly, September 11th.  Such milestones spark conversations, usually beginning with someone asking "Where were you when...?".  Of course, there were also many happy events that were cause for celebration, but somehow the bad times seem to stand out as "historic".  

Today will likely stand out as just such an historic day.  With the announcement of Bin Laden's death comes great relief, a new appreciation for the astounding men and women who fight every day to protect the freedoms that we take for granted, but also a new awareness of the evils of the world.  The news channels are constantly streaming images of crowds celebrating across the country, while simultaneously warning that retribution is certainly on the way and that we cannot let our guard down.

Days like this put into sharp perspective what life was like before.  It forces reflection on what has transpired over the course of time, and reminds us how quickly things can change.  Looking back, some remember it with relative clarity, while others can't picture what that world was like.  

Amazingly, there was a time, not so long ago, when we weren't constantly looking over our shoulders, when we didn't have to remove our shoes at a security checkpoint, when we could turn on the news and not hear about the "War on Terror", when life was just a little simpler, just a tiny bit easier. 

It's funny how two seemingly unrelated things can connect so closely to one another. Yesterday afternoon I happened to find "My Best Friend's Wedding" on one of the movie channels.  Having not seen it for a number of years, I settled in to enjoy.  Early in the movie Julia Roberts arrives in Chicago, and she is seen coming off the plane and being met by her best friend in the terminal.  That brief scene had me thinking back to what it was like when we could actually meet people at the gate as they came off their planes, rather than waiting at the security checkpoint.  It seemed random at the time, but with today's news, and the inevitable reflection that it prompted, the relevance hits me. 

That scene reminded me of a simpler time.  It's not just about terrorism, the inconvenience of security that we've learned to live with, or a threat that we can't see.  It's about having an appreciation for the way things were, whether on a global scale, or simply the way we live day to day, and looking back on it with nostalgia, wishing that life could be like that again.