Saturday, April 25, 2015

U Is for Umbrage #AToZChallenge

I take umbrage to the following things:
  • When my shows get erased on T.V. before I watch them. I have a few select shows that I wait for the perfect time to settle in and just watch! I only watch t.v. certain times of the week. I get my drink, my food, my cuddle blanket and am entertained for an hour or so. It's the best! It's such a let-down when my shows come up missing because they've been erased either accidentally or because they haven't been deemed important.
  • Jackasses driving jacked-up pick-up trucks. They're just plain rude! On two different occasions I've taken severe and direct umbrage with them. One of them rammed into my car and took off, thinking he was going to get away with it. (I chased him down and he paid for my next car). Another time, one thought he was so cool, cutting me off in the fast lane, blowing black smoke in my face and throwing up a rock into my windshield making a giant crack.
  • People who throw me under the bus for doing them favors. There is nothing sleezier than someone who you think is your friend, and then you find out that they don't give a rip about you. As a matter of fact they think nothing of any goodwill you have done for them and will instead use the old "I'll make myself look better by making her look as bad as possible" trick.  Enough said.
  • People who use dog poop bags incorrectly. Dog poop bags are to be thrown away in a trash receptacle once they have been used. You don't fill them up with your dog's excrement and just throw them on the ground. That makes it worse than if you did nothing at all.  At least dog poop is biodegradable!
  • And finally, have you seen the video about the guy dressed up as a pan handler in the streets of  L.A.? Instead of trying to get money, he was trying to give it away. People were taking umbrage to the idea that a beggar was trying to give them money. It made them so insanely mad. They cussed at him, they told him they could buy him, they told him he needed to work to get where they were. Fortunately, there were a couple of people who got his message and acted accordingly.
Everyday we have plenty of things to get angry, offended, stressed, or take umbrage to. But doing so only contributes to our own unhappiness. We (myself included) should choose not to let the little things get us down. Hopefully we can learn to laugh at the little disappointments and insults that inevitably come our way and instead do more to help others. I know I'm not perfect yet, but I'm working on it. What about you? What do you take umbrage to?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T Is For Take Me Out To The Ballgame #AtoZChallenge

Today I am so excited to introduce Alice from Softball Alice. She is a full-time P.E. teacher at the school where I work and a writer as well! She will be doing my T post today!  Stop by her blog and give her some love!
I often find the words of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" running through my mind. 

If you are a baseball fan, you probably get this, if not, I feel you may be missing out. 

 This song is sung at every baseball game played anywhere.  It is as much of a part of the game as the ceremonial first pitch or singing of the National Anthem. 

This tradition, referred to as The Seventh Inning Stretch, has gone on for about a hundred years.  Between the top and bottom of the seventh inning, everybody stops, stretches to loosen up from a few hours of sitting and then sings these famous words: 

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Take me out to the ball game.
Seriously, in my single days, I would have said yes to any man who offered this as a place to take me out.  In fact, that is originally what this song was about.  Katie Casey was a woman who didn't really want to go to a show and she denies a suitor by saying:  "No, I'll tell you want you can do, take me out to the ball game."  The original first and third verse, which were all about this woman who was obsessed with baseball were dropped to the one verse we now sing at games. I love the history of the song, because you could replace Katie Casey with my name!  

Take me out to the Crowd
I am not a fan of crowds, but there is really something special about sitting with a bunch of baseball fans.  We get the passion and love of the game and for a few hours, we become family.

Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
So, I can't eat either of these treats anymore because of an allergy, but seriously, if you haven't enjoyed a Dodger Dog or any hot dog at a ball park, you are missing out.

I don't care if I never get back
Going to a baseball game for me is like a three hour vacation.  All worries and all cares just escape me.  The green grass and manicured field are relaxing to me.  The sun on my skin while sipping a Diet Coke, takes me away to a far off beach.  It's a vacation and I really don't have to even leave the city.  And I could care less if I ever get back to those cares and worries of everyday life.

Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don't win, it's a shame.

I have been to a lot of ball fields.  Each team has it's own traditions and culture and to me that is awesome.  I will usually cheer for the home team because I respect those home traditions and culture but if the Dodgers are the visitor, sorry I'll be cheering for them. (Sorry to the Arizona Diamondbacks two years ago!)

For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, at the old ball game.
The game has not changed since its beginnings in the 1800s.  The history is what makes this game great.  So, don't strike out; get out and enjoy at least one baseball game this year.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S Is For Sweet Treats #AToZChallenge

Today I paid a visit to my friend, Simone. She is from Brazil. and is the best cook ever! Everytime I go to her house she gives me something she has made. So as you can imagine, I go and visit as often as I can! Today was no different. She is getting ready for her daughter's baptism. It is a very special occasion in the LDS church. It is 10 days prior to the event and already she is preparing the food, with some help from her friend, also from Brazil.
Brazilian Sweets Are Delicious!

The children love to help!
Vanilla ready to be rolled in coconut

Yum, tastes like chocolate truffles!

Rolling the balls in organic coconut

Vanilla encased in plum shell
In Brazil they make little balls of sweetness, rolled in coconut. They are delicious! She was kind enough to give me some samples of each kind! She was also kind enough to allow me to take some pictures of the process. Enjoy! Wish I could give you some samples of these wonderful morsels, to pop into your mouth! My favorites? The chocolate ones of course. They resemble truffles!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R Is For Rock Star #AToZChallenge

Today I am so excited to introduce Alice from Softball Alice. She is a full-time P.E. teacher at the school where I work and a writer as well! She will be doing my R post today!

I rock. I am a rock star. No, I do not play the guitar, drums or even sing. In fact, I can rarely keep in the same key when I do sing, but I do one thing extremely well: Rock my one-year old to sleep. 

This is a daily occurrence sometime between 8 and 10pm. I am not one of those parents that has a spot on consistent routine. Sometimes, we are just too busy living so bedtime is later. Sometimes, we are exhausted because of all the living so bedtime is earlier. 

It may not be a constant time everyday but there is a definite routine to prepare for rocking. 

I parent a little boy. Boys are filthy. They see mud and think: "I need to be one with that."  There must be some sort of force field that pulls them toward the dirt and grime. Because of this strong force field, our routine starts with a bath. 

Once the filth is removed, it is time for some light reading. This allows time for the boy to dry and to begin winding down (Boys seem to never stop moving. They are like little wind up toys. They go and go and go until they can't go anymore.)  

Next, we get dressed for bed. Because of my kid's wind up toy ways, I let him watch videos of trains on my phone while I dress him. I first get him diapered (hopefully before any urine has escaped onto me or the furniture), and clothed (it's always footie pajamas because every kid looks cute in footies, and then his feet don't freeze.)

He then watches videos while I get his bottle prepared (Yes, he is close to two and still takes a bottle to sleep. I baby him and that is completely fine with me.)

Eventually, he comes and finds me to request his bottle. This is where I become a rock star. 

This gig doesn't pay much but I think it is worth much more than mosh pit making sounds. I don't get notoriety for this gig either, but I am important to one little person and that is all the fame I need. 

He slowly drifts into complete relaxation and then to sleep.  Sometimes it takes twenty minutes, sometimes only two.  I sit and ignore him until he closes those little eyes, but as soon as he does, I stare and stare.  
Soon, he will be too big for this.  Soon, I won't get these moments.  So for now, I will stare with complete love and adoration.  For now, this is the best gig in the world.   

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q Is For Quiet #AToZChallenge

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment, doing nothing but sitting and looking out the window at children playing, the wind blowing in the trees, or watching the waves in the sea?

I love peace and quiet. I love the house when it is quiet, when I don't hear noises like keyboards tapping, music playing, people talking, water running, footsteps on the floor, washing machines going, etc. As you can imagine that is a very rare occasion. I might get that at 4 a.m. in the morning. But then I also love my sleep, so very limited indeed.

Quiet is a rare commodity anywhere in the civilized world. I specifically remember a post on a blog, where the writer traveled to the Middle East and from there took a two-day camel journey. He warned of the difficulties of camel riding, which is extremely hard and leaves you aching in remote places. But he also said that the nights were so silent, the stars were bright and that it was good for the soul. I can believe it!
The map above shows both the noisiest and quietest places in the United States.
 Some other quiet places in the world are the Hoh Valley in Washington State, Kronostky Nature Reserve in Russia, The Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka.

The quietest place on earth is a lab in Minnesota where quiet is artificially induced. All sound is blocked out. People visiting the lab are actually better off sitting down because sounds made when moving are blocked out, thus making balance difficult. One can hear their own heartbeat, stomach gurgling, even the lungs make noises heard only in complete and utter quiet! The longest anyone has been able to stay in that anechoic chamber is 45 minutes! It goes to show that too much quiet is unnerving.

Some people get unnerved at any kind of quiet at all. And why would that be? I'm not sure, because I'm a lover of the quiet. Maybe it has to do with being an introvert vs. an extrovert. I imagine Lady Gaga to be an extrovert. She once said, "I was very depressed when I was 19...I would go back to my apartment every day and I would just sit there. It was quiet and it was lonely. It was still. It was just my piano and myself. I had a television and I would leave it on all the time just to feel like somebody was hanging out with me."

What do you think? Is quiet something you love? Or do you need some noise to help you feel comfortable?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P Is For Piano #AToZChallenge

One of the things I love to do is play the piano. I started playing when I was young and played off and on through college. Here is a piece called 'The Heart Seeks Pleasure First' by Michael Nyman. Hope you enjoy it!

O Is For Overwhelmed Moms #AToZChallenge

Today I am posting late because I have been overwhelmed with work, life, family, and menial housework. Thank goodness it's the weekend! But that brings into play something that has crossed my mind lately. How do moms do it? I mean, seriously? 

It's been awhile since I have had little ones hovering around me, waiting for me to get out of the shower, and playing with pots and pans in my kitchen. I miss it so much, but more and more, I find that I'm glad that I don't have to deal with little ones anymore. I'm not anticipating on being a grandma anytime soon, so I truly have some time off.

Today I went to the movies with my sister and her 3 boys to see the new movie 'Home' by Dreamworks. Very good, by the way! It has Rhianna and Jennifer Lopez in it! Before we got in the theatre we had some drama and some loud noise and some hitting others in the car. It kind of stressed me out, but my poor sister was mortified. She did well and kept her cool but wow, I wondered how she does it day in and day out. I'm sure it is her love of her kids that keeps her and most moms going!

I was also talking to my friend at work, who is both a full-time teacher and a mom of a toddler. When the baby was born, she took the allotted time off and came back when she was still breastfeeding her son. She would come to school and teach, and during lunch and some of her prep time, she would pump. She found it was so overwhelmingly difficult to do this, the hardest thing she's ever done. But she did it, knowing that if she could get through it, things would eventually calm down and she could always say that she did the best she could possibly do for her son, while working. I give her all the props in the world to have done this. One thing she did say is that she had to sacrifice some things. She wanted to be, first and foremost, a great mom. But she had to sacrifice being a great teacher. She had to be satisfied with being an OK teacher.  I think that is the key to surviving during overwhelming times. She is now back to being an excellent teacher, and a great mom!

We are only physically capable of doing so much. There are only so many hours in the day and only so many units of energy that we can put out. After that, we have to concede that the wall is looming and that we will hit it.

Something that you can do if you're feeling the pressures of motherhood is to realize that these difficult stages, such as the one my sister is going through and the double duty my friend had to go through, are only temporary. They might last only a few months or as long as a year or in extreme cases two, but usually these stages will pass. Take some time to laugh and find the humor in it. If you can hold on, you'll look back and wonder how in the heck you did it! And you will feel happiness and contentment that you persevered! You will be a super mom!

Whoever said that you should enjoy every minute of motherhood was probably not a mom to my kids! I didn't enjoy all of the aspects of being a mom. But I loved many parts of it and still do! Don't feel bad that some of the stages aren't enjoyable for you. Just live through it as gracefully and responsibly as you can. Know that it WILL get better. Some moms love the routine more than others, some moms have been given less temperamental children than others, some moms are more naturally given to being maternal than others. We shouldn't judge each other because each of our circumstances is different!

Be on the lookout for those special moments--that special hug, the words that come out of a child's mouth that can be so insightful, funny or just cute, the antics that enchant you and give you glimpses of a special ability or talent. These are what makes motherhood so special. Don't miss them because you are too bogged down by the routine.

So you're overwhelmed today. Don't be too hard on yourself and live through today, the next day and the next day, being kind to yourself and to your children. You may not be perfect at everything, but you're wonderful at loving your kids!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N Is For Nap! #AToZChallenge

Naps - Needed rejuvenation, horizontal refreshment, brain energy restoration, physical regeneration, children resist them, parents insist on them!

I've been a napper ever since I can remember. My mother was a nap gestapo and as a child I remember sneaking out of my crib when my grandma was baby-sitting me. She might have let me get away with it, but not so with mommy dearest! I was firmly expected to take a nap.

Here is an expert napper!
Sometimes one might feel a little embarrassed to admit that he or she loves to take naps. I think western society, as a whole, is so non-stop and productivity oriented, that a nap is seen as an inefficient use of the day. It may even be regarded as indolent and self-indulgent. (See my post on L is For Lazy) My circadian rhythms demand that I nap. I, like most people I know, go to bed way too late. I usually get 6 hours at night. But sometime during the day, my brain gets a bit foggy, my energy level drops and unless I want to resemble a zombie in an episode of 'Walking Dead', I nap. I must say that I don't drink caffeine of any kind, which is why I have the kind of schedule I do. My natural rhythms kick in easily. Once in awhile I'll drink one of those natural energy shots, if I need to push through something without a nap, which is rare!

Taking a nap increases the alertness of your brain. In fact, I find dividing my day in half, based on my nap time, will make the second half of my day as alert and energetic as the first half!

Taking a nap increases memory retention and decreases burn-out! Instead of feeling like taking a nap is unproductive, know that it's the exact opposite.
Perfect napping corner!
It's a scarey list of consequences for those who deprive themselves of sleep. Cortisol, a stress hormone is released. Too much cortisol contributes to all kind of horrible conditions such as weight gain and specifically abdominal fat, glucose intolerance, weakened immune and muscle systems, it hampers memory and creativity, and limits production of growth hormone and testosterone in the body.
On the contrary, napping will give your body a chance to heal and your brain a chance to rest! 

So pardon me, if you see me slipping away to an unspecified resting place during the middle part of my day. I want to get as much out of my conscious, awake time as I possibly can. And as far as I can tell, one of the best things I can do is nap!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M Is For Money #AToZChallenge

The coins spill out over the table, they clink loudly, glinting under the fluorescent lights in the classroom. The boy knows the drill. Separate the quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies into groups. Start with the largest, working down to the pennies. This time it's different though. I walk away. No help will be given today. He has been working practically all school year to be able to do this. 

Some days have been better than others. Shifting from dimes to nickels seems to be particularly hard. He just can't seem to get it. But each day we work on it, each day using the same coins, that together total about $6.50. Sometimes he says, "I'm sorry, I'm such an idiot." I tell him, "No you're not! Don't apologize.You're going to get this!" And we start again.
The boy is 18, and has been with us for 3 school years. I have come to be so fond of him. I want the best for him. Last year it seemed as if he was never going to have the money-counting skill. It was very frustrating for most of the people who worked with him. They just didn't have the patience or time to go over and over and over a skill or format, so that he would finally understand something. 

This year has been different. Maybe it's because he is maturing and has more patience at working on things. Maybe it's because I was determined that yes, we could work with money all year. We were given this time, and it would be used well. 
So the coins cascade out again and I walk away. When I come back, he has written an amount on some paper. I count the coins, wondering if it will be right this time. My eyes widen with delight. It's correct! Is this a fluke? Let's do it again. I put more coins on the table. This time the amount will be bigger. I leave again. 10 minutes later, he has written another total on the paper. Again, I am pleased to see the total is correct! "Good job! Let's do this again." So more coins are put on the table, and I mix up the coins that have already been organized. He willingly starts his task. Once again he is right! I am so ecstatic! 

If the boy learns how to count money, without help from anyone, he will have a skill set that he can use throughout his life. It will give him the self-confidence to help him know that he's not the idiot that he thought he was.

The 4th try didn't go so well. He was off by a dollar and some cents. But by that time the piles of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies had grown significantly. Today was a major milestone for money. We will have several more weeks before school is done to work on his skill. Then he will move on to another placement. Maybe a job training site, or a group work experience. But whatever he does, he will always be able to count money!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L Is For Lazy #AToZChallenge

 We all have different energy levels based on heredity, diet and core belief systems. But deep down, you know ya'll lazy!

This post wasn't a stretch for me to think of. Why? Because I too am a Slaktavist! Yes, I admit, sometimes I am lazy. But lazy compared to what? My lazy could be someone else's Type A mode. My Type A Mode is someone else's snooze button.

Being lazy and admitting it can be a good thing. It can cause you to use creativity to make sure that your laziness is preserved.  Bill Gates said, "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it!" 

One of the smartest men I have known and despised was an expert at laziness. He combined laziness with being cheap. He was a chiropractor, but he was too lazy and cheap to rent out an office. He operated out of his home so he wouldn't have to get up any earlier than necessary. He was fairly good-looking and knew how to schmooze. He charmed quite a few ladies by taking them out to a dinner that he paid half price for, because he always used coupons. If the date went well, he asked them to come to his home afterwards. When they came, he had them do him favors like do his books, his laundry, or his cleaning, etc. He had them bring him food, cook for him, and even had them use their cars to take him places. It was amazing. When the women found out they were being used to do things he simply didn't want to do, they would usually leave in disgust. That was OK with him, he had a few on the string, waiting in the wings. I had to sit back and admire it on one level. It really was efficient to use as little work as possible to get all your menial chores done, using as little money as possible. On another level, it was funny to see him work it, knowing his end goal, and on yet another level, it was pretty sick! I pity the poor woman who ended up with him. Or maybe he never made it that far! I thought I saw him the other day. He was alone.

Check out these 10 laws of Lazy!
Even Ronald Reagan had this to say: "It's true that hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance?"

What say ye? Is laziness something that you aspire to? Or is it already an achievement?