Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Music Blog

Today's topic requests your all-time cringe-worthy bubblegum pop songs. These are the songs that make teen sensations famous instantly and/or are formulaic and syrupy sweet but have an undeniable beat and catch that make you tap your foot and sing along. Each generation can claim numerous bubblegum pop hits and, like them or lump them, those types of songs are here to stay. So leave your selections of the teeny bopper, sickly sweet, danceable tunes below.

Thank you to all of my readers, commenters, lurkers, and friends who continuously support my efforts here. The end of seven weeks of daily blogs have left me invigorated and motivated to continue this odyssey. I hope you will all stay along for the ride! My goal for the upcoming weeks is to get more audience involvement in the form of interactive blogs like this one. Your ideas, opinions, and stories matter to me, too. I will continue to write from the heart, candidly, and appreciate you all who come back each day to read my ramblings.

Wishing you a fabulous weekend, a very Happy Halloween, a Happy, Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband who I love passionately, and a invitation to return here on Monday to start the week with me.

Best,
Chief 187

P.S. Don't forget to leave those selections below and, for an epic topic for the FMB, log on to http://rowdy.com.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Hoopla!

Halloween is an extremely big deal in our family. Not only do we have children who adore the cute side of the holiday - decorating, dressing up, and Trick-or-Treating - my husband has a birthday to celebrate! It is quite a festive time in our home and we try to play it up to the nines! With most holidays we observe traditions and Halloween is no exception.
Our Halloween traditions would not be complete without the aforementioned decorations, all "cute" because my children are young and can only stomach low intensity Halloween motifs. We read Halloween stories, again, mild, child-friendly stories with adored characters. And, without a doubt, we watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown several times during the season because we own it on DVD and we are hardcore Peanuts fans! Attending the Cub Scout's Pack Meeting Halloween party is also a yearly activity we attend. Watching our oldest son in his Halloween parade at school has been a joyous tradition, but this is the last year for us to enjoy that as he moves to another school and will be deemed too old. A day or two before Halloween we carve faces into our pumpkins and make Jack O' Lanterns and I roast the pumpkin seeds to perfection. Seriously, I do. They are like crack to my husband! Finally, we always get together with our dear friends and Trick-or-Treat in their neighborhood and end at their home for a celebratory dinner and birthday cake. These events are tame but they are dear to us and will certainly morph once our children start to grow up. Until then I am holding on to the innocent wide-eyed, anticipatory excitement that is like electricity in our home!
This year our traditions have grown to include listening to "The Monster Mash" ad nauseam and watching the video of the same name on Youtube performed by Lego minifigures! It is hilarious and inspires Halloween creativity in my children.
What are your Halloween traditions? Is it an annual event to throw a costume together the night before the big day? Is buying the candy, eating it long before October 31st and having to go out and forage for more a tradition? Do you run movie marathons of the scariest movies you can tolerate in an effort to get your adrenaline pumping? Do you go on a haunted hay ride each year? Do you have an eery playlist you delight? Do you find the creepiest Haunted House to visit? What makes your Halloween fun, special, and memorable. Surely we cannot be the only family who revels in this holiday that Americans have raised to epic proportions! Looking forward to reading your responses - ALL responses!
Happy Halloween!



Child #2 as Batman

Child #1 as Batman

Lobster and Clarified Butter 

The Batmen

The 187 Family
This year I went as a Lobster (notice the green T I wore to replicate the green 'gunk' inside the lobster!) and my daughter was "clarified butter". It's funny, trust me!! The "witch" is my good friend and co-Den Leader in Scouts.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NASCAR

I came to blogging through the NASCAR world. Many of my friends who knew me before 1990 would never guess I was a NASCAR fan and many who have known me since 2007 would never guess I wasn't one! Sports were never a must-see for me on television; I preferred family situation comedies, one hour dramas, and, eventually, watching live home shopping television (QVC). Growing up I distinctly remember my father watching The Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons as he waited to get ready for his evening out with my mother for their weekly date nights. Although he watched whatever they broadcast he would become adamant about not leaving while a racing segment was aired. I also remember the Daytona 500 was on each February and my father had himself glued to the set for the entire event. If made no difference in my life except I couldn't watch my programs at those times and I always knew who Richard Petty was.
My father, an avid car enthusiast and race fan, was also a race car driver. In the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA), the same club my husband currently drives, my father has raced for over thirty years with myriad vintage cars that delight him. From Lime Rock, Connecticut to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix he has showcased his cars, run the good race, and brought home the admiration and love of the crowds. Never wanting or portending to be the fastest, my father motors around and races well, puts on a great show, and grapples good-naturedly with his 'competition' on the course.
When Days of Thunder premiered the summer before I moved to Virginia with my husband, my father took me. He was thrilled a racing movie was out and he was not going to miss it! Not knowing anything about NASCAR I was tickled to be asked to attend, but ignorant to the topic. From the opening of the movie to the final sequences I was captivated by the world exposed in the movie. Only later would I come to find out what a "Hollywoodized" version of NASCAR and its season I was shown, but I loved it all the same. Once living in Virginia my husband decided that if he was going to live smack dab in the middle of NASCAR Nation he was going to check the sport out. Tuning in to the last race of the season ender for the 1990 Championship we listened to the commentator explain that driver Mark Martin was the current points leader. A driver named Dale Earnhardt had to lead the most laps and win the race to win the Winston Cup (that's what it was called back then). Loving an underdog to root for my husband and I cheered Dale Earnhardt to victory! We were elated when Dale found himself not only in Victory Lane but also hoisting the Winston Cup over his head. From that point on we were hooked. In the off season my husband learned everything he could about NASCAR. When the 1991 Daytona 500 aired he was a much more knowledgeable and sophisticated fan. I was most interested in the pre and post race interviews.
NASCAR is a sport. NASCAR is entertainment. NASCAR is racing. NASCAR if family. What NASCAR has that other sports do not is a face. Yes, it is a team sport, but the drivers, crew chiefs, car owners, and families all have a face in the sport. Family means a great deal in NASCAR and that is brought to light immediately.
First, there are several generations represented in NASCAR. Knowing Richard Petty's name I was excited to see that his son, Kyle, was also in the field, and at that time winning races. We cheered Kyle Petty and were relieved when he chose to stay the course in NASCAR instead of switch careers and become a Country singer! We mourned when the Petty's lost Kyle's son, Adam, as did the rest of NASCAR. We mourned, too, when the sport lost Neil Bonnet, Clifford Allison, Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, and Dale Earnhardt. We watched a tight-knit family encircle and collectively mourn; competitors on the race course were hugging, openly crying, and finding comfort in one another. This was a small group of people who live their lives in much the same way; whose jobs revolve around racing and entertaining the masses. They live to serve us, the fans. And the NASCAR fans are the most loyal, vocal, and dedicated.
NASCAR charities, The Victory Junction Gang, the Kyle Busch Foundation, and myriad others raise money for children, the ill, and and community improvements. Each driver seems to have his own foundation and they all seem active in other nationally recognized organizations like the Make-a-Wish Foundation. NASCAR fans are exposed to the marriages, births, divorces, and deaths of their NASCAR idols. In football, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc. a few key players may get singled out and the media exposes their personal business, but in NASCAR everyone is accessible. Again, the fan feels a kinship to his/her favorite driver(s).
After the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, I found it nearly impossible to continue watching the sport I had once enjoyed. My husband was still a huge fan and had taken to root for most of the field as he admired them all for their racing prowess. We started to grow apart in this area, which is huge because NASCAR's season is inordinately long.
Around 2005 my husband bought himself a Christmas present on Ebay, an iPod. He downloaded his enormous compact disc collection onto it (it took days) and began to research subscribing to podcasts. In addition to the news podcasts he wanted, my husband looked for NASCAR podcasts to feed his lust for daily NASCAR information. This is when Rowdy came into his life. Rowdy is a NASCAR podcast dedicated to reporting the NASCAR news of the day from the perspective of NASCAR fans. The podcast was informative but also extremely funny and entertaining. By the end of 2006 I would listen to parts of the program.
In 2007 after the airing of the Daytona 500 I noticed my husband had been taking notes on a yellow legal pad. After the race he logged on to his computer and started typing. "What are you doing?" I inquired. "Blogging" was his reply. What?! I was the writer! He explained that his favorite NASCAR podcast was launching a social networking fan site and they had asked their listenership to post blogs about the races. Being a stalwart my husband, known from that point on as Racer 187, heeded the call and began blogging about races, racing, and a lot of technical information I still don't understand. Within a few months, after watching him gain a readership (mostly attractive women), I had developed a relationship with NASCAR again. Commenting about incidents in the Coca Cola 600 from Charlotte post race my husband said, "Alright, that's it, don't just tell me, blog it on Rowdy!". He set me up an account that minute and my life as a blogger, and as Chief 187, the name my husband created for me, began.
Since that night I have posted over 450 blogs at Rowdy. Many of them are about NASCAR and that world, but I found my voice and began blogging about other topics as well. Those topics netted me a loyal readership and led me to this site today.
Without NASCAR there would be no Chief 187. Without NASCAR my husband and I may have drifted so far apart we would have lost each other forever. Without NASCAR there would be no Rowdy, my first online home. Without NASCAR I wouldn't have the amazing online and offline friends that I've made. Without NASCAR there would be no Chief 187 Chatter. Thank God for NASCAR!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Perseverance

"When at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Like Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise I do not believe in the no-win scenario. I may not excel at all the things I try, - let's face it, who does? - but if it is important to me I never give up. I play to win! And although my life is littered with the sports, activities, and pursuits I did abandon, it has a strong foundation built on the successes I achieved.
My biggest success, the one hardest fought and most revered, is my relationship with my husband. From the moment we knew ours was a true love as young teenagers we had to combat the prejudices of others who felt it could not be; it must be "puppy love". We were not taken seriously in our commitment to one another but stayed devoted to one another and, with time, were able to start our lives together at a very young age. Over the years our tenacity was tested, our relationship was put through the wringer, and our mettle was questioned. There were times each of us felt harangued, frustrated, lost, and depleted, yet the one thing we knew we had was a deep love for one another. We both fought hard to save the relationship, and still do. Marriage is work. When the two people stop working it is not destined to survive. We are over-achievers in this category.
Other areas in my life required perseverance as well. My heart was set on attending college at the same school as my husband. I fought hard to attend, graduated a year early to follow him, and even had a glowing letter of recommendation from an alumni who was a financial contributor to the school. My grades were great and my S.A.T scores were okay. Well, the school felt that my lack of fourth year courses at the high school level and my mediocre S.A.T numbers were enough to keep me OUT of their hallowed hallways. I was devastated. But, with the guidance of my mother, I found a school near that other one and applied. They took me gladly and offered me money to attend to boot! In perseverance learning when to take an alternate route is also important. That school was a better fit for my chosen career path and my personality and tender age.
As a teacher it took me a time to find regular contractual employment. I was getting a lot of work, but most of it was as a substitute, long-term sub, or in part-time positions. But I never gave up and, when one door closed in a school, I began working in another. Eventually I was awarded a contract, a full time schedule, benefits, and a career. It was ideal; I adored teaching, and I excelled at it. But then the next struggle came my way.
In the summer of 2001 my husband and I decided that after 8 1/2 years of marriage we were ready to start having a family. Once a couple makes this decision they usually are impatient to wait for it to happen; they want to get pregnant 'yesterday'! After a couple months of trying and failing September 11th occurred and life went tilt. We mourned with the country and prayed for relief. Our messages were clear from all in charge - live your life with normalcy. With renewed vigor and some helpful advice we resumed our quest, and within a couple of months was rewarded with a "positive" read on the pregnancy test! The following summer I finished the last school year I'd teach and started my path on the finest vocation I've ever had, motherhood.
Now I am at a crossroads again. I've written of my involvement with Karate. I have been on a self-imposed hiatus due to my daughter, trying to put her needs ahead of mine. I tried to return too early last spring and found the entire process undesirable and thus stopped again. But now she is older, not as dependent on me. This is the time to make my next move on the path to wellness, health, and self-esteem; Karate has afforded me this in the past and is ripe to deliver the same if I put the time and effort. Tonight I suit up and re-enter the dojo as a student-in-training. It is unbelievably difficult to wrest myself away from my home life in the evening. But I know I must do this for me and to show my children that quitting nor failing is an option. Karate is a lifelong journey, but one that you have to participate to reap the rewards.
In all parts of life decisions are made that affect the whole. They may be life altering or they may be minor, but keeping true to oneself and putting the good fight forth is the only way to preserver. Life is not just about surviving, it's about getting through the hurdles a stronger more knowledgeable person.  I'm trying to teach my children: adopt a "can do" attitude and behold all that can be accomplished!
Wish me luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grandpa

With all of the blessings in my life there was one thing I was missing as a child, a grandpa. Both of my grandfathers passed before I was old enough to have any memories of them. Growing up I was usually quite weary of older men as I had no point of reference in my own life of what role a grandfather played. Even the Santa Claus at the mall scared me much into my older childhood because I could not readily identify with a nice old grandfatherly type of character they (at the mall) were trying to present. But that all changed when I met my husband. When we met I was fourteen and still an impressionable child in many ways. With my husband came a family compete with a set of granparents - Grandma and Granpa. I met them at Christmas the first year I knew my husband and instantly liked the two of them. And for the first time my idea of what a grandfather should be was brought to life in the best of ways.
Over the first years of dating my husband and I had lovely opportunities to get to know his grandparents even though they lived in Iowa and we in New Jersey. Theirs was a tight knit family who made sure to see each other on most holidays and other times throughout the year. Whenever the grandparents came to New Jersey I was around to see them and, by the time I graduated high school, I was included to join the family on a visit back to Iowa! I was in awe of the relationship I witnessed in these two mid-westerners; respectful and pleasant, united and loving, supportive and kind to one another and the true heads of the family. And I always felt I was a welcomed addition to their family despite my age or background.
My husband and I married at young ages for our generation and his grandparents travelled to Virginia where we were living to witness the event. They were overjoyed to see their oldest grandchild marry and were equally thrilled to know it was to me he chose as his bride. They were generous in spirit and in material gifts. We continued to see these wonderful people throughout the years for many occasions just like my husband did while he was growing up. We even packed up our children, then just our two sons, my husband, and a pregnant me to head back to Iowa last summer to celebrate Grandma's 90th birthday celebration. Our visit was heralded as it had been far too many years since we had been back to their home. The party was fantastic and we were so glad we went. Within three months Grandma fell ill and died, two weeks after our daughter was born.
Grandpa was devastated. We were all saddened and affected. But Grandpa lost his wife, his partner, his teammate. In the nearly twenty-three years I had known this couple I saw the deepest most cherished connection two people can share. Grandpa never saw any flaws in his wife; she was as near a perfect a human as they came in his opinion. She sat on the pedestal that he worshipped. She was the sun rising and setting. When Grandma passed part of Grandpa went with her. That is not to say that Grandpa gave up his will to live, quite the contrary. On the heels of her passing Grandpa, a wise man with enormous business acumen and a unshakable work ethic, took on the Herculean task of settling his wife's estate. With the help of his two daughters, their only children, he tirelessly set into motion the necessary tasks associated with the passing of one's spouse. He also steadfastly refused to move from their home in Iowa. Within six weeks Grandpa journeyed to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with us and his newest great-grandchild, our daughter, just as he had planned to do with his bride. At times he displayed the raw emotions of his loss, but was also able to laugh with unbridled joy when his three grandchildren inspired the levity. In the spring we all gathered in Florida where Grandma and Grandpa had rented for many years a condo to enjoy a few weeks of warmth at the end of a long Iowa winter. We celebrated Grandpa's 90th birthday with a smaller more intimate party. He was grateful but still quick to cry; he was always a man who wore his heart on his sleeve and unashamed to show true emotions, something his wife used to gently mock him. His tears that week were a combination of grief for his lost wife and an overwhelmed appreciation for all of the gifts God bestowed upon him with two daughters, three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and another grand on the way. He spoke of being lonely but also wanting to spend more quality time with his family. Grandpa was not going to stop living; he was alive and glad to be so!
This week is the first anniversary of the passing of Grandma. Grandpa is facing huge change; he's trying to sell his home, some other properties, and tie up loose ends in Iowa. He has decided that eventually moving into an assisted living environment closer to his daughters is the right choice for him. He is in no great rush, but he is taking the necessary steps to begin the process of moving. During the past year Grandpa has travelled several times to visit his extended family. He is soaking in the energies of his great-grandchildren. I am anxiously awaiting his return this year for Christmas. His addition to our celebration will bring depth and joy to our family reunion.
When I married my husband I married into his family. I added a second set of parents, a little brother, an aunt, uncle, and cousin, and a built-in set of grandparents. I was honored with observing the grandparents' marriage in all of its glory. She was strong, opinionated, domineering, and still loving and supportive. He was always kind, loving, interested, and ever-present. They held hands, laughed at the same things, gushed over their grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren in the same way. What I remember about Grandpa is he is very slow to anger and quick to resolution. He does not carry a grudge nor does he stew. He holds secrets to life that I am anxious to learn as he has so much to teach. When I married my husband I gained a Grandpa and I got the very best example of what a Grandpa can be in this world. I love you Grandpa and am so proud to be a member of your family. My children adore Great-Grandpa and my oldest has stated that when he grows up he is going to live in "this house with my best friend Thomas and my Great-Grandpa!" Is there any higher compliment? I hope they'll let me live there, too!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Music Blog

I've experienced an influx of readers this week in large part due to the Reunion blogs I posted. Thank you to all who read and commented this week, especially those who didn't attend high school with me, and those of you who read some archived blogs. If you are new to this format Friday is a great day to hang around. Friday Music Blogs (FMB) are interactive and are reliant on reader responses. I throw out a musical topic and the reader responds with his/her favorite music, songs, albums, artists, or pieces to fit the topic. There are no right or wrong answers so please leave your selections below!

Today's topic centers around the five (or ten or twenty, etc.) pieces of music that solidified you as a music fan. These works can range from your earliest memories of children's music to your first experience with rock, country, metal, show tunes, or classical music. The music can be spread out over your lifetime, but list each and every song that has a grip on you and made you the music lover you are today.

If you find yourself addicted to the FMB I post a second completely different topic at my other home, http://www.Rowdy.com. It is a NASCAR social networking site and it is a raucous place to hang out. You need not be a NASCAR fan to join, it is free, and I showcase more of my writing, and my FMB, there. Check it out. But don't forget to make this site part of your weekday rituals.

Have a great weekend everybody and thank you so much for your continued support!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Never Too Early

We are still more than a week away from Halloween and Christmas decorations are creeping into the stores. Some find this a total outrage and grump that the seasons are being rushed. I must admit, I am not one of them. I adore the Christmas season and, like Charles Dickens urged us in his novella A Christmas Carol, I keep Christmas in my heart the whole year through. I know that my local WalMart is not interested in the 'true meaning of Christmas', they are trying to squeeze money out of my tight change purse in this god-forsaken economy, but I choose to find goodness where I can. And, strangely enough, seeing a Santa Claus figure, jewel-toned ornaments, and a fuzzy stocking just makes me feel warm and peaceful all over.
Here's some insight. When I was a child the Christmas tree went up approximately a week after Thanksgiving. There was an excitement surrounding the treasures unboxed from the basement. Precious baubles that adorned our tree each year were unearthed from newspaper and paper towels. A glass rendition of a snowman with felt hat, scarf, and mittens was placed lovingly on the table in the family room. A knitted Santa Claus was laid gingerly on the sofa. The stockings were seriously hung by the chimney with care. And, when it was all done and the lights were plugged in I sat in front of the spectacular tree and marveled. I had never seen anything more beautiful! Each day I'd run home from school and plop myself down on the floor in front of the tree to become mesmerized by its glow. By New Year's Day the tree and all of its majestic glory were reboxed and sent back into storage, along with a little piece of my joy.
When I moved in to an apartment with my husband I was excited by the life we were about to embark. We could start traditions and control the whens and wheres. When our first October was shared in our home we decided we needed a tree (yes folks, I am the artificial tree type). With little money and high hopes we went to our local WalMart in 1990 in Salem, Virginia and were pleased to find an aisle of Christmas trees and decorations. We set to filling our cart, modestly. Back then a dollar bought a lot more so we were able to buy a lovely assortment of adornments for our new tree. We arrived home agreeing to set up our purchases "just to take our first picture Christmas cards" for that year. We assembled the tree, positioned the limbs, strung the lights, and hung the ornaments just so. We dressed in Christmas finery, set up the tripod, took a roll of film (no digital cameras back then), and felt satisfied we'd have a perfect Christmas card. Then my husband said, "Okay, let's take this all down." I wanted to agree. I tried to, but I just couldn't. I felt a lump in my throat, a tear sting my eye, and a piercing of my heart. I just couldn't put the tree down - it made me too happy. So, two weeks before my husband's Halloween birthday in 1990 we had our tree up for Christmas. Being the good sport he is my husband relented and even enjoyed our own private Christmas scene. That was the only year we ever decorated so early - or kept the tree up as long (it didn't get taken down until late January and even that left me an emotional mess). My husband calmly put in the request to not put our tree up until at least after his birthday. I agreed whole-heartedly. For the next few years we did the decorating before Thanksgiving, but I finally came to my senses and chose Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, for our traditional day of decorating for Christmas. And that tradition still holds today.
As a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament collector, something I've been since 1994, I revel in the Premiere weekend in July. Again, there are those who grumble that it is far too early to see Christmas in the malls, but I counter that collectors need to buy a little at a time to secure their treasures for the year. These ornaments are expensive, but they are also so well made! I cannot tell you what toys my children received last year, or any year for that matter, but I can tell you that they get so excited to see those ornaments come out of storage each year. They each have their own and those ornaments showcase milestones, divulge their interests from that year, and show their individual personalities. We have some with lights and sound and others that play familiar music like "Linus and Lucy" from the Charlie Brown specials. The children all respond to these fanciful delights that hang on our tree and are proud of their collections!
I don't condone rushing the seasons. I enjoy each and every day I am blessed. But, in the every day bustle of life, when nerves get frayed, people disappoint, and rudeness runs rampant, I like to see Christmas out of the blue to remind me that I can show good will towards Man. I try to remember all of the lessons Scrooge was taught on that one fateful Christmas Eve. Maybe I'm too corny. Maybe I'm not entirely in touch with reality. But I know that I still get that warm, peaceful, and serene feeling when I see a lit Christmas tree. I know that when I'm alone in the car in September I blast the Christmas Favorites playlist on my iPod because it makes me happy and joyful! I look forward to the rest of the world to catch Christmas fever like when the local radio stations turn all Christmas music, but I can fill the gaps in the meantime. I say long live Christmas the whole year through. I say become a Santa Claus throughout the year and give secret gifts to those who need more than you in months other than December.
Where do you fall in this debate? Is Christmas Season only the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Day? Do you cringe when the Christmas trees pop up in the mall before Halloween? Are you incensed when you hear Christmas music on the radio before Turkey Day? Or, like me, do you welcome each and every sign that Christmas is state of mind, not a season? Please share your thoughts about this!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Courting

Fresh off a night of getting dressed up, wearing perfume, hiring a sitter, and going out for hours with my husband, I wonder what happened to courting. We've been married a long time - eighteen years this January - and together as a couple for twenty four years. We love each other and although we never claimed to be perfect, we strive to work at our marriage including making the marriage a priority. With three children, full time work for my husband and his working on a Master's, writing, Cub Scout Den Leadership and Class Mom for me, plus all we do to run a household, there isn't a lot of time to be "us". We believe "us" is worth making time.
Recently at my 20th High School Reunion we ran into a lot of people who were divorced. Outside of that arena, in my everyday life, I am running into the same epidemic. I am not categorically against divorce, in cases of abuse (any kind) I can see the necessity, but for most couples who claim to have 'grown apart' I can't help but wonder if those couples had tried courting one another they might still be married.
Courting, in my definition, is to woo. We want to gain the favors or affection of someone so we woo them. Courting may sound old fashioned, but that's what most of us hold on to in memories of new love or infatuation. We want to be told how beautiful, sensuous, exotic, erotic, extraordinary, sexy, funny, buff, handsome, intelligent we are. We want to know our affections are matched by the one we feel affection. In new love/infatuation this behavior is usually present. Whether it be from fifty years ago with a phone call and a handwritten note, or now with a text and an email, courting has and still occurs. But I counter courting shouldn't just be for those at the onset of love. The desire to be desired and valued does not end when one takes vows, makes a commitment, or starts a family. I'd say the desire intensifies to want to feel that way, yet many abandon courting with a sigh of relief stating, "Thank God I found you so I don't have to do that stuff anymore." I agree that it is marvelously wonderful to know that my husband will be my forever date for New Year's Eve, that he can see me sick, without make up, and in my ratty sweats and still find me beautiful, but we both know it is important to put effort into keeping ourselves fit, interesting, and interested as well as attractive. Because I've found, quite frankly, if it doesn't happen within the marriage it will happen outside of the marriage.
I look forward to date nights. In this economy they are far too rare because finding the money to pay for a sitter for three children and then going out is usually cost prohibitive, but we used to carve time out to date once a month (sans children). In the last year we had a new baby making the total three children in our home. Now that the little one is past the one year mark it makes it easier for us to find the time to go out, but we simply need to save our pennies. Do we give up on courting one another? Absolutely not! First, we stay connected, a huge part of courting, through the internet. Unlike some I've spoken to in the past who refuse to entertain "friending" their spouses on Facebook, my husband and I use it to communicate and flirt! I wouldn't social network without my husband - he's the one I want to network socially! Secondly, if dating is too expensive to do outside the home frequently, then put the children to bed at a decent hour and have a date at home. The important part of dating in my opinion is dolling yourself up, giving your full undivided attention to your date, and becoming intimate. Intimate is a loaded word and all definitions would apply for date night. Sometimes being intimate is simply being able to talk about fears and not worrying about being judged but finding unconditional love and support. Sometimes it means the healing power of touch (read that blog in my archives) or enjoying the art of the kiss (another one to read from my catalogue). And sometimes it means getting lucky!
Jobs are stressful, children are needy, houses need repairing, bills are ever present, and courting takes work. But I find the most reward and joy putting effort into my love life while responding to the crisis at hand on any given day. Of course I find raising my children richly rewarding, take pride in my home, and adore my career path, but without someone to share it with and a romantic life to speak, it wouldn't be as great. So, I am a proponent of wooing/courting for all people - singles and married alike. And maybe if we could remember to put our relationships with our 'significant other' first and continuously court one another, perhaps we'd be happier.
I've got to end here, I'm off to court my husband...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Reunion Part III

Whoever said you cannot go home again was wrong, at least in my case. Twenty three years had passed since I'd seen my classmates; their lives continued without me. Friendships had formed, marriages had occurred, children were born, and, for some, divorces were finalized. Careers took varied paths, geography separated many while others stayed in the same town. And all the while I was unaware, unaffected, and really, I suppose, uninterested. That was until Facebook. Once I had a taste of these former friendships I became dedicated to resurrecting them. I was on a quest to reconnect with childhood friends who "knew me when" so I could reconnect with a part of myself I had neglected for years. When I arrived at the Class of 1990 Montville Township High School Reunion I was bestowed innumerable gifts that will be forever etched in my memories and my heart.
Just because I feel compelled I'll begin with two facts that are tangential to my experiences at the Reunion. First, I mentioned I had been polling several friends as to what color dress I should wear to this function. Those I canvased were helpful in that they all held strong opinions. My choices were between a great little black dress that was a workhorse in my closet or a little red dress that spiced up my closet. The black number was proposed as the "right choice" by those who understand its importance as an appropriate pick no matter what the event; a slimming, sophisticated, sexy candidate that would keep me just under the radar. Others insisted the red dress because it would herald my arrival and I would not be forgotten. Black I was told always looked good, but red would make me look better in pictures and help me to stand out. I was still on the fence until my husband's vote was counted last. I cannot tell you what he said verbatim, but I can tell you I wore the red dress. Second, I am a woman whose daily life and extracurricular social life do not require the use of high heels. I am not against them and I find them very sexy and attractive, but I do not do them justice. I am my husband's height, and when I wear heels my feet hurt, period. So, although I brought the high heels that complemented my dress in a bag in the car, I left them there and instead rocked a "nude-colored" pair of Sketcher Mary Janes with rhinestones on the straps. I figured if all anyone noticed about me was my choice of footwear then we didn't need to reconnect anyway. I can tell you no one mentioned my shoes and I was comfortable the entire night!
The hostess of our event was classmate Lauren who was always a dynamo in my memory. She served in student government representing our class, had a fantastic sense of humor, and had the BEST hair in the 1980s, hair that you look back on and not cringe but compliment by saying how timeless it was. Lauren attended the 10th year Reunion with scant few others and was mortified by how poorly attended it was. She decided to take the bull by the horns and do a bang up job for the 20th. Mission accomplished, Lauren. With a team of classmates she was able to reach 90% of the class to at least invite them to the gala. We had a good turnout at a lovely venue with delicious food, open bar, and a lively DJ. Lauren gave a wildly humorous speech and capped it with a karaoke rendition of "Pour Some Sugar on Me", an 1980s classic, complete with  hair band wig! She looks long, lean, sexy, and still has GREAT hair. The Class of 1990 lucked out with Lauren!
I flitted about the evening bumping into one long lost friend after the other. I was struck by how utterly beautiful the women were. They blossomed into lovely creatures with grace, charm, confidence, and maturity. Some were thinner than high school, others were heavier, but everyone was simply radiant in my eyes. I found it more difficult to recognize the men than the ladies. I think the explanation is that most boys are not fully grown in high school. They have yet to completely reach their height potential, fill out, or grow into their faces. Once I read name tags I immediately recognized the boy in the man, but I would say the men changed the most since our high school days. And there were some handsome creatures there on Saturday night!
What blew me away was standing in one room with so many of my former "best friends". From Kate to Becky, Jill to Lori, I was surrounded by the women who taught me about friendship, love, caring, kindness, and myself. Although a quarter century or more separates the years since we were each other's best friend, I felt a proprietary closeness to these women. A flood of memories came back, all good, and I, of course, had to verbalize each and every one of them. My sixth grade best friend, Becky, the Indian goddess I mentioned before, matched me memory for memory. We saw twenty seven years melt away and we were elementary school children. My heart swelled with my brief moments with Becky, and, thanks again to Facebook, know that I will see Becky again and never will I let time and geography keep our friendship from growing.
Susan, Christine, Jessica, Jennifer, Tracey, Jeff, Ed, Jeff, Carlos, Kristin, Pete, Holly, Karen, and Susan (yes, names are repeated but they are different people) were among the friends I reminisced with and caught up. With Facebook's help we are online friends able to share pictures and life stories.









I am forever grateful to this invitation not just to a reunion but to my past. I was moved from my childhood town after my freshmen year and left a part of myself there. At the reunion I was able to repair that hole that was quietly festering for nearly twenty five years.
So, I take the pictures, my memories, my slew of old new friends, and my red dress and walk proudly and contentedly into the present. I went home again and was welcomed with open arms. Now I take my friends and put them in my now and take them into my future. Thanks, Montville Township High School Class of 1990, for the memories; I'll see you at the 30th! And Becky, I'll see you soon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Reunion Part II

Reunion day began as early as my week days (4:00am) as I was far too excited to sleep. Prior to the reunion itself I was hosting at my home a pre-reunion reunion get together with five of my childhood friends and whichever family members were able to join; I was expecting 18 people by 11:00a. Anticipation, excitement, and a complete lack of trepidation on my part yielded a feeling of Christmas Eve angst and joy. What would they look like? Would we still be friends? Will our children get along? Will it feel awkward? Will I want to kick them out at our imposed 1:00p deadline or will I want the luncheon to go on endlessly?
The appointed time came and my friends began to appear one by one. The faces of these women had not changed considerably from nearly a quarter century ago. They were much more attractive now having found an inner confidence, acquired knowledge of what worked for them, and a subtle maturity that enhanced their features. The children were adorable and became fast friends with my brood as children are like to do.
A potluck invitation yielded a mountain of tasty, varied, and perfectly-sized tea sandwiches (thanks, Jill), two delicious side salads (thanks, Dina), a plethora of chip choices and two yummy dips (my doing), fruit salad (thanks, Holly), a sinful homemade-from-scratch chocolate banana tart (thanks Karen), and delectable homemade-from-scratch chocolate cupcakes with white icing (thanks, Kate). Adults and children alike were overjoyed with the food offerings as well as the space to hang out, talk, and play indoors and out. The weather, although autumnal in its ferocious wind gusts, swirling leaves, and chilly temperature, allowed for fun on the swing set and playing in the downed leaves.
Dina brought old pictures from sixth grade through high school and we all gathered around to look at the relics. We scoffed at our mother's wardrobe choices for us, roared at our hairstyles, and marveled at the odd wisdom we wrote in a middle school yearbook. I worshipped Duran Duran and their hit "The Reflex"; I wanted Dina to remember them "always".
But beyond the reminiscing we found that our present lives were equally as interesting to each other. From career choices, sports team worship, and child rearing, there was never a lull in conversation. Laughter sprinkled most conversations and we found that we still could fall easily into relaxed friendships. And although I was the one who hadn't seen everyone the longest, I was just as much a part of the group as those women who were still in constant contact. I belonged. And these beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, and lovely women even tried to help me with my nagging decision - what dress to wear to the reunion, the black one or the red one? Everyone weighed in with their opinion and I appreciated it so much as I had been canvasing friends (thank you Jules, Arch, and Dave) since the night before. These women from my past were truly still the friends in my heart.
The get-together was supposed to end at 1:00pm affording me time to clean up, rest, prepare for my daughter's first sitter, and dress for the night's event. But I couldn't stand to see these friends leave so we extended our affair until sometime after 3:00pm! There was still ample time to get all that needed doing...except resting. But the main celebration was on the horizon and I was still too revved up to sleep.
The first part of Reunion Day was a rousing success! Those who I cared most about seeing I had the privilege to entertain in my home in a relaxed setting. We could talk, reminisce, and laugh without music blaring. We had the luxury of comfortable clothes and hours before us to truly bond. With the first reunion behind me I felt anything else I would experience at the actual formal reunion would be 'gravy'.
I dressed, instructed the babysitter (thanks, Stephanie), and whisked out the door with my handsome husband, Class of 1987. The next adventure was about to begin!

Tune in tomorrow to read "The Reunion Part III" complete with pictures.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Music Blog

Today's music focus is songs with "red" in the title. There is no limit to your responses as every genre is open for picking. The only criteria is the word "red" must appear somewhere in the title of the song or album.

If you cannot get enough of the Friday Music Blog (FMB) and would like a second topic each and every Friday, log on to my other site, Rowdy.com, and leave your responses for that topic there. 

This weekend is my 20th High School Reunion. Stay tuned for "The Reunion Part 2" blog next week! Thank you for your continuing support of this endeavor. I'm finding it completely rewarding and enjoy reading your comments each and every day. I hope to continue to build a readership, connect with friends, and entertain you. Have a terrific weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Girl

On October 14, 2009 sometime before 9:00pm EST our daughter was born. She is the third and last child in our family. This little girl joins a big brother, now eight, and another big brother, now four. She was the missing member who now completes our family. This is a very happy story that doesn't start out that way, but
ends "happily ever after".
Once I became a mother I always envisioned having three children. Being I was the youngest of three children I suppose I felt a kinship to a third child. Deciding to start a family is never completely easy; is this the "right time", do we have  enough money, are we ready for our lives to change? But once you do decide to become parents you cannot do it fast enough. Fortunately my husband and I were very lucky and blessed that our first two babies came without any problems; their paths to becoming our children were unobstructed. When we felt ready to try for a third baby we weren't as lucky.
The pregnancy that was supposed to provide me a third baby ended in miscarriage at week ten. For those of you who have suffered miscarriages you know how devastating they are. Intellectually it is understood the pregnancy was not viable and this is God's way (or whatever Higher Power you believe in) of taking care of things naturally. But in your heart you feel like a failure and the sense of loss is immeasurable and almost unbearable. My husband and I vowed to wait nearly six months before we tried again.
Two and a half months later I found out I was pregnant again! This was such amazingly wonderful news. I had handled the miscarriage rather well, focusing instead on my two healthy, beautiful sons and the Christmas Season we were heading into at the time. But now, in this short time since the miscarriage, I was so deeply scared that we had rushed into this unintentional pregnancy and that the same demise might occur again. I couldn't get attached at first. Each week leading up to "Week 10" left me cold, shaking, and bereft of optimism. But miraculously I found myself having a very healthy pregnancy. And even in my 'advanced age' of thirty-six/thirty-seven, the baby was healthy and my pregnancy was strong.
Friends, families, and strangers would ask, "Going for the girl, huh?" when they realized we had two little boys. How utterly rude. I was convinced I was having a boy and was thrilled beyond belief. My father is the youngest of three boys and nothing would have made me happier than a third little boy. I just never felt my family was complete without a third child. I'm selfish that way. When the delivery was finished the doctor proclaimed, "It's a beautiful baby girl!" I argued with him! "No it's not." I said disbelievingly. "Yes, it is!" "No way", I replied. The nurse and my husband each had to try to convince me and the doctor was incredulous that I was adamant that it wasn't. I just couldn't wrap my frazzled brain around the fact that I was blessed with  not only the third child of my heart, but that she was a little girl as well.
.
In all honesty, it's been a year of mixed emotions. I've still been mourning the lost pregnancy and at the same time am overjoyed with my precious baby girl. This, of course, leads to feelings of guilt. It's taken a long time and a lot of work, but I"m finally feeling free to just be. I am my daughter's mother and that feels absolutely natural and divine. I do understand how so very lucky and blessed my husband and I are. Many want to become parents and cannot naturally. But I cannot deny the pain I felt, the loss I endured, and the joy I am relishing.
Now my precious daughter turns one. We are leaving behind the infant years and looking forward as we watch this precious toddler take her first steps into the world. I want to protect her from the pains I've suffered but know that she alone must embark on her journey and be able to feel great pain to know tremendous joy. I will simply hold her hand as long as she'll let me and hold her heart for an eternity. I am so blessed to have the girl.





Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Unsung Hero

Reliable, steadfast, strong work ethic, productive, unselfish, highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, driven, unfailing, and excellent people manager are just a few of the amazing qualities my husband has. Charismatic, entertaining, hilarious, brilliant, talented, creative, musical, technical, dedicated, amusing, concentrative, analytical, compassionate, passionate, patient (at times), meticulous, and friendly begin to flesh out his character. Sweet, caring, kind, trustworthy, loyal, monogamous, attractive, handsome, damn sexy, supportive, attentive, never condescending, tender, loving, and romantic hint upon the depth of humanity and grace in this man. This is a piece about my husband, the unsung hero of my family.
In the twenty-four years since I met my husband, then a plucky sixteen almost seventeen year old high school senior, I have seen vast growth, immense maturity, and a tackling of demons that would have toppled others. But my husband stands taller today than most of his age or older. Through good times, bad, and dark times as well, my husband has never given up, run away, or quit. The man wakes up each and every day determined to better himself, stay true to himself, and leave the world a little better than he found it. Though demons still haunt him from time to time, he consistently follows a healthy path, starts his day over whenever necessary, and carries forth with that mega-watt smile.
For richer, which we experienced for a few glorious years, to leaner, which we are languishing now, his fierceness in providing for his family is unparalleled. From a two salary family of two to a now one salary family of five, with the onus to provide solely on him, my husband dutifully goes off to work to secure a better now and future for our family. Whereas I am rewarded with being home to witness first smiles, first steps, and hugs and kisses all the day long, he is met with the superstar greeting of "Hi Daddy!!!!!" and enormous bear hugs when he walks in the door. While looking through the day's mail he is bombarded by the spelling test and math papers of the day. A construction paper cut out of the letter "F" is thrust onto the pile by the pre-schooler while the baby just screeches until her daddy's attention is directly placed on her and he is cajoled to pick her up.
When financial troubles hit my husband knew he had to stop his hobby, a passion he had only newly discovered and enjoyed immensely, racing. As a family we would attend 4-6 races a season and cheer my husband. We made these family vacations about all of us and we all enjoyed them. But something had to give and racing was it. We all miss it, but he must miss it most of all. But I have never heard him complain about this sacrifice he's made. One day he'll get back to it.
When our oldest son took up Karate, something neither of us ever experienced in our lives, and I followed suit a few months later, my husband knew it was a worthwhile endeavor for him to participate and joined himself. He uses Karate not only for exercise, but a way to stay close to our eldest and now middle child. He has this in common with them and it allows them even more time to be together working toward a goal. Even after a torn ACL and the surgery and recuperation/therapy that's followed has sidelined my husband temporarily, he continues to stay actively aware of his son's Karate. And he's worked amazingly hard at bringing his leg back to health with agonizing PT sessions and little to no complaining. Even now, nursing a respiratory infection, my husband continues his course unaltered, without complaining, and deals. And this man is wonderful in that he will watch Grey's Anatomy or Glee with me with as much sincere enthusiasm as he does watching a NASCAR race, American Pickers, or Pawn Stars! In fact, he admits he's a "Gleek"! He loves to go to musical theater, sings to the radio, and has a very romantic song he dedicates to me!
This man sweeps every category in the husband category as well. My husband is a fantastic cook, a precision cleaner, more than proficient as a mechanic for the cars, handy-man for the house, IT guy for our computers, and one hell of an entertainer! When I get overwhelmed in my stay-at-home role, he forces me out the door for some "me time". When I am scared, frustrated, or drained, he holds me and encourages me. And the reasons he gets truly angry with me are when I stop taking care of myself. He advocates for ME when I'm not doing it.
As if full time work and sole provider isn't enough, my husband is earning a Master's Degree to continue to expand his education and marketability. It is not an easy task when his heart would rather be home. But he is tireless in his convictions and has managed to stay employable by continuing his vast education. Yet he still mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, and blows and shovels the snow. He changes the oil, washes the cars, and cares for our deck.
I don't know how I lucked out on the "husband lottery" but I can tell you, I just did. We met in high school, solidified a friendship, fell in love, and, quite frankly, have never fallen out of love. We have had growing pains, sought the counsel of professionals, and had to redirect ourselves, but we have never wanted to not be together. My husband is the best father and husband and I am truly blessed he chose me to be his life partner. Moms get a lot of good press in our society. Children are often lifted up in our culture as well, Dads, however, always seem to get short shifted. These are expected roles for men so why laud them? Because they may be expected but not many men live up to that high standard. My husband breaks the roof of what is expected. He is the glue that holds our family together. He is the soul of our family. He is the rock that we rely for shelter, grounding, and protection. He is the unsung hero of our family. Today I sang about him.

I love you, Honey.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Observations of a Parent

The many truths I've encountered since becoming a parent are staggering; truth really is stranger than fiction. Before parenthood I lived a blissful, ignorant existence when it came to these notions, but I know that I live a far richer life having learned what I have to date on the job. Some of what I have learned is universal to parents, others may be more exclusive to my home and family. The truths I'm about to uncover are unfiltered and raw. Read at your own risk.
First, from the moment I became a parent I had no idea how much I could love a tiny baby. That love is intense, proprietary, protective, and pure. At the same time, I had no earthly idea how exhausting and painful becoming a parent was and how those feelings, co-mixed with the unadulterated love for the baby, left me a rather emotional, soupy mess. And no matter how much you love the baby, your desire to sleep, uninterrupted for longer than twenty-two minutes, makes new parenting difficult. But eventually my baby slept and so did I.
Next, the amount of poop a baby can produce is bewildering! Diapers filled with waste that logically shouldn't be able to come from someone so small, leaking, nay, oozing out and ruining the fourth outfit of the day, the one your in-law sent and wanted you to pose the baby in for (insert event here - Christmas, birthday, 4th of July, etc.).  Along these lines, puke is the same in amount, intensity, and wowness factor. When a baby (or toddler or school-aged child) vomits, I start looking for the items you typically look for under couch cushions because surely that much upchuck has to contain those types of hidden treasures. And, for those of you looking for accuracy, the pukes usually come in the middle of the night, rousing you from a deep sleep and making you spring into action and leaving you like a deer in headlights momentarily because you don't know whether to change the sheets,  help the puking child, or run screaming from the house so you don't have to deal with the traumatic scene that you alone need to contend. Although I've had those fantasies of running away, arms flailing, and screaming incoherently, I've always stayed and managed. I'm lucky, my husband is home and extremely helpful.
Children notoriously create loud, involved and "standing up" games ONLY when there is a television program either mom or dad or both want to watch during their awake periods. My husband and I haven't been able to watch a NASCAR race, or any other show, since 2002. Once the show is over, the game they were dedicated to playing and "please don't make us stop" mysteriously looses all hold on the children and they immediately turn into sedate zombies. Nice.
Since becoming a parent I am the funniest human being to my children, and, at the same time, can hold the title for being "the meanest mommy in the world". Fortunately my children are still young enough that on the tails of the latter statement, my comic genius can shine through and I can still get those little rascals to laugh...uproariously! Sometimes I burst out an exclamation like, "Holy Guacamole!", to which my children laugh like fools because they've never heard such an outlandish expression (I feel they're too young to know their mother isn't completely unique). What my reward, in turn, is when my middle child busts out his own exclamations like, "Mommy, this dinner (it's breakfast time) is delicious petitious!". How can you argue with THAT?!
Last year my son had a play date with a young lady from his class. When guy friends came over the play centered around shooting, chasing, capturing, etc. After lunch the two children disappeared into the play room and began playing House (not the medical show, but the old-fashioned game of a family living in a home). As they were in second grade there was nothing untoward about the game, but it struck me how differently boys and girls play. Instead of being a Transformer or a character from Star Wars, my son was the "Daddy". And the best part? My son loved it!
Finally, adding a girl child into the household was a glorious thing. Her moods and quirks are deserving of an entire blog! But what strikes me the most in her first year has to do with laundry. When I used to do the laundry before I had my daughter, if the items came out of the dryer pink I knew I had messed up the load - I had washed something red that had discolored the underwear or socks or gi of my sons or husband. I was always mortified and disgusted with myself when this happened, and I hate to admit it happened several times over the years. But, once I had my daughter, it took months before I could pull a pink item out of the dryer and not wince thinking I had ruined yet another load! You see, nearly her entire wardrobe is pink! These items are pink ON PURPOSE, not because I mixed red and white in the washer again! It's a lovely daily reminder that we've been blessed with a little girl in our family.
Parenting has been the most richly rewarding, entertaining, hardest, and most frustrating job I've ever embarked. The hours suck, the pay is worse, and I've probably never looked worse due to lack of sleep, the baby weight I've got encircling my mid-section, and the shards of hair missing because I've pulled them out because of the stuff they do. But, my bonuses come in the form of "I love you"s, hugs, kisses, shared laughter, hand holding, snuggling, story time, and homemade cards and gifts for every holiday, Mother's Day, and any given day they feel crafty. I have a built-in helper(s) for making cookies, cakes, and eggs. I have the privilege of sharing movies, experiences, music, and books with my children for the very first time and seeing it through their eyes. I have the blessings to see these wonderful children grow up with the man who created them with me. I am lucky to see these truths, know them, and experience them first hand. I am a parent.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn Appetites

A stiff breeze whips around the home, a flurry of leaves create a mini cyclone outside the window, and you are glad you put the extra blanket on the bed. Getting out of the cocoon you created in that bed is tortuous as it is delightfully warm but the ambient temperature in the house is cool. The promise of a hot shower, a cozy sweater, and a steamy cup of coffee or tea allows you to venture forth. You have started another spectacular autumn day.

Yesterday pumpkin picking was on the agenda with my family. This tradition is looked forward to each and every year by the children and their parents alike. But before such an adventure is embarked upon, breakfast needed to fuel up and rev the engines of my family. What to make on a crisp fall day? Pumpkin Cinnamon Pancakes! This recipe comes from Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking. Sandra Lee was made famous by The Food Network. Her philosophy is cooking can be delicious, reasonable, and simple if you utilize several pre-packaged foods, add a few fresh ingredients, and tie it all up with "a pinch of this with a hint of that".  Here is the recipe for her pumpkin cinnamon pancakes, a perennial favorite in the 187 household.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Pancakes

Pancakes:
1  cup buttermilk pancake mix, Aunt Jemima
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup canned pumpkin, Libby's (Do not use pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, McCormick
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, McCormick
Nonstick vegetable cooking spray, Pam
Butter, room temperature, Land O' Lakes

Prep Time:         5 minutes
Cooking Time:   6 minutes


Pecan Syrup:
1 cup maple flavored pancake syrup,  Log Cabin Original Syrup
5 tablespoons pecans, toasted and chopped, Diamond

Pecan Syrup Preparation:
Combine maple syrup and pecans in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high, about 25 seconds. Set pecan syrup aside and keep warm.

Pancake Preparation:
In a medium bowl, whisk pancake mix, water, pumpkin, cinnamon, and ginger until just blended (do not overmix; mixture should be lumpy).
Spray a heavy griddle with nonstick spray and heat griddle over medium heat.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter onto griddle to form each pancake.
Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles appear, then turn pancakes over and cook for 2 minutes longer. Transfer pancakes to plates. Top with butter and serve with warm pecan syrup.

In my household, I am the only person who likes the pecan syrup so I just make an individual serving and put the plain syrup on the table. We do not use butter on our pancakes (I know, blasphemy for some of you). I do not use all of the brand names called for because they may have sponsored her book, but they don't sponsor my trips to the local grocery store! But I do use this recipe every autumn for many a Sunday morning breakfast. I usually double or even triple the recipe, make my extra pancakes and freeze them for another morning when we are rushing around but still want a decadent breakfast. I always serve some breakfast meat with these pancakes to add some protein; either brown and serve sausages or fresh bacon.

This blog, like the weather, changes focus. Today is about sharing the autumn recipes you and your family loves. Do you make the best apple pie, a scrumptious pumpkin bread, or an outrageous stuffing? Is your cranberry relish renowned? Share your favorite here and provide us all with something new to add to the family table. My autumn appetite is up for it!








Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back to the weekly installment of the Friday Music Blog. I've had great success over the years with this series and am thrilled to be running it here at this site.

Today's focus is your favorite power ballad. These are the songs that traditionally hard rockin', metal, or any kind of rock band played that had a "softer side". The songs usually had a lovely melody and some kind of guitar licks in the middle. The 1980s were particularly ripe with these types of songs, although they certainly were not the only decade.  Each generation has created these drippy, saccharin sweet, and musically powerful ballads. Dig through your music collection, think back to your high school homecoming dance and the tunes that were playing for that slow dance, and list all that come to mind. What a fun way to springboard into this gorgeous Autumn weekend.

If you can't get enough of the Friday Music Blog and cannot wait until next week's edition, log on to my other site at Rowdy.com and leave your comments on my other Friday Music Blog. I offer two topics each and every Friday!

Thank you in advance for all of your selections. Total participation makes this blog so much fun so please get to typing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Defying Gravity

Music has been my friend and constant companion since I was a child. When I was happy, sad, scared, lonely, in love or suffering in love, music has been there to offer mood enhancement, safety, and acknowledgement of my emotions. I've always been profoundly moved by music. Even as a small girl a piece of music could move me to tears. I am still that way.
Be it song content, the artist's talent, or a memory attached to the piece, music has a grip on me. When I discover a song that reaches me I become obsessed and feel compelled to listen constantly, learn the lyrics, and have it soak into my soul.
Currently there are two songs that I am "gaga" over:  Glee's cover of Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" sung by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele and, from the Broadway show Wicked, Idina Menzel singing "Defying Gravity". Not only am I drawn to these two numbers, but I find the common thread - Idina Menzel. I am a fan of Rent and became aware of this talented woman on that soundtrack. Recently, because of Glee (a television show about a high school glee club), Idina Menzel came back into my listening world and I find her voice even more powerful and intoxicating. With a little stop on Youtube I found her performing "Defying Gravity" and was a goner. This song speaks to me so loudly and plainly. For years I've been wanting to do something of note, to break out of the ordinary and write. With dozens of unfinished projects, a string of incompletes, and a mountain of excuses I was going nowhere as a writer. When I discovered my husband's favorite NASCAR site in the Spring of 2007, Rowdy.com, I took my first giant leaps into the realm of writing. Blogging opened up a brand new wonderful world for me to exercise my creative mind. What started out as NASCAR/racing-related blogs soon blossomed into much more personal accounts. I still love the work I do there and the people I associate with at that site. But I began to truly "defy gravity" when I started this blog site. Putting my name on the title, having the ultimate freedom to write about anything and everything that is on my mind, makes me feel like the tethers that had held me down have been cut! Writing daily has energized me and made me, even in this short time, a better wife, mother, friend, and person. By facing my fears, insecurities and character flaws on a public forum, I am forced to deal with them head on and learn from them. Having a readership who interacts with me allows me camaraderie, a sounding board, a cheerleading squad, and a ever-growing community of my own. Being a stay-at-home mom can be very isolating and sharing my life in this forum has made that role infinitely easier to do and appreciate.
This topic may even become a series. The music that has influenced me over the years is a topic that I'm selfishly interested in exploring. And with each week/theme, I'm interested in reading about the music that has affected you in the different stages of your life. As is evident by the outpouring of responses to the Friday Music Blogs I post, music is important to many of you. Let me know what music inspires you to personal greatness like "Defying Gravity" does for me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Forgiveness

Forgiveness was a concept I could totally wrap my brain around. I could be omnipotent and forgive all those who trespassed against me and I would free them of their suffering. It was an easy gift to give requiring little thought on my part and what I perceived as my magnanimous heart. But I'm realizing that forgiveness is far more complicated in its simplicity.
First, I was always requiring an apology from a person before I forgave him or her. I wanted, required, the person to feel genuine remorse for how they had tread on me. Once that was offered I swooped in and generously offered my "forgiveness" in return. While waiting for the initial apology I would sit and stew recounting how the person had hurt, embarrassed, shamed, or abused me. By this action I was allowing the events to affect me again and again until the apology was finally issued and I was then able to forgive. Now I'm learning that forgiveness need not have anything to do with apologies, but a single act on my part to release the hurt and allow it to go. It has all to do with me and nothing to do with anyone else. I alone have the power to move on and unburden myself of these feelings that keep me in an emotional jail.
Second, forgiveness does not mean forgetting. But in remembering I do not need to continue to beat myself up for the infraction of another. Remembering offers a chance to stay connected to a lesson learned and an opportunity to grow from that lesson. Forgiveness allows distance from the hurt, understanding, and a chance to move on with increased knowledge. Forgiveness enlightens and lightens.
Finally, forgiveness is not only about another person. Until I learned forgiveness needed to be doled out to myself I was a very unhappy person. From childhood through the present I blamed myself for different abuses, calamities, and unpleasantness. Whether a victim, a witness, or the cause of unhappiness, I held on to the pain and suffering and used those hurts to continue to torture myself. I could forgive many in my life, but I never offered myself the same gift. And now I'm learning that forgiveness needs to begin within. Like love, if you cannot love/forgive yourself, how can you love/forgive others?
My husband lives by a strong moral code and I admire him for the serenity he's able to stay connected to for the majority of the time. Among his many beliefs is, "don't let people take up space in your head who don't pay you rent". If someone has wronged, annoyed, hurt, or betrayed you, let it go. Forgive them. That may not change who they are, but it changes how you deal with them. Forgive and move on allowing peace and serenity to move in replacing hurt and misery.
I'm learning to forgive for my own health and sanity. I'm learning that in order to forgive others I must first forgive myself. Forgiveness is not forgetting but an opportunity to move on with increased knowledge. And forgiveness, in all of its simplistic glory, is the catalyst to a happier, healthier life. Join me in taking the first steps in earnest forgiveness.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anger

I have a problem with anger. All too often I let anger get the best of me. I allow those around me to trigger my anger rather than learn to "unplug". Anger renders me irrational, loud, and curt. My blood pressure boils over and I fume. I do not like feeling this way and I want to change.
Anger has a place in our lives. When we are wronged, ignored, misunderstood, or crossed maliciously anger is the proper response. What I object to is how anger takes over my sensible brain for far too long a sojourn. I need to learn how to express my feelings in a more precise, rational format so as to use my anger constructively and not harmfully.
When I try to dig deeper and look what causes the anger, I typically find there is more going on in me. Usually I am scared and feeling helpless or overwhelmed in my situation. When I feel powerless I turn to the powerful blast of anger that seems to clear a path, but actually just leaves a wake of hurt and sadness. I'm learning that to break this unhealthy response, I need to empower myself.
Usually I hang on to guilt and "fault". "I'm sorry" is my mantra and "it's all my fault" is constantly falling out of my mouth. This "martyr syndrome" is self prescribed and so very counter-productive. Those around me whom I care for and about are individuals capable of leading their own lives and taking responsibility for their own actions. When I surrender to the fact that I cannot change others, I can only change my reactions to them, I will be in a healthier place. The only person I can change is me. I need to do the work needed to make my own happiness, live healthfully, and allow others to succeed or fail without attaching their victories and defeats to my self-esteem.
I'm not foolish enough to think that anger should be eradicated. I do feel anger can be a positive in certain situations. That anger can be a catalyst to communication and ultimately to change. But I know the anger I am expressing is often misplaced, wholly too intense, and frightfully raw. As I am a parent and thus a teacher to the younger generation, I need to learn how to reign in my anger, express it more appropriately, and model ways to communicate effectively the reasons for my displeasure. Tall orders when I'm "seeing red", but vastly important to providing a healthy environment for my family.
With a shaky economy, long-term marriage, three children, a home always needing repair, and the stresses those elements bring, I've taken to the shortcut anger provides rather than take the time to examine why my life seems spiraling out of control at times. When I take a few minutes to decompress and explore my emotions I find that these stressors are real, but they are manageable.
Most who see me would not imagine I have an "issue" with anger. To that I simply reply, I am human. What I have going for me is the willingness to change and the notion that things are out of kilter. I'm finding outlets to work on this "character flaw" and am making huge inroads. Anger will always have a place in my life, but I will not let it define me nor will I allow it to dictate. I am working toward embracing the power within to live a more contented and healthy life. Care to join me?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family Ties

They are leaving today, my parents. Each June they arrive from Florida and stay in their summer lake house, a mere 7 minutes away from me, and stay until the autumn leaves begin to change colors. Today is departure day. They've been with us in the house the last week so they could spend more time with their grandchildren and it's been great. And it hasn't. It is difficult to have house guests when the school year has begun. Schedules are disrupted, children don't want to go to school because they "might miss something fun", and behaviors become unusual.
I am the guilty party when it comes to altered behaviors. I adore my parents and have a terrific relationship with them. It is stressful, however, to have them live with me for an extended period. Being the middle generation (parents above you/children below) is an exhausting station, at least the way I handled it this week. I tried to be "every woman" and that just left me burned out. I need to remember more to simply live and enjoy and not let little stressors get in the way of my ultimate happiness. I spent so much of yesterday in a bad mood. Nothing seemed to go the way I had planned/visualized in my head. I was holding on to expectations, frustrated by my own limitations, annoyed with a cranky baby who would not nap, and holding myself back from joy. All the while I knew these were the last hours to spend quality time with my parents who I will not see until December for Christmas. It wasn't until the late afternoon that I exhaled, literally and figuratively, and was able to sit back and enjoy the family ties that I belong. My mother, nursing a terrible cold, never complaining but obviously suffering, enjoys music. I logged on to Youtube and found several of her all-time favorite songs performed by the original artists she enjoys. This delighted her to no end and even made her cry because she simply loves the music. I found I react to music in much the same way. I saw the family tie yesterday and that was a priceless gift I was able to see when I relaxed. Later my father and I ran to the local Chinese take out for dinner. As we waited for the order we shared serious conversation about life. When you are the youngest of three children it is nice to have alone time with your dad! When we arrived home we shared a delicious and fun dinner with the family, including my newly divorced brother who may be leaving the state in the near future. We ate, laughed, talked, and lingered long after my children were excused from the table. Later that night, after the children were tucked into bed, including the cranky baby, I stayed up far too late to watch television with my parents (Mad Men). These are the memories I will take with me moving forward. The impromptu dinners, casual and not associated with holidays or birthdays, are the ones that will stick out in my mind's eye and connect me to my family. Quality time spent one-on-one with my folks that energizes me and strengthens our ties. I can beat myself up for wasting so much of the day with my terrible attitude, but this is counter-productive. At least I ended the day in a good mood making lasting memories.
So as I send them on their way I once again have a heavy heart and wish I could turn back the clock. But my clock ticks relentlessly. I am looking forward to normalcy reigning once again, but there is that part of me, the child within, who is sad and lonely and already missing her family ties.