Even My Tired is Tired

The body begs “sleep”;
The mind succumbs to rubbish,
dressed as important.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am dog tired. I am a dog-who-was-left-on-vacation-and-walked-400-miles-back-to-her-owner’s-house-in-a-week-then-had-10-puppies tired.  There are three things responsible for this.

ok, so I made her pose for this, but you get the idea...

1. The Oscars.  I’m not all that into movies, but I love to watch the Oscars. The clips are fun, the jokes are usually ok, the clothes beautiful and the speeches touch me.  Last night we let Tivo get a head start on it, but still took us until 12:15am to get through the show (no matter how often I told myself to stop and go to bed, I just couldn’t look away). I really liked it. Loved Billy Crystal no matter what everyone else says. And I now officially have a thing for JLo.

2. My work. This morning, a Monday morning mind you, someone scheduled a global conference call at 7am. And this same person put me on the agenda, over and over again (actually, that was my own fault now that I think about it). Oh, and did I mention, it was a Video Conference! Yes, you guessed it, that means I had to be there in person. Now normally (wait! if we work together, don’t read this next part – promise me!) I take 7am calls while getting ready for work. For most calls of this nature, I listen for 90% and only talk maybe, at best, 10%, so I can finish my make up, even dry my hair (thanks to a bluetooth headset that automatically increases volume when surrounding noise increases), get dressed, kiss the kids/the man, grab my breakfast, and hit the road, all while people blather on and on about budgets and innovation and marketing. But today, as I’ve already lamented, it was a video conference, and I had several agenda items, so alas, I had to be in the office by 6:50am. This means I had to be out of bed by 5:15am.

3. My self. I’m not sure what is wrong with me. Last night at 12:15am, the Tivo’d Oscars having ended, I was clearly tired and headed toward disaster, as my alarm was already set for a mere 5 hours away. Instead of going upstairs to bed, however, what did I do? I checked WordPress. Then my email. Then a brief look through Facebook to see if my friend wrote back. Then, for some reason, I clicked on abcnews.com to see if anything exciting (other than the Oscars) had happened. Then finally, I went up to bed. However, upstairs it just got worse… I checked my work email on my then bedside-Blackberry (just because I really like getting emails late at night that remind me how much freaking work I have waiting for me in the morning as that always relaxes me). Then I headed to the bathroom to do the evening routine, which involves listening to an audio book while I floss, brush, wash, tone, spot cream, deep wrinkle cream, eye cream and moisturize.  (I work for a skin care company, forgive me…) Then comes the “hair hunt” which involves me looking into a magnifying mirror trying to find newly minted eyebrow hairs to yank mercilessly from my brows, which always devolves into mindless wrinkle inspection (…I wonder if I finally look younger than my older sister…) and hair-do imaginings (…maybe I’ll let it grow long and wear a pony tail…). Jesus-H-Christmas, 20+ narcissistic minutes later I emerge wondering where the time went.  After slathering a few more potions on my hands and feet, I crawl gratefully into bed only to grab my phone so I can pull up the Daily Dilbert App and the XKCD App to see any new cartoons.  A few pages of my hard copy book later, I’m finally relaxed and ready to sleep. It is now 1:15am. I am insane.

So when 5:15am came this morning, I felt like someone had hit me in the head with a 2 by 4 and poured salt water into my eyes. (No, there was no alcohol involved…) I crawled into the shower, got myself ready, did mostly well on the call and promised myself I’d leave work a little early given the early start.

At 6pm tonight I called my beloved and told him I was on my way home.

Not yet done with the self-delusion, I then promised myself that after the kids went to bed at 8:30pm I would NOT come downstairs and get distracted… I would go to bed myself and catch up on sleep.

Did I do this? No. Of course not. I came to this god-forsaken site to poke around and decided this topic was a good blog idea. Good enough to deprive myself further of sleep in order to get something posted because postings lead to clicks and clicks mean I’ll have some email to check and checking email means I’m worthy.

It’s 9:52pm. Help me. Please.

My Aga – Not just an oven…

My Aga greets me.
Its warmth melts the weariness
Of a long journey.
………………………………………..
My friends closest to me probably do not want to read this post. They know all about my Aga and likely aren’t interested in hearing more. But for those of you who don’t know what an Aga is, or why I’m so nuts about it, this post is for you.

So, what exactly is an Aga? First, it is pronounced like gaga (as in lady gaga), with the first G missing and the emphasis on the first ‘a’.  Here is a picture of my Aga.

My Aga... (notice the beautiful tile work, all done by Frank-the-wonderful)

A beauty, isn’t she? We first encountered one when we lived in England and our rental home had one. We didn’t know that some people find them intimidating – we just thought it was really cool and it’s why we picked that particular home to live in. And boy am I glad we did. My cooking will never be the same. They are very popular in England and other parts of Europe, and can also be found in the northern parts of the US (that is more my guess based on where we go for parts…).

An Aga is defined as a large iron cooker [it’s make of cast iron] which keeps its heat (from the Cambridge Dictionaries online). It has 4 ovens, each at a different temperature range: Roasting (~400 plus), Baking (~325-375), Simmering (~250) and Warming (~125).  On top there are two covered “plates” – the boiling plate and the simmering plate. There is also the “top plate” on the top left – not a cooking surface, just a warm area.

       

Open wide - the 4 ovens, clockwise from bottom left: warming, simmering, roasting, baking; center bottom door opens to the controls

boiling plate on left, simmering plate on right. Not sure why the right lid is always a mess - grilled cheese dross I think.

An Aga stores heat (although it is always warm, it only “runs” to make up for any lost heat). The goal in cooking on an Aga is to retain its heat and cook as much as you can in the ovens. That means often you start a dish on one of the plates, but you finish it in an oven. For example, you could boil the potatoes on the stove until your windows are running with condensation. Or, in the Aga, you bring the potatoes to boil on the boiling plate, pour off the water, cover it, put it into the Simmering Oven and then 30 minutes later your potatoes are steam-cooked and ready for mashing.  The house isn’t a humid mess and the potatoes are perfect.  The ovens too are designed for you to get a dish started in one place (the roasting oven for instance) and finished in another (the simmering oven). You need to fiddle with the time, but it is fairly straight forward.

You can use all areas inside of each oven – near the top it is warmer, or you can put it directly on the floor of an oven. You can put your whole pan in there, handle an all (assuming no plastic handles…).

I know this sounds really complicated, and you might wonder why bother. I’ll tell you why: it makes the world’s best bacon. This is not an exaggeration. You will not find better bacon anywhere. And the best part? The bacon fries in a pan on the floor of the roasting oven so you don’t have to clean up spattered grease. (Take note on the door of the top right oven (the roasting oven) in the picture above – see all that? That is from all the cooking and would be on my counters and in my hair if not in the oven. Don’t get disgusted, the door gets cleaned regularly and inside the oven is so hot that it carbonizes any spills.) When we finally got the Aga installed (my wonderful handy amazing husband Frank did all the work), Christmas Day 2010, guess what the first thing I cooked in the Aga was… yes, bacon.

Other wonderful things about my Aga:

  • Boiling plate boils a kettle faster than an electric kettle. In seconds it will start to make that happy boiling “tinkle” sound.
  • It is always warm, so when you are cold, you just need to stand near it or lay over the top and you’ll warm right up.
  • Great place to lay coats on cold winter mornings before going out. (Note – some parts are too hot to handle clothing, so you do need to be careful.)
  • You can warm plates on the top while the cooking finishes. You can see white plates on the top left side in the first picture, waiting for something to come out of an oven, get filled and then taken to the table. Makes me seem like a much more accomplished cook than I am.
  • All parts are handy… melt butter in a small pan on the top somewhere; soften cream cheese next to it or on top of it… toss all your leftovers in the simmering oven about an hour before dinner and they’ll all be warm at the same time – no more microwave shuffling of multiple dishes. You cook pancakes directly on the simmering plate – no pan needed, so less mess to clean up.
  • We compost fruit and veg scrap… and we keep the container right on top of the Aga (see the canister in the first picture again). The heat dries out the scraps and extends the time before we have to put them in the compost bin.
  • I find it easier to cook healthy dishes. Cut up some veg, toss in some herbs and olive oil, throw in the top of the roasting oven – 30 minutes later, perfectly roasted veggies. Almost as easy as opening a can of veggies and putting them in the microwave.
  • It has elimimated nearly all my other appliances. No toaster, no crock pot, no bread maker, no microwave bacon cooker, no electric skillet, no rice cooker. Truth be told, I still sometimes use the  rice cooker (my Aga rice is meh), but not very often. I also limit my microwave usage.
  • You can cook a ton of food at once because each oven can handle a lot of pans.  When living in England, I hosted Thanksgiving for nearly 20 people. I did all the food: turkey, side dishes and desserts. Everything was warm when it was served because the Aga is so versatile — cook in one oven, keep warm in another or on top. The turkey itself was finished at around 5pm, but I just put it on top of the oven (on the left side), covered it with a ski jacket, and 2 hours later when it was carved it was piping hot and delicious.

Issues or questions you might wonder about…

  • Is it safe for kids? Yes. My kids have never once burned themselves. They know where it is warm and where it is too hot to touch, and therefore to respect it, but that should be true of all appliances, right?
  • You put food in there and forget it is there, for several days. This is true. The smells vent outside so if you have left something, you often don’t realize it. This has had good results before (when we left soup in there for a day and a half… just had to add some water to the uber-concentrated veggie sludge and it was the best soup ever!) and bad (the broccoli looked like dried out flowers, ick).  Just makes it a little more fun and exciting each time you open an oven door.
  • I’ve failed miserably making caramels. Had to use the top plates to make it, which drains the heat over the 45 minutes required for cooking caramels. I kept moving the pan to the hotter plate because it was taking too long, but eventually scorched the candy. Dagnabbit. I haven’t tried again, but I will, and this time I’ll have more patience and perhaps not double the recipe…
  • They are expensive to buy and run. We purchased ours while still in the UK over eBay… got a great deal. I wouldn’t buy a new one – couldn’t afford it – but used worked for us. They do show up on eBay in the US at times.  Monthly, we think it costs us maybe $30-40 to run it (gas), so that’s clearly a choice. But the other benefits (warm kitchen, warm coats, great bacon) more than make up for it. For the “greenies” out there, you could heat a significant portion of your house with this. We didn’t go that far, but when we rehabbed our current house and kitchen, we designed the new HVAC systems (up and down) so that we could balance out the extra Aga heat as efficiently as possible. Not perfect, but better.
  • Isn’t the house always hot/warm? Can you run it in the summer? It does make the kitchen warmer than the rest of the house. But the heat isn’t too bad in the summer. Interestingly, we had it off for a week last summer to clean and service it and I will tell you, the kitchen just felt weird. It wasn’t right that it was cool/normal. This oven is the heart of our home and when it was “cold”, the house felt sad and the family was a little “off”. So, the little extra heat is worth it. (I’m not saying I’d run it in summers in my hometown in middle Georgia, but Cincinnati isn’t too bad…)

That’s it, my Aga. I love it – it makes me very happy. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for not just an oven, but something that enriches your life. And I’d be happy to make you bacon anytime.

Depressing Mail

We both watch you age.
You cannot halt the winter;
I long for the spring.
………………………………………………

The title of this post might indicate that today’s mail was filled with bills or something of the like. Perhaps a magazine that touted younger skin or tighter abs… No, today’s mail brought a catalog. Not a cool catalog, like Nordstroms or Levenger or something like that. It was “Gold Violin, Helpful Products for Independent Living”.

Thanks, direct marketing association.

I am only 44 years old. Although I’m missing one original part (gall bladder), none of my other parts have ever been replaced. I haven’t purchased orthotic shoes or cable knit sweaters or any other item that would correlate to needing “helpful products”.  I’m more than just a little worried about what in my catalog purchase history triggered this. (To be clear, I also regularly get a catalog aimed at very stylish black women (I’m a decidedly un-stylish white woman) so who knows what my profile looks like…)

I could have thrown it out, but instead I decided to try to understand what all is considered “helpful” today. My parents are aging, so I might want to familiarize myself with these items.  I must say the “Suction Cup Tub Rail” featured on the cover was a real eye catcher, so I dove right in.

Page 3 – Dual transport chair and Rollator. What is a “rollator”. Is the ‘a’ pronounced ‘a’ like acorn or ‘a’ like away? One sounds sinister: the Roll-A-tor, like “Terminator”. RollaTOR sounds like an antacid. Hmm…

Page 5 – Between the Seat Stuff Catchers. No more lost keys or coins. Looks kinda cool.

Pages 8-11 – Shoes. Holy crap, some of these look like ones I already have. I especially like the Acorn Z Strap Spa Slippers, simply because they combine the class of velcro with the softness of terry and the attractiveness of something Pepto-pink. Have dog-eared the page for future reference.

Page 17 – Bibs disguised as aprons. I’m not talking the plastic things you get at the BBQ joint. These are ponchos that extend to your thighs with a wide pocket at the bottom to catch what you drop/dribble. The models wearing them couldn’t look less happy to have gotten this particular job.

Page 24 – I’ve never seen so many magnifying devices… 2x, 2.5x, 3x (really, that difference matters?), 6x, 10x, plus the 6 piece set ranging from 4x to 10x. Who needs to work through 6 difference magnifying glasses to read a map. And who actually reads maps anymore?

Page 28 – Look at all the different gel wraps you can get for your toes! No wonder old people walk slow: they have all this crap in their shoes. I swear this one cap is just a cut down condom. Really creepy looking.

Pages 38-39 — So many options to keep from killing yourself in the tub or shower or on the toilet. Good to know.

Pages 52-53 – Pain relief. Also where they assume the catalog’s readers are idiots. Dr. Necky Pain Relief? Dr. Archy Pain Relief? Boo boo cover up? I refuse to order anything that makes me sound like I’m talking to a 3-year-old.

And my favorite… Page 40 – Wipe assist. Nice.

I really can’t think of a way to wrap this up. I mean, after “wipe assist” there really isn’t much more to say. I can only hope this has been helpful to those of your wondering what help looks like later in life…

If it’s Velvet does it count? On becoming Charlotte…

Oh mirror, mirror
Reflect me cool, young, hip, smooth;
Deceive my eyes, years.
”””””””””””””””””””””’
The similarities are beginning to worry me. It’s been happening for a while. But it just used to be in how my brain worked or what made me laugh. Now it is appearing in more troublesome ways.

I’m becoming Charlotte.

I’ll give you one guess as to who she is… did you guess? Yep, my mom.  Now I like Charlotte. Someone telling me I’m like her is a huge compliment because I think she is smarter than me and a lot wiser (the benefit of our 25 year age difference).  But those compliments are usually directed at how I think or how I approach the world.

Now the “Charlotte-ness” is seeping into other domains of my being…

I recently purchased a housecoat. That is a very Charlotte thing to do. I justified it as follows:

Charlotte’s housecoat: fleece or terry, hits just below the knee; color family of pale blue or red; purchased at Sears; snaps or zips up the front; worn for several years until the pockets are worn through or there is a good sale at Sears. (There is only modest exaggeration here…)

Picture from Sears' website.

My housecoat: dark blue velvet with satin trim; floor length; floaty; purchased at Dillards; great for lounging after a long day in work clothes. And I prefer the term caftan to describe what I’m wearing, thank you very much.

Picture from Dillard's Website

Who the blazes am I kidding! It has a freakin’ zipper down the front! Just because there is a tassel on the zip doesn’t glam it up! I purchased and am now wearing a house coat.   AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

You know, they are quite comfortable. 

But, but, but… it’s a housecoat! My mother wears these. She travels with one. She wears it over her clothes when the house is cold.

You don’t have to hold in your stomach when you wear a housecoat, did you know that? And I might even receive guests while wearing my blue velvet, satin trimmed caft-

Repeat after me, it is a flipping housecoat, Maureen. Don’t kid yourself. Get rid of it now. Save yourself… This is a slippery slope you are heading down.

It’s only a matter of time before the assimilation is complete and I’m one of her…

*sob*…  I just found out it isn’t even velvet. It’s velour… noooooooooooooooooooooo!

Dreading Tomorrow – A Ski Virgin’s Report

Yoda was right: “Too
old to begin the training.”
I should have listened…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are some blog postings that are quick to write – seem to come out and need very little editing. Others take more time as I hem and haw about sentences for what seems like hours. Today had better be a quickie, because in about 27 minutes muscles critical to my mobility are going to seize up and render me unable to move, and I really would rather be in front of the fire or watching TV than here in the office.

Why, pray tell? Because today was my first time ever on skis. And I feel fairly comfortable declaring that it may very well be my last.

It started as a good idea, really. The kids had a 4 day weekend and I thought that it would be fun if we all went to Perfect North, the ski establishment about 45 minutes away, to learn how to ski. I was thinking that skiing is a useful skill – opens up lots of vacation options – and kids who learn it early seem to get it and use it their whole lives. And why not try it myself, huh?  Seems reasonable, right?

I am insane.

First, for the uninitiated and ill-equipped, you require a lot of crap to ski. Boots, skis, poles, helmet, plus ski bibs, gloves, hats, sunscreen, layers of clothing, etc.  Boots seem a simple thing, but they aren’t. They have 4 buckles, did you know that? And you know what else is important? To put your ski bibs on BEFORE you put on your rental boots. And wait, before you get too much further, you have to go to the bathroom just in case. And then you come back and get the boots back on. But wait, be sure you have the bibs on.

Then you try to walk in the boots. I felt like an astronaut on the surface of the moon. I was walking in extreme slow motion, with my knees bent because locomotion wasn’t possible otherwise. I watched in awe as others moved quickly around, while I seemed unable to keep pace with a nursing home resident. This was the first sign.

Getting the skis wasn’t too bad, nor the poles, or helmet, except that these were located in 3 different places. Although the route there was more or less linear, it required more moon walking, which was inexplicably getting harder, not easier. Regardless, we continued forward.

Did I mention there were 4 of us? Because there is something exponential about the work required to outfit 4 people for skiing. The first one isn’t too bad, but the next one takes twice as long as the first… by the fourth person, you are quite sure you’ve entered some bizzaro parallel universe where you are much hated.

Then we left the building. Let me summarize what happened from here.

  •  Tried to find a place to put all our “stuff”, which seemed to multiply since we left the car. In the end, left it all under the stairs and hoped for the best.
  • Found the ski instruction area.
  • I returned to the rental place because my boots were killing me. No really, they were killing me. Got a larger size.
  • Waited 20 minutes for ski instruction. For the kids, this was the equivalent of 4 hours and 52 minutes.  I searched repeatedly for a brick to knock myself out with. Unsuccessful.
  • Sent the kids off for private instruction.
  • Frank and I met, with Harv, our group ski instructor. At the time, he seemed to be a nice, a 60-year-old man.
  • I strapped on my skis.
  • The longest 45 minutes of my life began.

In the end, I refused to do the final bunny hill trial for the class (“I am a danger to myself and others,” I told Harv), sat on the ground (the larger size ski boot having not at all helped since I have the world’s widest feet) and seriously pondered whether I should walk in my socks across the snow to the rental area instead of wearing the boots.

The kids didn’t fare much better. When we located them, they, too, were sitting on the ground. My girl was in tears, her boots also rendering her immobile because they were now too small (“I think I broke my toe… it bends backwards now, see”) and my son was bleeding and also a little tearful – “cut his hand on the snow when he fell” is what the instructor said (say what? Cut his hand on the snow??).  She looked exceptionally uncomfortable and quite eager to deposit the kids with us.

What followed then was even more pain: the second longest 15 minutes of my life, as we made our way back to the rental place to undo everything we did 90 minutes earlier. The kids were insanely miserable. I wasn’t much better.

At last, it was lunchtime. Ahh. Food, water, dry places to sit, no more boots.  I could hear angels singing over the din.

And you know what happened next? We had a ball. Did I mention that Perfect North also has a tubing area that was a-freakin-amazing? Great fun! Spent two more hours there enjoying their runs and it saved the whole trip. Kids left happy, we left happy.  The disastrous ski elements long forgotten*.

In the end, we spent an insane amount of money (especially if you do the cost per hour…) to learn that we are not ski people but tubing people.  I’m really ok with this. I can now say that I have skied. No one needs to know that I never left the instruction area/baby bunny hill. No one needs to know that Harv thinks my IQ is in the double digits.

*Post script: The ski trip really isn’t long forgotten. Frank and I can’t move. For our mere 45 minutes on skis, we both have managed to hurt muscles we didn’t know we had. I’ve walked a half marathon before and hurt less than I do now.  God help us tomorrow morning…

Dad, Now I Understand

My parent’s wisdom:
fits better with age, although
acknowledged too late.

………………………………………………………..

The title of this posting is one of the hardest to see in writing. Who wants to admit their parent may actually have a valid point? Granted, it is far easier to acknowledge in my 40’s than in 20’s, but still, it ain’t easy. This one especially…

me and dad - no stress here! I love you dad!

One of my least favorite memories as a child (and there are very few of these) was when my dad, completely frustrated by the fact that I wasn’t ready for school yet and we were very late, left without me. My recall of this event centers on me trying hard to get ready, but being foiled by my inability to fasten my sandals: the strap was the type with the holes in it, and you had to push the floppy pin into it and thread the end of the strap through the buckle. Know which I mean?  The single most complicated system for children who are struggling with fine motor skills, the inventor of which was a complete dick? Anyway, I was really having a hard time, almost in tears because I couldn’t make it work, and he walked out the door.

(Before you scream child abuse, my grandmother lived with us… I wasn’t alone or in danger.)

Again, my recall of this event, which is shadowy and tortured because, well, I was 6, is a little dodgy. I believe (but am not sure) I walked to school, which was 3 blocks away through residential neighborhoods; I had to cross two streets (again, not complicated or dangerous). I was exceptionally responsible, even back then — even if I couldn’t get my shoe on, I knew that not going to school wasn’t an option, so I made it happen. And in that moment, my little 6-year-old brain vowed to never, ever leave my kid like dad did.

Flash forward several decades to the early years with my first-born, AP. I recall being at the mall and hearing other moms bribe their children into attentiveness with the phrase “I’m going to leave without you, Stephen! Get over here now!!”. I would stand there, judging these moms, disdainfully thinking to myself how horrible they were for promising abandonment. I told myself that I would only ever threaten that which I would actually do, and I would never, ever leave my child.

Flash forward again to the present and this first-born is now 9 years old. She is a highly capable young person. She has 2 arms and 2 legs. She seems to do well in school or has learned how to bribe her teachers into saying so (either of which indicates a fairly high level of thinking/problem solving skills). She is potty trained and regularly feeds herself. And yet, she seems incapable of getting her god damned shoes and socks on without being told one thousand, two hundred and sixty-six times each effing morning.

You know what’s coming… I almost left her the other day. I was beside myself pissed off. We live 2 minutes from school – and my husband can easily take the kids on mornings I’m not able to – but when I plan on it, and she is huckity-pucking around petting the dog or counting the rice crispies that fell on the floor during breakfast… well, let’s just say my patience runs a wee bit thin.

That morning, in a seething fit of “through my teeth” talking (would.you.get.your.blasted.shoes.on.now!), I realized with a pang of horror and remorse that I, gulp, now fully and completely understood why my father had left on that day so many years ago. I now believe that had he not left he would have done or said something horrid. Something that I was fully prepared to say at that very moment.

In the end, I took a ragged breath and stood up straight (I had assumed a hunched monkey position, so that I could look her in the eye with that “don’t eff with mommy today” look). I slowly turned, walked out the back door and went to the car. “Walk out and she will come, walk out and she will come,” I thought to myself. And you know what? She did.

And then she left again because she had forgotten something.

I let out an anguished scream as she bolted for the house; lucky for her she was back in a flash (the car was already in reverse).  And after my little “in the rear view mirror so you only see my narrowed eyes and furrowed brow” speech about her responsibility-each-morning-old-enough-to-handle-this-without-being-told-a-million-times, we came to an understanding. So far, so good — or I should say, so far the required number of shoes and socks reminders hasn’t exceeded the low double digits.

I still have a hard time with the “do this or I’ll leave you” approach to child behavior management as it really pangs me to think about it from the kid’s perspective. But I now have far more compassion for my dad’s actions in that moment than I have had for the last 38 years.

My 7 1/2 Minute Lesson

For how much longer
will his little hand seek mine,
earnestly, in love?
”””””””””””””””””””””’
At work today there was a celebration – a “thank you” for everyone for their hard work. One feature was free chair massages, and I happened into the room where they were set up just as a cancellation came in. Bonus! I got my massage straight away.

It was a very good one. She instantly found the knot in my shoulder-blade that keeps lighting off every time I lift my arm. She had a firm but gentle touch. I could hardly believe I was at work.

And then I started to worry… how long had she been at this…were my 15 minutes up yet… wait, was that a “wrap up” move… she’s working on my hands, that must mean she is almost done…damn, I wish this could go longer… 15 minutes is so short…I wonder if I can have another appointment…

And that’s how I ruined the chair massage. I spent half the time in my head asking myself all these questions and worrying about the next moment. I wasn’t enjoying the massage itself or how relaxed I was able to get. I was thinking and thinking and thinking.

In a flash of insight, I realized a terrible parallel and asked myself a question I didn’t want to answer: How much of my life do I spend not in the moment, enjoying the sensations, but “in the worry”, anticipating what’s next? The answer? A lot. And I’m not ruining chair massages with this worry, I’m missing the small, intimate moments with those I cherish most. I have worked a lot harder the last 3-4 months to be more present with my husband and kids. To not work through my “to do” list mentally while with them. To actually just hang out and watch TV and not also feel compelled to dust or straighten up at the same time.  To not ask about what’s next while in the middle of what’s now. It has been hard.  I’m not used to that level of intensity and focus (or, for that matter, self forgiveness for things not completed). I am the product of our times, addicted to moving from one thing to the next, not penetrating (with attention or action) any one thing very long. Or worse, I’m a guilt-ridden working mom trying to do a little of everything to seem like I’m able to handle it all.

But my 15 minutes in the chair helped me understand the tragedy of this. Here I was at a physical level, feeling the difference between a massage where I was present and one where I was worried — and the difference was astounding.  I grew sad that I never fully recognized how diminished my mental, emotional and/or spiritual engagement was in other situations where I was sacrificing my present focus.

I know I’ve been doing better, being more present, and yet I still have capacity for more.   I’ve decided I’m done ruining the metaphorical chair massages of every day life.

Doing My Taxes Sucks

Hell defined? Tax Prep.
Sob… Moan… I picked a bad day
To stop sniffing glue.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am so grateful that I’m related to CPAs. Three of them in fact. My mom, dad and sister are all CPAs. I spent most tax seasons and summers working in their CPA firm too, but when the time came, I bolted from that profession quicker than you can say schedule C.

But this time of year I am ever so grateful to be related to them. I’m working on my taxes right now (well, right now I’m avoiding working on my taxes because, well, they suck, see the title above).  We have a fairly simple financial set up. We own a home. No one is currently self employed. We donate a fair bit to charity. We itemize. Oh, and this past year, we sold some property we had acquired in a tax free land swap (also called a like-kind exchange) for which we now need to compare the original basis to the net proceeds less deductions for improvements made since acquisition.

Say what??

Yes, you read that right. Those are all actual words used to describe what I’m now trying to sort out in Turbo Tax. The problem is, I purchased Turbo Tax Dummy edition. With this type of property sale, however, they keep trying to get me to upgrade to the diamond edition for a further $163.61, so that that program can walk me through this type of transaction. No, thanks, I don’t want to upgrade.  I’d just like a simple way to reflect all this without going out of my effing mind!

Call in the CPA-alvary. Mom is usually the best to talk to in these scenarios. Although they all can answer my question, Dad tends to use short sentences and lacks a certain amount of TLC as he talks me through it.  My sister hates being a CPA, so my calls about taxes only serve to depress her which makes me feel guilty, so that’s not an option.  So it’s up to mom… and with her, I only have to live through the 14 associated tax related statues that impact my situation… and since I learned to tune her out in about 1981, I can still handle it.

But mom is currently at Wal-Mart. Dammit. When I get into my taxes, I don’t want to stop until they are done. My desk looks like a complete mess… the paperwork, prior year tax returns, closing statements (which are copied on legal sized paper just because lawyers like to annoy regular people) are spread all over the floor and desk but I understand where everything is, what I’ve already gone through and what is left to do.  But if I get up to do something (say, go to the bathroom or feed my hungry children) I will immediately forget where I was in the process and have to start the *&#$ over.

So instead, I’m going to sit here and wait for her to return and call me back. And she will call me back… about 30 seconds after I give up and finally go to the bathroom. Mark my word…

Thanks for the Nominations! Now it’s my turn…

Will they or won’t they…
Read me, follow me, like me…
Perilous, blogging.
————————————————-
I have been very fortunate in my first few months as a blogger. A lucky posting that got Freshly Pressed has resulted in me connecting with more fellow bloggers than I would have imagined at this point in my writing “career”.  That good fortune has resulted in several of you nominating me for blogger awards, and to date, I’ve done nothing but say thank you… have not “passed it on” to others I’m enjoying reading.

So, now I’m going to do this all at once. I know that this might make me seem brag-gy, but that isn’t my intention. I work full-time, I mother as much as possible, and I work on the writing in between, which means I must economize.  If you have a problem with this, then likely you haven’t enjoyed much of my blogging anyway, so let’s just part company now…

First, some thank yous:

http://shannonhowell.wordpress.com/ (Thanks too for the 7×7 award!)

http://imexcited.wordpress.com/

trippingdifferently.com

http://allaboutlemon.com/

Thank you for the Versatile Blogger Award. I really appreciate it.

http://beyondconfessions.wordpress.com/

http://thedonovanboys.wordpress.com/

Thank you for the Liebster Blog Award. Very thoughtful.

http://mightyinspiration.wordpress.com/

Thanks Barb for being a fellow traveler as we have some fun with this blogging stuff!

Each of your blogs is inspiring to read and I’m a better writer for the time we spend together.  Thanks for reading and awarding.

Now, on to the particulars. Each of these awards has some rules.

First, all of them require that I thank the award-er. So thank you!!

Some require you to post 7 (Versatile) or 10 (Kreativ) things about yourself. I’m just going to start typing and see how far I get…

1. I was raised in a small Georgia city. Even though the accent is long gone, most of the words I say that end in an -ing only get the -in pronounced. E.g. I was thinkin of you the other day. How’s it goin? Otherwise, my accent is as midwest as they come. That’s what happens after 20+ years gone.

2. Related to #1, I believe y’all is perfectly ok to use in any context. I often combine it with “you guys” just to confuse people.

3. I met my husband via the personal ads, nearly 20 years ago. That was before there were computer dating sites. His was in the newspaper, and frankly most of them were creepy at that time (“large, strong,  ex-Marine, 58,  seeking petite Asian woman, 21-29,  for discrete fun…” ewww). I am really thankful I found a good one. (By the way, my dad still doesn’t know this is how we met, unless my mom finally spilled the beans. Let’s see if he reads this… I don’t think he does…)

4. I don’t really like other people’s kids, for the most part. I like my own, but that’s about it. (There are a few exceptions, and those reading this know who you are…) The older my kids get, the more of their friends I like, but it’s been touch and go for years…

5. I’ve kept my toe nails painted for 90% of my life since I was 13 years old.

6. I really like men.  I enjoy their company and think they are delightful. Despite their pig-headed-ness at times, they are worth it. Don’t interpret this to mean I sleep around or have an open marriage – not my style at all. Rather just know that if I were trapped in an airport, I’d be just as happy to be with a man as a woman.

7. I hate being asked if having children was the best thing that ever happened to me.  They are one of many spectacular things that have happened to me, but to rank order them does a disservice to them all.

8. I really don’t have a favorite movie or song, but if you made me pick: Star Wars and The Incredibles would be in my top 10 movies. Music:  March Slave by Tchaikovsky and any violin piece by Joshua Bell (try this Puccini; it will make you cry, plus Joshua Bell is dreamy).  It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls and Enough is Enough by Barbra Streisand are great in the car and when I need a pick me up. Can you say “child of the 80’s”?

9. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, but I’ve listened to them all the way through on audio 7 times (I think I’m currently in the middle of my 7th round). The best version is the UK version, read by Stephen Fry. I listen while getting ready in the morning and in the evening, and sometimes in the car.  Whenever I finish the 7th book (takes about 4-5 months to get through them all), I am a little sad that he isn’t keeping me company any more (which is why I usually start them up again in about 6 months or so…). Fry is exceptionally talented in so many venues. I wish I could meet him someday. Watch this tribute to him – great fun and I totally agree. (I know this nugget about me may have weirded a few of you out…)

Enough about me, ON TO THE NOMINEES! Each of these awards require you nominate 7 (7×7), 15 (Versatile), 5 (Liebster) or 6 (Kreativ) additional blogs.  I’m just going to nominate the ones below, doing my own math. Sorry if I’m screwing this up for everyone.  If you read my blog on roles, you know that writing just made it into my top 5 roles I have, and unfortunately blog “reader” doesn’t get near the attention it should. So I don’t yet have a large repertoire of blogs I frequent.  See below for the ones, other than those from the above nominators, that I enjoy and want to share with you.

To those of you I’m nominating: you decide which award you are getting from those above. You decide whether to pass it on or not (some of your blogs don’t really work with accepting awards, I get that…). I won’t be offended if you do nothing with this. Those of y’all reading, please check these guys out because that’s what really matters in this awards business — to share the great work of fellow bloggers. And these are ones I think are pretty great.

http://frominside2out.wordpress.com/ – a wonderful daily reminder of how to approach the world. Plus, check out her mandalas. This is a dear friend of mine, Lynette, whom I’m grateful for knowing and grateful for her teaching for over a decade.

http://mandalasofplace.wordpress.com/ – a companion site to the site above. More Mandalas, and you can see where the pictures originated. There is magic in here.

http://badlandsbadley.wordpress.com/ – The Life and Times of Nathan Badley. He is a very funny man. Someone I’d like to get stranded in an airport with for sure.

http://creepypants.wordpress.com/ – The Chronicles of Creepy Pants. I haven’t made it all the way through this, but this serial (not sure what to call it, a chapter blog?) makes me laugh, as well as be thankful I work at the company I do.  I also love love love the title of the blog.

http://michaelashleypoetry.wordpress.com/ – His poetry is amazing. If I were a real poet and had more angst in my life, this is what I hope I could write. Please don’t take this to be sarcastic… I really, really like his poetry. Thank you for sharing your work and yourself.

http://dubsism.wordpress.com/ – If I were 20 years younger and still on the market, I would read his blog and pretend his insights and commentary about sports were my own, just to impress a guy I liked. I don’t always understand his points since I don’t really follow sports, but they are well said and entertaining. A good read.

http://gingerjudgesyou.com/ – I like her writing. Plus, she defended me to someone who was quite negative about my freshly pressed posting. She didn’t have to do this, so bonus points to her.

http://susanwritesprecise.com/ – She just seems to be having fun and I like that.

http://psychobabblepants.wordpress.com/ – wonderful writing and a fellow Aquarius…

http://immacraftybitch.wordpress.com/ – Fun read (yummy food), plus one of the best blog names out there.

So that’s it. Enjoy!

Will I Ever Eat This? A Tour of our Pantry

He paused, fork in hand,
then “om nom nom nom”, gulp. “ahhh.”
The well fed man smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We recently went an abnormally long time between trips to the grocery.  One night, as we gazed into the pantry for inspiration, I was struck by the extraordinarily bad choices we’ve made in terms of food selection. Let’s take a closer look…

Water chestnuts. There is only one dish these are ever used in and they always seem an afterthought. I’m sure someone who knows how to cook with them will set me straight. In the meantime, I can’t imagine these will ever get used.

2 cans of asparagus. Whoever invented this hates vegetables a lot and the people who consume them even more. I like fresh asparagus. Eating canned ones is like eating a skinned, half alive snake.  No where in the history of canned vegetables are the canned versions so different from the fresh.

Artichoke hearts. I know I bought this in order to make a party dip.  But no one invites me to parties. And if I bring this, no one will ever ask again.

9 large cans of chicken.  I have to chaperone my husband when he goes to Costco from now on. Canned chicken is by far one of the most disgusting foods out there. It has a gelatinous covering and the springy feeling of something you step on in the lake (we called that graw-doo where I come from, don’t ask me why). Ick. He puts it in canned soup to get the protein count up. I put it in the trash when he isn’t looking.

Six cans of baked beans. We clearly hate each other, the children and the dog.

Four boxes of stir fry rice noodles.  Frank dreams of making the perfect Pad Thai recipe. It appears that the recipe starts with “Buy as many boxes of rice noodles as your spouse can tolerate.” Once day, he’ll actually make the damn stuff.

24 oz package of Wild Alaska Smoked Sockeye Salmon. Expiration date of December 2017. This isn’t a shelf life, it’s a half-life. And who eats that much smoked salmon (do the math – it’s nearly 2 pounds! the box is the size of a standard mud flap!). I am so dreading when he does open this in 2016, insisting we eat it before it goes bad (“It’s fish! How can you tell??”).  Exhibit two of why he shouldn’t go to Costco alone.

dinner fork shown to provide perspective

That’s it. Throw in some dry goods (flour, sugar), more pasta (a gross of boxed mac and cheese, also from Costco), some crackers (mega box of Goldfish, the official snack of single-digit kids) and several varieties of tomato based products, and you pretty much have our pantry scoped out.   I’m just going to pretend that we eat mainly from the perimeter of the grocery store, just like “they” tell you to do, and not worry how woefully bland and uninspired (and a wee bit frightening) our pantry is making you right now.

Oh no… It just occurred to me that he’s probably going to buy capers to go with the fish. Which we will forget we bought come 2016. So we’ll need to buy another jar of them. Because everyone needs 2 jars of capers and 2 damn pounds of smoked salmon…

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