NaBloPoMo Success

Well, you guys, it’s November 30th which means it’s the last day of NaBloPoMo and I made it. I posted every single day this month even if I had nothing to say or I had to force something out of my brain and fingers. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed every single second of it.

It got me writing every day, but more than that, it got me thinking about writing every day. It forced me to sit down at the keyboard and put my thoughts down on digital paper for the whole world to read.

It made me be more bloggy-sociable and I went out of my way to read other people’s posts. I forced myself to be brave and post comments and “like” strangers’ posts. It’s seriously unnerving to jump into the comments on someone’s blog for the first time when they already have a following. It makes you feel like some awkward teenager trying to hang out with the cool kids and you don’t want to say the wrong thing in case they all laugh at you. I took that risk MANY times this month and it was totally worth it. I’ve found new blogs that have been added to my Reader, I’ve followed new people on Twitter, and perhaps most rewarding of all: many of these people have reciprocated. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to see that little quote icon at the top of the page lit up in orange. Getting an email that I have a new follower is like opening presents on Christmas morning. I’m still learning all the etiquette and rules surrounding these strange Internet relationships (How often should I comment without looking creepy? Should I “like” a post if I don’t have anything to say? I don’t want to appear over-eager, but I know how much I appreciate feedback from others.)

Will I continue posting every day? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be posting more often than I did pre-NaBloPoMo, and I suppose that’s really what this was all about. Well, that and the iPads that were up for grabs over at Blogher.com that I didn’t win.

Chubby Kitty

My cat, Rosa, has gone from being tiny enough to pick up with one hand:

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To being an average size cat:

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To being absolutely ginormous (although still not the biggest cat I’ve ever had. That title belongs to Fritz, who was a whopping 22 pounds despite us trying everything under the sun to make him lose weight.):

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I often refer to her as “fluffy” instead of fat, but let’s be honest. She’s fat. I’ve weighed her and she’s 15.2 pounds, which I didn’t think was that bad, but she has a belly that hangs and sways when she walks, and anyone who has seen her in person usually utters, “Wow, that’s a big cat!” when they first see her.

I’ve tried getting her to play more, I’ve switched her to the “weight control” cat food and give her the correct portion sizes (measured out) twice per day. She’s just big.

Yesterday, I opened a new bag of cat food, and as I did she sat there watching me with such intensity that I’ve never seen before. I even thought to myself at the time that it seemed like she was trying to figure out how to get into the bag without needing me to scoop out her allotted amount. I briefly considered moving the bag in case she tried knocking it over, but she’s never done anything like that before so I soon forgot about it.

Last night, after we got home from Thanksgiving dinner, we were sitting in the family room watching TV. Hubby fell asleep on the couch and I took advantage of that time to catch up on Snooki & Jwoww, which is my one and only trashy TV show vice. As I was sitting there, I heard a weird noise from the kitchen. A crinkly kind of noise. I peeked into the living room and didn’t see Rosa on the couch, so I walked around the corner into the kitchen and saw this:

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That little rascal had her head jammed in the bag and was chowing down! She briefly peeled herself away from her midnight snack to look at me and then right back to what she was doing with no shame whatsoever. I have to admit, I found it pretty cute and briefly considered going to wake up hubby to see her, but I opted to grab the camera from the table instead before I walked over and scolded her. I moved the bag to face the other way and blocked it with some of the clutter so that she can’t get to it nearly so easily.

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

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Oh, how I miss these two. Knowing that they’re together now gives me some sense of comfort, but I’d much prefer to have them both here, healthy and smiling and alive.

This was Thanksgiving 2005. It was Christina’s first Thanksgiving post-accident and she was still living in the nursing home at the time. Her family didn’t want to/couldn’t/wouldn’t come pick her up and bring her home for the day, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her spending the day alone with strangers in a place she hated, crying and depressed about what her life had become. My mom didn’t even think twice about it: Christina would come to our house for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t even an invitation, really. It was more of a statement. A demand.

Hubby and I went to pick her up that afternoon and drove her the 30 minutes to my house. I believe he left to go have dinner with his family and then he came back later. I don’t remember much of what we did or said on this day, but I remember it being a happy one. I was relieved that Christina was surrounded by “family” and I think she was grateful to not have to be alone. I know it was hard for her – I think it was the first time she came to my house after her accident and it was quite different this time around, not being able to bounce through the front door like it was her own home and plop down on the sofa. This time she was transferred in and out of the car by me and hubby, carried in her wheelchair up the stairs by hubby and my dad, fed by me, and weight-shifted by all four of us whenever she started to feel sick or dizzy. It was hectic and different, but it worked and we had a nice time.

This picture pretty much sums up my mom around the holidays: thematic sweater, festive pins, full of warmth and love. This is what I miss so very much, and what I am trying to emulate now. She adored all of the holidays from the big ones like Christmas to the smaller ones like Flag Day. She had decorations for every square inch of the house and herself: ceramics, banners, stuffed animals, festive socks and sweaters, pins, necklaces, and those giant inflatable lawn ornaments.

Today I will celebrate the fourth Thanksgiving without my mom. It will be my first Thanksgiving ever not having dinner with my dad either, as he has other plans this year. It’s fine; I’ll be with hubby and his family and my dad is coming over in the morning for our traditional breakfast of Entenmann’s cinnamon rolls while watching the parade (although is it really the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?). I don’t do well with change, but I’m learning to be more accepting and willing to adapt. I can’t promise that I won’t shed any tears today, but they’ll be a mix of both sad and happy ones as I remember all of the happy holidays we’ve had together.

Bubble Bath Fail

When we first toured this house, a HUGE selling point to me was the jacuzzi tub in the downstairs bathroom. I fell in love instantly, imagining countless nights spent relaxing in it with a glass of wine and yummy smelling candles. Next month will be two years since we’ve moved in and I’ve used that tub exactly FOUR times. It takes forever to fill, and it’s in the bathroom off of the kitchen, which it turns out is not the most relaxing place to be. Who knew?

Yesterday I came home from work and found myself all alone. Hubby had parent-teacher conferences until late, and there was really nothing to be done around the house (or at least nothing that I felt like doing). My neck/shoulder/back was still hurting (still is, actually) so I thought it would be the perfect time to take advantage of the tub. It hadn’t been used in quite awhile, so I followed the directions from the home inspector to fill it with hot water and vinegar and let the jets run to clean them out. Thirty-freaking-minutes later, I was finally ready to take my bath. I cranked open the faucet, poured in a bunch of bubbles, and waited. I got impatient so I climbed in while it was still filling (don’t lie, you know you do that too) and I found the water surprisingly…. lukewarm. Huh. I checked to make sure I didn’t have the cold on. Nope, just the hot. All the way on. I put my hand under the flowing water to test it and it wasn’t hot. In fact, it was almost chilly. OK. I turned the faucet off and sat in the room temperature half-filled tub for about 5 minutes.

I turned the water back on and it was a little warmer. I figured the hot water heater just needed to recuperate. I waited and waited for the water to get above the jets, but the water kept getting colder and colder. This was not panning out at all how I imagined. Once the jets were just about covered, I pressed the button.

Well, dear readers, there is a REASON why they tell you not to turn them on until the tub is full. And that reason is that they will spray soapy water ALL. OVER. your bathroom, soaking every single thing in it. It was like something out of a cartoon. It happened in slow motion, yet it happened SO MUCH as well. The walls were drenched, my iPad (you know, for the soothing relaxing music I was going to listen to) was soaked, and I was still sitting in a puddle of cold, bubbly water. I gave up and drained the stupid tub at that point, now so much more stressed than when I started. Luckily, the iPad was in a case and didn’t get too badly wet. And on the bright side, the walls and floor got a quick wash, so maybe it is a win after all.

An Open Letter to Annoying People at Target

Dear People Who Like to Use the Target Parking Lot Exit as an Entrance,

I get it; you missed the entrance and now you don’t know what to do, so you think you’ll just sneak in the exit. I’d say this is OK if it was once in awhile that I see it happen, but you know what? It’s EVERY SINGLE TIME I am there. Every single time I am trying to leave the parking lot, one of you is sitting there waiting for me to move so you can get in.

During the day this is annoying. At night, it’s downright dangerous. It’s hard enough to see at night which cars are in which lanes as they go speeding down Route 22, but it’s next to impossible when it’s pitch black outside AND you’re sitting right in my line of vision. Giving me dirty looks and rude hand gestures will get you nowhere. What would you like me to do? Use the entrance as my exit? Also, you know how it’s hard to turn into the exit because it’s angled funny? Well, it’s done that way for a REASON: so that those of us exiting can merge into the oncoming traffic easier. And also probably to discourage people like you from doing exactly what you’re doing.

I know it’s SO much easier to be lazy and feel entitled that you are above all the rules, rather than take the five minutes to go to the next U-turn and swing back around to enter the parking lot properly. I can guarantee that the socks or cereal or diapers or whatever it is you need to buy will still be there if you take your time and go around. It’s really not that hard. You can even SEE the U-turn from where you’re sitting.

Please, realize that you are not any more special than anyone else, and wherever you have to go and whatever you have to do is not any more important than what I, or anyone else who is trying to move on to the next store, have to do.

Love,
Erin

 

New (to me) Trader Joe’s Treats

We’ve been shopping at TJ’s for a few years now — their frozen section is great for quick and somewhat-healthy meals. Our standbys are the meatballs (hubby looooves these), the fettucine alfredo, chicken lo mein, vegetable pad thai, mac and cheese bites, mac and cheese (regular and reduced guilt), fajita veggies, and too many others to name. We stocked up on Friday night and we ended up back there on Saturday because our niece and nephew slept over and they wanted to make pizza. So, in addition to pizza dough, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, we also picked up a few new things to try:

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I’m not a big breakfast person during the week. I was eating Chobani every morning, but then there was mold found in some of their yogurts and I just can’t get past it. I switched to Stonyfield Greek and it’s good, but I’m bored with yogurt in general. I can’t do cereal because the milk upsets my stomach and I refuse to eat cereal with water. I was eating whole wheat toast with peanut butter and jam, which is DELICIOUS, but it also uses up a lot of my calories for the day. I like oatmeal, so I figured I’d give TJ’s version a try. I had some yesterday morning and it’s just like the Quaker instant oatmeal: pour the packet into a bowl, add water, microwave. The difference is that this stuff has tons of fruit flavor, actual berries, and it’s filling! This is my new go-to breakfast.

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If you haven’t tried the peppermint Joe Joes from TJ’s, then you’re seriously missing out on life. They’re basically Oreos with peppermint cream in the middle, and they’re only around for the holidays. BUT, check out this upgraded version of these cookies: they are smothered in dark chocolate and then covered with pieces of crushed candy canes! You only get a few in the box (versus an entire box of the un-chocolately ones), but they are worth every single penny.

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These were an impulse buy, mostly because I knew they wouldn’t be around all year so if I wanted to try them, now is the time. They’re very similar to peppermint patties, but they too have crushed candy cane pieces on top. They’re good, but SUPER sugary and as much as I love sweets, even I could only handle one of these suckers.

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I have a severe weakness for macarons. I’ve tried the vanilla/chocolate combination pack from TJ’s, and they’re good, but these look so much better. I admit that I haven’t opened them yet, but I’m going to rip them open tonight after dinner and dive in. There are 12 in a box, and the flavors are: apricot, coconut, fig, salted caramel (OMG), lemon, and pistachio.

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Another impulse, seasonal purchase. It looked good, we wanted to try it, we bought it. We’re making it tonight, so I’ll let you know how it is. The only problem I foresee is that it is a HUGE box (serves 12!) and there are only 2 of us. I told hubby if we make it tonight, we’ll be having it for lunch and dinner tomorrow as well. He’s willing to take the chance.

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Thanksgiving is going to be at my brother-in-law’s house this year. We volunteered to bring mashed potatoes and were then asked if we were bringing gravy, too. Since gravy is usually made from the turkey juices, I didn’t think we were. But, we decided to bring some pre-packaged stuff as a back-up just in case (something my mother taught me because you never know if you’re going to get enough liquid from the bird and then you’re screwed and left with dry potatoes). So, we’re going to test run TJ’s version tonight and see if it’s good enough to feed the rest of the family.

Stressful Saturday

When I get stressed out, it usually manifests itself in at least one of three ways:

1. Hunger
We went to Trader Joe’s last night to pick up “a few” things. That turned into $103.00 worth of meatballs, frozen meals, cookies, wine, and… wait for it… COOKIE & COCOA SWIRL. My friend Cyndi has been raving about Cookie Butter for weeks, so I checked it out while I was there. There is a sign on the shelf advising there is a 5 jar maximum per customer in order to allow everyone to enjoy it. Wow. I was thisclose to buying some, but then I saw the jar next to it which taunted me with claims of cookies AND chocolate together in one harmonious jar of wonderful. How could I pass that up? So, this happened:

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The jar tells me to put it on pancakes or waffles or sandwiches, but that sucker is getting eaten with a spoon straight out of the jar. It’s seriously GOOD, you guys. Go get some.

Despite the fact that I’ve been eating as much of whatever I want, whenever I want, I weighed in this week for the first time in about a month and I have only gained one pound. I’m back to tracking every single bite using MFP and I’m trying to get on the elliptical as much as possible. My big problem at the moment is eating things that I can’t track–like General Tso’s Shrimp from our local Chinese food place, or the veggie club sandwich from Houlihan’s. I need to stick to things that have labels.

2. Rage
Well, I feel like this post alone sums up my ragey issues lately.

3. Physical Pain
It’s the slow season at work. This means that my day is spent mostly doing a lot of data entry and system updates, which requires pretty much the exact same movements ALL. DAY. LONG. Ctrl+V, click, save. And repeat. Not only are my eyes suffering from staring at the computer screen all day, but I’ve felt it in my back and shoulders as well. Couple that with my mom’s recent anniversary, the upcoming holidays, and my general cheery disposition (please note the sarcasm), and I end up with frozen muscles in my back, neck, and shoulders. I woke up at 4:30 this morning unable to turn my head or move any part of my body really, without intense burning pain. I somehow hobbled downstairs to the couch and managed to turn the heating pad on and I waited for the pain to subside. It didn’t. I dozed on and off for the next several hours, wincing and on the verge of tears any time I needed to shift my position. I woke up hubby and had him massage my shoulder, but that didn’t help. I sat with the heating pad again for a few hours, took a hot shower, downed some Tylenol, and even worked out thinking that maybe the blood flow and movement would relax my muscles. I ended up having to drive to the pharmacy for the big guns:

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On a brighter note, one of my Christmas gifts arrived yesterday. I didn’t want to open it, but hubby made me just to make sure everything was OK with it. I may have squealed in delight when I saw it:

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A signed first-edition copy of Someone Else’s Love Story by my favorite author. I don’t know why I didn’t start buying these earlier, but I’ll definitely be buying all of her books this way from now on!

 

Fifty Years

Growing up in my house meant knowing all about the Magic Bullet Theory, the Zapruder film, the grassy knoll, and the Warren Commission. I often joke to myself that when my mom got to Heaven, after reuniting with family and friends, she immediately went in search of three people: Paul Newman (her celebrity crush), Pope John Paul II (does this one need explanation?), and JFK (he was a Democrat, Catholic, and the fact that he was good-looking probably didn’t hurt).

My mom was 14 at the time of the JFK assassination, and although she never said it directly, I know it completely changed her world and her view of everything around her. I hate to use the word “obsessed,” but well, she was obsessed. She had at least two bookcases full of books about conspiracy theories, trajectories, the Kennedy family history, and pretty much anything even remotely related to JFK.

She would record anything on TV about him or the assassination and kept a catalog to organize all of her video tapes. Oh yes, we still had VCRs and shelves of recorded documentaries and specials. My dad and I finally made the executive decision last year to just dump them all. We kept the books but we’re not sure what to do with them; some are out of print and can’t be bought anymore, so we’re thinking we should probably just hold on to the whole collection.

Honestly, I never thought too much about the assassination. I knew it was a horrible thing, but it happened so far before my time, that I didn’t connect with it at all, the way my mom did. I watched the shows with her, and we had discussions, and I knew it was an important turning point in history. I guess I just didn’t “get” it.

As an adult, and especially as an adult who has experienced profound personal losses, I look at it very differently. Instead of it being The President died, now I see it as Someone’s husband and father died. Very, very different. I look at this picture of Jackie Kennedy and I’m moved to tears because of the shock and pain so clearly displayed on her face, even though you can just make out a small corner of her eye:

Thanks Wikipedia for the image

I mean, can you even imagine what she must have been feeling and thinking at that moment? Only hours before, she was the First Lady and her husband was alive, and now here she was, a widow, at the swearing in of the next President. Not to mention, she’s still in the clothes from that morning with her husband’s blood all over them. It makes me shudder just to think about it.

Then there’s this one, which I had never seen before today:

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I can’t figure out how to embed a video, but here is the video of NBC news announcing the President’s death. Watch for the reporter’s wince and hesitation to say the word “died” — and if you watch the entire clip, you see him wipe away a tear at the very end.

Throwback Thursday: How I Made My Mom a Fan of the Mouse

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My mom has never been a fan of Disney, except for Donald Duck — she liked him because he’s always grumpy and feisty. Growing up, I was repeatedly reminded that I didn’t need a prince to save me from anything and that I was strong and independent. I had always wanted to go to Disney World, but for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time (it was REALLY expensive and we didn’t have a lot of money), we never got there. About a month before my college graduation, I decided that hubby (then-boyfriend) and I were going as a graduation present to ourselves. We fell in love with all things WDW and go there every year.

When it came time to plan our wedding, I knew I didn’t want a big ceremony with a lot of guests. I was desperately trying to figure out how to invite immediate family only without offending anyone, but let me tell you — that’s impossible. I started to look into destination weddings and discovered that WDW offered wedding packages. I thought they would be completely out of our budget and that no one would come, but we made it work and it was fabulous. We were limited to a certain number of guests, so it was the perfect excuse to only invite our immediate family members. I didn’t have to make small talk with a bunch of people I barely know, we didn’t spend a ton of money for everyone else to party, and we made wonderful memories — perfect.

I know that my mom was disappointed in our chosen venue even though she never said anything to me about it. The only thing she ever asked me was if we were going to get our marriage blessed by the Catholic church when we got back. I told her I’d think about it (we finally did that on St. Patrick’s Day — in her honor — last year). I knew that having to go to “Mickey World” as she called it, was not her idea of a good time. Not to mention it was August and it meant she had to get on a plane (she had flown many times in her life, but never post-9/11 and she was extremely nervous).

I never in a million years would have predicted that she would have a good time. But take a look at that smile on her face — complete with “princess” ears! She had the time of her life and wouldn’t stop talking about how great it was right up until she passed. In fact, she had SUCH a good time that she and my dad came down in 2009 for an entire week with me and hubby. We took them to all the parks, to character meals, on rides, and they even stayed on property. She bought ears and pins and shirts and jewelry. It was a wonderful sense of accomplishment for me to turn my mother into a fan of WDW — it was something she was so against yet grew to love because of me. She thanked me so many times for getting her to see the light.

We had plans to go back together in 2011 — after she “got better” — but obviously that never happened. That was the only year that hubby and I didn’t go either. It was just too hard to be there knowing that she was supposed to be there with us. As much as I miss her and as much as it hurts, I can’t help but smile when I look at the pictures of her with the characters. She was always just a big kid and it comes out so much in these photos. Although I’m sure she was already very sick in this picture (from 2007, and she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in June 2010), this is how I want to remember her: healthy and happy and having fun.