New Blogging Digs

July 26, 2011

Hello Friends!

I recently gave my blog a complete overhaul, inlcuding it’s very own domain, new name and fancy new design.  Pop on over to Alas I Digress  for my latest musings.   

Enjoy!

Michele

Looking Back

April 11, 2011

29 by Adena HalpernToday I played hooky.  No, I didn’t get a pedicure.  I surprised my 94 year-old Grandmother with an impromptu visit in the middle of the day.   

When I arrived, she had just finished her chair exercise class and was in the dining room at a table by herself.  It always makes me a little sad when I find her sitting by herself for meals.  That said – it’s never for very long.  However, today, I was relieved that I didn’t have to share her.  I had business.  

With notebook and pen in hand, I asked her what she would do if for one day she should could be 40 again.  She would no longer be blind and could walk freely, swishing her hips and hearing the clap, clap of her heels.  (I suspect she was a really, really good hip swisher.)

She said simply that she’d spend the day with my Grandpa.  And, if it was more than a day, they’d go on a trip together “because I loved him so much.”

Before we could get too far involved, we were joined by her good friend, Kathryn, who is also in her 90s.   Kathryn didn’t hesitate.  She had big, detailed plans for her day at 40 again.  “First, I would get my grandsons and take them to my house.  I’d make waffles.  My waffle maker has five heart-shaped waffles.  Then, we would go to the park and I’d take a book with me.  I always take books with me to the park.” 

As she elaborated on her day, I wondered how long it had been since she had a day in the park – just her and her grandsons.  Then, my intentions turned inward and the guilt welled up, as  I wondered how many park days that I’ve taken for granted or worse yet, wished I was somewhere else ticking off things from my to-do list.

Grandma and Kathryn were quickly moving from ideas on how to spend their day to stories of old.  This could have been a long and fun tangent, but I had a writing deadline.  So, I asked them both, “What would you tell your 40-year old self?  Here’s their advice (verbatim) …

·         Always put your husband first.

·         Always keep yourself looking good.

·         It’s nice to have pet names for each other (husband/wife).

·         Try to be home when your husband gets home.

·         If you can’t say anything nice – just don’t say it.

·         Always be honest (w/your husband).

 

I almost couldn’t hear their answers over the feminist screaming in my head. 

 

I gingerly laid down my pen and smoothed out my 2011 ire and asked “What about you? What would YOU do without your kids or husband for whole day?”

 

Kathryn said, “I don’t know how to think about my life without children.  I’ve was just in my room thinking – what is my problem?  My problem is that I don’t have any children in my life.”

 

At that moment, I was quietly content with the beauty of my life simply as a mother and a wife. 

This post was inspired by the novel 29 by Adena Halpern, the April pick for the From Left to Write Book Club. A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

Halpern teases, “You’re only young twice.”  In 29, a 75 year-old grandmother’s birthday wish comes true.  She awakes as a svelte and beautiful 29 year old woman.  The grandmother’s glorious adventures with her 20-something granddaughter made me want to scoop up my 94 year-old Gram and take her out on the town … road trip, shopping for a new outfit, lunch at an outdoor bistro, or a tropical drink enjoyed bar-side.  Alas, we enjoyed a cup of soup and ice tea this afternoon. And, you know what?  It was just right.

Bucket List Deadline: June 2019

March 31, 2011

I recently came to a horrifying realization.  My bucket list has a deadline.  8 years and 2 months to be exact.

I was content in thinking that my bucket list could exist existentially and, well, until I kicked the bucket.  This gave me all the time in the world to dream, plan and do all the wonderful things I want to do before I head North. 

Truth-be-told, a bucket list is a little cliché for me.  It’s like choosing books from the Oprah list.  Ugh.  Rather not.   So, up until recently, my “list” only existed in my head and I only talked about it during long car trips when I was bored out of my gored.

Then, as often is the case, a good book made me start thinking more about my life – and a concrete bucket list.  While reading a lovely memoir meets cookbook called “Lunch in Paris,” I was reminded of our three-week Euro trip in 2000 – pre-kids.  It was heaven.  And, it’s also something that we talk about more and more.  When should we go back with the kids?  What do we want them to see?  Which countries and how long?  France, of course, tops the list.

This has made me think A LOT about all the things I want to do with my kids before they are grown.  In fact, I finally confided my most secret desire to my hubs last week.  It went something like this.  “Honey, I really, REALLY want an RV.  Very soon, I might add.”  His response (or question, I should say)  went like this:  “Really?” 

I explained that we already have the fancy bike rack (which is relevant – yes, it is!). You can’t have an RV, unless you have the bike rack on the back, right?  That would be a rookie-RV maneuver.  It would be such a gift to travel to the National Parks and breath in nature  and all its wonder with the kids.  He just smiled … didn’t say a word. 

That’s when I realized that I do have a bucket list. In fact, “Lunch in Paris” and the random RV sighting unleashed a long list of must-dos.  Paris with the kids, an RV to countless national parks, a trip to DC, visits to Presidential libraries, saving for college (and more saving for college).

In only eight years, my son graduates from high school. Eight years isn’t enough time.  In fact, the thought of accomplishing it all in eight years is enough to give a pre-menopausal mother a bonafide panic attack.  It’s too soon. 

Thankfully, there are many things on my list that don’t require a spreadsheet and refinancing the homestead.  So, for now, I’ll continue to make homemade dinners and push the H2O consumption.  It’s an everyday challenge that leads to my ultimate bucket list “to do” — raising children who eat (and appreciate) real, whole foods.   I’m hoping eight years is long enough to accomplish this one!

By the way, the lady going through the drive-thru that looks just like me … she’s my illegitimate half, real twin sister, who relishes making vision board for her friends.

This post was inspired by Lunch in Paris, the April pick for the From Left to Write Book Club. A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher. My two cents – Lunch in Paris was a true delight – equal parts romance/sweet memoir and fab-o recipes that brought out the “Frenchy” in me.  For the love of cheese!!

A 94 Year Old Love Story

March 8, 2011

He had asked her the same question before.   She said, “I need to think about it.” 

(“I didn’t want him to think I was eager.  But, I really did love him.”)

Then, on the occasion of their fourth date, he asked again.  This time, she hesitated and with a tease, said that she would agree on one condition.  He would have to learn to say, “Ich liebe dich meine liebe fraulien.”   (I love you, my lovely lady.)

Not even 10 years earlier, her life was on a different trajectory.  She was the daughter of second-generation German immigrants, who lived a simple and austere farm life in Richmond, Minnesota.   She spoke only German until the third grade and then, at age 13, finished school and moved to a neighboring farm to earn money as a mother’s helper for her family.  When she returned to the farm, she fell in love with a boy from a neighboring farm and before long, they were engaged.

She loved her soon-to-be farm husband.  Of course, her life would be as a farmer’s wife.  Then, a horrific accident in the winter of 1940 left her left leg crushed and her young body body “crippled.”  She was told that she would never walk again, and with that, her parents took her home, where she laid in bed for seven months. 

While her brothers and sisters would head out to the dance each Friday night, she lay in bed.  Her Frank would sit at her bedside.  As the days turned into months, it became clear that she could never make a good farmer’s wife.  And, she knew Frank’s parents wanted him to call-off the engagement.  Then, one night, she said simply, “This is not your fault.  I’ll understand if you don’t come back.”  And, with that, he left and never returned.  

To the doctor’s surprise, she did walk again almost a year later.  In fact, with a stiff knee, she sprinted from the cold grip of Minnesota into the warm arms of California.  In 1942, she made the three-day train trip to join her brothers in Long Beach, California.  For almost two years, she worked the graveyard shift at Douglas Aircraft.  She was an original Rosie the Riveter.   

During her rare days off, she would accompany her roommate to dances, where she’d fox trot into the wee hours of the morning with service men.  It was war time.  She was a 5 foot 10 inch natural beauty and would be courted and wooed by countless men – two of which she declined matrimony.

Then, in the summer of 1948, she met a service man named Collin.  She was 31 years old – three years his senior!  He was tall and Catholic and handsome (in order of importance).  He was also French!  Oy, vey!   But, mostly he was smitten and determined to win her heart.   Little did he know that she had received four marriage proposals before his that each ended in heart break.   And, if he knew, he didn’t care.

At her request, he said in his best German, “Ich liebe dich meine liebe fraulien.  Will you marry me?”  And, for a lifetime, she drank from a mug that read, “Kiss me, I’m German.”  His, of course, countered with, “Kiss me, I’m French.”  And, kiss they did. 

“She” is my 94 year old grandmother.  And, her stories about German holidays, Minnesota farm life, California adventures, and of course, L-O-V-E  still hold me spell bound.

This post was inspired by Mr. Rosenblum Dreams In English, the March pick for the “From Left to Write” Book Club. A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

Publisher’s overview:  At the outset of World War II, Jack Rosenblum, his wife Sadie, and their baby daughter escape Berlin, bound for London. They are greeted with a pamphlet instructing immigrants how to act like “the English.” Jack acquires Saville Row suits and a Jaguar. But the one key item that would make him feel fully British -membership in a golf club-remains elusive. In post-war England, no golf club will admit a Rosenblum. Jack hatches a wild idea: he’ll build his own.  In her tender, sweetly comic debut, Natasha Solomons tells the captivating love story of a couple making a new life-and their wildest dreams-come true.

Me Cold, You Warm

February 10, 2011

“What happened?” he asked – pointing at the PG&E bill.  Not again.  Every month, we squabble over the same thing.  “Remember, I work at home.  I get cold.  I turn on the heater.”  His pedantic retort, “Put on a sweater.” 

I explained that if he stopped staring at the bill long enough to look at me, he would see that I was wearing a jacket IN THE HOUSE.  Under the jacket, I had a sweater and long-sleeved shirt.  Plus, I was wearing a pair of his man-socks and shoes.  Alas, I was still cold.

Me being cold is a common theme here at homestead.  One year, my parents presented me with an early Christmas present – my very own Snuggie.  I love how my parents still find ways to take care of me – without regard to my age or concern about the numerous fashion violations that I rack up simply by donning the frock of fleece.  

To my husband’s defense, he regularly refers to me as a well-oiled machine (nice PR move on his part).  At 72 degrees – I am freezing.  At 80 – I am burning up.  From 76 to 78 degrees, I hum and purr.  In other words – no complaining about my internal temp.  And, he’s right. 

However, that doesn’t account for his Fred Mertz tendencies upon the arrival of the monthly PG&E bill.  Apparently, he’s not the only man who runs hot when it comes to the power bill.   “Turns out, there’s a biological explanation behind this heated battle at the thermostat,” reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

Women conserve more heat around their core organs than our counterparts (alas, warm heart).  Since women carry less fat and muscle mass than men, our bodies need to be more efficient in protecting our core body temperature.

Vindication at long last!  

Mark Newton, a long-time scientist at the Gore-Tex company, says that women really do feel the cold more than men, because we are better at conserving heat than men.  The result – less blood flows to their hands and feet (alas, cold feet). 

I won’t digress into a men-versus- women argument.  I won’t dare suggest that our bodies are more efficient or that we are biologically superior in protecting our vital organs.   I wouldn’t think to do such a thing … well, that is until next month’s bill arrives.

Teen speak: Gag me with a spoon!

February 3, 2011

That’s right, I was a Valley Girl. Not the pretend kind. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and could weave 30 “likes” into any conversations with skill and ease. I had great intonation. Plus, I had perfected the eye roll (also known in the day as rad skilz!). I’m sure it was painful for anyone over the age of 16 to engage in conversation with me.

That said, there were some phrases that were off limits, including: “Like, oh my God.” The other no-no: “Shut up!” (as in “no waaay!”). My parents made it clear they didn’t want to hear either of those and especially not directed at them. Today, these top my list of no-no phrases too. So, it’s no surprise that I wince whenever I hear a fourth grader say, “OMG.”

Yet, OMG is typical of today’s teen speak, which is cloaked in cryptic acronyms via a steady stream of text messages. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal, said that the average teen sends more than 100 texts per day or more than 3000 text messasges per month. That’s a lot of time. But, my beef isn’t with quantity. I logged a ridiculous number of hours on the telephone when I was teeny-bopper. (Of course, the phone was tethered to the wall and I was safely tucked in my bedroom.)

My problem is the number hours spent sending sloppy, grammatically incorrect text messages back and forth. Not to be melodramatic, but I’m concerned about the destruction of the English language and annihilation of general civility. (Okay – so I’m a little melodramatic). For real — I find texting crass. When I see LOL, I want to scream, “Use your words!” So cliché. So boring. So utterly lazy.

However, I’m smart enough to know that this is how my kids will someday soon communicate with me. They won’t use whole sentences with punctuation. They won’t even use their own words. They’ll send me quick, punchy texts to tell me their whereabouts. But, because it’s their language and their rules – I’m learning.

The Online Mom, Monica Villa, writes, “Think of the Internet as a giant swimming pool. You can put a fence around it. But, the safest child will be the one who knows how to swim!” I’d add one important footnote here. You can’t teach your kid to float if you don’t get in the water.

So, this is me, diving into the world of texting – NT (no thanks), NE1HR (anyone here), 143 (I love you), PAL (parents are listening) or TAW (teachers are watching). For the down-low on IM/texting lingo, check out Monica’s handbook on “Staying Safe Online.” And to keep it real, I remind myself that I regularly used the words “groddy,” “totally” and the occassional “gnarly” during my formative years. Alas, I turned out okay.

(In full disclosure – I skillfully butcher the English language everyday on Twitter and have never once used LOL, ROFL or LMAO. I prefer the authentic “HA!” or laid-back “funny” instead. There’s also the sublime “tee-hee-hee.”)

The Curse of the Good Girl

January 11, 2011

Every once in a while, I have an experience that changes me as a person – as a parent – as a woman. Most recently, it was reading the book, The Curse of the Good Girl. I was – and to some extent, still am – that good girl. Quiet. Polite. Demure. My daughter, on the other hand, is none of those things.

She’s no ordinary flower and in fact, I’d argue that she’s not a flower at all. My friends suggest, perhaps, she could be a “Tiger Lily.” The nick-name has stuck because it describes my daughter perfectly. Fearless, bold and altogether, too loud.

We don’t always jive. I’m often telling her to speak more quietly. Even more often, I give her the squinty eye and remind her “that’s not appropriate.” She, of course, thinks that anything that’s not appropriate is hilarious. It’s killing me.

She’ll outgrow, yes? Probably not. In all likelihood, my daughter will have her own style and I’m pretty certain it won’t be understated. If I’m lucky, she’ll grow into a confident, authentic woman with a voice that she is proud of.

Author Rachel Simmons writes: “Taught to value niceness over honesty, perfection over growth and modesty over authentic self-expression, girls are locked into a battle with a version of themselves that they can never attain.”

From communication to crying to criticism and owning up – Simmons cautions that the good girl believes “that conflicts is personal and ends relationships” and that girls define “leadership in terms of friendship.” While I’m trying to temper my flower’s tone and volume (molding her into a nice and well-mannered girl) – it is these words that stop me cold.

Power, self-confidence and peace. I want it all for my daughter and I certainly don’t want her to measure her self-worth or influence based solely on friendship or worse yet, fear of conflict. For the first time, I see her fearless demeanor and loud voice as a pathway to her authentic self and to a success that only she can define. Keep raising your hand! Keep running to the front! Don’t be afraid to fall!

Simmons writes, “Success is built on a paradox: the more concerned about failing we become, the less we are able to achieve. Good Girl perfection is success with a ceiling. Its pursuit offers little room for the risk and adventure that yield exhilarating leaps in growth.”

It is surviving those “exhilarating leaps of growth” that concern me. How do I raise a daughter who is both courageous and gracious? Simmons recommends, “Be the change you want to see in your daughter.” For us moms, she recommends:

• Try to tell the truth every day. Teach your daughter the language of truth-telling (respectfully).
• Put a premium on authenticity. Honor mistakes; embrace limits and failures.
• Be a little “full of yourself.” Curb self-deprecating comments; accept compliments.

For our daughters, Simmons says to teach her the three rules of relationships:

• Not everyone is going to like you.
• Friendship is one of the many possible relationships in life.
• When truth and friendship cannot coexist, get rid of the friendship.

It seems the key to raising an authentic daughter is helping her to navigate the mind field that is known casually in the mom circles as “girl drama.” However, it’s far more insidious as the pressure to be “good” undermines a girl’s power and potential. Whether it is conflict or communication – The Curse of the Good Girl gives parents tangible strategies for breaking the curse and raising authentic girls with courage and confidence. Hear! Hear!

Disclaimer: Michele received a free copy of The Curse of the Good Girl to review for the MamaManifesto and FromLeftToWrite readers.

Making Peace with My To-Do List

January 5, 2011

Me and my “to do” list parted ways about a year ago.   It was never just one list.  It was lots of very long lists.  Work lists, family lists, school lists, holiday lists.  On the weekends, my husband and I would make a mammoth mutual list of “to dos” that would live on our kitchen counter from Friday eve to Monday morn.

 It’s well known in my household that I get crazy pleasure from two things – being the first to open the Christmas cards and checking off completed items on the “to do” list.   Therefore, my sweet husband would even let me cross-off his finished projects.  Not to let an opportunity for a good ribbing pass, he would gently pat my shoulder and ask, “Now, do you feel better?” 

That’s the problem.  My lists had become so unweilding and unrealistic that I was feeling pretty unfulfilled with the whole list-making exercise.  Plus, if everything didn’t get done, I felt down-right depressed.  Then, one day – I had it.  I told him, no more lists.  Plus, I didn’t even want to see his lists lying about thumbing its nose at me.  He didn’t believe me at first. 

That was about a year ago.  When the holidays arrived, I found myself scribbling notes here and there.  Then, last week my online book club selection arrived.  “Take the Cake —  A working mom’s guide to grabbing a slice of the life you’ll love.”  It was a 150-page how-to book that I devoured over two cups of coffee.

If author MF Chapman had the secrets to surviving the everyday juggle and achieving one’s dreams – I’m in (even if it means making peace with the “to do” list).  The good news was that her suggested “to do” list was a completely different form factor then my long and detailed lists.  Chapman’s list was divided into four quadrants that represent each area of my life (me, family, work and blog).   

Sadly, the “me” quadrant only included one item … yoga.  And, the funny thing is that I haven’t exercised in years and have only done yoga twice in the last month (ever).  The majority of my “to dos” fell into the family/work camp and the week’s lists barely fit into the quadrant.   It was pitiful. 

When my husband saw the list, he asked, “Where am I?  Do ‘we’ go under ‘me’ or is that a ‘family’ item.” Ummm…. hmmm.  I didn’t know how to answer that, but I did know I wanted my own quadrant (for goodness sakes!).  Maybe, I need another quadrant “we.”  Is it possible to have five quadrants?  Again – pitiful.

For about a month, I’ve been looking at my list.  Many of the little items have been crossed off, which has left me contemplating the big things.  If the list and are going to co-exist, there has to be some rules.  The first rule being that the smalls stuff that clutters my life and hurts my head needs its own everyday list – preferably on a tiny post it that can be tossed daily. 

The best thing about Chapman’s “to do” list is that it was about achieving the life’s most important goals, while managing the everyday – which means I need to find a place for “we” and “me” in my list.  For that alone – it’s worth raising the white flag and making peace with my list.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of “Take the Cake.”  If you would like to read more blog posts inspired on “a working mom’s guide to grabbing a slice of the life you’ll love,” please visit From Left to Write online book club.

Outing my husband & his mini-van hang-up

December 14, 2010

(Images have been altered to protect the innocent - or those embarrassed easily.)

My husband hates our mini-van.  I’m pretty certain that he’ll only drive it if the kids and I are visibly riding in said car.  Consider the consequences of driving the mini-van without the kids?  Apparently, other dudes pity the poor male sap who has to drive the family truckster – or so I’m told.

About once a month, my hubby asks the same question:  “Do you think we’re done with the minivan?”  My typical tempered response:  “What?  No, honey.  We’re not dooone with the minivan.”

However, our conversation recently escalated when our much “cooler” car needed to be smog checked.  I suggested that we trade cars for the day.  It seemed reasonable.  He could drive the mini-van to work and I would take care of the smog check, which was awfully decent of me on two accounts. 

First, shuttling kids around in a sport sedan is well, not always easy and requires that we all be extra mindful of crumbs and other crap left in the car.  (Not my strong suit.)  Second, I was saving him (us!) a late fee for a smog check that he had previously had two months to complete. (Yeah – fodder for another blog post.)

His response, “No way!  I can’t roll like that.”  Oh, if you could have heard my lecture, which included you should thank God that you have a good job and nice car to drive.  Didn’t matter.  He wasn’t kidding and he also wasn’t budging. 

All this has got me thinking.  Not necessarily about how stuff defines you, but how it makes you feel.  My car screams mom-mobile versus the ubber cool mobile mom.  The van is all about function.  Yet, it has the added benefit of comfort.  It’s like eating a plate full of mashed taters with gravy –  all comfort with heapings of mess.  Ridding in his car is like wearing a leather jacket – all attitude, baby. 

Clearly, the mini-van makes my hubby feel less hub-a-licious.  I suppose that I could be more sensitive to his mini-van hang-up and not duck and hide when we’re riding around town.  Nah, teasing him is waaay more fun.

You can bake shrimp? Who knew…

November 16, 2010

With the amount of blogging I do about food and dinner prep, you’d think that I was some wanna-be foodie, right?!  Nope. 

I try really, really hard to eat healthy.  If I had it in me, I’d have my own garden and supplement it with fresh fruits/veggies from nearby farms.  Maybe I’d even buy a pig or a cow and big hunkin’ freezer to put it all in.  Of course, there would be canning too.

Alas I digress … because buying a cow is so far from my reality.  In fact, I’m likely to skip a meal to squeeze in a few extra minutes of work.  Or, skip a meal simply so I don’t have to figure out something to eat and then, stop what I’m doing to prepare and eat it.  Sounds incredibly lazy, I know.  Simply put –  good cooking and healthy eating are time consuming.

I’ve been trying to shake myself out of a spaghetti rut – attempting unreal recipes that I can make in real life.  When my sister-in-law recently called on a Friday night to chat, I was attempting to do just that – create a gourmet meal for my family.  Before she even asked “whatchadoing,” I blurted out, “You guys should come over.  I’m making the best meal e-v-e-r and it’s going to be too good to waste on the kids.” 

Boy, was I right.  I made “Baked Mediterranean Shrimp” from Myra Goodmans’ cookbook “The Earthbound Cook.”  I didn’t even know it was possible to BAKE shrimp.  It had all of my favorite things – Kalamata olives, feta cheese, capers, tomatoes, pasta.   Oh yeah, it had shrimp too.  It was fabulous.   

I don’t remember which parts of the meal my kids ate, because I didn’t care.  I was in food heaven!   In fact, the entire evening was perfect.  After dinner, we pulled out a deck of cards and taught my sister-in-law to play hearts.  Amid lots of laughter, our husbands schooled us in cards while the kids played in the background.  Really, there’s nothing better than closing the “to do” list in the top drawer and opening up our house to good food, a deck cards and a highball (or two) with my favorite in-laws. 

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of “The Earthbound Cook:  250 Recipes for Delicious Food and A Healthy Planet.”  If you would like to read more blog posts inspired by “The Earthbound Cook,” please visit From Left to Write online book club.


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