Monday, December 26, 2005

The best Christmas ever!

We had so much fun yesterday! Pajama Christmas was great! Almost everyone participated in the pajama part. Here's me in my Ice Skating Polar Bear pjs with matching slippers:

We started with a fabulous breakfast of two kinds of egg's the menu (a little rubbed off cause somebody leaned against it):

After the brunch dishes were done, we opened presents! Another new tradition this year was to pull names from a hat to see who opened the next present. Previously, we started with the youngest opening all their gifts at once and moving up in age. That used to be great when I was younger but now it stinks! My name was pulled about 4th or 5th. I received lovely earrings and a contribution to one of my favorite charities (The Smile Train).

I spent most of the afternoon scanning pictures. We ended up with 330 pictures on a CD we gave to every household at the end of the day, including lots of pics of my dad as a young man. This is one of my favorites:

Around 5 o'clock we had our supper...yummy ham sandwiches, cucumber salad, fruit and two kinds of potatoes (mine plus a sweet potato casserole). Dessert was cookies and cake. The day ended shortly after "da Bears" beat the Packers (woo-hoo!).

Everyone had such a good time. The day was relaxed, comfortable and fun. The only thing I would have done differently is to move the photo project into the living room instead of working on it in the bedroom. They offered me a table out there, but I had already set up and didn't want to move.

And Christmas isn't over for me! Tomorrow I head to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with Daniel's family. What a bonus to have two families to love and who love me!

This Christmas was the best ever, not just because of what I have described above. I have been so blessed this year, especially the last few months. Through what can only be described as a miracle, I made it through the baking and decorating of hundreds of cookies, the daily availability of wonderful goodies at the office, the preparation of six pounds of cheesy mashed potatoes, and the two biggest eating holidays known to man, and not once was I tempted to overeat. Through God's grace, I have been released of my food compulsion (and approximately 40 pounds so far).

I am enjoying life, moment by moment, living an attitude of gratitude in everything. I have never been happier. Thank you, Lord, for the best Christmas ever!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Pajama Christmas!

It's early Christmas morn. I've got lots to do before heading to my sister's home for the day. Our Christmas Day tradition has been an early dinner there since she and her husband got married. It is wonderful! They are extremely good cooks, and we have a different menu every year. I usually start asking "what's cooking for Christmas?" sometime in October.

This year we are starting a new tradition. Because my niece really, really, really didn't want to get out of her pajamas when company was due last year, she came up with the idea of "Pajama Christmas". We're starting with brunch in our pajamas, and if you want you can stay in them all day. We're also having the fabulous dinner, and this year several of us are bringing side dishes or desserts so the cooks don't have to make absolutely everything. I'm bringing my own invention...cheddar ranch mashed potatoes with fried onion topping (mmmmmmmm).

And since we're going to be there all day long, I came up with an idea for a project to do. Everyone is bringing pictures that they think the family would like a copy of. We're going to scan them all and at the end of the day give each household a CD with all the pictures, including pics taken today in our pajamas! I just love digital photography!

Well, gotta get going. I need to start packing up my red shopping cart (it really is red) with gifts, potatoes, cookies, my computer and scanner and CDs and labels, a change of clothes in case I get tired of being in my pjs, and probably more stuff that I'm forgetting about. I'll report back later.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some more cookies

I made these for a friend to take to a cookie exchange:

And I'm not done yet...I have a few more batches to make before Christmas, to give as gifts. Plus next week when I'm visiting the Michigan family, we're making wedding cookies and Happy New Year cookies.

Too much fun!

Monday, December 19, 2005

You can call me Martha Stewart Jr.

I really am having fun with my home projects. First the cookies. Now this:

With the limited space in my kitchen, and my renewed interest in cooking, I needed more efficient access to some of the tools I use alot. I had this fancy curtain rod left over from my previous apartment.

The first thing I thought of was a place to hang my coffee mugs and kitchen towels. After some internet surfing, this idea came to me when I saw an ad for a similar, but smaller, hanging basket/utensil system. I used coat hooks, ribbon, key rings, chrome racks and s-hooks.

I also bought this chicken utensil holder which goes well with my cooking lady from Poland and Big Boy salt and pepper shakers:

Unfortunately, still no room for the kitchen towels. Oh,'s still a good thing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Rose

Heard this old song for the first time in years the other day.

The Rose
written by Amanda McBroom

Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
and you its only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dyin'
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been to long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun's love
in the spring becomes the rose.

I am 45 years old, and I feel like I am finally blossoming into the person God meant me to be. Some flowers take longer than others to bloom.

Never give up.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Great Cookie Experiment of 2005 is a Success!

It's finally done! More than a week of my life dedicated almost solely to cookies. But I think it was a huge success. My cookies got lots of "oooh" and "aaahhh" reactions at the cookie packing event. Here is part of the assembly line:

And here is the end result:

Somehow when the cookies were weighed in to give each person credit, we came up with about 180 pounds (my contribution weighed in at just over 10 pounds). Once they were all packed, we had 190 one-pound boxes, and several large trays of leftovers for serving after the concert tonight. Sort of like Jesus and the fish and bread, in a tastier but much smaller and historically insignificant way.

I ended up with a lot of leftover ingredients. So I made two batches of sugar cookie dough - one with lemon and one with orange - and they are triple-wrapped and in the freezer for future use (just let me know if you need some cookies and I'll bake for you). I made macaroons from the leftover coconut that I'm bringing to church. I made twelve individual egg casseroles for quick breakfasts that are in the freezer. Plus I did grocery shopping, made a pot of soup, and did the laundry...all last night after I got home from a whole day at church. One of the most productive days in my entire life. Feels good!

I'm off to church now...gonna be another very long but satisfying day!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cookies - Snowflakes, Bells and Stockings

I baked one more batch of sugar cookies, this time with pineapple flavoring. I was going for a coconut-pineapple combo. But adding coconut to the top of the cookie made them too big/thick for the cookie sale (we pack lots of different cookies in each box to sell).

The snowflakes were decorated in a variety of ways:

My favorite snowflakes are these:

I would have finished all of them like that, but I was running out of time. Same with the bells...I would have liked to spend more time making them fancier, but they are still pretty:

And when the hour was late, I knew I would not have time for the icing to dry if I did the last of the stockings with the flow icing like before. So instead, I just painted on a thin coat of the red and white icing, and dipped them into the big sugar crystals:

I kinda like that almost better!

Well, I'm off to the church for cookie packing. I ended up with five shirt boxes of cookies (multiple layers in each box). I'm gonna take some pictures there and post a wrap up later today.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cookies - First Finished Product

We're down to the wire. Today and tomorrow is all I have left to finish the cookies for the cookie sale.

Here are the candy canes:

And here are the stockings:

More to come tonight!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cookies - Birthday Surprise 3

Check it out...the birthday cake cookies turned out great!

The icing is hardened and the cookies will be on their way via Fed Ex tomorrow. I feel confident that decorating the Christmas Cookies will be a breeze now that I have had lots of icing practice.

Time for bed...I'm still having fun with this project but I'm looking forward to having my regular life back.

Cookies - Birthday Surprise 2

Had mixed results with the icing for the birthday cake cookies. Some of it did not dry hard enough:

I may not be able to ship cookies to my out of town friend, but I can deliver a few to my other friend this weekend. But I to have to get back to the Christmas cookies tonight because those are top priority.

Funny story...I decided to buy a hair net for obvious reasons (it's one thing to find your own hair in food, but for others to find it...super-yuk!). Last night I was doing laundry and icing cookies in between trips to the laundry room. And yes, the one time there is a cute guy there, at the machine right next to mine, I realized that I had forgotten to take off the hair net.

Well, he was too young for me anyway.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cookies - Birthday Surprise

Two of my good friends are having birthdays this week. I am making them some birthday cake cookies:

Lucky for the folks at work, I broke a few. Plus I made the other cookies from the dough that got too warm to roll:

I had made the dough last night, but baked all this and made two batches of Royal Icing this morning (I've been up since four)! Gotta quick eat breakfast, make my lunch and get to work. I might just make it on time.

Bye for now!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cookies - The Icing Cometh 2

Well, I woke up with energy and a desire to ice cookies. So I worked on the red color and here's the result:

Now I'm really jazzed! I think I know what consistency to make the piped outline and the flow for the inside. I'm going to get back to the store for a couple more items, including squeeze bottles to apply the flow icing, and finalize the plans for the week. I'm thinking stockings, candy canes, teddy bears and bells. Plus the sandwich cookies (all I have to do is assemble them on Friday).

This is so much fun!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Here's today's yield:

Did more practice with the icing. It's an interesting craft. I need to let what I did harden before I can start with other colors.

I was going to do more, but boy am I tired! I made some soup for the week, and I'm heading for bed.

I'll write more later in the week when we see how the icing goes.

Cookies - The Icing Cometh

What do you suppose the chances are that the stuff you couldn't find in the store, you would find at CHURCH?

On a normal Sunday, not much of a chance. But today there is a Gingerbread House party! And I happened to mention to the lady in charge that I couldn't stay because I had to bake cookies, and that I was hoping to have better luck finding meringue powder today. Well, just who happened to have an extra can of the stuff (leftover from their supplies for the house building)?

So anyway, I've made my first test batch. I'm going for that shiny, hard, colorful icing look, using this method.

Here's my first attempt. I'm testing piping the border, the flow icing consistency and coloring:

What I learned so far:

1. I like this icing recipe better than the one I used yesterday. That took too long to dry.
2. Don't stir the extra water into the flow icing too will create air bubbles.
3. I'm gonna need lots more powdered sugar!

I'm gonna whip up some more icing samples, then get back to baking.

And my test samples from yesterday are gone. The kids at church LOVED them.

Finally, if you don't believe in miracles, just think about this. I made at least 200 cookies yesterday, and did not eat even one!

The Great Cookie Experiment - Day 2

Yesterday's efforts were a great success! Jan's cookies turned out very well. My sandwich cookies will be wonderful. I really got the hang of rolling the dough.

This morning I finished cleaning up and setting up for today's baking. But it's off to church first. On the way home I need to pick up more butter and can hopefully find some meringue powder for the other icing recipe I want to try. Today's experimental focus is on coloring the icing and piping it onto the sugar cookies.

Fun fun fun! See you later!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cookies - Lemon Raspberry Sandwich

It looks like the sandwich cookie idea is going to work well. I made them in different shapes, and sugared the tops.

I'll freeze these until Friday, when I'll take them out and assemble them with the raspberry preserves. They will be a prettier version of these test cookies.

Try as I might, I could not finish the entire batch of dough. There's probably about 5 dozen worth left. But I needed a break! In a little while, I'll finish baking the batch tonight, and make another batch of dough to bake tomorrow.

Not a bad day's work. Might be back tonight, might not. Will defintely post tomorrow.

Cookies - Rolled Sugar Cookies Batch 1

I got the receipe for No Fail Sugar Cookies and it looked pretty straight forward. The hard part, I think, is learning to roll the dough to the thickness you need.

This first test batch is in the oven:

The ones on the bottom are intended to be lemon sandwich cookies with raspberry filling. The ones on the top I will use to practice Royal Icing decorating.

Gotta check the oven...

...hmmm...seems it's running hotter than it was this morning. Cooking time will certainly depend on thickness, but I think 8 minutes will be good for the sandwich cookies.

What I learned on this batch:

1. This dough recipe is's the consistency of dry Play-Dough.
2. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time, and stay away from the edges of the oven.
3. Check the oven temperature before baking.

Cookies - Chocolate Orange Spritz

These I'm having a little trouble shooting onto the cookie sheet. But they are worth it! This is what my sister is bringing to her cookie exchange. I used orange extract in the cookie, and they are frosted with Royal Icing and sprinkled with yellow sugar:

We need to finish these today so she can take them home. Plus, I'm taking a lunch break. Be back later with the next cookie!

Cookies - Classic Spritz Batch 3 & 4

Ah ha! With the one-pull of the trigger, and a cooking time of 10 minutes, batch four turned out the best!

Actually, this picture is Batch 3. Batch 4 had no brown edges.

Onto the next batch of dough!

Cookies - Classic Spritz Batch 2

While my only cookie sheet cooled, I added some green food coloring to the remaining dough and changed the disk to a Christmas tree shape.

What I've learned on this batch:

1. My quantities are probably off because I think I read the directions of the cookie press wrong...I'm pulling the trigger twice, and once is good.
2. Food coloring is hard to wash off my hands.
3. I've caught myself several times trying to lick my fingers (habit). That is not only unsanitary, cookie dough is not in my eating plan (especially between meals).
4. If you leave your hair in a Turbie Twist too long, it creates an interesting dent in the front of your hairline (nothing to do with cookies, but still a good lesson to remember).

Good news! My sister just called and she's coming over to play cookie chef with me. She's stopping at the store for cookie sheets. God bless her!

Here's batch 2. You can see I am getting the hang of the cookie press. Also, these were a bit overdone, so next batch will be 11 minutes:

Cookies - Classic Spritz Batch 1

Making the Classic Spritz cookie recipe from Pampered Chef. The cookies are in the oven now.

What I've learned so far:

1. I need more cookie sheets (I have one...duh).
2. Butter does not adequately soften in four hours if you keep your apartment's thermostat at 60 degrees overnight.
3. Spritz cookies shot from the cookie press don't stick well to parchment paper (I'm supposed to be using a baking stone, but don't have one for cookies).
4. Recipes lie about how much they yield. This one says 6-7 dozen. If I'm lucky, I'll get 3 dozen (but maybe I did something wrong).
5. Almond extract smells good (I used it instead of vanilla).
6. My oven thermostat is off...I have to set it at 400 degress to get it to 375 degrees.

Here they from the oven! I took them out at 10 minutes. I'll set the timer for 12 minutes for the next batch:

The Great Cookie Experiment

It's three o'clock in the morning. I have risen at this unusual hour to take the butter out of the frig to soften. For at sunrise, the Great Cookie Experiment of 2005 begins!

I'm making cookies to donate to the choir for their homemade Christmas cookie sale, plus I'm making extras for a few other occasions. It has been years since I've baked cookies from scratch.

Stay tuned all weekend for my "liveblogging" reports on turning this:

into yummy, pretty cookies. And what about the ones that might be yummy but not so pretty? I'll bring those to work, where free food never goes to waste!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Goodbye, sweet boy

There is something universally tragic about the death of a child. And it doesn't matter how old the "child" is, in the scheme of life it just seems very wrong for parents to outlive their offspring. It's not how it is "supposed" to be.

But it happens every day.

Yesterday we said a final goodbye to Jonathan. This little boy was born with severe handicaps, lived a good portion of his life in the hospital, and died just a few weeks before his second birthday. He was loved by many people. His mother and father, troubled by many things in their lives having nothing to do with their son, loved him and took care of him as best they could.

My faith tells me that for the first time, Jonathan is now laughing and playing and has no pain. I imagine him in a playground being pushed on the swings by my Daniel, who in many ways never grew up. I'll bet Jesus has his hands full with the two of them up there!

Human life is both miraculous and fragile. None of us knows when ours will be over. None of us knows how long we have to live the life God intended. But every single life, no matter how long, has a purpose.

Perhaps the purpose of Jonathan's short life was to expand our capacity to love.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The longest summer

Twenty seven years and four months after my graduation from high school, I have enrolled for college. I start classes in January. Even for a world-class procrastinator like myself, this one is a doozy!

Depending on how much work I can handle, I should get my degree in 8-10 years, God willing.

Several of my nieces and nephews are working on the choosing and getting into college thing right now. There are a lot of factors in play when making these types of decisions. When I was their age, college was not a priority for me. We didn't have the money, for sure. But if I really, really wanted to go I would have figured out a way.

Back then you could get a pretty good job without a degree. But now, not having that degree has seriously limited my options. About 99% of the job listings I read have a degree requirement. Hence my adventure as a middle-aged college student begins.

My advice to you, dear ones, is to continue with school. Whether it is full time, part time, away from home or close to home, online, whatever. Work toward that goal of a degree, even if it's going to take a long time. It will be worth it.

And if your parents are paying, be very grateful. Lots of us never had that opportunity. And if you cannot go to the college of your choice, compromise and make the best decision you can. You never know what God has in store for you. Maybe your fifth-choice college is where you will meet your destiny.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Laundry Lesson

If you go to a coin laundry, here's a valuable tip from me:

Make sure you have your quarters before you fill the machines and dump soap on your clothes!

Last night for the first time since I moved to my new apartment building, the change machine in the laundry room was malfunctioning. It would not take my $10 bill. I found another $10 bill and it would not take that one either. I ended up going across the street, in the rain, to the store to break the $10. I didn't want to buy any food, so I bought a lottery ticket. Luckily, the machine then took my singles and fives. I don't know where I would have gotten quarters if the machine was totally broken.

Anyway, here's the bright side. If I win the $165 million lotto tonight, it will only be because the change machine malfunctioned. Then I can hire somebody to do my laundry!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hymn of Promise

There are several songs we sing in church that I love so much that I cannot get through them without crying. This one is especially touching to me now.

Hymn of Promise
Words and Music by Natalie A. Sleeth

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

I feel like God has promised me that I can be a butterfly, but I've been stuck in a cocoon most of my life. My recovery is me struggling to emerge from that cocoon.

I hope that someday, when I am healed, God will grant me the ability to sing this loud and strong.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A time to heal

There comes a time in life when what you are doing to ease your pain becomes more painful than the pain you are trying to ease. That strange sentence will make perfect sense to anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction.

It has taken me my entire adult life to admit that my weight problem is just the end result of an addiction to food. I use food the way some people use alcohol or drugs - to dull my senses and stuff down my emotions.

By the grace of God and the fellowship of loving people with the same problem, I am recovering from my addiction, one day at a time. In fact, today marks the 30th time in a row I have abstained from compulsive overeating for just one day.

But I am just at the beginning. There are a lot of tears and struggles ahead of me. But being addicted to overeating is now more painful than facing what I've been hiding from. And like changing the bandages on a bad burn, it's gonna hurt a lot. But it's the only way to heal.

Please pray for me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A time to think, a time to feel

I was going to leave the commentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath to others. There are thousands of people on the Web, on TV and in newspapers giving their opinion about what went wrong and who's to blame. I try to read an equal amount from all sides, disregarding the very extreme edge of each (such as the CIA has control over the weather or that God smote a certain city to punish sinners).

But the more I read, the more it struck differences of opinion are often driven by the difference between thinking and feeling.

God created us human beings with both intellect and emotion, and these are meant to be in a balance. Some situations call for more feeling than thinking, some situations need the opposite. Some, like the response to a natural or man-made disaster, require mostly reason and logic to get through the immediate emergency, and less of the emotion that, while being the basis of compassion, could easily overwhelm our logic. Once the crisis has passed, we need to get back to a balance of reason and emotion when developing long-term solutions.

As you read or watch coverage of the disaster, take a moment to note if what the people are saying is based on emotion or reason. Then take your analysis one more step by ascertaining the possible motives of the people you are observing. And when you form your opinion, are you doing it based facts you believe to be true or what you feel about what you think you know?

What happened before and after Hurricane Katrina is tragic. No doubt mistakes were made. No doubt we will learn a lot more in the coming days, weeks and months. No doubt we have to be better prepared for the next time (there is always a next time).

But when you hear a politician or news reporter or celebrity lay all the blame at the feet of one person or institution or organization to the exclusion of all others, keep plenty of room for doubt in your own mind. Consider their motives, their emotions and their knowledge of the facts.

Think first, then feel.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pics from my new place

Here are a couple of pictures taken from the balcony of my new apartment.

The top picture is facing east. You can't really see it here, but most days I can see the Sears Tower and some of the other tall buildings in downtown Chicago (about 26 miles away).

This one is my west view at sunset, the beauty of which no camera can truly capture.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

Know thyself - Part II

Read Part I

I actually did write Part II Monday after counting the train cars, but my post was rambling, got off the point and was almost mean in some spots. So I saved it as a "Draft" and decided to wait until I was feeling better to re-write it.

Anyway, it's obvious that what I ate Saturday affected my energy level. Not sure if it was how much I ate, what I ate, or both. I suppose the only way to tell if it was the food itself is to not eat so much of it next time. And there is another factor - changing hormones. You teensters know about those. Well guess what? I'm heading into the flip side of that coin.

I think this is how the sequence goes:

1. Hormone shift
2. Energy wave
3. Crave wrong stuff
4. Eat wrong stuff
5. Eat too much of said wrong stuff
6. Energy wave prematurely crashes
7. Tired
8. Crave wrong stuff
9. Eat wrong stuff
10. Hormone shift...

...and so on...and so on...and so on.

So what to do? First, recognize a wave and get as much done as I can before it crashes. Next, don't kill it with too much of the wrong food. Then, try to figure out a way to smooth out the waves (to me it's more fun in a pool than the ocean). And finally - and this is the most important part of all - NEVER, EVER make any life-important decisions while I'm at either end of that wave.

I'm feeling better after many days of "crash" mode. I made a conscious decision to eat a little better (and lighter), and I'm heading into the weekend with a smile.

Get to know yourself. Pay attention to the way things make you feel. And if something within your control makes you feel bad, change it. Easier said than done, I know. But never give up!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Count would be so proud!

You know "The Count" from Sesame Street? He would count anything, anytime. I just counted the number of cars on the coal train that passed my building:


I wonder if the people in automobiles stuck at the crossing gate waiting for that train to pass counted the cars.

OK, this post stinks. I'll work on finishing my story from Saturday.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Know thyself

I think I've talked before about how my energy level goes through phases. Sometimes I have this wave of energy that, once I recognize it, I consciously choose to make the most of. One of those waves hit yesterday, after a week of low energy, and I think I got a clue as to the cause (well, part of the cause anyway).

Before lunchtime yesterday, I accomplished the following:

- Cleaned out my three email boxes, deleting old stuff and organizing what I wanted to keep. As a result, I found a previously-undetected 15% off coupon for my favorite bookstore (sweet).
- Send out a brochure on a rental property for a friend.
- Made a list of travel tips for the annual canoe trip, which I attended two weeks ago in Michigan (more on that later), so next year I don't forget soap, shampoo and a chair for the bonfire (those without chairs sit on tree stumps).
- Ironed and put away the laundry I did Monday night.
- Changed my bedsheets.
- Finished unpacking from the trip I returned from a week ago, and put away the suitcases I used and the five other suitcases I didn't use that I have been tripping over in the living room.
- Did the dishes.
- Did laundry from this week (while studying for my exam).
- Found homes for everything in the small pile of stuff still left over from my recent move.

Then I went to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. My favorite menu item there is a delicious variation on Eggs Benedict. I keep meaning to ask for a half order of this divine dish so I don't get so full (a half order would be plenty filling).

So after lunch, here's what I accomplished:

- Went shopping to a few stores for household items.
- Got home and took a break by watching a few episodes of Gilmore Girls on DVD.
- Ironed and put away the laundry.
- Hung a few things on the wall.
- Watched lots more Gilmore Girls.

Compare the five hours before lunch with the nine hours after lunch.

(to be continued)

Friday, August 12, 2005

There's a first time for everything

Lots to tell about the last month...but here's the funniest thing.

A few nights ago I'm doing laundry in the community laundry room of the new apartment building where I moved to (more on that later). I'm reading my book while my clothes are washing. A young mother with a drooling baby in one arm is trying to get her laundry out of the dryers with the other. I offered to help by holding the baby. So while she's folding his little things and I'm bouncing Mr. Drool Meister on my lap, she says to me...

wait for it...

here it comes...

"Do you have any grandchildren?"

Um, while technically I am old enough to be a grandmother, and it has been several years (ok, at least 15) since I was carded, I have always thought that I looked kind of young for my age. Granted, I was not looking my makeup, wearing the shirt I painted my apartment in (more on that later). It was funny...but not funny. I told her I had nine nieces and nephews, and I think she realized she might have made a faux pas (social boo boo). No biggie, though. I'll forget about it soon enough.

Actually, no I won't. You never forget your first time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Saw this one today and it just cracked me up!

Ok, so it might have serious spiritual connotations. I think it's funny.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

TV and me

So I'm telling my sister-in-law the other day that I'm giving up the TV again while I study for my big Project Management exam, and she starts laughing. She tells me she is still waiting for the follow up to my post from three months ago for an explanation of why I got a TV after years without one. (Gee, could my lack of posts have anything to do with having a TV? Hmmmm...good question.)

It started with the cable company offering a huge discount on my internet service if I got basic cable TV. Then it grew with the rationalization that I wanted to do "research" on what was on TV so I could write about it here. And it ended up with me spending lots of time watching some good shows, some bad shows, and a lot of movies I ACTUALLY OWN ON DVD!

My addiction to television defies rational explanation. There are days when it does not interest me at all. And there are other days when I can sit for eight hours straight (assuming there is food readily available) flipping channels from less than a foot away (it's a 13" unit that sits on my desk).

All I know is that, for now, it's gone again. I have to take this big exam by the end of September. I've spent every Tuesday evening since February in class, plus hours each week on homework, and I'm looking at about 100 hours in the next two months of test prep study. No time for TV or vacations or much of anything else.

But it will be worth it. When I'm done, I will have accomplished one of the biggest goals I've ever set for myself. And what should I do immediately after I accomplish that goal? Set another one!

And leave the TV off.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Another book I wish I had a long time ago

In my last post, I talked about how sometimes I go to the library or book store and scan the shelves and a book I need to read just suddenly pops out (not literally, but it catches my eye).

This one was in the library, on the very bottom shelf. Having lost my alcoholic mother to divorce when I was eight, and death when I was 17 (and she just 43), I guess I'm programmed to easily spot anything with the word "Mother" in it.

Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman is one of those books that makes you exclaim "That's the way I feel!" all throughout. Because nobody knows how you feel unless they have been through something similar.

Even now, whenever I hear some of my friends talk about the difficulties they have with their mothers (and some of them are very serious), I scream inside "at least you have a mother!" My greatest unfulfillable wish is to have had that mother-daughter relationship.

I have an internet friend (a fellow blogger) who lost her mother to cancer last year. What this friend doesn't know yet is that the pain will always be there, and will be worse around major life milestones. But her life will get better. She will have joy and sorrow and everything we all have. One day she will discover that when she thinks of her mother she will smile more often than she cries. And one day, if it is God's will, she will be a mother herself.

But it takes time, and it takes help. Get this book, my friend. And when you go off to college in the fall, please find some kind of support group...people with similar experiences that you can talk to. Being away from home is hard enough. You have so much more to deal with. Don't try to deal with everything alone! That's a mistake I made and still make sometimes now. We are not meant to heal in isolation.

There are people out there who know how you feel. And of course God knows how you feel. You are not alone.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The book I wish I had 25 years ago!

Does this ever happen to you? You're in the library or book store, either looking for something specific or just browsing, and your eye goes to a book that is just exactly what you needed to read? If this has never happened to you, try it. Give yourself some time, and just let your eyes wander. You may find something that will change your life!

This has happened to me twice in the last few months. Let me first tell you about the one I just finished reading. The Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work is a MUST-READ for every woman who works now or who is about to enter the workforce (some men I know would benefit greatly from it too). I have been working a loooooonnnnnggg time, and I can testify to personally experiencing almost everything in this book. It's a fun read...the authors are clever writers. I just wish I had this information a long time ago...who knows where I could be now! But it's never too late to make a change (I still have a long time until retirement).

The biggest myth out there is that if you work hard and pay your dues, important people at work will notice and reward you. I clung to that belief for too many years, and I wasted a lot of emotional energy fighting to fit that square peg into the round hole of reality. No matter where you are in your work life, you need to learn what really matters so you can stop going through your days wondering what the heck you're doing wrong and start taking control of your career.

As is my usual habit, I devoured this book in a few days and now I'm going back to savor it chapter by chapter, starting with Chapter 11 - "Y-O-U: the Ultimate Planning Machine". In a way, I've already started my "DestQuest" (gotta read the book to find out what this is) by going to school for my project management certification, but I still need to plan what I actually want to do with it.

I'll tell you about the other book that seemed to jump off the shelf at me next time.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Diploma Day

Wow, I knew it had been a long time since I posted, but I didn't realize how long. That's the thing about reality it goes along at a steady pace, but there are phases in life that go by faster than others. Right now with school and work I'm so busy it seems that weeks fly by like days used to.

When my nephew B started college it seemed like such a long road ahead until he would finish. But all the sudden here we's his Graduation Day! Well, I'm sure it's a lot different for him, having done all that work maybe it doesn't seem like it flew by. But for us in the spectator section it does. Heck, to me it seems almost like just yesterday I saw him for the first time!

Congratulations, B. The people in your life are all very proud of you, and love you very much.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The purpose of school - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Last week for the first time I watched "The Apprentice" (yes, I got a TV...more on that in a later post). I'm kinda digging this show! I got interested in it when I read Donald Trump's two latest books. Not only is The Apprentice about what I do for a living - project management - but this season it also pits college-educated people against those who went to school only through high school. This is a favorite subject of mine.

I did not go to college. I remember my dad telling me in high school that if I really wanted to go to college there were ways to work to make that happen. But him giving me money for it was not one of them. He was a divorced father raising four children on a modest salary. I never had a strong desire to go to college, nor did I have any idea what I wanted to do for a living. So I took my Chicago public high school typing skills and got a job downtown as a secretary. That was 27 years ago.

Since that first secretarial job, I have worked with a lot of people who went to college and a lot who didn't. I've worked with college graduates who could not operate a copier (after extensive training) and with high school graduates who reached the top of their organizations.

Don't get me wrong. College is a good thing. If you have the means to pay and the desire to learn, you should go and work hard and absorb every nugget of knowledge you can get for your tuition dollar. But if you do, keep in mind a few things:

1. The working world is generally kinder to college graduates, but you still have to do the work! Your degree is not a free pass to business success. You may not have to start at the very bottom, but you still have to prove yourself at every level in order to advance.

2. The college professors who have not been in the working world may act like they know it all, but how could they? Unless they have been out there practicing what they teach, all they have are book smarts. If you can find a professor who has actually worked in the field they are teaching, that's the one you will learn the most from.

3. What you think you want to do for a living now may change after you've got that degree in hand. That's OK. You will not have wasted all that money. At the very least, you learned how to work hard and the degree has value no matter what you end up doing.

Whether you go to college or not, learning never stops. When you get a new job, learn everything there is to know about the company and your position. Do your job well, and ask for more work. Show up on time, treat your employers and co-workers with respect, and put a little extra in everything you do. Or a lot extra. That's what gets you noticed and you will be the first one who comes to the boss's mind when there is an opportunity to advance.

Had I known all this when I first started, I would be a lot farther than I am. But that's OK. I love my job, and I'm loving school. I'm in a project management certificate program and got an "A" in my first class! I will never be one of those super-successful, high-profile, entrepreneurial-type project managers (Donald Trump works much too hard for my taste). But I will always be one of the best employees a company could ever have!

The purpose of school is to prepare you for life and work - with both practical knowledge and social skills. Our country's educational system may not be the best it could be, but it's what we have and it's there for you. Take everything you can from it.

You will be out of school sooner than you think (it only seems like it takes forever). Before you know it you'll be at your ten year high school reunion!

Hang in there!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The purpose of school - Part II

Read Part I

This is the time of year that most kids are counting the days until the end of school. If you're a high school senior, this is probably the toughest time of all...finals coming up, college applications to complete, prom decisions to make. And all the while, your parents going nutso on you.

Since your first word and your first step, your parents have been thrilled with every major milestone of growing up. So now that you are about to make your biggest step of all - into college and/or the working world - they have gone weird. Every decision you make seems wrong to them. They seem to be regressing. You're grown up but they still treat you like a child. Sound familiar?

The reason you are so anxious to be done with school is that you've probably grown beyond it and you are straining against the ropes keeping you there. None of my friends in high school wanted to stay there longer. Sure, we cried at our graduation and vowed to stay in touch. But the sweetest day of our lives (up until that time) was the next morning, when we DID NOT HAVE TO GO ANY MORE, EVER AGAIN!

School is not just a place to learn your ABCs and 123s. Since the first day you walked into preschool or kindergarten, you have been maturing socially. From a small class for half a day to multiple classes and extra-curricular activities that fill a very long day (and sometimes evenings and weekends) - school is designed to prepare you for the "real world". The problem is, it can only go so far.

The "real world" - that is, your life after high school - is so much different that there is no way to really prepare you. No matter how diverse, high school is still a closed society. Will you actually stay close to those friends you cry with on graduation day? Not likely. It's not that your friendship was not sincere. It's just that it was forged in a closed society. When you have your freedom, your perspective changes and the things you had in common with those friends tend to disappear. By the way, this goes for boyfriend/girlfriend relationships as well.

You don't really become fully who you are until you are free to explore life and all its possibilities. I am not the person I was in high school. I'm not the person I was ten years ago. Sure, my basic personality and tendencies are similar, but the way I look at things - like work and marriage and relationships - has changed a lot.

Who you are at this very moment is a compilation of all your experiences and how you reacted to them. Until you are out of school and experiencing the freedom of adulthood, those experiences are limited.

Your parents may seem irrational. They may seem to refuse to accept that you are growing up. But cut them some slack. Parents act out of love, but also out of fear and pain. They don't want you to make the mistakes they did, but they know you have to make your own and learn from them.

And when you have teenage children, you will act the very same way. Guaranteed.

(to be continued)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The purpose of school

I may end up naming this site "The Occasional Blogger". It's been weeks again, and I've got lots to tell you about what is going on in my life, but I first need to follow up on my last post.

I do not have any children of my own. I don't have to worry daily about how my nieces and nephews and the kids in the church youth club are doing in school. But when I read stories about the sad state of education, like the one I linked to in my last post, it hits me hard. I worry that the kids in my life are suffering needlessly.

For I know something about school that most of you don't. Some of your parents know this as well, but as parents it would be irresponsible for them to tell you. So I will:

School is temporary, and ultimately not that important.

WHOA! Did I just say that? Am I advocating the end of mandatory education? Not at all. School is temporary and unimportant. Learning is for life and the one of the most important things in the world. It may be a paradox, but it's true. And if you do not know what a paradox is, look it up in the dictionary right now.

Let me put it this way. You know that English teacher who hates you?* In a few months or years you will be out of that class or that school and that person will be out of your life. But what they teach you - or to state it more accurately, what you allow them to teach you - stays with you forever. For example, if they already taught you the word "paradox", you didn't just have to look it up.

*None of your teachers hate you. For the most part teachers are good people with good intentions who may hate their job at the moment. And even if they did actually hate you, it is their problem and don't take it personally.

So now that I've opened that "can of worms" (old person expression meaning that I've started some trouble), I'll have to follow up with a new post quickly so you don't think it's OK to disrespect your teachers or to skip school.

But right now, I have homework to do. Because guess what? At the ripe old age of middle age (assuming I live to be 90), I'm back in school.

(to be continued)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Is school really this bad?

Last week as I was pulling my car into the parking lot of my office building, I heard breaking news on the radio. There was an unconfirmed report of an explosion and fire at a west suburban high school.

My niece's high school.

I didn't panic. I waited for a few minutes to see if there was more to report. Then I went into the office and called my sister. The line was busy. I figured that if the school was evacuated my niece would call her mother first (I was right, that's why the her phone was busy). Within an hour the story was on the web and I found out there were no injuries.

It ended up that an unhappy student, who had begged his parents weeks before for permission to drop out, had ignited water bottles filled with gasoline and surrounded by newspaper in is locker. Well, he got his wish...he's out of school now. And facing 10 years in prison.

This whole thing baffled me for days. I know high school is difficult, both academically and was when I was there. But what could be so bad that would drive a person to such action? We don't know the specific's of this young man's life. The story dropped from the news after two days - no injuries, no blood, no story.

And I have to admit it dropped from my mind too. Until I read this column. And this is a middle school!

Is it true? Are most adults clueless about this? Please, I am begging for comments here. I really want to know what is going on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

From friends to loves to loving friends - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

So here we are, a generation later. Some in our circle of friends have hit the big 5-0, and the rest of us are heading there fast. We watch in amazement as our children form friendships in much the same way we did, and we see into the future.

Because guess what, kids? In twenty years or so you will find yourselves where we are today. You will be immersed in your own lives, working, paying bills, watching your children grow into adults. And once in a great while you will have the opportunity to get together with your friends from these days.

The bonds of friendship you form now will reappear every time you are together, no matter how rare that is. It will be like nothing has changed - mostly because you keep telling the same old stories (and are in denial about how you are aging). Your kids will be embarassed by your behavior during these gatherings, never realizing that they too will have their turn at such middle-aged reunions.

And what about those Girls from Pittsburgh? Two of them ended up in my own family (or I should say, I ended up in theirs). When I married Daniel, CL became my sister-in-law, and KK became my cousin-in-law! Both are the dearest of friends, especially CL who helped me through the roughest year of my life, which was also one of her roughest.

And the third one - KP - married my ex-boyfiend (the guy of the letters). Twenty years later, she (along with my ex) took a day off of work and drove hundreds of miles to sit all day with me beside my husband's casket.

We were in love with those Guys from Detroit for a reason. They were fine boys. Today they are fine men who have built strong families with wonderful women who just happened to not be us. Because we didn't let pettiness or jealously ruin our relationships when their hearts went in another direction, we are still friends today.

And we all still love each other.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

From friends to loves to loving friends - Part II

Read Part I

Before I continue the story of the Boys from Detroit meet the Girls from Pittsburgh, I want to something clear...this story is written from my perspective only. I am speaking only for myself, even when I use an occasional "we" instead of "I".

At that time, the thing we looked foward to most was the Youth Convocation...a four or five-day-long gathering sponsored by the church and held at a college. Not only were we away from home, "living" with our friends instead of our parents...but we would be with those guys we liked/loved so much.

Every other year, this gathering was national, with kids from all over the country. But the first such gathering I attended was the off-year, "diocesan" or regional version. And our diocese contained Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee (and other areas in the Midwest). So we pretty much had the Guys from Detroit to ourselves, if you don't count the stupid cheerleaders having their "camps" at the same college.

So the next year when the convocation was national and held in Princeton, New Jersey, the character of our friendship was changing but we didn't know it. Connections were made that week that we were not aware of until later. We were out of high school, so really the landscape of our entire lives was changing. And frankly, I didn't like it.

With most of the group in college and the rest working, we had little time to spend together. It seemed like the bond of our group was weakening. Other interests captured us all, and the idea that any of the Girls from Chicago ending up with a Guy from Detroit seemed less and less likely.

Within a few years, three of the Guys from Detroit married Girls from Pittsburgh. Two of the Guys married girls from Buffalo, and a couple of the Guys ended up marrying girls they met in college. In the end, the only Chicago-Detroit relationship to lead to marriage was mine. And that didn't happen until 15 years after Princeton.

When I started writing this story a month ago, I had a point which I am struggling to remember. I think it was that friendships change over time, because we as individuals change. But certain friendships stay with you in a special way. And some people who you barely know (and won't give a chance to) now may end up being some of your best friends later.

(to be continued)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Happy Birthday, Aunt G!

My loving Aunt G hits a big milestone today. She's in pretty good health physically, but is facing several other challenges in her life. She has a strong faith and projects a positive attitude no matter what she is going through. She is my role model for an aunt, a wife, a mother, a woman, and a friend.

If I could, I would shield her from every bad thing. But none of us can do that for anyone.

So on your birthday, all I can offer is a simple prayer that God will grant you continued good health and some moments of precious peace.

I love you very much.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Checking in

Just a quickie to tell you I'm fine...just been busy, then lazy, then a bit under the weather. I'll get back to blogging soon!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Happy birthday, blog!

It was one year ago today, almost to the minute, that I published my first post.

According to my profile, I average two posts a week and have written 25,677 words. That's not bad, considering I signed up for a correspondence course in creative writing over three years ago and never made it past Lesson 2.

I've said it before...I don't know and don't care how many readers I have. My only wish now is the same as it was when I first started - to offer to the young people in my life some insights that only come from living life. Just like you teach those younger than you...we all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

From friends to loves to loving friends

Yesterday I got back from a long visit to the second family in Michigan. We always have such a great time, but this visit was extra special. Not only because it was the Christmas season, but because I got to see a lot of dear old friends.

I guarantee there will be friends like these in your lives. You will meet at a time when you have a lot in belonging to the same church and youth club. You will be about the same age, going through the normal stuff for that age. You will get crushes on each other and imagine your lives together in your future.

In our time, it was the "Girls from Chicago" (which included one from Milwaukee) and the "Guys from Detroit". We would travel to various locations in the Midwest for youth meetings, staying at hotels and having ridiculous numbers of people stay in a room to save money. We had a sliding scale of costs for the rooms...if you got a bed you paid more than if you had to sleep on the floor. The use of pillows and blankets also came at a premium. Actually, nobody slept on the cold, wet beds after a particularly ammo-intensive ice fight.

Eventually special relationships formed between a Chicago gal and a Detroit guy. At that age, I really thought that we would all end up marrying each other. But being still in high school we had seen barely a glimpse of the world and its possibilities.

The Girls from Chicago certainly had not foreseen the possibility that the Guys from Detroit would ever meet girls that they liked more than us. So we never saw it coming - the event that would rock our world and change our circle of friends forever...

...the Guys from Detroit discovered the Girls from Pittsburgh.

(to be continued)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

Good friends, good food, and "I Will Survive" on the karaoke machine. So far 2005 ROCKS!

Love, peace, health and prosperity to you in the New Year!