Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A First Kiss

Funny Delightful Son told me today that he kissed his girlfriend, and it scared him to death. My response was, "Well, despite that, was it everything you thought it would be?" He grinned, saying, "Yeah. It was."

For nearly two months now, Funny Delightful Son has been seeing a very lovely young lady. She is the one that got away for Homecoming. Another young man beat Funny Delightful Son to asking her out, so she accepted his invitation. This led to FDS playing it cool, waiting for Homecoming to come and go, biding his time until he felt the dust had settled, and he could ask her out without another young man being in the picture. When that time came, FDS asked Lovely Young Lady out to dinner and they've been seeing each other ever since.

They've written each other letters and poems.

They Skype during the evenings they don't get to see each other.

They Snapchat constantly.

When they're together, you can tell they simply enjoy each other's company, and a few days ago, FDS told me, "I've never been so fond of another human being."

When LYL's mom said no to her daughter coming over one day this past weekend, FDS was down in the dumps. We sat down and chatted about why her mom might step in, and during our conversation I suggested perhaps her mom was worried about how attached the two of them had become. I'm a little worried, so I just put my worries out there for FDS to know about. We talked about this being his first relationship. We talked about how liking someone so much makes us feel strange emotions we've not experienced before. We talked about how our bodies sometimes override what our minds are telling us. During this entire conversation, FDS showed me again just how mature he is. The respect he has for LYL is first and foremost.

When I was a single mom, I worried that I wouldn't be able to raise two boys so that they developed a healthy respect for women, as well as a daughter who had a healthy respect for herself. I decided very early on that nothing, absolutely nothing, would ever be off limits as far as discussions go when it came to all three of my children, and I vowed to listen to them with every fiber of my being. While there were moments of "Really, Mom?", and "TMI, Mom, TMI," I now see three young people who aren't afraid to come to me and talk about whatever it is they're dealing with.

I am one lucky mom, and I feel overwhelmingly honored that my son shared with me about his first kiss.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Finding My Place in the Kitchen

Tonight's dinner, a rather late dinner since I sat down to watch the Boilers lose to the Badgers (sad face), was individual chicken pot pies. Last night, I made coconut crusted cod on a bed of seasoned spinach (and had to saute a second batch of spinach as both boys wanted more), and other meals throughout this week included chicken enchiladas, and broccoli cheese soup with crusty Italian bread. Most of the meals I've been putting together take around an hour and a half from start to finish, but in the end, hearing the boys say, "Mmmmm, that was good" and "Thanks, Mom" make the time well worth it. I've also found, too, that the entire process is almost a meditative one. I've never been so mindful about a knife chopping an onion or the thickening of a sauce like I find myself now.

Another change I've noticed is the more I cook, the braver I'm becoming with using herbs and spices. I never used to work with anything beyond a bit of salt and pepper, but now I go to all the herbs I grew then dried last summer, and I've added more spices to my cupboard. Tonight's chicken pot pie, though tasty with just some salt and pepper, took on a fuller flavor after I added some thyme and rosemary. The buttery crust combined with the flavors of the filling, adding a just-right sweetness to the dish. I'm pretty sure not a drop remained in any of our bowls. Angel Baby even used his fingers to get the last few drops of the filling at the bottom of his bowl. Such was the case with the enchiladas and the broccoli/cheese soup.

Tomorrow is bread day. Though I'm not sure what I'll go with for dinner, I do know I'll bake a loaf of bread. Maybe the bread could be dinner: French toast. Eggs in a basket. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So many possibilities just from a loaf of bread.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking Forward to Monday on a Friday

I'm into a fascinating read--Mind, Brain, and Education--and I have all these ideas swirling around in my head for what I can do in the classroom to more fully engage the students in the concepts. The author of the chapter I just finished suggests helping students understand how their brains work when it comes to learning, so they realize they truly do have control over how well they learn something. For many years now, I've been trying to get through to students that they are the ones in control, but that's all I ever said. Now I have solid information by credible neuroscientists to back up what I'm saying. It's like I've found the lost piece of the puzzle, and I can't wait to put it into its spot.

For instance, did you know there's a part of the brain that's called the reticular activating system (RAS) that acts as a sort of gate-keeper, and when input registers, if that input creates stress or fear, the input goes to the lower brain, the flight/fight/freeze part of the brain? When this happens, learning can't take place. On the other hand, if the input is stress free, fear free, the RAS lets it pass into the higher brain, where learning occurs. While I've always worked to create a stree-free, fear-free environment in the classroom, I now realize I can do even more to help students not feel stressed or fearful, simply because I understand better how the brain functions. Sometimes it's not that students don't want to learn the concepts, it's that they flat out can't due to how the RAS is responding to what they are physically feeling. Their brain is actually protecting them from what it perceives as a threat. While the RAS is responsible for lots of other brain functions, the student/learning aspect is what I find most fascinating at this point.

While I was reading, I jotted down several ideas for helping students learn the concepts in such a way that they'll feel less threatened, maybe even find enjoyable. The author, too, offered lots of ideas along the way for helping students engage through curiosity, and I'm going to try a couple of her suggestions. While it's Friday and I normally am so ready for the weekend, after reading just the short amount I have in this book and getting some new ways to offer the information to students, I'm really looking forward to Monday, trying out a couple of ideas to see what happens.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One Weird Night

Every now and then I have a restless night. Last night was one, mostly due to the window near our bed that, when it was hit with a gust of wind, created a high-pitched whistling. And I'm not talking about a melodious whistling, a la Francesco Bonifazi. No. I'm talking about an ear-splitting trill. Not real conducive to sleeping (although Hubby snored right through it all). At 2 am I went searching amidst the kitchen odds-n-ends drawer for some tape to run over the gap between the bottom and top windows, finding only some electrical tape. Being desperate, I stretched the tape along the gap, only having enough to do a partial job. It would have to do, so I snuggled back under the comforter. The next blast of wind whined through the gap. The little bit of tape didn't do. I pulled the comforter up around my head, leaving just a small hole through which to breathe. The unfortunate whistling continued.

After ten more minutes of the obnoxious noise, I folded a hand towel and put it on the gap, knowing it wasn't going to help but thinking maybe, just maybe . . .. It didn't help at all. At 3 am, I decided to go to the couch, and while the couch isn't my comfy bed, the living room was at least quiet. As agitated as I was, I didn't fall back to sleep quickly. When it seemed like I had just finally fallen asleep, my cell phone rang. I answered it to hear a school reach message telling me the boys were being given a snow day due to inclement weather, e.g. the winds blowing 75 mph (that might be a tad bit of an exaggeration) giving us a wind chill of -20 degrees (for real--I saw it on the news), plus the drifting snow. I had been granted a reprieve. I didn't have to get up at 5:30. I could actually get two and a half hours more of sleep.

Not to be. At 5:45, right after I had again just fallen back to sleep, Hubby came into the living room, telling me it was time to get up. In what I am sure was a very unkind, grouchy voice, I said, "The boys don't have school, and I don't have class until 9:30." Hubby turned and left, closing the double doors behind him. A half hour later, Funny Delightful Son came in but left when I feigned sleep. Why is he up, I wondered. He always knows before I do that school has been canceled. Apparently not this morning. Apparently both boys got up without me having to get them up and proceeded to get ready for school. If I truly was as mean as I'm always being told I am, I would have gone with it and made like school really was in session. I would have watched them leave, laughing the whole time, wishing I could see their faces when they got to the school only to find out no one else was there. Unfortunately, Hubby informed them of the snow day before I finally pulled myself from the couch to see what all the commotion was about. Darn!

Though I missed out on pulling the best prank ever on the boys, I did have one of the funniest dreams ever. During my finally sleeping time between the phone call at 5 am and Hubby coming in at 5:45 am to get me up, I dreamed I was in our living room and so were a bunch of wild animals: a squirrel, a baby polar bear, a rather large bird with a very large crest on its head (sorta like Woody Woodpecker), and a whole host of other animals. They were coming in from the cold, and all I kept asking was, "How are they getting in?" As I was asking this, I was trying to take a picture of the baby polar bear to show everyone what was in my living room. The dang bear kept hiding behind the furniture, never letting me get my picture.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Drinking a Beer and Writing Some Poetry

For awhile now, I've felt the pull to write some poetry. I don't consider myself a poet by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy dabbling in it every now and then. The last couple of weeks, one idea in particular kept nudging me, so after writing down the thoughts that kept pestering me, this is what I came up with while enjoying a beer and after some rearranging and revision.


The green tape wrapping the handlebars is stained,
black chain grease smears have worked themselves deep
and no amount of soapy water can loosen their grip.
I worry over the smudges marring the once pristine color,
wanting what was
before the miles of gray road that sometimes stretched long
into the distance, with no clear markings to ease my anxious need
to know what lie ahead at the horizon, and other times ascended
until the thin air brewed protesting wheezes
within my aching lungs.
Before has vanished, Lachesis' whim turning the crank,
grinding away my minutes, hours, days beneath the tires,
their soft whir against the pavement calming my worries
with whispered promises that one day
one day
the black smears will have meant nothing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Feeling the Pressure

That time has come: back in the classroom for the next 16 weeks. Today was the first day for the students, and as per the usual, there were those who didn't show up. A couple might show up on Wednesday, wanting to know what they missed. A couple will never show up, and I'll be left wondering all semester why they paid for a class then didn't follow through. I do drop these students at the ten day mark as I think they should get a refund, and I don't want my retention numbers affected by someone who never attended in the first place. Especially this semester.

A funny thing happened in the fall when it came time to register for spring courses. The day registration opened, a day in late October, my English 102 classes filled quickly. I was scheduled to teach 4 sections, and from what I heard from students, all four of my sections filled within the first two hours of registration opening. Registration opened at midnight. This means students stayed up until midnight to be sure to get into my sections. I didn't know the sections had filled until a colleague said something to me as I was getting ready to head to class the following morning. Then when I got to class, several of my students complained that they had tried to get into my 102 but couldn't because they were already  full. One of the students moaned, "Who stays up until midnight to register for a class?" A young woman sitting right beside her said, "I did. I knew I wanted to be in her 102." I was simply stunned. I assured the students that some seats would open up before the start of classes in the spring. But no seats opened.

Now the pressure is on. How do I make sure each and every student who signed up during those first two hours of registration finishes the course? Oy.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thinking About Summer

Though it's only January 11 and there's lots of winter still in store for us, my thoughts have turned to summer. I've already planned out my June and July, and I'm seriously stoked about my plans.

At the beginning of December, I had approached my boys about me riding the Northern Tier summer 2014 with Bike the US for MS, and while Angel Baby said, "Yeah, go for it," I got this from Funny Delightful Son: "Noooooo. Who will take care of me?" I thought he was kidding around, but as we talked further, I realized he really didn't want me to be gone for two months. I love this kid so much. He and I are alike in many, many ways. Truth be told, I am a homebody at heart. If I don't absolutely have to go out of the house, I won't. I can stay right here, all day every day, and be content. So can Funny Delightful Son. I knew I needed to listen to him, his not wanting me to be gone, so I started to think of other ways to get the long rides in and still support Bike the US for MS.

I sat down at the computer and started making a daily ride chart, beginning on June 1 and ending on August 1. I then started picking the towns I want to ride to, mapped them to get the mileage, then listed the town with round-trip mileage next to the days on the chart. I built in 5 rest days during the two months of riding, but when the time comes, if I feel like I don't need a rest day I won't take it. I'll go ahead and ride somewhere. I also built in three overnight camping trips, the last one not really camping but rather a spa stay to treat myself to some yoga and a massage. In the end, I came up with two months of out and back routes, ranging anywhere from 32 miles to 117 miles, with the total mileage coming to 3915. With this in place, I ran it by the BTUSFMS program director, asking if I could have a profile on the website as a self-contained cyclist, and he agreed. So, I am very pleased to announce that I will be cycling once again for BTUSFMS.

Since the vast majority of my routes are out and back, I'll be home each afternoon and evening. This gives me what I want in being able to get long rides in as well as being a part of BTUSFMS, and it also gives Funny Delightful Son what he wants--me not being gone for two months. This is definitely a win-win. My plan is to leave out each morning around 5:30 so that I'm back home by noonish or 1ish, giving me plenty of time to do my gardening and other fun summer stuff. I also hope to convince my cycling friends to join me as guest riders for some of the routes.

Check out my profile here. And if you have $5 or $10 to spare, think about donating to such a good cause. Your donation is tax deductible and goes to MS research, building ramps for those living with MS and are confined to a wheelchair, and making living spaces accessible as well as safe. Believe me, those who benefit from your donations are so thankful.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Restless Need

Sometimes I sit here with my fingers on the keys, ready to type, but nothing comes out. It's not like I don't have anything going on in my head; there's plenty of thoughts racing around. I just can't get hold of them long enough to get them down in real text. Or sometimes, I do get hold of them then decide I can't write what I'm really thinking. So I end up sitting here, letting the minutes tick by, getting frustrated, and finally closing my laptop not having accomplished anything.

Like right now, yeah, I'm typing, but this isn't really what I want to write about. I'm not even sure exactly what it is I want to write about, but I do want to write. I can feel the need to express "something," whatever that something is.

As I'm worrying over wanting to write but not getting to the heart of what's flittering around inside my head, I can hear Funny Delightful Son in the next room, talking in that voice he uses when he's joking, poking fun at something. His girlfriend is with him, and she's laughing at everything he's saying. Their relationship is new, though they've known each other for five years. He recently wrote her a poem, and he shared it with me before he sent it to her by mail. Not email. A real letter that she could open and keep with her. She, in turn, wrote him a letter and gave it to him personally. He told me it made his heart skip. A wistful feeling cloaks me like a heavy quilt as I sit here, listening in on their conversation, sensing the sweetness of their relationship.

But that's not what I really want to write about either. Nor is it about Dog, who I can hear pacing up and down the stairs, the hall, then into the office. He only paces when he has just gotten a bone. He carries the bone around the house, first into the living room, then back into the kitchen/dining room, then upstairs, back downstairs, and on he continues until he's satisfied that he has found the just right spot to settle down and finally eat the bone. Maybe it's from him that I get this restless need to find the just-right "something" to write about. It's all Dog's fault.

It's not his fault. It's all me. I do know what I want to write about, but I won't. Instead, I'll keep the thoughts right where they are, safely tucked away so no one sees them.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dinner In Day Seven

On a cold, winter evening, a hot bowl of chicken and dumplings just seemed right. And it was. Not only did the chicken and dumplings turn out delicious, but it was also really inexpensive. The chicken was free as it was the second in a buy one get one free. Given that the veggies and dumplings were negligible in cost, I'm guestimating the cost per bowl at around $1. The only drawback was the chicken wasn't pastured. I've finally found a local farming family who sells pastured chicken, so I'm going to start buying from them. That will definitely make the overall cost go up, but my peace of mind in what I'm preparing for my family is worth every penny spent on good, quality chicken.

The Trials and Triumphs of Cooking

Had a dinner fail last evening. The cornbread. Took my first bite and immediately the baking soda overpowered the rest of the flavors. Almost as soon as the concept "baking soda" registered in my mind, I realized my mistake. The baking soda should have been baking powder. Which explains why the cornbread turned out nearly flat, more like a corn tortilla. As I was preparing the cornbread, I was also trying to listen to Hubby tell me something (which, my bad, I can't even remember what it was he was saying to me). I know I read the recipe, but I wasn't truly paying attention to what I was doing. At least it was only the cornbread. The chili was yummy and perfect for the cold day, and since it was some that we'd made a couple of weeks ago then froze for a night like last night, it gave us day 6 of eating in.

This morning, I was determined to make up for last night's fail. For some time now, like several years, I've been trying to find the best buttermilk pancake recipe. The ones I've prepared up to today were just meh. Nothing special. So this morning, like I've done before, I turned to the WWW and began searching. One of the first pages I found was Brown Eyed Baker, and I thought, "Wait! I'm brown-eyed. This is a sign!" I clicked on the link, read through the page and the recipe, then gathered up all the ingredients. The fact that I actually had all the ingredients on hand further proved that this recipe was going to be The One.

I followed the recipe exactly, being sure to not over-stir the mix. I'll admit I was dubious as I stepped back and eyed my work; the batter seemed so thick. But I went with it. I let the batter sit for ten minutes like the recipe suggested. I warmed my electric griddle to 350 degrees like the recipe suggested. Then I scooped some batter onto the griddle and watched as the magic happened. The pancakes rose and bubbled. I flipped each carefully. The edges sizzled while little air bubbles popped from the middle space between the top and bottom of each. When they were finished, I arranged them on my plate, added a small pat of butter to each, poured pure maple syrup on top, then took my first bite. With that first bite, I knew. With that first bite, I nearly swooned. I'd finally found the fluffy, luscious goodness I'd been searching for.

I so know what I'm having for lunch.

Monday, January 6, 2014


This morning the temps registered at -17 degrees. Yikes. That's cold. The wind chill is making the real feel a very, very bitter -30something. We have our thermostat set at 66, and the furnace is running nearly constantly. Not much we can do about it except layer and just enjoy the day inside, with hot tea, chocolate chip cookies, and a good read.

Fresh from the oven
As I was finishing cleaning the kitchen this morning, I thought, "There's one last bowl of shepherd's pie left. I'm going to have that for lunch." Happiness washed over me at the thought of having that one last bit of what had been a simple yet delicious meal last night. Then I saw the container in the sink. The container that had held the last bit of the simple yet delicious shepherd's pie. Someone had beat me to it. I'm pretty sure that someone was one of the boys, as both have become late-night scavengers. My happiness was quickly replaced by dismay. The consolation is I'm delighted whoever ate it thought it was as good as I thought it was. Lunch will have to be grilled cheese on homemade honey-wheat bread.

I know I'm only 6 days into the new year, but I think I'm kicking butt with my resolutions. Since last Wednesday, I've only watched two television programs, the first being "Rehab Addict" and the second being the Boilermakers basketball game. That comes to about 3 1/2 hours total for the last 5 days. I've read every day, and I've written every day. I've also been on the trainer every day since last Wednesday, increasing my time from 30 minutes to 45 minutes the last two training rides. My goal is to be at an hour by February 1. The making dinner every evening is going good, too, with tonight's dinner being either chili or eggs/bacon/pancakes. I'm kind of leaning towards having breakfast for dinner. Warm maple syrup sounds really good right now.

Warm anything sounds good given our below zero weather we're having. Brrrrrrrr.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

As Promised--Snow, Wind, and Single Digit Temps

Though the snow and wind arrived later than predicted, both arrived. Fashionably late, I guess. Most of today, right up to about an hour ago, the snow fell. Because of the wind, we have some pretty good drifts around the house. Tomorrow there'll be lots of shoveling going on, but since work already posted notice of not being open for business tomorrow, I have all day to remove the snow from in front of the garage. Plus I have two strong boys home to help me out. They both are more than ready to return to school, so it'll do them good to get out and work off some energy.

I love snow days. What better days are there to stay inside and laze about? I read, made a loaf of honey-wheat bread, baked chocolate chip cookies, concocted a new body scrub, and watched the Boilermakers lose to Minnesota. After a dinner of yummy homemade shepherd's pie (day 5 of eating in--didn't have much choice due to the weather), we played a round of bid euchre, with the boys coming from behind to beat Hubby and me. Tomorrow, I hope to do more of the same, right after I shovel all the snow from in front of the garage.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Waitin' for the Snow

It's like a collective holding of the breath right now. The sky has turned dark gray with snow clouds, and the weather service has issued two warnings: snow accumulation and wind chill. Looks like anywhere from 6-8 inches of the white stuff and bitterly cold winds are creeping our way. I'm all set. Got my next book underway (Driftless by David Rhodes--loving it!), got plenty of eats in the house, and got quilts at my fingertips just in case the house gets chillier than it already is. Yesterday we had frozen pipes going into the washer, but thankfully Hubby was able to get those taken care of with no disaster happening (like the unfortunate soul who burned his house down trying to thaw out pipes by using a blow torch). I'm just hoping we get past tomorrow's arctic blast with pipes intact. Burst pipes are no fun. I'm truly thankful we dodged the bullet yesterday.

Today, I peeked into my hoop house, thinking no way was there going to be anything growing, but surprise, surprise, I have sprouts! I can't remember exactly what I planted in that one particular square of the hoop house (I am notoriously bad about labeling what I plant; I need to work on this), but there's something green dotting the soil. We've been quite cold for some time now, so having something growing (wow, that's a lot of -ing words) in these temps amazes me. Now that I know something is actually growing, I'll be checking on it constantly to see what it's doing. Maybe by February I'll be able to tell exactly what it is.

Since Wednesday, I've only watched 1 hour of television. Go me! Hubby sits alone in the living room these days, watching his programs. When he asks me what I'm doing, my response is usually, "Reading." I've read more in the last four days than I have in the last year. I finished Zombie Apocalypse and started Driftless, and I've read lots of blogs. When I was a kid, my family called me Bookworm because, well, I always had a book in my hands. As an adult, I've gotten away from reading just for the sheer joy of the story. I turned more to nonfiction, how-to types of books. With Zombie Apocalypse, I felt that joy of the story again. I'm feeling it even more so with Driftless. I love each and every one of the characters in Driftless. They've become family to me. I never feel that when watching a TV program.

Just writing about Driftless is making me want to go read some more. If the snow and cold really do hit us like we keep being told they will, I'll probably have the book finished sometime tomorrow. This reading thing is fun.

*Update*: just finished our Eating In Dinner Day 4. Angel Baby helped me prepare veal piccata with sour cream and Parmesan noodles. I love watching everyone eat up the meal and say how delicious it was. For dessert, the first loaf from my new bread maker had just finished, so we had warm bread with butter and jam or raw honey. Total cost for the meal (not including the cost of the bread maker) was right around $5 per person. I'm loving eating in. I'm considering taking what we're saving by eating in and putting it in my savings account. It'd be interesting to see what the total is at the end of the year.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dinner In Day Three

Salisbury Steak, Garlic Mashed Taters, Tossed Salad, and Homemade Bread
As I stood at the meat cooler, trying to find the grass-fed ground beef (which there was none of), Hubby goes into his shocked mode that he does when I want to buy the more expensive options. Yes, grass-fed beef is $6.99 a pound where the grain fed, pumped full of antibiotics, standing knee deep in mud and feces along with hundreds of other cattle crowded in a feed lot beef is $1.99 a pound. I'll buy the grass-fed all day, every day. Unfortunately, the store was out. I had to settle for the next best option: "all natural," whatever that means. It was $5.99 a pound.

That "all natural" ground beef became our Salisbury steak tonight. It, along with the leftovers, brought tonight's dinner cost to around $15.00 (not including the red wine I used for the sauce--but again, I only used part of it for the meal; some I drank while cooking, which is why my math is fuzzy at best right now, and there is still some left over for another meal or another drink. I vote for the latter.). With three of us eating tonight since Funny Delightful Son went out with friends, the cost per person ended up being approximately $5. Not bad. When I compare this to the $50 we usually pay when we eat out, I just want to bang my head against the wall for taking so long to say no more.

Like last night, this meal was delicious. There is simply no comparing to fast food burgers, fried chicken, or tacos. Much more satisfying all the way around. Now, if I could just had a maid to clean the kitchen, everything would be perfect.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day Two of Not Eating Out

Tonight's Homemade Dinner: Fish and Scallops Stew with Homemade Bread

Update: I got to thinking after I posted the picture about how much it cost for this dinner. It fed three (Hubby isn't a fan of fish--he bought himself a frozen pizza, which I am not figuring into the cost for the meal), and speaking for myself, the one bowl with one piece of bread was very filling. The boys ate a couple slices of bread. Angel Baby loved the stew and told me as much at least three times. I think he was disappointed in only getting one bowl of it. Funny Delightful Son liked the stew but wasn't enamored with the scallops. Their texture reminded him of bacon fat and he's not a fan of bacon or bacon fat (sigh--bacon is simply delicious).

Anyway, back to the cost. When I added up the costs of the ingredients, the stew and bread together came to $4.58 per person, or $13.75 total. While the stew was completely gone, I still have bread left over for toast or sandwiches. The total cost is nearly a quarter of what we spend when we four go out. We rarely get away from eating out for less than $50. So, even though the scallops cost $20 for the bag, I only used about 1/4 of them and still have more for other meals. It just makes more sense to put our money into groceries than into going out.

Two Weeks, Right?

To kick a habit. That's the general consensus for getting over the hump and moving away from whatever the habit was, right? If that's correct, the next two weeks are going to be very interesting.

Yesterday kicked off my reducing the amount of TV I watch. In being very conscious about not watching, I realized just how rote I was about turning on the TV throughout the day. First thing in the morning, as I sit down for breakfast, I turn on the TV to see the weather. If I'm cleaning house, I turn on the TV to listen to whatever. When I jump on my bike on the trainer, I turn on the TV to help pass the time. After dinner, I would settle on the couch and watch whatever Hubby was watching, sometimes spending two or three hours in one spot. Not turning on the TV all day yesterday though I did all these same things (I didn't settle on the couch after dinner--I went upstairs and read) showed me just how much time I truly spent watching and letting life pass me by. A sad state of affairs indeed.

In not watching TV yesterday, I read most of Zombie Apocalypse (still boring in sections), wrote, tried to print out some pictures on our little printer and had an epic failure with that, created a very tasty roasted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and tossed salad dinner, cleaned, read several blogs, spent 30 minutes on the trainer, stretched, and re-read some of Uncomfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron. That's a pretty good day. I won't be able to do these things everyday once I return to work next week, but I should be able to do much of this if the TV stays off.

Since I'm almost finished with Zombie Apocalypse, I'm wondering what my next book should be. Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 . . . Wow . . . Yeah, Just Wow

A new year. A, for the most part, clean slate to work with. What to do with it is almost paralyzingly intimidating.

I know for sure I want to get back on the bike and ride, piling up the mileage like never before. I had the same idea for 2013, right after completing the cross-country ride in 2012, but when 2013 actually rolled around, I could feel the desire to get out on a daily basis just wasn't there. Each day I would get up with the intention of going out for a couple of hours, but deep in my core I kept feeling hesitation. Almost like something was gripping my insides and saying, "No, not today. The time isn't right." I listened to that voice, mostly just cycling to work or to the store. On a few occasions I did go out for longer rides, but these were few and far between. Now, I can feel the desire building to get back out, rack up the mileage. I'm glad I listened to whatever was telling me to not cycle, as this allowed me to turn my attention to gardening and working on art projects, and best of all, just being with my boys. The time I spent with them in 2013 helped me get to know each of them like I didn't before. No amount of cycling would mean as much to me as the memories I have of me and my boys being together through 2013. Because I was home with them, I spent time investing in tweaking our space, finding ways to improve its comfort factor. One of my friends mentioned one day that I'm "surrounding my home in beauty." That warmed my heart.

I also know for sure I want to cook our meals. We eat out far too often. Sometimes five or six times a week. At a minimum of $35 each meal, this can add up to $175+ a week. What a freaking waste. I've mentioned to Hubby on several occasions that our eating out needs to stop, but I cave most of the time because . . . well . . . I'm lazy. There are times after work that I'm in no mood to cook. This, however, is an excuse, and this, right here right now, is going to change. That $175 could go towards groceries that we in turn use to create tasty meals in the kitchen of our own home.

Directly connected to not eating out is my desire to eat real food. No canned foods (unless they're those that I've canned, containing foods I've grown). No boxed foods. No frozen meals. For several years now, I've worked to eat better, but when you live with someone who truly doesn't care what he ingests, and buys all kinds of nasty, processed, full of sugar products, the temptation to indulge is always right there. That darn nasty, processed, full of sugar Devil is constantly tempting me. It's easy to fall into step. But I'm done with that. I'm falling out of step. I started three months ago with my first baby step of eliminating caffeine. Once I knew I had slain the caffeine once and for all, my next hit was soda. After two weeks of no soda, I found myself saying no to sweets more often than I said yes. I now eat very little of anything in the sweets category. Saying no to candy, to cookies, to cake is getting easier and easier each day. And a truly pleasant realization came to me the other day when Hubby suggested I get some pain cream for my sciatica pain--I've not had any sciatica pain for some time now. I hadn't noticed this until he mentioned it. I'm wondering if moving away from the sugar (which I found out is an inflammatory agent) is the reason.

My last "know for sure" goal for 2014 is to reduce the TV watching and increase the reading/writing. When I think about all the hours I've spent in front of the TV over the last year, I cringe. I should actually hand a whip to someone and say, "Give me ten lashes for being such an idiot." Again, because I live with someone who loves his TV and has one in nearly every room of the house (I put my foot down at no TV in the bathrooms), and who has to have all the premium channels, I get sucked in, falling into step yet again. I do have a couple of shows I really like--"Rehab Addict" and "Storage Wars Texas"--but other than these two programs, I can't think of anything I truly look forward to watching. Well, I take that back. I enjoy watching Purdue basketball, both men and women. So, I'm going to limit my watching to the two shows and Purdue basketball. When the shows go on hiatus and when basketball season is over, that's it for watching TV. If I stick to this goal, I should be able to get a lot of reading and writing in. The first book on the list for 2014 is Zombie Apocalypse, which so far is proving to be a fast (though at times very boring) read.

The clean slate that is 2014 has its first few markings on it already, and I'm happy with what's there. The next few weeks, though, are what will make or break what I have in mind for the year.

Happy New Year! May we all fall out of step and find the determination within to fulfill our goals and dreams!