If I get one more political survey call… Gratitude Experiment: Day 77

Living in a household where an Independent resides – and in a swing state no less  – is making my phone ring off the wall. And it seems particularly unseemly given the devastation and loss being reported about Hurricane Sandy.  My heart goes out to all those affected by her wrath and the loss she has left in her wake.

As for the political calls, I’m somewhat of a political junkie, so I understand the reasoning and I play along much of the time. I try to speak up for my views as much as I can.

But this has gotten out of hand.  The robocalls are quite easy for me to hang up on. But as much as I grimace and tell myself I’m going to be curt when the next call rings, I still have a hard time being less than civil to the real humans who make those calls, even when it takes a moment for the clicks on the line to connect the call. I always think, What if it was me who was working that phone bank for minimum wage? That just sounds painful.  And then my sympathy gets the better of me.

This is unless they start spouting clearly one-sided, manipulative questions and tell me they are not affiliated with any party.  Don’t get me started.  They get really confused when you call them on it and the answer is not on their script, which I have to admit is a little fun. But I digress.

Tonight I have managed to be civil but brief to these callers.  I’m taking a deep breath and reminding myself that there are just a few more days of this. I am going to do my best to come out of the other side of this political cycle with both eyes in tact.

Godspeed to any of you living in a swing state with an Independent in the house.  I’m still grateful for my right to vote and for our right to have diverse views in our country.

More importantly, I’m grateful that my swing state hasn’t been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  And sad for all the loss and devastation that has taken place in the last several hours.

Goldilocks and Gratitude. Experiment: Day 76

One of  yesterday’s writing prompts was to write about a time when you had a Goldilocks experience – arriving at something that was “just right” after experiencing things that were too much of one thing or too little of another. My Goldilocks experience has to do with dating and men.

Back in college, I dated some good boys and some bad boys, always torn about which ones were the better fit.  The good boys were often cute, quite witty and polite. They made great grades and had their eye on the future.  But they were often boring and uptight.

During my bad boy phase, I was really fascinated with guys who had longer hair and who drove motorcycles — the total bad boy stereotype.  I was also fascinated by anyone who my parents didn’t approve of, because that made it all the more fun.  These bad boys were cute and definitely more fun, but often not super thoughtful or smart and usually far from ambitious. And I was sure that the lack of ambition thing and the not so smart thing would really wear on me after a certain period of time.

Luckily during my senior year of college I came across an anomaly.  A rare combination of bad boy and good boy all mixed into one human being.  Crazy smart and witty, handsome, romantic and thoughtful and  just the right amount of ambition.  And someone who could never bore me.  The fact that he didn’t have a sexist bone in his body was an extra bonus.

And fortunately, 21 years later, everything is still ‘just right.’  For this I am truly grateful.

Have you ever had a Goldilocks experience?

PS: Some really frightening images of sexy Goldilocks Halloween costumes came up when I searched for an image.  In case anyone is looking for costume ideas. 🙂

The Brothers Bloom. Gratitude Experiment: Day 75

For some reason my post yesterday didn’t actually get published until just now. And I just realized – thanks to Ambling & Rambling, that the countdown widget I added to my site told me I had 19 days left, when it was really 26. Duh. Yes, I am sometimes severely WordPress-challenged.  Still need ideas for my next challenge, but I have a little more time than I thought. So keep them coming!

Now, for today’s actual post…

I am grateful that today I got to see my sons hang out and laugh together like old times.

They are growing up far too quickly. And becoming a little too cool for our regular family goofiness. And as teenagers, they get on each other’s nerves a lot these days.

So when I see them laugh and hang out together like old times, it warms my heart. Today was one of those days and hearing their laughter made me smile. For this I am thankful.

PS: If you haven’t seen the movie The Brothers Bloom, rent it.  One of my favorites.

19 More Days. Gratitude Experiment: Day 74

Today I’m grateful that I have made it through almost 100 days without running out of things to be thankful for.

This exercise in positive thinking has made my glass more easily half full on a regular basis. This is a very good thing. And it has attracted good things.

Plus, the 100-day challenge to post something every day has been a genius way for me to force myself to write and post every single day. And I am truly enjoying it.

But with only 19 days until I hit the big 100, the pressure is mounting for another challenge that I shall proclaim to keep myself blogging.

I would like to keep the next challenge related to gratitude somehow because this has been a great experience and it seems to be easy to connect with.


PS:  How cool is the sunlight hitting the top of the tree in this photo? It was the other morning just as the sun was rising after our first somewhat substantial early snow.

Give me your thoughts on my next challenge…

Inspired by Grace. Gratitude Experiment: Day 73

Today I visited my friend’s son – who is also my friend – in the hospital. He is 14 with cerebral palsy and just had a very big surgery where a pump for medication was placed deep in his abdomen to help make him more comfortable and manage his pain.

Not only is this young man one of the sweetest and smartest kids I know, but he is also one of the bravest, a bona fide trooper.

And as for my friend — not only do I consider her a great confidant and ally, but  I am also continually moved by her incredible strength, beauty and grace.

It’s hard to explain, but watching them today, I was inspired. For this, and for my young friend’s healthy start on his road to recovery from his surgery, I am truly grateful.

Most precious thing lost. Gratitude Experiment: Day 72

One of the writing prompts on WordPress this week is to write about the most precious thing you’ve ever lost.

My most precious thing ever lost would be my sister’s stainless steel ID bracelet with her name on it.  I used to wear it a lot.   It was a way to keep her with me every day.

Its cantankerous clasp has been the culprit.  I have lost it on two different occasions, swearing that I would never see it again.  And probably wiping a tear as I proclaimed its disappearance.

Both times my heart sank and my stomach soured as I thought about how sad and angry with myself I was  for losing this precious bracelet. I felt like I had lost a part of her.

The first time I lost it was shortly after my sister died.  My heart raced as I backtracked and traced my footsteps and locations with angst. I probably had fifteen people on the look-out for it. They felt so sorry for me as they heard my voice tremble as I explained what I was looking for.  Everything was so fresh then. And thank goodness it was found after much searching. Only to lose it again years later.

The next time I lost it was only about four years ago when I realized I hadn’t seen it since we moved houses.  After much distress and drama and a month of searching, I found it again. Whew.

I am grateful that my “most precious thing lost” was found again – both times.   Now I am so paranoid that I might lose it again that I hardly ever wear it.  But I keep it where I can see it everyday.  That little bracelet makes me happy. And for that I am thankful as well.

What is the most precious thing you’ve ever lost?

Ode to Serendipity. Gratitude Experiment: Day 71

Today I received one of those unexpected clues that all is right in the universe and that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

Every have one of those?  They are great moments.  And the more aware you become of them, the more you notice these clues.

Backstory:  I’m jealous of other people’s friendly mailmen.  Or maybe they are just always friendly in the movies.  But I know my parents have a super friendly mailman who they have had for years and they actually know all about him and his family.

My regular mailman, on the other hand, is not so much  friendly.  He is not a ‘waver’, he doesn’t’ really ever say hello and he doesn’t smile.  I can’t figure out if he’s sad or just shy.

Or maybe it’s just me.  He does seem somewhat petrified of me for some reason.  Perhaps it’s because he’s terrified by my two maniac dogs who go crazy when the doorbell rings.  Or he just really doesn’t like people anywhere near his personal space bubble.

For example, when he comes to the door with a package and has to ring the bell (I picture him wincing as he reaches for my bell), I usually open the door and come out (so I can close the door behind me and leave the crazy dogs inside). This is when his eyes open wide and he takes several big steps back very quickly, like I am going to attack him or kiss him or something.  It is the oddest thing and he does it every time. I swear I am not abnormally large, fast or loud, or even that scary looking, and I don’t go to the door if I am, in fact, scary looking.  I just can’t figure it out.

So it’s always a treat when we have our substitute mailman who covers our route when our guy is not working.  Substitute mailman  is very friendly and actually speaks and smiles.  And he doesn’t  seem afraid of me, which is a plus, and much better for my ego.  But I don’t get to see him that often.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking… Geez, this chick really doesn’t  get out enough —  the mailman seems to be the highlight of her day.  Explanation:  I work out of my house and mainly talk to my clients through email.  So, on many days, the mail delivery really is the highlight and the main opportunity for me to see daylight, hoping that I don’t melt like a vampire.  Anyway, bear with me.

Today, substitute mailman rings the doorbell.  I answer and as soon as I realize that it is friendly substitute mailman, he says “Hi, how is your Mom doing?”  I paused for a moment trying to figure out how he would even know that I have a Mom, much less that she is someone who people routinely ask me about.

I looked at him quizzically and said “fine … why do you ask?”  He explained to me that he read my letter to the editor about Alzheimer’s that was published in the newspaper over a month ago.  He recognized my name in the paper and that I was on his route that he covered for on some days.  He explained  how he remembered which house I was in and about my Mom, because his dad has Alzheimer’s too. (Note:  I do NOT  live in a small town.  This is not a regular occurrence)

We had a very nice conversation about Alzheimer’s and our parents. As I watched him walk away, I thought about how I’ve never said more than hello to him before, but he was sweet enough to a) notice the letter in the paper and actually read it, b) recognize my name, c) remember which house I was in and d)make an effort to come to the door and hand me my mail so that he could ask me about my Mom.  I sort of tear up just writing about it and the thought of it makes my heart swell a bit.

So this is why I am grateful today.  I am thankful to have received what I interpret as a sign that all is right in the universe and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, despite how often I sometimes question the universe and my role within it.

And because my substitute mailman made my day.

When was the last time you received a clue from the universe that all is right and exactly as it is meant to be – also known as God’s winks by one book that I’ve seen, and as moments of serendipity?

Before they leave. Gratitude Experiment: Day 70

The first thing I have to report is that both my kids both had a good day today.  This means that my day was much better as well! I am grateful for this.

And, in keeping with my ‘time is flying by’ theme, I’ve done some research and thinking on what some key things are that I want to be sure to teach my kids before the leave for college. Yes,  I have a few years left, but lists calm my nerves.  I live for lists.  They make me feel more in control.

There are several check lists out there for this, but below are my top priorities which I will be working on  – one item per month.  Many of these things my kids already know some of.

Cooking: I am going to continue to teach my kids how to make a few basic meals (scrambled eggs and bacon, spaghetti, salad and bread and a few variations on ramen noodles, as all college kids should know).  Also some basic rules on saving, refrigerating and freezing food. And good basics to keep in the pantry.

Budgeting:  I am going to teach them how to make $20 or $3o go as far as possible in the grocery store – including basic foods and cleaning supplies. And I’m going to point out what items are expensive and how to save.  And how to prioritize spending.

Banking:  My kids have online checking accounts, but I am going to work with them more on checking their balances and how to pay bills, write checks and balance accounts.

Laundry: My kids know the basics, but we are going to do some practice on dark and light loads and how to do them, as well as how to iron when needed. And how to treat for stains. And how to read labels on clothing.

Cleaning:  I’ve already taught them some basics, but I am going to expand on this a bit to include cleaning dishes by hand, and cleaning woodwork, bathtubs and floors.

Organization: I am going to go over basic ways to organize a pantry, as well as good things to stock the bathroom and cleaning supply cabinet with.

Correspondence: I am going to make sure my kids can not only write a letter, but also address,stamp and mail a letter.  And I will make sure they can send a professional email.

Car maintenance: We’ve been working on this for a few years and we will continue to help them know how to check tire pressure and oil, accurately read dash gauges, change a tire and do regular maintenance on cars.  I will always remember my dad teaching me how to check my oil and change a tire.

This is the start of my basics list.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Today I’m grateful that I have prioritized this one list, as it has given me some peace of mind.

Why do kids have to grow up so quickly? I’m glad having a plan like this helps me focus more on enjoying the process.

Thanks for reading!

It ain’t always easy being grateful. Gratitude Experiment: Day 69

As I try to channel Chester Cheetah from the Cheetos commercials, I fully realize that I am truly a lucky person.  I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head and plenty of food on my table. Really, I should have nothing to complain about. But it’s all relative right?

When some days come to a close, I sigh and wonder what I am going to be grateful about when I blog.  And then I feel guilty for thinking that, because relatively speaking, depending on what you compare it to, I’ve got it made.  But where does that thinking end? And let’s face it, we all have our days.  Fortunately, I’m learning that it’s okay to be honest with myself.  And I’m grateful for that.

Today, I ran from point A to point B (and back to point B and then A again so that I could get work done in between), more times than I could count.  I didn’t feel like I got anything accomplished in as complete of a way as I would have liked. I continue to feel guilty about not spending enough time helping with my Mom and I feel like my kids are growing up so fast that I need to soak up every minute of it and teach them everything I can before they leave the nest. But days like today make me feel like I didn’t get to soak up any of it at all, because life got in the way.

Not to mention that tonight’s presidential debate just plain stressed me out.  As a conflict-avoider down deep, these debates cause me angst no matter the outcome.

Much more importantly, today I worried about my oldest son who I am convinced is still having a hard time emotionally since his concussion last spring which kicked his butt and changed his life, athletically speaking, and consequently, self esteem-wise.  I really think more research needs to be done about the link between concussions and depression, and everything in between.  I swear he is not the same kid, emotionally speaking, and it breaks my heart.  I’m trying everything I can think of and taking him to every kind of specialist I can think of, but my heart still knows he is far from himself. And this makes me sad, and tired on days like today.

On the flip side, my youngest son put on a heck of a show in his theater arts class at school this morning, and I was so very proud of him.   I think he is truly an actor down deep in that body with a face that is a clone of mine. And I can tell it makes him truly happy to make others laugh. This is what I am most grateful for today.

And the fact that my family, near and far, is safe and sound tonight.

I’m also grateful, for you, my loyal readers, and your patience with the ups and downs of my blogging catharsis.

Sleep tight.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette. Gratitude Experiment: Day 67

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is Silhouette.

This photo was taken while driving to Steamboat as the sun was setting.  That was one of the most beautiful drives I can remember. The trees all along the way were absolutely magnificent. (Absolutely was a word that my dear Yoda friend who passed away used all the time. Today was her birthday and I thought of her a lot today. When I see Pear trees planted in a row I think of her.)

Trees make me happy. They stir up all kinds of emotions in me, be it connections to the past, the ideas of longevity, flexibility, stability  change, hope and so much more.  The Weeping Willow across my street (at my friendly neighbor’s) reminds me of the Weeping Willow that we planted at my house in front of our living room window when I was six years old, as well as the Birch tree by our driveway and its paper-like bark that fascinated me.   My mother loved to plant trees and was proud of how well that Weeping Willow grew. I think it made her proud of her new-found independence.

I am grateful for trees (we take them for granted). Do you have memories or feelings that are awakened by trees?

Hope you had a great weekend – here’s to a wonderful week ahead.  I will work on my random acts of kindness this week, as well as my gratitude and positive thinking.  Thanks for reading!

Seven things. Gratitude Experiment: Day 66

Today I am grateful for being recently nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

Here is what I am supposed to do:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated me.  Thank you again Amber Starts Today !
  2. Attach the award to my site.
  3. Share 7 random facts about myself (see below).
  4. Nominate 7 bloggers for the Beautiful Blogger Award. There are so many that I enjoy, so this is difficult. (See below)

Here goesAmbling & RamblingRantings of an Amateur Chefdiannegray… from the bungalow,  amyunjadedfree penny pressOverwhelmedByJoy

My seven things:

1. I’m a Taurus. Stubborn and loyal to a fault until you wave a cape or wrong me.  Then I’m not so great at forgiving.
2. I like old cars with character more than jewelry, clothes or shoes combined. Shoes are up there though. I blame my Dad for both obsessions.
3. I’m a germaphobe and if I see you double dip or lick a spoon before you come close to my meal I will seriously lose my shit.
4. Dry martinis, good wine, salty snacks, cheeses and breads are my epicurean weaknesses.
5. I save my energy for those who are real. I do not understand duplicity and those who master it stupefy me.
6. Sometimes I have the sense of humor of a third grade boy.  Far too many of my adult friends wouldn’t be all that surprised if I asked them to pull my finger. Not sure who to blame for this, but my youngest son will blame me later.
7. I curse like a sailor, but I am working on it, damn it.  I blame my niece. Her cursing puts mine to shame.

Random Acts Challenge. Gratitude Experiment: Day 65

A friend sent me an email this week  that talked about gratitude and random acts of kindness.  There were terrific photos with examples of random acts of kindness – people giving shoes to the shoe-less, someone holding an umbrella for someone who couldn’t hold it for themselves, a note from someone paying the tab for couple of new parents at a restaurant, and several more.

It seems to me that sometimes we spend a lot of time thinking about what we don’t like, what we want next and what we don’t have. I fall into this same rut sometimes.

My challenge is this:  For every time this week that I start to complain about something or someone, or think about some “thing” that I want, I will stop and remind myself how lucky I am and think of one random act of kindness to do.  I will try to do this once per day this coming week.  We’ll see how it goes.

Want to play? I challenge you to do it and see what kind of effect it can have. Challenge your friends or kids to. What a great thing to teach kids.  I know it sounds cheesy, but bear with me and give it a go.

There are websites dedicated to providing examples of easy random acts of kindness and you can Google it – from holding the door open (to me this should be a no-brainer), paying the tab for someone behind you, doing yard work for someone, donating books to the library, cooking a meal for someone, picking up trash, writing a letter or card to someone you appreciate, the list goes on. It doesn’t take much.  One of my favorites is to surprise someone who seems like they would really appreciate it (and never expect it) with a much larger tip than usual. Or to let people go in front of me in line if they seem rushed (freaks people out a little so the entertainment factor is a bonus).

Today I’m grateful for being reminded about random acts of kindness.  And for my readers. Go forth and randomly act. Thanks for reading.

I never did mind about the little things. Gratitude Experiment: Day 64

Couldn’t resist the title of this post. This is my favorite line from “Point of No Return,” a terrific 1993 movie with Bridget Fonda and a remake of a Franco-Italian film, Nikkita. If you haven’t seen it, find it.

Now, on to gratitude.  Today I am grateful that a fellow blogger reminded me of another favorite quote. Yes, I like quotes and I have a lot of favorites.

This one is on a pillow on my bed (one of those throw pillows that are a pain but look awesome when the bed is all made perfectly).

My hope in purchasing this pillow is that seeing it daily will help me slow down and enjoy the little things in life and not sweat the things that seem bigger at the time.  (Example: reminding myself that one of these days before long and when my kids are older, I will probably long to have a sassy teenager in the house again to sass me while I do their laundry or drive them all over town.  Hard to imagine, but you get the idea.) Now I just need to get better about making my bed perfectly each day so I will see it more.

Most of my favorite quotes are about perspective, and this one follows suit.

What things could you enjoy more if you switched up your perspective?

WWYD (What would Yoda do?) Gratitude Experiment: Day 63

Today I am grateful for being blessed with Yodas in my life.

Raising a house of boys and having a husband who remains a young boy at heart, Star Wars was very much a part of my life for many years.

We all dressed up as different  Star Wars characters for Halloween over the years (although my Princess Leah didn’t  hold a candle to the real one in the bikini that my husband had a thing for back in the day). So perhaps I jokingly used Star Wars terminology more than I realized (as nerdy as that sounds) and that’s how this Yoda thing began.

Years ago I had a very dear friend, God rest her soul, who I called my domestic Yoda.  She was the most organized person I have ever known. When I opened her linen closet I heard harps play.  Her kids’  pretend-food  in their play kitchen was even organized by food pyramid type and alphabetical order.  She could fold a set of sheets like no other.

She could have been in sheet folding contests.  Seriously, her linen closet made my heart skip a beat.  Hard as I have tried, I have never been able master her neat linen closet skill.  She made numerous attempts to teach me how to fold sheets Yoda-style, but we finally realized that I simply don’t have great patience for all things domestic.  And my family survives despite my less than perfect linen closet.

I really did envy her domestic ease and try to learn from it though.  She was always there for me if I needed to call and ask her a cooking or planting question or any other random domestic question.  I bought a house down the street from her, went to the same doctor and took my kids to the same preschool and doctor for years.  If they could pass her test, I knew they were a-okay.

When she got very sick with cancer, I bought her a talking Yoda doll, because she knew she was my Yoda.  She kept it by her bedside to give her strength and we always joked about it.  At her funeral I spoke about how she was my Yoda; I even spoke about her linen closet and the harps.  I still miss her dearly.

Another dear friend of mine has always been my geographical Yoda.  Before the days of GPS, I could call her anywhere, anytime in my home state when I was turned around and she would lead me by phone using landmarks, turn by turn, giggling all the while at my geographical cluelessness.  To this day, she is one of my best friends ever, and she has been a wonderful Yoda to me on many fronts beyond her original geographical Yoda duties.  Grateful for her, I am (Yoda-speak).

When I moved to a new state I was bummed that I might not have any Yodas nearby. Making friends and Yoda connections as an adult is much more challenging as an adult.  But luckily the force was with me.

I gained a Yoda who is part of my alumnae group that I have been very involved with since I moved here.  She is 10 years older than me with two boys as well and I have coincidentally ended up following many of her footsteps in various ways.  She has coached me through leadership positions and parental challenges and I am lucky to be her Jedi in Training.  I have another friend in the group who is like a sister to me, in a very Yoda-esque way.

I am also blessed to have a Yoda across the street from me.  She is Yoda-like on many levels, so it is hard to give her a specific Yoda category.  I know the universe placed her across the street from me to guide me and keep ‘the force’ strong within me as there are no accidents in this grand life of ours.

She has given me sage advice about raising teenagers, dealing with schools, learning to say no and so much more.  And even more importantly, she is also always there for a Yoda happy hour when I need to blow off steam.  Her Yoda senses seem to tell her when to call, they do.

For these Yodas in my life and many others, I am truly blessed.  Placed in my life for a reason, I know these Yodas have been.  Grateful, forever I am.  Yoda-speak, this is.

Have you ever had a Yoda in your life?