Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why I Coupon

Free food and toiletries and the top of my son's head. Don't worry, he isn't getting donated...yet.
I know a lot of people chuckle at me when they see me with my giant binder at the grocery store and sure, my stockpiles look a little odd in the pantry and the garage. I know it doesn't make much sense to buy things when you don't need them even if they are super cheap. Also, no matter how many times I tell people that it really doesn't take a lot of time to coupon, I still get comments from people who "wish they had that much free time." Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed to buy 3 bottles of detergent at a time and to hand over a huge stack of coupons at the register. Then, look at the bags of free food in my pantry and I remember there are people out there who need me to keep couponing.

The economy has hit a lot of people hard, especially the working poor. I live in a fairly wealthy area but there are still 11 families at N's school who depend on the monthly food drive. The local food banks are begging for donations because a lot of people who once donated are now looking for help. I am already looking at the shopping circulars every week for my shopping list so I always make sure to circle those items that are free or under 50 cents. No, I might not use the items in question but there is someone out there who could and who probably needs it desperately. Why turn down something free? If I can help, there is no excuse for me not to do that.

Sure coupons allow me to save a ton of money and put that savings toward trips or things we want to do to improve the house and that is wonderful. But the biggest source of pride for me is the bulging bags of donated food I take to church or for the food drive at my son's school. I know that I am going to help keep children fed for another month all because I use little slips of paper. It makes the stares and the snickers and the questions of "Are you like those people on the TLC Extreme Couponers show?" totally worth it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Book Review

NemesisNemesis by Philip Roth

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh how I wanted to love this book. The story was so promising: a polio outbreak in Newark during the summer of '44 and the man who was in the center of it, and the reviews were fantastic. Unfortunately, I couldn't connect with any of the characters. Even the main character, Bucky, seemed more like a sketch than a fully realized person, which may have been the author's intent as Bucky is portrayed as a very stoic person. I have never lived with the fear of polio, thanks to the vaccine, but this book did little to make me feel the characters' terror at the disease. The ending felt rushed, I would have liked to have read more of Bucky's story (I will not go into that here as it contains some spoilers.) While this wasn't a terrible book, and Mr. Roth has a lovely way with words, I felt it lacked great emotion.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cold Turkey Report- Week Two

It has been two weeks since I kicked the artificial sweeteners and sodas habit and I have to say I really feel a difference. Frankly, I am amazed by how good I feel. I used to have a headache every single day and a migraine at least once a month and in the past two weeks I haven't had so much as a tinge of pain. Also, recently the pollen count has been insane and normally this would cause me incredible misery but other than having to blow my nose first thing in the morning I have been fine. Even my PMS (sorry guys but we are all adults here) symptoms have really decreased, much to my family's delight.

One thing I didn't expect was the reduction in my appetite. I would normally have a Diet Coke with my lunch and then would spend the rest of the afternoon trying not to pour the contents of my pantry directly down my throat. I haven't changed what I am eating for lunch but now my afternoons are binge free so I can only think it was the artificial sweeteners. I also have found that certain food just aren't as tasty if you can't wash them down with a cold soda. One of my favorite snacks is a potato chips, dip and a Diet Coke. Give me that combo and I'll eat until I am sick but yesterday I had a reasonable portion of chips and dip and then stopped because it just didn't taste as good. I've seen a loss on the scale so this whole experiment has really been an eye-opener.

There have been a few times when I really wanted a Diet Coke, but that was more in my mind than a physical craving. I was worried that I would get the nausea and other symptoms of artificial sweetener withdrawal but I am pleased to report that I haven't had any of those issues. When C tried to kick the habit he was miserable and sick but he drinks way more Diet Coke than I do. I would love it if he would follow my lead and stop drinking that stuff, for financial and health reasons but he'll have to do that in his own time. I know I am only two weeks in but I think it is safe to say that I have kicked the soda monkey off my back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Use Your Imagination

I am about to say something that is very controversial nowadays: I don't play with or hover over my kids. Sure, I'll play a game of checkers with them or run around with them if they ask but on the whole, I am pretty hands off as a parent. I believe it is vitally important to let your children use their imaginations and create their own little worlds, free from the intervention of Mom and Dad. There is nothing more thrilling to me than watching my boys run around the front yard, only they have turned it into the planet Tatooine or a giant Bakugan battlefield.

I come by my hands-off approach pretty honestly as my parents were the same way. Matter of fact, when I was a kid it was considered weird to have your parents involved in the elaborate games and creations that you and your friends worked on. Honestly, parents kind of spoiled the fun because they wanted to make sure you didn't get too dirty and didn't make too much of a mess. There was no greater freedom as a child than to know that you could run like a crazy person without having to deal with your parent's intervention.

Please don't take this as an admission that I have abdicated my responsibility as a parent. I teach my children appropriate manners, work with them on their school work and do everything to make sure that they will grow up to be successful. I just happen to think that an important part of parenthood is knowing when to step back and just leave the kids alone. I let them fight their own battles, but they know that I am in the background if a situation gets too big for them to handle. I tend to cringe when I see a parent hover on the playground, especially when they try to lead their child's play and tell them how to handle a situation. Book learning is important but having the opportunity to create your own little world and yes, fall on your butt sometimes is a very important part of growing up.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Young Love

My 6 year old has a girlfriend. They sit together on the bus, play together at recess and even arrange it so they have centers together. Of course by 6 year old standards this means that they are on the road to marriage. I am fortunate to have the time to volunteer in his class so I have been able to meet the little girl in question and she is just as sweet as she could be and a total doll. Every day they plan elaborate play dates that haven't yet come to fruition thanks to baseball practices, CCD classes and errands. As I write this N is moping around the house broken hearted because he can't have a playdate today. This may sound mean but his pouting is cracking me up because it is so dramatic and full of angst and oh so teenager-y. I told him eventually he will have a playdate but I need to meet the little girl's parents first before he can go to her house and she to ours. She lives in the neighborhood so I am sure we'll be seeing her a lot during the summer but for right now that isn't good enough for my lovesick little boy.

Of course I think N is a very handsome young man, kind and considerate and a great catch (not that I am biased) so I expected the ladies to come a-running. I just didn't think that he would have his first love in  Kindergarten!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Strangers are living in my house

Yesterday was a gorgeous day here in GA so we decided to kick off our massive home improvement plans with a little yardwork.  Of course you cannot do any sort of work around the house without making the required stop at Home Depot- I think it is an actual law. For the first time in the 20+ years I have known of Home Depot, I was actually excited to be in there. The possiblities for upgrading our house seem endless!  New fixtures! Bathtubs! Windows! Tile! Paint samples! I flitted from area to area like Martha Stewart on speed with my husband and kids desperately trying to keep up. I had to keep reminding myself that the upgrades cannot happen overnight and that I don't have a money tree in the backyard. Now I find myself looking at home improvement websites and bookmarking my particular "styles." It is weird.

I am not the only one who has succumb to the home improvement bug. C bought a small pressure washer and has become enamored with its cleaning ability. Several times last night I caught him going outside to look at the clean front porch and driveway. This morning, while I did the laundry, he was outside pressure washing our deck like a man possessed. He begged me to come outside to see the difference in the area he cleaned and the areas he hadn't. He kept saying "Can you believe how hard we scrubbed these deck railings every single year and never got them as clean as this? It is amazing!" For you "30 Rock" fans, he even stole the Tracey Jordon "take it behind the middle school" line.

Are we becoming real adults? I fear that when we start re-tiling and re-siding the house we might become so excited that we will spontaneously combust. It would be a shame if my boys were left orphaned because the thrill of freshly painted walls caused my husband and I to have heart attacks. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to spend the rest of the day watching "HGTV."  I don't even know who I am anymore!

What a difference!

My Sister Wife

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hyperemesis Gravidarium Awareness

There is a belief in my family that if you are pregnant and throw up you are having a girl and if you eat everything in sight you are having a boy. So, in my first pregnancy when I began to throw up at 6 weeks the only thought I had about morning sickness was I would soon need to buy pink dresses and tiny hairbows. At first I found the morning sickness to be annoying and something to grin and bear, but when I couldn’t keep down water and was throwing up every 15 minutes I began to suspect something might be wrong. I consulted the pregnancy bible “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” and read that some women are sicker than others in pregnancy but on the rare chance that you can't keep anything down you should give your OB's office a call. When I called the OB the “helpful” (ha ha) nurses suggested crackers, ginger ale, sea bands and small frequent meals. I wondered how this would help me if I couldn’t even keep water down? When I went to the OB for my 8 week checkup my Dr. took one look at me and immediately sent me to the hospital where I was given 4 bags of IV fluid in order to get rehydrated. I thought the worst was over until I had to go back to the hospital the next week for more fluids. At that time I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarium (HG).

Hyperemesis is severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy which causes a woman to become dehydrated because she is unable to properly eat and drink. A woman may also lose more than 5% of her body weight and have trouble working or maintaining a normal routine because she is so ill. Hyperemesis feels as if you combined the worst hangover and stomach flu you have ever had and multiplied that by 1000. Once I recevied my diagnosis, I became an invalid, dealing with home health care nurses, IV hydration, blown veins in my hands, powerful anti-nausea drugs that were fed into my leg via a pump and kept me in a haze and an overwhelming fear that my baby and I wouldn't make it through this ordeal. When N was born healthy and weighing in at a whopping 8lbs 1 ozs, I finally felt like I could breathe again. The minute I delivered him it was like a veil lifted from me and all the nausea and vomiting was gone. I was healed.  I was determined to give N a sibling even though I knew that my Hyperemesis would most likely strike again. Sure enough at 6 weeks I was back in the ER receiving fluids. This time I knew what I was up against and demanded more aggresive treatment for my Hyperemesis. Thankfully, J was born healthy but I decided that my dream of having 4 kids was just not possible. My days of pregnancy and battling Hyperemesis were over.

The medication, IVs, nausea and inability to eat was horrible; but the worst part of Hyperemesis is the isolation. Because only 1-2% of pregnant women get this condition, there is little understanding of what exactly causes this severe form of morning sickness. I had to go on disability from my job because I couldn’t manage the drive to work- not with the constant vomiting and the IV pole. Many people thought I was exaggerating and trying to get attention. They didn’t understand that while I was desperately lonely I couldn’t have them come over because smells would send me into hours long vomiting fits. I couldn’t relate to other pregnant women- Cravings? Maternity and baby clothes shopping? I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t leave the house because I refused to throw up in public. Baby showers? Pregnancy glow? HA! My only lifesaver was Help Her: Hyperemesis Education & Research, a hyperemesis pregnancy website and message board. The users of that board knew the fear, frustration and anger of a Hyperemesis pregnancy.

Now that I have defeated the Hyperemesis demon, I feel it is my duty to help other women. While Hyperemesis is still a rare disease, more research, publicity and awareness is occuring every day. If you know someone who is suffering from Hyperemesis, or you think you might have it, please seek help. Don't worry about being wrong, or being called a whiner. If you would like to talk about your experiences, or ask questions, please comment below. Just know that you are not alone!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Book Review: Scratch Beginnings by Adam W. Shepard

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American DreamScratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam W. Shepard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't really know what to expect when I started reading this book- would it be sympathetic to the less fortunate while railing on the powers that be? Would it blame the homeless for their predicament? Would it be heavy-handed and holier-than-thou? I was please to find that this is a relatively even-handed account of one man's experiment to see if the old addage of pulling one's self up from his bootstraps could really be accomplished in this day and age. As someone who has grown up in comfortable surroundings and only seen shelters and the homeless through volunteer work, it was nice to see the perspective of someone who has lived the life and walked the walk. One incredibly frustrating thing to read about was how the hard workers were being taken advantage of by the temp and day laborer agencies. The author talks at length about the often demeaning and thankless tasks that are handled by blue collar paycheck to paycheck workers and he has a point that those workers are what really make American business run. Thanks to this book I'll never look at movers and day laborers the same way again! Most of the men featured in this book were hard workers who by choice or circumstance fell on hard times. The author is quick to both praise and scold those who deserve it, sometimes doing both in the same paragraph. While the excuse can be made that of course the author was successful because he has a middle class background, he also shows us that those who have come from difficult circumstances want the same things everyone wants: respect, love, a roof of their heads and a chance at the American dream. I especially liked how the author gave possible solutions to the problem, solutions that could work for members of the entire political spectrum.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


C and I bought our house 8 years ago, 3 months before our wedding and I'll be the first to admit we had no idea what we were doing. At the time we were both living in relatively small apartments so every house we looked at was totally awesome because it wasn't an apartment. Eventually we found a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch that we thought would be perfect and for a while it was. Then, we started procreating and two kids later, our house feels like it is the size of a shoebox and we are anxious to move. We love the school district we are in so we want to stay in this area but the other neighborhoods are way out of our price range. We like to joke that we live in the one poor neighborhood in this massively rich area and we aren't too far off the mark. The housing market in our area isn't as bad as some but it is definately a buyer's market. You can get a lot of house for a little bit of money and this leaves our little house in a bit of a bad spot. Since it isn't a good time for us to sell, we have decided to make lemonade out of the housing market lemons and do a lot of improvements to our house. We think we'll be here for a while so why not enjoy the changes before we sell?

The only problem with doing the improvements is C and I are not super handy and we don't have a ton of money to spend. I think we can do a lot of things ourselves, thanks to advice found on the Internet, a couple of very handy brothers-in-law and classes at Home Depot. C is worried that we are going to screw things up and then have to spend more money fixing things than we would have if we had just hired someone. Right now we have struck a compromise- we are going to tackle things we know we can do ourselves, things like replacing toilets and vanities, painting, redecorating, etc. and let the professionals replace tile, put in hardwoods floors, etc. There are some things we don't have any desire to do, like replacing siding and gutters because honestly, neither C or I are really crazy about heights. A lot of the work will be done piecemeal so we can make sure we will have one project competely paid for before we start on something else. No debt for us!  Our first projects are going to be kind of boring, starting with replacing concrete board and shower tiles in the master bath and then moving on to the outside of the house. Basically our thought is if something is damaging the integrity of our house (I'm looking at you rotting chimney wood), it gets fixed first.

One interesting thing I am now finding out, even after almost 13 years of being together, is how different C and I cope with pressure or the unknown. C  is a bundle of stress right now and beating himself up over things he could have done in the past. I am more philosophical- what's in the past is past and now we move forward. C is dreading all the work that will have to be done and all the money we will have to spend. I am actually excited that we are going to make our house more "grown-up" and that we actually have a plan in place. Of course I have an aversion to spending a ton of money so I am looking forward to the challenge of coming in under budget and finding the best, yet cheapest solution. I'd rather skimp on decorating and spend more to ensure that the structural stuff is done correctly.

Of course this wouldn't be one of my blog posts if I didn't get a little philosophical. There is an old saying (I am paraphrasing here)  that women are like tea bags- they get stronger in hot water. I think marriages are the same thing, or at least mine is. When things get hairy, one of us is always able to calm the other one and keep an eye on the bigger picture. I am sure there are going to be a few times when C and I are going to want to kill each other during these home projects but I know in the end we'll be happy and thrilled with the strength of our house and our relationship.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just like that, I was a-running!

I just started the Couch to 5k running program (C25K) and I noticed that I was having a lot of shin pain when I would run and then my back and hips would hurt a lot that night. Now, I am not in the best shape in the world so I figured that it was just the normal soreness that comes with running (in my case it isn't called COUCH to 5k for nothing) . After this went on for a while I started to feel that something just wasn't right. I polled my friends and asked them if I should consider biting the bullet and get fitted for some running shoes and the answer was a resounding yes! I had been hesitant because frankly I was a little intimidated by the whole aspect of  a running store because I am not a runner. I also didn't like the thought of having my run videotaped, my stride looked at and having people touch my feet. Also, I didn't know if I wanted to pay a million dollars just for a pair of shoes as I am usually a Rack Room Shoes gal. My friends, awesome people that they are, reminded me that $100 shoes are a bargain when compared to the bill from an orthopedist's office when I blow out my knee.

Saturday morning I paid a visit to Big Peach Running Company on Windward Parkway and they just couldn't be nicer. Jeff helped me (no, I am not getting paid for this, I am just that impressed) and he didn't roll his eyes or sigh when I told him that I was starting from scratch and would need the works. He was actually really excited to learn that I was a new runner and even suggested a race that would be great for me to run. The foot measurement and videotaping wasn't bad at all, I was relieved to find that they only point the camera at your ankles and I wouldn't have to see the flesh tsunami that is my butt when I run. After he videotaped my run I noticed that my left foot really over-pronates, the the point where I almost worried I would snap my ankle! I also learned that the New Balances I was wearing were geared more towards walking (they were a cross training shoe) and could be causing most of my problems. After much trial and error we found a pair of Nikes that have a stablizing core and look pretty funky but they felt great when I tested them out in the store. I spent $100 which almost gave me a heart attack and I hoped I hadn't been sold a bill of goods about the wonders of this shoe but I still couldn't wait to try them out.

What a difference good shoes make! It is like night and day and I actually enjoyed running today, something that is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse. My run today was so easy, I was able to go faster than usual without any pain in my shins. For once I stepped off the treadmill feeling like I just had a great workout and not like my muscles and bones were going to break apart. So,I guess it is true that if you are going to be putting a lot of pressure on your feet you better keep them well protected. Today's run, the beautiful weather and a 2.6lb weight loss this week has me feeling pretty spiffy. I think I am going to like this new routine.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Do I want to spring forward?

Today is the day we set the clocks an hour ahead, a sure sign that spring is here. What is it about one little hour that makes such a difference in the way we feel? I woke up this morning at too damn early o'thirty and was a bit put off when I remembered it was time to push the clocks ahead because it makes me feel like the day is rushing by. To cope with this shock to the system, we decided to do something fun as a family. After a not very nutritious breakfast of bagels and Boston Cremes at Dunkin' Donuts we took the kids to Fernbank Museum of Natural History  in Decatur. As members we could come in for a sneak peek at the new children's area Nature Quest and to see the exhibit on Mythical Creatures. We had a blast doing all the fun activities in Nature Quest and the kids had a blast running from place to place. If you have kids, this is a MUST. There are live reptiles, microscopes, radios, periscopes, faux rivers that move when you step on them, waterfalls that do not get you wet no matter how long you stay under, rope bridges, tree houses and lots of hands on learning. I love how science and nature were presented in such a fun and hands-on way.
We were given a helpful piece of advice via a sign posted by the main treehouse:

Once we finished with Nature Quest we headed downstairs to see the new exhibit on Mythical Creatures. Both boys loved all the dragons, C and I had a lot of fun joking about all the creatures and laughing at N's reaction to all the topless mermaids. He was quite put out and told me that they needed to "put some clothes on!"

While I'm excited that it is starting to warm up and I know I'll love that it stays lighter longer tonight; I kind of wish I had that hour back today if only for the purely selfish reason that I want one more hour of my kids being the ages they are now. To watch them run around the exhibits with looks of wonder on their faces and knowing that their brains were like sponges absorbing all the information was so amazing. I know there will come a day when they won't want to hang out with their Mom and Dad at home, much less some museum but right now I am going to enjoy every single minute I have with them. I may have to change my clocks but I am going to hold on to each minute with an iron grip.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Really? With Apologies to Saturday Night Live

Do you remember the segement during Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live where Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler would rant about things? They would always preface their rants with the word "Really." Well, I am no where near as clever as those two but I'd like to get a few things off my chest. Here we go:

Girl Scouts? Really? I spent $4.00 on the tiniest box of Thin Mints in the world. Look, I appreciate your cause and know that selling cookies is a completely thankless way to earn money for all the other things you do but ripping me off? Really? I had to buy cookies because my Goddaughter was selling them, but due to the massive price of your cookies I only bought Thin Mints. The three other people in my house are nuts for them but it obviously wasn't worth it because apparently you forgot to add MOST OF THE COOKIES to the sleeve!! I was thinking about getting a box of Samoas, my favorite cookie,  from some local girls but once I saw you were skimping on the cookies, I changed my mind. REALLY?

My Internal Clock. Really? You don't work during the week when I have to get out of bed at 6am but on Saturday, the day I can sleep in as long as I want, you wake me up at...wait for it... 6am. No, really, I love getting up for no apparent reason and not being able to get back to sleep. Really?

Charlie Sheen Fascination. Really? This is a guy who is clearly mentally ill in addition to having a brain fried by drugs and he needs serious help. What does the general public do instead? Exploit the ever living mess out of the situation with programs, interviews, apparel, Twitter hashtags, etc. I know he is a grown man and I know that he is putting himself out there but the glee everyone has over his struggles is nauseating. Let's not forget that he has four really small kids who are going to have a more difficult life because of this. C'mon people, really?

TV News. Really? It isn't bad enough that Japan is going through something horrible right now- what with the massive earthquake, tsunamis and now nuclear reactor explosions- you have to try to make it more sensational? The pictures speak for themselves, we don't need to hear the anchor using his scary voice in an effort to ratchet up the pain. It's just so sad. Really.

Kids Channel Programmers. Really? Can you not play the male enhancement, Old Navy half naked guy, Axe body spray with the guys getting attacked by girls, et al commercials in the middle of the day while my kids are watching "Spongebob"? I am not a prude but there are some channels that should be sacred. Really.

That's all I have for right now but I am sure that something will annoy or disturb me enough that I'll find myself saying, quite loudly, "Really???"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Book Review

Handling the UndeadHandling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb for this book is very misleading- read it and you think you are going to get a horror story about zombies on the level of Stephen King. Instead, you get a well-written book that has a compelling story, albeit one that leaves you with unanswered questions. Why do the dead (called reliving in the book) come back? What caused the headaches and power surges in the living? Does the living's desire to never let their loved ones go cause the deceased to suffer in a sort of netherworld? At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this book but I found myself drawn into the book and the philosophical questions that were posed. If you go into this book with no expectations you will enjoy it but if you are looking for a King-ish horror story, look somewhere else.

Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth GoddessKiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess by Susan Jane Gilman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I was a fan of Gilman's book Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress and the premise of Kiss My Tiara is a good one: empowering women to be the best they can be. Well, apparently no one told Gilman that women come in all shapes and sizes and political leanings because this book is geared towards women who think exactly like her. I thought the feminist movement gave women many choices in what they could do in their lives and news flash Gilman- even Conservative women can be feminists. I am pretty open-minded, socially liberal and fiscally conservative but this book just angered me because it tried so hard to be politically correct while actively working to denigrate and ignore an entire subset of people. Reading this book is like sitting next to that bore at a party who thinks everything coming out of their mouth is gold, that their opinion is the only one that matters and they won't let anyone else talk. This is ironic as Gilman urges the reader to step out of their comfort zone and befriend people they normally wouldn't, even Republicans! *gasp*! How kind of her! In trying to debunk the idea of what a feminist should be she completely catered to every feminist sterotype. In keeping with the style of this book, praise the Goddesses that I warned you that this book is a waste of time and energy. If you want to learn to be a strong woman, look somewhere else.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I am what you would call a cafeteria cradle Catholic, which according to some people is the worst kind. I was born into the religion so I take it for granted. I also have issues with a lot of the church dogma so I pick and choose what I like and kind of leave the rest. I have toyed with going to other churches but I find that I am having a hard time leaving it because it is what I know. 99% of my family (immediate and extended alike) are Catholic and I attended Catholic school for 9 years. So, while I don't attend Mass with any regularity, there are certain traditions within the church that are hard for me to ignore, Lent being the major one. I find something so soothing in the Ash Wednesday tradition of getting a cross of ashes on your forehead- the reminder that we are all mortal and we will once again return to the earth from which we came. I also like the idea of working on yourself and sacrificing for 40 days so you can truly experience the joy and wonder of Easter. Even if you aren't religious, you have to appreciate any time you can set aside to re-evaluate your life and prepare yourself for the rebirth that comes with spring. Sure, you don't have to wait until the Lenten season but there is something about sacrificing with others that makes me feel like I am really a part of the world community.

Of course, Lent isn't all fun and games. In addition to saying bye to meat and hello to fish sticks on Friday, I am giving up sodas and anything with artificial sweeteners. I really enjoy my Diet Coke, often too much and feel that my water intake suffers and I've even noticed that my migraines increase when I have been drinking too much. In the back of my mind I know that stuff is not good for me and I think my body has finally had enough so why not throw them out now when the sacrifice would mean a little more? I have one body and I need to take care of it the best I can. Oh no, I sound like that Sally Field Boniva commercial! One side effect I hope to have is a weight loss, especially since studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can cause you to eat more because your body never really feels "full" like they would with a real sugar. Plus, a piece of pizza, chips, fries or a burger just lose something taste-wise if you don't have a nice soda to drink, so I might be less likely to eat those foods if I have to wash them down with water. Sorry, H20 just doesn't cut it sometimes!

I'm not going to Mass tonight, but in my own way I am respecting and honoring the Lenten process. I can't wait to see what changes the next 40 days will bring. And, if that change means on Easter morning I take a drink of Diet Coke and it is horrid, well, that just means my Lenten preparations were successful!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Little Acts of Bravery

Have you ever seen the movie "French Kiss" with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline? In that movie, Meg plays an uptight woman with a terrible fear of flying who, upon finding out her fiance is leaving her for another woman, boards a plane to France in an effort to win her back. One of the funniest scenes for most people is at the very beginning when Meg is trying to cure her fear of flying. Let's watch it, shall we?

When I watched this scene for the first time I didn't find it funny so much as I found it to be exactly how I feel when flying. I've always had a flying phobia and no matter how many times I do it I am still terrified. My parents and brother love to fly and don't understand my fear which just makes things worse. It is so bad that my mom will not fly with me unless absolutely neccesary. When 9/11 happened, it was like the terrorists knew my greatest fear and exploited it, now I have to worry about someone taking over my plane in addition to the fact that unless I watch the wings they will fall off.

I was content to never fly again but then I became friends with some really great women who live all around the country. I realized that if I wanted to ever spend time with these great friends, I would have to get over my fear, any way that I could. I don't like people telling me that I can't do something and by avoiding air travel, I was telling myself that I couldn't live a full life. No way. So, I went to a therapist who gave me some helpful tips and imagery exercises to use and most importantly, permission to take a Xanax when the panic attacks and terror got to be too much. I learned that phobias happen but how you learn to cope with them is the most important thing. With my therapist's help, I've gone from someone who would tremble at the mere sight of an airport to someone who sees air travel as a neccesary evil. I used to sob before I had to board the plane but now I pop a Xanax, turn on the special calming playlist I have on my iPhone and read. I'll never like flying but I'll do it, even if it means kissing the ground like the Pope when we land.

I'm going to visit some friends in NYC (Hi Kelly!) in June and I had to buy my ticket today. I'll admit to some fear as I completed the transaction because this meant that I was really going to do it, I would really be boarding a plane. Sure I can get out of it if I really feel scared but I love being with my friends and I love NYC and I don't want to miss out on all the fun we are going to have. I want to show my boys that it is okay to be scared of things but you have to try your hardest to overcome those fears otherwise they'll run your life. I'm also really cheap and don't want to waste any money- which is probably the biggest reason why I won't cancel. Ha!

So, while I am just getting on a plane and not running into a burning building, I have learned that sometimes the smallest acts of bravery mean the most.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Homemade Jacuzzi

I am not a regular reader of Dennis the Menace (and by regular I mean I never read it) but I found this cartoon on the brilliant website The Comics Curmudgeon and it was like looking into bathtime with one of my kids. Granted, I look nothing like Dennis' mom and if Dennis was my son I doubt I'd be giving him a bath as I'd be confined to a mental institution but the scenario in this cartoon is something that happens in my life a lot. It also made me laugh because I have an extremely immature sense of humor but sometimes you just need a stupid laugh on a Monday morning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Do Over

I want a do-over when it comes to this weekend. Yesterday, after writing my last blog post, I started to see wavy lines out of the corner of my eye and I knew a migraine was about to hit. I rushed to take my migraine medicine but unfortunately the medicine was no match for the cause of my headache: barometric pressure. So, instead of spending the day celebrating my MIL's 70th birthday I spent it in bed, curled into a ball, crying in pain. The vision and speech disturbances that come with my migraines only last half an hour but the intense headache lasts for two days which meant that I also couldn't celebrate my brother's 30th birthday today.

I try to avoid the things that trigger my migraines and am lucky most of the time to catch them before they get too bad but I was too slow yesterday. Thanks to that slowness I missed out on celebrating two people who I really love. I am hereby submitting my request for a turn back of the clock to Friday night, back when I had a whole weekend ahead of me and was looking forward to visits with family members and delicious birthday cake. I know, pipe dream on the do-over but my request for birthday cake still stands.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's like a shampoo commerical around here!

When you say the words girly-girl, I am the last person who will come to mind. Yes, I played with Barbies as a girl, was in Girl Scouts for about 5 minutes until I was kicked out for refusing to sell cookies and I have been known to genuflect when entering a Sephora but that is pretty much the extent of my femininity. I hate to shop, see shoes as nothing more than things to put on your feet, spas bore the crap out of me and I tend to gravitate toward guys just because I have a masculine sense of humor, especially when it comes to farts. Ok, maybe that isn't so much masculine humor as it is 12 year old boy humor but there is still a maleness factor involved. The one concession I will make to the typical female cliche' is I'll spend a lot on my hair because it requires a good cut and color, even if I go months between cuts because going into a hair salon tends to give me hives. I have Irish and Italian heritage which means I have thick, coarse, very wavy dark hair that is starting to get really gray (I am only 36, so my genes obviously suck). If I get the wrong person working on my hair, I literally look like this chick from the cartoon Dilbert:

Triangle hair Laura is angry!

Imagine the beauty you see above you with about two inches of white roots and you will know the hotness my husband has been living with for the past two months. He is quite the lucky guy. Normally I don't even pay attention to my hair, other than to make sure it isn't sticking straight up in the air, but the other day I looked at myself in the mirror and the combination of super pale skin and white roots made me look dull, tired and frankly horrific. I am fine with the aging process but in this case my outsides looked 50 even though my insides feel 25. I had an uncharacteristic girly moment of panic and called to make an appointment with my amazing stylist (Meredith at RuMM Color Studio in Alpharetta) and this morning she worked her magic on my head. I walked into the salon feeling decrepit and walked out with a spring in my step! What is it about a haircut that just makes you feel so much better about yourself? I am swinging my hair around so much I am going to get whiplash and I can't stop looking in the mirror. It is a gross, rainy day here in Atlanta, the perfect day for old movies and napping on the couch, but not for me. I'm going to take my new cut and color out for a walk and let everyone see how awesome it looks.

Hrmmm, maybe there is something to this girly-girl thing after all!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Book Review

I have always been a voracious reader, even going so far as to read a cereal box when I couldn't find anything else. Books are like friends to me, they don't talk back, they take me to other places and they are always there. I don't watch a lot of tv so I usually read a book or two a week and really enjoy sharing my finds with others so I thought why not have a Friday book review? And our books are...

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
Amazon Information

When the blurb on the book mentioned the heroine's love of Molly Ringwald movies (especially 16 Candles), I know I had to pick it up. I was expecting a nice nostalgia trip and a clever story but unfortunately it was just another chick-lit type of book which isn't to say it was bad, just not super original. The heroine wasn't your typical downtrodden character, matter of fact in the middle of the book she does some things that are just downright despicable. I never felt that any of the characters had a lot of depth and things just seem to be wrapped up in a tidy little bow at the end. Speaking of the end, the estate of John Hughes should know that one of their plot lines was stolen, but in a good way as it really works with the tone of the book. I think Ernessa T. Carter is a talented author and I would love to read more from her, I just hope next time she does something better than chick lit.

With Love and Laughter, John Ritter  by Amy Yasbeck
Amazon Information

Sometimes you just want an easy read and this biography will fit the bill. I know so many of us grew up with John Ritter in some fashion, for me it was when he was on "Three's Company" but for some it due to the  "Problem Child" movies. This book confirms the fact that John was the nice, funny and decent guy he portrayed in the movies and on TV. The book was written by his widow Amy Yasbeck, an actress (who can forget her as Maid Marion in "Robin Hood: Men In Tights"?) and surprisingly good author. If you are looking for any celebrity dish you won't get much but if you are looking for a true love story about a person who was taken from all of us way too soon, this is your book. There is a chapter dedicated to aortic dissection, the cause of Ritter's death and if you are like me it made you want to go get a heart scan. I hope Yasbeck writes more about her journey as she has a great voice and is very funny!

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shhh...my baby's got a secret

When I created this blog I decided that it was going to be a space for me to say what I am thinking, good or bad so I haven't told anyone in my family or circle of friends that I am here. Honestly, I am puzzled as to why I haven't. Am I worried that in the future I'll need to say something and won't feel like this is a safe space? Am I just interested in having a little piece of myself that my inner circle doesn't know about, which is a bit absurd as usually (other than very private things) I am an open book. So, I wonder what do others in my position do. Do you let your family or friends accidently stumble upon the blog and let the chips fall where they may OR do you get it all out in the open now with the disclaimer of you might not like what you are going to read? Do you censor your thoughts for fear that Great Aunt Myrtle will really know what you think of her waste of space son?

I don't even know if there is anyone reading this or if I am just shouting into a vaccuum but if you are there, how do you handle your blogging?

Publix Trip 3/3/11- 51% Savings

I wasn't too impressed with the Publix ad when I was leafing through it today but I still needed to stop by the store for meat, fruits, veggies and of course my freebies. I became happier when I checked out and realized that Publix actually paid me $2.13 to shop there thanks to a little coupon overage! If you still have the Buy 3 Rice A Roni get 1 Pasta Roni Free USE IT! The highest savings you can get with that coupon is $2 but I figured I would only get the $.69 savings since Rice and Pasta-Roni are B1G1 this week. Nope, the coupon rang up as the $2 savings! Woo Hoo!! Combine that with the Halls cough drops (free with $.17 overage) and the Mentos roll coupon (free with $.50 overage) and I paid for one of my husband's bottles of Diet Coke! As you can see, this was a stock up on bread week- we go through a loaf and a half every week so I had to stock up on the Nature's Own deal. I also picked up a few items that weren't on sale but the deal was such a good one I couldn't pass it up. My entire family is nutso for Nutella so when I saw a coupon for $1 off Nuetella when you buy a package of Thomas' English muffins (B1G1 this week) I snapped it up. I was pretty pleased with this week's purchases and came well under my $80 a week grocery budget. Yay!

Weekly Breakdown
51 items
Pre-coupon cost: $133.19
Manufacturer coupons: $18.60
Store coupons: $6.03
Special price savings: $42.74
Total Savings: 67.37 or 51%
Free Items: 5
Final Price: $65.82

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I often have the best plans: Clean the house every day, head to the gym for an hour a day, journal my food intake, read a classic book every month. What do I do instead? Fart around on the computer playing 40 Thieves, forget the gym exists and leave those piles of clutter. At times like these it just seems to exhausting to get out and do something. I know I am not depressed, so I wonder if I am truly rebelling against myself. Why do I sabotage myself? Who am I really fighting? When will I learn that good enough is great and perfect is an unattainable goal? I can be 100% present and helpful for others but why not for myself?

Life always seems to be a struggle between perfection and inertia. Lately I feel stuck in one place and I am trying to figure out a way to get a happy medium. Work in progress.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tornado Warning

GA, where I live, is simply amazing in the spring. Trees burst into life seemingly overnight and flowers color every landscape. Unfortunately, we are also located in tornado alley which means the benefits of a glorious spring are coupled with severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings and hail. I was born in VA and lived there for 11 years until my father was transferred to GA so I wasn't familiar with the weather upheaval that comes to GA every year as spring in VA (particularly my hometown) is rather quiet. The night we moved to GA I can recall my parents, brother and I looking at each other in confusion as these weird sirens started going off and tornado warnings started flashing on the screen. We honestly had no idea what that meant and we actually stood in front of the living rooms windows trying to see what was going on. As the years have progressed, I have not only come to know what tornado warnings mean but I have developed a downright terror that borders on phobia of severe weather. When I hear that the possibility of severe weather is coming it colors my entire day. I obsessively check the Weather Channel, listen for the alerts that could come and watch the radar. I even have my favorite weatherman, Kirk Mellish on AM750 WSB, who never gets riled up like some local TV weather people. My husband and I have a saying that if Kirk freaks out the world is going to end. Last night was one of those nights when Kirk freaked out.

I had been watching the weather all day but didn't really see anything that worried me so I let my guard down a bit as far as the obsessive checking was concerned. I was working on the computer (right next to the french doors that go out to our deck) when my Mom called and told me there was a warning for my area and to take cover. Our county is so big that sometimes there can be a warning for the southern end of the county while my area is blue skies and no rain so when I looked out the doors and saw very little activity, I thought Mom had the areas confused. I checked Weather Bug and sure enough, my area was under a tornado warning. Hubby and I quickly shuffled our boys to the inside hallway, grabbed a few books and pillows and waited.

As soon as we got to the hall it sounded like the bottom dropped out outside: the wind was ferocious, the hail sounded like it was going to break every window in our house and I just waited for that train like sound to come. I was, in a word, terrified. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn't hold my phone or sit still. I desperately wanted to cry but I didn't want to get my kids scared- panic in small places is not a good thing. We don't have a basement and our house is a ranch so I always feel like the roof is just going to peel off and suck us out or a tree will fall right on top of us since we don't have that protective second level. Without being dramatic or overstating things, the 25 minutes we sat in that hallway and heard the pandemonium outside was sheer hell for me. When the all clear sounded, we looked outside, saw little damage and went back to our normal Monday night activities. Well, my husband and kids did but my adrenaline drop was so severe that all I could do was just sit on the couch and try to regain my bearings.

I never want to pass my fears on to my kids- I firmly believe that they should develop their own so sometimes I really struggle with keeping my crap together when I am at my worst. A lot of my issues in therapy in the past have been about either hiding my fear/anger/sadness and having physical symptoms or bringing those fears out in inappropriate ways. I feel like I did a really good job last night of recognizing my fears yet not letting them control me and asking for what I needed while in the moment. I didn't freak out, which would have freaked my kids out, but at the same time I didn't pretend that everything was lovely. I just calmly stated that I don't like this weather, did my deep breathing exercises and then asked my husband to make the kids dinner as I just wasn't capable. I had my Xanax but I didn't take any because the deep breathing and mental exercises worked. Happily, my coping techniques worked as my boys were calm and were able to eat a hearty dinner and even invent a game named "Tornado Man." I am proud of their imaginations but I don't think I'll play that game any time soon.

Mentally I am getting better but I still hate spring in GA.