Day 29 & 30 – Life with a Roller Coaster

Day 29 & 30 – Life with a Roller Coaster

My youngest is sick with strep….again.  Three times in this house in January alone.  I’m so done with January.  I’m so done with sickness.  However, there are some positives.  I get to spend quite a bit of quality time with my youngest.

Six is a great age.  It is pure and raw.  When he is happy, no denying it.  When he is sad, no denying it.  When he’s sick, we’re on a bit of a roller coaster ride with wanting hugs and to cuddle one minute but wanting to get up and play the next.  That’s pretty much how things have been these last few days waiting on the antibiotic to kick in.  So I’ve tried to build my days’ experiences around these moments and circumstances.

While leaving the pediatrician’s office, my little guy appeared far from sick.  He was actually skipping out the door, across the parking lot, and to the car.  I always make him hold my hand when crossing a parking lot and this day was no exception.  However, he asked me to skip with him.  So I did.  There we were skipping to the car holding hands with big smiles plastered across our faces.  I don’t care how old you are.  If you skip holding the hand of an adorable six year old, you will smile.  (And if that kid has just been diagnosed with strep, you will follow this with vigilantly scrubbing hand sanitizer on those same hands until you nearly bleed.)

Not only will you and that child smile, the five other people going into or out of the office will also smile.  Which is nice considering one of those moms could moments previously be heard hurrying their kid out of the car saying they were running behind.  Skipping is a pleasant spectator sport, apparently.

Day 30 – After a couple of days of tv, tv, and more tv, I took the remote from the little one.  As expected, there was resistance in the form of whining.  I told him we were done sitting around because he was better so we were going to do something fun.  He hopped up with that gap-toothed smile of his cheering at the idea of fun.  I then used the remote to turn on YouTube on television.  He was visibly confused as he knows of my utter hatred for YouTube.  I used the search feature to pull up a version of “Hokey Pokey” thinking I would win Mom of the Year in his eyes.   As the song began, I followed the instructions to do the Hokey Pokey all the while encouraging (or begging, some would say) for D to come and dance with me.  He was having no part of it. I went through a bit of the song before it became abundantly clear this would be a solo performance and I might as well give up.  The entire time I was asking him to join me and going through the motions myself, D glared at me in a way that is usually reserved for teenagers to look at their parents.

After I turned it off, he waltzed right back to his bedroom and came back with two containers of playdoh.  He reached up to hand them to me and said, “Now, can we finally do something fun?”  I guess he’s not gonna do the Hokey Pokey and turn himself around.


Day 28 – Memphis Elvis is Hot

This evening I met up with my family to enjoy dinner for my birthday.   After food was eaten and plates were cleared, I opened gifts.

birthday gifts

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece got me the cutest yellow crossbody bag.  It’s the perfect color to wear to the Wake Forest baseball games we go to in the Spring.  Plus, it’s large enough to hold the essentials, but small enough to not be cumbersome.  Perfect for ballgames.  And I am a purse girl.  If ever you want to buy me a gift to make me happy, a purse is the way to go.  I have them in multiple colors, sizes, shapes….and yet, I find I still can always find an excuse to add another to my collection.

If you’re wondering about the other item in the picture, that’s from my parents.  You see, we have a long-standing tradition in my family.  At most gift-giving occasions, I receive something….anything…..Elvis related.  The origins of this are a long story dating back to high school having to do with a creative writing project I had in freshman English.  I have Christmas ornaments, a Christmas stocking, albums, magnets, a replica of Graceland…..a laundry list of novelty items.

This all started as a joke more than 25 years ago, but is going strong today.  When I started receiving these items as a teenager, I couldn’t stand Elvis.  I hated his music and thought his entire persona was cheesy at best.  However, now I have quite an appreciation.  I still don’t know if “fan” is the right word…..maybe a follower…an enthusiast?  I’m not quite sure, but I like some of his songs.  More than anything, I love receiving this stuff at birthdays and Christmases.  It’s so kitschy and unique.  The mug I received today is no different.  It definitely puts a smile on my face.

I have other Elvis mugs, but this one is special.  It transforms with hot liquids.  When it is room temperature, you see a Vegas billboard and the later Vegas-show Elvis:

Vegas Elvisbut add very hot liquid and wait for the mug to do its magic.  You will be rewarded with early Memphis-style Elvis:

Memphis Elvis

Please overlook my less-than-stellar photography here.

The search for a year’s worth of exciting and transformative firsts should not rely on material objects.  I firmly believe it should be a quest to experience life in new ways to try new flavors, ideas, adventures.  However, everyone should make exceptions for a temperature-reactive Elvis coffee cup, don’t you think?  After all, Memphis Elvis is hot….literally.

Day 27 – Gonna Take More Than 1 Day for This

Today’s new thing is really not just for today.  I’m reading a book I’ve never read before.  Okay….honestly, I started it quite a while back, but I got distracted and didn’t get very far into it.  But I’m back.

I had not one, not two, but three friends proclaim that I needed to read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  They know of the quirky nonfiction taste I have.  They also know that I would push the federal government to add a mandated daily recommended serving of mindfulness to the nutritional pyramid if I could.  These friends knew this book has all that I like in reading material.

They were right.

present not perfect

I want to read words from relatable women that have similar struggles as I do.  I want to hear from women that are willing to admit they don’t have it all together, but do not come across as negative or codependent or baiting for accolades.  And I want to read stories of women who are funny…..or at least can see the humor in their own lives.  A perfect mix of seriousness while not being uptight or self-righteous.  I expect a lot from my authors.

Niequist hasn’t exactly been hilarious, but her writing isn’t dry.  She has a definite style with an ability to immerse your senses as you read of her surroundings and emotional state.  Also her ideas on the chaos of life and trying to meet everyone’s expectations is so transparent and authentic. She’s able to maintain a balance of someone who still struggles with trying to slow down and be “in the moment” and also someone who has done this and learned this lesson.  It’s not an easy feat to be a voice of credibility and authority while avoiding the pitfall of being condescending.

I am about half way through the book.  I will finish it this time.  Last time I think I made it through two chapters before getting sidetracked with life and being overextended, over committed, and over scheduled.  The very things this book wages war against.  How ironic.

Anyhow…..this first takes more than one day, but reading new books are always good firsts and new experiences.

Day 26 – Would You Like Fries With That?

You seriously have to live in a cave to not know of Taco Bell’s latest venture….fries.  I was intrigued, but my teenage son was near feverish at the idea of this.  Two of his favorite things, Taco Bell and fries, married.

So after school it was just the two of us and I decided to give in to his request and hit the drive thru at The Bell.  He ordered the Nacho Fries Supreme…..which was basically the restaurant’s Nacho Supreme but with French fries rather than nacho chips.  They had meat, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese on them…..although his version only had meat and tomatoes thanks to food allergies.

I ordered the Nacho Fries….which is to say fries with a cup of nacho cheese.

nacho fries

Call it whatever you like on the menu, Taco Bell, but it’s cheese fries.  Plain and simple.  As much as I love cheese fries, this is not groundbreaking culinary arts.

So I tried a fry without cheese sauce.  They are seasoned.  It’s almost like a batter of some sort rather than just a sprinkling of seasoning.  The seasoning is …. surprising.  I can’t really describe it well, unfortunately.  I didn’t hate it, but they weren’t my favorite.  I probably wouldn’t eat them without the cheese sauce.  McDonalds, relax.  You are still the clear winner of fast food fries. I looked up the ingredients online and the seasoning includes sugar, paprika AND paprika extract (I must admit I didn’t even know there was such a thing as paprika extract!), vinegar and a variety of others.  I’m not sure which ingredient made it a slightly odd taste to me, but, again, it wasn’t horrific.  Just not a huge fan overall.

E, however, LOVED them.  He went on and on about them.  Again, we both agree that McD’s holds our number one spot for fries, but he clearly thought Taco Bell was some stiff competition.  Of course, his was also covered in beef and tomatoes so not sure how much his impression was shaped by fries and how much by the mix of it all.  And really, I was pretty happy about the price of them both.


Days 23-25 – Catching Up

Just to make things succinct, I’ll briefly share days 23 and 24.  Day 23 – Inspired by my previous act of writing a letter to my grandparents, I had my students compose a letter to someone in their life that needed to hear how pivotal they had been as an influence.  Obviously, when my students write, I often take the pieces to grade.  Not this time.  It was to be an actual letter where the priority was not grammar and diction, but rather connecting and communicating with another person.  Day 24 – Totally lost my contact in my eye.  Definitely not a first I had planned, but it was the one I got.  Another first, laying on my oldest son’s bed and having both boys stare into my eye to see if they could see said contact.  It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I wasn’t sure if it was still in there.  I mean, you’d think if a disk fell out of your eye, you’d feel it on your cheek or eyelid or something…..but no.  That didn’t happen.  It absolutely disappeared and then I had a small 10-minute panic attack wondering what if it was still in my eye and we didn’t know it and I what if I never took it out and I lose my vision because of it.

And now….day 25.  Today is the first day that I’m 43 years old.  I do not hesitate to tell people my age.  It is not a sensitive subject for me at all.  But I do get very reflective around my birthday.  I remember being young or a teenager and 43 seemed so far away.  I remember having a mental picture of what my life would look like when I was in my 40s.  I always envisioned I’d be a mom, but there’s little outside of those prognostications that are reality today.  My home has so many repairs needed.  My career as a teacher was not what I went to college for.  My credit score might be considered the financial equivalent of academic probation.  My house is always a disaster….but especially right now because well….my bout with the flu from two weeks ago still requires me to use an inhaler multiple times per day.  My life, for the most part, feels like a hot mess.  It is not at all what I thought it would be at this point in my life.

It is better in most ways.

All of the messes in my life that drive me nuts are material, superficial, fleeting.  A turn of circumstances, or luck, or provisions tomorrow could change them all and I would be no more or less happy than I am now.  Even the deep wounds of my past 43 years….what I consider the 4 Ds — death, divorce, disease, disappointment — have left me with healed scars that serve to bring joy, purpose, and/or clarity to my life.  Not to say that they don’t still sometimes bring tenderness or soreness as old wounds do, but it doesn’t sting like it used to.  In fact, being able to see how God is able to use all of these experiences to make me wiser, kinder, better makes these reasons to be grateful.

Today I’ve received messages, well-wishes, and sentiments in the form of texts, emails, phone calls, messages, and social media.  I have heard from someone that represents all eras and facets of my life… classmates, my school teachers, jewelry customers and colleagues, family, former students, parents of students I’ve taught, coworkers or associates from every single job I’ve had as an adult, parents of my childhood friends, church leaders, friends I’ve stood beside as we’ve raised our kids together, former employers, my fellow Loeys-Dietz Syndrome warrior parents and patients.  Holy cow.  It was like a timeline of my life was playing in my head as I received these messages.  Each of these people have a page in the story of my life.  And my life is pretty incredible thanks to these people ….despite not being the picture I had in my head of what life would be like at 43.

That’s not to say everything is rainbows and unicorns.  Again, I’ve had heartbreak, pain, guilt….I’ve made mistakes that were huge.  I struggle with feelings of failure.  I think most of us do, if we’re honest.  But the one thing I realize … the wisdom that 43 years has provided me …. is I can focus on my credit score, or the living room floor that needs to be replaced, or the bathroom that is always messy and feel like my life is a wreck.  Or I can focus on my circle of friends, supportive family, great kids, and all my needs met (and then some!).  To me, it seems like a no brainer.

Day 21-22 The Curse

Sometimes life doesn’t give you the time to stop and blog so you have to play catch up.  This is one such time.

In my class, my students are learning about Dan and Chip Heath’s book Made to Stick.  Today as we were discussing this, we talked about their concept of the curse of knowledge.  I’m going to do a terrible job of explaining this, in comparison to the author brother team, but in a nutshell this is curse is when we as communicators assume others know what we know so we neglect to share this information.  This is leaves a gap of understanding for the receivers of our information.

As I discussed this I considered where do I fail to share information because I assume others know it.  This led me to a first…..writing a letter.  Of course, I’ve written letters before, but not like this.  I’m writing a letter to my grandparents.  I know how much the love and time spent with me has meant, but have I shared this with them?  Not so much.  Time to fix that.

Sometimes firsts are about being active and taking risks…..ziplining (on the list for a future time), cooking something new, learning a new hobby.  A lot of times firsts are about enhancing my own life….making it richer, more exciting, facing fears, etc.  But there are times when firsts need to be about reaching out to others because experiences are fun, working on your self is good, but nothing replaces the joy that comes from enhancing interpersonal relationships.

Speaking of grandparents, my next day’s first ties to my grandmother.  A year ago I adopted one of her plants.  It was a Christmas cactus.  Now if you know anything about me, I do not have a green thumb.  In fact, my thumb is not just brown…not just black… is stained and rotting (metaphorically speaking, of course).  If I take something in that is a living plant, it’s days with me are probably numbered.  I’ve managed to kill almost every plant that I own….even succulents which people say can’t be killed.

My grandmother (all of my grandparents, really) could grow anything.  That could have easily sustained themselves and the entire town with the food from their gardens when I was a child.  My parents always have beautiful plants that included flowers, trees, and food.  I’m not sure if it was a curse of knowledge situation that they didn’t explicitly teach me how to care for these, or if I was just cursed when it comes to tending to plants.  In any event, I did not inherit this trait.

When I took home the cactus, it didn’t like sickly, but it didn’t have many blossoms.  Last winter, I may have had two blooms that flowered.   But I tended to that plant carefully and delicately.  I read up on the right amount of light and water.  And now this is what it looks like today….. cactus

The lighting is bad in my kitchen where it resides, but I think you get the idea.  This cactus has already had four blossoms and now there are three more.  Some sit inside the planter so you can’t see, but trust me.  And do you see the blooms on the ends of those?  More flowers are coming….at least four more!

Not only did I not kill this plant, but it is now thriving.  And that, my friends, is for sure a first.

Day 21 – The Eyes Have It

I do not have a Snapchat account.  Regardless, I think you’d have to live in isolation and cutoff from the world to not be familiar with the app.  People seem to have a good time with its filters.  My friend showed me her picture with the “goth” filter and it was stunning.  The dramatic makeup was absolutely gorgeous on her.

I stick to the basics when it comes to makeup.  I may trade out lipstick shades, but nearly all my eye makeup is various shades of brown and cream.  I’ve almost always worn brown.  On occasion I have black eyeliner. I even have a silver eyeliner that I once received in an Ipsy bag that I hold out for special occasions, but that’s a rarity.  I also always wear black mascara.  My philosophy is to go natural.  I may throw in a pink here and there, but it’s always mellow and natural.

But that goth makeup has my feeling adventurous.  So I bought some purple liquid eyeliner… eggplant purple. It is not for the faint of heart.  And I bought some bold wine-colored lipgloss.  And if I’m committing to a purple face, there’s no need to be subtle so I pulled out some black eyeshadow.  I didn’t go to Ulta or Sephora for high quality.  These were all under $3.  Now if you’re a makeup snob, I am aware that quality matters.  However, if I’m experimenting, I have no need to spend a small fortune.  Because, really, I could end up looking like this: purple eyes

I’m pretty sure the Hamburglar was her inspiration, but high fashion is weird like that.

Anyway, here’s my finished look:

purple face

I think I need a deep wine lipstick under the gloss as it looks more fuchsia than wine.  As for the eyeliner….I have ridiculously shaky hands.  Benign tremors they’re called.  It makes liquid eyeliner…uhm….tricky, at best.  Regardless, I don’t have the skills for a real cat eye look (although I would love to rock that!).  I think I could go heavier with my eye makeup but old habits die hard.

In the picture, it looks pretty subtle or natural…really just a continuation of my everyday look.  However, in person when I first looked at it, it felt dramatic and over the top.  The purple seemed to scream from my eyelids.  But I loved the way it made my hazel eyes pop.  So strange how such a small thing can make such a huge difference in how you see yourself.  I’m sure nobody else even noticed, but to me it was as dramatic as that Goth Snapchat filter.

Day 20 – Was There Another Kind?

So today’s first is rather bland by comparison, I’ll admit.  I found a new product that looked interesting.  Here it is:


I am a 100% grade A sucker for facial products that promise to be “kind to skin” and marketed for sensitive skin types.  However, I had to wonder why they couldn’t come up with a more interesting product name than “cleansing water.”  After all, is there any other kind?

Anyway….I followed the instructions on the bottle.  Pour the cleanser on a cotton square then wipe your face down with the square.  Now, I understand that I use an amount of makeup some days whose thickness could be measured in inches, but if I use my cream cleanser and a washcloth, all makeup is gone in one sweep of the rag.  This, however, was not that effective.  I had to take a second cotton square and repeat the process.  Looking at my square, it was obvious that it was removing makeup, but how well?  As it stated on the bottle, there was no need to rinse face after cleaning.  Obviously that’s a perk, but if your skin isn’t cleaned fully, why would we worry about rinsing our skin?

I can say that my skin definitely was not dry or irritated after using, but I didn’t feel like it was clean either.  Verdict…

Day 19 – Memories of Grandparents

There are a number of foods that take me right back to being a young girl in my grandparents’ kitchens.  For my paternal grandparents, M&M cookies….really baking of any kind.  My grandmother always gave me the job of sifting flour.  At my maternal grandparents, I helped with stringing green beans fresh from the garden and making biscuits on a weekend morning.  I’m not sure if it’s limited to the South, but good food is intertwined heavily with a grandparent’s love.

Cornbread was eaten a lot at my maternal grandparents, as well.  I remember sitting across from my grandfather and mimicking him breaking up my square of warm cornbread into a heaping glass of milk (except for him it was buttermilk….yuck!) and eating it.  That’s probably one of the reasons I have so looked forward to today’s first:  making my first cornbread from scratch in my new cast iron skillet.

My friend, Gina, shared with me her grandmother’s recipe.  As I was mixing the corn meal, flour, shortening, and milk, it appeared that the batter was dry.  Per Gina’s instructions I added liquid to the mix which helped.  In the end it still seemed thick.  However, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the kitchen.  I questioned my own observations wondering if making it from scratch might have a somewhat different consistency than the box mix I’ve used in the past.

At this point, allow me to say it is quite embarrassing to share my kitchen failures and shortcomings.  I come from a long line of amazing female cooks.  My mother and grandmothers, aunts and cousins, my sister-in-law (I realize that’s getting slightly out of the bloodline, but she’s very much like a sister so whatever) are amazing cooks.  I literally cannot remember eating any of their cooking that I didn’t want seconds (mind you, I haven’t come across much food that I didn’t love, but trust me; they are great cooks).  I have no idea of what flavors compliment each other when cooking.  I have no idea how long to cook much of anything without a recipe.  I don’t have a lot of patience, either.  And I don’t have the stamina to stand and stir anything for more than 30 seconds.  Baking, I do alright, but cooking…  Suffice to say I’ve always been much more interested in eating than the process to get it to the plate.  I have very little to no natural talent in this arena.  But I digress……

Finally I went ahead and poured the batter into my greased skillet.  Into the oven it went, and I made chili while the cake was cooking.  After a little while, I could smell the cornbread baking in the oven.  It was heavenly….like a bit of my childhood returning.  When it was finished I removed it from the oven.  Here’s the finished product:


The skillet cooked it so evenly.  I believe I needed to add more liquid next time.  I cut up a wedge.  I didn’t crumble it into my milk, but I did crumble it into my chili.  And it was yummy.  Best part is it was really easy.  I will definitely be doing this again.

Day 18 – Roughing It

Day two of Snowpocalypse and I’ve already heard “I’m bored” a dozen times.  And I swear if I’m subjected to one more minute of YouTube videos showing adolescent or young men playing video games, I may scream.  My youngest son would sit in front of a screen (television, computer, phone, handheld gaming system….he’s not particular) for 14 hours per day if I allowed it.  Today I told him no more.  Off with screens.

Of course, he had no idea what to do despite the copious toys, games, and art supplies in our home. (We were done going out to play in the snow for the day so that wasn’t an option.) Therefore, I heard the same “I’m bored” again.  After wandering aimlessly like a lost soul in the desert searching for water, he finally approached me and asked if I could do something with him.

Now, I believe it does not harm children to be bored.  In fact, I think that sentiment births creativity.  However, I also don’t want to overlook the opportunity to disconnect from my adult world and responsibilities and have quality time with my kids…..especially if they are asking for it.  So that’s what I did.

Little D had the most delightful idea and it meets my daily firsts requirements.  He wanted to have a picnic in our living room, but not just a picnic….an indoor camping picnic.  So we roughed it…..according to his mind’s idea of camping.

Last year his cousin had a camping-themed birthday party and all the kids got these great teepee/tents.  It’s rather large, but folds up and fits in the closet nicely.  D requested we get it out and set it up.  I placed a tablecloth under it.  Then we carried our microwave meals — because apparently this is real camping food to a 6 year old — along with a bowl of strawberries and water inside the tent.  I also took the pillows off the couch and put them in there.  This was necessary because I could not sit in the tent.  I had to lay with my head and arms in the tent and my legs coming out.

tent picnic

When I first carried our drinks into the tent, D had the television on with eyes glued.  You can see it in the picture here.  No way was I going to allow this.  I turned it off.  He pouted for about 30 seconds and then we played the most intense game of “Would You Rather” with a six year old that you could imagine.  It actually was a great thing to do because it gave us an opportunity to get to know each other’s preferences all while giggling and talking.

Indoor camping picnics are not something that can be done everyday, but they are a nice change of pace.  Definitely a first I would do again.