Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

OK....So I have heard that if you verbalize your goals to others, it creates a sense of accountability and increases your chances of succeeding. I am pretty good and following through with the goals I set, but I figure voicing them to all of cyberspace to witness couldn't hurt.

This year, as in years past, I am setting goals in 5 areas of my life.

1. Family- I will continue to love my family with everything I am and have. I will work to be an example of strength, determination, health and honesty so that my daughters can be an example of the same- now and when they have grown and have families of their own. I will treasure my family, especially my husband and daughters, every day.

2. Friendships- I will consciously look for opportunities to build friendships and connections with others. Although I know that friendships are an important for me, I will do my best to make sure my motives for these friendships are altruistic and not selfish.

3. Health- I will continue to live a healthy lifestyle, keeping active and being aware of the things that I do to and put into my body. I will remain aware that how I treat my health and body affects how my daughters treat themselves.

4. Faith- I will hold fast to my faith, especially in these trying times. I know that God is in control and that He has a plan for my life.

5. Education- I will continue to further my education, remembering that some of the greatest knowledge I gain will not come from books, but from life lessons and those around me.

Now, I know these seem like generalities. But I have learned in my life that I have to build on these general foundations. The specific goals just seem to come along on their own once I have worked on the general stuff.

I wish that all who read this are as blessed in the New Year as I feel I have been. Thank you for helping me be accountable to the goals I have set, and thank you for taking an interest in AZ Mom of Many Hats.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Do You Resolute?

This time of year is amazing.

It is a time of celebration, a time of new beginnings, and a time of ringing in the new year. It is a time when much of the world watches rose adorned floats travel through the city of Pasadena. It is a time when football fans anxiously watch as their favorite college team fights to be the Rose Bowl winner. It is a time when the entire world can reflect on the past 365 days and dream about what the next 365 have in store.


It is also a time of personal resolutions.

January 1st marks the fresh start of a new year. It marks a time when people can leave behind old habits and put in place new ones. Maybe it is lifestyle habit like smoking or unhealthy eating that needs to be changed. Maybe it is relationship habits, communication or dependency patterns that need to be changed. Maybe it is simply a resolve to look at life with a more positive attitude.

Whatever it is that the resolve revolves around, it takes determination, drive, and an honest desire to make a change in order for it to be effective. It also takes realistic expectations of ourselves, our bodies, our health and others. If we lack any of these things, we will certainly lose our focus and resolution to change.

There are some things to keep in mind as the New Year rings in.
  • Every day is a new day and a new beginning - not just January 1st. If resolve waivers, the next day is an opportunity to start fresh.
  • There would not be success if there was not failure. Let's not beat ourselves up if we don't reach a goal.
  • The biggest part of learning comes not from reaching the goal, but from the journey we take to get there - whether we reach our destination or not.
  • Keep resolutions realistic and attainable. There is a better chance of keeping them if we set ourselves up for success.
How do you mark the New Year? Do you resolute?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

There's No Place Like Home!

It’s been a lot of years since I have been with my family on Christmas day. In fact 14 years have come and gone since I have been in my parent’s home for the joyous holiday.


However, for the last 7 years, my daughter’s and I - on occasion, Mr. Mom of Many Hats too, have taken the trek out west on the 26th of December. Early in the morning, we stuff the car full of gifts, left-overs, cookies, newly acquired Christmas toys, and of course the dog. In then darkness of the AZ winter morning we hit the highway and drive for six hours. The entire time anticipating spending a week of shopping, family festivities, and New Year’s celebrations. It’s sort of a second Christmas.

I love this tradition that we have.

No matter how old I get, and how much I enjoy the holidays in my own home, I still long to be home for the holidays - my family home. I don’t know if because at some level, I still feel like a kid at the holidays, or if the business of the holidays makes me want to retreat into the safety of the shelter and comfort that only mom and dad can provide.

What I do know is that from the moment I pull into the driveway of my childhood home, I feel relief, joy, happiness and refreshment. I know my kids, and even the dog feel that too (ok, maybe that’s because my stress level drops a couple of notches .) I know that inside the front door is a place of unconditional love. I know that here, it is my turn to enjoy partaking in the festivities instead of facilitating them. Most of all, I know that there is no place like home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The House That Gingerbread Built

Have you ever made a Gingerbread House? If you have, you know all of the work that goes into it.

My journey with gingerbread houses began when, as a young mother, I took a gingerbread class with my sister. We spent a wonderful day at a local cake shop and came home with an amazing holiday centerpiece.

In the years that have followed, I have made many gingerbread houses. Each year my houses are a little different than the year before. Some are grand and fancy, complete with interior lighting, fireplaces and holiday decor (mantles, stockings and trees) on the inside. Some are intricate with multi-paned windows, shingles and Christmas lighting on the outside. And still, some are simple and traditional, with basic construction and the requisite "Peeps" snowman in the yard.

No matter what the houses have looked like, they all started from the same foundational principles - a good gingerbread recipe that could hold up to the cutting, heat of the oven, and construction of the house; a set of culinary blue-prints to design the house by; the right combination of basic ingredients that would act as mortar to hold the walls together; the patience, improvisation, and understanding to keep the construction moving ahead if any one of the prior three foundational principles didn't work out as planned; the willingness to "deconstruct", step back, reassess, and start over if it means the house will stand.

I have learned a lot about my real home and family life through working with gingerbread. With the help of my husband, I have worked to lay a foundation that will hold firm through the trials and tribulations of life, striven to follow the Master's plan for our home, mixed a mortar of love and understanding to keep our walls glued together, tried to be flexible yet determined to build up and strengthen our family, and have at times, taken a second look and reconstructed, reorganized and added to the foundation of our home.

When all is said and done, I can't say if my home will be grand and fancy or simple and traditional. But what I can say, is that I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I put my hard work, heart and creativity into making it the centerpiece that it is.

*Picture courtesy of eHow.com.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tongue Tied Tuesday - Garden Art

The following pictures were taken by my amazing husband, Mr. Mom of Many Hats.

They were taken at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona, during the concurrent events of the Luminarias and Chihuly The Nature of Glass exhibit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Cookies

I spent the better part of the last two days making batter and dough for a barrage of Christmas cookies and confections.

By the time the cookies were made, my kitchen looked like a winter wonderland, covered in white - wintry and powdery. Trees, snowmen, snowflakes and fluffy pillowy mounds as far as the eye could see, covered our domestic landscape. Unfortunately, 'twas not snow nor the things that holiday songs sing of, but alas a messy, sticky mixture of flour, powdered sugar, baking soda and baking powder - and dozens and dozens of sweet snacks.

The two day long process of preparation for this baking blitz dragged on and on. One mundane baking task after another slowed the flow of the weekend down to the speed of molasses. Mixing, folding, stirring, sifting; whisking, washing, wiping, sweeping - one job after another until finally it was baking time.

With the help of my daughters, we carefully chose the best cookie cutters to use that would flatter our cookie platters. Frenzied flouring of cutting boards and rolling pins made way to carefully planned out arrangements of the cookie cutters. Onto the pans, into the oven, and up on the cooling racks went our cookies. In what seemed like a few moments, we had used all of our dough, and the baking was complete.

In all, the baking took my girls and me about 2 1/2 hours to complete. But because I was in the company of my precious daughters, I lost track of the time. What would have seemed like an eternity in the kitchen had I been by myself, passed by in the blink of an eye. I was lost in the enjoyment of seeing their creativity, cooperation and Christmas spirit.

Each year this tradition in the kitchen with my daughters passes by so soon. But the memories will live on forever, of my girls and me, baking Christmas Cookies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Light Unto My Path

This week, I had the opportunity to attend a Luminaria event at the botanical gardens where I work.

It was an amazing and awe inspiring sight. In the dark of the desert night, candle bags lined the edges of the paths through the garden, illuminating the desert pathways that meander through this little piece of the desert southwest. The flicker of the candles burning inside cast shadows of the flora and fauna that make the botanical garden, well, the botanical garden. Even though the garden was under the veil of darkness, our footsteps were illuminated by the oh-so carefully placed lanterns, allowing us to find our way in a very dark night.

Now of course the garden couldn't be transformed without the hard work and hard planning of many employees and volunteers. The paths of the garden needed to be set with almost 8000 luminaria bags and lit and extinguished each night of the event. (Believe me, this was a big job. I worked one night as a candle lighter and snuffer!) There were those that tended the paths, directing people to different events and entertainment of the evening. There were those that had to manage crowds, provide security, monitor parking and keep patrons nourished and hydrated with various foods and libations. There was an amazing master plan in place to ensure that the visitors found their way through the garden.

This Christmas season, I will do my best to keep my focus, as well as the focus of my family on the light that has been given to each one of us by the Master of all - through His master plan. I will do my best to carry the lamp that illuminates our steps through life. I will keep my eyes drawn to the light of the world, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tongue Tied Tuesday -Peace On Earth

Elise, the cat that thinks she's a dog, and Fina the dog that thinks she's human, living in perfect harmony on our little piece of this terrestrial ball.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just Breath!

Sitting down to write this post, I am totally exhausted - almost to the point of not continuing on with these words.

My day started early at 5:30 a.m., to get up for an early run. I literally hit the ground running - Ha!

From that point on I have been going non-stop, running errands, fulfilling commitments, making holiday preparations, addressing Christmas cards, housework, run-of-the-mill mom stuff. No wonder I am tired.

But, I know that this will be my state for the next several weeks as the holidays approach.

At this time of year, more than any other, it seems like I am continually on the go. Somehow I over-do almost every aspect of my life. I over-shop, over-bake, over-commit, over-estimate, over-prepare, over-schedule, over-stress, and have over-the-top expectations of how the holiday season should be. I am moving so fast and furiously that sometimes I forget to breath.

I forget to take a step away from the busyness, take a deep breath and enjoy being in the moment of this magical time of year. I get lost in doing stuff to get ready, and before I know it, everything that I have been preparing for so feverishly is over - and I have missed it all.

This year, I am going to make a conscious effort to take a break, take a rest and relish in the moments of Christmas. I am going to just breath!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

When You Wish Upon A Star

Do you remember any Christmas wishes from your childhood?

Did you wish for a certain toy?Did you wish for the doll that really ate and needed her diapers changed or the more rough and tumble Stretch Armstrong?

Maybe it wasn't for a thing at all. Maybe you wished for simply catching a glimpse of the man in the red suit just so you could truly know that he was "real."

Christmas time was an amazing time in my home while I was growing up. We always felt blessed by what we received each Christmas morning. But, I don't remember having any big wishes for anything in particular while I was growing up. I don't remember being up all night hoping that a certain doll or bike was under the tree when I woke up. I didn't wish on the first star I saw on Christmas Eve asking that I would be able to spy on St. Nick as he unloaded his sack.

What I do remember is the anticipation of the surprise of the mornings events. My stomach would be full of butterflies as I took my stocking off of the fireplace and slowly pulled out the tangerines, walnuts, sugarless gum and other goodies that were hidden inside. By the time we were ready to unwrap the gifts under the tree, I could have burst with excitement. I never knew, or even had a desire to know what I was getting before I unwrapped it. Every gift I opened was a new and often unimagined treasure. Whether it was the craft "busy box" full of macaroni, glue, scissors and string my mom had put together, or the three life-size dolls she had hand sewn - one for me and my two sisters, each gift was special, loved, and created memories that last to this day.

None of my gifts were what you would call extravagant. But every one was mysterious, exiting and a treasure. Because they were given out of the depths of the love that my parents had for my sisters and me, they were all priceless.

Maybe I will wish upon a star this Christmas season. But when I do, my wish is that my children will not wish for things, but instead that they learn to treasure the love, excitement and mystery of Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Can't See the Forest For the Tress....

"Can't see the forest for the tress. "

Have you ever heard this statement?

According to Bartleby.com, it is "an expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole."

For me, this has special meaning. It literally has to do with trees - Christmas tress that is.

I have Christmas Tree issues. It is not that I think they are cliche' or unimportant. I do not fuss about the needles messing up my carpet or clogging the vacuum hose. I do not have to make my tree look perfect. I don't really care about the color scheme or the spacing of the ornaments.

My issue is my stress over simply getting the right tree (a fresh cut tree) into our home and getting it to stay in and upright position through the holiday. It is not only stress, it is an obsession.

Now, we have had our fair share of tree disasters. My stress is not completely irrational. Our trees have needed to be leveled using bricks, and propped up using books. We have had to anchor them to the wall with fishing line and string. One year, even after straightening, anchoring and propping, the tree still fell over three times, sending me into an emotional spiral - all over a tree.

We have had years of panic when we had no tree just before Christmas. Years of plenty when two were delivered to our home. We've cut every type of tree imaginable from lots, farms and forests. We've traversed highways, freeways, roadways and avenues with an evergreen tied to our roof. We've bungeed, twined, roped and anchored them to the top of our car, saying silent prayers all the way home that when we arrived, our treasured tree would still be with us. We've even had the mishap of forgetting the tree and trying to drive the car into the garage - the house still bears the scar.

I am absolutely aware of my tree issues. Still, every November, I slip into my tree obsession. I get cranky, irritable, frustrated, upset, and completely bent on finding the right tree. So much so that I lose sight of what the tree represents. I get so focussed on the silly tree, that I don't see that the reason I enjoy it is because it represents the time that I get to spend with my kids decorating it. I am blind to the life stories that the ornaments tell- baby's first Christmas, the paper angels from preschool or the macaroni photo frame from first grade. I am so consumed that I don't consider that the tree represents a season of hope, love, and salvation.

My vision is so fixed on the tree, that I don't see the whole forest of what the tree represents. I can't see the forest for the tree.

Do you get so caught up in the details of the season that you forget what it is all about?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings



After the Turkey, stuffing and pie,

I sit and reflect upon the year that's gone by.

I count all my gains, gifts and blessings,

and chose to forget my misfortunes and messings.

I think of my family, husband, children and me,

and know that we've been given more gifts than we need.

A beautiful home, cars, and things all around,

we all are so grateful for these blessings abound.

But, these blessings of things don't satisfy my heart,

and through these lines, I wish to impart,

The things that are truly a blessing to my soul,

are these intangible things that make me feel whole.

Like my children laughing and loving each other,

and having them know they can count on their mother.

For a husband who loves me in spite of my faults,

and learned, just for me, a wedding day waltz.

For a God who greater, could there never be one,

who loves me so much that He sent me his Son

And a country where I am allowed to be me,

the home of the brave and the land of the free.

These things I don't own and could never have bought,

but through their gain, great blessing I got.

After the turkey, stuffing and pie,

Will you sit and reflect on the year that's gone by?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tongue Tied Tuesday




























The "Big Three" can't afford the real auto shows anymore? Hmmm... they can still afford real jets....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Tradtions

I am big on tradition.

Part of what makes the Holidays special to me is a sense of carrying on and passing down family customs and rituals from year to year. Whether it is having a special meal including scalloped potatoes on Christmas Eve, making "Grandma's Bunny Cookies" on Easter, or decorating my parents' mountain home to the hilt for the 4th of July celebrations, there is a feeling of connection to the past as well as to the future in all of these traditions.

You would think that since I am a "Mayflower" girl - my lineage is traced back to Stephan Hopkins who signed the Mayflower Compact, I would follow the same Thanksgiving traditions from year to year. You'd think that every year, I would relish in customs passed down from my forefathers and foremothers that "officiated" and prepared the family's Thanksgiving celebrations.

Well, this is one holiday celebration in that I have broken the tradition of "tradition".

Now, don't get me wrong, I would love to have a set routine every November. It might make this particular holiday a little easier to plan for. But as I have grown older, life has allowed me opportunities to swerve from a predictable celebration each year. I'd like to tell you about a few of them

The first Thanksgiving that I broke the ranks of ritual came when I was just a teenager. I had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. I was blessed by being welcomed into the home of a very dear friend and an amazing family. It was my first experience of food other than the Thanksgiving "fare" that I was accustomed to. To my surprise, in addition to the turkey, potatoes and green bean casserole, there was an Italian fare of pasta and sea food as well. The cold weather of the east cost was very different than the warm California weather I was used to.

As I grew into adulthood, for many years I took on the job of cooking the meal. The first year that I was married to my husband, I decided to go all out. I made stuffing from scratch, pies from my Halloween pumpkins, fresh apple pies, and a huge turkey. I wanted to honor his Italian heritage, so in addition to the entire traditional menu, I prepared a lasagna. I cooked for what seemed like days, to prepare a meal for twenty of my family members in the small kitchen of our first home. I carried that tradition for the first few years of our marriage.

But as my husband's career advanced, we were required to relocate. We found ourselves in Texas, a state where we didn't know anyone, at least not at the time of our first Thanksgiving there. Eventually, we found other "orphan" families who were also there without friends and family, and we became each other's adopted families. Since by that time we had three small children, traveling back to be with our families was both too expensive and too difficult. So we began sharing our Thanksgiving meal with our Texas family. Each brought a new dish or variation of a dish to the meal. This tradition lasted for the five years that we lived there.

Since moving to Arizona, there hasn't been any true tradition of how we spend the Holiday. Some years we have traveled to my home state to be with my family. Some years we have stayed in Arizona with my husband's family. I have not prepared the meal for the last seven years. Since my day is not spent in the kitchen anymore, my husband and I have started our own tradition for the two of us. Regardless of which state we are in, we have participated in charity walks or runs on Thanksgiving morning. This year it is a 10 mile charity run in Arizona.

So, even though tradition is important to me, I would never change the fact that my Thanksgiving traditions change from year to year. No matter what I have done, or where I have been, I have been surrounded by people that I love and am thankful for.

Isn't that a big part of what the day is about?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Award Time!

I was so honored yesterday when Nicole from Juicy Alligator gave me the Smile Award. She received it from The Mom Buzz.

I am so flattered she chose me to receive this award. I saw the qualifications for it. I hope they show in my blogging, and I pray that I practice them successfully in my day to day life.

The qualifications to receive this award are:

A. Display a cheerful attitude.
B. Love one another.
C. Make mistakes.
D. Learn from others.
E. Be a positive contributor to the blog world.
F. Love life.
G. Love kids.

The Rules:

1. Please link back!
2. Post the rules
3. Choose 5 people to give it to
4. Recipients must fill the characteristics above
5. Create a post to share this
6. Thank the winners!

I chose five bloggers that I think display these qualifications. It was very hard to choose.....so many fill them. But here they are:

Living Locurto

Free Birthday Treats

Beth Blair

Fudge Ripple

Blogging for Boobies

You are all an inspiration!

Introducing....

I just wanted to let you all know about two new blogs that I know of.

The first one is called Fudge Ripple.
This blog is a collection of "mumblings and musings" by an amazing woman. Her posts are funny, entertaining and informative. She is an awesome chef- an influence you can see in her writing. Stop by her blog sometime....you'll see why I like it.

The next one is called Blogging for Boobies.
Now before anyone is taken back by the name of the blog, let me explain the origins. It is written by 19 year old college student who took part in The3Day walk against breast cancer. This along with the fact that her aunt is fighting IBC, inflammatory breast cancer, inspired her to start blogging about breast cancer. This author an amazing young woman. She is also my daughter. I am so proud of her!

You can link to these via my side bar, or you can link from the titles in this post.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grandma's Apple Pie

Who doesn't like pie?

At this time of year, bakers descend upon the grocery stores in droves. Each one intent on making their own special version of a family pie recipe. Pie tins, fillings, sugar and the like fly off the shelves more quickly than the store can restock them.

For those that don't bake, they head to frozen isle where the multitude of pie choices can satisfy almost any taste. If frozen pie is not the type of choice, there is always the grocery store bakery.

Still there is another option. Either local bakers or restaurant chains famous for their pie selection provide a "fresh" option for hungry desert eaters. From these pie providers, the choosiest of pie connoisseur can find a whole host of varieties. Pumpkin, banana cream, strawberry, lemon meringue, key lime, cherry, cheesecake - you name it, you can find it.

I can say that I adore pie. I will eat home made, frozen or bakery bought. Almost any flavor will do for me. I'm not that picky. But there is one type of pie that, in my opinion trumps them all. If it is offered in the choices, I will choose it every time. My all-time favorite is my Grandma's apple pie.

I have always been a fan of my Grandma's pie.

From the time I was very little, I can remember her in the kitchen hand peeling little apples that she picked from the tree in her back yard. She was so patient with each apple. It seemed like it took hundreds to fill each pie - they were that small. After she peeled them she mixed just the right amount of sugar, cinnamon and flour in a bowl and then sprinkled it over the apples. She carefully mixed them and set them aside.

Then she went to work on her crust dough. I remember her "cutting" small squares of cold butter in some flour mixed with a little salt, using only two butter knives for her tools. Then she sprinkled, again, just the right amount of ice water over her flour mixture until she had the right consistency to role it out for the crust.

I would watch in amazement as she rolled the dough out, perfectly every time. She was able to move it to her tin, skillfully and slowly - never tearing it. She knew just the right amount of her apple mixture to put in the crust. When it was filled to the brim, she would roll out her top crust, place it over the top and cut four evenly spaced slits on the top. Then she would methodically pinch the top and bottom crust together.

She would bake it just the right amount of time, until it was golden and bubbly. It tasted perfect every time.

Once I became and adult, I asked my Grandma to teach me how to make her pie. I wanted to be able to make a perfect apple pie. I watched expecting to take notes, measurements, apple choices, and cooking times. To my surprise there were none of those. My Grandma explained to me that to make this pie, you just know when it is right.

To me, that is what makes it so special. Each time she made it the recipe was a little bit different than the last time. But each time, it always turned out just right. Just as in everything she did, she didn't need to follow a set recipe to know how to get the job done. She just did it until she knew it was right.

Though I can't duplicate her pie exactly, I have spent a lot of years trying to perfect my version of Grandma's apple pie. Each year, in the fall, I peel my apples and make my mixture of sugar, flour and cinnamon and fill store bought crusts to the brim - I was never able to master the crust so for me, it is store bought.

Every year, my recipe is a little bit different than the year before. But, hopefully, each year, they turn out just right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Caution! Detour Ahead

Yellow flashing lights, orange and white pylons, signs with various arrows, squiggles and cautions. Roads being widened, repaved, repaired and ripped up. New lanes on the highways, roadways and in some cases, railways. U-turns, detours, road closures and reroutes.

No matter where I go within my city's limits, I am constantly coming upon construction zones. I drive to my local supermarket, I hit a zone. On my way to work, I hit a zone. On the way to get the kids..you got it, another zone.

On my way to where ever it is I am going, more often than not there are unexpected delays. I often have to change course and find a different path to my intended destination. Sometimes I make it to where I am going at the time I expected. Sometimes I am late. I occasionally make it there early. No matter the timing, I often end up on a different road than I had originally planned to travel.

Isn't life a lot like that?

We start off on one road to our goals and dreams. We think we have our paths mapped out perfectly and that we will fly down the highway at break-neck speed. We assume we will reach those milestones with no bumps in the road, no flat tires, no check engine lights.

But then we encounter conflict or circumstance. It might be in relationships with spouses, friends, or children. Maybe it is health issues. Possibly it is simply conditions beyond our control that affects our ability to provide for our families.

We are forced to carefully navigate around these things. Sometimes we don't see them ahead of us. We hit them head on. Then, the only thing we can do is stop and make repairs. Often if there is no other way, we must make a u-turn, go back to the beginning of the road and try traveling it again.

I know that whatever the obstacles, road blocks and construction zones have been, I have always ended up it the exact spot I need be. I do not always get there by the route that I had planned, but eventually I do get there. And I am a better person because the road I have traveled.

Photo from:
www.cs.washington.edu/.../detour/detour.gif

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Uninspired

Do you ever have those days that is seems you just can't get motivated to do anything?

Some days it seems like I just can't get the gumption up to complete any task with any sort of excitement. I feel blah. I feel uninterested. I feel tired. I feel just plain uninspired.

That's the way I have been today.

As sat down at my desk, flipped on my monitor, opened a new entry template and stared at the screen, I realize that nothing was coming to me. I had a million ideas of things to write about - or at least fifty written down in my notebook. But not one inspired me to start rolling words off of the top of my brain, to the tips of my finger and onto the screen.

I flipped the pages of my notebook. I reviewed again and again the topic ideas. I even thought of a few new ones to jot down in my notebook. But still, nothing. So, I decided to set it aside for a while. Maybe something would come later.

I took of my writer's hat and replaced it with my runner's hat....I should say shoes. I thought that maybe if switched gears for a while, inspiration and motivation would come. But, alas, to no avail. I trudged through my run, uninspired, uninterested, and unexcited.

I took off my running shoes and put on my chef's hat. Maybe cooking for my family would snap me out of my doldrum. So, I cooked dinner. But even that lacked pizazz as I served up the broiled chicken breast, the broccoli and the potatoes - the same meal we have had hundreds of times.

But then this evening, it dawned on me. I had the ability to create motivation. Even though I couldn't for the life of me ramble on about one of my writing topics, I was thinking an awful lot about how uninspired I felt. Why not write about that? So again, I sat down at my computer and the words began to flow from the top of my head, to the tips of my fingers, and onto the screen.

I think life is a lot like that in general. Just when we are ready to give up, something comes along and gives us the the will to hang on and try just a little longer, till it begins to flow again.

At the very moment I thought that I had nothing to motivate me, motivation hit. In a strange and contradictory way, my uninspiration was actually my inspiration.

In what ways can you create motivation?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turkey Attack!!

Attack of the Tasty Turkey Cookies!!!!!

You can find the instructions to make these fabulous fowl cookies at my other blog's, Daily Goulash, Crafty- Cam.

Just click the colored link and you will go right to it! There are other fun crafty project ideas in the Crafty-Cam archives as well, be sure you check those out too!

OK, I admit, this is a shameless plug for my other blog...but hey, I am AZ Mom of Many Hats....one of those hats is my self-promoter hat!

I hope this picture makes you smile!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Little Pieces of Joy

My co-workers laughed at me the other day.

Now this was not mean spirited. It was not done out of an attempt to embarrass or humiliate me. Nor was it done out of spite.

I think I just took them by surprise with a comment. Maybe it was shock that a grown woman would say such a thing. Maybe it was the true honesty and simplicity that accompanied my words. Maybe it was that what I said truly warmed their hearts.

This statement I made wasn't controversial. It was not amazingly wise or witty. It was not even a statement of great importance. It would not cause the world to stop spinning. It would not bring and end to the financial crisis. It certainly would not bring everlasting peace to the world.

Are you ready to hear what the statement was?

Are you sure?

Can you handle it?

Here it goes.....

Candy corn makes me happy!

That's it. Candy corn makes me happy.

I guess when you hear that you may chuckle, scratch your head or even think that it is juvenile. I may have had the same response as my co-workers if I heard one of them making the same comment.

The truth of the matter is, that it does make me happy. It could be that the colors of the candy corn are happy and cheerful - white, yellow and orange. The candy is so loaded with sugar that maybe my brain links the sugar high with the candy and sends out happy messages. Perhaps it is because at an instinctual level, the association between taste and pleasure is so strong that thinking of the candy brings on a subconscious wave of good feelings.

I think it has nothing to do with any of that.

The things I think of when I see or taste candy corn are things that truly make me happy. I think about the town I grew up in and trick-or-treating with friends (we weren't in a high-dollar neighborhood so candy corn was a Halloween standard.) I think of my grandma's table at Thanksgiving and the bowl of candy corn that always accompanied the pies and deserts after dinner. I think of the family gathering together and enjoying time together. I think of all of the cute little fall crafts that my children have made for me over the years - the candy corn with the google eyes and the turkeys with pine cone bodies and candy corn feathers.

These little kernel shaped candies are like little pieces of joy to me.

As I said, my statement isn't of great importance. In the great scheme of life, a love of candy corn will not have great impact. It will not reverse global warming or fix the world's problems.

But, for me, it makes me happy!

P.S. Maybe if candy corn made everyone in the world happy, that peace thing could come about.....Something to think about!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I....Love.... My.... Husband.

I know all you marrieds out there probably say this all the time.

"I love my husband!"

This is not a new concept. It is not strange. It is not unusual to profess this - maybe even shout it from rooftops or mountain tops.

"I LOVE MY HUSBAND!"

It is even common to express it as a measure of gratitude or excitement.

"I love my husband!"

But I want to express it from the bottom of the deepest depths of my soul.

"I......love......my......husband."

No exclamations, not as a gesture to thank him for taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, not even as that routine statement that those words can become after years and years of marriage - simply as an expression from the innermost part of me.

Isn't that the place that love should come from? Shouldn't it be from that place so deep inside that the line between self and the other person is blurred?

Now, I'll be the first to admit, I like how love makes me feel. But,I believe that love is not only about how I feel. It is not primarily about me or my needs being met. It is not the material things that my husband can give me. It is not about the security that comes from always having another to bear the load of life. Nor is it about reaching goals and milestones together.

What I believe it is about is loving another selflessly. It is about supporting the other person to truly know who they are as an individual. It is about giving the other person encouragement and room to grow and become whole. It is about helping to bring their dreams and aspirations to a place of reality. It is about compassion, forgiveness, compromise and understanding. It is about loving them so fully that you don't remember where the line is that separates you from them.

I believe that love is about everything that my husband has shown me.

What is love to you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some Things are Worth The Wait!


Did you cast your ballot by mail? Did you vote early?

Every time an election comes around, my husband and I have a discussion about how we cast our votes.

My husband is staunchly efficient. He streamlines, straight lines, and fast tracks whatever he can - as long as is doesn't affect the outcome. He doesn't like waste whether it be money, product or time. So as you might imagine, he casts his ballot early by mail to avoid spending the time to stand in line at wait for a spot at a voting booth. To him, voting in that manner is the most effective and economical use of his time.

He doesn't understand why I wouldn't want to do the same.

There is something special about election day to me. When my children were young, I would bring them to the polls with me. I wanted them to see what voting was. It was important to me that they understood that although they are only one voice, their one voice combined with a lot of other one voices could have a profound effect on whatever it was they wanted to change. I considered it my responsibility and duty to be an example to them and cast my vote.

It was also important to me that they understand that the right to vote was something not to be taken for granted. My desire was for them to know that when they are older and able to vote, if they don't exercise that right, they have no grounds to complain about the results.

Those things aside, there is a selfish reason that I go to the polls on election day. I enjoy standing in line, being right there in the middle of the democratic process, even if it means and hour or two are taken out of my day. Although I know in essence my vote is anonymous and has no greater weight than a mailed in or early cast ballot, being at the polls makes me feel like I am part of something - a part of something big, that has a voice in the direction that this country is going.

My husband and I vote in different ways. Neither way is better than the other. Both set the example to my children that voting is important. However, what I hope to impart to my kids is that even if the line is long, some things are worth the wait!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Long, Long, Long Run

This is how Saturday mornings begin for my husband and me....

5am: Alarm rings playing some of my favorite music
5:02am: Alarm still playing some of my favorite music
5:07am: Alarm still playing some of my favorite music, however a different song than was originally playing
5:10am: I stumble out of bed, throw my hair in a pony tail, put on my running clothes and shoes, just in time to turn of my husband's 5:15 alarm.
5:25am: We both end up in the kitchen, miraculously avoiding stumbling down the 17 stairs that separate our room from the first floor.
5:40am: We fill our water bottles, grab our hats, sunglasses, and i-pods, and then make our way to the car to drive to our favorite running spot along the canal.
6am: We arrive at the canal after a 20 minute ride in sleep deprived induced silence, fire up the i-pods, check the shoes, and hit the dirt for the long, long, long run.

My husband and I run a 9 mile trail along the canal every Saturday morning.

You may be wondering why we do this, especially on a morning that we could be sleeping in. We do it because we are training to run a half-marathon on our 17th anniversary in January.

Now I don't run with nearly the efficiency, speed, or ease as my husband does. In order for him to run with me, he has to make adjustments. Because his stride is longer than mine, he has to adjust his steps so he is not running ahead of me. I don't have the same speed that he does, so he has to slow down his pace for me. When I am feeling like I have hit the "wall", he not only has to keep himself going, but also take on the role of being my cheerleader and encouraging me to continue. Conversely, I have to make adjustments for him too. My pace increases when we run together as I work to keep up with him. My steps become longer, more efficient and more fluid as subconsciously my body mimics his body movement. I become more self assured and confident in my ability to press on as he reminds me that I do have it in me to keep going.

I have to admit that it isn't always easy running together. There are times when I feel badly because I am holding him back and slowing his pace. I am worried that he may grow frustrated with me for being a burden- that he may not want to finish the race by my side. Sometimes, I feel that I am at my limit, and that gentle nudge of encouragement feels like it will push me over the edge.

But then, inevitably, he senses my feelings and frustrations. With just the right words - those he has learned through navigating 17 years of marriage to me, he helps me push just a little further towards my maximum potential. He assures me that he is in it for the long haul, every step of the way. He is there by my side, to cross the finish line with me at the end of the race.

In many ways, training for this race is a lot like our marriage. We each have different abilities, personalities, likes and dislikes. We have some viewpoints that are in line with each other and others that are in conflict. Through compromise and understanding, we travel the path of our marriage much in the way that we are training to run the half-marathon. We compliment each other in a way that allows us both to be the best we can be as individuals, as well as the best that we can be as one body in marriage.

We are as different as individuals as we are in our running abilities. But in the end, we have common goals and principles. Staying focused on our common goals keeps us strong on our journey, this long, long, long, run.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simple Memories...

One of my favorite memories of fall from my childhood is coming home from school one day and seeing the our house turned into a festive Halloween spectacular.

My family had never really decorated for Halloween before. We always went trick-or-treating, but the whole Halloween scene was not really our thing as a family. We dressed up as angels, fairies, rag-dolls; things that were fun but not scary. Ghoulish garb and horror based themes just didn't sit well with three girls growing up in our house.

One afternoon, I walked in the front door and was completely amazed. While I was at school, my mom decorated our dining room with little ghosts hanging from the ceiling, cotton cobwebs in the corners and black and orange decorations through out the room. The decorations were innocuous, cute simple decorations, but they were created from my mom's heart - solely for the enjoyment of her daughters. But, to me, it looked like a Halloween wonderland.

Everyday I am amazed at the extent that we, as mothers - or fathers, will go to ensure our kids happiness. I am also amazed at how complicated we have made the process of ensuring their happiness. We try to do it with big gifts, expensive clothes, the most incredible trips, all in an effort to make sure their life experience in the short time that they have with us is amazing.

Now some may disagree with me, but I think we overdo it. We shower them with the best "things", trying to make sure that what they have is at least as good or better than what their friends have. By giving stuff, we think that they are fulfilled and happy. But does that really make them any happier? Does that make them feel any better about themselves?

I know that walking into my house that afternoon after school, I felt loved, and lacking for nothing. The only "things" that were given to me were some tissues suspended from the ceiling by paper clips and a some old quilt batting stretched and pulled to look like cobwebs. But the intangible thing I was given that day, was knowing that my mom did this simple gesture because she loved me.

How do you try to ensure children's happiness? Are you a giver of things? Or, are you a giver of the gifts from your heart?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Big Pink Thank You!

Thank you to all who stopped by my blog in October and read about breast cancer and breast cancer awareness.

This month, I told you about my amazing sister Amy and her battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, IBC. I shared with you about some of her trials as well as her triumphs as she is walking the road that so many - too many have walked before her. I have shared with you ways that you can support the cause of breast cancer awareness by purchasing "pink" products. I have shared with you hope and blessings that have been found amongst the cancer mire.

I would like to finish off the month by reminding women to do their monthly self-exams. Know your breasts, what the feel like AND what they look like. Schedule your clinical exam with your doctor and let him or her know your concerns, your family history and any other information you feel is important to ensuring your breast health. Schedule your mammogram! Don't put it off because it isn't comfortable. They are not that bad. Besides, a little squeeze is worth finding any potential problems.

I will leave the cancer information links and the SISTER check posted on the sidebar as a permanent addition to this page. Feel free to come back and visit the links, and to utilize the SISTER check information.

Please feel free to leave any comments about how this month's entries affected you. Share your cancer story, a loved ones story, or a story of how cancer has touched you.

Thank you again for reading. I hope October's posts have been a blessing to you.

Stay tuned for more posts from AZ Mom of Many Hats!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cancer Blessings

Cancer Blessings.....

At first glance, these two words don't fit together. They appear to be an oxymoron. How can cancer, something so horrible and devastating, be paired with such a lovely word as blessing? How can a word that brings on the feeling of mire and darkness sit next to a word of hope and light?

I would say that they do fit together. I know my sister Amy would.

Amy and I have been in almost daily contact since her diagnosis. Many of the days have been dark and scary. But even in midst of some of the worst days, Amy has always been able to speak of the things in her life that were good. She has never lost site of her blessings in the blinding storm of cancer.

The following are just a few of the many, many blessings she has.

Amy is able to stay home with her son. She hadn't had the opportunity to do that before as she was the major source of income and health insurance in her family. Cancer forced her to take time off of work. Because she has had this time, she is able to spend more time watching her soon to be teen aged son grow and become a wonderful young man.

She has always been blessed with a husband who has always been incredibly nurturing and supportive of her. A hidden strength in him has been revealed as she has watched him solely take on the role of provider and protector of their family. Through this trial, they have both had to take on new identities in their marriage, and as a result they have grown stronger and closer as a couple.

The many people she has met who are sharing the same battle as Amy, have also been a blessing to her. She is blessed to know that although others are there to support her, only those that have fought the fight can truly understand what she is going through. She has been able to be a support to them as well as receive support from them.

Amy has found the ability to rejoice with those that have good news, even when hers is bad. She has also learned to not feel guilty when she rejoices in her own good news even though those around her may not be doing as well.

She has learned just how much she is loved and by how many people. Old friends, relatives, new friends and mere acquaintances have shown her love that she didn't think she was worthy of (of course those of us who love her, know she is worthy of it.) She has had help with meals, transportation, house work and daily tasks by people who are committed to helping her through this battle. She has even had co-workers donate enough sick days for her to maintain her position as a teacher until January.

She has had a crash course in releasing things into God's control, and knowing that it is OK that she can't control everything or even anything. She has learn to let go.

She has learned to appreciate and see the beauty in the small stuff. When her son didn't wake up to his alarm and she had to drag him out of bed, she was grateful that she will have more time to drag him out of bed while the alarm is blaring. She enjoys her home and the pond in her backyard. She sees an amazing beauty in them that she didn't fully recognize before.

Seeing God in the "trenches" has been an incredible gift in this time. She has found strength and hope in knowing that no matter how deep the pit, she can never fall out of the reach of God.

This is just a list of a few of the blessings she has received.

Cancer Blessings.....I think those two words sit together in an awesome juxtaposition.


If you have Cancer Blessings, please be a blessing to someone else by sharing with an e-mail, a phone call, or a comment to this post.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get Your Pink On!

Pink is the new black....well at least in the month of October. In stores, newspaper advertisements and magazine articles you will see this color permeating our consumer landscape. Will you cave to societal or peer pressure and jump on the new color trend? Will you outfit yourself or your home with this rosy hue? Are you willing to go pink and support breast cancer research?

If so, read on....

Now I don't advocate going out and spending money just for the sake of spending money. But, if you are in the market for something in particular and are going to be spending your dough anyway, you may as well support a good cause. Right now you have the chance to get a little shopping done for yourself or for the upcoming holidays and support breast cancer research at the same time.

Here are some ways you can GET YOUR PINK ON!*

Pink and pretty...
Payless shoe source is offering a silver toned ribbon charm on a pink cord for $2 and is donating a portion to breast cancer research. In addition, the bracelet packaging has a $5 coupon off of a $25 purchase. But you better hurry! because the coupon is only valid from October 21 through November 3, 2008.

New York & Company stores are offering a pretty pink limited edition lip gloss for $3 with $1 from the sale being donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Pink and Practical...
Don't forget the batteries to go along with the holiday gifts you'll be giving this year. Why not purchase Energizer MAX batteries that have a special offer of a Stephanie Johnson Cosmetic Bag. For each bag shipped, Energizer will donate $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure ($10,000 minimum donation; up to $15,000 maximum donation)

Pink and Think...
Think environmentally friendly. Many grocery stores are offering reusable shopping bags and donating some or all of the proceeds from the sales of the pink pouches to breast cancer research foundations. The bags cost $1-2 each.

Britta's Grand Pitcher with free Nalgene bottle lets you not only be good to the environment, but also to your body! The pink pitcher filters your drinking water as well as raises awareness of breast health. Britta is offering $50000 donation to the City of Hope with no purchase necessary. But come on...if you need it anyway, may as well get the pink!

Pink and Perfect...
Search online for designers that are carrying or creating lines of clothing with proceeds that benefit breast cancer research. Some great items can be found at www.pinkitude.com. You just might find that perfect accessory that you've been looking for.

Pink and the Kitchen Sink...
Well, not really the sink - but things you might find in the kitchen. The Houdini corkscrew (Metrokane) is donating 2% 0of each purchase to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The Taylor pink glass digital food scale is a reminder of breast cancer awareness. Taylor will donate $10,000 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. No Purchase is necessary, but again, why not go pink?

Kitchen Aid products have been available in pink for some time now. Check out the Kitchenaid website to see how a purchase of one of their pink products can benefit breast cancer research.

Pink and Pick-up
Now there is no way around it. We all must do some housework. Why not do it in style with one of many household items that come in pink?

Dyson is offering an upright vacuum and a hand vac in pink with a portion of the proceeds being donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundations. Check out their website for details and where you can find the product.

Shark is donating $1 from the sale of each Shark Steam Mop to Breastcancer.org.

There are too many pink items out there for one person to list. Check out your local stores, your newspapers and internet searches for more items that help to raise breast cancer awareness and support funding for research.

Now that you have some information - go and GET YOUR PINK ON!

*Information was gathered through local newspapers, internet searches and website information. Check product websites for availability and donation details.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amy's IBC Journey

Amy's journey with IBC can be found at her website.
http://www.familyaffairratz.com/Amy_s_Battle_I.B.C.html

Monday, October 6, 2008

Go Pink!

If you have been anywhere this month, you have probably seen the barrage of pink everything, everywhere. The sudden invasion of the oh, so happy, oh so rosy, oh so PINK is a result of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Retailers are participating in cause related marketing - the cause being breast cancer awareness. According to *foundationcenter.org, cause related marketing is when a profitable company partners with a non-profit organization to promote their product as well as to benefit the non-profit.

I know that some may disagree with tugging at the heartstrings of the consumer in order to get them to buy a particular product. I know that some may say that it makes people "feel" like they are being charitable when they are really getting something in return. I know some may think that it is just plain corporate greed to try and increase sales by using the color pink.

Well let me go on the record as saying....I don't care! I don't care that people are making money - so is breast cancer research. I don't care if it tugs at the heartstrings - we could all stand to have our heartstrings tugged if it means we become more aware of breast cancer. I don't care about whether or not people are "giving" for the right reason - this can be mutually beneficial to the consumer, the corporation and the non-profit organization.

What I do care about is finding a cure for breast cancer. I care about my sister who has inflammatory breast cancer. I care about my cousin who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I care about my daughters, my mother, myself, my friends, and anyone who will in some way be touched by breast cancer- unfortunately that will probably be everyone.

So, go ahead. Give into the temptation to purchase the cereal with the pink ribbon. As you are starting your holiday shopping, mosey on over to the rosy hued end cap of pink water pitchers. That cute pink t-shirt, it's just calling your name. Go ahead. GO PINK!


P.S. Coming up next... I'll share some items available that will help you go pink.


*http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/faqs/html/cause_marketing.html

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Sister's Cancer

I am writing this with the permission of my beautiful sister, Amy.

Several months ago, Amy noticed some changes in her breast. But, she didn't think much of it. Like many women her breasts had always been a little lopsided, so when that increased, it wasn't that concerning to her. She felt some fullness ans soreness, but she had breast fed her son when he was a baby, and the feeling felt similar to when it was time for him to nurse. Her breast looked rashy and was a little itchy, but she thought that maybe her skin was irritated from her laundry detergent.

Because of our family history, Amy had been diligent about doing self exams and had even had a clean mammogram the year prior. But when she went to her general practitioner in February 2008 for a bout of the flu, she had him look at it. That day, her doctor sent her directly to a breast surgeon and she got a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer - IBC. That day my sister, began the fight for and of her life.

IBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer that causes the appearance of inflammation in the breast. It is usually in a later stage at diagnosis. Amy was diagnosed in stage IV. Her cancer had already metastasized to her spine, ribs and hip bone when it was found.

Immediately after her diagnosis, she went on disability leave from her job as a teacher. She very rapidly began her treatment. She began with a six session round of chemotherapy - one week of chemo and three weeks off to recover from the chemo - until all six were completed. The chemo was rough. She lost her hair and battled depression. She went through a series of shots each week to either boost her immune system, suppress a particular protein in her body or strengthen her bones.

After her first round of chemotherapy, she had a radical mastectomy. The surgeon to took all of her breast tissue, some skin and tissue from under her arm, and seventeen lymph nodes. She underwent and is still undergoing some independent physical therapy exercise to keep her mobility and to help with some nerve damage caused by the procedure.

She is currently undergoing another round of chemotherapy. This time it is three weeks of chemotherapy and one week without. She is still taking the medications to strengthen her bones and immunity, as well as the medication to suppress the protein.

Through this battle, Amy has relied on her doctors, her family, her friends and her faith. She is showing great progress. All the tests and scans that she has taken so far show that she is responding well to her treatment. We don't necessarily understand every medical term that the doctors use, but we know for now that active cancer is not visible on the scans and that it has not spread any further.

As women, we need to know our bodies and be proactive and educate ourselves about issues such as inflammatory breast cancer -IBC. We need to look at credible sources on how to detect and protect ourselves from breast cancer, a disease that affects so many.

As I said before, Amy knew her family history. She knew to have mammograms. Amy knew to look for a lump when doing her self breast exams. But knowing that information wasn't enough. Her cancer was not in the form of a lump.

Posted on the side bar is the acronym SISTER that outlines some of the visible symptoms of IBC. Please feel free to use it as a reminder of not only knowing what your healthy breast feels like, but also what it looks like. Also posted are some links to websites to help you find more information about breast cancer.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's a Dog's Life

Elsie and Fina stand at my bedroom door. They anxiously await the treat in the pantry, the treat that I give them each morning. They follow me downstairs into the kitchen prancing and voicing their excitement for the yummy morsels they are about to get. They beg, sit, then in a single bite their treats are gone. They stay underfoot as I prepare my morning coffee, hoping that perchance, I will show them mercy and give them one more treat. They stare at me with longing eyes.

Once they realize it is a futile effort, Elsie and Fina move on. They wait at the food dish for a delicious breakfast of kibble - small crunchy bites of canine cuisine. With gusto, they quickly partake of the morning feast. They take a quick drink and then it is on with their morning.

They follow me around the house, hungry for attention. They each find a toy. With expectant postures, they bring them to me. As I take the toys, they both prepare for the fetch. They dart off of as I throw only to quickly return to repeat the game. This continues until they tire.

Elsie and Fina sprawl out on the cool tile in the front entryway, belly to floor, chin resting on their front paws. For a little while, they are content sleeping. But, as soon as they awake, they begin a playful game of chase, each taking turns catching and chewing on the other.

As I prepare to leave for the morning, both of my "girls" watch me exit through the garage door. I know that when I return, they will both be waiting at the same door, smiling in their own animal way, with a warm welcome that only two of man's- or woman's best friend can give.

These sound like pretty nice dogs, don't they?

The thing is, Fina is a 95 pound, 6 year old black Labrador. Elsie is a 5 pound, 5 month old American short haired kitten that baffles me every time I look at her.

Now, I am not trying to offend cat lovers. Nor am I trying to pigeon hole all cats. But, I must admit that in general cats turn me off. They can be be sort of snooty, stand-offish....arrogant. They seem to own us, not us them.

But not Elsie. She baffles me because she acts like a dog. I expect her to be one thing, but she acts like another. She doesn't fit the mold that I have made for her. She marches to the beat of her own drum....or at least Fina's drum.

I think that as people, we expect certain things of others as well as ourselves. When others don't measure up to what we think they should be, we are disappointed. When we don't live up to what others think we should live up to, we are disappointed in ourselves.

Now of course there are certain things that we must do in the roles and responsibilities that we have been given in life. However, I believe that there is courage, beauty and wisdom to be gained by accepting that we don't have to be what everyone, including ourselves, thinks we should be. By challenging expectations, we learn about ourselves. We figure out who we are at our core - what truly makes us tick. By challenging expectations, we find out who we are....just for ourselves.

What can you do today that doesn't fit the "mold" of who you are?

Post a response, share an e-mail or tell a friend what you have discovered about yourself.

P.S. By breaking my mold, I have discovered that I am much more extroverted and edgy than I, or others thought I was. There's more, but maybe I'll reveal it in another blog!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Caffeinate Me!

"Medium mochajava, half-caf, soy, sugar-free, no foam, no whip, 115degree, latte - double-cupped and sleeved."

"Large caramel, skim, decaf, iced, upside down macchiato."

" Small drip. "

Isn't it amazing that there is a whole culture and language associated with coffee? This coffee culture looks and sounds something like this:

Inhabitants enter their caffeine habitat and form a long row, each facing the back of the next. They stand in silence, occasionally searching the clear glass vessels containing sustenance for the morning meal. Their eyes move from the glass vessels to tablets placed above them. They appear to ponder over their next move and how they are going to be successful in their hunt for nutrition and hydration. In turn, each steps forward until they are facing another inhabitant at the front of the row. The only sound heard is when the two communicate in a language understood only by other members of their culture. The language appears to only consist of adjectives, but somehow the communication is clear. The inhabitant in the line exchanges some currency - usually made out of some type of plastic, and within minutes, the morning hunt is complete. The inhabitant proceeds to either a designated eating area where an electronic device or informational material is observed; or to their transportation vessel where then they partake in fruits of their hunt - still in silence. -Mozilo, 2008


Now I must confess, that I am part of this coffee culture. I love coffee and even have my own special coffee shop that I frequent. I will stand in line with the rest, not saying a word to anyone until I am at the counter. I then sputter my favorite drink order - Venti, half-calf, sugar-free, soy, vanilla latte, no foam, no whip. I hand my cash (yes I do use cash) or my gift card to the cashier, and I am off on my merry way. Sometimes I sit at a table with my nose in a book, oblivious to the world going by me. Cell phones, conversations, and situations elude me as I retreat into my own little caffeinated cave. I become self-absorbed, introverted and disconnected with everyone around me.

Not long ago, it dawned on me how many opportunities for connection that I was missing. By hiding out behind my latte I was shielding myself from relationship with people that I saw almost every day. I decided to make an effort to be more aware of the people around me at the coffee shop- what they looked like, what their lives might be like, how often I actually came in contact with them and hadn't ever uttered a word to them. But, how could I connect?

Then the idea of all ideas struck me! I could open my mouth and just talk to them. At first it was a little intimidating. I wasn't sure of what to say. That underlying fear of rejection that most of us seem to carry around would rear it's ugly head and I would want to clam up. But not too long after I implemented my brilliant idea, I began to see the rewards roll in. I began to feel better through connecting with others. By stepping out of my "coffee culture" I began to find people that similar interest and life stories and situations as I did. I built a "coffee community."

What are some ways that you can connect and build community with others? Do you have any fears about talking to people you don't know? I challenge you to find one or two people to connect with today through conversation, e-mail or a letter. When you have, post a response at let other's know what your experience was like.

I'm looking forward to reading about how it went!

P.S. If you are really nervous about talking to a new person, have a double espresso....you will have no shortage of words :)!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Baby Pooped on My Party Clothes!

Oh...It seems like yesterday.

We had just spent the summer with my parents. I couldn't wait to be back home with my husband whom I missed terribly. My girls, likewise missed their daddy and were anxious to be home with him.

We boarded the plane looking fresh and crisp in our nice white summer clothes. The girls were wearing matching white shirts with sweet little green frogs that I had just happened to find in all three sizes. I was wearing crisp white linen shirt and white cotton shorts that showed off my summer tan. Two of my girls sat nicely reading the books we brought for the trip, and I sat next to them with the youngest seated on my lap. We were quite a site, and I must admit, I did feel a little bit proud of how put together we looked.

Two hours and forty-five minutes of the three hour flight had passed. My three girls could have been mistaken for the angels in the heavens. I was daydreaming of the re-uniting of our family in the airport, my husband admiring his beautiful family and looking adoringly at me......then it happened. That unmistakable sound, that unforgettable feeling - the diaper blowout! Not just a small leak, but the absolute, debris all over the highway, ridin' on the rims, blown tire of the diaper mishaps right in my lap - just as we began our final approach. I had no choice but to sit in my seat, baby, poop and all, and worry about cleaning it up later.

In an instant, the beautiful family portrait had been shattered by a faulty diaper unable to stand up to the challenge of a still nursing baby. -Moms, I think you get the gist of this.

Sometimes it seems like life flows so smoothly. We feel like we have everything under control. Jobs, family, relationships, friends, you name it, we got it. But then something happens that rattles us; maybe even shakes us to our core. There is a sudden shift and the things we held together so efficiently appear to fall apart. We are left standing in a pile of the pieces of our life, not knowing where to start to put it back together.

But in time, we find that first piece to pick up. We dust it off, smooth some of the shattered edges and begin to build again. Piece by piece, we re-construct our selves. Maybe our lives will never be exactly as they were. But what we learn through the process of rebuilding can make us stronger than we were before. We shore up the walls of our lives with the perspective, empathy, sympathy, knowledge, strength, wisdom, and compassion that we have gained through our trials. We, in a sense, become a new and beautiful creation.

Now in the scheme of life a dirty pair of shorts is certainly not a major life crisis. It certainly has not been the biggest crisis in my life. Every one of us struggles with trials every day. Some may be bigger than others, but never the less, they are all difficult.

I challenge you to reach out to someone you know that may be struggling. Send a note, post a response, make a phone call...your experiences may help that person through theirs.

P.S.
Back to the shorts....they never were exactly the same. But on the bright side, they ended up matching the green frog shirts!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fill in the Blanks

Adjective: Gooey

Noun: Plunger

Part of the Body: Elbow

Liquid:......

Since moving here to Arizona, this is how many of our family dinners end. No, this is not a regional tradition or an activity mandated by some obscure state law. This is not out of observance of any religious activity. Nor is it because we have some strange vocabulary obsession. This is the result of a school book sale.

It all started about six years ago when my daughter brought home the first book order form of the year from school. With great joy and excitement - and fingers covered in pink marker - she handed me the form telling me about all of the things she wanted to buy. Of course there was the requisite princess book circled, as well as the sheet of butterfly stickers and the horse poster. There were kindergarten level computer games and the book "club", the one that sucks you into a trap of an endless cycle of automatic deliveries that is impossible to end and monthly charges on your credit card that are indisputable and the sheer feeling of helplessness that....(sorry, I may be just a bit bitter over this.) And finally a Mad Lib book.

After much consideration, lasting, oh about a second, I narrowed the list down to one. I figured if we ran out of books for her to read, we could visit the library. We didn't need another reason to sit in front of a media device, so the computer game was out. Not an inch of space left on her bedroom wall so ditch the stickers. The poster...nah! The club, oh no, not the club. So the Mad Lib it was.

After dinner on the day it arrived, we began our first linguistic adventure. Our family of five began taking turns shouting out words to fill in the blanks. Our conversation consisted of words like "toilet", "brazier", "tater-tot", and my husband's favorite,"duck". Each of us would hem and haw and try to find words that out-funnied the last person's words. Before I knew it, mixed in with the "port-a-potty", "neon-green" and "buttocks", there were words like "flamboyant", "amoeba" and "curmudgeon" coming out of my kids mouths. People walking in on our post consumption laugh fest would have thought we were crazy. But, we were there, we were communicating and we were happy.

This tradition has held for quite a while and created some pretty funny memories. For me, the memories it has created are watching my girls grow as their words got bigger, watching them laugh and enjoy each other's company, an six years of just spending time with my girls and my husband. What started out as just a book order, has become an incredible source of bonding for us as a family.

What traditions do you have that bring you closer to your loved ones? How do you spend those few moments when the family is together? What memories are you creating for yourself and your family?

Only you can fill in those blanks.....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake!!!

Now, I'm no ace of cakes.....but, I can make a pretty pastry if I do say so myself.

I've been making cakes for about 15 years now. It started with a class at an arts and crafts supply store and has become a long lasting hobby. Since my first cake ( a dalmatian cake for my daughter's third birthday) I've crated a litany of cakes. Wedding cakes, birthday cakes, shower cakes, baptism cakes....cakes with flowers, cakes with motorcycles, cakes with cartoon characters, cakes with airplanes, even a cake with a live fish on top.

Most of the time, the cake makes it to party time intact. The center hasn't collapsed, the icing hasn't melted, and the general look of the cake is as I planned. Sometimes there are "ooohs" and "ahhhs" or and occasional "you did that?"

I must also admit, there have been a few disasters, too. When my sister and I joined forces to create the perfect floral wedding cake for our other sister, half of one of the tiers fell off. The Hulk cake that I tried to make for my nephew ended up looking like a big green man in calypso pants. When I made the doll cake that my 5 year old daughter requested, I was horrified when she broke down in tears at the sight of it....o.k. that one wasn't iced yet and all she saw was the bare doll sticking out of a pile of yellow cake.

I have learned something from each of the cakes I have made. Especially the ones I have struggled with. Each one brought its own problems that I have needed to solve. I have been frustrated that my icing is lumpy, irritated that my tools are missing, and just plain fustered enough that I want to toss it out and go store bought!

But in the end, if I have stuck to it, I have something to show for it. Even though the process hasn't gone exactly the way I intended, I usually end up with close to the same results. I find new ways to tackle obstacles and new ways to be resourceful. Each experience is a tool to add to my tool belt for the next cake.

No experience and especially, no failure is ever a wasted effort. Each thing we are challenged by in life is in some way an educational experience. Instead of focusing on where we have messed up, lets focus on the things we have learned through the process.

PS. We saved my sister's cake with the help of my brother-in-law. We didn't tell her till after the ceremony. Had we told her before, well that would have been the topic of a whole other blog!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is There Anything I'm Good At?

Boy! Some days I feel like I'm just not any good at anything!

This morning I woke up 45 minutes late. My kids in turn were running late to school. My house was (still is) a mess - didn't get the dishes unloaded last night or the laundry done or the miscellaneous clutter put away. As I picked up a friend to take to our Women's Group at church, I apologized profusely for the mess that my car was...and for being late. I over-scheduled my youngest daughter's activities for the weekend, forgot to pick up my middle daughter's glasses, again didn't get to the grocery store, and realized that we are having a family birthday party in two days that I haven't even begun to plan for. Can't I get anything right?

I bet a lot of women have mornings like this.

In the midst of all the things we think we are doing poorly, it's really hard to see the things we are doing well. We are so busy taking care of so many things each day, that we lose perspective. Routines take over...for many of us, it is like running on auto pilot, and we fail to see that what we are doing takes talent and skill. Sometimes (especially for moms of younger kids) it seems like our brains have gone to mush and we couldn't pull out an intelligent thought to save our lives!

Well, LETS CUT OURSELVES SOME SLACK!

There are so many things that we are good at - even experts at. For those of us that have kids, we can honestly say that we are experts on our children. We are the experts of our households. We are the experts of ourselves. Some of us are experts in the kitchen. Some of us may be experts in crafting. Some of us may be experts in teaching, organizing, listening, business, fitness....you name it. Every one of us can find something that we are an expert at.

We shouldn't feel like we are boasting to admit that we are good at things. We shouldn't be embarrassed to say "I make the best"....or, "I am really good at"....or, "I know a lot about...". We certainly shouldn't worry that we might be judged if we recognize our own strengths.

So, here is a challenge:
Find three things today that you can say you are good at and don't be afraid to let someone know - call a friend, e-mail, post a response.

The three things I can think of today are:
I am an expert at loving my children. I know a lot about saving money. I make a rockin' spaghetti sauce.