Tuesday, April 17, 2012

IT JUST HAPPENED WHILE WE WERE TALKING

Have you ever had one of those conversations that start off benignly enough, but end up slapping you silly?

Okay, maybe it's just me.  Maybe I just stick my proverbial foot in my proverbial mouth more often than most, but this conversation was just so ... what's the word  ... LAME!  Just your run-of-the-mill, every day sorta conversation.

And then, BOOM!  Right in the middle of it, the person talking to me says, "You know so-and-so, right?  Man!  Have you ever met a glass so empty person in your life?  So and so has NOTHING positive to say about anything? What's the problem?"

Possibly, because I am a writer, I tend to look at the world from a critical pair of glasses.  I wouldn't call them Rainbow Colored ... hmmm ... what would I call them?  Shades of Black (I LOVE that song, by the way!!)??

But that bit of our otherwise blissfully normal conversation reached out, grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, and shook me.

Am I perceived in that way?  As a glass half empty?  I don't perceive myself that way?  Do others?

Negative surrounds us in this world, and if we allow it, it will eat us up.  When I really stop to think about it ... examine it ... I see, sometimes for the first time, the amazing blessings that surround me in small and big ways.

Okay, so maybe my cup isn't filled with rainbows and Skittles, but it is half-full.  If I take the time to stop and smell the roses, then I notice just how full it is. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

IT'S WHAT'S FOR DINNER

Cheeseburger Salad from The Pioneer Woman

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the website The Pioneer Woman (http://thepioneerwoman.com).  Not only does she have amazing recipes, her blogs are just too stinkin' funny.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading them!

So, I ran across this recipe and just knew it was a recipe for me!  Soooo good and soooo easy to make!!!
Go here to find the recipe.  I've tweaked it for my needs, but OMG, you MUST try this recipe!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

IT'S WHAT'S FOR DINNER

I marinated a chicken breast tenderloin and a red bell pepper (cut up, of course) and a green onion in Italian dressing ... then baked it in the oven.  While that was baking, I steamed half of a fresh head of cauliflower.  After pureeing it, I added a little bit of sour cream and some Ranch dressing and voila!  Mock mashed potatoes.  Truly yummy!

JUST A SMALL TOWN GIRL

I listen to country music ... I admit it.

What most people don't know is that I listen to ALL kinds of music ... either because I am quite a cosmopolitan girl ... OR, and what most who know me best would say, is a result of my ADD/ADHD musical ear.   I LOVE jazz ... I LOVE the poetry in rap ... I have moments of just banging my head as I listen to rock ... Classical and instrumental moves me ... and country? Country music tells a story.

Today, I heard a song that tells my story, but I didn't realize it at first.  What first struck me about this song ... a song I'd heard on the radio all week ... was the beautiful pictures it painted in my mind.  You see, I talk to my fourth graders all the time about using words to paint meaning in the minds of their readers.  It's the only true, pure way to hook them, and man!  Did this song ever hook me!

Jason Aldean's song FLY OVER STATES blew me away!  The writers of the song, Neil Thrasher and Michael Dulaney, nailed this one TO. THE. WALL.  Without any music to the words, it could knock ya over.

Why?

It's a song written about my life, and after all, isn't that the affinity with music?  Any type of music?  That it somehow has a tie-in to our lives?

The premise of the song is that two guys are on a flight across the country ... assumedly, they are heading from one GIGANTIC metropolis to another, and as they shoot the bull on the plane, one of them looks down and sees the vast space of corn fields and starts wondering why anyone would live in the middle of nowhere.  And that's where Jason Aldean picks it up and sings, "Have you ever driven through Indiana?"  Okay, I have, and while that isn't the best selling feature of the story, it does make a point that it's us little peons of these United States that are the true backbone.  It's all the little small towns between there and here that help to weave the fabric of these 50 states. And it's we small town girls (and guys) that help to keep this country afloat.

Growing up, I lived in a great little small town.  Okay, yes, currently, it's not so great ... at least not the way it use to be a million years ago, when I was little.  But the fact remains that I am, in fact, a small town girl.

Growing up and heading off to college (all 10 blocks to college), there was a definite mindset that "small town" meant ignorant ... backward ... Republican (gasp!).

Not from this small town girl's vantage point.  Small town meant close-knit, dedicated, hard-working, loyal, and Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between working back-breaking jobs to make a living for their families.

I was raised in the shadow of the legacy of two small town kids, both whose families came from meager beginnings, but whose families each scratched out an existence to provide a better way for their next generations.

True, I've never really had to work from sun up to sun down doing hard labor to put food on my table.  The generations before me did that for me.  I sit here with a college degree (and a soon to be Masters degree!!), and I work in a professional job that, while not ever glamorous and not always appreciated, has afforded me things and experiences that I doubt either set of great-grandparents (or grandparents, for that matter) could have dreamed for me.  Still, I never am far away from the legacy that they spread out before me, and I am forever appreciative of their struggles, as I am enjoying the fruits of their labor.

I suppose this song spoke to me as I think back to my dad's small town (mine as well) and my mom's small town.  Neither one of them is especially dazzling, and I am relatively sure, should you pass through them today, you would find nothing remarkable in either one of them.  And yet, they are my story ... my life's fabric ... my history.  In the middle of nowhere has shaped my compassion for others, my world view, my faith, my heart ... in the middle of nowhere has helped me see that there is a bigger world out there.

They may just be fly over states to you, dear reader, but to this small town girl, they are family and friends and home and heart ... and they are, as Thrasher and Dulaney wrote, why God created fly over states.






Monday, April 09, 2012

ON BEING ORGANIZED AND WHAT'S FOR DINNER

Marinated Chicken Breast
Mock Mashed Potatoes (cauliflower ... very good!)
Marinated Cucumbers
Sugar Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

It's what's for dinner!  And can we spend some time talking about the sheer amount of vegetables on my plate, please?!  That is over HALF of the plate full of veggies, and the sweet potato is a HUGE power food.


I am accepting gold stars now.

In other news, I am determined to be more organized which means I need to be more disciplined which means I actually have to plan ahead which means I CAN NOT be lazy which means there's very little room for slovenly behavior or for excuses which means I am DOOMED!

Still, I have to say that I am patting myself on the back for having all the laundry done and many, many, many clothing options with which to plan from ... I even turned on the Weather Channel to get the predictions for the week so I could plan smartly.

Is smartly a word?

Somewhere in Michigan, my mother is singing Handel's Messiah HALLELUJAH CHORUS loud and raucously.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

SPRING BREAK TO DO LIST REVISITED

To refresh every one's memory, here is the SPRING BREAK TO DO LIST that I created for myself.

  1. Finish laundry (it was OUT OF CONTROL)
  2. Put away all of the clothes
  3. Organize closets
  4. Vacuum
  5. Dust
  6. Swiffer floors
  7. Mop bathroom and kitchen floors
  8. Do taxes
  9. Work on graduate school portfolio
  10. Work on project paper
  11. Work on my budget
  12. Organize and clean office
  13. Darn socks
  14. Call A1 Concrete
  15. Go through magazines and recycle
  16. Clean shower
  17. Caulk shower
  18. Weed
  19. Mow lawn
  20. Treat the wicker rocker
  21. Spray weeds
  22. Clean out gutters
So, how have I done, seeing as Spring Break officially ends at 4:45 a.m. tomorrow?

  1. Finish laundry (it was OUT OF CONTROL)
  2. Put away all of the clothes
  3. Organize closets I will say that this is an on-going project.  Every time I open my closets, I think there is room for improvement in this department.  However, I did go through and rearrange and organize.  So, overall, I accomplished what I set out to do. 
  4. Vacuum
  5. Dust
  6. Swiffer floors
  7. Mop bathroom and kitchen floors Perhaps that will be a job for one night this week??? Or this weekend?  Sadly, it just didn't happen.
  8. Do taxes
  9. Work on graduate school portfolio Ongoing ... never-ending ... 
  10. Work on project paper   Ongoing ... never-ending ... 
  11. Work on my budget    I didn't get as far as I would have liked on this one.  More work to be done!
  12. Organize and clean office   Ongoing ... never-ending ... save for summer break!??! 
  13. Darn socks   Tonight!!  If there is time ... 
  14. Call A1 Concrete  They never called me back.   GRRRRR!!!!
  15. Go through magazines and recycle
  16. Clean shower
  17. Caulk shower
  18. Weed
  19. Mow lawn
  20. Treat the wicker rocker
  21. Spray weeds
  22. Clean out gutters
Tonight, I, of course, have a TO DO LIST, and, for the most part, I think it's manageable.  
  1. Cut veggies for the week
  2. Get lunch packed and in the fridge.
  3. Coffee maker set 
  4. Clothes out of the week.
  5. A list of dinners for the week
  6. Journal 
  7. Work on paper
  8. Pick up the house
  9. Clean up the kitchen
  10. Get some banana bread in the oven while work on the paper.
  11. Get secret pal gift.
My goal for the next nine weeks is to really discipline myself to be much more organized than I have been in the past.  I start off well, but the wheels fall off that bus awfully quickly, and I get lazy again.  I want to try to keep the wheels on the bus for the entire nine weeks.  

Who is with me!?!?!   


Thursday, April 05, 2012

SPRINGING INTO SPRING ... FINALLY

Photo taken in Midway, Kentucky

I don't know why it takes me sooooo long to get into the swing of things.  Just about the time my Spring Break (or Fall Break) winds down, I finally get my head out of the foggy fugue it seemed to temporarily reside in, and I feel able to tackle THE WORLD.  A little too late, because then I head back to work where CRAZY takes over ... and before I can say *CRAZY,* I am head-long into my discouragement and stress and, well, that foggy fugue again.

Today, while driving the back roads toward a favorite place of mine that I like to eat, Wallace Station (a treat on my last week of break), I remembered just how much I love Spring!  It's a time of rebirth ... fresh, delicate, new flowers of every sort of bright and refreshing color dance in the bright sunlight.

As I drove by horse pastures full of colts and their mothers, munching on fresh, green, green grass, it became obvious that my Spring Break has been exactly what I needed it to be, a time of renewal ... of re-calibrating.

Have I dropped the ball in terms of friends and family?   Have I hit the ground running in terms of this year and my productivity like I said that I would?  Have I utilized all my time wisely?

I can honestly answer no to all of these questions ... and many more if I spent the time to come up with the questions.  But taking in all of these brand new Springtime signs in as I drove, it struck me that I also get a "do-over."  I can relinquish the guilt of not being the best friend I can be ... of not being the best co-worker I could be ... of not being the best sister/daughter I could be ... of not being the healthiest person I could be ... of generally not being the perfect person.

I LOVE that I've had this time to renew ... relish ... relinquish ... refocus ... rework ... realize!  I am so thankful for this time to help me realize what is truly important.  I can finish this week out knowing that I accomplished what I didn't realize I needed to accomplish ... recognizing the true beauty and embracing it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

FLOCKING

I went for a walk this morning at the Salato Center, a nature preserve sorta place here in Frankfort. There are tons of birds and water foul that reside or hang out at the fishing lakes in the center.  Included in that group or scads and scads of Canada Geese.  These guys are some of the most aggressive, obnoxious, gross creatures on the planet, but I noticed something about them that I hadn't before.  A pair were flying into the area from parts unknown, and they made sure to make themselves known a good quarter mile out from their landing area.    They honked and quacked until they hit the water, and even then, they hit the water, honking. But here's the thing, every Canada goose already wandering around the area honked back.  It was a cacophony of honking and quacking and it hit me. They were welcoming the new pair to the area ... or welcoming them back ... or conversing about the weather ... but they were conversing ... they were positively communicating.

I think we humans have a lot to learn from the animal populations.

Recently, I have dreaded dealing with certain people and their negative attitudes.  I have dreaded having to share the same air space ... I have dreaded having to immerse myself in their head space ... have their attitudes influence mine.  Okay, perhaps it isn't so much dreading it as I am just not interested in doing so any more.  However, as I tell my fourth graders all the time, we don't have to be best friends with everyone, but we do have to be respectful, even when those we're dealing with don't want to be respectful of us.

I was struck by these geese, all seemingly happily cohabitating in the same pond, so to speak, and doing nothing but greeting each other happily.   It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a friend.  We were talking about the people we surround ourselves with, and the fact that true friends are there to be our positive influences ... our cheerleaders ... greeting us as we land in the pond.  Those that won't or can't find it within themselves to do so, well, they are aren't friends.  Treat them with respect, but that's as far as it goes.

So I am flocking ... gathering those that are my positive influences, and releasing my grip on those that are not healthy for me ...


Sunday, April 01, 2012

NO HE DIDN'T!!

Friday was a frenzied day of "trying to get it all done" before I headed out of town for my MUCH anticipated girls weekend!  Top of the list was mowing my lawn.  I was woefully behind on that "little" chore, due to my recent episode of "UNDER THE WEATHERness" and a lot of rain.

I got up Friday morning determined to mow the lawn, pack, go to the bank, go to the grocery, and get the house picked up before leaving town at 5:30 p.m.  I knew it would be tight ... getting it all done.  So, I was completely in my own head space as I raced against the clock to get the lawn done ... and so when I looked up, on one of my sweeps across the long, long grass, I was slightly confused by the neighbor down the street, sidled up against his bushes, clearly peeing all over them.  I mean, subconsciously, I knew that is what he was doing, but my mind was on the long, long to do list.  So, it didn't really register to me that what he was doing was REALLY what he was doing.

After all, this man holds a pretty responsible position for his job ... management level.  He has a nice house ... a girlfriend .... he's a relatively good-looking man ... what on Earth would possess a man to leave his house, walk around to the side of his garage, and pee into the bushes?

He must have realized that there was a slight possibility that I would see him, because once he got himself, ummmm, presentable, he turned around and saw me.  Granted, I wasn't trying to be all up in his business, but it was hard not to, seeing as I was mowing in his general direction.   When he realized that I may have noticed, so to speak, what he was doing, he sheepishly turned tail and high-tailed it back to his house.

Here's what I've determined.  Men are gross.  A perfectly good bathroom, and they have to mark their territory ... all over the place. 

ICK!

ALMOST HEAVEN -- in BROWN COUNTY, INDIANA

This time last year, I hit upon an amazing idea.   Why not gather all my best girlfriends ... the girls I LOVE to spend time with ... the girls that love me and really know me ... and let's have a girls weekend!?  The planning began, sorta, and then I deferred to my good friend, Erin, who is a WHIZ at planning trips!  We decided upon Brown County, Indiana ... a two and a half hour drive away  ... to a cabin ... a place we could hang out ... drink some wine ... laugh ... just have a great time!!!

We loaded up Elly's mini-van ... half of the van was snacks ... the other half was suitcases.  I might have packed a few too many.  This is not a surprise to ANYONE that knows me.  At any rate, we packed up the mini-van and headed north to Brown County, Indiana. 
Tabby standing outside of ALMSOT HEAVEN -- pool to the left

Almost Heaven was the cabin we were slated to stay ... and I'm relatively sure we would have found it quickly had it not been a.) raining  b.) dark out  c.) out in the middle of nowhere. 
The living room (taken from the dining room) ... those chairs and sofa were AMAZING!  So soft and comfy.

The Kitchen -- I want this kitchen!

ALMOST HEAVEN ... and the infamous hot tub!


 We did find it, and boy was it ever cute!!  Perfect for our weekend!!  We headed for the hot tub first ... everyone should have a hot tub on a girls weekend. Seriously!   There was a day of SHOPPING, UK Basketball, pizza, and wine ... and a night of smores and campfire fun!  I love these girls, and I LOVED spending this weekend with them. 



Adorable Smiling deer at a quaint little store in Brown County

The BEST cafe to go and eat in ... the Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese (with grilled tomatoes and carmelized onions and crispy bacon) was AMAZING!

Erin is showing off the wine stoppers that we like ... they weren't EXACTLY like the ones we like, so we didn't buy any.

OMG!!  I veritable wall of caramel corn!


Sporting my hoodie AND my 40th tiara
Action shot of Erin working the roasted marshmallow
Attempting some fire-breathing magic??

Elly is enjoying our campfire mayhem
The entire group ... the Divine Sisterhood of the Kentucky Ya-Yas!