Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Awful Waffle

Last night, Bridger was making some Sponge Bob Square Pants mac and cheese. He pulled his chair in front of the stove, and started to play his guitar.

"Watched pots never boil," I told him.

"I'm not watching it; I'm serenading it."

Serenading the pot of water

Later, while we were talking about plans for today, our last day together for awhile, Bridge asked if we could go out to breakfast.

"Let me make you a nice breakfast at home," I had said. He seemed agreeable."What would you like?"

"A waffle. Two eggs over medium. Bacon."

Now I hate making bacon; it's so messy, but I love making my family happy, so bacon would be on the menu.

This morning, I planned to let Bridge sleep in until 8, and I started to get breakfast ready around 7:30.

When I make waffles, I like to whip up egg whites until stiff peaks form, and it makes a nice, crispy shell outside of a soft, fluffy waffle. But since I'm trying to eat a little healthier, I decided to make mine an oatmeal waffle. I couldn't find the Pam cooking spray when the waffle maker's ready light flashed on, but I figured it would still be sufficiently oiled from the last time we had waffles, a couple weeks ago.

I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong.

The Awful Waffle
Bridger had wandered into the kitchen by the time the light signaled the waffle was ready. I tried, unsuccessfully, to open the waffle maker. It was cemented shut with my oatmeal waffle. Bridger helped by prying the appliance open, and went to scrape off the crispy remains. "Don't use a fork; you'll ruin the Teflon!" I scolded. He looked at me incredulously.

Suffice it to say that it took awhile to remove all traces of my oatmeal waffle fail. Bridger's regular waffle came out beautifully.

I had started the bacon and coffee before the waffles. I didn't do the greatest job with the bacon. A couple pieces were what you'd call very well done. Okay. They were burnt.

Then I started the eggs. "Over medium?" I asked. "I don't really know how to do over medium. I can do runny, and I can do over hard. Want to help with the eggs?" I cracked the two eggs into the pan, and both the yolks broke. Ugh. This morning wasn't going so well. And to think I could have avoided all of this by simply driving B into Richfield, and ordering a hot breakfast delivered to our table at the Little Wonder Cafe.

I managed to make a couple of golden brown waffles, to salvage our meal, and we sat down to eat.

While we were eating, Bridger looked at me. "'Don't use a fork," he mocked. "You'll ruin the Teflon.' Like the Teflon was doing such a great job anyway." He had a point.

We both started to smile. I noticed there were two uneaten pieces of bacon still on his plate. They would be the burnt ones.

Burnt Offerings

"This breakfast didn't go too well. I'm sorry about the eggs. And the burnt bacon. Some breakfasts are like that...even in Australia." (A nod to Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.)

"Memories..." Bridge said. 

It's true. Who remembers the meals when everything is perfect, when everything goes as expected? Those boring, commonplace times we take for granted. But a breakfast like today, that's one for the books. I've had a number of fiascos in the kitchen that have been memorable.

The awful waffle breakfast will not be forgotten any time soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Gifts of a Lifetime

When my babies were little, I relished the time I spent with each of them in our padded blue rocking chair. I would consider the future, when they would be able to walk and talk, and would wonder if I would be able to love them as much as I did when they were totally dependent on me. I loved snuggling their soft, little bodies, and the way they smelled of baby lotion and powder. Their precious smiles made the middle of the night feedings and early morning wake-ups worth it. I just knew I was going to miss their baby days so much.

I needn't have worried. As it turns out, the trade-offs were worth it. As they grew they became less dependent on me, and their individual personalities began to develop. As their vocabularies grew, it was so rewarding to be able to communicate with them finally; to know what they needed and wanted; to hear their little "I love you"s; to hear their first prayers; to attempt to answer their endless questions.

My memories of their growing up come to me in pieces and fragments. The lullabies, the hugs, the scrapes, the silliness, the story times, the school days, the first loves, the first apartments. I have loved every single stage, as it turns out. 

Now that they are adults, I love to reminisce about the days gone by, but I don't spend too much time in my reveries because they won't let me. I am pulled into the present moment by a quick phone call, or a check-in text. The three of them have become very self-sufficient, but they are good to check in on me. My happiness and welfare have become their concern. It seems the tables have turned, and I am the one on the receiving end of the teaching, the caring, and the favors. 

What would I do without these guys?
Just this last week, my oldest showed up with his tool box, and set about the tasks I'd been postponing...hanging the last of the pictures since I moved into the LITTLE COTTAGE two years ago, removing the tacky satellite dish from my roof, and finally getting all of the coaxial cables off the floor, out of the walls, and gone. 

"What else can I do?" he asked. I couldn't think of a thing at the time, and was just grateful for his help.

Between the two sons, there is a daughter. Sierra is one of those beautiful women with an even more beautiful soul. She has never taken her looks seriously, and is just as comfortable with her hair pulled up in a messy bun and wearing workout clothes, as she is in full makeup and a dress and heels. 

When I arrived in Salt Lake City from Chicago, she checked in to see what we needed from the grocery store. She had already turned the heat up in the house, and was going to start dinner. We ended up going to my mom's for our evening meal, but it is not unusual to have Bridger and Sierra in the kitchen, cooking and taking care of dishes. Sisi brings her Dyson vacuum over, and takes care of the carpet for me, since I only have a small stick vacuum that just doesn't deep clean at all. 

After the weekend, and as I continued my DE-CLUTTERING, I discovered other things that needed to be done. Luckily, I have another son who steps up, and helps when I need it. Bridger will change the lightbulbs on the ten foot ceiling in the kitchen, and he will hang the coat rack I bought long ago. 

The good ole days at Eagle Point Ski Resort.
It's not all work and no play, though. We love to laugh, and between the kids'` wit, sarcasm, and practical jokes, we do plenty of that. We spend time in the kitchen together, baking, cooking, and if we're at Dylan's, grilling outside. We all get a kick out of shopping in thrift stores. We've gone on vacations together, done road trips, and we like just hanging out at home, too.

My favorite activity with my kids is hiking. They are my guardians in the great outdoors, and not the other way around. When the hiking terrain is steep and rocky, even when I don't need the help, they are always offering a hand to steady me, a boost to get to the next rock, or a suggestion for better footing.

All of them are good listeners, and they offer good advice about exercise, diet, home maintenance, and general life skills. They check on me, making sure I'm okay and happy. They appreciate all Chuck does for me, and for them. I lucked out not only in the husband department, but in the offspring one, as well. 

You see, I needn't have worried about the future when I was a young mother raising babies. I gave birth to some amazing human beings who are now taking care of me, and who watch out for each other. In the last few days, I have been entertained by Bridger's guitar, Dylan's jokes, and Sierra's antics. My house is even homier because of the boys' handyman skills, and Sierra's baking and cleaning. Bridger has been so attentive, making sure I'm not alone while I'm here in Utah. Sisi even painted my nails for me last night. 

I kind of like the way things are turning out. I gave myself the gifts of a lifetime: babies who became wonderful adults who love me unconditionally. I couldn't ask for more. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Consistently Inconsistent; That's Me

I feel broken lately. Well, not all of me, just certain parts of me.  I feel like I've lost the mechanism in me that recognizes satiety. I have forgotten how to nourish my body without overindulging in foods with no nutritional value. I've been painfully aware of my weakness with food because in the last three months, Chuck has managed to lose 12 pounds by making small adjustments in his eating and exercising. 

In all fairness, I have lost close to 12 pounds, as well, but unfortunately, they're the same two pounds, about every other week. "Just like a yo-yo..." Remember that Osmond Brothers' song? It's currently the soundtrack of my life. 

My hero in the Consistently Consistent Department.

Before the chaotic eating of the holidays hit, Chuck had his annual diabetic checkup with his internist. We'd been married just shy of a year, and apparently he had enjoyed my cooking as much as I had. His doctor was not impressed with his modest weight gain, or his elevated blood sugar levels. So, in classic Chuck style, my husband decided he needed to eat less and exercise more. To him, once he has determined a course of action is necessary, it simply needs to be incorporated into his routine. 

Chuck started checking his blood sugar levels regularly. We tweaked and trimmed his favorite recipes, lowering carbohydrate and calorie counts. Chuck started riding his exercise bike before leaving for work at 6. Instead of grazing on high carb snacks at work, he asked me to stop buying Ruffles, which are his weakness, and he monitored himself with his pretzel braids. When I baked cookies, I cut them into quarters and froze them. A couple of times a day, Chuck would take one or two pieces of cookie to end a meal with a sweet taste, and then he would declare his eating completed. All of these little changes made a difference.

A quarter of a cookie? That's all Chuck needs to be satisfied.
Last week he returned to the doctor. She was so pleased with his weight loss. We are still waiting on his blood test results, but we know from his frequent testing at home that the numbers have improved drastically. 

I'm so proud of him; really, I am. To me, it's nothing short of amazing that someone can muster up that kind of dedication so quickly, and get those kind of results. Each week he would trot down the stairs to weigh himself, and then proudly announce how many pounds he had lost.

"Honey, I am so happy for you," I would say. "You are my hero. Look at you go. I wish I could do what you are doing."

"You're doing great, too," he would say. "You work out harder than I do on the bike, and you do your seven minute workout. You're keeping track of what you eat."

Yeah, About that. I do work out hard, hoping against hope that exercising extra hard will somehow combat the extra calories I'm consuming throughout the day. (Yes, I am aware of the stats that say weight loss is 80% what we eat, and 20% of how much we exercise.) 

Valentine's Day I definitely took a holiday
from recording what I ate. 
Most days, I do record everything I've eaten. The app, My Fitness Pal lets me click a button that says "Complete this entry" at the end of the day, and then it either posts that "Denise completed her food and exercise diary for the day and was under her calorie goal." OR, as is often the case,  "Denise completed her food and exercise diary for the day." Notice the absence of "UNDER HER CALORIE GOAL." There have been more than a few days like that. 

My Fitness Pal is a social website that allows friends to see your progress, and gives opportunities to encourage each other. A couple weeks ago I noticed that I was the only one in our group who wasn't posting any weight loss progress. At breakfast that morning, I was whining to Chuck that everyone, including him, is making progress, but I am not. 

"I know what the problem is. Everyone else is consistently eating under their calorie goal and working out, and I am not consistent. It has been a trait of mine for most of my life, being inconsistent." 

"Well, you ARE consistently inconsistent," Chuck said with a gleam. 

Ugh. I am not spared from his dad jokes. I'm his sole audience more often than not. "Waka waka," his son Matt and I tell him when he has made an attempt at humor that makes us smile. Even if it's only a little.

This morning I sent Chuck a picture of my new haircut, telling him my hair was driving me crazy, so I cut my bangs myself. His response?

"See, there you go. Trimmed back an ounce right there." <Insert "waka waka" here.>

All joking aside, I seem to have lost the mindset I had back in the day when I wanted to make good eating choices that would allow me to maintain a healthy weight, or drop a few pounds. 

So, friends, I am in search of motivation. What do YOU do when you feel like you are stalling your weight loss progress because you've lost your mojo? Do you have any tricks to share? Favorite music that spurs you on? Pep talks you've found online? Any thoughts?

I'll tell you what I've done. I gathered favorite photos of myself working out, of me with my family and friends who support me, and pictures that are flattering to me in some way. I also found inspirational quotes online, and I made a little slideshow of the photographs and quotes on my iPad to Christina Aguilera's song, "Blessed." I found guided meditations on Spotify that encourage self-acceptance and healthy habits. I've mentioned before that whenever I want to be accountable, I let Chuck know my goal for the day is to avoid trigger foods. I keep my word to him, so on days I need a little extra push, I make a promise to him.

If you are currently experiencing success in the healthy eating department, or you have had success in the past, what worked for you? I would love for you to share your ideas and resources here. I am willing to try something new that might help me get back on track. Please help me become consistently CONSISTENT. I think that will be key.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Kid at Heart

Waking to a winter wonderland. It snowed! It snowed! There wasn't enough snow to keep Chuck working from home, so I was the only one there to enjoy it. I totally ignored the advice to eat all meals at the table, and ate my Ruby Red grapefruit standing at the kitchen sink so I could watch the birds flit to and fro in the backyard. Our old pine tree's branches were laden with heavy snow, and it made a perfect backdrop for bird-watching.

As the morning progressed, I pondered my options. I'd already done the dishes and laundry. I was torn between bundling up, driving to the park, and being the lone adult sledding down the hill, and staying inside where it's warm, sipping another cup of hot tea. Adult dilemmas. I never would have had to think about this 40 years ago. Was I losing my gumption?

When I texted Chuck "Kinda wanna go sledding down the hill at Langum," I knew that my inner child would be very disappointed if I didn't go. She was tapping her foot, with her hand on her hip, all but asking what was taking me so long. 

I figured I could have my cake and eat it, too, which is always a good thing in my book, or I could be a stick in the mud, which would be a bummer of a way to go. I could go sledding, and come home to a pot of tea afterward, or I could keep being boring, and sit on the couch, sipping my tea, ignoring my inner child .

Before long, I was digging in the closet for my hat and gloves, and struggling into my ski pants (AGAIN. I've blogged about my tight winter wear nearly every year. LOL.) I took the stickers off of my brand-new, royal blue sled, and threw it on the backseat of my Camry. I was going to LIVE, by golly. 

There were quite a few cars in the lot at Langum Park when I arrived just before 11:00. I took a quick photo of my sled and me to prove to my kids their mom's not THAT old, and then trudged past the young moms and dads with their little ones. 

As I stood at the top of the hill, I surveyed the landscape. The snow wasn't all that deep, and the snow that remained was beginning to expose patches of grass beneath it. Most of the sledders were pretty young, unless you counted their chaperoning parents. I needed to be careful not to knock down any of the littles who may end up in the path of my sleek sleigh. I didn't want to make any enemies. 

Well, it was now or never. I couldn't help but grin as I straddled the sled, and plopped down onto it. One little push with my gloves in the snow, and I was careening down the hill. 

Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett

Now when I was a kid, we had the fancy Flexible Flyers with metal runners, and a steering bar, of sorts, up front. The affordable sleds these days are made of cheap plastic, and have no way to steer them, at least not to my knowledge. I made an attempt to direct my little sled away from the small children in my path, and ended up taking a sharp right out of the sledding area, stifled a squeal as I hurtled across the designated walk-up area, and slid to a stop on the private property adjacent to the park. Wow. That was kind of fun. So, I did it again. 

Later that afternoon, my daughter asked me if sledding was everything dreamed it would be.

Well, while I was flying down the hill, I smiled pretty hard, so there's that. I felt like a kid; which is even better. I sure don't get a rosy glow from sitting on the couch. Yeah, it was everything I wanted it to be.

I will always be a kid at heart. 

Pink cheeks and a big old smile.
My inner child got her wish.

Friday, February 12, 2016

(Nearly) Guilt-Free Scones with Citrus Glaze

How are those New Year's Resolutions working for you? Are you watching what you eat, and maybe even counting calories? Are you like me, and struggle to eat "just one" of anything? 

Ever since I first ordered my first vegan fruit and nut scone from Newport Coffee House in Deerfield, Illinois, I have been on a mission to find the perfect scone recipe. A perfect scone to me would be similar to a fluffy biscuit, not too heavy, not too dry, yummy, and, if we're talking perfect, could it please have less than a gazillion calories per slice?  

My first attempt was the RANDOMOCITY APPLE OAT SCONE, which I like well enough. As summer turned to fall, I adapted that same recipe for Pumpkin Spice Scones. Again, tasty, but the result was a heavier, slightly drier scone. 

Then I found the recipe to beat all recipes: EASIEST SCONES EVER (by Micheline at the Miniature Moose blog). Her recipe yields the lightest, fluffiest scone you'll ever put in your mouth. It's hard to beat her claim for their being easy; only three ingredients are listed, and she details every step so the recipe is basically fool-proof.

When I went to Utah, Bridger and Sierra devoured the scones, and requested I make them again. Soon.  I used a lemon glaze, rather than grapefruit. We all agreed they were better than any scone we'd ever had. 

My only concern with the fluffy little scone is the nutritional info. The Easiest Scones Ever came in at a whopping 429 calories each. I love them so much; it is hard to limit myself to just one a day. They are dangerously yumbo. So I set out to do what I do: adapt the recipe to suit me so I can indulge without so much guilt.

When tinkering with the perfect recipe, something has to give. The secret is to not adapt it to the point that it is no longer recognizable. I knew I wanted to lower the amount of white flour and fat, while increasing the whole wheat flour and protein. To offset the heaviness of the white whole wheat flour, I doubled the baking powder to help the dough to rise more. Greek yogurt is similar to the coconut milk in texture, and seems to do well as a substitute. The recipe that follows came about after several weeks of testing.

To me, these (Nearly) Guilt-Free Scones are a pretty good balance of nutrition and flavor and texture. The calories have been trimmed from 429 down to 184, and the fat grams reduced from 18 to 4. If sugar is an issue, these are good enough without the raw sugar sprinkles and tangy citrus glaze, and your nutrition counts will change accordingly. 

The final result is here for you. If you try them, let me know what you think.

1 cup flour (I use Better for Bread flour. You may also use all-purpose flour.)
1 cup whole wheat white flour (Target had King Arthur's whole wheat white)
4 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of stevia (I use half stevia/half sugar. If using all stevia for the sweetener, the scones will not turn a nice golden brown color, and if using all sugar, nutritional info will be different.)
3/4 c.  vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt (Oikos Triple Zero is my preference)
3/4 cup canned coconut milk, full fat, room temperature. Set aside 1 tablespoon for brushing on dough before baking. (Heavy whipping cream may be used instead.)
1 teaspoon grated citrus peel (We love orange, tangerine, or lemon)
1 tablespoon raw, turbinado sugar for sprinkling on scones before baking

Citrus glaze: Stir together 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed citrus (orange, tangerine, lemon) juice and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Drizzle on scones after baking.

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add in any stir-ins now. (Dried fruit, ground spices, citrus zest, coconut, nuts)

3. Stir in coconut milk and yogurt until just mixed; do NOT over-mix. If the dough is too dry, add another tablespoon or two of the yogurt.

4. Gently knead the mixture on a lightly floured surface a few times. Too much kneading will result in a tough scone, and nobody wants that! If the dough is too sticky to work with, add an additional tablespoon or two of flour until the dough is smooth, and easily shaped.

5. Shape the dough into a circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

6. Brush the top of the circle with the tablespoon of coconut milk, and sprinkle with sugar. (We love the raw sugar granules which are chunkier than table sugar.)

7. Cut the dough into 8 wedges with a pizza cutter. (If you're like me, you might forget to slice it before baking. Don't worry; it doesn't ruin it. It just bakes up nicer to have it pre-sliced.

8. Bake for 16-20 minutes, on the top rack, until the crust is golden brown.

9. Let it cool for just a few minutes before topping with citrus glaze.

Nutrition Info for Yummy Scones (Thanks to My Fitness Pal's recipe calculator.)
Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 184
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4 g6 %
Saturated Fat 3 g17 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 15 mg1 %
Potassium 44 mg1 %
Total Carbohydrate 29 g10 %
Dietary Fiber 2 g9 %
Sugars 9 g
Protein 6 g13 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium3 %
Iron7 %

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fat Tuesday??? Wait. What?

How is it I have lived 55 years, and never ONCE celebrated Fat Tuesday? A whole day dedicated to eating and overindulgence? This celebration was practically custom-made for me. What the heck? How did I miss the memo about this?

This morning I woke up around nine, after sleeping for thirteen and a half hours. Apparently, I am very sick because if you know me at all, you know that sleeping is not my thing. (INSOMNIA is more my thing.) Every day I am up by four, reading, writing, exercising, spending time with my husband before he leaves for work at 6:00. Not today, though. 

When I woke up, my bedroom was filled with sunshine. After drinking more water, and checking in with Chuck to assure him I had not died since he left for work, I checked in on Facebook. 

One of my friends had posted about Fat Tuesday with this advice, "In the meantime, eat all the things." Wait. What? Is this a thing? 

In between sending Chuck updates on my rising temperature, I turned to Google to investigate this fascinating holiday, and lo, and behold, I discovered Fat Tuesday is a celebration on the Christian calendar. I'm a Christian; who dropped the ball, and forgot to tell me that I could "eat all the things" today, without guilt? (I kind of quit reading when the article started talking about 40 days of fasting following this "last hurrah," of sorts. I've never been able to wrap my heart or my head around the whole fasting thing, which probably comes as no surprise to you.)

Now on Sunday, we heard about the beginning of the Lenten season, a time of sacrifice, and rededication. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter. 

Lent, I'd heard chocolate, fasting and prayer, sack cloth and ashes, yada yada yada. How come no one told me about this amazing thing called Fat Tuesday? This is a holiday I can get behind.

Now, if you'll excuse me, there is a carton of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream in the freezer that is all but screaming my name. I've just been looking for an excuse to devour it. Apparently, today's my lucky day. And it may be just the thing to lower my fever.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed!

Today's French lesson brought to you by 
Jean Claude Boudreau.
You're welcome.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Now Say You're Sorry

I've never been very good at apologies. Just ask my mom. It's not her fault. Goodness knows, she tried, but she had her work cut out for her with me as her firstborn.

And the Big Sister of the Year Award goes to...well, not me!

In our family, I was the big sister, and my little brother Danny suffered because of me. Whenever my mood soured or I was hurt, I lashed out at my Danny. 

One time when we were playing, I slipped, and I landed with a smack on the concrete floor. Guess what I did? First I cried, next I jumped up, and whacked Danny. He started to wail. 

"What did you do THAT for?" he asked.

"Because I got hurt!" 

Whenever I was mean to Danny, Mom would have me go through the standard apology routine.

"Give your brother a hug." Ugh. I would give him the lamest of hugs.

"Now say you're sorry."


"Say it like you mean it."

It was no use. This would go on all day, if I didn't at least pretend to act remorseful, so I mustered up a little more oomph in my voice, feigning sincerity, and offered up the most apologetic "I'm really sorry, Danny," that I could.

What did it mean, saying I was sorry? Those were simply the magic words that allowed me to escape my mother's scorn, and enabled me to hightail it out of the room so I wouldn't have to see the look I so deserved in my brother's eyes. 

I'm not sure when I realized the critical step in a sincere apology is to own your actions, but I believe it was during the last ten years of my teaching career. To resolve conflicts between kids, it was necessary for them to take ownership for what happened. I would require each of them to start their sentences with "I ________(lied to, hit, tripped, or whatever they did to) so-and-so."

This was no easy task because our first response when we feel we have been wronged is to defend our actions or to blame the other person. I would have to step in several times during these discussions to remind my students I wanted to hear what each of them had done, and not what they thought the other had done. 

It's much easier to find out who needs to apologize for what when offenders take ownership for their wrongdoings. And it was much easier for me to understand this concept when I was the mediator, than it is when I'm the offender.

What? Me, an offender STILL? Yes, me. 

My husband Chuck has pretty tender feelings, and I tend to run over them slipshod, like the proverbial bull in the china shop. I know; it's hard to believe. We newlyweds who are head-over-heels in love with each other still have discussions where someone's feelings get hurt, and someone needs to apologize. It happens. And more often than not, I am the offender, and Chuck is my victim. 

I thought I was doing a pretty good job with my apologies. I had the basics down. I was letting Chuck know that I had only done what I thought was within my rights, and that I was sorry that his feelings had gotten hurt while I was just doing what I thought I was justified in doing.

I had been forgetting one important detail that I actually understood really well as a mediating teacher, and I had forgotten as a new wife, and that is this: as the offender, I need to take ownership for my actions.





I hate to admit fault. It's just so embarrassing. It's time to own up to the glaring fact that I am, in fact, not perfect. You guys, this is so hard for me. Humility is just not my strong suit. 

You know what is easy for me to do? I can say I'm sorry, and I do it often. But what I am sorry for doesn't help the situation. Essentially what I have done all my life is say I'm sorry for the wrong things.

I'm sorry I got caught doing something wrong.

I'm sorry your feelings got hurt.

I'm sorry I got in trouble.

I'm sorry you are mad at me.

I'm sorry you are so sensitive.

But all I've really managed to say really is this: 

"I'm sorry I have to tell you I'm sorry because I really don't know how to apologize. I suck at apologies really, and this will have to do.”

Well, a couple days ago, this started to sink in because Chuck modeled it for me so perfectly. What we were arguing about doesn't matter; basically, he told me, "When I did [that thing, whatever it was] it hurt your feelings. I am really sorry I did [that thing] because it made you sad, and I won't do that again."

It is so simple, really. A sincere apology has three parts, as I see it now.

First, we have to own what we did. Lay it out there for the offended partner to see you recognize the part you played in the situation. 

Secondly, say you're sorry. Give a sincere apology, not the kind of huffy sorry you offered as a scolded child. Offer your loved one the words that will begin to heal the hurt between you. 

Lastly, recognize that the offending behavior needs to stop. None of us changes overnight, but all of us can make improvements. 

I'm sorry I was so mean when I was little. Thanks for forgiving me, and loving me anyway.

If I could have a Mulligan on my childhood, I would go back to my Danny and say, "I am sorry I hit you. That I blamed you. That I was mean. That I made you watch Dark Shadows with me. That I switched our gifts from Santa Claus before the family woke up that Christmas long ago.  I am owning that I wasn’t very nice when we were little." I would give him the biggest hug, and tell him again that I am sorry. Because I really am. And I would promise to not do those things any more. And I would tell him how lucky I am to have him for a younger brother. And I would tell him I love him. I do. I love you, Dan.

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to learn how to apologize properly.

If I could have a do-over on this first year of our marriage, I would say to my Chuck, "I recognize that I have been insensitive. That I haven’t owned my actions that hurt you. And I am so sorry that the things I’ve done made you sad. In the future, I will I will show you how important you are to me by respecting your feelings, and by treating you with love and kindness. I am so lucky to be your wife. I love you, Chuck."

So, there you have it. I'm still learning how to adult. From now on, this grown-up will own what she's done. She will offer the sincerest of apologies, and not repeat the offensive act.

I did it. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. 

It's that simple.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tackling Clutter with the Timer Game

Chuck and I are three days into our 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge. Yes, I'm starting a little before Lent this year because I will be in Utah with the kids for some of the days, so I will take advantage of starting early and doubling up on some days. 

If you are unfamiliar with the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge, you can get more info by clicking on the link above. For us, we know that we will eventually be retiring to our little house in Utah, and we need to pare down our possessions to a manageable amount. We have our work cut out for us because our house in Illinois has three bedrooms, an office, a basement, and a garage. The house in Utah has two bedrooms. Two tiny closets. One tiny bathroom. A sad little shed in the backyard. No garage. No basement. (Unless you count the itsy-bitsy cellar which houses the water heater and a few cobwebs.) There's just not a lot of extra room in the little cottage. You get the picture.

Chuck did a great job of getting rid of a lot of stuff before I moved in a year ago, and even hired a company to haul off all of the things that he no longer needed. Now we're fine-tuning our belongings so that we are only keeping things that are useful to us, necessary to us, or loved by us. We're just trying to keep it simple here.

I've done this once before, when I was consolidating everything I owned from two spacious homes into THE COZY, BUT TINY, COTTAGE. I actually become energized by eliminating surplus stuff from my house. It is liberating to know I am in control of what occupies space in our home, which is not to say Chuck doesn't have a say. That goes without saying!

Every once in awhile I will update you on our progress, and share any tips I have. I am so grateful to Ann Marie over at the blog, WHITE HOUSE, BLACK SHUTTERS, who started the challenge a few years ago. I have been the beneficiary of a comfortable, organized home by using her suggestions. I've done it before, and I'm doing it again. A house that is organized and tidy is also cozy and inviting. 

40 Bags in 40 Days 2016

Day 1: First of all, I took a legal pad through the house and jotted down every area that needed to be purged, cleaned, and organized. There are easily forty bags/projects for me to complete. 

Then I started by emptying our exercise room/storage room of the surplus electronics. We had a growing collection that included three VHS players, a CD stereo system, and a portable CD player. 

I sent Chuck a snapshot of a stack of videos, asking if there were any keepers. He agreed that since we were getting rid of the VCRs, the videos were not worth saving. Whew. I'm glad we agreed on that one. There were remotes galore. The cheerful lady who helped me unload my car at Goodwill was happy I knew they didn't take TVs. 

Yeah, we have THREE of those great, big boxy-styled ones I need to haul off to the electronic recycling center here before it closes its doors. Yikes. Rumor has it the center will close soon, so I really need to get on that right away!

After I returned from Goodwill, I changed the bed, and baked some cookies for Chuck. While the cookies were in the oven, I took a fifteen minute break sipping tea, and perusing Facebook. Sometimes I set the timer for breaks; sometimes I set it for work sessions. I find if I schedule little breaks throughout the day, I feel rewarded for my efforts.

Day 2: 
Each day the goal is to get rid of a bag of stuff; any size bag. It can be a lawn and leaf bag, a grocery sack, or a small baggy. Some days I might count some job that needs to be done as a bag, especially if it means getting rid of some paperwork that has been lying around on horizontal surfaces of our kitchen or office. 

The task yesterday was to file papers with our insurance company so we could be reimbursed for our expenses. Knowing money would be coming our way was very motivational. Once I got that done, I enjoyed a walk in the brisk air outside. The sun was shining in Chicagoland for a change, and I wanted to take advantage of that. See? I try to balance out a little work with a little fun.

Last night, Chuck asked if I would like his help with some of his things in the closets. What wife would turn that down? 

We started with his sweaters. Now, we have been married for just over a year, and I have never seen Chuck in a sweater. Ever. So when we had all six of them spread out on the bed, I wondered if he would get rid of them all, or keep one. We had discussed his sweaters earlier that day. He told me sometimes he puts a sweater on in the dark. When I'm asleep. I said, to my knowledge, he doesn't wear them. So guess how many sweaters he kept? Three. So be it. I'm not here to judge. We cut the sweater population in half, so I am not complaining.

Chuck's closet contained a lot of clothes that no longer fit him. When he was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years before we met, he lost a lot of weight. Last night, he happily discarded his too-big polo shirts, flannel shirts, and dress shirts. Anything he couldn't see himself wearing again got tossed, too. There was a heaping laundry basket full of clothes by the time we were done. Oh, and we got rid of a couple dozen ties, keeping one favorite for each of his suits. I think he did an amazing job of paring things down.

Day 3: The junk drawer has been our nemesis for far too long. Today I conquered it. I hate dumping out such a big mess, but love restoring order, so today, I played the TIMER GAME.

It's so simple, and works for me like a charm. I can stand to do anything for fifteen minutes, even something tedious like sorting out a junk-filled kitchen drawer. I set the timer for 15 minutes, and by the time my little piggy dinged, I had nearly restored order to the drawer, and just needed to get rid of the surplus. I was pretty motivated to finish the job. I had spread everything out on a towel on my living room floor, where the light was better. Ha ha ha.

That task is done. The next time you want to challenge your kids to finish up a quick task, or even yourself, you might want to try setting the timer. It works every time! And it never hurts to dangle a carrot in front of our noses...for me, it's relaxing with a cup of tea, walking outdoors, or spending time on my MacBook. 

What gets you going? Please, if you have any other little tips to share on finishing unpleasant tasks, do tell! I'm always looking for little ways to motivate myself. 

Beat the clock! Make de-cluttering fun!