Thursday, November 20, 2014

Forgotten Holidays: Thanksgiving (Part 3)

I said it last year and I'll say it again. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Below is a link that a friend posted on facebook. "Which Holiday Matches Your Personality?" Before I even opened the link Josh said "Thanksgiving". That was indeed the case. Even though I put in St. Patrick for visual picture.

I LOVE that Thanksgiving is about family, food, and being grateful! I love seeing my family on Thanksgiving. We dress nicer then usual but not formally. We talk about what's happened since Easter and generally have a nice time together. My Mom makes a fantastic dinner. My four requirements for Thanksgiving dinner include turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. They taste delicious and familiar every year. That's comforting.

We start off dinner saying what we are thankful for. The list is usually about at least one loved one at the table or something good that has happened that year. What we want is love, those who need help to get it, the hungry to be fed, the homeless to be sheltered, and those who are sick to get better.

Tradition brings comfort for me. I don't worry on Thanksgiving. I help out preparing the dinner where my Mom lets me. I LOVE helping out! I love being a part of creating this wonderful celebration.

I like shopping for Christmas presents. I'm more interested in what people think of the gifts I carefully choose for them then what's for me. My Mom says I wasn't one of those kids that spent the Christmas season asking for a lot of toys. She said I always had a short list and it was what I wanted, not necessarily what was popular that season. I always looked forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. The food might be different but the feelings they create are the same feelings that Thanksgiving gives me.

Thanksgiving is the start of the Christmas season for most people. We can't remove Christmas from Thanksgiving completely. But I'm going to try to push Christmas back until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Note to retail stores.............THAT'S WHERE IT BELONGS!!!!

Mashed Potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie

We know the story. The Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower. Squanto taught them how to grow food. After the harvest, they shared the meal. It was about appreciating each other and the bounty before them. On Thanksgiving I like to think about what that first Thanksgiving was like. I think about the conversation and the food. I spend the morning excitedly waiting for the meal. There is a reason Thanksgiving is when I announced I was pregnant with Zach. My favorite holiday deserved the special right to be the day of the big announcement. I have a lot of wonderful Thanksgiving memories. None of them are about Christmas. It is it's own holiday and needs to be treated that way.

My Mom's Stuffing Recipe (Vegetarian)

This gets made separate from the turkey and so you can make it with a ham or whatever roast you want. It also is completely vegetarian and features fresh ingredients. it will be on everyone’s plate – for seconds and take home portions too.


I package Pepperidge Farm cubed Country Style stuffing
2 large onions
1 large green pepper
3 stalks of celery
1 lb mushrooms
6 tbs butter
2 cups water

Dice the onions, green pepper celery and mushrooms. Melt butter in large frying pan. Saute onions and green pepper but do not brown. Add celery half way through. Add mush rooms and complete sauté. Add the stuffing and mix well. Add the water –  1 cup right away and then gradually until well mixed – well but not drenched or soggy.

Arrange in a sauté pan or casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Gardener In Winter

The frost has arrived. Josh is only home on Sundays so we spend last week and this week removing the flowers that either are dead or will be very soon. He just takes the heavy garbage to the dumpster for me. The only things out there now are the Cabbage and the decorations. Soon I'll add a pot for winter branches and our Blue Spruces. But with the frost comes frozen soil. When I've checked the last two days, I couldn't water.

Over the last few years I have been searching for winter hobbies. Last year, I settled on Cooking and Drawing. I added bracelet making with embroidery thread this summer. Recently, I re-learned how to do something, and connected with Dona while doing it.

In a post titled "My Dona" I wrote about the babysitter I had growing up. She died in August of cancer. When she was pregnant with her son, I was 13. She crocheted a blanket for him. At the time, I was just starting to get into jewelry making and asked her to teach me how to crochet. I never could get past the starter row and the first row. But that was in 1993. Thanks to google, I figured out what I was doing wrong.

When you loop the needle under the yarn hole, it becomes wrapped around the needle twice. The step I was skipping was I to take the yarn and wrap it around an additional time. That makes it looped around three times. Below is the website that helped me the most.

I still can't make anything that isn't a strait line but that's probably for the best. I would imagine my family would either feel obligated to wear what I make them or simply not wear it at all. It's like with the pictures. Josh and Zach like when I draw them pictures, but they are all over the place and the pages are bent. At a certain point, I'm out of ideas of what to draw. With the jewelry making, they like that I made them bracelets, but I'm the only one wearing them. I'm running out of places to put bracelets on myself. But I don't make enough to sell.

I can make things in a strait line with crochet, but then it becomes more about just doing the action they trying to think of what to make. I don't have to think of ideas. I just grab the needle and go! It's relaxing!

So what does THIS gardener do in winter for hobbies?

Cook: I won't make many new recipes until Zach's older but I like my winter recipes
Make Jewelry: I'll make what I like and, if I make enough maybe do a charity thing at Zach's school.
Draw: I still like drawing my seasonal trees. They will just be for me though.
Crochet: I have always liked it, but until recently was frustrated by it.

With every loop I think about Dona. I have memory flash backs to her doing it. Her blanket was pretty far along in that flash back. She's at the town pool sitting at our regular table. She smiles and laughs as she talks to friends while working. I'll never forget her showing me how to do it. I'll never forget her smile about an inch above the raised partially-done blanket.

I remember my first yarn. It was in a Christmas color pattern. I got a full set of needles but didn't realize which size to use with which type of yarn. I remember being scared after doing the starter row about moving on to the next row. I got it! Now, I can make it as many rows as I want. I can't make a sweater or a hat but Mom might get a yellow table runner/conversation piece out of this!

Zach, my gardening buddy, has tried my hobbies. He was having trouble with making the knots for jewelry making. So I got him some pony beads. He likes making jewelry that way and uses the thread he already has. When I went to get yarn, he wanted some too. He watched me crochet a little but wasn't ready yet. He won't let me take his needle and yarn yet.

Gardeners like working with their hands. Digging into the soil is relaxing. Pruning is relaxing. So much about gardening uses your hands. Look at that list. I keep my hands busy. That's how I relax. Zach is finding other ways to keep his hands busy. He still likes to draw but these days is making "costumes" with paper, tape, scissors, and rubber bands. He also likes helping me cook.

Last year, we tried forcing bulbs. We don't get enough sunlight for that. So we're not doing that this year. The garden will light up with decorations and have Cabbage, Spruces and winter branches. But they don't require care in the winter. A gardener in winter will try anything they can to continue gardening. But ultimately what we all need is busy hands. I have enjoyed these activities and recommend knitting or wood working too.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Diverse Marriage And Family

Marriage and families take on many forms.

same sex marriage (with or without kids)
opposite sex (with or without kids)
open marriage
living together with kids but not married
exes and steps
single parents

We are the picture perfect old-fashioned idea of what a marriage looks like. At least one kid, a mother and a father. It's time to stop treating these other types of families like they aren't as healthy as the "traditional" family. A healthy family has less to do with the titles of the people who are or aren't there then about the environment.

Healthy food
Lots of exercise
help with homework
time together to bond
care when needed
support when needed
lots of hugs and kisses
no abuse

Those are the things that make a healthy environment. It doesn't matter how your family in configured. If you have those things, you are being raised well. Sometimes, conservative friends ask how I feel about open marriage and polygamy. This is what I say:

I could never be comfortable with either arrangement. But there are some couples that this works best for. As long as everyone involved are consenting adults, then I don't see anything wrong with either. Because their marriage doesn't effect mine. When it comes to polygamy, the husband needs to be able to be a good husband to ALL of his wives. It's also important that all of the wives know about each other before getting engaged. With open marriages, you have to stick with what you are both comfortable with. But don't cross any agreed upon lines.

Bottom line, there isn't a family configuration that is better then any others. Polygamy, open marriage, and living together forever without marriage are all diverse approaches to marriage. Each couple has to find which configuration works best for them. There isn't a "best for 100%" option.

The diverse marriage and family combinations we see today are a great example of the diversity we have in America. This is a good thing. Because the more diversity we see, the more we can learn to have open minds in general. It encourages us to think about things we will possibly never experience. It encourages us to put ourselves in the place of others. And that means we can be more sympathetic, charitable, caring, and supportive of others. We can learn to accept others instead of judge. Acceptance is better then trying to make it illegal to be or do things we don't understand that don't harm anyone. Diverse marriage and family means stronger marriage and family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Forgotten Holidays: Veteran's Day (part 2)

We all know at least one Veteran. We thank them for serving their country and label them heroes. A friend of mine, who is a police officer, said "it's not about being a hero. For some people, their natural instinct when danger appears is to run towards it. Protecting people is their instinct." That was in response to my "Real Superheroes" blog post.

I honestly don't know how the average Veteran feels about being honored on occasions like Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. A lot of that has to do with a mix of their personality and their experience in their time serving. Being appreciated is a good thing but it also brings back memories to your time serving. Not everyone wants to relive that time.

War isn't something to celebrate. While we honor Veterans for their service, we very rarely think about what that really means. Some like sharing war stories but most would rather not talk about their time in the military. I respect that. We don't know what that experience is like. Only Veterans know.

That's why when we celebrate Veteran's Day we honor these heroes but don't go into details. Let the Veteran in question decide how much remembering they are comfortable with. Because while we honor them, they honor the memories of friends lost in war.

You have to be brave to sign up to serve
You have to be strong to be chosen to serve
You have to be smart to learn the skills needed to survive once in battle
You have to be okay with a short haircut
You have to have really good aim

This is what makes a hero. It might be their instinct, but they are still heroes. Superheroes! They are risking their lives for their country. There isn't a way to know the right thing to say. So I'll say the only thing that comes close to being good enough:

Thank you for fighting for our freedom.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Returning Eating Disorder

Five months. That's how long it took to loose 14 pounds. You read that right. I just stepped on the scale to see I am 128lbs! I have tried to loose weight in a lot of different ways. But I finally found something that even had my doctor's jaw mid-September.............5 pounds ago. Is my nutritionist friend ready for this one?

I stopped making veggies with dinner and I let myself starve for an average of six hours during the day. I also cut back on sodium.  I leave 15 - 25% on my plate but I start with a full regular size plate. Also, look at those quantities. I have been exercising about the same amount as I usually do. But there is one thing the doctor told me that I never knew:

Your diet won't show for six weeks.

Keep that six week fact in mind as you attend parties and dinners in the next two months. It's a way to keep your diet in check. It's easy to in the moment say "I rarely eat this and it's so yummy! I might as well treat myself on this special occasion". Ask yourself about how you'll feel in six weeks when the taste is long gone but the weight remains.

It means that the weight I am now is based on my diet from the last full week in September. It's the same diet as I am eating now. Cutting out the dinner veggies mean less calories overall. When my doctor told me the six week fact in June, it changed everything. 5 months later, I lost 14 pounds. No doctor is going to recommend cutting out the veggies with dinner. But I still eat veggies and they really were just extra calories at dinner for me. But I think the real difference maker is leaving some left on my dinner plate.

15 - 25% is a lot of food. I know now I gained the weight from feeling like I had to have limits on everything else in life. Food became the one thing I wasn't judged for buying. I could fill my plate and no one treated it like I had more then I should. It was the same eating disorder from my past working in a different way. But now that eating disorder is working the same way it did in High School and College.

The result, loosing 14 pounds in 5 months. When you have had an eating disorder, it doesn't go away. When we hear "eating disorder" we think about anorexia, bulimia, or overeating. But an eating disorders is really a disordered approach to eating. That can take on many forms.

It's something I was born with. Zach's doctor was my Pediatrician. He still mentions how hard it was to get me to eat enough even as a newborn. My engineer parents kept a journal tracking my formula intake. It was the bare minimum I needed to survive, daily. Solids didn't go well either.

I started to eat more candy in the fifth grade. I was scared about starting middle school the next year and emotional eating took over. My Mom suggested I loose a little bit of weight. At the time I was actually fat and it was a reasonable concern. So I did then what I am doing now. Leaving some on my plate. At 12, my 9 year long actual eating disorder hit. The details are in that blog post below I'm still hypoglacemic. That's why I need the overnight crackers.

An eating disorder with OCD looks like the above. Five grapes. exactly five. Anything else is
unacceptable. It's the same reason I can handle eating a small amount of M&Ms, exactly two of each color, and be good for six months.

In July of 2011 I did a blog post on missing my eating disorder. Even with rereading it, I am glad to be in control of my eating again. I'm glad to finally see progress after all these years of diet struggle.
It's back. I'm happy about that. Because I lost 14 pounds in 5 months. I also did it on a diet that fits my life and cravings. That means it's a lot easier to stick with. I was 118 pounds when I got pregnant with Zach. I wonder if I can get to that again? How long will it take? Can I get lower? Can I get to be under 100lbs again? I hope so!

There, I said it. I said what I have been thinking for years but couldn't say allowed. I get judged by everyone and saying it allowed would just mean more lectures. But it's the undeniable truth! I miss being underweight! I miss wearing pants in the single digits. I miss seeing only two numbers on the scale.

This post isn't about telling people to develop an eating disorder to diet. Although the calorie restrictions do sound a lot like most diets. This post is really about how once you have an eating disorder, you never really stop having the eating disorder. If you have OCD you are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Life and Death: Brittney and Jahi

On Saturday, Brittney Maynard ended her life at 29. She was terminally ill with brain cancer. Like many people who are terminally ill, she wanted to decide when and how she was going to die. She did so with lethal medication from her doctor. She completed a bucket list and ended her life on her own terms.

A lot of people who are terminally ill choose to end their own lives. They are in serious pain. For some, that's not a life worth living anymore. Many religions want people to keep fighting to live. But they aren't experiencing this pain. These are the same religions telling people it's not okay to be gay or transgender. These are the same religions saying it's not okay for a woman to use birth control.

They are religions that like controlling other people's lives. But those who made decisions about these beliefs didn't experience them. They also made those decisions when the world was very different. They rarely encountered a gay or transgender person and there wasn't birth control. Terminally ill people didn't survive that long anyway. So telling them they had to suffer until their natural end was a short period of time.

But birth control is an option now and the GLBT community is full of out and proud members. You know a member of it whether you realize it or not. It's no longer ignored. Thanks to modern medicine, there are a lot more diseases that can be treated or cured.

If something can be treated or cured, go for it! There are many people who have had something that is treatable or curable now that in past centuries they would have died from. But we can't treat or cure everything.

In my opinion, it's selfish and abusive to expect someone who is suffering to continue to suffer if they want to end their suffering in the only way possible. You aren't experiencing the pain they are experiencing. You shouldn't be allowed to dictate how they choose to spend the rest of their short life. You shouldn't be allowed to dictate when they can die. It's their life and their pain, not yours.

The bible talks a lot about compassion. Have compassion for those in pain. Be compassionate enough to let them end their pain when they choose to. It's their choice. Because of advances in modern medicine it's easy for people to think they can be the one to beat the odds and miraculously recover. But that is very rare. Not every terminally ill patient will beat the odds. That fact can't be ignored.

We had this debate a year ago about Jahi McMath. She had complications from a tonsillectomy in California and was declared brain dead. Her family heavily protested. There was proof she still had brain stem activity. She's currently on life support here in New Jersey. It started a debate about when to "pull the plug".

I have followed her story from the beginning and still don't know what I would do if I were in her family's place. The California hospital was quick to pronounce her dead. It seemed like there was an ulterior motive to wanting her to be declared dead. But the signs of life are so small.

I think she is still alive, but she'll never live again. She won't walk or talk. She might never open her eyes again. She's alive, but is she aware? She's alive, but does she feel emotions? Does she feel pain?

I suspect Jahi is in pain. She will never be able to communicate that. Her family has chosen to do as most religions dictate. Try everything until everything stops working on it's own. Unplugging her machines would end her life. She is currently alive. But it wouldn't be murder. Just like Brittney didn't commit suicide.

The big difference between Brittney and Jahi is that Brittney was able to communicate her feelings and Jahi can't. The religious objectors all say "let God decide when your life is over". I say, "Maybe God wants us to talk about the compassion that goes along with ending serious suffering in someone who will never recover."

In College, I took an Ethical Life class. We talked about Euthanasia. I did a report on it. That's when my dad told me that my Nana died through Euthanasia. The only thing keeping her alive was an IV nutritional supplement. It happened when I was 12 and she was in her 80s. It was in her living will. Do I miss her? ABSOLUTELY!!! But I don't doubt that it was the right thing. She may have lived longer but she never would have known I was hugging her or kissing her cheek. "Alive" and "aware" are different.

Do I think Brittney did the right thing? Yes, I do. Because she got to live the rest of her life experiencing what she wanted to experience. But I have the compassion to not want her to suffer. If she were my sister, I would have wanted to be there for those experiences and make memories to carry with me the rest of my life. She'll be missed at Christmas but we don't know if she would have lived that long anyway. Instead of being alive but not living, she lived.

The gray area for me as a Mom is Jahi's case. As the person who gave Zach life, I would feel like a murderer letting them end it. At the same time, it would feel like child abuse to force him to suffer. My heart pours out to any family member that has to make these decisions! I honestly don't know what I would do. But I support whatever decisions the families of these patients make.

It's a decision that takes a lot of soul searching. There isn't a right answer for everyone. No one should force their opinions about it on the person who's decision it is to make. When your talking about months-to-live terminal illness and brain death, you are talking about something too complicated to know what you would do if you have never experienced it.

When I was pregnant with the first pregnancy, I was in college. I didn't know I was pregnant until the miscarriage but I went through a stretch where a lot of people were asking me if I was pregnant. I went to bed thinking "If I am pregnant, the only way out is a miscarriage. I could never choose abortion or adoption". At 13 weeks, I miscarried. Would I treat it the same way if something happened to Zach and he became brain dead? I don't know. I can't know. Because I have never been in that position. The right choice is different for everyone.

I want to send my prayers to the terminally ill and the family and friends of those who are terminally ill. I also want to send my prayers to those who are brain dead and their families. It's impossible to know what God really wants. It's impossible to know what choice is the right one. My heart goes out to all of you! I hope you find peace and support with whichever decision is made. Life and death, it's the hardest decision there is.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Forgotten Holidays: Halloween (Part 1)

Christmas trees, holiday lights, winter yard decorations, wreaths, poinsettias, and ornaments are all over stores. Christmas hits stores at the same time as Halloween. But there is a limited amount of space. That means only a small section is set aside for Halloween. As for Thanksgiving, most places only offer generic fall decorations. There are hardly any Turkeys around! Halloween and Thanksgiving are ignored by manufacturers!

This is a pet peeve of mine. I like being able to focus on each holiday separately. I have always been like this. I have always been obsessed with Monthly and Seasonal things. Halloween and Thanksgivings are fantastic holidays! They should take center stage in their respective months!

But that's hard to do when you are surrounded by Christmas while looking at Halloween costumes. No wonder winter seems to last forever! Manufactures have robbed us of FALL! It's easy to see why. Christmas is a big money making time of  year. The sooner it starts, the more opportunities they have to make money!

Greed really does rob you of common sense! It makes you selfish enough to make your employees work on Thanksgiving while you enjoy dinner with your family! When I was a kid, I thought it was illegal for stores to be open on Thanksgiving. Just like it is for Christmas Day. After the last few years, I am convinced that it SHOULD be illegal! There shouldn't have to be a law about it, but apparently the only way to make greedy people reasonable is by making it illegal to be unreasonable!

I have been wondering how Jewish people must feel about this aggressive assault! December must be an annoying month for those who don't celebrate Christmas. It's outright harassment to make them suffer for as long as they have to now! Actually, it's harassing to all of us to have to look at Christmas before Halloween!

No surprise here, I like to walk around the neighborhood and look at the decorations. Zach and I both have Jack-o-Lanterns in our gardens now. Even just a few years ago there used to be a lot of people who decorated their yards for Halloween. I see a lot of Mums and Pumpkins, but I hardly see any Halloween decorations. I always understood the lack of decorations for Thanksgiving. That adorable blow up turkey won't be up for long. I still get child-like excited when I see them though!

Zach's Garden

My Garden

I think a lot of people are as annoyed by all of this as I am. It's hard to wrap yourself in a holiday if it's being drowned out by a very different holiday. This is the first of five posts. This post, will focus on Halloween. Later, I will do something for Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa. I hope to get us all in the CURRENT holiday spirit!

It's time. The day is finally here! He takes his costume out of the closet, and puts in on. Then, he grabs his trick or treat bucket. It's green with a Jack-o-Lantern face. As he walks through the house, he notices all of the Halloween decorations. Mommy's dresser has a witch on it. There is a spider theme for the kitchen table. But clearly Mommy's favorite Halloween thing is Jack-o-Lanterns. She has one on the kitchen shelf, hand towels in the bathroom, and five on the coffee table!

While Mommy locks the door, he goes into the gardens. He sees the fading Mums and Cabbage but can't take his eyes off of the decorations! They make him smile. So do all of the pumpkins scattered around. He has collected them. At least one a week since they arrived in the nursery! But now that it's Halloween, he won't get any more this year. Instead, he appreciates what he has.

As he goes door to door trick or treating, he sees neighbors and friends he likes. They all comment on his adorable costume! Next, Mommy drives him to Grandma and Grandpa's house. They have nice decorations in the yard too! He rings the bell and they are happy to see him. He's happy to see them and shows off his costume! After visiting, Mommy takes him trick or treating in their neighborhood. He notices the costumes the other kids are wearing. Some are homemade, others were bought in the store like his. But they look great!

On the drive to Grandma and Pop's house, he talks with Mommy about Halloween things. Witches, Ghosts, Goblins, Black Cats, Spiders, Skeletons, Zombies, Vampires, Mummies, Ware Wolves, Frankenstein, and Jack-o-Lanterns. When he gets there, he sees the Jack-o-Lantern he and Pop made earlier in the week. Remembering how much fun it was to make it makes him smile He loves Jack-o-Lanterns too.

After he trick or treats in Grandma and Pop's neighborhood, the thinks about what Mommy says. She says there are two types of Halloweens. There is the scary Halloween and the cute Halloween. He looks at how different people have decorated and realizes that Mommy is right! Mommy likes the cute Halloween things. Daddy likes the scary Halloween things. But, he likes both!

Later, he goes through his green Jack-o-Lantern. He has a lot of candy! But he also likes the stickers, pencils, and toys some people gave out. He helps Mommy and Grandma hand out candy, stickers, and toys to the trick or treaters that come to Grandma and Pop's house. He LOVES doing that! Halloween is a special holiday!

First Halloween

Second Halloween

Last Year

In 2011, he was a leaf pile again. In 2012, he was a squirrel and wasn't cooperative for pictures. This year he's going to be the Flash. When we were in the store buying the Superman costume last year, he said "This year I'm Superman. Next year, I'm going to be the Flash, and the year after that I'm going to be Batman". As October got closer, I asked what he wanted to be. He still wanted to be the Flash. After trying it on, he said "Next year I'm going to be Batman"!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Everybody Belongs Somewhere

A few weeks ago, CBS introduced the show Scorpion (Mondays 9pm EST on CBS). It's loosely based on the life of Walter O'Brien. The premise is that it's a team of super intelligent people. They refer to themselves as being "enabled". They use their skills to help the government solve problems. But one message has been carried throughout the series so far..............everybody belongs somewhere.

episode 1:

In the first episode, they introduce a waitress named Paige with an enabled son. He's like a young Walter. Paige helps them save lives and Walter adds her to the team when the Government Agent handling them offers them jobs. She helps them understand regular people and proper behavior, they help her understand her son.

Her son hates school, as they all did. But he belongs with this group. They all belong together. It's the only place they all feel comfortable as themselves. They understand each other better then anyone else. Walter has chosen his team well. Because this is where they all belong.

episode 3: "A Cyclone" They all belong

That's true for all of us. We all belong somewhere. Yesterday, I was at my parent's house in the front yard. A police officer drove by and waved. The same police officer who gave me my first ticket when I was 17. He is very nice but strict. I respect him. He very well may have literally waved to me from the same place one of his co-workers did. When I was learning to drive, a Police Officer in town lived up the street. It was a different street but his house was at the cross section of the T between his street and mine. He saw my Dad teaching me how to parallel park and joked that he was "putting the pressure on". I got my license on my 17th Birthday. My car was parked yesterday in the same spot I had been practicing parallel parking in all of those years ago.

I talk a lot about this town. It's where I belong. It's where I feel whole. I spent two years in college in South Carolina and the other two and a half in Pennsylvania. I liked both places, but I didn't belong in either. I need that comfort of those most important 13 years of my life to cope with the stress that comes along with adulthood. I need these memories and familiar people and places to help control my anxiety.

I'm lucky. Not everyone feels like they belong in the place they grew up. Some don't even feel like they belong with their families. But we all belong somewhere. You just have to find the place that's just right. You have to find that place where you belong. Even if that's with your group of best friends at a favorite hang out.

Because THAT'S the place where you can handle stress best. THAT'S the place with the people you love. THAT'S that place where you feel safe. THAT'S the place where you think the clearest. THAT'S the place where you are the most relaxed. THAT'S the place with the people who care about you most. And THAT'S the place with the people who understand you.

There are so many people from this town that find their way back here. It's a special place. It's the kind of place they try to create in TV shows and movies. But you can't duplicate it. It's not perfect here. Bad things do happen here. Just not as much. So many of us come back because this is where we belong. The property taxes are high here. It's only worth the expense if your heart belong here. If your heart belongs, you belong.

While waiting for the door to open this morning Zach was chatting with every other Kindergartener also waiting for the doors to open at 8:15 (school starts at 8:30). As new Kindergarteners arrived, they joined the group. Of course that amount to five kids total. Some are in the other Kindergarten class. Josh and I smiled at each other. Zach loves this town. It has all of his grandparents and his home. It has most of his friends too. It has a fantastic park where he regularly runs into friends from Kindergarten and Preschool. And it has familiar faces on a family walk.

That includes the only other kid in his Preschool class from Verona. On Sunday we were taking a walk and saw him and his siblings playing in their front yard. We have passed that house many times. We didn't know that's where he lives. They had an impromptu play date while we talked with his Dad. This town is where Zach belongs too.

If you know where you belong, I am happy for you. It makes life a lot easier. Where you belong might not be where you live. But it's somewhere. I hope those who don't feel like they belong anywhere find the place where they do belong. Because everybody belongs somewhere.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Josh's New Career

Three weeks ago Josh got laid off. His old company is a good company and his old boss' were very respectful when they let him go. They ran out of work for him. I understand why they needed to downsize again. They make expensive Italian cheese. This goes back to what the Economists have been trying to drill into the heads of the 1%.

Income has been stagnant for a really long time. The cost of living has skyrocketed during that time. The end result doesn't take someone with a doctorate to figure out. When people make less money they find ways to cut back. This means they are buying the cheaper and usually equivalent quality versions of products. If you make expensive products, there is less demand for them then there used to be. Simply because it's not in the budget.

He worked with the owner of his old company. That man was rich but unlike most of the 1% he understands what life is really like for his employees. One example is that everyone got a raise in January. When Josh was let go, they made it very clear that it was a layoff and told him to use them as a reference. Josh still talks very positively about them and his time working for them.

So what did Josh do? He did a lot of things but his primary job was "Quality Control Manager". He inspected the cheese to make sure no one will get sick from it. He had some interesting stories through the eight years he worked there. But no one got sick from anything he inspected! 100% success rate!

They must have been positive references. He was only unemployed for three weeks. During this past week there were three jobs in which he made it to the top candidates. We talked a lot about those jobs during his time interviewing. We talked about the responsibilities, the salary, and how he felt about them. We talked about this for hours!

We agreed early that this is God putting his plan in action. Everything about it from the moment Josh brought the news of the layoff home just felt like it's God's plan. So we agreed the day he was laid off, He'd take the first reasonable offer. God knew our plan before the search began.

Josh was careful when sending out resumes. He only applied to a job if the description fit his experience. I think that contributed to his success at drawing interviews in the first place! He's always been lucky with job searching. I have talked about my unsuccessful 18 month job search that led me to follow God's plan to my current job. But, I haven't talked about Josh's.

When we were engaged we were working for the same company. A retail store that sold teaching supplies. We had worked there for years. Close to the wedding, the company started the process of closing all of the stores. By the end of January, I was about to start working at Sylvan. Two weeks later, Josh got a job. When that ended, he worked at an Outback Steak House for two months before starting as a Temp in the warehouse of an electronics company. While working, he was head hunted by the sister of a company owner. That company is the one he was just laid off from.

His resume boosts the following:

Assistant Store Manager
Store Manager (the one that closed)
Assistant Manager (major chain)
Host Manager (Outback Steak House)
Customer Service Rep (temp job)
Quality Control Manager (last job)

Skills (highlights):
Had TSA clearance at his last job
Fork lift operator certification
BA in Business
Strong Leadership, Teamwork, and Supervisory skills
Shipping and Receiving

We weren't expecting this:

Assistant Marketing Manager

Josh isn't a strong creative thinker. When I first heard he got this interview, I asked the obvious question. Are you going to be the boss of the people creating advertisements? No, he isn't. Most of his job is going to be on the road. He'll be communicating with customers about what they are looking for then passing that along to the person who is ACTUALLY the boss of the creative people. He'll be making sure that their ideas match what the customers said they wanted.

I think this career will be an excellent match for Josh. He has a lot of experience with customers. He started in retail in April of 1999! He likes people. He is a strong Manager. When the company we worked for closed, Josh was the manager of a different store. I was the Assistant Manager of the location we both had worked in. For a long time, he was above me. When he worked in Quality, a major part of his job was to make sure the product was what the customers want. They had to be labeled right, packaged right, and be kept at the right temperature in addition to safe to eat. Part of that, required trips to different store location for their biggest customer. He liked those trips a lot. Now, that will be the biggest part of his job! He also had to take very careful and complete notes. That will be critical to success in this new career!

It's a new career. It has a path. If he succeeds, there are jobs above this that he can be promoted to. His immediate boss will be the owner of this company. It's a mid-sized company like the last one. They have some impressive customers. Josh's assignment is a large company that both my Mom and his Dad worked for. It's not a funny coincidence, it's God's plan. Josh didn't expect to get this company starting off.

With new careers the Employee and the family are usually nervous. I LOVE how this company handled the interview processes. Before making Josh an offer he had to do the training. He was doing the job with the supervision of another Marketing Manager who was part of the hiring team. They saw how he did the job before making the offer. It means he is much more likely to succeed in this job. If he couldn't handle it, that would have come out in the training part of the interview process. With my anxiety I needed that comfort of knowing how thorough they were before the offer was made.

He got the first interview on Tuesday. He trained on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, he came home with the offer. We talked about it a lot that day. When he woke up on Friday morning, he KNEW without a doubt that THIS was the job he wants! That THIS was the CAREER he wants!

God knows me best and knew I would be obsessively anxious, worried, and frightened with a new career without the training coming first. I did rough budget calculations using that income tax calculator from my "Budgeting on the Average Household Income" blog post, my health care exchange research, and our expenses. If my math is right, there are a few big things we used to have to rely on tax refunds for that we can now plan on as part of our regular budget! Hopefully, I can finalize that on Monday when Josh meets with Human Resources.

Marketing was my strongest non-Dance subject in college. I thrived in that environment. I am excited about hearing how his day was each day. He's excited to tell me. One thing I have been enjoying over the last two days is that he's my Ken doll. He has to wear a suit to work! I have had a BLAST getting him ready for this job! It's a good thing JC Penny is having a great sale on Stafford suits and dress shirts! He LOOKS GREAT!!! Don't worry, I called the dry cleaners we use. They are next to that store we both worked in before we were married. I Budgeted in each week the cost of dry cleaning.

I talk a lot about putting my trust in God. We did that with Zach's pregnancy. We did that with this job search. We will continue to do that in every area of our lives. I pray for everyone looking for a job. I hope you find something that is the right match for your skills, experience, and personality.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

10 Years Of Marriage

Next week is our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

July 1998 - Boyfriend/Girlfriend
August 1999 - got Engaged
October 2004 - got Married

A lot has happened throughout our relationship.

I feel like I belong in Josh's arms.
He knows me better then anyone else.
He supports me more then anyone else.
I feel safe when I am with him.
I trust him.
We still fit together perfectly even after years of body changes. (hugs)
His kisses are still magical.
I still know in my heart, he's my soul mate.

Our hobbies have changed but not our core values. They are still the same. We still have most things in common but respect each other's individual interests and allow time for that. We both enjoy making the other person happy. We always have. Our marriage is full of laughter, hugs, cuddles, kisses, smiles and love. We still miss each other when apart all day. We both find comfort in each other's arms. Sometimes just hearing the other person's voice makes us both feel better.

There is a lot that goes into a good marriage. Through a recent rough patch, we realized that there is only one topic we actually ever argue about. Once we realized that, we have both been working to get closer. We have been past that rough patch for a while now. When a rough patch hits, both people have to make the decision about if they want to work on it or not. We both know the other wants to work it out too. We have been extremely close and happy since we worked thing through. We don't argue that often but, it's still good to find a way to work through issues without arguing.

It was an unusual solution but it will work for the future. Josh needs to be moving when we are disagreeing. It doesn't become an argument when we talk about a stressful topic while walking. He used to walk away if we started disagreeing at home. I felt like he wasn't listening to me. So we decided to get his weights when tensions started to rise. He could lift as needed. In the one almost-argument since then they worked perfectly. The second they hit his hands voices relaxed and we were focused and listening to each other. The problem was calmly and quickly solved. You have to know your partner really well in order to find an unusual solution like that. Sometimes it's the unusual solutions that work.

There is so much about marriage that revolves around routine. I make the lunches each day. Josh takes out the garbage and recycling. Laundry gets done, bills get paid, dinner gets cooked, Zach gets cared for, and the apartment gets cleaned. But we find away to connect while doing these necessary tasks. We find humor in the routine. You find ways to positively bond through the routine. So many couples don't connect while doing the routines and their marriages fall apart. But through working together and finding laughter through the routines, you can make your marriage stronger.

One example, last night Zach did "The Macarena" positions in his order. That included rolling over. It was a shared parenting joke as we checked on him often to sure enough find the next position. Zach has never done "The Macarena".

I don't think there is a secret to marriage. I've posted the below advice before. Since then, professionals have read and approved of it. We naturally do all of these things. It's why we can work through the few rough patches we've had in 16 years. That's the funny thing about this advice. If you are with the right person, these things are reflexive for both of you. In a healthy relationship, BOTH people naturally do these things. That's why there isn't a secret to a good marriage. If you are in a good marriage, you are naturally doing these things. You naturally feel safe, loved, and happy.

Here is what I can offer in terms of advice:

1. BOTH PEOPLE HAVE TO GIVE AND TAKE!!! If something is important to the other person but not that important to you, let them have their way but they need to return the favor.

2. COMPROMISE!!! The best way to resolve differences is to compromise so that both people feel satisfied with the end results.

3. COMMUNICATE!!! No one is a mind reader. The other person can't know what you want or need if you aren't telling them clearly. Sometimes one person THINKS they are communicating their wants or needs but are trying to be subtle then they get mad when their partner doesn't understand. Unless the communication is clear, it probably won't be understood. Communication also needs to be complete, you can't make assumptions about something, ask about anything you might be thinking that you haven't talked about yet.

4. PERSONAL TIME!!! It's important to have your own interests and spend time apart. If you never miss each other, you'll get sick of each other. By having your own interests it keeps you as an individual and that means your more likely to be satisfied in your relationship. Too many people feel like there must be something wrong if you like spending time apart but the truth is, that individual time and individual interests are great to talk about with each other and a great way to still feel like you are your own person.

5. LET HIM/HER CHANGE!!! A common comment "you're not the (man/woman) I married" of COURSE not! People change through time. A common mistake when you get married is envisioning that your spouse will always be that person you love right now. They will change. Their thoughts and interests will change as will yours. Let your partner have those changes and let yourself have those changes. As you both change, you will need to use the other tools like communication and compromise to understand your partner's new interests and thoughts but by communicating and compromising you can remain happy with your partner because you'll still UNDERSTAND them.

6. MEET EACH OTHER'S NEEDS!!! When you make sure their needs get met, you are taking care of them and if your partner feels you are meeting their needs, they won't look elsewhere for those needs to get meet.

7. FLIRT: OFTEN!!! Especially if you have differing sex drives flirting is a way to let your partner know you still desire them. If they feel desired by you, they won't look for someone else who desires them. There are things other then sex that you can do to keep that spark alive.