Monthly Review

December – Merry and Bright

This December was probably the hardest year for me to get into the spirit of Christmas. For some reason, it seemed more stressful than most. I don’t know why that is. I love Christmas and the spirit around it. It is not about receiving gifts or even the giving of gifts. It is about watching the faces of loved ones when they open their gifts. It’s about experiencing their excitement and potentially making their wishes come true! I try to choose the perfect gift for each recipient. I think about their personalities, their interests and hobbies, and something they would love but would not spend the money on for themselves. I like to be unique but I also like it to represent our relationship. This year, I was at a complete blank. Enough talk about the gifts. It was the second week of December before we ever ventured out to get a tree. Let’s talk about the tree…

THE TREE. For me, the Christmas season only begins once we have a tree. Every year, I set the goal to find the biggest, fattest, most luscious tree on the lot. Every year, we go right after Thanksgiving. I try to choose a day that is cold but not too cold, a little wet but not pouring, and festive. We always go to the same place…every year! It’s a tradition. Tree picking day, is a festivity for me. I bake cookies with the boys, serve hot chocolate or eggnog with a little rum, and play Christmas music as we decorate the tree. At least, that’s how I remember when the boys were younger. Now, they are grown men and haven’t been home for those events in a few years.

Unfortunately, because I was having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season, I waited…and waited…and waited. Maybe it was hard because of how special they used to be and now I just don’t have that. I tried to share it with my nieces and a few of my friends children but I don’t think they were really into the idea of decorating a tree or maybe it was me that just wasn’t into it! The day came when we just had to get one no matter what. Both they boys were home, we had my husband’s cousin join us and even my son’s friend. The day was set to be perfect; except it was a little warm. We made our way to the tree farm. When we arrived the lot was almost bare. The trees were short and scrawny. I was extremely disappointed but I’m sure my husband was extremely happy.

You see, we joke every year about how I have no perception of size and matter. Usually, the tree does not fit in the house and Wes has to spend at least an hour cutting it down enough to get through the door and then more time trimming it so it will fit in the designated corner. TREEZILLA is what my sons call my trees. So not to have a Treezilla this year was kind of disheartening. The last one was thrown in the back yard and took years to deteriorate. I think I ended up throwing it in a fire pit.

After we got the tree, I had to decide what I was going to serve for dinner on Christmas Eve. I always do dinner Christmas Eve so that we can enjoy Christmas Day without too much hassle. Christmas Day is about enjoying each others company and leftovers from the night before. So what was I going to serve? Every year in October, my husband starts with the suggestion of serving a goose! This year he even had the boys chime in and then friend after friend would agree. No! NO! and NOO! At one point, he wanted to get two ducks and a goose so he could set them on the table and say DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE! So let’s talk about the dinner…

THE DINNER. I did surprise my husband with serving a goose. Not the ducks, just goose and ham. Of course, he was at the store when I picked it out. Darn the luck when I got to the register and realized it was going to cost me $70. It was too late to change my mind. He was with me. I just couldn’t endure seeing the disappointment on his face. So the night before Christmas Eve, I started preps. I knew the goose and ham were going to take a lot of attention so I prepared the green bean casserole and cheesy potatoes. I started the mashed potatoes too! Yep, those poor mashed potatoes~they didn’t have a chance from the start.

Originally, I was going to have Karen make them. I had already put her on cookie duty because I suck at baking. (Yes, we talked about baking cookies early while decorating the tree…those were store bought. I just put them in the oven with hopes of not burning them.) I told her I would go ahead and prepare them (mashed potatoes, that is, not cookies) so all I had to do was throw them in the oven just before the goose and ham were done. Well, apparently, I had too many irons in the fire because my mashed potatoes turned into paste. PASTE! I threw away 10 pounds of PASTE! It was late at night. I was frustrated and tired. But I had to go to the store for another 10 pounds of potatoes. I really wanted to scream! Why was it so important to do them the night before? They don’t take much time to make. I could have and should have waited. Before heading out, I was talking with Karen on the phone and told her my dilemma…so she offered to make them for me-even though she doesn’t like to cook. She likes to bake. I was so thankful at that very moment! I had dogs under my feet every where I turned, my feet hurt from standing all day, and I felt alone in this endeavor. Asking for help was out of the question. It’s always a disaster when I allow anyone in my kitchen to help. Christmas Day, when everyone gathered, I realized that I forgot to make the dinner rolls, I didn’t make the homemade cranberry sauce, and my sister-in-law brought green bean casserole instead of stuffing. All of my children’s friends were cancelling at the last minute. I had all this food! Food for about 30 people. It seemed to be a disaster. So I put on my happy face so we could enjoyed dinner. The goose, however, tasted like beef. I really wasn’t that bad. My brother-in-law just arrived home from Japan the day before, my sons were home, my sister-in-law and nieces were there. My friend, Karen and her boys came over! It could not have been any merrier for me. It was truly about spending time with family and friends.

NEW TRADITION. This year, I decided to start a new tradition. We would incorporate games right after dinner. Instead of sitting around a tv and watching movies or staring endlessly at each other, we would play games in which there would be prizes. The first game was a wrapped gift. I bought two gifts and included gift cards in them. I wrapped them and wrapped them. Apparently not good enough because neither one made it around the table a full turn. So the objective was for the person holding the gift to put on a Santa hat and oven mitts and try to unwrap the gift before the person next to them could roll doubles with two dice. Once doubles were rolled the gift and dice moved to the next person to repeat the process. Then we played Bingo. Once someone called “bingo” they could still continue to play but were not eligible for a prize. Each player received a gift for winning. This year was a gift card to a Taco Bell or Starbucks and small Visa card. Each gift was round $30 each. There was just enough gifts for each person to receive one. I believe everyone enjoyed the inauguration of the new tradition. Now, I have to decide what gifts will be for next year. Suggestions, please!

THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. Once, I reset my mind and took all the pressure off myself to make everything perfect, everything was just that…PERFECT! I was able to witness the smile and glistening of my husband’s eyes when he realized a TV was being delivered for his game room. It was the only gift I could come up with that he would never expect. I watched the excitement of my nieces as they opened their gifts, especially since they thought I was going to make them wait until Christmas Day! Both my sister-in-laws seemed to love their gifts as well. My brother-in-laws were equally pleased. But it’s not about the gifts that made it so special. I enjoyed time spent with family and friends. I am fortunate to have loved ones around that wants to join us in celebrating such a wonderful time of year. To me, there is nothing more special that sharing moments with family and friends!

I hope you had yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

November – An Unromantic Love Affair

November has always been a special month for me. Maybe because the weather is starting to get crispy as we settle into the holiday season. Maybe it’s the anticipation of Thanksgiving. It could be that it is a time of celebration and reflection.  

My mother married my step-dad on November 1. Their marriage lasted for 30 years before he passed away. This unity was an example of supreme perseverance, extreme sacrifice, and in-depth love. As a young teenager, I watched their love grow and blossom in ways I would never understand. I witnessed their success and their failures. I admit, there were times, I did not understand why my mother would stay with such a strong-armed individual. Don’t get me wrong! I loved my step-dad and will forever miss him but he wasn’t always kind. Then again, none of us are. He was human and had his faults like all we do. He was harshly judged for his personality but it was just that personality that helped me grow into the strong, independent woman I am today. It was their love for each other that inspired me. I watched my mother stand by the love of her life when most women would have bailed. I watched her endure moments of his discontentment and the anger he held within. Sometimes, his battles with regret where stronger than his love for those around him. No, he never physically harmed my mother. There were other moments, the ones I like to remember the most, where his eyes sparkled when he looked at her. Those days, you could see and feel the love he had for her. He enjoyed picking on her; especially when she wasn’t in the mood. He would try to make her laugh when so was down on her luck. Their marriage showed me that no bond between two people is ever perfect. It’s hard work and comes with much sacrifice. Their loved showed me that you can never give up on one another just because times are tough. That is what I choose to remember! 

Love can sneak up on you when you are not looking for it. It grasps a hold of your heart like a vice grip holding two pieces of metal together. The grip is sometimes impossible to loosen. God has a way of putting two people together that is unique and often not understood. He puts two people together that are so opposite from one another that the world deems them not fit for each other. God has his purpose! Or so it seemed 25 years ago when he united my husband and I in marriage. That is when the insanity truly began… 

Our love affair started before we even knew it ourselves. I was a young, naïve girl just new to the military. He was a well-educated young man, also, new to the military. We had our whole worlds ahead of us. How did it begin, you ask? We will get to that shortly… 

It all began in January or February 1993; my memory escapes me on dates. I’ve never really been good with them. Anyways, we first met at a bar on base in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. It was my first night at this bar. I was the tag-along with roommates that frequently visited this bar. I had not been stationed on the island long. In fact, I reported to the island on Christmas Day, 1992. I had not made any true friends up to this point. I was a rather shy individual. I kept to myself mostly. I was just trying to find my way in an unfamiliar world. In fact, my roommates didn’t even like me when I was first assigned to the room. One hated me for reasons I will never know. She would threaten to beat me up, talked bad about me at her command, and was a truly nasty person. It was very adult-like of her; more bully-like! And to think, I thought I had graduated high school! Looking back, it could have been her hormones from her pregnancy. Maybe it was jealousy. But I was nobody to be jealous of so that was never a consideration. Maybe she was just discontent with her own life and needed to take it out on someone she deemed of a lesser being to her. Who knows?! I was just glad when she left the island. It took her to leave before my second roommate would acknowledge me or have anything to do with me. 

Ironically, we became really good friends. She was highly energetic, loved to laugh, and just wanted to have fun.  She invited me to the “Crossroads” which was the base country bar. I walk in with a few other friends and followed them to this round table. At the table sat a few guys. My southern nature took me around to each individual, introduced myself, and gave them each a hug. That’s what we do in the south…at least when I was growing up there. A hug was the same as a hand shake and meant just as much as your word. Without it you didn’t have much. Besides, the only thing we could afford was a hug; wasn’t much left for anything more than that.   

To be completely honest, I don’t remember much more from this night. I wasn’t drunk or anything; just never had a very good memory. What I do remember is this gentleman giving me a ride back to the barracks along with another guy. I was really impressed with the him. I got in his car and it was in immaculate condition. It wasn’t just his car; it was everything about him. I can’t pinpoint just one thing. There was a depth to him that peaked my curiosity. I wanted to know more about him. To make this story short, we started dating shortly after that…to make it even shorter… 

We dated, I broke up with him on his brother’s birthday, and a few weeks later I asked him to start dating again. There is no real romantic story there. Unless you consider the fact he threw me one hell of a birthday party even though we weren’t dating.  

I knew it was a mistake the moments the words left my mouth, only I couldn’t retract them. Have you ever felt the power of God’s voice before? Let me tell you, it will be with you for the rest of your life. I can still vividly hear his words when I reflect back on that moment. Why did I break up with him? Glad you asked. I was young, naive, never dated or had a boyfriend. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know what it meant to be in a relationship. I was sheltered in my youth and I wanted to experience everything life had to offer. I didn’t feel I could do that while in a relationship; whatever a relationship was. 

Next, we started dating again. He informs me he had never “re”dated a girl that had broken up with him. Well, neither had I. A boy, that is. That was easy since I never dated or even had a boyfriend. But for him, I guess there is a first time for everything. I enjoyed hanging out with him. I experienced a lot “first” with him. It was a great time! He was so handsome and generous and smart and considerate. He made my heart flutter. 

One day we were talking and I don’t remember how the conversation came up. I started telling him about a telephone call I had received from a guy on the other island. So the story goes… 

I was sitting watch for a weapons command. My job was to make radio calls to a small island off our coast to ensure everything was secured. This would go on about every hour throughout the night. It was a really boring job. It was one of many boring nights I would sit on watches. The next day, once I had turned over the watch to my relief, I was told I had a telephone call. I answered with curiosity since no one really knew me or knew how to get a hold of me. I couldn’t imagine who it would be. The manly voice on the phone informs me “you have a sexy voice!”. All I could muster to say was “Thank you!” before I hung up the phone. I am smiling and blushing as red as strawberry glistening in the fields on a hot summer day. I didn’t know what to say. I had never had anyone to compliment me like that; certainly not a stranger. As I am telling Wes this story, before I could even get it completely out of my mouth, he said “No way! That was me!”  

I guess you could say, I got the man of my dreams because I thought about that manly voice for some time after that call. I had wondered who he was, what he was doing, what he looked like. I conjured up my own fairy tale about this voice but I kept it all to myself.  

Shortly after, I discovered I was pregnant. That was the scariest moment in my life. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was just learning how to manipulate life on my own; now I had a child to worry about. I was barely making $500 a paycheck. I didn’t know how I was going to support a child on my own. I wasn’t going to let that stop me though. I informed Wes of the pregnancy, half expecting him to bolt out the door as fast as he could. To my surprise, he asked me to marry him. I could not say “yes”! The last thing I want was for him to marry me because he felt obligated. I wanted a man that would marry because he loved me not because he felt he had to. Deep inside, I really wanted to say yes. I just couldn’t. Some time had passed and he asked me again. And I said “no” again. I just wasn’t convinced that it was me he wanted. There were much prettier, smarter, and wiser gals he could be with. I didn’t want to tie him down. Besides, was he asking because it was me wanted? Or was it the child growing inside me that we have yet to meet? I had discussed my situation with a supervisor. From the beginning he kept telling me that I needed “to marry that man”! But what did he know, really?! To my surprise, Wes asked me to marry him for a third time. I said “YES”! I figured if he asked this time there probably wouldn’t be another. If he asked THREE times then he must really want to be with me! I really wanted to marry him, and did from the beginning! I couldn’t say no and risk losing him forever.

For the past 25 years, we have lived a life of insanity. We had two handsome young sons. We were both military; waiving at stop signs as we passed each other going to and from work. Giving quick hugs as one returns from a deployment and the other leaving for one. Managing a “bachelor” life because we were stationed in different states ~ trying to keep it all together and make it work. It was hard but there was no way I was going to let him slip through my fingers a second time. We were meant to be together. He is the love of my life. The one I look forward to seeing at the end of the day. The one I want to talk to about my day. I want to listen to his military stories, talk about his day, share his dreams. He captivates me, intrigues me, motivates me. He is my everything! I pray that God gives us another 25 years together because he is my rock! 

October – Unconventional Challenge

My Bucket List Challenge for October is a little unconventional but it definitely touched on my comfort zone. The month was filled with excitement, new prospects, uncertainty, and celebration. I made the decision to journey down a new path in employment. I left the comforts of my previous employer to take on a mission with a new company. Any one that knows me, knows how extremely difficult this was. I don’t like change! It’s not easy for me to adjust to new environments. Learning new people is an extreme task all on its own. 

This journey to employment change actually started in February. I told only a handful of people. I was even reluctant to tell my husband. What if the deal fell through? I didn’t want to seem like a failure.  Eventually, I had to look at it in a different manner. Not failure but a new opportunity! I had to realize that some change, as scary as it may be, is actually good. In fact, it could be rewarding. The new prospective company had sought me out through LinkedIn where my resume is posted. Obviously, if a company that only knew me through a computer based software saw something in me, I had to start believing in myself. I knew I had to make a change. I wanted to make a change. My old job was slowly killing me; mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was becoming someone that was truly not of my character. I was growing increasingly unhappy, bitter, and even sometimes, downright mean spirited. 

Yet, I was afraid to jump into another “contract” company because let’s face it…no matter what anyone tells you, “the grass is NOT always greener” on the other side of the fence.  I agreed to move forward as if I were going to take this position to give myself time to figure out what “I” wanted. More importantly, what I “NEEDED”! I attended a mandatory course and started the onboarding procedures. May rolls around and I had been skipped over for this hiring phase. I wasn’t upset as I knew there were four people in line for the position and two were unemployed. I’d like to assume it went to those that “needed” the job. I figured it just meant it wasn’t my time to leave my present company. After all, I loved the company I was working for. My supervisors were very supportive. The company has great benefits. The managers are eager to help in any way possible but even they have limits.  While I was allowed to participate in certain company programs, it had to be outside company time, any courses for job development was outside company time, there was no compensation for attending job development education events or courses. Therefore, I stopped doing those extra things that set me apart. Well, honestly, that came after my second payroll reduction. I had taken two huge pay reductions in a matter of six months. I didn’t see any point in paying money out of my own pocket when they weren’t even meeting the area average for the job I was doing. Again, I really loved the company but there were aspects to the job and “other” associates of the job that I could no longer subject myself to. I knew I was capable of so much more than the “associates” gave me credit for. There was room for process improvement but only a select few wanted to improve the process. 

September is in full churn and I was contacted again about accepting a position at a new company. Yes, the one from the previous inquiry. After much discussion with my husband; the going back and forth, the what-ifs, and the maybes, I decided to move forward. I knew there was something more for me. I knew there was a job that would lead me to “employment happiness” and I wasn’t going to find it unless I stepped outside my comfort zone, set aside my loyalty concepts, and jumped with faith two feet forward. While in the midst of accepting a position at this new company, I was interviewed by another very promising company. This really gave me an ego boost…to think there were two companies that wanted to hire me at the same time! Turns out, they were merging together to become one so I don’t know if it really counts. It’s now October, and the day finally comes where I give my notice. You can really tell your worth in the eyes of others when they have to bid on your services. My present company didn’t even try to come close to the mark! They didn’t even try to meet my original starting wage. Worse yet, after explaining all the complications with the position I held, even if I had stayed, nothing would have changed. 

Change is sometimes good! It allows you to open up to better opportunities and self-growth. It challenges you to experience life. After all, life is going to happen so we might as well join in on the fun. I have enjoyed this change. I, at one point, would cry all the way to work and dread getting out of my car because I really could not deal with the mundane environment and the negativity that filled the air on a constant basis. Now, I have to be at work much earlier than I am used to but I get off earlier too. I work with some pretty amazing people; supportive, informative, and charismatic. My car is no longer filled with tears of dread in the morning but an excitement to find out what the new day has ahead. How long will this feeling last? I ask myself that but I am going just to live in the moment. Enjoy the experience while I can and be happy with the change!

End the end, if this position goes away, if the contract is not renewed…I can feel confident that I have the ability to take another promising employment opportunity with another company! I no longer have to the fear of what I would do if I lost my job. I can just enjoy the fact that I have a job and can always find another if necessary!

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

September – Lost Time

I started this particular blog post back in September, yet here I am still trying to etch words for a timeframe I can’t remember. Ever have a moment when time just seems to have been misplaced; vanished without a trace? Have you had moments where you have no recollection of time? That is me, at this very moment, as look back into September and all that it had to offer. Maybe it had nothing to offer at all. Maybe that is why, for a few weeks now, I have not been able to discern September’s happenings.

I have sat with my Bucket List book staring back at me. What did I do to accomplish items in this book? Did I do anything? There is nothing coming to memory. How could an entire month just vanish into mind-space? My mind-space is a black hole where events are stored when they really had no true meaning or impact to my life. But why would I store an entire month in my mind-space? Was it really that uneventful?

I am sure of that! I know it started out with a Saturday Yoga event at MoMac Brewery. Other than that…there is nothing. I remember the yoga session being refreshing. I was having issues with tenderness in my Achilles tendon. The yoga session did wonders to relieve the pain I had. I remember thinking that I need to do this on a regular basis because, literally, my entire body felt more relaxed.

Anyways, maybe if I dig out my calendar it will jar my memory. Let’s see…Nope, only thing listed is Labor Day. What did I do on Labor Day? Did I do anything for Labor Day? Maybe Facebook will tell me. Small chance of that since I rarely interact with it but let’s see. There were things I wanted to do but did I do them?

Well, Facebook revealed that I enjoyed some time with my son, Brandon, while he was home on Leave. My surrogate son, Adam, joined us a few times. We enjoyed having a few brews at our local watering hole, MoMac Brewery. By happenstance, we ran into his old cross country coach, Ryan. I must add that Ryan also coached me through a series of races to include my first 50K Ultra Marathon. Under his guidance, I managed to exceed my personal record (PR) with each race I ran. It was a grueling time, a time of character testing, patience testing, and learning how to get out of my head and just run. It was hours and hours of running each Saturday and Sunday. It became a full time job; only I wasn’t getting paid for it. I questioned my sanity, clearly I was insane! That became obvious when I signed up to run the 50K Ultra Marathon followed by the Surf’n Santa 5 Miler the same day. It was a total of about 37 miles that day. Really, my first clue at insanity should have been when I ran a marathon with pneumonia. I don’t recommend it. However, the first 13.1 miles seems pretty easy. By mile 18 I felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, the coughing increased and my lungs felt on fire. Finally, mile 20 was in view but I was still asking myself if I was going to make the last 6.1 miles. I decided I would run and collapse at the finish line if I had too. I had trained way too hard to quit! Boy that last .2 was the worst because it felt like it was never going to end! Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat! My ultimate goal is to run a 50 miler; the Skydive Ultra in Florida to be exact. I just need to get mentally and physically fit before I attempt such a feat. The only there’s one problem. Every time I think I am ready to hit payment hard and start training, I mentally shut down. I have it a wall at 3 miles. It’s almost as if my body remembers what it went through to train for the 50K Ultra and it’s telling me “NO! I’m not going through this again!” It’s a mental hurdle I have to overcome so how or another. But HOW is the question.

What else did Facebook reveal? It reminded me that I started clearing 25 years of accumulation from my home. It really began because my youngest son refused to keep his room clean. He had joined the military and after boot camp was stationed in his home state, his hometown actually. Therefore, he felt he could come and go as he pleased. I would find his clothes in the middle of the kitchen where he rushed home, changed clothing, and immediately left to meet up with whatever friend was on his calendar that day. After multiple times, with multiple warnings, I decided to take matters into my own hands. While my husband and I informed him that he no longer lived at our home after he joined the military, it didn’t really take affect. I could have had his father go the extreme route but that would not have solved anything. He would have just taken it as another disciplinary attempt from his father. No! It HAD to be ME! He would never expect MOM to draw the line. So, I rented a storage facility, packed up the belongings in his room, and moved them to the storage facility. This was hard for me but it was necessary! I had to get my point across and not rely on others to do it for me. If I had not been the one to draw the line, he would never take me serious. I believe, even now, he thinks it is temporary.

I have learned that I enjoy sharing the house with just my husband and three dogs. I have learned that I can maintain a solid relationship with my children and them not live with me. I actually prefer it. I think I appreciate our time together more. The time is more about us and not constantly nagging about what they did or didn’t do. The 25-year clearance is still not complete as I am taking it one room at a time. Let’s face it! That’s a long time to hoard a bunch of crap that you thought was valuable or at the very least, sentimental, only to realize it was just that…CRAP! The attic is my proof! It will take some time to go through the attic. I may just rent a big metal trash bin and through everything away. Only problem, the attic stairs is broken. I can’t even get up there to get my Christmas decorations.

The last thing, Facebook reminded me was the Neptune Festival. I was in the middle of clearing out the CRAP when Karen asked me to join her and the boys at the festival. I was reluctant, she was insistent! She is one tough cookie and relentless! While we were there, I did not see anything that really stood out to me. Good thing! After all, I am in the middle of a home sweep! The last thing I needed to do was bring in more junk. Besides, I could save that money to spend on renovating my bathrooms. They haven’t changed since the 70s. They look it too! I cleaned them but I never get that satisfying feeling that they are clean. It’s horrible!

We did discover Young Living Essential Oils at the festival though. I had been researching the use of oils lately. Mostly out of curiosity but I really wanted to see if they would work for some of the anxiety issues I have. It all started when I was having a really bad attack at work. One of my coworkers shared a concoction of DoTerra his wife had made up. Ironically, it worked within minutes to give me a calm sensation. Since that day, I had been looking for someone to explain to me how to use them and what each oil was used for. I was looking for more information to prove that it was real and not the next fad. Since it is not FDA approved, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting caught up in another MLM company. And I certainly wasn’t interested in selling it. I was immediately impressed with the young women demonstrating the products. They were extremely knowledgeable. They immediately offered us classes, explained the reasons for each oil, answered all our questions. We each signed up for their starter kit. They contacted me later to ensure I had no other questions. They sent information regarding their upcoming classes. This was exactly what I was looking for. I most impressed with the research the company did to take each oil back to the roots of our ancestors. I am not set to just one company. I want to gain knowledge and educate myself about the various avenues of oils. My big question is, if every company says their oils are 100% pure, then what sets them apart? How do I know they are, in fact, “100% pure”! So my journey continues…

August – Like the wind

I don’t know what happened to August. It was here and then it was gone: like the wind, a flash of lightening, or a sock that always gets lost in the dryer. The point is…it went so fast I did not have time to discover a challenge that peaked my interest enough to write about.

It probably has more to do with my motivation and lack of preparation than anything. August seemed to be a tough month. It was really low for me most days. I have much difficulty sleeping so when it’s time to get up for work I just cover my head and lay there another hour. Ultimately this makes me late for work which means I have to work later to make up the time and then I am getting home later. It just turns into a downward spiral that last for weeks. August was that month for me. Somewhere along the way, I think I lost my way; my purpose; my reason for living. I fell into a mundane schedule that seemed to never end. Events that I normally have fun with no longer seemed interesting. Hanging out with friends became a chore. I did not want to socialize with anyone; not even my husband and children. Honestly, I just wanted to be left alone. Most times, I try to deal with these feelings in silence and go along with events planned. I didn’t even want to find comfort in my dogs and chickens. Which means it was really bad because I love my dogs and my chickens! I often deal with anxiety and depression. It creeps up on me with no warning and no reason. These are the times I try to separate myself from the world, so they don’t have to deal with all the negative feelings that just want to explode out of me.

Because August was a wash for a challenge, I thought I would catch up so some of my past post. In March, I wrote a post “March Madness – Raising Baby Chicks”. This was when I first got them. It was such an amazing and exciting time. I remember they did not much care for being held. But I would pick them up and pet them and give them kisses. Now, we are enjoying Raising Chickens and Having Fresh Eggs (#40). We get three a day because we only have three chickens. I think in my city we are only allowed to have four at one time. I really got concerned at one point because one of the ladies had been limping on her leg for a couple days. Probably because I accidentally stepped on her. Yes, I felt really guilty about that. She seems to be fine, but I really felt bad for her. They love to follow me around the yard, especially if they believe it is feeding time. They have their own special character. Now, when I walk out to the deck they come running up. As I walk down the steps to the yard, they squat down and wait for me to pick them up. I think that is why I am so fascinated with them. I think the dogs have taken to them too. They like to play with them. Neptune likes to catch them and lick them. He’s a strange dog for sure.

So last week, I was at work and as I was leaving the building right in the entry way was a snake. It freaked me out so bad I thought I was going to have a panic attack. My fear of snakes is so real! Now every time I go to work, I am looking around all the doors and inside the corridor before I ever step inside. Then, that same week, Karen posted there was a snake in her chicken coop. That is just what I needed to see. Now, when I go to care for my chickens and retrieve the eggs, I am walking ever so cautiously, slowing opening the doors to peek inside before I reach in to retrieve the eggs. How am I ever going to complete the challenge to Wear a Snake Around My Neck? (#67) How? I am doomed to have a heart attack if I try to attempt this.

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Snake in Karen’s Chicken Coop

Thumbing through my book, I realized I did complete one challenge; Take an Online Course to Better Myself (#272). I took this course through World Instructor Training School; the same organization that I received my personal training certification. The course was “Finding Your Customers: Listen, Define, and Think to Increase Your Social Media Presence“. I must say I was not really impressed with this course. It seemed incomplete. Upon starting the course, I could only see Modules 1 and 3. I had to contact the company to find out if this was in fact an error or if something was left out. They fixed the course and I was on my way to completing it. It was not a challenging course by any means. I felt the information in the book was useful, but the course ended before the book did. I felt as if the course was developed just to sale the book for the author. The course should have taken us more through the steps of setting up a social existence and maybe even had that part of the course work to be completed. Unfortunately, I had to return the book to the library before I could finish reading it. I will definitely check it out again. I just have to pay my late fees first. I am looking for another course that will challenge me to actually learn something; where I have to research and use my brain to think about how the body is supposed to function in certain situations, how to truly start a business on line, how to obtain customers, and study the nutritional aspect of daily dietary intake and chemistry compounds of food. My goal is to become a dietitian but all the colleges in my area dropped the program from their curriculum; at least that’s been the outcome of my research so far. I haven’t given up on it.

Do you have any suggestions on where I find some continuing education opportunities to help me in my fitness industry?

The Wave Crashers Return

Emily and I had our second surfing lesson with VA Surf Sessions. Wes couldn’t join us on this adventure so my friend, Christine, joined us as a new “Wave Crasher”.

Last Sunday, I did not apply any sunscreen to protect against the rays. The backs of my legs were really burnt by the end of the day. To avoid a repeat of that day, I had Christine spray the backs of my legs with 50 spf sunscreen. We were provided a rash guard shirt for the lesson. After filling out the required paperwork, we chose our boards and sat in the sand to listen to the brief.

This weeks lesson consisted of seven participants. I was a little concerned that there were so many people as I was under the impression that there were four surfers to a lesson. Our instructor for this lesson is Charles. He has 13 years surfing experience. He took us through this rather entertaining introduction and repeats surfing terminology similar to last weeks lesson. He was a rather funny guy and very entertaining. He had an assistant, Josh. Josh is 18 years old and only has one year experience. I explained to Charles that my niece was very nervous about surfing. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive when he sent her off with Josh for a little one-on-one experience.


Unlike last weeks lesson, we all sat on the beach while one group went out to surf. We rotated throughout the two-hour lesson. I felt this method did not provide adequate time for getting comfortable with the water or to help Emily get over her fears.

On our second ride out, I passed Emily to Charles so that she could use his expertise to get comfortable and hopefully have an enjoyable ride. As they make their way out, Christine is already on her way with Josh. I, on the other hand, struggled to get past the break. I kept crashing into the shore line. The waves on this particular day was tumultuous or so it seemed. It must have been a comedic sight because the dads along the beach were laughing at my every attempt to get past the break. Finally, I am past the break! That took forever. I decide that this is going to be the wave. Okay, maybe not this one! Well, not that one either. But the next one. Yep, that was it! I finally rode my first wave! It was awesome! Exhilarating! Exciting!

There were two young boys that were part of our group. Tyler, from St. Louis, Missouri and Maxwell from Norfolk, Virginia. The boys were amazing. They took to the waves like experts. I talked extensive with Tyler and he began to tell me all about his four year old niece that surfs really good. Four years Old! I can’t even stand up on the surfboard. I can only imagine that she was his inspiration for learning how to surf. Unfortunately, he tells me there are no waves to surf where he is from. I hope he continues this adventure. It would be an awesome experience to be able to share this sport with his niece as they grow through the years. I wish I would have had a video or more pictures of the two young boys to share with you. It was great to see them try surfing for their first time.

Also apart of our group was Kim and Leslie. One of them came all the way from California to visit the other. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one. I really enjoyed talking with the two of them. Like myself, they seemed to struggle with the waves. It was obvious they were having fun with their experience. I even surprised them by take a few videos for them to share their experience.

Before I knew it the session was over. I was feeling a little disappointed because I did not get the experience or time on the surf that I was really hoping for. On the other hand, Charles provided some insight that helped me to ride my first wave. It was a nice experience but I really wanted more time.

The next day, I woke up with this horrible rash on the back of my legs. I could only guess it was from the sunscreen. After a few days, I decided to go to medical to have it evaluated. The doctor was stumped and had no clue to what it could be. She prescribed some steroids with hopes it would take care of the issue. Luckily, it did and I did not have to see a dermatologist but it is odd that it was caused by a sunscreen that is suppose to protect you from the elements. I am so thankful to be past that misery!

I feel so fortunate to be able to share this experience with my husband and friends. I feel especial important that my niece wants to join me on this journey. I am so grateful for the time we spend together. After all, she is a teenage and most want to spend their time with friends and doing things that friends want to do. God has truly blessed me!

“There are so many different elements to surfing. Small waves, big waves, long boards, short boards. This makes it a sport you can share with people. It’s not just a solitary thing – it’s become a family thing, too. It’s about exercising and passing something on from father to son, and from mother to daughter.”
~Kelly Slater

Wave Crashers and Surf Rider

July’s adventure was all about water sports. Surfing, to be specific! I think I may have found my new addiction. The best part is, I get to share this adventure with my niece, Emily. I feel like the luckiest aunt in the world.

I have been trying to find ways in which I can connect with my nieces and nephew. They have lived apart from my husband and I almost their whole lives. Yet, I still look for things that we can share together.

For Emily, it is our desire to be adventurous. We both want to learn to surf. We both want to learn to scuba dive. We both want to go tubing and climb mountains and hiking! She is only 13 and is willing to experience all these things with her Aunt Dee.

We took our first surf lesson together with VA Surf Sessions in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was really calm leading up to the day of our lesson. As the time approached for the lesson to begin, I was getting butterflies in my stomach. I soon realized that Emily, too, had those same butterflies. She was really nervous but excited. I was really excited that she had joined Wes and I on this adventure.

I have always admired the ocean, the waves crashing to shore, the smell of the salt water. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and grew to love the feel of the ocean breeze. Standing there on the Virginia Beach shoreline, known as Croatan, memories flooded my brain. I envisioned myself riding those waves like the surfers do in the movies. I quickly learned, it does not happen like it is portrayed in the movies.

Our instructor was Bryson. He was extremely knowledgeable. He had been surfing since he was 8 years old. He has an opportunity to go to Africa and teach surfing once the season turns cold here. That’s an awesome experience for such a young man. Anyways, he went through all the steps of describing the waves, the rip currents and what to do if you get caught in one, and practicing how to land on the board.

It’s time to hit the waves! We get out pass the breaks and take turns riding the waves. Getting past the breaks was our first challenge. I soon realized that I needed to add more shoulder and arm workouts to my routine. I was amazed at how fast I fatigued just paddling out for the first wave event.

First up is John, an addition to our group. There are typically four people to a group. John does really well but I can’t remember if he rode his first wave. Wes is up to take his turn on the wave. He, too, does really well. After a few attempts he is up and riding like a professional. He is our “Surf Rider”! As much as I admire Wes, he annoys me with his ability to accomplish things so effortlessly. I wonder if his skateboard days has anything to do with his ability to surf so easily.

Emily’s turn! She attempts to stand up but soon falls off the board. She tries again. She is able to get on the board in a squat style attempt but not really able to stand up. I can see fear in her face as she tumbles, like a tumbleweed, to shore with waves crashing down on her. I saw her go under a wave and felt a panic inside me. She surfaces and I see she is okay. I worried that it would scare her away from trying again. We talked a little about how important it is to keep trying; to get over the fear so it doesn’t entrap your being. Even with her fear, she decided to go out and try it again. I was so proud of her for not letting fear take over!

Now, it’s my turn! Bryson pushes me off with the wave and I miss my opportunity. I try again, and again, and again. Each attempt was much the same as the last. I felt frustration creep up inside me but was determined not to let that take over the fun I was having. It is a new experience and I was determined to enjoy it to its fullest! I never really did stand up to ride a wave. The waves seemed moderate but they were difficult to ride. Like Emily, I did more tumbling and crashing into the shore line than actual surfing.

Well, the fact that Emily and I were never able to stand up and catch a wave did not detract from the extremely fun day we had. It was a blast! We laughed off the day with naming ourselves, “Wave Crashers” and headed for lunch at Waffle House and indulged ourselves with my first taste of Sweet Frog ice cream before heading home.

We ended our day of adventures with an agreement that we would get out to try another surfing lesson together!

“Surfing big waves is not an extreme sport to me. I fall off, tumble down, and come up. My heart’s racing because I’m thinking I almost drowned, and I thank God I can breathe again, but I always think, ‘What am I hitting?’ Water.”
Paul Walker

What adventure will it be?

Why does everything always have to be an obsession with me? Everything I do turns into this over-the-top, meet the extreme obstacles event. I did it with my college education, with running, and now this Bucket List Challenge. As my obsession grows, so does the cost of the adventures that I want to take part in. I really should have kept my job at the YMCA to help pay for some of these adventures.

After our whitewater rafting trip last month, I decided to make July the Water Adventure Month! We are two weeks into July and I have endlessly researched water events. Yet, I have not solidified which adventure I will take part in.

First, I checked into scuba diving lessons with Chesapeake Bay Diving Centers. I am a certified scuba diver (of sorts!). I achieved my qualification through IDEA while stationed in Puerto Rico. However, I have not been on a dive the whole time I have lived in Virginia (since 1996). I feel I should probably recertify. In my telephone interview, I discovered that Chesapeake Bay Diving Centers offers certifications through Scuba Schools Internationals. Since I am, technically, qualified, I can get a thorough refresher by auditing one of their classes, pool session, and open water session for $200. My next option was to attend a beginners course. This is probably my best option since I struggle with any activity water related…umm, still training for that triathlon. It consisted of three-3 hour sessions for $300. However, there is a mandatory Lake Phoenix checkout dive bringing the total cost of the course to $500. These cost do not include the cost of any equipment you may need for the course. The upside to this is you receive a $25 credit if you purchase these items through them.

My next challenge was sailing lessons. I discovered that the naval base offers sailing lessons. Again, it’s not a cheap thrill. It is $25 per hour for a minimum of 8 hours for private lessons. That’s a total of $200 for private lessons. The other alternative is a two-hour lesson for $50 per person.

Then I checked into parasailing and surfing lessons. Parasailing with Adventure Parasail was a tiered flight pricing. A 600-ft flight was $80 per person, 800-ft was $85, and 1000-ft was $90. They do have discounts you can take advantage of but I recommend calling them. The flight length is 10 – 12 minutes with the total boat tour lasting approximately one hour. I was excited to hear that the Captain would video the excursion if requested. They would also take pictures. It consisted of an SD-card at $33 for up to three people or $35 for four or more. Additionally, they take polaroid pictures for $11.

I was really excited to see that VB Surf Sessions offered a reasonable rate for their lessons. A private lesson is $99 for 0ne-2 hour session and a group rate of $79 for one-2 hour session. After that, I could rent a board to continue to practice for anywhere from $20 – $30 depending on how long I wanted to rent the board. I am in luck because they have a session on Sunday. My niece, Emily, really wants to learn how to surf so I already have a companion to go with me! That is the true bonus right there!

So what adventure will  I choose? If I were to choose right now, with availability and funding probably surfing. No, I think parasailing because it would really test my fear of heights. Then again, scuba lessons would allow me to swim with the dolphins…maybe?! I know it will definitely not be sailing because all the classes were full. BUMMER!

Tune to find out which adventure won the raffle. I think I will just pin each of them up on a dart board, throw a dart, and see which one wins!

Vitamix: Natural Facial Mask

I have this extreme love for my Vitamix Professional series 750. I know that seems strange to some. I do love it more than any other appliance in my house. In fact, it is the most used (and some days the only used) appliance in my house. The recipes that can be created with the Vitamix are endless. You can make smoothies, frozen desserts, confection sugar. It can make HOT soup. Yes, that is right! HOT soup! Anyone that knows my affinity for soup will understand my excitement that comes with this feature. It can also clean itself! How many appliances do you have that can clean itself? I will get more into how that happens later on.

Before I get into the review of this recipe, you should probably have a little back story! It starts with how I have battled rosacea for many years now. This is partly my fault. I never really take good care of my skin; face or otherwise. I am always the one to go out in the sun without sunscreen. I never drink enough water…EVER! In fact, I get up just in time to throw some water on my face, brush my teeth, and run out the door for work with a cup of coffee in hand…by this time I am usually at the point where there is no way I am going to make it on time. The other half of this story is that I also battle hypothyroidism. That alone can leave your skin dry, often cracked, and flaky. I refer to this as “dandruff of the face”! Disgusting, isn’t it?

I was searching for some new recipes to try and found this recipe by Vitamix.  The website states, “with banana, plain yogurt and avocado, this all-natural facial mask will tighten pores and firm skin”. It consisted of three ingredients: 1 banana, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, and 1 avocado. I broke the banana in half and put it in first. I added the plain yogurt. Finally, I cut the avocado in half. Set the seed to the side and took the avocado out of the peeling. I put this in the blender. The recipe indicates to blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency is met. I found that I had to do this several times to get the smoothness that I wanted. I must give a warning that this recipe makes about one pint of product.

Now that all the blending is done; it is time to lather it on my face. I put a good lather on and let it set until it was completely dry. Thank goodness my husband and sons were not home. Can you imagine the comments that I would have received walking around with green goop on my face? Being comic book junkies, I would probably have been deemed the female version on the “Hulk”. Because I lathered it on thicker in some areas, it took a little while try. I recommend staring with a thin layer if you are short on time. Luckily for me the weather was not conducive to being outside so I was stuck cleaning my bedroom. Otherwise, I would not have taken this much time to let it dry. I’m just being honest! I hate being indoors. It is a waste of a perfect day to enjoy what God created for us.

Anyways, the facial has dried and it is time to removed. I must add that I could really feel the mask pull and tighten on my face. It was an odd but pleasant feeling. In the removal process, I decided to use an loofah type washcloth. I used this because my skin was extremely dry and needed to release some of the dead skin. It had an exfoliating effect. I only dampened the cloth, used the rough side to remove the mask. I felt a difference right away. My skin felt really soft. I then took the cloth side and finished removing the leftover product. I was amazed at how my skin felt on just one application. Later on, at bedtime, I felt some of the dryness return.

Now, I do not take one application as an indicator of its powers. I like to try products several times before throwing in the towel. I have used this product three times and each time my face feels better. I still have the blotchy redness created by the rosacea so I am looking for something that will help in that area. I can not put the fault of that on this product as it is designed to tighten and firm the skin. I tried this for the dryness because I felt the avocado would provide the moisturizing affect I was looking for.

A few things I think the recipe card should have provided:

1. It should indicate approximately how much the recipes makes. The amount I made out of this recipe would last me months. Unfortunately, it will not last in the refrigerator that long.

2. Speaking of refrigeration time. How long does it last in the refrigerator? I put it in a pint mason jar and used my FoodSaver to vacuum as much of the air out possible. I hope this helps it to last a little longer.

3. List other uses for the product. This is essentially food that can be used as a facial cleaner. Can I use the left overs in food products? For example, in oatmeal, adding some granola, etc. By the way, I made sure to set aside the portion I was using for my face so as not to contaminate the rest of the product with skin cells of sorts.

Let me know if you decide to try this recipe and what results you achieved from it. Share some of your favorite recipes and I will give them a try as well.

Happy blending,

D.

June – Mandatory Family Fun Day

The day started with a deep conversation with a dear friend. Her struggles really hit my heart.  I wish there was something I could do to help her through this season of trials in her life. She is by far my greatest friend. She was there for me when I had absolutely no one else. She nurtured me through my own family struggles as a teenager. I watched her and her family. The bond they had made me envious. I wanted the same bond with a family that I knew I would never have. Her family showed me that it was possible to have a close family relationship. Her example is what helped me develop the bond with my own sons. I love her with all my heart and will be forever grateful of the example of a friend that she has been to me. Still, I am lost…I don’t know how I can help her. She now struggles with family relationships, heart disease, and issues I am unfamiliar with. How can I help her?!

After our talk this morning, my own family hit the road to Richmond, Virginia where we spent the day whitewater rafting with Karen and her family. Is it strange that I feel guilty for this trip after my previous conversation? I had to make a mandatory fun day because if I did not, I would not have been able to spend time with my sons. Their plan was to sit around the house and play video games all weekend.

The traffic was horrendous on the way there. Stop and go…for absolutely no reason. It seemed as if we were never going to make it there. There is nothing worse than sitting in a car with Wes driving and his frustration is at its peak. I knew I should have drove. At least then I could pull over and empty my bladder without listening to complaints and comments. Instead, I just sat quite, waiting until I couldn’t hold it any longer. Fortunately, he had to go before I ever said anything.

We arrive to the site a little early so we meet Karen and her crew at McDonald’s because it was literally right across the street from Riverside Outfitters. Not having much to eat before we got on the road, I wasn’t going to complain. It is not my choice of a good lunch but beggars can’t be choosy.

We finally reached the time to check-in and get our briefing. I am so excited by this point. I just knew it was going to be a great day on the water. I was looking forward to having something exciting and different to do. The day proved to be just that!

It was an awesome ride. We rode the Level I and II rapids because we had a very small 11 year old with us. We had a quick dip in the river and threw water balls at each other. Our tour guide was awesome! I am sure he thought we were a crazy bunch. I had Karen pick up a disposal waterproof camera for me and all the guys laughed at my archaic device. They acted like it came from another dimension. I actually thought it was pretty cool to have a tool blast back from the past. Kids today just don’t know what they are missing out on!

The trip was over and we headed to a restaurant called “Galley“. Unique for anyone that served on a ship of any kind. The food was good. The restrooms had piping for the toilet paper and paper towels. It also helped brace up the stalls. I definitely recommend stopping in there and checking it out.

Luckily, the trip home was pretty uneventful. We took a different route and seemed to be home in no time. I really enjoyed my day on the water and spending time with family and friends! There is nothing more I would rather be doing!

Stay tuned for my next post about Riverside Outfitters. They have a ton. more opportunities for me explore nature and peak my adventure side…whitewater rafting level 5 rapids, mountain climbing, kayaking level 5 rapids….the list goes on!