This weekend was THE weekend we have been working towards for months! Several months back my sister and I discussed the fact that our mother was having her 80th birthday this month and we really should do something about it! We tossed ideas about and one idea rolled into another and another, and suddenly the weekend of all weekends emerged!! And I am quite happy to say that it was a success.

My mother lives in a great retirement community (independent living) not far from my house. On Saturday we had a cake/coffee reception there for her birthday. We had relatives comes from all over Texas and Arkansas, plus a few friends too. The chef and staff at The R where Mother lives did a fabulous job of decorating the room with tables and white linens, pink and white balloons with long streamers all over the room, and a gorgeous pink and white cake. The staff did all the serving and cleaning up. All we had to do was be there and enjoy each other’s company. The only thing I did supply was the flowers. I bought out the supply (practically) of pink and white roses and other flowers and greenery and baby’s breath at the grocery store. Once I got it all home I filled six small vases and two large vases with some lovely arrangements, thank you very much! I was rather proud of the end results. I was able to have flowers on each table, as well as the buffet table. We probably had about 45 relatives/friends, plus a few of the residents stopped by to help celebrate (or at least find out what was going on!).

Saturday night, the party continued at our house. For weeks we have been getting ready. We had wallpaper stripped from the kitchen, the wall textured and repainted. We replaced the cabinet hardware in the living room, the kitchen, the powder room and the laundry room (all rooms that would be on display during the party). We had a new light fixture installed over the breakfast table. We had all the area rugs taken away for cleaning and returned smelling fabulous and looking gooooood. We have cleaned porches and knocked down cobwebs. We have scrubbed outdoor furniture and indoor floors. We have pruned and raked and tweaked and improved and done everything we can to make it look like we live well! We DO live well, we just tend to take it for granted and let things slide most days…not unusual for many, perhaps! But for this weekend, the place is shining!

For Saturday night, I had the event catered by Macaroni Grill. I would have loved to have cooked the entire feast and fed all 40+ relatives on my own. Finally common sense took over! Having it catered was brilliant. The food was fabulous with minimal fuss on my part.

This morning (Sunday), I did do the cooking, but the crowd was much smaller–only 14 of us today. I had one of my “moments” last night when seeing four of my favorite relatives out the door. I knew they were spending the night in town and thought I would see them this morning too. I had not had much time to visit with them yet, and had been looking forward to getting to spend that time with them this morning. Unfortunately, they had decided to try to get an earlier flight out due to changes in weather that are expected. I couldn’t help but start to cry, as I was so disappointed. But you know what I’m realizing? I have ALWAYS been a drama queen, for as long as I can remember. I will probably ALWAYS be a drama queen. So if I cry, I cry. It’s me and that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, I hated to see them go with out a longer visit with that particular group. But I will work to see them again soon.

Back to me cooking…the chef is IN! I had sausage and scrambled eggs and biscuits. AND tortillas and migas. Along with all the accompanying jams, jalapenos, hot sauce, butter, and of course pot after pot of coffee and orange juice. We pretty much managed to squeeze around one table, more or less, and it was cozy and fun and wonderful and a weekend full of love and memories past and memories for the future.

I am so very blessed.

For the second time in my adult life, I’ve lost a lot of weight. Yeah, me! Most of my teen life and young adult life I did pretty well with the weight issue. Of course, there was the freshman 15…or more in my case. All those visits to Dairy Queen late at night, plus the party scene which included lots and lots of lovely lovely drinks (18 was the legal age way back then), all led to the packed on poundage. Those pounds did eventually melt away without effort that I can recall. Oh, I do remember always trying some new diet or another. But if I look back at photos, I certainly wasn’t in need of major diet plans. I had a waist, a cute backside, and rather perky chest attributes! Ah, youth.

Then came children. Oh, how I loved being pregnant! Eating for two was a job I took very seriously. I loved baking up an entire can of those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (or the orange danish for variety!) and scarfing down the entire product. Yummmmmm. It’s all baby fat, anyway, right? Imagine my surprise when I left the hospital weighing very close to what I weighed when I entered the hospital….and yet I had delivered an 8 lb. baby boy! Just how does that work? And contrary to what I had been told, nursing a baby does not make the pounds drop off. However, blessed by two precious sons within two years was more wonderful than the disappointment of weight gain.

As the scales stayed way up there (and I mean WAY UP THERE), I went the Jenny Craig route. (Valerie? Call me.) The pounds dropped off. I looked pretty darn good, thank you. I did the healthy thing and exercised regularly in addition to staying on the diet. OK, when it was Girl Scout cookie time, it was a bit rough. I remember as I popped each thin mint or Samoa in my mouth, I deducted the calories contained in each cookie from what I could eat the rest of the day. Some things are just worth the sacrifice, don’t you agree?

I was so proud of myself for returning to the “pretty me” (in my mind anyway), the me I was happy to go places with, the me I was happy to be seen with.

Then came a rather dark period (the aforementioned lawsuit against my husband, my four year old son and me) during which I went way down that depression path. I had been on anti-depressants several years before when I broke my leg. I had a newborn and a 2 year old and I was in a cast and in pain for four months before surgery and physical therapy finally got me going again. The stress of that seemingly unending situation was huge and I didn’t handle it well. The meds helped. And I was eventually able to come off them. When the lawsuit hit, though, that descent happened once again and I returned to anti-depressants. This time the lovely meds packed on the pounds. Big time. And it didn’t seem to matter what I ate or didn’t eat, the weight continued to add up. After a while, you figure, why bother? Just enjoy the ride. And the food!

Last May I gave up the meds again, and with a few exceptions, I have not felt the need to return to them. Being off of the meds, though, has caused me to face some realities in my life. The meds kept me comfortably numb. May I just say that dealing with reality often sucks? Major sucking going on. However, in my never ending quest for a silver lining, the weight has come off. I believe part of it is the lack of the meds in my system. After I quit them, I did drop 5-8 lbs pretty quickly.

So what is my secret, many ask? You look good, girl, they’ll say…what have you done? I have come up with the name for my personal diet. The Trauma Diet. Add 2 parts trauma (more or less depending on your own circumstances), stop eating, sit back and watch the weight fall off. Is this the healthy way? Of course not. Although all my “counts” for sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure are back to normal. So there is the healthy by-product. Have I been hungry? Well, sure. Some days I’m hungry, but when there is no food that even seems interesting, why bother? Other days I eat whatever there is. Last week was a shocker, though. I ended up with lunch dates AND dinner dates four days in a row. The scales zoomed up five pounds. That freaked me out a bit, since I truly do not want to gain this weight back and have to go through all this again. I am happy to say those five are now gone, along with one or two more. That did take some focus.

For the most part, the trauma just comes and goes. It isn’t a constant thing, thank goodness. Something good did come from it–a waistline! :-) And one of these days I will truly deal with the trauma factor. I’ve been Queen of Denial for a long time. I may get an honorary key to Avoidance very soon.

In the meantime, I’m thinner than I’ve been in quite some time. Being in that lovely menopausal state which causes one’s metabolism to totally TOTALLY die, excuse me while I pat myself on the back for losing and not gaining. Who knew it could be done? Certainly not me and certainly not how I would encourage going about it. For now, though, it’s all good.

I once again jumped feet first into a day of substitute teaching yesterday. I have learned I have to truly make up my mind the night before that yes, if they call, I will heed the call and go teach in place of someone who is out for the day. (Well, I use the term “teach” loosely.  Mostly, I figure it’s my job to make sure the kids don’t burn down the school. So far, I have a 100% success rate. No schools were torched under my watch!) If I don’t make that commitment the night before, it’s so hard to get psyched up after a 6 am phone call to jump out of bed and race to face a bunch of unknowns and attempt to be the boss.  (Or at least the fire safety marshall for the day.)

I am surprised how many people I know say they would never ever consider being a sub.  I even had one teacher say he couldn’t imagine being a sub.  Something about not knowing the kids’ names made him nervous.  I have discovered it’s pretty easy to get the names.  First off, the students walk in talking nonstop to each other, a practice they would love to carry on through out the entire class period.  If I listen, I can quickly figure out one or two names and faces. Once you have one or two to call on, it’s easy to connect with the group.  And honestly, I like teenagers.  I think they are an amazing creation. They are absolutely beautiful, yet for the most part, they have not realized that about themselves yet (and they won’t until they, at age 43.5,  look back at pictures of themselves as teens and think “DANG! I looked gooooood!!”)  They are so sure they know everything there is to know.  What a gift to be so confident! And many of these kids have a great sense of humor and can be quite entertaining (in small doses, you understand).

I have subbed in several high school classes (Business, AlgebraII, Pre Calculus, History) and in middle school (Social Studies more than once). Going from the high school scene (where boy, do they have attitude!) to the middle school was a shock. Those little tiny 6th graders are just babies! They said yes ma’am and no ma’am.  Quite charming actually.  I now know it was a set up, though.  I agreed to teach another 6th grade class, after that first blissful experience, thinking middle school wasn’t so bad!  The second day of the same age group was an entirely different experience.  Suffice it to say, I am quite sure the first group doesn’t exist in real life.  They were plants to lure me into the middle school realm.

High schoolers I find a little easier to deal with.  I know that age group a bit better, having just gone through it with my own sons.  Yes, there’s the attitude. Yes, they try to call my bluff. But once I stand up to them and let them know I truly do believe in my very large fantasy world that I am in charge, they tend to back off and give me the respect I demand.  Yes, I can be rather tough when I want to.

The highlight of one class was when a number of teen girls said I looked JUST LIKE that “new mom” on that “new show”….oh what’s the name, they fretted.  I think the name of the show has something to do with Orange County and is perhaps an MTV show? Not a show I watch, obviously, but one they were all familiar with.  They were in one accord (rather loudly, accompanied by much giggling and OMGs!!) that yes, I looked JUST LIKE the new mom.  I forced myself to ask the question, “So, ummm, is that a good thing?” They assured me that yes, ALL the moms on that show are HOT.  So there you have it. I have officially been labeled hot by the younger generation. I gave them all A’s for the day and sent them out for extra recess!  :)

And the flexibility of substitute teaching is a huge plus! Yesterday, I taught. Today, I have other things to accomplish. Tomorrow? We’ll see!

Ok, I have to admit it…as much as I hate to…as hard as it is for me to do so, I must admit it.  Being outside in the sun AND doing some sort of physical activity is very therapeutic and uplifting and energizing. Actually, it is ALL the things all those dadgummed health articles say it is.

We had lunch outside today. It’s about 75 degrees here today, an awesome February day with blue skies, light breeze, and bright sunshine.  We get a “false spring” every year around this time.  I always remember that because when my boys were little, we always had a picnic in February on days like this.  And there was at least one February day like this every year…such a treat in the middle of winter. Not that our winters are ever that harsh here in Dallas.  We haven’t had the snow or ice at all this year. We have had very cold days (for us! No comparison to Minnesota and all you others up north!) and rain and dreary gray days.  But these hints of spring in the middle of the winter are truly a gift.(I do know from experience that we will have more cold this year yet.)

After lunch I put my husband to work helping me clear away all the winter debris–dead branches, vines, leaves, etc.  So much work, but what a great feeling once it is all done! Ok, it will be a better feeling once the scratches and rashes are gone, but overall it does feel good.  Huge sense of accomplishment.  And on top of that, I assume I got my quota of Vitamin D for the day.

For the moment, I am happy, content, relaxed, recharged, revitalized…please feel free to add to the list.  Tomorrow, however, I know how these muscles are going to feel, having been awakened from their winter blahs.  But I will think about that then. For now…it’s all good!

UNCLE. I’m crying UNCLE. (Or “calf rope”–but you’d probably have to be from Texas for many generations to know that one). I’m saying I give. I give up. I give in. I need entertainment, people. NEW entertainment. Yes, I was royally entertained by the Super Bowl yesterday. What a game!!! In spite of the fact that the NY Giants stomped all over the hearts of us die hard Cowboys fans and sprinted into the Super Bowl instead of us, I cheered the Giants on all the way during yesterday’s game. Tom Brady–so over anything I ever felt for him. Patriots? So yesterday. Tired of them winning. Time for a new champ. And yesterday, Eli delivered a new champ to us tied up with a big bow!! Fun, fun, fun. Loved the game. Loved the company we had at our house for the game. Loved the way everyone exploded in cheers and shouts when the Giants made the great plays. THAT is truly the only way to watch a football game!

As for you striking writers…now that football season is over (and isn’t that the TRUE reality show? OK…I’m an American Idol lover too…) it’s time for you folks to settle your differences with whomever (whoever?) you are differing with and get back to writing and entertaining me. I need stimulation of the visual TV type. I need new stories to whisk me away and keep me mindlessly entertained for hours on end. I can only take so much of the Lifetime Movie Channel. Actually, I can’t take any of that. King of Queens reruns are getting old. I can’t watch reruns of shows that I’ve been watching the past year–I still remember the story! So get me some new stuff, people.

Another very solid reason you must look at as you try to resolve the strike is this: I need the Oscars. I need to see gorgeous glamorous women alongside OMG-what-in-hell-is-she-wearing women. I need to see diamonds. I need vapid, ridiculous commentaries and conversations conducted carpet-side. I need thank-you speeches that make me smile, tear up, or fall asleep.

Therefore, striking writers, I implore you to get back to work. If you don’t, and I don’t get the artificial fix I need from you, I just may have to go out and get a life. Do you really want that on your conscience?

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This is the screen saver I am using on my Blackberry and my laptop at the moment.  STOP.  REALLY.  YOU GOTTA STOP. I am trying to retrain my mind…it is supposedly possible!! I have something going on in my head that needs to stop.  It is something I have honestly manifested in my life.  I know I asked for it.  I know I made it happen.  If only I could turn my energies into manifesting positive things in my life as easily as I have manifested something that is not so positive!  Am I being enigmatic enough for you? Well, sorry ’bout that, but this is as detailed as I’m gonna get.  Back to retraining the mind.  One theory I read said when you start thinking thoughts like “I’m depressed” you should immediately start thinking “Purple Frog” (as an example) over and over until you can think of nothing else.  As long as you are thinking of that one thing, you can’t think of the other. True enough.  I have been trying it this week. When this unwanted thought process comes up, I literally shout NO….ok, only literally in the fact that I am shouting inside my own head, not literally out loud.  NO NO NO NO NO. When I was substitute teaching this week (only administering/monitoring a test, so no time was robbed from a student while I conducted my own life experiments!), I wrote NO all over one page. It helped.  It helped to change my mind, to make me stop thinking about the thing I was thinking about.

I have read a book about getting over an obsession.  It had some great ideas.  Write a journal of what triggered the thought, why, what you feel, what you did, etc etc.  Yawn. Time consuming. Requires effort.  Not gonna do it. I have run through it a bit in my mind, but haven’t really put anything on paper.  Another tactic is to berate your behavior for getting you into this jam by having it out with your behavior, supposedly seated in a chair.  Okey dokey.  Haven’t done that yet.  Another tactic that I just thought about today was that day #1, you’re supposed to think about this item/thing/whatever for 14 mins nonstop, then that’s IT. NO MORE. The next day…13 mins.  The next…12 mins.  And so on.  Haven’t done that.  I was doing pretty well. Tonight I had a relapse.  I am actually connecting BIG TIME with those who have addictions.  In this particular thing, I am addicted.  Obsessed. And it’s not a good thing.

I’ll get past it.  I’ve done better this week than last!  Be kind to myelf. Be gentle with myself.  Kick myself in the back of the head for being so foolish.  Oops! Ooooom.  Be kind.  Be gentle.  Working on it.

Sometimes you just gotta let it all out. Road trips can trigger such rants. Today was a road trip day. Mijn man and I drove to the south to visit the sons at school. Only about an hour and a half drive, on a good day, with good weather, no major holidays, and NO STUPID DRIVERS. People, PLEASE. What part about “use left lane for passing only” do you not understand?? I am absolutely in awe of these drivers who can drive so happily down the road, while my blood pressure is increasing by the moment. Cars by the thousands (ok, two to ten of us in line) are held up by JollyJoe, just moseying down the highway in the left lane. A favorite tactic of old Joe seems to be driving directly alongside SlowSue, who is taking her sweet time but at least is staying in the right lane where slow traffic is supposed to reside. Can’t fault Sue. She’s a rule follower, that one. But Joe. Joe is an idiot in my book. Often Joe has a car full of friends/kids/furniture/dogs. Or sometimes Joe is alone. Sometimes Joe is on the ever present cell phone. Often Joe is a Joann. But Joe is ALWAYS oblivious to the fact that he and he alone is keeping traffic from moving smoothly along that long long road separating point A from point B. Joe, for a clueless Bubba, you wield a lot of power.

I do try to relax, I truly do. I breathe deeply. I count to ten. I remind myself that we all have moments when we lose sight of where we are going and how we are affecting others. As the miles pile up, however, I am forced to begin my ranting and raving at how on God’s green earth did any highway patrolman see fit to give this Bozo a driver’s license?? Can I get an amen??

Perhaps just having returned from Europe has made me more aware of the horrendous drivers on our highways. In Europe, you NEVER pass on the right (I do it all the time. Mea culpa. Sue me. I’m in a hurry!) And once you pass correctly on the left, you “zip it up” and move right back into the slow lane on the right. And traffic continues hurtling down the highway at breakneck speeds…but it is MOVING! My hat is off to you, Belgian and Dutch drivers alike. Following the rules is definitely working for you there.

Here, I am forced to crawl along the now NOT open road behind ole Joe, til I can grab that split second opportunity to pass on the right, cutting between Sue and Joe, slithering back to the left and YES! VICTORY! I have passed Joe and am once again sailing down the highway at the speed of my choosing….at least until the next Left Lane Larry slows me down.

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