First Day of Advent

I love Advent.

The countdown to Christmas. The waiting for the Christ child. The hymns sung in anticipation. Blue is apparently the new purple- all the vestments and candles are now blue. Pastor described the color should be like that deep blue that occurs right before the first light of dawn appears. The color before the advent of the new day. I love that color, too.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel. All these years I wondered who this guy Emmanuel is.

Silly me. The translation of Emmanuel, or Immanuel, is “God with us.” Isaiah 7:14 states “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Many Christians believe that this is the prophecy of the coming of Christ. I will believe that Immanuel is Jesus, and we await his birth during advent.

Our church always has a kid play their instrument during the lighting of the advent candle. It always gives me goosebumps when that lone instrument plays while the acolyte struggles to light the candle on the huge wreath. Today Melissa played the flute, and was awesome. So good that I sought her out afterwards (she was one of my Youth Groupers a few years ago…now she’s a Senior at the high school) to ask if she would be willing to tutor Z-girl after school in the flute. Just to give her that little extra besides her once a week lessons at the school.

While waiting for Melissa’s “fans” to finish with her, I heard a most obnoxious thing…someone asked a gentlemen popular in the church where his wife was. He said she was home, doing —-, because this is the only time she has to herself. Wait, what? During church? She’s a connected church member- she skipped church to do this stuff? I don’t know, I’ve missed my share of church. But to run errands? Because it’s the only time you have? Grrr….

This burns my butt. Just like the moms that tell me they can’t do something because “I work”. Or they couldn’t help out because “I have three kids.” Damn! I have three kids AND I work. AND I find time to go to church. I MUST be superwoman! Next feat- able to leap tall buildings. And sing hymns while I’m doing it!

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Letter to Heaven

Dear Mom,

Usually my correspondence with you is a quick, fleeting thought about how much I miss you, or yes, sometimes cursing you for leaving us with so many memories of you.

Today I wanted to sit and let you and my little blog world know what happened this weekend.

It’s November. While you were alive November and December were the months I saw you the most and was closest to you. The craft fairs, the Cookie Exchange, Christmas and all the planning in between- we saw and talked to each other often. We did the St. Thomas fair together and then the St. Andrew’s fair right afterwards. I guess it was a good idea I didn’t do the St. Thomas fair (shame on you, Catholic church and St. Thomas PTA- you know what I’m talking about…) because the St. Andrew’s fair was hard. Very hard.

Dad had given me the rest of your crafts to sell and donated your Christmas earrings to the soccer girls to sell for their fundraising. They worked so hard on their crafts- many of the materials came from you (the angel pins and the bead and lace ornaments.) One of the things I heard over and over from the kids as I taught them how to make these things was “how do you know how to do this?” And I told them honestly that Zombiegirl’s grandma taught me how.

You’ve taught me so much, Mom.

Their table was packed full of things to sell! And the girls were polite in dealing with the public even if they couldn’t figure out how to make change. But not your granddaughter. She made change like a pro. She’s been tagging along to so many craft sales that she ran my whole table for me, leaving me time to catch up with my church friends (Joni- black? Really? I don’t understand…) and to watch over the soccer girls. My table was full of tutus and MR’s carvings and your crafts.

You sold the rest of your beautifully soft scarves. I love these scarves. The gray and white one you made me got me through all the tears from last year. Haley and Kendal fought over that bright blue one, and Kendal finally ended up with it. And she wore it the next night at the soccer awards. It made me so proud! Almost all of your earrings went as well as your two string mooses! You’ve had those guys for years! Always turning up at the bottom of the bag, never to be sold. Now they’re finally in a good home. Everything was going well at the fair until I opened this one little plastic bag tucked under some paper.

Your birthstone angels.

You worked so hard on your angels. You fretted about the colors of each bead, trying to get them to match the birthstone exactly. You spent hours at the fair untangling the string to hang them on the display case in month order. Every year you had four or five of each month to sell.

There were about 12 left in the bag. You never had the time to make more.

My first impulse was to hang them up and put them out to sell. But I couldn’t. They were too special to me. I didn’t want to keep all of them, either, so I offered one to each of the soccer girls that were there and to their little siblings. They marveled at them- they were so beautiful! Thank you, Soo! One of the moms questioned why I was giving them out and I told them they were yours and I wanted the girls to have a piece of you. She started getting all choked up and then I lost it.

I had been fine all day. Seeing those angels though made me realize how much I miss your awesomeness. My loss made me cry, right there, at the craft table. You would have hated that…

Mom, how often did I tell you that I thought you were talented? How often did I tell you how much I admired you? How often did I tell you how much I loved you?

Probably not enough.

You infuriated me to no end. Your stubbornness and personality continuously clashed with mine. I had to “learn” how to deal with you. But your creativity and talent was always admired- I know sitting with you as a kid taught me how to craft, bake, decorate cakes and sew. I should have told you more how much you were appreciated. Your ego could have used a little more stroking. You were truly talented and very generous. I could only hope to be like you in that respect.

So now we come to the holidays. Christmas was your holiday. Every year you had everyone over at your house- it was the only time of the year I saw my cousins- and you always decorated, using your collection of Three Wise Men and all the elves. I turned to your countless times on advice on baking and relied on you for the games for the Cookie Party. How to cook a ham. To sew manager costumes for the girls. To remember the name of a certain hymn.

How will I get through December without you?

I know now what you felt like when Robbie died a week before Christmas 20 years ago. How you resented the holidays for years afterwards. But you bounced back for the girls and made Christmas your own again. I know I have to stay strong for the girls and Daddy and make Christmas special. But I’m not sure I can make it through the preparations without your guiding hand and advice readily available on the other end of the phone. I’m not sure how to deal with the other loss in my life this Christmas. I’m really not ready for this…

So I just wanted to say thanks, Mom. For the beads, lace, stuffing, earrings, scarves and angels. But mostly for being the creative inspiration in my life. I owe that all to you. And as for celebrating Christmas, we’ll muddle through the best we can and see you in all the sparkly and twinkly stuff.

Because we know how much you liked the sparkly stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mom. I miss you.

Siren Song

I was out on the prowl down by the edge of the track
And like a son of a jackel I’m a leader of the pack-but
Every Saturday night
I felt the fever grow
Do ya know what it’s like
All revved up with no place to go
Do ya know what it’s like
All revved up with no place to go

I was nothing but a lonely all-American boy
Looking out for something to do
And you were nothing but a lonely all-American girl…..

The sound came out of nowhere. It started as a growl in the center of my chest, vibrating me to the core. Then came the awful screech of the siren, drowning out Meatloaf playing on my iPod, even though it was cranked up high. The noise was awful- so bad it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to put my hands over my ears. I felt like I had to escape- I had to run to get away- the sound had enveloped me completely. I hurried across the street, narrowly missing be hit by a police car. I’m sure he understood why I was crouched over with my hands over my ears running across two lanes of traffic. Anyone would have heard this god-awful screech even with their windows rolled up and the radio on.

I though of that poor baby that lives in the house that I passed when this noise started up. I know there are young ones in that little apartment- the baby slide and the kiddy pool are leaning up against the fence and the little electric Hummer is always parked outside the door. I wanted to cry while the siren was going off. I can’t imagine how the children react when it goes off.

I was walking right underneath the fire siren.

I thought my ears were going to bleed.

A block later I was still shaking and I had goose bumps until I got to the train station.

Why do these things still exist? In this modern world of cell phones, pagers and Bluetooth, why would anyone think these things are going to alert a volunteer firefighter and get him out of bed? Isn’t there any other way to alert these brave souls? In researching, I’ve come across actual arguments for the siren like “Cell phones cost money and not all volunteers can afford a cell phone.” I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have a cell phone. And they’re not expensive anymore. A pay-as-you-go phone would certainly suffice. “They need the siren because the volunteer might not have their cell phone on or near them.” Please. Spare me. If the volunteer is dumb enough not to have their phone nearby just in case, they don’t belong in the volunteer corps. “A siren lets the neighborhood know there’s an emergency.” And WHY would the neighborhood have to know this? Unless the fire is at your house, or your neighbors house there is really no reason for the rest of the neighborhood to know. What is one going to do- go look for the fire?

I think these things are outdated and can actually cause permanent damage to those who live near/underneath them. I know it shook me up enough to actually blog about it.

But you were something like a dream come true.
I was a varsity tackle and a hell of a block
And when I played my guitar
I made the canyons rock, but
But every Saturday Night
I felt the fever grow
All revved up with no place to go
All revved up with no place to go
All revved up with no place to go
All revved up with no place to go
All revved up with no place to go

Results Not Typical

So I had my final evaluation last Thursday with Mike the trainer. I’m a little late posting. Other crap weighed heavily on my mind. So.

After two and a months of training twice a week (usually when I didn’t cancel) I got measured and weighed and did some stamina exercises to measure heart rate and strength.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Let me first start off by saying if you know me, and love me, you probably won’t see a difference in my body shape. And you won’t say so, either. And I thank you for that. When I joined the gym I was looking not only to lose weight but also to start a healthy habit of exercise. I’m over 40! I don’t want to look like my mom did! I don’t want Bingo wings! I want to look like I did at 20! (um. Right.) I knew I needed to get off my ass and start an exercise program not only to get back my 20-year-old body (which I know is improbable and impossible) but to boost my metabolism and cardio so I could live a longer, more productive life.

And to fit into those jeans in my bottom drawer.

I looked at pictures of myself at our last camping trip and I was disgusted and depressed with myself. When I got home that was when I made up my mind to get my butt to the gym. I knew I would need help with some of the machines and I knew a personal trainer was the way to go.

Enter Mike. And the torture that followed.

Never at the gym. I sweat, panted and strained but it never felt like torture. Most of the time I laughed when it got too hard because it was a good feeling getting my muscles moving again. The torture came the days after a workout- those days where I couldn’t lift my legs to walk up the steps to the subway. Or get out of my chair at work. Or sit on the toilet. Those times were torture.

But it was worth it.

My numbers weren’t stellar, but for the resistance training that I did (twice a week) and for all the walking around the neighborhood, they were okay. I lost 1/2’ to 3/4” everywhere except my boobs. That was probably due to the padded bra. (I couldn’t find the sports bra…) I gained 2% lean mass and lost 2% fat mass. I gained 1 pound, but that reflects the lean mass gain (muscle weighs more than fat.) I went from doing 8 pushups to 18. I went from 31 situps to 44. My strength is definitely better than when I started.

Mike agreed that my numbers were encouraging. He said for me to imagine if I DIDN’T do all that training. I probably wouldn’t even be maintaining my weight and body index- it would be creeping up. My next step is to bump up the cardio (HELLO ELLIPTICAL MACHINE!) and maintain the two days a week resistance/strength training.

So how do I feel about all this? I can see an improvement in my body shape. My clothes fit better; they feel better. They’re not as suffocatingly tight. I know, I know- wear bigger clothes. Buying new clothes, though, is not an option. Fitting into the clothes I have is the solution.

I am well on my way to fitting into those jeans. I can get them on over my hips but zippering them is another story.

Update! I had my first “non-Mike” session at the gym yesterday! I did 8 minutes on the elliptical, 12 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes on the recumbent bike, for a total of 30 minutes. Go me.

Monday Tidbits

It’s crunch time. The craft sale is one week away and I’ve been sewing, gluing, tying, and cutting like crazy to get things done. Not only am I working on my stuff for my table, I’m also organizing and finishing the crafts for Zombiegirl’s soccer team.

I had this bright idea for the girls to get together and make crafts for St. Andrew’s Holiday Fair. They have a bunch of tournaments coming up. We can offset the cost of the tourneys by raising some money by selling our crafts. Bright idea, right?

Next time I have a bright idea like this, someone smack me.

Mistake number one- trying to teach fourteen non-crafty girls to make things that are nice enough to sell. Girls who are growing up in the video age. Girls who can’t sit still long enough to even listen to instructions- they are athletes, after all. Girls who think snacking is more important than doing the work. Some of them get it, and others…need more time. And… I’ll admit it… I don’t have the patience I used to have when I was a Girl Scout leader/Sunday School Teacher. But we’re having fun though. I think what’s most important is not only raising money for the team but the camaraderie the girls are sharing. They’re going to be on the same team for the next few years- they have to get along off the field as well as on the field. So sitting around a table tying pillows while gabbing is a good thing.

If I don’t have to do the pillows over…BECAUSE they’re gabbing.

These are some of the things we’ve/I’ve/Ronnie’s made so far…

  • Fleece hats for kids. With fringe and without. Some with scarves.
  • Christmas wreath pins (lace and beads)
  • Candy cane ornaments (lace and beads)
  • Ribbon angel pins
  • God’s eyes ornaments/gift trim
  • Clothespin reindeer ornaments/gift trim
  • Fleece accent pillows in a soccer print
  • Chocolate lollipops
  • Cookie jar mixes
  • Mesh ribbon boxes
  • Christmas CD’s

On Thursday, the moms are going to get together and make Oreo Turkeys. Yes, wine will be served, thankfully. My dad also donated the Christmas earrings that Mom made as well as the plastic tablecloth hairbows she used to sell. The lace and bead stuff she donated to the Girl Scouts, but Ronnie donated them back. So we should have a pretty full table.

I just hope they sell something.

I spent almost seven hours finishing off fleece hats on Saturday night. I never want to see another hat again.

Mistake number two? Thinking I’d actually get some cooperation from the families. I totally understand that the girls have so much to do besides school, but we tried to make it easy and have the crafting sessions after right after practice. I understand that the kids have other weekly commitments. But some of the other excuses we’ve gotten are unbelievable! We have 28 parents involved with the team, AND various grandparents (thanks Stan, Jeannette and Bob!) I like the majority of these parents and consider alot of them friends. But the same parents help out week after week.

So where is everyone else?

We’re not asking for EVERYONE to show up each and every week. We craft for an hour/hour and a half each week and occasionally when the girls have a day off. Jodi’s next door neighbor has shown up to help out more than some of these parents. MR even stayed yesterday and tied pillows with us. I just don’t get it. We’re trying to put money into these families pockets so they don’t have to pay out for tournaments and trainings. Some parents are there EVERY WEEK and then there are some parents that we haven’t seen yet. WTF?

And if I hear one more time “But I work full time!” I’m going to puke.

Still, it’s not as bad as when I was a Girl Scout leader. Those parents never did shit.

Okay, enough ranting. I’m not going to change people’s nature. I know what I do and I can go to sleep at night knowing I did everything possible for my daughter and her team. I don’t know why I get so enraged. I suppose it could be worse, right?

So…mistake number three? Waiting until the last minute (week) to finish up MY stuff. Why do I procrastinate? I know I work better under pressure, but why do I do this to myself? My sewing room is a mess so I’m tempted to organize my fabric, or pull out all the lace. I have to stop myself and concentrate on finishing up stuff for my table.

Some stuff I’m selling?

  • Tutus
  • Princess wands
  • Princess crowns
  • Key chain wristlets
  • Felt fruit and vegetables
  • Tote bags
  • Angel magnetic cards
  • Dishtowel angels

Add to that MR’s wood cut outs and we should also have a pretty full table, too.

I just hope I sell something!

And yes, I did all this with a full-on migraine on Saturday. When it finally broke Saturday night it was like the weight of the world lifted off my head. I had a headache Sunday morning (missed church) but I took a cat nap and it went away…

What else happened this weekend?

  • The Panthers lost 3-2 in the rain and wind we had Saturday. My Uggs are ruined.
  • I followed Flylady’s method of cleaning the kitchen. Got most of it done except the floors. I need to get one of those floor cleaning things. Um…what is it called? Oh. A mop.
  • Zombiegirl and I made pumpkin pies. She had a craving. If I can get her to eat it, it’ll be the first thing in days practically. She has no appetite. I’m guessing it’s from the flu, but if she doesn’t start eating it’s back to the doctor.
  • I watched part of my first non-professional hockey game. Fifteen year old boys. And it was just as exciting as an Islander game. Thanks Hailey, Kathy and Brandon!
  • I made apple butter in the crock pot. And applesauce. With black chai tea flavor. Oooh. Yummy.
  • I cleaned out my produce drawer and stir fried everything. I used the Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar we bought at the summer craft sale in East Quogue. More yummy. I froze individual portions so I can take it to work.

All in all, it was a productive yet infuriating weekend. And exhausting. I can’t wait to get back to work…

The Almighty Google

I hate large corporations. Even though I work for one, I’m compartmentalized, so sometimes I forget that my company is huge.

I’m a fan of the little guy.

The Mom and Pop shops.

The underdog.

When a company or a TV celebrity gets too big, I lose interest. I loved Rachel Ray when she was a chubster doing the 30 Minute Meals or $40 a Day shows on the Food Network. When she started adding more shows then ultimately her own talk-show, I stopped being a fan. Even when we went to see a taping of her show (and our friend Amanda starred in a segment) I wasn’t thrilled. Even less so since I saw how fake and phony and planned everything is. Not to mention Rachel’s not-so-warm personality. I felt she really jumped the shark when they started selling her “garbage bowl” on the Food Network.

Once you develop your own “brand”, it’s over for me.

Ree Drummond, of PioneerWoman.com fame, is another example of my interest waning really quickly. I followed her blog daily, and even turned my friends on to her site. But again, she grew too big for MY britches. She’s got a gazillion fierce lemmings followers and she’s put out a cookbook, and I foresee a TV show in the making (based on her appearance on Bonnie Hunt recently, I hope not. She doesn’t have the personality.) There are other reasons why I fell out of like with Ree, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. When you’re married to the richest cattle rancher in your state, you have the disposable income to do basically whatever you want. And she’s doing just that- she’s buying herself a “brand.”

I try to patronize smaller neighborhood stores and restaurants whenever I can. I’d rather go to my local Indian restaurant where the owner knows us than to a TGIFriday’s or Chili’s. I’d rather go to the Pioneer Food Mart than to Stop & Shop. S&S is huge, and I get tired walking the store. They have things the Pioneer doesn’t carry (soy products and organics) but to run into a store for milk and bread? I pick the Pioneer. I hate the fact that I hold my mortgage with the third biggest bank in the U.S. I would much rather bank with a smaller bank, but hey, I got a lower rate with the big company. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I make two exceptions. One, a series of books that have risen to astronomical proportions and two, an internet search engine. I speak of Harry Potter and Google.

My mom bought my oldest kids the first Harry Potter books when they first came out. She knew they were readers so when she saw the book in Costco, she picked up one for each of them. Little did anyone know six months later Harry Potter would be a household name and cultural phenomenon. Six books and six movies later I still love everything Harry Potter. I don’t begrudge J.K. Rowling her fame and fortune because she DIDN’T SELL OUT. She kept true to her promise of seven years at Hogwart’s, loves her readers as much as they love her, and didn’t forsake the writing for profit. I love HP so much, I’ve consented to have a Hogwart’s birthday party for Zombiegirl in March.

The other exception is Google. For me, Google is not only a search engine- it’s a lifeline to information. I must use Google at least 30 times a day to search for pictures, blogs, items to buy or just info. Google is also my blog engine and my email platform. Google’s Youtube is where I watch funny videos or full length movies. Google Earth lets me spy on my boss and my neighbors. Google Calendar helps me keep track of birthdays and scheduling things like cleaning, meal plans and soccer games. I store recipes I find in my travels online in folders I create in Gmail. Vegetables, Meat, Cookies, Desserts, Sides…every recipe that I can email gets sent to my Gmail account for filing into a folder. It’s a good day when I log onto Google and I see the logo has a new design commemorating that day. Plus you can get great skins for your iGoogle homepage- right now I have a Dale Chihuly skin right above my horoscope, Gmail, weather, Calendar and Quote of the Day boxes.

Google is huge, and I love it. And it was started by two grad students in a garage.

Google also gives back to the community and the world. And yet another reason to love them.

And then there’s this. I. Want. Now.

So those of you who comment anonymously on my blog- go get a Gmail account. I want to know who you are!

This blog was not endorsed in anyway by Google or their subsidiaries. The author of this blog happens to be a Google fan and would tout Google’s awesomeness to anyone who’ll listen…

Results Not Typical

I haven’t posted my last months workouts with Mike here because my company blocked Blogger on the internet. I thought I had to wait until I got home to post and by then I had forgotten what I did at 5:30 that morning. Then I had the brilliant idea to blog at work, using Microsoft Word, send it home via email, and post at night. Unfortunately since I had this brainstorm (duh!) I had forgotten what I did during my workout.

One memorable event at the gym these past few weeks…I was able to do more than 3 minutes on the Elliptical machine. Mike figured out that I was using it on an incline. If I decreased the incline to 1, I can go forever without my knees killing me. That alone was worth the price of Mike.

Mike tells me today we’re going to do the TRX workout. This workout was developed by Navy Seals who, while deployed, searched for ways to stay in peak condition while inside warehouses, urban safe-houses, ships and inside submarines. Navy Seals. And me. Riiight.

I’ve worked minutely on these straps before- just basic pull ups with my body at a 45 degree angle. Today we worked exclusively on the straps.

And now, I can’t move.

Pull ups, push ups, lunges, scissor kicks, squats, curls- all done with the straps. I was a giant sweaty mess when we finished. And when I got home, I sat on the couch and promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, I literally could not get up. Everything on my body was achy and stiff. For the FIRST TIME I’ve been training with Mike, I feel like I’ve worked every part of my body. I couldn’t walk up the stairs to get to the 1 train.

And it was the last training session. I get evaluated on Thursday.

Mike, thanks for pushing me and being my inspiration to get up in the morning. And on Thursday? Could you give me that TRX training sheet? I need to do this workout more often…