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November 24, 2010

Thankful

It's been forever since I've written -- and I apologize for that.  But as one faithful reader once told me, the beautiful thing about a blog is that your readers are there when you write, and they understand when life gets in the way.  

Well -- 2010 has been quite a whirlwind, with the usual day to day of a family of five, plus a college search, some family health concerns, and a job that had my head spinning for months...spinning so fast, in fact, that I launched myself right into a completely new job with a new organization.  Yes, this has been a whirlwind year -- and as a result, I've neglected to take time 'Round the Kitchen Table.

But this morning - on the eve of my favorite holiday - Thanksgiving - I can't help but pause and count my blessings.

Today and every day, I'm thankful for...

...the food on my plate, and the roof over my head.
...a job that interests and challenges me, at a time when so many are struggling to find work.
...my friends, who understand and forgive me for not being in touch more often
...and the friends I see regularly who listen patiently, laugh heartily, and are always willing to help me drink a bottle of wine.
...my siblings, aunts and uncle who I don't see often enough -- but I know each and every one of them are there to hold me up if I'm about to fall.
 ...my husband and children whose smiling faces, brilliant senses of humor, and unconditional love fuel my every move.
 ...and my parents who provide living proof every day that "love is patient, love is kind....It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails."

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving! 

August 10, 2010

Let's Talk - Your Favorite Reads

No. Not more textbook talk.  I'm getting ready for a couple days at the beach and am looking forward to spending hours at the water's edge reading.  It got me thinking about a possible table talk question.

Imagine that you're downsizing and only have space for five books.  What are you top 5 personal library essentials?

My answer:  Let me just say, it's a joy to know that I would never be faced with that challenge!!  Now that I have a Nook I will never have to worry about having space on my bookshelf!  It's a beautiful thing.   But...for the sake of my question I'll say:
  1. The Bible
  2. Charlotte's Web
  3. Bridges of Madison County
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird
  5. The Shack
I know it's kind of an odd collection...and I'm sure as others start posting their answers I'm going to say, "oh yeah....I'd want that one too," but these are the ones that come to mind right away for me.

How about you? 

August 8, 2010

Saving on College Textbooks

It's hard to believe, but two weeks from today we'll bring our daughter back to school and she'll begin life as a sophomore in College.

Amy is a pretty organized and responsible kid, so it didn't surprise me when she whipped out her notebook yesterday, and went over the list of things she needs to do in the next two week to get ready to go back.  The list included the obvious things, like shopping for dorm stuff and clothes -- but she impressed me when she thought of things like replenishing prescriptions and getting her banking in order.  [excuse me while I enjoy a proud mama moment].  The biggest shocker was that she even remembered that she needed to buy her books for next semester! 

Last year, she got very lucky in terms of books. Unlike her friends who shared horror stories of single books costing $150 - $200, her total for the whole year was probably less than $200.  I'm not sure what this year will bring, but while she was at work this morning, I thought I would do a little leg work to see what resources were out there to save on textbooks.  I was so astounded by what I found, that I wanted to share this with my blog friends, in case you have children who are getting ready to go back to college too.  Hopefully this will help you (or your children) keep your hard earned cash in your pockets where it belongs!!


I just did a quick comparison of four different online textbook resources to see what kind of savings we could come up with.   In each instance, I compared the same book - Calculus (Stewart's 6th Edition), hardcover ISBN10:0495011606.  List price:  $224.95

Here's what I found:

                                     New             Used            Rent             e-version
Amazon.com                 $162.56        varied           --                  $143.96
Barnes & Noble            $200.43                            $139.18        $  99.25
Textbooks.com             $191.48        $143.61       $  64.49
Bookbytes.com             $161.80        $114.45

I'm pretty amazed by the potential savings at Bookbytes.com -- but I have to tell you, I'm equally curious about the e-version available through B&N.  Having recently received a Nook, I have fallen in love with the idea of being able to carry your library around with you.  Apparently though, the Barnes & Noble e-version does NOT need a Nook.  There is a free application called NookStudy, that you download to your Mac or PC -- then when you purchase your e-books, they're accessible through your computer -- and you're able to highlight, tag and organize content in a way that makes sense for you.

It's been a long time since I had to study from a textbook, but it sounds to me like it would be a God send for organizing your studies.  And with textbooks available at a fraction of the cost, it could really be a great way to save money and work smarter!  If anyone has used NookStudy for school, I'd love to hear what you think.

Since I started my research this morning, Amy has since gotten home from work.  So when I told her about the textbook savings deals that I found, she informed me that last year she purchased the majority of her books at half.com and also saved a boat load of bucks. The one caveat there was that the books she purchased there were definitely used.

Out of curiosity, I visited half.com to do a 5th comparison, using the same Calc book as my point of reference.  They advertised a "best price" of $120.65 -- but it looks like it's more of an auction environment where individual sellers determine the asking price and name the condition.  The prices I saw ranged from $120 - $160.

It's pretty curious really -- with all of these great deals available through the Internet, I wonder how it is affecting college bookstores?  I can't imagine why anyone would shop there anymore.

Would love to know what your experience has been with any of these sites.  Happy shopping!

Once Out of Control ...Now Liberated

Like so much of my day-to-day life, lately my email has spun out of control. I used to love to come home from work and check my email to see what funny stories my friends where sharing, or to get caught up in virtual time with a college or high school friend. But about two or three months ago, I realized that I wasn't doing to much of that anymore.

When I'd come home from work, I'd check my email, and watch as one of 36 or 40 emails would download into my in bin. One by one, I'd watch as the little envelope graphic floated through mid-air, and mail would be collected out of cyberspace. Sadly, after all the downloads were complete, I'd look and realize that most of the mail was nothing more than sale fliers from the stores I've shopped with online, or an occasional newsletter from HGTV or Real Simple magazine.  Real Simple is the pretty ironic one -- because for all their strategies to "simplify" they've really managed to muck up my mailbox!!

Truthfully, I was receiving so much junk mail from stores, that half the time I wouldn't even bother going through my mail at all.  I would let the junk email pile up in my inbox the same way that it piles up on my kitchen counter.  It was so frustrating to me to try to sort through all the newsletters and ads, that sometimes the "real" mail from family and friends would get lost in the shuffle. 

Well - I've made a bold move to gain back control of my inbox, and I'm trying to use modern technology to make my life easier -- and I have to tell you, it's very freeing.  I've unsubscribed from all but the handful of email newsletters that I actually enjoy reading -- and decided to put Twitter to work for me, by following those merchants and websites that I'm interested in following.  According to all of the "unsubscribe" message confirmations that I've received, it's going to take a week to ten days for all the changes in subscriptions to take effect, but hopefully before long, my inbox will be mine again!  I'll let you know if I see a noticeable change (though something tells me that it is going to be an ongoing battle to keep my inbox in control). 

Admittedly, Twitter can be a little bit daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty cool.  Tweetdeck has been a real help for me in trying to sort through it all. I can organize the people/merchants/websites that I'm following by topic, and quickly scan the latest sales, news, magazines, school information, celebrity gossip, etc. to see what's what.  No more need to open a zillion emails, delete, save, purge, mark as junk.  I log on when I want, see what I want, log off and it manages itself -- and best of all, my mailbox will be mine again!  Not too bad.  

There's definitely a risk in what I'm doing -- not everyone has gotten on board with a social media strategy yet, and I'm not on Twitter 24/7, so I might miss a sale or two -- but you know what? That's OK -- no puppies are going to die if I miss out on free shipping from Sports Authority (I seldom shop online with them anyway!).


In this age of information overload, technology can be a mixed blessing.  Information is constantly at our fingertips -- whether through your iPhone or Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, email or the Internet -- information is coming at us all day, every day.  

In my constant effort to make life more manageable, I'd be really interested to know what are you doing to take control of the information overload monster?

August 7, 2010

Return from Paradise

I'm laughing to myself because I'm not sure this post is very aptly named.

I would imagine that when most people think of paradise they conjure up images of blue waters, white sands, palm trees, tropical breezes, and picturesque sunsets -- I suppose if you asked me to draw a picture of paradise it would look something like that too. But I just came back from six days of camping, high up on a mountain, where the air was fresh, the nights (and days) were cool, and there was absolutely no cell phone signal, no Internet access, and no electricity.  Paradise is the the only word that comes to mind to describe it.

There is something so pure and cleansing about camping.  When you're unplugged from the world and there is no accounting for time -- all there is to do is just breathe...and eat, and sleep, and read, and play games, and fish, and hike, and canoe.  When there is nothing to distract you from enjoying time with the ones you love, how could that be anything other than paradise?


So what if we slept on the hard ground and lived without the modern conveniences to which we've all become so accustomed?  So what if we were visited (twice) by a skunk? And a raccoon invaded our campsite while we slept?  So what if it rained buckets on the night before we left?  Those are just incidentals that added to the memory.

The heart of our trip was the pride on my son's face after he caught his first bass in the lake.  And the awesome moment shared with my daughter, when we stood looking up at the clear August night sky and both saw the same shooting star.  And the realization that the little boy who used to cling to my leg as a child, has grown into a funny, intelligent, brave -- and independent young man. And the truly restful nights of sleep laying next to the man I know will always protect me...my very best friend, and the love of my life.

No other words needed.  Paradise.    

July 22, 2010

Let's Talk - Vacation Time!

I don't know if you have ever looked through Table Topics, but last year I bought a set for my hubby, just to see what they were all about, and if they really stimulated good conversation.  We've pulled out "the cube"at random times throughout the year and have really enjoyed them.  Unlike trivia questions, there are no right or wrong answers, so no one is every left out of the conversation.  Over the year we've learned some interesting things about some of our friends -- and about ourselves. 


Given the title of my blog, introducing the concept of table topics here seems rather fitting.  Going forward, you can expect to see a weekly post -- maybe a "Think About It Thursday" or "Let's Talk Tuesday"  (although I guess that would require some consistency in my efforts, and we know how that goes -- maybe they'll just be periodic!!).  Anyhow, I hope you'll pull up a chair and join the conversation -- and invite your friends to do the same.    If you have questions you'd like me to pose, please email me and I'll try to add them to the list.

OK, here we go.  I'm going to keep it really simple today. 

Pack your bags.  I'm sending you on a 5-day vacation anywhere you'd like to go.  Where are you going?  And why?


Image from Google images
My answer:  Sedona, AZ
A few years ago, I was in Phoenix for a conference.  I had heard from my parents that Sedona was a beautiful place, so one evening, I hopped in the car and drove there to check it out. 

I was only there for about 5 hours, but from the moment I laid eyes on the first red rock, I was overcome by a feeling a calm.  I walked up and down main street, then went to a little restaurant for dinner alone.  I ended up talking to the two couples who were seated on either side of my table.  They were incredibly interesting people, and we had an intense conversation about life, love, karma, and destiny.  When the restaurant closed, we said our goodbyes and each went our own way.  I drove back to Phoenix feeling an inner peace that I had never really felt before.  Sounds crazy, but the whole experience was very surreal.

Ever since that night I have wanted to go back with my husband.  Whether for 5 hours, or 5 days -- I know it would be a great trip. 

OK -- your turn.  Go.

Side Note: There are several versions of Table Topics -- some for families, for dating, for parties, and more.  I think they would be a great take-along for a long car ride, or camping trip (when you're sitting around the fire).  They'd also make a great hostess gift if you are looking for something other than a bottle of wine.

July 11, 2010

When Someone You Love is Abused at Work

As someone who typically tries to find the bright side of life, this post is going to be extremely off-topic for me -- so I apologize to my regular readers who look to me for a dose of inspiration or a good recipe.  Unfortunately, this topic is one that I feel I've been hearing about more and more lately -- and as a do-gooder in this crazy world, I'm trying to find answers.  I'm searching desperately for a way that I can help -- and I keep coming up empty.  I'm hoping someone out there can help me find a way to make a difference.

We're all keenly aware of horrific issues like domestic violence and child abuse.  And I'm sure many of us have been exposed to sexual harassment and diversity training in our workplace. As unpleasant as they may be, we've found a way to talk about and hopefully start resolving these kinds of abuse.  But lately I've heard several people, who are being abused in their workplace because of excrutiatingly poor management and leadership indifference. 

These are regular people who walk on eggshells at their jobs -- wondering if anything will happen that day to upset the angry monster that lives within their boss.  I can think of at least a half dozen people who have confided in me in the six months, sharing stories of bosses who fly off the handle, scream and yell,  threaten to fire them, put them on probation but give them no idea of what they've done wrong or how to improve. I even know of some who have in fact, been abruptly fired or forced to resign -- with no clear reason given as to why.

I know people who have gone on anti-anxiety medication after decades of perfect health, and others seeking professional counseling to deal with workplace anxiety.  And despite known complaints to human resources, and exit interviews where employees held nothing back about the magnitude of the problem, the managers who are at the root of the problem are never confronted, or held accountable for the environment that they've created.  In these difficult times, when jobs are so hard to find - the victims of the abuse feel helpless.  They take whatever is put upon them, and live in fear because they see no way out.

What has happened in this world that the executives of industries can look the other way, even though they know that this kind of workplace abuse is happening?  How does anyone sleep at night?   I've only heard stories -- and several within the past couple weeks that have truly turned my stomach -- and I know that I can't sleep at night.  And I'm not the one living it. 

So my question to anyone who cares to respond -- what advice do you give to a friend or family member who you believe is a victim of this kind of workplace abuse?   Do employees have a legal right to be managed with dignity and respect?   What is missing from our corporate worlds, that there could be so many people who rise to the level of authority, without learning how to lead and manage with decency and compassion? 

Something has got to change -- but what can I do to make a difference?

July 8, 2010

Pampered Chef Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce

Long ago and far away, I used to sell Pampered Chef.  Needless to say, my kitchen is stocked with every imaginable kitchen tool (most of which I really use). So -- when I was invited to a PC show a few weeks ago, I didn't have that burning shopping enthusiasm that I always hoped guests would bring to my demos.  I love Pampered Chef stuff, and still fully believe they are among the best kitchen tools out there -- so I wanted to get something, but I just really didn't have much need.  

Thumbing through the catalog, I was getting a little nervous that I was going to have to buy something frivolous (and I don't really do frivolous that well) -- and then I saw it.  Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce.  

Now maybe some people don't like the sound of that -- but to me, the name screamed "YUM!!"

I ordered it along with a couple smaller items.

Well, when my goodies arrived yesterday, I immediately started thinking about how I might use it.  I drove home from work with the sauce in the backseat of my car calling out all sorts of savory ideas.

A glaze on grilled chicken or salmon.  Poured over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers. Warmed and served over vanilla ice cream (I know that may sound nuts, but I have a feeling it would be amazing).

My mouth was watering every one of the 25-mile drive home from  work.  Yet I knew that I would have to wait at least another day to put the sauce to use.  After all, I hadn't planned on any of those things for dinner --- and it was too late in the evening to think about  going to the store and getting them.

When I pulled into the driveway, I caught the scent of something heavenly being cooked on the grill.  Unsure if it was an aroma coming from our deck or the neighbors, I walked into the house to find my husband standing at the refrigerator in search of "something," and my daughter sitting at the kitchen counter with a beautiful grilled something on the dinner plate in front of her.

"Mom, we would have made one for you, but we didn't know where you were, because you didn't answer your phone." 

I was so fixated on her dinner plate, that I couldn't even react.  On both Amy and Jeff's plate, sat one beautiful, but incredibly bare-looking grilled tuna steak.  Right away, I knew Jeff's head was in the fridge looking for some sort of dipping sauce, so before I even  had a chance to say hello, I said, "Oh my gosh, I know just what you're looking for -- and I can help."

I introduced them both to the Spicy Pineapple Rum Sauce...and within a minute they had both let out a sigh of satisfaction.

YUM.

Thankfully, there was an entire tuna steak for me to enjoy as well -- and darling hubby was good enough to interrupt his own dinner to grill it for me.  I poured some of  the sauce on top, to enjoy it with every bite.  It absolutely did not disappoint.

As long as Pampered Chef keeps that in their catalog, I will never be at a loss for what to buy again.  Double delish.

July 7, 2010

What in the World Is That Pain?

Day 2
Ouch.  I forgot those muscles existed.

I may have only done one set of reps on each of those machines yesterday, but I still feel it today.  Leaves me looking forward to my next workout with weights -- and grateful that today isn't the day I have to do it!

So - about last night.  My challenge was dining out, and a limited menu.  My plan was portion control and drinking lots of water.
Outcome: mildly successful

We ended up having more choices than I expected at this complimentary 3-course dinner at St. James Gate in Bethlehem.  I chose the tossed salad, grilled salmon with asparagus and a potato hash, and apple pie a la mode for dessert.  Dinner included a complimentary cocktail, and since it is an Irish pub, I chose a Harp....and a tall glass of water.

Everything was delish, which made the portion control incredibly challenging -- however I did leave a couple bites of the salmon and potatoes, as well as the dessert.  I know I could have done "better" and I probably should have skipped the Harp, but there was just something about an icy cold beer in an Irish pub on a steamy hot summer day (and the fact that it was complimentary) that just made me give in.

No regrets.  I savored every bite, and more importantly, enjoyed a night out with my mom.  

Plan for the Day: Restorative Yoga at lunchtime with some of my girlfriends.
Challenges: Oppressive heat is sucking the life out of me
Plan to Overcome Challenges:  Stay inside as much as possible.  Drink plenty of water.

No Excuses Rule du Jour Just do it!
Note to Self:  Remember to eat throughout the day -- don't let yourself get hungry.

Ready. Set. Go!

July 6, 2010

And So It Begins

Last week I hit rock bottom.  
My addiction?  A lifestyle void of real physical activity and a love of all things sweet and incredibly bad for me.

I am not sure exactly what it was that made me realize I had reached bottom.  I didn’t burse a zipper, or blow out a seam in my pants (although that’s surely possible).  I didn’t see a picture of myself that made me shudder.  I didn’t overhear someone talking about my oversized booty.   Something inside me just made me realize that it was time to buck up and get serious about getting in shape.

So – last week I met with the resident fitness expert at the school where I work.  She did a “getting started” assessment, where she learned a little bit about my incredibly sedentary lifestyle, my eating habits, and of course she weighed me and took those dreaded measurements.   I’m not prepared to share it with you – but suffice it to say, I was embarrassed.     Before I left her office I scheduled a meeting with her to set up a workout regime to suit my life.  Then off I went to begin my 4-day holiday weekend – armed only with the knowledge that I was NOT going to treat this weekend like one last hurrah.  Instead, I was going to use it as a time to mentally prepare.  Sure, I would enjoy a few indulgences, but I was not going to be so “bad” that come Tuesday morning, I would be trying to get back to where I was last Thursday.  

Mission accomplished.

The weather in the northeast was beastly this weekend – but  I did manage a nice long walk with some friends.  More importantly, I took the time to stock up the fridge with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and even bought several things to bring to work so that I’m not tempted to run to the neighborhood sandwich shop for snacks.

There is no doubt that my quest for fitness will quickly become a topic that no one wants to talk about over dinner (much like my son’s college search efforts, and the kids’ summer reading assignments) – so rather than trying to force the issue ‘round the family dinner table – I’m going to share it virtually – right here, ‘Round the Kitchen Table.   I promise this won’t be all I talk about – but don’t be surprised to see frequent posts with progress updates, obstacles, challenges – and hopefully lots of successes. 

If there is one thing I know for sure, it is much easier to do this with a buddy than it is to go it alone.  So if you’re so inclined, by all means – join me.  Share your thoughts, challenges, words of encouragement, ideas for how to make a healthy lifestyle a way of life.    

And so…here and now…it begins.

Day 1 – The Program
Met with our own fitness guru, Alison (aka Wonder Woman).  I’ve had many “first days” in the gym – but she is truly inspirational.  Rock solid, fit but not over done.  Beautiful glowing complexion. Upbeat positive attitude.  And she genuinely cares.  She isn’t trying to set me up with a program that is unrealistic for my life.  Instead, she’s cautioning me to take it slow, and set reasonable goals.  In short, she  wants to see me succeed.

Started with 20 minutes on the treadmill, mostly just to warm up and see how the machine works.
Alison walked me through all the basic machines for a good upper and lower body workout.  I did one set of each exercise, finished with abs and some basic stretches.
She showed me around the rest of the facility so I could see where to shower, change, etc.  
Quick clean up and change – then back work.

Per Wonder Woman’s direction, 20 minutes after workout, I needed a light snack of protein and carbohydrate.  That translated to:

1 cup Weight Watcher’s yogurt – 100 cal., 6 g protein, 0 fat, 3g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar
1 ½ cup watermelon cubes 
One big glass of water! 

Challenges of the Day:  Going out to dinner tonight – very limited menu selection (if any).  
Strategies to overcome the Challenge:  Portion control.  Drink lots of water. 

Note to self: Working out in the morning is a good thing.   It sets  you up for a good day. J 
No Excuse Rule du Jour:  Even if you can’t get your work out done in the morning, spend a few minutes stretching.

OK – that’s it for now.  Wish me luck – and like I said, please feel free to share your journey with me too!

July 5, 2010

Can Dreams Really Come True?

As little girls we grow up on fairy tales with all kinds of happy endings.  The glass slipper fits.  The wicked witch perishes.  They live happily ever after.  And so on.

Then life takes hold and we realize fairy tales are just that, and we surrender to the idea that life isn't fair.  You've got to take the good with the bad.  The grass is always greener, etc.

How is it that in the span of just a few decades, our attitudes could swing so far from one extreme to the other? Who says that dreams can't come true?  Maybe we're just looking at it all wrong.

When I started this blog a year and a half ago, I didn't really have much of a purpose in mind.  I wasn't sure what I would write about, or even who would be interested in reading it.  I started this blog for one simple reason -- I have always wanted to write -- and somewhere in the depths of my mind I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I could get myself into the habit of writing -- a writer would be born.  Maybe through this exercise of writing I would find myself -- or perhaps somewhere along the way, I'd be "discovered."

Well -- after 18 months, it is no surprise that I have not been discovered.  Most people have no idea what motivates my missives -- and I can't tell you the kinds of questions I've fielded about my blogging (some of which have been downright rude).

"Why would you waste your time doing this?"

"What if no one is reading?"
And my all time favorite...
"No offense but with all the great writers out there, why would anyone be interested in what you have to write?"

Ouch.  That one packs an extra punch. 

The list of questions goes on -- and in all honesty, they're all extremely valid. I mean really, why in the world would anyone give a hoot about what this 40-something mother from Po-Dunk, PA has to say about anything?    

Your guess is as good as mine.  But you know something? Somewhere out there in this crazy world, there are in fact, people who are interested.  As a matter of fact, I just looked at the Google Analytics for 'Round the Kitchen Table and was astounded to learn that since its inception, more than 2,400 different people, from 53 countries (including visitors from every single one of the United States of America) have read more than 7400 pages of my blog entries!   

I am humbled.

When I started this journey, I may have had some different dreams about what might transpire from this little blog -- but I can't say that I'm disappointed.  Though I am not a writer by conventional standards, I know there are people who look forward to my musings, and miss me when I go on hiatus.

I'm still finding my way, and trying to figure out where this blog could take me, but one thing I know for sure -- this girl's pendulum of positive thinking is swinging in the direction of believing that in their own  unique ways, dreams absolutely can come true.

For those of you who have visited my blog before, or subscribed, or referred a friend, or commented -- I send a heartfelt thank you for helping to keep this girl's dream alive. 

May 6, 2010

Good Fortune

"The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a meaningful life." ~Dan Zadra

I saw this quote today and it really struck me.  I am rich beyond words because of the example my parents have set for me.

I only hope I can do the same for my children.

May 4, 2010

Oh So Easy

It was 8:30 p.m., and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up dog food.  When the cupboard runs dry for us, we can usually manage for a day or two on some meals made of random stuff, but for my two furry friends, it's a different story.   Dogs cannot live on love alone.

Anyhow, there I was, still dressed for work in my black pants and pumps, wrestling with two twenty pound bags of chow.  I hadn't bothered to get a cart because I knew I only needed this one thing, but then the sale on the  food was so good, I figured I should stock up.  As I approached my car -- hugging the bags of dog food, purse slung over my shoulder, keys in my hand -- I realized I needed to find the car door opener to be able to pop the trunk.  I nearly twisted an ankle trying to keep my own balance as I propped one foot up on the bumper of my car to balance the bags, while I fumbled to find the opener on the key ring.  I must have been quite a sight.  

Just as I was going to try to put my foot down to open the trunk hatch, a very kind woman came over and asked if she could help me.  All she did was open the hatch so that I could throw the food in the car -- but that very small and simple random act of kindness made my night.  It was the simplest thing, and I know most of us would have thought to do the same...but would we have done it?

On my way home I knew I was going to share it with you...and I think for the next couple weeks I'm really going to be on the lookout for those small acts that help to restore faith in humanity.  I'm already trying to practice them --- but I want to be sure to recognize when I see others doing it as well. 

At at time when we hear so much sadness and terror in the world, maybe we can start our own little revolution right here, 'round the kitchen table.  Will you help me?  What have you done today?  What small act of kindness made you smile?


We only get one go at life -- let's make it a good one.

May 2, 2010

She's Still At It

It was several months ago that I introduced you to one of my blogging friends -- Tabitha, at www.ichoosebliss.net.  Tabitha is a very special woman who really makes a habit of paying it forward. She spends so much of her time and energy, spreading good will and making people smile. 

Well, it's been a while since I visited Tabitha's blog -- mainly because it's been a while since I've visited anybody's blog -- including my own!!   But just recently I made the decision that I needed to start making better use of my "me" time.   I have a knack for taking an hour for myself...but then wasting that hour doing something senseless like playing a game, or looking at pictures on Facebook.  The result is feeling that I've indulged myself -- with no real reward.   Needless to say, I'm trying to get back to my blogging...and revisiting old friends like Tabitha.  In doing so, I'm once again getting inspired about life.

When I visited Tabitha's website, I received not one, but two specials blessings.  You see, I happened by on Day 1 of her "Pledge of Peace" -- which is quite simply Tabitha's 30-day promise to treat herself with the same kindness she treats others. What a wonderful reminder that is -- to love and accept ourselves as we are so that we can truly love another. 

The second blessing was in getting to see Tabitha at work on her family's mission -- A Five Oh 4 Uplifting.  Here she was, featured on her local news, for the good work that she is doing to spread joy to children who are hospitalized or sick.  As I watched this news clip, I felt a momentary pang of guilt.  Tabitha is still at it -- hard at work to make a difference in this world -- and I haven't even taken time to visit.  Shame on me.

But then, as quick as that guilt set in, I remembered her Pledge...and I decided instead of feeling guilt, I would forgive myself...and focus instead on the positive.

Every day is a new day.  Every day holds the opportunity to make a difference...for yourself and for others.  How will you spend your time today?  Will you join me in making a Pledge for whatever bit of peace you need?  Maybe it is patience?  Maybe it is to a promise to use your time more wisely?  Maybe it is forgiveness?

Whatever it is...be good to yourself today.

April 30, 2010

Pick It Up...Pay It Forward.

Did you know that yesterday was Pay It Forward Day?  A very cool idea inspired by the movie (which if you have never seen, you really should put it on your short list...it is awesome!!).

Anyhow, the whole idea of Pay It Forward Day is to take a moment to practice some random act of kindness.  I heard of people paying for coffee for the person behind them in line, or leaving money at the toll booth for the next couple cars that passed through. There are hundreds of ways to make a difference...what matters is taking the time to do it.

Anyhow, I wanted to participate in some way...but sadly, my wallet was empty yesterday so all of those real "pay" it forward opportunities were out the window.  I decided instead to make a conscious effort to pick up any trash that I saw on the ground while I was walking from point A to B during the day.  It wasn't much, but it was what I could do at the moment.

First thing I noticed was a weathered lottery ticket (much to my chagrin it was a losing ticket), then a candy bar wrapper, then, conveniently, an plastic grocery bag, then an empty to-go food container. The more I paid attention to this effort, the more debris I noticed all over the place, and in the two short blocks that I walked on this little suburban street, I filled that plastic grocery bag with trash.

When I reached my destination and put that overflowing plastic bag into the trash receptacle I couldn't help but wonder, where did all this debris come from?  And what ever happened to the "Don't Be a Litter Bug" campaign?   In a world that's so conscientious about the environment, are there just as many people who are getting lazy?

I know it wasn't much in terms of paying it forward -- but I guess the lesson I learned is that you don't have to spend a dime to make a difference.

So now I'm going to ask you...will you join me in my efforts?  Pick it up...and Pay it forward!



 

March 27, 2010

No More Hooey!

Have you ever had a job where you love the actual work you do -- but for some reason, you come home at night at just bitch bitch bitch about all the things that are wrong at work?   I feel like that has been the story of my life.  I am a pretty upbeat and positive person, and I try to stay focused on the great things we're accomplishing at work, but inevitably, when dinner time rolls around and the family starts talking about the highs and lows of our day, we linger a bit too long on Mommy's lows -- which really stinks, because I LOVE MY JOB. 


Well, after all these years, I think I may have figured out why this keeps happening to me.  I'm a result-oriented person living in a clock-watching world.  And here's the kicker -- I don't even own a watch.

I've always known I was result-oriented -- I mean, afterall, it's one of the bullet points under the "Professional Profile" of my resume :-) ... I just didn't know how it sucked the life out of me to work with clock watchers.  But as I'm reading this book, Why Work Sucks, it's all starting to make sense to me.

Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke--the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job TerrificAll I can say is God bless Andy Levine from Sixth Man for mentioning this book at a recent conference he spoke at.  I'm pretty sure I would have taken one look at the cover (and title) of this book and written it off as a bunch of hooey.  But even though I'm only on chapter 3, I really believe it's going to change my life.  In fact, I think it already has. 

Just for the record, the full title of the book is Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke--the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific.  If you have ever felt like you needed some help dealing with the people you work with who measure your worth by the number of hours you're at your desk every day, or the number of meetings you attend -- instead of the value you bring to the organization -- you really really have to read it.

I know it might not be fully implementable if you're not the "big boss" of an organization -- but I think there are elements we can all apply to our lives.  And there is no doubt there is a truth to this book that should make everyone stop and think about how to work smarter in every aspect of their life.

OK...I'm rambling...and there is no point to that.  Get the book.  Read it.  Live it.

I'm off to make things happen!

March 7, 2010

Lost

No...
...not a roadtrip gone awry, and not the TV show that has the world so entranced with its final season.

Just a bit about how I've been feeling lately.

On the one hand, life has been just wonderful since I started my new job in November. The work I do is meaningful to me, and I know I have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference with this organization -- and Lord knows the work is plentiful, which leaves me with a strong sense of security. However, I can't help feeling a little lost because life seems so out of balance lately as work has somehow overcome my every waking moment.

I don't want to come across as complaining -- because I really love the challenge of it all. But what is exhausting though is that I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Each week I come up with my list of things I need to get accomplished, but then somehow the working hours get filled up with meetings, where little is really accomplished. I find myself arriving early and staying late every day to actually get the work done. By the time I get home each night (after a 40 minute drive), I am spent -- and have little energy for anything that requires thought or human interaction.

I find myself sitting and staring blankly at a television screen, or "catching up" with family and friends through Facebook -- hardly a meaningful exchange.

If I'm smart I get myself to bed at a reasonable hour, but more often than not I fall asleep on the sofa watching TV. When I wake up a few hours later (usually around 1:00 a.m.) I've had just enough rest that my mind starts going again -- usually racing with thoughts of what needs to be done at work the next day.

When I turned the page on the calendar to March, I realized that another month had gone by with little to no time dedicated to really living.

I've been down this road before, and I don't want this to become the norm. I can't let this become the norm -- because there is nothing normal or healthy about a life out of balance. But what do I do to find better alignment?

God, grant me the serenity...

January 30, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip

Back before the holidays, I tasted the most delicious Hot Artichoke Dip that I had ever tasted. I'm embarrassed to say that I started off with a small sampling with crackers, but then returned for a more generous portion which I ended up eating with a fork. Needless to say, I asked the hostess for the recipe, which she generously shared, God bless her!

Like so many great recipes that I've gathered over the years, after I got it, I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it. Well, I pulled it out on two occasions recently, and both times it was a huge hit. Best part of all is that it literally takes about 3 minutes to prepare -- and one batch makes a very generous portion.

I figured with Superbowl XLIV just around the corner, now was the perfect time to share it. However I'll forewarn you though -- if you're watching your calories or fat intake, you may want to avoid it -- it's super rich.

You'll Need


  • 1 14oz. can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated or shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (this dip is better if you a high quality cheese like Parmesan Reggiano)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I’ve used light and regular, and it is much richer tasting with regular mayo)
  • a sprinkle of garlic salt
Step By Step
  1. Mix all ingredients together
  2. Place in fairly shallow baking dish (8 x 4 loaf dish, or a pie plate works well)
  3. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.
  4. Serve warm with crackers or crusty baguette slices.
ENJOY!!


January 1, 2010

I'm In

First and foremost -- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I hope everyone has started off 2010 in whatever way you most enjoy. My day has been quiet -- which is just what I needed after a very busy couple of weeks. I've been trying to get caught up with visiting everyone who stopped by on Monday -- and slowly but surely, I'm making my way through the comments. The problem is, it's New Year's Day -- and everyone has posted such great stories, so no visit is a short one. I'm pouring over dozens of "Reflections on 2009" and "Resolutions for 2010." It's been very inspirational.

I'm not typically one to write new year's resolutions -- at least not on new year's day. I usually spend the first few weeks of the year in reflection, and then by the middle of the month I come up with goals and a game plan for the year. But with all of the inspiration that has been coming at me today, I am ready to make at least one commitment for the new year.

Thanks to Dorothy at
Fuzzykoala's Caketastic Adventures, I am jumping on board the Ten in 2010 Challenge (and don't tell her, but I'm even stealing borrowing most of her goals and making them my own!!).

According to the Challenge creator, Lori, (AKA: RecipeGirl), the
Ten in 10: Ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010 Challenge is not so much about making resolutions as it is about challenging yourself to adopt a healthier lifestyle. That's not something I need to reflect on -- I just need to do it.

So here are my commitments for this challenge:
+ Drink more water

+ Eat more fruits and veggies
+ Eat fewer sweets (so long Christmas Cookies)

+ Get more sleep

+ Walk or hit the gym 3-4 times each week


Ten Weeks -- I can totally do this! And come spring I will feel so much better about myself!
If you're interested in getting involved, just visit Recipe Girl's site (link is above) to sign up.

Thanks Lori & Dorothy for the inspiration! Here's to a healthy us in 2010!!

Happy New Year!
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