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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Am Thankful for... Food, Glorious Food!  

My "I Am Thankful for..." series wouldn't be complete without a post related to food. And, since Thanksgiving is only 2 days away, I figured now was the perfect time to share two of my favorite recipes. I don't have pictures to add, so you'll have to imagine the yumminess!

Mary Alice's Banana Cookies (family recipe)

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
11/2 tsp cinnamon
11/2 cups shortening
2 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas
31/2 cups oats
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients and cut in shortening. Add eggs and bananas. Mix well. Add oats and chocolate chips to taste (one or two cups). Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.

These are great frozen! Try it and see.

Confetti Spread (awesome, colorful appetizer)

2 pkg. croissant rolls (the kind you buy in the a package in the refrigerated section at the grocery store... Pillsbury, etc.)
2 8 ounce pkg. cream cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2-3 carrots (shredded)
3 celery stalks (diced)
1/2 yellow pepper (diced)
1 bunch radishes (shredded)
5-6 green onions (chopped)

Pat croissant dough onto a cookie sheet (jelly roll pan) and bake according to directions. Let cool completely. Beat softened cream cheese and mayonnaise and spread mixture evenly on baked croissant (will be flat). Sprinkle veggies evenly on top of the mixture. Cut into small pieces before cooling. Place in refrigerator and chill 3-4 hours before serving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Am Thankful for... My Head!  

I know... weird title! But, right after GNO on Tuesday, I was sitting in front of my computer and the ceiling light came crashing down. As in... the entire fixture came right out of the ceiling. Glass shattered everywhere. The fixture was heavy. It could have caused some serious damage if it had landed on anyone. And, to think I was 1 INCH from where it fell. Nope, not even exaggerating. Felt the wind and everything :). Here are the pics to prove it!

Anyway, this near-death experience (OK, that WAS an exaggeration) got me thinking... My head has been through a lot! It has:

  • Nearly been hit by a light fixture that escaped from its home in the ceiling.
  • Had 42 staples and a huge horseshoe-shaped scar (fortunately hidden under my hair).
  • Three screws in its jaw and a plate in its chin (fortunately hidden inside my mouth).
  • Had a fractured skull.
  • Experienced memory loss. What was I just saying? LOL!
  • Had the typical stitches in its chin that every child gets.
  • Had braces and retainers and the dreadful headgear. One reason to hate the 80s!
  • Had its jaw wired shut.
  • Had an epidural hematoma on its brain.
  • Lots of fillings and crowns and now, six wonderful veneers after a scary fall and broken teeth.
  • Epilepsy! (Not that it explains all of the above-listed points, but I knew you were going to ask for explanations!)
So, today's post is a simple bit of gratitude for having a head that has made it through the tough times—that has memory, function, and in spite of two pills a day for life and bad hair days, running make up, or anything else I may consider ugly, still is my head with my eyes, my freckles, my thin, but beautifully colored hair (thanks Meli).

In a very sincere, overwhelming, and humble way, I am thankful that the light is still on, if you know what I mean. Or, in other words, I am thankful for... my head!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Am Thankful for... Traditions!  

Change is inevitable. And, while I am pretty spontaneous and can roll with it most of the time—even thrive on it—I appreciate a degree of consistency throughout the changes. There is something about having certain anchors in the sea when waves come rolling in to keep you stable, right?

Anchors come in various forms, represented by a constant... like family members, religious beliefs or spirituality, passion and conviction for anything really—like politics, a cause, or a specific type of food. I'm telling you that life is better for me when cheese is around.

One of my favorite type of anchors isn't something that happens every day. Rather, it happens maybe once a year or on a less frequent than a daily basis anyway. It is a tradition. Something that has happened over time—perhaps even generations of time—that is so constant that life would seem unfamiliar and even sad without it.

A jar of sauerkraut grown in my mom's garden and canned by her. Mmmmmmm!

Here is my list of favorite traditions I have grown up with or recently started:

  • Going on a daddy-daughter date before Christmas every year.
  • Choosing a box from the "Money Tree" at Christmas time.
  • Eating sauerkraut at all major holiday meals.
  • Going to San Diego on summer vacations as a child.
  • Getting a father's blessing on the first day of school every year.
  • Going for a Sunday drive every Sunday between the ages of 10 and 16 so my dad could teach me how to drive.
  • Getting together with my Aunt Judy and her family to make Christmas candy every December.
  • Doing the "12 Days of Christmas" for a family less fortunate than us.
  • Visiting Strand Bookstore every time I go to New York City.
  • Playing the Silly Song on the piano and enjoying my kids dancing.
  • Going to see the witches at Gardner Historic Village during Halloween time (new tradition with my kids).
  • Celebrating my birthday for the month leading up to it! (And, making my family and friends celebrate it with me LOL!)
  • Having Christmas Eve with my in laws and their families and acting out the Christmas Story while my FIL reads it from the book of Luke.
  • Eating my grandma's grape sherbet ice cream.
  • Going on sister's vacations.
  • And...
This last tradition isn't one that happens at regular times. It doesn't need a special holiday to make it special. And what you need to know is that I don't like most desserts, including cookies. But, there is something about Banana Cookies that makes everything right in the universe. So my last and favorite tradition is just a batch of banana cookies.

At my grandma's funeral, the church made a delicious meal. We were expecting traditional funeral food, but there was not a dry eye in the room when they brought out my grandma's favorite food—the things she had made for all of us her entire life. And, what made it so memorable were the platters of banana cookies! We didn't know other people that ate them. We brought them to every family event. Aunts and uncles argued over who could make them better. Should they be crisp, doughy? How many chocolate chips was the perfect amount? I loved them soft and then frozen.

My favorite part about traditions? MEMORIES! Whenever I want to feel close to my grandma, all I have to do is make a batch of banana cookies and she may as well be standing right next to me.

What are your traditions?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WW: I Am Thankful for... Make Believe!  

Wet. Shivering. Seven. Running full speed ahead, I crashed into a wave in the Pacific ocean that buckled my knees, knocking me flat on my sandy bum. Exhilaration set in as not only salt water poured out of my mouth, but blood as well, because that meant I had lost my top front tooth.

The two—the fall of my body and my tooth—as it turns out, were completely unrelated. I had wiggled all the wiggle room right out of that tooth. But... as most kids do, I wouldn't make that final tug—the twist or turn that would set it free from its secure space in my mouth. And yet, when it came out of its own free will, I was elated, thinking of fairies and pixie dust and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, and all things magical. Fairies can do that to a young girl, you know! And, the Tooth Fairy was no different.

In my out-of-this-world state of mind, I began my note to said fairy. But, what started out as magical quickly turned matter of fact when I ended my short note with this statement: "Just in case you are wondering, I accept credit cards!"

My parents (I mean, the Tooth Fairy—hope I didn't ruin it for any of you) rewarded my "creativity" with a crisp $5 bill.

More than 20 years later—tonight, in fact—I watched as my son went through the same rollercoaster ride of emotion with his top front tooth. Should it stay or should it go? Until finally the tooth made its voice heard by going toward greener pastures. And I am glad it did, because in an instant make believe was alive and kicking in our home as Red Rover ran around half laughing, half crying and totally elated. Then, he posed for, perhaps, one of the worst pictures we have of him, which was difficult to take since he was singing "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth!" No problem with bedtime for this one!

BTW: No credit cards for this Tooth Fairy!

I am participating at Wordful Wednesday and at Wordless Wednesday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Am Thankful for... Not Being on Motrin's Marketing Team Right Now!  

Every once and a while, I’ll be talking to a friend. She’ll be telling me about a situation in her life. I know nothing about what she is going through. I’ve never experienced it. I can’t relate to it. I can only imagine the joy, pain, terror, fear, or whatever emotion she is sharing. But, as a woman—or maybe just as me—I find myself wanting to connect, to bond, to relate. And, I’ll admit, at times—hopefully not more often than not, but who knows—I find myself telling said friend that I understand what she is going through. I even have found myself sharing similar stories—things I have been through that I think are similar anyway.

Because most people are kind, especially friends, they typically don’t tell you that you don’t get it. That your experience in no way relates. They just bide your bonding attempts with a smile and when the timing is right, they go on with their story, hoping for a listening ear and empathetic understanding.

My question is: Is that right? Is it OK for us to smile and nod, knowing that our friend can’t relate with us. Today, in a groundswell of overwhelmingly negative proportions, Motrin and Johnson & Johnson friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike have answered this question. NO! They have shouted that IT IS NOT OK TO ACT LIKE YOU UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU DON’T. Don't believe me? Visit KatjaPresnal's Skimbaco blog and read her recent post entitled, "Motrin Giving Moms a Headache." Watch the video to see how moms unite to say: YOU DON'T GET MY PAIN!

But first, if you haven't heard, let me tell you what the hubbub is all about...

In its Mom-Alogue campain—an online video advertisement for Motrin Pain Reliever—Motrin claims “We Feel Your Pain”—by your, it means all you mommies out there. At the same time it:

  • Questions baby-wearing mom's motives (moms that wear baby carriers) by first stating that moms wear them as a fashion statement and next, claiming they are “Supposedly” bonding with their babies. Supposedly???
  • Mentions that babies cry less in baby carriers, but questions if moms cry more, using the phrase “What about me?” What if it were a sacrifice? Don’t think it is, but just asking… would it be so bad?
  • Claims that baby-wearing moms strain their back, their neck, and shoulders, but endure the pain all to make them look like an “official mom.” Because we need a reason to look official. Having and loving our babies isn’t enough.
  • States, after providing all of this info on baby-wearing moms that they obviously SO DON’T UNDERSTAND, “When I look TIRED and CRAZY, people will understand.” WHAT?????
But wait, there’s more…

A second Mom-Alogue video in the same campaign is based on the story line of “What if you could say what you thought?” Cute, huh? Has the makings of a great campaign, except for the part where they say that moms would “Kill” to get some sleep, the sleep we need so we won’t be “Committed,” and then that mentally unhealthy word again, but this time to describe our kiddos, “Crazy.” Not once, but twice!

As The REAL Problem points out:

Let’s be honest - when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia rocks the house, yet pulls up #Motrinmoms as the lead story, somewhere, there’s a disconnect. But it’s a disconnect that, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.

I’m not siding with Motrin. They screwed up, granted. I’m ok with that. Companies screw up all the time. They fix the problem, and it usually doesn’t make the radar screen. The problem is, Motrin happened to screwed up at the expense, and in the face of, one of the most vocal, quickest-to-blog, “strongest-to-band-together-and-form-one-opinion-like-the-Borg” collectives out there - The Mommy-Blogging community.

So… Motrin screwed up and the mommy-blogging world joined forces in outrage and voiced that the campaign not only shows that Motrin DOESN’T UNDERSTAND, that the words are INAPPROPRIATE and OFFENSIVE. Now what? Motrin clearly knows how moms feel about the matter? What’s the old adage? It isn’t what happens to you. It’s how you handle it that shows your true character. OK… I was totally paraphrasing that and could have majorly gotten it wrong, but the thought remains and makes me question: How will Motrin respond? The ads remain on their website. They clearly haven’t felt the need to remove them. I doubt their marketing team is enjoying a weekend right now. But, what is going on in the strategy meetings? What are the solutions? Ideas on the table (by table, I mean in blogaritaville) are:

  • Pull the ad. I mean, J & J is familiar with recalls, right?
  • Hire a Chief Mom Officer. After all, we are the target audience, right?
  • Fire the Ad Agency. Get a new one. Hmmmm... need more info to comment here.
  • Do more targeted focus groups, using moms this time—IRL or using social media. Right on! After working in Corporate America for more than 10 years, I am familiar with budget constraints and the all-too-popular phrase "Do more with less." So, traditional focus groups may be out. But, you can't tell me anyone is underestimating the power of social media at this point, especially when it comes to the virtual mommy force!
  • Before you hold that focus group, determine who the target market really is. One of my favorite pics of all time is one where my baby-wearing hubby is mowing the lawn with my now 7YO on his back. Call it fashionable. Call it "official." Call it crazy. Call him a mom. Call him a dad. Call it whatever you want, but know who you are talking about and who you are talking to when you write it. BTW: He bought the baby carrier, not me!

What else??? I am all for forgiveness and giving someone a second chance and Johnson is my maiden name, so I'll commit to being understanding, but Motrin has got to pony up. Pull the ad. Show us your good cards that admit that you didn't understand our pain until NOW! Give us all a free cruise to the Mediterranean and listen to us. It'll cost you less than the campaign you made millions 'o moms mad over!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Am Thankful for... My Sisters!  

I am the oldest of six children. My favorite part of that? Having three sisters. The four of us span three decades and are very different in terms of our styles, our religious and political persuasions, our fields of studies and careers, and our basic makeup—our personality types, our characteristics, our talents, etc. Still, we are bound by blood, tradition, and fun. I say fun, because we love to laugh together. And, it is in those moments that we are identical. I should take this moment to apologize to all of the passengers on the plane we rode with on the way to our sister's vacation. We really didn't mean to laugh that loud and talk incessantly. What's a sister to do?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Am Thankful for... Good Books!  

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

When I became a mother for the first time, one of the most important things on the long list of things to teach my child was to read. In this picture, I am sitting with the then 3-month-old Red Rover as we intently read his very first book. This is one of my favorite pics in spite of the fact that I am wearing overalls LOL.

Both my parents are avid readers. I remember one summer vacation where my mom had her nose in a James Michener book the entire time. I kept wondering why she was reading about Hawaii when we were in San Diego. Then, I think back on when my dad accepted a job in Europe. He would be working with more than 20 different countries. So, what was the first thing he did? Bought a stack of historical books on those places, so he would be prepared. I don't think I saw him without a book in his hand for the year leading up to the assignment and the two years he was there. Ask him any question on European history and politics and culture, etc. and he can answer it for you!

I fell in love with reading in my early teens when I discovered The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The readers in my family don't stop with my parents. My in laws are avid readers. And, my grandma was in the middle of not one, not two, but three different books the day she died. On average. she read a book a day and was one of the most well-read women I know.

I wonder if Miss Havisham was well read!

I am grateful for having reading in my heritage. I appreciate good literature and consider it a blessing to be surrounded by good books. I am thankful to live in a country that encourages reading and holds the freedom of speech in all forms, especially the written form, near and dear to its heart.

I love East of Eden. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and this book features my favorite chapter in all of literature.

Today I belong to two book clubs that meet monthly. I am constantly discovering new authors, genres, and favorite friends in the characters I read. My recent love? All things Kingsolver. Haven't read anything by her. Run. Skip. Hop. Fast. But, get yourself to a bookstore and start with The Poisonwood Bible. Then, buy everything else you can get your hands on. She's worth it!

Wanna know a bit more before you put aside your blogging for this baby? Read my summary of this book here: The Poinsonwood Bible.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Am Thankful for... The World!  

I was 12 when I went overseas for the first time. Our family friends lived in Costa Rica and my parents gave me the adventure of a lifetime, sending me all by myself tostay with them for 6 1/2 weeks during my summer vacation. That trip opened my eyes to the wonders of the world and the amazing people that live in it.

(A woman walking with her son in Guatemala.)

Since then, I have traveled to many different places—32 countries and 42 US States to be precise. I have celebrated other cultures and learned about many unique and amazing traditions. I am grateful for the various threads that weave the great, beautiful, rich, and diverse tapestry of our world.

(Dia de Los Muertos [Day of the Dead] in Guatemala.)

I am grateful for all of the colorful customs and countrysides. I am especially appreciative to have explored far past my little corner of the world—from Asia to Argentina to England.

(On the Black Sea in Ukraine.)

But, even more than that, I am grateful for parents that taught me to look for the similarities in people, to love our differences, and to appreciate everything I have discovered in my journeys.

(People at the fish market in Ukraine.)

Right now, my parents are living in Guatemala, where my dad has taken a job. My parents in law are living in Ukraine, where they are serving a church service mission. We appreciate them sharing their cultural experiences with us each week. You are keeping our eyes opened!

(Kite flying festival in Guatemala.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Am Thankful for... My Children!  

Red Rover and Chatter Box are two of my heroes that I am super grateful for!

Let me tell you a little bit about each of them.

Red Rover

red adj. The color of his hair. This 7-year-old tender-hearted child has red hair the color of his maternal grandmother's.

rover noun A boy who roams and wanders. Without permission or fear, the young rover takes his sidekick the bike and roams the neighborhood, freaking out his parents on a weekly basis.

This is my favorite story of our very literal Red Rover:

Red Rover was dying for a treat from the vending machine. Must have sugar now! T-Daddy acquiesces, hands him a crisp $1 bill, and sends him off down the hall. When our oldest boy wonder doesn't return, T-Daddy begins his search and rescue operation. He quickly locates his firstborn son, standing smack dab in front of the vending machine, holding the dollar bill out, with his head back, chin lifted, and eyes fixed on the ceiling tiles.

"What's wrong, buddy? Asbestos?" T-Daddy questions, teasing.

"Nothing, dad. Just following the rules. It said 'face up'."

Chatter Box

chatter adj. The movement his mouth makes nearly 100% of the time. This 5-year-old creative, funny child loves to chatter on about anything and everything.

box noun A square container. This clever kid thinks outside the box, coming up with clever ways to make paper airplanes, rocket ships, and other gadgets.

This is my favorite story of our enthusiastic Chatter Box:

Sometime in the summer of 2007, Chatter Box determined he was no longer a boy. Green power flowed through his veins—or shell, or whatever turtles have—and he was transformed into a Ninja Turtle. Not only that, but his entire family—dog included, according to him—are now all powerful and committed in the fight against Shredder.

T-Daddy is worried that Leo—our son formerly known as Chatter Box—has taken his new identity one step too far. One day when I was putting on makeup, Leo asked me if he could put some on too. I told him boys don't normally wear makeup to which he replied: "Well, you are Donny (Donatello the Ninja Turtle) and you are a boy and you wear makeup, so why can't I?" How do you refuse that? But now, he has taken it to a new extreme. When we ask him to put on his pajamas and get ready for bed, his immediate reply is: "Ninja Turtles don't wear pajamas." Apparently, they don't have hair that needs cutting or rooms that need cleaning or a lot of other things that normal boys wouldn't really find fun.

Red Rover—who now goes by Raph (Raphael)—is totally on board and has even started correcting us when we slip up and call Leo by his given name. And, now that we have moved, people look at me weird if I say anything about Chatter Box. I actually had a neighbor who replied by asking, "Do you mean Leo?" I cracked up:).

Soooo... if you have any adversary in your life, please feel free to come to the source that will be your true protection—the Utah Ninja Turtles!

What Is Gratitude?  

November is my favorite month. Why? The superficial reasons include: it is an odd-numbered month, it has a long name, and it starts with an "N," which, if you know me, is how I typically choose the sports teams I follow and the books I buy. Yep! I do judge a book by its cover! But, I also have more meaningful reasons for loving November. I love this month because it is:

  • The month when fall turns to winter—my two favorite seasons.
  • My grandma's birth month.
  • In the middle of three of my favorite holidays—Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
  • About giving to loved ones and those less fortunate.
  • A reminder to me to appreciate how much I have to be grateful for.
  • A nudge to seek for ways in which to be grateful and to appreciate the small and simple things.
  • About great food!
  • A time for family and loved ones to enjoy traditions.

So, in a spirit of Thanksgiving, I am dedicating one post a day for each of the 30 days in November to things for which I am grateful. These things, whether as small as a drop of rain or as established as an eternal relationship, make me want to shout from the rooftops in appreciation!