Posted in Food, My Life, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge, Post A Week Challenge

258/365 Live and Let Live … or Kill These Suckers Now?

I discovered some caterpillars on my passionflower today. I know what caterpillars do to vegetation and I am not happy about the impending doom of my beloved flowers.

I found the caterpillars because I had been drawn outside with my camera to capture the beautiful butterflies fluttering around my bright pink flowers.

Yes. I know caterpillars become butterflies, but I didn’t exactly connect these dots right away. It wasn’t until I came in and started exploring the Googles with a search on “how to kill orange and black caterpillars” that I started to make the connection.

Did I mention how much I love my passionflower?

Then I started noticing a lot of images of these caterpillars, butterflies and passionflowers together. A few clicks later I came to realize that not only is this butterfly called the Passion Butterfly, or Gulf Fritillary, but my beloved plant is the larval host plant for this species.

So now I’m torn. Do I allow the leaf chomping larvae to completely defoliate my plant in the hopes of reaping the benefits of a backyard filled with the beautiful butterflies?

Well, what do you think? Let them live or save my plant?

 

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Posted in Food, My Life, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge, Post A Week Challenge

257/365 First Harvest

While my mom was waiting for us to build her raised garden beds, she went ahead and planted seedlings in a few large planters. And she waited. And waited. And, while we struggled to find the time to build her beds (which we did on Mother’s Day), her seedlings producted plants that produced…..FOOD!  Yep, she gathered the first zucchini and eggplant of the season and I couldn’t wait to cook it up.

I had seen several pinned recipes on Pinterest for zucchini chips but none of them were quite what I was looking for. So, I hit up Food Network and found the perfect recipe for Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (Weight Watchers point value = 3).

I started by slicing the zucchini (and eggplant) into 1/4″ rounds. I then drizzled the olive oil over the slices and stirred to coat all the pieces. I then mixed up Kraft Parmesan and bread crumbs with salt and pepper. I didn’t have fresh Parmesan on hand, like the recipe calls for, but I will for the next time. As wonderful as this dish was, I can see where the fresh grated cheese would make it even better.

I then dredged each piece of the cut up veggies in the dry mixture before placing them on the prepared cooking sheets. In the oven they went while I turned my attention to the other dishes.

Several weeks ago my mom and I spent most of a Saturday preparing bags of crock-pot freezer meals (another Pinterest discovery that I still plan to write about). Earlier this afternoon I had placed one of those meals, Hearty Black Bean Soup (Weight Watchers point value = 3), in the crock-pot in preparation for dinner later tonight.  This recipe called for fresh cilantro to be added to the pot about 5 minutes before serving. It just so happened that mom had fresh cilantro growing in one of her container gardens and she gathered up a handful for me. I chopped it up and added it to the crock-pot and started some rice in the rice cooker.

After about thirty minutes, the rice, soup and veggies were ready to eat. And so were we!

Dinner is served.

Posted in beaty, Post A Week Challenge, Treasure Chest

Monday’s Treasure Chest – Feathers, Friends and Google TV

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted a Monday Treasure Chest. I’m going to try and get back on track with that by posting a few things I’m thankful for today. And yes, I realize today isn’t Monday but for the sake of this blog, let’s just pretend it is. Okay?

I am rockin’ some new feather extensions in my hair. I LOVE them! I want more. As a matter of fact, I’m already plotting ways to make that happen before we leave for vacation next week. My super awesome amazing hair designer, Sugar, ordered the extensions because I begged and pleaded and she loves me. They came in Friday afternoon. Yes, I was at the salon bright and early Saturday morning to get my new bling. Did I mention that I love them? If you are in the Tampa area, you should definitely go see her and get your own. See how awesome they look?

I also want to recognize a couple of people in my life who mean the world to me. You know who you are and I can’t thank you enough for being the real deal when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk. I respect and admire you and and hope to live my life as authentically as you do. When I needed a sympathetic ear yesterday, you were both there for me. We haven’t talked in months but there was no doubt in my mind who I would turn to when I needed truth and honestly. You are two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met and I am blessed to call you friend.

The last on my list is sort of a shameless plug in order to get myself some extra entries in a contest over at Aiming Low. Well, it’s not entirely insincere that I would write about Aiming Low because I do completely and utterly love the site and regularly stalk follow a few of the bloggers over there. I mean, who wouldn’t love a site that brings several of your all time favoritest bloggers (Anissa, Faiqa, and Cecily) together in one place?  How can you not be sucked into a website that’s is described as “…a group of women/men/moms/dads/bloggers/friends/writers that believe that there’s no shame in serving mac and cheese for dinner three nights in a row, Febreeze was created to make a questionably clean shirt smell ready-to-walk-out-the-door-fresh and that slack isn’t a way of life…it’s an art.” I do highly recommend you scoot right on over there because I guarantee there will be laughter in your future if you do.

One of the bloggers over at Aiming Low, MommyGeek, is launching a new bi-weekly column about geeky stuff. Helloooo. I’m all over it and can’t wait to read each new article she posts. She kicked off her new column in style by telling us all about Google TV and now I’m all in lust and must own this. Oh, and to make it even better, Aiming Low and Dish Network, are giving away a Google TV system. OMG! Can you imagine how much my dear husband would love me if I actually won this spectacular prize? So, I’m telling you guys all about it for two reasons. First, by doing so, I’m earning an extra 10 entries in the contest. Second, and against my better judgement, I’m sharing the opportunity for you to also enter to win the Google TV from Aiming Low and Dish Network.

Have a great week!!

Posted in Post A Week Challenge

You’re Dismissed

My friend just posted a Facebook status that reads, “A clear understanding of negative emotions dismisses them”. It is somewhat serendipitous that she posted that as I sit here filled with negative emotions. As a matter of fact, I’ve been on quite the emotional roller coaster lately and I’m having a hard time pinpointing the root cause of all this negativity. I find myself unable to fall asleep even though I’m completely and utterly exhausted. There was a time when I would jokingly say that nights would be so much more restful if I could just get the voices in my head to stop screaming. Trust me when I say that has earned me some pretty awkward glances.

I haven’t had a night like this in a really long time. I’m not sure what’s prompting the sleeplessness but I have some ideas. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent most of the day hung over and the depressive effects of the remnants of alcohol are taking a toll on me. Last night was so much fun and the ability to ‘let go’ for a few hours was very much needed.

Sleep could be hindered by the fact that I’m constantly making lists of to-do’s regarding our upcoming trip to Mexico. We’ve never traveled with the kids before and I’m a little nervous and stressed about it. Not at all stressed in a bad way but just the typical thoughts of packing and making sure we don’t forget important things. It doesn’t help that I’m so excited about this trip that I can’t stop thinking about all the fun stuff we have planned.

There are other stresses associated with this trip that I have no control over. I’ll be away from work for 8 business days, which can be a lifetime in my profession. When we planned this trip for June, it was the ideal time with regards to my projected work schedule. Of course, I should have known that when dealing with the United States government, nothing ever goes as it should. Last week we got 62 requests for proposals that are all due pretty much while I’m gone or the week I get back. I’ll do as much as I can and between my boss and myself, I fully expect to knock out a chunk of them. However, I know we will not finish them and that means the burden will fall completely on my boss, and as much as I would like to not care, I do. I hate to leave him. That’s just who I am. My boss would tell me to stop being silly and forget about work and enjoy my well deserved break. I’m sure I will have no trouble putting it out of my mind once I’m in Mexico but for now, it’s got my brain working overtime with worry.

I think these are the biggest causes of my negative emotions tonight but I feel it’s only fair to list some of the other random things floating around in my head. I’m missing friends and family. I’ve got a personal to-do list several pages long. I have about a half dozen partially written blogs that I want to complete but can’t make myself sit down and finish. I’ve dealt with some office politics at work lately that have left me feeling empty and angry. I’ve watch insincerity run rampant around me. I’ve been weak in my reactions to that insincerity and that really bothers me. I’m physically exhausted most of the time for no reason. Laziness seems to rule my world and I’m very unhappy with how I allow that to happen.  I missed being at church today and will miss it for the next 2 Sunday’s as well. There could be some very significant changes at work that scare the crap out of me. Gil’s 19 year old cat is sweet and loving and still gets around but I’m afraid his quality of life is diminished to the point that we need to make a very hard decision soon. I see people I love dealing with some tough demons and I want to help more but still feel completely helpless most of the time.

Well, there you have it. I’ve put the negatives out there in an effort to gain some understanding of them. Seeing some of it in black and white does help me realize that most of what’s negative in my life can be easily fixed if I just take action. Some of the negatives aren’t really negatives at all, but for some reason I’m choosing to think negatively about the positive things. Some of the things are completely out of my control and I just have to trust that God will guide me to do the right thing when I have choices to make.

I want to stop dwelling on the negatives and remember the positives. I have an amazing group of friends that I try not to bother too often with my worries, but I know that if needed, they would come in like the cavalry. I have an amazing husband who loves me and takes care of me in ways I never dreamed possible. I have my mom here with me all the time, just in case I need her. I have a great job in which I’m challenged and presented with opportunities to grow and become better every day. I have my health. Yes, I have little grumbles and complaints, but overall, I’m healthy. I believe that I’m living a life that pleases God.

Ok negative emotions, consider yourself dismissed.

Posted in Post A Week Challenge, Uncategorized

Rabbit Holes and $10,000 Dresses

I fell down the Twitter rabbit hole this afternoon and after hours of clicking through page after page and blog after blog, I ended up on a very intriguing website. Jamie Ridler is a professional creative living life coach who is, and I quote, passionate about authentic living and creativity.  Can you guess why I may have spent some time on her website? Oh, and her latest blog entry includes a video of Michael Franti singing Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong. #winning

Let’s just say I think I’m in love with her and I see myself spending many hours soaking up her words. One of the inspirational tools she offers is an online Full Moon Dreamboard session. This caught my attention because of my involvement in the Change Your Mind workshop last year. One of our assignments was to create a Vision Board. As I suspected, dreamboards and vision boards are very similar. The difference, according to Jamie’s website, is that the dreamboard is “tied directly to the cycles of the moon and this connection to the rhythms of nature help us tap into the rhythm of ourselves”. Let’s just say I’m intrigued and may just have to participate in the next session.

While checking out the FAQ’s and trying to find out exactly what and how to do a dreamboard, I found a response that completely answered my question and even provided links to some examples and tools other people used to create their boards. Of course, this led me deeper into the time suckage warp and I found myself on the Polyvore website creating my own little version of a vision board. I tried to tear myself away but I just lost all control and just kept creating and creating and creating.  And yes, it felt really good to be creative for a while. I think I needed that little release today.

Below is my creation of things I found to be very pretty and a little romantic. I can imagine myself wearing the dress and big floppy hat to my friend’s wedding later this year. The first item I selected was the dress and I just built onto that theme and color to create a little collection that just left me smiling. Of course, once the fashion items had been selected, I then felt a strong desire to throw in some other items that I love. I found the quote and thought how perfect that is for me and my current journey to find out who I am. I guess what I’m finding is really that all of me is not perfect, but, dammit, some parts are pretty awesome.  The final piece was the music themed background, which I felt absolutely completed my little dream/vision board. This small and simple collage may be the beginning of some larger board in the future.

Now, while I was building my little creation, I failed to notice there were prices associated with the items I selected.  Oh boy. Apparently, I have much more expensive taste than I realized.  Check out the pricetag on that pretty little sundress that I hoped to wear to my friend’s wedding.  I’m pretty sure Gil is just not going to agree to that. Maybe I could talk him into a new bottle of Coco Mademmoiselle so at least I can smell pretty while wearing a dress from Target to that wedding. Pretty

Pretty by purrfectlee featuring stiletto heels

Ralph Lauren Collection wrap dress
$10,000 – net-a-porter.com

Stiletto heels
4.99 GBP – dressrail.com

Stiletto heels
4.99 GBP – dressrail.com

Bally leather tote bag
$1,395 – net-a-porter.com

H M straw handbag
25 GBP – hm.com

Red Herring gold bracelet
10 GBP – debenhams.com

Beanie hat
$15 – tillys.com

Lip Gloss
2.99 GBP – hm.com

CHANEL COCO MADEMOISELLE PARFUM
$95 – nordstrom.com

DESTINED Glitter Nail Color
$2.99 – tillys.com

Fauna Cat Pillow Fauna
$104 – designpublic.com

Black Printed Leather
$265 – mulberry.com
Posted in Post A Week Challenge

It Could Have Been Me

Demons.  We all have them. Some are more vicious than others. Your demons are no more or less scary than mine, and vice versa.  Some of us face the same demon day after day while others face the infrequent demon only when it decides to rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, demons are a part of our everyday life. Some people manage to conquer their demons through various means but others struggle in ways that we can never understand.

Take the teenage girl who was molested by a trusted family member. She may deal with this memory by simply not remembering. We can do that. We can repress a memory to the point that it never comes to the forefront of our thoughts. One day it might again, but for this girl, it’s her coping mechanism. There’s the grandfather who recognizes his Alzheimer’s is stealing his life and his memories. He copes by putting a bullet through his brain. His demon wins and his family loses but it was his way of quieting the evil voices that guide us sometimes.   Right or wrong, these ways of doing battle are just a couple of the many options in the arsenals we use to deal with our troubles.

There is another method we sometimes choose, and for me and my world, it seems to be the easiest and most common. I know I’m guilty of it and I bet you all know someone else who is as well. I’m talking about the method of numbing our pain, of chemically suppressing our emotions so that the hurting, anger and anguish are just not dominant in our lives.

In my lifetime, I’ve had some pretty big demons consume my thoughts. Most of them came for a while and through some twist of fate or by God’s grace, I’ve managed to slay them all (almost).  The wars were not won overnight but it was during the battles I fought that I faced the option of which direction my life would take.  I drank and I partied and I drank and sometimes I even took a pill if it made me feel better.  This may be a shocking confession to some of you. To others, not so much.

I need to clarify this just a little. I’m not a raging alcoholic, nor am I a needle between the toes drug addict. What I’m talking about is, those days, weeks or even months when the pain is too great to bear, I have been known to drink a bottle of wine or an enormous rum and Coke, just to help me sleep through it.  Do you know that feeling? Those times when the voices in our heads are filing us with dread and self-doubt and no activity or distraction can shut them up. Those times when it seems our only alternative is to put them out. To sedate them. Hey, if I’m asleep, I’m not crying anymore, right?  If I’m asleep, my heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to pound through my chest cavity and end up on the wall across the room. If I’m asleep, the memories that haunt me will simply fade to black.

These episodes have been very rare and I can only think of three periods in my life in which I resorted to this form of coping on a larger scale. There was one time in my early 30’s when it seemed that my life was falling apart and it was easier to spend my evenings in a drunken stupor than to deal with the realization of the mistakes I was making. The second episode came a few years later. This time I wasn’t dealing with my own demons. This time, I was struggling with the demons of others, with the helplessness that comes from watching someone you love being sucked lower and lower into the bowels of their own hell.  When there was nothing left to do but watch the destruction, I chose to cope with months and months of binge drinking parties that left me with days of missing memories. The last time I turned to synthetic mood enhancers was the fall of 2005. This time was different though. My coping for this short period involved booze and prayer. I know, that’s a pretty strange combination but it’s what got me through. Lucky for me, this one worked itself out and everyone lived happily ever after.

There have been other times but these three are the most severe and significant examples.  Some other ways that I’ve dealt with a bad day may have included the use of some prescription medication in a way other than for which it was prescribed. For the record, I have not illegally obtained any form of narcotic since my youth. Sorry, I just felt the need to put that out there. You never know who reads this blog. When I say that I’ve used pills to deal with a bad day, I mean that I may have taken a pain pill when I wasn’t in physical pain. Hey, mental pain is still pain, dammit.

I am very much aware of how dangerous my method of coping has been.  I have lived on the slippery slope and managed to hang on for dear life. In every one of these instances I ran the very real risk of allowing my coping mechanism to actually become my new demon. I don’t know why this never happened. Maybe I was scared so straight at a very young age that my internal will just stopped it from becoming more than it was. Am I stronger than others who allow the drugs and alcohol to take over? No. I am absolutely not. Is my brain wired differently? Maybe. I have no idea why these episodes never became a bigger problem. I’m thankful and I contribute it to God’s grace, but I know there is more than that at play here. God gives us free will for a reason and my free will took a different path.  That is all.

Every day I am faced with a reminder of the evil that is addiction. My life has been altered because of it.  Other people’s lives are being affected daily because of it. The thing is, at this point in time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addiction almost cost me something dear, but thank God it did not.  We beat it down.  I say ‘we’ because I’m not sure the addiction could have been beaten by a single person. I believe that once the addiction was identified, it took the addict, the family, the doctors, lawyers, judges, therapists, and friends to beat this demon. Would it have been defeated if one of those people had not stood up to face it head on? I’m not sure, and I’m glad I don’t have to find out. The wake of destruction left by the addiction is still evident but it doesn’t matter anymore.  I still get mad and have moments of weakness where I blame the addict and then I remember why the addict became an addict. That’s all it takes. A single moment to remember what pain was being numbed and it becomes easier to forgive.

If someone does lose their battle with the demon that is addiction, I pray they find the peace they seek. I will never judge them if they chose numbness over pain. I have no right to do that because it could easily be me. I believe that addiction is one of the ugliest monsters one can face.  Addiction is real and it’s a problem that is devastating families and relationships every second. It hurts those who are addicted and it can destroy those who love them.

If you know someone who struggles with addiction, stop for a moment and think about how they got there. Did they begin using drugs or alcohol to stop a pain that never seems to end? Do they fight a demon we cannot see? Are they fighting alone because they want to fight alone, or is it because no one offered to help? Have offers to help fight the addition been made and rejected? Have you considered that it’s not the addition they need help fighting? Maybe it’s the dark, deeply buried secret they can’t seem to forget. Maybe they just need that one person to say they care. Why don’t you ask if you can help them? Ask if you can hold their hand or make a phone call or pay for a therapy session. Help them help themselves if they want it. Some do want it. Some need to be released from the addiction but it’s an impossible task until they are released from the demon that drove them there.

Addiction can be very quiet and may sit in a dark closet where no one can see it. It’s hard to do battle with an invisible demon, so ask them to reveal it to you so you can fight together. Invite them to lay their troubles down at your feet, at God’s feet, at their teacher’s or doctor’s feet. Maybe they just need someone to help them carry their cross if the burden is too much for them.

Do you know someone who is struggling and you are afraid to talk to them? Don’t be afraid, just do it. It may be the conversation that saves their life.

Posted in Post A Week Challenge

Foundations

This pair is defective. Can I exchange them for newer ones?

I posted the above picture to my DailyBooth site today. I needed to vent about my current feet situation and it seemed like the best place to do that. One year ago this week, I somehow damaged a nerve in the top of my left foot and have been battling numbness and tingling for months. It actually got better with the anti-inflammatory patches I wore, but I managed to aggravate it at Rock by the Sea a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been wearing the patches ever since. I’m sure it will get un-inflamed soon, but I’m wearing the sessy patches until it does. On my right foot you will notice the even sessier moleskin I have covering my bunion. Yep, you read that right. I am 43 years old and I have a bunion. Forty-three year olds are not supposed to have bunions. Grandmothers, now those are the kind of people who get bunions.

I could sit here and play dumb and pretend I don’t know how this could have happened to me, but I know exactly why I have a bunion. And it all started in elementary school.

As a fifth grader with size 9 feet, I was relentlessly ridiculed. The “OMG those are some big feet” and “Bigfoot” jokes were never ending.  Of course, I had feet bigger than everyone I knew, except my mother, who had the same size 9 foot as I did. But, she was an adult and adults are supposed to have big feet. I was just a kid, a kid with very big feet.

My family tried to console me by saying that my large feet simply meant that I had a better foundation than everyone else. Umm, no, that really didn’t work for me, even though I did throw it back at the name-callers and bullies. Of course, this just made them laugh and make fun of me even more. But, God bless my family for trying.

As I advanced through high school, life became a bit easier in that more girls’ feet grew to nearly my size. However, none of my close friends wore anything larger than a size 7. I could share clothes but was never able to comfortably share shoes with any of my girlfriends.

Now, if you are paying attention you might have picked up on that last statement. Let me say it again for you. “I could share clothes but was never able to comfortably share shoes with any of my girlfriends.”  It was in high school that I first began the practice of razing my ‘foundation’. I would often wear shoes that were one or more sizes too small for me in an effort to make my feet look like all the other girls. I desperately wanted small, thin, dainty feet and God had cursed me with these lumpy, oversized flappers upon which to stand.  All those years of ridicule had made an impact on my self-image.  I thought I looked like a clown and nothing was going to change my opinion of myself.

My habit of wearing too small shoes continued through my 20’s and 30’s, but at least I had lessened the amount of abuse by only wearing shoes a half or one size too small. I continued to deny the fact that my foundation had grown and I was easily a size 10. I continued to shop for size 9,  or maybe 9.5 if the shoe I wanted wasn’t available in a 9.

Today if I walk into a shoe store, my first instinct is to start with a 9.  I know better, so why can’t I let go of those childhood humiliations? Why do I continue to deny the solid foundation I was blessed with?

I think back and realize that it wasn’t only my physical foundation that I began to ignore in my youth, but my spiritual foundation also began to deteriorate about the same time. I started denying my foot size about the same time that I started denying God’s presence in my life.  I stopped taking care of my faith foundation and it began to crumble, crack and shift. This degradation would continue throughout my teens, 20’s and 30’s, just like with my feet.  I always assumed my foundation was strong and would support me, even if I never provided any maintenance, care or upkeep. I certainly never thought there would be irreparable damage that would require professional help.

I know that the damage to my feet cannot be reversed so I’ve made changes in my life to stop the progression of years of mistreatment. When I enter a shoe store, I am now more likely to start with a size 10, and then go down in size only if I need to. I’m also making strides (pun intended) to repair the years of spiritual abuse my soul has suffered because I thought I needed to be something other than what God intended for me to be. I spent decades tearing down the fundamental support that held me upright. Starting now, I intend to spend years and years strengthening both my physical and spiritual foundation so that I can be everything I know God intends for me to be.