November 30, 2011

Going Home

     My father is moving home tomorrow morning. I am pondering what 'home' really means. In my father's case, it is where he was born, and where his mother lives. A brother and a son are there. If you call a whole state home, then his sister lives there too. Include neighboring states, and he gets a daughter and two grandkids.
     The 'home' that he is leaving is very un-homey apartment that he has no attachment to that happens to be less than a mile from another daughter and two grandkids. While the apartment was only occupied by him for about a year, it is in a county he has resided in for more than half his life.
     Without the old, "Home is where the heart is," what is it really? My father is not going to live in the same house he was born in, just the same town, so is a town your home? And if you have spent most of your life in a town you weren't born in, which one wins the title?
     When I was away at college, I went home to my dorm room after class, but home to San Diego for Christmas. To get technical about it, my mother lived in a suburb of San Diego, but I never told my college friends I would be going home to sunny La Mesa for the holidays. And how could I be at home where my mother lives in California, when my mother's home is states away in Utah where her mother lived?
     Half of the things from my fathers old home are now at my home - things he kept there for my kids who visited at least once a week since we lived down the street. His new home is 2000 miles away; he won't need those things anymore.
    Is home the building? The stuff in it? Is it the town, or the state, or the people who live with you or nearby? If you were born in Seattle, were raised in Kansas, your parents live in Texas, and you live in Detroit with your spouse and kids, how do you get home?

November 28, 2011

Happy Homemaker Monday

The weather in my neck of the woods:
A little cloudy. Boring mild southern California weather. There are no seasons here.

Things that make me happy:  
Being at home with my family.

Book I'm reading:
The Gallery of Regrettable Food

What's on my TV today:  
Maybe Jeopardy

On the menu for dinner:
Slow Cooker Beef Stew

On my To Do List:
Weekly Home Blessing Hour
Write my book

New Recipe I tried or want to try soon:
Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole (notice the slow cooker trend?)

In the craft basket:
Paper bags to decorate for Christmas gifts

Looking forward to this week:
A quiet week before CHRISTMASTIME

Tips and Tricks:
Kid's de-tangling spray works for grownups too.

My favorite blog post this week: 
The Bleat

Blog Hopping (a new discovered blog you would like to share with the readers):
The Deadmalls blog. I'm fascinated by this subject and I don't know why!

No words needed (favorite photo or picture, yours or others you want to share):

Lesson learned the past few days:
Not to just tell my husband, "Don't park there." I must tell him why. "Please do not park in that overgrown and muddy vacant lot because in the five minutes I am gone, I'm sure you will manage to do something wrong to the car."

On my mind:
Dad is moving across the country this week.

November 25, 2011

Backer Friday

     So, I’m not thinking about Black Friday today. I am thinking about Backer Friday. When you give yourself a deadline, you surprisingly get a lot of stuff done. For years I’ve been writing. I can’t get rid of my old computer because it contains thousands of pages of my writing. “Someday” I will publish it. Well, “someday” finally came.

     I started a project with, which is a fundraising website for artistic causes. You get a certain number of days (I chose 30) to get people to pledge money for your project. You also have to set a goal for how much money you need to raise. If your goal is reached by the deadline, you get the money. If you don’t reach the goal, any backers who pledged don’t get charged. And as a backer, you are entitled to rewards depending on how much you pledge. For example, if you pledge a dollar for my project, I will send a thank you tweet. Pledge $15 and you get an autographed copy of the book. Check it out here and see the special reward you get for a $36 pledge!

     I would like to thank Roseann McPhaul for being my largest backer to date (she’s also my mom). She pledged $300. For that amount, she gets a thank you tweet, a copy of the book, and I will include her artwork in one of the short stories. I’m not sure she paid much attention to the rewards when she chose an amount to pledge because I’ve never known her to be much of an artist. But she draws good sheep, so I guess I will just have to write a story about sheep so that her artwork doesn’t seem out of place.

     Today, think about pledging a dollar (or more) to an artistic cause. If reading my book isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other interesting projects on Kickstarter. Without your help, these creative people may not ever get a chance to share their art.

November 21, 2011

Let's Tighten Our Belts

     We all know the holidays are approaching. I've been pummeled by advertisements for Black Friday deals. A flatscreet TV for only $499! Well, excuse me for being a killjoy, but who can honestly afford $499 for anything? If I had $499 I could think of 499 better things to do with it besides buy a television.
     I am troubled lately by a feeling of extreme inadequacy. My husband works all day. I'm on unemployment and searching (and searching, and searching) for a job. In the mean time, I'm hustling. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, for random tasks for people. We are bringing in as much money as we possibly can, but its still not enough. So we need to cut back.
    I need your help. I'm trying to keep a positive outlook, but I don't know where else to cut. We don't eat out. No Starbucks. I pay about $10 a month for phone service. All of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my mother. I don't wear make-up, and I cut my own hair. My mani-pedi consists of my husband clipping my nails before bed. My husband rides the bus to work. We drink tap water.
     Please share some suggestions. I have stretched my dollars as far as I can. Anyone feel the same? What are you doing to get by?

November 18, 2011

A New Project

     If someone has a blog, its probably obvious that they enjoy writing. So it should come as no surprise that I am publishing a book. What is a surprise is that I am going to follow through with this.
     I recently came to the realization that if you want to do something in life, you have to do it. Seems logical, right? Well, the only thing that keeps me from being embarrassed about not knowing this is that I strongly suspect that I'm not the only one who didn't know. A relatively small number of people in this country have clued in to it. Take your local nail salon for instance. I think that I could run a good nail salon (I wouldn't be doing the work, of course, I would just run things.) I would hire certain people, and decorate a certain way, and treat my customers a certain way. I would be successful. But guess what. I do not own a successful nail salon because I did not purchase a nail salon to run. The people who run them are the ones that did the work. They had the desire, they raised the money, they bought the equipment, they rented the space, and they assumed the risk. And a lot of nail salon owners did all that with a very weak command of the English language. What do they have that I don't? They got off their butts and did it, that's what.
     So, I am officially off my butt. Over the years I have written thousands of pages material, from short stories, to diary entries, to scathing letters to the editor. Because I'm going to be a writer some day. Well its been years and I am not famous yet because all those pages are locked away on my flash drive, and nobody except me has ever read them. So now I am in the process of picking some material from my archives and writing some new stuff. I am going to publish a collection of short stories in paperback form; meant to be kept in your purse or back pocket to pass the time while waiting for something. I am not thinking about doing this. I am doing it. I am compiling the material. I am raising funds. I am researching publishing companies and the legal aspects of everything. I anticipate a finished product by February. It will be done.
     All those people who succeed don't do it all by themselves though. Everyone needs a helping hand. Please visit my project page at to see how you can help. Every little bit is appreciated. I will not fail you. Look for my book in February (I really have to do it now or it will be really embarrassing to explain that all the hype was a well intentioned lie.)

November 15, 2011

Buenos Dias?

    Well, I chickened out. In my last post I told you I was going to buy a new bathing suit for my trip to Mexico. I just got so busy procrastinating that I didn't have the time. And I had packed my old suit just in case. As it turns out, a new suit would not have helped me anyway.
     Mexico was beautiful and relaxing. We stayed in a pretty posh resort with a FANTASTIC pool. On the first day we went for a dip in the morning, and somehow didn't manage to get out of the pool until it got dark. The swim up bar probably contributed to our lengthy stay. So with perfect weather, a beautiful pool, and attentive resort staff, what could I complain about?
     Digital cameras, that's what (please stay with me while I rationalize). In the old days, you took your camera on vacation, and took pictures of beautiful and interesting things, or yourself next to those things. You hoped that the pictures came out. You enjoyed your trip, and then when you got home you sent the film in to be developed. Then you got to relive the excitement of your vacation when the pictures came back. Sometimes there would be a picture that was bad because the flash didn't go off, or you had your eyes closed and your mouth gaping open, but that was okay. You treasured the memory of your vacation.
     Then along comes the digital camera. Now, as you're relaxing at the swim up bar in your five-year-old-pre-last-baby-who-is-now-two-so-there's-no-excuse-for-not-losing-the-baby-weight-yet bathing suit, your friends decide they want a group picture. You get the bartender to snap the photo while you all pose, and then he shows you the picture. Jennifer says she doesn't like it because she was squinting, so Mr. Bartender takes another. Now Cassie doesn't like it because she was hunched over funny. "Mr. Bartender!" In every photo that is taken, one person doesn't like the way she is posed, but in every single shot you are fat, and there's nothing you can do about it. And with every single shot you are reminded of it.
     It is no surprise to me that I'm fat, but I hope I can at least forget about it for a while when I'm on vacation. With these darn digital cameras I see myself immediately and it detracts from my enjoyment of the moment. Maybe I shouldn't be drinking this sweet and delicious pina colada. Instead of steak and lobster tonight, I should just have some boiled carrots. Because I don't deserve to have any fun because I'm fat.
     I know its not the camera's fault, but I must admit that I would have had more fun if I hadn't seen my sagging arm fat or my shapeless form. So what am I going to do about it? I don't have a brilliant answer, or an answer that will necessarily work for someone else in my situation. What I will do is start being nice to my body by not cluttering it up with crap. I will feed myself with food that nourishes my body. I will not deprive myself of an occasional treat, and I will understand that "occasional" does not mean every day or every meal. I will report my progress here, even if its bad. And when it is bad, I will not give up. I will admit that I made some bad choices, figure out a better way to handle the situation, and keep on truckin'.
     Just Getting By is not about weight loss. It is about getting through life, and balancing all of its demands. One of my biggest and hardest demands to manage is my weight. I have often said that celebrities have it easy when it comes to weight loss. Not that they just magically lose the weight; they have to work just as hard as we do to get results. But in addition to losing weight, I have to get the kids to school, count change so I can buy milk, vacuum and do the laundry, and dig a trench in the backyard when it rains because the HOA doesn't think its important to maintain the drainage system. I may be wrong, but I don't think celebrities do most of those things.
     So if you are a regular person, single, a mom, a single mom, a working mom or SAHM, hang in there with me. On the days I don't lose weight, its because I'm busy paying the mortgage. You know what things distract or prevent you from doing what is best for yourself. Please share your challenges with me, and I will do the same. Let's learn from and support each other. We may not ever be bikini ready, but we can try!
     I'm gonna go buy some carrots.

November 11, 2011


     I'm going to Mexico today.  This is a trip that my best friend planned "for the girls". My friend Jen is a take charge kind of person. She asked me a few months ago if I was ready for a Vegas trip. Living in San Diego makes Las Vegas very accessible, too accessible. I hate Vegas. I have been there and done that, and the only reason I continue to go is because its a semi-central place for my three out of state friends and I to meet up. In addition to hating Vegas, I am unemployed and just getting by financially, so when she asked me to go, I reluctantly agreed.
    Imagine my surprise when she called me back a couple of days later and told me we were booked for Cabo San Lucas. She wasn't just thinking about it, or running it by me. We had plane tickets, timeshare, and rental car already reserved and paid for. How could I say no?
     But since the trip was still months away, I put it on my mind's back burner. I love to procrastinate so I haven't done a thing to prepare myself, with the exception of dig out my passport to make sure I had it. Now I sit here with a list of things I need to get done in the next three hours: finish laundry, pack, put gas in the car, go to the bank, prepare meals and instructions for my husband, etc. Why, you ask, do I sit here blogging instead of getting started on my tasks? Because there is one more thing on the list, and I don't wanna do it! I need a bathing suit. I am digging my heels in like a two year old. No. NO. NOOOO!!
     When I am done here, I will put the clothes in the dryer, put some stuff in my suitcase, throw some food in the crock pot, and grab the check I need to take to the bank. On the way to the bank I will stop for gas. After the bank I will have just enough time to sprint into Target, snatch the first non-attention-grabbing suit off the rack, shove some money at the cashier, and pray that not too much cottage cheese will spill out of the bottom of the suit.
     When I return from Mexico, please look forward to my post on fitness and weight loss.

November 8, 2011

Mean People Suck

     Why are we all so mean to each other? Two things happened to me yesterday that I just can’t stop thinking about. The two incidents were nothing big, but for some reason they ate away at me all night. By the time I woke up this morning, I realized why I was so bothered: my feelings were hurt. I have a pretty thick skin and I march to the beat of a different drummer. Most things that people say and do that could be construed as negative have little effect on me as I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should not be judged by me. People can think whatever they want, I’m going to go about my business as planned. So how did I get my feelings hurt?
     The first incident occurred early in the morning as I was driving my husband and son to work and an appointment. It was rush hour and I was merging onto the freeway. Since there was traffic I was not able to speed up or slow down to enter the flow. My lane and the lane I was trying to enter were both traveling at about three miles per hour, so where my lane ended, the cars were taking turns merging, one car from my lane, one car from the other lane. It was my turn but the car that should have gone behind me didn’t want to let me in. Although I thought it was rude, I decided that he must be in a hurry (to go nowhere at 3mph) so I let him go ahead. If things had ended there, I would have forgotten about it in less that a minute.
     But it didn’t end there. The car behind the car that wouldn’t let me in didn’t want to let me in either. As I pulled in behind the first car, this (excuse me) butthole revved his engine, got within two inches of my front fender and forced me out of the lane. The lane I came from had ended so now I was on the shoulder with no place to go. I would have let him go ahead so I could merge in behind him, but he wouldn’t pull up. So I tried to go ahead and guess what, he wouldn’t let me. He finally pulled ahead and the car behind him graciously let me in. I changed lanes again and eventually ended up next to him, not on purpose, but because that’s where the 3mph traffic put me. As I pulled next to him he thoughtfully displayed his middle finger for the entire time I was next to him.
     He took the next exit, which, ironically, I had long since passed by the time he got to it. Not letting me in had not saved him any time. The only results of his actions were that my son got a lesson on how to be rude, and I got to feel bad. I had done nothing wrong to this person, other than exist and it made me feel bad that the simple fact of my existence could make someone so angry. I did my best to let it go, but it nagged at me all day.
     The second incident was much less significant, but (perhaps because I was already feeling down) made me feel worse than the first. I had both my kids with me at the supermarket. I had put my two year old in one of those carts with a car and steering wheel on the front. As we were in line to check out he had gotten a little rowdy because he dropped his toy car. I had picked it up but since we were in the check-out aisle there was not enough room to squeeze around to the front of the cart to give it back to him. Also, since the cart was so long with the car part in front, I couldn’t even hand it to my older son to pass it to him. We were next in line anyway so I just held on to it.
     The woman who was in line ahead of me had already paid, but she was still standing there, taking an excessive amount of time organizing her wallet and handing her bags to her daughter. The checker had already rung up my items and was standing there waiting for me to move up to pay. The line behind me was growing and my toddler was getting angry because I still had his car. I patiently waited and didn’t tell her to hurry up or sigh loudly or anything. When she turned to leave I began to push my cart to move up and accidentally bumped her with the front of it. The bump was so light that I wasn’t even sure I had touched her until she turned around and looked at me. I immediately apologized since it was my fault and I felt bad. She rolled her eyes, grunted at me, and then continued to cut her eyes back at me as she walked away. By that time I had had it with feeling bad and I told her if she didn’t have such a bad attitude, that maybe that kind of thing wouldn’t happen to her. My own reaction made me feel worse because I had stooped to her level.
     I didn’t expect her to become my best friend and say it didn’t hurt, and that it was her fault for taking so long in line. I didn’t expect that because it was my fault for trying to hurry so my son would settle down. But I really didn’t expect rudeness. A simple, “that’s ok” would have sufficed. Now I am unsure of what I should do if I unintentionally offend someone. I tried an apology, but that was obviously not the correct thing to do.
     I know that we are all a little on edge in the world today. We have some serious problems politically, environmentally, financially. But non of those things will ever be resolved if we have no respect or common courtesy for each other. People being mean and rude to me caused me to feel bad and to eventually be rude myself. People naturally pass along what they are given. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to give good will? Being nice is free.

November 4, 2011

Fly Away Troubles, Fly Away (Part II)

In the five years I have been Flying, I have probably unloaded over 200 pounds of clutter. Most of that clutter was tied to some feeling of guilt, some of it over 25 years old. For example, when I was in kindergarten I was friends with a classmate. At the end of that year I moved away, but we promised to keep in touch by writing letters. She gave me her school picture with her address on the back. I thought about her every time I saw her picture on my dresser, in first grade, second grade, seventh grade, when I would come home from college, but I never wrote to her. She never wrote to me either, and I can only hope for her sake that she just forgot about me. I hope she didn’t carry the guilt of not writing around with her year after year.

FlyLady encouraged me to do something that I thought was horrifying at the time. I took that picture of my kindergarten friend and I threw it away. It wasn’t easy to do and before it went into the trash I held it and thought about her. I wondered where she was now that we were grown up, and I wondered if she would remember me if we should ever cross paths again. After a few minutes, I dropped it into the trash bag. That was a few years ago and guess what. I still remember my friend, and the striped dress she wore on picture day so many years ago. I still remember her side ponytail, tied with a ribbon that matched her dress. But now her picture doesn’t look at me every morning and say, “You never wrote to me. You are a horrible person.”

Over the years I have thrown or given away ugly clothes, stacks of old greeting cards, 4th grade math worksheets, dusty knick-knacks, and bags full of yarn. I had kept that stuff not because I liked it, but because I thought some cosmic force would strike me down if I didn’t. Just because you don’t love the ugly sweater your grandma gave you doesn’t mean you don’t love your grandma. I have become relentless in throwing away crap I don’t need or like, and I haven’t been struck down yet. The more hideous gifts I get rid of, the more room I have in my heart to work on relationships with people.

November 1, 2011

Fly Away Troubles, Fly Away (Part I)

     A few years ago I was a single mother with dirty dishes in the sink, a car full of stale Cheerios and old receipts, and no clean laundry. It wasn’t that I was lazy (ok, maybe a little) but I just couldn’t seem to get all that stuff clean and also go to work for ten hours a day, and help my son with homework, and cook dinner, and pay the bills, clean up the hairball the cat coughed up, and take out the trash, and unclog the toilet, and bathe, and sleep.

     While visiting my mother one Sunday I asked her for suggestions on how to get more organized. I must have been desperate because I was asking someone for advice that had the same problems as I did (hey, I had to learn it from somewhere). By some random, weird coincidence, she had just read an article in the Sunday paper about FlyLady.

     From that moment on, FlyLady has lived in my head and gotten me through more than she will ever know. Through Baby Steps she helps people just like me (busy and lazy) get their homes on track. There are hundreds of methods out there so what made me stick with FlyLady is that she understands that I am not perfect. She seems to understand that better than I do sometimes. Before FlyLady, if I somehow managed to have everything clean, except I didn’t dust the living room, I was mad at myself. FlyLady reminds us that it didn’t get messed up in one day, and it isn’t going to get clean in one day.

     Something I never got from FlyLady was guilt. A lot of the self help techniques I’ve tried ultimately make me feel guilty because I am unable to follow the “simple” steps to a better life.  FlyLady encourages you to love yourself (FLY stands for “Finally Loving Yourself) and to go easy on yourself when you can’t achieve perfection. So on the days that I don’t get around to doing something, I don’t just give up. I just get some rest, wake up the next morning, and do what I can. Check out FlyLady, then check back here for part two of Fly Away Troubles, Fly Away.