Thursday, November 28, 2013

28 Things I Am Thankful For: Not Your Conventional List 2013

Every November many of us partake in a countdown to Thanksgiving which consists of that in which we are thankful. However, unlike last year where I gave thanks for many profound things like peanut butter and my kids, this year I am going to pay homage to the everyday, unconventional things that many of us overlook. Things for which I am seriously thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving

Day 1- I am thankful for the free Tupperware I receive every time I order Chinese food. In fact, whenever I need more "Tupperware" I just order Chinese food. Sure I could go to the dollar store and pick up containers cheap, but last time I looked, those containers did not include free General Tso's Chicken. Hello? Why would I do that when I can order take out from the Jumbo China Buffet and get a two for one special. Duh! Merry Christmas to me.

Day 2- I am thankful for the hard plastic drinking cups complete with a straw and a lid. So many trees have been spared just by my using these cups alone. It's not that I'm clumsy or anything, I just tend to knock over or drop my drinks like..... 5-6 times a day. (And that is just at work.) That's a whole lot of paper towels. Technically I am saving the environment in my own little way. If I weren't so clumsy, I wouldn't buy these cups and then.....well. Forget it. If I weren't clumsy I would be saving the environment from plastic and saving trees. I think. Screw it. I just confused myself.

Day 3- I am thankful for the people that understand the concept of driving lane and passing lane. It's a rare gift of insight that I seldom see practiced on my way to work every morning.  If there is one thing that drives my crazy to the point of Linda Blair spinning head, it is driving behind a car that is going 35 mph in the driving lane and a car that is going 36 mph in the passing lane. The kicker is....the speed limit if Forty Freakin Five!!!! There are mornings it takes every ounce of strength for me not to slam my head off the dashboard. Speed up to 40 Mr. Dainty Ass driver, pass the guy, get in the driving lane, then get the f@ck out of my way. OMG!!!!!!!

Day 4- I am thankful for nicotine. Yes. Smoking is bad. Yes. I am an evil person for smoking. Yes. I know it smells bad, makes my teeth yellow, clouds up my lungs, zaps the oxygen from my blood, costs a lot of money and is the reason I hack every time I walk into work. (Well walking through 10-21 degree temps will do that to anyone. It's a bitch slap. Not gonna lie.) However, nicotine controls the crazy. Like that E Greeting....there are some people that should be very thankful I can control the crazy. Nicotine helps. And I can be one crazy bitch when pushed to my limits. (It takes a whole lot to get there but there are a few people that have pushed me there, trust me. I scare myself when this happens but I've accepted that.) I have a good crazy and a bad crazy. You should be so lucky to see the good crazy in me. You are a huge asshole if you see the bad crazy in me. Anyways, nicotine controls some of us crazies. I am thankful that nicotine has kept me out of jail for all these years. Well.... maybe fear of being someone's bitch is the real reason but I'm going to go with nicotine just because. Smoke em if you got em' and be thankful you are not someone's bitch!!

Day 5- I am thankful for the colder months because it means less exposure to the loud, dirty, annoying neighbors a few houses down from me. If there is one "hands down" benefit to living in a climate that gets a full winter season, it is seeing less of the people that make me want to chew glass. Yes, you heard me right. I said chewing glass. Why? Because chewing glass is still more enjoyable than seeing, hearing and smelling these people from the ass crack of dawn until an hour before the ass crack of dawn. I swear the one woman doesn't sleep, she just sits on the front porch hacking and smoking and watching my every move. I didn't even have to set my alarm clock this summer. Her 4 AM hackfest EVERY single day was all the alarm I needed. Of course the screaming baby that no one ever attended to kept me awake until 1 AM. 3 women, 7-10 kids and not a man in sight. Someone needs to close their legs, just putting that out there. Thankfully I don't live right next to them anymore but I am still close enough to have the "experience". I also get to see more clothing on them in the winter which is like a bonus gift free with every purchase. Sign me up for that shit!

Day 6- I am thankful when my napkins, paper towels, dish soap, hand soap and tablecloth all coordinate with my kitchen colors/theme. That's right...I am one sick m@therf@cker. It makes me so insanely happy when this "magic" happens. Sage green and cream colors and any type of herb/botanical pattern makes me go wild! We all have our quirks right? I stopped counting mine a long time ago.

Day 7- I am thankful for dips, dipping sauces and dressings. They are so much fun and very tasty. I must say, I have become a master at the dipping game. You see, I am the type of person that will take a chip and scoop half the bowl of dip on to it. Why? Because eating dip by the spoonful is sometimes frowned upon by other party goers. The chip becomes my "opportunity" if you will. It's a little more socially acceptable. And don't get me started on wings. I'll order a dozen and only eat 3-4 but I need at least two dressings, tons of sauce on my wings and since garlic butter is a fave of mine, lots of that good stuff too.Then I will take a spoon and eat the drippy mess at the bottom of my wing basket and bring most of the wings home for my son. Why wouldn't I? Such a classy lady I am!

Day 8- I am thankful for "quiet" nights at home. I do post a lot on FB so it may appear I don't have a life, but trust me, I do. I just love FB, sharing shit, enjoying my friends' posts and pics and all the other good stuff that goes with FB. However, even this girl enjoys her "quiet" evenings at home. The reason I keep putting quotations around "quiet" is because even if I am the only person in the room, it's not always quiet. I talk to myself....a lot. And by a lot I mean, some of the best conversations I have ever had, have been with myself. They were so awesome, hilarious and profound too. Amazing stuff. I tend to sing ...and rap....really loud. Both of which I really have no business doing but I do it anyway because at one time I could sing and well I could never rap but it's still a fun time. I sometimes put on my heels, get on the tile floor and dance my little heart out. I also tend to get constructive. It is nothing for me to break out a drill or saw at 11:00 at night if the mood suits me. I once went out with my friends, came home at 3:00 AM, made breakfast, then proceeded to paint my downstairs bathroom cuz why wouldn't I? The mood struck me so I did it. I did a good job too. I cook 5 course meals any time of the day. Have no idea who is going to eat them but I make them anyways. And I am not a quiet cook by any means. I laugh all the time. Everything is funny to me. In fact, I am not quiet about any endeavor I take on because I inherited my knack for being clumsy and dropsy from my father. My kids have grown accustomed to this. They zone me out. Anyone I am close to gives me the space I need and nurtures this about me. They let me do my thing. Thankful for that too. Anyways, I really love my "quiet" nights at home. Sometimes it's the best company I could ever ask for. And sometimes...I am actually quiet. That's when the kids check on me to make sure I still have a pulse. Those close to me also get the quiet side and understand that as well. I must say, I am a lucky gal!

Day 9- I am thankful for french fries with cheese and gravy, or as we do in Hazy and only Hazy, french fries with gravy and schmutz. There is nothing more satisfying than a plate full of fried, salted carbs, topped with even more carbs and sodium, then topped with gooey dairy. Eating healthy is wonderful and very good for you but life is also about pleasure and french fries with gravy and schmutz gives me immense pleasure.

Day 10- I am thankful for Ibuprofen. That is all.

Day 11- I am thankful I am not a slacker and have been keeping up with all the things I am thankful for. I am also thankful for sarcasm. I am profoundly gifted in the ways of the smart ass.

Day 12- I am thankful for privacy fencing. There are many things I do related to the outdoors that my neighbors shouldn't know about. For instance, they shouldn't know that I forgot to take out the garbage again or that I have a sick amount of garbage cans. They shouldn't know that I make feeble attempts at what I would call gardening. They shouldn't know that I can spend hours sitting on the back porch staring at nothing or that sometimes I have conversations with myself. They shouldn't know that I have a bizarre fascination with the garden hose and have been know to spray everything within reach, including myself, with said garden hose just because it is fun. There are other things they shouldn't know about but I am going to keep them to myself because most people shouldn't know about them anyways.

Day 13- I am thankful for drinking too much caffeinated coffee even though I have high BP and should not have any caffeine. Yes there will be the shakes, an eventual headache and I will feel like I am burning from the inside out but in three hours I will also do all the laundry in the entire house even if it does not need to be washed, sweep the floors, unload and reload the dishwasher, alphabetize my DVD collection, cook a 7 course meal from scratch, build new outdoor furniture from old pallets, toothpicks and mulch, rake all the leaves in a 7 block radius (your welcome Hazleton), sew an entire wardrobe out of old pillowcases, dental floss and tablecloths, rearrange all the furniture in the house... twice, figure out a few calculus equations, do the entire Sunday NY Times Crossword (in pen), discover a new periodic element, write a thesis on why the Steelers should never wear those striped uniforms again based on the ratio of players that will someday wear prison stripes for real and make time for a two hour nap.

Day 14- I am thankful for fake houseplants. I love house plants. They are beautiful and feng shui and provide fresh oxygen in the house and I love nature but.....I am also the serial killer of house plants. Not intentionally of course. I feel really really bad after I  kill one. I do have a few live ones that somehow manage to survive. (Mostly because Lowe's now labels their plants as low, medium and high tolerance plants. In other words they are telling you if you are a habitual neglector of plants, high tolerance is the way to go. Thank you Lowe's.) I even manage to kill cacti. Who they f@ck kills cacti? This girl does that's who. Anyways, I love nature and the outdoors and I try to incorporate it as much into my house as possible so sometimes I have no choice but to get my fix via the fake houseplant. And I have lots of them. They may not give me fresh oxygen but they give me serenity. So....Thank you to the inventor of the fake houseplant. You are my hero.

Day 15- I am thankful when I come upon one of the secret candy stashes I have throughout the house but have long forgotten about. For instance today, when I was putting away a wine glass, I found a Blue Raspberry Airheads taffy in the back of my wine glass cabinet. Score! I owned that bitch in 30 seconds! I kinda feel like I have my own secret Easter Egg hunt thing going on but I have no clue where I put my own eggs. It's pretty fantastic!

Day 16- I am thankful for throw pillows. They just make couches look so much more awesome and beautiful. Seriously, they do. They can make a boring couch become instantly fabulous! You don't have to nor should you commit to a trendy couch pattern because that is way expensive and it can go out of style fast or annoy you after a year or two. Stylish but simple is the way to go with a major expense. But can go balls out with your throw pillows! You get bored with them...get new ones. No big deal. They are way cheaper than buying a new couch. It's all good. In fact, every nite before bed I make sure to arrange my couch pillows back to their places. My ex husband used to laugh because if no one was on the couch and a pillow was out of place, I would have to "fix" it. He wasn't mean about it. He got my OCD. Found it amusing and endearing. And to this day, I still fix all my lovely throw pillows that while not completely matchy matchy (because that is boring and not stylish) coordinate and tie in all the colors of the rooms. I love you throw pillows. You rock my world!

Day 17- I am thankful that I lock myself away when the emotional Olympics begin for the safety of society in general. I can display the full spectrum of every human emotion possible in a time frame of 10-15 minutes. It's quite the spectacle. And as I have gotten older, it has become harder to control. One minute I can be smiling and playing with a lady bug, the next minute I may hear a song that makes me burst into tears and then the next minute, I have a memory of something I feel was an injustice to me and I want to tear the culprits head off and feed it to equally angry sloths. ( Are sloths carnivores? Not sure about that.) There is a lot of honesty in those periods of complete insanity though I must say. Sometimes I have no choice but to leave the fox hole. In those moments I pray my mouth stays shut. (It doesn't.) At least I am aware of the hormonal train wreck I become and try to keep it to myself. (Try being the key word.)

Day 18- I am thankful for Santoku knives. (Kinda ironic I am thankful for these after the previous day's thankfulness. LOL!) Santoku knives are a chef's dream knife. They are simply beautiful and they cut things like nobody's business. I can slice a banana in 5 seconds flat with a Santoku knife. It's fun times. And I love making soup and I love garlic. My Santoku knives make it so much more fun to cut veggies and dice, slice or mince garlic. I have two pretty decent Santoku knives but my dream Sanotku knife would be a 7 in. Wusthof. Spending $100 on a kitchen knife though is just not a luxury I can afford. Maybe one day.

Day 19- I am thankful for the little pocket on the bottom of my blazer door. It's a great place to shove garbage such as straw wrappers, empty cigarette boxes, used tissues and the coil that popped out of my door in a freak car door thing that happened during a snow storm at work which I will not get into other than to say my door whipped open when I was driving it. I went to grab it to close it (while driving) and the inside of the door closed but the outside of the door flew the other way and the spring went flying. Yada, yada, yada. I try to clean it out on garbage nights but sometimes I forget. It happens.

Day 20- I am thankful that my neighbor is a serial sidewalk shoveler who starts his shoveling day at 5:00 AM. It doesn't matter if only 1/36th of an inch of snow is on the sidewalk, he will scrap it off his sidewalk for an hour. Anyways, not only is he like an alarm clock, but it is also an indicator that I may have to seriously clean off my car before attempting my drive to work. And by seriously I mean I need to clear a spot on my windshield the equivalent size of a human head or wake up early enough to turn on the defrost and let my truck run for 20 minutes before attempting my commute to work. It's not that I'm lazy (well maybe a little), I just have a habit of breaking every ice scraper I buy within 2 minutes of using it. I'm obviously doing something wrong when it comes to using an ice scraper. I drive like I have lived in the Northeast my whole life but I do not scrape ice off my car like I've lived in the Northeast my whole life.

Day 21- I am thankful for candles, scented wax, and Febreeze. I may be somewhat of an addict but I will buy every seasonal scented candle in Walmart. I currently have 7 just for the holidays. (Yes I remove the lids and smell each one of those mofos several times before making my decisions. It better smell like what it says it does otherwise I am vocal about it, even if I am the only one in the aisle.) I also have a kitchen drawer filled with Scentsy waxes and votives. And... I have about five bottles of Febreeze stashed throughout my house. I like things that smell nice and I love candlelight. It smells and looks so pretty! I need a new wax warmer though because one of the two Scentsy warmers I have has a short in the plug. I know, I'm such a girl sometimes!

Day 22- I am thankful it is really day 27 and I am sitting here writing these, drinking wine, listening to Use Your Illusion II (Estranged is the best!) and watching Wonderland instead of prepping for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. My kids want to learn how to make Thanksgiving dinner. And they will.....bright and early tomorrow.

Day 23- I am thankful for boxed wine. Yes, I have a fancy stash of wine but they are for "special" occasions. (That and I chug wine. I can't help it. A regular bottle doesn't even make it an hour if I am in  "hammertime" mode.) Boxed wine is for when I want to get "Feel Good Inc." on a regular day like Tuesday. And it's cheap too. If I bought the fancy stuff to drink on a regular basis I would go broke and have to live in a shopping cart filled with my empty wine bottles and a scruffy little dog named "Chianti".

Day 24- I am thankful that #isuckathashtagscuzikeephittingthespacebar because #iwritereallylonghashtags and #ihavenoideawhattheirpurposeisreallyandidontcare because #ilovethewrittenword but #onceinawhileiwillwriteasillyhashtagcuzitisfunnybecauseiwritereallylonggoofyhashtags and #itconfusesed.

Day 25- I am thankful for cool garbage items that people put out for the trash like crates, pallets, wooden chairs, old lawn furniture, frames, wicker stuff and whatever catches my eye really. I can fix, build and paint just about anything. I love the challenge and it suits my shabby chic forest/mountains meets beach style. (Cuz my whole life I've lived on top of a mountain surrounded by lots of woodlands but spent many, many summers at the Jersey shore. It's who I am. Although.... today I was told I look nothing like a mountain girl. It was a compliment. I will keep the rest to myself. LOL!) My daughter likes to bust me about this particular hobby. She will be like "Mom...look, there is a really funky chair that wouldn't match anything in our house." or "Look at that huge pile of garbage. You know you want that broken lamp." Whatever. I am way pickier now cuz of bugs but...once in a while I find a real trash to treasure piece. My vegetable crate shelf, my radiator covers, my outdoor furniture, a few picture frames and some art pieces are all garbage finds.

Day 26- I am thankful for yoga pants. They make my ass look hot (the squats aren't hurting either) and they are so damned comfortable. Sometimes I wear them to work even though I am not supposed to. I wear my knee high boots and disguise them as "leggings". I have a lot of leggings too. If worn the right way, anything can look good. Its about style and taking pride in your appearance. I spent a lot of years playing the frump because it caused a lot of tension in a previous long term relationship. No more. I'm rocking what I got. The right man won't be threatened by it and will be proud to have me on his arm, not insecure about it. This may come off as being arrogant and that is not my intention. I am just tired of cowards and little boys who try to put me "in my place".  I know my place and it is shining like the star I am. Every woman needs to remember this. Never let a man decide whether or not you are beautiful. That is your right. Anyways, I love yoga pants. They rock. And I need more!

Day 27- I am thankful for microwave popcorn. It makes a great dinner when I am too tired to cook, too broke to order out or bored with leftovers. The kids fend for themselves on these days. They are old enough to cook for themselves, so sometimes, I eat microwave popcorn for dinner and it is great! Sometimes I treat myself to some real melted butter on the popcorn because why wouldn't I ? No dirty dishes either! Bonus check!

Day 28- I am going to get serious here. Over the past month I have witnessed a lot of death. A good friend of mine passed away this weekend from a motorcycle accident. He left behind the love of his life and his adorable sons. One of my best friends lost her father yesterday. He won't get to walk her down the aisle next July for her wedding. Another friend and a sweet, good, loving father lost his 6 year old daughter a few weeks ago to illness and a few close friends of mine lost another very close friend to cancer a few weeks ago. She was in her 30's. I say it all the time. It's one of my mantras. "Life is Short." I am so very thankful for every single day I get above ground. More so now than ever. I am thankful every day to see my children above ground as well. I cannot even imagine losing one of them. I don't want to.
Life is not fair. I am well aware of this. Sometimes we will never know the answers to the questions we have, no matter how many times we ask why. Sometimes horrible things happen to the best people, the people who do not deserve such tragedy. Sometimes karma does not get those who deserve it in the end, good or bad. This is life. And life is unpredictable and it is hard and it will try your very last nerve. It will change you. It will break you. It will knock you down to rock bottom over and over again. It does not matter how good a person you are or aren't. Life is going to happen. Be thankful that it is happening. Fight the good fight and be thankful that no matter how hard or terrible or trying a day you had, that you had the gift of another day. Find the good in each and every day, no matter how small it is. Hell, there are days where the only good thing I can find in them is the very fact that my kids and I are still breathing. But.... as long as we are breathing, that is all I truly need at the end of the day. You never really know when your time is up. Be appreciative that when you wake up every morning you have another opportunity to change your life, enjoy your life and love your life. Make an effort to live the life you want. Make an effort to appreciate the good. Be the one to make another person's day a better day. You are the deciding factor on how you are going to face each day and the challenges it brings. Rise up to them. Open your eyes. Life is too short for anything less.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving. I will be spending mine with the loves of my life, Heather and Ricky. One day they will fly away from this nest and I may not get to spend every Thanksgiving with them. However today is not that day. <3.

My loves <3


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

22 Things I am Thankful For 2012

November 1 - I am thankful for my father for many reasons. Always have been. Two days ago he gave us quite the scare. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with severe chest pain. It was the worst phone call I have ever received in my life. He was admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital for tests. Thankfully, his stress test showed no signs of a heart attack, blockages or distress. He has a good heart... literally. His stress level and blood pressure however need to be addressed. He is coming off a very trying year. He, my mother and my aunts had taken care of my grandfather since after the New Year. It was very painful to witness his deterioration. I know I had more trouble with it than I wanted to believe so I can't imagine how hard it was for them. We lost him on July 29th, 2012. My father, as always, was the glue for us during that trying time. He is now in the process of buying and moving into my grandfather's house which is another stressful event.

After he was released from the hospital, I got to drive my father and the rest of my animated family home from the hospital. He saluted me as I drove up to the hospital door. My eyes filled with tears. I am so proud to be his daughter. My father is the best man I have ever known. His sacrifices to raise three of us as a single parent for a period of our life, his kind, open minded, loving nature and his survivor attitude have made a deep impression on me. I couldn't be more thankful for that. Sometimes my sister and I joke that my dad has three sons rather than two daughters and a son, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Hopefully now he will be able to relax more and enjoy his retirement in his new home. I want my parents to stick around for at least another 20-30 years so they can travel, experience, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Thank you Dad for being you! You are so loved, admired and respected.

November 2 - I am thankful for the compassion of others. There is something so heart warming about genuine concern and compassion shown to you by others. It humbles me to this day. It softens my heart, gives me faith and reminds me there are people out there that do care, some more than you think.

November 3 - I am thankful for relaxing weekends. I love waking up, remembering it is Saturday, then falling back to sleep. Sometimes I lay in bed and read or do a crossword. Sometimes I get up really early to clean, bake, organize, garden, watch movies, anything my heart desires really. It's so peaceful in the early morning. Hardly anyone is stirring about. It is like you have the whole world to yourself. Other times I stay up late at night to watch movie after movie after movie. I get so excited when there are several good movies playing in a row. What I do miss quite a bit is weekend cuddling and conversations in bed but I know I will have that again one day. And...I will appreciate it so much more too. I truly savor the weekends.

November 4 - I am thankful for fun, drama free nights spent with some of the greatest people I know. Going out to have a good time should be just that. Be respectful of the people you are with. Laugh, drink, sing, joke, eat, dance, or get your ass kicked in bar sports. Just be happy. It isn't a competition to be king or queen of the bar. It isn't the time to have a public pity party for yourself. What it a good time. Don't be a buzzkill.  Be positive, restore your spirit and enjoy these special little moments with awesome company.

November 5 - I am thankful for peanut butter. Not only is it a great, healthy source of protein but it tastes so damned good. I relish peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I can eat three of them in one sitting. I like putting peanut butter on apple slices. I sometimes put a layer of straight peanut butter in between a vanilla layer cake frosted with chocolate icing. It's heaven on my peanut butter coated earth. My grandfather loved that cake too. He would always ask for it. Peanut butter is also one of my father's and my son's favorites too. It's a family thing.

Sometimes I randomly make cookies using 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 egg. Rich but incredibly peanut buttery and so easy to make. My son loves the Peanut Butter Cup Tassies I make for him. They are rich too but delicious. Everyone is in love with my CMP Cake aka Jimmy Carter Cake which is loaded with peanut butter goodness. I must say, I am very finicky with peanut butter. I prefer to only use Jif, Planter's or Reese's peanut butter and the only peanut butter cups I will eat are Reese's. And...the peanut butter in the Reese's better be fresh not dry, otherwise, I will throw the whole pack away. My all time favorite peanut butter treats however, are Club Cracker Sandwiches. I have been eating them since I was a little girl. I make my own sometimes and I load the hell out of them with peanut butter since peanut butter rocks my world.

November 6 - I am thankful for the P90x and Insanity work outs. They have opened new doors in my life. Are they tough? Yes... but they are not impossible. Do I walk funny the first few days after starting a regime? Yes, the pain can be stifling but I walk like a granny for a day or two and suck it up because the pain fades after a few days. Do they really work? Yes. Doing just two weeks of either of these fitness programs will show visible results. The more you do, the more you will see. Once you start doing them your body will actually crave the work out. And...seeing such fast results will make you even more determined. You will feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.

Novermber 7 - I am thankful for my strong sense of humor. It has gotten me through some rather awkward moments in life. For instance, today at 5:30 AM on this dark chilly Northeastern Pennsylvania morning I saw something perhaps I was not meant to see. Perhaps I was so shocked by what I saw that I accidentally knocked a door right off it's tracks making the awkward moment about a hundred times more awkward.... if that is possible. Let's just say unexpectedly catching someone in the act of pleasuring themselves would definitely fall into the awkward moments spectrum. The incessant joking at my expense throughout the day provided quite the laughs. Writing an incident report about it was something.... indescribable. How do you put that into words while sounding professional?'s not easy. And... I felt so guilty about having to do it because the person seems to be a nice person. However one thing I have learned the hard way is that I can't turn a blind eye to everything because sometimes they can escalate into much worse. I don't think that is the case here but if someone else would have come across what I witnessed it could have been bad. Better that it was me than someone else.

November 8 - I am thankful for quiet moments throughout the day, especially on hectic days. I completely tune out during these rare moments. It restores me mentally and allows me to keep my sanity. Today for instance, I sat outside all bundled up and watched the gusty wind whip the dry autumn leaves around the parking lot. They reminded me of a flock of birds zipping around, then landing, then zipping around once again. I became entranced. For a moment I completely forgot about work, stress, challenges, due dates....all of that stuff. It was just me and the wind and the leaves. How can I not be thankful for that.

November 9 - I am thankful for books. I treasure reading. Since I was a little girl, reading has been one of my favorite pastimes. I find such gratification in the diversion books can provide. They are my escape from the real world, if only for a few chapters here and there. I love emerging myself into a story line. I disappear completely in a well written novel. I can live another life with the turn of a page. Reading expands and exercises your mind. It provokes your thought process. For all of that books provide, I am thankful.

November 10 - I am thankful for cooking. It is so cathartic. I don't cook everyday but I am known to marathon cook. Cooking is an art. You can really get your creative juices flowing by fusing different flavors, trying new cuisine, and perfecting techniques. A true cook puts love and care into everything they make. That is why made from scratch cooking always tastes better. Someone put time, effort and TLC into the meal. I love cooking for people. I am thankful and honored when people cook for me.

November 11 -  I am thankful for all branches of our military. My grandfather was a three time purple heart recipient WWII army veteran. He fought for the beliefs and ideals and freedoms of his country, our country. He was always so proud to have served his country. We were all so very proud of him. He didn't talk much about the war but when he did, I could listen to him for hours. At his funeral when we were following his casket down the church aisle, they draped the American flag over it. That is when every single one of us, even the toughest most composed men, were reduced to sobs and tears. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I'll never forget that moment. I still cry whenever I think about it. I really miss him. My father has my grandfather's flag. I hope when the time comes he passes his flag down to me. I will display it with such pride and take such good care of it. I am in awe of all the brave men and women who willing enlist, knowing full well their lives are at stake to protect our liberties. I admire the comradeship shared amongst those that serve. It is because of them that we are here living the lives we live. What we as Americans tend to forget is that no matter how despondent or amiss our lives could be, even in this disheartening economy, it could be so much worse. Never take that for granted. Our soldiers are our protectors and our saviors, they are our real life guardian angels and for that I am deeply thankful.

November 12 - I am thankful for the banter between my son and myself. He shares the same wit and sense of humor as me. It's nothing for him to walk by the TV on a Sunday and say "I hope the Steelers lose". He calls me Shorty. He calls me Chrissy. He calls me Mother. He calls his grandparents "the old people." He uses big words in sentences then asks me if I know what they mean. So far I have known every one. He will keep trying though. Of that I am sure. He tells me my cooking is horrible as he helps himself to seconds. He speaks in German and finds it hilarious that I can not understand him. He swears in front of me then apologizes and explains why he had to use the swear word, reminding me that he is old enough to swear. (It always makes sense and he never uses the queen mother of all curse words in front of me.) He and I can take something as mundane as the way a door is closed and turn it into a ten minute intellectual yet nonsensical battle on whether it is really closed or just the slightest bit ajar. I have only ever won one battle against him when we match wits. That is saying a lot. He is definitely a clever one.

He also comes running down the steps as soon as I come home from work to ask me how my day was. He hugs me and tells me he loves me several times a day. He always says good night. He offers to help around the house, even on vacation days from school. The text usually rolls in around 9 AM asking what I would like him to do around the house. He notices when I am more tired than usual or when I am down. He worries when I am sick. He is very protective of "the old people", even when I crack a comment here and there about my dad when he frustrates me. He begs me to quit smoking. He respects my space. He is proud to wear the clothes that were once my grandfather's. He collects antique toys and has just about every game system known to man. He loves to learn. He loves computers and knows how to fix them. He is charitable.  He is not afraid to take chances and risks. He is not afraid to try new things. He is not afraid to go after what he wants. He is turning into a fine young man. He marches to his own beat and for that, I am so thankful.

November 13 - I am thankful for heavy downpours late at night. Makes for some great, restful sleep. Something I am also thankful for. It's also perfect for cuddling....and other things. ;)

November 14 - I am thankful for people that keep their word. People that say what they really mean and do what they say they are going to do. In a world full of letdowns, disappointments and ingenuity, people of their word are diamonds among the stones.

November 15 - I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. Whether it is someone helping me retrieve an item from the top shelf at the store, paying me a compliment for my new lipstick, offering me a dollar when the vending machine eats my money but gives me no Diet Coke, or suggesting a great place to visit or a really cool website, I am always thankful for how many kind people there still are in this great big, hectic and stressful world.

November 16 - I am thankful for Angry Whoppers, Double Cheeseburgers and Onion Rings with Zesty Onion Sauce. Some days, a lot of days really, I am lucky if I get out of the house with just enough time to make it to work. On those days, I forget my lunch. BK saves the day for me. I get the same thing all the time. However, I was brave last week and tried an Angry Whopper. They burn the hell out of my mouth, upset my wuss of a stomach, and drip all over my clothes. I am completely enamored with them. I've eaten three of them in the past two weeks. I will be sad to see them go away but my stomach will thank me.

November 17 - I am thankful for people that can make me laugh. I've had beverages go up my nose more times than I can count. I have choked on many things. I've had a sore stomach muscles. I've been looked upon like an escape mental patient for random outbursts of laughter in public. Yes...I have even wet myself. As the saying goes laughter is always the best medicine. It is a stress deflector. It is a natural mood enhancer. It keeps us young in mind, body and soul. For that, I am thankful for all the goofy ass comedians in my life.

November 18 - I am thankful for my daughter's sweet disposition. My daughter can be very quiet and shy. She is definitely an introvert unlike her brother and myself. However, she can have the most deep and intellectual conversation with anyone. She is genuine in all that she does. She awes me sometimes. She is kind, understanding and open minded. She sees both sides of the coin. She would give the shirt off her back for the people she cares about and not think twice about it. She does not swear, raise her voice or throw tantrums. If she does not like someone, she does not bother with them. She just goes about her own way rather than be mean spirited or cause drama. She loves animals. She loves art and is very good at making her own art. She loves Asian culture. She listens to Daft Punk and Nobuo Uematso. She loves to travel.

I can talk to her frankly about the harsh realities of life and she never judges, she always understands. She is sensitive. She will surprise me with flowers, dinner, and other little sweet tokens. She understands about the little things. She never forgets Mother's Day or my birthday. She is always happy when something good happens for me. She also respects my space and worries when I am sick. She adores her grandparents and enjoys spending time with her family. She sometimes sells herself short and she does not see the potential in her that I see. My daughter can do anything she sets her mind to. She is just beginning to tap the surface of her abilities and with time and some guidance on my part, I hope she can do everything she has ever dreamed of. My daughter is a sweet, compassionate and ardent young woman...and for that I am thankful.

November 19 - I am thankful for words of encouragement. I think most of us go through phases where we feel nothing we do is the right thing. Phases where no matter how determined or hard you are working towards achieving a goal or accomplishing a task, you feel you are only one step away from square one. Times where no matter how much you give,how much you hope, wish and pray it is still not enough. It is in these moments where words of encouragement lift your spirits, restore your confidence and give you the will to push forward. Sometimes we all need to borrow a little strength from time to time.

November 20 - I am thankful for positive people and positive influences. This world has gotten so negative. People are so negative. Sometimes I feel as if I am suffocating when surrounded by such overwhelming negative vibes. It is all I can do just to breath sometimes. I feel trapped. Cornered with my back to the wall and no visible exit for me to escape. It affects my demeanor which in turn really upsets me because I can literally feel the negativity sucking my positive spirit out of me. It's like a plague and there is nothing I can do to avoid this. I feel myself becoming negative in turn and sometimes I do not have the strength to fight it which upsets me further. I try so hard to surround myself with as much positive influence as possible for restoration. I am so thankful for positive people, influence and vibes.

November 21 - I an thankful for gratitude. Another form of negativity is selfishness. There is a difference between looking out for your best interests and living in "me-ville". I always say, if you are going to take, make sure you give back. The world revolves around all of us, not just one person. Showing a little gratitude in any shape or form only makes the world a better place for yourself and the people around you. I am thankful for gracious, generous people.

November 22 - I am thankful for the nearly twenty years that I have been called one of the most beautiful words a woman could ever be called. " Mom" From the moment they opened their eyes, took their first breath and gazed upon my face, I have been striving to be the best, most loving person I could possibly be for them. I want my children to be proud to call me their mother. I know they are, but that does not mean I will stop trying to make them proud. It won't stop until I take my final breath. I will forever be thankful for becoming a mother to my two wonderful children.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Second Chance At The Life I Want

From August 2012

This month I will be turning 39. I do not feel 39. In fact, if you were to ask me how old I surmise myself to be, I would not be able to answer that question. I feel like I transcend age. Honestly, I just feel like me. Whatever age that may be, I do not know. I do appreciate that I am blessed with age defying genes from both sides of my family. However, blessings alone are not enough to achieve the life you want.

I realize from my twenties that it is up to me to make life happen. I cannot be a tourist in my life. I missed too many chances because of my character. Loyalty to a fault, fear of becoming a burden, lack of self confidence, not believing in myself, playing it safe: all of these afflictions had starring roles in the story that was my life during the decade of my twenties. I was miserable. I had grudgingly settled into the bed I made. I surrendered myself to the fact that this was going to be my life.

It was in my early 30's that the universe presented me with the biggest gift one could possibly ask for. That gift was a second chance to live the life I wanted. I was reluctant to accept this gift at first. Old habits die hard as they say. I was petrified to leave the comfort zone I had surrendered myself to. I had more responsibilities and challenges now in my 30's than I did in my 20's and facing them as a single parent terrified me, but... life knew I was up to the task. My twenties prepared me for this gift. I just needed to understand that. So I began to reflect. I recognized that I needed to seize the opportunities that fate presented to me and decide what I was going to do with them. I could no longer afford to be afraid of failure. I could also no longer afford to be fearful of succeeding.

This was my second chance. This was fresh start. You see, I do not believe in coincidence. I believe everything and everyone that crosses my path has a reason and a purpose, however big or small. It was on me to figure out what that reason or purpose was and how to incorporate it into my life. It's not always an easy task, we still miss lessons along the way, but if they are meant to be lessons for you to learn, fate will present them again. The lesson I was focusing on now was how wisely and unwisely I had used my time. I knew I had entered my thirties a sad, naive little lamb. With this second chance, with the personal growth I had procured, I knew there was no other way to leave my thirties but like a lion, roaring to the 40 yard line. It was time.The metamorphosis is under way. Hence the purpose of this blog. I want to share. I want to inspire. Here is how it all came to fruition.

I started the process of reflection concerning my nearing forty a few months back. Those that know me well know it is something I do often with almost every topic, situation, emotion and scenario that crosses my path. I reflect for many reasons. I do it to ponder the lessons that I have learned from futile endeavors. I muse over the accomplishments I have earned from taking risks, chances and stepping outside my comfort zone. I envision what my state of mind was at those points in my life. How much have I evolved from the experiences life has given me? What can I do differently? What am I doing right? How can I become the better me?

my ancestors

As suggested by my best friend, I started looking at time as if it were currency. Placing a value on my time has brought my life into true perspective. I understand no one is promised another tomorrow. The recent passing of my grandfather reinforced this. By taking the mantra "live each day as if it were your last" and incorporating it with the hope that there is still plenty of life left for me, the currency thing makes perfect sense even if I am not. It's hard to explain but I will try. Allow me to give you a little background.

At the beginning of the year I made a list of goals. I just started jotting anything and everything down. It was strange but I was overcome with this sense of urgency. There were loose ends that I could no longer afford to avoid. I realized this sense of urgency was the universe telling me something big is on the way. It was telling me "You need to prepare for this change by shedding the remnants of your past life because a new one is on the horizon." What that is...I have no idea. I do know it is coming though. I can feel it in my bones.

I began reflecting (surprised?). There were a few situations that were lingering. Situations I had pretty much ignored for 6 years. The universe had begun forcing my hand concerning these scenarios. My blood pressure was not going down despite upping my dosage twice. I was feeling out of sorts all the time. I was starting to feel ill on a daily basis just like I had through my marriage. My stomach problems were coming back. My headaches were more frequent. My anxiety was still manageable but creeping closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.

I had worked so hard to keep my GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) under control. I weened myself from medication years and years ago. I have not had a panic attack since then despite the challenges of being a single parent. I did not want to go back to that now. I needed to take control. On top of this, I was also hesitant to admit that over the past two years I had begun to feel a slow depression sinking into my soul. I was never a depressed person. Unhappy yes, but never depressed. I could not risk losing the person I had worked so hard to become.

My best friend had given me a link concerning metaphysical symptoms last year. I found it very interesting to say the least. Some of the ailments I had in my twenties all but disappeared in my thirties. It made so much sense. Psychologically, we can control a lot of what is happening to our bodies. So when some of these ailments started creeping back into my life...I looked to this link again to see what I, personally, could do to rid myself of them. I needed to take responsibility for my health. Time was still on my side but for how long before something serious happened? I needed to stop looking for band aids and overnight cures. There was no quick or easy way to become healthier. I knew I was going to have to make some alterations to my lifestyle. This was going to take work. With the help of my doctor, support from family and friends and my own determination, I have been on a steady road to a permanent healthier me. I have my moments, but I refuse to go back.

The link to metaphysical conditions.

In addition to my health, dealing with my financial situation also could no longer be avoided. I am a somewhat stubborn woman. I believed somehow, I would find a way to pay the debts acquired during my marriage as well as pay my normal house bills. I also wanted to pay for both kids colleges, buy them cars and also accomplish the items on my bucket list. It took a few close friends to point out gently but firmly that I was attempting the impossible. I was spreading myself too thin in too many areas of my life to be effectual. I would not be a bad mother nor a bad person for waving the white flag.

Did I have responsibilities? Yes I did but...I also had a responsibility to myself. I chose to finish raising my children before seriously contemplating another relationship. That was commendable I guess but was it in their best interest to hand them everything too? What were they going to learn from that? What was I teaching them about real life? Would they be able to survive if god forbid something happened to me?

They were both over the age of 18. My responsibilities to them have changed. I can still shelter them, feed them and guide them. I would never allow them to suffer needlessly and my home will always be their home, my door will always be open to them no matter where life takes me but...they needed to start taking the initiative for what they wanted out of life just as I had done. I couldn't hand them everything even if I wanted to. Financially, it was impossible. I was making myself sick over this. They were becoming more and more concerned about my struggle.

I was nervous about this abrupt change. I sat down individually with both kids and poured my heart out to them about the reality of my situation. I offered my wisdom, my love and my guidance, but I also explained that they were going to have to make their lives happen for themselves. I could not do that for them. Honestly, they were excited that I had freed them from my reigns. They are amazing, intelligent, understanding kids. I know that. I had to let go in order to allow them to become the amazing adults they are meant to be. They know I will be there for them when life knocks them down. They know I will be their biggest cheerleader when they take on their own endeavors.

After my talk with my children I took on my next financial hurdle which was a big one. I needed to face the fact that I could barely afford my house and food bills let alone the outstanding debt acquired during a time when the income was almost three times what I earned now. I had gone through a divorce and a downsizing. I had remained on unemployment for nine months before I was even granted an interview to one of the 54 companies I sent resumes to. I am very thankful the company that granted me an interview hired me because I do love my job, but I also took a significant pay cut. This too was making me sick. I needed to balance the love and low stress level of my job with the goals I want to attain.

This is my current project. It's also the toughest goal I set for myself because of the negative emotions involved in the process. Not only am I fighting off my creditors, I am also fighting off my own negative inner demons. Demons I put to rest a long time ago. Bitterness, anger, and resentment from long ago continually try to punch through the surface. I have kept them at bay, but mentally, just this alone has become exhausting. All I keep thinking is this cannot be over fast enough. There is a bright side though.

Many of goals I listed in that little notebook at the beginning of the year were coming to fruition. More than even I expected. Some took much hard work on my part, while others have fallen into place naturally. My health is improving greatly. My anxiety will also return to a normal level once my bankruptcy is complete. The negative emotions of the past will be put to rest once and for all.

I will be given a fresh financial start in a month or so. I will rebuild. I know how to do that well. As for that slow depression that has been sinking into my soul, there are a few goals I am not going to mention that will hopefully assist with that but my Bucket List will also be of great assistance in ridding the depression from my life. My Bucket List gives me so much to look forward too.

This leads me back to the currency that is my time. I am still young enough to have a fresh start. Anyone at any age can have one really but it becomes harder as they years go by. Our bank of currency known as time is more diminished as we age. I need to spend wisely now. Of course I am not credulous, I will always have challenges, it's part of life. We need them to evolve. But, as long as I take my lessons and truly learn from them, I will be able to spend less currency dealing with each challenge than I am now.

And... while I am still young enough to have a bank full of time, I am experienced enough with life to apprehend what really is important to me. I know what is worth my currency of time and what is not. I am beginning to see how much currency I spend on hopeless situations. I need to spend less on them. It's healthy to take risks and chances, I just need to recognize when something just isn't going to happen and move on to the next venture rather than throw more time at it.

I am becoming more responsible with my spending. I know who I am. I would rather spend my time and money traveling, experiencing new adventures, pursuing my true passions, dining out, attending concerts and events, enjoying the hobbies I love most and relishing the company of friends and family than have a house full of material possessions as I once did. I do not need an outfit for everyday of the year, a closet full of shoes, jewelry boxes that can barely contain their contents, televisions for every room in the house, the latest cell phone, brand new cars, the most popular new gadgets, and an attic filled with household goods to match every season and holiday. There is nothing wrong with that. To many people those above mentioned things are their passions and they should indulge in their passions. Why shouldn't they? They work hard too. It is their life. I do not judge. However, it just isn't who I am. Not anymore. This is who I am. My Bucket List is who I am!

Anyways, I am a wordy woman that digresses quite a bit. Ultimately, this blog is all about checking things off my Bucket List. I want to spend my 39th year checking off as many items as possible within my means since I still have my yearly goals to attain. I would like to at least check off one goal per month. I want to leave my 30's at the top of my game. I want to leave them with a roar! I want to enter my 40's like a lion! I want to check off some of the bigger things on my Bucket List in my 40's.

My new found health has opened even more doors to me. It's so exciting! I want to write about all of as least amount of words as possible. LOL! I want to share my adventures but also prove that anything is possible at any age! And on an ironic note, my Bucket List has inspired me to write again. Maybe it will lead to more writing. I sure hope so!

Below is a link to my list that I have online. I also have my handwritten list because I am an old fashioned girl who requires a hard copy. There is just something about handwritten...well anything really. As always, any suggestions for new adventures are always welcome. I love any type of input! Maybe I will inspire some other thirty somethings, forty somethings, fifty somethings and sixty somethings to start their own list. It's never too late.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#342 Hold A Big Spider ( Because Why Wouldn't This Be On Your Bucket List?)

" Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly...." 
The Cure, Lullabye

So, this blog is not going to be long because I have the chills just writing it. Spiders, which are members of the Arachnid family, are some of the creepiest m@therf#ckers on the planet. Why are they so scary and creepy looking? Why do they have 8 freakin' legs? Seriously. Who needs that many legs? And no...they can't fly per say, but they can dangle just about anywhere they feel, like.... above my bed when I am trying to fall asleep. That is close enough to flying for me!! (Paranoia and the unexplained itches ruin any decent night's sleep after an event like this occurs.) In fact, I am just going to go ahead and say spiders can fly because I have swatted my fair share of those scary m@therf#ckers sending them flying through the air across the room. UGH!!

Let's all take a moment to be thankful that spiders don't fly.
Thank you Jesus!

I am not terrified of spiders like I am snakes, clowns, nutcrackers, blue eyeshadow and men who chain women to the radiator in their basement, but they creep me out enough to give them a Defcon 4 rating. It's funny because when I was a little girl, around the age of three, I was fascinated with the spider that lived on our back porch. This little black spider would weave it's web in the 4 inch gap between the cabinet and the wall. Every day I would make my dad go out on the back porch with me to make sure the spider was still there. We even gave the spider a name. Sammy. (I know, so creative. I was three.) Sometimes Sammy was not there and I would become panicked and start worrying. My father would assure me that Sammy probably went out to eat or took a vacation to the shore. That worked for me.

How my father kept a straight face with some of the things I came up with I will never know. When I was three I also wanted to run away from home. I told my parents I was leaving. I had it. It was wintertime. Snow was not only falling from the sky, but about three inches of fresh, powdery snow was covering the ground as well. Didn't matter, I was determined to run away. (I have no idea what pissed me off but something did.) My parents played a long. They helped me get my boots on, my little white furry coat and my mittens. They bundled me up good. My hood was over my head, the strings tied tight. They got my scarf too since it was REALLY cold outside. My father even walked me to the door. When he opened it, I looked outside, realized how dark it was and asked him to walk me to Mam Mam's. (My grandmother, whom lived three blocks away.)

He said he couldn't do that. If I wanted to "run away", I had to walk there by myself because that is what runaways do. I recall standing at the door debating this information for a few moments. I looked at him, looked outside, then looked at him again. I decided I was NOT going to run away after all. I told him I changed my mind. He said okay, closed the door and helped me put my winter stuff away. Nothing more was ever said. To this day I wonder what would have happened had I said "Eff it, I'm going." Of course he wouldn't have let me but I wonder how he would have reacted to that. What would he have said? LOL!

Anyways let's get back to spiders. My son is terrified of them! They are definitely Defcon 5 for him. My daughter isn't a big fan either but my son is bad. If he saw a spider in his room, he would not sleep in there for days. I once had to come home from being out because he was so petrified that two spiders crawled from his ceiling. And the kid was smart. There was no fooling him. I would try hunting down these spiders for what seemed like forever. Of course they were long gone so I would pretend to squish them with a tissue just to calm him. This worked twice. The jig was up when he caught me in a web of lies because the spider I claimed to have killed was in fact crawling up the wall next to me. Son of a bitch! So, needless to say, the next time I had to play Chrissy the Spider Slayer, he looked me straight in the eye, pointed to the tissue in my hand and said those two words I dreaded the most. "Show Me." F@ck!!!

Eventually, after many mother-son spider discussions, he has finally become more brave. He is facing his fear. He will actively kill them himself now. They still freak him out, but he realizes spiders are a part of life and you can't keep moving your bedroom every time you see a spider. You eventually run out of rooms. Yes....I have moved my son's room because of multiple spider sightings. His old room had a roof directly above it so spiders were finding their way in through a crack in the outside roof. He slept in the living room for three weeks while I rearranged the entire house. Thanx spiders. Thanx so much!!

a spider is on the wall, i got this
Yep...pretty much sums it up. Full Metal Jacket!

The thing with spiders is this. All but two spider types are venomous. The Orb Weaver, one of the most common spiders on the planet does not have venom. They crush their prey rather than paralyze it. Also, one of the three types of daddy long legs is not venomous either. The weird thing is, the daddy long legs that is not venomous is considered an arachnid but not a spider. Confused yet? too. I normally don't get a close enough look to tell the difference.

A spider's venom usually doesn't do much to a human but obviously paralyzes other bugs that get snared in their webs. That is why they have venom, not poison. Spiders are not poisonous, they are venomous. There is difference. Spider bites can be painful but they key thing to remember is, some spiders have enough venom to cause an allergic reaction that could in turn, if not taken care of immediately, cause medical problems. It all depends on the person and in all honestly, the condition of their health when they are bitten. Any type of toxin can weaken your immune system. If you have any type of pain or swelling, seek medical attention. Don't wait.

So anyways, back to my holding of a big spider. My dad worked for Ehrlich. He also studied Entomology as part of his job. He loves bugs. So does my step mother but not because of her job, mostly because she is just....odd? That is why she fits in so well in this family. We are all a little quirky. Okay, we are a lot quirky. We fly the freak flag proudly in this family. Back to the story....My ex husband worked for a pet supply warehouse in the IT department so he went to a few trade shows every year. Some of these trade shows sold exotic bugs. My parents asked him to buy them some crazy ass bugs. So....he did. One of those crazy ass bugs was a Rose Haired Tarantula. ( I know, it is not a bug but whatever.)

OMG!!!! This thing was huge and it had pink fur!! I made him immediately bring the spider over their house along with the huge ass African millipede that ate freakin' pinky mice. Yes people, this bug ate mice because it was bad ass, like honey badger bad ass! There was also the freaky armadillo pill bug looking thing, the black widow spider (dear lord), another creepy crawling creature, something else and let's not forget the freakin SNAKE!!!! Surprise! Didn't see that one coming! Of course he had to tease me with them for like an hour before I made threats which I shall not even get into on here because I am not sure what the statute of limitations is on those type of threats.

Finally my ex packs up all the bugs and the goddamned snake (which he is also afraid of) and brings them over my parent's house. Eventually I make my way over just to see if they like their "prizes". I walk in to see my brother Jamie holding the tarantula. He is fascinated with it. He calls me over insisting I have got to feel this. I look at him like he has three heads. No freakin' way buddy! He persists that it will not bite me and I should face my fears. I go back home. Fuck that!

spider web
This is prolly the scariest but most caloric burning thing on the planet!

A few weeks later there is some kind of summer picnic at my parents. Of course the spider and the snakes (my parents now had two) are out because "some" people wanted to see them and touch them and hold them. The insane people that are playing with these scary creatures, include my kid, Heather. She loves snakes. Who knew? Not her mother. I start freaking out about her holding the white corn snake. My mother tells me to calm down. I tell her I WILL NOT calm down. Then my dad tells me Heather is okay, the snake is harmless. I give him the stink eye and walk away mumbling under my breath that if my kid gets bitten, it is all their fault and I will never forgive them.

I don't understand my daughters fascination with snakes. Her father and I are petrified of them although Rick was the one who bought them another snake. Go figure. I sit as far from their vicinity as possible and drink lots of alcohol. Finally my mother puts the snakes away. I begin to breath a little better. Of course, the spider is still out. By now I am inebriated. I don't know if it was my husband or one of my brothers that egged me on about holding the spider but finally I put out my hand and said "Give me the damn thing already. And.........(dramatic pause)......if I die, it's all your fault!!!" I may have been a little melodramatic but tarantulas sometimes call for drama. I also now have the Brady Bunch episode where they are in Hawaii and a tarantula crawls on Greg while he is in bed stuck in my head. Was it Greg or was it Peter? Not sure anymore.

They put the spider in my hand. It just sits there. I become enthralled with it's pink fur. It feels heavy too. Slowly it begins to move. It tickles, like slowly rubbing a natural bristle hairbrush across your palm. I am now in this weird place of fascination and utter fear. I am actually enjoying the fuzzy spider crawling around on my hand.Then one of the smart asses in the room with me breaks my trance. All I hear is, "Oh my god! That is the movement they make when they are getting ready to bite you!" I think it was my THEN husband, now ex husband that said it. My brother chimes in with his smart ass remarks. I am paralyzed now except for my mouth, which is spewing a web of obscenity. I hope there are no children around but I am too afraid to look. I become panicked. I ask one of them to take it from me but no one will. This is exactly why I have trust issues! I am nearing tears now. I don't want to drop the tarantula because then it would get lost in my parent's house and I would never be able to return there again. That makes me sad.

Finally my father comes in the room. I beg him to take the spider from me. He obliges and puts it back in it's cage. This is why he is probably the only man I trust. I am unbelievably furious with my brothers and my husband. "That was NOT funny!!" I snarl at them. I am so incredibly pissed which makes them even more amused. My mother also finds this funny although she does yell at them. That was the first and last time I have ever held a spider of that size. Many people have held that spider and never once did it bite anyone. It was docile enough but just like anything in nature, it's in their nature. You just never know.

spider menorah

So...that is my story. It is on my bucket list only because I sometimes like to challenge myself with fucked up things like raw oysters, mescale worms and tarantulas. I like living on the edge. Yea....I'm pretty bad ass. I know.


Monday, November 4, 2013

#304 Go Apple Picking

I have lived in Pennsylvania my whole life. No! Really? You don't say. ( Sorry, sometimes Captain Obvious makes an unexpected appearance.) What I mean to say is Pennsylvania is a decent sized state. There are a multitude of farms, orchards and vineyards scattered about my beloved state and I have done my fair share of visiting many of them. I feel strongly that it is very important to seek out and patronize local businesses. I enjoy doing so. However, I have never gone apple picking despite the fact that Pennsylvania has a pretty big apple industry going on. In fact, Pennsylvania is ranked fourth in apple production in the United States behind Washington, New York and Michigan.

Ontelaunee Orchards
Pennsylvania Apples

I decided it was time to partake in one of life's simple pleasures while attaining a more accessible goal on my bucket list. It was the perfect time of year to go apple picking. September and October are peak times for apple orchards so I set the date for the second weekend in October. My dear friend Kimba was going to accompany me on this journey but unfortunately she had come down with bronchitis. I will say, as gorgeous and brilliant an autumn as Pennsylvania has experienced this year, the propensity for catching cold after sickness after cold was alarmingly high. I spent the majority of the autumn fighting off varying colds myself. Everyone seemed to be.

I promised my friend I would pick some apples for her and wished her a speedy recovery from her ails. Then I forced the two people that live in my house to come pick some crisp, tasty apples with me. We needed some quality time together anyways. ( Okay so I didn't force them but I may have bribed them with the Cracker Barrel for dinner. LOL.) Actually they were both excited to come along for the 90 minute ride. It had been a very trying, melancholy and onerous summer for the three of us. We didn't really have an opportunity to do much as a family in the warm months. The fact that my kids are older and beginning to branch off and do their own things sometimes weighs heavily in my mind as well. It makes these stolen moments all the more precious for me.

In the blink of an eye...... sigh.

Our destination is Ontelaunee Orchards in Leesport, PA, 90 minutes south of Hazleton. A co worker had recommended the orchard after a summer visit. She had brought in some peaches she had picked during the peach season from this orchard and I was very impressed. They were enormous, healthy and tasted perfectly sweet and peachy. This was the orchard I wanted to visit. I write the directions to the orchard on a piece of paper the old school way mostly because every GPS app I download on my phone frustrates me. We are not even two minutes into our journey when we see our first amusing sight of the trip. (My kids and I always see the strangest, funniest things.)

Some advice for all the bicyclists out there....if you are going to ride your mountain bike around town or anywhere for that matter, make sure you are donning the proper biking attire. Pants that not only fit well but are made of material that moves fluidly while you are peddling your little heart out is the way to go. There is nothing more disturbing and distracting than seeing a man in front of you riding his bike with more than half of his ass hanging out. My daughter and I exchange looks in the front seat. My son is already cracking up in the back seat. Yes, we all have a good laugh at the bicyclist's expense. Good lord!

We continue our travels through the grid and plow down the endless hills of the Skook (Schuylkill County, PA)  through Pottsville, Cressona, Deer Lake, Port Carbon and Hamburg. The sky is blue, the clouds are like stretched cotton and the trees covering the Blue Mountains are burning orange and red and yellow. The fresh, brisk air creeping in from the open windows feels amazing. This is the kind of weekend drive I live for. As we enter Leesport, my daughter reads the directions to me. We turn onto the gravel road directing us to the orchard and drive up a hill then down another. I throw my blazer into 4W, praying it goes into gear. It does! Yes! (My truck loves to keep me on edge.)

We see numerous groves filled with rows and rows of trees on either side of us. From their website, I know Ontelaunee not only grows peaches and apples but also cherries. I need to definitely come down for cherry season. Love them. They also have strawberry and blueberry bushes, although they are way out of season already. As we drive to the parking area, we notice they have a corn maze and pumpkin patch as well. This is a really great all in one stop I think to myself. Near the parking area, there is a sign directing us to check in before we begin picking the apples. I notice people lined up at a little shack near the sign with crates, boxes, bags and wagons filled with apples.

We exit the car and head towards the shack. A nice young lady approaches us and inquires if we were ready to start picking apples. Yes we are! She takes our bags and weighs them so we are not charged for their weight. I laugh because I think to myself, my bags aren't even going to register a weight, but surprisingly they do. She writes the weight of each bag on a sticker and places one on each bag. She proceeds to give us a run down of what apples are in season and ready for picking. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jona Gold, Cameo, Empire, Cortland and a few others are available for the taking. Several varieties including Fiji and Macintosh are already past season. She informs us where the ripened apples are located on the orchard. They also have arrows marking ripe areas to help guide us. She mentions that while all apples are $1.19 a pound, they prefer we not mix the apples varieties we pick so they can keep track of the varieties for their records.

I only brought two bags so I tell the kids we need to make sure we can tell the difference between the apples so I can separate them at check out. My goal is to find apples suitable for dumplings since I plan on making them for the first time ever. I had become fascinated with them since the Bloomsburg Fair two weeks prior. It was my first time having an apple dumpling and the stand we ordered from, Roan's, rocked my world. Their dumplings consisted of a peeled, cored, whole apple filled with cinnamon, sugar and butter, wrapped in a simple dough then baked in a little metal tray. They served the dumpling warm, in the little metal tray with all the juice and butter leftover from the baking process swimming on the bottom. The ultimate accompaniment to the dumpling was a nice big scoop of cinnamon ice cream. This is what heaven tastes like I remember thinking. My friend Renee agreed. Well worth the 20 minutes we stood in line.

I had also wanted to make the Cracker Barrel's Apple Cheddar chicken and try an apple sangria recipe I found online. My daughter wanted to try her hand at my apple crumb cobbler. In other words, there was gonna be a lot of apple stuff all up in the Fessler household. An apple a day they say. We were about to get our fill. The kids and I walk over to a row of apples ready to be picked. They are Cameo apples. I had never heard of them before but was impressed by the sheer size of them. I notice that most of the orchard trees are pruned so they are smaller in size, no ladder required, yet I was astonished that such small trees could hold so much fruit on them.....large, perfectly shaped, beautiful fruit.

Ontelaunee Orchards
Stunning dark crimson Red Delicious apples. 

I walk over to a tree to get a closer look. Then I notice the yellow jackets, aka flying, stinging, scary, yellow bastards. The website had stated that there would be fruit on the ground which attracted bees. I don't mind honey bees, bumble bees or even carpenter bees. They all have a job to do so they pretty much focus on what their purpose in life is, be it making honey, pollinating flowers or eating big ass holes in your deck. They don't purposely attack humans. They only sting when they feel threatened. And by threatened, you pretty much have to get all up in their business to piss them off. Yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets on the other hand, are predators. They are assholes. They will attack you and repeatedly sting you because....they can. And where there is one, there are 1000 more just waiting to go to war. They get off on stinging people. Well, that is my theory anyway. Here, I almost just stepped on an apple filled with yellow jackets. I back away slowly and say a Hail Mary.

I warn my kids to be careful. Today is not the day I want to find out if they are allergic to bees. Their father was when he was a child, however he had been stung several times as an adult by yellow jackets and was okay. Like I mentioned above, there are many varieties of flying, stinging spawns of satan so we proceed with caution. The three of us start examining and picking Cameo apples. I figure these will be the apples I use for dumplings. We begin loading up the bag my son is holding. It becomes rather heavy, very quickly. We twist, turn and snap about 15 Cameos from the trees. As we are getting ready to head over to the Empire apples, I notice a bunch of perfectly good Cameos lying on the ground in between two trees. Someone must have picked them then decided to leave them.

That pissed me off. I bend down and examine the apples. There are about seven perfectly good apples lying on the ground. I pick them up and place them in my bag. I know sometimes we can't help but waste food but this just didn't sit well with me. Don't blatantly pick so much fruit, then disregard it like that. Since I have so many Cameos, I decide to forgo the Empire apples entirely. My bill is already going to be high because these apples are so large. They have to be close to a pound a piece. Instead, we walk down a little hill and across the road to the Golden Delicious.

Ontelaunee Orchards
Ricky going in for the kill.
Ontelaunee Orchards
Snow White and her apple. 

Golden Delicious are not the most ideal apples for baking in my opinion. They are a little too soft and sweet, better for eating as is, but I have baked with them. They make for a great homemade applesauce. I also believe they would be fantastic to put in .....say.....some apple cider sangria. Hahaha! I genuinely adore their flavor. They are such a gorgeous apple. My daughter shares my love for them too. The Golden Delicious trees are larger and the leaves, a deeper green. The yellow apples hang in beautiful contrast to the green leaves. I walk among the rows with my daughter just admiring the trees.

This is when I swallow my first gnat. I tend to breath more through my mouth than my nose so I make a conscious effort to close my mouth and let my nose do the work. Yep....Knew that was going to happen. I just snorted a gnat. Then I snort another one.We got both nostrils covered now. Symmetry people! Let's just say there are gnats EVERYWHERE. For some reason, they weren't as bad by the Cameos but they are definitely a huge nuisance by the golden delicious trees. I turn to mention to my daughter that the gnats are pissing me off when I eat another one. Then I get one in my eye. WTF?? I look down at my blonde hair and there are little black dots all over it. I start shaking my hair with my hands.

Gnats don't freak me out or anything, but they are utterly annoying. I am literally walking around among the trees with one hand rubbing my eye while the other one alternates between shaking my hair and swatting the air in front of my face. I would be quite the spectacle if everyone else wasn't doing something very similar. The kids are in their own epic battle of the gnats. I decide to light a cigarette in hopes that the smoke will keep them away. (Okay...So I really needed an after dinner smoke since I ate so many freakin gnats!) It works a little. We do our best to ignore the pests. They are not ruining our fun time! No way!

Ontelaunee Orchards
Golden Beauties!
The kiddos getting their apple on. Somehow I, the elderly one, ended up carrying a bag. Notice which child has no bag.... LOL! Men! 

We begin loading up the bag my daughter is carrying with Golden goodness. We pick about 15 of them. Next to the Golden Delicious are the Red Delicious. I decide to forgo them as well. I remember the young lady saying there were Granny Smith apples down the mountain. Granny Smith are the perfect baking apple. They are tart and firm. They are also great for slicing and slathering peanut butter on them. I would like to pick some of them. We begin the journey down the mountain in search of Grannies. (On a side note, when my daughter was little, every time she saw an elderly woman she would ask me rather loudly, "Mommy is she a granny?" or she would say "Hi Granny." to them as they walked by us. Yep.... 50 shades of red right here.)

Maybe it was the mass ingestion of gnats, or maybe it was the fact that the temperature had risen what seemed like twenty degrees in 30 minutes, but we were struggling a little looking for the granny apples. We glance at row upon row of trees but no Granny Smiths. We notice a sign for Jona Gold apples. I decide to settle for them. We walk back to the rows of Jona Golds. The gnats must really love them too because this area was by far, the most heavily concentrated area. It was beyond annoying at this point.

We are DeCosmo/Fesslers though. We do not allow anything to get in the way of fun times. We begin perusing the apples. They look very similar to Cameos. Later I find out that both the Cameo and Jona Gold apples are bred from the Delicious apple family. It was fate that I picked these two apple varieties. Pretty wild huh? Hahahaha. It is here, in this grove of trees that my son finds what he declares the perfect apple. It has a great blend of color, nice shape, a strong stem, and most importantly, little leaves intact on the stem. Yes people, in a matter of 30 minutes my son has become the "authority" on apples. I have no idea where he gets this from. (That is complete sarcasm of course. I know exactly where he gets this from....his sister. LOL!)

The perfect apple...according to Ricky. 
Ontelaunee Orchards
It really is a nice apple. 
Mom and daughter enjoying some quality time. 

We place the epitome of appleness in the bag with the Golden Delicious apples because the Jona look way too similar to the Cameos. I have a tendency to get into havoc everywhere I go. Don't feel like getting scolded at the shack for mixing varieties. Why am I so paranoid? Who knows. After picking about ten apples I decide this is about all my budget can allot. We head back up the hill to the shack. I remember having a plastic grocery bag in the car. I tell the kids to hang at the picnic tables while I go fetch the bag. (I am so paranoid about presenting mixed apples. This is obvious.) I come back with my plastic grocery bag and put all the Jona in it. There! Now all the apples are separated. This gal ain't getting scolded today!

The kids and I head to the shack to have our bounty of apples weighed. I patiently anticipate the damage. The total for 45 ginormous apples is...... $36.00. I can live with that. We had a great time so it was well worth the price. The next day I make apple dumplings. It takes me all day to create these dough encased apple treasures for a number of reasons. First off, it is Sunday. Football day. I do watch college football on Saturdays but go about doing my things around the house. I'm a little more religious about watching NFL football, especially Steelers football. I'm not going to lie. I peeled the apples in front of my big screen TV. That took three hours.

There was also the problem with coring the apples. They were too big for me to core with a knife without risking a trip to the ER. Since I wanted my apples whole, I had to cut a perimeter around the top of the apple, then scoop out the core with a spoon. I begin questioning why I had to ambitiously choose such huge apples. This process took awhile as well. Then there was the problem of the dough. I am not great with dough for starters. The fact that I could not find my rolling pin made me go watch two hours of the 4:00 football game. I refused to give up though. I walk back into my kitchen, grab an empty wine bottle (they are plentiful in this house) and roll out my dough. I so suck at rolling dough. The swear words start drifting from my lips.

The fact that the apples are huge make me hate my life even more because I have to work really hard to roll out slabs of dough big enough to cover the apples. Why did I decide to make 15 of these f@ckers?? I am always challenging myself whether I want to or not it seems. Add insult to injury I can hear the game on the TV in the next room. I am missing so much football right now. Finally, after 37 hours of hard labor, the dumplings are ready to bake. I am calm again and eagerly anticipating enjoying a homemade apple dumpling made by me! 40 minutes later we are already into the 8:00 football game and the dumplings are ready. Or....are they? I pick a dumpling, dump a bunch of vanilla ice cream in the little metal pan and top it with cinnamon. (No cinnamon ice cream available at the store.) I park my ass in front of the big screen and dig into my dumpling.

My spoon is being met with a lot of resistance. What the hell? I finally get a piece of apple to cooperate and get on my spoon. As soon as I put it in my mouth it dawns on me that the recipe I used called for chopped apples. Chopped apples only need 40 minutes in the oven. Whole apples need about an hour, maybe even longer because mine were Godzilla apples. My apple is not soft. It is al dente. Al dente is great for pasta, not so great for apple dumplings. By now, I am no longer hungry. I get up from the couch, walk back into the kitchen, turn on the oven again and bake the dumplings for another 25 minutes. I don't even try one when they come out. By this point I have resigned myself to cherry whiskey. It is bedtime. Tomorrow is another day.

Fess's Apple Dumplings
This is what heaven tastes like. 

I will say, Monday night, I heat up an apple dumpling and have it for dinner. It was fabulous. It was not as delicious as Roan's but better than I was expecting for my first go round. I will definitely make them again. I will just make sure to make them on a non-football day. I also bought an apple corer and will be getting a rolling pin shortly to make my life easier. And perhaps....I will rethink the size of the apples I use to make dumplings. Maybe. LOL! Turns out all the fruits of my labor came out wonderful and tasted amazing. The kids were apprehensive about the apple cheddar chicken but once they tired it, they were hooked. I also got to spend quality time with my kiddos. As I always say, it's all about the little things. For they are the big things. I wouldn't have it any other way.



Apple Varieties

Ontelaunee Orchards

Apple Cider Sangria

Apple Dumplings

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