Friday, November 30, 2012

Seeking The Special

Well here we are on the last day of November. I didn't complete my NaBloPoMo writing challenge, but S completed his kettlebell swing challenge! He has amazing stick-to-it abilities, which is so inspiring!

In the last few weeks I've been looking toward December, thinking of ways to bring a sense of special to our holiday season. I've made mental lists of festive ideas for our family. Then our beloved cat was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. All holiday plans dropped from my mind, replaced with concern over the remaining days of our cat's life, and worry of how his loss will impact us.

But life moves ever forward, and I want to make the most of it. So today I'm revisiting some of those December ideas, and I hope that I'll still be able to pull some of them off. I will start by listing them here, as a reminder. This will be a very relaxed Holiday Bucket List.
  • Eat more evening meals at the table
  • Use the snowman dishes
  • Light candles when the sun sets
  • Watch holiday movies
  • Take photos of special ornaments and blog about their stories
I'll be focusing on this short list in hopes of bringing warmth to our short days and long nights. If something on this list ends up satisfying, I'll be glad to nourish it as a new tradition. Onward! 

One last holiday with this kitty. Make every moment count. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oh The Places We Go

This weekend we are going back to Roxborough State Park. We'll take the big camera and the tripod and attempt a holiday family photo. It shouldn't be hard to find a good backdrop!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Holiday Prep

Our day began with some holiday gift making...

And ended with a living room reboot! Now there's room for our tree, which we'll put up next week.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mmm Banana Bread

Banana Bread 

This is a recipe I've adapted from a cookbook given to me by my mom in 1999. I've made this so many times over the years, and it always comes out perfect! One year I made dozens of mini loaves and gave them away during the holiday season. Most everyone loves banana bread, except my oldest son, but I can't win them all!

1 T plus 1/2 c softened butter
3/4 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 c mashed ripe banana (about 3 or 4 small bananas)
3/4 c yogurt

Preheat oven to 350. Melt the tablespoon of butter in a loaf pan, spread around to coat.
Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl until it's whipped (I use an electric mixer). Crumble in the brown sugar and mix until creamy.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add these to the butter mixture and beat with the mixer for 1 minute, adding the vanilla along the way.
Measure the flour into a separate bowl. Mix in baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Add a third of the dry mix to the wet mix and stir slowly with a spoon. When the flour is mostly mixed in, add half the banana.
Add another third of the dry mix, then the rest of the banana, keep stirring.
Add the remainder of the dry mix, then the yogurt. Mix from the bottom until fully combined.
Pour batter into the buttered pan and spread until even.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Cool completely before slicing, if you can! We never can, and the result is our loaf falls apart as we cut it. We don't care. We just slap on some butter and eat it warm!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scrub Them Down

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.  -Alan Alda

Eureka Springs, Arkansas 2008

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Letting Go, Moving On

Since losing our pregnancy a year ago, and moving on from trying to conceive, S and I have been slowly healing and regaining a sense of control over our lives. It was bumpy at first, but gradually we've gotten more comfortable with refocusing our attention on my two boys and our life together. Every once in a while I see something so poignant, I gasp, and mourn for what we'll never have. While with friends today, I saw two big brothers fawning over their baby sister. These boys are about the same ages as my boys, and the baby was born within months of our due date with our lost girl. When I watch these siblings interact, I get a glimpse of what we wanted for our family. Some people call babies born after divorce and remarriage joiner babies, a way to bring both sides together. What I need to focus on is that although S and I can't have children together, we do have a family. We do have love, tons of it, and we are joined. We've got each other. We’re all sad we can't add a baby to our home, but there is no mistaking the privilege we have, just being able to live our lives together. Onward! 

Us, circa 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Hunt Continues

I'm pretty excited about the group of houses we're looking at tomorrow with our realtor. All are on the west side of Denver, some in Lakewood, and some in Littleton. We're taking our time and really trying to find "our" house. The biggest items on our list are mature trees, fenced backyard, and an open kitchen. Other priorities are proximity to light rail and walkable neighborhoods. So far we've seen awful houses in just the right area, and great houses in areas that leave much to be desired. The one house so far that we've loved only has two bedrooms and one bathroom, so we took that one off the list. Trying to keep an open mind, and let patience keep me clear-eyed.

On the lookout...

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Niagara Falls (Canadian side), 2009

S and I have four days coming up in December to get away! Alone! We've taken so many trips together and I can't wait to travel again. We won't go far, but we will go up, which is something we don't do often, as my youngest son gets horrible motion sickness. It's just no fun driving up a mountain when you've got vomit to contend with. 

I'm thinking a cabin. Or a yurt. Are yurts warm? Or a hotel room with a view. Oh I'm so excited to start planning! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

A photo, A blurb

T'was a lovely, sunny day. 
The snow arrives tomorrow. 
We soaked up the warmth and coiled up the hose. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recycle Political Yard Signs, and Attitudes

While perusing Facebook tonight, I learned our city is offering recycling for political signs. That got me thinking, what else could I drop off in exchange for a healthier environment?

This election season was heated. I live in a swing-state, which is really just a sling-state, and the stuff that gets thrown around isn't of the kindest variety. I'm all for lively discussion when there is a foundation of respect between debaters. I'm also a free speech junkie. But there is another sort of expression that cuts deeply, and the severing of relationships may occur. A good indication that I'm in this sort of discussion is when I find myself saying the same thing over and over. Passion based on subjectivism can boil over quickly, and often I'm not hearing anything other than the blood rushing to my ears.

I try to avoid confrontation, but I do understand the importance of taking a stand, and trying to make a difference in the world. I would never encourage anyone to stay silent in the face of adversity, but I do feel that if I really want to make a difference, I need to start by taking the temperature of my own heart. What really matters?

I'm recycling my political passion of the last several months, hoping I can turn it into something more useful, something that leads to healing. My mouthpiece might make a good earpiece. I'm dropping off my preconceived ideas and picking up an open mind. It's time to reconnect with people based on what we have in common, and set aside my own need to be right.

I love this quote my friend posted today. Her blog is here- From Playgrounds To Politics

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Challenge of Challenges

As I was accepting the challenge to blog once a day for the entirety of November, my husband was making a plan of his own. He is going to do 10,000 kettlebell swings this month! Let me tell you, tonight neither of us feels like doing anything. Yet here we are, forcing ourselves to stay committed. 

When I thought about the challenges of NaBloPoMo, I thought they would be more about what to write, or when to write, not whether to write! I think it would help if I set a scheduled time aside each day for blogging. Ideally this would be in the mornings, between bus runs (I take Steve to his bus first, then some neighbor kids to their buses at different times). The problem with this is that it isn't a big block of time each day. My mornings are more of the in-and-out variety. I'm definitely not getting up earlier to write. We have one computer, and Steve gets up very early to do his own reading and writing. That leaves afternoons or evenings, which have no set routine either. Some afternoons I'm running to bus stops, or running downtown, etc. I don't know what I'll end up doing, but I hope to settle into some sort of routine (I've been saying that for years, yo).

When do you write? What works for you? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Home Sweet Meh

Last Spring we lost our rental when it was foreclosed and auctioned. We were so sad. We had planned on renting that house for at least a few more years, giving Steve time to become an American citizen and begin to build credit. Instead we were faced with eviction, plus a rental market taking full advantage of desperate non-home-owners. Once we realized we could not afford to rent in the Denver Metro Area, we called a realtor and learned we would be able to buy with my credit alone. We had one weekend to find a house. I don't recommend anyone buy under that sort of pressure, if it's at all avoidable. Looking back, we did what we needed to do, but oh do I feel we've paid the cost.

The Denver Metro Area is vast, made up by several suburbs and neighborhoods, all smooshed together like a jigsaw puzzle. Finding the right place to live when you're a transplant is tricky. We ended up with a brand new beautiful home in the absolute wrong-for-us part of town. We did the best we could. We thought we'd adjust and love it here, but several months later we find ourselves still unsettled.

We're working with a realtor to see what else is available to us back on the west part of town where we lived the first year and a half after moving to Colorado. If we find something we love, we'll list this house and hopefully navigate the closing dance without too much trauma.

It's hard to admit, sometimes, that change is needed. It's even harder, I think, to come to terms with not loving a place you really, really want to love. But sometimes the fear of change is less scary than the idea of just muddling through, never really comfortable, never really blooming.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time-Tampering- WHY?

The sun shines warm and bright about 300 days a year here in Denver, which is surprising as we get around 57 inches of snow per yearBut a lot of that snow melts fast, and in Denver, you build your snowman knowing he'll be a puddle within a few days.

With the end of Daylight Savings Time coming on the third cloudy day in a row, I found myself roaming around the house like a zombie. I never realized how much I needed sunshine until I moved here and got spoiled on it! Now I'm turning on all the bulbs in the house, just desperate for more light!

How do you handle time changes, and the shortening days and lengthening darkness of Winter? Do you know why we do this silly time-tampering? I didn't, until I watched this short video-

I'm off to bake cookies. I'll bask in the glow of the oven for a bit. Toasty. Wishing you all sunny days and snowmen in the shade!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learning Optimism- The Nitty-Gritty

Yesterday I shared a short review of the book Learned Optimism. Today I want to tell you about the tools I've taken from this book and applied to my daily confrontations with adversity. We all react to adversity in a way that's been fashioned over time. Our thoughts solidify into beliefs over many years. We may find ourselves reacting in a way that is so natural, it may seem there is no way to change what we believe, even if we recognize the way we think is hurting us. The awesome truth is we CAN change our minds!

I've often felt paralyzed by the long-turning broken records in my head. Now I take those thoughts and break them open, examining what's deep in the grooves, discarding what I can discredit. I do this with tools I collected in Learned Optimism. When I find myself faced with adversity, and the resulting belief is negative, here's how I break it all down and reason my way toward optimism.

  • Evidence- what backs up this negative belief? What are the facts? Be a detective!
  • Alternatives- what else could be happening besides my negative belief? Is there a less destructive way to view this situation? Is there anything changeable to focus on? Something specific and non-personal?
  • Implications- even if my negative belief IS true, what are the real implications of that belief? 
  • Usefulness- what good will it do to believe these negative thoughts? Will this belief help me? 
  • Energization- what will happen if I change this belief? What's the payoff of optimism? 
Now I'll give you a real-life example of these tools in action.

I forgot to pay a medical bill in time. The result is a notice of collections during a time when there is no extra money.
Resulting Belief
I'm so stupid and forgetful! I can't believe I didn't pay this bill on time. At this age I should know how to budget! I'll never pay this bill off. Surely my credit is ruined. How could I be so irresponsible?
I'm in tears. I'm panicked over money. I'm mad at myself. I'm ashamed of myself. (Time to dispute!)

  • Evidence- The bill IS late. It IS in collections. My credit WILL suffer if I can't pay this. I DO typically pay bills on time. I HAVE been going through a rough time. My mind HAS been on other things, like a sick child. I AM responsible for caring for this child. 
  • Alternatives- Maybe I'm not stupid. Maybe I've been overly tired from caring for my child. Maybe my memory is lapsing due to stress. I've not asked for help, and maybe I should.
  • Implications- Even if I am forgetful, there have got to be ways to still get things done. Even if I can't pay this entire bill, I will pay what I can, and I will not lose my home over one late medical bill. Credit is fixable. 
  • Usefulness- I have been overly tired and forgetful. I can use this realization to learn to ask for help. I can also seek out tools to remind me to pay bills. I can call the biller and ask for a reduction in payment, or more time. 
  • Energization- If I implement a budget tool and ask for help, I'll be more effective. I will pay my medical bills on time. I can feel good about the ways I'm becoming more responsible. I can show my kids how to withstand the stress of medical bills and have a happy life.
There you go! That's how I've been learning to fight off my negative thoughts, replacing them with factual, reasonable assessments, and plans of how to move forward! I actually keep track of such exercises in my Self Care journal. Usually I can work through the dispute in my head. Sometimes I have to write it all down and really take my time. Other times I do this aloud, with my husband, or with my kids! I think this is a great skill set to hand to our children, especially if they've learned some pessimism from our modeling. All we can do is try to be better. And I think it's reasonable to believe the effort will pay off. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Against The Grain- How I'm Learning Optimism

My rose colored glasses are bloody. My window to the world is muddy. I, unfortunately, am bent toward the negative. Whether due to early experiences, or natural temperament,  I'm a bit (much) of a pessimistic human. Now, I'm not down on myself, or even ashamed of how I think, but I do recognize the power of thoughts on the shape of my world. In hopes of finding my way to a less-gloomy life, I sought out some new tools. Enter Learned Optimism, and my Self Care journal.

Self-help books can be a bit... well, I guess I feel every Tom, Dick, And Harry has a book for sale, claiming ability to change my life if I just do what they did in their life. And I just don't buy into that. Or buy those books. Life is subjective. People are autonomous. I think trying to model the behavior of one individual can set several up for disappointment. Of course, I'm a pessimist. ;-)

What sold me on this book was a review from another author. I thought, well I like what this person writes, and I trust their review, so I'm going to give this a go. I'm so glad I did, because I've learned some valuable lessons. Learned Optimism paints a dreary picture of pessimism, and the impact of negativity on one's life. Then it provides a test, so you can figure out just how pessimistic you are. Well that was fun! Not! I had to move on FAST from the devastating, yet already known results of my test. In fact, I skipped a huge portion of the book just to get from test results to TELL ME HOW TO FIX MYSELF BEFORE I MOVE INTO A CAVE!!!

In the Change section of the book, the author lays out a very clear path to battle negative thinking. By learning to distract, dispute, and distance myself from my beliefs during adversity, I'm gaining control of my thoughts. Hooray!

This post is getting a little too long for my taste, but I will write another post soon about how I'm specifically using the tools in Learned Optimism to find balance and hope in my daily life. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you want to check out Learned Optimism, the link below will take you to Amazon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let's Do NaBloPoMo!

It's November, and my how the months have flown by! When we started this blog over the summer, we were so excited to share our lives, but as the days dragged on, we found ourselves uninspired, and burned out. This apathy has been wide-sweeping and we are just so fed up with it! Last night S and I discussed ways to break free from monotony, and strategies to find passion again. One thing we both want to do is contribute to our blogs, and that's why I'm participating in NaBloPoMo, which is National Blog Posting Month. It starts today!

NaBloPoMo doesn't set many guidelines. Write as much as you want, wherever you want, however you want. Just write and post daily! Some people start fresh blogs, write for a month, and never return. Some people spread posts over several blogs. I think I'll do well sticking to this blog, as it gives a nice perimeter of topics. I'm sure the posts will vary in length and depth, and I'll likely utilize photos as inspiration, or to round out days when I can't write more than a few sentences.

Are the darkening days leaving you unfulfilled and tired? Would you consider committing to writing  on a blog every day this month? If so, let's do NaBloPoMo!

Shorter days bring me down. Let's write!