Monday, March 30, 2009

The Book Thief convinced me to make better choices...

Nearing the end of the 550 page, The Book Thief, tears began to stream down my face. Reading such a long novel, not only does one sense the end coming, but rather you can feel it. The lobsided book was precariously placed on my lap, my eyes were racing over the pages as my mind was contemplating how was it going to end. I could hear myself shushing all sounds in the room, sinking into the ending even further after my daughter's went to bed. I was completely absorbed.

My husband entered the room and noticed my tears. He casually asked if I was okay. Although I didn't want to pause in the moment, I answered I'm wonderful.

As soon as I finished, the first thought to enter my mind was, what an incredible story. Then rather oddly I thought, television is such a waste of time. I tried to recall a time when television enriched my life like a piece of well written historical fiction, but I couldn't. To think I spend mindless hours sitting in front of a television, flipping channels, watching nothing but junk to be momentarily appeased. That time could be spent being transformed into the lives of others, through their story in words. Instead of being spoon fed entertainment, my mind has the opportunity to create character's images, setting, or the feeling of food being rationed during a time of war. In turn with a wonderful piece of literature, my mind is the director and producer, with the driving force being the writer handing me the script of a lifetime.

The Book Thief was originally introduced to me as an assignment for Graduate School. When I first picked up the book I instantly flipped to the end to see exactly how long the book was, for it's size is intimidating. Initially I was feeling hesitant during the beginning of the book, wondering if I was going to get into this one. The story is narrated by none other than death. I recall sitting on my front lawn, book in hand on a beautiful sunshine filled day thinking, death? This is going to be a long book. Before I knew it, the characters I would come to know and love started to be introduced. Deep down I never feared the quality of the writing or the depth of the story, as my Professor has an innate sense of the gems in the world of literature. This time her pick was straight on the mark. 

Reading a piece of historical fiction in 2009 was very poignant to me. Our lives, even during a time of War is barely phased by the reality of men and women in service fighting for our country. We've been fortunate enough to not have to endure a harsh impact of war, just recently our economy has given us a glimpse of the harder times that may be ahead. But once again, I am reminded how incredibly lucky we are. 

On the other hand, Liesel a young girl moved to Germany to live with foster parents had already lived through abandonment by her mother and the loss of a brother. She was handed over full swing into the rise of Nazi Germany. Unlike any preconceived notions I may have had about living in Germany during World War 2, Liesel's new neighborhood was falling apart, jobs were lost, storefronts were vacant, food consisted of the same meal day in and day out, pea soup. Her foster father, Hans, even settled for a cigarette as payment for his work as a painter. Liesel comes into her new life facing the harshest of realities, but has a determined magical spirit. A spirit that touched my life.

This story of The Book Thief is so much more then I could capture. It's about death, living, and loving. It's about lives driven by human nature, which is not always acceptable behavior in Nazi Germany. It's about a girl's love for words and how it ultimately transforms her life, not to mention the lives of so many others. We feel small moments of triumph mixed in with larger profound life changing events. And yes there's death, the narrator, whom actually provides moments of humor in this rather seemingly dark story.

From the inside book cover, I leave you with, "It's just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery..."

I also came across this, in case you'd like a visual glimpse into the novel:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak can be found here!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Now It's, Happy SNOWY Spring!

Oh, Colorado it was one week ago I was merrily welcoming Spring. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet. One week later, most appropriately for Colorado we're buried under 16 inches of fluffy white snow. Yesterday the storm hit, schools were closed, the major highway and side road that my husband can take on his commute were closed. A real whopper. Turns out my town was the epicenter of the storm. 

But I'm not complaining. 

It's been eerily warm around here. We desperately needed the moisture. The thought of drought was always looming in the back of my mind. 

In turn, this storm forced us to cancel a trip we had planned that involved some driving. I didn't want to be stuck in our car for an extra few hours due to weather conditions when the trip in good weather is typically about 7-8 hours. IKEA i'll be waiting for you, don't go anywhere.

Now you can find us outside, playing in the snow. It certainly looks beautiful in my backyard all,  windblown and picturesque. Makes you just want to hole up, start baking and cooking doesn't it?

Time to go make snow angels, hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Farewell Shabby Chic

Back in the late 1990's a designer captured my attention on the Style Network, her name was Rachel Ashwell and her show was called Shabby Chic. Rachel took the movement full swing, with the term Shabby Chic encompassing the white painted chipped furniture look, large comfy slipcovered sofas, and beautiful French Country floral prints. Shabby Chic stores were first opened in Southern California, my favorite on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. 

I'll never forget the first time I walked into the Montana Avenue shop. I felt like I was at home, the Shabby Chic look is very inviting and the linens are beyond comparison. I was always treated kindly in the shop that offered $8,000 sofas and $500 duvet covers, even though I was not a high end customer. Over the years when visiting Los Angeles, I always popped into the shop to see what was new and how the design of the floor had changed. 

I also have quite the collection from visits over the years. I do recall in 2005 hitting the jackpot during a June visit. Shabby Chic was hosting it's annual warehouse sale, where I dragged my hubby and my almost two year old daughter. I waited in line for hours with the likes of Jennifer Love Hewitt for the deals. I even had my first and only glimpse of Rachel herself. Oh, the good old days. 

To my sadness, last week the announcement came that Shabby Chic would be no more. Rachel had started a blog a few months ago and when I got to the end of her last post I was in shock. She announced all her stores would be liquidated and that she would return soon, with a new venture. 

My first response was to hop on the web and pick up anything I could! To think I would not have the opportunity to purchase another Shabby Chic sheet sent me running for the reinforcements. I did find a few things, but many of the items were no longer in stock. I even contemplated taking a short trip to Santa Monica to pick up some items in person. 

But I've let go. I've let go of owning a white sofa and a beach bungalow. With any design style, tastes change, style is in constant flux. I will always be most rested in my Shabby Chic sheets, but sad the style I so adored for years has gone. A true sign of the times. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Promise Tweeple, It's Not You, It's Me...

You've heard of Twitter by now, right? Well, I was a late comer to the world of Twitter, just joining back in December. Twitter just celebrated it's 3rd birthday this past weekend, so it's been around if you were in the know. It's definitely been a hot trending topic in mainstream media recently. But in all honesty, I was a little reluctant to join the Twitter world, thinking it wasn't for me. Yes, I had the same opinion about Facebook which has also changed dramatically since joining six months ago. At this point, I definitely don't regret my decision to join Twitter, it has been a positive experience for me.

Just for a little background on Twitter, it has been deemed as real time microblogging because your "tweets" as they are called are limited to 140 characters or less. Meaning the thoughts you share with others have to be to the point. But the more time I come to know Twitter, the less I would call it microblogging. Does it really need a succinct catch all phrase to describe it? In some ways to me, Twitter is undefinable.

Three months out, I am now just coming into my own with Twitter. I am starting to feel out what I want from Twitter. For me, Twitter is about building relationships and creating community, just like blogging. Initially I was enthralled with numbers, the number of people I was following (which means the people I chose to receive their updates in my twitterstream/homepage) or the number of people following me (the people choosing to receive my updates). I would look at someone's Twitter stream before following them back to see if they were interesting and engaging or just broadcasting all self-driven check me out, read my blog, buy my product updates. Twitter really is an exchange of ideas and I've learned so many things from brilliant folks that are authentically sharing what they are passionate about and find interesting.

But then it hit me. I started to crave something on Twitter that was very silly and superficial to me. A number. Without ever deciphering what number would make me content, like if I had 1,000 followers that would be awesome. But would it? Would I feel more complete with 1,000 people reading what I shared in 140 characters or less?

The answer is no, I wouldn't. There isn't a number that appeals to me anymore. 

This evening I went through my list of those that I follow and decided to weed out those that weren't looking for the same thing out of Twitter that I am. Maybe I misjudged some and if I did, I apologize I am only going on their numbers and their updates, or if I have interacted with them on a personal level (which you can do through Direct Messaging or @'ing). There is a huge percentage of Twitter users that just chase numbers, just want to find someone else to follow that will follow them back, growing their numbers. Blah, huh? Oh and there are programs you can use to automatically grow your numbers and strategies to blast you onto the Twitter scene, if that's what you want. The number chasers, the broadcasters are not for me anymore. Is someone on Twitter that is following 12,000 people really catching what I have to say? Umm, probably not.

Scaling back is better for me. Before going to bed tonight, I unfollowed a large number of people that I had not authentically communicated with since I joined Twitter. The big question is, out of all the people I chose to stop receiving updates from, how many of them will no longer follow me? Was I just a number to them? That's what I will find out. I don't only follow people that follow me back, but the majority of those I follow do. It's not important to me if they find me interesting, I want to follow those that I find intriguing even with out reciprocation.

I will reaffirm, Twitter is a whirlwind, it's fun and interesting. I have real life friends on Twitter that I've known since elementary school, my husband, my mommy friends, friends scattered from west coast to east. Then I have my blogworld friends, just one update away that I enjoy getting to know on a completely different level. Not to mention, I have a whole hodge podge of celebrities like Rocco DiSpirito to Ashton Kucher to Lance Armstrong that I follow that make Twitter a more dynamic place. I love that Twitter is always in flux, just like what I am seeking from it.

If you're on Twitter and by chance we aren't friends yet, please share your @ in a comment, I would love to read what you are sharing. If Twitter is a completely different experience for you, please also share, I'd love to hear your insight.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome Spring

Last week we noticed some green sprouts forming up from the old maroon mulch out front in my planting bed. This week, little hints of purple are beginning to appear. I am delighted. We've had incredibly mild weather the last month in Colorado. Which is pleasurable for playing with the kids, hanging out, and feeling happy. But on the other hand, the weather scares me, as we in Colorado have a history of wildfires and water rationing come summer. Without the snowpack we are in trouble. I know the mountains have done much better than us in the snow department, thank goodness.

We're off to play, I am sure knowing Colorado weather the way I do, there is a spring storm brewing somewhere that will arrive when I least expect it!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and the weather is beautifully spring in your corner of the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Operation Goodbye Muffin Top

Even though I am very good at complaining about the woes of being a TALL woman, standing at the above average 5'11" there truly are some perks which I don't take for granted. Like gaining 5 pounds with out it making much of an impact on my physical appearance. Which is all well and good until you weigh oh 25 pounds more than you would like. My body can distribute the extra weight fine, but I know it's there. I'm not physically where I would like to be.

I don't own a scale (other than my Wii Fit) so I gauge my weight by how my jeans fit. Lately my friend the muffin top has been visiting. Which means, I'm carrying extra weight. There's nothing worse to me than putting on a pair of jeans that feel snug, a pair of jeans that I once slipped on with ease. So what is a woman to do?

I did have success in a Boot Camp Class this summer, but after the session ended, I did not have the discipline to get up at dark and convince myself to work out. I am not much of a gym person, I feel very uncomfortable. I am one of those people that thinks everyone is staring at me, flailing on a machine, looking super uncoordinated. When in reality I am sure I wouldn't be noticed. It's a mental hurdle. I've never felt like the gym setting was for me. Same goes for yoga class. Too much ego in the room and me, not enough yogi ego to maintain a consistent practice. And with yoga it's impossible to build confidence with out regular practice. See the problem?

Not to mention the financial hurdles coupled with childcare. No childcare for yoga practice and the gym childcare, I'm way too much of a germ phobe. I freak out at the thought.

Lately on twitter some of my tweeps have been talking about 30 Day Shred and being a #shredhead (the # makes a topic searchable on twitter). I looked into what all the hype was. 30 Day Shred is a very reasonably priced ($9 on Amazon and $12 at Best Buy) workout DVD by Jillian Michaels. If you don't know who Jillian Michaels is, she's the badass trainer from The Biggest Loser, a show I watch faithfully every week. I'm not sure how I became a fan, but I get so wrapped up in the contestants' stories and progress, I always shed a tear when someone gets kicked off.

Let's just say I jumped at the opportunity to work out at home for such a small investment cost. I couldn't wait to get the slamming deal on Amazon, so I went straight to Best Buy the day I decided to try it out. The work out is 20 minutes long and has three different levels. I'm currently on Level 1, Day 5. After 10 days, I'll move to Level 2, if I am ready. Then onto Level 3.

Jillian has developed a program that includes strength training, cardio, and ab work built into the 20 minute workout. The only equipment you need is handweights (I use 5lb). For me, with a 20 minute work out, I find a hard time talking myself out of it. Take for example last night, I worked out at 10 pm because I thought, heck it's only 20 minutes, I can do it.

Mental obstacles averted, wouldn't you agree?

I did take some photos of me in my favorite pair of jeans, sporting my not so favorite muffin top. Even though there are lots of other bloggers that are brave enough to share their starting weight, before photos, etc. I'm just not there yet. So when I have achieved my goal, I will show my before and after photo. Until then you'll just have to be patient.

Off to Shred, you should join us! Will this be the summer I actually join a pool instead of avoiding it like the plague?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Does My Husband Parent or Babysit?

Does my husband parent or children or babysit them? Is there a difference? Lately I've been chatting it up with friends about this exact issue.Do you think I plan out every minute of when my husband takes the girls and I am doing something on my own? Or do I let him go with the flow?

Find out over at Rocky Mountain Moms Blog, I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

They Call It "Customer Service" For a Reason

Dear Grocery Store Cashier,
When a mom, with two small children enters your store, please assume she is not out on a casual stroll having a fun afternoon, humming la*la*la. Typically she would be in a hurry, probably a bit stressed, consumed with getting out of your place of employment as fast as possible.

Unfortunately my luck always seems to be drawn to the newbie cashiers at this particular grocery store. And today, my luck was abandoned when I entered your line. You robotically scanned my $80 worth of groceries and I watched them piling up at the end of the conveyor belt.

Piles, piles, piles.

Under the piles were my cloth grocery bags that were meant for the groceries to go in them, not on top of them. I stood there in amazement as you tapped your fingers waiting for my credit card receipt to pop out of the machine.

Looking at the piles, piles, piles.

You handed me my receipt and told me to have a nice day. Started to ring up the next customer to my utter amazement. Cue my children, one wandering off to play in the automatic doors and one starting to scream for chocolate milk. 

And there they were, my haphazardly tossed tomatoes on a vine, my $5.00 loaf of bread, thrown like a horse shoe. Sitting there. Completely forgotten.

I guess the training you received as a cashier was a special "prince of cashier" training, for you need not bag your customers groceries. Your customer with two hungry and overstimulated children. Your customer who would rather be home right now, but I am not, I am packing my own fucking groceries???

I have your name, I will complain. I will leave the store before I have to be disgusted by your customer service again. If I return that is. 

Shame, shame, grocery store. Mom's just need a little TLC, not a minimum wage prince who is too good to lend a hand. 

For the record, I'm always the type to pick up my canvas bags and start packing bags to lend a hand, but sometimes it's nice to be helped. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Tips: Pink Milk Alternatives

Being a fan of Charlie and Lola, we have also become Pink Milk fans in our house. Pink Milk is strawberry milk. Now if you were to take the traditional Hershey's Strawberry Syrup route, you'd be serving up some lovely High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and a nice little side order of mercury. None the less, when the recent mercury/HFCS link came to light in the media, I ditched our pink milk syrup. We've tried an organic variety, but the girls didn't like it. Sigh. I've made homemade strawberry syrup, but it's not something you can just reach into the cabinet and grab on a pink milk whim.

Then recently I finally had a revelation. A middle ground strawberry syrup with acceptable ingredients (although I could do without the artificial coloring), Torani Syrup doesn't have High Fructose Corn Syrup! I purchased some Vanilla Syrup around Christmas time, to dress up my coffee. Now the large bottles of Vanilla and Strawberry Torani Syrup have become a staple in my house. Torani Syrups are made with pure cane sugar, water, flavorings, and some preservatives (including red food coloring for the strawberry). It's also a nice touch to make an Italian strawberry soda, if you just add it to sparkling water.

Anyone else have alternatives for Strawberry Milk, please do share!

In case you need a Charlie and Lola fix:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Time To Pay It Forward, Want To Join In???

We all know the latest media buzz words: downturn, dropped X points, recession, unemployment, failing economy, foreclosure, predatory lenders, on and on and on, all those negative words leave me feeling blah. Then I start to worry about money and how I have to budget. I feel guilty, like maybe I need to cut corners when buying food or generic brand household items. I know any personal shopping is off the list, unless it's an absolute necessity. I haven't gotten my hair done since September. Has our economic situation changed in the last six years, no not very much. Why have I become so paranoid? Being a conscious spender has been at the top of my to do list for the New Year, so I am embracing the challenges in the economy and seizing a moment to do something different.

In this little blogosphere, sometimes you just find an unexpected ray of sunshine. One of the blogs I regularly read Very Busy Mom With 4 decided to spread some sunshine. I happened to be a part of her Pay It Forward post and now it's my turn to spread some sunshine and possibly your turn to spread some sunshine!

Here's how the fun works, BE ONE OF THE FIRST THREE PEOPLE to comment on this post and I'll send you a package at some time over the next month. In turn, you will spread the Pay It Forward Love on your blog, giving to three others, that will give to three others, maybe it will never stop. A bloggy pyramid scheme gone all rainbows and smiles, take that you cable media downers!

If you are interested leave a comment. If you don't make it to the first three spots, grab the lovely picture below and share the love on your own. We all could use a smile these days.
If you haven't been by Very Busy Mom With 4, stop by. Lisa will make you feel at home right away. She's someone I've come to adore, we both have a love for Whole Foods, saving money, and motherhood among a laundry list of other things. And the things we don't agree on, well that just makes life more fun, I mean she does live in Texas and I am a Yankee at heart. LOL!

*Please make sure when you leave a comment that I have your email and/or can contact you via your blog for your address. Thanks for taking the time to spread some sunshine! Time to think what I am going to fill those packages with, don't worry it will be good I promise...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ready For Your House Guest?

Last Thursday I received an out of the ordinary noon time phone call from my oldest brother. I'm juggling lunch making and the swift movement off to kindergarten. I picked up the phone to see what was up. The first thing out of my brother's mouth was I heard your having a house guest!

House guest?

Our family lives in Upstate New York, so typically I know when I will be receiving house guests. There's a lovely window of time to prepare my house, the guest room, and myself mentally. These days the guest room has turned into the catch all room, clothing cast offs from my growing daughters, winter gear from my hubby's traveling adventures for work, laundry, and diaper boxes of toys that I fill up when things break or it's time to let them go. I have to keep them in the closet for a few months because there is always a random toy that won't leave my oldest daughter's memory and I have to retrieve it from the cast off box. If no questions arise, off to the local charity for donation the boxes go.

Back to my house guest.

My father is retired, but my mother is still happily working. It's turned out to be a very busy time for her at work, so she can't get away for a vacation. Long story short, my father decided he wanted to come out for a visit. Even though my mother encouraged him to book a plane ticket, he made up his mind that he wanted to drive out to Colorado. I've driven the 1,800 mile trek too many times to recall, but happily I haven't driven across i-80 in at least a decade.

Last Thursday, my father waited for my mother to go to work, then he packed his suitcase and hit the highway. He drove alone all day Thursday, spent the night in a hotel, and arrived in Colorado about 5 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday. Although he was a bit out of sorts, worn out from the drive, he made it safely. And my mother's response to his adventure, let's just say she wasn't happy.

In the past week, I have been enjoying my house guest. My guest room has been freshly painted a wonderful shade of yellow, a nice needed change. I was able to get up on the roof during one of the 70 degree days we recently had to paint some trim that needed it desperately. The last of the leaves have been raked, the garage has been cleaned, and the truckload of recyclables are off to Eco-Cycle. I have to admit, it's been nice having help around the house, someone to stay home during Kindergarten pick up, so GL doesn't have to be woken up. Laundry is being done, dishes disappear when placed in the sink. Oh and my floors, they've been washed.

It's funny because just a couple of weeks ago, I felt so overwhelmed. But today I'm all smiles, happy to have the company. The world works in mysterious ways or maybe the silent cries for help were heard 1,800 miles away.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yes, I Know: Tall, Tall, Tall...

Just in case we've never met in real life, let me paint a little picture for you. I'm 5'11" tall. Yes, taller than average. Oddly and strangely tall when I was a teenager. I carried myself with horrible posture during those formative years, as if hunching over would make me appear not as tall as most of my male peers, that's saying if my male classmates were as tall as me. Oh and did I mention towering over my girlfriends? Being tall I would say kicked my self esteem in the ass. I've had a good two decades to come into my own, I'm okay with it. I no longer hunt through shoe racks looking for the flatest shoes I could possibly find, cringing at the thought of shoes making me taller. On a good day because I'm wild and crazy sometimes I even wear heels.

Being tall, it is what it is.

Still to this day if I was to get separated from friends and they were looking for me, TALL would be one of the first words out of their mouth. Have you seen our friend Denise, she's TALL, hair to about here, blue shirt, jeans. It is who I am, TALL.

So what's the big deal. I'm tall, i've dealt with it. Dealt with longer than normal glances, dealt with comments from friends, dealt with the dumb question over and over my favorite being do you play basketball, learned to embrace helping people in stores that can't reach an item. It is who I am, TALL.

Funny enough, i've come to meet my fair share of taller women in the past five years. We even joked with one another asking where were you when I was 16, those rough years. Those awkward years when being oddly tall wasn't helping the situation. We can laugh about it now, having our height as a rite of passage. Even though we may not be the closest of friends, we have our height as a bond, we just know what it's like. I never saw tall women in the media like we do today, Hollywood is full of them (yeah!), SuperModels, WNBA, and Olympic Volleyball Champions. Just to see successful tall women is so wonderful to me!

Now I'm faced with a dilemma. The dilemma is how is the best way to help my own daughters go through this. My oldest daughter is five, but looks like she's at least six or seven. When I went into the casting call for Sj, the interviewer first said to us, "Wow she's tall for six". To which I responded, "She's actually five". Sj's height always comes into conversation, Wow you're so tall, she's so tall, over and over. It is who she is, TALL. Sometimes I say to people well I'm not exactly average height for a woman, does her height surprise you? Or Hello, I'm her mother, over here 5'11", the one that has gone through this already and you're comments aren't helping.

I should know what to do or what to say, having lived this TALL life. But sometimes it's hard. It's not something that is rude to say, but it still is something that becomes imprinted in my mind or my daughter's mind over and over. TALL, TALL, TALL. I never say to another mother, wow your child is a little plump! Or comment on their child's height. I just don't, I know what it feels like. I guess I have that sensitivity filter, it's a part of me, a part of the life I have lived.

The most wonderful part of having tall daughters today, is that women in sports rock. TALL women rock. Olympic gold medal winner, Kerri Walsh is a 6'3" beautiful beach volleyball star! I love seeing tall women grace the television screen, grace the sports world, and give my daughters a sense of belonging. I never really felt that, but I know times are changing.

My goal is to help my daughter's embrace who they are, who they become, their dreams and goals. Part of their journey will be brushing off the TALL and allowing people to get to know them, their quirks and strengths, for TALL is just one part of the whole.