Hmm. Now where was I?

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the land of blog. A thing or two has happened since I was last active. Well, “active” as in writing a post. I’ve been an occasional voyeur, but I’m not counting that.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened over the last six (6??!! already?!!?) months:

  • Broke my ankle (yeah, that was fun. Had I told you yet about breaking my wrist less than two years ago? No? Well, then that makes this extra special. I’ll tell you that story sometime. But not now.)
  • My daughter graduated from high school (yay!)
  • We took a trip to France (yes, with the broken ankle. Because I couldn’t leave it at home like I wanted to. Very extra special.)
  • Our bunny died while we were away (very not so special).
  • My daughter went off to college (remember that post about the empty space at the end of the couch? Yeah. It’s there now. Except for when it’s occupied by a second cat…)
  • Yes. We adopted another cat (who, as it turns out, is the Million Dollar Cat with ongoing health issues… But she’s very sweet and I’m happy she has a home that isn’t either the not-so-great outdoors or a metal 2x2x2 cage).
  • Three deaths in my world of family and friends in the span of two short weeks.
  • SomeTHING(s) is/are living in my attic!! What the hell. (Remember last year kind of around this same time when a creature was stirring? Apparently his distant cousin(s) got the memo so they moved in to wreak havoc to pay me back for his untimely demise.) Anyway, it’s something with little claws that I can hear scurrying overhead and who likes to play croquet at night. Little bastard. Don’t worry. The handyman and exterminator have both been contacted. Eviction notice will be issued in the next day or two. Hope there isn’t an army up there. 😑
  • My “super easy” weekend painting project is now in its FIFTH WEEK (so very extra special I can hardly stand it…).

Oh of course there’s some other random stuff, too, but those are the highlights. I won’t bore you with the low lights because, well, with all the fun-ness in that list, who could really handle any more? Pretty exciting stuff.

So here I am, avoiding real life drama by telling stories. Some embellished. Some not. Because with the shit that happens in my life, I really don’t have to embellish it. It’s just the way it happens.
I’ve missed the clickety click of my keyboard. It’s good to be back.
Kim

Smile, dammit.

Yesterday was a rainy, gloomy day. And so is today. Again. If my memory serves me correctly, every day in 2018, save for two, has been grey – with or without snow and/or rain. I’m pretty sick of it. But here I am planted in the Midwest, which means it’s to be expected that the weather will be rather dismal this time of year. At least we don’t have a foot of snow right now, so there’s that.

Anyway, yesterday while walking down the street coming back to my office from lunch, I happened to gaze across the street and noticed a man at the crosswalk. I did a quick double take because for a second I thought it was someone I knew.

Turns out it wasn’t, but that didn’t stop him from smiling at me. A real smile – teeth and all. Not one of those half-assed smirky smiles that says “Oh, awkward. We’ve made eye contact and now I’m gonna look like a jerk if I don’t acknowledge in some way that we’ve visually connected, so now I feel like I have to smile at you, even though I have no idea who you are and why you’re looking at me. Why do I now have to smile at you?” kind of smile. It was a genuinely friendly smile that said “Hi! Have a nice day!” from across the street, standing in the rain.

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I smiled back. A real smile back. One that said “Hi back! Have a nice day yourself! Thank you for taking the most minuscule extra effort to smile at a complete stranger on this ugly-ass day!!”

I’ll probably never see that person again or, if I do, I may not remember him or realize we exchanged a smile on a rainy day.

The point is that two total strangers smiled at one another. And I loved that. That it cost him nothing, cost me nothing, harmed no one, and in fact, lifted me on an otherwise sort of ugly day.

Smile! Smile because you can! Smile because it’s free! (I’m trying to see how many exclamation marks I can insert in this post. Mostly because now that I’ve noticed that I’ve used so many, it’s making me… yes, you guessed it, smile!) Smile because it will make you feel good and because it could brighten up the day for someone who is having an otherwise gloomy day. Smile as much as you can because some day you may be on the receiving end when you’re the one having an otherwise gloomy day. And won’t that be nice?!

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By smiling often, when you’re feeling good and your valve is open, and even when you’re feeling grumpy or sad – or even apathetic, you are raising your vibration such that you are creating more smiling days than gloomy days, and you are pre-paving a journey of smiles.

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Go on. Smile, dammit!

Growing Pains

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
― Anaïs Nin

When we are faced with discomfort, fear, differences, or pain, our reaction is often anger, resentment, blame, or perhaps simply opposition. I am certainly guilty of this. We are, after all, human, and probably none of us is immune.

The next time you find yourself in a situation that puts you outside of your comfort zone, try to see an opportunity for growth, a new (or recurring) life lesson, or a different perspective than you have had in the past. Rather than immediately reacting, pause to consider this simple question:

Is my knee-jerk reaction simply a habit?

In my own life experience, I am trying (again) to retrain my human brain to remove emotion to take a fresh look at a situation with unbias. That can be difficult, especially when years of conditioning tells us a situation is “real.” In truth, our reality is often no more than a habit of thinking. We have the ability to change our way of thinking.

Instead of immediately coming to a conclusion based on my past experience, I can instead invoke free will, wipe the past slate clean, and start over. View a situation as new. I can reflect on the situation and decide how I would like to see the outcome rather than how, as in the past, I would assume it would happen.

Why is this happening? (again)? What part have I played in creating or attracting this? (again)? And, most importantly, perhaps, How can I change this pattern?

Learning from challenging experiences rather than simply “collecting” them allows us to grow and move forward. Just as importantly, our willingness to really examine repeated experiences to find a pattern allows us to break such patterns to create a new outcome.

The Law of Attraction is in action, regardless of whether we consciously use it. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in life and allow our journey to be directed by past experiences or what we’ve witnessed happen with others. We assume we know how it will all play out. We can instead live life on purpose! In other words, set an intention and plan the destination to create a beautiful journey. *You* are the director of your own one-woman or one-man show.

We are all students of life. Every one of us. Always. The question is, do I want to learn and grow, or will I keep repeating the same patterns and be kept behind?

While we are all humans, we are also spiritual beings. We’re on this earth not only to learn lessons, but also to teach. Sometimes the lessons are hard – both as a student and as a teacher.

I often find myself mindlessly going through the same experiences and the same processes in my daily life. And, of course, I keep getting the same outcomes. Duh. Old habits can be hard to break. But when we aren’t getting the results we’d like, new habits are worth making. As I find myself repeating lessons, I have become more and more aware of patterns I want to change.


My Sunday question of the day for myself: Which direction would you like to go?

Sugar-coated

A tug of the zipper,
stretch of the button.
My favorite pants,
apparently mauled
by the dryer.
Puzzled, I open the closet,
wipe away the dust,
and step on the scale.
There.
There it is;
proof.
The numbers do not lie.

A cookie here,
a pastry there,
many chocolates in between.
The baking craze long over,
my hips now hang
as wide as my shoulders,
begging my pants
for forgiveness.
It is a definite ‘no.’

Today
is a new day.
A new start.
Another beginning.
Retraining my palate and
resetting bad habits,
to reclaim
my wardrobe,
and eat
like a rabbit.

via Daily Prompt: Puzzled

Easy Brownie Cookies

Delicious brownie cookies. Quick and easy, just like me. No, not like that. I love quick and easy in the kitchen. Not that I don’t do long and laborious, but quick and easy usually means very little cleanup, plus, obviously, it means I can eat sooner rather than later.

I LOVE brownies. Like, LOVE love. My daughter knows that if she makes brownies she’ll need to eat what she wants within the first day, possibly two, if she’s going to have any chance in hell at getting any at all. They will not last with me in the house. I can’t help myself. I especially love the corner ones, but once those are gone, I go for all of the edge pieces. So when I figured out how to make these cookies, I was so excited to find that the entire batch of cookies is basically like having ALL corner brownies! Yay!

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Don’t be jealous of my quality photos. Until I have the time to focus (pun intended) on creating real quality images, these will have to do.

Let’s skip the blah-blah. Here’s the recipe – quick, easy, and delicious!

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Ingredients

  • your favorite brownie mix (This one happens to be from Aldi, which is good, but my personal favorite is Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies. YUM.)
  • half the added ingredients called for on the back of the box*
  • up to 1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or nuts (optional)

*Note: If your brownie mix calls for 3 eggs, here is what I have discovered. Using 2 eggs will produce more of a cake-like cookie. Using 1 will produce a firmer, chewier cookie. If using 1, you may need to add just a bit more water (a tablespoon or so) to make stirring easier. If your brownie mix calls for 2 eggs but you prefer a more cake-like cookie rather than a chewy cookie, use 2 eggs rather than 1.

I would imagine that brownie cookies made from scratch would be absolutely delicious! But I haven’t yet made them because 1) I’m not that ambitious, 2) we always have brownie mix in the cabinet, and 3) when I really have a hankering for brownie cookies, it’s time right freaking now to eat them and I’m pretty sure making them from scratch would require a 3 minute delay in getting fresh, gooey chocolate cookies into my grubby little mitts. I’ll be sure to update you if this miracle ever happens though.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Dump dry mix into a bowl and break up any clumps with a whisk. Add mix-ins (chocolate chips and/or nuts) and whisk to distribute. Add water, oil, and lightly beaten egg. (Lightly beating the egg before adding it will help to ensure no weird rubbery bits end up in your brownies.)

Using a spoon or sturdy spatula (not whisk), mix well until all dry is incorporated. It will be a thick, stiff batter that resembles ice cream. (I have been known to eat the batter like this… I don’t recommend it because of the raw eggs, but my eggs come from a local farm and I know they are fresh. And I really just can’t seem to help myself.)

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At this point, you can make cookies immediately. Unless I’m having serious chocolate panic, though, I usually refrigerate the dough for 30-60 minutes before baking.

Drop rounded spoonfuls onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (I use a cookie scoop for evenly sized, rounded blobs.) One average sized box mix yields approximately 24 cookies. (*Note (again): rumor has it that you can use this same formula with cake mix to make cookies. I’ve never made them myself, but let me know in the comments if you’ve made them (with or without success!).)

Bake for 10-13 minutes (12 is perfect in my oven). Cool for 1 minute before transferring to cooling rack. Eat the entire tray before anyone else discovers them.

20180127_211805.jpgThese cookies are addictive! The great thing is that you can mix up the dough and refrigerate it, making only as many as you need (vs. want, which, in my house, is not the same thing).

I often freeze cookie portions then put them in a ziplock to make later. To do this, simply drop cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for about an hour. Transfer to a freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator or freezer until you need want them. Adjust baking time accordingly.

Enjoy! What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Let me know how these turn out if you make them!

Dinner’s gonna be late.

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Standing in the galley kitchen facing the back porch, my daughter and I were preparing dinner, chit-chatting about both of our uneventful days. Chicken noodle soup and cornbread were on the menu. As she chopped the carrots and celery, I mixed up the cornbread while the oven was preheating.

We heard an unfamiliar noise at the same time and turned to look at each other with a scrunched “what the hell was that?” face. I thought maybe it was the neighbor engaged in some weird activity and peered out the window. I found nothing and no one was in his driveway. Then I had the thought that it was probably the pot boiling and turned around to confirm. It was not. As I began to shift my attention back to the cornbread, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the glass of the oven door, from which a bright golden light emanated.

“Holy shit, the oven’s on fire,” I announced, as if I had just discovered we had no chicken for the chicken noodle soup. Realizing now that THE OVEN IS ON FIRE, I spun around and quickly opened the oven door, but realizing the fire was bigger than me, I slammed it shut, turned the oven off, and went to the cabinet to search for the box of salt. Do we even have a box of salt?

“Call 911! Now!” I shouted to my teenage daughter, who stood in the middle of our very small kitchen, eyes wide and apparently paralyzed.

She immediately called and gave our address to the dispatcher. Literally, a mere minute had passed. We both began coughing and choking. “Get out of the house!” Abandoning the foolish notion of putting out the fire myself, I ushered her to the door and we went outside to wait. I poked my head back inside to check the status. I couldn’t tell if there were still flames in the oven, but black smoke filled the kitchen and made its way through our tiny house. I hoped it didn’t reach the front of the house where our dwarf rabbit lived, or the back of the house, where our cat, Star, typically ran to hide when any sort of chaos happened (which is pretty much on a regular basis). I went back outside to wait.

We could hear the sirens get louder as the fire trucks got closer. Yes, fire trucks. Plural. I imagined all of the neighbors peering out of the slats of their closed blinds, wondering, “Oh, what now??”

Three firemen in full gear (including an ax, which, even in this situation, I somehow found amusing) marched up the driveway, where we stood breathing in the clean air. I thanked god that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t yet taken off my bra tonight.

“What’s going on?” asked Hugh Jackman the leader of the three swoon-worthy rescuers. Holy crap, I thought to myself. I glazed over and almost forgot why we were there.

A former co-worker used to get all excited when the fire trucks, prompted by some college student prankster pulling the fire alarm, would show up across the street from the office on a semi-regular basis. She would literally beam when the firemen would pile out of the truck. I found it disturbing that she would be giddy at the sight of a fire truck. Until tonight, that is.

“Uhm, there was a fire in the oven,” I stammered, letting out a small laugh of embarrassment. “We actually get that quite a lot,” he responded. I felt no less an idiot, but was grateful that Hugh was trying to make me feel better about it.

Two days ago, I had made a coffeecake to take to work. Butter spilled out of the dish and pooled in the bottom of the oven, but I didn’t have time to wait for it to cool off to clean it up that morning. And of course I completely forgot about it as soon as I stepped out of the door to head to the office. So now, as luck would have it, 7:00 Friday night, here I was having a moment with the local fire department.

While standing outside in the light rain, waiting for Hugh and the crew to update me on the damage, I gazed over to read my daughter’s latest tweet: “yanno, makin dinner,” which included a picture of the two fire trucks, red lights a-swirl, and the Fire Marshall’s SUV parked on the street in front of our house. “Nice,” I said, giving her the sideways glance with headshake.

Thankfully, the fire was suffocated when I closed the oven door and it went no further. “You did the right thing by leaving the oven door closed,” Hugh said. I felt proud of myself for about 3 seconds, until reality reminded me that I had caused the fire in the first place. I vowed to clean the oven the next day.

Another fireman brought an industrial fan the size of Venus to the back door to help suck the smoke out. I went into the kitchen to assess the situation. Hugh had just pulled the oven out, away from the wall. I said a silent prayer that I didn’t have the gas Viking stove I had been lusting over for years. Looking into the empty space, I gasped with horror. “Oh my god! How disgusting!” as I sized up the filth that had been living beneath the oven. I wanted to slither away in shame out the back door. There was clearly nowhere for me to hide from it. “Can I clean that up before you put it back?” I asked. He smiled. “They pretty much all look like that,” again trying to comfort me. I loved Hugh.

I swept up the mess and he cleaned out some of the grossness inside the oven as best he could. “You’ll need to wait until it cools down completely to finish wiping it out, but it should be okay to use in a bit. There wasn’t any physical damage.”

My humor took a back seat for a minute as I considered just how fortunate we were. I was truly grateful that we were all safe and that our house was fully intact. I thought about how catastrophic the situation could have been. My daughter often cooks, sometimes rather elaborately, including when I’m away at work or running errands. My mind raced thinking of what could have happened had I not been home, had she turned on the oven to preheat and gone into the other room for awhile. Although she is very mature and responsible, the fire broke out in a matter of minutes after turning on the oven and smoke filled the room quickly. My heart went out to victims of tragic fires as I now clearly understood how smoke inhalation alone could incapacitate a person. I shuddered to think of an uncontained house fire.

As the three musketeers filed out of our house, Hugh stopped with a clipboard, pen poised. “I need to complete my report. Can you give me your name and phone number?” I tried to stifle a smile but was unsuccessful. I rattled off my information, then followed with, “But dinner’s gonna be late tonight. Maybe we should schedule for tomorrow.”

He was late for dinner Saturday. So late, in fact, that I’m still waiting. On the bright side, my oven is clean.

Tardy to the Party

There should be 42 hours in a day rather than 24. Maybe then I wouldn’t be late to everything. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to cram in “just this one more little task” before I fly out the door on my way to…anywhere. Maybe I wouldn’t have to fly at all. If there were (or is it “was”?) 18 more hours in the day, I could even actually relax. Maybe. If there were 18 more hours in the day, maybe I would have posted this two days ago when prompted.

via Daily Prompt: Tardy

Smile… You’re on Candid Everything

Had this been the 1950’s and the days of June Cleaver, all would be fine and jolly because I wouldn’t have said “shit” if it was on my upper lip. Even if I had, no one would have been the wiser. No one would have heard about it. No one would have read it. No one would have watched it. No one would have known. Life would carry on, blissfully unaware.

But June Cleaver hasn’t crossed generations, much less lips, out here in the middle of the cornfields, down at the end of Crass Lane.

I’m known to say things not intended for folks outside of these four walls, and especially not to be featured in today’s viral Vine. I make obscene gestures meant not for the latest Snapchat story, but instead for the back of the head of the driver of the van that just cut me off, speeding to get junior to soccer practice – one eye on the road while the other scrolls her Pinterest feed. The glare I just gave the moron who was loudly vomiting rude and humiliating vitriol at his family at the local restaurant wasn’t practiced for Instagram. And I hadn’t imagined that my snarky comment to the obnoxious telemarketer would be today’s trending Tweet.

In our increasingly technology-reliant world, it’s easy, and practically expected, to have everything at our fingertips – from news and sports coverage to shopping, how-to videos, work e-mails – and basically work – to up-to-the-minute coverage of what your friends and family are doing at any given moment of any given day. In my opinion, this information overload has become just that: information overload.

In 2014 I came across this blog post by Jarrid Wilson, someone I’d never heard of. His proclamation to divorce his phone went viral and many jumped on the bandwagon. And then the wheels fell off, the notion died, the wagon got stuck in the mud, and everyone went back into their blue LED hypnotic trance.

Two years ago, when I was going through heavy metal detox (a long story for another time), I could barely be in the same room with a cell phone, much less use one. I turned it off often and used it infrequently. When my relationship with portable technology changed, my eyes, ears, and perspective opened. I had time. Time to read a real book, take a walk, or lollygag on the porch swing without a care. I had time to write, to have an actual conversation with real-live family and friends, and I had time to sleep. Deep, restful sleep. Sometimes I even cleaned my house.

A cell phone is a handy and useful gadget. It’s a critical connection to those we love and care about. It allows help and rescue to be mere minutes away. But it can also be a source for mass destruction. Destruction of relationships, peace, another’s emotional well-being, and of course time. Cell phones destroy time with loved ones, time for self, time to live, and time to simply be.

I dare you to give pause as your finger hovers over “upload,” “retweet,” or even “follow.” It’s all fun and games until someone loses their kindness and their awareness. You may find yourself to be the next subject of the latest candid capture. And you may or may not be smiling.

via Daily Prompt: Candid

Damn that clock

In my rented house, sitting on borrowed furniture, I holed myself up one cold winter night, reading. “It’s a girl,” said the little voice in my head. I stopped mid-sentence and laid the book against my chest, gazing ahead of me, as if I expected to find someone sitting at the opposite end of the couch. But no one was there. It was perfectly quiet. Patiently, I waited for more. I was delivered more silence.

The next morning, I made an appointment to see a doctor. A doctor. Because I didn’t have one. I never got sick. And since my current living arrangement may or may not be temporary, I never bothered to plant roots by selecting a “primary care” physician. There was no need. Until now. Apparently, there was a need. I had no idea.

A pregnancy test was run. I sat in the room, for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the nurse to return. “Yes, you’re pregnant,” she said with just a hint of a smile. She couldn’t decipher my expression to determine whether this was good news. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pregnant? I had battled endometriosis for years and had decided that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant even if I tried. I hadn’t tried. But I hadn’t not tried.

A man I once dated asked me if I wanted to have kids some day. I said I hadn’t really made a deliberate decision about it. If I was meant to have kids, it would just happen. And if I wasn’t, then it wouldn’t. I was okay with it, either way.

Well, now was the moment of truth. Was I okay?

“Because of your age, we’ll want to do an ultrasound.” “Oh, right. 35 is pushing the envelope,” I quipped in my head. She handed me a gown and opened the door to usher me down the hall. “You mean right now?” I asked. She looked back at me as if to say, “What, you have something better to do with your time right now?” She kept walking, her unspoken order for me to follow her.

Lying on the table, my mind raced. A kid. A baby. Me, a mother. A mom. Was I prepared? Could I do it? How did I really feel about this? I was unsure. The technician squirted the glob of cold goo on my belly and began her search, slowly and methodically moving the wand, eyes fixed on the monitor. My eyes followed hers. Her hand stopped and she smiled. “There. Right there. See it? That’s the heart beating.” She adjusted a knob, turning on the volume. The quick rhythm, beating in time to the pulse on the screen, was loud and clear. A Top 10 hit. A one-hit wonder. My heart melted and I was reduced to a puddle of tears.

Yes. Yes indeed, this was good news. I was more than just okay. I was overwhelmed. In the very best possible way.

I chose a boy’s name, you know, just in case. Just in case my intuition was wrong this time. But I knew that it wasn’t. It never is. It is always there, and it is always right. Seven months later, in the middle of one of the most horrific lightning storms I could remember, as promised, the Universe delivered. Laid on my chest was a perfect, beautiful bundle of warm flesh. She was full of life, love, and lessons.

She was a baby for about 10 years, during which time I got about four hours of sleep in total. And then, the day she went to kindergarten, everything changed. She began to grow and learn and ask all kinds of life questions. The following week, when she started her senior year of high school, she was still asking questions about life. What was my life like in college? What did I like least about living in an apartment when I moved to Chicago? What exactly happens when the government shuts down?

I swear, it was just this morning that I was sitting in our rocking recliner for a few minutes of peace when she crept oh-so-quietly halfway down the stairs at 5:30 a.m. Peering at me through the banisters, wearing that mischievous little grin, she was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, even at o’dark thirty. It was yesterday, I believe, that she was running through the sprinkler wearing her hot pink bikini, squealing with pure, innocent glee at the icy cold water blasting her little belly. A few weeks ago, she was admonishing me for not being with her at the dining room table, supervising her finger-painting. Last month when she was in middle school and we were talking about how kids can be so thoughtless and hurtful, I was struck by her wisdom. As I watched her back out of the driveway for the very first time all by herself last week, I’m sure I caught a glimpse of her clutching her favorite stuffed animal, the pink elephant whose little velour tail served as a pacifier.

The clock tick-tocks in the background as I sit waiting. Waiting for her to get up. Waiting for her to get ready. Waiting for her to finish eating. Waiting for her to come home.

For right now, just for today, I will appreciate every minute. I will take an internal snapshot of every smile, every laugh, every missed assignment, dirty dish, wet towel on the floor, unmade bed, eye roll, and every long hair wiped on the shower wall. I will secretly record for my memory to play back at will every giggle as she watches the latest viral video and each gasp as clips of her friends jump at her from her phone screen. I’ll admire her tenacity when she argues her curfew with me, and smile at her taking a nap rather than unloading the dishwasher. I’ll savor every half-finished meal, silently step over every pair of shoes in the middle of the floor, and ignore every room that remains unkempt after numerous requests to clean it. I’ll be grateful for every request for takeout, the late night chats on my bed, and each time she begs to have her feet rubbed after getting home at 10:30 p.m. from a long shift at the restaurant, even though I’m exhausted from my own long day at the office. I’ll wrap my warm fingers around those smelly little toes and massage them, enjoying every minute.

Because in eight months, which is tomorrow, I’ll be holed up in our house, gazing at the opposite end of the couch over the top of a book, half-expecting to find someone there. But she’ll be sitting on borrowed furniture in a rented room, hundreds of miles away at college.

And although it will not be perfect, it will be perfectly quiet.

via Daily Prompt: Blink

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