Choices and Hindsight

Last night, the kids and I ended up looking through old photo albums.  My father has recently joined Facebook and we wanted to find some pics to post on his wall.   Since he has been pretty much out of our lives for the past 20 years, that meant going back in time, and  looking at wedding pictures and when the ex and I were first married.

It’s always a bittersweet journey to go down that road.   At the time, it seemed like one of the best times of my life, but knowing what I do now, would I make the same choices? There is one photo of the wedding that screams out to me now.  It is the traditional “You may kiss the bride” shot–and he is leaning down to kiss me—but the only part of his body touching me is his lips.  Pretty much says it all.  Deep down, I was never what he wanted, never what he truly desired. He knew he was making a mistake.  He was soooo nervous that day, with sweat pouring down his forehead even though it was a mild September day.

It is  painful to see the pictures of him holding our children as newborns.  He was so happy and proud to be a father then.  How did that translate to being able to walk away from them twenty years later? Sure, he’s involved in their lives, but he didn’t stay around to finish raising them.  He’s not there for the day-to-day crises, the nuts and bolts of being a family.  He’s more like an especially close uncle than a father.  He got to pick and choose which parts of being a father he wanted.

I look at the young woman I was then and my heart breaks for her.  She was so idealistic and optimistic about life.  She believed that love could overcome anything.  She  expected the best from the people around her and trusted that they would always do the right thing.

If I’d had the given of hindsight all those years ago, would I make the same decisions?  I don’t think I would.  People say–well, then you wouldn’t have your three beautiful children.  In my heart, I feel like these kids would have been mine anyway, they would have found their way to me no matter what choices I had made in life.  In reality, I know that who they are is as much due to their father’s influences as mine.  But I also feel that they deserved more.  They’ve all come through the divorce okay, but who knows what scars it left deep down that will effect their own relationships?  I was such a basket case when we first separated and their father was only looking out for himself by that point.  One could argue that it was good that they had a stable family for as long as they did–but isn’t it somehow even a bigger betrayal, to think you have the perfect family and then have it explode all around you?  I just don’t know.

If I’d had the gift of hindsight, I would know that that idealistic young woman deserved more.  She deserved a man who loved her for all that she was, not someone who loved her the best he was able to muster  because, frankly, she was better than the alternative.  She deserved a man who was there for the long run, who was committed to his family for as long as they needed him, not for as long as he could stand it.   She deserved honesty and respect.  She deserved at least all of those things.

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My Killer Cat

Back in November, I reluctantly added another cat to our household which already had four.   The weather had just turned bitterly cold and the neighbor kids found a half-grown kitten/cat hanging around outside, crying and trying to get in houses.  Their mother wouldn’t let them keep her, and sucker that I am, I agreed to take her in until THEY could find her owners.  She clearly wasn’t a stray–she was clean and appeared well-fed.

Well, almost a year later, Gracie is firmly entrenched in our household.   We ran ads, called the local radio station, but no one ever claimed her.  The kids who promised to help me find her owners….didn’t.   I hoped that she was old enough to have been spayed by her previous owners, but around February, it became very obvious that wasn’t wasn’t the case.  I took her to the vet, and with no medical history, they had to give her all of her vaccinations from scratch before doing the deed.  The vet thought she was about 8-9 months old. $300+  later…..

She is a beautiful young kitten with striking markings–a soft gray with white stripes and swirls.  One of her swirls is in the shape of the letter “G” so we chose a name to reflect her markings.   She is fuzzy and has an extra toe on each of her front paws.    I tried hard to keep her an inside cat, but she was having none of that.  She would escape into the yard whenever anyone opened a door, and once spring came, created her own cat door by working loose a corner of the screen on the back door.

For all of her fluffy, innocent appearance and small size, Gracie is a killer.  She is the most avid hunter of any cat I’ve ever had.  She beats out Nala, for whom we used to keep a running “Kill Record” every summer, checking off how many of each species she left on our porch.

Not only is Gracie a superb hunter, she likes to bring her prey in the house–often  while still alive.  Her self-created “cat door” in the screen allows her to do that very easily.  One morning I was in the bathroom putting on mascara and heard strange thumping noises in the dining room.  When I investigated, I found Gracie leaping around the room in pursuit of a full-grown starling! 

I had to grab a t-shirt and throw it over the bird so I could take it outside and let it go.  When I unwrapped it, it gave ME a dirty look as I were the one trying to kill it, and flew away.  It took me a week to get rid of all of the bird feathers.  And I went to work with rather crooked mascara that day.

Over the course of the summer, she has brought home a live baby blue jay, a live sparrow, a baby robin and several mice–one of them in the middle of a party I was having–and more dead creatures than I can count.  I routinely find headless meadow moles on the front porch.  When I vacuum, it’s always a toss-up to see what I will find hidden in corners–the record was the day I found a dead mouse AND a dead bird in the dining room at the same time.

Luckily, only family members were present the night we were all eating Sunday dinner in the dining room and someone looked over to see a bird carcass next to my son’s chair. Another delightful moment was the day I pulled into the driveway.  All of the windows in the van were open, so I clearly heard a disgusting POP and squishing sound as I ran over a large dead mole.  Oh, and lets not forget the night she came in and dropped a live cicada (some call them locusts) at my son’s feet while he was watching tv.  All he could hear was the angry buzzing of wings, which freaked him out to no small extent.

After the baby robin incident (it was so young it was still opening it’s mouth waiting to be fed) I dug out a collar and put a bell on it.   That seemed to help the bird population out a bit, but evidently the  area rodents are hard of hearing because the numbers of dead mice and moles seemed to triple.   Two weeks later, she came home for dinner one night sans collar–it had a safety break-a-way clasp to prevent an accidental hanging on a tree limb and she must have triggered the release.  I find myself looking up in the trees for a pink collar with white peace symbols whenever I am in the yard.

People tell me this is nature’s way, but I’m sorry, I don’t like it!  Gracie is a well-cared for cat who wants for nothing, but has the heart of a serial killer.  I hate to see all of these little animals killed for no better reason than she can.  And frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up after her!  Sometimes I wonder if her killer tendencies are what caused her last family to “lose” her.

To paraphrase Julia Andrews in “The Song of Music”:  “What do you do with a problem named Gracie?”

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A Month of Eating Clean

**Whole wheat cottage cheese pancakes topped with fresh blueberries and peaches.

The eating clean plan is still going well, for me at least.  I can’t say that I follow the plan as outlined by the creator, Tosca Reno, to the letter, but I am definitely eating much healthier than I was a month ago.  I’ve lost some weight and my clothes are fitting much better.  I’d like to say I’ve had a burst of energy from eating better, but that part hasn’t come yet.

I say “for me” because I am the only one still following it.  My niece has made some changes to her diet, but still eats a lot of junk.  To me, the part that works about this food plan (I don’t like to use “diet”) is that it is a way of weaning the body away from the junk foods that we were eating before.  I find that if I don’t eat them at all, I don’t crave them.  I don’t crave specific foods at all–I rarely have that “Oh, I have to have a peanut butter sundae right this minute or I’ll die!” kind of feeling.  I get hungry, I find something on the plan that I can eat, hungry goes away.    Following the plan in pieces is probably healthier than the way my niece ate before, but she’s not seeing the weight loss that I am because she’s not sticking to the plan.

What can you do?  I make healthy, “clean” meals and everyone eats them.  What they eat the rest of the time is their business!

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Foursquare Blues

At a teleconference a few months ago, I was introduced to Foursquare as a possible marketing tool for libraries.  I didn’t really see how it would work in that type of setting, but decided to open an account and play around with it.

If you are not familiar with Foursquare, it is a social networking, location based application that is used on a smart phone.  Users “check-in” at locations to show where they are and find out who they  know that might be in the same place.  Users can add “tips” to locations, so you can check-in  and see what others recommend about the place.  The person who checks in most often at any given location becomes “the Mayor.”  Many businesses are beginning to offer special deals for patrons who check-in using Foursquare.  For example, Starbucks stores will offer a discount to whomever is currently the Mayor of any given location. You can also earn “Badges” as you attain higher levels of use.

So I’ve been “Foursquaring” for a few months now.  At first, I found it hard to remember to check-in at places, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  My  problem is–I rarely go anywhere. Looking at the logs of my daily life on FS makes me realize I have a pretty boring routine.I’ve got a few “friends” on Foursquare, mostly people in my area who also use the application, and their lives are WAY more interesting than mine.   When you check-in at any location, the app gives you the choice of “sharing” your location with your friends or not.  I usually choose not to, but the other people on my friend network are more avid users and let people know.  I can follow their activities all day long.  (One argument against this app is that it lets people know when you aren’t at home and makes your house vulnerable to robbery.)

In comparison, my activities are…well, pretty lame.  I check-in at McDonald’s every morning for a Diet Coke, my substitute for coffee.  I am the Mayor of my local McDonald’s.  (What a distinction–I would like people to  realize I never actually eat the FOOD, just drink the soda!)

After McDonald’s, I stop at the Post Office to pick up the mail for the library.   Another check-in point, although I am not yet the Mayor of the PO because there is someone else on my friend list who goes there several times a day.

Next stop is the library where I work.  I am the Mayor of both of my libraries, which is nice, but I’d much prefer to have a patron who uses both Foursquare and the library often enough to topple me from that position.

Then, back home.  I don’t check-in at home because I don’t want to broadcast my address.  Occasionally, I make an exciting stop at Walmart, the grocery store or pharmacy on the way home.  Recently, I toppled Tim N. as the Mayor of Walmart, another sad commentary on my life.

My 13 yr old has gotten good about reminding me to log in places, although he thinks it’s a pretty silly and pointless game.  So yesterday, I got to add a trip to Wegman’s (different grocery store than usual!) and a visit to the pediatrician’s office.   Tomorrow, we’re going for hair cuts and shopping for school supplies–more new locations! My life is starting to pick up a little–NOT!

I do hope to translate all of this experience with this new tool into something that helps market the library.  In the meantime, at least I have a record that I DO occasionally get out of the house!

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Body by God, Face by Satan

I was doing some, um….research….on actor Christopher Meloni (Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU) when I ran across the picture above.  I thought it was a great picture–certainly caught MY eye–until I saw the caption: “Body by God, Face by Satan”. Now, Meloni may not be the most classically handsome man ever created, but he’s sure not ugly! Those blue eyes and lopsided grin do me in every time, and a quick Google search of his name will show that there are thousands of  women and men (thanks to his portrayal of a bisexual man on the show OZ)  who feel the same.

So I had to see what the caption was about. It led to a blog article (which I haven’t been able to find again) talking about ugly guys with hot bodies.  And asking how ugly does a guy have to be before you won’t go out with him because of his looks?

I am embarrassed to admit, this topic hit home for me.  I have found myself pondering this same question in recent weeks.  How much do looks matter ?  I always thought myself above superficial beauty.  Sure, I like to look at a hot guy as much as the next woman, but I know that beauty is only skin deep.  It’s what’s on the inside that matters.  I like to tell the story of a job I worked at right out of college.  Most of the employees were female and one day the latest hire walked in–young, male, drop-dead-should-be-a-model-good-looking.  We all fought over who would be assigned to train him.  It quickly became apparent that this guy was as dumb as a box of rocks and vain to boot-all he wanted to talk about was how hot he was.  Then we were all fighting to not have to work with him.

I also give the example of a man I know from an organization to which I belong.  Older guy, past his prime, overweight, totally bald, not good looking at all.  But when you talk to this man for any length of time, you realize that he gets women. He loves women. Understands what makes women tick. Worships women.  Not surprisingly, he is taken but has a fan club of adoring women who’d like up to take the place of his significant other.

So in my head I feel that the outside package is just a detail and what is inside is what matters….but then, being a single woman,  I find myself playing the “Would I go out with him?” mental game with every guy I meet.  And I am ashamed to say, in my mental game, looks do matter.  I know a guy who thrills me in many ways intellectually, whom I admire and respect, but I find his geeky appearance off-putting.

Maybe love is the key factor here.  When you first fall in love with a person, you fall in love with every detail.  His crooked tooth melts your heart.  The freckles on his back form a magical pattern.  As time goes on, you may be annoyed when he wears a striped shirt with plaid pants, but you still find him attractive overall.

When I met and married my ex-husband, I found him incredibly attractive, and that continued through the ups and downs of a 2o+ yr marriage, even though he lost his hair and gained some weight. Now, having experienced the ugly side of his personality in the divorce process, I don’t find him so attractive anymore.  I see him now and say to myself “What were you thinking, girl?”

So, I guess it will taking falling in love again for me to put looks aside and concentrate on the important stuff.  In the meantime, well, I’m just enjoying the view. 😉

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Still Clean

Still eating clean….for the most part!  I’m the only one in the family who is really sticking to it, however.  I moved my niece’s car Saturday morning and found the passenger side full of McDonald’s bags and empty soda cups.  My daughter showed up for dinner last night with a 24 oz can of sweetened ice tea–just the thought of those empty calories made me shudder.  (That’s a battle I’ve been trying to wage for a long time–my kids all grew up drinking 100% juice, no kool-aid, skim milk–and now that they’re all old enough to buy foods on their own, they drink empty calories like there is no tomorrow.)  My son brought home a big container of General Tsao’s chicken and fried rice after playing golf yesterday. (I snagged one piece!)

Whatever.  I am sticking to the plan.  I’ve lost weight–no idea how much but my clothes are fitting better.  I like eating this way and have been experimenting with different dishes–brown rice salad, quinoa pilaf.  Everyone will at least eat the meals I cook, so they are eating healthy some of the time, which is better than not at all, right?

The hardest part continues to be the expense and the time involved in cooking everything from scratch.  I went to the local Amish store this weekend and stocked up on whole wheat flour and grains and found sucanet–one of the recommended sugars.  It’s pure cane sugar pulp and molasses—I think it will work for baking, but definitely not something I would add to coffee or tea.  But overall, I’ve done just fine without sugar by using honey when I need to sweeten something.  I re-discovered the original Shredded Wheat biscuits of my child hood–the big ones, no frosting or fillings, just 100% wheat.  Great with skim milk and a drizzle of honey.

It’s working–I am not craving sweets like I used to.  In fact, someone brought me a big oozing eclair today and I didn’t even want it!  I cut a small piece off the end and ate it to be polite and put the rest out for my co-workers.  I am content with fruit after meals if I feel the need for something sweet.  The most amazing part is I no longer crave something sweet after dinner–I usually don’t even want an after-dinner/before bed snack.  I always had a bowl of ice cream or something late at night, now I’m not even hungry.

This is all going to be more difficult once summer is over and there is not a plentiful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables at all of the local farm stands and farmers markets.  Right now, the local sweet corn is so delicious it doesn’t even need any added butter or salt, but that won’t be the case come winter and all we have available is the pathetic produce at the local grocery stores.  Time to join a food co-op like CNY Bounty….

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Week 2

Ending up Week 2 of eating “clean”.  It’s definitely a challenge.  Money has been a bit tight lately, and groceries definitely cost more on this plan.  I find myself buying/planning food for one day at a time.  We’ve had a lot of company for meals, so not many leftovers for lunches.  But we’re still hanging in there.

My family has already started to divide foods into categories: clean or dirty.  As in, ‘We’re eating dirty tonight.”  and “Is this a clean food, mom?”

Most meals are fine and don’t noticeably stand out from the meals I typically cook.  Others have not been so successful.  Turkey burgers on whole wheat rolls the other night were just…blah.   The whole wheat rolls were rather bitter and when I looked at the label, contained a lot of crap anyway.  The burgers were mushy.  Both can be improved upon in the future, however.  Grilled cabbage was a big hit–even though the edges were a little crispy, everyone gobbled it up.  Amazing what you’ll eat when you’re half starved!

Last night we had a semi-clean meal.  It was just too hot and humid to cook, and I made the mistake of mentioning pizza to my 13 yr old. I remembered a local pizza place serving whole wheat crusts, but when I called, they no longer had it on the menu.  It was too hot to turn on the oven to bake a pizza from scratch and I’d already let the “p” word out of the box….so we ordered a white pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, broccoli, mushrooms and chicken.  Not bad.  The boys split and order of wings but my niece and I passed on those.  A tossed salad rounded out the picture. I still haven’t hit upon a decent tasting “clean” salad dressing though.  I miss my favorite creamy poppy seed, loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.  😦

I didn’t weigh myself before starting and have no idea how much I’ve lost but my clothes are a bit looser.  Haven’t seen an increase in energy yet, but I figure I am still going through sugar withdrawal and detox, so that’s to be expected.  It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t totally given up diet pepsi, I find that I “need” one first thing in the morning and late afternoon or I am absolutely dragging.  I need to find an acceptable substitute for that!

Our diet may not be totally “clean” but at least it’s healthier than it used to be!

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