Thursday, December 25, 2014

If You Love Christmas, Don't Read This Post

Christmas is all about sugary goodies, holiday spirit, giving, family and love. Oh, and of course, Christ. You go to that special church service and watch small children enact and recite things badly and butcher Christmas songs. And you still go, awwwww, because that's what you do. You go to grandma's, your in-laws', your step-family's get-together, and maybe drink too much at a holiday work party. You shop and wrap until you are physically damaged and you brave malls and cyberspace with enthusiasm to find everyone the perfect gift.

And if you are a parent, you play the special role of Santa, which involves all sorts of tasks that require staying up later than the kids, which can get very, very, very late as they get older.

Most years, I enjoy all of this.

But sometimes... well... I get sick of Christmas.

This year, I love Christmas! Last year, however, my husband and I made a bold decision. We were sick of Christmas and we wanted OUT! That's right. We wanted nothing to do with Christmas last year. We wanted to escape it, as a matter of fact, and that's just what we did.

Home, Christmas 2014, refreshed!

We called the grandmas and asked if they could watch our cherubs (13 and 15 year old girls, at the time), take care of some of our animals, found boarding for our indoor/outdoor dog and special needs dog, handed off the presents, and told everyone, "We're outta here!" We took off and had a fantastic and much needed vacation in Florida.

It was the first vacation my husband and I had alone in 10 years of marriage. We had been so stressed out by raising kids, pressures of work and the feast or famine nature of my husband's job, family matters, church obligations, busy schedules, and the commercialization of what was supposed to be a holiday in honor of the birth of Christ. We'd had it. We just didn't care anymore.

We needed a break. We needed adventure. We needed new surroundings. We needed rest. We needed complete rejuvenation. It sounds like we were being giant Christmas scrooges, but honestly, it was one of the best things we've ever done. More than once, as we relaxed in the warm weather, away from the Christmastime demands of home, we drank a glass of wine with dinner and became emotional, shedding tears of released stress.

We learned something about ourselves on that trip. We learned that it's okay to take a break now and again from tradition. We learned the earth won't stop spinning if we're not home for Christmas. We learned that we are not comfortable living an existence of "making do" and going through the motions day after day, year after year. We learned that we need a break from our kids. We learned that we need a break from family. We learned that we need a break from church. We learned that we needed a break from Christmas craziness. We learned we needed to socialize and travel, meeting new people and seeing new places.

It. Was. Blissful.

Instead of spending Christmas Day doing the same old thing, we instead started the day with a gourmet breakfast in bed plus fresh fruit at the Bed & Breakfast, complete with mimosas on the little porch outside our suite.

Coombs Inn, Apalachicola, FL

My husband went fishing at the nearby ocean. We met another couple from Italy at the B&B (in America celebrating their honeymoon) and on Christmas evening, we cooked them supper. We shared stories with our new friends and laughed and discussed the difference in our cultures. The wife spoke little English, but the husband spoke English fairly well. Giulia and Alberto Alberti were so interesting, friendly, and warm and we really enjoyed our new friendship with them. We could not have had that experience in Vandalia, IL!

Giulia, my husband Neil, me, and Alberto

We came back refreshed and ready to face reality again. And this year, I couldn't have been happier about Christmas. I didn't mind the over-commercialization. I braved the mall, Walmart, and cyberspace in search of perfect gifts. I hummed Christmas tunes. I wrapped presents until my criss-crossed legs went numb. We're participating in all of the get-togethers with joyful anticipation. I attended the church program and appropriately went, awwwwww, because that's what you do. I'm happy that Jesus was born and that we celebrate that birth.

I'm happy to say that we escaped Christmas last year so that we could love it once again. We're considering going away every other year now. I'm giving you permission to do this, too. Refresh. Rejuvenate. And just maybe, once in a while, you might even take the kids.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Be safe. Be love. Be free.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Four local lives lost - please help!

I'm afraid to say that today isn't a good news Cindy's being funny again kind of day. I do have many serious subjects to talk about for a while, and this one is worthy of blog space and sharing, for sure.

Thursday night, my daughter was in the local Halloween parade. She was already in town with the other cheerleaders and my oldest daughter went in to watch. I stayed home from the parade for the first time. It's always so cold and the parade is so long! I was happy to not be begged to go this year.

From my warm and comfy couch, I read with horror on Facebook that there had been a train/vehicle accident right by the parade route and there were fatalities. I must admit, I thought, "Oh no, I bet it's my daughter." She just got her license recently and I honestly did think, like many others that night about their own loved ones, "Was it her?"

I took a deep breath and sent texts to both of my children, in true optimistic humorous fashion:

"I heard there was a train accident. Please confirm your continued existence."

Within the hour, I knew that my babies were alive and well. But one family in our community wasn't so lucky to receive that text or a reassuring call.

A mother from a nearby town on her way to the parade became trapped on the tracks with a freight train bearing down on her and the gates closed around her. She tried to get out, but was unable. It was dark, rainy, and a confusing crossing site.

She has five children. Four were in the vehicle with her. Three children were killed on impact; 18 year old Alyssa, 13 year old Drake, and 10 year old Abbie. Another son, 9 years old, was in the vehicle, but is expected to survive. The mother, Crystal, died the following day. The fifth child and the husband/father were not in the vehicle.

Four lives taken, just like that. I can't imagine the heartbreak the surviving members of this family are experiencing. The challenges they face are insurmountable. A funeral bill should be the last thing on their list of things to figure out how to take care of. It has been rough on the whole community... heartbreaking, even if you had no idea who they were. My oldest daughter knew the oldest girl and several of my daughter's friends were close friends with the girl.

Please give a donation to their GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the massive funeral costs here. Hug your loved ones. Pray for the survivors. And please share the fundraising campaign on your social media sites. I can't stop thinking, that could have been me and my kids. And it could have. I count each day more precious than before.

Sometimes, our fate is beyond our control, but what the community at large does to rally around in a time of need is something that truly renews my faith in mankind. We are a good people and we want to help. For this reason, I remain glad for my continued existence as a human being. Forgo your latte this week and help this family, I beg of you. They are half way to the goal of $30,000 in just two days. EVERY donation counts. Thank you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Wrong Direction - Guest Post by Cara Lopez Lee

Hello, readers! Cindy Brown here. After repeated inquiries from Everyday Underwear followers (and even strangers), I'm very excited to announce that I will begin taking submissions for guest posts and will begin peppering them into the mix here on Everyday Underwear.

I am putting this regular feature into motion with someone I met when I first started my blog, Cara Lopez Lee. It didn't take long for me to see that if Cara and I lived closer, we would be fast friends. She is a great writer and a wonderful and funny lady and I'm pleased to promote the 2014 release of her book today. I love reading about her travels. Please send her some comment love and follow her links.

This month Conundrum Press has released the new 2014 edition of They Only Eat Their Husbands: Love, Travel, and the Power of Running Away, a memoir by fellow blogger Cara Lopez Lee. When Cara was twenty-six, an alcoholic boyfriend threatened to shoot her if she didn't stop talking. Cara admits she’s a chatterbox, but says she felt pretty sure he was overreacting. So she ran away…to Alaska. Cara further admits that if her goal was to avoid drinkers, or guns, she might have run in the wrong direction. In Alaska, she landed in a love triangle with two alcoholics: Sean the martial artist, and Chance the paramedic. Nine years later, sick of love, she ran again, to backpack around the world alone. They Only Eat Their Husbands is an honest, insightful, funny account of her journey to self-discovery—against the backdrop of Alaska, California, China, Thailand, Nepal, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. The following is an excerpt from her memoir, which is now available:

The Wrong Direction

Excerpt from
They Only Eat Their Husbands
By Cara Lopez Lee

The most active volcano in Europe, Stromboli raises hell in the vacation paradise of Sicily’s Aeoli Islands. The mountain rises from the sea to vent its fury in constant explosions of viscous lava, volcanic bombs, steam clouds, and ash. It erupts several times an hour, creating flashes in the sky like a beacon in the night, earning Stromboli the nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”

The volcano has been erupting like that for at least 2000 years. In 1919, during one of its more violent tantrums, the giant threw multi-ton blocks at the villages of Stromboli and Ginostra, killing four people and destroying a dozen homes.

A small pleasure boat took us to Stromboli Island. The little island is only the 900-meter-high tip of the volcano, which rises more than 2000 meters from the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Our tour group was three Italian couples of various ages, and me. I sat alone and silent in the bow, sprayed mercilessly with water and the colorful confetti of Italian conversation. I assumed none of them spoke English, until a blond woman who looked as if she’d stepped out of a sailing brochure turned amused blue eyes my way and said, “You are really wet!” The boat had churned up enough spray to turn me into a sparkling pillar of saltwater. I laughed politely, an awkward seal-like cough. I could think of nothing to say. I felt so conspicuously single.

As we approached the island, we were escorted by a cheerful contingent of leaping dolphins, but my attention was on the swirling white clouds circling the bald upper reaches of the green-flanked volcano. There was something odd about those clouds; the rest of the illimitable sky was a spotless azure. It took me a moment to realize the clouds were not the aftermath of yesterday’s storm, but the result of heat rising from the craters hidden in their midst.

I blurted, “Che bella vulcano! Il . . . il . . . nubes suben la caldera!” in a muddy blend of Italian and Spanish that probably meant nothing, but got everyone’s attention.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Blond Sailing Brochure. She tapped her blond brochure husband on the arm, pointed, and said, “I think she’s saying those are clouds from the volcano!”

The captain nodded and said something in Italian that prompted everyone to point at the mountain and chatter. Unable to understand them, I smiled blankly. A young black-haired goddess with skin tanned the deep bronze of endless summer put a sympathetic hand on my arm and explained, “The captain said the same thing you said, more or less.”

At the island, the captain turned us over to a hiking guide: a short, barefooted man covered in wild curls from the top of his head to his muscular calves. He spoke no English, so I’d be learning little about the volcano. Before we started up Stromboli, we walked to the guide’s house in the village, where he put on hiking boots and kissed his wife and children goodbye.

I was surprised there was a village on the narrow grass skirt of the volcano. Hadn’t these people learned anything from Pompeii, where the villas and bathhouses and temples of a once-thriving civilization still wait for masters who will never return, where hundreds of suffocated victims left their imprints in pumice, where plaster casts of the dead still huddle in agony around the bones within?

So, if I was so smart, what was I doing here?

We started the hike just before sunset so we’d arrive at the top after dark, when it’s easier to see the fireworks. For the first hour, we walked single-file through the grasses of the lower slope. The sun began to bleed, then drowned in an indigo sea. During the second hour, the group fell quiet as the terrain changed to a steep rise strewn with sharp rocks. Soon, deep volcanic ash sucked at our shoes. During the third hour, the sky turned black and the group pulled out flashlights. I donned my headlamp.

We were resting among a clump of rocks when I saw it: a shower of flaming red pyrotechnics sprayed from one of the mountain’s three craters and flew high into the dark sky. The volcano’s thunder was distant and faint. I had no clue how to say “look!” in Italian, but grunted loudly, “Ag-g-g-b-b-b . . . !” and flapped my hand in the direction of the explosion. The exclamations and sighs of the group were equally inarticulate, as they turned just in time to see the glowing rocks fall earthward and float ever so slowly down a collapsed segment of the cone, called the Sciara del Fuoco, the “Stream of Fire.” I wished Sean were here to see it.

“Okay, I’m satisfied. I have seen it and I can turn back now,” the Bronze Goddess of Endless Summer muttered. She leaned against a rock and rubbed her calves. “Not that I’m afraid. Just exhausted. Walking through this ash is like walking across the sands of the Sahara!”

When we continued upward, I chuckled. Mr. Blond Brochure turned and asked, “What’s up?” This American euphemism sounded new and charming in his Italian accent. I answered, “I was just thinking, we’re going the wrong direction. I’m sure if you told most people, ‘You see that mountain there? It’s ex-plo-ding,’ they’d run the other way.” The Blond Brochures and the Bronze Goddess laughed and passed a translation down the line to the non-bilingual Italians. Delayed laughter floated back to me in a slow wave.

When we reached the ridge, the guide took us up into the sulfur-stinking cloud of steam that rose from the craters. Then we came down out of the cloud to sit in the ash and eat. As I ate my panini, I stared unblinking at the craters below, waiting for the next thunderous expletive.

Twice more the volcano bellowed and sent up salacious spouts of lava, fragmented into fiery red blobs. We were closer this time and the loud booms gave several people a start, followed by nervous laughter. The third time, the fireworks disappeared momentarily into the cloud overhead before returning to sear the mountaintop. The radiant red cinders crept down the black void, and we could hear them crepitating like dozens of distant campfires as they flared and dimmed into a sizzling after-glow of gold embers. We stared in awe, pre-hominid children from the primordial sea witnessing the violent dawn of creation.

While our group waited for another blast, Mr. Blond Brochure told us he’d just had a discussion with the guide about how safe we were. The guide had told him only two hikers had ever been burned while standing in this spot. “He said they got hit with the sciora, the hot rocks, and one of them got hit in the head. But they didn't die,” Mr. Blond Brochure reported. “A man was killed once, but only because he walked too close to the crater.”

Mrs. Blond Brochure elbowed him. “You could not wait to tell us until later?”

The Bronze Goddess lifted an eyebrow at me and said, “So, we did come the wrong direction.”

Look at her! Isn't she the cutest?
About the Author:
Cara Lopez Lee’s stories have appeared in the The Los Angeles Times, Connotation Press, and Rivet Journal. She’s a book editor, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a TV journalist and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. She has traveled throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the U.S. Cara married her husband at an active volcano in Costa Rica. She did not eat him. They live in Denver. You can buy her memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands, at Conundrum Press, IndieBound, or Amazon. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Meaning Behind My Tattoo

Hello. My name is Cindy Brown and I have a tattoo. You can judge me if you want to, but I'm the President of something, so there's that.

It's true. I'm the President of the local Toastmasters club and I love it and I love my members. It's a public speaking and leadership club, in case you weren't aware. I will talk about my Toastmasters experiences another day, but today I want to talk about the Toastmasters' reaction to the concept of a woman with a tattoo.

I don't even remember how it was brought up. The topic of discussion isn't important here. All I remember is approaching the podium at the tail-end of a very short discussion based on a member's mention of a woman with a tattoo. The Toastmasters reacted to this idea with disgust.

"A woman with a tattoo? Never!"
"No, no, no. That's just not right."

Several disparaging comments followed. There was laughing from the members and a general feel of that's just gross and wrong filled the air.

I suddenly felt as though I had been hit with a baseball bat right in the heart as the words whispered out of my mouth so quietly that I'm not even sure if they heard me, "Heeey, I have a tattoo..."

I decided to save my opinion for a future speech topic, but it really gave me pause. Would they have made the comments and laughed disgustedly had they known I had a tattoo? Would they have said those things and reacted the way they did? My guess is that they would not have, but alas, they were either unaware of my tattoo or had forgotten and I found myself suddenly... hurt.

They obviously didn't understand tattooed people at all. I have as much value as you do, I thought. Then, how dare you?

Anyone who knows me is privy to the knowledge that I used to "hang with the rough crowd," as someone once put it. A tattoo was never something I judged a person by, however. It was always their character that caught my attention, not the tattoos they did or did not display. I've had artsy friends with artsy tattoos, Christian friends with Christian tattoos, a principal with a war tattoo, friends with funny, scary, and memorial tattoos, and on and on and on... and I couldn't care less. It is not a disgraceful thing to me by any measure.

I felt my peers' judgement was harsh and unwarranted. I also knew they would love me no less if they knew and would feel terrible for having offended me. Insert foot in mouth? Perhaps they would. Perhaps not. Perhaps it would spark a friendly debate, which would also make me happy.

I appreciate the artistic value of any tattoo. A tattoo is not something to decide on lightly. I wasn't young and impulsive when I got this tattoo. I've had it for a long time, but I was in my early thirties before I got my first tattoo. I only have the one, but I say 'first' because I do plan to get others in the future.

The face you see above isn't a random kitty. It is a representation of a cat I once had. Laugh if you want to, but this cat was like a child to me. It was before I had children and she was my everything. She was my baby. I loved her like no other pet. When she died, I cried for 3 solid days. I was heartbroken.

When I decided to get a tattoo, it was an easy decision for it to be dedicated to her. Although you cannot read it now, it says, "Mazie 5/01," which was when she died. I designed the paw print myself on the computer and did not even realize I had done it wrong until somebody pointed it out to me post-tatting. However, I found a way to justify the missing digit because I did have two other cats, one black named Lucy and a white cat named Jane. Due to an accident, Jane was left with half a tail and only three legs. Jane was awesome, too. I once saw her climb the tallest tree in the back yard and then cartwheel down like a rappelling mountain climber just as a horrible storm approached. I swear, I have witnesses. She rocked.

They were great cats, too, but they were no Mazie. Mazie would lay in my arms on her back like a baby. I would stay in an uncomfortable position for hours just so I wouldn't disturb her. She would sleep with me nightly and sometimes softly touch her paw to my cheek as if to say, "Oh, mama, how I love you." I adored her.

I had her cremated through a local service provider when she died. They put her ashes in a small wooden box in a cute little pink bag with a pretty silver ribbon and some colorful dried flowers for decoration inside. I kept her ashes until just a few weeks ago when I finally felt it was time to let her go. As I walked the beautiful path down to the creek, I tore a hole in the pink plastic bag and let her remains fall onto the earth and into the creek as I went. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Goodbye, sweet Mazie.

Back to the tattoo. I forget I even have it. It's on my lower back and I'm only reminded when someone references it if it pokes out above my jeans as I bend over to do something. Do I regret it? No. It was very meaningful at the time. But especially in light of the fact that the colors have faded and the lines are blurred and the pretty script text is undecipherable, I wouldn't mind if weren't there anymore either.

I actually had a tick attach to the tattoo's eye once and the resulting itchiness caused me to scratch it to the point where my poor bedraggled Mazie tat now has what I call the "stink eye." She isn't very pretty anymore.

I will not get a pet tattoo again (no memorial Great Pyrenees on my booty after Buddy dies, sorry), but would love to get a Christian based tattoo and some artistic ones as well. Whether I decide to keep them where I can conceal them or not has not been decided. Will my Toastmasters recoil in horror at my blatant display of body art? I don't really care. Not to sound like a song from 1963, but hey... it's my body and I'll do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to... you'd tattoo too if it happened to you... bomp bomp ba da bomp.

Do you have tattoos? Tell me the story behind yours. I find each one fascinating.

Friday, August 29, 2014

15 Reasons Home Schooling is Awesome (and Why I'll Never Home School My Kid Again)

I entered a contest once called 2KoP (Two Kinds of People) in which you highlight two opposing viewpoints a person might possess. I wrote about those who would and those who would never pee in the shower. It was a smashing success and the two types of people came out of the woodwork to either high five me or voice their disgust.

There are also two kinds of people when it comes to home schooling. There are those who love it and those who think it's weird as hell and only religious freaks do it.

I wasn't in either camp, particularly, but there came a time, two years ago, when I had to make a choice as to which of these two types of people Cindy Brown would set up camp with.

My oldest daughter had entered high school, made friends easily, became a cheerleader, and was one of the popular kids. I was a bit shocked when she came home and asked me to home school her. She had missed some school due to illness and she was feeling some pressure from teachers to make up her work quickly. This wasn't the first time. I have sickly kids. It's been a battle.

I was a stay at home mom and a smart lady. I thought about it and did some initial research and decided we could do this. Besides, her logic was sound. How could I argue?

I feel like I could get as good of an education as public school or even a better education at home.

I wouldn't have to sit around and wait while teachers help other students.

I could finish high school in half the time and start college early.

Sick days wouldn't matter anymore and I could still do the work if I'm sick at home.

I could help you clean the house if I were home to do it.

I'd be able to concentrate better at home.

I won't miss my friends. I'll still do things with them.

I did my research and found that the possibilities were endless and agreed with her logic. I drafted a letter of withdrawal from public school and expected to have to explain myself. What happened next both shocked and disappointed me.

Not one school administrator, staff member, or teacher asked me why I was withdrawing my child.

Not one.

In light of the fact that it seemed they didn't give a hoot about my child, I was pleased with my decision... initially.

I had done my research and found that she could still easily enter into college as a home schooled student, even Ivy League and even without accredited home schooling. She wanted to go to Yale.

I found an online program where she (or any other household member, for that matter) could do as many years of schooling as desired for $400 a year.

My younger daughter stayed in public school. She loved it and there was no reason to remove her, so we didn't.

The first year of home school with my oldest daughter went quite well. Without further ado, the top 15 reasons we loved home schooling:
  1. No pressure. Go at your own pace.
  2. Sleep in if you want. Get your work done in three hours? Nap time!
  3. Save on gas.
  4. Field trips seem like cheating.
  5. Want to finish high school, start college, and get your license, all when you turn 16? Okay!
  6. Multitude of programs available; easy, difficult, cheap, expensive? You decide.
  7. Your education is in your own hands. Dumb? Smart? It's up to you.
  8. Want a better grade? Study up! Do-overs are allowed.
  9. Scheduling things is a breeze.
  10. Save on lunch money. Feed your child nutritious meals at home.
  11. Spend time with your precious cherubs.
  12. Hard to cheat when mom is watching over you.
  13. No dealing with teachers, lunch ladies, or coaches. Jumping on the trampoline is PE.
  14. Sick on Tuesday? Make it up on the weekend.
  15. Housework, cooking, bills, etc. are Home Economics (now FCS - Family/Consumer Science). My house was so clean and I was teaching her life skills.
Now, the truth is that although all of that was awesome, it turned out that she did miss her friends and wanted to return to public high school for her sophomore year.

Fine. I understood. I tried to put the wheels in motion for her, talking to every school representative I could get my hands on and... failed.

Guess what? I found that it would have been easier to get her into college as a home schooled student than to get her back into public high school in the state of Illinois.

Even though she had worked hard and gotten straight A's her freshman year at home and I had kept full transcripts and charted each and every assignment with an Excel file and detailed grading procedures, our school district turned into Dr. Seuss on me.

We could not, would not, take her back.
We do not care if she's on track.
Not by herself, not in a crowd.
No home school credits are allowed!
We cannot, will not, test her in.
She can come back, as a freshman.
She'd have to repeat all she's done.
To be with her peers for public school fun.

As you can imagine, this went over like a lead balloon. She didn't want to repeat the year she'd done at home and we didn't want to feel like we wasted a year of her life, my time and effort, and four hundred bucks, which is twice what it cost for public school education when I enrolled her in her freshman year there.

In all the talks with superintendents, however, a comment was made to me that "it might be different if it were an accredited school we're familiar with."

Being ever so observant of this comment, I embarked on a new goal for her sophomore year of home schooling: get an accredited program to avoid future problems.

I soon discovered that this was neither easy, nor cheap, and that some of the top programs that met what we were looking for were religious, not secular. We are Christians, but we wanted a secular program. This post would go into book form if I took the time to explain why.

We discussed everything and began researching home school programs again. My daughter thought her freshman year was too easy and requested a harder program.We found a fully accredited program she could do online with full teacher support, online class requirements, etc. and put her on a fast track college prep course of action. It was a religious program, but only required her to take one religion course. We could handle that. All work was done online, taught and graded by very competent teachers, with report cards, transcripts, even virtual Biology labs were done online.

My daughter was motivated and ready to take on the world and we were ready to see her succeed. The public school allowed her to come in for driver's education, but that was it. No sports, nothing else. This home school program was much different than the last. We braced ourselves for tuition at Yale and dropped the nearly $3,000 for her sophomore year of accredited high school online private schooling at Alpha Omega Academy without trepidation. We wanted nothing more than to see our child excel.

Okay, roll the Jaws theme music. This is where home schooling devours the whole family.

I now give you the top 15 reasons we hate home schooling:
  1. Pressure. She only had 8 months to complete her work on the fast track plan. We were allowed a free extension of two months, but any additional months would cost $200/month. She took the entire 10 months and even needed a couple of extra days, which they didn't charge us for since a teacher was out when she needed to do an over-the-phone French assignment.
  2. Get up at a decent hour because it takes six hours minimum a day to complete your work. No time for naps, breaks, etc! You want to go to Yale? This will sure prepare you.
  3. Save on gas, but pay nearly $3,000 for one year of school, so who cares?
  4. No time for field trips. Each day was scheduled out with an online planner and you had to keep a schedule.
  5. Do two years in one year? Not with this program! It was extremely hard and she became quickly overwhelmed.
  6. The program was not only difficult and expensive (although there are programs out there that cost five times as much), but once 30 days is up, you're stuck with the program. No refunds, no changing the type of schooling (online vs. books), no get out of jail free card. You pay, you play. Also, she did not agree with the religious content and had trouble reconciling her own religious views with what was expected in the courses.
  7. Her education was in her own hands. She wanted to be smart and excel, but the stress and overwhelming nature of the entire experience left her exhausted an exasperated. She lost her drive to succeed.
  8. Do-overs were not only allowed, but required for low grades in many cases. This is a benefit for those who are on track and love the program, but a time drain and stress inducing factor in trying to keep on pace when you just want it to be over and accept the grade, no matter what it may be. My straight A student struggled to maintain B's and C's.
  9. Scheduling things was not easy since we were constantly stressing about keeping her on track.
  10. Cook something nutritious for her? Sure, but she would refuse it and you can't force food down a fifteen year old. She was never hungry and/or wanted only to snack through the day; not healthy habits!
  11. Due to the fact that I was always harassing her about keeping on track, our relationship suffered. I became a prison warden to her, banging my night stick on her cell bars, instead of enjoying my time with her as her mother. We fought more and she and I were ready to do anything to be apart by the end of the year. She couldn't stand me by the time it was over and I dreaded even waking her up in the morning because I knew the stress would start right then. It wasn't fun.
  12. She finally went into complete block out mode and began fibbing her way out of work. I'm a smart woman, but it took me a couple of months to catch on. Did you know that if they have their headphones in, you can't tell if your child is watching a video for an assignment or watching a TV show online unless you catch her by glancing over her shoulder through the window while you're outside doing yard work? I then had to crack down even harder, which strained our relationship even more. "This is what you wanted!" was not what she wanted to hear. "I can't stand you!" was not what I wanted to hear. We resented each other.
  13. She became sluggish, quit working out, and seemed like a caged animal in a very small enclosure. She came up with any excuse to delay the start of her day... shower, pooping, tired, have to wait to get a hold of a teacher for an assignment... I could tell she was miserable, but she had to finish the year. It was torture for both of us. She couldn't concentrate and everything distracted her. I had to be on her every second and checking her every move. Her friends were busy with school activities and we live really far out of town, so rarely did friends come out to see her. She felt isolated, but refused to join any local home school groups.
  14. There was no time for a sick day if you wanted to keep on track. She was sick just as much, still couldn't work when sick even though she was at home, and the pressure from me was no less than it was with her teachers in public school. Getting behind caught up with her to the point that it almost seemed impossible to finish the program, but she made it. We did have to drop one semester of one class, but it was a relief. She just could not grasp the French language at all, even with my help. 
  15. There was no time to help out with housework or cooking. There was no time for teaching life skills. We both hated home schooling by the end and our last nerves were tattered and frayed from the experience. With every fiber of our being, we were done with home schooling, no matter what.
Yes, in one fell swoop of a year's time, we went from 'Go, home schooling! Hip hip hooray!' to 'Please kill me now, in the event that I should ever consider home schooling again! I would choose death over this!'

Of course, the story doesn't end there. I had to go back through all of the school administrators again to try and register her, thinking that due to the comment made to me about school accreditation last year, we might at least have a chance this year that they would accept her and just give her credit for the one accredited home schooling year, especially since it was through the same regional accrediting body. Not so. They still wouldn't budge. I had to improvise.

I pulled out every gun I had (transcripts, mid-year testing scores, accredited home school information, highlighted pages from the district's own policy manual, made phone calls to the Illinois State Board of Education, the regional accrediting agency, etc.) and loaded up a manila file folder for a meeting with the superintendent, who then had to pass it through the lawyer and the school board for approval.

Whew. I get exhausted just talking about it.

Good news, though. We have her back in public school, but the circumstances are not exactly as we had hoped.

Mr. Scary Superintendent (the guy looks like a marine) was actually very gracious in giving me his time and upon his recommendation, the lawyer and the board agreed that she be allowed to proficiency test into her grade, which she did. I think she is the first student they've done this for. Hooray! All was right with the world and she could return to public school as a junior. I won the battle. She won the battle. We were elated!

Just one tiny hitch. They still are not accepting any of her home school credits, which means that she would either have to make up two years of credits or she cannot graduate with her class. Yes, they have every right to do this. I've checked. It's our district's policy to not accept any credits and the upper-level superintendent who made the suggestive comment to me about using an accredited school they've heard of didn't even remember talking to me the year before. Even though I reminded her, she restated the district policy and Mr. Scary's hands were tied.

In order to make credit accepting exceptions for our daughter, there would have to be a district wide policy change and quite frankly, most people they have home school experience with just don't do like we do and seriously home school. The dean of students told me that five people withdrew to home school last year and they were all due to truancy issues. We and our serious home school efforts are apparently not the norm in our district and we have to suffer the consequences the bad apples have put in place for us.

We cut our losses and decided that the most important things were getting her back into public school and saving our sanity, credits applied or not.

I am tired of fighting. I am tired of worrying. I am tired of stressing. She will live a good life and the world will continue to turn, turn, turn. It's going to be fine. I promise.

For crying out loud, my daughter's latest stated goal had morphed into becoming a Disney princess and I took the question, "How old do you have to be to drop out of high school?" as a hint that we'd better do something fast. I'm not knocking Disney princesses, but going from a goal of Yale to that was just bizarre. We knew we had to meet the school district in the middle.

She was able to start school the day after it officially started and she is thrilled to be back in, at the same level as her peers (with the exception of foreign language classes). I can see her slowly coming back to life and I think her passion to excel in life will return, at least somewhat. She's been nominated for the homecoming court, aspires to be valedictorian, and has joined Code Red, where she and many classmates will root for their sports teams throughout the year. Her first football game is tonight and she just got her driver's license a week ago today. She is ready to fly like an eagle and just... be... a normal teenager in high school.

Don't worry, she can still go to college if she wants to. It isn't a death sentence. Trust me. I've checked. She has a high school education. It just hasn't been a traditional one.

Even with all of the stresses of public school, we now realize that home schooling is not the answer for us. Sure, we could have forced her to keep home schooling. We could have gone all Goldilocks and the Three Bears and kept looking for yet another program to suit her, saying, "This one was too soft, this one was too hard, but this one is just right!" To be truthful, however, the lack of porridge zapped our energy and we just wanted our daughter to be happy and motivated again. We knew home schooling wasn't going to accomplish that, not for her.

Let me be very clear that I am not bashing home schooling in any way or Alpha Omega Academy (it's an excellent program). It can be an awesome opportunity for a child and I know many people who love home school and do it successfully in their households and are happy as clams. Their children go on to excel and enter college at a younger age. They are smart and motivated and happy. Good for them. It just wasn't good for us.

If you'd like, share your home school stories with me. Do you know a person who home schooled or have you ever thought about it or tried it? I'd love to hear about someone else's struggles or success stories now. I have blown enough hot air into the blogosphere for one day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Little Identity Crisis

I have an identity crisis with my blog. I am a humor writer. However, all I can think of lately is serious subject matter. So, do I write serious matter or do I bite the bullet and make all of my serious subject matter funny? Do I avoid serious subject matter or wait until the funny hits me and go with that? Life is a funny thing, I'll give you that. However, it's not always ha ha funny. Sometimes, it's strange funny. And stressful. I'm at a crossroads. Help.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Why Is Everyone So Offended These Days?

Recently, I read a blog post and found that I had an opposing view to not only the writer, but all of her commentators as well. I feel the need to respond because I think that as a nation, we need to lighten up and certainly have more empathy and respect for others.

Why on earth does everyone get offended so easily these days? You can read Lisa A. Kramer's post, Dear Man in the Cubicle Next to Me on the blog Woman Wielding Words, or take my short version at face value.

She goes to have blood drawn. Tough looking guy is put in cubicle next to her to have his blood drawn and she overhears him say, "I'm such a girl about this."

She takes offense and itches to say something to him in response, but ultimately does not and just blogs about it instead, wrestling with whether or not she should have spoken her mind.

One woman, quite incensed, wrote a 500+ word response, basically calling this poor guy a "chauvinist".
Another comment refers to him as a "jerk".
Then another pulls out "bigot."
"He was wrong," says another.

I must say that my heart just sank when I read the post and all of the subsequent comments. Why must anyone take such offense to this benign statement that a post be written about it and this man attacked?

Let's break this down. Lisa states that the man has tattoos and muscles and appears to be a tough guy. Her point is that women handle pain better than men in many cases (childbirth, anyone?) and that his comment was basically insulting to females.

I am female. Lisa is a female. Most of the commentators are female. Why are the general masses offended by his statement and I am not? I had to check myself for the answer. Am I weak? Am I too soft? Am I a bad judge of character? No, I don't think so. Because I did not agree with the masses, however, I felt that I was in some way wrong.

Rosie The Riveter Flexing Her Arm Muscles, We Can Do It! - Free Pictures at Historical Stock

Let me be clear that I am not attacking Lisa here. She genuinely felt hurt by his statement. I am simply intrigued by the fact that she and I see the situation differently and I want further input from my readers on how you see this situation.

This subject was even addressed in a commercial recently which Lisa and I both found in subsequent conversation that we had both viewed. You can view the Always "Like a Girl" commercial here. I must say that I disagree with that commercial as well. When I heard that comment as a young girl, it just made me want to do my best to see if I could match the boys. As a grown woman, I've found that sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no, not ever... and I'm fine with that.

The last time I checked, ladies and gentlemen, there ARE differences between men and women and we women are still considered the fairer sex, aren't we? Has women's lib gone too far and we now believe any comment putting a female on a lower position on the totem pole is a negative one? I think that's silly and shallow. Men are designed by God to be physically stronger than women. They are designed to be hunters, gatherers, and protectors. Have we thrown this aside just because we can now perform many tasks that only men previously performed?

To call him a bigot is not even right by simple definition. A bigot is "a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)" according to Mirriam-Webster.

He didn't mean that he hates or refuses to accept women! He was making a comment about his own vulnerability and weakness. For this, he is attacked. None of these people even know this man. He might very well be the loveliest human being ever.

A jerk? Again, Mirriam-Webster defines a jerk as, "a stupid person or a person who is not well-liked or who treats other people badly."

And what does Webster define as a chauvinist? "an attitude that the members of your own sex are always better than those of the opposite sex."

This man didn't say anything to warrant any of that! What he truly said was that in this situation, he felt weak, afraid, and not at all like the image he projects to the world. His comment sought comfort. He was not trying to be insulting.

I do not in any way, shape or form take offense to what he said. I feel compassion for him. I feel that he was the one wronged in this situation.

I had a conversation recently with a respectable man who told me that he believes that women's liberation has ruined the relationship between men and women. He pointed out that when he attends his daughter's sporting events, he hears nothing but the women around him bashing their husbands and other men. I'm ashamed to say that I hear women do this also. He said their comments are so awful that he doesn't even understand why these women are still married to these men. They speak as though they hate them. Is this to appear dominant? Tough? Independent? What are we trying to say here with this deplorable behavior, women?

Now, what do you say? Am I wrong? I would love to hear your comments. I promise, I won't take offense to anything.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lyme Disease Awareness Month & Beer Ticks

It's May and that means it's Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Although this may not be on your radar, it is certainly on mine and I could not let the month end without doing a PSA on Lyme Disease because, you know, I have it.

Allow me to introduce you to Ranger Cindy Brown. (Disclaimer: I am not a real Ranger.)

My mother gave me this hat for
outdoors, I swear to God.
Now, let me tell you a little something about ticks. They don't care who your momma is or that she gave you that great hat with the lovely wide brim to protect you from the elements. If you have ticks in your element and ticks are attracted to you like they are attracted to me, they will find you.

They will hunt you down, rappel from mountainsides, leap from trees, and crawl stealthily up your pant leg to find your super tasty sweet soft skin and make you their host.

However, this is one dinner party you don't want to throw.

Mainly because ticks carry Lyme Disease and you don't want it.

I've posted about it before when I was diagnosed here and unfortunately, it did not leave me. I still have it and am not sure if I will ever be rid of it. At least it's been manageable for me in the past year.

That white speck is my skin.
I've taken many pictures of the ticks I've pulled off in this past year. This year so far, I've had eight ticks attached and have literally pulled off about a hundred and that's no joke.

Once again, bugs love me. I am their queen.

To right, you will see a picture of a tick I pulled off my head. It still has a piece of my skin in its mouth. Although not a nice thing to think about, this is what you want to see. You want to pull off the entire tick and NOT leave the head of the tick embedded. Just ask Lisa Gradess-Weinstein, who after reading about my Lyme journey, recognized symptoms and went to the doctor only to find that part of a tick was left embedded in her leg, and causing her troubles. Thankfully, she was tested and did not have Lyme, but the bugger had left its troubles behind anyway.

Ranger Cindy says "Protect and Check!"

What can you do to protect yourself from getting Lyme Disease? Well, in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, I am wanting to help spread the word, since I'm becoming quite the expert and all.

Protect yourself with Permethrin if you are going out into the woods. I have dogs to walk and a trail I walk for exercise. I live smack dab in the middle of deep woods, so it's impossible for me to avoid woods and I would not advise that you let your fear overtake you and avoid woods for the rest of your life either. Nature is beautiful and should be experienced... with appropriate caution.

I thought I would have to order Permethrin, but I was thrilled to find it at Rural King made by a company called Repel. You spray this on your clothing and shoes, backpack, etc. It not only repels ticks, but will kill them as well. Oh yeah, I totally did a kill test. These suckers are hard to kill, and this stuff works like a charm. Follow directions, though, because I think it lasts two weeks or something like that and I have found it to produce great results with one application to shoes and pants - many days tick free!

You can also use repellents like Off or Cutter. They don't keep everything off of me, but they do help.

You may smell like a chemical factory (see pictured stinky face), but you won't care if it keeps you from getting Lyme Disease, trust me. You don't want it. Ever.

The next thing you do to protect yourself is to check, check, check yourself for ticks after you have been in an exposed area. This week, I had someone who lives in town tell me they found a tick on their pillow at home. They have no idea how it got there. So you never know, but you can be sure that if you have been in a wooded area, they may travel home with you or on you or with your dog or on your dog.

Check especially under areas where your clothing may have been tight. The tick I had which transferred to me the evil Lyme Disease was under my bra strap to the back of my armpit. Stealthy and unnoticed, it did its thing for two days before I discovered it.

Ticks come in several shapes and sizes, so look at the pictures here and on other websites to familiarize yourself with what they look like. They can be oval or round, brown or black, white dots or solid color.

They love to attach to your head, so be vigilant to check your hair very well with your fingertips and fingernails after a walk in the woods. Check again after several hours. Check again the next day. And for good measure, the day after that. You can never be too careful and they can attach without you ever feeling it or knowing it.

The one pictured below is on a postcard. That's a postal bar code there, for size reference.

They can be so small, you can barely see them. Once, we went mushroom hunting in Tennessee on the way to vacation in Alabama and we came back to the hotel room only to find that we were all covered in tiny ticks. We must have stumbled into an area with a nest or infestation. We found lots of great mushrooms, but we were panicked about all of the ticks. We had to check in crevices of each others' bodies that nobody ever wants to see. Still, with showering and closely inspecting, we all still had ticks attach.

Some ticks are as small as a speck of pepper, like the next pictured one here on top of a contact lens solution bottle cap. I'm using a magnifying glass in this particular photo and there is a hair beside the tick to show the size. It was so tiny, I was lucky to detect it.
I mostly get ticks when I've been outdoors unprotected, but I sometimes find them in my house just crawling around. I recently found two beer ticks in the house. Yep, you heard me right. I said beer ticks. I have photographic proof.

I found ticks in my house on not only one, but two beer cans one day. Apparently, beer ticks prefer light beer.

When ticks attach, they excrete a kind of glue which helps them adhere to your body. You can react to this substance and it can make you itch as well.

I saw a piece Dr. Oz did on ticks and I had to cringe. He instructed the woman on stage with the giant pair of prop tweezers to remove the giant prop tick and he told her to grab it behind it's head. WHAT? No, no, no.

You should use tweezers if possible (especially if you have someone else to help you remove the tick), but you have to be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick and squeeze its Lyme juice right into you.

You want to make sure you remove the head of the tick, not leave it in your head. As I mentioned before, if you see a speck of your own skin in the tick's grasp when you pull it out, that's good. It means you removed the entire tick, head and all.

When I found the tick with the horrible cellulitis-like swelling (which in reality was the Erythema-Migrans rash, cleverly disguised as cellulitis and not really a bulls eye looking thing at all), my doctor treated me with antibiotics that should have taken care of an initial Lyme Disease infection, but it did not.

Perhaps it was too strong. Perhaps I was too weak. Perhaps my theory is right and I already had Lyme Disease which had not been too problematic in my life and that particular tick bite kicked it into overdrive.

If that theory is correct, then I was already in late disseminated Lyme and the antibiotic treatment I received was not adequate. After being sent to an Infectious Disease Specialist and being put on two months of Doxycyclene (which he said "should take care of it"), I still can tell a year later that I am not rid of this disease.

I have started my Salt/Vitamin C regimen again. I have good days and bad days, but it is nowhere as bad as it was before.

I have that weird feeling in the back of my head.
My arms fall asleep at night.
I need frequent naps.
My right elbow and my forearms feel arthritic.
I'm seeing the rashes reappear.

I just know what it feels like. I know what it feels like to the point that I helped diagnose someone recently. I ran into my sister-in-law's mother at HellMart Walmart and she told me she felt like she was falling apart. All of her symptoms were so similar to my late disseminated Lyme symptoms that I made her promise that she would demand her doctor test her for Lyme. She did. She was positive.

Then, she went through the same rigmarole many Lyme sufferers experience. She had several other docs say, "Nope, you don't have it." I urged her to find an LLMD. She persisted and was properly tested and guess what... she has a bad case of late disseminated Lyme. Not only that, she had been diagnosed and treated for MS for 18 years and the LLMD said, "You never had MS. This has been Lyme the whole time."

Imagine! She is now in the fight of her life, taking eleven medications and thankfully covered by insurance thus far. I know like I know like I know that there are thousands of people out there just like her, misdiagnosed with illnesses like Fibromyalgia, MS, Chronic Fatigue, etc. Lyme is not nicknamed "The Great Imitator" for nothing. It mimics many diseases and doctors are sorely under-educated about Lyme.

Do what you can to help spread the word and just be aware and protect and check yourself when outdoors. If someone has the symptoms I listed in my first post about Lyme (reference the link at the beginning of this post), please encourage them to get tested and seek the advice of an LLMD. An LLMD is a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor and is NOT an Infectious Disease doctor or a regular MD. It is someone who specializes in the treatment of Lyme Disease.

Be safe and enjoy the summer! Back to more fun posts in the future which will not feature creepy-crawlies, I promise.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Along Came A Spider

My husband came into the house a few weekends ago and shouted, "I found a Brown Recluse spider in the garage! It was in my work clothes."

My initial thought was, 'Yeah, sure you did,' and I admit that I secretly suspected it was absolutely for certain a case of mistaken identity on the part of my husband.

He bellowed, "You want to see it? I have it in a jar."

I went to take a look and could not remember what a Brown Recluse looked like (and it surely wasn't one even if I did know), so I didn't get too excited. He showed me the violin shape and seemed confident. I did a silent pshaw in my head and he continued on outside to do some more work in the garage.

I Googled it.

Damn the luck. My husband was right! It did exactly match the images of a Brown Recluse, violin on its back and all. OMG. He really did find a Brown Recluse in our garage!

But, I digress. Let's talk about fear. This calls for a list!

  1. If there is one Brown Recluse, there are more. Probably lots more. Think Arachnophobia, the movie.
  2. They're "moving in" and this is the first of many we'll encounter. No way was this little gem just on vacation at Brown Station and passing through. He's got family and they're all coming to live at Chez Brown.
  3. I will eventually be bitten. Why? Because that's my life, that's why. Bugs love me. I am their queen.
  4. They're in the house; everywhere, in every dark corner, just waiting for my unsuspecting finger or toe.
  5. They're in my pillowcase and my head is going to rot off.
I distinctly remember a few weeks ago, just prior to this special find in our garage, when I proudly announced in my Sunday School class that I had practically conquered my fear of spiders. Really! I have worked hard to not fear creepy crawly things that glide silently through the night, especially since contracting Lyme disease. However, we live here:

I live in the heart of the woods. It's beautiful. It's also filled with creepy crawlies which display various levels of fear-striking capabilities. I've posted about them before. Remember the snake post of 2012? Yep, I live in Blair Witch-ville. I've kind of had to learn to adapt.

I thought I had conquered my fear of such things. Yeah, I thought that right up until I realized my husband was right and we actually did have a Brown Recluse on our property.

I had to send myself back to fear-conquering school. Sessions are held regularly in my brain, if you'd like to attend. There's a sign-up sheet in my Thalamus, right next to the Hippocampus.

If you're not familiar with the Brown Recluse, here is a quick lesson. They look like the two photos below and the venom will cause your flesh to rot and die as though you have contracted a flesh-eating bacteria if you are bitten by one. Go ahead on over to Google and look at the images if you want to really freak yourself out.

This first photo is the one my husband took. I wasn't satisfied. With the most extreme caution you've ever seen, I removed the red metal lid from the glass Lay's dip jar (which the spider later met an untimely death within) and carefully slid my phone in place of the lid. While praying that the spider would not leap onto my phone and go bananas trying to escape, thus likely biting me in the process, I took this picture:

I know, right? Mine is way better and far creepier. Thank God I risked life and limb to obtain it for you, my loyal and inquisitive readers, whom I knew would want yet another public service announcement from Everyday Underwear. You can see quite clearly the violin shape near the head, which is an identifier.

I'll let Wikipedia tell you the deets about its habitat:

"Brown recluse spiders build asymmetrical (irregular) webs that frequently include a shelter consisting of disorderly thread. They frequently build their webs in woodpiles and sheds, closets, garages, plenum spaces, cellars, and other places that are dry and generally undisturbed. When dwelling in human residences they seem to favor cardboard, possibly because it mimics the rotting tree bark which they inhabit naturally. They have also been encountered in shoes, inside dressers, in bed sheets of infrequently used beds, in clothes stacked or piled or left lying on the floor, inside work gloves, behind baseboards and pictures, in toilets, and near sources of warmth when ambient temperatures are lower than usual. Human-recluse contact often occurs when such isolated spaces are disturbed and the spider feels threatened. Unlike most web weavers, they leave these lairs at night to hunt. Males move around more when hunting than do females, which tend to remain nearer to their webs. The spider will hunt for firebrats, crickets, cockroaches, and other soft-bodied insects."

Truly, it had never occurred to me that I might find one of these on my property. As is common in life, even though I knew they existed in Illinois, I couldn't quite imagine the reality of one until I was faced with one of my very own.

Excellent. More life lessons, learned through experience. Yay. That's how my life is and it is both a blessing and a curse. Forced knowledge is a blessing. Forced experiential knowledge you didn't agree to is the part that feels like a curse.

Just previous to this incident, I had bragged that when I find a spider on my body or in my immediate life area, I very calmly take it outside and deposit it back into the nature from whence it came or I open the door and ceremoniously flick it calmly into the ether. Now, I think I might freak out and scream like a little girl if I see anything resembling this beast.

The changes I've seen?


  • Throw on shoes without a care
  • Pick up cardboard without a care
  • Move freely about the garage without a care
  • Work in the yard with dead leaves and wood without a care
  • Use the toilet in the dark without a care
  • Do anything without a care
  • Check shoes visually, smash toes for good measure
  • Gingerly pick up cardboard with the edge of my finger and inspect fully
  • Avoid garage, especially dark corners
  • Avoid yard, especially creepy death areas
  • Pee with ALL LIGHTS ON!
  • Um... care.
For four years, I have lived in this place and not feared a spider. I've worked to stay calm when I encounter them. I've rationalized, "They aren't going to bite me unless they feel threatened, they eat insects (so they're actually beneficial), and they are more scared of me than I am of them."

Now I am second guessing myself and wondering if I knew what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was talking about. Should I be extra cautious with everything? Fear what I had learned to accept? Become paranoid of nature's creatures? I live in their world. I chose that. So, to keep my sanity, the answer has to be no. I can't let fear control me. I try to live by this new rule and I refuse to let this spider change my life's philosophies.

But you can be assured that I'm still checking my shoes and peeing with the lights on. Shudder!

P.S. My husband also burned the article of work clothing he found the Brown Recluse in. Eeeks!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Talk

I woke up yesterday morning and breathed a heavy sigh. I knew it had to happen. I would have to sit someone down and have "the talk."

I was fed up, tired of the crap, and needed to give this person a swift kick in the behind and tell her exactly what I thought of the situation at hand.

I didn't want to do it. I hate confrontation and I knew she would resist my approach, but I also knew it had to be done.

I had to be honest, harsh, brutal, and firm. I knew it would be hard... and it was.

Who is this person I had to have "the talk" with? Who had upset me so? Who was making me worry and fret and put me in this unhappy state?

I'm ashamed to say that it was me.

As I rolled out of bed, I could hear various pops and crackles and it just drove the nail further into the coffin. It sounded like my vertebrae were just knocking around in my body like large, loose, clanking marbles. But this was no fun game with colorful glass orbs. This was my life. This was my health. This was me knowing that I needed to firmly kick my own ass.

I started the conversation in my head, "Okay, muffin top, you and I simply have to part ways. I just can't have you around anymore. I love you, but you're hurting me and dragging me down. You're bad for me and I know it. I just can't ignore these feelings anymore. I need to move on. I need my life back."

You're going to think this is ridiculous, but as I silently gave myself "the talk," I had tears welling up in my eyes.

If you look at the picture of the muffins here, you will see what my belly looks and feels like. Overstuffed! Bursting out of the container.

I knew it was time. I could tell I was nearing my "time to do something" weight and a simple step onto the scale confirmed it. I was at top weight, my self-imposed limit, my doomsday. My body was rebelling, fighting me, and had been flipping me the bird for even suggesting we should get healthy again.

When I lost the 15 pounds after doing the Creative Bioscience challenge, I felt pretty good. Wow, what a difference 15 pounds can make. I now feel uncomfortable. My clothes don't fit. I don't want to move, and if and when I do too much moving, my back goes out like it did after vacation. I am weak and my body is vulnerable... to itself.

Why do I feel so shameful about it?

  • I know better, that's why.
  • I can do better, that's why.
  • I am better than this sloppy existence, that's why.

I used to be a Beachbody coach. Working out was a passion of mine. I inspired other people. I ran a workout group online. I felt like a superhero. Now, I just feel like the villain. A pizza and cheese fueled villain. Sigh. I feel guilty. I have let myself down.

I am reflecting deeply on why I haven't felt satisfied lately and it all boils down to two things. One, I'm not physically fit and therefore I feel sluggish in every aspect. And two, I'm not happy with my home health care job.

I could give you a list of 50 reasons why working out is good for me. One reason is that I don't have back problems when I work out. Why? Muscles support the skeletal system. If the support system isn't strong, neither am I. I wobble and clank around like an old empty freight car. I am carrying dead weight. I am rusting.

This winter has been rough. I haven't been able to go do my home health care job very much because of the weather. If it's too cold, she won't let me come because my car might break down and I'd be stranded in the cold. If it's too snowy, she won't let me come because I might get stuck. If it's too wet, the roads flood and I have trouble even getting there. Mostly, I agree with the logic and have not been wanting to take any chances. However, one of the things I do for her is to walk her dog, which gives him (and me) much needed exercise. No work. No dog walk.

My home terrain is not conducive to exercise. My road is one of the worst in the county and the last to clear of snow and ice and the rest of my walking path was snowed over or too icy or too muddy this past two months. I haven't been walking my dogs since - oh - fifteen pounds ago or so. I love walking out here in the spring, summer, and fall. But this winter, I hate it. I don't even want to go outside. I don't like temperatures under 60 and it's been far under that. I just want to curl up in a ball on the couch and hibernate.

Sure, I've used my hula hoop and done an occasional workout, but it wasn't until yesterday that I got serious with my lazy self. And boy, did I kick my own ass. I am soooo sore today. I did a whole RevAbs workout without missing a single exercise and I did it with weights. I woke up this morning and my whole body knew I had been in a fight. I think everything but my fingers, toes, and nose is sore.

But this time, I am winning, not the villain. So I did another workout today, a P90X Stretch one hour long workout. Tomorrow, I will work out again. And again. And again. And again. I will beat myself into submission.

I remember what it feels like to love working out. I want that feeling of love again.

I remember what it feels like to love my job. I want that feeling again.

Sure, I love the lady I take care of and she is "family." However, as I crouched on my hands and knees scrubbing dog poop out of her carpet last week and as I scrubbed her bed sheets where she had soiled them, I thought to myself, "This is my life." And I was sad.

I love writing, not cleaning poop. I'm forty-four years old. I'm smart. I can make a living writing. Why am I doing something I'm not passionate about? Both times I've taken the home health care job, it started as a favor, helping someone out. Somehow, it became life; a life I'm not passionate about.

I don't know exactly how I got here. All I know is that it's time to kick some Cindy ass. Join me?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day! Now, Put Your Penis Away.

Ah, it's the day of love. And I, well... I could care less. I love my husband and he loves me and I am not the least bit insecure about that. He tells me every single day how much he loves me and makes me feel like a queen. End of story. No special day of love needed here, thank you. I am sooooo over worrying about that kind of crap. It's just another over-commercialized holiday for retailers to capitalize upon (said everyone, everywhere in a town with a Walmart).

So in lieu of goo-goo-ga-ga love posts, today, I'm going to tell you about some uninvited Twitter love.

I love social media. It's an important part of my writer platform. It's how I meet my fans, followers, friends, colleagues, and like-minded writer-type individuals. I've even embraced Twitter, to some degree, although the 140 word limit makes me cringe.

I have a system; a system which recently had to change because I was... I was... accosted by an unwanted penis.

When I get a new follower on Twitter, I receive an e-mail telling me so. It shows me their profile information and if I choose to, I can follow right from the link in the e-mail or I can investigate further and take a look-see into their full profile and read some Tweets, look at some interaction, and make sure they're not a spam account or just something I'm not interested in having in my feed for whatever reason. You Tweet about sports scores 100 times a day? I'm probably not going to follow. Sorry.

So, I get this "you have a new follower" e-mail and I glance at the profile. It says something about Jesus Freak, so I go to Twitter's site and pull up the full profile to give it a look-see and see if I want to follow, because you know... I love Jesus and all, but the freaks can get on my nerves. Let's face it, you don't want that in your face 24/7 either.

I'm reading some Tweets just kind of like doh-ti-doh-ti-doh and tra-la-la-la-la-ing about my normal business, when all of a sudden, I see it in my peripheral vision.

What the ???? Is that what I think it is?

If my computer had 3-D technology, I swear it would have put my eye out. PENIS!

I had to do a double-take. I was transfixed, out of sheer surprise penis-ing. I had no idea a Twitter background could be pornographic. I swear to God, I'm not lying. It just never occurred to me. I use it for fun, for business, for networking and cool or funny pictures, to connect with other writers, but certainly not porn.

Shouldn't there be a warning if there's going to be rated X material on the page? A disclaimer? A 'check here if you want to view strange penis' box?

Then, because I am who I am and because my mind works the way it does, I thought this:

Now, to be fair, it was a lovely penis... being held by an equally naked woman who was holding a coffee cup and using the penis as a creamer dispenser.

If I were into porn, which I am not, I'm sure I would have been delighted with my find. As it turned out, I  felt a tad bit violated, in an oooh, I've made a terrible mistake kind of way.

As I sat there thinking, "My eyes! My eyes!" and trying to figure out if I had done something wrong to arrive at this profile and what I should do about it, I realized something important. I love my husband and I have no interest in having anything to do with strange penis or unfamiliar naked people.

I blocked the account so I wouldn't accidentally go there again and I made myself consciously aware that Twitter has a whole universe of material I might not care to see and I need to be a little bit more keen to that in order to avoid getting some accidental eye-strange. Some people are into that kind of thing and that's fine for them. Go. Find your penis. Enjoy.

I, however, will stick with my one true love, my husband. And I'm totally happy with that. My perfect Valentine's Day morning? A cup of coffee with my mate and my Coffee-mate. Bliss.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm a Top Ten Firepole Marketing Contest Entry!

I placed in the top ten this time in the Firepole Marketing Ultimate Guides contest! Any likes, comments, RT's, shares, etc. on the article are much appreciated. You guys are what makes it possible for me to succeed and what makes me keep on going when I get tired of dealing with people.

How to Play Well with Others (Even if You Don’t Feel Like It): The Ultimate Guide to Why, When, and How to Deal With People

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When Facebook Attacks, Do You Bite Back?

I love Facebook. I love it more than Twitter, more than LinkedIn, and more than corn. That said, there are good things and bad things about being a Facebooker. Facebookist? Facebabbler?

I try not to let a few bad apples spoil the bag of juicy goodness, but wow... sometimes, you just bite into a worm!

Here are a few highlights of the lowlights in my Facebook year:

If you've never eaten at Denny's Diner, you are missing out. It's good food, family atmosphere, and affordable. As an added bonus, you might get lucky enough to get the waitress with the blue glitter eye shadow who calls you "Sugar." It's open all night, so no matter what time your cravings hit, they're there for you, baby. They're there for you night and day, with pancakes.

I was thrilled to become a Brand Ambassador for Denny's in September '13 and excitedly cruised their Facebook feed to grab a link to help promote their BYO (Build Your Own) Omelette promotion. I thought it was awesome that they were doing something to fight hunger. What I found on their thread shocked me. Look at the comments!

I was truly appalled that people were not only against this promotion, but that the would come to Denny's page to slam them in the very thread promoting their charitable act. How dare these people slam my Denny's!

I felt sorry for Denny's and hated that they were attacked in this way. I bit my tongue and didn't say what was on my mind on the Facebook page, went to our local Denny's, and sampled the omelette. I was perfectly satisfied and happy. It was a good experience, just as I anticipated.

I just hope I didn't kill any innocent children by participating in the campaign. WTF, indeed! Since when do eggs kill children? I must have missed something on the evening news.

Denny's, don't worry. I've got your back, baby. I'll be back for some Moons Over My Hammy real soon, Sugar!

Not once, but twice in 2013, I became involved in doggie drama. Who knew raising dogs could be so much like raising kids? I thought I'd have to fight about my kids on Facebook, but no, it turns out that dogs are a hot-button issue.

On Mother's Day, my Great Pyrenees, Buddy, was shot in the head. It was literally a drive-by shooting. It was traumatizing because unbeknownst to the perpetrators, I was standing right outside and saw their truck. After ensuring my dog was indeed going to live, I did two things. 1) I called the police and filed a report. 2) I got on Facebook and put out an APB on the truck. My post was shared almost 300 times and a local dog related business with a Facebook page championed my cause.

Within 12 hours, thanks to a private message via Facebook, I had the name of the driver and in just 8 more, the teenage boys responsible came to my door to confess. They had their parents with them. I knew one of the boys. They were minors and had made a stupid mistake based on a dog fight I hadn't even known had taken place with my Buddy and a neighborhood dog.

Long story short, we worked it out ourselves and my husband and I decided not to press charges. The boys were severely punished by their parents and worked for my husband for free all summer, as much as he needed them.

We were at peace with the outcome and told the police we had taken care of the situation to our satisfaction. However, Facebook dog fanatics were furious! I finally asked the dog Facebook page I mentioned earlier to take down my post because people were getting so heated and hateful toward those boys and our decision not to press charges.

They were cursing, name-calling, threatening, saying these boys would kill a person if they'd do that to a dog, etc. It got to the point where I almost feared for the boys' lives. I didn't dare tell anyone their names for fear of what might happen to them. I had tried to explain to everyone that we had taken care of the situation satisfactorily and were happy with the result, but people were angry about our mercy. They wanted these boys to go to prison.

What happened to the days of handling things yourself? Why do we have this "make them pay" mentality? We did not want to ruin these boys' lives. We wanted to help them learn from their mistake. Where have we gone wrong in society? It felt very much like a lynch mob and I didn't like it, not one little bit. People honestly could not understand how we could be so forgiving and kind. They did not want us to love our fellow man. They wanted vengeance! They wanted blood. They could taste it. It left a sickening taste in my mouth.

I raise Great Pyrenees dogs and love to post pictures of them on Facebook and see pictures of others' Pyrs. I joined a couple of Facebook groups for Great Pyrenees lovers. I posted a picture of my beloved Maxi talking about how sad I would be to sell her (I'd never kept one of my pups that long before) and put up a post with pics of Buddy and Penny, the parents, talking about how much I love them also. I adore my Pyrs. They adore their Pyrs. What a perfect match, right?

My "baby" Buddy

Sweet baby Maxi

All it took was that one post about Maxi and the attack began. In the span of one post, I was labeled a backyard breeder and was being harassed by a couple of group members in the thread. They pelted me with accusatory questions. One in particular was very nasty and not shy about letting the world know. They misconstrued all sorts of things from the pictures I posted and twisted any response I provided to explain myself into an unrecognizable shape.

I am a reputable breeder. I do everything right and my dogs are not puppy mill dogs by any stretch of the imagination. If you know me, you know that. My dogs are registered purebreds and are meticulously cared for and raised in the best and most loving environment a dog could hope to find. They are like children to me. I was thinking about becoming a certified breeder with CKC and further improving my operation.

In just one post, the people in that group attacked me to the point that I no longer felt I had the drive to continue raising dogs. They took the wind out of my sails. They humiliated me, and for no good reason. They made me look like an awful person. They didn't even know one thing about me or my operation. Nothing. Yet, the phrase, "People like you," being directed at me was enough to show me I was not welcome in their elite group.

I contemplated about a hundred responses. I was angry. I was hurt. I wanted to fight them off with growling and teeth bared. Again, I was shocked at the senseless Facebook attack. I was being attacked this time. The knife had been inserted and it was painful. This wound would require surgery.

In the end, I decided it was best to just delete the "controversial" post, leave the group without responding to the comments, and continue living my life just as I had been before joining the group. I did just that, without a word, and never looked back.

I'm sure they think I tucked tail and ran like a scared pooch, but they are wrong. I simply chose not to bring more negativity and stress into my days. It wasn't worth it. It isn't worth it.

I chose not to bite back. Would you?