:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Get on off the porch, now. (Patresa)

I'm being nudged again. Call it what you want: God, the Universe, Spirit Guides. But I get them, sometimes: celestial nudges. They used to be unnerving. ("Unnerving" is the wrong word. A few of my nudges have been soul shaking and mind f'ing.) I thought I was crazy. But now I've gotten used to them, and I find them beautiful and comforting--like I really don't have to be overly vexed about making big decisions. "Just pay attention, Honey Pie, and go where I tell you." It's worked out remarkably well so far. This COFFEE project was a nudge, for example.

At any rate, I'm ready for new COFFEE projects--I have two.

But first, I want to reflect on Project #1:

Little P's Big COFFEE Project #1: Get on out the door, now, and play some music for people.

I am still playing at open mics. I just played again this last Thursday. That makes 4! I'm going to keep doing this. I am not the best guitar player or the best singer or the best lyricist or the best songwriter, and that bothers me infinitely less than it ever has in my entire life. In fact, this past Thursday, I had my first encounter with a condescending asshole after I played (Condescension is on my list of cardinal sins.). And I found it more... interesting... (Ah! So that's what that looks like!) than anything else--someone who lets Ego fly the plane. Although I logged it as irritating and rude behavior, it didn't unsettle me, and I'm not sure I can properly describe how liberating that is.

Although I will confess one thing slightly unsettling: Playing personal music in a bar. People go there to hang out with their friends and have fun. Which is a-double-okay, completely. 100%. Still, I was in the middle of a new piano number that's kind of intimate, and all I could hear was chatter chatter chatter ha ha ha ha tink tink tink chatter chatter chatter. I felt kind of... dumb. Embarrassed. A small impulse to just stop playing. I've heard Wendy talk about this phenomenon before, so I knew it wasn't an evaluation of me, per se. It was just sort of... I don't know. Weird. It felt bizarre.

Moving on...

COFFEE Project #2: Get on off the couch and make some stories, Sugar.
For a long while I've had an idea for a creative side endeavor. A year ago, I gave it a name (and then promptly stalled):

little bird big tree storybooks

Custom, commissioned "children's" stories (I say "children's" with quotes, because they probably appeal more to child-like grown-ups.). I've actually been doing this a long time, in one form or another, starting with middle school story trades with Tanya, T-Bop. We wrote short stories for each other featuring ourselves with boys we liked. I still have every story Big T wrote for me. All of them! I have them! 10-page epistles, big flowery 12-year-old girl handwriting, folded up in 2 large tins in the basement. When I moved away from Kansas to Iowa, we continued to write them for each other, between the two of us, keeping the US Postal Service in business, as each tome required several stamps.

In high school, I wrote them for my friends as gifts (including one with Wendy ejecting Madonna from the stage for encroaching on her Grammy rehearsal time). I've written them for my nieces and nephew using photos from family vacations and get-togethers. Most recently, I wrote one for a friend's new baby, and I used finger puppets as the characters, conducting elaborate photo shoots in my backyard.

I see a more professional version of this in my head: treating each book like a piece of art. I've known instinctively that this project will align a lot of things that I feel led to do. But I've resisted, and I don't know why exactly. It will be a lot of self-starting work: I fear my lazy tendencies. I fear having to fight with my own expectations constantly (so exhausting). I fear losing my joy for story making. I fear being bad at it. I fear having to learn new technology (more advanced photo editing). I fear resenting my day job when I don't have time to work on my creative life (already happening, if I'm being honest).

Because of the elbow-bumping of...

a) instinctively knowing this is a good design for me;
b) resist resist resist; and
c) a recent nudge...

...I know I'm supposed to do it. One of my very favorite lines of any book any time, is from Beloved by Toni Morrisson. It comes toward the end, when *I think* Sethe, a former slave, is speaking to Beloved, the ghost of her dead daughter, and says, "Get on off the porch, now." (I would double check that, but Beloved is a book I loaned to someone and never got back. "What the crap?" I say indignantly as I take a quick mental inventory of the loaner books on my shelf that I have not yet returned.) At any rate, there is something about that line that burned into my brain all those years ago, and it is one of the mama voices I hear in my head, especially when I'm resisting forward motion.

"Get on off the porch, now."


Project #2 First benchmark: Build a portfolio with at least 3 completed storybooks. (Worry about the business aspect later. Right now, I just need product.)

Goal for the next 14 days: Draft the story for 1. (I bought the puppets months ago. And haven't done a thing.)

COFFEE Project #3: Get on off your tush and grow some coffee, Sweetie Cake.
A project about the project. COFFEE wants to grow. She's taking big belly breaths and poking at her confines. I have ideas. Over the next 14 days, I'll put together at least 1 of them for your review (privately. I won't post it in detail here.). Step one however, is the addition of two new and very welcome and spectacular COFFEE-Mates:

Welcome, Jenna! 
Welcome, Angie!

I think Jenna is set to launch this Friday. Angie launches in another two weeks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Warning: Whining roads ahead (Wendy)

As you guys might know, we’ve been renovating our kitchen. This was our 5th week and yesterday was our contractor’s last day.

I should be celebrating now. I’ve done my best Pollyanna impression throughout it all...but holy buckets I gotta be honest, I just feel.... weary.

I should be unable to take my eyes off our new kitchen, feeling up the new countertops and appliances in Vanna-like anticipation, but when things progress so... piece meal, in meticulous detail, day by day - meanwhile choking down yet another mushy crock pot meal (or uncooked – always one or the other), it has the effect of sucking out the final wow factor.

The giant pile of rubble in the backyard, the ever present layer of dust throughout the house, the fact that I feel so confined to my little area upstairs while the work goes on below me, has taken a serious toll. I know it’s short-sighted and immature, and I think this is the first time in a reeeeeally long time that time has felt like it’s dragging, rather than skipping. But I can’t shake this feeling that I’ll never have a functional kitchen with exciting touches like quarter-inch trim along the floors, I’ll never have a clean house, I’ll never get to drink wine again, I’ll never get to fill up my gullet with too much coffee and I’ll never meet this fluttery little munchkin inside of me. I’m having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here, people.

See? Negative.

Okay, so aside from all that, I do have good things going on and there has been some progress. Since the number of people coming in and out of the house has waned somewhat, I’ve been able to resume my music to an extent (because I really need alone time for this). My goal was to record a video of a new original or cover this week to put on my youtube channel, but seeing that I’d be caught dead before I made a video of me warbling with other people in earshot, I’m shooting for next week (I know, it’s ironic). In other news, it looks like I have a very cool new graphic design/web project coming up. So these are good things. AND I have also made efforts to connect more with people.

So there’s all that. Onward!
This has been a pretty lame post, I realize. Sorry about that, Sisters. I will post a picture of Millie listening to Van Halen (her fav) to lighten it up.

We love us some Tawni. (an update)

Quick shout-out to our girl, Tawni, who has recently been given a scary project not of her choosing.

Visit her blog at MY SHINY HELL for the scoop.

Since this last post at My Shiny Hell (and correct me if I'm wrong here, Tawni), she did get the official


from the doc. High-five and Amen to that.

But is now facing major surgery. Prayers for Ms. Tawni and her whole family.

We love us some Tawni!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tiako i Madagasikara (Becky)

Hazolahy tours southern Madagascar

Akory Aby! Inona voavoa?

As requested, here are a few photos from Madagascar... It's so beautiful, someday I must return. I lived in Ankaramena, a small village in the far southeastern part of the island from 2000-2002. While my time there was certainly full of ups and downs, challenges and setbacks, and moments where I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into, my selective memory has filtered all that out. My recollections center around the wonderful families in Ankaramena who looked out for me, taught me their langauge, customs, and beliefs, and made me feel at home halfway around the world. I remember the mangoes, the ocean, the kids and the striking beauty of the landscapes and the people. I was introduced to an entirely new perspective on virtually everything, a different set of rules, a refreshing set of priorities. Ahhh, the Malagasy Republic. Mahafinatra. Take a look.

My little shadows. These kids knew what I was I doing and where I was doing it all times. That took some getting used to...

Heading home after a
long day of shark fishing...

Off to market. I did not master carrying anything on my head, just in case you were wondering.

Preparing the rice fields... They set up an intricate irrigation system to flood the paddies which always amazed me (as we lacked running water and electricity). Then they chase the zebu around to break up the mud clumps and it's ready for planting.

My neighbors and friends... who are as amazing as the view

A day in the life...

And I'll end with some malagasy music... here is one of my favorite songs.

Veloma, COFFEE-mates!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Give me the beat boys, and free my soul (Holly)

What is my COFFEE project and why am I doing it? Let me just revisit this a minute.  I decided to do the Artist’s Way 12-week course.  Why? The short answer is to feel more alive. To embrace life. To live with intention. Creativity through spirituality.  Tap into the hidden Holly? Who is she? What does she want to do? What is she capable of? What is that potential all those teachers talked about, why didn’t I live up to it before, and is it possible to find it and live up to it now? 
Well, I’ll tell you.  I’m still stuck on Chapter 7.  I've been on chapter 7 for at least 4-6 weeks! No artist’s date since my snowy meditation in the kids’ fort.  Only my morning pages. (Yes, we’re friends again).  In my last blog, I wrote about wondering what my owls had been up to.  I hadn’t heard from them in quite awhile, especially compared to how hard they were pounding me there for awhile.  I also hadn’t really had any serendipitous or synchronicities occur in quite awhile.  In Artist’s Way, this question is asked at the end of every chapter.  Well, I was just sure that I was being punished by the universe for not continuing the AW course.  “No OWLS FOR YOU” (Said like the soup natzi from Seinfeld). 
One night I had a dream.  In my dream, it was spring and I was sleeping in a day bed under some weird lean-to by a river.  As it became dawn, a bald eagle soared by soooo close.  It was breathtaking! Then, amazingly!!! It came into the lean-to area and sat.  He looked at me with strength and confidence.  He stayed for at least a full minute.  In my dream, I was sooooo appreciative of the eagle visit, but also yearned for my owls.  I didn’t need to yearn long.  The biggest owl I had ever seen flew right in the lean-to area and sat right beside me.  She was white.  She looked at me with gentleness and love. Like Crusoe’s love for Angus in the Water Horse.   I think she stayed with me at least 5 minutes.  When I awoke, I felt much more at peace than the day before. 
What about the synchronicity? I hadn’t had any type of serendipitous occurrences in quite some time.  More punishment from the Universe? No, Artist's Way? "No serendipity for you!!" (Soup Nazi voice again). Well, you guessed it. I wouldn’t have to wait much longer for that either.  On Saturday night, I was introduced to the woman who just moved into the house I lived in 5 years ago.  I lived there for 3 years. It was where I was living when Owen was born. It was where I was living when I almost died giving birth to Owen.  There were so many things I’d loved about that house.  I asked her if I could see the inside and we promptly went over.  Her decorating style is unique and creative.  She doesn’t work outside of the home and I was jealous of the time she has to do creative home beautification projects.  I was also feeling very inspired to continue making my home beautiful and unique.  Then, I noticed we had a wall hanging in common.  It’s not a mass produced piece, so I was quite surprised. 

Wall hanging in common with my new friend.
I was having a lot of flash backs about the time I spent in the house trying to recover from my near death experience.  We were chatting away and I mentioned that I was in remission from cancer.  She seriously said, “May I ask what kind”.  And, I glibly said sure, and continued to tell her what kind, blah, blah, blah.  She said, oh, that’s what my friend had.  And she started telling me about her friend's diagnosis and subsequent ordeal.  As she was talking, it occurred to me that this girl did not survive. So I asked.  No. She did not.  Twenty-nine fucking years old. Gone. Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma.  Look up from the sofa and there is her beautiful picture on the wall staring at me.  Beautiful young woman with long brown hair.  1980-2009 it says.  I hugged my new friend and we started to cry.  You may not believe this, but I haven’t cried about Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma since June 20, the night in the emergency room.  A light-hearted children’s birthday quickly turned into a bizarre slap upside the head by the universe.  I need to think more about what the universe is telling me, but a short version may be something like, "uhhhh....Holly could you take your Lymphoma diagnosis as seriously as your other near death experience. Dumb ass. " (Said like the father in "That 70's Show")

Now we need to talk about the “HAPPY” PARTY EXTRAVAGANZA.   Earlier that week, my friend and I decided we would have a contest on who could make the HAPPIEST mixed CD.  There are rules and judges.  One CD will be called THIS Happy CD and the other THAT Happy CD so judges won’t be biased by who the mix master is.  Well, I love making mixed CD’s and I’m taking this mission very seriously.  When talking about the project, other people started saying, HEY! I want to make a Happy CD! So, then we thought we could have a HAPPY CD tournament with a tournament bracket.

Then, we thought, Hey! Let’s have a HAPPY party where we play all the HAPPY CD’s.  We’ll wear the happiest clothes we can come up with and have it be a potluck and bring the HAPPIEST food we can think of.  Then, at young child’s birthday party referenced above, I asked the Grandpa, who is an amazing blues musician living in Branson, MO if he’d come up and play at the HAPPY party.  (Yes, I get the irony.  But, let me tell you…the Blues make me happy.)  Then, I was like, well, hell, I know quite a few musicians.  Maybe we should have them ALL come and sing ANYTHING, cuz live music is just EFFIN HAPPY!!  Then, it occurred to me that it should be a fundraiser for the Luekemia/Lymphoma Society.  I know so many people who have suffered from either Luekemia or Lymphoma as well as some kick ass connections to pull this puppy off.  There is tons of serendipitous shit happening since I gave birth to this idea that it would take another 500 words to tell you about it all.  One thing is that I just so happen to have a coffee date scheduled with a friend of mine this coming Friday who does this kind of planning for a living.  Currently, here’s my vision:  A two day Woodstock-esque extravaganza complete with music, tents, peace, love, and happiness. 

COFFEE chics unite and start planning your trip to Des Moines.  Bring your creative talents and instruments.

Foot note about Eagles appearing in a dream. I was shocked to have a dream about two Eagles, so had to look it up: Here’s what it the dream interpretation folks say it means: To see an eagle in your dream, symbolizes nobility, pride, fierceness, freedom, superiority, courage, and powerful intellectual ability. It also represents self-renewal and your connection with your spirituality. You will struggle fiercely and courageously to realize your highest ambitions and greatest desires.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I did it! (Patresa)

I celebrated the Lunar New Year by getting over myself and playing in front of


at Des Moines Social Club's Open Circus.

Irrational Fear, I give you my middle finger.

COFFEE Project: Mission Accomplished.

It's been a few weeks, and I actually already wrote about it at my nap in the bergamot blog. You can read that here: Nap in the Bergamot.

One detail I left out that I think is funny and painfully in-line with my essence and is also why I will never ever, as hard as I may try, ever be cool: I was in the bathroom when they called me up. It's a very "open floor plan" and when I came out of the bathroom (having heard my name), the audience turned around and looked at me. I'm pretty sure my fly was up, but it's hard to tell. I'm surprised I remember to wear pants most days.

If I'm being honest, I will confess that I did not enjoy it. I enjoyed having good friends there. My parents came. Chrispy McNichols. I enjoyed that. But, I did not enjoy the playing experience. I don't like being that uncomfortable--feeling barfy and self-conscious and unsure and vulnerable (Hello, Stephany!) and sweaty and trembly and brain-gappy. As super fantastic as that may sound, can you believe it?

The good news, however, is that I tried again a week later (which was last week). I played at a different coffee shop -- Ritual Cafe. Both Open Circus and Ritual are casual and laid back and no big deal. Ritual was... super duper super casual and laid back and no big deal, though. I was still a bit nervous, but overall felt a lot more comfortable. Take all the discomfort of Time #1 and chop it in half.

Then... I tried it again (at Open Circus) about 3 hours after Ritual. That's right: 2 open mics in one night. The third time I actually didn't feel nervous at all. (The beer helped.) And I decided to wing it with a cover on the out-of-tune piano (Ain't No Sunshine, Bill Withers). This... I enjoyed. Actually, I enjoyed that a lot.

So apparently, I just have to keep doing it in order to get over the discomfort. Huh. Didn't see that coming.

Things that are cool:

  • Meeting fun, creative, open people.
  • Not feeling so awfully closeted with my music. I hate that it's some kind of weird secret.
  • Feeling a renewed energy and motivation to work on my songs. Before, I played at home in my living room, but it didn't really matter. Nobody heard. Not even Chris. So, I could just kind of fart stuff out without caring if it was quality. Now, I want to work on things more. I've even been taking a scratch pad for lyrics to work. (Don't tell the state.)

So there is that. There will be future open mics -- next Thursday, in fact. This might become my new Thursday activity. Friends, be alert! And I'm not sure if I'll continue that as my COFFEE Project or tackle one of the other things stuck in my craw (I have a few.).

In the meantime: 2 videos.

Video 1 = A hodgepodge of my 15 minute, 4-song set.
Video 2 = My last song in its entirety. Actually, it isn't MY song. It's a cover. "3 Little Birds" by Bob Marley.

High five, COFFEE Lovers! (And thank you for the kind encouragement. I had no idea how empowering our collective little project here was going to be. I really didn't. I am deeply grateful for the surprise.)

Video 1 (Hodgepodge)

Video 2 (3 Little Birds)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I will never win an Emmy. (Amy)

First, a quick progress update: According to the gym’s scale, I lost 5 lbs. !!Excitement!! Then, when C left town for new job orientation in Milwaukee, I suddenly became a slacker and stopped going to the gym. ...Downer...

Then Valentine’s Day happened and let’s just sum that up by noting the ensuing chocolate orgy wasn’t a pretty thing to witness.

However, yesterday I finally had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself, got back on track, mostly (I mean, I do still have mass quantities of Valentine’s Day chocolate to polish off and my birthday is next week). And I slunk back into the gym, tail between my legs. I must also note: While I supremely hate every nanosecond of working out, I do like how I feel after. I'll make this important mental note in my head each time I do something physical because I’m still great at finding excuses not to be physical.

My goals until next time:
1-register for the Run for Water 5K.

2-On March 13, there is a Cougar Run 5K in Dawsonville, GA for Relay for Life. A friend of friends just died yesterday after years of fighting breast cancer (leaving two small children behind--I am heartsick about this), and while I'm not ready to run on 3/13, I do have a goal of walking this 5K in her honor.

2-Keep visiting the gym.

3-Make less excuses.

4-Finish inhaling all this Valentine’s Day chocolate.

Now, onto this round’s project: I have made………….my cooking show.

Please know, what you’re about to witness is precisely what happens when you don’t have producers, you lack a general plan, have no real vision for what it is you’re attempting to accomplish, a large working/cooking area is non-existent, you don’t have a qualified wardrobe stylist, your sous chef is a diva, and you decide to be your own cameraman. Friends don’t let friends film themselves.

Before you view, some disclaimers and warnings:

1-The lighting/sound/angles/focus are horrifically bad, and my camera freezes to refocus whenever there are big or fast movements. Apparently, I’m a big (and very fast) mover. A lot.

2a- I’m really nervous throughout, and when I get nervous, I tend to babble to fill up silences. I’m not good with silences. I did, however, find an editing tool and was able to edit the vast majority of this babble out. THAT was a relief.

2b-Seriously: I took out 35 minutes of pure babble footage.

3-Wardrobe issues: The sous chef removed her shirt and I didn’t have time to argue about it, fearing the chicken would burn. Also, you’ll see my cleavage nearly 800 times in this video, and I apologize. I’ll write a complaint letter to Mossimo for Target on behalf of all whose eyes were exposed to this.

4-I had to bend down whenever I felt the need for my face to be in the shot. Because if I kept adjusting the camera, the focus-y thing-y would have gone haywire and you’d totally end up with migraines trying to watch this.

5a-This video is 21 minutes, 21 seconds (too long). The sound quality is bad. There was no script. The sous chef has a semi-temper tantrum once, attempts to grab dangerous knives, and insists on doing a magic spoon trick at one point. In addition, there are multiple examples of poor parenting techniques in addition to poor cooking ones. Last, my kitchen is messy. And, at the end, I’m off key in the song.

5b- Which is why I totally understand if you want to fast forward through a lot and/or just don’t have that kind of time.

6-If I had to give this cooking show a name, I’d call it: “One Big, Hot Mess with the Babbling Chef and an Unstable Assistant.”

7-On the up side: zero commercial breaks.

I made Giada de Laurentiis’ Chicken Picatta (with spaghetti). Here’s a link in case you’d like to make this on your own (minus a shirtless assistant and incoherent adult babbling in the background): Go

Untitled from Amy on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Must Love Dogs (tanya)

This is becoming a theme, but I am brain impaired, very tired, mildly stressed and have little to say or probably should say.

So I will copy off a post earlier by a Coffee-Mate (haha) and post pictures of the canine beauties and lifetime buddies who I will unconditionally love and adore forever and who soothe my heart and soul in all good times and bad. Please don't expect too much creativity here.

Lloyd and Lucy (my children).....

Ft. Scott Bentley and Allie.....

Kansas City Bentley.....

My parents' dogs, Sammie, Dottie, and Sophie.....

My sister's dogs, sweet Molly (who just died 1/28/11 at the rockin' age of almost 15), Alice and Mindy.....

And finally, two of the sweetest girls you'll ever meet and deeply rooted in my heart, Cody and Josie (I will miss them forever. Cody was the smartest dog I've ever met who could climb a ladder and shut off a light, and Josie drove with me for all of her nearly 13 year Boxer life, and made me cry harder than just about anything when she elegantly went to Heaven).....

I love dogs. And these are not even close to all of my wonderful friends' wonderful dogs, but I have to stop somewhere. I love dogs for all the reasons we all love dogs, but to say it simply without any real justice to these buddies, I love them because they make me happy every single day of my life, and they are the most genuine creatures on earth. And of course children, but that is for another blog and perhaps for someone who actually has human children. :)

Also, despite earlier stating I am mildly stressed, please let me clarify, this is predominantly golden eustress laced with many smiles, so life is good.

Happy Dog Days.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

COFFEE Post 10: Enough already…Then, ENOUGH. (Stephany)

OMG!!! HOLY SNOW! We survived. I’m actually, legitimately stunned in a way that we did! You read about the cluster that Snowpocalypse 2011 (SP11) created in the Tulsa, Okla., area. I’m here to tell you that SWMO was in pretty much the same boat, although we didn’t get quite as much of the evil white crap the second go-round that Tulsa did. But we got ENOUGH, for sure, MORE THAN ENOUGH. It’s been COLD, nasty, and actually a little scary. The school district I work for was closed for NINE school days; our last day of school was Jan 31, for Heaven’s sake. ENOUGH time off already! We just went back yesterday (2/14). Granted, we were able to get around some after about the 5th day, but it was still fairly slick, so we didn’t run around just for the sake of running around. Needless to say, this “lovely” weather (note deep sarcasm) has put a SERIOUS damper on my COFFEE goals, at least a few of them… So, with that, a quick update:

1. U 2.0 – It’s U 2.0. It’s my life. It’s a work in progress, just like me.

2. Training for the Half – Not only have I not run a single mile outside on the road, I have run less than 10 on a treadmill in the last two weeks. I DID get in six core workouts and a couple of weights sessions, but I’m in trouble here, folks. Really serious trouble. In just a few days and two months, I am running 13.2 miles for charity. I have paid money and recruited friends to join me in this endeavor. THIRTEEN POINT TWO miles, and I’ve run less than ten miles in the last two weeks… yeah. That adds up, doesn’t it? Um, if it does, I would like to talk to you. Now, though, that I can actually see some pavement, I will be getting back into my training and praying like heck that I’ve done enough work to be able to pull this out of my butt. Cross your fingers, say your prayers, send me some mojo – I need it ALL. Gracias, friends.

3. Book project – I said last post that the fire was lit and I was ready to get back to work. Well, I’m not. I did some work on this project during our two weeks of snow-induced hell, and what I’m seeing is that I’m running everything together. It all sounds the same. I’m trying to tell important stories about the lives of incredible people, and I’m mucking it all up. A good friend looked me in the eye and spoke much-needed truth: “You gotta get your own sh*t in order, Steph, before you can deal with other people’s sh*t and do it any justice.” I had no response. She was ABSOLUTELY, completely right. SO, I’m granting myself a break. I swear to you (already swore to myself) that I will come back to this project when I have a little more of my own sh*t in order. I think maybe once the divorce is final and all that’s behind me, I’ll be worthy of even HEARING these stories, let alone trying to tell them. I need your help with this, too. I need you to ask me about my sh*t and if I’m getting it together. Give me a couple months and let me tell you I’m divorced first, but then you have my permission to ride me like a racehorse until I can honestly tell you I’m back to work on this project. Thank you in advance, by the way.

4. Pondering studenthood – I’m narrowing down my list of potential schools and have talked to several more people about what I need to pursue in terms of which degree, and I am feeling much more equipped to make this decision. Application deadlines for fall semesters are the end of March, so it’s go-time. I’m excited.

5. Co-parenting – The kids are pretty pleased with the arrangement we have right now, this sharing of the children poop. I hate it, personally. It gives me whiplash, and he doesn’t deserve this. THE KIDS, however, are happy, and THEY deserve both parents. SO, I am biting my tongue and praying for peace about this mess we’ve made. I know of nothing else I can do.

6. Awareness of Others – I spent some time during Snowpocalypse looking out for a couple of my neighbors who are older, and it was really nice to know that they felt better knowing someone was concerned for them. I also got to spend TONS of quality time with my kids, and to be able to focus that much on THEM and doing stuff they enjoy was really terrific! Instead of running around from practice to practice, game to tournament, we got to sit down, watch movies, play cards, bake stuff, read stories, do puzzles, play on the computer, snuggle and talk… It pains me to realize that the evil snow made this possible, but I’m grateful. Good times. I’m making it my mission this week in particular, as my students are returning to school and routines, to really focus on my students, too. I can’t spend lots of extra time with them, but I can be more observant and careful with the time I do have with them. I’m going to really be more aware of these kids and what’s up with them. I think it’s going to pay off. I don’t know how or why exactly. I just do. Stay tuned…
I spent some time during SP11 doing some things for me, too. I spent some time with friends, albeit online, who are in the same boat as me. We got to talk and commiserate and share and vent and laugh about our lives and the poop we’re going through. It was actually good medicine. Much-needed medicine. Check this out:

I choose to live by choice not by chance; to make changes not excuses; to be motivated not manipulated; to be useful, not used; to excel, not compete; I choose self-esteem, not self pity; I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinions of others.

I remember reading this for the first time on one of the boards and ROLLING MY EYES. Gag, I thought. PUH-LEEZE. I read it again about a week ago, and it was like I’d never really seen it before. Yes, I thought. Absolutely. Church, girl, preach it. So I stole it. And I’m sharing it with you. To whoever it is I swiped this from, thank you. (I did intend to give you credit, but I can’t find your post now. I’m sorry. Surely you don’t mind me sharing your – or, whoever you stole it from, their - wisdom.) I have read and re-read this quote and broken it down piece by piece, which leads me to the following… (stay with me, okay? There IS a point, I promise.)

Also during this break I got seriously caught up (and WAAAAAYYYYYY ahead – ahem…) on facebook. (P.S. If you’re a COFFEE chick, and we aren’t facebook friends, please send me a request or be on the lookout for a request from me. This should NOT be. We are sistas in COFFEE, thus should be FB friends. Jeez.) One of the best things I read/saw on FB the whole two weeks was posted by an old college friend from one college I attended and another college roommate from the school I graduated from (who do NOT know each other), within two days of one another. I do believe I was meant to watch it. I believe you were, too.

This video is a bit lengthy, but it cut to the heart of so much of what I was able to feel and learn about myself from ruminating on the quote above and the whole of much of my adult life. Yeah, I know. Admittedly, I haven’t done my research on this lady, but what she says in this presentation is spot-on, in my opinion. She nailed ME, anyway, squarely on the heart. Ironically, the message at the end of this video is exactly the same message that my Bible study group has been studying. This is the concept of being ENOUGH and allowing yourself to be ENOUGH… In fact, I am seriously contemplating having this single word tattooed on my person: ENOUGH. I am enough, doggone it! And so are YOU… I could say so much more about this, but I really feel led to just put this link in front of you and leave it up to you to watch and evaluate and feel. Watch and see what you think.

I have to tell you, COFFEE chicks and followers (thank you, by the way, for reading what we have to say even though you aren’t posting with us!!!!!), that I feel like you are all very much a part of my coming back to life after all the turmoil and, well, POOP from the last couple of years. You help me open up, share, be vulnerable, allow myself to be seen, really seen, and to choose the good over the bad. You are the voices of support (I’m sorry. I really dislike that word, but I can’t come up with anything else that seems to fit right now.), of reason, and of love… So, in light of the fact that it was just Valentine’s Day, please know that you are all appreciated, and you are all good. Much love, COFFEE friends, much LOVE.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

COFFEE Project Post Eight: Walking in a Winter Wonder WTF (Tawni)

Snow. This word, this weather phenomenon, this ice cold demonic occurrence that makes me certain Hell has nothing to do with flames or heat, is the bane of my existence right now.

I am aware that I probably sound dramatic, perhaps even histionic, and somewhat ridiculous. Let me explain.

First: I am a big cold weather baby. I'm constantly cold no matter what the season, and therefore especially loathe winter. When I moved to Los Angeles from Kansas years ago, I sold all of my winter clothes and swore I would never return to the Midwest. And then I got knocked up by an L.A. guy from the Midwest and hahaha, the universe had a big laugh at my expense when we had to move to Tulsa to be near his family. Very funny, universe. You're killing me. (No, seriously. You're killing me. Knock it off.)

Second: I live in Oklahoma, where we have recently set new records for most snowfall all winter and coldest recorded temperature in our state. Yes, as in ever. As you can imagine, I am just so happy that I could be here for these record-setting weather conditions. (<---Last sentence written in imaginary sarcasm font.) I know there are parts of the country in which receiving over 25 inches of snow in two weeks would be no big deal, and I tip my stocking cap to you cold, northern-based people, truly I do. If there were a record for most crappy winter weather tolerated, you would surely win it. And you can have it. I don't want it. But in states like Oklahoma, where this much snowfall is an anomaly, the fact is that unlike our pals in the snowier northern states, we are woefully unprepared. Snow removal and the manpower needed to make it so are simply not written into our local budget as they would be in a city expecting this sort of thing. This budgetary deficiency has caused the kids to be out of school for two weeks straight, businesses to shut down, the mail to stop being delivered, the garbage to stop being picked up, and our local newspaper to stop printing for a few days, for the first time since its inception. Crazy snow chaos in these parts. People in places of constant snow can scoff, roll their eyes, and play the "we have more snow than you" pissing contest game if they want, but that doesn't make this any less devastating for our city and lives. The biggest problem is that the city can't afford to snow plow or scrape the neighborhoods, only the major roads. So forget leaving your neighborhood after an 18" snowfall if you have a lower, non-SUV car. We tried to get out four days after the storm and still managed to get our Toyota Camry high-centered on the snow in the middle of the road. It took my husband and another man shoveling, and then four men pushing to get that sucker unstuck. Being stuck tore up the undercover, causing dragging parts and un-goodness for all. When a chunk of torn plastic was dragging against the right driver's side tire as I tried to drive the car yesterday, making a sound like I was dragging a body from the scene of a horrendous crime, I quickly pulled into the closest auto body shop. They fixed it by re-bolting the undercover back up for me... for free. I got out the card to pay, and he said, "Oh, that's okay. It only took a minute. Just send people our way, please." That wouldn't have happened in Los Angeles, my friends. Score one for Oklahoma. And if you're ever in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and your car needs work, please go to Premier Collision Center on 71st, near Main Street. Support the nice guys.

During this time of much yuck, I was snowbound inside of a small house with a very active, bored, just-turned-five year old boy, and a very sick man, because my husband's body decided to make our prison sentence just a little bit more hellish by succumbing to a nasty virus. I don't do "trapped" very well, so it was all I could do to not go stark raving mad.

Once I realized that with a little sugar, milk and vanilla extract, snow can be turned into exactly what we all think it should taste like as children - vanilla snow ice cream - my inner Pollyanna latched onto this discovery and held on for dear life. ("Finally! A bright side! I knew I could find one!" she crowed happily, right before I backhanded her, and then told her to shut up and fetch me a sweater.)

So I turned albino lemons into frosty, white lemonade and let myself have a bowl of vanilla snow ice cream every evening after dinner. Sometimes I even had it as my dinner, with a beer, because I'm a grown-up, and I can, and because there has to be something good to counteract all of the craptastic responsibilities that go along with that title. Like, yes, I have a mortgage payment to make, but I can have a beer and a bowl of ice cream for dinner if I want to. And that makes it all worth it, right? (RIGHT?)

I promise that my perspective remains firmly in place, despite how petty this blog sounds thus far. All of the above cold weather whining is done with the solemn knowledge that there are much worse things in the world than being stuck in a 1200 square foot box for two weeks straight with two people, one of whom requires ass-wipings, meals and constant entertainment (and my son can be pretty demanding too... HAHAHA... just kidding, honey). At least I had electricity, warm water, a roof over my head, etc. I know this. I am blessed, grateful for all that I have, and lucky. But damn, am I ever ecstatic about the warmer weather predicted for this coming week. Bring it on!

Because the COFFEE Project blog is about setting goals and kicking the asses of our fears, I will now explain what all of my winter whinery has to do with anything. Are you ready? Here goes: I got no writing done whatsoever over the last two weeks. None. Nothing. I came up with ideas, and went so far as to start new Word documents with bits and pieces brainstorming these ideas, but couldn't finish a single thought. I have fifteen plus blog/writing ideas in this form, sitting unfinished on my laptop desktop, mocking me. At some point, I even got desperate enough to scratch out notes old school style, with pen and paper.

But every time I tried to focus on a thought or write an extended paragraph of any kind, there was a little interruption who broke my concentration with the white hot heat of one thousand light sabers. His name is Miles, after my grandmother's maiden name, and let me tell you, the distraction force is strong in this one.

Because it was too cold to play outside on most days, we spent entirely too much time watching television, playing school, and trying to be quiet so we wouldn't wake up his sick father sleeping in the bedroom. And I got no quality writing time, or time for me, or time for the daily silence I need to stay sane at all. I'm like a nervous, twitching chihuahua of a woman right now, folks. Not enough yoga or beer in the world to get me back to zen.

Today my son and his feeling-much-better father are having lunch with the grandparents and going to a golf expo in Tulsa, which is why I am being allowed to be alone in the house, and to write. And it feels so good. It's helping.

I have also been having health issues in the girlie department, and am anemic, dizzy and weak quite often lately after spending forty days straight doing what I normally do for three to four days a month. This health issue has been sucking me dry of motivation and creative force, no vampiric/sanguinary puns intended. I am scheduled for a sonogram this week to determine the best course of action: either the cauterization/ablation of my uterus, or the removal of it. I'm not really looking forward to either option, but because keeping as many of my organs as possible is a personal goal of mine, I am hoping for the painful ablation procedure rather than surgery. Fingers crossed! (<---Again with the imaginary sarcasm font.) The good news is that it could be much worse. Isn't that a dreary way to put it? The good news is that it could be much worse. But it's true. No matter what, somebody always has it worse. And in the grand scheme, I am really lucky to be alive, with options and health insurance when my body is acting up, so yay for me. (<---No sarcasm font, I promise. Maybe even sincerity font.)

Another good thing is that my son will be in school again this week, because we are expecting warm temperatures, so I will have time to write all week. I'm planning on making it count. My goal is to write every single day except for Thursday, the day of my ultrasound. I want to finish my second piece for The Nervous Breakdown website for which I've started writing, because I would like to post once a month there. As a reader, I prefer the writers don't post constantly, but rather keep it to one quality piece every month or so, so that will be my goal. I also want to update my personal blog, update the oft-neglected family blog I keep for my son's relatives, and work on the book chapters (they're just blogs, not a scary BOOK, she told herself).

So that's my latest happenings, and my goals for the next two weeks. I hope any remaining Snowpocalypse 2011 tomfoolery has melted from your world as you read this, my friends, and that you are having a warm, beautiful week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This announcement brought to you by ... Wieners (Wendy)

Well... This was the week that I finally announced the big news that I’m preggers! I am 17 weeks along. Due in July. BANANAS!

It’s a seismic shift in my world, to say the least. But here I am. And I have been procrastinating telling the world without knowing exactly why. I am awed by this wee little life tumbling around inside my guts - I inherently know that this baby will be the medicine that will heal my splintered world. I know this intellectually, but my heart always has a hard time catching up with my brains. It’s kind of the perpetual state of my being – not feeling ‘caught up’ to life's motion.

And, I’ve realized, that’s why I’ve been feeling so lost... because I haven’t made my move to catch up, yet. I've been feebly resting on the same wiener-ish stance: “I’m just lost... I just don’t know what to do with my life next”.

So my next big COFFEE goal is to stop being a wiener.

I need to start taking a proactive roll in my life - not some distant mirage I can't even make out. I need to stop trying to create a Play-Doh mansion out of a crème puff and start devouring the crème puff with gusto.

So. Here are my two main goals:

1. Get more engaged with my blessed baby-filled reality.
2. Start making music again.

That last one may require more explanation... Because music has represented a fair amount of hurt in my life, I’ve let my voice get stifled. As a result, my mood has gotten more and more anxious and more and more irritated.
And then, just this week, it dawned on me. I’m anxious and irritated because it’s like I’ve packed up my most favorite, prettiest dress in a box and stowed it away in the attic. I’ve buried that thing that makes me feel alive.

You sing and you write because the music is in you, not because you are trying to cram yourself into the music (world). The music world is an illusion anyway.

I have a LOT of shadowy demons to get past and it’s not going to be easy. But I’ve been inspired by Patresa – who has been making music just for the sake of it.

I want to go back to that - free of agenda, free of illusions.
Isn’t that how creativity should be? Like the 5 year old making up songs and singing them to herself in the back seat on the way home from Grandma’s? Is there a more beautiful song than that?

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make music because I can. And because maybe I have a few things to say. And because, when I don’t, I feel like a bluebird masquerading as a turkey. And I’m going to try to hold myself accountable to you all, my COFFEE sisters, by updating you along the way.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hmmmm.... (Becky)

So I’ve been a little stumped ever since the balance exercise from my last blog. And that balance exercise was much harder than tree pose or half moon pose, yet nowhere near as hard as the WTF?! pose, I’m sure! (and I apologize for the bad yoga humor). Anyway, it seems that I’m ok with the tangible stuff. The first four categories… job, house, money, health… you either have it or you don’t. Sure it’s fragile and can be fleeting and temporary, but it is all stuff that’s pretty easy on which one can rely only on oneself, no? On the other hand, the next 4 categories… social outlets, family, friends, lovers, a higher power... seem to involve intimacy and community. They are essentially about RELATIONSHIPS. You have to depend on other PEOPLE (or powers) for satisfaction in those areas. You can’t do that stuff alone.

But I’m surprised that my wheel came out skewed in this way. That’s not how I thought of myself. I’ve always believed I’ve been able to get my energy from other people; always thought I worked better in groups. I imagine people would describe me as flexible, forgiving, willing to compromise, non-judgmental, basically pretty easy to get along with and even fun to have around. I used to consider myself a fairly social, well-liked person that most people thought was a good addition to almost any social gathering. I used to like to be in the middle of the action, always hated to feel like I was missing out on something. My college roommates still me tease me about missing stuff just so they can see me get riled up. But the thing is… I don’t get so riled up anymore. I seem to be going through a... phase?... where I don’t so much like people. They disappoint. I know this is not a good place to be nor is it a good thing to admit on a public blog. When did I become a cynical introvert? And why? And what do I need that I’m not getting and how do I get it? I understand it’s probably more my issue than anybody else’s.

I think American society is interesting and weird. Our need for privacy and solitude and independence is very foreign to so many other cultures around the world. When I lived in Madagascar, I was never alone. No one was ever alone. It just didn’t happen. There was no translation for the word--let alone the concept--of privacy. Yet here, living on your own is highly valued. Someone in their 30s living with their parents or other extended family members? Loser!! But this is the norm many other places. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just different. Both have their place, their pros and cons.

I live alone and own all the things one needs to live alone (dishes, car, shelter, etc.). One of my friends lives alone around the corner, my brother lives alone a mile away, I have at least three other friends who live alone less than 10 miles away. I am NOT saying I want to live in a commune with all these people, yet it does seem impractical and a waste of resources. But I wouldn't give up my space, my freedom, my independence. Solitude is a good thing. I just think it’s interesting that our society is set up this way. And I’m trying to figure out what it means that I’m often lonelier when I’m around people than when I’m by myself.

I don’t have much of a point for today’s blog, just confused ramblings. Did any of it make any sense to anyone? Later COFFEE sisters. Until next time…

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stick it where the sun don't shine, MP's!! (Holly)

On Sunday, I told my morning pages to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Actually, what I said was “eff you morning pages”. Only I used the real F bomb. Essentially, I did this for three consecutive pages. Only to be interspersed with “Eff you so and so (anybody who I felt had “done me wrong” in the last 15 months or so)”.  My rant was only interrupted by the occasional lucid and conscientious “I really need to pay bills and go to COSTCO today”.  So, yeah…."eff you morning pages" and "eff you so and so" (fill in the blank with any one of about five or six people).  Then I saw a bunny rabbit hop by in the newly fallen snow, and I thought about the CNN news article about the Owl attacking the Chihuahua. 

Chico suffered a puncture wound when he was attacked by an owl while on a late-night stroll with his owner.

Ummmm…..I think maybe I’ve finally arrived at the “Anger” stage.  Maybe I’m sick and tired of having empathy for others. Well, at least today. Okay, this week.  So, what does it mean that I’m in the anger stage? I don’t know. I’m too angry.  I hate being angry.  I’m really an optimist at heart. No, I’m not. I’m a realist who would prefer to be happy. Unfortunately, reality is not always all that pretty.  So, maybe anger is okay?  Well, it’s okay if we don’t stuff it and let it get pent up.  The only way is through, Sugar.  Right, P? That’s why I succumbed and even wrote those damn morning pages.  I didn’t write them most of the past week.  I was sick and tired of hearing myself drone on.  I didn’t want to hear what I had to say. So, I shut the hell up.  Clever girl that I am, I knew I couldn’t stay in this pissy mood, so out came the morning pages-even though I knew what they were in for, that I was going to abuse them.  I had thought about all the different ways I could abuse my morning pages the 20 minutes before I crawled out of bed.  My beloved pages took the beating with style and grace.  At least they’re getting some attention….unlike my “required” Artist’s Date.  Or, the Artist’s Way chapters for that matter.  Or the extra credit tasks. Yeah, right. 

So let’s talk about the Artist’s Date- I haven’t gone on an artist date one single time since I started Artist’s Way this time around.  Ironically, while I was in my blissful denial and oblivion about my artist’s date, I opened up the book I got my hair chopping quotes out of to read the daily meditation for February 1st and you know what it was about???? I should take myself on a “creative outing” it said.  On and on about what that could be and that I should carve out the time and go by myself.  What? Is it a conspiracy?? This chick did the Artist’s Way, I bet!! She goes on about how hard “creative outings” are to do, but oh, so important.  Ugh!! Can’t I just not do it and say I did?? What is my problem here? Why should it be so difficult? Can I blame the winter? The snowstorm? My crappy minivan with crappy tires? How about my crazy long and hilly driveway on a cliff?
Mine's the hilly, snowy one on the left.

Surely anyone who’s had to deal with my driveway in the winter would write me a note to be excused from any activity I want to be excused from, right?  Well here’s what happened on Sunday a few hours after I told my morning pages where to stick it.  It had snowed (again) the night before so my iPod and I went out to shovel.  Having gotten about 150 “fuck you’s” out of my system, I was feeling pretty groovy.  I was getting a workout in, listening to some good tunes, and having a pretty productive day. 

View from the garage.
I was almost done, getting a little tired, and was sweating in my ski jacket, waterproof mittens, and prAna hat.  I looked up from the packed snow I was trying to break into pieces and noticed that it had started to snow.  It was truly beautiful. I thought, hmmmmm……I could just lay down right here, right now, in the middle of the driveway and let the snow fall on my face.  How peaceful would that be? Instead, I decided to go to the kids’ swing set and get up in the little fort area at the top of the slide.  I made a snow pillow and lay down for a half an hour.  I let the snow fall on my face. I thought about the spring and my hostas and other perennials poking up.  I thought about the song birds in my yard and resolved to feed them when I got up.  I wondered what my Owls have been up to. I breathed. And then, I breathed again. Deeply. I felt better.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

i bet yoga gurus never get dressed in their classrooms. (Amy)

I have all happy stuff to report for February 3, 2011, everybody.

For instance, last Saturday, I took a Yoga 101 class. It was just an intro class, with no follow up class offered, but I've always wanted to try yoga. And so I did. I contorted my body into positions with names like: Warrior Pose, Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, Child Pose and Downward-Facing Dog. My favorites were being a Child and a Mountain, because these positions do not require stretching one’s limbs and muscles into positions they’ve never experienced before. My least favorite was Warrior, because you basically have to make yourself into a triangle, and that’s crazy talk. You know what else is crazy talk?

<------ THIS.

<------ And THIS.

<------ And most especially THIS.

If I were in charge of naming Yoga positions, I would call this WTF?!? Pose.

Our teacher was a perky lady with a cute blonde pony tail. Her name was Beverly, and she wore really cute yoga clothes that would be pure comedy on me. Beverly got certified in yoga several years ago, and she was trained by the most expert of yogis somewhere in Massachusetts. She also spent the first 40 minutes of our 90 minute class promising a few older ladies in the back of the room who were asking a lot of suspicious questions that yoga is not a religion. She also declared we would not be praying to gods with un-pronounceable names from faraway lands, and anyone who starts yoga looking for that is barking up the wrong tree. Yoga means “to yoke,” or to stay grounded, and that’s it, pinky promise.

Beverly told us there are some yoga instructors in Massachusetts who do spend each class saying prayers to gods with weird names, and if you ever move to Massachusetts and take yoga classes under these teachers, you will totally giggle your silly butt off the whole class at the weirdness. But this is Georgia and in Georgia we don’t pray to people whose names we can’t pronounce, and so there will be no religious hanky panky goings on in the gym Yoga Room today, just a bunch of us twisting our bodies into positions Mother Nature never intended for us to twist them into. Okay, grouchy ladies in the back wasting a lot of time? The grumpy ladies mumbled “okay” and decided to stay, and so Beverly got started.

There were about 25 of us in the class, and the nicest thing about it was that everyone was just like me: totally unable to maintain any one pose for more than 5 seconds. And then a group camaraderie quickly developed: sometimes we’d watch Beverly demonstrate what she wanted us to do and gasp out loud, "No freaking WAY, Beverly! Are you crazy?? You're crazy!!" But she managed to get us all into each position, for the most part.

The moral of yoga: everyone in that class would suck at games of Twister, and Beverly let us know that is A-okay. Yoga is not a destination: Yoga is a journey.

My favorite part of the class was at the end—there was a meditation with a CD of Sanskrit chanting in the background and when we were finished, we all sat up, cross-legged, placed our hands together in front of our bellies in prayer form, bowed slowly, and said, “Namaste.” Which basically means: “I see your light, I see your goodness.” One of the ladies in the back must have gotten suspicious again, because she crossed her arms and refused to look at other people’s goodness and light. Which is too bad, because I felt grounded and calm for at least 3 hours after. And that’s highly unusual, for me to feel grounded AND calm, all at once, for any length of time. It's kind of nice when other people acknowledge your light and goodness.

My muscles were slightly sore for a couple of days after, but I felt invigorated and full of awesome the whole rest of the day. Later that night, I even taught Melissa how to get into downward-facing dog (she held this pose for exactly 1.1 seconds and then used my Downward-Facing Dog body as a big tunnel to pretend she was a choo choo train going through).

Downward-facing Dog/Choo Choo Train Tunnel Pose.

Sadly, I’ll have to wait until summer vacation to actually do one of the regularly offered yoga classes—they’re all on late weekday mornings or at some crazy time of evening, like 8 PM. There's an Ashtanga class I could go to on Saturday mornings…except Beverly’s parting words to us were: “And stay away from that Ashtanga class on Saturday mornings until you’re a lot more advanced. You'll snap a ligament.” So that’s that.

And MORE good news! I’m tracking what goes into my mouth via my fitnesspal food log every day (I'm back on the wagon 7 days straight as I type this), and I swear I’ve only lied on that thing 3, maybe 4, times and one of those times was only because I couldn’t find the thing I just ate in their Food Search engine and didn’t have the time to google research it. Swear.

What I’m most proud of is my new No Excuses approach to becoming a gym rat. I pack a workout bag every night and take that thing into work with me, every day. At first I was changing in my classroom at school—I was taping a poster over my door’s window, locking the door, and then hiding in my makeshift closet/storage cabinet area to do my clothing change/prep before heading to the gym.

And then, one day, my friend/coworker came over (we share a classroom trailer—a door separates our classrooms…!!!an UNlockable door!!!) to ask a question and she missed seeing my naked frontal area by about 5 seconds. There are just some things which should not be shared with co-workers; Post-It notes and staplers, cool. Images of your bare-naked boobs burned into innocent, unsuspecting co-worker brains forever and ever—hellacious no! Which is when I realized: Dude, the gym has a huge changing/locker room area, with lockers and keys…why do you insist on making everything 100 times harder/more dangerous/extra embarrassing for yourself? Plus, every day as I was changing, I’d think: What if they’ve installed spy cameras in all our classrooms and the principals and school secretaries are all in the front office giggling at me RIGHT NOW!!!??? (I also sometimes wonder if they’ve bugged our classrooms.) (I admit I do have a slightly paranoid personality complex.)

And so now I just take me and my gym bag to the gym immediately after school and discretely change there. I leave Melissa at daycare for about 60 minutes longer so I can go work out and then backtrack to get her (feeling huge gobs of guilty when I show up and she’s only one of three kids left…hoping her teachers aren’t silently judging me). I race over to the gym, change in the locker room, put on my radio/headphones so I can hear what’s on one of the TVs on the walls, and I do the treadmill for 30 (sometimes 40, if I’m feeling it) minutes while Oprah schools me on stuff I didn’t even know about.

See? All good and positive news. In addition, Charles has been offered a job—it’s a Milwaukee company but we will not have to move there (he gets to work from home) and hurrah for THAT (and not having to relocate while 15 feet of snow is falling out of the sky). We can breathe a little better, financially, but more importantly, he feels empowered and excited. Though I continue to shake my fists at those responsible for this ridiculous economic mess. Because I like to do it, and I don't think the people running this place are shaking theirs hard enough, or correctly.

My analysis of all this awesomeness? Clearly, my threats to 2011 have paid off, and unlike that punk 2010, Year 2011 knows exactly who’s driving this speedboat. Say my name, say my name! And don’t forget it, 2011, or I’ll threaten you and shake my fists again.


Up next: while Charles is in Milwaukee training for his new gig, I’m going to write, direct, produce, be the camera girl, and star in my very own cooking show, during which I will be making my own version of a Giada de Laurentis recipe. I will be posting this on my next scheduled posting day if all goes well. Currently, I’m not sure how this will work out logistically, and also I have no editing skills or even a video editing program on my computer.

In addition, my current sous chef is only 2 and has the fine motor skills/attention span of a brain damaged monkey, and also switches from throwing sobbing temper tantrums to maniacal silly giggles in mere seconds. So this will either be deeply embarrassing or wildly hilarious or both. Whatever happens, I’m hoping the thing goes viral and I can somehow figure out how to market it and profit big time and/or get a last minute invite to the Oscars so I can finagle a seat next to Javier Bardem.