Sunday, April 14, 2019

Puppy Love X Two

Just to let you know that for sure getting our new puppy, Maggie Mae, for a little sister to our 2 1/2 year old was the right decision. She has already made her way into all of our hearts. She is a roly poly bouncing little bundle of joy, not only to Steve and me, but to Davis. Plus, as you can see, she believes that she is a writer also. Her thought bubble is saying, "Just let me get my paws on that keyboard and I will have a best seller."

The day before we picked her up, Steve told me that he wanted to ask me a serious question. He asked if I truly thought that we were doing the right thing by Davis. He had been number one and here we were bringing in another puppy. With all that I had read, two doodles are supposedly better than one. They entertain each other and give you twice the laughter with their entertaining antics. We discussed that we would always be very aware of keeping Davis as the number one older brother and he would continue to get all the love that he needed. As you can see from the picture on the first day we were home, they were inseparable. Davis seemed to be very protective of his little sister and Maggie Mae followed him everywhere. 

We had Davis involved from the get go. He went with us to his birthplace and to see his breeder and all of her new pups. We had one out at a time to see if we witnessed any bonding whatsoever. Maggie Mae immediately responded with a wagging tail, as did Davis. They even nestled their heads together. That cinched the deal. We had to wait almost two weeks before she would be old enough to come home with us.

On this occasion we had time to prepare. We were so not prepared for Davis when we picked him up. We had to stop off with him at Hollywood Feed to get some of the necessities for having a puppy. Like a water and food dish, a collar, a leash, and some little treats. Our daughter happened to be in the general area and brought our granddaughter into the store to meet Davis. Bailey Grace picked out a toy for him and it remains his favorite toy. All we had was the blankie that Kim gave us which had his parents and siblings scent on it and a small bag of the food that she had been feeding him. Since we had decided to crate train him, we had to take a wild guess at what size to get. Luckily, we did guess the right size. 

Now we were able to go into Hollywood and pick out the things that we would be able to have in place for when we went back to pick up Maggie Mae. Again, for the crate size we had to guess. We went one size down due to the fact that she is female and based on her mother's size, only time will tell. One of Davis' sisters surpassed not only their mother's weight, but the father's weight as well. She is a whopping 95 pounds, without an ounce of it fat. Davis is just 65. Our hopes are that this new pup will stay in the 40ish range. 

We ordered the chew-proof crate bed pad that was the only crate bed pad that our chewing Davis has not torn to shreds in 2 years now. So we do have experience and we knew that we would be ready to handle this. The hard days are in the very beginning. Some sleep deprivation, going outside with her every hour or sometimes even half hour. They tend to train their owners on when to get them out. It is "Puppy Owner: Beware."

New items for Maggie Mae were put out slowly to let Davis adjust to it all. The time had finally come to drive down the road and pick up our new bundle of joy. She and Davis continued their bonding. He was down on the floor and just let Maggie play with his long curly tail.

The drive home with Davis was so different than the drive home with Davis and Maggie Mae. Davis was of course, the only pup in the car and he slept all the way on his blankie in my lap. Maggie Mae, on the other hand, used me as a mountain to try to climb over to get to the back seat to see Davis. She really gave my arms a work out. Such an inquisitive little girl. Given her age, she did take a break and rest on the hour drive home ever so often.

She has only been with us starting on Day 4 and even through some trying times that we never expected, we know that we made the right decision. When you bring a puppy home, hopefully you know there will be some accidents now and then until totally house-trained. We were prepared. Trying to be vigilant on the timing to take her out, we avoided many accidents. After one night she slept through the night. In fact, Steve woke up at 5:30 to check on her. She had not had an accident and only woke when she saw and heard him. Smart man that he is...he got her out, along with Davis. Finally, the rain was not coming down in buckets like it was most of yesterday. 

Today, we can have a sense of humor about the major accident that took place yesterday. I will start just by saying that we RARELY take our eyes off Maggie and she is where we are. Somehow at one point she went into the kitchen and did a little puppy poo right at the gate that leads outside. Steve went up to do his workout time and passed by on the other side of the gate, never seeing it. I took advantage of no one in the kitchen and switched on our Roomba vacuum and kept the puppys with me in the Study. 

Steve came down and called me in while telling me that we had a problem. A problem!?!? We had poop tracked all over the floor. It was one of those moments that happen, and your mind is racing, what do you do first? 

  • get dogs out of the area and safely crated 
  • turn off the Roomba
  • go out to get the Swifter wet mop with throw away cleanser pads
  • in fact, get two boxes of them
  • pick up the Roomba and turn it over to check it out
  • wonder to yourself, "How in the hell will all of that poop clean off
  • roll up your sleeves and get to work
  • clean the floor first (and it did take two boxes)
  • take one last mop around all of the places that Roomba could get to until I had a clean throw away pad and I then walked behind the mop skating on two tea towels
  • start by wiping what I could off the bottom of the machine
  • work on taking apart the brush guard, brush mechanisms, and the front wheel and running water over them and spraying and wiping disinfectanting everything
  • having Steve take care of keeping the dogs was a huge help and he came in to take care of holding the bag to drop in all of the dirty paper towels and getting them out to the trash bin
Next step was to take the Roomba out to a neutral location to dry out. I would deal with trying to put it all back together tomorrow. 

The good news of this day was that our precious puppy rewarded us by sleeping through the night with no bathroom incidents. For now, our fingers are crossed that the Roomba, after me piecing all the parts back into their locations, will charge and work.

The deal is that we must remember those first few weeks of having Davis and to remain patient and keep our sense of humor. Really? Think about it...puppy poo and a Roomba. I am sure it is not the first time this has happened. We are just hoping that it will never occur again in this household.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

To Instant Pot or Not, That Is the Question

 Want to get a hot debate going? Ask people how they feel about the Instant Pot. Most are not ambiguous about their feelings. It is either, "Yeah, this is the best thing since sliced bread," or "What's the deal?"

As many people did, they heard about the wonders of the Instant Pot and after a while you start to question why in the world don't I own one? That was me. Basically, which is really not like me, I did not do much research. Just put it on my Christmas wish list.

Sure enough. There it was for me to open on Christmas Day. After the holidays were over and we were sorting our gifts, I sat down and took the time to read about my wonderful Instant Pot that was going to put dinner on the table in record time. The more that I read, the more fearful that I became of using it.

One of the papers that came with it was neon yellow so that the potential user would not miss it. It read like this:

Please pay attention to all WARNING LABELS before removing them from the pressure cooker. Read IMPORTANT SAFEGUARDS in the manual before using the pressure cooker. DO NOT place hands, face or unprotected skin over the steam release handle while cooker is in operation. DO NO force the lip open when the float valve is still up.

Now, I feel like I an a half-way intelligent human being, it is now time for me to go to the User Manual and find the illustrations that will tell me what and where the steam release handle is and also what the hell is a float valve? 

Found it, only after reading 4 more pages about the safeguards in more detail, plus an overview of how to install the "anti-block shield." This was like a whole new language of how to cook for me. As I looked over the picture of the Control Panel and all of the cooking program keys I was even more confused. "Have patience," is what I continued to tell myself.

It was not until page 15 that the manual talked about positioning the steam release handle to Sealing, as well as talking about using a natural release or a quick release. Let me add that on this page there is a picture of a man leaning over the cooker to try to find the dang steam release button and his face his beet red. There is a box on this picture with a red line drawn through it and a hand held up to indicate STOP. Also, it states that the quick release valve should always be closely attended.

I continued to read and continued to become more and more aggravated with myself for jumping on the bandwagon of wanting one of these small appliances. I found a place in the cupboard to store it until...Really, I was not sure when it would get used. At least it was out of sight for now. I am one that does not like a lot of clutter on the counter tops. Only what is necessary and used daily. The Instant Pot did not fit in this category. 

It was closely thereafter that I decided to try the Low-Carb/High Fat Program and as I started looking on line I was finding lots of recipes and many of them were for the Instant Pot. The ones that appealed to me and my husband were placed in a folder labeled Instant Pot Recipes. 

Finally, in April I came across a recipe that was a Cajun Gumbo, one of my husband's favorites. It was low carb. PERFECT. It looked easy enough. We had all of the ingredients. It stated Prep Time 15 minutes, Cook Time 10 minutes for a Total Time of 25 minutes. A serving was 340 calories and it had a total of 8.5 net carbs.

We followed the recipe to the letter. Aha! After the 10 minutes is up, the cooker goes automatically to Keep Warm. Then the recipe said to manually release the pressure by turning the release knob to its venting position.  When finished we were to uncover and transfer the chicken to a large plate and shred the meat using 2 forks, then add back into the pot and let the meat soak up all of the sauce. If we wanted it thicker, we were to press saute for 5 - 10 minutes. The venting went on for 20 more minutes. 

Because of the fact that there was not much sauce to thicken we opted to not saute. However, the chicken did not shred. It was most definitely cooked but the texture was not one that was going to be shredded. Get a knife and cut it. It was like rubber. The andouille sausage was not much better. 

Bless Steve's heart, he ate it. I told him that he did not have to. I would make him a piece of zero carb bread toast to spread peanut butter on if he so desired, but he remained a trooper. 

Just for the heck of it, I put on my FaceBook page all of my frustrations with the Instant Pot and our meal. I had no idea that I would get so many comments. It pretty much came out 50/50. Fifty percent said they had one too and were terrified of it and had not used it yet or did not even go buy one. While the other fifty percent could have been in the sales department for the company. It was entertaining. Others told me that I needed to give it time and get used to it. If I spend time cooking, then I want to be able to eat the results. The texture of what I cooked was not edible in my opinion.

So I researched some and I found out some interesting facts. Things that no one, much less the manual tells you. 
  • You must cook the meat longer than it tells you to or else the meat will turn out tough. In fact, one article said to double the time at the minimum.
  • Let it depressurize itself.
  • You need liquid, no matter what the recipe says. You can always use the saute button.
  • This is not the same as steaming your food. (Although, for me, this is what it tasted like.)
  • Never put milk or dairy products in because they will curdle. hmmmmm
Then I found a section on the pros and cons of using the Instant Pot.

PROS                                          CONS

saves you time, apparently     bubble buster: you will
is like a slow cooker on           not have dinner on the
steroids                                 table in 10 minutes

you can put frozen meat         using the microwave
straight in the Instant Pot       will work, just a few
                                            more minutes
you can make hard boiled       the pan or oven is so 
eggs in it                               easy to use instead 

There were many, many more. Why would I want to get my step stool out to drag out the Instant Pot to cook hard boiled eggs when I cook them so easily in the oven and the shells peel off like magic? 

In conclusion, we each have to cook the way that we are most comfortable with. My husband and I love to cook and love to try new recipes out. And, many we are walking into blindly, such as the tried and failed attempt at the Instant Pot. We know that we have great cookware and plan our meals to suit the time that we have available to cook.

The Instant Pot will be boxed up just in case our daughter or daughter in law needs to replace theirs. Or else, eventually it will go to Goodwill or a yard sale. Maybe, I am not being fair by not giving it another chance, but I know what we are comfortable with and the fact that we love to try new recipes. We will just keep on keeping on...


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Setting My Own Goals

Sometimes, I must remind myself that setting a goal without a plan in place is just a wish. I am going to run with that thought for a moment. One of my wishes has been to have a second Goldendoodle, whether it be a rescue, or rehome or another precious puppy from Kim, who is where Davis, our current doodle, came from. Preference being that this second doodle would be a miniature because I thought that was all we could handle size wise. Davis is about 62 pounds and a gentle dog, just very large.

Knowing that even through my overwhelming optimism, I do have a streak of realism thrown in there somewhere. That should count for something. I knew that both with me still recovering from what the aftermath of breast cancer caused and also what Steve's afib issues were that he was dealing with would not allow us to have this second doodle of any size at the time the thought of another doodle came into my mind.

We were patient. We loved on Davis and he was such a wonderful spiritual healer for us. Just cuddling in to us and petting on him, which he is most definitely a touchy, feely kind of dog, reaches deep down to your soul. It is my belief that he has helped to heal us physically and emotionally.

There was a time that our energy levels were so low that there was no way that we could walk him daily as Steve used to. My joints were still weak and I was still recovering from an injury on my left knee from the bad joints.

Before we brought Davis into our lives, we researched and discovered that Goldendoodles are gentle and affectionate dogs with easy going temperaments. They do not like to be outside running around without their owners. In fact, after talking with other doodle owners, they are definitely not dogs to open the door and just let out to romp and run all alone. 

They are very social dogs, therefore we have found a wonderful Doggie Day Care where our vet is located called Walnut Grove Animal Clinic. Chris, Jessica and Chaney are the animal care takers and they all exude their love for every dog. Davis loves to go there for a day of play and socialization. We take him weekly, sometimes twice. He loves to go and we usually don't hear a peep out of him after all of his play with his buddies. 

Because Goldendoodles are highly intelligent, they are very easy to train in all aspects. We have chosen crate training and he uses this as his safe home to go to freely throughout the day when he chooses. At night, from the very first time he was home with us, he was crate trained and never had an accident in that crate. So this does not scare us with our newest addition.  She will have her crate, too. Our vet, Dr. Taylor, told us that you know that you are using the crate training method properly if the door is left open during the day and the dog goes in on his/her own for a nap or to chew a toy.

You may have guessed it by now, our health has continued to get better and stronger. We have much higher energy levels and were able to start with a plan in place to eventually get our second doodle. It was not in the cards for a miniature Goldendoodle, as there were none in our area. Kim posted pictures of her new litters of F2b Goldendoodles and they stole our hearts. 

We made an appointment to go with Davis to check them out. We were able to see the parents of these doodles. One little pup seemed to really bond with Davis and Davis did with her. Their tails were wagging and they were Eskimo kissing and cuddling. Yelp! This would be the one. We talked about the fact that there is no stated in stone guarantee that this doodle will remain around the 40 pound range like her momma. It is still the only thing we have to go by. Out of all the puppies, she seemed to look the most like her momma and she was one of the smaller pups. We named her Maggie Mae. 

These pups were still too young to take home, so we had some time to prepare ourselves and our home for our new family member. A quote from Stan Smith, "Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it."  Being the age that we are, we do count on our experience in life to make our decisions wisely. This does give us the confidence to make it happen when it is the right time; whether it is to get a second dog for a playmate to our current one, purchase a beach home, continuing to review and update our retirement portfolio with our financial planners, and the list goes on. It is called life. 

We even set goals for our lifestyle in eating and cooking. There are some good reasons to share goals with some close family and friends and I believe in them:

  • it helps in accountability and clarity
  • it helps in measuring progress
  • it gives us motivation
  • it is a connection with like minded people
There is also a reason to be careful in sharing your goals/dreams. If we reach our goal and follow our dreams by setting these goals we can be cheered OR there can be a backlash. There will always be those who don't quite understand. That in and of itself is okay, as long as we can move on past others' thoughts of what is right for us. 

I have found that if we break our goals into specific milestones that have purpose and meaning for us,  this is what will continue to inspire us.

It is one step at a time, and usually the writing is on the wall when your goal has been reached. For us, it has been months of feeling well and energized. New goals will continue to be set as we see fit. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Two Doodles?

Am I crazy? Are we both crazy? That would be both myself and my husband. We are actually toying with the idea of having two golden doodles. Kim, the wonderful breeder that we worked with to get Davis, who is now two years old, has two new litters that will be ready to go to their forever homes in April. 

I saw them in a video on her page. She has a litter of black ones and cream colored ones of various shades.

Now I ask you...who can resist this face? We have a lot of talking to do to be sure that we are making the right decision. Everyone that I talk to (well, almost everyone with two golden doodles) say that two are better than one. They keep each other company, they even wear each other out. 

The plan that we have made so far is to at least go out to see the puppies with Davis to see how he reacts. After talking with Kim, she suggests getting a female this time, not only due to the alpha male syndrome, but the females for the most part do not go over 45 pounds. Davis is 60 pounds and to be honest we could not deal easily with another one that size. 

For one thing, Davis still believes that he is still a 22 pound puppy.

I rest my case. There is no room for another 60 pounder. Then there is also space in the car, another crate eventually, because at first they could cuddle in the same crate. It probably would be reassuring for the puppy and maybe Davis would feel like a big brother. That is what I am being told by those who have two doodles. We definitely are total believers in crate training and during the day Davis even goes in his crate on his own for a nap now and then. It is sort of his safe place and he seems to love his home. Our vet told us if dogs do this, then you know that you have crate trained them properly. All I can say is that even though Davis is two, he still can not be trusted to not eat tea towels, pillows or throws off the sofas, even will grab a book, a newspaper, a remote. It is a good thing that we are home with him so he does not destroy our home or harm himself. We have gates that give him freedom to our open space home yet keep him from trouble at the same time.

There also is the cost issue. We use Walnut Grove Animal Clinic Day Care for a once or twice a week outing. Now we would have two, once the puppy got all of her shots. And of course, there is the cost of the vet, which means add on another pet for insurance. Food and treats.........yes, it is a bit of an extra costs but all of those people out there that have two say that it is so worth it.

We even have named this yet to be "our" puppy. I had written some names down and Steve came up with a name when he saw the video. Believe it or not, I had Maggie Mae on my list of female names. Our minds think alike. What can I say? I am confident that we will make the right decision for us.

What will be the outcome? We are most definitely leaning one way over the other; still talking though.

What do you think? Keep just one or go with two. Time will tell.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Tax Time

My apologies in advance for the brief blog this week. There is a very good reason for this. Yesterday, I literally spent most of the day taking care of our taxes. Mind you, I don't actually do the taxes. We have a super competent CPA who takes care of this for us. However, I can't just dump everything in a box that may be tax related and turn it over to him. 

Now that we have used him over the years, I know what to expect and try my best to keep files organized so that when TAX TIME arrives, it will not be a nightmare for me to gather what he needs to help us. He does his part by providing an organizer that he sends in the mail right after January 1 of each year. It has information that he used from the previous year and a place where I can write in what changes there were for the past year. So, I do know some of the basics. Do I understand them all or the government vocabulary always? NO! All I can do is try my best. My best made my brain turn to mush by 4 p.m. yesterday.

Basically the reasons were that we had several major changes. One in that Steve's retirement was a half year into the previous year so this year he had his 401k pension, as did I. Then, because I had not reached the age for Medicare until December, Cobra insurance was 11 months for me and 1 month on Medicare, plus all the other things that go with it. It meant copies of this and copies of that. I just want to try to make it easy for this person who has the talented ability to crunch numbers to help us pay what we need to and yet nothing over.

When I think about people who make so much money that I can't wrap my head around their wealth, I know that they have so many loopholes and it is of my belief that they are not paying their fair share. I am sure that we are. It sure seems like there must be a much more equitable way to spread out what people owe based on their income. 

A person who becomes a CPA must have a passion about accounting and I already know that I am not a detailed oriented person. I am much more into the big picture which does not put in the category of an accountant. I would do better to become one of people that tax companies hire to dress up as The Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam to walk up and down the sidewalk on a busy street advertising the Tax Company they work for.

There are so many items that one may qualify for itemized deductions that it is just mind boggling to me. There are new things added or deleted each year so that it is very important that you keep up to date with this information. There are costs that if they exceed a certain percentage of a person's adjusted gross income, then they are no longer eligible or maybe they then may increase eligibility. 

Because there are two writers in our household, not yet published but working on novels, blogs, attending workshops and needing to subscribe to Writers' magazines, this is something that must be added in as a business deduction. 

This is the last sign I want to see on our tax returns. But if it does come down to that, I want to have our trusted friend working with us to fix whatever needs to be fixed and finding whatever paperwork the IRS needs to be satisfied. Our taxes, I am sure are not the most complicated to a professional. To me it may as well be Greek. That is why I try my best to get what our CPA needs in some kind of order. To say the least for this particular year, my brain was taxed. The good news is that it won't be once I turn it over to his office tomorrow morning. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Lessons That I Have Learned in Life

One thing that I know for sure is that I will never stop learning. Continuing to be open to learn more is what I strive for. It is what makes me grow to become the human being that I am working towards. First, I must have the belief in myself that it will all work out...whatever "it" may be at the time. I know that I must believe in myself and to continue to reach for the stars to follow my dream.

If one wants to get better at something then they must practice. I have learned that I must practice whatever it is that I want to achieve. There are some things that are out of my control and I am aware that no matter what the circumstances may be, I must practice for the life that I want and the person that I want to become. 

An example is to be in a good financial place. This is an ongoing process. I practice this with my very significant other by learning where to invest our money so that we can continue to enjoy retirement. Neither one of us are experts in this field, however, working with those who are the experts in the field of finance is most definitely what we do. It is a process that must be practiced and kept up to date on. There are guidelines that we must incorporate in our portfolio so that we may enjoy our future. Meanwhile, we both get to work on our passion for writing and practice by writing and working with some very savvy financial advisers. Have faith!

One more example is that of becoming a published author. This does not just happen overnight. It is something that I practice daily. I must live the life that I want to become my life. In other words, I must write daily. Of course, I want a best seller. That is me reaching for the stars. Where does one start? By not letting go of my dreams. Inspiration must come from within as I continue to take my journey of becoming a published author. 

As I write and continue to learn of the publishing world, it is of the utmost importance for me to  prepare for the next level by not letting the complexities of becoming published yet get me down and dictate how I should feel about myself.  Finding positive mantras is one way that I accomplish this. It reminds me that I am in charge of my life and I will be the one to tell myself where my day will be headed.  

Are there days that seem to get railroaded off the tracks that I had set? Most definitely. That is called life. The trick, as I have learned is to respond accordingly instead of reacting. This is also accomplished by showing and feeling gratitude. Gratitude is most definitely one of the greatest ways that I have found to make my world a happier place. I have discovered that the more I practice it, the more things I am grateful for.

Gratitude must be shared with others. One of my favorite quotes is from William Arthur Ward. "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Simple thank yous to someone who has helped me along the way is the easiest, along with a smile and sometimes a kind gesture. 

Soon after I retired and was so excited to begin my writing career, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This may have stopped a lot of others from moving forward. The surgery and treatments, not to mention the emotional part of it could have turned me into a bitter or 'woe is me' kind of person. I would not have any part of that. Yes, I know that I am the forever optimist but that is where I had to be. Looking back over that time (it has been almost two years now) I know that I did not give in.

My husband told me just recently that he was so proud of me for not giving in to all of the side-effects of the treatments after surgery. It was difficult, yet not impossible as long as I continued to believe in me. Having him and other family and friends supporting me is something that I will always be grateful for and continue to show my gratitude towards them in varying ways.

I am enjoying slowly getting back to the real me physically and emotionally. I never want to get old. Yes, I will get older. We all do. That does not mean that I have to get old. Staying active, staying involved and surrounding myself with people who love to laugh is one way to never get old. This is what I am grateful for. I will never take for granted that the more I focus on being being thankful and expressing that gratitude, the less time that I have moments to worry about things that I have no control over. 
Whether I am at a high point or less than high, I know that by showing and sharing my appreciation to myself and others is a life lesson to never forget.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Is There Such a Thing as Writer's Block?

 Sometimes the words flow so fast that it seems impossible to get them to paper before they float away. Other times, not as many thank goodness, it can be described as having a 'writer's block.' Although many psychologists have done studies on this and claim there is no such thing. Just how do they know this? It is definitely SOMETHING that has overtaken a writer's brain to become mush. Nothing seems coherent or fitting as I try to put it on paper. This is the place that I am right now, fighting to get out of it for over a week.

My need to learn about something takes over and I go to google for information that I want to learn about.I simply typed in Articles on Writer's Block. A wealth of information appeared in the blink of an eye. I read one article about why some psychologists believe that there is no such thing. They believe that it is a fear within the writer so they feel uninspired and simply procrastinate writing. DUH! I may not have my degree in psychology, however, I am here to say it is all of the above. Whatever you want to call it. It is real.

The way that I write is first from an outline then turning that into a story board. It works for me, or at least it has been up to this point. Where I stand now in my novel basically boils down to the voices, which are usually my friends, seem to have stopped talking. This in turn is making it difficult to get pen to paper (or fingers to keys) to continue with my story. 

 This quote truly does inspire me. I know that I can't just sit here until I feel inspired. Inspiration will find me if I just write. Every article that I tapped in to touched on this idea one way or another. Jack London believed that writing daily was the best way to stir up inspiration; it will find you. He said to go after it with a club if necessary and if you don't find your inspiration you will have found something very similar.

Sometimes for myself, Scott Berkun's quote holds very true and I need to have a good talkin' with myself. I am a novice in writing books. It is a bit intimidating to think that if I put my heart and soul into my book that someone will say that it is not good writing. And they will! This is something that I try to deal with using my meditation with a positive mantra. When I read about very famous authors receiving rejection letters one after the other, I know that I just must get used to it. The trick is to not overthink it. Just let it flow.

Writing about this is better than not writing at all. I totally agree. I did find a few other interesting suggestions that I can share:
  • Put what you have written aside for a few days or a bit longer if necessary and then return to it. Re-reading it and making notes if need be. You may be surprised how the light gets switched on by revisiting what you have completed.
  • Instead of writing to a generalized audience of readers, write and tell your story to one person, one that you may know or imaginary. Think of this person as you write your story for him/her.
  • Hoard your good ideas. When you are on a roll with your story and know what is coming up. Stop there. The next writing session will be a breeze.
  • Have you ever noticed pitchers on baseball teams who have a small, little ritual before they throw their pitch? Well, each day have your own ritual to get yourself motivated. It could be sitting with your coffee in silence, finding your positive mantra. This would be mine. But, I also always get out a pad of post it notes and a sharpened pencil, just for jotting things down and sticking it to my story board. Having some  soft instrumental music playing in the background sets the mood. AND let's not forget the coffee.
  • The last strategy that I use is to just do something different. Take a bike ride, bake something special, clean out a drawer or closet or read a little more. 
Whatever you want to call it, all writers get it. As a writer, I must find the strategy that will work for me and it is not always the same one. Be flexible and don't force it. I compare it to something as a bully. Someone in my brain telling me that I am empty on words, just like a school yard bully taking my lunch money. It is a matter of taking charge and not letting the dry spell of writing have power over me. I am in control here.

Tomorrow will be a new fabulous week and I plan on having a marvelous productive MONDAY!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kitchens Are the Hearts of Our Homes

Throughout my life, I have had small kitchens and larger kitchens. No matter the size, it always seems to be the place where everyone gathers, even if it is a tight squeeze. It is a very busy place and has many uses such as cooking, eating, or just hanging out with family and friends. Really, I don't have a problem with keeping it clean. Hygiene in the kitchen is a top priority. My problem is keeping it decluttered. 

It seems to be easy to just let things sort of pile up, especially if you are married to a Brit. (Disclaimer: This is not my kitchen, strictly for a visual to make my point). Certain things need to stay out and available for daily use; for me it is the toaster, the roll of paper towels, the tea kettle and the coffee pot. I certainly do not want to have these items stored and get them out daily, sometimes more than just a few times a day. On the other hand, there is no reason to have a big crock pot out or insta-pot or a large mixer, or blender unless you have smoothies every day. And most of all there is no reason to have dirty dishes out...everything needs a home. I had to start with my countertops. I still have not perfected them. It is a work in progress. It certainly is much better and I am closer to my standard of perfection. It is my belief that once I feel that I have reached my goal, my number one priority is to maintain this standard. 

For me, what happens is that we receive something new and it seems to look perfect out on the counter. It blends well with other things. Pretty soon, there is little space to work. A rule that I have given myself is there will be nothing new coming in until the decluttering has been completed.

Cooking is no fun for me when I have to wrangle with 'stuff' to find a space for chopping and dicing. Never could I be a minimalist in the kitchen on my countertops. I love for some things to be out, just in the right place and for the right reason. I will never have a sink full of dirty dishes, much less all along the countertops. It is just not my thing. 

There are no hard and fast rules except for each person to visualize what it is that they want to see and accomplish. Then be realistic in scheduling this picture in my mind to be complete. I have my times penciled in for when I do what needs to be done and how long I will spend doing my decluttering. After all, I do have a life and it most definitely is not spending days from 9-5 decluttering. Prioritize and keep it simple is my motto.

Just as in losing weight, one does not gain it overnight, nor will they lose it overnight. One's house does not start with a cluttered mess. It accumulates and it will take time to get the problem fixed.

Starting with what bothered me the most was my plan of action. That would be my closet and drawers plus the kitchen. As the progress continues, I feel happier and lighter than ever. I also have used a positive quote/mantra to help me through each day. I begin the day in a quiet meditation mode and attempt to find what will motivate me to get me through whatever challenges that I will be facing. For me it is just the fact that as I declutter things, I feel like I am making room for life. Hey, that could be my mantra!

Decluttering can be stressful, especially when it comes to sentimental items to decide if I want to keep, throw out, or donate. Keeping too much causes me a huge problem so I try to always remember everything must have a home. The bed is for sleeping, not laundry, the nightstand is for a book or two and a lamp and alarm clock, my desk is a work space, not a storage space. This decluttering is not just about physical stuff. It is about decluttering my mind, too. 

My rule of thumb is a quote from William Morris:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

"Tidying Up" My Way

Please don't get me wrong. I think that Marie Kondo's method of tidying up works for some people. Maybe even for most people. For me, it was just a little too overwhelming. My messy closet was not as bad as it was two years ago. At that time, my precious, helpful daughter volunteered to come over and help. She did it without knowing just how bad it really was. I knew it looked bad and I knew that I was having trouble  finding anything that I needed in the way of shoes, handbags, clothing, basically it was total chaos and in need of a major overhaul. 

She went about it the same way that I watched Marie Kondo do it with families on her program. She actually took EVERYTHING out of my closet and piled it on the bed. Shoes went over in piles with handbags and belts. She had me sit down and pick up each item one at a time and put it in one of three piles. I had to decide if it still brought me joy. Was there a spark when I looked at it and felt it? If not, I had to say, "So long!" If it was still nice, it went in the pile for donations. If not nice enough to donate, it went in the pile of throw outs. Otherwise, she took it and put it on a hanger neatly and placed it back in the closet. 

Sorting out sleeveless tops, short sleeve tops, 3/4 tops and long sleeve tops, to jackets, slacks, skirts and dresses. I might add that she had it arranged by colors also. (Just a touch of OCD, you think?) I thought that we would never finish but actually it was not as bad as I thought. Until I came back and she had all of my shoes out in the Master Bathroom Suite. They literally took up the whole room and not to brag but we have a very large bathroom suite. 

My granddaughter, who was 4 at the time, came back and said to me, "Lola, you have a shoe store! Momma, can I have this many shoes, too?" Okay, so I had a lot of shoes. I admit that. I love shoes and handbags. I was told to sit down and try each pair on if they brought me joy. The extra component here was they had to fit comfortably for them to stay in my closet. Basically, I almost understood what she was saying. If they brought me joy and I could not wear them, then why do I have them? We sorted by sandals, flats, different heel heights, and of course her color fixation was still going strong with the shoes, just as the clothing. 
Yes, you really can!

Now, this same closet has the beginnings of looking like it did when my daughter straightened me out before. I did not have the heart to get her that involved again. I knew what had to be done. EXCEPT, with writing my book, and it being only me and no helper, I am doing it my own way. This does go against how Marie Kondo suggests, but it works for me. I am slowly working my way through the mess. I am actually trying on the piece of clothing if I think it sparks joy within me. Because, sometimes, once it is on my body, the spark fizzles out fast. I had to be honest with myself. Am I really going to wear it? Then it went to the throw away bag or the donation bag. 

Just so you know, I am getting about 5 - 7 outfits tried on each morning as I dress. So far I have 5 bags that have gone to a donation site. There will be more. I have some clothes upstairs also and when I go up, I take a few that I know do not spark joy and I have a bag already upstairs for them. The others, I bring down to try on or hang up as the case may be. This includes drawers of sweaters, tanks, sweatshirts and bathing suits. 

Never, ever did I think that I could fold the Marie Kondo method. One of our sons folds this way and one of our daughters does it the very same way. That was not a learned lesson from me. I am admittingly ashamed of my folding compared to theirs. Then, on one of the 'Tidying Up' programs, Marie showed a mother and a father who said there is no way they or their children could do that. She then brought in her own three year old to prove them all wrong. Her daughter folded a shirt as if it belonged on a shelf in a store. 

That is when I knew that I had to get with the program. My plans are to do the whole house. I can't begin to tell you how it makes me feel. Even in my office, I am working on the bookshelves and decluttering, along with drawers in the kitchen reorganized and it feels so much better. 

In our bedroom, I have decluttered my nightstand, the tops of two chest of drawers and have worked my way through 7 drawers. Of all the things that we have, I believe that we need to declutter our books. I plan on doing this by starting with my books and my books alone. Steve has many 1st edition books that are valuable. Then he has books that bring him joy to re-read. He must be the one to take that on. Actually, if I manage to get as many as I am thinking that will be going to the Library for a donation just from my piles, it will give him more space. 

As Marie says, "I can think of no greater happiness than to be surrounded only by the things I love." I can feel the love already and I have only just begun.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Happy, Happy 17 Years

There are times in my life, as in most other people's lives, that I have ignored red flags waving in my face when making choices for the wrong reasons. Yet, I chose to ignore them. This is not something that I am proud of, just pointing this out because it is coming up on Valentine's Day AND our 17th Wedding Anniversary, all on the same day! And this is how it happened.

This anniversary is so special to me because when I met this man, there were no red flags flying around me, only fireworks going off, whether I was with him or just thinking about him. 

Counting up everything, I was married for one year at an age that I thought that I knew everything. NOT. The only good thing is that I did not quit college and did not have children. Then came a marriage that lasted about 20 years. The best part of that marriage was the fact that I have two very special children and wonderful grandchildren now.

Pretty much, I thought my marrying days were over. I was not one to say that I would never marry again, let's just say that it was not on my radar screen. It actually was the best thing that could have happened to me when this ex walked away from our marriage. 

My now and forever husband had very similar circumstances in his earlier life. A brief marriage at too young of an age with no children. Then a longer marriage with two fabulous children and even though he was like myself in not initiating this action, it was one of the best things that happened to him. 

This gave both of us some time to find ourselves at a time in our lives that we each had some life  experiences to draw upon. We were a bit more seasoned. Yet the question is always out there. How do you know when it is the 'RIGHT' one? There really is no specific check list that works for everyone. For me, I just wanted to be aware of red flags. Another way to word this is that I knew what I did not want. 

The best kind of relationships just happen. You can't go out and look for it - it comes to you at just the right time; the time that you never thought it would have.

For our 19 years of being together and 17 years of this time being married, we continue to grow together more and more just by being ourselves and loving one another unconditionally. We see the whole picture of each other, our strengths and our weaknesses. We tell each other things that we would never tell anyone else because we can trust each other. Trust is there due to the respect that we have for one another. We rarely have arguments because of our respect. We agree to disagree on some subjects and this is healthy. We don't brush each other off because even if we think the other one is wrong, we take each other's opinions seriously.

Laughing a lot with each other is a big factor, even if we are laughing at ourselves. You know everything is going well if you feel as if you can totally be yourself around each other. This even means that it is okay to be quiet. Every moment does not have to be filled with chatter. It should feel comfortable to have some quiet time together, not awkward.

There are times that I know how much of a better person that I have become because of being with him. He brings out the best in me and I know that I do with him because he tells me so. The bottom line is that he just "gets me."

Does anyone know exactly what a good marriage is? I don't believe that it can be written out in specific words. It is a feeling that comes from within yourself. Most definitely, I have learned that a good marriage has to begin with a physical attraction. Chemistry must be an ingredient for the beginning of a healthy relationship. Where one must be careful is thinking that there are not other components. Two people must be willing to always be there for one another through happy and not so happy times, along with being able to talk about it.

 One thing comes to my mind is the fact that I still get butterflies when he holds my hand or see him walk around the car to open the door for me. It is our anniversary plus Valentine's Day so let's just go ahead and get a bit mushy. Something that he says that melts my heart is when he tells me (and quite often) that his favorite time of the day is when he is with me.

There are ways to show each other how much you love one another. Little things add up to big things such as my husband does not even drink coffee yet he makes my coffee daily and even brings it to me. When one of us starts off on a job around the house, the other one comes to help or takes care of another must do around the house. It surely does not hurt to be able to say, "I love you!" I imagine that we each say these special words to one another many times each day. This is not out of habit but a reminder to each other that we are in each other's lives.

The Beatles said it well when they sang," Love is old, love is new, love is all, love is you!"