Posted in Monday Blog

What do you think I want for my birthday?

Happy BirthdayIt happens every year. Before my birthday, I know a dozens gifts I can use, but as the time to celebrate grows closer, I can’t think of one thing that I actually want. My husband, a last-minute shopper who nevertheless likes to present me with gifts early, starts to email me links to suggestions a month before.

This year, as that special day approaches on May 9th, he proposed buying me an Apple Watch because he thinks I would like one. He offered to take me shopping to look at some, and I agreed. But, before committing, I considered other things I might want instead. After all, Apple watches aren’t cheap and, although I’m worth the expense one day a year, there might be something even better I might like.

I rack my brain but, of course, I come up with nothing. Sure, I could use anything to do with writing which is my current passion. I already purchased myself a gift, the “Get a Book Deal 101” course given by Kathy Ver Eecke that I hope will help me land an agent for my work-in-progress. I can always use new clothes, especially since I’ve gone down ten sizes and lost over 60 pounds since last year on Jenny Craig. It’s probably best then that I avoid my favorite Black Forest birthday cake, but maybe I can splurge on a healthful dinner at Seasons 52, a restaurant my husband and I had dinner at for our anniversary last July and vowed to try again but have yet to do so.  Speaking of food, it just so happens I’ve been invited by a co-worker to a lunch buffet at an Kiran Palace, an Indian restaurant, on my birthday. Since it’s a cuisine I have yet to sample, I’m looking forward to a new culinary experience. Maybe I can check it off my bucket list. That night I’ll be attending a concert when my daughter sings in the chorus for the Middle School concert.

So what else would I want for my birthday? Another year of good health is always welcome. Enough money to pay my bills is also nice. My pre-teen daughter talking to me for more than five minutes and agreeing with just one thing I say would be awesome. Even cooler would be her dad taking me out for a date night. If I think bigger, winning the lottery would be a super gift. Being able to control time so I have just as much as I need to complete everything I want and need to do would be another perfect present. Getting on the New York Times Bestseller list would be the icing on my cake.

Fantasies aside, I really have everything I need already, but I’ll try the Apple Watch, anyway. By the way, my husband’s birthday is just two days after mine, but I’m not asking him what he wants.

Here  are a few links to birthday gift ideas for those who are stumped as to what to give their spouses, parents, friends, or even what to ask for themselves:

From the Dallas South News: http://www.dallassouthnews.org/2013/04/01/5-most-common-birthday-gifts/

From dgreetings: http://www.dgreetings.com/gift-ideas/birthday-gifts/for-friends.html

DIY birthday gift ideas from Topdreamer: http://www.topdreamer.com/23-diy-birthday-gift-ideas/

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Have you ever participated in a Girl Scout Walk-a-thon?

walkathon1An annual spring tradition that my daughter and I participate in is the Girl Scouts of Nassau County’s Girls Go the Distance 2-mile Walk-a-thon at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. This event is more than a walk-a-thon. Each girl who participates receives a lovely patch designed by a fellow girl scout along with a t-shirt. Tables manned by various groups offer fun crafts and activities. There are even a few shops offering girl scout items for sale. Lunch and lots of water are also provided.

walkathon5The best part of the walk-a-thon is walking as a team or as individuals through the lovely grounds of Old Bethpage Village Restoration, an historical tourist attraction with period buildings and farms from the 19th century. Guides who volunteer here wear old-fashioned costumes and are always happy to give impromptu tours, demonstrations, and history lessons.

Every year we’ve participated, luck along with the sun, has shined on this event. This year, April 17th, was no exception. The weather was perfect with bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid to high 60’s. My daughter, a Cadette, had invited a non-girl scout friend to join us. Her friend was considered a tagalong which is a term girl scouts use for siblings and friends of girl scouts who attend an event along with the girl scout. Both young ladies were excited about a new addition to the walk-a-thon this year — a scavenger hunt throughout the village.

walkathon4The day began with an opening address at 10 a.m. after we checked in that included some music and dancing to get everyone in an active mood. All proceeds from the event go toward supporting the Girl Scouts of Nassau County’s Healthy Living Initiatives.

walkathon2The walk-a-thon and scavenger hunt began at 10:30. We joined the crowd following a map we’d received showing where each building was located that contained information to help solve the quote on the back page of the Scavenger Hunt Guide. The clues involved letters, some of which had to be decoded using a key found in the guide. When all the buildings were visited and the letters placed in the proper spots, the quote was revealed. The final part of the hunt was to use modern technology to find out who had used the quote first. My daughter Googled the answer with my cell phone, and she and her friend both earned the prize patch for solving the scavenger hunt.

walkathon3walkathon7Afterwards, we spent some time at the activity fair stands where local organizations provided information on their services and offerings and there were a variety of arts and crafts tables. There was face painting at the Garvies Point Museum stand that also had a nice flyer for spring break events. The three of us took the smelly challenge at the Old Westbury Gardens table trying to sniff out the identity of the three plants located there. I guessed two of them, but my daughter and her friend guessed all three. We all received “I’m so Nosey” temporary tattoos.

We wrapped up the day by having lunch with the healthy food provided and served by volunteers. My daughter and her friend ate their salads, bread sticks, and fruit under a tree like a picnic, and I sat on a nearby bench with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and banana.

We were all a little tired when the event ended but had enjoyed the beautiful day and the fun activities. We are looking forward to attending again next year

 

Posted in Monday Blog, Short Story, Uncategorized

How do you like this short story?

gift-548299_640I hope you like this story about a girl who finds that the best gifts are worth waiting for and that believing in yourself is the first step toward achieving your dreams.

A PERFECT SOLUTION

by Debbie De Louise

© Debbie De Louise 2015

Loser. If you looked up the definition in Mary Jane Hopkins’ personal dictionary, her name would be listed. If the dictionary was illustrated, her photo might appear there, too. For the twenty-nine years and 364 days that she had been on this Earth, Mary Jane had accomplished nearly nothing. She did manage to graduate high school only because Mrs. Palmer, her English teacher in her senior year, felt pity for her and gave her a C- as her final grade. Mary Jane wasn’t stupid, but she had such low self-esteem that she failed everything she tried. An only child, her parents gave her everything she wanted, but they could never give her self-confidence.

The list of Mary Jane’s failures could take up a book. Since childhood, she’d taken lessons in a variety of wind, string, percussion, and electronic instruments – piano, violin, guitar, drums, flute, electric keyboard, even xylophone. After her parents invested thousands of dollars in lessons, she could barely play a note. Her mother, Gladys, suggested to her father that maybe music wasn’t Mary Jane’s thing. Then followed years of art lessons at a prestigious art school. A four-year old could better master her stick drawings and splattered paintings. Her dad then considered that his dear daughter might be more athletic than artistic. She took horseback lessons and nearly broke the horse’s back. She tried tennis, soccer, softball, basketball, golf, and even ping-pong but constantly lost the balls in each game. She nearly drowned during her Red Cross swimming lesson. Both parents agreed it might be best not to enroll her in skydiving or mountain climbing classes.

After all Mary Jane’s attempts at enrichment classes failed, her parents tried a different tact. When Mary Jane turned 13, her mother told her father that she read some books on teenagers that said they should be allowed to “sink or swim.” Her dad said that, judging by MJ’s previous swimming lessons, the sink was more likely. Gladys explained that the saying was not literal. It simply meant their daughter needed to try things on her own and suffer the consequences if they didn’t work out for her. Therefore, Mary Jane joined some clubs at school – cheerleading, chess, chorus, and even camera club. She forgot the one-word cheers, had no clue about the chess, got laryngitis her first day at chorus, and dropped and broke the camera club’s $500 digital camera.

It only got worse as Mary Jane grew older. She was never asked to her senior prom. Although she wasn’t ugly, she was as plain as her middle name portended. For her 16th birthday, her mother treated her to a makeover at a local beauty parlor. She was allergic to the cosmetics and broke out in hives. Her dad gave her money for a new wardrobe, but the materials of the new outfits made her itch.

As the years passed, Mary Jane applied to many jobs that did not require a college degree. She was hired as a waitress but spilled soup in a customer’s lap. She was a receptionist at a doctor’s office but put the wrong patient’s chart in the files. She even, without her parents’ knowledge, danced at an adult club, but she slipped on the floor and broke her ankle.

Now, approaching her 30th birthday, all Mary Jane wanted was to excel at something. That’s why, when she saw the advertisement in her email, hope grew in her heart. She knew it had to be authentic because her spam filter had not blocked it.

Do you wish you could change your life? For only $99.95, we can send you the details of our proven plan, A Perfect Solution. Whether you want a high-paying job, a loving spouse, or to win the lottery, if you dream it, you can have it. A Perfect Solution has helped thousands of shy, depressed, self-conscious men and women overcome their own feelings of worthlessness.

The final line really grabbed her:

You can even gift A Perfect Solution to a friend or relative or even yourself for your next birthday. A Perfect Solution will arrive in a discreet brown paper package within a week of order with complete instructions and a 60-day money back guarantee. Click here to order.

Mary Jane quickly clicked the order link. She had $100 left in her bank account from her parent’s last birthday gift, so she could afford to charge it. She filled out the order form and added her credit card information. She kept her fingers crossed that she would receive A Perfect Solution by her birthday the following week.

During the week, Mary Jane could not contain her excitement. Each day, she ran to the door when the mail carrier arrived. It was easy when her parents were at work but, on weekends, she knew she would have to keep a closer eye out for the mail truck or one of her parents might see her package. Even though the ad claimed A Perfect Solution would be mailed in a discreet box or envelope, she couldn’t take any chances. She had once sent for a magical beauty formula she’d seen described in a woman’s magazine at the supermarket checkout counter, and her mother never let her live down the mud mask that she received that was closer to the wet dirt in their backyard than it was to a cosmetic product.

The day after she’d ordered A Perfect Solution, she didn’t expect the package to be there, but Old Carter told her, as he handed her bills and advertisements that he was going on vacation and that another mail carrier would be taking his route that week. Mary Jane was a bit upset by this news because she feared the mail might be misdelivered, so she made an even greater point of watching for the daily mail.

On the day that Carter’s vacation started, Mary Jane had just finished lunch when she spotted a blue uniformed man making his way up her walk. He was younger and taller than Carter with dark hair under his mail hat and light blue eyes that met hers when she opened her door.

“Hi, there Ma’am,” he said handing her a few letters. “I’m taking Carter’s route this week. My name is Doug.”

Mary Jane smiled and hoped the glint off her adult braces wouldn’t blind the new mailman. “Nice to meet you, Doug. I’m Mary Jane. You don’t happen to have a package for this address, do you?”

Doug shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Mary Jane. That’s a very nice name by the way”

“Thank you,” Mary Jane said. She was disappointed but told herself it was only the second day after her order.

The following day, Doug brought the mail in the morning. Again, all he handed her were a few envelopes for her parents. He noticed her expression and said, “Sorry your package isn’t here yet, Mary Jane. I’ll keep an eye out for it.”

“I would appreciate that,” Mary Jane said.

The next day, Mary Jane felt like putting on some nice clothes to greet Doug instead of going to the door in her old pajamas and robe. She dug around in her closet and found a dress she had never worn. She remembered worrying that the material would be scratchy on her skin, but when she put the cream-colored silk on, it glided across her body. She added some stockings and even a dab of lip gloss. It would be nice to receive A Perfect Solution looking her best, she thought.

Doug rang the bell this time. When she answered, he produced a bouquet of carnations and lilies from behind his back. “For you,” he smiled, displaying a dimple. “There’s no mail for you today, so I thought you might need some cheering up.”

“How thoughtful,” Mary Jane said taking the flowers tentatively. The one previous time she’d received flowers from her grandmother on her high school graduation, she’d had a sneezing fit. However, that was nearly twelve years ago, and Doug’s flowers didn’t even water her eyes.

“I must say you look as lovely as those flowers,” Doug added. “I hope your package comes tomorrow.”

The rest of the week, Mary Jane tried on new clothes when she took in the mail. Each time, Doug had a small gift for her – a box of chocolates on Wednesday, a pretty paper fan on Thursday, and a lovely gold letter opener on Friday – but A Perfect Solution was not in his mail sack.

“Tomorrow is my last day before Carter comes back,” Doug told her. “I will say a special prayer tonight that your package arrives.”

Mary Jane was touched by this thought. “That is so sweet, Doug. Tomorrow is my birthday.”

The mailman smiled, showing his cute dimple again. “Then it has to come. But, if it doesn’t, I will be sure to bring you a special present to celebrate.”

“You’ve brought me so many presents already.” Mary Jane was sad she hadn’t received A Perfect Solution, but she was sadder that tomorrow would be the last day she would see Doug.

When Mary Jane woke up on her birthday, her parents were home because it was Saturday. Her mother made her a special breakfast of her favorite chocolate chip pancakes and her father handed her an envelope across the table. It contained another $100 that she could deposit into her bank account to cover the amount she’d spent on A Perfect Solution. She hoped she hadn’t been a victim of another scam like the mud makeup.

“What’s the matter, dear?” Gladys asked. “You’re not eating much of your birthday pancakes, and you seem worried about something.”

“It’s nothing, mom,” she denied. “It’s just that I can’t believe I’m 30 already.”

“You’re still very young, MJ,” George said. “And, by the way, I’ve noticed you’ve been wearing some new clothes lately and you’ve done something nice to your hair.”

“Thanks, dad. I think it’s time for a change.”

Just then, the doorbell rang.

Her parents both stood up, but Mary Jane insisted on answering.

Doug was at the door with two packages. Her heart leaped at the sight of him and the two brown envelopes.

“Happy Birthday, Mary Jane,” Doug said his blue eyes twinkling. “Which package would you like to open first, and would you mind if you open them in front of me?”

Even though Mary Jane could hardly stand the suspense, she remembered her manners. “Of course I’ll open them in front of you, Doug, but why don’t you come in first and meet my parents?”

Gladys and George were happy to meet the young mailman. Gladys served him one of the chocolate chip pancakes that was left over, and he complimented her on her cooking. Afterwards, George showed Doug his stamp collection, and Doug told him he was also a philatelist.

Mary Jane was happy to see Doug and her parents enjoying each other’s company, but she was eager to open A Perfect Solution and the other envelope, which was just labeled with her name.

When Doug finally said he had to finish his route, Mary Jane followed him outside with the envelopes.

“Please open the one with just your name on it first,” Doug said. “It’s a gift from me.”

“I told you that you didn’t need to give me anymore gifts,” she said as she slit open the envelope with the gold letter opener Doug had given her the day before. Inside was a folded piece of paper. It said, “Will you come to dinner with me tonight?”

Mary Jane felt herself blush. She noticed Doug’s cheeks were reddening, too.

“Don’t answer yet,” Doug said. “Just open the second envelope. I know you’ve been waiting long time for it.”

Mary Jane’s fingers were trembling. She was surprised A Perfect Solution would come in such a package. She’d expected a large box, but her mother always used to tell her that big things often came in small packages. She slit open the envelope. Inside was another note, but this one was computer generated. She suspected the hoax. Her stomach dropped as she read the message:

“Thank you for purchasing A Perfect Solution. Here are your instructions. As promised, this is a foolproof plan for getting everything you want.” Several spaces below that message was the one line of instructions: “Keep on Trying.”

She looked up at Doug who was watching her expectedly.

“So, did you get what you wanted?” he asked.

Mary Jane smiled, her adult braces shining like diamonds. “I believe I have and, yes, I will go to dinner with you tonight, Doug.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Illness Hates to be Excluded from Celebrations

fever-310721_1280Lying in bed with a 101-degree temperature a few days before Easter, I had some time to contemplate the strange perversity of illness that hovers around holidays, parties, vacations and other celebrations. Have you noticed that many people tend to get sick near or on these special days?

This year, illness was an uninvited guest in our home for Christmas and Easter. And, of course, once illness enters a house, it spreads itself to the whole family. Spraying Lysol all over won’t help. Washing your hands every five minutes won’t help. Keeping your toothbrush or towels separate won’t help. The germs just collect in the air and insinuate themselves into every person in the house.

So if you think it’s fun being home on holiday with the family, you’ll love it even more being home with them when everyone’s sick. If you have one bathroom, it’s way worse.

While I was fighting the flu-like virus that had contaminated my home, I pondered why it showed up near the holiday. What is it about special days that attract illness?  I realize there’s no real explanation for this, as holidays, parties, and vacations fall on random days that, like any other day of the year, are open to death, disease, and accidents. While being sick was no picnic, at least we were all alive (even if we felt like we were barely).

I remembered our trip to Disney World back when Hurricane Sandy hit our area. We had planned the trip to celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday at the end of October, but booked it for early November. Hurricane Sandy hit right before Halloween. Although there was some minor damage to our home and we lost power for a day, some family members lost theirs for over two weeks including my 85-year old mother. With everything in such a state of chaos, we weren’t sure we should go. Adding to our pre-travel jitters, I had to make room for my mother. I set her up in her granddaughter’s room and asked my neighbor and some relatives to check on her while we were away.

hollybelledisneyAfter all the stress before our vacation, I expected something else had to go wrong. Luckily, we had a wonderful flight to Florida and four magical days in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. My daughter had her hair styled at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and dressed up as Princess Aurora; we had meals with the characters; even went up in a hot air balloon and on a safari in the Animal Kingdom. But on the night before our last day there, we ate at an outdoor buffet. My daughter woke up the next morning vomiting. I followed suit a few hours later. We were both hit with a bad case of food poisoning.

Needless to say, we had to cancel our last day’s plans to visit Hollywood Studios. My daughter had been looking forward to going on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Ride that my husband and I had told her about. We had taken it on a trip to Disney before she was born. Even worse, we were too sick to travel home and had to book another flight and stay an additional night at our hotel on Disney property. I had hoped to be compensated for some of the money this cost us through the travel insurance I had signed up for, but it ended up having so many complicated clauses, that we picked up the tab for almost everything. The worst part was that, out of the wonderful time we all had together, my daughter remembers her food poisoning attack the clearest and now has no desire to ever go to Disney again.

hollycruise2015-08-29 15.26.18When we took a 4-day Carnival cruise to Canada two years ago and then a trip last summer to the New York Renaissance Fair and the Hudson Valley, I kept my fingers crossed that we all stayed well. It turned out luck was on our side. No one got sick on or before either trip, and the weather was perfect. Cool and a bit windy in Canada and sunny and beautiful upstate.

There’s really nothing one can do when illness shows up near a holiday or special event. Weddings get postponed. Honeymoons are ruined. Birthday parties rescheduled. Like the weather, you just can’t predict when the bolt of illness will strike you down. But when illness passes you by and crashes someone else’s holiday, party, or vacation instead, enjoy it that much more because illness hates being excluded from celebrations and will join yours again when you least want or expect its company.

 

Posted in Cats, Monday Blog

10 Fascinating Reasons to be crazy About Cats

oliverstripey  According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), there are over 30 million households with cats in the United States. Although this figure is lower than the number of dog households, more cats are owned per household than dogs. Here are the statistics: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx

Why are pet cats so popular, but even more important, why are people so crazy about them? Below are 10 fascinating reasons, but there probably are a ton more.

1. They provide comfort when you’re sad or sick. Your cat can’t catch your cold or flu, so he or she doesn’t mind getting up close with you while you are ill. I’ve always considered my cats furry nurses. Their purrs are quite soothing, and if you’re depressed, there’s nothing like some funny cat antics to brighten you up.

2. They’re good for your health and state of mind. Read this article that shows why cats are beneficial to your heart health and can aid in alleviating other medical and mental maladies. http://pazoo.com/health/11-reasons-cats-make-happier-healthier.

3. They saved the world. Some believe that if it hadn’t been for cats, the Bubonic Plague would’ve wiped out the world. Read this interesting article by Lisa J. Lehr on that topic: http://ezinearticles.com/?Cats,-People,-and-the-Black-Plague—Those-Who-Kept-Cats-Survived&id=161249

4. Many cats have become Internet stars or celebrities. I’m sure you’ve seen the number of cat photos that proliferate on social media. I was stunned at some posts with cat pics receiving 10,000 + likes. Cats such as Grumpy Cat, Little Bub, and others have risen to fame with their own websites, merchandise, and nationwide tours.

2015-11-11 17.08.05-15. They’re written about extensively. Besides all the non-fiction articles and books about cat breeds, medical issues, and other feline topics, there are multitudes of cat mystery books, cat series, cat science fiction, and other cat fiction. There is even a Cat Writer’s Association founded by Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and bestselling author, Amy Shojai(I’ve been a member of this wonderful organization for many years).

stripeycontest6. They’re funny and smart. People who really know cats appreciate feline humor and their cunning yet cute manipulative ways. It’s also true that cats can be trained if you know the tricks to persuading them to participate. Check out Gregory Popovich’s  popular Las Vegas Show, Comedy Pet Theater http://comedypet.com/ and Acrocats.

7. They’re masters of relaxation and stretching exercises. Take a look at this video featuring yoga wth cats. 

handsomeoliver8. Their beauty inspires artists and photographers alike. Da Vinci said of them, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”

9. Cats make great substitutes children, but some people consider them better than babies. Consider this comical comparison from “Little Meows.” http://littlemeows.com/comic-is-hilarious/

10. Cats are now being found in cafes throughout the world. Read this article written by Kelly-Jane Cotter about this new feline fad and add one to your trip’s next itinerary. http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/2016/03/16/cat-cafes-coffee-and-kitties-purrfectly-relaxing/80925764/.

Besides cafes, cats have always been popular in libraries. Here’s a map showing library cats around the world.  http://www.ironfrog.com/catsmap.html.

There’s a whole island devoted to them in Japan. http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/japan-cat-island/.

Amsterdam even has a boat that serves as a tourist attraction and cat sanctuary: http://thebestcatpage.com/2016/03/18/amsterdams-floating-sanctuary-cats-called-simply-cat-boat/.

For some reasons, women are stereotyped as cat crazy even though men can be wild about them, too. If you’re a cat crazy lady, you’ll enjoy Allia Zobels’ books: “Women Who Love Cats Too Much” and its recent sequel, “Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much.” If you’re a man, you should like Michael Showalter’s book, “Guys Can be Cat Ladies Too.”

For the furry finale to this blog post. Here are some additional photos of my own feline obsessions, Stripey and Oliver. Feel free to comment with photos of the cats you’re crazy about and why.2016-01-18 08.32.58olivercat

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Why I Hate Weekends and Why You Should Too

SaturdayIt seems that everyone waits for the end of the week which is traditionally considered Friday, although more people are working weekends nowadays. I work two Saturdays a month myself. Still, the popular term TGIF, Thank God Its Friday, proliferates. I would like to propose a new saying, TGIM, Thank God It’s Monday. Why? Because I hate weekends, and after you read my reasons for feeling this way, you may hate them, too.

  1. Weekends are for Catching Up. Even though I sometimes work Saturdays, when I’m off on Saturday and Sunday, I end up doing all the household work I put off during the work week. The weekend is usually when people clean, mow their lawns in the spring and summer, garden, wash laundry, repair and maintain appliances and other household items, etc. The work required to do these tasks can be more tiring than work one does for an employer during the week.
  2. Weekends are for paying bills. I usually sort my week’s snail mail on Sunday when it isn’t delivered. I glance through it when it arrives but then save it in a letter holder by the door. On Sundays, I go through it, throw out the junk mail, and pay the bills that are due. Bill paying is never fun and not something that one looks forward to doing in their free time.
  3. Weekends are when your family gets in your way. I know this sounds awful, but for a writer like myself who needs concentration to work, it is difficult to deal with interruptions even from loved ones. Weekends are usually the time your son or daughter asks for money, tells you they failed a test or class, needs help with a project, wants to know where a particular outfit or other item is that seems to have disappeared into thin air but that he or she has to have immediately, etc.
  4. Weekends are for Having Fun Even When You Don’t. I’m not a party person and, even though I enjoy going out, there are times I’d rather stay home and rest. Also, when you have children who schedule playdates, birthday parties, and other activities on the weekend, you either have to transport them to and from places or accompany them. Many holidays and get togethers are also celebrated over a weekend, and the planning, decorating, organizing, and clean up can be overwhelming.
  5. Weekends are for staying up and sleeping late. I’m a morning person, so it’s not easy for me to stay up late, but like most people, I do it when I’m not required to be up for work the next day. The problem is that when I get a late start, it’s very difficult to keep to any of my regular routines such as writing, exercise, etc. Doctors agree it’s healthier to keep the same sleep habits every night of the week. Also, if you go to sleep two hours later but then get up two hours later, you are not catching up on any rest because you are still getting the same amount of sleep.
  6. Weekends are for shopping. Whether it’s grocery, clothes, or another type of shopping that sends you into a mall or other store, it’s usually when the place is the most crowded. And, if you haven’t noticed, a lot of shopping is now done online these days, so even if the stores aren’t crowded, there are less checkout clerks being hired. That means you still end up waiting on line. Sales are also usually posted on weekends that draw in additional people who spend more at them, anyway.
  7. Weekends are for attending Religious Services. I really don’t want to offend anyone by this topic and please don’t get the impression that I’m against religion. I go to church, but I know many people don’t attend services regularly. Part of the reason may be because they don’t look forward to spending an hour in a usually stuffy place of worship where germs are rampant because of the many people that attend who are sick or bring their sick children. It’s wonderful to hear the word of God and join a faithful community, but it’s not so fun having to get dressed in business clothes on a non-work day, donate to the collection plate, hurt your knees by kneeling up and down, and drive in and out of the parking lot which can be quite hazardous. In my opinion, it takes a lot of devotion to do this on a weekly basis.
  8. Weekends are for Replying to Emails. I receive so much email that I’m embarrassed to say that I need to star or flag the important messages until I can reply to them at the end of the week. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in handling email this way.
  9. Weekends are for Visiting or Calling Friends and Relatives. Although it’s easier to text people on your phone or IM them on Facebook, it’s still nice to see or call people in person occasionally, and the weekend is usually the most convenient time to reach people or be reached yourself. These visits/calls can be pleasant enough except when you hear bad news, realize you missed an important date or birthday, or just get overwhelmed with trivial conversation such as the weather.
  10. Weekends are Harder When the Weather is Nice. Everyone looks forward to a warm, sunny Saturday or Sunday, but then you feel awful about spending it inside catching up on chores or other indoor activities. You are guilted into spending hours at the park or beach, and you feel good about it until you get home to the messy house, pile of bills and other work that you will have to save for another rainy weekend.

If the above reasons don’t convince you that life is simpler and more enjoyable during the work week, maybe you’re retired or have a really awful job. For me, I look forward to rising each week day at 5 a.m., sitting down at my computer and writing for an hour in the quiet morning, then heading off to work after my daughter leaves for school. Sure I have stress at work. Everyone does, but I still find it easier to deal with it in the regular routine than the unplanned, over-crammed 48-hour “weak” end.

Posted in Monday Blog

How to Cook Fresh Meals Even a Husband Can Make

blueapron2My husband has a plan to retire in four years. The first step of that is to learn how to cook, so he can prepare meals while I’m still working. He recently subscribed to a service called Blue Apron that delivers fresh ingredients and recipe cards to the home. Following the instructions and using the items in the stay-fresh box, he creates two dinners a week of four adult servings that allows leftovers for lunch blueapron1for our family of three.  So far, he has prepared Baked Empanadas de Picadillo with Arugula, Queso Fesco & Pickled Onion Salad and Spiced Checken Souvlaki with Tahini-Yogurt Sauce & Roasted Potato Wedges. Next week, he’ll be cooking sirloin steak and turkey burgers. While the meals require a bit of preparation, my husband is enjoying the experience. Even better, he is cleaning up.

Since I’m still on Jenny Craig food trying to lose a few more pounds, I was told I can eat some of the Blue Apron meals as long as I watch the calories. This isn’t hard because the recipe cards include calorie counts and portion sizes.

I was also curious about HelloFresh, a similar meal preparation company, but my husband opted to try Blue Apron first. We use Peapod for our grocery deliveries, and they have started to feature recipes on their website, although it’s not quite the same as having pre-packaged meal kits.

In an attempt to also involve our 11-year old daughter in learning to cook, I gave her a Kidstir breakfast kit for Christmas.  She has yet to try it. The kit didn’t include any food but had complete recipes for four dishes with simple instructions for children. It also featured some games and a kid-sized kitchen utensil. Subscriptions for monthly kits are available. I guess Holly considers herself too old for these, although they would make a fun activity for mothers with younger kids.

I’m sure there are more meal kit services, so if other husbands, wives, single people, or teens are interested in trying these all-in-one cooking packages, they can shop around and compare prices, menus, and other options.

Next on Anthony’s agenda is a trip to Arizona or another warm-weather state where we can afford to retire. Like any goal, There are many steps to take before reaching it. For now, I can spend more time writing, reading, or with my cats while my husband, Chef Anthony, takes care of dinner twice a week.

Since writing this article, I’ve discovered two more meal preparation companies: HomeChef and DinnerThyme. I offer no recommendations, but here is the complete list with links of the companies I’ve found so far:

Blue Apron

HelloFresh

HomeChef

DinnerThyme

Posted in Monday Blog, Uncategorized

Farewell February, My Least Favorite Month

FebruarycanvaFebruary is the shortest month of the year, and I’m thankful for that. When it has an extra day for Leap Year as it does this year, I am not happy to have those 24 “additional” hours. Why? Because February is my least favorite month. I don’t favor February for several reasons.

Arriving on the heels of January, it’s usually the time that most people abandon any resolutions they made in the New Year and, for those who live in the colder climates, it’s the time winter officially hits with at least one big snowstorm. Maybe those aren’t particularly great reasons for disliking a month, but consider this fact. While February brings love and Valentine to sweethearts, how many people are single and unattached, divorced, widowed, alone? For those people, February can be a cruel and lonely month indeed.

Also, have you noticed that there’s an increase in deaths in winter, most notably in February? Just this year we lost some popular people (this info previously posted by Geoff Herbert | gherbert@syracuse.com):

  • Bob Elliott, one half of legendary TV-radio comedy duo Bob and Ray with Ray Goulding, died Feb. 2 at 92.
  • Joe Alaskey, a voice actor originally from Troy, N.Y., died from cancer at age 63 on Feb. 4. He was the principal voice of multiple Looney Tunes characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, after Mel Blanc’s death in 1989 and voiced Yosemite Sam in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
  • Maurice White, a founding member of disco-funk group Earth, Wind & Fire, died Feb. 3 at 74.
  • Dave Mirra, a Central New York native who rose to fame as a BMX biker at the X-Games, had his own video games and hosted an MTV reality show, died Feb. 4 of an apparent suicide at 41.
  • Dan Hicks, who led ’60s band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, died Feb. 6 at 74.
  • Daniel Gerson, co-writer of “Monsters, Inc.” and “Big Hero 6,” died Feb. 6 of brain cancer at 49.
  • Vanity, an ’80s singer-actress and Prince protege also known as Denise Katrina Matthews, died Feb. 15 at 57.
  • George Gaynes, who starred on “Punky Brewster” and played Commandant Lassard in all seven “Police Academy” movies, died Feb. 15 at 98.
  • Angela “Big Ang” Raiola of “Mob Wives” died at 55 on Feb. 18 after a battle with throat, brain and lung cancer.
  • Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” died Feb. 19 at age 89.
  • Douglas Slocombe, Oscar-nominated cinematographer for three “Indiana Jones” movies, died Feb. 22 at age 103.
  • Sonny James, country singer behind hits like “Young Love,” died Feb. 22 at age 87.
  • Lennie Baker, the voice of Sha Na Na’s doo-wop hit “Blue Moon,” died Feb. 24 at age 69.
  • Tony Burton, who played Apollo Creed’s trainer Duke in six “Rocky” movies, died Feb. 25 at 78.

Wikipedia lists even more February deaths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2016

Personally, I lost both my father and mother-in-law in February. If you counter this by saying that several presidents were born in February and that many of your friends and relatives were, as well, I’ll say my mom was also born this month and celebrated her 88th birthday just a few weeks ago. I’m thankful for that, but I still don’t give February any more points because it’s a fact more births occur in the summer. Although the statistics in this article aren’t current, it’s likely they haven’t changed much: http://www.livescience.com/32728-baby-month-is-almost-here-.html

What else do I have against February? It’s a peak time for the flu and other viruses to spread. Check out the graph in this info from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm

February is also not a pretty month. Although daylight is beginning to last longer and there are occasional spring-like days, the trees are still bare and sometimes the snow that fell in January is still around and turning an ugly black.

I guess I’ll make it through one more February day this year, but I’m ready to move on to March. What about you? Is February also your least favorite month or do you have another? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Lost and Sometimes Found

lobaughawardI’d like to share an experience I had recently of locating a very special item that I thought was lost, my 1984 Laurence C. Lobaugh Memorial Award for Journalism from Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus. For those, like me, who are constantly losing or misplacing belongings, I’m also providing some tips for keeping them safe or finding them when they are missing.

Most people realize that, like a detective, you have to follow your last steps of where you last had an item in order to try to trace it. In my opinion, there are three types of things that go missing. The first we can refer to as Only Misplaced  (OM). This is something you put away either for safekeeping and then forget where you put it or something you left in a place it didn’t belong because you were either in a hurry putting it away or didn’t have a good place for it. This was the case with my journalism award. I could’ve sworn I’d put it in my jewelry box in a special section, but it turned up in a small box in my closet that was not even the box it originally came in. This forgetfulness loss is the easiest to remedy, as items are usually eventually found ironically often when looking for something else.

EarringThe second type of missing item is more difficult to find. We can refer to it as the Unknown Missing  (UM). It’s when you realize something is missing like an earring or other type of jewelry, but you did not put it anywhere. It may have fallen off and, because you usually don’t know exactly when you lost it, it’s hard to trace your steps leading up to its loss. This happened to me with one of my favorite earrings and an anniversary ring. This loss is usually permanent, as the objects which are usually small, either get vacuumed up, thrown in the garbage, or blown away by the wind if lost outside. Occasionally they are found, but the person finding them has no way of matching them up with you.

The last type of missing item is something that is just misplaced temporarily such as keys, water bottles, cell phones. In most cases, the person just forgets where they left these items. Sometimes this happens on a regular basis. I’m a big water bottle misplacer. I usually leave them in doctor offices and in various places around the library where I work. We refer to this type of missing item as the Commonly Misplaced (CM).

Here are some tips to dealing with all 3 types of lost items:

jewelryboxFor OM’s, the best course of action is to not lose these items in the first place. If they are valuable to you either financially or emotionally, set aside a place for them. Put them in a firesafe box or a jewelry box you can lock (but make sure not to lose the key). If you’ve already lost the item and are sure it’s in your house, don’t panic. It will turn up eventually when you are looking for something else. If you’re in a rush to find it for some reason, you can try cleaning the room where you have similar objects. For instance, if it’s jewelry, you might look through all your jewelry boxes or in the room where you normally keep your jewelry. If it’s an item of clothing, you might look through your drawers and closet or even where you store your out-of-season clothes.

For UM’s, all you can do is try to retrace your steps. If you’re not even sure where and when you lost it, you will have to look everywhere. The sooner you do that after you discover it missing, the better your chance of finding it. To prevent losing this type of item, you should make sure your jewelry fits well. For earrings, you should check that the backs are secure. For those that dangle, like the one I lost, be sure that you use the tiny plastic back to secure it. Also, if you are wearing a coat, check that it might have fallen inside or to the floor when you’ve put it on or taken it off and especially check the place you put the jewelry on in the first place. If it’s a ring, make sure it’s not too loose, as mine was. Items like these can fall off without you feeling them drop.

bottleFor CM’s, you just have to be more aware of where you place things. However, there are now apps and devices you can buy to track your objects. My husband got the whole family a  Tile tracking devices for Christmas that can attach to your keys and other items so that you can track them with a cell phone app (and you can track that too as long as you keep it signed into the program). I actually find this more of a nuisance, although I have to admit it helped me find my keys once.

When all else fails, you can say a prayer to St. Anthony, the saint of lost items.