Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Few Words for Wednesday

I am down two pounds since making magical breakfast creme my morning routine. This is in part due to thinking about food. I was so interested in Guiliano's cookbook that I checked out two more of her books at the library. Three ideas from French Women Don't Get Fat are sticking, helping me to feel lighter throughout the day:

* It is your brain that controls what you eat and how much. If you are totally bored by the foods you are eating, you tend to eat more.

* Thus, a routine, while convenient, gets boring. It's easy to go into the grocery store and mindlessly pick out the same items, week after week, then come home and make the same rounds of grilled chicken, hamburgers, spaghetti and tacos, day after day.

* Cooking a few SIMPLE, tasty, nutritious, French recipes to contrast my normal boring dinners provides a feeling of intelligence and creativity. I am surprised to discover that through cooking and eating differently I care about myself more than I have in weeks. Caring about myself makes it easier to control my portions.


On a side note, the official patent book has arrived at the library. From now until September 8, I will be deeply involved in creating the official Knees and Paws patent, while continuing to share little stories here. Thank you for being patient while I work through this next big challenge. My trial by fire begins.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Magical Breakfast Creme

According to Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, the thing we must do about weight control is to cook and eat. I'm doing that. A lot. But not in the way that is helping. So I'm making some adjustments. Giliano reminds me that eating a healthy, well balanced breakfast prevents dehydration and that pesky urge to eat junk at 10 am after filling up on nerve rattling coffee. So I have decided to take her advice and experiment with a week of eating something she calls "magical breakfast creme."

Guiliano claims that this concoction "is the perfect complete breakfast and will keep you from getting hungry until late lunch." (I will be watching the clock to monitor when my hunger begins.) But why does she call it magical? It's magical because it is "tasty, easy, and so good for your well being and melts away pounds." But she adds, the trick is to cut out two "offenders" during the day. Her offenders are wine and bread. Mine are whole bags of microwave popcorn, butter flavor, and animal crackers dipped in vanilla frosting.

Needless to say, I am in need of the magical melting aspect of magical breakfast creme. I intend to eat it for one week while cutting out my two offenders and possibly eating more veggies with my dinner. If you'd like to try this, here's the recipe. I made it this morning and it was delicious. I felt totally spoiled eating it.

1/2 cup yogurt

1 tsp flaxseed oil (my gosh this is expensive! but don't skip it)

1 to two tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp honey

2 tablespoons crushed shredded wheat cereal

2 teaspoons chopped nuts

a few berries (optional)

Method of Preparation: Put the yogurt in a bowl and add the oil. Mix well. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Add the honey and mix well. It is important to add each one at a time and mix to obtain a creamy, lovely custard like texture.

Crush cereal, chop nuts. Add to yogurt mixture and serve at once.

After taking a little time mixing this, I sat down to a breakfast that looked like dessert. It was a touch sour at first but also delicious. I loved the texture of the cereal and nuts. It was better than just eating a container of sweetened yogurt. It was nicer than eating a plain bowl of cereal. I would serve it to guests.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Blogger's Truth

Lately I've been thinking about the real purpose of blogging. I'm finding that it's like a house; it needs daily and weekly maintenance. Sometimes I'm tempted to pretend that it doesn't exist so I can go back to my "normal" way of living. But is normal always best? For nearly 18 years I was a smoker, and although it was normal for me to start the morning on the back porch with my coffee, smokes, and the current book I was reading, that lifestyle had to change. And sometimes I wonder, is blogging like smoking without the carcinogens? I suspect I'm not alone in feeling like I've plugged into something that won't let me go. The Redhead Riter's blog subtitle is "witty, intelligent and addictive".
In a recent blog frog discussion, Redhead shares an advice list for bloggers who want to be successful. Between practical tips like "include a feed" she repeats the line "be real" as if it were a blogger's meditative mantra. For many many bloggers, being real, telling the truth, and writing honestly is the golden rule. The naked truth is important because we can't always share our reality or explain the complexity of our feelings to people we live and work with. In the daily moments of face to face interaction, everyone wears masks and performs roles. It's not intentional that we do this. It's bound up in the expectations that we perceive others have for us.
I want to believe that I'm always truthful, and that I write from the real emotions and issues I'm experiencing. But I also am conscious of emphasising the positive. No one likes a whiner or a miserable pathetic complainer.
I could go on telling little, true stories every day here at the Knees and Paws blog. But the challenge for me "lies" in writing something that's not only honest, but relevant to people who are kind enough to spend five minutes here. The challenge is to keep things fresh, interesting, and suspenseful (will my patent be submitted on time and accepted???). I could go into the heart of things and talk about how I feel alternately free and caged working from home. But then I have to ask if there's an interesting story to carry me deeper into that issue. It takes a lot of quiet, meditative listening to draw out things like that.
I began this blog as a way to chronicle my journey into creating meaningful work for myself through my own business, to tell the story of how it began. To see the miracle of it unfold. To inspire others to take their lives into their own hands. To show that intention and faith are the wings that help us fly over circumstances. I don't have any answers. I'm just going to keep it real.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Back Story

Okay, so it's a risk, but I'm taking it. As I prepare to focus on the rapidly approaching patent deadline, I want to remember why I'm doing this project. Of course there's no going back, but looking back helps me take purposeful next steps when I feel mired in useless effort. I'm never really satisfied doing something for the sake of doing it; I want there to be a valuable outcome. At the heart of my intention, I want to create work that benefits others. The reason I'm doing this is so I can give in a bigger way, to be a contributor. Making a shift from dependency to independence means looking for opportunities to give rather than to recieve. During the ceremony at my father's burial, a family friend read a poem with the line "you may bury my hands but don't bury the work of my hands". That line broke me. I sobbed loudly for the rest of the service. It was embarrassing but if you knew how much my father worked with his hands to make my life comfortable you'd cry too. A lot.

And now I want to throw off the cloak of depression and vulnerablity, to simply not care about things related to sales. It never really matters in the beginning anyway. Everyone has to start somewhere. I am somewhere in the beginning and it is a very small beginning. But I have these valuable experiences in my past that will help it to grow.

I have left so many jobs that it's embarrasing to write a resume. I would not have left these many work places but my first husband moved us eight times in nine years of marraige. By the time I made it to North Carolina, I found a job I thought would be my life's work. I was managing a small but incredibly beautiful garden center, learning all aspects of the business from growing to merchandising. I was in love with my work, with being outdoors in abundant sunlight and friendly customers. Then, at a time when I was feeling an inner calling to make changes in my personal life and also to pursue my love for books and classrooms, the business failed. The beautiful property with the greenhouses, gift shop and massive walnut tree was sold to a developer. Everything was destroyed. They burned the house that was the gift shop and cut down the hundred year old tree. A big part of me died with it. For months, I walked around with a feeling that my soul had been amputated. At that time I was also experiencing divorce.

So, I did what many single mothers without jobs do. I asked for temporary help from the government, adopted a seriously frugal lifestyle, found part time work and went back to college. I was going to pursue my dream of teaching. Things were very difficult at first, but gradually life unfolded in such a beautiful way that I now appreciate the struggle, and am even nostalgic for the days when I only had coffee and toast to eat. There was so much less to maintain, and so much more time to watch the sunset and read wonderful books. So much more time to form new friendships.

My part time job was as a maintenance assistant at an apartment community. It involved picking up trash in the parking lot. I enjoyed this job. I didn't feel humiliated. I got to have a walk in the morning air before the residents went to work. It was completely peaceful. On one of those mornings, a man sitting in his car saw me walk by with my trash picker and my blue plastic bucket. A voice in his head said "there goes your wife".

Of course he shook himself and forgot all about it. But the voice turned out to be right. Proving to me now that even the most humble occupation of picking up cigarette butts and empty fast food cartons from a parking lot has a purpose. Not only a purpose, but a hugely rewarding outcome. It lead me to the love of my life and the birth of our son.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Connecting Knees and Paws; the Sunday Creative Prompt from Life Set to Words

The Sunday Creative
Each Sunday, Meagan from Life Set to Words offers a one word creative challenge to everyone who reads her insightful and lovely blog. This week the word is "Connect". While the Knees and Paws blog, etsy and facebook have been my usual mediums to "connect" to new and old friends, today I've decided to focus on my product. Since writing the patent pending application, I've often thought of ways to keep the separate pieces of Knees and Paws together. Normally, I make customized cotton tote bags or back packs that turn into travel pillows when stuffed full of Knees and Paws. Those fantabulous wonderful customers who have purchased Knees and Paws from the Etsy site know that I include a tote with each set as a complimentary gift for being so awesome!

Yet while the tote bags help keep the sets together, I've wondered about adding a design element that would connect the knee pads and the paws when not in use, especially needed if the totes are lost or used for other fun stuff. Here's one solution:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Service and Creative Expression: A dynamic, interdependent relationship

There is an interconnected, dynamic relationship between the life of service that we devote to our families and the art we create. Sometimes the line between the two is so blurred that one might be tempted to say that mothering is an art and the products of our creative expression are, in a sense, our "children". Many of my blogging friends are mothers and artists. I am continually amazed by the products of their creativity and the perspective they share as mothers. Today I'm inspired by Maegan from Life Set to Words who taps this well of thought with touching emotion in her recent post After reading about the transition she made from vacationing on Pea Island to what she calls a "smaller" life at home in PA, I connected to her struggle with the continual demands of laundry, her little one's needs, and the temptation to give up her art and simply "be a mom".

Maegan goes on to say that this wouldn't work because that would mean living 50% of a life. The question is how we manage the internal tension that comes from making our art and doing the necessary tasks needed to give our children comfort, safety and love. Time moves forward in the rush of daily chores, while our art seems to stagnate, stuffed in a box somewhere waiting to be given life. We don't want to think about doing art only when we are old and when we have lots of free time. We are compelled to do both now, even if the house is never fully clean or the art worthy of national merit. This is something our children will learn to accept as they grow, and hopefully appreciate as they discover and develop their own interests.

And what would our art be without our children to inspire us to create it? We are leaving it for them as well as healing ourselves in the process. When we find what it is that we love, our lives become ever expansive, fuller and satisfying. I cannot leave or quit this new "artistic" job I've created because it's in me; it's in my head and my hands and my heart. It's also connected to my faith because I suspect I am answering a prompt and following a path. I need to believe that my art will grow into a vehicle for giving in a bigger way than was possible in the days simply "being a mom".

Saturday, July 3, 2010


What do you think about when you read the word independence? As I prepare to celebrate the Nation's holiday, many ideas come to mind. This year is the first of my independence as a business owner and inventor. And so far I've learned that being successfully independent involves the support of many people. I've needed the financial and emotional support of my husband, the positive energy of my children, the encouragement of my mom and brothers, the intelligence of wonderful folks at Etsy, fb and blogger (especially Jen at Tutu's Bliss, Emmy Mom, Heather Oswald at Oswald Cuties and the SITS girls there). I've needed legal advice from David Pressman, and the list just gets longer. You see, no matter how alone and "independent" I feel some days, sitting at the sewing machine or scanning for knowledge online, being independent means having a vision and asking for help from God and others to make it a material reality.

Recently I found a beautiful page at the back of the March 2010 Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The "I did it!" page is a regular monthly column highlighting readers who did something wonderful to their home. In this particular entry, Jenny Nunnink showcased the finished patio she designed and created with tiles after drawing pictures with chalk, grinding tiles, and arranging the pieces into swirling, colorful patterns. She said

"the patio makes our small house much friendlier for entertaining. The way we can have these special things is to do it ourselves. I'll try most anything."

I agree...and for my topic here I would add that the way I can have the special thing that is my career is to do it myself. The blog makes my small business much friendlier for working. Despite (or perhaps because of) the small number of my followers at this stage, I appreciate every one. I am thankful for comments, and am encouraged by people who say nice things even on my worst blogging entries. I'm thankful that I don't have to be completely independent.

There is something wonderful about doing things by myself, trying new things I never thought I would be able to do. But I also fully appreciate that even though I walked up the mountain by myself, with my own two feet, I didn't really do it alone. There was that wonderful guy I married beside me, and God too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fish and Friendship

Wednesday's theme at Camp Happy Hoppins was Fishing. We read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, made our own Rainbow Fish art, and packed our fishing gear for an afternoon of fishing at Lake Brandt. The weather was perfect, the kids were full of energy and purpose, determined to catch something.

But next time, I will rent a little boat for us. Because stupidly, city regulations meant that we were not allowed to fish from a comfortable grassy area on the bank of the lake. We had to stand next to a fully loaded trash can (the only spot available) on the dock that assaulted our noses with the rotten, sun baked smells of leftover fisherman's lunches. Despite their patience, the kids didn't get a bite. To comfort us in our stinky misery, one turtle swam to surface to say hello. After a while, we returned home for a dinner of barbeque ribs. The evening turned fun when they covered the living room floor with couch cushions and played puppies for an hour. I'm waking up this morning to a wreck of a house and a son with sleepy eyes, messed up hair and a happy grin, full of the wonderful feeling that comes with having friends who will stay for hours, every day, just because they love you.

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