Sunday, May 27, 2012

Talking to Fireflies

Last night, under a brilliant crescent moon, Elliot talked to fireflies. 

He talked to them using an LED tea light, flicking the little switch on and off. They responded with their own light signals, flying close and hovering, curious and hopeful.

Earlier in the day, we moved our home school classroom to the back porch, and now look forward to our summer schedule of reading, immersing ourselves in nature, making art, swimming, traveling and entertaining.  Soon we will be in Michigan, celebrating Emily's graduation.

We are looking forward to campfires, starlight and gentle breezes.  We are impatiently waiting to see my mom, my brothers and of course, Emily. Elliot is looking forward to a wilderness hike on North Manitou island, a place once inhabited and now deserted except for a ranger station.  We're all looking forward to dining at an amazing restaurant called Old Hamlin, where the fried chicken is the most divine food we've ever eaten. 

We'll be kayaking, tent camping, fishing, swimming and hiking with my family and Ozzie too.  It is my favorite time of the year.

The writing I'll be doing will be on paper with pens.

The only thing I haven't packed yet is a good book, although I just ordered Fifty Famous Stories Retold for Elliot.  What have you read recently that you couldn't put down?  The last novel that kept my emotions engaged was The Help.  I would love to find one with that level of depth and quality for my summer reading list.

Maybe this time I won't need a book.  Maybe this time, a book would distract me from my loved ones and from my revitalized appreciation for the northern climate.  It's always good to go home.

While we are away, Elliot and I will be closing our Etsy shops, with the intention to re open when we return.  When I am back, the push to stock up Knees and Paws in preparation for my biggest season will be in full gear.  Elliot has plans to keep painting for the homeless men in Tent city and may even have a chance to bring his gifts to them in person. 

So I will say a little goodbye this morning, with gratitude for your friendship and anticipation for what is to come.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let God Provide For You

These days in May have been so full.  Full of children playing, of friendship, sunshine and laughter.  Occasionally tears came and went with reassuring words and comfort.  There is less than a week left of caring for our little friends. Each day is proving to be a bittersweet bonding of friendship; just as we will be saying a little goodbye, we all feel a swelling of love and appreciation for one another.  Elliot, Richard and I will miss the children being here every day.  Yesterday while they sat eating brownies and milk at my kitchen table, I shared that no matter where they go in life, or what they do, I am their friend forever.  No matter if they grow up and move away, have great success or stumble along, I will care.  I promised that we would get together over the summer for campfires and play dates.  They returned loving words of affection and smiled at the thought of summer evenings roasting marshmallows and playing in the dark. 

There is so much of life to enjoy, even when things don't turn out the way we think they should.  It took me so long to finish school. It is taking me even longer to learn how to support myself financially.  I know that God knows that this troubles me, like a nagging, unspoken thing under the surface.  The negative little critic seeps in sometimes, saying those cruel little phrases like "you're supposed to be intelligent.  Why did you work so hard just to end up making frivolous things and taking care of children?  Why are you so foolishly hiding in your house when you could be out there wearing nice clothes and being someone important?  What do you hope to accomplish by teaching at home to one child instead of attempting to influence many?"  And it goes on.  And I have to move past it.  Ignore the chatter.  Put a gag on the mean, mean little abuser.  Remember that I'm doing exactly what I feel inside is the most fulfilling way to live.

So I took a walk.  It was bliss outside.  The air was balmy, not oppressive.  The afternoon was fading into evening, and I soaked up those weakening rays of light that reached over the sky, above me and through me, to a bank of towering white clouds that pushed together in piles of heaping meringue.  Purple wisteria bloomed in arches over mailboxes.  Day lillies reached out in sprays.  A neighbor passed by in a station wagon and waved.   Then I heard the still small voice.  I hadn't heard it in such a long time.  I'm learning to recognize this phenomenon when it happens without questioning the source.  I used to wonder if it was my own thoughts because the voice sounds like me talking to myself.  But the small voice came to me when I wasn't trying to answer any particular question.  It came after I had been observing the beauty of this life all around me.  It said:

"Let God provide for you."

And I realized that I had been trying too hard to provide for myself.  I was missing the real value that I swim in daily.  Not the artificial value of money.  And when I started to think about that artificial value of money, I realized that sometimes people carry it so far as to abuse and hoard and use up so many resources; they are never satisfied; they can never have enough.

I have plenty.  More than I ever thought was possible, and more than I thought I deserved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Fighting Quaker

While it's true that Greensboro is a very green place in every sense of the word, the city's name was chosen to honor General Nathaniel Greene.  Natty Greene was a major general of the continental army during the Revolutionary War.  He was born to a Quaker family in 1742, and although his father discouraged him in "literary accomplishments" he educated himself in mathematics and law.  He is most remembered in Greensboro for leading his troops into battle against General Cornwallis at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  The location of this battle has been preserved and protected as a National Military Park.  Today I have some pictures of our recent visit to the park, along with some of my favorite Natty Greene quotes.  The quotes have helped me to resolve a recent inner conflict about the challenge our nation faces to protect and secure our southern border.  Nathaniel Greene was a Quaker and a pacifist, but eventually was led to act in opposition to his pacifist beliefs. 

Here are a few of my favorite Greene quotes:

"It had been happy for me if I could have lived a private life in peace and plenty, enjoying all the happiness that results from a well-tempered society founded on mutual esteem. But the injury done my country, and the chains of slavery forging for all posterity, calls me forth to defend our common rights, and repel the bold invaders of the sons of freedom." Nathanael Greene to his wife, Catharine Littlefield Greene.

 "We are soldiers who devote ourselves to arms not for the invasion of other countries, but for the defense of our own, not for the gratification of our private interests but for public security"

 "Learning is not virtue but the means to bring us an acquaintance with it. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Let these be your motives to action through life, the relief of the distressed, the detection of frauds, the defeat of oppression, and diffusion of happiness."

To read more about the battle, click here.

The site of the battle is now a beautiful park with a canopy of trees so big that walking into the park feels like air conditioning even on a hot, humid day.  It is a sanctuary of sorts; people love to come here to ride bikes, run, walk their dogs, and simply drive through.  Picnics are not allowed, neither is sunbathing or other activities that one would normally do at a recreational park. We enjoy it because it's a quiet, cool refuge from the busy city traffic and intense sun.

Elliot loves to goof around.  I think he's trying to place a call.

I'm not sure what he heard inside the empty cannon.
So he must have left a message at the sound of the tone.
The children love Richard and listen to him talk about the history of the park and the natural things they encounter.
The children were interested in the story of the battle.
The battlefield.  Every year on May 15, there is a reenactment of the battle and a camp is set up for visitors to see how folks lived, worked and fought during the war.

The fighting Quaker stands tall.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Art of the Yogurt Sandwich

The yogurt sandwich is not a new recipe I'm promoting during my recent weight loss effort.  It is what you eat when you are seven and beginning to understand that you are capable of feeding yourself.  A yogurt sandwich that also includes a thick scoop of peanut butter is even better. The way to make a yogurt sandwich is to take two pieces of soft white bread and lay them side by side.  Spread a thick layer of peanut butter on one piece, and top with any kind of yogurt you have available.  In this demonstration, Elliot chose to use strawberry Gogurt, which he squeezed from a tube. He claims it's delicious, but I have to take his word for it.  I wonder if we should start a foodie blog?

If you ask Elliot how it tastes, he'll reply "yougurty!"  A yogurt sandwich helps restore your energy when you've been deeply immersed in learning new skills.  Like how to design and print your first t shirt.

Elliot wore his t shirt all day, and also in the evening when we went downtown for a delicious meal at McCoul's Public House.  It was our first experience at McCoul's, and we enjoyed it so much that we plan to return.  We were able to sit outside on the roof top dining area, while the warm evening breeze lifted our spirits and relaxed our minds.  I probably should have asked for a yogurt sandwich, but could not resist the fish and chips.  They were delicious!  The portion was not so big to inspire serious guilt.  Elliot enjoyed a beautiful little hamburger with a wheat bun, and Richard chose the Sheppard's pie. Below us there was another outdoor dining area that sparkled with multicolored lights and big gerbera daisies.  The atmosphere was jovial, not rambunctious or out of control.  Richard's smile kept showing up throughout dinner, and that was the best part of the whole evening, topping even the beautiful pink sunset and the sight of Elliot spontaneously dancing a jig on his way out.

After that happy, relaxing experience, we headed over to our favorite place for coffee and sweets at Cheescakes by Alex.  I had  coffee and no dessert, as nothing on the menu is lactose free.  It's getting easier for me to resist all the things I cannot digest.  All I have to think about is that sometime later I can choose a small treat and that seems to silence the needy child within.

On the way out, as we walked back to the parking garage, a drunk man called out to Richard for a heart to heart chat.  If you knew Richard, you would know that he never turns his back on someone, or treats them with disrespect, unless he is being disrespected, and even then he manages to find a way to make himself understood without escalating the problem. I have watched him respond with kindness and compassion because this gives him joy to do so, not because he is trying to set an example or to shore up his image as a nice guy.  He genuinely cares about people no matter what kind of condition they are in.  This man was in the kind of condition that kept him swaying as he walked, and slurring as he talked.  His eyes were bloodshot, but he was soft spoken and did not try to intimidate us.  He just said, "hey man, can I talk to you?"

So Richard talked to him while Elliot and I stood to the side.  The conversation turned to Elliot's t shirt, and Richard was explaining what it meant.  I think the man was actually too drunk to read the letters, but he understood after Richard explained that his son was working to help the homeless.  At that moment, this inebriated man's posture changed.  His shoulders relaxed.  He stood steady for a moment and looked in all of our eyes.  He said, "for real?  for real?  God LOVES that."  Then Richard gave him a quarter...and explained to Elliot that even though giving money is normally not the best thing to do, the quarter was not enough money to get him into trouble.

So we are waking up this morning and it's Richard's day off.  We plan to enjoy it fully and also spend some time preparing for our camping trip in Michigan.  It's nearly time for Emily's graduation and we're all looking forward to our next adventure.

I hope you have a weekend full of the things that make life sweet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Elliot's On a Roll

What an exciting time of year.  It's nearly the end of our second year of home education and so many challenges that started out rough are now coming together in a big finale. In September, after we worked with the idea of imagery and poem-making, diving deep into a beautiful book of poems called Cold Stars and Fireflies by Barbara Juster Esbensen, Elliot sat with his blank sheet of primary lined paper and thought.  After a little while, he wrote a poem about a day we spent with Emily at Wet n Wild Water Park in Greensboro.  That day was memorable for each of us, all for different reasons.  Emily injured her foot when she jumped into shallow water and I lost my glasses in the wave pool and had to be led around the park by Elliot like a blind person.  For Elliot, this day was picture perfect, and he was able to capture it in a few lines of poetry.  I remember hearing it said that children need to have lots of experiences outside their home in order to improve their language; they need to have something to talk and write about.  (Note to self: get out more, and maybe the writing here will be more interesting!)

I remember the day that Elliot and I discussed poem making.  It was probably my favorite day as his teacher.  It wasn't a forced experience for either of us.  We just sat outside in the golden autumn morning and I read the poems aloud.  Sometimes, he'd ask me to read them over again.  As he's matured so much this year, becoming more involved in playing with his friends and watching cartoons, it seems like our reading times have become more rare.  The last great work we read together was Charlotte's Web.

On to the good news.  Yesterday we received a post card in the mail stating that Elliot's poem Water Park is accepted to be published in an anthology of student poetry.  At first, Richard (ever the pragmatist) told me not to jump up and down because he wondered if it was just a ploy to get parents to buy books of poems, and that every student's poems are accepted.  I remember submitting his poem for consideration months ago, but had not worried whether it was a scam.  It turns out that the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.  They also sent an email with instructions including a statement saying that this is an honor because most student's work is not accepted for publication.  Elliot's poem is also in the final competition and may still win a financial award.

When you are a home educator, little things like this matter because we don't always have a way to evaluate whether or not we are going along nicely, or failing miserably.  I don't count on results from a standardized test to tell me how we're doing.

So we're nearing the last week of school, and I'm feeling pretty good.  Things are not perfect, and sometimes my illusions get shattered, but this life is something I'm thankful for.  When I started out here, I never expected to be rich in friends and able to freely share my thoughts without the fear of harsh criticism.

Today, I'm savoring the happy moments.

Monday, May 14, 2012

You're Always With Me

Cat Stevens sang, "I'm always talkin to you"  even when he couldn't think of "right words to say."  The memory of How Can I Tell You reminds me that I've been living 800 miles away from my daughter for four years, yet I don't really feel her absence because of a spiritual connection.  The only way to get through the surprise of her decision not to come home was to remember the power of the spirit to fly.  I told Emily that I feel like we're always together.  I also told her that I have no expectations or demands, or even requests.  This is an important time in a young woman's life: the last two weeks of high school.  It's a heady time of great change and she will have to say a lot of goodbyes.

Thank you to my sweet, loving, kindhearted friends who held my hand and comforted me when I was really feeling painfully rejected and hurt.  You are the best friends anyone could ever have.

Today is an important day.  Today, many good things are happening.  Elliot will go to the post office with an armload of envelopes!  His first few days in business were such a smashing success that he sold out on his first day.  By Sunday, he was up to 13 sales!  I can't explain the excitement in his heart.  His mission is already changing his perspective.  Yesterday we had the opportunity to sit next to a panhandler while we were in traffic. I said, "Elliot, if that man is truly homeless, you are helping him.  He doesn't know it, but you know it.  Just because you aren't giving him cash right now doesn't mean you don't care about his situation."  While we drove through the changing light, I looked at this man's wrinkled face, his red curly hair, and made eye contact.  I said a little prayer and kept going.  Elliot said, "I noticed he had something around his neck.  I wonder if it was a work badge like Daddy wears.  Do you think he has another job?"

So we are opening up this very complex problem.  We are unpacking a box of parts to assemble, seeing for the first time how panhandling and homelessness are two separate things.  We are talking about things like substance abuse, mental illness and poverty.  We are talking about the different places and situations homeless people may find themselves in.  How each homeless person, or each homeless family, have different problems that they are facing.  That they have battles to fight that we can't see.  Some may sleep in parking garages, some in tents in the camps.  Some have refuge in shelters, and some may sleep under underpasses and bridges.  On our bike rides through the park, we have noticed  holes in the fence at the back of the cemetery.  We talked about how the cemetery would be a safe place to sleep at night, because people who might take advantage of a lonely homeless person would be afraid to hang out with the dead at night. 

We talked about personal pride and the desire of the homeless to be invisible.

We are still unpacking this box.  Not all of the pieces are going to fit.  We are imagining the unseen homeless while also looking closely at their faces. 

Elliot has dictated a letter to go along with his paintings.  This idea was inspired by Shelly and I want to thank her so much for suggesting it.  Now everyone who buys a painting will also receive Elliot's words.  I will not share the letter here, because I feel it needs to be opened by the people who are supporting Elliot and encouraging him to keep moving forward.  It is the kind of straightforward language of a child who speaks plainly and matter of fact.  It contains a particular line that I will remember forever.   It leaves me in awe at the tenderness and sensitivity of my child's heart.

Here's to many good things happening for you today.

You're always with me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Elliot's Ninjas: Helping the Homeless One Ninja at a Time

Dear Friends,
It is my pleasure to announce that today is the grand opening of Elliot's Ninjas.  As you may remember, our son Elliot has been deeply concerned about the homeless men and women that he sees every day on the streets and in the parks of our city.  For weeks he has been thinking of ways to help.  Recently he discovered that besides building with LEGO, he loves to paint.  In fact, he loves to paint ninjas.  Yesterday morning, he told me that he wanted to open his own Etsy shop and sell his ninja paintings so that he would have funds to donate to the homeless. 

We have chosen two non profit organizations in our area that would benefit from Elliot's mission to give funds and supplies.  These are the Pathways Center of Greensboro, a shelter that serves homeless families, and Street Watch.  Street Watch is an organization that collects items such as tents, sleeping bags and necessities for those homeless who are waiting for openings in shelters.  Elliot will have an opportunity to purchase supplies for Street Watch that will go directly to the camps.

Without further ado,

Here's Elliot's Ninjas!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ninja Art Heals the Soul

After a long, exhausting day of disappointment, dashed expectations, and my son healed it all.  I brought out a big tray of watercolors and paper and we made Mothers day cards, get well cards and little post cards to tuck inside that highlight Elliot's work. We watched my favorite TV show Burn Notice (how appropriate for my condition!) and painted.  I was surprised to find that Elliot was really getting into it!  The more little cards I cut for him, the more he painted.  At one point he commented "I could do this all night!"  Just before tucking him into bed in a fort he's made under a high window seat in his newly rearranged and sorted room, I realized that I had completely forgotten to be in emotional pain.  I went to bed happy with everything in it's new perception.  Emily's decision to stay with us this summer was only an illusion, and with that truth I am free to imagine an construct new plans for new illusions.  Or intentions, or best outcomes, or whatever we do when we think forward while being firmly immersed in the present.

More than anything, this time watching Elliot enjoy making ninja art was one I want to remember.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Multipotentialite's Dilemma (Part 2)

Uh oh.  Here we go again!  I have a shiny, brand new idea that is begging for my attention.  Will it be a summer project just for me?  Or a new shop or shop section?  I'm not sure.  I know it's all a result of that good old multipotentialite thinking, the kind in which  I start out with a problem and then come up with a creative solution.

Please bear with me.  I am sleep deprived, and sleep deprived people should not be blogging at this hour.  Especially when they are very upset about the fact that in North Carolina people voted and won the ban on gay marriage.  Apparently justice isn't for y'all.

Secondly I am upset that Emily is seriously considering staying up north for the summer.  While I understand that it will be difficult to leave her father, her best friend and her new job, my heart is just a little bit broken.     I wisely remember that I when I set out to live my adult life, I really didn't want to live at home with my parents.  I came back for visits, and my parents rejoiced, then stood together and waved to me from the middle of the driveway.  That was sad.  And now I fully understand what that feels like.

Anyway, back to my shiny new idea.  Because when it's all over, I know what made me satisfied in life.  It was the time I payed attention to living the way I like to live. This month I'm on a serious fitness kick.  In seven days I've run over 55 miles and the scale is indeed starting to budge.  I feel so much better and have a great deal more energy.  On the other hand, I don't have much interest in keeping the house extraordinarily clean or cooking huge complicated meals.  I'm trying to find hours in my heavily loaded schedule for adding in more miles.   It can get rather consuming.

Because of this new push to get fit is so involving, I've naturally started paying attention to portion control.
And that's where the new idea came about.  After enjoying a single scoop of lactose free ice cream (thank you Bryers!)  I realized that it was just the perfect amount.  You see, I am a normally small person.  It's bragging to say that I'm five two.  Actually, I'm five one.  And I've been eating on standardized dinner dishes for years.  Plates that are perfect for people who are a foot taller and almost 80 lbs heavier than me.

I'm not quite a "little person" but I am naturally small.  When I stand in a group of elementary students, the fifth graders are at least as tall or taller.  I was once mistaken for a student by a teacher when in a crowd at my daughter's elementary school.  I'm a teeny tiny woman, currently not so teeny due to some extra pounds.
So I was thinking that I need to have my own dishes that fit the portion sizes that are right for me.

Like little ice cream dishes that hold a single scoop.  Plates that I wouldn't feel terrible for "cleaning" every last bite from.  Bowls that hold a cup of something.

So I want to learn pottery.  The multipotentialite's dilemma part two is this question:  how do people with these terrible impulses for learning manage to navigate all their various interests and still stay sane?
Maybe the inner prompt to learn pottery is just another awesome gift from God.   A way to heal my summer without her.

And an easier way out of over-eating.  I would call my line of little dishes "The Teeny Tiny Woman."  And they would not look childish...these would be designed for adults in bright colors and with lots of style. This idea is an objection to the concept of super-size me.  I want to miniature-size me.

So this is how I go forward.  One new idea at a time. 

But I also go forward with the help of friends.  Today I especially want to thank Sush for the comfort she gave to me while I'm learning to let go of my daughter. 

 I'm going to close with this quote:

The God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 

P.S.  Little Brooke gets to go home to Texas for a month with her family.  Many good things are happening all the time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Ten miles a day.  That was/is my goal.  And even though two out of the last five days I've rested or taken shorter runs, I'm finding that it's not impossible to accomplish.  The bigger challenge has been finding time to go out for multiple sessions. Thankfully Elliot is on a scooter kick and will join me through paved routes in the park, but he's not quite ready for anything more than three miles at a time.

 So that's what I'm doing these days.  My feet are tired but my mind is clear and sharp. The scale has yet to budge, but I feel better.  Yesterday for the first time, there was not a single incident of back pain, which is enough to keep me going forward.

There isn't time for sewing.  Barely time for teaching.  The house might stay somewhat clean because we won't be here.

I am consumed.

And I wish I had never taken that two month break, falling into sedentary living and over eating.  It came with anxiety and discomfort and a feeling of hopelessness.  The smallest little problems seemed to be big and unmanageable.

The things I used to worry about don't seem to matter when I'm focused and driven.  When you're bone tired, you don't have much energy left to ruminate on petty, temporary problems.  When you're focused on yourself, the things other people do and say seem to be just a bit farther away.  And as much as I care about my friends and family, I realize that getting wrapped up in another person's challenges is not very healthy for me psychologically.  This is especially true during the hours I care for a group of children in the afternoons.  The drama of their sibling combat has had an impact on our household.  While it's true that we enjoy many happy times and will remember these days with fondness, I'm finally resolved to the fact that it is not my responsibility to change how they feel about one another.  I can do my best to set expectations for peace and love, but in the end, they are going to be who they are.  I am not super nanny.

While the days tumble forward into warm mid spring, the humidity and heat make for sharp tempers and intolerable situations.  We've turned on the air, filled their little bodies with watermelon, popsicles and lemonade.  I'd love to put up the pool, but I know that it will become yet another arena for conflict.  They enjoy smashing each other in the face with balls, dunking one another to the point of near drowning, and splashing one another repeatedly despite screams of desperation.

Elliot watches all of this and tries to mediate.

I have disciplined them in creative ways, used positive reinforcement,  provided artistic activities and modeled conflict resolution.  I have ignored and forgotten and shrunk incidences that could have been their ticket out of my household forever.

I have told them I loved them and hugged them.

One day they will grow up and hopefully grow through these behaviors.  Maybe I'll still be a part of their lives this time, unlike the children whom I've cared for in my past.  Because of moves, growth, and life changes, there are many people whom I helped though the early years of life who I no longer have contact with.  I look back and remember my devotion to them, and how much I learned about family life.  This time, I'm finally approaching the very end of my care giving career.  In four weeks, I'm going to retire from this work and focus on the adventurous life of my dreams.  The one in which I actually have time to paddle in my kayak, take long runs and hikes, visit my family, drive to the beach,  reconnect with Emily, Richard and even Elliot.  He's growing so fast that it feels like I have the meet the new boy he becomes through each stage.

If I'm not here, I'm running my heart out.  Finding peace.  Making plans.  I will try to take more pictures along the way.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Grumpy Birthday

Today is my birthday and I'm grumpy.

I really need to turn this attitude around, because it looks like a promising day ahead, with warm sunny weather and a Dental visit for Elliot (normally that would be a drag, but it means at least an hour of sitting in lush furniture with good things to read, hot gourmet coffee, and full control of the cable television if I choose.) 

Recently, as in yesterday, I made the mistake of stepping on the scale.  It looks like I've put on the freshman fifteen.  The added weight has arrived with regular back pain.  I told myself not to worry about it, because soon I will be hiking 83 miles at the beach.  But then I thought, why wait?  Instead of anticipating my recovery from this pattern of sitting too much and enjoying big meals, I can turn the ship around right now.  So I went crazy and ran 10 miles yesterday and plan to do ten a day until I feel better.  Five in the morning, and five at night.

It must have helped because today I don't feel nearly as much pain. 

There is a shift in my thinking now that I'm heading deeper into the forties.  I used to look outside myself for answers, like a helpless maid needing someone else to help me fix all the messes and disappointments and frustrating challenges that loom large in my imagination.  I intend to minimize this problem, right now, today.

Part of the problem of having more birthdays is that we become more skilled as we grow.  I'm getting better at shopping for groceries and preparing good meals.  I've stopped buying junk that is partially prepared in boxes or in the freezer aisle, and developed a taste for more interesting dishes with fresh ingredients.  The final result is that I eat more, and actually enjoy mealtime.  My palate has developed also as a result of being farther away from my ex smoking date.  I have changed from being the mom who dreaded preparing meals as daily drudgery, to a mom who enjoys cooking.  My father would be proud.

I love French, Greek, and Italian cuisine.   I used to think that cooking those types of meals would be hard on the budget, but actually many of those dishes are simpler and more affordable than some of the classic American fare that I grew up on.  I think I could live on bread, olives and cheese.  Or some fresh veggies with a side of pita chips and hummus.  Or pasta with wine sauce and capers.

It is a sign of growth that I now appreciate different foods.  I used to be heartily committed to the standards of my childhood.  Yet with so many recipes to choose from around the world, and so many new foods appearing at the grocery store, the standard doesn't seem as appealing and comforting as it once was.

I've decided to keep eating and cooking while managing the scale.  I've decided that deprivation is not going to be an option.

New running shoes are in order.

Please pass a piece of that chocolate birthday cake!

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