Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week Zero: Demon-Slaying

Week Zero? Yes.

This, because we've not officially hit 2010 yet, is a warm-up challenge. A little something I like to call The "Face A Few Demons" Challenge.

(And if you're wondering what the hell I am talking about with all these quests and goals, read this post: The Beginnings of Challenge 52. It 'splains a lot.)

Notice I said "a few demons" and not "all of them." I'm afraid if I attempted to face down all the worries and nagging missteps I've taken recently, it would seem as though the gates of hell had burst at the seams (meaning, demons running amuck everywhere, hanging from lightposts and mooning the citizenry of Anchorage. Not pretty.)

But I need to start and a rolling start is better than starting cold on January 1, 2010 with Week 1. (Yeah, all those things I just said AND I've got some major nagging business I have to take care of in the financial sector and I just don't want to.)

This week's challenge, (due Thursday 12/31) is to tackle the following two f$&k ups I managed to find myself in:

1. I bounced a payment for my truck. (God, that felt good getting out in the open.) If you're my friend on Facebook, I mentioned a slight "accounting error" last week? Yeah. One of the final two payments I have left on ol Danny Boy Dakota and I manage to royally screw it up like the idiot asshat I am. I'm ashamed. So, the bank will be hearing from me. And I hope they don't yell. I hate being yelled at..

2. I've hidden from an overdue student loan for about six months. It's getting sirrrrious now, isn't it? Yes. I am going to call them up and get myself on the "not so naughty anymore" list if I can. If not, I'll offer my first-born grandchild (sorry, boys) in hopes that they'll stop writing me mean letters about what a loser I am.

When it comes to my financial health, I am your classic ostrich. This week, I'll work on removing my head from the proverbial sand (and my butt, maybe?)...baby steps, baby steps...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Preparing for 2010: The beginnings of Challenge 52

I love my blog. I mean, really, really love writing in this easy-going, relaxed way. WIth no editors, no real audience (in my head, nobody really reads these things). But to keep a good blog alive, it needs content and love and attention. Did I mention content?

See, that' the driving force behind blogs. People read them because it's a running account...a constantly updated glimpse into whatever world you're showing.

When I can update a few times a week on blogs (yes, I have two, one is hidden under a pseudonym for the world famous writer I am in my own head) I feel invincible. When I can come up with something worth writing, that people might read, I feel like a real, grown up writerly, creative person. But it doesn't always last long. Soon, the days start piling up since my last post and I start dealing with the guilt of ignoring my poor little blog and how undisciplined a human being I am. Yada, yada, yada, right?

I'm babbling now, so it's here that I'll get to the point. Updates are hard to comeby. And you know what else is tough? New Year's Resolutions. I'm trying to merge the tough-to-invent-frequent-updates factor with the I-need-to-implement-some-changes-around-here vibe of resolutions. There. That's what it's all about. (And here you thought it was the Hokey Pokey all this time...)

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem writing down 539 ways I could improve myself this year. It's the following through that's the pain in the ass, and therein lies the problem. What's the damn point?

I know I need to lose 25 pounds. Hello??? I was the one threatening my jeans with the scissors this morning.

Save money? Duh. Like every fourth week of the month I'm cursing at myself and my frivolous ways.

Help people. Yes. Good one. Go ahead and pencil some time in at a soup kitchen sometime in the next 12 months to make me feel better about the fact that I'm a selfish human being. I get it!

So the idea came to me one night when I couldn't fall asleep. (It happens.) What about 7 days? I can do 7 days...I can do 3 or 4 days stupendously, but hell, even Megan can eek out 7 days.

So instead of 539 year-long resolutions that I'll lose and never look at, what about a new challenge each week? I've got TONS and TONS of things that I want to try or theories about eating nothing but grapefruit for a week that I'd love to test. And only committing 7 days to each cause?? Hell to the yes, says me!

Some days I feel like I'm seriously lacking adventure in my life. Others, no organization. Some days I crave spirituality. Other days I crave a damn fine piece of home-baked bread. (No, I've never baked bread. Duh.) It seems that these weekly challenges are going to encourage me to be creative and to put myself out there on the more "challenging" weeks. And yes, I'm definitely going to need suggestions after about three weeks....52 weeks seems like forever.

I'd like to throw out there that some of these aren't meant for 7 whole days, but are challenges to be completed within the alloted 7 days. (I mean, I really want to learn how to roast a whole chicken, but I don't want to eat chicken for 21 meals in a row. Just sayin'...)

Some weekly challenges I've already thrown about: a week without swearing (holy sh$&!), perfecting a lattice-topped cherry pie, a week with no meat, going to bed every night at 9:30 for a week, conversely, making my self stay up until midnight for a week, waking up at 5 a.m. for a week, making it to a yoga class every day for a week, not spending a single cent for an entire 7 days (HOT DAMN!), calling a different friend each day for a week just to listen to them, etc..etc...

You see where I'm going? Infinite possibilities. 52 weeks. 52 new accomplishments (or failures...depending on whether I'm supposed to bake that week or not...)

Hi. My name is Megan. And I'm freakin' excited about 2010...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from our house to yours

Luke 2:1-14

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A recipe for a perfect Christmas Eve: "...heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves..."

It's Christmas Eve at our house.

It's our first as a "married" couple, the first with Boo, and our first without Boy Wonder. We're mixing this and that, my favorite Christmas tradition, with his favorite, a new one for the boys, until we get it just right. I'm sure it's a lifelong process we'll constantly perfect, but here's what we have so far.

1. Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay
This one's from P and his family. I can't remember what my family does for dinner Christmas Eve, but I am not a shrimp eater. I'm a shrimp buyer, for sure. But this one is all P, until the boys grow up big enough to love shrimp, too. Here's the recipe P adapted from the Old Bay box:

1 lb raw shrimp
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup vinegar
Old Bay to taste

Bring the water and vinegar and spices to boil. Add shrimp. Boil no more than three minutes, or until shrimp turn from grey to pink. Voila!

2. Mulled Wine
A new one for both of us. He's not the wine drinker, so this is my equivalent to steamed shrimp. I like it. It's warm and gooey. Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" is the one who requests his "heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves." Indeed, Angel, indeed. Here's the recipe I used (delicious....):

Clarence's Mulled Wine

A bottle of red wine
4 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 orange
1 lemon

Warm for 40 minutes, but do not boil. Nummmmy.

3. New Pajamas for the whole family
Once we're in from our yearly tamale party at our favorite Anchorage family's house, there are new pajamas waiting for all of us. This is something I remember my mom doing for us the past few years...though I don't know if it was something we did "back in the day." Either way, I like it. A lot. And so does P. He had fun picking his out. Boo? He had no choice.

4. "It's a Wonderful Life"
This one we'll watch while we're wrapping the last of the presents tonight. It's my absolute favorite holiday movie and it's one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart flick. (I really do have a love of all things Jimmy Stewart. More than I love zombies, and I think that's probably a good thing.)

So Merry Christmas to all...and what are some of your Christmas Eve traditions?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Boy Wonder is visiting his father, and little Boo doesn't know what to do with himself without an older brother to chase around. P washed his contacts down the sink (last pair) and I'm fighting with my insurance company to recognize the fact that we are married (What is this? San Francisco??) The motor on my winshield wipers blew, we mismanaged the bank account and are praying for a check-clearing miracle (as in, don't clear yet!) but, at the end of it all, it's Christmas.

It's a season about so much more than the stress and the price tag, and I hope we all get the quiet moments we need to remember that. Make it meaningful...

Much love to you all. I'll be back before the new year with all new schemes and resolutions for 2010 (don't think I haven't been rolling them around in my head the past few weeks. I LOVES me a fresh start!)

See you in a few days...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand? (Fourth Tuesday)

I'm starting a new tradition one whole month before new traditions generally start. It's called "What's on Your Nightstand?" and it's a glimpse of what's on deck for Megan in the book world. So far, I have three that I'm working on.

1) The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library by Alice Kimberly. (Who is really Cleo Coyle. Who is really a husband and wife team, but I can't remember their names.)
This is actually book three in the haunted bookshop series, but my local store doesn't have number 1 or 2, so I'll jump in where I can.

2) Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
I heard about this on some talk show, and because Dr. Oz recommends it, I'm all for it. (I loves me some Dr. Oz!)

3)Shadow Music by Julie Garwood.
I know absolutely NOTHING about this book, other than it's written by Julie Garwood. And you know what? That's good enough for me!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To Boy Wonder: On the Occasion of His Sixth Birthday

Dear Boy Wonder,

Tomorrow you will turn 6 years old. Can it be true? Has time really flown so quickly?

These days, you are in kindergarten. You have good friends whose names all rhyme for some reason (Braydon, Kaedon, and Jaydon) and I thank my lucky stars that I somehow missed the “-adon” naming phenomenon.

At this point in your life, you are a simple man. You love legos. You are a joy to watch and you impress P and me more and more each day with those dynamo visual-spatial skills you have. You can eyeball a lego set meant for a 10 year old and build it without looking at the “constructions.” (Yes, that’s the adorable word you use for “instructions.” I love it. I also love how you say “linja” instead of “ninja.”) The things you build and the stories you create behind them are amazing, and I know that you will be just like your great-grandfather someday—a tinker. You have so many interests in life and you are never bored—just like Pop. It’s a great way to be and I hope you never lose your fascination with living.

Six years ago, you saved my life. I thought you should know that. I spent an agonizing four months on bed rest when I was pregnant with you , and each week the doctors would say “Any day now, you’re probably going to have a miscarriage.” But every day, there you’d be, hanging on. You fought for your life and in September of 2003, I prayed for the first time in a long time. I found an old St. Jude medal and I prayed the novena over and over…pretty much until you were born. I still rely on St. Jude to this day, and I have you to thank for “saving” me from a life of apathy, an existence with no spirit.

On the days I get the chance to drive you to school, I drive slowly. With the pace of our lives these days, I rarely get anymore one on one time with you. Do you remember when it was just us? You were my main man, my partner in crime. We sing the Star Wars theme song off-key and too loudly. You tell me about the teachers we pass as we pull in. I want to soak it all in. Those mornings I get with you all turn out to be good days and I know my time with you in the early hours is the reason.

When you jump out of the truck and say goodbye, I want to walk inside with you and make sure all the other 6-year-olds are nice to you. I want to beat up their mothers when you tell me that kids aren’t always friendly. But the great thing about you is that you are resilient. Most times, you let it slide off your back and you find other friends to play with—something I was never good at. I took everything personally, and I’m trying to instill in you that you can’t control others—you can only control how you react to them.
You have been such an easygoing kid your whole life, that I’ve taken you everywhere with me. You grew up in a jiu jitsu gym. Your honorary uncles and aunts have been boxers, world-class athletes, MMA fighters, and jiu jitsu prodigies. To this day, you love going to the gym and seeing “your friends.” You are such a friendly guy that everyone there loves you. That’s true wherever you go.

This year, you got a new stepdad. I wanted to thank you for loving P so openly and ferociously from day one. I’m sure you won’t remember it, but you two go way back. When you were two years old and I was relatively new at Gracie Barra, you ran up to P and did the “you can’t see me” John Cena thing to him, trying to pick a play fight. Four years later, it’s still your favorite thing to do—wrestling with him.

With P, you accepted him immediately. You showed him how to be a kid and how to laugh out loud without worrying who might be watching. You paved a way for your little brother Andrew, helping shape P into the incredible dad he is today. You were his first “kid” and you gave him a crash course in unconditional love and acceptance, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the glue that brought our little family together.

Did you know you are the sparkle in your Nana’s eyes? From the day you were born, you’ve had a bond with her that transcends all manner of grandmother/grandson relationships. You two “get” each other. Sure, you guys bickered and picked on each other during your marathon walks to the park, but it’s because you felt safe enough to have that sort of relationship with her. Nana never lets you down and you know that. You never let her down either. It’s your job to make sure Boo has that same sort of relationship with her—you’re most definitely the guardian of all things Nana.
My favorite memory of you involves your Grandpa Gary. I had to run out and do an errand when you were very, very small and Grandpa volunteered to watch you while I was out. I took you over to the house and when I came back, I found a war zone. Poor Grandpa was on the floor with a naked Boy Wonder, trying to wipe your dirty bum with a handful of Wendy’s napkins. The dirty diaper was stuck upside down on the coffee table, and your grandfather was bright red—either on the verge of laughing hysterically or crying…or both! He’d never been around a baby before you and you taught him the pure joy of a drooly, stinky little human being. You should see all the pictures of you through the years he keeps around the house. You’re his little star.

So here’s to the first 6 years, my little man. If they’ve been any indication, you have a wonderful life ahead of you. Thanks for choosing me. ..I know I’m not your mom by accident.

With love,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Memory: Why I Hate A Certain Holiday Song

And I mean hate with a capital F-U, Christmas Song! Really, really. It makes my skin crawl now...

In 2004, I worked at student newspaper as an advisor. In El Paso. Circulation...about 10,000. (I'm making the point that we weren't the damn New York Times or Washington Post...we were a college paper and most of the damn students there didn't even read us most weeks...true story. Jerks!)

One week, we did a bundle of Christmas stories. Most creative gifts. Best memories. Favorite holiday songs. You know...the usual.

Things were going well, it was a week before Christmas and we were done for the semester. (It was AWESOME!) I was in the office, most of the students were gone for the holidays. And then it came....the call.

I answered the phone and the voice on the other end asked, nay...demanded to speak to someone in charge. Being middle management, but not a student, I stupidly said I was. (Bad, bad move and I have since learned from my mistakes. I am never in charge...even when I am in charge.)

This woman, with a speaking voice that was shrill and tinny to begin with, launched into a tirade, demanding that we print an IMMEDIATE correction about one of our stories.

The writer (and it had slipped past me, too) had attributed "Santa Baby" to Marilyn Monroe (MM had never, in fact, recorded the song) and he had listed it as one of his favorite songs.

The silly rabbit on the other end of the line tried to point out to me that SHE, in fact, had made the song famous. In 1997. Her. It was all her. Nobody had ever heard the song before she recorded it in her basement or whatever Bush League method she'd concocted. Point was, SHE was famous, dammit, and we better recognize her. (Oh, contraire, mon frer....thought I....)

Sounding like an 80-year-old chain smoking emphysema patient, she SHRIEKED about how incompetent we were. She was calling from Hollywood. She was calling her lawyers. She was going to sue us. She demanded satisfaction. NOW. (For what? I asked. Not attributing it to Eartha Kitt? Because nobody had ever heard her name around that newsroom before...)

As she rattled on and on and on and on and on... (I kid you NOT, dear reader), I spent the time I should have been taking her seriously and I googled her. (OH, how I "heart" you Google.)

ChickyBoom had herself a nice little Web site...more like a virtual altar she'd constructed to herself to pay homage to the fact that she'd recorded a version of a stupid Christmas song that had made it into that awful movie "Party Monster." (Who freakin' cares, woman?) She peppered her bio with great big, shiny superlatives like "incredible vocalist" and "fantastically talented" and "gorgeous former hair model" (what the hell are those, anyway?) and she's got one of those names that should probably sound the way it reads. You know, how that crazy lady on the BBC show "Keeping Up Appearances" is named Bucket, but demands people pronounce it "bouquet?" Yep. She's totally one of those. *gag*

So I offered to correct the mistake and attribute the song to Eartha Kitt. No? How about Madonna? Madonna did a great version... No? Ummm...Sheryl Crow! Sheryl Crow did it, too. No?(Yes, I was trying to piss her off on purpose.)

By the end of the conversation (it lasted at least 30 minutes with this self-aggrandizing nightmare), I had her on speaker phone and had the other poor slobs at work laughing at just how ANGRY and DEMANDING and NASTY this kitten was. Shrieking and threatening and just so out of the holiday spirit.

At one point I even asked her, "How the hell did you find this article? It's from a newspaper on a college campus in the middle of the desert? Do you troll any media outlet you can find for any single mention of "Santa Baby?"

I can't remember her response, but I'm sure it was angry. And hilarious.

And so, tonight, as Boy Wonder works on his new lego set (Thanks, Nana!), we have the music channel playing holiday music and Madonna's version of "Santa Baby" came on a couple hours ago. It came on again a couple minutes ago...sung by Eartha Kitt herself.

I guess all that hard work harassing newspapers and journalists got SuperCrazy nowhere. Not even the "Sounds of the Season" channel recognizes her "major contribution to pop culture"....


PS....Yes, I fully expect to somehow recieve a pissed off e-mail from this woman. I'm quite certain she's got the words "Santa Baby" locked down on Google Alerts. And yes...I'll post her nasty letter in full here for you to enjoy it as much as I'm sure I will. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Time to Admit Defeat: New Tactics and the Picky Eater in My House

Folks, it's war.

I've known it for a while...a simmer that's slowly built up to a boil as I've watched Boy Wonder leave more and more food on his plate, immediately asking for snacks after meals, hording food in his bedroom, stealing my cans of diet soda when I'm not looking (he really does...I went back to finish one last night and the damn can was empty...and I'd just opened it!)

Whether Boy Wonder is truly a picky eater (could be, could be) or whether he's just darn lazy (another great possibility), there's a war brewing in our home and the refrigerator stands at ground zero.
P's been on to Boy Wonder for a few months now, but has given the kid space to change his ways. This morning, all heck broke loose when I went to change out his backpack before school and took out yesterday's lunchbox (yes, I forgot to last night.) Inside, I saw his lunch that I packed him--still intact 24 hours later. Oh sure, half the ham sandwich was gone and so was the juice box, but still...EVERYTHING else remained there. Untouched.

I panicked. I did a mental tally of all the things I saw him eat throughout the day (and yes, this is where my own "mea culpa" comes into the picture. The following list is shocking, sickening, and I'm taking full responsibility for it's ick-factor):

* a bowl of Lucky Charms, a half glass of Orange Juice for breakfast

* sent him to school with a lunch he didn't eat besides the juice box and the half sandwich

*once home, he snacked on pretzels while watching TV (this is also where he stole my soda)

*for dinner I made him a plate and all he ate was the corndog and two bites of applesauce

If I am lucky ( and I mean with a capital L-U-C-K-Y), he ingested what? a total of 800 grams of sugar and about 700 calories of crap??? And if you know Boy Wonder (or have eyes in your head and have seen a picture of him recently), you know he's a skinny little man. It's something I assume he'll grow out of (definitely not a trait he gets from me!), but not with the way he's currently eating.
I stood in shock for about two minutes this morning when I came to that conclusion. Thankfully P was sympathetic and kind, but I could tell he was relieved that I finally "got it." (He walks a fine line between being a parental figure and trying not to be an overbearing step-dad...of which he does a MIGHTY fine job, I must say).

We mutally decided on a "no snack" policy for the forseeable future, as Boy Wonder lives, breaths, and dwells on snacks. He'll ask for snacks directly after dinner. (Say whaaaaaaat?) I'm throwing out all pretzels, chips, and "snacky crap" when I get home. (Sorry, P! Hiden those goodies on the top shelf of the cabinet before I get home!!)

I went out and bought that "hide good crap in your kid's food book" (aka "Deceptively Delicous") and while I tried FOREVER to avoid her hype and buying in to it, it's a pretty brilliant idea. I've already put sticky notes on several of the recipes I want to try and I'll post a few and how they turned out.

I also did some research on "picky eaters" and it seems to be a phenomenon.

I, personally, don't remember being given the option of being picky...but that was back in the 80s...when kids didn't wear seatbelts, car seats hadn't been invented, and the only nutritional advice Hulk Hogan offered us was to eat our vitamins and say our prayers. (Check and check.) My mom would have knocked me out of my chair if I'd refused to eat and THEN asked for some pretzels. I'm a softie, I admit it.

I found a PBS entire Web section called The Science of Picky Eaters.

Psychology Today (one of my all time favorite magazines that has a Web site so rad and true to their print version that I rarely buy the hard copy anymore) has this article: "Picky Eaters."

And finally, the Mayo Clinic has "10 Tips for Picky Eaters" in their Children's Nutrition section.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. A long, uphill battle where we have to be bad guys (I HATE being the bad guy), we have to make rules and stick to them (not so great at that, either), and we have to set a good example (BOOO!)

But as small of a consolation as it is...I get to make broccoli puree and find a way to sneak it into his chocolate chip pancakes...suhweeet. A little something I like to call "Mama's Revenge."