Smack, Whack, the Ice Is Cold

Over the holidays (yeah, I know I’m still back there…still recovering), I spent some time with that fluffy, white stuff that falls from the sky. Snow! Lovely snow. Lovely cold, icy, slippery snow. In all its many forms, a beautiful sight and a great way to bring in the New Year.

A few years back, I drove with my sister and our kids for hours around the mountain in search of untainted, pure white snow. Ha. I  think we actually would have settled for brown snow. The fact is, where there should have been white there was only brown, and it wasn’t snow. We checked. Dirt and such.

This year, luckily, we saw plenty of snow thanks to a couple of recent storms. We had a blast sledding down the mountain, dragging our circles of snow behind us.

Here’s what I now label safe, hazard-free, predictable snow play. Notice the wide, gentle slopes, cushioned with a reliable amount of soft snow.

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Closely monitored. They tell you when.

Fast forward to our rockin’ New Year’s Eve bash. Here we are in the empty ice rink.

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The disco ball showered tiny green dots across the ice. There’s that.

Apparently, the guests were coming back pretty soon, uh….later. Like never.

A few other guests did make it, a mother and her two daughters. We talked for a bit and she revealed to me how her step-daughter was in the ER due to a concussion she suffered while sledding. Apparently, her step-daughter wanted to be as bold as her brother and followed him down the hill. I knew the place. We had passed it earlier and had already promised the kids we would go the next day.

The place, Little Sweden. It’s a former ski resort, closed down years ago and now a popular destination for snow play, so long as you can get a parking spot. We kept our promise and went on New Year’s Day. Big mistake! The place was teeming with sledding daredevils and, unlike the safe cushion of the soft snow above, this hill was icy and hard, and the wind picked up.

After successfully going down the bunny hills and the next level hill up, my son coaxed me into going down the big hill. The monster!

Here’s some pics of my son going down the mountain to give you a sense of it:

Top of hill (see red arrow)

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There he goes:

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Going:

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Still going:

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This hill is completely insane! How did I not notice? Do you see those little dots at the end of the hill? Those are people and those are cars that line the road. I hope you get a sense of the steepness. Add to this, the total chaos of bodies flying down in all different directions. Oh, it was madness.

Why I decided to DO this, I have no idea! My son and I went together on the sled, which is probably our first mistake. With so much weight, we had a lot of speed, hit a huge bump on the way down, went flying, actually got some air and BAM! I hit my head. Translated in haiku:

Smack, whack, the ice is
cold as my head rolled inside
stinging, swirling stars

The impact was pretty solid, like a cement block crashing into my skull. If someone caught it on video, I don’t think I could even watch it. I have no idea what happened. I do know I was scared to death. I didn’t pass out. I got up right away. My head hurt, and I was dizzy. My son was okay and asked me a series of questions, which I answered correctly.

Friends…I’m lucky to be alive.

I knew about the dangers of this hill and worried sick over my kids hitting their heads. Recall, only the night before I learned of a little girl laying in a hospital bed due to THIS hill! I saw plenty of accidents when I was there, too. What I forgot was that I was just as equally at risk as anyone else.

What’s completely amazing to me is after such a hard-hitting blow, I bounced back as if it never happened. I even drove 100 miles after on a windy road I had never driven before. “Kids, if I pass out, call 911. Okay?”

I bounced right back. That’s what we do. But I wanted to pause and reflect on it. I know I’m lucky and I’m so very grateful I’m here. It’s a rough start to the new year, but it also puts things in perspective for me. I don’t take anything for granted. Your life really can vanish in a blink of an eye. All the petty things just got squeezed out. It’s a reminder for me to linger a little longer in the moments that matter, making them as full as possible. I wish you a great new year, savoring the moments that count.

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Santa and Friends: The Real Story Beyond the Lights

Looking at all the colorful lights and holiday displays you would probably say everything is going splendidly. But I promise you, things are not always as they seem. I felt a lot of anxiety in the air as I drove through my neighborhood. Maybe Santa and friends are anxious about the big night. Could be. I don’t know, but I got an earful as I drove by their happy, smiling, sometimes tipped over bodies. This is what I heard. This is the real story:

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Why do they always put us on top of the roof? I don’t know why, but I feel a bit distant, forgotten, like they don’t care. Can anyone even see us here? Is anyone looking? Hey you, down there. We’re up here. Just keep waving.

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That’s on TOP of the roof…Up on the housetop reindeer pause, Out jumps Good Old Santa Claus…ring any bells? They make my life so difficult.

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What are they doing putting all three of us together like this? It confuses the kids. They already see us at all the malls. I say on 3, we scramble. Ready: 1 -2- 3…

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There! That ought to do it. They won’t have a clue now.

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Wipe that smile off your face, Prancer. You think you’re special because you can fly. Lend a hoof why don’t you? And take that wreath off. It’s only going to slow you down and it looks ridiculous.

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Santa, you know I would help if I could…and even if I could, I can walk too good. I’d probably slow you down. I certainly can’t fly, just so you know.

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No one thinks I’m a snowman. No one is buying this. Whatever is this prickly, brown material I sit on? Where is the snow?

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If my photo wasn’t so blurry, you could see that I’m a beautiful peacock. I’m the one that isn’t that obnoxious red or green color. I have nothing to do with the holidays, but I am the best looking thing on this lawn. I’m marvelous, darling.

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We’re already working double shifts at the park over the holidays and now we have to work the neighborhoods, too.
Mickey, I don’t think I can hold on to this package a second longer.
You can do it, Minnie. Just think, soon we’ll deflate and we’ll be touching again.

I must be losing it…I hope you enjoyed that holiday cheer! I’ll be stepping away from my blog until next year. Please enjoy your holiday and be safe.

Wishing you a bright and merry holiday 
and peace, love and happiness for the New Year 2016!! 

With Love,
Amy

Green-Walled Tower Fiction-T’s are Here!

Fiction-T’s from the Green-Walled Tower are here and just in time for the holidays!

David Stewart from the Green-Walled Tower blog has created these incredible T-shirts. I know you’re probably wondering how a T-shirt can be incredible…make no mistake these shirts are stupendous! Why? Because these shirts are Fiction-T’s. David has published his short fiction stories on the back T-shirts. He’s so clever.

David has shared many stories on his blog, many of them dark and twisted, which is why I enjoy them so much. For his Fiction-T’s, he offers seven different stories, all of them are highly creative and imaginative. I had a hard time choosing my favorite. I decided on Three Men Walk into a Bar, a great one for bloggers. You know those moments, when no matter what kind of situation you’re in, you think, “This would make a great blog post. Now excuse me while I take a photo.” You know that moment.

I must be operating on Hobbit time lately. Please address me as Aurelia Bumbleburr from Bindbale Wood. You see I won this T-shirt in a contest sometime during the summer….and I’m only now just telling you about it. I must have got lost in the forest. Yes, that’s what happened.

But as I mentioned, it’s just in time for the holidays. Why not surprise a friend or loved one with a Fiction-T? It’s a unique one-of-a-kind gift. Or, buy one for yourself for the holiday party? Guests will love it and they’ll also have an opportunity to get some reading in at the party.

When you put on one of these Fiction-T’s, you become enveloped in a green, fuzzy glow. I don’t know how it happens! I’ll show you. Look:

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Now here’s the story:

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Here are examples of the stories printed on the Fiction-Ts. Check it out. Plus I know you want to see how the story above ends.

For a list of the Fiction-T stories posted on David’s blog, click here.

Order your very own Fiction-T here. They came in a variety of sizes and colors.  Don’t delay. Get yours today.

I truly love my Fiction-T and wear it proudly. Thanks, David!

Happy Holidays!!

A Communication Tip for the Holidays and Beyond: “Me Time”

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Have you ever been in a conversation where you were so busy formulating a response that you missed what the other person said altogether? Sometimes I think life happens this way; life as a conversation where we are only half-way committed, half-way listening. Many times we are so fixated on predicting what happens next that we miss out on the actual moment as it happens. We miss what was said. We miss the moment. We miss the whole point.

I had an opportunity to attend a communication skills workshop sponsored by my son’s school called, “Communicating with Family Members During the Holidays” and how to have less stress and more cooperation. I can use all the help I can get, so I went. And I was pleasantly surprised.

First, the facilitator had us play a game. A volunteer told a story about a happy event in her life. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the volunteer, half of the room was told to ignore her. All I had to do was whip out my smartphone and become consumed. I didn’t listen to a word she said. I got wrapped up in my Internet world and tuned her out. It was really easy to do.

Her point? We, as adults, ignore our kids sometimes. How does it feel when someone is talking to you and, while you very well may be listening, are staring at your smartphone? Sure, you don’t mean to do it. But there it is! That smartphone is attached to your hand and you can’t seem to get rid of it. It’s like a leech, sucking the juices out of your brain. I know, because I do it.

Then, the facilitator introduced “Me Time.” The idea is very simple. You give your child your undivided attention for a scheduled time of 10 to 15 minutes. That’s not a lot of time, right? Anyone can do that.

“Me Time” is based on principles of play therapy, which may be more widely practiced with younger children. This session of “Me Time” could even be called “Mommy and Johnny Time,” for example, or whatever makes sense for your child. My 12-year-old son has called it, “The Dreaded Time with Mom.” So, whatever works. Really, it can work for anyone at any age, including your resistant teenager.

There are few parameters for a successful session of “Me Time.” They are as follows:

  1. Schedule the 10-15 minute period of “Me Time.” I know it’s only 10-15 minutes, but if it’s scheduled it may feel more special and purposeful.
  2. Your child chooses the activity. Got that one? Your child chooses! And you must do it no matter what! If your child wants you to hop around on one foot and blow bubbles, then that’s what you must do. If your child wants to watch TV, that’s what you do. If your kid wants to play on his smartphone and ignore you, that’s your activity.
  3. Considering #2, you may suggest that the chosen activity not break any family rules (like no balls in the house).
  4. There’s no need to spend money. The activity is for such a short period, there’s really no need. Still, if you to make certain the focus is away from money, you may want to state this up front.
  5. As the parent, you cannot correct or direct the activity. Also important, you cannot ask, “Why?” Your child may view this as judging.
  6. You can’t play unless you’re asked. Don’t assume your child necessarily wants you to be involved. This idea coincides with the idea of play therapy where the child may need time to work something out. This is best done without any interference. You are merely an observer if this happens.

Discuss these parameters openly before you engage in “Me Time.” There’s no need for secrets. Truly, I think this idea could work for any relationship, even spouses or significant others. Why not? I have yet to try that, but I did try this idea with my kids.

This is what happened with my 9-year-old. First we cuddled in his blanket cave and made funny faces at each other. Then, he did a series of musical numbers where he got up to sing and dance. I clapped and cheered. He was hilarious and clearly wanted to show off his dance moves. I had no idea. This is not something he does that often and, clearly, he wanted an audience.

When it came to my 12-year-old, he said, “I thought you were kidding. Really?” First, he wanted me to wait outside his room. His little joke. Come to find out, he needed help with his homework, so that’s what we did. To make up for that, we watched a few “Dear Diary” cat videos. Those are always a good laugh!

But the biggest eye-opener? It was so relaxing to surrender my time voluntarily to someone else. To not be in charge or direct. To just listen. To be completely present. It felt so refreshing and helped me refocus my energy on my kids when it goes astray as, of course, it happens even with the best intentions. I highly recommend you give it a shot, especially during the busy holiday season when you feel short of time and stressed. I bet the more often you share this experience with your kids, the more insightful it will become and maybe, just maybe, communication will improve all around.

Time, that thing we’re always chasing or running out of. Why not carve out a little space for the important people in your life and share the gift of time spent together?

photo credit: Merry Christmas! via photopin (license)

Thanksgiving Quandries

For this year’s Thanksgiving meal, I will responsible for cooking. This also includes planning. We all know that the secret to a successful Thanksgiving meal with numerous side dishes delivered to the table piping hot all at once is….more than one oven! Correct? But unless you live in a hotel or you’re just lucky, you’re like me and most likely have just the one oven.

So, in my mental preparations, I’ve determined what I need is one less side dish that requires cooking in an oven. In a quick Google search, I discovered the Pinch of Yum blog and this dish:

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Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad. Image Source: Pinch of Yum

Doesn’t this look fabulous? The perks: it’s cold and crunchy so no oven is necessary, and it has bacon! Double win.

After discovering Lindsay’s recipes over at Pinch of Yum, I wondered if I, too, could be a food blogger. I’m sure I don’t have what it takes. Seriously though, I could just look at Pinch of Yum’s photos all day long. Everything looks just yummy!

I decided I want to make this recipe in place of the green bean casserole that everyone pretends to like. I’ve tried for years to consume the green bean casserole, placing mere spoonfuls on my plate and leaving them for the last possible moment at which point they were simply too cold to swallow. I have now solved my problem. It’s called Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad.

If you make this salad, however, don’t be tempted to buy those chopped bags of Brussels sprouts you see at Trader Joe’s, because they are not, I repeat are NOT, the delicate shavings of Brussels sprouts you see in the photo above. And believe me, I’m tempted by the pre-chopped bags. How much of difference is there between chopped and shaved Brussels sprouts? Apparently, a lot. It’s all about the texture, darling, and texture is everything. It always is.

So, how does one accomplish these fine, delicate shavings of Brussels sprouts? I’m so glad you asked. You use a nifty, little cooking tool called a mandoline, which is also capable of crinkle-cuts and playing music if you strum it just so. Kidding okay. Please don’t try that at home.  I understand it’s sharp and possibly a good idea to wear gloves while using the mandoline, so now it seems this recipe has become a bit pricey and dangerous.

Be careful out there. Aside from my this splendid recipe, a tremendous storm is in the forecast in the Sierra Mountains, possibly preventing half our expected party from attending Thanksgiving dinner. While we couldn’t be happier that snow is in the forecast (go snowpack!), it’s coming all at the wrong time. I guess I can’t expect the weather to follow the holiday schedule. Personally, I think the weather knows exactly what it’s doing.

Will I make the Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad? Will my family make it over the snowy mountain? I just don’t know.

In the meantime, do you happen to have a mandoline I can borrow? Do you eat the green bean casserole? What’s your favorite vegetable side dish?

Wishing you a safe, warm and Happy Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating the holiday. And if you’re not, I still hope you’re happy, safe and warm!

That Time I was in a Parade

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With temperatures in the triple digits, I will leave town with the masses in search of a cool breeze. But, we’ll be back so my son can participate in a festive holiday parade with his water polo team. I don’t know the specifics of his participation; if he’ll be walking or riding, chanting or hand waving. Since it will involve traveling on black asphalt, I know one thing. It will be hot.

I was in a Fourth of July parade once. I’ll never forget it. I was on the neighborhood drill team and, somehow, we ended up in the Fourth of July parade. Or, perhaps, we formed for the sole purpose of participating in the parade? I may have had something to do with getting the group together, although I would never claim that responsibility while we attempted to function as an organization.

I just remember the mad flurry to be in the parade and how excited I was. We managed to pull together a uniform: navy shorts, a white T-shirt (because we all had that one!) white gloves, and tennis shoes. We practiced our 8 counts of 8, and chanted the drill team cry: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8! With our voices rising with the 7-8, to start again. Over and over. And over. It was endless. Our jagged movements were in unison: a movement for every count, all angular, arms above, arms below, switching back and forth, one arm high, the other side, etc; we may have even included a side head. The next counts of eight were strikingly similar, but we rehearsed it all like mad so we knew it backwards and forwards.

Our parade route was 5 miles. You heard that right. A mega 5-mile hike! We must have been 8 or 9 years old, so the journey was a long one. Hey, it would still be a long one, even today. I remember going under bridges, up hills, through tunnels all behind a blaring marching band, who most people thought we were associated with. They stole our thunder, you see. But by mile 3 or 4, we were so delirious we just wanted to stop our 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-ing.

Monster blisters had formed on the back on my heels. I don’t know if our blue and white color scheme was chosen expressly for the Fourth of July parade or not, but by the end, we also had beet-red faces to complete the Fourth of July ensemble. We were red-faced, white and blue. I would also add brown because there was so much brown everywhere. All the many horses were brown, who left their shit, like little presents, all over the route. We attempted to tip-toe and chasse in a spontaneous re-choreographing of our routine all around the brown horseshit, as if we could fool anyone. Why would you bother with such a thing when you very nearly wanted to faint?

At some point, we arrived at the central parade area where we were to dazzle everyone with our performance, all red-faced and patriotic. We may have left out our chant altogether, gone half deaf from the blare of trumpets before us.

I just wanted it all to stop.

And, then it did. It went on entirely too long, but then it ended suddenly. Kaput, like in one big heap and we no longer had anywhere else to march. I was so so happy, so thrilled we did it. Who knew such misery could result in such joy and achievement. I’m certain I waved a flag at the end.

I’d show you a photo to prove I was there, but this was before we photographed every second of our lives. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was in the Fourth of July parade, red (faced), white and blue.

Perhaps this photo of our local cattle run can serve as a stand-in. This is from the previous year, however. It was cancelled this year due to extreme heat and a high of 108. Yikes!

We don't want to piss him off, do we? We'll cancel, we'll cancel! Image source: Anne Stokes
We don’t want to piss him off, do we? We’ll cancel, we’ll cancel! Image source: Anne Stokes

I hope everyone who is celebrating has a Happy Fourth of July! Stay cool!

Have you ever been in a parade? If not, do you want to?

photo credit: Downtown Cannon Beach Parade via photopin (license)

Happy 2015!

We made it to another year! Congratulations everyone.

I have loads of goals this year. I know if I share them on my blog, you’ll hold me to them. I’ll just limit myself to ten.

Here there are:

  1. Write
  2. Get back into dance class. I miss it!
  3. Start my book…write write
  4. Play with my kids outside. No devices!!
  5. Write some more
  6. Think less, write more
  7. Go on a date with my husband…this will be the year
  8. Writing writing writing
  9. Spend more time with friends
  10. Finish my book!!

I really plan to get serious this year. I should post this on my wall.

Here’s a pic of my family….

…IN THE DARK!! Lame.

I dragged my husband and my two boys to this Global Wonderland for New Year’s Eve. This place was a lit up and really cool but they were unimpressed and miserable; they lasted less than an hour before they wanted to go home.

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It was cold…even for California. We had to wear hats even and shoes. Actually, it was pretty cold.

But we saw Chinese Acrobats.

I’m not sure what the animal is for the Chinese New Year. But this is all I have. I think it’s a goat this year, but I don’t have a picture of that. So…his cousin.

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And a big THANK YOU to all my friends here. Thanks for a great 2014! I love my community here, and I look forward to another superb year together.

HAPPY 2015!!

Did you make any resolutions for this year you’d like to share? Are you ready for another year or what?